You can click here to watch the U.S. Committee on Natural Resources confirmation hearing of Sally Jewell, to replace Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is ranking member, and may put a hold on the nomination, over a longstanding rural access road issue on the western Alaska peninsula:
One senator has indicated she may put up a barrier to the confirmation however. Ranking senator, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has said she might hold up the nomination to ensure approval of an Alaskan road to connect a remote Aleutian village to an all-weather airport used for medical evacuations. The road would need to pass through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, a sensitive environmental area. The project has been denied for more than 30 years by the Fish and Wildlife Service. They said last month that they would again deny a proposed land swap that would enable the road to be built.
Here is a link to Jewell’s written statement, submitted before the hearing.
I live in Wasilla, so have gotten used to dealing with wingnuts.
There didn’t used to be so many of them, but their women get pregnant early and often. Many have families with over ten children. Between the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends (12 X $1,600), and state assistance for home schooling seven of the kids (7 X $2,700), a typical large wingnut Christianist family of twelve pulls in over $38,000 per year in tax-free state assistance, even if both mom and dad are working. And they’re fixing to make it better for them, you betcha.
I call it evangelical welfare.
Today I’m in the waiting room at the local medical clinic, waiting to have the packing pulled out of a wound I’ve been dealing with. The TV announces Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’ demise.
People actually cheer.
The guy reading a year-old issue of Guns & Ammo in the chair next to me loudly mutters “Good riddance, you fucking commie fascist!”
I. A whole lot of people hooked on Ziocaine got punked last week by a prank article published in The Jewish Press. The article touted an upcoming concert in Israel by The Rolling Stones:
Despite a barrage of attacks from British, European and U.S. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) groups, the Rolling Stones will perform their planned concert in Jerusalem on Israel’s Independence Day, Monday, April 15.
“We’ve been slammed and smacked and twittered a lot by the anti-Israeli side,” said Mick Jagger, the band’s leader and most recognizable member since 1963. “All I can say is: anything worth doing is worth overdoing. So we decided to add a concert on Tuesday.”
Needless to say, tickets to both concerts, Monday night in Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem and Tuesday night in Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv, have been sold out even as Jagger was speaking.
The hoax article went further into details of the fictitious concert series.
Unsurprisingly, some took the bait in spite of a disclaimer (“This has been a Purim prank…”). My favorite:
Some of the web sites or publications falling for it were jns.org:
Legendary rock band The Rolling Stones has announced it will not cancel its planned concert in Jerusalem, to be held on Israel’s Independence Day April 15, despite pressure from anti-Zionist groups. Instead, the band decided to add a second Jerusalem concert the next day.
Legendary rock band The Rolling Stones has announced it will not cancel its planned concert in Jerusalem, to be held on Israel’s Independence Day April 15, despite pressure from anti-Zionist groups. Instead, the band decided to add a second Jerusalem concert the next day.
“We’ve been slammed and smacked and twittered a lot by the anti-Israeli side. All I can say is: anything worth doing is worth overdoing. So we decided to add a concert on Tuesday,” said Mick Jagger, the band’s lead singer, according to the Jewish Press.
Thus—essentially saying, “I was testing you”—Geller pretended to be in on the joke. However, there are several reasons why this is implausible:
1. Geller acknowledged that it was a Purim joke. But by the time of she had posted her story on February 26, Purim was already over. It would be like making an April Fool’s joke on April 2.
2. Geller didn’t quote directly from the original Jewish Press article but instead based her post on Robert Miller’s Joshuapundit article. To this day, Miller appears unaware that the story is a hoax and his post stands uncorrected. There is no indication that Geller had seen the original article in The Jewish Press before she posted.
3. Despite claiming that she was proving a clever point, Geller later removed the posting from her website and also deleted her tweet referencing it. What’s the point of making a point and then deleting all references to the point?
II. So The Rolling Stones aren’t going to Israel in April, after all. How about Obama in March, especially if he doesn’t have an Israeli Government with whom to meet?
President Barack Obama’s historic first visit as US leader to Israel this month could be in jeopardy after Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to plead for extra time to cobble together a new coalition government.
The Israeli prime minister was granted a two-week extension by Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, after missing Saturday’s deadline to reach agreement with rival parties following January’s inconclusive general election.
He now has until March 16 to form a government – otherwise Mr Peres will ask another party leader to lead coalition talks.
White House officials have said Mr Obama will call off his visit if no government is in place by then.
The US president is scheduled to arrive on March 20 for a two-day trip that will also include the West Bank city of Ramallah.
If you find Israeli party politics bewildering, you are not alone. I suppose Netanyahu himself is bewildered by the maze he helped build, and in which he is now all but trapped:
Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu won 31 of the Knesset’s 120 seats – an eroded lead that forced him to cast a wide net for partners while juggling their disparate demands.
During the 28-day period, Netanyahu managed to forge a pact only with the party of former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, whose six-member faction “The Movement” has given him 37 seats, way short of the minimum 61 needed to confirm a new coalition.
In a brief statement following his meeting with Peres on Saturday night, Netanyahu hinted that at least one potential coalition partner refused to sit alongside others.
Netanyahu has faced demands from the parties that placed second and fourth, Yesh Atid (There is a Future) and Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), to slash mass exemptions from military conscription and cut welfare stipends to ultra-Orthodox Jews.
In coalition talks on Friday with Bayit Yehudi, Netanyahu’s chief negotiator said the right-wing party was unwilling to sit alongside ultra-Orthodox parties but Bayit Yehudi officials denied this.
At Mondoweiss, Annie Robbins has provided an excellent, detailed analysis of Netanyahu’s pickle, which most likely adds up to no Israeli ruling coalition by the date set for Obama’s trip. She observes that in spite of gains by moderate factions in the January election, the hardliners seem to hold the last trump. Playing it – accepting the notion of outright annexation of Palestine without giving the non-Jewish Palestinians any citizenship rights – will isolate Israel internationally, certainly from Europe and most of Latin America.
Pressures on the disagreeing parties to come up with something so as to avoid a cancellation or rescheduling of Obama’s trip are probably there, but insignificant. One shouldn’t forget that there is far more antipathy toward Obama in Israel than there is, even among white GOP conservatives and Tea Party fanatics, in the USA.
“We’ve made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term programme that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way,” said Marvin Odum, Director, Upstream Americas. “Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people following the drilling season in 2012.”
Alaska holds important energy resources. At the same time, securing access to those resources requires special expertise, technology and an in depth understanding of the environmental and societal sensitivities unique to the region. Shell is one of the leaders in an industry move into offshore Arctic exploration. The company continues to use its extensive experience in Arctic and sub-Arctic environments to prepare for safe activities in Alaska.
Alaska remains an area with high potential for Shell over the long term, and the company is committed to drill there again in the future. If exploration proves successful, resources there would take years to develop.
Shell’s other rig which had been used in their trouble-plagued 2012 season, the Noble Discoverer, is berthed in Seward, Alaska, awaiting arrival of a giant floating, powered dry dock, which will bring it to an Asian ship yard.
Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, according to my talk with his D.C. staff last week, has moved his Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard hearing or hearings on Shell’s 2012-2013 conduct from March to May, but provided no further detail.
The Department of Interior will be issuing their report on Shell’s permit to drill in the Arctic by March 10th.
According to reliable sources, a member of the Alaska delegation may soon be under indictment for back-door pressuring the EPA to allow SHELL to move forward with its 2012 drilling program – which culminated with environmental crimes. When it became known that contaminated engine fuel could not meet the EPA “Air Quality” permitting and such would have caused SHELL to vacate any attempts to continue its 2012 exploration program, a project that has seen a whole lot of discomfort and controversy so far, instead of not backing off and adhering to its permitting criteria, SHELL was given the “Green light” to continue on with its program.
I. One of my new year’s resolutions is to become a decent bread baker. In many ways I’m close to being a gourmet cook, but bread making is something I’ve neglected.
I buy bread at the store. I’m getting increasingly frustrated, though, at the lack of excellent bakery bread available in stores in southcentral Alaska. When we travel to Seattle, Portland, Oregon or California, the excellent Italian and French style breads readily available from local bakeries overwhelms me so much, I stuff loaves to bring north into empty coolers that brought seafood down from Alaska.
The kind of bread I crave the most that one cannot get here, is the rustic sourdough loaf, with a crunchy crust, big bubble holes in the bread itself, and a tangy, sourdough taste. So, I’ve started trying to make that.
In the past, I’ve tried various sourdough starter recipes – some using yeast, some using yoghurt, some just relying on time itself to create a usable, somewhat stable lactobacillus.
In light of the new year’s resolution, I searched the web for the most interesting sourdough starter recipe. One that seemed quite strange, but fascinating, involved whole wheat flour and pineapple juice. I decided to try it. The site that had both that method and good word and video backup is called Breadtopia.
Step 1. Mix 3 ½ tbs. whole wheat flour with ¼ cup unsweetened pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for 48 hours at room temperature. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. (“Unsweetened” in this case simply means no extra sugar added).
Step 2. Add to the above 2 tbs. whole wheat flour and 2 tbs. pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for a day or two. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. You should see some activity of fermentation within 48 hours. If you don’t, you may want to toss this and start over (or go buy some!)
Step 3. Add to the above 5 ¼ tbs. whole wheat flour and 3 tbs. purified water. Cover and set aside for 24 hours.
Step 4. Add ½ cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 to 1/3 cup purified water. You should have a very healthy sourdough starter by now.
Back in early February, I did just that. I even juiced my own pineapple for freshness. The starter evolved just as it was supposed to. I tried it.
The first time was a failure – the bread did not rise much at all over a twelve-hour period. It didn’t taste tangy. I figured the house wasn’t warm enough.
The second time, the bread rose some, but was still brick-like. It tasted a bit tangy.
The third time, I tried mixing in rye flour. The bread rose a bit more, and tasted tangier. I didn’t call it a success, though, just “progress.” I turned most of the loaf into croutons for a King crab Caesar salad.
The fourth time, shown at the top of the article, was considered a success, by everyone who tasted it, and the loaf disappeared quickly. I followed this recipe like a fundamentalist Christian might follow the Book of Numbers.
Here’s what the replenished starter looks like today. Yesterday, shortly after adding flour and water, it brewed over.
Shell Oil’s three main components to their plans to get an Arctic offshore drilling regime going before competitors showed up went off the rails in 2012:
• The Arctic Challenger, their alleged cleanup rig, spectacularly failed its early September tests in Puget Sound, under idyllic conditions. It wasn’t even deployed to Alaska, which forced Shell to have to drill shallow holes in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
• The Kulluk, an ungainly rig the size of the aircraft carrier Hornet,that took the Doolittle raid across the Pacific in April 1942, was ground severely on the Kodiak Island area coast for a week, during winter storms.
• The obsolete and decrepit drill vessel Noble Discoverer had one problem after another, as it was forced beyond its limited capabilities.
2013 promises no changes, as the global giant is reeling from worldwide challenges to its rapacious business model. Additionally, its failed Alaska offshore season is about to be scrutinized more closely, and more publicly, than British Petroleum was looked at in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
In the first of what may become a cascade of U.S. government announcements, the U.S. Coast Guard announced Friday that they have turned their findings on the drill vessel Noble Discoverer over to the U.S. Justice Department:
The Coast Guard found the Noble Discoverer could not go fast enough to safely maneuver on its own in all the expected conditions found in Alaska’s Arctic waters.
The Coast Guard also found “systematic failure and lack of main engine preventative maintenance,” which caused a propulsion loss and exhaust system explosion.
Among other issues listed were inoperable equipment used to measure the oil in water that is dumped overboard, improper line splices throughout the engine room, piston cooling water contaminated with sludge and an abnormal propeller shaft vibration.
Coast Guard spokesman Kip Wadlow said he couldn’t discuss the details because the investigation has been forwarded to the Justice Department. Wadlow declined to say whether the Coast Guard believed criminal penalties could be warranted.
Shell announced early this week that the vessel under investigation is exiting the Western Hemisphere from Seward, Alaska, where it has been impounded since early November, on a dry tow vessel, destined for an Asian shipyard where, supposedly, it will be turned into some sort of perfect, or at least adequate ship, for extricating oil from under the Arctic Ocean’s floor. There have been no announcements on how the DOJ involvement in the vessel might have an impact on Shell’s tow plan.
Within three weeks, the U.S. Department of Interior will be issuing their 60-day reassessment of Shell’s Arctic drilling plan, which has been somewhat torpedoed by the USCG announcement. A negative assessment by DOI will set Shell back years, possibly driving their stock share price into a major dip.
Independent of the findings on the Noble Discoverer, the USCG will be conducting a mandatory set of hearings into the December 31st grounding of the drill rig Kulluk, off the south shores of Kodiak Island. That seriously damaged vessel is scheduled to be towed by two tugs to Dutch Harbor when harsh winter weather abates. From there, it will also exit the Western Hemisphere and American scrutiny.
Alaska Senator Mark Begich has vowed to hold hearings on this, but has backed off from holding them in March. His office told me Wednesday that it is looking more like the hearings will be in May.
I’m surprised that Shell’s Alaska management structure has remained intact though what has to have been the most poorly managed energy project season in our state’s history. There will probably be a lot of heads rolling there before the end of May, though.
What may be most interesting to watch over the late winter and spring might be the way politicians pile on to Shell, so as to show they “really care” about responsible oil development, etc. – while other oil concerns ramp up their efforts to do their own offshore Arctic projects.
And their political contributions to such politicians.
As a side note: I’m finding it more and more difficult to write about this and other subjects, here and elsewhere. I think the evidence of impending catastrophic climate change, combined with the vulnerability of global nuclear waste are far, far more serious than even most environmental progressives yet realize.
Increasingly, I feel there is nothing you, I, or anyone can do to prevent a catastrophe that will reduce the worldwide human population by at least 75% within the next 75 years.
I’m not a fan of Bill Maher. His movie Religulous, left out how the nuttiness of some practitioners of one major religion, influence the politics of Israel, for instance. His reputation for being a mild misogynist is pretty firmly established. He’s somewhat of an Obamabot.
Back in 2010, he confronted Oliver Stone, when the latter was defending Palestinian rights under Israeli occupation:
Maher’s argument in the above case was effectively countered by Stone, who brings up AIPAC. Rachel Maddow sat on her thumbs throughout the whole exchange on Israel-Palestine. Maher’s problem in the exchange, like that of so many, is to obfuscate when it comes to individual Palestinian rights per se.
Yesterday on his show, Maher, defending Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, seemed upset about undue influence by people and organizations supporting Israel over U.S. policy making. The GOP being the case:
The two segments show possible signs of evolution by Maher in respect to the conventional narrative about that pesky little country.
Both the much maligned Noble Discoverer and Kulluk, who have faced serious mechanical difficulties since completing Arctic drilling operations off of Alaska’s Arctic Continental Shelf last summer, will be headed to Asia soon according to a statement from Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith.
The Kulluk, which has remained anchored off of Kodiak Island since its New Year’s Eve grounding, will be towed from there to the international Port of Dutch Harbor pending a tow plan approval. From Dutch Harbor, the 266-foot diameter conical drilling unit will then be dry-towed to a ship yard in Asia with a suitable dry dock.
The Discoverer’s operator, Noble Drilling Corp., will also dry-tow the Discoverer from its current location in Seward to South Korea.
“The outcome of further inspections for both rigs will determine the shipyard schedule and timing of their return to service,” Smith said in the statement.
When exactly the rigs will leave Alaska is unclear. A representative from Unified Command, the joint operation involving Shell, U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, could not say whether the vessel remained in Kiliuda Bay Monday. They noted that the latest information on the vessel was on the command’s website — which hasn’t been updated since Jan. 30.
For some reason, the transponders of all the vessels in and around the Kulluk in Kiliuda Bay, were turned off on January 30th and 31st, two days after I announced the contemplated Asia decision, and the same day Dan Joling from the Associated Press picked up the story, so it is difficult to know where the tug Aiviq is right now, for instance.
It has big vessels for the dry tows lined up, and the Noble Discoverer will leave Seward in three to six weeks for a trip across the Pacific Ocean that should take two to four weeks, Smith said.
In a dry tow, a large vessel submerges through added ballast below the draft of the rig to be towed, Smith explained. That allows the drilling rig to float over the vessel’s deck, and the tow vessel is raised up, with the drill rig on its deck for the tow. It’s a faster method than towing on the water.
There are rumors that Shell is searching the world for replacement vessels, as it appears neither the Kulluk nor the Noble Discoverer will even be reaching a yard before mid to late April.
Investigations into the grounding and Shell’s 2013 Alaska Arctic drilling season by the U.S. Coast Guard; the U.S. Department of the Interior; the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard; and possibly the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, will begin within a few weeks. No precise information on any of these has yet been released, although the Interior Department’s 60-day review period of Shell’s Alaska operations ends on March 7th.
During Saturday Evening’s Saturday Night Live dress rehearsal, the cast tried this sketch, which parodies the obsequiousness shown by U.S. Senators toward Israel last week, during the confirmation hearing for former Senator Chuck Hagel, to head the Department of Defense:
The sketch didn’t run, but the show soon put it up on the web at HULU, where it was picked up by Huffington Post and Mondoweiss by early Sunday morning.
In comments and articles on the sketch, many are saying that the sketch wasn’t run because it wasn’t funny. I didn’t watch SNL this week, but my wife did, and she says it would have been one of the funniest sketches this week, which isn’t saying much these days. I think the audience may have at times been uncomfortable watching the sketch unfold before them.
Surprisingly, the funniest headline on it, even beating out Wonkette, was the Times of Israel, which put this in the headline:
After being banished from earnest Washington discussion for decades by various press gate-keepers, the absurdly overblown power of the Greater Israel lobby is now seeping into the popular culture. SNL captures the lunacy.
This does appear to be the case. As Philip Weiss noted today:
Even friends of mine who don’t know the issue are fulminating about the Hagel hearing. And remember that those gatekeepers and lobby pooh-poohers included the Atlantic Magazine, David Remnick, Leon Wieseltier, Leslie Gelb, Walter Russell Mead, Jeffrey Goldberg, among other eminent journalists.
2013 is shaping up to be the year during which people will no longer have to carefully and guardedly talk about Israeli apartheid, but will finally be listened to, when they openly draw attention to Israeli Apartheid.
Watching the Breitbart-inspired campaign against Hagel’s “Hamas PAC” unfold, the SNL scriptwriters might consider keeping their pencils handy.
Last Thursday, philosopher Dr. Judith Butler delivered a profound address at Brooklyn University. She was one of two speakers at what might have been a small gathering of students and Brooklyn activists, wanting to hear some intelligent ideas about the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The movement, begun by Palestinians in 2005, models itself somewhat after similar movements seeking to put pressure on the apartheid South African regime, from the late 1980s, through the fall of that regime in the mid-1990s.
The other speaker was Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of Global BDS. Barghouti has a Masters degree in electrical engineering from Columbia, and a Masters in philosophy from Tel Aviv University.
At the time [Butler was invited] I thought it would be very much like other events I have attended, a conversation with a few dozen student activists in the basement of a student center. So, as you can see, I am surprised and ill prepared for what has happened.
What happened was an explosion of invective against Butler, Barghouti, Brooklyn College, its President, and NYC Mayor Bloomberg, for supporting their being able to even talk on campus about BDS under the sponsorship of one of its departments, and without someone on the podium with them who could offer an opposing view.
Judith Butler drew some hearty laughs with this:
Yet another objection, sometimes uttered by the same people who made the first, is that BDS does qualify as a viewpoint, but as such, ought to be presented only in a context in which the opposing viewpoint can be heard as well. There was yet a qualification to this last position, namely, that no one can have a conversation on this issue in the US that does not include a certain Harvard professor [Alan Dershowitz], but that spectacular argument was so self-inflationary and self-indicting, that I could only respond with astonishment.
Far more Americans know of the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement today than did a week ago. Many millions of people have been exposed for the first time to the idea that Israel should be boycotted, divested and sanctioned for its occupation of the territories. Many more Americans, one can safely assume, have formed a positive image of the BDS movement than those who have now turned against it.
Tafasta merube lo tafasta, the Talmud teaches us: grasp all, lose all. The heavy-handed, hyperbole heavy, all-guns-blazing campaign against what would have been, as Mayor Bloomberg put it, “a few kids meeting on campus” mushroomed and then boomeranged, giving the hitherto obscure BDS activists priceless public relations that money could never buy.
Rather than focusing attention on what BDS critics describe as the movement’s deceitful veneer over its opposition to the very existence of Israel, the disproportionate onslaught succeeded in casting the BDS speakers who came to the Brooklyn campus as freedom-loving victims being hounded and oppressed by the forces of darkness.
Butler argues that hate speech exists retrospectively, only after being declared such by state authorities. In this way, the state reserves for itself the power to define hate speech and, conversely, the limits of acceptable discourse.
I’ve wanted to write an enduring essay about Butler’s Brooklyn College address since reading it. I’ve re-read it twice now, trying to distill it for popular blog consumption. That may be a task beyond my ability.
The concept of censorship making an idea being censored more known and attractive predates Butler’s analysis. The history of people finding ways around such censorship goes back to ancient times too. When societies begin to break down through hubris, hypocrisy, corruption, pollution and so on, some members of the nomenklatura realize better than others what is happening, what is at stake.
Butler’s writings and talks (on Youtube, for instance) show examples of her sense of irony, and some humor. Her overall style, though, is quite dry. Nobody has ever accused her of pandering for attention, within or beyond academia.
Thinking about her irony and perhaps intentional avoidance of populist metaphor and framing today, I found myself listening more closely to the wildly ironic Dmitri Shosatakovich’s 12th Symphony, a work I’m considering conducting in 2014. He wrote it at the beginning of the end of the paradigm of a communist utopia in the USSR. He had ceased to believe in the myth long before, but had been rehabilitated, and was commanded to write a triumphal work, dedicated to the memory of Vladimir Lenin.
He was hesitant, but fulfilled the commission. It was thought to be a workmanlike, dutiful symphony, but it has never been regarded as one of his masterpieces.
From my first hearing in the mid-1960s, I detected that he was mocking the idolization of Lenin. He couldn’t be more obvious than he was, or it would not be performed. He mocked his own film music to the dozens of patriotic Soviet movies he scored. He parroted the false drive forward of the increasingly failed system that entrapped him and other artists.
Watching the increasingly Sovietesque moves to somehow save Israeli apartheid from being truthfully perceived remind me aspects of the downfall of the USSR – not so much as in the Mother country, but in its satellites.
Here is Yevgeni Mravinsky, conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic in Shostakovich’s iconic slap in the face of false monumentalism, from a 1984 broadcast:
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