The Watering Hole, Friday October 18 2013; Four ‘Energetic’ GOP Wrist-Slashers

I couldn’t help but notice a collection of four articles that were recently posted on Think Progress’ Climate page concerning some remarkable advances in “thinking” concerning energy production. First of all, America’s most hated arch-enemy, France, has finally managed an ‘absolute’

. . . ban on fracking [which] was finally completed Friday [October 11], as its constitutional court upheld a 2011 law prohibiting the practice and canceling all exploration permits. The decision posted on the court’s website said the ban “conforms to the constitution” and is not “disproportionate,” effectively protecting it from any future legal challenge.

U.S. driller Schuepbach Energy brought its complaint to the court after two of its exploration permits were revoked due to the ban. Schuepbach attempted to argue that since no study had established fracking risks, there was no cause for the ban, and that since fracking isn’t banned for geothermal energy projects, it was unfair. The court didn’t find that convincing, citing the differences between geothermal and shale gas exploration.

Environment Minister Philippe Martin framed the decision as a victory in the larger effort to limit fossil fuels and carbon emissions. “Beyond the question of fracking, shale gas is a carbon emitter,” he said in a statement. “We must set our priorities on renewable energies.”

Well, it is the French after all. How did Mark Twain put it? Something like, ‘man was originally created on the level of the angels but has been slipping ever since to where now he’s somewhere between the angels and the French.’ Oh well, no more French Fries will surely serve to improve our nation’s health.

Then there were a pair of surprises . . . BIG surprises, given the political bent of the two states. First, New Arizona Solar Plant Uses Salt To Keep Producing Electricity When The Sun Goes Down . . .

The 280 megawatt (MW) Solana solar plant just came online in Arizona, with one unique distinction: for the first time in the U.S., the plant will use a ‘salt battery’ that will allow it to keep generating electricity even when the sun isn’t shining.

The three-square-mile commercial-scale facility near Gila Bend, Arizona will use thermal energy storage, in the form of a molten salt system, to continue producing clean energy without sunlight. “This technology enables Solana to produce electricity at full capacity for up to six hours after sunset, including the early evening hours when customer demand for power typically peaks in Arizona,” according to an Arizona Public Service (APS) press release.

This is a big step forward from the more common solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, which requires direct sunlight to create electricity.

And . . . not only is the Solana plant a technological breakthrough in terms of thermal energy storage, it’s also the largest plant in the world to use to use parabolic trough mirrors to concentrate solar energy. This concentrated solar power (CSP) technology uses the mirrors to focus the sun’s heat on pipes, heating a synthetic oil that flows to boilers, which create the steam that drives two 140 MW turbines to produce electricity, much like a traditional power plant.

And then, miracle of miracles, there’s this from, of all places, Inhofe’s Oklahoma: Oklahoma Utility Buys 600 MW Of Wind Power To ‘Provide Substantial Savings To Our Customers’ . . .

Oklahomans will soon be paying less for their electricity because their utility looked at the market and decided that wind power would be the most cost-effective option.

On Thursday, the 100-year-old Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) — a division of American Electric Power (AEP) — signed an agreement to buy 600 megawatts of power from wind farms being developed in the northwestern part of the state. Currently there is just one large-scale wind farm in the Panhandle and in almost two years, there will be three more.

“The Panhandle of Oklahoma truly is one of the mother lodes of wind in this country,” said Clean Line Energy Partners President Michael Skelly.

The initial plan was just to buy one 200 MW project, but PSO tacked on another 400 MW “after seeing extraordinary pricing opportunities that will lower utility costs by an estimated $53 million in the first year and even more thereafter,” according to Tulsa World.

The Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement means that on January 1, 2016, 600 megawatts of wind energy will be available, enough to power 200,000 average American homes. This is pending the approval of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

So. Progress seems to be on the move. At least one country has said absolutely NO to any and all fracking, and in the US, electric utilities in a pair of deeply red states are seriously advancing the renewable energy programs which, with persistence and a little bit of luck will one day in the not too distant future overwhelm the fossil fuel industries once and for all and for good.

And finally, this pertinent ‘footnote': Renewable Energy Patents Booming, Led By Solar And Wind.

” . . . while patents in fossil fuel technologies grew modestly, and nuclear technology remained flat, between 2004 and 2009 the number of patents issued annually for solar energy increased by 13 percent per year, while those for wind energy increased 19 percent per year on average.

“The study attributes investment in R&D and market demand for helping spur such growth, which for solar and wind exceeded patent growth rates for semiconductor and digital communications technologies.”

It appears as though THE major capitalist driving force may be coming into play in the energy world: Profit! Imagine the consequences . . . cleaner air, less environment destruction, not to mention a great many less Republicans to stand in the way of thoughtful progress. Of course, someone will have to clean up the mess left behind by all the slashed wrists, but I’m sure that’s a more manageable task than, say, cleaning up the mess left behind by a leaky oil pipeline.

OPEN THREAD

CLOSED FOR BUSINESS

Christmas came early for hundreds of thousands of federal workers as the Tea Party Caucus successfully shut down the Federal Government. This, to be sure, is a White Christmas. Except for Father Christmas, John Boehner. He’s orange.

The Speaker of the House used the power of his position to prevent a clean funding bill from coming up for a vote. He is dedicated to spending any amount, incurring any hardship, just to see that millions of Americans don’t have health insurance. Except that he’s spending taxpayers’ money, and he’s not having to get by without a paycheck. The same goes for the Tea Party Caucus. They know, thanks to gerrymandering, they’ll get re-elected.

The Republican Party has long run on the mantra of a smaller federal government and now, they’ve succeeded in their goal. Only functions deemed “essential” are operating. Everything else is shut down, or shutting down. Everything else, we can get by without, on a permanent basis. National Parks? nope. Government regulators? Who needs them. Research grants? Let the free market take care of it.

If the Tea Party wants to, they can make sure that a total economic collapse, worse than the Great Depression, starts on Obama’s watch. All they have to do is…nothing. And they’ll still get their full paychecks.

Merry Christmas.

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 2nd, 2013: Whose American Dream?

On a weekend which is supposed to celebrate the lowly worker and his/her hard-fought-for rights, and less than a week after Republicans refused to participate in the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, hard-core conservatives gathered in Florida to “Defend” a much different “Dream.”

Most Americans, like King, might describe the American Dream as one of fairness, an America where hard work, thriftiness, integrity, compassion, and sharing were among the most admirable characteristics. Most Americans dream of a life of somewhat limited goals, i.e., a nice house in a decent neighborhood, enough earnings to perhaps travel, to afford a few little luxuries, indulge in a hobby – generally, to be content and free from everyday financial worry.

Others trivialize both this type of American Dream and the dreamers who dream it, and hold in contempt those who cannot, through no fault of their own, achieve such a minor goal. To them, the American Dream is one of unfettered greed, and those who do not dream ‘big’ are not worthy of their consideration, let alone assistance. And these dreamers of greed went to Florida to “Defend The American Dream.”

Yes, the “Defending The American Dream Summit” was held in Orlando this past weekend, sponsored by your friendly neighborhood free-market-unregulated-capitalism group “Americans For Prosperity”, along with such proud bastions of integrity as The Blaze, Townhall.com/Townhall Magazine, and Altria. Who, you might ask (as I did) is Altria? From their website:

“For more than 180 years, Altria’s companies have built some of the best-known brands in the world – Marlboro, Copenhagen, Skoal and Black & Mild – that today lead their respective categories.”

Yeah, big tobacco.

The only sponsor that may be non-partisan/bipartisan, (based on its client list), is Tray, Inc., a marketing firm.

From “About The Summit”:

“In this banner event, free-market champions from Main Street to Capitol Hill come together for an unforgettable weekend with a shared desire to advance the time-honored ideals of economic freedom.

All around us a battle of ideas rages, and the very fabric of American prosperity is under attack. Now more than ever, we must be alert, involved, and engaged in the fight for freedom and liberty.”

The group of speakers touted include some of our favorite rabid righties: Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Ron Johnson, Governor Rick Perry, Michelle Malkin, Governor Voldemort Rick Scott, and total whack-job David Horowitz – more on him later.

From the Summit Agenda, some of the “Defending The Dream” Summit Breakout Sessions”:
-Bully on the Playground: Beat Back the Bureaucrats (Policy Session)
-Get Past the Gotchas: Staying in Control (Social Media & Messaging Session)
-Medicaid Expansion: Breaking the Bank While Cheating the Poor (Policy Session)
-Freedom in Decline: How Big Government is Ruining Your Future (Youth Oriented Session)
-The Green Monster: Subsidizing Failure in Renewable Energy (Policy Session)

One of the “exhibitors” at the DTD Summit is Go For The Heart – yeah, I never heard of it either. The website says ‘About’ itself:

“Go For the Heart, Inc. is a private non-profit corporation
dedicated to defending the principles of a free society
and to training conservative activists, strategists,
legislators and candidates in the art of political war.”

Its ‘Mission Statement':

“Conservatives do not have a response to the attacks leveled at them during the Election Cycle as the “party of the rich” and “the oppressors of women, minorities and the poor.” Go For The Heart will equip and empower elected officials, candidates, campaign professionals, grassroots activists, and the conservative youth with the messaging tools to blunt the baseless attacks by Liberals and to be successful in winning elections for conservatives, whether Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans or Independents.”

Guess who seems to be in charge at Go For the Heart? Well, the “Go For The Heart in A Nutshell” video features David Horowitz – as do the downloadable publications offered. Yes, David Horowitz, again. [NOTE: I did not have the stomach to watch the video - do you?]

While there has been little reporting on what each speaker said, that little is enough to show just how extreme and divided the speakers and other conservatives really are. Marco Rubio received mixed greetings due to his lack of Tea Party purity over immigration, as reported by The Washington Post as well as at Breitbart.com:

From Breitbart: “Heckling calls of “no amnesty” and “Secure the border” were heard around the room and throughout Rubio’s presentation. In fact, calls of “traitor” were even heard in some corners of the audience. The catcalls proved that few were pleased with Mr. Rubio.”

But, again, that pesky David Horowitz delivered the most ironically delusional fantasy that I’ve heard in a while, calling the president “…the most brazen and compulsive liar to ever occupy the White House…”

“The reason we don’t attack him is obvious, but no one will say it out loud. I will: It’s because the color of his skin is black…It is because Obama is a minority that nobody will hold him to a standard or confront him with what he has done.”

This is no “American Dream” that the Koch Brothers-backed Americans For Prosperity is trying to “defend” – this is any sane American’s nightmare.

This is our daily open thread — go ahead, start your rants!

Watering Hole: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 – Yes, We Still Can

The big shopping season is upon us.  There are bargains everywhere.  Lots of cheap Chinese stuff that will be even cheaper.  Many chain stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day and they will be offering super special savings right into the next day, “Black Friday”.

We don’t have to buy these foreign goods that are made by under paid factory owned workers.  Believe it or not, there are still union shops making products right here in the USA.

Here’s a link to a website that provides information about what products are still made here in a union shop.  Let’s support the union workers.  When unions win, workers win.

This is our Open Thread.  Where do you like to shop?  Speak Up!

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 10th, 2012: Romney’s Ramblings

I’ve been reading through the transcripts of Mitt Romney’s campaign speeches, and I’ve noticed that he has several recurring themes and lies about President Obama:

- “President Obama sees a different America and has taken us in a different direction.”

- “A few months into office, he travelled around the globe to apologize for America.”

- “Ronald Reagan rallied America with “Peace Through Strength.””

- “We must pass a torch to the next generation…”

- “It’s really an election about the soul of America.”

- “Three years ago, Candidate Obama promised to address the problems of illegal immigration in America. He failed. The truth is, he didn’t even try.”

- “American strength rises from a strong economy, a strong defense, and the enduring strength of our values. Unfortunately, under this President, all three of those elements have been weakened.”

- “This President’s first answer to every problem is to take power from you, your local government and your state so that so-called “experts” in Washington can make those choices for you. And with each of these decisions, we lose more of our freedom.”

This particular speech from January, 2012, in New Hampshire, probably has the most out-and-out lies of all the speeches I’ve read so far (read for yourself.)

Here’s the most hypocritical lie (and one that he reiterated at the RNC):

- “At the time, we didn’t know what sort of a President he would make. It was a moment of crisis for our economy, and when Barack Obama came to office, we wished him well and hoped for the best…”

I’ve also run across various and sundry WTF? lines:

- “As President, on Day One, I will focus on rebuilding America’s economy. I will reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts. Time and again, we have seen that attempts to balance the budget by weakening our military only lead to a far higher price, not only in treasure, but in blood.”

- “Barack Obama has failed America. It breaks my heart to see what’s happening in this country. These failing hopes make up President Obama’s own misery index. It’s never been higher. And what’s his answer? He says this: “I’m just getting started.”

- “If a couple has a baby, the government will actually give them more support—in the form of food stamps, welfare, or other benefits—if they do not marry than if they do. Our safety-net programs penalize the decision to marry, instead of rewarding it. That’s just wrong. And that’s why I will eliminate these marriage penalties.”

- “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers.”

Romney’s campaign speeches also contain myriad Republican-hot-button-buzzwords, repeated ad nauseum, such as “freedom”, “opportunity”, “exceptionalism”, “entitlements”, “failure”, etc. In addition, Romney makes plenty of promises to uphold or strengthen various rights: States’ rights; corporations’ rights to conduct their businesses unfettered by Federal regulations; and, of course, the overarching rights of a collection of zygotes.

However, thus far in my research (ten speeches), one very important topic stands out which Mitt Romney completely ignores: Women’s issues and rights. Romney’s only mention of women:

- “We live in the most powerful nation that ever existed. And it all goes back to a few men and women who had the courage to stand – and even die – for their belief in liberty and equality.”

and

- “…I will hold fathers financially responsible for their child, whether or not they have married the mother.”

As I mentioned, I’m only ten speeches into a collection of about forty-five, so there’s a possibility that Romney may have discussed support for women’s rights in a later speech. But I’ve got the feeling that that possibility is slim-to-none.

This is our daily open thread — What would YOU like to ramble about?

The Watering Hole: Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Does it really Matter?

Ok, so for the next few months, if you’re in a “swing” State, you’ll be inundated with SuperPAC commercials designed to get you to vote against your own best interests. We will also be systematically bombarded with messages from the Mainstream Media designed to influence our thinking.

IT’S ALL A SHOW. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

If the Powers That Be really want Obama out, all they have to do is raise gas prices to about $5.00/gallon. Instead, gas prices are going down, heading into the summer vacation season. That’s not to say they won’t go up between now and the election – but they are an accurate predictor of where our economy will head. So, pay attention to the pump, not the talking heads.

Ok, that’s my $0.0199 cents. And you?

OPEN THREAD
JUST REMEMBER
EVERYTHING I SAID
DOESN’T REALLY MATTER

 

The Watering Hole: Tuesday May 15th – Europe

A Storm is brewing over Europe in more than one sense…

There is the unsolved, so called debt crisis, which entangles Spain and Italy now and has, by all accounts all but devoured Greece already. 

The second one is a political storm. In France it has swept Sarkozy out of office, in the UK the Tories got to feel quite a blustery breeze. In Germany last weekend and the one before voters were giving Merkel’s austerity politics quite strong headwinds. Again, Greece is at the center of the disturbance. The last election brought a stiff breeze from the left, but some serious gusts from the right as well. The Captains of the coffin ship contemplate to test the waters again and that should bring a solid gale from the left and swipe them off board.

Then there’s the weather. It’s really gusty and nasty outside, so much for spring. Ugh.

No matter how it eventually ends, there is some turbulence ahead for sure.

This is our Open Thread. Talk about the Weather?

UPDATE JUST IN: GREECE TALKS BROKE UP – NEW ELECTIONS DUE.

The Watering Hole: Tuesday November, 22 – We Decide

Ht: Shayne via twitter @Zoocritter

My first reaction: I’d not buy from him until…well, hell freezes over.

We can influence what happens, we are not powerless. We still have our purchasing power. Not that there is very much left of it, we can still decide what we buy and who we buy from. Do we really want to give our money to corporations who lay off workers while still making huge, even record profits? I don’t. We can read the economy pages of our local newspapers and find out who’s hiring, who’s firing and whenever given the choice, we can support hiring businesses. We can reconsider our needs. Shutting down the TV set brings us a huge step nearer to that. Just let’s tune out the constant brainwash and reassess our needs. We can make Black Friday a huge failure for the retail corporations! By just staying at home. They’ll say that’ll cost more jobs! But remember, they are firing for profit anyway and they have done so for a very long time.

This is our open thread- Open Up!

The Watering Hole: Tuesday, November 8 – Personhood

Image source: Flickr Creative Commons user zieak

I am not talking about the abominable plans in Mississippi to turn a fertilized egg into a person legally. I have no intention to grace this irrationality with a post. I am talking about “The Economy” and “The Markets”. Both are nomina depicting a number of activities but are treated like they were personalities.

The Economy, that’s what we do. That’s the system or range of economic activity in a country, region, or community. We do it by producing goods, by providing services, by consuming. You name it. It is not a person, it is the totality of economic interaction done by all of us. As this is done by all of us, we have as a society or community the right and the duty to set the rules how this interaction should be, in order to be most profitable for all of us.

The Economy is not a person which is empowered to set the rules unless we make it that way, or rather let it happen. We do that currently.

The Markets are defined ranging from a) A public gathering to sell and buy merchandise, to b) A specific geographical area where certain merchandise or good are being sold to or bought from, to most globally c) The entire enterprise of buying and selling commodities and securities. If this were a person I’d recommend psychiatric evaluation for dissociative disorder.

The Markets are an integral part of the greater entity The Economy. The Economy is what WE do, The Markets is what WE do inside The Economy. WE decide how we want to do it. It is time we took our lives and our society back into our own hands and start to send representatives into our parliaments who do OUR bidding not the bidding of their shill friends Economy and Markets.

For behind the shill we find the real friends who perfectly understand how to use the concept of The Economy and The Markets as godlike ruling force against us. We all know who they are on your side of the Atlantic and on ours. 

This is our open thread. A public gathering to offer and accept your comments and a lively discussion. Get going.

By Jove!

Reuters:

 

(Reuters) – The leaders of France and Germany scrambled on Tuesday to limit damage after Prime Minister George Papandreou decided to let Greeks vote on a bailout package — a move that stunned markets and threw Greece’s euro zone membership into question.

European politicians complained Athens was trying to wriggle out of the 130 billion-euro rescue deal agreed at a summit only last week, concerned not so much about the fate of Greece as the possibly dire consequences for the entire currency union of the referendum. (read all)

BIG OUCH!!!

Check for Market Updates here.

Watering Hole, Friday, October 21st: O-C-C-U-P-Y W-A-L-L S-T-R-E-E-T

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, the one redeeming feature in “The New York Post” is the puzzle page, particularly the word game in which you’re given a particular word and have to make as many five-letter words as possible out of that word.  The rules are simple:  no proper nouns, no plurals ending in ‘s’, no foreign words.  For my own amusement, I often play this game with a word or phrase of my own choosing.

The other day I sat down and started playing around with the phrase “OCCUPY WALL STREET.”  As I started jotting down five-letter words, I noticed that many of the words were pertinent to the actual OCCUPY WALL STREET movement.  Obviously, many were not, but there seemed to be a striking number which were applicable to the protests.  I’ve listed all of the words that I came up with, in vaguely alphabetical order, below the fold.  If anyone comes up with a word that I missed, please let me know and I’ll add it. Continue reading

Monetary Warfare – Switzerland pegs its currency to the Euro

In a surprise move the Swiss National Bank (SNB) has fixed the exchange rate to the Euro. They won’t suffer it to fall below CHF 1.20 anymore. There is no limit to currency purchases to make this happen, the SNB says.

Right wing billionaire and godfather of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) Blocher declared the currency situation a “war” that needs to be won now by the SNB. Well, his buddies won’t be any worse off…

I am not so sure if it can be won. Swiss real GDP is some126 bn. The Eurozone’s combined GDP is about 12 trillion.  There are 77 bn Swiss Francs out there, but 4.7 trillion Euros. (M1)

You might as well try and empty the Zurich Lake with a teaspoon.

Watering Hole – Monday August 8, 2011 – Crises of Capitalism

This video is a little more than 11 minutes in length.  It’s an interesting perspective.  Last week was bad news week.  Can it get any worse?

This is our Open Thread today.  My apologies for not having much more to say at this point.  Perhaps you have something to add to the conversation so Speak Up!

Watering Hole – Monday, August 1, 2011 – Philadelphia Freedom

Today is our 30 year wedding anniversary and we will be spending the day in Philadelphia doing the “freedom tour”.

For most of my life, I have lived in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania.  During all these years, I have never seen the Liberty Bell.  With the looming shutdown of our government due to its inability to pay the bills or the closing of government buildings due to the cuts, cuts and more cuts, now could be my last chance to get to Independence square and see some of the artifacts that are part of our nation’s beginning.  It’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen if the US defaults on its debt.  One thing for sure is that government employees would be laid off, seniors would not receive their Social Security checks, veterans would not receive their benefits, and nursing homes could close which would create more job losses.  Basically, more people will be out of work and there will be less money to spend and BUSINESSES WILL SUFFER.  Default is NOT an option.  Our bills must be paid.

This is our open thread.  I won’t be around today as I will be searching for freedom. You will need to Speak Up and do all the chatting.

Continue reading

Get Your Act Together! Now!

The Economist:

TODAY is July 19th. Two weeks from today, it will be August 2nd. On that day, or very soon thereafter, the Treasury will run out of room to use extraordinary measures to keep meeting its obligations without issuing any new debt. To avoid a default at that point, which most economists agree would be catastrophic, the Treasury will then need to slash spending immediately and precipitously—by about 44%. The process won’t be tidy; depending on what bills are coming due on a particular day, the shortfall will affect payments to state governments, public employees (including soldiers), payouts to entitlement beneficiaries, and so on. Absent an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, spending would be slashed by $134 billion over the month of August. That would represent a sudden fiscal consolidation of over 10% of GDP—enough, in all likelihood, to tip the economy into recession. And at some point, if no agreement were reached, default would become inevitable. (read all)

Anybody home in Republicanland? Are you sure you know what you’re doing? I am pissed. So, setting the economy on fire wasn’t enough in 2008? Want to blow it up one more time? A really spectacular blowup this time that destroys government, so Grover Norquist will love you all and rapture you into everlasting economic bliss, as promised for his true believers?

You know what? YOU ARE THE PITS!

Greek people go hungry, because your rating agencies saw fit to play monopoly with their assessments and caused the worst currency crisis ever. Hey, just a hint. If the agencies and banks thought Greece’s debt was a problem, why not stop lending before? Maybe because you could get top interest and then socialised your losses to a point where the beast you so busily starved can’t do anything to relieve you anymore? Now it’s time for bilking, eh?

Being able to eat to sustain yourself is by now considered an entitlement obviously in the US. We don’t want that over here, we don’t think like you do, we actually practise a Democracy on Christian principles of caring for our neighbour! Now you are about to present us with another economic crash three years after the last one, which we, using our socialist methods, mostly rode out fairly well. But we won’t be able to just right now. We can’t breathe anymore.

Corporate greed Republican-style caused the stock market crash in 1929 and gave the Fascists here the final push into government. With the most terrible consequences imaginable. In 1945 Europe was reduced to rubble.

This time around fascism rears it’s head on your side of the pond, the consequences may well play out on your soil. So be careful what you wish for. And don’t expect any help. We can’t, your style of capitalism has already stripped us clean.

You’re on your own.

The Next Progressive Era

Gar Alperovitz claims that the bombing of Hiroshima was a matter of economics and that the underlying purpose was how to run a global economy that favored American goals while preventing another economic depression.
Alperovitz is Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland. He is one of the founding principals of The Democracy Collaborative. Previously, he was a fellow at King’s College at Cambridge University, a founding fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and a guest professor at Notre Dame University. He has also served as a legislative director in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, and as a special assistant at the Department of State.
In an interview with Keane Bhatt at Truthout, Alperovitz states that he believes in “planned trade” where restrictions are placed on imports  so that the US can rebuild its manufacturing base.  He also believes that local non-profit “land trusts” will be a model for achieving “meaningful democracy”.

A land trust is simply a nonprofit corporation or a government agency that owns land, so that when development occurs, the profits of that development accrue to the owner, which in this case is public or nonprofit. And that’s very important in the context of gentrification, because if there’s a housing boom and the prices go up, poor people are kicked out because the prices are too high. So, if the land trust owns the land under the housing, it can stabilize housing costs. They already do this in many parts of the country because they are nonprofit corporations committed to low- and moderate-income housing.

Another example: when a city builds a subway system, land prices go up and the land becomes very valuable around every exit, because it’s a high-traffic area and commercial development is possible. So, who should own that land? If the city gives it away or sells it, then profits are made by the real estate developers. Many, many cities don’t do that now. They own the land and lease it so that they can make the profits from that implicit form of land trust, and pour it back, usually, into support for the mass transit system. That’s conventional now. What’s interesting about these various forms of democratizing ownership is that they’ve spread around the country in the last decade and a half and their numbers have gone from just a handful to hundreds. They answer a problem nothing else can. So, land trust development is an interesting example of what happens when there’s great pain. Traditional answers don’t work, and democratizing ownership in one or another way very often becomes a pattern.

You can read the entire interview here.  It is well worth the time.

Gar Alperovitz’s views offers hope and in this time of uncertainty, we need positive ideas and not more negative, fear-provoking disinformation from both our government and the media.

Sunday Roast: The American Dream, a race to the bottom

New York Times, Bob Herbert

In his last column for the NYT, Bob Herbert hits the nail on the head regarding the American Dream — it ain’t for the ‘small people’ anymore.  We all know it, we all feel it, but Bob Herbert puts it down in words that sear into the soul.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

AP Photo

This is the America I’m leaving to my men:  A lifetime of $9-$10 per hour jobs (if they’re lucky), during which they will never realize any possible dream of a home, family, vacations, or retirement.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations.

The youth of this country had no way of knowing that the high school summer job, or the job they held in college for extra cash, was quite likely the best they were going to have.

If we listen to the politicians in this country, we will find out that this country is “broke.”  There just isn’t any more money for job creation, schools, or public sector wages.  Sorry folks, the piggy bank is empty…or is it…?

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Did you read that last sentence?  Read it again…“the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007…”

Yes, you read that right.  The top 10% — the people who don’t even need a raise — received ALL of the income growth between 2000 and 2007.  All of it.

I am just…speechless.

To my men, their generation, and beyond, I give you an apology…

I am so very sorry about the condition in which you receive this country.  Even though there is no excuse for it, I must admit that I didn’t see it coming.  I really had no idea that by the time I was reaching my own age of majority, the American Dream was dead, and the looting of the corpse had commenced.  The elites had killed it stone dead, and we had no idea until recently, and now I’m truly afraid we will not be able to turn the tide before we hand over the reins to you.  I know in my heart that if we are able to mend this, even partially, we will do so.  That’s my promise to you.

I’m sorry it couldn’t be more…

Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.

New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.

We will do our best.

This is our daily open thread — Discuss amongst yourselves.

Welcome to the Rocket Docket

A specially designated, high-speed housing court, nicknamed “the rocket docket,” set up specifically to process legally murky foreclosures as fast as possible; presided over by an apparently uninformed, utterly disinterested, retired judge who openly states his only goal is to resolve an astonishing TWENTY FIVE CASES AN HOUR. In layman’s terms, this means he wants to ‘throw someone out of their home approximately every two and half minutes.’ This same clueless magistrate, moving so fast he can’t possibly give the cases coming before him even a perfunctory once over, threatens – THREATENS – to cite a defense lawyer with contempt for simply talking to a reporter in front of said judge.

 

 

Is this taking place in some godforsaken, Third World banana republic?

No…

According to Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, it’s happening right here in America, in the so-called ‘Sunshine State,’ Florida.

The numbers are staggering:

In Las Vegas, one in 25 homes is now in foreclosure. In Fort Myers, Florida, one in 35. In September, lenders nationwide took over a record 102,134 properties; that same month, more than a third of all home sales were distressed properties. All told, some 820,000 Americans have already lost their homes this year, and another 1 million currently face foreclosure.

Nearly a million homes foreclosed on in 2010; another million coming this year; and almost all of those foreclosures fraudulent:

Virtually every case of foreclosure in this country involves some form of screwed-up paperwork. “I would say it’s pretty close to 100 percent,” says Kowalski. An attorney for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid tells me that out of the hundreds of cases she has handled, fewer than five involved no phony paperwork. “The fraud is the norm,” she says.

Out of hundreds of cases, less than FIVE were NOT fraudulent.

Those hundreds of cases were not just fraudulent, but blatantly, screamingly bare-faced fraudulent, based on documentation that makes such ridiculous claims it leaves you speechless… Continue reading

The U.S. addiction to denial of our oil addiction

Rachel Maddow ties together our leaders’ penchant for talking a good game about valuing and protecting the environment, and doing ‘something’ about our increasing dependence on oil, but never actually following through with any action.

Will President Obama be any different?

I really hope so…

How a simple data CD may bring down Switzerland

A simple Data-CD is about to shake the foundations of  Switzerland itself. How come?

An unknown Data thief has offered German Authorities a CD containing valuable data about some 1’500 tax frauds, for some 2,5 Mio. Euros. Germany may generate a 100 Mio. Euros on back taxes and penalties and the odd bad boy will face jail. This is an impressive return on investment and Germany, as much under pressure financially as most other industrialized nations, does not really want to not use it. Moreover, it is a hard sell to tell your welfare recipients that they have to pay back the  €20, they erroneously received in January and then go on and graciously waive a hundred million. Poor people are voters, too and Angela Merkel is not a political suicide.

I personally have my doubts about the legality of the purchase, but one may well argue that a higher interest is at stake und thus the purchase is legitimate.

So this is an entirely German affair, is it not?

So why are the Swiss so very upset?

Here’s the math:

An estimated 3 Trillion Swiss Francs in Swiss bank accounts are Assets under Management owned by foreigners. 30% to 50% are at least from grey, if not black money, that is   approximately 1 trillion Swiss Francs.

“Switzerland has become a paradise for foreign capital on which tax is not paid. The uproar from foreign governments is understandable.” These are not the words of a critic of the banks, but of private banker Konrad Hummler. He says that around 30%, or CHF 1,000 billion, of the CHF 2,800 billion or so of foreign assets in Swiss banks is untaxed “black money”.

I’m still being conservative. Let’s say 30% of those funds are from German individuals, that makes it 330 billion Swiss Francs.

Let’s say German investors panic, because the only argument for having your money in Switzerland is the banking secrecy (they pay a measly 1% interest here). They are going to get their own money and transfer it elsewhere, or even repatriate the stuff and grudgingly pay the back taxes to avoid a hefty fine or in some cases jail.

More math:

The Swiss GDP is about 500 bn Swiss Francs (2008), the financial sector is generating about 12% of GDP, banks about 7.5% that makes it 37.5 bn. But they may lose 330 bn. They would stop contributing to GDP for almost ten years to refill their coffers.

But banks have equity capital, have they not? Well at least UBS, the biggest player, is still in a load of trouble and struggling to get it’s equity capital quota into a reasonable percentage.

Now add to that the fact that we are talking about bank accounts owned by Germans only, what’s more, we talk about German tax dodgers’ accounts. There are other countries’ citizens involved, too. This adds another hefty sum at stake. Then there are those who have put their money into Swiss accounts legally, but don’t want to be under the general suspicion of being a tax fraud. Again: In sum there are some 3 trillion Swiss Francs at stake. If only a third of it is lost to other markets, Switzerland goes broke.

Some of the more naive here reckon banking secrecy can still be saved. The naivest of them all, the right wing SVP (Swiss People’s Party), even think they can win the next elections by harshly defending the status quo. The Swiss are not so stupid. Still sore about the UBS bailout, they are not prepared to ruin their country to protect a couple of foreign tax frauds and their banksters.

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The Pot at the End of the Rainbow

Federal drug agents won’t pursue pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers in states that allow medical marijuana, under new legal guidelines to be issued Monday by the Obama administration.

Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.

After years of “compasionate conservatism” which refused to decriminalize medical marijuana on the federal level, this is a welcome change. Not only does this provide a great relief to those who need marijuana for medical purposes, but it makes great economic sense as well.

If marijuana can be sold legally, it can be taxed. And by far and large, our prisons are bursting with non-violent drug-related “criminals.” We can save a bundle by not incarcerating those who use pot for medicinal purposes, as well as those who operate the dispenseries.

One caveat: if you’re running a dispensery as a cover for a wider drug operation, the DEA will still go after you.

TeaBagging: The Arch-Capitalists’ Pseudo-Popular, Pseudo-Democratic, Pseudo-Patriotic Assault On Real Democracy

The following is by Guest Blogger, 5thstate.  Enjoy!

Modern Times Teabaggers

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The Adventure Begins: From to Tea to Teabags.

Supposedly, from a single “Howard Beal”-like rant on February 19, 2009, from trader, turned CNBC “on-air editor,” Rick Santelli about how the Homeowner’s Affordability and Stability Plan promoted the “bad behavior” of foreclosed homeowners, a “grassroots” nationwide anti-tax “Tea Party” movement was born.

Well, not quite.

It was the ardent Libertarian supporters of Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul who revived the “Tea Party” banner (under which to protest government fiscal policy) that was first applied by proto-revolutionary American colonials in 1773.

The spirit and efficacy of the “Tea Party” slogan was however severely diminished when the genuinely grassroots “Paultards” publicity scheme to dump tea into Boston harbor from a Ron Paul-emblazoned blimp literally never got off the ground.

The cost of the blimp hire was $100,000.  Strangely not even 10,000 supposedly fiscally responsible Libertarians could pony up the ten dollars-each needed to change American political history forever!

So the “Tea Party” as the Libertarians had envisaged it retired, deflated, to a rusty shed at the edge of the political scene — much like Ron Paul himself, actually.

The Gathering Storm in a Teacup.

But as the summer of 2008 entered its last months, the political winds changed dramatically:  unregulated free-market teacups began rattling as the cucumber canapés of finance suddenly went limp and soggy.

Dark clouds burst over the laissez-faire Republican picnic whilst ants of despair invaded the egg-and-watercress sandwiches of certitude!  The stock market headed for the basement like a half-dressed slasher movie teenager, and the housing market collapsed like an outsourced KBR deck-chair.

As the Republicans demanded that the band play louder to drown out the noise of breaking capitalist crockery and tried to calm the panicking masses by pointing out that the picnic hadn’t been attacked by swarms of killer bees lately, a dark-skinned community organizer (who the Grand Old Party-ers had assumed was there to serve sandwiches) stepped forward with ideas on how to clean up the mess and get the party swinging again—and to the Republicans’ dismay the people listened.

Desperate to distract the crowd from the smooth-tongued party-crasher, the Republicans tried throwing cream cakes and cocktail sausages at him, but none of them stuck.

Then they shoved an Alaskan Hoochie-Coochie dancer onto the stage but, whilst easy on the eyes, she couldn’t sing or dance and she was obviously just a prick-tease — for all her winking and sassiness she wasn’t going to put out for anything less than designer clothes, a swank apartment, an armored limo, and a private jet.

For the frat-house Republicans, the party was over.

Their atomic-wedgie antics and beer-binging on the family credit card had run their natural course.

Dad’s classic Ferrari was backwards in a ditch; Mom’s lingerie was scattered around the garden; half a dozen girls were knocked-out on ‘rufies’ and knocked-up; someone had puked on the dog; the record player was skipping on “Where Eagles Soar”; and the Skull & Bones had run out of freshman “pledges” they usually could force make the place look respectable again.

Meanwhile everyone else had gone next door with the cool black kid and partied with the wonks, the mathletes, the A/V club with their cool viral videos, and their rockstar/Hollywood friends — and had the best party ever!

Then the cool black kid was voted Prom King, and the wonky chick the Jocks had been calling a bitch and a lesbian since her freshman year became President of the Student Council, and everyone clapped and cheered — except the Jocks and their blond-haired pep squad who began slapping each other in an epic blame snit.

Continue reading

We Could Have Done Without “Financial Modernization”

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) was prescient when he gave this speech in the Senate on November 4, 1999 regarding the Gramm Leach Bliley Act.

Yes, Virginia, Senator Dorgan saw a light at the end of the tunnel and he knew a train was coming. He knew it wasn’t sunshine and that the passage of the Gramm Leach Bliley Act would eventually bring down our economy.

Part 1

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvnO_SH-4WU)

Part 2

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veAOoQEy0PI)

Did you hear Senator Dorgan say “Too big to fail“? These words are so familiar to us. Unfortunately, Congress didn’t heed Senator Dorgan’s words. He predicted that we would be visiting the failures in 10 to 15 years as a result of passing the Gramm Leach Bliley Act and Congress didn’t listen.

(h/t to skymutt at Daily Kos)


Cross posted at Pennsylvania for Change.

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UPS dumps Billo

HT TP:

Today UPS announced it will stop advertising on O’Reilly’s show. Here is the statement UPS emailed out just moments ago:

Thank you for sending an e-mail expressing concern about UPS advertising during the Bill O’Reilly show on FOX News. We do consider such comments as we review ad placement decisions which involve a variety of news, entertainment and sports programming. At this time, we have no plans to continue advertising during this show.

After ThinkProgress’ Amanda Turkel was stalked and ambushed by Bill O’s hitmen, TP fought back with an email campaign to Bill O’s sponsors.

Bill O responded by calling those who post on Think Progress “insects.” Well, those bugs can bite!

UPS’s announcement that it will discontinue advertising on Bill O’s show is a perfect example of the free market at work. We, the consumer, have a right to spend our money with companies we support. This right has been exercised in the recent past, most notably by boycotting companies that exploit child labor overseas.

Boycotts are effective in bringing about social change.

A big THANK YOU goes out to UPS. Next time I have a package to deliver, I’m going to look to the Brown as my first choice.

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