Archive for November, 2013

Watching Bill Ayers on CSPAN

Monday, November 25th, 2013

British Museum Manuscripts

Marginalia from the Luttrell Psalter

Bill Ayers reading from his latest fifteen seconds of fame when
Candidate Obama justifying, on the tube, his knowing, not biblically
But socially, this elderly Art Garfunkel, former Weatherman;
Lt. Nately died for nothing, loving his Italian whore.
Ayers lives with meaning
Brimming from every mellifluous tone and gesture, whist I
Standing there chopping an onion, muttering in my sprongy head
That should be me. The screen babbles on, Al Gore self-congratulatory,
Oh so weather wise
After all I pontificate to the sizzling fry pan,
”I almost joined the Weathermen”
Instead I left the bleeding narrow pathways of the
Old constitution state
For a spiritual mountain, because, because I had miles yet to go and
Ayers revolting a little longer before insight overtook upon
Lake Michigan’s windy shores
What I had instinctively known when righteous talking college
Degreed brothers
Would not let my teen aged yearning heart access to the good
Drugs, or
Pull guard duty on the funky Bridgeport roof top, expecting the
Police to do us
Like they did Fred Hampton, but no, not so lucky we valiant few
Not even a raid to justify our debates over whose turn
To stand lonely sentinel, a shotgun blast away from eternity
Instead I was off to the Rockies, azure skies and howdy partner nods
On streets of shivery yellow brick
Tarnished soon enough in sycophantic self-righteousness as we
Played follow the leader;
I abandoned all hope, pool cued with my air academy workmates,
A band of waiters all
And old Mestas, beer in hand, pointed up to Pikes Peak at 5 am,
As the dawn
Smacked the sides of the Chevi’s back seat he moaned
“I want be a bird, high, way up, way up high.”
By Gary Crethers
11/25/2013 Long Beach

Iran Deal, US Mid-East Policy, Energy & Climate Change

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Recent US Oil production projections (Tight oil is Shale Oil)

The USA enjoys a temporary energy independence with regards to the use of fossil fuels, soon to be greatly aided by the new fuel standards in automobiles which more than anything else will cut dependence on foreign oil. This gives the Obama administration some wiggle room regarding how it acts in the Middle East. Persian Gulf oil is no longer so predominant, in fact as Nial Ferguson states in his book Colossus, it was really countering Soviet influence in the Middle East that drove US policy since the end of World War 2, not over dependence on Middle Eastern Oil. In the 1950’s the US was largely energy self sufficient.

Crude Oil Imports by thousands of barrels

The intervention in places like Iran in 1953 was driven more by British concerns and a desire to block suspected Soviet penetration than any real need to protect oil assets. The US recognition of Israel by Truman was cautioned against by the State Department (Ferguson 109), which surely pissed off oil interests in Saudi Arabia, but since oil from the Middle East was such an insignificant portion of US usage, protecting it wasn’t a priority based in need. What was a concern was that the Soviet Union recognized Israel immediately and there was a strong socialist tendency in early Israel who had a strong anti-British bias among the faction who had fought to free Israel from British rule (Fromkin 6-8).

Future oil import shift in selected nations

The US recently in Syria faced off with the Russians, who have a naval refueling station in Syria and interests in preserving the Assad regime, but instead of confrontation there was compromise and the Syrians gave up their chemical weapons in a face saving deal for the Obama administration which had found itself in a tight position with Obama’s line in the sand statements regarding use of chemical weapons. This shows how far the world has come since the cold war and offers an opportunity for the US to disengage from the Middle East. With NATO lapping up on the very borders of the Russian Homeland, they realize that room to move as once was the case in the days of the Soviet Empire has been much constrained. Therefore the US has even less reason to defend the Middle East from Russian incursion. This policy of Russian containment goes back to the old British nineteenth century concerns over Ottoman weakness and the protection of British concerns in Egypt and the ‘golden goose’ in its Indian colony. There is little reason for the US to be invested there other than treaty commitments to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and its NATO allies Turkey and Greece.

Middle East

With the recent snubbing of the US by the Saudi’s over it’s refusal of a UN Security Council position, the support of the Coup in Egypt over US opposition, and the secret arrangements between Israel, the Saudi’s and now the military regime in Egypt, there is little incentive for the US to hold back on negotiations with Iran. What may emerge is a realignment of forces with the US becoming friendly again with Iran. Securing the Persian Gulf by treaty with the Iranians will allow the US to focus on east Asia and the Chinese perceived threat. With a little real politic perhaps the Saudi’s and Israel might be able to resolve the Palestinian problem. But that is doubtful since the Saudi’s do not want a democratic secular Palestine, they would prefer using the Palestinians as a chess piece in their own game of negotiating between regional forces. But since the Chinese, Japanese, India and Europeans have more dependence on Middle Eastern Oil than the US, it would behoove them to step up and take a more active role in protecting the regional sea lanes than the USA which then can pull back to a more traditional role of preserving hemispheric hegemony and trade routes to East Asia and Europe. The US has only been engaged world wide since it replaced the British naval influence as protector of the sea lanes after the end of World War 2. This realignment should not be seen as American weakness but a return to a more balanced position for the US regarding its place in the world. Having overextended ourselves for so long militarily, for some seventy years, it is about time focus is placed on reducing military footprint and working on domestic infrastructure. This may not please the military industrial complex but retooling for civilian purposes has been delayed long enough.

The temporary bump in US oil production

This temporary position of an increase in domestic production must be seen for what it is, temporary, what is needed long term is a reduction on dependence on oil and fossil fuel. Earnest development of solar, wind and other alternative energy sources must continue and not be suppressed by a temporary dip in oil prices. Any savings in cutting back on military commitments must be balanced with an increased commitment to energy alternatives and a sharp decrease in the use of fossil fuels in automobiles in particular, whether this means an increased use of mass transit or not depends more on technology than policy as the US does not have the population density in most areas to justify expensive mass transit systems (See my Bus vs Rail in Los Angeles post for some info). World Oil reserves are diminishing and that is a further reason why countries like Iran want to move into nuclear power, although nuclear has security, disposal and environmental problems that the recent Fukushima disaster indicates. Conservation is probably still the best means of controlling energy dependency. As the chart below shows the largest use of energy is in powering, heating and lighting buildings. Switching to solar, and more energy efficiency in appliances, insulation and lighting can make a big difference along with auto mileage efficiency, more efficient transmission lines etc.

US Energy consumption by sector

The world is running out of readily accessible oil which is probably what will keep the planet from excessive climate change more than any technical fix that is derived from conferences like the world energy summit going on in Warsaw. Countries will simply be forced by economic and resource pressure since there does not seem to be the political will to deal with the situation.

Projection of World Energy sources by next century.

Note that coal is a major source of energy in predictions, taking up most of the slack as other fossil fuels diminish. Natural gas, promoted as being clean, does not seem to have a long run ahead. Coal being a very dirty energy source will have to have very strong regulation and environmental pollution controls, especially in countries like the USA and China where use is expected to be high. Otherwise there will be continuous problems with global CO2 emissions.

Getty Images

“Smog: China has access to vast swathes of coal, which is cheaper for it to use than other fossil fuels. Pictured, Wuda Coal Field, in Wu Hai, Inner Mongolia, China, where coal is mined, then trucked nearby to the power stations and factories in the region” (Collis, Return of King Coal)

This is a big deal and it will be increasing as coal use driven largely by China will overtake oil as the predominant fuel during this decade.

‘China’s demand for coal will almost single-handedly propel the growth of coal as the dominant global fuel,’ said William Durbin, president of global markets at Woodmac. ‘Unlike alternatives, it is plentiful and affordable.’

China - already the top consumer - will drive two-thirds of the growth in global coal use this decade. Half of China’s power generation capacity to be built between 2012 and 2020 will be coal-fired, said Woodmac.

China has no alternative to coal, with its domestic gas output limited, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports more costly than coal, Durbin said.

Read more:

With the Climate conference ended in Warsaw with the emissions standards kicked down the road to Paris 2015, and an emerging nations bloc opposed to world wide standards being imposed on developing nations led by China and India the US came out as being almost looking good according to Greenpeace blogger Kyle Ash.

Chinese Energy source predictions

According to the Guardian article “Warsaw climate talks set 2015 target for plans to curb emissions” by Fiona Harvey on the agreement reached in Warsaw most of the work remains to be done.

At the insistence of a small group of developing countries, they will take the form of “contributions” rather than the stronger “commitments” that most other countries wanted.

These were the self-styled “like-minded developing countries”, a group that comprises several oil-rich nations, including Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia and Malaysia. Several have large coal deposits and are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, such as China and India, and some countries with strong links to some of the others, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Thailand.

The “like-minded developing countries” group takes the view that the strict separation of nations into “developed” and “developing”, which was set at the first international climate talks in 1992, and enshrined in the 1997 Kyoto protocol – in which developed countries were obliged to cut emissions but developing countries had no obligations – must remain as the bedrock of any future agreement. They argue that the “historical responsibilities” for climate change lie with the first nations to industrialize.

But all countries admitted that most of the preparation work for Paris still remains to be done. Politically, the battle between the like-minded group – which is separate from, but claims to lie within, the broader G77 group of the majority of developing nations – and the US and the EU will be key. For both sides, gaining support from the rest of the unaligned developing nations – some of which are highly vulnerable to climate change and are desperate for a deal, but others who are courting economic investment from China – will be crucial.

The fragile truce reached after the marathon talks in Warsaw may not even last as long as the delegates’ flights home.

“Poland has long relied on coal for its energy, using mostly antiquated equipment like this extractor at the Adamow” (NBC News).

Certainly it was strange that a country that is sponsoring a climate control conference at the same time sponsors a coal industry conference, indicating that Poland is not serious about climate emissions control eliciting the protests by environmentalists that it did.

In summation the US has an opportunity to draw down in the Middle East and let regional players who have a stronger vested interest step up, perhaps under UN guidance. The US is primarily concerned with the Chinese and east Asian issues and will focus in that direction in the immediate future. Chinese and Indian energy use, especially dependence on coal will make climate change a continued issue as their blocking of reforms in Warsaw and energy use predictions indicate. This will have dire consequences for states like the Philippines and Indonesia who are likely to be heavily impacted by ocean levels rising. Unless the Chinese, India and others take a stronger stance on pollution and the US and the EU expend more on promoting environmentally sustainable energy technology, the problems will simply get worse. Conservation at home, the tapping of short term shale oil and natural gas supplies will give the USA a breather in which to transition to renewable energy especially if serious energy conservation measures are put in place. With a low population and abundant resources the US should be in a good position to be a climate change leader if it’s policy makers can get away from a focus on international militarization to one of domestic energy independence.

Works Cited

Collis, Helen. “The Return of King Coal as the World’s Dominant Fuel.” Daily Mail. 14 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

Ferguson, Niall. Colossus The Rise and Fall of the American Empire. London: Penguin Books. 2004. Print

Fromkin, David. “The Strategy of Terrorism.” Foreign Affairs July 1975. Rpt. The U.S. vs. al Qaeda A History of the War on Terror. Ed. Gideon Rose and Johnathan Tepperman. New York: Council on Foreign Relations. 2011. Print.

Harvey, Fiona. “Warsaw climate talks set 2015 target for plans to curb emissions.” Guardian. 24 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

Bus V. Rail in Los Angeles County Mass Transit.

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Rendering for proposed rail to Century City

To Bus or Rail in L.A. County? Questions of Equity, Cost Benefit and Illusions
By Gary Crethers

Hamlet merely had the meaning of life on his mind, a simple matter, compared to the myriad problems associated with transporting some 316,000 workers via public transit across the 4083 square mile vastness of Los Angeles County (US Census LA County, US Census Means of Transport…Geography). Approximately 7% of the working population in the county is transported via mass transit. It is important that an equitable and cost effective means of public transportation is available for the largely a lower income population that uses the METRO system. The question arises are buses better, or is rail, especially light rail? Yet there is a bias to rail systems. What exactly does that mean for the future of Los Angeles County in a time of constrained public budgets, health concerns and increasing transportation congestion?
Chart indicates ridership levels at time of survey.

Some simple definitions are required. There are two main mass transit options in Los Angeles County. One is rail with feeder bus lines, and the other is to run bus lines, local which stop at every designated location, rapid which make less frequent stops and express which run on the freeways and make very infrequent stops (Los Angeles Public Transit). The other is two types of rail, light rail which can run on surface streets and on right of ways and heavy rail which requires sole right of way tracks and often run underground. The county chose light rail over heavy rail and gives a preponderance of funding to rail over bus service. This has not always been the case.
A little history helps. The first local rail transit services, called trolleys, were horse drawn in the 1870’s. By the 1880’s they were supplemented by cable systems and around the turn of the twentieth century rail lines were electrified. The Los Angeles Railway’s ‘Yellow Cars’ and the Pacific Electric Railway’s ‘Red Cars’ were the two main trolley rail lines. The last of these went out of service in 1963, replaced by bus lines and the ubiquitous automobile (METRO Los Angeles Transit History).

Why did the trolley lines go out of business? Ultimately “the trolley was out-competed by automobiles” according to James Moore, professor at the University of Southern California, in a review of Jonathan Richmond’s book Transport of Delight the Mythical Conception of Rail Transit in Los Angeles. Moore notes Richmond correctly disposed of the General Motors Conspiracy theory proposed in 1974 by U. S. Senate Judiciary staff attorney Bradford Snell that GM wanted to replace trolleys with buses (Moore 371-372). In fact the Pacific Electric railway bought out private competing bus lines starting in 1917 and took them over to maintain its market, but competition from automobiles, the decentralization of real estate that the automobile afforded, forced Pacific Electric and the Los Angeles Railway to switch over to the more flexible bus lines long before GM entered the market. It was simply the “Displacement of Technology” that caused the demise of the old trolley service (Richmond 21-29).

Whittier bound bus

According to Bin Mo in his paper “Mapping Potential Metro Rail Ridership in Los Angeles County” problems are due to the fact that “Metro Rail must compete with the automobile…Los Angeles County has been evaluated by many scholars as the paragon of polycentrism for which the area population is difficult to serve from a transit perspective…the automobiles created the polycentrism, not that polycentrism created the need for automobiles” and yet traffic congestion, increased population density, environmental concerns and fuel prices all are factors to push for a solution (Mo Mapping Potential).

From 2012 Transit Leadership Conference figures show low transit ridership and population density in Los Angeles.

Politicians and planners seem to want mass transit, rail has a certain romance to it and works in metropolises around the world. Thus Los Angeles County passed Proposition A in 1980, a half-cent sales tax increase, to build a county wide system of rapid rail transit, and to fund a three year fare decrease for the bus fares from $.85 to $.50 starting in 1982, as well as providing some local discretionary transportation funding. This was done according to Richmond, without federal funding by local initiative. Quoting County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, “Now we need light rail transportation. It’s a priority for the nation, let alone for Los Angeles. Just travel the freeways; see the jammed bumper-to-bumper freeways” (qtd. in Richmond 3-4). The first line finished in 1990 was the Blue Line from downtown Los Angeles to downtown Long Beach, symbolically starting where the last line of the old ‘Red Car’ interurban street cars closed in 1961. But why the switch from buses which had replaced the rail lines and apparently have been capable of competing with the automobiles, with their flexibility and the added advantage of being able to share the same road infrastructure?

Metropolitan Coach Lines - MCL 407 San Pedro - Long Beach line - Los Angeles, California - September 09, 1957 - Express cars roll by at Slauson Jct. in south central L.A. The inner two mains were express tracks, running from downtown to Long Beach.

Attempting to answer this question, John Kain then head of Economic Dept. at Harvard University states before a meeting of the Executive Committee of Southern California Association of Governments that “My overall impression of this is that your transportation system planners are trying to impose a 19th century technology on a 20th or 21st century city…I can’t understand, on any rational basis at least, this fascination with light rail…[which] seems to be nothing more than a slow, low capacity express bus system…[l]ight rail is incredibly more expensive than a well-designed express bus system” (qtd. in Richmond 38-39). That seems to be the crux of Richmond’s argument, that light rail does not make rational economic sense. Richmond claims a conference of economists were unanimous in concluding that light rail was “the worst step Los Angeles could take to improve transportation” (39). Certainly the civic boosters in the 1980’s thought light rail was a good idea, and the voters agreed.

How could they be wrong? Moore claims it is bureaucracy and inertia (Moore 371-372). Richmond quoting a study from “the Transportation Systems Center, U.S. Department of Transportation… evaluated the performance of ten federally funded rail transit projects” found ridership to be dismally lower than predictions, leading him to conclude that over optimistic ridership projections led public officials to make poor policy decisions (Richmond 39-40). He also argues citing various studies that rail is only marginally less polluting than buses, and that realistically due to the amount of automobile traffic, the best way to reduce emissions or to reduce fuel consumption is to make cars cleaner and more energy efficient (65-66). Same with congestion, in fact he claims that if mass transit reduced congestion successfully more people would drive. He states to relieve congestion, tolls on highways, increased parking fees and controlling freeway access are needed to reduce congestion (62, 64).

Subsidies based on 2000 figures.

The justification for mass transit when only a small populace uses it must be based on bringing service to those who need it. Joe Grengs, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, writes in his article “Community-Based Planning as a Source of Political Change The Transit Equity Movement of the Los Angeles’ Bus Riders Union” that the “community-based organization of bus riders in Los Angeles” was able to demand that the LAMTA improve bus service for inner city residents before focusing on rail transit before building expensive rail transit to the suburbs. The 1994 law suit, “a was the first to successfully challenge transit decisions based on discrimination, leading to the courts ordering improvements to the bus system and giving bus riders a role in the planning process (Grengs 165).

From July 2003.

Issues of cost overruns, unrealistic ridership expectations and the transfer of funding away from bus transportation to the light rail system are fundamental to this contention that the public suffers when funding is diverted from bus to rail. Examining the recent Measure R passed in 2008 which returned to half cent sales tax, has indicated that the public, increasingly frustrated with traffic congestion is willing to spend money on transportation. According to Christopher MacKechnie, with a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and transit writer for, “the reality of the California state budget situation has meant that Measure R funds dedicated to bus service improvements have instead been used to replace State Transit Assistance funding that was cut back in order to cut the state budget deficit. Metro’s bus service has taken an even bigger hit due to the fact that Measure R Transit Operations funding has had to be used to backfill operating deficits caused by the Bus Rider Union’s consent decree forcing Metro to pay for additional bus service it could not afford” (MacKechnie Los Angeles County’s Measure R).

Bus Riders Union protests cutbacks in Bus Service.

Is cutting bus service then reasonable? A report by Eric Romann and Sunyoung Yang “Transit Civil Rights And Economic Survival In Los Angeles A Case for Federal Intervention in LA Metro” indicates that since 2008 Metro bus service has been cut 12% as of 2011 (Romann and Yang 4-5). Junfeng Jiao and Maxwell Dillivan in their article “Transit Deserts: The Gap between Demand and Supply” argue “Transit deserts’ … areas that lack adequate public transit service [are] areas containing populations that are deemed transit dependent… a significant portion of mass transit riders are completely dependent upon the various forms of urban mass transportation” (Jiao, Dillivan 24). According to David Hensher in “A Bus-Based Transitway or Light Rail?,” three times as many persons can be moved by dedicated bus transit as by rail at the same cost (Hensher 5).

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the median income of mass transit riders is $16,423 with carpoolers making $26,978, and those who drove alone earning $36,258, as of 2012. This shows that low income users, as the Bus Riders Union argues, are heavier users of mass transit with some 29.8% of them having no vehicle at home compared to 4.4% of carpoolers and 1.2% of solitary drivers (U.S Census Bureau Means of Transport…Geography).

Mode of Transport from 2012 city data site.

In the 2012 budget for the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority, 28.8% of the entire budget went to the Bus system, 26.3% went to the Rail system. This reflects a decrease in expenditures on the buses since 2010 when 34.8% was spent on Bus transport and 18% was spent on Rail. For 2012 budgeted expenditures are $1,196.9 million on bus and $1,092.1 million on rail. Bus ridership is averaged at 100.05 million for 2012 and for rail 35.245 million for 2012 (METRO Budget 18). This would indicate much lower cost per rider on buses.

From 2012 article showing predominance of spending on rail over bus transit.

Pro-rail advocates have argued according to Grengs, “that rail is essential for the region’s future because it would restrict sprawl, reduce air pollution, save energy, and relieve the city’s notorious freeway congestion.” He goes on to site, former transit agency chair of the board of directors, Larry Zarian as saying that questioning rail spending is like former questions about spending on freeways and like the freeways will be ultimately seen as an important transport decision (Grengs 167). Thus they are stating that it is rail transit that will provide the answers for a future world. The bet seems to be that energy costs and reaching peak oil will force people into mass transit. “Much of the rationale for rail in Los Angeles will attract a new segment of the population to transit, who perceive the quality of rail to be faster, more comfortable, more reliable, more cost efficient, and with far fewer traffic jams. Moreover, new statistics from LACMTA indicate success: the average weekday boardings have increased more than 20%, from 300,000 in June 2011 to 363,000 in June 2012” (Mo Mapping Potential). Buses have lower capital costs, rail has lower operating cost based on the 2012 budget. Service changes in the bus and rail indicate increases of 16% for rail and a decrease of 5.1 percent for bus (METRO Ridership, METRO Budget 12). Cartographic analysis of the potential ridership of rail lines by Mo indicates that something in the order of 80-90% underutilization exists as of 2012. He recommends improved safety and easier transition into transit to help encourage car drivers into transit (Mo Mapping Potential).

Total integrated potential ridership of Metro Rail system in Los Angeles County. (Mo, Mapping Potential). Note: SAZ = Service area zone.

To sum up, due to traffic congestion, an attempt to mitigate air pollution, the needs of the population without a transportation alternative and a political will to build mass transit as Herman Boschken, says in “Social Class, Politics, And Urban Markets The Making of Bias in Policy Outcomes, “Los Angeles wanted desperately to make heavy-rail transit work as an effective, market worthy alternative to the automobile, but this was made impossible by the basin’s layout: the places where people work, play and live are to scattered” (Boschken 8).

Further Clifford Winston and Vikram Mahereshri’s paper “On the social desirability of urban rail transit systems” concludes “We find that with the single exception of BART in the San Francisco Bay area, every U.S. transit system actually reduces social welfare. Worse, we cannot identify an optimal pricing policy or physical restructuring of the rail network that would enhance any system’s social desirability” (Winston and Maheshri 363).

In conclusion, largely due to the dispersion allowed by a commitment to automobiles for almost a century, and the gradual decline of mass transit usage as the population spread across an area larger than some states, makes rail transit less viable. Hopes to encourage ridership unless backed by strong economic or regulatory incentives are not likely to work. Buses due to their less expensive start-up costs, available infrastructure, and easier access for low income people, are a more cost effective, and socially justifiable means to provide mass transit for the LA basin.

Works Cited
Boshkin, Herman L. Social Class, Politics, And Urban Markets The Making of Bias in Policy Outcomes. Stanford: Stanford U. Press. 2002. Print.
Grengs, Joe. Community-Based Planning as a source of Political Change The Transit Equity Movement of the Los Angeles’ Bus Riders Union.” Journal of the American Planning Association 68.2 (2002): 165-178. Proquest Research Library. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.
Hensher, David A. “A Bus-Based Transitway Or Light Rail? Continuing the Saga on Choice `versus blind commitment.” Road and Transport Research. 8.3 (1999): 3-21. ProQuest Research Library: Science and Technology. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.
Jiao, Junfeng, and Dillivan, Maxwell.“Transit Deserts: The Gap between Demand and Supply.” USF Journal of Public Transportation. 16. 3. 2013. 23-39. Transportation Research Board. 2013. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.
“Los Angeles Public Transit.” Discover Los Angeles. Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
Mackechnie, Christopher. “Los Angeles County’s Measure R.” Public Transport. (2013). Web. 28 Oct. 2013.
METRO. “Los Angeles Transit History.” (2013). Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
METRO. Office of Management and Budget. “Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority FY12 Budget.” pdf. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.
METRO. “Ridership Statistics.” (2013). Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
Mo, Bin (Owen). “Mapping Potential Metro Rail Ridership in Los Angeles County.” Cartographic Perspectives. 72 (2012). Cartographic Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
Moore, James E. “Transport of Delight: The Mythical Conception of Rail Transit in Los Angeles.” Review. Journal of the American Planning Association.72.3 (Summer 2006): 371-372. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
Richmond, Jonathan. Transport of Delight The Mythical Conception of Rail Transit in Los Angeles. Akron. OH: U. of Akron Press. 2005. Print.
Romann, Eric, and Yang, Sunyoung.“Transit Civil Rights And Economic Survival In Los Angeles A Case for Federal Intervention in LA Metro.” Labor/Community Strategy Center. (2011). Labor/Community Strategy Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
United States. Census Bureau. American Fact Finder. “Means Of Transportation To Work By Selected Characteristics For Workplace Geography 2012 American Community Survey 1- Year Estimates.” US Census Bureau American Community Survey. 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.
United States. Census Bureau. State and County Quick Facts. “Los Angeles County, California.”
Winston, Clifford and Maheshri, Vikram. “On the social desirability of urban rail transit systems.” Journal of Urban Economics 62 (2007) 362–382. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.

Obama’s Big Energy Gamble: US Oil and Disentangling From Middle East

Friday, November 8th, 2013

This is only a theory mind you, but I am watching the recent events around the world and the US reaction and I am beginning to suspect that there may be a method in the Obama administration’s seeming madness. Iran is now making peace noises, Saudi Arabia is throwing tantrums, as is Israel. The US got burned in Egypt by the Saudi’s funding the military coup. They almost managed to get the US to commit to war in Syria. Fortunately Kerry seems to be leaning fast in his overseas capacity and the Obama Administration wisely backed out. What is driving this? Well an interesting article in Bloomberg keyed me to think about this. Perhaps what we are seeing is more than simply business as usual in the Middle East. What if this is a portent of a major shift in policy, not just a refocusing on East Asia, but an actual pull back from the Middle East as the US becomes free of dependence on their oil and maintaining the sea lanes in the region.

There is a heavy reliance on domestic and Canadian oil shale especially in the anticipated domestic independence from Middle Eastern Oil and other sources with potential volatility such as Nigeria, Venezuela and even Mexico. Philips sees this as providing leverage against Iran in the talks ongoing. LeVine warns against too much dependence on the domestic production, some government forecasts verify his concern in the growing cost of Natural gas, but overall it is still less expensive than Oil at least until 2040. This gives the Obama administration a little lee way to push a less foreign energy dependent policy. This not only allows for pressure on Iran, but more importantly pressure can now be safely placed on Saudi Arabia and Israel. Perhaps that is why we have them both throwing temper tantrums over recent US policy.

Domestic Pipeline construction.

There Would Be No Iranian Nuclear Talks If Not for Fracking
By Matthew Philips November 08, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Geneva on Friday to begin negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. The hope is that the West will reach a deal that eases the economic sanctions imposed on Iran in exchange for some sort of freeze on its enrichment of uranium. Although Kerry was careful to temper expectations as he headed into meetings with his counterparts from Britain, France, and Germany, there is sudden optimism that a deal is in the offing.

Lost in some of the forecasting over what an agreement may eventually entail is the simple fact that none of this would be possible without the U.S. oil boom. Over the last two years, the U.S. has increased its crude production by about 2 million barrels a day. That’s like swallowing Norway, the fourteenth largest oil producer in the world. This new U.S. crude supply has allowed the West to put the squeeze on Iran without disrupting the global market or jacking up the price.

According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (pdf), Iran’s oil exports have been cut in half since 2011, from 2.5 million barrels per day to a bit more than 1 million today. As a result, Iran has had to halt an equal amount of production.

Most of the oil that Iran has been able to sell to other countries is going to Asia. The four big buyers have been China, Japan, India, and South Korea. Turkey has also been buying some. While some of that crude may be finding its way illicitly to other buyers, through some kind of ship transfers and relabeling schemes, most oil analysts think that’s probably not happening in a big way.

According to data from Bloomberg, the combined carrying capacity of oil tankers leaving Iranian ports last month dropped 22 percent from September. “They’re having a very hard time finding buyers,” says Walker. Those buyers that remain are able to drive a hard bargain and secure Iranian oil for prices below the market. “There’s certainly some discounting that’s going on,” says Frank Verrastro, a senior vice president for energy and geopolitics at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

If a deal gets done, the trick will be to ease Iranian oil back onto the broader market without disrupting prices. Along with the U.S. production gain, the other key to the puzzle has been persuading the Saudis to pump an extra 1 million barrels of oil per day, going from 9 million to 10 million. Turning the Iranian oil tap back on will have to coincide with the Saudis ramping back down. That will require coordination. If not managed properly, flooding the market with Iranian crude would push prices lower, which, as Verrastro points out, could carry its own negative consequences by suddenly making fracked oil in the U.S. unprofitable.

This is from Energy Policy Info. com

If the American/Saudi Rift Deepens… Will Oil Prices Do the Talking?

Saudi Arabia’s representatives have not minced words as they expressed their dissatisfaction with recent American policy towards the region. Prince Turki Al Faisal (member of the House of Saud, former Ambassador to the United States, and former Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate) has stated, “The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious. And designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down (from military strikes), but also to help Assad to butcher his people.” In case the sentiment remained unclear, Saudi Arabia also refused a position on the U.N. Security Council, which Prince Bandar bin Sultan expressed was a deliberate snub to the United States. There is also some speculation that the Saudis refused the position for other reasons, namely that publicly displaying its foreign policy wishes is not fully in its interests. Regardless, the decision to pin the decision on the United States on the world stage speaks volumes about the extent of their resentment.

What Happens When America No Longer Needs Middle East Oil?
Loren Thompson for Forbes

If you trace your finger on a globe northward over the pole from the U.S. Navy’s main naval base on the West Coast, you’ll discover that the entrance to the Persian Gulf is roughly on the opposite side of the world. The Gulf is so far away that prior to World War Two, few Americans thought there was any reason to visit the sparsely populated region, much less establish a permanent military presence there.

But after the war ended, world demand for oil surged while America gradually exhausted most of its easily-tapped domestic reserves. As U.S. oil companies joined the global search for new sources, geologists came to believe that two-thirds of the world’s exploitable oil reserves and one-third of its natural gas lay under a handful of states bordering on the Persian Gulf. As a result, the security of Gulf oil states became of paramount concern to U.S. military planners.

Now, that could be changing. The latest edition of the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook says America will surpass Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil producer in 2020 and become self-sufficient in energy by 2030 as new drilling technologies, alternative fuels and declining consumption reduce the need to import oil. The U.S. may continue to use oil from Canada, Venezuela and other nearby countries if prices are competitive, but the IEA predicts Asian nations will end up consuming 90% of the oil produced in the Persian Gulf.

That’s good news for America, however it could have ramifications that are not good for the rest of the world. If the United States no longer needs access to Middle East oil under any foreseeable circumstances, then the priority Washington assigns to the region will plummet. Many analysts believe that a unified global pricing structure for fossil fuels will keep America engaged, but with U.S. spot prices for natural gas currently running at a fraction of what the fuel costs in Europe and East Asia, it appears global pricing isn’t so integrated after all.

Israel too would likely be a big loser. Washington spends billions of dollars each year subsidizing the security of the Jewish state. The reason that isn’t controversial even though Americans usually want to cut foreign aid ahead of every other type of federal spending is because it is hard to separate securing Israel from securing Middle East oil. The same U.S. military forces and programs that help protect Israel from Iranian missiles and Islamist terror groups also protect Arab oil-producing states. But if America’s role in securing the oil were to wane, it would be harder to ignore the cost of defending Israel, and that might force Jerusalem to become more self-sufficient.

Who will be dependent on Middle East Oil? They will have to step up and protect their shipping lanes and not the US.

This is from NPR

U.S. Rethinks Security As Mideast Oil Imports Drop
Tom Gjelten

Security For Key Shipping Lanes

If protecting the Persian Gulf oil supply doesn’t matter so much anymore, would that justify some U.S. disengagement from the Middle East?

Persian Gulf oil will remain important, and somebody will need to secure those Gulf shipping lanes. China, poised to become the No. 1 buyer of Gulf oil, is now benefiting from the huge U.S. security presence in the region. Perhaps the United States could turn over security responsibilities in the Persian Gulf to China.

Bakken formation location.

The Weekly Wrap — July 27, 2012 (Part I)
Posted By Steve LeVine Friday, July 27, 2012 - 5:43 PM

A mountain-top take on the flood: If Montana is a microcosm of the world, one message to glean is that we are not in the midst of a decades-long flood of oil supply in the United States, as many suggest. Instead, the red lights are blinking across the exuberant U.S. oil patch. As you recall, much has been made in recent months about the momentous prospects for U.S. oil and gas, which are said to be leading a global fossil fuel revolution, with meaningful implications for fortune-hunters and geopolitical players alike: North America will be independent of outside oil producers, the U.S. will experience an industrial revolution, and OPEC will drift into laggardly inconsequence. So what to think about the latest news from folks approaching the punch bowl with bad intentions?

Let’s start with Montana, and the now-legendary Bakken shale oil formation. Bob Brackett, an analyst with Bernstein Research, studied a dozen years of shale oil drilling data for this mountainous state bordering Canada. What he found was a steep oil production increase through 2006 — surpassing 100,000 barrels a day — followed by a fast, 40 percent decline to about 60,000 barrels a day today. The plummet is counterintuitive because the time frame coincides with a capital spending binge by the industry — tens of billions of dollars poured into the new innovations and technology that have opened up the Bakken and other shale plays. So why has Montana’s production dropped? “Resource plays,” Brackett writes in a note to clients today, “have limited/finite drilling locations. The best locations get drilled early, the less economic ones later, and once they are drilled, operators move on.” In other words, Brackett told me in a followup email, “industry drilled the low hanging fruit first, and now can’t find the same quality of opportunity.”

But surely this is just Montana, right Bob? You don’t mean to suggest that the entire Bakken formation, including North Dakota — on which so many North American projections centrally rely — is in trouble, too? Sadly, that is precisely what Brackett means. In fact, he has quantified the Bakken’s production trajectory. The key number is six - that is the longevity of a Bakken well before it turns into a “stripper,” industry argot for a worn-out nag producing just 10 or 15 barrels a day, from 400 barrels a day at its peak. Right now, just 200 modern Bakken wells are strippers. But in roughly six years, there will be 4,000 of them, Brackett says. “All good things in the oil patch come to an end,” Brackett told me. “In the case of North Dakota, that is a long time — years — off, but even that too will suffer the same fate” as Montana.

Even now, the fortune hunters among us are suffering. ExxonMobil, the biggest player on the U.S. natural gas patch, made its second quarter numbers yesterday only by selling off $7.5 billion in hard assets such as its Japanese refining unit. In Pennsylvania, a court yesterday rejected the state’s right to compel localities to allow oil and gas drilling. What does this tell us? That just because you pick up the scent of oil and gas, a load of other factors affect how much will actually be produced, and for how long. Says Brackett in our email exchange: “There is an emerging view of a wave of oil production (from shale and otherwise) coming. I just want to point out the difficulties in an exuberant view.”

Some data from the US Energy Information Administration.

Shale largest source of expected Natural gas in future.

The 44-percent increase in total natural gas production from 2011 through 2040 in the AEO2013 Reference case results from the increased development of shale gas, tight gas, and coalbed methane resources (Figure 91). Shale gas production, which grows by 113 percent from 2011 to 2040, is the greatest contributor to natural gas production growth. Its share of total production increases from 34 percent in 2011 to 50 percent in 2040. Tight gas and coalbed methane production also increase, by 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively, from 2011 to 2040, even as their shares of total production decline slightly. The growth in coalbed methane production is not realized until after 2035, when natural gas prices and demand levels are high enough to spur more drilling.

Offshore natural gas production declines by 0.3 trillion cubic feet from 2011 through 2014, as offshore exploration and development activities are directed toward oil-prone areas in the Gulf of Mexico. After 2014, offshore natural gas production recovers as prices rise, growing to 2.8 trillion cubic feet in 2040. As a result, from 2011 to 2040, offshore natural gas production increases by 35 percent.

Alaska natural gas production also increases in the Reference case with the advent of Alaska LNG` exports to overseas customers beginning in 2024 and growing to 0.8 trillion cubic feet per year (2.2 billion cubic feet per day) in 2027. In 2040, Alaska natural gas production totals 1.2 trillion cubic feet.

Natural gas prices rise with an expected increase in production costs after 2015

U.S. natural gas prices have remained relatively low over the past several years as a result of abundant domestic supply and efficient methods of production. However, the cost of developing new incremental production needed to support continued growth in natural gas consumption and exports rises gradually in the AEO2013 Reference case, leading to an increase in the Henry Hub spot price. Henry Hub spot prices for natural gas increase by an average of about 2.4 percent per year, to $7.83 per million Btu (2011 dollars) in 2040.

Renewables and natural gas lead rise in primary energy consumption

The aggregate fossil fuel share of total energy use falls from 82 percent in 2011 to 78 percent in 2040 in the Reference case, while renewable use grows rapidly (Figure 54). The renewable share of total energy use (including biofuels) grows from 9 percent in 2011 to 13 percent in 2040 in response to the federal renewable fuels standard; availability of federal tax credits for renewable electricity generation and capacity during the early years of the projection; and state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) programs.

Natural gas consumption grows by about 0.6 percent per year from 2011 to 2040, led by the increased use of natural gas in electricity generation and, at least through 2020, the industrial sector. Growing production from tight shale keeps natural gas prices below their 2005-2008 levels through 2036. In the AEO2013 Reference case, the amount of liquid fuels made from natural gas (360 trillion Btu) is about three times the amount made from coal.

Energy from natural gas remains far less expensive than energy from oil through 2040

The ratio of oil prices to natural gas prices is defined in terms of the Brent crude oil price and the Henry Hub spot natural gas price on an energy-equivalent basis. U.S. natural gas prices are determined largely on a regional basis, in response to supply and demand conditions in North America. Oil prices are more responsive to global supply and demand. A 1:1 ratio indicates that crude oil and natural gas cost the same in terms of energy content. On that basis, crude oil remains far more expensive than natural gas through 2040 (Figure 87), but the difference in the costs of the two fuels narrows over time.

Corporatization of Organic Industry, Inevitable?

Friday, November 8th, 2013

From review of movie “Food, Inc.”

Inevitable Corporatization of Organic Industry? A Critique of “The Organic Myth”
By Gary Crethers

Diane Brady in her 2006 Business Week article, “The Organic Myth” argues that the organic food industry isn’t what people popularly believe it is, due to the growth of the industry and the entrance of major food corporations into the field. She uses anecdotal evidence and some statistical data to bolster her position. Brady provides plenty of evidence that the industry is being changed, but does not indicate measures the organic movement is using to counter these changes other than showing examples that are not viable in her article. No place does she address the effect of government policy other than as an arbitrator of standards. Seemingly sympathetic to the organic movement, Brady presents an argument for the inevitability of the corporatization and outsourcing of organic food production, which belies its roots in small scale local farming and marketing. The lack of presentation of the growth of local small scale producers and suppliers, or public policy choices that create a bias towards agribusiness models, is a failing that distorts Brady’s portrayal.

Brady first gives the reader her definition of what will be called the popular conception of an organic farm and its products:

Next time you’re in the supermarket, stop and take a look at Stonyfield Farm yogurt. With its contented cow and green fields, the yellow container evokes a bucolic existence, telegraphing what we’ve come to expect from organic food: pure, pesticide-free, locally produced ingredients grown on a small family farm (Brady 583).

Questioning ingredients in Stonyfield Yogurt

This is reasonable enough, it is her introduction into the story. The author then goes on to describe what has happened to Stonyfield Farm. “Chairman and CEO, Gary Hirshberg” (583), beleaguered head of a growing organic yogurt business having trouble finding suppliers to meet the demands of his clients. Furthermore he has sold the company to a large corporate entity from France, Groupe Danone to scale up to meet those demands (583). Hershberg’s quest for organic milk in the US leads him overseas to get New Zealand powdered milk. “It would be great to get all of our food within a 10-mile radius of our house,” he says. “But once you’re in organic, you have to source globally” (583, 586). Brady goes on to state her main point and the crux of the problem as she sees it:

Hirshberg’s dilemma is that of the entire organic food business. Just as consumers are growing hungry for untainted food that also nourishes their social conscience, it is getting harder and harder to find organic ingredients. There simply aren’t enough organic cows in the U.S., never mind the organic grain to feed them, to go around (583).

Organic Factory Farmed Cows in Pens not free range grazing according to Cornucopia Institute

This certainly is a challenge, and this is where the argument becomes a problem. Brady provides two options, global sourcing or industrial scale farming. Both have drawbacks, with overseas sourcing it is accountability, and with industrial scale it is tantamount to duplicating practices of agribusiness that are anathema to the values of the organic movement (587). The third model, that of small scale enterprises replicated to meet demand is treated as unrealistic by the author. Her examples of the attempts of the traditionalist small organic producers to meet demand are totally inadequate leaving the market open to inroads by major corporations, but also not giving traditional small farming that was the standard before world war two its due. That is where Bradly fails.

The article while it does give one reason to pause and consider what is happening to the organic food industry, Brady states:

Now companies from Wal-Mart to General Mills to Kellogg are wading into the organic game, attracted by fat margins that old-fashioned food purveyors can only dream of. What was once a cottage industry of family farms has become Big Business, with all that that implies, including pressure from Wall Street to scale up and boost profits (583).

Butterworks Farm owners Lazar family and friends

The only example of a small farm that meets the model she describes above of a pastoral small farm is that of Butterworks Farm in Vermont run by the Lazar family. The farm has forty five cows, and serves the local market that Hershberg wishes he could draw upon. “[T]he Lazars embody an ideal that is almost impossible for other food producers to fulfill” (585). Brady argues that this model is impractical because “a cow can only walk so far when it has to come back to be milked two or three times a day” (585). Why would the distance a cow can walk limit the ability of a series of small farmers to serve the country following the model of the Lazars? Is Brady to young to remember bottled milk delivered by the milk man from the local dairy? Such was the case even into the 1960’s. Rather than pursue the movement for smaller farms, Brady belittles these small scale practices.

Indicative of the slant Brady gives the story when she says, “the corporate giants have turned a fringe food category into a $14 billion business. They have brought wider distribution and marketing dollars. They have imposed better quality controls on a sector once associated with bug-infested, battered produce rotting in crates at hippie co-ops” (586). Brady returns to Hirshberg who states, “autonomy and independence and employment are contingent on delivering maximum growth and profitability” (588) and describing how “the movement is shedding its innocence” (584). Joe E. Scalzo, the CEO of White Wave parent company of Horizon, and head of one of the largest organic dairies following the factory farm model, states, “You need the twelve cow farms in Vermont - and the four thousand milking cows in Idaho” (588). Brady quotes Barbara Robinson of the USDA stating “The real issue is a fear of large corporations” (588). What is left understated is the legitimate nature of this fear. The emphasis on the advocates of corporatization makes it seem as if this is inevitable.

International sourcing of Organics, How certifiable is the food chain?

The problem is that the author has presented a lop sided approach that treats those who would maintain “the pastoral ethos that has defined the organic movement” (585), as hippies, and unrealistic idealists, thus making it hard to take seriously their efforts to maintain the original values of the organic movement as she stated in her introduction. Where is the alternative that is realistic and viable? She quotes from Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute, he complains “big dairy farms produce tons of pollution in the form of manure and methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide — gases blamed for warming the planet” (588). That is sad, but Brady fails to present the reader with viable alternatives to the corporate takeover of the organic industry. Hirshberg’s semi corporate sellout seems to be a dubious proposition at best.

Brady presents the early days of the Stonyfield Farm “producing yogurt amid the rudimentary conditions of the original Stonyfield Farm was a recipe for nightmares, not nirvana,” Brady citing Hirsberg’s wife Meg who is a critic of the “bad old days” when Meg’s mother would loan money to the business while Meg begged her not to do it (584). Brady gives short shrift to the original founder of the farm Samuel Kaymen, who left after the merger with Groupe Danone because as Brady quotes Kaymen saying “I never felt comfortable with the scale or dealing with people so far away” (588). If this is meant to be sympathetic to the small is beautiful ethic, it certainly doesn’t read that way.

Organic Coops with membership participation, this is how we used to do it and still do in some places

The only real hope for those who believe in small, local organic production and distribution seems to be that the corporations will give up because “It simply isn’t clear that organic food production can be replicated on a mass scale” (584). She notes “Inconsistency is a hallmark of organic food…that’s an anathema to a modern food giant” citing the example of Heinz foods which had to resort to dried or fresh herbs instead of the quick frozen ones it was used to for its organic ketchup (586). A representative from Wal-mart disparages not being able to squeeze prices out of suppliers who have such inconsistency and irregular supplies (586). These factors may impact agribusiness practices, but with the increased profit margins, will this be enough of a hindrance? Brady doesn’t give any evidence of large corporations pulling out.

Giving little support to back Hirshberg’s more idealistic desire to “change the way Kraft, Monsanto, and everybody else does business” (584), instead Brady ends on the note with Hirshberg arguing for upscaling in something more akin to a damn the torpedos full steam ahead approach, “Our kids don’t have time for us to sit on our high horses and say we’re not going to do this because it’s not ecologically perfect,” says Hirshberg. “The only way to influence the powerful forces in this industry is to become a powerful force” (588). How this is to be done, Hershberg seems to thing joining the corporations to beat them is the approach. But Hershberg must maintain profitability acceptable to the new owners (583).

Corporate Giants Buying up Organic food producers

Other approaches such as Co-ops, long a staple in the dairy industry since the early 20th century and local distribution is not seriously considered, farmers markets in every neighborhood, or supermarkets with buyers that focus on local and organic sources, federal funding for small family farms instead of agribusiness is not even considered. The assumption is the market will handle it all but nowhere is there found any focus on the effects of federal dollars other than as a body to insure standards. Agriculture is shaped as much by policy as by the market and nowhere is this the clearly addressed by the author, thus although Brady makes interesting points, she avoids the larger issues of public policy choices, it is this market bias, and lack of presentation of alternatives that flaws her approach.

This is how milk used to come and still could be

Work Cited

Brady, Diane. “The Organic Myth” Business Week, 16, Oct. 2006: cover story. Rpt. in Elements of Argument. Eds. Annette, T. Rottenberg, and Donna Haisty Winchell. 10th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2012. 583-588. Print.

More Greekiness, Minoans, Mycenaeans, Hebrews, Sacrifice and Sea People

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

“shows a cattle being sacrificed – blood draining from its neck (similar to the evidence of blood draining from the human body at Anemospilia) … I think it’s the best surviving art we have of how the Minoans may have practiced sacrifice, including how victims were bound. The sarcophagus is from ~1400BCE, after the Minoan era” (kiminoa says: 15 December 2010 at 16:23).

I am diving into this with almost nothing but a raw amateurs wonder at this ancient culture. I stumbled on some blogs and sites today and was simply blown away. I hope these authors don’t mind my reprinting their comments because my own would be so ignorant as to be ludicrous. I was looking for a link between the Sea Peoples of Egyptian records and was hoping to find some little confirmation in the ancient Minoan and Mycenaean writing. Little did I know what a wealth of research I was stepping into, not precisely getting an answer, which I didn’t really expect, but getting some tantalizing datum which I will have to do some research on. The above image of the sacrifice, is strikingly similar to a painting I did based on my reading of Old Testament rituals to appease Yaweh, including details about the shape of the alter and the drainage ports. This Minoan image graphically confirms my own interpretation. I will have to figure out how to upload a photo of it for comparison, although my artistry is rather primitive. Below is a continuation of the dialogue.

“Sorry this has taken a while to send but i was looking at the minoan language blog by Dr Andras about sign Linear A 301 and hieroglyph 45 and to link it to your post i wondered whether it could be related to human sacrifice. I thought maybe it was someone tied and the circle was where their blood was going into because as you have said there is much evidence that minoans did practice this behaviour and i haven’t read anything about any Linear A writings expressing this. Also most certainly when Linear A was an active language it was exactly when the earthquakes and other natural disasters were happening so there would be plenty of reason to practice this behaviour” (Matt Harmston says:15 December 2010 at 15:47).


I am putting the original posting below about sign Linear 301A, and hieroglyph 45.

Sunday, December 5, 2010
The most peculiar Minoan sign ever seen
I would like to present a short post here, on a rather petty, but nevertheless interesting topic. As I was conducting a rather fruitful discussion with Kim Raymoure about the orgins of several Linear A and B signs, I realized that the evolution of Minoan signs is rarely discussed by professional scholars, and it is something that needs to be explored in detail. To make a tiny contribution, I will share some of my not-so-recent discoveries with you, that apparently no one has proposed or published before. So here goes a small discussion about Linear A sign *301, Hiero *46 and their images.

It was several years ago, when - in an attempt to make sense of some Minoan seals - I stumbled upon a Hieroglyphic version of Lin A *301. It is an easy thing to identify (and has been known for at least a decade), because this sign is so peculiar, and characteristic to the Cretan scripts. A strange, heavily gnarled object, with a straight line piercing it on one end. CHIC (Olivier et al.) terms this sign (*46) as ‘adze’. Initially, I also believed it to be some kind of a tool (hack, rake), but was unable to explain either its strangely-shaped “handle”, or the thickness of its “upper part”. Fortunately, the Hieroglyphic signs do give a clue about the object it depicts: In some cases, the sign also has a strange “rayed disc” under the main bulk. Although frequently ommitted, its consistent recurrence in Hieroglyphic texts show this detail clearly belongs to the sign itself, and not a ligature.

The same is true to the Lin A *301, that it sometimes comes as a variant: *606 (*301 with an open circle below). In contrary to the opinion of Godart and his colleagues, this is not a ligature (*301+*311), either - because “sign *311″ does never occur alone, and the composition is exactly the same as the “Hie *46 with disc” variant. We are left to conclude that this “disc” or “circle” is in fact a commonly-ommitted detail of the original image. In most cases, it is not connected to the main bulk, but if you drew a line to connect the two, then it may suddenly become clear what the sign depicts!

To make a long story short, this is what you would get: a human figure, bending towards and grabbing a pole. From its pose, it could either be an acrobat (in a somersault) or a captive or a slave, chained to a pole, bending forward in a submissive pose. The “rayed disc” turns out to be his head! Now, this interpretation can nicely explain the thickness of the upper part as well: because this is a human torso. And the “handle” is gnarled, just because it represents legs. I shall also direct the attention of my readers to the fact that the Phaistos Disc also has a sign (Pha *04) that depicts a ‘captive’ or ’slave’. The only difference is, that in this instance, the man stands upright and his hands are tied behind him, and not in front. One could argue that the disc is always separated from the main bulk, so the man is “decapitated”; Yet I find the probability small, that Minoans would have depicted an image of ‘gore’, while none of the Old World’s writing systems did anything similar (The Mayas, with their dreaded customs are naturally taken out of the equation). Although the shape of Hiero *46 does resemble the Egyptian setep (a ritual tool, used in the opening of mouth ceremony, but not in everyday life), it does not match an adze well - not even the bronze-age variants, as far as I know (please, correct me if I am mistaken).

The phonetic value of this sign is equally problematic as its image. Although it does not have any clear, direct Linear B counterpart, the sign is relatively common in Linear A. Although much of its occurrences likely come from the same words and constructions repeated over-and-over, like A-TA-I-*301-WA-JA. Interestingly, in Hieroglyphics, many of its occurrences come from a single word, either: *46-*44 (*44 being the ‘trowel’-sign, with unknown value). This does little to help us decipher its reading. From careful examination of the phonetic values of following signs, one could get to the conclusion that the most probable vowel-value of Lin A *301 is u. Because the only simple Cu-sign that has not been yet identified in Lin A / Lin B is ZU (and readings like A-I-ZU would indeed make sense) this value could be suggested from one point of view. On the other hand, sign Lin A *301 is often mirrored with a vertical axis, and it only takes a mere 90 degrees clockwise rotation from such an image to get a shape identical to the Linear B JO sign (*36) - not yet identified in Linear A. Yet the latter theory would contradict the fact that Lin A *301 is very often followed by signs beginning with w- (WA or U [=*wu]), where O-series signs seem to attract pure vowels (compare A-SU-PU-WA [ARKH2] with A-SI-SU-PO-A [KH9]). This leaves the reading of Lin A *301 unexplained as of now.

Linear A *301 was also used as a stand-alone sign on the Haghia Triada tablets. It is so frequent (over 100 occurrances) that many scolars were tempted to read the sign as a logogram. But because of the given interpretation of its graphic image, I seriously doubt that Lin A *301 would have been used as a true logogram (i.e. the image of the object cited). In cases it was used for a commodity, it was very likely an abbreviation of the commodity’s name, and not an actual pictorial description. Somehow, I doubt that they would have stored men in wooden boxes down the temple cellar. Or - if we stick with the original adze-theory - hundreds of the same tool, in one house…

Update: After doing some in-depth research on the cited Egyptian item, I found that it it was also called the Adze of Upuaut. It was not just a ceremonial item, but supposedly a model of a real-life one. Seems like this tool of ancient Egypt was dissimilar to the adzes of other ages and civilizations. Given the close interconnectedness of Minoan and Egyptian civilizations, it could explain the shape of both Hiero *46 and Lin A *301. If the “rayed circle” were to be interpreted as a pile of wood-chips, that could give a solution to our riddle.
Posted by Andras Zeke date: 8:30 AM

Dr. Andras seems to be the expert to whom the other authors above defer to. I am unfamiliar with all of them personally but intend to make my presence known once I feel confident enough to ask an intelligent question. Early Minoan Linguistics is not offered at my junior college sadly. More later.

The Knives Come Out in Greece

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Golden Dawn view of the world.

Fascism Revival in Greece

Last September a popular Greek anti-fascist was knifed to death by a neo-nazi. A few days ago two members of the Golden Dawn were executed by unknown assailants. This Greek neo-fascist party has grown at an alarming rate due to the collapse of the Greek economy, recently becoming the third most popular party in Greece. Below are a few excerpts from various viewpoints on recent events in the Greek crisis. The focus is mostly on the rise of the Neo Fascists and related issues. I have kept my own comments to a minimum but if I get requests for clarification I will gladly expand upon what is in this posting.

The situation in Athens is described bluntly in this Op-Ed By Christopher Lawrence, in Truthout, “Greece’s Golden Dawn: A Wake-up Call for Europe.”

It is hard to convey the experience of economic and political collapse in Greece. In Athens, the city center is full of vacant, graffiti-covered storefronts. The only businesses that seem to be thriving are the pawn shops and the huge open-air heroin market that the police are apparently tolerating in the student neighborhood of Exarchia. For the first time since WWII, many Greeks are faced with hunger, homelessness and a lack of basic health care. Schools are struggling to provide lunch to the growing number of malnourished children. The public health system has collapsed, a sacrifice to austerity. HIV infection rates have doubled, and malaria is on the rise. Suicides have increased dramatically. The legitimacy of the political system, which was long dominated by two mainstream parties - the center-left PASOK and the center-right New Democracy - is under threat because of the parties’ inability to offer either an alternative to the current austerity regime or a plausible strategy for surviving it. In the midst of this crisis, the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn has become the fastest growing political movement in Greece, with some placing support above 20 percent.

This is what neo-nazis have to say in a response to a story by Andy Dabilis on November 1, 2013 in Crime
“Shooting At Greek Golden Dawn Office, Two Dead” in the Greek Reporter.

Golden Dawn Rally after shootings

This is a direct attack using military style automatic weapons on the offices of Greece’s 3rd most popular political party. This is not a drunken street brawl were a knife is produced and a person suffers fatal stab wounds. This is a terrorist attack. The culprits are clearly Leftists of the SYRIZA - Antarsya type. Will the leadership of SYRIZA and Antarsya be arrested? Ofcourse not.
The true victims of violence and terror are the members and supporters of the nationalist Golden Dawn party. This is now very clear to the Hellenic people.
May God give strength and comfort to the families of these innocent victims of Leftist terrorism. The entire political-media establishment which has engaged in this witch hunt against Golden Dawn bears responsibilty for the deaths of these two Greek citizens. This is the same political establishment (which with full media support) now seeks to jail Golden Dawn members and MP’s for up to 3 years if they seek to provide free food to Greek citizens and not to illegal immigrants. Golden Dawn asserts that since state allocated funds (i.e. Greek taxpayer money) is used to fund these food charity drives then naturally the food should be given to Greek citizens, but the corrupt political-media establishment acting as always on the orders of the American Jewish Committee, the World Jewish Congress, the European Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and Tel Aviv seeks to pass legislation that will reward these food charity drives with 3 year jail terms. May the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessed Virgin Mary accompany the souls of the two young men aged 22 & 26 who have just been murdered by leftist terrorists. Let our thoughts and prayers be with their families.
We will never forget them.

Greek Election Breakdown, May 6, 2012, nothing like the USA where two parties have a gridlock on power.

SYRIZA or SYNASPISMOS - COALITION OF THE LEFT OF MOVEMENTS AND ECOLOGY is a coalition of Greek leftists below is a link to an English Language “Speech by president of the parliamentary group of SYRIZA-USF, Alexis Tsipras in London” they are hardly a terrorist group.

Alexis Tsipras speaks at the headquarters of his Syriza party. Photograph: John Kolesidis/REUTERS

This is from an English language article in Le Monde Dipomatique

“Where Syriza stands
Syriza leads the left wing coalition in Greece, and the opposition to the external financial occupation of the country by the states and organizations that are at present keeping it from bankruptcy.”

by Baptiste Dericquebourg

Immediately after the elections, Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s parliamentary leader, caused a stir by declaring: “Both resistance and solidarity are necessary in this time of crisis, but solidarity is more important.” This began the party’s “solidarity” line, which promoted action around the country to provide the needy with food, medicines or a roof, while Synaspismos (the Coalition of Left Movements and Ecology), one of the largest parties in the coalition, led the setting up of medicine banks.

The new strategy had several objectives. Syriza had to give its new members something to do. With a relatively older membership (especially in Synaspismos) and without a strong presence among workers, farmers or trade unions, Syriza had no real militant tradition or base. The Communist Party of Greece (Kommounistiko Komma Elladas, KKE) controls one of the three principal unions, the All-Workers Militant Front (Panergatiko Agonistiko Metopo, PAME), while the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) uses the others.

“Until last spring, Syriza had never really led any concrete actions,” said a militant. “But wanting to act and knowing how to go about it are two different things.” Syriza hoped that its solidarity policy would compete favourably with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, which was receiving considerable media attention for organising soup kitchens “for Greeks” and “Greek blood” collections, and that working with the many new grassroots solidarity organisations, would help it reach out to people the crisis had alienated from politics.

Greek Left.
As for Antarsya, this is a news release from November 5th in English regarding a mass killing of Bangladeshi workers in Greece, directly juxtiposing the shooting of the two Golden Dawn member with this execution of some 200 workers. This is more militant than the polemics of the Syriza but certainly no glorification of blood letting.

“For the murderous attack against workers in N. Manolada-Greece”

ANTARSYA condemns yesterday’s murderous mafia-style attack of employers’ henchmen in New Manolada in Greece, who using shotguns, shot to kill in cold blood 200 Bangladeshi strawberry farm workers. They were demanding 6 months unpaid wages; wages of terror earned under sordid working conditions.

The employers’ terrorist attack against the Bangladeshi workers was the culmination of previous, frequent, brute and unpunished racist attacks by the henchmen of the same strawberries’ wholesaler in New Manolada. It is the nightmarish expression of the employers’ unaccountability and the government’s tolerance and complicity (recently it abolished the Labour Inspection Unit in the region). It is the result of widespread outbreaks of racist and fascist murderous attacks against immigrants, the effect of the policies dictated by the memoranda of the EU and the capital and implemented by the government.

It is the product of the Nazi inspired cholera spread by the fascist party of Golden Dawn and the supporting mass media. No effort is spared in order to divide the working people and thus exonerate the policies of the government, EU and IMF.

This is the “development” promised by the prime minister: profits for the banks and the capital, money steeped in the blood and sweat of the Greek and immigrants working people who are condemned into poverty and misery. This crime must not go unpunished. The immunity of the known workers’ exploiter and his henchmen has to be crushed.

The labour movement and the trade unions must embrace the immigrants from Bangladesh as well as every exploited Greek and foreign worker. They have to defend their rights and demand the punishment of the criminals.

No worker, no young person, no artist or scientist can remain silent. The labour and popular movement, the political and collective organisations have to take the initiative and protect the lives and dignity of immigrants. If the fascist ideology, supporting that there are people who do not deserve to have rights, is imposed, it will be forced not only on the immigrants but on all the workers, the unemployed and the poor people.

The struggle for the anti-capitalistic overthrow of government-EU-IMF is the only hope for a worth-living life for all, Greeks and immigrants.

Poster of Antarsya

This is from the Wikipedia article on them

The Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow (Greek: Αντικαπιταλιστική Αριστερή Συνεργασία για την Ανατροπή, ΑΝΤ.ΑΡ.ΣΥ.Α., Antikapitalistiki Aristeri Synergasia gia tin Anatropi, Ant.Ar.Sy.A) is a coalition of radical left political organisations in Greece. The Greek word antarsia (which is pronounced the same as the acronym Antarsya) means “mutiny”. ANTARSYA describes itself as “Front of the anticapitalist, revolutionary, communist left and radical ecology”.

ANTARSYA was founded on 22 March 2009 in Athens by 10 organisations and independent militants involved in the Radical Left Front (MERA) and United Anti-Capitalist Left (ENANTIA) with the exception of the Workers Revolutionary Party (ΕΕΚ).[2] These organisations come from different left wing currents ranging from ex-Communist Party (KKE) and KKE Interior members to Maoism and Trotskyism.

Now where are the Anarchists?

This is from Znet “of the the stabbing death of Greek antifascist hiphop artist Pavlos Fissas, who performed under the name MC Killah P, at the hands of thugs affiliated with the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn.”

Pavlos Fissas image during protest after killing.

This is from a site Occupied London which has a decent and recent coverage of events in Greece called “From the Greek Streets.” Although nothing as yet about the shooting of the Golden Dawn members, it might not even be considered newsworthy by the anarchist or radical left in Greece. This is about the arrest of Golden Dawn leaders after the stabbing incident. Some analysis and background on GD (Golden Dawn) collaboration with government and history of right wing and government cooperation.

Now, to the breaking news: The leaders of the Golden Dawn were arrested in September 2013. The incident that triggered the arrests was the assassination of the antifascist musician Pavlos Fyssas in Nikaia, Athens. Fyssas was murdered by Roupakias, a local leading GD member, because he wrote and sang anti-GD hip-hop songs, according to the interview of a former GD member in a local newspaper. Police were present at the murder, allowing over twenty neo-Nazis to attack and for one of them to stab the 34-year-old antifascist to death. Police have been present at several other neo-Nazi attacks without intervening. But go one week before the assassination and you will see that when fans PAOK, a local football club, attacked the GD office in Thessaloniki, all 43 of them were arrested on the spot. In September 2012, when the antifascist motorbike patrols started in Athens, DELTA motorbike police (which has excelled in seriously injuring protesters since its foundation in 2009) attacked the antifascists, arresting, beating and later on torturing them. On the following day, police attacked those who had gathered at Athens’ courthouse to express their solidarity to the antifascists, arresting even more of them. This series of arrests brought to a temporary halt an action that was aimed at stopping what were daily racist attacks in those parts of the city. From that time on, lives of several immigrants – and now, that of one local antifascist too – have been claimed by neo-Nazis in the Athenian streets.

Fools Gold (repost from Schnews)

Exceptional kinship…

Just one week before the assassination of Fyssas, Babis Papadimitriou, a government-friendly journalist, declared live on a local TV station that the right-wing New Democracy party should enter into a government coalition with the GD. Prominent ND members like Byron Polydoras or Failos Kranidiotis have made similar statements in the past. Notorious neo-fascists like Adonis Georgiadis or Makis Vorides hold offices or are MPs in the current government. Obviously, the assassination of Pavlos Fyssas by GD and the arrest of GD leaders ruined all the joyous atmosphere inside the Right in the country, maybe postponing such collaboration.

The truth is that the extreme-Right parastate in Greece is explicitly embedded within wider activities and campaigns of the official state authorities and it was rarely an autonomous political force. Acknowledging that kind of relationship is precisely the reason that in Greek, the term parakratos (parastate) is used in order to talk about the extreme-Right.

Historically, since the 1920s, the far-Right parastate has functioned as the long arm of the State’s violent apparatus, targeting people with Left-wing affiliations (see Kostopoulos 2005; Mazower 2006, 353–4; Mouzelis and Pagoulatos 2002, 88–9; Panourgia 2009). Unsurprisingly, GD comprises a political and physical continuation of that tradition: in 1984, the leader of the colonel’s dictatorship (1967–1974) Papadopoulos founded the organization EPEN from his prison cell, where he had been sentenced for the coup. The founding and current leader of GD, Michaloliakos, was the first president of EPEN Youth Sector.

Greek Anarchist Poster

Anarchists have a tendency to take direct action seriously in Greece and are known for head on conflict with the Golden Dawn, but shootings would be a serious escalation, not sure that is in the picture. Just as likely there is some faction of the Government out to stir the pot or even immigrants out for revenge after attacks like that on the Bangladeshi’s. Or perhaps even more nefarious players related to the CIA and others in some kind of Black Ops. But I don’t want to speculate too much, the whole world is in a crisis of overproduction and capital recuperation by the Capitalist classes. They are spending like crazy, but keeping it in a small circle, the elite of the elite. Once they have punished the masses and beaten down expectations enough, then there might be some liberalization. Right now they are seriously trying to end Social Democracy in Europe, that model of a relatively socialist alternative. If the social welfare states of northern and western Europe can be dismantled, there will be no alternative viable to Neo-Liberal Capitalism in existence that has any credibility. That seems to be a major driver behind the deconstruction of Greece.

US Policy, Angola, Cluster Munitions & Landmine Ban

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Children are often victims of Landmines

“Pulling the ‘Dragon’s Teeth’: U.S. Policy and the Conventions to Ban Mines and Cluster Munitions”
By Gary Crethers

The United States has attempted to maintain its option to use landmines, cluster bombs and other ordinance for use in warfare, while at the same time mitigating the destructive effect of mines on civilians by technological fixes, and donations to charitable efforts to minimize the effect of mines. The U. S. caught in a dilemma, not able to decide whether to forgo the weapons as the rest of the world, or to maintain the destructive capability, like some Hamlet state, aware of its position yet fearing to act decisively. The U.S. which once was a leader in the drive for control of these weapons has become a major laggard not signing either the Mine Ban Treaty or the Cluster Munitions ban treaty (International Coalition to Ban Landmines, US. Mine). If the U.S. wants to retain its leadership in the world as a force for peace and progress then it must join these treaties and not place short term security interests above that of world peace. The maintenance of American leadership as an ethical and moral force for good in the world is at stake as well as practical quid pro quo political interests.

Jody Williams Nobel Peace Prize Winner

An international movement to ban these weapons due to their killing and maiming non-combatants, high cost of removal, the cost of rehabilitating victims and their prevalence in dozens of countries long after the conflicts in which they were used have ended, has emerged in the post- Vietnam War era, especially since the 1980’s. Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams became involved in the movement to ban landmines after working with an NGO in El Salvador and seeing the results of a civil war there (Nobel Peace Prize). The movement towards mitigation of the harmful effects of modern warfare goes back at least to the post World War One era anti-Chemical weapons conventions, Geneva conventions on the treatment of prisoners and non-combatants, as well as post World War Two efforts to bring war crime charges against the worst offenders. In fact the United Nations itself has been founded to try and resolve international differences without resorting to war.

Pile of Landmines and warning signs

Building upon this abhorrence to the destructiveness of modern warfare, civil society has for the last thirty years or so become adamant that war is too destructive and dangerous to be left up to bureaucratic state planners, and politicians working behind closed doors. The Landmine Ban Treaty is an exemplary example of how people united can cause a significant change in world power dynamics when teamed up with government players willing to say enough of wars that go on forever killing and maiming civilians and combatants alike. The example of the experience in Angola provides a good case in point of the consequences of extensive landmine use.

South African Intervention in Angola called the “Border War,” Cuban Intervention is called “Intervention.”

Angola is a nation that has suffered some fifty years of war, in which the country became a proxy for some of the final struggles in the Cold War between the Capitalist and Communist worlds. The conflict evolved out of the movement for independence from Portugal. The various domestic factions, unable to resolve their differences, found the Soviet Union, USA, South Africa, Cuba, Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and even China, all too willing to provide arms assistance. Mines, up to sixty five types (Winslow, 14) went to the different groups vying for control of the country. “[Secretary of State] Kissinger saw the Angolan conflict solely in terms of global politics and was determined the Soviets should not be permitted to make a move in any remote part of the world without being confronted militarily by the United States. In fact, Angola had little plausible importance to American national security…Uncomfortable with recent historic events, and frustrated by our humiliation in Vietnam, Kissinger was seeking opportunities to challenge the Soviets” (Stockwell 43).

Mine Action Group in Action in Iraq.

Phillip C. Winslow’s book Sowing the Dragon’s Teeth: Land Mines and the Global Legacy of War, portrays the heroic efforts of Paulo Generoso and his Angolan demining team as they face gritty, life threatening situations removing mines. Working for the NGO Mine Action Group (MAG), deminers struggle to make their homeland a safer place for the millions who survive in a land devastated by war, often isolated from their neighbors, and unable to grow crops because of the restrictions on their movements from landmines and other unexploded ordinance. In a slow painstaking process of going over each meter of suspected ground with mine detectors and hand trowels the land is reclaimed for productive use (Winslow 7-8, 10).

Demining by hand

Demining by hand

According to the Landmine & Cluster Munitions Monitor, millions of mines are thought to litter the country and thousands have died as a result. They have no firm statistics as over the course of such a long war accurate information may be impossible to retrieve. Based on their 2012 report, all 18 provinces of Angola have mine contamination. The “LIS [Land Mine Survey] identified 3,293 suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) in 1,988 mine/ERW-impacted communities in 383 of Angola’s 557 comunas (districts) covering approximately 1,025km2. These impacted communities represent 8% of the 23,504 communities in the country, affecting an estimated 2.4 million people, or 17% of the population” (International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Angola).

Miss Landmine Angola

Miss Landmine Angola

The total number of landmine casualties in Angola is not known but the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor, a project of the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines (ICBL), indicates “in September 2004, the government stated that 700 people had been killed and 2,300 injured in landmine incidents “over the last six years.” The government estimates that there are 70,000 to 80,000 mine survivors in Angola, representing 78 percent of all persons with disabilities” (ICBL-Angola). In 2008 some 5,197 new victims of mines, explosive remnants of war (ERW) and IED’s were recorded in 75 countries with 28% of them children. Examples, Afghanistan had 393, and Cambodia 97 children in 2008 alone (ICBL Land mines and children).

Angolan Landmine Victims
© 1995-2007 Gervasio Sanchez

Angola’s four-decade war ended in 2002. Civilians continue to suffer the consequences. Parties to the conflict mined roads, high-voltage electricity pylons, reservoirs and dams.

Anti-personnel mines have been seen as particularly pernicious since they are placed with trip wires or other booby traps to go off when in contact with the victim. They are persistent as they do not expire, and are uncontrolled once put in place causing casualties among unsuspecting civilians for years, even decades after a conflict ends. The Ottawa treaty is the main political agreement to ban the use of landmines, officially called the “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, 18 September 1997.” The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) describes the process that has evolved out of a 1980 conference on conventional weapons. Initiated by Canada, negotiations commenced toward an international landmine ban (ICRC, Convention). This movement towards a landmine ban was galvanized by the special efforts of Jody Williams, founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (Nobel Peace Prize 1997). As of 2013 some 161 nations are state parties to the Ottawa Treaty or Mine Ban Treaty as the Convention is called (ICRC, Convention). Further a cluster munitions ban treaty has been in effect since August 1, 2010 (CMC, Treaty Status).

Unexploded Cluster Munitions bomb and bomblets.

The cluster munitions treaty with some 113 signatories as of 2013 and 84 State parties, has proceeded rapidly into enactment partially due to the work of those involved with the ground breaking Ottawa Treaty of 1997. Cluster bombs made of hundreds of mini bomblets from a large single shell casing that disperse over a wide area, are used as anti-personnel agents. After a war they provide the same sort of problem for civilians as landmines (Herthel 234-235). In the Human Rights Watch report, “Off Target The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq,” it is noted that some 11,000 cluster bombs were fired during the three week campaign of 2003 by the USA and its allies in Iraq, dispersing some 1.8 million bomblets, that take an especially heavy toll on civilians (Human Rights Watch, Off Target 6). As with the mine ban treaty, several major nations have not signed the cluster munitions treaty. These are notably the United States, Russian Federation, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and both North and South Korea (ICBL, States Not, Cluster Munitions Coalition, Treaty Status).

CREDIT: Textron Defense Systems

US Manufactured Cluster Bomb.

The US rationalizes the continued use of these weapons through various means, for instance in the case of cluster bombs a technical argument is used that they are like traditional bombs and should explode on contact. Herthel, writing for the Air Force Law Review, while understanding the consequences of unexploded cluster bombs, explains that they should not be treated any differently than any other unexploded ordinance (Herthel 232-233). He goes on to describe their usefulness in Vietnam in neutralizing anti-aircraft batteries used by the North Vietnamese (236-237). This technical argument that cluster bombs are not mines in that mines are meant to explode on contact with an object, and cluster bombs are mean to explode at a certain time, does not deny the fact that the lack of reliable detonation in cluster bomblets, even at the dubious 1% rate of current US standards, can cause mine like consequences (Biron). The US also argues that its new technology producing self-destructing mines will reduce civilian deaths. The introduction of Spider controlled detonation anti-personnel mines is another attempt to work around the Mine Ban Treaty. While the US is not a treaty signatory, it has attempted to maintain a parallel stance that it claims is as good as signing the treaty and doesn’t require giving up mines altogether (Human Rights Watch, Back in Business? 4).

Red countries have not signed the Landmine Ban.

The Obama administration since 2009 claims to be reviewing the US landmine policy put in place under President Bush in 2004. But to date has not released any new position on landmines or cluster bombs. The US position which states the US will “continue to develop non-persistent (self-destructing/self-deactivating) landmines that will not pose a humanitarian threat after use in battle; continue to research and develop enhancements to the current self-destructing/self-deactivating landmine technology in order to develop and preserve military capabilities that address the United States transformational goals” (United States Landmine Policy).

UN Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention meeting

The U.S. government is trying to have it both ways, giving aid money for mitigation of the effects of mines, more than any other donor nation by far, 2,272.2 million dollars (ICBL, International Support). At the same time the U.S. is developing non persistent mine technology, a work around the mine bans to maintain its arsenal of mines and cluster bombs. This insistence on so called non persistent mine technology has led to new contracts for mines and fears that the USA will lead in a new proliferation of mines, also with the much higher cost of these self- destructing mines, poor nations might be tempted to use the much cheaper old style persistent mines (Human Rights Watch, Back in Business? 5). Highlighting these fears, of the U.S. restoring mine exports under the smart bomb rubric, the U.S. in August 2013 green lighted the manufacture and export of $641 million dollars of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. Yet the US and Saudi Arabia complained of Syrian use of cluster bombs at the UN as recently as May 2013 (Biron). If the United States wants to maintain its leadership in the world, and gain world to support efforts in places such as Syria, it should join the landmines and cluster bomb treaties. The efforts of the U.S., to maintain mines and cluster bombs, and deny a growing world consensus that such weapons should be banned outright is counterproductive and a further indication of the mixed message the U.S. is presenting the world, supporting and opposing treaties to ban these weapons at the same time. As indicated in Wikileaks revelations of diplomatic cables where behind the scenes the U.S. attempts to oppose the mine ban treaties (ICBL, U.S. Cluster). It is time for the U.S. to take the next step, join the rest of the world and join the Mine and the Custer Munitions Treaties. As Senator Patrick Leahy, longtime anti landmine proponent, stated in 2010, “I want to thank the [66] Senators who joined me and Senator Voinovich in signing this letter, which states our belief that through a thorough, deliberative review the administration can identify any obstacles to joining the Ottawa Treaty banning the production, use, transfer and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines, and develop a plan to overcome them as soon as possible” (Leahy, The Way Forward).

Vietnamese Amputees Attend Hearing on Long Term Impact of War in Vietnam with Senator Leahy.
Works Cited.
Biron, Carey L. “US Selling Cluster Bombs worth 641 Million to Saudi Arabia.” Inter Press Service News Agency. 23 Aug. 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.
Brooke, James, “Cuba’s Strange Mission in Angola.” New York Times Magazine. New York Times Company. 1 Feb. 1987. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC). “Treaty Status.” Cluster Munitions Coalition. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
Herthel, Thomas J. “On The Chopping Block: Cluster Munitions And The Law Of War.” Air Force Law Review. 51. (2001): 229. Military & Government Collection. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
Human Rights Watch. “Back in Business? U.S. Landmine Production and Exports.” Human Rights Watch. 2005. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.
Human Rights Watch. “Off Target The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq.” Human Rights Watch. 2003. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). “Country Profile: Angola.” International Campaign to Ban Landmines. 2005. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). Fact Sheet. “International Support for Mine Action.” International Campaign to Ban Landmines. 2012. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). “Landmines and Children.” International Campaign to Ban Landmines. March 2010. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). “Mine Ban Treaty States Not Party.” International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). “United States Cluster Munition Ban Policy.” International Campaign to Ban Landmines. 2013. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Treaties and State Parties to such Treaties. “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti- Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, 18 September 1997″ International Committee of the Red Cross. 14 May 2012. Web. 6 Oct. 2013.
Leahy, Senator Patrick. Press Release. “The Way Forward On Anti-Personnel Landmines.” Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. 18 May 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.
Stockwell, John. In Search Of Enemies. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc. 1978. Print.
“The Nobel Peace Prize 1997.” Nobel Media AB 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.
United States. Department of State. Office of the Spokesperson. “The Arms Trade Treaty.” U.S. State Department. Washington DC. n. p. 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013.
United States. Department of State. Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. “U.S. Landmine Policy.” U.S. State Department. Washington DC. n. p. 2004. Web. 28 Sept. 2013.
Winslow, Philip. C. Sowing The Dragon’s Teeth Landmines and the Global Legacy of War. Boston: Beacon Press. 1997. Print.

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