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Nederlog

February 26, 2019

Crisis: Extinction Rebellion, On Brazil, No More Clouds, Trump's Wall, The Rule of Law


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







Sections

Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 26, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, February 26, 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:

. Selections from February 26, 2019:
1. Extinction Rebellion
2. Brazil Is Now Effectively Run by a Military Junta

3. 'A World Without Clouds. Think About That a Minute'

4. The Emperor’s New Wall

5. A Not So Distant Past, When the Rule of Law Applied to Corporate CEOs
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. Extinction Rebellion

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

There is one desperate chance left to thwart the impending ecocide and extinction of the human species. We must, in wave after wave, carry out nonviolent acts of civil disobedience to shut down the capitals of the major industrial countries, crippling commerce and transportation, until the ruling elites are forced to publicly state the truth about climate catastrophe, implement radical measures to halt carbon emissions by 2025 and empower an independent citizens committee to oversee the termination of our 150-year binge on fossil fuels. If we do not do this, we will face mass death.

I say, for this is quite radical and in fact I also disagree with it. I explain my reasons briefly:

First, while Hedges may be correct that "[t]here is one desperate chance left to thwart the impending ecocide and extinction of the human species", I am - probably considerably - less certain of this thesis than he is.

And second, while I think democratic and liberal socialism is probably the best alternative to capitalism, I do not think you can bring it about merely by "nonviolent acts of civil disobedience".

Indeed, if there is to be a revolution, I think one also needs an economic crisis to make a fair
chance of succeeding.

There are more reasons, and the two I gave are also speculative, as are Hedges' theses. And in fact, Hedges' theses correspond rather closely to ideas of Extinction Rebellion, that is a British group I have never heard of:

The British-based group Extinction Rebellion has called for nonviolent acts of civil disobedience on April 15 in capitals around the world to reverse our “one-way track to extinction.” I do not know if this effort will succeed. But I do know it is the only mechanism left to force action by the ruling elites, who, although global warming has been well documented for at least three decades, have refused to carry out the measures needed to protect the planet and the human race. These elites, for this reason alone, are illegitimate. They must be replaced.

“It is our sacred duty to rebel in order to protect our homes, our future, and the future of all life on Earth,” Extinction Rebellion writes. This is not hyperbolic. We have, as every major climate report states, very little time left. Indeed, it may already be too late.

Well... I do not think that Hedges is correct that his and Extinction Rebellion's theses are (bolding added) "the only mechanism left to force action by the ruling elites".

Here is more by Hedges (after considerable amounts of quotations from Extinction Rebellion):

If we do not shake off our lethargy, our anomie, and resist, our misery, despondency and feelings of helplessness will mount. We will become paralyzed. Resistance, especially given the bleakness before us, is about more than winning. It is about a life of meaning. It is about empowerment. It is a public declaration that we will no longer live according to the dominant lie. It is a message to the elites: YOU DO NOT OWN US. It is about defending our dignity, agency and self-respect. The more we free ourselves from the bondage of fear to throw up barriers along the forced march toward ecocide the more we will be enveloped by a strange kind of euphoria, one I often felt as a war correspondent documenting horrific suffering and atrocities to shame the killers. We obliterate despair in our acts of defiance, even if our victories are Pyrrhic. We reach out to those around us. Courage is contagious.

No, I think this is considerably too positive.

To explain my position (which I think is about as radical as Hedges´ position, but is not the same) I think the best I can do is to explain something about my family´s history and my own history:

Both of my parents were communists for 45 years, which they became in the 1930s and early 1940s because of the arisal of Nazism and the occupation of Holland by the Nazis, and so was my grandfather from 1937 till 1943 when he was killed. He was killed because both my father and him were arrested in August of 1941, after which both were convicted as ¨political terrorists¨ to concentration camp imprisonment.

My father survived more than 3 years and 9 months in four concentration camps, and he survived because he was a communist. My parents also stayed communists after WW II, and I started out as a communist as well, but gave up on communism and Marxism when I was 20, in 1970. My reasons were that I could not believe in Marx´s principal theses, and also could not believe that the Soviet Union and other so-called ¨socialist states" were socialist in any sense I could agree to.
Also, I had not survived nearly 4 years of Nazist concentration camps as a communist, like my father.

Then again, I kept agreeing to my parents moral values, and it were these moral values together with my strong interests in real science that made me an opponent of the politics of the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, that was from 1971 till 1995 mostly directed by students who pretended to be communists until 1984 (but were not real communists if my parents were real communists, as they undoubtedly were) and then pretended to be (or maybe were) postmodernists till 1995 (when the law was radically changed and the
¨University¨ of Amsterdam was turned very authoritarian again).

Meanwhile, I had been scolded at least a hundred of times as ¨a fascist¨ and ¨a filthy fascist¨ from 1977 till 1988 (!!!), and as a ¨terrorist¨ in 1988 because I criticized the hopelessly stupid and dishonest persons who were supposed to teach me philosophy, and I had also learned that around 95% of the students and staff from the
¨University¨ of Amsterdam preferred ¨marxist¨ communism or postmodernism over real science and rationality (not because they were real communists, at least, but because this position made getting an M.A. much easier) - and I learned this because I had created a student-party: These were the outcomes of elections in the whole ¨University¨ of Amsterdam.

Also, I was removed very briefly before taking an excellent M.A. in philosophy from the faculty of philosophy (as a student), which destroyed my chances of an M.A. in philosophy, which again is the reason for my taking an (excellent) M.A. in psychology (in which I already had a B.A.).

The brief version of this is that I learned that at least 95% of the most intelligent Dutchmen were strongly against me, fundamentally because I was for science and for rationality, at a time when being against science and against rationality in the
¨University¨ of Amsterdam was very helpful in getting (mostly intellectually utterly worthless) M.A.s

And this implies that I do not trust most ¨leftists¨ (and no rightists) also not if they preach revolution.

Anyway... back to the article, which ends as follows:

The mass actions on April 15 might fizzle out. The crowds might not gather. The public might be apathetic. But if only a handful of us attempt to block a bridge or a road, even if we are swiftly swept away by the police, so swiftly there is not enough disruption to notice, it will be worth it. I am a father. I love my children. It is not about me. It is about them. This is what parents do.

Well... in case the demonstrators ¨are swiftly swept away by the police¨ this action will have failed. Also, ¨[t]his is what parents do¨ is just an emotional appeal. In any case, judging this and other cases in the light of what my grandfather, my father and myself did, I think that in either case there were less than 5% of the Dutch who ever mostly agreed with either of us.

2. Brazil Is Now Effectively Run by a Military Junta

This article is by Mauro Lopez on Truthdig and originally on Brasil Wire. It starts as follows:

It was a little more than 45 days of the most bizarre power experiment in Brazilian history, but it’s over. The Jair Bolsonaro government, as the victorious power arrangement that won at the ballot box in 2018, no longer exists. A new phase two is beginning, of a regime that is ending the period of the people’s Constitution of 1988. A military junta is taking power in a government in which it already dominated. There are four generals encapsulated in the Presidential Palace: Augusto Heleno, Hamilton Mouro, Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz and Eduardo Villas Bas. In the next few days, the Junta may incorporate General Floriano Peixoto Neto, who is slated to substitute General Secretariat Minister Gustavo Bebianno, Bolsonaro’s campaign coordinator who was recently ousted on money laundering charges.

It is not exactly a coup d’tat. The coup took place in 2015-16. They were already there. Now they occupy all of the key positions in the government. They have taken the power that was left vacant by the cartoon caricatures of Bolsonaro and his sons.

I say, which I do because I did not know any of the above. Also, while I take this as probably correct, I have no better reasons than that this appeared on Truthdig.

Here is some more:

The most prominent member of the Military Junta will probably be Villas Bas. He was the great strategist, the negotiator, the man who took the initiative to betray democracy, ordering the Supreme Court to block Lula’s freedom and impeding the ex-President’s candidacy and with this, guaranteeing the rise of a new regime.

The same remarks apply as I made above. Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

The Military Junta takes power with broad support from civilian elites. The military is seen as, maybe, the last chance to implement a project for the Nation that aims to alienate all of the natural resources and concentrate wealth at a scale that has never been seen before, under a discourse of “competence”, of ultra-neoliberalism and under the guidance of the “market”.

Again the same remarks apply as I made above (and I know little about Brazil and do not speak Portugese) but I think I should add that what is sketched in this article is also known from other countries. And this is a recommended article.


3. 'A World Without Clouds. Think About That a Minute'

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

As people across the globe mobilize to demand bold action to combat the climate crisis and scientific findings about looming "environmental breakdown" pile up, a startling new study published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience warns that human-caused global warming could cause stratocumulus clouds to totally disappear in as little as a century, triggering up to 8C (14F) of additional warming.

Stratocumulus clouds cover about two-thirds of the Earth and help keep it cool by reflecting solar radiation back to space. Recent research has suggested that planetary warming correlates with greater cloud loss, stoking fears about a feedback loop that could spell disaster.

In fact, I selected this article mostly because it mentions ¨a feedback loop that could spell disaster¨, which I have been worrying about (feedback loops in general) ever since I read ¨The Limits to Growth¨ in 1972.

Here is some more:

For this study, researchers at the California Institute of Technology used a supercomputer simulation to explore what could lead these low-lying, lumpy clouds to vanish completely. As science journalist Natalie Wolchover laid out in a lengthy piece for Quanta Magazine titled "A World Without Clouds":

The simulation revealed a tipping point: a level of warming at which stratocumulus clouds break up altogether. The disappearance occurs when the concentration of CO2 in the simulated atmosphere reaches 1,200 parts per million [ppm]—a level that fossil fuel burning could push us past in about a century, under "business-as-usual" emissions scenarios. In the simulation, when the tipping point is breached, Earth's temperature soars 8 degrees Celsius, in addition to the 4 degrees of warming or more caused by the CO2 directly...

Yes - if the simulation is more or less correct, while then this is supposed to happen around 2100. Here is some more:

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere has surged from about 280 ppm to more than 410 ppm today. Although concentrations will continue to rise as long as the international community maintains unsustainable activities that generate greenhouse gas emissions, some observers pointed out that atmospheric carbon hitting 1,200 ppm is far from a foregone conclusion.

I think I could be among "some observers [who] pointed out that atmospheric carbon hitting 1,200 ppm is far from a foregone conclusion" and my reason is - see above - that it seems rather probable that before the clouds disappear, it is probable that capitalism will have destroyed itself, or alternatively, that there is a kind of socialism that is much more careful with nature than capitalism.

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

However, as Washington Post climate reporter Chris Mooney concluded in a series of tweets, "the point is not that this scary scenario is going to happen. Given the current trajectory of climate policy and renewables, it seems unlikely. Rather, the key point—and it's a big deal—is that there are many things we don't understand about the climate system and there could be key triggers out there, which set off processes that you can't easily stop."

I agree with Mooney and this is a recommended article.


4. The Emperor’s New Wall

This article is by Ottavia Ampuero Villagran on Common Dreams and originally on OpenDemocracy.net. It starts as follows:

(CD editor's note: This article was originally published Feb. 14—one day before President Donald Trump issued his emergency declaration to fund his border wall.)

"Walls”, “fencing”, “barriers”, “steel slats” – many are the terms being bandied around by lawmakers in the United States as they seek compromise on the further fortification of the US-Mexican border. Although a second government shutdown tomorrow looks unlikely, President Donald Trump's remarks to his supporters that “we’re building the wall anyway” indicate that he will continue to search for ways to forcefully fulfil one the central promises of his 2016 presidential campaign.

Of course "CD" (here) is "Common Dreams", and their initial "editorial note" is quite correct and Villagran was mistaken that Trump would not issue his "emergency declaration".

Here is more about walls:

The physical presence of walls can certainly feel impressive, reminiscent of a past time of fortresses and militias. Yet in today’s day and age, they attempt to project a power they no longer possess. Walls simply do not stop the movement of people – this needs to made clear from the outset. As long as migrants perceive the situation on the other side to be better than what they could ever hope to attain on theirs, they will find ways to cross. They will go around the wall by sea; under it through tunnels; over it with ladders; through it with blowtorches; and across it at official checkpoints through subterfuge and inventive smuggling.

I think this is all correct. Here is more:

Walls are symbolic reiterations of frontiers and thus markers of difference – a physical declaration of the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Thus it is no surprise that the increasing fortification of the southern border over the past 50 years has paralleled the worsening of attitudes towards Mexicans and Latinos, culminating in the generalised fear of the “Latino Threat”. This often spills over into outright hostility, weakening social cohesion and fuelling anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy initiatives, including projects to refuse public education to the children of undocumented immigrants and halt affirmative action programmes.

Yes indeed. Here is the ending of this article:

While Trump insists that a wall is the only effective method of securing the southern border, it is highly unlikely that this is true. If it does eventually get built, its effect on the flows of people and contraband will be radically limited by the technology and ingenuity of those on the other side. This means that, at the end of the day, the power of whatever Trump manages will only ever be largely symbolic. Perhaps that is why it is so attractive to him anyway: a symbol that visually and psychologically gratifies his wish to project rectitude, autonomy and might.

I think this is probably correct as well, and this is a recommended article.

5. A Not So Distant Past, When the Rule of Law Applied to Corporate CEOs

This article is by Jerri-Lynn Scofield on Naked Capitalism. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

On Friday, the Grey Lady reported:  Jeffrey Skilling, Former Enron Chief, Released After 12 Years in Prison:

Jeffrey K. Skilling, the former chief executive of Enron whose lies contributed to the sudden collapse of the energy company in one of the country’s most high-profile cases of corporate fraud, was released from federal custody on Thursday after serving more than 12 years in prison, the federal authorities said.

Younger readers may be amazed to hear about a time not so very long ago and in a place much nearer than a galaxy far, far away, where the US Department of Justice (DoJ) – now openly derided  by practicing lawyers as the Department of Jokes – prosecuted and jailed corporate officers who allowed criminal activity to occur on their watch.

Not only Skilling, but Enron’s founder and chairman, Kenneth Lay, and its CFO, Andrew Fastow, were sentenced to prison terms — although Lay died before he was able to serve his time.

And it wasn’t only Enron executives, who presided over what was until that time the largest corporate bankruptcy, that were prosecuted and did time. Adelphia officers were convicted and sent to jail,  Likewise, for their WorldCom counterparts.

I say, which I do because I did not know most of the above. Incidentally, the Wikipedia lemma on Jeffrey Skilling is quite interesting.

Here is more:

Then in 2009, things shifted.

Eric Holder became attorney general, and instituted a seminal shift in DoJ enforcement policy – the so-called “Holder Doctrine.” As I summarized in this September 2016 post, Law Enforcement Losing War on White Collar Crime, which described the policy undertaken  during the Holder’s tenure:

During that time, the DoJ instead followed the “Holder doctrine” and eschewed criminal charges against companies and executives, instead opting for negotiated settlements (often imposing de minimis, slap-on-the wrist penalties that were significantly undersized compared to the magnitude of damage done, especially by TBTF banks and other financial predators, to name just a few).

Precisely! And as I have been saying for a long time: I know about Eric Holder and the “Holder Doctrine” and I think that Holder was (and is) a criminal.

Here is some more on how the criminal
“Holder Doctrine” was applied:

The bottom line: in contrast to how prosecutors proceeded during the tech collapse that occurred during the administration of George W. Bush – when corporate officers were prosecuted, and sentenced to jail terms – no major Wall Street executive faced any sort of legal reckoning for the activities that led to the 2008 financial crisis. I mean zilch. Zero. De nada.

I believe that the lack of any legal comeuppance for the behavior that caused that financial collapse is one reason that Trump is president.
Yes, I quite agree (and this also reflects strongly back on Obama). Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Progressives are putting forward exciting proposals to address long-neglected but pressing policy problems: Medicare for All, the Green New Deal.

Our legal system is similarly broken – and the problem isn’t limited solely to who holds a particular judgeship.

The main question: What needs to change for judges again to serve as neutral arbiters – and shift the balance away from the business-friendly bias we’ve seen during the last several decades?

Well... a partial answer to the last question is: The least that is needed is an attorney general who upholds the law, instead of writing nonsense which discards the law, but I agree that - very probably - more is needed. And this is a recommended article.

Note
[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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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