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Main Table of Contents.
John Scales Avery, Dr. T. Ashok Chakravarthy, John Chuckman, Countercurrents Staff (3), Michael Doliner, Margaret Flowers, Richard Gale, Luis Garcia, Dr Andrew Glikson, Ghali Hassan, Chris Hedges, Richard Heinberg, Bill Henderson, Jay Janson, Giorgos Kallis, Dr Binoy Kampmark, Dr Arshad M Khan, Robert Koehler, David Korten, Patrick Lawrence, Alfred W McCoy, Bill McKibben, Mary Metzge, Peter Phillips, Amir Nour, Gary Null, Vijay Prashad, Moin Qazi, Andy Rowell, Rozali, Stephanie Savell, Andre Vltchek, Eric Zuesse (3).
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|March 1, 2019||
Dollar Hegemony, Again
by Michael Doliner, InformationClearing House
March 01, 2019 "Information Clearing House" - The United States Entity lost the war in Iraq. That fact determines the Entity’s position in the Middle East today. After having destroyed Saddam’s army and dispossessing the Sunnis in favor of the Shi’ites, after Abu Ghraib and it’s indelible pictures, after the total destruction of Fallujah, in short after a victory achieved with the utmost brutality, contempt and humiliation of Iraq and Iraqis, the Entity was in charge. Then the “insurgents” appeared. They put improvised explosive devices along the roads so, with a phone call, they could destroy patrols of the Entity. They made car bombs so that every vehicle approaching a check-point might spell doom. They donned suicide vests to blow themselves and any nearby Entity soldiers up. Entity soldiers couldn’t go into the streets. Every move they made could be their last. The enemy was everywhere and nowhere. These people would rather die then be ruled by these idiotic mechanized barbarians. Everything seemed peaceful, but at any moment, out of nowhere, they could be blown to pieces. That kind of thing wears on you. Their patrols, pointless bouts of Russian roulette, ended up as parked “search and avoid” missions. Life went on without the clanking monsters. Entity bases were like Kaposi sarcoma in AIDS patients. The Entity’s attempts at reconstruction were comically inept – roads to nowhere and chicken processing plants for chickens no one wanted. In short the Entity’s occupation of Iraq after the victory, other than being a disaster of comical incompetence, was non-existent. Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shi’ite cleric, had much more power than the Entity. Eventually Iraq rejected the Entity’s status of forces agreement (SOFA). In other words the Iraqi puppets the Entity had installed unceremoniously kicked the Entity out of the country.
Until that time the Entity had been running a protection racket in the Middle East. But after the loss of Iraq these threats seemed a lot less plausible. The game was: oil had to be sold in dollars. Know as Dollar Hegemony, this racket allowed the Entity to print money. Oil backed the dollar just as gold once had. Governments had to maintain large supplies of dollars to protect against “emergencies,” that is, dollar shortages during speculative attacks on their currencies. “To prevent speculative and manipulative attacks on their currencies, the world’s central banks must acquire and hold dollar reserves in corresponding amounts to their currencies in circulation.” The Entity enforced dollar hegemony with military threats. One of the most important reasons for the Entity’s attack on Iraq was Saddam’s abandoning of dollar hegemony. He had begun to sell oil in euros. The Entity had to stop that. It invaded, and as soon as it was victorious, reversed that policy. Dollar hegemony restored. But the loss in Iraq revealed The Entity’s protection racket as a bluff. It’s threats were suddenly unconvincing.
Pressed by Entity sanctions, Iran began to sell oil for other currencies after 2007. The Entity was not going to invade Iran! A look at the map reveals just what a catastrophe that would be. As soon as hostilities started, even before a shot was fired, no one would insure tankers going through the Straits of Hormuz, and the tanker owners would not send them through without insurance. Twenty percent of the world’s supply of oil would disappear with no more military action than the commencement of hostilities. The world economy would tank, and this time fall into chaos. There was no way the Entity could even think about occupying Iran after the debacle in Iraq. And there was no way to protect The Entity fleet in Bahrain. They would be sitting ducks anywhere in the Persian Gulf. If they were destroyed the Entity would lose unless it launched nuclear weapons. World War III would be on. Only madmen would even consider doing this.
The Entity had abused dollar hegemony over the years by simply printing dollars. The Entity ran huge trade deficits every year. China, Japan and all other countries had had to keep reserves of dollars if they were to purchase oil and protect their currencies. These were like never- having-to-be-repaid loans to the Entity. If other currencies could be used they would dump these reserves because the only thing preventing inflation of these dollars had been dollar hegemony, backing the dollar with oil. Iran doing business in non-dollar currencies is like a leak in a dike.
Russia, China, India and Japan are now unloading dollars carefully, so as not to cause a panic. But they are steadily unloading them. They see dollar hegemony disappearing. Naturally, Saudi Arabia sees what is happening, and is not that enamored of the dollar either. As long as they thought the Entity protected them from Iran and, of course, from the Entity itself, they went along with it. Now the Entity is impotent to enforce dollar hegemony. The dollars the Saudis take for their oil today will be worth a whole lot less tomorrow if dollar hegemony ends. They are wavering, especially after Trump scolded them for murdering Kashoggi. Naughty, naughty MBS. They know the Entity cannot protect them from Iran, and they are panicking.
The Entity’s hive mind, for it’s part, refuses to accept the Iraq failure as having revealed its weakness. It still wants to maintain dollar hegemony and its protection racket. The end of dollar hegemony is an existential threat to The Entity. Originally The Entity exchanged securities for these dollars, one piece of paper for another, or more likely bits of code, with the Federal Reserve. Then it spent them, mostly on the military. The Federal Reserve unloaded these dollar-denominated securities to whoever had faith in the dollars they could exchange them for. Nice work if you can get it, but securities are debt. The Entity is so far in debt that it pays almost a trillion dollars in debt service annually. To do so it needs more dollars and to sell more securities. Faith in this Ponzi scheme might waver. If everyone unloads dollar securities the entity will have to print more dollars, and sell more securities to buy them. Otherwise their price will crash. But what real something or other will these dollars buy given how many will be floating around? For there will be no other buyers unless the dollars can buy something real. The Securities will then be worthless. If Entity securities become worthless so will the dollar. Bye-bye Entity.
The hive-mind’s strategy is to simply deny what has happened, the ostrich maneuver. The Entity didn’t lose in Iraq, it hasn’t as a consequence lost all credibility in the Middle East, dollar hegemony is salvageable, and the Entity might still attack Iran after all. The continuation of dollar hegemony requires a world in which Humpty-Dumpty gets back together.
If only Iran could be put back in the box of dollar hegemony all would go back to what it was. In 2012 the Entity blocked Iran from the SWIFT messaging system for making international payments as punishment for straying from dollar hegemony, the first time that system had ever been used politically. It froze Iranian funds and the trust required for international banking was destroyed. However, Iran continued on its wayward path. Now the Entity withdraws from the JAPOCA, which was very beneficial to all other signers. Obedience to the Entity’s sanctions against Iran is bringing the interests of much of Europe into conflict with those of the Entity.
Without dollar hegemony the dollar will hyper-inflate and destroy the Entity. To restore dollar hegemony it was thought essential that Iran return to the dollar hegemony fold. Why then did Obama sign the treaty with Iran, the JAPOCA? Obama signed the Iran Treaty because of Hassan Rouhani and his party. Rouhani, as President of Iran, was a “moderate” and he had succeeded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the notorious hardliner who refused to even negotiate with the Entity. Ahmadinejad had called directly for the end of dollar hegemony. Rouhani won by arguing that he could relieve Entity sanctions on Iran through negotiations. Obama must have hoped that Rouhani could restore Iran to the dollar-hegemony fold. Perhaps a little coup d’état. He was, Obama must have hoped, our man in Tehran. The JAPOCA, which would relieve Iran of some sanctions, would prove to Iran that going along with Entity wishes, in particular dollar hegemony, was good for them. Rouhani was the guy who promised good things for Iran from a rapprochement with the Entity. Without the successful negotiation of the JAPOCA, Rouhani would fail.
The actual contents of the Iran deal, with its various detailed restrictions on Iranian nuclear research and enrichment of Uranium, was a drawn-out shadow play. In the end, Obama demanded only what Rouhani could give. Neocons in the shadows complained that he gave too much, as has Trump. Ahmadinejad, on the Iranian side, said it wouldn’t work, and complained that Iran got too little. In any case it was all a shadow play. Iran had no program to develop nuclear weapons. American Intelligence Agencies all agreed that it had been abandoned in 2003. Actually, it had never existed. Nevertheless, the two sides hammered out various conditions, dragged out the negotiations interminably, and carefully crafted the agreement to be acceptable to both sides. All of this was to present an appearance that would strengthen Rouhani and protect Obama’s rear. Only the lifting of some Entity sanctions was real. That was Rouhani’s win, and in return Rouhani would, Obama hoped, return Iran to the fold or at least “pave the way.”
But Rouhani would not or could not do any such thing. Although he did want to open Iran to the West, he would not restore dollar hegemony. When Rouhani did not do what the Entity hoped, it abandoned him and with him the JAPOCA, which Obama signed only to prop him up. That was the end of any hope for a Ukraine style regime change in Iran. At that point the Entity had to reestablish itself as the bully of the Middle East, which meant it had to threaten to attack Iran. Otherwise even Saudi Arabia, mortally afraid of Iran, wavering on dollar hegemony, and no longer believing in Entity protection, might itself abandon dollar hegemony. That would be curtains.
The Entity, unable to face the truth, pretended its position in the Middle East had not changed. It had to punish misbehavior. Withdrawal from the JAPOCA was the first step, even though everyone admitted that Iran had not breached the agreement. Withdrawal from a signed agreement made the Entity no longer “agreement capable”, as Putin commented, for no one could trust its word. Trump’s blathering about a new agreement was nonsense. Diplomacy, for the Entity, is henceforth “off the table.” Europe’s slavish obedience to the Entity exposed its governments as puppets of the Entity to the benefit of the rising pan-European nationalist sentiment hostile to Entity hegemony. The Entity had to reignite its threats against Iran. But this just revived Obama’s dilemma, for the Entity cannot attack Iran without igniting WWIII.
With the credibility the Entity had had while it pretended to be the United States gone, and attacking Iran impossible for any sane entity, Trump is left with only one option if he is to maintain dollar hegemony: to go insane. The only alternative to going insane is to not attack Iran, allow dollar hegemony to dissipate (as is inevitable anyway), and so end The Entity– for the debt accrued through dollar hegemony is unpayable, except in hyperinflated dollars.
This article was originally published by " - Counterpunch" -
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|March 4, 2019||
ItWas Kim That Walked Away.
by Patrick Lawrence, InformationClearing House
There are two sides to the story about why the second North Korea peace summit fell apart last week, writes Patrick Lawrence.
By Patrick Lawrence
The abrupt and unexpected failure of the second Trump–Kim summit last week raises many questions. Let’s get one out of the way before addressing the others: No, the collapse of talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, does not scuttle the most promising chance for peace on the Korean Peninsula since the 1953 signing of the armistice ending the Korean War. There is more to come. This was plain within hours of the summit’s end.
At this point it’s still difficult to discern even what transpired between the two leaders. The U.S. and North Korean accounts of the proceedings in Hanoi are widely at variance on key points. With history in view, it is very likely that the North Korean version comes closer to the truth than what the Trump administration is putting out and what the U.S. press is dutifully reporting.
By Trump’s account, Kim agreed to dismantle his most important nuclear production facility, at Yongbyon, roughly 60 miles north of Pyongyang. In exchange, Kim asked for all sanctions now in force against North Korea—some passed at the UN, others imposed by Washington alone—to be lifted.
Here is Trump talking to correspondents after the bust-up Thursday morning:
The “large portion” Trump mentioned is Yongbyon: There is no dispute about this. Pyongyang has shut down the reactor at Yongbyon twice in the past, in 1994 and in 2007. In 2008 Kim Jong-il, the reigning Kim’s father, ordered the cooling tower at Yongbyon demolished—a televised event many readers will remember. The site was reactivated in succeeding years following a series of multi-sided talks that went nowhere.
The “area we wanted” appears to refer to an alleged nuclear facility at Kangson, also near the North Korean capital. What the North actually does at Kangson has never been verified, but it was one of a number of sites the U.S. side also insisted Pyongyang close.
Translation of the U.S. version of events in Hanoi: Kim offered us only one item on our list while demanding we give him everything he wanted. Who could possibly agree to such a deal?
North Korean officials tell a different story. After Trump offered his post-summit description of events, the North’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, gave his own press conference; a rarity among North Korean officials. Kim had agreed to shutter the North’s main nuclear facility, by Ri’s account, if the U.S. consented to lift only the five sets of sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council in 2016 and 2017.
Unlike restrictions on weapons and nuclear-related equipment, these covered entire export sectors, including minerals, metals, coal, agriculture and seafood. These, Ri said, were the measures that directly hurt the lives and livelihoods of ordinary North Koreans. Layer upon layer of other sanctions would remain in effect.
Translation of the North Korean position in Hanoi: We will take a considerable step toward denuclearization providing you take one of corresponding magnitude. Now the question changes: What exactly is wrong with such a deal?
You have to go back to Trump’s early months in office to understand what appears to have transpired in Hanoi. The administration’s initial position was simple but ridiculous: The North had to completely disarm before Washington would even begin talks.
Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author, and lecturer. His most recent book is “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” (Yale). Follow him @thefloutist. His web site is www.patricklawrence.us . Support his work via www.patreon.com/thefloutist .
This article was originally published by " Consortium News" -
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|February 18, 2019||
Why Does the United States of America Want to Overthrow the Government of Venezuela?
by Vijay Prashad, in World, Countercurrents.org
Since 1998, the United States of America has tried to overthrow the government of Venezuela. What threatened the government of the United States since then was the Bolivarian dynamic set in motion by the election of Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela that year. Chávez won the elections with a mandate from Venezuela’s workers and poor to overhaul the country to tend to their long-neglected needs.
Venezuela, with the world’s largest proven oil reserves, had enriched the U.S.-based oil companies and its own oligarchy. Venezuela’s key oil minister in the early 1960s (and architect of OPEC—the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso rightly called oil the “devil’s excrement.” It promised so much and delivered so little. Chávez arrived as the embodiment of popular hope. He threatened the oil companies and the oligarchy, which is why the United States tried to overthrow him.
The first attempt at a coup came in 2002, when the United States egged on the military and the oligarchy to overthrow Chávez. They failed. He was supremely popular, the Chavista base eager for change that would improve their lives. They had no faith in the United States or the oligarchy, both of whom had suffocated them for the past century.
Never has the Monroe Doctrine—which the United States invoked to control the American hemisphere—done much good for the millions of people from the southern tip of Argentina to the northern reaches of Canada. It has helped along the big corporations and the oligarchs, but not the ordinary people—the base of the Chavistas.
The residue of that base lined up this Sunday to sign a pledge in public against a new U.S. diplomatic and military intervention, against economic war.
What drives the United States to persist in its interventions—diplomatic, economic and military—against the Venezuelan government?
1. Humanitarian Concerns
Is the United States of America motivated by humanitarian concerns? If it were so, why did the United States attempt to overthrow Chávez’s government in 2002, when there was no problem with Venezuela’s finances? Why has the United States tried to push policies for all of Latin America—such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)—that have been clearly shown to increase suffering for the people?
A logical person would look at these U.S. initiatives—the attempted U.S. coup in 2002 and the FTAA—and conclude that the U.S. government has more concern for corporate interests than for the interests of the poor. After all, what bothered the United States with Chávez was that he demanded that oil companies pay higher royalties for the oil that they sucked out of Venezuela. Such audacity has to be repaid with a coup attempt.
It is what happened in 1953 to Mohammed Mossadeq of Iran and in 1954 to Jacobo Árbenz of Guatemala and in 1971 to Salvador Allende of Chile. You cross U.S. multinational corporations, and you get overthrown.
Here’s a quick way to end the humanitarian crisis: stop trying to destabilize Venezuela, end the economic war and allow Venezuela to manage its external revenues. If all this is done, Venezuela’s government should be able to import goods and use its resources to continue the process of diversifying its economy. But this is not what the United States wants.
Evidence from the past century of U.S. interventions overseas suggests that the United States likes to use the word “democracy” to push its own agenda. Chávez was elected several times, his policies ratified by the people in several referenda. Nicolás Maduro asked the United Nations and external monitors to come to Venezuela and observe last year’s election. The United States pressured these agencies not to go. The right-wing opposition lost the election because they could not come together around a credible candidate—and they have no platform to go to the people.
Even with the chaos in the camp of the right, the right won 33 percent of the vote. Rather than try to appeal to more people on a political basis—the path of democratic politics, in other words—the right has taken cover behind the United States Treasury Department and the U.S. military, with the Canadians in the wings. This is hardly a good way to move a democratic agenda.
What does the United States mean by the promotion of democracy? It is worthwhile to allow U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield to explain the process himself. In November 2006, Brownfield sent a cable to Washington with this five-point strategy (which had been worked out in August 2004):
This is blatant U.S. interference in Venezuelan politics. The first point—strengthening democratic institutions—is the most Orwellian of them all. The U.S. government—via its agencies such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy as well as the CIA—has been funding a series of “civil society” groups to challenge the legitimacy of the Venezuelan electoral process.
A vote monitoring group—Súmate—was used to challenge each election, while groups were funded to take to the streets. In 2009, unrest of the streets—the U.S. State Department admitted—was funded by its agencies. Eduardo Fernandez of Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) said that “the streets are hot” and that “all these people” who have organized the protest “are our grantees.” So much for democracy promotion.
3. Steal the Oil
Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves. No question that the oil companies have long wanted to return to the days when they called the shots in Caracas. When Chávez increased Venezuela’s share of the profits, he threatened a broader challenge to the oil firms. They have long wanted to punish the Bolivarian experiment for its audacity.
But there is no immediate need to take the oil. The world currently faces a glut of oil production, with Saudi Arabia running its wells at full tilt and the United States able to produce more oil than previously.
Low oil prices combined with currency problems within Venezuela has provided the United States with a unique opportunity to challenge Maduro’s government. The atmosphere for regime change was improved when Jair Bolsonaro came to power in Brazil, and when Canada and the dozen Latin American leaders were willing to create the Lima Group to push to overthrow the Maduro government.
Low oil prices and the rise of the Latin American right provided the opportunity for the United States, Canada and the Latin American oligarchies to go for regime change. This is about oil, but not only about oil.
4. Crush the Alternative
After the fall of the USSR, the United States and its oligarchic allies hoped that no alternative to their dominance would arise. Any challenge to the United States and its world order had to be crushed. To understand the approach of the U.S. government toward the world, the best document to consult is the National Security Strategy (2002).
That document opens with a declaration of U.S. power—“The United States possesses unprecedented—and unequalled—strength and influence in the world.” No question that the United States has the largest and most powerful military, “strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in the hopes of surpassing, or equally, the power of the United States.”
Key here is the idea that the United States must be the most powerful country in the world and that no one will be allowed to threaten this power militarily or with an alternative economic agenda. Chávez attempted an alternative in Venezuela and, worse for the United States, through the Bolivarian project across Latin America. The Bolivarians understood that there was no hope for their revolution if they remained within their borders. They had to build bridges with their neighbors on a new foundation.
The U.S.-attempted coup in 2002 came to break the political alternative posed by Chávez. Once more, the National Security Strategy is useful. “The United States has long maintained the option of pre-emptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security,” the U.S. government wrote. “The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction—and the more compelling case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves. …To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act pre-emptively.” Coups are pre-emptive. So is economic warfare.
Greece, under Syriza, offered a mild alternative. It had to be shut down. Coups come these days, said the former Greek finance minister, by banks as much as tanks.
Venezuela, under the Bolivarians, offered a stronger alternative. It has to be shut down. Humanitarian concerns? Democracy? Not so important to the United States. Far more important is to deliver the planet into the hands of the billionaires, to extend the dictatorship of the billionaires over every square inch of the planet.
|February 20, 2019||
Mapping the American War on Terror – Now in 80 Countries, It Couldn’t Be More Global.
by Stephanie Savell,in Imperialism, Countercurrents.org
In September 2001, the Bush administration launched the “Global War on Terror.” Though “global” has long since been dropped from the name, as it turns out, they weren’t kidding.
When I first set out to map all the places in the world where the United States is still fighting terrorism so many years later, I didn’t think it would be that hard to do. This was before the 2017 incident in Niger in which four American soldiers were killed on a counterterror mission and Americans were given an inkling of how far-reaching the war on terrorism might really be. I imagined a map that would highlight Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria — the places many Americans automatically think of in association with the war on terror — as well as perhaps a dozen less-noticed countries like the Philippines and Somalia. I had no idea that I was embarking on a research odyssey that would, in its second annual update, map U.S. counterterror missions in 80 countries in 2017 and 2018, or 40% of the nations on this planet (a map first featured in Smithsonian magazine).
As co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, I’m all too aware of the costs that accompany such a sprawling overseas presence. Our project’s research shows that, since 2001, the U.S. war on terror has resulted in the loss — conservatively estimated — of almost half a million lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone. By the end of 2019, we also estimate that Washington’s global war will cost American taxpayers no less than $5.9 trillion already spent and in commitments to caring for veterans of the war throughout their lifetimes.
In general, the American public has largely ignored these post-9/11 wars and their costs. But the vastness of Washington’s counterterror activities suggests, now more than ever, that it’s time to pay attention. Recently, the Trump administration has been talking of withdrawing from Syria and negotiating peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yet, unbeknownst to many Americans, the war on terror reaches far beyond such lands and under Trump is actually ramping up in a number of places. That our counterterror missions are so extensive and their costs so staggeringly high should prompt Americans to demand answers to a few obvious and urgent questions: Is this global war truly making Americans safer? Is it reducing violence against civilians in the U.S. and other places? If, as I believe, the answer to both those questions is no, then isn’t there a more effective way to accomplish such goals?
Combat or “Training” and “Assisting”?
The major obstacle to creating our database, my research team would discover, was that the U.S. government is often so secretive about its war on terror. The Constitution gives Congress the right and responsibility to declare war, offering the citizens of this country, at least in theory, some means of input. And yet, in the name of operational security, the military classifies most information about its counterterror activities abroad.
The U.S. is fighting its global war on terror in 40% of the world’s nations
(Stephanie Savell, Costs of War Project, originally published in the February issue of Smithsonian magazine)
This is particularly true of missions in which there are American boots on the ground engaging in direct action against militants, a reality, my team and I found, in 14 different countries in the last two years. The list includes Afghanistan and Syria, of course, but also some lesser known and unexpected places like Libya, Tunisia, Somalia, Mali, and Kenya. Officially, many of these are labeled “train, advise, and assist” missions, in which the U.S. military ostensibly works to support local militaries fighting groups that Washington labels terrorist organizations. Unofficially, the line between “assistance” and combat turns out to be, at best, blurry.
Some outstanding investigative journalists have documented the way this shadow war has been playing out, predominantly in Africa. In Niger in October 2017, as journalists subsequently revealed, what was officially a training mission proved to be a “kill or capture” operation directed at a suspected terrorist.
Such missions occur regularly. In Kenya, for instance, American service members are actively hunting the militants of al-Shabaab, a US-designated terrorist group. In Tunisia, there was at least one outright battle between joint U.S.-Tunisian forces and al-Qaeda militants. Indeed, two U.S. service members were later awarded medals of valor for their actions there, a clue that led journalists to discover that there had been a battle in the first place.
In yet other African countries, U.S. Special Operations forces have planned and controlled missions, operating in “cooperation with” — but actually in charge of — their African counterparts. In creating our database, we erred on the side of caution, only documenting combat in countries where we had at least two credible sources of proof, and checking in with experts and journalists who could provide us with additional information. In other words, American troops have undoubtedly been engaged in combat in even more places than we’ve been able to document.
Another striking finding in our research was just how many countries there were — 65 in all — in which the U.S. “trains” and/or “assists” local security forces in counterterrorism. While the military does much of this training, the State Department is also surprisingly heavily involved, funding and training police, military, and border patrol agents in many countries. It also donates equipment, including vehicle X-ray detection machines and contraband inspection kits. In addition, it develops programs it labels “Countering Violent Extremism,” which represent a soft-power approach, focusing on public education and other tools to “counter terrorist safe havens and recruitment.”
Such training and assistance occurs across the Middle East and Africa, as well as in some places in Asia and Latin America. American “law enforcement entities” trained security forces in Brazil to monitor terrorist threats in advance of the 2016 Summer Olympics, for example (and continued the partnership in 2017). Similarly, U.S. border patrol agentsworked with their counterparts in Argentina to crack down on suspected money laundering by terrorist groups in the illicit marketplaces of the tri-border region that lies between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.
To many Americans, all of this may sound relatively innocuous — like little more than generous, neighborly help with policing or a sensibly self-interested fighting-them-over-there-before-they-get-here set of policies. But shouldn’t we know better after all these years of hearing such claims in places like Iraq and Afghanistan where the results were anything but harmless or effective?
Such training has often fed into, or been used for, the grimmest of purposes in the many countries involved. In Nigeria, for instance, the U.S. military continues to work closely with local security forces which have used torture and committed extrajudicial killings, as well as engaging in sexual exploitation and abuse. In the Philippines, it has conducted large-scale joint military exercises in cooperation with President Rodrigo Duterte’s military, even as the police at his command continue to inflict horrific violence on that country’s citizenry.
The government of Djibouti, which for years has hosted the largest U.S. military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, also uses its anti-terrorism laws to prosecute internal dissidents. The State Department has not attempted to hide the way its own training programs have fed into a larger kind of repression in that country (and others). According to its 2017 Country Reports on Terrorism, a document that annually provides Congress with an overview of terrorism and anti-terror cooperation with the United States in a designated set of countries, in Djibouti, “the government continued to use counterterrorism legislation to suppress criticism by detaining and prosecuting opposition figures and other activists.”
In that country and many other allied nations, Washington’s terror-training programs feed into or reinforce human-rights abuses by local forces as authoritarian governments adopt “anti-terrorism” as the latest excuse for repressive practices of all sorts.
A Vast Military Footprint
As we were trying to document those 65 training-and-assistance locations of the U.S. military, the State Department reports proved an important source of information, even if they were often ambiguous about what was really going on. They regularly relied on loose terms like “security forces,” while failing to directly address the role played by our military in each of those countries.
Sometimes, as I read them and tried to figure out what was happening in distant lands, I had a nagging feeling that what the American military was doing, rather than coming into focus, was eternally receding from view. In the end, we felt certain in identifying those 14 countries in which American military personnel have seen combat in the war on terror in 2017-2018. We also found it relatively easy to document the seven countries in which, in the last two years, the U.S. has launched drone or other air strikes against what the government labels terrorist targets (but which regularly kill civilians as well): Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. These were the highest-intensity elements of that U.S. global war. However, this still represented a relatively small portion of the 80 countries we ended up including on our map.
In part, that was because I realized that the U.S. military tends to advertise — or at least not hide — many of the military exercises it directs or takes part in abroad. After all, these are intended to display the country’s global military might, deter enemies (in this case, terrorists), and bolster alliances with strategically chosen allies. Such exercises, which we documented as being explicitly focused on counterterrorism in 26 countries, along with lands which host American bases or smaller military outposts also involved in anti-terrorist activities, provide a sense of the armed forces’ behemoth footprint in the war on terror.
Although there are more than 800 American military bases around the world, we included in our map only those 40 countries in which such bases are directly involved in the counterterror war, including Germany and other European nations that are important staging areas for American operations in the Middle East and Africa.
To sum up: our completed map indicates that, in 2017 and 2018, seven countries were targeted by U.S. air strikes; double that number were sites where American military personnel engaged directly in ground combat; 26 countries were locations for joint military exercises; 40 hosted bases involved in the war on terror; and in 65, local military and security forces received counterterrorism-oriented “training and assistance.”
A Better Grand Plan
How often in the last 17 years has Congress or the American public debated the expansion of the war on terror to such a staggering range of places? The answer is: seldom indeed.
After so many years of silence and inactivity here at home, recent media and congressional attention to American wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemenrepresents a new trend. Members of Congress have finally begun calling for discussion of parts of the war on terror. Last Wednesday, for instance, the House of Representatives voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and the Senate has passed legislation requiring Congress to vote on the same issue sometime in the coming months.
On February 6th, the House Armed Services Committee finally held a hearing on the Pentagon’s “counterterrorism approach” — a subject Congress as a whole has not debated since, several days after the 9/11 attacks, it passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump have all used to wage the ongoing global war. Congress has not debated or voted on the sprawling expansion of that effort in all the years since. And judging from the befuddledreactions of several members of Congress to the deaths of those four soldiers in Niger in 2017, most of them were (and many probably still are) largely ignorant of how far the global war they’ve seldom bothered to discuss now reaches.
With potential shifts afoot in Trump administration policy on Syria and Afghanistan, isn’t it finally time to assess in the broadest possible way the necessity and efficacy of extending the war on terror to so many different places? Research has shown that using war to address terror tactics is a fruitless approach. Quite the opposite of achieving this country’s goals, from Libya to Syria, Niger to Afghanistan, the U.S. military presence abroad has often only fueled intense resentment of America. It has helped to both spread terror movements and provide yet more recruits to extremist Islamist groups, which have multiplied substantially since 9/11.
In the name of the war on terror in countries like Somalia, diplomatic activities, aid, and support for human rights have dwindled in favor of an ever more militarized American stance. Yet research shows that, in the long term, it is far more effective and sustainable to address the underlying grievances that fuel terrorist violence than to answer them on the battlefield.
All told, it should be clear that another kind of grand plan is needed to deal with the threat of terrorism both globally and to Americans — one that relies on a far smaller U.S. military footprint and costs far less blood and treasure. It’s also high time to put this threat in context and acknowledge that other developments, like climate change, may pose a far greater danger to our country.
Stephanie Savell, a TomDispatch regular, is co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. An anthropologist, she conducts research on security and activism in the U.S. and in Brazil. She co-authored The Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.
|February 25, 2019||
Imperialist intervention in Venezuela: UPDATE 17.
by Countercurrents Staff, in World, Countercurrents.org
By spilling blood and organizing violent acts on the Venezuela-Brazil and Venezuela-Colombia borders, the imperialists are continuing with their plan for military intervention in Venezuela. However, the incidents of violence organized by the interventionists are getting exposed.
Media reports said:
Venezuelan law enforcement members were forced to return the rogue attacks with teargas canisters along the Brazilian border.
Conflict along the Venezuela-Brazil border in the city of Santa Elena de Uairen has been controlled, Francisco Jose Ameliach Orta, vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, reported Sunday.
Disturbances erupted along the Venezuela-Brazil border Sunday morning after a group of people began throwing stones and burning tires dangerously near a Venezuelan state oil station, triggering a swift response from state authorities.
Around 9:30 a.m., Venezuelan law enforcement were forced to return the rogue attacks with teargas canisters while Brazilian authorities intervened, pushing the protesters away from the border.
“Brazilian police authorities created a barrier and did not allow Venezuelan opposition groups to approach the boundary between the two countries on the Brazilian side,” a journalist tweeted, adding that only health emergencies were permitted to cross the border Sunday morning.
“A few minutes ago, after a group threw stones and burned tires near the petrol station of PDVSA on the Venezuelan side, the Venezuelan guard responded with teargas. This happened recently on the border of Brazil with Venezuela.”
Colombian forces looked the other way as violent Venezuelan persons, or ‘Guarimberos’, threw homemade Molotov cocktails at Venezuela’s National Guard and ran over two women in the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) vehicles.
In a statement Sunday, Venezuelan Minister of Communication and Information Jorge Rodriguez, revealed that the perpetrators are in custody and investigators believe that the attack may have been premeditated.
Rodriguez said, “Colombia is a country that is an expert in false positives, we will show the tests. There was no intention of bringing humanitarian aid, what they were trying to do was aggression against a country that defends its sovereignty.”
“The intention of the opposition was to kill the people who daily transit between the border of Venezuela and Colombia. Everything that happened was on the Colombian side with the complicity of the police and the government of Ivan Duque, there are pictures of the “guarimberos” next to the police,” he said.
US-backed opposition caught on VIDEO throwing Molotov cocktails at aid truck
As Washington and Caracas blame each other for torching a truck carrying what the US called vital “humanitarian supplies” from Colombia to Venezuela, a video has emerged that finally shed light on the incident.
The truck caught fire and burned down during a failed attempt on Saturday by US-backed opposition activists to breach the closed Colombia-Venezuela border crossing at the Francisco de Paula Santander Bridge, near the Venezuelan city of Urena. The Venezuelan government refuses to let the U.S. cargo in, calling these “humanitarian” convoys a propaganda stunt and a precursor to a military invasion.
Photos of the incident were immediately used by US officials to increase their propaganda with calls for regime change in Caracas. But footage that has surfaced on social media tells a strikingly different story, pinning the blame on ‘activists’ in the crowd.
One clip appears to have caught the moment a man on the Colombian side of the border pelted a Molotov cocktail at the truck. Another video from the scene showed the opposition activists openly preparing the incendiary devices. Border security guards can be seen patiently holding their line at a distance, casting further doubts on claims that the truck was seized and torched after it had crossed into Venezuela.
Violent elements throw Molotov cocktails at Venezuelan Forces
Guarimberos from Colombia also threw Molotov cocktails at the Venezuelan National Guards as Colombian forces looked the other way.
The violent elements tried to cross from Colombia into Venezuela in order to attack the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) and the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) protecting Venezuela’s border.
The Guarimberos used a similar tactic Saturday torching trucks parked in Venezuela trying to incriminate Venezuelan security forces.
“On the other side (of Venezuela, opposition legislator) Jose Manuel Olivares and Colombians and Venezuelans were aggressive toward Venezuela with the complicity of the Colombian national police as they attacked the fences at the Tachira River trying to enter Venezuela,” said government spokesperson, Freddy Bernal
The Venezuelan administration closed the passage completely at the Simon Bolivar bridge, alleging “serious and illegal threats attempted by the Government of Colombia against the peace and sovereignty of Venezuela.”
Local authorities in the state of Tachira in Venezuela denounced the Colombian government of President Ivan Duque for damaging peace in Venezuela and complying with the orders given by U.S. President Donald Trump. “Duque is trying to damage the peace of Venezuela and is attacking” a sister nation, despite this “we are still here calmly and peacefully,” said the Tachira official Saturday.
Who are the Guarimberos?
Guarimberos are often young, poor and male, and have been used over the past several years by the opposition to destroy infrastructure and act violently against the Chavez and Maduro administrations.
Border returns to calm after intense day
A Xinhua report said: Venezuela’s border with Colombia was calm on Sunday, after an intense day over the attempted delivery of unauthorized foreign aid, a top official said.
Another news agency report said:
The Brazilian National Public Security Force has expanded the security cordon in the border area with Venezuela to alleviate tensions following recent clashes on February 25.
In the early hours of 24 February, a group of activists supporting the Venezuelan opposition in Brazil had attacked the border checkpoint near the Brazilian city of Pacaraima, setting a Venezuelan National Guard vehicle on fire. The attackers also threw sticks and stones at Venezuelan soldiers, who responded with tear gas.
Some of the tear gas grenades landed behind Brazil’s borders, which prompted Brazilian troops to expand the security cordon by another 100 meters from the border. They then managed to push the crowd back from the Venezuelan border and thereby avoid new incidents.
On February 24, no new attempts were made to deliver “humanitarian aid” to Venezuela to Brazil after media reported that two trucks carrying 8 tons of “humanitarian aid” had arrived in Pacaraima on Venezuela’s border the previous day
Diosdado Cabello, vice president of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, reported “absolute calm” from the border region during a flyover.
“Reviewing the Venezuelan border. Absolute calm, peace and tranquility,” Cabello said in an aircraft flying over Tachira state.
The truth of border violence
On Sunday, Venezuelan Minister of Communication and Information Jorge Rodriguez revealed the truth of the violence on the Simon Bolivar-Venezuela Bridge. His revelations show the falsification of reports by mainstream media related to Saturday’s violence.
Jorge Rodriguez has claimed that the opposition was planning to kill people crossing the Simon Bolivar Bridge after receiving “aid” across the border between Venezuela and Colombia.
“The first false-positive [fabricated] operation planned the theft of a tank by two terrorists. It was planned to use that stolen military vehicle to cross the Simon Bolivar Bridge, hitting all pedestrians along the way and trampling them to death, and then blaming the National Guard and the government of Nicolas Maduro”, the minister said at a press conference in Caracas.
“We have to denounce to the world the immense and powerful operation of false flags attacking Venezuela,” stated the Bolivarian politician.
Rodriguez revealed videos made from the protests which evidently shows that the burning of the two vehicles, which the mainstream media blamed on members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), which occurred on the Colombian side, but was in fact caused by Molotov cocktails thrown by opposition youths, or Guarimbas.
He also stated that two of the people who carried out violent acts in the border are already in custody. Investigators are also saying there are indicators showing the incident may have been premeditated.
“There was no intention of bringing humanitarian aid, it was the aggression of a foreign country against another country that has not done anything to that country”, said the minister.
“Colombia is a country that is expert in false positives, we will show the tests. There was no intention of bringing humanitarian aid, what they were trying to do was an aggression against a country that defends its sovereignty,” he said.
The minister also shared records showing how two armored vehicles taken by deserters who hijacked the GNB vehicles, attacked people present on the bridge, running over two women, a National Guard official and a Chilean photojournalist, Nicole Kramm, and then crossed to the Colombian side.
The minister asked, “If it was true that they wanted humanitarian aid, why was the first thing to run over people with the armored vehicles?
“The intention of the opposition was to kill the people who daily transit between the border of Venezuela and Colombia. Everything that happened was on the Colombian side with the complicity of the police and the government of Ivan Duque; there are pictures of the policemen next to the police,” he said.
“Guaido is a false flag himself,” said Rodriguez.
“In face of everything that they had planned, it is truly very commendable that Venezuela has dawned in peace today Sunday, Feb. 24,” he said.
Venezuela denounces intensification of U.S. aggressive policy
Delcy Rodriguez, Executive Vice President of Venezuela, denounced the continuity and intensification of the hostile policy of the United States against the South American nation in order to overthrow its government.
The Vice President asserted that the aggressive actions promoted by Washington are part of a plan made since the assumption of power of the revolutionary process. “What we know today has been ‘cooking’ by Washington in complicity with sectors of Venezuelan opposition, which this week generated violent incidents in the border with Colombia, using humanitarian aid as pretext.”
In 2015, the then U.S. president, Barack Obama issued a decree considering Venezuela a threat for the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Since then we knew the danger that situation entailed’, detailed the Executive Vice President.
She recalled the recent publication of a book written by a former official of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) who rendered testimony about a secret meeting in which Donald Trump expressed his intentions of making war on the South American nation for its great oil reserves and geographical position.
Meanwhile, in the border with Colombia, the protector of the State of Tachira, Freddy Bernal, says the forces deployed by Venezuela in the Colombian border, will remain there.
He reported that under the bridges Simon Bolivar and Santander, criminal elements made incendiary bombs – known as Molotov cocktails – under the accomplice look of the Colombian Police and Army, showing the complicity of the Colombian government in the aggression on Venezuela.
In order to make Venezuelan forces responsible for repressive actions in the border, violent elements set fire to a truck that carried boxes of the so-called humanitarian aid at the Colombian side of the bridge Francisco de Paula Santander.
US Senator Rubio tweets picture of Gaddafi’s murder as a threat to Maduro
US Senator Marco Rubio has posted a picture of the brutal murder of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a less-than-subtle threat to Venezuela’s Maduro. Twitter blasted Rubio as a manic warmonger… who has extremely poor taste.
The two pictures – one showing Gaddafi while still in power, the other showing the Libyan leader being tortured minutes before his brutal murder – were posted by Sen. Rubio (R-FL) on Twitter without any caption. Yet, given his open calls for an armed insurrection in the Latin American country to depose President Nicolas Maduro, the message was clear.
Openly threatening a head of a foreign country with a brutal death at the hands of US-propped militants was, apparently, just a tiny bit off: while a few Twitteratti supported Rubio’s vision of Maduro’s demise, the majority blasted the senator over an extreme lack of taste or decency.
Rubio’s message was quickly taken as a threat against Maduro, who the senator has openly criticized on numerous occasions while endorsing a U.S. militarized intervention in the South American nation in spite of international condemnation.
Some argued that any account spewing warmongering propaganda at such a rate would likely be suspended.
“Marco Rubio just posted a violent, graphic death threat. If any of the rest of us posted this, we’d be suspended for it,” journalist Bill Palmer tweeted.
Many noted that Libya is not the best example of the US bringing its democracy overseas, but arguably the worst one. With the slave trade there on the rise, the country is effectively fractured into several warring statelets, with gangs of armed ‘democrats’ fighting for control.
Apart from the pictures of Gaddafi, Rubio posted a similar split of Manuel Noriega – the de facto ruler of Panama in the 1980s. Once a valuable CIA asset who’d helped Washington in arming the Contras of Nicaragua, Noriega was ousted during the US invasion of the country. The invasion claimed many lives, while Noriega spent the rest of his life in prison.
The scantily veiled death threat directed at Venezuelan President Maduro by U.S. Congressman Rubio has triggered harsh criticism from across the web Sunday.
The reaction online was immediate, with Twitter users rejecting President Donald Trump’s right-hand man and his message as “ignorant,” “sadist,” and “bloodthirsty.”
US-backed activists heckle journalist
Supporters of the US-backed self-proclaimed ‘interim president’ of Venezuela on Saturday booed and harassed a journalist who dared to claim the opposition represents a “minority.”
Protests and scuffles at Venezuelan border crossings took center stage in the news on Saturday. But views challenging the mainstream media narrative were not so welcome by the opposition, which is claiming to represent the values of democracy.
A reporter working for Spanish Channel Five News (Telecincoes) was heckled after she allegedly said that supporters of US-led Guaido represent a “minority.” Video footage of the incident shared by US-based journalist Anya Parampil showed the crowd getting extremely agitated, forcing the reporter to abandon her live coverage.
The same day, a camerawoman working for a media outlet affiliated with RT was injured at the Colombian-Venezuela border when three border guard deserters ran hijacked armored carriers through a crowd at the Colombian side of Simon Bolivar Bridge, injuring a number of people.
|March 21, 2019||
Hyper-Hypocrisy of The West about ISIS.
by Eric Zuesse, in World, Countercurrents.org
During the period of 17 September to 11 December of 2016, the United States and its allies carried out a massive operation to move ISIS’s surviving jihadists who were in the oil-producing Iraqi region of Mosul, into the Syrian oil-producing region of Deir Ezzor and Palmyra. This was done so that those oil-stealing-and-selling jihadists in Iraq would now be stealing Syria’s oil and would thereby increase the likelihood of overthrowing Syria’s long-existing non-sectarian Government. The U.S. and its allies would then replace that Government by one which would be controlled by the fundamentalist Sunni Saud family, who own Saudi Arabia, the long-time leading oil-power, and which family are America’s main foreign ally. The Sauds are crucial to maintaining the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The U.S. aristocracy rely upon them.
Now that ISIS is being defeated by Syria’s Government (and by its allies Russia and Iran) in Syria, the United States and its allies are trying to find other governments that will take them in as refugees. It’s part of a deal the U.S. regime reached with ISIS.
The issue of what to do with the thousands of surviving but (temporarily) defeated ISIS members — and with their spouses and children — has raised hypocrisy to perhaps the highest level in all of history. Its background needs to be understood if one wants to understand the sources of that enormous hypocrisy. Here’s this background:
When Russia started bombing ISIS in Syria on 30 September 2015, it greatly disturbed the U.S. regime, which therefore started on 12 October 2015 to air-drop weapons into that area so as to help the jihadists to shoot down Russia’s jets, which were bombing ISIS. America’s Fox News Channel headlined “US military airdrops 50 tons of ammo for Syrian fighters, after training mission ends”. The U.S. didn’t start bombing ISIS in Syria until 16 November 2015, and the U.S. Government’s excuse for not having bombed them earlier was “This is our first strike against tanker trucks, and to minimize risks to civilians, we conducted a leaflet drop prior to the strike.” They pretended that it was done out of compassion — not in order to extend for as long as possible ISIS’s success in taking over territory in Syria.
And then on 26 February 2019, Syria’s government news-agency reported that the U.S. had sent to the U.S. Federal Reserve 40+ tons of gold that ISIS had accumulated from selling, on the international black markets, oil from Syria’s oil-producing region around Deir Ezzor — Syria’s oil stolen by ISIS and the proceeds now being stolen yet again by the U.S. regime — and this gold now being sent to the U.S. (On March 8th I reported the further background and context of that U.S. theft from Syria.) The U.S. regime had offered to ISIS-members who were in Syria’s oil-producing region a choice either to become captured and killed by Syria’s Government, or else for them to give to the U.S. that gold, and the option which was selected by the jihadists was to give the gold to the U.S., which is therefore now trying to find other countries to send the jihadists to as ‘refugees’ (since Syria certainly doesn’t want them, and neither does the U.S. regime). The U.S. regime is honoring its commitments to those ‘former’ ISIS members and their families, to assist them to find countries which will accept those people as ‘refugees’. Sweden, being very liberal (meaning ideologically very confused), happens to be one of these countries, and is actually considering and debating whether to allow them in.
Zero Hedge is perhaps the keenest news-site for exposing The West’s rampant hypocrisies (and so all of The West’s propagandistic ’news’-sites hate it and call it ‘fake news’ even though it actually is more reliably accurate than the mainstream ones themselves are); and, on March 10th, it pointed out that Sweden was in a flurry over whether to accept, as refugees, ISIS jihadists who have escaped, and their spouses and children. Zero Hedge truthfully pointed out that,
Sweden’s new government, which was finally formed in January after months of delay, is introducing policies that will lead to more immigration into Sweden — despite the main governing party, the Social Democrats, having run for office on a promise to tighten immigration policies.
The right to family reunion for those people granted asylum in Sweden who do not have refugee status is being reintroduced — a measure that is estimated to bring at least 8,400 more immigrants to Sweden in the coming three years. According to the Minister of Migration, Morgan Johansson, this measure will “strengthen integration,” although he has not explained how.
“I think it is a very good humanitarian measure; 90 percent [of those expected to come] are women and children who have lived for a long time in refugee camps, [and] who can now be reunited with their father or husband in Sweden”, Johansson said.
This is supposed to be ‘democracy’?
However, that article, as noted at Zero Hedge, was written by Judith Bergman, of the Gatestone Institute. Sometimes, even such vicious propaganda-organizations, as that, produce authentic news, and here was such an instance. (It’s yet another reason why arguing ad-hominem, instead of strictly — that is, 100% — ad-rem, is essential to avoid, in order to determine truth and reject lies. That was a truthful article. Though Bergman wrote for a hate-mongering anti-Muslim site, the reporting in it was honest and factual. So, here’s some ad-hominem background to it, not as a part of the argument in this particular case — regarding Sweden’s debate over whether to accept former ISIS members as refugees — but instead as context explaining how this truth came to be published by the hate-mongering Gatestone🙂
The Gatestone Institute is a rabidly pro-Israeli-Jews, and rabidly anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim operation, which was founded and is run by the heir and grand-daughter, Nina Rosenwald, of the biggest early (1895) investor in Sears Roebuck & Co., Julius Rosenwald. He died in 1932. His heir and son was Nina’s father, and in 1939 he “was one of three founding members of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). [Nina] Rosenwald’s mother, a professional violinist, was a refugee from both the Russian Revolution and Nazi Germany..” Nina, being not very bright, was never able to rid herself of the prejudices her parents felt against Palestinians and generally against Muslims (since Israel’s main supremacism is against Muslims, because Israel’s ruling ethnicity, Jews, have been stealing land from Muslims). Nina identifies herself as “a human rights activist”. (As was said at the start here, this issue “has raised hypocrisy to perhaps the highest level in all of history.”) She had, in fact, hired John Bolton as Gatestone’s Chairman; and, for his service as that, during June 2017 to March 2018 (when he became hired as Trump’s National Security Advisor), Bolton received $310,000. So, Bill Berkowitz headlined on 27 September 2018 “Meet Nina Rosenwald, the Sears Heiress Seeding Islamophobia at Home and Abroad”, and he brought together and linked to the great reporting by Max Blumenthal and by Lee Fang, documenting the Gatestone Institute’s rabid global hate-mongering for Israel.
But, in this particular case (the article by Judith Bergman), there was no deceit, because nothing in her reporting violated Nina Rosenwald’s biggest hatred, hatred of Muslims — so, these truths were acceptable to Rosenwald. Bergman’s article happened to be truthful Israeli propaganda. (After all: some propaganda is truthful.)
The Israeli regime won’t have any credibility whatsoever unless it condemns Sweden’s compassion for jihadists and for the wives and children of jihadists. Israel’s Minister of Justice had endorsed exterminating all Palestinians, but that rationale — sheer bigotry — for opposing them, isn’t suitable for foreign consumption, and so it was almost immediately disappeared from its public posting (shown there at that link). If Israel can’t pretend to be against Muslims on account of jihadists, then Israel’s barbaric treatment of its Palestinians won’t make any sense at all to the many fools (mainly in America, Israel’s chief patron) who support Israel (such as the Rosenwalds do). The U.S. regime hides the barbarous reality of Israel, but that reality isn’t blacked-out quite as much in the rest of the world; so, Israel can’t afford to be publicly silent regarding jihadists, even in cases where the U.S. regime would prefer such silence. Obviously, the U.S. regime wants Sweden to accept those ‘former’ ISIS members (because the U.S. regime aims to conquer Russia and all nations — such as Syria — that are allied with Russia, and uses ISIS, Al Qaeda, and nazis, as “boots-on-the-ground” mercenaries, in order to do that), and so this ISIS-as-refugees issue is one on which the American regime and the Israeli regime happen to disagree.
Bergman closed her article by describing the Swedish Government’s efforts to be compassionate toward jihadists while the Swedish Government also provides an appearance of caring for the safety of non-jihadist (the vast majority of) Swedes:
On a positive note, however, at the end of February, the Swedish government presented plans to introduce legislation that would criminalize membership of a terrorist organization.This new law would enable the prosecuting of returning ISIS fighters who cannot be connected to a specific crime, but who were proven to have been part of a terrorist organization. Critics have pointed out that it has taken years for the government to take steps to criminalize membership of terror organizations.
Sweden is hypocritically ‘neutral’, but actually a vassal nation of the United States. Sweden is being pushed by its master, the U.S. regime, to accept some of the people the U.S. Government had been protecting in order for the U.S. to become enabled to take over Syria and to deliver it to the U.S. aristocracy’s chief ally the Sauds; and, so, the Swedish Government is now trying to square this circle, in order to satisfy everyone at least somewhat. This split loyalty (between the imperial master, and the domestic public) is what’s called ‘democracy’, nowadays. The master pulls one way, the public are confused or undecided, and the U.S. regime’s other main Middle Eastern ally, Israel, is pulling in the exact opposite direction, on this particular matter. This is how international affairs actually are being decided. The various aristocracies come to an agreement on how to proceed. The respective publics are virtually ignored, except as fronts for their PR. That’s today’s international order, just as has been the case for thousands of years: it is agreements that are reached between aristocracies.
Back in September of 2018, the U.S. regime was backed by the United Nations in opposing Russia’s and Syria’s plan simply to slaughter all of the tens of thousands of Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists (and their families), whom the Syrian Government had exiled to Idlib, Syria’s most pro-jihadist province, and who were being collected there with the intention to destroy them all at the very end of the war — finally to finish them off there. Both Syria’s Government and Russia’s Government wanted simply to destroy them en-masse, at the war’s end. However, because of the success of that U.S.-based (and also U.N.-backed) international propaganda campaign arguing that bombing them would be ‘inhumane’, those jihadists survive, and will probably also be moved to other nations. Sweden could become one such nation, if they decide to take in not only ‘former’ ISIS but ‘former’ Al Qaeda, as ’refugees’. The U.S. has protected both of those groups, against Syria’s Government.
Hypocrisy exists when people don’t care enough about their values so as to think carefully through to decide what values — if any — they actually hold, and what their actual priorities are. Fools like that are the meat upon which their aristocrats constantly feast, producing, as the aristocracy’s excrements, bigots (such as jihadists, and such as the majority of Israelis — and such as people who accept those bigots). Without those fools, aristocrats would need to actually earn a living, instead of merely to live off the fat (the fools) of the land and thereby producing this waste-matter, bigots, who make things difficult for everybody else, including for any decent people who might happen to exist in the given receiving nation (such as in Sweden).
The origin of The West’s hypocrisies that claim to be supporting “human rights” and “democracy” around the world, while actually invading or overthrowing target-governments, go back at least as far as Cecil Rhodes in the late 1800s, and the rationale that’s given of it is entirely fraudulent. It is the difference between, on the one hand, an authentic revolution, which can sometimes produce a democracy, versus, on the other hand, a coup or else an invasion, neither of which can, nor is actually designed to, produce a democracy. But the PR has to say the reason for an invasion or coup or sanctions (such as against Venezuela or Iran or Syria or Libya or Iraq or Ukraine) is to promote ‘human rights’ or ‘democracy’ or ‘oppose corruption’ in the given target-country that’s to be, basically, destroyed. Suckers are necessary, in order for this fraud — the actual aristocratic control of international relations — to succeed. And that’s how the system works. It works by that combination, of liars and fools.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
Originally posted at strategic-culture.org
|March 21, 2019||
VENEZUELA: Westerners have lost the ability to reason! (PART 3).
by Luis Garcia, in World, Countercurrents.org
Millions can be seen, in photos and videos, supporting Maduro, the democratically elected Venezuelan President. If a westerner believes himself to be well informed by his Orwellian propaganda machine, can that westerner explain the reason why none of these images are shown in Western Lying Media?
And no, westerners cannot afford to say that all these lies and manipulated disinformation are the fault of Western Lying Media! Or the fault of the Imperialism!
No, the fault is yours Western sheep-like humans. You ask and beg to be deceived, over and over again!
As Noam Chomsky argues, me have now more propaganda and manipulation than ever before but, at the same time, never before we had so much information and so easy access to information. Therefore, the conclusion can only be one, a very simple one: the responsibility for this Orwellian situation we live in, in the West and its client states, lies on the intellectually laziness and on the hypocrisy of those willing to be deceived.
A great researcher and fearless freedom fighter, Professor Tim Anderson, sums this up very well in a single montage:
The populace watch the footage and then, unconsciously but also consciously, interprets it the way they were conditioned to interpret it.
The media tells them peaceful French demonstrators brutally beaten by deranged French policemen are “hooligans”, and the populace concedes.
The media tells them that one of the countries with the highest levels of freedom of expression (freedom to even call for illegal coups or to call for the death of elected presidents) is a horrible repressive regime, and the populace concedes.
But let’s go back to the crowds supporting Maduro and the Venezuelan government, democratically elected half a year ago. The democratic process and the immense support the Venezuelan gave to Maduro, once again, has not been televised. The masters of Western manipulation willingly omitted all these facts and, as a natural consequence, the Western populace didn’t notice the Bolivarian revolution moving forward.
I remember that in 2012, during the anti-government demonstrations in Portugal, there were, altogether, more than half a million persons. And what did the media tell us at that time? They told us it was nothing but a minority of Portuguese troublemakers trying to screw things up instead of going to work.
If 500,000 persons out of 10.5 million represent a voiceless and lazy minority, what can you tell me about demonstrations with a few thousand anti-Maduro protesters (sometimes tens of thousands, on special occasions) in a population of 32 million Venezuelans? Is your math failing dear westerners? Or is your reasoning failing? I bet both are failing in Western submissive and gullible minds.
That’s why they swallow figures of “80% of Venezuelans supporting Guaidó”, scandalously made up by the Portuguese state channel RTP. Why tell the truth, and check it out, when you can make it up without suffering any consequences or without having the populace complaining about it, right? Good for you deceivers and deceived ones! Bravo!
Read the Full Article Here
Luis Garcia is a self-made independent writer and traveler, focused on Syria and Venezuela. He also writes about Latin America and the Middle East, and about the propaganda machine of what he calls Western Economic Dictatorship. His articles can be read in English here, in French here and in Portuguese here. Luis Garcia traveled in 55 countries and lived in 10 of them, currently living in Thailand where he works as a teacher. He is also an amateur photographer, with his best photos published here. Please support his work at his Patreon account.
|February 26, 2019||
by Chris Hedges, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
There is one desperate chance left to thwart the impending ecocide and extinction of the human species. We must, in wave after wave, carry out nonviolent acts of civil disobedience to shut down the capitals of the major industrial countries, crippling commerce and transportation, until the ruling elites are forced to publicly state the truth about climate catastrophe, implement radical measures to halt carbon emissions by 2025 and empower an independent citizens committee to oversee the termination of our 150-year binge on fossil fuels. If we do not do this, we will face mass death.
The British-based group Extinction Rebellion has called for nonviolent acts of civil disobedience on April 15 in capitals around the world to reverse our “one-way track to extinction.” I do not know if this effort will succeed. But I do know it is the only mechanism left to force action by the ruling elites, who, although global warming has been well documented for at least three decades, have refused to carry out the measures needed to protect the planet and the human race. These elites, for this reason alone, are illegitimate. They must be replaced.
“It is our sacred duty to rebel in order to protect our homes, our future, and the future of all life on Earth,” Extinction Rebellion writes. This is not hyperbolic. We have, as every major climate report states, very little time left. Indeed, it may already be too late.
In Britain, Extinction Rebellion has already demonstrated its clout, blocking roads, occupying government departments and amassing 6,000 people to shut down five of London’s bridges last Nov. 17. Scores of arrests were made. But it was just the warm-up act. In April, the group hopes, the final assault will begin.
If we do not shake off our lethargy, our anomie, and resist, our misery, despondency and feelings of helplessness will mount. We will become paralyzed. Resistance, especially given the bleakness before us, is about more than winning. It is about a life of meaning. It is about empowerment. It is a public declaration that we will no longer live according to the dominant lie. It is a message to the elites: YOU DO NOT OWN US. It is about defending our dignity, agency and self-respect. The more we free ourselves from the bondage of fear to throw up barriers along the forced march toward ecocide the more we will be enveloped by a strange kind of euphoria, one I often felt as a war correspondent documenting horrific suffering and atrocities to shame the killers. We obliterate despair in our acts of defiance, even if our victories are Pyrrhic. We reach out to those around us. Courage is contagious. It is the spark that ignites mass revolt. And we should, even if we fail, at least choose how we will die. Resistance is the only action left that will allow us to remain psychologically whole. And it is the only action left that has any hope of halting the wholesale extinction of the human race, not to mention most other species.
“The times are inexpressibly evil,” Daniel Berrigan wrote. “And yet—and yet … the times are inexhaustibly good. In this time of death, some men and women, the resisters, work hardily for social change. We think of such people in the world and the stone in our breast is dissolved.”
“People have to go to the capital city,” said Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Rebellion Extinction and a researcher at King’s College London, who spoke to me from London. “That’s where the elite is, the business class. That’s where the pillars of the state exist. That’s the first element. Then you have to have a lot of people involved. They have to break the law. There’s no point in just doing a march. They have to literally close down the streets. They have to remain nonviolent. That’s absolutely crucial. Once you get violent, police and the state have an excuse to remove you. It’s got to be cultural. You make it into a sort of Woodstock affair. Then thousands more people come onto the streets.”
“There’s a fundamental difference between breaking the law and not breaking the law,” he went on. “It’s a binary difference. When you break the law, then you’re massively more effective in terms of material and psychological influence as well as media interest. The more dramatic the civil disobedience, the better. It’s a numbers game. You want people blocking the streets, but you need ten, twenty, thirty thousand. You don’t need 3 million. You need enough for the state to have to decide whether to use repression on a mass scale or invite you into the room. The gambit, of course, particularly in the U.K., is that the state is weak. It’s been hollowed out by neoliberalism. They’re going to find themselves overwhelmed. We will get in the room.”
“We’re going to start on that Monday [April 15],” he said. “We’re going to block several major roundabouts in central London. We’re going to spread across the city—swarming. When the riot police or the police come, we’re going get up and go somewhere else. This is a tactic we innovated in November. We’ll give the authorities a fundamental dilemma: ‘Do we allow these people to continue blocking the center of a global city, or do we arrest thousands of people?’ If they opt for arresting thousands of people, lots of things are going to happen. They will be overwhelmed. The police force in the U.K. is underfunded, like most of the public sector. There’s massive disaffection amongst the police. I won’t be surprised if they form a union and say, ‘We’re not doing this anymore.’ I’ve been arrested 10, 12 times in the last two years. Every time, police come up to me going, ‘Keep it up, mate. What you’re doing is great.’ We’re disciplined, nonviolent people. They’re not going to get pissed off at us. They also know it’s over. They spend their days scraping mentally ill people off the streets. There’s no glamour in being a police officer in a global city. The security forces are something you want to subvert, not denigrate.”
The group has stressed what it calls a “pre-social-media age” strategy for organizing. It has created structures to make decisions and issue demands. It sends out teams to give talks in communities. It insists that people who participate in the actions of Rebellion Extinction undergo “nonviolent direct-action” training so they will not be provoked by the police or opposition groups.
“Most of recent mass mobilizations have been social-media-fueled,” Hallam said. “Consequently, they have been chaotic. They are extremely fast mobilizations. Social media’s a bit like heroin. It’s a high, but then it collapses, like we’ve seen in France. It becomes chaotic or violent. A lot of modern social movements put stuff on social media. It gets clogged up with trolls. There’s lots of radical-left organizations arguing about different privileges. We’ve circumvented that and gone straight to the ‘common people,’ as you might say. We’ve held meetings in village town halls and city halls. We go around the country in a 19th-century sort of way, saying, ‘Hey guys. We’re all fucked. People are going to die if this isn’t sorted out.’ The second half of the talk is: There’s a way of dealing with this called mass civil disobedience.”
“Nonviolent discipline, as the research shows, is the No. 1 criterion for maximizing the potential for success,” he said. “This is not a moral observation. Violence destroys movements. The Global South has been at it for a few decades. Violence just ends up with people getting shot. It doesn’t lead anywhere. You might as well take your chances and maintain nonviolent discipline. There’s a big debate within the radical left over the attitude towards the police. This debate is a proxy for the justification of violence. As soon as you don’t talk to police, you’re more likely to provoke police violence. We try to charm the police so they’ll arrest people in a civilized way. The metropolitan police [in London] are probably one of the most civilized police forces in the world. They have a professional team of guys who go to social protests. We’ve been in regular communication with them. We say to the police, ‘Look, we’re going to be blocking the streets. We’re not going to not do that because you ask us not to.’ That’s the first thing to make clear. This is not an item for discussion. They know it’s serious. They don’t try to dissuade us. That would be silly. What they are concerned about is violence and public disorder. It’s in our interest as civil-disobedience designers not to have public disorder, because it becomes chaotic.”
“You’re basically holding the economy of a city to ransom,” he said of the shutdowns. “It’s the same dynamic as a labor strike. You want to get into the room and have a negotiation. Extinction Rebellion hasn’t quite decided what that negotiation is going to be. We’ve got three demands—the government tells the truth, the carbon emissions go to zero by 2025, which is a proxy for transformation of the economy and the society, and we have a national assembly which will sort out what the British people want to do about it. The third demand [calling for a national assembly] is a proxy for transforming the political structure of the economy. It proposes a different, concrete form of democratic governance, based around sortition rather than representation. This has had a big influence in Ireland and Iceland. The optimal transition is going to be from the corrupted ‘representational’ model to a sortition model in the same way aristocratic law shifted to representational law at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 19th century.”
“The intelligent people on the political left have woken up to the fact that we’ve got an existential emergency that could destroy human society in the next 10 years,” he said. “It’s in the cards. A lot of us have already gone through the grief process. But these [newly awakened] people just had that enlightenment. They’re in shock. They’re maintaining a veneer of ‘It’s sort of OK.’ This is what the Green Deal [a United Kingdom government policy initiative] is about. It is an attempt to pretend that industrialization can stay the same. We can all still be wealthy. We can all still have great jobs. It is like Roosevelt’s New Deal. But the New Deal was based on the idea that we can carry on plundering nature and nothing’s going to happen. Maybe that was right in the 1930s. But it’s not right anymore. It’s a matter of physics and biology. We simply cannot maintain these levels of consumption. They haven’t reckoned with that. One of the main reasons the climate debate has not gotten into a serious mode over the last 30 years is because people who are in charge of informing the public are terrified of telling the public that they can’t have the high consumer lifestyle anymore. It’s a taboo. But like any addiction, there comes a moment of truth. We’re there now.”
“For 30 years we’ve had one political metaphysic, reform,” he said. “You either reform or you are irrelevant. But now, we have two massive, exponentially increasing structural faults—the inequality problem and the climate problem. A lot of people—because of path dependency dynamics—have worked for 30 years in this lost-cause sort of space. They’re desperate for change. For 30 years they’ve been putting their money on reform. The tragedy—and you can see this in the history of political struggle going back hundreds of years—is there’s a flip where the reformists lose control. They’re still living in the past world. The revolutionaries, who everyone thinks are ridiculously naive, suddenly come to the fore. It’s usually a quake. It’s not a gradualist thing. It’s a double tragedy because it’s a quake and the revolutionaries usually aren’t organized. I think that’s what’s happening now. It has very big implications for [resistance against] fascism. Unless you have a clearheaded mass mobilization on the left which is connected with the working class you’re not going to be able to stop the fascism.”
The mass actions on April 15 might fizzle out. The crowds might not gather. The public might be apathetic. But if only a handful of us attempt to block a bridge or a road, even if we are swiftly swept away by the police, so swiftly there is not enough disruption to notice, it will be worth it. I am a father. I love my children. It is not about me. It is about them. This is what parents do.
Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.
Originally published by Truthdig
|March 1, 2019||
A World (Still) Split Apart
by Amir Nour, in Life/Philosophy, Countercurrents.org
“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything”
(Attributed to Gilbert Keith Chesterton)
The dramatic turn for the worse in the evolution of humanism and in the dizzying advances in science and technology has triggered heated debate among great thinkers and writers of the 20th century. And the discussion about its deep impact, on both man and the environment, is far from resolved; in particular concerning the key role the West has played, and is still playing, down such an exciting though perilous path.
Obviously, there should be no question of having a bone to pick with modern technology—overwhelmingly originating in the West—which has yielded remarkable successes and rendered yeoman service to humanity as a whole, in almost every realm of human activity. To be sure, the “same technological warp drive that has given us iPhones and streaming services has cut extreme global poverty in half. The same tsunami of data that has revolutionized medicine has, with a twist and a tweet, given us 24-hour news with its howling stridencies. We spit and get our genetic history, press a button and access all human knowledge, navigate the globe on six-inch screen.”
Conversely, one can as well see this as a mixed blessing, and ask whether it doesn’t seem possible, in the midst of our digital lives, that Silicon Valley’s darkest, stealthiest triumph has been to merge personal technologies that improve our efficiency with personal technologies that alter our humanity? And whether we still have control over this rapid pace of development so that to ensure that we—and our powerful future quantum supercomputers—direct research in such a way as to reap the benefits of the ongoing staggering technological progress while avoiding its potential pitfalls?
Thus, with much less benefit of hindsight than Franklin Foer and many other contemporary scholars, but with far more foresight, Nobel Prize laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn dealt with this very topic eloquently in an historic speech delivered before a large audience gathered at the prestigious American Harvard University in 1978—at a time when the East-West Cold War was at its peak, and only four years after he had been deported to the West from his then communist Soviet Union. He observed that in the Western societies the defense of individual rights had reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals, and destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil, he affirms, has “come about gradually, but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature […] The fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their offensive; you can feel the pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?”
The Russian philosopher then asked how had such unfavorable relation of forces come about, and how did the West decline from its triumphal march to its (present) sickness? He answered by stating that the West found itself in such a state not because there had been sudden fatal turns and losses of direction in its development, since it had kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions with the help of brilliant technological progress. Rather, the mistake, according to him, must have been at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. He referred specifically to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment, and which “became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists”.
As a result of this new way of thinking introduced by the Renaissance, says Solzhenitsyn, Western civilization “became founded on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs”, and everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of subtler and higher nature were “left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense”.
The Nobel Prize winner in Literature then warned of a looming disaster which has been under way for quite some time, that is the calamity of a de-spiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness. He explained that on the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but “we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and irresponsibility” only to find out that we were being deprived of “our most important possession: our spiritual life”. In the East, he explains, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party; and in the West, commercial interests suffocate it. Consequently, the split in the world is “less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections”.
In concluding his masterful speech—which remains strikingly relevant today, apart from the facts of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the ensuing demise of communism—Solzhenitsyn made the observation that if the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history “equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance”, and that if we want to save life from self-destruction, there needs to be a spiritual upsurge, whereby humans shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to “a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middles Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era”. This ascension, he stressed, “will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on Earth has any other way left but upward”.
Today, perhaps more than ever before, humanity is in the midst of a tidal wave of change. Astrologers insist this is inherent to the “Age of the Aquarius”; Solzhenitsyn and some other ingenious and visionary writers—like Yuval Noah Harari, Jonah Goldberg, and, before them all, Algerian Malek Bennabi—believe it is symptomatic of the transition into the next stage of mankind’s history.
So, now that the diagnosis of humanity’s current predicament has been made, the burning question that arises with increasing urgency is how can humanity rise to the daunting challenge of offering a prescription both to cure the multifaceted ailments that are threatening its very survival, and to navigate wisely our way forward in a growingly complex world?
In his latest book, Harari rightfully notes that there is today just one civilization in the world. He explains that ten thousand years ago humankind was divided into countless isolated tribes, but with each passing millennium, these fused into larger groups, creating fewer and fewer distinct civilizations. Thereafter, more prominently in recent generations, the few remaining civilizations have been blended into a single global civilization. And although “political, ethnic, cultural and economic divisions endure, they do not undermine the fundamental unity”.
Rejecting the “misleading” thesis of the “clash of civilizations”, he believes that mankind is losing faith in the liberal story that dominated global politics in recent decades, exactly when the merger of biotechnology and Information technology confronts us with the biggest challenges humankind has ever encountered. Harari is convinced that “any story that seeks to gain humanity’s allegiance will be tested above all in its ability to deal with the twin revolutions in Infotech and biotech”. He, accordingly, draws the conclusion that “if liberalism, nationalism, Islam or some novel creed wishes to shape the world of the year 2050, it will need not only to make sense of artificial intelligence, Big Data algorithms and bioengineering—it will also need to incorporate them into a new meaningful narrative”.
For his part, Jonah Goldberg, building on the research and theories of dozens of sociologists, historians and economists, makes the case that America and other democracies are in peril because they have lost the will to defend the values and institutions that sustain freedom and prosperity. For the West to avoid “suicide” and survive, he says, “we must renew our sense of gratitude for what our civilization has given us and rediscover the ideals and habits of the heart that led us out of the bloody muck of the past—or back to the muck we will go”. In other words, he advocates a return to core, conservative values.
More significantly, Goldberg also makes an important observation which has been “oddly” overlooked by almost all book reviews, even though it constitutes the main theme of the book’s conclusion titled “Decline is a choice”; that is “whether you believe in God or not, it is simply the case that the idea of God has shrunk in society and in our hearts”. This, in turn, has greatly impacted the influence, on individuals and societies alike, of the notion of “God-fearing”—that God is watching you even when others are not. Quite justifiably, Goldberg views this notion as the greatest check on the natural human desire to give in to one’s feelings and do what feels good or even what feels “right”; and, as such, it is “the most powerful civilizing force in all of human history”. Such a negative evolution, Goldberg further explains, creates an opening for all manner of ideas to flood in, thence agreeing with the well-known dictum attributed to Gilbert Keith Chesterton: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything”.
A common and recurring thread in the above big ideas is the belief that civilization without religion is doomed. This is a proven historical fact that has been extensively documented. It is therefore my conviction that the world is still split apart, but not exactly along Solzhenitsyn’s Cold War lines anymore. To be sure, the 20th century has been both the cradle and the cemetery of all ideologies and all “isms“. And once again, history is taking an unexpected turn: the latest of its victims, the last of the ideological Mohicans, is now liberalism, which not so long ago—having successfully dealt a death blow to its communist rival—seemed set to last forever.
Today’s split is fundamentally between believers and non-believers. If it really is the case, then the big question to ask is inescapably: how can we possibly find the best ways and means to live together in peace, by reconciling science, reason and faith, hence bridging the dangerously widening gap between those two components of today’s single global civilization dwelling in a rapidly changing and tightly interconnected world?
We shalll attempt to answer this big question in a forthcoming analysis.
Amir Nour is an Algerian researcher in international relations, author of the book L’Orient et l’Occident à l’heure d’un nouveau Sykes-Picot (“The Orient and the Occident in time of a New Sykes-Picot”), Editions Alem El Afkar, Algiers, 2014: downloadable free of charge, by clicking on the following links:
 See Amir Nour, The Enduring Quest for Übermensch: From Renaissance Humanism to Silicon Valley’s Posthumanism (https://thesaker.is/the-enduring-quest-for-ubermensch-from-renaissance-humanism-to-silicon-valleys-posthumanism/)
 David Wolpe, Awaiting the Prophet, Los Angeles Review of Books, June 3, 2018.
 Franklin Foer, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, Penguin Publishing Group, 2017.
 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, A World Split Apart, Harvard Commencement Address, June 8, 1978.
 Astrologers believe that an astrological age affects humanity, possibly by influencing the rise and fall of civilizations or cultural tendencies. Traditionally, Aquarius is associated with electricity, computers, flight, democracy, freedom, humanitarianism, idealism, modernization, astrology, nervous disorders, rebellion, nonconformity, philanthropy, veracity, perseverance, humanity, and irresolution. (Source: Wikipedia, and Geoffrey Dean et al, Recent Advances in Natal Astrology: A Critical Review 1900-1976, Astrological Association, 1977).
 In his book titled L’Afro-Asiatisme: Conclusions sur la Conférence de Bandoeng, published in Cairo, Egypt, in 1956, Malek Bennabi predicted the realization of a “great human mutation” whereby “mankind, which had crossed with the Neolithic the first level of its history by rising to the level of civilizations, must now move to the second level of its history by rising to the level of the civilization of the ecumenical man”.
 Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Jonathan Cape, London, 2018.
 Jonah Goldberg, Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy, Crown Forum, 2018.
 See: Amir Nour, Fighting for Survival: Whither Modern Civilization, The Saker, July 7, 2017 (https://thesaker.is/fighting-for-survival-whither-modern-civilization/).
 At the initiative of Algeria, the United Nations General Assembly adopted, on 8 December 2017, resolution 72/130 (https://undocs.org/A/RES/72/130) declaring the 16th of May as the International Day of Living Together in Peace.
|March 1, 2019||
How Climate Change Could End Washington’s Global Dominion
by Alfred W McCoy, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
Once upon a time in America, we could all argue about whether or not U.S. global power was declining. Now, most observers have little doubt that the end is just a matter of timing and circumstance. Ten years ago, I predictedthat, by 2025, it would be all over for American power, a then-controversial comment that’s commonplace today. Under President Donald Trump, the once “indispensable nation” that won World War II and built a new world order has become dispensable indeed.
The decline and fall of American global power is, of course, nothing special in the great sweep of history. After all, in the 4,000 years since humanity’s first empire formed in the Fertile Crescent, at least 200 empires have risen, collided with other imperial powers, and in time collapsed. In the past century alone, two dozen modern imperial states have fallen and the world has managed just fine in the wake of their demise.
The global order didn’t blink when the sprawling Soviet empire imploded in 1991, freeing its 15 “republics” and seven “satellites” to become 22 newly capitalist nations. Washington took that epochal event largely in stride. There were no triumphal demonstrations, in the tradition of ancient Rome, with manacled Russian captives and their plundered treasures paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue. Instead, a Manhattan real-estate developer bought a 20-foot chunk of the Berlin Wall for display near Madison Avenue, a sight barely noticed by busy shoppers.
For those trying to track global trends for the next decade or two, the real question is not the fate of American global hegemony, but the future of the world order it began building at the peak of its power, not in 1991, but right after World War II. For the past 75 years, Washington’s global dominion has rested on a “delicate duality.” The raw realpolitik of U.S. military bases, multinational corporations, CIA coups, and foreign military interventions has been balanced, even softened, by a surprisingly liberal world order — with sovereign states meeting as equals at the United Nations, an international rule of law that muted armed conflict, a World Health Organization that actually eradicated epidemic diseases which had plagued humanity for generations, and a developmental effort led by the World Bank that lifted 40% of humanity out of poverty.
Some observers remain supremely confident that Washington’s world order can survive the inexorable erosion of its global power. Princeton political scientist G. John Ikenberry, for example, has essentially staked his reputation on that debatable proposition. As U.S. decline first became apparent in 2011, he argued that Washington’s ability to shape world politics would diminish, but “the liberal international order will survive and thrive,” preserving its core elements of multilateral governance, free trade, and human rights. Seven years later, amid a rise of anti-global nationalists across significant parts of the planet, he remains optimistic that the American-made world order will endure because international issues such as climate change make its “protean vision of interdependence and cooperation… more important as the century unfolds.”
This sense of guarded optimism is widely shared among foreign-policy elites in the New York-Washington corridor of power. The president of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, has typically arguedthat the “post-Cold War order cannot be restored, but the world is not yet on the edge of a systemic crisis.” Through deft diplomacy, Washington could still save the planet from “deeper disarray” or even “trends that spell catastrophe.”
But is it true that the decline of the planet’s “sole superpower” (as it was once known) will no more shake the present world order than the Soviet collapse once did? To explore what it takes to produce just such an implosion of a world order, it’s necessary to turn to history — to the history, in fact, of collapsing imperial orders and a changing planet.
Admittedly, such analogies are always imperfect, yet what other guide to the future do we have but the past? Among its many lessons: that world orders are far more fundamental than we might imagine and that their uprooting requires a perfect storm of history’s most powerful forces. Indeed, the question of the moment should be: Is climate change now gathering sufficient destructive force to cripple Washington’s liberal world order and create an opening for Beijing’s decidedly illiberal one or possibly even a new world in which such orders will be unrecognizable?
Empires and World Orders
Despite the aura of awe-inspiring power they give off, empires have often been the ephemeral creations of an individual conqueror like Alexander the Great or Napoleon that fade fast after his death or defeat. World orders are, by contrast, far more deeply rooted. They are resilient global systems created by a convergence of economic, technological, and ideological forces. On the surface, they entail a diplomatic entente among nations, while at a deeper level they entwine themselves within the cultures, commerce, and values of countless societies. World orders influence the languages people speak, the laws they live by, and the ways they work, worship, and even play. World orders are woven into the fabric of civilization itself. To uproot them takes an extraordinary event or set of events, even a global catastrophe.
Looking back over the last millennium, old orders die and new ones arise when a cataclysm, marked by mass death or a maelstrom of destruction, coincides with some slower yet sweeping social transformation. Since the age of European exploration started in the fifteenth century, some 90 empires, large and small, have come and gone. In those same centuries, however, there have been only three major world orders — the Iberian age (1494-1805), the British imperial era (1815-1914), and the Washington world system (1945-2025).
Such global orders are not the mere imaginings of historians trying, so many decades or centuries later, to impose some logic upon a chaotic past. Those three powers — Spain, Britain, and the United States — consciously tried to re-order their worlds for, they hoped, generations to come through formal agreements — the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and the San Francisco conference that drafted the U.N. charter in 1945. Should Beijing succeed Washington as the world’s preeminent power, future historians will likely look back on its Belt and Road Forum, which brought 130 nations to Beijing in 2017, as the formal start of the Chinese era.
Each of these treaties shaped a world in the most fundamental ways, articulating universal principles that would define the nature of nations and the rights of all humans within them for decades to come. Over this span of 500 years, these three world orders conducted what could be seen, in retrospect, as a continuing debate over the nature of human rights and the limits of state sovereignty over vast stretches of the planet.
In their spread across disparate lands, world orders become coalitions of contending, even contradictory, social forces — diverse peoples, rival nations, competing classes. When deftly balanced, such a system can survive for decades, even centuries, by subsuming those contending forces within broadly shared interests. As tensions swell into contradictions, however, a cataclysm in the form of war or natural disaster can catalyze otherwise simmering conflicts — allowing challenges from rival powers, revolts by subordinate social orders, or both.
The Iberian Age
During the last thousand years, the first of these transformative cataclysms was certainly the Black Death of 1350, one of history’s greatest waves of mass mortality via disease, this one spread by rats carrying infected lice from Central Asia across Europe. In just six years, this pandemic killed up to 60% of Europe’s population, leaving some 50 million dead. As lesser yet still lethal epidemics recurred at least eight times over the next half-century, the world’s population fell sharply from an estimated 440 million to just 350 million people, a crash from which it would not fully recover for another two centuries.
Historians have long argued that the plague caused lasting labor shortages, slashing revenues on feudal estates and so forcing aristocrats to seek alternative income through warfare. The result: a century of incessant conflict across France, Italy, and Spain. But few historians have explored the broader geopolitical impact of this demographic disaster. After nearly a millennium, it seems to have ended the Middle Ages with its system of localized states and relatively stable regional empires, while unleashing the gathering forces of merchant capital, maritime trade, and military technology to, quite literally, set the world in motion.
As Tamerlane’s horsemen swept across Central Asia and the Ottoman Turks occupied southeast Europe (while also capturing Constantinople, the Byzantine empire’s capital, in 1453), Iberia’s kingdoms turned seaward for a century of exploration. Not only did they extend their growing imperial power to four continents (Africa, Asia, and both Americas), but they also created the first truly global order worthy of the name, commingling commerce, conquest, and religious conversion on a global scale.
Starting in 1420, thanks to advances in navigation and naval warfare, including the creation of the agile caravel gunship, Portuguese mariners pushed south, rounded Africa, and eventually built some 50 fortified ports from Southeast Asia to Brazil. This would allow them to dominate much of world trade for more than a century. Somewhat later, Spanish conquistadoresfollowed Columbus across the Atlantic to conquer the Aztec and Incan empires, occupying significant parts of the Americas.
Just weeks after Columbus completed his first voyage in 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued a decree awarding the Spanish crown perpetual sovereignty over all lands west of a mid-Atlantic line so “that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the [Catholic] faith.” He also affirmed an earlier Papal bull (Romanus Pontifex, 1455) that gave Portugal’s king rights to “subdue all Saracens and pagans” east of that line, “reduce their persons to perpetual slavery,” and “possess these islands, lands, harbors, and seas.”
To settle just where that line actually lay, Spanish and Portuguese diplomats met for months in 1494 in the tiny city of Tordesillas for high-stakes negotiations, producing a treaty that split the non-Christian world between them and officially launched the Iberian age. In its expansive definition of national sovereignty, this treaty allowed European states to acquire “barbarous nations” by conquest and make entire oceans into a mare clausum, or a closed sea, through exploration. This diplomacy would also impose a rigid religious-cum-racial segregation upon humanity that would persist for another five centuries.
Even as they rejected Iberia’s global land grab, other European states contributed to the formation of that distinctive world order. King Francis I of France typically demanded “to see the clause of Adam’s will by which I should be denied my share of the world.” Nonetheless, he accepted the principle of European conquest and later sent navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano to explore North America and claim what became Canada for France.
A century after, when Protestant Dutch mariners defied Catholic Portugal’s mare clausum by seizing one of its merchant ships off Singapore, their jurist Hugo Grotius argued persuasively, in his 1609 treatise Mare Liberum(“Freedom of the Seas”), that the sea like the air is “so limitless that it cannot become a possession of any one.” For the next 400 years, the twin diplomatic principles of open seas and conquered colonies would remain foundational for the international order.
Sustained by mercantile profits and inspired by missionary zeal, this diffuse global order proved surprisingly resilient, surviving for three full centuries. By the start of the eighteenth century, however, Europe’s absolutist states had descended into destructive internecine conflicts, notably the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) and a global Seven Years War (1756-1763). Moreover, the royal chartered companies — British, Dutch, and French — that by then ran those empires were proving ever less capable of effective colonial rule and increasingly inept at producing profits.
After two centuries of dominion, the French East India Company liquidated in 1794 and its venerable Dutch counterpart collapsed only five years later. Final fatal blows to these absolutist regimes were delivered by the American, French, and Haitian revolutions that erupted between 1776 and 1804.
The British Imperial Era
The British imperial age emerged from the cataclysmic Napoleonic Wars that unleashed the transformative power of England’s innovations in industry and global finance. For 12 years, 1803 to 1815, those wars proved to be a Black Death-style maelstrom that roiled Europe, leaving six million dead in their wake and reaching India, Southeast Asia, and the Americas.
By the time the Emperor Napoleon disappeared into exile, France, stripped of many of its overseas colonies, had been reduced to secondary status in Europe, while its erstwhile ally, Spain, was so weakened that it would soonlose its Latin American empire. Propelled by a tumultuous and historic economic transformation, Britain suddenly faced no serious European rival and found itself free to create and oversee a bifurcated world order in which sovereignty remained a right and reality only in Europe and parts of the Americas, while much of the rest of the planet was subject to imperial dominion.
Admittedly, the destruction caused by the Napoleonic wars may seem relatively modest compared to the devastation of the Black Death, but the long-term changes engendered by Britain’s industrial revolution and the finance capitalism that emerged from those wars proved far more compelling than the earlier era’s merchant companies and missionary endeavors. From 1815 to 1914, London presided over an expanding global system marked by industry, capital exports, and colonial conquests, all spurred by the integration of the planet via railroad, steamship, telegraph, and ultimately radio. In contrast to the weak royal companies of the earlier age, this version of imperialism combined modern corporations with direct colonial rule in a way that allowed for far more efficient exploitation of local resources. No surprise, then, that some scholars have called Britain’s century of dominion the “first age of globalization.”
While British industry and finance were quintessentially modern, its imperial age extended key international principles of centuries past, even if in grim secular guise. While the Dutch doctrine of “freedom of the seas” allowed the British navy to rule the waves, the earlier religious justification for domination was replaced by a racialist ideology that legitimized European efforts to conquer and colonize the half of humanity whom the imperialist poet Rudyard Kipling branded the “lesser breeds.”
Although the 1815 Congress of Vienna officially launched the British era by eliminating France as a rival, the 1885 Berlin Conference on Africa truly defined the age. Much as the Portuguese and Spanish had done at Tordesillas in 1494, the 14 imperial powers (including the United States) present at Berlin four centuries later justified carving up the entire continent of Africa by proclaiming a self-serving commitment “to watch over the preservation of the native tribes and to care for the improvement of the conditions of their moral and material well-being.” Just as that designation of Africans as “native tribes” instead of “nations” or “peoples” denied them both sovereignty and human rights, so the British century witnessed eight empires subjecting nearly half of humanity to colonial rule premised on racial inferiority.
Only a century after its founding, however, the contradictions that lurked within Great Britain’s global rule erupted, thanks to the way that two cataclysmic world wars coincided with the long-term rise of anti-colonial nationalism to create our current world order. The alliance system among rival empires proved volatile, exploding into murderous conflicts in 1914 and again in 1939. Worse yet, industrialization had spawned the battleship and the airship as engines for warfare of unprecedented range and destructive power, while modern science would also create nuclear weapons with the power to potentially destroy the planet itself. Meanwhile, the colonies that covered nearly half the globe refused to abide by the institutionalized denial of the very liberty, humanity, and sovereignty that Europe prized for itself.
While most of the 15 million combat deaths in World War I emerged from the destructive nature of trench warfare on the western front in France (compounded by 100 million fatalities worldwide from an influenza pandemic), World War II spread its devastation globally, killing more than 60 million people and ravaging cities across Europe and Asia. With Europe struggling to recover, its empires could no longer constrain colonial cries for independence. Just two decades after the war’s end, the six European overseas empires that had dominated much of Asia and Africa for five centuries gave way to 100 new nations.
Washington’s World Order
In the aftermath of history’s most destructive war, the United States used its unmatched power to form the Washington world system. American deaths in World War II numbered 418,000, but those losses paled before the 24 million dead in Russia, the 20 million more in China, and the 19 million in Europe. While industries across Europe, Russia, and Japan were damaged or destroyed and much of Eurasia was ravaged, the United States found itself left with a vibrant economy on a war footing and half the world’s industrial capacity. With much of Europe and Asia suffering from mass hunger, the swelling surpluses of American agriculture fed a famished humanity.
Washington’s visionary world order took form at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944. There, 44 Allied nations created an international financial system exemplified by the World Bank and then, at San Francisco in 1945, by a U.N. charter to form a community of sovereign nations. In a striking blow for human progress, this new order resoundingly rejected the religious and racial divisions of the previous five centuries, proclaiming in the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family,” which “should be protected by the rule of law.”
Within a decade after the end of World War II, Washington also had 500 overseas military bases ringing Eurasia and a chain of mutual defense pacts stretching from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS), and a globe-girding armada of nuclear-armed warships and strategic bombers. To exercise its version of global dominion, Washington retained the seventeenth-century Dutch doctrine of “freedom of the seas,” later extending it even to space where, for more than half a century, its military satellites have orbited without restraint.
Just as the British imperial system was far more pervasive and powerful than its Iberian predecessor, so Washington’s world order went beyond both of them, becoming rigorously systematic and deeply embedded in every aspect of planetary life. While the 1815 Congress of Vienna was an ephemeral gathering of two dozen diplomats whose influence faded within a decade, the United Nations and its 193 member states have, for nearly 75 years, sustained 44,000 permanent staff to supervise global health, human rights, education, law, labor, gender relations, development, food, culture, peacekeeping, and refugees. In addition to such broad governance, the U.N. also hosts treaties that are meant to regulate sea, space, and the climate.
Not only did the Bretton Woods conference create a global financial system, but it also led to the formation of the World Trade Organization that regulates commerce among 124 member states. You might imagine, then, that such an extraordinarily comprehensive system, integrated into almost every aspect of international intercourse, would be able to survive even major upheavals.
Cataclysm and Collapse
Yet there is mounting evidence that climate change, as it accelerates, is creating the basis for the sort of cataclysm that will be capable of shaking even such a deeply rooted world order. The cascading effects of global warming will be ever more evident, not in the distant future of 2100 (as once thought), but within just 20 years, impacting the lives of most adults alive today.
Last October, scientists with the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a “doomsday report,” warning that humanity had just 12 years left to cut carbon emissions by a striking 45% or the world’s temperature would rise by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by about 2040. This, in turn, would bring significant coastal flooding, ever more intense storms, fierce drought, wildfires, and heat waves with damage that might add up to as much as $54 trillion — well over half the current size of the global economy. Within a few decades after that, global warming would, absent heroic measures, reach a dangerous 2 degrees Celsius, with even more devastation.
In January, scientists, using new data from sophisticated floating sensors,reported that the world’s oceans were heating 40% faster than estimated only five years earlier, unleashing powerful storms with frequent coastal flooding. Sooner or later, sea levels might rise by a full foot thanks to nothing but the thermal expansion of existing waters. Simultaneous reports showed that the rise in world air temperature has already made the last five years the hottest in recorded history, bringing ever more powerful hurricanes and raging wildfires to the United States with damages totaling $306 billion in 2017. And that hefty sum should be considered just the most modest of down payments on what’s to come.
Surprisingly fast-melting ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic will only intensify the impact of climate change. An anticipated rise in sea level of eight inches by 2050 could double coastal flooding in tropical latitudes — with devastating impacts on millions of people in low-lying Bangladesh and the mega-cities of southeastern Asia from Mumbai to Saigon and Guangzhou. Meltwater from Greenland is also disrupting the North Atlantic’s “overturning circulation” that regulates the region’s climate and is destined to produce yet more extreme weather events. Meanwhile, Antarctic meltwater will trap warm water under the surface, accelerating the break-up of the West Antarctic ice shelf and contributing to a rise in ocean levels that could hit 20 inches by 2100.
In sum, an ever-escalating tempo of climate change over the coming decades is likely to produce massive damage to the infrastructure that sustains human life. Seven hundred years later, humanity could be facing another catastrophe on the scale of the Black Death, one that might, once again, set the world in motion.
The geopolitical impact of climate change may be felt most immediately in the Mediterranean basin, home to 466 million people, where temperatures in 2016 had already reached 1.3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. (The current global average was still around 0.85 degrees.) This means that the threat of devastating drought is going to be brought to a historically dry region bordered by sprawling deserts in North Africa and the Middle East. In a telling example of how climate catastrophe can erase an entire world order, around 1200 BC the eastern Mediterranean suffered a protracted drought that “caused crop failures, dearth, and famine,” sweeping away Late Bronze Age civilizations like the Greek Mycenaean cities, the Hittite empire, and the New Kingdom in Egypt.
From 2007 to 2010, ongoing global warming caused the “worst three-year drought” in Syria’s recorded history — precipitating unrest marked by “massive agricultural failures” that drove 1.5 million people into city slums and, next, by a devastating civil war that, starting in 2011, forced five million refugees to flee that country. As more than a million migrants, led by 350,000 Syrians, poured into Europe in 2015, the European Union (EU) plunged into political crisis. Anti-immigrant parties soon gained in popularity and power across the continent while Britain voted for its own chaotic Brexit.
Projecting the Middle East’s history, ancient and modern, into the near future, the ingredients for a regional crisis with serious global ramifications are clearly present. Just last month, the U.S. National Intelligence Council warned that “climate hazards,” such as “heat waves [and] droughts,” were increasing “social unrest, migration, and interstate tension in countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Jordan.”
If we translate those sparse words into a future scenario, sometime before 2040 when average global warming is likely to reach that dangerous 1.5 degrees Celsius mark, the Middle East will likely experience a disastrous temperature rise of 2.3 degrees. Such intense heat will produce protracted droughts far worse than the one that destroyed those Bronze Age civilizations, potentially devastating agriculture and sparking water wars among the nations that share the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, while sending yet more millions of refugees fleeing toward Europe. Under such unprecedented pressure, far-right parties might take power across the continent and the EU could rupture as every nation seals its borders. NATO, suffering a “severe crisis” since the Trump years, might simply implode, creating a strategic vacuum that finally allows Russia to seize Ukraine and the Baltic states.
As tensions rise on both sides of the Atlantic, the U.N. could be paralyzed by a great-power deadlock in the Security Council as well as growing recriminations over the role of its High Commissioner for Refugees. Pummeled by these and similar crises from other climate-change hot spots, the international cooperation that lay at the heart of Washington’s world order for the past 90 years would simply wither, leaving a legacy even less visible than that block of the Berlin Wall in midtown Manhattan.
Beijing’s Emerging World System
As Washington’s global power fades and its world order weakens, Beijing is working to build a successor system in its own image that would be strikingly different from the present one.
Most fundamentally, China has subordinated human rights to an overarching vision of expanding state sovereignty, vehemently rejecting foreign criticism of its treatment of its Tibetan and Uighur minorities, just as it ignores equally egregious domestic transgressions by countries like North Korea and the Philippines. If climate change does, in fact, spark mass migrations, then China’s untrammeled nationalism, with its implicit hostility to the rights of refugees, might prove more acceptable to a future era than Washington’s dream of international cooperation that has already begun to sink from sight in the era of Donald Trump’s “great wall.”
In a distinctly ironic twist, a rising China has defied the long-standing doctrine of open seas, now sanctioned under a U.N. convention, instead effectively reviving the mare clausum version of imperial power by claiming adjacent oceans as its sovereign territory. When the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the original world court, unanimously rejected its claim to the South China Sea in 2016, Beijing insisted that the ruling was “naturally null and void” and would not affect its “territorial sovereignty” over an entire sea. Not only did Beijing in that way extend its sovereignty over the open seas, but it also signaled its disdain for the international rule of law, an essential ingredient in Washington’s world order.
More broadly, Beijing is building an alternative international system quite separate from established institutions. As a counterpoise to NATO on Eurasia’s western extremity, China founded the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2001, a security and economic bloc weighted toward the eastern end of Eurasia thanks to the membership of nations like Russia, India, and Pakistan. As a counterpoint to the World Bank, Beijing formed the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank in 2016 that quickly attracted 70 member nations and was capitalized to the tune of $100 billion, nearly half the size of the World Bank itself. Above all, China’s $1.3 trillion Belt and Road Initiative, 10 times the size of the U.S. Marshall Plan that rebuilt a ravaged Europe after World War II, is now attempting to mobilize up to $8 trillion more in matching funds for 1,700 projects that could, within a decade, knit 76 nations across Africa and Eurasia, a full half of all humanity, into an integrated commercial infrastructure.
By shedding current ideals of human rights and the rule of law, such a future world order would likely be governed by the raw realpolitik of commercial advantage and national self-interest. Just as Beijing effectively revived the 1455 doctrine of mare clausum, so its diplomacy will be infused with the self-aggrandizing spirit of the 1885 Berlin conference that once partitioned Africa. China’s communist ideals might promise human progress, but in one of history’s unsettling ironies, Beijing’s emerging world order seems more likely to bend that “arc of the moral universe” backward.
Of course, on a planet on which by 2100 that country’s agricultural heartland, the north China plain with its 400 million inhabitants, could become uninhabitable thanks to unendurable heat waves and its major coastal commercial city, Shanghai, could be under water (as could other key coastal cities), who knows what the next world order might truly be like. Climate change, if not brought under some kind of control, threatens to create a new and eternally cataclysmic planet on which the very word “order” may lose its traditional meaning.
Alfred W. McCoy, a TomDispatch regular, is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, the now-classic book which probed the conjuncture of illicit narcotics and covert operations over 50 years, and the recently published In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power (Dispatch Books).
|March 2, 2019||
Climate Change Is Too Serious for Political Labels
by David Korten, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
This month the Green New Deal was introduced in the U.S. Congress with much fanfare, and its opponents quickly mobilized.
The resolution is more than a set of specific legislative proposals. It is a framework for an ambitious commitment to address climate change through eliminating fossil fuels and reducing agricultural emissions while also reducing inequality, creating well-paying green jobs, and providing people the skills to fill them. Given the threat the climate crisis poses to the future of humanity, it is arguably more important than was Franklin Roosevelt’s bold New Deal response to the Great Depression.
What followed was predictable: Opponents, both on the right and in the middle, immediately attacked the plan as unaffordable far-left socialist overreach, clearly hoping that the socialist label would scare people away. I’m sensing that for most of today’s electorate, the threat posed by wildfires, floods, mass extinctions, rising sea levels, and a shifting polar vortex is far more frightening than simplistic political labels.
That’s especially the case for labels like “socialism” and “communism,” which date from a time that for many is ancient history.
Our living spaceship is dying by our hand, and there are no escape capsules, and no place to go if there were. So people, especially the young, are mobilizing to act and to demand action from both government and business.
Some of my generation, however, may stumble on the political labels wielded by the opponents of such a bold vision as the Green New Deal. If the new young leaders are to bring the reluctant along, they will need to understand how terms like socialism and communism gained such a negative hold on our psyche. My own experience has unique elements, but my response to the political labels of our time was fairly typical.
I was born in 1937 and grew up in the post-Depression years in a family of self-identified conservatives in a small town with thriving unionized lumber, pulp, and aluminum plants. The plants’ workers were the customers on which our family retail business depended. We were proud to view America as a middle-class nation free of the extremes of wealth and poverty that characterized so much of the rest of the world. In my innocence, I assumed all Americans belonged to the middle class—that America was in effect a classless society.
My political consciousness was formed during a time of confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. We lived with the ever-present threat of mutual nuclear annihilation. We perceived communism—and socialism by extension—as a mortal threat. To be identified as a communist or socialist was a ticket to social and political exclusion.
It was my personal fear of the global threat of spreading communist revolutions that led me, the oldest son, to turn away from heading the family business. I chose to devote my life instead to the cause of ending poverty in formerly colonized nations by spreading the secrets of U.S. business success, with a goal of making all nations middle-class societies like the United States.
With time my understanding of the world’s social, environmental, economic, and political realities expanded. My critique of capitalism grew steadily stronger. But my fear of association with a socialist or communist label remained, partly for fear of rejection and partly because it was clear that neither socialism nor communism in their commonly understood expressions offered a solution.
A few days ago I read a thoughtful response from a reader to my most recent column, “Capitalism vs. Socialism Is a False Choice.” The comment included a link to an article that reinforced the key argument of my column. And yet, most of the author’s references were to Karl Marx.
Not long ago, I would have been uneasy with such association. This time I was not. As I reflected on why, I realized that the labels that had previously been so frightening no longer seem to hold consequential public sway. I don’t think I am alone in this. I sense the public may be ready for a thoughtful search for solutions that link public and private initiative beyond the grand labels—a search reflected in the substance of the Green New Deal.
Such a liberation of the public debate is long overdue. The world of my earlier years has changed beyond recognition. The Soviet Union, along with its celebration of armed revolution and the collapse of its self-proclaimed dictatorship of the proletariat, disintegrated almost 30 years ago. The Russia that has emerged is an unabashed capitalist dictatorship of the mafia. China’s Communist party now rules the world’s most aggressive and successful capitalist economy. And in the United States, the middle class is disappearing as the division between rich and poor becomes ever more extreme.
It is now evident to most people that we face a desperate need for deep change. There may be no place in a viable human future for profit-driven global megacorporations. There surely will be a continuing need for democratic governments, public services, nonprofit civic organizations, and a vast variety of family and cooperative businesses. Neither the capitalist, socialist, nor communist labels adequately capture such diversity.
When we talk about the Green New Deal, let’s forget the labels and talk about how to mount an effort up to the existential challenges of our time.
Dr. David Korten is the author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, president of the Living Economies Forum, and a member of the Club of Rome. He holds MBA and PhD degrees from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and served on the faculty of the Harvard Business School.
|March 2, 2019||
How We, the People, Can Save the Planet
by Richard Gale and Gary Null, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents.org
The recent release of the proposed Green New Deal is a template, an outline identifying some of the most crucial issues facing the nation regarding climate change and a wish list of measures to address those issues. It contains a variety of inspired agenda items, many of which have been voiced by the Green Party and environmental fringe groups in Washington for over a decade. According to the Deal’s Fact Sheet, 92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans support the Deal. Almost every Democrat throwing their hat into the 2020 presidential race backs it. And the Deal has gained wide approval in the climatology and atmospheric science communities; among hundreds of conservation, environmental, renewable energy, and social activist organizations; and within the younger generation. It has been a long time coming, and the question is whether it is too late. It is optimistic to think that we can reverse accelerating global warming trends and mitigate their impact by keeping the planet below the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 1.5 degree C warming mark for the next 12 years, and it is even more optimistic to think that Congress will be able to enact legislation like this without prioritizing the interests of the multinational corporations and lobbies that contribute to their re-election campaigns over the people who elected them.
It took no time for the Deal’s co-authors, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Democrat Senator Ed Markey, to be broadsided with disparaging criticisms by corporate leaders and political opponents, including old rank-and-file Democrats. The critics include the President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, fossil fuel backer Terry O’Sullivan, who labeled the report a “fantasy manifesto” that will create “divisions and inequality.” Billionaire Michael Bloomberg called it “pie in the sky.” And Pelosi and her multi-million dollar corporate colleagues are simply clueless about the “Green Dream or whatever they call it,” as Pelosi dismissed it. But there are plenty of legitimate criticisms too, and progressives would be wise not to let their desire to see pro-environmental legislation enacted at last blind them to the very real problems with Ocasio-Cortez and a legislative blueprint that could very easily become as much of a giveaway to multinational corporations as the Affordable Care Act was to insurance companies.
The Green New Deal largely relies for precedent upon the idealism behind great accomplishments in the US’ history when the nation succeeded in mobilizing to tackle difficult challenges that critics argued could never be accomplished. Examples include FDR’s transformation of the private auto and manufacturing industries to meet military needs during World War 2, Eisenhower’s interstate highway system, and the achievement of JFK’s promise to reach the moon before the end of the 1960s. Although Washington remains strait-jacked by the interests of the finance and energy lobbies, at the local level, constructive change is happening. Over one hundred cities across the country have issued statements pledging to transition to 100 percent renewable energy.1 Unfortunately, their dateline targets are far off track, and the best case, Hawaii, is looking at reaching 100 percent clean energy efficiency in another 26 years. Farmers are forgoing energy-intensive chemical agriculture and transitioning to organic. And the public is becoming increasingly more aware and educated about their energy usage and slowly changing its consumption habits. Nevertheless, compared to other developed nations, the US lags far behind in reaching realistic targets to address the IPCC’s 1.5 degree prediction, which is overly conservative. Absent the IPCC’s statistical limitations, the actual time frame, according to most independent climate scientists, is more dire. We may have only 7 years to get off fossil fuels.
However, reaching the Deal’s goal is potentially doable if the country’s industries and finance giants get behind it. Sweden already gets over half of its energy from renewables. In 2015, Denmark’s wind farm industry reached 140 percent of energy demands. In 2016 Portugal reached a milestone by operating for four days without any fossil fuels.2 Due to its favorable clean energy geothermal resources, Iceland generates the most clean energy per capita in the world; almost 90 percent of its total energy needs are satisfied by non-fossil fuel sources. Costa Rica has managed to run for over two months on 100 percent renewables. In 10 years, Uruguay’s unique public and private sector partnerships now supply 95 percent of its national energy needs with renewables.3 Many other nations are also making aggressive efforts to power themselves exclusively with clean energy. And where does the US stand? According to the US Energy Information Administration, for 2017, non-fossil fuel sources only accounted for a dismal 20 percent of energy consumption. And still 34 percent of fuel for our electric power sector relies on coal!4 While getting off fossil fuel dependency is absolutely critical, the US’s electricity production only accounts for 28 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions (GHEs). While switching to renewable energy for electrical power needs is very likely achievable, the obstacles to reach the IPCC target are enormous.
In our estimation, several stumbling blocks may make it impossible for the US to eliminate fossil fuels during the next dozen years. Aside from opposition within with the Democratic Party by corporatists such as Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Steny Hoyer, the cost to overhaul all industry, manufacturing and current and new technological developments would be astronomical. A Republican-aligned think tank, the American Action Forum, recently published a report estimating the Green New Deal would cost between $51 trillion and $93 trillion over ten years, though the lion’s share of that sum relates to the Deal’s provision of jobs and healthcare for all, rather than its environmental measures. Eliminating carbon emissions from the power and transportation sector, the group said, would “only” cost between $8.3 and $12.3 trillion over a decade. The national debt is already almost $22 trillion and growing. Since Trump took office, the debt has increased $2 trillion, and there is no indication it will shrink. Increasingly extreme weather and its aftereffects will only further raise the debt.
A closer examination of these numbers is required. The “official” price tag of the “War on Terror,” which has laid waste to the Middle East over the last 20 years, creating an endless supply of future enemies by slaughtering entire villages full of civilians via depersonalized drone warfare, recently climbed north of $6 trillion,5 and an investigation last year turned up an eye-popping $21 trillion in fraudulent budgeting by the Pentagon and the Department of Housing and Urban Development6. Thousands of whistleblowers are swept under the rug by the Defense Department’s Inspector General every year in their efforts to call attention to waste and fraud within the wealthiest military in the world. The first-ever attempt to audit the Pentagon, performed last year, was an embarrassing failure, revealing $6.5 trillion had simply vanished.7 The US spends nearly $1 trillion a year on “defense”8 – and while no one would suggest dismantling the American military, there are thousands of bases sprinkled around the world in countries the US does not belong, with undeclared conflicts raging in 134 countries.9 Surely some of this largesse could be repurposed to save the planet.
There is always money in the budget for war, which currently eats up more than half of every dollar spent by the US government, despite the fact that the US is not facing any credible military threats from state actors. Despite the evidence-free charges it meddled in the 2016 election, Russia does not pose a threat to the US – indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin in a recent speech expressed frustration that Russia was “banging on a locked door” regarding friendship between the two nations, rendered all but impossible with every round of draconian sanctions imposed as a form of legislative virtue-signaling by congressmen eager to demonstrate their allegiance in Cold War Part 2.10 Even China prefers to flex its muscles economically, rather than militarily, spending trillions to build its Belt and Road throughout the developing world and amassing allies by funding large infrastructure projects – where the US has historically bullied poorer nations into submissions through military force. The Green New Deal would merely take roughly the yearly expenditure on the War on Terror and use it for constructive, rather than destructive, purposes. Troops returning from costly and destructive foreign wars could even be put to work planting trees or building infrastructure, much as environmental projects are undertaken in less wealthy nations.
Because that scary $12.3 trillion figure is the cost if the Green New Deal were undertaken in the typical American fashion of rolling out grand legislation. If environmental reforms were enacted the way other countries work, the figure would shrink dramatically. Unfortunately, Ocasio-Cortez is open about her wish to work with “business interests” to get the job done, just as Barack Obama was willing to work with the insurance companies to pass the Affordable Care Act, resulting in a ruinously expensive and flawed plan that forced Americans to buy health insurance they could not afford while subsidizing a tiny sliver of the population. Healthcare costs did not go down – they skyrocketed – and healthcare quality certainly did not improve. Involving corporations with their profit-above-all value system guarantees the Green New Deal will enrich wealthy conglomerates like Bechtel and Halliburton. These will receive the big contracts for building renewable infrastructure, repurposing existing infrastructure, etc. but will contract the work out to other, smaller companies while keeping most of the money as profit. The smaller companies will then outsource the jobs (constructing solar panels in the desert, say, or planting a hardy forest on now-barren disused farmland) to poorly-paid local firms, while keeping most of the remaining money as profit. The poorly-paid local firms will then do the jobs with the cheapest materials and shoddiest standards in the hope of retaining whatever funds are left for their CEOs and investors. This is the American way, and it is why any grand infrastructure or rebuilding project costs so much.
If enacted along the lines of past grand projects like the Affordable Care Act, the Green New Deal will essentially be a giveaway to the big corporations Ocasio-Cortez claims to oppose, with her champagne socialism, neoliberal economics degree, and unhealthy affection for the trappings of wealth and power. It is no secret that the very real climate catastrophe we all face has been weaponized by multinational interests interested in pushing global governance measures as the only “solution” to the climate change problem. Too often, this has made those rightly suspicious of the motives of government and the ruling class also doubt the existence of climate change, in a form of guilt by association. But taking action on a grand scale need not be ruinously expensive or involve an authoritarian clampdown on the rights of the individual. China assigned 60,000 soldiers to plant enough trees to cover an area the size of Ireland last year11 with an aim toward eventually upping their forest coverage from 21 percent to 26 percent by 2035. Even Bangladesh – one of the poorest countries in the world – began planting one million trees in 2017 after rural deforestation had so denuded the countryside that farmers were dying from lightning strikes at high rates, copying a similar program in Thailand.12 India set a world record – twice! – using millions of volunteers to plant trees in order to bring its forests in line with the commitments it made under the Paris Agreement. With modern technology like “seed bombing,” a single airplane or drone can plant 900,000 trees in a day, dropping seeds encased in ready-to-grow soil bundles. This technology is already used in Africa, and it has advanced significantly beyond simply dropping seeds indiscriminately – modern seed bombing drones are equipped with imaging capability to ensure the seeds go where they are most likely to thrive. None of this requires outsourcing, subcontracting, slicing and dicing profit margins, or any of the typically American approaches to the problem, and it will save billions.
Relying on the government to do the right thing almost invariably leaves one disappointed. If it was not Ocasio-Cortez pushing cooperation with the business community as an integral part of the Deal, it would be another congressperson. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and the US Chamber of Commerce – the “business lobby” – is so massive it’s difficult for lawmakers to see outside its edges. Add in the size of the “energy lobby” and it’s easy to see how lawmakers find it difficult to conceive of taking large-scale action in a way that does not primarily benefit large corporations. The voice of the people has not been heard in Washington in decades, and it’s doubtful it would be recognized if it was heard.
Moreover, although the US is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (15 percent of global total emissions), China far surpasses us at 30 percent. Together with the European Union (10 percent) and India (6 percent), these four regions account for over half of all GHEs. The bottom 100 countries combined only contribute to 3.5 percent. Launching a universal, global environmental Marshall Plan may well be beyond humanity’s means. If we consider that China is currently constructing a single sprawling megapolis that will cover over 83,000 square miles — larger than Great Britain or New England — it is impossible to imagine how such a humongous urban operation could not be unsustainable and fossil-fuel dependent. The booming city of Jing-Jin-Ji will be the heaviest concentration of human beings on the planet, housing upwards of 130 million people, or the equivalent of the combined populations of the world’s four largest cities: Tokyo, New Delhi, Shanghai and Sao Paulo. And all of these residents will want the conveniences of a modern, western lifestyle: more cars, more meat on their tables and more energy-consuming luxuries.
Surprisingly, surveys seem to indicate that the Chinese are better-educated about climate change than the average American. After last year’s record-breaking heatwaves, droughts, deadly flash floods and a category 5 typhoon, 94 percent of Chinese polled said they believe climate change is happening now and 66 percent believe it is anthropocentric. Seventy-three percent are willing to pay extra for climate-friendly products. Yet similar to average Americans, the Chinese are not changing their consumption habits to adapt to the new climate reality. Likewise, similar to the US, the Chinese government is eager to press forward with unsustainable growth projects that will increase rather than decrease emissions.13
Among the other stumbling blocks the Green New Deal faces is that Washington has unfortunately almost reached its goal of being totally energy independent. While we produce the most energy in the world, we also consume the most per capita. The US has also risen to the third largest fossil fuel exporter, after Saudi Arabia and Russia. Together, these three nations account for 38 percent of the world’s total oil.14 At the same time the US still needs to import petroleum, predominantly for our auto and transportation demands. Although the US now produces about 11 million barrels per day, it consumes almost 20 million barrels daily.15 For natural gas production, the US is king, and is expected to reach over 90 billion cubic feet per day of production, according to the EIA.16 Trump’s abhorrent policies have revitalized the coal industry and escalated production. Worse, the oil and coal industries are the recipients of monstrous corporate welfare to the tune of $20 billion in annual government subsidies.17
Jeremy Brecher properly notes that “global warming has rightly been called history’s greatest market failure. Correcting it cannot be left to the market.”18 Unlike the faux urgency for building a silly wall on the border, climate change is THE national emergency. It is a planetary emergency. Therefore, when thousands of large and small coal-gas-oil related companies reap enormous windfalls, employ almost 1.1 million workers — compared to under 374,000 working full- or part-time in solar and 102,000 at wind firms — there is zero incentive for any of these major greenhouse gas emitters to leap off the gravy train and shift to cleaner, renewable forms of energy.19
A second major obstacle to the Green New Deal is that all of our leading institutions, politicians, legislative policymakers and opinion leaders, think tanks and foundations, and the mainstream media that is controlled by these institutions, are not going to truthfully challenge the paradigm of free-market capitalism and the myth that constant economic growth and expansion will better society. This means we only have more toxic pollution, urban sprawl, destruction of the environment and habitats, and depletion of natural resources to look forward to, and with it, warmer seasons and more extreme weather events such as superstorms, droughts, wildfires, and floods.
This may be the 3,000-pound gorilla in the room. We are caught in the perpetual cycle of earning more in order to buy more and accumulate more debt. The transition of weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels to increase investment in renewables and the new technologies necessary to meet the IPCC benchmark means a tradeoff for a much slower or no-growth economy in order to reach a more sustainable and livable future. It may require up to $10 trillion to re-engineer entire industries and infrastructures in order to reach anything close to zero emissions. Yet with America’s new wealthy class of 11 million millionaires governing private industries, investments and policy-making to keep the capitalist engine churning, enactment of the kind of green agenda proposed and demanded today is unlikely. Again, there is no incentive for the ruling elite to cut back on consumption. The legions of lobbyists in Washington will make every effort to scuttle the Green New Deal and ensure it is dead on arrival. The ruling class has no allegiance to nationality. It is the most unpatriotic class in the nation. When the stresses of climate change get tough or their personal security and assets are threatened, the ruling class have the means to pick up and move elsewhere.
Furthermore, the ruling class and the conservative populace — even those educated enough to agree on anthropocentric climate change – lean heavily upon Libertarian values, which means smaller government and more freedom for the free market. Looking at the Green New Deal from any angle, it is clear this plan will require handing over enormous power to Washington. Trust in all branches of government has already eroded to a level where even true progressives doubt anything good can come out of the duopoly in Washington. Therefore, a sizable percentage of the public will be deeply suspicious of the government’s will and competence in executing any legislation that emerges from the Deal’s current outline.
The free-market economy is polluting everything, creating seas of plastic, landfills of toxic junk, and stores of computers and electronic equipment. Forests and ecosystems are being leveled to expand growth. There is little to no time to dramatically change our steel, auto, and high tech industries. And private industries and the population’s collective consumption behaviors will not change overnight. While we commend the Green New Deal’s authors and the progressive caucus that backs it, we encourage the public not to become passive with high expectations that Washington is willing or capable of solving the climate crisis. There are no saviors. Blind faith should not be directed towards the compliance of Washington, nor to new technologies developed to pull us through. We live in remarkably tense times; but drastic times require drastic measures. In fact, the Deal may not be radical enough. Gutting our military expenditure — the largest fossil fuel consumer as well as the top recipient of our tax dollars — and the Washington Consensus’ cowboy adventurism to instigate regime changes as the world burns is absent from its wish list.
Are there any solutions that are doable without the body politic of government standing in the way? Reducing GHEs can no longer be regarded as solely a challenge for government and private industry. It is a responsibility of every individual.
First, the public must become deeply and consciously aware of the climate problem and how our lives and culture contribute to global warming. We must also become deeply and consciously aware of how our lives will change as the world deteriorates. Our education system has been a complete failure in teaching people about the basic science of climate change and the immediate and long-term impacts of global warming. Nothing we can do will efficaciously change the melting of the Arctic ice, the warming oceans and environmental dead zones, multi-gigaton methane burps from the thawing permafrost, the decimation of insect populations that will contribute to national food crises, rising coastal waters and the next season of record-setting wildfires in the Western states. The next category 5 super-hurricane could be the final straw for many Floridians and residents living along the Gulf. Industrial over-consumption is depleting our aquifers. There are in fact hundreds of canaries in the coal mine, not just one.
Second, every person and family can begin to gradually transition to eating a plant-based diet. This does not need to be an abrupt change. We can start by going meatless for a single day every week and then increase the days. The agriculture industry generates anywhere between 10 and 40 percent of GHEs, primarily methane and nitrous oxide, depending upon which metrics are being used in the equations. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production accounts for about 14.5 percent of all human-caused emissions.20 In the US, 42 percent of agricultural emissions come from the raising of livestock, and globally it accounts for approximately 16 percent of all human-induced GHEs.21 When storage, transportation and distribution of meat and produce are added, the CO2 footprint rises substantially. Imagine the footprint of a single bushel of tomatoes traveling from a California farm to a Maine supermarket. If a sufficient number of people also purchase more locally-grown food, this too would have an impact. These are two efforts — a meatless diet and buying locally — that every American can adopt in order to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
Third, our consumption behaviors are traveling on a high speed rail off a cliff. We have the will to make conscientious choices about our buying habits. There is only one solution to this and that is to downsize, purchase only what is essential for our needs and find other ways to increase the quality of our lives. Before making a purchase, consider the item’s carbon footprint before it reaches your hands. As the world gets warmer and the economic and social stresses of life increase, inevitably a time will arrive when people will be forced to downsize. It will no longer be a matter of choice.
Finally, if it is within your financial means, find ways to increase your reliance on renewable clean energy sources. If you can install solar panels to get off the grid and become energy self-sufficient, it will pay off in the long term. Although there remains considerable debate on whether or not our global civilization has reached a “peak oil” moment, oil prices will unquestionably increase steadily in the future.
What the nation can do collectively is adequately if vaguely summarized in the Green New Deal. During a press conference following the report’s release, Sen. Markey and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez were clear that the plan at this time does not include any “individual prescriptions” for the issues outlined. The details and following legislation will be developed following Congressional vote and approval and the creation of a Congressional committee to develop the solutions. However, the Deal is clearly defined as a “national, industrial, economic mobilization plan.” It will take years for the US to become “greenhouse gas emission neutral.” The report notes that it will require “massive investment” to reduce existing and future greenhouse gases. It acknowledges it is crucial to develop and install “a national, energy-efficient smart grid,” upgrade our entire infrastructure, residential and industrial base for “state-of-the-art energy efficiency,” and eliminate GHE from the agricultural industry. The report also includes the need for expanding education and training for such a nationwide mobilization effort.
The report also finally acknowledges that America’s energy grid is a disaster. The majority of people and even most politicians are unaware our energy and power infrastructures are sorely inefficient. In an analysis conducted by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories to evaluate US energy consumption, 59.1 percent of electricity generation was “rejected energy” — energy lost due to inefficiencies in power plants, engines, buildings, etc.22 Almost all of this “rejected energy” is generated from coal, natural gas and petroleum. In the Livermore report, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal barely contributed to any infrastructural energy loss.23 And yet Washington, and the Trump administration in particular, find it economically feasible to subsidize these fossil fuel industries for their ineptitude, negligence towards energy efficiency and exorbitant waste. Even Ocasio-Cortez seems to believe progress can be achieved by working with these monuments to inefficiency. This is naïve at best, and disingenuous at worst. In a true capitalist system – such as our president pays lip service to at every opportunity – the best performers come out on top. Why, then, does the government continually prop up failed systems, from energy to banking? This money would be better invested in funding sustainable alternatives.
A simple fact that opponents of the Deal in private industry, Wall Street and climate change deniers fail to understand as a rule is that the enormous costs for implementing a New Deal are already here. And they have been increasing annually due to rising frequency and damages from extreme weather events due to humanity’s messing with the atmosphere and environment. NASA conservatively reported $91 billion lost in damages due to climate change episodes in 2018 alone.24 And the federal government’s most recent National Climate Assessment warns we will rapidly reach $500 billion per year in economic losses due to sea level rise and worsening weather, droughts, storms, floods and fires.25
Next, it is sheer negligence that the federal and state governments have failed to upgrade our public transportation system. The US falls far behind even banana republics in its inefficient rail system compared to high speed 200-plus mph rails in China, France, Japan and elsewhere. Creating a new high-speed rail system across America may be too optimistic at this time; nevertheless, upgrading our trains between major urban hubs is perfectly doable immediately. This would mean high-speed rails between Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas and Houston, and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas for starters. High speed trains between these city hubs would significantly reduce the carbon footprint of transportation and could even be faster than airlines after considering time spent at airports. It could also be accomplished at the state level through public-private partnerships. In addition, a tax incentive could be added for those who use public transportation.
Finally, the nation needs to act immediately upon a national reforestation program and roll back the Trump’s regressive orders to further devastate public land and ecosystems to increase corporate profits. Forests and trees are recognized as perhaps the most important natural resource to offset carbon emissions. China and India are making huge advances in reforesting their nations. China has reserved an area four times the size of the United Kingdom for reforestation. There are few areas on the planet with large swathes of forest canopies. Most are located in northern Canada, the Latin American countries in the Amazon basin, Scandinavia and Russia. Therefore, we would recommend a national conservation corps to start an aggressive reforestation campaign. If India can hold the world record in planting 66 million trees within a 12 hour period in 2017, and a single 53-year-old New Delhi resident can plant 1,100,000 trees in a single year, the US could reforest ourselves easily in a short period of time.
For all the Deal’s good points, it will go nowhere if the legislation that results is larded with giveaways to the same industries and corporations that led us to environmental and economic ruin in the first place. Ocasio-Cortez’s desire to liaise with these actors may be born out of a genuine desire for cooperation, but it is more likely her Democratic Socialism is being used as a more palatable face for the same rapacious neoliberalism that has created all the problems the Deal purports to solve. While we wait for government to get its act together and legislate its way out of this mess, we would be wise to begin solving as many problems as we can ourselves even as we hold our government representatives’ feet to the fire.
Gary Null and Richard Gale belongs to Progressive Radio Network
|March 3, 2019||
An American Dialectic – As Capitalism Fails, Socialism Succeeds
by Mary Metzger,in World, Countercurrents.org
One can say that America’s pythonic grip on the sovereign nation of Venezuela is motivated by a desire to possess its oil or its gold, but that statement would only be partially true. America wants to destroy Venezuela because it has been for some time a socialist country. The annihilation of socialists and socialism is the sine qua non of capitalist survival. With increasing frequency, Donald Trump himself tells us so. In fact, the ideological justification for America’s intervention into the affairs of sovereign nations and the concomitant propagation of local conflicts and wars has ceased to be the struggle to bring “democracy” to the world and once again become the drive to destroy the “evils” of socialism. It does so in a perfect reversal of reality so that even as it continues to degrade the lives of people, it warms them against seeking an alternative in socialism because it will degrade their lives.
In a speech before the United Nations Trump proclaimed before the world that ““The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” That statement did not evoke the response Trump had expected – a resounding round of applause by the audience, but instead its polar opposite . – no response at all. In his State of the Union address Trump once again launched an open assault against socialism and socialists warning the nation about “new calls to adopt socialism in our country” provoked by individuals such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” he said. Republican leaders emphasized that message after the speech. . Praising the speech Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it was a powerful reminder that “we can never allow the United States of America to dim our light by sliding into the failures of socialism.” . Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, lauded the Trump economy and declared that “we’re not going back to socialism.” When its past America was ever socialist was never clearly stated. A Former deputy adviser on national security, followed the “party line” a few days later stating in a truly bizarre speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland “They (socialists) want to take your pickup truck, they want to rebuild your home, they want to take away your hamburgers,” he shouted from the lectern (watch the video above). “This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved. You are on the frontlines of the war against communism coming back to America under the guise of Democratic socialism. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/opinion/trump-socialism-ocasio-cortez-sanders.html
At a rally in El Paso, Trump went after the “radical left” and their climate policies stating “I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights,” concluding that “You’re not allowed to own cows anymore.” “Socialism is dying and liberty, prosperity and democracy are being reborn” throughout the hemisphere, Trump said, expressing hope that soon, “This will become the first free hemisphere in all of human history.” Wow!
The anti socialist banner had actually been raised last October, just before the midterm elections, in a report by the Council of Economic Advisers, who spent a great deal of time elucidating the failures of socialism in Cuba and Mao’s China, and even made reference to Scandinavian countries, but said nothing of that socialist powerhouse, the People’s Republic of China, which Trump is trying to hold back from surpassing the U.S. economically in the very near future. They even pointed their fingers at the Scaddinavian countries noting that the had a lower G.D.P. per capita that Americans do. They did not mention that one reason for this is that that ACTUALLY TAKE VACATIONS…many more than Americans do. Nor did they happen to mention that they have less poverty, a significantly higher overall life satisfaction, less divorce and higher levels of entrepreneurship because people feel more secure taking a risk to start a business. They know that should they fail they will not lose their health care or become homeles. The report is well worth the read if for no other reason than because its grotesque and ludicrous claims will make you laugh and perhaps even chuckle.
The clear intention of all these efforts to warn American’s of the evils of “socialism” as generations of Americans had been warned of the “evils” of communism from the fifties through the collapse of the Soviet Union, is based on the assumption that such a tactic will work once again and that people will recoil from any hint of socialism. It is grounded in the belief, that like their immediate ancestors, they will accept anti socialism as the rational foundation of American domestic and foreign policies. There are many factors which indicate that such an ideology will not be as effective this time around. First of all, 35% of Americans who voted in the 2018 elections were born in November 1973, or later according to exit polls from CNN. Over one third of the nation has known only capitalism, and most particularly, the great failure of capitalism that occurred in 2008 – the effects of which reverberates to this day. The perception of that failure in particular has in fact, led this generation to be more inclined to embrace ideas such as “basic health insurance is a right” and “basic necessities, such as food and shelter are a right that the government should provide to those unable to afford them.”
The fact of the matter is that it is not “socialism” that has failed, but rather, that American Capitalism failure in 2008 which brought into being a world wide epidemic of economic and which rendered Americans so broken by the struggle to survive that their only comfort was to be found in either numbing themselves into oblivion through drugs or giving in to such profound feelings of despair that they come to prefer life over death. As the opioid epidemic spreads across America, as the suicide rate continues to rise, as the vast separation between the very rich and the rest of us continues to expand, as work becomes ever more empty and unfulfilling, as young people enter the world and the workplace saddled with huge student debt, as fewer and fewer people can afford medical care…….as life under capitalism becomes ever more exhausting and unbearable, socialism and the promises of socialist politicians seems an ever more ration and necessary alternative.
Contrary to what some may say or think, people are not stupid. They know what they need, and young and old alike know that capitalism has failed them, failed them as human beings; that the government of the capitalistate is not “of the people, by the people and for the people”. It is ultimately out of the recognition of these facts that socialism is beginning to capture the attention and support of the American people. It is the failure of capitalism that will ultimately lead to the rise of Socialism.
Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.
|March 6, 2019||
Reflections On Putin As A Leader And On The World Situation In Which He Works
by John Chuckman, in World, Countercurrents.org
There is an immense amount of criticism of Putin, especially coming from America, most of it empty criticism which ignores realities and genuine analysis. For the more thoughtful, it represents only the stink and noise of propaganda, and not honest criticism in its true sense at all.
In politics, and especially in the direction of a country’s foreign affairs, there are certain behaviors and ideas and attitudes which mark out a person as exceptional. I think there can be no doubt, Putin is just such a person, and I am very much inclined to say, the preeminent one of our time. Frankly, compared with Putin’s skills, Donald Trump comes off as a noisy circus act, a sideshow carnival barker, and not an appealing one. He has an outsized impact in the world only because he represents the most powerful country on earth and has embraced all the prejudices and desires of its power establishment, not because of the skilfulness of his actions or the insight of his mind. Obama made a better public impression, but if you analyze his actions, you see a man of immense and unwarranted ego, a very secretive and unethical man, and a man who held no worthy ideals he promoted. He was superficial in many things. And he was completely compliant to the power establishment, leaving no mark of his own to speak of.
Putin is a man who advocates cooperation among states, who argues against exceptionalism, who wants his country to have peace so that it can grow and advance, a man lacking any frightening or tyrannical ideologies, a man who invariably refers to other countries abroad, even when they are being uncooperative, in respectful terms as “our partners,” a man who knows how to prioritize, as in defense spending, a man with a keen eye for talent who has some other exceptional people assisting him – men of the calibre of Lavrov or Shoygu, a man who supports worthy international organizations like the UN, a man who only reluctantly uses force but uses it effectively when required, a highly restrained man in almost everything he does, a man who loves his country and culture but does not try foisting them off on everyone else as we see almost continuously from American presidents, a man with a keen eye for developing trends and patterns in the world, a man with an eye, too, for the main chance, a man whose decisions are made calmly and in light of lot of understanding. That’s quite a list.
The differences between recent American leaders, all truly mediocre, and Putin probably has something to do with the two counties’ relative situations over the last few decades. After all, if the support isn’t there for someone like Putin, you won’t get him. Russia’s huge Soviet empire collapsed in humiliation in 1991. The country was put through desperate straits, literally its own great depression with people begging or selling pathetic trinkets on the streets. And America made no real effort to assist. Indeed, quite the opposite, it kicked someone who was down and tried to shake all the loose change from his pockets. Out of Russia’s desperation came a man of remarkable skills, a rather obscure figure, but one who proved extremely popular and was obviously supported by enough powerful and important people to employ his skills for the county’s recovery and advance.
And he showed no weakness or flinching when dealing with some of the extremely wealthy men who in fact became wealthy by striping assets from the dying Soviet Union, men who then also used their wealth to challenge the country’s much-needed new leadership. He was, of course, excoriated in the United States, but to the best of my understanding, he did what was necessary for progress. The results are to be seen in a remarkably revitalized Russia. Everywhere, important projects are underway. New highways, new airports, major new bridges, new rail lines and subways, a new spaceport, new projects and cooperative efforts with a whole list of countries, new efforts in technology and science, and Russia has become the world’s largest exporter of wheat. Putin also has committed Russia to offering the world grain crops free of all GMOs and other contaminants, a very insightful effort to lock-in what have been growing premium markets for such products, even among Americans.
The military, which badly declined after the fall of the USSR, has been receiving new and remarkable weapons, the products of focused research efforts. New high-tech tanks, artillery, ships, and planes. In strategic weapons, Russia now produces several unprecedented ones, a great achievement which was done without spending unholy amounts of money, Russia’s military budget being less than a tenth that of the United States. Putin’s caution and pragmatism dictate that Russia’s first priority is to become as healthy as possibly, so it needs peace, for decades. Few Westerners appreciate the devastating impact of the USSR’s collapse, but even before that, the Soviet empire had its own slow debilitating impact. Russia’s economic system was not efficient and competitive. The effects of that over many years accumulated. The USSR always did maintain the ability to produce big engineering projects such as dams and space flight, but it always was sorely lacking in the small and refined things of life that an efficient economy automatically sees are provided.
The new strategic weapons are an unfortunate necessity, but the United States threatens Russia as perhaps never before with the expansion of NATO membership right to the Russian border, something breaking specific American promises of years back. And it has been running tanks all over Europe and then digging them in them right at the frontier just to make a point. It has deployed multiple-use covered missile launchers not far from the border which may as easily contain offensive intermediate-range ground-to-ground nuclear missiles as the defensive anti-missile missiles claimed to be their purpose. And it has torn up one of the most important nuclear-weapons treaties we had, the INF Treaty, pertaining to intermediate-range missiles. Intermediate-range nuclear missiles based in Europe give the United States the ability to strike Russia with little warning, their ten-minute flight path compares to a roughly thirty-minute flight path for an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) coming from America. These are extremely de-stabilizing, as are the counter-measures Russia felt it must take, Russian intermediate-range nuclear missile aimed at European centers. Everyone eventually recognized that, and that’s why the treaty was successfully completed. Europeans appreciated no longer becoming the immediate battlefield in a nuclear war.
But relations with the United States now have entered a new world, and it is not a brave one. America’s power establishment has assumed new goals and priorities, and in those, Russia is not viewed well, despite its new identity as a nation ready to participate and peacefully compete with everyone, a nation without the kind of extreme ideology communism was, a kind of secular religious faith. Despite its readiness to participate in all Western organizations and forums and discussions, it is viewed with a new hostility by America. It is arbitrarily regarded as an opponent, as an ongoing threat. As I discuss below, America, too, has been in kind of a decline, and the response of its leadership to that fact involves flexing its muscles and extracting concessions and privileges and exerting a new dominance in the world, a response not based in economic competition and diplomatic leadership, a response carrying a great deal of danger.
And, very importantly, its response is one that involves not only bypassing international organizations, but, in many cases, working hard to bend them to its purposes. There are many examples, but America’s treatment of the UN has been foremost. It has in the recent past refused for considerable periods to pay its treaty-obliged dues until it saw changes it unilaterally demanded. It has dropped out of some important agencies completely, most notably UNESCO. In general, it has intimidated an international organization into better accommodating American priorities, including very much imperial ones opposed to what the UN is supposed to be about. And it has used this intimidation and non-cooperativeness to influence the nature of leadership at the UN, the last few Secretaries-General being timid on very important matters and ineffective in general. That’s just the way America likes them to be now. A harsh Neocon like Madeleine Albright won her government-service spurs at the UN by engineering the departure of an unwanted Secretary-General.
Promoting coups is not a new activity for the United States. There is a long postwar record, including Iran’s democratic government in the 1950s, Guatemala’s democratic government in the 1950s, and Chile’s democratic government in 1973. But the recent coup in Ukraine represented something rather new, a very provocative activity right on a major Russian border. It was also against an elected government and in a country which shares with Russia a history and culture going back more than a thousand years to the predecessor state of Kievan Rus. Yes, there are resentments in Ukraine from the Soviet era, and those are what the United States exploited, but the country was democratically governed. In any event, staging a coup in a large bordering country is a very serious provocation. You can just imagine the violent American reaction to one in Mexico or Canada.
The new, post-coup government in Ukraine also made many provocative and plainly untrue statements. The ineffective, and frequently ridiculous, President Poroshenko kept telling Europeans that Russian troops and armor were invading his country. Only his brave army was holding the hordes back. He was literally that silly at times. Of course, none of it was ever true. American spy satellites would quickly detect any Russian movement, and they never did. In an effort to put the wild claims into perspective, treating them with the contempt they deserved, Putin once said that if he wanted to, he could be in Kiev in two weeks. Undoubtedly true, too. Well, the statement was taken completely out of context, treated as a threat by America’s always-faithful-to-the-narrative press. Journalism in the service of government policy – all of it, from the most elevated newspapers and broadcasters to the humblest. And I think that nicely illustrates the absurdity of events in Ukraine and the way they have been used.
The United States paid for the coup in Ukraine. We even know how much money it spent, five billion dollars, thanks to the overheard words of one of America’s most unpleasant former diplomats, Victoria Nuland. The idea was to threaten Russia with the long Ukrainian border being put into genuinely hostile hands. Never mind that the government driven from office with gunfire in the streets from paid thugs was democratically elected. Never mind that many of the groups with which the United States cooperated in this effort were right-wing extremists, a few of them resembling outright Nazis, complete with armbands and symbols and torchlight parades. And never mind that the government America installed was incompetent, not only sending Ukraine’s economy into a tailspin but promptly igniting a completely unnecessary civil war.
The large native, Russian-speaking population (roughly 30% of the country) is completely dominant in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Those two regions partly turned the tables by seceding from Ukraine with its government which early-on worked to suppress historic Russian-language rights and carried on a lot of activities to make those with any Russian associations feel very unwelcome. It’s a deliberately provocative environment, and, as we all know from our press, not a day goes by in Washington without anti-Russian rhetoric and unsupported charges. While Washington greatly failed in this effort, it nevertheless succeeded in generating instability and hostility along a major Russian border. It also gained talking points with which to pressure NATO into some new arrangements.
In the case of Crimea, it is important to remember that it has been Russian since the time of Catherine the Great. It only was in recent history that Crimea became part of Ukraine, and that happened with the stroke of a pen, an administrative adjustment during the days of the USSR, the very USSR the people now running Ukraine so despise, rejecting almost everything ever done, except for the administrative transfer of Crimea apparently. Just one of those little ironies of history. The people who live in Crimea speak Russian, and they did not welcome the new Ukrainian government’s heavy-handed, nationalist, anti-Russian drive around Ukrainian language and culture, necessarily a narrow, claustrophobic effort since the late USSR was a multi-national and multi-lingual state, and given Crimea’s much longer-term history as part of Russia. Even during Crimea’s recent past as part of Ukraine, Russia continued to maintain, under lease, its major naval base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea, so the connections with Russia have been continuous.
In virtually every newspaper story you read and in places like Wikipedia on the Internet, you will see the word “annexation” used to describe Crimea’s relationship with Russia. It simply is not an accurate description, but its constant use is a very good measure of America’s ability to saturate media with its desired version of events. The people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from an unfriendly new Ukraine, and they voted to petition Russia’s admitting them as part of the country. How can you call the results of free and open votes annexation? Well, only the same way you can tell the twice-elected President of Venezuela that he is not President and that another man, who did not even run in the election and administered the oath of office to himself, is the President. This is the kind of Alice-in-Wonderland stuff that comes as part of America’s new drive for dominance. It simply paints the roses red. What is claimed to have happened in Crimea provides the only support for charges of Russian aggression, the laying on of all kinds of sanctions, and running around all over Europe tearing up road surfaces with tanks. This is the atmosphere within which Putin must work, trying to maintain as many sound relationships with Europe as he can, and he actually has been quite successful. A number of prominent European politicians, especially retired ones who aren’t under the immediate pressures of politics and relations with America, have voiced support for Russia. Some have even visited Crimea by invitation and toured. And Russia’s major new gas pipeline into Europe, Nord Stream 2, proceeds despite constant American pressure against it. It is at this writing 70% complete. The Europeans cannot just abandon their long-term ally, the United States, even though I’m sure they understand the illusions and false claims of the current situation. The United States also retains considerable capacity to hurt Europe financially, so they rush into nothing, but I believe there can be no doubt that American words and actions have significantly weakened old and important relationships. No one likes being lied to, and they like even less having to pretend lies are truth.
Putin has been more cautious in the case of the secession of another Russian-speaking portion of Ukraine, an even larger one in population and in economic importance, the Eastern portion called Donbass. The people there declared two republics, Donetsk and Luhansk, and they petitioned to be admitted as part of Russia. But Russia does not officially recognize them although it has sent large volumes of aid as they were besieged by the new Ukrainian government. The government of Ukraine started a small civil war in the region. Russia supports the Minsk Accords, which it helped to write, accords to reunite the region with Ukraine but which require Ukraine to grant it a degree of constitutional autonomy to the region. This is a reasonable approach to ending the conflict, but it is not easy to implement. It is not something looked favorably upon by Ukraine’s right-wing extremists who push the government hard, having even threatened it at times. The entire business has been mired in difficulties from the start. Ukraine displayed remarkable military incompetence in this civil war against a much smaller opponent. It tried to increase the size of its forces with conscription in the West of Ukraine, but the number of no-shows and run-aways grew embarrassingly large. And, of course, none of this even needed to happen had the new government’s policies been sensible and fair in the first place. But you got no pressure from the United States over fairness. It is merely content to have caused a lot of difficulties on Russia’s border. And there is the matter of the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines’ Flight MH-17, which my study of the circumstances suggests unequivocally was an act by Ukraine, whether accidental or deliberate. The United States has pushed hard to have this blamed on Russia, so as to not discredit its installed Ukrainian government, but the facts, as we know them, simply do not support that conclusion. The United States has shamefully pressured a NATO member, Holland, not even a central party to the event, to conduct a long and tortoise-paced investigation of the crash. It has ignored key evidence, and all of its interim conclusions can readily be seen as couched in the kind of suggestive but inexact language criminal lawyers advise their clients to use in court. What we see in Ukraine, is government incompetence, almost uniformly in all its activities, and again there is no concern expressed by the United States about all the difficulties – economic, military, and social – its efforts have caused for the Ukrainian people.
Putin’s adroit handling of the coup in Ukraine, frustrating many of America’s aims without getting Russia involved in conflict, determined Washington to further stoke-up anti-Russian feeling in Europe. You must always remember that NATO does represent a vehicle for the peaceful American occupation of Europe, Europe being an important economic competitor and potentially a major world power. The obsolescence of the original arguments for NATO – the threat of the USSR and the massive Red Army, now both long passed into history – had the potential to see America eventually lose its occupying perch in Europe.
Russian-threat hype added force to recent efforts over the last decade and a half to have inconsequential new states admitted to NATO, some of them having the attraction of borders with Russia and lots of simmering old anti-Soviet hostilities. Certainly, countries like Estonia or Latvia bring neither military nor economic strength to the organization. Other small states, such as Slovenia or Slovakia or Montenegro just fill holes in the map of Europe, so NATO is a contiguous mass. The small states are in fact potentially a serious drag. But for America, they were attractive new members because they are so grateful about being asked “to play with the big boys.” Their votes as part of the organization effectively dilute the influence of the larger, older states, such as France or Germany, who sometimes disagree with the United States, and some of whom have been developing new relationships with modern Russia. The entire series of American activities in Europe after the disappearance of the USSR represents absolutely nothing constructive, indeed, quite the opposite.
As I mentioned, America, too, has been in a kind of decline, but absolutely nothing resembling what Russia experienced. America’s establishment has come to realize that over the last couple of decades it is in a relative decline. It went from producing, after WWII, about forty percent of what the world used to twenty-something percent, and all signs point to the trend continuing. America was waking-up from an extended fantasy – a period when fluffy notions like “the American Dream” were embraced as real, a period explained by the simple fact that after the war all of America’s serious competitors had been flattened. America was waking to a time when those competitors were coming back and a time when fierce new competitors were rising. The “Dream” part of the advertising slogan, “the American Dream,” became all too apparent.
During that period of unique prosperity and power following WWII, a good deal of America’s leadership became what people who have been given too much often tend to become, spoiled and corrupt, unable to make good decisions in many cases, indulging in god-like notions of the planet being run for their benefit, and always, steadily leaving behind their own people’s welfare for imperial concerns abroad. The entire ethic of the New Deal period evaporated, and by the 1990s, a Democratic President like Clinton could actually make a speech bragging about “ending welfare as we know it.”
The people who really run the country, its power establishment, fixed on a new strategy to address uncomfortable realities. That strategy involves using America’s still great military and financial power to dominate international affairs in a more obvious and palpable way than ever. Dominance became an openly-discussed theme, as it rarely was before, in the hope, over time, of squeezing concessions and advantages from others to regain or at least hold on to its global position. This is an openly aggressive posture that has been assumed. No more pretence of being a nice guy. And it was actively promoted by a new political faction in Washington, the Neocons, a group who share certain interests and see America’s use of power as serving those interests. They have been open advocates of using military force to get things you want, and they hold many important and influential posts. Perhaps their greatest common interest is the welfare of Israel, and they see an America perceived as aggressive best serving Israel’s security.
It is important to note that while Russia maintains excellent relations with Israel – Putin has been visited often by Israel’s Prime Minister – nevertheless, by virtue of its sheer size and geographical location and military power, Russia is seen as a barrier to America’s more unrestrained use of power. “Russia” is almost a dirty word for many of America’s Neocon faction and for many Israelis. Russia’s recent decisive assistance to Syria in fighting gangs of terrorists introduced and supported from outside was viewed about as negatively as is possible. That is war Israel wanted President Assad to lose, and it secretly gave a great deal of assistance to the terrorists. It was hoping to secure a permanent hold on the Golan, grab even another slice of Syria as a buffer for its illegal residents in Golan, all while seeing one of the region’s leaders it most dislikes eliminated. It worked closely in the effort with Saudi Arabia’s murderous Crown Prince, and America oversaw and encouraged all aspects of a dirty war to topple a legitimate government which has remained fairly popular with its people despite years of agonizing conflict and endless dishonest American claims about such matters as chemical weapons. Assad is seen as a defender of the rights of Syria’s diverse religious groups, including its many Christians.
So, there is a built-in powerful negative towards Russia in Washington power circles for which there is no clear possible remedy or correction, and, indeed, no matter how reasonably Putin behaves, his country faces this opposition. For some American politicians, and very notably Hillary Clinton, this has proved a handy tool, Clinton long having been a close-to fanatical supporter of Israeli interests. The fact has earned her a great deal of campaign funding and other support over the years. Clinton’s ego also just could not take the fact that she lost the election to the leader of “the deplorables,” as she once called Trump’s supporters, so in dark claims of Russian interference, supported by absolutely no proof whatsoever, she protects her ego. And long before election day, Clinton had a hand in exploiting attitudes about Russia in another way. She is known to have paid, at least in part, for the fraudulent Steele Dossier commissioned from an ex-British spy. It was used to try to discredit Trump over Russian connections.
This dislike for Russia by the Neocons and other boosters of resurgent American power really is what is at the heart of America’s current Russophobia obsession, not any threatening actions by Russia. It becomes a kind of vicious circle with new accusations piled on all the time by various actors each with their own motives, and it is clearly quite dangerous.
So, these are the positions of the two countries today, Russia having risen quite impressively from the depths under a remarkably able leader, extremely popular and well-supported by powerful elements of its society, versus America, now in a much different kind of decline than what Russia experienced, led by an establishment group with rather less-than-honorable intentions and with a political system virtually designed to produce no real leaders who might interfere with establishment plans.
Putin is further supported from the outside by the rising colossus of China, one of the great miracle stories of our time. In the past, the two countries have not always been friends, and America, in the time of Nixon, actually worked at playing one off against the other. But that is no more. The American establishment’s intentions for China are too clear. It is virtually reneging on many old promises such as those around Taiwan being an integral part of China, it is treating China as an unwanted competitor, accusing it of every nefarious activity you can think of to impede its economic progress and demanding trade concessions as though China had been an unfair competitor rather than just a new, more successful one. America is now attacking in every way possible – from questioning motives and methods to trying to generate opposition by participants – China’s unprecedented and magnificent global enterprise, the Silk Road Project, a project dwarfing the great canals of the past and destined to bring new prosperity to all participants through trade. It hardly represents a positive attitude to oppose and impede it.
Putin is exactly the kind of man to quickly recognize and embrace a project like that. Russia is also rushing to help China greatly increase its supply of natural gas from Siberia’s immense reserves in order to decrease its dependence on coal. The first great new pipeline is almost finished.
So, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, both highly intelligent leaders, have a great many weighty common interests in working together as never before. America’s new policies have been a driving force in bringing them together, and there is no reason to expect any diminishment of that force. Recent American international behavior requires others to accept what Putin likes to call America’s “exceptionalism,” its position first and above all other nations, its self-granted privilege of not having to play by the same rules as everyone else – its status of “the indispensable nation” as one of America’s more arrogant diplomats put it not very long ago – and it requires that from two major, proud, and ancient societies which cannot possibly grant it.
America’s dependence on its gigantic military and security establishment represents a serious long-term weakness in many ways, even though it provides the very foundation of the American establishment’s new strategy for dominance. Empires, after all, while benefitting the privileged segments of a society, are a drag on most of its citizens, depriving them of many benefits, including the simple, important benefit of good and caring national government. America spends more than ten times as much as Russia on its military. China, compared to not many years ago, has increased its military spending greatly, but for a country with such a huge economy, second only to the United States and likely to overtake it before long, it still spends less than a quarter of what the United States does. And America does not even have the money to pay for its atrociously large military. It borrows the money, and who do you think pays the stream of interest payments for those massive borrowings? You’d be right if you said all of its ordinary, tax-paying citizens without privileges. They also are “on the hook” for the ultimate negative economic consequences of all this debt and borrowing.
Of course, from a world perspective, America’s military represents an ongoing threat to peace and security, much the opposite of what is claimed for it inside the United States. Great standing armies have always represented threats, and here is the greatest standing army in history. Many historical analyses hold them largely responsible for such terrible conflicts as WWI (a war whose outcome made WWII inevitable also). When such power is at hand, the temptation to use it is constant, and its very presence distorts all attitudes and decisions. Many of America’s own Founders understood that, but it has been forgotten by the contemporary American establishment in its relentless pursuit of empire and influence.
Security expenses are hard to compare, so much is secretive, but the United States with its 17 separate national security agencies and such a vast enterprise as the NSA’s new archipelago of facilities stuffed with hi-tech gear and supercomputers which spy on and record every American plus others would put any other country out of the competition. Again, the demands of the American establishment utterly compromise the interests of the country’s own citizens at large. Indeed, now in security matters, ordinary Americans have been pretty much reduced to a herd, each with an identifying tag stapled to his ear.
Russia’s democracy may be quite imperfect, but America’s – what it had of one, it never from the beginning identified itself actually as a democracy – has been transformed into plutocracy with an elaborate window-dressing simulation of democracy, an arrangement in which the state’s resources are committed to its privileged class and the advance of empire. And, as I’ve written many times, you can have a decent country or you can have an empire, but you cannot have both.
John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He has many interests and is a lifelong student of history. He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the rule of reason, and concern for human decency. John regards it as a badge of honor to have left the United States as a poor young man from the South Side of Chicago when the country embarked on the pointless murder of something like 3 million Vietnamese in their own land because they happened to embrace the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada, which he is fond of calling “the peaceable kingdom.” He has been translated into at least ten languages and is regularly translated into Italian and Spanish. Several of his essays have been published in book collections, including two college texts. His first book was published, The Decline of the American Empire and the Rise of China as a Global Power, by Constable and Robinson, Lo
|March 8, 2019||
Re-Inhabiting Planet Earth
by Robert Koehler, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents.org
“I believe that for a moment I thought the explosion might set fire to the atmosphere and thus finish the Earth, even though I knew that this was not possible.”
These words of Manhattan Project physicist Emilio Segre, quoted by Richard Rhodes in his book The Making of the Atomic Bomb, refer to the Trinity blast on July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, N.M., the first atomic explosion in history and, so it appears, a turning point for all life on this planet.
The atmosphere didn’t catch fire at 5:30 that morning, but Segre’s words remain relevant, sort of like radioactive fallout. They encapsulate what may be history’s ultimate moment of human arrogance: the belief in a sense of separateness from and superiority to nature so thorough that we have, with our monstrous intelligence, the ability and therefore the right to play Bad God and make the whole planet go poof.
Turns out the Trinity test set into motion something even more profound than the nuclear era. The bomb didn’t just “defeat” Japan and define the Cold War, with its suicidal nuclear arms race. It is also, at least symbolically, marks the beginning of what has come to be known as the Anthropocene: an era of profound climate and “Earth system” destabilization caused by human activity and therefore, like it or not, establishing humans as co-equal participants in activity of the natural world.
There’s more to this “co-equal” status than nuclear weapons, of course. They may be the tip of our arrogance, but we’ve been exploiting and rearranging the planet for nearly 12,000 years, since the beginning of the era we are now leaving, the Holocene, an era of climate stability in which human civilization and all written history emerged. From the development of agriculture to the industrial revolution – the plundering of the Earth for oil and coal, the spewing of infinitesimal plastic nurdles across the planet, the creation of continent-sized trash mounds afloat in the oceans, the replacement of biodiversity with monoculture, the poisoning of the air and water and, yes, nuclear testing and the spread of radioactive fallout – humanity, or at least a small portion of it, has exercised an intelligence with a serious moral void.
And now the chickens are coming home to roost. Or as David Korten put it: “Humans might be the first species to knowingly choose self-extinction.”
What’s crucial about all this goes well beyond the dangers of climate change and the need for techno-fixes to our socioeconomic structures. History professor Julia Adeney Thomas puts it this way: “The Anthropocene’s interrelated systematicity presents not a problem, but a multidimensional predicament. A problem might be solved, often with a single technological tool produced by experts in a single field, but a predicament presents a challenging condition requiring resources and ideas of many kinds. We don’t solve predicaments; instead, we navigate through them.”
She adds: “. . . the hardest challenges will be about how to alter our political and economic systems.”
These aren’t just technical problems for “experts” to solve while the rest of look on (or go shopping). What’s emerging from all this for me is that humanity has to evolve for its own survival, and evolution is going to take all of us – or at least all of us who can think beyond the structures of thought in which we grew up, in which we came of age. The first premise for navigating the Anthropocene may be this: We’re all in it together.
Simple as this sounds, the implications of such a statement, if it is true, begin mushrooming into unfathomable complexity, especially when “all” refers not simply to all 7.4 billion human beings out there but all of life: the biosphere, the planet. We have to rethink who we are in a way that has, quite likely, never before happened.
“In the Anthropocene the old simplicities are gone,” writes Mark Garavan. “We are no longer human subjects acting upon an objective nature ‘outside’ us. Nature and human are now bound together. Free nature is over. Free humanity is over. They are relics of the Holocene. In our new age, Earth and Human are entangled irrevocably together. Welcome to the era of Earth-bound responsibility! The assumptions, the myths, the illusions of the Holocene no longer apply.”
And any institution founded on such myths and illusions – that the planet is ours to exploit, that some people matter more than others, that national borders are real, that dehumanizing and killing one another (a little activity called war) keeps us safe, that money equals God – cannot and will not survive the Anthropocene, and the “solutions” that emerge from such institutions, e.g., solving the climate crisis, are rooted in failure. “The challenge,” says Garavan, “is to re-think and re-inhabit our planet.”
That is to say, we have to start over.
And I think that’s what’s happening. New values are percolating. So are old values – the values human beings once embraced as they claimed the right to occupy Planet Earth. These values include interdependence and cooperation, and profound reverence for the planet. Rupert Ross, in his book Returning to the Teachings, points out, for instance: “The Lakotah had no language for insulting other orders of existence: “pest . . . waste . . . weed.”
Indigenous understanding is not “primitive.” It includes cooperation and compassion in its grasp of how things work, of what it means to live within the circle of life. The indigenous peoples of the planet have remained its protectors.
As Jade Begay and Ayşe Gürsöz point out at EcoWatch: “Even the seemingly groundbreaking Paris agreement neither includes human rights in its text nor acknowledges Indigenous rights — even though lands and waters stewarded by Indigenous communities make up 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity. What we need is for climate policy and the overall climate movement to address problems of inequality, because climate change is just as much a social issue as it is an environmental issue.”
In other words, biodiversity and social diversity are both precious. Knowing this means re-inhabiting the planet, not setting it on fire.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at email@example.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
Originally published by CommonDreams.org
|March 9, 2019||
Financial Inclusion: A Key Driver of Inclusive Growth
by Moin Qazi, in India, Countercurrents.org
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.
The Indian economy is projected to be the fastest growing major economy in the world in 2019-20, ahead of China, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). the Per capita national income has risen from Rs 86,647 in 2014-15 to Rs 1,12,835 in 2017-18. Furthermore, improved telecommunications, the emerging fintech boom, seamlessly connected global markets, universalisation of information through Internet and innovations in financialservices have all opened up opportunities for the common man like never before. It is, therefore, imperative that absence of demand and supply of financial services — to all strata of society — does not act as an impediment to the country’s growth.
Inequality and exclusion are two of the most pressing challenges facing the world today. In recent years, policy-makers have realised that development will be uneven and not wholesome if we do not address the problem of exclusion in a big way. Inclusive growth is necessary to ensure that the benefits of a growing economy extend to all segments of society.
Access to and integration of every individual into the formal economy by providing opportunities to use his/her potential to improve upon their well-being is essential for the building of a prosperous and stable economy. Inclusive growth is widely recognised as having four mutually supporting pillars — an employment-led growth strategy, financial inclusion, investment in human development priorities and high-impact multi-dimensional interventions
It is now accepted wisdom that a key ingredient of inclusive growth is financial inclusion. Inclusive financial systems have potentially transformative power to accelerate development gains. They provide individuals and businesses with greater access to resources to meet their financial needs such as investment in education and housing, capitalising on business opportunities, saving for retirement and coping with various economic shocks.
Like all other rights, citizens have the right to participate in the economy. The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), the development arm of the World Bank, puts it well: “Ensuring the financial system is inclusive is paramount in the process of creating a more inclusive, equal and peaceful society.”
For the millions of individuals who are in the lower deciles of the economic pyramid, lack of access to financial services is extremely difficult, expensive and harrowing. It constrains their ability to plan for their family’s future and traps households in cycles of poverty. More broadly, it limits the economic growth potential of a country. People need to protect themselves against hardship and invest in their futures to cope with risks such as a job loss or crop failure — all of this can push families into destitution. Many poor people around the world lack access to financial services that can serve many of these functions such as bank accounts. Instead, they rely on cash, which is not only unsafe but hard to manage.
Financial inclusion, in its broader market conceptualisation, is the belief that people, including the very poor and marginal, should gain access and be able to regularly use financial services — an idea that the World Bank promotes and all countries area pursuing as part of building inclusive economies. Having just an account isn’t the key angle — it’s using it to achieve development goals, to save, to invest in business and educational opportunities and to build financial resilience that is the deeper philosophy financial inclusion. the united nations have positioned Financial inclusion prominently as an enabler of other developmental goals in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, where it features as a target in eight of the seventeen goals.
The objective of financial inclusion is a task that independent India has tried out in different forms over the decades but has not been able to get it quite right. Initiatives include the cooperative movement, followed by priority sector lending, lead bank schemes, service area approach, creation of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development and Small Industries Development Bank of India, introduction of Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), Local Area Banks (LABs) microfinance, kisan credit cards, business correspondents, Small Finance Banks, Payment Banks and finally, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana.
All these initiatives have been supply-driven — delivery of banking services to the poor people, if need be, at their doorstep. However, they have not been able to achieve the goals with which they are designed and mandated. Most of them were based on a misconceived premise and assumption. One important lesson they have offered is that the availability of finance is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for poverty reduction. It is certainly not an end in itself.
In this race to financial inclusion, we will be missing the mark if we believe that financial inclusion will by itself eliminate poverty. Financial literacy, access to financial tools and economic empowerment underpin the development of healthy and stable states. But it needs to be complemented with a host of other services. Financial services alone cannot vault the poor out of poverty. They can enable economic enfranchisement but cannot solve social exclusion, which has to be addressed by tackling the entire combination of problems. The issues include: Unemployment, discrimination, poor skills, low incomes and poor housing. One of the main reasons that the excluded populations cite for not having a financial account is that they simply don’t have enough money to open and use an account.
We need to remind ourselves of the memorable poser of Dudley Seers, first president of the prestigious European Association of Development Institutes (EADI), on development: “The questions to ask about a country’s development are: What has been happening to poverty? What has been happening to unemployment? What has been happening to inequality?” Credit is a powerful tool if it is used effectively when it is made available to the credit-worthy among the economically active poor participating in at least a partial cash economy — people with the ability to use loans and the willingness to repay them. But other tools are required for the poor, who have prior needs, such as food, shelter, medicine, skills training and employment.
For development to be wholesome, it must cover all basic facets of individual or society’s well-being: Health, education, housing and employment. The well-known economist VKRVRao underlined that integrated development is not done in isolation through the project approach or even the programme approach but is integrated to take account of their mutual interaction and their linkages forward or backward, temporal or spatial, friendly or hostile, with a view to achieving the total result, which is universalisation of health and enrichment of the quality of life.
Since substantial public investments are being made to promote financial inclusion, convergence, inclusive collaboration and mutual reinforcement alone can ensure better resource utilisation. Plans and strategies that operate in exclusive silos lose out on the benefits of mutual synergy and convergence of the various development channels. Advocates of financial inclusion claim that financial services will reduce poverty and promote pro-poor development but critics believe that this is illusory and that it falsely prioritises finance over delivery of more important services.
Inclusive finance requires us to break the vicious cycle where educational, financial and digital exclusion combine to create social exclusion and isolation. The obvious lesson is that financial access alone is not enough: There has to be money to put into the account. For this, we have to stimulate productivity, raise living standards, unleash entrepreneurial energy and reduce economic inequality.
Financial inclusion is actually a tool in a broader development toolbox but in certain conditions, it happens to be the most powerful tool. It will make the poor a little more resilient but it is not the answer on its own. It has all to do with how we are using it and how we are defining the outcomes. Access to credit is not enough to alleviate indigence. More than micro-loans, what the poor need are investments in health, education and the development of sustainable farm and non-farm related productive activities.
Moin Qazi is the author of the bestselling book, Village Diary of a Heretic Banker .He has worked in the development finance sector for almost four decades .He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
|March 11, 2019||
How To Enjoy Dinner Knowing Fellow Americans Have Caused 85,000 Yemeni Kids to Starve to Death?
by Jay Janson, in Imperialism, Countercurrents.org
The news that one’s compatriots have brought death to 85,000 darling Yemeni children being hard to stomach, the author wonders how other Americans feel or manage not do not feel.
I looked down at the food on my plate, and wished I hadn’t just heard PBS’s News anchor Judy Woodruff report that the war in Yemen had already caused 85,000 children to starve to death. She read the one liner with emphasis on the number, but almost without taking a breath, went on to a local news item, as if the 85,000 dead kids had nothing to do with her American audience. Problem for me is I had already known for years that a murderous, even genocidal bombing by a Saudi Arabian coalition is USA backed, that U.S. military jets refuel those coalition bombers and fighter jets, and US military personnel are involved in running the high tech targeting systems using US missiles and guided bombs sold to the Saudis, who have agreed to buy ever more billions of dollars worth.
I put my fork down, and stared at a framed photo of my four year old great granddaughter on the wall. I thought, most every one of those 85,000 were an adorable child, and had siblings, moms and dads and other family members and friends who loved them.
I remembered reading that cholera had come with the US backed Saudi bombing, and that cholera is a virulent infection which can kill within a few hours time. I recall reading that Saudi aerial bombardment of the national electrical grid had left the Sana’a wastewater plant without power causing untreated wastewater to leak out into irrigation canals and drinking water supplies. In 2017, I had read of a million cases of cholera reported.
But a month ago, that ghastly report of a year and half ago was updated to 85,000 precious Yemeni children dead of starvation or malnutrition. That’s when I first heard it, and when I finally picked up my fork and shoveled in a mouthful of some still warm mashed potatoes, I held it in my mouth before swallowing as I pictured a Yemeni child, the bones of its rib cage sticking out from a taut sunken in belly. I got up from the table. Took a break. Looked out the window at the moon between the clouds.
Then I went to the computer and brought up the article I had written six months earlier as below and read the introduction.
|March 11, 2019||
New Environmental Studies Raise Alarms.
by Dr Arshad M Khan, in Environmental Protection, Countercurrents.org
New environmental research continues to alarm as three studies published within the past week amply demonstrate.
Danish scientists report a significant increase in winter rain over Greenland. The rain-induced melt refreezes forming a dark crusty layer which acts as a greater heat absorber than white fresh snow. After decades of more frequent winter rain, the snow-pack contains many such layers speeding up its melting under the summer sun.
Rain has also increased during the rest of the year and the average air temperature in the last three decades is up 1.8C in summer and 3C in winter. The warm moisture-laden winds from the south are not new but rising ocean temperatures mean their moisture content is greater. More clouds lingering longer form a blanket over the warm air bringing them, increasing the melt even after the rain abates.
It used to be that most of the loss of ice came in the dramatic form of large icebergs shearing off with thunderous cracks, and floating away on the sea. But satellite monitoring in recent years has shown that 70 percent of the loss is due to ice melt.
The 270 billion tons lost between 1992 and 2011 from Greenland’s 1.7 million square kilometers of ice has raised sea levels by 7.5 mm. The rest could raise it another 7 meters obliterating many island nations and submerging lower Manhattan and coastal areas. The eventual consequences are indeed alarming.
Also this week the Environmental Integrity Project, assisted by Earthjustice, concluded a study of ash pollution from coal-fired electricity generating plants across most US states. Using industry data recently made available through news regulations, they analyzed data from 4600 groundwater monitoring wells around the ash dumps of approximately three-quarters of US coal-fired stations. Their findings are disquieting.
The coal ash waste ponds are poorly and cheaply designed with less than 5 percent having waterproof liners, and most built to levels near or lower than the groundwater tables. It is not a surprise then to find 60 percent of the plants polluting the groundwater with dangerous levels of lithium (associated with neurological damage) and 52 percent with unsafe levels of arsenic, which can cause cancer and impair the brains of developing children. The worst ones have lithium at 150 to 200 times safe levels, cobalt, molybdenum, cadmium and selenium (lethal to fish) also at similar or higher levels.
The third study this week by Bangor University in Wales and Friends of the Earth has found microplastics pollution (pieces per liter) in all the ten sites studied: from pristine Loch Lomond (2.4) and Wordsworth’s beloved Ullswater (29.5) in the Lake District to the River Thames (84.1) and the awful River Tame (>1000) in Greater Manchester.
The scientist who coined the term “global warming” left a message for the world before he passed away at the age of 87 last month. He was the first to predict rising CO2 levels would be the cause at a time when many saw it as a boon to enhance forests, crops and produce.
The message he left calls for the world’s scientists to study and prepare extreme measures because our decision-makers are not confronting the problem and within a decade it will be too late. According to him creating a solar-shield will become vitally necessary. The general idea is a sulfur blanket in the earth’s atmosphere to stop the sun’s rays, a blanket that can be dispersed after the earth has cooled sufficiently. How this will be done is up to scientists and engineers unless nature obliges with another Mt. Pinatubo-like eruption.
Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.
|March 12, 2019||
Venezuela: Roundup – 3- Details of Electricity War exposed, saboteurs detained, imperialist economic war widens in World
by Countercurrents Staff, Countercurrents.org
Details of the Electricity War, part of a plan to incite unrest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the ruling party, have been exposed. President Maduro has presented details of the attacks on the country’s electricity supply system.
The attacks were made through three phases.
Maduro on March 11, 2019 described the sabotage as the cruelest blow in the history of Venezuela.
From the Miraflores Palace, headquarters of the government, President Maduro explained the measures taken for the restoration of electricity supply, which the officials and workers of the National Electric Corporation (CORPOLEC) carried out before the cybernetic attack against the Venezuelan Electroenergetic System.
The President explained that the first attack was made on the technology area of the Simón Bolívar hydroelectric plant, known as El Guri, which supplies electricity for 80 percent of the country.
He informed that after 70 percent of the service in the capital was restored, the vandals paid by the opposition physically attacked the La Ciudadela substation in the Baruta municipality, Miranda state, to shut down Caracas again.
In the face of this attempt for creating destabilization, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces were ordered to monitor the territory to guarantee the safety of the citizens.
The three phases of attacks, according to President Maduro were as follows:
The President denounced the sabotage as “a great violation of human rights in our country by the right wing, who celebrate national suffering.”
Maduro said two would-be saboteurs have been detained. They have been handed over to court. They were trying to take down the communications system of the Guri dam. Investigation is underway.
Detaining of the two saboteurs helped avert another serious catastrophe.
Authorities are now looking for the “intellectual authors” of the sabotage.
Maduro has blamed the U.S. for the technological attack on Venezuela’s electricity system.
After attack on the Guri dam authorities, worked round the clock to fix the problem. They restored nearly 70 percent of the electricity supply. Then, a cyber-attack knocked it out again on Saturday afternoon. One of the generators was working. An infiltrator could have sabotaged that unit.
Maduro stressed that the “Venezuelan state has to act” to hold those to blame for the “electrical criminal coup” responsible.
The President praised the “effort and behavior” of Venezuelans as they remained at peace despite the prolonged blackout.
Maduro has suspended school and business activities for Tuesday as much of the nation remains in darkness.
Maduro posted to Twitter:
“We have defeated coups d’état, oil sabotage, violent rioters and attacks on our sovereignty, and rest assured we are going to defeat the electricity war.”
However, imperial interventionists are portraying the sabotage as result of “neglect and mismanagement”.
Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, a leading figure in Maduro’s ouster game, claimed the outages are due to “years of neglect” and “mismanagement and greed” of Maduro’s government. He denied US responsibility for the electricity outage.
Electricity sabotage against Venezuela is terrorism, says Cuba
The Cuba government has rejected the electricity sabotage activity in Venezuela.
Cuba has described attack on Venezuela’s electricity supply system as a terrorist act.
In a statement, the Cuban government said that the attack has been “aimed at damaging the defenseless population to use as a hostage in the unconventional war unleashed by the United States against the Venezuelan government.”
Cuba said that it is an escalation of violence that evokes the oil strike of 2002, and the activities after the interventionist failure on February 23, 2019, when the interventionists tried to forcibly push a supposed “humanitarian aid”.
The statement also denounced a campaign of lies coordinated by U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton against Venezuela. One of those lies, says the statement, is that “Cuba has between 20 and 25 thousand military personnel in Venezuela who threaten the officers of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces.”
“Cuba categorically rejects this lie, as it equally firmly rejects any suggestion that there is any degree of political subordination from Venezuela to Cuba or from Cuba to Venezuela,” asserted the Cuban government.
US sanctions Russian bank over Venezuela-links
The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on a Russian bank, which it claimed has business ties with a designated Venezuelan state-owned oil company. It is the latest move by the U.S. to drain off financial support for President Maduro’s government.
The U.S. Treasury said in a statement that it has slapped sanctions on Evrofinance Mosnarbank, a Moscow-based bank which “has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for” Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA), the Venezuelan state-owned oil company that has been added to America’s blacklist in January.
Following Monday’s announcement, all property of Evrofinance in the U.S. or in the possession or control of U.S. persons would be blocked, and U.S. persons were generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with it.
Evrofinance is jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan state-owned companies, according to the Treasury statement. The Venezuelan government bought a 49 percent stake in Evrofinance through the Venezuelan National Development Fund in 2011.
US puts ‘on notice’ companies for Venezuela-Cuba oil shipments
Insurance companies and flag carriers facilitating oil shipments from Venezuela to Cuba are on notice after the Venezuelan “National Assembly” “suspended” crude exports to Cuba, US National Security Advisor John Bolton said in a statement.
“The Venezuelan National Assembly has decreed the suspension of crude exports to Cuba following the collapse of the national electrical grid”, Bolton said via Twitter on Monday. “Insurance companies and flag carriers that facilitate these give-away shipments to Cuba are now on notice”.
However, the Constitutional Council of Venezuela has declared the “national assembly” as illegal, and without any constitutional basis, as the assembly went against basic principles of the Bolivarian republic.
Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury Secretary, told reporters that by blocking PdVSA assets, the U.S was “taking care of this company in the interests of the Venezuelan people”. Venezuela has slammed the U.S. measures as unlawful and accused Washington of seeking to get its hands on Venezuelan oil reserves. President Maduro said the U.S. sanctions were tantamount to an illegal seizure of the country’s sovereign assets.
US withdrawing all remaining diplomats from Venezuela
The US State Department announced it is withdrawing all remaining diplomatic personnel from Venezuela, citing the “deteriorating situation” and referring to the presence of US staff at the embassy as a “constraint on US policy.” Mike Pompeo announced the withdrawal on Monday.
While most US staff stationed in Caracas had already been withdrawn in January following the US-backed Juan Guaido’s attempt to declare himself “president”, a select few remained in defiance of President Maduro’s order to U.S. diplomats to leave the country.
Guaido declares “national emergency”
Guaido, identified as a puppet of imperialism, declared a “national emergency” during a news conference in Caracas on Monday in an effort to “rally public anger”.
He called on the Venezuelan military to defect.
He claimed 17 people had died due to lack of electricity since the first blackout on Thursday and blamed Maduro for the “murders”.
Electricity being gradually restored: Caracas Mayor
“In the next few hours we will be able to normalize the situation so that life can return to normal in our country,” said Erika Farias, the mayor of Caracas.
Erika Farias, said on Sunday that, in the face of continued electrical sabotage, the “people have responded with peace and will remain in peace.” After 96 hours of a national power blackout, no acts of violence have been recorded as a result of the prolonged cut.
Farias assured the population that the resumption of energy would be progressive. “The Government is working to restore permanently the right to electricity, we are confident that it will be in the next few hours,” she said.
She told staff of different departments have been deployed in response to the different contingencies in the capital city. They are guaranteeing the supply of water and food with priority for the network of public hospitals.
The mayor highlighted the “extraordinary example of calm and sanity” of the Venezuelan people in “overcoming the difficulties.”
“They thought (the executioners of the sabotage) that we were going to fight amongst ourselves, but our people have gone for a walk, they have come out to enjoy themselves, there is a stress situation, but it is not stress that will generate violence,” she said.
The mayor said: Venezuela is setting an example to the world of “how terrorist aggression by the most powerful empire can be defeated” in “a perfect union of mayors, governors, armed forces, organized popular power, all to maintain peace.”
Measures to deal with electricity outage
Venezuela’s government on Monday announced four measures to deal with a electricity-sabotage that has plunged the country in darkness since late Thursday.
Ricardo Menendez, the Venezuelan Planning Minister, said the moves aim to ensure that public services, like health care and delivery of food baskets, continue despite the crippling power outage.
In an interview with Caracas-based television network teleSUR, Menendez said the first step aims to closely monitor the functioning of medical services.
The second and third measures aim to ensure the delivery of gas and water via tanker trucks to households around the country.
The fourth step aims to guarantee the continuity of the country’s CLAP program, which delivers staple foods to households.
Menendez said the strategy to sow discontent failed, describing the attitude of solidarity and civic-mindedness of the people that has prevailed during the electricity outage as “heroic”.
The outage has led to millions of dollars in losses due to lost productivity, he said.
Caracas, the capital, was calm despite more than three days without electricity and now a diminishing water supply, as a result of the electricity outage. There were few people and vehicles in the streets, mainly due to the government’s decision to close schools and government offices.
Caracas residents had a few hours of electricity supply, which was snapped by a blast early Monday morning at an electricity substation in central Miranda state. The blast knocked the power out again.
Miranda Governor Hector Rodriguez said, electricity supply resumed in 80 percent of the state, “however, the system is still unstable”.
He urged people to continue to take precautionary measures.
Venezuela opens border crossing with Colombia
5:00 am Monday: students began crossing the border bridges between Colombia and Venezuela to attend school. Photo: @PortellateleSUR
The Venezuelan government announced the opening of a humanitarian corridor on its border with Colombia to allow passage for students who live one side but go to school in the other one, and for citizens that need medical attention. Beyond this, the rest of the border remains closed.
The instruction to open the corridor was given by President Maduro. The order came into effect Monday at 5:00 am local time.
Hundreds of students traveled to their schools over the two main bridges – Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Paula Santander – located in the bordering Tachira state.
The border has been closed since February 22 when the Venezuelan government determined that there were threats to national security coming from the Colombian side, and after the Colombian government openly supported the unauthorized attempts of USAID supplies to enter Venezuela. The attempt failed.
UN technical mission for human rights in Caracas
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza received the technical mission from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), headed by Michelle Bachelet, on Monday.
The minister indicated that the meeting was conducive to “coordination and information on human rights policies and social protection in Venezuela.”
He also informed that the members of the mission would visit government institutions and all its branches.
Rubio blasts socialism in Venezuela
Marco Rubio, the Republican Florida Senator, slammed socialism in response to Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders not denouncing President Maduro. Rubio offered Bernie Sanders, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, an economics lesson.
Responding to video journalist Nicholas Ballasy’s question Rubio said, Sanders has “been friendly towards governments that pursue socialist policies” while explaining that what’s happening in Venezuela is “socialism overlaid with graft and corruption of an extraordinary level.”
“Socialism always fails but when you add corruption on top of that it becomes catastrophic,” Rubio said.
“[U]ltimately the door socialism falls apart is … as Thatcher once said, you run out of other people’s money, and that’s what happened in Venezuela,” Rubio concluded. “They took the wealth of the country. They expropriated it all. They spent it on ventures abroad and programs at home and once they ran out of money, it was total collapse.”
Rubio avoided the facts – achievements the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela has so far made for improving life of the poor people, the heavy economic costs the Venezuelan people are paying due to imperialist economic war against Venezuela, and Thatcher’s anti-working class steps that led people to call the British prime minister as milk snatcher. Rubio also avoided mentioning poverty, inequality, homelessness, prison population, gun violence, and government shut down in his country.
|March 13, 2019||
Venezuela: ROUNDUP -4- Guaido seeks to sell out Venezuela’s oil industry, and U.S. is willing to buy
by Countercurrents Staff, in World, Countercurrents.org
Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed “interim president” of Venezuela, has offered to sell out Venezuela’s oil industry to foreign private companies, and the U.S. has expressed its willingness to buy.
Guaido has proposed a “draft legislation” that will sell Venezuela’s oil reserves to private companies, a Reuters report said. The move would shrink the participation of state-run oil company PdVSA.
Ricardo Hausmann, Guaido’s delegate to the Inter-American Development Bank, said, “We need to change the current framework. We need to open up the oil industry to private investment.”
Under the proposed “legislation”, private firms could choose to run the day-to-day operations of Venezuelan oilfields, a major difference from rules left by Venezuela’s former leader Hugo Chavez, which only allowed foreign companies hold minority stakes without granting operational control.
PdVSA’s assets would be transferred and auctioned off by an “independent regulator”, the National Hydrocarbon Agency.
“All hydrocarbon reservoirs can be part of an auction to be decided by Venezuela’s Hydrocarbon Agency,” said the draft “legislation”.
The United States, the leading force in intervention in Venezuela for overthrowing Bolivarian initiative, are all too eager to invest into Venezuelan oil. John Bolton, the U.S. National Security Adviser, said it “will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”
Bolton has repeatedly hinted at the military option as a way to oust Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan President.
The “law” proposed by Guaido, considered as a proxy in the imperial interventionist war, would impose a flexible royalty rate with a minimum of 16.67 percent and maximum of 30 percent, depending on oil prices, removing shadow taxes that increase payments, according to Reuters.
However, Guaido’s legislation remains symbolic, as President Maduro is in full control of Venezuela’s military and the oilfields.
Luis Rojas, head of an oil workers union in the east of the country, expressed his concerns about Guaido’s privatization idea. “It would be a step backwards, it would not live up to what Chavez left the workers, which is a company that’s free, a nationalized company,” he told Reuters.
The oil industry has been nationalized by Hugo Chavez in 2001, which forced foreign companies to either enter joint ventures controlled by PdVSA, or — as was the case with ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp — to leave the country entirely.
EU warns against military action in Venezuela
Federica Mogherini, European Union foreign policy chief, warned Tuesday that military action in Venezuela would be unacceptable and that a solution to the crisis should not be “imposed from outside,” putting the United States on notice.
Addressing the Security Council, Mogherini said the standoff between President Maduro and opposition leader Guaido must be resolved though political, peaceful and democratic means.
“We believe that no military development, from inside or outside of the country, would be acceptable,” Mogherini told a council meeting on cooperation between the EU and the UN.
Mogherini said, “And a solution cannot be, and should never be, imposed from the outside.”
Mogherini recalled that the EU has set up a contact group with Latin American countries to push for a political process that would lead to presidential elections.
“The crisis that affects the country has political and institutional causes. It’s not a natural disaster. Its solution needs to be peaceful, political and democratic,” said Mogherini.
Electric service almost fully restored
Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuela’s Vice-president of Communication and Tourism, informed that the electric service in the country has been restored almost in its entirety Tuesday and water supply would return to the capital city, Caracas.
“Almost all of the electric power has been restored, the people of Venezuela are safe, but the electric war continues,” Rodriguez said at a news conference.
The sabotage of electric supply left the Venezuelan population without electricity for almost six days.
Rodriguez, again, congratulated the people for the civic behavior and said that it is a triumph for the nation. Rodriguez suggested that people must be alert in the next couple of hours as “attacks by Venezuelan right-wing sectors will continue”.
Evelyn Vasquez, the Venezuelan Minister of Water Attention, told teleSUR that the government is working to progressively to restore the water supply in various parts of the country, adding that priorities have been established. Hospitals throughout the country are given most priority.
Vasquez stated that by the end of Tuesday the lower areas of Caracas, Mirandian valleys and heights, and the State of Vargas would have a normal water supply.
Maduro used military to distribute food, water and other assistance in several districts on Tuesday.
Maduro has promoted a special plan – Blue Tank – to deliver a tank of water to all households in the country.
US sanction against Russian company violates international law
Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, is criminalizing Russian companies for doing business with Venezuelan, saying they are violating U.S. imposed sanctions by making transactions with PdVSA.
Pompeo also accused the major Russian oil company, Rosneft, of defying U.S. sanctions by buying oil from PdVSA.
However, Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, said Pompeo’s “accusations that Russian oil company Rosneft bought Venezuelan oil in violation of Washington sanctions contradicts international law.”
Talking to reporters the U.S. secretary of state included not only accused Russia, but also Cuba of “trying to undermine democracy” in Venezuela.
John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, announced over Twitter that Venezuela’s National Assembly, still in operation despite being in contempt of the country’s Supreme Court, “decreed the suspension of oil exports to Cuba.”
A liar, says Cuba
The Cuban government quickly responded to Bolton’s proclamation saying he has “long-time credentials (as) a liar.”
Cuba’s foreign ministry office said in a statement: “The honest and informed people know the bilateral relationship between Cuba and Venezuela is based on mutual respect, true solidarity, Fidelism and Chavism — independent and sovereign.”
U.S. plans “very significant” additional sanctions
The U.S. is preparing to impose “very significant” Venezuela-related sanctions against financial institutions in the coming days, U.S. special envoy Elliott Abrams said on Tuesday.
Abrams did not elaborate on the fresh measures, but his warning came a day after the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on Russian bank Evrofinance Mosnarbank for helping Venezuelan state oil firm PdVSA evade U.S. financial restrictions.
Abrams said Washington was also preparing to withdraw more U.S. visas from Venezuelans with close ties to President Maduro.
Abrams’ comments came as Venezuela ordered American diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours.
Washington said it had decided to withdraw the remaining diplomats.
Abrams emphasized that the withdrawal of diplomats was not a change in U.S. policy.
“You will see very soon a significant number of additional visa revocations. You will see in the coming days some very significant additional sanctions,” Abrams added.
Electricity system sabotage to be investigated
Maduro announced the creation of a special commission to investigate the cyber attack against the electricity system and the incorporation of international specialists.
He reported that he would ask for the support of the UN and countries with experience in cyber attacks such as China, Russia, Iran and Cuba.
“I am prepared for that justice, what the Public Prosecutor orders, because the people have been harmed by those who think it’s all right to sabotage the electrical system and to generate a civil confrontation and then call to assault Political power. This has only one name: terrorism, they are not political,” said the President.
He revealed that the attack was carried out from two U.S. cities, Houston and Chicago, and said that they already have proof of how it was perpetrated.
Guaido under probe over electricity sabotage
Tareck William Saab, Venezuela’s Attorney General, said that Public Ministry has started an investigation against Guaido over his alleged participation in the recent sabotage to the electric grid system.
The measure, which was reported to the Supreme Court of Justice, is meant to investigate whether the opposition lawmaker has acted as the mastermind behind the electric outage.
William Saab said that these accusations add to those related to Guaido’s calls for criminal acts related to the “promotion of violence and even instigation of looting, there are messages inciting looting, robbery, with the excuse of economic needs of the population.”
“Electrical sabotage is not a casual occurrence, it is part of an increasingly desperate escalation to overthrow a legitimately constituted government,” the Venezuelan state official added during his speech.
Guaido vowed Tuesday to take Maduro’s place in the presidential palace “very soon.”
“We need an office to work in, so very soon, and when we have the armed forces totally on our side, we’ll go to find my office there in Miraflores. Very soon,” Guaido told supporters.
At Guaido’s urging, the opposition-dominated National Assembly declared a “state of alarm” on Monday to pave the way for the delivery of “aid”.
|March 14, 2019||
A Green New Deal Must Not Be Tied to Economic Growth
by Giorgos Kallis, in Counter Solutionsm, Countercurrents.org
The Green New Deal bill is an audacious 10-year mobilization plan to move the U.S. to a zero-carbon economy. Bold and ambitious interventions like it are necessary, in the U.S. and elsewhere, if we are to unsettle the current complacency with climate breakdown. Academics like economist Robert Pollin, who kept alive the idea of a Green New Deal in the past years and provided the science to back it up, are to be congratulated for their efforts.
Pollin has for years now proposed his simplified version of a Green New Deal — an investment of between 1.5 to 2 percent of global GDP every year to raise energy efficiency and expand clean renewable energy. This would be the moment for him to celebrate that his cause has been taken up, and contribute to working out the specifics. Instead though, he chooses to focus on the differences between his proposal and a “degrowth agenda,” which he finds “utterly unrealistic” — a waste of time for the Left at best and dangerously anti-social at worst. Whereas this is not the moment to split hairs, Pollin’s insistence on degrowth is inadvertently productive. It lets us see a sore point in the Green New Deal narrative, and this is that it risks reproducing — unless carefully framed — the hegemonic ideology of capitalist growth, which has created the problem of climate change in the first place.
To begin with, Pollin never explains why growth is a necessary ingredient for his proposal. It is not clear why he has to argue that a Green New Deal will be good for growth instead of simply advocating cutting carbon while meeting needs and fostering wellbeing. The only reason he provides for his preference for growth is that “higher levels of GDP will correspondingly mean a higher level of investment being channeled into clean energy projects.” If Pollin seriously means that he shares “the values and concerns of degrowth advocates,” then he could simply tweak his model and come up with a fixed amount of investment (independent of GDP) that would produce the same decarbonization. Higher levels of GDP will not only lead to higher levels of clean investment, but also higher levels of dirty investment — and the majority of investment is dirty. One percent growth in GDP leads to a 0.5 to 0.8 percent increase in carbon emissions, and this is as statistically robust a relation as it gets (clean energy investment has no statistically significant effect on emissions yet, though, of course, this could and should change in the future). If we continue to grow at 3 percent per year, by 2043, the global economy will be two times larger than it is now. It is difficult to imagine creating a renewable energy infrastructure for our existing economy in a short time span, much less doing so for an economy that is two times bigger. The smaller our economic output is, the easier the transition will be.
Pollin may well have chosen to emphasize growth because new deals are about growth. But a Green New Deal does not have to be like the old New Deal. Pollin does not suggest that his investment program should be financed by deficit spending, nor that it should be a short-lived stimulus, repaid by growth. An investment at the level of 2 percent of GDP does not need deficit spending — assuming there is the political will for such a program, it could be financed by replacing dirty or socially useless investments (and there are many, starting with armaments). If there is no extra spending and debt, then there is no need to stimulate growth to pay it back.
Now, at some points in his article for the New Left Review, Pollin seems to suggest that growth is an outcome of his proposal, not a goal or pre-condition. He claims that “for accounting purposes,” growth in renewable energy investments “will contribute towards increasing GDP.” But even in accounting terms, without deficit spending, there is no reason why a clean investment program will cause growth, since the 2 percent that will go to renewables would go to some other investment instead.
The economy moreover is not an accounting convention. We could just as well imagine spending lots of money on digging and filling in holes — this could serve as a temporary stimulus in a period of low liquidity and low demand, but is obviously not a recipe for sustained growth. Pollin writes in his text that “building a green economy entails more labor-intensive activities” and that the private sector does not invest in renewables because they have low profit margins. Shifting financial resources from high-productivity and high-profit sectors to low-productivity ones is not a recipe for growth. The energy productivity of renewables is also lower than that of fossil fuels. An economy of low productivity, low profits and low energy returns is unlikely to be a bigger economy that grows. And this is fine, since our priority right now should be to decarbonize, not grow the economy. But Pollin unnecessarily links the former to the latter.
Maybe Pollin is right, and I am wrong. Maybe a massive clean energy program would end up stimulating growth. However, it would be wrong to sell a program for stabilizing the climate with the promise of growth. What happens if it doesn’t produce growth? Do we abandon decarbonization? And since climate change is not the only problem with growth, there are good reasons why we can’t afford more growth even if it were powered by the sun.
Economists typically justify growth in terms of poverty or stability. Pollin innovates by justifying it in the name of climate change. And this is coming from someone who otherwise sees the irrationality of perpetual growth.
Compound growth is what Marxist scholar David Harvey calls a “bad infinity.” For Harvey, capitalism’s requirement for compound growth is the deadliest of its contradictions. Harvey points to the irrationality of expecting that demand, investment and profits will double every 24 years (this is what a 3 percent growth each year amounts to), quadruple every 48, grow eight-fold every 72, ad infinitum and ad absurdum.
Consider the following: 65 percent of anthropogenic emissions come from fossil fuels. The remaining 35 percent come from things like land-use change, soil depletion, landfills, industrial meat farming, cement and plastic production. Even if the energy mix were to become 100 percent clean and we continued to double the economy every 24 years, we would be back up to our existing emissions levels in short order. This is how irrational the pursuit of compound growth is.
Climate breakdown now threatens to bring this absurdity to an end. But it is not only the climate — biodiversity loss through mass extinction, land-use change and resource extraction are all directly linked to economic growth. Despite his claims to the contrary, there is no prospect of what Pollin calls “absolute decoupling,” or a reduction of these impacts while the economy grows.
It is fanciful to think that there is one type of neoliberal growth that is bad, and another type of growth that could be inclusive, progressive, clean, etc. Growth is an integrated process, and no matter what the ideologues of growth claim, there is no proof that we can grow the economy by selectively growing the “goods” while decreasing the “bads.” Armaments, advertising, fossil fuels, planned obsolescence and waste of all kinds are integral to capitalist growth. Since its beginnings in colonial Britain, growth has been fueled by unequal exchange of labor and resources between imperial centers and internal and external peripheries. Growth requires the investment of surplus for the creation of more surplus. And this surplus is created by exploiting wage-workers and appropriating the unpaid work of women, migrant workers and nature. Shifting of costs in space and time has also been central. Access to low-cost labor and resources is vital for economic growth; if inputs become expensive, the economy slows down.
Pollin claims that growth stalled because neoliberalism prioritized the interests of the rich. The brutal cuts of structural adjustment policies and neoliberal austerity, however, were always made in the name of growth. The promise of growth bought the social peace the neoliberal project needed. Even if the real outcome was the concentration of wealth amidst anemic growth rates, this tells us something useful about the dangers of a “growth politics.”
Pollin argues that we can’t afford to dream that another world is possible, not now, because climate change is urgent and “we do not have the luxury to waste time on huge global efforts fighting for unattainable goals.” We are asked to accept that the only game in town is capitalism, and that questioning capitalism and its destructive pursuit of growth is a luxurious waste of time. If not now, then when, one might wonder?
Erik Swyngedouw has warned against the depoliticizing tendency of carbon reductionism — that is, reducing all politics down to a question of their effect on carbon emissions, especially when coupled with claims of urgency. Granted, climate change is a huge problem, but it is not the only problem in whose service we should pause other aspirations. And climate change is not a stand-alone problem with a technical solution — it is symptomatic of the broader system that is producing it. Pollin’s reduction of climate change to a question of an investment fix is appealing because it makes the problem seem manageable. But climate change is not a technical problem. Climate change is a political problem, in the real sense of the word political, meaning a problem involving competing visions of the kind of world we want to live in.
Now, Pollin has a valid concern in that a degrowth agenda would involve a reduction of GDP, which has many problems — not least, rising poverty, inequality, debts, austerity, etc. We would be fools if we were oblivious to those risks. In a capitalist economy bound to grow or collapse, growth is fundamental for the stability of the system. But growth is also exploitative and self-destructive. Should we support capitalism forever, just because a collapsing capitalism is worse for workers than a capitalism that does well?
Those of us who write about degrowth do not advocate an intentional reduction of GDP (we are the first to criticize GDP as it mixes “goods” with “bads” and doesn’t count unpaid work). Perhaps Pollin is confused because we do claim that doing the right things, ecologically and socially, will in all likelihood slow down the economy as measured by GDP. Or because we argue that certain sectors of the current economy that are central to its expansion — armament, advertising, unnecessary consumer goods, speculative financing, etc. — should contract. Given how coupled the capitalist economy is to growth, this raises the question of how, or under what conditions, we could secure human wellbeing and equality without growth. This is a huge research question, involving economic models, historical and ethnographic studies, and an assessment of potential institutional reforms, such as work-sharing, a guaranteed basic income or a maximum income tax. It is also a political agenda for the Left, to build the capacities to decouple wellbeing from growth.
Pollin claims that those of who write about degrowth do not offer a specific program to combat climate change. Speaking for myself, I do not feel I have to add more to the excellent proposals already made by Pollin himself, Naomi Klein and many, many others. The problem with climate change is not that we are short of ideas on what is to be done. The problem is that we are not doing it. What we offer from a degrowth perspective is a different diagnosis of why we are not doing it. We argue that this is because there is a fundamental clash between capitalism’s pursuit of growth and climate mitigation. Good climate policies are not adopted because of their impact on growth, and growth is outstripping the gains made from renewable energy. Our contribution is to open up the debate about alternatives to growth.
In the climate community, people have their pet ideas. Some want a carbon tax, and others want a carbon dividend (a tax returned as basic income). Some want green bonds, others a Green New Deal. It is safe to say that if we are to decarbonize the economy at the unprecedented rate required, all of these ideas will be necessary. But decarbonization is not just a matter of adding solar and wind to the energy mix — it is also a matter of taking fossil fuels out. This requires legislation and political commitment alongside struggle to stop fossil fuel projects and coal mines, and to divest from oil companies.
Pollin suggests that a 2 percent investment in clean energy and efficiency will be sufficient on its own, but there are reasons to be skeptical about such a claim. I would like Pollin to be right, but I’ve read other reputable climate scientists and engineers who are much more reserved than Pollin about the prospect of 100 percent renewables. There are the problems with the intermittency of solar and wind, and their huge storage requirements (one of the principal solutions envisaged, storage as hydroelectric energy, requires a dramatic damming of remaining rivers: an environmental nightmare). There are the emissions involved in fueling a renewable energy transition, which might be enough on their own to overshoot the remaining carbon budget. There are the rare earth minerals necessary for constructing solar panels and batteries, minerals that are scarce and extracted from areas and communities already suffering from our unquenchable hunger for raw materials. There is the question of land use and impact on landscapes. As is common in these technical debates, Pollin prefers data favorable to his argument. But he would agree, I think, that the picture is very complicated and uncertain, to say the least.
I do not like to be a skeptic in the current political context where renewables face an uphill battle against the fossil fuel and nuclear power lobbies. I wish that a 100 percent renewable future were possible and would be as harmless as Pollin thinks. But our experience with previous technological fixes suggests we should be on the side of caution, both because of unfulfilled promises, and because there are always side effects and unforeseen costs. Even if the environmental and social costs of renewable energy are not as high as some skeptics think, they are not insignificant either — and with compound growth, even an insignificant impact quickly grows toward infinity. The lower the level of energy use, and the smaller the economy, the easier it is to decarbonize, and the fewer impacts that will be caused along the way. There is no reason for someone concerned with climate and the environment to advocate economic growth.
Furthermore, Pollin provides no evidence that the scale of investment he proposes will do the job. Granted, there has been no such massive investment in the past, so it is hard to assess its potential effect. On the campaign trail, candidate Obama promised $150 billion over a period of 10 years. In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided stimulus funding of $90 billion in strategic clean-energy investments and tax incentives to promote job creation and the deployment of low-carbon technologies, promising to leverage approximately $150 billion in private and other non-federal capital for clean energy investments. Fossil fuel emissions decreased 11 percent from 2007 to 2013, but this was not a result of growth in renewables (despite a tripling of wind power and a 30-fold increase in solar power during Obama’s presidency), but mostly an after-effect of the recession, high gasoline prices and to a lesser extent, a shift from coal to natural gas.
In 2009, South Korea announced a Green New Deal Job Creation Plan: $38.1 billion invested over a period of four years dedicated to environmental projects to spur slumping economic growth and create a million jobs. Korea’s emissions were 15 percent higher in 2014 than in 2008. Pollin refers to Germany as “the most successful advanced economy in developing its clean-energy economy.” German emissions in 2014 were almost unchanged since 2009. They had fallen 20 percent since 1992, and following the collapse of industry in East Germany. And even so, in per capita terms, they are 80 percent higher than the world average. If the whole world were to consume as much as the “successful” case of Germany, not only would global carbon emissions not fall, they would almost double.
Naomi Klein wrote that climate change “changes everything.” Pollin tells us that it does not have to change anything, other than 2 percent of GDP. We will keep flying, eating beef, driving cars to suburban homes, flying helicopters and jets — with the only difference being that all this will be powered by clean electricity. I won’t debate the facts and the feasibility of this vision again, so instead I’ll just point out that intuitively this doesn’t make sense to people, and it doesn’t because you don’t have to be a scientist to understand how much our current lifestyle depends on fossil fuels. Those who deny climate change know it and those who fight for climate justice know it, too. To stop climate change, we not only need to clean production, but also to reduce and transform consumption. We need free public transport, new diets, denser modes of living, affordable housing close to where the jobs are, food grown closer to where it is consumed, reduction of working time and commuting, low-energy ways of living and finding satisfaction, curbs on excessive incomes and on ostentatious consumption. It is not as though the Green New Deal is an agenda designed to fight climate change alone — it is a green Left agenda that we should pursue even if there were no climate change. And we have to pursue it independently of whether or not it is “good for the economy,” because we put people before the economy.
The Green New Deal bill goes in the right direction and its differences from Pollin’s narrower proposal are informative and much closer to what I am arguing here. The bill does not only commit funds to renewable energies, but also to health, housing and environmental infrastructures. It has provisions for economic security, akin to job guarantee and basic income schemes — provisions that will be vital if we are to secure wellbeing without growth. Granted, the bill does not talk explicitly about post- or de-growth, and does not challenge head-on prevalent patterns of consumption as much as one like me sitting in an academic chair and not involved in parliamentary politics would have liked — but consumption would surely change too if public services were expanded to the extent foreseen in the bill. Importantly, unlike Pollin, the bill does not emphasize growth or justify the plan in terms of growth.
Pollin’s insistence, then, on accentuating the differences between degrowth and the Green New Deal is outdated and unnecessary. Pollin’s article was titled “Degrowth vs. a Green New Deal.” Maybe it is time to stop inventing more internal “versus” and do the hard work of constructing some new “ands.” What about degrowth and a Green New Deal? The opponent is formidable and what we need are alliances, not divisions.
The author thanks Jason Hickel and David Ravensbergen for their comments and suggestions to an earlier draft of this essay.
Giorgos Kallis is an environmental scientist working on ecological economics and political ecology. Before coming to Barcelona, he was a Marie Curie International Fellow at the Energy and Resources Group of the University of California at Berkeley. Giorgos holds a PhD in Environmental Policy and Planning from the University of the Aegean in Greece, a Masters in Economics from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and a Masters in Environmental Engineering and a Bachelors in Chemistry from Imperial College, London.
Originally published in TruthOut
|March 15, 2019||
Taking Baby Steps to Solve the World’s Greatest Crises.
by Rozali, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents.org
Efforts to live more sustainably have been popularized by individuals, leaders, and corporations across the globe. While reports seem to indicate that people are more socially aware, the widespread popularization of the term ‘sustainability’ falsely leads us to believe that we are doing much more than we actually are. In reality, we are on a path of pseudo-sustainability. Most of us proudly take baby steps, with the full expectation to be applauded and congratulated by our peers. We change enough to get recognition, but not so much that we are inconvenienced. We do this while we continue to devastate the ecosystems that sustain us, increasing existential threat.
Online misinformation supports the notion that ‘baby steps’ or incremental policy change is enough to change the trajectory of a dying planet. Anything more is considered too radical, extreme, idealistic, or unfeasible. Maintaining the status quo is an example of institutionalized hegemony, as late philosopher Antonio Gramsci would describe. Cultural hegemony legitimizes the ideology and beliefs of the ruling class and the social and economic systems that support it. To live within this cultural hegemony makes it easier to legitimize cruelty, exploitation, and greed.
The incremental approach is commonly practiced by leaders who only operate out of self-interest. They throw a bone or two to keep voters and consumers happy and leave it at that. Lately, this approach has been more commonly espoused in the animal agriculture industry.
Animal agriculture is the most destructive industry in the planet, yet we have let our ego and politics divert our attention away from the deplorable, cruel industry and towards denigrating each other. We judge others for being too radical, scold vegans for being militant, all while refusing to reflect on what we can collectively do to reduce unnecessary suffering and violence. Ironically, I experienced the most judgment in social activist circles for my criticism of animal agriculture, exploitation and its effects on the environment. I was mainly criticized for not being compassionate enough towards humans (apparently caring for animals and caring for people were seen as mutually exclusive). The injustices they cared about only extended to humans, specifically whatever marginalized group captured the most media attention at the time. In these outraged circles, social justice activists arbitrate what issues we should care about, while judging and ostracizing others for believing in something different.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report reveals that one of the most effective actions individuals can take towards decreasing greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce consumption of animal products. Unfortunately, many took this statement as a mere suggestion, while others took offense at the notion of individuals taking responsibility to reduce fossil fuels.
For various reasons, people don’t like to change. So we give them the option to take baby steps to help cushion the discomfort. ‘Meatless Mondays’ is the most pervasive example of a baby step I’ve ever seen. Meatless Mondays is a global movement of people dedicated to going meat-free once a week. Folks who participate are applauded and coddled online and off for being bold and courageous. 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are created by livestock and their byproducts, and here we are talking about going meatless once a week. I’m sick of being expected to celebrate others while they do mental gymnastics to justify continued exploitation.
Incrementalism is a common feature in climate policy, too. Last year, the IPCC warned that if global temperatures exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius, the consequences would be catastrophic: global sea levels will rise over 10 cm, heat waves would affect more than one-third of the planet, the Arctic sea ice would lead to more ice-free summers creating more habitat losses for polar bears, whales, seals and sea birds, and virtually all of the world’s reefs would be lost.
The solution to this bleak report? To revive another climate agreement. Nearly 200 countries came together to develop the Paris Agreement with the ultimate goal of keeping global temperatures well below a rise of 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. So far, the results aren’t anything to write home about. Countries are not meeting their targets; the agreements aren’t legally enforcing so many countries must rely on political and moral persuasion to push for more action; while other countries have pulled out altogether. Corinne La Quere, director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in England said, “It’s not fast enough. It’s not big enough. There’s not enough action.” It’s hardly even a baby step.
These passive actions are a way for us to pat ourselves on the back while still being able to consume beyond our means and indulge in our vices. In reality, we know that these actions will never make a dent in the damage we caused on the planet. Despite the existential threat we face, politicians continue to pursue the pragmatic approach. Right wing conservatives deny global warming altogether while Democrats are content with making small, gradual changes. It’s enough for global leaders and self-proclaimed experts to sign up for these initiatives – but it’s not enough for the planet. Margaret Klein Salamon, founder and director of The Climate Mobilization wrote to Common Dreams about this piecemeal approach, “Gradualism is fundamentally incompatible with protecting civilization and the natural world. It’s pathetic that the Democrats are continuing to pursue this approach.”
It took more than baby steps to get us to where we are. It took years of exploitation, cruelty, slave labor, greed, resource extraction, pillaging, and rabid mass consumption. And it will take a lot more than baby steps to get us out. Our policies, ideologies, and moral compass should reflect this. Now is not the time to coddle or accept the status quo. Accepting the status quo means you are complicit in contributing to exploitation of our planet. The planet doesn’t care about ego and it cannot be saved through baby steps alone.
Rozali is writer and editor of Growing Up Alienated. She has contributed to publications including CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Peace Magazine, among others. She can be reached at email@example.com.
|March 15, 2019||
Wealth Concentration Drives a New Global Imperialism
by Peter Phillips, in Imperialism, Countercurrents.org
Regime changes in Iraq and Libya, Syria’s war, Venezuela’s crisis, sanctions on Cuba, Iran, Russia, and North Korea are reflections of a new global imperialism imposed by a core of capitalist nations in support of trillions of dollars of concentrated investment wealth. This new world order of mass capital has become a totalitarian empire of inequality and repression.
The global 1%, comprised of over 36-million millionaires and 2,400 billionaires,employ their excess capital with investment management firms like Black Rock and J.P Morgan Chase. The top seventeen of these trillion-dollar investment management firms controlled $41.1 trillion dollars in 2017. These firms are all directly invested in each other and managed by only 199 people who decide how and where global capital will be invested. Their biggest problem is they have more capital than there are safe investment opportunities, which leads to risky speculative investments, increased war spending, privatization of the public domain, and pressures to open new capital investment opportunities through political regime changes.
Power elites in support of capital investment are collectively embedded in a system of mandatory growth. Failure for capital to achieve continuing expansion leads to economic stagnation, which can result in depression,bank failures,currency collapses, and mass unemployment. Capitalism is an economic system that inevitably adjusts itself via contractions, recessions, and depressions. Power elites are entrapped in a web of enforced growth that requires ongoing global management and the formation of new and ever expanding capital investment opportunities. This forced expansion becomes a world wide manifest destiny that seeks total capital domination in all regions of the earth and beyond.
Sixty percent of the core 199 global power elite managers are from the US, with people from twenty capitalist nations rounding out the balance. These power elite managers and associated one percenters take active part in global policy groups and governments. They serve as advisors to the IMF, World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Bank of Settlements, Federal Reserve Board, G-7 and the G-20. Most attend the World Economic Forum. Global power elites engage actively on private international policy councils such as the Council of Thirty, Trilateral Commission, and the Atlantic Council. Many of the US global elites are members of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Business Roundtable in the US. The most important issue for these power elites is protecting capital investment, insuring debt collection, and building opportunities for further returns.
The global power elite are aware of their existence as a numerical minority in the vast sea of impoverished humanity. Roughly 80% of the world’s population lives on less than ten dollars a day and half live on less than three dollars a day.Concentrated global capital becomes the binding institutional alignment that brings transnational capitalists into a centralized global imperialism facilitated by world economic/trade institutions and protected by the US/NATO military empire. This concentration of wealth leads to a crisis of humanity, whereby poverty, war, starvation, mass alienation, media propaganda, and environmental devastation have reached levels that threaten humanity’s future.
The idea of independent self-ruling nation-states has long been held sacrosanct in traditional liberal capitalist economies. However, globalization has placed a new set of demands on capitalism that requires transnational mechanisms to support continued capital growth that is increasingly beyond the boundaries of individual states. The financial crisis of 2008 was an acknowledgement of the global system of capital under threat. These threats encourage the abandonment of nation-state rights altogether and the formation of a global imperialism that reflects new world order requirements for protecting transnational capital.
Institutions within capitalist countries including government ministries, defense forces, intelligence agencies, judiciary, universities and representative bodies, recognize to varying degrees that the overriding demands of transnational capital spill beyond the boundaries of nation-states. The resulting worldwide reach motivates a new form of global imperialism that is evident by coalitions of core capitalist nations engaged in past and present regime change efforts via sanctions, covert actions, co-options, and war with non-cooperating nations—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea and Russia.
The attempted coup in Venezuela shows the alignment of transnational capital-supporting states in recognizing the elite forces that oppose Maduro’s socialist presidency. A new global imperialism is at work here, whereby Venezuela’s sovereignty is openly undermined by a capital imperial world order that seeks not just control of Venezuela’s oil, but a full opportunity for widespread investments through a new regime.
The widespread corporate media negation of the democratically elected president of Venezuela demonstrates that these media are owned and controlled by ideologists for the global power elite. Corporate media today is highly concentrated and fully international. Their primary goal is the promotion of product sales and pro-capitalist propaganda through the psychological control of human desires, emotions, beliefs, fears, and values. Corporate media does this by manipulating feelings and cognitions of human beings worldwide, and by promoting entertainment as a distraction to global inequality.
Recognizing global imperialism as a manifestation of concentrated wealth, managed by a few hundred people, is of utmost importance for democratic humanitarian activists. We must stand on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and challenge global imperialism and its fascist governments, media propaganda, and empire armies.
Peter Phillips is a professor of political sociology at Sonoma State University. Giants: The Global Power Elite, 2018, is his 18th book from Seven Stories Press.He teaches courses in Political Sociology, Sociology of Power, Sociology of Media, Sociology of Conspiracies and Investigative Sociology. He served as director of Project Censored from 1996 to 2010 and as president of Media Freedom Foundation from 2003 to 2017.
|March 16, 2019||
Why Calling U.S. a ‘Democracy’ Is Both False & Dangerous to Do.
by Eric Zuesse, in Uncategorized, Countercurrents.org
It’s false because it is definitely untrue, and that’s not merely because America has a higher percentage of its residents in prison than does any other nation on this planet, but also because the only scientific studies that have been done of the matter show — they prove scientifically — that the U.S. is a dictatorship by its very wealthiest residents, against all the rest of the population. Traditionally, that’s called an “aristocracy,” not a democracy, but ever since Mussolini in the 1920s, it came to be called “fascism,” which is the successor to “feudalism” and thus is merely the modernized form of feudalism. What used to be called by such terms as “monarchy” or “aristocracy” is thus now called “fascism” but the leopard is the same regardless of what it is labeled, and what it really is is dictatorship. Mussolini sometimes instead called fascism “corporationism” and it certainly is today’s United States Government, even if some people choose to call it ‘democracy’. It’s what the U.S. Government has been scientifically proven to be: dictatorship, by the richest few (the controlling owners of the international corporations), against the entire public.
But even worse than being only false, calling the U.S. a ‘democracy’ is also itself extremely dangerous to the entire world, and here is why:
Every time that the U.S. perpetrates a coup (such as it’s trying now to do against Venezuela) or a military invasion (such as it did to Iraq 2003 and Libya 2011 and Syria 2012- and to Yemen 2015-, and many others) the U.S. regime and its propagandists call it an action ‘for humanitarian purposes’, and for regime-change ‘to bring democracy and human rights’ to that country, and it’s always lies, which wouldn’t even be believed by anyone who knows that the U.S. itself is actually a dictatorship, which it is. So, the lie of calling the U.S. a ‘democracy’ is actually okaying a lying dictatorship by using, for it, the term “democracy,” which this particular dictatorship chooses to refer to itself, for PR purposes.
Calling the U.S. a ‘democracy’ is to support this government that the entire world (in the only polls that have been done of the matter) recognizes to be the most aggressive and dangerous regime on Earth. To smear the good name of “democracy” that way, by calling the world’s most rapacious Government a ‘democracy’, is to assist in corroding that high term of praise, “democracy,” and turning it instead into an insult, which applies to what is actually the globally recognized most aggressive and dangerous nation on this planet.
The United States of America used to be a limited democracy, but now it’s no longer even that, and to call it a ‘democracy’ at all is not only false, but it encourages the world’s most dangerous and harmful regime and sets it as a model for other nations. To encourage evil by lying to say it’s not that but is instead good, is itself evil, or else rabidly ignorant and deceived; but, in any case, it is a very wrong thing to do.
On March 7th the liberal U.S. billionaire who owns Bloomberg News was so much opposed to the over-the-top, far too overtly fascist, billionaires who now control the country, so that Bloomberg News headlined “Pence Asked Merkel to Provoke Russia by Sending Warships to Crimea”, and their reporters opened:
The U.S. leaned on German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month to conduct a naval maneuver in Russia’s backyard aimed at provoking President Vladimir Putin, according to three people familiar with the talks. At a Feb. 16 meeting at the Munich Security Conference, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged Merkel to send German warships through a narrow channel between the Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia to show Putin that Western powers won’t surrender their access to those waters, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The German leader refused, they said.
On March 8th, RT (a reliably truthful news-site that the U.S. regime calls ‘fake news’ because it reports truths the U.S. rulers don’t want the public to know) headlined “Caving in to the US? Brussels kills its own money laundering ‘blacklist’ after Washington criticism” and reported that the U.S. regime objected to the EU’s European Commission including in its proposed list of 11 additional money-laundering centers four U.S. territories, after which “the Council of the European Union, which consists of the ministers representing all 28 EU members, justified its decision to reject the document with the arguments that seemed strikingly similar to those employed by the US Treasury.” Page 11 of the European Commission’s 36-page detailed explanation of its proposed list said: “Based on the review of additional information sources, the Commission’s analysis has concluded that 11 additional jurisdictions present strategic deficiencies for the purposes of Article 9 of Directive (EU) 2015/849. Those jurisdictions are the following: Afghanistan, American Samoa, Guam, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Samoa.” The objective of the additions was to make more difficult the laundering of proceeds from crime. A legal advisory from a law firm representing U.S. international corporations explained that “The US Treasury Department has objected to the inclusion of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands on the grounds that the European Commission did not follow the methodology used by FATF in developing its own list of high-risk third countries, and that FATF standards apply to all US territories.” Supposedly, the methodology of FATF was more ‘transparent’ than that set forth in the European Commission’s 36-page detailed explanation of its proposed 11 additions. The European Council arrived at its rejection of the 11 additions to the list on the grounds that “The consultation ended on 28 February 2019, with the required majority of delegations having declared their intention to object to the delegated act in question, in particular on the basis that the act was not established in a sufficiently transparent way.” The European Council thus accepted without question the U.S. regime’s undocumented allegation that the U.S. regime’s chosen methodology is more ‘transparent’ than the European Commission’s is. In a press release, the European Council justified its decision on the grounds that it “cannot support the current proposal that was not established in a transparent and resilient process that actively incentivises affected countries to take decisive action while also respecting their right to be heard.” In short: BS. How can either the U.S. regime, or the one in the EU, reasonably claim to be ‘transparent’? It’s ridiculous. That’s merely a relationship between the imperial nation and its vassal-states. They’re all dictatorships, they’re a hierarchy of dictatorships. But only the U.S. dictatorship has been scientifically proven.
Anyone who opposes America’s dictatorship of the world will call the U.S. regime what it is: a dictatorship. This cat is now out of the bag and roaming wildly, almost everywhere, trying now even for Venezuela, the Kerch Strait and the South China Sea. (Calling the South China Sea and Kerch Strait ‘disputed waters’ is like calling the surrounding waters of the U.S. ‘disputed waters’; but only the international bully-regime is deliberately trying to “provoke” other nations in order to get them to buckle to its international dictatorship — which is the U.S. regime, which regime Obama had called “the one indispensable nation,” meaning that all others are ‘dispensable’. It’s clearly not only Trump that’s the problem. It’s the regime, which is the dictatorship, and it outlasts any particular ruler.)
The U.S. is no democracy. It clearly is a dictatorship, by its richest. To call that a ‘democracy’, is to insult democracy itself. Maybe America’s actual rulers would therefore like that.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
Originally posted at strategic-culture.org
|March 16, 2019||
Can China And Russia Survive In This Unharmonious World?
by Andre Vltchek, in World, Countercurrents.org
Does it pay ‘to be good’? Is it still possible to play by the rules in this mad world, governed by brigands?
What if the rules are defined and ratified by all countries of the world, but a small group of the strongest (militarily) nations totally ignores them, while using its professional propagandists to reinterpret them in the most bizarre ways?
Describing the world, I often feel that I am back inmy primary school.
When I was a child, I had themisfortune of growing up in a racist Czechoslovakia. Being born in the Soviet Union, and having anhalf Russian and half Asian mother, I was brutally beaten up between classes, from the age of seven. I was systematically attacked by a gang of boys, and humiliated and hit for having ‘Asian ears’, for having an ‘Asian mother’, for being Russian. During winters, my shoes were taken out into the bitter cold and pissed into. The urine turned into ice. The only consolation was that ‘at least’ I was Russian and Chinese. If I was a Gypsy (Roma) boy, I would most likely not have made it, at least without losing an eye, or without having my hands broken.
I tried to be polite. I did my best to ‘play by the rules’. I fought back, first only half-heartedly.
Until one day, when a kid who lived next door, fired his air gun and barely missed my eye. Just like that, simply because I was Russian…and Asian,just because he had nothing better to do, at that particular moment. And because he felt so proud to be Czech and European. Also, because I refused to eat their shit, to accept their ‘superiority’, and humiliate myself in front of them. Both mother and I were miserable in Czechoslovakia, both of us dreamt about our Leningrad. But she made a personal mistake and we were stuck in a hostile, provincial and bombastic society which wanted to “go back to Europe”, and once again be part of the bloc of countries, which has been ruling and oppressing the world, for centuries.
The air gun and almost losing my eye turned out to be the last straw. I teamed up with my friend, Karel, whose only ‘guilt’ was that at 10, he weighed almost 100 kilograms. It was not his fault, it was a genetic issue, but the kids also ridiculed him, eventually turning him into a punching bag. He was a gentle, good-natured kid who loved music and science-fiction novels. We were friends. We used to plan our space travels towards the distant galaxies, together. But at that point, we said ‘enough’! We hit back, terribly. After two or three years of suffering, we began fighting the gang, with the same force and brutality that they had applied towards us and in fact towards all those around us who were ‘different’, or at least weak and defenseless.
And we won. Not by reason, but by courage and strength. I wish we did not have to fight, but we had no choice. We soon discovered, how strong we were. And once we began, the only way to survive was to win the battle. And we did win. The kids, who used to torment us, were actually cowards. Once we won and secured some respect, we also began sheltering and protecting the ‘others’, mainly weak boys and girls from our school, who were also suffering attacks from the gang of those ‘normal’, white, and mainstream Czechs.
There are self-proclaimed rulers of the world: Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. And there are two other groups: the nations which are fully cooperating with the West (such as Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, South Korea, Colombia or Uganda), and those that are decisively refusing to accept Western dictates, such as Russia, China, DPRK, Syria, Eritrea, Iran, South Africa, Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia.
The first group does almost nothing to change the world. It goes with the flow. It accepts the rule of the bullies. It collaborates, and while it is at it, tries to at least gain some privileges, most of the time unsuccessfully.
The second group is well aware of the dismal state of the world. It maneuvers, resists, and sometimes fights for its survival, or for the survival of others. It tries to stick to its principles, or to what used to be called ‘universal values’.
But can it really survive without confrontation?
The West does not tolerate any dissent. Its culture has been, for centuries, exceedingly aggressive, bellicose, and extremist: “You are with us, that is ‘under us’, or you are against us. If against us, you will be crushed and shackled, robbed, raped, beaten and in the end, forced to do what we order, anyway.”
Russia is perhaps the only nation which has survived, unconquered and for centuries, but at the unimaginable price of tens of millions of its people. It has been invaded, again and again, by the Scandinavians, French, Brits, Germans, and even Czechs. The attacks occurred regularly, justified by bizarre rhetoric: ‘Russia was strong’, or ‘it was weak’. It was attacked ‘because of its Great October Socialist Revolution’, or simply because it was Communist. Any grotesque‘justification’ was just fine, as far as the West was concerned.Russia had to be invaded, plundered and terribly injured just because it was resisting, because it stood on its feet, and free.
Even the great China could not withstand Western assaults. It was broken, divided, humiliated; its capital city ransacked by the French and Brits.
Nothing and no one could survive the Western assaults: in the end, not even the proud and determined Afghanistan.
A Chinese scholar Li Gang wrote in his “The Way We Think: Chinese View of Life Philosophy”:
“Harmony” is an important category of thought in traditional Chinese culture. Although the concept initially comes from philosophy, it stands for a stable and integrated social life. It directly influences Chinese people’s way of thinking and dealing with the world… In the ancient classic works of China, “harmony” can, in essence, be understood as being harmonious. Ancient people stressed the harmony of the universe and the natural environment, the harmony between humans and nature, and what is more, the harmony between people… Traditional Chinese people take the principle as a way of life and they try their best to have friendly and harmonious relations. In order to reach “harmony”, people treat each other with sincerity, tolerance and love, and do not interfere in other people’s business. As the saying goes, “Well water does not intrude into river water”
Could anything be further from the philosophy of Western culture, which is based on the constant need to interfere, conquer and control?
Can countries like China, or Iran, or Russia, really survive in a world that is being controlled by aggressive European and North American dogmas?
Or more precisely: could they survive peacefully, without being dragged into bloodstained confrontations?
The onset of the 21st Century is clearly indicating that ‘peaceful resistance’ to brutal Western attacks is counter-productive.
Begging for peace, at forums such as the United Nations, has been leading absolutely nowhere. One country after another has collapsed, and had no chance to be treated justly and to be protected by international law: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya.
The West and its allies like Saudi Arabia or Israel are always above the law. Or more precisely, they are the law. They twist and modify the law however it suits them; their political or business interests.
Harmony? No, they are absolutely not interested in things like harmony. And evenifa huge country like China is, then it is seen asweak, and immediately taken advantage of.
Can the world survive if a group of countries plays totally against all the rules, while most of the planet tries to stick, meticulously, to international laws and regulations?
It can, but it would create a totally twisted, totally perverse world, as ours actually already is. It would be a world of impunity on one end, and of fear, slavery and servility at the other.
And it is not going to be a ‘peaceful world’, anyway, because the oppressor will always want more and more; it will not be satisfied until it is in total, absolute control of the planet.
Accepting tyranny is not an option.
So then, what is? Are we too scared to pronounce it?
If a country is attacked, it should defend itself, and fight.
As Russia did on so many occasions. As Syria is doing, at great sacrifice, but proudly. As Venezuela will and should do, if assaulted.
China and Russia are two great cultures, which were to some extent influenced by the West. When I say ‘influenced’, I mean forcefully ‘penetrated’, broken into, brutally violated. During that violent interaction, some positive elements of Western culture assimilated in the brains of its victims: music, food, even city planning. But the overall impact was extremely negative, and both China and Russia suffered, and have been suffering, greatly.
For decades, the West has been unleashing its propaganda and destructive forces, to ‘contain’ and devastate both countries at their core. The Soviet Union was tricked into Afghanistan and into a financially unsustainable arms race, and literally broken into pieces. For several dark years, Russia was facing confusion, intellectual, moral and social chaos, as well as humiliation. China got penetrated with extreme ‘market forces’, its academic institutions were infiltrated by armies of anti-Communist ‘intellectual’ warriors from Europe and North America.
The results were devastating. Both countries – China and Russia – were practically under attack, and forced to fight for their survival.
Both countries managed to identify the treat. They fought back, regrouped, and endured. Their cultures and their identities survived.
China is now a confident and powerful nation, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. Present-day Russia under the presidency of Vladimir Putin is one of the mightiest nations on earth, not only militarily, but also morally, intellectually and scientifically.
This is precisely what the West cannot ‘forgive’. With each new brilliant electric vehicle China produces, with each village embracing the so-called “Ecological Civilization”, the West panics, smears China, portrays it as an evil state. The more internationalist Russia becomes, the more it protects nations ruined by the West – be it Syria or Venezuela – more relentless are West’s attacks against its President, and its people.
Both China and Russia are using diplomacy for as long as it is constructive, but this time, when confronted with force, they indicate their willingness to use strength to defend themselves.
They are well aware of the fact that this is the only way to survive.
For China, harmony is essential. Russia also has developed its own concept of global harmony based on internationalist principles. There is hardly any doubt that under the leadership of China and Russia, our world would be able to tackle the most profound problems that it has been facing.
But harmony can only be implemented when there is global concept of goodwill, or at least adecisive dedication to save the world.
If a group of powerful nations is only obsessed with profits, control and plunder, and if it behaves like a thug for several long centuries, one has to act, and to defend the world; if there is no alternative, by force!
Only after victory, can true harmony be aimed at.
At the beginning of this essay, I told a story from my childhood, which I find symbolic.
One can compromise, one can be diplomatic, but never if one’s dignity and freedom was at risk. One can never negotiate indefinitely with those who are starving and enslaving billions of human beings, all over the world.
Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan and so many countries are now bleeding. Soon, Iran could be confronted. And Nicaragua. And DPRK. And perhaps China and Russia themselves could face yet another Western invasion.
A ‘harmonious world’ may have to be built later; definitely one day, but a little bit later.
First, we have to make sure that our humanity survives and that Western fascism cannot consume further millions of innocent human lives.
Like me and my big childhood friend Karel at an elementary school in former Czechoslovakia; Russia and China may have to once again stand up and confront ‘unharmonious barbarity’; they may have to fight, in order to prevent an even greater disaster.
They do not want to; they will do everything possible to prevent war. But the war is already raging. Western colonialism is back. The brutal gang of North American and European countries is blocking the road, clenching fists, shooting at everyone who dares to look up, and to meet their gaze: “Would you dare?” their eyes are saying.
“Yes, we would!” is the only correct answer.
[First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook]
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Four of his latest books are China and Ecological Civilization with John B. Cobb, Jr., Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.
|March 16, 2019||
The advent of extreme weather events and climate tipping points in Climate Change.
by Dr Andrew Glikson, Countercurrents.org
According to Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chief climate advisor to the European Union, “We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet”. As fascism and the horror of murderous hate crimes areon the rise, governments are presiding over runaway climate change leading toward mass extinctions of species, costing the lives of billions and the demise of much of nature, while children are protesting against the betrayal of their future.
Evidence based on early climates andon currentglobal warming requires revision of the mostly-linear IPCC climate change trajectories proposed for the 21st to 23rd centuries (Figure 3). The polar ice sheets, acting as thermostats of the climate, are melting at an accelerated rate. Polar temperatures have beenrising at twice the rate of lowerlatitude zones, weakening the jet stream and the Arctic boundary, which are becoming increasingly undulated (Figure 4). This allows cold air masses to breach the boundary as they move southward, as happened recently in North America and Europe, while warm air masses migrate northward. As the large ice sheets are melting large pools of cold ice melt water are forming in the North Atlantic Ocean south and east of Greenland (Rahmstorf et al. 2015)
Figure 1. Tipping points in the Earth system (Lenton et al., 2008)
More than 30 years since Professor James Hansen, then NASA’s chief climate scientist, presented a stern warning to the US Senate regarding the existential risk posed by global warming
Arctic air temperatures for 2014-2018 have exceeded all previous records since 1900. According to NOAA, Arctic warming has led to a loss of 95 percent of its oldest sea ice over the past three decades. Reports of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), based on thousands of peer reviewed science papers and reports, offer a confident documentation of past and present processes in the atmosphere. On the other hand when it comes to estimates of future ice meltand sea level rise rates, theIPCC models are subject to a number of uncertainties. This includes the difficulty in quantifying amplifying feedbacks from land and water, ice melt rates, linear versus irregulartemperature trajectories, sea level rise rates, methane release rates, the role of firesandthe observed onset of transient freeze events.
Figure 2.Atmospheric carbon rise rates and global warming events: a comparison between current global warming, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Event (PETM) and the last Glacial Termination.
Linear to curved temperature trends portrayed by the IPCC to the year 2300 are rare in the paleo-climate record, where abrupt warming and cooling are common during both glacial and interglacial periods. At +4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperature, projected by the IPCC for the end of the 21st century, life on Earth could be depleted to levels such as existed in the wake of previous mass extinctions of species (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/809271.Extinction).
There would be no smooth transition toward +4 degrees Celsius but irregular heating including a series of extreme weather events and transient temperature reversals induced by the flow of cold ice melt water from the melting glacial sheetsinto the oceans. Hansen et al. (2016)https://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/16/3761/2016/acp-16-3761-2016.pdfused paleoclimate data and modern observations to estimate the effects of ice melt water fromGreenland and Antarctica, with cold low-density meltwater cappingwarmer subsurface ocean water. Ice mass loss would raise sea level by several and later tens of meters inan exponential rather than alinear response.Sharp drops in temperature, reflecting freeze events in the Atlantic Ocean and the sub-Antarctic Ocean and their surrounds, would reach-2oC for several decades (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Global surface-air temperature to the year 2300 in the North Atlantic and Southern Oceans, including stadial freeze events as a function of Greenland and Antarctic ice melt doubling time (Hansen et al. 2016) https://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/16/3761/2016/acp-16-3761-2016.pdf
These projections differ markedly from IPCC modelswhich portray long term icemeltingvalues raising sea levels to less than 1.0 meters by the end of the 21st century (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/sea-level-change/), an estimate difficult to reconcile with satellite gravity-based mass loss estimates by Rignot et al. (2011)http://science.sciencemag.org/content/333/6048/1427and others.
With the breach of the Arctic boundary (Figure 4) the world’s climate is moving into uncharted territory, with significant implications for the planning of future adaptation efforts, including preparations for sea level rise and for deep freeze eventsin parts ofWestern Europe and eastern North America. As the Earth warms the increase in temperature contrasts across the globe, and thereby an increase in storminess and extreme weather events, as occur at present, need to be considered when planning adaptation measures. These would include preparation of coastal defenses from sea level rise and construction of channels and pipelines from flooded regionsto drought-stricken zones. In Australia this should include construction of water pipelines and channels from the flooded north to the Murray-Darling basin.
Since many in authority do not accept, or only pay lip service to, climate science, it is a good question whether governments would be investing in adaptation measures in time. In particular no plans appear at hand for draw-down of CO2 – the one measure which could potentially arrest global warming. In this regard the reluctance to date to undertake meaningful mitigation measures does not bode well.
The powers to beare now presiding over the greatest calamity that has ever befell on humanity and on much of nature
Figure 4. The undulating jet stream allows penetration of cold air masses from the Arctic southward and warm air masses into the Arctic northward.
Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleoclimate scientist
|March 17, 2019||
A Future Without Fossil Fuels?
by Bill McKibben, in Alternative Energy, Countercurrents.org
“Kingsmill Bond” certainly sounds like a proper name for a City of London financial analyst. He looks the part, too: gray hair expertly trimmed, well-cut suit. He’s lived in Moscow and Hong Kong and worked for Deutsche Bank, the Russian financial firm Troika Dialog, and Citibank. He’s currently “new energy strategist” for a small British think tank called Carbon Tracker, and last fall he published a short paper called “2020 Vision: Why You Should See the Fossil Fuel Peak Coming.” It asks an interesting question: At what point does a new technology cause an existing industry to start losing significant value?
This may turn out to be the most important economic and political question of the first half of this century, and the answer might tell us much about our chances of getting through the climate crisis without completely destroying the planet. Based on earlier technological transitions—horses to cars, sails to steam, land lines to cell phones—it seems possible that the fossil fuel industry may begin to weaken much sooner than you’d think. The British-Venezuelan scholar Carlota Perez has observed that over a period of twenty years, trains made redundant a four-thousand-mile network of canals and dredged rivers across the UK: “The canal builders…fought hard and even finished a couple of major canals in the 1830s, but defeat was inevitable,” as it later was for American railroads (and horses) when they were replaced by trucks and cars.
Major technological transitions often take a while. The Czech-Canadian academic Vaclav Smil has pointed out that although James Watt developed the coal-powered steam engine in 1776, coal supplied less than 5 percent of the planet’s energy until 1840, and it didn’t reach 50 percent until 1900. But the economic effect of those transitions can happen much earlier, Bond writes, as soon as it becomes clear to investors that a new technology is accounting for all the growth in a particular sector.
Over the last decade, there has been a staggering fall in the price of solar and wind power, and of the lithium-ion batteries used to store energy. This has led to rapid expansion of these technologies, even though they are still used much less than fossil fuels: in 2017, for instance, sun and wind produced just 6 percent of the world’s electric supply, but they made up 45 percent of the growth in supply, and the cost of sun and wind power continues to fall by about 20 percent with each doubling of capacity. Bond’s analysis suggests that in the next few years, they will represent all the growth. We will then reach peak use of fossil fuels, not because we’re running out of them but because renewables will have become so cheap that anyone needing a new energy supply will likely turn to solar or wind power.
Bond writes that in the 2020s—probably the early 2020s—the demand for fossil fuels will stop growing. The turning point in such transitions “is typically the moment when the impact is felt in financial markets”—when stock prices tumble and never recover. Who is going to invest in an industry that is clearly destined to shrink? Though we’ll still be using lots of oil, its price should fall if it has to compete with the price of sunshine. Hence the huge investments in pipelines and tankers and undersea exploration will be increasingly unrecoverable. Precisely how long it will take is impossible to predict, but the outcome seems clear.
This transition is already obvious in the coal markets. To understand, for example, why Peabody, the world’s largest private-sector coal-mining company, went from being on Fortune’s list of most admired companies in 2008 to bankrupt in 2016, consider its difficulties in expanding its market. India, until very recently, was expected to provide much of the growth for coal. As late as 2015, its coal use was expected to triple by 2030; the country was resisting global efforts like the Paris Accords to rein in its carbon emissions. But the price of renewable energy began to fall precipitously, and because India suffered from dire air pollution but has inexhaustible supplies of sunlight, its use of solar power started to increase dramatically.
“In 2017, the price in India of wind and solar power dropped 50 percent to $35–40 a megawatt hour,” said Tim Buckley, who analyzes Australasia/South Asia for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “Fifty percent in one year. And a zero inflation indexation for the next twenty-five years. Just amazing.” This price drop occurred not because India subsidizes renewable energy (it doesn’t), but because engineers did such a good job of making solar panels more efficient. The cost of power from a newly built coal plant using Indian coal is, by comparison, about $60 a megawatt hour. If you have to import the coal, the price of power is $70/megawatt hour. And solar’s $40/megawatt hour price is guaranteed not to rise over the thirty-year life of the contract the suppliers sign—their bids are based on building and then running a facility for the life of the contract. No wonder that over the first nine months of 2018, India installed forty times more capacity for renewable than for coal-fired power.
Much the same is happening around the world. President Trump has spared no effort to help the coal industry, but more coal-fired power plants shut down during the first two years of his presidency than during President Obama’s entire first term. American coal consumption fell 4 percent in 2018. In 2017 Kentucky’s coal-mining museum installed solar panels on its roof in order to save $10,000 a year on electric costs.
And it’s not just coal that’s on the way out. Natural gas was supposed to be the planet’s next big fuel source, since it produces less carbon than coal (although its production releases great clouds of methane, another potent greenhouse gas). While fracking has produced high volumes of natural gas—especially in the US, where it was pioneered—wells tend to dry out quickly, and despite enormous investment, the International Energy Agency estimates that between 2010 and 2014 the shale industry operated with negative cash flows of more than $200 billion.
Even “cheap” natural gas is now starting to look expensive compared to the combination of sun, wind, and batteries. In an essay for Vox, the energy reporter David Roberts listed all the natural gas plants—many of them designed to provide quick bursts of “peaking power” on heavy demand days—whose planned construction has been canceled in recent months, as utilities and banks began to figure out that over the projected forty-year life of a new plant, there was a good chance it would become an uncompetitive “stranded asset” producing pointlessly expensive electricity. The chief executive of one US solar company said in January, “I can beat a gas peaker anywhere in the country today with a solar-plus-storage power plant. Who in their right mind today would build a new gas peaker? We are a factor of two cheaper.”
You get some sense of the future from the stunning fall of General Electric. “They were the world leader, the thought leader, the finance leader, the IT leader,” said Buckley. “And their share price is down 70 percent in the last two and a half years, in a market that’s up 50 percent. It’s a thermal power–reliant basket case.” That’s in large measure because manufacturing turbines for coal- and gas-fired power plants was a significant part of the company’s business; in 2015, it hugely expanded that capacity by buying its largest European competitor, Alstom. But then the bottom dropped out of the industry as proposed new generating plants couldn’t find financing. GE makes wind turbines, too, but that’s a lower-margin business with many more competitors. The fall in GE’s stock has meant “hundreds of billions of dollars of shareholder value reduction,” according to Buckley. Last June, after more than a century, General Electric was dropped from the Dow Industrial Index, replaced by a drugstore chain.
Oil was believed to be better protected than coal and gas from competition because cars have long needed liquid fuel to run. But electric cars are becoming affordable for more and more consumers. In 2017 only three million out of a worldwide total of 800 million cars were electric, but they accounted for 22 percent of the growth in global car sales. The world’s leading car companies have become convinced that electric vehicles will account for all the growth in demand by the early 2020s. That’s why, by January 2018, they had committed $90 billion to developing electric vehicles—and why, by 2017, Tesla was worth more than GM or Ford. And for every Tesla that rolls off the assembly line, Chinese manufacturers are producing five electric cars. Auto analysts are already warning consumers to think twice before buying a gas-powered car, since its resale value may fall dramatically over just the next three years.
The oil companies tell investors not to worry. In mid-February Exxon announced that it had found huge new deepwater oil deposits off the coast of Guyana, and that overall it planned to pump 25 percent more oil and gas in 2025 than it had in 2017, which, it claimed, would triple its profits. In September, OPEC released a report predicting higher oil demand due to increases in jet travel and the production of plastics, which are made from petrochemicals. Analysts like Bond are skeptical of such claims. Although oil has been the planet’s most important industry for over a century, over the last five years it’s been the slowest-growing sector of the stock market. Petrochemicals and jet fuel are indeed harder to replace with renewable energy, but they make up a relatively small part of the market for oil—even if demand for them grows, it can’t offset the losses in core uses like pumping gas for cars.
The recent history of European utilities may provide a more realistic preview of what will happen in the rest of the world. In the early years of this century the German government increased the pace of decarbonization, subsidizing solar and wind energy. As more and cheaper renewable supplies became available, the existing utilities were slow to react. They had built new gas plants to account for what they assumed would be rising demand, but solar and wind cut into that demand, and the price of electricity began to fall. So far, European utilities have written down about $150 billion in stranded assets: fossil fuel installations that are no longer needed. “In the Netherlands, by the time the last three coal plants were turned on, their owners had already written them down by 70 percent,” said Buckley. And they’re scheduled to close by 2030.
One obvious question is why the fossil fuel companies don’t simply transform themselves into renewable energy companies and use the huge cash flows they still have to gain control of future markets. “They’re putting under ten percent of capital expenditures into renewables,” says Bond, which translates into about one percent of their balance sheets. As Exxon’s CEO recently told The Economist, “we have much higher expectations for the returns on the capital we invest” than sun and wind can provide. From their point of view, there’s some money to be made from putting up solar panels, but once they’re on the roof the sunshine is free. For corporations that made vast profits by selling their customers fuel every day for a century, that’s not an attractive business model.
Another important question is whether this transition will crash the world economy. Investors have money at risk, and not just in fossil fuel shares: a shift of this size will affect car companies, machinery companies, and many others. But as the climate activist and billionaire investor Tom Steyer has pointed out, most technological transitions damage existing industries without wrecking the economy because they create value even as they destroy it. “Look at the communications industry over the last two decades, as the Internet came of age,” Steyer said. “Some of the most valuable businesses on the planet that had been around for more than a century got decimated. I mean, Newsweek sold for a dollar. But a lot of new businesses got created that were worth more.”
And banks have had at least some warning to prepare for this enormous shift. In 2015 Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, began issuing strident warnings about stranded fossil fuel assets, urging the banks he regulated to begin taking close account of their exposure. He gave a memorable speech on the trading floor of Lloyds of London, pointing out that if countries made serious efforts to meet climate targets, vast amounts of money spent on oil wells, pipelines, coal mines, and tankers would be written off. He had to issue the warnings, he said, because the normal time horizon for financiers was too short. “Once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late,” he said, noting that “the exposure of UK investors, including insurance companies, to these shifts is potentially huge.” He urged them to start preparing for a lower-carbon world. Companies, he said, should “disclose not only what they are emitting today, but how they plan their transition to the net-zero world of the future.”
Carney’s warning—which reverberated out from the financial center of London—seems to have spurred a reevaluation of fossil fuel exposure by many big financial institutions. “The major banks are now addressing this risk, whereas three years ago they were asleep to it,” Buckley said. “Now in Australia all our banks have climate policy, where they didn’t three years ago. We didn’t even have data.” A report in late February from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis showed that since 2013 a hundred major banks had restricted coal lending or gotten out of the business altogether.1
A far more important question, of course, is whether the changes now underway will happen fast enough to alter our grim climatic future. Here, the answers are less positive. Scientists, conservative by nature, have routinely underestimated the pace of planetary disruption: the enormous melt now observed at the poles was not supposed to happen until late in the century, for instance, and the galloping pace of ocean acidification wasn’t even recognized as a threat two decades ago. That means that we have very little time to act—not enough, certainly, for business cycles to do the job alone. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released last autumn, laid out a strict timeline: we need to effectively halve our use of fossil fuels within a dozen years to prevent the worst damage, which is why activists and politicians have called for dramatic government interventions like the Green New Deal recently proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Democratic colleagues.2
Government action is required because, for one thing, there’s vast inertia in the energy system. Plants are built to last decades, and even if plants that use fossil fuels aren’t built today, banks will insist that existing ones operate long enough to pay back their investments. And in some parts of the world, fossil fuel expansion continues: China, for instance, is trying to close down its own coal-fired power plants because its cities are choked in smog, but Chinese companies are using their expertise to build coal-powered plants abroad. Buckley noted that the opportunities for bribes on colossal projects mean, among other things, that a number of developing countries may indeed continue down the fossil fuel path.
In countries like the US or Canada, the political power of the fossil fuel industry is still considerable. Barack Obama boasted to a Texas audience last year that during his administration the US had passed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the biggest producer of hydrocarbons; even the progressive Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau recently spent billions in tax dollars to finance a pipeline designed to increase exports from the country’s environmentally ruinous tar sands.
That’s why the most important aspect of the decline of fossil fuel companies might be a corresponding decline in their political influence. The coal, oil, and gas industries have been the architects of the disinformation campaigns that kept us from responding earlier to scientists’ warnings about climate change, and they are using every trick they know to keep us from making a quick transition. History indicates that “the oil majors—and those who invest in them—will…bribe and fund Trump-type candidates and use their money in any other way” to slow down change, Carlota Perez said.
But change is here. While engineers are doing their part by making renewable energy cheaper, activists are mounting efforts to weaken the companies directly, and there are some signs that the pressure is working. An effort that I helped launch beginning in 2012 to persuade universities and churches to divest their fossil fuel shares has spread rapidly and become the largest divestment campaign in history. Over the last five years, insurance companies and sovereign wealth funds have joined in, raising the total value of endowments and portfolios involved to over $8 trillion, and prompting Shell to declare the campaign a material risk to its future business. (Early last year, the governments of New York City and London pledged to divest their pension funds, and the entire nation of Ireland joined in midsummer.) Campaigns have also targeted banks like Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase to force them to stop supporting particular pipelines.
The bottom line is clear: to the degree that the fossil fuel industry is weakened by some combination of technological change and furious activism, the chances for serious change increase. If energy barons like the Koch Brothers and Exxon remain flush with cash, they can probably delay or undermine initiatives like the Green New Deal. But if their businesses are under strong pressure from a rapidly changing energy economy, polities around the world would be freer to take the steps that scientists insist are necessary with the speed required to prevent global catastrophe. Should these changes happen quickly, they could do more than save us from planetary peril.
“A New World,” the January report on the geopolitics of energy transformation from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), is one of the most hopeful documents I’ve read in a long time: it points out that for the 80 percent of the world’s population that lives in countries that are net importers of fossil fuels, the transition to renewable energy means the end of a crushing import burden. “The long-term consequences of a switch to renewables are very positive,” said Bond, who helped write the report. “Fossil fuels are produced by a small number of companies and countries and the benefits flow to a small number of people. With solar and wind you get a lot more local jobs, a lot more local investment. You get a whole new geopolitics.”
Take India, the poorest large nation on earth. It imports 80 percent of its oil and 40 percent of its gas, along with much of its coal. Currently that costs the country $240 billion a year; if, as its leaders hope, its economy grows 7 percent annually, that figure would double in a decade—which is economically unsustainable. “Renewables also offer developing economies an opportunity to leapfrog, not only fossil fuels, but, to some extent, the need for a centralized electricity grid,” the IRENA report concludes.
The changeover, of course, would be rocky. Beyond the effects on the global economy or on particular companies and their investors, countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia (and increasingly parts of the US) are essentially oil companies themselves. As these petro-states face a fall in the value of their only real asset, there is a risk of destabilization on a vast scale; in fact, it’s possible that we’re in the early stages of this process, with mischief and cruelty increasingly on display as countries with no other source of economic power struggle to maintain profits while they can. The worst damage will, as usual, be inflicted on the poorest oil producers: Kuwait might be able to manage the transition, but could Angola?
Yet overall the benefits would be immeasurable. Imagine a world in which the tortured politics of the Middle East weren’t magnified in importance by the value of the hydrocarbons beneath its sands. And imagine a world in which the greatest driver of climate change—the unrelenting political power of the fossil-fuel industry—had begun to shrink. The question, of course, is whether we can reach that new world in time.
Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of 350.org. His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
Originally published in CommonDreams.org
|March 18, 2019||
Saving the Planet One Child at a Time: Children, School Strikes and Global Climate Action in Climate Change.
by Dr Binoy Kampmark, Countercurrents.org
Children’s crusades do not necessarily end well. During the years of armed missions to the Holy Land, when Jerusalem meant something to the sacredly inclined in Europe, children were encouraged to take to the rough and dangerous road as it wound its way towards Palestine. In 1212, a boy of 12 is said to have begun preaching at Saint-Denis in France. God had supposedly taken some time to communicate a pressing wish: Christian children were to head to the Holy Land and liberate it from the Infidel. How they would do so was not clear.
They subsequently starved, suffered deprivation, were killed and enslaved on route to their destination. The modern student movement against climate change stresses another Jerusalem, that there will be nothing to salvage if nothing is done now. We are all, in short, for the chop if climate change is not arrested. As an Oakland high-schooler by the name of Bruke told Wired, “My GPA isn’t going to matter if I’m dead.” And much else besides.
To such movements can also be added other acts of striking in peaceful protest. Tens of thousands of US students did so in 2018 swathed in the grief and despair of gun shootings, the most immediate being the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. The National School Walkout of March 14 and the March for Our Lives ten days later had a biting clarity of purpose: students and staff were entitled to feel secure in the teaching and learning environment. The movement was characterised by much eloquence wreathed in anger and tears, not least of all Emma Gonzalez, who chided those political representatives “who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been ever done to prevent this”.
Criticism of such movements emphasises helplessness and delusion; they are children and so are vulnerable, idiotic and irrelevant. They are to be taught and have nothing to teach the adult world. Leave it to the big boys and girls to stuff up matters. The critics, often estranged from the very political processes they have been complicit in corrupting, see embryos in need of a constructive voice, expressed constructively without inconvenience, not coherent agents keen to affect change. There is, as Kari Marie Norgaard observed in 2012, a lag between the accumulating evidence of doom on the one hand, and the absence of public urgency, even interest, in response. “Although not inherently unproblematic,” surmised Norgaard, “local efforts may provide a key for breaking through climate avoidance from the ground up.”
The global climate change strike movement by children, blown and swept along by the efforts of Swedish student Greta Thunberg, have suggested the possible short-circuiting of this dilemma: to combat the global by being stridently engaged in the local. (Such statements can become feeble mantras but do operate to galvanise interest.)
For Thunberg, the issue of change is unavoidable. In her COP24 Climate Change Conference speech in December, the plucky youth did not believe that begging world leaders “to care for our future” would make much of a difference. “They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.” What mattered was letting “them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.”
Protests were registered on March 15 across 2,052 venues in 123 countries. There were 50 in Australia; and protests in every state in the United States. Often forgotten in these movements is the role played by children themselves in the organisational side of things, often clear, fathomable and inherently coherent. In the United States were such figures as 12-year-old Haven Coleman of Denver, Colorado, Alexandria Villasenor of New York City, and 16-year-old Israr Hirsi of Minnesota.
Squirrel scholars suggest that these actions represented a “transformation” at play. Associate lecturer Blanche Verlie claimed that her research revealed how “young people’s sense of self, identity, and existence is being fundamentally altered by climate change.” It can be tempting to read too much into matters, to see flowers grow in fields initially thought barren. But there is little doubting climate change as a catalyst of active and noisy encouragement amongst youth, one akin to the anti-war movements of the Vietnam War period.
There has been much finger wagging against the children from, for instance, politicians who just cannot understand how a striking student could ever get employment. How dare they take time off learning in a classroom while taking to the classroom of the streets? The spokesman for UK Prime Minister Theresa May, for instance, argued that such protests increased “teachers’ workloads” and wasted lesson time. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, in contrast, signalled his preference for the marchers and strikers: “Climate change is the greatest threat that we all face but it is the school kids of today whose futures are most on the line.”
In Australia, New South Wales Education Minister Rob Stokes preferred to brandish the rod of punitive action: both students and teachers would be punished for participating in the March 15 rally. By all means, find your “voice”, suggested the threatening minister, but avoid doing so during school hours. For such scolding types, climate change and injustice have strict timetables and schedules, to be dealt with in good, extra-curricular time.
Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan’s views on the youth climate action movement are childishly simple and representative, suggesting that Thunberg is correct in her harsh assessment. Recorded in November last year, the minister sees education as an instrumental affair. “The best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue. Because that’s what your future life will look like […] not actually taking charge of your life and getting a real job.” Forget the environment’s durability; drill it, excavate it, mine it, drain it and burn it to a cinder. Australia, and the world, do not need environmentally conscious citizens, merely automata consuming and feeding the commodity markets. For the likes of Canavan, it is too late. For the children, the battle to change the beastly status quo is urgent, pressing and inevitable.
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
|March 18, 2019||
Venezuela under Threat of U.S. Aggression in Imperialism.
by Ghali Hassan, Countercurrents.org
“As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” Former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter.
Venezuela has been under U.S.-enforced “medieval siege” designed to terrorise the population and bring Venezuela on its knees. It is a genocidal economic warfare targeting any independent nation that refuses to kowtow to U.S. criminal imperialist demands.
According to Jack Lew, former Secretary of the Treasury in the Obama’s regime which initiated the sanctions regime against Venezuela: “[Economic] sanctions are the silver bullet of U.S. foreign policy because they are more effective and cheaper to subdue enemies than traditional power, because they have influence in the U.S. financial markets, the central nerve of the globalized economy”. Thus, sanctions are, as in medieval era, measures of siege to fortresses.
Former UN special rapporteur and expert in human rights and international law, Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, has said that U.S.-led sanctions and the needless killing of Venezuelans is a crime against humanity under international law. In his UN report, Mr de Zayas stated that: “Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through ‘fake news’, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric to give the impression that a human rights ‘end’ justifies the criminal means. There is not only a horizontal juridical world order governed by the United Nations UN Charter and the principles of sovereign equality, but also a vertical world order reflecting the hierarchy of a geopolitical system that links dominant States with the rest of the world according to military and economic power. It is the latter, geopolitical system that generates geopolitical crimes, hitherto in total impunity.” Mr De Zayas recommended that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should investigate U.S. sanctions against Venezuela as crimes against humanity
Since the election of the late President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez in 1998, Venezuela has been a leading example in Latin America. After the introduction of Chávez structural socio-economic reforms, including free education and universal health cares, Venezuelans have freed themselves from the clutches of illiteracy and extreme poverty – from 40% to 7%. The U.S. ruling class despises a Venezuela leading by example in wealth distribution and participatory democracy. A report (2015) published by the UN’s Economic and Social Council (UNESC) that said, the Council “takes note with satisfaction of the progress made by [the Venezuelan government] in combating poverty and reducing inequality. The Committee also welcomes the huge progress made by the [Venezuelan government] in the fight against malnutrition through the expansion of the school meals program and the food allowance for low-income families.” (For more on this and U.S. Media’s distortions see for example, Gregory Shupak, FAIR, 14/03/2019). Chávez’s social programs gave Venezuela the lowest level of inequality in the region based on it Gini’s coefficient, while Colombia and Guatemala are the most unequal nations. As of 2015 Venezuela and Uruguay each have Gini coefficients (0 represents the absence of inequality and 1 a maximum) of 0.40 or less, compared to the continent’s average of 0.469. The U.S. ruling class cannot tolerate another Cuba leading by example in a region that the U.S. will commit any crimes to keep under its imperialist control.
The U.S. regime has threatened Venezuela with military aggression to topple the democratically-elected President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro and replace him with a U.S.-created puppet in a U.S.-planed circus show often called “regime change” to give it legitimacy. More than 81% of Venezuelans have never heard of the new puppet, Juan Guaido. U.S. President Donald Trump called President Maduro a “failed dictator”. For goodness sake, Mr President – bought and paid for by Jewish money –, what do you call yourself?
In 2018, Nicolas Maduro was re-elected President by a huge majority of Venezuelans in an election when 9,389,056 people voted; sixteen parties participated, and six candidates stood for the presidency. President Maduro won 6,248,864 votes, or 67.84%. The election described by international observers to Venezuela’s elections as: “It was entirely fair,” and “there was no fraud; none of the lurid media claims stood up. Zero” (Venezuelan Analysis, 26/06/2018). By contrast, in the 2016 U.S. election, Trump won 46.1% of the popular vote. And according to the Washington Post: “Roughly 43% of eligible American voters didn’t bother filling out a ballot“. As Jennifer Lawrence explains: “Only 4% of Americans have great confidence in Congress”, because it is “Israeli-occupied” territory. The U.S. never had a fair and democratic election. According to former President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. has one of “world’s worst” elections. Thus, the U.S. regime has no right what so-ever to lecture other nations on democracy and international and human rights laws. President Trump was elected by a few million Americans, in a completely fraudulent election controlled by money (Wall Street) and lobbies. For example, the pro-Israel Jewish Lobby, including “dual loyalty” wealthy individuals like, Haim Saban, Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, and Norman Braman paid Trump’s way to the White House. In fact, members of the Jewish Lobby are repeatedly captured on a reporter’s hidden camera (Al-Jazeera series, “The Lobby”) explaining how they, backed by the intelligence services within Israel, attack and silence American critics and use huge cash donations to control the American electoral process and political system, including the election of the President. Of course, Trump paid back by making Israel (not the U.S.) “Great Again”. The Zionist, Sheldon Adelson alone has given more than $100 million to the Republican (Donald Trump) Party. Adelson owns the Republican leaders from top to bottom.
It is the same trend in most Western “democracies”, including Australia, Britain, Canada, and France. There are many more examples. To take an obvious one, in France, because of widespread discontent and general feeling of malaise, only 22% of the French population “approved” of Emmanuel Macron as President, according to Le Figaro Magazine. It is very ironic that, Macron had the audacity to call on the President of Venezuela to resign. Moreover, the hastily-recruited Rothschild globalist threatens to impose Martial Law to thwart French revolution by the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) movement demonstrators, as if the worst resurgent of police violence is not enough. The demonstrators – who on behalf of all French people rejected Macron’s neoliberal destructive policies – have been terrorised by the French police who are using rubber bullets to inflict horrific permanent injuries. Since the start of the largely peaceful movement, there have been 11 deaths and more than 2,000 people have been injured, at least a 100 of them very seriously. When police repression did not materialise, Macron – after taking “advice” from his Zionist backers – resorts to the trick of “anti-semitism” to demonise and delegitimise the Yellow Vests demonstrators.
Macron proposed making it illegal to criticise Zionism (the Jewish form of Fascism) just because a yellow vest demonstrator has called the anti-Muslim/anti-Africans bigoted Islamophobia Alan Finkielkraut a “dirty Zionist”. Indeed, anyone implying that Israel is in any way inherently violent racist, or a fascist Apartheid state in control of the biggest Concentration Camp in Gaza, Palestine, can be detained and prosecuted for committing a “hate-crime.” Can you imagine the outrage if Germany attempts to introduce law making it illegal to criticise Fascism because members of the Nazis (Including Hitler) were Christian? Western hypocrisy and double-think are quite astounding. It is shameful that none of those Western champions of “democracy” and “human rights” has criticised Israel when its Jewish thugs massacred unarmed Palestinian protesters trying to breach the fence break the siege of the Gaza Concentration Camp. Israel have committed heinous war crimes against unarmed civilians, according to the latest UN Independent Commission of Inquiry.
Meanwhile, the false propaganda about U.S. “humanitarian aid” stunt at the border between Colombia and Venezuela – which is just a cover to deliver arms and ammunitions to mercenaries and terrorists – continue unabated. Most informed people know that, Western “humanitarian aid” is nothing more than just a big PR operation designed to provoke scenes of violence and justify illegal U.S. invasion to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power. Some of the ignorant and simpleminded U.S. Congressmen, the like of Israeli-owned Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez have threated to assassinate President Maduro if he does not resign. Then on Friday (08/03/2019), Rubio called on the U.S. to initiate “violent widespread unrest” in the country. “Venezuela is going to enter a period of suffering no nation in our hemisphere has confronted in modern history,” said the fascist Senator Rubio. It is consistent with U.S. criminal practices. First you starve people, then you bring them humanitarian aid, as was in Iraq.
The Venezuelan government has an entirely legitimate reason to suspect the U.S. government would use humanitarian aid as a cover to smuggle in weapons to foment armed conflict. The person running quarterback for Trump on the current Venezuela operation, Elliot Abrams (a convicted criminal), literally did just that 30 years ago when he authorised the shipments of weapons on “humanitarian aid” flights to the Contras terrorists in Nicaragua (For more on this see, Adam Johnson, FAIR, 09/02/2019). The U.S. has a history of using “aid” to arm terrorists and “opposition” forces. It is worth noting that in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. used humanitarian aid to parachute arms and ammunitions to ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists. The U.S. is forming what it called a “broad coalition” of criminal enterprise to topple the democratically elected Government of Venezuela. For the U.S. ruling class, there is no neutral. Nations must choose sides (U.S. side). Any nation that refuses to bow to U.S. demands (U.S. aggression to overthrow the elected Government of Venezuela) will face dire consequences. Three quarters of the wold’s nations are siding with the democratically-elected Government of President Maduro, including the world’s largest countries, China and Russia.
The International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN – and other international aid agencies – have unequivocally agree with the Venezuelan Government and called on the U.S. not politicize humanitarian aid, saying that the “initiative organised by the U.S. and the opposition is too political”. The Catholic aid organisation, Caritas also refused to have anything to do with U.S. aid campaign. Indeed, the Red Cross has warned the U.S. about the risks of delivering humanitarian aid to Venezuela without the approval of the Venezuelan security forces loyal to President Maduro. The UN warned the U.S. “against using aid as a pawn in Venezuela after the U.S. sent food and medicine to the country’s border and accused President Maduro of blocking its delivery with trucks and shipping containers”. UN spokesman, Stephen Dujarric said that: “Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military, or other objectives”. Does anyone think that the U.S. regime cares about the welfare of the Venezuelan people and human lives in general? The “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela “cannot be compared with the humanitarian crises in Gaza, Yemen, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, or Myanmar, among others”, said former UN rapporteur, Mr de Zayas.
The people of Yemen are starving to death and tens of thousands of innocent women and children have been killed by U.S.-sponsored terrorism perpetrated by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Britain and others U.S. vassal states. The people of Venezuela are not starving and do not need fake U.S. aid. (For more on Venezuela, see Mark Cook, FAIR, 22/02/2019). Moreover, the idea that Venezuelans taking “aid” from their U.S. tormentors is preposterous. As I write, the U.S. is accused of committing a devastating cyber sabotage (damage) to Venezuela’s power infrastructure, paralysing the entire country and depriving everyone of electricity, including hospitals emergencies. It is reported that hospitals are struggling to maintain life-saving operations, such as ventilators for new-born babies. The fascistic, Marco Rubio seemed to have prior knowledge of the cyber-attack.
On his part, President Maduro has proven very sincere to work with legitimate aid organisation working in Venezuela, not USAID and its NGO associates. USAID is an arm of the U.S. State Department and the CIA and used as a vehicle to disguise U.S. criminal activities. USAID has nothing to do with “aid”. Furthermore, both the Red Cross and the UN have distanced themselves from this criminal U.S. propaganda of using aid as a political weapon. The Red Cross and the UN agree that the Venezuelan people should be left alone to exercise their legal right to self-determination. It is important to remember that the U.S. and its allies that let hundreds of thousands die in Iraq – including 500,000 innocent children under the age of 5 years as “a price worth it” –, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, and North Korea seems to be unlikely champions of “humanitarian aid” to Venezuela, but the Anglo-Zionist mass media have straight-facedly pretended to believe it. In Iraq, as the Indian writer Arundhati Roy observed in 2003: “After Iraq was brought to its knees, its people starved, half a million of its children killed, its infrastructure severely damaged… the blockade and war were followed by… you guessed it! Humanitarian relief. At first, they blocked food supplies worth billions of dollars, and then they delivered 450 tonnes of humanitarian aid and celebrated their generosity for a few days of live TV broadcasts. Iraq had had enough money to buy all the food it needed, but it was blocked, and its people received only some peanuts”. The tactic is to inflict as much hardship and suffering on ordinary people and tell them the “price” for relief is to change your government. It is criminal policy perpetuated by war criminals. The U.S.-led illegal aggression and murderous occupation have killed at least 2 million Iraqis, overwhelmingly women and children and left the country in ruins. It has become clear that Iraq is remains a U.S.-occupied country, a semi-colonial dictatorship. Against the wishes of the Iraqi people, the U.S. built the largest CIA station (the “U.S. Embassy”) in the world and several U.S. military bases from which to project force (aggression) across the Middle East, threaten Iran and beyond.
We live under a monstrous Anglo-Zionist Fascism characterised by Orwellian totalitarianism, racism, violence, flagrant violations of international law, information warfare (false propaganda) and economic warfare (sanctions). We live in a fearful place; a 2018 Pew Research survey has found. Across 22 nations (many of them are U.S. “allies”) 45% of people consider the U.S. a threat to their countries. Since the defeat of German Fascism, U.S. political establishment adopted a new naked Fascism, submit to Anglo-Zionism ideological dictates or else. Its main policy has been invading and terrorising one nation after another, destroying their livelihoods and leaving them mired in violence, poverty and chaos, forcing them to submit to Anglo-Zionist dictates.
At least 68 countries have been decimated and denied the right to self-determine their policies and their own futures (Medea Benjamin & Nicolas J. S. Davies, Commondreams, 04/02/2019). Compared with Nazi Germany Fascism (National Socialisms), today’s Anglo-Zionist Fascism is monstrously militarised with complete monopolies on violence, global propaganda (the corporate mass media), and world’s financial system – which allows the U.S. to threaten the economies and livelihoods of other nations. The U.S. has 95% of the world’s total number of foreign military bases, a de facto military occupation, e.g., Japan, South Korea, Iraq, Germany, Italy, etc. The U.S. “Defence” (offensive) military budget exceeds the military budgets of the next eight nations combined. In addition, the U.S. has a total monopoly on spying/surveillance networks, including Russia and China. It uses its technology corporations (e.g., Microsoft and Apple) and “Social Media” (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.) to collect information from and to spy on every nation and individual globally. Furthermore, the Anglo-Zionist mass media are global propaganda organs working tirelessly on behalf of the U.S. regime to disseminate disinformation by turning lies into truth. The U.S. is a rogue violent regime – practicing imperial piracy – that disregards international law and civilised norms and considers itself supremacist (above all else) and “exceptional”. Only well-armed strong nations can successfully defend their sovereignty against U.S. economic warfare and violent aggression.
The international community have a responsibility to condemn and reject U.S. brazen criminal aggression against Venezuela, and its blatant interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. Since 1998, the people of Venezuela have shown the world that they can freely choose their leaders and their government in a fair and democratic way. The U.S. must cease threating Venezuela and abandoning its genocidal economic warfare. Venezuela has the right to self-determine its own future beyond the decision taken by any hostile outside power.
Ghali Hassan is an independent political analyst living in Australia.
|March 18, 2019||
Venezuela: US Imperialism Is Based On Lies And Threats in Imperialism.
by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Countercurrents.org
We are completing what became more than a week-long peace delegation to Venezuela organized by the US Peace Council and the Committee for International Solidarity in Venezuela (COSI). The trip was complicated by American Airlines cancelling all flights in and out of the country, leaving us scrambling for ways to get there and get home. We also arrived in the midst of the attack on Venezuela’s electrical system, which caused further complications.
Our delegation met with community groups, political parties and members of the government, including a private meeting with President Maduro. One theme that became obvious during the visit is that the United States’ imperialism is fundamentally weak. It relies on lies and bullying threats to get its way. So far, Venezuelans are resisting everything the US and its allies are throwing at it, but they remain vigilant and concerned about an escalation of attacks.
Venezuela Unites in Response To US Attack on Electrical Grid
The attack on Venezuela’s electrical grid began on March 7 and continued for several days. The outage made life difficult for Venezuelans. Without electricity, water pumps could not bring water to people’s homes, refrigerators weren’t working and the subway couldn’t run.
People lined up to fill buckets with water. Lights were on, but not everywhere. When we talked to residents, we learned how they came to their neighbor’s aid, sharing food and water. Despite years of economic difficulties caused by US and allied countries’ sanctions, there were no reports of looting or unrest in Caracas. Venezuelans remained calm and steady while confronting the challenges of the blackout. School and work were cancelled until March 14, but some people were out anyway and a few shops were open.
Maduro explained that the attack on the electrical grid came from the United States. There is evidence it emanated from Houston, the home of the company that provided infrastructure for the grid, and Chicago. There were also attacks on power lines and substations inside Venezuela. When a section was repaired, it would be attacked again.
Maduro told us the plan had been for the attack on the electrical grid to cause chaos and confusion in order to provide an excuse for US intervention. The plan failed. Venezuelans realized this was part of the US-led coup campaign, and rather than becoming divided, they united.
Russia confirmed the Venezuela account and said it was supported by other evidence. The Grayzone reported on a 2010 memo about regime change in Venezuela, which included discussion of an attack on the electrical grid to cause a blackout and chaos. The US tried to sabotage the Iranian electrical grid and has used electricity attacks in previous coups, so this is part of the US coup playbook.
During our stay, CNN also reported that the drone assassination attempt against President Maduro last August was organized in Colombia and that the US was in close contact with the assassination plotters. It was also confirmed by the NY Times that it was the opposition who burned USAID trucks on February 23 at the border, the day of the humanitarian aid defeat. This corroborates the report by the Grayzone Project the day it occurred.
The democratically-elected government of President Maduro worked to end the electricity crisis, provide people with water and food and make sure buses were running. The self-appointed coup’s Juan Gaido worked with the United States, which caused the blackout and their hardships. Gauido is being investigated for his involvement in the electrical attack. He is allied with countries waging an economic war that is causing financial distress, and he is calling for foreign military intervention, a traitorous action.
The attack mobilized more people in the US and around the world to opposethe US coup calling for ‘Hands Off Venezuela,’ an end to the sanctions and an end to threats of war. Another mass march in support of Venezuela is scheduled in Washington, DC on March 30.
We attended an ongoing rally outside the presidential palace to defend it. On Saturday, there was a mass protest of tens of thousands of people celebrating the country coming together to confront the attack on their electrical grid. People were dancing, singing and chanting their support for President Maduro. While there were several opposition protests announced, when a member of our delegation went to cover them, they were not to be found.
The US Embassy is Forced to Close
On Tuesday, the US Embassy in Venezuela was forced to close because it was being used as a center for organizing the ongoing US intervention. President Maduro told us how the US openly tried to bribe and threaten officials in his government and in the military and how they threatened his wife and family. The US told the opposition to boycott the last election and told candidates not to run against him. They knew they would lose an election to Maduro, so the plan had always been to falsely claim the election was illegitimate.
Maduro wants to have a dialogue with the US but the embassy had to close because not only was it undermining his government but it provided justification for the US to intervene on behalf of its diplomatic staff. Venezuela plans to have dialogue with the US through its UN representative.
When the embassy personnel left, we received word we were “on our own.” The State Department issued a statement describing civil unrest in Caracas saying that Americans could be arrested at any time for no reason. They warned people it was too dangerous to come to Venezuela. This was echoed by the Airline Pilots Association, who told their pilots not to fly to Venezuela because of the dangers.
The morning of these declarations, we went for a walk in Caracas to look for unrest. Families were out with their children, people were shopping and eating pizza, and ice cream. Caracas is as active and safe as any big city in the United States. Members of our delegation described in this video the calm in Caracas and how the US was falsely claiming civil unrest to manufacture an excuse for US intervention. The people of Venezuela are prepared for more struggle, building a self-sufficient resistance economy and the will fight to preserve their independence.
When we talked to Venezuelans, one thing they commonly told us was ‘thank you for coming to Venezuela, now you can tell people in the United States the truth about our country when your politicians and media lie about us.’ The Venezuelan people want a good relationship with the people of the United States. President Maduro told us of his love for the United States and how he had driven through Chinatown, Little Italy, and Harlem in New York, visited many cities in the US, was offered a contract to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and loves basketball and Jimi Hendrix.
Maduro has offered to meet with President Trump to discuss and resolve their differences. His Foreign Secretary met with John Bolton — a fruitless meeting, but an attempt by Venezuela for dialogue. Venezuela wants a positive relationship with the United States but it will not give up its sovereignty, independence, or pride, and is prepared to fight a US coup.
Guaido Is the Butt of Jokes In Venezuela, Not Legitimate Under the Constitution
We were invited to be in the audience of the most widely-watched television show in Venezuela. It is a remarkable political education-entertainment show hosted by the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello. The show, Con el Mazo Dando (loosely translated as “Hitting with a Club”), is a weekly five-hour show that combines politics with music and comedy. During the show, he covered 80 different news stories including a chronology of the electrical attack.
Cabello uses biting satire. Guaido was the punch line of many jokes and his alliance with the hated Trump administration was highlighted. Gauido does not have the respect of the people of Venezuela. He is becoming of little use to the US coup and will possibly be discarded in the near future.
While Guaido has overtly committed multiple crimes, the Maduro administration seems to have made a conscious decision to not arrest him as his actions are weakening him and exposing the coup’s connection to US and western imperialism.
One thing that was highlighted to us in Venezuela was that the self-appointment of Guaido violates the Venezuelan Constitution. The language of the Venezuelan Constitution is plain regarding when the president of the National Assembly can become president and none of those conditions have been met. The coup relies on Article 233 of the Constitution, which allows the president of the National Assembly to become president only if the president-elect
“become[s] permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [equivalent of impeachment]; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.”
None of these conditions exist. And, if they did exist, the vice president would take power until there is an election. Not only is Guaido a self-appointed president, but he is illegally self-appointed. In a press briefing, Elliot Abrams admitted that Guaido is not “able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.”
The State Department has been pressuring the media to call Guaido the “interim president” and not to call him “self-appointed” or “opposition leader” despite the fact that he has no presidential powers and no legitimacy under Venezuelan law. Any media that succumbs to this pressure is participating in a dangerous farce that is part of a US-led coup.
This contrasts with the legitimacy of President Maduro. This week, international election observers wrote the European Union telling them they were “unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly, that the election conditions were not biased.” They described EU claims as “fabrications of the most disgraceful kind.” We described in detail the legitimacy of the elections and other essential facts activists need to know about this US coup.
Solidarity With Venezuela Is Essential
The people of Venezuela have shown their solidarity in standing together against the US and oligarch coup attempt. It is essential for those who believe in peace, justice and anti-imperialism to do the same.
We agree with Vijay Prashad, solidarity is a process, not a slogan. We plan to build on the relationships we developed with the US Peace Council, World Peace Council and COSI among others. We will provide a list of items that COSI needs for their ongoing organizing in Venezuela, but so far they told us they need computers, printers and paper. They also need donations (a little goes a long way). They don’t have a website yet. If you can donate, contact us at email@example.com and we’ll find a way to get it to them.
The first steps in building solidarity include demanding the end to all interference: ending US imperialism and preventing military intervention and war. It also means an end to the economic war, sanctions, blocking of finances and the embargo. On a near daily basis, it requires us to correct the record and confront the lies on which US imperialism is based. We will continue to post stories on Venezuela regularly and we urge you to re-post them to social media, email networks, and websites.
We can defeat the regime change narrative by getting out the truth. Join the national webinar on Venezuela on March 26 at 7:00 pm Eastern. Register here. And join the national webinar on NATO and Latin America on March 28 at 8:00 pm Eastern. Register here. We will have more reports from our meetings in Venezuela posted on Popular Resistance.
It is evident the US coup is weak. They have a weak leader in Guaido. They depend on lies because the truth undermines their every turn. They cannot participate in elections because they have very little democratic support. This contrasts with the strength of Maduro, who has the support of the people. The popular movement is positioned to stop the Venezuela coup and prevent a military attack. Our solidarity efforts in the US may prevent them from having to suffer more.
Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers are directors of Popular Resistance
|March 19, 2019||
Worldwide school strike, 15 March, 2019: Largest Climate Action In History Neglected By The Media.
by John Scales Avery, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
Over 1.5 million young students across all continents took to the streets on Friday March 15th for the first ever global climate strike. Messages in more than 40 languages were loud and clear: world leaders must act now to address the climate crisis and save our future. The school strike was the largest climate action in history. Nevertheless it went almost unmentioned in the media.
Here are some of the statements by the students explaining why they took part in the strikes:
“In India, no one talks about climate change. You don’t see it on the news or in the papers or hear about it from government. We want global leaders to declare a climate emergency. If we don’t act today, then we will have no tomorrow. ” – Vidit Baya, 17, Udaipur, India.
“We face heartbreaking loss due to increasingly extreme weather events. We urge the Taiwanese government to implement mitigation measures and face up to the vulnerability of indigenous people, halt construction projects in the indigenous traditional realm, and recognise the legal status of Plains
Indigenous People, in order to implement environmental protection as a bottom-up approach” – Kaisanan Ahuan, Puli City, Taiwan.
“We have reached a point in history when we have the technical capacities to solve poverty, malnutrition, inequality and of course global warming. The deciding factors for whether we take advantage of our potential will be our activism, our international unity and our ability to develop the art of making the impossible possible. Whether we succeed or not depends on our political will” – Eyal Weintraub, 18, and Bruno Rodriguez, 18, Argentina.
“I want to be certain that our government is committed to investing in a just transition to a more sustainable country, that we will lower carbon emissions and curb climate change. I am joining this strike to demand that decisions are more future-focused and that policy will reflect our environmental rights as written in our constitution” – Dona Van Eeden, 21, Cape Town, South Africa.
“The damage done by multinationals is enormous: the lack of transparency, dubious contracts, the weakening of the soil, the destruction of flora and fauna, the lack of respect for mining codes, the contamination of groundwater. In Mali, the state exercises insufficient control over the practices of the multinationals, and it is us, the citizens, who suffer the consequences. The climate alarm has sounded, and the time has come for us all to realise that there is still time to act locally, in our homes, our villages, our cities” – Mone Fousseny, 22, Mali.
“The governments failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of our climate crisis. Our generation, the least responsible for the acts of the polluters, will be the ones to see the most devastating impacts of climate change. World leaders are losing the window to act, but we are not going to stand still watching their inertia.” Greta Thunberg, Sweden
Greta Thunberg has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who started a worldwide children’s climate movement last summer with her lone school strike in front of the Swedish Parliament, is now a leader of the global movement for climate change. Her eloquent and crystal-clear speeches at COP24 in Poland in 2018, at the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland in 2019, and at the recent European Union’s climate meeting in Belgium, have produced real change. For example, influenced by Greta’s speech, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated that “In the next financial period, 2021-2027, every fourth euro spent in the EU budget will go towards climate mitigation actions”. The EU budget is usually 1 percent of its economic output, or 1 trillion euros across seven years.
The three Norwegian parliamentarians who nominated Greta Thunberg for the Nobel Peace Prize cited the connection between climate change, the refugee crisis and threatened wars. Like the global school strikes of March 15, Greta’s nomination receives little mention, not only in mainstream media, but also in alternative media.
Attention has been distracted by the attrocious murders in New Zealand
The almost simultaneous neofacist and racist murders in New Zealand have distracted media attention from the children’s global school strike for climate action. But while combatting racism and neofacism is important, it is much less important than the urgent need for rapid action on the issue of climate change, without which the entire future of human civilization and the biosphere will be lost. We give our children loving care, but it makes no sense to do so and not do everything within our power to give them a future in which they can survive. The media have a duty to help in mobilizing public opinion for the great task that history has given to us – the task of saving the future.
Some discussion of these issues can be found in my new book, entitled “Saving the Future”, which may be downloaded from the following link:
John Scales Avery is a theoretical chemist at the University of Copenhagen. He is noted for his books and research publications in quantum chemistry, thermodynamics, evolution, and history of science. His 2003 book Information Theory and Evolution set forth the view that the phenomenon of life, including its origin, evolution, as well as human cultural evolution, has its background situated in the fields of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Since 1990 he has been the Chairman of the Danish National Group of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. During his tenure The Pugwash Movement won a nobel peace prize. Between 2004 and 2015 he also served as Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy. He founded the Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes, and was for many years its Managing Editor. He also served as Technical Advisor to the World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988-1997).
|March 20, 2019||
What Happens in the Arctic…
by Bill Henderson, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
We’re dead men walking.
Last summer a group of eminent climate scientists published a warning that we were close to a threshold where human induced warming could set off a cascade of positive feedbacks which would increase temperatures to Hothouse Earth, a 5-7C rise in temperature, the end of civilization and maybe even humanity. They warned that “Incremental linear changes to the present socioeconomic system are not enough to stabilize the Earth System. Widespread, rapid, and fundamental transformations will likely be required to reduce the risk of crossing the threshold and locking in the Hothouse Earth pathway; these include changes in behavior, technology and innovation, governance, and values”.
This month a UN report on climate change in the Arctic predicted that temperatures in the Arctic in winter would rise by 3-5C by 2050 and 5-9C by 2080 (if emissions continue to track at the medium to high IPCC scenario range with only the present limited Paris Accord action). The Arctic ocean is predicted to be ice free in summer by 2030 and 45% of Arctic permafrost is expected to melt this century.
Change of Arctic albedo and increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) from melting permafrost are two key positive feedbacks – will their combined increase in temperature globally help turn soil and forests to sources of GHGs instead of carbon sinks?
The Steffen et el Hothouse Earth paper (complimented by the Gasser et el paper published in September) predicts that once this threshold has been crossed, heating will be irreversible. It won’t matter what we decide to do then.
Climate change has been an emergency since at least the unpredicted Arctic Big Melt in 2007 but now in 2019 fossil fuel production and use and GHG emissions still continue to rise. Mitigation is still confined to policies and instruments that don’t threaten markets or investment – a business friendly slow transitions in markets with government still in the golden straitjacket.
It’s a life or death situation but were still fighting by Marquess de Queensbeery rules. We’re caught in a riptide but we don’t want to wreck our hairdo by putting our head in the water and really swimming for it. Our house is on fire but everyone is frozen waiting for leadership ’cause calling the fire department isn’t allowed.
The conservative IPCC report in the fall is widely quoted as only 12 more years to reduce emissions enough to stay safe from dangerous climate change and Hothouse Earth style runaway warming and we are going to count it down year by year, as we have from at least Rio in 1992, while continuing to do less than nothing to save ourselves.
“Our global climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear, and there is a potential for rapid changes with effects that would be irreversible – if we do not promptly slow fossil fuel emissions during the next few decades.
Tipping points are fed by amplifying feedbacks. As Arctic sea ice melts, the darker ocean absorbs more sunlight and speeds melting. As tundra melts, methane a strong greenhouse gas, is released, causing more warming. As species are pressured and exterminated by shifting climate zones, ecosystems can collapse, destroying more species.”
But we did not slow emissions. Those in control, know nothings totally focused upon the economy, said ‘the climate is always changing’ and ‘technology will solve our problems’ and deliberately ignored and sidelined any debate that could have led to needed action and now it is too late. ‘Widespread, rapid, and fundamental transformations’ were and are a threat to business and therefor not allowed.
What must the schoolchildren (and all those who recognize that climate is an emergency) demand?
Emergency governments free of neoliberal constraint and with a primary mandate to reduce emissions of a scale needed. No new fossil infrastructure and a regulated managed decline of all fossil fuel production.
Bill Henderson is a frequent contributor to Countercurrents on Climate Change
|March 20, 2019||
What a Waste
by Richard Heinberg, in Counter Solutions, Countercurrents.org
Our modern industrial economy traces a straight line from resource extraction to manufacturing to sales to waste disposal. Since Earth has finite resources and limited ability to absorb pollution, the straight-line economy is unsustainable; it is designed for eventual failure.
Why not make the economy circular, with waste from one process feeding into other production processes, thus dramatically reducing the need both for resource extraction and for the dumping of rubbish? We should mimic nature: it’s a central ideal of the ecology movement, with roots in indigenous wisdom worldwide. Doing so requires that we reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle—and replace nonrenewable resources with renewables wherever possible.
The circular economy is needed now more than ever. America alone currently produces almost 235 million tonnes of waste per year from homes and businesses, which works out to almost 4 kilograms per person per day. But that’s only 3 percent of all the solid waste in the US economy; the other 97 percent is generated by agricultural and industrial (e.g., mining and manufacturing) processes. If the total US waste stream (including wastewater) is allotted on a per capita basis, each American is responsible for 1.8 millionkilograms of waste per year.
Only about a third of waste from homes and businesses is recycled; the rate for industrial waste is much lower, with only 2 percent of the total waste stream currently being recycled. Meanwhile, the 2,000 active landfills in the US that hold the bulk of household trash are reaching their capacity. The US is among the highest waste-producing nations of the world on a per-capita basis, and the federal government has no strategy for dealing with the problem.
Americans should recycle more. Doing so would reduce pollution, slow climate change, and mitigate resource depletion and habitat destruction from mining and logging. But, sadly, the recycling industry faces problems. Prices for scrap metals and paper have declined in recent years (though Trump’s trade war has helped domestic scrap metal prices recover somewhat), and China is no longer interested in accepting metal and plastic waste from the US.
The bigger, systemic challenge is that collecting waste in tiny, mixed amounts; transporting it to a handling facility; sorting it; cleaning it; repackaging it; and then transporting it again almost always costs more and requires more energy than just discarding the stuff into a local landfill.
Waste is what economists call an externality: it’s never an intended, and often not a priced component of the production process, though it does inevitably impose costs—which are often borne by society as a whole. Manufacturers’ mandate is to produce more, and this translates to the strategy of planned obsolescence—making products that are meant to be replaced quickly rather than being endlessly reused and repaired.
What’s needed to circularize the economy? Two things.
First, an overall systemic commitment to the project. That means buy-in from industry, government, and citizens. Make things in such a way that recycling is easier. Focus on extending producer responsibility. Automobile manufacturers, for example, already use a wide range of recycled materials in their products, and like to take credit for doing so. But making the auto industry truly circular will require participation throughout the entire supply chain, support from government via incentives and regulation, and consumer education. Other industries, such as consumer electronics, lag far behind the auto makers, so there is truly an enormous task ahead.
But the other thing we need to do will be an even bigger challenge: we need to ditch the growth imperative. As long as profit maximization and overall growth are the implicit goals of the economy, recycling will remain a boutique industry driven largely by relatively rich people who can afford to assuage their ecological consciences.
If we are to have a truly ecological materials flow, we must start with Natural Stepprinciples. No using renewable resources at faster than replenishment. No drawing down nonrenewable resources. No polluting ecosystems with products or byproducts of industrial processes.
A truly circular economy will be one in which all industrial processes are harmless to people and nature. That means that all “growth” will have to occur in the cultural sphere rather than in flows of materials and energy. We must focus on human happiness rather than GDP; on rates of participation in education and the arts rather than quarterly sales figures.
Currently, we are far from having a circular economy, and that gap is embodied in overflowing landfills and giant barges of trash with nowhere to go—as well as a plastic gyre the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean. Will the monuments to our civilization consist of mountains of refuse? We can certainly do far better, but that will require us to make a systemic commitment to building a circular, steady-state economy whose aim is beauty and happiness rather than growth for growth’s sake.
Richard Heinberg is the author of thirteen books including:
– Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy, co-authored with David Fridley (2016)
– Afterburn (2015)
– Snake Oil (July 2013)
– The End of Growth (August 2011)
– The Post Carbon Reader (2010) (editor)
– Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis (2009) – Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines (2007) – The Oil Depletion Protocol: A Plan to Avert Oil Wars, Terrorism & Economic Collapse (2006) – Powerdown: Options & Actions for a Post-Carbon World (2004) – The Party’s Over: Oil, War & the Fate of Industrial Societies (2003)
He is Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He has authored scores of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as Nature, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, The American Prospect, Public Policy Research, Quarterly Review, Yes!, and The Sun; and on web sites such as Resilience.org, TheOilDrum.com, Alternet.org, ProjectCensored.com, and Counterpunch.com.
Richard has delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues to audiences in 14 countries, addressing policy makers at many levels, from local City Councils to members of the European Parliament. He has been quoted and interviewed countless times for print (including for Reuters, the Associated Press, and Time Magazine), television (including Good Morning America, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Al-Jazeera, and C-SPAN), and radio (including NPR, WABC, and Air America).
Richard has appeared in many film and television documentaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s 11th Hour. He is a recipient of the M. King Hubbert Award for Excellence in Energy Education, and in 2012 was appointed to His Majesty the King of Bhutan’s International Expert Working Group for the New Development Paradigm initiative.
|March 20, 2019||
Climate Crisis: Now Will the Older Generation Step Up?
by Andy Rowell, in Climate Change, Countercurrents.org
On Friday, the youth spoke. And they spoke loudly. In excess of a million young people skipped school and colleges and marched around the globe demanding urgent action on climate change. They did so in over a hundred countries.
Listening to one young activist about why their generation cares so much about climate change, they replied: “it is the urgency of the problem. It is our future at stake.”
So will the older generation quicken the fight against climate change in response to Friday’s climate strike? You would hope so. In response to Friday, António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, wrote: “My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”
He added: “These schoolchildren have grasped something that seems to elude many of their elders: we are in a race for our lives, and we are losing. The window of opportunity is—we no longer have the luxury of time, and climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial.”
Guterres is right to say we are losing the battle, but the fight is not yet over. The status quo can change. It does not have to be this way. There are already millions of people who are committed to climate action—who, every day, either professionally or personally make a difference in fighting climate change. But collectively, the pace is glacial and not near fast enough as the science demands.
Indeed, the world is still on track to miss the climate goals set in Paris in 2015. Last week, in its 6th Global Outlook, the U.N. warned that
Let us not also forget the concurrent problem of burning fossil fuels. Our toxic air. The U.N. said that “air pollution is the main environmental contributor to the global burden of disease, leading to between six million and seven million premature deaths.”
The U.N. was not the only one warning of further climate trouble last week. According to the Guardian, there was new scientific research published, which concluded that “sharp and potentially devastating temperature rises of 3°C to 5°C in the Arctic are now inevitable even if the world succeeds in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement… Such changes would result in rapidly melting ice and permafrost, leading to sea level rises and potentially to even more destructive levels of warming.”
In any other rational sense, the fact that up to seven million people are being killed annually by toxic air should be enough for radical action. Add on the issues of climate change, and the millions impacted by drought, floods, and sea level rise, you would have thought it should be a collective international emergency.
So why not?
To many who have worked on this for years, it is continually baffling that climate change is not seen as an emergency. To the young, it is a complete and utter disgrace. As they say: why bother to go to school if there is no future?
Yes, we can point to a multi-million dollar denial machine of think tanks and front groups funded by the oil industry, the Koch brothers, and climate deniers such as Robert Mercer to explain part of the reason the problem is not taken seriously. Having a denier in the White House is also catastrophic.
The media is also to blame: As Michael Graw an oceanographer, from Oregon State University notes: “Climate science is often not taught in schools. After the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, more than 28 American newspapers did not mention the report on their homepage. As the frequency of extreme weather events increased both at home and abroad, U.S. television news coverage of climate change plummeted in 2018.”
Into this void of adult responsibility the young have stepped. The more young people push the older generation to act can only be a good thing, and Friday’s protests, coupled with new movements such as the Sunshine Movement and Extinction Rebellion, have to be welcomed. As is the political momentum for a Green New Deal in the U.S. and international Green New Deal.
Even more is needed too, though. “We will simply have to throw the kitchen sink at this. Policy tweaks such as a carbon tax won’t do it,” argues Phil McDuff in the Guardian. “We need to fundamentally re-evaluate our relationship to ownership, work, and capital.”
But for real effective change, McDuff argues, “Any meaningful policy has to upset the established power base and the political donor class. Any policy that doesn’t upset these people will be useless. To pretend that we can compromise our way through this while we wait for a magical, technological bullet that will keep temperatures down without costing us anything is beyond wilful ignorance now. It is a question of basic morality.”
As a first step, we have to break the bonds and financial ties between the fossil fuel industry and those in power.
As a first step, we have to break the bonds and financial ties between the fossil fuel industry and those in power. We have to loosen Big Oil’s grip and separate oil and state. We have to push our politicians not to take oil money.
Indeed, as Bill McKibben from 350.org outlines, “the most important aspect of the decline of fossil fuel companies might be a corresponding decline in their political influence.”
We have to reduce that influence. Otherwise it will be business as usual. Donald Trump’s budget, which has just been released, would “make poverty more widespread, widen inequality and racial disparities, and increase the ranks of the uninsured.” The budget would slash funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by over 30 percent.
But change needs to happen elsewhere too. The cold hard truth is that millions of Americans are still content with Trump and ignoring our climate crisis.
One commentator for the Washington Post on Monday pointed out that Trump seems to be in spiral of increasingly outrageous tweets and behavior, which many are content with: “Unfortunately, most Republicans are fine with Trump, or say they are. They have tax cuts and some judges, so what do they care if the presidency is sullied, racial anger builds, the United States’ reputation in the world is damaged, decency and objective truth are obliterated, and none of our real challenges (e.g. income inequality, climate change) are addressed?”
Andy Rowell is a staff blogger for Oil Change International in addition to working as a freelance writer and investigative journalist who specializes in environmental, health and lobbying issues. Follow him on Twitter: @andy_rowell
|February 23, 2019||
CULTURE OF PEACE; CULTURE OF PEACE; Cultura de la paz; CULTURA DELLA PACE; CULTURA DA PAZ; КУЛЬТУРА МИРА
by Dr. T. Ashok Chakravarthy, INDIA, Cercle Univ. Ambassadeurs de la Paix.
CULTURE OF PEACE (A poem to commemorate WORLD INTERFAITH HARMONY WEEK : 1 – 7 February)
Steeped in ignorance and overpowered by passions
We are caught in the mire of ‘My’-ness and ‘I’-ness;
Faithful dialogue among diverse faiths and religions
Shall enhance acceptance, harmony and cooperation.
Blessed are those who stand for righteous values
Blessed are those who uphold theological values;
Standing firm, if we convey these words of valor
We impart, ‘love of the good-love of the neighbour’.
Carrying on a wordy warfare for the culture of peace
Why not we treat as our own home; this universe;
Cannot we keep at bay the hostilities and differences?
Cannot we exhibit our patience, wit and tolerance?
With universal peace, tolerance and understanding
We can destroy; wrath and hatred again from rising;
As a dried-up leaf gets blown away by small winds
We can transform such forcibly carried away minds.
With Interfaith Harmony, we can reaffirm humanity
And cultivate a ‘Culture Of Peace’ for worldwide amity.
These clouds of compassion shall shower perpetual trust,
And bring a change to blow away the atoms of mistrust.
CULTURE OF PEACE
Trempé dans l'ignorance et dominé par les passions
Nous sommes pris dans le bourbier de «mon» et de «moi»;
Dialogue fidèle entre diverses religions
Doit améliorer l'acceptation, l'harmonie et la coopération.
Bienheureux ceux qui défendent les valeurs justes
Bienheureux ceux qui défendent les valeurs théologiques;
Rester ferme, si nous transmettons ces mots de valeur
Nous transmettons "l’amour du bon amour du prochain".
Mener une guerre verbeuse pour la culture de la paix
Pourquoi ne pas traiter comme notre propre maison; cet univers;
Ne pouvons-nous pas tenir à distance les hostilités et les différences?
Ne pouvons-nous pas montrer notre patience, notre esprit et notre tolérance?
Avec la paix, la tolérance et la compréhension universelles
Nous pouvons détruire; la colère et la haine remontent;
Comme une feuille desséchée est emportée par les petits vents
Nous pouvons transformer de tels esprits emportés par la force.
Avec l'harmonie interconfessionnelle, nous pouvons réaffirmer l'humanité
Et cultivez une «culture de la paix» pour l’amitié mondiale.
Ces nuages de compassion recouvriront une confiance perpétuelle,
Et apportez un changement pour balayer les atomes de méfiance.
Cultura de la paz
Empapado en la ignorancia y dominado por las pasiones.
Estamos atrapados en el atolladero de "mi" y "yo";
Diálogo fiel entre las diferentes religiones.
Debe mejorar la aceptación, la armonía y la cooperación.
Bienaventurados los que defienden valores justos.
Bienaventurados los que defienden los valores teológicos;
Mantente firme, si transmitimos estas valiosas palabras.
Transmitimos "el amor del buen amor del prójimo".
Conduce una guerra prolija para la cultura de paz.
¿Por qué no tratar como nuestro propio hogar? este universo
¿No podemos separar hostilidades y diferencias?
¿No podemos mostrar nuestra paciencia, nuestro espíritu y nuestra tolerancia?
Con paz, tolerancia y entendimiento universal.
Podemos destruir; La ira y el odio vuelven a subir;
Como una hoja seca es llevada por los vientos suaves
Podemos transformar tales mentes barridas por la fuerza.
Con la armonía interreligiosa, podemos reafirmar a la humanidad.
Y cultivar una "cultura de paz" para la amistad global.
Estas nubes de compasión cubrirán una confianza perpetua,
Y hacer un cambio para barrer los átomos de la desconfianza.
CULTURA DELLA PACE
Inzuppato nell'ignoranza e dominato dalle passioni
Siamo presi nel pantano del "mio" e "me";
Dialogo fedele tra diverse religioni
Deve migliorare l'accettazione, l'armonia e la cooperazione.
Beati quelli che difendono solo i valori
Beati quelli che sostengono i valori teologici;
Rimani fermo, se trasmettiamo queste preziose parole
Trasmettiamo "l'amore del buon amore del prossimo".
Conduci una guerra prolissa per la cultura della pace
Perché non trattare come la nostra casa; questo universo;
Non possiamo tenere separate le ostilità e le differenze?
Non possiamo mostrare la nostra pazienza, il nostro spirito e la nostra tolleranza?
Con pace, tolleranza e comprensione universale
Possiamo distruggere; rabbia e odio risalgono;
Come una foglia secca viene portata via dai venti delicati
Possiamo trasformare queste menti spazzate via con la forza.
Con l'armonia interconfessionale, possiamo riaffermare l'umanità
E coltivare una "cultura della pace" per l'amicizia globale.
Queste nuvole di compassione copriranno una fiducia perpetua,
E fai un cambiamento per spazzare gli atomi della sfiducia.
CULTURA DA PAZ
Encharcado em ignorância e dominado por paixões
Estamos presos no pântano de "meu" e "eu";
Diálogo fiel entre diferentes religiões
Deve melhorar a aceitação, harmonia e cooperação.
Bem-aventurados aqueles que defendem apenas valores
Bem-aventurados aqueles que defendem valores teológicos;
Fique firme, se passarmos essas palavras valiosas
Nós transmitimos "o amor do bom amor do próximo".
Conduza uma guerra para a cultura da paz
Por que não tratar como nossa própria casa? este universo;
Não podemos evitar hostilidades e diferenças?
Não podemos mostrar nossa paciência, nosso espírito e nossa tolerância?
Com paz, tolerância e compreensão universal
Nós podemos destruir; raiva e ódio voltam;
Como uma folha seca é levada pelos ventos suaves
Nós podemos transformar essas mentes varridas pela força.
Com a harmonia inter-religiosa, podemos reafirmar a humanidade
E cultive uma "cultura de paz" para amizade global.
Estas nuvens de compaixão cobrirão uma confiança perpétua,
E faça uma mudança para varrer os átomos da desconfiança.