March 23, 2015

Who Needs a Boss?

by @ 8:14 am. Filed under Economic Democracy, Mondragon, Unemployment

Happy Arizmendi bakers: Erin Singer, Suet Cheng, Aeri Swendson

By SHAILA DEWAN
New York Times Magazine

March 25, 2015 - If you happen to be looking for your morning coffee near Golden Gate Park and the bright red storefront of the Arizmendi Bakery attracts your attention, congratulations. You have found what the readers of The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alt-weekly, deem the city’s best bakery.

But it has another, less obvious, distinction. Of the $3.50 you hand over for a latte (plus $2.75 for the signature sourdough croissant), not one penny ends up in the hands of a faraway investor. Nothing goes to anyone who might be tempted to sell out to a larger bakery chain or shutter the business if its quarterly sales lag.

Instead, your money will go more or less directly to its 20-odd bakers, who each make $24 an hour — more than double the national median wage for bakers. On top of that, they get health insurance, paid vacation and a share of the profits. “It’s not luxury, but I can sort of afford living in San Francisco,” says Edhi Rotandi, a baker at Arizmendi. He works four days a week and spends the other days with his 2-year-old son.

Arizmendi and its five sister bakeries in the Bay Area are worker-owned cooperatives, an age-old business model that has lately attracted renewed interest as a possible antidote to some of our most persistent economic ills. Most co-ops in the U.S. are smaller than Arizmendi, with around a dozen employees, but the largest, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx, has about 2,000. That’s hardly the organizational structure’s upper limit. In fact, Arizmendi was named for a Spanish priest and labor organizer in Basque country, José María Arizmendiarrieta. He founded what eventually became the Mondragon Corporation, now one of the region’s biggest employers, with more than 60,000 members and 14 billion euro in revenue. And it’s still a co-op.

In a worker co-op, the workers own the business and decide what to do with the profits (as opposed to consumer co-ops, which are typically stores owned by members who shop at a discount). Historically, worker co-ops have held the most appeal when things seem most perilous for laborers. The present is no exception. And yet, despite their ability to empower workers, co-ops remain largely relegated to boutique status in the United States.  (Continued)

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March 18, 2015

On the Far Horizon: Fully Automated Luxury Communism

Supporters believe fully automated luxury communism is an opportunity to realize a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting and employment as we know it is a thing of the past

By Brian Merchant
SolidarityEconomy.net via The Guardian /UK

March 18, 2015 - At a time when robots crowd factory lines, algorithms steer cars and smart screens litter the checkout aisles, automation is the new spectre. The robots, they say, are coming for our jobs.

Let them, reply the luxury communists.

    The new age offers a number of undeniable boons and advancements ... that promise to make drudgery redundant

Cybernetic meadows and machines of loving grace

Located on the futurist left end of the political spectrum, fully automated luxury communism (FALC) aims to embrace automation to its fullest extent. The term may seem oxymoronic, but that’s part of the point: anything labeled luxury communism is going to be hard to ignore.

“There is a tendency in capitalism to automate labor, to turn things previously done by humans into automated functions,” says Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media. “In recognition of that, then the only utopian demand can be for the full automation of everything and common ownership of that which is automated.”

Bastani and fellow luxury communists believe that this era of rapid change is an opportunity to realise a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting not for profit but for the people.

“The demand would be a 10- or 12-hour working week, a guaranteed social wage, universally guaranteed housing, education, healthcare and so on,” he says. “There may be some work that will still need to be done by humans, like quality control, but it would be minimal.” Humanity would get its cybernetic meadow, tended to by machines of loving grace. (Continued)

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March 15, 2015

The Harder Question: Is Green, Rational and Efficient Transport Possible Under Capitalism?

How the U.S. Transportation System Can Save $1 Trillion, 2 Billion Barrels of Oil, and 1 Gigaton of Carbon Emissions Annually

By Jonathan Walker, Greg Ruck & Jerry Weiland
Rocky Mountain Institute

In the United States each year, our cars alone cost us well over $1 trillion, burn about 2 billion barrels of oil, and emit about 1.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide—one quarter of all U.S. emissions.

The indirect societal cost of these vehicles, including pollution, lost productivity (sitting in traffic), land use for roads and parking lots, road construction and maintenance, and injuries and fatalities cost us another $2 trillion per year, bringing the annual total to a staggering $3 trillion.

A big part of the problem is our cars and how we use them. Today’s vehicles are overdesigned, underutilized, underloaded, inefficient, polluting, and—thanks to the drivers behind the wheel—dangerous.

The average personal vehicle sits idle (i.e., parked) for 95 percent of its life. When we do drive our mostly parked cars, we tend to drive alone (more than 75 percent of American commuters are solo drivers) even though our vehicles are designed for four, five, or more occupants (empty third-row seat, anyone?). This leads to so much traffic that we spend 38 extra hours per year sitting in a purgatory of our own making.

In addition, tens of thousands of Americans are killed and hundreds of thousands are injured in car accidents each year. And finally, gasoline engines burn relatively expensive fuel inefficiently, as only ~20 percent of potential energy is converted into useful power for a standard internal combustion engine vehicle.

Thus the average American car owner spends an estimated $0.59 per mile to operate a personal vehicle, which adds up to a yearly cost of about $15,000 per household. Year after year, personal transportation is the second-highest expense for the typical American family, behind only housing and greater than food and leisure combined.

Public transportation systems are also underutilized in many U.S. markets. This often results in taxpayer subsidy, a crucial leg of support to combat transportation inequality since such public transportation often offers the only inexpensive option for those who cannot afford cars.

Reimagining the U.S. Transportation System

But there is a better way. A paradigm shift in our transportation system can drop per mile costs from $0.59 to $0.15, and when combined with public transit unlocks annual savings of $1 trillion. Or, if you’re business minded, you might see that substantial savings as value creation, for oil’s loss is another’s gain, in the form of new mobility service solutions that fill the gap between today’s fossil-fueled cars and tomorrow’s mobility paradigm. (For that matter, consumers too should be salivating. Someone who drives 12,000 miles per year could see his or her annual transportation costs slashed by more than $10,000 for two-car households.)

In addition to the monetary boon, the paradigm shift can reduce U.S. oil consumption by 50 percent (shaving off the full 2 billion barrels associated with our light-duty vehicles), and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1 gigaton per year. Cities, businesses, and entrepreneurs would be hard-pressed to find another arena with so much money on the table paired with so much potential societal benefit.  And the public, you, and us stand to gain the most from this value creation opportunity.

Forget Cars—and Transportation—As You Know Them Today

The transportation paradigm of the potentially not-too-distant future (e.g., starting in earnest by 2020) will look a world apart from the landscape of today, in which the Ford F150 remains the best-selling consumer vehicle in the U.S. Instead, tomorrow’s transportation system will involve shared, electrified, autonomous, lightweight, serviced-based vehicles. This will of course implicate our beloved American obsession with automobiles, but is not entirely synonymous with cars.

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March 5, 2015

Why We Need a Green Energy Majority in Congress

This solar array at White Sands, New Mexico, is the largest of the U.S. Army's solar photovoltaic systems. The $16.8 million project includes nearly 15,500 sun-tracking solar panels spread across 42 acres.

Markets, States, and the Green Transition

By Fred Block
American Prospect

March 5, 2015 - If you believe in the perfect efficiency of free markets, then any government intervention, by definition, has to make things worse. Evidence is of no consequence.

I once participated in a debate on innovation with two panelists from two of Washington’s most market-oriented think tanks. When I pointed out that a government program—the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—had created the Internet, my opponent was hardly fazed. He responded, in effect, by saying we don’t know whether the private sector might have done it faster and better had the government not been interfering.

Of course, we cannot know, but the historical experience of many other technologies that were accelerated by spending on warfare suggests that there is a strong connection between government investments and big technological breakthroughs. World War II alone was responsible for jet airplanes, the mainframe computer, radar, atomic energy, and it laid the groundwork for much of the space program that followed.

War and preparation for war loom so large for many breakthroughs because war offers the rare occasion for major government intervention in a society that otherwise professes belief in free markets. Ideology is waived because of the presumed urgency of national defense, and surprising technical breakthroughs often follow. Government needs to play the same role in the transition to a green economy.

In wartime, government action is so potent because it intervenes simultaneously by increasing both the supply and the demand for new technologies. As with the Manhattan Project, the military convenes large groups of scientists and gives them substantial resources, to see if a concept can actually be turned into something that adds to the military’s capacity. Then the military orders a lot of the new creation, so that the often slow and painful process of scaling up to mass production is done very quickly with no risk for private firms.

 

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March 3, 2015

A ‘Single Payer’ Approach to Local Green Energy

by @ 8:10 am. Filed under Green Energy, Infrastructure

 

California communities seize control of their energy futures

By David Roberts

SolidarityEconomy.net via Grist

Feb 25, 2015 - An energy revolution is breaking out in California and a few other states, one that could radically increase the amount of renewable energy available to citizens and end the tyranny of foot-dragging utilities. Outside of the rapidly falling costs of solar power, it’s just about my main source of domestic optimism these days.

I’m talking about community choice, or, in the horrid legalese, “community choice aggregation.” I’ve discussed it before in passing, but it’s starting to seriously catch on, so I want to take a closer look.

Say a town, city, or county is dissatisfied with the power it gets from its utility — it’s too expensive, or too dirty. One option would be for each municipality to leave its utility and form its own “municipal utility.” That has its advantages, but it’s a pretty huge step, since the municipality would have to take over not only power procurement but grid operation and maintenance, billing, customer service, etc. In many smaller towns, it’s not practical.

The other, emerging option is community choice aggregation, whereby a county or municipality takes over only the job of buying and selling power, leaving grid management and billing to the utility. It aggregates customers from every participating city, town, and county and uses their collective purchasing power to procure exactly the kind of electricity it wants.

The two main motivations to opt for CCA are cheaper power and cleaner power. At least to date, those two goals have not come into conflict. In most cases, CCAs get power that’s cheaper and cleaner than what they were getting from their utility. (Whether those goals conflict in the future will be of keen interest.)

CCA must be enabled by legislation and it has been in six states: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode Island. According to the website Local Power, which tracks these things:

Today, 5% of the U.S. population is under CCA service for electricity in 1300 municipalities, including well-known population centers like City of Chicago, Cincinnati, Cape Cod, Sonoma County as well as hundreds of less known small towns and rural counties. CCA formation by municipal ordinance or local election is allowed and provided for under state laws governing 25% of the U.S. electricity market.

California has been particularly on the ball. Marin County started the state’s first CCA program — it now serves 125,000 customers. Sonoma County has followed suit.

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February 23, 2015

Workplaces of the Future: High Design, Fewer Workers

by @ 9:42 am. Filed under High Design, High Road Economics

Breakthrough Factories Making Innovation

The hubs of advanced manufacturing will be the economic drivers of the future because innovation increasingly depends on production expertise.

By Nanette Byrnes
MIT Technology Review

Sept 16, 2014 - Visitors to the Crosspointe Rolls-Royce facility in Prince George County, Virginia, have to don safety glasses and steel-tipped shoes, just as they would at any traditional factory. But then things start to look different. Past the cubicles filled with programmers and support staff sits a 140,000-square-foot factory with spotless white concrete floors, bright lighting, surprisingly quiet equipment, and very few human beings.

Opened in 2011, Crosspointe is the kind of factory that makes a good backdrop to a political speech about advanced manufacturing, as President Barack Obama knew when he arrived less than a year later. It’s global: the U.S. operations center of a U.K. company, it uses titanium forgings from Scotland, Germany, or the United States; shapes them into fan disks; and, after milling, polishing, and testing, ships them off to England, Germany, or Singapore. Once there, each disk will become one of 10,000 parts in a typical engine.

It’s also highly automated: $1.5 million machines made by DMG Mori Seiki do the initial milling of the disks, following steps directed by Siemens software with a minimum of human interference. On a day in early summer, eight machines were being monitored by three operators. Computer screens in front of the machine displayed instructions in pictures and text, flashing warnings when a part had not met specs or the machine needed to be serviced. Later an automated measurement machine with a probe on the end would spend eight hours inspecting 1,000-plus distinct dimensions of the part. For the next 25 years, Rolls-Royce will keep data on each part, starting with exactly how it was made. Sensors in the engine will track how the engine and its parts are holding up, and maintenance and flight data will be carefully recorded.

It’s not just pristine floors, scarce workers, and a global network that make Crosspointe emblematic of manufacturing today. It’s also the ecosystem surrounding the facility. Just down the road is the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a research center whose members include Airbus, NASA, and the University of Virginia.

There, Rolls-Royce staff who know the challenges and details of manufacturing work with researchers and suppliers to improve the factory and its products, says Crosspointe manufacturing executive Lorin Sodell. “Often a great idea for a new manufacturing process won’t ever make it into production because that connection is missing.”

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February 13, 2015

High Design: The Future Is Now in Green Homes

by @ 10:16 am. Filed under Green Energy, High Design

This Remote-Controllable, Rearrangeable House Uses Almost No Energy

We still don't have flying cars (not quite, anyway, despite some works in progress). But the 1950s vision of the futuristic home is fairly close to reality.

Inspired in part by mid-century designs like the flying saucer-shaped Futuro house and a "home of the future" designed for the 1956 Ideal Home Show, a new house in the Netherlands is remote-controllable, energy-efficient, and can adapt as a family changes through an open, petal-shaped design.

"It's flexible," says Ben van Berkel, founder of UNStudio, the architecture firm that created the new house. "The rooms are designed with no columns in the spaces. If the client wants to turn living rooms in bedrooms or a working environment, that's all possible."

Everything electrical in the house can be controlled by smartphone. Minus the app, it's eerily similar to this prediction from a 1950 newspaper:

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February 11, 2015

Cooperatives On the Path to Socialism?

by @ 5:46 pm. Filed under Economic Democracy, Marxism, Socialism

By Peter Marcuse

SolidarityEconomy.net via Monthy Review

Clarifying what Karl Marx thought of the role of cooperatives is useful, not to receive the “correct” answer to what that role will be, but to help think through what alternatives answers might be and how they might color today’s expectations of the cooperative movement. If one sees a non-capitalist or socialist organization of society as ultimately desirable, then how should we answer the following questions in the present day:

  1. Are co-ops in production, worker-owned enterprises, desirable experimental improvements to the organization of production over standard capitalist practices, in the direction of immediate social welfare?
  2. Are such co-ops in production also little islands of a different future, models of socialism within a capitalist society?
  3. Are they beachheads of socialism, politically practical steps along the road to bringing forth such a possible alternative society?
  4. Will they ultimately also be the foundations of such a society, if it develops?
  5. All in all, what is their importance, their role, in daily struggles?

The answer suggested here to the first three questions is: Yes. Co-ops today are experiments whose potential is not yet exhausted, certainly improvements over most existing capitalist arrangements which have perhaps portents for the future, but which have limitations that must be recognized.

The first four questions do not present mutually exclusive alternatives, in the sense that they could, but do not necessarily, provoke fundamental questions about the desirability of further change. They show that workers can run factories themselves, democracy in the workplace is possible, and capitalists are not necessary for the organization of production.

The answer to the fifth question, as to the net importance of co-ops today, of course depends on the strength of the answers to the first four questions, and on whether or not the goal is seen as a fundamental social transformation. Fundamental social transformation is used here to refer to a movement toward socialism, an alternative to the present capitalist social formation. Marx’s conception of socialism was of such an alternative, but one whose details could vary significantly as long as it was non-captialist.

Because Marx represents a clear starting point for a history of experience with the modern forms of worker co-ops, this article looks at some of his comments in this regard to set the context to a more contemporary evaluation.

Are Worker Co-ops Immediate Social Welfare?

Yes, worker co-ops are clearly superior to the conventional capital-owned and managed form of enterprise organization, for two reasons. First, they replace the capitalist with the democratic association of the workers—as Marx says, the workers become their own capitalists, they can thus arrange operations amongst themselves to the extent they wish. The workers’ welfare is materially enhanced, since the profits that the capitalist would have made as a result of ownership of the firm become incomes of the 99%, which are proportionately increased as that of the 1% is relatively decreased.

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February 10, 2015

Automation: The Gravedigger of Capitalism and, with Socialism, the Emancipator of the Working Class

by @ 4:05 pm. Filed under Capitalism, Cybernation, Unemployment

More Robots Coming To U.S. Factories

By Paul Davidson
SolidarityEconomy.net via USA TODAY

Feb 10, 2015 - Manufacturers will significantly accelerate their use of robots in U.S. factories over the next decade as they become cheaper and perform more tasks, constraining payroll growth, according to a study out Tuesday.

The development is expected to dramatically boost productivity and slow the long-standing migration of factories across the globe to take advantage of low-cost labor, says the Boston Consulting Group report.

"Advanced robotics are changing the calculus of manufacturing," says Harold Sirkin, a senior partner at the management consulting firm.

A handful of nations, including the U.S. and China, are poised to reap the biggest benefits of the automation wave.

About 1.2 million additional advanced robots are expected to be deployed in the U.S. by 2025, BCG says. Four industries will lead the shift — computer and electronics products; electrical equipment and appliances; transportation; and machinery — largely because more of their tasks can be automated and they deliver the biggest cost savings.

About 10% of all manufacturing functions are automated, a share that will rise to nearly 25% in a decade as robotic vision sensors and gripping systems improve, BCG says.

Meanwhile, costs are tumbling. The cost to purchase and start up an advanced robotic spot welder has plunged from $182,000 in 2005 to $133,000 in 2014, with the price forecast to drop another 22% by 2025.

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February 5, 2015

In the Green Energy Business, ‘Doable’, Unfortunately, Is Not the Same as ‘Make It So’

by @ 11:53 am. Filed under Green Energy, High Design, High Road Economics

CEOs Call For Zero Emissions Goal In Paris Climate Deal

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of high-profile CEOs on Thursday called on world leaders to agree to bring the balance of greenhouse gas emissions to zero by mid-century in a global climate change deal to be finalized in Paris in December.

The leaders of B Team, a coalition about 12 CEOs and policymakers including Virgin [VA.UL] founder Richard Branson, Unilever chief Paul Polman and Tata International's [TATAI.UL] Ratan Tata, said a global net-zero emissions goal by 2050 will prompt businesses to embed new investments and clean energy research into their business strategies.

Branson told Reuters in an interview the lofty goal - one of the options for a long-term climate goal being considered for the Paris draft negotiating text - is "doable" with private sector help.

"The politicians in Paris need to know business is behind them taking the right decisions and they are not going to damage the world economically by taking these decisions," he said.

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February 2, 2015

War Is the New Normal

by @ 1:33 pm. Filed under militarism

   

Seven  Deadly Reasons Why America’s Wars Persist

By William Astore
TomDispatch

Feb 1, 2015 - It was launched immediately after the 9/11 attacks, when I was still in the military, and almost immediately became known as the Global War on Terror, or GWOT.  Pentagon insiders called it “the long war [4],” an open-ended, perhaps unending, conflict against nations and terror networks mainly of a radical Islamist bent.  It saw the revival of counterinsurgency doctrine, buried in the aftermath of defeat in Vietnam, and a reinterpretation [5] of that disaster as well.  Over the years, its chief characteristic became ever clearer: a “Groundhog Day [6]” kind of repetition.  Just when you thought it was over (Iraq [7], Afghanistan [8]), just after victory (of a sort) was declared, it began again [9].

Now, as we find ourselves enmeshed in Iraq War 3.0, what better way to memorialize the post-9/11 American way of war than through repetition.  Back in July 2010, I wrote an article for TomDispatch on the seven reasons [10] why America can’t stop making war.  More than four years later, with the war on terror still ongoing, with the mission eternally unaccomplished, here’s a fresh take on the top seven reasons why never-ending war is the new normal in America.  In this sequel, I make only one promise: no declarations of victory (and mark it on your calendars, I’m planning to be back with seven new reasons in 2019).

1.  The privatization of war: The U.S. military’s recourse to private contractors [11] has strengthened the profit motive for war-making and prolonged wars as well.  Unlike the citizen-soldiers of past eras, the mobilized warrior corporations [12] of America’s new mercenary moment -- the Halliburton [13]/KBRs (nearly $40 billion [14] in contracts for the Iraq War alone), the DynCorps [15] ($4.1 billion to train 150,000 Iraqi police), and the Blackwater/Xe/Academis [16] ($1.3 billion in Iraq, along with boatloads of controversy [17]) -- have no incentive to demobilize.  Like most corporations, their business model is based on profit through growth, and growth is most rapid when wars and preparations for more of them are the favored options in Washington.

"Freedom isn’t free," as a popular conservative bumper sticker puts it, and neither is war.  My father liked the saying, “He who pays the piper calls the tune,” and today’s mercenary corporations have been calling for a lot of military marches piping in $138 billion in contracts for Iraq alone, according to [18] the Financial Times.  And if you think that the privatization of war must at least reduce government waste, think again: the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated in 2011 that fraud, waste, and abuse accounted for up to $60 billion [19] of the money spent in Iraq alone.

To corral American-style war, the mercenaries must be defanged or deflated.  European rulers learned this the hard way during the Thirty Years’ War of the seventeenth century.  At that time, powerful mercenary captains like Albrecht von Wallenstein [20] ran amok.  Only Wallenstein’s assassination and the assertion of near absolutist powers by monarchs bent on curbing war before they went bankrupt finally brought the mercenaries to heel, a victory as hard won as it was essential to Europe’s survival and eventual expansion.  (Europeans then exported their wars to foreign shores, but that’s another story.)

2.  The embrace of the national security state by both major parties: Jimmy Carter was the last president to attempt to exercise any kind of control over the national security state.  A former Navy nuclear engineer who had served under the demanding Admiral Hyman Rickover [21], Carter cancelled the B-1 bomber and fought for a U.S. foreign policy based on human rights.  Widely pilloried for talking about [22] nuclear war with his young daughter Amy, Carter was further attacked for being “weak” on defense.  His defeat by Ronald Reagan in 1980 inaugurated 12 years of dominance by Republican presidents that opened the financial floodgates for the Department of Defense.  That taught Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council [23] a lesson when it came to the wisdom of wrapping the national security state in a welcoming embrace, which they did, however uncomfortably.  This expedient turn to the right by the Democrats in the Clinton years served as a temporary booster shot when it came to charges of being “soft” on defense -- until Republicans upped the ante by going “all-in” on military crusades in the aftermath of 9/11.

Since his election in 2008, Barack Obama has done little to alter the course set by his predecessors.  He, too, has chosen not to challenge Washington’s prevailing catechism of war [24].  Republicans have responded, however, not by muting their criticism, but by upping the ante yet again.  How else to explain House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress in March [25]?  That address promises to be a pep talk for the Republicans, as well as a smack down of the Obama administration and its “appeasenik [26]” policies toward Iran and Islamic radicalism.

Serious oversight, let alone opposition to the national security state by Congress or a mainstream political party, has been missing in action [27] for years and must now, in the wake of the Senate Torture Report fiasco (from which the CIAemerged [28] stronger, not weaker), be presumed dead.  The recent midterm election triumph of Republican war hawks and the prospective lineup of candidates for president in 2016 does not bode well when it comes to reining in the national security state in any foreseeable future.

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January 31, 2015

Greece Proves Populist Movements Can Fight And Win

by @ 4:31 am. Filed under Economy
By Terrance Heath Campaign for America's Future Jan 27, 2015 - After five years of protests, demonstrations and strikes, Greek citizens voted to throw off five years of crushing austerity. Their victory has emboldened populist parties across Europe, and should inspire Americans to resist austerity here at home. The victory of Greece’s leftist anti-austerity Syriza party, and Alexis Tsipiras’ ascension to prime minister ushers in a government that will push back against the austerity measures devised by the troika of Greece’s international creditors and the International Monetary Fund, and accepted by the country’s economic elite, after the crash of Greece’s economy in 2009. Greece’s new leaders left little doubt about their intentions as they celebrated victory. Alexis_Tsipras“Greece leaves behind the austerity that ruined it, at least behind the fear, leaves behind five years of humiliation, and grease moves forward with optimism and hope and dignity.” ~ Alexis Tsipiras, Greece’s new prime minister “We are going to destroy the basis upon which they have built, for decade after decade, a system, about a network that viciously sucks the of energy and economic power from everybody else in society. ” ~ Yanis Varoukis, Greece’s new prime minister, on Greece’s oligarchy. The International Monetary Fund assumed the Greek government could impose austerity without significant impact on economic growth and unemployment. In fact, the IMF assumed Greece’s economy would grow as a result of the 2010 aid package, for which the troika and the IMF demanded austerity measures. The results were disastrous. Greece’s economy shrunk by 25 percent, and wages dropped about the same amount. Along with shrinking the economy, austerity increased Greece’s national debt. Unemployment has reached depression levels. Overall unemployment is at 28 percent. Youth unemployment stands at 60 percent — even after the government lowered the minimum wage for youth by 32 percent, to encourage job creation. Wealthy Greeks got off scot-free. Cocooned in suburbs, austerity cuts didn’t touch them until mid–2013, when the government ruled that wealthy Greeks were no longer entitled to free police bodyguards. Since 2009, businessmen and journalists threatened by anarchist groups received personal police protection. The burden of austerity cuts fell mostly upon middle- and working-class Greeks. Three million Greeks are living on or below the poverty line. Nearly every family has suffered. Many have survived by queuing up at soup kitchens, and scavenging rubbish bins for food. Austerity devastated the health of Greece’s economy and its people. The national health budget was cut by 40 percent. As a result, 35,000 doctors, nurses, and other health workers lost their jobs. Hospitals lack basic supplies and enough staff. Infant mortality went up by 40 percent.

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January 30, 2015

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by @ 6:35 am. Filed under Economy
xxx

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January 6, 2015

Green High Design: Ocean Current as Underwater Wind Power

by @ 7:55 am. Filed under Green Energy, High Design

The floating underwater marine-current turbine uses two counter-rotating blades. It is fixed to the seabed and sails like a kite supported and driven by the ocean current.

IHI and Toshiba partner to develop underwater turbines

By Paul Dvorak

SolidarityEconomy.net via Windengineering.com

Dec 30, 2014 - IHI and Toshiba have developed a unique floating underwater marine-current turbine to generate electricity. Their research is to demonstrate the feasibility of generating ocean energy and creating a framework for the industry, and improve energy security for Japan.

The floating underwater marine-current turbine uses two counter-rotating blades. A pair would be fixed to the seabed and sail like a kite supported and driven by the ocean current.

The floating underwater marine-current turbine uses two counter-rotating blades. It is fixed to the seabed and sails like a kite supported and driven by the ocean current. IHI is the leading company in the joint research project and will manufacture the turbine and the floating structure. Toshiba will provide electrical equipment such as generators and transformers.

Ocean currents, such as the Kuroshio Current, are natural energy resource. If Japan succeeds in converting the enormous energy of ocean currents, it will provide the island nation a large-scale, stable energy source. IHI and Toshiba have been working with the University of Tokyo and Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute since 2011.

Electricity generation from ocean energy of currents, temperature differences, tides, waves, and so on has been explored in Europe and the United States.


NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization)  promotes R&D projects in the field of marine-energy technology with the aim to develop world-leading technologies and contribute to the reduction of CO2 since 2011 in Japan. This project will continue into 2017.

IHI
www.ihi.co.jp/en/index.html

Toshiba
www.toshiba.co.jp/index.htm



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January 5, 2015

New York Times Assesses Xi Jinping as a Turn to the Left in China

by @ 7:44 am. Filed under China, Marxism, Socialism

Maoists in China, Given New Life, Attack Dissent

By CHRIS BUCKLEY and ANDREW JACOBS
New York Times

JAN. 4, 2015 - HONG KONG — They pounce on bloggers who dare mock their beloved Chairman Mao. They scour the nation’s classrooms and newspapers for strains of Western-inspired liberal heresies. And they have taken down professors, journalists and others deemed disloyal to Communist Party orthodoxy.

China’s Maoist ideologues are resurgent after languishing in the political desert, buoyed by President Xi Jinping’s traditionalist tilt and emboldened by internal party decrees that have declared open season on Chinese academics, artists and party cadres seen as insufficiently red.

Ideological vigilantes have played a pivotal role in the downfall of Wang Congsheng, a law professor in Beijing who was detained and then suspended from teaching after posting online criticisms of the party. Another target was Wang Yaofeng, a newspaper columnist who voiced support for the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and then found himself without a job.

“Since Xi came to power, the pressure and control over freethinkers has become really tight,” said Qiao Mu, a Beijing journalism professor who was demoted this fall, in part for publicly espousing multiparty elections and free speech. “More and more of my friends and colleagues are experiencing fear and harassment.”

Two years into a sweeping offensive against dissent, Mr. Xi has been intensifying his focus on perceived ideological opponents, sending ripples through universities, publishing houses and the news media and emboldening hard-liners who have hailed him as a worthy successor to Mao Zedong.

In instructions published last week, Mr. Xi urged universities to “enhance guidance over thinking and keep a tight grip on leading ideological work in higher education,” Xinhua, the official news agency, reported.

In internal decrees, he has been blunter, attacking liberal thinking as a pernicious threat that has contaminated the Communist Party’s ranks, and calling on officials to purge the nation of ideas that run counter to modern China’s Marxist-Leninist foundations.

“Never allow singing to a tune contrary to the party center,” he wrote in comments that began to appear on party and university websites in October. “Never allow eating the Communist Party’s food and then smashing the Communist Party’s cooking pots.”

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