Thursday round-up — get your link fix after the jump:
Forget the talking points — it’s the pipeline deal, stupid: A ginned up kill-the-messenger nontroversy excreted from the bowels of Outer Wingnuttia’s finest is no reason to oppose Susan Rice’s appointment as SoS. A clear conflict of interest, however… (h/t):
Susan Rice, the candidate believed to be favored by President Obama to become the next Secretary of State, holds significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline. If confirmed by the Senate, one of Rice’s first duties likely would be consideration, and potentially approval, of the controversial mega-project.
Rice’s financial holdings could raise questions about her status as a neutral decision maker. The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.
Beyond that, according to financial disclosure reports, about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel — including companies with poor environmental and safety records on both U.S. and Canadian soil. Rice and her husband own at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada’s eight leading oil producers, as ranked by Forbes magazine. That includes Enbridge, which spilled more than a million gallons of toxic bitumen into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010 — the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.
Rice also has smaller stakes in several other big Canadian energy firms, as well as the country’s transportation companies and coal-fired utilities. Another 20 percent or so of her personal wealth is derived from investments in five Canadian banks. These are some of the institutions that provide loans and financial backing to TransCanada and its competitors for tar sands extraction and major infrastructure projects, such as Keystone XL and Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would stretch 700 miles from Alberta to the Canadian coast.
Post-election elbow room: Daniel R. DePetris looks at the regional Mideast challenges that Obama and the US will likely face in POTUS’ second term — including Iranian nukes:
As much as the White House would love to terminate Iran’s nuclear enrichment program entirely, there is a good chance that the president and his national-security team recognize that such a maximalist goal is nearly impossible to achieve. After over two decades and billions of dollars in investment, the Iranians are not going to give up their right to enrich domestically, regardless of how tough the international community is. If a coercive sanctions regime that has strangled the Iranian economy has not forced Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to abandon the nuclear program, it is difficult to believe that more sanctions would.
With this realism in mind, the challenge for the president will be to find a formula to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities while taking Tehran’s grievances into consideration. While it is often difficult to pinpoint what Iran truly wants, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may very well accept an agreement that grants his country a low-level enrichment capability in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions. Any Iranian enrichment program, of course, would need to be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with a stringent regime of inspections to ensure compliance.
When all is said and done, only diplomacy can finalize a solution that is both permanent and durable. The president will confront some unwanted pressure from his critics and perhaps a continuation of the “appeasement” argument that those on the far right have leveled against him during his first term. But with no more campaigns to worry about in the future, Obama’s political constraints to hammering such a deal will not be nearly as great.
With a flexible approach to the Iranians and a strong assurance to the Israelis that Washington will not give away too much during the negotiation process, Obama could strike an accord that provides the right mix of concessions and conditions that everyone (including Israel) can live with. Reports that the White House is considering a faster drawdown of oil sanctions in exchange for significant Iranian concessions on the nuclear front is a sign that Obama’s national-security team wants to get talks going again.
‘Defensible space’ in the Holy Land: Daniel J. Levine and Daniel Bertrand Monk unpack the ‘dangerous neighbourhood’ euphemism re: Israel:
To the middle-aged American ear the term ‘dangerous neighborhood’ carries with it disquieting and overdetermined resonances to mid-century struggles over desegregation and ‘white flight’ from America’s cities. It connects to a racialized “criminalization of poverty” on America’s “mean streets.” The best solution American sociology offered those left behind in “dangerous neighborhoods” was a new theory of “Defensible Space” that served, instead, as a pattern book for further white self segregation in gated communities.
In the same way that the gated community presented itself as a frightened response to such neighborhoods rather than a further development in larger socio-economic process that produced them, so too the self-bastionization of Israel is euphemized as a reasonable reaction to the “dangerous neighborhood” it helped bring into being when it withdrew unilaterally from Gaza, marginalized the Palestinian Authority, and so helped usher a new Hamas-led regime into existence. A less superficial assessment of Operation ‘Defensive Pillar’ would begin with recognition that the real “dangerous neighborhood” is one which includes Israel, and which Israel helps produce.
Yes, but is she ho-hum about censorship? Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah addresses trenchant criticism from Jeffrey Goldberg (via NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan) after NYT Israel Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren had her Twitter privileges severely curtailed after *gasp* contacting Abunimah over the 140 (as documented by Richard Silverstein), labeled a “misstep” by Sullivan:
That Goldberg, a former guard at an Israeli prison camp for Palestinian political prisoners, interprets my call for Palestinians to enjoy full human rights as advocating for “Israel’s destruction” tells you much more about his view of the nature of Israel – that racism is foundational and necessary – than it does about my views.
But what is clear is that by using such language, Goldberg seeks to smear and marginalize me and paint me as an extremist, and more importantly to place discussion of Israel’s racist and apartheid-like practices beyond the pale of debate and discussion.
It’s also notable that you quoted Goldberg’s characterization of me and described Phil Weiss as “the anti-Zionist Jewish-American journalist,” but did not characterize Goldberg’s ethnicity, religion or political views in any way, leaving the impression that he is some sort of neutral voice.
By quoting Goldberg’s views about me as if he were some kind of authority, you have assisted him in his campaign. By affirming that communicating with me was a “misstep” by Rudoren you are explicitly endorsing Goldberg’s view of me.
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) November 28, 2012
Destruction is change: Architect Carol Clouse on rebuilding after Sandy:
As we look to rebuild our dwellings, we need to root into the earth in both our physical construction and in our instinctual memory of what it means to be a human being living on this planet. We need to be acutely aware of the ways and the weather of the land where we choose to build. Our construction materials and methods should reflect an understanding and respect for the land.
We would like to have a better relationship with nature, yet we live largely ‘inside’ our houses, and view nature as something ‘out’ there. We construct insulating walls of enclosure, and separate ourselves from our innate understanding. We forget that we are not a separate entity, but an integral part of nature.
Before we begin this task of rebuilding, it would do us well to take a moment to consider, and give regard to the land and the ecosystems of life. If we look at life as being lived ‘outside,’ we will approach our construction from a different point of perspective. We can become more aware of the earth as a living entity of water, air, vegetation, and creatures of all species – including human beings – that participate together in the essential cycle of life. Instead of insulating ourselves, we can live in an awakened state and become conscious of our every footprint on the planet, including our construction. And then perhaps we will remember to play in the rain, lie in the leaves, and gaze into the night sky.