It’s Time to Make Your Escape Plan From a Collapsing America

Over the years, I’ve predicted America’s collapse into fascism, hate, and backwardness. Often with enough detail and precision to chill many of you. And in response, you often wondered, here in the comments, or in emails to me, “Should I

leave?” I’ve left the question open. I’ll come back to why in just a moment. But now the time has to come to say it openly.

You should make exit plans from a collapsing America.

Over the years, we’ve discussed America’s abysmally low quality of life, and compared to Europe, Canada, or even many middle income countries, it’s one thing to wonder about leaving for a higher quality of life. It’s quite another to understand that the end of American democracy is now in sight, and is becoming more and more certain by the day.

Why? America’s future is now more or less obvious to anyone with eyes to see. Let me begin at the beginning.

America was given one last chance to preserve not just its “democracy,” but to stave off its inevitable plunge into fascism. 

That last chance was nothing short of a minor miracle. The coup on Jan 6th was stopped by a handful of brave police officers. Many of them literally gave their lives. Why? To prevent fascist militants from accomplishing their goal, which was to stop the counting of Presidential votes — even if by massacring anyone standing in their way. Remember those gallows? Remember the open cries for violence?

Societies do not often get chances like this. America got incredibly, incredibly lucky. If the coup had been successful — and it came within a hairs’ breadth of being successful — anything could have happened. The election could have been stopped, a full blown constitution crisis would have ensued, Trump easily could have declared martial law. American democracy would have come to an end.

So what have Democrats done with that fateful, incredibly fortunate second chance? They’ve squandered it. Yes, I know they passed a bill today. That bill is inconsequential. It adds up to less than 1% of GDP.

What does it actually take to stop fascism? Not in “my opinion,” but as in “what we know from history?” Three things. One, a socio-economic reconstruction plan, on the order of about half of a society’s economy, not 1% of GDP. Two, a process of special justice, which punishes the fascists for their transgressions and abuses of power. Three, the cultural impact of all that, which translates into stronger and more robust norms against hate and brutality and supremacy.

A society has to say never again. And mean it. Economically, culturally, socially.

The Democrats have not led America to that place. Instead, something dark and sinister is happening. Again, it’s not “my opinion” — it’s a fact. They are losing key races across the country. The midterms will be a rout. Why?

Because American fascism has hardened and grown and matured. Think about the last round of Big Lies. “They stole the election from us!” Now think about how Glenn Youngkin just won Virginia: “They’re coming for our kids!” Us. Our. Who are we talking about? Well, that’s coded — or maybe not so coded — language. It is the open language of white supremacy and fascism.

“Us” and “our” mean a certain kind of American. You can call it “white America,” though that’s certainly too broad, or you can call it “working class white America,” though plenty of downwardly middle class whites are part of this movement. This fascist movement. Which is Trumpism. And now it’s evolving and maturing.

“They’re coming for our kids” is a much, much more sinister and dangerous lie than “they stole the election from us!” Your kids are the most important thing in your life. It is a raw appeal to emotion, which triggers rage and aggression and hostility on a primal level. That is why you could see the bizarre scenes of parents… screaming… death threats… at teachers… and principals… at town meetings. “They’re coming for our kids” is a giant leap for American fascism. It is the kind of Big Lie that caused a mass hysteria, a moral panic, amongst Weimar Germans, and turned them genocidally against the Jews.

There are levels of fascist Big Lies. “They stole the election from us!” Is a political Big Lie. But “they’re coming for our kids!” is on a very, very different level. It is a cultural Big Lie. A social Big Lie. And most of all, a supremacist Big Lie.

Nobody is coming for Trumpist America’s kids. I told the story of how I was violently abused growing up in Virginia as a simple example. It’s minority kids who are under immense and profound threat in America today — and they will be tomorrow. Who’s really getting beaten and bullied and harassed at schools? It’s not regular old white kids. It’s minorities, Jews, Mexicans, gays, women, everyone else, at least most of the time. And that dynamic is of course mirrored across American society. Who rises to the top? American whites do, which you can see in everything from media to finance to business to the arts to the sciences to literature. Nobody is coming for America’s white people. How could anyone? They have all the guns, money, rights power.

So what are they so angry about? Well, the idea of any kind of progress for anyone else seems to drive them into a rage. That is because all the entitlements they enjoy are called “privilege.” I don’t like that word, but in America’s case it’s true. To say that little Johnny shouldn’t have to learn about slavery is only to say that he should be able to on being ignorant, and perhaps a bigot, like his parents — the Trumpists — are. And if he beats up a few minorities at school, harasses them, insults them…well, that’s just boys being boys. Just like, apparently, only white dudes get to be CEOs because everyone else is dumber than them, I guess. You see my point.

What is White America so angry about? All those Big Lies are designed to feed into the latent sense of supremacism and entitlement. Yes, living in a more equal society does mean the loss of some forms of privilege. Like saying no, my kid shouldn’t be insulting minorities or gays “for fun.” Or like saying hey, maybe our society should actually be fairerBut fairness, to the one in power, looks a whole lot like dispossession.

So why tell the Big Lie? To stoke all those Trumpist parents into a whole new level of rage, anger, violence. To drive them literally senseless with fear. If someone’s coming for little Johnny…who are they? Why? Now I’ve got to protect my kids at all costs. This is a horrific Big Lie to tell. It is the culmination of what I’ve tried to describe above. Manipulating White Americans into rage over the loss of their privileges, which are unfair ones to have to begin with. Stoking the fears of racial anxiety to a white-hot flame, by making white Americans imagine they’re genuinely under attack.

These are old, old fears. You have to understand them that way to really know them. White Americans have lived with these fears since they colonised the land. The Natives were attacking them. The slaves would rebel. They’re coming for our wives and kids are the oldest, most primal fears in the white American imagination. And here they are, being used to drive white America into a mindless rage, all over again.

The cycle of hate is repeating itself. It is being allowed to repeat itself precisely because the Dems haven’t done enough to stop fascism. It’s true the Dems probably couldn’t have done the things I talked about — a socioeconomic reconstruction plan on the order of a New Deal, etc. But they haven’t even tried. And it only really begs the question: well, maybe America’s just essentially a fascist country then.

So Youngkin won easily in Virginia. Without a platform. With no political experience whatsoever. Simply by telling the Big Lie that “they’re coming for your kids” to white working class America. That template is going to be followed across the country — and Trumpists are going to believe it. The question of course is: why are they going to believe it? After all, the only possible thing really coming for little Johnny is another kid with a gun. And they support gun “rights,” to the point where guns have more rights than women. Trumpists are going to believe the Big Lie because they are still possessed by paranoia and rage. They feel entitled to the soil, and everything on it, by virtue of blood. You can still trigger rage in them with the old lie: “They’re coming for our wives and kids!” Last time, that led to slavery, genocide, apartheid, segregation.

What will it lead to this time?

That a Glenn Youngkin can trigger white rage on a mass level, drive it to the level of mass hysteria, make a society senseless with fury, with that one little Big Lie? That white Virginians were gullible enough to believe that their kids were under attack? Only this time it wasn’t communism or rebel slaves…but “CRT”…a theory (LOL)? It tells us everything about the future American politics, which is that it’s just like the past.

All of that is a long, long way to see: you can see the future from here. You meaning you. Anyone vaguely sane and thoughtful should be able to see what is going to happen next. The Democrats will lose in the midterms. They’ll lose the Presidency. They’ve barely been able to muster the littlest will to fight fascism at all — meanwhile, fascism is now telling the kinds of Big Lies that actually lead to genocide. Telling those Big Lies, the platform of the GOP is now openly about ideological and then ethnic cleansing, like in Texas, where women don’t have rights anymore, or like in Virginia and Ohio, where they’re not about to, either. As white America’s driven into a mass hysteria of white-hot rage by the Bigger Lies of “they’re coming for your kids! Your wives! Your land!” — Trump wins again.

And you should know what’s going to happen when Trump wins again. The abuses of power will be much, much worse. This time, it’s going to be American families separated. American kids and moms thrown in concentration camps. Martial law and military justice will be deployed against critics and opponents. Every school-board thug will be the town’s local chief Gestapo officer, policing kids and parents alike for thoughtcrime.

Want to live in that kind of society?

You shouldn’t stick around for what’s coming, my friend. I’ve held back for as long as I could, because I felt there was still a small enough chance — a slender one — that, even if only by sheer dumb luck, America might just make it. That chance is now gone. The game is over. There is no stopping what’s coming, and what’s coming is something like Russia, the Balkans, or America in the Jim Crow era.

You should make an exit plan, now. You don’t have to use it right away. But you should make it and have it. You should have an option you can exercise to escape what’s coming in America. I know that makes me sound like some late-night TV hysteric. I’m sorry to sound like that. I wish I was only trying to scare you. Sadly, like I said, anyone should be put together what I’ve outlined for you.

If you want me to (tell me in the comments), I’ll give you some tips and ways to make an exit plan.

No, it’s not easy to do such a thing. But now is the time. You have about two years left, maybe three, before all of the above — Bigger Lies, white rage, growing hate, mounting fanaticism, fascism going local — really culminate in serious disaster and horror. After Trump gets elected again, it’ll take maybe six to nine months for the next wave of abuses — American families separated, little Gestapos everywhere — to begin. That gives you tops three years. That’s a good amount of time to make an exit plan. Don’t wait. Don’t dawdle. Make it now. Even if you think what I’ve said is mostly nonsense, and there’s only, say a 25% chance of it happening…do you really want to risk it? You should at least have the option, even if you never use it.

I’m sorry to have to say it, and plenty of people will object vociferously. They’ll say it’s better to be patriotic and whatnot. I’ve never had strong feelings about America being some kind of home. It’s always hated me too much for that. Can’t you see it now, all that hate, growing every day, like a cancer? This one’s terminal.

Get out while you can. Because America’s not going to get another chance. The last one was the last one — and it was squandered. That leaves you with one goal, I guess. Survival, my friend.

The Fat Lady Has Just Sung


In October, ahead of the useless and infuriating spectacle that is the COP 26 meeting in Glasgow, quietly, with little fanfare, and it seems almost reluctantly, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report titled:

“Climate Change and International Responses Increasing Challenges to US National Security Through 2040”

Taken together with articles and studies coming fast and furious regarding the state of the climate since the U.N. declaration of “Code Red for Humanity” last month, the report is both a sobering read and a final and unequivocal rebuke of climate denial as far as the U.S. government is concerned.

One notable omission from the report is the usual recap of the science behind climate change, designed to convince pea-brained, snowball-toting, mega-skeptics like Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.

The first sentence states:

“Risks to US national security through 2040 will increase as countries respond to physical effects of climate change. Global temperatures most likely will surpass the Paris agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius by around 2030, and the physical effects are projected to continue intensifying.” (emphasis mine)

Notice, they allowed no room for fudging. No “might be”, or “could be”, no “optimism” a-la CNN that “there is still hope!” or “ but we are not TOO late…”

The US military is planning on a greater than 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures and chaos, by 2030, even if Senator Inhofe thinks snowballs are proof of his scientific discovery that it is all a hoax.

Right below that declaration, is a deceptively bland-looking graphic, with full or half-full orbs denoting the likelihood and the severity of adverse events. The events below are considered “high risk to US national security” by the U.S. intelligence community by 2040, and by extension a risk to your security. That is less than 19 years from now. A newborn today will still be not old enough to buy a Bud in the U.S. but will be able enroll in the military and will have to deal with the risks of…

  • Cross border water tension and conflict,
  • Developing country financial and technology assistance,
  • Petro-states resisting clean energy transition from fossil fuels,
  • Competition with China over key minerals and clean energy technologies,
  • Cross border migration due to climate impacts,
  • The strain on energy and food systems,

to name a few.

In the key findings section we encounter:

“Key Judgment 1Geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions that will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. The debate will center on who bears more responsibility to act and to pay — and how quickly — and countries will compete to control resources and dominate new technologies needed for the clean energy transition.”

This, after admitting that the world is not likely (at all) to meet the pledges made at Paris.


It remains a fact the industrial north is responsible for at least 62% of the CO2 accumulated in the atmosphere since 1751. It is also fact, that even after externalizing carbon emission to other countries and relying on shoddy carbon accounting, the North American per capita emissions is 3.5 times the world average, while the average European’s is 1.8. If you compare it to an average African citizen, a person living in North America is responsible for a staggering 13.7 times more carbon emitted annually.

“Countries most likely will wield contentious financial and economic tools to advance climate policies and defend their national economies”

Page 7

Many countries, devoid of the resources to meet the looming crisis, need help but the greedy, be it the feudal, colonial, or the capitalist kind, are loath to admit their undeniable responsibility to humanity, stop polluting, and pay up.

According to the External Affairs Minister of India, by the time of Indian Independence, the British had extracted $45 trillion of wealth from the subcontinent.

Even for allowing the moral escape clause of limiting the counting to start at a time when “international awareness of climate issues” grew, research estimates the environmental liability of the OECD 20 countries at $15 trillion!

However, the countries most responsible for this destruction are yet to make good on their pledge of the paltry $100 billion promised at the Copenhagen climate conference of 2009. Only $10.3 billion has been delivered so far.

The U.N. reports that in 2019, 118 million people in India “suffered the indignity of defecating in fields, forests, bodies of water, or other public spaces due to lack of access to toilets” — after making significant progress since 2015, when the number was over 560 million!

The Queen of England, on the other hand, having been handed sovereignty over the seabed around the British Isles in a breathtaking (pun intended) display of appropriating the commons by the consent of a handful of English gentlemen (The Continental Shelf Act of 1964), is now adding to her considerable ill-gotten gains by leasing the wind that blows over that seabed to the tune of millions of dollars. Apparently, looting of the sub-continent, and most of the planet for that matter, for 200 years wasn’t enough.


What would your demands be, if you were a leader of a country where 118 million people were desperately looking for a place to defecate twice a day while the country and the people that impoverished your country kept getting richer off air?

How would you plan for what would surely be “geopolitical tension” between nuclear-armed, economically challenged countries if you were a Pentagon analyst?

“Key Judgment 2: The increasing physical effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate cross-border geopolitical flashpoints as states take steps to secure their interests.”

Through its occupation of the Tibetan plateau, China controls the headwaters of not only the Yangtze and the Yellow rivers essential to feeding its ever-growing, coal-dependent population, but it also controls the headwaters of the Yarlung/Brahmaputra, Indus, Lakong, and Nu rivers, estimated to be home to 46% of the world’s population in several countries. Two of those counties are nuclear powers and so is China.

Turkey sits on top of the Euphrates and Tigris, Ethiopia controls the Nile, Israel (also a nation that possesses nukes) has a death grip on the Jordan River, and Bolsinaro is burning the Amazon.

Flashpoints indeed!

The chart on page 2 of the report makes the point extremely clear even to the snowball-toting skeptics in the US Congress. Just look at the numbers.

Already over 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger according to the UN. Given the enthusiasm for cutbacks on the part of industrialized countries, when the global average temperature reaches 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, that number will explode.

“All societies are three meals away from anarchy.”

Vladimir Lenin

Key Judgment 3Scientific forecasts indicate that intensifying physical effects of climate change out to 2040 and beyond will be most acutely felt in developing countries, which we assess are also the least able to adapt to such changes. These physical effects will increase the potential for instability and possibly internal conflict in these countries, in some cases creating additional demands on US diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, and military resources.

After decades of hegemonic oppression and capitalist exploitation, the weakened states of Central America are finding it impossible to deal with the effects of an increasingly destructive and hostile climate. Caught between hurricanes, droughts, and inept or outright corrupt governments while faced with starvation or becoming collateral damage to criminal elements, they flee, mostly northward.

The U.S., having found itself unable to deal with this mass of humanity to begin with, will soon find itself dealing with large internal population displacements due to the same dynamics, as well as more climate refugees massing its Southern border.

This northward movement of humanity in its hundreds of millions will leave no country unaffected. Along with the human misery of the so-called “caravans”, a flood of humanity, like Napoleon’s Grande Armee marching through Prussia, will devour everything in its path.

Donald Trump will not be the last leader to call for a wall, misguided as that approach is. India already has a wall along 76% of its border with Bangladesh, potentially in a futile attempt to cut off over 100 million future refugees. Backed against a rising sea, starvation, and no way out, they will also swarm that border. What would you do, if you had a child and that was the only way out?


What would you do, if you were a leader of a nuclear-armed country where 118 million people are lacking basic sanitation, let alone have access to air-conditioning needed to cool down in now-common 50 degrees C+ days, or have the electricity needed to run the pumps to drain your aquifers even further because China has reduced your water-flow and your crops are failing?

In a way, attempting to predict the future is futile. Humans are fickle, leaders may change their minds. We have discovered that even quantum particles can’t be counted on to stay put. That’s one reason the reporters and courtesans tell us “but there is hope”, I suppose.

The U.S. Intelligence agencies do not deal in hope. They deal in analysis and risk assessment, although even they can’t help but indulge in magical thinking sometimes. Under “Events that would change their assessment”, they include:

“A successful geoengineering deployment at the scale that results in global cooling without negatively disrupting weather patterns.” Insert miracle here ___

It is a sad day for humanity when even the most clear-eyed assessment of our “predicament” hopes for technological magic to save us, while ignoring one of the most obvious solutions.

Cut the military’s budget that uses the threat of ongoing conflict to bloat its spending, and funnel the money into realistic, fossil-fuel-cutting, emission-reducing solutions. Now. Repeat worldwide.

Sir David Attenborough said it best during his speech at COP 26:

“If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it!”

Sir David Attenborough

I share his passion, but sadly, not his optimism.


The Right Wants to Cancel the Truth

When conservatives attack Critical Race Theory — or any meaningful discussion of systemic racism in American history — they insist they do so only because such material ignores the progress made since the nation’s founding and leads students to think badly about America.

But actually, the right wants to paper over historical injustices — to cancel the truth — so as to keep students from asking difficult questions about inequality in the present.

But actually, the right wants to paper over historical injustices — l to cancel the truth — so as to keep students from asking difficult questions about inequality in the present.

They fear that if students realize how central racism has been to the country’s development, they may connect the dots between that historical injustice and ongoing disparities in the present.

And if they do that, they may seek to challenge the existing political and social order — as many millions did last summer after the murder of George Floyd.

Ultimately, the right wants students to be uncritical thinkers who accept the racial inequities they can see in contemporary America as naturally occurring or even the fault of Black people themselves.

It might sound like a hyperbolic claim. But it’s not hard to prove.

Conservatives fear the truth because it might inspire more activism

Although conservatives insist they merely want to stress the progress made since the nation’s founding — and they fear CRT and other anti-racist approaches don’t do enough of that — the right doesn’t actually want to discuss racism historically, even if only to point out how far we’ve come since the days of enslavement or segregation.

How do we know they have no interest in honestly presenting that history — even in its “look at all the progress we’ve made” version?

Simple.

First, we can watch what they’re doing and the material they’re attacking in their current crusade.

Across the country, groups like Moms for Liberty have been seeking to ban the teaching of children’s books about MLK, Rosa Parks, or Ruby Bridges, who was the first Black student at a previously all-white elementary school in New Orleans.

These books don’t teach that whites are “inherently oppressive” or evil — the claim made by some in their attack on Critical Race Theory. Instead, they simply tell the truth of the fight for civil rights and against segregation.

There is nothing in the books that is historically inaccurate, and indeed even the critics have pointed to nothing factually wrong in them.

But they wish to ban them anyway because the material might make white children “feel bad,” or make kids dislike police (because cops were often the ones brutalizing civil rights protesters), and because the stories “don’t offer white people redemption.”

There is nothing in the books that is historically inaccurate, and indeed even the critics have pointed to nothing factually wrong in them.

But they wish to ban them anyway because the material might make white children “feel bad,” or make kids dislike police (because cops were often the ones brutalizing civil rights protesters), and because the stories “don’t offer white people redemption.”

In other words, these are attacks on the truth, on actual history, by people who would prefer we lie to children, to pretty-up the past, to ignore the fact that most white people either supported segregation and institutional white supremacy or stood by and acquiesced to it, for generations.

For final confirmation that this is what the right seeks — the utter whitewashing of history — one need only listen to what one Republican activist and “concerned parent” in Virginia recently said, quite openly, to an interviewer for a segment on Showtime.

So there you have it — the whole gamut of right-wing racism denial and rationalization:

  1. Racism is only a problem because we talk about it.
  2. Teaching about what Andrew Jackson actually did to Indigenous people amounts to “putting down” whites “for the color of their skin.”
  3. Rather than discussing that genocide, Indigenous folks need to “forgive” and move on.
  4. Teaching accurate history about oppression leads to “giving people of color an advantage” over white people because it keeps us “feeling sorry for them.”
  5. When Black males are pulled over by police and treated differently, it’s not because of racism but because of their behavior and how they interact with cops.
  6. It should be up to parents whether or not to teach their children about racism, either in history or today.

It is nearly impossible to add much to this, other than to say what it obviously suggests: if it were up to the right, American history would be stripped of the history part.

All we would be left with would be the fictional narratives of George Washington and the cherry tree (which was a fake story, by the way) and other meaningless tales of uncomplicated greatness.

In their version, the founders were extraordinary men whose ownership of human beings is irrelevant to understanding who they were.

In their version, “mistakes were made” along the way, but by and large, America has been a place of freedom and liberty except for — as one Moms for Liberty activist puts it — “these small slivers” of injustice.

And to the extent this anti-historical narrative is blended with white fear about “preferential treatment” for Black people and rationalizations for current inequities — in the case of policing, as noted in the above segment — we can see the real fear here.

It’s not that kids might feel bad about being white. After all, as I’ve explained before, we could always teach students the history of white anti-racist allyship and give them strong white anti-racist role models so as to short-circuit guilt. But conservatives never want to do that.

Because it isn’t guilt that concerns them.

What they fear is that students taught the truth might put two and two together and realize that there is a connection between the history some would rather us not teach and the reality today, which they would rather us not confront.

These parents fear that young people, once apprised of the truth, might decide that America should right the wrongs of our history.

And that would challenge the very system upon which those white and conservative parents have come to depend and have long accepted.

They know children have an innate sense of justice — that is what scares them.

We know how the right would prefer history be taught — we did it that way for generations

If you want a sense of how conservatives would prefer history to be taught, especially regarding matters of racial injustice, you need only look at how it was taught for generations.

Only in the last 25 years or so have schools in most parts of the country begun to introduce multiple perspectives and voices to the history and literature curriculum, and even then in a spotty and inconsistent way.

Too often, literature classes throw a few Black or brown authors in the mix or focus on Black historical figures for February before pivoting back to the standard material with which the teachers themselves were typically raised.

It’s not necessarily because those teachers or schools were overtly or deliberately racist that voices of color were missing, but simply that “you can’t teach what you don’t know.”

I cannot recall being taught even one piece of literature by a Black author in school. Not one.

We did read Black Like Me, but that doesn’t count because the author was a white guy who only darkened his skin as an experiment to discover what segregation felt like to Black people — which apparently was easier than just listening to Black people or reading their books.

I cannot remember a single conversation in school about race or racism, historically or in the present.

And this was in Nashville — one of the most central locations of the civil rights struggle.

We took field trips to all kinds of places in town: to the state capitol, the Parthenon (yes, we have one, don’t ask), even some stupid tea house downtown for reasons I still can’t understand.

This was where warriors for justice like John Lewis and Diane Nash and Bernard Lafayette confronted the city’s white power structure, as others did in cities across the South that year.

And yet, we never went there, even to discuss what had happened on that spot.

We learned nothing about the Nashville freedom movement.

We had no speakers come in to talk about that movement.

Nothing. At all.

We went to the Hermitage — the home of Andrew Jackson — where we uncritically imbibed the history of one of the nation’s most depraved and racist Indian killers and enslavers. But we could not spend even a day learning about real heroism.

Why not?

There is only one reason: because to discuss their struggle would have confronted us with the reality of what this nation was for most of its history — a formal, official, and legally accepted system of white supremacy.

Even more, it might have led us to ask: “Where were our parents and grandparents when all this was happening?”

And because we know the answer to that for most white students, it was thought best to leave it alone.

To the parents storming school board meetings, screaming about CRT, and demanding the removal of books from school libraries, it still is.

They would have their children remain ignorant. They would lie to them. All because to tell the truth might encourage them to do something to make the country more fair and equitable.

And conservatives quite like things the way they are.

They always have.

Manchin is demanding progressive lawmakers give in.

Virtually everything that the left has predicted would happen to the reconciliation bill has happened or is in the process of unfolding. No matter how much of it we might have seen coming, that hasn’t made watching it occur in real time any less infuriating or, frankly, painful. Among those who has earned the left’s ire is none other than West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, who has happily served as an active barrier to virtually any progress the left might like to see under the Biden administration.

Of course, he never ceases to kick it up a notch.

From the moment the bipartisan infrastructure bill and reconciliation bill route were decided upon, it was obvious to anyone who follows politics that lawmakers like Manchin were going to do everything they could to torpedo the reconciliation bill if they were able to. One of the key pieces of leverage that the left has in the slim majority in congress was securing the agreement that the reconciliation bill would be voted upon first or at the same time as the bipartisan infrastructure bill to ensure that didn’t happen.

Originally, the bill was supposed to be $6 trillion, then was whittled down to $3.5 as the compromise that was originally agreed upon, and now, thanks largely to Joe Biden’s weakness and unwillingness to fight, stands at Joe Manchin’s preferred figure of around $1.75. Not only that, but Manchin and Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema have succeeded in gutting the bill of paid family leave, negotiations for drug prices, key climate provisions, and tuition free community college. Virtually all that is left is universal pre-k for the simple reason that the donor class wants parents back to work, some scaled back climate policies, and a means tested daycare program.

Still, even with all the concessions, lawmakers like Manchin and Sinema have not committed to voting for the reconciliation bill.

Last week, Nancy Pelosi met with the progressive caucus to urge them to, as predicted, vote for the bipartisan bill so that it could pass before the President went overseas. Of course, that meant that it would be before the reconciliation bill was voted upon, and she was quite literally kicked out of the meeting in response.

Of course, the only guarantee they had was Biden’s confidence that Manchin and Sinema would back the bill. After everything that has occurred, they’re simply expected to take his word for it. Well, as expected, Manchin himself decided to come out and publicly refuse to commit.

Not only that, he decided to take to the press to demand progressives give in.

At the press conference, Manchin said:

“I’ve worked in good faith for months with all of my colleagues to find a middle ground on a fiscally responsible piece of legislation that fixes the flaws of the 2017 Trump tax bill that I thought was weighted far, far to the high end earners, and the needs of the American families and children. However, as more of the real details outlined in the basic framework are released, what I see are shell games. Budget gimmicks that makes the real cost of the so called $1.75 trillion bill estimated to be almost twice that amount if the full time is run out. If you extended it permanently, and that we haven’t spoken about. This is a recipe for economic crisis…well I’ve worked hard to find a path to compromise but it’s obvious, compromise is not good enough for a lot of my colleagues in congress. It’s all or nothing, and their position doesn’t seem to change unless we agree to everything. Enough is enough.”

Sen. Joseph Manchin– W. Virginia

The sheer gaslighting. The unmitigated gall. The nerve of this multi-millionaire to get up in front of the cameras and outright lie to the American people the way he did is enough to make you sick. This bill is a shell of what it once was. A shell. And yet he pretends as though it is the progressives who aren’t compromising, who are saying ‘all or nothing’? We are in this position because in spite of the concessions that have been made to him, he is still unwilling to commit to voting for this bill. He succeeded in getting the bill so scaled back it has reached the point where many of us on the left are urging the progressive lawmakers to abandon it altogether, and Manchin has the audacity to go on camera, finger wag, and say “enough is enough”.

As I have said now countless times before, if Manchin succeeds with this behavior then democrats absolutely deserve the political bloodbath they have coming to them in upcoming elections. If this is the man that democrats have decided will act as the de facto president, then I want no part of it. Manchin’s right, I suppose. Enough really is enough. These are not minor disagreements over a spending bill. This is open political warfare over the future of the democratic party, and Manchin is working as hard as he can to alienate the left as much as humanly possible.

Is this what people voted for in 2020? Is this the type of leadership that organizers moved mountains for? Is this what Arizona and Georgia flipped blue for? I’m not sure what else there is to say about Manchin that hasn’t already said, but we should be thoroughly embarrassed by the fact that this was the path chosen by a democratic party that was handed the house, the senate, and the white house.

They’re really going to demand we move mountains again, aren’t they?

I don’t have the time or the energy to dwell on the anger. At this point if he succeeds, then good luck in 2022. The American people certainly don’t deserve what’s coming, but nothing would give me more pleasure than to see a party as weak, feckless, and corrupt as the democratic party get what it deserves.

If It Feels Like American Fascism is Resurging, That’s Because It Is

It was a disastrous night for the Dems. One which, sadly, anyone sane could and should have seen coming for months now.

American fascism hasn’t gone anywhere — it’s just gone local instead of national.

How exactly do you think minority Virginians are going to feel waking tomorrow knowing that a whole lot of their neighbours voted for Youngkin — who won with racist dog whistles? Who seems to want to ban an award winning book about slavery from school curricula, because it might make little Johnny feel bad? They’re going to have a complicated mixture of feelings. Disgust, anger, despair, fear.

That’s exactly what the Trumpists want. They want everyone else to feel afraid of them, intimidated by them, scared of them. Hence the screaming and death threats at school board meetings. Hence, Jan 6th.

Americans are adept at pretending none of this is happening, but this is the politics of social collapse. It goes like this. I vote for a candidate who’s a demagogue. Who blames you — gay, Jew, Mexican, Black, Critical Race Theory — for my woes, me, the pure blooded “real” American. I pretend that’s perfectly legitimate, that it’s not happening for reasons of supremacy. But of course it is.

American fascism didn’t go anywhere, and right about now, Glenn Youngkin is its rising star. It has mass social approval, and Virginians are going to be paying the price for generations. Minorities now know how much their white neighbours openly despise them, and their white neighbours now know, too, they can attempt to have a Texas of their own, a mini Handmaids Tale dystopia of repression and hate, even if Jan 6th failed to turn America into a supremacist state at the national level.

Big Lies work, because there a whole lot of really, really terrible people in America who are eager to believe in Big Lies. Oh no, many of you are going to be really “offended.” But is this really news to anyone? Hello, didn’t we just live through the Trump years?

Pundits are going to make hay of a simple fact over the next few days, which is that Youngkin didn’t explicitly appeal to Donald Trump. It doesn’t matter, Donald Trump went out of his way to embrace Youngkin. Why is that?

Because Youngkin is a textbook demagogue.

How did he win the election? By demonising “critical race theory” in schools. Except “critical race theory” isn’t taught in Virginia’s schools. Youngkin won, in other words, by mobilising old, old fears in America. They’re coming for our kids! Oh no, our kids might learn to regard others as human beings! We’d better double down on teaching our kids that no, they’re supreme, by virtue of blood and faith.

Youngkin found a scapegoat, and whipped it until the entire state was transfixed. He egged on raging fights at school boards, drove parents into frenzies of rage, with the Big Lie that schools were becoming bastions of “wokeness,” where kids were taught that white people were inferior, and every white kid was born a terrible oppressor, that minorities are using the idea of “white privilege” to persecute white people, and so on, all the rest of it, the right-wing hysteria which drives white Americans crazy with rage.

None of this was remotely true. Nobody was teaching kids that white people were evil or bad or anything. They were just asking kids to read books about slavery. Prize-winning ones, in fact, like Toni Morrison’s Beloved. White privilege isn’t particularly a term I like, but you don’t have to look very hard to see it in action — how many CEOs or Presidents or Hollywood stars or whatever have ever been not white?

So let’s be honest about what’s really going on here. Virginia swung to Youngkin, hard, because he offered it a slightly politer form of Trumpism.

One that wore the classic Virginia uniform of khakis and dorky shirts instead of an oversized Fifth Avenue power suit. But it was still Trumpism. White Americans still respond angrily to the erosions of their supremacy over the rest. They see social equality as their own dispossession, a loss of their genetic entitlement to resources and power.

Youngkin fed exactly those flames — because, of course, he feels the same way. But all that is exactly just what Trumpism is.

It was the secret hate vote all over again. Youngkin won the suburbs. All those cosmopolitan parents in Virginia, even in all those rich suburbs? LOL — they turned out to be backwards Trumpists, secret regressives, who could care less about having a decent society. Why? Well, basically they did not want their kids to have to grow to be decent people. They preferred little Tucker and Annie to grow up not ever having to know much about slavery or hatred or how they shaped America. Little Tucker and Annie cry! They have feelings! Empathy! Uh oh, time to turn into them little bigots. Hardly a surprise, considering Virginia was a slave state — and it was also a place where “interracial marriage” was illegal until 1973. Living memory. That’s the legacy Youngkin appealed to — and won.

America’s full of people who want to believe in Big Lies, because those Big Lies give them a convenient, easy, socially validated excuse to keep on having the same old hateful, supremacist attitudes — and even transfer them to their kids. Who doesn’t want their kids to be just like them, after all? Hence: the schools are being racist…to my kids, by…teaching them about slavery! Wait…what?

Youngkin won by telling Big Lies. By scapegoating a convenient, imaginary villain for the woes of the pure and true. In this case, the villain was “critical race theory,” or imaginary fears of your kids and wives being subject to “reverse racism,” being at the mercy of minorities, who might do who knows what to them. Just think about how ridiculous that is for a moment. Can any minority in America even call the cops on a white person without risking their own lives? Give me a break.

All that was a convenient scapegoat for a deeper truth: Virginia’s a state which is growing more and more diverse, and white Americans live in fear of that, of cultural change, of social development, of having live to alongside other kinds of people as equals. Or at least enough of them to do to believe Youngkin’s Big Lies and put him over the top.

At the same time, though, it’s true that the Dems gave Youngkin an opening. Biden won Virginia’s suburbs by 8 points — but this time, Youngkin won them by six. That’s a 14-point swing. How did that happen?

The Dems’ approach isn’t working, because nobody knows what Bidenism is.

Americans appear to be wearying of the Dems, fast. What do they stand for? What do they want? What exactly are they offering? Nobody much knows — not even the Dems.

That is happening for a simple enough reason.

Joe Biden’s approach — negotiate with both sides of the party, as if they hold equivalent power and have equally appealing and reasonable agendas — isn’t working. It’s leading to the Dems getting nothing done. As in quite literally nothing. The Dems spending bill has been held up all summer long, and it’s still not passed. Terry McAuliffe pleaded with the Dems to get something, anything done, so that he could have something concrete to appeal to voters with. His pleas fell on deaf ears — and the result was an historic defeat. Biden’s nice guy approach to politics isn’t working. It’s leading to disaster, and it’ll keep on leading to disaster.

The Dems main position, at this juncture, is still: “hey, at least we’re not Trump.” But that’s what Glenn Youngkin said, too. It’s not enough to not be Trump anymore. Now is time for a positive politics, not just a negative one, a politics of presence, not just absence.

And yet even at this stage, nobody can say what Bidenism is. Except, maybe, to say that it’s a philosophy of compromise taken to outlandish extremes. Without some kind of defining governing philosophy, the Dems are going to keep on losing, more and more badly.

All this doesn’t matter, on a level, because America’s destined to become a fascist state — sociohistory tells us so. What kind of governing philosophy should the Dems have? Well, it’s pretty obvious. America just had a fascist collapse during the Trump years, and we know what it takes to rescue societies after such episodes. Dramatic, historic reconstructions — based on generational levels of investment. How did Europe rebuild after Nazism? The Marshall Plan. How did America stave off its own collapse during the 1930s? The New Deal.

The 20th century taught us exactly how to deal with fascism. Economically, there needs to be a wave of investment in a society’s failed systems.Socially, the middle class needs to be lifted up. Legally, there needs to be process of special justice for crimes against humanity. And culturally, there needs to be a lasting recognition that hatred is wrong, punishable, taboo, so that norms and values change.

Democrats haven’t done any of it. Worse, they don’t plan to do any of it. Worst of all, they don’t understand why they should.

That is why Bidenism is what it is: nothing, nonexistent, something nobody can define, because it has no substance at all. The Democrats understand neither the peril of the moment, nor the causality at work in it. They literally are clueless about the sociohistoric forces they’re dealing with.

I don’t blame them. Nobody much in America seems to understand sociohistory, because it’s a European approach to thought, understanding, knowledge. Americans, instead, are trapped in the dreck of CNN and punditry and Ezra Klein and the New York Times. They don’t understand much of anything, even the good ones. Especially not the Democrats.

All that means that the future is foretold. America’s fascist collapse isn’t going to stop.

Today’s Youngkin victory becomes tomorrow’s Trump victory. And this time, the fascists take the gloves off. Maybe they deputise people for “aiding and abetting” gay marriage. Maybe they put kids in concentration camps — who are American citizens. Maybe they check your papers every weekend.

I used to say: this is America’s last chance. Now, sadly, I tend to think. Yes, it was.

Is America Heading Towards Another Civil War?

There’s a question that’s been eating away at me. I’ve tried not to ask it, but it keeps coming back to haunt me. It’s an ugly one, a difficult one. I’d bet, perhaps, that it’s occurred to you, too. It goes like this. Is America headed for a second civil war?


Before you object to me even asking, or call me “alarmist,” as so many Americans love to do even as their nation collapses, let me outline why this question keeps on eating away at me. And while you do, bear in mind, that I’ve lived through civil wars, and studied them, too. America today reminds me of those collapsed societies I was unlucky enough to grow up in. There’s something going badly wrong in America today. But just how wrong?

Here are the five reasons why I think there’s a distinct possibility America is headed towards another Civil War. In fact, may already be in one —as many of those that I follow on Twitter are calling it, a “cold Civil War”  — so let’s begin there.

I read a statistic today that finally made ask the question out loud. Like so many of today’s statistics, it’s shocking, grim, and yet unsurprising, all at the same time. Four out of ten Republicans who believe the election was stolen think political violence is justified. And let me remind you, a whole 70% of Republicans still think the election was stolen from Trump.

Think about that for a second. Four out of ten Trumpists support violence as a means to address their political grievances. Those are incredibly dire numbers.

Let me put them in perspective. If we saw them in any other society, we’d say: that society is on the brink of civil war. That’s the same level of widespread, mass-scale support for violence that existed in, probably, the Balkans. In African genocides. In Islamic sectarian conflicts. In fact, in many of those places, and at those times, there was less support for violence.

Imagine seeing a headline that said: “40% of Germans support violence to resolve political differences.” You’d shudder — and think of Nazism. Or think of reading “40% of the Dutch (or Swedish, or Danish) back violence on a mass social scale.” It’d be faintly ridiculous, because today those are happy, trusting societies. To really drive the point home, imagine “40% of Canadians support large-scale political violence.” LOL — Canadians are nice.

But all that should put in perspective how eerily wrong it is to see such statistics in America. Where else do we see numbers like “40% of one of two political sides support large-scale violence to attain their authoritarian ends”? Only in failed states. Serious, hardcore failed states. It’s hard to even find other examples today. Not even in Pakistan or India or Nigeria would you see such numbers — which is how shocking this finding really is.

And yet it’s also, like I said, unsurprisingWhy? Because something’s in the air. Something poisonous. And we all know it. We can see it. Many of us are experiencing it. Americans are at each others’ throats. The culture wars are spilling over into real harm, violence, intimidation.

Americans’ cultural differences appear to be irreconcilable.

What cultural differences are those? Well, one side — you know which — still wants America to be something very much like a supremacist, segregated, patriarchal state, where women and minorities are second-class citizens, if even that much. The other wants something less than a social democracy, but at least some semblance of an open, modern democracy. Now, the side which wants America to be a supremacist state has always wanted that, and appears totally unwilling to give up on it.

Hence, all those now infamous school-board wars. Moms and dads — perfectly seemingly normal ones — erupt in rage at teachers and school administrators. It’s murderous rage, too. They threaten their lives. Over what? Over having kids read books about slavery. Little Johnny’s feelings were hurt. He cried. He had nightmares. Because he was told how horrific it really was to enslave people, to genocide them over centuries. Wait — who’s the snowflake now?

American pundits have gussied all this up in a kind of tacky lingerie. They’ll tell you that one side is “opposed to critical race theory,” and the other isn’t. Don’t kid yourself. Teaching kids that slavery is bad is what American conservatives object to — as is the idea that America was founded a slave state, that many of its founding fathers were part of the enterprise of mass subjugation, and that even today, the benefits of all those centuries of supremacy accrue to a certain social group of people.

None of that’s remotely “critical race theory.” Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” the book in question which has fuelled these conflicts among neighbours, isn’t some kind of textbook about critical race theory. It’s just a book about what it was like to be a slave.

So these cultural wars aren’t really about abstruse theories or even “wokeness.” Not really. They’re about the same old things that America’s always been conflicted about. Supremacy. Hate. Greed. And violence, to attain those ends.

All those parents shouting at teachers and school administrators want to ban books. What kind of society does that remind you of? North Korea. Iran. The Soviet Union. Don’t kid yourself that this is some kind of academic fight about “theory.” It’s about the same old thing: hate, and the “freedom” to live in a hateful way, to reproduce, to teach your kids that supremacy and hate are virtues, too, just like you were taught, that you’re superior by virtue of purity of blood and faith, and everyone else is inferior, not a “real American.”

Now. The problem is this. Those differences are irreconcilable.

Let’s take an example of where those school board fights have led. Now a place like Northern Virginia is riven. That might strike you as irrelevant, but it shouldn’t, because Northern Virginia is about the closest thing America has to Canada or Europe. It’s full of people from around the globe, who enjoy functioning public services, and enjoy, by and large, happy and stable lives.

But now things are different. “Youngkin” signs line the yards — of some people. In case you don’t know, he’s a mini-Trump.

Now you know that your neighbours are racists. Supremacists. That they want their kids to have power over yours. The power to abuse and subjugate your kids, too. They think that their kids’ feelings being hurt by being taught the truth about slavery is more important than…the truth about slavery. Which means, of course, that slavery and supremacy and hate can’t matter very much at all, or teaching kids that they’re wrong. So plenty of Virginians, it turns out, even affluent ones, want to raise their kids to be little Southerners, of the old world — racist, hateful, violent, brutal, stupid. How do you live with that? Can you?

Let me say it again. These differences are irreconcilable. They’re not just about a culture war, but about something much deeper. Let me give you a parallel or two to explain why they’re so important.

Why did the Islamic World, for example — one among many — keep on melting down into civil war? Because one sect believed it was superior. And everyone else was inferior. By virtue of purity of faith and blood. In other words, your impurity wasn’t something you could change. The only option possible for you was surrender. You accepted the domination of those “superior” to you, or else. Or else what? Or else it was time for serious, serious violence.

Those difference were irreconcilable. Such differences are always irreconcilable. You cannot negotiate in good faith with fanatics and supremacists.

If someone believes that they are inherently superior to you, and deserves the power to abuse you, to dominate you, to subjugate you — well, then where does that leave you? Where does that leave a society? The only option for most such societies is that they erupt into violence. I gave you the example of the Islamic world, but it could have just as easily been the Balkans, or Africa’s failed states, or Latin America’s endless implosions. You can’t negotiate with people who want you enslaved, subjugated, dead.

And it’s no joke to say that that is what Trumpists want. It’s no exaggeration. No hyperbole. Let’s think about it together.

We now know that 40% of Trumpists back using violence. To what? To attain their political ends. But what are their political ends? To put Trump into power. Why? Not because Trump is a nice guy, or a wonderful leader, or even that he’s going to fix America. But because Trump is a textbook demagogue.

What’s a “textbook demagogue”? Someone who scapegoats minorities and demonises others for the woes of the pure and true. In other words, the Trumpists want Trump in power because he is a supremacist. Think about what Trump does (if you even have to.) He looks at America, sees a broken country, ignores the plight of the most powerless — Black people, Native Americans, the women at their intersections — and instead tells white America that it’s the real victim. Then he turns right around and blames their woes — a loss of community, opportunity, mobility — on minorities. The very people at the bottom of the social ladder.

White Americans don’t have good jobs anymore? It’s not because they voted for Republicans who hollowed out the economy — nope, it’s the fault of…Mexican babies.

Put them in concentration camps. White America’s experienced a catastrophic decline in trust over the last few decades? It couldn’t be because those old values of supremacy still manifest in greed and selfishness and mistrust and hostility — nope, it must be the fault of “foreign invaders.” Quick, hunt them in the streets. And so on.

Trump performs the classic demagogues’ trick of scapegoating minorities and women and othered figures for the woes of the pure and true — when, just like in any good social collapse, the woes of the pure and true are nobody’s fault but their own. Who made White America vote for the Republicans that then looted its retirement funds, healthcare, destroyed its towns, left it jobless and adrift. Nobody. So then why did it? Because of supremacy, in short. Reagan found a new code to appeal to the ugly old racist sentiment in white America. Now “real Americans” didn’t have to “pay for” the schools and healthcare and retirement of “welfare queens.” You don’t have to read too hard between the lines to see the racist dog-whistles.

So clinging to supremacy is what destroyed White America’s own chances at a future.

And then Trump came along, and performed the demagogues’ trick, of blaming minorities for all that. He did something crucial, which only a demagogue can really do. He licensed violence on a mass social scale.

It would’ve been unthinkable, say, a decade ago, to read a figure like “40% of conservative Americans support mass-scale social violence.” Sure, they might have been deluded or simple or just terrible people, whatever (not to say liberals can’t be, either, but) — yet that hardly would have led to the place America’s at now.

What’s different now is that Trump licensed violence. He didn’t just “incite” or “stoke” it, as pundits say. He did something far, far more dangerous than that. He told his followers that it was OKDesirable. Totally normal. That if it was the only way, then so be it, and it wasn’t really violence at all, just justified civil disoedience, maybe.

So now Trumpists see themselves not as regressive fanatics, but as noble crusaders for civil liberties. Hence, they’ve gone down the rabbit hole of radicalization. If you say to a Trumpist, hey, my man, you believe all that, essentially, because you’re a supremacist, a fascist, a racist, they’ll look at you like you’re the crazy one. They’re just defending their kids’ rights. To have pure bodies and minds, untouched by the poisons of vaccines and “critical race theory.” They genuinely appear not to see the way that the old, old hatred of supremacy underlies all this, because they think this is what freedom is: the entitlement to reign supreme over the rest of a society, subjugate, dominate it, abuse it, repress it.

If you think I’m kidding about that, just go ahead and take a hard look at Texas, where women now don’t have basic freedoms of speech, association, or privacy anymore. Anyone can act as a vigilante now, police women’s speech and association anywhere, and if they show the merest hint of wanting to exercise their rights to reproductive healthcare, they can be sued into oblivion, and jailed if they don’t the damages. Sound like freedom to you? It’s not, for the women. What it is is supremacy for the men.

And that is what America’s irreconcilable differences are — and have always been about. Freedom confused with supremacy. My right to keep you in your place — the place I’ve assigned you — as a second, third class citizen, a non-person, someone 3/5ths human, someone with no real freedoms of your own. But if my freedom is taking away yours — then where do we end up? Is freedom little Johnny not having to have his precious feelings hurt because he learned the truth of the horror of slavery? Or is freedom expanded when little Johnny matures into a decent, thoughtful, human person — not someone just like his supremacist parents? America’s never understood the answer to this question, which is simple. Freedom is expanded when we are all sane, thoughtful, wise, empathic, gentle, kind. Because only then is my life not about taking something away from you.

Let me try and crystallise the thoughts above. Something poisonous is in the air in America today. It’s not just Covid. It’s something even more deadly than that. It’s the foul stench of ancient hatreds. Americans of a certain kind — Trumpists — have been truly radicalised now. They have always believed that they were supreme, chosen, pure and true, and therefore the only “real Americans,” the thus the ones who the soil and everything on it “belonged” to. But now thanks to half a decade of simmering rage, a demagogue leading them on, they are willing to use violence to get their country back.

Which country is that? Ah, you know the one. The Jim Crow America. The America that genocided the “red Indians” and then…turned them into sports teams. The one that didn’t let women vote until 1920. The one in which Black people had to drink from separate fountains until 1971. That was just a few years before the average American was born.

Trumpist America wants its country back. All that rage on all those parents’ faces? The way that suburban soccer moms have turned into screaming banshees of supremacy? The way little Johnny should never have to cry over the unspeakable horrors of slavery, because, well, he should never have to grow up and be different from his mommy? The way his daddy practices shooting a machine gun every weekend with his buddies?

All that looks a whole lot like a country preparing for something, my friend. Something they — the Trumpists — already call “the Storm.” That is how America got here, which looks a whole lot more like the brink of civil war by the day.

Millions upon millions of Americans still believe they are the supreme ones, by virtue of blood and faith, and everyone else in society is inferior to them, below them, and so is “their” history, culture, so are their bodies, minds, stories, truths, meanings, lives . There’s no reconciling with a position like that — unless you want to live in subjugation. When a society has irreconcilable differences, history teaches us that violence becomes almost inevitable. And America has the oldest irreconcilable difference of them all. Sadly, even after all these centuries? America’s differences appear not to have moved one inch. The hateful America is right where it always was. Seduced, tempted, aroused by violence, for the purpose supremacy, to bring hate right back to life.

If that scares you, my friend…it should.

Lady Irish Queen

America’s Choice is Social Democracy — Or Collapse

Right about now, you’re probably one of millions watching a depressingly familiar spectacle play out. America is a badly broken country with an abysmal quality of life wracked by everything from extremism to fascism to despair. Its once-famous middle class is now an impoverished underclass, reacting to its powerlessness with resentment, rage, and fanaticism. States like Texas have placed bounties on the heads of women for simply existing as women, and men carry machine guns to Starbucks.

Let’s put the matter bluntly. Right about now, America is a failed state.

Hence, the depressingly familiar spectacle I mentioned.

The democrats have a brief window of power in which to stop America from sliding into further fascist collapse. But they’re stuck. They can’t seem to pass the very bill a failed state needs to begin repairing itself. There’s Joe Biden, in the middle of two internal warring factions. On one side are the “progressives,” who want slightly higher spending, and on the other are “moderates,” who appear to want as little spending as possible. As if that weren’t enough of a mess, Americans can barely understand how to make sense of this well, because nobody ever teaches them how to think about what it means to be a functioning society.

So, what is a functioning society?

The textbook examples, at least in today’s world, are places like Europe and Canada. They are incredibly powerful testaments to the sucess of a particular form of political economy which should be considered of nothing short of an historic miracle. That form of political economy is called social democracy, and in this little essay, I’m going to try to explain to you what made it so special that by now Europeans and Canadians live not just the world’s best lives — that’s in objective terms, from health to wealth to trust to happiness — but also history’s best lives. And if you’re American, this is something that you need to understand.

Let me put it this way. Liberalism and conservatism won’t get to social democracy, but America’s — and the world’s — choice is social democracy or collapse.

Sounds absurdly, almost childishly tautological, doesn’t it? And yet one of the most fundamental myths that many of us believe is that “progress” comes from pitting “liberalism” against “conservatism,” over and over again, forever, like beating a head against two brick walls. Somehow, these two poles, in opposition, we’re told, lead societies forwards — only no one really examines how, or why, or even if. We just believe it. But is it really true?

What’s going wrong with the world is in a way very simple to understand. Huge surpluses have piled up at the top of the global economy.

So vast that there is nothing left to do with them except pile them up offshore, hide them like buried treasure. These fortunes have been earned, mostly, by doing nothing of benefit to societies, people, and the planet whatseover — merely exploiting all three ruinously. Without a way for those surpluses piled up at the top to find themselves back in the hands of the average person, discontent, rage, and fury will continue to grow, as people lose hope, faith, and belief in their systems, societies, and futures. Those sentiments and passions will fold back upon themselves, becoming extremism, fanaticism, fascism. That way lies a new dark age.

All this is precisely what happened in the 1930s — the only thing that has really changed is that nations aren’t indebted to each other, so much as average people are indebted to a class of hidden, shadowy ultra-rich, who have come to own the critical systems and structures in entire economies.That imbalance produces just the same social tensions, though, as during the 1930s — fury, panic, a sense that people are just barely hanging on, redirected at the easiest targets, the powerless, who are then scapegoated, hunted, and demonized.

Hence, the world needs more social democracy, and it needs it now.

Societies like America that don’t have it, which have never had it, need to develop it in spades. Societies like Europe that do have it need badly to strengthen and recommit to it, maybe even to rediscover its values and principles, which is what I’d say the Gilets Jaunes protests are really about.

Now. The question is this. If the world needs more social democracy, then can liberalism and conservatism get it there?

It’s pretty easy to answer this question, and I’d bet you already know the answer, even if part of you fights against knowing it, so let’s think about it anyways.

Which country never joined the global movement towards social democracy, that roared across rich countries after the last world war? America, of course. America’s politics, uniquely, remained stuck, split, in a weird, binary way, between “liberals” and “conservatives” — mostly because America was clinging on to old notions of supremacy, still institutionalized in segregation, which ruled out any kind of social democracy absolutely.

So what did decades of binary liberalism versus conservatism accomplish for America? Did the dialectic lead to progress? Not at all. It led to stagnation. The answer to what did liberalism and conservatism achieve for America is: precisely nothing. Less than nothing, in fact, one could argue.

This is the point at which Americans will cry, “there goes Umair! Being hyperbolic again!!” Ah, but am I? What does the evidence say? The average American’s life isn’t more prosperous today than yesterday — it’s less so. Life expectancy is falling. His income is less than his grandparents’. She’s broke, though she works longer hours, at a less stable job. Suicides are soaring — more and more are giving up on life. Who could blame them? Americans face bizarre, weird, and gruesome problems, like their kids being shot at school, and having to beg strangers for money for healthcare online. They spend sleepless nights wondering how they ended up impoverished, despite playing by the rules — maybe not quite understanding that the rules were designed to exploit them.

The empirical reality of American living standards is this: they haven’t risen during our adult lifetimes. They’ve imploded, to the point that Americans live lives of indignity, shame, fear, and rage. That’s vivid evidence that liberalism versus conservatism accomplished precisely nothing for Americans. (Nothing positive, that is. They accomplished plenty of wasteful, stupid things. Fake wars. Tax cuts for the rich. Weird “market-based” healthcare systems that worked for no one. Bailing out banks. And so forth. They accomplished a lot — for capitalists. By siphoning off everyone else’s money, power, and possibility.)

Why didn’t liberalism and conservatism lead to progress? Well, because in America, they converged to two flavours of largely the same thing — “neoliberalism” and “neoconservatism.” Neoconservatism was a little more trigger happy, always ready to start a war, and neoliberalism was a little more utopian, but their foundational precepts didn’t end up being very different. Wealth would trickle down. Trade should be free, but movement shouldn’t. A person’s worth was how much money they made. And, most crucially of all, given these first three — society must never, ever invest in itself.

Hence, this fatal convergence of “neos”, of liberalism and conservatism to the same lowest-common-denominator, produced modern American dystopia: a rich society of impoverished people, a powerful one of powerless people, a generally decent one somehow ruled by bigots, fools, and ignoramuses. It’s a place in which people are quite literally left to fend for themselves, as best they can, with zero support, investment, care, or consideration. In fact, Americans are taught from the day they are born that caring for their neighbours, society, planet, or even themselves, is something to be scorned: a moralweakness, a social shame, a cultural crime, and an intellectual mistake.

Yet despite all tha t, many — maybe most — Americans are emerging social democrats.

They might not know it — but when 70% of them want public healthcare and debt-free education and safety nets and so forth, that is precisely what they are. They don’t know it, at least many of them, because American pundits and intellectuals act like it’s still 1962, and act as if social democracy never happened, still pitting “socialism” against “capitalism” in a Cold War that no one really won — unless the wrecked state of America today means “winning” to you. So Americans are emerging social democrats despite the tremendous stigma, misinformation, and baffling stupidity that’s become commonplace in America’s public sphere — which is a good thing.

The problem is that while many Americans are emerging social democrats, nobody, really, represents them.

The GOP obviously doesn’t — it represents corrupt elites and the poor deluded fool who thinks he wants to rewind to 1862, more or less. But neither do the Democrats. They are still focused on the same old half-baked, ill-thought-out “compromises” of neoliberalism. We have to “compromise” with “moderates,” who are holding our futures ransom. For Democrats, markets still trump public goods, social investment, and national institutions, every single time.

But that is precisely why liberalism and conservatism can’t get you to social democracy. Neither one has any interest whatsoever in rewriting a social contract that isn’t severely compromised. Both quite happily put profit before people, capital over society, money over meaning, accumulation before justice, speculation before investment, concentration before distribution, and the same old hierarchies above genuine equality. But what we’ve seen in America is the ruinous consequences of these beliefs — they are mistakes, which lead nowhere but downwards and backwards. Yet how can two ideologies which believe in all the same mistakes at root make any progress?

Let me put that more bluntly. Liberalism can free you — and conservatism can protect you — if you’re a rich white dude, sure. But what if you’re a poor white dude — or an even poorer brown woman?

What good are “self-reliance” and “personal responsibility” to you? What if you’re a family who’s a member of the people formerly known as the middle class — does being able to buy little a Johnny a cheap Chinese-made toy, aka “free trade,” make you any better off when you can’t give him decent healthcare or an education?

If you’re any of these people — which is to say, 90% of society, at this point — then you need investment in you, by everyone else, and everyone else needs just the same thing. You need healthcare, education, retirement, a decent job, savings, a sense that your life matters, that you belong, and so forth — but you can never have any of those unless everyone agrees to provide them to everyone else. The other 10% — the capitalists, the dynasties, predators, and so forth — aren’t ever going to give them to you, except at the cost of everything you will ever make, money, time, ideas, imagination, life savings. That is precisely the trap the average American is in today — why he is broke, going nowhere, stuck, and losing hope.

Do you see my point? The fundamental beliefs of liberalism and conservatism, their mistaken and impoverished priorities and notions, mostly boil down to the same thing, in slightly different ways.

Only the strong should survive, eliminate the weak — everyone will be better off! Exploitation will lead to prosperity for all! (Hence, time and again, soon enough degenerate into outright violence.) If one person in a society has lots of money — then we can call the whole thing a success!!

LOL. These are not just strange and foolish beliefs, my friends — they are also obviously false ones. Nobody much was made better off by enacting them. America is vivid proof of the failure of both liberalism and conservatism, and the unworkable compromises they forge. Both are now badly obsolete — maybe they worked in feudal, agrarian, or industrial societies, to better the relative lot of some, at the price of others, through things like slavery, segregation, and today’s predatory capitalism, but that work having been done, they will not work any longer in this century.

At this point, a better, fairer, wiser social contract is precisely what the world needs, or else. Or else what? Or else climate meltdown, inequality, extremism, fascism, and various flavors of collapse and implosion do.

The result of relying on liberalism and conservatism as the sole engines of forward motion that progress in America is stuck, stalled, that America is in stalemate. But stalemate means collapse, because societies need ongoing tending and cultivation, just like a garden. Yet maybe no further progress is possible at all, without a genuinely social democratic movement.

The lesson is very simple. Liberalism versus conservatism ends in collapse, via stalemate, not progress. It’s one of the most fundamental myths that we believe, perhaps, is that progress is only ever the result of these ideologies “compromising” or “battling” or “debating.”

But it’s not true. Liberalism and conversatism do indeed compromise — in fatally impoverished ways.

By making it impossible for people to make shared investments, for societies to measure anything other than money, by assigning life, work, being, no inherent worth, purpose, or meaning, they reduce and abstract away what matters, and privilege and protect exploitation — of people, of democracy, of nature, of the future, of life — and in that way, settlements between them are compromised things to begin with. You can see exactly this happening with the “infrastructure bill” that’s becoming anything but — watered down, reduced to a gesture, in the name of “compromise.”

The greatest discovery of the 20th century was social democracy. Prosperity with a minimum of exploitation, of violence, of domination.

All those things are human moments, chances, possibilities, that can be put to better, wiser, truer use. It is just that simple. That insight, that breakthrough, is what made decades of peace, progress, and stability possible, and led to the highest living standards in human history. Yet its equally great lesson, which we are still struggling to learn, wasn’t that the future is made by pitting liberalism against conservatism. It was that the future is made by transcending both, and building societies that can invest in themselves, in order to overcome and undo the old ways of violence, dominance, and control, with true freedom, equality, and worth.

America’s Dangerous Forty Percent

Throughout history democracies have been a fragile form of government. This is because Democracies depended on reasonable cooperation, a strong regard for the rule of law over personality and at least some semblance of truth telling among competing political parties. There is, unfortunately, among even the most sophisticated societies roughly forty percent of a citizenry oblivious to the big picture when it comes to national and international political issues.

In America, it’s forty percent — In the main — is composed of really good folks who are among the best acting humans when among family, friends and coworkers. However, being almost exclusively focused upon local and practical matters; and with little interest in serious biography, history or politics, and possessing a kneejerk reaction for brushing off all politicians as useless clowns, these folks tend to be devoid of a reasonable basis for divining broad but subtle issues pertaining to the protection of America’s highly venerable institutions of democracy. In fact they take American democracy for granted, assu ming that things will always somehow work out for the best without their ever having to directly participate in its protection.

Additionally, such folks tend to function on pure emotion and nature’s hardwired tribal impulses that often foster covert or overt bigotry against the “other.” Throw in feelings of being personally aggrieved over factors they see as being beyond their personal control, they can become made particularly ripe for exploitation by political charlatans, which in this country also means being helped along to this end by those parts of our social media that profit from spreading hate, lies and crazy conspiracy theories. Yes, dear friends, beating the drums for such poisonous nonsense is worth big bucks for Fox News and its right wing media allies, including that rat’s nest of disinformation, Facebook — sadly hate sells bigly.

Also among this dangerous forty percent are society’s most violent elements. In America it’s the White supremacist — mainly the Klan and patriot groups spoiling for a fight with anyone, but especially establishment components of our democracy. These are the same order of persons that in the last century comprised Hitler’s Brown Shirt ruffians that rapidly morphed into the ranks of Hitler’s SS guard units. Would-be dictators are always careful to pander to society’s ruffians as they represent potential enforcers and intimidators against those who would appose them.

And this brings us to the amazing Donald John Trump, a man long regarded by the New York business community as a gadfly buffoon, a man who squandered a 400 million dollar inheritance from his father upon poorly run business ventures — Trump water, Trump ties, Trump stakes, Trump airlines, Trump University (for which he was compelled to pay the defrauded folks 25 million dollars in penalties) and of course his Trump casinos fiascos. Indeed, in the 90s Trump teetered on the edge of bankruptcy at a time when American banks would not touch him with ye old ten-foot pole.

But if the Donald was a wretched businessman, when it came to self-promotion in the eyes of the common man, the pathological lying, con man salesmen was something of a genius. He had a ghostwriter put together a fluff piece he called the art of the deal, a joke of a book if ever there was one — this according to the ghostwriter himself. But then things took a drastic turn for the better for Mr. Trump when a reality TV show, the Apprentice, came his way.

In this highly staged entertainment production, Trump convincing portrayed himself to the nation’s regular Joes and Jills as a tough, no nonsense businessman. This gave him super name recognition and tremendous celebrity status among the masses that he would later use to gain political leverage for an easy high jacking of the Republican Party.

Trump’s prime political target was, to be sure, what would later be seen as the dangerous 40%, mostly lower middleclass White folks that were terrified of a rising multicultural American democracy. Two terms of a Back Democratic president had generated a white-hot backlash among said ilk that Trump saw as his political opening.

After months of greasing the skids for his political undertaking by relentlessly questioning President Obama’s American citizenship, Trump made his famous ride down the golden, Trump Tower escalator, making it abundantly clear to his target audience whom he was against — foreigners and minorities, especially those “rapists and murderers” coming over the southern boarder. It all came straight out of the authoritarian’s handbook for taking over and killing off a democracy, which includes undermining democratic institutions and the people’s confidence in their government, attacking the nation’s free press (calling it “the enemy of the people”). cozying up to dictators around the world and making nasty with America’s key allies.

One by one, as he eventually became president, Trump worked to politicize America’s protectors of democracy — the Justice Department, FBI, State Department, calling all who apposed his attempted run at a dictatorship the “Deep State.”

The Republican Party for the most part was helpless to put the breaks on the Donald.. Starting with the Regan administration the GOP had been moving ever move toward recruiting what would become the dangerous forty percent in tandem with its right wing media propaganda organs.

For sure, Republican political powers of the land were not happy to see Trump among their ranks, but they soon realized that what they thought to be their political base had quickly morphed into Trump’s cult like supporters. They were stuck with a dangerous personality holding the most formidable leadership post in the world. Not only could Trump ruin them politically, but with a wink toward his most violent followers he could threaten their very lives and those of their families

And so now the GOP feels compel to rig the American electoral system with undemocratic rules and laws for a Trump victory in the 2022 and 2024 races. If that happens there will be no guardrails left this time to check a President Trump’s out of control ego. Our democracy will be finished off before the nation knows what hit it.

Of course Trumpist have a need to believe otherwise about their hero who says he loves them. For they are a true believer lot that were all the angels in heaven to descend to earth and tell them that they were wrong about the Dear Donald, they would close their eyes and plug their ears, for such “heavenly hosts would not deserve to be either seen or heard.”

These are the same sorts of folks that it has been said pray not so much for their daily bread as the do their daily delusion. To that end Donald John Trump is an answer to their prayers.

We came close to seeing democracy overturned on 1/6. We likely won’t survive a second Trump inspired insurrection. Hitler was jailed for inciting insurrection in the 1920s, but returned to take total power in 1933. He also had his dangerous 40% to rely upon; with disastrous consequences for Germany and all the world it must be said.

The Root Cause of Climate Change

Burning fossil fuels is said to be the root cause of climate change, but it’s not true. So, what’s the real driver? We’ll get to the answer in a moment. But first, let’s look at a few facts about our climate crisis and get a feel for the scope of the problem.

In This Post:

  • How Hot Will Earth Get?
  • What Happens If Earth’s Temperature Rises by 37° F?
  • What’s the Root Cause of Climate Change?
  • Population Growth: The No 1 Root Cause of Climate Change
  • Development: The No 2 Root Cause of Climate Change
  • Greed: The No 3 Root Cause of Climate Change
  • Human Consumption and Population Growth are Culprits Say Top Scientists
  • Solutions? Maybe
  • Renewables
  • Financial Arguments No Obstacle to Climate Action
  • Consumption Must Fall in Wealthier Countries
  • Maybe the Rich Are the Root Cause of Climate Change

How Hot Will Earth Get?

We don’t know exactly; global temperature projections vary according to the assumptions used. But current evidence points to a rise in Earth’s temperature of at least 37.4° F by the end of the century.

Even if all countries meet their climate action commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement, the planet is heading for a 37.76 global temperature rise over pre-industrial levels by 2100. That’s according to the annual Emissions Gap Report compiled by the latest UN Environment Program. 1 Meantime, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization recently issued a statement forecasting a rise of between 37.4° F and 41° F.

What Happens If Earth’s Temperature Rises by 37° F?

We don’t know for certain what the effects of global warming will be by the end of the century. Climate models can’t yet cope with the complexities of our climate system and its meteorological weather patterns. Even so, scientists have a reasonable idea of how rising temperatures are likely to impact the planet in such a case, and it’s not pleasant. I

For example, according to research group Carbon Brief, warming of 3°C will lead to a 6.4-meter (21 ft) sea level rise, placing 432 million people below the water level.

Extreme weather events (hurricanes, cyclones, floods, heatwaves, marine heatwaves) will become more frequent and more intense, rainforests will dry out, and large areas of permafrost will start thawing. Some of these effects of global warming are likely to trigger irreversible sequences or ‘climate tipping points‘, involving runaway polar ice melt and the like.

Okay, now that we’ve set the scene let’s deal with the real driver of climate change.

What’s the Root Cause of Climate Change?

The main driver of our climate crisis is human consumption, which (incidentally) is going to get much worse, very quickly.

Human consumption — by which we mean the human use and exploitation of Earth’s resources — is driven by three things: (A) population growth (B) economic development and (C) greed. These three drivers together constitute the root cause of climate change. The impact of the first two will get much worse as the century unfolds. The third may well prevent us from finding the necessary solutions.

Population Growth: The No 1 Root Cause of Climate Change

As of March 2020, the world’s population was estimated to be 7.8 billion. Since the year 2000, it has risen by an average of 84 million people per year. This is 50 percent more people than the annual average during the 20th century. Demographers expect it to reach 8 billion in about 2023, 9 billion by 2037, 10 billion by 2056 and 11 billion by 2100.

To put these figures into the context of global warming, the population in 1800 (shortly after the start of the Industrial Revolution) was 1 billion, and in 1900 (the baseline for pre-industrial temperature levels) it was 1.7 billion. Today, there are 6.1 billion extra people to feed, clothe and provide for. These 6.1 billion extra human beings are the root cause of today’s climate change.

Some of the greatest growth is in the poorest areas, where large families are seen as a form of wealth and an insurance against poverty and starvation in old age. Take Ethiopia, for instance. When famine struck the country in 1985, the population of the country was 36 million. The famine eventually ended, and their current population is now 112 million. In 1960, there were only 28 million people in the entire country. (Source: Knoema Data)

It is the consumption of resources by this mass of humanity (such as water, food, housing, heat, power, transport, health services and material possessions) that leads to the burning of coal and natural gas for energy, and petroleum for transportation.

And as we know, the combustion of ever larger amounts of fossil fuel produces ever larger greenhouse gas emissions, which ramps up the greenhouse effect which traps heat in the atmosphere and leads to global warming.

But it’s all because of the huge rise in global population. More people need more food, more energy, more houses and more stuff, and it all causes more emissions and more global warming.

Yes, renewable energies don’t emit greenhouse gases, and by switching to them (as we are) we are lowering our emissions. But this switch is happening far too slowly. In fact, the percentage of primary energy supplied by renewable energy has hardly changed over the past 20 years. In 2000, coal, oil and natural gas accounted for 86 percent of the world’s energy consumption. (Source: International Energy Agency.) In 2018, they accounted for 85 percent. (Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019.)

Looking ahead, global population is due to be 28 percent larger by 2056, and 41 percent larger by 2100. Some experts already say this is likely to cause an increase in demand for food of between 50 and 90 percent, by 2050. The demand for animal-based foods is forecast to rise by almost 70 percent.

With food demand rising so fast, the crunch issue is going to be the battle between agriculture and global warming. Some political leaders are already demanding more forest clearance and more space for cattle. But more deforestation and more cattle will create more emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, which will simply add to global warming, making it progressively more difficult to increase food production because of extreme heat, soil erosion and reduced crop nutrition.

Extreme heat, for example, can be fatal to plants. If temperatures exceed the physiological limits of a plant, they lead to higher desiccation rates. In addition, they also affect plant phenology — that is, the timing of certain plant life-cycle events such as flowering.

Excessive heat can destabilize vernalisation in wheat, or cause spikelet sterility in rice, or reduce pollen viability in maize. During flowering, for instance, crop yields can suffer severe reductions if temperatures exceed critical limits for as little as 1 hour.

When extreme heat is combined with lack of water in the soil (either from drought, or from downpours causing excessive run-off), the effect on crops — including corn and soybean — is much more serious. Unfortunately, rainfall patterns are forecast to become more and more unbalanced, with long dry spells in some areas, and dangerous floods in others. The World Health Organization predicts that, by 2025, 50 percent of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.

What’s more, extreme heat leads inevitably to rising seas that can swamp fertile delta fields, as well as coastal lands and wetlands, destroying valuable agricultural land and displacing hundreds of millions of people.

Development: The No 2 Root Cause of Climate Change

The United States is the world’s richest country. But two centuries ago, it was a developing country, doing its best to grow and prosper. Today, many developing countries are doing the same, and we in the developed world must afford them the same opportunity to achieve their potential.

India, for example, contributes a significant share of global emissions, but a great deal of her economic activity is essentially directed at fighting poverty rather than creating yet more affluence. Providing food, shelter and employment for its 1.3 billion citizens (17.7 percent of the total world population) means that India is going to emit substantial amounts of greenhouse gases. Even so, India’s per capita emissions are eight times smaller than those of the United States, Canada or Australia.

The Paris Climate Agreement recognizes the need for equality of development in two ways. First, by accepting that a developing country’s greenhouse gas emissions are going to peak later than those of a developed country. Secondly, by recognizing that developing countries need financial and technical resources to help mitigate and increase resilience to climate change.

It is this implicit right of development that is going to raise human consumption to higher and higher levels during the rest of the century. For example, as of 2020, at least 60 countries have a carbon footprint per person of less than 1. 12 Hopefully, all of them will raise their standard of living significantly by 2100, even though this will add significantly to global emissions and thus to climate change.

A key indicator of economic development is calorie-intake. According to the IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land (2019), consumption of food calories per person worldwide has increased by about 33 percent since 1961, and the average person’s consumption of meat and vegetable oils has more than doubled.

Unfortunately, providing more calories to the citizens of developing countries is going to put even more pressure on agriculture, which fails to feed the world’s current population, let alone the 3.2 billion extra mouths expected by 2100.

Basic infrastructure development is another major contributor to global warming.

This can include the development of roads and rail connections, as well as the construction of power plants, hydroelectric dams, cement factories, fertilizer factories, a new airport, and so on. All of these projects, to a greater or lesser extent, involve the use of concrete. Unfortunately, a major ingredient of concrete is cement, which is second only to carbon dioxide as a driver of global warming because of the staggeringly high CO2 emissions released during its manufacture.

Since 1990, global production of cement has almost quadrupled, with Asia accounting for the bulk of this growth. China, for instance, used more cement in the three years 2011, 2012 and 2013, than the United States did during the entire course of the 20th Century.

As developing countries expand their industrial base, they often face increasing urbanization which leads to more construction and higher cement emissions. This is reflected in new forecasts showing that most future growth in construction is set to take place in the emerging markets of South East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Greed: The No 3 Root Cause of Climate Change

Greed is defined as an “intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.” (Google’s English dictionary, provided by Oxford Languages.) In the context of climate action, this definition perfectly sums up the main motivation of the wealthy countries of the world.

The Gulf States, Canada, the United States, Russia and China are the wealthiest nations in terms of fossil fuel reserves. They, and other countries like them, have little interest in divesting themselves of their energy assets. As far as they’re concerned, their coal, oil and gas reserves represent real economic power, which they are not going to give up.

So when the UNFCCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or Greenpeace call for a drastic reduction in fossil fuel combustion, the wealthiest nations nod vigorously but do nothing.

The rest of the world have few options. The top 5 fossil fuel producers not only control most of the world’s energy, they also account for more than 45 percent of global GDP.

These nations are concerned about global warming. They may suffer from serious smog, or other forms of air pollution involving wildfires, or fossil fuel pollution. And they may even be leaders in the development of renewable energy, such as solar, wind or hydropower. But they are not going to stop selling and using fossil fuels.

Some of them are actively pushing natural gas as the new “clean fuel”. Except it’s not. “Gas is a major concern,” says Bill Hare, chief executive officer of environmental group Climate Analytics. “Governments are acting as if this fossil fuel is somehow clean. Yet gas was responsible for half the increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption in 2017–18.”

Similarly, wood has suddenly become reborn as a clean fuel. (Which it most certainly is not.) In April, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that wood burning was “carbon-neutral”. The EU has since followed suit (along with other countries), ignoring the advice of its own scientific committee in the process. These countries do not care that their approval is already causing the loss of primary growth forests in the Southern United States and Europe, despite the fact that tree conservation is a stated objective of the Paris Agreement (2015) to which both the US and EU are signatories.

In January 2020, the British Meteorological Office advised that Australia’s bushfires of 2019–2020 were expected to contribute 2 percent to the increase in the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide. That’s about 1 billion tonnes worth of heat-trapping greenhouse gas. If this is what carbon neutrality looks like, we are all in deep trouble.

Human Consumption and Population Growth are Culprits Say Top Scientists

In a major article, eminent scientists from UCLA and Stanford University in the US, and Flinders University in Australia, have warned of a ghastly future for humanity due to the unchecked effects of global warming.

Citing 150 studies, the scientists identify a series of scary trends in biodiversity decline, mass extinction, climate disruption, and planetary “toxification”, all of which are linked to human consumption and population growth. Prof Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University, an expert in mass extinction, said lack of political leadership, combined with global disinformation campaigns designed to protect short-term profits, make it doubtful that the climate action needed will be made in time.

Solutions? Maybe

There are two theoretical ways to cope with the root cause of climate change, and reconcile the needs of a growing and developing world population with the need to tackle our climate crisis.

(a) We can develop renewable energies that don’t contribute to global warming, or (b) We can agree a maximum per capita carbon footprint for all countries. Neither is problem-free.

Renewables

Unfortunately, while we all know the benefits of renewable energy, switching from fossil fuels to renewables is not quite as simple as it sounds. Renewables have yet to prove themselves in the area of transport and heating. 16 Also, the storage of renewable electric energy (batteries), as well as the integration of intermittent renewable energies (like wind power and solar energy) into national grid systems, is still under development.

In other words, it’s going to take a lot more money to develop the technologies needed to store and distribute renewable power.

In its 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, the IPCC warned that the world needed to invest $2.4 trillion in clean energy every year through 2035 in order to keep global warming below 2°C. That’s 8 times the amount (US$311 billion) that was was invested in renewable energy in 2019.

And here’s the problem: the wealthiest countries can’t/won’t agree on a global investment strategy to ramp up the supply of renewables. But they still give out huge fossil fuel subsidies.

The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) report (2018) estimates 6.5 percent of global GDP (US$5.2 trillion) is spent on fossil fuel subsidies; a 500 billion dollar increase since 2015. The largest subsidizers are China (US$1.4 trillion in 2015), the United States (US$649 billion) and Russia (US$551 billion).

According to the IMF, “fossil fuels account for 85 percent of all global subsidies,” and reducing these subsidies “would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28 percent and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46 percent, and increased government revenue by 3.8 percent of GDP.” An Overseas Development Institute study found that subsidies for coal-fired power increased almost three-fold, to US$47.3 billion per year, from 2014 to 2017.

It’s important to note that the figure of US$5.2 trillion includes the full social and environmental costs of fossil fuels. Air pollution is costed at $2.3 trillion worldwide. The cost of global warming is reckoned to be $40 per ton of carbon emitted. That comes to $1.1 trillion. The costs of traffic, of road upkeep, and of car fatalities are assessed at $735 billion.

These costs are real enough, and fossil fuel companies should not get away scot-free from these liabilities, but no one is actually writing a check to these companies for US$5.2 trillion.

The amount that governments actually pay over to fossil fuel companies by way of direct subsidy is around US$296 billion per annum, of which (at a conservative estimate) the US government contributes roughly US$20 billion a year — 20 percent to coal and 80 percent to natural gas and petroleum. EU subsidies come to about $55 billion per year. In addition, fossil fuel companies are also in receipt of numerous grants and subsidies for R & D, much of which is aimed at carbon capture and storage technologies to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

Researchers still debate the fine points of subsidies. Even so, it’s safe to say that fossil fuel subsidies have outlived their usefulness and should go. At least one study has recently pointed out that subsidies could increase oil production by a fifth by 2050, equivalent to 6 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Instead of paying the fossil fuel companies to pollute the planet, we should be charging them for some of the damage they’re causing, which — as the IMF report shows — is massive. The United States took US$4.5 billion from BP for damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. It should be able to sue the oil and gas companies for damaging the planet.

It’s worth noting, that even as they agree on the need to decarbonize and reduce emissions, fossil fuel companies wage a constant guerrilla campaign against it in the background. For example, the top 5 publicly-owned oil and gas companies in America — BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total — spend about US$200 million annually on climate lobbying to delay, control or block policies designed to tackle climate change.

Financial Arguments No Obstacle to Climate Action

According to a wide range of financial experts and research institutes, financial opposition to climate change mitigation is not credible. Evidence shows clearly that the future benefits of climate action overwhelmingly outweigh the future costs of doing nothing. 22 To start with a trivial example, the UK National Audit Office estimates that for every £1 spent on climate change adaptation measures to protect communities from flooding, roughly £9 in property damages and other costs may be avoided.

According to a joint report from The Hamilton Project and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, U.S. carbon taxes would produce significant reductions in CO2 emissions together with environmental benefits in excess of the costs.

For example, an ambitious US$50 per ton price is calculated to reduce near-term emissions by 30 percent. It also reduces local air pollutants, including nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter (PM2.5), with significant improvements in human health. When all the benefits are added up, the carbon tax’s benefits exceed the cost of compliance by a factor of four. A major attraction of using a carbon tax to secure reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, (as opposed to adopting other conventional regulations for this purpose), is its ability to persuade the market to use the lowest-cost methods for reducing emissions.

Recent data corroborates the financial costs of air pollution around the world. New research from Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), shows that air pollution from burning fossil fuels causes economic losses of US$2.9 trillion — roughly 3.3 percent of global GDP. The most affected countries include China (US$900 billion), the USA (US$600 billion) and India (US$150 billion).

Meantime, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate states that transitioning to a low-carbon, sustainable growth pathway can deliver a direct economic windfall of US$26 trillion, and can generate more than 65 million new jobs by 2030, compared with business-as-usual. (22)

Consumption Must Fall in Wealthier Countries

Another way of dealing with the root cause of climate change (in conjunction with renewables), is for richer nations to reduce their consumption to an agreed per capita carbon footprint.

For example, tIhe average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 15.5 tons, one of the highest rates in the world 12 This has to come down. According to the US environmental organization The Nature Conservancy, to have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop under 2 tons by 2050.) This seems way too radical. But 4–5 tons might be doable.

Countries would agree to limit their CO2-equivalent emissions to (say) 4.5 tons. So, a country with 1 million inhabitants will have a limit of 4.5 million tons of CO2. In practice, wealthier nations will have to reduce their emissions considerably, while poor countries will have room to develop.

Some of this reduction can be achieved simply by switching to forms of sustainable energy, such as wind, solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal, wave, tidal power and so on. But not all. Come what may, wealthier nations will inevitably have to reduce their actual consumption. This is only to be expected, given the fact they already use a far greater share of the world’s resources than other countries.

Wealthy Countries Consume Too Many Resources

As soon as we resolve the climate crisis there’ll be another crisis — maybe we’ll run out of copper or lithium or trees. Or maybe we’ll pollute the oceans so badly that we’ll kill all the oxygen-producing phytoplankton. The point is, there’s going to be a continuous crisis of resources. Why? Because humans consume too many resources, create too much pollution and kill too many animals.

Earth Overshoot Day is the day of the year when humanity has used up nature’s resource budget for the entire year. In 2019 (the last full year before the COVID shutdown) Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 29. This means we’re using up the resources of about 1.7 Earths. It’s a very clear measurement of how human consumption is becoming more and more unsustainable.

According to National Geographic’s Greendex, U.S. consumers rank last of 17 countries surveyed in regard to sustainable behavior. Furthermore, U.S. consumers are among the least likely to feelguilty about the impact their behavior has on the environment.

The U.S. has 4.2 percent of the world’s population, but uses 20 percent of its oil and 17 percent of its energy.

Its per capita use of energy, metals, minerals, forest products, fish, grains, meat, and even fresh water dwarfs that of people living in the developing world.

The United States has a per capita carbon footprint of 16.1 tons of carbon, per year. By comparison, the EU has a per capita footprint of 8.7 tons — 54 percent less. But billions of people in the developing world have a footprint of less than 2 tons.

In practice, this means that one American causes about the same amount of global warming as:

  • 2 Chinese
  • 5 Mexicans
  • 7 Brazilians
  • 9 North Koreans
  • 15 Pakistanis
  • 31 Nigerians
  • 41 Kenyans
  • 51 Haitians
  • 103 Madagascans
  • 155 Ugandans
  • 534 Burundians

The Average U.S. Adult Wastes One Million Dollars

The United States needs to reduce its consumption of energy and material possessions. A huge amount of this spending is non-essential. According to research commissioned by Ladder and conducted by OnePoll, the average adult in the USA spends $1,497 a month on nonessential items. This adds up to almost $18,000 a year — or more than a million dollars over the course of an adult lifetime.

Maybe the Rich Are the Root Cause of Climate Change

Then there are the rich. It’s the rich who are to blame for the global climate crisis, says a new study of 86 countries by the University of Leeds. The study shows that the richest 10 percent consume about 20 times more energy than the bottom 10 percent, wherever they live.

The gap is largest in travel and transport, where the top 10 percent use 187 times more fuel than the bottom 10 percent, the research says. This confirms previous research showing that 15 percent of UK travellers take 70 percent of all flights, while 57 percent of people in the UK don’t fly abroad at all.

According to a new report published by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute, the wealthiest 1 percent in the world were responsible for the emission of more than twice as much CO2 as the poorer 50 percent of the world, from 1990 to 2015. The report also warns that rampant overconsumption and the rich world’s addiction to high-carbon transport, are exhausting the world’s “carbon budget”.

Anyone who works hard and makes sacrifices is entitled to enjoy the rewards. But no one gets carte blanche to do what they like. Especially if their luxury is acquired at the expense of another person’s necessities. The well-being of our families, communities and nations, depends upon a fair share of resources.

Notice we’re not saying ‘equal’: we’re saying ‘fair’.

Veteran environmentalist David Attenborough puts it best in a recent podcast. He said that Nature would flourish once again when “those that have a great deal, perhaps, have a little less.”

The richest 10 percent may not agree that the disparity in consumption between them and the poorest 10 percent is unfair, but it’s safe to say that if they had to swap places with their less fortunate cousins, they’d change their minds pretty quickly. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that many rich people in the West have absolutely no idea how few resources are available to most people in the developing world.

Think what an educational experience it would be for members of the rich, white ruling class in the United States — the only major country to have quit the Paris Agreement — to be flown into (say) the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and left there for a couple of weeks to sample the life of ordinary people on average income.

Our way of behaving is not sustainable and at some point, in the not too distant future, there is going to be no more planet.

Unless we change.

Race & Racism for Dummies

For those who are confused (and there always will be those who don’t get it… or won’t), I’d like to offer five points that, hopefully, are easily digestible.

1. White privilege is not about individuals and whether they have or have not.

It’s about a system that was designed to favor one race over all others and still does.

2. Every White person in the US benefits from White privilege.

It doesn’t necessarily make them rich. It doesn’t necessarily make them evil. It doesn’t necessarily make them racist. If you’re White, having White privilege is not your fault. But if you wield it — or refuse to acknowledge it — that’s on you.

3. Racism is not just a Southern phenomenon — or a historical one.

The end of slavery was not the end of racism or discrimination. I do not have to be a slave to be affected by the legacy of slavery, and if you are White in America in 2021, you don’t have to own slaves or even be descended from slaveowners to benefit from their legacy.

And although Southerners have historically been cast as the primary villains of racism, they weren’t the only ones and still aren’t. George Floyd was murdered in Minnesota, one of the northernmost states in the US.

4. I enjoy a degree of economic privilege (yep, I can admit it), but that doesn’t preclude White people who make considerably less money than me from benefitting from White privilege.

Our legal system tends to favor White people on both sides of crime, and that is one of the most glaring examples of White privilege. It’s why when young White men drive down dark roads late at night, their mothers have one less thing — trigger-happy cops — to worry about.

5. We won’t achieve truly meaningful change until we all face America’s collective failings and stop looking for loopholes to escape incrimination: being poor, being colorblind, etc.

The collective failings will continue to mean collective failure as long as some insist on burying their heads in the sand and denying the harsh reality that most of us in racial minorities are unable to simply disregard, as we are stuck on the short end of it. You can tune us out — a privilege we are unable to exercise in return — but you won’t shut us up.