Category Archives: Uncategorized

I take that back

Not that I think you read my Facebook or blog posts, but if you’re one of the uninformed (in my humble opinion) people I was talking about in my posts on both “channels” earlier this morning…I don’t think I’m better than you. You have your reasons for being who and where you are at this moment in time, just as I have mine. It isn’t you I’m criticizing. It’s your behavior, as I see it. And I don’t hope you die of Covid, as I implied in my earlier blog post. Of course not. I don’t wish ill on anyone, no matter how much I disagree with what they say or do. You just have me feeling scared and threatened, and like any cornered animal in that sort of situation, I lashed out at you. An hour later, my claws are withdrawn. I still fear scared and threatened, but saying nasty things to and about you isn’t going to fix that. The only thing that will is for us to see each other as equally worthy and valuable human beings, who are all feeling threatened and scared, but who can reach out across the gap and start listening to and caring about each other. And trying, together, to come up with ways to move forward. Thanks…

Trapped in a dystopian “reality”

That’s how I felt when Trump was elected president in 2016, even though I knew it wasn’t just him, but the long years before when the Democrats had the chance to do things for ordinary people and didn’t. I wasn’t the only one who felt like her sanity was threatened by anxiety in those days — what would this narcissistic, uninformed, unprincipled nut do to our country and our world? I thought he’d go away when he lost the 2020 election, but, no — the bulk of the Republican party has continued to support his uninformed and undemocratic insanity, blocking the newly elected president, as they blocked Obama, at every possible turn. The Democrats are no angels; as I indicated above, they made all this possible by representing the 1% (which Trump and the Republicans also do in their crazy way) rather than ordinary people. But at least they know what they’re doing, and occasionally do sensible things.

Now the Supreme Court, which the Republicans enabled Trump to “pack” with three unqualified conservative justices, while using our elite “Founders” undemocratic rules to block Obama from filling even one vacancy, has struck down Biden’s effort to protect us from getting Covid at work. The Supreme Court yesterday used a technicality about which branches of government can make these kinds of decisions to say that you have a right to go to work, untested, even if you’ve refused to get the vaccine that significantly limits the virus’s spread. Unless I want to lose my job or can negotiate working at home, impossible with most jobs, I have no protection against you infecting me with the disease. Will you even wear a mask? That protection may very well be the next to go.

This is ridiculous — proof that government, even what may be the last democratically elected one, has little or no power to protect us against lies and irresponsible, harmful people. By continuing to back Trump (because he seems to be popular with some segments of the population?) the Republican party has made this kind of illogic and injustice inevitable. First they allowed Trump to undermine public health by denying scientific research on the disease and politicizing it, then they completely politicized the highest court, which is supposed to be above politics. Where are all these people’s brains? The “leaders” apparently just want to get reelected, by fair means or foul, and they and their followers use the populist tactic of vilifying adults who use their brains for showing, just by being informed and thinking rationally, that we think we’re better than the rest. I give up. This is a recipe for utter disaster.

It’s exactly like the dystopian, satirical movie I just watched: “Don’t Look Up,” available on Netflix, in which a populist president and a media system making profits by only giving people what they want to hear prevent preparation to defend Earth against another danger — a giant comet that, indeed, eliminated all planetary life when it hit. To quote singer-songwriter Lonesome Bob, “It’d be sad if it weren’t so funny; it’d be funny if it weren’t so sad.”

I’m an informed, rational adult, and I do think I’m better than you if you’re over 18, you’re not, and you don’t even want to be. I’m alarmed by your taking over our country, and I resent you and your “leaders,” bent on killing me and many innocent others by sinking to the lowest common denominator. Trump’s life, ironically and unjustly, was saved by extensive measures unavailable to the general population when he got Covid as president. Yours may not be, and, sadly, at this point that’s my only hope. Oh, and by the way, if you believe your own lies, why are you, like Trump, demanding medical treatment for the disease you said wasn’t a problem? You’re filling up our hospitals to the point that there won’t be a bed for me if I have a second heart attack or another serious health emergency.

Oh, well. If that happens, at least I’ll have found the only door I can think of out of this frickin’ dystopia.

P.S. Sorry for sounding so angry and depressed, but I think that’s the only sane reaction to all this.

Climate change will end the age of empires and force us to adopt world government

As envisaged in Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent novel The Ministry for the Future, and detailed in Alfred McCoy’s article “To Govern the Globe” yesterday on counterpunch.org, the capitalist nation-state system’s failure to address climate change will eventually lead to the adoption of some kind of world government in a last-ditch attempt to save and protect whatever of earthly life is left.

After listing three successive world empires (Spanish/Portuguese, British, and American), McCoy concludes his article by saying, “it seems safe to assume that China will gain enough strength to weaken Washington’s global grip and become the preeminent world power around 2030. Count on one thing, though: the accelerating pace of climate change will almost certainly curtail China’s hegemony within two or three decades…If the ‘Chinese century’ does indeed start around 2030, barring remarkable advances in the reduction of the use of fossil fuels on this planet, it’s likely to end sometime around 2050 when its main financial center [Shanghai] is flooded out and its agricultural heartland [the North China Plain, a prime agricultural region between Beijing and Shanghai currently inhabited by 400 million people] begins to swelter in insufferable heat and humidity.

Given that Washington’s world system and Beijing’s emerging alternative show every sign of failing to limit carbon emissions in significant enough ways, by mid-century the international community will likely need a new form of global governance to contain the damage…As long as nations have the sovereign right to seal their borders, the world will have no way of protecting the human rights of hundreds of millions of climate-change refugees. Facing a spectacle of mass global suffering, the community of nations might well agree on the need for a new form of global governance. Such a supranational body or bodies would need sovereign authority over three critical areas: emissions controls, refugee resettlement, and environmental reconstruction. If the transition to renewable energy sources is still not complete by 2050, then this international body might well compel nations to curb emissions and adopt renewable energy. Whether under the auspices of the UN or a successor organization, a high commissioner for global refugees would need the authority to supersede state sovereignty in order to require nations to help resettle such tidal flows of humanity. The future equivalents of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank could also transfer resources from wealthy temperate countries to feed tropical communities decimated by climate change.

Massive programs like these would change the very idea of what constitutes a world order. At present, no one can predict whether such reforms will come soon enough to slow climate change or arrive too late to do anything but manage the escalating damage of uncontrollable feedback loops. One thing is becoming quite clear, however. The environmental destruction in our future will be so profound that anything less than the emergence of a new form of global governance – one capable of protecting the planet and the human rights of all its inhabitants – will mean that wars over water, land, and people are likely to erupt across the planet amid climate chaos. Absent some truly fundamental change in our global governance and in energy use, by mid-century humanity will begin to face disasters of an almost unimaginable kind that will make imperial orders of any sort something for the history books.”

The Hypocrisy of Bemoaning the End of the US War in Afghanistan

According to an 8-16-21 piece on Counterpunch by David Swanson, “the U.S. government, according to its own reporting, accounts for 66% of all the weapons exported to the least democratic quintile of nations on earth. Of the 50 most oppressive governments identified by a U.S.-government-funded study, the U.S. arms 82% of them: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa), Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Ethiopia, Gabon, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Yemen. Israel’s government, notorious for its violent oppression of Palestinian people, is not on that list (it’s a U.S.-funded list) but is the top recipient of “aid” funding for U.S. weapons from the U.S. government. The Stop Arming Human Rights Abusers Act (H.R.4718) would prevent U.S. weapons sales to other nations that are in violation of international human rights law or international humanitarian law. During the last Congress, the bill, introduced by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, gathered a grand total of zero cosponsors.

What do you notice about that list of nations? One of them, Afghanistan, was on the list of oppressive governments before the Taliban threatened to take it over. And the other 40 are of truly minimal interest to the U.S. corporate media, much less to any of the “BUT THE WOMEN!” crowd out there moaning in agony that a war might end. The same crowd seems to have no objection to the proposal moving through the U.S. Congress to force U.S. women at age 18 to register for a military draft that would have them (against their will) killing and dying in more of these wars?

What would I propose that the U.S. government do for the women and men and children of Afghanistan now, regardless of horrible decisions in the past that it’s too late to undo and silly and offensive to rehash?

1. Until it can reform itself into an entity capable of benevolent action, not a goddamned thing.

2. Stop encouraging the Taliban to think that it can become a model U.S. client state in a few years if it’s mean and nasty enough, by ceasing to arm and train and fund brutal dictatorships all over the globe.

3. Cease eroding the idea of the rule of law around the world by dropping opposition to the International Criminal Court and the World Court, by joining the International Criminal Court, and by eliminating the veto and democratizing the United Nations Security Council.

4. Cease being the leading holdout globally on major human rights treaties like the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which every nation on earth has ratified except the United States, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which every nation on earth has ratified except the United States, Iran, Sudan, and Somalia.

5. Move 20% of the U.S. military budget into useful things each year for five years.

6. Move 10% of that rededicated funding into providing no-strings-attached aid and encouragement to the most law-abiding and honest-to-god small-d democratic poor nations on the planet.

7. Take a hard look at the U.S. government, and take serious steps to remove bribery from the election system, establish fair public funding and media coverage for elections, and remove gerrymandering, the filibuster, and as soon as possible the United States Senate.

8. Free, apologize to, and thank every whistleblower who’s told us what the U.S. government was doing in Afghanistan for the past 20 years. Consider why we needed whistleblowers to tell us.

9. Prosecute or free and apologize to every prisoner at Guantanamo, close the base, and get out of Cuba.

10. Get out of the way of the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of Taliban crimes in Afghanistan, as well as its prosecution of crimes committed there by the Afghan government, and by the militaries of the United States and its junior partners.

11. Swiftly become an entity that can credibly comment on horrors being committed by the Taliban, by – among other things – caring enough about humanity to invest heavily in ending the destruction of the earth’s climate and the existence of nuclear weapons.”

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and was awarded the 2018 Peace Prize by the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook. 

The crisis of global capitalism

In a May 6th article in Roar magazine, entitled “What Are the Real Reasons Behind the New Cold War,” William I. Robinson, professor of sociology, global studies, and Latin American studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, cites the Biden administration’s recent expulsion of 10 Kremlin diplomats and new sanctions for alleged Russian interference in the 2020 US elections, “just days after the Pentagon conducted military drills in the South China Sea” as “just the latest escalation of aggressive posturing in Washington’s new Cold War against Russia and China.” Robinson believes that behind the usual conflict “over hegemony and international economic control,” actions like these are driven by “the crisis of global capitalism.” Economically, this a result of chronic economic stagnation; politically, it’s a result of states and capitalism in general increasingly being seen as illegitimate by people suffering under the current system. “All around the world a ‘people’s spring’ has taken off. From Chile to Lebanon, Iraq to India, France to the United States, Haiti to Nigeria, and South Africa to Colombia, waves of strikes and mass protests have proliferated and, in many instances, appear to be acquiring a radical anti-capitalist character. 

Economically, global capitalism faces a crisis of “overaccumulation”: a situation in which the economy has produced – or has the capacity to produce” products that few can afford to buy “because of escalating inequality. Capitalism by its very nature will produce abundant wealth yet polarize that wealth and generate ever greater levels of social inequality unless offset by redistributive policies. The level of global social polarization and inequality now experienced is without precedent. In 2018, the richest 1% of humanity controlled more than half of the world’s wealth while the bottom 80% had to make do with just 5% of it. These inequalities undermine the stability of the system, resulting, if left unchecked, in recessions, depressions, social upheavals, and war – exactly what we’re now experiencing.

Contrary to mainstream accounts, the coronavirus pandemic didn’t cause the crisis of global capitalism; it was already upon us. On the eve of the pandemic, growth in the EU countries had already shrunk to zero, much of Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa was in recession, growth rates in Asia were steadily declining, and North America faced a slowdown. The pandemic merely hastened the crisis of a global economy that never fully recovered from the 2008 financial collapse. Even if there’s a momentary recovery as the world emerges from the pandemic, global capitalism will remain mired in this structural crisis of overaccumulation. 

As I showed in my 2020 book, The Global Police State, the global economy has become ever more dependent on the development and deployment of systems of warfare, social control and repression as a means of making profit and continuing to accumulate capital in the face of chronic stagnation and saturation of global markets. This is known as “militarized accumulation” and refers to a situation in which a global war economy relies on perpetual state organized war making, social control and repression to sustain the process of capital accumulation.

The events of September 11, 2001 marked the start of a permanent global war in which logistics, warfare, intelligence, repression, surveillance, and even military personnel are more and more the privatized domain of transnational capital. The Pentagon budget increased 91% between 1998 and 2011, while worldwide, total state military budgets outlays grew by 50% from 2006 to 2015, from $1.4 trillion to more than $2 trillion, not including the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on intelligence; contingency operations; policing; bogus wars against immigrants, terrorism, and drugs; and ‘homeland security.’ During this time, military-industrial complex profits quadrupled.

The various wars, conflicts and campaigns of social control and repression around the world involve the fusion of private accumulation with state militarization. In this relationship, the state facilitates the expansion of opportunities for private capital to accumulate through militarization, such as by facilitating global weapons sales by military-industrial-security firms, the amounts of which have reached unprecedented levels. Global weapons sales by the top 100 weapons manufacturers and military service companies increased by 38% between 2002 and 2016.

By 2018, private for-profit military companies employed some 15 million people around the world, while another 20 million people worked in private security worldwide. The private security (policing) business is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in many countries and has come to dwarf public security around the world. The amount spent on private security in 2003, the year of the invasion of Iraq, was 73% higher than that spent in the public sphere, and three times as many persons were employed in private forces as in official law enforcement agencies. In half of the world’s countries, private security agents outnumber police officers. These corporate soldiers and police were deployed to guard corporate property; provide personal security for executives and their families; collect data; conduct police, paramilitary, counterinsurgency and surveillance operations; carry out mass crowd control and repression of protesters; run private detention and interrogation facilities; manage prisons; and participate in outright warfare.

In 2018, President Trump announced with much fanfare the creation of a sixth military service, the “space force.” The corporate media duly toed the official line that this force was needed to face expanding threats to the United States. Less reported was the fact that a small group of former government officials with deep ties to the aerospace industry had pushed behind the scenes for its creation as a way to hype military spending on satellites and other space systems.

In February of this year, the Federation of American Scientists reported that military-industrial complex lobbying is responsible for the decision by the US government to invest at least $100 billion to beef up its nuclear stockpile. The Biden administration announced in early April to much acclaim that it would pull all US troops out of Afghanistan. While US service troops in that country number 2,500, these pale in comparison with the more than 18,000 contractors that US government has hired to do its bidding in the country, including at least 5,000 corporate soldiers that will remain.

The so-called wars on drugs and terrorism; the undeclared wars on immigrants, refugees, gangs, and poor, dark-skinned and working-class youth generally; the construction of border walls, immigrant detention centers, prison-industrial complexes, systems of mass surveillance; and the spread of private security guard and mercenary companies, have all become major sources of profit-making and they’ll become more important to the system as economic stagnation becomes the new normal. 

But if corporate profit, and not an external threat, is the reason for expanding the US state and corporate war machine and the global police state, this must still be justified to the public. The official state propaganda narrative about the new Cold War serves this purpose.

Global capitalism operates within a nation-state-based system of political authority, and in order to attract transnational corporate and financial investments states must keep wages low, regulations few, give corporations subsidies, etc. The result is rising inequality, impoverishment, and insecurity for the working class – precisely the conditions that throw states into crises of legitimacy and jeopardize elite control. International frictions escalate as states, in their efforts to retain legitimacy, seek to sublimate social and political tensions. In the US, this has involved channeling social unrest towards scapegoated communities such as immigrants (one key function of racism ), or towards an external enemy such as China or Russia, which is clearly becoming a cornerstone of the Biden government’s strategy. The drive by the capitalist state to externalize the political fallout of the crisis increases the danger that international tensions will lead to war. Historically wars have pulled the capitalist system out of crisis while serving to deflect attention from political tensions and problems of legitimacy. 

Capitalist crises are times of intense social and class struggles. There has been a rapid political polarization in global society since 2008 between an insurgent left and a newly insurgent far-right that includes neofascist movements and authoritarian and dictatorial regimes. The contradictions of the system have reached the breaking point, placing the world into a perilous situation bordering on global civil war.

William I. Robinson is Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Global Studies and Latin American Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His book, Global Civil War: Repression and Rebellion in the Post-Pandemic World, will be released by PM Press early next year.