In hours, the UK will hold a binding national referendum on leaving the European Union. At this writing, the polls are too close to call.
If you listen to the mainstream media the voices are nearly united in favor of leaving the EU intact. You will hear endless commentary on how leaving the EU will be bad for the UK’s economy. You will hear that the move represents xenophobia at its worst, how far right sentiments are driving the referendum’s popularity, and how UK ex-pats will suffer. Even the progressive and thoughtful UK newspaper the Guardian says the UK cannot take on issues like Globalization and Climate Disruption from outside the EU.
I want the UK to leave.
Many of the arguments for remaining in the Union that are being advanced are likely valid. Economically, Brexit will induce uncertainty and both currencies and markets will drop. A separate UK will likely do less for immigrants than it would inside the Union. Ex-patriots may have a tougher time and cross-border traffic will be harder.
But even though the tendencies of the European Union are towards tolerance and inclusion, what the big government has really done at the European level is made the continent safe for multinational corporations to do their most foul work.
The EU “provides the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax-dodging elites and organized crime,” writes British journalist Paul Mason.
What I really want is for a host of these independence-seeking regions to break free from their larger political entities. Alaska and Texas out of the US. Quebec from Canada. Basques from Spain. Tibet from China. Palestine from Israel. Kurdistan from Iraq. Oh and Northern Ireland from the UK.
I spent a summer some years back fighting reactors in Slovenia, a tiny country that is part of former Yugoslavia. We saw the president mowing his own lawn. We saw a high standard of living and low crime. The national population is 2 million and functioned fine without a standing army. Not every region will find the advantages Slovenia was able to capture when it broke from Yugoslavia. But the worst offenses of the current times are at the hands of the giant players who love big government, big business, big institutions. These corporations and politicians love it because typically it gives them more power, often with less oversight.
We have tried big, it did not work so well. Perhaps Brexit will lead us to more small.
Against all odds, Bernie Sanders still has a chance to become president. Why do i say “against all odds”? Well, it starts with the media.
Way back in December, the Sanders staff did an analysis of the mainstream media (MSM) and found that ABC’s World News Tonight had spent 81 minutes on Trump and 20 seconds on Sanders. Other MSM outlets were similarly uninterested in the popular Jewish socialist running for the country’s top office. Even the NY Times can’t bring itself to report on this anti-establishment candidate, while it rails endlessly on the establishment ills.
Conventional wisdom would claim that Trump is saying more outrageous and newsworthy things. I would be hard pressed to disagree on the outrageous part. But someone advocating for free college tuition and expansion of the ever controversial Obamacare program to cover all US Americans with free health care is saying some pretty newsworthy stuff. Despite Sanders being remarkable, the MSM is still owned and controlled by a class which finds his radical views unacceptable.
As a political candidate for president in the US you need to have exposure. What i found canvassing for Sanders in Virginia was lots of people had not heard of him. So if you can’t get the MSM to cover you, then you need to pay for ads, but these are crazy expensive. Here is where Sanders is again running against all odds.
Sanders raised $140 million from individual contributions through the end of February. Clinton raised $160 from people over the same period. But add to this $60 million in Super PAC money for Clinton and you can see how things are harder for Sanders.
Sanders does not take money from Super PACs. [For a reality check Republicans have raised almost twice as much money as Democrats and over half for the GOP money is from Super PACs, contrasted to 15% for Democrats.]
The thing about long shots is you need to know when to double down and when to walk away. I don’t generally give money to politicians. Despite voting, i am still an anarchist and find most of the personality politics repugnant. I am giving Sanders $27, which is the average amount he has received and feels like a good number to me.
The reason you double down on the right long shot is not because you are going to win, but it is to be part of the springboard of hope. Sanders has amazing momentum. Consider helping the campaign in non-monetary ways if you can, especially if you have friends in NY or California.
After the recent set of landslide victories in Washington, Hawaii and Alaska (which were largely ignored by the MSM), it is time to double down. The odds are still against us, but the odds are always going to be against us. I am sending my $27. I hope you will too.
Generally, I am not excited about personality politics, it rubs my anarchist roots the wrong way. But I have to confess that Bernie is different. Besides having a long history of doing the right thing, he is running on a platform that is basically about re-orienting American priorities to take care of the majority of the people in the country, and especially those who are disadvantaged.
Hillary’s platform says she will do a similar thing, as do many conventional politicians. The differences is Bernie has decades of elected experience doing and trying to do exactly this.
The thing which tilted it for me, the thing which got me out of my chair and had me spend a couple of days campaigning for Sanders leading into the Virginia primary, was his position on nuclear power. It is simply a reasonable position, cutting government subsidies for nuclear development and liability insurance.
It does not take much to satisfy me on this issue. Sadly, not a single major political candidate for president has had this position in my lifetime, not Carter, not Clinton (either one) not Obama. Certainly not any of the Republican candidates for president.
Sanders on Vermont Yankee and more nuclear issues
And it is worth pointing out that this simple, reasonable position would mean the rapid phase out of nuclear power in the US and the complete abandonment of new nuclear development. Without serious subsidy and open ended liability insurance covered by tax payers, nuclear power is economically nonviable.
So after I took some Acorners to a construction job I went to the Sanders campaign office in Charlottesville on the day before the Virginia primary. I said I was at their disposal for the rest of the day and election day. When I said I would make phone calls or go door to door, they told me the face to face personal touch was more important. When I told them I lived in Louisa County, they asked me if I could go back home, because due to some delegate math that I did not quite understand, Louisa County was more important than Charlottesville County. I happily returned to Louisa.
I was given 13 regions inside Louisa County to canvas. I was told that we were only looking to talk with people who were already leaning strongly towards Bernie. This is a real “Get out the Vote” effort (called GPTV by the folks who live this stuff.) “Don’t talk with Hillary supporters, and quickly disengage from Trump fans, despite the temptation to argue with them,” I was told by the Sanders campaign staff.
Our conversations with prospective voters were to be mostly about logistics. “What time were you planning on voting?” “Do you need a ride?” “Did you know your polling place is the Moss Nuckalos Elementary School?” “You know the polls are open until 7pm?”
I wanted to spend some time doing it myself before I went back to the communes and got other people involved. Partially this was because I wanted to know if it made sense to send teams of two people. It did.
We were not hitting every house on the block. This is the age of big data and there is all kinds of information about people out there. When I talked with the folks at the Sanders office about where the data about the houses I was visiting came from I was impressed by the answer. “We have address data on everyone who has given Sanders money, we know who is registered to vote as a democrat and most of the addresses in your packets come from modeling.” Computer models are forecasting who you will vote for. They were right a surprising fraction of the time.
Because there is distance between houses and all manner of circuitous driveways, I decided that I would try to assemble two person teams to hit each canvassing areas (which typically had 25 to 30 houses in it.) One person would drive, the other person would talk to people or leave fliers if no one was home. Both would try to navigate, which despite the well designed turfs was often the most complex part of the job.
Shal and I partnered. He was happy to drive me and preferred not to be talking to lots of strangers. And he, like a half dozen other communards, was excited at the prospect of doing something for this election. Even on just a day’s notice, mobilizing folks was surprisingly easy, and I wish I had started a week earlier.
The eight canvassers covered about half the territories we were given, which was the only effort in the county. I had some interesting and insightful conversations with people. At least one couple said they were going to the polls because of my visit. Several people were secretive about their plans for voting. The nuclear power plant technician said he was unable to vote because of the planned shut down of the reactor which would have him busy all day. I suppressed my happiness with his apathy and encouraged him to pay attention to the safety of the North Anna reactor complex.
Despite the instructions to stick with logistics conversations, some folks wanted to talk about politics. Fortunately, Sanders’ views are more populist than mine. I talked with a family of vets, where Sanders’ record is strong. I spoke with folks who were worried about jobs and minimum wage, here again Sanders’ positions are popular and his record stronger than Clinton’s.
If the Sanders campaign is going to succeed, it is going to have to learn from the Trump campaign and break through the media’s disinterest in Bernie’s radical agenda. Theoretically, this should not be hard. The Sanders campaign is full of cultural creatives who should be able to come up with the progressive equivalent of ‘Mexicans are rapists,’ ‘Let’s ban all Muslims, and ‘End birthright citizenship.’
Belladonna, who occasionally writes for this blog and equally often hacks in for some of the wilder posts, has done her part. Below is her clever video parody of Lorde’s haunting tune ‘Royals,’ slamming the former secretary of state. Please share widely.
We did not win in Virginia, not even close (though Kristen points out we did win the Yanceyville precinct, which is where we campaigned). But this game is hardly over. Almost regardless of your issue, if you are a progressive or radical, it might be two decades before you get a better presidential candidate with a better record (okay, he is off on drones and Israel) and a better chance of winning.
People occasionally send me things they would like me to blog about. Edmund sent me some fascinating articles about the Kurdish feminist fighters in Turkey and Iraq, who have pushed back all manner of foes including ISIL. I’ve yet to do the research on this complex story to present it well.
GPaul recently dropped two articles on me which he thought were worthy of note and, while I agree with him, it might be for different reasons.
The first is about a new IMF study, which shows fossil fuel industry “subsidies” exceed $5 trillion per year. For comparison purposes, this is about 1/4 of the entire national product of the US. It is also slightly more than all the countries of the world spend together on health care.
The conventional radical thinking here would be: End the fossil subsidies and the market will take us to a renewable future.
But this is hardly new news. There have been all manner of studies of direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies, including by the IMF which released a report with similar findings in May of this year. What is news, is who did it and how they did it.
The IMF, usually with its partner the World Bank, has been involved for decades in making global infrastructure investments. This generally means support of the fossil fuel industry (fortunately not nuclear reactors). What this report represents is a departure from the IMF’s traditional lending scheme. It is, in essence, an admission of a mistake.
IMF: “We used to fund fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Now we recognize that direct and indirect subsidies to this sector are creating tremendous climate damage.
The other thing which is interesting about the IMF study is that it includes health effects of the fossil fuel industry as part of its estimated costs. On one level, this is hardly surprising. Good economists and analysts attempt to be robust in their cost accounting. And this includes “externalities”.
In economics, an externality is the cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit. – Wikipedia
If your next door neighbor plays just your type of music, that is a positive externality. If your up river neighbor pours poison into the river, when you drink it, you will die. This is a negative externality.
Industrial capitalism is all about manipulating the externalities. Your coal mine is dirty? Move it to a place with no environmental controls. Your sweatshop is killing workers? Be sure to locate it in a country which won’t make you liable for that problem. What capitalism thrives on is the notion at negative externalities can be ignored. “We don’t have to pay for these problems we create, therefore we can give greater value to our shareholders.”
The IMF is saying, “When we are looking at the economic effects of fossil fuels we need to consider the externalities, including human health.” This is a rare assault on the very foundations of capitalism. This is an economic model the IMF is sworn to protect and advance.
The second article is about Uruguay going 100% renewable. This is lovely, we want lots of places to do this. But Uruguay is not the first country to propose such a shift. Iceland did it in 1998. Albania and Paraguay are doing it using their ample hydropower resources. What make this story exciting is how the Uruguayans did it. They did it much the same way the Germans did.
You do it by looking at green energy generation as an economic problem rather than a technical problem. The hardware is out there and key to getting it installed is protecting investors. Like Germany did with its Energiewende policy. Germany protected investors in renewables by making sure they did not lose out when electricity prices fluctuated. Uruguay followed suit and the world got better.
“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,” Uruguay’s Méndez says. “The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”
The results? Uruguay has cut its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs. Renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s current electricity and inflation adjusted electricity prices for it are lower than in the ten years ago.
The US could do this as well, if the fossil and nuclear bound utilities did not control the state legislatures.
In a clearly anti-democratic move, the President of France has shut down public assembly during the present climate negotiations, because of the recent attacks on Paris. In response some protesters have shown up as shoes.
But squelching public assembly is not going to stop some of the world’s best critical minds, assembled in Paris for these climate negotiations, from getting the word out.
One of my favorite comrades, David Solnit, is working for 350.org on the protests of COP 21. This UN conference will have 40K delegates including 140 heads of state and will be the largest conference France has ever hosted.
Does Paris event matter? CNN says “the fate of the world as we know it could be at stake.” There are two big questions:
- Can the parties reach a legally binding agreement?
- Will there be climate assistance to poor countries?
The chances for success in finding a binding agreement are quite low. Obama’s deal making is crippled by an uncooperative Congress. Europe is an economic crisis and unwilling to foot the bill for the transitions needed (with the exception of a few countries like Denmark and Germany.) Even with the world’s largest renewables portfolio, China is the biggest energy consumer and carbon emitter. And even if a deal were possible, the strongest proposal on the table is still too weak to avert a 2 degree increase in temperature, which climate scientists say we need to avert to avoid catastrophic ecological effects.
In terms of climate protection assistance to poor countries, what is important to realize is that the world has changed dramatically in the last decade. China had 9 of the 10 worst polluted cities in the world in 2005. Now India has most of them, with air pollution killing 1.3 million people a year. Will some nations or investors step forward and help the planet by harvesting this low hanging fruit of technological transfer, where small investments can have significant emissions reductions?
Update: An uncharacteristically useful first draft has come out early, with key questions about which parts (or all) of the document should be legally binding and both aid and expectations of developing countries.
There have been terrible terrorist attacks against the city of Paris and everyone knows about it. The mainstream media (MSM) is jumping on tragedy the way they are fantastically capable of and everyone in the US who is even near a television knows all about it. Almost.
We know about it in the context of a corporate controlled media. We know all about how innocent the victims were. We know that French President Hollande is promising a “pitiless” war in response to the attacks. And we know because the attackers are terrorists and the victims are innocent and the French President is promising a vicious response, that starting this French war against ISIS is justified. Except we are wrong.
France is not starting a war with ISIL because of these recent attacks on Paris. France has been at war with ISIL for over a year, bombing them in Iraq for that entire time and, two months ago, it started also bombing suspected ISIL sites inside of Syria. Except it has not really been a war because, having learned from the US, the French were perfectly happy killing members of ISIL and countless surrounding Syrian and Iraqi civilians using airstrikes without ever being exposed to a hostile response from ISIL. Here is the sentence you will never see in the MSM reporting of the Paris attacks:
By attacking Paris, ISIL is retaliating against French attacks on Arab civilians and ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria.
But this background information is critically important if you are trying to understand what is actually happening with these attacks. It gets worse.
Recently declassified US Intelligence documents indicate that the US and western allies, including France were hoping and supporting extremist Islamic resistance to the Assad regime as recently as 3 years ago. This western supported resistance became ISIS.
We have seen this before in the US around the 9/11 attacks. If you ask most US Americans if the 9/11 attacks on the US were unprovoked, they will assure you they were. If you asked them why bin Laden organized these attacks, you will get muddled answers, including gems like, “They hate our freedom”. Before 9/11 bin Laden had outlined the reasons why he was retaliating against the US:
- US military presence in Saudi Arabia (despite significant protests)
- US sanctions in Iraq that killed 600K children
- US support of Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestine
One can argue about whether these were good enough reasons to launch the 9/11 attacks, but it is hard to argue either that they were unprovoked or a surprise.
Back to Paris. The day before the Paris attacks there were similar attacks in Beirut, which got basically no MSM attention. Why no attention? One could claim that Beirut has been in some state of war for many years. But i believe the reason is deeper. We see over and over that the US MSM does not care about terrorist attacks unless the victims are white.
Do i condone these attacks on Paris? Certainly not. But what i feel an extraordinary need to condemn is the willful ignorance of why these attacks are happening and how the systematic nationalism and racism of the US media helps to insure that they will keep happening.
Other good critical sources on asymmetric reporting on terrorism and failed US policy in the middle East:
We cannot properly honor the deaths of Parisians killed in these terror attacks without analyzing our governments’ understanding of the subsequent radicalization that has followed invasions and airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria; drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries; and the American bombing of the Doctors without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in October.
We cannot bring ourselves to say JeSuisBeirut. White supremacy does not allow us to imagine ourselves in the lives of people of color. We cannot see our humanity, our pain, our fears in the eyes of the Sunni Muslims who were terrorized as they mourned the loss of a loved one.
An excellent and accessible article from the Nation on interviewing ISIL prisoners.
At the end of the interview with the first prisoner we ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” For the first time since he came into the room he smiles—in surprise—and finally tells us what really motivated him, without any prompting. He knows there is an American in the room, and can perhaps guess, from his demeanor and his questions, that this American is ex-military, and directs his “question,” in the form of an enraged statement, straight at him. “The Americans came,” he said. “They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”
CommonDreams.org assaults the US and western approach to conflict in the middle East in the article called Paris: You dont want to read this.
But I do have this: stop what we have been doing for the last 14 years. It has not worked. There is nothing at all to suggest it ever will work. Whack-a-mole is a game, not a plan. Leave the Middle East alone. Stop creating more failed states. Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods. Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us. Understand the war, such as it is, is against a set of ideas — religious, anti-western, anti-imperialist — and you cannot bomb an idea. Putting western soldiers on the ground in the MidEast and western planes overhead fans the flames. Vengeance does not and cannot extinguish an idea.
I am still getting a fact check on this article about how the Bush Administration was instrumental in building he foundation for ISIL. The second point of the 5 is quite weak, and does not support the thesis. But the other points appear to make the case reasonably well.
- ISIS leaders’ training as part of Hussein’s regime gave them the knowledge they’ve needed to be deadly:
Even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.
They have brought to the organization the military expertise and some of the agendas of the former Baathists, as well as the smuggling networks developed to avoid sanctions in the 1990s and which now facilitate the Islamic State’s illicit oil trading.
Here is an informative piece on the controversy over the name ISIS/ISIL it’s proposed replacement and how acronyms are quite exotic in Arabic.
The main misapprehensions about the word currently circulating [Daesh] in our media boil down to the following list:
- That daesh is an Arabic word in its own right (rather than an acronym) meaning ‘a group of bigots who impose their will on others’
- That it can be ‘differently conjugated’ to mean either the phrase above or ‘to trample and crush’
- That one of the words in the acronym also means ‘to trample or crush’
- That it is an insult or swearword in its own right
- That is has different meanings in the plural form
An excellent Guardian piece on how the US prison in Iraq at Bucca was the training camp for IS and US prison relations with Baghdadi helped him rise to power and build ISIL
“He was respected very much by the US army,” Abu Ahmed said. “If he wanted to visit people in another camp he could, but we couldn’t. And all the while, a new strategy, which he was leading, was rising under their noses, and that was to build the Islamic State. If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no IS now. Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.”