Saturday, April 24, 2010

Coal Cess Opposition Cut Motion: Government in Panic Mode

000000000_CarbonBillionaireIn India, the current government, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), is desperately struggling to ward off a spate of cut motions on their budgetary proposals, including those for introducing a cess on coal production. A situation serious enough for our Finance Minister to cancel his trip to the US to attend the IMF meeting.  (Read our previous posting on coal cess here) This issue has to be however seen from a perspective. 

For the last decade and a half, federal elections have always resulted in fractured verdicts that necessitated coalition governments. Coalitional politics permitted the blending of tradition with modernity of the Indian society, enabling various identities and sub-identities within it to find democratic expression in the larger political process. The phenomenon is clearly linked to the rise of regional parties on agendas that often touch a national chord such as interests of the assertive backward castes and Dalits or ‘untouchables’.

In recent times, federal coalitional politics additionally also centered around two poles led by the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharithya Janata Party (BJP)  respectively – the main two national parties. With the UPA led by the INC and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the BJP, the role of regional parties within these is also indicative of a more competitive and polarized party system, wherein regional parties with one or two seats can virtually bully the national party leading the coalition.

This situation changed in the last parliamentary elections of 2009, which saw evidence of a sharp reversal of fortunes for regional parties. The two national parties, INC and BJP, together cornered 60% of the seats, leaving regional parties with much diminished influence to affect federal politics. The INC on its own managed to grab nearly 40% of the seats. This left them still short of absolute parliamentary majority but conferred them greatly enhanced political clout within the UPA itself. This increased confidence perhaps explains their boldness to downsize the number of constituent parties of the UPA. Accordingly, the UPA in its second avatar is trying to makeover itself by ousting caste based party allies from its coalition who played an influential role during UPA’s first tenure (2004-2009).

As a result, the UPA, at this juncture, commands with a wafer thin majority in the lower house of parliament while reduced to a minority in the upper house. Till a month ago, the UPA managed to circumvent  limitations to its degree of freedom to make legislative changes through getting other minor parties to lend outside support. All these changed with the UPA trying to introduce the Women’s Reservation and the Finance Bills which saw some of these extended allies moving away from the UPA. It also left some its other minor constituents within the government unhappy and sulking. The current corruption scandal in the Indian Premier League (IPL), whose tentacles extend to serving ministers of the UPA cabinet, has also created fissures within coalition partners.

Taking advantage of the UPA in disarray, the combined opposition are determined to push through a wide array of cut motions, including those related to the proposed coal cess. Cut motions are of three categories: (i). Policy disapproval  (ii). Economic  (iii). Token cut. The BJP led NDA is bringing cut motions of the disapproval of policy kind while the non-NDA opposition is bringing those of a kind that belong to the latter two categories. Nevertheless, they are likely to join forces to support each other’s cut motions through engaging in behind and scene floor coordination strategies. But the danger of a cut motion on a Money Bill is that if the government loses it, then it has to resign on moral grounds.
But the prospect of the government getting defeated is extremely dim. The reality remains that no party or alliance is in position to form an alternate government. What could see the government through this time is that most parties don't want elections. The government is besides  in the position to get at least  two or three major regional parties to abstain from voting. 
Due to El Nino induced drought last year, food inflation spiralled to 18% and was a raging issue some months ago. But agricultural production picked up since then and food commodity inflation showing signs of receding.
With the Indian Met Department predicting a normal monsoon, food prices from now can be expected to decline even more rapidly. Accordingly, price rise can no longer be a viewed an issue that can reap good dividends for the opposition in the event of a snap poll. The bottom line is that even the opposition does not want to impose fresh elections, fearing the wrath of the people.

But the opposition can make the government sweat out in the passing of the Finance Bill. According to Indian Constitution, the upper house of parliament cannot directly make any amendments to a Money Bill passed by the lower house and transmitted to it. It however can recommend amendments that must return to the lower house within 14 days, or less the Bill is deemed as originally passed by it. But in the case where the bill is returned with recommendations for amendments, the lower house  needs to vote again to accept the Bill, with or without these amendments. 

So the opposition’s best chances of pressurizing the government to making changes to the Finance Bill is in the upper house to come up with recommended amendments which forces a revote in the lower house of Parliament. It sends out a clear message to the electorate that it disapproves of the Finance Bill in its present form, putting undue pressure on the ruling coalition to seek a consensus. The opposition can take inspiration from the following developments during the last month:

a. France Scraps Carbon Tax Law (Read here)
b. Italian Senate calls for re-examination of Climate Change & IPCC Science(Read here)
c. Enron, who evolved the concept of carbon trading has been exposed as one of the largest corporate fraud and has now gone bankrupt. Its place in the carbon trading racket has been taken by Goldman Sachs which the US government now accuses of fraud.  (Read here)
d. Now Bangla Deshi climatologists challenge IPCC claim that sea level rises will sink their country. More shame for IPCC and climate alarmist NGOs. (Read here)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Greenpeace Threatens: We Know Where You Are. And We be Many

Ever had the sneaking suspicion that Greenpeace is no more than just Climate Bullies.? Now Greenpeace themselves confirm this.  Here's some extracts from their own website: 

"The politicians have failed. Now it's up to us. We must break the law to make the laws we need: laws that are supposed to protect society, and protect our future. Until our laws do that, screw being climate lobbyists. Screw being climate activists. It's not working. We need an army of climate outlaws.

The proper channels have failed. It’s time for mass civil disobedience to cut off the financial oxygen from denial and skepticism.  If you’re one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this:

We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work. And we be many, but you be few.”

And this provocation set the climate skeptic world on fire. They  responded by invading the Greenpeace website with their comments so much so that the controversial blog was retracted by Greenpeace hastily. Many skeptic websites put out their own commentaries. Here's some extracts from  Jova Nova a popular climate skeptic site from Australia:
"So the guys in green are turning up to my place, eh? I do hope they’ll come to chat about the empirical evidence for water-vapor feedback, but if this is supposed to be what non-violence looks like, I’m missing something. I can’t spot the line where it says“We’re coming to your place to reason with you.”  I just see stuff about breaking laws, “any means necessary,” and “we know where you live.

It’s hard to believe, but I was a Friend of the Rainbow Warrior once. I donated (we donated) money every month for years. But hey, we all grow up sometime, and then we move on. Some of the people in Greenpeace are good people, but they don’t have any idea what forces are pushing the agenda behind the world-wide “greening”. Many in Greenpeace are just bullies who want an authorized disguise to pour scorn on other people and pretend to be heroic. Greenpeace has become a magnet for thrill-seekers looking for an excuse to pump adrenalin; the sinkhole for those with an undirected tribal yearning; the “football club” for people who want to pretend that their team sport is not a game, but life-and-death, and, of course, morally superior."
Yes any day now I too expect the 'Green' thugs to barge in through my front door uninvited. That's what they seem threatening to do with all we climate skeptics. What reception will they get? Well I propose to disarm  any violent intent by offering them a hot cup of coffee as we do in South India in giving a traditional welcome.
Would it work? Difficult to say. Climate alarmists seem to be having a nervous breakdown - being unable to reconcile how rapidly their fortunes have crumpled. Only five months back they were sitting smug on a high pedestal. Whenever they talked of global warming, they were given a standing applause. Now the same routine of climate hysterical warnings only triggers uncontrollable sniggers. In this context, we can't blame them for their recent outburst. Symptoms of acute depression all shows  in the latest Greenpeace blog - helplessness, frustration, anger and an over-powering urge to carry out violent reprisals.
Greenpeace has been in India only for a decade and it looks that they still need to have more  orientation to function as a law abiding NGO. The blog was written by one Gene Hashmi, a Greenpeace staffer from their India Country office whose headquarters lies within the neighborhood  of my residence in Bangalore. Interestingly from the  the Guardian comment in their blog "Greenpeace could learn a simple lesson on manners from George Washington" we learn that Gene is the India Communication Director of Greenpeace.

An Open Letter to Greenpeace & Gene


Dear Gene,

I was pleasantly surprised to find you, a Greenpeace staffer from India office writing such a blog (Read here).  A warm neighborly hello!

As the contents of my blog clearly suggests, I am a climate skeptic. Not a well known one but  still a climate skeptic nevertheless. I am extremely flattered Gene that you keep track of the likes of us. Never mind Gene that your international office has retracted your article. (Read here). You just ensured that both you and Greenpeace remain on the Home Ministry’s radar . From now on, they will be focusing their attention on you even more closely. 

You would perhaps recollect the time the present ruling coalition at the center assumed office last year. Greenpeace at that time wanted to felicitate Agatha Sangma, the youngest Minister in the cabinet only to find the Prime Minister’s Office taking the unprecedented step of advising her to refuse the invitation. And this is a government who walks the extra mile to be seen as NGO friendly. And yet, the government made it clear by its action that it considered Greenpeace a pariah within the ranks of NGOs.  Congratulations a second time Gene. With your blog, you just confirmed the perception of our government on Greenpeace’s pedigree. 

The PR Department of your international office in an apparently damage control exercise, spun your call for civil disobedience by amazingly and insultingly putting it in the same league with the Gandhian civil obedience movement against the British Raj. Here are my problems with this:

Gandhiji viewed peaceful civil disobedience basically as a passive resistance movement that held great potential as shaper of social change. In contrast, Gene, you categorically exhorted a call for constituting  an army of climate outlaws.  Gandhji's was a mass movement that caught the imagination of all Indians for their yearning for freedom. So what’s so peaceful of your call for civil disobedience? If the peace in Greenpeace is just a mask, can the prefix Green be just a similar mask too?  

Gandhiji bore no ill-will or harm to anyone, including his opponents. His was  a philosophy of extreme tolerance. You on the other hand, wish to cut off all financial funds for skeptics in an attempt to silence our voices. Very well. Do so.  But what if the Government of India withdrew Greenpeace-India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) Number? Will Greenpeace cry wolf if the government places a ban against you  from receiving foreign funding? Besides Gene, unlike you drawing international salaries by working for Greenpeace, most climate skeptics are part-time bloggers. We blog on our own time.  And if we succeeded in achieving a PR coup in the last few months, the reason probably is that we blog because of our conviction to the cause and not because we are in the payroll of some foreign entity and our job description demands we blog. We earn our livelihood elsewhere.

I suppose some skeptics do get some funding from the fossil industry. But what the hell? Everyone knows that this is a battle between David and Goliath? What is the difference any way between EXXON, Castrol, Indian Oil Corporation funding climate skeptics (David) and climate alarmists (Goliath)? The street fight offers an  unleveled playing field and the intent  you expressed through your blog is to make it even more unleveled, by squeezing out the little funds we skeptics receive as a sector. Are you trying to say that  Greenpeace can only take on successfully the skeptics if the field is unleveled? Are we skeptics so strong or is it because you climate alarmists by default  make us look so? Your thoughts are welcome here.

But on the subject of funding, how come Greenpeace India does not declare your accounts and sources of funding for your climate change activism and advocacy? Is there anything you are ashamed off? Don't you believe in transparency?

On this subject, why not you declare how much you are earning personally as salary so that Greenpeace volunteers can get an idea of what the value you place as your time for 'the cause' while you expect volunteering to be free? Your last tweet posted on March 31st states that  you will be on a beach in Thailand until June without any access to the internet. Three months on a foreign vacation! Wow! How fortuitous. Indian beaches are not good enough for you? How much carbon footprint did you log by way of flying miles while your ads exhort your volunteers to avoid flying, cars and other private transport? Or is this the typical Greenpeace hypocrisy? Thanks to your blog, many Greenpeace volunteers will see this whole controversy as an eye-opener - how they were suckered to sacrifice their carbon footprints so that Greenpeacer staffers can have a ball.

But for a moment, let us assume what Greenpeace claim is right. The science is settled in the favor of you climate alarmists. Why is it then as Climategate emails reveal that IPCC scientists plotting to manipulate global temperature data, conspiring to violate Freedom of Information laws, and scheming to keep contradictory viewpoints excluded? Why do we again see the same  degree defensiveness also in your blog? It is as if climate alarmists are unsure of the solidity of their science - that you suspect it cannot survive scrutiny by those who have an opposing view. Any thoughts on that?

If Greenpeace is wedded to democracy, then it should be encouraging good and healthy public debate. Particularly so since you are attempting to influence public policy that affects us all, climate alarmists and skeptics alike. But instead you paint Greenpeace demonstrating a siege mentality that discourages any rational discord. This smacks of the mental makeup of Hitler youth and their clones in India such as Ram Sene, Shiv Sena etc.

I however find your blog  is only an illustration of the fascist tendencies that underline at least part of the broader climate alarmist movement. For example, the environmental guru, James Havelock, the man who propounded the Gaia Theory and a staunch warmist, recently commented to the Guardian “It may be necessary to put off democracy for a while...” In June last year, a global warming activist posted an article on the Talking Points Memo website entitled "At What Point Do We Jail or Execute Global Warming Deniers.

Besides, the call for civil disobedience itself is hardly new. James Hansen, the Godfather of Global Warming had made such a call much earlier. So is your blog just echoing his call? I believe Gene you worked 12 years in the advertisement industry selling consumerism before joining Greenpeace. Was it your Goebbelian talent that Greenpeace was eyeing for before signing you up and unleashing you to the world?

Or was it more pompous individual illusion that as a Greenpeacer you are able to catalyze a civil obedience movement?  But, at least carve yourself a grass-root base before giving a war cry like civil disobedience. Gandhiji could do that because he was the enigma that he was. Not anyone of you faceless and baseless bunch of you at Greenpeace who cannot even win a municipal corporation election.

Further, by simply appending India to your organizational name, Greenpeace does not become an Indian entity?  And even if you strive to create history, you delude yourself that the state will simply stand immobilized and watch passively a foreign agency bringing the country to a standstill and creating political chaos. Mistake India as a banana republic, you will disappear as an organization in no time! So be forewarned.

Keep in my mind further that though you climate alarmists may have succeeded for some time to hiding the temperature decline; you cannot hide your rapidly declining support base. Your latest setback had been in Germany where climate alarmists are now a clear minority. Once your support  starts diminishing in mainland Europe, you should know better that  your climate hysteria routine has now become toast. Take note of Der Spiegel commentary:
No people on earth are more righteously Green than the Germans. So when the Germans say Auf Wiedersehn AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) it really is time for the rest of the world to sit up and take notice." Der Spiegel (Read full article here)
According to the Guardian, you are one of the select few in Greenpeace that has the right  to blog directly without needing any prior approval.  The spin put out by your PR colleagues was that you are a peaceful guy though but noted that you "are known around the Greenpeace world for stating his opinion loud and clear, and not being a diplomat". And despite that they selected you as Indian Communications Director? They must be kidding me!

It is one thing to smoke a reefer and enjoy the trip. That's personal.  It is another when these hallucinations get translated as a blog in a web-site of a so-called international agency that seeks so hard to be taken seriously. This is why Gene we skeptics have so much to thank you for your blog. You gave us  a wonderful high by just reading your piece. You did what we  could never dream of doing from the outside – exposing Greenpeace credentials from the inside. In this respect, you have much to share with Pauchari. The longer he stays on as the IPCC Chair, the more he havoc IPCC's credibility.

Before signing off, let me offer Greenpeace some unsolicited advice. Instead of handing out threats of physical violence against us poor climate skeptics, you may instead consider salvaging some of the huge knocks the organization has taken to your credibility in context to the repeated claims that the Arctic glaciers will disappear by 2030.  Recent satellite imagery has proved this without scientific validity. Sea ice extent has almost reached its normal long term average. And  by the way, here is the latest snap of the ice covered Himalayas (the China part) which your organization claimed has already melted away.

Is an apology in order or is this too much to ask of Greenpeace?

Yours sincerely,

Rajan Alexander