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Ok, I guess it's time for my traditional pre-Israeli-elections diary. I posted one in 2009 and two in 2012/3 (one and two). The Israeli election system is so different from the US's, that it seems some basic things need to be explained anew each time. I'll do that too.

The past week or so, there have been tons of rec-list diaries celebrating polls that seem to predict Israeli Prime Minister "Bibi" Netanyahu's defeat in tomorrow's parliamentary elections. Things are quite a bit more complicated than that.

In a nutshell, during Bibi's 6 consecutive years in power, his Likud party was not nearly as dominant in Israel's "Knesset" parliament, as foreign journalists would have you believe (e.g., the idiotic 2012 "King Bibi" Time magazine feature). Since the 2013 elections, Bibi's hold onto power has been particularly tenuous; this election called more than 2 years ahead of schedule, being Exhibit A. In the same vein, following tomorrow's elections, it is still very likely that the new Knesset will have substantially more hard-right members, than left-of-center members (see an illustration below the fold). So tomorrow is unlikely to bring a "night-and-day" change.

But I don't want to piss all over the parade: there are clearly signs of change in the air. For the first time in the 21st Century, there's a viable chance that the next government will be led by the Labor party.

Bibi in detention, writing
Bibi in detention, writing "You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time..." (Amir Schiby via Facebook)


Unfortunately, en route to this position, Labor leaders have decided to adopt an overt center-right campaign strategy. This goes well beyond "New Labor" territory; Israel's Labor had been "New-Labor-like" even before Tony Blair coined the term in the mid-1990s. Here are some things the Labor party (which is running this time jointly with the tiny centrist party of Tzipi Livni, who served as Justice Minister in Bibi's outgoing government) did in order to compete in Israel's right-brainwashed national discourse:
  1. Reversing their 2013 stance, Labor joined the right wing and voted to disqualify their Arab colleague MK Haneed Zoabi from running. This shameful 27-6 rightward-pandering decision was, just like in previous elections, easily overturned by Israel's High Court in a 8-1 vote.
  2. They ran a campaign ad touting Labor leader Isaac Herzog's military credentials. He was a desk-job intelligence officer, so the ad talks about how "He knows the Arabs, he's seen them both behind the crosshairs, and through the crosshairs", suggesting that he'd played a crucial role in identifying assassination targets. No word in the ad (or elsewhere in the campaign) about "Knowing the Arabs" as, well, just people you might need to learn to live with in peace, esp. when leading the nation (following some backlash, they cut out the 'crosshairs' bit, but still aired the ad in prime time; the original is embedded in this Hebrew blog post).
  3. On Gaza, they chose to criticize Bibi from the right (here's Herzog in a February interview (translation mine): "...why did you wait? You should have hit Hamas on the head in time"), or the center (vague mention of "responsibility to the citizens" etc.), but (almost?) never from the left, even an obvious line like "why not attempt 'Live and Let Live' with Gaza instead of repeated wars?", which was voiced by many civil-society organizations but - again - not by Labor.
  4. Even on purely domestic matters, Labor abandoned their fiery social-justice rhetoric of 2013, in favor of a mostly personal campaign against Bibi and his government's general corruption and lack of accountability.

The list can be longer but you get the idea. The not-so-secret hope among left-leaning voters and the wide world, is that if Herzog-Livni get an electoral mandate, they will govern as left-center, or at least not as right-center as their campaign has been. The hope is, that underneath the monotonic "the-right-wing-was-proven-right! End of Story!" in which Israeli discourse has been stuck since fall 2000, there is finally a general fatigue and a yet-unexpressed wish for something completely different. That this will reveal itself in the polls with a decisive mandate, and that Labor will then know how to leverage the mandate to a good end, rather than squander it, or worse - betray it with right-wing policies.

It's possible to get the best results tomorrow and subsequently, and it'll be great if it happens - but I wouldn't bet my money on it.

Below the fold, a longer description of election basics, and what to look for Tuesday afternoon (US time) when the results come out.

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In my last diary a couple of weeks ago, I promised to be more "in your face", writing more regularly about Gaza rather than wait for the next round of mayhem or warfare. Since then I've been a bit under the weather. Still, it's important to me to put in a Gaza diary before the much-hyped Israeli election completely takes over (I will likely write about it as well). It will be short.

I'm following up on the AP investigative report briefly mentioned last diary. AP looked into Palestinian deaths from air bombings during the summer 2014 war. What they found is sobering (emphases mine).

Manar Majed al-Batsh, 13 years old, was killed on Sunday, July 12, 2014 in Shujaiyya. She was killed along with 17 other members of the al-Batsh family, by an Israeli warplane that hit their house, without prior warning.
Manar Majed al-Batsh, 13 years old, was killed on Sunday, July 12, 2014 in Shujaiyya. She was killed along with 17 other members of the al-Batsh family, by an Israeli warplane that hit their house, without prior warning.
The youngest to die was a 4-day-old girl, the oldest a 92-year-old man.

They were among at least 844 Palestinians killed as a result of airstrikes on homes during Israel's summer war with the Islamic militant group, Hamas.

Under the rules of war, homes are considered protected civilian sites unless used for military purposes. Israel says it attacked only legitimate targets, alleging militants used the houses to hide weapons, fighters and command centers. Palestinians say Israel's warplanes often struck without regard for civilians.

The Associated Press examined 247 airstrikes on homes, interviewing witnesses, visiting attack sites and compiling a detailed casualty count. The review found that 508 of the dead — just over 60 percent — were children, women and older men, all presumed to be civilians. Hamas says it did not use women as fighters in the war, and an Israel-based research group tracking militants among the dead said it has no evidence women participated in combat.

The AP count also showed that:

— Children younger than 16 made up one-third of the total: 280 killed, including 19 babies and 108 preschoolers between the ages of 1 and 5.

— In 83 strikes, three or more members of one family died.

— Among those killed were 96 confirmed or suspected militants — or just over 11 percent of the total — though the actual number could be higher since armed groups have not released detailed casualty lists.

The remainder of the 240 dead were males between the ages of 16 and 59 whose names did not appear in connection with militant groups on searches of websites or on street posters honoring fighters.

The review was the most painstaking attempt to date to determine who was killed in strikes on homes in the Gaza war even as Israel's army and Gaza militants have refused to release information about targets and casualties. The count tracked all known airstrikes, but not all strikes had witnesses and damage at sites inspected by the AP wasn't always conclusive.

Making the conservative assumption that in the tight-knit, everybody-knows-everybody Gaza Strip at least half of males aged 16-59 who were not mentioned anywhere as militant-related, were indeed civilians, this means 75%-90% of the air-bombing deaths were civilians. And this is the more precise part of Israel's bombing campaign. The civilian damage from the far less precise ground artillery, used heavily once the ground assault started, was likely worse.
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Shuja'iyya, Gaza, Winter 2015: a resident walks in what used to be a street.
Shuja'iyya, Gaza, Winter 2015: a resident walks in what used to be a street. (Anne Paq / Activestills)

Yes, the same Gaza that reigning Israeli PM "Bibi" Netanyahu had launched two wars against in less than two years... just like his predecessor did before him... (pdf) All cynical murderous failures. All supported by the main opposition, hailed by the mainstream media as "necessary", even "ingenious". All - did I say that already? - Never mind, worth repeating: all cynical murderous failures. Surely at the expense of southwest Israel's residents, including my wife's family; the latest war disrupting many lives as far as the country's main Tel-Aviv metropolis, not to mention several civilians and dozens of soldiers killed. But of course, the main victims have always been Palestinian civilians, and their quest for a semblance of that crazy little thing called "Life".

Palestinian woman Safa Fayez, 29, during her rehabilitation treatment session at the Artificial Limbs and Polio Center in Gaza City December 11, 2014 .
December 11, 2014: Palestinian woman Safa Fayez, 29, during her rehabilitation treatment session at the Artificial Limbs and Polio Center in Gaza City. She was seriously wounded by shrapnel during the war, when IDF shells hit the UN school crowded by hundreds of Palestinians seeking shelter on July 24,2014. She lost her her baby and husband. She was a mother of four. (Heidi Levine/Sipa Press; from a Washington Post story featuring Heidi's postwar images)

The sanctimonious assertions and promises by Western leaders that "things should improve for the people of Gaza" or "This time is different", made only a few months ago in the war's aftermath  have been long forgotten. The locals have come to expect this amnesia. It is a replay of the aftermath to every war and crisis in the past decade: the solemn Western pledges that "This time will be different" are now beyond hollow and farcical. They are part of the torment itself.

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Wed Dec 03, 2014 at 06:22 AM PST

Expand the Site's F#$#%@g Mission, Kos!

by Assaf

...this being my modest contribution to the post-2014-midterms discussions...

I feel we haven't quite come to terms with our site's collective, colossal failure in its main declared mission. It is not so much the 2014 results themselves, as the manner in which they came to be.

I don't mean to discourage - rather to the contrary. I am calling for change, and I think we are fully capable of successful change, once we admit the problem and agree to solve it.

Let begin by using Kos' own words in a mass email we all just received:

I started Daily Kos 12 years ago and it’s amazing how far it’s come. We are the largest progressive political news publication in the country, with more than seven million unique readers every month. We have more than 1.7 million email subscribers and 640,000 Facebook fans. Combined, these audiences give us a deeper reach into the progressive movement than any other organization except for the Democratic Party itself.

...When CNN says Daily Kos was the catalyst for filibuster reform that led to a record-breaking number of President Obama's judicial nominees being confirmed, you made that happen. When we make 1.5 million phone calls to help turn out the vote, you made that happen. When President Obama came out in favor real Net Neutrality and an open Internet not controlled by Big Telecom, you made that happen.

IOW, we have become a major national player on the left side of partisan politics.

So how is it, that we don't even know why so many of our sistren and brethren - precisely those key Democratic constituencies whom we keep claiming to know better than the hapless Beltway -

...In Kos' words again...

We’re a grassroots enterprise, and community support is vital to our operations.

...Money aside, how can we claim to be "grassroots" and clamour for "community support" as "vital", when after 6 full-steam hyperventilated election cycles we don't know even what would make a vast chunk of our community show up and vote?

Nor do we seem to have any game plan for, or place any emphasis on, figuring this out, apart from the kneejerk phone-banking and door-knocking come election time.

I've read many theories and speculations here why progressive-friendly constituencies didn't show up on Nov. 4 2014. Sorry, nothing even remotely resembling hard, proven grassroots knowledge of W the F is going on. But knowing what's going on, in this particular game, is precisely the job title we have claimed for ourselves.

If after a decade-plus hyper-focusing on electoral politics, we are so clueless, then we need to change things. That's the meaning of the "grassroots, reality-based" labels we lay claims to.

My suggestion: expand the site's official goals.

Don't focus narrowly on elections and on lobbying the various branches of government, which is what Daily Kos Action is almost solely immersed in. Rather, invest heavily in the broadest possible community outreach, day in day out.

The big glaring gap in our political terrain is not between us and the crazies of right-wing sites. It is between us and apolitical, apathetic people who nevertheless share our values and our overall world-view - but don't care to vote, save for every other Presidential election at best. Collectively, we don't really get them. Otherwise we'd already have found a way to bring them to the polls.

In addition, put issue activism front and center.

Unlike the winner-takes-all-only-to-disappoint-those-who-elected-him nature of elections, issue activism builds gradually until - when issues are chosen right and activism is done right - it becomes an unstoppable force.

That's what happened with Civil Rights. That's what happened with first-wave environmentalism. That's what is happening before our eyes with minimum wage, global-warming activism, LGBT rights, etc. etc.

When issue activism is done right, it is the politicians who eventually fall over each other to be the first one riding the bandwagon. Rather than trail after them like political beggars with so many online petitions whose success rate wouldn't get us into the minor league benches, let us organize - and join - some direct, bottom-up issue activism that sticks.

The issues I named a few lines above are all very popular here. Diaries about them easily make the rec list; Front Page often mentions them too. But grassroots organizing around them is not part of the site mission, and it shows. And it makes the site a bit pettier than we really are as a community, a bit less great than we could be. Daily Kos as it is currently structured, is a spectator in the big fights over the issues themselves, and a player in the circus of partisan politics.

We can do better. Far better.

------------------

I summarize my plea: let us continue to work on electing more and better Democrats. But at the same time, 1. Expand the site's mission so that it explicitly includes effective outreach to disaffected communities that tend to support progressive politics - not just during campaign season! - and 2. Also explicitly include issue activism on progressive causes, as a main vehicle to directly transform America (and the world) for the better.

Unless I am much mistaken, such broader more community-focused and issue-driven organizing, will end up paying dividends at the polls too.

I'm not good in catch-phrases and slogans. However people want to name the expanded mission, is fine with me. But please let's do it.

Thank you for reading. Awaiting your thoughts...

Assaf

Discuss

If your experience with NPR coverage today (or tomorrow, Monday) was similar, use this link to contact them. Thank you.

Dear Ombudsman,

Today over 300,000 people marched in New York for climate action. Hundreds of thousands around the world joined in solidarity rallies, including myself. The pictures from New York were amazing.

At 5 PM (Pacific) I turned on NPR news to see what they say about the rally.

The lead item was about some US general who said the Ukraine cease-fire is not really there, quoting his analysis of the situation at length. To my knowledge nothing dramatic has happened over there in recent days. The second item was about 1500 firefighters fighting the huge California fires - a worthy item, no question. A slew of items followed, including a re-broadcast of what Rep. King (R-Iowa) had to say on Fox News about the guy who breached security at the White House (but caused no damage).

After 5 minutes, a dozen or so items and still no mention of the climate march, I gave up in disgust and switched to a music station. I find it beyond ridiculous, that the event considered top news by leading media around the world and happening on the very same coast of the US where NPR HQ is located, was nowhere to be found, rather than being the lead item.

I now visited your website, where coverage of the march is currently posted with this lovely title:
"Large Protests In Hundreds Of Cities Vent Ire Over Climate Change"

Ire? Vent?  Do you run a special class to reporters, in how to create dismissive headlines for news items? By the way, the story body was somewhat better, but still taking a "lighter" view of the issue.

I have long suspected - with good evidence - that NPR news does little more than shill for the same interest that dominate our politics and mainstream media, albeit with a high-brow veneer. I think the final proof has arrived today.

Sincerely,

Assaf

Monday AM Update:

Ok... so I literally copy-pasted my letter to the NPR Ombudsman, for a short diary sharing my frustration with NPR. Sunday night... I was thinking 10 recs and 5 comments, max.

As the very first line in the diary says, I was seeking to see whether other people experienced the same with NPR coverage (or lack thereof) yesterday. I only listened to one hourly newscast, which made me very mad.

But the rec list with hundreds of readers? Guess I hit a nerve... so first, thanks for the attention.

Second, without going into specifics, I think some of the comments go overboard to each direction. I can only be responsible for what I wrote.

But it would be nice to know from future commenters, what they heard (or not) on NPR about the march during the day yesterday, as well as tomorrow morning. It will give me and readers a sense of whether that non-mention in the evening hourly news, and the online headline which I still find untrue and insulting, were a fluke - or a pattern that includes NPR and other news outlets. I already saw in one comment that CNN only reported the march online but not on TV (CNN TV is pretty much the default channel in, e.g., airport terminals). Did they really not cover it?

Thanks and happy Monday,

Assaf

Discuss

Gaza has been a bit off the headlines the last week, because there were 9 consecutive days of cease-fire, in installments of 3+5+1, each time the extension being agreed upon in the last moment.

There has been a continuous flow of leaks and disinformation from the Cairo talks, with the sides taking turn in either pronouncing an agreement imminent with their key demands met, or proclaiming that agreement is nowhere in sight.

Overall it seems that as it became clear to Israel that the entire world expects the talks to end in a substantial opening of Gaza for something resembling normal life - which would count as a humiliating defeat for Israel, since that wouldn't have happened now without this war - Bibi's Israeli government has been looking for a pretext to take its ball and go home.

The mediators - the illegal, incompetent Sisi regime - by now deserve a badge of demerit as Worst Mediators Ever. They have been cheerfully projecting optimism all along. The Obama Administration, the only body on Earth (outside the actions of Arab militants) that has any immediate leverage on Israel's government, has openly taken a back seat.

The ceasefire was supposed to last a few more hours, until midnight Israel-Palestine time, but a couple of hours ago 3 rockets were apparently shot into open territory near Beersheva, Israel. Israel wasted no time, literally minutes, in dispatching air strikes and calling off its delegation. The situation is extremely dangerous, and totally preventable.

I'm going to work, so have not time to provide more content or links. But here's what I just wrote to the White House, and I strongly request that you send similar messages. Thank you.

PS: our middle son is still in Israel, but he just went to Israel's far north with my brother's family. Unless Hizbullah steps in he should be fine. OTOH my wife's entire family is in the south within the region directly affected by war.

Dear Mr. President,

Please intervene immediately to prevent collapse of the Israel-Hamas ceasefire!

Israel's government has clearly been looking for an excuse not to sign to what it sees as "concessions", i.e., letting people in Gaza live a semblance of a normal life.

So its PM in conjunction with Sisi's illegal Egypt regime, has been dragging the "talks" on and on, until there's a convenient pretext to pull away from them.

The situation is extremely dangerous. Over 2000 people have already been killed, most of them civilians.

Without hope in a non-jailed future, you are dooming Gazans and by extension their neighbors in southern Israel, to another round of slaughter sooner or later, perhaps even starting today.

You're the only one who can stop this. And you know that.

Please act.

Thank you, Assaf

Discuss

Jointly by Ban Ki-Moon and John Kerry.

Yesterday we tried to postpone our 15-year-old son's trip to Israel by a few days but there were no spots. It was either go tomorrow (Friday), or cancel. He really wanted to go so he's flying tomorrow morning.

Now at least there'll be some breathing for everyone in Gaza and Israel. Time to mourn the dead, treat the wounded, and hope, no, demand a better and more dignified, peaceful, equitable life for everyone there.

I'm at work, won't add more now.

Discuss

A few months ago, when Secretary of State John Kerry amped up his efforts to get an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, senior members of the Israeli resorted to attacking him personally, while throwing any insulting wrench they can find into the process itself.

"Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) is alive and well thanks to us," [Israeli Security Minister] Ya'alon said. "The moment we leave Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) he is finished. In reality, there have been no negotiations between us and the Palestinians for all these months – but rather between us and the Americans. The only thing that can 'save us' is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace."
The response was swift, and Ya'alon retracted:
In a statement issued just before midnight, Ya'alon apologized for "insulting" the secretary of state in calling him "obsessive and messianic."

"The defense minister did not intend to insult the secretary and he apologizes if the secretary was hurt by the remarks attributed to the defense minister," read a statement issued by Ya'alon's bureau.

The apology was issued after two-hour meeting between Ya'alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the premier's residence in Jerusalem. The statement, which was composed together with Netanyahu, followed a lukewarm response from Ya'alon earlier in the day which was rejected by the Obama Administration.

Ok, everyone thought. People still do remember sometimes - even given Israel's ability to get 100 U.S. Senators (give or take a few) to sign any idiotic one-sided statement it wants - which of the two nations is the superpower sponsor, and which one is its rather tiny and dependent client state.

Cue in terrible 2014.

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Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 07:33 AM PDT

About Gaza.

by Assaf

The 2014 Gaza war looks more and more like a sports competition between the leaderships of Israel and Hamas, to see who will emerge more stupid and evil. So far "my" side (that would be Israel) is winning, but it's a very close contest.

The bitter irony, known to everyone not blinded by either side's propaganda, is that Hamas flinging rockets into Israeli population centers has made Gazans far less safe. And Israelis would have enjoyed a far safer and more relaxed summer, had their government not leveraged - with unprecedented, jaw-dropping cynicism - the triple kidnap-murder in the West Bank (according to all signs, the act of a couple of criminals working alone) into an all-out jihad against Hamas in Gaza.

Of course, this bloodfest could have been easily been stopped short, had the Obama administration acted with even a fraction of the responsibility it had shown in previous iterations. For me at least, supporting this war marks the low point of Obama's tenure so far. But that's really a topic for an entire different diary.

Here I wanted to give some context for Gaza.

The indiscriminate jailing of Gaza's residents - all 1.8 million women, men and children - and their periodic slaughter by the hundred, are being marketed to the world, and staunchly defended by American politicians of all stripes - as an inevitable security measure.

Nothing could be further from the truth; this can be easily figured out just from the disastrous track-record of this approach in achieving the stated goal. The idiom defining insanity as repeatedly attempting the same thing and expecting a different result, applies here; unless the objective is not the stated one (which is what I suspect).

And then there's the history.

Those who make excuses for the treatment of Gaza by the world, would have you believe that Gaza's history starts in 2007, or in 2005. Attempts to go a bit further and understand what that place had been in recent decades, are met with snorts and suggestions to perhaps start 3000 years ago. But this being a reality-based community, I hope people are willing to try and figure out the 1's in the 1+1=2. It is really rather straightforward.

Consider, for example, this passage:

I hated Gaza and its inhabitants. Everything in the amputated town reminded me of failed pictures painted in grey by a sick man. Yes, I would send my mother and my brother's widow and her children a meagre sum to help them to live, but I would liberate myself from this last tie too, there in green California, far from the reek of defeat which for seven years had filled my nostrils. The sympathy which bound me to my brother's children, their mother and mine would never be enough to justify my tragedy in taking this perpendicular dive. It mustn't drag me any further down than it already had. I must flee!

...When I went on holiday in June and assembled all my possessions, longing for the sweet departure, the start towards those little things which give life a nice, bright meaning, I found Gaza just as I had known it, closed like the introverted lining of a rusted snail-shell thrown up by the waves on the sticky, sandy shore by the slaughter-house.
...When I arrived my late brother's wife met me there and asked me, weeping, if I would do as her wounded daughter, Nadia, in Gaza hospital wished and visit her that evening. Do you know Nadia, my brother's beautiful thirteen-year-old daughter?

..."Nadia! I've brought you presents from Kuwait, lots of presents. I'll wait till you can leave your bed, completely well and healed, and you'll come to my house and I'll give them to you. I've bought you the red trousers you wrote and asked me for. Yes, I've bought them."  It was a lie, born of the tense situation, but as I uttered it I felt that I was speaking the truth for the first time. Nadia trembled as though she had an electric shock and lowered her head in a terrible silence. I felt her tears wetting the back of my hand.

"Say something, Nadia! Don't you want the red trousers?" She lifted her gaze to me and made as if to speak, but then she stopped, gritted her teeth and I heard her voice again, coming from faraway.
"Uncle!"

She stretched out her hand, lifted the white coverlet with her fingers and pointed to her leg, amputated from the top of the thigh.

Is this passage from 2014? 2012? Perhaps 2009?

No. These excerpts are from Ghassan Kanafani's 1956 story, Letter from Gaza. The bloody incident referred to in the story is Israel's shelling of downtown gaza with 120mm mortars in April 1956. The Israelis claimed Egypt's military (then in control of Gaza) had fortified positions inside the city. Only decades later did Col. M. Bar-On, then General Dayan's chief of staff, admitted that it was a lie: there was a deliberate command to bomb downtown Gaza regardless of military targets (h/t Dr. Yehuda Shenhav-Shaharabani, who uploaded a Hebrew translation of this story and the context last week)

So no. This is not about Hamas, not by a long shot. Hamas are just the incredibly flawed messenger currently trying to make (in the worst possible way) Gaza's case against the world.

But really, when you've been deserted to your cruel fate, in broad daylight and plain sight, time after time after time after time after time after time after time - who is really the chief culprit here?

A bit more below the fold.

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As global warming comes back to the fore of public discourse, environmentalists wonder how to overcome the polarization (this New Hampshire poll finds global warming to be the most partisan issue, second only to support for Obama) and help the broader public support critically-overdue climate action.

One approach has been to stay away from the crux of polarization - whether one "believes" in anthropogenic global warming or not, and why - and focus on areas of broader and near-bipartisan agreement, like support for renewable energy.

I do not subscribe to that approach. I think we do need to talk to our conservative and/or climate-confused friends about the science. The title "most polarizing issue" is a rapidly-changing "flavor of the day" thing; it comes and goes. I feel the wind is in our backs on this issue (pun semi-intentional), simply because the other position is fast becoming a laughingstock. This is the time to push forward.

But there's another critique of such engagement: that we should not dignify an anti-science stand by giving it unjustified "parity" with solid science.

To this criticism I say: just like we ask deniers and fence-sitters to wake up and smell the climate-reality coffee, so should we accept political reality rather than sit in an idealized and convenient political bubble. The fact is, not only are anti-scientists already getting parity with scientists, on this issue. In the American public sphere, they actually dictate the conversation. Here's the example that motivated me to write this post.

Over the past year, my favorite website (together with Daily Kos) has been insideevs.com - a grassroots site that provides, among other things, the most authoritative US electric vehicle sales numbers. Occasionally they publish personal driver testimonies. One such driver from southern CA proudly described how his family is not only all-EV, they also have extensive solar panels. This way, they save money, reduce smog, and help the American economy. Do you notice anything missing?

I did, and commented: "What about global warming? After all, that's what's driving both the EV and solar revolutions, and is making these products accessible for you." My comment was not welcome, to put it mildly; the thread turned into a pie fight. The author himself, who happens to be an elected Dem local official, responded in a more friendly manner, indicating that he does know all about global warming, but would rather not "alienate" parts of the public by mentioning it. This is the situation in an EV forum, and most EV fans are environmentalists at least to some extent.

So the game is not about dignifying someone who's waiting for our approval; this is about helping reality get through the door, when the other side is pretty effectively shutting it out.

The following text is a variation on a blog post at insideevs.com. I am indebted to insideevs.com editor Jay Cole: he took a lot of crap from some readers, who don't want to see global warming even talked about in EV circles, and let me publish a 3-part series on EVs and global warming.

This is the middle part. Feel free to take chunks of it that you like (if you like any), and use when talking with climate-confused friends.

--------------------------

In Part I, I made the case that global warming is a main reason, and arguably the main reason why EV technology is finally getting its day in the sun. Unfortunately in American circles - still the world's largest EV market - there is a culture of silencing and self-censorship regarding global warming, even within EV communities. Just recently there was a nice example here for how different the conversation is elsewhere: the founder of the UK's highly effective quick-charge network has no qualms about showcasing global warming as a main motivation, both for the network and for customers. In the US people in similar positions do somersaults to avoid mentioning the issue. So the first post's aim was to open up a space, in which one can talk about global warming with other EV fans and visitors of this site, without being set upon. The fact Post #2 is seeing the light of day, indicates at least a partial success :)

This second post will not talk much about EVs directly (I did sneak in one Tesla Model S eye-candy for you). Rather, it's about the science underlying global warming. Given the topic's contentious nature, and the style of the "debate" about it, I devote quite a bit of space for a reminder/refresher/primer about what science is and how it works. Since EV technology itself relies upon lots of science, this is not a bad conversation to have here - global warming or not.

Some scientists might look like this... although they better have safety goggles on while doing labwork.
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(h/t to the insideevs.com electric vehicle blog, for alerting me about this story)

On Tuesday, John, a 62-year-old man from Kentucky, posted this laconic message on the Tesla owner online forum:

Heading cross country!
myfastlady@aol.com | January 21, 2014

Drove from Kentucky to New York last week to pick up my daughter in Hoboken for my co- pilot. As I was exiting the freeway for JFK, I hit something in the road that blew out a tire and bent the rim. Called tesla service at 7:am Monday morning. They had a new tire and rim on by 9 am. Left JFK supercharger at 9:45. Stopped in Hoboken and on to Newark, De. Full range charge and left with 258 miles. Pulled into Somerset sc with 11 miles rang left. Somerset to Macedonia in 3 hrs. It was snowing so the leg to Maumee, Ohio was slow. Got in at 2:30 am and couldn't get to the supercharger because of the snow that hadn't been plowed. Went to a Hampton inn 1/2 mile away and called Tesla. The guy told me to get some sleep and he would see what he could do. I went back to the sc at 8 am and it was clear. Are these guys the best or what! Headed out to Mishawaka with temp at 6 degrees. I'll keep you up to date if there is interest.

"If there is interest..."
Talk about modesty when embarking upon something never done before, and potentially as momentous as the first coast-to-coast in a car, or in a train.

The abbreviation 'sc' stands for Superchargers, a network of free charging for Tesla owners which makes this trip possible. It was long believed Elon Musk, Tesla's flamboyant owner, would want to be the first to coast-to-coast it - but he was scooped by one of his customers :)

John and his 26-year-old daughter, Jill, share the driving, as is customary in the Great American Road Trip. They are slated to complete it in 6 days - a feat that was unimaginable as recently as a year ago.

It was less than a year ago that NYT auto reporter John Broder published "Stalled Out on Tesla's Electric Highway." Per Tesla's invitation, Broder took one of their demo car to a DC-to-Boston drive. Due to extreme winter conditions and his own carelessness, he stalled a few miles short of a Supercharger station, and turned his story into an anti-EV screed concluding the the Model S is more vanity toy than real car.

Well, what a difference a year makes. Tesla sold about 25,000 award-winning Model S cars since then, its stock value has soared - and now people in the auto industry are talking about their eventual joining of the "Big Four". More broadly, EVs have become much more mainstream, with nearly 100k plug-in cars sold in the US in 2013, and EVs becoming so popular in Norway that “rekkeviddeangst” (range anxiety) was chosen as #2 in Norway's 2013 "Words of the Year" list, while the Nissan Leaf was the 3rd-best-selling car there for the entire year among all cars.

A few days ago, Tesla's Supercharger network - stations that replenish the Model S's 200+ mile range within 30-40 minutes - completed its first viable coast-to-coast route. For each Model S sold, $2k are set aside specifically for building this network - hence its rapid expansion with stations opening up literally every day. By the time Tesla launches its more affordable models slated for 2016-2018, the network should be very dense.

Tesla North America Supercharger network map, as of January 24, 2014 during the first-ever coast-to-coast trip that uses it.
It was thought no one would dare do a full coast-to-coast on it in the depth of winter (EVs are said to lose up to 30% of their range in deep-winter temperatures). But John and Jill have set out, driving through snow-covered Midwest, Plains and northern Rockies. This morning they have driven out of Silverthorne, Colorado, and hope to make it to the West Coast by tomorrow evening.

As of now, only the Tesla and broader green-car community have been following. I wonder if that will change by the time they reach California. Follow John and Jill's updates live (they post something every couple of hours), watch history in the making, and send them your blessings directly.

------------ 11:25 AM PST UPDATE:

Thanks for the rec-list! I had a feeling this story would get some love here, and maybe Kossacks can help it go viral.

John just posted his latest update, a sweet and somewhat longer one [w/my added whitespace an comments]:

myfastlady@aol.com | January 24, 2014 new

Just charged at our 20th supercharger (JFK was #1) in Grand Junction. Speeds now 70-80mph and I rarely check the range.

Thanks to our Leaf friends for joining [haha, that includes moi who chimed in with greetings from "a lowly Leaf driver"]. We are natural allies in the revolution. Perhaps when the model e [a.k.a. The Affordable One] comes out you can trade the Leaf and join us on the Elon superhighway. [That's my plan too]

I have been withholding judgement about the model s as a touring car but now that we have logged 2500 miles (3400 since Kentucky) I think we can draw some conclusions.

First, it is very comfortable, no backaches or any soreness. Second, the infotainment system is awesome. We have listened to music and audiobooks from our I-phones. Music, news and podcasts from internet radio and Jill watched a movie on the I-pad (margin call) and we streamed the sound over the speakers. I had seen the movie so I just listened.the only thing we haven't listened to is am or fm radio, the staple of road trips for decades. Since the car is so quiet,we can have audio relatively low and hear it fine.

Third, the amount of space is over the top. Elon may disagree with 5 small children in the car [like with the wagons of years bygone, you can put a back-facing 3rd row in the Model S for a total of 7 passengers] but he may just need a screen shielding the drivers cabin.

Fourth, have I mentioned that I haven't had to pay for fuel. I would give the model s 5 stars as a touring car.

Discuss

Hooray! I am about to achieve a Daily Kos first for me: to actually complete a diary series as promised.

This is the 5th and last diary in a series on the current state of electric vehicles (EVs), focusing on the US. The first 4 diaries were posted in September-October. Diaries #1 and #2 dealt with environmental issues. The third and fourth (labeled 3A and 3B) were about EV market trends, business viability and consumer value. Their bottom line was:

EVs are very close now, perhaps a single year away, from attaining the critical mass and momentum needed to irreversibly affect the automotive market - and, more importantly - the oil economy itself.
This final diary will deal with the technology itself. The list of EV-related tech myths and concerns is practically endless. But given I am neither a mechanical nor an electrical engineer nor an auto hobbyist/enthusiast (my training in numbers and science was a much better match for the previous diaries) and also given the expected limited audience, I will try to keep it simple and of reasonable length, looking at only 2-3 leading myths.

Please follow me below the electric bus...

BYD electric bus in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, 2013.
Electric bus by Chinese automaker BYD, with a real-life range of 150+ miles,  in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
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