Category Archives: Air Travel

With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now

Two Boeing 737 MAX crashes, one in Indonesia last October and one in Ethiopia this past March, took a combined 346 lives. Steady scrutiny by the media reported internal company leaks and gave voice to sidelined ex-Boeing engineers and aerospace safety specialists. These experts have revealed that Boeing’s executives are responsible because they chose to use an unstable structural design and faulty software. These decisions left the flying public, the pilots, the airlines, and the FAA in the dark, to varying degrees.

Yet Congressional Committees, which announced investigations months ago, still have not called on Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, or any member of Boeing’s Board of Directors to testify.

Given the worldwide emergency grounding of all 400 or so MAX aircraft and the peril to crews and airline passengers, why are the Senate and House Committees holding back? House Committee Chairman, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) wants to carefully prepare for such action after the staff goes through the much delayed transmission of documents from Boeing. Meanwhile, Senate Committee Chair Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) deferred to Boeing’s request to put off their testimony before Congress until the Indonesian government puts out its report on the Lion Air disaster, presumably sometime in October.

Meanwhile, just about everybody in the airline industry, the Department of Transportation, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Justice Department (with its criminal probe), the transport unions, the consumer groups such as Flyers Rights, and the flying public are anxious to see top Boeing officials in the witness chair under oath answering important questions.

It is not as if Boeing lobbyists are absent. The giant company has been everywhere in Washington, D.C. getting its way for years in Congress, with NASA, the Department of Defense, and of course, the hapless, understaffed FAA. Boeing gives campaign donations to about some 330 members of Congress.

Corporate CEOs hate to testify before Congress under oath when they are in hot water. CEOs from the tobacco, drug, auto, banking, insurance, and Silicon Valley industries have all dragged their feet to avoid testifying. Eventually they all had to show up in public on Capitol Hill.

The Boeing case involves a more imminent danger. The company and its “captured” FAA want to unground the MAX as fast as possible and to get more new MAXs, under order, to the airlines.

This haste is all the more reason why Congress has to pick up the pace, regardless of “MAX Mitch” McConnell, the Kentucky dictator of the Senate who is a ward of the Boeing complex and its campaign cash. If the 737 MAX is ever allowed to fly again, with its shaky software fixes, glitches, and stitches, the pressure will build on members of Congress to go soft on the company. They will be told not to alarm millions of passengers and unsettle the airline industry with persistent doubts about the plane’s prone-to-stall and other serious safety hazards from overautomation and sloppy construction, already documented in the New York Times, the Seattle Times, and other solid media reporting.

With investigations underway at civil aviation agencies all over the world, and a grand jury operating in the U.S. looking into criminal negligence, this is no time for Congress to take its time in laying open the fullest truths and facts in public. Bear in mind, apart from the civil tort law suits, all other investigations are not being conducted in public.

There is a growing consensus by impartial specialists that after many iterations of the Boeing 737 series, beginning with the 737-100 in 1967, the much larger, more elaborate Boeing 737 MAX must be seen as a new aircraft requiring full certification. Certainly that is the view of some members of Chairman DeFazio’s committee and Chairman David Price’s House Subcommittee on Appropriations which holds the keys to funding a much larger FAA budget to do its job as a regulator, not as a deregulator that abdicates to Boeing.

Moreover, retired airline Captain Chesley Sullenberger, in his brilliant testimony before DeFazio on June 19th, called for full simulator training for pilots before they fly the MAX on scheduled routes (read Captain Sullenberger’s full statement here).

In a precise letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao and the acting and incoming heads of the FAA (Daniel Elwell and Stephen Dickson respectively), dozens of families and friends of the victims from many countries asked for full recertification and mandatory simulator training before any decision is made about the 737 MAX. Currently 737 MAX pilots are only given an hour of iPad training—a clearly insufficient measure and an affront to safety (see more here). The letter, which was sent on August 7, 2019, also called for the resignation of Ali Bahrami, the abdicator in charge of safety at the FAA.

Many decisions are coming up for the FAA and Boeing. The FAA would be very foolish to unground the 737 MAX just for U.S. airspace without the counterparts in North America, Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa concurring.

As for Boeing, the company cannot afford another one or two crashes attributed to continued indifference to longstanding aerodynamic standards of stability. The issue for Boeing’s celebrity, minimally experienced Board of Directors is how long it will tolerate Boeing’s management that, over the judgement of its best engineers, has brought the company to its present predicament.

How long before the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Department of Transportation or the Congress and the betrayed airlines themselves call for the resignation of both officers and the Board and, end the career conflict of interest these failed incumbents have with the future well-being of the Boeing Corporation itself?

Boeing Mismanagers Forfeit Your Pay and Resign

Dennis A. Muilenburg
Chairman, President, and
Chief Executive Officer
The Boeing Company
100 North Riverside
Chicago, IL 60606

Dear Mr. Muilenburg:

On April 4, 2019 you somewhat belatedly released a statement that “We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents.” You added that a preliminary investigation made it “apparent that in both flights” the MCAS “activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information.”

Your acknowledgement of the problems with the 737 MAX somehow escaped inclusion in your messages to shareholders, the capital markets, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. It is now stunningly clear that your overly optimistic outlook on January 20, 2019 – after the Indonesian Lion Air crash – was misleading. Whatever the public learns, day after day about the troubles of your company, it is still far less than what Boeing knows will come out day by day, and not just about the deadly design of the 737 MAX.

Your narrow-body passenger aircraft – namely, the long series of 737’s that began in the nineteen sixties was past its prime. How long could Boeing avoid making the investment needed to produce a “clean-sheet” aircraft and, instead, in the words of Bloomberg Businessweek “push an aging design beyond its limits?” Answer: As long as Boeing could get away with it and keep necessary pilot training and other costs low for the airlines as a sales incentive.

To compete with the Airbus A320neo, Boeing equipped the 737 MAX with larger engines tilted more forward and upward on the wings than prior 737’s. Thus began the trail of criminal negligence that will implicate the company and its executives. The larger engines changed the center of gravity and the plane’s aerodynamics. Boeing management was on a fast track and ignored warnings by its own engineers, not to mention scores of other technical aerospace people outside the company.

The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software fix or patch with all its glitches and miscues is now a historic example of a grave failure of Boeing management. Yet, you insist the 737 MAX is still safe and some alteration of the MCAS and other pilot advisories will make the aircraft airworthy. Aircrafts should be stall-proof, not stall-prone. Trying to shift the burden onto the pilots for any vast numbers of failure modes beyond the software’s predictability is scurrilous. The Boeing 737 MAX must never be permitted to fly again – it has an inherent aerodynamic design defect. Sell your Boeing 737NG instead.

No matter your previous safety record of the 737 series, Boeing doesn’t get one, two, or more crashes that are preventable by adopting long-established aeronautical knowledge and practices. You are on the highest level of notice not to add to your already extraordinary record of criminally negligent decisions and inactions. Result – 346 innocent people lost their lives.

Boeing management’s behavior must be seen in the context of Boeing’s use of its earned capital. Did you use the $30 billion surplus from 2009 to 2017 to reinvest in R&D, in new narrow-body passenger aircraft?  Or did you, instead, essentially burn this surplus with self-serving stock buybacks of $30 billion in that period? Boeing is one of the companies that MarketWatch labelled as “Five companies that spent lavishly on stock buybacks while pension funding lagged.”

Incredibly, your buybacks of $9.24 billion in 2017 comprised 109% of annual earnings. As you know, stock buybacks do not create any jobs. They improve the metrics for the executive compensation packages of top Boeing bosses.

To make your management recklessly worse, in December 2018 you arranged for your rubberstamp Board of Directors to approve $20 billion more in buybacks now placed on pause.

Then, after the Indonesian crash, came the second software-bomb that took away control from the pilots and brought down Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, taking the lives of 156 passengers and crew. At the time, you were way overdue with your new software allegedly addressing the avoidable risks associated with the notorious 737 MAX.

Don’t you see some inverted priorities here? Don’t you see how you should have invested in producing better aircraft? Instead, your top management was inebriated with the prospect of higher stock values, and higher profits by keeping your costs lower with that “aging design” of the Boeing 737s. You guessed wrong – big time for your passengers as well as for your company.

Boeing is in additional trouble that reflects poor management. On March 22, 2019, the Washington Post reported that NASA’s Administrator, Jim Bridenstine said “the agency is considering sidelining the massive rocket Boeing is building because of how far behind schedule it is.”

And now, the agency is about to announce another major delay in the high-profile spacecraft Boeing is building to fly astronauts to the International Space Station.

Then on April 21, 2019, the New York Times in a lengthy front-page story, based on “internal emails, corporate documents and federal records, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees,” reported that your South Carolina factory, which produces the 787 Dreamliner, “has been plagued by shoddy production and weak oversight that have threatened to compromise safety.”

It is not as if you are receiving anything but top dollar payments for these military (the Air Force tanker) and government contracts. You overpay yourself at over $23 million in 2018, which comes to about $12,000 an hour!

In the midst of these accusations, whistleblower lawsuits, alleged retaliations by management, the Times reports your pace of production “has quickened” and that you are eliminating “about a hundred quality control positions in North Charleston [South Carolina].” Why?

Big corporations are run like top-down dictatorships where the hired hands determine their own pay and strip their shareholder owners of necessary powers of governance. Your Board of Directors should disclose what you told them about the 737 MAX and when they knew it.

Already, corporate crime specialists are making the case for you and other top Boeing managers, having refused to listen to the warnings of your conscientious engineers, regarding the redesign of the 737 MAX, to face criminal prosecution. Note BP pleading guilty in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, to eleven counts of manslaughter in 2013.

Glass Lewis urges removal of Boeing audit committee head Lawrence Kellner for “failing to foresee safety risks with the 737 MAX aircraft,” reported the Financial Times, on April 16, 2019.

Consider, in addition, the statement of two Harvard scholars—Leonard J. Marcus and Eric J. McNulty, (authors of the forthcoming book, You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When it Matters Most).

“Of course, if Boeing did not act in good faith in deploying the 737 Max and the Justice Department’s investigation discovers Boeing cut corners or attempted to avoid proper regulatory reviews of the modifications to the aircraft, Muilenburg and any other executives involved should resign immediately. Too many families, indeed communities, depend on the continued viability of Boeing.”

These preconditions have already been disclosed and are evidentially based. Your mismanagement is replete with documentation. Management was criminally negligent, 346 lives of passengers and crew were lost. You and your team should forfeit your compensation and should resign forthwith.

All concerned with aviation safety should have your public response.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader

Boeing’s Homicide Will Give Way to Safety Reforms if Flyers Organize

To understand the enormity of the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes (Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Airlines 302) that took a combined total of 346 lives, it is useful to look at past events and anticipate future possible problems.

In 2011, Boeing executives wanted to start a “clean sheet” new narrow body air passenger plane to replace its old 737 design from the nineteen sixties. Shortly thereafter, Boeing’s bosses panicked when American Airlines put in a large order for the competitive Airbus A320neo. Boeing shelved the new design and rushed to put out the 737 Max that, in Business Week’s words, was “pushing an ageing design past its limits.” The company raised the 737 Max landing gear and attached larger, slightly more fuel efficient engines angled higher and more forward on the wings. Such a configuration changed the aerodynamics and made the plane more prone to stall (see attached article.).

This put Boeing’s management in a quandary. Their sales pitch to the airlines was that the 737 Max only received an “amended” certification from the FAA. That it did not have to be included in more pilot training, simulators, and detailed in the flight manuals. The airlines could save money and would be more likely to buy the Boeing 737 Max.

Boeing engineers were worried. They knew better. But the managers ordered software to address the stall problem without even telling the pilots or most of the airlines. Using only one operating sensor (Airbus A320neo has three sensors), an optional warning light and indicator, Boeing set the stage for misfiring sensors that overcame pilot efforts to control the planes from their nose-down death dive.

These fixes or patches would not have been used were the new 737’s aerodynamics the same as the previous 737 models. Step by step, Boeing’s criminal negligence, driven by a race to make profits, worsened. Before and after the fatal crashes, Boeing did not reveal, did not warn, did not train, and did not address the basic defective aerodynamic design. It gagged everyone that it could. Boeing still insists that the 737 Max is safe and is building two a day, while pushing to end the grounding.

Reacting to all these documented derelictions, a flurry of investigations is underway. The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, Calvin L. Scovel III, is investigating the hapless, captive FAA that has delegated to Boeing important FAA statutory and regulatory duties. The Justice Department and FBI have opened a criminal probe, with an active grand jury. The National Transportation Safety Board, long the hair shirt of the FAA, is investigating. As are two Senate and House Committees. Foreign governments are investigating, as surely are the giant insurance companies who are on the hook. This all sounds encouraging, but we’ve seen such initiatives pull back before.

This time, however, the outrageous corner-cutting and suppression of engineering dissent, within both Boeing and the FAA (there were reported “heated discussions”) produced a worst case scenario. So, Boeing is working overtime with its legions of Washington lobbyists, its New York P.R. firm, its continued campaign contributions to some 330 Members of Congress. The airlines and pilots’ union chiefs (but not some angry pilots) are staying mum, scared into silence due to contracts and jobs, waiting for the Boeing 737 Max planes to fly again.

BUT THE BOEING 737 MAX MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO FLY AGAIN. Pushing new software that will allow Boeing to blame the pilots is a dangerous maneuver. Saying that U.S. pilots, many of whom are ex-Air Force, are more experienced in reacting to a sudden wildly gyrating aircraft (consider the F-16 diving and swooping) than many foreign airline pilots only trained by civil aviation, opens a can of worms from cancellation of 737 Max orders to indignation from foreign airlines and pilots. It also displays an aversion to human-factors engineering with a vast number of avoidable failure modes not properly envisioned by Boeing’s software patches.

The overriding problem is the basic unstable design of the 737 Max. An aircraft has to be stall proof not stall prone. An aircraft manufacturer like Boeing, notwithstanding its past safety record, is not entitled to more aircraft disasters that are preventable by following long-established aeronautical engineering practices and standards.

With 5,000 Max orders at stake, the unfolding criminal investigation may move the case from criminal negligence to evidence of knowing and willful behavior amounting to corporate homicide involving Boeing officials. Boeing better cut its losses by going back to the drawing boards. That would mean scrapping the 737 Max 8 designs, with its risk of more software time bombs, safely upgrading the existing 737-800 with amenities and discounts for its airline carrier customers and moving ahead with its early decision to design a new plane to compete with Airbus’s model, which does not have the 737 Max’s design problem.

Meanwhile, airline passengers should pay attention to Senator Richard Blumenthal’s interest in forthcoming legislation to bring the regulatory power back into the FAA. Senator Blumenthal also intends to reintroduce his legislation to criminalize business concealment of imminent risks that their products and services pose to innocent consumers and workers (the “Hide No Harm Act”).

What of the near future? Airline passengers should organize a consumer boycott of the Boeing 737 Max 8 to avoid having to fly on these planes in the coming decade. Once Boeing realizes that this brand has a deep marketing stigma, it may move more quickly to the drawing boards, so as to not alienate airline carriers.

Much more information will come out in the coming months. Much more. The NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), which receives incident reports from pilots, air traffic controllers, dispatchers, cabin crew, maintenance technicians, and others, is buzzing, as is the FlyersRights.org website. Other countries, such as France, have tougher criminal statutes for such corporate crime than the U.S. does. The increasing emergence of whistle-blowers from Boeing, the FAA and, other institutions is inevitable.

Not to mention, the information that will come out of the civil litigation against this killer mass tort disaster. And of course the relentless reporting of newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and AP, among others will continue to shed light on Boeings misdeeds and the FAA’s deficiencies.

Boeing executives should reject the advice from the reassuring, monetized minds of Wall Street stock analysts saying you can easily absorb the $2 billion cost and move on. Boeing, let your engineers and scientists be free to exert their “professional options for revisions” to save your company from the ruinous road you are presently upon.

Respect those who perished at your hand and their grieving families.

Lobbies and Belated Groundings: Boeing’s 737 Max 8

Lobbies, powerful interests and financial matters are usually the first things that come to mind when the aircraft industry is considered.  Safety, while deemed of foremost importance, is a superficial formality, sometimes observed in the breach.  To see the camera footage of the wreckage from the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 was to be shocked by a certain irony: cameras were found lingering over an inflight safety cards on what to do in the event of an emergency.  For those on board that doomed flight, it was irrelevant.

The deaths of all 157 individuals on board the flight en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa on Sunday might have caused a flurry of panicked responses.  There had been a similar disaster in Indonesia last year when Lion Air’s flight JT610 crashed killing 189 people.  Two is too many, but the response to the disasters was initially lethargic.

Concern seemed to centre on the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), deemed vital to prevent the aircraft from stalling.  Sensors within the MCAS might, according to accident investigator Geoffrey Dell, have sent “spurious signals to the flight management computers and resulting in the autopilot automatically pushing the nose of the aircraft down”.  If so, then the ability to manually counter those actions, a safety design feature of previous aircraft autopilots, would have to be questioned.  Troubling Dell was another question: why did the pilots fail to disconnect the autopilot when it played up?  Ditto the auto throttle system itself.

When it comes to safety in the aviation industry, powerful players tend to monetise rather than humanise their passengers.  A company like Boeing is seen as much as a patriot of the US defence industry as a producer of passenger aircraft. The company’s presence in Washington is multiple and vast, characterised by the buzzing activity of some two dozen in-house lobbyists and twenty lobbying firms. Lobbyists such as John Keast, a former principal at Cornerstone Government Affairs, have links with lawmakers such as Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi nurtured since the days he was chief of staff.  Wicker spokeswoman Brianna Manzelli was, however, keen to narrow that influence supposedly wielded by Keast in a statement made to CNN.  “While at Cornerstone Government Affairs, John Keast lobbied for a variety of clients including Boeing on defence issues only.”

Such combined lobbying efforts cost $15 million last year alone, which makes Boeing’s contribution relatively small to trade groups, but significant in terms of outdoing such competitors as Lockheed Martin.  Added to the fact that CEO Dennis Muilenburg has an open channel to the White House, the campaign favouring the Max 8’s continued, and unmolested operation, was hitting gear.  A Tuesday call made by the executive to Trump after the president’s tweet on the dangers posed by complex systems suggested some serious pull.

For a time, it seemed that the lobby was doing its customary black magic, and winning, attempting to douse fires being made by the likes of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Union calling for a temporary grounding of the Max 8.  Certain pilots had noticed control issues while operating the Max 8 over US airspace.

Boeing initially convinced the Federal Aviation Administration, which failed to note in a surly statement from Acting FAA administrator Daniel K. Elwell any “systematic performance issues” worthy of grounding the model.  “Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action.  In the course of our urgent review of data on the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”

This statement stood in stark contrast to that of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand.  “Currently, there is no clear indication for the actual cause of accidents in Indonesia & Ethiopia, and no evident risk management measures or any mechanism to ensure the safety of 737 Max 9 aircraft from the aircraft manufacturer.”

The lobby’s traction has gradually slowed on the Hill, and its tittering has, at least for the moment, started to lose conviction.  Calls started to come from lawmakers that the 737 model needed to be looked at.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) suggested grounding the aircraft as a “prudent” measure. “Further investigation may reveal that mechanical issues were not the cause, but until that time, our first priority must be the safety of the flying public.”  Democratic senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) were also itching to convince the FAA to ground the Max 8 “until the agency can conclusively determine that the aircraft be operated safely.”

Other lawmakers, ever mindful of Boeing’s influence in their states, preferred to leave the regulators to their task.  Till then, the planes would be permitted to continue taking to the skies.  “Right now,” cautioned Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), chair of the subcommittee overseeing aviation and a political voice for a state hosting an important Boeing facility, “the important thing is that relevant agencies are allowed to conduct a thorough and careful investigation.”

It was President Donald Trump who ultimately decided to reverse the earlier decision by regulators permitting the aircraft to continue flying.  The emergency order put the US in step with safety regulators in 42 other countries. “I didn’t want to take any chances,” explained Trump.  But ever mindful of Boeing’s shadowy hold, the president added a qualifying note. “We could have delayed it.  We maybe didn’t have to make it at all.  But I felt it was important both psychologically and in a lot of other ways.”

The FAA’s continued “data gathering”, previously deemed insufficient to warrant a grounding despite the quick response in other countries, had led to the opposite conclusion.  This included “newly refined satellite data available to the FAA”.  But Elwell was unwilling to eat anything resembling humble pie. “Since this accident occurred we were resolute that we would not take action until we had data.  That data coalesced today.”  A coalescence demonstrating, in more concrete terms, how safety, while important, tends to lag in the broader considerations of profit and operation in the aviation industry.

The Green Old Deal

There are a lot of things to like about the recent resolution for the Green New Deal. The commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the acknowledgment of the catastrophic events that will occur if the world does not act soon- these are all healthy signs. Like Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign which removed many stigmas about socialism, raising public consciousness about the structural changes needed to lessen the impacts of global warming are to be commended.

However, there are very serious problems with the language of the resolution, as well as the underlying assumptions, biases, and ideology which pervades the text.

Starting with an obvious problem, the “Green New Deal” is based on the political and economic mobilization of FDR’s New Deal. It was the New Deal, essentially, which saved capitalism from collapse in the US in the 1930s. If the Green New Deal is saying anything, it is offering cover to the ruling class- here is your propaganda model out of this mess you’ve created; here is another chance to save capitalism from itself. It’s a false promise, of course, as no purely technological scheme based in a capitalist economy will be able to fix what’s coming, but it’s a very convenient narrative for capitalist elites to cling to.

Roosevelt’s New Deal  placated workers and bought time for the bourgeoisie to rally, but it was the combined forces of post-WWII macroeconomic Keynesian economic stability, high taxes on the wealthy, the Bretton Woods agreement, the Marshall Plan and reconstruction of Japan which helped grow the middle classes in the mid-20th century.

Indeed, the Green New Deal (GND) mimics the mainline liberal/reformist agenda when it pledges to try: “directing investments to spur economic development, deepen and diversify industry and business in local and regional economies, and build wealth and community ownership, while prioritizing high-quality job creation…”

That’s about as boilerplate as one can get. You’d expect to hear this blather from anywhere on the mainstream spectrum, out of the mouth of a Chamber of Commerce hack or a College Republican newsletter.

Another issue of basic civil decency is that the GND is blatantly cribbing from the Green Party’s own ideas, and then watering them down, without any reference to their origins. The limitations of the GPUS do not need to be run through here, but the point remains: stealing policies from others who have been campaigning on this platform for decades, without offering even a token of acknowledgement, is not a good look.

I mean, this is all so obvious, and frankly, it’s disheartening and embarrassing to live in a country with such little common sense.

There’s more. The resolution calls for “net-zero global emissions by 2050”. This sounds great, except it leaves the foot in the door for a carbon trading scheme, where polluters will pay to offset their emissions with money, “investments in technology”, false promises to plant tree farms which they can renege on in court battles, etc.

Further, the GND states that it supports:

to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.

It calls for:

[The] Green New Deal must be developed through transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses…

First, who in Congress is talking about implementing the kind of direct democratic practices alluded to here, or drawing on the expertise of community leaders, local governments, etc? Nobody. Who in Congress is calling for actually concrete material reparations, reconciliation, and public methods to heal the intergenerational traumas, inequities, and systemic racism and classism which continue to punish vulnerable communities? No one.  Who in Congress is calling for an end to our intervention in Venezuela and supporting the Maduro government from the obvious covert and military-corporate machinations currently underway? Not a soul.

I understand that this resolution is a first sketch, a very early draft which may go through many changes. I am not interested in demeaning people who are serious about fighting climate change; or scoring points by being “more radical” than others; or by igniting controversy around a critical “hot take” of the GND.

What I am curious about is how those in Congress foresee the types of jobs being created. Are we going to have millions of people planting trees (the best way to slow down climate change) or millions toiling in wind and solar factories? The most effective way to slow global warming would be to support the Trillion Tree Campaign.

Another ridiculous oversight is the lack of acknowledgement in the resolution of quite possibly the 2nd most pressing issue regarding humankinds’ survival, the threat of nuclear war and militarism. Obviously only international cooperation can determine the nuclear states relinquishing their arsenals, as well as shut down all reactors worldwide. Further, the huge budget of the military and the interests of the defense companies in promoting endless wars are not called out.

The only way a GND can work is through international collaboration. Asking other countries with far fewer resources, infrastructure, and technology at their disposal to “follow our lead” as we undergo a purely domestic New Deal within our 50 states and territories is cruel, shortsighted, and disingenuous. It would be the 21st century analogy to socialism in one country, expecting other nations to simply deal with the wreckage of climate disasters after we’ve fucked over the entire world.

What I’m attempting to sketch out is that to even put a dent in global warming in the 21st century and beyond, the feeble approaches by bourgeois democrats must be denounced for what they are. A GND for the USA as the “leader” is not in the cards; the analogy I’d use is more like a fully international Green Manhattan Project.

This would mean councils of expert indigenous peoples, climate scientists, ecologists, and socio-psychological experts in conflict resolution and ecological and cultural mediation worldwide would begin directing and implementing structural transformations of society, by addressing the separation from nature, historical amnesia, and emotional numbness endemic to Western society.

Natural building methods would have to take prominence over Green-washed corporate-approved LEED standards, massive conservation, ecological and restoration projects would have to get underway, along with the relocation of millions globally who live in unsustainably arid or resource hungry areas, and programs for regenerative organic agriculture would need to begin being taught to our youth right now. Is anything like this happening or being talked about in the mainstream?

These supporters in Congress as well as most progressives are assuming we still have twelve years to act, which the latest IPCC report warned was the maximum amount of time left. Perhaps people should be reminded that 12 years is just an estimate. We might have two years. We may be already over the tipping point.

Really, this is all just bullshit for Democrats to get each other reelected by LARPing as progressives and social democrats, and anyone with half a brain can see that. There can be no mass green transportation system unless urban cores get significantly denser, because as of now, perhaps half the country is still based on a post-WWII design to accommodate the whimsies of suburban property developers who only cared for profit and segregated communities, city planners with no conception of the consequences of rising energy demand, and homeowners in the fifties who likewise did not understand the devastation that sprawl, large energy-hogging single family homes, inefficient energy transmission, and long commutes would contribute to global warming.

How many mountains would need to be mined and blasted, how many wild plants and animals killed and desecrated, and rivers and waterways polluted would it take to get every soccer mom and Joe six-pack a new electric vehicle?

It is possible that only a mass relocation to urban cores with public infrastructure and fair compensation for citizens to move would allow for a green transportation and energy network to work properly. If not explained properly, these positive ideas for change would only feed into conservative far-right paranoia.

There are two people in Congress out of 535 that identify as anti-capitalist. The evidence even for these two is lacking, and we don’t have time to wait electing the other 270 or so. The military, financial institutions, defense companies, fossil fuel multinationals, intelligence sectors, and mainstream media are in total lockstep on the march towards societal and economic collapse and continued ecological degradation. Can anyone see the Pentagon, Halliburton, Shell and BP, and any Democrat or Republican giving away the equivalent of trillions of dollars in renewable technology, resources, IT networks, medicine, etc., to sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia? I didn’t think so.

If even self-proclaimed socialists like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez don’t have the guts to speak out against imperial mechanized drone warfare and the CIA literally fomenting a coup in Venezuela, and the majority of citizens having no problem with this, it just goes to show the lack of empathy and education in this country. Both of them are childish and uneducated; and should be treated as such, even if we should show conditional support for this preliminary GND, if only because it could theoretically morph into something promising.

In short, this first draft GND is “old” for a couple of reasons:  first, the economic model and the signaling in the language come directly from the liberal-bourgeois-reformism of the FDR administration. Second, it is old in the sense of being behind the times environmentally; it doesn’t keep up with what science proves is necessary for humanity to thrive: the GND does not call for economic degrowth, a reduction in energy demand, a sharp reduction in obtaining protein from meat, and a thoroughly anti-capitalist method to regenerate civic life and the public commons.

The flip side is that to thrive in a truly green future, we will have to re-examine truly ancient “old” Green methods to balance the “new” methods of technological innovation: the ancient ways of working with nature that indigenous traditions have honed, which has provided humanity with abundance for tens of thousands of years.

Natural building, creating and promoting existing holistic, alternative medicine, localizing energy and agricultural production, and growing food forests must be at the top of any agenda for humankind in the 21st century. This might seem impossible to our Congress because these methods do not cater to “marketplace solutions”, do not rely on factories and financialization, do not use patents to create monopolies; i.e., because these priorities do not put more power in the hands of capitalists.

Here are a few final thoughts. The first is the whole premise of the GND is based on a very reductionist, analytical, and Anglo style of thinking. Basically, this resolution is insinuating that we can change everything about the economy and forestall climate change without taking apart the financial sectors, the war machine, etc.

The second thought follows from the first, which is that the Continental thinkers offer a more grounded, immanent approach which examines how capital itself has warped human nature. Specifically, many important researchers demonstrated how the culture industry has manufactured ignorance, false needs, and ennui on a mass basis.

For instance, in a US context, to put it in very crude stereotypes, how are we going to convince one half of the country to stop eating red meat, give up their pickup trucks, put their guns in a neighborhood public depot, and stop electing outright racists and sexists. On the other hand, how can we convince the other half to give up their Starbucks on every corner, give up their plane travel to exotic locations, not buy that 2nd posh home to rent out on Airbnb which leads to gentrification, etc.

Basically, most middle class people in the US don’t want to fundamentally change as of yet, and this resolution won’t have the force to confront the utterly fake, conformist, and escapist lifestyles most US citizens continue to choose at least partially of their own volition.

Simple, clear language is important to energize citizens and can lead to catalyzing change. The concept of the Green New Deal could very well be that theme which unites us. One hundred and two years ago, it was those three special words “Peace, land, bread” which helped unite a nation and sparked a revolution.

Here’s one last thing to chew on. In the 21st century, the nation-state has proven that its time is over, as it provides a vehicle which centralizes corporate and military power that now threatens the existence of life on this planet. The Green New Deal calls for:

obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties and agreements with indigenous peoples, and protecting and enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples…

Although it is clear the writers meant this in a very general and vague kind of way, as obviously not a single agreement has been “honored” going back 500 years by invading settler-colonialists, enforcing the sovereignty and land rights of indigenous peoples would mean the abolition of the USA. That’s a Green New Deal I can work with.

Size Matters: The Demise of the A380

The aircraft business has always been a dear affair.  More than other forms of transport, it remains susceptible to oscillating costs (materials, fuel), ever at the mercy of the uncontrollable.  The Airbus A380 was meant to be a giant’s contribution to aviation.  In time, its makers came to the conclusion that the bird had already flown.

In the solemn words of outgoing Airbus chief executive Tom Enders, “We have no sustainable A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years.”

As much as it was a “technical wonder” (an “outstanding engineering and industrial achievement” boasted Enders), the A380 simply did not have the momentum financially to carry the company.  To a large extent, this may have been embedded in the mission itself: to outperform, at quite literally all cost, the Boeing 747, the super mega jet dream born in 1988 when Airbus engineers went to work on designing an ultra-high-capacity-airliner (UHCA).  This would entail the guzzling addition of four jet engines, and an ongoing headache to the accountants.

The consequences of this vain if admired project have been more than head-ache inducing.  Carriers who have gone for purchases of the divine beast have under-performed on the revenue side of things. Such large entities, to make matters viable, need orders covering up to four-fifths of the seats.  This leads to incentives to discount prices and seek promotions.  In the penny-pinching world of air travel, this is a tall order.

And big it is.  The A380 was advertised for its breezy size and proportions – 73 metres in length, 80 metres wide, able to ferry 550 to 800 passengers, depending on type, on two complete decks.  Floor space was increased dramatically (some 49 percent), with additional seating being a mere 35 percent from the previous largest aircraft.  The comfort factor was enhanced: more passenger room, and less noise.  In a machine sense, it made many in the aeronautical side of things salivate: modern computerised systems; powerful Rolls-Royce reactors.  A truly big toy.

The transport routes favouring hubs (Dubai and Singapore) were originally the target of the A380.  Megacities would proliferate; traffic between them would necessitate bigger planes to cope with capacity issues.  Congestion would thereby be reduced.  But there were delays – some eighteen months – before it finally made its maiden flight on April 7, 2005.

Then came a change in strategy from hub destinations.  A diversification of travel routes took place.  Appropriate capacity for destinations was simply not there.  The market has also grown at a lesser rate.  Projections, in other words, have not been met.

In 2015, it was already clear that the A380 was more than struggling. No new orders were taken. The order book then stood at 317 units, with Airbus needing to make it to 420 to break even. (The original projection had been 270, but delays and currency fluctuations will do that sort of thing.)

The arrival of fuel-efficient, longer-haul flights have also become something of a curse.  The Boeing 787 and Airbus’ own A350 have done more than simply pique interest.  A move in their direction signals a greater interest in the More Electric Aircraft generation.  Qantas Airways Ltd. is seen as an example: initially enthusiastic about Emirates, having made an alliance in 2013, it has moved with greater enthusiasm towards Cathay, courtesy of the 787. This means that the traditional hub destinations like Dubai can be by-passed.

The largest purchaser of the A380 – Emirates – has done its best to keep orders coming in for the company.  (In and of itself, this suggests dangers to both purchaser and supplier.)  Gross orders as of January 31, 2019 show Emirates coming in at a staggering 162, with Singapore Airlines a very distant second at 24. Since 2008, it has made the airline its centre piece.  Emirates’ tastes are also fairly unique, being the only major airline preferring large, twin-aisle, wide-bodied jets.

But the airline is looking elsewhere, downsizing to the smaller A350 or A330.  The numbers are eye popping: of the 56 aircraft still on the order line, 53 are set for Emirates; but Dubai’s national carrier was contemplating switching 20 orders of the Airbus SE 380.  Confirmation that it would cut orders for the A380 by 39 was enough of a call for Enders.

There are, however, still a few tricks available in the A380 bag.  Emirates, for one, managed to do the unusual thing of having increasing numbers of passengers while reducing departures.  It won’t and has not saved the continued production of the A380, but that large creature of avionics is set to be around for a time before a full, unpensioned retirement.  In Enders’ romantic reflection, the A380 would be roaming “the skies for many years to come”.

Communism, Fascism, and Green Shaming

In the United States, for over a hundred years, the ruling interests tirelessly propagated anticommunism among the populace, until it became more like a religious orthodoxy than a political analysis.

— Michael Parenti, Blackshirts and Red, January 1, 2001

… the totality of which the psyche is a part becomes to an increasing extent less ‘society’ than ‘politics’ … society has fallen prey to and become identified with domination.

— Herbert Marcuse, Five Lectures: Psychoanalysis, Politics and Utopia, Boston Beacon Press, 1970

By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products and energy … Yet, the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements … Any talk of climate change which does not include the military is nothing but hot air, according to Sara Flounders. It’s a loophole [in the Kyoto Convention on Climate Change] big enough to drive a tank through, according to the report A Climate of War.

— H. Patricia Hynes, Climate and Capitalism, February 2015

I am sensing — at least in the U.S. — a migration of the liberal policing of thought into green movements. A guy (a writer, in fact) arguing about plane travel. And this seems to be a thing. The problem of individual travel on jet airplanes is, of course, dwarfed by military pollution of all kinds, including massive nearly incomprehensible jet fuel usage, corporate air travel, and the world of private jets altogether. In other words there is a qualitative distinction. And I’m quite sure most people getting a short break from their miserable day job appreciate the shaming and hectoring of this polyanna bullshit. I’d be happy to travel by train, but since that’s not possible much anymore, nor is sea travel unless you own a sailboat, the point is to change a system of inequality which would by itself radically reduce the pollution of jet engines. The EU, by the by, suggested a ticket tax (to passengers, of course) for flying. Nothing about reduced truck transport of useless foods, or any rational solution because rational solutions cut into profit. Nothing about military transport. Nothing about improved rail transport — which most people would absolutely prefer. No, just more guilt pinned on the working class for daring to take a trip. To ask people to voluntarily restrict their movement is a very dangerous and disingenuous delusion. And so far, for me anyway, it is always white males who promote this thinking.

But beyond that, one finds very often a kind of Mr Rogers neighborhood prose in this stuff. It’s sentimentalized and full of talk of Gaia and whatever else is au courant in the affluent Prius owning class. The fact is that most people I know would be very happy to travel other ways than by air. But telling people, the working class, to stop flying is very typical of this new shaming impulse in the American psyche and in American society. Young people learn tolerance by travel, learn other cultures, learn period. Better, I guess, to stay home and what? And I want to know how much travel is okay? For whom? I mean, people fly to climate conferences. It becomes all very Ionesco like at a certain point. But is one allowed to take a bus to work? What is the guideline here? Can I fly to help organize anti capitalist resistance?? This is a kind of critique mired in individuality. It’s lacking any class analysis. Unsurprisingly.

So let’s get back to War and the military. If one wants to stop climate change, the first step, before all this hand wringing about vacations, is to protest war. Protest militarism. Protest 900 military bases around the world. Each of which pollutes far far far far more then the country hosting them. Not to mention the attendant sexual violence, public drunkeness, drugs, and prostitution.

The destruction of the land, the denuding of what is left of America’s wild areas, is not helped by this sort of pomposity and moral superiority.

Which segues to another trend I am seeing. The rise of what for lack of a better word I’ll call the anti communist left, of the totalitarian left. There is a position which decries all socialist countries, past and present, as failures. But also simply parodies of “real” socialism. This is nothing new, of course. And while there is a germ of truth in this, the problem is the encoded message that accompanies these critiques. Given the hideous hegemonic growth of U.S. Imperialism, including the NATO countries, the dismissing of socialism as rank failure puts in the service of U.S. anti communism. One becomes allies with the likes of the Dulles Brothers, or Joe McCarthy, or Dick Nixon.

That the Russian and Chinese revolutions achieved almost unimaginable improvements to the lives of nearly everyone in those countries is dismissed. Not even mentioned. As if revolution drops from the sky now and then. That Fidel Castro and Lenin and Mao and Sankara and Ho Chi Minh were all just failures and parodies of real socialism is becoming a very popular meme, and one that coincides with the conflation of communism and fascism. Usually under the rubric of “totalitarian.” Again, in a real world of Imperialist violence and class oppression and manifest inequality, such flagrant hot house beatitudes are very distressing. And it is all but impossible to argue against this (much like the accusation of conspiracy theory) because one is quickly accused of willfully ignoring the flaws and failures that DID, in fact, occur. But it feels almost like a demand for a certain kind of perfection. Again, the gains are ignored. I had one (rather well known leftist) say…”well, health care, free education, art and literature is all fine, but not when you have lost your political voice”. That is a direct quote. One wonders what is meant by political voice. I’d have to say that the people of Venezuela FOUND their political voice for the first time under Chavez. So did the Cubans under Fidel. Health care and free education… ’pfft’, big deal, right? But there are several threads making up this new left anti communism. And oddly, maybe even paradoxically (and maybe not) another influence is Ayn Rand. And, often, Lyndon LaRouche. For the Randian embrace of selfishness is oddly tweeked a bit and becomes a strange doppelganger to real politik for these people. There is, additionally, a green dimension to this.

I wanted to circle back to freedom of movement. The invention of the passport is a relatively recent invention. And one with clear hierarchical reverberations. When I lived in Poland, it was always depressing to go down to immigration when I had to renew this or that bit of paper allowing me to work and live there. I had a U.S. passport and went to the front of the line. Families from Uzbekistan or Sri Lanka or Kenya were treated like cattle and pointlessly made to wait, days sometimes, to find resolution on their Visa status or work papers or whatever.

The rise of a new sort of national identity followed the fall of the Ottoman Empire and Austro-Hungarian, not to mention the Russian Empire. And technological developments that made movement easier combined with ideological forces resulted in new forms of paperwork for the populations of Europe. This period saw huge numbers of people escaping political violence. It also saw the Nazi biological racism reinforce certain notions of national identity.

…among other things, the use of the most advanced techniques of population registration and documentary controls on movement to keep track of real or putative enemies and to mobilize the population to achieve the regime’s ends.{ } The 1933 special census of Jews in Germany, however, was only the beginning of the Nazis’ effort to invoke the most sophisticated statistical and administrative means to pursue its program of racial domination. The dozen years of existence of the “thousand-year Reich’ would generate a proliferation of censuses, statistical investigations, registers of foreigners, identity cards, and residence lists that ultimately constituted the administrative foundation for the deportations to Auschwitz and the other death camps. Over time, these diverse methods of “embracing” {erfassert) the German population, and especially certain “negatively .”privileged status groups” within it, became intimately linked to the passport system.
— John Torpey, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship and the State, November 13, 1999

The post colonial period for the U.K. also presented problems regarding citizenship. Finally the citizens of the former colonies were allowed Commonwealth citizenship and were allowed to enter the U.K. Various other former colonial powers decided on similar laws and regulations. The overall result was a huge increase in identification paperwork. In the 1970s came machine readable passports and the introduction of Visas for some countries. And, of course, a huge uptick in data mining. And in surveillance.

The point is that, really, states have expropriated the right to movement.

John Torpey again….

Despite the emergence of a greater propensity to intervene militarily in the internal affairs of states in recent years, it remains true that “once a population is incorporated into complete citizenship, a nation-state is given almost complete authority to subordinate the population: It can expropriate, kill, and starve, with relatively little fear of external intervention.” Needless to say, this authority extends to nation-states’ control over the movements of persons within their borders as well.

The idea of freedom of movement is significant. And it should not be bundled up with this kitsch eco-sensitivity. Of course, and I said this on TV the other day, everyone has to accept massive changes to how they live their lives. But most people are powerless to do many of the things the privileged eco-warrior can do. Poor families eat what they can afford. The working class does what it can to survive and fend off having to sleep under freeway overpasses. The point again, or one of the points, is that in this real world of U.S. crypto fascism, militarism, police state and surveillance state reality, the conversation is never taking place in a vacuum.

Now, alongside these new green shaming trends there lies the echo or residue of the old eugenics movement. And it has returned (for the fourth or fifth time) under the guise of an overpopulation alarmism. The new overpop mythology is couched in green terms, with its own vocabulary. But the point is always entrenched in a deep Orientalism and racism. It is always THOSE poor countries, usually black, that is conjured up in the minds of those lovers of the planet. The poor consume the least, in fact. And for the record there is no overpopulation. There is also plenty of food. The problem is a for profit system of distribution and overcrowding — the result of irrational industrialization or just austerity and the destruction of traditional farming etc. The planet actually remains rather empty, and fertility rates are falling off a cliff. (Hence the pronounced rise in IVF procedures). This is only second cousin to the old welfare mothers myth of Bill Clinton and Ronnie Reagan. In the global village Africa is simply South Central LA.

The continuation of hunger in the modern world is not the result of an intractable problem thwarting our best efforts to feed people. Rather, agriculture in the capitalist world is directly concerned with profit and only indirectly with feeding people.
— John Torpey, The Invention of the Passport,

Also, there was a small blip this past year, raised by Trump and a couple of his minions. The birthright citizenship debate (or Jus Soli, right of the soil). For what is behind this sudden interest, ultimately, is the normalizing of an idea of tiers of citizenship (see John Torpey quote above). For that is the ultimate goal. Official second class citizens. And remember the Dred Scott case, and citizenship for black Americans and the struggle around that, all the way up to the Wong kim Ark decision. This issue didn’t surface for no reason,

Convicted of a felony? Sorry, you are a citizen class B. (exemptions made for Wall Street convictions or the like). Were your parents undocumented? Sorry, you can have a provisional class C citizenship card. And with this will come severe restrictions of movement. Regional ghettos and work zones.

The state monopolization of the legitimate means of movement may be giving way to the return of the private regulation of movement, rooted in the ownership of property within well-fortified and privately policed enclaves. This appears to be the drift of developments; there are now estimated to be some 20 000 gated communities in the United States, up from a nearzero figure only thirty-five years ago. If it is, passports – a product of the political rather than the economic determination of community membership – may give way to money as the relevant form of “identification” that permits access to specified territories.
— John Torpey1

Keith O’Brien wrote recently, in a review (Lookleft, Dec 25th 2018) of Dominic Losurdo’s War and Revolution

One of the truly remarkable feats of public opinion management is to be seen in the widespread belief that the foundational violence of the USSR and communism in general is or was systemic while violence as perpetrated by liberal democracies is a merely aberrant phenomenon. Ever since the demise of the USSR and the concomitant dismantling of the social states in eastern Europe a contending liberal narrative has become the prevailing one, at least according to the supposed received wisdom as disseminated in the dominant media discourse. This narrative can be succinctly outlined in the proposal that a historical equivalence exists between communism and nazism, an equivalence cynically injurious to the former and perniciously obscurantist where the latter is concerned.

Hitler had a framed photo of Henry Ford in his office. He did not have one of Stalin or Lenin. Hitler admired American eugenics. The idea of sterilizing the defectives came directly from the U.S. medical establishment.

But there are deeper distinctions between socialism and fascism.

Klaus Theweleit wrote Male Fantasies in 1977, analysing the diaries of the German paramilitaries (the Freikorps) that refused to surrender after the WW1 armistice.

But the assimilation of mass movements with floods, swamps, or pits of muck is not just a literary exercise, it’s a political operation. What communism promised the underpayed and underfed working poor was an overhaul of social hierarchies; the revolt of the laboring class was—literally—a threat to the old barriers and entrenched privileges: communism pledged to engulf the old Prussian order, swallowing the lower ranks of the aristocracy that Freikorps recruits typically belonged to. Conflating lifestyle (the maintenance of rentier income) with survival, the Freikorps forged an imaginary identity between the dread of revolution and the dread of drowning and physical dissolution. But everything murky and watery is also a cipher for woman, which is why Theweleit asks to what extent this patriarchal organization of life adopts fascism in order to ensure its own survival.

For all the talk of totalitarianism, there is a stark difference between the psychological underpinning of fascism and that of socialism or communism.

Unlike the New Left, for whom sexual repression was not merely a characteristic of fascism but its very cause, Theweleit didn’t see genocide as the thwarted expression of inhibited sexual energies. His point was rather that the production of gender and sexuality are intimately tied to the content of anti-Semitism and overt racism—both before, during, and after the fall of the Weimar Republic. Fascist sexuality is not so much repressed as it is ideological: it idealizes virility and fertility as political imperatives. Its tropes are worth revisiting not only because there is a continuity between every day sexism—for example, the culturally tolerated misogyny of expressions such as “I would fuck her brains out”— and the Freikorps murderous frenzy; or because conflicts over sexual mores and gender roles have again become an decisive site for political struggle; but mostly because the question of gender is always instrumental in defining the “enemy,” as the “act that brings the collective into being.
— Ana Teixeira Pinto (review of Male Fantasies, E-Flux)

One of the driving forces behind this new left(ish) anti communism is something not terribly far from what Thewelit describes.

And here is a little experiment. Go to your Google search engine and write something like *Why Communism is not like Fascism*.

Then get back to me.

There is also the question of colonialism. The USSR (and Cuba) fought for African independence. The US fought against it. But it needs, also, to be pointed out that Henry Ford’s anti semitism (especially in his book The International Jew) was a great inspiration to Hitler.

The rise of what could be termed an anti-Semitic international movement followed in the wake of the World War I, which had spawned the myth that Jewish financiers had caused and perpetuated it. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which began circulating worldwide in 1919, gave those inclined to nurture apocalyptic interpretations of unsettling world events a key to understanding both the crisis of the liberal West and the Bolshevik takeover. The war and the Protocols profoundly changed anti-Semitism, altering the arguments of antiSemites and the quality and ferocity of anti-Semitic discourse. This transformation remains underappreciated in two respects: the degree to which the new conspiracy theory superseded older religious and biologistic anti-Semitism, and the degree to which the new anti Semitism was international in nature. Based on the specious Protocols, the new anti-Semitic code interpreted both financial capitalism and communism as two strategies in one and the same Jewish plot, an idea that was by no means a Nazi invention.
— Stefan Link

So, the conflating of fascism and communism was born out of a western industrialist’s bigotry and prejudice, and embraced early by western capital. And it found a fertile audience with anti semites of all stripes.

None of this is to say that the Revolutions in Russia and China did not suffer complex and even radical failures. Wilhelm Reich was hugely disappointed in the rejection of psychoanalysis by the USSR. Brecht wrote Benjamin as early as 1937:

In Russia a dictatorship rules over the proletariat. We should avoid disassociating ourselves from this dictatorship for as long as it still does useful work for the proletariat – i.e. so long as it contributes towards a reconciliation between the proletariat and the peasantry, giving prime recognition to proletarian interests.

The sclerotic creep in arts and culture was tragic, but great work was still being done. The Soviet King Lear is among the great films of all time. Paranoia ground away at the national psyche, the accumulative affects from 50 years of Western pressures. But the point is not what worked, or what failed, but rather the alternative. Judging Stalin or Mao or Castro cannot be done from the p.o.v. of western chauvinism. A position that takes for granted the moral primacy of the Imperialist western state. But that is exactly what is happening more and more frequently. And giving any credence to the conflation of socialism and fascism is not just lazy, but deeply reactionary.

One hears constantly what “monsters” Mao or Stalin were. One rarely hears the designers of the genocide against the Indigenous tribes of the Americas referred to as monsters. Was Andrew Jackson a monster? Was Teddy Roosevelt? Were any of those “Indian killers” so venerated in American folklore?

Look up the Gnadenhutten Massacre, where near a hundred Christianized Delaware tribesmen were beaten to death with wooden mallets in 1782, or the slaughter of Creeks (Battle of Tippecanoe, 1811) by William Henry Harrison (who, naturally, became president since nothing so prepares one for the oval office as genocidal violence), or look up “The Indian Removal Act”, or as Donald L. Fixico writes,

On November 29, 1864, a former Methodist minister, John Chivington, led a surprise attack on peaceful Cheyennes and Arapahos on their reservation at Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado. His force consisted of 700 men, mainly volunteers in the First and Third Colorado Regiments. Plied with too much liquor the night before, Chivington and his men boasted that they were going to kill Indians. Once a missionary to Wyandot Indians in Kansas, Chivington declared, ‘Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians!…I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heavens to kill Indians.’
That fateful cold morning, Chivington led his men against 200 Cheyennes and Arapahos. Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle had tied an American flag to his lodge pole as he was instructed, to indicate his village was at peace. When Chivington ordered the attack, Black Kettle tied a white flag beneath the American flag, calling to his people that the soldiers would not kill them. As many as 160 were massacred, mostly women and children.

‘Indian killers’ like Harrison and Jackson are venerated. Jackson is on the 20 dollar bill.

But Jackson is even worse than his horrifyingly brutal record with regard to Native Americans indicates. Indian removal was not just a crime against humanity, it was a crime against humanity intended to abet another crime against humanity: By clearing the Cherokee from the American South, Jackson hoped to open up more land for cultivation by slave plantations. He owned hundreds of slaves, and in 1835 worked with his postmaster general to censor anti-slavery mailings from northern abolitionists. The historian Daniel Walker Howe writes that Jackson, “expressed his loathing for the abolitionists vehemently, both in public and in private.”
— Dylan Matthews (Vox, 2016)

So, we have a coalescing of white male repressions projecting outward by way of a latent Puritanical reflex, one that must keep someone in the stocks, with an insidious white nationalism out to create hierarchies within hierarchies regards passports and citizenship — in the interest of controlling surplus populations, and a neo left anti communism made up of a structural Ayn Randian Capitalism, with equal parts Lyndon LaRouche, and Hannah Arendt by way of Noam Chomsky.

Nearly 1,000 US military bases trace an arc from the Andes to North Africa across the Middle East to Indonesia, the Philippines and North Korea, sweeping over all major oil resources — all related, in part, to projecting force for the sake of energy security. Further, the “upstream emissions” of greenhouse gases from the manufacture of military equipment, infrastructure, vehicles and munitions used in oil supply protection and oil-driven wars should also be included in the overall environmental impact of using gasoline. Adding these factors into their calculations, the authors conclude that about “20 percent of the conventional DoD budget … is attributable to the objective of oil security.
— Liska and Perrin (Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development)

The Soviet Union provided hope, as did Cuba, for millions in the third world fighting for independence and some fragile sense of dignity. And the U.S. fought AGAINST it. The problem of air travel pollution should not be transferred to the people, individuals or families, who might occasionally take vacations. It is the responsibility of the war machine, of global finance, and trans national corporations. Most people can no longer afford much travel, anyway. But that’s not the point. Its this ugly guilt-tripping morality-gestapo that seems so active on social media and throughout the haute bourgeoisies of the West. When I hear and read these veiled and not veiled attacks on socialist countries, I always suspect agent provocateurs but then I’m likely clinically paranoid at this point.

When Castro died the grief from Africa was palpable…

Cuba’s 1975-6 intervention proved decisive in the rapid consolidation of the MPLA as the ruling party in the oil-rich state of Angola in Southern Africa. Cuban internationalists would remain in Angola until 1989 after the defeat of the racist South African Defense Forces (SADF) the previous year leading to the independence of neighboring Namibia (South-West Africa) under the occupation of the apartheid regime based in Pretoria.{ } Numerous African political leaders have expressed their condolences to the Cuban government and people. The nation of Algeria in North Africa declared eight days of official mourning in honor of the revolutionary leader who assisted in the defense of the country during the early years of national independence from France.
— Abayomi Azikiwe (Pambazuka News)

That does not sound like failure to me.2

For white males in this (U.S.) society, over the age of forty, there is always going to be a residual misogyny and racism. The legacies of our fathers. And of their fathers before them. America was a slave owning genocidal nation of killers and thieves. The point is to overcome that residual bigotry and prejudice. It takes work. But this is an aspect of the destruction of education. It stops people acquiring the tools to self educate. Nobody reads anymore. And it opens the door for voices like Jordan Peterson (as just an example) who grant permission to cling to your old judgements and bigotries. Permission to valorize what, in fact, HAS to change. If one wants the world to survive.

The USSR traded civil liberties for a society in which all citizens were lifted out of poverty. A society that can enjoy free health care and education, hugely subsidized housing, and free public transport and an absolute protection against exploitation. That is a real choice. If you are teetering on homelessness, (in Los Angeles today the homeless population is, at least, 75, 000 ..and that has to be a low ball figure) the choice is obvious. If, that is, those people knew there was a choice. Again, this new anti communism comes from people who almost never had to face such problems. It is a new bourgeois conceit to embrace leftism cosmetically, but reject it on a deeper level. The new anti communism on the left, as I say, feels increasingly anti-semitic to me. It decries *totalitarianism* (sic) while shaming those it deems morally culpable. Morally lacking. You know, like people who fly on jet airplanes.

The desire for “real socialism”, as a criticism, was summarised by Michael Parenti years ago…

But a real socialism, it is argued, would be controlled by the workers themselves through direct participation instead of being run by Leninists, Stalinists, Castroites, or other ill-willed, power-hungry, bureaucratic, cabals of evil men who betray revolutions. Unfortunately, this “pure socialism” view is ahistorical and nonfalsifiable; it cannot be tested against the actualities of history. It compares an ideal against an imperfect reality, and the reality comes off a poor second. It imagines what socialism would be like in a world far better than this one, where no strong state structure or security force is required, where none of the value produced by workers needs to be expropriated to rebuild society and defend it from invasion and internal sabotage.

Trump actually declared Nov 7th a national day for the victims of communism. No, this is not The Onion.

By law, members Ukrainian paramilitary groups that fought with the Nazis against the Red Army in the Second World War are now heroes of Ukrainian independence.
— Scott Sehon and Kristin Ghodsee (Aeon Magazine)

Yeah, that should read U.S. supported Ukrainian paramilitaries. Open Nazis. Poland, arch reactionary Poland, has created a law banning Communist symbols, so terrified are they of people’s memories.

From Dehon and Ghodsee’s piece again:

A 2009 poll in eight east European countries asked if the economic situation for ordinary people was ‘better, worse or about the same as it was under communism’. The results stunned observers: 72 per cent of Hungarians, and 62 per cent of both Ukrainians and Bulgarians believed that most people were worse off after 1989. In no country did more than 47 per cent of those surveyed agree that their lives improved after the advent of free markets. Subsequent polls and qualitative research across Russia and eastern Europe confirm the persistence of these sentiments as popular discontent with the failed promises of free-market prosperity has grown, especially among older people.

There is a reason communism so scared the captains of industry in the U.S. The ruling class spent inordinate energy and time propagandizing against socialist ideas. It has gone on for eighty some years and never abated.

Joel Kovel made a huge distinction between ecology and environmentalism. As he often said (I sort of paraphrase)… Our ecological system is broken; the cause is capitalism!

Lest anyone misunderstand here; adopting energy efficient and renewable sources, and expanding public transportation and reducing reliance on private motor vehicles, and on air travel, is all good. But to get there, from here, means starting with the Imperialist project of domination. It does not work the other way round. One has to always start with a class analysis. Our “individual” choices, our “carbon footprint” etc…none of this is meaningful UNTIL the engine behind global destruction is addressed. Our individual choices are not ‘choices ‘ until that happens.

  1. See “Golden visa schemes put at risk the EU’s integrity and security and should be banned, say S&Ds” and “Malta slammed for cash-for-passport program.”
  2. Or read this piece on the Cuban response to the Ebola outbreak.

Macron and the Air France Experience

On an Air France flight from Paris to Latin America, the plane is full, mostly with working class Latinos, going home for Christmas to spend a few festive days with their families and friends. They have worked hard to save their money for the trip. The plane is old and decrepit. Has no properly working entertainment system and that on a trajectory of over 12 hours without interruption. Who cares. Management knows that the humble passengers won’t complain. Anyway, they are under-people. Let’s reserve the better and newer planes for classier people. They pay better, are better clients. Isn’t that the thinking behind such decisions? Of course, it is. It’s the greed-driven maximizing profit scheme to the detriment of the population. It’s not just AF, it’s everywhere. Everywhere you look and are touched by a corporate giant. We, the people, are not even sheeple anymore; we are silenced. We are not asked, not consulted, whether we agree to be photographed and face-read at every corner. It’s just the way it is. It’s intimidation by control, by over-control, and by cattle treatment. In this, the French and the US TSA (Transportation Security Administration) are not far apart.

For airport security, you are pushed through what I call a “naked-machine”  Though they tell you that it’s not true, that nobody sees anything other than potential drugs or weapons hidden in human crevices. Well, if they see crevices, they must see you naked. Behind the scene hidden away in some dark room are the machine operators, they see every human passing through it naked, balls, vagina, breasts and all. Imagine, the absurdly obscene, pathological imagination of those operators and those who command them!

A machine, a robot of sort, disposes over you. If you don’t conform, you are just left behind, or harassed no end, you may literally lose your plane or connection. Cases of the US TSA abound – some of them are violent and are brought before a court – but in most cases to no avail. The ‘system’ is always right. And mind you the system is a private system.  It’s not even state owned.  It’s  outsourcing and privatization “Über Alles”. But no protests à la Yellow Vests. We are conveniently silenced. It’s Macron “Über Alles” – sounds like déjà vu? Well, yes. It is.  Neofascism is undeniable.

Yes, that’s the way the ordeal begins. Actually, it begins earlier – at the check-in, for example. AF weigh your luggage by the kilo, and while some agents are a bit more lenient than others, if you are unlucky it hits you having a kilo in excess. Either you somehow dispose of it or reshuffle it to hand luggage which also has a limitation of weight, you are charged the fee for an extra luggage. What to do?  You are at the airport. They have a captive “market”, because this money-profit centered “market” system has the power over you. You are at the airport, you have to fly, you charge this horrendous extra fee to your credit card, or else you are left behind; no scruples. That’s Macron 101. No concessions. And the French employees are well trained, lest they may lose their badly paid, but nevertheless vital jobs. You want to survive – bend over. No solidarity, no empathy, just hardball. Le Roi Macron says so. And you better obey — or else — but the ‘or else’ has now suddenly gotten a yellow face – the Yellow Vests. We can just hope that they will propel the finance-mafia dictator into his overdue abyss.

Next, boarding the plane – an elderly passenger visibly with a hurting leg, kindly asked the flight assistant, alias the “cattle guard”, whether he could go through with the privileged ‘frequent flyers’, those who have given the company enough money to justify an extra discriminatory favor. She refuses. He insists, she refuses – until a man behind tells her, for human’s sake, please let him through. She hesitantly nods, then lets him go through.

What does all that have to do with Macron? – Everything. The sort of de-humanized civil behavior is what he instills in people, in corporations. Greed first, everything else, like solidarity, is not even second, it’s of no value. The young who want so desperately rto cling to their slave-paid jobs, have to obey, or else they may lose their employment. But now it’s gone too far. Enough is enough. The Yellow Vests represent every industry, every citizen, every abject Macron law; they want to reverse the wheel, à la French Revolution. Enough is enough. Enough privileges for the rich and powerful. Even on the planes.

In ‘economy’, where the cattle is herded, those who saved hard to afford a trip to see their families, rows are getting narrower and narrower. Over time your legs get cramped; an increased risk of thromboses that can be deadly, especially when it happens on 10,000 meters altitude, far from an airport, above the sea. This, of course, is quite different for those on first, business or economy plus class. They have more space, sit comfortably, and their entertainment system works fine even on an old decrepit plane. Proper maintenance for the rich and beautiful, neglect for the “less beautiful” populace.

When I complain about the inoperable entertainment system (ES), the chief of cabin arrives. He promises to see what he can do. After a while he returns with a tablet-screen full of my previous AF flights. I’m a good customer. So, he discretely offers me to be placed on an economy-plus seat, where the ES works. He whispers, you are a good customer, so we will do something for you. Amazing in an overcrowded plane he finds an unoccupied seat. I go and look at it – and as soon as they – the flight attendants for the better people – see me, they say, “Sir, the bathrooms are in the rear”. When I tell them that the cabin chief offered me a seat in their section, their tone changes: “Sir, can we offer you a glass of Champaign?” I’m disgusted, but politely decline, deciding to stay with my kind of ‘cattle’. I prefer reading and writing – like this little essay – among my same-sakes. And am happy about it.

The cabin chief was admittedly nice. He fulfilled his duty, keeping a relatively ‘good customer’ happy, I have to admit. I’m fodder for the ‘maximizing profit’ doctrine. Yet, due to his friendly smile and body language, I give him the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully, not all those who have to make a living off the neoliberal Macron and greed driven money machine, have lost their innermost identity. That’s the cloud’s silver lining. That’s the remaining hope to build on. Hope is the last glow that dies.

Food service used to be decent with AF. No longer. They don’t have you pay for it yet, but it is almost inedible. But then, I think of the millions of Yemenis, who thanks to the western and Macron-supported killing machine, are suffering and dying from famine. So, I eat my portion happily. As a parenthesis, according to the UN, about 85,000 children below age 5 perished through the satanical Saudi-US-UK-French led war of horror. Most of the children died from famine and cholera induced diseases. I was thinking of those big eyed and skeleton-like bodies, too weak to stand, let alone walk, destroyed for life from famine.

What does that have to do with Macron? Everything, of course. Macron’s Airforce helped the crime regime of the Saudis bombing Yemen, a poor but proud people, to bits and pieces; to kill possibly hundreds of thousands – nobody counts – mainly children and women. Macron, siding with the elite – he surely has no reason whatsoever to bomb Yemen – helped the ‘allies’ of crime destroy an entire nation. He, of course, is not alone, but accompanied by the best and the brightest of the western allies, even Germany – which, according to their non-aggression treaty (remnant of the WWII Armistice arrangement) is not allowed to participate in any conflict hostility emanating from her territory except, of course, if the Master of the treaty orders it.

The Yellow Vests want Macron out. Macron has become the enemy of the people. Literally. He is probably proud of it, because that’s testimony enough that he works for the rich and powerful, that he accomplishes the tasks he has been slanted and put in office for, with less the 25% of eligible votes. He lied, promising change, but change that benefitted the people. Change to the detriment of the people is what he implemented. The result is an equation of dynamics, the right has not thought of. Well, thanks god for these dynamics; they brought about the storming of the Bastille in 1789, and a transformation of much of the world. Though, granted, not all that came out of the French Revolution has persevered. The rich and powerful have an unlimited and insatiable stock of wealth to draw upon. Never mind that it’s stolen wealth.  As long as they dispose of it and are able to defend it with brute military and police power, they command.

And so, the merry-go-round continues. Air France will play the game; they have to. They are bound into the system, along with French corporatism. The name of the game is intimidation. “Inconvenient”, not-playing-by-the-rules staff are being dismissed. Of the face reading / passport machines, only one out of three is operable, causing long queues. Out of about 20 customs booths, only two are occupied by an agent. Macron saves at the cost of stressed passengers, who have to spend precious time in long lines, risking literally missing their connection planes.

But the Big shots don’t care. The populace’s time is worth peanuts.  It’s like slave time. In any case, you have to go through ‘the system’.  If not, screw you. You remain stranded.

Good riddens, Mr. Macron, very good riddens – to never appear again on the horizon. Vivent les “gilets verts”!