CIVIL SOCIETY

VIDEO

The Right to Assist Nonviolence?

Faith Communities

Popular resistance

Active Nonviolence

126 Inventing an Economy

Peacebuilding

Beautiful Trouble

Transnational Organizing

Ann Swidler on Africa NGOs (orig)+

Koozma Tarasoff on Doukhobors (orig)+

Recap 2 Dec 2020 (Ann,Koozma,Joseph,Steve)

Recap 4. December 2020

150 The World in Dec 2020 Part 2

164 Cynical Theories

166 Rotary and IPPNW

169 Political Communication

170 Farming in India

174 Life in Rural China

176 Peacemakers in the Holy Land

186 Klein's West Africa

188 Manipur and Peacekeeping

197 Middle Eastern Societies

205 Ambassador Bob Rae on Human Rights

226 The Internationalization of Russian Higher Education

237 Russian Immigrants Today

244 Anticipating the Next Five Years

262 Transnational Ideas

264 Climate Change and the Media

265 Grassroots Activism

267 Church Animation

268 The American Right

269 Brussels; Schools; and Assimilation

COMMENTS

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Suggestion Box: Stop Economic Growth!

Paul Chilcott posted this proposal in the suggestion box: “SIgn the CASSE Declaration at http://steadystate.org/ – we can`t have perpetual economic growth on a finite planet.”
Thanks for you sensible proposal, Paul. Of course we can’t indefinitely continue depleting physical resources, which has always been the way economies have grown so far. This is an extremely important discussion, and we invite you to elaborate on your point here in the comments column. Post articles here if you wish — or even photos. Probably you’ll evoke some interesting responses from others.

But when you stop growth, people get poor. Is that what you want? Maybe we can let some kinds of occupations and institutions grow — the ones that don’t pollute or exhaust material resources — while shutting down others.

Right. We cannot starve ourselves into reaching net zero. We have to get there by improving efficiency.

Suggestion Box: Equality in Money Creation
Stephen Stillwell posted this idea in our suggestion box: “Include each human being on the planet equally in a globally standard process of money creation.”
Interesting proposal, Stephen. I hope you’ll come back and elaborate on it in the comment column here. You can share articles and photos if you like.
Thanks!

How do you plan to create money? Apparently whenever the bank makes a loan to someone or a business, this creates money because the loan eventually has to be paid back. So how is this supposed to be done with equality? Give everyone on early a loan for $1,000 or what? I don’t think so.

Sure. That’s exactly how to do it! Everyone gets $10,000 upon reaching the age of 18. Or something like that. (Unfortunately, I think that is not going to reduce inequality. Some people will squander theirs while others will make a huge profit.)

The New Cold War Is Financial: Banks and Financial Infrastructure are Emerging as an Expanding Front in Geopolitics

Tom Keatinge | RUSI | 21 September 2020

But now a new front is emerging. Not only is the use of sanctions mushrooming, multiplying the risk for financial actors, creating an increasingly complex landscape for businesses to navigate and the risk that they might inadvertently trigger an unseen violation. The financial institutions themselves are also being directly targeted. Whereas in the past, financial actors might become collateral damage as countries exchange financial sanctions, today they are themselves in the crosshairs, threatened by geopolitical rivalries, most recently between China and the US.”

Read more

Link: https://rusi.org/commentary/new-cold-war-financial

Last edited 8 months ago by Adam Wynne

I hear that they are already being targeted every day — that phishing crooks and other fraudsters are ripping off banks by the Internet to a stupendous degree, but they don’t want the public to know.

“People Love Their Dictators,”

By Metta Spencer

January 2021 issue of Peace Magazine. http://peacemagazine.org/archive/v37n1p09.htm

“People love their dictators,” Gene Sharp remarked casually, as if stating some obvious fact. I was shocked, for it had never occurred to me that people in general—ordinary, normal people—ever prefer dictatorships. Instead, I had considered that a sign of some rare, grave pathology.

But lately I’ve been thinking back on our conversation, especially after watching the US election, when almost half of the American voters showed their allegiance to the most anti-democratic president in history. And the US is not unique; look around the world and you’ll see adoring voters supporting Putin, Xi, Duterte, Modi, Orban, Kaczynski, Bolsonaro, Erdogan…the list goes on. Something is happening on a global scale that threatens civilization itself. We cannot suggest a solution unless we understand it, and everyone seems baffled.

When half or more of any population seems irrational, we can’t call them all crazy, so what’s the explanation? Gene is gone and I never asked him about his theory, so instead I find myself mentally re-playing old sociological debates. One of them, inevitably, is between Karl Marx and Max Weber. And on that point at least, the evidence looks conclusive: today’s worldwide polarization is not about money.

WHAT’S THE ISSUE: CLASS OR STATUS?

Karl Marx and Max Weber famously disagreed about the nature of social hierarchies. Marx maintained that the crucial societal conflict was always between social classes and about the control over the means of production—material interests. Though he recognized that the dominant class sometimes dupes the others into “false consciousness”—ignorance of their own interests—he reduced all societal conflicts to economic struggles between social classes.

Weber, on the other hand, while recognizing the importance of social classes and economic control, also paid attention to two other types of hierarchy that did not interest Marx: status and power. Although class, status, and power are connected, no one of them is invariably the most important. Weberians (and I am one) tend to attribute social conflicts to status rivalry instead of money and property. Status is mainly prestige. People at the top are accorded dignity and social honor, whereas those at the bottom are treated with contempt.

However, even mainstream TV and newspaper commentators seem surprisingly Marxist, for they mainly attribute today’s global upsurge of right-wing populist movements to working class anger about their economic conditions. Take the analyses of the recent US elections as examples. The typical explanation of support for Trump is that he won in 2016 because he promised to bring back the good industrial jobs that corporate globalization had sent abroad. And indeed, Trump did get some support in 2016 from under-employed industrial workers in rust-belt areas.

But financial interests can explain only a little about the 2016 election and even less in 2020. Trump’s voters had a higher _average income than people who voted for Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. His popularity in 2016 was highest among _older, less educated, rural, white Christian (though not religiously practicing) males.1 Most Trump voters were not working class,2 nor did workers engage in Marxian class struggle by voting overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders. Trump did promise to fatten the wallets of unemployed workers, but he also pledged to take away their health care. Most voters knew he would give tax breaks to the rich, not to the poor, and this did not offend them. Instead of resenting the billionaire for cheating workers, they laughed about his gold-plated toilet. During one debate, when Hillary Clinton speculated that he was hiding his tax returns because he was not paying taxes, he replied that it showed how smart he was—and most voters apparently agreed. Such popular attitudes show the absence of class conflict.

The election results in 2020 fit Marx’s economic explanation even less. The numerous exit polls confound class-based analyses. When I analyze tables to judge the causal impact of various social factors, I disregard variables as of minor importance if they show less than about 20 percentage points difference between contrasting categories. It’s a simple criterion, but adequate to prove that age, education level, income level, marital status, the presence of young children at home, and union membership had little or no impact on whether citizens voted for Republicans or Democrats.3 The correlations were trivial or non-existent.

In fact, the effects of education and income seem contradictory: With increasing education came slightly more Democratic voting (but only for those with post-graduate degrees), whereas with increasing income came slightly more Republican voting (but only for those with annual w2incomes above $100,000). There is no coherent Marxian explanation for these findings.

I almost wish that Marxists were right—that people mainly do seek economic advantages—for that would make it easier to negotiate rational political deals. (Even ten-year-old kids can figure out how to divide up money.) But tragically, many truly democratic elections are won by people who do not rationally maximize their own material wellbeing, much less that of the whole world. Nobody forces democracies such as the UK, Canada, and the US to quit the EU, the Paris Agreement, and WHO; subsidize fossil fuels; or modernize NATO’s nuclear weapons. Voters freely choose politicians who will do those things. Evidently, many of us democrats are too irrational even to pursue our own interests. Worldwide, people are giving up on democracy and electing “strong leaders” who violate constitutions and human rights for the sake of acquiring more power. Freedom House reports that for the fifteenth consecutive year, freedom has been declining, country by country, around the world.

Moreover, about half of us do not even support our own moral values. In the US, 74 million citizens recently voted for an abusive narcissist who breaks every norm of civilized discourse, despoils the environment, molests women, incarcerates toddlers, denies scientific facts, cheats financially, lies twenty times a day, deprives sick people of medical care, and contests the legitimacy of any election that he loses. (Have I left anything out? Yes, if we shift our gaze to China or Myanmar we see genocidal rulers, and if we look at Russia we see one whose political enemies are shot or poisoned with polonium or Novichok. Trump is a petty crook in comparison to those people—who are nevertheless even more adored than himself.)4

WHY ARE THEY SO POPULAR?

Friends, we need to understand the popularity of such dangerous people.

I noticed that only two demographic variables are strongly associated with support for Trump: race and rural/urban residence. Black Americans overwhelmingly voted against Trump and rural people overwhelmingly voted for him. You cannot explain away their polarized responses as reflecting class differences, for economic variables have little impact on vote choices. Neither race nor location of residence are indicators of social class, but in the US today, they form “status groups.” Social rank, not money, is the basis of status, and what blacks and whites alike resent is being cheated of the dignity and respect they deserve. The very title “Black Lives Matter” says it all; many whites regard blacks as if their lives did not matter.

Likewise, rural Americans resent the loss of their traditional status as the backbone of free society. Population density has long explained a huge amount of the variation in voting patterns. For example, in the 2012 US election, 98% of the 50 most dense counties voted for Obama, while 98% of the 50 least dense counties voted for Romney.5 And according to The Economist, urban and rural voters are more divided today than they were in 2012 or 2016.

In an article about the rural voters of Iowa, who voted overwhelmingly for Trump, Chris McGreal explained it by quoting a mechanic:

“People felt slighted by them calling us racist hicks and talking about the backwards midwest out in the sticks…It was a huge insult to say that you support Trump because you’re a racist. A lot of them here voted for Obama. The Democrats see us as uneducated, simple thinkers who’ve got guns. It’s a huge boon for the Republican party of Iowa.”7

Arlie Hochschild’s book Strangers in their Own Land,8 describes the prevailing attitudes in “red states” before Trump was even a candidate. Having spent many weeks in Louisiana talking with Tea Party supporters, she noted that, like other “red states,” Louisiana needed federal funding more than “blue states,” yet they rejected it. They were suffering from the worst health care, unemployment, educational systems, and environmental pollution. Some people, fully aware that the petrochemical industry was dumping toxins into the pond behind their home that had killed members of their own families, nevertheless didn’t want the government to stop it. That’s not what angered them.

Instead, their political protests reflected their resentment for being considered culturally backward. And indeed, their status has slipped downward on America’s prestige scale, while other status groups—immigrant Latinos and Muslims, disabled people, women, gays, and transgenders—have been rising, with the encouragement of liberals and urban professionals. This rivalry—now called “identity politics”9 —is bitter.

When status groups express their mutual resentments, the hot issues are often about cultural differences, not practical problems. Indeed, real risks are sometimes discounted as merely symbolic—as in the cases of guns and masks. In realistic terms, gun ownership reduces American life expectancy, but Republicans disregard the mortality statistics and take offence at the disdain of “urban, coastal elites” toward their gun culture. Likewise, although it is clear that masks do inhibit the spread of COVID, the evidence is often ignored by Trump supporters, who see mask-wearing as a hostile political pronouncement.

AMERICA’S CULTURE WARS

Democrats and Republicans now represent opposing status groups that are radically polarized regarding several issues, some of which are practical and realistic, while others are more about lifestyle and customs. America’s ‘culture war’ is about abortion10; capital punishment11; gun control12; Employment Discrimination Act (prohibiting discrimination by sexual orientation or gender identity); the Equal Rights Amendment (prohibiting discrimination against females); legalization of same-sex marriages13; major reform (or ‘defunding’) of police14; and legalization of marijuana.15

Some disputes are more readily resolved by legislation than others. For example, the ‘winner-takes-all’ system of representation in the US means that rural voters will continue to wield a disproportionate amount of political power; reforming the system is required for the fulfillment of political equality.16 Whether such reforms can be achieved is one question, but whether doing so would reduce America’s levels of status resentment is quite another—and more difficult—question.

Unlike money, prestige or status is entirely a comparative measure; it reflects rank. And (unlike the children of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, who are all above average) identity groups cannot all rank above average. Logically, for every high-ranking group, there must be a lower-ranking one. As long as human beings make invidious comparisons, this problem cannot be quite solved. And low status cannot be a happy condition. It’s probably harder to reconcile a society divided by status than one divided by class interests.

The NY Times columnist Frank Bruni, shocked by the “softness of the spanking that voters just gave President Trump,” seems to accept this Weberian “status rivalry” explanation. He quotes a Democratic ex-Senator from North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp, who surmised that Republicans resisted being told to wear masks because it came across as preachy and finger-wagging.

“People don’t like being judged,” she said. That’s why some maskless Americans lash out at the masked. They regard face coverings as an “implied judgment.”17 As shaming.

STATUS, SHAME, AND EMPATHY

Finger-wagging and preaching can only be done when there is some differential in moral, intellectual, or cultural status. The higher status person can heap shame on the lower-status person. I want to suggest that Trump’s supporters are enthusiastic primarily because _he models an unusual (and amazingly effective) bravado for resisting shame.

Nobody likes to feel humiliated, of course, but shame and guilt are actually necessary for social discipline. Yet shame is a double-edged sword. Whenever shaming is used, even for the sake of maintaining decency and social order, it causes pain. Sometimes people refuse to be chastened, but instead form a fascist political movement strong enough to jeopardize civilization itself.

Consider Nazis, for an extreme example. Right-wing demagogues all show fascist attitudes that attract people who feel humiliated. Trump displayed his leadership among such people by expressing approval for under-educated rural white supremacist male neo-Nazis. Everywhere on the planet today such “cultural underdogs” are resisting the shame assigned to them, chanting: “Make America/ UK/ Russia/ India/ China/ Poland/ Hungary/ Brazil Great Again!” This vaunted “greatness” would characterize a society in which high status is not reserved for experts and scientists in urban areas who professionally produce accurate information. Lying and intimidation would be okay.

Few voters in all these countries are fascists, of course. Some of them can provide coherent ideological arguments. Wendy Brown has described the nature of their shared anti-democratic ideology as a merger of two movements: neoliberalism and neoconservatism.18 Neoliberalism is the belief that, not only the economy but also the state itself, should be dominated by market rationality. Citizens are supposedly rational economic actors in every sphere of life and their moral stature is determined by their ability to provide for their own needs. Even in government, productivity and profitability are the main criteria. Neoconservatism is a desire for a strong state that is always prepared for war, and which empowers corporations, religions, and conventional family values.19 Put these two doctrines together and you have Trumpism and Putinism.

For the sake of reducing polarization, we sometimes look for ways of mollifying people who promote such ideologies—ways of demonstrating respect for them which we do not really feel. Is it possible to heal a polarized society by compromising with their grossly immoral politics? Even if it were ethically justifiable, it would be difficult or impossible to accomplish. We cannot change such people—but can we even live with them?

Maybe so—if we approach them in the spirit of therapists dealing with pathological personalities. This is awkward, for although they are mentally unwell, we recall the same illness in ourselves: chronic humiliation, which everyone has felt at times. Unfortunately, the future of democracy may depend on our developing better mechanisms for managing the shame of low status. The most widely used mechanism today is evidently a public posture that I’ll call “counter-phobia,” which is superbly demonstrated every day by Donald Trump.

People love their dictators, not despite their immoral conduct, but precisely for it. Demagogues feel no shame, and so long as they successfully resist shame, their followers can vicariously bluff and hide their own embarrassment.

Populist nationalism is both a personality trait and a political ideology. It arises where there is a deficit of empathy. When people lack empathy, they can avoid feeling shame or guilt when they should. Dictators appeal precisely by enabling their followers to feel comfortable in supporting cruelty and injustice.

“Character is destiny,” said Heraclitus. If he is right, then destiny of a nation may depend on the character of the leader it chooses. Then what determines the character of the candidates? Personality traits (e.g. temperament, particular aptitudes, shyness), can be partly inherited, but _character _traits are evidently learned.

“Character” includes moral traits such as generosity, fairness, and compassion, which put the interests of others ahead of one’s own. Such altruistic motives are not learned easily. Even good people are not always good, but moral educators have success stories to tell, as well as failures, and we can learn from them. They say that children learn self-discipline and compassion from the adults around them.

TOO MUCH … AND NEVER ENOUGH

Two books shed light on the markedly dissimilar moral educations of Donald Trump and Barack Obama. Mary Trump is a clinical psychologist and the daughter of Donald’s older brother Freddy. Her book, Too Much and Never Enough, portrays those two boys’ father, Fred, as a real estate mogul and ruthless bully who “expected obedience, that was all.”

Because of poor health, Fred’s wife could not nurture her children adequately—and besides, she was expected to rear only their daughters, while Fred would raise their three boys. He wanted them to be invulnerable—“killers,” as he put it—so when Freddy disappointed him by becoming a mild airline pilot, he turned his full attention instead to Donald, teaching him to “be tough at all costs, lying is okay, admitting you’re wrong or apologizing is weakness.” … To Fred, “there can be only one winner and everybody else is a loser (an idea that essentially precluded the ability to share) and kindness is weakness.”20

Contrast that narrative with Obama’s account of his own moral education. He repeats this message in his memoir21 and speeches, calling current political problems the result of an increasing “deficit of empathy.” His own capacity for empathy had been instilled by his mother, Ann Denham, who had consistently demanded it, as he recounted to Oprah Winfrey:

“She taught me empathy. The basic concept of standing in somebody else’s shoes and looking through their eyes. And she—if I did something, messed up, she’d just say, `How would that make you feel if somebody did that to you?’ And that ends up being, I think, at the center of my politics. And I think that should be the center of all our politics.”22

Of the many methods of teaching morality to children, punishment is probably the most commonly used, but evidently a better method is empathy, which instills the inevitability of feeling guilt or shame after doing wrong. Whatever we might later feel ashamed of having done, we refrain from doing.

INSOUCIANCE OR REMORSE?

But that only works after our conscience is fully operational, and it is empathy that plants those fertile seeds of remorse. Barack Obama’s mother was tough enough to persist until her son would recount his vicarious walks in his adversaries’ shoes; Donald Trump’s mother never tried that, or maybe just gave up too soon.

Sometimes these moral lessons become dramatic contests of will. I have witnessed a few such struggles. I remember especially one entire day observing a mother’s effort to evoke penitence in her five-year-old boy, who had done something egregiously cruel (I forget what). She believed that if he did not acknowledge remorse on that crucial occasion, a milestone would have been crossed and a faulty character trait would have been set for life.

In retrospect I think she was right. I know the adult son, who is no sociopath, but far from a Barack Obama either. When reminded of an obligation that he is not fulfilling, he usually dismissively replies, “Don’t guilt-trip me.”

Guilt and shame are prerequisites for a virtuous character—precisely because they are so unpleasant to most of us. But then, there is Donald Trump, who apparently never feels shame or guilt. It is exactly this brazenness that fascinates us. We are amazed to watch his insouciance when caught in scandals that would mortify anyone else. How does he do it?

Where others would feel guilt, sociopaths display little, if any, remorse. Where others would feel embarrassed, they flaunt their outrage or brag about it. This is counterphobia. I’ll illustrate with two contrasting types of shame-management.

Example One is an old story about a prim Arab, Abdul al-Souri, who was in a public meeting when he loudly broke wind. Overcome with humiliation, he fled to a faraway city. Thirty years passed before he dared visit his hometown, where he began talking in the street with a young boy. He mentioned that he had been away since 1830. “Oh,” said the boy. “That was the year when Abdul al-Souri farted.” Abdul fled again and never returned.

Example Two is the title of an essay, “Fart Proudly,” by Benjamin Franklin which perfectly expresses the defence mechanism that psychoanalysts call “counterphobia.”23 When Franklin served as ambassador to France, he wrote a number of naughty but witty essays, including a discussion of flatulence. Just by humorously alluding to this taboo topic, he demonstrated a massively strong ego—precisely the quality that (if maintained successfully) qualifies a person as a leader—or at least a celebrity.

There has never been a more beloved American than Ben Franklin, who even surpassed Donald Trump in his masterful use of counterphobia. Unlike Franklin, Trump lacks any sense of humor, so his counterphobia is a more serious act to maintain.

Almost everyone fears something that makes us anxious—snakes, say, flying in planes, or public speaking—and try to avoid it. Only rare individuals do the opposite: Whatever they fear might happen, they perform deliberately in public. A counterphobic who fears heights becomes a skydiver, for example. Or an ambassador who fears making an embarrassing faux pas at court jokes about farting proudly.

Of course, counterphobia is a risky game to play, for if people don’t go along with your outrageous pretensions, you’ll be twice as embarrassed. Once you start taking that kind of risk, you have to keep it up. You can never again play shy or run away, as Abdul Al-Souri did. Successful public demonstrations of counterphobia can confer enormous charisma—but at great cost. You have to maintain that public persona forever, and never again demonstrate normal levels of modesty. Few people can do it well. We are fascinated by those who can.

COUNTERPHOBIA AND CHARISMA

Probably Donald Trump’s greatest fear early in life was of being laughed at for some stupid blunder—but his father would not let him flee in humiliation, so he learned never, never, never to acknowledge any personal flaws or weaknesses. As a counterphobic, he pretends to be proud of every shameful act (e.g. by telling Hillary that not paying his taxes proves that he is smart). Sometimes he uses another defence mechanism called projection. As his niece Mary points out, before Donald is accused of doing something, he loudly blames someone else for doing precisely that. “It’s a disgrace!” he often accuses others, thereby avoiding the sting of shame himself. A champion liar himself, he charges fact-checking reporters of providing “fake news.” Never does he feel shame.

Fred Trump found allies who helped him instill shamelessness in Donald. One was the famous pastor Norman Vincent Peale, whose book The Power of Positive Thinking sold five million copies in the early 1950s. Fred Trump loved it, took his family to Marble Collegiate Church on Sundays, and made Peale into a close pal. Gwenda Blair describes the pastor’s message:

“Believe in yourself!” Peale’s book begins. “Have faith in your abilities!” He then outlines ten rules to overcome ‘inadequacy attitudes” and “build up confidence in your powers.” Rule one: “formulate and staple indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding,” “hold this picture tenaciously,” and always refer to it “no matter how badly things seem to be going at the moment.”

Subsequent rules tell the reader to avoid “fear thoughts,” “never think of yourself as failing,” summon up a positive thought whenever “a negative thought concerning your personal powers comes to mind,” “depreciate every so-called obstacle,” and “make a true estimate of your own ability, then raise it 10 per cent.”24

Another powerful figure in Donald Trump’s upbringing was an athletic instructor in his military school, Theodore Dobias, whom he described this way: “Like so many strong guys, Dobias had a tendency to go for the jugular if he smelled weakness. On the other hand, if he sensed strength but you didn’t try to undermine him, he treated you like a man.”25

Frank Chamandy also attended that military school and knew Dobias, whom he described this way: “He pushed us to win. If you weren’t a winner, you were a loser, plain and simple…He was a bully. He was tough and unrelenting. Maybe he even brainwashed us. But he got results.”26

And Donald Trump is one of those results. His personal qualities are not the outcome of indifferent parenting; he underwent rigorous training to be a counterphobic, and—like it or not—this trait is key to his success as a leader. A July 2017 survey of 5,000 Americans found that a quarter of U.S. adults like the idea of having “a strong leader who does not have to bother with Congress and elections.”27 And 91 percent of Republicans say that Trump is a “strong leader.” He will never admit having lost the election to Biden, and most Republicans will agree with him, even against all evidence. That’s charisma.

According to Max Weber, charisma is “the supposed extraordinary quality of a personality that causes him or her to be considered a ‘leader.’ It may seem strange to attribute charisma to a seriously immoral person, since the term originated in religion, where it described persons who possessed a “gift of grace.” The most famous charismatic leaders include spiritual innovators: Jesus, Mohammed, the Buddha, Moses, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.

But there are charismatic politicians too, and they are not all noble: Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, and Fidel Castro. Even the spiritual ones are not necessarily benign; remember Jim Jones, the charismatic preacher who persuaded 900 of his followers to commit mass suicide in Guyana.

The success of charisma depends on acceptance by the followers, and charisma is not automatically transferred to a successor. Eva Peron is still revered in Argentina, and Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, though her reputation globally has gone from being an icon of democratic virtue to a genocidaire. Hugo Chavez was charismatic, but his chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro, is boring.

Fortunately, not all leaders are charismatic; many are bureaucratic rule-followers or traditional chieftains who are not expected to be counter-phobic megalomaniacs. Obama’s authority was based on his expertise and willingness to hear rational arguments. Trump’s authority comes from his rejection of expertise, rationality, and even empirical, factual evidence.

That’s the problem. If he were rational, his charisma would pose no particular danger. (Roosevelt and Churchill were charismatic too, but their decisions were largely rational.) But Trump and all the other populist world leaders have been getting away with issuing unreasonable orders because they are charismatic. They deny that nuclear weapons, climate change, and even Covid-19 are serious threats—and millions believe them.

People love their dictators—if they are charismatic. We may be unable to strip a leader of charisma. Those who had it may even acquire new followers after they are dead. The French still are proud of Napoleon. Russians still consider Stalin as the greatest leader in their history. Even Mongolians still name things after Genghis Khan.

Yet there are grounds for hope, both for immediate and longer-term solutions. We’ve had too much charisma. As we enter a new year, there is a chance for new, rational bureaucratic leadership. Let’s seize that opportunity by confirming the authority of science, fair journalism, and factual evidence as the basis for political decisions.

And for the long-term future of democracy, let’s remind parents to teach empathy to their children, who are the leaders of the future. Their wisdom depends on their capacity to feel remorse for their mistakes and joy for the happiness of others. Carpe diem!

Metta Spencer is editor of Peace and a retired professor of peace studies.



ENDNOTES

1 Election 2016 National Exit Poll Results and Analysis. ABC News Analysis Desk and Paul Blake, 9 November 2016, abcnews.go.com/Politics/election-2016-national-exit-poll-results-analysis/story?id=43368675

2 Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu, “It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class.” Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, June 5, 2017. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/06/05/its-time-to-bust-the-myth-most-trump-voters-were-not-working-class

3 ABC News: Exit Polls for 2020 US Presidential Election: Results & Analysis. abcnews.go.com/Elections/exit-polls-2020-us-presidential-election-results-analysis

Freedom House Reportfreedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world

5 Dave Troy, “Is Population Density the Key to Understanding voting Behavior?” davetroy.medium.com/is-population-density-the-key-to-understanding-voting-behavior-191acc302a2b Aug. 22, 2016.

The Economist, “America’s urban-rural partisan gap is widening,” Nov. 10, 2020, http://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/11/10/americas-urban-rural-partisan-gap-is-widening

7 Chris McGreal, “‘He made a connection’: how did Trump manage to boost his support among rural Americans?” The Guardian, Nov 20, 2020. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/20/trump-made-a-connection-here-rural-supporters-iowa

8 Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

9 Francis Fukuyama, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. Kindle Edition, 2018.

10 Michael Lipka and John Gramlich, “Five Facts about the abortion Debate in America,” Pew Research Center, Aug. 30, 2019. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/08/30/facts-about-abortion-debate-in-america

11 Baxter Oliphant, Public support for the death penalty ticks up, Pew Research, June 11, 2018

12 John Gramllich and Katherine Schaeffer, “Seven Facts about Guns in the US,” Pew Research Center, Oct. 20, 2019. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/10/22/facts-about-guns-in-united-states

13 Justin McCarthy, “U.S. Support for Same-Sex Marriage Matches Record High,” Gallup Poll, June 1, 2020. news.gallup.com/poll/311672/support-sex-marriage-matches-record-high.aspx

14 Steve Crabtree, “Most Amerians Say Policing Needs ‘Major Changes” Pew Research Center, July 22, 2020. news.gallup.com/poll/315962/americans-say-policing-needs-major-changes.aspx

15 Andrew Daniller, “ Two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization,” Pew Research Center, Nov. 13, 2019. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/11/14/americans-support-marijuana-legalization

16 America’s urban-rural partisan gap is widening,” op cit.

17 Frank Bruni, “We Still Don’t Really Understand Trump—or America” New York Times, Nov. 7, 2020. http://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/07/opinion/sunday/trump-election-performance.html

18 Wendy Brown, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West (Columbia University Press, 2019). Also see her “American Nightmare: neoliberalism, neoconservatism, and de-democratization. Political Theory”, 34/6, 690-714.

19 Dina Zisserman-Brodsky, “De-democratization and Its Concomitants in Contemporary Russia,” Paper Presented to the ASN 2017 Convention, Columbia University, NY, May 2017.

20 Mary Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2020), p. 25. (Kindle Edition, 2018).

21 Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. (N.Y: Random House, 2007).

22 Barack Obama, 2006-10-18, Oprah Winfrey Show.

23 Benjamin Franklin, Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School. Carl Japikse, ed. Kindle edition, 2003.

24 Gwenda Blair, “How Norman Vincent Peale Taught Donald Trump to Worship Himself,” Politico, Oct. 15, 2015. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/donald-trump-2016-norman-vincent-peale-213220

25 Donald J. Trump and Tony Schwarz, The Art of the Deal, Kindle Edition, 1987, Chapter 3.

26 Frank Charmandy, “The President, his mentor, and me: I know what makes Donald Trump tick,” The Globe and Mail, Oct. 16, 2020. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-president-his-mentor-and-me-i-know-what-makes-donald-trump-tick

27 Trudy Rubin, “Rubin: 3 in 10 Americans would prefer a more authoritarian government, report says” The Mercury News, April 2, 2018. http://www.mercurynews.com/2018/04/02/rubin-report-finds-disturbing-figures-3-in-10-americans-would-prefer-a-more-authoritarian-government

The blind, even illogical, reactive hostility towards effective measures taken by Donald (What, me worry?) Trump and his administration towards progressive governances—a.k.a. the lowest level of hell, Socialism, known to staunch conservatives—is too often absurd.

As a humorous example of such anger (albeit fortunately from a single very extreme source), just the concept of socialists having any power anywhere on the planet causes distress to a local man here who’s vocally vehemently opposed to liberalism.

On a couple occasions he became so narrow-mindedly enraged that he, with his tightened fist trembling before him, uttered to me, “I’d vote for the devil himself if that’s what it took to keep those Godless socialists out of office!” 

Last edited 8 months ago by Frank Sterle Jr.

His facts are indisputably correct — or were, so long as Trump was in power. It’s his recommendations that are questionable. WHAT multilateral institutions should be promoted? And HOW can they be democratized? And finally, would we be better off if they were? Very vague.

One man’s opinion of capitalism

Big business interests are definitely pulling governmental strings—some of which extend further to our police and military—to access land and/or the accompanying natural resources, perhaps to which they perceive a political-economic thus ethical right.

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Fair redistribution of funds?

Governments should “re-distribute funds equitably”? Sure. But how can we citizens make them do it? Even long-standing democracies have become more and more unequal for several decades. Occupy Wall Street (see photo of their General Assembly) showed that almost all the benefits were going to the top one percent.

Biden, are you listening?

Personally, I supported Andrew Yang’s platform for Universal Basic Income. I wish Biden would implement something like that should he be elected President of the United States in 2020…

After all, income distribution in the United States is incredible inequitable. Here’s a figure from 2017.

Do Nuclear Weapons Profits Count Too?

Nuclear weapons are truly the most idiotic thing to spend money on, throwing money out in space would be a better use. How infuriating!

But somehow the Global Compact does not specifically mention nuclear weapons as a type of investment that responsible businesses should reject. The ten principles that the Compact proposes are excellent but should be more explicit in outlawing the trade in weapons (especially nuclear) and fossil fuels. Do you agree?

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Couldn’t agree more; all current nuclear weapons MUST be safely deconstructed, and ALL countries need to agree to not make them anymore.

The arms race post-WWII led to this. There is big money to be made from manufacturing weapons, especially since a government contract was such a lucrative and reliable source of revenue. I just hope that arms race doesn’t lead to our demise.

Climate change truly is the real enemy of the 21st century. The survival of humankind depends on it, yet so few people seem to recognize it.

Spend less on the military!

If governments were more cooperative, they could stop spending so much money on the military and weapons to protect themselves- this money could be used to invest in climate change mitigation/ research, to better the environment!

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s becoming increasingly more obvious to me that we MUST revitalize the idea of “one-world”, and all work together. At the end of the day, pandemics don’t discriminate- anyone can get sick, and we all need to work together to find a cure.

How might we be able to build more solidarity and cooperation? I feel like as much as grassroots organizations try, when global leaders attack others and other countries and blame other countries for problems, it’s so hard to work together.

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Strong Centralized Government is the Way to Go

This is a fair point, but I believe a stronger central government could accomplish the same – in fact, more efficiently. If there are set regulations coming from the top, subnational governments would just have to follow, thereby eliminating another decision-making step.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cameron

Law-Enforcement Workers Abusing Power

With respect to the law-enforcement majority who don’t abuse their position of authority, the recent police shooting death of a young Toronto person should yet again raise concern about law-enforcement officials who behave gratuitously aggressive with some civilians.

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Last edited 1 year ago by Cameron

Interesting perspective. What do you think needs to be done to address this?

“We Need a New Economic Model, the Planet is Overburdened” – Mikhail Gorbachev

Reprint of Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev.
Creative by Nature, 28 January 2015

Article Excerpt(s):

“We badly need a new economic model… We cannot continue living by ignoring environmental problems. The planet is overburdened… We do not have enough fresh water for the people.. Billions of people are subject to hunger today. So the new model must consider all these needs. This model must be more human and more nature oriented… We are all interconnected but we keep acting as though we are completely autonomous.” ~Mikhail Gorbachev

The following is a partial transcript for a recent video interview with former Soviet president and Nobel Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev on “The urgent need to save the planet,” presented by his non-profit organization Green Cross.

“The most important point is to ensure that our complex, quickly changing and developing world lives in peace. Otherwise we won’t be able to deal with any other problem. We must block any revival of the arms race, new militarization… Without peace there will be nothing.

In terms of the international community, we have gone through a very difficult period, with the financial crisis that struck the world in 2008-2009, and I feel we have not yet come out of this global crisis.

It has been described as a financial crisis, but in my [view] its been a comprehensive global crisis, and it demonstrates that the economic model that has been underlying all systems in practically every nation, but specifically the biggest countries like the United States… has failed.

This model has essentially brought us to the current crisis, so therefore, we need to change this economic model. We badly need a new economic model… that is not based on hyper profits and hyper consumption, but a model that takes into account the depletion of natural resources. It should not ignore the problems of social development, poverty and the social contradictions that exist in the world…

The main point is this model will fail if it does not consider the demands of the environment. This is not a requirement for tomorrow. It is a must for today. We cannot continue living by ignoring environmental problems. The planet is overburdened.

In 2011 the global population [reached] 7 billion. At the beginning of the 20th Century we were just 1.9 billion people on the planet, and now we are 7 billion and by 2050 there will be 9 billion. The planet’s capacity is already over extended.

We do not have enough fresh water for the people. Water shortages will give rise to various military conflicts, which I am sure will happen if we do not resolve the water problems. Same for energy and other challenges, including food security.

Billions of people are subject to hunger today. So the new model must consider all these needs. This model must be more human and more nature oriented, so the relationship between man and nature can respond to the challenges of the modern world.

Last but not least, we have not learned how to live with globalization. We are all interconnected but we keep acting as though we are completely autonomous… We need this new model. We must consolidate all our resources to create such a new model. And we need to finance research into all these problems. We must consolidate all the resources that human kind has to answer these questions.”

~ Mikhail Gorbachev ~”

Full interview is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1xOtxwIaKc
https://creativesystemsthinking.wordpress.com/2015/01/28/we-need-a-new-economic-model-the-planet-is-overburdened-mikhail-gorbachev

Is NATO Still Necessary?

By Sharon Tennison, David Speedie, and Krishen Mehta
The National Interest, 18 April 2020
Probably the most divisive issue in some peace movements today deals is a dispute about whether any decent country should get out of NATO or stay in it and use their voting power to demand that it give up all plans to use nuclear weapons. The Platform for Survival insists only that we shift into a system of sustainable common security, with a UN peace force serving to protect against aggression. The new factor in the discussion is the additional point that the pandemic requires a new set of global solutions.

Article Excerpt(s):

“The coronavirus pandemic that is ravaging the world brings a prolonged public health crisis into sharp focus—along with the bleak prospect of a long-term economic crisis that can destroy the social fabric across nations.

World leaders need to reassess expenditures of resources based on real and present threats to national security—to reconsider how they may be tackled. A continuing commitment to NATO, whose global ambitions are largely driven and funded by the United States, must be questioned.

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Why the Response to COVID-19 Should Include Universal Basic Income

By John Rose

John Rose argues that universal basic income should. (and he hopes WILL) be adopted as a by-product of COVID-19.

We already know capitalism is failing in the face of COVID-19; it has been failing for generations. The latest crisis simply elucidates this fact. Canadians have been signaling their impending plight–ranging from unemployment, to mounting debt, to accessing essential services.

Meanwhile, bailouts are the talk of the town. The Alberta energy sector is asking for one, while the provincial government led by Jason Kenney decided a multi-billion dollar investment was a prudent economic decision to keep the dream of the Keystone XL pipeline alive. One must wonder if he is aware that the value of Alberta WCS oil is less than that of a barrel of monkeys.

From airlines, to cruise lines, to auto-makers, to Bombardier and banks, it seems as though most major corporations or capitalist institutions beg for bailouts when times are tough. It is remarkably ironic how often these groups demand governments to keep their meddling hands out of the private sector and reduce regulation, and yet when the slightest crisis hits, they come begging for state intervention. How very laissez-faire of them.
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I feel that the Canadian government has been doing a pretty decent job in supporting people through CERB, and CESB programs so far! I’m glad they’ve done it, given how so many people have lost their jobs.

I actually disagree. So many people are claiming government grants that there’s no incentive for them to go back to work- they can just sit at home and receive government money! What about the government deficit? Are we not worried about that?

COVID-19 has affected everyone everywhere, regardless of wealth, status, power, or race. I believe that the Universal Basic Income would be a more equitable way of redistributing wealth. Everyone deserves help, and we need to lift each other up in these hard times.

Ceasefire While We Fight the Virus

Warring Parties Must Lay Down Weapons To Fight Bigger Battle Against COVID-19
By Douglas Roche
Pugwash Canada (originally The Hill Times). 6 April 2020

Article Excerpt(s):

“UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s plea to ‘silence the guns’ would create corridors for lifesaving aid and open windows for diplomacy in the war-torn zones in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the central areas of Africa.”
— The Hill Times, 6 April 2020

EDMONTON—”The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.” In one short sentence, UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the door to a new understanding of what constitutes human security. Will governments seize the opportunity provided by the immense crisis of COVID-19 to finally adopt a global agenda for peace?

In an extraordinary move on March 23, Guterres urged warring parties around the world to lay down their weapons in support of the bigger battle against COVID-19 the common enemy now threatening all of humanity. He called for an immediate global ceasefire everywhere: “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”

His plea to “silence the guns” would create corridors for life-saving aid and open windows for diplomacy in the war-torn zones in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the central areas of Africa.

But the full meaning of Guterres’s appeal is much bigger than only suspending existing wars. It is a wakeup call to governments everywhere that war does not solve existing problems, that the huge expenditures going into armaments divert money desperately needed for health supplies, that a bloated militarism is impotent against the new killers in a globalized world.

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Pipeline, Mine Work Sites Deemed Essential Services Worry Some Canadians

By Brandi Morin
Huffington Post (HuffPost Canada) 21 April 2020

Article Excerpt(s):

“People who live in remote and Indigenous communities across Canada are questioning the classification of industrial projects like mines and pipelines as essential services, especially when it appears the “business as usual” approach goes against advice to physical distance as much as possible during the pandemic.

Delee Nikal, a Wet’suwet’en band member of the Gitdumt’en clan from the Witset First Nation, travelled to Houston, B.C. for a grocery run last weekend. It’s in the Bulkley Valley, population 3,600, close to construction for Coastal GasLink’s liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline project.

She noticed a lot of trucks in a hotel parking lot and was appalled at what she saw.

“There were guys all over there. Some were standing outside, shirtless, drinking beer with each other,” Nikal told HuffPost Canada. Their out-of-province licence plates and heavy-duty gear led her to suspect they were pipeline workers. “It’s scary because they have no connection to us locals — they don’t care.”

Her uncle, Chief Dsta’hyl, whose English name is Adam Gagnon and is a wing chief of Sun House of the Laksamshu Wet’suwet’en clan, wants the pipeline work shut down. He disagrees with authorities defining industrial projects as essential services, a designation determined by provincial and territorial governments.

“They’re committing economic treason,” said Gagnon.

In Valemount, about 600 kilometres east of Houston, CN is shipping in over 100 workers next month to complete annual maintenance on its railway tracks, according to “John,” a CN maintenance worker. He requested anonymity due to job security concerns. The influx would increase Valemount’s population of 1,000 by 10 per cent.

“I’m trying to follow protocols as much as I can,” he said. “But it’s business as usual for the big industry players. Physical distancing is impossible to impose in certain working conditions here.”

John said that during morning safety meetings, at least 25 workers are tightly packed into a small space and move through a narrow hallway, often touching shoulders while walking. He can’t keep two metres from his main co-worker because they travel in the same vehicle and eat their meals in it.

“[Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau and health ministers are telling people to stay home and not touch their face — so how does that work? Because this whole industry world isn’t abiding by the same rules.”

In such rural areas, temporary workers and locals shop in the same stores, or employees live with others in the community, so the risk of transmission cannot be avoided.

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What Is the Shadow Economy and Why Does It Matter?

Unlicensed construction or illegal sales by food vendors–it all has an impact on the real economy
By Simon Constable, The Wall Street Journal, 6 March 2017

Note: Article may be behind a paywall. See “article excerpt(s)” here:

“The shadow economy is perhaps best described by the activities of those operating in it: work done for cash, where taxes aren’t paid, and regulations aren’t strictly followed.

Most of the businesses operating in the shadow economy aren’t what most people would think of as criminal enterprises, says Cristina Terra, professor of economics at Essec Business School in France, and author of the book “Principles of International Finance and Open Economy Macroeconomics.”

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The Pacific’s New Market: Trading Aid for Votes: Nikki Haley was “making a list”

By Gregory B. Poling
Center for Strategic and International Studies, 9 February 2012

The US made it clear that aid would be withheld from countries in the UN that opposed its move of the US embassy to Jerusalem. The opposition measure was adopted anyway. However, some countries are obviously more vulnerable to economic pressure than others.

Article Excerpt(s):

“One should not be surprised when Nauru, a nation of less than 10,000, is offered $50 million from Russia. Nor should the opening of diplomatic missions from Georgia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates in the South Pacific be remarkable when considering what is at stake. An economist might say that a market has emerged for purchasing votes at the United Nations.

As an unintended consequence of the UN system, at least 11 independent Pacific Island nations have found themselves in a unique position: they each have a vote at the United Nations and yet, because of their isolation, have little or no national interests in many of the distant disputes that fill the UN’s agenda. With what is effectively a surplus of ‘unused’ votes, a market has been created where the service of voting at the UN is exchanged for monetary assistance.

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A New Canadian Peace Centre Could Make A World Of Difference

By Peter Langille and Peggy Mason
Canadian Pugwash Group / The Hill Times, 29 January 2020

Article Excerpt:

“Who isn’t concerned about our shared global challenges? It’s hard to miss overlapping crises, many fuelled by militarism, marginalization, and inequality.

Canada provided pivotal leadership and ideas in the past and it could definitely help again. The recently announced Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government therefore is a much-needed step in the right direction.

The details have yet to be finalized, but this much is clear: the new Canadian Centre is part of an effort to “lead by example and help make the world a safe, just, prosperous, and sustainable place.” Mandate letters to cabinet ministers suggest an interdepartmental centre (i.e., within government) is proposed “to expand the availability of Canadian expertise and assistance to those seeking to build peace, advance justice, promote human rights and democracy, and deliver good governance.”

While this is promising, three concerns need attention: is the scope sufficiently broad to address our urgent global challenges; should the centre be within government or independent; and is there a better Canadian model?

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The City Insider Proving that Mayors Can Lead on Climate

By Nicole Greenfield
Natural Resource Defense Council, Inc. (NRDC), 11 February 2020

Article Excerpt:

“Chris Wheat doesn’t know exactly how he became a self-described “weird political geek,” but it happened early on in life. At five years old, he was reading newspapers, watching C-SPAN, and begging his parents for an encyclopedia set for their Little Rock, Arkansas, home. By age 10, he’d scored an interview with his governor, Bill Clinton, and the following year joined the volunteer corps for the Clinton-Gore presidential campaign, making copies and sending faxes in the War Room. In high school, Wheat was a two-time state champion debater and, after graduation, became the first in his family to go to college.

Later, Wheat would go on to earn his MBA from the University of Chicago, and after a brief stint in the consulting world, reignited his passion for politics. He joined the staff of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office in 2012, first as part of Chicago’s Innovation Delivery team, then as chief sustainability officer, and, finally, as chief of policy. “I left the private sector a lot earlier in my career than I thought I would, but I knew that I needed my work to be about more than what I was doing,” Wheat says. “I needed it to be about something larger.”

Flash forward to January 2019, when—after Mayor Emanuel announced he would not seek reelection for a third term—Wheat would harness that experience to become director of city strategy and engagement for the American Cities Climate Challenge. The two-year, $70 million program is currently helping 25 U.S. cities meet their near-term carbon reduction goals.

It was a natural fit for Wheat, whose work in the Chicago city government had included a host of sustainability initiatives, from tightening recycling ordinances to getting a disposable bag tax passed to overseeing energy efficiency projects. He’d seen how these efforts made a big impact not just on the city itself but also in the lives of individual Chicagoans. He remembers one grandmother on the South Side who was excited to have her house retrofitted because it would finally be warm enough for her grandkids to play there in the winter months. “That’s not something that shows up in an emissions inventory or a press release,” he says. “But it is something that manifests itself directly in that woman’s life and really shows the cross benefits of this work.”

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What Russia’s $300B Investment In Arctic Oil And Gas Means For Canada

CBC published an interesting article on 15 February 2020 about the Canadian impacts of Russia’s $300 billion investment in the Arctic – specifically within the realm of gas and oil. These investments would encourage development of and increased traffic in Northern sea routes. What impacts these activities will have on locals – including Indigenous (Chukchi, Nenets, etc.) peoples? Gas and oil drilling in this ecologically sensitive region may result in long-term, environmental damage.

Moreover, the Soviet Union formerly used the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, and areas around Novaya Zemlya as a nuclear waste dump. These areas abut and/or intersect the Northern Sea Route. Some of these $300 billion in investments could go towards cleaning up these sites. Several gas and oil companies proposed drilling the Kara Sea due to its large gas and oil reserves – but shifted plans about 5 years ago.

Environmental groups – indicated concern of drilling activities in close proximity to a nuclear waste dump. In recent years, Russia additionally has developed floating nuclear reactors which can be moved along the Northern Sea Route to supply power to remote regions – with a particular focus on resource extraction activities.

Article by John Last (CBC News, 15 February 2020)

“Last month, the Russian government pushed through new legislation creating $300 billion in new incentives for new ports, factories, and oil and gas developments on the shores and in the waters of the Arctic ocean.
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New York City Plans To Divest From Nuclear Weapons!

In January 2018, New York City decided to divest the city’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within the next five years. Now the city looks set to also divest from the nuclear weapons industry.

The Council held public hearings on draft Resolution 0976 which calls on New York City to support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and divest from the nuclear weapons industry, and on Initiative 1621 to reaffirm New York City as a nuclear weapons-free zone and establish an advisory committee to implement this status.

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New York City’s Pension Funds: How to Invest them?

Basel Peace Office, Jan 28. 2020

Last Tuesday, the New York City Council held public hearings on two measures (draft Resolution 0976 and Initiative 1621) which if adopted would oblige the city to divest its city pension funds from the nuclear weapons industry and establish an advisory committee to develop city action to further implement its status as a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

New York City pensions have approximately $480 million invested in the nuclear weapons industry. The divestment of this amount would probably not make any financial impact on the weapons manufacturers. However, it would serve as a positive example of an action that can be taken by cities and other investors to align their investments with their ethical values. And it would give support to federal initiatives to cut nuclear weapons budgets, such as the SANE Act introduced into the U.S. Senate by PNND Co-President Ed Markey and the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by PNND Member Eleanor Holmes-Norton.

The adoption of the two measures could also pave the way for New York to become a member of Mayors for Peace, a global network of over 8000 cities working for global nuclear abolition (see Mayors for Peace, below).

Actions to support the two measures:

The two measures, which were introduced to the Council in June 2019 by Council members Daniel Dromm, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos, have been supported by local peace and disarmament campaigners and by Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, a global campaign co-sponsored by the Basel Peace Office to cut nuclear weapons budgets, end investments in the nuclear weapons and fossil fuel industries and reallocate these budgets and investments to support peace, climate and sustainable development.

Jackie Cabasso

Actions to promote the draft measures have included an Open Letter to New York City Council endorsed by representatives of over 20 New York peace, disarmament and climate action organizations, and a count the nuclear weapons money action in front of city hall.
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Risk of Nuclear War Rises as U.S. Deploys a New Nuclear Weapon for the First Time Since the Cold War

And Interview of William Arkin by Amy Goodman
7 February 2020, Democracy Now!
Article Excerpt:


The Federation of American Scientists revealed in late January that the U.S. Navy had deployed for the first time a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead. The USS Tennessee deployed from Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia in late 2019. The W76-2 warhead, which is facing criticism at home and abroad, is estimated to have about a third of the explosive power of the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) called the news “an alarming development that heightens the risk of nuclear war.” We’re joined by William Arkin, longtime reporter focused on military and nuclear policy, author of numerous books, including “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.” He broke the story about the deployment of the new low-yield nuclear weapon in an article he co-wrote for Federation of American Scientists. He also recently wrote a cover piece for Newsweek titled “With a New Weapon in Donald Trump’s Hands, the Iran Crisis Risks Going Nuclear.” “What surprised me in my reporting … was a story that was just as important, if not more important, than what was going on in the political world,” Arkin says.

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: As the nation focused on President Trump’s impeachment trial, a major story recently broke about a new development in U.S. nuclear weapons policy that received little attention. The Federation of American Scientists revealed in late January the U.S. Navy had for the first time deployed a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead. The USS Tennessee deployed from Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia in late 2019, armed with a warhead which is estimated to have about a third of the explosive power of the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima.

The deployment is facing criticism at home and abroad. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, called the news “an alarming development that heightens the risk of nuclear war.” On Capitol Hill, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said, quote, “This destabilizing deployment further increases the potential for miscalculation during a crisis.” Smith also criticized the Pentagon for its inability and unwillingness to answer congressional questions about the weapon over the past few months. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov responded by saying, quote, “This reflects the fact that the United States is actually lowering the nuclear threshold and that they are conceding the possibility of them waging a limited nuclear war and winning this war. This is extremely alarming,” he said.

We’re joined now William Arkin, longtime reporter who focuses on military and nuclear policy. He broke the story about the deployment of the new low-yield nuclear weapon in an article he co-wrote for the Federation of American Scientists. He also wrote the cover story for Newsweek, which is headlined “With a New Weapon in Donald Trump’s Hands, the Iran Crisis Risks Going Nuclear.” He’s the author of many books, including Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.

Bill Arkin, it’s great to have you back.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Thanks for having me on, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: So, to say the least, this has been an explosive week of news in Washington, D.C., and your news, which has hardly gone reported, is — should really be one of the top news stories of these last weeks.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Well, during the very time when the Iran crisis was at its highest, the United States, last December, deployed a new nuclear weapon, the first new nuclear weapon to be deployed, Amy, since the end of the Cold War. So here we have not just a momentous occasion, but a weapon which is intended explicitly to be more usable — and not just more usable against Russia and China, but to be more usable against Iran and North Korea, as well. It seemed to me that looking more deeply at this weapon, looking more deeply at the doctrines behind it, and then, really, what surprised me in my reporting, looking more at Donald Trump and the role that he might play in the future, was a story that was just as important, if not more important, than what was going on in the political world.

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Lucifer for President!

The blind, even illogical, reactive Western hostility towards effective fiscally progressive measures is formidable … As a somewhat humorous example of such anger (albeit on a fortunately small scale): Just the concept of socialists having any power anywhere on the planet causes distress to a local man here who’s vocally vehemently opposed to liberalism. On a couple occasions he became so narrow-mindedly enraged that he, with his tightened fist trembling before him, uttered to me, “I’d vote for the devil himself if that’s what it took to keep those Godless socialists out of office!”

No more big-business-as-usual Democratic Party

Blindly voting for the establishment-forwarded Democratic candidate no-matter-what, regardless of his/her neo-liberalist corporate-interest ideology, should no longer be expected of an increasingly financially struggling electorate. Therefore, before such vast progressive electorate support is given, there most notably needs to be genuine progress on the socio-economic inequity/inequality file, which apparently is only getting worse.

When I vote in a federal election and/or write a letter, I do my best to make them state, No More Big Business As Usual!

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EU to unveil trillion-euro ‘Green Deal’ Financial Plan

By Frédéric Simon
[EURACTIV: 14 and 15 January 2020]

“The European Commission will propose on Tuesday (14 January) how the EU can pay for shifting the region’s economy to net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 while protecting coal-dependent regions from taking the brunt of changes aimed at fighting climate change.

The EU executive is to unveil details of its Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, aimed at mobilising investment of €1 trillion over 10 years, using public and private money to help finance its flagship project – the European Green Deal.

The “Green Deal” is an ambitious rethinking of Europe’s economy, transport and energy sectors aimed at turning the EU into a global leader on the clean technologies that will shape the coming decades.

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The EU is budgeting for a Green Deal

by Samuel Petrequin
AP News [14 January 2020]:


“The European Union plans to dedicate a quarter of its budget to tackling climate change and to work to shift 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) in investment toward making the EU’s economy more environmentally friendly over the next 10 years.” …

“Another 7.5 billion euros from the 2021-2027 EU budget is earmarked as seed funding within a broader mechanism expected to generate another 100 billion euros in investment. That money will be designed to convince coal-dependent countries like Poland to embrace the Green Deal by helping them weather the financial and social costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

“This is our pledge of solidarity and fairness,” said Frans Timmermans, the Dutch politician tapped as executive vice president of the European Green Deal.

The plan would allocate the money according to specific criteria. For example, regions where a large number of people work in coal, peat mining or shale oil and gas would get priority.” …

“In order to qualify for the financial support, member states will need to present plans to restructure their economy detailing low-emission projects. The plans will need the commission’s approval.”
[/read]
Link: https://apnews.com/5d4db8ffda58f03f090a04c35f0a2dc8

The Freud-Einstein Correspondence: Theories of War

In 1931 Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein engaged in an exchange of letters comparing their theories about the sources of warfare. This article by Norrie MacQueen, “The Freud -Einstein Correspondence of 1932 Theories of War,” discusses the debate. The two men did not think alike.

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Banks promise not to spend $47 on fossil fuels

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Under pressure from investors, regulators, and climate activists, 130 big banks have acknowledged the role lenders will need to play in a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy. In September 2019 the banks, which include Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, and Barclays, adopted UN policies and agreed to shift their assets of $47 trillion away from fossil fuel loans. This change aligns their lending practices to the UN Global Compact, which requires that businesses protect the environment. The Compact does not specifically mention climate change as an issue, but any reading of the term “environment” would surely cover restrictions on loans to companies exploiting fossil fuels.

That’s great news. How do you suppose it came about? Did someone go lobby them or did some of the bank executives see the light themselves?

Canada to triple its flow of bitumen

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal MPs declared a climate emergency recently, while his inner circle went ahead reapproving the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This will see a tripling of the flow of diluted bitumen—the world’s dirtiest oil—and a seven-fold increase in waterway crude-shipping traffic.

As Noam Chomsky has noted, while the mainstream news-media will report on climate change and related extreme weather events, it will then go to business-as-usual reporting that seems to encourage stronger fossil fuel markets and by extension its consumption.

Especially NONVIOLENT non-state actors

Don’t forget nonviolent actors such as Peace Brigades International, Christian Peacemaker Teams, etc, and the important role they play in nonviolent accompaniment / mediation in conflict zones.

Do you have specific examples of these organizations’ involvements?

Christian Peacemaker Teams have succeeded in Columbia, Iraq, Mexico, Palestine, and Canada.

Corporate Social Responsibility Society (CSRS)

Facebook has lots of interesting groups, and I’ve just discovered one that is apparently based at York University’s Schulich School of Business. Check out their Facebook page if you live in Toronto, especially if you’re a student at York U or any other business faculty. They seem to have lots of activities during the academic year.

Green New Deals

On February 7, 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York introduced in the United States House of Representatives a Resolution: Recognizing the Duty of the Federal Government to Create a Green New Deal. It demanded benefits Americans in the twenty first century lack that North West Europeans enjoyed back in the 1960s, and Americans seemed to be on track toward getting during the Roosevelt years. It demanded high wages, paid vacations, increasing life expectancy and universal access to high quality health care.

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Are Lockheed Martin’s Nuclear Weapons Fueling Your Retirement?

BY TOBY A.A. HEAPS July 25, 2019 in Corporate Knights
Think you’re not invested in this weapons maker? Canada Pension Plan, Ontario teachers among those banking on nukes.

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A Shift to Sustainable Peace and Common Security

November 24, 2016:

Eleven leading civil society organizations today publicly launched their submission to the Defence Policy Review, entitled “A Shift to Sustainable Peace and Common Security.”

All members of Parliament and the Press Gallery received copies. The launch also featured an Op Ed in the Toronto Star entitled Why UN Peacekeeping is worth the risks (Peggy Mason, 23 November 2016).

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Last edited 1 year ago by Cameron

New Bill Aims to Compel Companies to Disclose Climate Risks to SEC

July 17, 2019 | By Karen Savage

A bill that would require public companies to disclose the risks posed to their business by climate change passed a crucial committee vote in the House on Wednesday. The House Financial Services Committee passed the Climate Risk Disclosure Act of 2019, which was introduced by Illinois Rep. Sean Casten in 2018. The bill would require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to develop and implement guidelines for companies on disclosing climate risks. The SEC would be required to make the information available to the public on its website.

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Civil Society Report Provides Insight on Global Events


The annual State of Civil Society Report analyses how contemporary events and trends are impacting on civil society, and how civil society is responding to the major issues and challenges of the day. This is the eighth edition of our report, focusing on actions and trends in 2018.

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Human Rights in Egypt: CSO’s Letter to the African Union Commission

We write to you in your capacity as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the secretariat of the continental organisation responsible for driving the political agenda and development of the people of Africa.
As Chairperson of the AU Commission, we are assured of your mandate to promote the objectives of the AU. The undersigned organisations work to advance human rights in Africa and write to express deep concerns about the situation of human rights in the Republic of Egypt.

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What Local Governments Need to Know

On 25 September 2015, the Member States of the United Nations agreed on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals, the global agenda that was pursued from 2000 to 2015, and will guide global action on sustainable development until 2030.

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Given the current world situation in 2020, this will likely have to be revisited and revised accordingly in order to be feasible.

“Subnational” Governments!

Over the last 25 years, the relevance of local governments (states, provinces, municipalities, etc.) in Latin America has been constantly increasing.

The process started with a wave of decentralization, particularly in the education and health sectors, followed by the increasing of other responsibilities of local governments (with the accompanying budget!), and most recently topped off by the allocation of additional investment resources fueled by the commodities boom of the mid-2000s. Currently, in some countries, half of the national budget is now allocated to lower levels of governments .

Subnational Governments cont’d

(Photo: Municipality of Guatapé in Colombia. Adrienne Hathaway / World Bank)

What are we talking about when we talk about “subnational” governments? [2]

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The Tobin Tax

The case for a tax on international monetary transactions.
AUTHOR(S): James Tobin
April 1, 2011

This article is based on a speech delivered in 1995 at a CCPA conference in Ottawa by U.S. economist James Tobin, who died in 2002 at the age of 84. A prominent supporter of Keynesian economics and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1981, Prof. Tobin is now widely known for his suggested imposition of a tax on foreign exchange transactions. Such a tax, he argued, would reduce speculation in the international currency markets, which he saw as dangerous and unproductive.

Some people have reacted to my proposal for an international tax on currency exchange transactions as if it were some kind of quack medicine – particularly the people who might have to pay the tax. So let me explain, in as close to lay language as possible, what it’s all about.

Economists, bankers, central bankers, exporters and importers have been dissatisfied with the international monetary system for a long time, particularly since the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971-73, and the shift to flexible, floating exchange rates among the major currencies.

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Spain obstructs agreement on ‘Tobin tax’

By Jorge Valero | EURACTIV.com .

Photo of James Tobin

Revenue sharing among member states appears as the main outstanding issue in order to reach an agreement on the financial transaction tax (FTT), as Spain still opposes the redistribution of resources, European officials told EURACTIV.

Sources close to the dossier said that Italy has also made an alternative proposal to share the revenues.https://www.euractiv.com/section/economy-jobs/news/spain-obstructs-agreement-on-tobin-tax/ . (Photo German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire arrive to hold a joint news conference after a Special Eurogroup Finance Ministers’ meeting in Brussels. [Julie Warnand/EPA])

Elizabeth Warren’s Tax Wealth Proposal

By Michael Hitlzik, Los Angeles Times

How much would Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax raise? Economists battle over the number .

One of the most pointless exercises beloved of our policymakers is nitpicking at a novel proposal in its earliest stages, as though the details are vastly more important than the concept.

That’s what seems to be happening with the tax on “ultra-millionaires” proposed in January by Sen. Elizabeth Warren as part of her campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. Warren’s plan is to impose a 2% tax on household net worth above $50 million, with an additional 1% on fortunes over $1 billion. “This small tax on roughly 75,000 households,” she said, “will bring in $2.75 trillion in revenue over a 10-year period.”

Critics promptly declared the idea unconstitutional (we examined that issue here), and have since followed up with calculations questioning whether it would really produce revenue that high. The critiques of the plan are important because Warren proposes using the money for some of her social policy proposals, such as eliminating student debt and making public higher education free.

More broadly, the inequities built into the federal tax structure have begun to give pause to its richest beneficiaries, 18 of whom recently issued a call for a wealth tax on the top 1%, including themselves.

“This revenue could substantially fund the cost of smart investments in our future, like clean energy innovation to mitigate climate change, universal child care, student loan debt relief, infrastructure modernization, tax credits for low-income families, public health solutions, and other vital needs,” they said in an open letter this week.

Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the UC Berkeley economists who helped Warren craft her wealth tax, have just published their response to the quibbling over the numbers. It’s worth examining, not because it nails down their revenue estimate as indisputable (it doesn’t), but because they take point-blank aim at the odd notion in American politics that the wealthy — especially the ultra-wealthy — are somehow impossible to tax.

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Most millionaires support a tax on wealth above $50 million, CNBC survey says

By Robert Frank
CNBC, JUN 12 2019

KEY POINTS
A majority of millionaires support Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposed tax on large wealth, according to the CNBC Millionaire survey.
Fully 60% of millionaires support Warren’s plan for taxing the wealth of those who have more than $50 million in assets.
Warren’s proposal calls for a tax of 2% on wealth over $50 million and 3% on wealth over $1 billion.
The presidential candidate estimates it would apply only to 75,000 of the richest families and would raise $275 billion a year.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/12/most-millionaires-support-tax-on-wealth-above-50-million-cnbc-survey.html

Oscar Mayer heir: It’s time for a 100% tax on billionaire estates

By Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins is the great grandson of the meatpacker Oscar Mayer and the author of Born on Third Base and, with Bill Gates Sr., of Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes. He is a founding member of the Patriotic Millionaires.
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/24/its-time-for-a-100percent-tax-on-billionaire-estates-oscar-mayer-heir-says.html

These Major Banks are the Biggest Investors in Fossil Fuel Projects

(From Sum of Us)

A major report released today has found that three of Canada’s largest banks, Scotiabank, TD, and RBC, are amongst the top ten banks in the world funding climate change.

The effects of climate chaos will be far worse than previously predicted. To keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees, by the year 2030, just over a decade away, governments and corporations will need to make drastic changes to reduce carbon emissions to 45% of 2010 levels. Despite the immense scope and magnitude of the climate crisis, these three Canadian banks continue to pour billions of dollars into fossil fuels — even after the Paris Accord was signed.

But it doesn’t have to be this way — these banks could fund clean, green energy projects instead, and stop bankrolling projects that endanger our future. It’s time for TD, Scotiabank and RBC to phase out funding in fossil fuels, and ensure that the rise in global temperature does not exceed 1.5 degrees!

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Now here’s a proposal that should be considered as part of this plank: Create public banks. These would be stronger than credit unions, but accountable in a democratic way, and oriented toward the public good.

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Americans celebrated Independence Day on July 4, 2019 in different ways. In Washington, D.C. Donald Trump ordered tanks to decorate the streets and mall and fighter planes to streak across the sky. In Liberty, Ohio there was the usual parade of vintage tractors down main street.

Which celebration better illustrates the meaning of sustainable common security?

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Secretary General Kofi Annan had his own way of dealing with corporate giants. He allocated a portion of his office to setting up a Global Compact, which would supposedly tame the bad actors. He never said whether he felt he had achieved his goal. Certainly the Global Compact has influenced capitalist business practices to some degree, though it is entirely voluntary and not especially well-known. There is no official mechanism for enforcement, or even shaming firms that do not accept its ten (rather vague) principles. We need a much stronger instrument. Yet the organization does function. The photo shows its CEO, Lisa Kingo, in a meeting with business executives.

Municipalities and provincial government matter too. Imagine being in charge of keeping order on Mulberry Street in New York when it looked like this.

The World Social Forum is probably the most woke gathering on earth.

Some people consider it bad manners to complain about inequality. Strange.

I think there’s a shift towards using the Tobin proposal as a template for a variety of sin taxes to generate revenue. In the end the goal is to shift funds from the wealthiest; it is a redistribution project. Remember that Tobin’s goal was not revenue generation but calming speculation. This is pointed out in the plank essay.

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