November 24, 2018

Crisis: Noam Chomsky, The Plastic Planet, The Republican Party, Climate Report, On Facebook


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 24, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, November 24, 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 November 24, 2018:
1. Noam Chomsky Condemns Trump for Pulling Out of Landmark Nuclear
     Arms Treaty

2. The Future of the Planet Looks Like 'WALL-E'
3. Denouncing the Republican Party
4. The Climate Report the Trump White House Didn't Want You to See
5. About Facebook's Anti-Semitic and Racist Attacks on Critics
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. Noam Chomsky Condemns Trump for Pulling Out of Landmark Nuclear Arms Treaty

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I shortened the title. And in fact this is one of the five interviews with Chomsky that are reported on Democracy Now! that I mentioned yesterday. It starts with the following introduction:

President Donald Trump recently announced plans to pull the United States out of a landmark nuclear arms pact with Russia, in a move that could spark a new arms race. President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, in 1987. The INF banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges. The treaty helped to eliminate thousands of land-based missiles. We spoke with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky in October about the significance of the INF treaty and the impact of Trump’s plan to pull out.

Quite so, and I think this is very important, for reasons Chomsky will explain.
AMY GOODMAN: (..) Democracy Now!'s  Nermeen Shaikh and I recently spoke to [Noam Chomsky] and asked him to talk about the twin threats of climate change and nuclear war. We spoke in the wake of a new report by Nature magazine that the world has massively underestimated the amount of heat absorbed by our oceans, and President Trump's decision to pull the United states out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF.
That was by way of introduction. Here is Chomsky (and from here on it is Chomsky whom I quote in this article):
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the INF treaty was a very important development. You may recall that in that period, in the early and mid-'80s, the short—this has to do with short-range nuclear missiles. They were being installed in Western Europe, Pershing II missiles in Western Europe, which had a few minutes' flight time to Moscow. If you think what that means, the Russian detection systems are, first of all, far more primitive than ours, but even sophisticated—if they had had sophisticated detection systems, it would have given them barely a few minutes’ warning before a possible heavy nuclear strike, even a decapitation strike, against Moscow. And the Russians were doing the same. They were building short-term missiles aimed at Western Europe. Notice the—not at the United States.
Yes indeed, and the really important thing is that short-range nuclear missiles need to be detected within minutes if anything is to be done against them or in answer to them.

As an aside: One of the many reasons I despise Wim Kok (who recently died and was a trade union man and a Labour prime minister who was a complete Blatcherist) is that I heard him promise in 1980 or 1981, to something like a 100,000 Dutch demonstrators that he would remove atomic weapons - and like virtually everything he said this was a lie.

Back to the article:
We should also recall that Trump’s pulling out of the INF treaty has a precursor, namely, the Nuclear Posture Review of the Trump administration, which already called for developing new weapons, tactical nuclear weapons, which themselves greatly increase the threat of a possible war. A target of these missiles can’t know whether they’re conventional or nuclear, or whether they’re short-range or much more powerful missiles. You have a few minutes’ warning time to make these decisions. You look over the history of the nuclear age, and it is practically miraculous that we’ve survived this far.
Precisely - and incidentally (bolding added) "it is practically miraculous that we’ve survived this far", and those who saved us several times were relatively lowly placed Russian soldiers, who did their duty rather than give in to fear.

Here is more:
We should bear in mind that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which has established, since 1947, beginning of the nuclear age—it’s established the Doomsday Clock, where the minute hand is a certain distance from midnight. Midnight means goodbye, termination of all of us. At the beginning, 1947, it was seven minutes to midnight. It’s oscillated up and back since. In last January, after a year of the Trump administration, it moved to two minutes to midnight. That’s the closest it’s been to terminal disaster ever, with one exception, 1953.
Quite so.
And now it’s worse. The Nuclear Posture Review, the revelation, since that time, that the U.S. actually has developed a first-strike potential, which could prevent—could eliminate any deterrent to a first strike, then Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review, which calls for extending the nuclear threat, and now this latest step—this is a march to disaster, which is only paralleled by the moves of the administration to race towards the cliff of environmental destruction with eyes open.
I completely agree - and in fact what Trump seems to be playing at (while insisting that I also think, like many other psychologists, that Trump is insane) is to blow up Russia before it has the time of blowing up the USA.

And in any case, his policies assure him with many more atomic weapons and with just a few minutes to attack and destroy Russia. This is a strongly recommended article.

2. The Future of the Planet Looks Like 'WALL-E'

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:

Dianna Cohen of the Plastics Pollution Coalition believes that a plastics crisis has arrived.

“We suddenly have to deal with our own waste, basically, now,” she tells Robert Scheer. “And then, also, the costs of recycling are increasing, and you have to think about how many trucks are needed to create it, how widely it’s dispersed, et cetera. And that’s a big expense. And then plastic production—internationally, but [also] internally in the United States—is really ramping up right now, and it’s going to continue to explode. So we have a very big problem on our hands. It reminds me of that movie ‘Wall-E,’ or ‘Idiocracy,’ where people live in a world that’s just full of waste, it’s just a wasteland, like a garbage dump.”

In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Cohen explains how plastics and the burning of fossil fuels are interrelated, and why recycling alone can’t save us.
Yes indeed - and in fact I also believe that the plastics crisis (which is a good title) is more serious than either Scheer or Cohen seem to believe, for the double reason that by now plastics are everywhere and cannot be destroyed, and are killing birds, fishes, and the larger animals that depend on these.

Here is more:
Dianna Cohen: Well, I mean, I think it’s important just to state that plastic pollution is a global crisis. And it’s not a crisis that–in a sense it’s in your face, in a sense it’s not.
Plastic is oil. It’s made from processing oil products–oil products, and then you add plasticizing chemicals to it. And what we’ve been learning over the last 30, 40 years is that these chemicals, which are added to the plastic, create polymer chains that don’t break down in the environment. And they also leach bits of those chemicals into our food and beverages that have been linked to human health issues for us, and impact the marine life, are ingested by sea life and wildlife. It comes back to us in so many ways.
Precisely. Here is more:
It is one of the major polluters of oceans; it is not the sole polluter of the ocean. But because of particular qualities that plastic has, it either floats or it sinks to the bottom, or it begins to get algae and things growing on it, which attract sea life and wildlife to it–they smell it, and they believe it’s edible, and so they eat it or they’re attracted to the colors of it.
Again precisely. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
We’re stuffing ourselves full of plastic, and the chemicals that leach from plastic, and we’re doing it to our children, and most people are still not yet aware that this is even happening.
Yes indeed, and this is a strongly recommended article. 

3. Denouncing the Republican Party

This article is by Alan Barra on Truthdig. In fact, this is a review of Max Boot's "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right". This is from near its beginning:
Max Boot has Trump’s measure: The Donald is “a bigoted bully” with few convictions “outside of narcissism and nativism, racism, and sexism.” “His entire career has been full of racist slurs and acts.” He’s a “functional illiterate,” “a plutocrat who avoided the draft and has never shown any willingness to sacrifice anything for anyone.” And Boot quotes an anonymous Republican congressman: Trump is “an evil, really fucking stupid Forrest Gump.”
Well... I think Max Boot is right about Trump. Apart from that, I disagree with him on quite a lot, but I also think he may be one of the few American conservatives that I know of who seems to be (mostly) honest.

Here is more:
(..) Max Boot has written the essential book of the Trump era, the one that needs to be read immediately by those of all political stripes.

One of the things that makes “The Corrosion of Conservatism” powerful reading is that Boot, while refusing to identify himself as a Democrat—he is still a fiscal conservative, pro-free market and the welfare state, pro-free trade, pro-environment, and pro-gun control—has shed all illusions of his own party. The recent history of the Republican Party is “the story of moderates being driven out and conservatives taking over—and then of those conservatives, in turn, being ousted by those even farther to the right.”

I did not read Boot's book, but the second paragraph seems more or less correct - Boot still is a conservative, but he also does see quite a few facts that Republicans basically refuse to see or to admit.

Here is more:

In a paragraph that deserves to be reprinted on the internet and quoted on television, he writes, “No, not all Trump supporters are racist. But virtually all racists, it seems, are Trump supporters. And all Trump supporters implicitly condone his blatant prejudice. At the very least they don’t consider racism to be a reason to turn against the president. For a disturbingly large number of Trump voters, it is the primary reason to support him.”

Yes, I think that is correct (though Boot is obviously speaking about American racists).

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

Trump’s inaugural address was “the most dystopian, disquieting, and divisive” ever. His vision of America, “paranoid, angry, xenophobic.”

“Under the pressure of Trumpism, conservatism as I understand it has been corroding. … I no longer like to call myself a conservative,” Boot writes. “Other contemporary developments such as the failure of the Iraq invasion, the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the #MeToo movement, and the spread of police video tapes revealing violent racism,” played into his decision to renounce the Republican party.

“My ideology has come into contact with reality,” Boot acknowledges. “And reality is winning.”

I say, for I find this fairly perceptive and honest. And this is a recommended article. 

4. The Climate Report the Trump White House Didn't Want You to See

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
In a move environmentalists and journalists denounced as a blatant effort to bury facts that conflict with the president's denialism and pro-fossil fuel agenda, the Trump administration used the Friday after Thanksgiving to quietly release Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), which warned "Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization" and concluded that "greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the only factors that can account" for planet-threatening warming.

"Releasing this report when no one is looking, tweeting his annual nonsense about global warming and cold weather, and announcing that he'll use the upcoming U.N. climate meetings as a fossil fuel tradeshow, Trump is doubling down on his climate denial for the holidays—as many families are still reeling from unnatural climate disasters across the country," Hauter continued. "The science is way past in on climate change... We must prepare for our climate future in spite of Trump."
Yes, I think that is all quite correct.

Incidentally, I would say that "the natural solution" to the population explosion (there are three times more people than in 1960), with graphs that go almost straight up since 1950 is the population implosion: As steep a drop (at least) within several ten years as the explosion since 1950 or so.

But that is speculative (as yet). Here is more:

Authored by officials from over a dozen federal agencies, the report warns that in the absence of aggressive action to quickly slash carbon emissions, the climate crisis will continue to have increasingly devastating effects on the environment, wildlife, and human health.

"It is very likely that some impacts, such as the effects of ice sheet disintegration on sea level rise and coastal development, will be irreversible for many thousands of years, and others, such as species extinction, will be permanent," the report warns.

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

"Climate change is spawning more extreme weather, causing irreparable harm to communities, costing billions of dollars a year, and leading to countless deaths. We can stop climate destruction, but only if we act quickly to end the use of fossil fuels and transition to 100 percent clean renewable energy," concluded Hauter of Food & Water Watch. "This transition is not only possible, but necessary for the health and prosperity of people and the planet."

I agree, although I should add that by now (and after looking nearly 50 years at "the environment") I do not think that environmental harm can be undone as quickly as is necessary.
And this is a recommended article.

5. About Facebook's Anti-Semitic and Racist Attacks on Critics

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
On the heels of an explosive report by the New York Times detailing Facebook's use of a right-wing public relations firm to spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about its critics,—which describes itself as "one of the largest political advertisers on Facebook this year"—sent a letter on Wednesday to the social media giant's CEO Mark Zuckerberg, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, and congressional leaders demanding accountability and urging the company to commit to fundamental reform.
I knew most of this, but did not know about MoveOn's letter, nor indeed that they belong to "the largest political advertisers on Facebook this year" - which in fact is not a recommendation in my eyes, but indeed I despise Facebook, although I concede that they may have done so to find readers.

Here is more:

"We were surprised to learn last week that Facebook corporate leadership had hired a right-wing firm specializing in what the New York Times calls the 'dark arts' of politics to promulgate anti-Semitic, anti-black, and other attacks on public interest organizations that have been critical of Facebook," they wrote. "Of course, these particular concerns exist within a broader context of concern about the threats that Facebook and other social networks and their algorithms and data pose to society and democracy."

As Common Dreams reported, Facebook's smear efforts targeted billionaire philanthropist George Soros and his foundations as well as the online racial justice organization Color of Change, which has accused Facebook of placing profits over privacy—particularly that of people of color and religious minorities.

Yes, but I like to be a bit more precise: First, I completely agree with Robert Reich that (as he put it): Break Up Facebook (and, While We’re At It, Google, Apple, and Amazon - and this is a link to my review, where there is a link to Reich's article. And second, of course Facebook placed its profits over the privacies of its members: It is completely founded on that theft.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, which is a paragraph of the letter MoveOn wrote to Facebook (and the whole letter is in the original article):

Finally, as a result of our experience as one of the largest political advertisers on Facebook in 2018 (MoveOn Political Action and our subsidiary MO Research together spent $5.5 million on Facebook ads from May to present), we have identified potential inconsistencies in the application of your advertising standards, including potential differences along lines of race and identity, that warrant investigation.

I am not amazed at all - and as I said, the sooner Facebook and Google and Apple and Amazon disappear, the bettter it seems to me, but I grant I am just one individual, and these are very big and very rich firms. And in any case, I would never advertise on Facebook, although I am aware that MoveOn's motives to do so may have been honorable.


[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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