Friday, November 19, 2021

No, the rich will not save us

Let's not cede our rights or common sense over to the robber barons.  Luke Savaqe (Jacobin) reports:

Early this month, United Nations World Food Programme director David Beasley issued an appeal to the world’s superrich, specifically naming tech billionaire Elon Musk and arguing that a one-time donation of $2 billion (representing just 2 percent of Musk’s current net worth) could solve the global hunger crisis. Musk, who could well become the world’s first trillionaire, quickly scored a public relations coup with his response: “If WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it.” Beasley soon proceeded to offer an unhelpfully pleading and deferential climbdown.

The incident is as good a moment as any to mount the standard, and correct, critique of billionaire and private philanthropy: namely, that they’ve always had less to do with addressing social problems and far more to do with brand-building and soft power cultivation among the world’s superrich. Writer Anand Giridharadas, who calls this process “reputation laundering”, has relentlessly pointed out the basic hypocrisy at the heart of every billionaire do-gooder scheme:

You first get rich by cutting every possible social corner you can cut — you avoid taxes if you can avoid them, you use trusts and Cayman Islands accounts, you lobby for . . . policies that are good for you and your rich friends and bad for most people, you avoid paying people in creative ways by suppressing minimum wage, outsourcing to contractors. . . . Then, you turn around and you start donating a fraction of that money to various forms of elite do-gooding — philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, for-profit social enterprises, maybe something involving Africa even if you’ve never been.

In more ways than one, he argues, elite charity closely resembles the selling of papal indulgences in the Middle Ages, it being a relatively simple and inexpensive way of “getting oneself seemingly on the right of justice, without having to alter the fundamentals of one’s life.”

Amid the recent exchange between Beasley and Musk, however, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution articulated what could well become a new and altogether more insidious variant of the argument generally used in defense of billionaire philanthropy.

In a blog post entitled “Elon Musk, Billionaires, and the United Nations: The 1% Solution to Global Development,” Brookings’s Homi Kharas makes the case that a figure like Musk could indeed represent at least a major part of the solution to a whole host of global problems. Over the course of the piece, Kharas makes a number of interesting observations — among them, that even a single percentage point of billionaire wealth would add up to some $130 billion a year, an amount which approaches the combined $160 billion in annual aid committed by countries and multinational institutions. What might potentially be done with $130 billion, he adds, includes the eradication of extreme poverty, the reduction of global hunger, and any number of environmental initiatives.

The problem is that these data points, illustrative as they are, don’t really mean what Kharas thinks they do, the original catalyst for his argument being a dead giveaway. “Until recently,” he begins,

even the wealthiest individuals did not have enough money to make a material dent in global problems, let alone “solve” them. Compared to the size of national economies, or the budgets of the governments of national economies, their wealth appeared small. This is no longer the case. There are 2,755 billionaires in the world today, with an estimated wealth of $13.2 trillion. . . . Looking for contributions from billionaires has [thus] moved from a nice-to-have niche improvement to becoming part of the conversation on financing to solve large-scale global issues. . . . For the first time in history, a small group of private individuals could, if they so choose, materially impact global development at a scale that has previously been the near exclusive domain of governments.

What’s really being said here is that global inequality and wealth concentration have grown so acute that the necessary resources to address them (and a whole host of other social problems) are now in the hands of a tiny class of plutocrats. Though he does include a perfunctory reference to taxation, the development Kharas’s post describes is one he’s mostly inviting us in wide-eyed fashion to celebrate, as if the return of Gilded Age–level inequality represents a new and exciting opportunity rather than the very essence of many global problems.

Thinking the robber barons will save us is pathetic thinking that robs us of our agency and strength.  And, let's clear up something, that thinking didn't start this year.  And let's also admit that Ralph Nader, about ten years ago, wrote a whole book urging such b.s.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Thursday:

Thursday, November 18, 2021.  Virtue signaling replaces real action.

Starting with a do-nothing administration in the US.  Margaret Kimberley (BLACK AGENDA REPORT) documents the pretense on addressing climate change:

The 26th Conference of the Parties, COP26, climate summit ended with its president fighting back tears. Alok Sharma came to Glasgow, Scotland hoping for an agreement to end the extraction of coal. Instead he said this, “I apologize for the way this process has unfolded. I am deeply sorry.”

The international climate conferences are a perennial disappointment to anyone who understands the depth of the world wide catastrophe. Every year the rich capitalist nations find a way to undermine the process and consign millions of people to misery and devastation. Activists from all over the world gather in an effort to have an impact on the process, but they are literally outnumbered by fossil fuel lobbyists who always get what they want.

This conference ended with an agreement to “phase down” the use of coal instead of phasing it out altogether. Phasing down is deliberately ambiguous and makes a mockery of the 2015 Paris meeting which ended with an agreement to allow a temperature increase of no more than 1.5˚C. The fact that climate agreements allow world temperatures to rise is but one indication that the process falls far short from what the world needs.

Yet the seemingly small 1.5˚C will have devastating consequences, with droughts and storms bringing catastrophe to millions of people. The can is always kicked down the road and the final agreement is a sham.

The political duopoly in the United States behaves as it always does with phony heroes and phony villains as in professional wrestling. Republicans refuse to participate in climate agreements, democrats show up for the cameras, but only to fool the rubes into thinking that something important is being accomplished.

It doesn’t matter if democrats show up at COP26 if they refuse to respond to elephants in the room. The United States military is the world’s biggest polluter but its carbon production, and that of other nations’ forces, are exempt from climate goals. When a journalist asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders about military spending and its role in climate change, it was clear they had never considered the issue at all. They were shocked to be asked a question which showed a direct relationship between their actions and global warming and then responded with nonsense. They said the military, which contributes to climate change, needs money to respond to the climate change it causes by its very existence. Why does it matter that George W. Bush and Donald Trump withdrew from previous climate agreements if democrats follow in their footsteps and ignore even the flimsy goals it asked the U.S. to meet?

Joe Biden appeared in Glasgow but no one should be impressed. Like his predecessors he has opened public lands to oil drilling. Keeping temperature rise to 1.5˚C requires that carbon emissions be cut in half. If the United States were serious there would be no fossil fuel extraction on public lands. It would have to end altogether.

Political fake assery isn't just annoying, it's life threatening.  

Maybe next time, if you want to save the planet, don't elect someone with one foot -- and four toes on the other foot -- in the grave.  At 78, it doesn't matter to Joe Biden what happens to the earth.  He knows he'll be gone shortly, after all.

Ajamu Baraka Tweets:

Since election of Joe Biden representing most militaristic factions of the ruling class, the world is more dangerous. Threats of war in Europe & Asia, actual wars in Africa, & stepped up destabilization campaigns throughout Latin America. It is clear democrats are party of war.

Happiness, Cher insisted, is a thing called joe.  We now understand why the film career went no where.  It all makes sense now, an Academy Award winning performance at the end of the 80s and then nothing.  I've never minded a celebrity using their power to advocate for an issue.  I've forever had a problem with celebrities whoring their names for politicians.  It rarely ends well and, honestly, it shouldn't.  

Joe's a threat to the planet at this point.  As his fortunes sink, so should the fortunes of those who whored for him.  

We all knew his legislative history.  We all knew he hid behind Beau Biden, trotting out dead son forever and a day.  Why's he dead, Joe?  Why did he go to Iraq?

There are many days when I pull something from the snapshot before it posts.  I'll dictate it and move on but then say before it posts, "Take out the paragraph on Joe Biden and the abortion" or some other detail.  Beau is key to understanding the family and I don't like Hunter but I do know that certain things would look differently if Joe were ever honest about Beau.  Or about Nancy.  Huh -- who said that?  Will it go in the snapshot?  Will I pull it?  No, it'll stay and let them sweat it.  

Point being, unlike Cher, I actually know Joe.  And I didn't support him.  I believe Tara Reade, absolutely.  I do know Joe's history with women.  Many in the press do as well.  But even before Tara emerged to shine a much needed spotlight there, I had already made clear that if Joe couldn't be honest about Iraq, I wouldn't support him.

Joe can't be honest about Iraq.  He, sadly, can't be honest about much.  

And, he really needs to get honest about Beau.  That crying is not a natural response and it is not grief.  It is guilt.  Understanding Beau and the way he was used would actually create some sympathy for Hunter.

I don't like Hunter.  I never have.  But because I knew the family and knew reality, I did understand that Hunter didn't just emerge from the womb -- or the childhood car accident -- fully formed.  Hunter was actively shaped into what he has become and that falls on Joe as much as it does on Hunter.

Joe's actions regarding Iraq in 2019 and 2020 made it clear that he would never be able to confront reality and that he wasn't fit for the presidency.  It's a real shame so many celebrities flocked to him and whored for him.  May history hold them accountable.

And that's especially true if they also pimped Russia-gate.  

Let's join Elaine in noting that Jonathan Turley covers Russia-gate in an easy to follow manner.  Here's an excerpt of his most recent coverage:

The famous philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal once declared that “the only shame is to have none.” The problem with shame is that it requires a sense of guilt over one’s actions. In the age of rage, there appear fewer and fewer actions that are beyond the pale for politics. Take Adam Schiff and the Steele dossier. While even the Washington Post has admitted that it got the Russian collusion story wrong in light of the findings of Special Counsel John Durham, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is still insisting that he was absolutely right to promote the discredited Steele dossier. Schiff’s interview on NBC’s Meet the Press may be the final proof of the death of shame in American politics.

Schiff was one of the greatest promoters of the Steele dossier despite access to briefings casting doubt about Steele and the underlying claims. However, Schiff recently has attempted to defend himself by claiming that Steele was a respected former spy and that he was lied to by a Russian source.

Schiff told host Chuck Todd:

“I don’t regret saying that we should investigate claims of someone who, frankly, was a well-respected British intelligence officer. And we couldn’t have known, of course, years ago that we would learn years later that someone who is a primary source lied to him. [Igor] Danchenko lied to Christopher Steele and then lied to the FBI. He should be prosecuted. He is being prosecuted. And I’ll tell you this, if he’s convicted, he should not be pardoned the way Donald Trump pardoned people who lied to FBI agents, like Roger Stone and Mike Flynn. There ought to be the same standard in terms of prosecuting the liars. But I don’t think there ought to be any pardon, no matter which way the lies cut.”

Schiff’s spin is enough to cause permanent vertigo.

Some of us have spent years being pummeled for questioning the obvious problems with the Steele dossier, including the long-denied connection to the Clinton campaign. Schiff was the main voice swatting down such criticism and his endorsements were treated as dispositive for media from MSNBC to the Washington Post. After all, he was the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and assured the public that our criticisms were meritless and the dossier was corroborated.

Schiff’s spin, however, continues to deny the obvious about the Russian collusion scandal.

First, many would guffaw at the claim that Steele was and remains a “well-respected British intelligence officer.”  Soon after the dossier was shopped to the FBI, British intelligence flagged credibility problems with Steele. The FBI severed Steele as an asset. Even his own sources told the FBI that Steele wildly exaggerated information and distorted intelligence. Most recently, Steele went public with a laughable claim that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former counsel, was lying to protect Trump despite spending years trying to get Trump charged criminally.

Second, Schiff ignored repeated contradictions in Steele’s dossier as well as evidence that the dossier was paid for and promoted by the Clinton campaign. In 2017, even fired FBI agent Peter Strzok admitted that “we are unaware of ANY Trump advisors engaging in conversations with Russian intelligence officials” and “Steele may not be in a position to judge the reliability of his subsource network.” Schiff would have had access to some of this intelligence. Indeed, while the Clinton campaign was denying that it funded the dossier, American intelligence knew that that was a lie.  Indeed, until the Durham indictments, Schiff continued to defend the Russian collusion investigation and the Steele dossier.

Third, Schiff attempts to portray the sole problem with the Steele dossier as Russian analyst Igor Danchenko. That is simply not true. Schiff was long aware that there were allegations of misleading or false information given by the FBI to the secret court. Indeed, the first Durham conviction was of Kevin Clinesmith, the former FBI agent who pleaded guilty. Schiff was aware that President Barack Obama was briefed in 2017 that Hillary Clinton was allegedly planning to manufacture a Russian collusion scandal — just days before the start of the Russian investigation. The dossier was riddled with disproven allegations.

Don't worry, we're tying two threads together -- the deeply stupid celebrities and Russia-gate.  From Ava and my "MEDIA: Male norms, Russia hate and lots of excuses -- it's the 90th Academy Awards" in March 2018:

What an awful and awkward event it was.  Male driven, women seeking male approval, females pretending that tokenism and boobs on display qualified as progress.

Oh, it was horrible.

As Isaiah noted, "Oscars So Full Of It."


As Isaiah's comic explains, generic film maker Bryan Fogel -- of JEWTOPIA non-fame -- won for BEST DOCUMENTARY -- a newbie with no style or art defeating Agnes Varda, a true artist who's been directing since 1955 and who influenced the French New Wave -- it was robbery.

Of this hideous moment, WOMEN AND HOLLYWOOD's Melissa Silverstein gushed . . .

Greta Gerwig and Laura Dern walking out holding hands is everything.

Oh, keep it in your pants, Melissa.

Greta was sporting breasts, not displaying, sporting.

Way to be taken seriously as a director, dear.

Were you at the Academy Awards or a photo shoot for the cover of SPORT'S ILLUSTRATED swimsuit issue?

[. . .]

Learn a little self-respect and grasp that for every Melissa Silverstein drooling over your tits, there are plenty of us wishing that, as you posed as a role model, you'd conducted yourself as one.

Also, probably not the moment to talk about the need to be real, Greta, while sporting a necklace on loan worth more than most viewers will make in ten years of hard work.

Not every woman was an embarrassment.

Notice that Sandra Bullock, presenting Best Cinematography, did not sport boobs or embarrass herself with loaned out 'bling.'  She just looked classy and also managed to garner a few laughs.

Take a lesson, Greta, take a hard lesson.

As a nominee whispered to us while Greta was on stage, "Bitch be frontin'" -- and she wasn't the only one.

Apparently, Greta has no real ethics -- that was kind of clear when she was talking about being real while dripping in diamonds.

Keep it whore, Greta, keep it whore.

And trust that the media will be right there with you, Greta.

Even though "Faces Places" didn't win in the Documentary (Feature) category, Agnès Varda was awarded an Honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards:

Late in the game, Melissa got called on her sexual longing for Greta and how it allowed her to miss that one of the few living women veteran directors got overlooked for a Let's-all-hate-Russia victory.

So Melissa did that Tweet and we're all supposed to pretend like an honorary Academy Award is the same as a competitive one.

It's not.

Even Melissa knows that.

Hate Russia?

You were in the right place for it.

Hate those damn Commies -- that could have been a theme of the night.

Bryan Fogel won for his stupid and facile documentary attacking Russia.

Doping in sports!

Damn, Russians!

Uhm, golly, we remember Lance Armstrong.

We remember that Lance was doping and threatening people and destroying the lives of people who called him out.

But let's express our outrage at Russia, right?

And that wasn't the worst of it.

Oh, Rita.

How could you?

That's what we puzzled over as Rita Moreno used the night to salute "the great" Frank Capra.

What was so great about him?

That from at least 1947 forward, he was an FBI informant?  Ratting out people he suspected of being or having once been members of the Communist Party?

Was that what was so great about Capra?

Or that he pushed for the loyalty oath in the Directors Guild?

These awards are about the arts.

Writers and directors lost work because of Frank Capra.  (Ironically, he'd be grey-listed which is somehow fitting after all the people he ratted on lost work.)

Seriously, Rita Moreno, what the hell were you thinking?

Or did you just want to celebrate hate of Russia by taking it all the way back to the witch hunts of the HUAC?

This was the entertainment industry at its most revealing.  Claiming things had changed, time's up, that women were valued.  And yet ignoring the chance to give a ground breaking female director, Agnes Varda, a competitive Academy Award.  So hollow, so unfair.  

Agnes had a body of work and she was on up there age wise -- and is now dead.  Everyone knew this was her last chance at the award.  Everyone knew at the time that she would not make another film, that her health was too poor.  

If women were truly valued, this groundbreaking auteur of the French New Wave would have walked off with the statue.

However, it was more important to 'strike back' at Russia.

So a piece of garbage documentary attacking Russia over sports -- a documentary no one remembers today -- wins instead.

It wasn't about art and it rarely is.

What we see today that is so damn annoying in our society was promoted by people like -- well, by Cher.  It's virtue signaling.  It replaces any real efforts at actual work.

Why try to end a war?  Why try to fight for the rights of workers?  Why do anything when, in fact, you can virtue signal instead.  It's so much easier.

And it's why crap like CHARIOTS OF FIRE or THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES or FOREST GUMP wins Best Picture.  The last was never a better film than PULP FICTION.  But it was virtue signaling.  Pick a film that says this is how we, the Academy, see ourselves.  And shove that down the throats of the American people.  

The bulk of the names in the industry are a bunch of idiots -- uneducated (either lacking in a formal education or lacking in the ability to be self-taught).  And all that hate and all idiots who 'indicate' in their acting and in their supposed activism.  Their minds are as 'styled' by others as their wardrobe and hair.  

Russia-gate didn't just happen.  It was the culmination of years of work on Barack Obama's part.  If, by the time Ed Snowden landed in Russia, you hadn't noticed that Barack had been trying to turn the American people against Russia, you weren't paying attention.  All that hate culminated.

Russia-gate couldn't have existed without it.

And in 2018, we saw one member of the Academy after another use the international broadcast and whatever was left of their image to whore.  

A dumb and poorly made documentary versus Agnes' film and, yes, her entire body of work and it was  Let's embrace hate-Russia and do our part!

The virtue signaling isn't free speech or a discussion.  It's often used as a ploy to attack others.  And it is rooted in the entertainment industry and in the public relations industry.  It's a way to 'freshen' up your own image without having to actually do something.

The US government has perfected that feat.  Which is why you get a climate change summit that offers no real change.

And this as the world is under attack.

That's especially true of Iraq.

MEMO notes:

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The Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources yesterday warned Turkey that its plan to build a new dam on the Tigris River would affect Iraq's share of the river's waters.

Ministry spokesperson, Ali Radi, said Turkish authorities had been contacted via the Foreign Affairs Ministry to warn them of the new project's impact on Baghdad's share of the river's water in terms of quantity and quality.

"Negotiations with the Turkish or Syrian sides are very important to reach understandings for the supreme goal of ensuring Iraq's water rights," he added.

The Tigris is a 1,750-kilometre-long river with its source in Turkey, it travels through Syria before finally reaching the Shatt Al-Arab River and the Gulf.

The following sites updated: