Try to imagine Republicans allowing let this to be installed, or these ideas to be given a physical presence in the form of a beacon for the world’s oppressed people, today. Much less allowing such a gift from France.
On #OWS, plus for when he word-whips Little Tommy Freidman (age 9), Taibbi is a national treasure:
STUPIDITY INSURANCE. Defenders of the banks like to talk a lot about how we shouldn’t feel sorry for people who’ve been foreclosed upon, because it’s they’re own fault for borrowing more than they can pay back, buying more house than they can afford, etc. And critics of OWS have assailed protesters for complaining about things like foreclosure by claiming these folks want “something for nothing.”
This is ironic because, as one of the Rolling Stone editors put it last week, “something for nothing is Wall Street’s official policy.” In fact, getting bailed out for bad investment decisions has been de rigeur on Wall Street not just since 2008, but for decades.
Time after time, when big banks screw up and make irresponsible bets that blow up in their faces, they’ve scored bailouts. It doesn’t matter whether it was the Mexican currency bailout of 1994 (when the state bailed out speculators who gambled on the peso) or the IMF/World Bank bailout of Russia in 1998 (a bailout of speculators in the “emerging markets”) or the Long-Term Capital Management Bailout of the same year (in which the rescue of investors in a harebrained hedge-fund trading scheme was deemed a matter of international urgency by the Federal Reserve), Wall Street has long grown accustomed to getting bailed out for its mistakes.
The 2008 crash, of course, birthed a whole generation of new bailout schemes.
The LTCM fiasco was particularly egregious, even and especially at the time. Stomach-turning levels of under-believability, as this 1998 article from Harper’s illustrates. And we just carried on.
In a quadruple over-time thriller that went so far past the wire it might be too late to do anything, climate change deniers are now providing evidence that climate change is actually happening and the scientific community was actually, uh, right:
In the press release announcing the results, Muller said, “Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK.” In other words, climate scientists know what they’re doing after all.
The BEST report is purely an estimate of planetary warming, and it makes no estimate of how much this warming is due to human activity. So in one sense, its impact is limited since the smarter skeptics have already abandoned the idea that warming is a hoax and now focus their fire solely on the contention that it’s man-made. (And the even smarter ones have given up on that, too, and now merely argue that it’s economically pointless to try to stop it.) Still, the fact that climate scientists turned out to be careful and thorough in their basic estimates of temperature rise surely enhances their credibility in general. Climategate was always a ridiculous sideshow, and this is just one more nail in its coffin. Climate scientists got the basic data right, and they’ve almost certainly gotten the human causes right too.
VandeHei and Allen are careful to avoid attributing any kind of ideological substance to their proposed candidates. Instead, they describe them with empty signifiers like “authentic outsider”, “a combination of money, accomplishment and celebrity”, “a strong leader [voters] can truly believe in”, and “someone who breaks free from the tired right-versus-left constraint on modern politics”. But that doesn’t mean there’s no ideological agenda here. There is, and it leaks through in their profile of erstwhile Deficit Commissioner Erskine Bowles: “The most depressing reality of modern governance is this: The current system seems incapable of dealing with our debt addiction before it becomes a crippling crisis.”
It’s hardly worth pointing out anymore that there is, in fact, no debt crisis; on the contrary, sensible observers are wondering why the government is bothering to collect revenues at all, when the cost of borrowing is hitting zero. By now, everyone who cares has realized that fear-mongering about the debt and the deficit is a trick used opportunistically by those who want to reorient government around their particular priorities. And the priorities of the deficit scolds, judging by the work of creatures like Pete Peterson, are to dismantle what’s left of the welfare state and transfer even more money to the already wealthy. Ranting about the deficit is merely a means to this end, if it facilitates goals such as the elimination of Social Security and Medicare.
Isn’t it now? Read the rest of this for a good run-down on why, and for as long as they can, OWS should hold out on saying exactly what it is they want. Hint: words fail. At least the ones we’re used to using.
We diddle about whether there is anything to do anything about, meanwhile Australia (highest per capita carbon emissions) passes a tax on carbon.
The legislation would force about 500 of the biggest polluters to pay for each tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.
The tax is central to the government’s strategy to combat climate change, but the opposition says it will cause job losses and raise the cost of living.
Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter and one of the biggest per capita greenhouse gas emitters.
“Today is a significant day for Australians and the Australians of the future who want to see a better environment,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said before the vote.
It can be done and people (and people fromerly known as companies) will adjust. As they will to a tax on trading stocks, bonds and derivatives.
The jobs’ bill filibuster… look into it and you’ll see how completely captured our (odd pronoun choice, more needed) legislators are to the will and wishes of corporate interests. They can’t even discuss voting on a jobs bill, much less a carbon tax.
But Australia did. Maybe they decided to put the sharks back in the water where they belong.
This post on the Vélib program in Paris brings up a couple of interesting points. First:
While far behind cities like Amsterdam (who isn’t?), Paris is trying to hold its own in the green sweepstakes. To date, one of its most important projects has been a short-term bicycle rental system. Vélib, which started in 2007, is today fully integrated into the fabric of the city, counting millions of passenger trips each year. In proposing my Autolib article, I explained that the city was seeking to build on that “‘hugely successful’’ model.
My characterization of the bike program as ‘‘hugely successful’’ led to a lively debate among my editors, a number of whom argued that Vélib was not in fact successful because it had failed to reduce traffic and so many of the bicycles are damaged, vandalized or stolen that the program was probably running at a loss.
Programs like Autolib and Vélib have little impact on local air pollution and noise, and whatever effect they do have could probably be achieved at lower cost, he said.
All the same, they can be effective ‘‘in setting a first step towards a transition in transport, energy and the environment — a transition that probably is needed in the next decades,’’ Mr. van Wee said.
Touché. That’s the whole point – there are limits to looking merely at the costs and benefits and calling it analysis. We could be doing all kinds of things by implementing these programs, of which making bikes available for rent is just one. By the same, very same, token, it is possible to look at the cost of say, a bike program, and compare it to the costs of a personal automobile program. We have an abiding belief that the costs of roads, bridges, cars themselves (payments and maintenance), insurance, not to mention the gasoline and not to even hint at the wars that are necessary from time to time to maintain access to that gasoline, are relatively acceptable or low-cost in some aspect, or somehow a natural part of the world. But the costs of driving are none of these things. They are excessive. And would be unthinkable if considered in their totality.Only then, when we have an idea of such a sum, such costs, should we compare that number and the bits of flesh that will eternally decorate it to the cost of a bike program, or a wind farm, or outfitting every man, woman, child, dog, cat and long-eared galoot with a personal solar chapeau and matching lawn darts set. Then we might know which might be worth it, and which might be just another receptor for our rage. Speaking of which, see also this.
Green Boy came in last night before a game a ping pong. “Have you heard?”
I had not, and so he broke the news. He had just written an essay on the Steve Jobs last month for school, on someone you admire, and I could tell he was quite moved by the passing, though not enough to spare me any quarter at all in our ping pong match. But it was moving, refreshing in a way, to see him effected by this stranger’s passing. I see where today many millions feel the same. It’s a strange sort of collective response to individual experience. Here’s mine.
Just after Mrs. G and I tied the knot, as two writers with no money looking to quit our jobs and pursue something (else) absolutely foolhardy, one of the first things we did was to buy the Powerbook 165C, along with the Stylewriter II printer, which together cost an even fortune. Unbelievable. But our two other friends with laptops at that point swore by them, and so we dove in. I was oddly proud of the thing, though even then it really couldn’t do much. But I was getting it because of what I was convinced I could do. Hmm.
But on our subsequent move to New England to begin mostly unrelated though closely held literary pursuits, that thing was indispensable. A year later we moved to Europe with not a single thought of a backup or that the the pB would let us down in any way. And it didn’t. Always a Cadillac, in the kleenex sense of the word. I didn’t even know it was dual voltage and fretted needlessly over frying it. But never fear. Someone had thought of that. And if it wasn’t Jobs, it was somebody he saw at least once a month. I could go into the kids’ music/play room right now, pull the 165 out of its dusty bag under a desk and boot it up, and I’m sure it would turn on immediately. Offering (begging?) me the opportunity to contribute some further hewing to my oeuvre.
A couple of years later we upgraded with one of the limited edition graphite iBooks,which frankly looks hilarious but works like a charm. I could dig that one out and fire it up, as well. And it would work. Maybe that’s the point; I’ve kept these machines (not the printers) not because I still use them, but I’ve never really even thought of getting rid of them, which is maybe a nostalgic angle on sustainability, but… they still work and could if they were called into the ‘hot zone’ of my fiction haze. With a modem, I could even write this damn blog on ‘em! Sure, we have MBpros and all now, desktops and fancy monitors. But the pattern was set back then with that use and, frankly, dependability of those machines not to let me down – even and especially if I didn’t (quite) know what I was doing (yet). I put five novels and a few plays into those things and gotten more than my share of joy/misery back out. And looking for more.
I can get as eye-rolly as anyone about their marketing techniques and Jobs’ amazing ability to create in us the need for something we did not know we needed. And I still don’t know what the iPad is for. BUT, the catch is that these tools – and they are only tools – are all quite amazing, and feel like they were developed by someone who loved them and loved to use them. As opposed to some entity that seemed to loathe the end-user (not mentiPoning any nCames). Of that, we can know Jobs was innocent. But I know his tools transformed my work life (carbons?) in ways that even I have seen change, and that were quite unimagined just a few decades previous. And for that I say Merci and R.I.P.