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Nederlog

December 23, 2015
Crisis: US Military vs. US Gov'ment, Rays of Light, Big Oil Knew, Plutocrats Won
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Introduction


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, December 23, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about the latest discovery by Seymour Hersh: The US government and the US military do not see eye to eye; item 2 tries to list some rays of light in a further and further darkening world (for those who are not at least millionaires), but does not succeed very well in my opinion; item 3 is about the fact that all big oil companies did know by 1980 (!) that they were poisoning the environment and risking humanity's continued existence; and item 4 is about an article by Bill Moyers who warns the plutocrats are winning in the USA (and many other places). I agree, except that I say that it is fair to say the plutocrats won. Even so, I am neither defeated nor desperate.

1.
U.S. Military Undermined Obama on Syria with Tacit Help to Assad

The first item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:
A new report by the Pulitzer-winning veteran journalist Seymour Hersh says the Joint Chiefs of Staff has indirectly supported Bashar al-Assad in an effort to help him defeat jihadist groups. Hersh reports the Joint Chiefs sent intelligence via Russia, Germany and Israel on the understanding it would be transmitted to help Assad push back Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. Hersh also claims the military even undermined a U.S. effort to arm Syrian rebels in a bid to prove it was serious about helping Assad fight their common enemies. Hersh says the Joint Chiefs’ maneuvering was rooted in several concerns, including the U.S. arming of unvetted Syrian rebels with jihadist ties, a belief the administration was overly focused on confronting Assad’s ally in Moscow, and anger the White House was unwilling to challenge Turkey and Saudi Arabia over their support of extremist groups in Syria.
In brief, Seymour Hersh (<- Wikipedia) reports that the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the USA and the government of the USA do not share the same aims nor the same analyses, and that in so far as the war is concerned, the Joint Chiefs of Staffs are supreme.

In case you don't know who Seymour Hersh is, you should read the Wikipedia lemma on him: He is one of the best living American journalists, with many prominent stories, a Pulitzer prize for the My Lai Massacre (<- Wikipedia), while
also uncovered the torturing of detainees in Abu Ghraib (<- Wikipedia).

Here is something about his source and his veracity:

Hersh’s report in the London Review of Books follows his controversial story in May challenging the Obama administration’s account of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Like that story, his latest piece relies heavily on a single source, described as a "former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs." And while critics have dismissed both stories as conspiracy theories, it turns out that key aspects of the bin Laden report have since been corroborated. After the bin Laden story came out, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources confirmed Hersh’s reporting that the U.S. discovered bin Laden’s location when a Pakistani officer told the CIA, and that the Pakistani government knew all along where bin Laden was hiding.
There is a lot more in the article, that I leave to your interests. (And in case you were to ask me: I trust Seymour Hersh far more than any spokesman for either the American government or the American military. The main reason is that he was usually right in the past.)

2.
2015 in Review: Amid the Gloom Covering Our Planet, Some Rays of Light 

The second item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This starts as follows - and part of the reason I selected this are the "rays of light", simply because the crisis series is not optimistic:

Is humanity doomed? An early draft of Truthdig’s review of the year’s environmental reporting answered unambiguously “yes.” But after browsing the stories we published over the past 12 months, I’m less sure.

The sensibility that formed in me as a university student was as dark as it should have been, given that my generation was inheriting a poison-riddled world that was fast becoming measurably more dangerous. But after six years and numerous readings, conversations and deliberations, this posture of fatalism is harder to maintain.

I say. This is not my opinion, and I am probably more than twice as old than Kelly is. Also, I am writing since September 1, 2008 on the crisis, and have written more than 1000 files on that subject alone.

Then again, while I disagree with Kelly, I am not a fatalist, and the following seems to me to be too easy:

We may feel that a long experience of frustration and disappoint- ment would presage a future that contains the same, but the world is complex, history is more intricately woven than any of us can fully understand, and no one can know for certain what lies ahead.

It is too easy for three reasons (at least): First, clearly the above is true in some sense (nobody really knows for sure what the future will bring; everybody is severely limited), but that is true for absolutely everyone, including the loonies who believe they know what is going to happen because their god told them; second, it may turn out to be considerably worse than most people think; while the quotation also does not allow for the fact that a few people - the top of the US government; the top of the US military; the NSA, all for example - know a whole lot more than others.

But here are a few of the highlights, according to Kelly:

The biggest story in this realm [of environmental problems - MM] may have been the papal encyclical “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ argument that the world’s Catholics and international leaders should take up climate change and runaway capitalism as existential crises demanding swift and decisive resolution on moral, religious grounds. Published in May, it was a papal foray into progressive politics unprecedented in our lifetime, one that continued to draw publicity as Francis took his message before the U.S. Congress in September.

I have lived long enough to remember pope John XXIII (<- Wikipedia) - known as: "The Good Pope" - who also was a pope who was more progressive than most cardinals, but most of whose personal teachings were forgotten by later popes. And it seems to me that while a progressive atheist like me likes the present pope better than his precursors, he still is one pope who will soon die, and who will be folllowed by another pope who will very probably be less progressive.

But it is true that the pope's opinions are important because he is the leader of over a billion Catholics, and I liked most of opinions, so to that extent I agree with Kelly.

Then there is this:
Activists found another surprising advocate in Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates. In October, Gates said “the private sector is inept” when it comes to managing or averting environmental catastrophe. He suggested that government may be best suited to handle the problem, saying, “Since World War II, U.S.-government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area.”
I am not impressed by the opinions of someone who made 65 billion dollars from Microsoft, even if I happen to agree, simply because I have no idea what Micrcosofts corporate interests are, nor why Gates spoke up as he did.

There is also this:
In a story revealed this month, Greenpeace activists posing as representatives of oil and coal companies approached Penn State and Princeton university professors, offering to pay them to write reports touting the alleged benefits of rising carbon dioxide levels and of coal use in developing countries. The academics agreed to do so without disclosing the source of their funding. There, we saw misinformation in action.
To me that is not a reason for optimism: It only proves (once again, and something I know a very long time) that most leading academics - especially in the less scientific "sciences" - are corrupt and dishonest.

The last example I give is this:

Adding insult to injury, an International Monetary Fund study released in May showed that fossil fuel companies, including Exxon, receive subsidies from the world’s governments amounting to $10 million every minute of every day.
That report linked last is well worth reading and it starts as follows, and spells out how they arrived at $10 millions of subsidies to the anyway extremely rich and extremely powerful oil companies:
Governments give fossil fuel companies $5.3 trillion in subsidies every year—the equivalent of $10 million every minute of every day and more than the world spends on health care, according to a new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.
There is a lot more in the article, but most of it is like the above quotations: They may be rays of light, but they are rare and uncertain.

3. More Than Exxon: Big Oil Companies for Years Shared Damning Climate Research

The third item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

It wasn't just Exxon that knew fossil fuels were cooking the planet.

New investigative reporting by Neela Banerjee with Inside Climate News revealed on Tuesday that scientists and engineers from nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company may have for decades known about the impacts of carbon emissions on the climate.

Between 1979 and 1983, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the industry's most powerful lobby group, ran a task force for fossil fuel companies to "monitor and share climate research," according to internal documents obtained by Inside Climate News.

According to the reporting:

Like Exxon, the companies also expressed a willingness to understand the links between their product, greater CO2 concentrations and the climate, the papers reveal. Some corporations ran their own research units as well, although they were smaller and less ambitious than Exxon's and focused on climate modeling, said James J. Nelson, the former director of the task force. 

"It was a fact-finding task force," Nelson said in an interview. "We wanted to look at emerging science, the implications of it and where improvements could be made, if possible, to reduce emissions."

The 'CO2 and Climate Task Force,' which changed in 1980 its name to the 'Climate and Energy Task Force,' included researchers from Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco, and Sohio, among others.

I say. It also doesn't amaze me very much, simply because these corporations have research labs and are interested in the truth about the climate and fossil fuels, though indeed not to share that truth with others, but only to use it to try to get maximal profits for themselves.

In any case, here is part of what they found - in the beginning of 1980, a full 35 years ago:

And at a February 1980 meeting in New York, the task force invited Professor John A. Laurmann of Stanford University to brief members about climate science.

"In his conclusions section, Laurmann estimated that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would double in 2038, which he said would likely lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures with 'major economic consequences,'" Banerjee reports. He then told the task force that models showed a 5 degrees Celsius rise by 2067, with 'globally catastrophic effects,'" Banerjee reports.

So indeed the big oil companies all know since 1980 that they were poisoning the environment we all live in. Being oriented to private profit as supreme value much rather than civilization or welfare for all, they kept silent and continued poisoning the environment.

There is more in the next and last article.


4. The Plutocrats Are Winning. Don’t Let Them! 

The fourth and last item today is by Bill Moyers (<- Wikipedia) on AlterNet:

This has a subtitle, which I reproduce:
The vast inequality they are creating is a death sentence for government by consent of the people
Yes, indeed. In fact, my own conclusion is that the plutocrats have won or nearly so. This is from a cursory glance at the USA:

The plutocrats now own the free press, including the media, and these are hardly free anymore and mostly spout propaganda; they "own" the government for the most part and own and pay most lobbyists; they "own" most of the Supreme Court and the judges; they are heavily subsidized from taxes, while tens of millions of Americans are very poor, and while the enormous subsidies to the Pentagon, the NSA etc. don't even leave enough money to repair the collapsing American infra-structure.

I agree that it could be even worse, but by and large the plutocrats have done extremely well since Reagan and Thatcher were first elected, and have realized most of their wishes, while the real left has been reduced to a few, and "the left" as in the Labour Party and the Democrats have turned "neoliberal" with very vague very faint pink trimmings that are there mostly to mislead their electorates.

Or at least: That is what I think, also knowing full well that as long as mankind exists there is hope and there is change.

Here is Bill Moyers:

In the fall of 2001, in the aftermath of 9/11, as families grieved and the nation mourned, Washington swarmed with locusts of the human kind: wartime opportunists, lobbyists, lawyers, ex-members of Congress, bagmen for big donors: all of them determined to grab what they could for their corporate clients and rich donors while no one was looking.

Across the land, the faces of Americans of every stripe were stained with tears. Here in New York, we still were attending memorial services for our firemen and police. But in the nation’s capital, within sight of a smoldering Pentagon that had been struck by one of the hijacked planes, the predator class was hard at work pursuing private plunder at public expense, gold-diggers in the ashes of tragedy exploiting our fear, sorrow, and loss.
I think that is correct, though a bit vague. Also, it wasn't just 9/11 but it also was that Bush Jr. had been assigned the presidency by the Supreme Court even though he (narrowly) lost the elections, which indeed gave "the predator class" wings, especially combined with 9/11.

There is also this:
Fourteen years later, we can see more clearly the implications. After three decades of engineering a winner-take-all economy, and buying the political power to consummate their hold on the wealth created by the system they had rigged in their favor, they were taking the final and irrevocable step of separating themselves permanently from the common course of American life.
Yes, though again it is a bit vague, while Thatcher and Reagan were elected in 1979 and 1980, respectively, which makes it 35 years. This includes the Clinton years, but these were as much or more committed to deregulation than Reagan and Bush Sr. were before Clinton.

Here is some more:

The $1.15 trillion spending bill passed by Congress last Friday and quickly signed by President Obama is just the latest triumph in the plutocratic management of politics that has accelerated since 9/11. As Michael Winship and I described here last Thursday, the bill is a bonanza for the donor class – that powerful combine of corporate executives and superrich individuals whose money drives our electoral process.
And here is a conclusion of Bill Moyers (there is more in the article, which is well worth reading):

Can we at least face the truth? The plutocrats and oligarchs are winning. The vast inequality they are creating is a death sentence for government by consent of the people at large. Did any voter in any district or state in the last Congressional election vote to give that billion dollar loophole to a handful of billionaires? To allow corporations to hide their political contributions? To add $1.4 trillion to the national debt? Of course not. It is now the game: Candidates ask citizens for their votes, then go to Washington to do the bidding of their donors. And since one expectation is that they will cut the taxes of those donors, we now have a permanent class that is afforded representation without taxation.

I agree, though I would say that the plutocrats have won (so far as I can see) rather than that they are winning, and my reason to prefer "have won" are the facts (and more) that Bill Moyers mentions.

But OK - we will see the next year. And I am neither defeated nor desperate, but I also think that more evil things (as I regard them) have to happen before there will be a radical turn, which is bound to come, if only because those who do govern the world are not able to govern the climate.

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