Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Perfect Vision: 2020

Happy New Year!

We're all looking forward to a happier and saner year, which could be the last one with the present occupant in the White House. What could be better than having our resident historian do a wrap up of all things "twenties" as we head into the year with a "perfect vision" of what the world could really be like...

Perfect Vision: 2020
by Coast Watcher 

What went before:

A hundred years ago, the 1920s were a time of great social change across the Western world. The newly-won voting franchise of women in both the United States and Britain changed the political landscape for good.

In the United States a series of Republican governments made it acceptable to be greedy. A laissez-faire attitude toward business dealings led to a burgeoning stock market and corruption at high levels of the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover administrations. These governments came into direct conflict with the growing Socialist movement in America, most of which was driven by post-WWI feelings caused by the horrendous loss of lives in that conflict.

The commensurate desire for a better, more peaceful world sat at odds with the capitalist desire to drive down wages, promulgate longer working hours and unsafe working conditions, all in the drive to increase profits. Then as now the rise of share prices did not mean better conditions for the workers—quite the opposite. When the shareholder—and especially the board member—profits, the working person loses.

A similar situation arose in Britain. Men returning from the “War to end all wars” rightly wanted to see a reward for their blood and sacrifice. The Labour Party and union movement gained followers and strength to the point where they could challenge the dominance of the Conservative and Liberal Parties, which had held a monopoly on parliamentary governance for centuries. The Labour Party under Ramsay MacDonald took office for a short period—January to November 1924—with a strong commitment to nationalization. Although it lost the next election to the Conservatives, the precedent had been set. The massive General Strike of 1926 showed the union movement had teeth. It paralyzed the country for weeks before a settlement was reached.

In France the right wing of politics predominated, with the country focused on post-war recovery efforts. Restoration of those areas of the country destroyed by warfare, and assertion of France’s territorial gains following the various treaties with the losing Central Powers were uppermost in French government policies. Even so, labor movements also made efforts to redress the balance between the employers and workers.

Germany turned into a hot mess. Radical left wing groups fought lethal battles with the radical right. Inflation ran rampant with billions of Marks needed to buy even the most basic items of food. Stability of a kind was achieved late in the decade at great cost and some lenience over war reparations on the part of the victorious powers, only to fall to pieces with the rise of the Nazis.

Italy saw the “Red Years” of 1919-1920, with widespread general strikes and labor unrest, mostly directed at the rising power of the Fascisti under Benito Mussolini. Mussolini created a coalition of big businesses and crushed the labor movement, taking control of the entire country in 1922. Any pretense at democratic government ended in 1930 with Mussolini’s declaration of single-party governance, which lasted until his downfall following the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943.

Where we are now:

We face dangers and changes our grandparents and great-grandparents of the 1920s would never have conceived of. Climate change is a real factor in spite of certain politicians’ fondest wishes and active opposition to remedial action (and I’m looking at Trump's sale of national parks to developers and fracking operations,  Bolsanaro of Brazil’s accelerated destruction of indigenous peoples and the Amazon jungle, and Doug Ford of Canada who enacted a policy of dismantling wind turbines). The current bush fires in Australia have killed over 500 million animals and laid waste to vast areas of that country. Certain species such as the koala bear may not recover. Similar fires have hit the Congo, Siberia, and California. The Californian fires were made worse by a telecommunications company restriction firefighters’ access to the network at a crucial time. Capitalist greed will and does threaten lives and property.

Temperatures in Australia and India have reached record and life-threatening levels for sustained periods. Ice melt from the poles and glaciers have already raised global sea levels, threatening coastal communities world wide. The thought that tomorrow will be the same as today is finding increasingly poor soil to flourish in all but the most rabid right-winger. Recent polls show the majority of Americans now believe climate change is real and dangerous.

It’s pretty obvious that the world seems to be becoming increasingly polarized between Left and Right. Social media bears a lot of the responsibility for this. Far from becoming a “village green gossiping session” writ large, it has allowed and enabled anyone with an opinion—no matter how extreme—to voice that opinion to the world instantaneously. “Moral disengagement” is used to rationalize anything from school bullying, through willful environmental destruction to Nazism.

To some extent this had a major effect on the recent UK General Election. A sizable percentage of Labour voters in the party’s traditional Northern English heartlands voted to leave the EU. They were subjected to a storm of criticism and insults for doing so, which caused them to reject their party’s values and vote Conservative, thus handing Labour an epic defeat. Boris Johnson won a landslide victory, another term of office, and within two weeks of the election result the Conservatives began their sell-off of Britain’s cherished National Health Service and reneged on a pledge to protect workers rights.

France is undergoing a general strike of epic proportions, fueling the gilet jaune movement against President Macron. Support for French workers is coming from international sources, especially Germany. Macron’s position looks increasingly shaky.

Looking forward:

So what will the new Twenties bring? Let's be optimistic here.

On the run-up to the election President Trump’s supporters will double-down over his impeachment but with little effect. Senator McConnell’s obstruction of due process will cost both of them dear in the 2020 election. Having learned their lesson the Democratic Party’s national committee will not pull the rug from under Senator Bernie Sanders and his supporters, as they did in 2016. Sanders is riding high in the polls, and even mainstream media is giving him reluctant coverage.

Sanders will become the 46th president of the United States, so expect an increase in social programs, environmental change remedial action and a decrease of American military action abroad. Trump's impeachment and eventual jail sentence will see the end of his business empire. Sander's policies will expand Medicaid, Social Security, women’s rights and environmental protections.

Britain’s situation is one unique in the annals of her long history. The British people have a talent for brilliant improvisation which has got the country through difficult times. The voting public will wake up to the havoc the Conservative government inflicts on the country’s infrastructure and vote them out next election. Whether this will come in time to prevent irreparable damage to the NHS remains to be seen.

It’s possible that Scotland will leave the United Kingdom to become a member of the EU in her own right. Whether this will lead to greater “freedoms” is debatable. The EU is nothing more than a thin veneer of socialist values concealing a hard core of capitalism. More likely Scotland will realize on which side her best interests lie and remain within the UK.

I think the growing awareness of environmental change will lead more and more people to ask - Why does the world obsess over the antics of politicians and border issues when our planet is burning down around us? I believe if we make it through the next thirty years without a global crisis destroying humanity, we’ll be secure for the future.

It’ll be interesting to see what the world of 2120 will look like. Maybe some of those babies born this year will live beyond their hundredth birthday to see it.

BIO: Coast Watcher looks to the past in order to interpret today and predict the future. Let's do our best to bring about his more positive predictions for 2020. The alternatives don't bear consideration.

From Friends of the Earth:
Last winter, beekeepers lost nearly half of their hives. Now beekeepers are bracing for another winter of record bee die-offs -- largely thanks to the use of bee-killing pesticides.

And it gets worse. 40 percent of wild bees and other essential pollinators are at risk of extinction. Scientists have warned that further decline of bees and other insects could lead us to a “collapse of nature’s ecosystems.” Pesticides are a key driver of this crisis.

The EPA has the power to stop the decline of bees -- but it’s sitting on its hands. This holiday season, bees need you to demand the EPA ban bee-killing pesticides. But you must act fast!

Bees and other pollinators are vital to our food system. They pollinate two-thirds of the food we eat every day -- from almonds to blueberries. Without bees, we would have a hard time feeding our families some of our healthiest and favorite foods. 

But rampant neonic use is driving alarming bee die-offs. And the EPA is greenlighting their use in record amounts. Our recent study found U.S. agriculture is now 48 times more toxic to insect life than it was 25 years ago, and neonics are mostly to blame. 

Sadly, neonics hurt more than just bees. Recent studies show that these pesticides make songbirds lose weight and delay migration. This is especially concerning because more than half of all songbird species are in decline.

The EPA has had years to take action and protect bees and birds, but the pesticide industry is lobbying hard to prevent it from taking action. Now, the agency needs to know engaged environmentalists like you are watching and we won’t stand by while they let bees die! 

Neonic pesticides are the most widely-used insecticides in the world. They’re long-lasting and systemic, staying in the environment for years. We can’t even wash them off our food. Each day the EPA fails to ban them, our bees and our environment suffer.

The pesticide industry -- including companies like Bayer-Monsanto and Syngenta -- wants to keep selling products that are poisoning bees, and the EPA is letting them.

This winter, bees need our protection -- our entire ecosystem depends on it. Can we count on you to tell the EPA to protect our beautiful bees before it’s too late?  

Standing with you,
Jason Davidson,
Food and agriculture campaigner,
Friends of the Earth

Tell the CEOs of Hershey, Nestlé and Mars:
"You have broken your promise and continue to profit off of child labor. These children are taken from their homes and paid low or even no wages to conduct the “worst forms of child labor” under international law. We demand you stop these practices immediately!"

The candy you got for Chirstmas is probably the result of child labor.

Are you mad? I am.

These kids are working to harvest cocoa, some starting as young as 10. They are swinging machetes, carrying heavy loads, spraying pesticides — all considered the “worst forms of child labor” under international law―for extremely low or even no wages.

This kind of corporate pressure only works when we can draw national attention to it, and shame them.

But corporations can insist on standards for manufacturing and agriculture. It’s time to hold Big Chocolate accountable.

Thank you,

Mike Phelan
Progress America

The violent attacks on the Jewish community in New York over the past weeks have been devastating.  Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents but part of a growing wave of anti-Semitism that is plaguing our country and world.   It must be stopped.  I, and all my colleagues at IFYC will not rest until our Jewish co-workers, colleagues and community partners feel safe and free in this nation and around the globe. 
There is so much to do, but we can all do something. As a Muslim American, I believe we must come together as a national interfaith community to push back against this rising tide of hate.  I know that our religious theology, practice, rituals, and values may be, and are, vastly different from one another. But our commitment to shared responsibility towards our world brings us together.
The poet Rumi said, “The wound is where the light enters you.” As Hanukkah comes to a close, there are pillars of light shining from synagogues and homes across the country. Our thoughts and prayers are no longer enough. Our tweets and Facebook posts are no longer enough. Our empty words of solidarity that aren’t followed by action, are no longer enough. 
Rebuilding takes courage and commitment. It means we must confront these issues of hate, anti-Semitism, islamophobia, and others, within our own communities while also continuing to build relationships with those who are different than us. We have to physically show up to spaces that may be unfamiliar to us — like mosques or temples or churches — and be willing to engage with others across our shared values and our deep differences. This work requires us to bring our whole selves into relationship with one another and share the stories of the common good we create together. 
As we enter the New Year I ask that you consider what you might do to make the world safer for all people and ask that you join me in pledging to confront anti-Semitism in 2020.

Below are just some ideas and resources that may help:
With peace,

Jenan Mohajir
Senior Director of Leadership

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