Wake up, America. We’re driving toward disaster.

Everywhere I go these days, talking about the global energy predicament on the college lecture circuit or at environmental conferences, I hear an increasingly shrill cry for “solutions.” This is just another symptom of the delusional thinking that now grips the nation, especially among the educated and well-intentioned.

I say this because I detect in this strident plea the desperate wish to keep our “Happy Motoring” utopia running by means other than oil and its byproducts. But the truth is that no combination of solar, wind and nuclear power, ethanol, biodiesel, tar sands and used French-fry oil will allow us to power Wal-Mart, Disney World and the interstate highway system — or even a fraction of these things — in the future. We have to make other arrangements.

Michael Schwartz: The loss of an imperial dream

The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, with its 225,000 or more deaths in 11 countries, shocked the world; so, in recent weeks, has the devastation wrought by a powerful cyclone (and tidal surge) that hit the Irrawaddy Delta of Myanmar. It resulted in at least 78,000 deaths (with another 56,000 reported missing) and a display of recalcitrance on the part of a military junta focused on its own security while its people perish. Similarly, a devastating earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province that hit 7.9 on the Richter scale and whose tremors were felt 1,000 miles away has swept into the news. Its casualty count has already reached 51,000 with unknown numbers of Chinese still buried in rubble or cut off in rural areas and so, as yet, untallied, and an estimated five million people homeless.

These are staggering natural disasters, hard even to take in, and yet it’s a reasonable question whether, in terms of damage, any of them measure up to the ongoing human-made (or rather Bush administration made) disaster in Iraq. Worse yet, unlike a natural disaster, the Iraqi catastrophe seems to be without end. No one can even guess when it might be said of that country that an era of reconstruction or rebuilding is about to begin. Instead, the damage only grows week by miserable week and yet, as has often been true in the last year, Iraq continues to have trouble even cracking the top ten stories in U.S. news coverage.

The wisdom of talking

As President Bush commemorated Israel’s 60th anniversary by attacking Barack Obama from overseas, here at home he found an all-too-frequent ally: John McCain.

When Bush accused “some” — including Obama, Bush aides explained — of “the false comfort of appeasement,” McCain echoed this slander.

“What does he want to talk about with [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad?” McCain asked, fumbling to link Obama to the Iranian president’s hateful words. Soon, a GOP talking point was born.

Lost in the rhetoric was the question America deserves to have answered: Why should we engage with Iran?

Hamas: Olmert too weak to negotiate peace agreement with Syria

Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mashaal said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is too weak to take the necessary steps for peace with Syria and expressed doubts about Israel’s seriousness in negotiations.

Meshal’s comments came during a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki on Saturday, in response to a question about Wednesday’s announcement that Israel and Syria had restarted direct peace negotiations.

“There is great skepticism concerning the seriousness (of Israel) to return the Golan,” he said, referring to a strategic plateau captured by Israel in 1967.

“It’s maneuvering and playing with all the (negotiating) tracks – it’s a well known game and besides, Olmert’s weakness will not allow him to take this step.”

Finkelstein arrested and deported by Israel

News just in from Monsters and Critics: Norman Finkelstein, the provocative political scientist known for his criticism of Israeli policy, arrived today at Ben Gurion Airport and was promptly arrested by the authorities and informed he would be deported tomorrow on “security grounds.” His attorney, Michael Sfrad, informs us that in usual circumstances this means that Finkelstein will be unwelcome in Israel for the next ten years. Finkelstein had been intending to visit the Occupied Territories.

Let’s get a few things out of the way before we wade into the particulars of this case. While Finkelstein is known for his criticism of the Occupation, he is an advocate of a two-state solution. So let’s immediately dismiss all the malarkey bruited about by the pro-Israel crowd that he is a Holocaust denier (he is a child of survivors) and either anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. That’s all bullcrap. There is a difference between being a critic of Israeli policy and opposed to Israel’s existence. There is a difference between criticizing Jewish groups and leaders who have done well by the Holocaust and denying the Holocaust.

Bombing Iran: the clamor persists

Listening to the questions asked of Gen. David Petraeus in the Senate Thursday, you might think the U.S. was headed for a new war in the Gulf. Senators from both sides of the aisle spent as much time asking him about Iran as they did about Iraq and Afghanistan. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut grilled Petraeus on Iran’s anti-U.S. activities in the region. Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii plaintively asked about the utility of negotiations with Iran. And Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia pressed Petraeus on what he meant by the need to “counter malign Iranian influence” and the “consequences for its illegitimate influence in the region.”

The general, whose confirmation as head of U.S. Central Command was stake in the hearing, did his best to pacify the men and women who held his appointment in their hands, emphasizing his support for “the three rounds of negotiations that have taken place” between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. in Baghdad over security issues. But the Senators’ questions how how persistent the concern is on Capitol Hill that President Bush could be secretly planning a military strike against Iran.

Will Sistani declare jihad on US?

I can only speculate, since Sistani isn’t issuing communiques that would explain what is on his mind. But let us look at the context.

First, Sistani was under a lot of pressure from his Shiite followers to denounce the US siege, blockade and aerial bombing of the civilian district of Sadr City in East Baghdad, which went on for weeks. People were actually lacking in food. And, apartment buildings were incinerated. The full horror of the siege was carefully kept from the American public, but the Shiites of Iraq knew about it all right. I think that the brutality of the US intervention against the Shiite masses, and the risk that his silence would produce a backlash against him in favor of Muqtada al-Sadr, may have helped impel Sistani toward this militancy. Aerial bombardment of civilian areas as a tactic has increased significantly this spring.

Americans tend to dismiss the aerial bombardments, in which civilians are often killed, as the cost of doing business in a war zone. But many Iraqis really, really mind these killings and you can only imagine what Sistani thinks of them. Likewise, while the incident of the US soldier using the Qur’an for firing practice only happened recently and wouldn’t be the impetus for Sistani’s new militancy, such desecrations have occurred before and the hatred of Islam by US military figures like Gen. Boykin is well known.

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