By Robert A. Vella
Two distinct social problems, both born from the same cause, began to manifest themselves around the same time. The 1980s marked the advent of discernible climate change observations, and the decade also brought neoliberal ideology to the world with its predicates of unrestrained capitalism, corporatist governance, and rapid globalization. While most people failed to see the dangers inherent in each, visionaries most certainly did. That their warnings were largely ignored for so long has led us to this current point of crisis. Today, the world faces the dual threats of imminent ecological catastrophe and rising global unrest on scales which inevitably will test and likely exceed the tolerance limits of modern human civilization.
Climatologists, sociologists, national security experts, and even wealthy elites, have known for a long time that such a crisis was coming. That they didn’t speak with a clear, unified voice is a result of complex human nature and the politics of conflicting interests. Today, however, their message is clearer and more coherent. Unfortunately, it is being delivered way too tardily.
While the increasing rate of global warming is now quite apparent to the general public, the larger problem of neoliberalism remains comprehensively opaque. The centrist dominated post-WWII establishment, waning but still entrenched, has yet to acknowledge the innate flaw of socioeconomic philosophy first put into action by the western leaders Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Yes, it is true that globalism lifted underdeveloped regions into the modern world and increased their standards of living; but, that progress came at great cost. First, it was done through commercial and industrial exploitation which couldn’t be sustained; and, second, it negatively impacted middle class prosperity in the developed world triggering intense populist angst which enabled destabilizing political extremism. As these dynamics played out over time, the dual effects of widespread economic and political inequality combined with escalating competition over essential resources ravaged by climate change and overpopulation have merged into a general and progressing societal crisis.
The evidence is everywhere to be seen. Violent protests are currently raging in Chile, Bolivia, Hong Kong, Kashmir, Iraq, Lebanon, Russia, Spain, the southwest pacific and elsewhere. Africa is rife with ethnic and political turmoil. The dramatically evolving geopolitical situation in the Middle East, greatly exacerbated by the recent U.S. military withdrawal from Syria, has created an explosive tinderbox of potential trouble. Europe is plagued with a mess of social and political animosities highlighted by the Brexit fiasco. In North America, Mexico and other nations are suffering from a rash of deadly conflicts, and the U.S. is teetering on the knife’s edge of cultural disunity and a hostile fascist takeover.
We’ll take a closer look at this unsettling situation as the focus for this last Sunday in October, plus we’ll include the latest updates from the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.
Yet while younger people, in any era, are predisposed to shake up the established order, extreme demographic, social and political imbalances are intensifying present-day pressures. It is as if the unprecedented environmental traumas experienced by the natural world are being matched by similarly exceptional stresses in human society.
Most of these young people have reached, or will reach, adulthood in a world scarred by the 2008 financial crash. Recession, stagnant or falling living standards, and austerity programmes delivered from on high have shaped their experience. As a result, many current protests are rooted in shared grievances about economic inequality and jobs. In Tunisia, birthplace of the failed 2011 Arab spring, and more recently in neighbouring Algeria, street protests were led by unemployed young people and students angry about price and tax rises – and, more broadly, about broken reform promises. Chile and Iraq faced similar upheavals last week.
This global phenomenon of unfulfilled youthful aspirations is producing political timebombs. Each month in India, one million people turn 18 and can register to vote. In the Middle East and North Africa, an estimated 27 million youngsters will enter the workforce in the next five years. Any government, elected or not, that fails to provide jobs, decent wages and housing faces big trouble.
In this sea of protest, a common factor is the increased willingness of undemocratic regimes, ruling elites and wealthy oligarchies to use force to crush threats to their power – while hypocritically condemning protester violence. Repression is often justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as in Hong Kong. Other culprits include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Myanmar and Nicaragua.
Another negative is the perceived, growing readiness of democratically elected governments, notably in the US and Europe, to lie, manipulate and disinform. Distrust of politicians, and resulting public alienation, is the common ground on which stand France’s “gilets jaunes”, Czech anti-corruption marchers and Extinction Rebellion. As William Hazlitt, the 18th-century essayist and celebrated mocker of Wordsworth might have said, disbelief is the new spirit of the age.
SANTIAGO, Oct 25 (Reuters) – As many as a million Chileans protested peacefully late into the evening on Friday in the capital Santiago in the biggest rallies yet since violence broke out a week ago over entrenched inequality in the South American nation.
Chile’s military has taken over security in Santiago, a city of 6 million people now under a state of emergency with night-time curfews as 20,000 soldiers patrol the streets.
Chile’s center-right President Sebastian Pinera, a billionaire businessman, trounced the opposition in the most recent 2017 election, dealing the center-left ruling coalition its biggest loss since the country’s return to democracy in 1990.
He has sent lawmakers legislation to overturn a recent hike in electricity rates, and called for reforms to guarantee a minimum wage of $480 a month and introduce state medical insurance for catastrophes.
Seated with a group of elderly Chileans over lunch on Friday, Pinera put finishing touches on a bill to hike minimum pensions by 20%. “We must approve these projects with the urgency that Chileans demand,” Pinera said.
Lawmakers pushing the reforms forward were nonetheless forced to evacuate the country’s Congress in the port city of Valparaiso earlier in the day when angry protesters rushed the building, overwhelming security forces.
The president also announced that a curfew imposed in cities across Chile a week ago had been lifted.
The opposition has called for an ongoing state of emergency to end too.
Chile is one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries but also one of its most unequal – it has the worst levels of income equality among the 36 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told House committees that he believed Ukraine agreeing to open investigations into Burisma Group—a gas company where Democrat Joe Biden’s son once served on the board—and into alleged 2016 election interference was a condition for a White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer Robert Luskin said.
Asked by a lawmaker whether that arrangement was a quid pro quo, Mr. Sondland cautioned that he wasn’t a lawyer but said he believed the answer was yes, Mr. Luskin said.
Mr. Sondland’s testimony has come under fresh scrutiny since the deposition earlier this week of Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Mr. Taylor’s testimony focused in part on a separate issue, telling House committees that Mr. Trump made nearly $400 million in aid contingent on the Ukrainian president investigating Mr. Biden and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Mr. Taylor didn’t use the term “quid pro quo” but said he understood the aid to be “conditioned” on the investigations.
Much of Mr. Taylor’s testimony suggested Mr. Sondland was aware of a separate connection between aid and investigations, which Mr. Sondland testified he wasn’t, according to his lawyer. Mr. Sondland told the committees he wasn’t involved in the decision to hold the aid to Ukraine and couldn’t independently corroborate the president’s assertions to him that the money being held up was unrelated to the push for investigations.
Career diplomat Phillip Reeker told Congressional investigators behind closed doors what he knew about the ouster of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, according to a source with direct knowledge of his testimony Saturday in the impeachment inquiry.
Yovanovitch, a well-respected expert on Ukraine, has said that she was fired by the direction of President Donald Trump at the recommendation of Rudy Giuliani.
In his testimony, Reeker, who oversaw Ukraine policy at the State Department, corroborated what previous witnesses have said, according to both Republicans and Democrats who sat in the session.
Philip Reeker, the diplomat in charge of U.S. policy for Europe, told House impeachment investigators Saturday that he appealed to top State Department leaders to publicly support the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was the target of a conspiracy-fueled smear campaign, a person familiar with his testimony said.
Reeker expressed his concerns over the falsehoods about Marie Yovanovitch to David Hale, the third-highest-ranking official in the State Department, and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, the closest adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose friendship began when they attended the U.S. Military Academy together, the person said. He never discussed Yovanovitch with Pompeo, and he eventually heard from staffers for Hale that there would be no public statement in her defense, the person said.
Reeker “was trying to get the State Department to issue a strong statement in support of Ambassador Yovanovitch,” the person said. “Ultimately it did not get released. His understanding is [that decision] came from on top.”
As they assisted President Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani in his search for damaging information about Democrats in Ukraine, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were also attempting to leverage ties they claimed to have to powerful Ukrainian figures and U.S. officials, according to people familiar with their activities.
In meetings this summer, the two men said they could broker a multimillion-dollar deal to buy gas from the Middle East on behalf of a Ukrainian billionaire facing bribery charges in the United States. In another, Parnas and Fruman boasted they had enough sway in Trump’s administration to secure the attendance of Vice President Pence at the inauguration of the new Ukrainian president — for a price.
Since they were arrested earlier this month on campaign-finance charges, investigators have been working to untangle their dizzying web of business enterprises — and to discern whether they were operating on their own or backed by more influential interests.
A company in which President Trump’s brother has a financial stake received a $33 million contract from the U.S. Marshals Service earlier this year, an award that has drawn protests from two other bidders, one of which has filed a complaint alleging possible favoritism in the bidding process.
The lucrative government contract, to provide security for federal courthouses and cell blocks, went to CertiPath, a Reston, Va.-based company that has since 2013 been owned in part by a firm linked to Robert S. Trump, the president’s younger brother.
After the contract was awarded, an anonymous rival bidder filed a complaint with the Justice Department’s office of the inspector general, alleging that CertiPath failed to disclose that “one of the President’s closest living relatives stood to benefit financially from the transaction,” according to a copy of the July 22 complaint letter obtained by The Washington Post.
SEA ISLAND, Georgia — John Kelly warned President Trump that hiring a “yes man” to succeed him as White House chief of staff would lead to impeachment and, in hindsight, regrets his decision to resign.
Kelly, 69, said he privately cautioned Trump during his final days on the job that he would be impeached if he did not tap a chief of staff with the fortitude to check the president’s bad impulses. Kelly said he does not believe the president would be in this predicament had he stayed.
“I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth — don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached,” Kelly recalled, in an interview at the Sea Island Summit, a political conference hosted by the Washington Examiner.