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Activist Post: The Winners of The Ukraine Revolution: Austerity, Fascism, and the EU

Activist Post: The Winners of The Ukraine Revolution: Austerity, Fascism, and the EU.

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post

To anyone who had a passing knowledge of the nature of color revolutions and destabilization efforts in years past, the recent protests in Ukraine were an obvious example of foreign meddling in the domestic affairs of yet another Eastern European nation.

From the initial spates of violence coming largely from the direction of the protesters to the pro-EU and pro-IMF demands, it was clear from the very beginning that the Ukrainian people were being callously pulled back and forth between two world powers indifferent to any interests but their own.

These powers, the United States and Russia, have been covertly jockeying for more and more control over Ukraine, a strategic location for both countries, for the last several years. Yet, as the United States’ power and influence begins to wane and Russia’s begins to increase on the world stage, the risk of both powers clashing over Ukraine in a direct fashion becomes a bigger possibility by the day.

While tensions between the United States and Russia have escalated over the last three years through the Syrian crisis, Ukraine is more than a simple sphere-of-influence region for Russia. It is a sphere-of-influence region that borders the homeland. For this reason alone, the level of importance attributed to Ukraine by Russia is obviously higher than that of Syria in the long run.

Interestingly enough, it is for this same reason that the United States considers Ukraine such a vital sphere-of-influence nation as well. That is, the fact that Ukraine lies on the doorstep of Russia.

Although the reasons for considering Ukraine an extremely important part of the world by both the United States and Russia cannot simply be boiled down to that of a border issue, the fact remains that the potential for a direct collision between two world nuclear powers is a possibility if the meddling continues.

In the meantime, as the Ukrainian people are being used as battering rams for the will of world elites, they are quite clearly the guaranteed loser no matter what decision is made. With the recent success of the Western-backed color revolution, what is also clear is that the only winner in Ukraine is austerity, Fascism, the IMF, and, of course, the world elites. International bankers, as usual, are salivating over the coming feast that will come at the expense of the living standards of the Ukrainian people and the coffers of the Ukrainian government.

Even before a ruling government can be formed by the leading color revolutionary leaders Yatsenyuk, Klitschko, and other relevant agents of destabilization, the acting President, Oleksander Turchinov, is stating that European integration is a high priority of the new government. This, of course, means that Ukraine will soon move forward in becoming a full-fledged member in good standing of the new European Soviet known as the European Union.

In addition, leading contender for the post of Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and the Parliamentary leader of the Fatherland Party, is now calling on the rest of Parliament to immediately come to agreement on a new government so that Ukraine can now crawl to the International Monetary Fund for “emergency economic assistance.” As one may expect, the IMF has already declared that it will require harsh austerity measures and other “economic changes” in exchange for any aid to Ukraine.

The $15 billion bailout package provided by Russia to Ukraine in December has now been suspended, placing Ukraine in imminent danger of default. The Hryvna, the Ukrainian currency, has been sharply devalued and the country’s bond rating has been downgraded in such a dramatic fashion that Ukraine is no longer able to borrow on international markets. Foreign reserves have also dropped dramatically.

If conditions persist, Ukraine will soon no longer be able to pay public pensions and salaries.

Yet austerity is not the only result of the recent Ukrainian “revolution.” Subtle and even outright Fascism has come to dominate not only the demonstrations themselves but the relatively young “transitional” phase now taking place.

Indeed, this relatively new trend of Fascist rule was enunciated in a recent statement by Natalia Vitrenko of the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine, a party that asserts its opposition to both the Orange Revolution installment of Yuschenko as well as the polices of Yanukovych.

Vitrenko first began by describing the nature of the movement used to oust Yanukovych by pointing out that many of the most powerful elements of the anti-Yanukovych movement, or Euromaidan, were indeed fascists and neo-Nazi’s. She stated,

Washington and Brussels should hear our warnings. We hold them responsible for all they have done to transfer power to the political forces responsible for establishing this totalitarian Nazi regime in Ukraine, with the inevitable gross violation of the rights and freedoms of millions of our fellow citizens.

The U.S. and EU should know that this power grab by political parties and movements including neo-Nazi forces (such as “Svoboda – Freedom” and “Right Sector”) , announced the implementation of a national revolution under the slogans “Ukraine for Ukrainians,” “Glory to the nation – death to enemies,” “Muscovite tools and Communists to the gallows!” and others.

Starting on February 22, this new government must assume all responsibility throughout Ukraine for the violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens.

Vitrenko then went on to discuss the events currently unfolding in Ukraine including the capture of government buildings as well as political intimidation, force, beatings, shootings, and even lynchings of those seen as pro-government or opposed to the positions of the Western-backed fascists. Vitrenko states,

Insurgents and terrorists continue to capture Euromaidan administrative buildings and local authorities in the South and East of Ukraine. Using terrorist methods, voters have been deprived of their rights and of the authority of their elected representatives in local councils. Civilians defending their choices have been mercilessly shot by gunmen armed with Kalashinkovs, rifles, and other combat weapons, as for example on February 22 in Lugansk.

Militants not endowed with any legitimate police authority have arrogated emergency police powers to themselves, using axes and sticks to block central thoroughfares, halting cars to carry out inspections and verification of documents of passengers, and arresting people. They have blocked the entrance to the airport and thus grossly violated the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which guarantees the inviolability of the person, freedom of movement, the presumption of innocence, and the right to security and life. All the people of Ukraine have been humiliated and denied their dignity and rights.

Already on February 23 representatives of the new government announced the formation of the Ukrainian nation: they proclaim that anyone who uses the Russian language will be subjected to deprivation of their native-born status of Ukrainian ethnicity and will be discriminated against in civil and political rights.

The new regime has already announced their intention to ban the broadcast channels of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine, branding them as the TV channels of a hostile state . This is the way the new government defends the European values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The regime is preparing lists of enemies who are subject to proscription. This mechanism will deprive of civil and political rights all those who do not share the neo-Nazi views of the new Ukrainian authorities.

Across the country, ghoulish lynchings continue. People are being beaten and stoned, while undesirable members of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine are subject to mass intimidation and local officials see their families and children targeted by death threats if they do not support the installation of this new political power. The new Ukrainian authorities are massively burning the offices of political parties they do not like, and have publicly announced the threat of criminal prosecution and prohibition of political parties and public organizations that do not share the ideology and goals of the new regime.

In addition, Vitrenko adds that “Euromaidan militants are seizing Orthodox shrines like the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, seeking to transfer them to dissenting churchmen like Filaret. The intention is to grab all the churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to conform them to the Vatican.”

In other words, those few participants who at first joined the movement to fight against government corruption and for whatever they perceived to be a better political structure or simply those that were paid to fight in the streets, have been pushed out of the movement after the seizure of power was accomplished. In their place are the more militant wings of the movement such as the political parties mentioned above and the brutal thugs sanctioned by Western governments.

In the end, with the full support of the West, particularly the U.S. State Department, the recent successful “regime change” effort in Ukraine still has the potential to turn into an explosive situation in the literal sense. Aside from the moral qualms of allowing foreign powers the ability to dictate to smaller states the political direction which they must take, provoking a confrontation between two major world powers – both with nuclear capability – is a recipe for disaster.

From Syria to Ukraine, a new geopolitical race has been initiated with a clear destination firmly in the minds of the world political elites currently directing both sides of the contest. That direction, while potentially beneficial for those in positions of power, spells nothing but destruction for the rest of us.

Recently by Brandon Turbeville:

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 275 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com. 

Activist Post: Agenda 21 For Your Own Good: Global Health Security Initiative

Activist Post: Agenda 21 For Your Own Good: Global Health Security Initiative.

Dr. Rima Laibow, Medical Director
Natural Solutions Foundation

The genocidal maniacs are at it again. The usual suspects (WHO, UN, IMF, World Bank, US, Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, etc.) have concocted a new scheme which is, quite literally, nothing short of Agenda 21 at the end of a gun, for your own good, of course. It has lovely, soothing and safe-sounding name: the Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI).[1]

Reading about this monstrous intrusion on our life and health, I channeled the new verse that I am sure they are singing soulfully when they give throat to the Kill The Useless Eaters Rag hit(man) tune (perhaps at Bohemian Grove?). This may be the most ingenious genocidal ploy so far – it certainly had the potential to become easily the deadliest!

Here’s the chorus (which, oddly enough, seems to work equally well in just about every language): 

We need ‘em dead
Don’t want ‘em fed
Useless eaters’ human forces
Consume OUR non-renewable natural resources!
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

And the newest verse:
People are sources of infection, 
Vectors of disease in every direction. 
Making sure that they are dead 
Mean’s there’s nothing they can spread 
They cannot reproduce: 
So diseases are reduced. 
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

The Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI) is an audacious new plan to “control” infectious disease and antibiotic resistance [2] which, in 9 dryly worded, reasonable sounding points, neatly wipes out your freedom, your movement, your health choice including your right to refuse vaccines or other “treatment” and, in fact, you very right to be alive[3]. In other words, Agenda 21 arrives in a white coat with an army of enforcers enabled, transnationally, to do whatever it takes to protect you, including relocation, deportation, and termination.

They are confronting a serious security problem, though: If you are alive, after all, you are a potential site of, and source for, infection. But their pet scientists-on-a-leash solved that one rather neatly:

Make sure you are dead. Then, you can’t provide the protectors with the problems of infection, transmission, and you have no descendants who can become infected and transmit disease. Knowing that, don’t you feel safer already?

The UN Secretary General has a couple of red-hot protégés[4], who have come up with this devastatingly crazy solution to the problem: Reducing population means fewer people to get infections and to spread it. It also means they cannot reproduce so their children will not be born, meaning THEY cannot get or spread infection.[5],[6] VOILA! Abracadabra! Shazam! The world just became safer because there are now fewer infected people and their progeny!

But that’s not enough! The GHSI has set its site on eliminating antibiotic resistance, too[7]. Never mind that captive, corporatist regulators created the problem of antibiotic resistance, which, according to the CDC sickens and kills huge numbers of people per year[8], created the problem by allowing inhumane and unwholesome factory farm practices using antibiotics to keep stressed and sick animals alive[9],[10] and permitting genetic markers of antibiotic resistant genes to be used, and spread in a totally uncontrolled fashion, in patented GMO life and “food” forms.[11],[12],[13] These genes create antibiotic resistance in the environment, the food chain and – in us.

Such industry-friendly, consumer-dangerous practices were long predicted to create the antibiotic resistance problem which we have now[14],[15] but regulators have their salaries paid by the government but their futures assured by the industries that they supposedly regulate. The lure to deep corruption and betrayal of the public trust is irresistible for most. The cost is life and health for all, to say nothing of the total loss of regulatory authority and responsibility.

By the way, about 90% of the world’s antibiotic trade is in factory farms. The highly profitable business model is to make sick animals sicker, get us to eat them and then make us even sicker so we use drugs (or, better yet, use drugs and then die).

Of course, if the initiators of GHSI actually wanted to solve these problems, they would abandon the ineffective and dangerous vaccine route, give up on antibiotics which are expensive, toxic and not particularly good for long-term solutions, as we have seen, and concentrate on safe, inexpensive, deployable and available natural solutions to the global health problems.

Unless, of course, the global health problems are the solution to another problem! Such as alleged over-population, perhaps?

If the agenda were really to eliminate and control infectious disease, not population and freedom, GSHI would be vigorously developing and recommending the deployment of Nano silver, which is effective against every known disease-causing organism and which has zero toxicity for any person in any condition.[16] They would be building up stocks of IV Vitamin C, Zinc, selenium and other powerful immune boosting nutrients.

They would also be using their immense resources for the deployment of the technologies which have been shown over and over to eliminate infectious disease: clean and abundant food and water, clean air, improved hygiene. These are the strategies that reduced diseases in the 20th century, not dangerous vaccines or even antibiotics.

Of course, there is another way to halt the global infectious disease threat: stop creating it.

Laboratories of private companies like Monsanto create monstrosities and then skip free of any consequences. For example, it appears that MSRA was created in a laboratory in France and flushed down the drain by lab personnel.[17] MSRA kills hundreds of thousands of people or more each year.[18]

New genetic monstrosities like the avian flu (H1N1) apparently intentionally re-crafted with the genetic sequence that made the 1918 flu so deadly woven into it and, evidence suggests, SARS[19],[20],[21] and Swine Flu (H5N1)[22],[23] may well all be lab creations: all gifts that keep on giving, via the vaccines that are so strongly correlated with their spread[24],[25],[26].

The hybrid Avian Flu came out of a Mount Sinai School of Medicine 6 year project sponsored not by Osama Bin Laden, but by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)[27]. Swine Flu appears to have originated in a WHO lab.[28],[29]

To stop the spread of infection, the globalist “health” community could stop producing deadly organisms. That would help a lot, it seems to me.

But GHSI has another idea. Instead, they propose to centralize the dangerous organisms for both research and storage. Hmmmm. Good idea. Make the facilities, which are inherently vulnerable, fewer in number so they can be penetrated, seized, used by the already demonstrably insane genocidalists or other terrorists.

“Mistakes” like the one that Baxter made (when it had an exclusive contract with 18 European countries to supply vaccines in the event of a flu pandemic) when it sent vast amounts of vaccine contaminated with live, infective H1N1 virus to those 18 countries won’t happen again, right?[30]

The vial of similarly infective H1N1 viruses which “mysteriously” exploded in a passenger compartment on a crowded train in Switzerland[31] would never happen again, right? What a great plan.

Clearly, the lunatic and lethal Global Health Security Initiative must be halted. You can help make that happen. Visit http://TinyURL.com/EndGHSI NOW to tell your legislators and decision makers not to fund or support GHSI immediately. Then send the link to everyone you can reach.

Don’t forget to LIKE, Share and Tweet the Action Item, http://TinyURL.com/EndGHSI .

Friend us at FB: /NaturalSolutionsFoundation. Friend us in Spanish at FB: /NaturalSolutionsChile

Act as if your life depends upon it. It does.

Sources and Notes:

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/security/
[2] http://unchronicle.un.org/article/national-security-and-pandemics/
[3] http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/02/13/making-world-safer-pandemic-threats-new-agenda-global-health-security
[4] http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~rohani/paperpdfs/Bonds_etal2009.pdf
[5] Bonds, M.H. & Rohani, P., Reducing Fertility More Effective than Vaccinating for Global Health and Economic Development; A Simple Ecological Framework. J.Roy. Soc.Interface 7:541-547.
[6] Bonds, M.H. 2006. “Sociality, Sterility, and Poverty; Host-Pathogen Coevolution, with
Implications for Human Ecology,” Ph.D. Dissertation (Ecology), University of Georgia, Athens, GA
[7] http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/threat-report-2013/
[8] At least sickening hundreds of thousands and killing at least 23,000 annually in the US alone.http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/threat-report-2013/
[9] Levy, Stuart B. (March 1998). “The Challenge of Antibiotic Resistance”Scientific American: 46–53.
[10] Wegener, H. C. (2003). “Antibiotics in animal feed and their role in resistance development”. Current Opinion in Microbiology 6 (5): 439–445.doi:10.1016/j.mib.2003.09.009
[11] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/264119.stm
[12] http://grist.org/article/first-came-superweeds-and-now-come-the-superbugs/
[13] http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/doc/opinion_gmo_05_en1.pdf
[14] http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/medicine_03
[15] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19001196
[16] There is a significant difference between colloidal silver, which I do not recommend unless there is no other option, and nano silver which I do recommend. To enhance its effectiveness further, nano silver should be frequency enhanced like Silver Sol, www.DrRimaKnows.com, but whatever nano silver is accessed, it should be stored in reasonable quantity since it has a long shelf life and may become unavailable.
[17] http://curezone.org/forums/fm.asp?i=1062773
[18] http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/doc/opinion_gmo_05_en1.pdf
[19] Alexander Batalin (29 April 2003). “SARS Pneumonia Virus, Synthetic Manmade, according to Russian Scientist”. Centre for Research on Globalisation. Retrieved 2007-08-16. (reporting on a news conference in Irkutsk (Siberia) on 10 April 2003)
[20] “SARS could be biological weapon: experts”. ABC News. April 12, 2003.
[21] “Sars biological weapon?”. http://www.news24.com. 11 April 2003
[22] http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-253790
[23] http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/cdc-admits-the-a-h1n1-flu-was-created-in-a-government-lab/blog-67587/
[24] http://www.theorganicprepper.ca/did-you-know-that-nasal-flu-vax-recipients-can-pass-the-flu-to-everyone-around-them-for-up-to-21-days-01032014
[25] http://andrewmaniotis.wordpress.com/vaccines-how-to-predict-epidemics-3/
[26] Increased Risk of Noninfluenza Respiratory Virus Infections Associated With Receipt of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine; Clinical Infectious Diseases; Benjamin J. Cowling, Vicky J. Fang, Hiroshi Nishiura,
Kwok-Hung Chan, Sophia Ng, Dennis K. M.lp, Susan S. Chiu, Gabriel M. Leung} and J. S. Malik Peir; DOI: 10.1093/cid/cis307
[27] http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/23462/title/Flu-genome-sequenced/
[28] http://dalje.com/en-world/swine-flu-created-in-lab-as-bio-weapon/254118
[29] http://www.thelibertybeacon.com/2013/06/27/proof-that-the-swine-flu-epidemic-was-man-made-and-intentional/
[30] http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?sid=aTo3LbhcA75I&pid=newsarchive
[31] http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/virus-alarm-in-switzerland-swine-flu-container-explodes-on-train-a-621598.html

Rima E. Laibow, MD, who is licensed to practice medicine in 3 states, has practiced drug free medicine and psychiatry for nearly 45 years. She is the Medical Director of the Natural Solutions Foundation, www.DrRimaTruthReports.com, the world’s largest Health Freedom organization. Her email is DrRima@GlobalHealthFreedom.org.

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Why Banks Are Doomed: Technology and Risk

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Why Banks Are Doomed: Technology and Risk.

It’s not just that banks are no longer needed–they pose a needless and potentially catastrophic risk to the nation. To understand why, we need to understand the key characteristics of risk.

The entire banking sector is based on two illusions:

1. Thanks to modern portfolio management, bank debt is now riskless.

2. Technology only enhances banks’ tools to skim profits; it does not undermine the fundamental role of banks.

The global financial meltdown of 2008-09 definitively proved riskless bank debt is an illusion. If you want to understand why risk cannot eliminated, please read Benoit Mandelbrot’s book The (Mis)Behavior of Markets.

Technology does not just enable high-frequency trading; it enables capital and borrowers to bypass banks entirely. I addressed this yesterday in Banks Are Obsolete: The Entire Parasitic Sector Can Be Eliminated.

Unfortunately for banks, higher education, buggy whip manufacturers, etc., monopoly and propaganda are no match for technology. Just because a system worked in the past in a specific set of technological constraints does not mean it continues to be a practical solution when those technological constraints dissolve.

The current banking system is essentially based on two 19th century legacies. In that bygone era, banks were a repository of accounting expertise (keeping track of multitudes of accounts, interest, etc.) and risk assessment/management expertise (choosing the lowest-risk borrowers).

Both of these functions are now automated. The funny thing about technology is that those threatened by fundamental improvements in technology attempt to harness it to save their industry from extinction. For example, overpriced colleges now charge thousands of dollars for nearly costless massively open online courses (MOOCs) because they retain a monopoly on accreditation (diplomas). Once students are accredited directly–an advancement enabled by technology–colleges’ monopoly disappears and so does their raison d’etre.

The same is true of banks. Now that accounting and risk assessment are automated, and borrowers and owners of capital can exchange funds in transparent digital marketplaces, there is no need for banks. But according to banks, only they have the expertise to create riskless debt.

It’s not just that banks are no longer needed–they pose a needless and potentially catastrophic risk to the nation. To understand why, we need to understand the key characteristics of risk.

Moral hazard is what happens when people who make bad decisions suffer no consequences. Once decision-makers offload consequence onto others, they are free to make increasingly risky bets, knowing that they will personally suffer no losses if the bets go bad.

The current banking system is defined by moral hazard. “Too big to fail” also means “too big to jail:” no matter how criminal or risky the bank managements’ decisions, the decision-makers not only suffered no consequences, they walked away from the smouldering ruins with tens of millions of dollars in personal wealth.
Absent any consequence, the system created perverse incentives to pyramid risky bets and derivatives to increase profits–a substantial share of which flowed directly into the personal accounts of the managers.

The perfection of moral hazard in the current banking system can be illustrated by what happened to the last CEO of Lehman Brother, Richard Fuld: he walked away from the wreckage with $222 million. This is not an outlier; it is the direct result of a system based on moral hazard, too-big-to-jail and perverse incentives to increase systemic risk for personal gain.

And who picked up all the losses? The American taxpayer. Privatize profits, socialize losses: that’s the heart of moral hazard.

Concentrating the ability to leverage stupendous systemic bets in a few hands leads to a concentration of risk. Just before America’s financial sector imploded, banks had pyramided $2.5 trillion in dodgy mortgages into derivatives and exotic financial instruments with a face value of $35 trillion–14 times the underlying collateral and more than double the size of the U.S. economy.

In a web-enabled transparent exchange of borrowers bidding for capital, the risk is intrinsically dispersed over millions of participants. Not only is risk dispersed, but the consequences of bad decisions and bad bets fall solely to those who made the decision and the bet. This is the foundation of a sound, stable, fair financial system.

In a transparent marketplace of millions of participants, a handful of participants will be unable to acquire enough profit to capture the political process. The present banking system is not just a financial threat to the nation, it is a political threat because its outsized profits enable bankers to capture the regulatory and governance machinery.

chart courtesy of Market Daily Briefing

The problem with concentrating leverage and moral hazard is that risk is also concentrated. And when risk is concentrated rather than dispersed, it inevitably breaks out of the “riskless” corral. This is the foundation of my aphorism: Central planning perfects the power of threats to bypass the system’s defenses.

We can understand this dynamic with an analogy to bacteria and antibiotics. By attempting to eliminate the risk of infection by flooding the system with antibiotics, central planning actually perfects the search for bacteria that are immune to the antibiotics. These few bacteria will bypass the system’s defenses and destroy the system from within.

The banking/financial sector claims to be eliminating risk, but what it’s actually doing is perfecting the threats that will destroy the system from within. Another way to understand this is to look at what happened to home mortgages in the runup to the meltdown of 2008: the “safest” part of the financial sector ended up triggering the collapse of the entire pyramid of risk.

Once we concentrate risk and impose perverse incentives and moral hazard as the foundations of our financial/banking system, then we guarantee the risk will explode out of whatever sector is considered “safe.”

Once you eliminate the “risk” of weak bacteria, you perfect the threat that will kill the host.

The banking sector cannot be reformed, for its very nature is to concentrate systemic risk and moral hazard into breeding grounds of systemic collapse. The only way to eliminate the threat posed by banks is to eliminate the banks and replace them with transparent exchanges where borrowers and owners of capital openly bid for yield (interest rates) and capital.

Bankers (and their fellow financial parasites) will claim they are essential and the nation will collapse without them. But this is precisely opposite of reality: the very existence of banks threatens the nation and democracy.

One last happy thought: technology cannot be put back in the bottle. The financial/banking sector wants to use technology to increase its middleman skim, but the technology that is already out of the bottle will dismantle the sector as a function of what technology enables: faster, better, cheaper, with greater transparency, fairness and the proper distribution of risk.

There may well be a place for credit unions and community banks in the spectrum of exchanges, but these localized, decentralized enterprises would be unable to amass dangerous concentrations of risk and political influence in a truly transparent and decentralized system of exchanges.

Of related interest:

Certainty, Complex Systems, and Unintended Consequences (February 14, 2014)

Our Middleman-Skimming Economy (February 11, 2014)

“House Of Cards”‘ Top 3 Lessons For A Naive Voting Public | Zero Hedge

“House Of Cards”‘ Top 3 Lessons For A Naive Voting Public | Zero Hedge.

Unlike so many television shows, House of Cards shows how politicians use their power to help themselves and their friends – not the people who elected them. The fictional character at the center of the series, Frank Underwood, shows us the pitfalls of bureaucratic democracy. As professor Steve Horwitz explains in this brief clip, the series exposes the truth of public choice theory, rent seeking behavior, psychopathic tendencies, Machiavellian inclinations, corruption, and scandal. House of Cards is not that far from reality theses days and the following 3 lessons should be heeded by every voter.

 

Activist Post: New Research Supports Many Benefits of Local Farming

Activist Post: New Research Supports Many Benefits of Local Farming.

Policy makers should value environmental, health benefits of small-scale local farming, researcher argues.

Jeffrey Green
Activist Post 

While the biotech industry continues to assert that modern-day farming must be driven by genetic modification in order to provide more consistent crop production in ever greater numbers, an increasing number of independent studies argue just the opposite.

When it comes to food production, it is one of the manymyths of GMO; GMOs do not provide more food, but do offer Big Ag companies increased profits on the need for more pesticides, herbicides, and patented seeds.

Natural agriculture practices are the real answer, and another new study backs it up.

We are often shown images of starving people in Third World countries who presumably need saving by corporate conglomerates. However, in just one example, poverty-stricken rice and potato farmers in India confirmed record-breaking yields after switching to truly organic food production. (Source)

This is a similar story as others reported in Africa, with incredible additional benefits to the economy and human rights (read the full report here).

Another study showed that biodiversity from polyculture outperforms industrial farming by reducing the chemicals required.

A study by the University of California, Berkeley, presented exhaustive alternatives to current practices. One section of the paper cited research pointing to the positive effects of biodiversity on the numbers of herbivore pests, finding that polycultural planting led to reduction of pest populations by up to 64%. Later, combined results of hundreds of comparisons also favored biologically diverse farms with a 54% increase in pest mortality and damage to crops dropping by almost 25%. The introduction of more diverse insects also promoted increased pollination and healthier crops.(sourceecology and society)

And yet another:

A 9-year study conducted by researchers from the USDA, University of Minnesota and Iowa State University proved that in more complex systems, yield AND profits were both enhanced. When paired against the conventional corn/soy rotation, less fertilizer was used. This difference actually increased over the course of the study, indicating the quality of the soil was improving over time, instead of experiencing the depletion of common practices. (source Union of Concerned Scientists)

The switch to local farming methods protects and enhances this essential biodiversity that is now increasingly lacking around the world according to Timothy Johns, Professor of Human Nutrition at McGill University in Montreal.

Diets for most people around the world are becoming increasingly limited in biological and nutritional diversity. “Large-scale agriculture is characteristically simplified and less diverse than small-holder agriculture,” Prof. Johns cautions. “This is true in genetic, ecological and nutritional terms.”

The answer, according to Johns, is to use the intrinsic benefits of local farming; namely the “range of wild species of fruit, vegetables, condiments and medicines, as well as wild animal-sourced foods,” but then couple that with new technologies that can help local farmers meet the productivity levels needed for an increasing population.

Johns’ conclusions fly in the face of what we are consistently told by mega food corporations like Monsanto; that only they have the capacity to feed an exploding global population. On the contrary, local farming empowered with technology can surpass large-scale growing operations. Professor Johns explains:

Using family members in farming reduces labor and supervision costs, while a more intimate knowledge of the local soil, plants and animals enables smallholders to maximize output. In Brazil, for example, national data from the Censo Agropecuário shows that “family farms” produce 38 percent of national agricultural value from 24 percent of the agricultural land. An assessment of 286 projects in 57 countries, moreover, shows that low-cost, sustainable and diversity-enhancing technologies increased average crop yields on small farms by 79 percent since the early 1990s.

This research highlights the importance of local culture in offering inherent knowledge of which products grow best within a given region, while also preserving the health benefits that have been established through the same train of communicated knowledge.

“Products of biodiversity within culturally-based diets provide essential micronutrients and lower prevalence of diet-related chronic disease.”

Professor Johns specifically notes a developing malady in the First World – being obese, but lacking nutrients that provide true health. In other words, most of the First World is not caloriedeficient, they are deficient in trace minerals and nutrients:

Carbohydrates — mainly cereals, sugars, potatoes and other tubers — and vegetable oils produced efficiently by large-scale agriculture and distributed through global trade are more affordable for many people than lower-calorie, more nutritious foods. In many cases, the result is a form of malnutrition defined by overconsumption of calories. This has helped fuel a growing global epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Johns research urges policy makers to look more closely at the growing body of research indicating that the Monsantos of the world are not the be-all, end-all answer to starving populations and the undernourished; the answer lies in local family farming that supports the previous studies linked above. In all of these studies, it is not only bellies that get filled; it is the strengthening of entire communities economically, socially, and culturally, while still providing healthy nutritious food.

Johns offers one concrete example of how this functions:

Brazil’s National School Feeding Law and program since 2009 requires that at least 30 percent of food in the program must come from family agriculture. It also has explicit guidelines for the use of healthy food in school menus, including foods that respect the culture and traditions; and it provides incentives for the purchase of diversified foods, preferably from local family agriculture.

“Food-policy makers around the world should seek to develop novel compensation mechanisms that reflect the benefits of small-scale, biodiverse agriculture . . . This may involve direct subsidies to farmers, but it must also involve investment in extension services, infrastructure, supply-chain research and development, and progressive market regulation.”

In lieu of solutions being found in the compromised political institutions of the West, which are often populated by the revolving door of corporate farming, I would urge readers to investigate novel technologies that are showing great promise for both small- and large-scale farming that have the power to supercharge natural production anywhere in the world – found in the following article links:

For more information on the symposium being given by Professor Timothy Johns please visit: http://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2014/webprogram/Session7028.html

8 Logical Fallacies That Misinform Our Minds | DeSmog Canada

8 Logical Fallacies That Misinform Our Minds | DeSmog Canada.

Imagine coming across a piece of reliable information that contradicts everything you’ve ever believed about, say, global warming or the war on terror. It would likely prompt the question: if you were wrong about such an important issue, what else could you be wrong about? What’s more, if you’ve been wrong about a bunch of things, then perhaps you’re not quite as well-informed as you had previously believed.
Thoughts like these are jarring ones because they threaten our sense of self — making us feel stupid, empty, even worthless. Unsurprisingly then, most people’s willingness to open up to new information depends largely on how this information will challenge or coincide with their preconceived notions of what is good or bad, right or wrong, true or false.
According to a study by researchers at the University of Waterloo, called Self-Affirmation and Sensitivity to Argument Strength, when people are presented with corrective information that runs counter to their ideology, those who most strongly identify with the ideology will intensify their incorrect beliefs. And as such, the greater the challenge new information poses to a person’s self-worth, the less likely it is to have any impact at all on them.
If there’s something positive to draw from these uncomfortable realizations of our purposeful ignorance, it’s that if we take the time to better understand why and how people think and feel the way they do, these inherent biases can be successfully mitigated and controlled.
And with this aim in mind, what follows — keeping in mind that I have likely succumb to a few of these during the writing of this piece, as you will during the process of reading it — are eight of the most commonplace logical fallacies that misinform our minds every day.
1. Backfire effect: As mentioned above, the more a piece of information lowers self-worth, the more likely it is to be rejected outright. Therefore, new information can create such ideological insecurity that people will manufacture counterarguments to the point that they overcompensate and become more convinced of their original views. Hence, instead of convincing someone to question an invalidated belief, fresh information can actually ‘backfire’ by strengthening the grasp a refuted opinion has on an individual.
Monkey see, monkey do. Image Credit: danmachold/Flickr
2. Status quo bias: We tend to be apprehensive of change, and this often leads us to make choices motivated by the desire to keep things as familiar as possible. This is because for most people the current baseline is taken as a reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss. Needless to say, preference for the status quo represents a core component of conservative ideology – militarism, austerity and environmental exploitation are all-too-familiar attempts to hold on to the status quo.
3. Confirmation fallacy: We love to agree with those who agree with us. We visit websites that re-express our political opinions, re-read literature that reaffirms our cultural upbringings, befriend people with likeminded attitudes and form cohesive social circles based around similar key viewpoints. At the same time, we practice a reactive reasoning in that we undervalue, scrutinise and dismiss arguments, figures, and people that challenge our entrenched worldviews — after all, we are our own biggest censors.
4. In-group fallacy: Similar to the confirmation fallacy, due to our innate desire to be socially accepted, we tend to favour the thoughts, ideals and sentiments of those with whom we racially and culturally identify with most. And conversely, this means we are suspicious, fearful and ignorant of the preferences, wants, needs and values of groups and peoples that we have difficulty identifying with — this goes a long way toward explaining why racism remains so rampant in liberal-democratic countries.
5. False consensus bias: As we cannot really experience anything outside of our own consciousness, we tend to believe most people think like we do. In group settings, false consensus biases cause us to accept that the opinions, preferences and values of our own group reflect the larger population. And since groups tend to reach a consensus and avoid those who dispute it, they believe everyone thinks that way. This is the sort of groupthink that convinces political extremists they have widespread support.
Put a stop to groupthink by jumping off the bandwagon. Image Credit: caffeina/Flickr
6. Bandwagon Effect: Opinions and viewpoints spread infectiously among people, meaning we are very likely to adopt a belief merely because lots of other people believe it too. In other words, people are both socially insecure and cognitively lazy. We don’t want to think for ourselves, and we often assume that if someone else has already adopted something, it can’t be bad. Even though the popularity of an argument has little bearing on its validity, we disregard our own judgements in an attempt to assimilate.
7. Current moment fallacy: A cognitive tragedy of the commons, we have a hard time imagining ourselves in the future and altering our behaviours accordingly. As such, most opt for gratification now, saving discomfort for later. This lack of self-control, where most people would rather exchange serious troubles in the not-to-distant future for more trivial pleasures in the moment, personifies the impulsive decision-making that is responsible for the financial meltdown, political corruption and developments that harm the environment.
8. Blind Spot Bias: Ironically enough, if you read this article thinking that these biases don’t apply to you, you might suffer from this logically fallacy, which makes us think that while biases may apply to others, we are immune to them. This is because when we assess ourselves for irrationality, we look inward, searching through our thoughts and feelings for bias. But biases operate unconsciously, so while we have little trouble pointing out the biases in others, it is exceedingly difficult for us to take note of our own.
But why go through all this trouble to point out the logical fallacies that seem to be driving ignorance and close-mindedness in our society? Well, the political implications of this sort of self-reflexive psychoanalytic exercise should be pretty obvious…
In the past year alone, Canadians have borne witness to half a dozen Senate corruption scandals, a spying agency that’s quietly collecting and sharing our personal information, the actual burning of priceless scientific archives and a relentless war on science and knowledge — all of which serve to demonstrate just how ideological our government has become.
So as we inch closer to the 2015 federal election, it is our responsibility as democratic citizens to take note of the ways these logical fallacies — and the dozens of others we succumb to — can misinform our minds, and those of our political leaders, each and everyday. For if we work at becoming a more cognizant and well-informed citizenry it will spill over into the polling station, and with any luck, onto Parliament Hill as well.
Title Image Credit: Andrew Mason/Wikimedia Commons

Activist Post: 20 Signs That The Global Economic Crisis Is Starting To Catch Fire

Activist Post: 20 Signs That The Global Economic Crisis Is Starting To Catch Fire.

Michael Snyder
Activist Post

If you have been waiting for the “global economic crisis” to begin, just open up your eyes and look around.  I know that most Americans tend to ignore what happens in the rest of the world because they consider it to be “irrelevant” to their daily lives, but the truth is that the massive economic problems that are currently sweeping across Europe, Asia and South America are going to be affecting all of us here in the U.S. very soon.

Sadly, most of the big news organizations in this country seem to be more concerned about the fate of Justin Bieber’s wax statue in Times Square than about the horrible financial nightmare that is gripping emerging markets all over the planet.  After a brief period of relative calm, we are beginning to see signs of global financial instability that are unlike anything that we have witnessed since the financial crisis of 2008.  As you will see below, the problems are not just isolated to a few countries.  This is truly a global phenomenon.

Over the past few years, the Federal Reserve and other global central banks have inflated an unprecedented financial bubble with their reckless money printing.  Much of this “hot money” poured into emerging markets all over the world.  But now that the Federal Reserve has begun “tapering” quantitative easing, investors are taking this as a sign that the party is ending.  Money is being pulled out of emerging markets all over the globe at a staggering pace and this is creating a tremendous amount of financial instability.  In addition, the economic problems that have been steadily growing over the past few years in established economies throughout Europe and Asia just continue to escalate.

The following are 20 signs that the global economic crisis is starting to catch fire…

#1 The unemployment rate in Greece has hit a brand new record high of 28 percent.

#2 The youth unemployment rate in Greece has hit a brand new record high of 64.1 percent.

#3 The percentage of bad loans in Italy is at an all-time record high.

#4 Italian industrial output declined again in December, and the Italian government is on the verge of collapse.

#5 The number of jobseekers in France has risen for 30 of the last 32 months, and at this point it has climbed to a new all-time record high.

#6 The total number of business failures in France in 2013 was even higher than in any year during the last financial crisis.

#7 It is being projected that housing prices in Spain will fallanother 10 to 15 percent as their economic depression deepens.

#8 The economic and political turmoil in Turkey is spinning out of control.  The government has resorted to blasting protesters with pepper spray and water cannons in a desperate attempt to restore order.

#9 It is being estimated that the inflation rate in Argentina is now over 40 percent, and the peso is absolutely collapsing.

#10 Gangs of armed bandits are roaming the streets in Venezuela as the economic chaos in that troubled nation continues to escalate.

#11 China appears to be very serious about deleveraging. The deflationary effects of this are going to be felt all over the planet. The following is an excerpt from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s recent article entitled “World asleep as China tightens deflationary vice“…

China’s Xi Jinping has cast the die. After weighing up the unappetising choice before him for a year, he has picked the lesser of two poisons.

The balance of evidence is that most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong aims to prick China’s $24 trillion credit bubble early in his 10-year term, rather than putting off the day of reckoning for yet another cycle.

This may be well-advised for China, but the rest of the world seems remarkably nonchalant over the implications.

#12 There was a significant debt default by a coal company in China last Friday

A high-yield investment product backed by a loan to a debt-ridden coal company failed to repay investors when it matured last Friday, state media reported on Wednesday, in the latest sign of financial stress in China’s shadow bank sector.

#13 Japan’s Nikkei stock index has already fallen by 14 percent so far in 2014.  That is a massive decline in just a month and a half.

#14 Ukraine continues to fall apart financially

The worsening political and economic circumstances in Ukraine has prompted the Fitch Ratings agency to downgrade Ukrainian debt from B to a pre–default level CCC. This is lower than Greece, and Fitch warns of future financial instability.

#15 The unemployment rate in Australia has risen to the highest level in more than 10 years.

#16 The central bank of India is in a panic over the way that Federal Reserve tapering is affecting their financial system.

#17 The effects of Federal Reserve tapering are also being felt in Thailand

In the wake of the US Federal Reserve tapering, emerging economies with deteriorating macroeconomic figures or visible political instability are being punished by skittish markets. Thailand is drifting towards both these tendencies.

#18 One of Ghana’s most prominent economists says that the economy of Ghana will crash by June if something dramatic is not done.

#19 Yet another banker has mysteriously died during the prime years of his life.  That makes five “suspicious banker deaths” in just the past two weeks alone.

#20 The behavior of the U.S. stock market continues to parallel the behavior of the U.S. stock market in 1929.

Yes, things don’t look good right now, but it is important to keep in mind that this is just the beginning.

This is just the leading edge of the next great financial storm.

The next two years (2014 and 2015) are going to represent a major “turning point” for the global economy.  By the end of 2015, things are going to look far different than they do today.

None of the problems that caused the last financial crisis have been fixed.  Global debt levels have grown by 30 percent since the last financial crisis, and the too big to fail banks in the United States are 37 percent larger than they were back then and their behavior has become even more recklessthan before.

As a result, we are going to get to go through another “2008-style crisis”, but I believe that this next wave is going to be even worse than the previous one.

So hold on tight and get ready.  We are going to be in for quite a bumpy ride.

Shinzo Abe’s Nationalist Strategy | The Diplomat

Shinzo Abe’s Nationalist Strategy | The Diplomat.

Shinzo Abe’s Nationalist Strategy
Image Credit: REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Shinzo Abe’s Nationalist Strategy

With his overt nationalism and his historical revisionism, Shinzo Abe has a plan for Japan.

By Kosuke Takahashi
February 13, 2014
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The world is now beginning to realize Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s true intentions. With his controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine, which memorializes war dead, including Class A war criminals such as Hideki Tojo, he is no longer hesitant to reveal his true nature: without question, the most conservative leader in Japan’s postwar history. And he is a historical revisionist, notably with respect to wartime Japan. By encouraging a spirit of nationalism, Abe is hoping to engender self-confidence and patriotism among the Japanese public.

But what exactly is his future agenda? To understand Abe’s political ambitions, you need to understand their take on modern Japan.

For mainstream Japanese conservatives such as the Abe family, Tokyo has been shackled since it accepted the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, known as the Tokyo Trials. For one thing, as a defeated nation Japan has always been forced to take a servile position— militarily and diplomatically—toward the U.S., the World War II victor. And Japan has had to repeatedly bow its head to its neighbors, such as China and South Korea, to apologize for its conduct during the war.

Willingly or not, Japan embraced these two international restraints when it signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, hoping to return to the fold of the international community as an independent nation.

More than 60 years later, though, the Abe administration wants to free Japan from these perceived shackles. In his own words, he is seeking a “departure from the postwar regime” by “bringing back Japan.” Although Abe has never said from “what” he will bring back the nation, many Japanese believe what he meant is to bring back a militarily, diplomatically and economically strong Japan from the political and economic abyss of the past decades, and perhaps in the long term from the U.S. itself.

Although Abe’s popularity has recently tapered somewhat from the heady days early in this, his second stint as prime minister, many Japanese still support his nationalistic program, because they feel that Japan lacks strength and needs to stand on its own feet, amid mounting nationalism in East Asia and a rising China.

So, to return to the question: What is Abe’s grand strategy? In fact, Abe has a three-year plan to accomplish his ultimate goal of having Japan “depart from the postwar regime.”

Abe’s Three-Year Plan

During the first year of his second term in office 2013, Abe proposed a move from “passive pacifism” to a “proactive pacifism” that encourages Japan to contribute more proactively to world peace and international cooperation. He then established a Japanese National Security Council (NSC). He also announced the first National Security Strategy (NSS) and the National Defense Programme Guidelines (NDPG) that introduced the concept of “a Dynamic Joint Defense Force.” This new concept emphasizes the Self-Defense Forces’ (SDF) joint operations and interoperability capability at sea, in the air and on land, and bolster the nation’s defensive posture in the southwest—in particular the Nansei island chain that includes Okinawa and the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.

Over the last year, Abe’s government has also enacted a controversial secrecy law to prevent leaks of state secrets, after it was pressured by the U.S. to tighten the confidentiality of their shared intelligence on security.

Now, in his second year, Abe is trying to reinterpret the constitution to allow for the exercise of the right of collective self-defense. Abe will also formally abolish Japan’s decades-old ban on weapons exports this year. In January, his administration revised textbook screening guidelines to give Japanese children a more patriotic take on modern Japanese history and to better reflect the government’s view on territorial issues such as on Senkaku Islands. Abe has also succeeded in placing four conservative intellectuals with whom he has very close ties on Japan’s public television NHK’s management board. Some of their comments have already stirred considerable controversy.

In this third year, 2015, Abe plans to change Article 9 of the U.S.-imposed pacifist constitution, accomplishing his final goal of escaping from the postwar regime.

This three-year plan seeks to boost national security and could lead to Japanese involvement in conflicts abroad in the future.

Shinichi Kitaoka, a former Japanese ambassador to the United Nations and a key Abe adviser, remarked recently that all of these steps are simply trying to bring Japan closer to a “normal country.” Kitaoka is now deputy chairman of Abe’s Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security, which is expected to recommend reinterpreting Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution to lift the self-imposed ban on the right to exercise collective self-defense in April.

The Purposely Confusing World of Energy Politics

The Purposely Confusing World of Energy Politics.

by Richard Heinberg, originally published by Richard Heinberg’s Museletter  | FEB 11, 2014

Life often presents us with paradoxes, but seldom so blatant or consequential as the following. Read this sentence slowly: Today it is especially difficult for most people to understand our perilous global energy situation, preciselybecause it has never been more important to do so. Got that? No? Okay, let me explain. I must begin by briefly retracing developments in a seemingly unrelated field—climate science.

Once upon a time, the idea that Earth’s climate could be changing due to human-caused carbon dioxide emissions was just a lonely, unpopular scientific hypothesis. Through years that stretched to decades, researchers patiently gathered troves of evidence to test that hypothesis. The great majority of evidence collected tended to confirm the notion that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gas) levels raise average global temperatures and provoke an increase in extreme weather events. Nearly all climate scientists were gradually persuaded of the correctness of the global warming hypothesis.
But a funny thing happened along the way. Clearly, if the climate is changing rapidly and dramatically as a result of human action, and if climate change (of the scale and speed that’s anticipated) is likely to undermine ecosystems and economies, then it stands to reason that humans should stop emitting so much CO2. In practical effect, this would mean dramatically reducing our burning of fossil fuels—the main drivers of economic growth since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
Some business-friendly folks with political connections soon became alarmed at both the policy implications of—and the likely short-term economic fallout from—the way climate science was developing, and decided to do everything they could to question, denigrate, and deny the climate change hypothesis. Their effort succeeded: belief in climate change now aligns fairly closely with political affiliation. Most Democratic elected officials agree that the issue is real and important, and most of their Republican counterparts are skeptical. Lacking bipartisan support, legislative climate policy languished.
From a policy standpoint, climate change is effectively an energy issue, since reducing carbon emissions will require a nearly complete revamping of our energy systems. Energy is, by definition, humanity’s most basic source of power, and since politics is a contest over power (albeit social power), it should not be surprising that energy is politically contested. A politician’s most basic tools are power and persuasion, and the ability to frame issues. And the tactics of political argument inevitably range well beyond logic and critical thinking. Therefore politicians can and often do make it harder for people to understand energy issues than would be the case if accurate, unbiased information were freely available.
So here is the reason for the paradox stated in the first paragraph: As energy issues become more critically important to society’s economic and ecological survival, they become more politically contested; and as a result, they tend to become obscured by a fog of exaggeration, half-truth, omission, and outright prevarication.
How does one cut through this fog to gain a more accurate view of what’s happening in our society’s vital energy supply-and-support systems? It’s helpful to start by understanding the positions and motives of the political actors. For the sake of argument, I will caricature two political positions. Let’s personify them as Politician A and Politician B.
Politician A has for many years sided with big business, and specifically with the fossil fuel industry in all energy disputes. She sees coal, oil, and natural gas as gifts of nature to be used by humanity to produce as much wealth as possible, as quickly as possible. She asserts there are sufficient supplies of these fuels to meet the needs of future generations, even if we use them at rapidly increasing rates. When coal, oil, and gas do eventually start to run out, Politician A says we can always turn to nuclear energy. In her view, the harvesting and burning of fossil fuels can be accomplished with few incidental environmental problems, and fossil fuel companies can be trusted to use the safest methods available. And if Earth’s climate is indeed changing, she says, this is not due to the burning of fossil fuels; therefore, policies meant to cut fossil fuel consumption are unnecessary and economically damaging. Finally, she says renewable energy sources should not be subsidized by government, but should stand or fall according to their own economic merits.
Politician B regards oil, coal, and natural gas as polluting substances, and society’s addiction to them is shameful. He thinks oil prices are high because petroleum companies gouge their customers; nuclear energy is too dangerous to contemplate; and renewable energy sources are benign (with supplies of sunlight and wind vastly exceeding our energy needs). To hear him tell it, the only reason solar and wind still supply such a small percentage of our total energy is that fossil fuel companies are politically powerful, benefiting from generous, often hidden, government subsidies. Government should cut those subsidies and support renewable energy instead. He believes climate change is a serious problem, and to mitigate it we should put a price on carbon emissions. If we do, Politician B says, renewable energy industries will grow rapidly, creating jobs and boosting the economy.
Who is right? Well, this should be easy to determine. Just ignore the foaming rhetoric and focus on research findings. But in reality that’s not easy at all, because research is itself often politicized. Studies can be designed from the outset to give results that are friendly to the preconceptions and prejudices of one partisan group or another.
For example, there are studies that appear to show that the oil and natural gas production technique known as hydrofracturing (or “fracking”) is safe for the environment. With research in hand, industry representatives calmly inform us that there have been no confirmed instances of fracking fluids contaminating water tables. The implication: environmentalists who complain about the dangers of fracking simply don’t know what they’re talking about. However, there are indeed many documented instances of water pollution associated with fracking, though technically most of these have resulted from the improper disposal of wastewater produced once fracking per se is finished, rather than from the hydrofracturing process itself. Further, industry-funded studies of fracking typically focus on sites where best practices are in place and equipment is working as designed—the ideal scenario. In the messy real world, well casings sometimes fail, operators cut corners, and equipment occasionally malfunctions.
For their part, environmentalists point to peer-reviewed studies showing air, water, and human health problems associated with actual (far from ideal) fracking operations.
So, depending on your prior beliefs, you can often choose research findings to support them—even if the studies you are citing are actually highly misleading.
Renewable energy is just as contentious. Mark Jacobson, professor of environmental engineering at Stanford University, has co-authored a series of reports and scientific papers arguing that solar, wind, and hydropower could provide 100 percent of world energy by 2030. Clearly, Jacobson’s work supports Politician B’s political narrative by showing that the climate problem can be solved with little or no economic sacrifice. If Jacobson is right, then it is only the fossil fuel companies and their supporters that stand in the way of a solution to our environmental (and economic) problems. The Sierra Club and prominent Hollywood stars have latched onto Jacobson’s work and promote it enthusiastically.
However, Jacobson’s publications have provoked thoughtful criticism, some of it from supporters of renewable energy, who argue that his “100 percent renewables by 2030” scenario ignores hidden costs, land use and environmental problems, and grid limits (see herehere, and here. Jacobson has replied to his critics, well, energetically (here and here).
At the other end of the opinion spectrum on renewable energy is Gail Tverberg, an actuary by training and profession (and no shill for the fossil fuel industry), whose analysis suggests that the more solar and wind generating capacity we build, the worse off we are from an economic point of view. Her conclusion flatly contradicts that of this report, which aims to show that the more renewables we build, the more money we’ll save. Ecologist Charles Hall has determined that the ratio ofenergy returned to energy invested in capturing solar energy with photovoltaic (PV) panels is too low to support an industrial economy. Meanwhile the solar industry claims that PV can provide all of society’s power needsGlobal wind capacity may have been seriously over-estimatedBut then again, maybe not .
In sum, if you’re looking for quick and simple answers to questions about how much renewables can do for us, at what price, and over what time frame, forget it! These questions are far from being settled.
There’s a saying: For every Ph.D., there is an equal and opposite Ph.D. Does this mean science is useless, and objective reality is whatever you want it to be? Of course not. However, politics and cultural bias can and do muddy the process and results of scientific research.
All of this is inevitable; it’s human nature. We’ll sort through the confusion, given time and the hard knocks that inevitably come when preconceptions veer too far from the facts. However, if the more worrisome implications of climate science are right, we may not have a lot of time for sorting, and our knocks may be very hard indeed.
*          *          *
Here’s a corollary to my thesis: Political prejudices tend to blind us to facts that fail to fit any conventional political agendas. All political narratives need a villain and a (potential) happy ending. While Politicians B and A might point to different villains (oil companies on one hand, government bureaucrats and regulators on the other), they both envision the same happy ending: economic growth, though it is to be achieved by contrasting means. If a fact doesn’t fit one of these two narratives, the offended politician tends to ignore it (or attempt to deny it). If it doesn’t fit either narrative, nearly everyone ignores it.
Here’s a fact that apparently fails to comfortably fit into either political narrative:The energy and financial returns on fossil fuel extraction are declining—fast. The top five oil majors (ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, and Total) have seen their aggregate production fall by over 25 percent over the past 12 years—but it’s not for lack of effort. Drilling rates have doubled. Rates of capital investment in exploration and production have likewise doubled. Oil prices have quadrupled. Yet actual global rates of production for regular crude oil have flattened, and all new production has come from expensive unconventional sources such as tar sands, tight oil, and deepwater oil. The fossil fuel industry hates to admit to facts that investors find scary—especially now, as the industry needs investors to pony up ever-larger bets to pay for ever-more-extreme production projects.
In the past few years, high oil prices have provided the incentive for small, highly leveraged, and risk-friendly companies to go after some of the last, worst oil and gas production prospects in North America—formations known to geologists as “source rocks,” which require operators to use horizontal drilling and fracking technology to free up trapped hydrocarbons. The energy returned on energy invested in producing shale gas and tight oil from these formations is minimal.While US oil and gas production rates have temporarily spiked, all signs indicate that this will be a brief boom that will not change the overall situation significantly: society is reaching the point of diminishing returns with regard to the economic benefits of fossil fuel extraction.
And what about our imaginary politicians? Politician A wouldn’t want to talk about any of this for fairly obvious reasons. But, strangely, Politician B likely would avoid the subject too: while he might portray the petroleum industry as an ogre, his narrative requires it to be a powerful one. Also, he probably doesn’t like to think that gasoline prices might be high due to oil depletion rather than simply the greed of the petroleum barons. Motives can be complicated; perhaps both feel the patriotic urge to cheer domestic energy production, regardless of its source and in spite of evidence of declining returns on investment. Perhaps both understand that declining energy returns imply really bad news for the economy, regardless which party is in power. In any case, mum’s the word.
Some facts seem to fit one narrative or the other but, when combined, point to a reality that undermines both narratives. What if climate change is an even worse problem than most of us assume, and there is no realistic way to deal seriously with it and still have economic growth?
In the real world of US politics, many Democrats would agree with the first part of the sentence, many Republicans with the second. Yet both parties would flee from endorsing the statement as a whole. Nevertheless, this seems to be where the data are driving us. Actual climate impacts have consistently outpaced the worst-case forecasts that the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued during the past two decades. That means curbing carbon emissions is even more urgent than almost anyone previously thought. The math has changed. At this point, the rate of reduction in fossil fuel consumption required in order to avert catastrophic climate change may be higher, possibly much higher, than the realistically possible rate of replacement with energy from alternative sources. Climatologist Kevin Anderson of the UK-based Tyndall Centre figures that industrial nations need to cut carbon emissions by up to 10 percent per year to avert catastrophe, and that such a rapid reduction would be “incompatible with economic growth.” What if Anderson is right?
The problem of transitioning quickly away from fossil fuels while maintaining economic growth is exacerbated by the unique characteristics of different energy sources.
Here’s just one example of the difficulty of replacing oil while maintaining economic growth. Oil just happens to be the perfect transport fuel: it stores a lot of energy per unit of weight and volume. Electric batteries can’t match its performance. Plug-in cars exist, of course (less than one percent of new cars sold this year in the US will be plug-in electrics), but batteries cannot propel airliners or long-haul, 18-wheel truck rigs. Yet the trucking and airline industries just happen to be significant components of our economy; can we abandon or significantly downsize them and grow the economy as we do so?
What about non-transport replacements for fossil fuels? Well, both nuclear power stations and renewable energy systems have high up-front investment costs. If you factor in all the financial and energy costs (something the solar, wind, and nuclear industries are reluctant to do), their payback time is often measured in decades. Thus there seems to be no realistic way to bootstrap the energy transition (for example, by using the power from solar panels to build more solar panels) while continuing to provide enough energy to keep the rest of the economy expanding. In effect, to maintain growth, the energy transition would have to be subsidized by fossil fuels—which would largely defeat the purpose of the exercise.
Business-friendly politicians seem to intuitively get much of this, and this knowledge helps fuel their continued infatuation with oil, coal, and natural gas—despite the increasing economic problems (even if we disregard the environmental problems) with these fuels. But these folks’ way of dealing with this conundrum is simply to deny that climate change is a real issue. That strategy may work for their supporters in the fossil fuel industries, but it does nothing to avert the worsening real-world crises of extreme temperature events, droughts, floods, and storms—and their knock-on impacts on agriculture, economies, and governments.
So those on the left may be correct in saying that climate change is the equivalent of a civilization-killing asteroid, while those on the right may be correct in thinking that policies designed to shrink carbon emissions will shrink the economy as well. Everybody gets to be correct—but nobody gets a happy ending (at least as currently envisioned).
That’s because nearly every politician wants growth, or at least recognizes the need to clamor for growth in order to be electable. Because growth, after all, is how we currently define our collective, national happy ending. So whenever facts lead toward the conclusion that more growth may not be possible even if our party gets its way, those facts quickly get swept under the nearest carpet.
Masking reality with political rhetoric leads to delays in doing what is necessary– making the best of the choices actually available to us. We and our political “leaders” continue to deny and pretend, walking blindly toward environmental and economic peril.
*          *          *
We humans are political animals—always have been, always will be. Our interests inevitably diverge in countless ways. Further, much of the emotional drive fueling politics comes from ethical impulses: perhaps for genetic reasons, different people assign different ethical principles a higher priority. Thus one politician’s concern for fairness and another’s passion for national loyalty can glide right past each other without ever shaking hands. Religion can also play a role in partisanship, along with the legacies of economic and social exclusion, historic rivalries, disputes, and atrocities. None of this can be dispelled with the wave of a magic wand.
Moreover, political engagement often leads to welcome outcomes. When people organize themselves to effect change, the result can be expansions of civil rights, women’s suffrage, and environmental protection. On the other hand, when people fail to speak up, social power tends to become monopolized by a small minority–and that never ends well. So, let’s not withdraw from politics.
But how to work effectively in a politically polarized environment? Hyper-partisanship is a problem in approving judicial appointees and passing budgets, and failure to do these things can have serious consequences. But when it comes to energy and climate, the scale of what is at stake runs straight off the charts. The decisions that need to be made, and soon (ideally 20 years ago!), on energy and climate may well determine whether civilization survives. The absence of decisive action will imperil literally everything we care about.
Energy is complicated, and there can be legitimate disagreements about our options and how vigorously to pursue them. But the status quo is not working.
I’ve struggled to find a hopeful takeaway message with which to end this essay.
Should I appeal to colleagues who write about energy, pleading with them to frame discussions in ways that aren’t merely feeding red meat to their already far too polarized audiences, encouraging them to tell readers uncomfortable truths that don’t fit partisan narratives? I could, but how many energy writers will actually read this essay, and how many of those are willing to examine their preconceptions?
Perhaps the best I can do is point out the existence of a small but enthusiastic subculture that actually understands these issues. This subculture is exemplified by Transition Initiatives promoting “small-scale local responses to the global challenges of climate change, economic hardship, and shrinking supplies of cheap energy” and the premise that life can be better without fossil fuels. For better or worse, this subculture is practically invisible to political elites and the mainstream media (except perhaps in parts of the UK).
Perhaps it’s fitting that this essay leaves both author and readers unsettled and uncomfortable. Discomfort can sometimes be conducive to creativity and action. There may be no solutions to the political problems I’ve outlined. But even in the absence of solutions there can still be better adaptive behaviors, and judo-like strategies that achieve desired outcomes—ones that could conceivably turn the tide on intractable global problems such as climate change—without directly confronting existing societal power structures. These behaviors and strategies can be undertaken even at the household scale, but we’re likely to achieve much more if we collaborate, doing what we can locally while using global communications to compare notes and share our successes and challenges.
Cars and windmills image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.

Richard Heinberg is the author of eleven books including ‘The Party’s Over’, ‘The End of Growth’, and ‘Snake Oil’. He is Senior Fellow-in-Residence of Post Carbon Institute and is widely regarded as one of the …

Activist Post: Eyes in the Sky: New Surveillance Technology to Watch Over Us

Activist Post: Eyes in the Sky: New Surveillance Technology to Watch Over Us.

Lily Dane
Activist PostNew surveillance camera technology may be flying over your city soon. The new cameras are mounted on fixed-wing aircraft and can monitor an area the size of a small city for hours on end.

The Washington Post reported on this new generation of surveillance cameras:

A new, far more powerful generation is being quietly deployed that can track every vehicle and person across an area the size of a small city, for several hours at a time. Although these cameras can’t read license plates or see faces, they provide such a wealth of data that police, businesses and even private individuals can use them to help identify people and track their movements.

Even the name of the company that created this technology sounds ominous: Persistent Surveillance Systems. Ross McNutt, the president of the Ohio-based company, told the Post how the cameras could help reduce crime:

A single camera mounted atop the Washington Monument, McNutt boasts, could deter crime all around the Mall. He said regular flights over the most dangerous parts of Washington — combined with publicity about how much police could see — would make a significant dent in the number of burglaries, robberies and murders. His 192-megapixel cameras would spot as many as 50 crimes per six-hour flight, he estimated, providing police with a continuous stream of images covering more than a third of the city.

While taking measures to reduce crime is admirable, it seems that some, like Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl, have other ideas about how the technology can be used. Biehl wants to invite the public to see the cameras in action, because it may scare them into behaving:

I want them to be worried that we’re watching. I want them to be worried that they never know when we’re overhead.

Civil liberties advocates say that while surveillance can help solve crime, privacy is at risk.

Joel Pruce, a University of Dayton postdoctoral fellow in human rights, told the Post:

There are an infinite number of surveillance technologies that would help solve crimes…but there are reasons that we don’t do those things, or shouldn’t be doing those things.

You know where there’s a lot less crime? There’s a lot less crime in China.

Jan Stanley, a privacy expert with the American Civil Liberties Union, said of the technology:

If you turn your country into a totalitarian surveillance state, there’s always some wrongdoing you can prevent. The balance struck in our Constitution tilts toward liberty, and I think we should keep that value.

Here, Craig Timberg of The Washington Post explains the technology:

Be sure to look up and wave hello if you see one of these surveillance planes hovering over your area!

Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”

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