AuthorTopic: The Surlynewz Channel  (Read 672172 times)

Offline RE

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Re: If Trump Rage Brings ‘Civil War,’ Where Will Soldiers Stand?
« Reply #3945 on: October 06, 2019, 06:02:46 AM »
It's not where the soldiers will stand, but where the Officers will stand.  For the most part, the Grunts follow the Orders of their direct superiors.  That is what they are trained to do.

In a real Civil War, the military will fracture.  Some officers will decide to fight "for" Trumpsky, others will elect to fight "against" him.

As to who would win that war, it's a question of numbers and of equipment  Hard to predict right now who has the most numbers and who has the best equipment.

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Offline Surly1

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University of Iowa Faculty Told Not to Promote Greta Thunberg Visit
« Reply #3946 on: October 06, 2019, 07:56:44 AM »
Profiles in Courage.

Report: University of Iowa Faculty Told Not to Promote Greta Thunberg Visit on School Social Media

University of Iowa officials have told faculty at the school that they should not promote 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Great Thunberg’s surprise appearance at a Friday climate strike in Iowa City on its social media channels, according to a report in the Gazette.

UI civil and environmental engineering professor Michelle Scherer, who is also the associate director of a National Science Foundation Sustainable Water Development Graduate Program, told the paper that she had suggested social channels tied to the university’s engineering and IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering schools mention Thunberg’s appearance at the protest. The climate strike involved UI students and, according to USA Today, was intended to push the university into accelerating its climate action plan after similar efforts resulted in change at regional high schools and the city government.

In response, Engineering College director of marketing and communications Jason Kosovski shot the idea down, stating that it would implicitly violate university policies against “political activity.” (Thunberg has become the target of predictable backlash from right-wingers in recent weeks after telling off the United Nations during a speech in September, demanding that governments take more aggressive action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.)

The Gazette wrote:

“We cannot use our channels to publicize or promote policy change,” replied Jason Kosovski, director of marketing and communications in the Engineering College. “We are always free to publicize our research, even if it has policy impacts, but Greta’s visit does not fit under the umbrella of university research.”

He stressed faculty and staff not use college, center, or department channels to promote Thunberg’s visit.

“I have consulted with UI Government Relations, and they have emphasized that this event does not fall within the scope of something we can promote,” Kosovski wrote.

Another UI employee, spokeswoman Anne Bassett, directed Scherer to college policies prohibiting “the use of the university name for any purpose in any non-university endeavor not previously sanctioned by the Office of Strategic Communication.”

According to the Gazette, the municipal government of Iowa City, area high schools, UI Student Government, and UI Graduate Student Government have all passed climate resolutions; the student government representatives also worked their counterparts from other Big Ten schools to pass one at a conference this summer. That resolution demanded that “take action to address social and ecological disruption and address its contribution to the catastrophic loss of the planet’s biodiversity and worsening effects of climate change by leaving a generation unprepared for ecological and social crises ahead.”

The Gazette wrote that Scherer considered sending the message anyway under the justification that the climate issue is apolitical as well as relevant to the university’s climate impact. In addition to missing a major opportunity to draw focus to the school’s environmental programs, Scherer told the paper that UI President Bruce Herreld’s plan for the school to go coal-free by 2025 was insufficient.

“That’s six years away,” Scherer told the paper. “That’s too slow. It’s way too conservative.” She added that UI has made overtures towards privatizing its utilities operations, possibly losing control of things like fuel sourcing.

“There are lots of things we need to do to really stop emissions,” Scherer told the Gazette, such as “no more coal. It’s not a big lift.”

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

Offline edpell

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3947 on: October 06, 2019, 09:04:05 AM »
"It is not a big lift" ???!!! How much would it cost? 

Offline Surly1

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George Monbiot: Start Making Sense
« Reply #3948 on: October 07, 2019, 09:02:36 AM »
George Monbiot: Start Making Sense
By understanding the psychological buttons they’re pressing, we can stop demagogues from destroying our democracy.

In every age there have been political hucksters, using aggression, lies and outrage to drown out reasoned argument. But not since the 1930s have so many succeeded. Trump, Johnson, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Nicolas Maduro, Viktor Orban and many others have discovered that the digital age offers rich pickings. The anger and misunderstanding that social media generates, exacerbated by troll factories, bots and covertly-funded political advertisingspills into real life

Today, politicians and commentators speak a language of violence that was unthinkable a few years ago. In the UK, Boris Johnson mocks the memory of the murdered MP Jo Cox. Nigel Farage, talking of civil servants, promises that “once Brexit’s done, we will take the knife to them.” Brendan O’Neill, editor of the magazine Spiked, that has received funding from the Koch brothers, told the BBC that there should be riots over Brexit’s delay. They must all know, particularly in view of the threats and assaults suffered by female MPs, that violent language licences violence. But these statements seem perfectly pitched to trigger unreasoning aggression.

Surely voters must now wake from this nightmare, dismiss those who have manufactured our crises, and restore the peaceful, reasoned politics on which our security depends? Unfortunately, it might not be as simple as that. 

Several fascinating branches of neuroscience and psychology suggest that threat and stress in public life are likely to be self-perpetuating. The more threatened we feel, the more our minds are overwhelmed by involuntary reflexes and unthinking reaction.

The strangest of these effects is described by the neuroscientists Stephen Porges and Gregory Lewis. They show that when we feel threatened, we literally cannot hear calm, conversational voices. When we feel safe, the muscles in the middle ear contract, with an effect like tightening the skin of a drum. This shuts out deep background sounds, and allows us to tune into the frequencies used in ordinary human speech. 

But when we feel threatened, it is the deep background noises we need to hear. In evolutionary time, it was these sounds (roars, bellows, the padding of paws or rumble of hooves, thunder, a flood pulse in a river) that presaged danger. So the muscles of the middle ear relax, shutting out conversational frequencies. In the political context, if people are shouting at us, moderating voices are, physically, tuned out. Everyone has to shout to be heard, ramping up the level of stress and threat. 

When we feel particularly threatened or angry, a fight or flight response kicks in, overwhelming our capacity for reason – a phenomenon some psychologists call amygdala hijack. The amygdala sits at the base of the brain and channels strong emotional signals that can override the prefrontal cortex, preventing us from making rational decisions. We lash out irrationally, saying stupid things that then trigger amygdala hijack in other people. That’s more or less how social media works. 

All this is exacerbated by the frantic and blinkered way in which we seek a place of safety when we feel insecure. Security is what psychologists call a classic “deficit value”: one whose importance to us escalates when we feel it is deficient, shutting out other values. This allows the very people who made us insecure to present themselves as the “strongmen” (always, in reality, the weakest men imaginable) to whom we can turn for refuge from the chaos they created. Disturbingly, a survey by the Hansard Society in April revealed that 54% of respondents now agree with the statement “Britain needs a strong ruler willing to break the rules”, while only 23% disagree.

I suspect the demagogues – or their advisers – know what they’re doing. Either instinctively or explicitly, they understand the irrational ways in which we react to threat, and know that, to win, they must stop us from thinking. Why does Johnson appear to want a no deal Brexit so badly? Perhaps because it generates the stress and threat on which his success depends. If we don’t break this spiral, it could drag us down to a very dark place indeed. 

So what do we do? How, in particular, do we discuss genuinely alarming situations, like Brexit or climate breakdown, without triggering threat responses? The first thing the science tells us is this: treat everyone with respect. The stupidest thing you can possibly do, if you want to save democracy, is to call your opponent gammon. 

Never get drawn into a shouting match, however offensive the other person might be. Don’t be distracted by attempts to manufacture outrage: bring the conversation back to the topics you want to discuss. We should emulate the calm strength with which Greta Thunberg responds to the tidal wave of nastiness she faces: “As you may have noticed, the haters are as active as ever – going after me, my looks, my clothes, my behaviour and my differences … But don’t waste your time giving them any more attention.” 

After studying the success or failure of other political movements, Extinction Rebellion has developed a protocol for activism that looks like a model of good political psychology. It uses humour to deflect aggression, distributes leaflets explaining the action and apologising for the disruption, trains activists to resist provocation, and runs de-escalation workshops, teaching people to translate potential confrontations into reasoned conversation. It urges “active respect”towards everyone, including the police. 

By setting up people’s assemblies, it seeks to create a civic space in which other voices can be heard. As another paper by Stephen Porges, the neuroscientist whose work has done so much to explain our reflexes, points out, our brains don’t allow us to experience compassion for others until we feel safe. Creating calm spaces in which to explore our differences is an essential step towards rebuilding democratic life. 

All this might sound like common sense. It is. But understanding how our minds function helps us to see when they are unconciously working for the demagogues. Breaking the spiral means restoring the mental state that allows us to think. 

Copyright 2019 George Monbiot. First published in The Guardian.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

Offline Surly1

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3949 on: October 07, 2019, 09:11:59 AM »
"It is not a big lift" ???!!! How much would it cost?

Less of a lift in the US and the "west" than the global south.

Plenty of chewy goodness at this link, including charts that can't be reproduced here.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

Offline Surly1

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Meet catabolic capitalism: globalization’s gruesome twin
« Reply #3950 on: October 07, 2019, 04:29:36 PM »
Meet catabolic capitalism: globalization’s gruesome twin
We’ll soon discover that capitalism without globalization is much, much worse.

by Craig Collins

“Out of the frying pan, into the fire” is an apt description of our current place in history. No matter what you think of globalization, I believe we’ll soon discover that capitalism without it is much, much worse.

No one needs to convince establishment economists, politicians and pundits that the absence of globalization and growth spells trouble. They’ve pushed globalization as the Viagra of economic growth for years. But globalization has never been popular with everyone. Capitalism’s critics recognize that it generates tremendous wealth and power for a tiny fraction of the Earth’s seven billion people, makes room for some in the middle class, but keeps most of humanity destitute and desperate, while trashing the planet and jeopardizing human survival for generations to come.

Around the world, social movements voice their opposition to voracious growth and unite around the belief that “Another World Is Possible!” They work toward the day when neoliberal globalization is replaced by a more democratic, equitable, Earth-friendly society. They assume that any future without globalization is bound to be an improvement. But it appears that this assumption may be wrong. In fact, future generations may someday look back on capitalism’s growth phase as the vigorous days of industrial civilization, a naïve time before anyone realized that the worst was yet to come.

Profit: the prime directive

Today, energy depletion, ecological disaster, debilitating debt, and economic inequity are suffocating globalization and growth. The Age of Fossil Fuels has reached its apex. The rapacious flight to the top was powered by the Earth’s dwindling hydrocarbon reserves. From these lofty heights, the drastic drop-off ahead appears perilous. As fossil fuel extraction fails to meet global demand, economic contraction and downward mobility will become the new normal and growth will fade into memory. But this new growth-less future may bear no resemblance to the equitable green economy activists have been calling for.

Optimistic green reformers like Al Gore, Jeremy Rifkin, and Lester Brown see a window of opportunity at this historic juncture. For years, they’ve jetted from one conference to another, tirelessly trying to convince world leaders to embrace their planet-saving plans for a sustainable, carbon-free society before it’s too late. They hope energy scarcity and economic contraction can act as wake-up calls, spurring world leaders to embrace their Green New Deals that promise to save capitalism and the planet.

Their message is clear: rapid, fossil-fueled growth is burning through the Earth’s remaining reserves of precious hydrocarbons and doing untold damage to the biosphere in the process. Businesses must lead the way out of this dangerous dead end by adopting renewable energy and other planet-healing practices, even if it means substantial reductions in growth and profits. But, despite their dire warnings, hard work, innovative proposals, and good intentions, most heads of state and captains of industry continue to politely ignore them.

Meanwhile, more radical activists also hope climate chaos, peak oil and economic contraction will become game changers. Many assume that globalization and growth are so essential that capitalism must fail without them. And, as it does, social movements will seize the opportunity to transform this collapsing system into a more equitable, sustainable one, free of capitalism’s insatiable need to expand at all costs.

Growth is not the primary driving force behind capitalism—profit is. Periods of crisis and collapse can generate huge profits as well.

Both the green growth reformers and anti-growth radicals misunderstand the true nature of capitalism and underestimate its ability to withstand—and profit handsomely from—the great contraction ahead. Growth is not the primary driving force behind capitalism—profit is. When the overall economic pie is expanding, many firms find it easier to realize profits big enough to continually increase their share price. But periods of crisis and collapse can generate huge profits as well. In fact, during systemic contractions, the dog-eat-dog nature of capitalism creates lucrative opportunities for hostile takeovers, mergers and leveraged buyouts, allowing the most predatory firms to devour their competition.

Can capitalism survive without growth?

One of capitalism’s central attributes is opportunism. Capitalism is not loyal to any person, nation, corporation, or ideology. It doesn’t care about the planet or believe in justice, equality, fairness, liberty, human rights, democracy, world peace or even economic growth and the “free market.” Its overriding obsession is maximizing the return on invested capital. Capitalism will pose as a loyal friend of other beliefs and values, or betray them in an instant, if it advances the drive for profit … that’s why it’s called the bottom line!

Growth is important because it tends to improve the bottom line. And ultimately, capitalism may not last without it. But those who profit from this economic system are not about to throw up their hands and walk off the stage of history just because boom has turned to bust. Crisis, conflict, and collapse can be extremely profitable for the opportunists who know where and when to invest.

But how long can this go on? Can capitalism’s profit motive remain the driving force behind a contracting economy lacking the vital energy surplus needed to fuel growth? Definitely, but the consequences for society will be grim indeed. Without access to the cheap, abundant energy needed to extract resources, power factories, maintain infrastructure, and transport goods around the world, capitalism’s productive sector will lose its position as the most lucrative source of profit and investment. Transnational corporations will find that their giant economies of scale and global chains of production have become liabilities rather than assets. As profits dwindle, factories close, workers are laid off, benefits and wages are slashed, unions are broken, and pension funds are raided—whatever it takes to remain solvent.

Declining incomes and living standards mean poorer consumers, contracting markets and shrinking tax revenues. Of course, collapse can be postponed by using debt to artificially extend the solvency of businesses, consumers, and governments. But eventually, paying off debts with interest becomes futile without growth. And, when the credit bubbles burst, the defaults, foreclosures, bankruptcies and financial fiascos that follow can paralyze the economy.

Without the capacity for re-energizing growth, the recessions and depressions of times past that temporarily disrupted production between long periods of expansion, now become chronic features of a contracting system. On the downside of peak oil, neither liberal programs to increase employment and stimulate growth nor conservative tax and regulatory cuts have any substantial impact on the economy’s descending spiral. Both production and demand remain so constricted by energy austerity that any brief growth spurts are quickly stifled by resurgent energy prices. Instead, periods of severe contraction and collapse may be buffered between brief plateaus of relative stability.

Catabolism: the final phase of capitalism

In a growth-less, contracting economy, the profit motive can have a powerful catabolic impact on capitalist society. The word “catabolism” comes from the Greek and is used in biology to refer to the condition whereby a living thing feeds on itself. Thus, catabolic capitalism is a self-cannibalizing system whose insatiable hunger for profit can only be fed by devouring the society that sustains it.[1] As it rampages down the road to ruin, this system gorges itself on one self-inflicted disaster after another.

The riotous train scene in the film The Marx Brothers Go West captures the essence of catabolic capitalism. The wacky brothers commandeer a locomotive that runs out of fuel. In desperation, they ransack the train, breaking up the passenger cars, ripping up seats and tearing down roofs and walls to feed the steam engine. By the end of the scene, terrified passengers desperately cling to a skeletal train, reduced to little more than a fast-moving furnace on wheels.

In the previous era of industrial expansion, catabolic capitalists lurked in the shadows of the growth economy. They were the illicit arms, drugs and sex traffickers; the loan sharks, debt collectors and repo-men; the smugglers, pirates, poachers, black market merchants and pawnbrokers; the illegal waste dumpers, shady sweatshop operators and unregulated mining, fishing and timber operations.

However, as the productive sector contracts, this corrupt cannibalistic sector emerges from the shadows and metastasizes rapidly, thriving off conflict, crime and crisis; hoarding and speculation; insecurity and desperation. Catabolic capitalism flourishes because it can still generate substantial profits by dodging legalities and regulations; stockpiling scarce resources and peddling arms to those fighting over them; scavenging, breaking down and selling off the assets of the decaying productive and public sectors; and preying upon the sheer desperation of people who can no longer find gainful employment elsewhere.

Scavengers, speculators, and slumlords buy up distressed and abandoned properties—houses, schools, factories, office buildings and malls—strip them of valuable resources, sell them for scrap or rent them to people desperate for shelter.

Without enough energy to generate growth, catabolic capitalists stoke the profit engine by taking over troubled businesses, selling them off for parts, firing the workforce and pilfering their pensions. Scavengers, speculators, and slumlords buy up distressed and abandoned properties—houses, schools, factories, office buildings and malls—strip them of valuable resources, sell them for scrap or rent them to people desperate for shelter. Illicit lending operations charge outrageous interest rates and hire thugs or private security firms to shake down desperate borrowers or force people into indentured servitude to repay loans. Instead of investing in struggling productive enterprises, catabolic financiers make windfall profits by betting against growth through hoarding and speculative short selling of securities, currencies and commodities.

Social benefits, legal and regulatory protections and modern society itself will also be sacrificed to feed the profit engine. During a period of contraction, venal catabolic capitalists put their lawyers and lobbyists to work tearing down any legal barriers to their insatiable appetite for profit. Regulatory agencies that once provided some protection from polluters, dangerous products, unsafe workplaces, labor exploitation, financial fraud and corporate crime are dismantled to feed the voracious fires of avarice.

Society’s governing institutions of justice, law, and order become early victims of this catabolic crime spree. Public safety is stripped down, privatized and sold to those who can still afford it. As budgets for courts, prisons, and law enforcement shrivel, private security firms hire unemployed cops to break strikes, provide corporate security, and guard the wealthy in their gated communities. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be forced to rely on alarm systems, dogs, guns and—if we’re lucky—watchful neighbors to deal with rising crime. Privatized prisons will profit by contracting convict labor to the highest bidders.

As tax-starved public services and social welfare programs bleed out from deep budget cuts, profit-hungry capitalists pick over the carcasses of bankrupt governments. Social security, food stamps, and health care programs are chopped to the bone. Public transportation and decaying highways are transformed into private thoroughfares, maintained by convict labor or indentured workers. Corporations scarf up failing public utilities, water treatment, waste management and sewage disposal systems to provide businesses and wealthy communities with reliable power, water and waste removal. Schools and libraries go broke, while exclusive private academies employ a fraction of the jobless teachers and university professors to educate a shrinking class of affluent students.

A dark alliance

Cannibalistic profiteers can thrive in a growth-less environment for quite some time, but ultimately, an economy bent on devouring itself has a dismal, dead-end future. Nevertheless, changing course will be difficult because, as the catabolic sector expands at the expense of society, powerful cannibalistic capitalists are bound to forge influential alliances, poison and paralyze the political system, and block all efforts to pull society out of its death spiral.

Catabolic enterprises are not the only profit-makers in a growth-less economy. Even an economy run on contracts and subcontracts must extract energy and other resources from the Earth. Unless the profit motive is removed by bringing these assets under public control, corporate real estate, timber, water, energy, and mining corporations will deploy their lobbying muscle to completely privatize these vital resources and enhance their bottom line with government subsidies, tax breaks and “regulatory relief.” The growing capital, energy and technology commitments needed to commodify scarce resources may cut deeply into profit margins. As less solvent outfits fail, the remaining politically connected resource conglomerates may maximize their profits by forming cartels to corner markets, hoard vital resources, and send prices soaring while blocking all attempts at public regulation and rationing.

The extractive and the catabolic sectors of capitalism have a lot in common. An alliance between them could put irresistible pressure on failing federal and state governments to open public lands and coastlines to unregulated offshore drilling, fracking, coal mining and tar sands extraction. Scofflaw resource extractors and criminal poaching operations proliferate in corrupt, catabolic conditions where legal protections are ignored and shady deals can be struck with local power brokers to maximize the exploitation of labor and resources. To pay off government debt, national and state parks may be sold and transformed into expensive private resorts while public lands and national forests are auctioned off to energy, timber, and mining corporations.

As globalization runs down, this grim catabolic future is eager to replace it. Already, an ugly gang of demagogic politicians around the world hopes to ride this catabolic crisis into power. Their goal is to replace globalization with bombastic nationalist authoritarianism. These xenophobic demagogues are becoming the political face of catabolic capitalism. They promise to restore their country to prosperity and greatness by expelling immigrants while carelessly ignoring the disastrous costs of fossil fuel addiction and military spending. Anger, insecurity and need to believe that a strong leader can restore “the good old days” will guarantee them a fervent following even though their false promises and fake solutions can only make matters worse.

Is catabolic capitalism inevitable?

So, what about green capitalism? Isn’t there money to be made in renewable energy? What about redesigning transportation systems, buildings and communities? Couldn’t capitalists profit by producing alternative energy technologies if government helped finance the unprofitable, but necessary, infrastructure projects needed to bring them online? Wouldn’t a Green New Deal be far more beneficial than catabolic catastrophe?

In a growth-less economy, catabolic capitalism is the most profitable, short-term alternative for those in power. This makes it the path of least resistance from Wall Street to Washington. 

Catabolic capitalism is not inevitable. However, in a growth-less economy, catabolic capitalism is the most profitable, short-term alternative for those in power. This makes it the path of least resistance from Wall Street to Washington. But green capitalism is another story.

As both radical greens and the corporate establishment realize, green capitalism is essentially an oxymoron. Truly green policies, programs and projects contradict capitalism’s primary directive—profit before all else! This doesn’t mean there aren’t profitable niche markets for some products and services that are both ecologically benign and economically beneficial. It means that capitalism’s overriding profit motive is fundamentally at odds with ecological balance and the general welfare of humanity.

While people and the planet can thrive in an ecologically balanced society, the self-centered drive for profit and power cannot. A healthy economy that encourages people to take care of each other and the planet is incompatible with exploiting labor and ransacking nature for profit. Thus, capitalists will resist, to the bitter end, any effort to replace their malignant economy with a healthy one.

Would the transition to a sustainable society be expensive? Of course. Our petroleum-addicted infrastructure of tankers, refineries, pipelines and power plants; cities, suburbs, gas stations and freeways; shopping centers, mega-farms, fast food franchises and supermarkets would have to be replaced with smaller towns fed by local farms and powered by decentralized, renewable energy. But the cost of making this green transition is a priceless bargain compared to the suicidal consequences of catabolic collapse.

Is resistance futile?

Before we decide that resistance is futile, it’s important to realize that the converging energy, economic and ecological disasters bearing down on us all have the potential to turn people against catabolic capitalism and toward a more just, planet-friendly future. The approaching period of catabolic collapse presents some strategic opportunities to those who would like to rid the world of this system as soon as possible.

For example, in the near future, energy scarcity and economic contraction may lead to a paralyzing financial meltdown. Interest-based banking cannot handle economic contraction. Without perpetual growth, businesses, consumers, students, homeowners, governments and banks (who constantly borrow from each other) cannot pay-off their debts with interest. If default goes viral, the banking system goes down.[2]

When the banking system finally implodes, credit freezes, financial assets vaporize, currency values fluctuate wildly, trade shuts down and governments impose draconian measures to maintain their authority. Few Americans have any experience with this kind of systemic seizure. They assume there will always be food in the supermarkets, gas in the pumps, money in the ATMs, electricity in the power lines and medicine in the pharmacies and hospitals.

During a financial meltdown, government officials find it difficult to retain public confidence; people blame them for running the economy into the ditch and suspect that their pseudo-solutions are actually self-serving schemes designed to keep themselves on top. Consequently, this crippling crisis could serve as a powerful wake-up call and a potential turning point if those who want to abolish catabolic capitalism are prepared to make the most of it.

But crises don’t necessarily incite positive responses. Power will be decisive in the unfolding struggle over the future of our species and the planet; and those that benefit from the status quo are bent on holding on to it. Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine warns us that those in power will exploit the traumas caused by major catastrophes to rally support for their own disastrous agenda (like invading Iraq after 9-11 or expelling the Black community from New Orleans after Katrina).

In the midst of shocking disasters those in power play upon our fears and prejudices to keep us passive, turn us against each other and under their control. If we resist all attempts to keep us apathetic, distracted, and divided, they won’t hesitate to use other ways to keep themselves on top, including intimidation, coercion, and brute force. Each time they succeed, life becomes more miserable for everyone but them.

Crisis only becomes our ally when popular anger is channeled into transformative insurrection against the system that causes it. How people respond to systemic disintegration will be pivotal. Who will be blamed? What “solutions” will gain support? Who will people listen to, trust and follow in times of extreme hardship, insecurity and unrest? To turn the tide against catabolic capitalism, activists must prepare people for the cascading crises that lie ahead. They must become trusted responders: defining the problem; organizing grassroots resilience and relief; and building a powerful insurrection against those who profit from disaster. But even this is not enough. To nurture the transition toward a thriving, just, ecologically stable society, all of these struggles must be interwoven and infused with an inspirational vision of how much better life could be if we freed ourselves from this dysfunctional, profit-obsessed system once and for all.

Climate chaos alone will impose many hardships, from extreme droughts, water scarcity, farm failures and food shortages to forest fires and floods, rising sea levels, mega-storms and acidified oceans. Movement organizers must help people anticipate, adapt to, and survive these hardships—but social movements cannot stop there. They must help people mount the kind of political resistance that can strip the fossil fuel industry of its power and leverage their own growing influence to demand that society’s remaining resources be re-directed toward a green transition.

Craig Collins Ph.D. is the author of Toxic Loopholes (Cambridge University Press), which examines America’s dysfunctional system of environmental protection. He teaches political science and environmental law at California State University East Bay and was a founding member of the Green Party of California. His forthcoming books: Marx & Mother Nature and Rising From the Ruins: Catabolic Capitalism & Green Resistance reformulate Marx’s theory of history & social change and examine the emerging struggle to replace catabolic capitalism with a thriving, just, ecologically resilient society.

All photos by Adam Cohn in the shipbreaking yards, Chittagong, Bangladesh

[1] The term “catabolic capitalism” used here is somewhat different from the theory of catabolic collapse developed by John Michael Greer. Greer looks at the demise of all civilizations (capitalist and non-capitalist) as a catabolic process. How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse <>

[2] Banks’ retained earnings and shareholder capital only amount to 2-9% of their loan portfolio, so it doesn’t take much of a loss to put them under.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

Offline Surly1

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Top Military Officers Unload on Trump
« Reply #3951 on: October 07, 2019, 05:06:41 PM »
This article is right on time given Trump's announcement regarding removing American troops from Syria. Since they should not have been there in the first place, this seems a good thing. Except that we will be leaving the Kurds (who have fought wars for the Empire in pursuit of their own autonomy and based on American promises) in the lurch and to the tender mercies of Erdogan. I am old enough to remember how the Americans recruited the Hmong in Vietnam and Laos, then abandoned them after their utility in the US's "secret" wars was spent.

As we speculate on next steps for what the military will do when Trump refuses to leave, I found this article instructive.

On the other hand, I wish Mad Dog Mattis was still part of Pud's cabinet, as I deemed him the most likely to empty a service revolver into that fat fuck.

Top Military Officers Unload on Trump
The commander in chief is impulsive, disdains expertise, and gets his intelligence briefings from Fox News. What does this mean for those on the front lines?


For most of the past two decades, American troops have been deployed all over the world—to about 150 countries. During that time, hundreds of thousands of young men and women have experienced combat, and a generation of officers have come of age dealing with the practical realities of war. They possess a deep well of knowledge and experience. For the past three years, these highly trained professionals have been commanded by Donald Trump.

To get a sense of what serving Trump has been like, I interviewed officers up and down the ranks, as well as several present and former civilian Pentagon employees. Among the officers I spoke with were four of the highest ranks—three or four stars—all recently retired. All but one served Trump directly; the other left the service shortly before Trump was inaugurated. They come from different branches of the military, but I’ll simply refer to them as “the generals.” Some spoke only off the record, some allowed what they said to be quoted without attribution, and some talked on the record.

Military officers are sworn to serve whomever voters send to the White House. Cognizant of the special authority they hold, high-level officers epitomize respect for the chain of command, and are extremely reticent about criticizing their civilian overseers. That those I spoke with made an exception in Trump’s case is telling, and much of what they told me is deeply disturbing. In 20 years of writing about the military, I have never heard officers in high positions express such alarm about a president. Trump’s pronouncements and orders have already risked catastrophic and unnecessary wars in the Middle East and Asia, and have created severe problems for field commanders engaged in combat operations. Frequently caught unawares by Trump’s statements, senior military officers have scrambled, in their aftermath, to steer the country away from tragedy. How many times can they successfully do that before faltering?

Amid threats spanning the globe, from nuclear proliferation to mined tankers in the Persian Gulf to terrorist attacks and cyberwarfare, those in command positions monitor the president’s Twitter feed like field officers scanning the horizon for enemy troop movements. A new front line in national defense has become the White House Situation Room, where the military struggles to accommodate a commander in chief who is both ignorant and capricious. In May, after months of threatening Iran, Trump ordered the carrier group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln to shift from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. On June 20, after an American drone was downed there, he ordered a retaliatory attack—and then called it off minutes before it was to be launched. The next day he said he was “not looking for war” and wanted to talk with Iran’s leaders, while also promising them “obliteration like you’ve never seen before” if they crossed him. He threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” and dispatched a three-aircraft-carrier flotilla to waters off the Korean peninsula—then he pivoted to friendly summits with Kim Jong Un, with whom he announced he was “in love”; canceled long-standing U.S. military exercises with South Korea; and dangled the possibility of withdrawing American forces from the country altogether. While the lovefest continues for the cameras, the U.S. has quietly uncanceled the canceled military exercises, and dropped any mention of a troop withdrawal.

Such rudderless captaincy creates the headlines Trump craves. He revels when his tweets take off. (“Boom!” he says. “Like a rocket!”) Out in the field, where combat is more than wordplay, his tweets have consequences. He is not a president who thinks through consequences—and this, the generals stressed, is not the way serious nations behave.

The generals I spoke with didn’t agree on everything, but they shared the following five characterizations of Trump’s military leadership.


Trump has little interest in the details of policy. He makes up his mind about a thing, and those who disagree with him—even those with manifestly more knowledge and experience—are stupid, or slow, or crazy.

As a personal quality, this can be trying; in a president, it is dangerous. Trump rejects the careful process of decision making that has long guided commanders in chief. Disdain for process might be the defining trait of his leadership. Of course, no process can guarantee good decisions—history makes that clear—but eschewing the tools available to a president is choosing ignorance. What Trump’s supporters call “the deep state” is, in the world of national security—hardly a bastion of progressive politics—a vast reservoir of knowledge and global experience that presidents ignore at their peril. The generals spoke nostalgically of the process followed by previous presidents, who solicited advice from field commanders, foreign-service and intelligence officers, and in some cases key allies before reaching decisions about military action. As different as George W. Bush and Barack Obama were in temperament and policy preferences, one general told me, they were remarkably alike in the Situation Room: Both presidents asked hard questions, wanted prevailing views challenged, insisted on a variety of options to consider, and weighed potential outcomes against broader goals. Trump doesn’t do any of that. Despite commanding the most sophisticated intelligence-gathering apparatus in the world, this president prefers to be briefed by Fox News, and then arrives at decisions without input from others.

One prominent example came on December 19, 2018, when Trump announced, via Twitter, that he was ordering all American forces in Syria home.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency,” he tweeted. Later that day he said, “Our boys, our young women, our men, they are all coming back, and they are coming back now.”

This satisfied one of Trump’s campaign promises, and it appealed to the isolationist convictions of his core supporters. Forget the experts, forget the chain of command—they were the people who, after all, had kept American forces engaged in that part of the world for 15 bloody years without noticeably improving things. Enough was enough.

At that moment, however, American troops were in the final stages of crushing the Islamic State, which, contrary to Trump’s assertion, was collapsing but had not yet been defeated. Its brutal caliphate, which had briefly stretched from eastern Iraq to western Syria, had been painstakingly dismantled over the previous five years by an American-led global coalition, which was close to finishing the job. Now they were to stop and come home?

Here, several of the generals felt, was a textbook example of ill-informed decision making. The downsides of a withdrawal were obvious: It would create a power vacuum that would effectively cede the fractured Syrian state to Russia and Iran; it would abandon America’s local allies to an uncertain fate; and it would encourage a diminished ISIS to keep fighting. The decision—which prompted the immediate resignations of the secretary of defense, General James Mattis, and the U.S. special envoy to the mission, Brett McGurk—blindsided not only Congress and America’s allies but the person charged with actually waging the war, General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command. He had not been consulted.

Trump’s tweet put Votel in a difficult spot. Here was a sudden 180-degree turn in U.S. policy that severely undercut an ongoing effort. The American contingent of about 2,000 soldiers, most of them Special Forces, was coordinating with the Iraqi army; the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, consisting primarily of Kurdish militias and Syrians opposed to President Bashar al-Assad; and representatives of NATO, the Arab League, and dozens of countries. This alliance had reduced ISIS’s territory to small pockets of resistance inside Syria. America’s troops were deep in the Euphrates Valley, a long way from their original bases of operation. An estimated 10,000 hard-core Islamist soldiers were fighting to the death. Months of tough combat lay ahead.

Votel’s force in Syria was relatively small, but it required a steady supply of food, ammunition, parts, and medical supplies, and regular troop rotations. The avenue for these vital conveyances—through hundreds of miles of hazardous Iraqi desert—was truck convoys, protected almost exclusively by the SDF. To protect its troops during a retreat, America could have brought in its own troops or replaced those truck convoys with airlifts, but either step would have meant suddenly escalating an engagement that the president had just pronounced finished.

For the American commander, this was a terrible logistical challenge. An orderly withdrawal of his forces would further stress supply lines, therefore necessitating the SDF’s help even more. Votel found himself in the position of having to tell his allies, in effect, We’re screwing you, but we need you now more than ever.

Field commanders are often given orders they don’t like. The military must bow to civilian rule. The generals accept and embrace that. But they also say that no careful decision-making process would have produced Trump’s abrupt about-face.

Votel decided to take an exceedingly rare step: He publicly contradicted his commander in chief. In an interview with CNN he said that no, ISIS was not yet defeated, and now was not the time to retreat. Given his responsibility to his troops and the mission, the general didn’t have much choice.

Votel held everything together. He took advantage of the good relationship he had built with the SDF to buy enough time for Trump to be confronted with the consequences of his decision. A few days later, the president backed down—while predictably refusing to admit that he had done so. American forces would stay in smaller numbers (and France and the U.K. would eventually agree to commit more troops to the effort). The 180-degree turn was converted into something more like a 90-degree one. In the end, the main effects of Trump’s tweet were bruising the trust of allies and heartening both Assad and ISIS.

Illustration featuring camo print
Illustration: Paul Spella; Nicholas Kamm; Olivier Douliery / AFP / Getty; Erik S. Lesser / AP; Kevin LaMarque / Reuters


Trump believes that his gut feelings about things are excellent, if not genius. Those around him encourage that belief, or they are fired. Winning the White House against all odds may have made it unshakable.

Decisiveness is good, the generals agreed. But making decisions without considering facts is not.

Trump has, on at least one occasion, shown the swiftness and resolution commanders respect: On April 7, 2017, he responded to a chemical-warfare attack by Assad with a missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat Airbase. But this was not a hard call. It was a onetime proportional retaliation unlikely to stir international controversy or wider repercussions. Few international incidents can be cleanly resolved by an air strike.

A case in point is the flare-up with Iran in June. The generals said Trump’s handling of it was perilous, because it could have led to a shooting war. On June 20, Iran’s air defenses shot down an American RQ-4A Global Hawk, a high-altitude surveillance drone the Iranians said had violated their airspace. The U.S. said the drone was in international airspace. (The disputed coordinates were about 12 miles apart—not a big difference for an aircraft moving hundreds of miles an hour.) In retaliation, Trump ordered a military strike on Iran—and then abruptly called it off after, he claimed, he’d been informed that it wouldkillabout 150 Iranians. One general told me this explanation is highly improbable—any careful discussion of the strike would have considered potential casualties at the outset. But whatever his reasoning, the president’s reversal occasioned such relief that it obscured the gravity of his original decision.

“How did we even get to that point?” the general asked me in astonishment. Given what a tinderbox that part of the world is, what kind of commander in chief would risk war with Iran over a drone?

Not only would a retaliatory strike have failed the litmus test of proportionality, this general said, but it would have accomplished little, escalated the dispute with Iran, and risked instigating a broad conflict. In an all-out war, the U.S. would defeat Iran’s armed forces, but not without enormous bloodshed, and not just in Iran. Iran and its proxies would launch terrorist strikes on American and allied targets throughout the Middle East and beyond. If the regime were to fall, what would come next? Who would step in to govern a Shiite Muslim nation of 82 million steeped for generations in hatred of America? The mullahs owe their power to the American overthrow of Iran’s elected government in 1953, an event widely regarded in Iran (and elsewhere) as an outrage. Conquering Americans would not be greeted by happy Persian crowds. The generals observed that those who predicted such parades in Baghdad following the ouster of Saddam Hussein instead got a decade-long bloodbath. Iran has more than twice Iraq’s population, and is a far more developed nation. The Iraq War inspired the creation of ISIS and gave renewed momentum to al‑Qaeda; imagine how war with Iran might mobilize Hezbollah, the richest and best-trained terrorist organization in the world.

Sometimes, of course, war is necessary. That’s why we maintain the most expensive and professional military in the world. But a fundamental reason to own such power is to avoid wars—especially wars that are likely to create worse problems than they solve.

General Votel, who commanded American forces in the region until he retired in March, told me that if the U.S. had carried out a retaliatory strike, “the trick for the military in this case would be to orchestrate some type of operation that would very quickly try and get us to an off-ramp—give them an off-ramp or provide us with an off-ramp—so we can get to some kind of discussion to resolve the situation.” Trump’s attack might have targeted some of the Iranian navy’s vessels and systems that threaten shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, Votel said, or it might have leveled a measured strike against the air defenses that struck the drone. Ideally it would have been followed by a pause, so diplomatic processes could kick in. The strike would have demonstrated to Iran that we have the capability and willingness to strike back if provoked, and made clear that in a serious fight, it could not prevail. But all of this presumes a sequence that would unfold in an orderly, rational way—a preposterous notion.

“This is all completely unpredictable,” Votel said. “It’s hard for me to see how it would play out. We would be compelled to leave large numbers of forces in the region as a deterrent. If you don’t have an off-ramp, you’re going to find yourself in some kind of protracted conflict.” Which is precisely the kind of scenario Trump has derided in the past. His eagerness to free the U.S. from long-term military conflicts overseas was why he made his abrupt announcement about pulling out of Syria. Evidently he didn’t fully consider where a military strike against Iran was likely to lead.

The real reason Trump reversed himself on the retaliatory strike, one general said, was not because he suddenly learned of potential casualties, but because someone, most likely General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, aggressively confronted him with the extended implications of an attack.

“I know the chairman very well,” the general said. “He’s about as fine an officer as I have ever spent time around. I think if he felt the president was really heading in the wrong direction, he would let the president know.” He added that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may have counseled against an attack as well. “Pompeo’s a really bright guy. I’m sure he would intervene and give the president his best advice.”


If there is any broad logic to Trump’s behavior, it’s Keep ’em confused. He believes that unpredictability itself is a virtue.

Keeping an enemy off-balance can be a good thing, the generals agreed, so long as you are not off-balance yourself. And it’s a tactic, not a strategy. Consider Trump’s rhetorical dance with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. No president in modern times has made progress with North Korea. Capable of destroying Seoul within minutes of an outbreak of hostilities, Pyongyang has ignored every effort by the U.S. and its allies to deter it from building a nuclear arsenal.

Trump has gone back and forth dramatically on Kim. As a candidate in 2016, he said he would get China to make the North Korean dictator “disappear in one form or another very quickly.” Once in office, he taunted Kim, calling him “Little Rocket Man,” and suggested that the U.S. might immolate Pyongyang. Then he switched directions and orchestrated three personal meetings with Kim.

“That stuff is just crazy enough to work,” one of the generals told me with a what-the-hell? chuckle. “We’ll see what happens. If they can get back to some kind of discussion, if it can avert something, it will have been worth it. The unconventional aspect of that does have the opportunity to shake some things up.”

In the long run, however, unpredictability is a problem. Without a coherent underlying strategy, uncertainty creates confusion and increases the chance of miscalculation—and miscalculation, the generals pointed out, is what starts most wars. John F. Kennedy famously installed a direct hotline to the Kremlin in order to lower the odds of blundering into a nuclear exchange. Invading Kuwait, Saddam Hussein stumbled into a humiliating defeat in the first Gulf War—a conflict that killed more than 100,000 people—after a cascading series of miscommunications and miscalculations led to a crushing international response.

From July/August 2017: Mark Bowden on how to deal with North Korea

Unpredictability becomes an impediment to success when it interferes with orderly process. “Say you’re going to have an engagement with North Korea,” a general who served under multiple presidents told me. “At some point you should have developed a strategy that says, Here’s what we want the outcome to be. And then somebody is developing talking points. Those talking points are shared with the military, with the State Department, with the ambassador. Whatever the issue might be, before the president ever says anything, everybody should know what the talking points are going to be.” To avoid confusion and a sense of aimlessness, “everybody should have at least a general understanding of what the strategy is and what direction we’re heading in.”

Which is frequently not the case now.

“If the president says ‘Fire and brimstone’ and then two weeks later says ‘This is my best friend,’ that’s not necessarily bad—but it’s bad if the rest of the relevant people in the government responsible for executing the strategy aren’t aware that that’s the strategy,” the general said. Having a process to figure out the sequences of steps is essential. “The process tells the president what he should say. When I was working with Obama and Bush,” he continued, “before we took action, we would understand what that action was going to be, we’d have done a Q&A on how we think the international community is going to respond to that action, and we would have discussed how we’d deal with that response.”

To operate outside of an organized process, as Trump tends to, is to reel from crisis to rapprochement to crisis, generating little more than noise. This haphazard approach could lead somewhere good—but it could just as easily start a very big fire.

If the president eschews the process, this general told me, then when a challenging national-security issue arises, he won’t have information at hand about what the cascading effects of pursuing different options might be. “He’s kind of shooting blind.” Military commanders find that disconcerting.

“The process is not a panacea—Bush and Obama sometimes made bad decisions even with all the options in front of them—but it does help.”

Illustration of Trump in a blindfold
Illustration: Paul Spella; Eric Thayer / Reuters


General H. R. McMaster, who left the White House on reasonably good terms in April 2018 after only 14 months as national security adviser, is about as can-do a professional as you will find. He appeared to take Trump seriously, and tailored his briefings to accommodate the president’s famous impatience, in order to equip him for the weighty decisions the office demands. But Trump resents advice and instruction. He likes to be agreed with. Efforts to broaden his understanding irritate him. McMaster’s tenure was bound to be short. Weeks before accepting his resignation, the president let it be known that he found McMaster’s briefings tedious and the man himself “gruff and condescending.”

Distrusting expertise, Trump has contradicted and disparaged the intelligence community and presided over a dismantling of the State Department. This has meant leaving open ambassadorships around the world, including in countries vital to American interests such as Brazil, Canada, Honduras, Japan, Jordan, Pakistan, Russia, and Ukraine. High-level foreign officers, seeing no opportunities for advancement, have been leaving.

“When you lose these diplomats and ambassadors that have all this experience, this language capability, this cultural understanding, that makes things very, very difficult for us,” one of the generals said. “And it leads to poor decisions down the line.”

Trump so resists being led that his instinct is nearly always to upend prevailing opinion.

“He is reflexively contrary,” another of the generals told me.

According to those who worked with him, McMaster avoided giving the president a single consensus option, even when one existed. He has said that he always tried to give the president room to choose. After leaving the White House, he criticized others in the national-security community for taking a different approach, accusing them of withholding information in hopes of steering Trump in the direction they preferred. McMaster has not named names, but he was most likely talking about Mattis and General John Kelly, who, after serving as Trump’s homeland-security secretary, became the president’s second chief of staff. McMaster has said that he considered such an approach tantamount to subverting the Constitution—but if his allegation is true, it shows how poorly equipped those people felt Trump was for the job. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report records numerous instances of civilian advisers trying to manage the president, or simply ignoring presidential directives they deemed ill-advised or illegal.

During his brief tenure on Trump’s staff, McMaster oversaw the production of a broad national-security strategy that sought to codify Trump’s “America first” worldview, placing immigration at the head of national-security concerns, right alongside nuclear proliferation and terrorist attacks. The idea was to build a coherent structure around the president’s scattershot diplomacy. Trump rhapsodized about the document at its unveiling, according to someone who was there, saying, “I love it! I love it! I want to use this all the time.”

He hasn’t. Like its author, the document has been dismissed. Those who were involved in writing it remain convinced, somewhat hopefully, that it is still helping guide policy, but John Bolton, McMaster’s successor, said scornfully—a few months before he, too, was ousted by Trump—that it is filed away somewhere, consulted by no one.

Trump is no more likely to have read the thing than he is to have written his own books. (Years ago, after he published The Art of the Deal, he asked me if I was interested in writing his next book. I declined.) Trying to shape this president’s approach to the world into a cogent philosophy is a fool’s errand. For those commanding America’s armed forces, it’s best to keep binoculars trained on his Twitter feed.


Though he disdains expert advice, Trump reveres—perhaps fetishizes—the military. He began his presidency by stacking his administration with generals: Mattis, McMaster, Kelly, and, briefly, Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser. Appointing them so soon after their retirement from the military was a mistake, according to Don Bolduc, a retired brigadier general who is currently running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire. Early on, the biggest difference Bolduc saw between the Trump administration and its predecessors, and one he felt was “going to be disruptive in the long term,” was “the significant reliance, in the Pentagon at least, on senior military leadership overriding and making less relevant our civilian oversight. That was going to be a huge problem. The secretary of defense pretty much surrounded himself with his former Marine comrades, and there was, at least from that group, a distrust of civilians that really negatively affected the Pentagon in terms of policy and strategy in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, by following the same old failed operational approaches.” Trump’s reliance on military solutions is problematic because “there are limits to what the military can solve. I think initially the Trump administration held this idea that general officers somehow have all the answers to everything. I think the president discovered in short order that that’s really not the case.”

Bolduc also pointed out an unusual leadership challenge caused by having a general of McMaster’s rank serve as national security adviser—he did not retire when he assumed the post. “McMaster, for whom I have tremendous respect, came in as a three-star general. Leaving him a three-star forces him on a daily basis to have to engage with four-star generals who see his rank as beneath theirs, even though his position is much more than that.”

The problems posed by Trump’s skewed understanding of the military extend beyond bad decision making to the very culture of our armed forces: He apparently doesn’t think American soldiers accused of war crimes should be prosecuted and punished. In early May, he pardoned former Army Lieutenant Michael Behenna, who had been convicted of murdering an Iraqi prisoner. Two weeks later, he asked the Justice Department to prepare pardon materials for a number of American servicemen and contractors who were charged with murder and desecration of corpses, including Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who stood accused by his own team members of fatally stabbing a teenage ISIS prisoner and shooting unarmed civilians. (He was ultimately acquitted of the murders but convicted of posing for photos with the boy’s body.) Trump subsequently chastised the military attorneys who had prosecuted Gallagher, and directed that medals awarded to them be rescinded. All of the generals agreed that interfering with the military’s efforts to police itself badly undermines command and control. When thousands of young Americans are deployed overseas with heavy weaponry, crimes and atrocities will sometimes occur. Failing to prosecute those who commit them invites behavior that shames everyone in uniform and the nation they serve.

“He doesn’t understand the warrior ethos,” one general said of the president. “The warrior ethos is important because it’s sort of a sacred covenant not just among members of the military profession, but between the profession and the society in whose name we fight and serve. The warrior ethos transcends the laws of war; it governs your behavior. The warrior ethos makes units effective because of the values of trust and self-sacrifice associated with it—but the warrior ethos also makes wars less inhumane and allows our profession to maintain our self-respect and to be respected by others. Man, if the warrior ethos gets misconstrued into ‘Kill them all …’ ” he said, trailing off. Teaching soldiers about ethical conduct in war is not just about morality: “If you treat civilians disrespectfully, you’re working for the enemy! Trump doesn’t understand.”

Having never served or been near a battlefield, several of the generals said, Trump exhibits a simplistic, badly outdated notion of soldiers as supremely “tough”—hard men asked to perform hard and sometimes ugly jobs. He also buys into a severely outdated concept of leadership. The generals, all of whom have led troops in combat, know better than most that war is hard and ugly, but their understanding of “toughness” goes well beyond the gruff stoicism of a John Wayne movie. Good judgment counts more than toughness.

Bolduc said he came up in a military where it was accepted practice for senior leaders to blame their subordinates, lose their temper, pound on desks, and threaten to throw things, and the response to that behavior was “He’s a hard-ass. Right? He’s tough. That is not leadership. You don’t get optimal performance being that way. You get optimal performance by being completely opposite of that.”

Bolduc worries that, under Trump’s command, a return to these antiquated notions of “toughness” will worsen the epidemic of PTSD plaguing soldiers who have served repeated combat tours. Senior military officers have learned much from decades of war—lessons Bolduc said are being discarded by a president whose closest brush with combat has been a movie screen.

The military is hard to change. This is bad, because it can be maddeningly slow to adapt, but also good, because it can withstand poor leadership at the top. In the most crucial areas, the generals said, the military’s experienced leaders have steered Trump away from disaster. So far.

“The hard part,” one general said, “is that he may be president for another five years.”

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Re: Top Military Officers Unload on Trump
« Reply #3952 on: October 07, 2019, 05:59:04 PM »
This article is right on time given Trump's announcement regarding removing American troops from Syria. Since they should not have been there in the first place, this seems a good thing. Except that we will be leaving the Kurds (who have fought wars for the Empire in pursuit of their own autonomy and based on American promises) in the lurch and to the tender mercies of Erdogan. I am old enough to remember how the Americans recruited the Hmong in Vietnam and Laos, then abandoned them after their utility in the US's "secret" wars was spent.

As we speculate on next steps for what the military will do when Trump refuses to leave, I found this article instructive.

On the other hand, I wish Mad Dog Mattis was still part of Pud's cabinet, as I deemed him the most likely to empty a service revolver into that fat fuck.

There are A Few Good Men in the Military.  Remember Smedley Butler.

Trumpofsky wants a Civil War, and he'll get it to if he stays in office.

It will be interesting to see who will take the risk and order his troops to turn fire.  On a political level, clearly some Whistleblowers have already done so.

Time will tell.  Josey Wales may yet rise again.

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Trump defends abandoning the Kurds by saying they didn't help the US in WWII
« Reply #3953 on: October 09, 2019, 05:23:43 PM »
Trump defends abandoning the Kurds by saying they didn't help the US in WWII

Trump on Wednesday continued to defend his decision to withdraw US troops from northeastern Syria, abandoning Kurdish forces in the region, by saying the Kurds did not help the US during World War II.
"They didn't help us in the Second World War; they didn't help us with Normandy," Trump said of the Kurds, who played a vital role in the US-led campaign against ISIS.
And when asked by reporters whether he felt the Syria retreat and treatment of the Kurds sent a poor message to other potential US allies, Trump said, "Alliances are very easy."
Trump's comments came hours after Turkey launched a military operation against the formerly US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.

Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his decision to abandon the Kurds to a Turkish military incursion in Syria by saying they didn't help the US during World War II. 

This came amid reports that Turkish ground troops were crossing the border into Syria after air strikes that began earlier in the day.

"They didn't help us in the Second World War; they didn't help us with Normandy," Trump said of the Kurds. He added, "With all of that being said, we like the Kurds."

Earlier on Wednesday, Trump said in a statement released by the White House that he did not endorse the Turkish military operation and thought it was a "bad idea." But he did not refer directly to the Kurds or signal any immediate response from the US to thwart Turkey's actions. 

Read more:Turkey launches military operation against the Kurds in Syria just days after Trump abandoned them

The Trump administration on Sunday abruptly announced the US was withdrawing troops stationed in northeastern Syria ahead of a Turkish operation.

The move has been broadly condemned in Washington, including by top congressional Republicans and former Trump administration officials, as many feel Trump paved the way for Turkey to go after key US allies. 

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) bore the brunt of the US-led campaign against ISIS, losing about 11,000 fighters in the process.

Ahead of the Trump administration's announcement, Kurdish forces had recently dismantled defensive positions along the Turkey-Syria border under assurances from the US it would not allow a Turkish assault. The SDF described Trump's decision to withdraw troops as a "stab in the back" and made clear it felt betrayed by the US. 

'Alliances are very easy'

Shortly after his reference to WWII on Wednesday, when he was asked by reporters whether he felt the Syria retreat and treatment of the Kurds sent a poor message to other potential US allies, Trump said, "Alliances are very easy." The president said it "won't be" hard for the US to form new partnerships.

Trump also said "our alliances" have "taken tremendous advantage of us."

But a number of congressional lawmakers and former US officials have expressed concerns about the message sent to allies or future partners by the Trump administration's Syria retreat.

Read more: Republicans and former US officials rip into Trump for abandoning the Kurds in Syria

Trump's former top envoy in the fight against ISIS, Brett McGurk, was particularly critical of the president. 

McGurk in a tweet on Monday said, "Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm's way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call."

Similarly, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a key ally for Trump in Congress who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Monday tweeted, "By abandoning the Kurds we have sent the most dangerous signal possible — America is an unreliable ally and it's just a matter of time before China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea act out in dangerous ways."

Graham on Wednesday announced he had reached a bipartisan agreement with Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland for "severe sanctions" against Turkey in light of the operation against the Kurds. "While the Administration refuses to act against Turkey, I expect strong bipartisan support," Graham said in a tweet.

In a separate tweet, he added, "America is better than this. Please stand up to Turkey, Mr. President.

Turkey is a fellow NATO member but has a complicated relationship with the US. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's critics view him as a dangerous autocrat and enemy to democracy.

There are also fears that the Turkish operation will create a security vacuum and open the door to the resurgence of ISIS while also serving to the benefit of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran, and Russia. Kurdish forces have been detaining thousands of ISIS fighters, and many fear the Turkish operation will pave the way for their escape. Trump on Wednesday said if the ISIS fighters were to get out, they would be "escaping to Europe."

Along these lines, many US lawmakers have questioned the logic of Trump's decision and how it benefits US national-security and strategic interests.

'This attack will spill the blood of thousands of innocent civilians'

The Kurds and Turkey have been at odds for years, and the dominant fighting force in the SDF — the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) — is viewed by the Turkish government as a terrorist affiliate because of its ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The PKK for decades has waged a violent campaign against the Turkish government as part of a broader effort to establish an independent Kurdish state within Turkey.

In tweets announcing the onset of Turkey's military incursion into Syria on Wednesday, Erdogan said the operation's goal was to "neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes."

Read more:Trump's Syria retreat is a massive break from post-9/11 Republicanism

"Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border and to bring peace to the area," Erdogan said. 

Meanwhile, the SDF has pleaded with the US and its allies to establish a no-fly zone in the region and "carry out their responsibilities to avoid a possible impending humanitarian disaster."

"This attack will spill the blood of thousands of innocent civilians because our border areas are overcrowded," the SDF's official Twitter account said.

SEE ALSO:Trump's decision to abandon the Kurds in Syria sends a dangerous message to US allies around the world

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Trump's Minneapolis Rally Demonstrates Moral Suicide Pact With Cult
« Reply #3954 on: October 13, 2019, 06:14:19 AM »
Trump's Minneapolis Rally Was a Demonstration of the Moral Suicide Pact He's Made With His Supporters
They have given too much of themselves to The Leader to go back now. They will support him, no matter what he does, until he is stopped.

Stephen MaturenGetty Images

It was surely a swift process for some people. Here's a talk-radio soundboard running for president, yelling about Mexicans and Muslims and how we need a Big, Beautiful Wall to keep Those People out. He knows whose country this is. He knows who should make the rules, and who ought to shut up and follow them. He knows who gets a seat at the table in America. They were in from the jump, from the moment they first stood at a rally and felt that twisted power coursing through their veins.

But others, you have to think, were more gradual converts. Maybe they felt the world was passing them by. Maybe they didn't know until he came along how much they needed an outlet for their rage at a million quotidian cuts—the new boss who doesn't look like a boss should look, having to press "1" for English. They were primed for it, sure, but it took a while to fully commit. Day after day, as they continued to support him—through the racist tirades and the attacks on veterans and their families and the exploding allegations that he is a serial sexual predator—they were forced to give up more and more of themselves to stay on-board. And as they gave up more of themselves, they became more and more devout in their allegiance to The Movement. At some point, the sunk cost became insurmountable. There is no going back now. They have given all of themselves to him.

That is how we arrived in the place we did on Thursday night at a rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Donald Trump, American president took the stage and, among a great many other things, did this. The crowd laughed and cheered.

He may once have told you, in his way, not to believe your eyes and ears. But you can. The President of the United States did indeed just act out some sort of sexual fantasy, in front of thousands and on C-SPAN, between two characters from his extended Deep State Conspiracy Universe. The stars of this show were Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two FBI employees involved in the Russia probe who were having an affair and were opposed to the president's candidacy for president. (There is no evidence of misconduct.)

This is the president channeling everything he learned from Vince McMahon, pausing after he recites the names of the various heels so the crowd can howl their derision. The details aren't important. This is the show, where the enemies get bashed and We cheer together. This is the president deliberately debasing his office, going lower than ever before and bringing his supporters with him, because he knows they have ventured into the deep and dark together now and they can't see any path back. They will follow him until he is stopped, and the farther they follow, the more they are his. There is nothing that cannot be excused away with half-baked crap about Fake News or What About Hillary. Nihilism is at the heart of things now. There are no standards or ethics to be observed, only enemies to lash out at from the darkness.

The rest of last night's national disgrace was predictable by now. The president cooked up egregious lies about Democratic leaders in Congress. He recited the names of his greatest allies on State TV and talked about how great their ratings are. He proudly said, "There was no blackmail," on his call with the leader of Ukraine. Mr. President: Thank you. He accused his enemies of that which he is guilty. He joked about serving more than his constitutionally mandated two terms. He exhibited clear signs of cognitive decline. He said Joe Biden, the former Vice President of the United States, only got the job "because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's ass." And what exactly was Proper Evangelical Good Boy Mike Pence doing while the president simulated orgasms on-stage last night? After all, he and Mother were standing there in the arena.

But the real ugliness came on a similarly predictable topic. Minneapolis is home to Ilhan Omar and the sizable Somali community there from which she hails, and it was always bound to feature in this Thursday Night Raw-meets-Riefenstahl with a script courtesy of Stephen Miller. First, he recited some evidence-free conspiracy theories he got off a right-wing blog.

The president makes a lot of things clear here. The only real "reporting" is whatever helps him and hurts his opponents. The same goes for what constitutes Fake News: it's any negative coverage of him. What is true—what's reflected in observable reality—is not relevant. But he is also very intent to cast the Minnesota congresswoman as The Other here. Not only is she a black Muslim woman, she must be smeared as someone who would violate basic codes of our society by marrying her brother. (Again, this is all horse shit.) She cannot be One of Us. She cannot be an American. She is The Other, and has no right to a seat at the table or a say in how we run our society. The crowd howled in response, including the kid, who couldn't have been older than 15, standing behind Trump on-camera.

This is more than dirty politics, though. Omar already receives a huge volume of death threats—particularly when the president mentions her by name—and members of a right-wing militia hatched a plot to bomb a Minnesota mosque in 2017. The president himself has embraced political violence repeatedly. While the vast majority of his supporters would not engage in it, some have, including a Florida man who sent pipe bombs to the president's perceived enemies at CNN. The president knows what he's doing. He wants to make it not just unpleasant but physically dangerous to oppose him. He wants his enemies to be afraid to participate in our politics. It is the language of force. He also wanted to make clear that Omar's Otherness was a proxy for the community she represents.

This is a virulently racist tirade aimed at ginning up the worst instincts of the people in the crowd. It is not a coincidence Trump chose to come here, or to target a refugee community that is black and Muslim. This is how he thinks he can win reelection: by continuing to pull his base of support towards more vitriolic expressions of this vision of America as a country for and by white people; by scaring other constituencies away from speaking out; by using the Republican Party's machinations to stop inconvenient voters from voting; by smearing his opponents as Just As Bad As Him, They Just Pretend to Be Prim and Proper; by soliciting foreign meddling that will benefit him in exchange for favors when he is reelected.

All the while, he will drag his supporters deeper and deeper into the abyss. They cannot be reached now, only stopped.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Nepal is reeling from an unprecedented dengue outbreak
« Reply #3955 on: October 14, 2019, 06:11:30 AM »
Nepal is reeling from an unprecedented dengue outbreak
Climate change may be making the Himalayan nation hospitable to disease-carrying mosquitoes

SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Stock Photo

KATHMANDU, Nepal — When mosquito season brought past dengue outbreaks to regions across the Asian tropics, Nepal hardly had to worry. The high-altitude Himalayan country was typically too chilly for the disease-carrying insects to live. But with climate change opening new paths for the viral disease, Nepal is now reeling from an unprecedented outbreak.

At least 9,000 people — from 65 of Nepal’s 77 districts — have been diagnosed with dengue since August, including six patients who have died, according to government health data.

“We have never had an outbreak like this before,” says Dr. Basu Dev Pandey, director of the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Diseases Hospital in the nation’s capital, Kathmandu. With dozens of people lined up for blood testing on September 26 at the nearby fever clinic, set up this year to handle the outbreak, Pandey continues: “People are afraid.”

fever clinic Nepal
At the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Diseases Hospital in Kathmandu, the red and white “Fever Clinic” signs are new this year, as Nepal grapples with a dengue outbreak.Gloria Dickie

Dengue is carried by the Aedes aegypti and A. albopictus mosquitoes, and has long been associated with warmer, low-lying tropical climates where the insects thrive. But for years, researchers have warned that dengue and other mosquito-borne illnesses would spread into new regions, as climate change brings warmer temperatures and alters rainfall patterns so that cooler regions become more hospitable for mosquitoes (SN: 9/15/11).

Nepal is proving to be a real-world example of this change. The country had its first-ever dengue outbreak in 2006, but only a handful of people were affected that year from lowland districts along the southern border with India.

“Climate change has created the conditions for the transmission of dengue at higher elevations,” says Meghnath Dhimal, chief research officer at the Nepal Health Research Council, a government agency based in Kathmandu. Atmospheric temperatures in the Himalayan Mountains have been increasing by an average of 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade. So across Nepal, there are increasingly more days each year that fall into the ideal temperature range for A. aegypti of 20° to 30° Celsius, Dhimal says. Areas like the capital are having fewer summer nights and days below 15° C, around where mosquitoes tend to stop feeding.

Nepal also saw its heaviest monsoon rainfall in a decade in July, with severe flooding reported across the country. Floods typically lead to the pooling of stagnant water, prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes. In recent years, the country started spraying insecticide to control mosquito populations in Kathmandu, which sits in a mountain valley about 1,400 meters above sea level.

The disease, which had caused severe outbreaks in only nine countries before 1970, is now endemic in more than 100 countries, according to the World Health Organization. An estimated 390 million people worldwide get dengue infections every year, with about a quarter developing symptoms, researchers said in a 2013 paper in Nature.

Some of that spread is explained by urbanization as well as global travel and trade. But studies show that atmospheric temperatures are the most important drivers for dengue distribution and risk, followed by rainfall patterns, according to a 2016 review paper in Environmental Research

With climate change, “warmer temperatures can affect both the mosquito and the virus,” says coauthor Kristie Ebi, a public health expert at the University of Washington in Seattle. A hotter climate helps mosquito larvae develop faster into adulthood, while also increasing the rate at which the dengue virus replicates within the mosquito, she says.

“There seems to be dengue outbreaks worldwide this year,” Ebi says. In August, for example, the Philippines declared a national emergency after dengue killed some 300 people and was suspected of sickening another 77,000 in the first 20 weeks of 2019 — almost double the number of cases reported during the same period the previous year in the Southeast Asian island nation.

And worldwide, it’s only going to get worse, according to a study published June 10 in Nature Microbiology. In that work, researchers built a map of global dengue distribution in 2015, and then predicted how climate change as well as socioeconomic and population trends would make new areas suitable for dengue transmission. By 2050, those areas would include cities in coastal China and Japan, southern Africa and the southeastern United States, epidemiologist Janey Messina at the University of Oxford and her colleagues find.

Similar trends also are expected — if not already seen — for other insect-driven viral diseases, including West Nile virus (SN: 11/28/18), chikungunya (SN: 6/2/15) and tick-borne Lyme disease (SN: 8/9/17).

Scientists have been working to develop a vaccine against dengue (SN: 6/15/16), but there is still no proven cure. Doctors can only ease symptoms that include headache, high fever, severe muscle pain, nausea and skin rash. Without treatment for symptoms, the disease can be deadly, killing roughly 20,000 people a year, according to WHO. Even with treatment, people are typically sick and unable to work for several weeks if not months.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Quito, Ecuator. The city has collapsed, videos posted by Ecuadorian YouTuber
« Reply #3956 on: October 14, 2019, 06:33:02 AM »
Quito, Ecuator. The city has collapsed, various videos posted by Ecuadorian YouTuber

What Late-Stage capitalism looks like.
Apparently Ecuadoreans are as fond of Lenin Moreno's "austerity™" program as we are.

<a href="" target="_blank" class="new_win"></a>
« Last Edit: October 14, 2019, 12:18:20 PM by Surly1 »
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Happy Columbus Day
« Reply #3957 on: October 14, 2019, 04:31:45 PM »
Some years ago I read a remarkable book by Charles C. Mann called "1491," which is written based on the scholarship of Mann and others to describe what the Americas were like before Columbus landed on San Salvador island to claim the land (and peoples) for Spain. time to trot this out again.]

Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact

The plane took off in weather that was surprisingly cool for north-central Bolivia and flew east, toward the Brazilian border. In a few minutes the roads and houses disappeared, and the only evidence of human settlement was the cattle scattered over the savannah like jimmies on ice cream. Then they, too, disappeared. By that time the archaeologists had their cameras out and were clicking away in delight.

This article appears in the March 2002 issue.
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Below us was the Beni, a Bolivian province about the size of Illinois and Indiana put together, and nearly as flat. For almost half the year rain and snowmelt from the mountains to the south and west cover the land with an irregular, slowly moving skin of water that eventually ends up in the province's northern rivers, which are sub-subtributaries of the Amazon. The rest of the year the water dries up and the bright-green vastness turns into something that resembles a desert. This peculiar, remote, watery plain was what had drawn the researchers' attention, and not just because it was one of the few places on earth inhabited by people who might never have seen Westerners with cameras.

Clark Erickson and William Balée, the archaeologists, sat up front. Erickson is based at the University of Pennsylvania; he works in concert with a Bolivian archaeologist, whose seat in the plane I usurped that day. Balée is at Tulane University, in New Orleans. He is actually an anthropologist, but as native peoples have vanished, the distinction between anthropologists and archaeologists has blurred. The two men differ in build, temperament, and scholarly proclivity, but they pressed their faces to the windows with identical enthusiasm.

Dappled across the grasslands below was an archipelago of forest islands, many of them startlingly round and hundreds of acres across. Each island rose ten or thirty or sixty feet above the floodplain, allowing trees to grow that would otherwise never survive the water. The forests were linked by raised berms, as straight as a rifle shot and up to three miles long. It is Erickson's belief that this entire landscape—30,000 square miles of forest mounds surrounded by raised fields and linked by causeways—was constructed by a complex, populous society more than 2,000 years ago. Balée, newer to the Beni, leaned toward this view but was not yet ready to commit himself.

Erickson and Balée belong to a cohort of scholars that has radically challenged conventional notions of what the Western Hemisphere was like before Columbus. When I went to high school, in the 1970s, I was taught that Indians came to the Americas across the Bering Strait about 12,000 years ago, that they lived for the most part in small, isolated groups, and that they had so little impact on their environment that even after millennia of habitation it remained mostly wilderness. My son picked up the same ideas at his schools. One way to summarize the views of people like Erickson and Balée would be to say that in their opinion this picture of Indian life is wrong in almost every aspect. Indians were here far longer than previously thought, these researchers believe, and in much greater numbers. And they were so successful at imposing their will on the landscape that in 1492 Columbus set foot in a hemisphere thoroughly dominated by humankind.

Given the charged relations between white societies and native peoples, inquiry into Indian culture and history is inevitably contentious. But the recent scholarship is especially controversial. To begin with, some researchers—many but not all from an older generation—deride the new theories as fantasies arising from an almost willful misinterpretation of data and a perverse kind of political correctness. "I have seen no evidence that large numbers of people ever lived in the Beni," says Betty J. Meggers, of the Smithsonian Institution. "Claiming otherwise is just wishful thinking." Similar criticisms apply to many of the new scholarly claims about Indians, according to Dean R. Snow, an anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University. The problem is that "you can make the meager evidence from the ethnohistorical record tell you anything you want," he says. "It's really easy to kid yourself."

More important are the implications of the new theories for today's ecological battles. Much of the environmental movement is animated, consciously or not, by what William Denevan, a geographer at the University of Wisconsin, calls, polemically, "the pristine myth"—the belief that the Americas in 1491 were an almost unmarked, even Edenic land, "untrammeled by man," in the words of the Wilderness Act of 1964, one of the nation's first and most important environmental laws. As the University of Wisconsin historian William Cronon has written, restoring this long-ago, putatively natural state is, in the view of environmentalists, a task that society is morally bound to undertake. Yet if the new view is correct and the work of humankind was pervasive, where does that leave efforts to restore nature?

The Beni is a case in point. In addition to building up the Beni mounds for houses and gardens, Erickson says, the Indians trapped fish in the seasonally flooded grassland. Indeed, he says, they fashioned dense zigzagging networks of earthen fish weirs between the causeways. To keep the habitat clear of unwanted trees and undergrowth, they regularly set huge areas on fire. Over the centuries the burning created an intricate ecosystem of fire-adapted plant species dependent on native pyrophilia. The current inhabitants of the Beni still burn, although now it is to maintain the savannah for cattle. When we flew over the area, the dry season had just begun, but mile-long lines of flame were already on the march. In the charred areas behind the fires were the blackened spikes of trees—many of them, one assumes, of the varieties that activists fight to save in other parts of Amazonia.

After we landed, I asked Balée, Should we let people keep burning the Beni? Or should we let the trees invade and create a verdant tropical forest in the grasslands, even if one had not existed here for millennia?

Balée laughed. "You're trying to trap me, aren't you?" he said.

Like a Club Between the Eyes
According to family lore, my great-grandmother's great-grandmother's great-grandfather was the first white person hanged in America. His name was John Billington. He came on the Mayflower, which anchored off the coast of Massachusetts on November 9, 1620. Billington was not a Puritan; within six months of arrival he also became the first white person in America to be tried for complaining about the police. "He is a knave," William Bradford, the colony's governor, wrote of Billington, "and so will live and die." What one historian called Billington's "troublesome career" ended in 1630, when he was hanged for murder. My family has always said that he was framed—but we would say that, wouldn't we?

A few years ago it occurred to me that my ancestor and everyone else in the colony had voluntarily enlisted in a venture that brought them to New England without food or shelter six weeks before winter. Half the 102 people on the Mayflower made it through to spring, which to me was amazing. How, I wondered, did they survive?

In his history of Plymouth Colony, Bradford provided the answer: by robbing Indian houses and graves. The Mayflower first hove to at Cape Cod. An armed company staggered out. Eventually it found a recently deserted Indian settlement. The newcomers—hungry, cold, sick—dug up graves and ransacked houses, looking for underground stashes of corn. "And sure it was God's good providence that we found this corn," Bradford wrote, "for else we know not how we should have done." (He felt uneasy about the thievery, though.) When the colonists came to Plymouth, a month later, they set up shop in another deserted Indian village. All through the coastal forest the Indians had "died on heapes, as they lay in their houses," the English trader Thomas Morton noted. "And the bones and skulls upon the severall places of their habitations made such a spectacle" that to Morton the Massachusetts woods seemed to be "a new found Golgotha"—the hill of executions in Roman Jerusalem.

To the Pilgrims' astonishment, one of the corpses they exhumed on Cape Cod had blond hair. A French ship had been wrecked there several years earlier. The Patuxet Indians imprisoned a few survivors. One of them supposedly learned enough of the local language to inform his captors that God would destroy them for their misdeeds. The Patuxet scoffed at the threat. But the Europeans carried a disease, and they bequeathed it to their jailers. The epidemic (probably of viral hepatitis, according to a study by Arthur E. Spiess, an archaeologist at the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and Bruce D. Spiess, the director of clinical research at the Medical College of Virginia) took years to exhaust itself and may have killed 90 percent of the people in coastal New England. It made a huge difference to American history. "The good hand of God favored our beginnings," Bradford mused, by "sweeping away great multitudes of the natives ... that he might make room for us."

By the time my ancestor set sail on the Mayflower, Europeans had been visiting New England for more than a hundred years. English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese mariners regularly plied the coastline, trading what they could, occasionally kidnapping the inhabitants for slaves. New England, the Europeans saw, was thickly settled and well defended. In 1605 and 1606 Samuel de Champlain visited Cape Cod, hoping to establish a French base. He abandoned the idea. Too many people already lived there. A year later Sir Ferdinando Gorges—British despite his name—tried to establish an English community in southern Maine. It had more founders than Plymouth and seems to have been better organized. Confronted by numerous well-armed local Indians, the settlers abandoned the project within months. The Indians at Plymouth would surely have been an equal obstacle to my ancestor and his ramshackle expedition had disease not intervened.

Faced with such stories, historians have long wondered how many people lived in the Americas at the time of contact. "Debated since Columbus attempted a partial census on Hispaniola in 1496," William Denevan has written, this "remains one of the great inquiries of history." (In 1976 Denevan assembled and edited an entire book on the subject, The Native Population of the Americas in 1492.) The first scholarly estimate of the indigenous population was made in 1910 by James Mooney, a distinguished ethnographer at the Smithsonian Institution. Combing through old documents, he concluded that in 1491 North America had 1.15 million inhabitants. Mooney's glittering reputation ensured that most subsequent researchers accepted his figure uncritically.

That changed in 1966, when Henry F. Dobyns published "Estimating Aboriginal American Population: An Appraisal of Techniques With a New Hemispheric Estimate," in the journal Current Anthropology. Despite the carefully neutral title, his argument was thunderous, its impact long-lasting. In the view of James Wilson, the author of The Earth Shall Weep (1998), a history of indigenous Americans, Dobyns's colleagues "are still struggling to get out of the crater that paper left in anthropology." Not only anthropologists were affected. Dobyns's estimate proved to be one of the opening rounds in today's culture wars.

Read the rest at the Atlantic here:
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."

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Re: Happy Columbus Day
« Reply #3958 on: October 14, 2019, 04:43:48 PM »
Definitely a sad day in history.  :(

You can blame the "Enlightenment" and Scientific Revolution for this outcome.  Technology won the day, Guns won out over Butter.  In fact you can blame science for just about every rotten thing that has occured over the last 500 years, from Cannon to Nuclear Bombs, from Disease to Industrial Agriculture.

Even theoretically good stuff turned out bad, like improved medicine lowering the death rate and lowering infant mortality.  That was a main cause for population overshoot.

On the upside, if anybody does make it through the Zero Point, we're on our way back to that way of living sometime in the distant future.

Save As Many As You Can

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Trump: Mexicans Are a Bigger Threat Than the ISIS Prisoners I Let Escape
« Reply #3959 on: October 15, 2019, 05:52:14 AM »
Trump: Mexicans Are a Bigger Threat Than the ISIS Prisoners I Let Escape

Meanwhile, the president has vowed to punish Turkey for the killings he sanctioned.

Donald Trump has made a lot of exceedingly stupid decisions in the 78,000 dog years he’s been in office, but few compare, in impact and the speed with which they blew up in his face, than the one to withdraw troops from northern Syria, paving the way for Turkey to invade the region and kill our Kurdish allies, leading to one (completely predictable) consequence after the next. Roughly 785 people affiliated with ISIS have escaped; an estimated 100,000 people have been displaced; at least 81 Kurdish fighters and 60 civilians have been killed; the American-allied Syrian Democratic Forces, abandoned by Trump and under attack by Turkey, have teamed up with Bashar al-Assad’s Russian- and Iranian-backed government, giving Vladimir Putin major influence over the region; and approximately 50 nuclear weapons that the the U.S. has stored in the area have now effectively become Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hostages, which isn’t a great turn of events considering the Turkish president has said as recently as last month that he would like to acquire such ammunition. To be clear, all of this was anticipated; Trump was warned by advisers for months that such disastrous outcomes would result if he followed his vaunted “instincts”—the ones he thinks tell him more than any dumb intelligence memos or briefing books can—and pulled out of Syria, telling the Kurds, who helped us defeat ISIS, that they were on their own because they sat out D-Day like a bunch of bone spur victims. And on Monday, perhaps the most predictable outcome occurred when Trump announced that he would punish Turkey for the bloody mess he created.

In a statement released on Twitter, the president said that he will “soon be issuing an Executive Order authorizing the imposition of sanctions against current and former officials of the Government of Turkey and any persons contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions in northeast Syria.” As a reminder, there’s one person in particular who made a significant contribution to Turkey’s destabilizing actions and his name rhymes with Ronald Grump. According to Axios, the president basicallytold Erdoğan that the U.S. was fine with him invading Syria, thinking Turkey wouldn’t do it. “Trump basically said, ‘Look, if you want it you own it, but don’t come looking to me for help. You can take it, it’s yours,’” a former senior administration official recounted to Jonathan Swan.

Now that the situation has descended into unstoppable chaos, Trump is naturally acting as though no one could have predicted any of this, and threatening retribution that experts say will do little to stop the unmitigated disaster he set into motion. “I think the likelihood of Turkey invading Northern Syria with U.S. troops there was zero,” Senator Tim Kaine told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Monday. “And with the U.S. pulling out now, they feel like they have a green light and they're doing exactly what everybody told President Trump that they would do.”

In addition to vowing sanctions and other measures intended to “swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy,” Trump also spent the afternoon claiming that undocumented immigrants are a bigger threat to the United States than ISIS:

And making it abundantly clear that reports of a tiny cluster of cells in his chest resembling a human heart were a false positive; in fact, he could not give less of a fuck about living beings that are not Trumps, if this comedy routine is any indication:

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Ivanka is also deeply concerned about innocent people being executed

Can’t you tell? From the tweet about luxury handbags she sent the same day Turkish-led forces shared a video firing rounds into the body of a man bound and lying on the side of the road?

Will WeWork’s comical woes kill two birds with one stone?

On the one hand, there are reports “dangerous levels of formaldehyde” in phone booths throughout its U.S. and Canadian offices. On the other, this whole thing might be wrapped up before the end of the year, according to Dan Primack:

WeWork doesn’t have enough money to finish out 2019, and both of its known bailout options are nightmarish. Option 1 is to sell control to SoftBank, which enabled former CEO Adam Neumann’s worst excesses. Option 2 is to let JPMorgan arrange a massive debt package, which could become so onerous that employees may just mail their vested options to Wall Street.

The company reported $2.4 billion of cash at the end of June, with a first-half net loss of $904 million. At that pace, it should have been able to survive at least through the middle of 2020. But I’m told that it significantly increased spend in Q3, partially due to the lumpy nature of real estate cap-ex, believing it would be absorbed by $9 billion in proceeds from the IPO and concurrent debt deal. One source says that there’s probably enough money to get through Thanksgiving, but not to Christmas.

Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, has indicated to associates in recent weeks that Joe Biden’s recent struggles against Sen. Elizabeth Warren are making him rethink his decision to stay out of the 2020 Democratic primary. That’s according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversations were deemed private. Bloomberg has signaled he’s “still looking at” running for president, but people close him say that the only way he could even go down that path is if Biden’s fortunes suffer so much that he drops out before or during the early stages of the primary. Bloomberg could then enter the race as one of the rare moderates with enough name recognition and campaign funding to make a run.

“I think it’s something he wants. He has not been shy about that,” one of Bloomberg’s allies familiar with the talks told CNBC. “Nothing can happen unless Biden drops out, and that’s not happening anytime soon,” this person added.

“He’s like everyone else. They can’t get it out of their system,” said a banker who has known Bloomberg for decades and presumably got an up-front view to the ex-mayor considering a run during the last presidential election and the one before that.

Report: Trump has drastically reduced the number of “false or misleading claims” that come out of his mouth

No, just messing with you:

As President Trump approaches his 1,000th day in office Wednesday, he has significantly stepped up his pace of spouting exaggerated numbers, unwarranted boasts and outright falsehoods. As of October 9, his 993rd day in office, he had made 13,435 false or misleading claims, according to the Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement he has uttered. That’s an average of almost 22 claims a day since our last update 65 days ago…. Trump crossed the 10,000 mark on April 26. From the start of his presidency, he has averaged nearly 14 such claims a day.

Unfortunately for a guy who‘s constitutionally incapable of telling the truth, “fewer than 3 in 10 Americans believe many of his most-common false statements,” according to the Washington Post, with the base, which would presumably believe him if he said he could do a sub-two hour marathon, likely making up that 30%.


Billionaires Could Face Tax Rates Up to 97.5% Under Sanders (Bloomberg)

Inside Deutsche Bank’s Brazen Scheme to Woo China: Gifts, Golf and a $4,254 Wine (NYT)

“It’s, Like, Lawless”: How Private-Equity Headhunters Are Bleeding Wall Street (Hive)

Elizabeth Warren declares open season on Facebook’s false ad policy (Axios)

Mark Zuckerberg’s private meetings with conservative pundits (Politico)

Longtime Berkshire Hathaway shareholder sells stake, accusing Warren Buffett of “thumb-sucking” (CNBC)

Uber Dismisses 350 Employees in a “Last Wave” of Job Cuts (Bloomberg)

Investor Ken Fisher loses $600 million contract after making sexist comments at summit (CNBC)

Man dressed as giant broccoli arrested by police in London (Scotsman)

More Great Stories from Vanity Fair

— Impeachment fervor is causing a ruckus at Fox News
— Why Rudy Giuliani’s Ukrainian adventure could end his career
— Inside the stunning collapse of WeWork (and its kooky CEO)
— It’s official: Trump has met his Twitter match
— A surprise appearance by Tiffany Trump
— From the Archive: The power broker who taught Donald Trump the dark political arts

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"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."


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