From Social Contract To Occupy Wall Street

The decade of the 1920s was one of industrialization and economic growth, globally. This relatively peaceful and prosperous period ended with the onset of a quarter century of economic hardship and armed conflict.

In 1927, a civil war broke out in China that would finally end with the victory of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949. In 1929, the New York Stock Exchange crashed, and the Great Depression began. Two years later, a period of 23 years of continuous international warfare began.


The period of open warfare, which includes the 1939-1945 interval labeled “World War Two,” began in 1931 with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and ended in 1953 with the armistice ending the shooting of the Korean War.


The United States of America emerged from the period of economic depression and world war as the supreme global power by 1945, and it would revitalize its non-communist European and Asian allies, and former enemies, during the period of postwar reconstruction from 1945 to 1953.


As the combatant nations of WWII recovered and reconstituted themselves in the immediate postwar years, they were each motivated by revulsion over the recent past, gratitude to the millions of soldiers and workers who brought about the collective liberation, and hope for a brighter future, to develop some form of social contract between the people and their governments, the labor force, and the industries. In the United States, this social contract was a bipartisan support for popular New Deal and progressive collectivities like Social Security, public education, unionized labor, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), as well as the postwar G.I. Bill (educational and housing benefits for veterans). In the non-communist European states it was a social democratic form of government, which managed many nationalized popular benefits. In the communist states, the socialized benefits were offered in exchange for unchallenged political control by Communist Party authority.


The next twenty years (1953-1973) were the golden age of capitalism and Soviet communism, a period of unexcelled economic expansion resulting from vigorous industrialization coupled with distributive social contracts.


Despite increasing population, productivity slackened in the 1970s, and given the unavoidable increase of social costs, the expansion of prosperity stagnated. By the end of the decade, plutocratic political pressure in the West had built up enough to increasingly detach government from stewardship of the social contract, and more closely focus it on corporate interests. In 1978, the People’s Republic of China abandoned central planning and began command capitalism.


Over thirty years of neoliberalism followed in the capitalist world, to the present day (from about 1979 to 2011). Non-communist neoliberalism is “free,” or market-driven (with varying interventions by governments), while a command form of neoliberalism is used in the People’s Republic of China, directed by its exclusive national party.


At the beginning of the 1990s (between 1989 and 1991) the economically and politically stagnant Soviet Union and its satellite empire in Eastern Europe disintegrated, and the many independent states formed out of that former political monolith were absorbed into the capitalist world.


During the 1980s and 1990s, the United States was de-industrializing (“outsourcing”) to increase corporate profits by decreasing its domestic labor costs. Many newly industrializing states (NIEs) in Asia and Latin America were taking advantage of this expatriation of American industrial capacity, by offering to host foreign-owned industrial facilities, and offering their people as a lower-cost substitute labor force.


Japan was a leader in outsourcing production throughout Asia, but it only did so after achieving full employment in Japan, and only to increase its total industrial output to feed its export (mainly U.S.) market. While the portion of Japan’s labor force in industry has dropped since before the 1990s, the affected workers have been shifted to service industry employment, so full employment has been maintained (about 4% unemployment during the 2000s).


As in the major industrialized states during the 1970s, productivity gains in the 2000s in the now more developed NIEs were not always capable of outpacing the growth of population and the increasing costs of social needs and unexpected losses. So, the returns from some outsourced investments were diminished from initial expectations. The perceived lethargy of industrial development anywhere to yield profits quickly enough increased investors’ fever to decouple profitability from productivity. The first decade of the 21st century was one of frenzied speculation in financialized paper (e.g., derivatives, hedge funds), and was facilitated by the deregulation of the US banking industry in 1999.


The financial system collapsed between 2007 (burst housing bubble, banks insolvent) and 2008 (stock market crash, public bail-out of banks), after thirty years of de-industrialization accompanied by a trend of growing income inequality. From a rate of 4.5% in early 2007, the official US unemployment rate shot up past 10% by January 2010, and remains above 9% today. One should double these numbers for a more realistic estimate of unemployment.


The combination of heavy personal debt and lack of jobs (for skilled labor and professionals) has spurred many people across the United States to congregate in public protests, to move themselves beyond fearfulness in isolation to a release of their anger, by channeling it into a joint sense of purpose for social change. These are the people of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement in its many locations.


The sense of purpose for social change has two parts: a change of self image so one interacts in a new and more effective way with the rest of society, and the taking up of some form of political activism so as to help move the larger society to change in desired ways. How these two factors are proportioned within any particular individual is determined by their unique circumstances.


OWS is the human face of debilitating debt and unemployment, and it will disappear when popular debt relief (e.g., for underwater mortgages and student loans) and the widespread availability of skilled employment occur. How long it will take the U.S. to arrange for popular debt relief and the widespread availability of skilled employment is unknown. Equally unknown are how many political and thus economic changes will have to be made in the course of arriving at popular debt relief and a full employment economy, but ultimately that point will be reached because it is the most stable arrangement for US society. Resistance to achieving this stable social state will only delay the inevitable and increase the quantity of blood, sweat, tears, and money needed to achieve it.


Every desire for social change held by every person in the OWS movement can be reflected in one simple phrase: renew the social contract.


OWS is an awakening. People who had thought of themselves as law abiding, hard working, loyal Americans ready and willing to take their places in society as contributors are waking up to the fact that they have been pushed out of American prosperity, and they want in.


OWS is a protest about being personally saddled with debt, primarily for homes and education, sold under promises of a better future, and then government allowing the lending institutions to destroy the economy necessary to support those rosy futures, at a handsome profit, without penalty, and — most galling — without canceling the essentially fraudulently-created debt on the mortgage holders of financially inundated real estate or evaporated professional careers.


The young people of OWS are the cadets of the bourgeoisie who have been excessed by the time of their graduation. A soulless nation is eating its young: for decades by incarcerating rather than employing blacks, and now, because of a tightening of the money situation for plutocrats, even throwing over the white cadets who have been training to man the occupations that will continue America’s bourgeois economics during the next two decades. The graduates of 2006 to 2016 may be a lost generation, as this is an ageist society. When the economy recovers, maybe by 2016 (since neoliberalism is likely to persist), employers will look to fresh graduates to fill the available slots; once five years out of school, you are obsolete.


OWS has social and political impact primarily by being LARGE and PRESENT. It has to be the elephant in the middle of the nation’s view-screen in order to cause a course correction. The longer OWS endures, the more likely it is that the political class will agree to work toward debt-cancellation and job growth, since these will make OWS disappear.


Can enough new jobs be created soon? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (international business editor at The Telegraph) has the idea that a US economic turnaround (more jobs) will occur within the next few years, brought about by the exploitation of new domestic sources of petroleum (oil shale and tar sands) and a reversal of outsourcing (or, a return to domestic industrialization). This is just one indicator of rational expectations (devoid of environmental concerns) for a resumption of economic growth.


What about reform of the financial industry? Nicholas Kristof, a conservative pundit at The New York Times, is advocating reform of the financial industry because he understands that hubris by the plutocracy could lead to a disastrous popular backlash (the ultimate conservative nightmare is communism). Mainstream voices for financial reform know that wonderful profits can easily be made the old fashioned way, as was the case under Glass-Steagall banking regulations between 1933 and 1999.


And, what about debt relief? Wall Street certainly loves the idea when it applies to banks. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, recently stared down the European banks and made them accept a 50% writedown of their Greek debts. The stock market zoomed 300 points, because investors are far more concerned with the “stability” and continuity of the eurozone financial markets than they are with a few banks losing a few 10s or even 100s of billions (half made up with public bail-outs), so long as the game and the global banking casino are not shut down by a currency (euro) and credit market (banking industry) collapse.


Obviously, the concept of debt relief will be pushed and expanded further and further, because the debt burden everywhere is like a bone caught in the financial world’s throat. Once it is finally swallowed or coughed out, then the feasting can begin again. When debt is cancelled, people are free to borrow, spend, create, and expand productivity, that is to say generate earnings and profits. The next Steve Jobs may be milling about in an OWS throng, just waiting for student loan relief to set him capitalistically free. So, we can expect that when OWS people begin speaking the language of demands, one of the items included will be relief of students’ loans for education.


The young generation in OWS wants the freedom to advance their bourgeois, capitalist aspirations; they want to be the Steve Jobs and Barack Obama of the 2020s. They do not want to shrink their vision into re-entering a proletarian life, nor to occupy their minds and time with “organization” for proletarian-type unions like the UFW (United Farm Workers), nor consign their aspirations to distant hopes for an elusive millennialist “revolution.”


OWS is a leaderless coincident mass awakening, it is not a popular uprising in the style of the Mexican or Russian (February) Revolutions, and it is not organized in the sense of being hierarchical and regimented. The cadets manning OWS will never adopt Marxism, essentially none have flocked to the red banner.


The people in OWS are shackled by debt and economic fear, and they are gathered to celebrate the freeing of their minds from a number of illusions. Individually, they may go on to be active politically, each in their own way, but all are quite unlikely to relinquish their identification with the American bourgeoisie (“middle class”), or to relinquish their new and painfully-realized mental freedom by submitting themselves to the blinkered thinking of any political ideology that seeks to exploit their massed energy, or to direct their social purpose.


Renew the social contract.
 
Timeline: 1945 Social Contract to 2011 Occupy Wall Street

1945, Europe and Japan ruined by World War II

Civil War in China (1927-1949) interrupted by Japan’s occupation of Manchuria (1931-1945) and Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)

Postwar rebuilding in Europe, 1945-1956:

U.S. role:

  • 1944, Bretton Woods system of currency relations to US dollar
  • 1945-1948, $12B in U.S. postwar aid to Europe
  • 1948-1952, $13B in Marshall Plan aid to Western Europe
  • (US GDP in 1948 was $258B)

Soviet role:

  • 1945-1954, Soviets extract 23% of East German GNP
  • 1945-1954, slow release of German POWs, forced laborers
  • 1949 Cold War split formalized, West and East Germany created
  • 1949-1956 East and West evolve comprehensive social contracts

Western European states (Atlantic Alliance) 1949-1956:

  • renew politically as social democracies
  • much foreign aid in, rapid growth, more satisfied population
  • have extensive political freedom on account of prosperity
  • 1954, West Germany gains full political and economic autonomy

Eastern European states (Warsaw Pact) 1949-1956:

  • reformed as Soviet communist satellite states
  • reparations or little aid, slow growth, less satisfied population
  • very limited political freedom in exchange for social contract
  • 1953 East German and 1956 Hungarian revolts suppressed

Postwar rebuilding in Japan, 1945-1960:

1945-1952, US aid of $1.9B while Japan under occupation:

  • this equaled 15% of imports and 4% of GNP, in forms of:
  • 59% food, 15% industrial materials, 12% transport equipment

1953, US military spending (Korean War) is 7% of Japan’s GNP

  • by 1960 US military spending in Japan less than 1% of Japan’s GNP

Economic growth 1953-1973:

“Golden Age” in Western Europe, Japan, and Soviet Union
economies achieve “full employment”
labor cooperation exchanged for social contract
productivity and gains due to industrialization, and:

  • government (trade) policies
  • exports
  • technology
  • cooperative labor

Economic stagnation 1971-1979:

1971 collapse of Bretton Woods currency relations to US dollar.

(The Vietnam War had accelerated inflation, and faith had been lost in the US’ ability to cut budget and trade deficits. “On August 15, 1971, the United States unilaterally terminated convertibility of the dollar to gold. As a result, ‘the Bretton Woods system officially ended and the dollar became fully fiat currency, backed by nothing but the promise of the federal government.’ This action, referred to as the Nixon shock, created the situation in which the United States dollar [not gold] became the sole backing of currencies and a reserve currency for the member states.”)

1973, first oil crisis
(Arab boycott over US aid to Israel in 1973 Arab-Israeli War)

1973-1974, stock market crash (20+ years of steady growth ends)

1978, People’s Republic of China abandons central planning

  • a centrally planned economy is replaced by command capitalism

1979, 2nd oil crisis
(U.S. opposes Iranian Revolution)

Thatcherism and Reaganomics

  • Margaret Thatcher, UK Prime Minister, 1979
  • Ronald Reagan, US President, 1981
  • lower productivity after 1960s, higher population and social costs
  • government increasingly oriented to corporate interests
  • retreat from New Deal and post WWII social contracts
  • trend of increasing income inequality begins

30 Years of US Neoliberalism, 1981-2011:

Ronald Reagan Administration (R), 1981-1988:

  • breaks the air traffic controllers union in 1981
  • “supply side” and “trickle down” economics, and tax cuts
  • deep recession of 1982 with 10% unemployment
  • stock market crash of 1987
  • Savings and Loan crisis, a $125B public bail-out
  • deregulation and hostility to regulate
  • no change to the minimum wage
  • raised national debt from $997B to $2.85T
  • the share of US income received during 1980-1988 by the:
    — 5% highest-income households grew from 16.5% to 18.3%
    — 20% highest income households grew from 44.1% to 46.3%
    — 20% lowest income households fell from 4.2% to 3.8%
    — second poorest 20%, fell from 10.2% to 9.6%.

George H. W. Bush Administration (R), 1989-1992:

  • recession in 1992 with 7.8% unemployment
  • developed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

Bill Clinton Administration (D), 1993-2000:

  • 1994, enacts North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • 1996, ends Aid to Families with Dependent Children,
    — (fulfills promise to “end welfare as we have come to know it”)
  • 1996, Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
    — (significant precursor of the Patriot Act of 2001)
  • 1999, signs Gramm-Leach-Blyly Act,
    — (this repeals Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, bank deregulation)
    — (see ENDNOTES for more on Glass-Steagall)
  • 2000, signs Commodity Futures Modernization Act,
    — (legalizes over-the-counter derivatives)
  • federal budget surpluses 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 (Fiscal Years)
  • War on Drugs swells prison population from 1.4M to 2.0M

George W. Bush Administration (R), 2001-2008:

  • 2001 and 2003, total tax cuts of $1.3T, aimed at the wealthy
  • 2002, No Child Left Behind Act (push to privatize public schools)
  • “War on Terrorism”:
    — 2001, Patriot Act (curtails civil liberties)
    — October 2001, invasion of Afghanistan
    — March 2003, invasion of Iraq
  • 2002, stopped funding the United Nations Population Fund
    — (UNFPA promotes family planning in the developing world)
  • 2005, response (and lack of) to Hurricane Katrina
  • 2008, Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the $700B bail-out

Barack H. Obama Administration (D), 2009-present:

  • failed to use Democratic majorities in congress to pass reforms
  • September 17, 2011, Occupy Wall Street begins; what now?
     
    ENDNOTES

“The People Cry Out Against the New Great Depression”
by Manuel Garcia, Jr.
http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/the-people-cry-out-against-the-new-great-depression/
(Glass-Steagall Act and financial reforms are described)

“Some Central Themes of the Occupy Protesters”
by Associated Press
http://youtu.be/3zXk_2_LCR8
(video on income inequality)

“Graphic of US Income Inequality, 1947-2011”
by Robert Reich and New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2011/09/04/opinion/04reich-graphic.html?ref=sunday

“United States Income Distribution 1947-2007”
by wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:United_States_Income_Distribution_1947-2007.svg

“Where’s My Job?” by ConnectTheDotsUSA.com
http://www.connectthedotsusa.com/pdf/WheresMyJobSlides.pdf

“Owe Dear”
by The Economist
http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/07/world-debt-guide
(global debt map)

“World Power Swings Back to America”
by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8844646/World-power-swings-back-to-America.html

“Crony Capitalism Comes Home”
by Nicholas Kristof
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/27/opinion/kristof-crony-capitalism-comes-homes.html

“Calling Bankers’ Bluff, Merkel Won Europe a Debt Plan”
by Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/28/world/europe/europe-in-accord-on-basics-of-plan-to-save-the-euro.html?_r=1

“Another Idea For Student Loan Debt: Make It Go Away”
by Petra Cahill
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45040659/ns/us_news-life/

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From Social Contract To Occupy Wall Street
7 November 2011
http://www.swans.com/library/art17/mgarci32.html

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’Stateless’, an Australian Television Drama about Refugee Detention

’The Trojan Women,’ a play was Euripides, was first performed in Athens 2,436 years ago at the height of the disastrous Peloponnesian War. It is considered a commentary on the capture of the Aegean island of Melos and the subsequent slaughter of its men and the enslavement of its women by the Athenians earlier that year, 415 BCE.

This play focuses on four women awaiting their fates after the fall of Troy (~1,200 BCE, in northwest Turkey near the Dardanelles): Hecuba (the wife of the slain king, Priam), Cassandra (the beautiful virginal daughter of Priam and Hecuba, who was blessed and then cursed by a lustful Apollo, with having a gift of prophesy none would listen to), Andromache (the wife of the great Trojan hero, Hector, who was slain by Achilles), and Helen (the Achaean queen and wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, who ran off with Paris to Troy, and which elopement was the purported cause for the Achaeans’s war against Troy).

The three Trojan women would all be made concubines and slaves by the Achaeans (mainland Greeks), and Helen returned to Menelaus. Because the Greeks wanted to ensure there would be no surviving male heir to the Trojan throne, they took Astyanax, the infant son of Hector and Andromache and the grandson of Priam and Hecuba, up to the high parapet of Troy and tossed him down to his death on the rocks below.

In 5th and 4th Century BCE Athens, the playwrights were known as poets and called teachers, and in ’The Trojan Woman’ Euripides was desperately and dramatically striving to teach the Athenians that the horrors of the Peloponnesian War were destroying the soul of their society, and that they should find ways of extricating their city-state from the war. His vehicle to convey that larger message to the Athenians was this dramatization of the final days in the death of the Trojan city-state eight centuries earlier (if in fact it was a single real historical event), as told in Greek myths recounted by legendary poets like Homer and his many forgotten colleagues.

’Stateless’, an Australian 6-part television series that was launched in 2020, is about a refugee and ‘illegal immigrant’ detention center, and strikes me as being similar to ‘The Trojan Woman’ as a societal teaching drama. It is both a searing depiction full of human and political insights about the current refugee crisis in Australia, as well as a close analogy for similar tragic realities along the US-Mexican border, in Libya and southern Italy, in Syria and the Greek Islands; and in other places where minorities and disfavored ‘others’ live precariously without stable statehood and are internally displaced or incarcerated, as in Syria, ‘Kurdistan’, Palestine, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The writers of ’Stateless’, Elise McCredie and Belinda Chayko have done a magnificent job. The directors, Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse have made an absorbing and compelling visual work (https://www.netflix.com/title/81206211).

How many refugees are there around the world? The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR (https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html) states that: “At least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and lack access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement. At [this] time 1 in every 95 people on earth has fled their home as a result of conflict or persecution.”

We must add that the deleterious effects of climate change — crop failures and lack of drinking water from extended droughts, and the loss of land, housing and employment due to violent weather and flooding — has also spurred refugee streams.

Those refugee streams flow out of the tropical and sub-tropical latitudes: from Africa northward across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, up from Central America and Mexico and across the Caribbean Sea to North America, southward from Eastern Asia to Australia, and from the arid interior of the Middle East westward toward the Mediterranean Sea and Europe.

Americans, Europeans and Australians see these refugee streams as incoming waves of impoverished humanity comprised of dark-skinned people with cultures, mind frames and languages vastly different from their own, and thus a threat to American, European and Australian prosperity, and their existing ethnic balances, if too large an influx. We must realize that these refugee streams course back up along the gradients of wealth leading from the Global South to the Global North (and Australia), propelled by the pent up pressure of economic disparity created by over half a millennium of conquest and imperialism with over three centuries of slavery, by the White people of the north: the Europeans and the descendants of their American and other colonists.

The Australian television series ’Stateless’ is composed of a weave of four sub-plots, each about a person caught up in and then piteously twisted to the breaking point by the day-to-day reality of escalating crisis in the asylum-seeker Braxton Detention Center. All these stories are based on actual case histories. Threatened men and women become refugees and are driven to acts of desperation, they are victimized, families are torn apart, some eventually find sanctuary while many others languish indefinitely or perish. Low-level workers in the host countries looking to hang onto paychecks are shoved by higher level bureaucrats and policy-makers to go in and do the dirty work of “keeping a lid on” and also “making it look good for the public.” And the sanctimonious of all stripes on the outside are more often than not “virtue signaling” for their own ego boosts, than having any useful empathy for all the individuals mired in the toxic tangle of “the system.”

One story in ‘Stateless’ is based on the real case of Cornelia Rau, an Australian woman citizen who was emotionally disturbed at the time and who was inadvertently — and unlawfully — incarcerated by the Australian government’s Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), and held for 10 months during 2004-2005 under the country’s mandatory detention policy for refugees, until Cornelia was traced to Braxton by a relative, and correctly identified and released to a hospital.

Another sub-plot focuses on an Afghani family fleeing the Taliban, being cheated and robbed by criminal human traffickers in Pakistan, being separated while attempting to make the perilous sea voyage to Australia in rickety boats, with the survivors eventually finding each other at Braxton. But the effort of the Afghani father to gain entry visas for his surviving family proves to be a very heartbreaking and essentially impossible effort. Despite some commendable humanitarian impulses by Australian workers tasked with maintaining the day-to-day operations of the center, and of some right-minded procedures embedded in the immigration policy, that policy is nevertheless largely fueled by a great deal of officially mandated bigotry and prejudice.

The conflict between offering a welcoming humanitarian response to the desperation of the trapped refugees terrified of being deported back to certain death, and the politically motivated mandates from the central government to maintain this bureaucratic structure for continuing exclusion, and without arousing public attention to it, is personified by the story of the woman appointed as the new director of the center. She is emotionally torn apart by the inherent cruelty of the job, and her political expendability to the remote higher-ups.

The last of the four sub-plots in ‘Stateless’ centers on a local rural freelance mechanic who seeks to leave precarity behind and support his young family with a steady paycheck earned working as a ‘prison’ guard at the detention center — though he is instructed that it is a refugee center and not a prison since its residents, despite having no freedom of motion, have not been placed there for the commission of crimes. This individual is a good-hearted fellow who quickly comes under unrelenting strain because of his repulsion at the cruelty toward unruly refugees by a sadistic guard, and because of the numerous requirements for him to perform rough enforcement actions on people exhibiting outbursts of anger, fear and madness. Both the emotional and physical traumas sustained in doing his job while trying to thread the needle between the frayed edges of UNHCR compassionate supervision of a precarious population, and the barbed razor sharp edges of bureaucratically enforced nationalism, nearly deaden his heart and rip apart his family.

Each of the four sub-plots in ‘Stateless’ is populated with many supporting characters who enrich the presentation, and the entire ensemble presents the full spectrum of human experiences that take place in the turbulent focal point of mixing-nonmixing between Australian society and Asian refugees at the Braxton Detention Center.

The ultimate solution to the world’s refugee crisis is so far out of view: ending all wars to establish a lasting world peace, and ensuring intelligent economic development up to decent standards everywhere so that people can remain in their countries with their families experiencing physical and economic security and good health down through the generations. Achieving these conditions would obviate the need for anyone to become a refugee and seek foreign asylum.

Yes, this is idealistic (naïvely so?, impossibly?), like wanting equitable worldwide cooperation to stop anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions so as to tamp down the acceleration of global warming. But neither of these ideals is intrinsically impossible to actualize, and that is why the continuation of the refugee and climate crises are such tragedies: they are fundamentally unnecessary sorrows, open and festering wounds on the body of humanity.

What we have today is a compounded system of exploitation through tiered victimhood, a system commanded by über capitalists and nationalistic warlords living luxuriant lives, and served by hierarchical cascades of lower level petty boss bureaucrats, their functionaries, and in turn their laborers and armed enforcers. This system is so abhorrent that Nature itself has abandoned us, and is trying to burn us off the land and wash us away into the seas and oceans we have thoughtlessly poisoned with our wastes. An added cruelty to this accelerating rejection of humanity by Nature is that those who are suffering now, and first, and will suffer the most from the increasing hostility of Earth’s climatic conditions to human life are the people of the Global South (the Third World), the regions from which today’s refugee streams emerge, the poorest of Earth’s people, those who lead the most precarious lives, and those who contributed the least to the creation of the global climate crisis.

Coda: a Meditation on ’Stateless’

Must I have a stone heart to preserve a sane mind in a world of pure suffering I am luckily insulated from — for now? How does one combat compassion fatigue and empathy burnout? Does one sink into survivor’s guilt for blamelessly being born lucky?; for living in a bubble of comfort, freedom and justice that is much rarer than one had previously imagined?; and that seems to be diminishing by national policy out of view of its lucky inhabitants confident in their unawareness? But of those lucky people who do become aware, how do they survive and stay human without deadening their souls? We have become a race of monomaniacal blind cyclopses raging about our freedoms because we cannot conceive of anything beyond our own frustrated infantile selfishness. Becoming aware of the sufferings of others is the first step in the very long journey of personal redemption. That journey has many perils, and no one completes it unscathed.

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On Sports

I have played many sports, mainly as a boy but also as a young man, playing them entirely as games with other amateurs: for fun. The most fun I had was when the games were only trivially competitive, and the least fun I had — and even hate — was when I was in competitive leagues run by “sports fan” adults. I have not followed professional sports for decades, but I thought I would express myself here on competitive sports anyway, because I know there is a huge, huge international obsession with them, such as with the World Cup (football = soccer), the Olympics, the National Football League (American football), the National Basketball Association (male ballet in the U.S.A.), and the National Baseball League (baseball being the most game-like and least warlike of American sports; fun on a summer day with hot dogs and beer — even though that makes for sloppy playing!).

There is always great controversy and outrage when an elite athlete is disqualified because one or another chemical trace was detected in their bodies, in a concentration above some arbitrary amount (such as marijuana in anybody, and testosterone in women); or when a referee make a “bad call” affecting the subsequent competitive rankings of teams; or for stupid and violent behavior by a player frustrated at not getting what he or she wants.

Why so much public outrage over such incidents? Because “sports fans” are overwhelmingly obsessed with the competitive aspect of sports, with “winning,” and thus: status, notoriety, fame, money; and the fans’s vicarious association with their revered “winners.” There is much less interest — I think basically none — in the beauty of movement, the dance of the sporting activities: the grace of lithe bodies in peak physical condition artistically expressing skills of coordination and timing, and thus being elegant dynamic displays of the human form. But, nope, it’s all about “getting ahead.”

Professional sports organizations (which includes the Olympics and college leagues) seek to maintain the illusions of the “purity” of their sports, so they have many regulations and invasive testing procedures to try to ensure none of the athletic competitors “cheats” by boosting their performance abilities with supplements (hormones, chemicals) or other technical methods of enhancement (a la Frankenstein to their bodies, or by technological enhancements to their equipment).

But competition remains the real focus of everyone’s attention, so there is an eternal conflict between keeping the sports “pure” as “games”, and running them as what everyone really wants: unapologetic all out wars where all is fair in order to win. And so, there is much much hypocrisy around every cheating, disqualification, injury and abuse incident in professional sports; and in professionalized “amateur” sports by people like sports fan dads, and college donors.

That conflict catches up many athletes, and ruins their careers — which is to say their quests for records, glory, status, notoriety and most importantly wealth — because those athletes made one or another little slip in trying to thread the needle of their career along the ragged edges of the nonaligned complexes of “pure sport” and “competition.” The supreme hypocrisy of both the professional sports organizations and the sports fan public is that any athlete’s failure to perfectly suture pure sport with competition is put on them as a personal failure, rather than a systemic one. I find that hypocrisy detestable and, along with the obsession with competition, has turned me off to sports beyond the level of games children engage in and run for themselves without any adult involvement.

So I have a proposal to eliminate that chronic and endemic sports hypocrisy: eliminate all the restrictions. That’s right, unleash sports from the illusion they are fun games, and let them be all out wars: pure competition. Let athletes do to themselves whatever they think will help them win, by: ingestion, injection, implantation, surgery; anything. Test no one for anything: no drug tests, no sex tests, no behavioral reprimands; nothing. Let the games begin! What sports fans really want is gladiatorial contests: winner take all, losers die. So, free it all up and cut all the hypocrisy. We really don’t care if athletes ruin their health, or steal team signals, or surreptitiously enhance their equipment, or gamble on the outcome of matches. Winning is the only thing.

Horrors!, some will say, won’t that ruin the sports? No, it will purify them. Those people who want to engage in sports as just games to play for fun will form their own noncompetitive leagues. And they will then play with vigor but no obsession about the final score: they will play for enjoyment and without any prospect of money rewards. So such sporting activity will be inherently amateur, and entirely community: festivals instead of wars. No TV broadcasts, no multi-million dollar contracts, no big business, no celebrity culture, no national and international spectacle and drama: boring as entertainment. But fun for the festival participants.

Then the full scale big business industrial war of professional sports can really go all out to the maximum thrill of its enthralled fans, and to offer the maximum possibility of competitive (i.e., status, money, power) success for its driven careerist individuals: modern gladiators. As stories of successful intrigues and spying for advantage become known, they will enhance the sports fan public’s delight with the competitive spectacles they are devoted to.

The small number of sports afficionados who would like to see graceful game-playing on TV from the comfort of their couches, by enthusiastic and vigorous athletes who are nevertheless intrinsically noncompetitive and playing from pure joy, may possibly have some community access TV channels broadcasting local game-festivals, and even possibly internationally over the internet. In that way such fans may be able to find opportunities to watch “pure play” by non-enhanced athletes remotely, as well as by actual physical attendance at local game-festivals: hence socialist sports. All sports fans will certainly be guaranteed the ability to see all-out big-money professional sports anytime anywhere on broadcast and internet TV, and such broadcasts will be lushly garnished with corporate advertisements — which is the whole point of capitalist sports. And therein is an abstract of the politics of sports.

So there you have it: hypocrisy-free sports are possible as purely amateur socialist intrinsically noncompetitive (i.e., money-free) game-festivals, and professional sports will be liberated to carry on as their hardcore fan base and careerist athletes truly desire: all out wars for glory, fame and money.

I would see any outrage at this proposal as a de facto defense of the bloated hypocrisy enveloping all professional and professionalized sports organizations and their ‘fandoms’.

Finally, as a note of full disclosure, I have played my sports with sufficient competitive vigor to get numerous sports injuries, on: feet, ankles, legs, knees, hands, fingers, and torso.

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House Upon The Sand

This is my two-part rant of 30 June 2021.

Andrew Bacevich writes:
https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/06/29/the-passing-of-the-present-and-the-decline-of-america/

This is the kind of commentary, and commentator that pisses me off. Yes, an honorable, intelligent, patriotic former career soldier, and highly respected military-political commentator comes to forthrightly state that the war-crazed dysfunction of the American state now seems fatally terminal, and one might have found glimmers of that realization as far back as 1969, such as in Kurt Vonnegut’s new book that year Slaughterhouse 5, though Bacevich finally acceded to it in mid-Trump Administration.

WOW! I fucking knew this in 1968 as an 18 year old! I read SH5 in 1969, and Catch-22 in ’68, and had read Helen Hunt Jackson somewhere between 1963-1967 (which was before Dee Brown’s “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” was published).

Okay, so now the old West-Pointer Bacevich has finally read SH5, and published his erudite books on the stupidity of American militarism, and been forthright about his previous white American exceptionalism careerist wrong illusions, and made sincere and public efforts to advocate for an inclusive, just, “progressive” America, and write as here about the complete toxicity of Trumpianism and the Republicans, and the pathetic flaccidity of the less than B-minus grade Bidenites — great, all welcome and good (and Stan Goff would tell me to be accepting of anyone’s personal redemption — okay), but DAMN! it took long enough!

The whole damn Vietnam War genocidal catastrophe wasn’t enough to wake you up by 1975? by Reagan-time? by Bush II time and the Iraq War? How come so many of us dumber unimportant people can figure this stuff out decades before you super-informed, super-plugged-in brainiacs and lever-pullers?

Well, okay, you’re good now Bacevich, and thanks for the accurate insights about today. I’m guessing that just as (some) serious people like Bacevich have woken up to the evils of American militarism 50 years after the Vietnam War, that equally in 50 years time we’ll see a heartening swelling in the ranks of today’s serious lever-pulling people who have woken up to the Planetary Crisis encompassing global warming climate change, collapsing biodiversity and its attendant social inequities. And then (forgetting about all the bodies buried since then) they’ll want to do something about it. By then palm trees might sprout in Greenland, and we may even have a smaller world population (involuntarily).

Okay, rant, part 1, is over. Now for part 2.

From Wikipedia: The Oklahoma City bombing was a domestic terrorist truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States, on Wednesday, April 19, 1995. Perpetrated by anti-government extremists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing happened at 9:02 am and killed at least 168 people, injured more than 680 others, and destroyed more than one-third of the building, which had to be demolished.

From Wikipedia: On June 24, 2021, at approximately 1:30 a.m. EDT, Champlain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium building in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida, experienced a sudden partial collapse. At least 12 people died, and 11 others were injured.[as of 30 June 2021] About 35 people were rescued from the uncollapsed portion of the building, 2 people have been rescued from the rubble, and 149 people remain missing as rescue operations continue… As of June 28, 2021, 12 people are known to have died during the collapse, and 11 more have been injured. 11 of the 12 fatalities have been publicly identified, including two Venezuelan nationals and two Cubans. Up to 149 people remain unaccounted for.

So, it looks like the Champlain Towers South will have snuffed out 162 lives. “Missing” and “unaccounted for” are the terms used to describe people that have been killed but whose bodies have yet to be recovered, and for whom, illogically, their loved ones hope (and who can blame them!) that they will miraculously return alive.

So this building collapse — in all probability — nearly equals the death toll of the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing of 1995, though it did not cause any noticeable number of other injured. But the Oklahoma tragedy was “terrorism” and required a swift and vigorous government response, both to care for the victims and to apprehend and punish the perpetrators. But the Surfside (Miami) building collapse tragedy is not “terrorism” by rising seawater intrusion climate change undermining heedless shoreline real estate development, so: hold your horses!, let’s not rush to judgment!, let’s not act hastily — meaning at all — about that uncertain “climate change” scare tactic. Yeah, sure Gomer.

The mainstream finger of blame is pointing to faulty building construction and maintenance — which is undeniable — but that mainstream public consent-directing ministry (“of Truth”) has a massively pregnant silence about (the unthinkable!, the unmentionable!, don’t “politicize” tragedies!) CLIMATE CHANGE! But, well, “the possible excessive ingress of salt water” MIGHT have also been involved.

The bottom fell out and has been falling out not only of the Champlain Towers South, but of the whole damn Idiocracy clinging to and dangling from their high hopes of exponential prosperity for the ‘serious’ and ‘worthy’ (a.k.a. “exceptionalist”) denizens of the United States of Amnesia. Victims R Us.

“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.” — Matthew 7:26, King James Bible.

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Nate Hagens, on Earth and Humanity

Watch the video presentation “Earth and Humanity: Myth and Reality,” (2:52:15) by Nate Hagens, linked below. Hagens presents an analysis and grand synthesis of the multi-entwined crises of unsustainable human society living in the rapidly degrading world climate of an increasingly resource-depleted and increasingly inhospitable Planet Earth.

I guarantee that you will find many of your own views on this topic reaffirmed by Hagens, and also that he will challenge at least one of your cherished beliefs about it. This is good for serious people, it prompts them to think anew, and to rethink their assumptions.

What impresses me about Hagens’ analysis is that it is based on a wealth of data — the lifeblood of any real scientific or economic analysis — and that it is a multidimensional systems analysis, and not merely a “one note Johnny” narrow expertise (just finance, or just physics), single “smoking gun” caused problem (as the “overpopulation” reductionists claim) or a promotion of a single route to salvation solution (as the “nuclear power” reductionists claim). Hagens’s is an integrated description of the dysfunctional global system, which Nature plus Humanity has become, rather than merely being an uncoordinated list of a myriad of disconnected disasters, pathologies, ruins and wrecks.

Hagens does make specific recommendations near the end of his video, aimed at getting us (particularly in the U.S.A.) to begin dealing with our ongoing global systems failure in a substantive manner. After that he adds a few seconds of wordless video that will delight all lovers of wildlife.

Any abstraction of Hagens’ presentation to a single phrase would wash away all its insights and nuance, and would be unjust to the cause of transmitting understanding to the public. But, if you want an indicative soundbite, here is my maximally reductionist summary: humanity needs to scale back its use of energy very very significantly, and permanently, and now — an energy diet — just like a forever-maintained eat-less food-calorie diet needed to break an individual free from obesity.

Hagens’ video will make any serious person think (and we all better get serious), and that is the first essential step for us ever having a chance to get out of the mess we’re in.

Earth and Humanity: Myth and Reality
16 May 2021 (Nate Hagens)
https://youtu.be/qYeZwUVx5MY

The following two paragraphs are my abstraction and consolidation of internet descriptions of Nate Hagens, with much of this information drawn from The Post Carbon Institute (https://www.postcarbon.org/our-people/nate-hagens/).

Nate Hagens has a Masters Degree in Finance from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He is a former editor of The Oil Drum and worked on Wall Street for a decade before “seeing the light.” Since 2003 Nate has shifted his focus to understanding the interrelationships between energy, environment, and finance and the implication this synthesis has for human futures. Previously, Nate was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers. Currently, he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar at the University of Minnesota ‘Reality 101 – A Survey of the Human Predicament.’

Nate focuses on the interrelationship between debt-based financial markets and natural resources, particularly energy, and the unplanned for risks from the coming ‘Great Simplification.’ He also addresses the evolutionarily-derived underpinnings to status, addiction, and our aversion to acting about the future and offers suggestions on how individuals and society might better adapt to the coming decades.

Jeff Gibbs 2019 video “Planet of the Humans,” released publicly on Earth Day 2020, was the most important presentation on the realities of our global “climate change” crisis to be made available in many years (https://planetofthehumans.com/). Nate Hagens’ new video “Earth and Humanity: Myths and Reality” is of much grander scope and at least of equal importance. See it and don’t get defensive, then refine your own stance from your points of disagreement with Hagens, and/or improve his systemic analysis, which is the type of thing needed to converge politically on what in all honesty would have to be called a World Plan for guiding human civilization through a transition — the Great Simplification — to a post carbon future, without suffering a catastrophic and life-ending collapse.

As a 20th century mechanical engineer who focused himself on the 19th century science of thermodynamics (and got away with a career in experimental nuclear explosions), I’ve said all what little I was competent to say about the physics and economics of “climate change.” So at this point all I can offer on the topic is bad poetry, and I’ll spare you that. But I can also recognize the value of new presentations like those of Gibbs and Hagens, and urge others to see them, study them, and act on them.

I am mindful of the urgent and totally justified demand posed by the next generation onto us world-controlling and world-destroying adults, through the voice of Greta Thunberg, for “action!” Nate Hagens’ systemic analysis is a very important step toward answering the questions of “what actions?” and “how do we implement them?”, and of actually working on Greta’s demand.

[Thanks to Isabel Ebert for pointing me to Nate Hagens’ video.]

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ADDENDUM:

Richard Heinberg both appears in “Planet of the Humans,” and leads the Post Carbon Institute.

The Most Colossal Planning Failure in Human History
May 2021
Richard Heinberg
https://richardheinberg.com/museletter-339-the-most-colossal-planning-failure-in-human-history

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A Reflection on Zionism’s Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine

For Americans, Stan Goff perfectly summarized the situation in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem today, and in Palestine generally for the last 54 years:

“Establishment Democrats support ethnic cleansing… There is no Israeli-Palestinian ‘conflict.’ It’s the decades-long military occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. I know I sound like a broken record, but my [social media] feed keeps filling up with this weasel worded bullshit that assigns some utterly bullshit equivalency between occupier and occupied. No reasonable and honest person who is even superficially familiar with this issue can describe Israel as anything but an Apartheid state. An Apartheid state that is sustained and protected in its racist aggressions by the United States government with your taxes. Democrats and Republicans. Heretofore I will unfollow anyone who posts this kind of sly ‘moral equivalency’ trash. And no, it is not fucking ‘complicated’; it’s ignorance or cowardice, and it is objectively lending support to this lawless fascist state. That is all.”

The American “political class” runs a white supremacy state; to them, a threat to white supremacy anywhere is a threat to white supremacy everywhere. Hence the knee-jerk fealty to ethnic cleansing in Palestine by Zionists.

This is as it has always been and remains regarding “others” in the territory of the United States and the Western Hemisphere, with: the Amerindians, Blacks (long held in slavery, and ever discriminated against), Mexicans (the American West north of the Rio Grande is Occupied Mexico), and many other designated apart-from-white people.

With the growth since the 19th century of the fossil-fueled industrial power of American white supremacy came the global reach of its campaign of conquest: the Caribbean (1898, and 1959+), Central and South America (from Smedley Butler to Kennedy-Johnson, and Reagan, et al.), Southeast Asia (Vietnam+), South Africa (Kissinger, Reagan, the 1980s for Angola, Namibia, the U.S. support for South African apartheid — I knew a “jackal”: a retired unacknowledged U.S. mercenary-assassin who worked for S.A. in those years).

The World is “the enemy” of American white supremacy, just as Palestine is “the enemy” of Zionism. And Zionists have paid their way into being “honorary white people” — an apt Goffism characterizing our apart-from-white-Christian domestic compradores serving our domestic white supremacy settler colonialism — who are part of that American white supremacy establishment; and have financially metastasized themselves into the careerism of that narcissistic and intrinsically racist political class.

“Indeed I tremble for my country when [I] reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!” — Thomas Jefferson (Notes on the State of Virginia).

But he still kept his slaves to the bitter end, banking on God’s justice continuing to sleep. And such is the attitude of the anguished self-absolved collectively guiltless perpetrators of today, and which drives their hypocritical equivocations and torturously convoluted hyperbole in defense of continuing with the slow-motion genocide in Palestine (as in Xinjiang, as in…) of the “others” to be dispossessed and discarded as fast as the marketplace of world public moral consciousness will bear.

For me it all begs the question: when do we reach the point where we deserve our own destruction?

The phrase “never again” should have been emblazoned on human memory many times in the past, for example searingly by Guernica in 1937, but tragically it never seems to fully catch hold as a guiding principle for human beings.

To my mind, one significant impetus to the eruption of World War II in Europe in 1939 was the failure of the Democracies including the United States to defend the Spanish Republic and stamp out fascism in Spain during 1936-1939. The retreat into nationalist comfort (as today with vaccine nationalism) and ‘the Democracies’ not-so-covert anti-socialist collaboration with the fascists in Spain, Italy and Germany during the 1930s, doomed them to be sucked into the genocidal maelström of 1939-1945. And we are yet not free of that poison. [1]

While “collective guilt” of the German people for the crimes of the Nazis was officially disavowed by the triumphant United Nations, after 8 May 1945, in the vital interests of pacifying, stabilizing and rebuilding Germany and the rest of devastated Europe without a resurgence of fascism — which itself was first sparked by the draconian punishment of Germany after World War I — it nevertheless was a moral truth. That the German people of the 1930s and 1940s (with the exception of an incredibly brave and noble minority) overwhelmingly supported the Nazi regime, is plain fact. [2]

But such collective guilt cannot be assigned to the children of those times, who have strived so vigorously to create a socially enlightened postwar Germany, a nation that is far more forthright in acting to compensate for the wrongs of its past than the United States has ever been about its Amerindian Genocide or its Black Slavery and Jim Crow (which latter was so instructive to the Nazis fashioning their race laws of 1933).

But such collective guilt can be assigned today to the self-styled Jeffersonians who are the adult perpetrators, enablers, and equivalents of 1930s “good Germans” in Israel and America (and China, etc.) acquiescing to the slo-mo genocides of the moment, like the vividly repulsive violent expropriations in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, and the aerial bombings in Gaza (84 years after the bombing of Guernica).

Can we be so sure that “God’s justice” will conveniently continue to sleep for us, as the Jeffersonian white supremacists hoped in the 18th and 19th centuries, and our American exceptionalists and Zionists hope today? Can we be so sure that our white supremacist equivocations today will escape retribution as was visited upon the European and American democracies, and on perfidious Russian Communism [3], after their failures to support the obvious moral imperatives of defending designated outcast “others” from persecution: European Jews (1933), Ethiopia (1935), Spain (1936), China (1937), Czechoslovakia (1938), and Poland (1939)?

In fact, “God’s justice” looms before us and without pity on even our children, in the forms of the climate crisis and the crisis of the destruction of Nature and habitability on Planet Earth. Today’s children have no share in the collective guilt of their parents and grandparents for creating and expanding that planetary crisis — by the decades-long fossil-fueled orgy of exclusionary industrialized capitalism in all its forms — yet those children are facing the brunt of these accelerating catastrophes. That bald fact is pointedly stated by Greta Thunberg, voicing the judgment by humanity’s robbed future on its greedy present that is also its future discredited past.

To extract ourselves from the climate crisis would require widespread cooperative altruistic action over the long term. None of those four qualities: “widespread,” “cooperative,” “altruistic,” “long-term,” have been exhibited simultaneously by human civilization in the past. The most accurate guesses about humanity’s future are likely to be arrived at by using the imagination without invoking any of those four qualities.

To salvage optimism in these times it is necessary to realize that there are no physical barriers nor prohibitive scientific “laws” preventing humanity from exhibiting “widespread cooperative altruistic action over the long term,” even starting tomorrow, to effectively and justly stop the slo-mo genocides underway now and the crisis of accelerating bio-inhospitality, and to compensate for the wrongs of the past. Such optimism, though logically limited by “realistic” thinking, is essential for heartening and motivating the people seeking to expand the scope of those collective altruistic actions. Greta and her generation deserve our best efforts — for life.

Even without possessing any political power or impressive wealth, we ‘ordinary, everyday adult people’ can individually add our mite to such good collective action by disavowing collaborationist lies (say it: the Israeli occupation of Palestine is apartheid, and ethnic cleansing), by speaking the truth plainly and without fear (“You say that you love your children above everything else. And yet you are stealing their future”) [4], by being honest witnesses (#SayHerName, Breonna Taylor and at least 103 others) [5], and by not allowing our words to be self-censored nor our attitudes to be submissively polite so as to cloak the repulsive moral nakedness of “our” political leaders, emperors and parasites.

[My thanks to Kathryn Morse, Stan Goff, and Louis Proyect.]

Notes:

[1]
“The Silence of Others” is an intense (especially for me) documentary about the efforts of the survivors of torture and persecution by Franco’s fascistic dictatorship in Spain (1939-1975), to gain justice.

The Spanish state, with many Francoists still ensconced in positions of authority and power, and shielded by the Amnesty law of 1977, resist tooth and nail all judicial efforts to provide such justice for the victims of these crimes, via the internationally recognized (and very little adhered to) judicial principle of universal jurisdiction for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and there being no statute of limitations for prosecuting them.

My father (a Spaniard born in Cuba) had an uncle, a violinist in a symphony, jailed by the Franco regime after the Civil War (he had regained his liberty by the late 1960s).

The Spanish Civil War continues to cast a long, long shadow on the character of Spaniards, and on the character of humanity. And there are too many new reflections of that cancerous fascism flickering on today around the world.

The Silence of Others
https://thesilenceofothers.com/

[2]
The Accountant of Auschwitz
http://www.accountantofauschwitz.com/

Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz
https://www.netflix.com/title/81070008

Benjamin Ferencz
https://benferencz.org/

[3]
The Nazi-Soviet Pact: A Betrayal of Communists by Communists
[An excerpt from Bini Adamczak’s book “Yesterday’s Tomorrow: On the Loneliness of Communist Specters and the Reconstruction of the Future.”]
https://thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/the-nazi-soviet-pact-a-betrayal-of-communists-by-communists/

Intense. In the 1980s I read about the prisoner exchanges in 1939 of escaped German communists (antifascists) — and veterans of the Republican (socialist) side in the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War — pulled out of asylum in Russia and given back to the Gestapo, and escaped Russian anticommunists (czarists and fascists) pulled out of asylum in Germany and given back to the NKVD. According to books by Michael Voslensky (Nomenklatura: The Soviet Ruling Class), Roy Medvedev (Let History Judge) and other similar authors whom I have now forgotten: the NKVD took the Communist Party membership cards away from their communist now-prisoners, and then with a Gestapo officer present verified the identity of each individual to check them off a Gestapo ‘shopping list,’ while similarly verifying the identity of an anticommunist prisoner being given to the NKVD in exchange. Then both the Gestapo and the NKVD led their repatriated prisoners away for executions in private.

The reason that Communist Party membership cards were removed by the NKVD, excommunicating those individuals from the CP, was so that the Gestapo would not be shooting “communists”: those in good standing with the Stalinist party of that time.

Very large gears turn in the machinery of power, indeed, and are lubricated with the blood of many lives whose identities have been erased from memory.

In the 2000s I met a woman who is a Spaniard born in Arkhangelsk (in West Arctic Russia), as her parents were Spanish communists who escaped Franco’s fascist Spain on the defeat of the Spanish Republicans in 1939. Her daughter and my youngest were friends in a girls chorus in San Francisco. She said that Stalin wanted the Spanish Communists as far from Europe (western, southern, central) as possible. She is a survivor (and very Russian), and obviously did not believe in any ideology. She made it real for me, without having to say very much.

All of this literature about the largely unnamed and long forgotten victims of betrayed better futures, is also about the historical achievements of the successful practitioners of the Arthashastra, The Prince, The Pentagon Papers, and the more recent derivatives of such manuals of “statecraft.”

[4]
Greta Thunberg speaks
https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/18804443.Greta_Thunberg

[5]
SayHerName
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SayHerName

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Eleven Capsule Disquisitions

SPACE: is filled with emptiness,
everything else is a garnish.

TOTALITY:
The unknown reality is of infinite depth;
but consciousness has limits,
which are unknown.

CONSCIOUSNESS:
The most captivating image to human consciousness
is the female form.

TIME:
No matter how much you think you have,
it is never enough.
No matter how much you actually have,
it will always be too little.

BOOKS:
A good book captivates you,
a great book changes you.

CAPITALISM:
Capitalism is the ideology of parasites.

GLOBAL WARMING:
Global Warming is the Universe’s way of telling us
that making money is contrary to Nature.

WAR:
War is a societally catastrophic theft by a group of criminals who compel two sets of victims to destroy each other. For decades I studied looking for the root causes of nuclear war, and then for war in all its forms: conventional, economic, genocidal, imperialistic, and now climate-destroying; and I have come to this: Lack of moral character expressed individually as selfishness through bigotry and greed, and organized socially as capitalism and exclusionary bureaucratic hierarchies for the defense of mediocrity.

PATRIARCHY:
The religious strictures enforced as sacred traditions by men against sex and women are them fleeing from the recognition of their own simplistic bestial lusts and fearful insecurity in their manhood, before the nurturing face of love seen by all as female: the mother.

GOVERNMENT:
It is always the rulers against the people,
and so in defense it has to be the people against the rulers.
What rulers everywhere fear most is the people united.

The first victory of political rebellion
is to free yourself from the self censorship
imposed by your fear of loss of approval by “authority.”

There will always be a new emergency to distract people
from the institutionalized theft of life they are paying for.

The fact that charities exist shows that governments are failures,
and moral character far too lacking all around.

Never underestimate the power of the Status Quo
to protect itself from reform
by tossing out members who have become liabilities.

I’m all for Socialism,
I’d just hate having to do it with Americans.

Being a Republican in these United States today
is to have an emotional attachment
to sexist White Supremacy ignorance.

THEM:
I only care about the effect of a person’s actions
on other individuals and on society;
I do not care how they choose to imagine
their relationship to eternity.

People can’t be changed,
they either evolve on their own,
or they persist as they are to the death.
The best you can do, for the rare few,
is tell them the truth if they ask.
I cannot change the world,
I can only affect the people I interact with:
rarely.

Going out among the people is the best way
to lose any concern about human extinction.

The effort to lead a moral life in an immoral society
causes much personal suffering,
only partially relieved by gaining
a righteous sense of self-respect.

The most pernicious idea in human history is:
profits.
The most important idea in human history is:
gratitude.

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Movie Reviews by MG,Jr. (14 November 2020 – 8 April 2021)

CODED BIAS

“Coded Bias” is an exceptional film about how Artificial Intelligence (a.k.a. A.I.), or “algorithms,” has become powerful technology used without accountability, and despite its high level of harmful failure, all for extending the Big Brother type authoritarian control of the public by the state (which is being done overtly in China, and covertly in the U.S., England, and who knows?); and also about the unaccountable manipulation of the public for the financial gains of the small group of very rich people (overwhelmingly white males) who own and control that technology. The title “Coded Bias” comes from the fact that the racial biases (against darker-skinned and ethnic minority people, and ‘different’ sexual-identification people, and physically challenged people) and class biases (against poor people, the more poor the more discriminated against) of those controlling self-aggrandizing white men, and the Big Brother authoritarians, are literally coded into the mathematics that constitutes the mechanisms of the algorithms used to surveil you, to alert police if you are a criminal (very, very many false positives with this), to determine what job opportunities you will be allowed, what prices you will pay for online goods, what financial services you will be granted, and in many ways what punitive actions will be taken against you — and for none of that will you be given any warning nor told how such determinations were made. Complete violation of your 14th Amendment rights (to due process, and which can be logically explained and independently verified; i.e., not a Black Box with a red eye called HAL9000). This important film is available on Netflix now (see website), and also has its own website (see comment). An especially uplifting part of this film is seeing the amazingly talented technically trained and technically savvy women — which include incredible Black Women — who are on the forefront of the citizens’s effort to correct, regulate and ban, as needed, this technology. This is a film about POWER and its use of AI technology to remove freedom from the mass of the public, and to implement its biases through the Internet (for example as regards economic disparities based on race, and the swinging of elections to undermine democracy). I urge you to watch this film (I was pointed to it by a woman, Gretchen, who knows how to pick them).
Coded Bias
https://www.netflix.com/title/81328723

Coded Bias
https://www.codedbias.com/

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SATAN & ADAM

“Satan and Adam” is a lovely documentary about “an aging blues guitarist and a grad student form an unlikely duo while busking on the street corners of 1980s Harlem.” Their music is REAL, authentic; and their story: together, apart, together, old age, is both a reflection of the racial attitudes and politics of the U.S. over the last 35 years, and also a reflection of their own distinctive and idiosyncratic personalities. It is also a very touching story of the power of music to heal individual human spirits, and collective human communities. And also, these guys kick ass when they play!
https://www.netflix.com/title/81077539

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satan_and_Adam

https://www.modernbluesharmonica.com/satan_and_adam.html

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LORENA

“Lorena” is a short 2019 documentary film about a 25 year old Tarahumara woman (Lorena Ramírez, Native American, living in the northern state of Chihuahua, Mexico,) who runs and wins ultra-marathons wearing sandals and her native dress (skirt!). Her whole family lives a pastoral life deep in hilly country, and they are all runners. Lorena Ramírez has won some of the hardest races in Mexico, like the Guachochi Ultramarathon in 2017, where she ran 100 kilometers wearing her sandals and traditional dress. Because of her prowess as a long distance runner she has been invited to other countries to compete. In 2018, Lorena traveled to Spain to run the Tenerife Bluetrail and came in third place after running 102 kilometers, also running with her sandals, with which she has run more than 500 kilometers in total, including Mexico City’s Marathon in the same year. Unlike her brothers, Lorena doesn’t speak Spanish because she didn’t have the opportunity to attend school and learn the language. She speaks Tarahumara in a soft voice, with words that sound so sweet and musical that you just want to listen to her telling her story. [Some of these lines came from the culturacolectiva website.]
https://www.netflix.com/title/80244683

https://culturacolectiva.com/movies/lorena-ramirez-light-footed-woman-runner-netflix-documentary

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BIRDERS

“Birders” is a short 2019 documentary about the crucial natural habitat for migratory birds, spanning both sides of the Rio Grande and along the Gulf Coast on either side of its confluence with the sea. This area has the highest concentration of birds in the U.S. because it lies along the flyways for many species of birds that migrate between North and South America. So, it attracts bird watchers, both professional (who do banding) and amateur, from all over the world. And this natural environment is threatened, and in parts has already been destroyed, by the clearing of land to build Trump’s Wall. There are Americans and Mexicans, each working on their side of the border to monitor, protect and preserve this natural habitat, and to count birds to help quantify the waxing or waning of the health of their many species; and they also teach and enthuse people (children and adults) about the loveliness of avian life and the value of seriously appreciating and effectively preserving Nature.
https://www.netflix.com/title/80244682

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MAGICAL ANDES

“Magical Andes” is a beautiful series; it is about the love of mountains, the pristine expansive wild, and lives closely entwined with that environment far from human congestion. Season 1 has six ~24 minute episodes and spans the entire 8,500km length of that mountain chain from south to north; Season 2 has four ~24 minute episodes and touches on different points of the same regions, from north to south. Brief and elegant narration is in English, interspersed with many reflections, in Spanish, by Andean residents from Patagonia to Venezuela; in Season 2 the English subtitles to the Spanish speakers is dropped. Photography is breathtaking throughout, clearly camera-carrying drones were used to great advantage. The music accompaniment is very tasteful, and guitar music for the most part. Throughout the series one can catch a few glimpses of people whose way of living reflects what I imagine a post de-growth lifestyle might be like for more of “us.” If you love Nature, and have a poetic sensibility, you would enjoy this series.
https://www.netflix.com/title/81154549

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (2019) [1:42] is an excellent, very informative, and provocative (TRUTHFUL!) documentary. I recommend it as the single best “economics class” (under 2 hours) you can take today. The presentation is clear and easy to understand, without being “dumbed down.” It explains exactly why your economic situation today is the way it is, whatever your economic class and generation happens to be. The system is rigged (duh) and this documentary show how, why and for whom; and it clearly shows what needs to change if we (all of us) are to avoid a cataclysmic social breakdown, another WWI/WWII type catastrophe on a worldwide scale. I especially recommend it to my kids and their generation: to help them know why we need a revolution, and where and how that revolution should be aimed.
https://www.netflix.com/title/81239470

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DAVID FOSTER, OFF THE RECORD; CLIVE DAVIS, THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES; QUINCY.

These 3 documentaries are about famous music producers and industry/finding-talent executives. These 3 guys are famous, and have splashy documentaries made about them because they promoted many singers from obscurity to superstardom, and made them rich, while making their music corporations very, very much richer. So, naturally, the biz and Hollywood are very awed by and interested in them.

They each have certain personality and character traits that I do not care for, but of course people are all different, and it is always a bit hazardous to judge (and yet of course I do).

What I think is most valuable in these documentaries is that there is a great deal of discussion of and presentation on the nitty-gritty work in the studio: music and song composing, arranging, recording, working (and/or fighting) with the singers and instrumentalists. I found those parts quite interesting.

These 3 guys are “legendary” because they were behind many of the mega-hits from 1968 to today, and in a wide variety of popular music genres.

The documentary I think stars-in-their-eyes people are most likely to find interesting is about David Foster, an incredibly talented and capable musician who is regarded as the “best” music producer alive (along with Quincy Jones).

David Foster, Off The Record
https://www.netflix.com/title/81214083

The second and third, and closely related documentaries are about Clive Davis and Quincy Jones, respectively, legendary music moguls who discovered and promoted many pop-music superstars.

Clive Davis, The Soundtrack of Our Lives
https://www.netflix.com/title/80190588

Quincy
https://www.netflix.com/title/80102952

Quincy Jones was a formidable jazz musician in the 1950s, then did jazzy film scores for 1960s movies, and went on to become a “legendary” music producer.

While these three producers/executives were focused on making mega-hits for corporate mega-bucks, what these documentaries can show that also applies to independent music production (recorded music) in less-mainstream more artistic and smaller-audience fields of music is the technicalities of working out the final recorded tracks, which combine the talents of a variety of people.

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FIVE CAME BACK

FIVE CAME BACK (2017) is very interesting as American film history, BUT the real value here is the reminder by series’ end that previous generations — some of whose survivors still live among us — included many many people who sacrificed a great deal in order to allow our society to continue, and which despite its many dire failings still provided very good lives to most who are reading this. It is important to keep gratitude for those who preceded us and strived and suffered to do their best to pass on chances for decent lives for the young of their time, and those yet unborn. And the only useful way to express that gratitude is to emulate the best efforts of our parents’ and grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations, for the benefit of our children, which is to say all of today’s children, and those yet unborn. And we cannot expect they will notice, or realize, or acknowledge or honor us. We can’t have such selfish expectations: why should today’s kids be any different from us when it comes to being grateful for the good things they get? They have to learn just as the more thoughtful of us have had to learn: in part by becoming more aware of the realities of the past, and in part by the struggles and frustrations of our own experiences. It all comes out of self-respect. Let me reassure you, I am not preaching here. I am reflecting for myself about my own always-expanding awareness and understanding of “life,” and how I should conduct myself if I can summon enough courage to do so. I think gratitude and self-respect should be the sources of individual human actions, that those actions should be decent and for authentic good, and that any nation improves as more of its people take on that sense of personal responsibility, because it preserves and strengthens the commonwealth: the interconnectedness of us.
https://www.netflix.com/title/80049928

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GREATEST EVENTS OF WWII IN COLOR; THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD

I just finished seeing the Netflix documentary series, “Greatest Events of WWII In Color” (2019), and can recommend it. What the film restoration and colorization does is to bring the frightening intensity and reality of the events much closer to the viewer. This is the kind of startling effect, from old grainy originally black and white war documentary films, pioneered by Peter Jackson with his visual restoration, sound reconstruction, and colorization of World War I films, for the riveting compilation released in 2018 as “They Shall Not Grow Old.”

The 10th and final episode of the WWII series is on the atomic bombings in 1945 and the closing out of the war against Japan. All this excruciating history continues to have many essential lessons too few of which have been heeded even in the present day. The total sweep of that history, really from the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 to early August of 1945, is a massively horrible build-up of savagery, and vastly widespread dehumanization of national populations, because of their prosecution of and/or victimization by the industrialized crescendo of the 20th century’s chained sequence of world wars.

That savagery was at its peak, and the ability to see “the enemy” as human beings was at its dehumanized nadir, in 1945 especially in the Pacific War. That poisoned psychology combined with extreme and widespread war weariness, and the press of many antagonistic forces and ambitions embroiled in the overall war effort inexorably led to the atomic bombings despite them being logically unnecessary, a position openly, persistently and yet unsuccessfully championed by Admiral Leahy.

Looking back one can see how the consensus-mind of the American leadership and the public was so hardened by their years of war, and so frightened of that war continuing with even greater ferocity with an invasion of Japan, and so desirous for it all to ‘end now, with victory,’ that it was overwhelmingly in favor of the atomic bombings regardless of any logical considerations contradicting that emotion and in favor of better alternatives. Tragic.

That was then; but now eight decades later the great majority of the American people and other fairly secure people in the industrialized world do not have that soul-sucking war-dread as a constant daily experience, as did the traumatized participants in WWII, and so we all should have the ability to rationally analyze the utility of nuclear weapons today both for our own nation’s use, as well as by others. Logically, they are obsolete and counterproductive.

I see the “great lesson” available to us from Episode 10 of the WWII documentary series mentioned here, as being that we non-traumatized by direct war experience populations CAN and SHOULD apply a psychologically mature and humanized logic to the construction of “national defense” methodology that removes the barbaric and ultimately self-destructive cruelty of nuclear weapons from our military and political thinking, and from our national infrastructure.

By its final episode, the vividness of the colorized documentary of WWII gives one an emotional tug that can act as a visceral push behind such logical efforts to really “ban the bomb.”

We CAN learn from history, IF WE WANT TO.

Greatest Events of WWII In Color (2019, trailer)
https://www.netflix.com/title/80989924

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018, trailer)
https://youtu.be/IrabKK9Bhds

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ASPHALT BURNING

If you are a motorhead, see this movie!! It’s Norwegian, and ends up at Nürburgring. It’s a total motorhead’s dream. We saw it on Netflix (dubbed). It seems there were two earlier ones (movies) in a series in Norway. You’ll love it!! (Global Warming can wait).
https://youtu.be/ViUFEs5cyhY

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HE EVEN HAS YOUR EYES

This is a fabulous movie, both thought provoking and funny. A wonderful take-down of racism in all its colors. This lovely French movie, centered by African-Franco actors, and without any guns, explosions, special effects, CGI or gratuitous violence, manages to say more about racism as habit and fear (two forms of “tradition”) being a great hinderance to having a modern society everyone can enjoy, based on simple human love and honest human connection. This movie is a “comedy” in the sense that it is never a lugubrious heavy drama, neither gratingly hysterical nor deadeningly slow; it is like a fine Burgundy wine: light bodied with a depth of flavor. See it.
https://youtu.be/7mNuKbk01ZA

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ROSE ISLAND

The only foreign military invasion mounted by the post WWII Republic of Italy was against “Rose Island” in 1968. Rose Island was a metal-platform island micro-nation constructed by Giorgio Rosa, an engineer, 500 meters outside Italian territorial waters off the coast of Rimini (6km). The Italian government became incensed by this act of pure independence outside its control, and decided to destroy the island. This prompted Giorgio Rosa to take his case to the United Nations and the Council of Europe, which latter agency was designed to hear disputes between nations, and so decided to hear the case since Rosa was a head of state! During the summer months, Rose Island was essentially a boating party location and discotheque in the Adriatic, but Rosa and his friends created a government, post office, issued passports and received hundreds of application for citizenship. Italian marine forces invaded, forcibly removed the people from Rosa Island and blew it up. Subsequently the European nations changed their laws to extend their territorial waters (and claims of judicial control) out to 12km. The movie is a breezy comedy that relates the whole story. What is clear is that power, especially the imbalance of power, is what actually governs government behavior, not the rule of or the respect for law.
https://www.netflix.com/title/81116948

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ADULT WEDNESDAY

“Adult Wednesday” is a series of short very humorous videos made by Melissa Hunter, based on the idea of Wednesday Addams, of the famous Addams Family cartoons, now on her own. Her various interactions with “normal” society are hilarious. Sadly, the series was ended because the copyright owners of “The Addams Family” objected. The web-link will take you to a starting point for the sequence of the Adult Wednesday videos (if still up). All are good. The one of catcalls to girls is delicious (girl wins).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXmpC0wpuso&list=PL0XAjui-xK6XE4PRT64WAthU6j1NmrOqU&index=14

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THE SPACE BETWEEN US

I saw “The Space Between Us” (2016) on Netflix. It is a bloated techno-gargantuan cross between a faint echo of “Brave New World” and the trim 1980 movie “Starman” (which was good). The premise is that a kid born as a surprise on a Mars colony is too weak to live in Earth’s gravity, and so must remain “classified.” He is brought back to Earth as a 16 year old in hopes he can be strengthened to survive there; he escapes confinement to look for his mystery father; has a roadtrip romance with a quirky wise-ass runaway foster-kid girl, and everyone has a happy ending to this story. It could have been more tightly constructed for a good 90 minute movie, but it rolls out amiably enough over 2 hours with nice visuals and up-to-the-minute spacey sets and effects to distract you from the numerous logical fallacies and improbabilities linking the elements of the story (easily done if you don’t take a critical attitude). I enjoyed it as simple harmless entertainment; it is not art, it is not deep: it’s meant for a mass audience. Asa Butterfield plays the Mars Boy with the same cute naïveté other-worldliness he displayed in the movie “The House Of The Future” (with Ellen Burstyn, peripherally about Buckminster Fuller’s legacy). Gary Oldham plays the big honcho Space Business (for the Mars Colony) “visionary.” The mama surrogate is played by a Ms. Guglio, who also had a big role in a recent movie where Patrick Stewart (“Jean-Luc Picard”) plays an old ballet master and choreographer (which movie is a 3 person play of sex talk). This movie is a way to spend some COVID lockdown time, after you’ve washed the dinner dishes and you’re tired of reading an actual book for the day.
https://youtu.be/x73-573aWfs

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND

“The Other Side Of The Wind” is Orson Welles’s last movie and is a satire on movies, movie-making and celebrity culture. It is also a visually stunning 1970s cinematic parody of 1970s art movie pretensions; a comedy about the vacuity of the whole movie and celebrity business, and literally a confection about nothingness. Wind is the flow of air through a volume, it is not an isolated bounded solid object. It has no side since it is the swirl, rippling and eddying of the ocean of atmosphere we live within, and thus can have no ‘other side.’ To those not scientifically minded wind is the sensation of anything between the blushing to the gales of nothingness. To seek deep insights from Welles’s movie is to look for an answer blowing in the wind. Welles gets some delicious payback on movie critics through this film (and it was all actually photographed on film between 1970 and 1976), as well as skewering Antonioni type films like “Zabriskie Point.” Welles does one better on Antonioni’s finger to the American movie moguls by putting his “Zabriskie Point” parody, “The Other Side Of The Wind,” as a film within a film, being an incomplete movie run out of budget and the last hope for a comeback by a Hemingway type directorial titan of Old Hollywood at the end of his rope and trying to connect with youth and the New Hollywood. The actual cinematic technique used is a kaleidoscope of modernity employing black and white, color, quick cuts, enigmatic scenes, mockumentary structure, and zig-zagging progression. Welles had a lot of help from a lot of friends to shoot this movie and then to finally have it assembled as he would have wanted. Welles died in 1985, and the movie finally appeared in 2018. I was fascinated by it, and then tickled to realize that Welles had done a magic trick on me to make me think seriously about nothingness: the cultural vacuity of the flickering lights so many are so obsessed about.
https://youtu.be/nMWHBUTHmf0

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A LIFE AHEAD

“A Life Ahead,” an excellent brand new (2020) film with the legendary Sophia Loren (86!!); very modern, very heartstring-pulling, amazing performance by the young actor playing Momo (all the performers were good) – this is his story. The setting is the seamier side of 2020 Italy (but there are still beautiful souls living there).
https://youtu.be/a0ejncDxgCc

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IO

“IO” is an imaginative realistic speculative fiction about a post end-of-the-world time of environmental poisoning, and its last two survivors. By “realistic” I mean that it is not one of the bombastic live-action special effects fantasy plus horror cartoons that is the popular standard today for science fiction movies. The story is reminiscent of the seminal 1949 novel “Earth Abides.” So, most movie fan comments about IO are quite negative, indicative of an intelligent screenplay thoughtfully filmed. The movie is a largely French production, filmed near Nice, Bulgaria and California. The visuals, acting and pacing are all good as befitting the somber and very lonely situation being portrayed. The types of scientific, literary and artistic references made in the dialogs make for a too cerebral movie for many simple-minded movie fans, but lend this film much of its merit. This film seeks to make you think, not shock and excite you with gimmicks like frenetic pacing and jump cuts. In a rather elliptical way, the ending reminded me of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
https://youtu.be/y3GLhAumiec

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DOWN TO EARTH

“Down To Earth” is a recent (2020) TV series showing varieties of healthy sustainable ways to live, from selected countries in Central and South America, and Western Europe. It’s has a breezy tone but does show quite a variety of interesting an important aspects of “food” and “living” and the damaging effects of human wastefulness and lack of connection to Nature, and thus “climate change.” The episode on Puerto Rico is especially recommended because it shows how people dealt with the catastrophe of back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria, and continue to deal with the catastrophe-by-Trump-malice-and US-government-neglect, of loss of homes, electricity and environments. Showcased are examples of how individuals came together to respond to problems left unattended by the failures of government. The “star” of the series is its executive producer Zac Efron, no David Attenborough, but still deserves credit for producing a series with much good in it for the cause of advancing public awareness in favor of revamping American (industrialized, consumer-oriented) society for ecologically enlightened sustainability, and healthier eating habits. It is mainly aimed at typical, and by world standards well off, American viewers – it is no rabble rousing radical revolutionary documentary, but it does make many good points despite the many visits to Michelin multi-star restaurants.
https://www.netflix.com/title/80230601

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From Fractiousness to Sustainability, Is It Possible?

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From Fractiousness to Sustainability, Is It Possible?

I think the essential story of the United States of America is a weave of 5 historical currents:

— the struggle of Native Americans against their genocide;

— the struggle of African-Americans against their enslavement, and to find their own unrestrained identity;

— the struggle of immigrants to establish decent lives for themselves and their families;

— the struggle of labor against its exploitation by capital;

— the struggle of the Natural World to withstand the assaults by capitalism.

The struggle of women almost everywhere in the world including the United States to overcome the many forms of abuse, depreciation, exploitation and inequality that they can be subjected to could also be added as a sixth historical current of the American story.

All these struggles continue to this day.

I do not think the triumphalist story of capitalism’s ascendancy and of the personal successes of notables gaining wealth and attention, as well as the glorification of American wars and imperialism, is a historical current with any depth of meaning for the definition of “America,” even though it is the predominant ideological myth promoted by the official scribes and propagandists of the American ruling class.

It took me many years to crystalize this realization, which has long been known and expressed by many alert people. So, then I was asked by a friend:

Q: “What happens to societies when people only care about themselves?…”

A: They become very cruel and disunited, and nationalistically weak.

Thucydides describes this as a danger to the Athenian society of his time, during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC):

“Some legislators only wish to vengeance against a particular enemy. Others only look out for themselves. They devote very little time on the consideration of any public issue. They think that no harm will come from their neglect. They act as if it is always the business of somebody else to look after this or that. When this selfish notion is entertained by all, the commonwealth slowly begins to decay. ”

It was the leading cause of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in the middle of the 5th Century, which devolved into feudalism. It is a feature of the moral corruption weakening societies that are subsequently conquered, as was France by Prussia in 1871 (read Guy de Maupassant’s short story “Boule de Suif,” for an evisceration of that class society) and then again by Germany in 1940 (read W. Somerset Maugham’s book “Strictly Personal,” about his travails in France during 1939-1940, and how the French capitalists would have to back postwar socialist policies for the working class, who would do all fighting and dying to liberate France).

Q: “… and unless compelled to act otherwise by some authoritarian or autocratic government.”

A: Revolutions, like the French (1789 and 1871), Russian (1917), Spanish Anarchist (1936), Chinese (1922-1949), Vietnamese (1945), and Cuban (1959), erupt in reaction to endemic societal corruption, cruelty and top-down injustice, and foreign invasion, and they all-too-soon harden from populist-socialism to authoritarian command societies.

While the socialism of the Cuban Revolution is incredibly admirable, and the type of thing needed everywhere (especially in the U.S.A.), it is nevertheless unfortunate that a part of that Cuban socialist solidarity had to be compelled in order to assure the survival of the revolution and the independence of the country from the Colossus of the North. [1], [2]

The French Revolution ended with Napoleon (in 1800); the Russian Revolution ended with Stalin (by 1934); the Spanish Anarchist Revolution ended with the Stalinists gaining primary influence over the Republican Government (in May 1937); the Chinese Revolution ended with Mao Zedong; and the Cuban Revolution was spearheaded by Fidel Castro and still struggles to free itself from authoritarian measures imposed because of two political forces:

— the unrelenting military, economic, diplomatic and propaganda war waged against Cuba by the U.S. (since 1902!!),

— and by the all-too-human motivation of the Cuban political leadership to stay in control of the Cuban government.

Some kind of force (“Security,” “the Army,” “the Police,” “Intelligence”) is always necessary to defend socialist societies and restrain those who would seek to dominate them, and yet the existence of such forces are themselves breeding grounds for such would-be supervisory dominators.

Q: “I think my question is unanswerable, but I periodically voice it when I feel despair over people’s inability to learn from the past, to go beyond their tribalism, and to fail seeing their intrinsic connections to the rest of humanity. I rail against all that after once again being subjected to other people’s benighted opinions that are examples of those failures.”

A: I see that many people seek to address your basic question with:

— elaborate political ideologies and theorizing (my Marxist friends);

— appeals to religious do-gooderism (traditional soft-Christian fluff, largely delusional);

— commitments to charitable social work in hopes that that ethic spreads by their example (real do-gooderism with hopes for the future, perhaps in vain; as done by exceedingly admirable people like Dorothy Day);

— progressive political activism, (mucking in the tedious turgid nitty-gritty of party politics, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, extremely admirable people trying to be pragmatic in advancing progressive policies — or as some would say “lesser evils” — that seem to have some finite chance of reaching fruition; such efforts are derided by Marxist and Anarchist theorists, who consider them ideologically ‘imperfect’ and incrementalist: pipe dreams);

— all out revolutionary action in hopes of sparking a general uprising (being a violent outlaw like Fidel Castro at the Moncada Barracks in 1953 and in the Sierra Maestra in 1956-1958; a delusional and destructive alternative most of the time, but on rare occasions it works);

— giving up and sinking into hedonistic dissipation or self-terminating depression (a very sad and yet too popular option, which in the extreme can lead some to emulate the Marquis de Sade or become suicide bombers).

The options and resources available for solving a difficult problem depend very intimately and strongly on the attitude you bring to the situation confronting you, and the attitude you are prepared to live with in order to obtain a solution. This is very clearly seen when contemplating the problem of the sustainability crisis characterized by global warming climate change and biodiversity loss, faced by our fractious capitalist world.

My own rather Fabian-Utopian approach (in answer to the question) is to urge action in response to global warming climate change, because I know that to really solve that problem (the sustainability crisis) will require:

— social unity (the problem is planetary, there are no local nor piecemeal solutions);

— a leveling of standards-of-living (worldwide!);

— massive demilitarization (resources reallocated for broad social benefit);

— a heavy reliance on intelligent planning and Earth-focused scientific research and engineering (technology for human and social benefit, including those for nutrition, drugs and medical care worldwide);

— and de-growth de-capitalization (economics as if people mattered — a.k.a. socialism — and resource reallocation and employment for broad social benefit).

The compulsion for advancing such global initiatives would come from Nature itself in the form of the rapid erosion of the sustainability and climatic conditions of the many environments provided by Planet Earth to its human tenants. In this analogy, Nature becomes the autocrat dictating our conformity into World Socialism. I suppose this is a grimly utopian view.

Nature’s sustainability-crisis push on our bitterly fractious self-focused human world society seems quite capable of producing the same kind of effect on us as the German invasions of Rome during the 4th and 5th Centuries had on the bitterly fractious self-focused society of the Western Roman Empire: the collapse of a rotten structure into impoverished chaos out of which violent strongmen would carve out fiefdoms in a new Dark Age, and perhaps this time the last one.

On the other hand, maybe Nature’s sustainability-crisis push will spark a world revolution in human thinking and humanistic identification, and from that a totally new world socialist paradigm will come to define organized human life on Planet Earth. It is all a matter of choice. Only time will tell.

Thanks to Ann Harmless for prodding my thinking with her questions.

[1] Cuba and the Cameraman
https://youtu.be/lsZ8hDutkeM

[2] Cuba Libre
https://youtu.be/LmKgDxQHnfA

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Is Trump Worse Than Nixon?

My friend, Eric Andrew Gebert asked:

“I’ve only read and studied about the Nixon era, and the Watergate scandal (1972 to 1974) that led to Nixon’s resignation. To those that lived through it: is our current state of political scandal worse? The G.W. Bush era was definitely worse than Nixon. Even John Dean called it: WORSE THAN WATERGATE. That was followed up by Obama continuing the War On Terror; putting drone warfare into hyperdrive and going after whistleblowers. And placating capitalist-banksters who should have been prosecuted and put on trial. I feel like we are setting so many bad precedents that our Republic may never recover. This country needs a full-on Democratic reckoning and that doesn’t mean if we just elect Democrats that our Republic will begin healing. Needs to be more than that. It starts with civics and the rule of law.”

Eric, Here is how I remember it.

I lived through the Nixon Administration:

– being 18 in 1968 (and actively sought by the Draft Board for being mulched in the Vietnam War);

– when the Tet Offensive erupted (and the U.S. actually lost the Vietnam War);

– when Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated (on 4 April);

– when Bobby Kennedy (who started out working with Roy Cohn for Joe McCarthy, and then for his older brother President John Kennedy, running the covert ‘assassinate Fidel’ CIA program) was assassinated on 5-6 June;

– when horrendous urban riots, outbursts fueled by multi-generational despair, broke out in many cities after King’s assassination;

– when the corrupt Mayor Daley administration in Chicago sent the cops out on the bloody attack on young, peaceful and unarmed demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention (which veered to the Johnson Administration’s man, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and away from the antiwar egghead Eugene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy having been removed a month earlier);

– and when Dick Nixon invented and used the “southern strategy,” which is the standard Republican strategy of today (consolidate the bigot vote), to win the 1968 election as the “law and order” (White Supremacy) candidate.

Nixon, with Henry Kissinger (National Security Advisor, and later Secretary of State), had sabotaged Johnson’s peace initiative with the Communist Party of Vietnam (the “North Vietnamese”) in 1968, with about 30,000 American soldiers already dead from the Vietnam War at that point; by having Madam Chennault (a Chinese woman associated with the Chiang Kai-shek Nationalist Chinese regime-dictatorship in Formosa) make secret contact with the North Vietnamese government leaders and tell them not to accept Johnson’s peace terms, so Nixon could get elected (because Johnson would be seen as a failure), and Nixon would give them better terms.

Five years later, and with over 20,000 more Americans dead (and millions of Asian dead), the North Vietnamese accepted the exact same peace terms from Nixon that Johnson had offered them. The U.S. military pulled out in 1973, prisoners were repatriated, and Nixon poured money into the corrupt South Vietnamese regime for arms, but so much was funneled into pure graft, and that regime collapsed in 1975 from the combination of rampant corruption, lack of popular support, and cowardice in the field (and the Communist forces were very good militarily).

From 1969, Nixon and Kissinger secretly expanded the war into neutral Cambodia. The U.S. bombing of Laos and Cambodia (along their eastern border areas adjacent to Vietnam: the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail) had been so massive and genocidal to Laotian and Cambodian peasant societies that the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime resulted in Cambodia: an insane nihilistic death cult. The “Secret War in Cambodia” was exposed in 1970, and that ignited ferocious protests in the U.S., one of which led to the killing of unarmed students by National Guard troops at Ohio’s Kent State University.

Nixon won a landslide reelection in 1972, over anti-war Democrat (and decent guy) George McGovern (a WWII B-17 pilot and combat veteran). Part of Tricky Dick’s M.O. was covert “dirty tricks,” like the Watergate Break-in to the offices of the Democratic National Committee, in June 1972, to spy on the Democrats’ plans. I graduated college that year. A similar dirty trick had been the break-in to the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to look for blackmail material against one of the men who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 (Anthony Russo was the other leaker, and it was he who recruited Ellsberg to the effort).

The Watergate caper unravelled in 1973, and led to televised Congressional impeachment hearings in 1974. I was then in graduate school, and we grad students would pass much time every day watching the hearings (on TVs in graduate housing common rooms), and the months-long cascade of damning revelations. Now, and this is a key point: there were vigorous Republican investigators in both the Senate committee (like Senator Howard Baker) and House Committee, and they focussed on crimes against the Constitution of the United States, which in the case of Nixon were direct violations of laws passed by Congress, of which the invasion of Cambodia was the most egregious example (a military invasion of a neutral country, without a congressional declaration of war).

While there were certainly many Republicans anxious to avoid electoral losses because of the deterioration of the Nixon Administration, and who soft-pedaled Nixon’s crimes, there were enough of them faithful to the idea of “defending the Constitution” to make it inevitable Nixon would be impeached if it came to a vote — as Barry Goldwater personally told Nixon it would. That is why Nixon resigned (his VP, Spiro Agnew, had resigned earlier because he was caught in a corruption scandal; Gerald Ford was the new VP, and ascended to the presidency when Nixon resigned, and soon enough after pardoned Nixon, which is why Ford was soundly defeated in the election of 1976 by Jimmy Carter).

The first half of the Carter Administration, 1977-1979 (or 1976-1978), was the peak of American political decency combined with freedom from foreign wars (what is conventionally called “peace”), at least since the late Eisenhower Administration (after the Korean War and McCarthyism). After that, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s NSA Director, took the Carter Administration back into Cold War nastiness, by setting the Afghan trap that sucked in the Soviet Army, and was the major disaster that led to the downfall of the U.S.S.R, from 1989-1991.

The year 1979 is when the UK inflicted the world with Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan’s campaign to ‘make America great again’ took off, and he won the presidency in the 1980 election. Carter was undone by the external circumstances of austerities imposed on Americans by the energy crisis (Arab Oil Embargo) and stagflation, and by the embarrassment to national pride of failing to negotiate the extraction of American hostages from Islamic Revolutionary Iran (and also having a military rescue raid fail), since Reagan had made a Nixon-type deal for post-election hostage release with the Iranian theocracy (what a guy). Reagan’s win in November, and then the murder of John Lennon in December, marked the coup de grace of postwar (WWII) American liberalism.

The “conservatives” had been gathering strength through think-tanks (for policy formulation and capital accumulation) since at least 1971 (after the “Nixon Shock” of dropping the gold standard, the Bretton Woods Agreement on currencies); to conservatives during 1968 to 1971, it had looked like a left-wing “revolution” might succeed in the U.S.

Trump is just the latest manifestation of that Reaganite neoliberalism that erupted and gained ascendancy during 1979-1981. Along the way we’ve had a string of neoliberal presidential tools: G.W.H. Bush, W. Clinton, G.W. Bush, B. Obama, and finally the Maddest Hatter of them all: Donald J. Trump.

So, is Trump worse than Nixon? Is 2020-2021 worse and more dangerous than 1968?

What was worse in 1968 was the magnitude of the foreign slaughter inflicted by the U.S. military, and that operation’s huge suction of young American men into psychological and physical destruction (about 58,000 of them got their names chiseled on a Black Wall as a consolation prize), and the massive loss of public trust in government, which was exposed as being manned by too many callous lying careerists. This rupture of public trust has never been repaired and is a direct cause of the ongoing degradation of American public life. The American people as a whole have paid a terrible price for the self-induced bloody catastrophe of the Vietnam War (not to negate the genocidal magnitude of its cost to the Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians), and compounded that tragedy by never having internalized the lessons of that war, by a transformation of American society in the same way that Germany (as an example) has transformatively and truthfully faced its Nazi past. Americans chose denial, and let themselves open to repeating similar catastrophes; though for a time there was a strong resistance to mounting subsequent foreign military adventures until Reagan and subsequent neoliberal presidents (all of them) rehabilitated militarized American imperialism with the now (from 1973 on) “volunteer” (or, economic draft) military.

What was better in 1968 (to about 1971 really, and at most to about 1977) were the economic conditions for working people. Up to the recession of 1971, jobs could be gotten, a man could work as a janitor in a school or office building and support a stay-at-home wife with children in a house with a front lawn! Recession and inflation came in 1971 and after, because of government waste-spending on years of war on top of trying to maintain Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and the implementation of the Civil Rights Laws (of 1964-1968): “affirmative action,” and the social concerns of the Office of Equal Opportunity (EEOC).

So the economic situation deteriorated significantly and quickly for many people, and the neoliberal movement (non-liberal Republicans, social and economic conservatives, and hardened corporatists) pushed on those economic conditions with initiatives of austerity: dump the little wage-slave guy to preserve the gain expectations of the bigger capitalists, and demonize the welfare-needing poor to redirect the anger of the increasingly impoverished wage-slavers onto the welfare-needing, and away from the exploiting corporatists and stock speculators. This remains Republican Party orthodoxy. And, as already mentioned, back then there were still liberal Republicans (people like Jacob Javits) and “defend the Constitution” Republicans capable of turning on Nixon. But all that liberalism was decaying along with the economic conditions — lots of good jobs — that were necessary to support it.

What is worse today is the complete putrification of the Republican Party into a completely anti-democratic organized conspiracy for gaining political power for purely factional aims of plunder to the benefit of high-end classists (the rich) and an overtly White Supremacist tribalism. Certainly such people existed back in 1968 and worked for the same ends as such people pursue today, but the broader extent of the relative prosperity offered by the economic system back then meant that there was less atrocious squeezing of the poor by the rich in order for those rich to lard themselves to their satisfaction at the national expense.

The whole idea today of giving workers, in or out of work, $2000 survival checks from the government during the pandemic, and extended unemployment insurance, is a specific indicator of the vastly impoverished national economy and economic management of today as compared with 50 years ago. The resistance to providing that economic relief today is because of a fear by the economic gatekeepers employed by the 1%, of reigniting memories of broader systems of economic equity and prosperity that obviated the need for such piecemeal and episodic economic survival crumbs-to-the-masses, like one-time $2000 checks. This realization is what Bernie Sanders tapped into, a return to FDR’s 1944 proposals of essentially expanding Social Security, with job and healthcare security for all. So far, such “socialism” is rationed to the U.S. military (and not all that generously for the rank-and-file), the political elite, and the corporate insiders.

Another clear degradation since 1968 is in the intellectual quality of much of American society and certainly of the American political classes; all coincident with the withering of educational quality over the decades, but ameliorated by a broadening of educational access to underserved communities (but again, not nearly enough of that, and over time increasing closed off by increasing costs-to-participate). So “leaders” like Trump and George W. Bush are clearly stupider than earlier generation leaders like Kennedy and even Lyndon Johnson. Leaders back then were hardly moral, so one can’t say that today’s political actors are vastly more immoral, though Trump does seem hellbent on pushing the envelope negatively in that regard. However, it is important to remember that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were/is truly evil because they were/are so intelligent and thus extremely capable of really well-thought out malevolence. Trump is closer to being a very maladjusted 3-year-old of 74 years of age and with no functional intellectual machinery, nor impulse control nor conscious moral ethics: he is just a destructive incompetent.

So from my perspective, the improved technocratic systems and technological machinery of government and the American industrialized civilization of today would be better able to address the physical and political challenges of today — primarily global warming climate change and the gross inequalities of standard-of-living (wealth, income, education, economic opportunity, job and health security) — IF we had both better government people to manage public affairs AND such politicians and technocrats (which includes the corporate sector) along with the majority of the American public had the desire and intention to implement a wholistic approach to managing the country for the benefit of all, rather than classistly (just for the 1%), tribally (just for White Supremacy) and factionally (competitively between narrowly defined special interests).

I see the failures of the management of American public life today as being primarily due to the poor moral, ethical and intellectual quality of the people doing that management, and the utter pettiness of their motivations and visions, rather than because of an overwhelming intractability of external circumstances, or technical deficiencies in the machinery of political management. Fifty years ago there was probably a greater fraction of better people in those roles (even though still with many, many horrible ones in place) but the magnitude of the military and financial disasters they had gotten themselves into (the Vietnam War, 1970s stagflation) were so great that they undid their more valiant efforts (like the War On Poverty, and Affirmative Action).

The neoliberal program, from 1979 onward, gained more control over of the catastrophe-prone external circumstances — like war, economics and welfare — by using improvements in technological knowledge and economic systems management to relentlessly impoverish an increasing proportion of the American public, from the bottom up economically, in order to preserve and grow the wealth of the wealthy. In a sense, the societal chaos that erupted in 1968 was natural and spontaneous, but today American society is so tightly controlled by being so thoroughly micro-managed to its impoverishment, that societal chaos is now an entirely managed effect, like the flow of a river throttled by the programmed releases of impounded water by hydroelectric dam engineers. The Trumpist Putsch of January 6, 2021, was just such an incompetently (thankfully) managed ejaculation.

So, which was/is worse: Nixon’s 1968 or Trump’s 2021?; or perhaps G.W. Bush’s exploitation of 2001’s 9-11, and his Iraq (and Afghanistan) War?

From the perspective of foreigners, Nixon was worse than Bush who was worse than Trump: 3 to 4 million dead in Indochina (plus all the bombing, land-mining and chemical defoliation); versus many hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq and with millions made refugees; versus thousands droned to death under Trump. But Trump gains many extra negative points for his tireless efforts to destroy the climate and ecosystems of Planet Earth, which ecocide directly cause fatalities.

From the purely selfish perspective of the American people, things have gotten steadily worse since Nixon because of the unrelenting vampirism by the 1% on the American economy, with its attendant impoverishment of wage-slaves (who too often contribute to their own enslavement by their myopic bigotry, anti-intellectualism and anti-environmentalism).

So in the grossest possible characterization:

– back in 1968-1971 the external circumstances of war and economics were worse and better, respectively, than today while the quality of the political class was better intellectually and professionally; in general society was freer because the economy was more expansive and supportive of popular aspirations despite still having many specific inequities (e.g., racist and sexist practices); also Earth’s climate and ecosystems were far healthier than today;

– today the external circumstances of war and economics are better and worse, respectively, than 50 years ago because the political class, despite being so much worse intellectually and professionally and so much more a captive appendage of corporate marketing departments, has a much tighter grip on external circumstances through a greater understanding of the levers of economic control; and society is more controlled and restrictive for “the working class” because their economic confinement and impoverishment is the mechanism by which the political class manages national affairs to further the enrichment of capitalist wealth, their patrons; and that intentionally worsened and worsening economic situation for “the working class” (the 99%) in order to exponentially enrich the wealthy is paid for by the now little-reversible ecocide and global warming destruction of the climate system.

In any case, we can’t go back. The best we could do — if we dropped the totality of capitalist neoliberalism (“fascism”) and its foundation of White Supremacy, and developed the moral character required for fashioning a wholistic “all in” national society — is to learn from the history of our national mistakes, and then apply those painfully gained insights to implement a societal transformation that adequately and equitably meets the existential challenges of today: the sustainability crisis with its global warming climate change, and nuclear disarmament.

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