Landrieu Still Holding Budget Director Hostage For Big Oil

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

For the last 56 days, Office of Managagement and Budget director nominee Jack Lew has been held hostage by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).  Landrieu’s first ransom note to President Obama demanded that his administration lift the temporary moritorium on new deepwater drilling which was in place during the Gulf oil disaster, but that moritorium has since been lifted.  Landrieu responded with a new set of demands, saying that she will not release her hostage until she is certain that the “lifting of the moratorium is actually putting people back to work.”  Now that it’s clear that the moritorium had little impact on jobs, however, Landrieu has a third set of demands:

In September, Landrieu, D-La., blocked the nomination of Jacob Lew to head the Office of Management and Budget to protest the administration’s six-month moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling in the Gulf. Even though the moratorium was lifted Oct. 12, Landrieu said she remained displeased with new rules for drilling operations.

The new drilling rules are meant to prevent another catastrophic blowout like the April 20 explosion at a BP oil well off the Louisiana coast that led to the release of more than 200 million gallons of crude. . . .

But Landrieu said she would continue to block Lew’s nomination until the Interior Department fixes “the regulatory nightmare” hindering deepwater drilling. She said companies were struggling to interpret what the new rules required.

“I’m not asking to be easy on the oil and gas companies, I’m not asking to give blanket permits, I’m asking for clarity of the new regulatory regime,” Landrieu said during a teleconference with reporters upon her return from a trip to the Netherlands, where she looked for lessons to take home to Louisiana from the Dutch model of living below sea level.

Sadly, this kind of hostage taking happens all the time in the United States Senate — earlier this year, for example, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) placed a hold on over 70 nominees in an attempt to force the federal government to award a $ 35 billion defense contract to Northrop Grumman.  But it’s unclear what Landrieu thinks she going to accomplish by playing Calvinball with her demands.  Why should the Obama Administration deliver her a suitcase full of small, unmarked bills when she is simply going to turn around and demand a helicopter and free passage to a non-extradition country?

Moreover, as John Griffith explains over at the Wonk Room, Landrieu is playing a particularly dangerous game by targeting the official in charge of drafting the annual federal budget.  OMB must present its initial draft of the next year’s budget at the end of November each year, and Lew could have contributed a great deal of expertise to this draft.  Lew headed OMB from 1999 until the end of the Clinton administration in 2001, leaving office with a $ 200 billion federal budget surplus.

In other words, America needs Lew’s fiscal guidance a whole lot more than it needs Mary Landrieu looking out for big oil.


Ailes unplugged: Obama a Socialist, NPR run by Nazis, Jon Stewart ‘crazy’ (but Fox still ‘fair and balanced!’)

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The breathless fawning of Colby Hall and the other Fox apologists at Mediaite aside, no serious person believes any more that Fox “News” is either a news channel, or a source of “fair and balanced” information. But what Fox is, and the larger conservative myth-making factory it is simply one very large, very important part […]
The Reid Report

This Just In: Torture Still Doesn’t Work. The System Still Does.

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Justice can be rendered calmly, deliberately and fairly by ordinary people, people who
are not beholden to any government, even this one. ~ LEWIS KAPLAN

Those were the closing words of the federal district judge as he thanked the jury that acquitted the first Guantánamo Bay detainee to be tried in a court of all charges but one, a conspiracy rap that nevertheless will probably keep Ahmed Ghailani behind bars for the rest of his life.

Much of the crucial evidence against the U.S. embassy bomber had been thrown out because it was coerced through torture, a salient fact lost of Liz Cheney and other Bush Torture Regime apologists who were apoplectic over the razor-thin convicted and railed against the Obama administration for letting justice take its rightful course.

Senator Lindsay Graham spoke for the torch-and-pitchfork brigade in bemoaning the Ghailani tria.

“We put our nation at risk by criminalizing the war,” he said without a hint of irony.

The irony, of course is that the justice system isn’t broken, as the Grahams and Cheneys believe. Rather, the trial is proof that it works.

Sketch by Jane Rosenberg/New York Daily News

The Moderate Voice

Huckabee Still Mulling Bid

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In an WHO Radio interview, Mike Huckabee wanted to make sure everyone knew he might still run for president.

Said Huckabee: “I’m not ruling it out. And that’s not a yes, but it’s definitely not a no.”

He added: “The honest answer is: I’m keeping it open as an option, I’m looking at whether or not there’s a pathway to victory. As I’ve told several people, I’m not jumping into a pool when there’s no water in it.”
Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire

Latest on Maffei (D-NY25) vote count: He’s still down

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Dan Maffei’s race was one to watch this year, and it’s proven to drag on two weeks later.  Here’s the latest info:

Maffei picked up 182 votes over Buerkle after the Onondaga County Board of Elections counted 1,612 absentee ballots, according to Maffei’s count.

That is about 26 percent of the absentee ballots returned to the Onondaga County Board of Elections.

Elections commissioners have decided to release vote totals only when all absentee ballots are counted, which could take days.

Earlier in the day, Buerkle picked up 95 votes in Monroe County.

Buerkle received 154 votes among Monroe County’s absentee ballots.Maffei got 59.

That brings the total across all four counties at 5 p.m. Wednesday to 101,183 for Buerkle and 100,541 for Maffei. Buerkle leads by 642 votes.

Liberty Pundits Blog

Still a lot of work to do in Congress

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

You can’t make this stuff up.
American Thinker Blog

Questions Still Surround The US Promises To Israel

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Even a couple that marries out of strong true love still signs a Marriage document
Itamar Rabinowitz, former Israeli Ambassador to the US

Netanyahu insistence that in order for his cabinet to approve a 90-day settlement freeze, he must have everything Hillary Clinton offered in writing-seems to be causing headaches.

The demand itself is not a ploy. Ynet (Hebrew) quotes former Israeli ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval who says it really boils down to a question of trust:

You have to understand that Israeli trust in the American administration was already undermined in the beginning when they announced they would not recognize the Bush administration’s commitments for building a bloc of settlements, and so on. In my opinion, it created an atmosphere unlike previous administrations where there is a question how much we really can believe and trust.

According to another Ynet (Hebrew) article, Netanyahu has already refused to sign one draft of the agreement, and is requesting further clarifications and refinements.

Apparently, it is still not clear what the general points of the US promise are. Among the individual promises mentioned are

  • An American commitment to veto any initiative brought before the UN to bypass the peace negotiations
  • A US commitment not to demand another freeze extension beyond the agreed upon 90 days
  • The freeze would not include Jerusalem
  • A guarantee that the borders issue will not be negotiated on separately.
  • A promise that Israel will receive 20 F-35 aircraft worth $ 3 billion
  • A promise by the US, for one year, to prevent the Palestinian Arabs from unilaterally establishing a state

Some officials are even implying that Netanyahu is demanding from the US a pledge that would take the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel off the table altogether.

Yet there is tension between the US and Israel on these points because Bibi’s demand for a written promise is cutting down on Washington’s wiggle-room:

The Americans, one official said, wanted to water down the agreement due to Palestinian opposition to a US commitment that it would not demand another freeze.

And then, just to give you an idea as to how little is really known about what is actually going on-you have this:

On the other hand, some senior Cabinet members claimed a deal has already been finalized. “This is just a spin; a trick to show that Netanyahu is fighting. You don’t sit with (Hillary) Clinton for seven hours. These are just stories. Everything is signed and agreed upon,” one of them said.

At some point the dust will settle.

Technorati Tag: .

Daled Amos

Energy and Global Warming News for November 16th: Troposphere warming, as climate science predicted; Clean energy jobs still on the rise

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Troposphere is warming too, decades of data show

(Reuters) – Not only is Earth’s surface warming, but the troposphere — the lowest level of the atmosphere, where weather occurs — is heating up too, U.S. and British meteorologists reported on Monday.

In a review of four decades of data on troposphere temperatures, the scientists found that warming in this key atmospheric layer was occurring, just as many researchers expected it would as more greenhouse gases built up and trapped heat close to the Earth.

This study aims to put to rest a controversy that began 20 years ago, when a 1990 scientific report based on satellite observations raised questions about whether the troposphere was warming, even as Earth’s surface temperatures climbed.

The original discrepancy between what the climate models predicted and what satellites and weather balloons measured had to do with how the observations were made, according to Dian Seidel, research meteorologist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It was relatively easy to track surface temperatures, since most weather stations sat on or close to the ground, Seidel said by telephone from NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland, outside Washington….

When the 1990 study was published, showing a lack of warming in the troposphere especially in the tropics, it prompted some to question the reality of surface warming and whether climate models could be relied upon, NOAA said in a statement.

This latest paper reviewed 195 cited papers, climate model results and atmospheric data sets, and found no fundamental discrepancy between what was predicted and what is happening in the troposphere. It is warming, the study found.

In short, Spencer and Christy are still as wrong as ever (see “Should you believe anything John Christy and Roy Spencer say?”)

2011 Outlook for clean energy jobs in the U.S. – Beating the trend

New Hampshire, United States – The reports are so grim, it is hard to believe at times. America is staring down a 10% unemployment figure and the number doesn’t seem to budge as the months tick by.

Analysts report that if you take into account the number of Americans that have stopped looking for employment as well as the number who have found only part-time work but seek full-time employment, the figure is more like 18%. In California, it’s 22%, an unemployment percentage that hasn’t been seen since the depression. In total, as many as 30 million people are looking for work right now.For years, the clean energy industry has claimed that it is the one bright spot in the U.S. economy. While other industries shrink and lose jobs, clean energy grows.

In looking at the data, it is clear that in all renewable energy technologies but one, in 2011 there will be significantly more jobs than there are now. The simple fact is that clean energy is indeed growing and creating jobs, but with U.S. unemployment figures so large, it’s just been hard to notice.

The solar power industry doubled the number of people that worked in the industry from 2009 to 2010, from approximately 50,000 in 2009 to 100,000 in 2010, according to the latest reports. In 2011, it is expected to grow the number of jobs in the industry by 26%. “You’d be hard pressed to find another industry with a 26 percent job growth rate for 2011,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The Solar Foundation released its National Solar Jobs Census 2010 at Solar Power International in October, showing that the solar industry is creating jobs at a much faster rate than the overall U.S. economy, which is expected to grow at around 2%. The report documents, through 2500 interviews with employers throughout the country, that over the next 12 months, more than half of U.S. solar firms expect to add jobs, while only 2% expect to cut workers. Firms are adding employees in all 50 states and the fastest growing jobs are installers and electricians….

It appears very likely that when accounting for both solar electric and solar thermal installations, the industry will surpass the 1 GW mark for annual installations in 2010.  While 1 GW is a big number, Resch announced at SPI that the industry’s goal is to be installing ten times that number annually in 5 years.  Resch said that installing 10 GW annually by 2015 would create as many as 220,000 jobs….

Clean Energy Creates Millions of Jobs

Admittedly, it’s difficult to tally these numbers in any comprehensive way to draw a clear picture of the total growth of the renewable energy job market for next year, in five years and in 15 years.  Some industry estimates are projecting jobs in 2011, others look out as far as 2025.  Just a rough summation of the above numbers shows that more than 2.5 million people, at least, will be either directly or indirectly employed in renewables by 2025.  That would put about 8% of the 30,000,000 people looking for jobs right now back to work.

U.S.-Produced subsidized ethanol exports are at a record , the FT reports

U.S.-produced ethanol, subsidized by the federal government as an alternative to foreign oil, is being exported in record quantities, the Financial Times reported.

A U.S. tax credit to companies that blend ethanol with petrol expires at the end of the year, the newspaper said.

Government figures last week showed that 251 million gallons of fuel ethanol, mostly refined from corn, were exported in the first nine months of the year, more than double the total in 2009; actual exports may have been higher, since ethanol mixed with gasoline before shipment isn’t counted, the FT said.

Robert Vierhout, of ePure, a European ethanol trade group, said the tax credit for blenders wasn’t intended to subsidize exports and spoke of legal action to stop such shipments, the newspaper reported.

BP ready for controversial Libyan drilling

LONDON, Nov. 15 (UPI) — A controversial deal in the desert is set to come to fruition in December when oil drilling starts in the Libyan desert, BP expects.

Embattled energy company BP said it aims to start drilling for oil in the Ghadames Basin by December, London’s Independent newspaper reports.

BP plans to invest roughly $ 1 billion during the next seven years to development Libyan oil reserves, including offshore developments, the newspaper adds.

U.S. lawmakers, outraged over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, are investigating a Scottish decision in 2009 to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate terms.

Allegations were raised that the decision was somehow tied to the BP deal to drill for oil off the Libyan coast. The British and Scottish governments, along with BP, deny the claims.

Four ways to harvest solar energy from roads

Knowing what we know now about climate change, it’s clear that the tangled web of black asphalt roads that outlines our country is working against us.  Asphalt can absorbs tons of heat, often reaching temperatures of up to 140 degrees in the summer and the process by which it’s made isn’t environmentally friendly either, but there may be a way to turn that pavement into an energy resource.

Researchers at the University of Rhode Island have come up with four ways to harness the solar energy absorbed by pavement and put it to good use and they’re working on ways to implement them now.

The first, and the simplest, is is to wrap flexible solar PV cells around the top of Jersey barriers that divide highways. Those cells would power streetlights and illuminate road signs. Cells could also be embedded in the pavement between the barriers and rumble strip.

The second is to embed water-filled pipes under the asphalt and the heat from the sun would warm the water. That water could be piped to bridges to melt ice and reduce the need for road salt and ice-clearing trucks. It could also be piped to nearby buildings for hot water and heating needs or converted to steam to turn a turbine.

Because asphalt retains heat really well, the pipes would stay warm even after sunset. Tests have shown the water can even get hotter than the asphalt.

Modern insecticides’ devastating effects

Like DDT before it, a new class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids is believed to be causing drastic population declines in bird species. It is so effective at killing insects, that it has deprived birds of their basic food. Some scientists also believe they are behind the decline in bee populations in Europe and the United States known as honey-bee Colony Collapse Disorder.

Neonicotinoids, which are part of the nicotine family, are essentially glued to plant seeds, and infiltrate the entire plant. Any bug that eats the plant is immediately infected. The toxin attacks the central nervous system and causes a quick death. It is much less toxic to other animals because the chemical blocks a specific neural pathway found more commonly in insects.

Henk Tennekes, researcher at the Experimental Toxicology Services in Zutphen, the Netherlands, has linked the use of neonicotinoids to declines in bird populations in his recent book, The Systemic Insecticides: A Disaster in the Making. Tennekes said, “The evidence shows that the bird species suffering massive declines since the 1990s rely on insects for their diet.” It is also accused of causing the alarming decline in bee populations. Researchers have found that the chemical negatively affects the bee’s navigational ability which in turn, causes the bees to neglect feeding and caring for eggs and larvae.

However, the true cause of Colony Collapse Disorder is not fully understood. Other possible factors include Varroa mites, insect diseases, malnutrition, genetically modified crops, and even cell phone radiation. Nevertheless, countries like Germany and France have strictly limited the use of neonicotinoids. In Germany, it is believe that the glue did not sufficiently hold the chemical to the seeds of agricultural crops. The chemical could then drift into the environment where it affected bees.

Feed-in tariff installations top 11,000 in six months

Ofgem has revealed that more than 11,000 generators registered for feed-in tariffs during the first six months of the incentive scheme, confirming that the policy has led to a surge in renewable energy installations.

About 44MW of renewable capacity was added after the tariffs came into force in April this year, as 11,352 systems were installed – enough to power about 35,000 homes.

The vast majority of these systems were solar PV panels, which tallies with the government data published so far and backs up reports that the tariffs have proved a much greater success than originally predicted.

The figures were released today as part of Ofgem’s annual round-up of its sustainable development work, Sustainable Development Focus, which was published alongside a set of five green indicators that will be updated throughout the year with new data.

Unilever pledges to halve environmental impact by 2020

Consumer goods giant Unilever has today launched a wide-ranging sustainability strategy that commits the multinational to halving the environmental footprint of its products by the end of the decade.

In what is being hailed in some quarters as one of the most ambitious set of corporate sustainability targets to be publically announced, the company also vowed to decouple business growth from its environmental impact, help one billion people improve their health and wellbeing, and ensure that 100 per cent of its agricultural raw materials are sourced sustainably.

Speaking at the launch of the Sustainable Living Plan, which was announced simultaneously in London, Rotterdam, New Delhi and New York, chief executive Paul Polman said that all the decisions the company takes will be informed by their potential environmental impact.

“We have ambitious plans to grow the company. But growth at any price is not viable,” he said. “We have to develop new ways of doing business which will ensure that our growth does not come at the expense of the world’s diminishing natural resources.”

Major pipeline in northern Canada years away, despite approval

OTTAWA — A proposed $ 16 billion pipeline project in northern Canada could still be years away from beginning construction, despite getting a green light from the federal and Northwest Territories governments Monday, says a spokesman from the leading stakeholder, Imperial Oil.

“The project would literally need thousands of individual permits for specific pieces of work,” said Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser. “As we said in our (public submissions), the stars would really need to align in order for construction of the project to commence in 2014.”

The two governments delivered a 127-page report on Monday that is rejecting many of the recommendations proposed by an environmental review panel, and referring others to the National Energy Board which is expected to release its own conditions for the project in the coming weeks.

Rolheiser said the project proponents are also hoping to continue negotiations on financial aspects of the program such as taxes and royalties.

Environment Minister John Baird acknowledged that talks had taken place, without making any commitments.

Climate Progress

Iraq: “Seven years have passed and Christianity is still bleeding. Where is the world’s conscience?”

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Syrian Catholic Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad says that “the invasion of Iraq by America and its allies brought to Iraq in general, and especially to its Christians, destruction and ruin on all levels.” Certainly that is true of Iraq’s Christians. But then the Archbishop goes on to say, “Churches were blown up, bishops and priests and lay persons were massacred, many were the victims of aggression.”

Note the passive voice. Since that is the very next sentence after the one beginning with “the invasion of Iraq by America and its allies,” the uninformed reader could get the impression that America and its allies blew up churches and massacred bishops and priests and laypeople. But of course Islamic jihadists did that — yet instead of calling upon the world to note that fact and protect Iraq’s Christians, this piece goes out of its way to deny the obvious: that the mass-murderers of Iraqi Christians were acting in the name of Islam.

Yet can the problem really be properly addressed if it is not properly diagnosed?

“Silence around Christian massacre troubling,” by Fred Henry, Roman Catholic Bishop of Calgary, for The Calgary Herald, November 15:

On Oct. 15, Syrian Catholic Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad delivered one of the most memorable interventions during the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East — words made even more poignant by the Oct. 31 attack on worshippers at his cathedral. What follows is an excerpt from his text:

” . . . Iraq does not cease living a situation of instability of trials and wars. The last being the American occupation. Christians have always had their part in the sacrifices and tribulations: with the martyrs in the wars and all sorts of different hardships.

“Since the year 2003, Christians are the victims of a killing situation, which has provoked a great emigration from Iraq . . . without a doubt there are only about 400,000 Christians left of the 800,000 that lived there. The invasion of Iraq by America and its allies brought to Iraq in general, and especially to its Christians, destruction and ruin on all levels.

“Churches were blown up, bishops and priests and lay persons were massacred, many were the victims of aggression. Doctors and businessmen were kidnapped, others were threatened, storage places and homes were pillaged . . . here still is the fear of the unknown, insecurity and instability, as well as the continuation of emigration . . . . The tears are continuous between the different religious and political composing elements, as well as external influence by external powers, especially neighbouring countries.

“Seven years have passed and Christianity is still bleeding. Where is the world’s conscience?”

His intervention was moving, prophetic and provocative.

There is a basic deep-seated misunderstanding that needs to be exposed; we are not talking about a “religious” problem. What is at stake is the possibility of people exercising their human rights, of which religious ones are an important and vital component.

Consider the remarks by Corbishop Philip Najem, procurator for the Chaldean Catholic Church following the Baghdad attack.

“This attack has been condemned by the whole Iraqi community! It is not a matter of faith! Certainly, the intention is to create chaos. There are dark forces that have entered the country only to create this division and to prevent the process of pacification of Iraq . . . I heard yesterday that there were many Muslims who had gone to donate blood for the victims who were injured in the church. The extremists have been condemned by Muslims themselves: by that Islam that knows God, that knows faith, that knows love, that knows charity! . . . . This is a barbaric attack, different from other attacks . . . no one can say that this has been done in the name of a religion, a faith or a god. This is an attack against humanity, against the Church, against religion, against faith, against the dignity of the human being.”…

Actually, those who perpetrated the barbaric attack can and do say that it was done in the name of their religion, faith, and god.

Jihad Watch

Six Years Ago, Yasir Arafat Died; Today His Legacy Still Prevails: No To Peace, No to Compromise

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The following post by Barry Rubin is reposted here with permission

Six Years Ago, Yasir Arafat Died; Today His Legacy Still Prevails: No To Peace, No to Compromise

By Barry Rubin

Six years ago, on November 11, 2004, Yasir Arafat died. On that occasion, former President Bill Clinton explained why he wouldn’t attend Arafat’s funeral: “I regret that in 2000 he missed the opportunity to bring [Palestine] into being….” Not Israel, but Arafat did so.

Today, the Arafat era’s lessons have been largely swept under the rug: his persistent mendacity, use of terrorism, cynical exploitation of an “underdog” posture to garner sympathy, and unfailing devotion to the dream of wiping Israel off the map. The placing of that last priority over creating a Palestinian state is why there is none today. Not Israeli policy, not settlements, but the preference for total victory over compromise.

At Arafat’s funeral, one of his lieutenants, Saeb Arikat, proclaimed: “Give him the honor he deserves!” Let it be so.

As the editorial in the London Times put it, he was the man who “threw away the best chance in a generation for an honorable settlement to the Middle East conflict.” In the New Yorker, David Remnick accurately wrote, “Rarely has a leader blundered more and left more ruin in his wake.”

Yet, too, perhaps, as never before in modern history, have so many relentlessly airbrushed away a leader’s career of faults and crimes. What was especially remarkable in so much of the coverage and discussion was the virtual erasure of a career in terrorism which had spanned forty years. There were no scenes of past carnage shown; no survivors or relatives of his victims interviewed. In political terms, his dedication to the elimination of another state and people, consistent use of terrorism, and rejection of peace were thrown down the memory hole of history.

The timeline for Arafat’s life prepared by both the BBC and the Associated Press omit any mention of terrorist attacks and skip the fatal year 2000 altogether. In its timeline the Associated Press only invokes the word terrorism to claim that Arafat had “renounced” it in 1988, though this had not prevented the PLO from committing scores of attacks—usually with Arafat’s blessing—thereafter.

Arabs, who knew him and his history better, were more critical. An article surveying Arab reaction in Cairo’s al-Ahram newspaper concluded that most Arab officials’ private reaction was one of “relief.” They said he had been an obstacle to achieving peace “largely for the sake of his own glory” and called him a man “too self-centered to really care about the misfortunes of his own people.” Not a single interviewee expressed a word of sorrow.

At the time of Arafat’s death his people still did not have a state, a functioning economy, or the most elementary security after following his leadership for thirty-five years. Much of that situation remains the same today.

Yet Arafat’s narrative had largely triumphed, certainly in persuading those who wanted to believe it that the movement he shaped and created was noble and sympathetic, a victim of other’s treatment rather than of its own policies.

Arafat was widely proclaimed a hero of national resistance for opposing an occupation that could have already ended on more than one occasion if he had chosen to achieve a negotiated peace. He was hailed as the victim in a war which he had begun and continued despite many opportunities to end the fighting. He was said to be striving only for a state when he had long invoked the idea that a separate state living peacefully alongside Israel was treason.

He was said to be popular and loved by his people even though—despite his considerable degree of real support—he stole so much from them and was ridiculed by them in private. In fact, Arafat’s performance in Palestinian public opinion polls had never been impressive. Even a British reporter who revered him admitted that Arafat didn’t have support from his people. “Foreign journalists,” she recounted, “seemed much more excited about Mr. Arafat’s fate than anyone in Ramallah.”

At the time of his death he was more popular in France, where almost half the population saw Arafat as a great national hero, than among his own people. In a June 2004 poll, only 23.6 percent of Palestinians named him as the leader they most trusted. Actually, Arafat’s popularity rating among Palestinians was lower than that of President George W. Bush among Americans, though the U.S. leader was—in sharp contrast to Arafat-widely portrayed as being reviled and mistrusted by a large part of his people.

But Arafat had always been able to outlive his own history. He had indeed created a Palestinian nationalist movement, organizing and uniting his people. Yet having so much authority over it, Arafat had to be held responsible for its shortcomings. Was it really so impossible that things could have been otherwise, that even the violence might have been tempered by some moral or pragmatic restraint, and that the goals would have been moderated at least far earlier in history?

Did the creation of Palestinian nationalism really inevitably entail Arafat’s virtual creation of the doctrine of modern terrorism; betrayal of Jordan; contribution to destabilizing Lebanon; or support for unprovoked Iraqi aggression? Did it really require the systematic killing and glorification of killing of civilians from its beginning to the last day of Arafat’s career? Did he really have no way to urge his people toward a peaceful compromise or to rule them well when given the chance to do so?

Since Arafat’s death, most of the leadership of Fatah and the PA has made clear their interpretation of Arafat’s legacy was the need to fight on for total victory, no matter how long it took or how much suffering or lives it cost. One Palestinian leader recalled that when, in 1993, he had reproached Arafat for signing the Oslo accords, Arafat replied that by making the agreement, “I am hammering the first nail in the Zionist coffin.”

Actually, though, Arafat biggest achievement may have been hammering the last nail into the Palestinian coffin.

For more on Yasir Arafat and his legacy, see Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin, Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography. You can order the book here. [Oxford University Press 2003; paperback, 2005. British/Commonwealth edition: Continuum 2003. Australian edition: Allan and Unwin. Italian edition: Mondadori, 2004; Hebrew edition, Yediot Aharnot, 2005; Turkish edition, Aykiri Yayincilik, 2005.]

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). You can read more of Barry Rubin’s posts at Rubin Reports.

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Daled Amos

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