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Thu Oct 14th, 2010 at 04:29:01 AM EST
I've been too busy with real-world tasks (and pleasures) for the last few months to do much blogging, but winter is i-cumin in and sometimes the outrage-o-meter pegs so hard that only blogging will relieve one's feelings...
I'll just let Richard Littlemore and Stephen Leahy tell the story:
The Conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has launched a huge Suncor-sponsored campaign to reframe climate change as a good thing for Canada's economy. [RL]
The first comprehensive look at the expected impacts of climate change on Canada offers an embarrassing and misleading "don't worry, be happy" vision, citing more golf days and better access to northern deposits of oil and gas courtesy of global warming, critics say. [SL]
frontpaged by afew
Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 03:17:54 PM EST
I'm surprised not to see more discussion here of the unfolding catastrophe in the Gulf (of Mexico that is). For a start I'll LQD the irrepressible Dmitry:
The drawing of parallels between industrial accidents is a dubious armchair sport, but here the parallels are just piling up and are becoming too hard to ignore...
Thu Apr 15th, 2010 at 08:01:36 AM EST
McKibben's latest book confronts the problem of the human enterprise directly: the cult of growth, the idea that we can grow our way out of problems, is almost over. Now what?
front-paged by afew
Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 11:19:29 PM EST
I started exploring the strange new world of e-publishing about three years ago when planning my downsizing and relocation. I knew I was not, no way, no how, going to buy a reader from Micro$oft or Amazon (both come with large sticky strings attached, as in heavy DRM and the usual attempt to tie the user to the vendor’s document format). So I bought the Jinke Hanlin direct from China, at that time rather an undertaking that eventually involved the Bank of China and a lot of faxing....
Fri May 15th, 2009 at 04:51:41 AM EST
John Sanbonmatsu, in Tikkun, lays it on the line:
As of spring 2009, the leading capitalist states in Europe, North America, and Asia have thus either spent outright, or exposed themselves to financial risks totaling, well over $10 trillion-a figure so vast that one searches in vain for any relevant historical parallel. By comparison, the entire Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II cost a mere $9.3 billion (in constant 2005 dollars). According to the United Nations, it would cost $195 billion to eradicate most poverty-related deaths in the Third World, including deaths from malaria, from malnutrition, and from AIDS. So the amount of money committed by policymakers to save capitalism from itself is already fifty times greater than what it would take to save tens of millions of human beings from terrible daily suffering and premature death. If the wealthy nations instead invested that $10 trillion into the economies, health systems, and infrastructure of the Third World, rather than transferring it to the world's richest banks, private financial institutions, and investors, they could usher in a new epoch in the history of the species-a world community in which every human being would be guaranteed a livable life.
That the financial bailout is a colossal misdirection and waste of public resources, however, is not the most scandalous thing about it. What is truly unconscionable is that all this money is being spent to prop up capitalism itself-a mode of economic and social life that has corrupted and hollowed out our democracies, reduced great swaths of the planet's ecosystem to polluted rubble, condemned hundreds of millions of human beings to wretchedness and exploitation, and enslaved billions of other animals in farms that resemble concentration camps.
From the diaries - afew
Fri May 1st, 2009 at 08:03:03 AM EST
NarcoNews reports, with somewhat offputting typography but a basic grasp of the details:
La Jornada columnist Julio Hernández López connects the corporate dots to explain how the Virginia-based Smithfield Farms came to Mexico: In 1985, Smithfield Farms received what was, at the time, the most expensive fine in history – $12.6 million – for violating the US Clean Water Act at its pig facilities near the Pagan River in Smithfield, Virginia, a tributary that flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The company, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dumped hog waste into the river.
It was a case in which US environmental law succeeded in forcing a polluter, Smithfield Farms, to construct a sewage treatment plant at that facility after decades of using the river as a mega-toilet. But “free trade” opened a path for Smithfield Farms to simply move its harmful practices next door into Mexico so that it could evade the tougher US regulators.
Of "farming" and viruses - afew
Sun Feb 22nd, 2009 at 03:00:14 PM EST
One autumn day in 1990 I was in Tyumen, capital of west Siberia’s rich oil province. I knew Tyumen well and was a frequent visitor. Here were the ‘competent organs’ of party and government whose consent was necessary to make anything happen. And the city was a transit-point from Moscow for the great oil and gas producing centres lying in a huge arc around Tyumen from Yamal and Khantii-Manssisk in the north, to Urengoi, Tobolsk and the oil fields further south and west.
I had just come from Tobolsk a few hundred miles further west, where I had negotiated a barter deal for the purchase of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) from an enterprise there. I planned to stopover in Tyumen on my way back to Moscow, to finalise matters and perhaps follow up some business proposals.
This was the time when the Soviet Union was juddering towards collapse.
Wed Apr 30th, 2008 at 01:37:06 PM EST
My buddy rootless writes -- and for a change gives me permission to republish his imho excellent prose... (and I take the oppo also to remind folks of my favourite May Day essay "Against Defeat, Laughter" by Peter Linebaugh.
I well remember how indignant a lot of antiwar people were at US organized labor's late, feeble, and sometimes dead wrong positions during the Vietnam War. Much of the then AFL-CIO leadership supported the war (though this support grew less vocal as the war dragged on under a Republican administration); so did a lot of union members, notably the building trades "hard hats" who waded into an antiwar rally in Manhattan in 1969. There were exceptions, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) on the West Coast and, eventually, the United Auto Workers and a number of public employee unions; there was a labor coalition against the war, which formed a contingent at rallies, bought ads in the print media, and lent support to antiwar candidates.
What there wasn't, though, was any use of labor's economic strength--the strike weapon--to express opposition to the war, and that baffled and irritated some antiwar activists, especially those who didn't know much about labor law or labor history. (I know this doesn't apply to a lot of the recipients of this message; feel free to skip ahead if this is familiar material.) In particular, students from middle-class families weren't aware that under the Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act, the use of the strike weapon for any purpose except in disputes about collective bargaining agreements is explicitly prohibited.
Mon Apr 28th, 2008 at 07:07:17 AM EST
The title of J's recent diary "Let Them Eat Cake," plus AA's diary on food flavourings, finally spur me to action; I've been meaning to transcribe this delightful (in a manner of speaking) excerpt from Bodanis' amusing little book The Secret House, for a couple of months now. Bon appetit! And don't even ask me about the icing :-)
Promoted for your lunchtime delight - Colman
Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 01:45:18 AM EST
I direct attention to an excerpt from Dmitry Orlov's new book:
If the entire country were to embrace the notion that collapse is inevitable and that it must prepare for it, a new political party might be formed: the Collapse Party. If this party were to succeed in upending the two-party monopoly and forming a majority government, this government would then want to implement a crash program to dismantle institutions that have no future, create new ones that are designed to survive collapse and save whatever can be saved. If, further, this crash program somehow succeeded, in spite of constitutional limitations on government action, and in spite of the inevitable lack of financial resources for such an ambitious undertaking, and in spite of the insurmountable bureaucratic complexity, then I for one would be really surprised!
Barring such surprises, sometimes it is possible for small groups of capable and motivated individuals to succeed where governments fear to tread. And so here are some things that I would like to see taken care of, in preparation for collapse.
Sun Mar 2nd, 2008 at 09:21:50 PM EST
I have promised this tidbit for a long time, and now a cold rainy evening aboard Taz offers me the downtime to do some tedious typing. Here, without permission (but a good friend of mine was buddies with the author -- now deceased -- and swears that he wouldn't mind in the least), is a chunk of Appendix B from the interesting little book Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948: A Successful Campaign to Deceive the Nation, by Frank Kofsky, 1993.
It is relevant to several discussions present and past on ET and in other venues, particularly when the subject of Tin Foil Hats has come up. I find it one of the most graceful and reasonable discussions of conspiracy theories in print and am glad to share it. BTW, the entire book is worth a read -- a bit dry, but full of interesting facts and of obvious historical relevance/resonance. Just throw in a few references to Yellow-Cake or WMD or Enrichment, substitute your favourite dusky Muslim nation for "Russia", and see how strangely contemporary the whole thing sounds...
Sun Feb 24th, 2008 at 01:00:43 AM EST
It’s been suggested several times, on this blog and elsewhere, that the process of coming to terms with the reality of peak oil has more than a little in common with the process of dealing with the imminence of death. The five stages of getting ready to die outlined by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in a series of bestselling books back in the 1970s – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – show up tolerably often in today’s peak oil controversies. [...]
Hmmm, so I'm not the only person who thinks so... [hat tip to L Tolar for pointing me to the author's blog]
Wed Dec 5th, 2007 at 03:21:16 PM EST
When you warn people about the dangers of climate change, they call you a saint. When you explain what needs to be done to stop it, they call you a communist. Let me show you why.
Thus, Monbiot in a recent article
Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 03:50:38 PM EST
I continue to contest the imho overly simplistic assertion that per capita consumption is a reliable indicator of Freedom and Happiness (TM). I'm gonna put this strongly and provocatively: so long as we hew to this myth authored by marketeers and loan sharks, we are doomed as a civilisation and maybe as a species (not to mention all the innocent species we are taking with us).
[...] there is a madness at the heart of this economic model with its terrible environmental costs. It's best illustrated by a graph used by the US psychologist Tim Kasser at a Whitehall seminar last week. One line, representing personal income, has soared over the past 40 years; the other line marks those who describe themselves as "very happy", and has remained the same. The gap between the two yawns ever wider. All this consumption is not necessary to our happiness.
Kasser's graph has both hopeful and disturbing implications. On the hopeful side, this is good news: a low-consumption economy wouldn't mean misery. But what's disturbing is how we continue to shop when it doesn't make us happier. He argues that our hyperconsumerism is a response to insecurity, a maladaptive type of coping mechanism. Over the past few decades, the sources of insecurity have multiplied: in addition to the manipulation long practised by advertising, there are new sources of insecurity in highly competitive market economies, ranging from identity (who am I and where do I belong?) to basics (who will look after me in my old age?). This relationship between materialism and insecurity helps explain why countries as diverse as the US and China are deeply materialistic; they are places of endemic insecurity.
Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 10:25:42 PM EST
The numbers are astonishing. Apparel is easily the second-biggest consumer sector after food. We're spending $282 billion on new clothes annually, up from $162 billion in 1992, based on U.S. Census figures.
Importantly, the steady upward march of clothing expenditures doesn't fully reflect the increase in the actual quantities being made and bought, because the same-size spending spree can bring in more garb with every year that goes by.
The government says apparel prices in the United States dropped by about 25 percent from 1992 to 2002, and we responded like the good consumers we are, increasing our buying by 75 percent. The population increased only 13 percent in that decade, so the average annual shopping haul, which stood at about 50 new articles of clothing per person per year in 1992, had grown to 75 or more items per person by 2002. It has only gone up since then.
And to clear out closet space for the new purchases, the average American discards 68 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Sun Nov 18th, 2007 at 05:05:29 PM EST
retired US ambassador with no health care:
Quickly we switched over to Medicaid, which would pick up roughly fifty percent of the cost of the 24 hour care, and breathed deeply with prayers, hoping this would somehow work. The monthly cost for caring for him is around $12,000, so we wound up having to pay roughly $6,000 a month. Now a year has passed, and dear dad is still fighting for life, breathing, eating, and seeing his family every day, though his condition continues to worsen.
But we cannot afford to keep paying for the care.
Requiem for the American Dream — Diary Rescue by Migeru
Tue Nov 6th, 2007 at 09:06:40 PM EST
Plants are the only source of oxygen on Earth - the only source. And studies around the world show that as plant species become extinct, natural habitats can lose up to half of their living plant biomass.
Half of the oxygen they produced is lost. Half of the water, food and other ecological services they provide are lost.
If a forest loses too many unique species, it can reduce the total number of plants in that forest by half, says Bradley Cardinale, lead author of the meta-analysis published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
"Those unique species are not replaceable. Nothing takes their place. It was a really shocking finding for me," Cardinale, a biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told IPS. "That's how much biodiversity matters."
Mon Nov 5th, 2007 at 07:32:21 PM EST
Still, it's obvious that our imperial busy beavers remain tirelessly at work -- and you could be one of them. A few other countries have the odd base or two abroad, but here's a stat to be proud of: It's estimated that 95% of all foreign bases on this planet are ours! That's no small boast. Just consider Okinawa, a Japanese island smaller than the Hawaian island of Kauai. The United States has 38 bases there that cover 19% of the island's prime real estate. That has to be a record.
If this is news to you, I'm not surprised. Here's the strange thing: We Americans garrison the globe in a way no people has ever done -- not the ancient Romans with their garrisons stretched from North Africa to distant Britain; not even the nineteenth century British with their far-flung naval coaling stations. Our garrisons around the world are our versions of "gunboat diplomacy" and colonialism all wrapped in one. They are functionally our modus operandi on the planet. Everyone out there knows about them, but few Americans are particularly aware of them.
Staggering billions, for instance, have gone into those state-of-the-art mega-bases in Iraq, and scores of smaller ones, since Baghdad fell in April 2003. They are presences, facts on the ground of the first order. No matter what anyone was saying in Washington at any moment, they spoke of permanence, of a desire to be in Iraq forever and a day; and yet the Iraq debate in the mainstream these last years has taken place almost without serious mention of them. You can turn on your TV and watch American journalists, standing somewhere in Camp Victory, report on other subjects. But when has one ever taken you on a simple tour of that mega-base?
The fact is: In Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, our garrisons regularly slip beneath the American radar. Think of it, perhaps, as a way to have our cake and eat it too. We manage to be an imperial presence on the planet without ever quite having to be reminded that we are part of an empire, an identification which rubs against the American grain.
The indefatigable Tom Engelhardt: Advice To a Young Builder
Longish, but well worth the read.
Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 08:19:55 PM EST
Are a few pictures worth a few thousand words?
A Photo Gallery of Iran, the next place the Theocons want to bomb into the stone age. Click, sit back, spend a little time...
I dunno, maybe passing this link around could open the eyes of some of the morons who still equate 'muslim world' with Hearst Newspaper (or Disney) cartoons of grimacing savages waving spears from camelback? or "Iran" with just one face, that of Khomeini scowling at the world like the Ebenezer Scrooge of Dar al-Islam?
it is a breathtakingly beautiful country, as indeed was Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion (which iirc wasn't as destructive as the US-supported Taliban rebellion and subsequent AngloEuro invasion and carpet bombing) -- as was Iraq before and even during Saddam. this is the next place the Yanks plan to litter with cluster bombs and pollute with the effluent of shattered factories and sewers, poison for all time with DU dust, make a desert and a balkanised wilderness of warlords and cynically call it democracy.
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest
decade century species?...
Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 05:37:23 PM EST
[Revised due to disappointing quality of first source, I add another more interesting tidbit...]
Taking a break from decrying revisionism and manufactured consent in Festung Nordamerika, I ran across this promising, but ultimately disappointing book review and an op/ed from LMD. Both suggest that France is under direct attack by neocons/plutocrats; the first casts Sarkozy in particular as the darling of the neolibs, the second doesn't point fingers so precisely but suggests that the French economy is seen by transnational finance capitalists as a ripe peach for the picking.
The assault on labour and resources known as "reform" to the neocons always comes with an ideological narrative to justify its cruelties. I am curious to know what our Francophone contingent can add for deeper understanding of the neolib offensive in their nation-state. Is Sarkozy your very own Thatcher? and if so, what can be done about him and the horse he rode in on?