Monday, September 15, 2014

Scottish independence vote—what's the point?

The Predator Classes are nothing if not cunning.  All over the world there are people who want to somehow escape the predations of neoliberalism and so far, all exits have been blocked.  Scottish independence has a bunch of issues—most of them sentimental.  But ultimately, this big effort is about who controls Scottish resources—especially their oil.

So guess what?  The "approved" leader of the independence movement has already promised not to abandon the Pound as their currency and wants to continue to stay in the EU—which pretty much means that this independence vote will be ONLY about those sentimental reasons.  So Scotland does not look like an escape from the neoliberal hegemony.

But the attempts at escape are getting more brazen.  In fact, there are serious thinkers who believe the irrational Putin / Russia bashing is being organized to keep him from organizing the jailbreak.  The neoliberal thugs have reason to believe that Putin may be their most dangerous opponent.  Not only did he stop the big neoliberal plunder of Yeltsin's Russia, he actually threw one of their superstars (Mikhail Khodorkovsky) in jail.  Personally, I am not sure the neoliberals have all that much to worry about.  If RT is any indication, there are plenty of neoliberals in Russia with big policy jobs.

So while a "Yes" victory in Scotland will not make much difference to the economy, is will be yet another notification that the neoliberal monopoly on power is opposed by ever greater numbers of citizens.  After all, the "No" vote was supposed to be a slam dunk.

Scotland Should Declare Its Independence From Alex Salmond

Greg Palast  September 14, 2014

I mean, what's the bloody point? Why pretend to declare your independence only to chain yourself to a coin with a British snout on it and simultaneously beg to become a colony of Angela Merkel's Fifth Reich, aka the European Union?

I realize that, as an American and an economist, I carry into this debate a double dollop of disrespect from Scottish readers. But, with thousands of miles of salt water separating me equally from London and Edinburgh, I think I can see clearly what you miss from having your head inside the fish bowl.

There are two overwhelming and undeniable advantages for Scotland to declare its sovereign independence: to end both Scotland's damaging enchainment to the British pound and the debilitating tyranny of European Union membership.

Yet, weirdly, inexplicably and inexcusably, Alex Salmond promises to throw away the two most valuable benefits of national self-determination.

First, the pound. In all the hoo-hah over whether Scotland can keep the coin with the Queen's schnozzola on it, no one seems to have asked, Why in the world would Scotland want this foreign coinage?

The Bank of England's singular task at this moment is to figure out how to counteract the disastrous macroeconomic consequences of George Osborne's austerity fixations and the bleating demands of City bankers. The only time when the Bank of England gives any consideration to Scotland's economy is when a BOE governor checks the little gauge which tells them how much of Scotland's oil they have left to spend.

Why should the interest rates, exchange rates and monetary supply of a resource nation like Scotland be subject to the needs and whimsies of the rusting realm to your south? According to the well-accepted theory of Optimum Currency Areas, Scotland would be best off adopting the Canadian dollar, also a damp, salmon-choked oil exporter or, better yet, the Vietnamese dong.

No nation controls its economic destiny until it controls its currency--a concept easier to understand if you read it in Greek.

And Scotland's own coin, backed by taxing power over its oil extractors, would undoubtedly be stronger than sterling and more flexible alone. Control over its own currency will enable Scotland to cut interest rates when local manufacturing falters while the Bank of England is raising rates to fight a speculative bubble in The City.

Second, why this pathological need to remain subjugated by the European Union? Is there some extraordinarily wise legislation crafted by the solons of the European Parliament? Does Scotland need the guiding hand of Angela Merkel, Marie LePen and the Italian premier du jour? Does Scotland fear a sudden shortage of Bulgarian plumbers?

The USA trades with Europe without giving Lithuania veto power over trade terms. And as Swiss nationals will tell you, a lack of an EU passport will not cause you to be strip-searched on your way to the Costa del Sol. Disadvantages of EU membership: loss of control over terms of trade, and policies of industrial regulation, immigration and environmental control. And sorry, Mr. Salmond, you will indeed have to join the euro, at which point, Germany's finance minister will draft your budgets.

So that is my question to my friends north of Hadrian's wall. Why demand your independence from Britain only to insist on keeping your shackles? If you too find attachment to your chains nonsensical, then shouldn't your first referendum be a vote to declare Scottish independence from Alex Salmond? more

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The real costs of economic sanctions (revisited)

Easily the most amazing thing about the sanctions fight over the Ukraine is how pathetically easy it is to get governments to inflict damage on their own citizens over fights that barely affect them.  I mean how exactly do Italian farmers figure into the fight over whether the government in Ukraine is sufficiently neoliberal?  What have they done to suffer the destruction of a year's worth of hard work?

Perhaps that is the ultimate measure of Leisure Class effectiveness—how much suffering can they inflict on innocent bystanders for their own amusement.  These are truly sick people—they cannot create anything so they destroy the creativity of others.  They even enjoy destroying the creation we call nature.

The question becomes, what exactly do the rest of us do about their waste and destructiveness?  Like most of you, I have feelings of wanting to swing those pigs from the lamp posts.  But there are two problems with that—the Leisure Classes maintain their position in the social order by being very good at lying, cheating, and killing people, and even if you could organize a revolution to displace them, how exactly would your new regime differ the one you removed?

In my mind, the only solution is to culturally shun the Leisure Classes.  Since they are at their best when organizing displays that attract attention to themselves, actually ignoring these loudmouths is really difficult.  But ask yourselves, is shunning destructive barbarians really harder than winning a revolution?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Some serious thoughts on the coal debate

The following is a very thoughtful piece on coal—written by a Montanan.  There are major coal deposits in Montana—most of it exactly the kind preferred by electrical utilities.  It is a state that has long based much of its economy on resource extraction and is linked to the rest of the country by major rail links.  The coal seams are easily accessible and mining operations are extremely efficient using huge machines.

So while one could logically assume that the coal interests of states like West Virginia and Kentucky would dominate any debate over the future of coal burning in USA, ground zero for the debate is in places like Montana and Wyoming.  So it is gratifying that there are some Montanans who understand that neither they nor the rest of humanity can continue to burn coal.

Unfortunately, these decisions are probably out of the hands of the locals who actually understand more clearly the costs of coal burning.  China has a bunch of brand-new coal burning electrical power plants, they hold a lot of USA debt, and can probably afford  to pay whatever those good folks out west are going to charge.  So even IF Montana, the West, or anyone else objects, there is still going to be serious pressure to mine western coal.  Same coal will be sent into the same atmosphere—only at a different location.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Carbon loading of the atmosphere gets worse

Of course CO2 emissions are up.  We are still building coal-fired electrical generating facilities, for goodness sakes.  If ever a change in technology was so necessary and obvious as the complete halt to making electricity by burning coal, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be.  And yet, we cannot even pull this one off.

So the UN releases another report that measures the climate catastrophe in greater detail.  While I tend to pay attention to such things, I am getting to the stage where I want to scream "All right, I get it.  I can see the evidence of climate change every time I walk out the door.  Pointing out that we have a problem one more time will probably not educate the slow ones anyway.  Let's move on!"

The problem with moving on is that the people who are most successful at highlighting the climate problem are not very good at solutions.  On SEP 21, we are going to see what is being advertised as the largest global demonstration against climate change ever.  Actual smart people are lending their good names to this enterprise—even though its damn hard to imagine how such marches differ in any meaningful way from praying.  When church is over, the work is still waiting.

Solutions are hard.  Alternatives are even harder—especially when there are millions of man-hours of distilled expertise in turning coal into electricity, the tools are paid for, while governments and customers mostly understand what they are getting.  Selling a credible alternative to business-as-usual has always been difficult and with climate change, it must be done twice—first to create a new technostructure and then to resurrect the Producer Class economics necessary to pay the bills.  Both are insanely difficult.  In fact, the only reason to believe it can be done is that it has been done before.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Will Scotland choose independence?

The predictions for how Scotland will vote on independence are currently very close.  On one hand, it is almost impossible to believe that the Scots wouldn't be thrilled to leave the UK—especially after all the damage Thatcher caused them.  On the other, the institutional inertia after 307 years of being part of UK is pretty damn hard to overcome.

Economically, the case for independence is also something of a wash.  While it certainly seems that any way that folks can distance themselves from the megacrooks in London's City would be worth trying.  But the question still remains, "Can anyone really escape the baleful effects of those crooks without leaving planet earth?"

As someone who lives in USA, I am especially sensitive to the retarding effects a reactionary south has on the possibilities for development.  They are a drag on awareness, culture, education, economics, and politics.  Without the South, Minnesota would be much more like Canada or Scandinavia in countless ways.  Instead we are saddled with a national government of true knuckle-draggers like Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich, Bubba Clinton, and Jimmeh Carter—to name but a few of them.  So my sentiments are with the Scots who actually have an opportunity to hack loose the drag of their reactionary south.  Independence may not change a whole lot, but not having to take seriously or pay for disgusting twits like David Cameron or the royals has to be worth something.

Right?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On neoliberalism

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
John Kenneth Galbraith


Neoliberalism is easily the most serious subject on the planet.  In the name of this belief set, the ecosphere has been almost terminally damaged, billions of people have had their lives shortened, their social relationships destroyed, their means of gainful employment shattered, and the very concept of having a life worth living reduced to a hideous joke.  It is believed by religious leaders, editorial writers, academics, and most certainly by the tote-baggers.

We are told that this ugliness is actually a science.  It is not.  It is perhaps the most thoroughly discredited con job in the history of the human species.  There are tried and true methods of managing an economy that are proven to have much higher levels of generalized prosperity.  Compared to the insanity of neoliberalism, WW I was an exercise in deeply rational thought.



Neoliberalism — a self-serving con

31 August, 2014

If neoliberalism were anything other than a self-serving con, whose gurus and think tanks were financed from the beginning by some of the richest people on earth … its apostles would have demanded, as a precondition for a society based on merit, that no one should start life with the unfair advantage of inherited wealth or economically-determined education. But they never believed in their own doctrine. Enterprise, as a result, quickly gave way to rent.

All this is ignored, and success or failure in the market economy are ascribed solely to the efforts of the individual. The rich are the new righteous, the poor are the new deviants, who have failed both economically and morally, and are now classified as social parasites.

The market was meant to emancipate us, offering autonomy and freedom. Instead it has delivered atomisation and loneliness. The workplace has been overwhelmed by a mad, Kafka-esque infrastructure of assessments, monitoring, measuring, surveillance and audits, centrally directed and rigidly planned, whose purpose is to reward the winners and punish the losers. It destroys autonomy, enterprise, innovation and loyalty and breeds frustration, envy and fear.  George Monbiot  more

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The end to sanctions against Russia?

If you don't think that ideas are important, consider this: current president of the European Commission, José Manual Barrasso was a Maoist in his youth.  He's still just as doctrinaire, but now he is a loyal neoliberal.  And so is most anyone who has an important job in the EU.  And then there is a matter of those scary-smart educated elites that seem to lie thick on the ground throughout Europe.  The most vivid memory I have from my 1970 summer in Europe was that for the first time I could remember, I wasn't the smartest guy in the room—not. even. close!  I remember one night in Berlin when some guy I had just met went off on a geopolitical rant, in English, late at night with alcohol and hash mixed in, that was at least 10 times better than anything I had ever heard even (especially?) in formal university settings.  So how do people who went to great trouble to become as radical as possible in their youth, wind up as these clueless little neoliberal droids?  How do people who have had the benefit of elite educations aimed at the top 2-5% of the population wind up being conned by an idea set that has been so thoroughly discredited as the neoliberal descendant of classical economics?

The EU is now in its sixth year of an easily preventable economic depression because they want to believe crackpot ideas will work.  Force does not keep the herd in line.  Obviously neoliberalism does not win the day because of its towering brilliance.  No, the reason that neoliberalism wins in Europe is simple, old-fashioned status emulation.  The problem is universal but it affects the smaller countries the most.  When they are asked to join the EU, its like WAY better than being asked to join an exclusive country club.  And if all the rich and cool folks believe that neoliberalism is the only way to think, why then they will too even if there is a voice inside calling out, "this shit is crazy!"

So now, in addition to the lunacy of neoliberalism, we see the EU go off to commit economic suicide in the name of sanctions against Russia—the provider of their energy and a VERY important trading partner.  And over what?—the question of whether or not Victoria Nuland's engineered putsch will be allowed to stand?

In the meantime, while this 19th century geopolitical chess plunges forward, the people who could actually do something about it are distracted from some really serious problems like climate change.  Interestingly, one of the countries speaking out against the stupid EU sanction proposals are the Finns.  And why not?  Without a prosperous Russia on its border, Finland literally dies.  With the disaster at Nokia, Finland cannot afford any more major economic problems these days.  Unfortunately, Finland does not see the problems of neoliberalism quite so clearly—one of her most famous politicians, Olli Rehn, is such a doctrinaire neoliberal he is best thought of as a neoliberal "moonie."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Limits to growth"—groundbreaking book plus 40 years

A university professor assigned Limits to Growth in 1973 and so I read it.  I was impressed—so much so that I barely listened to the criticisms of it or the Club of Rome that commissioned it.  And wow! did the criticism get heated.  The Club of Rome was deemed elitist and probably fascist.  The idea that growth had limits was considered anti-poor and pessimistic.  But the big sin was that Limits was a major shock to the belief systems that postulated that "positive thinking" was necessary for positive outcomes.  In that world, claiming that growth had limits was a sin akin to suggesting that suicide was a good thing.

But unfortunately, continuous growth within a finite biosphere is flatly impossible.  Knowing this is not pessimism.  Rather it is to acknowledge a reality one would assume would be understood by any sentient being.  When I wrote Elegant Technology, my biggest problem was how to finesse the limits of growth.  Growth was necessary or we would damn billions to grinding, hopeless poverty.  Further, there was no way we could stay at the current stage of industrialization so it was clear we needed a whole pantheon of new ideas and rapid growth in the systems that could produce those better solutions.  So my proposal was to limit growth in those things that were obviously finite (clean air, fresh water, sweet crude oil, fertile topsoils) while concentrating growth in environmentally net-zero impact solutions.

So was it really necessary to take seriously a book that was being damned from editorial pages to pulpits?  Should have I altered Elegant Technology to reflect the conclusions of this work with such an iffy reputation?  Well, I am glad I did because some Australian researchers have recently checked out the Meadows' predictions in Limits to Growth after four decades and have essentially given them an A++ for foresight.  Once again, the evidence has shown that math works.

So can there be growth in a finite biosphere?  Yes!  But only growth that begins with the proposition that the biosphere IS finite.

Autumn is coming—projects must be finished

This summer, we are trying to fix a persistent, ongoing leak to the bathroom (we knew there was a problem when we bought the house—we did not know how bad it would be).  Also, widen the door for the coming age of walkers, build a new insulation package, install new wall and floor coverings, etc.

I am getting a little old for such projects but Producers will be Producers, I guess.  Might miss a few posts in the next couple of weeks because this rehab takes a bunch of energy.

Pictures below
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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Roberts on Ukraine

This blog is supposed to be about the bits and pieces necessary for a green sustainable future, and the economic thinking that will allow this future to be built.  So, I actually try to avoid discussions of war and geopolitical maneuvering because compared to the threats posed by the end of the Age of Petroleum and climate change, most wars are trivial events fought for trivial reasons (of course, they are not trivial for those whose lives are devastated by the death and destruction.)  But with the battle over Ukraine, I find myself distracted by gunfire and intrigue.

My rationalizations for getting off topic include:
  • The battles in Ukraine are merely a sideshow over the big fight over how oil will be priced.  Oil is still the prize but the even bigger prize is to own the methods for increasing the supply of money that oil is priced in.  The shootdown of MH17 happened exactly one day after the big BRICS agreement was signed.  I believe it was a warning just how far folks were willing to go to prevent the end of oil dollarization.
  • There is a cultural angle to this I find utterly fascinating.  As someone who grew up around religious pacifists, I keep watching to see how Putin is responding to some pretty serious provocations.  I am reasonably certain I could find a good Mennonite from my youth who would declare Putin a "man of peace."  There was an announcement a few years back the Putin had gotten religion and it is true that every shirtless photo of him since then has shown his baptismal cross nestled between his pecs.  If he is an example of how good Russian Orthodox Christians behave under provocation, I am impressed.
  • After the insanities of Marx and neoliberalism, Russia has a chance to get it right economically for the first time in her history.  In fact, the sanctions of the neoliberal West may be forcing her in that direction.  I only hope that somewhere in her vast academic institutions, Russia has at least a few good Institutionalists who understand the difference between Industrial and Financial Capitalism.  If those ideas get out and spread, Russia could be in for a blossoming of prosperity not seen since Wirtschaftswunder in Germany.
  • I am furious that at 65 someone is still trying to sell me cheap lies.  USA spends, by her own admission, $5 billion to destabilize Ukraine and then has the temerity to blame this crises on Russia and Putin.  Worse, I live in a country still so culturally shell-shocked by the lies of the Cold War that there are significant numbers of people who believe this horseshit.
Anyway, it is good to see that Paul Craig Roberts is just as furious about the USA shocking treatment of Ukraine as I am.  Oh, and here's to the cease-fire holding and not be just a reason to reload.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Does the WEF actually approve of import substitution?

Those who believe (like me) that people who design and build things are much more interesting—and prosperous—than those drones who merely shop, must be a little startled to discover that such a neoliberal free-trade organization as the WEF agrees with us.

The Liesure Classes might define reality in real and meaningful ways with their depressions and wars, but at the end of the day, serious countries are defined by their Producer Class accomplishments.  If you can build the very difficult, very well, folks tend to notice.  The Soviet Union might have built some really crappy cars, but they were seriously world-class in aerospace, sub manufacture, etc.  Not only were the citizens of the SU proud of their accomplishments, it was something that impressed outsiders.

Then the neoliberals showed up during the Yeltsin years and de-industrialized Russia—turning it into a Leisure Class paradise where conspicuous consumption paid for by oil exports replaced pride in accomplishment.  My guess is that not a few Russians miss the feeling of being world-class.  And probably more are furious that some cheap thugs in the world's banking centers are actually able to threaten them because they have forgotten how to make the necessities of life.

Institutional analysis would suggest that the Producer perspective is being heard these days in the halls of the Kremlin.  The sanctions from USA / EU have highlighted just what Russia should do to insulate themselves from the bullying of Leisure Class thugs.  And the first act is to go backing to making the basics—to stop importing things that can easily be made in Volgograd.

What is absolutely certain is that if Russia does embark on a serious program of import substitution, they will have a very different economy in a few years.  Could they become South Korea with an oil industry?  That's a tall order but in theory, it could be possible.

Shay's Rebellion and the wars on Producers

One of my favorite examples of the real differences between Producers and Predators concerns Shay's Rebellion.  While it is true that USA would become one of the more hospitable places for Producers, it is also true that the folks who knew how to rip off the peasants were also very well represented in all their forms.

The American Revolution was largely fought by farmers.  It could hardly have been otherwise as the majority of the males in colonial North America practiced some form of agriculture—including much of the leadership of the revolt like Washington, Jefferson, and John Adams.  But while Washington and Jefferson were slave-owning plantation owners who were deeply interested in the emerging applications of Enlightenment sciences to agriculture and rarely touched the tools of their enterprises, Adams was an small-sized owner-operator who had a life much more consistent with the farmers who marched to the beat of the Revolution.

Not surprisingly then, the farmers of Massachusetts thought the Revolution was about them.  But soon they discovered that it wasn't enough to have fought the Revolution, now they were supposed to pay for the damn thing.  And the guys getting rich were folks who had barely lifted a finger for the cause.  Now typically, farmers will just roll over and suffer but these guys were different—they had had military training.  Suddenly, Massachusetts had a genuine peasant's revolt on their hands.  The Predator Classes were quick and ruthless in putting down such a revolt what with at least 5000 years of experience with such matters.  Nevertheless, the tale of Shay's Rebellion lives on because their demands were perfectly legitimate.

It also lives on as yet another cautionary tale of what most revolutionaries actually think about the Producers, no matter how big their lies about their concerns for the conditions of the peasants.  Hell, in Russia the Bolsheviks didn't even bother to wait until their Revolution was over to start shitting on their peasants.  The real peasant party, the Social Revolutionaries (SR) was one of the first to be purged from the revolutionary government.  The Bolsheviks would go on to commits atrocities against their agricultural classes including starvation of millions of them during Stalin's Reign of Terror followed by collectivization of agriculture into mega-farms run by political hacks like Nikita Khrushchev.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Has Germany gone berserk?

I have been more or less counting on Germany to do the right thing with the crises in Ukraine.  After all, she has absolutely nothing to gain and a whole lot to lose by engaging in economic warfare with Russia.  Yet on Monday, President Gauck went off and visited cloud-cuckoo-land when he claimed that Russian actions in Ukraine means that RUSSIA has effectively severed its partnership with Europe.  Seriously??
  • The Ukrainian forces in the east who are indiscriminately blowing up high-value civilian targets like hospitals, libraries, and schools are real Nazis.  Some even sport the insignia of the 1st Galician (Ukrainian) division of the Waffen SS.  Tell me, Herr Gauck, do you really want to rip the scab off that wound?
  • Putin has shown incredible patience with a situation he did not create and in fact did quite a lot to avoid.  He has a major refugee crises on his hands.  Winter is coming and without some major emergency repairs, that crises could end up as a serious humanitarian disaster.  The alternative to propping up the self-defense militias is to encourage everyone to die bravely.  Every nationalist in Russia wants to prove what's left of the Red Army is still a fighting force.  Gauck, you are a Lutheran preacher yet your "bad guy" is demonstrating far more Christian forbearance than you would (and all the Christians in USA, for that matter.)
  • Speaking of Lutherans, the biggest cultural benefit of that religious practice is the ingrained respect for honest work.  Over 6000 German companies have invested a whole bunch of honest work in getting their Russian operations running.  Explain to me, Rev. Gauck, how putting those efforts in jeopardy is showing respect for honest work.
  • Oh, and Gauck, you were once a man of courage willing to stand up to freaking Stasi.  Yet here you are, selling out your soul for some cheap neocon lies.  Are you really telling us the USA is more frightening than the Stasi?  If so, then we really owe the police state of DDR an apology.
Here's the report of Gauck demented ramblings.
Russia has "effectively severed its partnership" with Europe and wants to establish a new order, German President Joachim Gauck said Monday.

"We want partnership and good neighbourly relations (with Russia)" but on the condition that Moscow changes its policies and that there is a "return to respect for the rights of nations", Gauck said at a ceremony in Gdansk to mark the 75th anniversary of Germany's invasion of Poland that set off World War II.

Evoking the "miracle" of post-war reconciliation between Germans and Poles, Gauck said he was disappointed with the turn of events in Russia.

"We believed and wanted to believe that Russia too, the country of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, could be part of Europe."

"It was a shock when we were confronted with a new conflict on Europe's borders. An armed conflict aimed at establishing new borders and a new order. It's a fact, stability and peace on our continent are once again endangered," he added.

Following the end of the Cold War, "the EU, NATO and major industrialised states developed special relationships with Russia and integrated it in different ways. Russia has effectively severed this partnership," he said. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, who spoke before Gauck, called for "courage and determination" in opposing "those who threaten the international order, peace and freedom".
This is charming.  Some ex USA "intelligence" types have decided that if they explain things politely enough, Frau Merkel will come to her senses and stop believing neocon bullshit.  Well good luck with that.  They make a good case here but unfortunately, the German government and press have decided to play "follow the leader."  Unfortunately, the "leader" this time is the crazed right wing of USA foreign policy institutions.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Committed carbon—the REAL threat to climate stability

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the climate change debate is how easily most activists on the subject home in on the fuel suppliers as the bad guys.  And while the oil and coal companies have more than their fair share of bad guys, concentrating on them is to wildly miss the point.

So what is the point?  The point is that the real engines of carbon emission growth are the folks who purchase technology that needs carbon-based fuel to operate.  When someone make the decision to purchase a car, they are also deciding to buy large amounts of 87-octane fuel for as long as they intend to operate that car.  Their decision to pollute is literally baked into the decision to operate a motor vehicle.

There are those who claim that we as a society are "addicted" to fossil fuels.  Anyone who has ever studied the medical aspects of addiction must cringe at the misuse of the word.  Because we are not at all "addicted" to fossil fuels.  Rather we made serious purchases that require us to buy very specific forms of fuels.

The best current example of this misunderstanding of a technological imperative is the celebrity cause of stopping the Keystone XL pipeline being built to transport Alberta Tar Sands.  And while no reasonable being can be anything but horrified by the environmental implications of mining the tar sands, fighting over how it is transported trivializes the problem.  Face it, if they cannot move the tar sands in a pipeline, they will ship it by rail because there has been nothing done to diminish the DEMAND for the fuels those sands contain.

In this essay, Tim Radford explains how this concept works when the subject is a new coal-fired power plant.  Build one of those, and you have increased the demand for coal for at least the next 50 years.  At that point, the coal mine operators are are merely good businessmen supplying a social need.  If you REALLY want to make a dent in the carbon-emission problems, you must somehow get access to the room where the decision is made to build a coal-burner in the first place.  This action will probably not be nearly as sexy as watching Daryl Hannah get handcuffed at a pipeline protest, but it would accomplish a whole lot more.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sergei Glaziev—Putin's economic brain

Since the EU seems determined to push Russia outside of the neoliberal world, she has the possibility to try something more enlightened.  The opportunity is certainly there.  Russia has a highly educated populace and an embarrassment of natural resource riches.  So in theory, there is not much that stands in the way of historical levels of prosperity.  In practice...

In this Youtube, we hear from Sergei Glaziev who is advertised as Putin's primary economic advisor.  And he most certainly has an interesting POV.  He is not, however, without his analytic weaknesses—the most obvious of which is that he understands capitalism from a Marxist perspective.  He starts off with analysis of cycles and structural overlaps. Then he asserts that technology transformations have typically come from war, but this time, we have humanitarian technologies in the wings so we can avoid the war stage.  He proposes a trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok and reminds us that the state can provide demand.

Moving on to a more specific historical analysis, Glaziev claims that WW II and Cold War were good for USA, and that what is different now is we are moving from American cycle of capital accumulation to an Asian cycle.  To combat this, USA is fomenting war in Europe to maintain their hegemony in battle against China (Asia) by getting cheap assets in the resulting chaos.  Russia is the victim of this policy while Ukraine is weapon of choice.  Brzezinski is the theoretician behind this geopolitical madness.

Ukraine and Russia share their scientific and industrial complex, but Ukraine's association agreement with EU has ceded economic control to Brussels of everything important.  So it is now a colony.  Effectively the Kiev government is now Nazi whose sole goal is to inflict as much damage as possible on east Ukraine.

The current economic warfare will cause the EU to lose a trillion Euros from sanctions scheme demanded by USA.  Cold War anti-USSR turned Russophobia is making European leaders act against its own self-interests—Germany to the tune of 200 billion Euros.  Glaziev hopes new young leaders will be more pragmatic.

Suddenly the interview gets very interesting.  He claims the Russia must stop external dependencies.  He points out that while Russia has grown to depend on foreign investment, rich Russian investors are taking capital out of the country—losing $100 Billion each year.

And shades of the Non-Partisan League, Glaziev then claims:
  • We must take control of our financial and monetary systems.
  • We must restore our capacity for strategic planning and long-term programs.  
  • We must build new technological systems.
  • We must build our own sovereign macro-economic policy.
So is this the man who can advise Putin on a quest towards full economic potential?  Who knows.  But I am reasonably certain that his advice is significantly better than anything any USA President had heard since at least Jimmy Carter.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

When being a Progressive meant something

Back in the early 1980s, I had become seriously disillusioned with the Democratic Party.  This had been a long time coming.  I was still furious with the Cold-War Liberals who never could muster the moral courage to oppose the Vietnam War.  That the architects of the Great Society—Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey—kept raising the ante on that criminal enterprise had driven a deep wedge between me and my parents.  My mother actually believed that God wanted Humphrey to become President based on his 1948 civil rights speech to the Democratic convention.  Needless to say, she did not appreciate my wearing a "Dump the Hump" pin during the 1968 election.

The Carter administration soured me further.  Suddenly, the economic reasons for being a Democrat just vaporized as Carter would start the party on its big shift to the economically reactionary right.  A few Liberals stood up to this major-league sellout—but not many.  By the time he had lost the presidency to Bonzo's co-star, I decided the LAST thing I wanted was to call myself a Liberal or even a Democrat.

But what?  Fortunately, about that time I had started reading up on the history of the Progressive movements in my corner of the world.  Someone loaned me a copy of Robert LaFollette's autobiography—all 900+ pages of it.  As the man who founded the Progressive magazine and was the 1924 candidate for the Progressive Party, I figured he was probably an accurate representative of the Progressive impulse.   By the time I finished that bio, I was quite certain that could call myself a Progressive without feeling the slightest shame.

Lately, the practice of relabeling oneself as a Progressive has gotten quite popular.  Unfortunately, MOST of these relabelers are still the Liberals that drove me into the wilderness.  They are merely fleeing a label that the right wing successfully turned into a a generic swear word.  They are still susceptible to warmongering of the crudest sort, they still are seduced by reactionary economics, they still believe that a good education is automatically a liberal enterprise, and they still can be easily distracted by hot-button issues.

With that in mind, I saw this piece recently produced for the Minnesota Historical Society about Minnesota's Progressive Era.  It's just a thumbnail sketch that leaves out about 1200 pages of fascinating narrative, but it's not a bad start.  If someone wants to call themselves a Progressive, fine, but they should at least understand the basics.  Besides, it's really good stuff.