Paul Street is rapidly becoming the most interesting contributor to Counterpunch
. As the USA stalls out politically over the partisan arguments concerning the legitimacy of the 2016 election, Street is suggesting that reasonable folks rethink the usefulness of all this squabbling. And maybe get back to thinking about the incredibly serious problem of climate change.
So far so good. But the one "blasphemous" thought Street has that I cannot agree with is entitled "Think Capitalogenic, not Anthropogenic Climate Change." Street wants us to believe that the root cause of climate change is, ta da, Capitalism. Well, no. The cause of climate change is too many people burning too many fires. If anything, the "cause" of climate change CAN be ascribed to Industrialization BUT Capitalism and Industrialization are two VERY different things. The confusion between the two pretty well explains why even though socialism can talk a good talk when it comes to environmental problems, it has a dismal track record when it comes to performance.
For example, when I first became concerned about environmental problems, one of the more articulate spokesmen was this guy named Barry Commoner
. He had written a book called The Closing Circle.
One of his brilliant insights he called the Iron Law of Non-renewable Resources—every barrel of oil (etc.) discovered and extracted only makes the next barrel harder to find and more expensive to recover. Anyone who wants to know why fracking is so expensive need only refer back to this law. But for all his genius, Commoner stumbled because of his willingness to believe that Capitalism and Industrialization were the same thing. He was an avowed Marxist and believed that Socialism would yield far superior results when it came to environmental matters. When the Wall came down and "socialist" industrialization was revealed as the utter catastrophe it was, poor Commoner, for all his genius, was tossed on the ash heap of history. Which is unfortunate, because his Iron Law of Non-renewable Resources is still perfectly valid.
One thing the "left" should keep in mind is that the "capitalism" of stock markets, monetary policy and central banks, and the rest of the activities associated with the movements of money, did NOT cause industrialization in the first place and if the past 40 years are any guide, is the leading cause of de-industrialization. This is MOST unfortunate because for all the rapacious damage that Capitalism has inflicted on industrial activity, it staggers forward in its crippled state because industrialization fills real human needs.
Twelve Blasphemous Thoughts: Some Summer Sacrilegeby PAUL STREET, JUNE 13, 2017
Summer’s here and the time is right for sacrilege in the streets. Here are twelve blasphemous thoughts for the current Russo-phobic season, likely to be a real carbon- and (see below) capital-cooked scorcher.
Wouldn’t That Have Been Russia’s Job?
Forget for now the question of whether the Kremlin intervened to any significant degree against Hillary Clinton in “our great democratic process and elections” last year. I’ve been consistently skeptical about the claim, which continues to be made in the absence of any smoking gun. At the same time, I’ve always harbored the following question in the back of my mind: if the Russian did do what they are accused of, wouldn’t that have been the Russian foreign policy intelligence apparatus doing its very basic job of patriotic national self-defense? Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the broader Russo-phobic U.S.-imperial foreign policy establishment she represented seemed Hellbent on provoking a potentially deadly conflict with Russia over Ukraine, Crimea, and/or Syria. Hello?
What Democratic Process and Elections?
The Big Money-run United States is a damn near openly plutocratic oligarchy where the wealthy Few get what they want again and again regardless of majority working class sentiment. There’s a strong body of solid academic research demonstrating what Joe and Jane Six Pack already know about U.S. politics and policy: “money talks, bullshit walks.” You can’t have meaningful “democracy” in a nation where the top tenth of the upper 1 Percent owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.
Eighty-six years ago, the great American philosopher John Dewey observed that “politics is the shadow cast on society by big business.” Dewey rightly prophesized that U.S. politics would stay that way for as long as power resided in “business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents, and other means of publicity and propaganda.” Ten years later, the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis made the very basic and elementary observation that Americans “must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Why all this nonsensical talk about “American democracy”? It’s a childish fantasy.
Uncle Sam Interferes Abroad Like Crazy
Who on Earth is the United States to get enraged about Russia or anyone else’s real or possible interference in other nation’s political processes and elections? Uncle Sam has long and regularly undertaken such interference across the planet. It still does. Just for starters, ask the people of Latin America about U.S. political interference past and present. “We” interfered like crazy in Russian politics during the 1990s and certainly continue to conduct covert political operations there as in countless other sovereign nations. “We” have acted to topple and overthrow dozens of foreign governments since World War Two.
Why shouldn’t other nations try to impact U.S. politics by any means possible? Washington and Wall Street exercise powerful influence on life and politics in other nations whose people never have a say in U.S. policy. The United States’ outsized and deadly Superpower role (responsible for many millions of deaths around the world since 1945) means that other nations (Russia is certainly no exception) have a vested interest in the U.S. political process.
Hello Mike Pence?
But let’s ask another unpleasant question. If it were ever shown that the Orange-Tinted Beast treasonously colluded with Russia, do we really want Mike Pence in the White House? Impeachment and removal would put a vicious right-wing Christian white-nationalist zealot (Pence) in the Oval Office and probably speed the passage of the full right wing Republican agenda through Washington. That’s what the Constitution says. It lets Trump use Pence as a kind of deadly insurance policy against removal.
What’s so Great About the Holy Constitution?
This suggests another and truly sacrilegious question: what’s so damn great about the widely fetishized and damn-near deified U.S. Constitution? I won’t elaborate on this as I have recently published a Truthdig report on why we should hold a Constituent Assembly to go beyond that absurdly glorified and hideously anti-democratic charter, which was crafted with expressly classist intent and consequences by the early republic’s propertied masters near the end of the 18th century. Read that essay, titled “Impeach the Constitution,” here. Certainly, it’s absurd to think that a document crafted by wealthy slave-owners, opulent merchants, and other vast property-holders with the explicit purpose of keeping the “wicked” popular majority and its “secret sigh for a more equal distribution” of wealth (James Madison’s lovely phrase) at bay (see my essay if you think I’m lying) can function in meaningful service to popular self-rule in the 21st (or any other) century.
Questions Not Posed to Comey
Speaking of class rule, notice how none of James Comey’s examiners during the nationally televised hearings of the Senate Intelligence Committee last Thursday asked the former FBI Director any of the following questions suggested by Amy Goodman and Dennis Moynihan:
“How far-reaching is the FBI’s surveillance of journalists?…Why did the FBI label nonviolent water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota, possible domestic terrorists? What about the FBI’s similar infiltration of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter?…Regarding the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO suppression of dissent in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, how many of those targeted who are still incarcerated, such as American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, and the many imprisoned former Black Panthers, were imprisoned based on FBI misconduct?….Finally, where do you think we would be, as a country, if the FBI hadn’t targeted Martin Luther King Jr., with its unrelenting campaign of surveillance, intimidation and harassment, which very likely contributed to the climate of hate that led to his assassination?”Of course these queries were not posed. Russiagate is following in the footsteps of the Watergate hearings, which focused on Richard Nixon’s cover-up of an amateurish break-in of the headquarters of one of the nation’s leading capitalist parties but ignored the Nixon White House and FBI’s egregious violation of basic civil liberties in the domestic police state war on the New Left and the Black Freedom struggle. The small potatoes Watergate investigation also steered clear of Nixon’s arch-criminal invasion and bombing of Cambodia. See Noam Chomsky
Weapons of Mass Distraction: The Biggest Issue of Our or Any Time is Not a News Story
Here’s a scandalous observation: the news is a constant maddening distraction from the issues and problems that matter most, especially the deepening environmental crisis generated by the profits system. Nothing that Anderson Cooper and the rest of his Trump- and Comey- and Russia-obsessed panels have been jabbering about on CNN these days is remotely significant compared to the chilling (no irony originally intended) fact that atmospheric carbon parts per million (ppm) is now at a shocking 409.21, nearly full 10 points above just four years ago. We are now heading to 500 ppm by 2050. As Steven Newton wrote on Huffington Post almost one year ago:
“That’s only 35 years away. A child born today will barely have moved out of Mom’s basement (at least, judging by some millennials) by the time CO2 reaches 500 ppm. The hundred-point rise between 300 to 400 ppm took about a century; the rise between 400 to 500 ppm will take only about 35 years, and with accelerating rates, the rise to 600 ppm will happen even faster.”Newton left something out: that is not survivable for the species. As the Australian Earth and paleoclimate scientist, Andrew Gliskon explained seven years ago:
“The consequences of open ended rise in atmospheric CO2 are manifest in the geological record (Frontispiece). The world is in a lag period, when increasing atmospheric energy is expressed by intense hurricanes, increased pressure at mid-latitude high pressure zones and shift of climate zones toward the poles. With ensuing desertification of temperate zones, i.e. southern Europe , southern Australia , southern Africa , the desiccated forests become prey to firestorms….There is nowhere the 6.5 billion of contemporary humans can go, not even the barren planets into the study of which space agencies have been pouring more funding than governments allocate for environmental mitigation to date. At 460 ppm CO2-equivalent, the climate is tracking close to the upper stability limit of the Antarctic ice sheet, defined at approximately 500 ppm [5,7]. Once transcended, mitigation measures would hardly be able to re-form the cryosphere. According to Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Climate Impacts Institute and advisor to the German government: ‘We’re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet.’”
“Humans can not argue with the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere. What is needed are urgent measures including: Deep cuts in carbon emissions; Parallel Fast track transformation to non-polluting energy utilities – solar, solar-thermal, wind, tide, geothermal, hot rocks; Global reforestation and re-vegetation campaigns, including application of biochar. The alternative does not bear contemplation.”As the left philosopher John Sanbonmatsu told me years ago, global warming “is the biggest issue of our or any time.” (Though correspondent Richard Matthews recently reminded me to worry about “the 400 nuke power plants that will melt down as industrial civilization collapses if nuke war doesn’t come first.”).
Please note the deafening silence in the reigning media and politics culture on “the biggest issue of our or any time.” Of all the maddening and insane things about the malignant narcissist Donald Trump, the most dangerous of all and is his climate change-denialist promise to “deregulate energy” – a pledge that amounts to what Noam Chomsky considers a potential “death-knell for the species.”
The corporate media-politics system is deadening the citizenry to the most significant existential threats the species has ever faced. It’s insane.
BDS the USA?
Now that Trump has pulled the world’s top cumulative carbon contributor (USA, USA! being far in the historical lead) out of even the painfully modest and inadequate Paris Climate Accord, I am moved to ask another sacrilegious and not-entirely tongue-in-cheek question: Given U.S. leadership of geocidal climate destruction, the unparalleled and racist U.S. incarceration rate, the mass-murderous U.S. military Empire (which accounts for more than 40 percent of world military spending, eats up more than half of U.S. federal discretionary spending, maintains more than 1000 military installation across more than 100 “sovereign” nations, and has the largest carbon footprint of any institution on Earth), and the extreme inequality and plutocracy prevalent in the U.S….given all these and other problems (including rampant hedonistic idiocy and indifference), should we now issue a call to the international community for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) targeting the United States and its institutions engaged in the destruction of the common good?
Think Capitalogenic, not Anthropogenic Climate Change
Now for some sacrilege on our holy “free market” profits system. We should follow the lead of the brilliant Marxist environmental historian and sociologist Jason Moore and replace the term “anthropogenic global warming” with “capitalogenic global warming.” The currently popular scientific concept of “the Anthropocene” – an era in which Earth systems are now for the first time decisively influenced by human activity – has rich geological validity and holds welcome political relevance in countering the carbon-industrial complex’s denial of humanity’s responsibility for contemporary climate change. Still, we must guard against lapsing into the historically unspecific and class-blind uses of “anthros,” projecting the currently and historically recent age of capital onto the broad 100,000-year swath of human activity on and in nature. As Moore told the left interviewer Sasha Lilley two years ago, “It was not humanity as whole that created …large-scale industry and the massive textile factories of Manchester in the 19th century or Detroit in the last century or Shenzen today. It was capital.” Read those two sentences again and commit them to memory. It is only during a relatively small slice of human history – roughly the last half-millennium - give or take a century or so – that humanity has been socially and institutionally wired from the top down to wreck livable ecology. Moore and other left analysts argue with good reason that it is more appropriate to understand humanity’s Earth-altering assault on livable ecology as “Capitalocene.” After all, it is only during the relatively brief period of history when capitalism has existed and ruled the world system (since 1600 or thereabouts by some academic calculations, earlier and later by others) that human social organization has developed the capacity and inner accumulation- and commodification – and “productivity” – and growth-mad compulsion to transform Earth systems – with profitability and “productivity” dependent upon on the relentless appropriation of “cheap nature” (cheap food, cheap energy, cheap raw materials and cheap human labor power or cheap human nature). Moore maintains that human destruction of livable ecology is best explained by changes that capitalism’s addictive and interrelated pursuits of profit and empire imposed on humanity’s relationships with “the web of life” since “the long sixteenth century” starting in 1450.
One of the great and tragic consequences of contemporary class (capitalist) rule and mass consent manufacture is that most U.S. Americans can now more readily imagine the end of life itself than they can envision the end of the relatively recent and very specific historical phenomenon known as capitalism.
No More Children Until We Fix This
Now for some real blasphemy. I really cannot recommend anyone having children at this juncture. I know that’s a terrible thing to say but we are currently on track for 500 ppm, by 2050 (that’s 33 years away) and 500 ppm is the dissolution of the cryosphere. Antarctica is gone at that level. That’s game over. The “very life support of the system of this planet” is now in epic crisis and the most powerful nation on earth and in history (the U.S.) is also the leading cumulative carbon emission contributor by far and is ruled by a soulless, socio-pathological capitalist class that is shockingly ready to lead the world over the cliff. Talk about “The End of History.” Fukuyama may have been right but not in quite the way he thought. The only thing that can save chances for a decent future worthy of new life is a massive popular upheaval leading to a full conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy along with giant programs of global re-forestation and re-vegetation.
I see young adults with 1-2-year old babies and toddlers in strollers and car seats and I have three blasphemous thoughts these days: (1) are they aware that those strollers and car seats (posture nightmares) are destroying the structure and development of their child’s backs and necks? (2) did they look at the Earth science before they brought new life into this world? (3) They’d better figure out how to focus their lives on bringing about an eco-socialist revolution if they want their kids to have any shot at a decent life.
Bernie is Who We Said He Was
Let me re-state some especially irritating sacrilege to my “progressive” friends: we “perfectionist” radicals told you so and not just about Obama, but also about Bernie F-35 Sanders. It’s considered rude to gloat about having gotten things right while others didn’t. But I don’t really mean to gloat. I wish instead to instead to suggest that the progressive and liberal left (think The Nation, AlterNet, In These Times and the like) might want to pay more attention to its more serious “hard radical” voices (think Black Agenda Report, Counterpunch, John Pilger) when we issue serious and deeply considered warnings about Democratic Party politicos posing as populist champions of peace, equality, and the common good. I won’t belabor the point about Obama, who Dr. Adolph Reed, Jr. all too easily and accurately identified as a “vacuous to repressive neoliberal” as early as January of 1996. That’s old news though now with the added proof of the Dollar Obomber’s great and highly distasteful post-presidential cash-in (since nothing says “show me the money” like POTUS on your resume).
With Bernie of late, we have gotten yet more evidence that he is in fact the imperialist and sheep-dogging fake-socialist Democratic Party company man that some of us the “hard radical” Left said he was. “Bomber Bernie” (as he was quite properly nicknamed by Vermont peace activists when he jumped on board Bill Clinton’s criminal attack on Serbia in 1999) let his imperialist colors fly regarding Donald Trump’s ridiculous, dog-wagging missile-launch into Syria this last spring. Behold this reflection from Young Turk Michael Tracy last April 11th:
“Sanders’ initial statement on the strikes contained nothing that could be reasonably construed as a declaration of opposition…misleadingly, the statement was then excerpted into individual tweets, which falsely gave the impression that Sanders opposed the strikes, when all he had done was signal his “deep concern” as to the potential ramifications of the strikes. That’s a crucial distinction….’Raising concerns’ is not tantamount to an expression of clear, articulable opposition. One can support the Syria strikes, and yet be ‘concerned’ about the second-order effect of them, and the escalated conflict that might result. (See Schumer, Chuck, who rushed to endorse Trump’s attack within hours, only to then follow-up later with expressions of “worry” as to the long-term consequences).”How’s was that for Left Resistance, Bernie-style? That’s war socialism for you, as in Kautsky, Karl (who was, however, actually a Marxist and socialist, unlike the New Deal liberal Sanders). One is not a “perfectionist” just because they can’t get behind a politician who claims to a social democrat – even a democratic socialist – but who can’t seem to grasp the elementary moral and practical (fiscal and programmatic) contradiction between (a) calling for progressive policy and (b) backing the giant Pentagon System and the historically unmatched global empire it equips and staffs. If one is a left “perfectionist” because they expect post-Vietnam era progressives to honor the basic anti-imperial wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s April 4th 1967 “A Time to Break the Silence” speech, then I plead guilty.
“Similarly, Sanders expressed ‘concern’ about the potential consequences of Trump’s attack, but not opposition to the act itself. Unlike Schatz, Paul, and Gabbard, he has not rejected on principle the utility of American military force in this circumstance. He merely wants Trump to ‘explain to the American people’ what is to be achieved by the strikes, and to put forward a plan for a ‘political solution.’ Neither of these demands constitutes first-order opposition to the strikes: They are second-order worries. Even Sanders’ procedural complaints don’t signify opposition — unlike [even] Kaine, he doesn’t declare the strikes ‘unlawful,’ he merely says that ‘Congress has a responsibility to weigh in,’ which virtually no one in that body would disagree with.”
“Then, on Meet the Press this past Sunday, Sanders went further: ‘We eventually have got to get rid of Assad,’ he told Chuck Todd, thereby endorsing the underlying logic of regime change. His only apparent recommendation is that this particular regime change be effectuated multi-laterally, i.e, the US should enlist some Middle Eastern autocrats to help out.” (emphasis added).
It’s true that Bernie recently gave a rousing Chicago speech in which he properly bellowed that “Trump didn’t win the election, the [neoliberal Clinton-Obama – P.S.] Democratic Party lost the election” and that “the current model and the current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure.” Sanders’ criticism of the Democratic party as out-of-touch and elitist resonated with activists at the People’s Summit. Audience members roared their approval when Sanders said that “the Democratic Party needs fundamental change [and to] understand what side it is on. And that cannot be the side of Wall Street, or the fossil fuel industry, or the drug companies.”
I won’t bother to criticize the notion that significant revolutionary change will or even can take place within and through the Democratic Party (it can’t and won’t). That’s an ancient, never-ending progressive fantasy. The main things that struck me were (a) that Sanders’ oration indicated no movement left (Dr. King-ward) on U.S. foreign policy (imperialism) and (b) that he repeated the establishment claim that Vladimir Putin has been trying to “destabilize democracy” (listen the speech hyperlinked above from 38:45 to 39:10) in the U.S. What democracy, Bernie?
(There was also this strange and repellent line in Sanders speech: “Even a very conservative Republican president like George W. Bush understood that one of the important functions of a leader in a democratic society is to bring people together, not separate them.” That statement, which must be some kind of reference to Dubya rallying the nation [in nationalistic hatred] after the 9/11 jetliner attacks [the hatred was then exploited for the arch-criminal U.S. invasion of Iraq], is so stupid and reactionary it almost defies belief.)
Something Rotten in the State of Independent Left Media
My final blasphemy: there’s something wrong with what passes for independent “left” media in the U.S. today. In an interview concerning David J. Garrow’s recent epic biography of Barack Obama on Dr. Jared Ball’s show imixwhatilike last week, I told the host the story of my last-minute cancellation at Democracy Now! (DN) in December of 2008. I had been scheduled to discuss my all-too sadly predictive book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Paradigm, June 2008). I was in New York, flown out there with assistance from my publisher to try to warn folks about the fake-progressive and arch-corporatist, Goldman Sachs-staffed, and imperialist Obama presidency to come. The then the call came to my cell phone on the morning of my scheduled interview as I walked out of midtown Manhattan’s Port Authority and started heading down to DN’s headquarters. The spot was off, cancelled. I had trekked out to the Big Apple for…nothing. Amy and Juan had other matters to which to attend. There was no hint of rescheduling or revisiting prior to the Inauguration. A very basic calculation took hold: nice middle-class DN viewers and contributors would have been put off by my all-too subsequently validated evidence- and history-based projections on the Obamanistic betrayals to come.
Ball then related how having “perfectionist” me on to speak candidly and seriously about the limits of candidate Sanders from a left perspective was a factor in his recent dismissal from another leading left media outlet.
DN’s Goodman has given some credence to the dismal dollar-drenched Dems’ cynical and distracting Russiagate narrative. So now has The Intercept, founded by the E-Bay and Pay Pal billionaire Pierre Omidyar, who pays the journal’s top and brilliant civil-libertarian writer Glenn Greenwald between $250K and $1 million per year. To his credit, the Rolling Stone’s also brilliant and left-liberal, Trump presidency-predicting writer Matt Taibbi ran away from Omidyar’s “independent journalism” scheme after a brief fling three years ago. But now comes depressing news from the left Canadian writer Joe Emersberger:
“In an op-ed for Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi called Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ‘the infamous left-wing dictator of Venezuela.’ To back up his case, Taibbi cited Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly and a leading opposition figure and Henrique Capriles, the opposition governor of the state of Miranda. Didn’t Taibbi notice a huge contradiction in his piece right there? How does the opposition win major elections in a dictatorship?…It gets worse. Julio Borges, as Taibbi also alludes to in his piece, has been using his position as head to the National Assembly to try to get economic sanctions implemented against Maduro’s government. Borges’ predecessor as president of the National Assembly, another opposition leader (Henry Ramos), boasted about having a lot of success scaring away investors – again by using his position as head of the National Assembly which the opposition won control over in December of 2015.”Good grief. I like Matt Taibbi and have learned a lot about Goldman Sachs and Wall Street’s perversion of America from him, but now even he has lined up with the vicious U.S.-sponsored right-wing assault on Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.
Is nothing sacred? more