Archive for the ‘Capitalism & Corporations’ Category

Sixth mass extinction has begun: Study

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

“We emphasise that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis, because our aim was to place a realistic lower bound on humanity’s impact on biodiversity,” the researchers wrote.

– We wander through our cities, each trapped in his or her little local world with no idea that the aggregate of all of us is destroying the planet’s ecosphere.  And how are we to know when those we trust to lead us sell our interests and the interests of our children and other species for momentary wealth.  They sell all the future generations and indeed a planet full of billions of years of biodiversity, they sell it all so that they can have ‘the better things’ in their small local dream of what their life’s about. Where are the leaders who truly lead and look out for the long and short term good of all of us?  Without them, we are doomed.  This beautiful world we are looking at is beginning to fade under our aggregate assault and most of us have no idea.

– dennis

New York, June 20 (IANS) The world is witnessing the sixth mass extinction that threatens even our very own existence, warns a new study.

The new study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows that even with extremely conservative estimates, species are disappearing up to about 100 times faster than the normal rate.

The world has seen five recognisable mass extinctions till now and the final one wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

“(The study) shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event,” said Paul Ehrlich, senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

The researchers have warned that humans could be among the species lost as a result of the current mass extinction event.

“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” said lead author Gerardo Ceballos from the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico.

There is general agreement among scientists that extinction rates have reached unparalleled levels since the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago.

However, some have challenged the theory, believing earlier estimates rested on assumptions that overestimated the crisis.

Using fossil records and extinction counts from a range of records, the researchers compared a highly conservative estimate of current extinctions with a normal “background” rate estimate twice as high as those widely used in previous analyses.

This way, they brought the two estimates – current extinction rate and average background or going-on-all-the-time extinction rate – as close to each other as possible.

“We emphasise that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis, because our aim was to place a realistic lower bound on humanity’s impact on biodiversity,” the researchers wrote.

Now, the specter of extinction hangs over about 41 percent of all amphibian species and 26 percent of all mammals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which maintains an authoritative list of threatened and extinct species.

“There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,” Ehrlich said.

Pope Francis puts GOP in a corner on climate change

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

– I love this Pope.  The first one in my life that I can really stand up and applaud.  

– Bravo for sticking it to the GOP folks who wave their religion around like it is a justification for greed.  

– We need a better world, one that goes beyond power and greed as the prime movers, and that’s what the Pope is talking about. And, predictably, they are not going to like it.

– dennis

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Conservative politicians have cited faith in shaping politics but are running from pope’s climate change teachings

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis is expected to take a provocative stance on global climate change Thursday, releasing an encyclical — a teaching letter addressed to Catholic bishops — that not only affirms the reality of man-made warming but issues a moral call for changes in lifestyle, consumption and policy to stave off environmental disaster.

That puts Republican lawmakers in the United States, many of whom outright deny that human activity has contributed to the warming of the earth, in an awkward position. Many of those conservative politicians, after all, have often cited their deeply held religious convictions as informing their political beliefs.

“I think it’s easy for Republicans to dismiss Greenpeace and other people who they see as tree-hugging leftists,” said John Gehring, the Catholic program director of Faith in Public Life, a religious advocacy group in Washington, D.C. “It’s much harder for them to brush off one of the greatest moral leaders of the world.”

Gehring said it is no surprise that the pope’s encyclical, emphasizing that climate change has a disproportionate impact on the poor, has rubbed certain conservative politicians the wrong way already.

“The pope is doing something that will make a lot of people very uncomfortable because he’s challenging a status quo that the richest and most powerful benefit from,” he added. “The Exxons of the world are not going to love this encyclical. The Koch brothers are not going to be sending it out as Christmas card. While the pope is a bridge builder, this is a provocative document that is meant to wake us up.”

Some prominent Republicans have already pre-emptively countered Francis’ message, arguing ahead of the official release of the encyclical that a religious leader has no place crafting public policy.

“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” newly minted presidential candidate Jeb Bush said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”

Bush, who converted to Catholicism 20 years ago, has nevertheless taken a different view for most of his public life, speaking occasionally on how his faith has played a role in shaping his policy views. His religion is believed to have played a pivotal role in his decision as Florida governor to prolong the life of Terri Schiavo, a brain-dead woman embroiled in a right-to-die battle that gained national attention.

Rick Santorum, another 2016 presidential contender and a devout Catholic, has similarly said his faith informs his staunch opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. But when asked about the pope wading into the climate change debate earlier this month by a radio host, Santorum answered, “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science. I think that we are probably better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.”

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, yet another prominent Catholic in politics, has thus far not weighed in on Francis’ encyclical. But earlier this year Boehner held the standard Republican line that climate change regulations kill U.S. jobs and that he would leave it to scientists to debate the facts.

Richard Cizik, a former top lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals who was castigated by Christian conservative activists after he became a believer in climate change science, was baffled by comments dismissing the pope from the realm of politics.

“It’s not only disdainful. It fails to appreciate political decisions are at heart moral decisions. They know that too,” he said. “It’s time for everyone to pause and reflect and not just respond politically to what the encyclical says but, first and foremost, personally.”

Bob Inglis, a former Republican South Carolina congressman, was voted out of office in 2010 shortly after making remarks regarding the need to address climate change. He believes the tension between Catholic teachings and Catholic politicians’ current positions can be a positive development for those hoping to break the partisan gridlock on the issue.

“There are a lot of Catholics who might have been critical of other Catholics who haven’t accepted the church’s teachings on abortion. They called them cafeteria Catholics,” said Inglis, now the executive director of RepublicEN, a group dedicated to conservative solutions for climate change. “Now the question is whether those same folks will become cafeteria Catholics and not accept the church’s teachings on climate change. The dissonance is going to be very constructive here. I hope what’s going to happen is that the encyclical is going to establish this as a moral question as well as a question of policy and economics.”

Other observers have noted the difficulty in defying hard political reality on climate change. The oil and gas industry, whose business interests lie in perpetuating the use of carbon-dioxide-releasing fossil fuels, contributed $18 million to congressional campaigns in the 2014 elections alone, the vast majority of that to Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Climate change skeptics have continued to dig in on their positions. The Cornwall Alliance, a Christian conservative organization that claims climate change science is grossly exaggerated, said the arguments made in the encyclical are misguided.

“Pope Francis puts his moral authority as the leader of roughly 1.2 billion Catholics in jeopardy when he addresses technical scientific issues on which he has apparently only been given one side of what is a very vigorous scientific debate,” said Cornwall spokesman Calvin Beisner. “He will certainly have an influence on public opinion about this … I think he’s mistaken.”

Nonetheless, Cizik said, if people of faith across the country unite on the issue, Congress will ultimately follow.

“When faith communities unite, politicians listen,” he said. “It just seems to me now is an opportunity for those who have been wanting to make a change to come forward and boldly say so. People sometimes need a conversion. If you’re not going to change your mind every once in a while, you might as well be dead.”

Questions about ISIS

Friday, May 8th, 2015
Sun in Montreal
 
Its a beautiful Spring day here in Montreal, Canada, where I am now.  My partner, Colette, and I just spent an hour eating our sandwiches, sitting in the sun beside a huge square near the center of the city and watching the thousands of people nearby.  People were walking, talking, sitting and eating their lunches, sharing petitions to be signed, visiting, taking in the sun, clowning around, flirting and all of the many things free people do to enjoy such a gorgeous day.
 
In the past few years, Colette and I have spent extended time in several of our advanced democracies. I’m thinking here of New Zealand, France, Australia, The United States and now Canada.
 
Everywhere we’ve gone, I’ve seen people enjoying their rights and their freedoms.  In truth, most of us unconsciously assume the presence of our rights and freedoms; much as the birds assume the air and the fish assume the water.

 
It is so easy for us to forget that it was a long and hard struggle to bring our societies to where they are now.  These rights and freedoms have been with us for so long now that it is easy to forget the desperate places from where we began.
 
In the advanced democracies, that we now live in, we can freely practice our religions. We have certain inalienable human rights. Our women have the same rights as our men. The Rule of Law is firmly established and protects us from the arbitrary taking of our lives, our freedoms, and our goods  by those who think they can simply take what they want from us because they have more brains, money, weapons or power than we do.  We have democratic elections so we can freely choose who will perform the public service functions of our governments. We can go to a government office and get a license for driving, hunting or fishing without having to pay a bribe. We know that if we’re arrested and accused of committing a crime, that we have a right to a trial before a jury of our peers. 
 
You and I could both go on adding to this list.  We have so many fundamental freedoms and rights that we take for granted that it’s hard to even remember what they all are now.
 
But keen students of history and eclectic readers know that it wasn’t always this way. And intrepid world travelers know from direct experience that it is not this way in much of the world around us.
 
A Dark Cloud Rising
 
There is a dark cloud rising in the world.  And I find it is hard to say just why it is arising.  
 
Oh, there’s no shortage of theories and ideas around; including my own.  But they are all just like leaves whirling in a summer zephyr.
 
Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.  I still remember getting up to find the story on my TV screen one morning.  Little did I know all that would follow from that one morning’s news.
 
But somehow, now, 25 years on, the middle-east has become a maelstrom.  
 
I read the news from Iraq, from Afghanistan and from Yemen and I have no idea anymore who the main players are.  Or even if the players I am reading about are good guys or bad guys.  
 
The Shia, the Sunnis, Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, the Houtis, ISIS, the Syrian Rebels, and on and on.  Refugees are everywhere and they are risking their lives by the tens of thousands in leaky boats and desperate treks to get into Europe where they believe stability exists.  Or perhaps they are striving just to get away from where ever the terror is reigning the hardest behind them.
 
I watch BBC America most nights here in Montreal and often they will have important talking-heads who are former ambassadors or generals coming on to discuss the Middle-East.  I listen but I don’t hear clarity coming from what they have to say.  It all puts me in mind of the three blind men and the elephant parable elevated to the glitter of world news.
 
But, amid all of this, there is a particularly dark cloud to be seen in the midst of all the chaos and confusion and its name is ISIS.  
 
And ISIS puzzles me deeply.  How have they become so powerful so quickly in a world in which the flow of money is so highly regulated and where there are already so many people and weapons staked out on highly contested ground?  
 
Where does ISIS get its money, who is selling them their arms and who is secretly supporting them with both?
 
Everyone publicly disavows them, including the vast majority of moderate Muslims across the world.  And yet their political power, their wealth, their Internet presence, their numbers and their military power continue to grow.  How can this be so?
 
As I said, there are a lot of theories.  
 
One thing I’ve noticed is that in this latest upsurge in Middle-Eastern violence, the U.S. has remaining largely absent.  The U.S. went in after Saddam invaded Kuwait, and then it went in later to oust him, and then it went in after 9/11 to sort out Afghanistan.  
 
And each ‘going in’ was accompanied by great publicly expressed hopes that we’d ‘sort the mess out’ and spread American ideals like democracy, freedom and education far and wide.  And each time that was not the result obtained.  
 
Many American lives were lost, many more of our young lives were blighted by wounding, permanent crippling, and by mental damage from what they’d seen, done and experienced.  Billions of dollars of U.S. tax payer money was blown and the only obvious beneficiaries from these interventions were those U.S. industries that benefit from war.
 
In each case, what the U.S. left behind from their interventions was a bigger mess than when they arrived.  
 
In my mind, the only possible exception to this was when the U.S. ejected Saddam from Kuwait in 1991 and drove him back home with his tail behind his legs and left him there to lick his wounds.
 
So, maybe why we don’t see much U.S. presence in the current middle-eastern mess is because America’s lost heart with the idea that America can ‘sort things out’ with American boots-on-the-ground and American money because most times, it just hasn’t turned out well.  
 
Or, more cynically, maybe the American war industries just don’t see the opportunities for vast profits that they saw before.
 
Regardless of all that blather and the current confusion about what all is going on in the Middle-East, the simple and stark fact is that ISIS is there and they are rising and they are a dark cloud indeed.
 
Sunlight and shadows
 
I began this with a description of an idyllic afternoon in a square in Montreal and I was reflecting on all the hard-won freedoms and rights we enjoy in the advanced democracies.   And, so musing, I commented that after folks have had those rights and freedoms for a long time, it is easy to forget how precious they are and how hard the struggle was to secure them.
 
ISIS is forcing people to convert to their brand of fundamentalist Islam or to face death or slavery.
 
ISIS executes the opposition soldiers they capture in public and horrific manners to instill fear and submission into all that have not yet encountered them.
 
ISIS forces the women they capture to ‘marry’ their soldiers as sexual slaves.
 
ISIS has no tolerance for those who believe differently than they believe. 
 
ISIS takes over areas and imposes a new strict Muslim fundamentalist lifestyle on all whom they conquer.  Even when those whom they conquer are Muslims like themselves, they impose their will without exception.  They rule on how things should be done under penalty of death.  Girls shall not go to school and men shall not shave their beards and so on and so on.
 
I’ve read two chilling accounts of ISIS recently and I’d like to give you the links to these stories here.  I suggest that if you find what I am writing here of interest, that you go sideways for a few minutes and read these two articles.  They are chilling.
 
Article 1: http://tinyurl.com/o3tn7p7  “What ISIS Really Wants” from the Atlantic Magazine.
 
Article 2: http://tinyurl.com/mnajk2e “Searching for mercy in ISIS territory” from CBC Radio
 
Some tough questions you won’t find asked in the press
 
How, in an age wherein virtually everything we do on-line is analyzed under a microscope by governments, internet companies and those who want to sell us things … how can ISIS have such a huge presence on the Internet spewing hate and enticing new recruits and no one seems to be able to do anything about it?  If all these wanna-be jehadi kids are capable of find ISIS’s on-line propaganda, how can the western security services not find it?  And which Internet Service providers in which countries are putting up the web pages?
 
How, in an age when countries are swapping vast amounts of banking and tax information in an effort to clamp down on tax evasion, an age when every bank is mandated to “Know your customer”, how can ISIS own, move and spend millions of dollars on weapons and Internet propaganda?  These folks don’t even have a country!
 
How, in an age when oil supplies and prices are tracked with global precision, can ISIS profitably sell huge amounts of oil from the territories they take over?  Who is buying millions and millions of dollars of this oil and how can the international community not know that it is going on?
 
They have money, they have Internet presence and they are selling oil hand over fist … and it all seems to be a mystery to our governments how they can do such things?
 
And all this in a time when France has just passed new draconian security laws (http://tinyurl.com/mjatkbv) and Canada is about to vote on its new security law, C-51 (http://tinyurl.com/obf9svo).   And when the U.S.’s NSA has got their nose so deep in my underwear drawer that I’m sure they know all the brand names in there.  
 
How is ISIS even able to walk down the global street without getting mugged from six directions by our security services?
 
Where to from here, Dorothy?
 
Generally, I’m considered to be a liberal.  Cut me and you’ll find a tree hugger inside.  But I’m not cut from only one cloth.  
 
For instance, I believe in Capital Punishment.  Show me an incorrigible criminal who shows no signs of ever changing and who has blown several chances already and I’m quite willing to ‘off’ that person so the rest of us can get on with the business of making this a better world.
 
Perhaps, when you reflect on the hard-won freedoms we all enjoy, you may see why I am so deeply opposed to, and intolerant of, ISIS and Muslim Fundamentalism – or any fundamentalism, for that matter, that would impose its view of the world on me by force or stealth.  
 
These people want to throw away the hard-won advances it has taken us literally centuries to put into place like women’s rights, the rule of law and freedom from religious oppression.  
 
They want to take us back to Mohammed’s day in the 6th century.  
 
And I am bitterly opposed to this.  No one who has understood how long a road it has been to move from warlords to democracies, from woman as chattels to women as equals, and from power and corruption to the Rule of Law would ever want to go back.  
 
I am not afraid to tell you, my friends, that I would see the earth under their feet melted into nuclear glass before I would personally let them have a ghost of a chance at succeeding.
 
This world of our is, in fact, a damn mess; regardless of how nice it might be out in the sunlight in a square in Montreal on any given day.  We have got a ton of problems and a huge need to get them sorted out.  
 
But what we don’t need is a bunch of fanatics full of fundamentalist religious fervor who want to take us to the 6th century as a way to solve the world’s problems.
 
But back to the tough questions
 
I asked some questions earlier that I’ve wondered about a lot.  Questions that I have not seen in the press – and yet they are questions that demand answers.   
 
Here are some more.
 
Remember when U.S. forces simply blasted most of Saddam’s army to rubble in a matter of days once the U.S. decided to eject him and his Republican Guard from Kuwait in 1991?  I remember seeing videos of literally miles and miles of burned and destroyed military assets along the roads leading from Kuwait to Iraq.  He was barely left with two sticks to rub together.
 
Contrast this with the fact that more recently we hear that in Iraq ISIS’s forces are ‘threatening’ some town or other in Iraq.  They are coming towards the town and they are gathering outside the town and it is going to be a desperate battle; in spite of U.S. air strikes, we’re told.  What’s wrong with this picture?  ISIS must look like fleas on a linen napkin sitting out there in the desert ‘gathering’.  
 
But no, no one can do anything and after a short while, they take the town.  The U.S. made good efforts with its airstrikes – but what could be done?
 
Even more recently, we hear that the Iraqi’s have finally gotten their sh*t together and were going to eject ISIS from the Iraqi town of Tikrit.   There’s massive buildup of Iraqi forces on one side of Tikrit and then the Iraqi’s attack.  
 
What does ISIS do?  They fight a bit and then pull out of town on the other side and vanish to fight another day.  
 
Oh, nascent military strategists, what’s wrong with this picture?  Could someone not have been bright enough to have thought to have bottled them up from all sides – and ended their fighting days altogether?
 
A lot of this type of lame ‘news’ makes me really suspicious.
 
Here’s one that goes way back:  Remember a long time ago, in 2001, when U.S. forces had gone into Afghanistan and were closing in on Osama bin Laden in the Tora Bora Caves of the White Mountains of Eastern Afghanistan?  Reports at the time said they had him ‘Bottled up’ with no escape.  Later, it was revealed that he had escaped into the tribal zones of western Pakistan.
 
How had this happened to the best and brightest of our military?   
 
Well, it came out later that the U.S. forces had let some of the local Afgani forces, who were fighting as allies of the U.S. military, into the plan.
 
Amazing!  Just damned amazing!   Think of all the fighting and dying that followed his escape – and we’d actually had him.
 
If the U.S. military had anyone on staff who understood Afghani culture, they would have known that tribal loyalties in Afghanistan cut far, far deeper than any loyalty that might be engendered by giving someone a rifle, a uniform and some pay for a few days.  
 
So, the locals who learned of the plan, communicated it to bin Laden’s folks and there you go … he was gone after all that cost, blood and effort to capture him.  And a lot of bad stuff followed on from that oversight.
 
So, where am I leading with all this cynicism?
 
Well, this is my suspicion, nasty as it may sound:
 
I think the folks in the U.S. who make such massive profits from war don’t mind if things run on for a bit.  After all, the money is made from conducting a war, not from ending it.
 
I think the folks in the U.S. who make such massive profits from war have been stung though in recent years by criticisms over how much they’ve spent and how little it has accomplished in the Middle-East.  
 
Every adventure they’ve lead into the Middle-East has left the area in even more turmoil.  And people are getting tired of it.  
 
The world is in worse and worse shape, the U.S. debt is climbing like crazy, the U.S. economy is struggling and we’ve poured billions of dollars into all of this – with very little to show for it.
 
I think the war industry folks have decided to hang back for awhile.   They have no doubt that they can crush ISIS when they need to – but they are in no hurry to proceed.
 
Let the killing and the atrocities continue.  Let the American people get really clear on just how bad ISIS really is.  
 
Let the perception grow that ISIS might get loose and begin attacking people anywhere out in the world.  Wait for the public to rethink its reservations about interventions in the Middle-East and then, when they are squeaking and scared, roll out the forces of truth, goodness and light and obliterate the bad guys.  
 
And, with such a build up and delay, the profits will be even better.

How Trade Deals Boost the Top 1% and Bust the Rest

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

by Robert Reich – Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley

Suppose that by enacting a particular law we’d increase the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. But almost all that growth would go to the richest 1 percent.

The rest of us could buy some products cheaper than before. But those gains would be offset by losses of jobs and wages.

This is pretty much what “free trade” has brought us over the last two decades.

I used to believe in trade agreements. That was before the wages of most Americans stagnated and a relative few at the top captured just about all the economic gains.

Recent trade agreements have been wins for big corporations and Wall Street, along with their executives and major shareholders. They get better access to foreign markets and billions of consumers.

They also get better protection for their intellectual property — patents, trademarks, and copyrights. And for their overseas factories, equipment, and financial assets.

But those deals haven’t been wins for most Americans.

The fact is, trade agreements are no longer really about trade. Worldwide tariffs are already low. Big American corporations no longer make many products in the United States for export abroad.

The biggest things big American corporations sell overseas are ideas, designs, franchises, brands, engineering solutions, instructions, and software.

Google, Apple, Uber, Facebook, Walmart, McDonalds, Microsoft, and Pfizer, for example, are making huge profits all over the world.

But those profits don’t depend on American labor — apart from a tiny group of managers, designers, and researchers in the U.S.

To the extent big American-based corporations any longer make stuff for export, they make most of it abroad and then export it from there, for sale all over the world — including for sale back here in the United States.

The Apple iPhone is assembled in China from components made in Japan, Singapore and a half-dozen other locales. The only things coming from the U.S. are designs and instructions from a handful of engineers and managers in California.

Apple even stows most of its profits outside the U.S. so it doesn’t have to pay American taxes on them.

This is why big American companies are less interested than they once were in opening other countries to goods exported from the United States and made by American workers.

They’re more interested in making sure other countries don’t run off with their patented designs and trademarks. Or restrict where they can put and shift their profits.

In fact, today’s “trade agreements” should really be called “global corporate agreements” because they’re mostly about protecting the assets and profits of these global corporations rather than increasing American jobs and wages. The deals don’t even guard against currency manipulation by other nations.

According to Economic Policy Institute, the North American Free Trade Act cost U.S. workers almost 700,000 jobs, thereby pushing down American wages.

Since the passage of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, America’s trade deficit with Korea has grown more than 80 percent, equivalent to a loss of more than 70,000 additional U.S. jobs.

Since China’s admission to the World Trade Organization, the U.S. goods trade deficit with China increased $23.9 billion (7.5 percent) to $342.6 billion. Again, the ultimate result has been to keep U.S. wages down.

The old-style trade agreements of the 1960s and 1970s increased worldwide demand for products made by American workers, and thereby helped push up American wages.

The new-style global corporate agreements mainly enhance corporate and financial profits, and push down wages.

That’s why big corporations and Wall Street are so enthusiastic about the upcoming Trans Pacific Partnership — the giant deal among countries responsible for 40 percent of the global economy.

That deal would give giant corporations even more patent protection overseas. It would also guard their overseas profits.

And it would allow them to challenge any nation’s health, safety and environmental laws that stand in the way of their profits — including our own.

The Administration calls the Trans Pacific Partnership a key part of its “strategy to make U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region a top priority.”

Translated: The White House thinks it will help the U.S. contain China’s power and influence.

But it will make giant U.S. global corporations even more powerful and influential.

White House strategists seem to think such corporations are accountable to the U.S. government. Wrong. At most, they’re answerable to their shareholders, who demand high share prices whatever that requires.

I’ve seen first-hand how effective Wall Street and big corporations are at wielding influence — using lobbyists, campaign donations, and subtle promises of future jobs to get the global deals they want.

Global deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership will boost the profits of Wall Street and big corporations, and make the richest 1 percent even richer.

But they’ll bust the rest of America.

– To the Original:  

 

 

Just a trio of stories from the passing river

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

– So, here are three stories that I’ve gleaned from the river of passing news just today.  

– For all of you who think things are just fine, you should pull yourself up out of whatever obsessive thing it is you are doing and smell the coffee.  The smell has changed, my friends, and its got a serious stink to it.

Story # 1 is about a man named Richard Berman who lobbies for the Oil Industry.

Secret oil industry strategies inadvertently revealed

small point to glean here: these folks do not care if they ruin the world.  They are unabashedly out to confuse and manipulate you so they can massively profit from oil sales in the near term.  And they do not care about you or the long term.

Story # 2 is about something called Asset Forfeiture.

Police Use Department Wish List When Deciding Which Assets to Seize

small point to glean here: you do not have to be found guilty for them to seize your assets.  And, if you are found innocent later, it will still cost you a bundle to get your stuff back – if you ever do.

Story # 3 is about a woman named Alayne Fleischmann.

Alayne Fleischmann exposes JPMorgan’s “massive criminal securities fraud”

small point to glean here: these folks committed bigger crimes than most of us can even conceive of.  And none of them – none – have gone to jail for it.

– You should read all three stories and reflect that there’s more and more of this stuff going on around you all the time.  And that at some point, it is going to get rude enough and personal enough that it is going to intrude into your little world.

– The rich are out to take what you have.  And the police, whom you might think should be protecting you, are out to take what you have as well, if they can.  

– You’re just like a little mouse down in a safe corner and the only reason you are still safe is because the dogs from hell haven’t discovered you yet

– If I dipped my foot in the river again, I’m sure I could come up with another three stories, or 10 or 20.  The water’s running deep and fast out there in the river of news and information but you really need to turn away from your TV screen to see it because they damn sure are not going to put the real news on your screen to warn you.  That screen is there to sedate you.

– That there are big and growing problems in your world is not going to be a recognition you are going to want to have late in the game.  Earlier is always better when you want to reposition yourself out of harm’s way.

– U.S. friends – don’t think any of this is real, that it won’t entangle you and yours or that it won’t actually amount to anything?

– No problem.  At least you won’t be getting in anyone else’s way when they have woken up and are bailing out.

– dennis

 

 

Pentagon: global warming will change how US military trains and goes to war

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

“The Pentagon was first instructed by Congress in 2007 to incorporate climate change into its long-term security planning.

But Republicans in Congress have gone on to block the military from preparing for a warmer future, cutting funds for intelligence gathering or testing low-carbon jet fuels.”

As I’ve said, the climate change nay-sayers no longer have to just sow doubt about the scientific consensus, now they have to confront the world’s militaries and insurance industries – both of which don’t care a fig about political spin.  And both of which who have to ‘get it right’ or their very missions or survival are on the line.

– dennis

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Global warming is changing the way the US trains for and goes to war – affecting war games, weapons systems, training exercises, and military installations – according to the Pentagon.

The defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, will tell a high-level meeting of military leaders on Monday that the Pentagon is undertaking sweeping changes to operation systems and installations to keep up with a growing threat of rising seas, droughts, and natural disasters caused by climate change.

“A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions,” Hagel wrote in his introduction to a Pentagon report out today. “We are considering the impacts of climate change in our war games and defence planning scenarios.”

The Pentagon’s strategic planners have for years viewed climate change as a “threat multiplier”– worsening old conflicts and potentially provoking new clashes over migration and shortages of food and water in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and opening up new military challenges in a melting Arctic.

But with Monday’s report, climate change moved from potential threat to an immediate factor in a wide range of operational and budgeting decisions.

“It makes it a reality that climate change indeed is a risk today, and we need to plan, programme and budget for it now and into the future,” said Sherri Goodman, chief executive of the military advisory board, a group of former generals and other high-ranking officers that studies US national security.

The report – unveiled at a meeting of more than 30 defence ministers from the Americas and Europe – also signalled US intention to take a lead role at international climate negotiations in Lima in December.

From now on, the military will factor climate change into a host of day-to-day decisions, a senior defence official told a conference call with reporters.

“It’s about being baked into things we are already doing, and incorporated into all the other things we are doing,” he said.

Those decisions could include war games, training exercises, and purchasing decisions – which could all be affected by conditions such as sea-level rise, heat waves, and drought.

War games scenarios would now factor in floods or storms instead of assuming optimal conditions, said Goodman. “You could make the game more complex with sea-level rise, and extreme weather events.”

She said the navy would have to test sonar and other systems under the changing ocean chemistry. The military will have to adapt to hotter temperatures.

One of the biggest and most costly decisions ahead is the location of some 7,000 US military sites.

As the report acknowledged, US military installations and personnel are already exposed to climate change. The Hampton Roads area in Virginia – which houses the biggest concentration of US forces – already floods during high tides and severe storms, and could see an additional 1.5 feet of sea level rise in the next 20 years.

Meanwhile, military bases in the south-west are coping with water and electricity shortages, under recurring droughts. Arctic land-based installations are shifting because of melting permafrost, while retreating sea ice is changing naval requirements.

The Pentagon is not planning a wholesale relocation of bases, the officials told the call. But they said the military was already bringing in sandbags and moving generators out of basements in low-lying areas. It was also shelving ideas for new construction on flood plains.

Other potential changes include cuts to outdoor training exercises – because of heat waves, or increased weapons maintenance costs and repairs because of heat and dust.

“As we think about changing weather patterns we have to think hard about where operations might be conducted and whether we need to change the assumptions about what kind of air breathing conditions … what kind of sea state we might expect in an operating environment, and what impact they might have.”

The report said troops could also be at greater risk of infectious diseases, which spread more rapidly in hotter temperatures.

Hagel in comments to reporters at the weekend said the Pentagon anticipated an increase in humanitarian missions, because of natural disasters and recurring famines.

He also said the Arctic presented a growing military challenge.

“We see an Arctic that is melting, meaning that most likely a new sea lane will emerge,” he said. “We know that there are significant minerals and natural deposits of oil and natural gas there. That means that nations will compete for those natural resources. That’s never been an issue before. You couldn’t get up there and get anything out of there. We have to manage through what those conditions and new realities are going to bring in the way of potential threats.”

The Pentagon was first instructed by Congress in 2007 to incorporate climate change into its long-term security planning.

But Republicans in Congress have gone on to block the military from preparing for a warmer future, cutting funds for intelligence gathering or testing low-carbon jet fuels.

Officials told the call that planning for the future would help bring down climate-related costs.

“There is a lot you can do to mitigate risk and lower the cost of risks if you acknowledge the risk exists,” the officials said.

– to the original:  

 

The free market is an impossible utopia

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

– This is one of the best things I’ve read in some time.  

– Will it be generally appealing?   I don’t think so.  

– Most of us just want simple understandings and good guys and bad guys.  We only need look around to see that sound bites predominate in the discussions among the average man.  

– Among these, I would include the “Free Marketeers“.   They want a world made of good guys and bad guys and a simple idealistic world in which entrepreneurs are absolutely free, where market economics solves all problems, and where all forms of government control simply withers away before the market’s profound self-balancing wisdom.

– This article says it cannot be so.

– dennis

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Article by Henry Farrell of The Washington Post about a book, The Power of Market FUNDAMENTALISM, by Fred Block and Margaret R. Somers:

Fred Block (research professor of sociology at University of California at Davis) and Margaret Somers (professor of sociology and history at the University of Michigan) have a new book, “The Power of Market Fundamentalism: Karl Polanyi’s Critique” (Harvard University Press, 2014). The book argues that the ideas of Karl Polanyi, the author of “The Great Transformation,” a classic of 20th century political economy, are crucial if you want to understand the recession and its aftermath. I asked the authors a series of questions.

HF – Your book argues for the continued relevance of Karl Polanyi’s work, especially “The Great Transformation.” What are the ideas at the core of Polanyi’s thought?

FB & MS – Polanyi’s core thesis is that there is no such thing as a free market; there never has been, nor can there ever be. Indeed he calls the very idea of an economy independent of government and political institutions a “stark utopia”—utopian because it is unrealizable, and the effort to bring it into being is doomed to fail and will inevitably produce dystopian consequences. While markets are necessary for any functioning economy, Polanyi argues that the attempt to create a market society is fundamentally threatening to human society and the common goodIn the first instance the market is simply one of many different social institutions; the second represents the effort to subject not just real commodities (computers and widgets) to market principles but virtually all of what makes social life possible, including clean air and water, education, health care, personal, legal, and social security, and the right to earn a livelihood. When these public goods and social necessities (what Polanyi calls “fictitious commodities”) are treated as if they are commodities produced for sale on the market, rather than protected rights, our social world is endangered and major crises will ensue.

Free market doctrine aims to liberate the economy from government “interference”, but Polanyi challenges the very idea that markets and governments are separate and autonomous entities. Government action is not some kind of “interference” in the autonomous sphere of economic activity; there simply is no economy without government rules and institutions. It is not just that society depends on roads, schools, a justice system, and other public goods that only government can provide. It is thatall of the key inputs into the economy—land, labor, and money—are only created and sustained through continuous government action. The employment system, the arrangements for buying and selling real estate, and the supplies of money and credit are organized and maintained through the exercise of government’s rules, regulations, and powers.

By claiming it is free-market advocates who are the true utopians, Polanyi helps explain the free market’s otherwise puzzlingly tenacious appeal: It embodies a perfectionist ideal of a world without “coercive” constraints on economic activities while it fiercely represses the fact that power and coercion are the unacknowledged features of all market participation.

– More…

A private E-Mail

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
– This is a private E-Mail I wrote recently which addresses ideas that I think we should all give some thought to.  It is an American-centric piece but it has implications for everyone.
– dennis
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There are things that benefit the population of the country broadly. This is, of course, the old idea about how a rising tide lifts all boats.  But there are also things that benefit a country disproportionately wherein the richest among us reap most of the benefits while the poorest reap virtually none.
Trade agreements negotiated in the past, with NAFTA being a good example, have promised at their outsets a lifting of everyone’s boats.  But in after-the-fact analyses, it’s been shown that such agreements have rarely lived up to their promises to benefit everyone.  And when there was benefit, it’s invariably been to the richest among us.

Indeed, if we look to see who the proponents of such trade agreements are, they not the average person on the street.  They are the corporate movers and shakers.  And they sell the idea to us on its supposed benefits for all of us while their actual motivations lie with those benefits that will accrue to them.

When Freddie questions my use of the word “inexplicable” as I’m discussing Obama’s apparent support for the TPPA, and when John responds to my concerns about the agreement by saying that if no other politician than Elizabeth Warren has deep concerns about it, then he’s comfortable with Obama’s handling of the issue, then I think I can intuit in both of their responses, an implicit assumption that Pres. Obama is truly a man who is doing the best he can and a man who’s working for the interests of all Americans equally.

And, in fact, I agree strongly with both of those statements.   Like Kael, I supported Obama’s candidacy in 2008 and I recall clearly having tears in my eyes when he won and feeling that some of the promise of America was still existent when such a thing could happen.

And I also get that Pres. Obama is indeed facing a hostile Congress and that he has to balance the spending of his political capital in such a way as to get as to get what he can given the situation he’s facing.

I get all of that. my friends.

But it seems weak tea to me and I’ll tell you why.
You see, my cynicism has grown since those heady election days and little of my new cynicism actually has to do with our President.
It has to do with the recognition that perhaps, while the Conservatives wanted very much to win the Presidency in 2008 to make their task easier, they didn’t consider it absolutely essential because they knew that they’d already usurped the system at deeper levels than any popularly elected President actually could interfere with.

We all know that the best interests of the American people are decisively not being served by the ongoing regulatory capture of United States legislative processes by big money.

And you will have all seen articles in the popular press in these last months stating that there is a growing perception that the United States is losing the ability to call itself a democracy because it’s legislative processes are ever more beholding to big money. These articles are saying that the country is evolving into an oligarchy or a plutocracy.   I don’t think these articles are spurious and sensationalistic.  Some of them have their roots in considered academic research.

For a country that sees itself as a beacon of personal freedom and an icon of democracy, this is deadly stuff indeed.

And it is not a new thing.
I can show you quotes from Napoleon – who was disparaging the bankers of his day:
“When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes… Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.
 
– Napoleon Bonaparte – 1815
And I can show you quotes from Theodore Roosevelt who was taking the financiers of his day to task:
 
Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.
 
– Theodore Roosevelt
and I know I don’t need to quote to you the remarks made by Pres. Eisenhower talking about the military-industrial complex in the 1950’s. 
 
The interference of big money in our political process is not a new thing.
Like all things it goes in cycles, sometimes better and sometimes worse. We are in a particularly bad period now

In our time,  corporations have become people.  The limits on corporations donating money to political campaigns has almost no limits.   And (I note with a nod to the process Freddie described to us) how laws are made now through a series of competing submissions from lobbyists on both sides of an issue to the legislative staff who then make quick judgments about which side they favor more and then move onto the next thing.

The days of our legislators carefully crafting laws designed to benefit the American people in general are gone.

The days of one-man-one-vote, in terms of influence, are gone.
The days in which popular elections actually decided the larger directions of the country also appear to me to be gone.

None of these facts can be lost on Pres. Obama.  Nor on anyone else who’s a keen observer of the American political process.

So, when I hear that President Obama is doing the best he can and that he is conserving his political capital in order to use it in the most effectively manner possible to eke out a few small victories here and there against the rising tide of corporate and big money domination, I wonder just what he’s optimizing and what it is he thinks he is conserving?

President Obama is in his second term now so he has no more election prospects ahead of him. And, if he’s conserving his political capital in order to benefit future office holders, then I have to wonder at the wisdom of that.  Because if they too conserve their political capital to benefit the office holders that come after them, and so on, then I just see a chain of delaying tactics which are certain to lose in the end.

When Freddie questioned my use of the word inexplicable”, he was asking me what do I really want to see happen?  He was asking if I have a better idea than what’s actually going on now?

Well, I do.

When playing by the rule book no longer works and you can see that the long-term trend is ever more losses, then it’s time for a new rule book.
Here are two examples of new thinking:

This is something that occurred on TV in 2011 that I thought was especially telling when I saw it. The news anchor lost his temper at the folks he was interviewing from the Democratic and Republican parties; both of whom were urging short-term solutions that were for their own party’s benefit in its battle against the other and without much if any thought to the long-term consequences to and needs of the country.

And here’s another article that appeared in the Nation magazine recently in which an activist calls for us to completely throw over the idea of “Earth Day” and get on with something more radical because, as he says, the green ethic, the working within the system, the let’s-all-recycle-together, ideology is simply not working and it’s time we recognize the deep and profound truth of this fact.  As a strategy to effect significant change to improve our ecological future, it has been a huge failure.
I resonated deeply with both of these examples.   I too am tired of strategies that doesn’t work, of analyses that should convince reasonable people that we have deep systemic problems, but which seemingly convince no one.

So what do I want?

I want the president, who’s in his second term and has little to lose, to come out and state the bald faced truth using the unmatchable bully pulpit he has access to.
I want him to do this point-blank for the future of America, for the future of the world and for the future of our children.

If he is truly for all Americans equally, and I actually believe he is, then he needs to realize that coming out and using his unparalleled access to the global media to reach people is the strongest lever he has to wake us up to the sad truth of what is happening to us.

His waffling around now preserving his political capital and eking out a few small victories here and there is a game of slow defense that is sure to only delay the ultimate outcome and leave the real issues in the shadows.   

 
His not stating the truths that are crying to be spoken boldly, the truths that deserve to be discussed over every dinner table in America, is to me a failure on his part to realize where his real leverage lies and how great the need is to break strongly with the business-as-usual way of doing things in favor of disrupting the current “let’s not talk about the real substantive issues” approach.
His trying to do things like balance off the recognition of impending long-term environmental disasters for burning more carbon against the short-term jobs that the keystone pipeline might bring to the public is, in my opinion, a failure to recognize that this is his moment to make real history.  To make history that will be remembered far into the future.
If there are still people around in the future to write the history of these times, and I think there will be, they will see us as having deluded ourselves about the problems facing us.  They will see us as having fiddled while Rome burned.
Who among us has the pulpit he has available?  Who has the credibility available and has the time he has remaining in office to speak truth to power and to call into the light all that is hidden in the shadows?
I’m speaking of the deep corruption of the legislative processes by money, the revolving door system between industry jobs and government regulators, the Teflon power of Wall Street that is, incredibly, too-big-to-fail.  The rise of corporations to citizen hood and the loosening of corporate purses to legally buy elections?

Like Roosevelt and Eisenhower before him he needs to stand up and say the truth.  Call it what it is.  And make a huge clamor about it.  Even if it brings the country into an enormous state of agitation.   

 
Because I will tell you, my friends, that the amount of agitation he might cause now will be well worth it if it results in significant reforms.  And if he does not act or if he acts and gets no result, then any agitation generated will pale before the other destinies that await us.

To quote Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night.

We are living in a world where most of the major economic systems we have employed, are based on the need for constant growth in order to retain their health.   How mathematical does one have to be to see that this is a completely incompatible idea with the simple fact that we are living on the planet of finite size.

There’s a truth that Should be stated as baldly as possible before the global populace because we as a species need to make some choices about it or we are going to suffer terribly.

The influence of money on the American political process is completely corrosive to the ideas of one-man-one-vote, to the idea of having a truly representative Democracy, to the idea that our legislators should be chosen by the people they are to represent and not by money focused to prejudice the outcome.

That’s the truth that should be shouted from every house top.  And who better than this president in his second term with the good reputation that he has and with the finest pulpit in the world at his disposal?

What are he and those like him waiting for? Do they assume that some future president will have a better pulpit?  Now is the time if ever!

So when I see half measures, when I see waffling about the keystone pipeline, when I see mixed signals coming out about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, then yes I’m deeply concerned that even this president, whom I highly respect, hasn’t realized the position he’s in and the possibilities open to him to use his position to try to affect some real change in America and in the world.  To at least try to create a conversation around every dinner table in America about the real issues.

But, to be skeptical for a moment, I suspected decades ago, when both of the Kennedy brothers were killed, that they were killed because they were not beholding to the existing political machinery of the time.  That they were considered to be loose cannons, to be too much of a danger to the existing order to be allowed to continue.

So, perhaps people like Obama know this and they know their limits.  That they know that even though they hold the title of President of United States, they still have a very small range of motion within which they can move safely.

I’ve said this next bit before.
My prognosis for the United States, if nothing significant changes, is that it is moving either towards a revolution or towards becoming a police state.

The stories that matter are not being reported in the American media because they’re owned by large business.   If you cannot see this, it is because you don’t miss what you never had.  Make an effort to read the world’s press to see how it all looks from the outside and give up the idea that the foreign press is just distorting everything from some misguided notion of hating America

The reasons why America goes to war are always touted to be for the dignity and freedom of foreign people.  But many of us realize that the real driving force behind the reason America goes to war is the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about.

These are large and very difficult truths.

There are many large and difficult truths lying about our feet and there have been such for sometime now.

The gathering of wealth by the 1%, the lessening buying power of the average American working man since the mid-70s, the capturing of the legislative process by big money, the dumbing down of America news reporting, and a whole host of other things are plagues on the American democracy – formerly such a bright spot in a dismal world history.

Those who would keep things the way they are are doing so because of their own profit motives. They sow disinformation into the media sphere to confuse the public.   They say there is no global climate change.  There is no military industrial complex. America is the moral policeman of the world,   Carbon fuels are not a problem.  The oceans are not rising.  The trade agreements being contemplated between the U.S. and Europe and the U.S. and the Pacific nations are simply about opening free trade.  American medicine and medical care is the best in the world.  Social Democracies are economic failures.  The NSA and the CIA are simply developing their intelligence assets to protect American interests against foreign threats.  Congress is not controlled by big money.  The American justice system is equally fair to people of all levels of affluence.

When I look at blog entries on the Internet and then read all the commentary that follows the articles, I find that there’s always a firestorm between liberal and conservative ideas.  Those people, for the most part, are convinced that they are fighting over the issues that matter.  When, in fact, they are all deluded.  The real systemic ills of America are seldom articulated there.

The issues they squabble over are illusions.  Because long-ago people at a higher level who are much smarter than the average bear realized how to undercut the entire process of politics in America and they grabbed the levers and gears of what actually controls things.
<10313061_10152069949762688_1434304502425871861_n.jpg>It is in their best interest that the American public continues to believe they’re engaged in debates that have meaning.  Debates about gun-control, debates about religion, debates about patriotism, debates about everything and anything but the things that really matter. I.e., who has really got the power?

In all of this enormous mess there are very few remaining people who actually have the power to be able to speak to the American public about it through the media without being filtered.

Pres. Obama is one of the very few who might be able to do this.   So, Freddie that is what I would like to have happen.

The direction America is headed in is not going to be changed by half measures nor by the conservation of political capital. They’re only going to be changed by serious and radical actions.

After a lifetime of working to achieve his goals, Pres. Obama has finally arrived at the pinnacle of American politics system.

If anyone is to speak out, he’s the one to speak, he’s the one to tell us the truth – to show us what’s behind the curtains.  He’s the one hope we have that things are not just going to go on and on into disaster.
 
So yes, I am disappointed in President Obama.  I think he, potentially, is one of the few bright hopes we have left for real change.  But he won’t realize it by waffling his bets.  
 
It’s time, as the writer who advocated dropping Earth Day implied, to drop all pretenses of being polite and to drop staying between the lines.  We are way past the 11th hour and midnight approaches.

 

Let This Earth Day Be The Last

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Strong words, these.  But my own frustrations with all that is not happening run deep as well.   When you can see that the car is being driven in the wrong direction and you can see that things are going to work out badly, how long should you persist in politely asking the driver to turn?  

Until you are financially at risk?  Until your health is at risk?  Until your life and the lives of your children are at risk?

– There have to be limits.

-dennis

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“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle.” 
—Frederick Douglass, 1857

Fuck Earth Day.

No, really. Fuck Earth Day. Not the first one, forty-four years ago, the one of sepia-hued nostalgia, but everything the day has since come to be: the darkest, cruelest, most brutally self-satirizing spectacle of the year.

Fuck it. Let it end here.

End the dishonesty, the deception. Stop lying to yourselves, and to your children. Stop pretending that the crisis can be “solved,” that the planet can be “saved,” that business more-or-less as usual—what progressives and environmentalists have been doing for forty-odd years and more—is morally or intellectually tenable. Let go of the pretense that “environmentalism” as we know it—virtuous green consumerism, affluent low-carbon localism, head-in-the-sand conservationism, feel-good greenwashed capitalism—comes anywhere near the radical response our situation requires.

So, yeah, I’ve had it with Earth Day—and the culture of progressive green denial it represents.

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But why Frederick Douglass? Why bring him into this? And who am I to invoke him—a man who was born a slave and who freed himself from slavery, who knew something about struggle, whose words were among the most radical ever spoken on American soil? Who the hell am I? I’ve never suffered racial or any other kind of oppression. I’ve never had to fight for any fundamental rights. I’m not even a radical, really. (Nor am I an “environmentalist”—and never have been.) All I want is a livable world, and the possibility of social justice. So who am I to quote Frederick Douglass?

Let me tell you who I am: I’m a human being. I’m the father of two young children, a 14-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, who face a deeply uncertain future on this planet. I’m a husband, a son, a brother—and a citizen. And, yes, I’m a journalist, and I’m an activist. And like more and more of us who are fighting for climate justice, I am engaged in a struggle—a struggle—for the fate of humanity and of life on Earth. Not a polite debate around the dinner table, or in a classroom, or an editorial meeting—or an Earth Day picnic. I’m talking about a struggle. A struggle for justice on a global scale. A struggle for human dignity and human rights for my fellow human beings, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable, far and near. A struggle for my own children’s future—but not only my children, all of our children, everywhere. A life-and-death struggle for the survival of all that I love. Because that is what the climate fight and the fight for climate justice is. That’s what it is.

Because, I’m sorry, this is not a test. This is really happening. The Arctic and the glaciers are melting. The great forests are dying and burning. The oceans are rising and acidifying. The storms, the floods—the droughts and heat waves—are intensifying. The breadbaskets are parched and drying. And all of it faster and sooner than scientists predicted. The window in which to act is closing before our eyes.

Any discussion of the situation must begin by acknowledging the science and the sheer lateness of the hour—that the chance for any smooth, gradual transition has passed, that without radical change the kind of livable and just future we all want is simply inconceivable. The international community has, of course, committed to keeping the global temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above the preindustrial average—the level, we’re told, at which “catastrophic” warming can still be avoided (we’ve already raised it almost one degree, with still more “baked in” within coming decades). But there’s good reason to believe that a rise of two degrees will lead to catastrophic consequences. And of course, what’s “catastrophic” depends on where you live, and how poor you are, and more often than not the color of your skin. If you’re one of the billions of people who live in the poorest and most vulnerable places—from Bangladesh to Louisiana—even 1 degree can mean catastrophe.

But the world’s climate scientists and leading energy experts are telling us that unless the major economies drastically and immediately change course—leaving all but a small fraction of fossil fuel reserves in the ground over the next four decades—we are headed for a temperature rise of four or five or even six degrees C within this century. The World Bank haswarned that four degrees “must be avoided.” But we’re not avoiding it. Global emissions are still rising each year. We’re plunging headlong toward the worst-case scenarios—critical global food and water shortages, rapid sea-level rise, social upheaval—and beyond.

The question is not whether we’re going to “stop” global warming, or “solve” the climate crisis; it is whether humanity will act quickly and decisively enough now to save civilization itself—in any form worth saving. Whether any kind of stable, humane and just future—any kind of just society—is still possible.

We know that if the governments of the world actually wanted to address this situation in a serious way, they could. Indeed, a select few, such as Germany, have begun to do so. It can be done—and at relatively low cost. And yet the fossil-fuel industry, and those who do its bidding, have been engaged in a successful decades-long effort to sow confusion, doubt and opposition—and to obstruct any serious policies that might slow the warming, or their profits, and buy us time.

As I’ve said elsewhere, let’s be clear about what this means: at this late date, given what we know and have known for decades, to willfully obstruct any serious response to global warming is to knowingly allow entire countries and cultures to disappear. It is to rob the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet of their land, their homes, their livelihoods, even their lives and their children’s lives—and their children’s children’s lives. For money. For political power.

These are crimes. They are crimes against the Earth, and they are crimes against humanity.

What, are you shocked? The same industry, the same people committing these crimes—while we subsidize them for their trouble—have been getting away with murder along the fence lines and front lines for generations.

What is the proper response to this? How should I respond?

Remain calm, we’re told. No “scare tactics” or “hysterics,” please. Cooler heads will prevail. Enjoy the Earth Day festivities.

Fuck that.

The cooler heads have not prevailed. It’s been a quarter-century since the alarm was sounded. The cooler heads have failed.

You want sweet, cool-headed reason?

How about this? Masses of people—most of them young, a generation with little or nothing to lose—physically, nonviolently disrupting the fossil-fuel industry and the institutions that support it and abet it. Getting in the way of business as usual. Forcing the issue. Finally acting as though we accept what the science is telling us.

Um, isn’t that a bit extreme? you ask.

Really? You want extreme? Business as usual is extreme. Just ask a climate scientist. The building is burning. The innocents—the poor, the oppressed, the children, your own children—are inside. And the American petro state is spraying fuel, not water, on the flames. That’s more than extreme. It’s homicidal. It’s psychopathic. It’s fucking insane.

* * *

Coming to grips with the climate crisis is hard. A friend of mine says it’s like walking around with a knife in your chest. I couldn’t agree more.

So I ask again, in the face of this situation, how does one respond? Many of us, rather than retreat into various forms of denial and fatalism, have reached the conclusion that somethingmore than “environmentalism” is called for, and that a new kind of movement is the only option. That the only thing, at this late hour, offering any chance of averting an unthinkable future—and of getting through the crisis that’s already upon us—is the kind of radical social and political movement that has altered the course of history in the past. A movement far less like contemporary environmentalism and far more like the radical human rights, social justice and liberation struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Does that sound hopelessly naïve to you? Trust me, I get it. I know. I know how it sounds.

And yet here I am. Because I also know that abolishing slavery sounded hopeless and naïve in 1857, when Frederick Douglass spoke of struggle.

What I’m talking about is not a fight to “solve the climate crisis.” That’s not possible anymore. But neither is it simply a fight for human survival—because there are oppressive and dystopian forms of survival, not to mention narcissistic ones, that aren’t worth fighting for.

What I’m talking about is both a fight for survival and a fight for justice—for even the possibility of justice. It’s a fight that transcends environmentalism. It requires something of us beyond the usual politics and proposals, the usual pieties. It requires the kind of commitment you find in radical movements—the kind of struggles, from abolition to women’s, labor and civil rights, that have made possible what was previously unimaginable.

Because our global crisis—not merely environmental but moral and spiritual—is fundamental: it strikes to the root of who we are. It’s a radical situation, requiring a radical response. Not merely radical in the sense of ideology, but a kind of radical necessity. It requires us to find out who we really are—and, nonviolently, in the steps of Gandhi and King and many others, to act. In some cases, to lay everything—everything—on the line.

And it requires us to be honest, with one another and with ourselves, about the situation we face. We’ll never have a movement radical enough, or humane enough, until we are.

That is, until Earth Day is buried—and a day of reckoning begins.

– To the original article:  

America Is Declining at the Same Warp Speed That’s Minting Billionaires and Destroying the Middle Class

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Not a single U.S. city ranks among the world’s most livable cities

“The game is rigged,” writes Senator Elizabeth Warren in her new book A Fighting Chance. It’s rigged because the rich and their lobbyists have rigged the rules of the game to their favor. The rules are reflected in a tax code and bankruptcy laws that have seen the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich in U.S. history.

The result?

America has the most billionaires in the world, but not a single U.S. city ranks among the world’s most livable cities. Not a single U.S. airport is among the top 100 airports in the world. Our bridges, roads and rails are falling apart, and our middle class is being gutted out thanks to three decades of stagnant wages, while the top 1 percent enjoys 95 percent of all economic gains.

A rigged tax code and a bloated military budget are starving the federal and state governments of the revenue it needs to invest in infrastructure, which means today America looks increasingly like a Third World nation, and now new data shows America’s intellectual resources are also in decline.

For the past three decades, the Republican Party has waged a dangerous assault on the very idea of public education. Tax cuts for the rich have been balanced with spending cuts to education. During the New Deal era of the 1940s to 1970s, public schools were the great leveler of America. They were our great achievement. It was universal education for all, but today it’s education for those fortunate enough to be born into wealthy families or live in wealthy school districts. The right’s strategy of defunding public education leaves parents with the option of sending their kids to a for-profit school or a theological school that teaches kids our ancestors kept dinosaurs as pets.

“What kind of future society the defectors from the public school rolls envision I cannot say. However, having spent some time in the Democratic Republic of Congo—a war-torn hellhole with one of those much coveted limited central governments, and, not coincidentally, a country in which fewer than half the school-age population goes to public school—I can say with certainty that I don’t want to live there,” writes Chuck Thompson in Better off Without Em.

Comparisons with the Democratic Republic of Congo are not that far-fetched given the results of a recent report by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is the first comprehensive survey of the skills adults need to work in today’s world, in literacy, numeracy and technology proficiency. The results are terrifying. According to the report, 36 million American adults have low skills.

It gets worse. In two of the three categories tested, numeracy and technological proficiency, young Americans who are on the cusp of entering the workforce—ages 16 to 24—rank dead last, and is third from the bottom in numeracy for 16- to 65-year-olds.

The United States has a wide gap between its best performers and its worst performers. And it had the widest gap in scores between people with rich, educated parents and poor, undereducated parents, which is exactly what Third World countries look like, i.e. a highly educated super class at the top and a highly undereducated underclass at the bottom, with very little in the middle.

The report shows a relationship between inequalities in skills and inequality in income. “How literacy skills are distributed across a population also has significant implications on how economic and social outcomes are distributed within the society. If large proportions of adults have low reading and numeracy skills, introducing and disseminating productivity-improving technologies and work-organization practices can be hampered; that, in turn, will stall improvements in living standards,” write the authors of the report.

– To the Original article: