Global warming requires global action

March 28, 2019

Click to enlarge.  Source: The Conversation

We Americans have actually done quite a bit to cut back on greenhouse gas emission, as the chart above shows.

But while we and the other North Atlantic nations have been cutting back, China and other nations have been pumping out more.

The average Chinese doesn’t add all that much to global warming, compared to the average American.  But there are so many more Chinese than Americans that China as a nation does more heat up the world more than the USA does.

Click to enlarge. Source: The Conversation.

The problem is that, for now, the economic growth of China, India and the Global South in general requires more use of coal, oil and natural gas.  If I were Chinese or Indian, I would be unwilling to give up my hope of a better material standard of living while Americans and Europeans have so much more than I do and individually leave so larger a carbon footprint than I do.

Read the rest of this entry »

AOC on elitism and the environment

March 27, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave a great speech about the Green New Deal and the environment, which is captured in the video above.

What a great speech!  It’s eloquent, to the point and well worth a listen.

It was in response to a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, who said environmentalism was elitist.  Rep. Sean Duffy introduced an environmental amendment to a bill dealing with homelessness just so he could speak against it.

The U.S. Senate yesterday voted 57-0 to refuse to take up a Green New Deal resolution backed by Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey.  But there’s a select committee in the House of Representatives that is studying the issue.  The Green New Deal debate has just started.

LINKS

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s speech perfectly explains why liberals go wild for her by Chris Cilizza for CNN.

AOC flips out after Republican calls Green New Deal ‘elitist’ by Ben Feuerherd for the New York Post.

Inside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Unlikely Rise by Margaret Adler for Time magazine [Added 3/28/2019]

Read the rest of this entry »

The echo of time

March 24, 2019

Hat tip to Yip Abides

I like this, you may or may not like it, but don’t ask me to explain it.

Russiagate result is an indictment of the press

March 23, 2019

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The main thing that the Russiagate investigation revealed was credulity of the bulk of the Washington press corps.

By compromising standards in order to bring down Donald Trump, they only discredited themselves, made President Trump stronger and ensured that any future accusation against Trump will be automatically disbelieved by a large segment of the public.

One of those who wasn’t taken in was Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, whose professionalism gives him the right to say “I told you so.”

LINKS

Attorney-General William Barr’s summary of the Mueller report.  [Added 3/26/2019]

It’s official: Russiagate is this generation’s WMD by Matt Taibbi

As Mueller Probe Ends, New Russiagate Myths Begin by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone [Added 3/26/2019]

Russiagate Happened Because We Refused to Face Up to Why Trump Won by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone [Added 3/30/3019]

The Media Must Face Up to Its Role in Inflaming a Frenzy Over Russiagate by Branko Marcetic for In These Times [Added 4/9/2019]

The Scarlet Letter Club by Matt Taibbi.  About misreporting of the Iraq WMD claim.

The needed radicalism of the Green New Deal

March 22, 2019

The Green New Deal resolution of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey is more radical and far-reaching than Franklin D. Roosevelt’s original New Deal.

The non-binding resolution calls for a mass mobilization of American government and society against catastrophic climate change, on a scale as great or even greater than mobilization to fight World War Two.

The mobilization Ocasio-Cortez and Markey call for would mean a closing down or drastic shrinkage of industries that depend on fossil fuels.  This would be a threat not only to the profits of powerful vested interests, but to the livelihoods of millions of good, hard-working people.   

That is why the Green New Deal is also a deal.  It includes social reform and a job creation program  to get buy-in from working people and minorities, who might otherwise

There are two problems with the resolution.  One is that it is too radical to gain political acceptance anytime soon.  The other is that, radical as it is, its proposals may not be enough to deal with the crisis.

∞∞∞

If you read my previous post or the text of the resolution, you’ll see that it is largely a wish list of the environmental and labor movements for the past 20 or so years.  Getting these movements on the same page would be a big accomplishment, because they haven’t always been friends.

The environmental movement has sometimes worked to the benefit of the well-to-do, such as subsidies for electric cars and solar panels, while putting the burden of change on the less-well-off, with higher gasoline and fuel prices.  The labor movement has sometimes accepted the argument that it is necessary to sacrifice health, safety and the environment just to protect jobs.

Working people have good reason to be suspicious of promises that, if they give up what they have, they’ll be given something else just as good or better.  This was the promise of NAFTA and the other trade agreements under the Clinton administration and after—that the loss of grungy industrial jobs will be offset by new bright, shiny high-tech jobs.  This didn’t happen.

An expression that occurs repeatedly in the resolution is “vulnerable and frontline communities.”  This refers to the communities left behind by de-industrialization and globalization during the past 30 years.  It also refers to the communities that will bear the brunt of climate change—usually poorer, often minorities, such as the people left stranded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrine.  The resolution promises they won’t be left behind this time.

Read the rest of this entry »

What the Green New Deal proposes

March 22, 2019

ADDED 3/24/2019.  I MADE A BIG MISTAKE HERE.  THIS IS THE DRAFT PROPOSAL BY ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, NOT THE VERSION THAT WAS ACTUALLY INTRODUCED.

The Green New Deal resolution introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey proposes to address a climate change crisis and a social-economic crisis.  Here’s a quick summary of what they specifically propose.

  • Build infrastructure to create resiliency against climate change-related disasters
  • Repair and upgrade U.S. infrastructure, including ensuring universal access to clean water.
  • Meet 100% of power demand through clean and renewable energy sources
  • Build energy-efficient, distributed smart grids and ensure affordable access to electricity
  • Upgrade or replace every building in US for state-of-the-art energy efficiency
  • Massively expand clean manufacturing (such as solar panel factories, wind turbine factories, battery and storage manufacturing, energy-efficient manufacturing components) and remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing “as much as is technically feasible.”
  • Work with farmers and ranchers to create a sustainable, pollution and greenhouse gas-free, food system that ensures universal access to healthy food and expands independent family farming.
  • Totally overhaul transportation by massively expanding electric vehicle manufacturing, build charging stations everywhere, build high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becomes unnecessary and create affordable public transit available to all, with the goal of replacing every combustion-engine vehicle.
  • Mitigate long-term health effects of climate change and pollution
  • Remove greenhouse gases from our atmosphere and pollution through afforestation, preservation and other methods of restoring our natural ecosystems
  • Restore all our damaged and threatened ecosystems
  • Clean up all the existing hazardous waste sites and abandoned sites, identify new emission sources and create solutions to eliminate those emissions
  • Make the US the leader in addressing climate change and share our technology, expertise and products with the rest of the world to bring about a global Green New Deal.

Read the rest of this entry »

‘It is worse, much worse, than you think’

March 20, 2019

“It is worse, much worse than you think.”  So begins David Wallace-Wells’ THE UNINHABITABLE EARTH: Life After Warming (2019), one of the most important books I’ve read in years.  

It is not proof that global warming is taking place, and it is not a plan to mitigate or reduce global warming.  It is simply a compilation of all the ways that climate change is disrupting the world we live in, and what may happen if nothing is done.

The best-case scenario is a future like the present, only more so—more storms, more droughts, more floods, more wildfires, more tidal waves, more heat waves, but with the basic social order remaining intact.

The worst-case scenario, which can’t be ruled out, is that most or all of the earth’s surface becomes unfit for human habitation.

When I first heard about global warming, I wondered whether it was real.  I didn’t see how it was possible to measure average temperatures over the whole Earth to within a degree or so, or rise in average sea levels within inches.  Actually, I still don’t.

Still, I thought, the possibility of global warming provides one more reason for doing a lot of things that are desirable in themselves—reducing air and water pollution, switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Over the years I came to the realization that since the greenhouse effect was scientific fact, and since greenhouse gasses were being emitted into the air at an ever-increasing rate, there was bound to be a crisis sooner or later.

That crisis is now upon us.

Fourteen of the world’s 20 largest cities have experienced water shortages or drought.  Cape Town, South Africa, nearly ran out of water.  Freshwater lakes from Lake Mead to Lake Chad are drying up.  The number of major floods have quadrupled since 1980 and doubled since 2004.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is dying because of the warming ocean.  The melting of the Arctic ice cap has changed wind patterns in China in ways that caused life-threatening smog in major cities.

The summer of 2017, in the Northern Hemisphere, brought unprecedented extreme weather: three major  hurricanes arriving in quick succession in the Atlantic; the epic “500,000-year” rainfall of Hurricane Harvey, dropping on Houston a million gallons of water for every single person in the entire state of Texas; the wildfires of California, nine thousand of them burning through more than a million acres, and those in icy Greenland ten times bigger than those in 2014; the floods of South Asia, clearing 45 million from their homes.

Then the record- breaking summer of 2018 made 2017 seem positively idyllic.  It brought an unheard-of global heat wave, with temperatures killing 108 in Los Angeles, 122 in Pakistan and 124 in Algeria.  

In the world’s oceans, six hurricanes and tropical storms appeared on the radars at once, including one, Typhoon Mangkhut, that hit the Philippines and then Hong Kong, killing nearly a hundred and wreaking a billion dollars in damages, and another, Hurricane Florence, which more than doubled the average annual rainfall in North Carolina, killing more than 50 and inflicting $17 billion worth of damage.  

There were wildfires in Sweden, all the way to the Arctic Circle, and across so much of the American West that half the continent was fighting through smoke, those fires ultimately burning close to 1.5 million acres.  Parts of Yosemite National Park were closed, as were parts of Glacier National Park in Montana, where temperatures also topped 100.  In 1850, the area had 150 glaciers; today, all but 26 are melted.

The years to come will not be better.  One key fact about the greenhouse effect is that it is additive.  Nothing that is done to reduce greenhouse gasses in the future will remove the greenhouse gasses now in the atmosphere, at least not in the lifetime of any living person or their future children.

Another is that annual greenhouse gas emissions are still increasing.  Half of the emissions that occurred since the start of the industrial revolution took place in the last 30 years.

We can’t predict how successful the world’s nations will be in cutting back on fossil fuels and other sources of greenhouse gasses.  We can’t predict the exact impact of these gasses.

All we know for sure is that every addition to the world’s greenhouse gasses makes this worse.  And everything that is done to stop additional greenhouse gasses prevents things from being worse than they otherwise would be.

Read the rest of this entry »

White nationalism and the war on terror

March 18, 2019

The attack on innocent Muslims in New Zealand by white nationalist terrorists was a horrible thing.

I make no excuse for white nationalist terrorists, or any other kind of terrorist.

But I also note that many more innocent Muslims have been killed as a result of the U.S. war on terror than by all individual white nationalist terrorists combined.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq have been killed, and millions made homeless as a result of the U.S. regime change wars.  Many more have died in Libya and Syria as a result of regime change rebellions backed by the United States.   The Saudi attack on Yemen, with U.S. advisers and U.S. weapons, has produced the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis.  The Trump administration has decided to stop reporting on civilian casualties from U.S. air strikes.

This is not, of course, to make light of the Christchurch attack.  The blood on the hands of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump does not wash any blood off the hands of Brenton Tarrant.

LINKS

Circles of Identity, Circles of Violence by Ian Welsh.

Eight Thoughts on the Christchurch Attack by Caitlin Johnstone.

Fear of White Genocide: the underground stream feeding right-wing causes by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.  Good insight into Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto.

Radicalization and Degeneration by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.  More insight.

A curious reading of Curious George

March 16, 2019

You might find this funny, even if you don’t know who Werner Herzog is. And, by the way, in case you’re wondering, the reading is by a Werner Herzog imitator, not the real Werner Herzog.

Bernie Sanders and the Democrats: links

March 15, 2019

Bernie Sanders Wants You to Fight by Meagan Day for Jacobin.

Actually the Democrats Don’t Care About Identity by Branko Narcetic for Jacobin.

A Way-Too-Early Handicapping of the 2020 Presidential Race by Thomas Neuburger for Down With Tyranny!

The U.S. air war on Somalia

March 15, 2019

Hat tip to Bill Elwell.  Source: Stats for The Nib

The U.S. Senate did a good thing the other day by invoking the War Powers Act for the U.S.-backed war in Yemen.  But why stop there?  It’s not just regime change wars that we Americans need to withdraw from.

LINK

American military intervention in Somalia (2007-present) Wikipedia article.

Escalation in Somalia is a foreign policy failure in progress by Bonnie Kristian for Reason magazine.

Trump’s Backward Move on Drone Civilian Casualties by Daniel R. Brunstetter for Consortium News.

U.S. Air Strikes in Somalia Kill Civilians, Amnesty Report Says by Amanda Sperber for The Intercept [Added 3/19/2019].

Climate, migration and border militarization

March 13, 2019

Click to enlarge.

The two agencies of the U.S. government that take climate change most seriously are the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security.

They foresee droughts, floods and storms on a scale that will create global political instability and millions of climate refugees, mainly from countries already ravaged by war and poverty.  While other parts of the government dither and deny, they have spent billions since 2003 preparing for the coming emergency.

Their preparation, however, is not aimed at preventing or slowing down climate change, nor is it principally aimed at relieving distress.  Rather it is in protecting the U.S. homeland and American business interests from the desperate masses.

A journalist named Todd Miller did a good job of reporting on this in STORMING THE WALL: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security, published in 2017.

He attended a Defense, National Security and Climate Change conference in Washington, D.C., in 2015, attended by top military brass and government and corporate officials.  A NASA representative told how the Space Shuttle and F-35 fighter required chrome, columbium and titanium, which are sourced from South Africa, Congo and Zambia, all threatened with political instability due to climate change.

“If these stressing factor result in increased migration,” he said, “it will just increase the potential for instability and conflict,” which would affect the U.S. ability to obtain elements “critical to the alloys we need to support the system.”

It was at that meeting that Miller for the first time heard the expression, “military-environmental-industrial complex.”  Billions of dollars are being spent to, on the one hand, wean the U.S. military itself from dependence on fossil fuels and, on the other, maintain the political and economic status quo in the face of climate-driven upheaval.

He devoted several chapters of the book to migration from central America and Mexico into the southwest USA.  He showed that the border is not a line on the map separating the United States from Mexico.

The border area extends 100 miles into the interior of the United States, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acts like a military occupying force.  Miller noted that an order by President Obama against racial profiling specifically exempted the Department of Homeland Security.

It also extends down through Mexico into Central America, where there are a series of checkpoints, aided by U.S. military advisers and U.S. military equipment, designed to intercept migrants on their way.  There are fewer arrests nowadays at the international border, but this may not mean that fewer people are trying to cross the border.  It may just mean that more of them are intercepted before they get close.

The U.S. Coast Guard nowadays does more than guard the coasts.  After the 2010 earthquake, the Coast Guard patrolled the coast of Haiti, turning back anyone who tried to flee, and even set up a detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Migrants leave their home countries for many reasons—commonly poverty, war, tyranny or crime.  But, in the words of a Marine Corps general, climate change is a “threat multiplier.”  Events such as the 2015 drought in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua make all the underlying social problems worse.

The United States is not unique.  The new “smart border” between Turkey and Syria has a new tower every 1,000 feet, a three-language alarm system, and “automated firing zones” supported by hovering zeppelin drones, Miller wrote.

Experts say floods and a rising sea will cause millions to flee Bangladesh.  India has a 2,000-mile ‘iron wall” on its border and soldiers with orders to shoot to kill.  More than 1,000 Bangladeshis were killed between 2001 and 2011 while trying to cross the border.

Read the rest of this entry »

Truth-teller Chelsea Manning faces prison again

March 9, 2019

Chelsea Manning went to prison for seven years for leaking true information about U.S. atrocities in Iraq to WikiLeaks.  Now she has been imprisoned again for refusing to testify before a Grand Jury that is considering indictment WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange for publishing that information.

She is a hero.  Julian Assange is a hero.  Caitlin Johnstone sums up the situation well.

The United States government has just re-imprisoned one of the nation’s greatest whistleblowers to coerce her into helping to destroy the world’s greatest leak publisher, both of whom exposed undeniably true facts about war crimes committed by that same United States government. Truth tellers are being actively persecuted by this same power structure which claims it has the moral authority to topple governments and interfere in international affairs around the world, exactly because they told the truth.

Please take a moment to make sure you’re really appreciating this. Assange started a leak outlet on the premise that corrupt power can be fought with the light of truth, and corrupt power has responded by smearing, silencing, and persecuting him and doing everything it can to stomp out the light of truth, up to and including re-imprisoning an already viciously brutalized American hero like Chelsea Manning.

Source: Caitlin Johnstone

Self-described liberals such as Rachel Maddow have turned on Julian Assange because he published information unfavorable to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election campaign.  They say he was in cahoots with Donald Trump.  Then why is the Trump administration going all-out to put Assange in prison?

LINKS

US Re-Imprisons Chelsea Manning To Coerce Her to Testify Against WikiLeaks by Caitlin Johnstone.

Rachel Maddow Deceives Audience About Assange by Caitlin Johnstone.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard Takes a Strong Stand for WikiLeaks and Freedom of the Press by Cassandra Fairbanks for Gateway Pundit.  [Added 3/11/2019}

Chelsea Manning’s Refusal to Testify Against Wikileaks Will Help Save Press Freedom, an interview of Glenn Greenwood on Democracy Now! [Added 3/13/2019]

Chelsea Manning Defies Secret Grand Jury, Julian Assange Scoops Michael Cohen by Ann Garrison for Black Agenda Report [Added 3/14/2019]

What if … conspiracy theories … made sense!!!???

March 9, 2019

The following graphics are lifted from a brilliantly funny post by Scott Alexander on Slate Star Codex.
Read the rest of this entry »

Storms, floods and climate apartheid

March 6, 2019

An extreme city, according to Ashley Dawson, is a city in which extremes of rich and poor render it unable to deal with extreme weather events.

In case of storm and flood, the rich people on the high ground almost always get priority over the poor people down by the waterfront—what Dawson calls climate apartheid.

And the people who live in rich places, such as Houston, who are mostly lighter-skinned, get priority over the poorer places, such as Port-au-Prince or San Juan, who are mostly darker-skinned.

Beyond this, Dawson wrote, the incentives of a market economy will almost always favor real estate development over public safety.

The best way to protect cities from high water is to pull back from the shoreline and create or expand wetlands to sponge up the high water.

But property developers, not to mention individual homeowners, want seawalls to protect their investments and enable them to recover their sunk costs.  Our economic system is based on continued growth.  There is no incentive system for pulling back.

Dawson said this is as true of New York City, where he lives, as it is of any city in the world.

This is no small thing.  Nearly half the world’s 7 billion people now live in cities.  Virtually all of them are on ocean coastlines or other bodies of water.  In the Global South, drought is driving increasing numbers of poor people off the land and into urban slums.

Dawson does not view global warming as a doom we can avoid if we try hard enough.  He sees it as an emergency that is already upon us, and that most of us are unprepared for.

He does not view it as merely a scientific and technical problem.  He says it is a social justice issue—a question of who drowns (usually the poor and dark-skinned) and who is saved (usually the rich and light-skinned)

Click to enlarge

When Superstorm Sandy was about to hit New York City in 2012, the city government told residents of the potential flood areas to evacuate.  Soon after subway service was shut down, which meant that those without cars were stranded in their neighborhoods.  Soon after high water left thousands without access to electricity and heat, or to essential supplies.

The first responders were volunteers, including veterans of the Occupy Wall Street movement, who reconstituted themselves as Occupy Sandy.  They did whatever it took to provide food and water and rescue stranded elderly and disabled people on upper floors of apartment buildings.

The official disaster relief agencies showed up only a few days date and, according to Dawson, were happy to make use of Occupy Sandy and other volunteers, but reluctant to help or share information.  The reason, he said, is that the official organizations are engaged in a dog-eat-dog competition for funding and don’t want any of their rivals to gain an advantage.

Dawson wrote that when Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed up at the flood-stricken Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn, the only people he wanted to talk to were the business owners.  They were the ones who got the funds to rebuild.  The neighborhood and Occupy Sandy leaders were brushed aside.

Read the rest of this entry »

Eight Dem lawmakers pledge to end ‘forever war’

March 5, 2019

Eight Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have signed a pledge to act to bring America’s “Forever War” to “a responsible and expedient conclusion.”

The pledge was also signed by Rep. Mark Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna and Rashida Tlaib; and Senator Jon Tester, who’s considered a moderate, but was elected on an anti-war platform.

The pledge reads as follows:

The United States has been in a state of continuous, global, open-ended military conflict since 2001.  Over 2.5 million troops have fought in this ‘Forever War’ in over a dozen countries – including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Niger, Somalia, and Thailand.

I pledge to the people of the United States of America, and to our military community in particular, that I will (1) fight to reclaim Congress’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight of U.S. foreign policy and independently debate whether to authorize each new use of military force, and (2) act to bring the Forever War to a responsible and expedient conclusion.

I applaud the signers of this resolution.  I also point out that the words “responsible and expedient” are doing a lot of work.  Was the U.S. exit from Vietnam “responsible and expedient”?

President Nixon said he wanted “peace with honor,” but this was not achievable. Those who supported the U.S. cause suffered a terrible vengeance.  But I don’t see how this could have been avoided by prolonging the war even longer than it was.

There aren’t any good choices for the U.S. military in winding down its wars.  Innocent people will suffer no matter what.  There is no substitute for victory, and victory in these wars is out of reach.

This is a good reason not to start new wars.

One important point about the resolution is that it mentions Yemen, Somalia and other wars in which U.S. is involved without large-scale commitment of troops.

The resolution was sponsored by Common Defense, an organization of anti-war veterans and military families.

LINK

Sanders, Warren, Ocasio-Cortez and Other Lawmakers Sign Pledge to End America’s “Forever Wars” by Alex Emmons and Ryan Grim for The Intercept.

War Weary: Why Washington Needs to Bring Its Troops Home by Doug Bandow for The National Interest.

Talkin’ Bout My Generation: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman by Alan Brown for Tor.com.  The Forever War is the title of a classic science-fiction novel by Vietnam veteran Joe Haldeman.

Fantasy League U.S. presidential elections

March 1, 2019

Click to enlarge. Source Philip Kearney Cartography.

Could Bill Clinton have beaten Donald Trump?  Could Ronald Reagan have beaten Barack Obama?  Who would have won if Bill Clinton had somehow been able to run against Hillary Clinton.  George H.W. Bush, the elder, against George W. Bush, the younger?

A cartographer-blogger named Philip Kearney calculated hypothetical results, based on the percentage of the popular vote each candidate won in each state the first time they ran.  The answers to the questions are “no,” “no,” “Hillary” and “Bush 41.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The fall and fall of U.S. tariff barriers

March 1, 2019

Click to enlarge. Hat to Barry Ritholtz

The United States, like almost all industrial countries, built up its infant industries behind protective tariff walls that shielded them from more efficient, because longer-established, competitors.

This historical graph shows what has happened since then.  Tariffs against foreign imports are down to a tiny fraction of what they were in the 1930s or 1940s.

President Trump deserves credit for forcing trade policy onto the national agenda.  Unlike his predecessors, he does not argue that more and more globalization is the answer  He is right that it is time for a change.

But trade wars aren’t an answer either

Rather the U.S. should do what successful exporting nations do, which is to build up their industries through a carefully targeted industrial policy.

Read the rest of this entry »

The U.S. inequality problem in one graph

February 28, 2019

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This is an updated version of an Economic Policy Institute chart I’ve posted before.  It shows that from 1948 through 1979, the hourly wages of American workers rose almost as fast as worker productivity.  From 1979 on, productivity continued to rise, although at a slower rate, but wages hardly increased at all.

If you include the increased debt, including student debt, that most families have taken on, the average wage-earner’s buying power may be even less than in 1979.

What happened?  The EPI cites three things:

  1. A greater share of national income to holders of financial assets and a smaller share to wages and salaries.
  2. A greater spread between wage-earners and highly paid managers and professionals.
  3. A greater increase in the prices of things wage-earners buy (consumer goods and services) than in the things they product (consumer goods, but also capital goods.

What is the answer?  The EPI says the U.S. needs stronger labor unions and enactment of pro-labor government policies, including a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on top incomes and a jobs program based on repairing the nation’s infrastructure.

LINKS

The Agenda to Raise America’s Pay by the Economic Policy Institute.

First Day Fairness: An agenda to build worker power and ensure job quality by Celine McNicholas, Samantha Sanders and Heidi Shierholz for the Economic Policy Institute.

Understanding the Historic Divergence Between Productivity and a Typical Worker’s Pay: Why It Matters and Why It’s Real by Josh Bivens and Laurence Mishel for the Economic Policy Institute.

The Survival of the Richest by Nomi Prins for TomDispatch.

Bernie’s progress

February 28, 2019

Of all the announced U.S. presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders is the one who is unequivocally on the side of American working people (including but not limited to the “white working class”).

He has done more than any of the others to provide a rallying point for those who support labor in its battle with the oligarchy of wealth.

I wish he also was a peace candidate.  He’s moving in a good direction, he’s closer to being a peace candidate than anyone in the field except Tulsi Gabbard, but he does not challenge the U.S. neoconservative foreign policy in the same way that he challenges neoliberal economic thinking.  At least not yet.

LINKS

Six Thoughts on Bernie 2020 by Caitlin Johnstone.  Excellent.  She says it all.

Foreign Policy Distinguishes Bernie Sanders in 2020 by Peter Beinart for The Atlantic.  The case for Sanders.

Think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the same?  They aren’t by Bhaskar Sunkara for The Guardian.

Where are the liberals on Venezuela?

February 27, 2019

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Ilhan Omar and Ro Khanna are among the few liberal Democrats who unequivocally oppose the Trump administration’s economic and covert war against  Venezuela, but they are isolated.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other top Democrats support Trump’s plan.  Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are on the fence. They oppose direct military intervention, but they accept the pretense is that the U.S. government is concerned about the democratic process in Venezuela.

In fact the U.S. gets on very well with the governments much less democratic than Nicolas Maduro’s.  Only the naive think the U.S. government is concerned about anything except Venezuela’s oil.

I don’t have an intelligent opinion on how much of Venezuela’s plight current is due to bad policies of its government, and how much is due to continuing U.S. economic warfare and political subversion.  The only way to find out would be to make the experiment of leaving Venezuela alone and seeing what happens.  Venezuela is the responsibility of the Venezuelans.

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Twenty years onward: the coming bad years

February 25, 2019

Sometimes I wish I could live for 20 more years to see what the future brings.  Most of the time I’m glad I’m 82 and almost certainly won’t.

I envision a USA very different from today—one shaped by a catastrophic climate change that can’t be averted, and by an economic collapse that can be averted only by drastic economic and political reforms that seem highly unlikely today.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine New York City during the Great Depression being hit by Superstorm Sandy.

Catastrophic climate change is usually discussed as a doom that will full upon us unless we accomplish X things by the year Y.  In fact, catastrophic climate change is already upon us.

We can by our actions influence how bad things are going to get, but existing greenhouse gasses will produce increasing numbers of floods, droughts, heavy snow storms and power outages.

We the citizens of Rochester N.Y., located as we are on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, are fortunate. Cities such as Miami and New Orleans will meet the fate of Atlantis, but we have a good chance to survive.

We’re not in danger of tidal waves.  We have had relatively few severe storms compared to other regions.  We have access to a relatively abundant supply of fresh water which, however, we are not caring for.

Climate crisis is likely to be combined with financial crisis.  Starting with the Reagan administration and especially since the Clinton administration, the U.S. government has turned over management of the economy to the financial markets.

There have been a series of financial crisis, each one worse than the one before.  The response of the U.S. government has been to rescue failed financial institutions, and allow the cycles to continue.

At some point, there will be a financial crisis too big to resolve.  Instead of financial institutions being “too big to fail,” they will be “too big to bail.”

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Why plastic bags don’t go in the recycling bin

February 23, 2019

Populism, immigration and white majorities

February 20, 2019

2.1 children per woman is the replacement rate.  Click to enlarge.

I recently read WHITESHIFT: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities by Eric Kaufmann (2018, 2019)

It’s about the response of white people in North America, western Europe and Australasia to the fact that their birth rates are below the replacement rate, and that the likely sources of immigration are all from non-white countries with higher birth rates.

Kaufmann, a professor of political science at the University of London, said white fears of immigration are the driving force behind the election of Donald Trump, the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Community and the rise of right-wing populist parties throughout western Europe.

He sees four white responses to population shifts:

  • Fight.  Reduce or eliminate immigration from non-white countries.
  • Repress.  Avoid thinking about the issue and suppress discussion in the name of anti-racism.
  • Flee.  Retreat to white enclaves and avoid diverse neighborhoods, schools and social networks.
  • Join.   Assimilate and inter-marry with non-whites to form a new beige majority.

I wrote about the fourth possibility in a 2012 blog post.  I noted how, in the USA, the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority evolved into a white majority that includes Catholics and Jews.  I speculated on the possibility of a further evolution into a new “non-black” majority including white Hispanics, mixed-race people who identify as white and possibly Asian-Americans.

The great danger, as I saw it,  is that the new majority would be as much, or maybe even more, prejudiced against black people as the old majority..

Kaufmann, who grew up in Vancouver, hopes for a more benign evolution—a inclusive majority based not on ancestry, color or facial features, but on loyalty to the nations’ original European cultural roots, but also tolerant of minorities who reject that culture.

He’s an example of what he advocates.  He is by ancestry one-fourth Latino and one-fourth Chinese, but identifies as white.  (The fact that he “identifies” rather than “passes” as white shows progress that has occurred in my lifetime.)

I have long believed that American patriotism should be based not on race, religion or national origin, but on loyalty to the Constitution and the ideals of equal rights contained in the Declaration of Independence.

Kaufmann thinks such civic ideals are too thin to command strong loyalty.  A nation can and should have principles of good citizenship, but real national identity requires a sense of being part of a community with a shared history, whether defined by language, religion, ancestry or culture and customs.

∞∞∞

The politics of the USA, the UK and many other countries are defined by a revolt of an anti-immigration Populist Right  against what Kaufmann calls a Left-Modernist cultural and political elite, which defines opposition to immigration as racist.

Exceptions include the English-speaking parts of Canada, where no Populist Right has emerged, and nationalistic countries of Eastern Europe, where Left Modernism has never gained a foothold.  In Quebec and Scotland also, the cultural elite is on the side of French Canadian and Scottish ethnic nationalism.

Left-Modernism, as Kaufmann sees it, originated among bohemian intellectuals of a century or so ago, who rejected the conventions of the conformist middle-class majority.  In the USA, this was a revolt against the Puritan heritage and an embrace of everything anti-Puritan, from sexual freedom to  jazz music.

Over time these values came to dominate academia, the news and entertainment media and the political elite.  Along the way, though, the Left Modernists ceased to value radical individualism and self-expression and developed a kind of reverse Puritanism, based on conformity and guilt.  Nowadays it is the Populist Right that is transgressive and provocative.

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President Trump invokes power of a dictator

February 18, 2019

President Donald Trump, having failed to persuade Congress to appropriate a full $5.7 billion for his border wall, has said he’ll declare a national emergency and take the money from Department of Defense funds.

The thing is, he doesn’t even pretend there is any emergency involved.

I could do the wall over a longer period of time.  I didn’t need to do this.  But I’d rather do it much faster.  And I don’t have to do it for the election.  I ’ve already done a lot of wall for the election. 2020.  And the only reason we’re up here talking about this is because of the election—because they want to try to win an election, which it looks like they’re not going to be able to do.

If a President can simply declare a national emergency and override the will of Congress, what power does he lack to make himself a dictator?

President Trump did not give himself these emergency powers, and he is not the first one to use them or abuse them, but none before him have been so blatant about the lack of justification for using these powers.

Our Constitution sets up a form of government with three branches of government with separate powers—the legislative, executive and judiciary—with the idea that each would check and balance the power of the others.

The problem with this is that separation of powers means separation of responsibility.  The path of least resistance for Congress is to abdicate responsibility to the President.

It’s true that Congress is not entirely to blame in this case.  The original law that President Trump invoked allowed Congress to veto an emergency declaration by a majority vote of the Senate and the House of Representations.  The Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional; it said the two-thirds votes are required not only to overturn vetoes of legislation, but to overturn any Presidential action.

Even so, it is Congress that over the years has given Presidents the powers of dictators, and it is the responsibility of Congress to take these powers back.  No member of Congress who declares themselves a part of the “resistance” to President Trump can be taken seriously if they continue to allow him the powers of a dictator.

LINKS

Republic’s End: Trump’s Border Wall by Ian Welsh.

A Fishy Emergency Threatens the Republic by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

Trump’s dictator move is the real emergency—and we handed him the keys by Will Bunch for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

What Is and Isn’t a Big Deal in Trump’s Executive Actions Related to the Border by Jack Goldsmith for Lawfare.