You are here

News Feeds

Hyper Chariot Aims To Go Faster, Further, & Cheaper Than Hyperloop

CleanTechnica - 2 hours 42 min ago

The concept of low- to no-pressure travel through tubes has been around for a few hundred years, but it's clearly facing a revival of inspiration lately. It continues to capture imaginations as a promising future mode of transport, but also now investment dollars.

Today, the idea of achieving high-velocity travel in a controlled tube environment may have made a step forward, thanks to the startup Hyper Chariot Network

Hyper Chariot Aims To Go Faster, Further, & Cheaper Than Hyperloop was originally published on CleanTechnica.

To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 50,000 other subscribers: Google+ | Email | Facebook | RSS | Twitter.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Elaphe In Wheel Motors Power BMW X6 Test Vehicle. Gas2 Exclusive

Gas 2 - 4 hours 14 min ago

Elaphe is a start up company located in Slovenia that has developed a new system for electric in wheel motors that leave the original disc brakes and wheel hubs in place. This raises a number of interesting possibilities for the automotive industry.

The post Elaphe In Wheel Motors Power BMW X6 Test Vehicle. Gas2 Exclusive appeared first on Gas 2.

Categories: Green Transportation

2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #25

Skeptical Science - 4 hours 44 min ago
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.  Editor's Pick

From heatwaves to hurricanes, floods to famine: seven climate change hotspots

Global warming will not affect everyone equally. Here we look at seven key regions to see how each is tackling the consequences of climate change

Mapping the world’s climate hot spots and identifying where the impacts will be the greatest is increasingly important for governments and those who need to prioritise resources. Photograph: Stephane Mahe/Reuters

It could have been the edge of the Sahara or even Death Valley, but it was the remains of a large orchard in the hills above the city of Murcia in southern Spain last year. The soil had broken down into fine white, lifeless sand, and a landscape of rock and dying orange and lemon trees stretched into the distance.

A long drought, the second in a few years, had devastated the harvest after city authorities had restricted water supplies and farmers were protesting in the street. It was a foretaste of what may happen if temperatures in the Mediterranean basin continue to rise and desertification grows.

All round the world, farmers, city authorities and scientists have observed changing patterns of rainfall, temperature rises and floods. Fifteen of the 16 hottest years have been recorded since 2000. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions steadily climb. Oceans are warming and glaciers, ice caps and sea ice are melting faster than expected. Meanwhile, heat and rainfall records tumble.

The evidence for the onset of climate change is compelling. But who and where is it hitting the hardest? How fast will it come to Africa, or the US? What will be its impact on tropical cities, forests or farming? On the poor, or the old? When it comes to details, much is uncertain.

From heatwaves to hurricanes, floods to famine: seven climate change hotspots by John Vidal, Guardian, June 23, 2017

Links posted on Facebook

Sun June 18 2017

Mon June 19 2017

Tue June 20 2017

Wed June 21 2017

Thu June 22 2017

Fri June 23 2017

Sat June 24 2017

Categories: Climate Change

Rebel Media: From Promoting Tar Sands and Climate Denial to “Bigoted Lunatics”

Oil Change International - 4 hours 54 min ago

Screen-grab of Rebel UK website showing Tommy Robinson (middle) with Ezra Levant (right)

Controversial Canadian commentator, Ezra Levant, used to try and sell the dirty Canadian tar sands to the world.

His 2010 book Ethical Oil was a brazen attempt to fight back against critics of the tar sands industry, by attempting to argue that buying oil from Canada instead of regimes such as Saudi Arabia, was in some way more “ethical”.

This argument was largely ridiculed at the time. I argued he was trying to “greenwash Mordor.” Matt Price, policy director of Environmental Defence, said simply: “So Ezra Levant thinks it’s somehow more ethical to replace dictator-supporting, planet-cooking oil with dictator-free tar sands oil that cooks the planet even faster?”

Another Canadian reviewer added: “Levant is a good writer and a better debater. He is witty, provocative and relentless in his sense of certainty …. He is also a master of logical fallacy and half-truth …. Just remember that being witty, provocative and relentless is not the same as being right.”

Years later, after the oil price largely plummeted and the debate about stranded assets sharpened the nervous minds of investors in the financially draining tar sands, Levant has diversified from trying to defend the indefensible part of the oil industry, to trying to defend pretty much anything else that normal people would see as indefensible.

The vehicle for his latest propaganda has been the labelled the somewhat misnomer of a name: Rebel Media, which calls itself a “fearless source of news, opinion, and activism that you won’t find anywhere else!”

However, reading or watching videos from someone like Levant, a man who used to sell cigarettes, should come with a health warning.

Not content with peddling oil he also peddles climate denial. He is a long term climate denier who sent so-called journalists to disrupt the UN climate change talks in Marrakesh last year.  The Rebel site also hosts as a commentator Dr. Tim Ball, a long-term climate denier, who writes articles such as “How the world was deceived about global warming and climate change.”

And even for someone as controversial as Levant, he has now reached an all-time low.

In recent months, Rebel Media has set up a UK arm and is now employing Tommy Robinson, the co-founder of the far right, English Defence League, as a commentator.

Robinson, who has a history of far right activism, and who has been labelled the UK’s most hated man, has been jailed for assault and fraud. He left The EDL, which has a history of violence, bigotry and racism, several years ago, but he is still causing controversy.

Since the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London in the UK, Robinson and his ex-colleagues at the EDL have been causing outrage by their response, with arrests at violent marches they organised in Liverpool and Manchester respectively.

According to the anti-racist group, Hope not Hate, after the attack at a London Mosque this week where one person died and 11 were injured, “whilst the nation expressed its collective horror at the Finsbury Park terrorist attack, the English Defence League (EDL) has celebrated it.”

In the aftermath of the attack, Robinson appeared on one of the UK’s flagship television programmes, Good Morning Britain, where he was labelled a “bigoted lunatic” by the co-host, Piers Morgan.

On Good Morning Britain, Morgan told Robinson to “show some damn respect for people’s religious beliefs” and accused him of being a “complete disgrace”.  “You’re sounding like a complete lunatic,” Morgan said. “You’re sounding like a bigoted lunatic. You are an Islamophobe who hates Islam.”

Morgan added: “What you’re doing now is deliberately inflammatory. You’re stirring up hatred. You are abusing people’s religion. You are abusing their faith.” Indeed, Robinson has also been called a “hate preacher” for his incendiary remarks about Islam.

But maybe that is what Robinson, Levant and Rebel are all about: spreading hate, fear and loathing to their online followers.

The post Rebel Media: From Promoting Tar Sands and Climate Denial to “Bigoted Lunatics” appeared first on Oil Change International.

Connected And Autonomous Car Security Subject Of Congressional Concern

Gas 2 - 7 hours 13 min ago

Congress is considering legislation that would establish standards for connected and autonomous cars. The devil, as always, is in the details.

The post Connected And Autonomous Car Security Subject Of Congressional Concern appeared first on Gas 2.

Categories: Green Transportation

Investing In The Future

CleanTechnica - 9 hours 54 min ago

Investing is sort of always kind of supposed to be about the future, right? The challenge that has faced many an investor is that the future can be hard to predict. As it turns out, that leads much of the investment community to look at the past and extrapolate forward

Investing In The Future was originally published on CleanTechnica.

To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 50,000 other subscribers: Google+ | Email | Facebook | RSS | Twitter.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Abandon ship in a world of sub-$50 oil?

Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com - 10 hours 28 min ago
By   Saturday 24 Jun 2017, 8:57

At the end of last year, when it looked as if OPEC was making a concerted effort to rein-in oil market oversupply, shares in Royal Dutch Shell(LSE: RDSB) charged to a 52-week high of just under 2,400p. Unfortunately, this rally didn’t last long. By the end of the first quarter, the shares had fallen by nearly 10% and have continued to slide as worries about a new oil glut have continued to grow. The falling oil price has reignited the argument about the sustainability of Shell’s dividend payout. FULL ARTICLE

California is playing defense under Trump

Grist - 10 hours 54 min ago

Xavier Becerra, California’s combative attorney general, has become the Golden State’s face of resistance to the Trump administration’s domestic initiatives, the blunt voice rejecting the president’s attempts to roll back the progressive immigration and environmental policies so central to California’s sense of itself.

At a June 16 press conference, for example, Becerra pushed back against stricter immigration enforcement, saying his office would review conditions at immigrant detention facilities in conjunction with a legislative measure that prohibits local governments from renting out jail beds to U.S. Immigration and Customs. One week earlier, Becerra sent Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a withering, 11-page letter that flat-out rejected the president’s executive order aimed at delisting or shrinking national monuments his predecessors had established in California.

Yet as eloquent and forceful as the attorney general may be in his defiance, there are limits to the state’s protective stance. Becerra is mounting what amounts to a rearguard action because he has little choice in this age of Trump the Tumultuous.

Viewed from my perspective as an environmental historian, this defensive rhetoric runs counter to the no-holds-barred approach that defined California’s post-World War II drive for economic growth and social justice.

It is as if, for the time being, the California Dream so critical to Becerra’s personal success — and many others’ — has been put on hold.

Challenging Trump

The hardworking son of immigrants and the first in his family to go to college, Becerra finished law school in 1984, was elected to the state assembly, and then served in the state’s Department of Justice before winning an impressive 12 terms to the U.S. House of Representatives.

At each stop along the way, he has been a staunch advocate for the poor and marginalized, those who need a hand up and out. In January 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown (who is playing a similar role as Becerra on an international stage) tapped the politically savvy Becerra to replace newly elected Senator Kamala Harris as AG to become the first Latino to hold this high office in California.

Becerra’s tough-minded approach to his latest job has made him ubiquitous this commencement season. Between May 15 and 23 alone, he addressed the political science graduates at the University of California, Berkeley, those receiving their law degrees at USC and the University of San Francisco, and bachelor’s-earning undergrads at Occidental College.

Xavier Becerra has taken a defiant — and, by necessity, a defensive — tone vis a vis Washington. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Even as he cheered these graduates’ academic successes, he reminded them of the rough-and-tumble political environment they were entering. Becerra spoke of how he and other state AGs were challenging the legality of Trump’s Muslim travel ban. He affirmed his deeply felt support for the undocumented and asserted that cities could proclaim themselves sanctuaries, free from executive branch interference.

In resisting the Trump administration’s review of national monuments, Becerra wrote what amounts to a legal brief that cited judicial rulings and legislative records and made a strong case for a kind of states-rights environmentalism. Arguing separately against a plan to open up offshore drilling, he said: “Instead of taking us backwards, the federal government should work with us to advance the clean energy economy that’s creating jobs, providing energy, and preserving California’s natural beauty.”

California’s cultural clout

The late, great Kevin Starr argued in his magisterial, multi-volume study of California that the state’s particular genius is in offering “the highest possible life for the middle classes.” It proved time and again to be “the best place in the nation to seek and attain a better life.”

Fueled by a generous stream of tax dollars, the state’s educational systems, from K-12 through college and university, were the envy of the world. So, too, were its high-speed highways and highly engineered water systems, as well as its agricultural productivity, artistic energy, and technological creativity. California was a state on the move.

David Prasad

Its benefits were also broadly accessible: beaches were public, parks and open spaces plentiful, higher education was cheap. Here, democracy flourished, or at least it could do so. Where it did not, people battled to ensure that it would.

Those toiling in the fields of the Central and Imperial valleys, for example, endured oppressive conditions, but gained an important measure of control over their lives and livelihoods through the formation of the United Farm Workers of America. The struggles that African-Americans and Asian-Americans, Latinos, women, and LGBT activists have waged for increased rights, solidarity, and opportunities did not always originate in California, but they gained political visibility and cultural clout when manifest on the coast. If you wanted to remake yourself, go West.

Setting pace on public health

But all that prosperity took its toll. Clearing the air of the state’s legendary pollution — “don’t breathe too deeply when you arrive in California” used to be the warning — has taken decades. Grassroots activists, dedicated educators and scientists, and some principled public officials fought against entrenched opposition in Sacramento, Detroit, and Washington, D.C., to secure what now are the nation’s toughest environmental controls. More needs to be done, but these regulations have had a profound impact.

It is not by happenstance that the EPA owes its existence to a Californian (President Richard Nixon signed it into law December 1970). Or that the Clean Air Act grants the state the right to institute stricter measures than the federal government (which is why the current administration tried to deny California’s right to set higher standards).

The ground-level consequences of such innovations as catalytic converters is evident in enhanced public health. When I was a student at Pitzer College in Claremont in the 1970s, I almost never glimpsed the smog-enshrouded Mt. Baldy (elevation 10,050 feet), a few miles away. Today, its towering presence is visible 24/7.

There was no way to predict this remarkable turnaround when my classmates and I gathered outdoors for our graduation in 1975. And no way would bluer skies have become commonplace had the state heeded the advice our commencement speaker imparted to those entering a depressed job market in a society constrained by the budget-busting Vietnam War and post-Watergate cynicism. Hunker down, he said, hunker down.

That 1975 recommendation from a California assemblyman to retreat from the world was as wrong then as it is now in our similarly fraught environment. Rather than simply throw up a wall to fend off the barbarians at the gates, however understandable, California needs to reassert the bold, expansive, and democratic vision that has made it California. A prospect that requires a shared and tenacious commitment to the commonweal.

And a sense of agency. “You don’t have to do it by yourself,” Xavier Becerra told Berkeley seniors. “You don’t have to have done it before. But when you get out there with the guts and the grit and the ganas [desire], you can make a difference.”

That’s how dreams become real.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline California is playing defense under Trump on Jun 24, 2017.

Categories: Green News

The Violence of Coltan: Purchase of a Global Silence

Red Pepper - 11 hours 55 min ago
Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila (above) operates less like a stereotypical dictator and more like a ruthless CEO with a military wing.

In February 2017, a video filmed in the village of Mwanza Lomba went viral.

It showed unarmed civilians – women and children – being massacred by soldiers of the state army, and quickly moved from the social networks onto television news channels around the world. But then it vanished again without any further debate about what it meant and what it revealed.

In April, more than 40 mass graves were discovered in the same region, Kasai where, since the outbreak of the Kamwina Nsapu insurrection last August, millions of civilians have been displaced by armed forces and militias of the Kabila regime, but for some reason the story of their plight appears to go largely unchallenged.

According to the 2011-2015 forecast of the University of Sydney’s Atrocity Forecasting Project (AFP), DRC ranked second and Syria eleventh of the countries most at risk of the onset of genocide or politicide.

Yet in spite of the fact that mass atrocities are ongoing in DRC today, the same organisation’s 2016-2020 forecast omitted to include it in its ranking altogether, while Syria, now firmly in the international spotlight, has climbed to 6th position.

Genocide, defined by human rights activist, John Prenderghast, as “eliminating a group of people based on their identity”, is a daily reality in DRC that directly implicates the president of the state.

Yet while in Syria, recent chemical attacks against civilians, captured on video too, have prompted a US military intervention and calls from around the world for the immediate departure of Bashar El-Assad from power, DRC’s Laurent Kabila seems to enjoy a license to carry on and with impunity.

A GLOBAL WAREHOUSE OF ORES

DRC is known not only as a vast cemetery of forgotten holocausts and veiled genocides but also as a huge mass grave where millions of victims of Africa’s great wars have been buried in support of a global culture of consumerism.

This is a legacy that dates back to 1885 when the Belgian monarch, Leopold II, sacrificed tens of millions of Congolese by cutting off hands, fingers and feet. Death and displacement were the price required to satisfy the insatiable need for rubber of an ascendant automobile industry.

During the Second World War, the USA used the highly toxic Shinkolombwe’s uranium to supply the secret Manhattan project for the manufacture of the world’s first atomic bomb including those dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Once again, it was Congolese blood that paid for the enrichment of the West.

Since 1996, in multiple and complex wars, millions of Congolese have paid in blood for the extraction of coltan, known also as ‘grey gold’.

Coltan is a mineral of great value for the high-tech industry and has transformed Eastern Congo into the “rape capital of the world”, since militias and the national army use rape as a means of displacing populations in order to gain control of mines.

The global demand for tantalum, columbium, tin, gold and tungsten, all commonly used in computer chips and electronic gadgets including smartphones, proves an insurmountable obstacle to any effort made to conflict-resolution in the region.

The demand for cobalt now grows with demand for the lithium-ion batteries that charge electric vehicles and store renewable energy.

The country that controls access to this high-grade Congo “blood cobalt” therefore controls the energy of the future.

Now, as we hear new calls to revive the manufacturing industries of the West, the demand for low-cost Congo minerals will only increase and in order to meet that demand and keeps costs down, a ruthless CEO is what is needed.

ABSOLUTE IMMUNITY

The DRC’s open-pit high grade copper mines rank amongst the ten largest in the world, but in the field of human rights, the country lingers at the bottom of the list.

The British NGO Freedom from Torture, for example, ranks Congo fourth of all the countries in the world in terms of practice of torture. 70% of the crimes and human rights violations recorded in DRC in 2016 were committed by the national security forces, under direct or indirect orders from the head of state or his immediate entourage.

The list of uninvestigated mass graves can beggar belief: Kibumba in North Kivu, Makobola, Tingi-Tingi, Mbandaka, Kisangani, Beni, Sumbi, Nienge, Lolo Bene in Bas-Congo, Rubare in North Kivu, Camp Kibembe, Lubumbashi. Two years since its discovery, the mass grave of Maluku, like so many others, remains a mystery.

Leaked documents reveal that as far back as 2014, orders from the Ministry of the Interior, distributed to senior officials of the National Intelligence Agency, the Police Force and the Directorate General for Migration, justified the use of torture when used with “discretion”, against political opponents, and as a “method of silent repression and intimidation” to maintain a hold on power.

A PRIVATE ENTERPRISE

As it was in the past for King Leopold II, Congo is Joseph Kabila’s private enterprise.

There are mines that are directly controlled by the president and his family. Those that are not are sub-contracted, in the name of Joseph Kabila, to militias, mercenaries or trading systems of companies that do business in “vacant lands” that lie beyond the state’s control.

Kabila’s economic empire consists of at least 70 companies, all managed or majority-owned by members of his family and includes the death squads that operate as false flags throughout the country as part of the government’s general military strategy.

Military officers and undercover civilians recruit mercenaries by order of the president and his family, and under the protection of the regional general intelligence services of nations including Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Zimbabwe and Sudan.

These armed gangs, known as “presidential militias”, operate freely in the Congo but also work as a kind of sub-regional mafia, facilitating what is more politely described as a process of “cross-border economic development”.

Saracen Uganda Ltd, for example, a company dedicated to transforming professional security services in East Africa and providing access to Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Car Tracking Services, Security Dogs, and Guards, was criticized in a 2002 UN Security Council report for training rebel paramilitary forces in the DRC.

General Salim Saleh, half-brother of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, is one of the company’s founders. Uganda has become the factory and cradle of mercenaries, and the commercial hub of the gold trade despite the denunciations of international NGOs and observers.

Mining concessions in DRC have been acquired by huge international mining companies either at suspiciously low prices or for billions of dollars that never reached the Congolese state coffers.

THE PURCHASE OF SILENCE

The New York Times reported recently that Kabila “has softened criticism from his Western allies by ensuring that they profited from Congo’s wealth. Huge mineral concessions were handed to corporations from countries that finance Congo’s elections and that support Mr. Kabila’s government with foreign aid”.

In 2010, a law was created in the US by the Democratic Party called The Dodd-Franck Act that had as its aim the prohibition of trade in minerals obtained through conflict. This law, however, has had the unintended affect of giving a boost to illicit cross-border trafficking, which are used in such a way as to hide the supply chain.

According to UN investigators, smuggling is facilitated by the Congolese national armed forces (FARDC) as well as by the national armies of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda: Ituri gold is exported from Congo to Uganda and sold as Ugandan; Coltan from North Kivu to Rwanda and sold as Rwandan; Diamonds from Mbuji-Mayi to China and Zimbabwe; and gold from South Kivu and North Katanga to Burundi and Tanzania.

RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT

EU and US sanctions, targeted against Congolese officials but not Joseph Kabila, are ineffective in the field. They remain untouchable princes in the Congo, living in style and with impunity. And in any case, history teaches us that several authoritarian regimes, against all odds, have resisted international sanctions.

UN member-states committed to the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) – a political commitment designed to end the worst forms of violence and persecution – should sincerely fulfil this commitment towards the Congolese population.

It’s time Joseph Kabila should be held accountable for his crimes.

The status quo sacrifices any basic right to life and dignity for the people of the Congo in favour of the happiness of we who enjoy electronic devices, cars, planes, smartphones and drones…

How long can this injustice be sustained?

Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo are the founders of the Orion Congon Studies Network (OCSN)

 

This feature was commissioned by the Black Journalism fund. 

Categories: Class Struggle

Contagion: How the Crisis Spread

Red Pepper - 12 hours 36 min ago

Were there commonalities between the financial crisis that happened in the US, and the one that hit Europe? If so, what were they?

One common factor in the US and Europe was unregulated, undisciplined finance capital. First, European banks, including German banks, bought huge amounts of toxic subprime securities and as a result they saw their balance sheets gravely impaired, and, in the case of many, they had to be bailed out by their governments.

Second, European banks engaged in the same uncontrolled lending to real estate ventures, thus creating a huge property bubble in places like the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Spain.

Third, European banks, in their frenzied search for profits, did not perform due diligence and got themselves overexposed in places like Greece owing to their illusion that adoption of the euro had made the different Eurozone countries carry the same credit risk as Germany, which was ultra-low risk.

A second common factor was the so-called “light-touch” regulation that financial authorities adopted in a number of key countries, under the influence of Wall Street and neoliberal theories like the so-called “Efficient Market hypothesis,” which asserted that financial markets left to themselves would lead to the most efficient allocation of capital.

Even German authorities were under the spell of such doctrines, so that they were caught by surprise by the massive exposure of their banks to toxic subprime securities and to poor credit risks like Greece.

What was Germany’s role in the financial crisis? How did German policies shape what happened in, for example, Greece?

Germany had a central role to pay in the generation of the crisis. First of all, the neoliberal reforms called the Hartz Reforms, which were implemented by the Social Democratic government in the early 2000’s, made German labor relatively cheap compared to its neighbors. This turned them into deficit countries in their trade relationship with Germany, and to cover their deficits as well as support social security measures for those displaced by German exports, the governments of these countries, like Greece, borrowed heavily from German banks.

Second, unrestrained by supposedly sober German government institutions like the Bundesbank, German banks did not perform due diligence on borrowers like Greece and lent massive amounts, recklessly. German exposure in Greece came to some 25 billion euros, leading Barry Eichengreen, a prominent finance expert, to comment that what was at stake “was not just the solvency of the Greek government but the stability of the German financial system.”

Third, refusing to acknowledge the responsibility of its banks and heaping the blame wholly on Greece and other borrowing countries, Germany has stubbornly dictated the austerity policies on Greece and other countries which are designed to recover the bulk of the loans made by its banks.

Even the IMF acknowledges that these austerity policies simply doom Greece and other Southern European countries to long-term stagnation, but Germany insists on its pound of flesh, and this can only end up promoting the spread of anti-European Union right-wing populist movements.

 Finance has to be put in its proper place as a mechanism to get capital from those who have it to those who can apply it to productive use.

Most standard accounts say the Greek crisis was triggered by the revelation in 2009 that the government had been cooking the books. Was this really the case?

Not really. Already, in 2007, two years before the statistics scandal, the tango of frenzied lending by German and French banks and addictive borrowing by the Greek government and private banks had already pushed Greece’s debt to 290 billion euros, which was 107 per cent of GDP.

Yet, Greece was still seen as a good credit risk. What made the situation in 2009 different was the spread of the financial crisis from Wall Street to Europe in 2008, with banks collapsing or being bailed out by governments. The fallout from Wall Street made the creditor countries worry that private borrowers in the debtor countries would not be able to pay back their loans.

So they pressed governments like Greece, whose government was already highly indebted, to also take responsibility for or nationaiize the private sector’s debt. This conversion of private debt into a state liability converted the financial crisis in Europe into a sovereign debt crisis. The Greek statistical cover-up mainly functioned as an excuse for the creditor governments to crack down on the debtor states.

You quote Joseph Stiglitz as saying the euro is just a 17-year- old experiment, poorly designed and engineered not to work. Does that mean you think the euro will not survive?

The problem with the Eurozone is that it is a monetary union that does not have the necessary requisites of a fiscal union and political union that would set up the rules and mechanisms to allow the central authorities to move capital from surplus to deficit regions. Right now there are only two ways to resolve the trade imbalances within the Eurozone.

One is internal devaluation, that is, the adoption of harsh austerity policies that would cheapen labour and make a deficit country’s exports competitive; this carries the risk of subjecting a country to long-term stagnation owing to a sharp reduction of effective demand.

The other way is to simply get up and go, leave the Eurozone, and adopt a new currency, the value of which would be low compared to the euro, thus making one’s exports “competitive.”

Not surprisingly, this would also carry the risk of squeezing effective demand in the debtor economy.

However, the second option would allow one much more room for maneuver than if one were trapped in a loveless, depressed marriage like the Eurozone. So in my sense, the countries in the Eurozone face the choice of either moving towards full fiscal and political union, which would make financial transfers a matter largely of built-in stabilizers being activated. Or they end the monetary union. My sense is there is no middle way.

What would you say the role of social democracy in both the crisis and the developments leading up to it was?

Social Democracy is deeply implicated in the crisis. While Margaret Thatcher became the face of neoliberalism, social democrats had a very central role in pushing neoliberal measures throughout Europe. New Labour promoted financial liberalization and light-touch regulation in the United Kingdom, with Gordon Brown, first as chancellor, then as prime minister, becoming, as one writer puts it, “lionized” by the City as a result.

Francois Mitterand and the French socialists were the principal champions of the euro, pushing it being the key element in what former Greek Foreign Minister Iannis Varoufakis describes as a French project to harness German economic power to European integration under French political and administrative leadership.

And in Germany, it was under the Social Democratic government of Gerard Schroeder that labour market “reforms” created the cheap labour that consolidated Germany’s position as a surplus country and its neighbors as deficit countries forced to rely on German banks to cover their trade deficits.

The Christian Democrats could not have done what the social democrats did, but Angela Merkel and the conservatives ended up eating the SPD’s lunch.

What impact did the policies of New Labour have on the UK financial crises?

New Labour saw financial services as the engine of a new economy, and by promoting its interests, this would bring into the party sectors of the elite and the middle classes that would make up for the erosion of its traditional working class base owing to the decline of manufacturing and mining.

Light-touch regulation promoted by Gordon Brown aimed at making London a bigger financial centre than New York.

Under this regime, British banks became heavily involved in the trading of subprime securities and other derivatives. And they became financiers of the real estate bubble which, when it deflated, brought down big banks like Northern Rock, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and the Halifax Royal Bank of Scotland (HBOS).

New Labour and the City had intertwined interests, and it is against this corruption of working class politics that the party rank and file have rebelled and supported Jeremy Corbyn.

Could the financial crisis in Europe have been averted? If so, how?

Yes, it could have been averted if there had been very stringent regulations governing finance put in place by governments that did not see finance capital as a partner but as a force to be disciplined.

Finance has to be put in its proper place as a mechanism to get capital from those who have it to those who can apply it to productive use.

More and more, it seems like only a nationalized banking system can properly fulfil this function.

Are we out of danger now, or is there a chance this could happen again?

No, we are not out of danger because financial sector reform, which was pushed in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, has either accomplished so little or is paralyzed.

Finance capital remains undisciplined. In the meantime, owing to austerity policies, most of Europe’s real economy is in the grip of permanent stagnation.

This creates the temptation for unregulated finance capital to engage again in speculative ventures, where one squeezes value from already created value through the creation of bubbles that are destined to collapse, again bringing chaos in their wake.

This interview was originally published by the Transnational Institute at: 

https://www.tni.org/en/article/europes-faustian-bargain-with-big-finance

Walden Bello’s essay, How Empire Struck Back, can be found at:

http://www.redpepper.org.uk/how-empire-struck-back/

 

Categories: Class Struggle

How solar power transformed primary healthcare, other facilities in Birsing village, Assam

Counterview - 12 hours 44 min ago
By Ratna Bharali Talukdar* It is a pleasant morning, heralding the spring, in Birsing Part I char village. Shahida Khatun, 30, cannot quite enjoy it, however. She has a fever and is waiting in the lobby of the char’s Riverine Primary Health Centre (PHC) to consult the doctor. Birsing is one of 2,251 habitations in … More How solar power transformed primary healthcare, other facilities in Birsing village, Assam
Categories: Class Struggle

How Empire Struck Back

Red Pepper - 13 hours 33 min ago

The eruption of the financial crisis in 2008-2008 led to a massive discrediting of neoliberalism and the revitalization of Keynesianism, after two decades of being marginalized. Keynesians came to power with the new administration of Barack Obama in 2009.  Expectations were high for a vigorous recovery program, the key points of which would be a vigorous fiscal stimulus, monetary expansion, debt relief for households snagged by the subprime loan crisis, and reform of the banks.

Over next eight years, that promise withered away.  The fiscal stimulus was too small to trigger a sustained recovery.  Expansive monetary policies prevented the recession from getting worse but did little more, there was very little assistance given to bankrupted homeowners, and banking reform fell by the wayside.  What happened?

How Wall Street Fought Off Reform

At a meeting with Wall Street bankers early in his term, President Barack Obama warned the financiers, “My administration is the only thing that stands between you and the pitchforks.” That statement was more bark than bite, however, with Obama frittering away the leverage he had at the beginning over the next eight years.  Banking reform under his administration was a case of the regulated capturing the regulators.  In spite of their severe crisis of legitimacy, the financial elite was able to resist reform.   Despite a national consensus for radical reform of the banking, Keynesian reforms were stopped dead in their tracks.

Finance capital and its allies were able to wage a skilled defensive warfare from their entrenched positions in the US economic and political power structure.  This structural power had developed over the nearly 30 years of neoliberal hegemony, wherein the balance of power in government-business relations had shifted decisively in the direction of business.

Capital’s Structural Power I: The Power of Inaction

The first line of defense in the deployment of this “structural power” was to get the government to rescue the banks from the financial mess they themselves had created. The banks flatly refused Washington’s pressure on them to mount a collective defense with their own resources.  The banks simply told government that they were responsible for their own balance sheets and not for dealing with any systemic threat.

This is what Cornelia Woll so aptly called the “power of inaction”or the power to influence developments by not acting.  Even when Lehman Brothers was about to go under in the fall of 2008, the banks did not budge.  Revealing the banks’ sense of their strong bargaining position vis-à-vis government, Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain remarked that in hindsight the only thing he regretted in the tense days of negotiations leading up to the collapse of Lehman Brothers was that the bankers did not “grab [the government representatives] and shake them that they can’t let this happen.”  It was up to government to come up with the resources to save the banks and save the system, not the banks themselves.

The banks calculated right.  The Bush administration pressured Congress to approve the $787 billion Troubled Assets Program (TARP) and used this to recapitalize the banks, with the dividend for the government shares so low that Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup, the most troubled Wall Street giant, exclaimed,  “This is really cheap capital.” Accepting  the banks’ implicit position that “they were too big to fail,” Treasury and Federal Reserve funds that went to the banks through various conduits either as capital for recapitalization or as guarantees eventually came to $3 trillion.

Government action—and taxpayers’ money–saved the day, but the banks also calculated right that, despite pressures from Keynesian economists like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, nationalization was out of the question since it was “not the American way.” So generous—or intimidated–was Washington that what should have been standard operating procedure—the firing of top management and the shake-up of the board of what were essentially insolvent institutions was not even considered seriously.

Capital’s Structural Power II: The Power of Action

To the power of inaction must, however, be added the power of action.  As shown in the various cases cited above—the debates over burden sharing between the banks and indebted homeowners, bank equity levels, Dodd-Frank—Wall Street deployed massive lobbying and cash to accompany it.  Indicative of the bank’s lobbying firepower was the $344 million the industry spent lobbying the US Congress in the first nine months of 2009, when legislators were taking up financial reform.  Senator Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, alone received $2.8 million in contributions from Wall Street in 2007–2008.  The result of the lobbying offensive was summed up by Cornell University’s Jonathan Kirshner:

[The] Dodd Frank regulatory reforms, and provisions such as the Volcker rule, designed to restrict the types of risky investments that banks would be allowed to engage in, have … been watered down (or at least waterboarded into submission) by a cascade of exceptions, exemptions, qualifications, and vague language… And what few teeth remain are utterly dependent for application on the (very suspect) will of regulators.

Capital’s Structural Power III: “Productive Power”

The third dimension of the structural power of the banks was ideological, that is, the sharing of its perspectives with key government personnel about the centrality of finance, about how the good health of the financial system was the key to the good health of the whole economy, including the government.  Some analysts called this the bank-lending point of view.  Others called it the Wall Street-Washington connection.  Woll characterizes this as “productive power,” the joint production of worldviews, meanings, and interpretations that emerge from shared perspectives.

The perspective in question developed from the thorough discrediting of government interventionist approaches by the stagflation of the 1970’s and 1980’s and their yielding primacy to the supposed superior efficacy of private sector initiatives.  It was a central part of the neoliberal revolution. Through education and close interaction, regulators and bankers had come to internalize the common dictum that finance, to do its work successfully, must be governed with a “light touch.”  By the late nineties, according to Simon Johnson and James Kwak, this process had created a Washington elite worldview “that what was good for Wall Street was good for America.”

Neoliberalism may have gone on the defensive with the financial crisis, but it was not without influence within the Obama administration, especially in the years 2009 to 2012, when the administration was forging its strategy to deal with the fallout from the financial crisis.  The new regime’s core economic technocrats had a healthy respect for Wall Street, notably Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Council of Economic Advisors’ head Larry Summers, both of whom had served as close associates of Robert Rubin, who had successive incarnations as co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, Bill Clinton’s Treasury chief, and chairman and senior counsellor of Citigroup.

More than anyone else, Rubin has, over the last two decades, symbolized the Wall Street–Washington connection that had dismantled the New Deal controls on finance capital and paved the way for the 2008 implosion. Over a period of nearly 20 years, Wall Street had consolidated its control over the US Treasury Department, and the appointment of individuals that had served in Goldman Sachs, the most aggressive investment bank on Wall Street, to high positions became the most visible display of the structural power of finance capital. Rubin and Hank Paulson, George W. Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury, were merely the tip of the Goldman Sachs iceberg at the center of Washington politics.

Wall Street was afforded an opportunity to make an ideological counteroffensive when the financial crisis entered its second phase, which was dominated by Greece’s sovereign debt crisis.  During the debate on the fiscal stimulus, which involved the government going into deficit spending and increased the national debt, and even as they enjoyed tremendous monetary support from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, the banks and their Republican allies in Congress were able to change the narrative from the irresponsible banks to the “profligate state.”  Greece was painted as the future of the United States.  In the words of one Wall Street economist:

As federal and state debt mounts up, the U.S. credit rating will continue to be downgraded, and investors will become reluctant to hold US bonds without receiving much higher interest rates. As in Greece, high interest rates on government debt will drive federal and state governments into insolvency, or the Federal Reserve will have to print money to buy government bonds and hyperinflation will result. Calamity would result, either way.

Wall Street’s hijacking of the crisis discourse and shifting the blame for the continuing slowdown on government convinced some sectors of the population that it was the Obama Administration’s pallid Keynesian policies that were responsible for the continuing stagnation, and this contributed to putting it on the defensive and going slow on bank reform.  Cornelia Woll’s conclusion is that “For the administration and Congress, the main lesson from the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 was that they had only very limited means to pressure the financial industry into behavior that appeared urgently necessary for the survival of the entire sector and the economy as a whole”.

Technocracy and Political Demobilization

The structural power of Wall Street certainly contributed to making Obama less aggressive in pushing banking reform and taking state action that would decisively end the recession.  But Woll’s analysis is too deterministic an explanation for failure.  The presidency is a very powerful position, and in 2009 to 2011, the Democrats also controlled the House and the Senate, which put them in a position of pushing decisive measures for recovery.  Moreover, no other office can compare in terms of mobilizing the citizenry in support of reform.

In other words, if power could be productive on the side of Wall Street, it could also be productive on the side of the administration.  Here, the contrast between Obama and Franklin Delano Roosevelt is stark.  Whereas Roosevelt used the presidency as a bully pulpit to rally the population, setting in motion the massive organizing drive of labor, that became a key pillar of the New Deal, Obama wed a technocratic approach that demobilized the base that had carried him to the Wall Street-biased prescriptions of the conservative wing of his economic team.  This pallid, pragmatic Keynesianism was precisely what people were not looking for in a period of deep uncertainty and crisis.

Building a mass base for reform would, of course, have necessitated an inspiring comprehensive alternative vision to the discredited neoliberal one.  Perhaps it was precisely articulating such an agenda that Obama, with his pragmatic instincts, feared, for it could run out of his control.  But such are the risks that must be taken by serious reformists.  The opportunity that presented itself and the way it was wasted is well described by Eichengreen:

An administration and a president convinced of the merits of a larger stimulus would have campaigned for it.  Obama could have invested the political capital he possessed as a result of his recent electoral victory.  He could have appealed to GOP senators from swing states like Maine and Pennsylvania.  Going over the heads of Congress, he could have appealed to the public.  But Obama’s instinct was to weight the options, not to campaign for his program.  It was to compromise, not confront.

The derailment of progressive Keynesianism by Obama’s conservative, technocratic Keynesianism resulted in a protracted recovery, continuing high unemployment, millions of foreclosed or bankrupt households fending for themselves, and more scandals in a Wall Street where nothing had changed.  Obama did not pay for this tragic outcome in 2012, but Hillary Clinton did in 2016.

The Political Consequences of Economic Failure

If there’s one certainty that emerged in the 2016 elections, it was that Clinton’s unexpected defeat stemmed from her loss of four so-called “Rust Belt” states: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which had previously been Democratic strongholds, and Ohio, a swing state that had twice supported Barack Obama.

The 64 Electoral College votes of those states, most of which hadn’t even been considered battlegrounds, put Donald Trump over the top. Trump’s numbers, it is now clear, were produced by a combination of an enthusiastic turnout of the Republican base, his picking up significant numbers of traditionally Democratic voters, and large numbers of Democrats staying home.

But this wasn’t a defeat by default. On the economic issues that motivate many of these voters, Trump had a message: The economic recovery was a mirage, people were hurt by the Democrats’ policies, and they had more pain to look forward to should the Democrats retain control of the White House.

The problem for Clinton was that the opportunistic message of this demagogue rang true to the middle class and working class voters in these states, even if the messenger himself was quite flawed.  These four states reflected, on the ground, the worst consequences of the interlocking problems of high unemployment and deindustrialization that had stalked the whole country for over two decades owing to the flight of industrial corporations to Asia and elsewhere. Combined with the financial collapse of 2007-2008 and the widespread foreclosure of the homes of millions of middle class and poor people who’d been enticed by the banks to go into massive indebtedness, the region was becoming a powder keg of resentment.

True, these working class voters going over to Trump or boycotting the polls were mainly white. But then these were the same people that placed their faith in Obama in 2008, when they favoured him by large margin over John McCain. And they stuck with him in 2012, though his margins of victory were for the most part narrower.  By 2016, however, they’d had enough, and they would no longer buy the Democrats’ blaming George W. Bush for the continuing stagnation of the economy. Clinton bore the brunt of their backlash, since she made the strategic mistake of running on Obama’s legacy — which, to the voters, was one of failing to deliver the economic relief and return to prosperity that he had promised eight years earlier, when he took over a country falling into a deep recession from Bush.

Failed policies have massive political consequences.

Walden Bello is the author of Capitalism’s Last Stand? (London: Zed, 2013) and Food Wars (London; Verso, 2009)

 The full study is found at the Transnational Institute site: https://www.tni.org/

Categories: Class Struggle

Empire en Vogue

Red Pepper - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 23:53

Recent policy suggests that the British government wishes to re-build economic ties with Commonwealth countries and other former colonies in lieu of its fast-deteriorating relationship with its European neighbours.4 This is an ironic turn of events considering the historical context of Britain’s entry to the EU in 1973.

EU membership followed decades of post-war decline and ensuing indecisiveness about whether Britain should jettison its economic dependence on ailing Commonwealth markets, and with it any prospect of a lasting imperial role for Britain, in favour of joining the EU.

Imperial nostalgia has long fed Britain’s extreme discomfort with its place as, formally, an equal alongside other EU Member States, rather than first among equals, as was its pride of place in the Commonwealth.  

Ministers have shown no hesitation in jet-setting off to ‘cosy up’, in the words of a number of media commentators, to various authoritarian leaders in a bid to establish new trade deals, despite the British government’s claim to be a global leader on human rights.

Liam Fox MP, for example, was lambasted for declaring that Britain and the Philippines have a ‘well-established and strong relationship built on a foundation of shared values and shared interests’, despite Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, likening himself to Hitler and saying he wants to kill three million of his own citizens.

There is of course nothing new about Britain fostering economic ties with countries with heinous human rights records. But what is more disconcerting than the questionable economic rationale and the hypocrisy behind this new strategy is that Whitehall officials have described it as ‘Empire 2.0’, like the latest must-have product to emerge from Silicon Valley.

Definitionally, 2.0 is ‘used to denote a superior or more advanced version of an original concept, product [or] service’ indicating the commodification of colonial exploit.

Whether or not this branding is cynical, there is no doubt that colonialism is in vogue.

Colonialism – the occupation of territory, the theft of land and resources, the murder, enslavement and subjugation of peoples as part of a system built on ideas of racial superiority – has not only become palatable, but is fashionable, an exploit to be proud of the world over.

It matters not that colonialism as experienced by the colonised resulted in mass murder, starvation, torture, dispossession, the effects of which continue to torment and suspend life and progress for peoples across the world.

Shashi Tharoor has argued that India’s ‘several-thousand-year-old civilisational history, ‘is replete with great educational institutions, magnificent cities… pioneering inventions, world-class manufacturing and industry, and abundant prosperity’ and that were it not for its resources having ‘been drained away by the British’, ‘there is no earthly reason’ why this would not be the India of today.

For a time, post-colonial and critical race activists and scholars worried that ignorance about the true horrors of colonialism meant that legacies of racism and dispossession would remain unacknowledged, apologies would not be made, reparations would not be paid.

We now find ourselves contending with an unbridled, unashamed, branded form of colonialism, a trend that has long-brewed unchecked and infused British popular culture and culinary tastes.

Liam Fox MP can tweet that ‘The United Kingdom, is one of the few countries in the European Union that does not need to bury its 20th century history’, and then be appointed Secretary of State for International Trade.

The fact that 20th century British colonialism brought about the deaths of millions of people is apparently irrelevant.

Theresa May has said we should celebrate the Balfour Declaration with ‘pride’, the document which initiated a policy of British support for Israel to the detriment of the occupied Palestinians of the West Bank, Gaza and five million Palestinian refugees.

Israel, in its own expression of ‘unapologetic’ colonisation has just approved the first illegal settlement in two decades, rendering any peace deal out of the question.

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen has stated in a recent interview that ‘colonisation gave a lot’ despite the death of 1.5 million people and the torture of hundreds of thousands under France’s 132-year occupation of Algeria.

Former colonies, previously laboratories for colonial powers to hone tactics of authoritarian rule, today display unabashed pride in their own colonial exploits.

Mohamad Junaid, commenting on the Indian army’s public and gratuitous beatings, torture and humiliation of Kashmiri people, writes ‘[w]hat we now have in Kashmir is a colonialism unashamed of itself’.

Kavita Krishna has described the Modi government’s attempt to shield Indian soldiers who rape women from prosecution as ‘significant at a time when the [BJP] is trying to create a climate where even to suggest that armed forces personnel can rape results in being branded “anti-national”.’

Shashi Tharoor has sought to reveal the origins of the post-independence violent conflict that continues to plague India – a racism that British colonialism has planted the world over – writing, ‘The creation and perpetuation of Hindu-Muslim antagonism was the most significant accomplishment of British imperial policy’.

In 1857, he continues, ’the sight of Hindu and Muslim soldiers rebelling together, willing to pledge joint allegiance to the enfeebled Mughal monarch, alarmed the British, who concluded that pitting the two groups against one another was the most effective way to ensure the unchallenged continuance of empire” – divide and rule.

Through a system of rigid classification of formerly undefined distinctions between Hindus and Muslims, the stage was set ‘for the violent “shambles of that original Brexit” — the departure of the British from India’.

Britain’s colonial legacy should elicit something other than pride and nostalgia. It should urge the establishment of a system for the payment of reparations to colonised nations. It should prompt the education of children about the true horrors of empire, without which there will be no apologies or reparations.

It should induce a period of deep reflection on the legacy of racism the British Empire sowed in Britain and in other parts of the world and should activate the study of the British institutions and structures that enabled the country’s leaders to preside over the mass murder, torture, enslavement and dispossession of people the world over.

Perhaps only then, once colonialism is acknowledged as the system of racist and violent exploitation that it is, will it cease to be a brand that sells this dangerous nostalgia.

Dr Nadine El-Enany is Senior Lecturer in Law at Birkbeck University of London.

Categories: Class Struggle

Lack of transparency on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor raises economic, environmental issues

Counterview - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 23:20
By Zofeen T Ebrahim* Mohammad Saleem and Badar Din have never heard of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but they see plenty of Chinese people around. Their boss is Chinese and they communicate with him through signing as they do not speak the same language. Both men, in their twenties, have travelled from a village in … More Lack of transparency on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor raises economic, environmental issues
Categories: Class Struggle

Water-cooled Exhaust Manifold = More Power, Less Emissions

Gas 2 - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 19:00

New Water-cooled Exhaust Manifold technology from Volkswagen and Honda means More Power, Less Emissions from new internal combustion engines

The post Water-cooled Exhaust Manifold = More Power, Less Emissions appeared first on Gas 2.

Categories: Green Transportation

Top 10 Sexiest, Dirtiest & Steamiest Movies on Netflix Right Now

Shale Justice - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 18:00
Craving something steamy on Netflix? We have you covered.

Top 10 Sexiest, Dirtiest & Steamiest Movies on Netflix Right Now

Shale Justice - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 18:00
Here are the steamiest things you can stream on Netflix right now.

USA : Victims of UPS’s deadly drive for profit

Hazards Magazine - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 18:00
Source: Rank and File
Categories: Health and Safety

Pages