May 5, 2019

Crisis: Landmark UN Report, An Open Letter, English Local Elections, On Germany, Impeach Trump

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 5, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, May 5, 2019.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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 three 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 mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from May 5, 2019:
1. Landmark UN Report
2. An Open Letter to Extinction Rebellion

3. UK Conservatives Lose Over 1,200 Local Seats in Local Elections

4. How the German Right Wing Dominates Social Media

5. Impeach now: It's time for Democrats to fight, or surrender.
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. Landmark UN Report

This article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

A new landmark United Nations report on biodiversity set for release on Monday will say that a perilous and miserable future awaits the natural world and human civilization unless we rapidly bring an end to humanity's destructive "business as usual" approach to the economy, food production, and energy usage.

Signaling the need for urgent "transformative changes" in order to save humanity and the natural world, the 1,800-page report and a separate executive summary will represent the first time the UN has published such an exhaustive report on the state of Nature.

As Agence France-Presse, which obtained a draft of the conclusions, reports
Saturday that "The bombshell Summary for Policymakers... makes for very grim reading."

According to AFP's review of the draft report and the summary, the documents "paint a picture of widespread destruction wrought by man, some of it irreparable."

While the final report is due out May 6, aspects of what the study will say have been disclosed via drafts reported on by the press in recent weeks and public statements by officials and researchers involved in its creation.

I say, which I do because I did not know this; because the United Nations report seems to be radical, which is justified; and because it is no less than 1800 pages.

Also, in fact it will be published tomorrow. But this is a preview, I suppose.

Here is some more:

As Common Dreams reported last month, at last one of the overarching findings of the report is that human destruction of natural systems has put the world on a path towards a mass extinction that could wipe out over a million species.

Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which authored the report with input from more than 400 scientists worldwide, told AFP ahead of the weekend meeting where the drafts will be adopted that while there are many direct drivers undermining Nature's systems, the "number of people in the world and their growing ability to consume" are the two biggest indirect drivers of biodiversity loss and the climate crisis.

In fact, I do agree - since a very long time, in fact, namely over 50 years - that "the "number of people in the world" is too large. Also, I do not know of a solution besides a major war, which probably will extinguish most people and most of human civilization.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Speaking separately to the Guardian ahead of the conference, Watson said, "There is no question we are losing biodiversity at a truly unsustainable rate that will affect human wellbeing both for current and future generations. We are in trouble if we don't act, but there are a range of actions that can be taken to protect nature and meet human goals for health and development."

On the economic side, the report will call out GDP (gross domestic product) as a failed metric for calculating the health of economies, highlight the impact that financial inequality is having on the health of the planet, and will also examineso-called "market reforms" designed to curtail tax havens and the corruption they facilitate across the world.

Well... I think Watson was too optimistic, but I agree with the last paragraph. Also, since this is in fact a preview, there will be more tomorrow or the day after on this UN Report. Meanwhile, this is a strongly recommended article.

2. An Open Letter to Extinction Rebellion

This article is by Wretched of the Earth on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

This letter was collaboratively written with dozens of aligned groups. As the weeks of action called by Extinction Rebellion were coming to an end, our groups came together to reflect on the narrative, strategies, tactics and demands of a reinvigorated climate movement in the UK. In this letter we articulate a foundational set of principles and demands that are rooted in justice and which we feel are crucial for the whole movement to consider as we continue constructing a response to the ‘climate emergency’.

Dear Extinction Rebellion,

The emergence of a mass movement like Extinction Rebellion (XR) is an encouraging sign that we have reached a moment of opportunity in which there is both a collective consciousness of the immense danger ahead of us and a collective will to fight it. A critical mass agrees with the open letter launching XR when it states “If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is bleak.”

At the same time, in order to construct a different future, or even to imagine it, we have to understand what this “path” is, and how we arrived at the world as we know it now.

Actually, I no idea who the Wretched of the Earth might be. There is a long list of groups at the end of this letter, but I have heard of very few of them, and no personal names are mentioned at all.

I do not know how serious this, and I disagree with a part of the above, namely the part that says that "we" have "
a collective consciousness of the immense danger ahead of us and a collective will to fight it", and that for two reasons: (1) I think "a collective consciousness" and "a collective will" are both extremely vague terms, while also, in so far as I do understand them, (2) I have not seen much evidence in six years of systematic reading in the mainstream and alternative press that it is true.

Anyway... here is some more:
Our communities have been on fire for a long time and these flames are fanned by our exclusion and silencing. Without incorporating our experiences, any response to this disaster will fail to change the complex ways in which social, economic and political systems shape our lives – offering some an easy pass in life and making others pay the cost. In order to envision a future in which we will all be liberated from the root causes of the climate crisis – capitalism, extractivism, racism, sexism, classism, ableism and other systems of oppression –  the climate movement must reflect the complex realities of everyone’s lives in their narrative.
Well... I am sorry, but to me the above sounds mostly like propaganda. Here is some more that is a bit more specific:

As XR draws this period of actions to a close, we hope our letter presents some useful reflections for what can come next. The list of demands that we present below are not meant to be exhaustive, but to offer a starting point that supports the conversations that are urgently needed.

Wretched of the Earth, together with many other groups, hold the following demands as crucial for a climate justice rebellion:

  • Implement a transition, with justice at its core, to reduce UK carbon emissions to zero by 2030. (..)
  • Pass a Global Green New Deal to ensure finance and technology for the Global South through international cooperation. (..)
  • Hold transnational corporations accountable by creating a system that regulates them and stops them from practicing global destruction.  (..)
  • Take the planet off the stock market by restructuring the financial sector to make it transparent, democratised, and sustainable. (..)
  • End the hostile environment of walls and fences, detention centers and prisons that are used against racialised, migrant, and refugee communities. (..)
  • Guarantee flourishing communities both in the global north and the global south in which everyone has the right to free education, an adequate income whether in or out of work, universal healthcare including support for mental wellbeing, affordable transportation, affordable healthy food, dignified employment and housing, meaningful political participation, a transformative justice system, gender and sexuality freedoms, and, for disabled and older people, to live independently in the community. (..)
I say - and I have made a selection of considerably more text, indicated by (..)s. Then again, I also must say that most of the above sounds more like wishful thinking than like rational planning. And I don't think I can recommend this, mostly because it is too vague or too wishful.

3. UK Conservatives Lose Over 1,200 Local Seats in Local Elections 

This article is by Eoin Higgins on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Small and independent parties won big in local elections in the U.K. on Thursday as the country's two largest parties suffered decisive defeats. 

The Greens, a left-wing party, posted their biggest gain in years.

"We've broken through on to the councils to become the new voice," party co-leader Siân Berry told The Guardian.

The Liberal Democrats, a centrist party that opposes Brexit, also saw large gains. 

"The Lib Dems were written off at one point but we're coming back very, very strongly," said party leader Vince Cable. 

By contrast, Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives lost over 1,200 seats and opposition party Labour lost 100. The results were largely interpreted as a rejection of the continuing debate over Brexit as the country delayed its departure from the E.U. for another six months.

In fact, I knew the above already, but I did so far not report on it in Nederlog. So this is that report, and I must say that I like the outcomes of these local English elections. And incidentally, I disagree with calling both the losses of the Tories (over 1200 seats) and of Labout (100 seats) as "decisive defeats": there certainly are better terms.

Anyway. Here is some more:

The Guardian editorial board cautioned the two main parties on the future, citing the European Parliamentary elections coming later in the month.

"With European elections impending, there is a lesson for both Labour and the Tories," said The Guardian. "They cannot easily profit as the Brexit process drifts on and on, but their insurgent rivals might."

Tom Newton Dunn, politics editor for The Sun, said in a tweet that the results were "another unwanted record" for May. 

I say, for I did not know that May suffered "the biggest local election defeat in more than 20 years". There is more to follow, undoubtedly, and if not tomorrow than with the European Parliamentary elections later this month. And this is a recommended article.

4. How the German Right Wing Dominates Social Media

This article is by 4 journalists on Spiegel (now with sickening German advertisements I hate and do not want). It starts as follows:

When Trevor Davis looks at his screen, he is unsettled. An American research professor at George Washington University, Davis has been analyzing political campaigns on social networks for years. But he has never seen a phenomenon like the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD). "This is huge and really quite concerning," Davis says.

The analyst has conducted an extensive study focusing on how active German political parties are on Facebook. And the AfD dominates in a way that Davis finds rather surprising. While political surveys indicate that support for the party is currently between 11 and 15 percent, fully 85 percent of all shared posts originating from German political parties stem from the AfD. The remaining 15 percent of these "shares" are split among the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the pro-environment Greens, the Left Party, the pro-business FDP and the conservatives. The countries big-tent parties -- the SPD and the conservative combination of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) -- were only responsible for 2 to 3 percent of shares each.

I say, for this is either an interesting result or else Davis's research is not good. Here is some more:

Davis' data, which DER SPIEGEL has examined, provide a novel overview of thousands of Facebook accounts run by political parties in Germany. The parties don't merely run one page on the social networks, but hundreds -- including those of the federal party, the state associations and local and regional groups. Then there are also the personal accounts of individual politicians. Davis has combined all of them and stored them in a database. Here too, the AfD has a slight lead: The party has about 1,500 accounts on Facebook, compared to the SPD's 1,400 and 1,000 for the CDU/CSU.

I must say that these data are hard to consistently combine with the data that were quoted in the previous selection.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Extremism expert Ebner notes that the data collected by Davis shows that AfD content is being artificially amplified by accounts that are either fake or even half-automated. It is, she says, the only explanation for the unrealistically strong pro-AfD engagement by supposed Facebook users in countries like Turkey and Egypt. Such social-media strategies that are "at the limit of what is allowable," she says, are "a phenomenon that we also frequently see with right-wing populist parties in other countries."
Ultimately, it could be a mixture of living followers and digital automatons that are ensuring the AfD's online supremacy. Either way, there is one thing they are not: The "voice of the people."

I think Ebner is probably correct, and this is a recommended article.

5. Impeach now: It's time for Democrats to fight, or surrender.

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on Salon (now also with sickening advertisements I hate and do not want). I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

"If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything," as an old piece of political folk wisdom holds. The Democratic Party has apparently not learned this lesson. This is why (among other reasons) Donald Trump will likely defeat the Democratic nominee — whoever that may be — and win the 2020 presidential election.

On Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's report about obstruction of justice and Donald Trump and his inner circle's collusion with Russia.

Barr again showed himself to be Donald Trump's henchman and a man who does not serve the American people or the rule of law. In that role, Barr basically argued that Donald Trump is a king who is above the law; repeatedly lied and misrepresented Mueller's findings; deflected what Mueller in (now) two separate letters has communicated as serious concerns about how Barr distorted the findings of the Trump-Russia investigation; and in total sullied the office of the attorney general and the Department of Justice.

Barr and the Trump regime have contempt for basic democratic norms such as checks and balances. As such, Barr refused to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

I think all of the above is correct, except - perhaps - that "Trump will likely defeat the Democratic nominee — whoever that may be — and win the 2020 presidential election", for I do not know that (and hope it is mistaken).

Here is some more:
Political consultant David Rothkopf described the importance of Barr's testimony before the Senate this way:

I don’t think we fully realize the profundity of Barr’s assertions yesterday. The ideas that a president can determine whether or not he ought to be investigated or that a president is incapable of committing obstruction are not just outrageous assaults on Constitutional values.

Taken in the context of this administration’s systematic rejection of the oversight role of Congress and of the law — whether it is the emoluments clause of the Constitution or the obligation of the IRS to hand over tax returns to the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — what we are seeing is nothing less than a coup, to use a word the president has grown fond of. Trump and Barr are seeking to eliminate the checks and balances that are a hallmark of our system and to effectively render the Congress subservient to the presidency.

I think Rothkopf is more correct that not, although I would have avoided the word "coup". Then again, I agree with the statement that "Trump and Barr are seeking to eliminate the checks and balances that are a hallmark of our system and to effectively render the Congress subservient to the presidency" (although to achieve that I think they have to more or less take over the Centrist Democrats, led by Pelosi and Schumer).

Here is some more:

Yet the Democratic Party's leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, have now signaled that they are open to working with Trump's regime on a $2 trillion infrastructure package. If the Democrats actually believe their own arguments against Trump, they should be doing everything within their power to stop him. Moreover, they should refuse to cooperate with Trump and the Republican Party on any legislation. To do so only gives Trump legitimacy, which in turn empowers him even more. Unfortunately, it would seem that Democratic leaders are only too willing to help America's Mussolini keep the trains running on time.

I think it is a mistake to insist that the Democrats "should refuse to cooperate with Trump and the Republican Party on any legislation" for the simple reason that - so far, at least - most elected (!!) Democrats are centrist Democrats like Pelosi and Schumer. And these just will not do as DeVega desires.

Here is DeVega's solution:

What should the Democratic Party do in response to Donald Trump's reckless disregard for the Constitution, democracy, and the rule of law? It's simple: Trump should be impeached immediately.

Perhaps. But DeVega also does not at all answer my question how much free TV Trump will get ("because it pays so well", according to CBS) in order to defend himself against impeachment.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The Democrats must impeach Donald Trump, and must offer no quarter or compromise to Donald Trump and his party on any issue. To do anything less is to guarantee defeat in the 2020 election and likely a full-on surrender of America's democracy.

Are the Democrats strong enough and committed enough to do such a bold thing? Or will they instead default to compromise and surrender, as they have almost always done in the recent past? The next few weeks will provide the answer.

Well... I think the first statement in the first paragraph will not be realized now (basically because there are more centrist than non-centrist elected Democrats). And I strongly hope DeVega is mistaken with the second statement in the first paragraph.

As to the second paragraph: I think it is pretty certain that most elected (!!) Democrats will try "to compromise", and this is a recommended article.

[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 3 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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