I Just Hope There’s no Sparrow Hell

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I feel sad for the planet that people are so straight-jacketed and tongue-tied against ever whispering a word about the human overpopulation crisis.

People won’t hesitate to speak up if a non-human animal species becomes overpopulated (usually because humans have changed its environment and/or killed off its natural predators), but they continue to tiptoe around the issue of their own species overpopulation…

There’s way too many of us to be telling people, ‘just consume less and we’ll be fine.’ As popular as that might be to some of us, the human footprint is much too deep and heavy to get off so lightly.

 

Like cows in search of greener pastures, we’ve worn an indelible trail to our own demise. We’ve come so far on this narrow trail that it’s getting too late to turn back now…

 

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I’m reading a true story wherein the main character/victim is a mother who, though she has 2 kids already and then had her tubes tied, re-marries and wants to have more babies with her new husband. One of her eggs is in-vitro fertilized and she ends up having quadruplets (in addition to the 2 she already had). After she is murdered by her ex-husband, her younger sister (who has 4 kids of her own) helps take care of them…

Anyway, long story short, there’s too many humans now to just say. ‘Just buy a little less’ and we’ll all be ok’. That’s an oversimplification sort of like Gorge W. Bush telling people to go out shopping after 9-11. Good for the 7-11s in the world maybe, but not the full answer the Earth really needs right now.

In other words, until we address the overpopulation of humans, we may as well tell people to just go out and go shopping.

Until humans come down from their pedestal and decide that we are animals, beholden to the same laws of nature as any others, we’ll never escape the mess we’re in…

Planet of the Censoring Humans

The campaign to remove Michael Moore’s new documentary from the Internet – led by Moore’s erstwhile progressive “allies” – is a significant advance in the censorship revolution

Matt Taibbi May 29

On April 21st, 2020, just before the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, Oscar-winning director/producer Michael Moore released a new movie called Planet of the Humans. Directed by Jeff Gibbs, the film is a searing look at the ostensible failures of the environmentalist movement, to which Moore and Gibbs both belonged.

“Jeff and I were at the first Earth Day celebrations,” Moore laughs. “That’s how old we are.”

Distributed for free on YouTube, the film’s central argument is that the environmentalist movement, fattened by corporate donations, has become seduced by an industrialist delusion.

“The whole idea of the film was to ask a question – after fifty years of the environmentalist movement, how are we doing?” recounts Moore. “It looks like, not very well.”

Moore and Gibbs challenged the idea that both the planet and humankind’s current patterns of industrial production can be saved through the magic bullet of “renewable energy.” The film shows lurid examples of various deceptions, like the oft-used trick of replacing coal plants with new natural gas plants, which are then called “clean” or “green,” or the hideous trend of describing the burning of trees as a “renewable” energy source.

Environmentalists denounced the film as riddled with “lies” and “misinformation,” claiming among other things that Moore used old data to discredit green technology. A campaign to remove the film from circulation immediately took shape.

“Within 24 hours of it going out on YouTube, people got to work on trying to take the film down,” explains Moore. He immediately started hearing about emails denouncing the film that were being circulated to what seemed like “everyone on the left.”

An “action letter” composed by environmentalist Josh Fox was circulated, describing the film as “dangerous, misleading, and destructive” and demanding an “immediate retraction.” Films for Action, an online archive of progressive movies, initially bent to Fox’s demands by taking the film out of its library, only to put it back up a half-day later out of a desire to avoid a “messy debate about censorship.”

An intense campaign of editorials followed, and a roughly month later, YouTube actually removed the film. The platform cited a four-second piece of footage shot by filmmaker Toby Smith that supposedly was a copyright infringement. Moore, who says all his films are “heavily lawyered,” insists the footage was legal under Fair Use laws, which allow the use of portions of copyrighted work without the permission of the owner. (In one of many ironies, Fair Use laws have long been celebrated by progressives as an invaluable tool for journalists and artists).

The significance of the Moore incident is that it shows that a long-developing pattern of deletions and removals is expanding. The early purges were mainly of small/fringe voices on either the far right or far left, or infamously fact-challenged personalities like Alex Jones. The removal of a film by Moore – a heavily-credentialed figure long revered by the liberal mainstream – takes place amid a dramatic acceleration of such speech-suppression incidents, many connected to the coronavirus disaster.

A pair of California doctors were taken off YouTube for declaring stay-at-home measures unnecessary; right-wing British broadcaster and trumpeter of shape-shifting reptile theories David Icke was taken off YouTube; a video by Rockefeller University epidemiologist Knut Wittknowski was taken down, apparently for advocating a “herd immunity” approach to combating the virus. These moves all came after the popular libertarian site Zero Hedge was banned from Twitter, ostensibly for suggesting a Chinese scientist in Wuhan was responsible for coronavirus.

In late April, the World Socialist Web Site – which has been one of the few consistent critics of Internet censorship and algorithmic manipulation – was removed by Reddit from the r/coronavirus subreddit on the grounds that it was not “reliable.” The site was also removed from the whitelist for r/politics, the primary driver of traffic from Reddit to the site. Then in early May, at least 52 Palestinian activists and journalists were removed from Facebook for “not following community standards,” part of a years-long pattern of removals made in cooperation with the Israeli government.

On May 13, human rights activist Jennifer Zeng noted that YouTube was automatically deleting Chinese-language references to terms insulting to the Chinese government, like gongfeior “communist bandit.” Congressional candidate Shahid Buttar complained an interview with Walker Bragman about Democrats supporting surveillance powers was removed by YouTube. Evan Greer of the speech advocacy group Fight for the Future had a post flagged by Facebook’s “independent fact checkers”—in this case, that noted pillar of factuality, USA Today – dinging him for a “partly false” claim that the Senate had voted to allow warrantless searches of browsing history.

These and many other incidents came in addition to a slew of moves aimed at right-wing speakers accused of varying degrees of conspiratorial misinformation and/or hate speech, from a decision by Twitter to begin “fact-checks” of Donald Trump to wholesale removals from Facebook of “anti-immigrant” sites like VDare and the Unz Review.

One problem is the so-called “reputable” fact-checking authorities many platforms are relying upon have terrible factual histories themselves. There’s an implication that “misinformation” by foreign or independent actors is somehow more dangerous than broadly-disseminated official deceptions about U.S. misbehavior abroad, or manufactured scandals like Russiagate. We now expect libertarian or socialist pages to be zapped at any minute, but none of the outlets which amplified the bogus Steele dossier have been put in Internet timeout.

Moreover, despite widespread propaganda to the contrary, the new movement to regulate speech on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube is, actually, censorship. In the United States, high-ranking politicians in both parties have held congressional hearings and threatened these tech companies with tighter regulation and taxation if they do not develop policies for combating the “fomenting of discord.”

In response, these companies – which as recently as four or five years ago were disavowing editorial responsibilities, in the case of Facebook going so far as to deny being a media company at all – are now instituting vast new controls. It’s a clear symbiosis: governments permit mining of lucrative markets in exchange for access to the platforms’ monitoring powers.

“That’s censorship,” says Andre Damon of the World Socialist Web Site. “That’s a First Amendment issue.”

Throughout the last four years, it’s mainly been left to people affected by these new policies to point out the obvious, that relying on star-chambers of corporate gatekeepers to oversee information flow will have dramatic consequences. These voices seem to be the only ones interested in sticking up for the rights of political opponents.

“I don’t think anyone can confuse me for a supporter of Donald Trump, but I see the danger of celebration of Twitter fact-checking him, because that’s going to be the model for all of us,” says Ali Abuminah, author and co-founder of Electronic Intifada, which has extensively covered the suppression of speech in Palestine by Facebook, including the recent removals.

“It’s always presented as, ‘We’re going to crack down on white supremacists and anti-vaxxers,’” says Damon“But the practical impact of speech controls is always to advance the interests of the ruling class.”

The pseudonymous editor of Zero Hedge, Tyler Durden, points out that even when platform bans of sites like his are reported by mainstream press outlets, reporters rarely address the underlying rights issue. “Nobody really digs into the First Amendment angle,” he says. “They’re going after the far right, they’re going after the middle right. They’re going after the far left and the middle left. Where does it end?”

We already have a clear picture of what the endgame of public-private content regulation partnerships might look like, through the experience of other countries. In an extreme example, as far back as 2016, Israel’s Justice Minister boasted that Facebook was complying with “95 percent” of its requests for content regulation, deleting thousands of posts by Palestinians.

“Palestine is often the canary in the coal mine on speech issues,” laments Abunimah.

In Germany, which has strict hate speech laws, Facebook maintains an archipelago of ominously-named “deletion centers,” with as many as 1,200 employees at a single site, to sift through content in search of “community standards” violations. Under pressure from politicians and pundits alike, platforms began moving in this direction in the U.S. years ago, with Facebook announcing mass hires of employees with Orwellian titles like “community reviewers” and “news credibility specialists.”

The drive to step up “content control” isn’t all driven from the top down. A major additional factor has been the growth of a new intellectual movement geared toward delegitimizing speech and rationalizing censorship. The Moore incident provided a clear demonstration of how this new social reflex works.


In Planet of the Humans, Moore and Gibbs make a complex argument. In essence, they charge that people have become dependent upon the high-consumption lifestyles made possible by fossil fuels, and that it’s our addiction to that way of life, as much as to fossil fuels themselves, that is driving humanity off a “cliff.”

Their core criticism is aimed at big-name environmental leaders like Bill McKibben and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., whom Gibbs and Moore argue have de-emphasized this truth to sell a fantasy – profitable equally to industry and environmental movements – that we can innovate our way to survival.

As is usually the case with Moore movies, Planet of the Humans across as a case for the prosecution. Whether he’s denouncing George W. Bush or the health care industry, Moore always sails close to the wind factually, and often leaves out mitigating information a traditional journalist would feel obligated to include. This movie is no different. For instance, audiences are not told until the credits that McKibben, who is depicted on film celebrating the “beauty” of burning wood chips, eventually came out against biomass plants.

It’s easy to see why McKibben would be upset at the portrayal of him in the center of an argument that the environmental movement has overstressed the possibilities of renewable energy at the expense of changing consumption patterns. After all, he’s written books and given talks addressing that problem. Then again, most of the “criticism” of McKibben comes in the form of footage of him talking, and liberal audiences never had a problem previously when Moore declined to add humanizing context to unflattering tape of the Don Rumsfelds and Charlton Hestons of the world.

Moore’s movies have always been designed to gut-punch audiences, and his M.O. is being unafraid to be accused of being “unfair” when he’s warning of disaster in Iraq, of a future of normalized mass shootings, of a failure to address working-class issues he (correctly) predicted would lead to electoral victory by Donald Trump, etc. He’s a provocateur who dares opponents to call him out on the facts (here he is musing about a $10,000 reward for anyone who can find errors in Fahrenheit 9/11). Planet of the Humans features all of these tactics that simultaneously made traditional journalists nervous but earned plaudits among committed liberals: one gets the sense that Moore, his skin leather-thick after years of media battles, is intentionally provoking a backlash in an effort to kick-start what he feels is a debate people are running out of time to have.

Still, it’s easy to understand why activists who’ve dedicated their lives to closing coal plants and developing cleaner energies would feel betrayed at the depiction of alternative energies as failed or even counterproductive exercises in self-deception. The footage that caused YouTube to yank the film came in the middle of a brutal montage showing all the different rare industrial materials that have been mined via earth-disfiguring methods in the making of solar panels — a sequence as painful to watch as the infamous “Wouldn’t it be Nice” montage of devastated Flint in Roger and Me.

Is it right, as multiple critics have wondered, to show such a punishing visual without noting advances that have made solar cleaner and more efficient since the early scenes in the film were shot?

If the criticisms of Moore’s film stopped with questions like these, they might have been more sympathetic. Moore and Gibbs seemed anxious to engage such questions.  “Maybe we’re wrong,” Moore says. “We’d have liked to have that discussion. That was a big reason we made the movie.”

Instead, critics rolled out a now-familiar playbook to depict the movie as too villainous to exist.

The Trump era has seen the unveiling of a range of nuclear arguments against unwelcome speech. Progressives who traditionally decried censorship now often embrace it with gusto in cases of “misinformation,” white supremacy and other forms of bigotry, and “conspiracy theory,” among other things.

The new take is that episodes like Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the Charlottesville tragedy, a cascade of racially-motivated mass shootings and cases of police violence, and more recently the coronavirus disaster, have all proven that incorrect speech can no longer be tolerated. It’s now understood the consequences are simply too severe, especially for disadvantaged communities.

In the multitudinous critiques of Planet of the Humans, a creepy kind of rhetorical intersectionality is observed. Moore’s film is consistently depicted as not merely misinformation, conspiracy theory, or Trumpian hate speech, but somehow an interlocking combination of all of these things. Critics all seem to have gotten the same memo.

The biggest criticism comes in the film’s focus on overpopulation. In one much-derided scene, the director Gibbs notes it took modern humans “tens of thousands of years” to reach a world population of 700 million, but then tapped into millions of years of stored energy “increased by ten times in a mere two hundred years.” This fast-ascending population curve, Moore and Gibbs say, is also increasing consumption by as much as ten times per person.

Now, the environmentalist movement has been telling us for over half a century that rapid human growth and its insidious effects – sprawldeforestationhabitat lossoverfishing, etc. – are threatening species and warming the planet. It was not so long ago that deriding such concern was the exclusive preoccupation of right-wingers. Bush-era Republicans infamously thought liberal tree-huggers loved spotted owls more than people, and perhaps even nurtured plans for mass forced abortions to reduce world population (I wrote a book about an evangelical church that preached this idea).

With Planet of the Humans, we’ve come full circle. Now liberal critics are deriding all this tree-hugging as not just misanthropy, but supportive of racism and even genocide, using language that blows away Bush-era conservative rhetoric.

“Protecting the trees has almost always come with a judgment about which kind and color of humans they need protection from,” wrote Kate Aronoff at the New Republic. She added, “Gibbs does not appear to be a white nationalist himself, but his film echoes their approach.”

In The Nation, which lists Moore on its masthead as a contributing editor, Fox wrote a piece denouncing the film as not only “racist,” but, potentially, an “incitement to eco-fascist population controls.” He added:

We see old white male after old white male declaring there is no solution to climate change except reducing the population. (With this many white guys, we can only guess which groups of people are supposed to stop reproducing.)

Leah Stokes on Vox wrote the film’s takes on the dangers of overpopulation had “more in common with anti-immigration hate groups than the progressive movement” and expressed hope the film would be “buried.” Gizmodo argued the film has “more than a whiff of eugenics and ecofascism… Who are we going to knock off or control for?”

Given that the primary criticism of Moore’s film is that it unfairly depicts people like McKibben as sellouts, it’s more than a little odd that the apparently serious return criticism is that Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs want to massacre nonwhite people. This would be laughable were it not for the fact that the campaign succeeded.

The director of Roger and Me and Bowling for Columbine has had plenty of prior experience with efforts to suppress his work. In 2001, HarperCollins blocked the release of his book Stupid White Men, on the grounds that a book critical of the U.S. government was inappropriate after 9/11. In 2004, Disney tried to block subsidiary Miramax from distributing Fahrenheit 9/11, a film that detailed links between the families of Bush and Osama bin Laden.

Both attempts failed. Stupid White Men was released after a group of librarians flooded the publisher with protest letters, and Fahrenheit 9/11 was ultimately distributed after Miramax and Disney reworked their deal.

The clear difference in this case was Moore and Gibbs are taking on Shibboleths on the left, instead of the right. Erstwhile liberal allies this time employed a tactic the right never used, describing the film as not merely wrong but “dangerous.” In conjunction with the new embrace of Internet control, this was enough to achieve something that Bush and Cheney never did: suppression of major motion picture.

In the past, a copyright dispute would have been a matter for courts. So, too, would questions of defamation that might have been raised by the likes of McKibben. Now critics can just run to Mommy and Daddy tech companies to settle disputes, and there’s no clear process for those removed to argue their cases.

This is a situation that carries serious ramifications, especially for people who have less reach and financial clout than Moore. “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anybody,” is how Moore puts it.

This is probably why, apart from a few brave institutional voices like PEN America, none of the traditional defenders of speech (ahem, ACLU) have spoken out. As was the case with Julian Assange and even Alex Jones, a fear factor is probably part of the equation. Who wants to be seen defending, even in the abstract, the rights of an ally of Putin? A race-baiting talk show host? An “eco-fascist”? Couldn’t such a defense itself invite reports of violating “community standards,” and bring a fresh threat of removal?

Maybe Moore is wrong about the environmental movement, but these new suppression tactics are infinitely more dangerous than one movie ever could be

, and progressives seem to have lost the ability to care.

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Bear spotted running across all lanes of I-5 in Pierce County


The bear was spotted along I-5 between Dupont and Lakewood. (Photo: Wash. State Patrol)

LAKEWOOD, Wash. – Question: Why did the bear cross Interstate 5?

That’s what state troopers are asking after they spotted a black bear run across all lanes of I-5 at around 8 a.m. Sunday.

The bear was last seen west of I-5, about halfway between Lakewood and Dupont, and now troopers are asking motorists in that area to be on the lookout for the furry critter.

Trooper Ryan Burke

@wspd1pio

Be careful if you’re north I-5 near milepost 122! The bears are out today! Troopers on scene now attempting to avoid close contact.

77 people are talking about this

Agents with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife also have arrived on scene and are attempting to locate the bear.

Trooper Ryan Burke sent out a tweet asking drivers in that area to be careful because “the bears are out today!”

To which one commenter replied, “He’s looking for an Arby’s,” and another opined, “Be careful, it’s not wearing a mask!”

Do Humans Have a Moral Duty to Stop Procreating?

With the amount of destruction we’re causing, is it time we curbed our own population?

Whenever any animal population gets out of control, whether it be an overrun of deer or geese, humans usually step in and make plans to curb it through hunting or damaging nests. It seems cruel, but without natural predators to bring the population down, overpopulation could have devastating effects on the local environment. Yet, humans have shown themselves to be far more destructive than any other animal on this planet, so why don’t we offer ourselves the same consideration? I’m talking about anti-natalism here, the philosophical position that opposes procreation.

“If that level of destruction were caused by another species we would rapidly recommend that new members of that species not be brought into existence,” writes philosopher David Benatar.

There’s a fair argument to be made for anti-natalism that tears at most people’s desire to reproduce and a moral responsibility that few of us consider. This planet is overpopulated and we’re consuming more resources than the Earth can reproduce. You may not know this, but last week featured Earth Overshoot Day — the day when the Global Footprint Network announced that we’ve consumed a year’s worth of resources. The GFN estimates that the first Overshoot Day may have been back in the 1970s “due to the growth in the global population alongside the expansion of consumption around the world,” wrote Emma Howard from The Guardian.

“If that level of destruction were caused by another species, we would rapidly recommend that new members of that species not be brought into existence,” writes philosopher David Benatar, author of the anti-natalist book, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.

“Nothing is lost by never coming into existence. By contrast, ceasing to exist does have costs.”

Many humans are capable of reflecting on whether or not they should reproduce, but few do, according to Benatar. He explains in an article for The Critique:“This may be because humans are not as different from non-human animals as they would like to think. Like other animals, we are the products of evolution, with all the biological drives that such products can be expected to have.”

However, one of the main reasons for Benatar’s article is to explain what anti-natalism is not: “It is important to note that anti-natalism, while favouring human extinction, is a view about a particular means to extinction – namely non-procreation. Anti-natalists are not committed to either suicide or ‘speciecide,’ as some of their critics insensitively suggest. Nothing is lost by never coming into existence. By contrast, ceasing to exist does have costs.”

His piece is jarring and his book on the philosophical argument against procreation is even more so, but it challenges the presumption of “be fruitful and multiply” that most of us are brought up on. I have often stopped to think about whether or not I want to have children, but, for me, his argument challenges the deeper morality that has been absent from this decision.

Tyson warns more meat plant closures are coming

New York (CNN Business)Tyson warned Monday that it expects more meat plant closures this year.

The company also said it will continue producing less meat than usual, as workers refrain from coming to work during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have and expect to continue to face slowdowns and temporary idling of production facilities from team member shortages or choices we make to ensure operational safety,” the company said in a statement discussing financial results from the first three months of this year.
“We will not hesitate to idle any plant for deep cleaning when the need arises,” CEO Noel White added during an analyst call Monday.
The meat processor has shuttered a number of plants in recent weeks as workers fall ill with Covid-19. It’s warned that if the closures continue, America’s food supply will suffer.
“There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed,” Board chairman John Tyson warned in a full-page ad that appeared recently in newspapers across the country.

The Trump administration wants plants to reopen

Tyson warned that more disruptions are ahead.

In an executive order signed last week, the president gave Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue the power to invoke the Defense Production Act to force companies to keep their plants open. The order, however, has not led to a widespread reopening of meat production plants.
In a statement responding to the directive, Smithfield lauded the decision but noted that it is “evaluating next steps to open its currently shuttered facilities and will make announcements when it is ready to resume operations in each location.”
The day after the president signed the order, JBS USA announced it would partially reopen its pork production facility in Worthington, Minnesota — but only to euthanize hogs that won’t be processed because of bottlenecks in the supply chain.
“While our focus is on getting the Worthington facility back to work on behalf of our team members producing food for the nation, we believe we have a responsibility to step up when our producer partners are in need,” Bob Krebs, President of JBS USA Pork, said in a statement. “None of us want to euthanize hogs, but our producers are facing a terrible, unprecedented situation.”
The National Pork Producers Council also praised the order but acknowledged that hogs will still go to waste.
“While getting pork packing plants back online is foundational, the tragic reality is that millions of hogs can’t enter the food supply,” the council said in a statement, adding “we need coordinated partnership between the industry and federal, state and local authorities to euthanize pigs.”
The pandemic has halved the amount of pork processing capacity in the country, according to the company.
The challenge for Tyson: While meat processing plants have ground to a stop, consumer demand for meat is up.
Tyson (TSN) reported selling 2.7% more more beef by volume in the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2019. Pork sales popped 2% by volume, while chicken sales fell 1.5%, partially because of restaurant closures due to the pandemic.
Overall, retail sales are up about 30% to 40%, White estimated. In food service, he added, sales have fallen about 25% to 30%

Michael Moore Embraces the Overpopulation Fallacy [” “]

Robert Zubrin

National Review

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE M ichael Moore and Jeff Gibbs have released a new movie. Entitled “Planet of the Humans,” the film examines the question of whether “green energy” can “save the planet” from global warming. Their answer is an unequivocal “no.” Instead, a more effective final solution is needed for the human problem.

Planet of the Humans has been received warmly by many on the right, and coldly by much of the left, because it forcefully attacks wind, solar, and especially biomass as false solutions to the energy needs of industrial civilization. The film is replete with images of giant solar energy projects built a few years ago with much hullabaloo at taxpayer expense now lying around as fields of junk, rusting broken wind turbines, and devastated forests. It does not hesitate to show how pitiful the energy yields and CO2 emission reductions from such projects have been. It is merciless in portraying Al Gore, Bill McKibben, the Sierra Club, and other noteworthy green energy promoters as profiteers, scamming the public while destroying the environment for personal greed. As a cinematic hit job on the green-energy movement, it is without peer.

That said, Planet of the Humans stands among the most perverse movies ever made, one that should not be touched by conservatives with a ten-foot pole. Green energy cannot sustain industrial civilization, Moore says. Therefore, he says, industrial civilization should not be sustained.

Moore and Gibbs affect concern for the forests that are being incinerated to produce electricity. Yet they express no interest whatsoever in well-proven technologies that make such destruction unnecessary. For example, a single 1000 MWe nuclear power plant produces about 100,000 terajoules (TJ) per year of thermal energy, saving about a million tons of dry wood from combustion. In 2019, the U.S. had the electricity-generation equivalent of 93 such nuclear plants, 182 natural gas-fired plants, 111 coal-fired plants, 22 oil-fired plants, and 32 hydroelectric stations. Collectively, this amounts to a savings of 440 million tons of wood per year, or about 90 times as much wood as actually is being burned.

More: https://news.yahoo.com/michael-moore-embraces-overpopulation-fallacy-103042176.html


also: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/04/30/whats-michael-moores-actual-agenda

Legal Fight Heats Up In Texas Over Ban On Abortions Amid Coronavirus

Enlarge this image

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order banning all elective medical procedures, including abortions, during the coronavirus outbreak. The ban extends to medication abortions.

Eric Gay/AP

Governors across the country are banning elective surgery as a means of halting the spread of the coronavirus. But in a handful of states that ban is being extended to include a ban on all abortions.

So far the courts have intervened to keep most clinics open. The outlier is Texas, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit this week upheld the governor’s abortion ban.

Four years ago, Texas was also the focus of a fierce legal fight that ultimately led to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in which the justices struck down a Texas law purportedly aimed at protecting women’s health. The court ruled the law was medically unnecessary and unconstitutional.

Now Texas is once again the epicenter of the legal fight around abortion. In other states–Ohio, Iowa, Alabama, and Oklahoma–the courts so far have sided with abortion providers and their patients.

Not so in Texas where Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order barring all “non-essential” medical procedures in the state, including abortion. The executive order was temporarily blocked in the district court, but the Fifth Circuit subsequently upheld the governor’s order by a 2-to-1 vote, declaring that “all public constitutional rights may be reasonably restricted to combat a public health emergency.”

“No more elective medical procedures can be done in the state because of the potential of needing both people … beds and supplies, and obviously doctors and nurses,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in an interview with NPR.

‘Exploiting This Crisis’

Nancy Northrup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, sees things very differently. “It is very clear that anti-abortion rights politicians are shamelessly exploiting this crisis to achieve what has been their longstanding ideological goal to ban abortion in the U.S.,” she said.

Paxton denies that, saying Texas “is not targeting any particular group.”
The state’s the “only goal is to protect people from dying,” he said.

Yet the American Medical Association just last week filed a brief in this case in support of abortion providers, as did 18 states, led by New York, which is the state that has been the hardest hit by the coronavirus.

They maintain that banning abortion is far more dangerous,because it will force women to travel long distances to get one. A study from the Guttmacher Institute found that people seeking abortions during the COVID-19 outbreak would have to travel up to 20 times farther than normal if states successfully ban abortion care during the pandemic. The AMA also notes that pregnant women do not stop needing medical care if they don’t get an abortion.

Northrup, of the Center for Reproductive Rights, sees this as more evidence that the ban is a calculated move by the state: what “puts the lie to this is the fact that they’re trying to ban medication, abortion as well; that’s the use of pills for abortion.

“Those do not need to take place in a clinic and they can be done, taken effectively by tele-medicine. So it shows that the real goal here, tragically, is shutting down one’s right to make the decision to end the pregnancy, not a legitimate public health response.”

‘I Was Desperate’

Affidavits filed in the Texas case tell of harrowing experiences already happening as the result of the Texas ban. One declaration was filed by a 24-year-old college student. The week she lost her part-time job as a waitress, she found out she was pregnant. She and her partner agreed they wanted to terminate the pregnancy, and on March 20 she went to a clinic in Forth Worth alone; because of social distancing rules, her partner was not allowed to go with her.

Since she was 10 weeks pregnant, still in her first trimester, she was eligible for a medication abortion. Under state law, she had to wait 24 hours before getting the pills at the clinic, but the night before her scheduled appointment, the clinic called to cancel because of Abbott’s executive order.

He partner was with her and we “cried together,” she wrote in her declaration. “I couldn’t risk the possibility that I would run out of time to have an abortion while the outbreak continued,” and it “seemed to be getting more and more difficult to travel.”

She made many calls to clinics in New Mexico and Oklahoma. The quickest option was Denver–a 12-hour drive, 780-mile drive from where she lives. Her partner was still working, so her best friend agreed to go with her. They packed sanitizing supplies and food in the car for the long drive and arrived at the Denver Clinic on March 26, where she noticed other cars with Texas plates in the parking lot, according to the affidavit.

At the clinic, she was examined, given a sonogram again, and because Colorado does not have a 24-hour waiting requirement, she was given her first abortion pill without delay and told she should try to get home within 30 hours to take the second pill.

She and her friend then turned around to go home. They were terrified she would have the abortion in the car, and tried to drive through without taking breaks. But after six hours, when it turned dark they were so exhausted they had to stop at a motel to catch some sleep. The woman finally got home and took the second pill just within the 30-hour window.

She said that despite the ordeal she was grateful she had the money, the car, the friend, and the supportive partner with a job, to make the abortion possible. Others will not be so lucky, she wrote. But “I was desperate and desperate people take desperate steps to protect themselves.”

A ‘Narrative’ Of Choice

Paxton, the Texas attorney general, does not seem moved by the time limitations that pregnancy imposes, or the hardships of traveling out of state to get an abortion. He told NPR “the narrative has always been ‘It’s a choice’ … that’s the whole narrative. I’m a little surprised by the question, given that’s always been the thing.”

On Thursday abortion providers and their patients returned to the district court in Texas instead of appealing directly to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Fifth Circuit’s ruling from earlier this week. The district court judge, who originally blocked the governor’s ban, instead narrowed the governor’s order so that medical abortions–with pills–would be exempt from the ban, as well as abortions for women who are up against the state-imposed deadline. Abortions in Texas are banned after 22 weeks.

In the end, though, this case may well be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. And because of the addition of two Trump appointees since 2016–the composition of the court is a lot more hostile to abortion rights.

The Earth Is Telling Us We Must Rethink Our Growth Society

Why COVID-19 previews a larger crash. What we must do to save ourselves.

William E. Rees Today | TheTyee.caWilliam E. Rees is professor emeritus of human ecology and ecological economics at the University of British Columbia.

As the pandemic builds, most people, led by government officials and policy wonks, perceive the threat solely in terms of human health and its impact on the national economy. Consistent with the prevailing vision, mainstream media call almost exclusively on physicians and epidemiologists, financiers and economists to assess the consequences of the viral outbreak.

Fair enough — rampant disease and looming recession are genuine immediate concerns; society has to cope with them.

That said, we must see and respond to the more important reality.

However horrific the COVID-19 pandemic may seem, it is merely one symptom of gross human ecological dysfunction. The prospect of economic implosion is directly connected. The overarching reality is that the human enterprise is in a state of overshoot.

We are using nature’s goods and life-support services faster than ecosystems can regenerate. There are simply too many people consuming too much stuff. Even at current global average levels of consumption (about a third of the Canadian average) the human population far exceeds the long-term carrying capacity of Earth. We’d need almost five Earth-like planets to support just the present world population indefinitely at Canadian average material standards. Gaian theory tells us that life continuously creates the conditions necessary for life. Yet humanity has gone rogue, rapidly destroying those conditions.

When will the media call on systems ecologists to explain what’s really going on? If they did, we might learn the following:

That the current pandemic is an inevitable consequence of human populations everywhere expanding into the habitats of other species with which we have had little previous contact (H. sapiens is the most invasive of “invasive species”).

That the pandemic results from sometimes desperately impoverished people eating bushmeat, the flesh of wild species carrying potentially dangerous pathogens.

That contagious disease is readily propagated because of densification and urbanization — think Wuhan or New York — but particularly (as we may soon see) because of the severe overcrowding of vulnerable people in the burgeoning slums and barrios of the developing world.

That the coronavirus thrives because three billion people still lack basic hand-washing facilities and more than four billion lack adequate sanitation services.

A population ecologist might even dare explain that, even when it comes to human numbers, whatever goes up must come down.

None of this is visible through our current economic lens that assumes a perpetually growing, globalized market economy.

Prevailing myth notwithstanding, nothing in nature can grow forever.

When, under especially favourable conditions any species’ population balloons, it is always deflated by one or several forms of negative feedback — disease, inadequate habitat, self-pollution, food shortages, resource scarcity, conflict over what’s left (war), etc. All of these various countervailing forces are triggered by excess population itself.

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Human-set fires in the Amazon: The current pandemic is an inevitable consequence of human populations everywhere expanding into the habitats of other species with which we have had little previous contact. Photo: Pixabay Creative Commons.

True, in simple ecosystems certain consuming species may exhibit regular cycles of uncontrolled expansion. We sometimes refer to these outbreaks as “plagues” — think swarms of locusts or rodents.

However, the plague phase of the cycle invariably ends in collapse as negative feedback once again gains the upper hand.

Bottom line? There are no exceptions to the first law of plague dynamics: the unconstrained expansion of any species’ population invariably destroys the conditions that enabled the expansion, thus triggering collapse.

Now here’s the thing. H. sapiens has recently experienced a genuine population explosion. It took all of human evolutionary history, at least 200,000 years, for our population to reach its first billion early in the 19th Century. Then, in just 200 years, (less than one thousandth as much time) we blossomed to more than seven billion at the beginning of this century.

This unprecedented outbreak is attributable to H. sapiens’ technological ingenuity, e.g., modern medicine and especially the use of fossil fuels. (The latter enabled the continuous increases in food production and provided access to all the other resources needed to expand the human enterprise.)

The problem is that Earth is a finite planet, on which the seven-fold increase in human numbers, vastly augmented by a 100-fold increase in consumption, is systematically destroying prospects for continued civilized existence. Over-harvesting is depleting non-renewable resources; land degradation, pollution, and global warming are destroying entire ecosystems; biophysical life support functions are beginning to fail.

With increasing real scarcity, growing extraction costs, and burgeoning human demand, the prices for non-renewable metal and mineral resources have been rising for 20 years (from historic lows at the turn of the century). Meanwhile, petroleum may have peaked in 2018 signalling the pending implosion of the oil industry (abetted by falling demand and prices resulting from the COVID-19 recession).

These are all signs of resurgent negative feedback. The explosion of human consumption is beginning to resemble the plague phase of what may turn out to be a one-off human population cycle. If we don’t manage a controlled contraction, chaotic collapse is inevitable.

Which brings us back to society’s restricted focus on COVID-19 and the economy.

Listen to the news, to politicians and pundits in this time of crisis. You will hear virtually no reference to climate change (remember climate change?), wildfires, biodiversity loss, ocean pollution, sea level rise, tropical deforestation, land/soil degradation, or human expansion into wildlands.

Nor is there a hint of understanding that these trends are connected to each other and to the pandemic.

Discussion in the mainstream focusses doggedly on defeating COVID-19, facilitating recovery, restoring growth and otherwise getting back to normal. After all, as Gregory Bateson has written, “That is the paradigm: Treat the symptom to make the world safe for the pathology.”

Let that sink in: “Normal” is the pathology.

But returning to “normal” guarantees a repeat performance. There will be other pandemics, potentially worse than COVID-19. (Unless, of course, some other form of negative feedback gets to us first — as noted, there is no shortage of potential candidates.)

Consider the present pandemic as yellow flagging for what nature may yet have in store. Earth will have its revenge. Unless, to avoid full-on negative feedback, we stand back and re-focus. This means consciously overriding humans’ natural myopia, thinking generations ahead and abandoning our perpetual growth narrative.

Surely the time has come to reconsider what seems to have become a “self-terminating experiment with industrialism.”

To save itself, society must adopt an eco-centric lens. This would enable us to see the human enterprise as a fully dependent subsystem of the ecosphere. We need to script a new cultural narrative consistent with this vision. We must reduce the human ecological footprint to eliminate overshoot — below is a curve that really needs flattening.

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A different curve to flatten: Let’s start with a 50-per-cent reduction in energy and material throughput, as implicit in the 2015 Paris climate accord. Provided by William Rees.

Our cultural reset cannot end there. As medical supplies and equipment run out and supply chains stretch or break, people everywhere are becoming conscious of hazards associated with today’s increasingly unsustainable entanglement of nations.

We will have much to celebrate if community self-reliance, resilience and stability are once again valued more than interdependence, efficiency and growth. Specialization, globalization and just-in-time trade in vital commodities have gone too far. COVID-19 has shown that future security may well reside more in local economic diversity. For one thing, countries under stress may begin hoarding vital commodities for domestic use. (As if on cue, on April 3, Donald Trump, president of Canada’s biggest trading partner, requested 3M to suspend exports of badly-needed respirator face masks to Canada and Latin America.) Surely we need permanent policies for the re-localization of vital economic activities through a strategic approach to import displacement.

We might also build on the better side of human nature as ironically invigorated by our collective war on COVID-19. In many places, society’s fear of disease has been leavened by a revived sense of community, solidarity, compassion, and mutual aid. Recognition that disease strikes the impoverished hardest and that the pandemic threatens to widen the income gap has renewed calls for a return to more progressive taxation and implementation of a national minimum wage.

The emergency also draws attention to the importance of the informal care economy — child rearing and elder care are often voluntary and historically subsidize our paid economy. And what about renewed public investment worldwide in girls’ education, women’s health and family planning? Certainly individual actions are not enough. We are in a collective crisis that demands collective solutions.

To those still committed to the pre-COVID-19 perpetual-growth-through-technology paradigm, economic contraction equates to unmitigated catastrophe. We can give them no hope but to accept a new reality.

Like it or not, we are at the end of growth. The pandemic will certainly induce a recession and possibly a global depression, likely reducing Gross World Product by a quarter.

There are good reasons to think that there can be no “recovery” to pre-COVID “normal” even if we were foolish enough to try. Ours has been a debt-leveraged economy. Thousands of marginal firms will be bankrupted; some will be bought up by others with deeper pockets (further concentrating wealth) but most will disappear; millions of people will be left unemployed, possibly impoverished without ongoing public support.

The oil patch is particularly hard hit. Canada’s tar sands producers who need $40 dollars a barrel to survive are being offered one tenth that, less than the price of a mug of beer. Meanwhile, oil production may have peaked and older fields upon which the world still depends are declining at a rate of six per cent per year.

This heralds a future crisis: GWP and energy consumption have historically increased in lock-step; industrial economies depend utterly on abundant cheap energy. After the current short-term demand-drop surplus dries up, it will be years (if ever) before there is adequate new supply to replicate pre-pandemic levels of global economic activity — and there are no adequate ”green’”substitutes. Much of the economy will have to be rebuilt to size in ways that reflect this emergent reality.

And herein lies the great opportunity to salvage global civilization.

Clearing skies and cleaner waters should inspire hopeful ingenuity. Indeed, if we wish to thrive on a finite planet, we have little choice but to see the COVID-19 pandemic as preview and our response as dress rehearsal for the bigger play. Again, the challenge is to engineer a safe, smooth, controlled contraction of the human enterprise. Surely it is within our collective imagination to socially construct a system of globally networked but self-reliant national economies that better serve the needs of a smaller human family.

The ultimate goal of economic planning everywhere must now turn to ensuring that humanity can thrive indefinitely and more equitably within the biophysical means of nature.  [Tyee]

Abortion, bear hunting, nude beaches on Florida’s legislative plate

Abortion, nude beaches, and bears are on Florida’s legislative schedule. Oh my.
Monday, February 3rd 2020, 9:14 AM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – So far, zero bills have been sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis from the Florida Legislature.

However, one of the first bills expected to hit DeSantis’ desk is a measure that would require girls under the age of 18 to get a parent’s permission before having an abortion.

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The bill expands on a law that requires parents of minors to be contacted if their daughters get an abortion, but parents don’t have a say in the decision.

Rep. David Smith (R) wants to increase the fine for illegally killing bears or for being in the possession of or selling a dead bear.

A bill trying to put more restrictions on tobacco products is gaining popularity. The measure would raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, require anyone under 30 to be carded before they can buy tobacco, and would only allow cigarette vending machines in places that restrict access to anyone under 21-years-old.

Lastly, a bill that would make nude beaches legal is being considered by the Senate.

All contents © copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A Calendar’s Day are Numbered

No photo description available.

by Captain Paul Watson

Tomorrow is the end of the world, except where I am at the moment, where it is now tomorrow and the world is still intact.

Australia, New Zealand and Asia seem to be doing well. No tsunami’s, massive earthquakes, exploding Krakatoas, the Earth has not split, and the oceans have not boiled over and a few billion humans continue to go about their silly business of slowly destroying the planet.

There has been no rapture and the fanatical Christians are still with us unfortunately. I have not heard of any of them being swept en mass into heaven. I’m still hoping the nut bars from the Westboro Baptist church get raptured. They can protest babies entering heaven there instead of Connecticut.

But what about the Mayans?

Ahh the Mayans. They did not do so well at predicting their own demise.

I remember August 27th, 1987. That was the day that the Aztec calendar came to an end. They also were not that good at prediction. They did not see the fall of their own empire until they heard Spanish voices in their streets.

We place a great deal of reverence for ancient civilizations forgetting that they were in fact quite primitive, although probably more intellectual in many ways than modern society, at least for the very few who could actually read and write. Without television, they actually had to read, well some of them anyways, and without the modern music industry people actually had to sing and listen to musicians in small venues.

For the most part, be they Europeans, Meso-American Indians, Asians or Africans a great deal of time and effort was wasted on superstition and fighting wars over superstitious beliefs. Kind of like the situation today really.

And one thing that has not changed is this ridiculous belief that humans have some sort of special insight into nature and reality. Astrology for example does not include the planets that were unknown at the time which pretty much knocks all the equations flat on their ass by virtue of the fact that planets that were actually there were not influencing anything because nobody knew they were there and once discovered they still remained absent from astrology because all the signs and symbols were established and not subject to change.

The Mayan Calendar like the Aztec Calendar is round. It really does not end, it just starts all over again.

The fact is that a calendar’s days are numbered.

It’s like all the hype and hysteria at the end of millenniums and the strange thing is that millenniums are based on random dates that have no meaning. The year 2000 is not the year 2000 for the Muslims, the Jews or the Chinese for example.

Humans do not and never have controlled nature, physics, or the future. Human vanity may wish otherwise but the reality is that humanity is simply one of billions of species that have inhabited the Earth and humanity has only been around for a tiny fraction of the Earth’s history. The Earth will be around for a few billion years after humanity has disappeared.

Instead of worrying about silly predictions, we should be concerned about what we are doing to ourselves and our children with escalating population growth and diminishing resources. This is where the end will come about, the end of civilization first followed by extinction of the human species. We will be eradicated by our own ecological stupidity.

When will this happen? That I cannot say. In twenty years, a hundred years, but it will happen unless we curb growth and end the wasteful consumption of the planet’s diminishing resources.

When the Oceans die, we die.

When there is no more fresh water, we die.

When there are no more forests, we die.

When the land dies, we die.

When diversity dies, we die.

Why did the Mayans and the Incas disappear?

They disappeared because their populations grew greater than their resource base. That is the real lesson they left us.