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1
FAQs / 😇 Inserting ASCII Emojis
« on: January 20, 2018, 08:57:41 AM »

ASCII Emojis are just like text you keyboard.  They each have a code behind them and each platform has its own version of the character.  So what you see on Apple looks a little different than what you see on Windows or Google or Android.

The easiest way to add them to your text is to go to https://emojipedia.org/ and copy/paste into your text.

Procedure is as follows:

1- Open up a window with the https://emojipedia.org/ website
2- Click on the category of emoji you are looking for or type the keyword in the SEARCH box at the top of the page.  If there is an emoji for it, the search will find it.
3- Click on the emoji you want to use, and a new screen for that emoji pops up.
4- Click the "copy" button for that emoji
5- Go back to the window where you were keyboarding and paste (ctrl+V) wherever you want (including in the Subject (Title) Field)

No html or bbcode tags are necessary.  It's just like a text character.

2
Geopolitics / 🤑 Amerikan Oligarchs
« on: January 20, 2018, 12:14:45 AM »
At LAST!  "Oligarch" and "FSoA" in the same article!  :icon_sunny:  Not MSM though.

RE

http://www.greanvillepost.com/2018/01/18/freedom-rider-oligarch-jeff-bezos/

Freedom Rider: Oligarch Jeff Bezos
January 18, 2018


HELP ENLIGHTEN YOUR FELLOWS. BE SURE TO PASS THIS ON. SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON IT.

PRECIS: The corporate media refuse to state what is obvious. Namely that inequality is worse around the world precisely because these super rich people demand it. While pundits and politicians go on breathlessly about oligarchs in Russia, they seldom take a look at the wealthiest in their own back yard and the control they exert over the lives of millions of people.

“Republicans and Democrats alike are willing to turn over government coffers to Bezos and his ilk and the rights of the people be damned.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $105 billion and is the richest man in the world. But he is not just the richest man at this moment in history. He is the richest person who has ever lived. As of 2017 he and seven other billionaires had a collective net worth equal to that of the poorest 3.6 billion people on earth.

These figures have been in the news of late but without much useful analysis. The corporate media refuse to state what is obvious. Namely that inequality is worse around the world precisely because these super rich people demand it.

While pundits and politicians go on breathlessly about oligarchs in Russia, they seldom take a look at the wealthiest in their own back yard and the control they exert over the lives of millions of people. When Amazon announced it would choose a site for its new headquarters cities across the country began a furious race to the bottom. Amazon is not alone in the thievery department. Major corporations like Walmart always request and receive public property and public funds in order to do business.

“Boston offering $75 million to Amazon while Houston is willing to part with $268 million.”

Some 235 cities have put themselves in the running for this dubious venture. Chicago is willing to give Amazon $1.3 billion in payroll taxes that prospective employees would ordinarily pay that city. If Chicago wins this booby prize Amazon employees would pay taxes to their employer and not to the government. This is truly cutting out the middle man and makes real the rule of, by, and for the wealthiest.
As of 2017 Bezos and seven other billionaires had a collective net worth equal to that of the poorest 3.6 billion people on earth.

The potential for public outrage isn’t lost on unprincipled politicians. Some cities now refuse to reveal how much they plan to give away. But the news to date is disheartening with Boston offering $75 million while Houston is willing to part with $268 million. Amazon says it will hire 50,000 people but their business model already pays employees so little that many of them qualify for public assistance, despite being employed.

The United States is as much of an oligarchy as countries it usually disparages but it is far more dishonest about its true nature. All talk of democracy is a lie as the rich get richer, by an additional $1 trillion in 2017, and wield more and more power over the lives of everyone else.

“Chicago is willing to give Amazon $1.3 billion in payroll taxes that prospective employees would ordinarily pay that city.”

The Bezos juggernaut is not restricted to theft of public money. He is also the sole owner of the Washington Post, one of the most influential newspapers in the country. Bezos owns a newspaper that is an organ of the ruling elite and he also has a $600 million contract to provide the Central Intelligence Agency with cloud computing services.

The Washington Post was the force behind Propaganda or Not, an effort to destroy left wing voices like those at Black Agenda Report. Under the guise of fighting Russia and so-called fake news the Bezos owned Post began the censorship campaign that has put the left’s presence on the internet in such jeopardy.

Politicians outdo one another giving away public resources to the richest man on the planet who also owns a major newspaper and services the surveillance state. If it can be said that any one person rules the world Bezos would be the obvious choice. No one in Chicago, Boston, Houston or any of the other cities giving away the store ever voted for Jeff Bezos. All talk of democracy is a sham as long as the richest people take from the rest of humanity.

The effort to make government an irrelevance is thoroughly bipartisan. Republicans and Democrats alike are willing to turn over government coffers to Bezos and his ilk and the rights of the people be damned.

“The Bezos owned Post began the censorship campaign that has put the left’s presence on the internet in such jeopardy.”

Whoever wins this tarnished brass ring ought to be consigned to political defeat. The mayor, aldermen, city council members or whoever else brings disaster to their locality should be punished for aiding and abetting the theft. If these cities can give to the richest man who ever lived, they can surely use public money to help their residents right now. But they will never do that because they are all bought off and compromised. They are either cynical or afraid to go against the real rulers of the country.

Bezos may look like the villain in a James Bond movie but there is nothing funny about him. He is deadly serious and so are his intentions. In a Bezos run world every worker will be impoverished, every level of government will subsidize corporations, and anyone who speaks out will be discredited and under surveillance.

The last thing any city needs is a new Amazon headquarters. We need an end to billionaire rule in this country and around the world. That will be the salvation of the people, not more sweat shops run by wealthy people who steal from everyone else.

About the author

 Black Agenda report’s Senior Editor and Columnist Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly at the Black Agenda Report. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley (at) BlackAgendaReport.com. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com
.

3
Geopolitics / 🤯 FSoA Goobermint Shutdown COMMENCES!
« on: January 20, 2018, 12:04:04 AM »
https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/shutdown-looms-as-senate-democrats-dig-in-against-gop-spending-plan/2018/01/19/f4370868-fccd-11e7-a46b-a3614530bd87_story.html?utm_term=.50a6dd5ef271

Government shuts down after Senate bill collapses, negotiations fail


6:29
Government shuts down after spending bills fails in Senate
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Funding for the government expired at midnight on Jan. 20 after a short-term spending bill failed in the Senate. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde, Jordan Frasier/Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
By Mike DeBonis, Ed O'Keefe, Erica Werner and Elise Viebeck January 20 at 12:50 AM

The federal government shut down for the first time in more than four years Friday after senators rejected a temporary spending patch and bipartisan efforts to find an alternative fell short as a midnight deadline came and went.

Republican and Democratic leaders both said they would continue to talk, raising the possibility of a solution over the weekend. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday that the conflict has a “really good chance” of being resolved before government offices open Monday, suggesting that a shutdown’s impacts could be limited.

But the White House drew a hard line immediately after midnight, saying they would not negotiate over a central issue — immigration — until government funding is restored.

“We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators. When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform.”
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Everything you need to know about a government shutdown

Both parties confronted major political risks with 10 months to go until the midterm elections. Republicans resolved not to submit to the minority party’s demands to negotiate, while Democrats largely unified to use the shutdown deadline to force concessions on numerous issues — including protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

The standoff culminated in a late-night Senate vote that failed to clear a 60-vote hurdle, sending congressional leaders and President Trump back to the starting line after days of political posturing on all sides.
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“A government shutdown was 100 percent avoidable. Completely avoidable. Now it is imminent,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor following the vote. “Perhaps across the aisle some of our Democratic colleagues are feeling proud of themselves, but what has their filibuster accomplished? . . . The answer is simple: Their very own government shutdown.”

[More blame Republicans than Democrats for potential government shutdown, Post-ABC poll finds]

The early contours of the blame game appeared to cut against Trump and the Republicans, who control all levers of government but cannot pass major legislation without at least partial support from Senate Democrats. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Americans said by a 20-point margin that they would blame a shutdown on Trump and the GOP rather than Democrats.

A government shutdown causing employee furloughs has never occurred under unified party control of Congress and the White House. Some furloughs of White House employees began immediately early Saturday.

The midnight drama came after an unusually tranquil day inside the Capitol, where visible tensions remained at a low simmer as various parties undertook quiet talks to discuss ways to avoid the shutdown.
2:25
The shutdown blame game
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Lawmakers have been busy pointing fingers at who's to blame for the impasse. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Republicans started the day eager to show a united front: House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and McConnell met Friday morning, determined to hold firm to a strategy they had crafted nearly a week prior: Make Democrats an offer they could not refuse by attaching a long-term extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, as well as the delay of some unpopular health-care taxes. And if they did refuse, the leaders believed, the public backlash would be intense — particularly in states where vulnerable Democratic senators are seeking reelection in November.

McConnell delivered a morning salvo on the Senate floor, declaring that Democrats had been led into a “box canyon” by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

But by midday, McConnell’s strategy threatened to be upended by Trump — who phoned Schumer and invited him to the White House for a private meeting with no other congressional leaders.

That immediately raised Republicans’ suspicions on Capitol Hill that Trump might be tempted to cut a deal with his fellow New Yorker — much as he did in the early stages of a September standoff — that would undercut the GOP negotiating strategy and produce a deal that congressional conservatives could not stomach.

White House aides assured top congressional leaders that no deal would emerge from the meeting, that it was merely meant to gauge the posture of Schumer and the Democrats. Republicans exhaled when that turned out to be so.

Trump and Schumer talked over a cheeseburger lunch, according to a person familiar with their conversations, covering a wide range of contentious issues. Later on the Senate floor, Schumer described a meeting where he forged outlines of a potential deal with Trump, only to see it fall apart once he left the room.

“I reluctantly put the border wall on the table for discussion — even that was not enough to entice the president to finish the deal,” he said, adding: “What has transpired since that meeting in the Oval Office is indicative of the entire tumultuous and chaotic process Republicans have engaged in in the negotiations thus far. Even though President Trump seemed to like an outline of a deal in the room, he did not press his party in Congress to accept it.”

[Who is sent home during a shutdown?]

What ensued for the remainder of the afternoon was a silent standoff, as it became increasingly clear that Republicans would not be able to lure enough Democrats to pass their preferred funding patch.

For a few Democratic senators, a vote to spark a shutdown was too tough to swallow — even for Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who faced his first major political dilemma since winning a December special election in a campaign that emphasized his support for CHIP.

“I have made a strong commitment in my state to 150,000 children who need health insurance,” he said, announcing his decision to reporters late Friday.

He joined Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), all of whom face tough paths to reelection in states that supported Trump in 2016 and voted to keep the government open.

But Michigan Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, meanwhile, announced they would both vote against the measure, bolstering the margin opposed to the bill. Four Republicans were also opposed: Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.).

Republicans spent much of the day attacking Democrats on several fronts — most frequently by pointing to a litany of critical statements Democratic leaders, including Schumer, had made slamming Republicans ahead of the 2013 shutdown.

In a 2013 ABC News interview, Schumer said, “You know we could do the same thing on immigration . . . We could say, ‘We’re shutting down the government. We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling until you pass immigration reform.’ It would be governmental chaos.”

“I think the longer it goes on, the more the American people see the hypocrisy on the Democratic side,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a veteran of several shutdown dramas.

Democrats, meanwhile, pointed to other parts of the historical record — notably, a Trump tweet from May: “Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!”

Conservatives enthusiastically promoted the notion that Democrats were taking the government to the cusp of a shutdown to benefit undocumented immigrants, even a largely sympathetic subset. Democrats want legal status for “dreamers” — young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who now live here illegally — in return for a spending agreement. That fight was prompted by Trump’s cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is expected to take effect in March barring court challenges.

Numerous Republicans said they were perfectly comfortable waging the shutdown fight on those terms, though Democrats have sought to expand the playing field to other issues such as funding to combat opioid abuse and pension bailouts.

“Are Democrats going to shut the government . . . because we want basic reforms and enforcement measures that are going to prevent further flows of illegal immigrants and unskilled immigrants?” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who is pushing for hard-line immigration policies in return for a DACA fix. “Seems to me like a tough position to win in light of the 2016 election.”

Marc Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs, said that the effort by Democrats to put an immigration fix in the spending bill was unreasonable, given that legislative text has not been drafted and the program doesn’t expire until March.

“There’s no DACA bill to vote on, and there’s no emergency on the timing,” Short said.

The posturing took place mainly in front of reporters. Missing were the furious back-and-forth negotiations that preceded the 16-day shutdown in 2013, when Republican leaders sought to force a rollback of the Affordable Care Act and met several times with President Obama to seek an accommodation.

Shortly after 6 p.m., Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) looked at his watch and vented frustration.

“Government shuts down in what, five hours and 40 minutes? And there’s no solution? I don’t know whether Senator Schumer is just determined to take it down,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t want to shut the government down, either, but they seem to be determined to do so.”

Visibly, only Graham shuttled back and forth between the Republican and Democratic leadership offices, shopping a proposal to replace the four-week funding extension passed by the House with a slightly shorter one.

As the 10 p.m. vote approached, Cornyn declared: “No deal.”

Schumer rejected a proposal that would have extended funding by three weeks, to Feb. 8, instead of four. Schumer floated a 10-day extension, which would have set another deadline just before Trump delivered his State of the Union address on Jan. 30. Shortly after midnight, McConnell closed the vote and declared an impasse.

The Trump administration worked up plans to keep national parks and monuments open despite a shutdown as a way to blunt public anger, and while the military would not cease to operate, troops would not be paid unless Congress specifically authorizes it.

[Trump may put off Mar-a-Lago trip until bill passes]

In a sign of the preparations on Capitol Hill, congressional staffers received formal notice Friday morning that they may be furloughed starting at midnight. Individual lawmakers will have to determine which aides must report for work during the impasse.

Trump postponed a scheduled trip to his Florida resort, where he had scheduled a pricey fundraiser to mark his first anniversary in office. Ryan faced the cancellation of an official trip to Iraq, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other lawmakers revisited plans to travel to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum.

The latter trip drove Democratic attacks earlier in the day, especially after McCarthy floated plans in the morning to send House members home for a planned week-long recess.

“They want to spend next week hobnobbing with their elitist friends instead of honoring their responsibilities to the American people,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said of Republicans.

The Energy 202 newsletter

Your daily guide to the energy and environment debate.

Earlier in the night, around 150 protesters gathered outside the Capitol to hear Democrats promise not to back any spending deal that did not grant legal status to DACA recipients.

“This is a movement,” said Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). “We’re going to have some good days, and we’re going to have some bad days. And like every movement that has allowed our country to progress, we are going to have to fight.”

Sean Sullivan and John Wagner contributed to this report.

4
This reinforces my opinion that a large part of the reason for the increase in autism are the chemicals infants pick up crawling on carpets made from oil fibers.  Of course, they don't cover that here, only the biologicals.

RE

A Creepy, Crawling Robot Baby Reminds Us That Carpets Are Disgusting
Ed Cara
Today 3:45pmFiled to: Robots


To the untrained eye, babies are nothing more than drooling, crying blobs who do basically nothing all day. But a recent study published in Environmental Science & Technology has found that babies are actually drooling, crying blobs who stir up impressive clouds of bacteria, dirt, fungi, and bug bits wherever they crawl. And all it took to figure this out was creating a foil-covered robot baby.
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Researchers, primarily at Purdue University, designed an elaborate experiment to test how babies disturb the ground beneath them while moving. They made a foil-wrapped, legless robot that mimicked a baby crawling on its belly, then had the little monster wobble its way down long patches of carpet taken from actual homes. An adult volunteer walked along the same patch for comparison. The germs and debris sent flying by the robobaby’s crawling was made visible by a nifty laser device, and nearby filters collected air samples.

“We used state-of-the-art aerosol instrumentation to track the biological particles floating in the air around the infant in real-time, second by second,” explained lead author Brandon Boor, a civil engineer at Purdue, in a statement. “The instrument uses lasers to cause biological material to fluoresce. Most bacterial cells, fungal spores, and pollen particles are fluorescent, so they can be reliably distinguished from non-biological material in the air.”

Boor and his colleagues found that their baby could generate a cloud of debris as much as twenty times larger than the amount normally seen in a room. And they estimated that—per every kilogram of weight—a baby could inhale up to four times more of these “fluorescent biological aerosol particles” than an adult would while moving, thanks to the baby being low to the ground and more often breathing through the mouth. Adults, on the other hand, are better at self-cleaning, thanks to our fully developed nostrils and throats that trap particles before they reach the lungs.

Scary as that might sounds, though, there’s actually a leading theory among scientists that the more dust and microscopic bugs we’re exposed to growing up, the better off we’ll ultimately be.

According to this theory, known as the hygiene hypothesis, our immune system needs plenty of minor foes to face off against in its formative years in order to calibrate itself. Without this exposure, it can instead become overly sensitive, leading to allergies and asthma in children. Indeed, studies have found that people growing up in “dirtier” environments, like a farm, a home with (some) pets, or even a home with more cockroaches, are less likely to have autoimmune disorders. This effect might be the major reason why Western countries have far higher rates of asthma and allergy than the developing world, where things like intestinal worms are much common.

“Exposure to certain bacterial and fungal species can result in the development of asthma, but numerous studies have shown that when an infant is exposed to a very high diversity of microbes, at a high concentration, they can have a lower rate of asthma later in life. Such exposures act to stimulate and challenge your immune system,” Boor said.

More recently, though, many scientists have called for a rebranding of the hygiene hypothesis. Not because it’s necessarily untrue, but because the term can be easily misunderstood by the public. You don’t need to stop regularly giving your kids—robot or not—a bath or a check-up by their pediatricians to keep their immune systems in tip-top shape. As this current study suggests, all you might need to do is let them roll around and explore the world some.

[Environmental Science & Technology]

5
Science, Inventions & Techology / Hi-Tech Gets Blacked Out
« on: January 10, 2018, 03:24:17 PM »
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Everybody's Crypto-Wallet was dead too!  :icon_sunny:

RE

https://www.cnet.com/news/the-lights-have-gone-off-at-ces-2018/

Power restored to CES show floor after 2-hour blackout


The lights were off in the Las Vegas Convention Center for the middle of day 2 of CES 2018.

    by
    John Falcone

January 10, 2018 2:02 PM PST

ces-lights-back
CNET

Yes, the rain did cause the power outage in Vegas today.

In a joint statement the Las Vegas Visitor and Convention Authority, NV Energy and Consumer Technology Association (CTA), said condensation from yesterday's rains was what led to the outage:

    Today at approximately 11:15 a.m. PT, the Central Hall and South Hall bridge meeting rooms at the Las Vegas Convention Center lost power. Power in the South Hall was restored within minutes, and power has now been fully restored to all areas. A preliminary assessment indicates that condensation from heavy rainfall caused a flashover on one of the facility's transformers. We are grateful to NV Energy for their swift assistance, to our customers and their clients for their patience and to the staff for ensuring the safety and security of all attendees and exhibitors.

ces-outage-image-uploaded-from-ios-9

The Central Hall, soon after the blackout hit.
CNET

The lights flickered back to life in the Las Vegas Center nearly 2 hours after a major power outage brought a major portion of the world's biggest technology show to a standstill.

The lights went out at around 11:13 a.m. PT, just as the second day of CES 2018 was ramping up. It came a day after more than an inch of rain fell in Las Vegas, which caused flash flooding in the desert city. (Wednesday's weather is clear and warm, and it's unclear if the power outage was at all related.)

The first reports of the blackout came from the convention center's Central Hall, which houses the giant booths for show mainstays including Sony, Samsung, LG and Intel -- though Samsung's booth still had limited electricity thanks to its own private backup power.

By noon, security guards were refusing entry to parts of the Convention Center.

The website of Nevada Energy, the power provider, listed the cause of the problem as "customer-owned electrical equipment."

Roadshow's Tim Stevens said the power also flickered at the Cosmopolitan Hotel across town.

As of 12:34 p.m. PT, the power was on in South Hall and at the CNET Stage, which livestreamed the outage. The North Hall, which had reportedly lost power earlier, was also back online.
lockers-locked
CNET

The atmosphere in and around the Convention Center during the blackout was largely calm and relaxed, with attendees generally bemused by the outage, at least in its early stages. That wasn't true for anyone who had their phones in charging lockers around the show, however: With the electronic locks disabled, the phones were inaccessible for the duration of the blackout.

Twitter was flooded by photos and videos from the scene:

Follow our live coverage here.
The lights have gone off at CES 2018
14
Scenes from the CES 2018 blackout

Update, 2 p.m. PT: This story was first posted at 11:40 a.m. PT and has been updated with news of the power coming back on.
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Update, 2:20 p.m. PT: Adds joint statement on the cause of the power outage.

6
How many more EPIC FAILURES before Wall Street stops handing this moron more funny money to burn up?  ???  :icon_scratch:

RE


https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/innovation/did-spacex-just-lose-secret-u-s-spy-satellite-n836081

Did SpaceX just lose a secret U.S. spy satellite?


by Ben Popken and David Freeman

The loss of a classified, multi-billion-dollar government spy satellite is fast becoming a public black eye for private space transport and a whodunit mystery for industry watchers.

SpaceX said its Falcon 9 rocket, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, performed flawlessly. Northrup Grumman, the aerospace contractor that hired SpaceX to sling its "Zuma" satellite into orbit, says it's "classified." A government official says the mission is a "write-off."

In a statement Tuesday morning, SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwel said, "After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night."

"If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately," she said. "Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false."
[From the Cold War to hurricanes: The evolution of space satellites]
From the Cold War to hurricanes: The evolution of space satellites 2:54

Northrop Grumman declined to comment. "This is a classified mission," a spokesperson told NBC News. "We cannot comment on classified missions."

Reuters reported that an investigation into what went wrong is underway.

Ultimately, though, the manufacturer of the satellite assumes responsibility, industry experts say.

"It's standard that the satellite provider is required to insure it. It falls more on Northrup," Jim Cantrell, an early SpaceX employee who is now the CEO of Vector, a micro satellite launch startup, told NBC News.

The satellite launched Jan. 7 on the back of a rocket launched by SpaceX, the private space exploration company formed by entrepreneur Elon Musk. Government and industry officials have said that the payload failed to separate from the second stage of the rocket and plunged back into the atmosphere.

The failure comes at a sensitive time for SpaceX, which has recently been trying to establish itself as a low-cost launcher for Pentagon missions. Both SpaceX and Northrup are casting blame on each other, Ars Technica reported, citing a source familiar with discussions on Capitol Hill.

“There’s no reason to think that anyone has been dealt a body blow because of the loss of one mission,” Peter de Selding, editor of Space Intel Report, told NBC News. In all likelihood, he said, the satellite’s manufacturer will be fully paid for its work even if it’s to blame for the satellite’s apparent loss. If it turns out that a glitch with SpaceX’s rocket is responsible for the apparent loss, SpaceX’s busy launch schedule for 2018 could face disruption — with possible loss of revenues.

SpaceX said the Zuma mission’s apparent failure wouldn’t affect the company’s upcoming launches, including a much-anticipated inaugural demonstration flight of the massive new Falcon Heavy rocket later this month.

“Since the data reviewed so far indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed, we do not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule,” Shotwell said in the statement.

The high-profile error is an embarrassment for the effort. But SpaceX is so cheap relative to its competitors that the scrubbing is unlikely to derail the relationship.

"When it's hundreds of millions of dollars versus something that's $60,000 to $90,000, it's hard to justify the taxpayer dollars," said Cantrell.

If anything, the solution is to send up more rockets, more frequently. And that means following the SpaceX model.

"The reason why air travel is so reliable is because we fly thousands of airliners every day," Robert Zubrin, rocket scientist and founder of the nonprofit Mars Society, told NBC News in an email.

"Right now, the average rate of spaceflight is about 1 launch every 4 days. Back when airplanes flew at that frequency, they crashed all the time. If we want to make space travel as safe as air travel, we need to make it much cheaper."

7
Environment / Trashing the Planet for Profit
« on: January 10, 2018, 12:55:57 AM »
https://investigatingimperialism.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/trashing-the-planet-for-profit-by-william-bowles/

Trashing the Planet for Profit
By William Bowles
January 8, 2018   


8 January 2018 — investigatingimperialism

Introduction

Before I began this essay I read through some of my past forays that mentioned climate change and capitalism, the first I think, being in 2006 where I opined in a piece on the ‘War on Terror’:

    Perhaps the impending climate catastrophe as well as the genocidal actions of the US will force us to finally start thinking and acting ‘outside of the box’ but without a clear idea of where we are heading or how to get there, currently the situation looks dire. — WOT is to be done?  2 November, 2006

In the intervening years, things have gotten even more dire on pretty much every front. It appears that the world’s political and business elite are even more entrenched inside their box. Except, we do know what has to be done, so why, in the face of the obvious, do we not act to forestall catastrophe?

Pessimism, Progress…

For the most part, us lefties are optimists. We believe in the future, in progress, that things will get better, eventually. That the ludicrous idea that capitalism is the ‘end of history’, that in spite of its relentless propaganda, and notwithstanding the defeat of the first socialist experiments, that there is a future beyond capitalism, conditional of course, that we come together to fight for it, as there’s nothing inevitable about it.

But as things stand, it may well be that the human race is not included in that future. Bacteria maybe, but not us.

Personally, I’ve always been an optimist, that in the future, eventually things would get better. Progress, revolution. Not in my lifetime perhaps but eventually we would move beyond capitalism to a sane society. One not driven by greed and short-term gain for the few. Until that is, the reality of climate change hit home, but more on this later.

And the Personal…

After my father died when I was 10, my mother got together with a family friend and he became not exactly a replacement for my father but let’s say, almost, for around 12 years (he died in 2016). Like most of my family and on both sides, he was also a lefty. A talented person. Royal College of Art, a designer, an actor, singer, song writer and lecturer, and a communist his entire life (he was 85 when he died). Like me, he was an optimist. He believed in a better future, better than this miserable present; until a year or so before his death that is (I think he starved himself to death because of his change of heart).

I surmise that what brought about this change was his belief that it was already too late, we had reached the proverbial ‘tipping point’ and there was no going back. He believed that the changes wrought on the biosphere by 200 years of industrial capitalism were now irreversible. We were on the slide toward catastrophe and there was nothing we could do about it given the stranglehold the 1% have on the world. Perhaps even worse, that no matter what we did now or in the future, it was already too late to halt, let alone reverse, catastrophic (to us) climate change.

Trashing the Planet, one plastic bottle at a time

When I was a child, in fact into my teens, containers came in only three types; glass/ceramic; paper/wood/cardboard and metal. All were recyclable and for most part, they were. Our milk was delivered to the front door in glass bottles, by our Coop milkman, Billy. There was no deposit on them, we left the (clean) empties for Billy to collect, returned to the bottling plant where they were washed and reused, at least three times before being recycled. And as a teenager I worked every Saturday on that Coop milk float, horse-drawn, would you believe. The horse knew the route better than we did. It knew at which house we stopped for tea and chocolate digestive biscuits and when to move on. Billy rarely touched the horse and I never did, I was frightened of it, it liked to bite.

And we bought our fruit and veg in paper bags from the local greengrocer, not a hundred meters from where we lived. Ditto the bread, from the bakery, fresh baked twice a day, one hundred meters past the greengrocers.

Nostalgia? Perhaps that’s a small part of it but the recent statistic that in a few years time there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish goes to the very heart of an economic system that can only see profit and worse, can’t see beyond today, beyond short-term gain, even if its actions threaten its own future as a class, as a system. Insane? You bet!

But as I’ve written many, many times before (here, here, here, here, and here to name a few), the 1% think they can survive the coming conflagration, that their money, power, technology and weapons will enable them to ride out the coming storm, sacrificing the defenceless of the planet in the name of profit.

The problem is that we are witnessing exponential, negative feedback, so what was predicted say 10 years ago as a ‘breathing space’ of 30 or 50 years in which to take steps to halt the slide is now predicted to be ‘only’ 10 years and no doubt soon it will be upon us. No years! How can one be positive in the face of these revelations without entering a state of denial or resignation?

Even more repulsive, the 1% have no problem sacrificing vast swathes of humanity to preserve their privilege and the rule of capital. The ‘other’ are after all, ‘surplus to requirement’. A vast army of surplus labour, global in scope, not needed by the privileged few. And the effects of climate change are happening now, never mind ten years time, in places like Bangladesh and Puerto Rico. Firstly, by doing nothing to change the economic system that’s caused it and secondly by doing nothing where climate change has already caused unimaginable disasters and suffering.

We can’t say we haven’t been warned

56 years ago, in 1962, Rachel Carson wrote ‘Silent Spring’, about the disastrous effects of synthetic pesticides on the environment and on us. For her trouble:

    “Carson was violently assailed by threats of lawsuits and derision, including suggestions that this meticulous scientist was a “hysterical woman” unqualified to write such a book. A huge counterattack was organized and led by Monsanto, Velsicol, American Cyanamid — indeed, the whole chemical industry — duly supported by the [US] Agriculture Department as well as the more cautious in the media.” – Climate Change: World War III by another name? 4 December 2008, By William Bowles

Over 50 years later climate scientists have suffered comparable attacks, with the sociopath Trump, who far from being the exception to capitalist rule, actually personifies it in all its naked barbarity. The only differences is that Trump publicly avows that he doesn’t give a damn! What we witness with Trump’s irrational attacks is a system at the end of its tether so-to-speak. Enraged by its failure to achieve total hegemony over the planet, it lashes out like some wounded beast. Unless stopped, it threatens nuclear Armageddon to add to its list  of genocidal crimes against the planet and its peoples.

Is it too late?

But what are the chances of overthrowing capitalism before it’s too late to stop, let alone reverse the changes wrought by this insane system? Can organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, and indeed, a whole slew of ‘green’ pressure groups, force the capitalists to reverse their suicidal trajectory?

Not until they stop avoiding the issue of confronting capitalism itself rather than the ‘morally uplifting’ but ineffectual route of the personal act e.g., not buying stuff in plastic bottles. Not that, as individuals, we shouldn’t stop buying stuff in plastic bottles but that real change can only come through collective actions, as a class that collectively opposes capitalism and furthermore advocates an alternative way of living. For myself, I don’t see any other alternative than to some form of socialism.

Thus the current drive against the production of plastic bottles once more puts the onus on us, or the current fad around plastic-lined paper coffee cups (all ten billion of them) again, it puts the onus on us. But there is no call to ban their production or ban the production of the endless stream of plastic cartons, wrappings and boxes that are filling up the oceans and our waste tips. Make us pay for it instead with a levy (tax) on their sale. A tax no doubt that will be used to wage ever more wars on the planet. And we have to face the fact that we can’t have our cake and eat it, when it’s the planet and its peoples that paying the price for our useless and unhappy lives, in spite of the gadgets and 4K TVs.

As ever, the public and the planet pay the price for capitalist, profit-driven production. But ultimately it is actually our responsibility but it’s of a different order than being obedient but ‘responsible’ consumers by recycling this and that. It’s by tackling the issue at its root, capitalism. This is a qualitatively different struggle that requires not individual actions (though they are important), but organised, collective action to transform the way we make our living; our economic mode of production.

Moreover, it will require sacrifice on our part. We will have to decide how want to live our lives. I fear however that by the time we decide that going into debt to buy all the crap that ends up sitting in cupboards unused across the nation (allegedly 30% of it), it will be too late for us to do anything about it.

What is to be Done?

So, is it hopeless? Everything in me cries out, no, it’s not hopeless! We can do something about it before it’s too late. But what exactly, are the somethings that we need to do?

I think some of the initial somethings are self-evident, well at least to me. For example, the existing environmental/green groups need to wake up and smell the coffee and join with what’s left of our left and in turn, what’s left of our left needs to wake and smell the coffee too and put a stop to its imperial thinking and stop telling the rest of the planet what to do and concentrate on the problem of how to deal with the contradiction of being privileged citizens of the Imperialist world and at the same time calling ourselves socialists. Furthermore, what’s left of our left needs to stop cannibalising itself by spending most of its time attacking the various left factions and focus instead on tackling the real enemy, capitalism.

There is another issue which I fear is probably even more difficult to deal with and that’s our understanding (or lack of it) of what happens outside the imperial ‘bubble’ we live in. A friend of mine pointed it out to me the other day, noting that I had the advantage of having lived on three continents, including Africa. I had, at least in theory, the advantage of knowing what it was like to experience the reality of a world shaped by imperialism, one that has enabled me to step outside that bubble of imperial privilege, that influences even the most allegedly radical lefty.

It comes down to the ability to empathise, or not, with another person’s reality. To be able to put one’s self in another person’s shoes. To see and experience their reality rather than impose our own onto theirs. Hence an alleged lefty, indeed a ‘professional’ lefty like Tariq Ali, who said in 2012:

    “He [Assad] has to be pushed out” – Assad must go to save Syria from intervention, RT, 15 February 2012

By what right does Ali say this? The issue really is not about whether Assad should or shouldn’t go but about Ali’s almost divine right to lay down the law about another country from his privileged position as a citizen of Empire. The fact that he said it allegedly in the context that it would avert Western intervention if Assad stepped aside, totally misses the point, for if Assad was to go, it would mean that Imperialism had succeeded in its objective without the need for intervention! Duh! Ali attempted to rationalise his position by stating that:

    “[Ali] believes that once Assad falls, the new government will keep good relations with Iran, because this will be in the interest of the new democratic government.” – Tariq Ali says Assad has to go: I’m depressed – no, I’m outraged, By William Bowles, 15 February 2012

I responded, ‘What new democratic government?’ Total wishful thinking on Ali’s part as it assumes that that’s what the West wants, a democratic government and should Assad step aside, that’s what Syria would get. Duh! Talk about self-delusion!

It exemplifies the contradiction of being an alleged socialist at home and enjoying the privilege of being part of the Empire’s intellectual elite and paid very well thank you very much, whilst dictating to Syria what it should and shouldn’t do. I fail to see the distinction between Ali’s arrogance and that of the West, that called for exactly the same thing! Assad has to go!

Furthermore, it reveals the gulf that has to be bridged between us and the proverbial ‘them’, the ‘other’. No mean stretch. It also illustrates the problem we face here, at home, in the belly of the beast of coming to terms with our responsibilities to the planet that we have raped for the past 500 years and continue to rape in order to preserve our (relative) privilege.

Perhaps this in part explains why collectively, we refuse to accept responsibility for the state of the planet. Yes, ultimately, it’s the economic system, capitalism that’s doing the damage but surely it’s time we also accept responsibility for our role in maintaining an unsustainable economic system, a system that in the short term we all benefit from.

8
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/ZsAOjC5DYgw" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/ZsAOjC5DYgw</a>

9
Doomsteading / Copicing for Coping with Collapse
« on: January 08, 2018, 01:50:47 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/Y0kaq5GG5nc" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/Y0kaq5GG5nc</a>

10
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RE

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11
https://www.globalresearch.ca/of-billionaires-fiscal-paradises-the-worlds-debt-and-the-victims/5624656

Of Billionaires, Fiscal Paradises, the World’s Debt, and the Victims
By Roberto Savio
Global Research, January 02, 2018
Human Wrongs Watch
Theme: Global Economy, Intelligence

Among Bloomberg’s many profitable activities there is a convenient Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which has just published its findings for 2017.

It covers only the 500 richest people, and it proudly announces that they have increased their wealth by 1 trillion dollars in just one year.

Their fortunes went up by 23 per cent to top comfortable 5 trillion dollars (to put this in perspective, the US budget is now at 3.7 trillion).

That obviously means an equivalent reduction for the rest of the population, which has lost those trillion dollars.

What is not widely known is that the amount of money circulation remains the same; no new money has been printed to accommodate the 500 richest billionaires!

In fact, Forbes, the magazine for the rich, states that there are over 2.000 billionaires in the world, and that this number is going to increase and increase fast.


Screengrab from Bloomberg Billionaires Index. See this for the complete list.

China

China has now surpassed the US, with 594 billionaires as compared to the US’s 535 – and every three days a new millionaire is born there. There is even an exclusive club of billionaires, the China Entrepreneur Club, which admits members only by unanimity of its current 64 members. Together they have 300 billion dollars, equivalent to 4.5 per cent of the Chinese Gross National Product (GNP).

As a norm, the Chinese wealth is a family affair, which means that in 10 years they will leave a heritage of 1 trillion dollars, most probably to their sons; and the amount of inherited wealth is going to rise to three trillion dollars in 20 years.

We know from a large study by the French economist Thomas Piketty covering 65 countries during modern times, that the bulk of wealth comes from inherited money. That is because, as we all know, money begets money.

“Misery brings misery, wealth brings wealth”

In fact, Ronald Reagan started his campaign: “Misery brings misery, wealth brings wealth” — therefore, we must tax rich people less than poor people.

However, the just adopted Donald Trump’s tax law in the US cuts taxes to companies, thus increasing the US deficit by 1.7 trillion dollars over ten years. Nobody has apparently noticed that the US deficit already amounts to 18.96 trillion dollars or about 104 per cent of the previous 12 months’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

This tax reform will have a deep impact on Europe, by shifting there many of the costs of the reform, through balance of payments and trade. The five most important ministers of finance of Europe, the UK included, have written a letter of protest, obviously much to the glee of President Trump, who perceives only the US as winner, and all others as losers.

All this staggering amount of money in a few hands (8 people have the same wealth as 2.3 billion people), brings us to three relevant considerations: a) what is happening with the world debt b) how are governments helping the rich to avoid taxes; c) the relation between injustice and democracy. None of those perspectives gives space for hope, and least of all trust in our political class.

World’s Debt

Let us start with the world’s debt. I do not remember having seen one single article on that in the closing year. Yet the International Monetary Fund has alerted: gross debt of the non-financial sector has doubled in nominal terms since the end of the century to 152 trillion dollars.

This is a record 225 per cent of the world GDP. Two thirds come from the private sector, and one third from the public sector. But this increased from below 70 per cent of the GDP last year now to 85 per cent, a dramatic rise in such a short time.

In fact, the respected Institute for international Finance estimates that at the end of 2017 the global debt –private and public– would have reached a staggering 226 trillion dollars, more than three times global annual economic output…

This doesn’t seem to interest anybody. But let us take the state of the American economy, and the case of a proud President boasting about the index of growth, now estimated at 2.6 per cent.

Well, this shows the inadequacy of the GDP as a valid indicator. Growth is a macroeconomic index. If 80 per cent goes to a few hands, and the crumbs to all the others, who pay most of taxes, it is not an example of growth; it is just a problem waiting to explode.

What is more, nobody is thinking about the increase in deficit. The total private debt at the end of the first quarter of 2017 was 14.9 trillion, with an increase of 900 million dollars in three months.

While salaries increased from 9.2 billion dollars in 2014 to 10.3 billion dollars in the second quarter of 2017, the debt of families rose from 13.9 billion dollars to 14.9, an increase of one billion dollars in just four months.

Growth? What Growth?

What growth are we talking about? In fact, we have 86 per cent of the population facing an increasing debt, while becoming because of the concentration of wealth in the hands of just 1 per cent of the population.

This should be a cause of concern for any administration, left wing or right-wing be it. In fact, it is not surprising that the 400 richest men of the US, led by Warren Buffet, have written to Trump telling him that they are doing fine and that they do not need a tax rebate; and that he should worry about the poorest part of the population.

The Hidden Money

Now a favourite way of avoiding taxes is to place money in tax havens, where between 21 and 30 trillion dollars are ensconced.

The Tax Justice Network reports that this system is “basically designed and operated” by a group of highly paid specialists from the world’s largest private banks (led by UBS, Credit Suisse, and Goldman Sachs), law offices, and accounting firms and tolerated by international organizations such as Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the OECD, and the G20.

The amount of money hidden away has significantly increased since 2005, sharpening the divide between the super-rich and the rest of the world. And this is why there was a lot of pressure to oblige banks to open their accounts to fiscal inspection, and press on the Bahamas, Hong Kong, Panama and other third world countries.

Now, another good example of the reigning hypocrisy: The last meeting of the Ministers of Finance of the European Union (Ecofin), has not been able to take a decision on something heinous: several member countries (Luxemburg, UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Malta and Cyprus), host tax havens on their territories.

The Queen of England has invested 10 million pounds in an English tax heaven. And two US states, in particular Delaware, have tax havens that are impenetrable even to the CIA and FBI.

Tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the Bahamas were far less permissive, researchers found, than states such as Nevada, Delaware, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and New York.

“[Americans] discovered that they really don’t need to go to Panama”, said James Henry of the Tax Justice Network. Ecofin has decided that they will continue to bang Third World countries, until they decided what to do at home.

So, the West proclaims principles of transparency and accountability, as long as it can impose these on others. But there is a paradox for Western governments: if those tax havens were closed, as the majority of the deposit comes from the West, they would be able to get much more taxes.

To take just the case of the US: Reed College economist Kim Clausing estimates that inversions in tax havens and other income-shifting techniques reduced Treasury revenues by as much as 111 billion dollars in 2012.

And, according to a new Congressional Budget Office projection, the corporate base erosion will continue to cut corporate tax receipts over the next decade.

It must be clear therefore that if governments let their revenues from corporations and high earners shrink, they are not acting in the interest of the average citizen.

“Let Us Protect the Richest”

So, let us draw our conclusions. Nobody is paying attention to the world debt, which is increasing beyond control, but we are leaving the problem to the next generations, hoping that they will address it. We are mortgaging them with debt, with climate change, and whatever else is possible, to avoid any sacrifices on our part now.

Our motto seems to be: Let us protect the richest, and expect less from them and more from the others. In 1952, corporate income taxes funded about 32 percent of the US government. That shrank to 10.6 percent by 2015. While tax havens aren’t the sole cause of this shift, it’s worth noting that the share of corporate profits reported in tax havens has increased tenfold since the 1980s. And now comes from Trump the giant tax gift for companies.

This policy, hidden to citizens, and never legitimised by any formal act of law, is now becoming evident because of the giant increase of inequality, which has no precedent in history.

According to Oxfam, Great Britain will have more social injustice in 2020, that at the times of Queen Victoria. The world is moving faster to financial investments and transactions, and not to the production of goods and services, which do not fetch instant rewards. It is estimated that with one trillion dollars you can buy the world production of a day of goods and services.

That same day, the financial transactions reach 40 trillion dollars. That means that for every dollar generated by human hands, there are 40 dollars created by financial abstractions.

Globalisation

Globalisation is obviously rewarding capitals, not human beings. Well, this is having an impact on politics, and not the best one.

There is everywhere an increasing number of losers, especially in rich countries, also because of technological development, and shift in consumption. A classic example is the coal mines that Trump wants to resurrect, to make America great again.

But coal is inexorably being phased out because of climate concerns (even if not fast enough), and automatisation reduces considerably the number of workers to be employed. Robots will in 2040 be responsible for 42 per cent of production of goods and services, up from the present 16 per cent. This means around 86 million of new unemployed, in the West alone, according to the International Labour Organization.

Those left out from the benefits of globalisations look at the winners, whom they see well connected to the system. This results in the globalisation of resentment and frustration, which in a few years has led to the rise of the rightist parties in all European countries, triggered Brexit, and Trump. Once upon a time, the left was the banner-bearer of the fight for social justice. Now it is the right!

Finally, globalisation has lost its shine – but not its power. Now, the debate is about how to de-globalise, and what is worrying is that the debate is not about how to bring the process to the service of humankind, but how to deploy populism and nationalism, and xenophobia, to “let us make US great again”, to the increase in clashes and conflicts.

Too Late?

International organisations like the IMF and the World Bank – who have been claiming for two decades that market is the only basis for progress, that once a totally free market is in place, the common man and woman would be the beneficiary – have switched the reverse gear.

Now they are all talking about the need for the state to be again the arbiter for regulations and social inclusion, because they have found out that social injustice is a brake not only for democracy, but also economic progress.

But despite all the mea culpa, they are rather late in the day. The genie is out of the bottle, and the powers do not even try to put it back. Utter hypocrisy, vested interests, and the lack of vision have regrettably replaced policy.

*

Roberto Savio is the founder and former Director-General of international news agency Inter Press Service (IPS). In recent years he has also founded Other News, a service providing ‘information that markets eliminate’.

The original source of this article is Human Wrongs Watch
Copyright © Roberto Savio, Human Wrongs Watch, 2018

12
Medicine & Health / The Unsung Epidemic
« on: January 03, 2018, 12:54:36 AM »
https://dissidentvoice.org/2018/01/the-unsung-epidemic/

The Unsung Epidemic


by Robert Hunziker / January 1st, 2018

Nearly every American family has a cancer victim!

Chronic disease is the biggest epidemic ever faced. Yet, even though it touches almost every family, people are not tuned into this epidemic, as such, nor are the causes fully understood by the general public. It haunts society; it’s everywhere; it deforms, debilitates, and incapacitates. Is this the normal course of life or is something in the environment seriously amiss?

A recent Rand Corporation study says that 60% of Americans have one and 40% have multiple chronic conditions: “Nearly 150 million Americans are living with at least one chronic condition; around 100 million of them have more than one. And nearly 30 million are living, day in and day out, with five chronic conditions or more.”1

Chronic diseases are taking the country to its knees, though broadly accepted as “one of those things that simply happens over the course of time.” Maybe that’s the wrong conclusion! Conversely, people should demand to know the root causes of chronic diseases, inclusive of arthritis, asthma, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Is there a common link or a rogue externality behind this humongous devastating epidemic of chronic conditions haunting people’s lives?

At the beginning of the 20th century, infectious diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia, or diarrheal were the leading causes of death. Infectious diseases are transmitted from person to person. In contrast, by the 21st century, chronic diseases replaced infectious diseases. But, chronic diseases are not transmitted person to person. What’s going on?

After all, when 150 million Americans have chronic debilitating conditions, it is patently obvious that something is dead wrong. One hundred fifty million is a knock in the noggin that something is radically amiss. Maybe this: “Humans emit more than 250 billion tonnes of chemical substances a year, in a toxic avalanche that is harming people and life everywhere on the planet.”2 Is this the rogue externality?

Chemical pesticides are sprayed everywhere, all across the planet. The damage shows up in deficiencies in nutritional crops. According to U.S. governmental estimates, mineral content found in fruit and vegetables has dropped 76% over 50 years. So, those veggies you are eating today only have 24% of the nutritional mineral value that your parents enjoyed.

It is well known that pesticides compromise soil conditions, degrading nutritional value. It not only depletes nutritional value, it also contaminates food, which ends up on grocery store shelves. Consistently, pesticide residue is found in apples, baby food, bread, cereal bars, fresh salmon, lemons, lettuce, peaches, nectarines, potatoes, and strawberries, amongst other edibles.

More to the point, according to The Pesticides Literature Review/Toronto – The Ontario College of Family Physicians:

    People should reduce their exposure to pesticides because of links to serious illnesses. Results of this landmark study found consistent evidence of serious health risks such as cancer, nervous system diseases and reproductive problems in people exposed to pesticides…through home and garden exposure.

Similar research has increasingly linked pesticide exposure to more and more cases of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, childhood leukemia, lymphoma, asthma, etc.  In point of fact, women with breast cancer are 5-to-9xs more likely to have pesticide residues in their blood.

The Pesticides Literature Review report examined 265 individual studies of pesticides on human health, concluding that all classes of pesticides are linked to serious harm to humans.

Thus and therefore, based upon the evidence presented herein, the world is poisoning itself with chemicals and thus essentially committing suicide without so much as a peep of concern from regulators; i.e., the U.S. government, that the public is intentionally exposing itself to risks of chronic diseases, amounting to 150,000,000 cases in America alone. Outrageously, this is beyond the pale, certainly outside of agreed standards of decency. Yet, it is reality and ignored.

Far and away, man-made chemicals have the largest footprint on the planet. Yet, one of the least understood and least regulated. According to a United Nations environmental program, most of the chemicals that blanket the planet are never screened for health concerns.

However, nothing is spared. Mercury is found in polar bears. Insect abundance is falling off a cliff, down 75%. Mount Everest’s snow is so polluted it fails to meet EPA drinking water standards. Furniture-making chemicals are found in deep-water squid. According to WWF Global Research, only 14% of chemicals used in the largest volumes have the minimum amount of data in the public domain to make basic safety assessments. Yes, something is amiss!

Postscript: “Despite grave human health risks having been well established for numerous pesticides, they remain in use.”3

    “Chronic Conditions in America: Price and Prevalence”, Rand Review, July 2017. [↩]
    “Scientist Categorize Earth as a Toxic Planet”, Phys Org, February 7th 2017. [↩]
    Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Human Rights Council, UN General Assembly Thirty-fourth Session, Agenda item 3, January 24, 2017. [↩]

13
History / Is the Buildup to World War I Being Repeated for WWIII?
« on: January 01, 2018, 01:39:02 AM »
https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/12/27/is-buildup-world-war-being-repeated-for-wwiii.html


Eric ZUESSE | 27.12.2017 | FEATURED STORY
Is the Buildup to World War I Being Repeated for WWIII?

The great scholar of Turkish history, Taner Akçam, has described today’s geopolitics — the alliances and hostilities toward possibly another World War — as being not ideologically based like WWII, but instead greed-based (empire-grabbing) like WWI:

These are wars of power, influence, and control over the use of Middle Eastern energy resources and the “security issues” related to it. It is quite obvious that the sides in this war are not “those who want democracy and human rights" versus "those in favor of evil dictatorships.”

The axes that are now starting to take shape are proof of this: Saudi Arabia and Israel – openly supported by the United States (and likely Egypt over time) – are forming one alliance; Russia, Iran, and Turkey are establishing another.

A tableau reminiscent of 1918 power blocs.

Today’s alliances are modernized versions of WWI.

World War I was a mess of alliances on each of its two sides, the Central Powers, versus the Entente Powers. The aristocracies that were on the side of the Central Powers included (among others) the following: Jabal Shammar (Saudi Arabia allied with Turkey); Germany; Austria (including Croatia & Bosnia); Ukraine; Poland; Lithuania; Georgia; Turkey; Italy.

The aristocracies that were on the side of the Entente Powers included: China; Japan; Czechoslovakia; Russia; Serbia; UK; Canada; US.

Today, we instead have the West: US; UK; Saudi Arabia (UK-allied ‘Arab Revolt’ that ended in 1925 with Ibn Saud’s victory); Israel; EU led by Germany; Ukraine; Japan; South Korea; versus the East: Russia; Iran; Turkey; China.

An odd-man-out is North Korea, which will be supported by China if it stops developing its nuclear program beyond what’s needed for its self-protection (protection against repeating what had happened to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi), but which will be opposed by China if it develops an aggressive, conquest-oriented, imperialistic, nuclear capability (which would reduce security not only for Japan and South Korea, but also for China).

In WWI, there was a long list of neutral countries (including Switzerland, and all of Scandinavia, plus the Western Hemisphere south of the US); and, in a prospective WWIII, there would also be many such countries on the sidelines. (All of them, however, would become subject to the intense nuclear radiation after the War, and would therefore likewise become unlivable — neutrality wouldn’t save any country from destruction.)

But, after the war was done, what did the world gain and lose from it?

And what would the world gain and lose from a prospective WWIII?

So: how sane was WWI?

And how sane would be a WWIII?

Why, then, was WWI even waged, at all? And what does that history teach us about what seems to be happening today?

I think that it teaches us a lot. It teaches us that mistakes can happen. Signals and intentions can be misread. The priorities of leaders can be misunderstood (such as were the priorities of Kaiser Wilhelm II — that he placed the divine right of kings as being the supreme obligation of any king to protect and defend in order to keep his personal honor — misread, until too late and the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria became assassinated on 28 June 1914 by the well-intentioned naive anti-imperialist Gavrilo Princip, who couldn’t have cared less about whether the assassination, which he was planning, would violate what the German Emperor felt to constitute the ultimate moral principle).

History during the past century has definitely taught us (though humans seem not to have learned it) that humans have now (with nuclear weapons, and also with human-caused global warming) acquired, by means of the fruits of our technological ingenuity, far more power, on a far bigger scale, than humans possess the intelligence and character to be able to control, and that we are thus becoming increasingly dangerous and destructive to the entire planet, like we never have been before, throughout all of human history. We’re now, tragically, clearly out of our depth. Surely, this will end in WWIII, unless something else ends us even sooner. Humans seem to be destroying the planet, by a final War, if not by a global burnout. A WWIII would bring the end much sooner than global burnout would, and now seems likely to occur.

All sane bets are thus off. All that remains now is just bad gambles. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to tell everybody else why optimism isn’t stupid, under the present (and past) circumstances — in other words, in the light of history.

I agree with Akçam’s analogy between the buildup toward WWI, and today’s buildup toward WWIII. Kaiser Wilhelm II felt to be the ultimate moral principle the divine right of kings; and America’s ruling aristocracy today feel that the ultimate moral principle is that, as US President Barack Obama expressed more frequently than any other US President has, the US is the only “indispensable” country — that all other nations are either vassals or else enemies of the US, but are, in either case, “dispensable.” Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, has still not condemned and disowned that fascist view. Consequently, any US-allied country needs to accept that not only are the US aristocracy’s enemies “dispensable” to the US aristocracy, but that the US aristocracy’s allies are, likewise, “dispensable” to America’s Government. It’s an “Either you’re with us, or else you are against us” situation, for any currently US-allied country — no current US ally will be allowed to become neutral. This places an incentive upon Turkey to outright withdraw from NATO, and even for Germany perhaps to do so; but, for some reason, the opposing alliance, of Russia, China, and Iran, are not as yet forming themselves in any official way as constituting an alliance, such that Turkey or maybe even Germany would withdraw from NATO and join “the opposite side.”

It’s not yet clear that there yet is an opposite side. (Maybe that will be coming soon.) The more that the US regime blocks peaceful and mutually advantageous paths forward, as it has been doing since 2013, the more likely that its competitors will announce that the US and its allies are “enemies,” and are not merely “competitors.” America can’t continue much longer to proclaim itself to be the only indispensable country, before everything starts going onto a war-footing; and the step from that situation to a nuclear armageddon could turn out to be surprisingly short.

14
Economics / What Happened to the 40-Hour Workweek?
« on: January 01, 2018, 12:46:07 AM »
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/29/what-happened-to-the-40-hour-workweek/

December 29, 2017
What Happened to the 40-Hour Workweek?

by David Rosen


Photo by Adam Rubock | CC BY 2.0

As 2017 winds down, it’s important to remember that this year marks the 200th anniversary for the call for a 40-hr workweek for laboring people.  The 8-hour day movement involves not only changes in the workweek, but the struggle over class power.  Turning points in this history of the workweek outline the reconfiguration of modern capitalism:

    1817 – Robert Owen, a successful Welsh manufacturer, labor-rights activist and founder of the utopian community of New Harmony, believed in dividing the day into three, equal 8-hr parts — “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

    1869 – At a time when workers put in 12 to 14 hrs a day of work, 6 days a week, Pres. Ulysses Grant issues a proclamation guaranteeing an 8-hr workday without a decrease in pay, but it only applied to government workers.

    1926 — Henry Ford implemented a 5-day, 40-hr workweek for workers at his auto manufacturing company; he reminded his fellow robber-barons, “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either lost time or a class privilege.”

    1930 — As the Great Depression was raging, the cornflake magnate W. K. Kellogg introduced the 6-hour workday at his factory in Battle Creek, MI.

    1940 — Congress amended the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act that limited the workweek to 44 hrs, or 8.8 hrs per day, to 40 hrs, 8 hrs per day.

    1970 – Minneapolis Federal Reserve reports the average workweek was 38.8 hrs.

Most troubling, the Fed also reports that between 1970 and 2000, the average workweek increased to 40.5 hrs.  A 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimate pegs it at 43 hrs per week or 8.6 hrs per day.

The 40-hr workweek is slipping away.  People are working more hours in the new, ever-so-hip “gig” economy of highly-skilled and independent wage-slaves.  And its occurring as the workweek should be cut in half with full pay and benefits.

***

How many hours do you work each week?  How many hours do you spend each day “working”?

How much time do you slave at your computer, whether in an office, at home, a coffee shop or shared work-space?  How much time do you sacrifice ringing up sales at a local store?, doing paperwork at the public-employee job?, or packing goods at a warehouse outlet?  How many hours are you driving a rig or hack?  How long does it take you to close a deal?, work a meeting or (if you’re lucky) at a reimbursable dinner or cocktail reception?  And how much time do you use to make personal calls, take a coffee or cigarette break or just gossip with workmates?  It’s all work, part of the job, and it likely totals a lot more than 40-hrs a week.

Once upon time, people did a “fair-day’s-work” for a “fair-day’s-wage.”  The great post-WW-II “American Dream” envisioned a world in which the – white, male — industrial worker traveled to the job, clocked out after an 8-hrs the shift (if more, there was overtime) and went home, had a drink, ate a nightly meal cooked by his wife, managed family time, put the kids to bed, turned on the TV for an hour or two of distraction and went to bed.

Today, no one seems to know how long Americans work on the job ach week.  In 2016, the BLS pegged it at 43 hours per week; a 2014 Gallup poll sites 47 hrs per week (9.4 hours per day) as the average, with many saying they work 50 hrs per week. A 2016 study by Upwork and the Freelancers Union found that full-time freelancers are logging 36 hours of work per week.  Others report that those working in the media, high-tech, retail and other sectors, including freelancers, its closer to 60 hours per week.

Whatever the actual hours of work one puts in on a job, one knows it’s not the whole or real story.  Everyone knows the workday has two parts, the actual job and its impact on the rest of one’s life.  In the world of instant communications facilitated by the internet and smartphones, a growing proportion of postmodern Americans live 24/7 work-life.  Today, much of the workday consumes endless hours of home- or personal-life in terms of prep-work, travel, cleaning one’s cloths and buying one’s lunch as well as worry and family concerns.  It’s all considered required unpaid labor to facilitated the job, work.

***

People today do more-or-less the same things (if not more) they did in yesteryear, but they do it in different ways.  However, work-life on and off the job is taking a bigger portion of a working-person’s life, squeezing all other segments.

During the post-WW-II era, a fundamental change in American work-life occurred as consumerism replaced free time and women increasingly entered the workforce to support the two-income household.  In a 1956 campaign speech, Vice President Nixon predicted that a 32-hour workweek was possible under the following conditions: “The workweek can only be reduced at a time when reduction of the workweek will not reduce efficiency and will not reduce production.”  Three factors have made Nixon’s prediction come true, granting Americans to a 32-hr workweek.

First, ceaseless automation of the work process has fundamental change the work-second, let alone the work-week.  Brain replaced brawn, digital superseded analog and globalization reconfigured the domestic marketplace.  Together, these forces led to increased productivity, improved efficiency and sucked the life out of work-life.

Second, the labor force has been reconfigured.  Since Nixon’s days, unions were systematically crushed and an increasing proportion of the workforce became contingent workers — independent, freelance or gig workers.  The BLS estimates the civilian labor force of 160 million workers with the “self-employed” at about 11 percent and contingent workers at 22 percent or about 35 million working people.  Others estimate a higher proportion: a McKinsey study places it at 27 percent and a study by Upwork and the Freelancers Union claims “the freelance workforce grew from 53 million in 2014 to 55 million in 2016 and currently represents 35% of the U.S. workforce.” Upwork/Freelancers Union projects the freelance – contingency-labor — sector will hit 40 percent of the workforce in 2020.

Third, and equally profound, according to the Center for American Progress “in 1960, only 20 percent of mothers worked.  Today [2010], 70 percent of American children live in households where all adults are employed.”  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that between 1969 and 2000, the work-week for couples — both husband and wife combined — increased from 56 hours to 67 hours.  The two-income household is the new normal.

***

In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that within a century, increases in productivity would mean that we would all be a working 15-hr week.  With just over a decade to go, it looks like this predication won’t come true

Other economists shared variations of Keynes’ prediction.  They argued that as advanced economies became more productive, people would choose to work fewer hours.  Sadly, this has not happened.

In the U.S., capitalism is triumphant!  Since the great consumer revolution of the post-WW-II era, Americans have traded a shorter workweek for ever-higher levels of consumption — and ever-greater levels of debt.  The recently-passed Republican tax scam fulfills Pres. Trump’s plan to “Make America Great Again.”  The call for a shorter workweek looks as outdated as the great 19th-century utopian movements.

Capitalism has forged a global system dominated by finance and, ever-increasingly, come to systematically dominate every moment or aspect of a person’s life.  Whether at work or play, at the office or at home or on vacation, Americans know how to function as subjects and objects, to buy and sell.  The market mediates self-hood yet it is being challenged across the globe.

In some countries of the advanced capitalist world, efforts are underway to shorten the workweek.  For example, Germany’s biggest union, IG Metall, is pushing for a 28 hour working week.  According the UK’s Independent, “The union argues that workers should get a fair share in the benefits of Germany’s growing economy in the form of better pay and an improved work-life balance.”

The paper also reports that in the UK, Royal Mail workers represented by Communication Workers Union (CWU) recently balloted for strike action, with one of their central demands being a call to reduce the work week to a 32 hour, four-day week.  The Greens joined the chorus, calling for a shorter working week as well as a guaranteed adequate income.  Even Mexico’s billionaire Carlos Slim advocated for a three-day workweek as a better work-life balance.

Capitalism is also triumphant because its effectively contained the social debate about inequality.  The Occupy Wall Street insurgency of 2011 reinserted inequality into the U.S. political vocabulary.  Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign acknowledgement inequality, positioning it as a key part of the current social struggle.  The recent Democratic-party electoral victories in governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey, the Alabama senate race as well as gains in the Virginia House of Delegates may signal what’s to come in2018 midterm elections.  Then, showdowns at the local- and state-levels over the Republican’s tax plan may playout.  For now, the debate is over, the 1 percent won!

Trump is a great showman and, almost every day, through Tweets and press statements, plays a game of three-card-monte with the American public.  Combining the skills of P.T. Barnum’s circus shows and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, Trump seduces, entraps, his audience, offering an endless stream of venom as a clever game of distraction.  And the popular media, whether mainstream, right or left, promote distraction.  His fiction echoes in the latest news report, pundit talk show and sex scandals.  All’s serving to make Americans forget about inequality and that working people have been struggle for two centuries for a 40-hr workweek.
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More articles by:David Rosen

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

15
Economics / Against Identitarian and Generational Divide and Rule
« on: December 31, 2017, 06:47:24 AM »
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/29/against-identitarian-and-generational-divide-and-rule/

December 29, 2017
Against Identitarian and Generational Divide and Rule

by Paul Street


Photo by Timothy Krause | CC BY 2.0

The Occupy Wall Street movement that spread across the country six-plus years ago lacked proper organization and strategy, but it deserves credit for having the right enemy – the corporate and financial ruling class.  The same can be said to no small degree about the sadly Democratic Party-captive Bernie Sanders campaign, which targeted “the billionaire class” as the main culprit behind the miseries of life in the brutally class-disparate United States. Both populist phenomena – Occupy and the Sanders “movement” – failed to build lasting people’s organizations and failed to properly situate the “One Percent”/“Billionaire Class” within the specific historical contexts of capitalist class rule and capitalism’s “evil twin” imperialism. Neither offered anything like a revolutionary alternative to the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of wealth and empire. Still, both demonstrated a reasonable opening understanding of who calls the shots under what Noam Chomsky is right to sardonically call “really existing [U.S.] capitalist democracy, or RECD, pronounced as ‘wrecked’”: the U.S. corporate and financial oligarchy.

Such basic and sound and basic grasp of class reality is sadly missing on much what passes for a Left in the U.S. today. That “left” focuses instead on oppressions and identities of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion/irreligion, immigration status, disability/ability, and the like.  In the place of the underlying conflict between the plutocratic and imperialist rich and the multi-cultural rest of us, it points the finger at white people/”white privilege,” males/male privilege, straight people/straight privilege, Christians/Christian chauvinism, the non-disabled, people who stand for the National Anthem, nativism, and so on.

Some parts of “the left” point the finger at all those who participate in industrialized society, who are accused of destroying livable ecology by consuming the Earth’s resources. That suggests a rather large enemy: most of humanity.

There’s even now a tendency in some corners of what passes for a left to turn to generational shaming and hate.  The real problem, I have been told in all seriousness, is Baby Boomers – that is, all U.S.-Americans born between 1946 and 1964.  This “Generation of Sociopaths” (the openly insane title of a book, penned by a Millennial venture capitalist, that purveys contempt for all those loathsome creatures who had the audacity to be delivered from their mother’s wombs in post-World War II America) is accused of looting the commons, perverting democracy, generating savage inequality, ruining the environment and more, all in service to it endless pursuit of narcissistic self-glorification. (My sincere apologies.  I was born in 1958).

There are four basic problems with these “left” narratives.  The first is a tendency toward absurdly broad generalization about the purported evil of massive demographic cohorts like U.S.-American whites, U.S.-American males, U.S.-American Christians, U.S.-American consumers, and U.S.-American “baby boomers.” The narratives render invisible the many U.S. whites (not enough, to be sure) who are non- and anti-racist, the many U.S. males (not enough) who are non- and anti-sexist, the many U.S. straights who are non- and anti-homophobic, the many U.S. Baby Boomers who are not narcissistic and sociopathic wealth- and power-accumulators, the many U.S.-Americans without handicaps who support disability rights, etc.

The second problem is a nasty and classist tendency to feed ugly, victim-blaming narratives about the many problems experienced by the nation’s increasingly desperate white working- class.  As Michael K. Smith noted on Counterpunch three and a half weeks ago:

    Working class America people are for the first time dying at a younger age than their parents. The death rate of white working-class men and women increased sharply in the past generation, a reversal of the trend established over the three decades following the end of World War II. The opioid epidemic is a particularly grim feature of this tragic story…But in the optic of identity politics, white people are ‘privileged’ by definition, so downward mobility can only be the result of personal failure. In particular, if you are white and don’t have a college degree, and two-thirds of American adults do not, then you are not part of the good life and have only yourself to blame…As a result, the white working class is virtually invisible today. The movie “A Day Without A Mexican” attempted to show how indebted California is to immigrant labor, but there has been no parallel cinematic attempt to show how the white working class (largely) keeps our power lines working, our buses running, our sewers functioning, our trucks delivering goods to market. They also empty our bedpans, take our X-rays, watch our children, and respond to our 911 calls. Without them, the American Dream that they are increasingly excluded from could not exist. But there is virtually no public depiction of their plight. (emphasis added)

Is it any wonder that many working-class U.S. whites have tended to align with the Right, and not with middle- and upper-class liberals and lefties, who suggest that white working-class rubes have only themselves to blame for their struggles – and not with hyper-identity-politicized leftists who (Smith writes) “dismiss working class demands for jobs on the basis that it’s just ‘white privilege’”?

It is true that the Right reprehensibly offers “heartland” whites noxious scapegoats for their pain: immigrants, Blacks, and Muslims.  That is a reminder that the Right plays the identity card no less than does what passes for a political left in the U.S.  The point here, however, is that the Right is not blaming the white working-class itself. Much of what passes for “the left” is doing that, oddly and idiotically enough.

The third difficulty is an elementary failure to identify the actors with the most structurally and institutionally empowered agency behind contemporary evils.  That agency is clearly found among the nation’s corporate and financial ruling and managerial classes – a relatively tiny but egregiously over-empowered segment of the population that sits atop a national system of plutocratic rule and capitalist socio-pathology that dates back nearly two and a half centuries.  Neither U.S. whites nor U.S. males nor U.S. Christians nor U.S. straight people nor U.S. consumers nor U.S. nativists created the current neoliberal New Gilded Age of savage hyper-inequality, wherein the top 10th of the upper U.S. 1% owns as much wealth as the bottom U.S. 90% – this while half the U.S. populace is poor or near-poor and well more than a third of the nation’s Black and Native-American children live at less than the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level. Top members of the nation’s capitalist and allied professional classes did that. They did so in accord with a “free market” (state-capitalist) doctrine formulated in ruling-class circles, without the slightest input from ordinary white, male, straight, Christian U.S.-Americans.  Those actors have been very disproportionately but by no means exclusively white, male, straight, Christian, and so on, but it is absurd to see them as representative of all, most, or even much of white America, male America, Christian America, straight America, etc. It came from the ruling class top down.

Anti-Boomer Generational Warfare Idiots might want to check out the birthdates of some of the leading architects of the neoliberal New Gilded Age era:  David Rockefeller [1915], Lewis Powell [1907]; Paul Volcker [1927], Charles Koch [1935], Robert Rubin [1938], Milton Friedman [1912], James M. Buchanan [1919], Zbigniew Brzezinski [1928] …I could go on.

Were Iraq and Libya (2011) crushed by the Baby Boom generation?  No, they were attacked and devastated by a U.S. military command that oversees the armed wing of a U.S. global Empire that dates from the turn of the 20th century and that serves at the behest of a moneyed elite that goes back to the nation’s at once capitalist and imperial origins.

I am reminded here of the brilliant eco-Marxist environmental historian and geographer Jason W. Moore’s reflections on why he prefers the term “Capitalocene” over “Anthropocene” when it comes to naming the era in which human activities have altered Earth systems in ways that pose dire new challenges to livable ecology.  As Moore reminded radio interviewer Sasha Lilley a few years ago, “It was not humanity as whole that created …large-scale industry and the massive textile factories of Manchester in the 19th century or Detroit in the last century or Shenzhen today. It was capital.”

The concept of “the Anthropocene” has rich geological validity and holds welcome political relevance in countering the carbon-industrial complex’s denial of humanity’s responsibility for contemporary climate change. Still, we must guard against lapsing into the historically unspecific and class-blind uses of “anthros,” projecting the currently and historically recent age of capital onto the broad swath of human activity on and in nature. It is only during a relatively small slice of human history – roughly the last half-millennium – that humanity has been socially and institutionally wired to turn alter the planet, thanks to the profit system’s addiction to endless accumulation and “growth.”  If we must absurdly blame all “humanity,” let us at least acknowledge that this giant culprit is homo sapiens under the command of the capitalist class, a small portion of the species that has ruled for just a tiny portion of human history.

We need to be historically and social-structurally specific about where real power lies if we want to get to the root of contemporary evils.

The fourth problem goes beyond merely missing the mark of ruling-class culpability. “Left” identitarianism and generationalism deepen the power and impunity of the corporate and financial Few by pitting the Many against itself instead of those with real wealth and power. Speaking to the Real News Network in 2013,Chris Hedges reflected on how U.S. corporate-managed major party electoral politics is an elite-run sport in which the citizenry qua electorate is identity-played by a moneyed elite that pulls the strings behind the scenes:

    Both sides of the political spectrum are manipulated by the same forces. If you’re some right-wing Christian zealot in Georgia, then it’s homosexuals and abortion and all these, you know, wedge issues that are used to whip you up emotionally. If you are a liberal in Manhattan, it’s—you know, ‘They’ll be teaching creationism in your schools’ or whatever. … Yet in fact it’s just a game, because whether it’s Bush or whether it’s Obama, Goldman Sachs always wins. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs.

It’s nothing new, of course.  Ruling classes have been playing the game of divide-and-rule since the dawn of class rule.  North American (like European) labor, social, and political history is rife with stories of capitalists and their agents working cleverly to destroy and pre-empt multi-cultural/racial/ethnic/gender/national working- – and lower-class commonality and struggle by cultivating and exploiting intra-proletarian divisions of race, ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, region, religion, party, ideology, culture, and more. The fostering, encouragement, manipulation, and exploitation of working-class fragmentation is part of capital’s longstanding war on popular solidarity. (That is history that the neoliberal identitarian Ta-Nehisi Coates ignores because it does not fit his “Afro-pessimist” determination to blame the vast and supposedly unmovable and flatly racist U.S. “white tribe,” not the capitalist and imperial system, for the plight of poor Black Americans.) It is foolish beyond words for “the left” to play along with this deadly, ancient, Machiavellian, and top-down pastime.

Ruling-class strategy aside, capitalism – the system ruled by the capitalist “elite” – has largely brought modern racism, ethno-centrism, nationalism, nativism, sexism, able-ism into being. It has done this through its relentless, accumulation-mad, and imperialist assault on the domestic and global commons, which has thrown generation upon generation of property-less and desperate people into conflict with each other (as well as with propertied and moneyed elites) for scarce opportunities and resources.  It has done it also through its endless pursuit of cheap labor power at home and abroad.

Am I saying that a real Left would drop concerns with the real and specific lived and living oppressions of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, age, and the like, subordinating everything to class struggle and overt anti-capitalism?  No, of course not. Racism, sexism, nativism, homophobia, age-ism, able-ism, and the like exist, with their own horrid internal logics and terrible consequences for their most immediate victims and for the projects of popular unity and social democracy. They must be acknowledged, called out and challenged both (a) on their own terms and (b) in connection with the broader and essential task of building a revolutionary and democratic movement and party for majority/working-class power. The problem with much of what passes for a left in the U.S. today is that it doesn’t seem to want, or know how, to supplement (a) with (b).  It gets stuck on Identity and thus ends up missing the ruling-class mark while working to deepen the power of the ruling class in ways that would make Machiavelli blush.  This may not be the intent but it’s the outcome. Goldman Sachs always wins.

More than I’ve cared to admit in past writings, Identity is a powerful and dangerous drug.  I’ve seen it again and again: good progressive people with good intentions think they can use it responsibly and (to use a recently developed “left” and foundation-backed phrase) in “intersectional” ways supposed to include opposition to class injustice, understood as one among the many interrelated oppression structures.  Again, and again, however, class is dismissed and even painted out as racist by arrogant, highly “educated” professional-class liberals, leaving much of the nation’s vast white working-class absurdly prone to Identitarian manipulation of the ugly “Right” kind. This in turn deepens the “left’s” attachment to classless Identity, hereby feeding the masters’ Machiavellian game. It’s a vicious circle.  Too many people on “the left” can’t seem to handle the drug.

At the risk of sounding doctrinaire, I think it is long past time for leftists and liberals and other progressive to step away from the Identity bong and join a 12-step eco-Marxist program that makes a higher power out of socialist solidarity for the restoration and elevation of the commons and the common good over and against the unelected and interrelated dictatorships of wealth and empire, who have now put the entire, multiply Identity-marked species at grave risk of eco-cidal extinction.

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