February 13, 2019

Crisis: End of Ice, One Minute, Inequalities of Place, Ocasio-Cortez Is Right, A US Tax on Wealth

“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 13, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, February 13, 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 13, 2019:
1. The End of Ice: Dahr Jamail on Climate Disruption
2. One Minute to Midnight

3. America’s Widening Inequality of Place

4. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Under Fire Because She’s Right

5. A US Tax on Wealth Is Long Overdue
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. The End of Ice: Dahr Jamail on Climate Disruption

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

A new report finds at least a third of the Himalayan ice cap will melt by the end of the century due to climate change, even if the world’s most ambitious environmental reforms are implemented. The report, released by the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment earlier this month, is the culmination of half a decade’s work by over 200 scientists, with an additional 125 experts peer reviewing their work. It warns rising temperatures in the Himalayas could lead to mass population displacement, as well as catastrophic food and water insecurity. The glaciers are a vital water source for the 250 million people who live in the Hindu Kush Himalaya range, which spans from Afghanistan to Burma. More than 1.5 billion people depend on the rivers that flow from the Himalayan peaks. We speak with Dahr Jamail, independent journalist and Truthout staff reporter. He is the author of the new book “The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption.”

I think the above is very probably correct, both on the climate and on the disappearance of tje Himalayan ice cap: "It warns rising temperatures in the Himalayas could lead to mass population displacement, as well as catastrophic food and water insecurity. The glaciers are a vital water source for the 250 million people who live in the Hindu Kush Himalaya range".

And incidentally: I have been following - let's say - the environment since 1972, when I first read "The Limits to Growth", and I think I have to say that I did not see many changes in the last 45 years, although there were some. But none really attacked the dangers that have been pointed since the 1950ies, e.g. by Aldous Huxley in "The Human Situation" (still in print) or by Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring".

And while I think the above quotation is probably correct, I must add that I am pessimistic, mostly because I've seen nearly 50 years of lies and politics. I hope I am mistaken, but I fear I am not.

Here is some more:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: (..) The region is home to the most ice in the world, after Antarctica and the Arctic. More than 1.5 billion people depend on the rivers that flow from the Himalayan peaks.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, an alarming new report has found more than 40 percent of insect species around the world may become extinct in the next few decades. Although the study’s authors point to industrial agriculture as the main culprit, they also lay blame on climate change, citing warming temperatures that have led to sudden decreases in insect population in places like Puerto Rico, where nearly 100 percent of ground rainforest bugs have disappeared in just 35 years.

This devastating news comes as 2018 was found to be the fourth-warmest year on record. The past five years have been the five warmest since reliable measurements began more than a century and a half ago.

Yes, thus is all correct to the best of my knowledge. Here is some more:

DAHR JAMAIL: They’re more indications of how far along we already are, regarding human-caused climate disruption. Excuse me. They essentially underscore that we are on a warming trend now that’s unprecedented, unlike anything that we’ve ever seen since humans have been on the planet. And it’s very disconcerting. And we can really look across the globe and see these giant alarm bells, like the melting of the glaciers in the Himalaya, the collapse of insect populations, which that same report said, at the current trajectory, assuming we don’t speed up or these trends don’t speed up, which they may well do that, we could lose all insects by 2100.

Quite so - and if we "lose all insects by 2100", then the majority or all of humanity will also disappear, for lack of food.

Here is some more:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Dahr, in your new book, you talk about—at one point, you say, “As a species, we now hang over the abyss of a geoengineered future we have created for ourselves. At our insistence, our voracious appetite is consuming nature itself. We have refused to heed the warnings Earth has been sending, and there is no rescue team on its way.” That’s a pretty dim sense of what lies ahead. Could you talk about the response of governments and the human race to what’s going on?

DAHR JAMAIL: Well, it is why I think we’re in such a grim situation. Because I went to many of the hotspots, the front lines of climate disruption around the world, from Denali up in Alaska to the Amazon rainforest to the Great Barrier Reef to South Florida for sea level rise and many other places. And in each place, really, what we’ve seen is catastrophic declines of—whether it’s biodiversity in the Amazon to the loss of ice up in the Alaskan Range to how fast now sea level rise is starting to accelerate (..) And yet, like other countries, as well, we have a government that is not only not doing anything about it, but is instead stomping on the gas. And so, another reason things are so grim.

Yes, I agree with Jamail. Here is the last but that I'll quote from this article, and it is by Jamail:

And, you know, the best science now shows that even if we stopped all fossil fuel emissions today, and everything—you know, all governments started to react accordingly, most likely we have a minimum of 3 degrees C warming that’s already baked into the system. And so, hold that up against how governments are reacting. I mean, we should be having global, coordinated response on a dramatically emergency level. And instead, it’s business as usual in at least the leading countries—you know, the U.S., China, India and Russia, the leading greenhouse gas-emitting countries on the planet. And instead of going into an emergency response and mandated CO2 emission cuts and getting off fossil fuels as rapidly as possible, they’re just stomping on the gas and pretending like we can keep kicking this can down the road.

I think Jamail is correct. There also is considerably more in the article, that is strongly recommended.

2. One Minute to Midnight

This article is by Scott Ritter on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Late last month, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists unveiled its “Doomsday Clock” for the 26th time since its creation in 1947, declaring that the hands on the clock would remain where they had been at the last setting, in 2018. Rachel Bronson, the bulletin’s president, described the environment in which the bulletin assesses the threats faced by the world today (which have expanded beyond nuclear to include climate change and cyber) as the “new abnormal,” and noted that no one should take comfort from the fact that the hands of the clock have not moved.

“This new abnormal,” Bronson wrote in her statement explaining the decision, “is a pernicious and dangerous departure from the time when the United States sought a leadership role in designing and supporting global agreements that advanced a safer and healthier planet. The new abnormal describes a moment in which fact is becoming indistinguishable from fiction, undermining our very abilities to develop and apply solutions to the big problems of our time.”

I more or less agree with Bronson, but there is also this by Ritter:

I dissent from the bulletin’s decision to stay the hands of the Doomsday Clock. Humanity is sleepwalking toward global annihilation, furthered by a collective amnesia about the threat posed by nuclear weapons, especially in an environment void of meaningful arms control. On Feb. 2, the United States suspended its obligations under the INF Treaty, beginning a 180-day process that, once concluded, will lead to the abandonment of that agreement. Russia soon followed suit. The death of the INF Treaty represents far more than simply the end of an era. It is the end of a process—a mindset—that recognized nuclear weapons for their globe-killing reality and sought their reduction and eventual elimination.

And I think Ritter also seems correct, although with the Doomsday Clock as close to a nuclear war as it is now, one possible reason not to move it even closer to doomsday is to have some space to do so, although I do not know this.

Here is more by Ritter:

The demise of the INF Treaty is symptomatic of a larger problem—the collapse of arms control as an institution. Viktor Mizin, one of the Soviet negotiators involved in the INF Treaty, made note of this reality, and its consequences. “[Soviet arms control negotiators] got their start with the first negotiations for the partial test-ban treaties [in the 1950s]. These were the people with whom the partial [U.S.-Soviet] detente and the idea of peaceful coexistence began … [t]his was an entire generation of brilliant diplomats, soldiers, and defense industry specialists. It’s no coincidence that most competent people around then were the ones who participated in all these negotiations … [w]e don’t have anyone like them now. Both here and in America, there’s been a collapse of institutional memory, and no one remembers what happened at these negotiations, and there’s nobody who has the same negotiating skills.” Worse, Mizin noted, “We’re absolutely failing to raise the next generation.”

I am afraid that Mizin is correct.

This article ends as follows, after a lot more I leave to your interests:

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is wrong to keep the hands of the Doomsday Clock stuck at two minutes to midnight. The situation is far more grave than its assessed “new abnormal” would suggest. The United States is in the process of creating the conditions for a nuclear war with Russia, and the Russian president is calmly talking about global annihilation if such an event transpires.

The world is on the edge of the nuclear abyss. It’s one minute before midnight, and we are acting as if we still have time. We don’t.

I fear Ritter is correct, indeed in part because of his knowledge and background, which are here.
And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. America’s Widening Inequality of Place

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

You’ve heard me talk about inequalities of income and wealth and political power. But another kind of inequality needs to be addressed as well: widening inequalities of place.

On the one hand, booming mega-cities. On the other hand, an American heartland that’s becoming emptier, older, whiter, less educated, and poorer. Trump country.

To understand what’s happening you first need to see technology not as a thing but as a process of group learning – of talented people interacting with each other continuously and directly, keying off  each other’s creativity, testing new concepts, quickly discarding those that don’t work, and building cumulative knowledge.

This learning goes way beyond the confines of any individual company. It now happens in geographic clusters – mostly along the east and west coasts in places like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and suburban Washington D.C.

Well... I agree with Reich that there are "inequalities of place" in the USA, but I am sorry that I do not agree with his assessment of "a process of group learning – of talented people interacting with each other continuously and directly, keying off  each other’s creativity", mostly because it sounds too much like the advertisements I read in Holland over 40 years ago for the University of Amsterdam - that in fact was mostly governed by students who were members of the Communist Party and later postmodernusts, and by professional politicians from the Dutch social democrats.

My point is here not that it is (or was) like that in the USA, for it clearly is not: my point is that in fact it is very difficult to get true information about the functioning of nearly all universities for those who do not belong to a university.

Anyway. Here is some more:

Between 2010 and 2016, according to Brookings, nearly half of America’s employment growth centered in just 20 large metro areas that are now home to about a third of the US population.

One consequence is a more distorted democracy. California, now inhabited by almost 40 million people, gets two senators – as does Wyoming, with just 579,000.

Even though Democratic Senate candidates in the 2018 midterm elections received 18 million more votes than Republican Senate candidates, Republicans still gained 2 more Senate seats.

This is quite correct, and the right term for it is quite anti-democratic - I mean that "California, now inhabited by almost 40 million people, gets two senators – as does Wyoming, with just 579,000".

Here is the ending of Reich's article:

So as the American middle class disappears, the two groups falling most perilously behind are white, rural, non-college Trump supporters, and the very poor inside America’s trendiest mega-urban centers, who are disproportionately black and Latino.

This inequality is unsustainable. It’s literally tearing America apart.

I fear Reich is correct and this is a recommended article.

4. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Under Fire Because She’s Right

This article is by Jesse Jackson on Common Dreams and originally on the Chicago Sun-Times. It starts as follows:

The big guns are out for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the charismatic first-term legislator from New York.

In an apparent swipe at Ocasio-Cortez, Donald Trump used part of his rambling State of the Union address to say he was “alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country.”

Billionaire former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz cited Ocasio-Cortez’s support for a 70 percent tax rate on income above $10 million a year as one reason he may decide to run as an independent for president, and not as a Democrat.

The young congresswoman isn’t easily cowed. She called out Trump, saying “I think he’s scared.”

I think Jackson is quite correct, and indeed he quotes excellent evidence:

Ocasio-Cortez is exactly right. Schultz may think calls for Medicare for all are “un-American,” but the vast majority of Americans support it. Consider the following:

Reuters poll: 70 percent support Medicare for all, including 52 percent of Republicans.

Fox News poll: 70 percent support raising taxes on those making over $10 million a year.

Bloomberg poll: 62 percent support tuition-free college.

Kaiser Foundation poll: 92 percent support having Medicare negotiate with drug companies to lower drug prices.

Hart poll: 63 percent support $15 minimum wage.

Yale/George Mason poll: 81 percent support the Green New Deal plan.

There is a wide gulf between the political center and the moral center.

The main reason is that the so-called "political center" consists mostly of already rich people making more money by being elected representatives. That is, I think that the majority of both the Republicans and the Democrats are in fact corrupt, though I agree that the Republicans are more corrupt than the Democrats.

Here is one more bit by Jackson on the differences between the moral center and the political center:

Dr. Martin Luther King used to teach that “cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”

Politicians worry about donors. They hear from lobbyists, from special interests, from corporations that can spend unlimited money in political campaigns without revealing it.

The moral center is concerned with what is right — and what can work.

What is different now is that the moral center — what is right — is also increasingly popular.

I more or less agree, but I also insist that, in the experience of myself of the last 50 years, and of my father and grandfather, both of whom got convicted for doing the morally right thing in WW II by the Nazis, whom they resisted, which also killed my grandfather, I do not think that in fairly extreme and dangerous circumstances more than 5% of the people will choose do or try to do the morally right thing. And this is a recommended article.

5. A US Tax on Wealth Is Long Overdue

This article is by Thomas Piketty on Common Dreams and originally on the Boston Globe. It starts as follows:

What if the final blow for French President Emmanuel Macron came not from the yellow vests but from US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts? Warren, who announced her candidacy for president on Saturday, has proposed what will doubtless be one of the key points of her campaign — the creation of a genuine federal progressive wealth tax.

Carefully calculated by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the Warren proposal sets a rate of 2 percent on fortunes valued between $50 million and $1 billion, and 3 percent above $1 billion. The proposal also provides for an exit tax equal to 40 percent of total wealth for those who relinquish their American citizenship. The tax would apply to all assets, with no exemptions, with dissuasive sanctions for people and governments that do not transmit appropriate information on assets held abroad.

The debate has only just begun and the proposed schedule could still be extended and made more progressive — with rates rising, for example, to 5 to 10 percent per annum for multibillionaires. What is certain is that the issue of fiscal justice will be central to the presidential campaign. US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has suggested a rate of 70 percent on the highest incomes, while Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont defends a tax rate of 77 percent on the highest inherited estates. While the Warren proposal is the most innovative, the three approaches are complementary and should be mutually beneficial.

I agree with Piketty about the USA, but do not know whether he is correct about France (though it is true Pikettty is French).

Here is Piketty's main argument about the USA:

Between 1930 and 1980, the rate applied on the highest incomes was on average 81 percent, and the rate applied to the highest inherited estates was 74 percent. Clearly this did not destroy American capitalism. Far from it. It made it more egalitarian and more productive, at a time when the United States had not forgotten that educational advancement and investment in training and skills — not the religion of property and inequality — were the backbone of prosperity.

Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump subsequently endeavored to destroy this heritage. They turned their backs on the egalitarian origins of the country by counting on historical amnesia and by fueling identity-based divisions. With the hindsight we have today, it is obvious that the outcome of this policy was disastrous. Between 1980 and 2020, the rise in per capita national income was halved in comparison with the period 1930-1980. What little growth there was ended up being swept up by the richest, the consequence being a complete stagnation in income for the poorest 50 percent.

Yes, quite so. 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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