September 16, 2015
Crisis: Energy, Hitler, Neocons, Sanders & Corbyn, Guns, Pope Francis

 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next


David Attenborough backs huge Apollo-style clean
     energy research plan

2. Hitler’s world may not be so far away
3. Are Neocons an Existential Threat?
Sanders and Corbyn: There Is An Alternative  
5. More Americans Have Been Shot to Death in the Last 25
     Years Than Have Died in Every War

Pope Francis Is About to Blow Elizabeth Warren Out of
     the Water

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about a large project to try to get clean energy that is supported by David Attenborough (I like
science, but am doubtful of its chances of being adopted); item 2 is about a recent book about Hitler and the Holocaust, that mainly looked vague to me (after reading all of "the long read"); item 3 is about the neoconservatives and the dangers these pose; item 4 is a good article about Sanders and Corbyn; item 5 is about how many Americans were shot dead in the last 25 years in "gun- related deaths"; and item 6 is about pope Francis, and I agree he is special (but will probably soon be replaced by a more conservative pope).

1. David Attenborough backs huge Apollo-style clean energy research plan

The first article today is by Damian Carrington on The Guardian:
  • David Attenborough backs huge Apollo-style clean energy research plan

This starts as follows:

An Apollo-style research programme to make renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels has won the backing of Sir David Attenborough, who says this alone would be enough to halt climate change.

The renowned naturalist joins a group of eminent scientists, business executives and politicians backing a 10-year public research and development plan to cut the costs of clean energy and deliver affordable technologies to store and transport solar and wind power.

In a letter to the Guardian on Wednesday, the group argue that the approach, mirroring the intense Apollo programme that put men on the moon, “will not only pay for itself but provide economic benefits to the nations of the world”.

“I have been lucky enough to spend my life exploring the world’s oceans, forests and deserts. But the Earth, with its spectacular variety of creatures and landscapes, is now in danger,” said Attenborough. “Just one thing, however, would be enough to halt climate change. If clean energy became cheaper than coal, gas or oil, fossil fuel would simply stay in the ground.”

I say. Before going on: The first link in the quotation also is mildly interesting. Here is some more from the present article:

The letter, whose signatories include oil executive Lord John Browne, former energy secretary Ed Davey and climate scientist Sir Brian Hoskins, says: “The plan requires leading governments to invest a total of $15bn (£10bn) a year in research, development and demonstration of clean energy. That compares to the $100bn currently invested in defence R&D globally each year.”

Here I get a bit skeptical, and not because I am against vastly more scientific research, which I am a strong proponent of, but for two other reasons:

15% of the yearly amount spent on "defence R&D" (really: war R&D), although quite reasonable to my mind, seems politically speaking a whole lot of money, and also I have not seen any clear objectives other than "clean energy" that is "cheaper than coal, gas or oil".

Then again, there are lots of rather important backers:

The backers of the Global Apollo Programme, who also include Unilever CEO Paul Polman, economist Lord Nicholas Stern, MP Zac Goldsmith, former chair of the Financial Services Authority Lord Adair Turner and former cabinet secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell, urge the world’s nations to back the plan ahead of a crunch climate summit in Paris in December.

Well... I am for it, but I would be rather amazed if it were adopted. (Also, I much doubt Attenborough is right in his saying "this alone would be enough to halt climate change", but OK - I do want more money invested in fundamental science and "clean energy" is very important.)

2.  Hitler’s world may not be so far away

The next article is by Timothy Snyder (<- Wikipedia) on The Guardian:

  • Hitler’s world may not be so far away

This is from the beginning, and I should first say that this is marked "The long read"; that Snyder is a professor at Yale who has a new book out, called "The Holocaust as History and Warning", of which the present essay was adaped; and that I know more than most about the Holocaust and WW II, simply because my parents and grandparents were among the very few Dutchmen who really resisted the Nazis, which also got my father and his father arrested in July of 1941, after which collaborating Dutch judges sentenced them as "political terrorists" to concentration camp punishment, where my grandfather was murdered:
Most of us would like to think that we possess a “moral instinct”. Perhaps we imagine that we would be rescuers in some future catastrophe. Yet if states were destroyed, local institutions corrupted and economic incentives directed towards murder, few of us would behave well. There is little reason to think that we are ethically superior to the Europeans of the 1930s and 1940s, or for that matter less vulnerable to the kind of ideas that Hitler so successfully promulgated and realised.
Well... perhaps, but my parents and grandparents certainly did not belong to the royal "we" Timothy Snyder presumes. Also, I doubt whether I would attribute a “moral instinct” to myself (and I don't know what Snyder means by that term), although I clearly have a conscience, and most of the rest of this first paragraph
also is vague and speculative.

And in fact this - "vague and speculative" - applies to much of this "long read". Take this, for example:
Likewise, to characterise Hitler as an antisemite or an anti-Slavic racist underestimates the potential of Nazi ideas. His ideas about Jews and Slavs were not prejudices that happened to be extreme, but rather emanations of a coherent worldview that contained the potential to change the world.
Hitler was an antisemite and an anti-Slavic racist, but it is true he was more. But how would saying he is an antisemite etc. "underestimate the potential of Nazi ideas"? I have no idea. Neither do I have much of an idea about Hitler's supposed "coherent worldview" (and I have read a fair amount about the man).

Again, there is this:
In 1942 the German policy of total killing then spread back west into territories that the Germans controlled before 1941: the subject nations of western Europe, the allies of central and southern Europe and indeed to Germany itself. German Jews were not murdered inside prewar Germany, but deported instead to zones of statelessness in the east, where they could be killed.
Really?! There were no concentration camps in Germany were German Jews were murdered before the war? It is true many more were murdered after the war started, but this doesn't mean it didn't happen since 1933, and especially to  "Jewish communists".
If we think that we are victims of some planetary conspiracy, we edge towards Hitler. If we believe that the Holocaust was a result of the inherent characteristics of Jews, Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, or anyone else, then we are moving in Hitler’s world.
Perhaps - but again this is rather vague. The following seems mostly true:
The market is not nature; it depends upon nature. The climate is not a commodity that can be traded but rather a precondition to economic activity as such. The claim of a right to destroy the world in the name of profits for a few people reveals an important conceptual problem. Rights mean restraint. Each person is an end in himself or herself; the significance of a person is not exhausted by what someone else wants from him or her.
But again it is vague, and mixes up factual claims, like "the market is not nature" with vague ethical claims about rights and persons. I happen to agree with them,
but I know there is a large discrepancy between claims of fact and claims of values.

Again, the following is not true:

The state is for the recognition, endorsement and protection of rights, which means creating the conditions under which rights can be recognised, endorsed, and protected. When states are absent, rights – by any definition – are impossible to sustain.
For surely, although rights are protected by states and legal systems, there also are human individual ideas of rights, and these even may be kept up, by some, as political prisoners in concentration camps.

There is rather a lot more in this "long read", but it didn't convince me this is a book I ought to read.

3.  Are Neocons an Existential Threat?

The next article is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:

  • Are Neocons an Existential Threat?

This starts as follows:

The neoconservatives arguably have damaged American national interests more than any group in modern history. They have done more harm than the marginal Communists pursued by Sen. Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, more than the Yippies of the 1960s, more than Richard Nixon’s Watergate burglars in the 1970s or the Iran-Contra conspirators in the 1980s.

The neocons have plunged the U.S. government into extraordinarily ill-considered wars wasting trillions of dollars, killing hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, and destabilizing large swaths of the planet including the Middle East, much of Africa and now Europe. Those costs include a swelling hatred against America and a deformed U.S. foreign policy elite that is no longer capable of formulating coherent strategies.

Yet, the neocons have remained immune from the consequences of their catastrophes. They still dominate Washington’s major think tanks as well as the op-ed pages of virtually all the leading newspapers, including The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times. They hold down key positions in the State Department, and their “liberal interventionist” pals have the ear of President Barack Obama.

I agree - and think it is correct this has "neoconservatives" rather than "neoliberals".

There is considerably more in the article.

4. Sanders and Corbyn: There Is An Alternative

The next article is by Robert Borosage on Common Dreams:

  • Sanders and Corbyn: There Is An Alternative

This starts as follows:

Jeremy Corbyn, a sexagenarian socialist and vegetarian teetotaler, and for 32 years a prickly, independent backbencher in the British parliament, has been elected in a landslide to lead the British Labour Party. The victory of the “British Bernie Sanders” raises the obvious question: Could that happen here?

British parties and politics are far different from those of the United States. But the two countries have experienced parallel sea-changes in the past. The victory of the “Iron Lady,” movement conservative Maggie Thatcher in 1979, presaged Ronald Reagan’s stunning victory in 1980. The two leaders helped launch the conservative era, arguing in Thatcher’s words, “there is no alternative.”

Bill Clinton packaged himself as a “New Democrat” to tack to these prevailing conservative winds and win the presidency in 1992. Tony Blair followed and imitated, championing “New Labour” to win the lead of the party in 1994 and the country in 1997. Both touted their savvy in embracing conservative positions on welfare, crime and deregulation.

Corbyn’s victory and Sanders’ stunning rise in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination – he now polls better than Clinton in both New Hampshire and Iowa, the only states where voters are paying much attention – suggest a new sea change could be in the making.

Perhaps, but this is a good article - and I say "perhaps" because, while I like both Sanders and Corbyn, and would like to see them win, I am not at all certain this will happen.

One of the reasons this is a good article is this on the "Third Way" (<-Wikipedia):

Blair and Bill Clinton celebrated a “third way” that championed bipartisan embrace of financial deregulation, corporate trade policies (“free trade”), fiscal austerity (budget surplus), rollback of poverty programs (“welfare reform”) and tough-on-crime extremism (“mandatory sentences”). Followers of both scorned labor unions as outmoded relics. Both heralded the end of the “era of big government.”

The results were devastating. Financial bubbles followed by financial collapse. Gilded Age inequality and a declining middle class. Mass incarceration. Public squalor. Unending trade deficits that savaged American manufacturing and American workers. Millions in America surviving on less than two dollars a day.
Yes,  precisely. Also, there is this, that is relevant in my estimation:
The Clintons and Blair profited personally after they left office, rewarded no doubt for their service. Both boasted of their sophistication in message development, polling and focus groups. Now people are sick of packaged politicians. Corbyn and Sanders are, in the modern lingo, “authentic.”
For the Clintons made several tens of millions of dollars and Blair made between 20 and 80 million pounds, and I think that is relevant because these are personal riches (and they would - very probably - not have made these riches if they had not been politicians).

Here is the last bit that I also agree with:

Corbyn will have a hard time reviving a badly divided and demoralized Labour Party. Sanders remains a long shot in the Democratic primaries. But one thing is already clear: The center will not hold. The old consensus is collapsing in the wake of its failures. People are casting about for a new course.

Yes, both may well fail. But the popular interest in them shows that considerable
segments of ordinary men and women have not been diverted by the "
Third Way"
baloney, and that is a good thing.

5. More Americans Have Been Shot to Death in the Last 25 Years Than Have Died in Every War

The next article is by Hannah Levintova:
  • More Americans Have Been Shot to Death in the Last 25 Years Than Have Died in Every War
This comes with the following chart (which was made a bit smaller to fit space):
                      Clicking the image leads you to the article

It is true (as the article says) there are more than 1.1. million American deaths if "killed in war" is extended some, but the main point of having this graphic here is
that in a mere 25 years over 800,000 Americans were killed in "gun- related deaths".

I say.

6. Pope Francis Is About to Blow Elizabeth Warren Out of the Water

The final article today is by A.J. Vicens on Mother Jones:
  • Pope Francis Is About to Blow Elizabeth Warren Out of the Water
This starts as follows:

Pope Francis will arrive in the United States next week, with stops planned in Washington, New York City, and Philadelphia. In the nation's capital, he will become the first pope to address a joint session of Congress. When House Speaker John Boehner extended the invitation, he said Francis' teachings "have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views." He may not have appreciated just how radical the Pope's teachings are.

In a sharp departure from his predecessors in the Vatican, Francis' statements on such issues as climate change, divorce, homosexuality, and abortion have rankled conservatives around the world. The pushback on some of his more progressive interpretations of Catholic teachings has also angered many Catholics, triggering what the Washington Post described as a "conservative rebellion" within the church.

I agree: The present pope is rather different from most of the previous popes.
Indeed, A.J. Vicens continues by showing why:

In November 2013, he wrote his blueprint for where he wanted to lead the church, a document known as the Evangelii Gaudium or the apostolic exhortation, in which he focused on this issue. Here are six of the pope's most critical comments from the document on one of the biggest problems facing the United States: 
will give the headings (bold in the original) but leave the text to your own interests - but yes, the pope's ideas are radical:
On income inequality:
On "trickle-down" economics:
On the "idolatry of money" leading to a "new tyranny":
On the role of money:
On the ways income inequality leads to violence:
On the ways income inequality "kills":
Here is the text that belongs to the last item:
"Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills... Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape."
Indeed. But it will not make me a catholic, and also I am afraid that the present pope, who is exceptional, will remain exceptional, and will be soon replaced by a considerably more conservative successor.

But meanwhile it is good to have a leader of over a billion persons say these things.


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