15 September 2006


Now, I like Hansen... but this idea of the "world acting on global warming" is a bit naive...

Under capitalism, there is no "world" or "society" -- there are only individuals trying to buy their way into a society of sorts. The more thoroughly vulnerable to the "free market" a society is, the more truth we can ascribe to Margaret Thatcher's famous comment: "There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families." Thus we can see that a society which has erected neoliberalism on its banner grows more and more isolated from its collective potential, and thus less and less capable of acting collectively. So we can flash all of the realities we want at people -- under capitalism, the mechanism of social coordination that will allow them to do something about it will be inadequate to serve up a solution, or anything close.

Under capitalism, then, nothing will be done. From the Monthly Review's gloss on all this:

The truth is that addressing the global warming threat to any appreciable degree would require at the very least a chipping away at the base of the system. The scientific consensus on global warming suggests that what is needed is a 60–80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels in the next few decades in order to avoid catastrophic environmental effects by the end of this century—if not sooner. The threatening nature of such reductions for capitalist economies is apparent in the rather hopeless state at present of the Kyoto Protocol, which required the rich industrial countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008–2012. The United States, which had steadily increased its carbon dioxide emissions since 1990 despite its repeated promises to limit its emissions, pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 on the grounds that it was too costly. Yet, the Kyoto Protocol was never meant to be anything but the first, small, in itself totally inadequate step to curtail emissions. The really big cuts were to follow.
Thus the rationale for serious social change. Most likely, however, under capitalism we are to see the top-down approach that has been killing us so far:
For the Pentagon, the answer to all of these dangers would seem to be straightforward: arm to the teeth, prepare for greater threats than ever from thermonuclear war, and build an impregnable wall around the United States, closing the global masses out. All of this is depicted by Schwartz and Randall. Yet a more rational response to potential high-impact climate events would be to seek to reorganize society, and to move away from imperatives of accumulation, exploitation, and degradation of the natural environment—the “after me the deluge” philosophy—that lies at the base of most of our global problems.
In short, the state -- that guardian of the capitalist social order -- will intervene to protect the owning class in the name of its political "representatives" (who have long since given up the pretense of representing you and me and have taken to rigging elections instead). Everyone else will be kept busy with the necessity of "making a living," a need which will become more and more urgent as it becomes harder and harder to do.

Am I the only one who wonders why so many people leap to capitalism's defense, proclaiming the society based on "free markets" to eternity?

14 September 2006


Dick Reavis' article


11 September 2006


I would like to take this blog opportunity, today, to respond to Alexander Cockburn's dismissal of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Cockburn's Counterpunch is one of my favorite places to visit -- yet I must disagree with his reasoning here, which is at its clearest in the analogy with the to-do about the JFK assassination:
Anyone who ever looked at the JFK assassination will know that there are endless anomalies and loose ends. Eyewitness testimony -- as so often -- is conflicting, forensic evidence possibly misconstrued, mishandled or just missing. But in my view, the Warren Commission, as confirmed in almost all essentials by the House Committee on Assassinations in the late 1970s, had it right and Oswald fired the fatal shots from the Schoolbook Depository. The evidentiary chain for his guilt is persuasive, and the cumulative scenarios of the conspiracy nuts entirely unconvincing. But of course -- as the years roll by, and even though no death bed confession has ever buttressed those vast, CIA-related scenarios -- the nuts keep on toiling away, their obsessions as unflagging as ever.
Now, in real life, the Warren Commission report does not investigate several alternative paths of inquiry to the one it took. There were several points at which an alternate path of inquiry might have started. For example, the question of whether Oswald's gun could have shot JFK from the distance from which it was fired, the question of multiple bullets (as opposed to the "magic bullet" theory), the lapses in security on that day (which for instance allowed Jack Ruby to kill Oswald), Oswald's connections to the Communist Party (which by that time had been thoroughly infiltrated by the FBI) and his bizarre movement in and out of the USSR, the manipulations of JFK's autopsy, among others. The Warren Commission investigated no theory that might have sprung from the discrepancies between the official story and the real-world evidence. Instead, it manufactured an "official story" which is noteworthy for:
  1. its incomplete glosses on evidence,
  2. its refusal to explain important portions of the real-life story,
  3. its refusal to investigate government-kept secrets or destroyed evidence,
  4. and, most importantly, its refusal to investigate any alternative story to the one it set out to investigate in the first instance, which attempted to pin the blame for Kennedy's assassination on Oswald and Oswald alone.
Now, it's easy to draw the same conclusions about the 9/11 Commission Report and the other official stories of the events of 9/11/01. In both cases, officialdom, acting under the aegis of the Federal Government of the United States of America, concocts a story, which is then thoroughly debunked by conspiracy theorists -- up to a point. The conspiracy theorists appear to be able to tear down the official story without erecting a credible competing story of their own. In light of the fact that official stories, more often than not, represent cover-ups, conspiracy theories multply. Since the official story does not adequately explain, each individual is free to make up her own truth. So what we have with conspiracy theory is a result of the chaos that ensues when rumor is the best approximation of truth we can get.

Responding to conspiracy theory by dismissing the search for "9/11 truth" is simply not going to work. Justin Frank asks us:
What's the Truth Movement doing about the hundreds of thousands of poor non-violent drug offenders who are rotting in US prisons, or the thousands more who are decaying on death row? What are they doing for the teenage girls who slave away in sweatshops piecing together our clothes and sneakers? What have conspiracy theories ever proven, anyway?
Most of this quote is non sequitur -- nothing prevents conspiracy theorists from changing the world for the better in the ways which Frank suggests. And even though conspiracy theories don't really prove anything, what they do indeed do is to cement disbelief in official stories. One thing you know for sure when reading Peter Dale Scott or Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed is that the government is lying to you, in contravention of your self-interest, and that you ought to defy it in demanding the truth. And isn't that a good thing?