Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Booze and Biofuels Meet: Making Whiskey and Fuel Side by Side

Gaiam logo_145X80

Now this is the kind of entrepreneural spirit of innovation that I wish we had more of in America. But it falls to Scotland to start the process. A Scottish company is setting up to use the waste products from the whiskey industry to make a biofuel that can be used in existing car engines with a far smaller carbon footprint than using petroleum based gasoline. Good for the environment, good for energy independence, good for the economy, and it creates jobs as well (see, THAT'S how it's done!). From BBC News:

A new company has been formed to commercialise a process for producing biofuel made from whisky by-products.

Edinburgh Napier University's Celtic Renewables Ltd will initially focus on Scotland's £4bn malt whisky industry to develop biobutanol and other chemicals.

The company said biobutanol could be used as a direct substitute for fossil-derived fuel...

Celtic Renewables is now working with Scottish Enterprise to produce the biofuel from sustainable resources on an industrial scale.

Its fermentation process uses the two main by-products of whisky production - 'pot ale', which is the residue left in copper stills, and 'draff', the spent grains...

Research has suggested biobutanol provides 25% more power output than the traditional bioethanol.

Hear that? Why aren't we doing this in America? You don't even have to have specially modified engines to use the stuff. It can directly substitute for the stuff OPEC and their Republican allies have addicted us to. The article does include a small dig at the rest of the world:

Mr Ewing said: "Turning our whisky industry's by-products into raw materials for sustainable biofuels which can be used to power ordinary family cars is an example of the sort of innovative thinking Scotland excels in."

Yep...I really think America, led by the anti-education, anti-science, anti-small business Republicans, has lost the innovative spirit it had through most oft he 20th century. Republicans just want us to keep on being addicted to oil and want most of the profit to go into the pockets of the 1%. And they are willing to cut education and science to do it.

But maybe Jack Daniels wants to sign up to be next in line. They can help the planet and create local jobs in Tennessee. I'd certainly drink to that!

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Lesson South Carolina Taught Us

Newt "traditional values, nudge nudge, wink wink" Gingrich's success in the South Carolina Republican Primary taught us that Southern Republicans hate traditional marriage. I expect them to finally endorse same sex marriage very soon.

Either that or this whole Republican lip service to "traditional values" is nothing but a load of hypocritical bullshit. Then again their claims of "fiscal responsibility" are about as credible as Newt's support for "traditional values."

Why would ANYONE trust a Republican anymore?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

THE Key NY Race of 2012: Lew Fidler for State Senate

Lew Fidler has finally officially announced his bid for the March 20 special election to replace the corrupt Carl Kruger. And let this be my official endorsement of Fidler and my call for my fellow reform and progressive Democrats to give him a hand.

Current City Councilmemer and candidate for State Senate Lew Fidler has intrigued me for some time. He and I are often on the opposite side of some of the divides in the Brooklyn Democratic Party, but his ability at times to bridge those divides and at times be a better spokesperson for the reform side than I am has impressed me. At two County Committee meetings in a row he was one of the strongest reform voices and the one most critical of the machine despite his machine ties. Of course it put at risk his machine ties, but he had no fear of that risk and preferred standing on principle rather than take the easy route. Not sure he ALWAYS does that, but it is clear that he has little fear and does not care too much about the easy route.

And the key thing for me was that he stood up to the machine, right in its face, several times and though this pissed off party boss Vito Lopez, Lew is too strong and too much of a fighter for Vito Lopez to take on. And I think that really is key: Lew Fidler doesn’t fear Vito Lopez and, if Vito fears anything after all he has been through, he may feel just a twinge of it when faced with Lew. I see Fidler as the only person who just might be able to bring Vito down (it would be a tough fight!) and Vito knows it, too. If nothing else, Lew has made clear to Vito’s face that Lew can and will stand up to a challenge from Vito. That is someone I want around.

Here, thanks to my friend Raul Rothblatt, is footage of Lew reaming the machine he is often allied with for going too far:

And I would love to see Lew Fidler go up against Republicans with that same lack of fear and make them feel the slight twinge that Vito may feel in Lew’s presence these days. Make no mistake, even though Fidler is far from as progressive as I would like and is certainly a moderate, Republicans do NOT want to face him in the State Senate. I’d say between Diane Savino and Lew Fidler speaking their minds with no fear, with intelligence and with no nonsense, Republicans would have many a bad day in the State Senate. Well and good and the best reason to support Lew.

But Lew Fidler has also always been open to discussing my criticisms and we have had many good discussions by email. Far more than many politicians he answers my emails and takes the time to discuss important issues. He doesn’t only listen to people who agree with him and THAT is also a quality I like.

I went to Lew Fidler’s official announcement for State Senate to replace the disgraced and disgraceful Carl Kruger, who I think should have been ousted LONG ago. In discussions with Lew long before it was clear he would run once Kruger was out, but it is good to see it official. I could have done without his opening act and some of his supporting cast, but those are people I am rather infamous for opposing sometimes quite vocally to their face. Lew is much better than some of the supporters who showed up at the announcement, and there were a few prominent folks I respect. Again, since Lew and I have often been on opposite sides of the reform-machine divide, it can be expected I may find myself nauseated by some of his creepier supporters (Marty Markowitz, disgraced judge Seddio and Dominic Recchia to name the three hardest to stand near), it is clear to me that they are there on Lew’s terms, not the other way around.

And for the record, here are my wife and me going up against disgraced judge Seddio of the Vito Lopez machine at the same meeting that Fidler did his thing in the video above:

Yeah...ain't my wife wonderful! AND she is a Karate teacher! So don't mess with me or she'll come after you!

Lew Fidler’s opponent is Soviet born Republican David Storobin, who represents some of the worst the Republican Party has to offer. Besides being typical of Republican support of the richest 1% over middle class and working class Americans (hell, name ONE Republican who isn’t??), Storobin seems frighteningly sympathetic to white supremacists, specifically the Afrikaner Independence Movement. My wife wonders why a Russian Brooklynite would wind up so tied to the Afrikaner Independence Movement (and is rather surprised there could even BE something so lame and pathetic as an Afrikaner Independence Movement), and it does suggest that Storobin has gone somewhat out of his way to forge such a link. And many white supremacist groups (e.g. Stormfront) love Storobin, so any qualms I might have of a few of Lew Fidler’s supporters pales massively in comparison to the disgust I feel at many of Storobin’s supporters.

Gatemouth has been the main person highlighting the links between Storobin and white supremacists, a sadly all too common link in the modern Republican Party (and that 100 years ago may be have more common among Democrats). See for example:

Many are comparing the special election to replace the disgraced and disgraceful Carl Kruger to the special election to replace the rather foolish Andrew Weiner. And the comparisons are worth looking at partly as a warning (so far unheeded!) to Democrats and to look at the key differences.

The race to replace Anthony “step away from the keyboard” Weiner pitted Democrat David "Dry White Toast" Weprin (or should that be Dry Challah toast?) against Teabagger Bob “I never met a Billionaire I didn’t like” Turner. The race was a tough one because the district was trending fairly strongly Republican. Weprin was a weak candidate and fundamentally that is why he lost. But to outline the key reasons why Weprin lost and Weiner is replaced with a Teabagger are:

1. Weprin was a weak candidate
2. Progressives and reformers did almost nothing to help beat a Teabagger
3. The Vito Lopez machine did almost nothing to actually do their job and defeat a Republican
4. Religious Jews in the district betrayed Weprin (an Orthodox Jew) because they (ignoring huge volumes of Jewish History) put their own homophobic bigotry before even their own self interest
5. Weprin was a weak candidate.

Sadly, progressives and reformers in Brooklyn (and I consider myself part of both!) all too often get stuck in their own fantasies of finding the best progressive or reformer and will only too late realize that the consequences of their inaction mean another Teabagger screwing the 99% for the benefit of billionaires. That's what happened in last year's congressional race and I fear it will be a factor this year in the NY SD27 race.

Sadly the supposedly "Democratic" (if very undemocratic) Vito Lopez machine puts its own self interest and desire for power and patronage over defeating Republicans.

And also sadly, religious Jews often know more Torah than they do history and forget that when bigotry between minority groups divides those minotity groups, both groups wind up getting screwed. To borrow a phrase my wife often uses about Democrats, the religious Jews allowed themselves to be divided and conquered by the far more bigoted Republicans. I should note the one time I got troll rated to all hell was when I referred to this foolishness by religious Jews in their betrayal of Weprin, and it was largely my fault for various reasons. But the fact remains the religious Jewish community and their bigotries and their gradual shift to the right is something Democrats have been too long ignoring and we LOST A CONGRESSIONAL SEAT LAST YEAR because we were ignoring it.

Overcoming any one, let alone all, of these requires a strong candidate. And therein is the massive difference between the race to replace Weiner and the race to replace Kruger.

Lew Fidler is far from a weak candidate. Already the machine has shown they are not sitting this one out (despite Fidler's standing up to Vito Lopez to his face), so already Democratic turnout will be higher than for Weprin. Fidler also has been better able to navigate the Byzantine relationships within the highly divided and divisive religious Jewish community in Brooklyn than Weprin was, and so looks to do very well in the main group that defeated Weprin. I wonder if the reform and progressive Democrats will learn from last year's fiasco, but already most of the reasons why Weprin lost are swept aside by Fidler.

Storobin’s main source of support (Afrikaner separatists aside) is the Russian community, which is strong. But whereas Weprin seemed either willing to cede territory to his opponent or unable to contest it whether willing or not, Fidler on day one fearlessly heads straight into enemy territory by challenging Storobin for the Russian votes. Fidler doesn’t have to WIN the Russian votes, just make it a lot harder for Storobin to lock it up and Fidler has already succeeded at least part way in doing that.

I am by no means saying Fidler WILL win. On paper Fidler has an even tougher time than Weprin. But never underestimate the value of a strong candidate or the disadvantage of a weak candidate. Democrats tend to lose even against overwhelmingly good odds when they field weak candidates. They tend to win even against overwhelmingly bad odds when they field strong candidates. So I think this will be a hard fought race and Fidler is no shoe in, but my money is on Fidler. I supported Weprin (because honestly he would have made a good Congressman) but never thought he had a strong chance. With Fidler I think we have a good shot.

And maybe I can look forward to a combined Diane Savino/Lew Fidler assault putting the fear of G_d into State Senate Republicans and maybe some backbone into the Democrats.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2011 New York City Council Human Rights Report Card

I found this buried in an email Rock Hackshaw sent around. This score card is from the Human Rights Project. The score card (in PDF form) can be found here.

The scorecard is VERY detailed and I can't do it justice in a short post. They cover homeless issues, race issues, gender issues including LGBT issues, poverty, etc.

Among the WORST rated council members is Chirstine Quinn. She gets a miserable 12% rating. Keep in mind this is the person who wants to be, I mean MAYOR of NYC. She gets zero ratings for workers' rights, criminal/juvenile justice, disabled rights and voting rights and a very low score for housing rights. Is THIS what we want for mayor? Someone who is bad for workers, justice, disabled people, housing and voting rights?

In fairness, I want to look into the past records of former city council members who are competing with Quinn for mayor. Both Bill de Blasio and John Liu moved on from the City Council in 2009, both having refused to participate in Bloomberg's Third Term Power Grab the way Lap Dog Quinn did. So de Blasio and Liu BOTH are already better than Quinn on that issue alone to me. But let's compare Quinn, de Blasio and Liu in the 2008 and 2009 score card: (ranking system presented a bit differently each year it seems)

Christine Quinn: a mediocre 45% average score in 2008 and got a "C" for 2009.

Bill de Blasio: a mediocre 58% average score in 2008 (ranked 11th highest scoring council member) and a 2009 rating of "B" (8th highest scoring council member so made the top 10 list that year).

John Liu: an 61% score in 2008 (8th highest scoring council member so on the top ten list) and a 2009 rating of "A" (4th highest scoring council member, so also on the top ten list).

So Quinn is clearly the WRONG candidate for Human Rights. John Liu does BEST with Bill de Blasio coming in second. Note that Borough Presidents would not be rated on these score cards so I can't compare them.

The top scoring City Council members in 2011 are:

Melissa Mark-Viverito. Manhattan Council District # 8 – Democrat (Score: 90%)

Helen D. Foster. Bronx Council District # 16 – Democrat (Score: 88%)

Letitia James. Brooklyn Council District # 35 – Democrat (Score: 88%)

Jumaane D. Williams. Brooklyn Council District # 45 – Democrat (Score: 86%)

Charles Barron. Brooklyn Council District # 42 – Democrat (Score: 80%)

Brad Lander. Brooklyn Council District # 39 – Democrat (Score: 74%)

Gale Brewer. Manhattan Council District # 6 – Democrat (Score: 73%)

G. Oliver Koppell. Manhattan Council District #11- Democrat (Score 65%)

Jimmy Van Bramer. Queens Council District #26- Democrat (Score 65%)

I want to note that included on this list are council members I have agreed with and ones that I have disagreed with in the past. I will say that I am happy that Tish James is among the top, and congrats to Brad Lander, who I have had many a run in with, for making the top.

Let me emphasize a few things. First, one of the best parts of the score card is its analysis of the City Council process itself. It shows that basically a bill has little shot of even having a hearing let alone being voted on if it doesn't have either the support of the mayor or the speaker. This emphasizes something I have said MANY times: NYC has one of the weakest City Councils I have seen, almost 100% dominated by the mayor and his lap dog speaker, Quinn (hat tip to the attendees of my Eating Liberally group last night who used "Bloomberg's lap dog" to discuss Quinn). NYC is possibly the least democratic of cities. Now I have only seen it under Republicans like Giuliani and Bloomberg, so a don't know if it was different under a Democratic administration, but I somehow doubt it. Certainly it is clear Quinn, a Democrat, would be just as dictatorial as Tsar Bloomberg.

Second I want to emphasize that this scorecard doesn't cover ALL important issues, so I would not use this as my only way to judge a council member, but it does cover some extremely important issues, particularly ones taken up by Occupy Wall Street, so politicians who got a low score should look to their record a bit.

In particular I found myself checking up on politicians I endorsed or who are running for other offices soon. I also checked some of the folks I generally have not liked to see how my choices fare.

Margaret Chin, who I endorsed, got a 54% rating...not as high as I would have liked to see! Daniel Dromm is another one I endorsed (and recently saw at a fundraiser for John Liu) and he also got a not bad but not great 56%. I also endorsed Diana Reyna, and she gets a mediocre 30%. Debra Rose, who I endorsed but admit I came late to that race and was only weakly involved in her race, gets a 53%. Jimmy van Bramer I believe I at least initially endorsed gets a good 65% rating. Al Vann who I have criticized gets 59%.

Mathieu Eugene, who was a mediocre, hand picked successor to Yvette Clarke best known for finding it very difficult to prove his claims to having an MD degree, gets a low 24%. Sadly, Lew Fidler, who I have gotten to know and like, got a low 26%, mainly doing poorly on Voting Rights and Workers' Rights. My own city council member Steve Levin got a mediocre 28%. Again Voting Rights was one of his weakest points but so was criminal/juvenile justice. Peter Vallone, jr. gets a miserable 12%, competing with Quinn for worst city council members on human rights.

The horribly corrupt and nasty Dominic Recchia gets a mediocre 25% rating. Particularly bad on criminal/juvenile justice, voting rights and disabled rights.

Peter Koo, a Republican who took over a previously Democratic seat in Queens, got a miserable 16% rating. He was particularly bad on disabled rights, voting rights, workers' rights and criminal/juvenile justice. In general the handful of Republicans on the City Council scored very poorly. The highest was only 22% (Halloran) and most were in the 10-15% range. To be fair, though there are no highly rated Republicans on the council, there are plenty of Democrats who score as poorly, Quinn herself being a prime example.

These ratings aren't the only way we should judge candidates, but when someone gets consistently bad ratings (like Quinn, Recchia, etc) there is no way they deserve our support. Consistently good ratings (like John Liu and Tish James) should be taken into account when choosing candidates to support.


The Human Rights Project's mission is:

The Human Rights Project (HRP) works to improve the lives of New Yorkers living in poverty with a particular focus on women and people of color. We do this by monitoring and advocating for government compliance with universal human rights standards, especially the human rights to employment, housing, health, food, education and other economic and social rights.

HRP has been at the forefront of the U.S. human rights “movement” for the past several years, demonstrating new models of applying human rights in the U.S., and in particular in New York City, to effectively advocate for the City’s most vulnerable across a range of issues. The U.S. constitution falls short in guaranteeing the right to health, housing, education, standard of living and other rights necessary to live in dignity. In combination with a legacy of structural discrimination, particularly through race and gender, and limits on rights that are protected, those most vulnerable in society have little recourse. The human rights framework and tools bring new possibilities in the face of limited remedies, and hope where there is despair.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Silly Christian Brawls, History and the Crimean War

When my wife and I traveled through Greece, Turkey and Israel, we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is one of the holiest places in Christianity, supposedly the site of Golgotha where Jesus was crucified. There is even a supposed post-hole where the cross was thought to be placed.

We were told an odd story about this church. It seems that several Christian sects cooperate, if that is the right word to describe the rivalries that result, to take care of the church. We were told that these various sects actually sometimes get into physical fights over who gets to sweep what parts of the church. I always assumed this was an exaggeration, but it seems it is literal, since the exact same kind of rivalry, this time between the Greek and Armenian Orthodox churches, erupted into a very silly brawl this very Christmas season, 2011, and was caught on film. From the church where Jesus was supposed to have been born in Bethlehem:

This isn't the first time, by ANY means that this has happened. From 2007:

Let me just say that this is the kind of thing that makes me so skeptical about organized THIS what Jesus was all about? Let me emphasize that THIS kind of crap makes organized religion (and it isn't just Christianity...brawls between Mitnagdim and Hasidic Jewish groups in the old country in the 19th Century were no different!) look outright stupid.

But these stupid, broom battles between Christian clergy have at times been part of international struggles leading to outright war. Specifically, it strikes me that this kind of stupid broom battle is a distant echo of some of the issues that led to the Crimean War. The Crimean War represents an early stage to the lead up to WW I and is one of the first instances of Britain and France acting as allies rather than enemies, something that became critical for WW I and WW II. Prior to the Crimean War, France and Britain were rivals or outright enemies for centuries, with only occasional moments of cooperation. The Crimean War, partly sparked by these kinds of stupid broom battles between clergy in the "holy" land, was the moment where France and Britain became firm allies, initially against Russia, and later along with Russia against Prussia/Germany and Austria.

The Crimean War was the result of the slow, steady decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire was one of the longest living superpower of all history, spanning roughly 600 years. But that 600 years included about 250 years of strong, dominant expansion, some 100+ years of tenuous holding on to prestige as Europe caught up and surpassed the Turks, and then another 100+ years of clear decline. During the declining years of the Ottoman Empire, they were often kept alive by the fact that the European powers, generally Britain, France, Russia, Austria and Prussia/Germany, couldn't decide how the spoils would be divided if the Ottoman Empire actually collapsed. So rather than fight it out over the spoils, the European powers, in the last 100 or so years of the Ottoman Empire, preferred to prop up that failing Empire. So although various territories (like Wallachia, Serbia, Greece, etc.) might be detached from the Ottoman Empire and made part of another empire or made an independent state, the European powers refused to allow the entire Empire to fail simply because it would lead to a world war among the dominant superpowers over the remnants of the Ottoman territories.

So at various times Austria and Russia, Germany and Russia, Britain and France, Britain and Russia, etc. discussed how the Ottoman Empire should be carved up, usually no solid agreement could be reached that would avoid war, so the Great Powers helped the Turks survive. This is not to say that the Turks themselves played no role in this diplomatic and military game. They at times were very skilled at playing the Great Powers against each other to secure their own existence. But there were times where they were unable to act effectively and were saved only by the actions of outsiders.

Russia had long had designs on Turkish territory. Russia envisioned itself the rightful ruler of the Balkans (in opposition to both Austria and the Ottomans), the rightful protector of ALL Orthodox Christian sects (many of whom hated eachother, as the broom battle video above illustrates today), AND the rightful heir of the Roman Empire and thus of Constantinople/Istanbul itself. Peter the Great and Catherine the Great particularly articulated these claims and tried to carry them out, with only limited success. The Ottoman Empire was already declining at these times, so both Peter and Catherine the Greats could enforce some of their claims. But by no means all because the Ottomans still had some fight in them and no one else wanted Russia to be so powerful.

Nicholas I was another Tsar who wanted to exert Russia's claims over the Balkans, over Orthodox Christians world wide, and over what was once the Byzantine Empire. He tried making deals with Britain (then ruled by Queen Victoria), his main ally against their mutual rival France (ruled by Napoleon III) to divide the slowly failing Ottoman Empire between them. Britain was not ready for this to happen, so no deal was made between these two Great Powers. Austria was another power that wanted to carve up the Ottoman Empire, but already at this time Russia and Austria were competing, in the name of Orthodox vs. Catholic, Slavic vs. Germanic rule, over who would dominated the Balkans. So Austria and Russia were already starting the collision course that would ultimately spark WW I. But where everyone else fell was not yet clear. France tended to side against Russia. Britain tended to side against France. Prussia tended to also side against France. So had WW I happened before the Crimean War, you might have had Britain, Russia and Prussia against France and Austria with Turkey and Italy falling where ever they had the temporary advantage. But in the 1850's this all began to change. Not that the alliances that fell into WW I were yet formed so early, but one key alliance was formed, first in opposition to Russia and in support of Turkey, that later became the key to WW I. France and Britain, whose rivalry formed the basis of most wars and diplomatic interactions up until then, started forming a firm alliance.

The rivalry between France and Britain was initially a Medieval issue, where rulers from both sides had claims on the same territories due to competing feudal claims. The British royal family were originally the Dukes of Normandy, so had claims in France. The French royals also had ties to key noble families in England who had claims to the throne. So for centuries France and Britain were at odds. It was one of the dominant themes in European politics from roughly 1066 until the 1850's. Roughly for 800 years the British-French rivalry was THE key theme in Europe and beyond. Even the American Revolution was a sideshow of this rivalry and our independence is due to the intervention of France against Britain in their long rivalry.

Tsar Nicholas I, whose main rival was France and whose main ally was Britain and whose main enemies were Austria and the Turks, tried to arrange with Britain a division of Turkey behind everyone else's backs. It was from this discussion that the famous term "Sick Man of Europe" was coined to describe the Ottoman Empire. Britain and Russia disagreed on what was needed. Russia felt that Turkey needed a surgeon to carve it up and Britain felt that it needed a physician to cure it. Russia's insistence on carving up Russia ultimately drove a wedge between it and the rest of Europe, and that wedge started to form the alliances that would lead to WW I even though those alliances evolved over the years between the Crimean War and WW I.

The Russian view was that the end of the Ottoman Empire was inevitable, so why not plan in advance and carve it up. If Russia and Britain cooperated in this, then France and Austria could be excluded and Prussia would probably go along with the winners. This really was no different from what many other European leaders had seen for decades, including Napoleon I, Metternich, and many others. The decline of the Turks had gone on for a long time and the end was seen as inevitable for at least 100 years. So Russia was not unreasonable in their views, even if they were greedy. But no more greedy than Austria, Britain or France, all of whom wanted spoils from the Sick Man of Europe. Prussia was the only country that stayed SOMEWHAT peripheral to this interest in carving up the Ottoman Empire.

But Britain was not willing to see ANYONE get the upper hand in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, not even their ally Russia, so they opted for a continuation of the Sick Man. Tsar Nicholas I was not willing to see that happen, so did everything he could to force war on Turkey on Russia's terms. Overplaying his hand, he slowly forced Britain into an alliance with their arch-rival France against Russia. That Anglo-French alliance, inconceivable in the early 1800's, has essentially persisted until today and was a key factor in the Crimean War, WW I and WW II as well as the Cold War. Tsar Nicholas I and his desire for Russia's traditional claims against Turkey established one of the enduring and dominant alliances of the 20th century.

But what was the main issue? France had traditionally claimed to protect, as a dominant Catholic force, the Christians within the Ottoman Empire. This was the basis of a long-standing alliance between the Ottoman Empire and France dating back to the expansionist days of Turkey. But Russia's very existence depended partly on its claim to be the protector of all Orthodox Christians in the world, particularly in the Ottoman domains. This claim had generally been at odds with what the Ottomans themselves thought as well as with the French claims. So when the Latin and Greek clergy in Bethlehem and Jerusalem got into a conflict over who had the right to sweep the floors and fix the facades of the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Russia used this as a way to exert its dominance in Ottoman territories. Needless to say the Ottomans objected. France, which had kind of ignored its claims of protection over Christians in the Ottoman Empire, awoke to the Russian threat and started preparing for war. So Russia and France were ready to go to war over sweeping rights, as it were, within Christian Holy sites within the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans were desperately trying to claim sovereignty over their own territory despite their near collapse. And Britain was trying to preserve peace, prevent anyone from taking an unfair share of Ottoman territory, and so wanted to prop up the Ottoman Empire.

When Russia clearly became the most belligerent power, using its naval force against Turkey, Britain felt compelled, against tradition, to side with France to preserve Turkey. From this came the Crimean War that embarrassed Russia, preserved Turkey, and cemented an alliance between France and Britain that was to dominate politics for the next century. So far the other alliances that initiated WW I (Germany and Austria, Germany and Turkey, France and Russia, Britain and Serbia) had not formed. But the French-British alliance that was to be critical to WW I and WW II and beyond was forged in the lead up to the Crimean War, in vague support of a traditional claim of France to protect the Catholic right to sweep floors in the churches in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. So those broom wars helped forge this key alliance.

The fact that Russia's other key rival was Austria started to form the Central Powers of WW I. The Russia-Turkey and Russia-Austria rivalries, combined with the battles over who would dominate the Balkans (Austria, Turkey or Russia, with Serbia one of the main local players) set the stage for WW I. Between the Crimean War and WW I the French/Russian and the British/Serbian as well as the Prussian/Austrian alliances were yet to form. And it was only because Prussia was allying with Turkey against Russia that Austria accepted Turkey, its traditional enemy, as an ally in WWI. Russia, as a traditional supporter of the Serbs, was MORE of a threat to Austria than Turkey in its decline ever could be, so Austria sided with Germany and Turkey against Russia. The French-British alliance, forged initially AGAINST Russia in the Crimean War, sided with Serbia against Germany and Austria, formalizing the sides in WW I. Italy could have gone either way, siding with France and Britain almost last minute.

Those alliances were NOT the same as in WW II, but they did set that stage. The French-British alliance continued and strengthened its ties with Russia despite the fall of the Tsars. The German/Austrian alliance became a key event in the lead up to WW II when Germany claimed not just Austria itself, but also some of Austria's German speaking territories (e.g. Czechoslovakia) for its own Empire. British protection of former Ottoman territories led to its ties with Greece, where the first Allied victories over the Axis occurred when the Greeks, with British weapons and uniforms, soundly defeated the Italian and Albanian allies of Germany. That Albanian-Greek fighting was something that was already occurring when various Albanian and Greek warlords were fighting for dominance as Ottoman control faltered.

So the silly broom battles among rival Christian sects in churches in Bethlehem and Jerusalem were one of several conflicts (the rise of Balkan nationalism and the fights among Austria vs. Russia, Albanians vs. Greeks, Greeks vs Greeks, Russia vs. Turkey) that led directly from the lead up to the Crimean War to WW I and through WW I to WW II and the Cold War. The key alliance that linked them all turned out to be the unexpected and new alliance between once arch-rivals France and Britain.

Among the sources for this article are:

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