Archive for June, 2019

BREAKING RECORDS CAN BE A BAD THING

June 29, 2019

Not only did the French women’s soccer (they call it football) lose to the USA, but the nation saw its highest ever recorded temperature today.  In southern France one town recorded 45.9 degree Celsius (centigrade). Quick conversion for us Yanks, 9/5 x C, plus 32…and you get a Fahrenheit temp over 114 degrees.  Even down in the oven  Sahara they would find that to be warm…and that;s where this weather has come from.

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SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING ARE ON FIRE

June 27, 2019

Europe’s biggest forest fire in two decades.
And some of Europe’s hottest June days in recorded history

Meanwhile, climate emergency declared in New York City.  While Dems debate in Miami on what is now the Florida peninsula, likely to become an archipelago with a storied past.  Not only Florida is in danger, and not only New York City.  Nor all the coastal cities in California.  How about Texas?  That homeland for so many professional oil-enriched climate change deniers?

Yet petroleum does not have to morally corrupt as it has in Oklahoma and Texas, Venezuela and Russia, Saudi Arabia and most of the oily parts of the Mideast…oil wealth can lead to good things if there is a honest and conscientious government.  Norway is green.  We shoud all be green with envy.

Covering the climate can be deadly for reporters.  Or, if your are fortunate, you just lose your job, and rise another day.  Neither is good since the US Department of Agriculture doesn’t want you finding out about the possible damage from a hotter planet.

WILL LIFE ON EARTH OUTLAST THE CURRENT VERSION OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM?

June 24, 2019

There are two easily defined words that should begin and end any discussion of our climate crisis and where the planet is heading:  GREED, EXTINCTION.

In the June 7 Times Literary Supplement has two essays focused on the world economy and the climate.  Joseph Stiglitz reviews three new books on the capitalism of the moment with its self-destructive momentum toward ever-greater concentration of wealth, and use of resources without regard to effects on the planet and life.
His opening sentences: “By now it is clear that something is fundamentally wrong with modern capitalism. The 2008 global financial crisis showed that the system as currently constructed is neither efficient nor stable.”
“…while many of these Friedmanite economists have stayed remarkably quiescent in the aftermath of the crisis, the ideology and sets of beliefs they pushed and that bear significant responsibility for the crisis remain alive and well.”
“Paul Collier… in The Future of Capitalism: Facing the new anxieties proposes a tax not only on urban land – on the rents that accrue as a result of the increased productivity from economic agglomeration in our thriving cities – but on the high-income urban workers who share in that prosperity.”
All three books give prominence to the role of the battle of ideas, explaining how misguided theories have won out from the era of Reagan and Thatcher onwards. Block, for example, details the role played by several misconceptions about our economic and political system, beginning with market fundamentalism (what I refer to in my book, Globalization and Its Discontents, 2002, as the almost religious belief that markets, on their own, are efficient, stable and in some sense fair). He rightly shows that, without government constraints, the rich and powerful shape capitalism to give themselves the advantage, undermining competition and exploiting others, eventually undermining the capitalist system itself. [my emphasis] Adam Smith recognized this, but his latter-day followers often seem to forget it.”
This is where the greed becomes central value of capitalism.  CEOs may hold as much stock as any shareholder and thus driving profits, dividends and stock price matter far more than anything else the company does…as long as it doesn’t get caught.  Even so the CEO just bails with billions.

See Countrywide’s loans before 2008,  Perdue’s pain-killers that were also profitable human killers but marketed as non-addictive, VW’s diesel fraud, Deutsche Bank’s money laundering, see most of the publicly traded companies in the US that make no profit but keep borrowing money to make their quarterly reports look good and bolster stock price.

Stiglitz says the current system must be replaced.

“…creating this new system will only happen through politics – which, in turn, is why the future of capitalism, our democracies and the world are inextricably linked. We’ve seen what misshapen capitalism has done to democracies in the US and elsewhere, and how the resulting electoral perversions then distort our economies. The sad reality is that matters could get worse. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is merely the latest authoritarian on the global scene.

“If we are to achieve an ethical capitalism, we need an ethical politics, which respects the basic tenets of democratic values. Again, that’s not likely to happen on its own. We can see this clearly in the US, where the right has been engaged in a systematic agenda of disenfranchisement and disempowerment – limiting voting for citizens who oppose the right’s ideas, limiting (through gerrymandering) opponents’ ability to translate votes into political power…. This is especially easy in the US, where highly politicized Supreme Court justices on the right read into the Constitution new rights for the wealthy and fewer rights for ordinary citizens: for instance the right of rich corporations to make unbridled campaign contributions while circumscribing the rights of workers to organize or individuals to sue corporations who have abused them[money as speech!]…

“These three books naturally ascribe a key role to the power of ideas. But interests matter as well. Economics is about growth but it is also about distributive battles – and as Trump’s devastating Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 illustrates, the latter proved more important than either ideas or growth. A small state is a handmaiden to these interests. Citizens with economic power simply don’t want a state that would prevent them from exercising that power. Businesses that exploit others don’t want a government capable of preventing them from engaging in nefarious activities, or of redistributing their ill-gotten gains. Oil, chemical and coal companies don’t want a state powerful enough to stop them from destroying our planet.

“In its attempts to circumscribe the state, the right also destroys the ability of a nation to do what it must for all its citizens to prosper… In their selfishness, even those at the top may be hurting themselves: they would be better off with a smaller share of a larger pie, and they, like everyone else, would benefit from a more stable and sustainable economy and society. Not to mention a habitable planet.”

“It is now time to find a path between incrementalism on the one hand and violent revolution on the other. A radical change in economic and power relationships is possible. It is also existentially urgent. This is the only thing that will save capitalism from itself and from the capitalists who would unwittingly destroy it, and the Earth along with it.”

The second essay is by Naomi Klein.   She makes a cogent argument for a Green New Deal.  Environmental and economic problems are  linked and cannot be separated she argues.

“…global emissions continue to rise alongside average temperatures, with large swathes of the planet beset by record-breaking storms and fires. The scientists convened in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have confirmed precisely what those African and low-lying island states long since warned: that allowing temperatures to rise by 2 degrees is a death sentence, and that only a 1.5-degree target gives us a fighting chance. Six Pacific islands have already disappeared beneath the rising seas this century.”
“…Europe, Australia and the United States have all responded to the increase in mass migration – intensified by climate stresses – with brutal force, ranging from Italy’s de facto ‘let them drown’ policy to Donald Trump’s war on an unarmed caravan from Central America. Let there be no mistake: this barbarism is how the wealthy world plans to adapt to climate change.”
Her conclusion is that now, with youthful activism in mind, “when other young people are finding their climate voice and their climate rage, there is finally a handful of political leaders able to receive their message, with an actual plan to turn it into policy. And that might just change everything.”

Greed and extinction.  They go together.  The bumper sticker that pertains: Change or Die.