Friday, September 20, 2013

Monday, September 02, 2013

Slave Capitalism

This is one hell of a good review. 

Speaking as someone who enjoyed "Lincoln" but also found it inevitably paternalistic.  There is so much more to our national history than is commonly imagined...and we are all worse off for our ignorance.  All education is history, after all.  True history requires literature, imagination, poetry.  Which is why the more Foucauldian work of people like Howard Zinn and Walter Johnson (and David Harvey) is so crucial.

Fukushima, still leaking...Tepco, still lying...

a new leak and possible other leaks have added to concerns about the plant's stability.
They follow a major leak two weeks ago. TEPCO reported a loss of 300 tons of highly radioactive water from a steel tank on Aug. 19, saying most of it is believed to have seeped underground but some might have escaped into the sea. The company has yet to determine the cause or exactly where the water went.
The leakage of water that had been used to cool the plant's three melted reactor cores triggered fears of similar leaks from more than 300 other similar tanks. The tanks are part of approximately 1,000 tanks holding 330,000 tons of contaminated water at the plant, where the radioactive waste water from the reactors grows by 400 tons daily.

More here. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Climate Death Throes

An indispensable new This American Life episode, "Hot in My Backyard" contains riveting stories from a genuine political balance of perspectives, suggesting together something that is all-too-rare in today's media hellscape:  a proper and informed 'pathos of indignation.'   

Personally I think it is long past time to risk offending so-sensitive conservatives.

Did you know that if ExxonMobile *alone* simply extracts what is already in their reserves (as indeed the market, including your 401K, currently counts on them to do), the planet tanks (and not in an "engineering problem" sort of way, but irreversibly and horribly)?  We have no stable models (and likely never will) to predict just how climate change will effect weather patterns, other than the obvious consensus that destructive extremes will get much, much worse, and in this fundamentally unpredictable fashion climate change is by any reasonable measure the true "Terror" of our time.

The terrifying reality is that todays climate catastrophes will *very* soon come to be seen as mild, indeed less than average in only 14 years when we reach the universally, world-dreaded two degrees.  And we're currently on track for five degrees. 

In short, unless the market can be made to believe that those reserves will never be tapped, and adapt accordingly, we're screwed.  Global warming will be so unimaginably horrible in just a few short decades; by the time Exxon executives rouse themselves on their delusional perches to the floodwaters at their ankles, most of the planet will be underwater.

Thank God, the divestment campaign is growing faster than anti-Apartheid did at first, but thanks to fossil fuel industry-purchased Republicans (many of whom are politically afraid to speak what they objectively know to be true) nearly half of all Americans *still* don't grasp what 98.4% of scientists (and even ExxonMobile itself) unambiguously do: that climate change is manmade, very real, and sooner-than-each-previous-study-anticipated irreversible, if not irreversible already. 

Contrary to what ExxonMobile would have you believe, an alternative future is not only imaginable but reasonably possible (and it does not involve the quack science nightmare of geoengineering).  Just as one example, there's enough wind power on government-owned land in the mid-western US alone to supply 1/3 of all US energy needs.  Imagine what the world's most profitable company ever to exist, ExxonMobile, could do with its annual $46M, were it forced to pursue energy technology that did not lead straight to Biblical-scale, inevitable mass misery and suffering.  Is their bottom line that precious? 

There really is no other news story of our time than this one.

Update:  Ok, maybe also this one.

Why French Kids don't have ADHD

Psychology Today:

From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means "frame" or "structure." Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies "cry it out" if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months.

French parents, Druckerman observes, love their children just as much as American parents. They give them piano lessons, take them to sports practice, and encourage them to make the most of their talents. But French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word "no" rescues children from the "tyranny of their own desires." And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France.

As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don't need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.

Pop and Circumstance

Update:  Krugman doubles down on Reinhart and Rogoff.

Joshua Clover in The Nation: a development Krugman couldn't quite bring himself to declare, his charts suggest that a generally declining labor share since the 1970s has also spelled bad news for overall profitability outside the finance sector. The productivity race wasn't just unfortunate for the unemployed; it was for capital a poison pill of its own making. Thus Krugman's comedy: always on the verge of discovering the arguments of a 150-year-old book; always turning away at the last second. In Krugman's words, "I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn't seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism—which shouldn't be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications."
Does it? I suppose so. And that uncomfort is what pop, for all its pleasures, must defer. Pop must affirm the way things are, no matter how often it choruses the word "change." You cannot be Paul Krugman, Pop Star, and at the same time discover that capital is built to break us, and itself—even if your charts so testify. So you will not be shocked to discover Krugman stepped back from this realization and continued about his business, scarcely speaking of it again. There are some things you do not say. They are not popular.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston, 4/18

Adam Gopnik, in The New Yorker: 
....But all of our experience suggests that it is not “fundamentalism” alone but an aching tension between modernity and a false picture of a purer fundamentalist past that makes terrorists.
And it was an American story, too, in what could only be called a hysterical and insular overreaction that allowed it to become the sole national narrative. I happened to be in London on 7/7—a far more deadly and frightening terrorist attack—and by 7 P.M. on that horrible day, with the terrorists still at large (they were dead already, but no one knew that) the red double-decker buses were rolling and the traffic was turning and life, though hardly normal, was determinedly going on. The decision to shut down Boston, though doubtless made in good faith and from honest anxiety, seemed like an undue surrender to the power of the terrorist act—as did, indeed, the readiness to turn over the entire attention of the nation to a violent, scary, tragic, lurid but, in the larger scheme of things, ultimately small threat to the public peace.
The toxic combination of round-the-clock cable television—does anyone now recall the killer of Gianni Versace, who claimed exactly the same kind of attention then as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did today?—and an already exaggerated sense of the risk of terrorism turned a horrible story of maiming and death and cruelty into a national epic of fear. What terrorists want is to terrify people; Americans always oblige.   
Experts tell us the meaning of what they haven’t seen; poets and novelists tell us the meaning of what they haven’t seen, either, but have somehow managed to fully imagine. Maybe the literature of terrorism, from Conrad to Updike (and let us not forget Tolstoy, fascinated by the Chechens) can now throw a little light on how apparently likable kids become cold-hearted killers. Acts of imagination are different from acts of projection: one kind terrifies; the other clarifies. 

There's an argument to be made for deciding to shut down the city at the time they did, I think.  But Gopnik is one of the first to remind us of the dual nature of today's necessary task.  Namely, to "separate thinking about terrorism from thinking about the way that we represent it."

Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets

Today the Guardian put a story on its front page about the biggest gamble in human history. 

Governments, corporations and pension funds have $6 trillion worth of unburnable carbon assets on the books -- that means that either their investments pay off and the planet tanks, or we avert climate catastrophe and those investments are worthless. 

Needless to say, if Obama allows KeystoneXL, then he is directly complicit in this economic idiocy/global suicide.

A summary and link to the full report is here: 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The full truth about the politically invisible American "disability" epidemic

TAL records an indispensable piece of investigative journalism that pretty much explodes the plutocrat party discourse on welfare, entitlements and macroeconomics generally.

How sorry a state we're in that we can tell ourselves these peripheral disaster narratives for so many years and nobody has yet followed up with any of them in any meaningful, investigative way.  

Spoiler alert:  Bill Clinton will still be judged by history an epic scam artist.  Also, conservatives do have a point (though they don't think it through and blame the wrong people, as usual).

This story ought to be a political game-changer  (but it won't be talked about).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Only 7% of Americans are actually concerned about the deficit

And for good reason.  The new class of ultra-rich parasites, on the other hand, being largely inoculated from the general US economy and neither investing nor paying taxes domestically, may as well not be called Americans.  So why do we still let them frame the national debate?

Really, because the federal deficit is just like a household budget?  Does your family print its own currency too?  And live without retiring its debt since 1837??  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Not worried about income inequality? You haven't been paying attention.

Robert Reich: 
The prevailing view in Washington sees as the basic economic problem of our time that Americans have been living beyond their means, and must now live within them. The real problem is the means of most Americans haven't grown in thirty years, even though the economy is twice as large, and all the gains from growth have gone to the very top. The Great Recession occurred because most Americans ran out of ways to maintain their standard of living other than by borrowing against the rising values of their homes; so when the housing bubble burst, they were stranded without enough money to keep the economy going. That's still the case. The real median wage continues to drop. All supposed signs of a more vigorous recovery are smoke and mirrors, emanating from the Fed's artificially-induced near-zero interest rates -- which are helping investors but few average Americans. Anyone who thinks we can restore this economy without tackling the fundamental problem of increasingly concentrated income and wealth at the top hasn't been paying attention.

David K Johnston has much more.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Regarding Pat McCrory, corporate lobbyist hack (also our current governor)

Update: It gets even better for Republican corporate cronyism in North Carolina. As he signs in private a refusal to let poor, elderly North Carolinians enjoy the same health care benefits as the rest of the nation.....To quote from here:

In most cases, these the Medicaid expansion would mean a significant reduction in the number of uninsured, at a modest cost to the states. They might even savemoney.
"Expanding Medicaid health benefits to everyone eligible under President Barack Obama’s health care reform law would increase state spending on the program by just 3 percent while extending health coverage to more than 20 million peopleaccording to a study released Monday by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Urban Institute.
The health care law seeks to enroll into the Medicaid program anyone who earns up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $14,856 this year. But when the Supreme Court upheld the law in June, its decision allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion. So far, Republican governors in eight states have declared they won’t participate, denying health care coverage to millions of their poorest residents.
… The total cost of the Medicaid expansion would be $1.03 trillion between 2013 and 2022, according to the study. States would pay $76 billion of that, which amounts to a 2.9 percent increase compared to what states would have spent on Medicaid if the health care reform law hadn’t been enacted. Under the health care reform law, the federal government will pay the full cost of covering newly eligible people on Medicaid from 2014 to 2016, then will scale back funding to 90 percent in 2022 and later years.
In addition to receiving a large federal subsidy to enroll these uninsured residents, states that expand Medicaid would be able to reduce spending on taxpayer-funded programs to help hospitals and other health care providers cover the cost of so-called uncompensated care, or unpaid medical bills. If Medicaid expanded across the country, states would save $18 billion between 2013 to 2022 , according to the study." 
Republican governors’ refusals to expand Medicaid will cost lives. It’s been shown that expanding Medicaid saves lives.
"A new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) finds thatexpanding Medicaid to low-income adults leads to widespread gains in coverage, access to care, and—most importantly—improved health and reduced mortality. It is the first published study to look specifically at the effect of recent state Medicaid expansions on mortality among low-income adults, and the findings suggest that expanding coverage to the uninsured may save lives.
…The results showed that Medicaid expansions in three states were associated with a significant reduction in mortality of 6.1% compared with neighboring states that did not expand Medicaid, which corresponds to 2,840 deaths prevented per year for each 500,000 adults gaining Medicaid coverageMortality reductions were greatest among older adults, non-whites, and residents of poorer counties.Expansions also were associated with increased Medicaid coverage, decreased uninsurance, decreased rates of deferring care due to costs, and increased rates of “excellent” or “very good” self-reported health.
The groups that benefitted from Medicaid expansion in this study—older adults, racial and ethnic minorities, and those living in poor areas—are groups that have traditionally had higher mortality rates and faced greater barriers to care. The study results provide valuable evidence for state policymakers deciding whether or not to expand Medicaid, say the authors.
“Sometimes the political rhetoric is at odds with the evidence, such as claims that Medicaid is a ‘broken program’ or worse than no insurance at all; our findings suggest precisely the opposite,” said Epstein."

Read the whole damn thing. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fracking: worse than you realize

A reckless experiment in unpatriotic and unnecessary greed and national disaster without study, in which the EPA is complicit.

By any reasonable and informed conjecture, the damage is happening faster and is far worse than commonly (mis)understood.  "First do no harm" is a nice aspiration; currently a joke.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Aaron Swartz, RIP

Aaron Swartz was truly brilliant. JSTOR backed off the case, but Stephen Heymann's ego-driven, careerist prosecutorial overreach continued and by all accounts was largely responsible for Swartz's recent depression and suicide.  Shame on Carmen Ortiz and all the prosecutors involved, and on MIT for its cowardice in not standing up for a more democratic internet. 

Please sign:

via Scott McLemee (see here and here).

And more here.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I'm a hunter who supports US gun control

It is long past time to join the rest of the industrialized world (cf. Australia).

Climate Change is Hell on Earth  (via).

-Australian sand storm, January 2013 (story here)

"Summers are longer and hotter, and periods of extreme heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours, though in many regions there are longer dry spells in between.
Other changes are even more dramatic. Residents of some coastal cities see their streets flood more regularly during storms and high tides. Inland cities near large rivers also experience more flooding, especially in the Midwest and Northeast. Hotter and drier weather and earlier snow melt mean that wildfires in the West start earlier in the year, last later into the fall, threaten more homes, cause more evacuations, and burn more acreage. In Alaska, the summer sea ice that once protected the coasts has receded, and fall storms now cause more erosion and damage that is severe enough that some communities are already facing relocation. ...
These and other observed climatic changes are having wide-ranging impacts in every region of our country and most sectors of our economy. Some of these changes can be beneficial, such as longer growing seasons in many regions and a longer shipping season on the Great Lakes. But many more have already proven to be detrimental, largely because society and its infrastructure were designed for the climate of the past, not for the rapidly changing climate of the present or the future."

-Beijing, January 2013.  Source and story in The Atlantic:

"The readings in the past few days have been in the previously unimaginable 700s-and-above range, reported as "beyond index" by @BeijingAir. The worst I have personally seen in Beijing was in the high 400s, and that day I did not understand how life could proceed any further in such circumstances. The conditions this weekend have been much worse..."

Update: Also, no more oysters, and no more coffee. And these things are just the canaries in the gold mine...