31 January 2012

One of my Heros

30 January 2012

Great quote - Name that movie

i'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague

29 January 2012

28 January 2012

No Comment Necessary


27 January 2012


Reposted from Jobsanger

Back during the Bush administration, this nation's power plants were excluded from many of the Environmental Protection Agency's pollution regulations. And even though auto pollution was significantly reduced and other industries had to clean up their act, there really wasn't much of a dent put into the pollution being released into the air -- especially as it relates to the pollutants that cause global climate change (commonly referred to as "global warming").

Even though Bush is no longer in power, the Republicans have continued their efforts to protect their buddies in the power production industry. Recently, they even tried to put an amendment on the payroll tax bill that would delay for another five years making the power plants abide by EPA regulations. Maybe they knew what the rest of us suspected -- that the power plants, especially those using coal, were producing far more than their share of the nation's pollution.

On Wednesday, the United States government released the most detailed report yet on just where most global warming pollution was coming from. And there was one industry that produced far more pollution than any other. According to the report, the power plants in America produce an amazing 72% of all the pollution reported to the EPA in 2010. Can you believe that? Only one industry, the power plants, produce nearly three-quarters of all the pollution causing global climate change.

It is time we stop letting the power producers off the hook, especially those who still use coal to fire their plants. And don't even talk to me about "clean coal" -- that is a myth created by the coal industry and simply does not exist. As a country, we must demand action from the power industry to clean up their act. And we must demand the government do more to help the nation move to clean and renewable sources of energy production.

The states with the dirtiest power plants are Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, West Virginia, Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wyoming, North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky.

26 January 2012

Trickle Down = Piss on you!


The graphic above (from Think Progress) shows what has been happening to the American middle class in the last 40 years. To put it bluntly, it is disappearing. While the rich continue to get much richer (with their income growing by over 240% since 1980), the loss of millions of jobs and the stagnant non-growth of wages for most Americans has shrunk the middle class and thrown many more American into working class status (if they're lucky) or even worse, into abject poverty.

The Republican "trickle-down" economic policies, instituted by Ronald Reagan and accelerated by George W. Bush, deregulated financial institutions and encouraged Wall Street to play dangerous games with investor funds -- culminating in the loss of trillions of dollars, many millions of jobs, and the start of the most serious recession since the Great Depression. In addition, these same politicians encouraged corporations to outsource millions more American jobs by rewarding them with tax breaks to do so.

The idea was that when the rich and corporations had a lot of money they would use that money to create jobs and the growing wealth would be shared by everyone. It didn't work, because the wealthy aren't the real job creators -- no matter how much money they have. This is clearly illustrated by our current situation -- where the rich have a larger share of the country's wealth and income since before the Great Depression and American corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars in cash. And yet only a pitiful handful of jobs are being created.

There is only one thing that creates jobs -- demand for goods and services. When the working and middle classes have money to spend demand is created, and jobs are created to meet that demand -- and all classes in society benefit (including the rich). But Republican policies have taken money from the working and middle classes and given it to the rich. Since the mass of our society no longer has much money to spend, demand is depressed and the recession continues with little or no job creation.

The chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, Alan Krueger, says the shift in income over the last three decades is the equivalent of moving $1.1 trillion from the 99% to the 1% every single year of those three decades. Is it any wonder that the middle class is disappearing, and we look more like a banana republic every day?

25 January 2012

TREASON!


24 January 2012

23 January 2012

Progression of US Cities Reaching Solar Grid Parity


Grid parity in cost between solar power and grid-supplied electricity is likely to begin being reached in the US in as little as 2 years, and within the next 25 years, many of the largest metropolitan areas will reach the point where solar is less expensive. An animated map from Energy Self Reliant States shows the picture.

This timeline includes no government subsidies in the calculations. It uses a baseine cost of solar power in 2011 at $4.00 per watt, installed. Using the average residential grid supplied electricity price for each metro area, it makes the two assumptions based on present trends to determine when the price of solar drops below grid: the cost of solar decreases by 7% per year, and the grid electricity price increases by 2% per year.

Based on these assumptions, the San Diego CA metropolitan area will be at solar parity in 2013, and within the next 25 years, many of the largest metropolitan areas will reach the point where solar is less expensive.

22 January 2012

21 January 2012

Subsidy 101

20 January 2012

19 January 2012

Higher Efficiency with Quantum Dot Solar Cells


Photovoltaic technology has taken another step forward as researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have demonstrated a photocell with an external quantum efficiency over 100 percent using quantum dots. The new cell uses a process called Multiple Exciton Generation (MEG) that produces more than one electron-hole pair per absorbed photon, and reached a level of 114 percent.

This development offers the possibility of increased efficiency in solar panels, and the technology is able to be manufactured using high-throughput roll-to-roll manufacturing. With the use of quantum dots, photocells could theoretically see as much as a 35 percent increase in power conversion efficiency above contemporary cells. The research cell was constructed as a "layered cell consisting of antireflection-coated glass with a thin layer of a transparent conductor, a nanostructured zinc oxide layer, a quantum dot layer of lead selenide treated with ethanedithol and hydrazine, and a thin layer of gold for the top electrode."

Note that this does not mean that the entire panel would have a total efficiency above 100% (which would be thermodynamically impossible). The quantum efficiency means only that the number of electron-hole pairs created in the cell is greater than the number of photons that are absorbed. Nonetheless, the advance provided by MEG could lead to the next generation of even more efficient solar energy collectors.

18 January 2012

Stealing From Social Security


The above quote from Senator Bernie Sanders is the truth. Social Security is not in immediate trouble, and the problems that might pop up 25 years down the road could be easily fixed for generations by simply having the rich pay the same percentage in FICA taxes that working and middle class people have to pay. So why do the Republicans (and blue dogs) keep whining about how Social Security is going broke?

It's because they have been raiding the Social Security fund for years to give tax cuts to the rich, subsidies to the corporations, more bloated contracts for military toys, and to fund unnecessary wars. Now they don't want to pay that money back, and if they cut benefits and raise the retirement age they won't have to. The Republicans want to use money workers have paid in to the Social Security program to pay for their own proliferate spending.

Don't let the Republicans (and blue dogs) steal retirement money from hard-working Americans! It's the big-spending Republicans' giveaways to the rich that must be cut -- not Social Security!

And for those of you who still doubt that it's the Republicans who are the biggest spenders, view the following graphic:


Reposted from Jobsanger

17 January 2012

No Comment Necessary

16 January 2012

No Comment Necessary

15 January 2012

Can We Stop The Next Fukushima Times 10,000?

The horrible news from Japan continues to be ignored by the western corporate media.

Fukushima's radioactive fallout continues to spread throughout the archipelago, deep into the ocean and around the globe---including the US. It will ultimately impact millions, including many here in North America.

The potentially thankful news is that Fukushima's three melting cores may have not have melted deep into the earth, thus barely avoiding an unimaginably worse apocalyptic reality.

But it's a horror that humankind has yet to fully comprehend.

As Fukushima's owners now claim its three melted reactors approach cold shutdown, think of this:

At numerous sites worldwide---including several in the US---three or more reactors could simultaneously melt, side-by-side. At two sites in California---Diablo Canyon and San Onofre---two reactors each sit very close to major earthquake faults, in coastal tsunami zones.
Should one or more such cores melt through their reactor pressure vessels (as happened at Fukushima) and then through the bottoms of the containments (which, thankfully, may not have happened at Fukushima), thousands of tons of molten radioactive lava would burn into the Earth.
The molten mass(es) would be further fed by thousands of tons of intensely radioactive spent fuel rods stored on site that could melt into the molten masses or be otherwise compromised.
All that lava would soon hit groundwater, causing steam and hydrogen explosions of enormous power.
Those explosions would blow untold quantities of radioactive particles into the global environment, causing apocalyptic damage to all living beings and life support systems on this planet. The unmeasurable clouds would do unimaginable, inescapable injury to all human life.
Fukushima is far from over. There is much at the site still fraught with peril, far from the public eye. Among other things, Unit Four's compromised spent fuel pool is perched high in the air. The building is sinking and tilting. Seismic aftershocks could send that whole complex---and much more---tumbling down, with apocalyptic consequences.

Fukushima's three meltowns and at least four explosions have thus far yielded general radioactive fallout at least 25 times greater than what was released at Hiroshima, involving more than 160 times the cesium, an extremely deadly isotope.

Reuters reports that fallout into the oceans is at least triple what Tokyo Electric has claimed. Airborne cesium and other deadly isotopes have been pouring over the United States since a few scant days after the disaster.

Overall the fallout is far in excess of Chernobyl, which has killed more than a million people since its 1986 explosion.

Within Japan, radioactive hotspots and unexpectedly high levels of falloutcontinue to surface throughout the archipelago. The toll there and worldwide through the coming centuries will certainly be in the millions.

And yet....it could have been far worse.

In the US, in the past few months, an earthquake has shaken two Virginia reactors beyond their design specifications. Two reactors in Nebraska have been seriously threatened by flooding. Now a lethal explosion has struck a radioactive waste site in France.

We have also just commemorated a 9/11/2001 terror attack that could easily have caused full melt-downs to reactors in areas so heavily populated that millions could have been killed and trillions of dollars in damage could have permanently destroyed the American economy.

The only thing we now know for certain is that there will be more earthquakes, more tsunamis, more floods, hurricanes and tornadoes....and more terror attacks.

Horrifying as Fukushima may be, we also know for certain that the next reactor catastrophe could make even this one pale by comparison.

Japan will never fully recover from Fukushima. Millions of people will be impacted worldwide from its lethal fallout.

But the next time could be worse---MUCH worse.

The only good news is that Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden and others are dumping atomic power. They are committing to Solartopian technologies---solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, ocean thermal, sustainable bio-fuels, increased efficiency and conservation---that will put their energy supplies in harmony with Mother Earth rather than at war with her.

The rest of humankind must do the same---and fast. Our species can't survive on this planet---ecologically, economically or in terms of our biological realities---without winning this transtion.

The only question is whether we do it before the next Fukushima times ten thousand makes the whole issue moot.

Original Source

14 January 2012

Learning From China: Why The Existing Economic Model Will Fail By Lester Brown

For almost as long as I can remember we have been saying that the United States, with 5 percent of the world's people, consumes a third or more of the earth's resources. That was true. It is no longer true. Today China consumes more basic resources than the United States does.

Among the key commodities such as grain, meat, oil, coal, and steel, China consumes more of each than the United States except for oil, where the United States still has a wide (though narrowing) lead. China uses a quarter more grain than the United States. Its meat consumption is double that of the United States. It uses three times as much coal and four times as much steel.

These numbers reflect national consumption, but what would happen if consumption per person in China were to catch up to that of the United States? If we assume conservatively that China's economy slows from the 11 percent annual growth of recent years to 8 percent, then in 2035 income per person in China will reach the current U.S. level.

If we also assume that the Chinese will spend their income more or less as Americans do today, then we can translate their income into consumption. If, for example, each person in China consumes paper at the current American rate, then in 2035 China's 1.38 billion people will use four fifths as much paper as is produced worldwide today. There go the world's forests.

If Chinese grain consumption per person in 2035 were to equal the current U.S. level, China would need 1.5 billion tons of grain, nearly 70 percent of the 2.2 billion tons the world's farmers now harvest each year.

If we assume that in 2035 there are three cars for every four people in China, as there now are in the United States, China will have 1.1 billion cars. The entire world currently has just over one billion. To provide the needed roads, highways, and parking lots, China would have to pave an area equivalent to more than two thirds the land it currently has in rice.

By 2035 China would need 85 million barrels of oil a day. The world is currently producing 86 million barrels a day and may never produce much more than that. There go the world's oil reserves.

What China is teaching us is that the western economic model—the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy—will not work for the world. If it does not work for China, it will not work for India, which by 2035 is projected to have an even larger population than China. Nor will it work for the other 3 billion people in developing countries who are also dreaming the "American dream." And in an increasingly integrated global economy, where we all depend on the same grain, oil, and steel, the western economic model will no longer work for the industrial countries either.

The overriding challenge for our generation is to build a new economy—one that is powered largely by renewable sources of energy, that has a much more diversified transport system, and that reuses and recycles everything. We have the technology to build this new economy, an economy that will allow us to sustain economic progress. But can we muster the political will to translate this potential into reality?

Original article

13 January 2012

Melting Arctic Ice Is Releasing Massive Amounts Of Methane

By Richard Matthews

The melting Arctic ice is causing huge quantities of methane gas to be released into the atmosphere. Concerns about climate change-inducing greenhouse gases are often centered on carbon dioxide (CO2), but methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20-30 times more potent than CO2. Each methane molecule is actually about 70 times more potent in terms of trapping heat than a molecule of carbon dioxide, however, methane breaks down more quickly in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

The sub-sea layer of permafrost traps methane, preventing it from escaping, but as it melts it allows the methane to rise from underground deposits. According to scientists, large releases of methane gas can cause rapid climate changes.

There are historical precedents to back-up this assertion. Scientists believe that long ago, sudden releases of methane were responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species.

The Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum (55.5 Million years ago) is a period with drastic climate change due to massive releases of methane. It has also been suggested that large temperature swings during the last glacial period have been caused by abrupt releases of methane.

Hundreds of millions of tons of methane gas are locked beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

Researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences, the University of Alaska and Stockholm University have been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years. Early in December, they reported dramatic and unprecedented volumes of methane being released from the Arctic seabed. They estimate that eight million tons of methane is currently leaking into the atmosphere every year.

Vast amounts of methane have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean. There are fields in the Arctic where the release is so intense that the methane does not have time to dissolve into the seawater but rises to the surface as large bubbles.

In an exclusive interview with the Independent, lead scientist Igor Semiletov said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed. Dr Semiletov made his findings public early in December at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

"Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing," Dr. Semiletov said. "I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them."

Recent observations suggest that previous surveys may have significantly underestimated the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere from the Arctic seabed.

This new information was recorded in late summer 2011 by Dr. Semiletov and his team of researchers. The scientists onboard the vessel Academician Lavrentiev conducted an extensive survey of 10,000 square miles of sea off the East Siberian coast. The scientists made their observations with the help of four highly sensitive seismic and acoustic instruments that monitor the methane seeping from the ocean floor.

"In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed," Dr. Semiletov said. "We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some plumes were a kilometre or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere."

Expeditions in the Laptev Sea in 1994 did not detect elevated methane levels. However, since 2003 a rising number of methane "hotspots" have been detected.

Research prepared for publication by the American Geophysical Union in 2008 by Dr. Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University in Sweden indicated that anomalies were recorded in the East Siberian Sea and the Laptev Sea. These preliminary findings were uncovered by scientists aboard the research vessel Jacob Smirnitskyi. At the time, Gustafsson was quoted as saying:

"The conventional thought has been that the permafrost 'lid' on the sub-sea sediments on the Siberian shelf should cap and hold the massive reservoirs of shallow methane deposits in place. The growing evidence for release of methane in this inaccessible region may suggest that the permafrost lid is starting to get perforated and thus leak methane… The permafrost now has small holes. We have found elevated levels of methane above the water surface and even more in the water just below. It is obvious that the source is the seabed."

In 2011, the scientists aboard the vessel Academician Lavrentiev revealed much higher concentrations of methane covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf. These researchers found Arctic seabed methane up to 100 times background levels.

According to Natalia Shakhova, of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, "The concentration of atmospheric methane increased three times in the past two centuries from 0.7 parts per million to 1.7ppm, and in the Arctic to 1.9ppm. That's a huge increase, between two and three times, and this has never happened in the history of the planet."

The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on earth. As a whole, the Arctic has experienced an average temperature increase of 4C over recent decades. The World Meteorological Organization said that northern areas like the Russian Arctic experienced the greatest increases in temperature in 2011. They also report that since 1970, the Arctic has warmed at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe.

Scientists predict that over the next thirty years 45 billion metric tons of carbon from methane and carbon dioxide will seep into the atmosphere as the permafrost thaws. By the end of the century it is expected that about 300 billion metric tons of carbon will be released from the thawing Earth.

Adding in that gas means that warming would happen "20 to 30 percent faster than from fossil fuel emissions alone," said Edward Schuur of the University of Florida. "You are significantly speeding things up by releasing this carbon."

The release of trapped methane will cause higher temperatures, leading to even more melting of the permafrost and the release of yet more methane. This troubling trend of melting permafrost on the floor of the Arctic Ocean is accompanied by a dramatic decline in summer sea ice covering the surface. The loss of sea ice will further accelerate the warming trend because open ocean absorbs more heat from the sun than a reflective ice surface. This represents a strong positive feedback that amplifies anthropogenic warming.

Scientists have estimated the amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves. Subsea permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap and models suggest that if even only one percent of the methane were released from the ocean floor, it would radically accelerate global warming.

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12 January 2012

Dominion's Energy Tyranny: Where's the Outrage from the Tea Party & Ken Cuccinelli?

Reposted from Green Miles

Virginia's 2007 energy re-regulation bill was a terrible idea from the start. It was essentially written by Dominion Virginia Power and rubber-stamped into law by the Virginia General Assembly & Gov. Tim Kaine, who showed no interest in challenging one of Virginia's top sources of money in politics.

Five years later, as Virginia Sierra Club Vice Chair Ivy Main writes in the Washington Post, Virginia taxpayers are seeing huge costs and little benefit:
Yes, the Dominion family owns some wind farms, one just across the state line in West Virginia. But we aren’t getting a single electron of that energy, because Dominion sells it to other states that have much tougher standards for what counts as renewable energy. For us in Virginia, Dominion buys cheap certificates that no one else wants.

That’s a great deal for Dominion. According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, $1.7 million could buy enough of these certificates to satisfy Dominion’s 2010 RPS targets, qualifying the company to collect an extra $76 million over two years from its ratepayers.
Worse yet, Dominion is aggressively using its monopoly power to target any small businesses who try to sell clean energy to customers in Virginia:
The State Corporation Commission recently granted Dominion’s request to impose a “standby” charge of up to $60 per month on customers who install solar projects in the 10- to 20-kilowatt range (about twice the size of an average home’s usage). It’s enough to make these projects uneconomic and destroy the market for them. At a time when Dominion claims we need to build more power to meet demand, it is doing its best to keep small businesses from doing precisely that.

Even worse is its treatment of a Staunton-based solar company called Secure Futures, which has stepped up to the plate to put solar installations on university campuses, using a third-party power purchase agreement to ease financing. This summer, Dominion hit Secure Futures with “cease and desist” letters, claiming it can’t legally sell solar power to Washington and Lee University within Dominion’s exclusive service territory under Virginia law. Dominion, you understand, will not sell solar power to Washington and Lee, but it seems determined to make sure no one else does, either.
Where are Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli & his Tea Party friends as Dominion treads on the rights of small businesses and Virginia energy customers? Shouldn't they be screaming about activist judges and goverment stifling liberty? Or does Tea Party outrage not cover regulations that enrich its polluting benefactors?

Want to tell Dominion to create jobs and clean our air by investing in wind power? Sign the Virginia Sierra Club's petition to Dominion CEO Tom Farrell.

11 January 2012

Hey, America! The 1% Has A Brown Job For YOU!

Reposted from Green Miles

Are you ready for a risky life of hard labor digging up dirty fuels the 1% can sell to make billions in profit? Get excited for the brown jobs revolution!

No, really. An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal calls for More Brown Jobs. Even though American oil use is declining and what's being produced isn't lowering gas or home heating oil prices here - it's just being sold overseas.

So get excited! From drilling for oil shale to fracking for methane gas to digging for uranium to building pipelines that bring Canadian tar sands to Chinese oil tankers, corporate polluters are eager to exploit the crushing economic crisis their Wall Street friends created to make unemployed workers think they have to sell out their children's health to put food on the table now!

What's that? Worried your community will be turned into an industrial wasteland? That you'll be able to light your tap water on fire? That soon you too will be saying things like, "Just about anybody I talk to that's a neighbor — and some of them are getting wealthy — are sick of it"?

Come on - corporate America wouldn't lie to you! Right?

10 January 2012

Almost

Four painful years after the Great Recession struck and wiped out 8.7 million jobs, the United States may finally be in an elusive pattern known as the virtuous cycle — an escalating loop of robust job growth, healthier spending and higher demand.
The nation added 200,000 jobs in December in a burst of hiring that drove the unemployment rate down two ticks to 8.5 percent, its lowest in almost three years, and led economists to conclude that the improvement in the job market might just last.
“There is more horsepower to this economy than most believe,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University, Channel Islands. “The stars are aligned right for a meaningful economic recovery.”
It was the sixth month in a row that the economy added at least 100,000 jobs, the longest streak since 2006. The economy added jobs every month last year, the first time that has happened since 2005.
And the unemployment rate, which peaked at 10.1 percent in October 2009 and stood at 9.1 percent at the start of last year, has fallen four months straight.

09 January 2012

Economic Hitmen

08 January 2012

No Comment Necessary

07 January 2012

No Comment Necessary

06 January 2012

Good News For Progressives



Reposted from Jobsanger

This graphic is from a poll done by the Pew Research Center earlier this month, and I have to say it sort of surprises me a bit. The poll was to find whether the public had a positive or negative perception of different political terms.

It comes as no surprise that the term "socialism" is still viewed negatively by most Americans -- the word has been demonized for decades in this country even as we institute more and more socialist programs (such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, Pell grants, public education, etc.). Americans don't seem to mind socialist programs -- as long as we don't call them socialist.

It's also no surprise that the term "conservative" is viewed positively by most Americans. Since the Reagan administration, it has been very popular for most Americans to describe themselves as conservatives (even though they may support many liberal and even socialist policies).

The real surprises come with the terms "liberal" and "progressive". The Republicans have done their best to demonize the term liberal in the last few years (and continue to do so). But only 39% of the population have bought into that demonization, while half of the population (50%) views the term positively. I imagine this comes as a surprise to many liberals, since many of them were so convinced the word had been demonized that most, including myself, are now calling themselves progressives.

But the biggest surprise of all (and a very pleasant surprise) is that the term "progressive" (which is defined in the Oxford American Dictionary as "favoring or implementing rapid progress or social reform") is viewed positively by 67% of all Americans -- that's five percentage points better than "conservative". And this positive view of "progressive" crosses all political lines, including 55% of Republicans, 68% of Independents, and 76% of Democrats.

It's starting to look like most Americans are ready for progress and social change. Maybe that shouldn't surprise us considering the continuing recession, joblessness, wealth & income inequality, and growing corporate power.

05 January 2012


Reposted from Jobsanger

Does the above sign bother you because it gives the same information in two different languages? It does bother some people. These people want the United States to adopt an "official" language, English, and mandate that only that language be used on all signs, official paperwork, and in government offices. That would mean anyone in this country, whether visiting or living here, would just be out of luck if they could not speak fluent English.

And one of those people who want the United States to adopt an "English only" law is presidential candidate and current governor of Texas, Rick Perry (which is kind of weird since Spanish was spoken in Texas for a couple of hundred years before English was). In an Iowa campaign stop the other day, Rick Perry agreed with a teabagger who complained about other languages being used in this country.

I must admit that I have never understood this viewpoint. For one thing, even when immigrants come to this country without a knowledge of English their children and further generations are English-speakers. The inability to speak and write English never extends beyond a single generation. So even if this is a problem, it is a problem that corrects itself within a generation.

Second, how fair is it to cut off new immigrants from basic knowledge that everyone should be privy to? If a sign warns of danger or prohibits some kind of behavior (like the sign above), shouldn't as many people as possible be able to understand it? If a person has business in a government office, or must go to court, is it fair that the business be conducted in a language they don't understand? Of course not. Any American in a foreign country would expect a translator if they had to go to a government office or court, and we should do the same.

Third, just how does it hurt any English-speaking American to have signs, ballots, or other things in more than one language? The answer of course is that it doesn't hurt anyone. If English is your only language (which is sadly true of most Americans), then ignore the parts of the sign or document that aren't in English. Nobody is hurt by bi-lingual signs or documents, and some people are helped. That in itself is reason enough to continue doing it.

The only reason I can think of for wanting an English-only law is to force other people to be just like you. And trying to force others to be like you is not freedom -- it is just old-fashioned bigotry. It takes a pretty small-minded and bigoted person to think that their language or customs are better than those of other people.

Frankly, I love living in a country where a variety of languages are spoken and customs honored. And as a Texan, I believe the Spanish language, customs, and heritage (which were here long before any other) give a rich sub-text to the Texas experience -- and I wouldn't have it any other way.

We are lucky to live in the most interesting country in the world. It's time to set aside the bigotry and enjoy the rich texture of our modern America. Diversity is not a curse -- it's a treasure.

04 January 2012

President Signs Defense Bill (With Reservations)

Reposted from Jobsanger

President Obama has signed the new Defense Authorization Bill into law. Frankly, I find that very disappointing. I wish he had vetoed the bill and sent it back to Congress. I don't say that because the bill contains far too much military spending, although I believe that is true. I say it because of a provision which would allow the indefinite detaining of an American citizen in a military prison without a trial -- as long as the government labeled that person as a "terrorist". And applying such a label to a person is very easy, especially since it would not have to be proven in a court of law.

That provision in the bill also made the president uncomfortable. He said:

The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.

But he went on to assure Americans that he would not use the provision against American citizens, saying:

I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

I believe the president. I don't believe he wants to destroy the constitutional rule of law that has been established in this country -- a rule of law that protects American citizens against their own government (and for freedom to exist, there must be established limits beyond which government cannot go, because even a democratically-elected government can go to far in denying rights if there are no established limits).

But President Obama is not going to be president forever, and who's to say that the person who inhabits the White House next (or down the road a way) will have the same respect for the Constitution and rule of law that President Obama has. Is there any doubt that the Bush/Cheney administration would have jumped on the opportunity to abuse such a provision, even against American citizens? How can we know that such an administration will not be elected in the future (especially after viewing the caliber of Republican presidential hopefuls)?

This was a bad bill that never should have passed Congress or been signed into law, but it has been. All we can hope for now is to elect better men and women to Congress -- people who respect the Constitution and will overturn this ridiculous new provision of law.

03 January 2012

The Massacre Everyone Ignored: More Blood For Oil


(SOURCE: Exiled Online) With violence and government crackdowns making headlines from so many familiar parts of the world, there’s hardly been a peep in the media about the biggest and ugliest massacre of all: Last Friday in Kazakhstan, riot police slaughtered up 70 striking oil workers, wounding somewhere between 500 and 800, and arresting scores. Almost as soon as the massacre went down in the western regional city of Zhanaozen, the Kazakh authorities cut off access to twitter and cell phone coverage – effectively cutting the region off from the rest of the world, relegating the massacre into the small news wire print.

But not before someone was able to get a video out to YouTube last Friday, showing the moment when the striking oil workers rushed the barricades. They’ve had to have put up with inhuman, medieval abuse for months now, culminating with the murders a few months back of a striking oil worker and the 18-year-old-daughter of another union organizer, as well as the jailing of a labor lawyer working with the striking oil workers.

Keep in mind, the oil company whose workers are striking for better pay and union recognition, KazMunaiGaz, is “owned” by the billionaire son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s Western-backed president-for-life. Among Kazakhstan’s leading American partners are Chevron, whose website boasts, “Chevron is Kazakhstan’s largest private oil producer” – adding this bit of unintentional black humor:

“In Kazakhstan, as in any country where Chevron does business, we are a strong supporter of programs that help the country"

Reposted from Thurman's Notebook

02 January 2012

2011's Ten Dumbest Economic Ideas

Reposted from Jobsanger

Since the advent of Republican "trickle-down" economics, this country has been on a downhill slide economically -- and it resulted in our current recession and massive job loss. Unfortunately, these ideas have also infected other developed nations, most notably in Europe, and they have followed us down that economic hill.

One would think with the serious consequences of the recession, these people would have learned their lesson and returned to a more sensible economic policy. Sadly, that has not happened. They keep proposing the same old failed policies, and assuring us that someday they will work. All we have to do is just look at the really dumb economic ideas currently being proposed and pursued.

Jeff Madrick, over at the blog New Deal 2.0, has compiled a list of what he considers the ten worst economic ideas proposed and pursued in 2011. It's hard to argue with his list, because these are some incredibly stupid ideas. Unfortunately, too many people are still buying into them. Here is his list:


1. Taxes should be more regressive.
At the top of the list for sheer scandalous insensitivity are Herman Cain’s and New Gingrich’s tax plans for America. Cain and Gingrich are both flat tax advocates. Cain proposes “9-9-9″ — a 9 percent sales tax, 9 percent income tax, and 9 percent corporate tax. He would also eliminate most deductions. Would this raise more or less money? The romantic conservatives claim the lower income tax rate would mean more growth. Never mind that the evidence to support that claim has been found profoundly lacking time and again.


2. Austerity works.
Is it conceivable that we have learned nothing from history — or from economic theory, for that matter? It is hard to believe that after a year or so of the momentary return of Keynesianism in the wake of the deep recession of 2007-2009, it has been utterly renounced in practice in most rich nations around the world. The U.S. refuses to adopt a new fiscal stimulus as fears of a long-term deficit now determine short-term policy. The eurozone’s decision makers are even more obtuse and dangerous. . . IMF economists have recently produced solid research putting the lie to claims that austerity has led to rapid growth in some countries in the past. It almost never has, and in the couple of cases it has, it was because the countries devalued their currencies sharply to promote exports.


3. Export growth models are sustainable.
Germany is especially proud that it has exported its way to becoming the strong man of Europe. It has suppressed wage growth, used subsidies to make its products more competitive, and taken advantage of the fixed euro, set at too low a rate to maintain trade balances. It is determined to remain oblivious to the fact that such a model requires countries that buy its products to run deficits and therefore borrow lots of money. This is why export models are known as beggar-thy-neighbor models, and it is why Germany has a moral obligation to help bail out nations like Greece, Italy, and Spain. Export models are really debt models on a global scale.


4. Fannie and Freddie did it.
The crisis was created by the highly risky mortgages bought and sold by the private sector between 2003 and 2006, when Fannie and Freddie were cutting back their activities. They became big buyers when the damage was already done. And even now, their mortgage defaults as a percentage of their portfolios, despite the devastation in the housing market, are much lower than defaults in the private sector. Those who want to blame the government for the crisis keep coming back to this stale and very misleading issue. Get over it. And as for the SEC, can it be that the only case they can drum up against high-level executives is at Fannie and Freddie? You mean there were no bad big-time execs at Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Lehman, Goldman, and so on?


5. Cutting Social Security benefits is a priority.
We have a very long-term deficit problem, not a short-term one. Social Security did not contribute to the short-term deficit — the Bush tax cuts, the recession, and the slow recovery are the main culprits over the next 10 years. But even in the longer run, Social Security benefits will rise from a little under 5 percent of GDP to 6 percent of GDP. Cutting these benefits is not a priority and any deficit can be fixed with affordable tax increases.


6. Inflation is just around the corner.
Remember the claims by the right wing that all that Federal Reserve stimulus in 2008 and 2009, not to mention the Obama spending bill, would lead to big-time inflation? Nothing would be better than a little inflation in the U.S. right now, but the economy has been too weak to deliver it. Bring on some inflation, please.


7. The Medicare eligibility age should be raised.
Reports had it that President Obama had momentarily agreed to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Indeed, a New York Times editorial recently seemed (a little less than wholeheartedly) to endorse the idea. Yes, this might reduce Medicare expenditures, but it would raise the total amount Americans spend on health care. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation figures it would increase private health care costsfor most of the seniors leaving Medicare by more than $2,000 a year on average. There would be other cost-raising effects, as, for example, healthier seniors left Medicare. Kaiser figures the increase in total health spending by Americans would be twice the amount of savings to Medicare. And of course some seniors would simply give up coverage. Call it triage.


8. Competition between Medicare and private health insurance will reform the health care system and reduce costs.
Say it ain’t so, Ron Wyden. The Democratic senator from Oregon has teamed up with Congressman Paul Ryan to propose an option for Medicare recipients to buy private plans. They would be offered a flat payment to buy private plans if they so chose. Competition for these dollars will supposedly make Medicare and the health insurance companies more efficient. More likely, however, it will result in misleading claims by the health insurance companies or reduced coverage plans. It will raise costs for Medicare as healthy seniors are induced to take cheaper private plans with healthier individuals. . . But that’s not even the big rub. It is that Medicare payments will be limited to growing just 1 percent faster than GDP. Health care costs have risen considerably faster than that for a long time. Somehow Wyden thinks that such a limit will force reforms. In sum, it will simply lead to less coverage and more expense for beneficiaries.


9. Federal spending should be capped at 21 percent of GDP.
The president’s Simpson-Bowles budget balancing commission proposed this capbecause it is the average for the last 40 years. How’s that for reasoning? With fast-rising health care costs and an aging population, such a limit is patent nonsense. For a nation that needs significant investment in infrastructure, energy savings, and education, it is especially damaging. There is no evidence to support the claim that such a cap would promote economic growth.


10. Balancing the budget should involve equal parts tax hikes and government spending cuts.

This is not economics; it is politics. But economists argue for it all the time as if it is good economics, not admitting their conservative bias that high taxes are bad for growth and government social and investment spending never helps.
Most of the major budget balancing plans of 2010 and 2011 argued for more spending cuts than revenue increases. The Bowles-Simpson plan is comprised of two-thirds spending cuts, one-third revenue increases. Obama’s budget plan last spring also had much more in spending cuts than tax increases. Only the Rivlin-Domenici plan was balanced. The one conspicuous exception was the plan from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which of course got short shrift in the press. It was about two-thirds tax increases to one-third program cuts.

01 January 2012

Happy 2012

“Of course I believe in free enterprise, but in my system of free enterprise, the democratic principle is that there never was, never has been, never will be, room for the ruthless exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few.”- Harry S Truman –


“The law does not pretend to punish everything that is dishonest. That would seriously interfere with business.”- Clarence Darrow –


“We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant work ethic of hard work and sacrifices. Capitalism was built on the exploitation of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both black and white, both here and abroad.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. –


“Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most – that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least.”
_ Eugene V. Debs –


“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate. “
- Bertrand Russell –


“The forces of a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.”
- Jawaharlal Nehru –


“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. ..”
- Abraham Lincoln –


“True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of what dictatorships are made.”
- Franklin D. Roosevelt –


“The basic law of capitalism is you or I, not both you and I.”
- Karl Liebknecht -