April 23, 2018

Crisis: Ecology & Power, More Wars, The American CEOs, On May ´68, Plastic Pollution


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 23, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Monday, April 23, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from April 23, 2018
1. Chaco Canyon, Chaco Earth
2. Will Congress Write Trump a Blank Check for War?
3. The Shameful Silence of the CEOs

4. 1968: When the Communist Party Stopped a French Revolution

5. The Global Crisis of Plastic Pollution
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Chaco Canyon, Chaco Earth

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig.

It starts with an exposition about the Chaco Culture that ruled a part of what is now New Mexico  from around 900 till 1150 AD. I´ll skip all of that, mostly because today is the first day I ever heard of the Chacos and also because their civilization disappeared over 800 years ago.

The bits I select and review all come from the last part of Hedges´ article. Here is the first bit:

“Prosperity, social integration, altruism, and generosity go hand-in-hand,” Stuart adds. “Poverty, social conflict, judgmental cynicism, and savagery do, too.”

Collapse, as Joseph A. Tainter points out, is “a recurrent feature of human societies.” Complex societies create centralized bureaucratic structures that exploit resources until exhaustion and then prove unable to adapt to scarcity. They create more sophisticated mechanisms to extract depleted resources, evidenced in our own time by the decision of the Trump administration to open up the lands around the Chaco Culture National Historical Park to fracking. In the end, the technologies and organization that make the rise of complex societies possible become the mechanisms that destroy them.

The fate of the Anasazi replicates the fate of all complex societies. The collapse came within one or two decades after the peak. As Jared Diamond writes in “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” the trajectories of complex societies “are unlike the usual course of individual human lives, which decline in a prolonged senescence. The reason is simple: maximum population, wealth, resource consumption, and waste production mean maximum environmental impact, approaching the limit where impact outstrips resources.”

Yes, I think that is mostly correct. And here is a quotation from Ronald Wright:
¨This human inability to foresee—or watch for—long-range consequences may be inherent to our kind, shaped by millions of years when we lived hand to mouth by hunting and gathering. It may also be little more than a mix of inertia, greed, and foolishness encouraged by the shape of the social pyramid. The concentration of power at the top of large-scale societies gives the elite a vested interest in the status quo; they continue to prosper in darkening times long after the environment and general population begin to suffer.”
Well... it cannot be the ¨human inability to foresee¨ that hindered a few specialists and a few idealists to foresee fifty and more years ago the ecological dangers that were inherent in the system of economical production: They did foresee it. The problem is that they failed to convince many. (And this is a general human problem: The few foresee; the many do not.)

And in fact I agree with Wright that it was mostly ¨
a mix of inertia, greed, and foolishness¨ that moved (and moves) most people, and he is also quite right that the economical elites have ¨a vested interest in the status quo¨.

Here is more by Chris Hedges:

We in 2018 are beset with signs of impending collapse. The droughts, wildfires, flooding, soaring temperatures, crop failures, poisoning of the soil, air and water, and social breakdown from global warming are leaving huge segments of the world’s poor without adequate food, water and security. Desperate migrants are fleeing the global south. Crisis cults carry out nihilistic acts of terrorism, often in the name of religious beliefs. Our predatory elites, who have retreated to their own versions of Anasazi Great Houses, with access to private security, private education, private medicine, private transportation, private sources of water and food and luxury items that are unavailable to the wider population, have walled out reality. Their hubris and myopia, as well as blind obedience to an ideology—global capitalism—that benefits them but accelerates social and environmental destruction, mean they have only bought a little more time before they succumb like the rest of us.
I think that is mostly correct. Here is the ending of Hedges´ article:
The human species faces its greatest existential crisis. Yet, our elites replicate the imbecility, arrogance and greed of past elites. They hoard wealth. They shut us out from circles of power. They use brutal forms of repression to maintain control. They exhaust and poison the ecosystem. The longer the corporate elites rule, the longer we fail to revolt, the less chance we have to endure as a species. Settled or civilized life is less than 10,000 years old. Our peculiar human social construction is but a nanosecond to the universe. It may prove to be a brief and fatal experiment. Perhaps, as Franz Kafka wrote, “There is hope; though not for us.”
And this seems to me to be correct as well. This is a recommended article.
2. Will Congress Write Trump a Blank Check for War?

This article is by Marjorie Cohn on Truthout. It starts as follows:

On Monday, April 23, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to review a bill that would virtually give President Donald J. Trump a blank check to wage war anywhere in the world any time he pleases.

The Constitution places the power to declare war exclusively in the hands of the Congress. However, for the past 75 years, Congress has allowed that power to drift toward the executive branch.

The new bill, should it pass, would effectively make the transfer of the war power from Congress to the president complete. It is hard to imagine a worse time in American history for this to happen.

I completely agree. Here is more:

In spite of its exclusive constitutional power, Congress has not declared war since 1942. After that time, starting with President Truman, a series of US presidents committed American troops to hostilities around the world without waiting for Congress to act. Following the debacle in Vietnam, Congress enacted the War Powers Resolution in an effort to reclaim its constitutional authority to decide when and where the nation would go to war.

The War Powers Resolution allows the president to introduce US Armed Forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities only after Congress has declared war, or in “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces,” or when there is “specific statutory authorization,” such as an Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

Yes indeed. Here is more:

Congress enacted Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in 2001 and 2002, which were directed at al-Qaeda and Iraq, respectively. Although these authorizations were limited, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump have all used them to justify attacking or invading whatever country they wished.
Nevertheless, the 2001 AUMF has been used to justify at least 37 military operations in 14 countries, according to the Congressional Research Service. Many of them were unrelated to the 9/11 attacks.

Precisely - and please reread this part: ¨the 2001 AUMF has been used to justify at least 37 military operations in 14 countries (...) Many of them were unrelated to the 9/11 attacks¨.

There was in 2001 precisely one member of Congress who saw what was coming:

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California), the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 AUMF, was prescient. In July 2017, Lee said, “I knew then it would provide a blank check to wage war anywhere, anytime, for any length by any president.” Lee told Democracy Now! in 2016 that she knew the 2001 AUMF “was setting the stage and the foundation for perpetual war. And that is exactly what it has done.”


And this is about the utterly sick and totally degenerate proposal that started with Democrat Tim Kaine:

On April 16, 2018, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a new AUMF to replace the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and Democratic committee member Tim Kaine (Virginia) sponsored the proposed legislation. Co-sponsors include Senators Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), Christopher Coons (D-Delaware), Todd Young (R-Indiana) and Bill Nelson (D-Florida).

The 2018 AUMF would authorize the president to use military force, with no limitations, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. It would also allow the president to take military action against al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban, as well as their “associated forces” in any geographical location.

And besides, the compulsively lying madman Trump may - if Kaine gets his wishes - attack anybody anywhere based on some lie that those he desires to attack belong to the ¨associated forces¨...

Alarmingly, the new bill contains a presumption that the president can decide when and where to make war. It would require affirmative action by two-thirds of both houses of Congress to prevent military action.

I say! Well.... the proposed AUMF has been written (in part) by the neofascist ¨Democrat¨ Tim Kaine.

Here is more:

The proposed AUMF would violate the United Nations Charter. The charter requires that countries settle their disputes peacefully, and forbids the use of military force except when conducted in self-defense or with the blessing of the Security Council. The new AUMF would allow the president to attack or invade another country with no requirement that the attack or invasion be conducted in self-defense or with the council’s permission. It would thus violate the charter.

Quite so. I reviewed this also yesterday and I merely repeat here what I wrote then:

I find this sick, fraudulent, extra-ordinarily dishonest lying, especially by the Democratic degenerate fraud Kaine, so very sickening that I think I totally give up on both the Democrats and the Republicans (except perhaps for one or two).

And I will if Kaine´s sick proposal becomes law. This is a strongly recommended article.

3. The Shameful Silence of the CEOs

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Congressional Republicans would be more willing to stand up to Trump if their major financial backers – big business and Wall Street – had more backbone.

Ever since 1971, when the then future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell urged corporations to mobilize politically, corporate money has flooded Washington – most of it into Republican coffers.

Today, big corporations and Wall Street essentially own the Republican Party. In the 2016 campaign cycle, they contributed $34 to candidates from both parties for every $1 donated by labor unions and all public interest organizations combined.

In fact, I think there may be a bit of a contradiction between the first paragraph and the third paragraph: If ¨big corporations and Wall Street essentially own the Republican Party¨ it seems somewhat incoherent - at least in my eyes - to start with the suggestion that the Republican Party might ¨be more willing to stand up to Trump¨.

Then again, I am not certain. Here is more:

Which means the CEOs of America’s largest firms have the power to constrain the most dangerous, divisive, and anti-democratic president ever to occupy the Oval Office.

So why don’t they? What explains their silence?

I answer with one word: Money. And Reich seems to agree:

Dimon’s reluctance to criticize Trump is particularly curious given Dimon’s public laments about widening inequality, the explosion of student debt, America’s growing racial divide, the failure of inner-city schools, and the expenditure of “trillions of dollars on wars.”

One obvious explanation is found in the money rolling in from the GOP’s new tax law and Trump’s frenzy of deregulation. Profits have soared at JP Morgan and at other big banks and corporations. Compensation for Dimon and other CEOs has exploded.

Never underestimate the power of a fat compensation package to buy up scruples.
Yes indeed. Here is the last part I quote from this article:
I’m old enough to recall a time when CEOs were thought of as “corporate statesman” with duties to the nation. As one prominent executive told Time Magazine in the 1950s, Americans “regard business management as a stewardship,” acting “for the benefit of all the people.”
Today’s CEOs finance a larger part of our political system, yet they won’t take a stand to save it.
But with this I disagree:

The first paragraph quoted above is mostly propaganda rather than fact, and if Reich had wanted to mention real facts rather than the propaganda associated with it, he should have said that a major difference between the taxes the Republican Eisenhower demanded from the rich were very much higher (justifiedly so, in my opinion) than the taxes the rich pay now.

As to the second quoted paragraph: First see item 1. And second, the rich CEOs who - indeed - do ¨
finance a larger part of our political system¨ simply do not believe that the system they are effectively heading is collapsing.

4. 1968: When the Communist Party Stopped a French Revolution

This article is by Mitchell Abidor on The New York Review of Books.

One part of the reasons it is here is that I was 18 in 1968, and visited France in May ´68 with some Dutch friends to observe the - failed - revolution, and that I did so again in June 1968, all by myelf, and with the same end.

It is fifty years ago this year. In 2008, forty years after 1968, there were quite a large number of articles about 1968, and I reviewed some of them (in Dutch) in May of 2008. In case you read Dutch, here is a link to a file that contains links to most of the reviews I wrote 10 years ago (and to some I wrote 12 years ago).

I do not know whether there will be extensive commemorations of May ´68 this year, but - seeing these commemorations happen at most once in ten years now - this year will probably be the last year that one can hear some of the leaders of ´68, such as Cohn-Bendit, who became 73 this year (and who does not seem much interested in ´68).

And I will try to follow at least some of the - possible - commemorations this year of
May ´68, simply because it interests me; because I was there (from Holland), indeed twice; and because it was the only real - though failed - revolution I have been part of.

The present article is the first I saw written that was written in 2018 about the events of 1968, which is my main reason to review it. I don´t think I agree with it - see below - but I should make three remarks on the events of
May ´68:

(1) I was there (as a radical communist, also). I don´t think Mitchell Abdor was there (I think not), and this really makes a difference, in part because of the considerable violence, and in part
also because of the differences in the reactions, moods, and spontanities of those who were involved: For many it was the only revolution they ever were part of, and the changes in many
people, for a short while, during May ´68, were rather remarkable. Also:

(2) There have been enormous discussions about May ´68 that started immediately after it. I have read some of these discussions, but no one can read all of them, and besides many - and probably most - were written from some explicit ideological position (and I never agreed with any of these positions). Therefore:

(3) I think that in quite a few cases it is difficult or impossible to say now who was right then: There were many different points of view then; there were very many activists associated with the different views; and no one has written a full, adequate and mostly agreed upon history of the events of ´68.

Anyway, to Abidor´s article, that begins as follows:

For fifty years, the events of May–June 1968 in France have had a collective hero: the striking students and workers who occupied their factories and universities and high schools. They’ve also had a collective villain, one within the same camp: the French Communist Party (PCF) and its allied labor union organization, the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), which together did all they could to put a brake on a potential revolution, blocking the students and workers from uniting or even fraternizing.

This reading of the events is often found in histories, most recently Ludivine Bantigny’s 1968. De Grands soirs en petits matins. I heard it fairly consistently from rank-and-file student and leftist participants in the May events whom I interviewed for my oral history of May ’68, May Made Me.
Yes, I think all of this is correct - and I also think the opinions of ¨rank-and-file student and leftist participants in the May events¨ were probably correct.

But Abidor does not - quite - think so (or so it seems):
There is an element of truth in this characterization of the Communists, though only an element: the party line modified with events, and the general strike and factory occupations would not have been possible without Communist participation. In late April, before the beginning of les évènements, the PCF had issued warnings against the anarchist-leaning March 22 Movement, formed at the University of Nanterre and led by, among others, Daniel Cohn-Bendit; the party secretariat instructed its cadres to ensure the students not be allowed to approach factory workers should they march to the factories. On May 3, the party newspaper L’Humanité carried an article about the students at Nanterre headlined “The Fake Revolutionaries Unmasked.” But by May 7, just days after the beginning of the uprising on May 3, the party leadership spoke of “the legitimacy of the student movement.”
All of the facts mentioned in this excerpt are correct, but I do not think that the PCF (for the most part, and in the leadership) wanted a revolution in 1968, even though from around May 10 the communists - which were a considerable force in France then - somehow verbally supported ¨the student movement¨, at least until June of ´68, though without sharing the revolutionary spirit that moved many students and quite a few of the workers, and also without sharing the demands of the students.

Here is some more on the events of May ´68:
Huge marches that included both students and workers were held, starting May 13, when the workers joined the students on strike. But the unity was deceptive. Alain Krivine, the founder and leader of the Trotskyist Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire, said about these marches that “there were common worker-student demos but we didn’t have the same slogans: they had theirs, we had ours. There was never any real connection with them.”
Yes, I think that was mostly correct. Finally, there is this on the PCF:
In the 1970s and 1980s, the PCF began its slide into political irrelevance, and by 2002, its score in the presidential elections had sunk to 3.39 percent. By then, the Communist Party, left high and dry with its pro-Moscow loyalties after the Soviet Union dissolved, had ceased to be a significant force in French politics.
I think this is correct as well, and in fact I am a little amazed that the PCF still exists in 2018, while e.g. the Dutch Communist Party was completely disbanded between 1989 and 1991. Then again, a considerable part of the probable explanation is that the French communists were a lot stronger and better organized (also in trade unions) tham the Dutch ones.

This is a recommended article in case you are interested in May ´68.

5. The Global Crisis of Plastic Pollution

This article is by Emily Atkin on Mother Jones and originally on The New Republic. It starts as follows:

A young sperm whale, the largest toothed predator on Earth and an endangered species, washed up on the beach in southeastern Spain in February. Wanting to know what killed it, scientists brought the cetacean’s 13,000-pound body to a lab for a necropsy. They sliced into its blubber, and were shocked at what they discovered: 64 pounds of plastic throughout the stomach and intestines. This trash had caused the severe infection that took the whale’s life.

Scientists across the globe are increasingly finding wildlife that has been killed after ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic. Ninety percent of sea birds, for example, have been found to have plastic in their bellies. And the problem is only getting worse: The estimated 19 billion pounds of plastic that ends up in the ocean every year is expected to double by 2025.
I agree, and in fact wrote about it yesterday: Ending Plastic Pollution in the Oceans, Land & Our Bodies (and also before). Then again, there is not much factual agreement between both articles, since according to the present article around 20 billion pounds of plastic ends up in the ocean each year, whereas according to the article I reviewed yesterday, each year some 270 million tons of plastic are added to nature.

There is no necessary contradiction between these two statemens (yesterday´s article was about all plastics produced each year; today´s article is about the plastics that end up in the oceans each year) but as I said, there also does not seem to be much factual agreement.

And there is this in the article:
But banning straws—or plastic bags, or take-out containers—is not enough to solve the scourge of ocean plastics. In fact, no single country can make a significant enough impact to solve it before some of the impacts become irreversible. Like human-caused climate change, ocean plastic pollution is a huge and growing problem that demands a similarly ambitious solution. That’s why it should be approached in the same way: with an international agreement that imposes binding pollution reduction targets for every country, relative to their contribution to the problem. In other words, the plastics crisis needs its own Paris climate accord—and soon.
Well... the Paris climate accord is - in my opinion - complete political bullshit (just like the Kyoto Protocols - if you remember them). And I do not think an accord like the Paris accord will help much to solve the problem of plastic pollution.

I agree something has to be done, quite urgently as well, but no: I totally disbelieve in the Paris climate accord.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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