Upstart party turns cannabis into key Israeli election issue
By ARON HELLER
Monday, March 18
JERUSALEM (AP) — The Cinderella story of Israel’s current election campaign is a fringe party led by an ultranationalist libertarian with a criminal record who vows to legalize marijuana, and seems to diverge dramatically from the long list of quirky candidates of the past who have drawn attention to their improbable runs for parliament.
For starters, Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party has a real shot of getting elected next month and could even emerge as a kingmaker in a tightly contested race for prime minister. But his seemingly liberal civic platform, which has generated a strong hipster following, could be masking a far more polarizing agenda.
Feiglin, who got pushed out of the ruling Likud party four years ago for his extreme right-wing positions, has taken the campaign by storm, putting cannabis high on the national agenda and forcing the front-runners to take a stand on the issue. He’s also one of the few party leaders to refrain from endorsing either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his top challenger, retired military chief Benny Gantz.
“We are in nobody’s pocket,” Feiglin told Israel’s Army Radio recently. “Legalization is the condition for us joining any government.”
The message seems to be catching on, ironically, in the first election in 20 years that the single-issue Green Leaf party has refrained from running. In response to what has been dubbed the “Feiglin effect,” Netanyahu this week boasted about increasing the availability of medical cannabis and approving its export, making Israel just the third nation in the world to do so. He also promised to “examine” the issue of legalization for recreational use.
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay said he was in favor of legalizing, calling cannabis less dangerous than alcohol. In a radio interview, he then disclosed he had smoked it himself in the past. And the dovish Meretz party, seeking to reclaim what would seem to be its natural electorate, issued a reminder that it was the first party in parliament to promote the issue while others were now merely catching up.
But Feiglin, an observant, Jewish West Bank settler who doesn’t smoke marijuana himself, has been the one cashing in, finding an unlikely audience among urban youngsters drawn to his message of personal freedom and domestic policies, which, besides legalization, include an anti-labor union platform that promotes school vouchers, animal rights and free market economics.
With his skullcap, trim beard and small round-frame glasses, the 56-year-old Feiglin hardly cuts the image of an iconoclast. But he’s become an internet sensation with viral animated online hipster memes portraying him as a cool gangster with sunglasses and a joint hanging from his lips.
It’s a stunning makeover for a man who first made his name in Israel for orchestrating raucous protests against the Oslo Peace accords in the early 1990s. A recent cartoon in the Maariv daily poked fun at the irony of his drawing liberal supporters. Cast as the pied piper, Feiglin is shown leading a slew of smiling, glassy-eyed voters following the trail of smoke from a joint he is holding in the air.
“Feiglin is a revelation to young, secular supporters of the center-left,” explained commentator Yaron Dekel in the YNet news site. “He emphasizes that he is primarily liberal when it comes to the issue of religion and state, and a staunch supporter of the legalization of marijuana, but is hiding an extremely hawkish platform in every other arena.”
The political manifesto of Feiglin’s Zehut — Hebrew for identity — party includes canceling signed agreements with the Palestinians, making Israeli Arab citizens pass a loyalty test and offering financial incentives to them to emigrate elsewhere if they refuse to accept Jewish sovereignty over the land.
He’s also spoken out against women, gays and reform Jews. In 1995, shortly before Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, his Zo Artzeinu (This is our Land) movement blocked dozens of major intersections that wreaked havoc throughout the country. The Supreme Court later sentenced him to six months in prison for sedition against the state, which was later commuted to community service.
Feiglin, who refused an Associated Press interview, has downplayed his past as an ultranationalist activist and insists he is currently focused on civic issues alone. In reinventing himself, he has managed to create the latest iteration of a regular Israeli election ritual of obscure and offbeat lists offering an entertaining diversion to those voters despairing over Israel’s weighty issues.
Previous parties have included a faction calling for the establishment of a national casino and a group led by a fishmonger and puppeteer that tried to abolish bank fees. An offshoot of Green Leaf aligned with elderly Holocaust survivors to make a run in 2009 and four years later its castaways ran as the Israeli Pirate Party, offering a platform promoting a variety of personal freedoms, including the right to sail the high seas.
Should Zehut manage to cross the electoral threshold, it would join the likes of the Israeli Pensioners Party that managed to win seven seats in the 2006 election and joined Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Cabinet. Seen largely as the recipient of protest votes against the system, the group of retirees led by an octogenarian former spymaster disappeared in the next election.
Feiglin’s Zehut party, however, could prove to have a greater impact if it eventually has a say in who forms the next government. Columnist Shmuel Rosner called its emergence a “deliberate, cunning distraction” that reflects the dire state of discourse and overall disgust with mainstream politics.
“It is the proof — and not the first — of the difficulty the public has in addressing complex issues that require expertise and in-depth study,” he wrote Thursday in Maariv. “Everyone has despaired and only wants to be given something to dull their senses. It could be that the marijuana in the campaign is simply medical cannabis to relieve pain.”
Follow Heller at www.twitter.com/aronhellerap
Trump sharply criticizes British leader’s handling of Brexit
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Thursday, March 14
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday sharply criticized Britain’s handling of negotiations over leaving the European Union, saying the talks have been bungled and that the debate was dividing the country.
“I’m surprised at how badly it’s all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation,” he said.
Trump, who holds himself up as a master deal-maker, said he had given Prime Minister Theresa May his ideas on how she could negotiate a successful deal for leaving the 28-member group of nations. But “she didn’t listen to that and that’s fine. I mean she’s got to do what she’s got to do,” he said at the White House as he welcomed Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar for an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
“I think it could have been negotiated in a different manner, frankly,” Trump said. “I hate to see it being, everything being ripped apart right now.”
Trump spoke hours before British lawmakers voted to delay Brexit for at least three months. Britain’s exit from the EU had been scheduled for March 29. The motion commits May’s government to seek an extension until June 30 if Parliament approves a U.K.-EU withdrawal deal next week.
Trump predicted later Thursday that the situation eventually would work itself out. The president said he and Varadkar discussed the issue during their Oval Office meeting. Varadkar opposes Britain’s EU exit and expressed concern about how such a move would affect Northern Ireland.
“We talked about Brexit, something that’s turning out to be a little more complex than they thought it would be,” Trump said at an annual Capitol Hill luncheon for the Irish hosted by the House speaker. “But it’ll all work out. Everything does. One way or the other, it’s going to work out.”
Varadkar was returning to the White House for an evening reception and the presentation of a bowl of shamrocks to Trump. The openly gay prime minister and his partner, Matthew Barrett, started the day as the breakfast guests of Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who opposes gay rights.
Trump was at the Capitol just hours before 12 GOP senators broke ranks and voted to reject his declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump had taken that step so he could spend money that lawmakers refused to give the administration specifically to build a wall there.
The Democratic-run House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, voted last month to block the declaration.
Pelosi used the luncheon to make a pointed plug for immigration after just she had just described the annual event as “a tradition where we dispense with our differences, whether they’re political or whether they’re competitive in any other way.”
Speaking about the contributions of Irish-Americans, Pelosi quoted Republican President Ronald Reagan as saying U.S. leadership would be lost “if we ever close the door to new Americans.” Then she told the bipartisan luncheon: “You can applaud if you want.”
Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
Opinion: The ‘Accidental Heroes’ of Capitalism
By Sheon Karol
After Amazon announced it had abandoned its plans to build a headquarters in New York City, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her delight: “Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”
It is easy to mock this political neophyte and her misguided economic proposals that would bankrupt the United States in attempting to achieve net-zero emissions. Instead, we should take seriously the danger that socialist ideas pose and consider how to counter them.
Time and time again, malignant political ideologies have infected countries. Currently, the United Kingdom is facing the frightening ascent of Jeremy Corbyn, a Socialist/Marxist widely regarded as an anti-Semite who until recently was a mere backbencher. As Ocasio-Cortez warned, “Anything is possible.”
Disturbingly, at a time when communism and socialism should be totally discredited, socialism is enjoying a renaissance of respectability in the United States and there has not been a plain-spoken, coherent critique. Ideas drive policy. Already, previously moderate U.S. politicians are vying to offer quasi-socialist solutions.
The press’ power brings with it an obligation to highlight the seductive dangers of socialism — exemplified by the failures in the Soviet Union, Cuba and Venezuela. Unfortunately, the press is merrily covering Ocasio-Cortez and her cohorts instead of making clear the superiority of capitalism.
I am not part of the chattering class but, based on my experience working with family businesses, I shall suggest a source of capitalism’s success and a way for the press to foster an appreciation of capitalism at a time of popular backlash against Silicon Valley billionaires.
I contend that the press should cover private businesses — the bulwark of our economy — more closely. People (such as “everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors”) relate more readily to these middle market and small business owners than to mega-corporations and billionaires. Focusing on these owners would remove the sting in the Ocasio-Cortez tweet about “the power of the richest man in the world.”
Consider the innovative New York City “Billion Oyster Project’s” restaurant shell-collection program. Restaurants provide free oyster shells — thereby saving themselves carting expenses — for oysters that are used to create reefs to save the city’s eroding harbor. Think of the more mundane examples of mutual benefit created by companies that finance student expenses in order to develop a pipeline of trained workers.
Regardless of the profit motivation of these owners, their actions benefit society. Similar actions by countless business owners validate the statement of Israel Kirzner, professor emeritus of New York University, that “the essential quality of a market system, contrary to popular thinking, is not that it promotes greed; but rather, that it renders greed harmless.”
Kirzner has explained that entrepreneurs create what never existed before — they do not take what belongs to anyone else. If oranges cost $5 but an entrepreneur discovers that they can be sold as marmalade for $12 at a manufacturing cost of $4, then the entrepreneur has discovered/created $3 ($12-$5-$4). The entrepreneur perceives an opportunity that others had not noticed and the entrepreneur’s find belongs to him. If this understanding of the entrepreneur’s role would be shared by the press, it surely would undercut demagoguery such as Ocasio-Cortez’s against “corporate greed.”
Press coverage would also reveal the self-actualization of these “accidental heroes.” Free enterprise enables people to be individualistic — to take chances, to do what others think foolish. Their individualism is a dramatic and profoundly human contrast to the dull uniformity of “socialist man.”
Also, even if the intentions of “accidental heroes” are usually not heroic, many of their character traits may be considered heroic. They exhibit at least two of the virtues Aristotle described in his Nicomachean Ethics — courage and appropriate ambition. Anyone who has struggled to make a payroll knows it requires great personal risk and determination. The public, especially millennials, would benefit from the celebration of these virtues.
The Aristotelian virtues that are latent in capitalism — courage and appropriate ambition — foster a spirit significantly more benevolent than socialism. The freedom to be individualistic unleashes creativity that is both personally fulfilling and productive for society.
Capitalism, though flawed, promotes human dignity and democracy. Our society, especially the youth, needs to understand that profit motivation is mutually beneficial. My heartfelt plea to the press is: Use your power wisely and responsibly. Promote appreciation of capitalism by covering the “accidental heroes” of private business. Our society needs you.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Sheon Karol is a managing director and member of the management committee of The DAK Group, a boutique investment bank. He is the recipient of the Atlas Award for “Boutique Investment Banker of the Year (2018). He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Stemming the tide of trash: 5 essential reads on recycling
March 12, 2019
Author: Jennifer Weeks
Environment + Energy Editor, The Conversation
A year after China upended global materials markets by banning imports of much solid waste, the effects are still rippling around the globe. Many U.S. recyclers are awash in materials they formerly sent to China for processing. Some cities with few options are burning recyclables in incinerators.
What would it take to reduce U.S. waste management headaches? These five essential reads offer some insights.
1. Embrace the circular economy
Waste is inevitable when products are designed to be used and then thrown away. Clyde Eiríkur Hull, professor of management at Rochester Institute of Technology, offers an alternative: a circular economy in which products are used, then recycled and remanufactured into new products.
Major U.S. companies, including GM, Caterpillar and Staples, are saving money through recycling and remanufacturing. But Hull says this could be greatly scaled up if the federal government required products to be designed with future reuse in mind and taxed goods that did not comply.
“In an entirely circular economy, the U.S. would most likely still import stuff from abroad, such as steel from China. But that steel would wind up being reused in American factories, employing tax-paying American workers to manufacture new goods,” he writes.
China’s waste ban has created a glut in the U.S. and sent prices for scrap materials plunging.
2. Get serious about recycling plastic
Of all materials in the waste stream, plastics pose the biggest challenge. They are used in a myriad of consumer goods, including many single-use items such as straws and cutlery, and can take centuries to break down. Kate O’Neill, professor of global environmental policy at the University of California, Berkeley, compares plastic waste to J.R.R. Tolkien’s One Ring, which “can be permanently destroyed only through incineration at extremely high temperatures.”
O’Neill identifies a number of steps to boost plastic recycling in the United States. They include better consumer education about sorting and disposal; less reliance on single-stream collection, which mixes plastics with other materials; more investment in scrap processing facilities; and steps to manage specific plastic products that are hard to recycle, such as 3D printer waste.
3. Pursue plant-based plastics – and composting
Conventional plastics are derived from fossil fuel, but they can also be made from renewable biological compounds that break down more easily, such as plant sugars. A key challenge with these products is making items that are strong enough to hold up during use but still biodegradable.
“A straw and cup that disintegrate halfway through your road trip are not much use at all,” observes Michigan State University biochemist Danny Ducat, whose lab is using photosynthetic bacteria to synthesize bioplastic feedstocks.
Bioplastics also require investments at the end of their life cycles, Ducat notes. Like other plant-based materials, such as food scraps, they will only degrade readily in composting facilities, where microbes break them down in the presence of oxygen. Buried in landfills, they will persist for decades or centuries, much like conventional plastics. They also are likely to persist if they end up in other cold places with little oxygen, such as the Arctic or deep ocean waters.
“This means that any breakthroughs in materials science need to be coupled with sustainable methods for bioplastic production and a well-oiled system to direct bioplastic goods into composting facilities,” Ducat writes.
Paper-based packaging is an alternative to plastic, especially for food products.
4. Recycle more steel and aluminum
Recycling is much more developed for metals than it is for plastics. In the United States, about 65 percent of old steel products and 40 to 65 percent of discarded aluminum products are recycled. But Daniel Cooper, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan, asserts that more could be done.
As Cooper explains, the United States exports or throws away a lot of cheap scrap metal, and imports expensive new metal. “As an already industrialized country, the U.S. needs little new metal to meet domestic demand,” he points out. More federal support for metals recycling, he asserts, could slash new steel and aluminum imports.
In addition to saving the money and resources that go into producing new metals, such a policy would cost Americans much less than the tariffs President Donald Trump has imposed on imported steel and aluminum.
5. Reconsider waste incineration
Is burning trash instead of recycling it such a bad thing? Bucknell University economist Thomas Kinnaman thinks it’s worth a new look.
As Kinnaman acknowledges, waste incineration is much less popular in the United States than in other regions, including Japan and western Europe. Early U.S. waste combustion plants generated high levels of air pollutants, including hazardous substances such as dioxins, and often were sited in low-income and minority communities.
But new incinerators burn waste more thoroughly and trap pollutants more effectively. “As a result, dioxin emissions from incinerators with modern abatement technologies are currently near zero. Modern incinerators also include processes to generate electricity, heat water for district heating services, recycle the metals found in the ashes and build tiles from the remaining slag,” Kinnaman states.
Incineration still has clear disadvantages. It’s more expensive than landfilling, and Kinnaman sees some evidence that once countries burn more than 40 percent of their waste, it starts to replace recycling. Nonetheless, he contends, expanding its use in the United States – which currently burns less than 13 percent of its solid waste – could be more socially responsible than shipping plastic scrap to developing countries that are ill-equipped to dispose of it.
Editor’s note: This is a roundup of previously published stories.