Earth: Game Over?

From Common Dreams:

We’re in the middle of a sixth mass extinction, and this will be the first one—and possibly the last—we will witness as human beings.

by John Feffer

Video games usually provide you with multiple lives. If you step on a landmine or get hit by an assassin, you get another chance. Even if such virtual reincarnation is not built into the rules of the game, you can always reboot and start over again. You can try again hundreds of times until you get it right. This formula applies to first-person shooter games as well as simulation exercises like SimEarth.

The real Earth offers a similar kind of reboot. Catastrophe has hit our planet at least five times, as Elizabeth Kolbert explains in her new book, The Sixth Extinction. During each of these preceding wipeouts, the planet recovered, though many of the life forms residing in the seas or on land were not so fortunate (“many” is actually an understatement—more than 99 percent of all species died out in these cataclysms). As Kolbert points out, we are in the middle of a sixth such world-altering event, and this will be the first—and possibly the last—extinction that we will witness as human beings. The planet and its hardier denizens may soldier on, but for us it will be game over.

A subset of environmentalists is already preparing for the end game. In the latest New York Times Magazine, Paul Kingsnorth—the author of the manifesto Uncivilizationconfesses that he has given up trying to save the planet. He rejects false hopes. “You look at every trend that environmentalists like me have been trying to stop for 50 years,” he says, “and every single thing had gotten worse.” He’s heading to the wilderness of Ireland to grow his own food, homeschool his kids, and prepare for the difficult days ahead.

Survivalism: it’s not just for right-wing wackos any more.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are still trying to figure out how to avert disaster. The United Nations recently released another in its series of reports on climate change. This one tries to put a price tag on what we need to do over the next 15-20 years to stop the global mercury from rising.

To implement the recommendations of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), governments must dramatically increase their investments in low-carbon energy sources. Each year, governments will have to spend an additional $147 billion on such renewable sources of energy as solar and wind power. On top of that, governments need to put $336 billion each year into greater energy efficiency in public and private infrastructure. If we follow all the IPCC recommendations, we can expect to save about $30 billion from eliminating subsidies to industries in the dirty energy sectors.

That still leaves an annual bill of more than $450 billion. This is probably a lowball figure, given the commitment that the industrialized world has made to help the developing world continue to grow economically without expanding its carbon footprint. This figure aclimatlso doesn’t cover current climate change costs associated with extreme weather events, droughts in food-growing areas, the preservation of coastal areas, and other catastrophes in the making. The bill for upgrading U.S. infrastructure alone will run into hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

If you’re planning to remodel your kitchen, you’re supposed to get a couple of different estimates. So, with a task as large as saving the world, it’s probably wise to check in with a couple other sources.

But those looking for salvation on the cheap are going to be disappointed. The International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization connected to the OECD, estimates that the world needs to invest a trillion dollars into clean energy—every year between now and 2050. Then there was the Stern Commission report on the economics of climate change that came out in 2006. At the time, Nicholas Stern estimated that stabilizing the current level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere would require an investment of 1 percent of global GDP, which at the time was a little more than $300 billion. He revised that up to about $600 billion a couple years later, though nowadays he’s talking more in the trillion-dollar range as well.

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How Piketty’s Bombshell Book Blows Up Libertarian Fantasies

From Alternet:

Sorry, Ayn Rand. Your fiction has been exposed as, well, fiction.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
April 27, 2014

Libertarians have always been flummoxed by inequality, tending either to deny that it’s a problem or pretend that the invisible hand of the market will wave a magic wand to cure it. Then everybody gets properly rewarded for what he or she does with brains and effort, and things are peachy keen.

Except that they aren’t, as exhaustively demonstrated by French economist Thomas Piketty, whose 700-page treatise on the long-term trends in inequality, Capital In the 21st Century, has blown up libertarian fantasies one by one.

To understand the libertarian view of inequality, let’s turn to Milton Friedman, one of America’s most famous and influential makers of free market mythology. Friedman decreed that economic policy should focus on freedom, and not equality.

If we could do that, he promised, we’d not only get freedom and efficiency, but more equality as a natural byproduct. Libertarians who took the lessons from his books, like Capitalism and Freedom (1962) and Free to Choose (1980), bought into the notion that capitalism naturally led to less inequality.

Basically, the lessons boiled down to this: Some degree of inequality is both unavoidable and desirable in a free market, and income inequality in the U.S. isn’t very pronounced, anyway. Libertarians starting with these ideas tend to reject any government intervention meant to decrease inequality, claiming that such plans make people lazy and that they don’t work, anyway. Things like progressive income taxes, minimum wage laws and social safety nets make most libertarians very unhappy.

Uncle Milty put it like this:

“A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.… On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality.”

Well, that turns out to be spectacularly, jaw-droppingly, head-scratchingly wrong. The U.S. is now a stunningly unequal society, with wealth piling up at the top so fast that an entire movement, Occupy Wall Street, sprung up to decry it with the catchphrase “We are the 99%.”

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Donald Sterling Banned for Life – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver bans clippers owner!

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The right’s Piketty nightmare: Coming of age in the era of Post-Exceptionalism

From Salon:

If conservatives want to ignore his warnings about inequality, we’re not the only ones who’ll suffer. They will too

Thursday, Apr 24, 2014

For most Americans, reports of our yawning, fast-expanding wealth gap only confirm what we’ve already seen and experienced in our own lives. If your job or industry has evaporated due to technological change or automation, if you’ve watched your factory position get shipped oversees (oftentimes offered, in one final bit of cruel irony, to train your foreign replacements first), if you’ve graduated from college or grad school in the past decade, only to find a nation with far too many applicants and far too few positions — reports on the existence of two Americas, one for the “haves” and one for the “have-nots” will not surprise you.

We are living in the Age of Post-Exceptional America.

An unavoidable fact of life in modern America, our growing inequality of income and wealth has eroded this nation’s middle class and its economy, like a cavity or a tumor. Crucially, this disruptive inequality continues to expand, as confirmed by an increasingly large body of research from sources as varied as an obscure French economist (turned bestselling author) to the front page of the New York Times.

In the Times, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy report on new data from the “Luxembourg Income Study Database,” which shows that America’s middle class — long the wealthiest in the world — has been surpassed by the middle classes of much of Western Europe and Canada. Basically, they explain, while Wall Street booms and corporate profits soar, the wealth of average Americans is stagnant or fading. As Leonhardt and Quealy put it,

The findings are striking because the most commonly cited economic statistics — such as per capita gross domestic product — continue to show that the United States has maintained its lead as the world’s richest large country. But those numbers are averages, which do not capture the distribution of income. With a big share of recent income gains in this country flowing to a relatively small slice of high-earning households, most Americans are not keeping pace with their counterparts around the world.

The authors are careful to note that their research only goes to 2010, but there’s no reason to think that these trends haven’t continued in the years since — or that they won’t continue in the future.

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If There’s a Transgender Culture, I’m Not Part of It

From Jezebel:

Kat Callahan
April 27, 2014

Recently the term “transgender culture” has became more and more common a term in discourse about LGBT topics. Perhaps alongside “gay culture” or “queer culture,” this new term is seen as recognising the unique lived experiences of transgender individuals. Yet, is this a term with actual substance?

There most certainly are transgender cultures, such as the Hijra in India, the Kathoey in Thailand, the Waria in Indonesia, etc. There are transgender communities within indigenous cultures. This is not what seems to be discussed here. What is a transgender culture in a Western, and especially Americentric, context? This Western, even Americentric, idea of a “transgender culture” seems to have really come up in wider pop culture headlines, in articles, in blog posts, and in comments over the past year.

There’s just one big issue with this concept of a “transgender culture.” I have no idea what it means. And I can’t seem to figure it out in the references to it.

Even Huffington Post’s transgender page references a “culture.” Of course, as Mitch Kellaway says, HuffPo probably isn’t exactly the best source when it comes to learning about trans issues, let alone what might constitute a transgender culture. Kellaway was one of HuffPoGay’s writers until the website’s decision to run Alaska Thunderfuck’s controversial video which many (including myself) felt targeted trans women writers (and perhaps one in particular). That incident was what finally pushed him to end the relationship, but he’d been uncomfortable with the website for some time.

My growing qualms had everything to do with your position as a non-trans-run platform that has real effects, via your editorial choices, on how trans people can expect to be publicly related to…

It’s really important to note that when I have seen “transgender culture” written, it has almost always invariably been in works by cisgender individuals. The works seem more like those of amateur anthropologists discussing some foreign group, rather than descriptions of an actual culture, while others just don’t even describe what it is. Vogue ran a piece on Barney’s use of transgender models which included a title that referenced “transgender culture,” yet then did not go on to explain of what this supposed “transgender culture” actually consisted. Huffington Post, as mentioned earlier, didn’t either. The closest I could find to anyone actually discussing “transgender culture” as an actually identifiable culture was extremist religious groups denouncing “transgender culture” as part of the “gay agenda.” Not exactly reliable.

Honestly, if there is a “transgender culture” of which I am a part, I sure don’t know it. How do I identify this “transgender culture,” anyway? Before answering this question, I think we have to ask ourselves what marks out identifiable transgender communities in these non-Western cultures (India, Thailand, and Indonesia), and perhaps what marks out identifiable “gay” or “queer” subcultures within our own. Is there any real way to compare? And just what is culture anyhow?

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Blah, Blah, Blah: Sylvia Rivera and community identity

I was a contemporary of Sylvia Rivera.  We never met.  I was west coast, she was east coast.

I never thought of her as some sort of great saint.  I never considered myself to be part of the street queen hustler culture.

But then I never really saw being transsexual as the basis for forming “a community.”

All the identity politics jive came much later.

There has been this hagiography developed around Sylvia.  STAR may have been important in NYC but its impact was bordered by the Hudson and East Rivers.

Tapestry did more to create the modern “trans-community” than anyone else.

But everyone is looking for saints, everyone wants a trans* Rosa Parks when many of the actual pioneers were sex workers and scam artists out of economic necessity.

Most of the pioneers died unrecognized.  Way too many from drug abuse and too many others from AIDS.  Yet others died from lack of health insurance to cover things like heart disease.

Those who stayed in the ghetto had harder lives than those who broke free.  SRS led to better lives for those who had it and got out than did staying non-op and remaining “in the community.”

Oddly enough the latest skirmish in the perpetual trans-wars, which had died down over the last couple of years involves the “Trans-Community” attempting to distance itself from the very scene Sylvia came from, the scene that was documented in “Paris is Burning.”

For what it is worth: Sylvia had zero impact on my life or the lives of my friends who went through SRS in the early 1970s.  To us Sylvia was a queen who drank to much and made scenes that created hassles for us in the women’s movement.

From The San Diego LGBT Weekly:

Sylvia Rivera and community identity

by Autumn Sandeen

A friend recently pointed me to a video of trans advocate Sylvia Rivera’s Y’all Better Quiet Down speech at New York City’s 1973 Liberation Day Rally. In the speech she stated, “I believe in the gay power. I believe in us getting our rights or else I would not be out their fighting for our rights.” She saw gender variant people as herself belonging to the gay community.

Rivera referred to her “gay brothers and gay sisters” in jail who were “beaten up and raped,” and they hadn’t “spent much of their money in jail to get themselves pumped and to try to get their sex change[s]. The women have tried to fight for their sex changes and become women of the women’s liberation.”

In a pamphlet entitled Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries written about the STAR project of the early 1970s, Rivera talked about being a “half sister.”

“Transvestites are homosexual men and women who dress in clothes of the opposite sex,” Rivera wrote. “Male transvestites dress and live as women. Half sisters like myself are women with the minds of women trapped in male bodies. Female transvestites dress and live as men. My half brothers are men with male minds trapped in female bodies. Transvestites are the most oppressed people in the homosexual community. My half sisters and brothers are being raped and murdered by pigs, straights and even sometimes by other uptight homosexuals who consider us the scum of the gay community. They do this because they are not liberated.”

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Considering the current skirmish in the Transgender Community regarding the word “tranny” and the attacks on Jayne County, Andrea James and Calpernia Addams I some how have a hard time imagining that today’s “Trans-Community” would embrace the Sylvia of the late 1960s- early 1970s any more than the transsexual women of my era embrace her or the crazy west coast person who went by the name of Angela Douglas for a while.

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Don’t Include Me in this Imaginary Trans-Community: “We’re not duped: Palestine is an important issue for transgender communities”

Fuck you, with your antisemitic hate Israel and the Jews campaigns.  Anti-Zionism is coded language for Jew Hating.

The BDS Movement is Jew hating in action.

The attacking people who work for Isaraeli companies and universities is the same sort of behavior the ultra right wing uses for attacking people who support the rights of LGBT people.

Why am I supposed to support the Palestinians?  Seriously.  It seems as though they have had nearly 70 years to make peace with the Israelis.  Over those years Israel has had to defend itself from numerous Arab Nations attempting to wipe it out.

They were forced to wage a war on terror for nearly 50 years, prior to the 9/11 attack upon the USA in 2001.  If the people of the US had lost a proportionate number of people to suicide bombing that Israel has lost, the numbers would be in the tens of thousands and we too would be in a constant state of war.

Count me out of this campaign of ill disguised antisemitism.

From DePaulia:

By Aiden Bettine
Sunday, April 27, 2014

Editor’s note: This is in response to the recent op-ed “Israel Divestment campaign poses threat to peace, cooperation,” and concerns the overarching debate over student proposals for divestment from Israel.

The Israeli military occupation of Palestine is an important issue for trans* communities (editor’s note: the asterisk stands for inclusivity and refers to all identities in the gender spectrum that do not adhere to the gender binary). We as members of Trans*(formation) DePaul are proud to be a part of DePaul Divest, a student coalition calling for our university to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations committed by the Israeli government.

We see our struggles as transgender people as connected to the struggles of Palestinians. When we compare the experiences of Palestinians living under military occupation and the experiences of transgender communities in the United States, we see striking similarities: policing and mass incarceration, denial of access to healthcare, harmful stereotypes, media images that depict us as violent and unstable, and legacies of colonialism. Our communities are suffering at the hands of the same systems — and even the same companies.

Some of the companies that DePaul Divest is targeting also profit off of the oppression of transgender people. For example, DePaul is invested in Hewlett Packard. In Palestine, HP provides technology for checkpoints and surveillance systems and computer technology used by the Israeli military. HP products are also used in prisons and detention centers where Israel detains African migrants. Here in the United States, HP provides database technology used in prisons. Trans people — especially trans women of color — are disproportionately incarcerated. Therefore, HP profits from our oppression too.

We resent attempts to enlist our community in supporting the Israeli government. Since the early 2000s, the Israeli government has spent thousands of dollars targeting U.S. LGBTQ communities. Activists call this PR strategy “pinkwashing.” Through pride floats, film festivals, tours and advertising campaigns, the Israeli government has tried to persuade us that Israel is a gay- friendly country. But it’s obvious why the Israeli government wants to sell us its gay rights record. As Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) writes, “It’s not about gay rights … Pinkwashing aims to disparage Israel’s neighbors in order to justify the country’s existence as necessary by any means, relying on the image of a lone democracy barely surviving surrounded by violent, intolerant, women- hating and backward societies.”

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