More significant is what will not disqualify a candidate for the highest political office in America. In the course of the past month, while Cain’s campaign collapsed under the impact of allegations of sexual misconduct, his rivals (and Cain himself) condemned child labor laws, supported mass evictions, endorsed torture, advocated war with Iran and generally lined up behind the “right” of American corporations to be free of taxes, regulations, unions or any other restrictions on private wealth.
None of these reactionary and semi-fascistic opinions was regarded as an obstacle to the nomination. Meanwhile, a largely bogus and irrelevant issue was manufactured to clear Cain out of the path of the eventual nominee, who, like Obama, will be a tested and experienced defender of the interests of the financial aristocracy.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Friday, November 04, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Just how non-serious were the protests against the Tar Sands project? This quote, in the article, from one of the arrested protesters pretty much says it all:
Getting arrested in the Tar Sands Action was fun and it felt like the right and responsible thing to do. The scariest part of it was navigating the D.C. Metro. No, that’s not exactly true. It was the anticipation of navigating the D.C. Metro that terrified me, not the actual navigation. … The female officer took my ID but stuffed my money back in my bra. Then they took my mug shot, handed me my ID and squeezed me into the paddy wagon with Kidder. It was very hot and close in there but we joked around with the cute police officers, told stories and had a pretty good time…. I was released at 12:46 p.m.
This is the first in a series of articles by Cory Morningstar on the Tar Sands Action as typical of the bourgeois environmental movement.
Sunday, September 04, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
An editorial at politicalcontext.org by my friend Alan Tauber, founder of an organization dedicated to keeping public awareness of disasters alive even when the mainstream media has moved on to the next news cycle:
Introducing Focus on the Aftermath
Monday, August 22, 2011
No one who cares about justice will shed a tear for Muammar el-Qaddafi. He
was a tyrant, with the blood of many people on his hands. But no one who opposes
imperialism and its crimes can celebrate Qaddafi's downfall in these
The new government that will come to power in Libya won't
answer to the people of Libya and their desire for democracy and justice. It
will answer to imperialism--and that is a blow to the Arab Spring, which this
year showed the world the hope of an alternative to oppression, violence and
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
But the little conservative man on my shoulder (his name is Moe, I believe...) replies thusly:
"You liberals selectively apply 'truth standards' to deliberately play 'gotcha' with conservatives. Remember, Obama said he'd visited 57 states. So-called 'temporality,' like so-called 'science' is routinely applied selectively by liberals to mute God's higher truths, which are irreducible to the literalism of liberal academics. Also, Bachmann may have a low IQ, but that's meaningless, because 'IQ' is an artificial construct dreamed up by liberal 'social scientists' in order to justify things like eugenics and mandatory government-run education, which is the same as communist Nazism. Also, any attacks against Bachmann are, a priori, sexist. Finally, Bachmann is closer to God than you are, therefore, if she says today is Elvis's birthday, then it must be his birthday."
|"There is a higher truth!"|
Sunday, August 14, 2011
The arguments that presently concern me the most are that Democratic Presidents (1) enact conservative agendas more effectively than Republican Presidents and (2) de-mobilize popular resistance to those agendas, whereas, Republican Presidents tend to mobilize widespread popular resistance. Social Security is the case in point: Bush wanted to destroy it and popular resistance prevented that. Obama is destroying it now, and Democrats are more concerned with defending Obama than saving Social Security.
Or, as Alexander Cockburn put it, in the excerpt from his recent Counterpunch essay that I linked to in my politicalcontext.org essay:
Indeed, the best outcome for the left in 2008 would have been a victory for McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent. McCain! But, you wail, he would have plunged America into new wars, kept Guantanamo open, launched an onslaught on entitlements, surrendered to Wall Street and the banks… McCain would have tried all these things, but maybe he would have quailed amid a storm of public protest. Under W. Bush’s two terms the spirit of opposition throve; the antiwar movement flourished; the labor movement was active; blacks militant. Amid a brilliant campaign mounted by the AFL-CIO, Bush’s hopes to gut social programs were dead within months of the start of his second term in 2004. But since 2008 a Democratic president has neutralized all these constituencies.Even if not generally true, this seems indisputably true about Obama.
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Special Report--Culture War Against Indigenous Alaskans 08/07 by SharedSacrifice Blog Talk Radio
Gregory Vickrey talks to Norman Ayaugalria and Carl Wassilie about the violent culture war being waged against the Yup'ik in Emmonak, Alaska.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
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all of which will.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
From Joseph Gerth at the Louisville Courier-Journal, interesting and encouraging news about the newest state Green Party:
Tired of Democrats and Republicans who don’t speak to the issues or solve the problems important to them, about 35 people gathered Saturday in Anderson County to form the Green Party of Kentucky...
Geoff Young, a retired state government worker, said he decided last fall that there needed to be a Green Party chapter in Kentucky. “People in Kentucky are becoming desperate for a real alternative to the two established parties,” he said. “Many people, including myself, feel that the two established parties don’t offer enough new ideas, enough ideas that work and do not propose solutions that will actually address Kentucky’s most serious problems.” The party supports policies that would improve the environment and is opposed to war, Young said.
The article also details the challenges faced by third parties in Kentucky, challenges we are familiar with here at politicalcontext.org as part of our context2012 effort to publicize and offer a voice to similar alternative political organizations. Ballot Access News reports that: "In Kentucky, if a group polls 2% of the vote for President, it is a qualified minor party for the next four years, and can nominate by convention, with no petitioning needed. The only parties that have attained that status, in the last 80 years, are the Reform Party 1996-2000, the Anderson Coalition 1980-1984, and the American Party 1968-1972." This statistic seems more reasonable than the apparently misreported 20% figure quoted by both the Courier-Journal article and Green Party Watch.
Kentucky is certainly a state needing some fresh political voices. The state's Democratic Governor, Steve Beshear, seems to be in bed with big coal. Like much of the rest of the country, unemployment in the state has increased not just dramatically, but critically. And, of course, Kentucky gave us Rand Paul. But oppressive conditions give rise to solidarity, and closed political doors in one house may well inspire hard-working activists to build a new and better house. Good luck, Kentucky Greens!
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Elf-besotted fans aside, why shouldn't Tolkien be granted admission to the literary pantheon? Well, for one thing, his detractors argue, his prose is unbearably archaic. "Sometimes, reading Tolkien, I am reminded of the Book of Mormon," writes [Harold] Bloom. Tolkien's verse--which litters the text of The Lord of the Rings--is generally accepted to be even worse.
Friday, July 08, 2011
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Second, though, even with their limited political consciousness, I think John and John get several things right in their "Tubthumping" cover even without overt awareness of it: the communal nature of the song, the distorted social values that accompany pub-hopping (Linnell distorts the audio during the drinking verses) and, musically speaking, a sense of the compartmentalized stories simultaneously playing out in the song. All in all, a decent cover.
They Might Be Giants covers Chumbawamba
Sunday, July 03, 2011
Cynthia McKinney's assessment of the U.S.-NATO mission in Libya. It's illegal, immoral, stupid, ill-timed, ill-planned, one-dimensional, ignorant, clumsy, undemocratic, terribly wasteful, brutal, dishonest, hypocritical, and imperialist. It's absurd.
From her speech:
At a time when the American people have been asked to tighten their belts, teachers are receiving pink slips, the vital statistics of the American people reveal a health care crisis in the making, and the U.S. government is in serious threat of default, our President and Congress have decided that a new war, this time against the people of Libya, is appropriate. This comes at a time when the U.S., by one estimate, spends approximately $3 billion per week for war against Iraq and Afghanistan. The President and Congress
continueto fund the war against Libya despite the fact that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that the U.S. had no strategic interest in Libya; and despite the fact that the Senate Chairwoman of the Select Committee on Intelligence admits that the U.S. really does not know who the "rebels" are; while the rebels themselves, according to a Telegraph report of 25 March 2011, admit that Al Qaeda elements are among their ranks. So while the apparatus of our government has been used for over ten years to inform the American people and the global community that Al Qaeda is an enemy of freedom-loving people all over the world, our President chooses to ally our military with none other than Al Qaeda elements in Libya and other people whom U.S. intelligence say they do not know.
Additionally, U.S. Admiral Locklear admitted to a Member of Congress that one of NATO's missions was to assassinate Muammar Qaddafi. And, indeed, NATO bombs have killed Qaddafi's son and three grandchildren, just as US bombs in 1986 killed his daughter. NATO bombs just recently killed the grandchildren of one of Qaddafi's associates in a targeted assassination attempt. Targeted assassination is not within the scope of the United Nations Security Council Resolution and targeted assassination is against U.S. law, international law, international humanitarian law, and
international human rightslaw. Targeted assassination is also a crime. We certainly cannot encourage others to abide by the law when we so openly break it.
While in Libya, I witnessed NATO's targeting of civilians: NATO bombs and missiles landed in residential neighborhoods, hit schools, exploded near hospitals, destroyed parts of the public broadcasting infrastructure, and narrowly missed killing students at Al Fateh University. When civilians are targeted in war, or "low kinetic" activities, crimes are committed.
NATO practices in Libya are exactly like Israel's practices in Gaza: fishermen are killed as they go about their fishing business, a naval blockade allows arms to flow to NATO's Libyan allies, but stops food, fuel, and medicine from entering non-NATO ally-held areas. The entire population suffers as a result. Collective punishment is illegal when Israel practices it against the people of Gaza and collective punishment is illegal when NATO practices it.
NATO and hyperbolic press accounts have introduced a kind of race hatred that the Libyan people have been trying hard to erase. Approximately 50% of Libya looks like me. Innocent darker skinned Libyans have been targeted, tortured, harassed, and killed.
The people of Libya have the right to self-determination. They have a right to "resource nationalism." They have a right to live in peace. They have a right to determine their future and they need not exercise their rights underneath the shock and awe of NATO bombs and missiles.
Friday, July 01, 2011
Genocide--it's an especially powerful term, it's an unstable term, and what it stands for is relatively rare, but it's a terrifying rarity that implicates humanity, human nature if you will. Not surprisingly, the meaning of the term, and particularly its application in policymaking, is a site of struggle among various sections of the ruling class--and among those who advocate on behalf of victims of mass murders and systemic elimination campaigns. The invocation of "genocide" as a political tool bears only a nominal relationship to what's actually happening, however awful that is.
Our guest tomorrow has been covering and is in constant correspondence with people "on the ground"--the working class and alternative political activists in Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, the Congo, in her work as a journalist. Ann Garrison has been focusing on war and resource struggles in Africa for several years, and her work has appeared in the San Francisco Examiner and a slew of other digital and offline publications--and she's sat in plusher interview seats than we offer. But we're pleased to have her back for the third time on tomorrow's podcast.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Fortas’ questionable gifts first came out when President Johnson nominated him for a promotion to Chief Justice of the United States in 1968. Fortas had accepted $15,000 to lead seminars at American University — far more than the university normally paid for such services — and the payments were bankrolled by the leaders of frequent corporate litigants including the vice president of Phillip Morris. Fortas survived this revelation, although his nomination for the Chief Justiceship was filibustered into oblivion.Today's generation of conservative Justices, however, play in an entirely different key.
Just a year later, the country learned that Fortas took another highly questionable gift. In 1966, one year after Fortas joined the Court, stock speculator Louis E. Wolfson’s foundation began paying Fortas an annual retainer of $20,000 per year for consulting services. Fortas’ actions were legal, and he eventually returned the money after Wolfson was convicted of securities violations and recused himself from Wolfson’s case, but the damage to Fortas — and the potential harm to the Supreme Court’s reputation — were too great. Fortas resigned in disgrace.
It is difficult to distinguish Fortas’ scandal from Thomas’. Like Fortas, Thomas accepted several very valuable gifts from parties who are frequently interested in the outcome of federal court cases. One of Thomas’ benefactors has even filed briefs in his Court since giving Thomas a $15,000 gift, and Thomas has not recused himself from each of these cases.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
So Jon Huntsman is officially running. But there's a problem:
Presidential candidates need to be physically attractive in this day and age. Huntsman will never win because he has the face of a weasel. Or a ferret. People will call him "ol' ferret face."
I don't make the rules.
Sunday, June 05, 2011
Many states have loan forgiveness programs for doctors entering primary care. The health care reform law contains incentive programs that will include bonuses for primary care doctors who treat Medicare patients, and help finance a small increase in primary care training positions.Free education would also increase the quality of applicants, the doctors claim, and would reflect the already symbiotic relationship between medical training and taxpayer money.
Critics might object to providing free medical education when students have to pay for most other types of advanced training. But the process of training doctors is unlike any other, and much of the costs are already borne by others. Hospitals that house medical residents and specialist trainees receive payments from the taxpayer, through Medicare. Patients give of their time and of their bodies in our nation’s teaching hospitals so that doctors in training can become skilled practitioners.letters to the editor expressed skepticism that this would encourage more medical students to become general practitioners when people could just borrow money to become specialists, but I can see how at least some low-to-medium income students would choose the general path and avoid the debt. It might also encourage people, say, in their 20s to pursue new careers in medicine after they see how bleak a lot of other options are right now.
Friday, June 03, 2011
The headlines were nothing short of chilling.Instead, the suspect doesn't appear to be very religious at all, and the inferences of fundamentalism appear to be baseless according to the available evidence. Rather than "stoning" Kateryna, the suspect appears to have strangled her and struck her on the head--with a stone.
"Aspiring 'Miss Ukraine' Killed Under Shari'a Laws In Crimea" warned Ukrainian online newspaper "Gazeta Po-Kievski."
"Radical Islamists Murder Young Girl In Crimea," screamed Russia's "Svobodnaya Pressa."
"Muslim Girl,19, Stoned To Death After Taking Part In Beauty Contest," was the headline on Britain's "Mail Online," the "Daily Mail" website.
The circumstances around the death of Kateryna Korin, a 19-year-old Ukrainian student on the Crimean peninsula, appeared to point to a made-for-tabloid tragedy: a young beauty-pageant contestant brutally killed by her admirer, a radical Islamist who chose to stone her to death under an unforgiving interpretation of Islamic law.
There was just one small problem: They weren't true.
Fundamentalism is dangerous. So is ginning up stories designed to incite hatred.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
...then-Gov. Pawlenty granted to a sex offender in October 2008, a pardon that is certain to haunt Pawlenty throughout his campaign. Turns out the man Pawlenty pardoned was later arrested again for molesting his daughter more than 250 times in an eight-year span, including six years prior to his pardon."Old Redneck" at Kos concludes that this proves Republicans fire teachers and pardon child molesters. Yeah, anyway...
Jeremy Giefer served 45 days in prison in 1994 after being convicted of statutory rape. However, because he married the then-14-year-old girl and stuck around to father the child they conceived together, he begged the state for an extraordinary pardon, which would no longer require Giefer to report himself as a sex offender.
The board — which included the Minnesota attorney general, the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and then-Governor Pawlenty — voted unanimously to pardon Giefer.
This isn't Pawlenty's first pardon problem. He and Michele Bachmann sought a pardon for a character
...indicted on fraud and money-laundering charges in a U.S. District Court in Minnesota. A former North Dakota pawnshop owner who ostensibly found Jesus while serving a prison sentence in the 1980s, Vennes emerged as a pillar of Minnesota’s conservative Christian community. Then, according to the indictment, he channeled millions into a Ponzi scheme run by the businessman Thomas J. Petters, who is now serving 50 years in federal prison. Much of the money Vennes raised seems to have come from faith-based charities, pastors, and ministers, some of who have lost their life savings.(Which leads me to sidebar: Is there a bigger piece of opportunistic trash in congress than Michele Bachmann?)
...Vennes was a major donor to both politicians, and both politicians sought pardons for him in order to wipe away the taint of the crimes that first landed him in prison. Vennes’s respectability in conservative Minnesota circles seems to have enabled his crimes.
... He donated several thousand dollars to Tim Pawlenty’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign, and sat on the board of Teen Challenge, a faith-based drug rehab program, with Pawlenty’s wife, Mary. In 2006, according to the Star Tribune, he was the top donor to Michele Bachmann’s congressional campaign.
It's certainly not true that only Republicans abuse the pardon process. Bourgeois politicians, products of the marketplace themselves, have trouble drawing their wheeling and dealing lines. But in this election cycle, it's the GOP that seems tainted by what Politico called "Horton's Ghost."
Sometimes these pardon scandals are a bit unfair, a bit of a stretch to the limits of configural causality and foreseeability. Mittens, for example, appointed people to a parole board who made a pretty egregious error (see the Politico link above). Even Pawlenty can't be faulted for what a shrink should have caught--that the dude that married the 14 year old was also prone to go after younger kids--including immediate family members.
One unanswered question, though, is why Pawlenty would be stupid enough to pardon ANY sex offender. Was he trying to appeal to the self-perceived wrongfully convicted sex offender constituency?
Friday, May 20, 2011
Richard Trumka's call to arms, and promise of an "independent" labor movement, was refreshing. Can labor deliver? Does it mean more than just criticizing the Democratic Party? Is there a walk accompanying the talk?
Monday, May 16, 2011
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Jason West was Mayor of New Paltz New York from 2003 to 2007. An active member of the Green Party at that time, West was the first official in the United States to marry same-sex couples. He was arrested and charged with “solemnizing marriages without a license”. The charges were later dismissed.
After losing in a run at re-election West headed out west, to the University of California at Berkley to study urban planning, and later returned to New Paltz. This year he again ran for Mayor, and . . . he has won that race, giving him a second but non-consecutive term.
West ran on the “Cooperative Party” ticket.
Monday, May 02, 2011
--Rush Limbaugh, courtesy of Media Matters and Daily Kos. I'm no Obama fan, but if the POTUS could send the Fat Idiot to Gitmo, I just might become one.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
- 25 tea partiers anywhere = national news coverage.
- 37,000 unemployed people protesting in Raleigh = apparently not network newsworthy.
I'm glad we had this discussion.
Monday, April 25, 2011
At least 150 people were revealed to be innocent Afghans or Pakistanis - including drivers, farmers and chefs - rounded up during intelligence gathering operations in the aftermath of 9/11.Six years in Gitmo, just to be harassed because you work for a news network.
The detainees were then held for years owing to mistaken identity or because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, the memos say. In many cases, US commanders concluded there was "no reason recorded for transfer".
Sami al-Hajj, a Sudanese cameraman for al-Jazeera, was held for six years, partly so he could be questioned about the Arabic news network
Saturday, April 23, 2011
-President (and constitutional scholar) Obama, on Bradley Manning, who hasn't yet been tried or convicted of anything.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Peace of the Action (POTA), CodePINK, Cindy Sheehan, United Progressives, several other entities, and all Vulnerable Folks are calling on us to march, strike, and occupy Sacramento and beyond beginning May Day (1st), 2011.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
(via various FB friends)
Well, you know, we've got a slight problem. If I say the things that you want me to say, those gentlemen back there [vice squad officers attending Bruce's performance] are going to bust me. [Audience boos.] Don't boo them, it's not their fault. They're only doing their job. It's your fault I'm being busted. Until you change the law, they have to do what the law requires them to do. It's up to you to change the law.--Lenny Bruce's performance at the Unicorn in Los Angeles, February 1962
Saturday, April 09, 2011
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Monday, April 04, 2011
Saturday, April 02, 2011
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
DemFromCT at Daily Kos says the disaster in Fukushima is unlikely to affect the nature and use of nuclear power.
...there's no nuclear renaissance in this country. We were unlikely to accept a lot of nuclear reactor construction before Fukushima, and nothing unfolding in Japan right now is likely to change that. Still, some folks in Congress like the idea of "clean energy" and figure the spent fule issue can be kicked down the road, so the debate won't disappear. As if the nuclear lobby would let it.Meanwhile, the plant is hot. Very hot.
Engineers at Japan’s damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant were evacuated from one reactor after three men suffered radiation burns, the second retreat from the location in as many days.Have no fear--they'll develop a drug: From Voice of America News
The serious radiation leaks at Japan's damaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant have reawakened public fears about radiation sickness. But what if there were a drug that could not only protect people from dangerous levels of radiation exposure but also heal those actually exposed to damaging nuclear radiation?And, from Andrew Revkin at the Dot Earth blog of the New York Times: If we're going to keep nuclear, we need some big changes--changes we don't have the regulatory courage to implement.
Researchers say they are developing such a drug - one that can both prevent and repair human cell damage from all types of radiation exposure.
Such a healing medication has the potential to lessen panic and fear generated by catastrophic reactor accidents. Plant workers trying to make repairs near a crippled reactor's radioactive core might be less fearful if they could take a pill to repair their own radiation-damaged cells.
Finally, regardless of nuclear industry spin, half of Americans now oppose building new nuclear plants--anywhere.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Right now it's all about getting water into the reactors--and Japanese technicians appear to be having a hard time doing that. Ever since the pool containing spent fuel rods ran dry on Wednesday, all pretense of this being a containable crisis has been lifted. A few minutes ago, Japan's nuclear agency raised the threat to a "5," where "7" is the highest level. "Fuel rods in three of the six reactors are thought to have partially melted, while spent fuel rods in cooling pools that have ceased to function also posed urgent problems." "The move," Reuters reports, "puts it on the same level as the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US, and two levels below the Chernobyl meltdown." American and Japanese politicians, and the nuclear wonks upon which politicians currently rely are at odds.
US officials say there is a potentially dire problem in the cooling pool for spent nuclear rods in the No. 4 reactor, despite the fact that Japanese officials insist that No. 3 is the more urgent problem, according to the The Los Angeles Times. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the reactor pool has a significant hole or crack, allowing water to drain out of the pool, reports the Times. Leaving the spent rods uncovered allows them to overheat causing them catch on fire and release significant amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. Such a problem would be extremely difficult to solve.Differences between American and Japanese assessments of the disaster have raised talk of a rift between the two nations' governments. More likely, there is merely a rift in transparency, as the U.S. warns its own citizens in Japan to stay further away from the site than Japanese officials are advising. U.S. officials, of course, have no reason not to be transparent about other countries' disasters.
For those who want to wrap their head around the unpleasant comparisons to Chernobyl, this piece at asahi.com lays out the reasons why, even though the fire at Chernobyl burned for ten days, Fukushima has a much higher combined power output, making the stakes in the current containment effort even higher than many suppose.
In other crappy news, food prices are going to rise as a result of contaminated beef and rice.
Perhaps the big global conversation should now be about how to handle international radioactive fallout, but that's not the conversation that's happening. Rather, nations' mainstream media are arguing about whether this is the end of "the nuclear power revival." The Indian government presents a paradigm case of stubbornness: They're building a nuclear plant on an earthquake fault zone, and have no plans to reconsider the project--only to re-evaluate safety issues, a gesture which in most contexts means very little.
...as Japan battles to contain a crisis at its nuclear reactors, opposition parties in India have asked the government to review its ambitious plans to increase the use of nuclear energy. Anti-nuclear activists are calling for a freeze on further expansion pointing to potential risks from an accident.The most discouraging part of this conversation is the constant reminder that the absence of nuclear energy automatically entails an increase in the carbon-based energy--and an accompanying increase in CO2 emissions. Germany's decision to pause its nuclear program for three months, a reasonable pause for a safety overhaul, has dire consequences for the fight against carbon emissions.
The Indian government says it will not reconsider plans to expand nuclear power generation. It says it will, however, re-evaluate safety issues.
"There are lessons be learned,” said V. Raghuraman, a former energy adviser to the Confederation of India Industry. “That is what India will do. The question now will be one of re-examination and see whether the path on which we have been going ahead is providing the necessary safeguards and safety procedures are being incorporated, so they will be re-evaluated. So there may be some postponement, but no derailing of the process."
In particular, there is expected to be greater focus on potential safety hazards at a nuclear reactor to be built at Jaitapur, in western Maharashtra, by France. Billed as the world’s biggest reactor, it will generate about 10,000 megawatts of electricity. But some concerns have been raised because the site stands on an earthquake-prone zone.
The three-month German moratorium alone would, according to a calculation by energy analysts, add eight megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.Wall Street Journal financial blogger Alen Mattich is a nuclear power expert now. Seriously, Murdoch can do things like that for you. Mattich must certainly have no incentive to write off renewables in the midst of this crisis. But he has a tough time stopping himself from at least laying the groundwork for self-refutation when he writes:
Climate-change scientists and activists are now contemplating the effects of a middle to long-term shift away from nuclear.
''I despise and fear the nuclear industry as much as any other green,'' wrote influential British climate commentator George Monbiot in his Guardian blog this week. ''[But] even when nuclear power plants go horribly wrong, they do less damage to the planet and its people than coal-burning stations operating normally.''
Ruling out nuclear, ''a low-carbon source of energy, which could help us tackle the gravest threat the world now faces … does neither the people nor the places of the world any favours''. Back in the 1970s, it was expected that nuclear energy would soon become the world's dominant generator of electrical power. Nations such as France determinedly invested in the technology after the oil-price shock.
But looking to renewables as a source of electricity generation is a forlorn hope. Sure, Brazil gets nearly all of its electricity from renewables, while Canada, Switzerland, Sweden Pakistan, Armenia, Romania and Finland get from a third to two thirds of their needs from renewables.Note that the WSJ financial, newly appointed nuclear power expert lists "water running downhill" as a prerequisite for transition readiness. But if you accept at face value the claim that "we're just not ready" for a transition to post-carbon, and non-nuclear, energy, you are only getting half the story. And the other half of that story is not coming from tree-hugging nonscientist hippies, and the blueprints for an economic and structural transition are not being written by Stalinists. Maybe some weekend reading on renewable energy will lift your spirits, increase your political resolve, make you both more optimistic about humanity and more determined to make that optimism show through in politics itself--politics that we control in so far as we can reclaim the public square, and the commons.
But these countries are blessed with plenty of water running downhill. Strip out hydroelectric generation, and other renewables largely make up less than 10% of electricity generation (in countries with nuclear plants). At most it’s around 13% in Russia, Spain and Slovakia.
To be sure, great efforts are being made towards developing non-hydro renewables, and generation has boomed during the past few years. But it is hard to see how it could fully replace nuclear power for at least a generation, and possibly longer.
In the long run, it's more economically and environmentally viable. In the short run, we're closer than we might suspect in some ways, even if formidable structural barriers exist elsewhere. In the Latin American context:
Industrializing countries need efficient, affordable power, and power demand in Latin America will surge over the next decade. Though renewable power is still seen as uneconomic in many parts of the region, we need only look at recent events to see that fossil fuel prices are unpredictable. Additionally, oil spills, coal mine and natural gas accidents, and perhaps too nuclear plant accidents will continue to have untold environmental and economic costs. But the sun, the sea, rivers, wind, these are unchanging. And thanks to the rapid development of a renewable industry in Europe and China, costs are coming down. Indeed, investors prior to the crisis saw double digit returns in the wind sector in numerous parts of the world, and solar power could be cost-competitive in as little as two years.Why, I wonder, do economic reporters feel compelled to reassure us that the "green buying binge won't last" in the wake of the Japan crisis? Over the past year, Americans have seen a domestic coal diaster that killed 29 people in a non-union coal mine in West Virginia, an offshore oil rig explosion which, after killing 11 people, proceded to kill an entire section of the Gulf of Mexico, and now a disaster in Japan that casts into doubt the "cleanliness" of the nuclear alternative. But Americans and our global allies seeking a transition to renewable energy are fighting tremendous odds. Any inclination on the part of the Obama administration for such a transition died when Koch Bros-funded Americans for Prosperity engineered the ouster of green energy advocate Van Jones from the White House. Since then, Obama has marched to the orders of big oil and big nuke, and corporate media is eager to march along. The corporate communists once known as the GOP not only supports the principle of nuclear energy, but is prepared to manifest this support by violating free market principles and directly funding them. Keep that in mind as you hear financial experts say that we can't achieve a renewables transition without government funding (along with the conditional normative assumption that we shouldn't, for some reason, be massively funding a scientifically feasible transition to safe and clean energy).
With the right regulatory signals, renewable energy could prove an important complement to base load power in Latin America in the next decade. The time to act is now.
Listening to the financial scribes--their language in shaping, through description, their financial universes--is an study in the rhetoric of economic correctness. Although solar shares rose, the crisis won't be (won't be?) enough to "quickly boost demand" for power. "The real winners," says one insufficiently enthusiastic clean energy investment manager, "will be natural gas and energy efficiency." Well duh, but the double digit gains for solar panels and other renewables implements --including climbs of 77% for Germany's Conergy AG and 54% for Solon SE, suggest that there's life in the renewables sector that will get a significant shot in the arm even if government commitment climbs only incrementally in the next few years. A major commitment by any big government could change the renewable energy game. And sooner or later, one of those governments will blink. Armed with that possibility, advocates of clean and safe energy can battle back the perception that nuclear power is inevitable, the only post-carbon game in town. That assumption is reinforced in the business sections of all mainstream media outlets, including in the form of personal advice to investors. A public counteroffensive on renewable energy could prove both timely and effective.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
My name is John Riley
I'll have your ear only a while
I left my dear home in Ireland
It was death, starvation or exile
And when I got to America
It was my duty to go
Enter the Army and slog across Texas
To join in the war against Mexico
It was there in the pueblos and hillsides
That I saw the mistake I had made
Part of a conquering army
With the morals of a bayonet blade
So in the midst of these poor, dying Catholics
Screaming children, the burning stench of it all
Myself and two hundred Irishmen
Decided to rise to the call
From Dublin City to San Diego
We witnessed freedom denied
So we formed the Saint Patrick Battalion
And we fought on the Mexican side
We marched 'neath the green flag of Saint Patrick
Emblazoned with "Erin Go Bragh"
Bright with the harp and the shamrock
And "Libertad para la Republica"
Just fifty years after Wolftone
Five thousand miles away
The Yanks called us a Legion of Strangers
And they can talk as they may
We fought them in Matamoros
While their volunteers were raping the nuns
In Monterey and Cerro Gordo
We fought on as Ireland's sons
We were the red-headed fighters for freedom
Amidst these brown-skinned women and men
Side by side we fought against tyranny
And I daresay we'd do it again
We fought them in five major battles
Churobusco was the last
Overwhelmed by the cannons from Boston
We fell after each mortar blast
Most of us died on that hillside
In the service of the Mexican state
So far from our occupied homeland
We were heroes and victims of fate
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
According to Stratfor, the admission by Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of a meltdown of the reactor core is especially significant, because
...it is the government agency that reports to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. NISA works in conjunction with the Atomic Energy Commission. Its role is to provide oversight to the industry and is responsible for signing off construction of new plants, among other things. It has been criticized for approving nuclear plants on geological fault lines and for an alleged conflict of interest in regulating the nuclear sector. It was NISA that issued the order for the opening of the valve to release pressure — and thus allegedly some radiation — from the Fukushima power plant.
NISA has also overseen the entire government response to the nuclear reactor problems following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It is difficult to determine at this point whether the NISA statement is accurate, as the Nikkei report has not been corroborated by others. It is also not clear from the context whether NISA is stating the conclusions of an official assessment or simply making a statement. However, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, also said that although it had relieved pressure, nevertheless some nuclear fuel had melted and further action was necessary to contain the pressure.
Yesterday, a friend reminded me to keep in mind the experiences of the emergency technicians working at Fukushima now. This engineering student's blog, a very well-written, busy blog which more people should subscribe to, has a very effective post that explains the human factor from an technician's perspective.
As the fires at Unit 4 and other sources increase the radiation levels, the dose rates get so high that workers can only spend short times on the site without getting radiation sickness. Moreover, after a worker does a shift in an extreme radiation area--it might be only 30 minutes or less--and receives a large does, he must allow his body to heal before being re-exposed to radiation. I don't know how long, but think in terms of how long it takes to recover from a burn, so several days to a couple of weeks. This creates a manpower problem very quickly. . . Assuming things continue apace, access will get more and more difficult and it is entirely credible the site will have to be essentially abandoned to run its course for several weeks.They will literally run out of bodies.
From Justin Elliott at Salon, "What the media missed about the nuclear lobby:"
The Nuclear Energy Institute is a Washington-based trade group that has been widely quoted in the press -- including Salon -- in recent days as representing the American nuclear industry. What media reports haven't mentioned is that NEI is actually an international organization that serves several Japanese member corporations, including the very company whose reactors are at the center of the crisis: Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).Friends of the Earth has compiled a list of experts to contact about the disaster, and their news is not good for the nuclear industry--or, more accurately, the industry's future victims, in America. Just for starters, the fox is guarding the henhouse and writing the PR about it:
According to the trade group's 2010 "governance roster," TEPCO is one of about 350 member organizations, along with the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, and other Japanese energy interests....NEI has at times given overly sunny takes on what is happening. Early on in the crisis, for example, NEI distributed to reporters a document from the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (an NEI member) that claimed there was "no danger of the nuclear fuel being exposed" at Fukushima Daiichi plant. That turned out not to be true. An NEI spokesman also argued on Sunday that Americans should be "reassured" by what is happening because lessons will be learned in Japan.
The U.S. makes widespread use of the same aging reactors that are in crisis in Japan. Five of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi 1 site are General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, including Unit 1, which suffered an explosion that destroyed part of its containment building on Saturday, and Unit 3, which uses plutonium-based MOX fuel and has been the subject of major efforts to cool the reactor.
Michael Mariotte, executive director and the chief spokesperson for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said: “Nearly one out of five -- 23 – of the operating reactors in the U.S. use the GE Mark I design. All but two of these began commercial operation between 1971 and 1976. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved 20-year license extensions for 18 of these aging GE Mark I reactors. Two applications are currently under review; three reactors have not filed for license renewal. When the reactor designs are the same, and the reactor’s ages are the same, comparisons seem more than appropriate -- indeed, it would be irresponsible not to understand what lessons may be learned from the Japanese experience that would apply to so many aging U.S. reactors that are still in use.”
Gizmodo.com has republished an article by Debora MacKenzie at New Scientist describing the health effects of crisis-level nuclear radiation levels. Radiation poisoning isn't pretty--survivable or not.
Radiation damages DNA, especially as it assembles in dividing cells. That means tissues which contain many dividing cells, such as the gut lining, skin and bone marrow, are most at risk of damage. High enough doses also damage brain cells and such doses are invariably fatal. Less severe damage can be treated, however. Gut damage disturbs fluid balance and can lead to blood infection; marrow damage means no blood cells are produced for clotting and fighting infection. If those problems can be managed, people can be kept alive long enough for gut and marrow to regenerate. A cloned human hormone that boosts white blood cell production sometimes helps; there is little else....So, either Chernobyl or TMI. Those are the choices we currently face. It's time to change the range.
The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986. However, so far it seems more likely to resemble the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 which, like Fukushima, lost coolant and had a partial meltdown.
So far, the release of radioactivity at Fukushima appears to be closer to what happened at TMI than at Chernobyl. The huge plume of smoke from Chernobyl spread radiation over most of Europe and forced evacuation within a 30-kilometre radius. The gases that escaped TMI, in contrast, might have travelled as far as New York state, but most stayed within 15 kilometres of the plant.
Some information for Twitter users:
Standing out from the crowd is Twitter user @shioyama, and the rest of the the outstanding Global Voices team. They have set up a Japan earthquake hub and post updates frequently. Time Out Tokyo, besides posting frequent updates to Twitter (@TimeOutTokyo), has a number of live reports, safety information and photographs on their website.
Blogger Michael Gakuran (@gakuranman) is posting updates on his blog (gakuranman.com ), including links to blackout schedules and other essential notifications. Similarly, Marcy Sensei (@marcysensei) is updating her feed with translations. Roy Berman (aka @mutantfroginc) has a good stream of updates, as well as amazingly informative information on his blog, including an explanation of who can and cannot give blood in Japan.
Individuals who speak languages other than English or Japanese can visit imperium-donuzium.org/ where you can monitor Twitter updates in a wide range of languages including Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese and many more.
There is also a bot collating information from government sources (@earthquake_jp), which we all pray soon remains forever silent.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Saturday, March 05, 2011
Monday, February 28, 2011
Chris Mooney doesn't think so. He is responding to Judith Warner's New York Times Magazine piece by Judith Warner (who misattributes postmodernism to the left, where it's never, technically been), in arguing that the far right appropriated the anti-foundationalist discourse of postmodernity in their attack on science.
Can you picture James Inhofe citing Derrida or Foucault? The very idea is comical.But more seriously, he writes that climate deniers do believe in objective truth--just not the objective truth of contemporary science. There's no overriding, systemically consistent reason for their position. It's more pre-modern than postmodern. I don't really have any strong disagreement with Mooney's position here. But it may be possible that intellectuals who have ridden the right's coattails, who author carefully coded "intelligent design" treasises and cite Heidegger and Nietzsche in the service of radical orthodoxy do, in fact, deploy postmodernist thinking in their attack on science. Such intellectuals may contribute to the anti-scientific attitude of rank-and-file Christians who know little to nothing about the foundational poles of the overall debate. It's also important to remember that the scientific method, when properly deployed, is an instantiation of democracy, while a certain strain of religious postmodernism is both deeply anti-scientific and hostile to cosmopolitan democracy.
Finally, I posed the question at the top of this post on my Facebook page earlier, and received some extremely thoughtful responses:
"Yes, amongst other things, in fact I believe that in promoting the Many Truths narrative they have helped the Right define the debate in their favor."
"Um, no. If you don't understand that science is unstable, you don't understand science, IMHO. There's a difference between instability and complete indeterminacy. In that difference, the entire world lies."
"I suspect the vast majority of climate change deniers have never heard of postmodernism or think it's a communist plot."
"Habermas makes that argument. I don't buy it. The problem with science in the U.S. comes from evangelicals, and they are hardly postmodernists. There are many more relativists/postmodernists in Europe and a much higher belief in science."
"For an interesting read on the question see Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern,” Critical Inquiry, 30 (2003). Latour is one of the original critique of science people."
"And besides capital "S"cience is a narrative science itself is a method of inquiry while postmodernism(s) can call into question the big Truth claims that people think science makes but science isnt concerned wit...h the Ultimate truths that say religion or philosophy is. Only the best truth that fits the available evidence. In this respect science in its always unfinished-- constantly revisiable-- self reflexive-- process oriented methodology is and has always been the paragon of post modernity."
Thursday, February 24, 2011
The revolt in the Arab world is not merely against a resident dictator, but against a worldwide economic tyranny designed by the US Treasury and imposed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which have ensured that rich countries like Egypt are reduced to vast sweatshops, with half the population earning less than $2 a day. The people's triumph in Cairo was the first blow against what Benito Mussolini called corporatism, a word that appears in his definition of fascism.
...which makes all of this even more interesting than it has already been--and even more intimately connected to the conditions and stakes in the Wisconsin battles.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Cost of Iraq: $3 trillion [projected]
Cost of Afghanistan: $1 trillion [projected]
California budget gap: $28 billion
Wisconsin budget gap: $138 million
...the budget crises faced in places like Wisconsin and California can be ended by rapidly ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A conservative friend pointed out that politifact.com has called the "ginning up" story false.
So earlier this morning, I emailed Brian Beutler at talkingpointsmemo.com --who broke the story of Gov. Walker ginning up the budget crisis before Maddow did-- asking him to comment on the politifact.com analysis. I'll report his reply if and when I receive it--and I sincerely hope I do. If it comes out that this was a screw up on TPM's part, a lot of people will need to clarify their position concerning Wisconsin. Supporting the 70,000 + people in the streets in Madison, and the right of all workers to collectively bargain, does not stand or fall on whether Gov. Walker messed up the budget and lied about it. Public workers make less than private sector workers, and the whole blame game being lobbed against the public sector is ridiculous. And, Wisconsin Republicans aren't interested in facts and have rejected compromise offers by the unions. But we still need to make sure we get our facts straight--always, every time.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
"So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. This never happened to her or any other mainstream media reporter when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled. How fitting that Lara Logan was 'liberated' by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the 'liberation.' Hope you're enjoying the revolution, Lara!"What, exactly, is it appropriate for us to wish upon Debbie Schlussel?
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Programs to be cut include not only those targeted by Obama and the Republicans in the current budget debate—home heating assistance, Pell Grants, WIC, Head Start, etc.—but the much larger entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare, which will face cuts later in the budget process. The social impact will be incalculable. As hundreds of thousands of people face the bitter cold of winter without heat and gas, Obama is proposing halving the grossly inadequate federal assistance that is available. As students graduate with record debt and no job prospects, the administration is proposing significant cuts in government aid. Such gross indifference to social distress is repeated in every sphere.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Politicalcontext.org is a new web site produced by Shared Media Cooperative, devoted to interviews, blog-diaries, news, and debates concerning progressive politics, culture and philosophy. Politicalcontext.org’s home page is a hub for blogs devoted to politics, religion, law, sexuality, philosophy, economics, arts & culture, science & technology, and direct action. The posts on each individual blog will roll through the main page, along with breaking news from the activist community, and daily compilations of leading currents in progressive and left wing politics and culture.
Politicalcontext.org contains the following blogs:
• Politics and Policy: Policy analysis and advocacy. Wide-ranging and in-depth discussion of both foreign and domestic policy. An examination of legislative and executive decisionmaking of government both in the U.S. and abroad.
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• Take Action: Immediate and significant opportunities to make a difference. Direct action opportunities: protests, strikes, boycots, petitions, elections, targeted fund drives, and more.
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• In addition, we are adding a Science and Technology blog in the near future.