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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 75,786

Journal Archives

How Will We Reach an Ecological Civilization and Who Will Build It?

How Will We Reach an Ecological Civilization and Who Will Build It?

Saturday, 31 October 2015 00:00
By Chris Williams, Truthout | Op-Ed

We are now officially living amid the sixth great extinction, according to scientists, but the global economy has still not shifted to prevent climate change's existential threat to human civilization and much of the biosphere.

Will transnational corporations and the political leaders that cater to them realize that it is in their own interest of self-preservation to address the problem of global climate change by halting the unrelenting use of fossil fuels? What would it take for the capitalist economy to prioritize ecological concerns? Perhaps, when 10 of the largest oil and gas companies sign a letter calling on world leaders to sign an effective deal at the international climate negotiations in Paris in December, progress is being made. In a statement that will likely surprise many, the CEOs of these 10 giant fossil fuel corporations state that, "we will continue in our efforts to help lower the current global emissions trajectory," as they apparently commit themselves to ensuring a "20C future."

Yet Exxon, the biggest oil company, has been busily undermining its own climate research for the last two decades, and sowing doubt in the reality of climate change at every opportunity. Similarly, fossil fuel corporations consistently underplay the growth of renewables and talk up demand. One of the signers of the statement, Shell, predicted in their most recent annual report to shareholders that by 2040 demand for oil and gas would be greater than today by 14 to 55 percent, thus justifying expansion of drilling in the Arctic. Can the very corporations that are rushing to every corner of the world to find and extract more fossil fuels be the answer to reducing fossil fuel production? In the words of Josu Jon Imaz, CEO of Repsol, "We could be part of the problem, but we are convinced we are part of the solution."

Concerns about climate change, loss of biodiversity, ocean acidification and pollution are not sufficient to catalyze changes in the global economic order. Changes to capitalism are the most likely to come about internally through shifts in profitability that force shifts in economic practices; through class warfare, which makes some forms of production or social relations unacceptable; through profitable technological innovation; or through the political influence of corporations that identify and act on the geopolitical and economic interests of the capitalist class as a whole.

Dynamics of Capitalism

Pressure is clearly building for change, with the growth of a more robust and radicalizing environmental movement in the global North, and most especially in the global South. The fact that some oil and gas companies are responding with a public relations offensive is a testament to that pressure. But the movement has, thus far, not been able to generate the kind of change required on anything like the scale needed. To do so would mean either the outright rejection of capitalism, or, at the very least, the fall of neoliberalism, and the reemergence of the state in domestic political and social life, outside the spheres of the security, surveillance and criminal legal sectors. ................(more)


V for Vendetta version of the UK no longer fictional?

British police are to be given the power to view the entire Internet history of everyone in the U.K. in a new surveillance bill to be published next week, reports say.

Under the proposed plan, telecoms and Internet service providers will be legally required to retain all Web browsing history for all customers for a period of 12 months, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The Guardian reports that “senior officers want to revive the measures similar to those contained in the ‘snooper’s charter,’ which would force telecommunications companies to retain for 12 months data that would disclose websites visited by customers.”

From the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph:

Home Secretary Theresa May will announce the plans when she introduces the Government’s new surveillance bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The Telegraph understands the new powers for the police will form part of the new bill.

Police would be able to access specific web addresses visited by customers.

The new powers would allow the police to seize details of the website and searches being made by people they wanted to investigate.

They will still need to apply for judicial approval to be able to access the content of the websites.

Mrs May previously told the Commons enforcement agencies needed more powers to do their jobs effectively.


Why Are We Hearing So Much about Those Damn Danes?

Why Are We Hearing So Much about Those Damn Danes?
Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid is putting Denmark on the map.

By Josh Hoxie

If you ask Bernie Sanders about his version of socialism, you’ll probably hear a lot about the small Scandinavian country perhaps best known for inventing Legos.

Anderson Cooper experienced this firsthand when he asked about the Vermont senator’s embrace of democratic socialism during the first Democratic presidential debate. That prompted the full Sanders rap on the wonders of Denmark, including the Nordic country’s strong safety net and egalitarian ethic.

As a longtime fan of all things Danish, from their bike lanes to their Viking hats, I’m excited to see this northern nation enter the spotlight here at home.

While studying abroad in Denmark as a college student, I compared its universal health care system to our own — and found Denmark’s far superior.

This was in 2009, a time when this was anything but an academic exercise.

Back home, Congress and the Obama administration were brushing the so-called “public option,” which would have given all Americans a chance to steer clear of private insurers, off the table. Progressives were outraged when they realized that the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t bring on anything remotely like Denmark’s single-payer health care system. ..............(more)


Marco Rubio on government workers (cartoon)


Chilling Thing Hershey Just Said About American Consumers

Chilling Thing Hershey Just Said About American Consumers
by Wolf Richter • October 29, 2015

When sweets-maker Hershey reported third quarter earnings on Wednesday, it left a bitter aftertaste: for the fifth quarter in a row, it cut its forecast. As JPMorgan analyst Kenneth Goldman put it during the call: “It feels like every quarter, something unexpected starts to bite.”

Sales were down slightly, though year-to-date sales were still up 1.2%, a sign the trend is getting more “challenging.” Versions of that word cropped up eight times during the call.

“Headwinds” cropped up four times, “tough” or “tougher” three times. “Macroeconomic” was dragged out eight times, usually in conjunction with “environment” – as in “given the macroeconomic environment” – but also with “challenges” and “winds,” as in CEO John Bilbrey’s elegant, “It’s been unusual in 2015, been some macroeconomic winds.”

CFO Patricia Little was able to put them into one sentence (earnings call transcript via Seeking Alpha): “Lower consumer trips and the macroeconomic environment continue to be a challenge within the retail environment….”

Upon these kinds of encouraging words, shares plunged 6.5% for the day and are off 20% from their high in January. ....................(more)


Are Flint's lead problems just incompetence or something worse?

(Metro Times) You know things are bad when the best defense you can conjure is incompetence.

But that's exactly what Dan Wyant, director of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality, resorted to last week when he admitted that the state mishandled the Flint water crisis.

"It has recently become clear that our drinking water program staff made a mistake while working with the city of Flint," Wyant announced in a written statement. "Simply stated, staff employed a federal protocol they believed was appropriate, and it was not."

It is bad enough that the obtuse and antiseptic nature of that admission stands in stark contrast to the human tragedy it is supposed to address: the contamination of a city's drinking water with lead, a potent neurotoxin that can cause permanent damage, especially in children. .....................(more)


Chicago: CTA Yellow Line Makes Long Ride Back, Ready to Restart Service

IL: CTA Yellow Line Makes Long Ride Back, Ready to Restart Service


Oct. 29--The roughly 10-minute dash on the CTA Yellow Line is almost back.

Yellow Line service is set to finally resume a couple of hours before sunrise on Friday after a 5 1/2-month shutdown triggered by a construction misstep, but riders will likely return to the express trains on their own timetable.

The CTA is trying to encourage a ridership resurgence on its shortest route that carries the fewest riders among all eight CTA rail lines by offering free rides on the Yellow Line through Nov. 6 for passengers boarding at the Dempster Street and Oakton Street stations in Skokie.

Riders entering at Howard Street will be charged the regular $2.25 fare, although people transferring from the Red and Purple lines at Howard will continue to pay nothing extra, officials said. Free parking will also be provided at the Dempster park-and-ride lot through the end of the year. ......................(more)


Biggest Donor Gives $175K More to Anti-Move Seattle Effort

Oct. 29--Faye Garneau has dropped an additional $175,000 into the campaign against the $930 million Move Seattle transportation levy.

That brings total contributions by Garneau, head of the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association, to $325,755, or 96 percent of all donations against the largest property-tax levy in city history.

Garneau has said she believes the levy's taxes are burdensome and its priorities misguided.

She almost single-handedly bankrolled the 2013 campaign for district elections that changed the way Seattle voters elect City Council members. ................(more)


The Demobilization of the American People and the Spectacle of Election 2016

from TomDispatch:

Four Score and Seven Years Ago... at Disney World
The Demobilization of the American People and the Spectacle of Election 2016

By Tom Engelhardt

You may not know it, but you’re living in a futuristic science fiction novel. And that’s a fact. If you were to read about our American world in such a novel, you would be amazed by its strangeness. Since you exist right smack in the middle of it, it seems like normal life (Donald Trump and Ben Carson aside). But make no bones about it, so far this has been a bizarre American century.

Let me start with one of the odder moments we’ve lived through and give it the attention it’s always deserved. If you follow my train of thought and the history it leads us into, I guarantee you that you’ll end up back exactly where we are -- in the midst of the strangest presidential campaign in our history.

To get a full frontal sense of what that means, however, let’s return to late September 2001. I’m sure you remember that moment, just over two weeks after those World Trade Center towers came down and part of the Pentagon was destroyed, leaving a jangled secretary of defense instructing his aides, “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

I couldn’t resist sticking in that classic Donald Rumsfeld line, but I leave it to others to deal with Saddam Hussein, those fictional weapons of mass destruction, the invasion of Iraq, and everything that’s happened since, including the establishment of a terror “caliphate” by a crew of Islamic extremists brought together in American military prison camps -- all of which you wouldn’t believe if it were part of a sci-fi novel. The damn thing would make Planet of the Apeslook like outright realism.

Instead, try to recall the screaming headlines that labeled the 9/11 attacks “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century” or “a new Day of Infamy,” and the attackers “the kamikazes of the twenty-first century.” Remember the moment when President George W. Bush, bullhorn in hand, stepped onto the rubble at "Ground Zero" in New York, draped his arm around a fireman, and swore payback in the name of the American people, as members of an impromptu crowd shouted out things like “Go get ‘em, George!” ................(more)


Pennsylvania: How to Create a School Financial Crisis

from The Progressive:

Posted: October 27, 2015
Peter Greene

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is in the grip of a major public education financial crisis. How did we get here? Well, Rome wasn’t burnt in a day. There are several stations on the way to schoolmageddon.

Start With Built-in Disparities

Everyone knows that Pennsylvania is home to urban behemoths Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but we also have huge rural areas. Take Forest School District, a district that covers roughly 500 square miles, serves about 530 students, and a resident population of just under 5,000 (with a median income of $33K). Pennsylvania deals with all manner of poverty and population. Any solution our urban-heavy representatives come up with will be an ill fit for somewhere else in the state.

That much variation also means any funding system based on real estate taxes will have baked-in inequities. Pennsylvania also run has the fourth-highest senior citizen population in the country—people who frequently oppose having their fixed income eaten away by increased taxes on their homes.

Mess With the Money

Remember how the stimulus money wasn’t supposed to be used to finance existing expenses? Yeah, here in Pennsylvania we kind of ignored those instructions. Under Governor “Smilin’ Ed” Rendell (D), the state spent less on education but used the ARRA money to make it appear as if we were actually spending more. When the stimulus money went away, Rendell’s successor Republican Tom Corbett was in a hole.

Toss a Pension Crisis on the Fire

Pennsylvania’s pension mess is complicated and long-brewing. The crisis started in 2001 when the tragedy of 9/11 blew an investment hole in pension moneys. Rendell had planned on the hot investment market at the time to overcome lackluster performance on investments going back to 2008. But when the market suddenly plunged after the terrorist attack, the state’s response was to charge pension costs to a big balloon payment. ...................(more)

- See more at: http://progressive.org/news/2015/10/188378/pennsylvania-how-create-school-financial-crisis#sthash.DxSbIK4z.dpuf

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