Links August 2017

August 20, 2017

Nobody wants to be lectured, but maybe somebody can take a cue.

African American leader Malcolm X once said: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,” while Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”

In modern industrial societies education is often not more than vocational training, aimed at creating well functioning cogs in the big industrial machine. Critical thinking is not part of the curriculum, also not included is a discussion about humanities future and necessary preparations for tomorrows challenges.

So, if everything goes according to plan, the graduates will become craftsmen, technicians, engineers, administrators, they will be law abiding citizens, worker bees, unquestioning media consumers, trustful and responsible voters. They will not become critical thinkers, dissenters, innovators, or visionaries.

Yet, as long as it is still permitted, quite a few people continue to educate themselves, think intensively, look for alternative informations, hone their critical thinking skills, predict future developments and prepare for them.

Most of my friends and acquaintances are afraid of a possible economic, ecologic, social breakdown. Nobody knows when it will be, how it will start, if it will be a sudden crash or a slow slide into catastrophe. Everybody though is certain that things will change dramatically, and not change for the better.

People prepare for the crisis by stocking up on staples, withdrawing savings from the bank to hide them in a secret place, buying gold coins, making repairs and maintenance ahead of schedule, investing in property and durable goods. 

Fortunately, unlike the preppers and survivalists in the USA, people here in Europe don’t tend to hoard guns and ammunition. Which means that, after food delivery systems break down, the fight for food will be less bloody.

Short summary of looming dangers:

1.) Wars. Fought mainly about resources (water, fossil fuels, metals / minerals, arable land, fishing grounds). Fought also to preserve a political, social, cultural system and thereby its ruling elite.

2.) Chemical or radioactive contamination of air, water, soil, food, caused by war, manufacturing, industrial agriculture, energy production, transport and travel, waste disposal. This causes diseases (epidemics / pandemics), mass extinction, subsequently biodiversity loss. Plastic waste pollution is a related danger.

3.) Climate change, extreme weather (Storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves), global warming, ozone layer depletion. Causing the breakdown of biological systems, manifested in habitat destruction, loss of topsoil, deforestation, desertification, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, dead zones, coral bleaching.

4.) Resource depletion and overpopulation. Potable water, uncontaminated topsoil, fossil fuels, and all other materials which are necessary for the functioning of todays civilization will become scarce, leading to resource wars, mass migration waves, famine, failed states, the breakdown of societies all over the world.

The mentioned causes and results are intertwined, linked, synergistic.

Well, the nowadays favored gloomy view of the future must not necessarily become reality, there are many options left still and a concerted effort of the critical thinking people will make a difference. Don’t give up, don’t retreat, don’t disconnect. Every little bit helps to alleviate the pain.

We are not helpless, powerless.

We are the problem as members of an invasive species which grows exponentially and suffocates all other life. We maybe intend to live a responsible, modest, ethical life, yet we buy stuff, use materials and energy, take useless or harmful jobs (banks, advertising / PR, polluting plants, military), travel near or far. We fit in, obey, fail to engage and interact in our local communities.

If one wants change, starting by oneself is the best option.

We are the solution, if we stop shopping, reuse, repurpose, barter, grow our food, and by these measures reduce our carbon footprint. We are the solution if we only take ethical and fruitful jobs (co-ops, small local industries, organic faming and gardening, social work, teaching). We are the solution if we organize activist groups in our own neighborhood, municipality, town, and build alternative local distribution networks to make the supermarkets and malls obsolete.

All this may seem to be an impossible task, but don’t be afraid to be embarrassed, ridiculed, taunted, humiliated — todays nonconformists and outcasts will be tomorrows pioneers and trendsetters.

Feline news:
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40720327 Russian cat adopts orphaned baby hedgehogs.
https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/03/22/the-famous-hermitage-museum-keeps-74-cats-to-keep-its-basements-mice-free/ Missed that one in March.

Environmental news:
http://www.postcarbon.org/are-we-doomed-lets-have-a-conversation/ A long winding article, written in a sober and prosaic style, yet it is a must read, and one better reads it twice and think it over thoroughly.
http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2017/july/sperm-decline-fertility A team of epidemiologists found that sperm counts among men in the USA, Europe, and Australia have declined by more than 50 percent between 1973 and 2011. Nature will help itself and eliminate the greatest environmental problem to avoid a global collapse of the biosphere.
https://theintercept.com/2017/07/26/chemical-industry-herbicide-poison-papers/ An incredible story. I was an environmental activist in the 1980s and can confirm that it was dangerous. The polluting company incited their workers with the threat to close down the plant and activists were beaten up and faced all other possible harassment by agitated workers who defended “their” company.
http://www.reuters.com/article/usa-nuclear-south-carolina-idUSL1N1KM125 No nuclear renaissance in the US.

Economic news:
https://aeon.co/essays/how-did-usury-stop-being-a-sin-and-become-respectable-finance About debt and usury.

Media and technology news:
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/07/27/goog-j27.html Many bloggers see traffic to their sites plummet and the main reason is Google’s new ranking algorithm who downgrades sites deemed as “low-quality.” Traditional mainstream media is of course “high-quality.”
“The revolution will not be televised,” and the revolution will not show up in a Google search.

Imperial news:
This was discussed before: Why should US-Americans, who financially benefit from US military and political might, hope that US hegemony ends? From the mouth of a US citizen:
I believe it’s inherently unhealthy and negative for the world that one country is able to dominate it. “America” means primarily not the United States as a country but the US government and I don’t agree with either the goals or the ideology the government is attempting to push on the United States, the Western allies, and the rest of the world. I don’t support their attempts to destabilize and snuff out other political systems, ending national self-determination. I don’t support a neoliberal-internationalist order or an empire rooted in those principles or objectives.
Seeing the Neocons defeated in Syria will be a setback and I welcome it. Weakening the stranglehold and influence of one system over the world leaves greater breathing space for various countries to assert their national independence (this applies to competitors like Russia and China, but also to countries currently in the US sphere of influence like the EU member states, South Korea, Japan). It also allows alternative political systems to grow.
Preventing the US expansion into every corner of the world leaves room and creates opportunities for regional powers, smaller countries, and opposition movements in the West itself. Weakening the geopolitical hegemony of the Western political class will also weaken their ideological hegemony and cohesion at home.

http://www.unz.com/article/slouching-toward-mar-a-lago/ Very well written but it touches the ecological challenges just in one short sentence.
Whatever one may think about US President Donald Trump, he authentically represents “White America,” reflects the social mood, and is in tune with mainstream US culture.
Trump himself has admitted that he doesn’t like reading, leakers within his administration claim that he skips briefings and demands all reports to be short and simplified.
It is said that he watches TV for hours every day — he famously admitted during the election campaign that he gets his foreign policy knowledge from cable news. Trump has made it very clear that he knows very little about the world outside of the bubble that he lives in.
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/workers-mississippi-nissan-plant-casting-ballots-union-49027849 “The end of unions” confirmed again.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-08/americans-are-dying-younger-saving-corporations-billions Good news for the troubled US pension funds.

Imperial conquest news:
It’s not only the deep state (CIA, FBI, NSA, the Washington bureaucracy) against President Donald Trump, there is also hefty infighting in the White House.
The neocon cell in the Trump entourage, led by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the National Security council’s intelligence chief, Derek Harvey, a close associate of General David Petraeus, and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, has been cut to size after Cohen-Watnick and Harvey have been fired. The neocon group often bypassed National Security Adviser General H. R. McMaster and reported directly to Kushner. There was animosity between H.R. McMaster and political strategist Stephen Bannon, who has been dismissed now and returned to Breitbart News.
All this makes US policy unpredictable, because there is no coherent grand strategy.
About foreign policy:
It is easy to understand that the USA supports Saudi Arabia based on petrodollar interests and the prospect of weapons sales, but the hostility against Iran, even after the nuclear deal, has not such clear motives. Three explanations:
1.) Israeli lobbying influence
2.) Saudi lobbying influence
3.) Large Iranian expatriate community which has been pressing for regime change for decades.
Not to forget the lasting embarrassment of the hostage crisis in 1979 (the empire never retreats, compromises, or forgives).
New sanctions on Russia were imposed in part to further punish its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and alleged meddling in US elections. They will place new restrictions on oil and gas projects, severely affecting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany.
http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176311/ 1.09 trillion US$ military and security spending.
http://www.defenddemocracy.press/being-honest-about-venezuela/ Maduro is not Chavez, and the USA mercilessly exploits his weaknesses. Who could be the savior of the Bolivarian revolution?
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/11/syria-us-led-coalition-accused-of-failing-to-avoid-civilian-deaths Mosul, Raqqa, Awamiyah, Libya, Yemen, the CIA drone wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere are vivid examples why the emotional tirades of Western mass media about the Aleppo siege were dishonest and deceitful. The moral outrage of Western journalists about civilian casualties in the Middle Eastern wars is selective, hypocritical, and ideologically motivated.

Uncategorized news:
http://www.aina.org/ata/20170731201324.htm Sacred Christian music from Syria.

News from cat land:

The cats are still fine and I wonder how long this lucky streak will last. Aunt Rosy has still her chronic cold and her grand nephew Gandhi Jr. has still not taken his anti worming pill, but they both don’t look sick, they are joyful and in good spirit. My feline friends enjoy the summer, which until now was warm but fortunately not dry. Intermittent rain always filled up the rainwater barrels and soaked the earth. As the humus layer increases year by year, more water is kept in the earth and irrigation will have to be less frequent and less intensive.

It looked not good in spring when a series of cold spells damaged many blooms of fruit trees. But harvest of peaches, grapes, and berries is exceptional. The big surprise are the fruits of the peach trees which I grew from pits, because the fruits are as delicious as the fruits of the grafted trees. At the gardeners and hardware stores they only sell grafted or budded fruit trees and grape vines, I suspect that this is done mainly to prevent people from raising their own trees from seeds and thereby bypassing the commercial sellers.

That policy didn’t work in my case because I have now nine peach trees grown from seeds. An even greater number of homegrown mirabelle plum trees is slowly coming of age and I’m anticipative about their fruits.

Little grape vines have unexpectedly emerged in some corners of the garden and in three or four years I will find out, if their grapes are also eatable. A wild cherry tree is also growing, but the fruits are just a big stone with only a tiny layer of flesh. Some wild cherries are known to be poisonous (amygdalin > cyanide). I will not cut down this tree, it looks nice, provides shadow, and at the moment doesn’t bother any other plant.

Just as I was about to finish this text, a severe storm knocked out electricity for half a day. Water taps also ran dry for a few hours until an emergency power generator reactivated the pumps of the municipal water system. In a nearby village a festival tent collapsed, two people died, 80 were injured. There are many fallen trees, the roads are full of branches. A 20 meter high forest tree just opposite the garden door crashed down, fortunately it fell direction east (away from the house).

Power generators are sold out now, I got one of the last (for the freezers). The gales have severely damaged two peach trees and an apple tree, the ground is covered with fruits. I’m just collecting fruits and will work during the night to cut or puree them and put them into the freezers.

Harvest 2017 (only a tiny part of it)

My friend Konrad Baldinger, a painter, made three clocks for me. His work can be viewed at www.kunstuhren.at

The old cat ladies aunt Rosy (14 years old) and Miss Marple (19 years old)

Lucia, the little cat angel, is not a chameleon cat, but she prefers a sleeping place which fits to her fur.