Friday, November 11, 2011


Veterans Day in the U.S. seems to have gotten the media attention, but the date of 11-11-11 did not go by unnoticed.  It was a popular date for weddings in Vegas, and babies born today (especially those at 11:11) became temporarily famous. The number was so popular in the day's lotteries that several states put caps on them.  A number of rumors involving arcane rites that might be conducted at the Great Pyramid because of the date caused Eygptian officials to close it for "necessary maintenance."

Then there are supposed connections of 11-11-11 to the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012, but don't expect me to explain it because I can't.  (Here's an attempt I still don't understand.)  What all this does seem to show is the power of the "Immediacy Media" (a term I just made up) of Facebook, Twitter etc. to conjure a global phenomenon out of thin air.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sunshine Today

Update: The postponment of the pipeline approval is official now, and attacks have already begun from GOPers on the issues of jobs and energy.  They are also asserting that this was a decision based on electoral politics.  With his crowing of victory, McKibben is playing into that perception.  It's worth mentioning that though the President made the final decision, the recommendation to postpone came from the State Department.  They want to consider all the factors.  From their statement: "After obtaining the additional information, the Department would determine, in consultation with the eight other agencies identified in the Executive Order, whether the proposed pipeline was in the national interest, considering all of the relevant issues together. Among the relevant issues that would be considered are environmental concerns (including climate change), energy security, economic impacts, and foreign policy."

While I've joined in the call to stop the pipeline, I recognize--as apparently environmentalists who seem capable of congratulating only themselves do not--the other considerations, and the questions that have not been answered.  One of these has to do with the impact on the Climate Crisis, if Canada decides to exploit their resource anyway and sell the energy to China.  I'd like to hear that addressed.  And it would be nice if the Obama administration got a little credit for taking the political heat for pulling back from a project that at least looked like it could generate jobs in hard times.  

Several news outlets are reporting that the Obama administration will postpone a decision on the tar sands pipeline from Canada for at least a year, which means among other things until after the election.  It will still probably emerge as a campaign issue but not as prominently, and perhaps a better final decision can be made outside the heat of that kind of politics.

Meanwhile, progress towards ending such dependence on fossil fuels continues.  California has passed a milestone in solar energy--one gigawatt installed, joining five entire countries in solar capacity.   Paul Krugman has added his economically inclined voice to, well, mine, in championing solar energy as the energy source of the present-becoming-future:

"We are, or at least we should be, on the cusp of an energy transformation, driven by the rapidly falling cost of solar power. That’s right, solar power. If that surprises you, if you still think of solar power as some kind of hippie fantasy, blame our fossilized political system, in which fossil fuel producers have both powerful political allies and a powerful propaganda machine that denigrates alternatives."

Which of course the Koch Brothers are all about, and the GOP, which is a mostly owned subsidiary of fossil fuel industries.  Krugman points out that one of the fossils with a new look--fracking--violates the principles that GOPers chant incessantly:

"So it’s worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government “pick winners,” yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner."

But despite the fossils who prevent the scale of investment in solar energy that a sane nation would insist on, the cost of solar energy is dropping rapidly and Krugman writes that it won't be long before electricity generated by the sun will be as cheap as that generated by coal.  That of course won't stop the fossils from pouring their billions into disinformation and worse, but it will persuade the 99%.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Hope is On the Way

 It's the morning after election day 2011, and the news could hardly be better: Ohio voted resoundingly to repeal the GOPer anti-union law. Maine voted to repeal a GOPer law that ended same day voter registration, by a wide margin. Mississippi voted down the bizarre but dangerous amendment that would have declared a fertilized egg a person, taking anti-abortionism into Orwellian territory.  And in a very conservative state, it wasn't even close.  Arizona voted out  the author of its anti-immigrant law.

It's almost exactly a year until election day 2012, and it's game on.  Voter anger and disgust with the GOP is strong and getting stronger.  There's more evidence that Americans believe that GOPers are subverting the economy for their supposed gain, while independents and moderates are on the President's side.   While Occupy Wall Street has shifted attention to the banks most responsible for the ongoing economic downturn and its injustice, President Obama has shifted the debate from deficits to the crisis in jobs, and he's rising in the polls.  Another court victory upholding the Affordable Care Act may yet contribute to more approval for what should have always been a popular achievement.

 So that means game on, and this tremendous change in the zeitgeist means among other things that the Obama campaign can focus on making the choice clear, and the consequences of electing GOPers who are committed to policies and attitudes that would further wreck the present and bury the future, making Herbert Hoover confronting the Depression look good in comparison.  That's the implication of the video above, and it should to be thrust of the campaign against Newt Romney, the likely GOPer nominee--not on his flipflopping as on his actual very scary proposals, as per this post.  It should also encourage President Obama to be even bolder.

Wall Street Week

The momentum continues, and the movement flowers.  Given the amount of time I can spend on following it, I'm always behind.  So here are a few notes.

First, on the various urgings for people to move their money out of the big banks and into smaller community institutions, especially credit unions.  First there was Bank Transfer Day, which got the attention of Forbes,  and which Kos judged a great success.  That was actually more than one day, but it ended this past weekend.  Another action was Tuesday: Dump Your Bank Day, which got the Monitor's attention.  The numbers are impressive so far, but the power of it may be even more in what it says about support for other actions and proposals.

Like the financial transaction tax, which also goes by the name of the Robin Hood Tax--a very very small tax on all financial transactions that could yield amazing amounts of money for all kinds of good things.  When I posted that great Bill Nighy video that explains it with very droll comedy, I thought it was mostly a British and European idea.  But according to Rachel, not so.  The U.S. actually had such a tax, from around World War I to the late 1960s.  President Obama and his administration considered it in 2009 and almost proposed it--and still are interested in a more targeted version, on big banks.

Last week, primarily union folks (including a lot of nurses, see photo above) through Occupy, marched on the U.S. Treasury building to demand just such a financial transaction tax. Two Democrats filed a bill to impose one.  Among its supporters is Bill Gates.  But there were sufficient complications that the G20 didn't endorse one.  Still, it's a live idea.

As for Occupy, there are signs that it is both a movement that is developing targeted direct actions, like preventing a foreclosure or keeping the heat working in an apartment building.  But at the same time, it is incubating a subculture--one that seems naturally committed to non-violence and participatory democracy, which is requiring improvizations and inventions, but also focus on serious things.  It is a wonder to watch.   

Monday, November 07, 2011

Emerson for the Day

“There is no worse enemy of God and Man than zeal armed with power and guided by a feeble intellect...The great lesson of history is to keep power of life and death away from that kind of mind, the mind that sees things in the light of evil and dread and mistrust rather than that of hope.”

William James

The Pipeline to Oblivion

On Sunday, reports Think Progress,"more than 12,000 people from across the United States and Canada gathered at the White House to call on President Obama to stop the TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. After a rally in Lafayette Square addressed by elected officials, youth climate activists, environmental leaders, climate scientist James Hansen, religious leaders, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, Naomi Klein, and local opponents of the pipeline from South Dakota, Texas, and Nebraska, the boisterous crowd formed a human chain that completely encircled the White House."

Meanwhile, Politico suggests that many expect President Obama won't make the final decision on the pipeline until after the election, probably citing environmental concerns that must first be addressed.

Still Crazy: Dick Gregory at the Sunday demo
There are other environmental issues involved--and that's the problem, there always are--but a major one is the accelerating effect on the Climate Crisis.  Well-funded denialism is one big problem to confronting this.  Ordinary, natural, 'I-don't-want-to-contemplate-the-end of life as we know it so let's obsess on Kardashians' denial is another.  A third is crappy communication--dumb media, environmentalists and scientists who can't say anything clearly or in a compelling way.  Perhaps a combination of all of them explains why manifestations of the Climate Crisis right now either don't get attention in the media at all or for very long, as well as not being reported as manifestations of the Climate Crisis.

 This becomes really obvious when such manifestations happen far, far away, or to mostly poor people of another race.  Places like Thailand, where more than 500 people have died in flooding that has resulted from unusually heavy and persistent rains.    

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Waking Up to the War on Voting

The so far successful legislative efforts in a number of states to limit voting rights had gone virtually unnoticed for months, except for a few voices, notably Rachel Maddow.  So it's fitting that her show be quoted announcing that Democrats are finally paying attention, and starting to do something about it.  (Note by the way in her script below the phrase "vote anyway.")

Dems in both the House and the Senate want to hold hearings.  But more substantively (from the Maddow transcript of Thursday): 

"Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison todayintroducing two new bills. One would allow you to register and then vote on the same day in federal elections. The other bill from Congressman Ellison would ban states from requiring you to show photo ID when you vote, since millions of eligiblevoters in the country do not have photo ID.

Also in the Obama re-election campaign, signs that they are taking seriously these Republican laws to make voting so much harder in 2012. The Wall Street Journal" reporting today that President Obama`s former White House counsel, a big powerful, big deal of a lawyer named Bob Bauer,is heading up efforts to battle back the Republicans on this with a multi-pronged effort that includes stopping these laws when they can be stopped and helping voters targeted by these laws figure out how to vote anyway though it has been made so much harder for them.

That the White House picked a lawyer like Bob Bauer shows that this drive to protect voting will not just be a matter of educating people about what ID they need and how to get it. The White House picking its own chief lawyer shows it is ready to bring serious legal muscle to this."

"What do you think, Barack?"

So here's a line leading a Reuter's report on the financial crisis in Europe that caught my eye: "Use the Reuters Breakingviews stress test calculator to calculate how the Target core Tier 1 capital ratio and sovereign haircut levels affect the amount of capital banks need to pass the stress test."

Right.  Well, apart from George III instructing his barber to take a little off the sides, I have no idea what a sovereign haircut level could mean.  So I have no idea what's actually going on in the European debt crisis, except that if it isn't solved, it could mean another recession in the U.S.

President Obama was in France meeting with European leaders on the crisis.  Apparently there was a deal in the works that fell apart at least temporarily due to more problems in Greece.  President Obama had expected to be on hand to express support for the done deal, but as it turned out he became an advisor to the European leaders.  He essentially chaired a panel discussion, and offered advice based on U.S. experience with the banking crisis of 2008-9.  According to an aide, the leaders wanted to know "What do you think, Barack?"   Regardless of the ignoramuses who think America leads with bluster and intimidation or is weak, this indicates actual respect for our President (though they are certainly mindful of U.S. economic power.)  Partnership and mutual respect-- the way to a better future.

As to what actually did and didn't happen at the G20, this Monitor article seems a decent summary.

KochCain: It's Official

“I’m very proud to know the Koch brothers... I am the Koch brothers’ brother from another mother.”

Herman KochCain