cartoon by Michael Leunig
Letting go of the idea of free will is both liberating and terrifying. As I watch the world devolve into fascism and nuclear brinksmanship, I long to believe this is just a temporary aberration in human behaviour, though I know it is not.
It’s pretty clear now that the bipartisan American PMC, goaded by the Pentagon and military-industrial complex (the one Eisenhower, the Republican president and war general warned us about), is so ashamed of its 60 years of endless and uninterrupted military and political blunders and failures, that it has doubled down and is now hell-bent on regime change in Russia and China even at the risk of nuclear war.
The parallel propaganda war, unlike its real wars, has been a stunning success: In a total reversal, most people in the US/NATO bloc now falsely believe it was the Americans, not the Russians, who were most responsible for defeating the Nazis in WW2, and now falsely believe that China presents an existential threat to their security. In Australia, for example, both oligopolistic newspaper chains have been running long series of Pentagon-scripted fear-mongering editorials calling for a return to compulsory military service for young Australians and preparations for war with China (its largest trading partner) in 2025. This while the US has secured absolute rights to use American military bases in Australia to assemble its missiles and other war arsenals ready to launch the war.
Sadly, this collective madness is just the result of how we dumb, ignorant, gullible humans have been conditioned all of our lives. It’s the ghastly result of all eight billion of us doing our best. A quote from Julian Jaynes comes to mind:
Animals are evolved; nervous systems and their mechanical reflexes increase in complexity; when some unspecified degree of nervous complexity is reached, consciousness appears, and so begins its futile course as a helpless spectator of cosmic events. What we do is completely controlled by the wiring diagram of the brain and its reflexes to external stimuli. Consciousness is nothing more than the heat given off by the wires, a mere epiphenomenon.
Consciousness can no more modify the working mechanism of the body or its behavior than can the whistle of a train modify its machinery or where it goes. Moan as it will, the tracks have long ago decided where the train will go. Consciousness is the melody that floats from the harp and cannot pluck its strings, the foam struck raging from the river that cannot change its course, the shadow that loyally walks step for step beside the pedestrian, but is quite unable to influence his journey.
The tracks have long ago determined where this train, the human experiment, was going to go, and all we can do is shrug and wish it had been otherwise.
Et in Terra Pax. Sigh.
cartoon (thanks to Jae Mather for the link) (unable to find this online — neither Google image lens nor a search on the cartoonist’s name turns up anything)
I expect you don’t need to read any more articles about looming economic and ecological collapse. As has been explained here ad nauseam, systems collapse is accelerating, and nothing that anyone is doing is having any significant impact. The brief respite of La Niña has ended, so get ready for faster global warming. Otherwise, not much new to report.
Migrating to a low-tech future: The Honest Sorcerer, B, explores what the next decades will be like for most of us as we shift from an unsustainable economy of profligate waste, to a save-fix-and-scavenge economy.
The perpetual con of nuclear: Albert Bates explains how the old con about nuclear energy is being resurrected to try to sell nuclear fusion as a technotopian solution to energy problems. He also explains the accelerating nightmare of methane release into the atmosphere, partly thanks to fracking and the US bombing of the Nord Stream pipelines.
The vicious cycle of pesticide use: How pesticide use and climate collapse are advancing in lockstep. Thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link.
Calvin and Hobbes cartoon by Bill Watterson, who has a new adult fable book coming out
I have Stewart McDonald’s emails: Craig Murray totally undermines a Scottish MP-con-artist’s attempt to pin his incompetent leaking of his own personal information, on “Russians”.
A well-being economy: Interesting attempt to outline what an economy based on well-being rather than profit and growth, might look like.
The road to drug decriminalization: A long and important review and discussion of the complex challenges of combating toxic street drug poisonings; some of the Vancouver politicians really do get it. By contrast, a report on what Oregon and BC are doing, fails to mention the critical step of creating a safe supply.
The irrepressible Clare Daly: The Irish MEP is serving as a one-woman conscience for the entire European Community. Here she is again talking about EU silence on the US bombing of the Nord Stream pipelines.
Iran and Saudi Arabia reestablish ties: Brokered by China, the end to hostilities between the two leading Middle-East countries opens possibilities for the ending of their horrific proxy war in Yemen.
The struggles of the “buy-nothing” movement: A long and fascinating account of how the movement was grounded by attempts to wean itself off reliance on Facebook. Thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link.
The need to save ecosystems, not species: Why endangered species designation and legislation misses the mark, using a ‘zoo’ mentality instead of a holistic one.
Bernie Sanders on capitalism: His heart really is in the right place, but he’s being ground up and spat out by the political system he’s trying to work within. Thanks to John Whiting for the link.
Lyz Lenz on the ERA: Lyz rants deliciously about how the US has given women their own ‘month’ (March), instead of equal rights and equal pay.
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL
Historical US attempts to bring about regime change — Map by HapHaxion , CC BY-SA 4.0, on wikimedia
Legend: (purple) Organized or gave material/financial support to coup plotters/armed insurgents which failed to overthrow incumbent government (orange) Organized or gave material/financial support to coup plotters/armed insurgents which overthrew incumbent government (brown) Invaded/militarily intervened to enforce U.S. interests (green) Allegedly interfered in elections on behalf of preferred candidate(s) or against non-preferred candidate(s). The map is very incomplete, notably omitting interventions in Venezuela, Yemen, Australia, Pakistan, and Ukraine. Not to mention the embargoes against many other countries. These interventions, which collectively have cost trillions of dollars and millions of lives, can just about all be characterized as military and political failures. (None of the US-installed replacement governments in countries in orange are still in power.)
Corpocracy, Imperialism & Fascism: Short takes (thanks to John Whiting for many of these links):
- Will China dump its codependency on the US and its dollar? The implications for the economy, and peace, would be enormous.
- Biden’s constant calls for nonviolence by protesters while condoning violence by police are asking for the impossible and the ahistorical.
- The US’ recent balloon hysteria just makes it look stupid.
- Zelenskyy admits deliberately sabotaging Minsk peace accord.
- US bombing of Nord Stream pipelines: Ray McGovern, Jeffrey Sachs, Aljazeera, Clare Daly (again), Sy Hersh followup interview, Yves Smith.
- Canada has ‘privatized’ much of its activities to McKinsey consulting.
- The role of Canada and the US in the recent Peru government overthrow.
- The negligence behind the toxic Ohio trail derailment.
- Why the US needs the rest of the world dependent on its dollars.
- Could both progressive and conservative voters both turn on the bipartisan PMC (spoiler: probably not).
- Is the Jan 6 investigation mostly just show-trials of deplorables while the true miscreants walk?
- Leader of now-banned Ukrainian leftist party decries thousands of street renamings and new monuments honouring Ukrainian Nazis.
- Feminists call for firing execrable warmonger Victoria Nuland.
- Kinder Morgan sold its half-built tar sands pipeline to the Government of Canada claiming it would cost in total $12B; the cost now stands at $31B and rising.
- Chomsky calls for peace, not escalation, in Ukraine. So do the Rage Against the War Machine protesters, including Dennis Kucinich. And the UK Stop the War coalition. And Craig Murray.
- Canadian governments lobbied the US for exemption from its anti-deforestation bill.
- Vancouver government cancels commitment to pay its workers a living wage (closed-door meeting of course).
- What average Russians think of the war in Ukraine (thanks to Paul Heft for the link).
- Historian Aurélien explains how US/NATO equipment and training are utterly unsuited to a local close-quarters war.
- The Silicon Valley Bank collapse: Why the bankrupt 16th largest bank in the US didn’t do anything different from what the 15 larger banks have done. Basically they’ve stopped making loans (too ‘risky’), and instead invest most depositors’ money in overpriced stocks and overpriced bonds, and they don’t devalue them on their balance sheet when those investments tank. The bank’s mostly-uninsured ‘clients’ want the government to pay their losses.
Propaganda, Censorship, Misinformation and Disinformation: Short takes:
- The context for the amped-up US anti-China campaign.
- NPR yet again debunks the lab leak theory.
- NPR also (seemingly alone in covering this) debunks the Havana Syndrome conspiracy theory. Now about those balloons…
- China protests its vilification at the hands of the US, with its long history of war crimes, coups, election interference, embargoes, and sanctions. The report was quickly dismissed as propaganda by virtually all western media, which provided no details on the contents of the report. But if you’re not afraid of who might be surveilling you, you can read it here.
- How Cochrane meta-analyses are being misused by anti-mask conspiracy theorists.
- How the media were played by anti-Trump groups in Trump-Russia ‘scandals’.
- You have to be trusted by the people you lie to. Interesting psychological exploration of when and how propaganda works.
- Undercover investigation reveals private Israeli company that has been providing weaponized disinformation technologies enabling its clients to interfere in elections for 20 years.
- John Whiting’s own lament on the demise of the media in the US and UK and beyond, and its impact on democracy; it was written back in 1995, and it rings even more true today.
FUN AND INSPIRATION
from the memebrary — artwork by the contemporary Polish artist Aleksandra Waliszewska
Disquiet: A lovely and challenging essay from Flat Caps about our relationship with nature, and how the ghosts of its loss haunt us.
Capital as cudgel: Rhyd Wildermuth reviews a book by Silvia Federici that suggests that capitalism, far from being a child of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, was actually a counterrevolution “that destroyed the possibilities that had emerged from the anti-feudal struggle — possibilities which, if realized, might have spared us the immense destruction of lives and the natural environment that has marked the advance of capitalist relations worldwide”.
But is it art?: Adam Gopnik explores what AI is good and not-so-good at. It’s hopeless at reasoning by metaphor and drawing on complex history, but it’s surprisingly good at producing works that meet just about all the definitions of good art.
From CoVid-19 to the senses of animals: NPR interviews Ed Yong, who won a Pulitzer for his early work on the pandemic, and has moved to exploring and documenting (in a new book, An Immense World) the astonishing sensory world of non-human animals.
The problem with particle physics: A funny and scathing review by Sabine Hossenfelder of what goes wrong in the sciences when it pays more to invent problems and imagine hypothetical solutions than it does to actually do reality-based work.
Goat yoga: My home town is offering afternoons doing yoga outdoors at a farm, surrounded by baby goats. Bus trip, wine and bowl of curry included. Ummmm!
Art from sea to sky: My artist friend Di is the subject of a new short documentary that follows her creation of a new series of paintings from conception to completion. Great look into the processes by which art gets made.
Most popular song each month since January 1980: You’re going to hate me if you start watching this video. It’s an hour long, with quick excerpts from about 500 chart-topping songs over the past 42 years. It’s hard to stop watching, as you groan through some dreck, and then suddenly “Hey I remember that; it wasn’t half bad.” The complete Spotify playlist is here.
THOUGHTS OF THE MONTH
from the memebrary
From Indrajit Samarajiva, on How we don’t live under capitalism:
When we talk about defeating Capitalism, the fact is that it has already lost. Yes money has the power of death over us, yes the inherent social contract of Capitalism is work or starve, but man does not live by bread alone. Though we may earn our bread by the sweat of our brow, we still share it with children we keep in the shade. We still split what we have with those that have nothing. We still give food (and energy) away joyfully, in ‘transactions’ Capitalism can make no sense of. Like birthday parties. Or weddings. All the ‘irrational’ things that make us more than ‘rational economic actors’. All the things that make us decent human beings.
From Dorianne Laux: Antilamentation:
Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the living room couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering
any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
Excellent links, as always Dave! Here’s one more quote that speaks to so much of what we see these days: “Under the influence of great fear, almost everybody becomes superstitious. Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity towards those who are not regarded as members of the herd. Fear generates impulses of cruelty, and therefore promotes such superstitious beliefs as seem to justify cruelty. Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.” Bertrand Russell
“As I watch the world devolve into fascism and nuclear brinksmanship,”
Nah, rest reassured, the woke won’t let fascism occur (No pasaran) and nuclear war will bring a glorious victory to the “West Values”.
Something to remember.
Clare Daly; The only member of the EU parliament with a pair balls, is a member who has no member & all her peers, are mere pretenders.
Clare Daly, AYE, she’ll Never surrender.
Hah! Definitely a hip-hop song in there, Dr.
Excellent article Dave
Re: Iran and Saudi Arabia reestablish ties — Iran is NOT an Arab country!
Thanks Tim — good catch. Corrected to “Middle-East” countries.