At the end of Ridley Scott’s (mediocre) Alien prequel, Prometheus, there’s a scene where an ingenuous human manages to trick a giant humanoid and an alien (both of which are intent on killing her) into combat with one another. I’m not optimistic that this is what’s happening now in US politics – as my friend Dan summed up the hopeful take, “if neither the neoliberal/state forces or the neofascist/trump forces can defeat the other then they both are weakened/distracted which [may turn out to be] a net positive” – but it is at least instructive to recognize that neither the neoliberal establishment, nor the insurgent neofascists have the human interests of the majority of the population at heart.
As my mom put it, “I have trouble with having absolutely no good guys to turn to”; unfortunately for my mom, and all the rest of us, that is our predicament, roughly, at least with respect to the two major parties and the existing major US power bases. Too often, the urge is to identify – as if the Democrats and Republicans were sports franchises – with irrational/libidinal fervor with ‘our team,’ but now, more than ever the call is to be working towards a better and different world that breaks our current, tragic impasse.
White Guy Leftist Roundup
In the past, Matt Stoller has embraced Josh Hawley on the grounds that the senator is a strong advocate of Federal anti-monopoly action; I think Stoller got it very wrong in backing this charismatic and ambitious budding fascist, but he has a good piece out in response to the storming of the Capitol – and Big Tech response to it – that includes this contextualizing excerpt: “So here’s the profile of a rioter, a working class person who went overseas eight times in military service, including two combat zones, who then tried her hand at a small business where financial predators and monopolists lurked. She then fell in with conspiratorial social media, and turned into a violent rioter who, like most of the rioters, thought she was defending America by overturning an election.” He goes on to say that none of this justifies her actions, but that it is helpful to understand how our political economy shapes our politics.
I think Glenn Greenwald was wrong to downplay the threat from armed white supremacists in the US – generally on the grounds that the Deep State is the real threat, and that, anyway, the threat of fascism is much more serious in Brazil where he now lives, than in the US, where he grew up; with armed white supremacist demonstrations planned for every state capital and DC in the coming weeks, the threat seems pretty real, but Greenwald has been right, and courageously so, about a lot of things for a long time, and – in spite of the fact that he’s noticeably modulated his emphasis since leaving The Intercept in what seems a clear attempt to attract more right-wing/libertarian readers to subscribe to his Substack – I appreciated his analysis of the mainstream liberal response to Big Tech’s banning of Parler, the key line of which was: “[T]he dominant strain of American liberalism is not economic socialism but political authoritarianism.” One is reminded of the breathtaking pivot of the Democratic Party establishment to crush the Sanders campaign in early 2020.
I’ll give the last white-guy-leftist word to Mike Davis (and thanks to Dan for sharing this piece): “But an open civil war amongst Republicans may only provide short-term advantages to Democrats, whose own divisions have been rubbed raw by Biden’s refusal to share power with progressives. Freed from Trump’s electronic fatwas, moreover, some of the younger Republican senators may prove to be much more formidable competitors for the white college-educated suburban vote than centrist Democrats realize.”
On the Pandemic
I’ll spare you another one of my home-made graphs, but looking at the trends between COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed in the US versus doses administered, it seems reasonably likely that the latter will start to catch up with the former in the next few weeks/month, as doses distributed are increasing in a more linear fashion, while doses administered are now appear to be increasing more exponentially (although there is obviously a ceiling to that increase). In spite of our plodding and bungled vaccine rollout, I continue to think we’ll see the pandemic effectively end in the US by the spring.
Also, my mom (hi mom!) shared more than grim political texts with me today, and I highly recommend this video interview with Shane Crotty on mRNA vaccines.
On Climate Crisis
There is authentic good news with respect to climate crisis, but it is not – as David Dayen grimly joked – that “Greenhouse gas emissions fell significantly in 2020. We’re just a few shelter-in-place catastrophes from saving the planet, I guess.”
To quote from an excellent Nature Climate Change article, entitled “Current and future global climate impacts resulting from COVID-19“: “[W]e estimate that the direct effect of the pandemic-driven response will be negligible, with a cooling of around 0.01 ± 0.005 °C by 2030 compared to a baseline scenario that follows current national policies. In contrast, with an economic recovery tilted towards green stimulus and reductions in fossil fuel investments, it is possible to avoid future warming of 0.3 °C by 2050.” The good news is that, if we get together and fight for a better future, we can change the course of (geo)history.
Even better news is that which has been making the rounds in recent weeks with respect to a major shift in climate-science consensus on locked-in future planetary heating. In short, to quote Michael Mann from this Guardian piece – entitled “Global heating could stabilize if net zero emissions achieved, scientists say” – if net zero emissions are reached globally (a monumental challenge), “surface temperatures stop warming and warming stabilizes within a couple decades.” Like most other climate activists, I’d been under the impression until quite recently that significant warming was locked in for centuries to come, so if this shift in consensus turns out to reflect the climate realities, it is very good news for our future prospects.
The narrative about pandemics (or other human catastrophes) being climate boons, however, needs to die.
Postscript: I know the difference between the Alien vs. Predator films and Ridley Scott’s oeuvre. I’m sorry for referencing both in a single post.