Links of the Month: May 2022
Despite my aspirations to be more equanimous, and to accept that my role is simply to witness and chronicle the collapse of our global industrial growth culture and the sixth great extinction, I am quite terrified these days by how quickly misinformation and disinformation — especially when it plays into what people really want to believe — can spread and lead to levels of distrust, dangerous actions (and inaction), and violence that are utterly incompatible with maintaining a civil society.
Dmitry Orlov in his five-stage collapse model worried about limiting collapse to financial, economic and political collapse, which are at least survivable, and avoiding social collapse. I’m worried, now, that social collapse might actually come first, or at least hand-in-hand with looming global economic collapse and the accelerating global slide into fascism.
I hadn’t expected things to come apart quite this fast, or in quite this way.
No hope of stopping climate collapse: Indrajit Samarajiva reviews the latest evidence and reaches the obvious conclusion : “The hard truth is that the climate has already collapsed, and there’s no going back.” And he talks about how we might manage the grief that comes with this realization. And in a related article, he describes how his country, Sri Lanka, is coping with collapse now, giving us a preview of what we’re all going to have to face in the coming decades. That includes rationing, folks. Not sure how the anti-all-government ‘freedom’ fanatics are going to handle that.
Open letter from Roger Hallam to XR: The “R” in XR was supposed to stand for Rebellion. And “this is a war“. Thanks to Jerry McManus for the link, and the one that follows.
“The road ahead is a dead end”: Another synopsis of our current state, and how we got here.
End of the story of progress: Rhyd Wildermuth explains how current events have shattered “the fantasy of historical progress, urban civic religion, and the Pax Capitalis — the faith that universal capitalism could unify all people in peace”, and that defenders of these myths, and those who desperately want to believe in them, are furious about it.
Actions speak louder than words: And as we continue to posture and proclaim our concern, governments’ approval of more non-renewable energy projects, more military spending, and utter inaction on collapse, tells us what they really believe. Even when that entails knowingly destroying ocean life to foster commercial fish farms.
Big Oil steps up: Encouraged by high oil prices and urging from Biden and other western leaders to increase production to reduce dependence on Russian sources, Big Oil has put forward proposals for new projects that will produce a total of 192B barrels of new oil, of which construction commitments and financing is already in place for 116B barrels. These projects alone will emit 646B tons of CO2, which is 125% of the entire globe’s remaining budget for emissions to have a 50% chance of staying below 1.5ºC of warming.
Love letter to all draft dodgers: Caitlin Johnstone understands.
No pronouns for me, thanks: “You didn’t consider how this ideology is erasing women and removing their spaces.” Thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link, and the one that follows.
Janelle Orsi wants to reform “lawyering”: It’s a worthy goal, but probably an impossible one. The whole “legal system” IMO needs to be replaced, not reformed, by what might be called a “conciliation system”, whose function, and functioning, would be utterly different from the current legal system, which exists solely to exercise, sustain and enforce power, not to achieve reconciliation or remediation.
Addressing antibiotic resistance: Sabine Hossenfelder explains the enormous dangers we face if we don’t find better ways of dealing with bacterial infections than soaking everything in antibiotics, and suggests some different approaches.
I dream a world: Joan Szymko’s deeply-moving choral music set to the famous Langston Hughes poem.
A tool for thinking differently: My friend Dave Snowden recommends the use of aporia (irresolvable internal contradictions or tensions) as a means of shocking the brain into thinking about something differently. So an example of a linguistic aporia might be coming up with a neologism like exaptation, a foreign word like weltschmerz, or a metaphor. An example of an aesthetic aporia might be a drawing, cartoon, photo, or other work of art, improvisation or storytelling. An example of a physical aporia might be exhausting exercise, meditation, ritual, fasting, or immersion in water — any means of “creating a space of difference” to allow something out of the ordinary to emerge.
A not-for-profit world: Jennifer Hinton’s podcast and book explaining how an economic system based entirely on not-for-profit enterprises might work. Thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the links.
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL
Maybe it’s not quite that bad: Tom Lewis suggests several seemingly-awful political developments are not as bad as they might appear, and that if we have to be afraid, we should be afraid of climate collapse instead. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.
Striving for Peace: I wrote a lot about Ukraine in a recent post, so this time around I just want to focus on how we might work towards, and achieve, peace, there and in other war zones:
- Craig Murray, who has extensive experience as a peace broker, suggests a nine-point peace plan for Ukraine
- John Quigley, who was involved in negotiations in Donbas and Crimea, suggests a similar peace plan
- Caitlin Johnstone explains how after running as a peace candidate, Ukraine’s president was forced to take sides in the ongoing civil war in Donbas and how that decisions now ties his hands in peace negotiations
Corpocracy, Imperialism & Fascism: Short takes (thanks to John Whiting for several of these links):
- Yanis Varoufakis suggests that while Russian oligarchs are a despotic lot, American, Saudi and other nations’ oligarchs are no better.
- And Yanis also explains how the social media oligarchs have become “cloudalists who are turning conventional capitalists into a new vassal class that must pay tribute to them for the chance to sell to us”.
- Benjamin Norton interviews a Pakistani affairs expert who asserts the US was heavily involved in the recent coup overthrowing Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan, due to his friendliness with Russia and China. (What, you didn’t know about that?)
- Thom Hartmann describes the war on democracy, on Disney, on minorities and on women being waged by the neofascist administrations in Florida and Texas. Truthout also reports on Florida’s statewide ban on ranked-choice voting.
- The increasingly arch-conservative New Yorker describes the ghastly conditions in the collapsed state of Venezuela, conspicuously not referring once to the US siege that has caused them.
- The brutal oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli apartheid state is growing. Yesterday, Israeli cops attacked and brutalized mourners at the funeral procession of an Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot to death by Israeli soldiers a few days ago.
- The New Yorker reports that the US Supreme Court’s overturning of the right of women to sovereignty over their own bodies may be just the start of further racist, sexist and fascist rulings from the court’s extremist majority, and points out the massive legal flaws in their reasoning in the decision. The Atlantic’s Jessica Bruder summarizes the actions women will have to take now that Roe has been overturned.
- In signs of growing dissatisfaction over dependence on the US dollar and unhappiness over US embargoes against the people of Venezuela and Cuba, Brasil’s leading presidential candidate Lula da Silva wants to create a Latin American currency, and México’s President AMLO called for an end to the embargoes and sanctions against Cuba.
- Craig Murray recaps the decades-long corporate prosecution of environmental journalist and lawyer Steven Donziger by Texaco-Chevron, a terrifying example of what they can do to you if you dare to take on Big Oil.
- After Musk’s takeover of Twitter, Elizabeth Warren argues again for a wealth tax and greater regulation of social media.
- NPR reports that the Trump-appointed woman judge who struck down the US travel mask mandate was rejected as unqualified for the court by the ABA.
- Chris Hedges explains how the incompetence, hypocrisy, and gutlessness of Biden and his Democratic Party predecessors has enabled the rise of neofascism in the US and disgust with the party among left-of-centre voters.
Propaganda, Censorship, Misinformation and Disinformation: Short takes:
- Google has banned and deleted content of those it identifies as spreading pro-Russian disinformation, including any suggestion of Ukrainian wrongdoing in the war. It has blocked ‘monetization’ of others.
- John Green’s young adult books have been banned and removed from many US red state schools and libraries. If there is an obscenity here, it is the book banning, not the material in his books. Truthout’s Graham Slater explains what underlies the massive book-banning in neofascist states.
- PayPal, started by right-wing US oligarch Peter Thiel and later owned by eBay, which has long used its power against those who PayPal’s board has political disagreements with (starting with WikiLeaks), has banned Consortium News and other alternative news organizations, and threatened to seize their balances.
- The US DHS has created a “Disinformation Governance Board” (what Orwell called a “Ministry of Truth”). to be run by an ex-CIA operative who was charged with working to promote regime change in Russia and Belarus. The bone-headed White House press secretary Jen Psaki insinuated that anyone opposing the establishment of this ‘Board’ might be an enemy of the state.
- Trevor Noah, who I once respected, shamefully pandered to the mainstream press and the government at the annual correspondents’ dinner, saying, I kid you not: “In America, you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth even if it makes people in power uncomfortable, even if it makes your viewers or your readers uncomfortable. You understand how amazing that is?” Such a disgraceful statement in the face of the ongoing imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange, the imprisonment of Daniel Hale, and the exile of Edward Snowden, who actually did dare “speak the truth”.
And the poisoned street drug death toll keeps rising: As governments of all stripes dither, backslide and stall, the monthly death toll from poisoned street drugs has now surpassed, in many places, the monthly CoVid-19 death toll. There is a simple answer — legalization, testing, dispensing and regulation of currently illegal drugs, and treatment of users as ill patients, not as criminals. But the “war on drugs” moralizers will have none of it.
CoVid-19 Becomes the Pandemic (mostly) of the Unvaccinated: Short takes:
- What more is there to say about this horrific pandemic and how it’s been managed? If you’re not still wearing a proper medical mask whenever you’re indoors or in a crowded place for an extended period, you’re being reckless. If you’re not vaccinated and boosted, you’re being reckless. You should no sooner be going around unmasked and unvaccinated than you should be driving a car without wearing a seat belt. But the governments have all abrogated their responsibility for dealing with this ongoing emergency, and in many cases are no longer even reporting the data, or are doing so in an inconsistent, imprecise, untimely and unreliable way. It’s up to us, now, folks, exactly as the conspiracy theorists wanted all along.
- New data reported in JAMA suggests that without vaccines, death tolls would have been roughly three times what they have actually been.
- Ready for the next one? Influenza virus H5N1 has already caused 35 million deaths in North America this year alone. Of course, they’re deaths of poultry in factory farms, where because of its >50% fatality rate, a single infection requires killing (by gas chamber suffocation) of the entire farm’s poultry (average factory farm size affected: 20,000 birds). There have been a slowly-increasing number of reports of H5N1 and similarly-dangerous H7N9 viruses crossing the species barrier to humans since 2000, but they’re still rare. We shouldn’t worry just because a new strain might cross the species barrier easily, should we? After all, the virus only has 33 billion unhealthy chickens on crowded antibiotic-soaked factory farms to serve as a soup to develop new variants in. If there were a risk, we’d know, right?
FUN AND INSPIRATION
You don’t have to be you all the time: Lovely reflection by Indrajit Samarajiva on how our identities are varied, and emerge from our relationships. We only exist through our relationships, and we are never alone.
Occupy Sri Lanka: Indi also describes the almost surreal, circus-like atmosphere of the public display of anger against the government where he lives in Sri Lanka. It seems eerily similar to what Occupy Wall Street was like, in those crazy, disorganized, early days.
The unexpected mass murderer: Veritasium explains how three inventions by one well-meaning scientist caused millions of deaths.
In which Paul Kingsnorth confesses to having converted to: Orthodox Christianity.
Blind side: Euan Semple explains how we assume we all see the world the same way, but we don’t. Not even close.
Funny (fake) headlines of the month:
- “Florida judge rules that airlines cannot require passengers to have tickets” (Andy Borowitz)
- “Kids play house by having their imaginary friend price them out of the market” (Beaverton)
- “Businesses experiencing ‘just average’ call volume for the first time since 2020” (Beaverton)
THOUGHTS OF THE MONTH
If you didn’t already know the world was fucked: First the US Democrats removed (‘de-coupled’) all the funding for CoVid-19 projects from a bill that would also provide $33B of additional munitions for Ukraine, because the first was ‘controversial’ (ie wouldn’t pass filibuster) while the second was ‘bipartisan’. Then the House inexplicably increased the war funding to $40B. And then the bill passed, with all Democrats (including the entire so-called ‘Squad’ of ‘leftists’) voting for it, and the Republicans split. Questioning in the Senate came only from Republican Ron Paul, not from Bernie Sanders. And then today there was a tweet from Marjorie Taylor Greene (fresh off accusing ‘leftists’ of torching food processing plants to create a global food shortage), who voted against the appropriation, to AOC, who voted for it:
@AOC, what’s the carbon footprint of the proxy war with Russia you voted to fund?
From Joanna Klink:
Some feel rain. Some feel the beetle startle
in its ghost-part when the bark
slips. Some feel musk. Asleep against
each other in the whiskey dark, scarcely there.
When it falls apart, some feel the moondark air
drop its motes to the patch-thick slopes of
snow. Tiny blinkings of ice from the oak,
a boot-beat that comes and goes, the line of prayer
you can follow from the dusking wind to the snowy owl
it carries. Some feel sunlight
well up in blood-vessels below the skin
and wish there had been less to lose.
Knowing how it could have been, pale maples
drowsing like a second sleep above our temperaments.
Do I imagine there is any place so safe it can’t be
snapped? Some feel the rivers shift,
blue veins through soil, as if the smokestacks were a long
dream of exhalation. The lynx lets its paws
skim the ground in snow and showers.
The wildflowers scatter in warm tints until
the second they are plucked. You can wait
to scrape the ankle-burrs, you can wait until Mercury
the early star underdraws the night and its blackest
districts. And wonder. Why others feel
through coal-thick night that deeply colored garnet
star. Why sparring and pins are all you have.
Why the earth cannot make its way towards you.
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