The Evening Blues - 9-11-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features soul and r&b singer, songwriter and associate of James Brown, Bobby Byrd. Enjoy!
James Brown & Bobby Byrd featuring Bootsy Collins - Sex Machine & Soul Power
“If we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.”
-- Murray Bookchin
News and Opinion
North Korea celebrated its government’s 69th anniversary Saturday. The country was expected to mark the occasion by antagonizing the West once again and testing another intercontinental ballistic missile — possibly directed toward the U.S. territory of Guam. But instead, Pyongyang had a party. The gala event was held to honor the scientists who helped carry out North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test earlier this month. However, Pyongyang returned to its default position Monday, threatening the U.S. if it followed through on imposing harsher sanctions on the Hermit Kingdom.
“The DPRK is ready and willing to use any form of ultimate means,” a statement by North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said. ‘The forthcoming measures to be taken by the DPRK will cause the U.S. the greatest pain and suffering it has ever gone through in its entire history.”
Despite work in the background by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, it is unclear if the new, weaker sanctions will pass the U.N. Security Council when they vote later on Monday.
An excellent article. We may be headed for a multipolar world more quickly than the US powers-that-be had in mind. I'm not so sure that it would be such a bad thing as the headline suggests.
The showdown with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a seminal event that can only end in one of two ways: a nuclear exchange or a reconfiguration of the international order. While complacency is always unwarranted, the first seems increasingly unlikely. As no less a global strategist than Steven Bannon observed about the possibility of a pre-emptive U.S. strike: “There’s no military solution. Forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no military solution here. They got us.” ...
That leaves option number two: reconfiguration. The two people who know best about the subject are Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Both have been chafing for years under a new world order in which one nation gets to serve as judge, jury, and high executioner. This, of course, is the United States. If the U.S. says that Moscow’s activities in the eastern Ukraine are illegitimate, then, as the world’s sole remaining “hyperpower,” it will see to it that Russia suffers accordingly. If China demands more of a say in Central Asia or the western Pacific, then right-thinking folks the world over will shake their heads sadly and accuse it of undermining international democracy, which is always synonymous with U.S. foreign policy. There is no one – no institution – that Russia or China can appeal to in such circumstances because the U.S. is also in charge of the appellate division. It is the “indispensable nation” in the immortal words of Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, because “we stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.” Given such amazing brilliance, how can any other country possibly object?
But now that a small and beleaguered state on the Korean peninsula is outmaneuvering the United States and forcing it to back off, the U.S. no longer seems so far-sighted. If North Korea really has checkmated the U.S., as Bannon says, then other states will want to do the same. The American hegemon will be revealed as an overweight 71-year-old man naked except for his bouffant hairdo. ... Since Kim’s actions are ultimately defensive in nature, the logical solution would be for the U.S. to pull back and enter into negotiations. But Trump, desperate to save face, quickly ruled it out. “Talking is not the answer!” he tweeted. Yet the result of such bluster is only to make America seem more helpless than ever.
If Trump backs down at this point, the U.S. standing in the region will suffer while China’s will be correspondingly enhanced. On the other hand, if Trump does something rash, it will be a golden opportunity for Beijing, Moscow, or both to step in as peacemakers. Japan and South Korea will have no choice but to recognize that there are now three arbiters in the region instead of just one while other countries – the Philippines, Indonesia, and maybe even Australia and New Zealand – will have to follow suit.
Unipolarity will slink off to the sidelines while multilateralism takes center stage. Given that U.S. share of global GDP has fallen by better than 20 percent since 1989, a retreat is inevitable. America has tried to compensate by making maximum use of its military and political advantages. That would be a losing proposition even if it had the most brilliant leadership in the world. Yet it doesn’t. Instead, it has a President who is an international laughingstock, a dysfunctional Congress, and a foreign-policy establishment lost in a neocon dream world. As a consequence, retreat is turning into a disorderly rout.
The Trump administration is considering proposing smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs — a move that would give military commanders more options but could also make the use of atomic arms more likely.
A high-level panel created by President Donald Trump to evaluate the nuclear arsenal is reviewing various options for adding a more modern "low-yield" bomb, according to sources involved in the review, to further deter Russia, North Korea or other potential nuclear adversaries. ...
"The [nuclear review] has to credibly ask the military what they need to deter enemies," added another official who supports such a proposal, particularly to confront Russia, which has raised the prominence of tactical nuclear weapons in its battle plans in recent years, including as a first-strike weapon. "Are [current weapons] going to be useful in all the scenarios we see?"
The idea of introducing a smaller-scale warhead to serve a more limited purpose than an all-out nuclear Armageddon is not new — and the U.S. government still retains some Cold War-era weapons that fit the category, including several that that can be "dialed down" to a smaller blast.
Yet new support for adding a more modern version is likely to set off a fierce debate in Congress, which would ultimately have to fund it, and raises questions about whether it would require a resumption of explosive nuclear tests after a 25-year moratorium and how other nuclear powers might respond. The Senate is expected to debate the issue of new nuclear options next week when it takes up the National Defense Authorization Act.
In a speech last week at the American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative think tank in Washington, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said President Donald Trump “has grounds” to decertify the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, if he so chooses. ... Trump has already signaled his own desire to kill the deal, saying last month, “I think they’ll be noncompliant.”
Despite Trump’s statements, a report last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency declared that Iran actually has been adhering to the 2015 agreement. European Union countries have also indicated their continued support for the deal, stating publicly that Iran has been abiding by its commitments. If Trump nonetheless goes against the expert consensus and the views of American allies to declare Iran as non-compliant, it would open the door for an eager Congress to reimpose economic sanctions that likely mean the unraveling of the deal. ...
An attempt to blow up the nuclear accord without clear evidence of Iranian violations could potentially break apart the coalition of countries that helped impose the sanctions that led to the deal in the first place. Many of these players came together as the P5+1, which includes China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, to negotiate the agreement. The united front was in and of itself an achievement of U.S. diplomats who sought to isolate Iran over its nuclear program.
If the U.S. is perceived as acting in bad faith to destroy the agreement, winning back support from the other P5+1 countries to reimpose extraterritorial sanctions — U.S. sanctions on other countries for doing business with Iran — would be unlikely. ... Backtracking on the deal for purely political reasons would also send other messages to the international community. Other countries might find that the U.S. is institutionally incapable of implementing difficult diplomatic agreements, at precisely a time when its relationships with allies have already become strained. Such a perception would also make it harder to conduct sensitive diplomacy in other crisis areas, including in the ongoing standoff with North Korea.
“It would be a mess in terms of diplomatic relations if the deal was terminated,” said John Tirman, executive director at the MIT Center for International Studies and an expert on U.S.-Iran relations. “There is so much that could possibly happen, including major reputational costs for the United States or economic costs globally if trade with Iran is disrupted or banned.”
Syria’s victory in remaining still standing – still on its feet, as it were – amid the ruins of all that has been visited upon her, marks effectively the demise of the Bush Doctrine in the Middle East (of “the New Middle East”). It signals the beginning of the end – not just of the political “regime change” project, but also of the Sunni jihadi project which has been used as the coercive tool for bringing into being a “New Middle East.” Just as the region has reached a geopolitical inflection point, however, so too, has Sunni Islam. Wahhabi-inspired Islam has taken a major hit. It is now widely discredited amongst Sunnis, and reviled by just about everyone else. ...
So, what now: the failure of Wahabbist movements to make political achievements is complete. It seems so short a time since young Muslim men – including ones who had lived their lives in the West – were truly inspired by the very radicalism and the promise of Islamic apocalypse. The Dabiq prophesy (of arriving redemption) then seemed close to fulfillment for these young adherents. Now that is dust. Wahabbism is thoroughly discredited by its careless brutality. And Saudi Arabia’s claims to political savoir faire, and Islamic authority, has suffered a major blow.
What is less obvious to the outside world is that this blow has been delivered in part by the mostly Sunni Syrian Arab Army. For all the stereotyping and propaganda in the Western world of the Syria conflict as Shi’a versus Sunni, it was Syrian Sunnis who fought – and died – for their Levantine Islamic tradition, against the blown-in, exceptionalist, intolerant, orientation recently brought (post-World War Two) into the Levant from the Saudi Nejd desert (Wahabbism originally arose in the Nejd desert of Saudi Arabia).
In the aftermath of the Syria war and the aftermath of ISIS murderous brutality in Mosul, many Sunnis have had more than enough of this Wahabbi orientation of Islam. There is likely to be a revival of the notion of secular, non-sectarian nationalism in consequence. But also, the traditional Levantine model of a tolerant, more inwardly orientated, quasi-secular, Islam will enjoy a revival.
The “victor” in this sub-sphere is Al Qaeda. The latter predicted the failure of ISIS (a physically-situated Caliphate being premature, it argued). Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been proved to have been correct in his judgment. Al Qaeda will sweep up the remnants from both ISIS, on one hand, and the angry and disillusioned members of the Muslim Brotherhood, on the other. In a sense, we may see a greater convergence amongst Islamist movements (especially when the Gulf paymasters step back). We are likely to witness a reversion to Zawahiri’s virtual, global jihad intended to provoke the West, rather than to defeat it militarily – as opposed to any new attempt to seize and control a territorial Emirate.
Two Western-backed Syrian rebel groups fighting the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militias in southeastern Syria have been asked by their Western and Arab backers to pull out of the area and retreat into Jordan, rebels and diplomatic sources said on Sunday. Both Usoud al-Sharqiya and Martyr Ahmad Abdo, part of the Free Syrian Army group, said they were told to end fighting in the area by their backers from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and neighboring states that support them, which include Jordan and Saudi Arabia. ...
Since early this year, the rebels have pushed Islamic State militants out of a large swathe of sparsely populated territory stretching some 50 km (30 miles) southeast of Damascus, all the way to the Iraqi border along the frontier with Jordan. But an offensive by the Syrian army, backed by Iranian militias and heavy Russian air cover, has encircled the rebels and eroded their gains. In recent weeks, the army has regained a string of border posts with Jordan that it had abandoned in the early years of the conflict. ...
The decision has caused disaffection among hundreds of fighters in the two groups, who consider withdrawing into Jordan as effectively disbanding their forces. The two groups, who have hundreds of fighters, will have to hand over heavy artillery and dozens of U.S.-made anti-tank missiles that played a part in their battlefield successes against Islamic State and the Iranian-backed militias, rebels say. In a meeting on Saturday, the rebel commanders told the joint operations center in Jordan that requested their withdrawal they would rather “stay and die” in the desert than leave the battlefield.
Worth a full read:
Many people still want to believe that the United Nations engages in impartial investigations and thus is more trustworthy than, say, self-interested governments, whether Russia or the United States. But trust in U.N. agencies is no longer well placed; whatever independence they may have once had has been broken, a reality relevant to recent “investigations” of Syrian chemical weapons use. There is also the larger issue of the United Nations’ peculiar silence about one of its primary and original responsibilities, shouldered after the horrors of World War II – to stop wars of aggression, which today include “regime change” wars organized, funded and armed by the United States and other Western powers, such as the Iraq invasion in 2003, the overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011, and a series of proxy wars including the ongoing Syrian conflict.
After World War II, the Nuremberg Tribunals declared that a “war of aggression … is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” That recognition became a guiding principle of the United Nations Charter, which specifically prohibits aggression or even threats of aggression against sovereign states.
The Charter declares in Article One that it is a chief U.N. purpose “to take effective collective measures … for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace.” Article Two, which defines the appropriate behavior of U.N. members, adds that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…” However, instead of enforcing this fundamental rule, the United Nations has, in effect, caved in to the political and financial pressure brought to bear by the United States and its allies. A similar disregard for international law also pervades the U.S. mainstream media and much of the European and Israeli press as well.
There is an assumption that the United States and its allies have the right to intervene militarily anywhere in the world at anytime solely at their own discretion. Though U.S. diplomats and mainstream journalists still voice outrage when adversaries deviate from international law – such as denunciations of Russia over Ukraine’s civil war – there is silence or support when a U.S. president or, say, an Israeli prime minister orders military strikes inside another country. Then, we hear only justifications for these attacks.
Fresh evidence submitted in a major 9/11 lawsuit moving forward against the Saudi Arabian government reveals its embassy in Washington may have funded a “dry run” for the hijackings carried out by two Saudi employees, further reinforcing the claim that employees and agents of the kingdom directed and aided the 9/11 hijackers and plotters.
Two years before the airliner attacks, the Saudi Embassy paid for two Saudi nationals, living undercover in the US as students, to fly from Phoenix to Washington “in a dry run for the 9/11 attacks,” alleges the amended complaint filed on behalf of the families of some 1,400 victims who died in the terrorist attacks 16 years ago.
The court filing provides new details that paint “a pattern of both financial and operational support” for the 9/11 conspiracy from official Saudi sources, lawyers for the plaintiffs say. In fact, the Saudi government may have been involved in underwriting the attacks from the earliest stages — including testing cockpit security.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused “architect” of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, will spend the 16th anniversary of the atrocity sitting in Guantánamo Bay, preparing for his 25th pre-trial hearing. That hearing will take place next month. Military prosecutors’ latest estimate is that jury selection in Mohammed’s terrorism trial will begin in January 2019. Most interested experts think that is wildly optimistic, and are asking if a man arrested in Pakistan in 2003 will ever stand trial at all.
“It will take another two, three or four years to get the case to trial and it will take a year or so to try,” the 53-year-old’s lawyer, David Nevin, told the Guardian. Nevin estimated there would likely follow an initial appeal that could take five years, then that appeal going up to the circuit court – another three or four years – and, maybe four years after that, a conclusion in the US supreme court up to 18 years from now – 34 years after the attacks.
“There’s every possibility that my client will die in prison before this process is completed,” said Nevin.
“I don’t have the life expectancy statistics of someone in a US prison, also taking into account it would be someone who’s been tortured, but I’m sure it’s lower than normal. So you have to ask, why exactly are we doing this, or doing it in this way? We are spending millions and millions of [public] dollars every week for something that could be pointless.”
The students hosting conservative pundit Ben Shapiro at UC Berkeley this week say their fingers are crossed, hoping for a left-wing riot they expect will amplify his message. “I am expecting a riot,” said Bradley Devlin, the secretary of the Berkeley College Republicans. “We can look at a political pattern. Whenever the right steps up in the Bay Area, the antifa is there to perpetrate violent acts and shut them down.” ...
Shapiro is a firebrand right-wing pundit who denounces the “alt-right” as anti-Semitic, but provokes the ire of campus liberals by mocking what he calls excesses of political correctness. He’s known for his bigoted tirades against Muslims and transgender people.
Conservative student groups have long used provocative demonstrations and incendiary speakers to gain attention for their cause. The Young America’s Foundation, a conservative group closely affiliated with the Republican Party, provided the $15,000 security fee for the Shapiro event this week. YAF spends over $8 million a year on campus activism, including efforts to bring conservative speakers to college campuses — while filming and publicizing left-wing demonstrators to cast them as extremist. ...
But the strategy has taken on new heights in recent months. Newly energized left-wing groups, which have increasingly embraced violence as a tactic and conservatives on college campuses as their primary target, are providing ample bait for conservatives hoping to shape media coverage and public opinion. ...
Devlin, the Berkeley College Republican official, helped organize the February event for Yiannopoulos that ended in mayhem. The upcoming Shapiro event is scheduled for September 14, which will be followed by Yiannopoulos’ return to campus for “Berkeley Free Speech Week” on September 24-27, an event sponsored by a campus magazine called the Berkeley Patriot.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, will face the first major street protests of his leadership on Tuesday as one of the country’s biggest trade unions demonstrates against his overhaul of labour laws. The leftwing CGT, France’s second biggest trade union, is leading scores of protests across France, with public sector workers, train staff and energy sector workers expected to join.
It is the first test of whether opposition to Macron’s pro-business plans to loosen labour rules could translate into a broader street protest movement, which the new president is determined to face down. The CGT’s secretary general, Philippe Martinez, said more than 180 demonstrations were planned across the country, warning that he sensed “very strong discontent”.
Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker and centrist who was elected in May against the far-right Marine Le Pen, is seeking to style himself as a pro-business reformer who would never give in to street protests. A row broke out this weekend over Macron’s strong language after he said in a speech in Athens that he would “not yield anything, either to the lazy, the cynics or the extremes”. Many on the left expressed outrage, saying the president was implying workers who opposed him were lazy. Indeed the word “lazy” is likely to become the rallying slogan of the anti-Macron demonstrations. The CGT’s Martinez called Macron’s comments “scandalous”.
Macron is facing street demonstrations sooner after taking office than any other recent French leader. This is in part because his labour law changes are being fast-tracked and pushed through parliament with record speed using executive orders. The laws include a cap on payouts for unfair dismissals and greater freedom for employers to hire and fire. The labour rules will affect all private sector workers in France. However, state sector employees are likely to make up the largest number of CGT demonstrators on Tuesday.
This week we attended a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee where there was broad bi-partisan support for giving billions more to the insurance industry to “stabilize the market.” The government already gives for-profit insurance $300 billion annually and their stock values have risen dramatically since passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so the rush to give them more was disheartening. ...
Senators are back from their long summer recess, and they started off with health care back at the top of the agenda. The Senate HELP committee held its first of four hearings on September 6, and Senator Bernie Sanders is preparing to introduce a Medicare for All bill on September 13. The two efforts are a clear example of the underlying dilemma that we have faced in the United States for the past 100 years: Is health care a commodity or a public good? It can’t be both. ...
The entire hearing focused on “stabilizing the insurance market,” even though their stock values have quadrupled since 2010. Five health insurance commissioners from different states testified before the senators and answered questions. It appeared that all had been well-prepped by the health insurance industry. The committee members patted each other on the back for being bi-partisan, unfortunately they were working together for the insurance industry, not for the people.
The bi-partisan hearing discussed three main points: making sure that public dollars were available to subsidize insurance costs, reinsuring private health insurers so they would be protected if they had to spend ‘too much’ money on health care and incentives to entice private insurers back into areas that are not profitable. Coincidentally, these were the same points raised in the bi-partisan proposal published this year by the Center for American Progress, a Democratic Party think tank financed in part by health insurance lobbyists. Both parties are clearly on the side of health care as a commodity.
Not one person participating in the hearing questioned whether health care belonged in the market. At least one Senator, Rand Paul, complained about Big Insurance coming to Washington with their hands out and said he would rather pay directly for health care than give the money to Big Insurance. His ideology is far from supporting Improved Medicare for All, but he did call out the corruption. Perhaps the most disappointing of the day was Senator Al Franken, who has completely bought into the ‘health care is a commodity’ camp. Not only did he advocate for subsidizing and reinsuring private insurers, but he called for a federal reinsurance program to cover the costs of people who need health care, at least after Big Insurance takes their cut.
Equifax Is Proving Why Forced Arbitration Clauses Ought to Be Banned, Just Like the CFPB Wants to Do
Equifax, the credit reporting bureau that on Thursday admitted one of the largest data breaches in history, affecting 143 million U.S. consumers, is maneuvering to prevent victims from banding together to sue the company, according to consumer protection advocates and elected officials.
Equifax is offering all those affected by the breach a free, one-year credit monitoring service called TrustedID Premier, which will watch credit reports for suspicious activity, lock and unlock Equifax credit reports, scan the internet for Social Security numbers, and add insurance for identity theft. But the service includes a forced arbitration clause, which pushes all disputes over the monitoring out of court. It also includes a waiver of the right to enter into a class-action lawsuit.
This shields TrustedID Premier from legal exposure, instead relying on a process that’s very favorable to corporate interests. At first the arbitration clause was a non-negotiable feature of the contract. Now Equifax says you can opt out, but only if you contact them in writing within 30 days.
There’s already a proposed class-action suit against Equifax itself, arguing that the company failed to protect consumer data and exposed hundreds of millions to identity theft. But if you can’t sue over the credit monitoring but only the credit breach, it could significantly lessen the damages at issue. Also the language of the arbitration clause is fairly broad, saying that those who agree to the credit monitoring “will be forfeiting your right to bring or participate in any class action … or to share in any class awards, even if the facts and circumstances upon which the claims are based already occurred or existed.” Presumably some defense lawyer is thinking up a clever way to apply that to the Equifax breach itself. ...
“Equifax just gave 143 million reasons why Americans should tell Congress not to take away their day in court when companies like Equifax abuse their trust,” said Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center.
Some adjustments made to more truthfully present the material:
Sanders to Grassroots Army: New
'Medicare for All'Public Option Bill Only Beginning of Battles to Come
As he gears up to introduce on Wednesday his much-anticipated
Medicare for Allpublic option bill—which has already garnered the support of several high-profile Democratic senators—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is urging activists and lawmakers to remember that bringing legislation to the table is merely the first step in a long struggle to guarantee healthcare for all Americans.
"This is not going to be a quick or easy fight," Sanders noted in a recent email to supporters. "We'll be taking on the insurance companies, the drug companies, Wall Street, and all those who make billions in profit from the current dysfunctional system."
Sanders and his allies are now executing a massive digital ad campaign that seeks to build upon the surging support for
Medicare for Allpublic option at the grassroots. As Common Dreams reported, the campaign has hauled in a flood of small-dollar contributions, reminiscent of Sanders' 2016 presidential run. ...
Acknowledging in an interview with NPR that the legislation will not pass the "very right-wing" Congress, Sanders has said the purpose of introducing the legislation, and of launching the
Medicare for Allpublic option campaign, is to continue building popular support while also calling attention to the fact that "the United States is the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people."
Always ready with a cheerful word, Chris Hedges weighs in:
How many times will we rebuild Florida’s cities, Houston, coastal New Jersey, New Orleans and other population centers ravaged by storms lethally intensified by global warming? At what point, surveying the devastation and knowing more is inevitable, will we walk away, leaving behind vast coastal dead zones? Will we retreat even further into magical thinking to cope with the fury we have unleashed from the natural world? Or will we respond rationally and radically alter our relationship to this earth that gives us life?
Civilizations over the past 6,000 years have unfailingly squandered their futures through acts of colossal stupidity and hubris. We are probably not an exception. The physical ruins of these empires, including the Mesopotamian, Roman, Mayan and Indus, litter the earth. They elevated, during acute distress, inept and corrupt leaders who channeled anger, fear and dwindling resources into self-defeating wars and vast building projects. The ruling oligarchs, driven by greed and hedonism, retreated into privileged compounds—the Forbidden City, Versailles—and hoarded wealth as their populations endured mounting misery and poverty. The worse it got, the more the people lied to themselves and the more they wanted to be lied to. Reality was too painful to confront. They retreated into what anthropologists call “crisis cults,” which promised the return of the lost world through magical beliefs.
“The most significant characteristic of modern civilization is the sacrifice of the future for the present,” philosopher and psychologist William James wrote, “and all the power of science has been prostituted to this purpose.”
We are entering this final phase of civilization, one in which we are slashing the budgets of the very agencies that are vital to prepare for the devastation ahead—the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration dealing with climate change. Hurricane after hurricane, monster storm after monster storm, flood after flood, wildfire after wildfire, drought after drought will gradually cripple the empire, draining its wealth and resources and creating swathes of territory defined by lawlessness and squalor. ...
A society in crisis flees to the reassuring embrace of con artists and charlatans. Critics who ring alarm bells are condemned as pessimists who offer no “hope,” the drug that keeps a doomed population passive. The current administration—which removed Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan from the White House website as soon as Donald Trump took office—and the Republican Party are filled with happy climate deniers. They have adopted a response to climate change similar to that of the Virginia Legislature: ban discussion of climate change and replace the term with the less ominous “recurrent flooding.” This denial of reality—one also employed by those who assure us we can adapt—is driven by fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries that along with the rich and corporations fund the political campaigns of elected officials. They fear that a rational, effective response to climate change will impede profits. Our corporate media, dependent on advertising dollars, contributes to the conspiracy of silence. It ignores the patterns and effects of climate change, focusing instead on feel-good stories about heroic rescues or dramatic coverage of flooded city centers and storm refugee caravans fleeing up the coast of Florida.
As one of the most powerful storms ever recorded bore down on the continental United States, with much of Florida under evacuation order, President Donald Trump was focused on a matter of grave urgency. He gathered his cabinet at Camp David and said there was no time to waste. With Hurricane Irma set to potentially devastate huge swaths of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, now was the time, he said, to rush through massive … tax cuts. ...
Some have speculated that seeing the reality of climate change hit so close to home this summer — Houston underwater, Los Angeles licked by flames, and now southern states getting battered by Irma — might be some kind of wake-up call for climate change-denying Republicans. ... But Trump’s timing is even more revealing for what it shows about what’s really driving climate change denial on the right. It’s not a rejection of the science, but a rejection of the consequences of the science. Put simply, if the science is true, then the whole economic project that has dominated American power structures since Ronald Reagan was president is out the window, and the deniers know it.
Because if climate change is driving the kinds of catastrophes we are seeing right now — and it is — then it doesn’t just mean Trump has to apologize and admit he was wrong when he called it a Chinese hoax. It means that he also needs to junk his whole tax plan, because we’re going to need that tax money (and more) to pay for a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. And it also means he’s going to have to junk his deregulatory plan, because if we are going to change how we power our lives, we’re going to need all kinds of regulations to manage and enforce it. And, of course, this is not just about Trump — it’s about all the climate-denying Republican governors whose states are currently being pounded. All of them would have to junk an entire twisted worldview holding that the market is always right, regulation is always wrong, private is good and public is bad, and taxes that support public services are the worst of all.
Here is what we need to understand in a hurry: Climate change, especially at this late date, can only be dealt with through collective action that sharply curtails the behavior of corporations, such as Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs (both so lavishly represented at Trump’s cabinet meeting). Climate action demands investments in the public sphere — in new energy grids, public transit and light rail, and energy efficiency — on a scale not seen since World War II. And that can only happen by raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, the very people Trump is determined to shower with the most generous tax cuts, loopholes, and regulatory breaks.
In short, climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. To admit that the climate crisis is real is to admit the end of their political and economic project. ... And this isn’t only about the right — it’s also about the center. What mainstream liberals have been saying about climate change for decades is that we simply need to tweak the existing system here and there and everything will be fine. You can have Goldman Sachs capitalism plus solar panels. But at this stage, the challenge we are up against is much deeper than that.
After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy, most rational nations would have imposed restrictions on coastal building and devoted meaningful portions of the national treasury to fund scientific research to limit future loss of life and economic hardships from such monster storms. And yet, here we are in 2017 facing the current reality: vast swaths of a major economic hub, Houston, lies in ruins from the flooding unleashed by Hurricane Harvey while the entire State of Florida awoke this morning to the chaos unleashed yesterday and overnight by the bizarre 415 mile-wide Hurricane Irma, with a reported 4.5 million homes and businesses currently without power in Florida, a state where temperatures routinely reach into the 90s in September and air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury.
The leadership in Washington has not reflected that of a rational nation for many years now and, tragically, U.S. citizens, for the most part, have allowed their democracy to become a spectator sport.
Florida began the colossal task of cleaning up after Hurricane Irma on Monday, as the remnants of the most powerful storm in Atlantic history limped north towards the Georgia border. Daylight exposed the extent of the damage in the hardest-hit areas of the Florida Keys and the south-west coast, both whipped by the worst of Irma’s 130mph winds during the storm’s double landfall.
Officials in Monroe County warned of a potential “humanitarian crisis” in the Keys with military crews on standby with body bags for possible fatalities among those who failed to heed a mandatory evacuation order. In Marco Island on the west coast, where Irma made its second Florida landfall on Sunday, and in Naples to the north, authorities were assessing the impact of Irma’s storm surge.
But the effects of the hurricane’s long reach stretched across Florida. More than 5.5 million people were without power, 2 million of them in communities around the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Reports of property damage and beach erosion were widespread and pictures emerge of yachts smashed to pieces in wrecked marinas.
Five deaths were attributed to the storm in Florida, adding to its toll of more than 25 during its rampage across the Caribbean. In Jacksonville on Monday search and rescue teams from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Department were sent into flooded neighbourhoods to reach stranded residents.
Donald Trump, who monitored the storm over the weekend from the Camp David presidential retreat, pledged the full resources of the federal government to assist the relief and recovery effort, which some experts estimate could reach $290bn, combined with the cost of Hurricane Harvey’s strike on Texas last month.
We’ve increased the temperature of the Earth a little more than 1C so far, which has been enough extra heat to account for the horrors we’re currently witnessing. And with the momentum built into the system, we’re going to go somewhere near 2C, no matter what we do. That will be considerably worse than where we are now, but maybe it will be expensively endurable.
The problem is, our current business-as-usual trajectory takes us to a world that’s about 3.5C warmer. That is to say, even if we kept the promises we made at Paris (which Trump has already, of course, repudiated) we’re going to build a planet so hot that we can’t have civilisations. We have to seize the moment we’re in right now – the moment when we’re scared and vulnerable – and use it to dramatically reorient ourselves. The last three years have each broken the record for the hottest year ever measured – they’re a red flashing sign that says: “Snap out of it.” Not bend the trajectory somewhat, as the Paris accords envisioned, but simultaneously jam on the fossil fuel brakes and stand on the solar accelerator (and also find some metaphors that don’t rely on internal combustion).
We could do it. It’s not technologically impossible – study after study has shown we can get to 100% renewables at a manageable cost, more manageable all the time, since the price of solar panels and windmills keeps plummeting. Elon Musk is showing you can churn out electric cars with ever-lower sticker shock. In remote corners of Africa and Asia, peasants have begun leapfrogging past fossil fuel and going straight to the sun. The Danes just sold their last oil company and used the cash to build more windmills. There are just enough examples to make despair seem like the cowardly dodge it is. But everyone everywhere would have to move with similar speed, because this is in fact a race against time. Global warming is the first crisis that comes with a limit – solve it soon or don’t solve it. Winning slowly is just a different way of losing. ...
What do you think it means when your forests are on fire, your streets are underwater, and your buildings are collapsing?
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Bobby Byrd & The JB's - Doin' The Do
Bobby Byrd and the Birds - The Truth Hurts
Bobby Byrd - It's I Who Love You (Not Him Anymore)
James Brown & Bobby Byrd - You've Got To Change Your Mind
Bobby Byrd - If You Got a Love You Better Hold On To It
Bobby Byrd - If Loving You Is Wrong I Don't Want to Be Right
Bobby Byrd - I'll Lose My Mind
Bobby Byrd - Write Me A Letter
The Flambeaus (Bobby Byrd) - Nobody Knows
Bobby Byrd - If you don't work you can't eat
James Brown & Bobby Byrd - Hang Ups We Don't Need
Bobby Byrd - Nice Jazz Festival 1998