February 11, 2019

Crisis: New Arms Race, On Carbon Tax, Legalizing Cannabis, Net Neutrality, Green New Deal

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



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 11, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Monday, February 11, 2019.

1. Summary

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

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

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

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from February 11, 2019:
1. No Winner in a New Arms Race
2. Food & Water Watch: Carbon Tax Is a Sham

3. How to Legalize Cannabis Throughout US

4. Real Net Neutrality Is More Than a Ban

5. Green New Deal 'Absolutely Realistic'
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. No Winner in a New Arms Race

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

Before the fear of being blown up on a plane, or a train, or a sidewalk gave millions of people sleepless nights, before the threat of global climate disaster stirred dread, nuclear annihilation was the stuff of nightmares.

By the mid-1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union had amassed 63,000 nuclear weapons, with the promise of mutually assured destruction if even one were ever used, even accidentally.

Then, after years of global protests and skyrocketing budgets, American and Soviet leaders stepped back from the brink and began a process of arms control diplomacy, accelerated by the fall of the Soviet Union, that shrank those arsenals by nearly 90 percent. For decades, that process and that diplomacy continued … until now.

President Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who control 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, are preparing to abandon the 1987 treaty that eliminated ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 310 miles to 3,100 miles. They have yet to begin serious talks on extending a 2010 treaty that reduced the nuclear warheads deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles and other strategic systems, and the Americans, in particular, don’t appear to have any interest in doing so. Washington and Moscow are also modernizing old weapons systems and building new ones, at a cost of $494 billion over the next decade in the United States alone.

Most of this is quite correct, but I do not like the first paragraph, for the simple reason that while it is possible that "the fear of being blown up on a plane, or a train, or a sidewalk" may have given "millions of people sleepless nights" these fears are in fact totally different from fears about a nuclear war: There it is not just those in the plane or train who may get destroyed, but literally billions of people, or indeed the whole of humanity may be destroyed.

I put this is bold, because The Editorial Board seems to have missed that elementary point.

Here is more:

Experts with The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, who evaluate the nuclear threat, last month judged the current state of affairs to be “as worrisome as the most dangerous times of the Cold War.”

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987, which eliminated 2,692 ground-based missiles, is part of a web of arms control agreements that have managed the threat. Mr. Trump is right to blame the Russians for beginning to unravel the I.N.F. treaty during the Obama administration by testing and then deploying a cruise missile banned by the treaty.

But he was wrong to assert in his State of the Union address that he had “no choice” other than to withdraw from the treaty, a move that takes effect in August.

His threat to “outspend and out-innovate all others by far” in the production of weapons of mass destruction was chilling, particularly given Mr. Putin’s vow of a “symmetrical” response.

This is true - and I trust The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

It’s unlikely the treaty will be revived, given the deterioration of Russian-American relations, despite Mr. Trump’s promises of warmer ties and a coziness that has drawn the scrutiny of the special counsel Robert Mueller.

The pact’s imminent collapse has intensified concerns that the United States and Russia will let the 2010 New Start agreement, with its caps on deployed nuclear warheads, intercontinental ballistic missiles and heavy bombers, as well as requirements for verification and data exchanges, expire in 2021. (Start stands for Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.) Absent an extension or a new treaty, the nuclear arsenals will become unregulated — meaning there will be no legally binding, verifiable limits on the American or Russian nuclear arsenals — for the first time since 1972.

Adding to the uncertainty, Mr. Putin has warned that Russia is developing new “invincible” hypersonic missiles that will travel at more than five times the speed of sound.

And this is one of the major reasons why I think a madman like Trump - he is a narcissist aka megalomaniac - which is a form of madness, should not be president of the USA: He is destroying all limits on nuclear weapons. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Food & Water Watch: Carbon Tax Is a Sham

This article is by Lee Camp on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

I spoke to Scott Edwards, the legal chief at Food & Water Watch, in order to discuss the activism of an organization with a name that defines why they’re so important in the modern world. Edwards is a lawyer who has spent his career fighting against the corruption that has festered in our system, in which corporations work to deceive the public and decrease their costs by polluting our environment.

In this interview, he talks about why so many on the left have fallen for the “carbon tax” sham, and why so many of our laws end up written by corporate lawyers trying to enrich their companies.

I did not fall for "the “carbon tax” sham" and I do strongly disagree with the fact that "so many of our laws end up written by corporate lawyers trying to enrich their companies".

Here is more:

Lee Camp: A lot of the future is definitely being written by lawyers. Do you feel the best tactic to fight corporate destruction is in the courts? Or do you feel that it is just one of the tools in the toolbox?

Scott Edwards: It’s a tactic. The ultimate goal is to build the political power and to force our elected officials to represent the needs of people instead of the needs of corporations.

When you say that it’s lawyers that are writing these laws and policies they mean, more specifically, that it’s industry lawyers who’re writing these laws and policies today. Whether you’re talking about legislation around climate, food systems or water protection laws, the drafters are people from Monsanto, from ExxonMobil, from all the big industry groups.

All the big corporate lawyers who are actually writing our laws today are, obviously, doing it in a way that benefits their clients and makes them lots of money.

I think this is quite correct - and I note that this very widespread practice is fundamentally anti-democratic.

Here is Edwards on what he thinks the carbon tax is:
SE: The notion that paying a little bit more for gas is a solution to our climate problem isn’t based in any kind of reality. For example two years ago I was in New York paying almost $2 more for a gallon of gas than I am today. And people weren’t driving less, they weren’t pulling off from the gas station leaving their cars unfilled. We’ve seen the British Columbia carbon tax that has been in place for years now with no reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. [Carbon tax] is an industry tool that’s used to avoid regulation and that’s all it is. It’s business as usual for them.
I think this is mostly correct, and it certainly is correct "paying a little bit more for gas is a solution to our climate problem isn’t based in any kind of reality".

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

LC: A lot of people don’t realize but trade deals tend to be decided by corporate lawyers and lobbyists, and they’re usually just corporate giveaways. Even what has come out so far about Trump’s changes to NAFTA don’t appear to be any different than the normal corporate giveaways.

SE: These trade deals are all structured to increase profits for corporations and for industries to take advantage of cheap labor, to undercut and undermine any kinds of environmental protections. They’re all structured in a way in which working-class, middle-class people will ultimately pay the price while corporate America and and the wealthy continue to reap all the benefits of these trade agreements. They’re not being structured in a way that benefits us at all.

I think this is quite correct, and this is a recommended article.

3. How to Legalize Cannabis Throughout US

This article is by Senator Mike Gravel on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
In the interest of full disclosure, I have been on the board of Cannabis Sativa, Inc., for five years, including four years as CEO.  I presently serve as CEO of THC Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  My earlier professional life included being speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives and two terms representing Alaska in the U.S. Senate.  These combined experiences equip me to address some of the problems caused by the U.S. anti-drug campaign.

One of the great domestic political tragedies since the last century is the war on drugs initiated by President Richard Nixon, part of which placed cannabis (marijuana) on the list of Schedule 1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

Nixon, seeking to shore up his position opposing cannabis, appointed Raymond Shafer, the recently retired governor of Pennsylvania, to head a commission to study the negative effects of marijuana on the American populace.  Nixon was incensed when the Shafer Commission’s 1972 report showed no negative effects from the use of marijuana on society and called for it to be decriminalized.

The report was promptly shelved; and Nixon, supported by his religious backers, executed his plan of drug prohibition, interdiction and punishment without the slightest medical or legal rationale, to punish young Americans protesting his continuation of the Vietnam War.
Yes, I think all of this may be correct, and the part about cannabis certainly is. (Incidentally, there was not only the American Shafer Commission that recommended the decriminalization of marijuana in 1972, but also the British Wootton Report of 1968/1969 that argued similarly.)

Nexrt, there is a graph in the article that shows the number of incarcerated Americans from 1930 to 2008, that shows (i) relatively little change from 1930-1970, with
ca. 300,000 incarcerated Americans in 1971, followed by (ii) a steep increase till 2008, when almost 2,500,000 persons were incarcerated in the USA - more than 8 times as much as in 1970.

And most of these 2.5 million persons were arrested for marijuana.

Here is more:
The federal government’s prohibitions of alcohol and of cannabis have both been abject failures, severely damaging American society. The prohibition of alcohol lasted 13 years, while the prohibition of cannabis has endured a little more than six decades. 

The process that ended alcohol prohibition is the template for the way we can now end the prohibition of cannabis — with a constitutional amendment.  Since prohibition of alcohol was put in place by the 18th Amendment, it required an amendment to repeal it.  This had never been done before — repealing one amendment with another amendment.
This seems an original idea that I was not aware of till now. Here is more on it:
With today’s 50 states, it would require 38 states –– three-fourths –– to ratify the two-thirds resolution enacted by the Congress to repeal the designation of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug.

Since 33 states have legalized some form of cannabis and additional states are looking at legalization, it is highly likely that five more states would join an effort to remove cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

I believe an amendment to repeal the war on drugs could easily secure the two-thirds vote in the House.
Yes, that may well be correct. Incidentally, I note two things:

First, "
to remove cannabis from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970" is not the same as legalization, but indeed clearly marijuana is not addictive in the senses heroin, cocaine and speed are, while second, being Dutch, I want to insist that marijuana is not legalized in Holland: All that happened since the middle 1980ies is that the former mayor of Amsterdam Ed van Thijn brought about a change of the law that allowed Dutch drugs traffickers to sell many more drugs (in all of Western Europe, and soft and hard drugs) than they could before.

And this is a recommended article.

4. Real Net Neutrality Is More Than a Ban

This article is by Katharine Trendacosta on Common Dreams and originally on Deeplinks Blog. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Net neutrality is the principle that all Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all traffic coming over their networks without discrimination. Violations of that principle include, but are not limited to, blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. The value of the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order was not just in the banning of those specific practices, but also in giving the FCC ability to investigate actions that violate net neutrality but don't fall neatly into one of those three buckets.
Public safety is tied to net neutrality, as Congressman Jerry McNerney of California noted when he said that during disasters, people go online to “check evacuation routes, see if their loved ones are safe, and find out if it’s even safe to breathe outside.” And if ISPs have made deals and decisions to make it faster to get to places with wrong or unhelpful information, that is a problem.

Yes. Here are some of the problems with network neutrality:

Interconnection points—places where two different networks exchange information with each other—are another place where we know ISPs can get around simple bans on just blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. That is to say that while the bans prevent things occurring on a network, they do not stop providers from charging extra when content enters their network at the connection point, which is paying to get access to customers on the other network. That’s why California’s S.B. 822, written to replicate the whole protections of the 2015 Open Internet Order and not just these three bans, includes prohibitions on doing that. Discriminatory zero-rating—the practice of exempting certain types of traffic from counting against a data cap (often under an agreement between the ISP and web platform)—is another area that can fall outside these three bans. Not only has zero rating been shown to be harmful to low-income broadband users, but it raises the cost of data for all users.

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

Net neutrality is a principle. It is not just a set of rules against specific discriminatory practices. Treating all Internet traffic equally is why we have the modern Internet. It’s not a new idea, but it’s in danger today.

I don't think this was a clearly written article, and indeed it is not true that "Treating all Internet traffic equally is why we have the modern Internet", for considerably more is involved.

5. Green New Deal 'Absolutely Realistic'

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

Addressing head-on those claiming that the Green New Deal plan unveiled last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is impractical, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) declared on Sunday that the proposal is "absolutely realistic" and represents the kind of ambitious thinking that will be necessary to avoid climate catastrophe.

After CNN's Jake Tapper invoked objections raised by Sen. Angus King (I-Maine.) and former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz—both of whom have suggested the goals outlined in the Green New Deal resolution are unrealistic—Murphy strongly disagreed with their assessment.

"I frankly think we need to set our sights high," said the Connecticut senator, who co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and dozens of congressional Democrats. "I think there were a lot of people who said it wasn't realistic for the United States to get a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, when President Kennedy initially outlined that goal. But we did it."

I agree with Murphy and Sanders, but I also think that to realize something like the Green New Deal (which I think is quite important) it very probably is necessary that the Democrats rule the House and the Senate and the presidency from 2020 onwards.

Here is more on the Green New Deal:
In addition to calling for a "national mobilization" to meet "100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources" by 2030, the Green New Deal resolution (pdf) also proposes a federal jobs guarantee, universal healthcare, and massive infrastructure investments.

National environmental groups that have mobilized in support of the sweeping Green New Deal plan argue that it is the only proposal that meets the urgency demanded by the scientific evidence, which says that global carbon emissions must be cut in half by 2030 to avert planetary catastrophe.

Yes, I believe that is correct. Incidentally, the Green New Deal resolution (pdf) is well worth downloading and reading and this is a strongly 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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