Digest: 23 September 2014
In The Coming Climate Revolt, Chris Hedges (for Truthdig) discusses how the US political system has been subsumed by corporate totalitarianism and argues that citizens’ only recourse at this stage is widespread civil disobedience. Hedges describes how both political parties have lost real power to wealthy corporations over the last few decades. While the institutions of a capitalist democracy remain in place, they have been neutered in their ability to address the grievances and injustices of citizens in times of economic or political distress. The Democratic party and the Obama administration have behaved particularly egregiously, because they claim a semblance of rationality. Now the legal framework is in place to at any time put the country under martial law. This political reality bolsters the US’s inability to rationally and effectively respond to climate change.
In Errors and Emissions, Paul Krugman (for The New York Times) discusses the results of two new reports claiming that fighting global warming may be cheaper than many had thought. Krugman argues that by instituting sensible climate-related policy it will be possible to decrease emissions while building economic growth. This view runs counter to what Krugman calls “climate despair” – the view that the two cannot co-exist.
In Germany’s Green Energy Is An Expensive Success, Leonid Bershidsky (for Bloomberg) discusses the mixed but ultimately successful track record of Germany’s energy sector shift towards renewable energy. The effort has been an expensive one for Germany, large subsidies have been employed and high energy costs have been maintained and all the while Germany is not on track to reach its 2020 emissions goals. After the disaster at Fukushima Germany chose to close down its oldest nuclear reactors and this has caused it to fall back on the use of coal. However, despite costs and setbacks, the overall experience can be considered a success. It shows that a strong political will and the action of private consumers can bring about significant change. Germany’s experience should be looked at and learned from, it is a major economy making a major shift, and it is getting there.
In America’s Never-Ending War, Brahma Chellaney (for Project Syndicate) discusses the Obama Administration’s military response to ISIS in Syria. He argues that because the US fails to learn from past experience in dealing with Afghanistan and the Middle East, its “war on terror” continues to create the very conflicts it purports to attempt to control.
In Since 1978, Congress Has Worked A Full Week 14 Percent of the Time, Philip Bump (for The Washington Post) discusses the working habits of the two houses of Congress over the last 37 years. The Library of Congress keeps online records going back to January 1, 1978, and a study of these shows that Congress takes a lot of time off from legislating. Bump acknowledges that not all Congressional work requires Congress to be in session, but wonders at the remarkable prevalence of Fridays off – does this reflect that members of Congress are working in their constituencies, or are they just taking three day weekends 85% of the time?
In One In Four Americans Want Their State To Secede From The U.S., But Why?, Jim Gaines (for Reuters) discusses a recent Reuters poll showing the extent of American dissatisfaction with the federal system in the US. The recent debate and vote in Scotland has brought the question of secession to the foreground, but the issue is not new in the US. The US was created after the states seceded from England, but then disallowed any further secession to take place, resulting in the Civil War among other conflicts. The evidence of the poll, as well as anecdotal follow-up conversations clarified the issue – many apparently called for secession as a form of protest against a wide range of issues with the current and recent governance of the US. 60 million sincerely aggrieved citizens is at least a cause for serious concern.
In Botched Execution, Markus Feldenkirchen (for Der Spiegel) discusses the state of capital punishment in the US, specifically in Oklahoma following the “horrific” execution of Clayton Lockett by lethal injection this past spring. The US has been having a difficult time with lethal injections since Germany refused to send over any more of the chemical that had previously been used by American jails. In addition, the medical profession has urged its members to avoid using their skill for purposes of execution. The result is the employment of people who are untrained, the use of untested chemicals, and particularly gruesome failures. While the crimes of death row inmates are very often horrible, the incompetence employed in their execution is increasingly considered inexcusable and barbaric.
In Death, Drones and Driverless Cars: How Google Wants to Control Our Lives, Oliver Burkeman (for The Guardian) discusses Google’s business model and goals. Google, he argues, is really interested in controlling the monetization of every aspect of human interface and interaction. He considers Google’s research, its lobbying activities, and its acquisitions. What everything points to is an affirmation not of the commonly misinterpreted “do no evil” slogan, but of the morally loose approach of understanding and being able to capitalize on, essentially and ideally, every bit of information and every need of every person everywhere in the real world as well as on the internet.