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Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
ZAKARIA: Now for my "What in the World" segment.
Here's what got my attention this week: a somewhat shocking report from British Petroleum. Have you switched all your bulbs to compact fluorescents? Are you thinking of buying a new hybrid car? Are you careful to recycle every last scrap of paper off your desk?
Good for you, you're doing your part but I'm sorry to tell you, you may be wasting your time.
Listen to this: for the sixth year in a row, coal consumption has grown. King coal is the fuel that is driving global warming. It is the earth's biggest polluter. Many scientists tell us that it is the fastest growing, dirtiest fuel in the world. And the country driving most of the growth -- China.
That's what a fascinating new report from the energy giant BP says. Last year, China burned more than double the amount of coal that the world's second biggest user did, the United States. And while U.S. usage went down a little last year and Spain cut its usage by more than a quarter, China actually burned 7 percent more coal in 2008 than it did in 2007. That uptick in China was responsible for an extra 366 million tons of emissions into the atmosphere.
The root of the problem is that China's addictive coal habit is precisely what is driving its extraordinary growth. Coal is what fires many of the plants that make the sneakers and the steel and the silicon chips which China then sells to the rest of the world at a profit. And there's no sign they're slowing down.
An MIT study says that China builds new coal-fired powered plants at the rate of two each week. And "Science Magazine" found that if China keeps on this path, by 2030 they will be emitting as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the entire world does today.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
I’m not so sure Obama was sincere during the campaign about being for progressive causes including single payer, since he’s done 180s on many campaign promises – need I list them?
Beginning with his appt. of Rahm E. the neoliberal free market believer and AIPAC supporter, onto his Wall St. appointments to Treasury through supporting Cheney’s secrecy and coverup of torture, to confabing with Pharma, I think he is staunchly in the corporatist neoliberal column – another Bill Clinton. There’s not even fire in his belly for a public option.
The only answer for all this corporatist corruption is public financing of campaigns and strong lobbying reform. Also, it would be nice to have a vibrant progressive third party that rejects corporatism and currying favor (and needless to say bags of cash) with/from the corporacratic plutocracy that both parties are essentially wings of.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Income Inequality Is At An All-Time High: STUDY
Income inequality in the United States is at an all-time high, surpassing even levels seen during the Great Depression, according to a recently updated paper by University of California, Berkeley Professor Emmanuel Saez. The paper, which covers data through 2007, points to a staggering, unprecedented disparity in American incomes. On his blog, Nobel prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called the numbers "truly amazing."
Though income inequality has been growing for some time, the paper paints a stark, disturbing portrait of wealth distribution in America. Saez calculates that in 2007 the top .01 percent of American earners took home 6 percent of total U.S. wages, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2000.
As of 2007, the top decile of American earners, Saez writes, pulled in 49.7 percent of total wages, a level that's "higher than any other year since 1917 and even surpasses 1928, the peak of stock market bubble in the 'roaring" 1920s.'"
Beginning in the economic expansion of the early 1990s, Saez argues, the economy began to favor the top tiers American earners, but much of the country missed was left behind. "The top 1 percent incomes captured half of the overall economic growth over the period 1993-2007," Saes writes.
Despite a rising stock market, largely growing employment and a historic housing boom things were not nearly so rosy for the rest of U.S. workers. This trend, according to Saez, only accelerated during the George W. Bush's tenure as President:
"...while the bottom 99 percent of incomes grew at a solid pace of 2.7 percent per year from 1993-2000, these incomes grew only 1.3 percent per year from 2002-2007. As a result, in the economic expansion of 2002-2007, the top 1 percent captured two thirds of income growth."
My comments there (and others'):
Welcome to the New Gilded Age or alternatively, if you like pulp fiction, The Banana Republic of America! The plutocracy finally got what it's wanted since Ronnie, turbocharged by Bush's corruption of democratic safeguards against greed, corruption, war profiteering, and disdain for the commons (including the health of our "same boat" Spaceship Earth and the common good (or Justice and Love).
Posted 04:04 PM on 08/16/2009
The Republican party is the shock troops of the plutocracy. Their only agenda is the transfer of wealth to the wealthy. They oppose Health Reform because it is a liberal social proram that will secure the loyalty of a new generation of Americans to the Democratic party. Their conservative "values" are a hoax. Their fiscal probity is a convenient pose now that they are out of power. The truth is that they have been waging a counter-revolution since the New Deal. They came close to taking over during the Depression. (Roosevelt didn't save us from Communism; he saved us from fascism).
Since the 1930's the ruling class has waged war from the top down. Looking at the graph above they had to wait a long time, but the economic dislocations that followed the Vietnam War created the opportunity to implement their strategy to concentrate wealth at the top. From 1975 on the real income of EVERYONE but the top one percent has fallen. Household incomes grew briefly from having two earners, but that stalled out by the early 90's. Only during the Clinton years did this trend reverse, which is why they did everything in their power to get him out of office.
Posted 08:49 PM on 08/16/2009
Clinton wasn't FDR though. He was more conservative than you think.
Also, Clinton presided over the dot com bubble which burst just as GWB got into office. The economy was good back then because it was inflated.
Posted 06:15 PM on 08/17/2009
You're right. Clinton was a DLC neoliberal corporatist, which is what I believe Obama to be, unfortunately.
Friday, August 14, 2009
By Chris Hedges
The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as it did under George W. Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture or “extraordinary rendition,” restore habeas corpus or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street or end our relationship with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce useless and costly weapons systems.
The sad reality is that all the well-meaning groups and individuals who challenge our permanent war economy and the doctrine of pre-emptive war, who care about sustainable energy, fight for civil liberties and want corporate malfeasance to end, were once again suckered by the Democratic Party. They were had. It is not a new story. The Democrats have been doing this to us since Bill Clinton. It is the same old merry-go-round, only with Obama branding. And if we have not learned by now that the system is broken, that as citizens we do not matter to our political elite, that we live in a corporate state where our welfare and our interests are irrelevant, we are in serious trouble. Our last hope is to step outside of the two-party system and build movements that defy the Democrats and the Republicans. If we fail to do this we will continue to undergo a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion that will end in feudalism.
We owe Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney  and the Green Party an apology. They were right. If a few million of us had had the temerity to stand behind our ideals rather than our illusions and the empty slogans peddled by the Obama campaign we would have a platform. We forgot that social reform never comes from accommodating the power structure but from frightening it. The Liberty Party, which fought slavery, the suffragists who battled for women’s rights, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement knew that the question was not how do we get good people to rule—those attracted to power tend to be venal mediocrities—but how do we limit the damage the powerful do to us. These mass movements were the engines for social reform, the correctives to our democracy and the true protectors of the rights of citizens. We have surrendered this power. It is vital to reclaim it. Where is the foreclosure movement? Where is the robust universal health care or anti-war movement? Where is the militant movement for sustainable energy?
“Something is broken,” Nader said when I reached him at his family home in Connecticut. “We are not at the Bangladesh level in terms of passivity, but we are getting there. No one sees anything changing. There is no new political party to give people a choice. The progressive forces have no hammer. When they abandoned our campaign they told the Democrats we have nowhere to go and will take whatever you give us. The Democrats are under no heat in the electoral arena from the left.
“There comes a point when the public imbibes the ultimatum of the plutocracy,” Nader said when asked about public apathy. “They have bought into the belief that if it protests it will be brutalized by the police. If they have Muslim names they will be subjected to Patriot Act treatment. This has scared the hell out of the underclass. They will be called terrorists.
“This is the third television generation,” Nader said. “They have grown up watching screens. They have not gone to rallies. Those are history now. They hear their parents and grandparents talk about marches and rallies. They have little toys and gizmos that they hold in their hands. They have no idea of any public protest or activity. It is a tapestry of passivity.
“They have been broken,” Nader said of the working class. “How many times have their employers threatened them with going abroad? How many times have they threatened the workers with outsourcing? The polls on job insecurity are record-high by those who have employment. And the liberal intelligentsia have failed them. They [the intellectuals] have bought into carping and making lecture fees as the senior fellow at the institute of so-and-so. Look at the top 50 intelligentsiaE2not one of them supported our campaign, not one of them has urged for street action and marches.”
Our task is to build movements that can act as a counterweight to the corporate rape of America. We must opt out of the mainstream. We must articulate and stand behind a viable and uncompromising socialism, one that is firmly and unequivocally on the side of working men and women. We must give up the self-delusion that we can influence the power elite from the inside. We must become as militant as those who are seeking our enslavement. If we remain passive as we undergo the largest transference of wealth upward in American history, our open society will die. The working class is being plunged into desperation that will soon rival the misery endured by the working class in China and India. And the Democratic Party, including Obama, is a willing accomplice.
“Obama is squandering his positive response around the world,” Nader said. “In terms of foreign and military policy it is a distinct continuity with Bush. Iraq, Afghanistan, the militarization of foreign policy, the continued expansion of the Pentagon budget and pursuing more globalized trade agreements are the same.”
This is an assessment that neoconservatives now gleefully share. Eliot A. Cohen, writing in The Wall Street Journal, made the same pronouncement.
“Mostly, though, the underlying structure of the policy remains the same,” Cohen wrote  in an Aug. 2 opinion piece titled “What’s Different About the Obama Foreign Policy.” “Nor should this surprise us: The United States has interests dictated by its physical location, its economy, its alliances, and above all, its values. Naive realists, a large tribe, fail to understand that ideals will inevitably guide American foreign policy, even if they do not always determine it. Moreover, because the Obama foreign and defense policy senior team consists of centrist experts from the Democratic Party, it is unlikely to make radically different judgments about the world, and about American interests in it, than its predecessors.”
Nader said that Obama should gradually steer the country away from imperial and corporate tyranny.
“You don’t just put out policy statements of congeniality but statements of gradual redirection,” Nader said. “You incorporate in that statement not just demilitarization, not just ascension of smart diplomacy, but the enlargement of the U.S. as a humanitarian superpower, and cut out these Soviet-era weapons systems and start rapid response for disaster like earthquakes and tsunamis. You expand infectious disease programs which the U.N. Developmental Commission says can be done for $50 billion a year in Third World countries on nutrition, minimal health care and minimal shelter.”
Obama has expanded the assistance to our class of Wall Street extortionists through subsidies, loan guarantees and backup declarations to banks such as Citigroup. His stimulus package does not address the crisis in our public works infrastructure; instead it doles out funds to Medicaid and unemployment compensation. There will be no huge public works program to remodel the country. The president refuses to acknowledge the obvious—we can no longer afford our empire.
“Obama could raise a call to come home, America, from the military budget abroad,” Nader suggested. “He could create a new constituency that does not exist because everything is so fragmented, scattered, haphazard and slapdash with the stimulus. He could get the local labor unions, the local Chambers of Commerce and the mayors=2 0to say the more we cut the military budget the more you get in terms of public works.”
“They [administration leaders] don’t see the distinction between public power and corporate power,” Nader said. “This is their time in history to reassert public values represented by workers, consumers, taxpayers and communities. They are creating a jobless recovery, the worst of the worst, with the clear specter of inflation on the horizon. We are heading for deep water.”
The massive borrowing acts as an anesthetic. It prevents us from facing the new limitations we must learn to cope with domestically and abroad. It allows us to live in the illusion that we are not in a state of irrevocable crisis, that our decline is not real and that catastrophe has been averted. But running the national debt can work only so long.
“No one can predict the future,” Nader added hopefully. “No one knows the variables. No one predicted the move on tobacco. No one predicted gay rights. No one predicted the Berkeley student rebellion. The students were supine. You never know what will light the fire. You have to keep the pressure on. I know only one thing for sure, the whole liberal-progressive constituency is going nowhere.”
Copyright © 2009 Truthdig, L.L.C.
The only thing I don't agree with is Chris Hedges's call for full commitment to socialism.
First, I don't think we could do it here, with such a conservative Southern right-wing population, and the scare word that is is.
Until campaign finance and lobbying reform it will be hard to get off the war ecomomy - the military/industrial complex (which includes the dinosaur oil & gas companies that were just listed has being in the top 10 for executive compensation - they have had a bonanza during the last 8 years, thanks to their cronies BushCo, I need not tell you, as they kept getting up to the tipping point of Global Heating.) That's one of the most depressing things - a lot of scientists think it's too late to stop Global Heating - we can only mitigate the worst efffects - I'll still be alive when the misery begins, I'm afraid.
Second, at this point, I support a mixed economy, private and public, with strong regulation of Wall St, and health, woker safety and wages portections, FAIR trade, not free trade, that outsources jobs, drives wages and working conditions down, and encourages illegal immigration, all to give CEOs millions in salaries and bonuses, support for unions, and so on, health care reform with at least a single payer option, and most importantly (and most improbably, because Congress has to cut its payday - public campaign funding for Federal elections and strong lobbying reform (despite SCOTUS's terrible decision equating speech with money.)
As far as getting people to organize, the mainstream media is so corporate controlled, consciously or unconsciously, that our only hope is getting people off their asses through internet and messaging communication, if that can be done).
People have to raise their consciousness, too.
P.S. As you probably know, since November, when he appointed Robert Rubin acolytes Geithner and Summers to Treasury, I knew we had a neoliberal DLC pro-Wall St. free trader like Bill Clinton, and I was disappointed in Obama, and knew he'd not keep a lot of his progressive campaign promises.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Thursday July 30, 2009 08:31 EDT
Practicalities v. principles: the prime Beltway affliction