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Nederlog

December 14, 2015
Crisis: Deadly Capitalism, Poland, Hansen vs Paris, Sanders' Media Blackout
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Introduction


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Monday, December 14, 2015.

This is a crisis blog with 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges on capitalism; item 2 is about Poland, where democracy rapidly seems to disappear; item 3 is about climate scientist Hansen's complete disagreement with the Paris conference (I agree with Hansen); and item 4 is about the fact that in the main media Trump gets 81 minutes of attention - 1 hr 21 min - for every 1 minute Sanders gets.

I also uploaded an updated version of the crisis index yesterday. And I am justifying the texts in Nederlog now (straight margins left and right), mostly because this avoids errors that I otherwise should correct.

1. Capitalism’s Cult of Human Sacrifice

The first item is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Bryan Parras stood in the shadows cast by glaring floodlights ringing the massive white, cylindrical tanks of the Valero oil refinery. He, like many other poor Mexican-Americans who grew up in this part of Houston, struggles with asthma, sore throats, headaches, rashes, nosebleeds and a host of other illnesses and symptoms. The air was heavy with the smell of sulfur and benzene. The faint, acrid taste of a metallic substance was on our tongues. The sprawling refinery emitted a high-pitched electric hum. The periodic roar of flares, red-tongued flames of spent emissions, leapt upward into the Stygian darkness. The refinery seemed to be a living being, a giant, malignant antediluvian deity.

Parras and those who live near him are among the hundreds of millions of human sacrifices that industrial capitalism demands. They are cursed from birth to endure poverty, disease, toxic contamination and, often, early death. They are forced to kneel like bound captives to be slain on the altar of capitalism in the name of progress. They have gone first. We are next. In the late stages of global capitalism, we all will be destroyed in an orgy of mass extermination to satiate corporate greed.

I would say that (i) this is a bit too pessimistic for my tastes (e.g. "In the late stages of global capitalism, we all will be destroyed in an orgy of mass extermination to satiate corporate greed." I'd say: perhaps, but not necessarily so), but (ii) this also seems rather adequate for many poor folks living in or around heavily industrialized areas, especially in the United States or in countries outside Europe.

There is considerably more there that I leave to your interests, but - speaking for myself - I liked the following (because I think the Paris conference was a fraud, indeed much like the 21 previous conferences):

It would have been far, far better for the thousands of activists who descended on Paris for the climate summit to instead go to a sacrifice zone such as Parras’ neighborhood and, in waves of 50 or 100, day after day, block the rail lines and service roads to shut down refineries before being taken to jail. That is the only form of mass mobilization with any chance of success.  

Actually, I don't know whether the proposed tacktic will work (I suspect it will not) but I certainly agree that "Paris" was (almost) nothing but propaganda. For more see below and item 3.

The article ends as follows:

The 21 international climate summits that have been held over the decades have produced nothing but empty rhetoric, false promises and rising carbon emissions. Paris was no different. We must physically obstruct the extraction, transportation and refining of fossil fuels or face extinction. Those who worship before the idols of profit will use every tool at their disposal, including violence, to crush us. This is a war waged between the forces of life and the forces of death. It is a war that requires us, in every way possible, to deny to these industries the profits used to justify gaiacide. It is a war we must not lose. 

I completely agree with this bit (and do so on the basis of my 45 years of reading about the climate - etcetera, for there is a lot more involved - and seeing hardly anything happening except talk and subsidies for windmils [1]):

The 21 international climate summits that have been held over the decades have produced nothing but empty rhetoric, false promises and rising carbon emissions. Paris was no different.

Also, I am considerably more doubtful about the rest, but less because I disagree than because I think this type of action will not succeed: More is needed besides.

And there is more in item 3 below on the climate summit in Paris.

2.
50,000 Hit Streets of Poland to Rally Against ‘Creeping Coup d’Etat’

The second item is by Andrea Germanos on Truthdig, and originally on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Chanting “We will defend the constitution!” an estimated 50,000 people rallied in the Polish capital Warsaw on Saturday to denounce what they see as threats to democracy by the newly elected government.

Demonstrations were held in other cities across Poland as well.

I say - and this is here because Poland is not often in the news, while this seems rather serious. Here is a bit more (and the article is not long):

As Bloomberg reports, the conservative, Jaroslaw Kaczynski-led Law and Justice Party, which gained power in October, “has forced out the head of the country’s anti-corruption agency, limited the opposition’s oversight of secret services and outlined plans to overhaul public media, raising concerns about the system of checks and balances, guaranteed by the constitution.”

In addition, as the Telegraph reports, “Some opposition MPs have described the new government’s move to stack the court with its own people as a ‘creeping coup d’etat.’”

It seems to me that "some opposition MPs" are right: To force "out the head of the country’s anti-corruption agency", to limit "the opposition’s oversight of secret services" and to outline "plans to overhaul public media" seem much like the beginnings of yet another anti-democratic authoritarian regime.

3.  Pre-eminent Climate Scientist James Hansen Calls Paris Deal a ‘Fraud’; John Kerry Begs to Differ

The third item is by Kasia Anderson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

Don’t count climate scientist James Hansen among those joining the back-slapping brigade following the conclusion of the COP21 climate change summit near Paris.

Although the agreement produced by attending nations at COP21 has been widely heralded as a game-changer, at least on paper, Hansen, a retired NASA scientist and climate change activist, pointedly disagreed in an interview with The Guardian posted Saturday(...)
I think - based on 50 years of reading about the climate, the environment and capitalism [1] - that James Hansen (<- Wikipedia) is quite right. Here is what he said:

“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

Precisely. (This is also why The Guardian's and others notions about "keeping it in the ground" are just nonsense: This is capitalism, where profits triumph over morals almost always.)

Here is some more:

The talks, intended to reach a new global deal on cutting carbon emissions beyond 2020, have spent much time and energy on two major issues: whether the world should aim to contain the temperature rise to 1.5C or 2C above preindustrial levels, and how much funding should be doled out by wealthy countries to developing nations that risk being swamped by rising seas and bashed by escalating extreme weather events.

But, according to Hansen, the international jamboree is pointless unless greenhouse gas emissions aren’t taxed across the board. He argues that only this will force down emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst ravages of climate change.

Yes, indeed - but taxes were not even considered in Paris, even though that is an obvious part of a real solution.

In fact, Hansen did go to Paris:

Hansen, 74, has just returned from Paris where he again called for a price to be placed on each tonne of carbon from major emitters (he’s suggested a “fee” – because “taxes scare people off” – of $15 a tonne that would rise $10 a year and bring in $600bn in the US alone). There aren’t many takers, even among “big green” as Hansen labels environment groups.

Here is part of Kerry's bullshit "in reply":
“And what it does, in my judgment, more than anything else, there is a uniform standard of transparency. And therefore, we will know what everybody is doing.
So after a full 45 years of chatter and 21 conferences, you decided on something that will not change anything, except possibly that people might know "what everybody is doing".

Kerry is plainly bullshitting.


4. As Trump Surges, New Polls Underscore Corporate Media's 'Bernie Blackout'  

The fourth item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

New Wall Street Journal/ NBC News polling numbers out Sunday showed that Donald Trump continues to lead the wide and varied Republican presidential field and—despite increasingly inflammatory rhetoric—reached a new high with 27 percent support.

The latest survey comes on the heels of an analysis by the Tyndall Report which showed that media coverage of Donald Trump eclipses that of all his rivals from both parties.

According to the study of nightly news programs on NBC, CBS and ABC, Trump has received more network coverage than all the Democratic candidates combined and accounts for 27 percent of all campaign coverage thus far.

What's more, there appears to be a concerted "blackout" of news about Bernie Sanders, despite similar voter support.

Very few will have missed Donald Trump, though very many may still not know who Bernie Sanders is (in the USA, where 60% believe the biblical Noah's Ark is true), and the reason is that he is systematically short-changed in a truly enormous way:

As Eric Boehlert at Media Matters for America pointed out this week, "The network newscasts are wildly overplaying Trump, who regularly attracts between 20-30 percent of primary voter support, while at the same time wildly underplaying Sanders, who regularly attracts between 20-30 percent of primary voter support."

In fact, ABC World News Tonight devoted a total 81 minutes this year to Donald Trump's campaign and just about 20 seconds to Sanders' candidacy—a ratio of 81:1 which Boehlert calls a "stunning revelation." This comes despite the fact that a recent poll found that Sanders would beat Trump by eight points in the general election.

Note that (i) Trump and Sanders are about equally popular (20-30 percent of primary voter support), but even so (ii) for every one minute Sanders got, Trump (who clearly is a racist with extremely wacky "ideas" and "values") gets eighty one minutes (one hour 21 minutes).

Here is Juan Cole's opinion:

Commenting on the stark divide on Sunday, columnist Juan Cole suggests that with Trump's anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant messaging propelling some followers to take drastic action, the corporate media may be posing a "danger to society."

Cole writes:

What better for corporate news. You pretend there isn’t a candidate in the race addressing growing economic inequality or the woes of the working class. You put all the spotlight on someone who insults and even incites against Mexican- Americans, African-Americans and Muslim- Americans. It is a tried and true tactic of the American business class to keep the workers and middle class divided by playing up minor ethnic issues.  The end result, however, is fire-bombing of mosques and attacks on minorities and other white hood phenomena familiar from past epochs of American history.

I think Cole is right, though there is a difficulty about assigning responsibility to the - lying and deceiving - main media, and that not because they poison the climate of opinion (they clearly do, by 81 to 1 for roughly equally popular candidates) but because only minorities will get violent, and the decision to get violent is theirs, even if the information they got was crudely manipulated.

---------------------------------------------
Note
[1] I have more or less followed the environment (as I shall say) since 1971, when I first read Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" and briefly afterward, in 1972, the "Limits to Growth", and have seriously read philosophy now for 50 years (since 1965). It never was my main interest, but three reasons for that are that (i) I fell ill on 1.1.1979 and (ii) that I have many other serious interests and concerns, while (iii) also from 1977 or so onwards I thought most reactions to "the environment" were not serious, not scientific, and - in Holland, at least - were mainly by political chatterers (of whom I have had more than enough).

And as I said yesterday, it seems to me most likely that the
"Limits to Growth are mostly correct, and that there will be a major environmental crisis by 2050 or so, unless very serious action is done, that seems incompatible with capitalism.

Such action has not happened - not at all - for 45 years now.

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