News and Commentary

From Around the Web – 18 February 2016

Turkey v Islamic State v the Kurds: What’s going on? – BBC News – Although military affiliates of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) have been some of the most stalwart and effective opponents of Daesh (the Islamic State), Turkey has chosen to focus their efforts on destroying the Kurdish freedom movement. The United States’ support of these efforts is unconscionable. This article from BBC News from a few months ago gives a decent overview of the situation.

Thomas Piketty on the rise of Bernie Sanders: the US enters a new political era | The Guardian – French Economist Thomas Piketty writes that the Vermont senator’s success so far demonstrates the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections.

Bernie Sanders’ Phantom Movement – Chris Hedges – Truthdig – Hedges argues that no movement or political revolution will ever be built within the confines of the Democratic Party. And the repeated failure of the American left to grasp the duplicitous game being played by the political elites has effectively neutered it as a political force.

China’s currency reserves plunged in January – BBC News – China still has the world’s biggest reserve of foreign currency holdings. But that has declined by $420 billion over six months and stands at the lowest level in nearly four years. This is the most underreported and significant economic news of 2016, thus far.

Can the U.S. escape the slump? | – Lee Sustar looks at the prospects for the U.S. economy amid global instability.

Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation | The Intercept – Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman report that there is a coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment is succeeding.

The end of capitalism has begun | Books | The Guardian – Paul Mason posits that Capitalism will not be abolished by forced-march techniques, but by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviors.

More money for Wall Street, more problems for Chicago’s schools | Chicago Reader – From Ben Joravsky: “It seems the mayor and his council allies remain defiantly determined to waste money, raise taxes, and plunge Chicago Public Schools into bankruptcy.”

EFF to Support Apple in Encryption Battle | Electronic Frontier Foundation – “For the first time, the government is requesting Apple write brand new code that eliminates key features of iPhone security—security features that protect us all. Essentially, the government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone. And once that master key is created, we’re certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.”

Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050 – Forbes – Drew Hansen, writing for that hotbed of Socialist thought, Forbes, says that corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health.

A Conversation With Chomsky

Isabelle Kumar of Euronews interviews Noam Chomsky on a range of topics. On the subject of Greece’s debt (and that of Portugal and Spain and others) this is what he said.

Who incurred this debt? And who is the debt owed to? In part, the debt was incurred by dictators. So in Greece it was the fascist dictatorship, which the US supported, that incurred a large part of the debt. The debt I think was more brutal than the dictatorship, and that’s what’s called in international law, “odious debt” which need not be paid, and that’s a principal introduced into international law by the United States, when it was in their interest to do so. Much of the rest of the debt, what is called payments to Greece are in fact payments to banks, German and French banks, which had decided to make extremely risky loans with not very high interest and are now being faced with the fact that they can’t be paid back.

Read the Transcript: Chomsky says US is world’s biggest terrorist | euronews, the global conversation

Here’s the video.

Case Closed on Climate Change

Richard Muller, a Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley, has been one of the leading skeptics concerning the scientific consensus on climate change. In 2004, he publicly supported the findings of McIntyre and McKitrick challenging Michael Mann’s so called “hockey stick” graph (of temperatures over the last millennium) which showed accelerating global warming.

Muller is the founder and chairperson of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which provides independent analysis of the Earth’s surface temperature records. His most recent study was funded in part by charitable foundations maintained by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers. As you may know, the Kochs have donated significant funding to groups lobbying against the acceptance of man-made global warming, and to other right-wing political causes (including the Tea Party).

As it turns out, the findings of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project were a surprise to Dr. Muller, and no doubt to the Koch brothers as well.

As the BBC reported a few weeks ago, Professor Muller noted “Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the U.S. and the U.K.”

Dr. Muller was also interviewed for a recent report on NBC Nightly News. Here’s what he said.

“The existence of global warming, I think, is pretty much beyond dispute now. I think we have closed the last remaining questions on that.”

There is still much to discover about the effects that we’ll see from global warming in coming decades, and still much debate to come concerning how best to mitigate those effects (and how to deal with the unmitigated ones). We do, however, seem to be beyond the point where honest, reasoning people can continue to deny the problem.