Links Australia Day 2011

If you are down under, kiss a ‘roo for me!

Nabokov Butterfly Theory Is Vindicated New York Times (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck)

Bear’s epic nine-day ‘swimathon’ BBC

Pesticide linked to bee deaths should be suspended, MPs told Independent (hat tip reader May S)

Boy killed by ‘Facebook gang’ in busy station Independent (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

‘Bug Mac’ and lovely ‘grub’: food of the future Breitbart (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

12 Politicians and Execs Blocking Progress on Global Warming Rolling Stone (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

A Visual History of Koch Conservatism, from John Birch to Cato Alternet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

UK output data cast doubt on US figures Financial Times

BP Accused by Victims of Racketeering Law Violation Bloomberg

Markets give thumbs down to Spanish bank recapitalisation Eurointelligence

Why China hates loving the dollar Martin Wolf, Financial Times

WTI/Brent Spread Alea

Why Affordable Housing Matters Joel Kotkin, Forbes. A decent piece, and also goes to show Forbes is not always barmy.

Daughter of Birmingham Plans Revival New York Times. By weird happenstance, I met her on a flight from Portland, Maine to LaGuardia last September. She’s very articulate, passionate about redevelopment, and one of the few pinkos in Birmingham.

Back To Full Employment, Losing the Demand Thing Mike Konczal

Zombie IPO: Is American International Group the “Blood Doll” of Wall Street? Chris Whalen (hat tip reader Hubert. I am in complete agreement with Whalen on AIG insolvency. Two former insurance regulators approached me, each of the opinion AIG was insolvent simply based on the level of intercompany guarantees and reinsurance (including finite reinsurance, there are references to special surplus in the footnotes of regulated subs) and very large number of red flags. I had four people burn a lot of cycles in November with statutory filings (on member was already very familiar with them and even on an 80/20 basis, going after the biggest ops first, it was still a very big task) trying to unwind some of the exposures to see if we could make a convincing case on the P&C side. It was just too overwhelming an exercise to pick apart what Hank Greenberg built over decades, but what we did see convinces me that AIG is a garbage barge.

BofA’s Countrywide sued, accused of massive fraud Reuters (hat tip reader Mark H). Have not yet found a copy of the lawsuit, but the Reuters account mentions “misrepresentation” in the offering documents which makes it sound like a securities law claim, but the statute of limitations on securities actions is generally three years. What makes this case interesting, regardless of the strengths of the claims, is that the plaintiffs include some big name, fairly conservative investors. We may be seeing investors finally deciding that they can’t afford not to rock the boat with Wall Street.

What Obama Really Wanted To Say in the State of the Union Address:) Munknee (hat tip reader John R)

I suppose I must make an obligatory comment on the State of Union address. Consider this remark:

We also cannot pick winners and losers and pit industry sectors against each other in order to achieve our goals. To enhance our competitiveness, businesses cannot continue to be faced with higher energy costs, higher taxes and government overregulation.

There are so many misleading and dishonest threads in this that it is hard to pick them apart. His “green energy” plan has just picked winners and losers, assuming he intends to proceed with his plan. Otherwise, this is tantamount to saying, “I have a plan, but since I am dedicated to remaining neutral, I’m not going to follow up in any concrete manner.” But there is another flaw here, which is that the hidden assumption is that it is possible for government to be neutral. You need taxes to support even a thin-form state (courts, defense, minimal policing, roads). There is no such thing as a neutral tax policy.

And how are we going to move to green energy without higher energy costs? Another oxymoron. And it isn’t clear that high energy costs lead to uncompetitiveness (look at Germany, for starters). High energy costs encourage the development of energy efficient products. Witness how Detroit’s success in fighting fuel efficiency regulations meant the Big Three wound up ceding market share in the rest of the world because its cars were gas guzzlers. And given how big companies have made an art form of booking profits in low tax jurisdictions, the idea that US companies are hampered by high taxes is a canard (just look at their recent profits if you need further proof. They are certainly not hurting for want of cash flow which for the most part they are NOT reinvesting. Here and abroad, large corps. have been net savers for since 2003, in some countries, years before that.)

The New York Times pointed out that the search for ‘overregulation” is likely to turn up little. But the emphasis on regulation is yet another red herring. The hugely costly Deepwater Horizon spill resulted from underregulation. And academic studies have found that regulation is often a spur for innovation.

You can see why I avoid paying much attention to what Obama says. I’d never get anything done if I did.

Antidote du jour: Although there are too many shots of the steering wheel accompanied by giggling, this is still pretty cool:

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  1. vlade

    Higher X leading to lower competitivness is often a red herring. Au contraire, it’s often the parent of an invention.

    Of course, invention being amoral per se, sometimes we get things along lines – higher deregulation => CDOs etc. ;)

  2. issacread

    What on earth is a tiger doing behaving like that? Is he starving? His coat looks baggy. Doesn’t stike me as cool at all. He’ll get poached or run over by a truck. Now there are Eider ducks dying in some harbor in Nordland. They have no idea what’s going on; maybe the magnetosphere!?

    1. Ina Deaver

      I agree – something is seriously wrong with that tiger. He looks like he expects to get into the car, or get a hand out. He looks afraid. I am concerned that he’s going to be killed, as well, and he does look very scraggly.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That’s no liger, just a tiger.

      I think a liger antidote would be cool, or a humanzee (i.e. chuman or manpanzee) antidote.

      While we are at it, one day, perhaps when we are smart enough, we can get a ‘mant’ – a cross between a man and an ant.

      Far more interesting and technologically difficult, though, would be to produce a cross between a man and a rat – you get ‘mat.’

      I think I will spend the rest of the day visualizng what a ‘mant’ would look like. That would be my antidote.

  3. Toby

    Re: UK output data cast doubt on US figures

    As long as we stay true to growth-mania and describe anything other than robust exponential growth as unhealthy, anemic, or a recession/depression, or ‘bumping along the bottom,’ we’re staying true to something very important, far more important than the environment and the planet’s carrying capacity: Money.

    Repeat after me: “We must stay true to the demands of money, which are paramount by divine fiat.”

    After all, money is wealth, right? With money you can minutely control the entire universe. Money knows what to do, that’s for sure. We know this thanks to the proven, tried and tested Invisible Hand / ‘free’ markets combo. What unassailable science that is! What a team!

    It is our debt-money system which necessitates growth, because it is, in its central functioning, a ponzi-scheme. It must therefore collapse if it is not growing. Never mind, regardless of any costs ‘growth’ exacts, as long as we overlook this fact — the source of society’s addiction to perpetual growth — we have a chance of rescuing the system, right? If we just ignore the signs and keep on believing, telling ourselves the same lies over and over, brushing reality aside as best we can, we’ll muddle through somehow. Capitalism works. Er, good capitalism, that is.

    It’s got to work. Everybody knows there are no alternatives. To suggest otherwise is to be crazy, socialist, communist, or worse. As Krugman said to Bernard Lietaer (paraphrased), ‘whatever you do, don’t touch the money system! Doing so is bad for your career.’ Career is almost as important as money, everyone knows that too.

    Post-scarcity, or resource-based, economics makes sense enough to take very seriously. Let’s do so. Not to reignite growth, but as part of rescuing humanity from the brink of self-destruction, and as a start of the process of radically rethinking how we organize ourselves as society around the planet. Otherwise, the ‘No Other Way’ folks will destroy us.

    (Apologies for the sarcasm and anger. I’m just an ordinary human being and this insane, criminal system sickens me, besides it being a crime against humanity. This shit has got to go.)

  4. attempter

    “Green energy” is a total scam. Its only goal is to open up more corporate welfare ditches, help figure out ways for the elites to maintain their Sodomite lifestyles post-Peak Oil, and do it in a greenwashed way.

    Cap-and-trade is a similar scam.

    I didn’t watch or read accounts of this gangster gala, though I’m sure I’ll encounter lots of nasty details today. But right there in that quote we can see infinite malevolence.

    “Not picking winners or losers” is always code for further entrenching the status quo. (I first learned that years ago reading environmental blogs, regarding this same “green energy” scam.)

    “Competitiveness” is one of the worst whips driving us along this death march. What human being still wants this hideous fascist competition? It’s been proven to bring nothing but murder, war, need, fear, despair, and devastation. It’s pure evil, and today the propaganda of it is simply the face of evil.

    And how Orwellian is “government overregulation”? We know exactly what that means – strip all regulation and restraint from corporations and the rich, while imposing ever more totalitarian regulation on small economic actors and the people. Obama himself just signed the Food Tyranny bill, a major escalation of aggressive government regulation – but only of small producers and distributors, of course.

    Let’s get rid of ALL corporate government regulation. That means all government assaults on our rights as citizens and human beings. And it means eradicating big corporations and all the regulations and taxes those corporations impose upon us.

    1. Corporations are artificial creatures of the government. So by definition they are extensions of the government, and all corporate power is laundered government power. Every regulation and tax a big corporation inflicts upon us is really a government regulation and tax.

    2. Corporations directly write or implicitly dictate all government laws, regulations, and taxes anyway. So any direct government regulation or tax is really being imposed upon us by the big corporations.

    So however you look at it, whether you approach it from the “left” or the “right”, whether one’s preferred mode of thought and expression is anti-corporate or anti-government, either way it comes down to the same thing.

    This is one tyrannical nexus of regulation and taxation, corporate and government, all of it purely predatory and parasitic. The only answer, the only way forward, is to rid ourselves of this evil nexus in all its manifestations.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I would like to see some comments about energy efficiency and Jevon’s Paradox.

      I imagine it’s like you think you are the master of your clothes. You think you can protect yourself against the weather by supplementing your own meager hairy coat with coats or clothes. But you don’t realize that the more you use your supplement, the less hairy and more dependent on your supplement you become. Pretty soon, you are without much hair and are totally addicted to your clothes. You can’t even survive without it…unless you move south.

    2. Stelios Theoharidis

      Outside of American ethanol being a subsidy to corn producers, how exactly is “green energy a scam”? There are obviously going to be winners and losers in the technology arena, but it is going to be that way with every business venture. Green energy has not simply been developed so that Americans can live their profligate lifestyles. When I see someone build a 10,000 square foot house and drop a crap ton of solar panels on it to make themselves feel better, then attempt to call it green, it is obviously disturbing.

      But, there are individuals all over using green energy and low impact lifestyles the right way and taking themselves off the grid. As these various technologies progress it will be beneficial for humanity. Solar panels, small hydro, methane biodigestors, and wind are being used in developing countries all over the world as alternatives to fossil fuels or for communities that would not ordinarily be connected to the grid. This is really just the cusp of potential technologies that are in the works, wind and solar will achieve price parity with crude in the next 10 years, their EROI is already good.

      Really Attempter, by making statements like ‘green energy is a scam’, you feed into exactly the same line of though that is spewed from people that both you and me would generally consider vile individuals: Rush Limbaugh, Joe Barton, Koch Brothers etc. They are using those words to protect the energy industries that currently have a stranglehold over our political system along with other interests. They framing the same dialogue so that they can dump more pollutants into your air, water, and soil. You might as well just join them in their song and dance over at the American Petroleum Institute, American Enterprise Institute, and Americans for Prosperity.

      1. attempter

        I’m sorry I was unclear; I guess I shouldn’t take it for granted that it’s obvious I’m not talking about measures individuals and small groups take to become more resilient, but always what governments and corporations do.

        And I know there was a flurry of policies subsidizing home solar panels and such, which taken in itself would be a legitimate example of government helping level the playing field between a new entrant and entrenched (and far more heavily subsidized) rackets.

        But that’s never what anyone means anymore by “green energy”, and it’s definitely not what someone like Obama means. He had a $700 billion “stimulus” package (which could have been much bigger if he’d wanted it to be) with which he could have done so much for well-established, ready-for-deployment* small-scale solar and wind. But that’s not what he means by green. He means at best big corporatized CSP and wind farms which aren’t meant to replace fossil fuel generation, but merely to feed the consumption monster. It’s the equivalent of that McMansion with a solar panel you mentioned.

        And more than that he means of course more ethanol* (four “generations” and counting; and this provides a nice synergy with GMOs), coal-to-liquid, “capture ready” coal (a scam, as exposed by no less than the corporate-friendly MIT), and of course scams like hybrid subsidies, the hydrogen scam, he probably considers nukes to be “green” (and someone’s bound to bring up the thorium scam), and god knows what else.

        And every bit of it is meant to serve no purpose but corporate welfare looting and to prop up the energy consumption of the rich post-oil.

        The poor were taxed to help develop an $80,000 electric car, and they’ll continue to be taxed for every similar kind of policy crime.

        *I bet his idea of “green energy” includes lots and lots of government money for corporations and think tanks to do “R&D”, and perhaps some demonstrations. But all the R&D is complete. Solar and wind aren’t getting any more researchable or developable (or “demonstrable”). Anyone who really cared about green energy would simply deploy them on a vast basis. (At least within the limits of metal and oil availability. Those rare metals are finite too, and a real solar/wind buildout would require a tremendous amount of cheap fossil fuels as a foundation on which to build.)

        **Just to be clear, I’m a big supporter of on-site biodiesel generation to run tractors and other farm equipment. That’s also not the kind of thing Obama meant.

        1. Stelios Theoharidis

          Attempter, you remind me quite a bit of a friend, he makes biodiesel, used to work at a CSA, and talks a lot about collapse theories related to diminishing returns on complexity. So I have had this conversation a few times already.

          Although my background is non-traditional econ and complex systems theory, I do research in the clean technology sector, on top of my environmental consulting job. It is not accurate to suggest that there isn’t more development that can occur within the solar technology segment. There are a number of competing technologies, I would estimate around 50-100 depending upon how technical we want to get. The reason that solar and wind will reach parity with fossil fuel is the investment in research to develop more advanced production technology, more efficient panels, and wind components. So beyond traditional large CSP (water cooled, air cooled, desal-hybrid), small CSP systems, and Photovoltaic (at least 4 or 5 panel varieties and a few more in development) there is also at least 10 varieties of concentrated photovoltaic, then there are the solar powered heat engines / fuel cells and the research into biological systems directly generating electricity from solar.

          New large scale CSP technology has overcome quite a lot of energy storage issues utilizing salts for energy storage and water consumption issues through air cooling. The CSP-desalination plants are probably going to literally save water poor areas as fossil fuels decline, which will be a major source of conflict in the future.

          Lets be reasonable here, the largest deposit of fossil fuels on earth is in Alberta, Canada. That resource is already starting to be tapped as oil prices rise. It is an unmitigated environmental disaster locally and globally. They are going to keep this up until totally viable alternatives have been developed, so we can expect more Macondo fiel incidents, more conflict in the Caucuses over the massive natural gas deposits along the coastline, and movement towards the poles to obtain untapped reserves there, not to mention the disaster if they start going after methane hydrate deposits.

          If we don’t push for a ‘apollo project’ in line with the investment in our space program after Sputnik we are in for a serious crisis, not just environmental collapse, but more of the same costly struggles we have seen over resources. We all know how these people work, they are not mildly disturbed by the blood lost to acquire the spoils as long as their kids are not the ones letting blood.

          I have gone through the Rocky Mountain Institutes response to hydrogen detractors and I am rather satisfied with their responses. Before you start talking about platinum scarcity, they have alternative catalysts. An 80K car is produced so that a 20K car can be made later down the line, the first HD TVs were how much and although I don’t care for a TV I can get one for a few hundred now. Although I have significant GMO issues with food, that does not extend as far as green chemistry and energy production is concerned. As far as nuclear is goes I was actually going to suggest the venture that Bill Gates has money in the TWR reactor that burns nuclear waste as fuel. Our nuclear waste problem is another disaster waiting to happen.

          As far as deploying currently viable technology, all they really need to do is create a ‘green bank’ that directly offers subsidized interest rates. I would split money evenly between large scale renewable energy deployment, large scale energy efficiency, special tax assessment district bonds for small scale deployment and weatherization/energy efficiency, and other community oriented ventures. It should probably be a separate entity, or regional entities. Someone is going to have to tell Fannie Mae to change their stances on special tax assessment districts though.

          1. attempter

            My authority for the contention that calls for more R&D are just a delay tactic and a lucrative example of the Peter Principle is Joe Romm, certainly no collapse theorist. (Indeed, I’ve been wondering if he still insists on Deployment, Deployment, toujours Deployment! since Obama came in; I haven’t followed him lately, but I can picture the corporatist CAP having changed its line on a lot of things.)

            But my main objections to your way of looking at things are:

            1. This is a terminal kleptocracy, but you still think it can be induced to engage in large-scale trickle-down corporatist projects rather than corporatist projects which are simply manifestations of class war.

            Is there any level of evidence that would convince you that trickle-down is a fraud which doesn’t work?

            Your logic that socializing the cost for an $80K electric car will trickle down to a $20K car has already failed hundreds, thousands of times.

            If that logic were true, why aren’t existing cars just a few hundred dollars? Why aren’t cars as such an undifferentiated commodity by now? How is it possible to still make any profit on cars? None of that would be possible in the world according to the capitalist textbooks.

            BTW, how do you figure $20K is going to qualify as a People’s Car anyway? In a permanent depression? That’s a sick joke.

            But that leads to:

            2. You still assume infinite growth, not because your study of energy has provided evidence that this is possible, but because you take it on faith. Then from there you construct a notion of energy technology which allegedly supports this faith.

            But that faith, just like faith in trickle-down, is false. There hasn’t been real growth in decades. All “growth” has been nothing but financialization’s accounting frauds. Exponential debt itself has collapsed, and the debt economy is being partially propped up by no reality based force, only the government Bailout, which in turn is only possible for as long as the rest of the world consents to the “reserve currency” fiction.

            And now Peak Oil will set in, to deliver the death blow.

            3. This is a terminal kleptocracy, so even if the things you talk about were done, that wouldn’t stop the tar sands and any other hideous project as long as it’s corporatizable. It’ll be done to feed the monster of consumption, or simply as pure corporate welfare. That’ll continue for as long as criminal regimes like the US and Canadian governments exist.

            It’s another proven falsehood, that a green project cancels out a fossil fuel project. Fossil fuel projects are done or not done according to their own inner political and economic (il)logic.

            4. Trickle-down is a Big Lie. We know that the benefits of energy corporatism will go only to the rich and powerful, while the tax money stolen from us for the research is simply lost to us, even as we descend into the terminal great depression.

            Since this is a terminal kleptocracy waging class war through each and every policy, it follows that any benefit to the rich and the corporations, even if it’s not directly a weapon against us, is still indirectly such a weapon.

            Anything that benefits them is by definition a detriment to us. So the best possible thing which could come out of any government policy is something deployable by the people right now. (There’s also the little matter of the jobs such deployment could create; there too, to say “wait” is the same as saying “let’s not do it at all”.)

            So that’s why I say the people need to reject all corporatism going forward. It won’t trickle down, it’ll go only to our enemies, it’ll only be more wealth stolen from us, it won’t prevent environmental destruction*, and it won’t bring back growth; and “growth” has been proven to have been a malevolent goal in the first place, so why would anyone want to restore it?

            *If you want to stop something like the tar sands, the only thing which can possibly work is direct action against the tar sands. But here too, liberals want to do nothing but mail everything through a corporate “process” and hope a drop of quasi-good might trickle down at the end of that process. What could be more convoluted and predestined to fail? It’s never worked, not once.

          2. Stelios Theoharidis

            It is a bit of a strawman to suggest after I specifically noted that community programs are a very necessary in the context of deployment that I ascribe to that theoretical framework in the least. If you are still confused research special tax assessment districts in the context of renewable energy deployment. They are probably the most effective means that I am familiar with. Please don’t put words in my mouth it is really poor form. Just to be clear here, horse and sparrow (or trickle down) economics is a terrible scam. My comments were clearly focused on the technology, which I think you have mischaracterized. This is not based on some suggestion of my faith, but rather my research into the sector. I say lets do research and deployment and you try to make me out to be some sort of corporatist. Let me also note that I have detailed the need to work on both efficiency and renewable energy deployment earnestly, both on a large scale and on the small scale. If you only focus on the household sector you are going to only make small reductions in the aggregate US energy use, a drop in the bucket. We need to demonstrate 90-95% eco-efficiency can work, and make it self reinforcing. The only way to deal with Jevons paradox is to take the proceeds from efficiency and reinvest them in more efficiency, that means dedicated massive funding facilities focusing on just that.

            Your electric car statement doesnt apply properly, particularly in the context of new technologies. Time and time again we have had the costs of new technologies drop to a lower level due to economies of scale. What we see in the current price of automobiles is the fetishized production of delusion within the American public that they need an automobile that confers notions of independence and that always has a new string of gadgets. They could certainly produce an automobile right now at a quarter of the price, but it doesn’t zing like we have been convinced it should. Nonetheless, the paradigm of a economy based on personal transport, distributed patterns of settlement, and terribly inefficient highway infrastructure is something that I don’t support anyways, but try to convince the rest of the American population. That will only happen when the price of gas is 10 dollars a gallon. Those economies of scale are more worthwhile in the context of solar technologies, where they are creating production facilities that literally print solar panels like ink.

            Now in regard to distribution, some government funding has been appropriately used with convertible debt/equity programs that return the proceeds of technological breakthroughs back into public coffers. The windfalls from this can be recycled into community programs or back into more funding. But, I emphasize efficiency must go back into efficiency or we have this jevons paradox issue. If it is basic research grants, universities have become quite sophisticated in getting their share as well and putting it back into more research. I find it disturbing that you characterize university researchers trying to work out solutions to serious issues as some sort of corporatists, when many of them roll out their own small enterprises in order to produce the technologies. That all means that there is the right way to do this and the wrong way. Giving corporations free money isn’t the right way and I never suggested it was.

            I am not assuming infinite growth, I am suggesting that we work on all aspects of deployment and research both in the context of efficiency and renewables. I am saying this in the context of an unprecedented and robust effort that borders the space program post sputnik. That dwarfs this last stimulus which I agree was mispent on infrastructure that will not provide real returns. If you look at my other comment below I am also suggesting a carbon tax to push down demand for carbon based energy production, and hence make polluting projects a losing venture. I would also probably suggest that energy companys pay household energy producers retail not wholesale rates for their renewable energy production that goes to the grid.

            I have said again and again on here, that we need political reform in this country before we can have policy reform, because the political structures that are in place reinforce the inequalities present in the society. But really, when has this or any society for that matter not been a terminal kleptocracy? Some are better than others, but it is absolute utter absurdity to expect that it will be otherwise, or that it won’t be changed without a serious struggle. Why because differences in power/ownership are self-reinforcing advantages and differences aggregate over time. We have a deluded public that believes it can consume its way into happiness, I would really like to see an effort capable of dissassociate that conditioning from them.

            The only thing that has historically created significant leveling in our social context and income distribution is fear on behalf of the elite that their status, assets, and lives are in threat. But, it has only resulted in concessions and partial leveling to buy public consent. I am not willing to go there yet but I don’t think it is off the table.

          3. attempter

            I’m sorry to have put words in your mouth. I guess that’s a habit I fall into sometimes. But I think my depiction of the trends of the ideas you expressed is correct.

            It’s false to say we can’t distinguish between normal corruption and full kleptocracy. Here’s one major example. During the first Great Depression, it was politically possible and considered desirable by a critical mass among the power elite to enact the New Deal. In our incipient Depression, not only is even any modest step in that direction impossible and rejected, but all existing remnants of the safety net and employment protections are under ferocious assault. There is near-unanimity on this program. Indeed, the crash and permanent mass unemployment were intentionally and systematically caused by these system elites.

            So there’s just one clear example of the difference between normal corruption and terminal kleptocracy. There are many, many others.

            Time and time again we have had the costs of new technologies drop to a lower level due to economies of scale. What we see in the current price of automobiles is the fetishized production of delusion within the American public that they need an automobile that confers notions of independence and that always has a new string of gadgets.

            But that’s another version of believing in some ideal capitalism, with the claim being that this brand and embellishment differentiation of what should long since have become an undifferentiated commodity is a fall from the true capitalist faith.

            But capitalism has been in the full deployment stage by now for long enough and universally enough that whatever it has always been, that’s what it really is. This fetishization is an integral part of capitalism, not an abuse of it.

            You’re exactly right that the automobile should by now long since have been an undifferentiated commodity where it’s impossible to extract more than the absolute minimum profit necessary for those capitalists to stay in business at all. But this fetishization of brands and embellishments is just one of many ways that the strongest capitalists, seeing their profit rate necessarily falling (since that’s what automatically happens as a sector matures, if textbook competition continues), transformed themselves into rent-seeking oligopolies. That was the only way they could continue to take high extractions, now in the form of rents rather than textbook “profits”. The same is true of all sectors by now.

            That requirement for every sector to transform itself into an oligopoly, in turn, required the government to become far more aggressive in asserting the corporate prerogative. And that was the main driver of government’s devolution from normal corruption to terminal kleptocracy.

            So getting back to what started all this, it’s in that context that I said green energy – the corporatist manifestation – is a scam. Nothing engulfed in this corporate/government nexus is likely to benefit the people. If that were likely, they wouldn’t do it. All their actions prove this.

      2. Externality

        Many green policies are deliberately regressive, shifting the costs away from the middle and upper class activists concerned about global warming onto those who who can barely afford to keep the lights on. The benefits, OTOH, often flow to the upper and middle classes.

        How? Many states are raising electric rates to subsidize home solar panels, electric car charging points, high-cost (>$50K) electric cars, improved pool heaters, or other projects. The poor or working class people paying increased rates are unlikely to install, or be able to be able to install, solar panels on their home. (Especially if they live in an apartment building.) Nor are they likely to buy a roadster or have a pool to heat. They will merely subsidize, via increased electric bills, investments and lifestyle improvements for those with more money. Since the poor put a greater percentage of their income toward utilities than the wealthy, the increased costs will take a greater percentage of their income than of the wealthy.

        Other aspects of energy policy popular with elites also disproportionately impact the poor. “Tiered” rates, which increase energy costs as consumption increases, are intended to decrease usage by promoting energy efficiency and decreasing use. Unlike a middle class homeowner, tenants cannot simply replace an inefficient furnace, rip out the walls and add insulation, or replace drafty windows. If the landlord declines to renovate the property, or threatens to find less troublesome tenants, the tenant is stuck paying escalating rates intended to punish people who live in energy-inefficient buildings.

        1. Paul Repstock

          Attempter has the right idea. Te really benifit from the ‘available’ green tech, it must be used on a local scale. That is where government fails so miserably (intentionally or otherwise??). For anything to be worth government’s support, it seems to require huge scale and maximum visual impact.

          There are many small scale innovations available, but at best they provide incremental benifits and require fairly large inputs of time and effort. Since there is little financial benifit to anyone other than the owner, the government is unlikely to support these.

          I will make a prediction that if the ‘Magnet genertors’ ever get the bugs worked out, they will be declared illegal. The socio economic impact of such a thing would be the end for both government and corporations. In one way or another, energy is our greatest cost of livin and therefore cannot be relenquished.

        2. Stelios Theoharidis

          All of the regressive effects of rising fuel costs due to carbon taxation (which I prefer) or carbon credis can be handled with appropriately structured policies. Including: recycling revenues back into payroll tax deductions, recycling revenues into weatherization projects, special tax assessment districts, or other similar projects/tax deductions. It can be done in a way that ensures that the most vulnerable are least impacted by rising fuel costs and still incentivize reductions in energy consumption. That does not mean that the goverment will implement such systems.

          The negative effects of global warming will be disproportionately be felt by the poor as they will be less capable in adapting to rising coastal waters, climate disasters, etc.

          Our continual reliance on foreign sources of energy and concomittant conflict will also disproportionately be felt by the poor as they continue to be more represented in our military as well as in the casaulties in less developed countries.

          The negative effects of highly polluting fossil fuels will also be disproportionately be felt by the poor as they are more likely to be in close proximity to facilities that produce dangerous levels of pollutants and are less likely to have local activisim keeping the worst of this pollution in check.

          So as far as that arithmetic is concerned I think we may be better off with the first option if it is properly structured. However, cap and trade will just wind up being another casino for banksters.

  5. DownSouth

    Re: “A Visual History of Koch Conservatism, from John Birch to Cato” Alternet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

    Chris Hedges, in a lecture linked by Chris Tiburon yesterday, said that the Tea Party gets a couple of things right. One is that the liberal establishment, its linchpin being the Democratic Party, has betrayed the poor, working- and middle-class people of the nation. Another is the intense anger the Tea Partiers harbor.

    The primary function of the Tea Party, Hedges goes on to explain, is to direct this anger away from corporations and onto government.

    Therefore, what the Koch brothers proselytize through the Tea Party and other organizations they bankroll is not totally false. It has just enough truth to make it verisimilar. But it is nevertheless a partial truth and a gross simplification, for the whole truth would include the acknowledgement that, while government did indeed fail, corporations failed in a much more spectacular and destructive way.

  6. spc

    “You can see why I avoid paying much attention to what Obama says. I’d never get anything done if I did.”

    I like this. Funny. Ha HA!

    Hmm.. Maybe it’s time for NakedCapitalism to enter swag business, because this would look great on a T-shirt. You know, black colour, helvetica….

  7. DownSouth

    Re: “UK output data cast doubt on US figures” Financial Times

    Weak growth also shows the risks of the UK’s aggressive programme to cut its fiscal deficit…


    In a speech last night, Mr King partly used the weakness of the UK economy to defend the Bank’s decision to keep ultra-loose monetary policy in the face of accelerating inflation, whose rate is set to rise above 4 per cent in the months ahead.

    What a basket case Great Britain is. Here you have two economic policies working at cross-purposes with each other.

    Apparently inflation, which is a tax on everyone, is deemed superior to a progressive tax.

  8. Tenney Naumer

    Judging by the non-responsiveness of the tiger, its thinness, and its practically falling asleep while standing in the middle of the road, it would seem to be quite ill.

    1. Campbeln

      Now that is funny! Of course I’m now kicking myself for not making a black swan reference myself (d’oh!).

      They are mean sons-a-bitches when their signets (cygnets?) are freshly minted!


  9. Jim Haygood


    ‘By the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.’ (Applause.)

    Given that the majority of these college degrees are going to be financed by nondischargeable ‘debt servitude for life,’ this forecast amounts to a dire threat.

    It’s also rather contradictory to the Central Planner in Chief’s goal of doubling exports — English Lit and Art History majors tend to get bored assembling widgets and gutting chickens on industrial assembly lines. Then they become union organizers, and the serfs rise up against their capitalist oppressors. Doh!

    Inspired by Mary-Lu Zahalan-Kennedy, the first person in the world to graduate with a masters degree in The Beatles, I’m going back to school meself for a Masters in the Rolling Stones. [Mary-Lu link:]

    I’ve already read Keef Richards’ bio and done the drugs apprenticeship, so some Advance Placement and life experience credit should give me a leg up on my rock ‘n roll graduate degree. And Barack Obama’s gonna help for it! Ah ha ha ha! Let’s party …

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      While China seems to be able to make stealth fighters, they still haven’t mastered the art of stealth bank fraud.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The concern, though, is if China gets hold of one stealth criminal, they will reverse-engineer that and produce stealth criminals much cheaper than we can.

  10. Doug Terpstra

    Excellent context comment, Yves, on “What Obama Really Wanted To Say in the State of the Union Address”

    To avoid nausea, I chose to boycott the SOTU and read about it instead from credible observers with stronger stomachs. Robert Scheer also has a good take on it at TruthDig in “Hogwash, Mr. President.” (Where as Joe Wilson last night; did he have a prom date?”)

    On finding the economic bus in the ditch with two flat tires, Obama slapped on a full set of Clinton-Bush retreads, veered all fours into the ravine and jammed down the Fed-QE-morphine-injection pedal to the metal. So here we are careening toward Arizona’s Grand Canyon, to join Thelma and Louise in 2012! Change we can believe in!

    Obama’s SOTU replay of Reagan’s “Mourning in America” really misses the point—again—by design. These stiff-necked politicos, MSM journalists, and their bankster owners should have “it’s the wars, stupid!” indelibly stamped on their thick foreheads.

  11. Dale

    Re Victoria Station

    1968: “The Conservative right-winger Enoch Powell has made a hard-hitting speech attacking the government’s immigration policy…”

    “The MP for Wolverhampton South West called for an immediate reduction in immigration and the implementation of a Conservative policy of “urgent” encouragement of those already in the UK to return home.

    “It can be no part of any policy that existing families should be kept divided. But there are two directions on which families can be reunited,” he said. “

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Some say that we don’t treat animals better than people.

      That’s not quite correct. Here is one example: We have no problem letting animals or outer-space aliens into the country illegally. We only defend our borders against humans.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I imagine along the points where bird migration routes meet the borders, you can see signs that read:

        Illegal Birds OK
        Illegal Humans? NOT OK.

        1. sleepy

          And migratory birds are protected by federal law, unlike migratory humans.

          Perhaps the recent sightings of jaguars returning to southern Arizona indicate the increased opportunity of human migratory prey along paths in the desert. Sick thought I know, but nature is holistic.

  12. Hugh

    Obama? The SOTU? To paraphrase, Obama’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: the SOTU is a tale
    told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

  13. Cynthia

    This teabagging talking point about Obama not being born in the US may have some legs to it:

    So if it turns out that Obama isn’t a natural-born citizen of the US, this would go a long way towards explaining why Obama is even further to the Right than Bush in terms of being an unabashed bootlicker for the crooks on Wall Street and the war criminals at the Pentagon. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that they are holding the proverbial gun to Obama’s head, threatening to expose his actual place of birth if he doesn’t keep America’s wealth and power flowing their way.

    There’s most definitely a two-way street going on here, and a head-on collision would mean death to Obama as well as death to the American oligarchy. Bring it on, I say.

    1. eric anderson

      The governor of Hawaii has done more to raise this issue in the past couple of weeks than anyone. An Obama supporter. Yet, all his public statements have only raised more question and doubt. A friend of the governor’s reports today that he was told there were no Obama birth records in Hawaii (that could be found).

      Very curious. As a Tea Party supporter, I thought this was an issue that could not be resolved, and not relevant to the problems currently at hand. Maybe it is even a distraction. WND also claims Obama has a Connecticut-based Social Security number. Since we don’t have access to the number (this claim is based on the work of two private investigators), that can’t be verified either.

      Have the powers that be decided that a constitutional crisis will divert our attention from their attempts to steal the last bit of wealth from this country by fraud and deceit???

      I admit I am puzzled by so many aspects of this issue. It seems more than possible that at least one state will pass a law requiring explicitly a long-form birth certificate must be produced, or Obama will be unqualified to be on the ballot in 2012. Now *that* should be interesting.

      1. Cynthia

        The Republican leadership recently labeling anyone how believes that Obama wasn’t born in the US as a conspiracy nut has convinced me that the odds are fairly good that Obama is not a US born citizen. A grassroots revolution — minus any astroturf, of course — is the last thing that those who are in power, be they Republican or Democrat, want to see happen here in the US. And the truth coming out that Obama is not a US born citizen could very well spark such a revolution. Once you understand that Republicans and Democrats have gone from being fierce adversaries to friendly allies, you’ll find yourself agreeing with me on this.

        1. Glenn Condell

          Perhaps he wasn’t born at all. Perhaps he was created. If so you have to hand it to them, they did a pretty good job.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I am hoping we don’t hear that he was cloned from an original.

            Yet…one day, we as a nation will have to decide whether a clone can run for public office and if yes, whether we would allow only those who have been cloned in America.

          2. ScottS

            You mean cloned from Americans.

            The cloning technology will be invented in America, then production of clones outsourced to China, then the technology will be reverse-engineered. Then American business will be kicked out of China, and Jeff Immelt will go crying to President Palin about how the Chinese don’t play fair.

  14. ScottS

    “After being estranged from someone for two years, you can’t just call them up out of the blue and say, ‘Let’s go out on a date,’ ” says Brian Bethune, chief US financial economist for IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass.

    Bwahahahaha! Oh my god. These masters of the universe are such obvious closet cases. Definitely femmes.

    Seriously, what more can Obama do for business? He saved them from themselves and called them names to cover his tracks. Give me a trillion dollars, and you can call me “fat cat” all day long. I’ll wear it as a badge of honor.

  15. Reverend Lee

    In his State of the Union, I heard Obama saying to the unemployed “go reinvent yourself.” Hence the elven uses of innovate/innovation. It sounded like a reprise of _Who Moved My Cheese?_

  16. Dave from Oz

    Geez I won’t be kissing any roo, Yves! Unless by “roo” you’re making a derogatory reference to a “sheila” ;)

    — Dave

    1. skippy

      I took the challenge, but, it got a little out of hand…must have been all those endorphins from joining the mud boot army / gumboot brigade…snicker…

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