IBI Watch 5/27/12

27 05 2012

Disease Pervasive; Cure Renounced  //

Each of the financial crises that have roiled the world in recent years – the cascading Euro zone problems in Greece, then Spain and Portugal and others, the US financial collapse in 2008, the massive budget deficits in California and many other states – has its own unique facets.

But still, there is a common thread.  That is, when times are good – or at least appear that way – the very wealthy and powerful lobby for and secure reduced taxes and relaxed regulations.  The result is that they keep more money out of public coffers – much of it invested overseas. Some also use this ‘opportunity’ to take bigger risks – risks that are made possible by those relaxed regulations.  They also lure the less wealthy and powerful into their schemes.  Then, when the bubble inevitably bursts, the largest of them must be bailed out – they are, after all, ‘too big to fail.’

And what are the proposed ‘solutions’?  Austerity and privatization of public assets, of course.  The taxes on the wealthy stay at their historic lows (see the upcoming battle on renewing the W tax cuts).  The austerity beats down those who need the help most.  As for privatization of shared resources, who can buy?  Well, the wealthy of course, the vaunted ‘job creators.’  This vicious cycle – creating and exploiting crises to the benefit of the already wealthy and mighty – is documented in Naomi Klein’s brilliant book The Shock Doctrine.  And of course that’s far from the last word on the austerity question – listen to this Marketplace piece from this week.  And after you check that, give a look at this rejected TED Talk.  You will look long and hard for a more succinct, on-target critique of the wrongheaded, ideology-bound policies of today’s GOP.  Nick Hanauer explains how we all benefit from reasonable taxes on the wealthy.  (And that includes the wealthy!)   He also heaps scorn on the ‘job creator’ mythos.  Kinda makes you wonder why TED rejected this presentation, so it had to be posted elsewhere.  Could it be the same financially-driven rejection of another wise critique, that of Mann and Ornstein?

Though an ungodly crowd seems to have drunk the Milton Friedman-brand Kool-Aid about lowering taxes on ‘job creators’ so those jobs can tinkle down on the lowly, underemployed masses, some experts keep fighting the good fight.  Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman has a new book, End This Depression, Now!  His arguments would not be radical in any era except today, when the Republicans are basically either part of the Tea Party or terrified by it.

In this wide-ranging interview by Joshua Holland, we see many of Krugman’s strongest ideas.  Krugman decries the near-universal embrace of ‘voodoo economics,’ and says “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

But back to that theme connecting all the crises.  It can be summed up this way – profits are privatized, losses socialized.  It’s as if the most titanic of the corporate titans say, “My successes are all my own doing, damn your taxes and regulations.  When my enterprises and schemes falter, y’all have to bail me out.  After all, those are too big to fail.”  Isn’t it about time that ends?


Congress: Dysfunction R Us

Mann and Ornstein’s work – which I covered extensively a couple of weeks ago in this post (‘Obstructed by Elephants’) – calls out Congress for working against the public interest in the service of a narrow, plutocratic ideology.  Here is another piece, asking an important question about the most effective weapon of mass dysfunction, the filibuster.  ‘Originalism,’ indeed!  And I know this may be shocking, but a new study suggests that Congress may be dumbing down as well . . . or just talking more simple.  Your choice.


Burn, Baby, Burn

The Arctic is melting, and we just can’t wait to get at all that magic juice hidden under the ice down through the ages, so we can burn it up and melt more ice, so we can get at more oil, and, well, you get the picture.  Here’s the latest on the race way up north.  OK, it wasn’t the latest – that is here.  It is green lights all the way to the next petro-nirvana.  I think it’s time to revisit our friends, the Austin Lounge Lizards.  Toast the Earth!


Global Warming Predictions Wrong

If you watched that Lizards video, you may have heard the opening line, ‘The Earth is slowly warming . . .” Actually, that’s where the predictions are wrong.  In fact, it is about the only way the predictions have been wrong – the warming of the Earth by our greenhouse gases is actually proceeding more quickly than even the worst-case forecasts from five or ten years ago.  John Atcheson’s piece effectively sums up what is on the line.  And check this Climate Progress piece that extrapolates from record 2011 greenhouse gas emissions.  We are toying with a methane time bomb, and, as the Natural Resources Defense Council reports, setting the stage for supercharged heat waves.  This concise Scientific American article asks a question for this age – have we already passed the environmental point of no return?  Check the Wile E. Coyote image.  And James Hansen, the famous NASA meteorologist and early prophet of the climate crisis, is waving his arms more energetically than ever about the growing crisis.  I am reading and can recommend his latest book, Storms of My Grandchildren.


Rational Climate Policies – Elusive, So Far

With the gravity of the crisis facing the world, one would think that we would be charging our best scientific minds to suss out the story, and craft policy based on their best assessments. Pipe dream, that.  But why?  In the US, which should be the leader on this issue, but instead chooses to be pignorant (pretend-ignorant), at least part of the credit goes to these guys – the talking suits who, night after night, ignore the reality of the climate crisis as they happy-talk their way through empty weather forecasts.  You will not believe the percentages of media meteorologists who choose pignorance over science.  We have one right here in the Twin Cities – Dave Dahl, our local prince of climate pignorance.  Fortunately, Dahl’s delusional damage is more than offset by the excellent work of Paul Douglas – his blog is frequently updated, and collects information from an impressive variety of sources.  Just as fortunately, it is really not all pignorance out there.  The American public is making the connection between greenhouse gases and more and larger weather disasters.  And dedicated science teachers are helping young people understand what’s happening and what is at stake.  City officials – wherever Tea Party-addled wreckers don’t derail the work – are preparing for the inevitable effects of more frequent extreme weather events.  And real, solid information is available in plain sight from so many sources.  Here is a favorite.


Environmentally Friendly Ideas – Moving and Stationary

I had not heard of Earth-ships, and I am sure I am not the only one.  Eco-friendly construction to be sure.  And it is always a good time to consider bicycle commuting, and coexisting with all those fossil-fuel-burning vehicles we must share the road with.  But there is no better time than the approach of Bike-to-Work Week.


Native Gardens – A Cautionary Tale

Jeanine and I have been gradually transforming swaths of our yard space from grass to native and rain gardens.  We are working to keep this from happening to us.



“Peace is the only battle worth waging.”

 — Albert Camus


Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN


Contributed links to this posting –Jeff Carlson, Mark Goldberg, Allyson Harper




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