Notes From A Sinking World

Notes From A Sinking World

By Joshua Tartakovsky, 

27 September 2017


It has been a long while since I wrote about anything. Meantime, the world is changing very rapidly and few have the time, or the knowledge, to connect the dots and make sense of where the world is going. My writings are probably read by a fairly small number of people at a time when there is a sea of information, most of it partial and not argued well, but still, one solid piece of an insight can have an effect in ways that are not preordained.

On the menu: Hurricane in Puerto Rico, Elections in Germany, Catalan Independence.


Hurricane in Puerto Rico

I recently took an Uber drive in the United States. The driver was a Puerto Rican who has been living in the US (wait, did I just say “living in the US,” as if Puerto Rico is not part of the US? That is precisely the problem, since Puerto Rico is in all ways part of the US besides the right to trade unhindered with the world and several others. In many ways, it is in all effects a colony, and I highly recommend the disturbing and fascinating book “War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony” by Nelson A. Davis) for 30 years or so.

The driver had a warm smile, but even his kind heart and leniency towards optimism, could not hide the gnawing hole in his heart. “My wife did not hear from any of her family on the island until now,” he explained. Efforts to develop contact and seek help were futile. Many on the island have been cut off from electricity and wi-fi for days and no one really knows what is going on there. Indeed, the New York Times explained that residents are cut off now from air conditioning despite the heat. However, for the impoverished people of the Caribbean, being without air-conditioning has long been the norm, and they find other ways to cool themselves off (and are probably healthier for that due to the negative effect air-conditioning has on one’s skin). Only detached liberals who have never visited impoverished areas and sought to live with locals for a while or understand their conditions, can believe that being left without air-conditioning is the main problem.

With his wife not knowing what to do with herself as she has no idea if her relatives are alive or bodies floating in overwhelmed areas, he had to go out, the driver explained. He told me he lost everything he had on the island, a large boat, a large house, everything. The US government is now faced with the burden of reconstructing the island after the devastation caused by Irma in Texas. Supposedly, the profit is supposed to cover up the huge costs. However, the US is already under immense debt and the hurricanes are not seeming to stop. How to keep paying for a nature gone wild?

The question of the future of Puerto Rico cannot be detached from the question of Puerto Rico as it has been until now. For many Americans, banks, corporations and for the US government itself, it was seen as a dumping ground, a colony to be maintained, a third world below America’s doorstep. President Trump has only been honest when he said that Puerto Rico’s huge debt and default are a major problem. At least he has the courage to admit this, rather than pretending all is fine as President Clinton or Obama who gave the corporations free-rein to drive the island into debt. Of course, few Americans know that waving the Puerto Rican flag in Puerto Rico is punishable by forty years in prison. And that those who sought greater independence in its economic and political affairs were imprisoned and tortured.

Finally, to the question of global warming itself.

I have not studied the issue nor am I a scientist. But one of the biggest arguments made by those who deny the rising sea levels are due to global warming, is that the number of hurricanes is cyclical and has not increased in recent years. This is true. The number of hurricanes have not increased. Is there no global warming then? Well, actually, the problem is that while the number of hurricanes has not increased, their intensity and subsequent damage caused by them, has. And this intensity is probably due to climate change.

–Update:  In response to devastation visited on the island by the hurricane, President Trump waived the Jones Act. The Jones Act, enacted in 1920, prohibits Puerto Rico from receiving shipments and having an independent port policy. Instead, all shipment must go first to Florida, and only then to the US. If that is not a colonial act, I am not sure what is. But here, once again, President Trump has taken bold action, in places where Democratic presidents have failed.


Elections in Germany

The elections in Germany several days ago did what many considered impossible in the post-war era. A ultra-right-wing party not only made it to the Bundestag, but gained about 12% of the vote and roughly 96 elected representatives. But while Jewish organizations have rushed to prophesy the emergence of neo-Nazism in Germany, it is not hard to understand why many German voters voted for AfD. It is utter irresponsibility to overwhelm your country with undocumented refugees and especially as many of them commit physical and sexual attacks, and that is what Merkel has done. While AfD members made several unacceptable comments, and while some may well have a weak spot for Nazi symbols and attire (well, nowadays everyone wears Hugo Boss), AfD’s resurgence of nationalism in the form of border control would be a good thing for Germany.

The victory of AfD came along with the weakening, though not the collapse, of the political-center, as CDU and SPD but lost significantly. That this weakening took place in Germany, one of the world’s most powerful economies, signals the intensity of the structural systemic crisis which we are currently in, and which is likely to escalate as the economy continues to become more difficult for the middle class with no end in sight. Time will tell whether AfD will remain a single-event phenomenon or a lasting trend. But even if AfD unravels, other fringe parties are likely to win in the next elections, perhaps even more radical than the AfD. Furthermore, knowing German history, it may be better if AfD wins rather than for the center to continue to suffer silently and then move in a genuine pro-Nazi direction after its patience has run out.  At the same time, it is also possible that AfD will chose a more hateful position over time and will grow in power rapidly.

Many Germans, precisely in affluent cities such as Munich and Frankfurt, are now understandably puzzled and confused. But rather than attacking AfD and its voters, a more systemic analysis is needed, and one that one would expect from Germany, home to great philosophical works that enriched the world.


Barcelona’s Independence

Many people in Catalunya are in favor of independence, which is not surprising considering the history of repression they faced from the Franco regime and of course due to the high taxes they are paying (while claiming to work the hardest). In a reaction to the referendum initiative, many Spaniards have boycotted Catalan goods, which only resulted in more bad blood. The youth in Barcelona is good with using smartphones, taking selfies and listening to music, and would not know how to use a gun if it had one, nor would it have the stamina needed to wage a war of liberation. Therefore, even if a majority is gained, which is not at all certain, the decision will be ignored the next day by Madrid. However, rather than allowing the people to vote, Madrid has chosen a policy of repression and has reacted in panic, and this is naturally creating the expected backlash. It is likely that while Catalunya will not become independent, an economic war will ensue, with Catalunya refusing to pay taxes and Madrid sending troops to storm offices and seizing finances and goods. This may not hamper tourism which is at high levels already, but could result in a low-level and long-term escalation and somewhat of an economic frozen conflict.

Meanwhile, posters and flags throughout Barcelona are a powerful visible display in favor of independence.

Will the youth that reads no books on the Civil War of 1936 even know or want to pick up a gun to fight for independence? Highly unlikely. Photo by Joshua Tartakovsky


Barcelona. Photo by Joshua Tartakovsky (2017 (C) All Rights Reserved)


Reparations for Poland 

The Polish government is demanding reparations for the massive catastrophe intentionally inflicted on the country by Nazi Germany. Six million Poles were murdered in an effort to steal the country and prepare it for inhabitation by the supposed master-race. Poland’s economy has suffered immensely due to those dark years of brutal extermination. Germany has held such a low view of Poland that it established death camps there, rather than carrying out the genocide on German soil. Meanwhile, people falsely refer to Auschwitz as ‘Polish extermination camps’ as if the Poles were the ones carrying out the gassing and were not the ones gassed.  Poles had it bad on both sides, with Stalin refusing to save the dying Warsaw Ghetto that bravely revolted against the Nazi occupiers and with mass killings carried out by the Soviets in Katyn.

But now Poland is standing up for its rights, believing in such antiquated notions as national sovereignty, and refusing to allow mass-migration of undocumented refugees into the country, thereby preventing scenes of chaos and terror common in France and Germany. For this, Brussels and Berlin may believe, Poland must be punished, as Germans can now claim to have the upper moral hand and as they rebuke Poland along with Hungary for seeking to protect their citizens from Islamic terrorism and sexual attacks by heated hot-blooded, uneducated and fanatical Arabs. Predictably and tragically, Germany does not seek to truly clean its own house first, by rejecting outright Poland’s demand for reparations. It argues, with great hypocrisy, that Poland abnegated its right to demand reparations. The Communist Polish government did give up its demands for reparations under pressure from the Soviet Union, but that government did not represent Poland. Or will Merkel now claim that DDR truly represented the German people? If that is the case, than East Germany was a fully sovereign state and a genuine democratic country. While it is true that many years have passed, the right for the claim is still valid. Germany’s immense surplus is bad for global economics in any case. While young Germans should not be forced to pay taxes for actions committed by the Nazis, plenty of stolen goods and finances (recall the forced loan made on the Greek National Bank, for example), could be used to provide reparations for the country that had to deal with Germany’s mess.

A Polish prisoner in Auschwitz who was later gassed. It is puzzling why Jewish organizations and the State of Israel have not stood by Poland in asking for reparations. Photo by Joshua Tartakovsky.



The Kurds in Iraq understandably carried out the referendum for independence despite widespread opposition by Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States. Kurds are used to defying stronger powers than them. However, due to restrictions leveled by Iran and Iraq, the Kurds are not likely to get political independence any time soon but demands for it may grow. That Israel supports Kurdish independence while denying it from Palestinians is a practice in real-politik. Meanwhile, in Syria, Kurdish groups are likely to increase their attacks on the Syrian Army with American support. If they are successful, they may establish genuine independent enclaves in Syria, unlike in neighboring Iraq, making a serious war with Turkey to be more likely.



A single word uttered by Kim Jong-un, has won the hearts of many Americans and forced liberal academics to their dictionaries. Clearly North Korea knows what it is doing. It is hard to imagine Putin or Xi being this clever.