The John James Newsletter 260

posted Nov 25, 2018, 1:38 PM by Clement Clarke

The John James Newsletter  260

24 November 2018

The $4bn takeover of the Sydney Morning Herald will shrink the major sources of Australian news from five to four – Channel Nine, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media and the ABC
      Lenore Taylor

Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals
     
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Facts are stern things
     
John Curtin

The hypocrisy, arrogance, and hubris of a family that has sought to turn the Presidency into another Trump franchise. You can’t do that in that position unless you think that you are bulletproof, and you don’t really give a damn what people think
     
John Cassidy

The growth-bug, if it becomes an addiction, is itself a disease. Out of control, it is a cancer, which can destroy the organism.
      Eric Zuesse

Imagine two 18-year-olds, one in China, one in the US. Who has a better chance at upward mobility? Not too long ago, the answer might have been the teenager in the US But China has risen so quickly that, today, a young person’s chances of improving their living situation vastly exceeds those in the U.S. Here’s why, by the numbers:
800 million: The number of people in China that have been lifted out of poverty since 1990. That’s two and a half times the US population.
500 percent: The average per capita income growth in China between 1980 and 2014.
$12,000: China’s economic output per capita. A decade ago, it was $3,500.
1/4: The share of the world’s middle class that was in China in 2016.
29: China’s score on the Gini coefficient, a worldwide measure of inequality, where a lower score represents a more equal economy. The U.S. scores 37.
Despite that progress, 40 percent of China’s population still lives on less than $5.50 a day.

      NY Times

Either Brexit agreement will leave the UK economically weakened, with no say in EU rules  must follow and years of uncertainty for business, or a no-deal Brexit I know as minister of transport will inflict untold damage on our nation. To present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis
      Jo Johnson

It takes a lot less money to defend a homeland, than to prepare to attack another country - or to police an empire that stretches across the entire planet
      John Rachel

I can't run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they've summoned up
A thundercloud
And they're going to hear from me.  

      Leonard Cohen

Extinction Rebellion Shuts Down London Bridges to Save Mother Earth
The day of revolt leads to mass arrests in the UK as protestors argue too many still don't "recognise the seriousness of our existential crisis" and almost nobody is doing enough to end humanity's reckless assault on planet's living systems. Mass arrests on Saturday as thousands of people and members of the 'Extinction Rebellion' movement—for "the first time in living memory"—shut down the five main bridges of central London in the name of saving the planet, and those who live upon it, from destructive over-consumption, runaway greenhouse gas emissions, and the ongoing failure of global leaders to address the intensifying threats.
People are risking their liberty in defence of the living world in large numbers. It is only when we are prepared to take action that people begin to recognise the seriousness of our existential crisis.
      George Monbiot

The 'social contract' has been broken … [and] it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government's inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself
      Gail Bradbrook, Extinction Rebellion organizer

We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed.
      Tiana Jacout
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The laws of physics, not to mention social and economic forces, tell us that infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet. Please read this article so you can disabuse yourself of any notion that industrial-scope capitalism dependent on endless growth can persist ….. whether with or without renewable energy. Please distribute this article.
The Limits of Renewable Energy and the Case for Degrowth

Between 1990 and 2015, the share of fossil fuels in the global energy mix (including nuclear energy in this particular calculation based on data from the BP Statistical Review) declined from 88% to 86% — a marginal decrease of 1% per decade. And more recently, in spite of the significant growth of renewables, in actual quantities, the share of petroleum and gas increased twice as much as renewable electricity 2011 - 2016.
What accounts for the gap between what people perceive as a rapid transition to renewable energy and the reality of quite meagre progress? Part of the explanation lies with the use of relative data expressed as percentages: it’s easy to report big percentage increases when you’re talking about small numbers. Then there’s also the problem of media hype: boasting about achievements while remaining mum about failures. There is a real selection bias for success stories. Another typical media strategy is to publish forecasts of objectives to be achieved at some point in the distant future, which recede from memory as the day of reckoning approaches — no one is likely to recall dated, overly optimistic predictions.
The public discourse on renewables is intended to be reassuring, to bolster confidence in the State and industry, and in the belief that the market system will take us to where we need to go. It shores up the status quo.
Our smart devices will become the new and  massive surveillance network
In Britain there’s one surveillance camera for every 11 people, illustrating the rapid rise of the surveillance state in industrialised Western democracies. Elsewhere, security services and local law enforcement authorities are   warming to the idea of using more devices to surveil the general population. With facial recognition technology growing so compact and efficient they’ll soon be cataloging the face and identity of everyone who passes a police officer or checkpoint on the street. Smart devices in our homes will begin to pry into our personal lives; invasive technology is only going to get more advanced, necessitating that it will become easier to establish a surveillance network just about anywhere. Even our homes won’t be safe sooner rather than later; Amazon recently filed for a patent to detect user illnesses by analysing the emotional state of a voice, illustrating the awesome and infiltrative potential these smart devices have. The digital technology of your phone is already sufficient to record and send every conversation (even if switched off) to an unknown "Listener". The Stasi has arrived in a new form!
The fire in Paradise: From natural disaster to social catastrophe
The victims in Paradise were older and poorer than the rest of California. The median age was 50, and the median household income $20,000 a year less than for the state as a whole. As far as the government response has been concerned, their lives and continued survival are a matter of indifference. Aside from a handful of shelters—where a norovirus outbreak sent at least 25 survivors to the hospital—and a pittance in FEMA supplies, those fleeing Paradise have had to rely on friends, family and charity. The Camp Fire joins the long list of disasters over the past few years, including Hurricanes Michael (60 dead), Florence (53 dead) and Maria (3,057 dead) in the US. It comes four months after the Attica wildfires in Greece, which killed 99. In each case, natural events have been compounded by crumbling infrastructure and inadequate emergency planning to create social catastrophes.
The abnormal has become the new normal
The wildfire ravaging California is now the deadliest in state history. This isn't the new normal, it's the new abnormal, and we need to talk about causes and remedies.
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How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet
With wildfires, heat waves, and rising sea levels, large tracts of the earth are at risk of becoming uninhabitable. But the fossil-fuel industry continues its assault on the facts.  California is ablaze. A big fire near Los Angeles forced the evacuation of Malibu, and an even larger fire, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, has become the most destructive in California’s history.
After a summer of unprecedented high temperatures and a fall “rainy season” with less than half the usual precipitation, the northern firestorm turned a city called Paradise into an inferno within an hour, razing more than ten thousand buildings and killing at least sixty-three people; more than six hundred others are missing. The authorities brought in cadaver dogs, a lab to match evacuees’ DNA with swabs taken from the dead, and anthropologists from California State University at Chico to advise on how to identify bodies from charred bone fragments.
A period of contraction is setting in as we lose habitable parts of the earth.
  Hurricane Michael, the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, inflicted thirty billion dollars’ worth of material damage and killed forty-five people.
  The effort to evacuate the blazing California towns along narrow roads was so chaotic that many people died in their cars. But most of the pullback will be slower, starting along the world’s coastlines.
  Each year, another twenty-four thousand people abandon Vietnam’s sublimely fertile Mekong Delta as crop fields are polluted with salt.
  As sea ice melts along the Alaskan coast, there is nothing to protect towns, cities, and native villages from the waves.
  In Mexico Beach, Florida, which was all but eradicated by Hurricane Michael, a resident told the Post, “The older people can’t rebuild; it’s too late in their lives. Who is going to be left? Who is going to care?”
  In Jakarta, a city with a population of ten million,  a rising Java Sea had flooded the streets., and in the first days of 2018, a nor’easter flooded downtown Boston; dumpsters and cars floated through the financial district. 
  In Louisiana, government officials were finalizing a plan to relocate thousands of people threatened by the rising Gulf. “Not everybody is going to live where they are now and continue their way of life, and that is a terrible, and emotional, reality to face”.
Lithium and the Battle for Afghanistan’s Mineral Riches
More American Troops to Afghanistan, To Keep the Chinese Out? Unknown to the broader public, Afghanistan has significant oil, natural gas and strategic raw material resources, not to mention opium, a multibillion dollar industry which feeds America’s illegal heroin market. These mineral reserves include huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium, which is a strategic raw material used in the production of high tech batteries for laptops, cell phones and electric cars. The implication of Trump’s resolve is to plunder and steal Afghanistan’s mineral riches that could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” This resource has been known to both Russia and China since the 1970s.
The reality of environmental protection
We are at a stage where we humans have wiped out 85% of wildlife and are facing the specter of extinction. It is true that my tiger jinx was broken in Ranthambore and in three days I saw twelve tigers. It is true that when I watch Blue Planet or Planet Earth, with Sir David Attenborough commenting on the glory of nature and the profusion of wildlife, I am carried away with the sheer beauty of what I see. But it is good to remember that the reality is far from this. Very far. Yes, I saw twelve tigers in Ranthambore, but tigers are so seriously endangered as to be close to becoming extinct in the wild in India. Our population pressure, total ignorance and apathy towards forests and wildlife, greed to make money at any costs and a political class that is innocent of any ethics, responsibility or knowledge, means that forests and wildlife continue to get short shrift. Every mining concession, highway or railway line tends to get precedence over the forest that it will either seriously endanger or completely destroy. It is no secret that tiger reserves which get a higher level of protection from reserve forests, were systematically de-tigered so that the status of the forest could be officially downgraded to reserve forest, in order to start mining for marble.

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US Could Lose in War with China or Russia
A  bipartisan congressional panel highlights a new era of "Great Power competition" with Moscow and Beijing. The panel, run by a dozen former top Democratic and Republican officials, found that just as the US military faced budget cuts and diminishing military advantages, authoritarian nations like China and Russia are pursuing buildups aimed "at neutralising US strengths.. America's military superiority - the hard-power backbone of its global influence and national security - has eroded to a dangerous degree."
Cities Will Soon Face Six Climate Disasters at Once
Before century's end the frightening new normal could be cities and states facing multiple extreme climate events all at once.  New York, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro could soon face up to five catastrophic weather events in a single year—including wildfires, hurricanes, storm surges, and droughts. Florida has experienced more than 100 wildfires, drought, and the severely destructive Hurricane Michael in the past year—but with most news reports and climate researchers focusing on one disastrous weather event at a time, the current reality has been obscured. "A focus on one or few hazards may mask the impacts of other hazards, resulting in incomplete assessments of the consequences of climate change on humanity," writes Camilo Mora
How did Trump react to the news that the Russian hypersonic nuclear missile Avangard was ready?
He announced that his country would withdraw from the INF Treaty. So, instead of making a plan to catch up and quickly developing hypersonic missiles, he intends to reassemble the US medium range nuclear missile arsenal.  Valentin Vasilescu observes that the US is no longer manufacturing motors for this type of missile and is using Russian motors for its Atlas V rockets. Conclusion: Trump has given Moscow yet another advantage.
US vice president beats war drums in Asia:
Pence issued an ultimatum to China: either accept a subservient, semi-colonial status, or confront the full force of US diplomatic, economic and ultimately military weight. Washington is insisting that Beijing abandon plans to develop hi-tech industries to compete with US companies, further open up to American corporate exploitation, bow to the “international rules-based system” determined by the US, and halt any efforts to counter increasingly aggressive anti-Chinese propaganda.
These 4,000-year-old termite mounds are visible from space
Some 200 million conical termite mounds rise from the ground in northeastern Brazil, each about 2 to 4 meters high and about 9 meters wide, visible on Google Earth. Researchers dated the soil from 11 of these mounds and found that the piles are up to about 4,000 years old, making them almost as ancient as the pyramids of Giza. The mounds are still inhabited by the termite species, Syntermes dirus, that first made them. The mounds themselves lack any definite internal architecture, but there are extensive networks of underground tunnels that the termites use to safely access fallen leaves on the forest floor.

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Poverty in Britain: a social calamity
He visited Newcastle where he found people struggling to negotiate the benefits system and going hungry. He called it a ‘social calamity and an economic disaster’. The UK government has inflicted “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies. He found people struggling to cope within a benefits system designed to force people into work with built-in delays to payments. Many have been referred to food banks with some still going hungry.
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
The primary concern is the preservation of the new feudal mythology that they have created: that the world is a dangerous place, that they are the protectors, that the danger is omnipresent, eternal, and omnidirectional, comes from without, and comes from within. The mythology is constructed and presented through all media; journals, films, television, radio, music, advertising, books, the internet in all its variety. All available information systems are used to create and maintain scenarios and dramas to convince the people that they, the protectors, are the good and all others are the bad. We are bombarded with this message incessantly. In following much of American political leaders’ rhetoric or media coverage of the conflict, one is struck by the deliberate disregard of empirical facts, and the contempt for established legal constructs and precedents.

Which planet is the media living on?
While extreme weather events are being reported almost daily on news bulletins, only rarely is it conveyed that these events constitute the manifestation of advanced global warming and a fundamental shift in the state of the atmosphere. Rarely do major ABC TV forums, such as The Drum, The Insiders, Q and A, Four-Corners, the 7.30 Report, Breakfast, Matter of Fact and other programs include climate scientists to discuss the trends and consequences of climate disruption, mitigation and adaptation. In a recent interview with the ex-PM on the ABC Q&A program, the climate has hardly been mentioned, yet on the 12th August 2010 he said “Now our response to climate change must be guided by science. The science tells us that we have already exceeded the safe upper limit for atmospheric carbon dioxide. We are as humans conducting a massive science experiment with this planet. It’s the only planet we’ve got”.

“Keep Tathra Cool, Climate Action Now”
Frustrated by inaction and squabbling on climate change 12 years after they first took a stand, the Tathra community has again come out en-mass to lead the discussion and advocate for the future. With Dr Matthew Nott, the founder of Clean Energy for Eternity directing the traffic, hundreds of people turned out on Lawrence Park on 30 September to create a human sign that spoke not just to the atmosphere above that could see it best but more so our political leaders. “It’s 2006 since we did our first human sign on Tathra Beach, today was bigger, bolder, and more beautiful. Today’s sign is born out of frustration, we did our sign in 2006 because we were frustrated by the lack of government action and now it’s even worse. Our country now has no strategy for reducing emissions – that’s outrageous.”

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