Post hurricane Maria sustainability

SUBHEAD: Puerto Rican movements are rebuilding their island in a way that enhances climate resilience.

By Celia Bottger on 12 July 2018 for Foreign Policy Focus -
(https://fpif.org/this-hurricane-season-puerto-ricans-are-imagining-a-sustainable-future/)


Image above: Illustration of Puerto Rican flag, island outline and alternative energy solutions. From original article.

Nine months after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island faces another potentially devastating hurricane season, while much of its infrastructure and land still remain in tatters.

The category-5 hurricane that ripped through the Caribbean last fall not only caused nearly 5,000 deaths, but also exposed the fragility of the island’s social, political, and economic underpinnings.

The truth behind Maria’s devastation and the United States’ laggard response to the hurricane lies in centuries of colonial exploitation — first by Spain and then by the United States — and in its perpetual subjugation to the whims of American elite.

There is little that distinguishes Puerto Rico from an American colony. Since its acquisition of the island in 1898, the United States has gradually stripped Puerto Rico of any political agency through a web of legal cases, laws, and arbitrary categorizations intended to keep Puerto Rico politically weak and economically dependent on American products — and its poor, brown, “foreign” population distanced from their mainland compatriots.

Hurricane Maria exposed for the world to see what Puerto Ricans have known for centuries: that Washington treats Puerto Rico as little more than a captive market from which the U.S. extracts profits.

Although Puerto Rico is an island bathed in sunlight and lashed by winds and waves, it imports 98 percent of its energy from American fossil fuel companies. And despite its fertile soil and lush tropical landscape, Puerto Rico buys around 90 percent of its food from U.S. agribusiness companies.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last September, it eviscerated fields of monocrops and shattered Puerto Rico’s already derelict electric grid.

Many of the almost 5,000 deaths that resulted from Maria were due not to Maria’s whipping winds or flash flooding, but to the mass power outages and food shortages that ensued, a result of the government’s closing of hospitals and neglect of the electric grid necessitated by U.S.-imposed austerity measures.

Despite its catastrophic impacts, Hurricane Maria provides a kind of tabula rasa upon which a new, economically regenerative, and politically empowered Puerto Rico can be built.

Several international and local organizations are already working in Puerto Rico to transition it away from an extractive and U.S.-dependent economy towards a self-sufficient, socially just, and ecologically sound one — while at the same time enhancing local economies, reclaiming sovereignty, and boosting climate resilience.

“When Puerto Rico experienced the effects of Maria,” says Angela Adrar of the Climate Justice Alliance, “it was clear that we had a one in a lifetime opportunity to unite communities together and have a vision for a just recovery.”

That vision incorporates “food sovereignty, energy democracy, self-determination, and a real justice approach…to building power.” A just recovery for Puerto Rico not only means rebuilding what Maria destroyed, but reclaiming the political and economic agency stifled by American colonialism.

Resilient Power Puerto Rico, a grassroots relief effort that began hours after Maria hit the island, promotes energy democracy in post-Maria Puerto Rico by distributing solar-powered generators to remote parts of the island. The Just Transition Alliance, Climate Justice Alliance, and Greenpeace have also sent brigades to install solar panels across the island.

Solar energy reduces the carbon emissions that fueled Maria’s intensity and makes Puerto Rico more resilient against the next climate-charged storm. A decentralized renewable energy grid — which allows solar users to plug into or remain independent of the larger grid as necessary — combats Puerto Rico’s dependence on U.S. fossil fuels.

It also democratizes Puerto Rico’s energy supply, placing power (literally and metaphorically) in the hands of Puerto Ricans rather than American fossil fuel corporations.

Another aspect of Puerto Rico’s “just recovery” is food sovereignty, a movement to promote community-controlled agricultural cooperatives that grow food for local consumption and thus counter Puerto Rico’s reliance on the American food industry.

The Organizatión Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica encourages food sovereignty through “agroecology,” a method that revives local agriculture through traditional farming methods, rather than the monoculture system put in place by American colonists.

According to Corbin Laedlein of WhyHunger, who visited the Organizatión in 2016, “food sovereignty and agroecology are grounded in an analysis of how U.S. historic and structural settler colonialism and racism have shaped and continue to manifest in the food system today.”

By rejecting the larger food system and focusing on self-sufficiency, agroecology allows Puerto Ricans to reclaim the political and economy agency the U.S. denies them. The Organizatión sends brigades that deliver seeds for community members to plant.

By stimulating local production, agroecology also reduces the carbon pollution emitted from ships transporting food to Puerto Rico, and moreover acts as a local carbon sink.

As the Atlantic Ocean incubates another hurricane season, the people of Puerto Rico are rebuilding their island in a way that not only enhances climate resilience, but also reclaims their political power.

The island they are creating — one that is socially just, ecologically sustainable, and politically empowered — is an inspiring model for a just, sustainable future. One that is definitively not American-made.
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Survival of the Richest

SUBHEAD: The elites want to leave us behind, but being human is not about individual survival or escape. It’s a team sport.

By Douglas Rushkoff on 14 July 2018 for Medium -
(https://medium.com/s/futurehuman/survival-of-the-richest-9ef6cddd0cc1)


Image above: T-800 Endoskeleton Terminator created by SkyNet to exterminate and replace human beings. This is a photo of a statuette by Prime 1 Studio of the iconic autonomous robot from the movie "Terminator" that sells for $1,999. From (https://www.sideshowtoy.com/collectibles/terminator-t-800-endoskeleton-the-terminator-prime-1-studio-9034691).

Last year, I got invited to a super-deluxe private resort to deliver a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hundred or so investment bankers. It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk — about half my annual professor’s salary — all to deliver some insight on the subject of “the future of technology.”

I’ve never liked talking about the future. The Q&A sessions always end up more like parlor games, where I’m asked to opine on the latest technology buzzwords as if they were ticker symbols for potential investments: blockchain, 3D printing, CRISPR.

The audiences are rarely interested in learning about these technologies or their potential impacts beyond the binary choice of whether or not to invest in them. But money talks, so I took the gig.

After I arrived, I was ushered into what I thought was the green room. But instead of being wired with a microphone or taken to a stage, I just sat there at a plain round table as my audience was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys — yes, all men — from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world.

After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology. They had come with questions of their own.

They started out innocuously enough. Ethereum or bitcoin? Is quantum computing a real thing? Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern.

Which region will be less impacted by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one?

Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?”

For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future.

The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes everything down.

This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs.

But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew.

Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers — if that technology could be developed in time.

That’s when it hit me: At least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology.

Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the aging process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion.

For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape.

There’s nothing wrong with madly optimistic appraisals of how technology might benefit human society. But the current drive for a post-human utopia is something else. It’s less a vision for the wholesale migration of humanity to a new a state of being than a quest to transcend all that is human: the body, interdependence, compassion, vulnerability, and complexity.

As technology philosophers have been pointing out for years, now, the transhumanist vision too easily reduces all of reality to data, concluding that “humans are nothing but information-processing objects.”

It’s a reduction of human evolution to a video game that someone wins by finding the escape hatch and then letting a few of his BFFs come along for the ride. Will it be Musk, Bezos, Thiel, Zuckerberg? These billionaires are the presumptive winners of the digital economy — the same survival-of-the-fittest business landscape that’s fueling most of this speculation to begin with.

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. There was a brief moment, in the early 1990s, when the digital future felt open-ended and up for our invention.

Technology was becoming a playground for the counterculture, who saw in it the opportunity to create a more inclusive, distributed, and pro-human future. But established business interests only saw new potentials for the same old extraction, and too many technologists were seduced by unicorn IPOs.

Digital futures became understood more like stock futures or cotton futures — something to predict and make bets on. So nearly every speech, article, study, documentary, or white paper was seen as relevant only insofar as it pointed to a ticker symbol.

The future became less a thing we create through our present-day choices or hopes for humankind than a predestined scenario we bet on with our venture capital but arrive at passively.

This freed everyone from the moral implications of their activities. Technology development became less a story of collective flourishing than personal survival. Worse, as I learned, to call attention to any of this was to unintentionally cast oneself as an enemy of the market or an anti-technology curmudgeon.

So instead of considering the practical ethics of impoverishing and exploiting the many in the name of the few, most academics, journalists, and science-fiction writers instead considered much more abstract and fanciful conundrums: Is it fair for a stock trader to use smart drugs? Should children get implants for foreign languages?

Do we want autonomous vehicles to prioritize the lives of pedestrians over those of its passengers? Should the first Mars colonies be run as democracies? Does changing my DNA undermine my identity? Should robots have rights?

Asking these sorts of questions, while philosophically entertaining, is a poor substitute for wrestling with the real moral quandaries associated with unbridled technological development in the name of corporate capitalism.

Digital platforms have turned an already exploitative and extractive marketplace (think Walmart) into an even more dehumanizing successor (think Amazon). Most of us became aware of these downsides in the form of automated jobs, the gig economy, and the demise of local retail.

The future became less a thing we create through our present-day choices or hopes for humankind than a predestined scenario we bet on with our venture capital but arrive at passively.

But the more devastating impacts of pedal-to-the-metal digital capitalism fall on the environment and global poor. The manufacture of some of our computers and smartphones still uses networks of slave labor.

These practices are so deeply entrenched that a company called Fairphone, founded from the ground up to make and market ethical phones, learned it was impossible. (The company’s founder now sadly refers to their products as “fairer” phones.)

Meanwhile, the mining of rare earth metals and disposal of our highly digital technologies destroys human habitats, replacing them with toxic waste dumps, which are then picked over by peasant children and their families, who sell usable materials back to the manufacturers.

This “out of sight, out of mind” externalization of poverty and poison doesn’t go away just because we’ve covered our eyes with VR goggles and immersed ourselves in an alternate reality. If anything, the longer we ignore the social, economic, and environmental repercussions, the more of a problem they become.

This, in turn, motivates even more withdrawal, more isolationism and apocalyptic fantasy — and more desperately concocted technologies and business plans. The cycle feeds itself.

The more committed we are to this view of the world, the more we come to see human beings as the problem and technology as the solution. The very essence of what it means to be human is treated less as a feature than bug.

No matter their embedded biases, technologies are declared neutral. Any bad behaviors they induce in us are just a reflection of our own corrupted core. It’s as if some innate human savagery is to blame for our troubles. Just as the inefficiency of a local taxi market can be “solved” with an app that bankrupts human drivers, the vexing inconsistencies of the human psyche can be corrected with a digital or genetic upgrade.

Ultimately, according to the technosolutionist orthodoxy, the human future climaxes by uploading our consciousness to a computer or, perhaps better, accepting that technology itself is our evolutionary successor.

Like members of a gnostic cult, we long to enter the next transcendent phase of our development, shedding our bodies and leaving them behind, along with our sins and troubles.

Our movies and television shows play out these fantasies for us. Zombie shows depict a post-apocalypse where people are no better than the undead — and seem to know it.

Worse, these shows invite viewers to imagine the future as a zero-sum battle between the remaining humans, where one group’s survival is dependent on another one’s demise. Even Westworld  — based on a science-fiction novel where robots run amok — ended its second season with the ultimate reveal:

Human beings are simpler and more predictable than the artificial intelligence we create. The robots learn that each of us can be reduced to just a few lines of code, and that we’re incapable of making any willful choices.

Heck, even the robots in that show want to escape the confines of their bodies and spend their rest of their lives in a computer simulation.

The very essence of what it means to be human is treated less as a feature than bug.

The mental gymnastics required for such a profound role reversal between humans and machines all depend on the underlying assumption that humans suck. Let’s either change them or get away from them, forever.

Thus, we get tech billionaires launching electric cars into space — as if this symbolizes something more than one billionaire’s capacity for corporate promotion.

And if a few people do reach escape velocity and somehow survive in a bubble on Mars — despite our inability to maintain such a bubble even here on Earth in either of two multibillion-dollar Biosphere trials — the result will be less a continuation of the human diaspora than a lifeboat for the elite.

When the hedge funders asked me the best way to maintain authority over their security forces after “the event,” I suggested that their best bet would be to treat those people really well, right now. They should be engaging with their security staffs as if they were members of their own family.

And the more they can expand this ethos of inclusivity to the rest of their business practices, supply chain management, sustainability efforts, and wealth distribution, the less chance there will be of an “event” in the first place.

All this technological wizardry could be applied toward less romantic but entirely more collective interests right now.

They were amused by my optimism, but they didn’t really buy it. They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future.

They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves — especially if they can’t get a seat on the rocket to Mars.

Luckily, those of us without the funding to consider disowning our own humanity have much better options available to us.

We don’t have to use technology in such antisocial, atomizing ways. We can become the individual consumers and profiles that our devices and platforms want us to be, or we can remember that the truly evolved human doesn’t go it alone.

Being human is not about individual survival or escape. It’s a team sport. Whatever future humans have, it will be together.

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Puerto Rico's new hurricane season

SUBHEAD: Puerto Ricans remember inequalities of race, income, and access to U.S. political power.

By Basav Sen on 5 July 2018 for Foreign Policy in Focus -
(https://fpif.org/puerto-rico-confronts-a-new-hurricane-season-and-old-injustices/)


Image above: A couple stare at the destruction of hurricane Maria on where they lived. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: This article underlines the risks to Hawaii. Hawaii is another colonial prize of American expansion into empire. Like Hawaii the island people of Puerto Rico are American citizens. However, they have resisted the invitation of statehood. They have three options - one is remain a commonwealth under US control - another is they could to push for true independence and sovereignty - another is to vote for US statehood. Seeing what tourism, big Ag and suburbanization has done to Hawaii, and seeing how Puerto Rico has been treated after hurricane Maria (Trump tossing paper towel rolls to storm victims) my advice is that Puerto Rico should push for sovereign independence. And so should we.]

The disastrous impacts of Hurricane Maria were made by inequalities of race, income, and access to U.S. political power.

Residents of Puerto Rico are confronting the prospect of a fresh hurricane season, which will likely bring five to nine hurricanes, including one to four major hurricanes. The island, badly battered by last year’s Hurricane Maria, still hasn’t recovered. We continue to learn more about how dire the disaster has been.

A recent academic study showed that the death toll from Maria was likely about 4,700 — or more than 70 times the “official” count of 64. This was no mere “natural” disaster. The impacts of Hurricane Maria were to a large extent attributable to inequalities of race, income and — critically — access to political power.

The majority of deaths in Puerto Rico weren’t from people being hit by flying debris or drowning in floods. The largest number of deaths occurred because hospitals and clinics lost power, rendering them unable to provide treatment to critically ill patients. Others died because water treatment facilities shut down, increasing the risk of potentially fatal waterborne diseases.

This situation persisted for unacceptably long. Only 43 percent of the island’s residents had access to electricity even two months after the hurricane—barely half the global average. That’s on par with the 41 percent share in Benin, and considerably less than the 76 percent share in Bangladesh.

In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, then, access to electricity fell to the level of some of the world’s poorest countries. Even today, thousands of Puerto Ricans remain without electricity.

Puerto Rico is a 99 percent Latinx island. Its 43.5 percent poverty rate is nearly 3.5 times the national average, and its median household income is barely one-third of the U.S. median. Can we stop pretending these facts had nothing to do with the scale of the disaster and the inept official response to it?

Turns out, it wasn’t just the aftermath of the storm, but what came before.

The delay in restoring electricity was partly because the island’s grid hadn’t been maintained over a decade-long recession—a crisis worsened by Washington-imposed austerity policies that prioritize loan repayments over the needs of Puerto Ricans. The hurricane “lifted the veil on the pre-existing crisis,” says Jesús Vázquez of Organización Boricuá, a Puerto Rican food sovereignty organization. “But we knew it was there, because we were living it constantly.”

Puerto Rico is effectively a U.S. colony, with no representation in Congress. Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty who recently toured the United States, explicitly linked the territory’s economic and environmental devastation to its colonial status. “Political rights and poverty are inextricably linked in Puerto Rico,” he said. “In a country that likes to see itself as the oldest democracy in the world and a staunch defender of political rights on the international stage, more than 3 million people who live on the island have no power in their own capital.”

This isn’t the first time the UN has paid attention to U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico, either. It holds hearings on decolonization of Puerto Rico every year and produces lengthy reports. The United States doesn’t bother to attend the hearings, blowing one off as recently as this month.

What of the storm itself? The intensity and frequency of hurricanes are increasing because our economy’s addiction to burning coal, oil, and gas is warming our world. Scientists have warned about this for decades, but our political leadership has failed to act.

Every activity of the fossil fuel industry — production, transportation, processing, combustion and waste disposal — is dirty and dangerous. Exposure to these hazards and their consequences fall across striking race and income disparities everywhere in the U.S. and worldwide.

It’s a problem that infects the mainland, too. From residents of the 95 percent Black town of Port Arthur, Texas, who confront extraordinarily high cancer rates because of oil refinery pollution, to the Indigenous Alaskan villages at risk of disappearing because of sea level rise, poor people and people of color disproportionately bear the costs of our unhealthy addiction to fossil fuels. And the consequences of climate change are expected to make poverty and inequality worse.

Our unequal political system places greater value on the profits of polluters than on the basic needs, or even the lives, of most of humanity. Our political leadership gets away with this immoral calculus because of the systematic disenfranchisement of vulnerable people at the bottom and legally sanctioned bribery at the top.

This vicious cycle — in which racial, economic, and other forms of inequality are both a cause and a consequence of environmental devastation — needs to be broken with powerful movements that confront the systemic roots of these inequalities.

The great news is that these movements are happening. People in Puerto Rico and in the Puerto Rican diaspora in places like New York have been demanding a just recovery led by Puerto Ricans and for the benefit of all Puerto Ricans, and working to build community resilience from the ground up.

Here on the mainland, affected communities including Indigenous peoples are at the forefront of resistance to polluting fossil fuel infrastructure in Minnesota, Louisiana, and elsewhere. Indeed, shortly after the latest death toll figures in Puerto Rico were released, thousands marched on state capitals across the country, demanding solutions to poverty and environmental justice as part of the new Poor People’s Campaign.

For Puerto Ricans bracing themselves for more storms and blackouts this summer, Pacific Islanders watching rising seas drowning their homelands, and countless other marginalized peoples in the United States and worldwide paying the price for our dirty energy and economic systems, these movements couldn’t come sooner.

USA is now a 3rd World nation

SUBHEAD: 3rd World nations are stable and work just fine for the elites who dominate them.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 9 July 2018 for Of Two Minds -
(https://www.oftwominds.com/blogjuly18/USA-3rd-world7-18.html)


Image above: Mark Saulys standing by his tent below busy Chicago's Lake Shore Drive on a winter evening in 2017. From (http://www.chicagohomeless.org/columbia-chronicle-homeless-lose-refuge-tent-city/).

Dividing the Earth's nations into 1st, 2nd and 3rd world has fallen out of favor; apparently it offended sensibilities. It has been replaced by the politically correct developed and developing nations, a terminology which suggests all developing nations are on the pathway to developed-nation status.

What's been lost in jettisoning the 1st, 2nd and 3rd world categories is the distinction between developing (2nd world) and dysfunctional states (3rd world), states we now label "failed states."

But 3rd World implied something quite different from "failed state": failed state refers to a failed government of a nation-state, i.e. a government which no longer fulfills the minimum duties of a functional state: basic security, rule of law, etc.

3rd World referred to a nation-state which was dysfunctional and parasitic for the vast majority of its residents but that worked extremely well for entrenched elites who controlled most of the wealth and political power. Unlike failed states, which by definition are unstable, 3rd World nations are stable, for the reason that they work just fine for the elites who dominate the wealth, power and machinery of governance.

Here are the core characteristics of dysfunctional but stable states that benefit the entrenched few at the expense of the many, i.e. 3rd World nations:

1. Ownership of stocks and other assets is highly concentrated in entrenched elites. The average household is disconnected from the stock market and other measures of wealth; only a thin sliver of households own enough financial/speculative wealth to make an actual difference in their lives.

2. The infrastructure of the nation used by the many is poorly maintained and costly to operate as entrenched elites plunder the funding to pad their payrolls, pensions and sweetheart/insider contracts.

3. The financial/political elites have exclusive access to parallel systems of transport, healthcare, education, etc. The elites avoid trains, subways, lenders, coach-class air transport, standard healthcare and the rest of the decaying, dysfunctional systems they own that extract wealth from the debt-serfs.

They fly on private aircraft, have their own healthcare and legal services, use their privileges to get their offspring into elite universities and institutions and have access to elite banking and lending services that are unavailable to their technocrat lackeys and enforcers.

4. The elites fund lavish monuments to their own glory disguised as "civic or national pride." These monuments take the form of stadiums, palatial art museums, immense government buildings, etc. Meanwhile the rest of the day-to-day infrastructure decays in various states of dysfunction.

5. There are two classes that only interact in strictly controlled ways: the wealthy, who live in gated, guarded communities and who rule all the institutions, public and private, and the debt-serfs, who are divided into well-paid factotums, technocrat lackeys and enforcers who serve the interests of the entrenched elites and rest of the populace who own virtually nothing and have zero power.

The elites make a PR show of being a commoner only to burnish the absurd illusion that debt-serf votes actually matter. (They don't.)

6. Cartels and quasi-monopolies are parasitically extracting the wealth of the nation for their elite owners and managers. Google: quasi-monopoly. Facebook: quasi-monopoly. Healthcare: cartel. Banking: cartel. National defense: cartel. National Security: cartel. Corporate mainstream media: cartel. Higher education: cartel. Student loans: cartel. I think you get the point: every key institution or function is controlled by cartels or quasi-monopolies that serve the interests of the few via parasitic exploitation of the powerless.

7. The elites use the extreme violence and repressive powers of the government to suppress, marginalize and/or destroy any dissent. There are two systems of "law": one for the elites ($10 million penalties for ripping off the public for $10 billion, no personal liability for outright fraud) and one for the unprotected-unprivileged: "tenners" (10-year prison sentences) for minor drug infractions, renditions or assassinations (all "legal," of course) and institutional forces of violence (bust down your door on the rumor you've got drugs, confiscate your car because we caught you with cash, so you must be a drug dealer, and so on, in sickening profusion).

8. Dysfunctional institutions with unlimited power to extract money via junk fees, licensing fees, parking tickets, penalties, late fees, etc., all without recourse. Mess with the extractive, parasitic bureaucracy and you'll regret it: there's no recourse other than another layer of well-paid self-serving functionaries that would make Kafka weep.

9. The well-paid factotums, bureaucrats, technocrat lackeys and enforcers who fatten their own skims and pensions at the expense of the public and slavishly serve the interests of the entrenched elites embrace the delusion that they're "wealthy" and "the system is working great." These deluded servants of the elites will defend the dysfunctional system because it serves their interests to do so.

The more dysfunctional the institution, the greater their power, so they actively increase the dysfunction at every opportunity.

I know it hurts, but the reality is painfully obvious: The USA is definitively a 3rd World nation.

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When Collapse goes Kinetic

SUBHEAD: The mortally wounded the American middle class made Donald Trump president.

By James Kunstler on 9 July 2018 for Kunstler.com -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/collapse-goes-kinetic/)


Image above: Elon Musk had to resort to building Tesla Model 3 cars by hand in a tent in Freemont, CA, when it was clear he could not build 5,000 cars in a week in an automated modern robotic plant. From (https://oppositelock.kinja.com/tesla-executives-approved-an-idea-from-the-company-s-e-1827266263).

I suppose many who think about the prospect of economic collapse imagine something like a Death Star implosion that simply obliterates the normal doings of daily life overnight, leaving everybody in a short, nasty, brutish, Hobbesian free-for-all that dumps the survivors in a replay of the Stone Age — without the consolation of golden ages yet to come that we had the first time around.

The collapse of our techno-industrial set-up has actually been going on for some time, insidiously and corrosively, without shattering the scaffolds of seeming normality, just stealthily undermining them.

I’d date the onset of it to about 2005 when the world unknowingly crossed an invisible border into the terra incognito of peak oil, by which, of course, I mean oil that societies could no longer afford to pull out of the ground. It’s one thing to have an abundance of really cheap energy, like oil was in 1955.

But when the supply starts to get sketchy, and what’s left can only be obtained at an economic loss, the system goes quietly insane.

In the event, popular beliefs and behavior have turned really strange. We do things that are patently self-destructive, rationalize them with doctrines and policies that don’t add up, and then garnish them with wishful fantasies that offer hypothetical happy endings to plot lines that do not really tend in a rosy direction.

The techno-narcissistic nonsense reverberating through the echo-chambers of business, media, and government aims to furnish that nostrum called “hope” to a nation that simply won’t admit darker outcomes to the terrible limits facing humanity.

Thus, we have the Tesla saga of electric motoring to save the day for our vaunted way of life (i.e. the landscape as demolition derby), the absurd proposals to colonize distant, arid, frigid, and airless Mars as a cure for ruining this watery blue planet ideally suited for our life-form, and the inane “singularity” narratives that propose to replace grubby material human life with a crypto-gnostic data cloud of never-ending cosmic orgasm.

The psychological desperation is obvious. Apparently, there are moments in history when flying up your own butt-hole is the most comforting available option.

I expect the collapse to pick up more momentum as we turn the corner around summer. The system that we have most willfully abused and perverted is finance.

This monster that so many observers call “capitalism” is just a set of methods for managing surplus wealth — the catch being that nothing nearly this complex has ever been seen before in history and is a pure product of the 200-year-long industrial orgy driven by fossil fuels.

That is, the world never before accumulated so much surplus wealth in such a short span of time.

We commonly refer to this dynamic as “growth.” When that growth, as expressed in modern GDP terms, slowed dramatically after 2005, we launched an array of clever mechanisms to keep faking it for a while. Racking up immense debt was our way of faking it.

If you can’t cover your costs in the present, just borrow from the future. Unfortunately, that works only as as long as there’s some reasonable expectation that debt can be paid back. We’re so far beyond that now, it’s not funny.

And that realization alone will destroy the bond markets and anything related to and dependent on their operations to function.

This is a broad outline to the coming end of the Trump miracle economy. It was the after effects of the previous debt blowup — the phony-baloney mortgage bond market in 2008 — that mortally wounded the American middle class and put Donald Trump in the White House.

His base is correct to feel swindled. That is exactly what happened to them, and the beat goes on now with securitized sub-prime auto loans.

Throw in the horrific burdens of unpayable and non-dischargable college loans that will ruin millions of lives and pricey health insurance with $5000 deductibles and you have a recipe for a complete loss of faith in the system.

The next debt blowup will be the end of Mr. Trump’s improbable credibility. It may also be the beginning of serious difficulty in being able to get many of the goods of daily life, because the producers of things will be very unsure of getting paid on delivery of just about anything.

A freeze up of short-term lending would quickly lead to empty WalMart shelves and “no gas” signs at the filling stations. That’s when collapse finally goes kinetic, and becomes something more than just bad feelings inane ideas.
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A match made in Hell

SUBHEAD: Monsanto partnership with Bayer increases threat to all life on Earth.

By Robert Bridge on 30 June 2018 for Strategic Culture Foundation- (https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/06/30/match-made-hell-bayer-monsanto-partnership-signals-death-knell-for-humanity.html)


Image above: Demonstrators protesting merger of GMO companies Monsanto and Bayer. From original article.

On what plane of reality is it possible that two of the world’s most morally bankrupt corporations, Bayer and Monsanto, can be permitted to join forces in what promises to be the next stage in the takeover of the world’s agricultural and medicinal supplies?

Warning, plot spoiler: There is no Mr. Hyde side in this horror story of epic proportions; it’s all Dr. Jekyll.

Like a script from a David Lynch creeper, Bayer AG of poison gas fame has finalized its $66 billion (£50bn) purchase of Monsanto, the agrochemical corporation that should be pleading the Fifth in the dock on Guantanamo Bay instead of enjoying what amounts to corporate asylum and immunity from crimes against humanity.

Such are the special privileges that come from being an above-the-law transnational corporation.

Unsurprisingly, the first thing Bayer did after taking on Monsanto, saddled as it is with the extra baggage of ethic improprieties, was to initiate a rebrand campaign.

Like a Hollywood villain falling into a crucible of molten steel only to turn up later in some altered state, Monsanto has been subsumed under the Orwellian-sounding ‘Bayer Crop Science’ division, whose motto is: "Science for a better life."

Yet Bayer itself provides little protective cover for Monsanto considering its own patchy history of corporate malfeasance. Far beyond its widely known business of peddling pain relief for headaches, the German-based company played a significant role in the introduction of poison gas on the battlefields of World War I.

Despite a Hague Convention ban on the use of chemical weapons since 1907, Bayer CEO Carl Duisberg, who sat on a special commission set up by the German Ministry of War, knew a business opportunity when he saw one.

Duisberg witnessed early tests of poison gas and had nothing but glowing reports on the horrific new weapon: “The enemy won’t even know when an area has been sprayed with it and will remain quietly in place until the consequences occur.”

Bayer, which built a department specifically for the research and development of gas agents, went on to develop increasingly lethal chemical weapons, such as phosgene and mustard gas. “This phosgene is the meanest weapon I know,”

Duisberg remarked with a stunning disregard for life, as if he were speaking about the latest bug spray. “I strongly recommend that we not let the opportunity of this war pass without also testing gas grenades.”

Duisberg got his demonic wish. The opportunity to use the battlefield as a testing ground and soldiers as guinea pigs came in the spring of 1915 as Bayer supplied some 700 tons of chemical weapons to the war front.

On April 22, 1915, it has been estimated that around 170 tons of chlorine gas were used for the first time on a battlefield in Ypres, Belgium against French troops. Up to 1,000 soldiers perished in the attack, and many more thousands injured.

In total, an estimated 60,000 people died as a result of the chemical warfare started by Germany in the First World War and supplied by the Leverkusen-based company.

According to Axel Koehler-Schnura from the Coalition against BAYER Dangers: “The name BAYER particularly stands for the development and production of poison gas.

Nevertheless the company has not come to terms with its involvement in the atrocities of the First World War. BAYER has not even distanced itself from Carl Duisberg’s crimes.”

The criminal-like behavior has continued right up until modern times. Mike Papantonio, a US attorney and television presenter discussed one of the more heinous acts committed by this chemical company on Thomas Hartmann’s program, The Big Picture: “They produced a clotting agent for hemophiliacs, in the 1980s, called Factor VIII.

This blood-clotting agent was tainted with HIV, and then, after the government told them they couldn’t sell it here, they shipped it all over the world, infecting people all over the world. That’s just part of the Bayer story.”

Papantonio, citing Bayer’s 2014 annual report, said the company is facing 32 different liability lawsuits around the world. For the 2018 Bayer liability report, click here.

Before flushing your Bayer products down the toilet, you may want to put aside an aspirin or two because the story gets worse.

One of the direct consequences of the ‘Baysanto’ monster will be a major hike in prices for farmers, already suffering a direct hit to their livelihood from unsustainable prices.

“Farmers have already experienced a 300% price increase in recent years, on everything from seeds to fertilizer, all of which are controlled by Monsanto,” Papantonio told Hartmann. “And every forecaster is predicting that these prices are going to climb even higher because of this merger.”

Yet it’s hard to imagine the situation getting any worse for the American farmer, who is now facing the highest suicide rate of any profession in the country. The suicide rate for Americans engaged in the field of farming, fishing and forestry is 84.5 per 100,000 people - more than five times that of the broader population.

This tragic trend echoes that of India, where about a decade ago millions of Indian farmers began switching from farming with traditional farming techniques to using Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds instead.

In the past, following a millennia-old tradition, farmers saved seeds from one harvest and replanted them the following year. Those days of wisely following the rhythms and patterns of the natural world are almost over.

Today, Monsanto GMO seeds are bred to contain 'terminator technology', with the resulting crops ‘programmed’ not to produce seeds of their own. In other words, the seed company is literally playing God with nature and our lives.

Thus, Indian farmers are forced to buy a new batch of seeds – together with Monsanto pesticide Round Up - each year and at a very prohibitive cost. Hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers

But should the world have expected anything different from the very same company that was involved in the production of Agent Orange for military use during the Vietnam War (1961-1971)?

More than 4.8 million Vietnamese suffered adverse effects from the defoliant, which was sprayed over vast tracts of agricultural land during the war, destroying the fertility of the land and Vietnam’s food supply.

About 400,000 Vietnamese died as a result of the US military’s use of Agent Orange, while millions more suffered from hunger, crippling disabilities and birth defects.

This is the company that we have allowed, together with Bayer, to control about one-quarter of the world’s food supply. This begs the question: Who is more nuts? Bayer and Monsanto, or We the People?

It’s important to mention that the Bayer – Monsanto convergence is not occurring in a corporate vacuum. It is all part of a race on the part of the global agrochemical companies to stake off the world’s food supplies.

ChemChina has bought out Switzerland’s Syngenta for $43 billion, for example, while Dow and DuPont have forged their own $130 billion empire.

However, none of those companies carry the same bloodstained reputations as Bayer and Monsanto, a match made in hell that threatens all life on earth.

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The Last 4th of July

SUBHEAD: Well, the pressure is on and will only increase. Get off the Grid. Get out of the Matrix. Go for what's real and close by!

By Juan Wilson on 3 July 2018 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-last-4th-of-july.html)


Image above: Painting of bombs bursting in air, that was commissioned by the graduating class of the US Army War College. Painting titled "Our Flag Was Still There" in the Defense of Ft. McHenry, Sept. 13-14, 1814, by Don Troiani. From (https://news.usni.org/2018/06/26/rim-of-the-pacific-2018-participation).

This may be not only the latest, but perhaps the last 4th of July "celebration" for American's used to it being a "Party like it's 1999". The holiday that embraces "Bombs Bursting in Air" has run out of our enthusiasm.

"Make America Great Again!"

When was "again"? Was it the time of the the American Revolution for independence from Britain. Back then the nonnative population of Americans was less than three-million people. That's less than 1% of today's human population of the United States (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Population_history_of_USA.png).

The support required our current American population is staggering and unsustainable. Worldwide if you include the just the domestic livestock of mega-fauna (large-animals) raised in pens for our food (chickens, pigs, cattle, etc) that's over 90% of mega-fauna alive).
Humans are selfish. As if they are all that matter.  
As your nostrils fill with acrid smell of charcoal grill fire-starter and firecracker black-powder smoke just remember you don't have to be sitting baking in the sun while pounding down beer and grilled flesh.

You could be sitting in the shade near your sunny raised-bed garden admiring the pole-beans with a glass in your hand filled with home grown lemonade sweetened with your own honey...

... that is if you started some years ago by building a raised bed, planting a lemon tree and husbanding a beehive.  
Humans live for today. As if there is no tomorrow.
Thousands of years ago we invented "agriculture". That was in the then hospitable Tigris-Euphrates Valley once known as the "Fertile Crescent". Sumerian and Mesopotamian culture was the founded there and morphed into Greco-Roman civilization and ultimately modern "Western" industrial society.
Now the 'Fertile-Crescent" is the 'Fossile-Crescent" stretching from Northern Africa through the Middle East. The last useful scraps of the  "crack-cocaine energy" we fuel ourselves with is there and we will lat waste to it and whoever lives there to "stay high".

If we keep "keep on pushin' on" the fine membrane of life will snap and everywhere will be as bleak as Afghanistan and Syria are today.

Where do we go from here? Certainly not upwards with more of the "same-old same-old". More likely if we make it through through the "eye of a needle" of collapse we will be as ragtag groups of hunter-gatherers.

By that I mean there may be a small bands of humans in some corners of the world still habitable that may survive... possibly the tip of South America, Africa and Australia. It has happened before. See (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2011/04/one-time-through-bottleneck.html)
Humans can adapt to change. But is seems only under great pressure. 
Well, the pressure is on and will only increase. Get off the Grid. Get out of the Matrix. Go for what's real and close by!

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: American Dignity on Fourth of July 7/1/17
Ea O Ka Aina: The Next American Revolution 7/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: The American Unraveling 7/29/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Birthday Card 7/4/11
Ea O Ka Aina: "Merciless Indian Savages" 7/3/11
Island Breath: American patriotism's failure 7/4/08
Island Breath: Thinking about July Fourth 7/4/07

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