Sunday, February 19, 2017

Showdown Over Krabi Coal Power Plant

Protests without solutions only add to the problem. Solutions without the voice and support of media and activists, toil in obscurity. 

February 20, 2017 (Tony Cartalucci - ATN) - The people of Thailand's southern province of Krabi attempting to prevent the construction of a coal power plant, have been let down by both the government and the professional protesters that have attached themselves to their cause.

Image: Coal is not the answer, but what is the answer? Greenpeace's campaigns fall short of answering that question. While they have done much to raise awareness, their organization's influence and resources would be better utilized in creating solutions, rather than endlessly enumerating problems. 
For the government's part, they have inherited a system racked by years of turmoil, inefficiency, corruption, and lack of vision. They've been left few choices for expanding much needed power production for Thailand's southern provinces beyond coal, oil, and gas.

The Ministry of Energy could have and should have done more to promote the expansion of alternative energy, the decentralization of energy production, and invested in education and development programs to expand the pool of human resources required for an alternative energy revolution in Thailand.

Amid the few programs the Ministry of Energy is assisting in, the impact has been very positive.

At the very least, the government could have and should have eliminated regulatory obstacles standing in the way of individuals and communities seeking to decentralize power production and switch over to alternative energy themselves. They can now, and should.

For the professional protesters who have attached themselves to the people of Krabi and their opposition to the new coal power plant, they have failed utterly to communicate the larger context the Krabi protest fits into, or present solutions and alternatives to both the public and policymakers.

The protests have dragged on for years and consumed massive amounts of energy and resources - years, energy, and resources that could have been used by these professional protesters to promote solutions and alternatives, to create models and demonstrations of these alternatives, and to build up pragmatic networks of alternative energy activists across the provinces the Krabi coal plant is meant to eventually power.

Ultimately, the expansion of power production must move forward. Power production is the key to economic development, something the people of Thailand's southern provinces need much more urgently than a single tourist attraction in Krabi.

A Lost Battle Does Not Necessarily Mean Losing the War 

In wars, the wise strategist knows when to cut their losses, retreat, and retrench. Investing everything into a single lost battle, or a Pyrrhic victory, only ensures that the war itself is ultimately lost.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

North Korean Paranoia is Well-Founded

February 15, 2017 (Ulson Gunnar - NEO) - North Korea is depicted across US and European media as a backward nation run by a despotic, delusional leader encircled by advisers suffering from irrational, militant paranoia. The nation is also depicted as a prominent security threat in Asia-Pacific despite North Korea waging no wars in the region since an armistice in 1953 effectively ended the Korean War.

A despotic, delusional leadership, however, most likely would not possess nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and a large conventional army and yet restrain its use regardless of decades of provocations engineered along its borders by the United States and its allies within the South Korean government. Likewise, a nation governed by the entirely irrational would be incapable of maintaining, even expanding ties with neighboring states like China.

Yet in reality, North Korea has done all of this.

Much of the US and Europe's accusations are predicated on the continued development of North Korea's defense programs including advances in nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles. Strategically omitted from US and European rhetoric are the provocations the West itself is guilty of, spurring along North Korea's expanding militarization.

What if, then, North Korea's allegedly irrational paranoia was well-founded?

As former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's health deteriorated, the United States and its regional allies began planning quite openly for an opportunity to overturn the North Korean state.  US-based think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), would publish a 2009, 60-page report titled, "Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea," in which scenarios for the full-scale invasion, occupation and subjugation of North Korea were laid out.

The report included recommendations for an invasion and occupation force it called a "stabilization force," of up to 460,000 US and allied troops.

Considering that, by 2009, the United States had already successfully invaded, occupied and destroyed the nations of Iraq and Afghanistan, it would not be "irrational" at all for North Korean paranoia to reach new heights.

The missing ingredients Iraq and Afghanistan had in facing US invasion were substantial defense programs that could deter US aggression. North Korea's possession of increasingly sophisticated nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles means that the price, each year, rises for any attempted implementation of the plans included in the CFR's 2009 report.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Problem with Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index

February 13, 2017 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - Transparency International puts out what it calls the "Corruption Perceptions Index." It is an annual index it claims "has been widely credited with putting the issue of corruption on the international policy agenda."

These carefully selected words, taken at face value appear benign, even progressive. But upon digging deeper into this organisation's background it becomes clear that these "perceptions" are politically motivated, and the "international policy agenda" clearly favours a very specific region of the globe, particularly that region occupied by Washington, London and Brussels.

Transparency International claims upon its "Who We Are" page of its website that (our emphasis):
From villages in rural India to the corridors of power in Brussels, Transparency International gives voice to the victims and witnesses of corruption. We work together with governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals. As a global movement with one vision, we want a world free of corruption. Through chapters in more than 100 countries and an international secretariat in Berlin, we are leading the fight against corruption to turn this vision into reality.
 Before moving onto the organisation's funding and financials, one would assume that above and beyond any other organisation in the world, Transparency International would carefully and diligently avoid any perceptions of conflicts of interest on its own part. Yet, not surprisingly, that isn't the case.

An Anti-Corruption Org Swimming in Conflicts of Interest 

Upon their page, "Who Supports Us," Transparency International admits that it receives funding from government agencies including:

  • The United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID);
  • Federal Foreign Office, Germany and;
  • The US State Department.  
Transparency International not only receives funding from the very governments it is tasked to investigate, hold accountable and "index" annually, constituting a major conflict of interest, it also receives money from the following:
  • The National Endowment for Democracy;
  • Open Society Institute Foundation and;
  • Shell Oil.
Other troubling sponsors dot Transparency International's funding disclosure, but the inclusion of immense corporate interests like energy giant Shell, is particularly troubling. 

So is the inclusion of the National Endowment for Democracy whose board of directors is chaired by representatives from other large corporations and financial institutions as well as partisan political figures involved heavily in not only influencing politics in their own respective nations, but who use the National Endowment for Democracy itself as a means to influence other nations.

While these interests are transparently self-serving, the use of the National Endowment for Democracy allows them to predicate their involvement in the political affairs and elections of foreign nations upon "democracy promotion." This seems to be the very essence of corruption, "abuse of power" and "secret deals," yet they are funding Transparency International's very existence.