If Only Tulsi Gabbard Could Be Elected President

By Arlen Grossman

“Trump… Nikki Haley…Mike Pompeo… The people around John Bolton. These people are advocating for strengthening our economy, and if the only way they can do that is by building that economy based on building and selling weapons to countries that are using them to slaughter and murder innocent people, then we need new leaders in this country. The American people deserve better than that.” — Tulsi Gabbard

More and more I’m liking Tulsi Gabbard. She is a young, passionate candidate with progressive ideas. What makes Gabbard stand out among the other Democratic candidates is her willingness to strongly call out the military-industrial complex and its never-ending wars.

Gabbard is a 38-year-old four-term congresswoman from Hawaii. She was deployed in Iraq and Kuwait and currently serves as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard. She is certainly not your typical presidential candidate. She was born in American Samoa and is a practicing Hindu.

Her military experience gives her some cred when she decries military intervention. She wants the U.S. to disengage from foreign wars and focus on peacemaking. For this reason, this makes her an outlier among other elected officials, Democrat or Republican. It makes her toxic to the mainstream ruling class and corporate media. And it guarantees she will never come close to becoming president.

Gabbard checks off on all the progressive policy positions. She supports Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, campaign finance reform, reforming Glass-Steagall to rein in the big banks, free college tuition, criminal justice reform, and most every other domestic progressive policy.

It is in the area of foreign policy that she most departs from the other candidates. Asked if there were any wars that justified the use of US military force, Gabbard cited World War II as her only example. She has said, “When it comes to the war against terrorists, I’m a hawk,” but “when it comes to counterproductive wars of regime change, I’m a dove.” Tulsi’s website states her belief that “the United States would be far better off spending the trillions of dollars wasted in interventionist wars on more pressing domestic issues in America, like infrastructure, college debt, healthcare, etc.”

Her views are really not radical at all. They are largely a refection of what the public believes. A J.Wallin Opinion Research survey last year revealed that 71 percent of Americans believed Congress should pass legislation that restrained military action. 86.4 percent believe the military should be used only as a last resort. And 63.9 percent of those polled felt that military aid, both money and weapons, should not be provided to regimes like Saudi Arabia—the West’s top ally in the Arab world.

Unfortunately, her positions on military policy guarantee she will not be considered a viable candidate for president. The powers that be are not in favor of anyone who is not strong on military issues. I don’t expect her to be a contender, but I wish she could be.

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Tulsi Gabbard at CNN Debate

Arlen Grossman is, of course, editor of The Big Picture Report.
Posted in Democratic Party, elections, foreign policy, military, war | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

How the World Will End

This is scary stuff–because it is all too real–TBPR Editor

Humanity Is Riding Delusion to Extinction

By Maj. Danny Sjuren/ Truthdig/ December 2, 2019

horse

Horses sporting gas masks. That, of all things, has been on my mind lately. Bear with me, now. Gaze at the ever-so-cockamamie photo. A horse, wearing a gas mask. Nothing so illustrates the rank absurdity and irrationality of the human condition. It was during World War I—which killed an unheard-of nine million soldiers in just four years—that the armies of Europe still employed horses in an age of machine guns, airplanes (eventually), tanks and poison gas attacks. Rather than call a halt to the inane slaughter in the trenches, the world’s great powers fought that wildly nationalistic war to its macabre conclusion. One result was horses in gas masks. That was only a hundred years ago.

As the U.S. government, as well as far too many Americans, remain fixated on the decidedly minor threat of Islamist “terrorism,” two actual global existential perils persist and are hardly addressed. I’m speaking, of course, of nuclear war and man-made, climate-based catastrophe. Hardly any serious establishment political figure in this country has taken meaningful action on such grave matters, mind you—busy as they are either reflexively attacking or defending Trump’s comparably trivial policies in Ukraine or Syria. Who noticed as the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists ticked the Doomsday Clock a stroke closer to midnight? Who has commented on the absurd reality that one of the two major American political parties denies the very existence of climate change, while the (hardly progressive) Pentagon repeatedly warns of its reality and profound consequences?

Which brings me back to the irrational slaughter of the First World War: its philosophical meaning, consequences, and what it, and a few subsequent events, portends for the fate of humanity. Were the generals of the era simply dumb for sending waves of infantrymen into the teeth of machine-gun fire, or did they face the old “wheel problem?” It took human beings at least tens of thousands of years to even conceive of the wheel. Seen in this context, the three or so years it took the generals to develop a combined-arms (tanks + radios + artillery + small unit infantry maneuver) “solution” to break the stalemate doesn’t seem quite so awful. Not that many, if not most, senior commanders couldn’t be at times, and especially early on, obtuse, arrogant and callous.

They and their civilian political masters ought to have recognized, when around a million soldiers died in the first five months of war, that as of Dec. 31, 1914, nationalism was obsolete. Fighting for one’s “country,” the romance of national power, was essentially—with the advent of efficient machine guns and poison gas—a suicide pact among each country’s young men. Yet on the war raged, and soon enough, an even bloodier Second World War broke out. This happened despite the widespread global antiwar sentiment in the wake of the first war. Few major governments were responsive, and despite the profound hopes among WWII veterans that theirs would be the last, war has continued almost endlessly into our new century.

The Second World War began with its own horse-gas-mask, technology-ahead-of-tactics sort of absurdity, when, in September 1939, Polish cavalrymen (to some degree apocryphally) faced off with German tanks. But the real, philosophical, lesson of that war’s culmination was this: If World War I should’ve made nationalism obsolete, events in August 1945 ought to have proven that countries were themselves outmoded. Because, when the United States (still the only country, ever, to do so) slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians with two atomic bombs, the whole game changed.

At that point, for the first time in organized human history and due to the fantastically destructive power of nuclear weapons, a single nation could end the world within minutes. It is that sort of planet that the human race has inhabited for 75 years. And we aren’t scared enough. Until the invention and proliferation of atomic and hydrogen bombs, no single state or empire possessed world-ending power. Even Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler were eventually checked by coalitions of convenience and necessity. The Macedonian spearmen were halted by determined Afghan tribesmen; Mongol horsemen were held off by Egyptian and European armies; and as for the Nazis, the paradoxical duo of the Soviets and the Americans had their number.

The near certainty of planet-destroying nuclear winter in the event of major war has forever changed the entire geopolitical calculus. Or, at least, it should have. These days, a “rogue” state like North Korea, or eventually the Czech Republic or Bhutan, could end the world. Such a ludicrously tenuous situation clearly demonstrates that the only rational model of geopolitics capable of avoiding catastrophe, whether due to nuclear annihilation or collective climate suicide, is some sort of world government.

The United Nations or the European Union (but not military-focused NATO) represent the only rational model for compromise, conversation and war avoidance. Only today, in a paragon of inherent human irrationality, it is precisely such models against which Western (Trump, Brexit, Orban), and other (Bolsonaro, Putin, Xi Jinping) governments react. Collective delusion—reflected in the populist, rightward, authoritarian global political wave—might just spell the end of organized human life on this planet. It seems that plenty of folks worldwide are riding nationalist nostalgia right to the edge of extinction. These sorts of strongman leaders historically have poor records on communal action—exactly what’s now needed to save the world.

Perhaps the key metaphysical problem is this: Human beings simply don’t live long enough. Limited life spans inherently seem to encourage selfish, expedient, short-term, and thus delusional and destructive, thinking. In that sense, climate change, though it’s becoming increasingly imminent, may just be too big (and long-term, and existential) of a problem for the truncated life spans of most humans. Especially, it appears, among the wealthy elites clearly living it up in what may the last days of their species’ existence. Egyptian pharaohs, who once had themselves entombed with their worldly treasures, have a current equivalent in the CEOs set to drown in rising seas while their wealth is stashed in (far more virtual) mutual funds and subprime mortgage bundles.

As oceans flood the coasts, famine breaks out wholesale and resource-driven inter-state combat breaks out, my guess is that most desperate people will ignore John Lennon’s advice and turn toward religion—or the irrationality of the humanity-unique casino/gambling culture—to endure the absurdity of their existence. Perhaps eventually, though time is ever-so-short, people will force governments to unite, organize and (just barely) avoid disaster. I’m rooting for humanity, no doubt, but my own limited life experience has made me unlikely to bet on our species.

All the knowledge needed to save the world from climate catastrophe (and even nuclear war) is on our iPhones. Unfortunately, most Americans are too busy watching porn and trolling their exes on Facebook to unite, organize and save themselves. It’s an irrational, and classically human, defense mechanism of sorts. Such is life, in all its bizarre glory, all its absurdity.

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Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army Major and regular contributor to Truthdig. His work has also appeared in Harper’s, The LA Times, The Nation, TomDispatch, The Huffington Post, and The Hill. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, “Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.” He co-hosts the progressive veterans’ podcast “Fortress on a Hill.” Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

Copyright 2019 Danny Sjursen

Posted in environment, foreign policy, global warming, humanity, military, nuclear weapons, politics, war | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Progress on Ideas?

The Left Is Finally Winning the War of Ideas

By Lee Camp/ Truthdig/ December 3, 2019

 

Good ideas are like viruses. They grow and spread despite our best efforts to stop them. And yes, our bulbous, awkward species does indeed work very hard to catch and kill good ideas.

At the time I write this column, the first Democratic primaries are approaching with the zest and excitement of an unavoidable bowel movement. Even if you read this a year or two or 10 from now, primaries will still be advancing toward you. As sure as the universe expands, the primaries approach. The moment we finish one election season, another is on the horizon.

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This serves two purposes. First, it continuously makes voters think that we matter, that we have a lot of sway over the course this country takes. We don’t. (Well, not as much as we think we do.) And the second purpose is to fill the mainstream media airwaves with vacuous political play-by-play for two straight years. For example, by covering the three-point shift in Pete Buttigieg’s likability amongst Iowans (which matters as much as a three-point shift in the average Iowan’s concern about getting trichinosis from undercooked anchovies), the corporate media cogs can avoid talking about the exploitation of American workers or the massive debt crushing most people or the environmental collapse gripping the planet or the highly advanced, highly illegal surveillance state in which we live.

Our electoral politics is a beautiful smokescreen for the ruling elite.

But no matter what happens in these overtly rigged Democratic National Committee primaries (See: media manipulation, voter suppression, corporate spending, super delegates, unverifiable voting machines, etc. etc. etc.), those of us who care about the world and care about our fellow human beings are winning the war of ideas. Simply take a look at the ideas that are dominating the Democratic presidential race, even though the corporate media has tried to ignore these solutions, attack them, dispute them, and then ignore them all over again.

1) Medicare for All

This is the idea that if you’re 5 years old and you break your arm, no matter how little you get paid at your child labor job, you shouldn’t have to fix your broken arm yourself with a papier-mâché cast made from soiled Kleenex and bird poop. Medicare for All was initially put forward by the Green Party and left-wing activists, and now it’s a mainstream discussion. The idea perseveres despite interminable attacks from the moneyed and the well-heeled as they sit neck-deep in mountains of top-shelf health care. (I hear many of them get young blood transfusions just for kicks on the weekend.) The rich continue to espouse one of the worst systems in the developed world, as if it’s somehow justifiable that two-thirds of Americans who declare bankruptcy each year do so partially because of health care costs.

2) The Green New Deal

This is an economic proposal that would give a majority of Americans a job and switch to renewable energy, among other things. Basically it would solve both our fossil fuel death spiral and unemployment problems in one fell swoop. It was put forward initially by the Green Party and left-wing activists, but then it quickly rose to the level of mainstream discussion, resulting in a bill by Congress. This is an impressive feat even though there are criticisms of the Democratic rewriting of the Green New Deal (such as its failure to address the military-industrial complex, which happens to be the largest polluter in the known world, but maybe we’ll find a lost tribe in the Amazon that runs a few hundred thousand warships on diesel and then our Pentagon will drop down to the second biggest polluter).

3) Legalizing Marijuana

If I have to explain what this is to you, then you clearly haven’t turned on a television in the past 50 years nor caught a glimpse of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (the show, the movie, the action figure, the comic book, the video game, the candy or the song). The legalization of cannabis in all its nifty forms has rapidly spread across the country—which is not just crucial to people who have gained tremendous medical benefits from cannabis but also crucial for anybody who needs to get viciously baked in order to watch the impeachment hearings (which is the only legitimate way to watch the impeachment hearings).

Marijuana has become so widely accepted that Joe Biden recently became a laughingstock when he called weed a “gateway drug.” Yes grandpa, the evil weed is a gateway drug, and rock music is the devil’s work, and dancing with a girl before marriage can cause one’s phallus to fall off. … Not to mention, who is Joe Biden to tell us not to get a little loopy at the end of a long day? How many prescription meds must it take that guy to simply put on his pants each morning?

4) $15 Minimum Wage

I don’t have to tell you why this matters. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. You know what you can buy with $7 these days? A Ding-Dong out of the vending machine. So maybe, after a worker has labored for 39 straight hours, he can tether all the Ding-Dong packages together into a rudimentary raft that will allow him to float downriver to somewhere that treats him better. At $7.25 an hour, no one can possibly get by. I did the math: You’d have to work for 3700 years just to afford a ticket to the Mötley Crüe reunion tour. (And they’re not even good. Imagine if you wanted tickets to see someone good.)

5) Distrust of Mainstream Corporate Media

Even if you’re one of these certifiable nut-bags who still turns on CNN or Fox News every day all day, you still understand that you’re not getting the full truth. You might think you’re getting a piece of it, but not all of it. … Also, you should be euthanized.

(Okay, maybe not euthanized, but anyone who leaves cable news on in the background just to feel warm and cozy should at the very least be left on a faraway island to live out their days. If you’re one of them, please stop it. Corporate media crap is not the audio version of your childhood blankey. It’s pathetic PROPAGANDA. … Sorry to yell.)

6) Distrust of U.S.-Backed Coups and War Games

Most Americans are opposed to endless war now. We’re opposed to harming and killing so many millions in the name of propping up our bloated, belligerent empire that eats entire nations and then vomits up new KFC franchise locations. Obviously the growing disgust among most of the country has not managed to stop the bombs from falling, but it’s a start.

I’m sure you don’t have the time to read the entire list of ideas that were once considered far left and are now mainstream vibrant discussions—abolishing ICE, holding police accountable, distrusting the intelligence community AKA the surveillance state, questioning capitalism, ending factory farming, confronting the extreme climate crisis, etc. etc. Sure, our elections are rigged in favor of the two corporate Wall Street-funded parties. And yes, our media is owned and operated by the largest, most aggressive corporations in the world leaving little to no room on the air for the anti-war activists offering free hugs and senseless acts of kindness. But that’s why it’s all the more impressive that in so many areas, we are winning the seemingly endless battle for the mindscape of our country.

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news.

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Who Do Republicans Work For?

Why have no Republicans turned on Trump? A corrupted Supreme Court

By Thom Hartmann/ Raw Story/ December 4, 2019

GOP

There is a very simple reason why some Republicans voted for the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, but none have so far broken ranks against Trump.

That reason is a corrupted U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1976 (Buckley v. Valeo) and 1978 (First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti), the Supreme Court ruled that when corporations and billionaires purchase their very own politicians, it is constitutionally protected “free speech” rather than “bribery,” which is how we defined it from the beginning of our republic until 1976. In 2010, the Supreme Court doubled down on its betrayal of American democracy with its Citizens Uniteddecision.

After those twin decisions in the 1970s, money from corporations and the morbidly rich began to flow into the coffers of the Republican Party, hoisting Ronald Reagan into the White House. (Democrats were then still largely funded by unions, and thus not so easily up for sale.)
As a result, today’s Republican politicians are wholly owned agents of corporations and the billionaire class, stoking extreme anger over a few social issues (immigration, guns, God, gays, race) and using it to bring in the Fox rubes that the billionaire Murdochs kindly hand them.

Prior to this betrayal of America by the Supreme Court, politicians generally felt a need to respond to the wants and needs of their constituents. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s people-powered election in 1932 to Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, politicians’ proposed legislation and votes tended to reflect what the people in their districts or states wanted.

Nixon’s impeachment hearings happened in 1974, before the Supreme Court legalized bribery—and so the Senate voted 77-0 to forward the investigation, and the House voted 412-3 to accept the Judiciary Committee’s report showing “clear and convincing evidence” of Nixon’s corruption. Republicans were more concerned about their voters than about their donors back then.

From the 1980s to today, though, as a study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page shows, the political desires of the economic bottom 90 percent of Americans are completely irrelevant to the introduction or passage of legislation. But the desires of the top 10 percent of Americans are consistently passed into law and policy.

Republicans don’t want the money to stop, so they have to keep supporting Trump as he pushes the corporate- and billionaire-friendly policies of deregulation and tax cuts supported by their donors.

When the billionaires abandon Trump, so will the GOP.

It’s really just that simple.

As long as the Supreme Court continues to assert that there is absolutely nothing wrong with billionaires and corporations owning politicians, the GOP will continue to be an extension of the lobbying industry and the morbidly rich. In exchange for deregulation and tax cuts, that bunch would work to keep a gerbil in the White House, if that’s what it took.

And as long as their owners and funders continue to pay Republicans to keep Trump in office, they’ll continue to say, “How high?” every time Trump yells, “Jump!”

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of “The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America” and more than 25 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

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Climate Change Is Not the Problem

Why climate change is an irrelevance, economic growth is a myth and sustainability is forty years too late

By Kevin Casey/ Global Comment/ November 20, 2019

As someone who has been exploring the world’s most isolated wilderness regions for nearly half a century, I have some insight into the state of the planet and the human race’s current environmental befuddlement. I’ve watched the condition of the earth plummet before my eyes within my own lifespan, to the extent that I no longer recognize it as the beautiful, diverse supporter of all life it once was.

So let me start by addressing a few key points of confusion that seem to affect both keen activists and head-in-the-sand deniers in equal measure:

Climate change is not the biggest threat to the world’s environment – we are. The world’s rivers and seas aren’t choked with floating piles of rubbish, toxic chemicals and plastic waste because of climate change. They’re that way because we have 7.7 billion people crammed onto a planet that’s dying under the pressure of our greedy, selfish abuse. Two decades from now, the earth’s oceans are on target to contain more plastic in them (by weight) than fish. Climate change didn’t do that. Way too many people did that.

'They sed to be thought of as crackpots.' (Sign reads - civilization is doomed due to overpopulation, pollution, misuse of energy and resources.)

Climate change hasn’t covered the world with concrete or replaced healthy ecosystems with canal estates and shopping malls – we and our ever-increasing numbers are the culprit. Climate change is only one of many symptoms of an out-of-control disease – human overpopulation. The irreversible environmental damage stemming from having too many people on a finite planet is already painfully evident. Our bloated population is diminishing our children’s futures in ways that have very little to do with the planet’s temperature.

I keep hearing people say “Humans have always found a way to solve difficult problems, so don’t worry – it’ll all work itself out”. Alas, the problem the earth faces now is one it has never dealt with before – a plague of nearly 8 billion humans. It can’t cope anymore.

We’ve been so distracted making money, embracing our agendas and spreading myths about ‘growth’ and ‘progress’ that we forgot to notice we’ve turned our only viable planetary home into a spherical garbage dump. Humans may be impressively intelligent, but they’re also profoundly self-focused and short-sighted.

No politician talks about our population epidemic. All you hear from them is ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ and ‘more growth’. You don’t hear climate change activists talking about overpopulation, either. It’s too dangerous a subject, too painful a reality. It permanently occupies the ‘too hard’ basket.

Instead, we’ve all jumped on the global warming bandwagon. We stridently blame governments for lack of action on climate change – while secretly hoping that whatever they decide to do doesn’t adversely affect our consumer lifestyle.

Let’s not confuse activism with action – they’re not the same. One is about social inclusion and feeling good about your outrage; the other is about doing something tangible to make things better.

I hate to burst this old-school bubble, but there’s no longer such a thing as economic growth – not in this century. There’s no true sustainability, either – not any more. The ‘environmental tipping point’ everyone loves to talk about was actually reached around 1980, when science tells us that humanity began to consume more of the earth’s resources than the planet could possibly regenerate. We’ve gobbled up more of our planet’s resources in the past fifty years than in all previous human history combined and polluted our way to prosperity in the process. Climate change had nothing to do with any of that – and still doesn’t.

Economic growth needs population growth to sustain itself. But when a depleted planet can no longer carry the burden of an existing population and its endless demands, growth is nothing but a dangerous illusion. Today’s ‘healthy economy’ is tomorrow’s dystopian misery.

In this century, what we still mistakenly call economic growth is environmental destruction, pure and simple. Nothing we do today can be called sustainable on a planet that has already endured four solid decades of irreplaceable resource use. The 1970s were the last sustainable decade for mankind. Unfortunately, at the time, no one took notice that a tipping point had been reached and passed.

Our current environmental woes have almost nothing to do with the climate and everything to do with how we’ve been treating the earth – not just recently but for many centuries. We’ve always abused the earth horribly and managed to get away with it because our numbers weren’t significant enough to cause lasting damage. Now our numbers are out of control, and that presents us with limited options.

In hindsight, we should have addressed rampant overpopulation shortly after WW2, when the global population was still around 2.5 billion – less than a third of what it is today. But we were in the midst of jubilant post-war optimism and still believed in the delusion of ‘nature’s endless bounty’.

If you could go back in time to around 1604, to the spot where Manhattan now sits, you would see a tiny settlement of about 150 people enjoying a pristine coastal wilderness with superb growing soil, ample wildlife and rich timber forests – a genuine paradise on earth. Back then, whales would wander up the clean, fish-rich Hudson River and you could pull lobsters out of the sea half as long as a man. Huge flocks of passenger pigeons blackened the sky.

Today, that same place is wall-to-wall concrete, with one of the highest human population densities on earth. We’ve been so busy ‘improving’ things that we’ve destroyed practically everything. In the end, our legacy as a species won’t be about all the wonderful things we’ve created while we’ve occupied the earth. It will be about all the wonderful things we’ve destroyed.

The most astounding explosion of human population in history happened on my generation’s watch, so we need to take ownership of that lack of foresight. Our own children are now paying the price for our blunders and have every right to be worried about the earth’s future – and theirs. But let’s not heap all the blame on baby boomers. Previous generations helped the planet’s degradation along just as blindly, and today’s young people still expect the sort of prosperous lifestyle that a dying planet can now only provide in the very short term.

So, I would patiently urge all climate-change activists to direct their environmental concerns at those who really deserve it. They can start with the economists, developers and politicians who blissfully believe that the status quo of ‘perpetual growth’ still works. They can then move on to the religious zealots who still spout the mantra of ‘man’s dominion over nature’ and abhor the idea of contraceptives. After that, they can apportion a hefty dose of blame to the world leaders who purposefully sidestep the overpopulation issue like the political hot potato it is, despite the fact that it’s killing our planet and robbing future generations of the spectacular biodiversity and viable ecosystems that older generations took for granted. And finally, they can look in the mirror and ask themselves what they are personally doing (besides protesting in the streets) to make their planet a better place for all the life that dwells on it.

What are the solutions to an overcrowded planet? Firstly, to stop getting sidetracked by the climate change industry and recognize that the problem is our sheer numbers and blatant disregard for the planet’s health – not the climate. We must replace political and economic agendas and warped ideologies with better education (especially in science). We need more global promotion of family planning, more female empowerment and government incentives to have fewer children – not more. And sadly, we should have been proactive about all this stuff at least 60 years ago, instead of just waking up to our self-inflicted predicament now.

While it’s reassuring that today’s young people are increasingly aware of the seriousness of their environmental plight, they are protesting up the wrong tree. They should direct their passionate attention to the real enemy – a greedy, arrogant, two-legged species that’s in furious denial and has become far too adept at making excuses for the inexcusable.

Posted in Climate, climate change, environment, overpopulation | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Life of the Potty

My silly and quirky children’s book is now available at Amazon as an ebook and a paperback….

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Click Here: Amazon.com: Now in Paperback.

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OLIGARCH NATION

Revenge of the Billionaires: How an Oligarchy of the Morbidly Rich Can Take Down Democracy

By Thom Hartmann/ AlterNet/ November 22, 2019 

 

The current issue of the Atlantic magazine founded itself in the years just before the Civil War, is ominously titled, “How to Stop a Civil War.”

If we are, indeed, on the brink of a second Civil War, it’s already being waged as a “cold war,” with the occasional armed skirmish being provoked by the so-called alt-right movement. And, as in the past, this will be a war by the very, very rich against the rest of America.

This is not the first time we’ve faced such a crisis as a nation.

 

Each time, forces of massive accumulated or inherited wealth have nearly succeeded in taking full control of our nation, replacing a democracy, where the will of the people is accomplished through their elected representatives, with a form of government where most government functions reinforce the power, wealth and control of the morbidly rich.

 

This system of government is among the most ancient, stretching back 7,000 years, and is known to political scientists as oligarchyAristotle put it in context: “Tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy…”

For oligarchy to totally take down democracy, only three things are initially needed:
  • Control of (or substantial influence over) a critical portion of the media
  • Legalization of bribery of public officials, so oligarchs can achieve majority control of the legislative process
  • Control of the most critical parts of the court system so they can control legal processes

A fourth element, once the oligarchy is well established, is the formation of a police state, principally using selective prosecution against those agitating for a return to democracy.

Arnold Toynbee is said to have noted that “When the last man who remembers the horrors of the last great war dies, the next great war becomes inevitable.” Most warriors are in their late teens or early 20s; by the time they’ve died, three more generations have come of age, suggesting, if Toynbee was right, a four-generation gap between “great wars.”

In their book The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous With Destiny, William Strauss and Neil Howe apply the theory to the United States. The Revolutionary War began in 1775; 86 years later in 1861, the Civil War began; 78 years later in 1939, America was combatting “the twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II,” write Strauss and Howe, adding: “Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with” these crises.

The three crises did not simply come out of nowhere; cycles of events had been building for the preceding generations to create the context for each.

In the 1770s, foreign-aligned oligarchs controlled what we now call America; believers in democracy fought a war to overthrow that British oligarchy.

Four generations later, in the 1850s, massive wealth was controlled by a few thousand very large plantation oligarchs in the South. The South was politically and police-wise run as a full-blown oligarchy, while the North was still largely democratic (the “Gilded Age” Northern oligarchs wouldn’t fully emerge for another 30 years). The Civil War could thus be recast as a war between oligarchy and democracy, where democracy won by a whisker.

About four generations after that, in 1921, Warren Harding and his oligarch supporters took control of our federal government, leading to the “Roaring Twenties” (in which working people’s wages stagnated, but people at the top made out like bandits), and the Great Crash of 1929. The Republican Great Depression (what they called it until the 1950s) opened the door to Franklin Roosevelt’s “war” against the “economic royalists” (oligarchs), which succeeded in putting them, at least temporarily, in a box despite their explicit efforts, exposed by Marine General Smedley Butler, to overthrow him by force.

In 2019, it’s been about four generations since that battle—and the groundwork has been laid for another crisis.

In the 1970s, America’s oligarchs succeeded in getting enough of “their guys” placed on the Supreme Court to, in 1976 and 1978, legalize political bribery for the first time in American history. This opened the door to oligarchic control of all three branches of government via the Reagan Revolution.

All that was left was to get the populace to support a final transition to oligarchy, a task undertaken by oligarchs who controlled the media, largely Clear Channel/Rush Limbaugh and billionaire Rupert Murdoch with Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.

As a result, we are no longer a functioning democratic republic; we are now operating as an oligarchy.

The argument for oligarchic control is the same argument that’s been made by “conservatives” through history, from Thomas Hobbes to Sir Edmund Burke to Warren Harding and Donald Trump.

“With us in charge, we will keep you safe and happy and you really don’t need to concern yourself with the complicated work of governance. You don’t want to ‘tear down’ or ‘shake up’ the system: having a stable group of very wealthy people control the government has always led to the greatest level of stability and peace—look how stable Europe was for a thousand years when royal families and their landed gentry ruled. We’re the ones chosen by God or a brilliant DNA lineage to lead. Just go shopping and leave things to us.”

Starting in the 1980s, oligarchy was sold to us by “conservative” religious figures (“Saint Reagan,” G.W. Bush was a godly man, Trump is King Cyrus, John Calvin was right that being rich is a sign of God’s blessing so nations are best run by rich people), as well as oligarch-owned media.

Starting in the past decade, this sales pitch has extended itself to a massive social media ecosystem majority-owned by a handful of American oligarchs, some of whom have expressed confusion about democratic governance and all of whom have directly or indirectly bought control of large numbers of local, state and federal legislators.

This led us from the “oligarch-friendly” President Reagan, to the conversion, in 1992, of the Democratic Party via the Democratic Leadership Council to become “oligarch-friendly” itself (a legacy it’s today struggling to undo). In 2016, oligarchs like Robert Mercer and Charles Koch finally put an oligarch himself, Donald Trump, in the White House.

When, in 2015, I asked former President Jimmy Carter what he thought the consequences were of Supreme Court decisions like Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United that made all this possible, he replied:

“It [the Citizens United decision] violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and Congress members.

“So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”

That same year, then-Vice President Joe Biden said, “you have to go where the money is. Now where the money is, there’s almost always implicitly some string attached. … It’s awful hard to take a whole lot of money from a group you know has a particular position, then you conclude they’re wrong [and] vote no.”

As former Vice President Al Gore wrote in his 2013 book The Future: “American democracy has been hacked. … The United States Congress … is now incapable of passing laws without permission from the corporate lobbies and other special interests that control their campaign finances.”

And, in 2015 while campaigning for the Republican nomination for president, oligarch Donald Trump candidly said, “I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.”

In 2014, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page (Princeton, Northwestern) demonstrated that we ceased to be a functioning democracy by classical definitions sometime in the late 20th century, and have been, as President Carter said, an oligarchy (my term, not theirs: they call it “Economic-Elite Domination”) since then.

The difference between now and the 1860s is that the oligarchic control is no longer regional; it’s national. Instead of the North and the South fighting each other, it’s now Free Speech TV viewers facing off with their Fox News–viewing neighbors.

The Koch oligarchy machine, for example, has branches in every state, and pretty much every county. Oligarchy-supporting media are ubiquitous.

And now Very Serious People are talking about the possibility of a second Civil War.

What they’re not pointing out, though, is that it won’t just be a war of white supremacists and Trump cultists against the rest of us, as they generally narrate, but a war between those comfortable with oligarchy (indeed, embracing it, as it promises them safety and stability) versus those who believe in democracy.

This is a crisis point for our nation as real and critical as those we hit in 1776, 1861, and 1932. In each of those three cases—roughly four generations apart—the oligarchs lost the battle. This time they could win.

America needs an honest discussion of what’s really going on in this country right now, what the real conflict is, and who the real players are (and why they’re playing). The conflict is playing out on a series of meta-layers (race, class, religion, regionality), all designed to conceal the real war the oligarchs are waging against democracy itself, and those conflicts will continue to intensify until one side or the other has won what is now still a “cold war.”

Then comes the threat of a real Civil War breaking out, and an informed populace is the best defense against it.

If the forces of democracy can succeed in seizing enough power to temporarily hobble the oligarchs, then they need to immediately restore local control to the media (undoing the 1996 Telecommunications Act and breaking up the media conglomerates) and reinstate a ban on the “right” of oligarchs to own politicians and political parties by overturning several Supreme Court decisions since 1976. Repairing the damage done to our court systems will take longer, but needs to begin immediately.

On the other hand, if the oligarchs decide to promote an actual “hot” Civil War on the forces of democracy—as Southern oligarchs did in 1861—then parts of America that are still functioning democracies (California comes to mind—there has been discussion of various “compacts” between the three West Coast states, possibly joining with a few Eastern Seaboard states) must consider some form of independence, whether it be “soft independence” like California declared when they established their own air quality standards or some form of partial independence or succession.

This moment of oligarchy-caused crisis is a time of great danger to America, and, thus, also to still-functioning democracies all over the world.

As oligarchs reach out and extend their control over nation after nation (now having seized, in just the past few decades, either soft or hard control over Russia, India, the Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Brazil, and dozens of other nations) the battlegrounds are shifting to Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and France.

Because the oligarch’s campaign is now international, a third world war is not impossible, particularly as China allies itself with the oligarch-controlled nations against those that are still functioning or nearly functioning democracies.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

billionaires

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America and more than 25 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

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Impeachable: Denying Climate Change

Trump’s Worst Impeachable Offense Hurts the Whole World

By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan/ Democracy Now/ November 7, 2019

climate

You can run from the climate crisis, but you can’t hide. On the front lines of this global environmental calamity, entire communities are being consumed by fire, submerged by typhoons and hurricanes, or baked under the sun amid historic droughts. President Donald Trump, the climate change denier in chief, has formally begun the process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. Originally signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, the accord established a cooperative, global path to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F) above preindustrial levels. The United States is now the only nation on the planet that has pulled out of the agreement. A new statement signed by over 11,000 scientists from over 150 countries warns of “untold suffering” unless global society undergoes a “major transformation.” Trump’s denial of the climate crisis is unconscionable and should be added to the articles of impeachment against him.

One Trump official with a role in both the climate crisis and in the impeachment proceedings is Wells Griffith, currently a special assistant to the president and senior director for international energy and environment for the National Security Council, serving under departing Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Griffith is a longtime Republican operative who served as deputy chief of staff to Reince Priebus when Priebus was chair of the Republican National Committee.

Wells Griffith’s appointment to the Department of Energy makes sense; his family has run a gas station in Mobile, Alabama, for over 50 years. Griffith moved from pumping gas to pushing coal, successfully negotiating the sale of 700,000 metric tons of coal from Pennsylvania to Ukraine in 2017.

He then showed up as the top representative of the Trump administration at the U.N.’s “COP 24” climate conference in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018. The U.S. held just one public event during the two-week summit, which Griffith chaired, promoting fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Amid mocking laughter and a walkout by protesters, he stated, “We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability.”

Afterward, we approached Griffith in a large central hall of the convention center (which was designed to look like the coal mine that it was built on top of) to ask questions for the “Democracy Now!” news hour. To our shock, rather than answering, he bolted, first walking quickly, then running away. Cameras rolling, we ran after him, asking questions as we weaved in and out of the crowd of climate negotiators, scientists and activists.

“Do you agree with President Trump calling climate change a hoax? Can you talk about why the U.S. is here, since President Trump is saying he’s pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord? Can you talk about why you’re pushing coal?” He dodged our questions, but did accuse us of harassing him. “A reporter asking you a question, sir, is not harassment,” we replied.

Just this Tuesday, Wells Griffith continued his refusal to answer questions when he failed to appear before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s closed-door session of the Trump impeachment inquiry.

While public testimony is expected to begin next week, an unrelated court case is wrapping up in a New York state courtroom. New York is suing ExxonMobil, alleging the fossil fuel giant defrauded its investors for years by understating the risk that climate change posed to shareholder value. Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil and Trump’s first secretary of state, testified at length under oath. He repeatedly claimed he could not recall details when grilled by the New York state attorneys.

Outside the courtroom, 30 children participating in the Fridays for Future weekly climate strike engaged in a die-in. Thirteen-year-old Maria Riker told us, “We held the die-in for 42 minutes, one minute for each of the 42 years that Exxon was aware of the dangers of climate change but lied about it.”

Tillerson’s successor, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, announced Monday, via tweet, “Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.” Trump declared that the U.S. would withdraw in June 2017, but legal procedures in place when the agreement was signed have prevented the formal exit until now.

In response, 350.org founder and author Bill McKibben said on “Democracy Now!,” “The fossil fuel industry had its most profitable years in the last three decades. On the other hand, we’re now missing half the sea ice in the summer Arctic. The Great Barrier Reef is half-dead. The oceans are 30% more acidic. California is on fire more weeks than not. We’re in deep, deep trouble.”

The climate crisis imperils the planet. To deny it is impeachable, the highest of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Amy

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Media Madness

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The Non-Sunshine State

Has the climate crisis made California too dangerous to live in?

By Bill McKibben/ The Guardian/ October 29, 2019

As with so many things, Californians are going first where the rest of us will follow

The San Francisco skyline is shrouded in smoke from wildfires in the north part of the state.

The San Francisco skyline is shrouded in smoke from wildfires in the north part of the state. Photograph: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Associated Press

Monday morning dawned smoky across much of California, and it dawned scary – over the weekend winds as high as a hundred miles an hour had whipped wildfires through forests and subdivisions.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened – indeed, it’s happened every year for the last three – and this time the flames were licking against communities destroyed in 2017. Reporters spoke to one family that had moved into their rebuilt home on Saturday, only to be immediately evacuated again.

The spectacle was cinematic: at one point, fire jumped the Carquinez Strait at the end of San Francisco Bay, shrouding the bridge on Interstate 80 in smoke and flame.

Even areas that didn’t actually burn felt the effects: Pacific Gas and Electric turned off power to millions, fearful that when the wind tore down its wires they would spark new conflagrations.

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