Archive for June 2011
Post Carbon Institute June, 2011
Last weekend, the New York Times published a series of articles that — through leaks from EIA officials and natural gas industry insiders — corroborated the findings of our landmark report, Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?: Don’t believe the hype about plentiful U.S. natural gas supplies.
Of course, the controversy over natural gas is far from over, and PCI continues to provide energy realism and literacy to the debate. This week, PCI Fellow David Hughes published an analysis of two contradictory studies assessing the greenhouse gas emissions of shale gas vs. coal. The conclusion? Shale gas is worse for the climate over a 30-50 year timeframe.
From hot air to deflating (economic) balloons… We were blown away to receive nearly 600 orders in the span of 12 hours for Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg’s newest book, The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. In the video above, Richard Heinberg, author of “The Party’s Over” and leading peak oil educator, talks about the future of our ‘growth’ society.
June 24, 2011 Naked Capitalism
Matt Stoller is a current fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. His Twitter feed is @matthewstoller.
More than a third of all states allow debtors “who can’t or won’t pay their debts” to be jailed. In 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal, judges have issued 5,000 such warrants. What is behind the increased pressure to incarcerate people with debts? Is it a desire to force debt payment? Or is it part of a new structure where incarceration is becoming increasingly the default tool to address any and all social problems?
Consider a different example that has nothing to do with debts. Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania judge was convicted of racketeering, of taking bribes from parties of interest in his cases. It was a fairly routine case of bribery, with one significant exception. The party making the payoffs was a builder and operator of youth prisons, and the judge was rewarding him by sending lots of kids to his prisons.
Welcome to the for-profit prison industry. It’s an industry that wants people in jail, because jail is their product. And they have shareholder expectations to meet.
Privatized prisons are marketed to international investors as “social infrastructure”, and they are part of a wave of privatization washing over the globe. Multi-billion dollar prison companies are upgraded by analysts with antiseptic words like “prospects for global prison growth”, and these companies have built a revolving door and patronage machine characteristic of any government contractor. Only, in this case, the business they are in is putting people into steel cages (or “filling beds” as they put it), and they don’t care how, why, or whether the people in those beds should be there. They don’t care if you’re in prison for smoking pot, stealing cars, or being in debt. They just want people in jail.
Here’s the 2010 10k of the Corrections Corporation of America (PDF), the largest operator of private prisons in the country. It’s a pretty simple business model – more prisoners, more money. Or, as the company writes, “Historically, we have been successful in substantially filling our inventory of available beds and the beds that we have constructed. Filling these available beds would provide substantial growth in revenues, cash flow, and earnings per share.”
By Justin Elliott Salon June 21, 2011
A prominent right-wing Islam expert believes the Jewish congressman “most likely” converted in secret » More
We must have an extreme mental health crisis if large numbers of people can swallow this kind of scam. And I fear such gullibility is not influenced by politics at all. Surely equal numbers on the Left consistently believe doing the same thing repeatedly (like re-electing Obama) will eventually have a different result. Reason has little impact on cherished fantasy. But people locked in fantasy-mode cannot long endure.
“The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now”
- J. G. Ballard
by Paul Craig Roberts Foreign Policy Journal June 20, 2011
While we were not watching, conspiracy theory has undergone Orwellian redefinition.
A “conspiracy theory” no longer means an event explained by a conspiracy. Instead, it now means any explanation, or even a fact, that is out of step with the government’s explanation and that of its media pimps.
For example, online news broadcasts of Russia Today (RT) have been equated with conspiracy theories by the New York Times simply because RT reports news and opinions that the New York Times does not report and the US government does not endorse.
In other words, as truth becomes uncomfortable for government and its Ministry of Propaganda, truth is redefined as conspiracy theory, by which is meant an absurd and laughable explanation that we should ignore.
When piles of carefully researched books, released government documents, and testimony of eye witnesses made it clear that Oswald was not President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, the voluminous research, government documents, and verified testimony was dismissed as “conspiracy theory.”
In other words, the truth of the event was unacceptable to the authorities and to the Ministry of Propaganda that represents the interests of authorities.
The purest example of how Americans are shielded from truth is the media’s (including many Internet sites’) response to the large number of professionals who find the official explanation of September 11, 2001, inconsistent with everything they, as experts, know about physics, chemistry, structural engineering, architecture, fires, structural damage, the piloting of airplanes, the security procedures of the United States, NORAD’s capabilities, air traffic control, airport security, and other matters. These experts, numbering in the thousands, have been shouted down by know-nothings in the media who brand the experts as “conspiracy theorists.”
This despite the fact that the official explanation endorsed by the official media is the most extravagant conspiracy theory in human history.
Veteran world watcher Lester Brown sounds dire warning of spreading political unrest, conflicts, and deepening division between rich and poor as food prices soar and supply falls further and further behind rising demand, but does not point to obvious solution Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
June 14, 2011 The Institute of Science in Society
Soaring food prices and political unrest
Soaring food prices were a major trigger for the riots that has destabilized North Africa and the Middle East beginning December 2010 in Tunisia. Political unrest has since engulfed Algeria, Egypt, Jordon, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and spread to Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, and beyond [1-4]. Latin America is said to be at risk , and even Britain, if food prices continue to rise . The UN Food Price Index has been hovering above 231 points since the start of 2011, and hit its all-time high of 238 points in February. The May 2011 average was 232 points, 37 percent higher than a year ago .
Richard Ferguson, global head of agriculture at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank specializing in emerging markets, told The Guardian newspaper in the UK  that the problems were likely to spread. “Food prices are absolutely core to a lot of these disturbances. If you are 25 years old, with no access to education, no income and live in a politically repressed environment, you are going to be pretty angry when the price of food goes up the way it is.” It acted “as a catalyst” for political unrest, when added to other ills such as a lack of democracy.
“Scarcity is the new norm”
Food has quickly become the hidden driver of world politics , says Lester Brown, venerated veteran world-watcher, who also predicts that crises like these are going to become increasingly common. “Scarcity is the new norm.”
Historically, price spikes tended to be almost exclusively due to bad weather such as monsoon failure, drought, heat wave, etc., but today, they are driven by trends of both increasing demand and decreasing ability to supply. With a rapidly expanding global population demanding to be fed, crop-withering temperatures and exhausted aquifers are making it difficult to increase production. Moreover, the world is losing its ability to soften the blow of shortages. USA, the world’s largest grain producer, was able to rescue shortages with its grain surpluses in the past, or bring idle croplands into cultivation. “We can’t do that anymore; the safety cushion is gone.”
That’s why “the food crisis of 2011 is for real”, Brown warns, and why it may bring yet more bread riots and political revolutions. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, may not be the end, but the beginning.
Brown does not mention the huge speculation on agricultural commodities in the world financial markets that not only drives up prices but increases volatility, making it much more difficult for farmers and consumers to cope (see  Financing World Hunger, SiS 46). Olivier de Shutter, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, has referred to the 2007-2008 crisis as a “price-crisis” not a “food-crisis”, precipitated by speculation and not linked to insufficient food being produced, at least not yet, as Brown elaborates.
Electronic Frontier Foundation June 7, 2011
The success of Wikileaks in obtaining and releasing information has inspired mainstream media outlets to develop proprietary copycat sites. Al-Jazeera got into the act first, launching the Al-Jazeera Transparency Unit (AJTU), an initiative meant to “allow Al-Jazeera’s supporters to shine light on notable and noteworthy government and corporate activities which might otherwise go unreported.” AJTU assures users that “files will be uploaded and stored on our secure servers” and that materials “are encrypted while they are transmitted to us, and they remain encrypted on our servers.”
On May 5, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), a subsidiary of Dow Jones & Co., Inc., launched its own site, SafeHouse. That same day, the Atlantic published a story describing SafeHouse as a “secure uploading system” with “separate servers,” two layers of encryption, and a policy of discarding information about uploaders “as quickly as possible.” You can “keep yourself anonymous or confidential, as needed,” the SafeHouse site promises, as you “securely share documents with the Wall Street Journal.”
Immediately after its launch, however, online security experts ripped SafeHouse apart. The Atlantic published its story online at noon on May 5 and by 5 p.m., the page was updated with a link directing readers to the Twitter feed of Jacob Appelbaum, a security researcher and Wikileaks volunteer, who had already exposed an embarrassing number of security problems with SafeHouse.
They Reserve the Right to Sell You Out
Despite promising anonymity, security and confidentiality, AJTU can “share personally identifiable information in response to a law enforcement agency’s request, or where we believe it is necessary.” SafeHouse’s terms of service reserve the right “to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities” without notice, then goes even further, reserving the right to disclose information to any “requesting third party,” not only to comply with the law but also to “protect the property or rights of Dow Jones or any affiliated companies” or to “safeguard the interests of others.” As one commentator put it bluntly, this is “insanely broad.” Neither SafeHouse or AJTU bother telling users how they determine when they’ll disclose information, or who’s in charge of the decision.