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marmar's Journal
marmar's Journal
May 26, 2015

A Fossil-Fueled Fantasy

A Fossil-Fueled Fantasy

Monday, 25 May 2015 00:00
By Emily Schwartz Greco, OtherWords | Op-Ed

Newfangled carbon-capture power plants supposedly burn coal without poisoning the planet. They don’t.

Extracting coal from the ground and disposing of its toxic byproducts makes a dirty mess no matter how it’s burned. But this “clean coal” ruse is conjuring up billions of dollars in government subsidies.

Take the 110-megawatt Boundary Dam plant in Canada’s Saskatchewan province, the world’s first carbon-capture operation. It cost $1.2 billion to get it switched on last year. That’s several times the price tag for a standard coal-fired plant or building a wind farm or utility-scale solar project capable of generating the same amount of energy — enough to power 100,000 homes.

Going with wind or solar would have produced zero emissions without burning any fuel, reducing environmental and monetary costs down the line.

Another carbon-capture boondoggle is slated to open next year on this side of the Canadian border: Southern Co.’s Kemper County plant in Mississippi. It’s an even bigger cautionary tale. .................(more)


May 26, 2015

'There is no way that Hillary Clinton is not a strong supporter of TPP and Fast Track'

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, Americablog, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. This piece first appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.

I’ll put the bottom line first. There is no way that Hillary Clinton is not a strong supporter of TPP and Fast Track. Read on for why.

There has been a lot written lately, including here, about the Democratic Party split between progressives and “progressives” — the former of whom have most of the people on their side, and the latter of whom have most of the money. Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Alan Grayson and others are firmly in the progressive camp, what’s being called the “Warren wing” of the party.

Most Democratic Party officials and electeds, however, are in the latter camp, which many call the “Wall Street wing,” though huge swaths of American (and foreign) moneyed interests, not just those on Wall Street, are supporters and controllers of that wing. To take just one moneyed interest — Big Oil — consider that:

* Exxon is one of the largest owners of unmonetized methane (yet-to-be-fracked natural gas) in the country.

* “Left-wing” support groups and think tanks like EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) strongly support (pdf) the “temporary” transition to natural gas as a bridge fuel.

* By many reports both EDF and NRDC receive money in various ways, as well as advice, from the oil and gas industry and their advocates.

* NRDC in particular is said to have had a hand in Obama’s new climate plan.

* And … President Obama’s big climate plan — his “Clean Power Plan” (a very methane industry–like phrase) — happens to preference methane over everything else in our arsenal, including just quitting carbon in a World War II–style conversion and being done with it.

The “Wall Street wing” of the Democratic Party is really the Money wing and represents Money wherever it is found. Though some dispute the claim, it seems to me the split between the Warren wing and the Money wing is huge, a chasm, and shows little sign of healing at the moment. It may heal later, artificially and for a time, around a Clinton candidacy, but that time isn’t now.

Hillary Clinton and the Money Wing

I think it’s fair to say, regardless of how you view Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate, that her biggest hurdle on the Democratic side is her perceived connection to Big Money, and lots of it. Her family grew rich by cultivating people with money; her foundation grew fat by cultivating people (and nations) with money; and her donor list has historically included holders of big money, especially Wall Street holders (though Obama seems to have out-raised her on Wall Street in 2008). ..............(more)


May 26, 2015

The Shafting, Um, Sharing Economy

from Naked Capitalism:

The Shafting, Um, Sharing Economy
Posted on May 26, 2015 by Yves Smith

The Wall Street Journal had a surprising story over the weekend, How Everyone Gets the ‘Sharing’ Economy Wrong, with the subtitle, “Uber isn’t the Uber for rides—it’s the Uber for low-wage jobs.” While the Journal maintains separation of church and state between its rabidly right wing editorial section and its news sections, I’ve been close enough to some stories to know on good authority that the Journal has refused to publish some stories (and reported sections of stories) because they were deemed to be too business-unfriendly. So what does one make of the Journal giving prominent placement (first page above the fold in the digital version) that depicts Uber and its ilk i the manner you’d expect to see at Salon or Huffington Post, as mainly in the business of crushing wages? Is it that the Journal is skeptical of new economy hype? Or is it that the rental extraction aspects of the “sharing” economy are so bloomin’ obvious that the editors didn’t see it as controversial to depict them in an unvarnished manner?

The article goes after the canard of the feel-good “sharing” branding:

The first thing everyone misses about the sharing economy is that there is no such thing, not even if we’re being semantically charitable. Increasingly, the goods being “shared” in the sharing economy were purchased expressly for business purposes, whether it’s people renting apartments they can’t afford on the theory that they can make up the difference on Airbnb, or drivers getting financing through partners of ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft to get a new car to drive for those same services.

What’s more, many of the companies under this umbrella, like labor marketplace TaskRabbit, don’t involve “sharing” anything other than labor. If TaskRabbit is part of the sharing economy, then so is every other worker in America. The only thing these companies have in common is that they are all marketplaces, though they differ widely in the amount of control they give their buyers and sellers.

A quibble: while author Christopher Mims is technically correct in calling these services “marketplaces,” that is arguably a term that is so broad as to wind up obscuring what is distinctive about these services. It is that they are (or at least aspire to be) networks and subject to network effects, meaning disproportionate returns to scale to the dominant players. The other reason I am not keen about “marketplace” is that markets occupy a sacred spot in economics and neoliberal ideology, so treating Uber and its kin as sponsors of “markets” gives them more of a halo than they deserve. ..................(more)


May 26, 2015

A la izquierda en Espana: Voters in Spain go hard left

(Common Dreams) Local elections across Spain on Sunday saw the further rise of left-wing parties and candidates as an ongoing populist push from below resulted in the worst performance of the ruling People's Party in a generation.

Fueled by the street-level support that began with the indignados movement in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and other recent successes by the newly-formed Podemos party at the national level, Sunday's municipal elections revealed Spanish voters continue to be compelled by the anti-austerity and pro-democracy agenda of the left. Demanding a new economic and political vision, an assortment of left-leaning and more centrist parties have now put a serious dent in the hold on power currently enjoyed by the PP-controlled government and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

"This spring of change is irreversible," said Pablos Iglesias, head of Podemos Party on Sunday night. "We will take up the challenge of winning the (parliamentary) elections against the Popular Party."

The New York Times notes that while the PP won the most votes overall, the ruling party is "set to lose its parliamentary majorities in most, if not all, of the country’s provinces." If, as expected, the various left-wing parties can form coalitions with one another, they may have the ability to unseat the conservatives in key areas, including in the nation's two largest cities, Madrid and Barcelona. ..................(more)


May 25, 2015

Howard Zinn on Memorial Day

from the Progressive (originally published in 2005):

by Howard Zinn

Another Memorial Day. Another war. Yes, let's honor those who died in the nation's many wars. But if we do not want to keep adding to the soldiers' graves, let's also ask why they died.

We know our political leaders will speak solemnly to the nation while the flags are unfurled and the bugles blow, and they will say, as they always do, "They gave their lives for their country."

And that is supposed to satisfy the families of the dead, supposed to satisfy all of us whose children and grandchildren may be called upon to serve in future wars.

But that sentence, "They gave their lives for their country," contains two falsehoods.

First, these young men and women did not "give" their lives. Their lives were taken from them by the politicians who sent them to war and who now bow their heads on Memorial Day. ................(more)

- See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2013/05/182290/howard-zinn-memorial-day-our-archives#sthash.fQPxXcVB.dpuf

May 25, 2015

Chris Hedges: Our Mania for Hope Is a Curse

from truthdig:

Our Mania for Hope Is a Curse

Posted on May 24, 2015
By Chris Hedges

The naive belief that history is linear, that moral progress accompanies technical progress, is a form of collective self-delusion. It cripples our capacity for radical action and lulls us into a false sense of security. Those who cling to the myth of human progress, who believe that the world inevitably moves toward a higher material and moral state, are held captive by power. Only those who accept the very real possibility of dystopia, of the rise of a ruthless corporate totalitarianism, buttressed by the most terrifying security and surveillance apparatus in human history, are likely to carry out the self-sacrifice necessary for revolt.

The yearning for positivism that pervades our corporate culture ignores human nature and human history. But to challenge it, to state the obvious fact that things are getting worse, and may soon get much worse, is to be tossed out of the circle of magical thinking that defines American and much of Western culture. The left is as infected with this mania for hope as the right. It is a mania that obscures reality even as global capitalism disintegrates and the ecosystem unravels, potentially dooming us all.

The 19th century theorist Louis-Auguste Blanqui, unlike nearly all of his contemporaries, dismissed the belief, central to Karl Marx, that human history is a linear progression toward equality and greater morality. He warned that this absurd positivism is the lie perpetrated by oppressors: “All atrocities of the victor, the long series of his attacks are coldly transformed into constant, inevitable evolution, like that of nature. ... But the sequence of human things is not inevitable like that of the universe. It can be changed at any moment.” He foresaw that scientific and technological advancement, rather than being a harbinger of progress, could be “a terrible weapon in the hands of Capital against Work and Thought.” And in a day when few others did so, he decried the despoiling of the natural world. “The axe fells, nobody replants. There is no concern for the future’s ill health.”


Resistance, as Alexander Berkman points out, is first about learning to speak differently and abandoning the vocabulary of the “rational” technocrats who rule. Once we discover new words and ideas through which to perceive and explain reality, we free ourselves from neoliberal capitalism, which functions, as Walter Benjamin knew, like a state religion. Resistance will take place outside the boundaries of popular culture and academia, where the deadening weight of the dominant ideology curtails creativity and independent thought.

As global capitalism disintegrates, the heresy our corporate masters fear is gaining currency. But that heresy will not be effective until it is divorced from the mania for hope that is an essential part of corporate indoctrination. The ridiculous positivism, the belief that we are headed toward some glorious future, defies reality. Hope, in this sense, is a form of disempowerment. ............(more)


May 22, 2015

The robot workforce?

(Bloomberg) Willie McTuggie looks like a photocopier on wheels. But he — it, actually — has the engineered brain of a reasonably smart human, and acts like one when when he rolls up to a nurse’s station, opens a drawer, retrieves a dose of pills and glides off to make a delivery.

Packed with more than 30 motion-detecting and other sensors, Willie and his automated buddies at the UCSF Medical Center can open doors, avoid collisions with doctors on rounds and perceive when to wait for a free elevator. There are 25 mobile bots from the robotics company Aethon Inc. on staff, named and decorated by mortal colleagues. Willie's wrapped in the San Francisco Giant’s team colors of orange and black, and Maybelle is designed to look like one of the city’s cable cars.

The machines perform duties once handled by nurses, orderlies, cafeteria staff and maintenance crews. So far, no people have lost jobs to the bot corps. "It does displace certain roles, but we can put that headcount into other service roles," says Pamela Hudson, executive director of clinical systems at the University of California, San Francisco, hospital. It is, she says, a win-win.

Not everyone is enthusiastic as contraptions and software coded with artificial intelligence invade the workplace. The human-brain mimics are becoming so clever that, according to a study by the Oxford Martin Program on Technology, 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are at risk over the next two decades of being given over to computers. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-22/this-robot-is-cute-artificially-intelligent-and-employed

May 22, 2015

Why Jim Chanos thinks China could be the next Greece

(MarketWatch) China could be the next Greece and its debt woes may even exceed the European country’s in the next few years, predicts prominent hedge-fund manager Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates.

“I joke to my Chinese friends, somewhat half-seriously, another three-four years they are going to be like my homeland Greece,” said Chanos in an interview, which will air this weekend on Wall Street Week, a syndicated business-news show hosted by Anthony Scaramucci, co founder of investment-management firm SkyBridge Capital.

The perennial China bear pointed to China’s debt-to-GDP ratio of nearly 300% and projected that the ratio is likely to balloon to 400% over the next few years. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“The problem is the credit story,” Chanos said. “China’s banking system is bloated and it’s basically taking on more and more leverage.”

Chanos declined to elaborate further when contacted for comments but he has been an unabashed critic of China’s debt-fueled economic growth and has been sounding alarm bells of possible hard landing for the world’s second largest economy for several years. A so-called hard landing can refer to a rapid economic slowdown that occurs typically as a government’s central bank is attempting to tighten fiscal policy and combat inflation. ...................(more)


May 22, 2015

Keiser Report: 26 Most Terrifying Words

Published on May 16, 2015
In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert discuss the 26 most terrifying words in the English language. They also discuss vigilante governments and bond vigilantes. In the second half, Max interviews Harry Cole (Twitter: @MrHarryCole) about the Conservative party victory in General Election 2015. They also discuss Scotland, the EU referendum and the TTIP trade deal.

May 22, 2015

Matt Taibbi: World’s Largest Banks Admit to Massive Global Financial Crimes, But Escape Jail (Again)

Published on May 21, 2015
http://democracynow.org - Five of the world’s top banks will pay over $5 billion in fines after pleading guilty to rigging the price of foreign currencies and interest rates. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland pleaded guilty to conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the $5 trillion FX spot market. UBS pleaded guilty for its role in manipulating the Libor benchmark interest rate. No individual bank employees were hit with criminal charges as part of the settlements. We are joined by Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist with Rolling Stone magazine.

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