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The firenadoes in Southern California

Posted on May 19th, 2014 in Climage Change by Robert Miller

A firenado (from NBC News)

A new term has been introduced into our lexicon of fire definitions: firenadoes, meaning a swirling, tornado-like plume of fire associated with California fires that are now raging, especially in Southern California, but also in Missouri. The term may be new, but the phenomenon has been identified for years; scientists refer to such events as “fire whirls” which happen when ground-level winds come in contact with fire and whip it up into the air, creating a tornado-shaped spiral of flames. Fire whirls were identified in the Chicago fire of 1871, when they spread the devastating fire by throwing chunks of flaming wood in all directions. Perhaps the deadliest fire whirl on record occurred in Japan in 1923. It formed after the Great Kanto 7.9 earthquake and swept through an area where survivors of the quake had gathered. Thousands were killed in just minutes. Feeding the fire whirls in Southern California and Missouri is the fact that these regions have undergone drought for some time, so the timber and brush are more combustible; it is not clear however if the winds that are required to whip the fire whirls into their plume-shaped configuration are unusually strong and perhaps related to global climate change. From a NYT article “We are used to very windy, very hot and dry conditions, but not in May,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “It is really unprecedented to have these conditions this early. We cannot remember a year where we have had this many fires this early. And everything is just going to get drier and hotter — even more of a tinderbox.” Thus the fires currently raging in San Diego have arrived earlier than usual and may be a feature for the fires of the future; if so the “firenadoes” seem to be a mechanism by which the fire can spread more rapidly with higher risks to homes and even people that lie in their pathway.


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Getting Ukraine right for a change

Posted on May 5th, 2014 in Politics,War by Robert Miller
Civil War in Ukraine

Civil War in Ukraine

Above all else, you can attribute Russia’s move in Ukraine, not as a power grab, which the American press and the Obama administration want you to believe, but rather as a reaction to prevent Russia’s encirclement by NATO. NATO is a Cold War tool that began in 1949 at the dawn of the Cold War. There was no reason for Truman to start the Cold War, since Russia proved to be our strongest ally during WW II (the Russian army actually won WW II as they accounted for more than 90% of the total casualty level inflicted on the German army). At the very least, the end of the Cold War should have ended NATO: it should have been dissolved, torn up, records burned and put in the ashes where all the really dumb treaties and alliances belong. However, NATO has now been drafted into a new set of responsibilities for spreading neoliberal policies and globalization, to try to break up and dismantle Russia into smaller bite-sized pieces. Like many of the Cold War alliances we developed, NATO was never needed and has far outlived its usefulness: it now routinely gets us into trouble—as in the case of Ukraine for example. Furthermore, breaking Russia up even further is against our long-term planetary interests, because having large, strong governments to deal with will make it more efficient to form the alliances and cooperation necessary to confront the most serious threat to human survival that we have ever faced—the coming challenge of global climate change: only Tea Party fools and the oil and gas industry would have us believe otherwise. Balkanization of Russia is a bad idea. Unfortunately, we have allowed the issue of global climate change to become politicized to the point that we have missed more than three decades during which we might have made significant progress towards mitigating our planetary carbon footprint.

Some day NATO will join the list of all irrelevant treaties, with the open recognition (or not) that the borders between the East and the West during the Cold War were, just like Korea after the Korean war, exactly where they were at the close of WW II. Eisenhower’s attempted policies at rolling back the borders of WW II Soviet incursion did not gain an inch of soil, as he proved during the Hungarian revolt in 1956. So what was the purpose of NATO? NATO in fact was irrelevant, and even though we tried to convince our European allies that they were under a threat of enslavement, which could happen at any moment if the USSR perceived a weakness in their defenses, but nothing happened except that we put European countries at risk by arming them with nuclear missiles placed on their soil,  as we made tensions far worse than anything required by the realities of the day, even if you swallowed all the Cold War rhetoric about the motivations of the USSR. The only thing that NATO accomplished was in having Europe adopt our Cold War policies derived from our anticommunist hysteria, with perhaps only a dash of McCarthyism thrown in to make the stew seem more palatable.

Now of course there is talk of a return to the Cold War, quoting first of all Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. But if you view that invasion in a sober light, which seems to be virtually impossible for the American Press, you realize that Georgia was the aggressor and that the introduction of Russian troops into Georgia was meant relieve Ossetia which has pro-Russian citizens who were threatened by the Georgian invasion, perpetrated by one of Bush’s buddies, the President of Georgia at the time Mikheil Saakashvili. According the Human Rights Report, the Russian entry into Georgia was brought about when they were faced with a humanitarian crisis that loomed, as large numbers of Ossetians (~25,000 by one report) crossed the border into Russia prompting their invasion into Ossetia  as well as the urgency of defending their own Russian troops against attacks by the Georgian army.

Mike Whitney, writing in CounterPunch hit the target when he refers to Ukraine as a Russophobic, failed state ruled by fascists. The rapidly developing civil war in Ukraine was started by the White House and the CIA. [from Whitney] “Not only were the State Department and CIA directly involved in the putsch that removed democratically-elected president Viktor Yanukovych from office, but Washington has also been implicated in punitive operations directed against ethnic Russian protestors in east Ukraine. Both CIA Director John Brennan and Vice President Joe Biden visited Kiev just hours before two previous crackdowns were ordered by imposter-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. As Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blandly noted, It’s clear that Washington is “calling the shots”.

“These are Obama’s new allies in America’s war against Russia. Now check this out from Reuters:”

“The International Monetary Fund warned that if Ukraine lost territory in the east it would have to redesign a $17 billion bailout of the country, probably requiring additional financing.” (Ukraine attacks rebel city, helicopter shot down, Reuters)

“Tell me, dear reader, when was the last time you heard of the IMF threatening to withhold funds if a political leader didn’t wage war on his own people? Anyone with half a brain can see that the IMF is just acting on orders from the White House. This is Obama’s war. His fingerprints are all over the policy. Obama is determined to draw Russia into a bloody guerrilla war that leaves Ukraine in the same condition as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Syria.” Can anyone imagine that Putin wants a failed state next door to him in Russia?

Former Russian ambassador Jack Matlock (one of the last ambassadors to Russia before the break-up of the Soviet Union) was interviewed recently on Democracy Now : when asked “What could the U.S. do differently in its approach to Russia than it has done in the past? You’ve been critical of how the U.S. has treated Putin,” Matlock replied “Oh, well, the most fundamental issue here was the threat of NATO membership eventually for Ukraine. This is something that no Russian government, no matter how democratic, is going to accept. And they will use any methods at their disposal to make sure it doesn’t happen. And that’s what we see happening now. And if this issue had never been raised, I think it would have been much easier to work out the economic issues, which are the most important ones.”

“But also something to remember is, throughout the 22-plus years of Ukraine’s independence, the Ukrainians have not been able to create an effective government of the entire country. They have not been able to create a sense of nationality. It is, in many respects, a failed state. And all of the parties from outside, beginning with Russia, but also including the Europeans and the United States, I think, have followed policies that have not been helpful.”

Unless and until we remove NATO as a new negative force driving neoliberal policies, we will not have peace in the Ukraine and we will continue to have confrontational political drama between the White House, members of the EU and Vladimir Putin.



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