Sunday, April 27, 2014

ANS -- Sweden Turns Japanese

Here's an interesting article.   It's about Sweden snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  It due to the money people, who seem to give consistently bad advice.  My favorite line is highlighted -- at least read that. 
Find it here: =  

Op-Ed Columnist

Sweden Turns Japanese


April 20, 2014
Three years ago Sweden was widely regarded as a role model in how to deal with a global crisis. The nation's exports were hit hard by slumping world trade but snapped back; its well-regulated banks rode out the financial storm; its strong social insurance programs supported consumer demand; and unlike much of Europe, it still had its own currency, giving it much-needed flexibility. By mid-2010 output was surging, and unemployment was falling fast. Sweden, declared The Washington Post, was "the rock star of the recovery."

Then the sadomonetarists moved in.

The story so far: In 2010 Sweden's economy was doing much better than those of most other advanced countries. But unemployment was still high, and inflation was low. Nonetheless, the Riksbank ­ Sweden's equivalent of the Federal Reserve ­ decided to start raising interest rates.

There was some dissent within the Riksbank over this decision. Lars Svensson, a deputy governor at the time ­ and a former Princeton colleague of mine ­ vociferously opposed the rate hikes. Mr. Svensson, one of the world's leading experts on Japanese-style deflationary traps, warned that raising interest rates in a still-depressed economy put Sweden at risk of a similar outcome. But he found himself isolated, and left the Riksbank in 2013.

Paul Krugman

Fred R. Conrad / The New York Times

Sure enough, Swedish unemployment stopped falling soon after the rate hikes began. Deflation took a little longer, but it eventually arrived. The rock star of the recovery has turned itself into Japan.

So why did the Riksbank make such a terrible mistake? That's a hard question to answer, because officials changed their story over time. At first the bank's governor declared that it was all about heading off inflation: "If the interest rate isn't raised now, we'll run the risk of too much inflation further ahead ... Our most important task is to ensure that we meet our inflation target of 2 percent." But as inflation slid toward zero, falling ever further below that supposedly crucial target, the Riksbank offered a new rationale: tight money was about curbing a housing bubble, to avert financial instability. That is, as the situation changed, officials invented new rationales for an unchanging policy.

In short, this was a classic case of sadomonetarism in action.

I'm using that term (coined by William Keegan of The Observer) advisedly, not just to be colorful. At least as I define it, sadomonetarism is an attitude, common among monetary officials and commentators, that involves a visceral dislike for low interest rates and easy money, even when unemployment is high and inflation is low. You find many sadomonetarists at international organizations; in the United States they tend to dwell on Wall Street or in right-leaning economics departments. They don't, I'm happy to say, exert much influence at the Federal Reserve ­ but they do constantly harass the Fed, demanding that it stop its efforts to boost employment.

And when I say that the dislike for low rates is visceral, I mean just that. While sadomonetarists may offer what sound like coherent analytical rationales for their policy views, they don't change their policy views in response to changing conditions ­ they just invent new rationales. This strongly suggests that what we're looking at here is a gut feeling rather than a thought-out position.

Indeed, the Riksbank's evolving justifications for rate hikes were mirrored at international organizations like the Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements, an influential bankers' bank that is a sadomonetarist stronghold. Just like the Riksbank, the bank changed its rationale for rate hikes ­ It's about inflation! It's about financial stability! ­ but never its policy demands.

Where does this gut dislike for low rates come from? At some level it has to reflect an instinctive identification with the interests of wealthy creditors as opposed to usually poorer debtors. But it's also driven, I believe, by the desire of many monetary officials to pose as serious, tough-minded people ­ and to demonstrate how tough they are by inflicting pain.

Whatever their motives, sadomonetarists have already done a lot of damage. In Sweden they have extracted defeat from the jaws of victory, turning an economic success story into a tale of stagnation and deflation as far as the eye can see.

And they could do much more damage in the future. Financial markets have been fairly calm lately ­ no big banking crises, no imminent threats of euro breakup. But it would be wrong and dangerous to assume that recovery is assured: bad policies could all too easily undermine our still-sluggish economic progress. So when serious-sounding men in dark suits tell you that it's time to stop all this easy money and raise rates, beware: Look at what such people have done to Sweden.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

ANS -- New Computer

Well, this is from my new computer. If you got this, you made it
across the Great Divide into the new computer!
If you didn't get this, let me know. :-)

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Hi Everyone --- I am changing to a new computer -- hopefully, today
-- so if you don't hear from me in the next couple of days, please
send me your email address, because I will have lost it.
Feel free to give me feedback on the ANS emails.

Monday, April 21, 2014

ANS -- And Now the Koch Brothers Will Attempt to Crush the Solar Industry

Not satisfied with making a hundred billion dollars, the Koch brothers are now trying to destroy the solar industry.  I believe this shows them to be mentally deranged.  But here it is. 
Find it here:  

Charles G. Koch. (photo: Mike Burley/AP)  
Charles G. Koch. (photo: Mike Burley/AP)

go to original article

And Now the Koch Brothers Will Attempt to Crush the Solar Industry

By Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times

21 April 14

The Koch brothers and large utilities have allied to reverse state policies that favor renewable energy. Environmentalists are pushing back, but the fight is spreading and intensifying.

[] he political attack ad that ran recently in Arizona had some familiar hallmarks of the genre, including a greedy villain who hogged sweets for himself and made children cry.

But the bad guy, in this case, wasn't a fat-cat lobbyist or someone's political opponent.

He was a solar-energy consumer.

Solar, once almost universally regarded as a virtuous, if perhaps over-hyped, energy alternative, has now grown big enough to have enemies.

The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation's largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.

Alarmed environmentalists and their allies in the solar industry have fought back, battling the other side to a draw so far. Both sides say the fight is growing more intense as new states, including Ohio, South Carolina and Washington, enter the fray.

At the nub of the dispute are two policies found in dozens of states. One requires utilities to get a certain share of power from renewable sources. The other, known as net metering, guarantees homeowners or businesses with solar panels on their roofs the right to sell any excess electricity back into the power grid at attractive rates.

Net metering forms the linchpin of the solar-energy business model. Without it, firms say, solar power would be prohibitively expensive.

The power industry argues that net metering provides an unfair advantage to solar consumers, who don't pay to maintain the power grid although they draw money from it and rely on it for backup on cloudy days. The more people produce their own electricity through solar, the fewer are left being billed for the transmission lines, substations and computer systems that make up the grid, industry officials say.

"If you are using the grid and benefiting from the grid, you should pay for it," said David Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, the advocacy arm for the industry. "If you don't, other customers have to absorb those costs."

The institute has warned power companies that profits could erode catastrophically if current policies and market trends continue. If electricity companies delay in taking political action, the group warned in a report, "it may be too late to repair the utility business model."

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.

"State governments are starting to wake up," Christine Harbin Hanson, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, said in an email. The organization has led the effort to overturn the mandate in Kansas, which requires that 20% of the state's electricity come from renewable sources.

"These green energy mandates are bad policy," said Hanson, adding that the group was hopeful Kansas would be the first of many dominoes to fall.

The group's campaign in that state compared the green energy mandate to Obamacare, featuring ominous images of Kathleen Sebelius, the outgoing secretary of Health and Human Services, who was Kansas' governor when the state adopted the requirement.

The Kansas Senate voted late last month to repeal the mandate, but solar industry allies in the state House blocked the move.

Environmentalists were unnerved. "The want to roll it back here so they can start picking off other states," said Dorothy Barnett, director of the Climate and Energy Project, a Kansas advocacy group.

The arguments over who benefits from net metering, meanwhile, are hotly disputed. Some studies, including one published recently by regulators in Vermont, conclude that solar customers bring enough benefits to a regional power supply to fully defray the cost of the incentive.

Utilities deny that and are spending large sums to greatly scale back the policy.

In Arizona, a major utility and a tangle of secret donors and operatives with ties to ALEC and the Kochs invested millions to persuade state regulators to impose a monthly fee of $50 to $100 on net-metering customers.

Two pro-business groups, at least one of which had previously reported receiving millions of dollars from the Koch brothers, formed the campaign's public face. Their activities were coordinated by GOP consultant Sean Noble and former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams, two early architects of the Koch network of nonprofits.

In October, California ethics officials levied a $1-million fine after accusing groups the two men ran during the 2012 election of violating state campaign finance laws in an effort to hide the identities of donors.

The Arizona Public Service Co., the state's utility, also had Noble on its payroll. As a key vote at the Arizona Corporation Commission approached late last year, one of the commissioners expressed frustration that anonymous donors had bankrolled the heated campaign. He demanded APS reveal its involvement. The utility reported it had spent $3.7 million.

"Politically oriented nonprofits are a fact of life today and provide a vehicle for individuals and organizations with a common point of view to express themselves," company officials said in a statement in response to questions about their campaign.

The solar companies, seeking to sway the corporation commission, an elected panel made up entirely of Republicans, formed an organization aimed at building support among conservatives. The group, Tell Utilities Solar won't be Killed, is led by former California congressman Barry Goldwater Jr., a Republican Party stalwart.

"These solar companies are becoming popular, and utilities don't like competition," Goldwater said. "I believe people ought to have a choice."

The commission ultimately voted to impose a monthly fee on solar consumers ­ of $5.

The solar firms declared victory. But utility industry officials and activists at ALEC and Americans for Prosperity say the battles are just getting underway. They note the Kansas legislation will soon be up for reconsideration, and fights elsewhere have barely begun.

In North Carolina, executives at Duke Energy, the country's largest electric utility, have made clear the state's net metering law is in their sights. The company's lobbying effort is just beginning. But already, Goldwater's group has begun working in the state, launching a social media and video campaign accusing Duke of deceit.

"The intention of these proposals is to eliminate the rooftop solar industry," said Bryan Miller, president of the Alliance for Solar Choice, an industry group.

"They have picked some of the most conservative states in the country," he added. "But rooftop solar customers are voters, and policymakers ultimately have to listen to the public."



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+7 # politicfix 2014-04-21 12:45
Solar energy needs the backing of the people against these notorious blackhearts who do not want to see the people save money on energy, and to develop a cleaner lifestyle.
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+1 # RnR 2014-04-21 16:06
Fine, dig up Tesla's papers and do it that way - there how do you like no profits at all?

Just a thought *lol*
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+4 # margpark 2014-04-21 20:06
Are they celibrate? Do they have no descendents? Are they in no way worried about the one earth we depend on?
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+5 # Agricanto 2014-04-21 20:13
The political assault on solid environmental solutions to the disaster of fossil fuels is well funded and steeped in an anti-social ideology that puts corporate profits first. These same people have attacked sustainable development, LEED building standards, climate science, international agreements, and even bicycle lanes. We will have to do battle with these pricks or lose the planet to them.
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+3 # Caliban 2014-04-21 20:19
Right on!
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# Kimc 2014-04-21 21:21
""If you are using the grid and benefiting from the grid, you should pay for it," said David Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, the advocacy arm for the industry. "If you don't, other customers have to absorb those costs.""
Isn't this an argument that big corporations should have to pay taxes? That rich people should have to pay taxes?
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Sunday, April 20, 2014

ANS -- Behind the cornucopia of higher food prices

If the graphs will copy, here's an article about rising food prices.  In case you hadn't noticed....
Find it here:|mod&par=xfinity   

Behind the cornucopia of higher food prices

John W. Schoen| @johnwschoen
15 Hours Ago

COMMENTSJoin the Discussion

Alert shoppers are accustomed to watching food prices go up and down. But a string of forces­from droughts to diseases­is raising the cost of a trip to the grocery store at a rapid clip.

And it looks like it will be a while before the price pressure eases.
A clerk rings up a customer at Cal-Mart Grocery on March 27, 20  
Getty Images
A clerk rings up a customer at Cal-Mart Grocery on March 27, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

Some of that pressure is coming from California­the source of roughly half the nation's fruits and vegetables­where a long-running drought is forcing farmers and ranchers to cut production. After the driest year on record, large sections of farmland are expected to lay fallow this year as the Golden State copes with an ongoing water crisis

Read More Your food, your wallet and the California drought

That could have "large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy and egg prices," according to a recent USDA report, which said the full impact has yet to be felt.

Smaller cattle herds have forced meat prices higher in March­up more than 5 percent from a year ago, as demand remained strong despite tightener supplies. Ranchers are getting higher prices for cattle and food companies are able to pass them along.
Learn About Tableau

[there are some graphics that go here, but they didn't copy.  Go to the site to see them.]

Pork prices also have been rising after higher feed costs last year forced hog farmers to cut production. The upward price pressure on pork intensified this winter when a deadly virus thinned pig herds. That's expected to bring even higher prices for this summer's grilling season, when demand typically picks up.

Read MoreHold the bacon: Breakfast staples face surging prices

"I think consumer should expect record high meat prices his year," Tyson Foods CEO Donnie Smith told CNBC last month. "You should expect to see very high prices for your ground beef, your other meat cuts, all the pork cuts will be higher this year."

Food prices are notoriously volatile, subject to short term spikes and drops based on weather-related shortages and surpluses. But the forces at work this year are longer-lasting.

An ongoing contraction in the U.S. dairy herd, for example, is pushing up retail prices of cheese, ice cream, and other processed dairy foods.

Read MoreWhy inflation is hard to swallow for food companies

Farm egg prices have been among the most volatile, jumping by 20 percent in February after dropping by 28 percent in January.

U.S. farmers aren't the only ones facing a production squeeze. A drought in coffee growing regions of southern Brazil, the world's largest coffee producer, has pushed up the cost of a cup of Java worldwide. Coffee futures have surged 57 percent this year and rose above $2 a pound last month for the first time in two years.

With bacon and coffee prices surging, breakfast is becoming more expensive­especially if you include a glass of orange juice. Future prices are up 12 percent this year, hitting two-year highs, after Florida's orange crop was hit by an insect-borne disease that's expected to cut yields to the lowest levels in nearly a quarter century. Production could fall by about 15 percent to 114 million boxes this year, according to government forecasts, the lowest level since 1990.The recent series of food price hikes follow a relatively long stretch of stable consumer prices. Since 1990, retail food prices have risen by an average of 2.8 percent a year, according to USDA. From February through December of last year, average supermarket prices fell by 0.2 percent.

Read More Farm bill: Bring on the hemp and sushi rice!

Consumers are also coping with higher costs beyond their supermarket shopping cart. After a brutal winter in much of the country kept shoppers home, a pickup in demand has sent clothing and used car prices higher in March.

Rents are also going up in most of the country, up 2.7 percent in the latest 12-months, a pace not seen since the housing market collapsed in 2007. Medical costs are also rising.

Because food prices are typically more volatile than other consumer costs, economists and policy makers at the Federal Reserve usually ignore them when looking at the so-called "core rate" of inflation. But after a long period of inflation running less than 2 percent a year, the latest surge in prices bears closer watching, according to Capital Insight senior economist Paul Dales.

"We suspect that core inflation will rise to 2 percent this year and beyond it next year, which would catch the Fed off guard," he wrote in a recent note to clients..

­By CNBC's John Schoen. Follow him on Twitter @johnwschoen or email him.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

ANS -- Another (real) reason the Kochers dislike Sharia:

This really interesting article-let was in the comments to an article about Colbert taking over for what's his name....It's about why the Banksters and Greedsters are against Sharia Law. 
find it here (if you can):

* [new]  Another (real) reason the Kochers dislike Sharia: ( 7+ / 0-)
The Corporatist concepts of debt and usury as Good Business Practices, and of "money" as an ASSET that can be leveraged, are big no-nos. There's a lot of hypocrisy among Muslims, too, when it comes to High Finance and financialization and monetization, just like with drinking alcohol and eating proscribed foods and various other kinds of proscribed profligacy.

But if the Sharia framing of economic relations, particularly what we call "banking" relations, were to catch on, where would Lloyd Blankfein and Timmy Geithner and that Chicago toad Friedman be? Here's a bit of text from one of many primers on Sharia finance:
The Big Picture

Although they have been mandated since the beginnings of Islam in the seventh century, Islamic banking and finance have been formalized gradually since the late 1960s, coincident with and in response to tremendous oil wealth which, fueled renewed interest in and demand for Sharia-compliant products and practice.

Central to Islamic banking and finance is an understanding of the importance of risk sharing as part of raising capital and the avoidance of riba (usury) and gharar (risk or uncertainty). (To see more on risk, read Determining Risk And The Risk Pyramid and Personalizing Risk Tolerance.) [Compare Sharia notions with what rules here, the privatization of gain and "socialization" of loss, risk and externalities... not a pretty sight.]

Islamic law views lending with interest payments as a relationship that favors the lender, who charges interest at the expense of the borrower. Because Islamic law views money as a measuring tool for value and not an 'asset' in itself, it requires that one should not be able to receive income from money (for example, interest or anything that has the genus of money) alone. Deemed riba (literally an increase or growth), such practice is proscribed under Islamic law (haram, which means prohibited) as it is considered usurious and exploitative. By contrast, Islamic banking exists to further the socio-economic goals of Islam.

Accordingly, Sharia-compliant finance (halal, which means permitted) consists of profit banking in which the financial institution shares in the profit and loss of the enterprise that it underwrites. Of equal importance is the concept of gharar. Defined as risk or uncertainty, in a financial context it refers to the sale of items whose existence is not certain. Examples of gharar would be forms of insurance, such as the purchase of premiums to insure against something that may or may not occur or derivatives used to hedge against possible outcomes. (To read more about insurance or hedges, see A Beginner's Guide To Hedging, Understand Your Insurance Contract and Exploring Advanced Insurance Contract Fundamentals.)

The equity financing of companies is permissible, as long as those companies are not engaged in restricted types of business - such as the production of alcohol, pornography or weaponry - and only certain financial ratios meet specified guidelines.

[emphasis added]

But we "JudeoChristians," who per our holy texts used to benefit from something called "Jubilee," as a way to keep debt from becoming slavery, would all have our heads explode if all the idiotic genius of monetization and securitization and derivitization and financialization of EVERYthing were to be, you know, "against the law." Which law is now, you know, written by and for the very people who would be, like, "regulated" by the Delaware corporation law and the Uniform Commercial Code and the bankruptcy code (especially as relates to discharges of consumer and student and medical debt) and "securities" law and all that...


"Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

by jm214 on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 09:43:33 AM PDT

Friday, April 11, 2014

ANS -- Why US Fracking Companies Are Licking Their Lips over Ukraine

Here is an interesting article by Naomi Klein about how The Shock Doctrine applies to the situation in the Ukraine.  Watch out.  They will keep doing it as long as it continues to work.
Find it here:    

The Guardian / By Naomi Klein
comments_image   12 COMMENTS

Why US Fracking Companies Are Licking Their Lips over Ukraine

From climate change to Crimea, the natural gas industry is supreme at exploiting crisis for private gain – the shock doctrine.

April 10, 2014 |  

The way to beat Vladimir Putin is to flood the European market with fracked-in-the-USA natural gas, or so the industry would have us believe. As part of escalating anti-Russian hysteria, two bills have been introduced into the US Congress – one in the House of Representatives (H.R. 6), one in the Senate (S. 2083) – that attempt to fast-track liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, all in the name of helping Europe to wean itself from Putin's fossil fuels, and enhancing US national security.

According to Cory Gardner, the Republican congressman who introduced the House bill, "opposing this legislation is like hanging up on a 911 call from our friends and allies". And that might be true – as long as your friends and allies work at Chevron and Shell, and the emergency is the need to keep profits up amid dwindling supplies of conventional oil and gas.

For this ploy to work, it's important not to look too closely at details. Like the fact that much of the gas probably won't make it to Europe – because what the bills allow is for gas to be sold on the world market to any country belonging to the World Trade Organisation.

Or the fact that for years the industry has been selling the message that Americans must accept the risks to their land, water and air that come with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in order to help their country achieve "energy independence". And now, suddenly and slyly, the goal has been switched to "energy security", which apparently means selling a temporary glut of fracked gas on the world market, thereby creating energy dependencies abroad.

And most of all, it's important not to notice that building the infrastructure necessary to export gas on this scale would take many years in permitting and construction – a single LNG terminal can carry a $7bn price tag, must be fed by a massive, interlocking web of pipelines and compressor stations, and requires its own power plant just to generate energy sufficient to liquefy the gas through super-cooling. By the time these massive industrial projects are up and running, Germany and Russia may well be fast friends. But by then few will remember that the crisis in Crimea was the excuse seized upon by the gas industry to make its longstanding export dreams come true, regardless of the consequences to the communities getting fracked or to the planet getting cooked.

I call this knack for exploiting crisis for private gain the shock doctrine, and it shows no signs of retreating. We all know how the shock doctrine works: during times of crisis, whether real or manufactured, our elites are able to ram through unpopular policies that are detrimental to the majority under cover of emergency. Sure there are objections – from climate scientists warning of the potent warming powers of methane, or local communities that don't want these high-risk export ports on their beloved coasts. But who has time for debate? It's an emergency! A 911 call ringing! Pass the laws first, think about them later.

Plenty of industries are good at this ploy, but none is more adept at exploiting the rationality-arresting properties of crisis than the global gas sector.

For the past four years the gas lobby has used the economic crisis in Europe to tell countries like Greece that the way out of debt and desperation is to open their beautiful and fragile seas to drilling. And it has employed similar arguments to rationalise fracking across North America and the United Kingdom.

Now the crisis du jour is conflict in Ukraine, being used as a battering ram to knock down sensible restrictions on natural gas exports and push through a controversial free-trade deal with Europe. It's quite a deal: more corporate free-trade polluting economies and more heat-trapping gases polluting the atmosphere – all as a response to an energy crisis that is largely manufactured.

Against this backdrop it's worth remembering – irony of ironies – that the crisis the natural gas industry has been most adept at exploiting is climate change itself.

Never mind that the industry's singular solution to the climate crisis is to dramatically expand an extraction process in fracking that releases massive amounts of climate-destabilising methane into our atmosphere. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases – 34 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, according to the latest estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And that is over a 100-year period, with methane's power dwindling over time.

It's far more relevant, argues the Cornell University biochemist Robert Howarth, one of the world's leading experts on methane emissions, to look at the impact in the 15- to 20-year range, when methane has a global-warming potential that is a staggering 86-100 times greater than carbon dioxide. "It is in this time frame that we risk locking ourselves into very rapid warming," he said on Wednesday.

And remember: you don't build multibillion-dollar pieces of infrastructure unless you plan on using them for at least 40 years. So we are responding to the crisis of our warming planet by constructing a network of ultra-powerful atmospheric ovens. Are we mad?

Not that we know how much methane is actually released by drilling and fracking and all their attendant infrastructure. Even while the natural gas industry touts its "lower than coal!" carbon dioxide emissions, it has never systematically measured its fugitive methane leaks, which waft from every stage of the gas extraction, processing, and distribution process – from the well casings and the condenser valves to the cracked pipelines under Harlem neighbourhoods. The gas industry itself, in 1981, came up with the clever pitch that natural gas was a "bridge" to a clean energy future. That was 33 years ago. Long bridge. And the far bank still nowhere in view.


And in 1988 – the year that the climatologist James Hansen warned Congress, in historic testimony, about the urgent problem of global warming – the American Gas Association began to explicitly frame its product as a response to the "greenhouse effect". It wasted no time, in other words, selling itself as the solution to a global crisis that it had helped create.


The industry's use of the crisis in Ukraine to expand its global market under the banner of "energy security" must be seen in the context of this uninterrupted record of crisis opportunism. Only this time many more of us know where true energy security lies. Thanks to the work of top researchers such as Mark Jacobson and his Stanford team, we know that the world can, by the year 2030, power itself entirely with renewables. And thanks to the latest, alarming reports from the IPCC, we know that doing so is now an existential imperative.

This is the infrastructure we need to be rushing to build – not massive industrial projects that will lock us into further dependency on dangerous fossil fuels for decades into the future. Yes, these fuels are still needed during the transition, but more than enough conventionals are on hand to carry us through: extra-dirty extraction methods such as tar sands and fracking are simply not necessary. As Jacobson said in an interview just this week: "We don't need unconventional fuels to produce the infrastructure to convert to entirely clean and renewable wind, water and solar power for all purposes. We can rely on the existing infrastructure plus the new infrastructure [of renewable generation] to provide the energy for producing the rest of the clean infrastructure that we'll need ... Conventional oil and gas is much more than enough."

Given this, it's up to Europeans to turn their desire for emancipation from Russian gas into a demand for an accelerated transition to renewables. Such a transition – to which European nations are committed under the Kyoto protocol – can easily be sabotaged if the world market is flooded with cheap fossil fuels fracked from the US bedrock. And indeedAmericans Against Fracking, which is leading the charge against the fast-tracking of LNG exports, is working closely with its European counterparts to prevent this from happening.

Responding to the threat of catastrophic warming is our most pressing energy imperative. And we simply can't afford to be distracted by the natural gas industry's latest crisis-fuelled marketing ploy.


Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (September 2007); an earlier international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). Read more at You can follow her on Twitter @naomiaklein.

ANS -- How Generation X will save the world

Maybe Sara Robinson is writing again?  Here's a new piece by her, about the cycles of history, and how the Gen Xers are going to save us.
Find it here:

How Generation X will save the world

What is Generation X? Maybe our last, best hope for change.

by Sara Robinson

[] You can't blame Gen X for having had eee-freaking-nuff of the whole generational identification thing.

Americans born between 1960 and 1980 (give or take a couple years on either end) have spent their lives squeezed in between two over-hyped cohorts who have consistently hogged the spotlight, the jobs, the money, the social concern, and all the other cultural goodies that matter. To the temporal north, there are the Boomers ­ idealistic, moralizing, hyper-creative visionaries who still can't entirely let go of their youthful golden years when they were so determined to Save The World. To the south, X looks down on the Millennials, the over-coddled, over-hyped, over-connected Indigo Children whose future is vanishing before their eyes ­ and who are now being held up at the next generation that just might Save The World.

Gen X just gets tired looking at both sets of overachievers. X doesn't want to save the world. It just wants a decent job with benefits, some health insurance, and a reasonable place to live. Now that it's hitting middle age, it wonders how it's going to get its kids through college, let alone scrape together enough money to retire. Also: it's not too keen on this whole generational thing in the first place. The Boomers may see themselves as some kind of epic history-changing wave, and the Millennials are permanently wired directly into their whole generation's collective consciousness via their online social networks; but X has always had to go it alone. The idea that there's some kind of coherent, unified group interest to be discerned from the arc of their lives so far is dismissed with a shrug. It's just some Boomer marketeer's sick way of making us look bad. Again. So what's new?

But that dismissive attitude just might be a mistake. Because these stories that we tell about the character and fate of generations are rooted in a far larger and more complicated historical story. And in this story, time and again at history's biggest crisis points, the generations that are most like Gen X have been the ones who've stepped in ­ quietly, competently, expertly, without much in the way of fuss or heroics, at exactly the right moment in time ­ and actually did save the world.

Let me explain.

Generation X In The Grand Scheme Of Things

Contrary to the suspicion of a lot of skeptical Xers, these generational identities ­ Boom, X, Millennial ­ weren't just conjured out of some deranged marketer's trend-addled head. They're actually artifacts of a much broader theory of change that was laid out by historian William Strauss and economist Neil Howe. In their 1991 book, Generations, they argued that American history (and English history before that) has been governed by a recurring 80- to 100-year cycle of Renewal, Awakening, Unraveling, and transformative Crisis ­ and that this four-phase cycle was driven by four distinct generational archetypes, whose unique characters, choices, priorities, and interactions each exert a strong tidal influence on how history unfolds. Briefly, these four archetypes are:

> A Civic generation (for example, the Millennials, and also their GI grandparents). Civic generations are raised to play as a team, sacrifice individual rights for the greater good of the collective, and self-organize quickly into effective tribes. These generations are children during an Unraveling, and are called to remake the entire world anew when the Crisis hits in their early adulthood. They usually rise heroically to the task, branding themselves forever after as history's golden children. After the crisis, they are the supremely confident midlife managers of the post-Crisis Renewal ­ a confidence that is shaken when their own Prophet children rebel against the world they made come the Awakening.

> An Artist generation (for example, the Silent retirees of today, and also the post-Millennial Homeland generation, which includes the kids now under the age of 15). Artists are the sheltered children of the Crisis, the conforming young adults of the Renewal, and the midlife enablers who open the doors to the next Awakening. They are sensitive, thoughtful, committed to justice and social improvement, and very invested in building and improving strong systems of every kind. Mad Men is, more than anything, the story of the Silent Generation in their grey-flannel-suited heyday. Bill Moyers and Martin Luther King revealed the Silents at their wonky, hopeful best; Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld showed them at their technocratic worst. The Artists put forward a powerful social critique that inspires their younger siblings to question the old order, and to affirm the rights of the individual against the smothering collectivism of the aging Civics.

> A Prophet generation (for example, the Boomers ­ but also the Missionary generation that produced FDR, Jane Addams, Winston Churchill; and the Transcendental Generation of Whitman, Lincoln, and Alcott before that). These generations, raised in the bright optimism of the Renewal, are visionary, idealistic, individualistic, and typically aggressively confrontational and uncompromising in their politics. In their youth, they always experiment with new religions, unconventional sexual arrangements, and drugs. More importantly: even as they begin actively dismantling the old social, political, and economic order brought about by their Civic parents ­ a task they will begin in young adulthood, and finish in late midlife ­ they also create original and compelling new visions for the world that will be shaped in the next Crisis.

[] > A Nomad generation (for example, Generation X, the Lost Generation of the early 20th Century, and the Gilded Generation of the mid-1800s). Nomads are the children of the Awakening ­ a time of huge social ferment and laissez-faire parenting. Since they (more than any other generation) pretty much raise themselves, they learn early to question big utopian visions and distrust authority (both parents and government). They enter adulthood during the Unraveling, when society's institutions are being actively torn apart by the two generations ahead of them. Immensely practical and deeply skeptical of institutions of any kind ­ because they come of age never seeing any of them function properly ­ Nomad generations prefer real results to high-flown theory, and tend to rely most heavily on themselves and a few close friends.

Nomad generations have produced our greatest novelists (including Hawthorne, Twain, and Hemingway) and also our greatest generals (Washington, Grant, Lee, Eisenhower, and Patton). They don't open frontiers – Prophet generations generally do that ­ but they're almost always the first ones to move out onto the new territory to create permanent settlements, build communities, raise families, and establish civilization where none existed before. Whether it's the American West or the World Wide Web, the first barns and schools and businesses in any new wilderness have historically raised by intrepid, self-sufficient Nomads.

A Coming Season of Change

In their 1997 book, The Fourth Turning (the most concise book to read if you want to understand more about this theory), Strauss and Howe explain that every 80 years or so, we come to a moment where a certain constellation of generational types stacks up in a way that's ideally suited to massive, long-range change on a scale that's possible at no other time. When it does, a Crisis era begins ­ an era in which a new order comes into being, transforming the entire world in a matter of 15 to 20 years. This moment can happen only when the generations line up just like so:

A Prophet generation ­ in this case, the Boomers ­ approaches elderhood. This cohort has spent 40 years dismantling the old system (in our case, the postwar world that rose out of the ashes of the Depression and WWII, which defined the last Crisis era), and sketching out the blueprints for what a new and better order might look like. They are are sure of their visions ­ and as age overtakes them, they become increasingly determined to launch one last crusade before they pass.

A Nomad generation ­ in this case, X ­ slouches into middle age. This group has lived their entire lives in a country where nothing has ever worked right ­ in fact, things have been breaking down year over year since they were born. Learning to survive in an environment of accelerating social and economic decay has made them intensely pragmatic realists who, more than any other generation, know how to kick ass, take names, and get things done. While the Boomers talk, Xers do. As they get older, they become increasingly determined to restore accountability, rebuild what they can, and leave something better for their kids. And to a greater degree than either of the other generations, they both understand what needs to be done, and possess the practical skills required to do it.

A Civic generation ­ in this case, the Millennials ­ arrives at adulthood. They have no allegiance to a dead past that has nothing to offer them;  all their hopes lie in a future that will not come to pass unless they are willing to fight for it with everything they have. They're not big on philosophy (and a bit too cavalier with rights and liberties, which is their dark side), and they're too young to have much in the way of skills; but with Prophets to guide them toward the goal and Nomads to offer them solid, trustworthy management, they'll self-organize and deliver in a way that the other two generations find absolutely incredible to watch.

This unique generational arrangement arrives only once in most people's lifetimes. And when it does, it creates a top-to-bottom national commitment in favor of massive, rapid change. Out of decades of fragmented politics, a solid consensus forms over what the true existential threat is, and what must be done to resolve it. We must rebel against England. We must abolish slavery. We must defeat fascism. We must end the oligarchy of the 1% and stop destroying the planet. The imperative becomes all-consuming: once the generations agree on the central problem, nothing will ever be the same. And we are approaching such a moment right now.

This constellation is so potent that you can even see it spangled across our mythic literature. The old Prophet, the canny and hard-bitten veteran, and the wide-eyed young hero figure in every great story of transformation. Merlin, Uther, and Arthur. Gandalf, Aragorn, and Frodo. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker. Our founding myths tell of old Ben Franklin, cunning midlifers George Washington and John Adams, and young firebrand Thomas Jefferson. Even those old WWII movies showed the spirit of FDR motivating the grizzled Old Sarge, and inspiring the new recruits under his wing.

No one of these cohorts can bring us through this on their own. They all need each other if we're going to succeed.

Why Gen X Matters

And this is why Gen X will save the world.  There are things that X brings to the party in quantities that neither of the other two groups can muster ­ things that are absolutely non-negotiable if we're going to pull through this dark season and move the world onto a better, more sustainable footing. We need Generation X because:

1. Gen X knows how to get things done.  Neil Howe notes that Boomers love to talk ­ in fact, they believe so strongly in the power of words that they think that if they say things just right, to the right people, in the right way, then the change will magically just follow. But, stubborn individualists that they are, they're not great when it comes to action ­ especially any action that requires teamwork on any kind of scale. Their track record bears this out: they've been trying to implement change for 40 years already. If they had the skills, they'd have done it by now.

The Millennials don't have this issue. They're already getting locked, loaded, and ready to roll. Their problem is aim. They understand the challenges and the stakes; but they're young and untried, and lack the wisdom and perspective that come with life experience. And they're still too young to reach the levers of power ­ levers that X is now finally just getting old enough to get a good, solid grip on.

As the current Crisis intensifies, X's job will be to translate those utopian Boomer visions into something that will actually work on the ground ­ and to make sure it all works right the first time, because there will be no second chances. Generation X is just now beginning to provide the calm, collected management that will take us through to the next America. And to implement all of this, they'll form an enduring partnership with the Millennials that ­ if the theory holds ­ will turn out to be the most satisfying and rewarding collaboration of their lives.

2. X understands risk. The Boomers were children and young adults during the fattest, richest season in human history. That's why they could take all those big cultural and political flyers back in the day: the country's stored-up layers of social and economic capital were so thick under their butts that they were virtually guaranteed a soft and easy landing, no matter what they did. The Millennials were raised in much tougher times, but have been carefully protected and sheltered by their Boomer and Xer helicopter parents (Nomad generations are, hands down, the most attentive parents of any of the four cohorts, in compensation for their own lack of parenting), who've done their best to keep them from taking big risks and experiencing consequences too harshly. As a result, they're not at their best in unfamiliar situations, and don't act without consulting endlessly with each other. And because of this, they're prone to dither.

Gen X, on the other hand, came of age in an era of jarring and dangerous contradictions. On one hand, all that lovely social capital that had once protected the Boomers' backsides was evaporating all around them (and their parents never were all that much help, either). On the other hand, at the same time, the personal price they paid for screw-ups just kept getting higher. Bad sexual choices meant herpes and AIDS. Drug experiments were sanctioned by increasingly draconian prohibitions. Three-strikes laws came into vogue just as they hit adulthood. Health insurance prices soared, discouraging physical risk-taking. Over the course of their lives, there have been smaller and smaller margins ­ and bigger and bigger penalties ­ for getting it wrong.

Ironically, one effect of this was to made X the biggest go-to-hell risk-takers on the scene. If everything damn thing you do is a risk, well, then, screw it ­ go big, or go home. Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse. This is the generation that gave us first-person shooters, action movies, rap music, extreme sports, and Sid Vicious: it's tended to embrace anything that's loud, dangerous, and scary. But, at the same time, this experience has made them canny assessors of risk ­ especially as they round the bend into middle age. They know in their aging bones ­ far better than the other generations ­ that some risks really are worth taking, and some sacrifices are absolutely worth making. And they're pretty good at figuring out which ones aren't worth the skin, too. When an Xer says, "I wouldn't do that…" the rest of us would do well to stop and hear her out.

3. X trusts their own ingenuity. An old sign in a hardware store in my hometown read: "We the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little that we are now qualified to anything with nothing."

This is where Generation X finds itself now. There's a good reason that young Xers loved both MacGyver and Indiana Jones (who was a member of the Lost Generation ­ the previous Nomad cohort). As Indy put it: "Plan? I don't have a plan. I'm making it up as I go along." A lifetime of making it up, making a go, and sheer making do have made this generation preternaturally resourceful. If the car breaks down or the computer crashes, a Boomer will reflect on the existential meaning of the event. A Millennial will text her friends for suggestions. But the odds are good that the person who finally opens up the hood, grabs a flashlight, and takes a screwdriver to the problem with be an Xer. The tougher things get, the more we're going to appreciate this about them.

[] 4. X believes in competence and accountability. One of the things that always happens through the Awakening and Unraveling phases of the cycle is a slow erosion in institutional accountability. Both Artist and Prophet generations, each for their own reasons, aren't really big on holding people or organizations responsible for their actions, or ensuring that there are consequences for failure. The Silents and Boomers have been letting things slide for decades (probably starting with Richard Nixon's Watergate pardon), letting people get away with things that no functional society should tolerate ­ to the point where nobody in this country now seems to get what they deserve, no matter how good or bad their behavior might be.

A big piece of Generation X's vaunted cynicism is tied up in their resentment over what looks, to them, like a massive and wretched double standard. All their lives, they've been subjected to harsh judgments and punishments that nobody else in society had to bear. And what they learned from this was to hold each other and everybody else responsible for their own actions ­ a trait that's going to raise the overall level of accountability throughout American society as they age into more and more social control. Goldman Sachs may have gotten away with their dastardly deeds in 2008. Don't count on it going down that way again if we see another crash in 2020, when the Xers will own Congress. Slowly, over the next decade, we're going to see ever-greater calls for institutional competence, with real consequences for failure. Just like the Lost Generation's Harry Truman starting the redemption of public accountability in 1937 with the Pecora Commission, Gen X will soon be the ones most loudly insisting that we get serious again about actually rewarding success and punishing failure.

5. X isn't afraid to make the call. Boomers talk the problem to death. Millennials confer for hours. Xers weigh the risks and rewards, apply their ingenuity, and act ­ and don't waste much time looking back to see if they got it wrong. It is what it is, and they did what they had to do. And they're perfectly willing to live with the consequences, no matter what they turn out to be.

We're going to rely on them to do a lot of that in the years ahead.

Generation X's life so far has been rough, mean, and hard. So those of us now between 36 and 53 might be surprised to learn that, after all the crap we've endured, we're only just now coming up on our truest days of glory ­ the moment we will be remembered for by history. The Boomers are finally start letting go of the reins. And though we find the Millennials' willingness to trust authority frankly terrifying when we think about it, it won't actually be so bad when we realize that the authorities they're looking to are…us.

And for the very first time in our entire lives, we won't be facing the challenges alone. We'll be calling the shots, but the Boomers will be out front holding up the flag and the vision; and the Millennials will be marching solidly behind, covering our backs. It'll be unfamiliar and strange for a generation that's always done everything on its own. But it will also be the best time we are ever likely to know.

Sara Robinson, MS, APF is a consulting futurist and writer. She's been a Senior Editor at; a Senior Fellow at the Campaign for America's Future; and a longtime blogger covering change cycles and change resistance movements. Her work has been published by HuffPo, Alternet, Salon, The New Republic, New York Magazine, DailyKos, and many other places both online and off. She lives in Seattle, and can be reached at

Thursday, April 10, 2014

ANS -- Snowden: Whistleblower "Did Complain" to NSA Before Leaking Classified Documents

So, Snowden DID try to report this.....
Find it here:

Snowden: Whistleblower "Did Complain" to NSA Before Leaking Classified Documents

By Kashmira Gander, The Independent

09 April 14


[] ormer US NSA contractor Edward Snowden has blasted allegations that he did not file a formal complaint to the agency before he disclosed thousands of classified government documents, it has been reported.

In a preview of an interview to be published in Vanity Fair, the whistleblower told reporters that: "The NSA at this point not only knows I raised complaints, but that there is evidence that I made my concerns known to the NSA.'s lawyers, because I did some of it through e-mail.

"I directly challenge the NSA to deny that I contacted NSA oversight and compliance bodies directly via e-mail and that I specifically expressed concerns about their suspect interpretation of the law, and I welcome members of Congress to request a written answer to this question [from the NSA]."

The May issue of the US magazine will also see Snowden respond to claims by US investigators that he is in possession of 1.7 million classified Government files. "I know exactly how many documents I have. Zero," he said.

The 30-year-old also said he counts himself as part of what he has dubbed the "post-terror generation" fighting to defend the American constitution, and showed his admiration for WikiLeaks "[running] toward the risks everyone else runs away from."

"No other publisher in the world is prepared to commit to protecting sources­even other journalists' sources­the way WikiLeaks is," he told Vanity Fair, while distancing himself from its founder Julian Assange - calling himself "pro-accountability" rather than "anti-secrecy".

"I've made many statements indicating both the importance of secrecy and spying, and my support for the working-level people at the N.S.A. and other agencies. It's the senior officials you have to watch out for," he told the publication.

Snowden, who fled the US for China and currently lives in Russia after he revealed extensive communication surveillance by the NSA, tackled rumours that he is an anti-US spy.

He explained that he purposefully used only his personal credit card while in Hong Kong to demonstrate to the US Government that he was entirely independent and self-funded.

"My hope was that avoiding ambiguity would prevent spy accusations and create more room for reasonable debate.

"Unfortunately, a few of the less responsible members of Congress embraced the spy charges for political reasons, as they still do to this day.

"But I don't think it was a bad idea, because even if they won't say it in public, intelligence-community officials are regularly confirming to journalists off the record that they know with a certainty that I am not an agent of any foreign government," he told journalists.

The preview of the lengthy piece comes after Edward Snowden and reporter Glenn Greenwald, who brought to light the whistleblower's leaks about mass US government surveillance last year, appeared together via video link on Saturday.

The pair gave evidence to Europe's Council of Europe in Strasbourg, where Snowden accused the NSA of spying on organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Monday, April 07, 2014

ANS -- Stradivarius Violins Aren’t Better Than New Ones: Round Two

And now for something completely different....
this is about a set of scientific studies on the quality of violins.  the results are surprising.  Do you believe the test results, or the previously "known" thing?  There's a long video on the site -- I haven't watched it yet. 
Find it here:  

Stradivarius Violins Aren't Better Than New Ones: Round Two

by Ed Yong

This June, Sotheby's will be auctioning off the Macdonald viola, created in 1719 by the legendary Italian violin-maker Antonio Stradivari. They're asking for a minimum bid of $45 million, which would make this viola the most expensive instrument ever sold.

This price tag may break records but Stradivari's instruments often fetch millions of dollars, due to both the cachet of the name and their reputed quality. Many people genuinely believe that they are superior to newly made violins and many scientists have tried to work out why.

But to Claudia Fritz from Sorbonne University, the search for Stradivari's secrets is a "perennially fruitless one"… because they don't exist. In two studies, she has shown that professional violinists can't tell the difference between the so-called "Old Italian" violins and newly made ones.

"Strads are amazing instruments. They have survived 300 years and are beautifully made," says Fritz. "I don't want to destroy the Strads but I want to show that their amazing properties aren't unique. You can find them in new violins as well. The new makers are doing a great job and are making amazing violins. They should be able to sell them with pride and recognition."

Here's a 28-minute documentary about the experiment.

In her first study, Fritz recruited 21 professional violinists from the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, ushered them into a dimly lit hotel room, and asked them to play six violins. Three were new; one had been made just days before. The others had been crafted by either Stradivari or Guaneri "del Gesu" in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The violinists couldn't tell. When they tested pairs of the violins, they were just as likely to prefer the new or old ones. When they played all six instruments together, and had to choose which they would most like to take home, 62 percent picked a new violin. And the oldest Stradivarius­an instrument that is held in an institution and loaned to only the most gifted players­was the most frequently rejected one.

"Many people were convinced that as soon as you play an old violin, you can feel that it's old, it has been played a lot, and it has a special sound quality," Fritz told me at the time. "People who took part in the experiment said it was the experience of a lifetime when we told them the results."

John Soloninka was one of them, and he talked about his experiences in a comment on my write-up. "I expected to be able to tell the difference, but could not," he wrote. "Claudia sent me my comments about the instruments that I made while I was playing them, and it was hilarious how wrong my impressions were at the time!"

The study was published in 2012, and Fritz says that the reactions ranged from delight to anger. Critics were quick to point out the experiment's limitations­ see the comments here for a sampling. The violinists only tested six instruments, and they played them for just 20 minutes in a dry hotel room. That wouldn't do. To get the most out of the violins, the players needed hours­maybe weeks­of testing, and they needed to play in a concert hall. One distinguished violinist reportedly said, "You don't test a Ferrari in a parking lot."

Fair enough, thought Fritz. Let's go to a concert hall.

"We couldn't address all the issues in one study anyway," she says. "We needed the first one to attract attention, so we could do a better one. This time people were really happy to loan me some instruments."

This time, she worked with six Old Italian violins and six new ones. She recruited players of the highest calibre­10 soloists who were either internationally renowned or had won major international competitions. (Seven of them play old violins themselves.) And she assembled a seven-person team that included several scientists, a violin-maker, a soloist, an instrument dealer, and a string engineer. (Three of them own and play an Old Italian.)

The team laid all 12 violins out on a table and told the soloists to pick one that could hypothetically replace their own instrument for an upcoming tour. They had 50 minutes to play the violins as they wish, using their own bows, and they picked their top four. (The team polled several soloists before the experiment about the time they'd need to comfortably evaluate a dozen violins­the average estimate was 50 minutes.)

They ran this experiment in two Parisian venues­the home of a family of professional string players, and a 300-seat concert hall that's well-known for its acoustics. In the hall, the soloists could ask for a piano accompaniment or for feedback from a listener of their choice. They could even ask one of the team to play the violins so they could check the sound from elsewhere in the hall.

The team gave the violins four points every time they were chosen as a top pick, three points for second place, and so on; they deducted a point every time an instrument was rejected.
Violin rankings. The six new instruments are on the top; the si

Violin rankings. The six new instruments are on the top; the six old ones are on the bottom. The left bars represent the scores in the house; hte right bars are the scores in the concert hall.

Although the soloists varied in their tastes, two new violins consistently scored the most points, with an old Stradivarius tailing in third place. Overall, the new violins collectively scored 35 points and the old ones scored 4­a six-fold difference.  Fritz writes, "We can find no plausible scoring system by which the old fare any better."

The concert hall made little difference either. Some violins rose in the ranks and others fell, but the new ones maintained their lead over the old. "There is certainly no evidence here to support the belief that Old Italian violins come into their own in concert halls whereas new ones fall behind," wrote Fritz.

In the final 12 minutes of the experiment, the team provided the soloists with three violins­their own, their top pick, and the best-rated instrument from the opposite age category. Their job was to rate each instrument according to six qualities: overall quality, articulation, timbre, playability, projection, and loudness. They rated the old and new violins similarly in terms of overall quality, but gave the new ones higher scores in all the other categories. The concert hall closed the gap slightly, but not enough to turn the tide in favour of the old.

Violin_rankings Finally, the team asked the soloists to guess whether they were playing an old or new instrument. They were wrong half the time.

The results are very clear: Stradivarius violins, despite their reputation, inordinate price tags, and indisputable craftsmanship, are no better than the best modern ones.

Critics will undoubtedly cling to their beliefs, and reiterate that it takes ages to master an old instrument. But let us reiterate: ten violinists­among the best in the world­couldn't tell the difference between the old and new violins, and were more likely to prefer the new violins when allowed to play the instruments in a concert hall. When they were debriefed later, they said that the experiment was more than realistic enough for choosing a violin for a tour (although not for buying one).

Fritz has also done two more studies: one assessing the listeners' experience as the violins were played in an concert hall, and another analysing the physical properties of the instruments. Both sets of results will be published soon but­spoiler alert!­neither will support the superiority of the Old Italians.

"We should stop mentioning on the programme what soloists play because who cares?" she says. "That would allow young soloists to make a career without struggling to have a Strad on loan. If we judge players on how they play rather than what they play, that would be better."

Reference: Fritz, Curtin, Poitevineau, Borsarello, Wollman, Tao & Ghasarossian. 2014. Soloist evaluations of six Old Italian and six new violins. PNAS

Saturday, April 05, 2014

ANS -- 15 things everyone would know if there were a liberal media

Here's an interesting article about what is missing from the Main Stream Media.  Go to the page for the video of Elizabeth Warren (our hero!)
Find it here:   

Wed Aug 07, 2013 at 05:02 AM PDT

15 things everyone would know if there were a liberal media

by akadjian Follow
Promoted from diaries by Susan Gardner.

Prince Riebus (and apparently many others) still thinks there's a liberal media.

While I share Prince's frustration with the media, as a liberal, I'd like to go on record and state that the media isn't focusing on issues I care about. They seem to be far more focused on entertainment and making money.

Don't believe me?

 photo liberal_media_zps197d95d2.jpg

If you know anyone who still believes in a "liberal media," here's 15 things everyone would know if there really were a "liberal media" (inspired by Jeff Bezos' purchase of The Washington Post):

1. Where the jobs went.

Outsourcing (or offshoring) is a bigger contributor to unemployment in the U.S. than laziness.

Since 2000, U.S. multinationals have cut 2.9 million jobs here while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg as multinational corporations account for only about 20% of the labor force.

When was the last time you saw a front-page headline about outsourcing?

 photo outsourcing_zps2cf6f1b0.jpg

Source: Wall Street Journal via Think Progress.

2.  Upward wealth redistribution and/or inequality.

In 2010, 20% of the people held approximately 88% of the net worth in the U.S. The top 1% alone held 35% of all net worth.

The bottom 80% of people held only 12% of net worth in 2010. In 1983, the bottom 80% held 18% of net worth.

These statistics are not Democrat or Republican. They are widely available to reporters. Why aren't they discussed in the "liberal" media?

 photo ownership_occupy_poster_zps7879609f.jpg

Source: Occupy Posters

3. ALEC.

If there was a corporate organization that drafted laws and then passed them on to legislators to implement, wouldn't you think the "liberal" media would report on them?

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is such an organization. Need legislation drafted? No need to go through a lobbyist to reach state legislatures anymore. Just contact ALEC. Among other things, ALEC is responsible for:
  • Stand Your Ground laws
  • Voter ID laws
  • Right to Work laws
  • Privatizing schools
  • Health savings account bills which benefit health care companies
  • Tobacco industry legislation

Many legislators don't even change the proposals handed to them by this group of corporations. They simply take the corporate bills and bring them to the legislative floor.

This is the primary reason for so much similar bad legislation in different states. 

Hello ... "liberal media" ... over here!!!

They're meeting in Chicago this weekend. Maybe the "liberal media" will send some reporters.

4. The number of people in prison. 

Which country in the world has the most people in prison?

You might think it would be China (with 1+ billion people and a restrictive government) or former Soviets still imprisoned in Russia.

Wrong. The United States has the most people in prison by far of any country in the world. With 5% of the world's population, we have 25% of the world's prisoners – 2.3 million criminals. China with a population 4 times our size is second with 1.6 million people in prison.

In 1972, 350,000 Americans were in imprisoned. In 2010, this number had grown to 2.3 million. Yet from 1988 – 2008, crime rates have declined by 25%.

Isn't anyone in the liberal media interested in why so many people are in prison when crime has dropped? WTF "liberal media"?

 photo incarcerated_americans_zpsb7c891bd.jpg

Source: Wikipedia/Justice Policy Institute Report.

5. The number of black people in prison.

In 2009, non-Hispanic blacks, while only 13.6% of the population, accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population.

In 2011, according to FBI statistics, whites accounted for 69.2% of arrests.

Numbers like these suggest a racial bias in our justice system.

To me, this is a much bigger story than any single incident like Travyon Martin. Or, at the very least, why didn't the "liberal media" ever mention this while covering the Martin story?

6. U.S. health care costs are the highest in the world.

The expenditure per person in the U.S. is $8,233. Norway is second with $5,388.
Total amount of GDP spent on health care is also the highest of any country in the world at 17.6 percent. The next closest country is the Netherlands at 12%.

As a liberal, I'd like to ask why the market isn't bringing down costs. I'd think a "liberal" media might too.

7. Glass-Steagall.

Glass-Steagall separated risky financial investments from government backed deposits for 66 years.

The idea is simple. Banks were prohibited from using your federally insured savings to make risky investments.

Why is this a good idea?

Risky investments should be risky. If banks can use federally insured funds, there is no risk to them. If they win, they win. If they lose, we cover the cost.

Elizabeth Warren does a great job explaining this to the "liberal news" desk at CNBC:

[there is a video here that I couldn't copy]

8. Gerrymandering.

When was the last time you saw a front page headline about gerrymandering?

Before the 2010 election, conservatives launched a plan to win control of state legislatures before the census. The idea was to be in power when national congressional districts were redrawn in order to fix them so Republicans would win a majority of districts.

The Redistricting Majority Project was hugely successful. In 2012, Barack Obama was elected President by nearly 3.5 million votes. In Congressional races, Democrats drew nearly 1.4 million more votes than Republicans yet  Republicans won control of the House 234 seats to 201 seats.

How is this possible?

By pumping $30 million into state races to win the legislatures, Republicans redrew state maps in states such as Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, Florida and Ohio to place all of the Democrats into just a few districts.
In this manner, Democrats win heavily in a couple districts and lose the rest.

In North Carolina, the statewide vote was 51 percent Democrat and 49 percent Republican yet 9 Republicans won and only 4 Democrats.

Where is your coverage of this vote stealing, "liberal media"? You're willing to cover voter ID laws, why can't you cover real vote stealing?

 photo 5459fab1-8d5b-44e5-a728-b31ed72bf00d_zps9a434c5a.jpg

Source: Mother Jones.

9. The number of bills blocked by Republicans in Congress.

The filibuster has been used a record number of time since Obama was elected President. From 2008-2012, 375 bills weren't even allowed to come to a vote in the Senate because Republicans threatened the filibuster.

In 2013, during the first 6 months, Congress has only passed 15 bills that were signed into law. This is 8 fewer than in the first 6 months of 2012 and 19 fewer than 2011.

Also, until the Senate recently threatened to reform the filibuster, the GOP had succeeded in holding up 79 of President Obama's picks to the U.S. Circuit Court and Courts of Appeal. They're blocking these appointments regardless of qualification.

Where's the coverage? Where are the reporters asking why nothing is getting done?

* crickets *

10. The Citizens' United Supreme Court decision

In a 2011 Hart poll, only 22% of those polled had actually heard of the Citizens' United decision before taking the survey.

If 77% believe that corporations have more control over our political process than people, why isn't the liberal media talking more about the Citizens' United decision?

11. Nixon's Southern Strategy.

The Southern Strategy is a strategy for gaining political power by exploiting the greatest number of ethnic prejudices. Kevin Philips, Republican and Nixon campaign strategist, speaking about this strategy in a 1970 interview with the New York Times:
From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don't need any more than that...but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

This strategy has been used since President Johnson and Democrats in Congress passed the Civil Rights Act to build the Republican party.

Examples of this strategy were evident as recently as 2008 and 2012 as Republicans took up their assault on Medicaid, Social Security, labor unions, and Obamacare – programs which, though they benefit more white seniors, retirees, women, and children, have been sold to many Americans as handouts to lazy, undeserving blacks and minorities.

Yet you never hear the "liberal media" (at least since the 1970 NY Times) talking about the use of this strategy. At least not like this:
"P (President) emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to." - H.R. Haldeman's diary, President Richard Nixon's White House Chief of Staff

12. Tax cuts primarily benefit the wealthy.

A progressive tax program is designed to tax people very little as they are starting out and progressively increase their rates as they do better.

Republican plans seem designed to do exactly the opposite: shift the tax burden off of the wealthy and onto working people.

Take the repeal of the estate tax. In Ohio this was recently repealed by Republicans. The benefit is only realized by people with estates larger than $338,000 (as the first $338k was exempt) and realized most by people with even wealthier estates.

This also explains why Republicans want to shift the system from income taxes to consumption taxes. Consumption taxes are paid most by those at the bottom as basic consumption remains the same regardless of income.

It also explains why capital gain taxes are so low. Income through capital gains is only taxed at 20% (increased from 15% in 2012) instead of at the rate of other income (closer to 35%).

It also explains why Republicans were so willing to let the payroll tax cut expire. The payroll tax cut benefited people who were getting paid, not those issuing the paychecks. How much fight did you see to save this tax cut?

While tax cuts are sold to us as benefiting everyone, they really benefit a select few at the very top.

If everyone knew who tax cuts really benefit, would so many people vote for them?

13. What's happening to the bees?

40-50% of commercial U.S. bee hives were lost this year to colony collapse disorder.

This seems like an odd one to include, why is this important?

The Agriculture Department says a quarter of the American diet depends on pollination by honeybees.

Dating from 2006, colony collapse disorder is a relatively new problem. More "liberal media" coverage might push the urgency of the issue.

Instead here's a typical media story about bees: Thousands of Bees Attack Texas Couple, Kill Horses.

14. The impact of temporary workers on our economy.

The number of temporary workers has grown by more than 50 percent since the recession ended to nearly 2.7 million.

If freelancers, contract workers, and consultants are included, the number is nearly 17 million workers not directly employed by the companies who hire them. This equals 12 percent of the workforce.

What's the impact of a "just in time" workforce on workers and our economy? How about that for a story "liberal media"?

15. Media consolidation

Six corporations - Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, Viacom, Comcast, and CBS - control roughly 90% of the media in the U.S.

These companies are in business to make a profit.

This is why you'll find plenty of advertisements in the media. Entertainment? Check. Sports? Definitely. Weather? Yep.

You'll also find plenty of "if it bleeds, it leads" stories designed to hook you in. Vendors, witnesses recall Venice hit-and-run horror. Fort Hood trial turns bizarre as shooter grills witnesses.

There's also plenty of political bickering: Democrats said this, Republicans said that. We let you decide (but we never weigh in with any facts or fact-checking).

What won't you hear? You won't hear the "liberal media" discuss the corporate media.

What to make of this

If the media were "liberal," it would serve the public interest and shine a light on issues like the ones above.

More people would also have a better understanding of global warming, peak oil, population growth, political lobbying, government's role in a functioning economy, how much we spend on the military, and countless other issues.

What you're more likely to see in the media, however, are stories designed to get you to buy their paper, or watch their show, or listen to their radio station. If it bleeds, it leads. This is why the media is concerned with scandal, celebrities, gossip, and fear.

If anything, our news consists of paid advertisements and outlets too scared of offending anyone to publish much of substance. Investigative journalism is also expensive; entertainment is cheap.

The way this corporate media behaves may not be surprising. I apologize if you feel any of this is beating you over the head.

This Buzzfeed-style list wasn't intended to introduce this idea as new (others have done a much better job), but rather to highlight the sheer absurdity of a "liberal media" for an audience who may not see it.

One way to approach the topic is to simply ask: If we have a "liberal media," where are the liberal stories?

Originally posted to akadjian on Wed Aug 07, 2013 at 05:02 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.