Sunday, September 24, 2017

Do the Leisure Class pundits know how anything works?

It's a damn chore to keep track of the Predator Class economic arguments. Which is why I am so grateful that Bill Black takes the time and effort to do those ugly chores. That the banksters are a gang of thieves is no surprise. After all, Veblen's core definition of the Leisure Class is that of the people who fasten themselves on the backs of the productive segments of society through force and fraud in the often successful attempt to get something for nothing. These people contribute nothing to society yet fancy themselves extra-smart because by their definition, cunning is the nearest synonym to human genius they have.

The great scene in Wall Street where Gekko gives his "Greed is Good" speech was hardly original. After all, the whole point of Leisure Class intellectualism is to come up with justifications for plunder. But what made that movie moment interesting is the number of movie-goers who actually thought that speech was wise, bordering on profound.

There are many who believe that such as Gekko should be accorded positions of leadership in democratic societies. Wrong! When the casinos are run by greedy crooks, the rest of us don't much care. It we don't want to do business with such people, we simply don't enter their establishments. But when those same greedheads start messing with the affairs of state, then what they do becomes everyone's business. And if these people decide that some easy money can be made by deindustrialization, the whole economy staggers. And if these people decide to rip off the system by deferring maintenance, sooner or later bridges start to fall down.

And if there is a crying need for massive infrastructure upgrades to avoid the calamities of climate change and the greedheads decide this is something we cannot afford, why then the necessary investments will not be made and the planet heats up to the point where human life becomes essentially impossible. Dangerous racket you got there, greedheads.

Is Politico or Third Way More Divorced from Reality?

William K. Black, September 11, 2017

The Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party (Third Way) is relentless in trying to bring back the days in which the Democratic Party�s leaders buried the Party in Wall Street�s pocket under the label �New Democrats.� That period led President Clinton and Vice President Gore to implement disgraceful policies that made Wall Street executives fabulously wealthy at the expense of people. To deliver on their promises to Wall Street, Clinton and Gore had to betray much of what the Democratic Party stood for. Clinton and Gore�s destruction of effective financial regulation, which President Bush exacerbated, created the massively criminogenic environment that blew up the global economy.

I have written several times and documented that Third Way is a creature of, and devoted to, Wall Street�s CEOs. Third Way�s con is describing itself as �centrist.� Wall Street CEOs are not centrist. They include the world�s most powerful and destructive predators and parasites. The �left, right, center� metaphor does not apply to a group like Wall Street�s CEOs. The latest media sucker to fall for Third Way�s con is Politico. Politico fell whole hog, calling Third Way a �center-left think tank.� Fortunately, Google�s recent purge of New America Foundation scholars has proved that �think tanks� financed by elite corporate CEOs are oxymorons run by regular morons. The one thing you can never do as a scholar at a faux �think tank� like Third Way is actually think � and then make public the perfidy of the corporate CEOs that fund the non-think tank.

Third Way is Wall Street on the Potomac, so it is preposterous to call it �center-left.� It keeps its corporate funders secret to maximize their corrupting influence. It is one of many Pete Peterson front groups.

Politico compounded its error of falling for Pete Peterson�s false flag operation through its uncritical regurgitation of Third Way�s latest propaganda about jobs. The title of the article was �Third Way study warns Democrats: Avoid far-left populism.� A Third Way �focus group� prompted the article. Focus groups rightly became infamous when the Clintons� based policy not on the merits or principles, but on political popularity as expressed by tiny groups of people discussing their impressions about a matter. One of the reasons Hillary Clinton was so unpopular with many people was that they believed that she based too many of her policies on their popularity in focus groups rather than any principled beliefs. Politico�s analytics-free article ignored that sad history and the political stupidity of basing a Party�s principles and policies on focus groups.

The Third Way memorandum that prompted the Politico story has one strength. It confirms what progressive Democrats have long argued � the key is jobs. That fact confirms that the anti-jobs Wall Street agenda that Third Way and the New Democrats have been pushing is not only terrible policy but also terrible politics. Politico is oblivious to these facts. It turns out that the actual statement by focus group participants strongly support Senators Sanders and Warren�s pro-jobs policies. Third Way, however, as a Wall Street front group, opposes their pro-jobs policies and supports Wall Street and the New Democrats� anti-jobs policies.

The Third Way memorandum is even more dishonest in its treatment of President Trump�s policies. The memorandum also shows why focus groups are so unreliable in revealing anything other than the participants� perceptions. Third Way shows how perceptions can be divorced from reality.
The fact is that the Democratic Party faces a grave perception problem: voters do not believe it is the party of jobs. Pre- and post-election polls confirmed that Democrats trailed on the issue of jobs in 2016. In the lead-up to Election Day, Republicans led by six points on jobs. Even worse, a post-election poll put Republicans� edge at 16 points on �creating more good-paying jobs in the U.S.,� while another looking at working-class whites gave Republicans a 35-point advantage on which party will �improve the economy and create jobs.�

[T]his perception took shape during the 2010 midterm election�in which Republicans swept to power�and has existed in varying degrees since.
The focus group participants� perceptions of Trump�s fake pro-jobs promises reveal that lying relentlessly to a subgroup of our population works. Trump�s agenda is hostile to jobs, but he said he was pro-jobs and would produce miracles. Trump is a notorious liar. Lying works with a significant portion of the electorate. It shapes their perceptions, which are often divorced from reality.

Third Way claimed that the focus group�s participants perceived Democrats as not putting enough emphasis on jobs for three reasons. Their actual results demonstrate that this is not true. First, the results show that the statement is imprecise. The more accurate statement is that white working class voters for Trump perceived Democrats as not focusing on providing jobs to the white working class. Second, the white working class Trump voters were frequently willing to display openly their intense hatred for the �other.�
Focus group participants were palpably angry about this perceived neglect. At times, this anger boiled over into vitriolic attacks on people they perceived as �others.�
In full disclosure, some participants� comments were offensive to the core, and these people may be true Trump believers who are simply lost to the Democratic Party.

They�re angry because they believe the system rewards everyone but them, and this anger manifests itself in vicious attitudes toward outgroups. Some participants in our focus groups were not shy to convey overtly racist, xenophobic, and homophobic attitudes.

In plain English, Third Way found that bigotry explained why many white working class voters voted for Trump. Third Way describes the �overtly racist, xenophobic, and homophobic attitudes� as �vicious,� �palpably angry,� �vitriolic,� �shocking,� �appalling,� and �offensive to the core.�
Third Way falsely describes how it treated the �vitriolic� racism.
Throughout the memo, we determined it was important to convey participants� words in an unfiltered format�even where we found their words shocking or appalling.
In fact, the racism was so ugly that Third Way does not quote a single example of it even though their report contains dozens of quotations from the forum participants. The fiction that Democrats, from 2010 on, sought to create jobs for blacks and Latinos but not the white working class provided these racist participants� (false) excuse for voting for Trump and for proclaiming their hate for the �other.� The �homophobic� attacks demonstrate that tying Trump voters� to supposed job favoritism by Democrats for blacks and Latinos is simply an excuse for bigotry.

It is relatively hard for participants in a three-day long focus group to express racist views in front of others. The racists know, and hate, the fact that other members of the group that they will have to interact with disdain their racism. Most moderate racists are unlikely to utter their true hate for the �other� in such a setting. Third Way did not report the number of focus group members that displayed intense racial animus or quote them because these facts did not accord with their agenda, but the number would have substantially understated the actual number of participants who held such views.

Third Way�s memo unintentionally demonstrates the absurdity of Trump voters� perceptions. Third Way finds that Trump voters agree that the system is rigged � but on behalf of the people who lose under that system!
The root cause of voters� anger is the political system they perceive as rewarding the poor and the rich.
Note that they list the poor first as the fictional greatest beneficiary of the rigged system. Anyone who knows the history of the United States will recognize the strategy used by white elites for centuries to ensure their political and economic domination by creating racial solidarity with poorer whites by casting poor blacks as villains. Trump�s white identity strategy reprises the same disgraceful demonization. It is no surprise that it worked for Trump; it has worked for over 150 years.

Third Way shows how spectacularly the strategy of demonizing blacks worked for Trump in attracting white working class votes.
Some participants also communicated resentment over special breaks for the rich, but there were fewer of these comments and they were less vitriolic in tone.
Third Way says it mentioned the poor first as the fictional greatest beneficiaries of the rigged system because the Trump voters rarely mentioned that the system was rigged to enrich further the wealthy. Even in the few cases they did so they were �less vitriolic in tone.� The Third Way�s memo about its focus group is so unscientific that it does not provide any numbers on how many participants expressed particular views. Third Way is also disingenuous in its �less vitriolic� description. The sole example Third Way provides of Trump voters� perceptions of the system being rigged in favor of the wealthy is the phrase �many tax cuts/credits have been given to the upper class.� Using the word �vitriolic,� even with the modifier �less,� is absurd to describe that comment. The Trump supporters� �vicious� racist language attacking poor blacks and Latinos� stands in complete contrast to the rare, milk toast lament about the wealthy.

Third Way provides a dishonest and crude explanation for how the system is rigged in favor of the victims that is understandable only if the reader realizes that Third Way shills relentlessly for Wall Street CEOs and regularly promotes many of Trump�s lies. Third Way�s highest priority is defeating the re-imposition of the rule of law on Wall Street CEOs and ending their massive frauds that have enriched them by devastating our Nation and much of the world.

I have spoken to and with thousands of the white working class. They know that Wall Street CEOs rig the system to benefit those CEOs. It enrages them. It enrages them even though President Obama failed to prosecute any of those CEOs. Those prosecutions could have transformed the political situation because they would have explained to the public how the frauds worked, how they drove the crisis, and how they enriched the CEOs. The working class is enraged at Wall Street CEOs even without this information, but consider how motivated they would be if they could read the revelations produced by over 1,000 convictions of elite bankers. Then consider how supportive they would be of the political party that had the courage to bring those prosecutions.

President Obama did not simply fail to prosecute the Wall Street CEOs who led the largest frauds. His Justice Department failed to prosecute even the not-so-elite mortgage banker CEOs and SVPs who led the making of millions of fraudulent mortgage loans. Even worse, to the extent Obama and his DOJ officials said anything about elite bank fraud they virtually always spoke to downplay it and to express their fear that prosecuting fraudulent bankers could harm the world. Obama�s unprincipled failure to restore the rule of law to Wall Street was terrible policy and terrible politics.

Third Way, of course, ignores Wall Street elites� crimes as the ultimate form of rigging the system. Third Way, like Trump, presents a false dichotomy. The Democratic Party must choose to be �pro-business� and abandon being �anti-business.� As Third Way and Trump spin the issue, pro-business means pro-jobs and anti-business means anti-jobs. Third Way wants both major parties devoted to serving the interests of giant corporations� CEOs. It advises the Democratic Party to further weaken the government and embrace deregulation again to complete the evisceration of the rule of law. Wall Street created, and runs, Third Way to ensure that it shills for Wall Street�s greatest wishes.

Democrats should be the party that supports honest businesses. Only by vigorously enforcing the rule of law can we avoid the �Gresham�s� dynamic that makes it impossible for honest business to compete with their criminal rivals. George Akerlof received the Nobel Prize in Economics in large part for his 1970 article on markets for �lemons� that introduced and named this perverse dynamic to economists.
[D]ishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The cost of dishonesty, therefore, lies not only in the amount by which the purchaser is cheated; the cost also must include the loss incurred from driving legitimate business out of existence.
Only government can break this perverse dynamic through regulation and prosecution � the enforcement measures essential to establishing an effective rule of law. The Gresham�s dynamic is terrible for jobs because it drives our most destructive financial crises and recessions. Effective regulation and prosecution is essential to expanding jobs � and preventing criminal employers from defrauding their employees. The Democrats should become the pro-honest business party by re-establishing the rule of law. It would be good for jobs, good for America, and good politics. If the Democrats return to shilling for Wall Street they will be destroyed. Even Third Way admits that voters would support such a principled, pro-jobs policy were the Democrats to adopt it.
It is true that voters want the government to crack down on business abuses�.
There are other pro-job policies that the Democrats should make their own. First, the Democrats should be the party of full employment through a federal employer of last resort program. Everyone who wishes to work and is capable of working will have a job. Jobs, not simply a basic income, are essential to the sense of fulfillment of those who can work. Such a program would also put the lie to the claim that the poor do not want to work.

Second, the U.S. puts its firms at a competitive disadvantage relative to international competitors by placing the cost of health care on many firms. A significant number of the largest firms provide the so-called �Cadillac� health insurance plans that spur the severe inflation of Americans� health care costs. Single-payer and national health system programs are much cheaper than our systems and provide equivalent or superior care. Both effects, removing the medical care costs from U.S. firms and reducing overall U.S. health care costs, would lead to more U.S. jobs.

Third, the other key to U.S. jobs is improved education and skills training, particularly for those who lose their jobs.

Fourth, better child care could allow more young parents to work outside the home.

Progressive Democrats favor each of these four pro-jobs programs while Third Way and Republicans oppose each of the policies. Third Way�s memo does not mention any of the four programs, presumably because Trump voters do not understand or support them. That suggests that Hillary Clinton and the DNC have done a poor job of supporting each program and explaining how valuable each is in creating jobs. The New Democrats controlled the DNC and they opposed jobs guarantee programs and single-payer health care. They opposed Senator Sanders� bold educational program even though the white working class would have been the primary beneficiaries of a well-designed program providing public funding sufficient to allow anyone able to meet university standards to study for a degree. Buried deep inside the Third Way memo came an important admission and a deliberate misstatement about polls showing Democratic Party members� dissatisfaction with Hillary Clinton because they perceived her policies as anti-jobs.
Comparing polls from 2012 and 2016, 90% of African Americans felt Obama�s economic policies would be good for them, compared to 62% who felt the same about Clinton�s. Among Millennials, 57% felt Obama�s economic policies would be good for them, compared to only 38% for Clinton�s.
It turns out that the Democrats� choice of a New Democrat, Hillary Clinton, as their candidate led to the perception that she was not as committed to jobs as were other elected Democrats such as President Obama. As a New Democrat, Secretary Clinton was less committed to jobs than Senator Sanders. Third Way has, implicitly, admitted that the anti-jobs perception it claims to have identified with �Democrats� was actually a perception of the candidate that Third Way relentlessly pushed � Secretary Clinton. Secretary Clinton was far weaker on jobs than were progressive Democrats like Senator Sanders for the reasons that I have explained.

One of the most important pro-job education programs that progressive Democrats pushed was ceasing direct and indirect federal subsidies to for-profit schools that defrauded students and the public. Such frauds have dominated the for-profit sector. They result in substantial costs to the public and educational programs that are so poor quality that they leave the typical graduate unprepared to work at the promised jobs. The programs also lead to very high dropout rates and frequent (federally guaranteed) loan defaults. Trump, of course, ran one of these notorious educational frauds. His fraud was so crude that even the existence of the fictional �Trump University� was a fraud. Unfortunately, for-profit schools also made Bill Clilnton wealthy, so the New Democrats have been weak on stopping such frauds. Trump, unsurprisingly, is removing any rule of law restraining these frauds even though fraudulent for-profit schools are major job killers.

Third Way ignored two of the most destructive anti-job policies pushed by many New Democrats for an excellent reason � Third Way was wildly enthusiastic about those policies. Even when it quotes a focus group participant�s statement attacking trade deals as job killers, the Third Way memo ignores the point. The quotation stated the participant�s perception that Trump was pro-jobs because he was �ending trade agreements that are not in our favor.� The New Democrats and Third Way passionately pushed those trade agreements, which Third Way now implicitly admits Americans broadly perceive as anti-jobs.

The second, and far more destructive, job killer pushed by New Democrats and Third Way is the Grand Betrayal, which they called the �Grand Bargain.� In 2010, at a time when the economy desperately needed a far higher level of fiscal stimulus, the New Democrats and Third Way achieved domination of the Obama administration�s fiscal policy. President Obama recruited a senior Third Way leader, Bill Daley, as his Chief of Staff. Daley, a former Wall Street banker, promptly made the Obama administration�s top domestic policy in 2011 the attempt to shred the safety net in a deal with the Republicans. Pete Peterson�s fondest dream is the privatization of Social Security, which would increase Wall Street investment fees by tens of billions of dollars. The Grand Bargain would have also inflicted the economic malpractice of austerity at a time when we were just beginning to recover from the Great Recession.

Had President Obama and Daley succeeded in negotiating this Grand Betrayal of the American people and the Democratic Party�s principles, the economy likely would have been thrown back into recession and Obama would have been a one-term president. Fortunately, the Tea Party members of Congress made demands that were so extreme that the Grand Betrayal failed. Unfortunately, because the Obama administration endorsed austerity the job and wage recovery was slow and the public tended to blame the party in power. Third Way was the most fervent supporter of the Grand Betrayal, including austerity � the most lethal job killer. more

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Exxon-funded climate science

While most environmentalists tremble in rage over the fact that Exxon knew a very great deal about climate change already in the 1970s yet has funded a serious climate change denial effort since then, I happen to think that this is really a nearly perfect example of what Institutional Analysis can teach us.

IA would postulate that since climate change theory is based on sound science, and since Exxon can afford to hire and pay for the finest scientists on the planet, we should not be at all surprised that their scientists would probably know more about climate change than almost anyone else�including most emphatically the academics. The following is an essay written by one of those super-bright people who had her climate science project funded by Exxon.

Ms. Hayhoe also writes about why Exxon decided to become a climate change bad boy although she spends most of her time grappling with the ethical dilemmas of accepting funding from such a source. This is an interesting question, of course, but I don't believe it is nearly as interesting as the question of why Exxon would publicly deny a science that they deemed so important, it became part of their internal planning.

I have already written on this subject and will probably make several more runs at it. But mostly I believe that Exxon changed their minds when they became aware of how mind-boggling difficult it would be to actually rebuild the world so that finding and burning fossil fuels would become unnecessary (not to mention bad for their core businesses.)

I Was an Exxon-Funded Climate Scientist


ExxonMobil�s deliberate attempts to sow doubt on the reality and urgency of climate change and their donations to front groups to disseminate false information about climate change have been public knowledge for a long time, now.

Investigative reports in 2015 revealed that Exxon had its own scientists doing its own climate modeling as far back as the 1970s: science and modeling that was not only accurate, but that was being used to plan for the company�s future.

Now, a peer-reviewed study published August 23 has confirmed that what Exxon was saying internally about climate change was quantitatively very different from their public statements.

Specifically, researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes found that at least 80 percent of the internal documents and peer-reviewed publications they studied from between 1977 and 2014 were consistent with the state of the science � acknowledging that climate change is real and caused by humans, and identifying �reasonable uncertainties� that any climate scientist would agree with at the time.

Yet over 80 percent of Exxon�s editorial-style paid advertisements over the same period specifically focused on uncertainty and doubt, the study found.

The stark contrast between internally discussing cutting-edge climate research while externally conducting a climate disinformation campaign is enough to blow many minds. What was going on at Exxon?

I have a unique perspective � because I was there.

From 1995 to 1997, Exxon provided partial financial support for my master�s thesis, which focused on methane chemistry and emissions. I spent several weeks in 1996 as an intern at their Annandale research lab in New Jersey and years working on the collaborative research that resulted in three of the published studies referenced in Supran and Oreskes� new analysis.

Climate research at Exxon

A scientist is a scientist no matter where we work, and my Exxon colleagues were no exception. Thoughtful, cautious and in full agreement with the scientific consensus on climate � these are characteristics any scientist would be proud to own.

Did Exxon have an agenda for our research? Of course � it�s not a charity. Their research and development was targeted, and in my case, it was targeted at something that would raise no red flags in climate policy circles: quantifying the benefits of methane reduction.

Methane is a waste product released by coal mining and natural gas leaks; wastewater treatment plants; farting and belching cows, sheep, goats and anything else that chews its cud; decaying organic trash in garbage dumps; giant termite mounds in Africa; and even, in vanishingly small amounts, our own lactose-intolerant family members.

On a mass basis, methane absorbs about 35 times more of the Earth�s heat than carbon dioxide. Methane has a much shorter lifetime than carbon dioxide gas, and we produce a lot less of it, so there�s no escaping the fact that carbon has to go. But if our concern is how fast the Earth is warming, we can get a big bang for our buck by cutting methane emissions as soon as possible, while continuing to wean ourselves off carbon-based fuels long-term.

For the gas and oil industry, reducing methane emissions means saving energy. So it�s no surprise that, during my research, I didn�t experience any heavy-handed guidance or interference with my results. No one asked to review my code or suggested ways to �adjust� my findings. The only requirement was that a journal article with an Exxon co-author pass an internal review before it could be submitted for peer review, a policy similar to that of many federal agencies.

Did I know what else they were up to at the time? I couldn�t even imagine it.

Fresh out of Canada, I was unaware that there were people who didn�t accept climate science � so unaware, in fact, that it was nearly half a year before I realized I�d married one � let alone that Exxon was funding a disinformation campaign at the very same time it was supporting my research on the most expedient ways to reduce the impact of humans on climate.

Yet Exxon�s choices have contributed directly to the situation we are in today, a situation that in many ways seems unreal: one where many elected representatives oppose climate action, while China leads the U.S. in wind energy, solar power, economic investment in clean energy and even the existence of a national cap and trade policy similar to the ill-fated Waxman-Markey bill of 2009.

Personal decisions

This latest study underscores why many are calling on Exxon to be held responsible for knowingly misleading the public on such a critical issue. For scientists and academics, though, it may fuel another, different, yet similarly moral debate.

Are we willing to accept financial support that is offered as a sop to the public conscience?

The concept of tendering literal payment for sin is nothing new. From the indulgences of the Middle Ages to the criticisms some have leveled at carbon offsets today, we humans have always sought to stave off the consequences of our actions and ease our conscience with good deeds, particularly of the financial kind. Today, many industry groups follow this familiar path: supporting science denial with the left hand, while giving to cutting-edge research and science with the right.

As an academic, how should one consider the sources of funding? Gabe Chmielewski for Mays Communications, CC BY-NC-ND

The Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University conducts fundamental research on efficient and clean energy technologies � with Exxon as a founding sponsor. Philanthropist and political donor David Koch gave an unprecedented US$35 million to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 2015, after which three dozen scientists called on the museum to cut ties with himfor funding lobbying groups that �misrepresent� climate science. Shell underwrote the London Science Museum�s �Atmosphere� program and then used its leverage to muddy the waters on what scientists know about climate.

It may be easy to point a finger at others, but when it happens to us, the choice might not seem so clear. Which is most important � the benefit of the research and education, or the rejection of tainted funds?

The appropriate response to morally tainted offerings is an ancient question. In the book of Corinthians, the apostle Paul responds to a query on what to do with food that has been sacrificed to idols � eat or reject?

His response illustrates the complexity of this issue. Food is food, he says � and by the same token, we might say money is money today. Both food and money, though, can imply alliance or acceptance. And if it affects others, a more discerning response may be needed.

What are we as academics to do? In this open and transparent new publishing world of ours, declaration of financial supporters is both important and necessary. Some would argue that a funder, however loose and distant the ties, casts a shadow over the resulting research. Others would respond that the funds can be used for good. Which carries the greatest weight?

After two decades in the trenches of climate science, I�m no longer the ingenue I was. I�m all too aware, now, of those who dismiss climate science as a �liberal hoax.� Every day, they attack me on Facebook, vilify me on Twitter and even send the occasional hand-typed letter � which begs appreciation of the artistry, if not the contents. So now, if Exxon came calling, what would I do?

There�s no one right answer to this question. Speaking for myself, I might ask them to give those funds to politicians who endorse sensible climate policy � and cut their funding to those who don�t. Or I admire one colleague�s practical response: to use a Koch-funded honorarium to purchase a lifetime membership in the Sierra Club.

Despite the fact that there�s no easy answer, it�s a question that�s being posed to more and more of us every day, and we cannot straddle the fence any longer. As academics and scientists, we have some tough choices to make; and only by recognizing the broader implications of these choices are we able to make these decisions with our eyes wide open, rather than half shut. more

Monday, September 18, 2017

The German auto giants face an existential challenge

A few weeks back, a friend of mine bought himself a used Nissan Leaf. Even though it is fully electric, this car is a long way from being a Tesla�its range is less the 100 miles and quite honestly, it is kind of ugly. Even so, I am pretty sure that no purchase in his life has made him happier. It actually makes him giggle.

Based on this small sample size, I am quite willing to announce the day of the electric vehicle (EV) has arrived. Yes they are still quite expensive although his used 2015 with less than 20k miles on the odometer cost about $11,000. Yes their low range and high recharging times make them still something of a hardship to own. But the upside is a luxuriously quiet ride combined with hiccup-quick acceleration and premium handling due to a very low center of gravity. This is in addition to a seriously reduced need for routine maintenance, lower costs for fuel, and the satisfaction of knowing your vehicle is arguably the cleanest set of wheels around. But just to make sure my friend has plenty to giggle about, Nissan has built in an incredible electronic feature set. His favorite seems to be the announcement of available chargers whenever his range drops below 20% complete with directions for finding them.

But even if EVs are the future, the current reality is that they still constitute less than 1% of cars on the road. And nobody is making money selling them. This leaves the auto giants with a monumental problem. If they spend the big money developing EVs, they will be manufacturing a money-loser that will take sales away from the highly profitable vehicles they already sell�a least for the foreseeable future. And so the temptation to not change anything is very high. This problem is especially acute in Germany where the automakers sincerely believe that they already make the best cars on the road.

The Arrival of Tesla�German Auto Giants Face an Existential Challenge

BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen have been struggling to adapt to the advent of the electric car, held back by conservatism and internal challenges. Now, Tesla is making inroads in Germany -- and the country's automakers face an uncertain future.

Simon Hage, September 15, 2017

At the start of this year, Karl-Thomas Neumann was planning a minor revolution. His plan was to transform German carmaker Opel, known for basic models like the Astra and the Corsa, into a purely electric brand. Electric cars were to be designed at Opel's R&D center in R�sselsheim, near Frankfurt, destined for the world market.

As the head of Opel at the time, Neuman was convinced that the end of the internal combustion engine was closer than many believed. He now hoped he could bring the necessary technology to Germany.

His idea was also born out of necessity. As a small manufacturer, it is especially challenging for Opel to adjust its internal combustion-powered cars to increasingly stringent emissions standards. Opel vehicles had attracted unwanted attention because of their excessive emissions and Neumann was at least trying to treat the diesel crisis as a chance to start over.

His ambitious electric plan for Opel failed, however, when the company's U.S. owner, General Motors, suddenly lost interest in the European market and sold Opel to French rival PSA in the summer.

Neumann no longer works for Opel, but he still believes his ideas are the right ones. The former CEO fears that the auto industry - especially BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen - has underestimated the momentum of the transformation, and that it is resting on its laurels instead of developing new concepts.

The German auto industry needs "a clean break," says Neumann. It has to "accept that diesel is gradually going extinct." Of course, he adds, the auto industry can still make money with internal combustion engines for a number of years. "But it's time to reduce complexity, that is, develop a much smaller number of different engines," says Neumann. He recommends car companies use the money they save to invest heavily in electromobility.

He has a warning for the entire sector: Unless the auto industry consistently reforms itself, it "runs the risk of being outpaced by new competitors from China and the United States."

Customers and, in some cases, companies, are still skeptical. The arguments against electric cars cited by critics include their lack of significant range, high costs and questionable carbon footprint.

But does that mean that automobile manufacturers should simply continue pursuing the status quo?

Unprecedented Pressure for Carmakers

For decades, the auto industry kept building bigger, faster and more powerful vehicles outfitted with gasoline and diesel engines. And business has been good. In 2016, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen reported �465 billion ($552 billion) in sales and close to �30 billion in profits. But their growth came at a high price.

The systematic deception got started in the companies' development departments about 10 years ago. Unable to satisfy increasingly stringent emissions requirements, the engineers resorted to software that was designed to cheat the system. It guaranteed good emissions results in vehicle testing stations, but allowed the supposedly clean vehicles to emit harmful nitric oxides on the road. In the United States, Volkswagen has already admitted to committing emissions test fraud and obstructing justice. VW and Daimler are currently under investigation in Germany. Only BMW has been spared the judicial scrutiny.

After DER SPIEGEL in July exposed decades of collusion between the three companies on technology, suppliers and exhaust-gas-cleaning systems, the three major German automakers could face further legal troubles. They are making intensive preparations for possible investigations or searches. At BMW, which denies any wrongdoing, 18 lawyers are now analyzing data and documents spanning almost three decades.

The suspicions of collusion are also complicating the plans of BMW, Daimler and VW to cooperate more closely on topics like mobility services and autonomous driving. "From now on, there will always be a lawyer present at any meeting with a competitor, no matter how harmless," an auto company representative explains. Instead of a collective spirit of optimism, a feeling of mutual mistrust reigns.

The German auto industry has never faced this much pressure. Auto executives describe it as a "perfect storm." The old business model is increasingly coming under pressure, both legally and economically.

More and more countries are planning to phase out combustion engine technology. Great Britain and France want to ban cars with gasoline and diesel engines by 2040, while Norway plans to take the same step by 2025. China is expected to impose a minimum sales quota for electric cars starting next year. Surveys show that 60 percent of Chinese car buyers could imagine buying an electric vehicle as their next car.

To be able to sell its products in the future, the auto industry needs alternative, low-emission engines. It also needs to offer mobility concepts like car sharing and ride services. Otherwise the business will no longer be run by BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen in the future, but by foreign competitors.

Tesla Arrives in Germany

The biggest cause for concern in the German auto industry is an American rival, Tesla. Founded in 2003, it has achieved what the German manufacturers failed to do for years: build an electric car that many customers want.

More than 450,000 consumers have already pre-ordered Tesla's new Model 3, and the company says that it is receiving another 1,800 orders a day. "Tesla now has a cult status that other brands can only dream of," says Neumann.

The German carmakers' identity crisis comes at a convenient time for Tesla. While the U.S. company has been restrained in its public statements, Tesla Managers speak off the record about "illegal manipulations in the context of the diesel scandal."

The U.S. company smells an opportunity to finally gain a foothold in Germany, a country that has had relatively little affinity for Tesla in the past and is the home market of Daimler, BMW and VW. The company has more than doubled its German sales in the first half of 2017, for a total of 2,000 vehicles. This is an impressive number for Germany, which lags behind other developed nations when it comes to electric cars.

Management at BMW, Daimler and VW are working on counter-offensives.

The office of Klaus Fr�hlich, BMW's head of development, is dominated by model cars on the window sill, relics from the old auto world. The collection ranges from long-extinct brands like the NSU Ro 80, car of the year in 1968, to the Porsche Carrera and the Land Rover Defender, a muscular SUV.

Fr�hlich actually wants to talk about BMW and his planned electric strategy, not about the competition. But he keeps coming back to the company's California rival. The BMW executive mentions the word "Tesla" 16 times within 60 minutes.

He sees BMW as being "neck and neck" with Tesla, but plans to have trumped his US rival in no more than three years. Like Tesla, BMW will place a stronger emphasis on "emotionalizing" its electric cars in the future, with wider tires and more dynamic designs.

Fr�hlich draws three curves on a piece of graph paper. They illustrate the likely increase in electric car sales in the coming years. The first curve represents sales in China. Starting in 2020, it points almost vertically upward.

BMW plans to produce cars more efficiently to satisfy exploding demand. Plants and vehicle designs are being upgraded so that every car can be flexibly outfitted either with an internal combustion engine, a plug-in hybrid or a pure electric powertrain. As demand increases, the company expects to be able to start producing hundreds of thousands of electric cars by essentially flipping a switch. As such, says Fr�hlich, BMW will be ready if consumers in China decide to buy only electric cars.

Fr�hlich's second curve represents the east and west coasts of the United States. According to his calculations, the electric car boom will begin there in about 2025. Germans will follow suit about five years later. Fr�hlich describes Germany as a country "where they like to talk about e-mobility" but where "relatively little is being done." He blames policymakers, pointing out that Munich, for example, currently has only 50 charging stations.

The Auto Giants' Dilemma

Like all German manufacturers, BMW is trying to perform a balancing act. The company wants to continue selling gasoline and diesel vehicles while simultaneously preparing for the electric age. It has announced 25 electric vehicle models for 2025, but the startup costs are massive. BMW has already invested sums in the double-digit billions in sustainable drives. The Munich company is making a bet on the future. At the moment, it is losing money on every electric car it sells.

The auto industry's dilemma is that its new business, which is still losing money, is cannibalizing its profitable, existing one, creating incentives to delay the necessary change.

Some of the companies' efforts to prepare for the future seem half-hearted. In late 2016, Daimler, Ford, BMW and VW announced a joint initiative for rapid-charging stations. The project was scheduled to begin in 2017, with about 400 locations across Europe planned in the first phase.

Nine months have passed since the announcement and the current number of charging stations is still zero. The first charging station is expected to open this year, allegedly with charging technology superior to Tesla's. By comparison, Tesla has already installed more than 6,300 of its so-called Superchargers worldwide. It aims increase that number to 10,000 by the end of the year.

The U.S. company still isn't making a profit on its electric vehicles, but unlike the German automakers, Tesla does not have to worry about a massive existing car business. This helps explain Tesla's aggressive approach to marketing, which makes it seem like the company is less interested in selling cars than in changing the way the world uses energy.

That doesn't mean it's true. Tesla founder Elon Musk is, of course, pursuing uncompromising economic interests. But his message sounds more convincing than that of the German auto industry, which constantly fluctuates between commitments to electromobility and statements of loyalty to the internal combustion engine. Their mantra is that the diesel engine is far from finished.

The industry spent decades resisting overly substantial changes. Anyone who talked about electromobility or car sharing in the 1990s was immediately mocked.

VW offers the most prominent example. Top executive Daniel Goeudevert wanted to reform the brand back in 1991 by introducing smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, but failed. He was also working on a car-sharing joint venture with German national railroad Deutsche Bahn. His conclusion, at the time, was that fewer and fewer people wanted to own their own cars in favor of using shuttle services.

When Goeudevert predicted the demise of the diesel engine, the Volkswagen leadership decided it had had enough. In his last meetings with VW, Goeudevert was told something he never forgot: "You will be amazed at all the things we can still get out of diesel."

The 75-year-old now lives in a town near the Swiss capital Bern, rides an e-bike and regards the vehicle industry from a distance. "Because of its great successes, the auto industry has become blind to the true needs of customers," he says. "For much too long, Volkswagen and the others were only interested in speed and luxury."

In his view, German carmakers' only hope is to drum up enthusiasm among young people. Many teenagers feel more of a connection to the Apple logo than the Mercedes star.

A quarter of a century after his departure, Goeudevert's ideas are now treated as common sense. His former employer, Volkswagen, wants to become hipper. Designers and futurologists run riot in its Future Center in Potsdam outside Berlin, in an idyllic location on the Havel River. People wear sneakers, speak a lot of English and reject formality.

Its latest development is a concept vehicle called Sedric, which VW hopes will serve as a driverless robot taxi in urban areas sometime in the next decade. The designers are especially proud of its futuristic interior, which includes a large display for multimedia applications, such as karaoke, a tool that is meant to appeal primarily to Asian customers.

New Ways of Working

The VW employees in Potsdam are also trying to come up with new ways of working. In conversations with retirees, for example, they discovered they had to simplify the process of ordering a robot taxi as much as possible. The designers developed a remote control with only one button, aptly named the One-Button. VW is even seeking the advice of small children. The Future Center recently played host to the neighboring kindergarten.

"We are just getting started at establishing direct contact with our retail customers," says Thomas Sedran, who has been the chief of strategy at the Volkswagen Group for about two years. This is "a real challenge for a company that has before now primarily been shaped by its focus on engineering." As absurd as it sounds, for years Volkswagen had almost no idea who was driving its cars and what services VW drivers would like to use. Volkswagen interacted mainly with its authorized dealers.

The company is now painstakingly trying to approach its customers through apps and shuttle services. Starting next year, VW plans to offer a kind of on-call bus service in Hamburg. The new service, which will initially consist of 200 electric shuttles, is a test to determine whether VW can make money with taxi services. Most of all, though, it is an attempt to create long-term brand loyalty among customers.

Chief strategist Sedran believes that VW can no longer afford to miss out on any new development. He predicts a "major shift in the entire auto industry," which could even include the disappearance of individual brands.

Whether Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW will be among the survivors depends on whether pioneering thinkers like Sedran prevail. Many managers remain unconvinced that deep-seated reforms are truly necessary. Some even believe that the diesel crisis is somehow over.

They feel persecuted by their critics, including Deutsche Umwelthilfe, an environmental group fighting in court for diesel bans. And by the politicians who are sharply critical of the automakers' manipulation of emissions values. And, finally, by the press for its reporting of these stories. "A key industry is being criminalized here," is a sentence often heard at the auto companies. VW Chief Executive Officer Matthias M�ller believes that there is an "ongoing campaign against the diesel engine."

Many managers also express the hope that the Tesla problem will eventually resolve itself. They argue that their U.S. rival's battery technology isn't mature, which keeps Tesla from producing its cars in a cost-effective manner. "A company like that, which is only losing money, could never exist in Germany," said a top executive with a German automaker.

His analysis is not exactly wrong. Investors could in fact lose patience and cut off Tesla's funding. But would that change anything? Even a Tesla bankruptcy would not stop the transformation, because other manufacturers, especially from China, have also discovered the appeal of electromobility. And they are doing their utmost to achieve global market leadership.

Ten years ago, another technology sector made the mistake of underestimating its challenger: the mobile communications industry. Manufacturers like Nokia and Blackberry had long been the undisputed market leaders, but success made them sluggish. New, more innovative competitors had hardly appeared on the scene before the former pioneers were forced from the market.

One anecdote from an executive meeting at RIM, which produces the Blackberry, has now become legendary. It is said that when managers delicately passed around an iPhone, most of those present just shook their heads. The phone with the large screen would not make it, the managers believed, because the battery performance was insufficient.

The good old mobile phone, they argued, was far from dead. more

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Big dirty ships make "free" trade economically possible

Ever since the steam guys figured out that it was possible turn heat into motion, folks have been figuring out the thousands of applications for this possibility. Powering ships was one of the first uses of fire-driven power and it remains an important though small niche market (certainly in comparison to land-based transportation and electrical generation) for fuels. The niche has gotten considerably larger in recent years as traditional manufacturing nations off-shore their industrial base to places like China. All of this has been made possible by building very large ships burning the cheapest petroleum available. And they are astonishingly efficient�1/10 of a horsepower can move a ton of shipping through the water at commercially viable speeds.

Until now, no one has seemed to much care that these mega-ships are filthy when it comes to exhaust because for most of their water-borne lives they are out of sight of land. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter where air pollution originates, it is all being dumped into the same atmosphere. When it comes to building a fire-free world, big shipping will be one of the more difficult problems. Giving up mega-ships burning bunker oil will be extremely hard to do. And one of the problems is that impediments to trade like changing the economics of shipping will be viewed with horror by the serious acolytes of "free" trade.

Think diesel cars are dirty? Try ships!

There's massive public worry about diesel car emissions these days - but the really big polluters are plying our waters.

DW Harald Franzen, 29.08.2017

Steel-blue skies and a "balmy" 14 degrees celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit): As far as I can tell after eight days at sea, that's August at its finest in Cuxhaven, a port town just west of where the Elbe river meets the sea.

The strong tides set the pace in this part of the North Sea. If you want to get into port or out onto the open water, there's no point fighting the currents - especially if you're on a traditional sailing vessel such as ours.

Today we're heading out to measure particulate emissions from ships - and we don't have to go far. To look out at the horizon from Cuxhaven is to witness an endless caravan of ships traveling to and from Hamburg, Germany's largest port.

Many of them are maritime giants whose massive engines can be heard roaring in the distance, day and night.

"Look at that spike," says S�nke Diesener as the Ryvar, our 101-year old lugger, crosses the shipping lane behind a huge tanker. Diesener, who works on transportation policy issues at the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) is holding a metal wand over the gunwale of our vessel.

This is attached to a device that measures particulate matter in the air. Within seconds, the figure on his display shoots from 800 particles per cubic centimeter to over 50,000. It finally tops out at 73,000.

"At a busy intersection of a major traffic artery in a big city, you might get around 16,000," Diesener says - with the reserved calm for which northern Germans are known. The figures speak for themselves.

Playing dirty

The real issue isn't that these ships consume a lot of fuel - which they do - it's that the fuel they burn is often dirty, as is the way it's burned.

"Even now, most ships burn highly toxic heavy fuel oil when they are out on the high seas," Diesener explains. Heavy fuel oil is essentially a residual product from fuel production. "You produce gasoline, you produce diesel - and what is left over is heavy fuel oil."

And it burns 100 times dirtier than marine diesel - and an incredible 3,500 times dirtier than regular car diesel, when it comes to sulfur dioxide he adds. Aside from plenty of carbon dioxide, the ships blow massive amounts of the gas into the air - and sulfur dioxide causes acid rain.

Ships also emit nitrogen oxides - the main culprit in the Dieselgate scandal still coursing through Germany. Nitrogen dioxides (also known as NOx) make soil more acidic, and over-fertilize lakes and coastal areas, destroying the balance in those ecosystems.

Last but not least, ships release large amounts of particulate matter and black carbon into the atmosphere - both of which are known to have both climate and health impacts.

Enjoy your cruise

But why should we care about ship emissions? After all, big ships spend much of their time out at sea and most of us don't.

Well for starters, there is climate change. A recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research ranked black carbon as the second-most-significant greenhouse gas emission after carbon dioxide.

Black carbon absorbs sunlight, heating the atmosphere. When this gets deposited on snow, in the Arctic, for example, this reduces the snow's whiteness, or albedo. The snow consequently reflects less of the sun's energy, which in turn contributes to global warming - an unpleasant feedback loop.

A fairly easy first step that would dramatically reduce ship emissions would be to stop burning heavy fuel oil altogether, and use diesel instead.

That would also make it possible to install diesel particulate filters (DPFs), which reduce particulate matter and black carbon emissions by up to 99.9 percent. Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, in turn, could eliminate 70 to 80 percent of NOx emissions. Both systems are already in use on several ferries and cruise ships.

Heavy fuel oil could still be used elsewhere. "The solids that are eventually left could be used in road construction or burned in a fossil fuel power plant," Diesener says.

What's more, such big polluters may be closer than you think.

In harbor cities, cruise ships often anchor in central locations - and leave their engines running while they are at port, because they are essentially huge floating hotels that have to keep the pool heated and the air-conditioning running.

A modern cruise ship requires about as much electricity as a city of 20,000 people - so it's not easy to just plug in an extension cord and turn off the engine - which is what we do on the Ryvar when at berth.

Hybrids, plugs and sails

It's not easy, but it is possible. After long negotiations, an international standard for onshore power supply (OPS) was finally established in 2012. One challenge was that different ships use varying voltages, depending on their age and country of origin.

Although progress is slow, a growing number of ports now offer OPS, and several ferry lines and cruise ship operators are either in the process of fitting their ships with the necessary connectors or are already using them.

For a greener ride between ports, there is also liquefied natural gas (LNG), which burns much cleaner than oil or diesel. Several ferries and even a container carrier already use this technology. Much like hybrid cars, they combine combustion and electric engines.

Scandlines, which operates ferry lines between Denmark, Germany and Sweden uses hybrid ships.

"This allows the ferry to adjust its fuel consumption to the workload - which results in a 15 percent reduction of CO2 emissions," says Anette Ustrup Svendsen, Head of Corporate Communications at Scandlines. "Our long-term goal is zero-emissions."

One fully-electric ferry in Norway has already achieved just that. The 80-meter catamaran has been operating in the country's largest fjord since 2014 and the electricity to charge its batteries comes from carbon-neutral hydropower. And while significantly smaller, there are even solar-powered ferry boats. Berlin's public transport system operates four of them.

Back on the Ryvar, Diesener is interrupted by a sudden loud call from the stern. The captain has started to turn the ship, and the massive boom of our main mast comes flying across over our heads.

Time to man our stations at the fore-mast and main-mast - and start pulling. Sometimes traveling on a zero-emissions ship requires a little effort. more

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Who murdered the peace movement?

In the essay below, Paul Craig Roberts asks a damn good question, "Who murdered the peace movement?" when discussing the current runaway warmongering in official Washington. As someone who spent a significant fraction of my life before 30 involved in various forms of the peace movement, I'd like to take a crack at that one.
  • Peace movements are automatically the weaker party. It is a thousand times easier to gin up the warlike animus than to teach folks (especially young men) that no one wins wars and that everything from sex to the economy is much better under conditions of peace. Peace movements are only successful when there are highly intelligent and charismatic leaders (like Bertrand Russel) who can make the peace arguments. It also helps to have religious movements (Quakers, Mennonites) that can do the heavy lifting of training successive generations of young men why the peace arguments are superior.
  • The antiwar activities associated with the Vietnam War were notoriously empty intellectually and ideologically. In my experience, a minimum of 95% of the young men who participated in the antiwar movement were merely trying to keep their own asses safe. The day after the first draft lottery I had occasion to visit the Quaker-run Twin Cities Draft Information Center. The place was empty except for the lone woman who had shown up to unlock the doors. 2/3 of their "clients" had gotten their good news and didn't need the help of the dreary folks who liked to stress the moral illiteracy of the warmongers.
  • After Vietnam, the military types learned their lessons on how to avoid the influence, such as it was, of the peaceniks. With their all-volunteer forces and a well-thought-out strategy of spending their money in every congressional district, they would never again lose a political battle over any war they wanted to start. After the last great unsuccessful peace marches opposing the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the peace types realized their situation was utterly hopeless and pretty much gave up.
That's what murdered the peace movement. Which is sort of ironic when one considers that the peaceniks have ALL the good rational arguments. But in the face of the unrelenting propaganda that the warmongers have at their disposal, even people who know and fervently agree with the outcome-based facts of a peace philosophy find it just a whole lot easier to shut up and fume at the unrelenting stupidity of those who still believe that warfare solves anything.

Laughing on the Way to Armageddon

Paul Craig Roberts, September 8, 2017

The United States shows the world such a ridiculous face that the world laughs at us.

The latest spin on �Russia stole the election� is that Russia used Facebook to influence the election. The NPR women yesterday were breathless about it.

We have been subjected to ten months of propaganda about Trump/Putin election interference and still not a scrap of evidence. It is past time to ask an unasked question: If there were evidence, what is the big deal? All sorts of interest groups try to influence election outcomes including foreign governments. Why is it OK for Israel to influence US elections but not for Russia to do so? Why do you think the armament industry, the energy industry, agribusiness, Wall Street and the banks, pharmaceutical companies, etc., etc., supply the huge sum of money to finance election campaigns if their intent is not to influence the election? Why do editorial boards write editorials endorsing one candidate and damning another if they are not influencing the election?

What is the difference between influencing the election and influencing the government? Washington is full of lobbyists of all descriptions, including lobbyists for foreign governments, working round the clock to influence the US government. It is safe to say that the least represented in the government are the citizens themselves who don�t have any lobbyists working for them.

The orchestrated hysteria over �Russian influence� is even more absurd considering the reason Russia allegedly interfered in the election. Russia favored Trump because he was the peace candidate who promised to reduce the high tensions with Russia created by the Obama regime and its neocon nazis�Hillary Clinton, Victoria Nuland, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. What�s wrong with Russia preferring a peace candidate over a war candidate? The American people themselves preferred the peace candidate. So Russia agreed with the electorate.

Those who don�t agree with the electorate are the warmongers�the military/security complex and the neocon nazis. These are democracy�s enemies who are trying to overturn the choice of the American people. It is not Russia that disrespects the choice of the American people; it is the utterly corrupt Democratic National Committee and its divisive Identity Politics, the military/security complex, and the presstitute media who are undermining democracy.

I believe it is time to change the subject. The important question is who is it that is trying so hard to convince Americans that Russian influence prevails over us?

Do the idiots pushing this line realize how impotent this makes an alleged �superpower� look. How can we be the hegemonic power that the Zionist neocons say we are when Russia can decide who is the president of the United States?

The US has a massive spy state that even intercepts the private cell phone conversations of the Chancellor of Germany, but this massive spy organization is unable to produce one scrap of evidence that the Russians conspired with Trump to steal the presidential election from Hillary. When will the imbeciles realize that when they make charges for which no evidence can be produced they make the United States look silly, foolish, incompetent, stupid beyond all belief?

Countries are supposed to be scared of America�s threat that �we will bomb you into the stone age,� but the President of Russia laughs at us. Putin recently described the complete absence of any competence in Washington:

�It is difficult to talk to people who confuse Austria and Australia. But there is nothing we can do about this; this is the level of political culture among the American establishment. As for the American people, America is truly a great nation if the Americans can put up with so many politically uncivilized people in their government.�

These words from Putin were devastating, because the world understands that they are accurate.

Consider the idiot Nikki Haley, appointed by Trump in a fit of mindlessness as US Ambassador to the United Nations. This stupid person is forever shaking her fist at the Russians while mouthing yet another improbable accusation. She might want to read Mario Puzo�s book, The Godfather. Everyone knows the movie, but if memory serves somewhere in the book Puzo reflects on the practice of the irate American motorist who shakes a fist and gives the bird to other drivers. What if the driver receiving the insult is a Mafia capo? Does the idiot shaking his fist know who he is accosting? No. Does the moron know that the result might be a brutal beating or death? No.

Does the imbecile Nikki Haley understand what can be the result of her inability to control herself? No. Every knowledgeable person I know wonders if Trump appointed the imbecile Nikki Haley US ambassador to the world for the purpose of infuriating the Russians.

Ask Napoleon and the German Wehrmacht the consequence of infuriating the Russians.

After 16 years the US �superpower� has been unable to defeat a few thousand lightly armed Taliban, who have no air force, no Panzer divisions, no worldwide intelligence service, and the crazed US government in Washington is courting war with Russia and China and North Korea and Iran.

The American people are clearly out to lunch in their insouciance. Americans are fighting among themselves over �civil war� statues, while �their� government invites nuclear armageddon.

The United States has an ambassador to the world who shows no signs of intelligence, who behaves as if she is Mike Tyson or Bruce Lee to the 5th power, and who is the total antithesis of a diplomat. What does this tell about the United States?

It reveals that the US is in the Roman collapse stage when the emperor appoints horses to the Senate.

The United States has a horse, an uncivilized horse, as its diplomat to the world. The Congress and executive branch are also full of horses and horse excrement. The US government is completely devoid of intelligence. There is no sign of intelligence anywhere in the U.S. government. Of or morality. As Hugo Chavez said: Satan is there; you can smell the sulphur.

America is a joke with nuclear weapons, the prime danger to life on earth.

How can this danger be corralled?

The American people would have to realize that they are being led to their deaths by the Zionist neocon nazis who, together with the military/security complex and Wall Street, control US foreign policy, by the complicity of Europe and Great Britain desperate to retain their CIA subsidies, and by the harlots that comprise the Western media.

Are Americans capable of comprehending this? Only a few have escaped The Matrix.

The consequence is that America is being locked into conflict with Russia and China. There is no possibility whatsoever of Washington invading either country, much less both, so war would be nuclear.

Do the American people want Washington to bring us this result? If not, why are the American people sitting there sucking their thumbs, doing nothing? Why are Europe and Great Britain sitting there permitting the unfolding of nuclear armageddon? Who murdered the peace movement?

The World and the American people need desperately to rein in the warmonger United States, or the world will cease to exist.

An International Court To Preserve Life On Earth needs to be assembled. The US government and the war interests it serves need to be indicted and prosecuted and disarmed before their evil destroys life on earth. more

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Stone on USA "intelligence"

As hurricane Harvey dumped up to 52" on parts of Texas, our elected officials ponder the grave and soul-searching question "Is my hatred for Russia pure enough." The latest sanctions bill against Russia passed the Senate 98-2. That folks is the Gulf of Tonkin vote. 2% is also about the percentage of folks with a minimal clue compared to the 98% sheep who will believe almost anything and must follow their emotions because their intellects were never properly developed. I mean, seriously, are their any sentient Americans who want to risk nuclear war over Crimea, or Syria, or Iran. And yet the vote was 98-2.

And of course, while we fight over Confederate-era statues and other forms of utter irrelevance, the big problems like climate change go unaddressed. This is absolutely insane. And Oliver Stone and Paul Craig Roberts cannot figure out why there is so much insanity. Of course, they are part of the awareness 2% so they cannot intrinsically understand.

'I'm Angry' with 'False Flag War Against Russia'

Oliver Stone, Aug 5, 2017

Congress passed its beloved Russia sanctions last week by a vote of 419-3! The Senate followed with a vote of 98-2!! I guess �American Exceptionalism' includes the vast stupidity inherent in having two giant oceans to distance us from the rest of humanity.

With all the Apples and Microsofts and computer geniuses we have in our country, can we not even accept the possibility that perhaps our intelligence agencies are not doing their job, and maybe, just maybe, are deliberately misleading us to continue their false-flag war against Russia? Or for that matter, that Russia itself may not be that invested in screwing up our vaunted democracy with such sloppy malware as claimed?

Especially in view of the strong statement put out by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of reform-minded veterans throwing a dose of acid on the infamous �Brennan-Clapper Report� of January 6, 2017. With this report alone (see below), much less the overt lying and leaking that�s been going on, both James Clapper (�We don�t do surveillance on our own citizens�) and John Brennan (�Drones and torture? None of our business') should be investigated as thoroughly as Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, Trump�s son, etc.

What�s happened to Elizabeth Warren, Barbara Lee, or any of the people who�ve displayed some independent thinking in the past? Have they actually read this report? Somebody out there in DC, please explain to me this omission of common sense. Are the Washington Post and the New York Times so powerful that no one bothers to read or think beyond them? It seems the TV stations in this country take their copy from them.

I accept the US decline. That�s a given -- after all, compare our broken-down New York subway system with Moscow�s, as well as many other cities� pristine and impeccable services. These sanctions, which I pray Europe can independently judge and discard, are as dumb as giving out medals to Generals who keep losing wars. I still have this image burned in my brain of Petraeus with his 11/12(?) rows of ribbons, many looking like Boy Scout badges, surrounded by adoring Congressmen as he lied his way through his foreign policy testimony.

Never mind that any moment now a Dr. Strangelove-type incident can occur -- with less reaction time, say 15 minutes, compared to the 1960s 2/3 hours. We are truly at the edge as Mr. P pointed out in the documentary I made. Such Roman arrogance, such blindness, calls out for another Vietnam, another Iraq. We�re screaming for some Karmic Boot up the ass. Destroying our pride would be a favor that the gods could do us.

I can go on -- but I�m angry as you can tell. So what�s the point of going to the windows and screaming, even if I were on television? Read the report below from Sanity Inc. and pray another August (1914) passes without the war Congress, Media, and the Military-Industrial Complex are literally dying for. I now fully realize how World War I started. People in power never really thought it would happen, and when it did, thought it�d be over in weeks. You should know the rest of that history.

It doesn�t end well. more

See also
�Intel Vets Challenge �Russia Hack� Evidence,� Consortiumnews,


we don�t need no stinkin� facts

Paul Craig Roberts, August 28, 2017

In the United States, facts, an important element of truth, are not important. They are not important in the media, politics, universities, historical explanations, or the courtroom. Non-factual explanations of the collapse of three World Trade Center buildings are served up as the official explanation. Facts have been politicized, emotionalized, weaponized and simply ignored. As David Irving has shown, Anglo-American histories of World War 2 are, for the most part, feel-good histories, as are �civil war� histories as Thomas DiLorenzo and others have demonstrated. Of course, they are feel good only for the victors. Their emotional purpose means that inconvenient facts are unpalatable and ignored.

Writing the truth is no way to succeed as an author. Only a small percentage of readers are interested in the truth. Most want their biases or brainwashing vindicated. They want to read what they already believe. It is comforting, reassuring. When their ignorance is confronted, they become angry. The way to be successful as a writer is to pick a group and give them what they want. There is always a market for romance novels and for histories that uphold a country�s myths. On the Internet successful sites are those that play to one ideology or another, to one emotion or the other, or to one interest group or another. The single rule for success is to confine truth to what the readership group you serve believes.

Keep this in mind when you receive shortly my September quarterly request for your support of this website. There are not many like it. This site does not represent an interest group, an ideology, a hate group, an ethnic group or any cause other than truth. This is not to say that this site is proof against error. It is only to say that truth is its purpose.

Karl Marx said that there were only class truths. Today we have a large variety of truths: truths for feminists, truths for blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, homosexuals, transgendered, truths for the foreign policy community that serves the military/security complex, truths for the neocons, truths for the One Percent that control the economy and the economists who serve them, truths for �white supremacists,� itself a truth term for their opponents. You can add to the list. The �truth� in these �truths� is that they are self-serving of the group that expresses them. Their actual relation to truth is of no consequence to those espousing the �truths.�

Woe to you if you don�t go along with someone�s or some group�s truth. Not even famous film-maker Oliver Stone is immune. Recently, Stone expressed his frustration with the �False Flag War Against Russia.� Little doubt that Stone is frustrated with taunts and accusations from completely ignorant media talking heads in response to his documentary, Putin, based on many hours of interviews over two years. Stone came under fire, because instead of demonizing Putin and Russia, thus confirming the official story, he showed us glimpses of the truth.

The organization, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, published a report that completely destroyed the false accusations about Trump/Russian hacking of the US presidential election. The Nation published an objective article about the report and was assaulted by writers, contributors, and readers for publishing information that weakens the case, which the liberal/progressive/left in conjunction with the military/security complex, is orchestrating against Trump. The magazine�s audience felt that the magazine had an obligation not to truth but to getting Trump out of office. Reportedly, the editor is considering whether to recall the article.

So here we have left-leaning Oliver Stone and leftwing magazine, The Nation, under fire for making information available that is out of step with the self-serving �truth� to which the liberal/progressive/left and their ally, the military/security complex, are committed.

When a country has a population among whom thare are no truths except group-specific truths, the country is so divided as to be over and done with. �A house divided against itself cannot stand.� The white liberal/progressive/left leaders of divisive Identity Politics have little, if any, comprehension of where the movement they think they lead is headed. At the moment the hate is focused on the �alt-right,� which has become �white nationalists,� which has become �white supremacists.� These �white supremacists� have become epitomized by statues of Confederate soldiers and generals. All over the South, if local governments are not removing the statues, violent crazed thugs consumed by hate attempt to destroy them. In New Orleans someone with money bused in thugs from outside flying banners that apparently are derived from a communist flag to confront locals protesting the departure of their history down the Orwellian Memory Hole.

What happens when all the monuments are gone? Where does the hate turn next? Once non-whites are taught to hate whites, not even self-hating whites are safe. How do those taught hate tell a good white from a bad white? They can�t and they won�t. By definition by Identity Politics, whites, for now white heterosexual males, are the vicimizers and everyone else is their victim. The absurdity of this concept is apparent, yet the concept is unshaken by its absurdity. White heterosexual males are the only ones without the privilege of quotas. They and only they can be put at the back of the bus for university admissions, employment, promotion, and only their speech is regulated. They, and only they, can be fired for using �gender specific terms,� for using race specific terms, for unknowingly offending some preferred group member by using a word that is no longer permissible. They can be called every name in the book, beginning with racist, misogynist, and escalating, and no one is punished for the offense.

Recently, a professor in the business school of a major university told me that he used the word, girls, in a marketing discussion. A young womyn was offended. The result was he received a dressing down from the dean. Another professor told me that at his university there was a growing list of blacklisted words. It wasn�t clear whether the list was official or unofficial, simply professors trying to stay up with Identiy Politics and avoid words that could lead to their dismissal. Power, they tell me, is elsewhere than in the white male, the true victimized class.

For years commentators have recognized the shrinking arena of free speech in the United States. Any speech that offends anyone but a white male can be curtailed by punishment. Recently, John Whitehead, constitutional attorney who heads the Rutherford Institute, wrote that it is now dangerous just to defend free speech. Reference to the First Amendment suffices to bring denunciation and threats of violence. Ron Unz notes that any website that can be demonized as �controversial� can find itself disappeared by Internet companies and PayPal. They simply terminate free speech by cutting off service.

It must be difficult to teach some subjects, such as the �civil war� for example. How would it be possible to describe the actual facts? For example, for decades prior to the Union�s invasion of the Confederacy North/South political conflict was over tariffs, not over slavery.

The fight over which new states created from former �Indian� territories would be �slave� and which �free� was a fight over keeping the protectionist (North) vs. free trade (South) balance in Congress equal so that the budding industrial north could not impose a tariff regime. Two days before Lincoln�s inaugural address, a stiff tariff was signed into law. That same day in an effort to have the South accept the tariff and remain in or return to the Union�some southern states had seceded, some had not�Congress passed the Corwin amendment that provided constitutional protection to slavery. The amendment prohibited the federal government from abolishing slavery.

Two days later in his inaugural address, which seems to be aimed at the South, Lincoln said: �I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.�

Lincoln�s beef with the South was not over slavery or the Fugitive Slave Act. Lincoln did not accept the secessions and still intended to collect the tariff that now was law. Under the Constitution slavery was up to the states, but the Constitution gave the federal government to right to levy a tariff. Lincoln said that �there needs to be no bloodshed or violence� over collecting the tariff. Lincoln said he will use the government�s power only �to collect the duties and imposts,� and that �there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.�

Here is Lincoln, �the Great Emancipator,� telling the South that they can have slavery if they will pay the duties and imposts on imports. How many black students and whites brainwashed by Identity Politics are going to sit there and listen to such a tale and not strongly protest the racist professor justifying white supremacy and slavery?

So what happens to history when you can�t tell it as it is, but instead have to refashion it to fit the preconceived beliefs formed by Identity Politics? The so-called �civil war,� of course, is far from the only example.

In its document of secession, South Carolina made a case that the Constitutional contract had been broken by some of the northern states breaking faith with Article IV of the Constitution. This is true. However, it is also true that the Southern states had no inclination to abide by Section 8 of Article I, which says that �Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises.� So, also the South by not accepting the tariff was not constitutionally pure.

Before history became politicized, historians understood that the North intended for the South to bear costs of the North�s development of industry and manufacturing. The agricultural South preferred the lower priced goods from England. The South understood that a tariff on British goods would push import prices above the high northern prices and lower the South�s living standards in the interest of raising living standards in the North. The conflict was entirely economic and had nothing whatsoever to do with slavery, which also had existed in the North. Indeed, some northern states had �exclusion ordinances� and anti-immigration provisions in their state constitutions that prohibited the immigration of blacks into northern states.

If freeing slaves were important to the North and avoiding tariffs was important to the South, one can imagine some possible compromises. For example, the North could have committed to building factories in the South. As the South became industrialized, new centers of wealth would arise independently from the agricultural plantations that produced cotton exports. The labor force would adjust with the economy, and slavery would have evolved into free labor.

Unfortunately, there were too many hot heads. And so, too, today.

In America there is nothing on the horizon but hate. Everywhere you look in America you see nothing but hate. Putin is hated. Russia is hated. Muslims are hated. Venezuela is hated. Assad is hated. Iran is hated. Julian Assange is hated. Edward Snowden is hated. White heterosexual males are hated. Confederate monuments are hated. Truth-tellers are hated. �Conspiracy theorists� are hated. No one escapes being hated.

Hate groups are proliferating, especially on the liberal/progressive/left. For example, RootsAction has discovered a statue of Robert E. Lee in the U.S. Capitol and urges all good people to demand its removal. Whether the level of ignorance that RootsAction personifies is real or just a fund-raising ploy, I do not know. But clearly RootsAction is relying on public ignorance in order to get the response that they want. In former times when the US had an educated population, everyone understood that there was a great effort to reconcile the North and South and that reconciliation would not come from the kind of hate-mongering that now infects RootsAction and most of the action groups and websites of the liberal/progressive/left.

Today our country is far more divided that it was in 1860. Identity Politics has taught Americans to hate each other, but, neverheless, the zionist neoconservatives assure us that we are �the indispensable, exceptional people.� We, a totally divided people, are said to have the right to rule the world and to bomb every country that doesn�t accept our will into the stone age.

In turn the world hates America. Washington has told too many lies about other countries and used those lies to destroy them. Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, and large chunks of Syria and Pakistan are in ruins. Washington intends yet more ruin with Venezuela currently in the cross hairs.

Eleven years ago Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez resonated with many peoples when he said in his UN speech: �Yesterday at this very podium stood Satan himself [Bush], speaking as if he owned the world; you can still smell the sulphur.�

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that America is a font for hatred both at home and abroad. more

Climate Grief

Below is a pretty good description of what the author calls "climate grief"�the crushing realization that everything at all lovely...