Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Good News: UK Coal Emissions About To Drop; Solar Roadways Doing First Commercial Installs Soon<

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 25, 2015

Because we could all use a bit of good news:

The UK is about to shutter yet another coal plant, as coal use (and atmospheric output) falls to levels not seen since the 1850s despite a rebounding economy. The rise in usage of wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy has finally hit a sort of critical mass, causing its growth to accelerate.

Worldwide oil demand has peaked, and that, along with the Saudi determination to flood the market to eradicate the KSA’s competitors in the Bakken and elsewhere (like Iran), means not just the collapse of oil prices, but the abandoning of risky, costly, and environmentally stupid oil-related projects worldwide.

Solar Roadways is, thanks to the help of Indiegogo and George Takei, gearing up to install its first commercial projects by the emd of this year. A Dutch public-private enterprise called SolaRoad has installed a solar bike path that has already exceeded projections for energy generation.

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Killing Atticus Finch

Posted by Charles II on May 23, 2015

Free Don Siegelman. Fund the documentary.

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Russia cuts supply line to Afghanistan

Posted by Charles II on May 20, 2015

This is not sudden, nor is it retaliation. But it is serious.

Stars and Stripes:

The agreement with Russia survived numerous ups and downs in relations between the West and Russia. But Moscow officially ended cooperation when the United Nations mandate for military operations in Afghanistan expired in December, NATO officials said.

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Neo-McCarthyism: silencing critics of U.S. Russia policy

Posted by Charles II on May 20, 2015

I have gotten a taste of those who want to shut down debate of US-Russia policy… and of those who wanted to silence debate over the invasion of Iraq, and those who wanted to silence debate over supply-side economics, and those who wanted to silence debate over the wisdom of sending troops to Vietnam, and those who wanted to silence debate over the wisdom of Jim Crow…. I espouse my beliefs because I believe they are true, not because I expect that opponents will love me for them.

But the attempt to silence debate over Russia policy is coming from very high levels, it’s trying to rekindle the hatreds of the Cold War, and it’s one in which a lot too many Americans are complicit by their silence. Let’s call what it is: totalism. And now James Carden has given us a detailed explanation of how it is being imposed.

James Carden:

As a result of the civil war that has raged in Ukraine since April 2014, at least 7,000 people have been killed and more than 15,400 wounded, many of them grievously. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 1.2 million eastern Ukrainians have been internally displaced, while the number of those who have fled abroad, mainly to Russia and Belarus, has reached 674,300. Further, the United Nations has reported that millions of people, particularly the elderly and the very young, are facing life-threatening conditions as a result of the conflict. Large parts of eastern Ukraine lie in ruins, and relations between the United States and Russia have perhaps reached their most dangerous point since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

And yet a special report published last fall by the online magazine the Interpreter would have us believe that Russian “disinformation” ranks among the gravest threats to the West.

While it would be easy to dismiss the report as a publicity stunt by two journalists attempting to cash in on the Russophobia so in vogue among American pundits, their thesis has gained wide acceptance, nowhere more so than in the halls of Congress.

The authors call for the creation of an “internationally recognized ratings system for disinformation” that would furnish news organizations and bloggers with the “analytical tools with which to define forms of communication.” While they throw in an obligatory caveat that “top-down censorship should be avoided” (exactly how is left unexplained), they nonetheless endorse what amounts to a media blacklist. “Vigorous debate and disagreement is of course to be encouraged,” the authors write, “but media organizations that practice conscious deception should be excluded from the community.”

What qualifies as “conscious deception” is also left undefined, but it isn’t difficult to surmise. Organizations that do not share the authors’ enthusiasm for regime change in Syria or war with Russia over Ukraine would almost certainly be “excluded from the community.”

Their real goal is not to fight Russian “disinformation” but to stigmatize and marginalize—even exclude from American discourse—anyone with a more nuanced view of Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis. They are waging this war against enemies real and imagined, and by doing so they are helping to create an atmosphere in which dissenting opinion on US policy toward Russia becomes impermissible.

Insinuations of unpatriotic disloyalty on the part of critics of US policy toward Russia are numerous, but consider a few examples. For much of the past year, Princeton and New York University professor emeritus Stephen F. Cohen, a leading scholar of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia and a Nation contributing editor, has been routinely castigated in The New Republic, the Daily Beast, The Boston Globe, New York, and Slate as “a toady,” “Putin’s best friend,” and a “Putin apologist.” The latest such attack came on May 6, courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which published a story claiming, without evidence, that “Cohen is essentially defending the Kremlin’s agenda in the West.” Hurling such barbs at a prominent scholar seems to be an attempt not only to marginalize Cohen, but also to silence other critics—including, and perhaps especially, younger ones.

Similarly, in June 2014, the Daily Beast ridiculed a conference attended by Columbia University’s Robert Legvold; Jack Matlock, former ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Reagan administration; and a leader of a Russian opposition party as a gathering of “anti-Semites and ‘truthers’” that amounted to little more than “a pity party for the Kremlin’s die-hard American apologists.”

Then, in August, Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics launched a screed against David Johnson, the proprietor and editor of a listserv that aggregates Russia-related articles. “What I find most surprising,” Aslund wrote, “is that you have several items from RT every day, which is to Putin’s rule what Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer was to Nazi Germany.” (emphasis added)

Americans who try to turn other Americans into enemies of the state in order to silence their expression of ideas are the ones who have no clue what America is about.

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Minnesotans: Call Governor Dayton NOW.

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 17, 2015

Sally Jo Sorensen has the deets:

 Bobby King of the Land Stewardship Project sends us this alert:

 

The legislature decided that instead of weakening the MPCA Citizens’ Board they would outright ELIMINATE it.  This outrageous idea, which was not introduced as a bill or heard previously in any committee, was unveiled late Saturday night and adopted in conference committee. Forty seven years old, the Citizens’ Board was established in 1967 with the creation of the MPCA to ensure the agency serves the public interest and to establish an open and transparent decision making process.  It has worked will and is a model the state should be proud of.

 

This language is included in the Agriculture and Environment Budget Bill along with many other bad provisions, including a sham buffer program that puts off addressing the issue of dealing with agricultural runoff.  Read more in this letter from the Minnesota Environmental Partnership to legislators.

 

There is negotiating going on now to potentially take some of the bad provisions out of the bill.  We need calls to the Governor’s office now to keep this on his radar.

 

Call Gov. Dayton at 651-201-3400 or 800-657-3717 and say “The Ag and Env Budget bills ELIMINATES the MPCA Citizens’ Board.  This is a terrible idea. The Citizens’ Board has been around for over 40 years and creates an open and transparent decision making process that helps guard against undue corporate influence. This entirely new proposal was adopted late at night and is outrageous.  Governor veto this if it is sent to you.”

 

Also, leave him a message on Facebook. [Click here to visit his official Facebook page]

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General Durrani, Osama Bin Laden, And Trading One Narrative For Another

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 15, 2015

One of the people Seymour Hersh quotes by name in his recent story challenging the decidedly-questionable official US story on the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound was none other than General Asad Durrani, a man with a vested interest in finding a way to explain, believeably, how bin Laden and his entourage could live unmolested for six years in a walled compound that was markedly different from the buildings around it, 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy.

The US’ official story, which up to now has been officially backed by the Pakistani government, tries to excuse this by resorting to the Sergeant Schultz Narrative, in which the Pakistanis were just too clueless to know where he was.  This story, while protecting both the Pakstanis and the US (because the only other choice until now is to assume that Pakistan deliberately harbored bin Laden as it has so many other jihadists, something the US tries to avoid openly acknowledging as Pakistan is officially an ally in the war on terror), is not very flattering to the Pakstani government.

Then along comes Seymour Hersh with a tale whose central aim seems to be to find a way to make the Pakistani officials look as good as possible (per Hersh, they knew exactly where he was because they were holding him prisoner and besides he was a harmless and demented crippled old man anyway) and the Americans look as bad as possible (they were so stupid the Pakistanis had to tell them where he was, and so bloodthirsty they shot him to pieces even though he was a helpless demented crippled old man, though the SEALs all did feel guilty about it afterwards and were angry at Obama for making them kill a harmless old cripple).

There are a few problems with this new storyline. For one thing, the SEALs may not all be too thrilled about Obama, but neither are they afraid to say so, as numerous SEAL books and other writings have shown. Does anyone really think that no SEAL who honestly thought that President Obama sent them to murder a harmless cripple would not have said so by now?

For another, at least one reporter has implicitly challenged Hersh’s view that bin Laden was a helpless old man who was of no danger or value to anyone. Carlotta Gall, who has covered the Middle and Near East for a decade and a half, states that bin Laden was not a helpless, useless prisoner of the Pakistanis, but an intelligence asset so valuable to (and thus protected and hid by) the Pakistani government that they dedicated an entire desk just to running bin Laden:

Beginning in 2001, I spent nearly 12 years covering Pakistan and Afghanistan for The Times. (In his article, Hersh cites an article I wrote for The Times Magazine last year, an excerpt from a book drawn from this reporting.) The story of the Pakistani informer was circulating in the rumor mill within days of the Abbottabad raid, but at the time, no one could or would corroborate the claim. Such is the difficulty of reporting on covert operations and intelligence matters; there are no official documents to draw on, few officials who will talk and few ways to check the details they give you when they do.

Two years later, when I was researching my book, I learned from a high-level member of the Pakistani intelligence service that the ISI had been hiding Bin Laden and ran a desk specifically to handle him as an intelligence asset. After the book came out, I learned more: that it was indeed a Pakistani Army brigadier — all the senior officers of the ISI are in the military — who told the C.I.A. where Bin Laden was hiding, and that Bin Laden was living there with the knowledge and protection of the ISI.

Sounds a lot different – and considerably more believable, in view of the past history of the Pakistani government – than either the USG’s “Sergeant Schultz” version or the Seymour Hersh “Supercunning ISI Agents” version of the Pakistani officials’ behavior in this incident.

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Quit Freaking Out About AI Already, People

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 10, 2015

Ever since we humans created our first tools, we’ve kept insisting they’re not only as alive as we are, but that they feel the same things we feel: Love, hate, envy, embarrassment, anger, happiness.

This wrong-headed behavior on our part has ramped up a thousand fold since the creation of the first computers. The fears of what truly intelligent machines could do have been simmering in our society for the better part of a century. Just look at the latest Avengers film, Age of Ultron. Or look at Elon Musk, a venture capitalist with his fingers in several pies, likes to stoke this fear for middlebrow audiences that think they’re highbrow. Even Arthur C. Clarke, a fellow who definitely knew better, had to play to public fears of smart computers by creating the HAL 9000, the lead “villain” in 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL was depicted as a fully self-aware, intelligent computer so determined not to admit error that it would kill people to cover up its mistakes. (Clarke later atoned somewhat for this by making HAL a much more sympathetic figure in his later book 2010.)

The truth is that a future where true artificial intelligence exists is much more likely to resemble the one Isaac Asimov wrote about in his robot novels, or that in Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” novels, than those shown in any of the dystopias used to stoke our fears for money. Speaking of the latter series, it’s telling that a primary criticism of the Culture novels as literature is that the Minds make for a future so pleasant that it is devoid of the nasty conflicts and “interesting times” that people hate to live through but love to read about:

In vesting all power in his individualistic, sometime eccentric, but always benign, AI Minds, Banks knew what he was doing; this is the only way a liberal anarchy could be achieved, by taking what is best in humans and placing it beyond corruption, which means out of human control. The danger involved in this imaginative step, though, is clear; one of the problems with the Culture novels as novels is that the central characters, the Minds, are too powerful and, to put it bluntly, too good.

Even with our society being more likely to follow something closer to Banks’ vision than the dystopian ones, it’s doubtful that things such as personalities, or even the emotions that generate them, would spontaneously evolve. These things, or rather the simulations thereof, would have had to be carefully implanted by humans. The rule “garbage in, garbage out” still applies.

And that, as always, is the real thing to fear: not if machines can ever think, but what we command them, via their base-level programming, to think about.

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Solar Roadways Update: Testing, Testing, One Two Three Testing…

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 7, 2015

Scott and Julie Brusaw and their crew at Solar Roadways are testing how well solar panels collect energy when they’re installed flat (as opposed to angled for optimum sunlight collection) at various latitudes across the U.S. – information that will be useful in calculating how much energy the Solar Road Panels will generate when installed in various locations, altitudes, and latitudes.

The first two locations are both in Arizona.  One is at the Westward Look hotel in Tucson, the other at Biosphere 2 in Oracle.  The public will be able to see the data collection projects as they collect ther data.

The panels currently being used for data collection are conventional solar panels, but Solar Roadways will soon be replacing these testing site panels with Solar Roadways’ own SR3 panels.

This is one of the things that will save us.  This, right here.

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Administration decides to be jerks: illegal Enbridge extension

Posted by Charles II on May 4, 2015

From DeSmogBlog:

DeSmogBlog has obtained dozens of emails that lend an inside view of how the U.S. State Department secretly handed Enbridge a permit to expand the capacity of its U.S.-Canada border-crossing Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta to midwest markets.

Environmental groups have coined the approval process an “illegal scheme” because the State Department allowed Enbridge to usurp the conventional presidential permit process for cross-border pipelines, as well as the standard National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which allows for public comments and public hearings of the sort seen for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

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Wikileaks Brings Back Its Anonymous Submission System

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 1, 2015

That darned Wikileaks just refuses to go away:

On Friday, the secret-spilling group announced that it has finally relaunched a beta version of its leak submission system, a file-upload site that runs on the anonymity software Tor to allow uploaders to share documents and tips while protecting their identity from any network eavesdropper, and even from WikiLeaks itself. The relaunch of that page—which in the past served as the core of WikiLeaks’ transparency mission—comes four and a half years after WikiLeaks’ last submission system went down amid infighting between WikiLeaks’ leaders and several of its disenchanted staffers.

And here it is: https://wikileaks.org/index.en.html#submit

Why the delay? The legal battle that sent Julian Assange into sanctuary in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London did play a part, as it has proved to be a huge distraction for the Wikileaks team. But there was also this:

The group, and Assange in particular, has also become more focused on the modern surveillance challenges to any truly anonymous leaking system. That, too, has delayed WikiLeaks’ willingness to create a new target for intelligence agencies trying to intercept leaks. “If you ask if the submission from five years ago was insecure, well, it would be today,” says Hrafnsson. “We’ve had to rethink this and rework it, and put a lot of expertise into updating and upgrading it.”

And even if Wikileaks were to vanish into the ether, groups it inspired are out there:

In the years since WikiLeaks ceased to offer its own Tor-based submission system, others have sought to fill the gap. Projects like GlobaLeaks and SecureDrop now offer open-source systems that have replicated and improved on WikiLeaks’ model of using Dark Web servers to enable anonymous uploads. SecureDrop in particular has been adopted by mainstream news sites such as the New Yorker, Gawker, Forbes, the Guardian, the Intercept and the Washington Post.

The Wired piece does engage in some silly and ironic razzing on Wikileaks for “finally” getting a new submission system set up.

Why “ironic”? Well, I remember how four years ago, the Wikileaks defectors Wired favorably mentions but doesn’t name, but whose leader (and, I’m guessing, the unnamed defector quoted) is still probably Daniel Domscheit-Berg, promised they were going to a) be more “responsible” than Assange and b) have a superior leak site set up called “OpenLeaks”, because they were so much smarter and more technically competent than the remaining Wikileaks crew.

Well, after four years, there’s no “OpenLeaks” site, and the only thing of note that the defectors have done is not to safeguard their stolen chunk of the original Wikileaks trove, but destroy much of it — much to Bank of America’s delight.

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