Can The Politicians Heed The Lessons Of Hurricane Harvey?

Flickr/ NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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By Ralph Nader of The Nader Page – Hovering Hurricane Harvey, loaded and reloading with trillions of gallons of water raining down on the greater Houston region—ironically the hub of the petroleum refining industry—is an unfolding, off the charts tragedy for millions of people. Many of those most affected are minorities and low-income families with no homes, health care or jobs to look forward to once the waters recede. Will this tragedy teach us the lessons that so many politicians and impulsive voters have been denying for so long? The first lesson is that America must come home: we must end the Empire of Militarism and of playing the role of policeman of the planet. Both of these habitual roles are backfiring and depleting trillions of taxpayer dollars that could be better used toward rebuilding our country’s infrastructure, strengthening our catastrophe-response networks and preparing for the coming megastorms like Hurricane Harvey. A projected trillion dollars being spent by Obama, and now Trump, just to upgrade nuclear weapons will only spur another arms race with Russia and China. This money could be more productively spent protecting Americans from immediate threats, such as natural disasters from man-made climate change.

Tesla’s Big Battery Will Change Power And Politics

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/ Elon Musk unveiling new Power Pack

By Lloyd Alter for Tree Hugger – We have written previously about how Tesla will kill the duck in Australia in 100 days or it’s free. Now more detail has come out about what is being called the world’s largest battery, that Elon Musk is building. It will store energy generated at a big wind farm and deliver power during peak hours in South Australia. Tesla said it “will help solve power shortages and manage summertime peak load to improve the reliability of South Australia’s electrical infrastructure.” Elon Musk told a press conference how his $50 million bet on the 129MWh battery will work: You can essentially charge up the battery packs when you have excess power when the cost of production is very low … and then discharge it when the cost of power production is high, and this effectively lowers the average cost to the end customer. It’s a fundamental efficiency improvement for the grid. I have complained that electric cars really don’t change all that much, but the work that Musk is doing on batteries like this is going to be world-changing. Politicians do not want to recognize this; in the USA right now, Energy Secretary Rick Perry is “studying,” as David Roberts of Vox puts it, “whether baseload power plants (mostly coal and nuclear) are being unfairly pushed off the grid, thus threatening grid reliability, national security, and our precious bodily fluids.”

A Clarion Call For Our Country’s Pillars To Demand Justice

200 members of Indivisible San Pedro formed the word "RESIST!" on Satruday at the Trump National Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. (Photo: Twitpic/@indivisible_sp)

By Ralph Nader for The Nader Page – Given the retrograde pits inhabited by our ruling politicians and the avaricious over-reach of myopic big-business bosses, the self-described pillars of our society must step up to reverse the decline of our country. Here is my advice to each pillar: Step up, lawyers and judges of America. You have no less to lose than our Constitutional observances and equal justice under law. A few years ago, brave Pakistani lawyers marched in the streets in open protest against dictatorial strictures. As you witness affronts to justice such as entrenched secrecy, legal procedures used to obstruct judicial justice, repeal of health and safety protections and the curtailment of civil liberties and access to legal aid, you must become vigorous first responders and exclaim: Stop! A just society must be defended by the courts and the officers of the court – the attorneys. Step up, religious leaders, who see yourselves as custodians of spiritual and compassionate values. Recall your heroic forebears who led non-violent civil disobedience during the repression of civil rights in the Nineteen Sixties – as with the leadership of the late greats Martin Luther King Jr. and William Sloane Coffin. Champion the Golden Rule for those who don’t believe that ‘he who has the gold, rules.’

Political Myth-Making And State Legitimacy

The U.S. Capitol is reflected in a puddle next to the Capitol Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 2013. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

By Gerald Sussman for Counter Punch – First off, it is quite evident that the United States, which for years has been losing internal state legitimacy, is in crisis. (It’s already lost external state legitimacy, the Trump brand reportedly now distrusted by three-fourths of the world.) This means that a majority of American citizens no longer believe that the political and economic elites are working in the public interest. Once this happens, to cite Humpty Dumpty: “all the king’s horses [the police and military apparatuses] and all the king’s men [loyal state officials and publicity agents] couldn’t put Humpty [state legitimacy] together again.” Short of implementing explicit police state controls over a rebellious public, which appears unnecessary in the present somatic corporate state, the ruling class must resort to intensified and unending propaganda (state and commercial). This is exactly what PR guru Edward Bernays had proposed in his book by that title in 1928. We’re well into that propaganda society, with continuous mass distraction and censorship of authentic alternative news sources – all directed toward maintaining a public order of complacency, spectatorship, and establishment-orchestrated political consensus.

Beware The Politics Of Fear And ‘Non-Ideological’ Saviors

jeremy-corbyn

By Slavoj Zizek for Independent – Recall how, in the last elections in France, every leftist scepticism about Macron was immediately denounced as a support for Marine le Pen. And look at the empty universality of successful statements like Macron’s ‘La Republique En Marche!’ – the designation of a victorious movement forward without any obvious or specific goal. An old Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times!” – interesting times are the times of troubles, confusion and suffering. And it seems that in some “democratic” countries, we are lately witnessing a weird phenomenon which proves that we live in interesting times: a candidate emerges and wins elections as it were from nowhere, in a moment of confusion building a movement around his name – both Berlusconi and Macron exploded like this. What is this process a sign of? Definitely not of any kind of direct popular engagement beyond party politics – on the contrary, we should never forget that such figures explode with the full support of social and economic establishment. Their function is to obfuscate actual social antagonisms – people are magically united against some demonised “fascist” threat.

Visiting South Orange Students Refuse Photo With Speaker Ryan

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By Mary Mann for The Village Green – About half the students in a group of South Orange Middle School 8th graders touring the Capitol in D.C. this past week refused a photo with House Speaker Paul Ryan, according to students on the field trip. (Some SOMS students on the trip were still en route to the Capitol on buses.) Elissa Malespina, a school librarian who is also the parent of a SOMS eighth grader, reported that her son was among the students who declined to pose with Ryan for a photo. “I am so proud of my son,” Malespina wrote on Facebook. The kids gave reasoned opinions for their choice — and said they were not fueled by partisanship. “I think that taking the picture represents that you agree with the same political views and I don’t agree with his political views so I chose not to be in it,” said Wendy Weeks, an 8th grade SOMS student. “I can’t take a picture with someone who supports a budget that would destroy public education and would leave 23 million people without healthcare,” said 8th grade SOMS student Matthew Malespina. “I didn’t want to be in [the picture] because he believes in most of what Trump believes in,” said another SOMS 8th grader, Louisa Maynard-Parisi.

“Fora Temer – Eleições Diretas Já!” Brazil’s Political Rupture And Left’s Opportunity

A puppet of Brazilian President Michel Temeris hanged up by a group of protesters in Sao Paulo, Brazil on April 15, 2017. NurPhoto/PA Images. All rights reserved.

By Alfredo Saad-Filho for Open Democracy – The Brazilian Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) won the country’s presidential elections four times in a row; first with Luís Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-06, 2007-10), then with his hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff (2011-14, 2015-16). During its 13 years in office, the PT changed Brazil in many ways; four are principally worth mentioning, as they would come to play key roles in the elite conspiracy to impeach Dilma Rousseff and destroy her party. First, the PT democratised the state. It implemented the social and civic rights included in the 1988 ‘Citizen’s Constitution’, and advanced Brazil’s emerging welfare state across several fields of social provision. Second, the PT changed the social composition of the state through the appointment of thousands of leaders of mass organisations to positions of power. For the first time in Brazilian history, millions of poor citizens could recognise themselves in the bureaucracy and relate to close friends and comrades who had become ‘important’ in Brasília. For the first time in Brazilian history, millions of poor citizens could recognise themselves in the bureaucracy.

Where Are We Going Politically?

Jake Waage; Edited: LW / TO

By Stan Sorscher for The Huffington Post – “Greed is good” values dominated America in the gilded age and the laissez faire period leading to the Great Depression and political instability. The New Deal period, from the 30’s through the mid-70’s, reflected “we all do better” values. Congress passed Social Security and Medicare; funded public investments in rural electrification, the interstate highway system, and basic research; set strong labor and environmental standards; and supported higher education. Wages rose proportionatelywith productivity. The New Deal era ended in the mid-70s’, when we shifted back to “greed is good” values. In the 90’s, Congressional hardliners delegitimized Democracy, shut down the government, took pride in disruption and dysfunction, and polarized our political system. Confidence in Congress dropped from 40% at the end of the New Deal era to 9% now. Donald Trump is the end-point of that transformation in values. Harvard economist Dani Rodrik points out that other countries have done well, maintaining a strong sense of shared national interest – China, Japan, and South Korea for example. Europe has a stronger tradition of social dialogue and more social cohesion than we do.

Reign Of Idiots

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy. There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it. The idiots know only one word—“more.” They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses.

South Africa Writhes In New Political-Economic Birth Pains

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By Patrick Bond for Counter Punch – Indeed there is no doubt that at least one profound problem with the recent whitelash against Zuma is its class character. Even though the poor – who number more than 60% of the population nearly all black – have been most adversely affected by his policies, while the top 1% have maintained the worst inequality in the world, it is in Zuma’s looting of parastatal agency coffers that established white businesses feel threatened. The electricity supplier Eskom is most often cited, potentially for a $100 billion Russian nuclear deal which Gordhan had opposed. There are also unending mining-related Eskom boondoggles that favour a new breed of coal capitalists, especially the controversial Gupta brothers. The three Indian immigrants are regularly accused of brazen ‘state capture,’ e.g. in a long critique by EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu. In the first wave of resistance, on April 7, the main public face of the ‘Save South Africa’ movement coordinating the protests was Sipho Pityana. But the firm he chairs – AngloGold Ashanti – is amongst apartheid’s most notorious. Its origins date a century, to Harry Oppenheimer’s control of Johannesburg gold in the same tradition as De Beers’ founder Cecil John Rhodes…

The Feuding Kleptocrats

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – They ineptly have set themselves on fire over Obamacare, but this misstep will do little to halt the drive to, as Stephen Bannon promises, carry out the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Donald Trump’s appointees are busy diminishing or dismantling the agencies they were named to lead and the programs they are supposed to administer. That is why they were selected. Rex Tillerson at the State Department, Steven Mnuchin at the Treasury Department, Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, Rick Perry at the Department of Energy, Tom Price at Health and Human Services, Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education…

Politicians Making Plans In Case Public Turns Against Them Violently

From activistpost.com

By James Holbrooks for Activist Post – Some of the suggestions, the news outlet reports, include “having a physical exit strategy at town halls, or a backdoor at congressional offices to slip out of, in case demonstrations turn violent; having local police monitor town halls; replacing any glass office-door entrances with heavy doors and deadbolts; and setting up intercoms to ensure those entering congressional offices are there for appointments, not to cause chaos.” While protests are popping up all over, the Republicans’ private session was no doubt prompted by events that happened over the weekend. While speaking before a raucous crowd in Roseville, California, Representative Tom McClintock had to be escorted from the stage and away from the event by local police officers.

Learning To Love A Multipolar World

Flickr/ teofilo

By Jeffrey D. Sachs for Project Syndicate – NEW YORK – American foreign policy is at a crossroads. The United States has been an expanding power since its start in 1789. It battled its way across North America in the nineteenth century and gained global dominance in the second half of the twentieth. But now, facing China’s rise, India’s dynamism, Africa’s soaring populations and economic stirrings, Russia’s refusal to bend to its will, its own inability to control events in the Middle East, and Latin America’s determination to be free of its de facto hegemony, US power has reached its limits. One path for the US is global cooperation.

Normal Is Coming Unhinged, There Lies The Opportunity, If We Overcome Hate

Creative Commons – picture by Abhi Ryan

By Charles Eisenstein – Normal is coming unhinged. For the last eight years it has been possible for most people (at least in the relatively privileged classes) to believe that society is sound, that the system, though creaky, basically works, and that the progressive deterioration of everything from ecology to economy is a temporary deviation from the evolutionary imperative of progress. A Clinton Presidency would have offered four more years of that pretense. A woman President following a black President would have meant to many that things are getting better.

DR Congo President Unlikely To Give Up Power

Lucha protest in Goma over lack of running water

By Maud Jullien for BBC – Political opponents and activists say that everything is in place for President Joseph Kabila to extend his stay in power, thus violating the constitution and potentially precipitating the continent-sized central African country into chaos. “What we need is to have a specific action plan for the elections,” says Serge Syvia, a doctor and activist. “Because theirs (the government’s) is already being implemented.” In a small wooden house that was built, like much of the eastern city of Goma, on dried lava rocks, members of a youth group called Lucha (struggle for change) are holding a meeting.