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Posts Tagged ‘Abraham Lincoln

“Crises and deadlocks when they occur have at least this advantage, that they force us to think”*…

 

Capitalism

 

In the spirit of Nehru’s sage injunction…

The COVID19 pandemic has exposed a strange anomaly in the global economy. If it doesn’t keep growing endlessly, it just breaks. Grow, or die.

But there’s a deeper problem. New scientific research confirms that capitalism’s structural obsession with endless growth is destroying the very conditions for human survival on planet Earth.

A landmark study in the journal Nature Communications, “Scientists’ warning on affluence” — by scientists in Australia, Switzerland and the UK — concludes that the most fundamental driver of environmental destruction is the overconsumption of the super-rich.

This factor lies over and above other factors like fossil fuel consumption, industrial agriculture and deforestation: because it is overconsumption by the super-rich which is the chief driver of these other factors breaching key planetary boundaries.

The paper notes that the richest 10 percent of people are responsible for up to 43 percent of destructive global environmental impacts.

In contrast, the poorest 10 percent in the world are responsible just around 5 percent of these environmental impacts…

It confirms that global structural inequalities in the distribution of wealth are intimately related to an escalating environmental crisis threatening the very existence of human societies.

Synthesising knowledge from across the scientific community, the paper identifies capitalism as the main cause behind “alarming trends of environmental degradation” which now pose “existential threats to natural systems, economies and societies.”…

The research provides an important scientific context for how we can understand many earlier scientific studies revealing that industrial expansion has hugely increased the risks of new disease outbreaks.

Just last April, a paper in Landscape Ecology found that deforestation driven by increased demand for consumption of agricultural commodities or beef have increased the probability of ‘zoonotic’ diseases (exotic diseases circulating amongst animals) jumping to humans. This is because industrial expansion, driven by capitalist pressures, has intensified the encroachment of human activities on wildlife and natural ecosystems.

Two years ago, another study in Frontiers of Microbiology concluded presciently that accelerating deforestation due to “demographic growth” and the associated expansion of “farming, logging, and hunting”, is dangerously transforming rural environments. More bat species carrying exotic viruses have ended up next to human dwellings, the study said. This is increasing “the risk of transmission of viruses through direct contact, domestic animal infection, or contamination by urine or faeces.”

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the COVID19 pandemic thus emerged directly from these rapidly growing impacts of human activities. As the new paper in Nature Communications confirms, these impacts have accelerated in the context of the fundamental operations of industrial capitalism.

The result is that capitalism is causing human societies to increasingly breach key planetary boundaries, such as land-use change, biosphere integrity and climate change.

Remaining within these boundaries is essential to maintain what scientists describe as a “safe operating space” for human civilization. If those key ecosystems are disrupted, that “safe operating space” will begin to erode. The global impacts of the COVID19 pandemic are yet another clear indication that this process of erosion has already begun…

Humanity’s “own goal”? “Capitalism is destroying ‘safe operating space’ for humanity, warn scientists.”

Pair with “A New Land Contract“…

Weirdly enough, the land system that we have today has its origins in a problem specific to medieval kings, which is ‘how do I fund military campaigns and defence, without paying to keep a standing army?’

And it was William the Conqueror who perfected the answer. It was a piece of paper. And on that piece of paper was basically an agreement between the Crown and a noble, saying ‘if you provide men for military campaigns when I ask, in exchange I will grant you a monopoly over your own private fiefdom, where you can levy as high taxes as people can bear to pay’.

So effectively — rent is the original tax, paid via lords to the King.

In fact the word ‘feudal’ derives from the latin word feudalis — for ‘fee’. In other words, rent. So the whole system of government by which the Normans ruled over the Anglo Saxons was based on rent…

So what you’re left with is a set of power relations in society: an enforced system of servitude and control. As the economist Henry George pointed out, it is essentially a diluted version of slavery.

“Ownership of land always gives ownership of people… Place one hundred people on an island from which there is no escape. Make one of them the absolute owner of the others — or the absolute owner of the soil. It will make no difference — either to owner or to the others — which one you choose. Either way, one individual will be the absolute master of the other ninety-nine.”

And “Basic income isn’t just a nice idea. It’s a birthright“…

A basic income might defeat the scarcity mindset that has seeped so deep into our culture, freeing us from the imperatives of competition and allowing us to be more open and generous people. If extended universally, across borders, it might help instil a sense of solidarity – that we’re all in this together, and all have an equal right to the planet. It might ease the anxieties that gave us Brexit and Trump, and take the wind out of the fascist tendencies rising elsewhere in nativism that is spreading across much of the world.

We’ll never know until we try. And try we must, or brace ourselves for a 21st century of almost certain misery…

As Paul Romer (and so many others) have observed, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”…

[TotH to Patrick Tanguay (@inevernu)]

* Jawaharlal Nehru

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As we ruminate on remedies, we might recall that it was on this date in 1864 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Valley Grant Act (Senate Bill 203), giving California the Yosemite Valley and the nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove “upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation.”

Mirror Lake, Yosemite
Carleton E. Watkins, photographer, circa 1860.
source: Library of Congress

 

“It’s hard for me to get used to these changing times. I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty.”*…

This fall’s entering college students, the class of 2020, were born in 1998 and cannot remember a time when they had to wait for anything. They also can’t recall a time when the United States was not at war, or when someone named Bush or Clinton was not running for office.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students about to enter college.

In their lifetimes they have always had eBay and iMacs, and India and Pakistan have always had the bomb. The Sopranos and SpongeBob SquarePants have always been part of popular culture, Gretzky and Elway have always been retired, and Vladimir Putin has always been in charge in the Kremlin.

And although they think of themselves as a powerful generation—Sanders voters, consumers—they are faced with the prospect of student loan debt and of robots and foreigners taking their jobs making them feel anxious and weak…

This year’s Mindset List

* George Burns

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As we muster to matriculate, we might recall that it was on this date in 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the (preliminary) Emancipation Proclamation, announcing that if the rebel states did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in those states would be free.  No Confederate state capitulated, and on the first day of 1863, President Lincoln issued the Proclamation declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

Despite it’s expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, of course, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.

Still, it captured the hearts and imagination of millions of Americans and fundamentally transformed the character of the war.  After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom.  Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators.  By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

“First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln,” by Francis Bicknell Carpenter

source

 

Written by LW

September 22, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The counterfeit and counterpart of Nature is reproduced in art”*…

 

Uncut sheets of partially finished phony bills. Photo courtesy of Frank Bourassa

Years of running drugs and boosting cars left Frank Bourassa thinking: There’s got to be an easier way to earn a dishonest living. That’s when he nerved up the idea to make his fortune. (Literally.) Which is how Frank became the most prolific counterfeiter in American history—a guy with more than $200 million in nearly flawless fake twenties stuffed in a garage. How he got away with it all, well, that’s even crazier…

Read the extraordinary ballad of the banknotes at “The Paper Caper: the World’s Greatest Counterfeiter.”

* Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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As we hold our bills up to the light, we might recall that it was on this date in 1876 that a gang of counterfeiters attempted (and failed) to steal Lincoln’s body from his tomb.

When the tomb was completed in 1874, Lincoln’s coffin was placed in a white marble sarcophagus in a burial room behind only a steel gate locked with a padlock, where he remained undisturbed for two years. In November 1876, Irish crime boss James “Big Jim” Kennally, who ran a counterfeiting ring in Chicago, decided on a plan for the release of their engraver, Benjamin Boyd, who’d been arrested and sentenced to ten years at the Illinois State Penitentiary in Joliet. The plan was to steal Lincoln’s body from its tomb, bury it in the Indiana Dunes along Lake Michigan to cover their tracks, and hold it for ransom, in exchange for a full pardon for Boyd and $200,000 ($4,255,319 in 2012 dollars) in cash.

To that end, Kennally recruited two members of his gang, Terrence Mullen and Jack Hughes, to carry out the plot. As they discussed their plans at “the Hub”, a saloon on Madison Street in Chicago, they realized that neither had any experience with bodysnatching, and so they recruited a third man, Lewis Swegles, to assist them; Swegles brought in a man named Billy Brown as the getaway driver. Their plan was to journey to Springfield on the overnight train on November 6, scout out the tomb on the day of November 7, and take the body that evening, while the people’s attention was on the presidential elections. None of them had any experience with lock-picking, so they had to cut through the padlock with a file. They then opened up the sarcophagus, but were unable to move the 500-pound, lead-lined cedar coffin more than a few inches. Mullen and Hughes sent Swegles to retrieve the wagon, but instead Swegles tipped off the waiting law enforcement officials in the vestibule of the tomb; Swegles and Brown were in fact paid informants of the United States Secret Service (at the time intended to stop counterfeiting, not protect the President). Swegles had gone to Patrick D. Tyrrell, the Secret Service chief in Chicago, when he received word of the plot. As the lawmen moved in, one of the Pinkerton detectives present accidentally discharged his pistol, causing Mullen and Hughes to flee back to the Hub in Chicago. They were arrested by Tyrrell and his agents the following evening.

[source]

Lincoln’s Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

source

 

Written by LW

November 7, 2014 at 1:01 am

Up, Up, and Away…

Your correspondent is headed behind the Great Firewall of China, which has been especially well-fortified for this week’s 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, proceedings which will feature the once-a-decade change in Party (thus, national) leadership;  connectivity to the freer precincts of the outside world will, therefore, be challenged.  Regular service should resume on or around November 12…

 

 click here for interactive version

The Brookings Institute presents an interactive graphic that…

… provides first-of-its kind data on the flow of international passengers in and out of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas. It features data describing the scale of these flows and it calls out the international markets where these ties are particularly strong. What’s more, this tool goes beyond describing where passengers are going and tells us how they get there. Using data on transfer points and a map that visualizes each leg of each international route, it paints a portrait of how our global aviation infrastructure rises to meet the demand of international passengers.

Watch the flow at “Global Gateways: International Aviation in Metropolitan America.”

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As we check to confirm that our passports are still current, we might recall that it was on this date (the wedding anniversary of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln) in 2008 that Barak Obama was elected the first African-American President of the United States.

 source

 

Written by LW

November 4, 2012 at 1:01 am

Long ago and not so far away…

Dear Photograph has the simplest of m.o.’s: “take a picture of a picture from the past in the present.”

Dear Photograph,
Where did all my super powers go?
Emily Yaung

Dear Photograph,
Thank you for everything we had.
@jonathanstampf

Dear Photograph,
Dad always had the comfiest shoulder.
David

Many more time-spanning treasures at Dear Photograph.

As we wax nostalgic, we might recall that it was on this date in 1864 that President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Valley Grant Act (Senate Bill 203), giving California the Yosemite Valley and the nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove “upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation.”

Mirror Lake, Yosemite
Carleton E. Watkins, photographer, circa 1860.
source: Library of Congress

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