IBI Watch 10/16/11

16 10 2011



Magical Thinking or Purposeful Ignorance?

Many progressive thinkers have decried the long-term unsustainability of radical free-market capitalism for years.  During the boom years under Clinton and Bush II, we paid these complainers little mind.  Maybe we really could leave history behind, maybe we could really have perpetual growth in stock values, maybe recessions really were historical artifacts.  The magic is long gone, but you would never know it by what virtually all Republican presidential candidates are promising to do.  That is, more of the same brilliance that got us into this mess.  That’s right, keep on digging the hole.

With the Wall Street protests – and supporting demonstrations nationwide – showing no sign of ebbing, I hope more people start paying attention to what has been true all along – endless tax cuts and deregulation not only won’t lead to prosperity for all, they threaten the very fiber of American democracy.  But don’t listen to me – listen to these thinkers.

First link – former Labor Secretary quickly and concisely debunks seven hunks of corporatist baloney.  Second – The Commonweal Institute’s Dave Johnson shreds these five free-market myths: Business does everything better than government; Rich people are “job creators”; Government and taxes take money out of the economy; Regulations Kill Jobs; “Protectionism” hurts the economy.  Third link – Nobel economist Paul Krugman lampoons popular (purposefully ignorant) explanations for the current economic crisis. Krugman is right on when he calls the current situation both funny and terrifying.





Now for a look at how we got into this mess and some ideas on how to move on.  Alan Greenspan remains today’s face of radical free-market theory.  But it all really got started with Milton Friedman.  Too bad Uncle Miltie did not live long enough to see the devastation his ideology wrought.  At least Greenspan had to tell the world he was wrong about regulation of the financial markets being unnecessary.  Next, Matt Taibbi suggests some concrete demands for change that  the Wall Street protestors should consider.  And finally, Joshua Holland interviews economist Dean Baker, whose books explain how the massive and accelerating concentration of wealth and income at the very top in America over the past 30 years is not a ‘free-market’ accident. Baker also has some well-conceived ideas on how to make the economy help the 99 percent of the public.





Finally, a few looks at  the continuing Wall Street protests.  First, a video of a mini-debate involving Chris Hedges.  Watch as he stands his ground, defending the protests, while masterfully declining to get involved in name-calling and mud-slinging.  A fine example for us all.  Next, Reverend Billy, of the church of Stop Shopping, had some choice words of inspiration for the crowds.  The last link is particularly interesting.  It is part of a collection of CNN ireports – citizen journalism.  Since I heard John Fogerty wail ‘Fortunate Son’ back in 1969, I have been partial to protest songs.  The link takes you to a collection of photos with a new protest song for backing.  And it’s only part of a collection of citizen reports from all over.





Cuts-Only Government ‘Solutions’: the Payoff

Three stories on the kind of America we are in danger of building if we stay in the ‘starve the government’ mode.  First – would you believe decriminalizing domestic violence because it is too costly to prosecute?  In Kansas, anything is possible.  Next, Amtrak is in deeper trouble – just when more people are riding, and the nation needs more efficient transport.  And finally – right here in Minnesota, our entire Washington County library system is likely to be closed Sundays and Mondays beginning in a few months.  Who needs educated citizens anyway?  If they are too educated, they think for themselves and are immune to corporatist propaganda?  We can’t have that!





‘We Don’t Need no Stinkin’ Science’

Science Friday featured an interview with Shawn Otto, whose new book lays out a case that our neglect of and hostility toward science threatens our democracy.  He tells it like it is  – the modern Republican Party has pretty much become the party of anti-science.  This is the purest and most insidious form of purposeful ignorance.  And note – we are in danger of handing control of the entire government over to these (pretend-to) know-nothings.  I love Otto’s title:  Fool Me Twice. Brings back fond memories of presidential gaffes past, see?.  Additional link provide more depth on this important topic.




Weird Weather – Get the Big Picture

Until just a few days ago, it was ‘unusually warm’ for an extended period here in Minnesota.  Everyone marvels at the pleasant weather, and, really, what is not to like?  In other parts of the world, we see record droughts, and right now, epic floods in Thailand.  And the usual denials prevail – you can’t attribute any single weather phenomenon to manmade climate change, etc. But weather around the world has been increasingly weird, extreme events are more and more common, and a huge share are consistent with predictions about how manmade climate change will progress.  First link – a useful chart with explanations ,published by the Environmental Defense Fund, showing how extreme weather phenomena are all related.  Also note when the warmest decades on record have occurred.  Second link – one of the most useful and authoritative sites on climate change.  A main contributor, Gavin Schmidt, made a presentation at the University of Minnesota last week that I, sadly, had to miss.




Ozone Hole – Wait, We Solved that One, Right?

Though the world response to atmospheric ozone depletion is a clear success story – we banned the most ozone-destructive CFC chemicals – a recent news item reminds us that the problem is far from solved.  Worse, a solution will be much more complex than simply banning a class of chemicals.  Worse still, it is intimately related to the problem that many governments – led by the US – refuse to take seriously.  That is, steadily increasing greenhouse gas emissions.  Get the scoop from Joe Romm, editor of the Climate Progress site.  This site is a wealth of information, and is a great connector of issues.  It even links to up-to-date video from the Wall Street protests.



Fighting Monoculture

Food experts like Michael Pollan explain that one of the biggest dangers to food supply is our increasing reliance on fewer and fewer varieties of key plants.  The people at Seed Savers – featured in a recent Star Tribune article – are working to preserve diversity in the plant world.  Two links – to the Seed Savers organixation, and to a Pollan video that was way more informative than I had expected.  I recommend The Botany of Desire.  He traces the relationship between humanity, our desires,  and four key plants – the tulip  (beauty), the apple (sweetness), marijuana (intoxication), and the potato (control).  Who knew the tulip was a great early example of a speculation bubble?  I guess we didn’t learn that lesson, eh?





“No one is confused about the message. Wall Street got bailed out; Main Street was abandoned. The top 1% rigs the rules and pockets the rewards. And 99% get sent the bill for the party they weren’t even invited to.”


– Robert Borosage



Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Brendan Murphy




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