Category Archives: Eco Criminals

Political Fables for a Political Year

The WA Post has back to back stories in my digest this morning that I found interesting. 

 

In the first story, the Government Accountability Office found that the Republican’s budget showdown over the debt limit coast the county 1.3 billion dollars last year.  That is money that we could have used somewhere else in my opinion.  But it shows the hypocrisy and stupidity of the current republican congressional legislators.  And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the democrats are just chomping at the bit to pass the kind of legislation that the country needs, look at their record in 2009-10 when they controlled Senate, House and White House and we could get banker bailouts, but not the public option for health care.  Single payer was not even on the table.  The dems are clearly beholden to their corporate funding sources, but they don’t engage in wasteful theatrics like the debt ceiling fight or endless votes to repeal legislation that clearly go nowhere.  There are significant differences between the parties, but both parties understand that they cannot legislate against the interest of the wealthy interests that now decide our elections (thanks to Citizens United and Scotus Inc.)

 

 

GAO: Debt fight cost at least $1.3 billion

 

 

By , Published: July 23

  Last summer’s fierce political debate over raising the federal debt limit cost taxpayers more than $1 billion in extra borrowing costs, including hundreds of hours in overtime for federal employees responsible for avoiding default, according to a new government report.

Delays in raising the debt limit forced the Treasury Department to pay an extra $1.3 billion in borrowing costs — and the final sum is expected to climb higher as multi-year obligations and other outstanding costs are added later, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Monday.

Read the whole story? 

In the second story, the League of Conservation Voters is reported to planning to launch a global warming campaign to unseat 5 flat-earth republicans who have been a little too vocal about their ignorance.  

I think it has become more and more difficult for the red-staters to deny global warming.  What’s wrong with Kansas is starting to shift from the question about how they can vote against their own best interest over and over to just how bad is the drought going to be?   As folks see the crops dry up and experience the consequences of supporting electoral candidates and parties who guarantee that we do nothing about global warming, they may have an epiphany.  A lot of folks are going to become believers in global warming through the rough lessons of direct experience. 

Torrential rains, floods, derecho windstorms, super tornados, droughts, may provide a wake-up call to folks in the heartland that was never going to be delivered by the threat to polar bears and penguins or rising sea levels that are threatening the coastal states that can’t afford to harbor politically-rooted doubts about climate change.

Here is a bit of the second story and link to the whole thing:

Environmentalists target 5 Republicans who question humans’ impact on climate

 

 

By , Published: July 23

  The League of Conservation Voters will launch a $1.5 million campaign Tuesday targeting five House Republicans who question the connection between human activity and climate change, in an effort to test whether the issue can sway voters.

Prominent conservative Republicans have challenged the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other sources are transforming the Earth’s climate. But it has not emerged as a central issue in a national political campaign, and President Obama, who pushed unsuccessfully for national limits on greenhouse gas emissions at the start of his term, has played down the issue over the past two years.

Read the whole story?  Why not?

 

Puget Sound Energy is an Australian For Profit Utility

 

Thurston County will get to vote to authorize the Public Utility District to expand into electricity in November.  It is on the ballot, friends.  We did it.  No paid signature gatherers, just volunteers knocking on doors.

Let’s talk about Puget Sound Energy for a moment.  It is not a Puget Sound based company despite the name.  PSE is owned by the Macquarie Group of Australia.  I have nothing against Australians, but the Macquarie Group appears to be an investment company.  A slinger of high finance instruments including Collateralized Debt Obligations, one of the casino style financial models that create privatized profit and socialized risk.

The SEC is reported to be considering lawsuits against the Mac Group.  Should we continue to trust them with an electricity monopoly in Thurston County or should we vote for PUD Power and have them compete with a utility that is locally owned, locally controlled, and locally accountable?   Want to know more about Macquarie Group?  here’s a piece from The Australian:

Macquarie Group unit faces US probe over deal

 

 

 

MACQUARIE Group is being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over a botched subprime mortgage bond deal from before the global financial crisis.

It was revealed yesterday that Delaware Investments, now a subsidiary of Macquarie Group, and Mizuho Financial Group are likely to face civil charges over the $US1.6 billion Delphinus bond offer in 2007.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the SEC, the US corporate regulator, was about to file lawsuits against the two groups.

It will be alleged that the bond deal consisted of a collateralised debt obligation that “imploded” just months after it was sold to investors.

Want to read the whole article in The Australian?  Sure, why not.  I don’t think The Olympian is covering the Macquarie Group story.  just sayin…

Summer is here!

It finally got warm again here in Western Washington yesterday.  Much of the country has been suffering through a heat wave for a while already.  Some parts of the country have been on fire.  This is an aspect of global warming that will probably come to Western Washington.  We have large stands of timber that will burn if weather patterns were to change and reduce the amount of rainfall in the region.  People in the Hoh River Rainforest might appreciate a reduction in rainfall, but by and large, the Northwest needs a lot of rain and gets it. 

My grandsons were out and about and could not be located to grab our kayak/play boats and head to the river or Sound, so I scooped up my 5 year old granddaughter and we took the smallest kayak I have and spent a couple of hours playing and keeping cool in the Newaukum River.  (video is shot a few miles away from the stretch we were in).  The river has pretty good flow this early in the year, so granddaughter was not sure she wanted to be in the river, but by the end of our time there she was jumping off the bank and letting me catch her and be swept along in the current.  It’s possible to get swept off your feet, but the river is only a couple of feet deep in the lower reaches, so it’s perfect for playing, wading and kayaking.

I have noticed that the climate change deniers are getting desperate. They know that the US electorate is finding climate change to be real.  It’s too bad that it takes disastrous evidence and experience of global warming to persuade the folks who tune into traditional media in the US that the doubt about global warming is manufactured by the same folks who want to persuade folks that Obama is a dangerous socialist when he is simply another corporatist democrat, but this serves the goals of certain folks.

We get change in this country when the tea party folks wake up and realize that the occupy folks are their natural allies and have the story right where the media giants have the news all wrong. 

Not warm yet in your neighborhood?  Don’t worry, the warm weather is coming.  We need balance.  We need a carbon tax immediately to change the energy paradigm.  The explosion of research, development and manufacturing that would follow carbon tax implementation would solve our double dip recession problem and create jobs.  The tax would lower the deficit, but it could not/should not be large enough to solve our deficit problem, just enough to fund R&D on sustainable energy systems.  The deficit problem needs to be solved by reinstating the steep tax rate system that existed in this country when JFK stimulated the economy back in 1961.  We have flattened the tax rate so much since that time that there is little or no stimulus effect left in that approach, only increasing income inequality and deficits that threaten our way of life.  Things could get so bad in the US that we would have to cut the military budget.  Just try to imagine that. 

Record heat?  You want to deny that?  Here’s a piece from Think Progress and elsewhere:

What Is Causing The Climate To Unravel?

By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm

By Jeremy Symons, via  the National Wildlife Federation

Answer: One trillion tons of carbon pollution.

40,000 heat records have already been broken this year across the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Here in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the signs of an unbalanced climate system have been felt in recent years not just in heatwaves, but increasingly in the form of unusually severe wind storms. This past weekend’s storm brought 80 mph wind gusts that snapped three trees in our backyard like pretzels, even though they were each a foot thick. Once again, my insurance company is teaching me new weather terminolgy to explain the latest climate disasters. A few years ago, the term was “micro-bursts” (not quite tornadoes, but similar impact). Now it is “derecho” (not quite hurricanes, but similar impact).


Read the whole piece at Think Progress?   Stay cool.

It’s one planet, folks.

I have noticed that the foolish folks who remain interested or reimbursed to disseminate misleading information about anthropogenic global warming are repeating the story about the fall in US CO2 emissions.  Tell it to the folks who are suffering through the heatwave in the “red” states today.  The issue is emission and concentration of CO2 levels on the global scale, friends.  If you measure emissions in a National Park, things look really great.  If you measure emissions in any small part of the planet, you can produce data that will make emission levels look great or terrible, but if you measure emissions on the planetary scale, the scale that is our climate, the scale that produces our weather, then we continue to face a catastrophic problem.

Here’s a piece from the Guardian:

 

World carbon dioxide levels highest for

650,000 years, says US report

 

· Rise in chief greenhouse gas worse than feared
· Earth may be losing ability to absorb CO2, say scientists

Cooling towers at Eggborough power station, near Selby

Cooling towers at Eggborough power station, near Selby. Photograph: John Giles/PA

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached a record high, according to the latest figures, renewing fears that climate change could begin to slide out of control.

Scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years.

Read the real numbers.  Don’t be fooled by the folks who are engaged in dishonest presentation of limited data.  Shame on those of you who do this with knowledge that the data is meaningless and misleading.  For those of you who are confused by the data, learn to evaluate when data is being skewed or limited to produce a misleading result and recognize that folks who knowingly provide misleading data are not to be trusted.

It’s the Climate, Stupid.

The economy is a financial shadow of the state of the physical world.  Economics is simply one way of measuring certain activity here on a small planet on a spiral arm of a somewhat non-descript galaxy in the known universe.   There are lots of planets, rocks, planetoids, stars, dust motes in the universe that appear to have little or no activity that could be measured in economic terms (other than zero) because the local climate and weather have reached steady states that are too hot or too cold for economic measurement.

Ouch!  Click me please We float around the galaxy in the goldilocks zone, neither too hot nor too cold for  lively economic activity, yet when our economic house of cards starts to shake, we can’t figure out that the climate in the goldilocks zone is the ultimate free lunch and that economics are a shadow of the physical world.  We appear to be willing to destroy the climate rather than upset the economic schemes of the dominant species on the planet.

Homo industrialis is a dominant and successful species, but maybe not too smart.  We need to evolve to become homo sustainabilis or we kiss it goodbye.  We better wise up soon.

Lots of weather news out there.  The Rio climate talks were disappointing.  No political will to re-order our priorities and realize that the economy relies on the climate, not the other way around.

Here are some news items about the weather, some things to think about as we enter the lazy days of summer:

  • East Coast sees sea level rise – not a good thing.  Is it related to global warming and the burning of fossil fuels?    Yes.    I will say it again.  Yes.   Burning fossil fuels is causing sea level rise.  Time to stop equivocating.
  •  Here’s a piece on record high temperatures and storms in the east.
  • Arctic ice is melting at record pace.

We have options.  We have to look at ways to prevent capitalism, the church of the profit, from burning the house down while we try to live in the house.

Here is an interesting piece about democratic capitalism in Spain.  I don’t know if this kind of thing is the answer, but it’s encouraging to see a less top-down model of corporate structure.  Mondragon Corporation.  Read all about it.   Thanks to Alternet for running this piece.

Chris Hedges has a piece on Alternet today about Crazy Horse.  It’s a good piece, but Chris is someday going to need to reconcile his “black bloc is a cancer” screed with pieces like this one where he glorifies warrior lifestyles.  I don’t say that I know which approach is right.  I agree with Chris on this article that includes a quote from the lesser-known Marx Brother:

Karl Marx was correct when he called unregulated capitalism “a machine for demolishing limits.” This failure to impose limits cannibalizes natural resources and human communities. This time, the difference is that when we go the whole planet will go with us. Catastrophic climate change is inevitable. Arctic ice is in terminal decline. There will soon be so much heat trapped in the atmosphere that any attempt to scale back carbon emissions will make no difference. Droughts. Floods. Heat waves. Killer hurricanes and tornados. Power outages. Freak weather. Rising sea levels. Crop destruction. Food shortages. Plagues.

Yep, it’s Monday morning.  Time to throw on the office clothes and get the work week underway.  Be careful out there. Stay cool.  Keep cool.

Been Busy at the Quarry

It’s hard to know what to do in the current political and environmental environment.  Scanned a piece today on Climate and Capitalism website.  This piece was a reaction to a favorable review of Derrick Jensen’s book Deep Green Resistance that ran on Canadian Dimension.  Jensen seems to catch a lot of reactionary ink to his proposals to create change.  I am pretty busy working the create change in many ways, so don’t have lots of time to read Jensen (or to blog these days) but I get the impression that Jensen embraces a Luddite sensibility at times.  Maybe also a  monkey wrench mentality that is attractive, but may be a dead end politically.  There is something about the monkey wrench mentality that I find both sexist and adolescent, which is not to say that I don’t also find it attractive.

This review of a review included a quote from Eugene V. Debs about the use of violence as a political tactic.  I liked this quote a lot:

“It is not because these tactics involve the use of force that I am opposed to them, but because they do not…. The force that implies power is utterly lacking, and it can never be developed by such tactics.”

 I suspect Debs is correct.  That violent tactics of wanton property destruction will never succeed.  But I fear that Jensen could also be correct when he asserts (per this review of a review) that:

“I don’t think most people care, and I don’t think most people will ever care…. The mass of civilized people will never be on our side.”

That elitist, greener-than-thou attitude permeates Deep Green Resistance.

The authors write:

“The vast majority of the population will do nothing unless they are led, cajoled, or forced. … there will be no mass movement, not in time to save this planet, our home.”

And:

“Humans aren’t going to do anything in time …[so] those of us who care about the future of the planet have to dismantle the industrial energy infrastructure as rapidly as possible.”

 There is something afoot in the world that makes it difficult to rouse the peasants.  It seems to me to be a strange mix of economic desperation brought on by wage stagnation, by labor outsourcing, by globalization of corporate profit and human exploitation combined with a media and consumption induced trance state where folks who are clinging to creature comforts and their hope of individual job security blinds them to the fact that the ground is shifting under our feet.  Our pensions, 401k benefits, Medicare, Social Security – none of this will be protected if we destroy the planet’s willingness to accommodate our species.  It may be difficult to see that hard reality with your head firmly planted in the sand of Fox News, or Time Warner, or any of the media giants who all spew a steady stream of distraction and infotainment.

In terms of the desperation of human labor, I came across  a piece on the Black Orchid Collective website (thanks to Austin Kelly for sending that along) that was reposted from Recomposition about human labor.  A rumination on the devaluation of human labor, that included this poem from Rilke:

The Machine endangers all we have made.

We allow it to rule instead of obey.

To build a house, cut the stone sharp and fast:
the carver’s hand takes too long to feel its way.

The Machine never hesitates, or we might escape
and its factories subside into silence.
It thinks it’s alive and does everything better.
With equal resolve it creates and destroys.

But life holds mystery for us yet. In a hundred places
we can still sense the source: a play of pure powers
that — when you feel it — brings you to your knees.

There are yet words that come near the unsayable,
and, from crumbling stones, a new music
to make a sacred dwelling in a place we cannot own.

Rilke (Translated by Joanna Macy)

 Ah, yes.  A sacred dwelling in a place we cannot own.  I will cut stone by hand on that project.  See you at the quarry.

Looking Back on The Limits to Growth

Here is the frame:  In 1972 a bunch of computer nerds were commissioned by the Club of Rome to complete computer modeling of finite resources, rates of consumption and population growth.  The output was a book called The Limits to Growth.   It caused a bit of a stir because the computer modeling predicted that global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030.  Wikipedia has a pretty well referenced page on the The Limits to Growth. Meadows, Meadows, Randers, Behrens

The original study was criticized by lots of folks who thought that growth could somehow become sustainable, that more resources would be found, etc.  The methodology was criticized. This study was not popular with economic growth globalists.

The Limits to Growth has been revisited on a number of occasions.  Most recently an Australian physicist named Graham Turner completed a thirty year look back at the computer modeling and Turner’s study is published at The Smithsonian.   This kind of thing is like disneyland for nerds.  Graphs, charts, all sorts of variables to argue about.  It’s a wonderland for slide rule afficionados.  Needless to say, it’s hard to present on CNN, MSNBC, BBC in a way that has gets the message across.

Look at the graph and try to focus on one primary matter:  The thirty year slice of history from 1972 to 2002 shows that the numbers in reality have developed largely as predicted by the 1972 study suggested.   Click on the graph to jump to the Smithsonian story if you want.

The good news is on the blue line where pollution is predicted to drop hard.  So, it’s not all bad.  There is something to look forward to in the projection.

I think I would prefer to see the human population make some difficult choices and reduce consumption to change the trend lines, but it’s not a popular suggestion with the folks who make the decisions.  What do they call themselves?   Oh, yeah…  the deciders.

Juan Cole on Oil and Politics in Iraq

James Stafford with Oilprice.com suggested that their interview with Juan Cole would be of interest.  With gas prices surging over $4 per gallon, oil news is probably of interest.  Eternal Fire of Baba Gurgur courtesy Chad.r.hill

I agree, therefore:

Oil & Politics – The Real Situation in Iraq

A delegation from the International Energy Agency spent two days in Baghdad speaking with high-ranking officials in preparation for an end-of-year report on the country’s oil sector. By some estimates, Iraq could hold some of the largest oil reserves in the world and an international auction for oil and natural gas blocks is planned for May. Without a hydrocarbon law, and considering the fractured political system, the IEA’s report may be more about political obstacles than oil potential, however.

Baghdad announced triumphantly this week that oil production increased to more than 3 million barrels per day for the first time in more than 30 years. Exports, the government said, should increase substantially once a new floating oil terminal starts operations later this week. The IEA in December said crude oil production in Iraq could reach an average of 4.36 million bpd by 2016, about half of what Riyadh produces. The agency warned, however, that Iraq’s fractured political system might be as much of an obstacle as anything.

Iraq’s post-invasion political system has never been stable. Tensions in Baghdad flared up when Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused his Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi of terrorism almost as soon as the last American troop left the country in December. Juan Cole, the man behind the influential blog Informed Comment, said the action by Maliki “was part of an effort to marginalize and humiliate his Sunni enemies, and a sign of unwillingness to seek a grand national bargain.”

Iraq may be a democratic country in theory but it certainly isn’t quick on the political front, especially when it comes to passing a long-delayed hydrocarbon law. Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, described Iraqi politics as anything but stable.

“I wouldn’t hold my breath on getting anything accomplished on the oil law,” he said.

Maliki may be able to use his hard-ball tactics in an effort to get his way on things like the federal budget, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to widespread political influence across the rest of the country, said Cole.

Kurdish leaders objected profusely when it looked like Exxon Mobil would be left out of Iraq’s upcoming fourth international auction because of its contracts with the semiautonomous Kurdish government. Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Nuri Shaways, a lawmaker from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, complained, in a statement, that Baghdad was somehow opposed to “economic openness” and the “promotion of trade.” Baghdad protests that any unilateral deals with the Kurdish government are illegal, though Cole said there isn’t much that the central government can do about it.

“The Iraqi government faces two big problems on petroleum development. It is still too weak to provide security reliably for the Western corporations and their employees,” he said. “And, it is still economically depressed enough to be afraid of being taken advantage of by a bidding process that favors the corporations — causing it to drive so hard a bargain that it has spooked potential investors.”

Iraq could be able to take advantage of its strategic position in the Middle East. Its Turkish neighbors to the north are keen to become an influential energy hub by playing host to some of the most ambitious oil and natural gas pipelines in the world. To Iraq’s south, the Strait of Hormuz transports about 20 percent of the oil traded globally.

“Politically, however, Iraq is landlocked,” said Cole.

Getting a federal budget passed this year might’ve been a temporary political victory for Maliki. Long term, however, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to make any claims to a political mandate in a country that relies so heavily on oil for its federal revenue. Baghdad has tilted at times toward Iran and higher oil prices may embolden the Shiite prime minister’s position. But Iraq might find itself in a geopolitical tug-of-war given Washington’s regional interests.

“Iraq is extremely vulnerable right now,” Cole warned.

The IEA is expected to release its report on Iraq in October as a prelude to its full energy outlook for 2012. While expressing optimism about the prospects for the oil sector in post-war Iraq, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said politics are getting in the way of broader developments. When asked what he would title the October report from the IEA, Cole just chuckled and said “slow progress.”

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Iraq-Oil-Outlook-Overly-Ambitious.html

By. Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com

Black Bloc 101

Chris Hedges made a few waves with his recent piece describing the black bloc as the cancer in occupy.

click me pleaseI  believe in diversity. I think diversity is a fundamental natural law of the universe.  But I understand that human beings have a tidiness gene that makes us think that we can organize and be more efficient through suppression of diversity, by rejection of the natural order and diversity that constantly arises and evaporates back in to the order of chaos.  Chaos is not merely disorder.  There may be a level of order benefit and diversity in chaos that is not easily observed and is under-appreciated.

The black bloc tactic is something that arises from police violence toward non-violent protest and the willingness of society to choose order over the bedrock right to peacefully assemble and petition for redress of grievance.

Diversity of tactics and tolerance of the diversity of tactics is something that I embrace whole-heartedly.  Things can go wrong.  I have seen that.  Things can go right.  I have seen that as well.   I am usually pleased to see a black bloc tactical option in a crowd of protesters.  I believe Hedges could not be more wrong about the black bloc tactic.

Here is an interesting and informative piece in response to Hedges cancer article.  I recommend that you read the piece if you don’t understand and appreciate the black bloc tactic or if you read the Hedges article and thought what he said made a lot of sense.

After you read the piece, you might want to look through the n + 1 zine that is carrying the piece.  Looks like a pretty informative vehicle.  A weapon of mass instruction.  I am down with that. Thanks to my friend Elliot Stoller for bringing this piece to my attention.

World Life Expectancy – Interesting Website Shared by My Friends at TC Pro-Net

The Thurston County Progressive Network are a great bunch of folks who work year-round to produce a more progressive community in the Olympia area.  In this week’s calendar they share a link to World Life Expectancy website and a cancer cluster map. 

It’s an interesting website from an epidemiology perspective.  The suggestion in the cancer cluster webpage is that environmental degradation can be tracked to a certain extent by cancer rates.  I think there are a lot of regional cultural issues, like diet, wealth/poverty that also contribute to the cancer clusters, but environmental degradation is probably part of the story.  If you live in one of the black (high cancer rate incidence) counties, you can weigh in with why you think your county might have high cancer rates.

I am in Lewis County, WA.  It’s a relatively low income per capita by WA standards, so we probably have a lower rate of preventive click me pleasemedical care, but we also have a couple of superfund cleanup sites, one for PCBs, and we have a coal mine (not operational today) and a coal-fired electricity plant, known locally as the Centralia Steam Plant.  We try not to mention coal here on either shore of Coal Creek, but the steam plant and the steam mine have been a large part of Lewis County economy over the decades.

This website also has an informative interactive world life expectancy map that includes gender life expectancy.  Pretty cool website.  Lots of information.

oh, friendship is good for longevity, according to these folks.  Sounds right to me.

Don’t miss this page if you are a budding epidemiologist.