October 10, 2018

Crisis: Fossil Fuels *2, Brazil´s Eroding Democracy *2, On Kavanaugh´s Rise


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 10, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, October 10, 2018.

1. Summary

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

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

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

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from October 10, 2018:
1. Fossil Fuels Are a Threat to Civilization, New U.N. Report Concludes
2. ‘A Deafening, Piercing Smoke Alarm’
3. Brazil’s Eroding Democracy
4. 5 Truths Exposed by Kavanaugh's Rise to the Supreme Court
5. Future of Western Democracy Being Played Out in Brazil
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Fossil Fuels Are a Threat to Civilization, New U.N. Report Concludes

This article is by Kate Aronoff on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Around the middle of the last century, the chemical DDT was found to pose a risk to human and animal health. The ultimate response — after a prolonged fight between environmentalists and the chemical industry — was a federal ban on all uses of the substance found to be unsafe.

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a daunting report, suggesting that we are currently on track for around 3 degrees Celsius of warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC authors promise that we will see coastal cities swallowed by the sea, global food shortages, and $54 trillion in climate-associated costs as soon as 2040.

That fast-approaching catastrophe is the motivation for the demands of Global South residents and their allies, for whom rising tides and superstorms are already a reality. They’ve long chanted “1.5 to survive” through the fluorescent-lit halls of U.N. climate talks, and this new report — which outlines pathways to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — is a testament to that work. The figure is in line with the “well below 2 degrees” target outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement and, according to the co-chair of one of the IPCC working groups that crafted the report, Jim Skea, hitting that target “is possible within the laws of physics and chemistry.”

Well... yes as to the IPPC report, but no: I have been following the environment/climate for almost 50 years, and I have totally given up on the present kinds of government actions around the time of the Kyoto Protocol (in the 1990ies).

In brief: Jim Skea is quite correct that ¨hitting that target “is possible within the laws of physics and chemistry”¨ but that is neither the problem nor the point, which is that the present day political process, which is more or less the same (apart from being more rightish now) as it was the last 50 years, is not up to it or quite against it (for the political process is to a considerable extent run by oil companies, investors only interested in their immediate profits etc.)

Besides, I was against the Paris Climate Agreement (for that was much too small in its aims) and the fact that this is now rescheduled from ¨well below 2 degrees¨ (Celsius) to ¨1.5 degrees Celsius¨ does not increase my trust for the simple reason that almost all the arguments for it were already known (or should have been known) much earlier.

Anyway. Here is some background:

Amid the doom and gloom that tends to accompany climate stories, it’s easy to lose site of who’s largely responsible for today’s mess, and who should pay the highest price as we navigate through it.

“Almost 50% of global carbon emissions arise from the activities of around 10% of the global population, increasing to 70% of emissions from just 20% of citizens,” climate scientist Kevin Anderson wrote in response to the new report. “Impose a limit on the per-capita carbon footprint of the top 10% of global emitters, equivalent to that of an average European citizen, and global emissions could be reduced by one third in a matter of a year or two.” To wit, just 100 companies have been responsible for 71 percent of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.

Anderson adds that “to genuinely reduce emissions in line with 2°C of warming requires a transformation in the productive capacity of society, reminiscent of the Marshall Plan,” and that there should be “[no] more second or very large homes, SUVs, business and first-class flights, or very high levels of consumption.”

Precisely - and this argument was for the old Paris Climate Agreement, which aimed at a maximum of 2 C, and not for the revised estimate that is 1/4 less.

And in my opinion (which I regret, but I despise wishful thinking) the present plan will fail - like the Paris Climate Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol.

Here is the ending from this article:

The widespread ban on DDT that passed in the U.S. eventually came to the U.K. Reflecting on the fight there, Martin Harper, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, told The Guardian recently, “It took 10 years to get DDT banned after its effects had been demonstrated. And similarly today, when warned about a chemical’s danger, governments wait until research results are unequivocal. Then they suggest industry takes voluntary action. Only when that fails does it issue a ban, years too late.”

Yes, I basically agree with Harper: Governments will do too little and do it too late, as they have been doing the last more than 50 years about the climate and the environment, and only when it is definitely too late they might do something (that is then probably ineffective because it is too late). And this is a recommended article.
2. ‘A Deafening, Piercing Smoke Alarm’

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

When a cautious, science-based and largely apolitical group like the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world must utterly transform its energy systems in the next decade or risk ecological and social disaster, attention must be paid.

The panel, created in 1988, synthesizes the findings of leading climate scientists, an undertaking for which it received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. It is not in the habit of lecturing governments. But its latest report, issued near Seoul on Monday, is very different. One United Nations official described it as “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen” — an alarm aimed directly at world leaders. “Frankly, we’ve delivered a message to the governments,” said Jim Skea, a co-chairman of the panel and a professor at Imperial College, London. “It’s now their responsibility … to decide whether they can act on it.”

This is more on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was also the subject of the previous item.

As I said above, I think it will fail, indeed in considerable part because the present proposed changes are too large to realize given politics, and the present proposed changes are too large because too little was done in the previous 50+ years.

Here is some more:

The report, written by 91 scientists from 40 countries, came about at the request of several small island nations that took part in the Paris talks, where 195 countries pledged their best efforts to limit increases in global warming to 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius) below preindustrial levels. Fearing that their countries might someday be lost to rising seas, they asked the intergovernmental panel for further study of a lower threshold, 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius). The panel’s report concluded that the stricter threshold should become the new target. The alternative is catastrophe — mass die-offs of coral reefs, widespread drought, famine and wildfires, and potentially conflict over land, food and fresh water.

But how to achieve that lower threshold? Global emissions continue to rise, albeit slowly. The panel said a mammoth effort is needed, beginning now and carrying through the century, to decarbonize global energy systems. The next 10 years are absolutely crucial: Emissions will have to be on a sharp downward path by 2030 for any hope of success.
As I have said, I am something like 99% certain this new plan will fail. I strongly dislike (and fear) that failure, but I do not think the present governments, nor indeed the governments there have been in the last 50+ years, will be able to do it. And this is a recommended article.
3. Brazil’s Eroding Democracy

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
In a stunning upset that may radically alter the political landscape of Latin America, far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro won 46 percent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election in Brazil in a far more decisive victory than expected. The former Army officer has a long history of making racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments and has openly praised Brazil’s military dictatorship. He will now face Fernando Haddad of the leftist Workers’ Party in a runoff on October 28. Haddad won 29 percent of the vote Sunday. Many are warning that the future of democracy in Brazil hangs in the balance. We speak with Maria Luísa Mendonça, director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil, who says Bolsonaro is a “fascist” and that his election would create “a very dangerous situation in Brazil.”
Yes indeed. Also, I think that either very many Brazilian voters are - even - less intelligent and knowledgeable than I thought they were or else the Brazilian voting was corrupt. I do not know which alternative is correct (and possibly both are) because I do not know enough about Brazil.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, Jair Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party won unexpected victories across Brazil. In Brazil’s lower house, Bolsonaro’s party won 52 seats, up from just eight. It’s now the second largest party in the chamber. Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo received more votes than any congressional candidate in Brazil’s history. Meanwhile, Brazilian voters ousted a stunning two-thirds of incumbents Sunday.

Jair Bolsonaro also directly benefited from the jailing of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who had been leading all presidential polls earlier this year. Lula has been in jail since April on what many consider trumped-up corruption charges. His handpicked successor, former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, now faces an uphill fight against Bolsonaro in the October 28th runoff.
This is all quite correct. Here is Mendonça:

MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Yes. That’s a very dangerous situation in Brazil that I think is very important to monitor, because that could have an impact in the whole region. Like I said before, former President Lula, actually, if he was able to run, he would probably win very easily. But there was a vacuum created because he was put in jail with charges of receiving a bribe, but actually there is no evidence that he received the bribe. So, since the parliamentary coup against President Dilma Rousseff two years ago, we are in the situation of a limbo. We cannot consider that we have a democracy in Brazil right now. And so, Bolsonaro is the result of a series of attacks on democracy that started two years ago with the parliamentary coup against Dilma Rousseff.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Dilma Rousseff is couped out—she is forced out of the presidency—and then Lula, who decided to run for president, is imprisoned.

MARIA LUÍSA MENDONÇA: Exactly, yeah. We said that there was a coup because there was no evidence that she committed any crimes, but she was impeached anyway. And Bolsonaro at that time voted as a congressmember, voted for the impeachment in the name of the person who tortured her during the military dictatorship when she was in prison.

I say! So Bolsonaro is not only a frightful authoritarian rightist, he also is a sadist, personally. I am afraid he will win, and Brazil then very probably will turn into a fascist or neofascist state.
This is a recommended article, and there is another about Brazil below.

4. 5 Truths Exposed by Kavanaugh's Rise to the Supreme Court

This article is by Bill Blum on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The ballots have been cast and the verdict is in: By a vote of 50-48, the Senate on Saturday confirmed Brett Kavanaugh as the 114th justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Here are five key takeaways from the confirmation battle:

  1. Kavanaugh’s confirmation proves once again that the courts, especially the Supreme Court, are political.
Yes, and in fact this is a rather long article and I shall only copy and briefly comment on the five takeaways that Blum mentioned in his title.

As to the first point: I do not think it was correct to include ¨the courts¨, and besides, if ¨
the courts¨ are included one also has to consider leftish courts. It is better to concentrate on the Supreme Court, and Blum is correct about that.

Here is Blum´s second takeaway:
  1. Kavanaugh’s confirmation signals the triumph of a judicial counterrevolution.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation represents the culmination of a multi-decade effort by the most revanchist sectors of the right to seize control of the justice system and neutralize the use of law as an instrument of progressive social and economic reform.

I think that is more or less correct, though this ¨counterrevolution¨ was not only ¨judicial¨ but also political and propagandistic. (Then again, Blum might agree with me.)

Here is Blum´s third takeaway:

  1. For the time being, white male privilege has trumped the rights of women.
No, I think this is too simpleminded: As stated, it is correct for the Supreme Court, but then again many women have contended that the position of women have improved, in part because of #MeToo. I do not know who is correct, but the last takeaway is formulated too carelessly.
     4.  Elections matter.

I completely agree. And this is the last of Blum´s takeaways:

  1. If the Democrats take back the House, Kavanaugh will face further investigations and possible impeachment.
I do not know. I think this is desirable - Kavanaugh must go - but it is far from certain, simply because it depends on what else draws attention in the future. There is a lot more in this article and it is recommended.

5. Future of Western Democracy Being Played Out in Brazil

This article is by Pepe Escobar on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
Nothing less than the future of politics across the West – and across the Global South – is being played out in Brazil.

Stripped to its essence, the Brazilian presidential elections represent a direct clash between democracy and an early 21st Century, neofascism, indeed between civilization and barbarism.

Geopolitical and global economic reverberations will be immense. The Brazilian dilemma illuminates all the contradictions surrounding the Right populist offensive across the West, juxtaposed to the inexorable collapse of the Left. The stakes could not be higher.

Jair Bolsonaro, an outright supporter of Brazilian military dictatorships of last century, who has been normalized as the “extreme-right candidate,” won the first round of the presidential elections on Sunday with more than 49 million votes. That was 46 percent of the total, just shy of a majority needed for an outright win. This in itself is a jaw-dropping development.
I agree with most of the above, and I add what I already said above: Either very many Brazilian voters are - even - less intelligent and knowledgeable than I thought they were or else the Brazilian voting was corrupt. And I do not know which is (more) correct.

Here is some more on Bolsonaro:
Bolsonaro, a mediocre member of Congress for 27 years with no highlights on his C.V., indiscriminately demonizes blacks, the LGBT community, the Left as a whole, the environment “scam” and most of all, the poor. He’s avowedly pro-torture. He markets himself as a Messiah – a fatalistic avatar coming to “save” Brazil from all those “sins” above.

The Goddess of the Market, predictably, embraces him. “Investors” – those semi-divine entities – deem him good for “the market”, with his last-minute offensive in the polls mirroring a rally in the Brazilian real and the Sao Paulo stock exchange.

Bolsonaro may be your classic extreme-right “savior” in the Nazi mould. He may embody Right populism to the core.
Yes, I think that is correct. There is a whole lot more in the article, among other things about Salvini and Macron in Europe, and I do not agree with everything, but this is a recommended article.


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

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

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

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