Extreme Weather or Climate Crisis April 17, 2014

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Paul Revere & the Court of the Elite April 2014

Dr Steven Leibo is the Sherman David Spector Professor at the Sage Colleges
April 3, 2014

“Calling Paul Revere”

So where is Paul Revere when we really need him! Yes, Once again, the Supreme Court, with yesterday’s disastrous ruling has pried open ever wider the flood gates of wealth in to our precariously one person one vote democratic system, forcing politicians to court the wealthy even more than they already do. Clearly a reckless decision that continued the Court’s recent efforts, as with their absurd Citizen’s United ruling, to hand our government over to the nation’s increasingly ever more elitist 1%, a decision just as dangerous to the American system as those British red coats Paul Revere was trying to warn us about.

No, once again the Supreme court, or should we just recognize reality and rename it the Court of the Elite has turned itself into the tool of the propertied classes, elevating the rights of ownership above those of citizenship.

Oh sure, America has always been a hybrid society, as much plutocracy as democracy, a society where everyone got one electoral vote And as many monetary votes as they could afford. But now it is not our democracy that is failing but sadly even the hybrid nature of the system for the clarity of a government of the moneyed that will be far more likely to protect its interests rather than those of the American people.

But that is not even the real reason we need Paul Revere just now. No this time, in the 21st century, the Court’s Decision goes far beyond our shores. Because this was the same week that the newest report from the intergovernmental panel on climate change was issued. And the conclusions of the world’s entire scientific community could not be more definitive.

And I quote

“The Warming of the planet, atmosphere and oceans is unequivocal
“Observed changes are unprecedented over thousands of years”
“less Snow and ice, rising waters caused by an increase in burning fossil fuels”

Ironically, those very fossil fuels that are undermining the climate stability that allowed civilization itself to emerge after the last ice age. Indeed the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are dramatically melting even as the oceans are rising.

While Greenhouse gases are higher than they have been in the last 800,000 years transforming hydrological cycles around the planet dumping more water in some places and less in others all creating the kinds of droughts that are devastating this commentator’s home state of California. Or the sort of rain drenched massive mountain mud slide that almost killed his niece last week in Washington State, not forgetting the recent drought fed horrific fires that took most of the Texas town of Bastrop away, including this commentator’s cousins’ former home.

No, this is not some distant weird climate stuff thing that is threatening the lives of people in places few of us know from Bangladesh to Darfur.

And what is America doing about all this? Yes, the America the country that has cumulatively put up most of those greenest house gases currently in the atmosphere. Well, depressingly America, unlike so many of the world’s nations has lagged behind in confronting the problem stymied by politicians too greedy for fossil fuel money or so ideologically intoxicated they refuse to see the reality of the climate crisis.

And now, our supreme court, the Court of the Elite, the institution supposed protect the rights of the American people in its great wisdom has decided to side with the plutocrats so many of whom like the Koch brothers fill their coffers with fossil fuel money doing everything they can to protect their own bank accounts instead of the planet and the people who nature them.

I say again… just where is Paul Revere when we really need him. Well in this case, he is dead. Leaving the rest of us, the less moneyed folks, people who care as much about our children’s future as our present bank accounts needing to open up our own checkbooks, hoping the small donations of the larger numbers of regular folk will allow us to fight not only for the democracy we cherish but the physical environment that historically nurtured it.

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Cutting the Crimean Anchor March 2014

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Confronting the Ukraine Crisis March 2014


There is something eerily ironic that the Ukrainian crisis has broken out in 2014 exactly one hundred years after the beginning of the World War I. Now, I am not saying that World War III is likely to emerge from this crisis, though frankly for many the stakes — are just as high as those that set off the guns of August. Indeed almost the exact same nationalists emotions of identity that almost Destroyed the world in 1914 are playing out here in some ways eerily familiar.

A hundred years ago Russia was also worried about losing its place in the world if they did not mobilize to help Austria-Hungary Though at that point it was Serbians rather than Ukrainians who were trying to work out their future nationalist aspirations.

But more importantly, what became especially obvious after World War I Is that when empires collapse the rubble takes generations to settle. Indeed, The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire set off battles over who inherited its lands From Hitler’s claims to Austria in the 1930s to the Yugoslavian collapse of the 1990s.

While the collapse of the Ottoman Empire sees us even today still watching a pitched battle over who ultimately will inherit previous Ottoman territory From Jews and Palestinians, to Lebanese, Syrians, Kurds and Iraqi Arabs.

And those two empires broke up almost a hundred years ago! So how could anyone have imagined that the dust from the collapse of the Soviet Union would settle any faster? Sure, the old USSR might have had few supporters but national identity is quite another thing. And when the Soviet Union went down in 1991, It took with it, the old Russian Empire, an identity with infinitely deeper psychic roots In the souls of those who call Russia home.

And yes, it is hardly a surprise that in the chaos of the 1990s Russia itself was too deeply wounded to do much about the loss of empire. But the last fifteen years have seen the rebirth of Russia itself And that rebirth has predictably included a desire to repair some of the damage the 1990s did to Russia’s historical identity, something people from Georgia to Chechnya have come to understand, people who found their own nationalist identity driven emotions clashing with bloody results. Oh sure, Russia might have been willing to accept a loss of influence from Poland to Latvia where the historic and emotional links run less deep in the Russian soul.

But the Ukraine is something entirely different. In fact, given that Russian history literally started in Kiev it is hardly surprising that the Ukraine is at the heart of the Russian historic memory and identity. Not forgetting that Putin’s role in crushing Chechen separatism is at the heart of his current political power over a nation that no doubt experiences the loss of the Ukraine in a fashion similar to the sensations amputees speak of phantom limbs.

And we are talking about a lot more than Russian identity here because the collapse of the old Soviet Union has also allowed the Ukrainian people to more deeply mourn and remember the horrors done to them by Stalin’s henchmen in the early 20s horrors that rivaled some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. No, the politics of nationalist identity and memory run deep and dangerous in this struggle and while it is entirely appropriate that international economic power be employed With the hope of giving decision makers pause about the price of a violent breakdown of relations quite frankly when nationalist identity and communal aspirations are at stake respect for the oh mighty dollar or even the ruble fades away in a flood of emotion likely to turn the next few weeks into some of the most dangerous we have seen in a generation

Oh sure some will be convinced that human reason will prevail, that a close look at the potential dangers will slow all this but that would only be helpful if human beings were fundamentally driven by logic and reason an assumption only the most naive among really hold.

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“North Korea: Between Stalin & the Nazis” February 2014

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“Nation at a Crossroads” February 2014

Steven A Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History and Politics
“Nation at a Crossroads”

There is something really depressing about watching a nation standing at a crossroads hesitantly leaning in the wrong direction. Sadly, a nation led, by a lame duck president about to destroy what political base he has left. No, President Obama did not, like George W. Bush, wait until his very last State of the Union to admit the obvious. That we are heading into uncertain climatic future.

No President Obama unlike his predecessor has vigorously acknowledged his understanding of the dangers ahead from his first days in office. Yet he inexplicably seems unwilling to act on his convictions. Depressingly, he is a president young enough to follow the tragedy of a potentially wrong choice for decades after he leaves office.

And of course President Obama did not have to be in this situation. No, only a few years ago, more and more people were coming to understand the dangers inherent in humanities having accidentally disrupted the heat balance of the entire planet. An international community coming to understand that we have increasingly been at the root of these extremes of weather, from ever constantly gyrating temperatures to massively more destructive storms, drought and fires.

A litany sadly reminiscent of the plagues we’re told biblical Egyptians once suffered in the Exodus story. Yes, global society, yes even the ever gullible to corporate propaganda Americans were beginning to understand what was going on even as the world’s petroleum experts were warning that the conventional oil sources were finally running out. Spreading alarmingly reports that those enormous oil reserves were increasingly registering less and less oil while natural gas seemed to be losing its momentum as well even the global green energy industry was growing explosively. While the prices for those safer, and more renewable energy sources were dropping as the price of carbon fuels, from oil to natural gas were rising.

Can you believe it, for a time it actually appeared like someone was looking out for us. And all those constant warning bells from the entire international scientific community were being conveniently complemented by a natural diminution of those dangerous fossil fuel resources. It was enough to give even this old skeptic a bit of faith.

And then of course, humanities natural ingenuity kicked in. Yes, some of the best and brightest of us, recognizing that diminution of conventional petroleum sources, taking note that natural gas was not flowing as it once had went to work. Cleaver folks, you know the same sort who invented nuclear weapons and fun stuff like sarin gas, figured out how to mine nasty tar like substances in Canada. while their professional colleagues were developed that delightfully destructive technology known as hydro-fracking, a technology that has released more and more climate stability destroying natural gases even as it has regularly polluted underground waters and provoked earth quakes.

And thus we find ourselves over the next few months standing here at a crossroads, in a position to either replace those last century conventional petroleum resources, with their extraordinarily ironic capacity to not only run modern society but undermine the planetary climate stability it is dependent on, with newer, increasingly cheaper safer renewable energy sources.

Or like the desperate addict, public substance abusers we have largely become head down that other path. Toward even dirtier fuels and more destructive technologies, a crossroads that our entire society stands before.

While our political leaders, from the nations’ governors to Barack Obama stand at the very same crossroads ready to turn down one road or the other definitively turning toward a safer, greener renewable energy future Or an increasingly destabilized global climate.
Still ferociously mainlining those fossil fuel poisons through all those newly proposed pipelines or hauling them around in trains over our rickety and aging national rail system. Yes, trains that have already begun to develop an impressive record not only for derailing but doing so with fatally explosive results.

One would think the choice would be a no brainer but apparently for some it’s not.

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Public Substance Abuse January 23, 2014


Dr Steven Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History & Politics

“On Substance Abuse”

Let me be blunt here. We need to stop talking about the climate crisis. In fact, I am sick of hearing about drought driven crop failures, massive storms while sea surges devastate areas around the world, yes, enough with all those warnings about hydro-fracking’s record of polluting underground water.

Let’s face it the conversation we should be having is neither about the disrupted global climate or the explosive growth here in the United States of newer and more dangerous fossil fuels sources. No, what we need to do is sit down with one of those folks that focus on substance abuse. You know those therapists, not scientists not engineers, but therapists who day after day deal with addicts, yes, who have to have their fix of crystal meth, or cocaine, heroin or whatever. Maybe take a counselor from Alcoholics Anonymous out to lunch. Yes, talk more with addiction professionals who day in and day out watch substance abusers destroy their relationships, ruin their families, wreak havoc on their health and wealth.

I am speaking here of course about abusers who simply can’t stop pouring poison into their system even if all the science and logic this world can muster screams at them to stop. Even if day in and day out, they experience the horrific price they pay for their addiction. No, we need some addiction counselors here for substance abuse, but not by individuals but by an entire society addicted to fossil fuels, ever so aptly named by some as the “energy of the dead”

Otherwise how else can anyone explain our willingness to run more and more dangerous fossil fuels through the veins of our civilization like an addict searching for new sources, pushing our drills deeper and deeper in the oceans like a drug addict with a needle, setting off explosions like the Deep Water Horizon and like any junky forgetting about it almost as quickly.

If it is not an addiction how else can we explain our growing obsession with using technologies like fracking that have already been proven to pollute water systems. No, this behavior is the stuff of addiction.

If it is not an addiction, how else do we explain or obsession with the king coal that at this very moment is now making thousands of residents of West Virginia terrified to drink their own water or a few years ago saw massive amounts of coal sludge devastate large parts of Tennessee.

And, can you believe this latest and even more desperate attempt to load all those new and apparently some believe even more explosive substances from North Dakato’a new oil fields on rail lines across North America, entire trains filled with highly toxic and flammable substances moving along North America’s infamously aging and too often rickety train system? A development that is so obvious a threat that it has aroused the concern of organizations from the Sierra Club to the Wall Street Journal.

We are speaking after all of trains that have more than once already derailed and just last summer devastated one town in Quebec, killing forty-seven people, yes, huge trains that are already, even now running right through Albany, NY, WAMC’s home base. And not just passing through but as some would have it turning the New York Capital region into a major hub for processing this newest addictive substance Albany’s own version, if you will of television’s Breaking Bad’s infamous Crystal Meth lab on the waterfront

No this is obviously not about logic, nor science, not about engineering safer energy forms. This is about substance abuse, about chemical addiction and an addictive society desperate for even more fossil fuels regardless of how safe the newer substances or technologies might be.

And until we get some of those experts on addiction, on substance abuse into this conversation we are not going to make progress dealing with one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced
Fossil Fuels Anonymous anyone?

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