Environment

America’s War Exceptionalism Is Killing the Planet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/12/2019 - 4:52pm in

War is America's new normal, and it's deadly.

Antarctic ice sheets could be at greater risk of melting than previously thought

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/12/2019 - 2:54pm in

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Environment

University of South Australia (UniSA) Media Release Antarctica is the largest reservoir of ice on Earth – but new research by the University of South Australia suggests it could be at greater risk of melting than previously thought. Heat from the landmass beneath the Antarctic ice sheet is a major contributor to the way that…

The post Antarctic ice sheets could be at greater risk of melting than previously thought appeared first on The AIM Network.

The time has come to talk of many things; of taxing and spending and an economic system that needs mending. 

Protest placard with a picture of the Earth in space and the slogan "One World"Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In the news, the Prime Minister tells millions of  WASPI women affected by the changes to the state pension age that he couldn’t promise to magic up the money for them despite having found lots in the magic money pot for Tory manifesto pledges; the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, whilst visiting a food bank, claims that the Tory government was not to blame for poverty in the UK and, shifting the blame onto local councils, forgets to mention that central government funding has been cut by nearly 50% since 2010/11.

After 9 years of austerity, the consequences couldn’t be starker for our public and local government services, however, it is UK citizens, families and their children who have borne the distressing costs of cuts to social security benefits, both on their health and financial well-being. It cannot be clearer that the steep cuts to tax credits, child and disability benefits, ESA and Incapacity benefit and housing along with the introduction of Universal Credit have been behind the increases in child malnutrition, food bank use, homelessness and suicide.

The IPPR this week published its report ‘Divided and Connected’ which reveals that the UK is more regionally divided than any comparable advanced economy.

In the same week, the Resolution Foundation published its report ‘The Shifting Shape of Social Security’ It notes in its analysis of the manifestos of the main parties that child poverty is set to continue rising under the Conservative Party’s social security plans, whilst Labour’s £9bn of extra spending would mean 550,000 fewer children in poverty, it would not reverse the effects of the £5bn benefits freeze and could still see more children living in poverty in 2023 than do today. It noted that major policy changes have reduced support for working-age households since 2010 resulting in overall spending in 2023-24 being around £34bn a year lower on current plans than if the 2010 benefit system had remained in place, and that the cuts in support had fallen almost entirely on low-to-middle income working age families. It also noted that the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto makes no changes to existing policy and as a result child poverty risks reaching a 60-year high of 34%.

Although the conservatives are promising more spending on health and education, it seems clear that they intend to carry along the same policy paths they have followed since they came to power in 2010 which have involved cuts to benefits, conditionality, sanctions and welfare to work. Clearly, they have no intention either of reversing the already implemented cuts or reforms which have done so much damage and left a trail of devastation in many people’s lives. Priti Patel’s remark about who is to blame for poverty is indicative of Tory neoliberal credentials of denying governmental responsibility and passing the buck along to others, whether local government who have been firefighting for lack of funds or indeed shifting the blame onto citizens themselves. Her position has not changed much since 2015 when she said, ‘There is no robust evidence that directly links sanctions and food bank use.”

In the light of the very real consequences on people’s lives of government spending decisions and policies, it is all the more depressing to read the two analyses of the party manifestos by the Resolution Foundation and the IFS which instead of looking at the real effects of government spending policies on the lives of real people, examine them in purely financial terms and arbitrary fiscal rules which as we may now be realising bear no relationship with how money really works.

Hunkered down in household budget explanations, the IFS, rather than considering the spending promises of all three parties from the perspective of potential outcomes for the economy and its citizens, examines them in relation to the prospect of raising taxes or borrowing and the likely impact on the deficit and national debt.  As usual, the question, if not asked directly, is how will the parties pay for their spending plans? When, instead, they should be acknowledging that the real question is how will a future government manage existing resources to meet government goals? This will be the real constraint that any future government will face, however progressive that government may be. The resource balancing act will be key to maintaining spending within the productive capacity of the nation to deliver public purpose.

The Resolution Foundation summed it up depressingly in its conclusion in saying that:

‘The priority that both main parties have placed on credible fiscal frameworks in this campaign is laudable. Such rules are hugely important for the government’s overall economic priorities. In setting out new fiscal rules, it is vital that they provide a clear framework for sustainable public finances, constraining the temptation for policy makers to promise unfunded giveaways.’

Such institutions unsurprisingly have focused on the notion that it is the role of government to balance its budget rather than serving citizens and improving their economic and social well-being. It is regrettable that a recent poll has suggested that many people doubt whether such spending plans are affordable and yet given the reality of the consequences of not spending adequately how could we possibly afford not to?

The nation is now paying the price for politicians pedalling the lie of the last forty years that money is scarce, that there is no such thing as public money and that good government is about fiscal discipline. Even if changing that notion in the public consciousness will take time, in the light of the urgency of the challenges to address climate change and social inequality we need an urgent step change in economic thought on a planetary scale since it is our survival on this planet which is at stake.

This is not, however, a time to make compromises with an economic system which has already done such huge damage. The seeds of an alternative model are already being hijacked by companies cynically promoting their green credentials with one aim in mind: to create more growth to keep the profits rolling. Reducing our plastic use and buying electric cars will scarcely make a dent in the scale of the changes we need to implement. We may have a broad vision, but that now needs to be developed into concrete realities. It may be still a work in progress, but it is a vital one we must not ignore.

This is a time to reimagine the world. A fairer and more sustainable approach to replace the one of endless growth which currently defines our capitalist economic system and puts profit before people and the planet.

Progressives on the left are beginning to initiate a much-needed conversation about what we need to do to reverse the decades of social injustice and challenge the idea that we can maintain the engine of growth on a finite planet.

However, and most regrettably, politicians on the left are still trying to have that conversation stuck in old economic paradigms of how money works. When they are asked how they will pay for these vital programmes the response is always one of tax and spend or borrowing to invest. Raising corporation tax, bringing back the magic money tree from the Cayman Islands, taxing the rich until the pips squeak or borrowing on the markets because interest rates are low. Instead of talking about taxing the wealthy to redistribute wealth by removing their colossal purchasing power and ability to influence politicians, they talk about funding our public services with the proceeds.

Again, on the left some politicians are suggesting that the government is akin to a business and that renationalising transport, our utilities, mail and the NHS will allow the government to plough back the profits back into public services. Yes, we need to end the rip-off of privatisation which has not benefited citizens and has allowed public money to flow into private pockets for profit motives, but let’s not buy into the idea that the government resembles a large corporation with a profit and loss sheet. It doesn’t.

The government is the currency issuer and neither needs to tax nor borrow in order to spend and nor does it need the profits of renationalised industries for us to have public services.  It just needs the political will to deliver them.

The role of government is to create the framework for markets to exist and dictate through legislation how they will function and in whose benefit. It taxes the populace, not to fund its spending but to manage its economic policies, from the redistribution of wealth to expressing public policy and is one of the key tools it can use to manage inflationary or deflationary pressures.

Government not only has the power of the public purse to improve the lives of its citizens it also has the power to legislate to drive its political agenda. All a question of choices which are not dependent on the state of the public accounts. Indeed, not only does it have the power to spend for the public purpose, it has the power to change the rules of the game. For example, it might regulate the financial sector to ensure that when people’s savings of whatever kind are put to work it is done to shift our negative and damaging behaviours towards creating a positive impact on society and our environment instead.

Outcomes are the measure of any government’s success. With the political will it could:

  • create the framework for good quality universal public services provide a social security system which is both not punitive in its functioning but also ensures a decent standard of living for those unable to work through disability, sickness or old age,
  • pay for a just Green transition,
  • offer a Job Guarantee as standard to create price stability and act as an automatic stabiliser for the economy to give people the dignity of proper, well-paid employment when needed.

All of these things are fundamental to the good functioning of society.

What are we so afraid of? A better future for our children? A more sustainable and fairer economy for all? Indeed, a planet for us to live and breathe on? What is not to like? So, when you hear interviewers berating left-wing politicians (who have not quite made the leap into monetary realities) about how they will pay for their progressive agenda ignore those questions and remember instead that a government’s economic record will be defined by how it serves the nation’s economy as a whole, improves the lives of its citizens and how it uses the resources it has at its disposal to achieve its agenda – not whether it balanced the budget.

 

For more in-depth information about how money really works, you can find all you need on our GIMMS website.

https://gimms.org.uk/

 

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The post The time has come to talk of many things; of taxing and spending and an economic system that needs mending.  appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Oil and Gas Industry Rebukes Fracking Ban Talk as UN Shows Just How Much Fossil Fuel Plans Are Screwing Climate Limits

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/12/2019 - 10:25pm in

American Petroleum Institute steps up lobbying efforts to thwart a fracking ban, notwithstanding the climate crisis.

Tories Go Goebbels and Threaten Channel 4 after Humiliation on Climate Change Debate

One of the defining features of every dictatorship has been rigid control of the press. In the former USSR and Soviet bloc until Gorbachev, the media was owned and controlled by the state, and it dutifully followed the party line. The leader was praised, and his opponents were vilified. Before being rounded up, imprisoned and shot, of course. It was exactly the same in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The newspapers there were privately owned, but even so had to follow the party line. In Germany, this was set by Josef Goebbels, the infamous ‘Minister for Public Enlightenment’. The Tories also have an intolerant attitude to the media. Most of the newspapers are owned by proprietors, who support the Tories and so have a strong Tory bias. The Tories therefore expect the press and media to follow their line. When they don’t, they start flinging around accusations of bias. When it’s state-owned companies, like the Beeb, they start making threats of ending the license fee or privatising the corporation, as I remember them doing so in the 1990s. With private broadcasters they threaten to remove their broadcasting license. Thatcher did this to London Weekend Television in the 1980s following the company’s documentary, ‘Death of the Rock’. This showed that the SAS team that killed an IRA terror squad in Gibraltar had acted as a death squad. The terrorists had been under army surveillance during their entire journey through Spain, and could have been picked up at any point with minimal bloodshed. The programme concluded that they had been deliberately executed. Thatcher went berserk at this demonstration of British lawlessness, and withdrew LWT’s broadcasting license. It was replaced instead by Carlton, no doubt named after the infamous Tory club.

And the Tories were making the same threats yesterday to Channel 4, after the programme humiliated Johnson in its leaders’ debate over climate change. Johnson has now resorted to Tweezer’s tactic of running away from possible tough or hostile interviews. He refused to turn up to be grilled by Andrew Neil on his show on the Beeb, which has embarrassed our state broadcaster, as they got Corbyn on his show by falsely telling him that they would be interviewing Boris this week, and that it had all been agreed with the Tories when it hadn’t. Fearing a repeat of last Friday’s leader debates, when Britain’s oafish Trump junior was properly shown to be a blustering moron, Johnson scarpered again. Channel 4 therefore took the decision to go ahead with the debate, but put in a melting ice sculpture to represent the BoJob.

Realising that a Conservative non-appearance didn’t look good, the Tories decided to send Boris’ father and Michael Gove, his best mate. Who weren’t allowed on the programme for the simple reason, as Channel 4’s news editor Ben de Pear pointed out, that as lovely and charming as they were, they weren’t the party’s leader. Gove started lying about how he turned up at Channel 4, but was turned away because Corbyn and Sturgeon didn’t want to debate a Conservative. This was disproved by Robert Peston, who tweeted

Classic Vote Leave tactics this whole ‘Gove turns up’ while CCHQ complains to regulator Ofcom about Ch4 barring him. It is all about proving to supporters that the London media establishment are against them (don’t laugh) while trying to intimidate all broadcasters.

Unable to get their own way, the Tories have complained about the debate to Ofcom, claiming that the channel has broken its legal requirement to be impartial and that the refusal to admit Gove and Stanley Johnson was a partisan stunt. They also told Buzzfeed News that if they’re re-elected, they would review Channel 4’s broadcasting license.

Sunny Hundal pointed out the sheer hypocrisy behind this.

If Corbyn had threatened Channel 4’s license over climate change debate, every newspaper in Britain would rightly be calling it ‘Stalinist’. Yet the press is silent and BBC is treating it as a legit story.

Zelo Street concluded

‘Tory commitment to free speech does not include dissent. Who’s being Stalinist now?’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tories-threaten-to-curtail-free-speech.html

The Tories don’t like freedom of speech at all. They withdrew LWT’s broadcasting license after ‘Death on the Rock’, and had a Panorama documentary how the party had an overlapping membership with the BNP, National Front and other Fascists, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’ suppressed. And during their coalition government with the Lib Dems, they passed legislation providing for a system of secret courts. If the government decides it is necessary for reasons of national security, the accused may be tried in courts from which the press and public are banned. They may not know the identity of their accusers, nor the crimes of which they are accused or the evidence against them. It a system from the pages of Kafka’s The Trial and The Castle, and is the same as the perverted judicial systems of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. And Cameron also wanted to make street demonstrations more difficult by passing legislation that would restrict the right to march and demonstrate under the pretence of protecting local residents from ‘nuisance’.

With this latest threat to Channel 4, the Tories have shown themselves not only cowards and bullies, but an active threat to freedom of speech. Get them out, and Labour in!

Neoliberalism and Climate Change

How economists have contributed to climate change inaction.

Video of British Scientist Eric Laithwaite Explaining Principle of Magnetic Levitation (Maglev)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 6:58am in

This is a fascinating film from Imperial College London. Shot in 1975, it shows great British scientist/engineer Eric Laithwaite explaining how a maglev train would work. He begins with first principles, simply showing how magnets act upon each other with bar magnets. Magnets with the same poles facing each other repel, and he demonstrates how this can be used to suspend one magnet above another. This can be done with ring magnets, but usually something has to hold them in place, like the solid glass tube in this video. But ordinary magnets don’t generated enough lift to raise heavy objects off the ground. He then moves on to electromagnets and how these can also be made to move aluminium objects along them when using AC current. The electromagnets can be flattened out to produce a kind of river – the ‘Magnetic River’ of the film’s title – along which an aluminium sheet can be propelled at great speed. He then shows how the same principle could be used to drive a train by placing a model on the maglev track.

Laithwaite was working on making maglev trains a reality when the project was cancelled due to the budget cuts of the late 70s. The idea has since been taken up by German and other, foreign engineers. It has been seen by visionary scientists and SF writers like Arthur C. Clarke as the solution to current transport problems through the great speed that these trains could in theory attain without friction from wheels touching the tracks. They would also be clean and green through being powered by electricity, preferably solar power, rather than the burning of coal or other hydrocarbons. See the discussion about them in Clarke’s Profiles of the Future.

Laithwaite is one of the great scientists most people have never heard of. In the 1990s he got caught up in developing anti-gravity based on his experiments with gyroscopes. His claim that he had discovered a new principle of anti-gravity propulsion was not accepted by the scientific community. I’ve got the impression that the furor that aroused has caused his earlier, solid work to be unfairly overlooked.

I realise the video’s long at just over 18 minutes, but it’s worth persevering with if you’re interested in the subject. Before computer graphics came in, this is pretty much what science broadcasting was like when I was a schoolboy. It was simply the scientist, engineer or presenter standing in front of the camera talking with the machine or other object in front of them, and using simple diagrams or illustrations. And I’m really impressed with the way Laithwaite is able to explain a sophisticated piece of engineering in ordinary, non-technical language. As one of the commenters says on the YouTube page for this, he would have been a great science teacher.

He isn’t quite on his own here. Helping him with the equipment is his mysterious assistant, Barry, who helps set the apparatus up and loads the sheets of aluminium and then the model train on the maglev tracks, but who never speaks.

It’s a very basic presentation compared to some of the films on today’s popular science television, and it’s not clear if it was intended for broadcast. But it was experts like Dr. Laithwaite who brought science to ordinary people and inspired a new generation witih its wonder when I was young.

Today the government is concerned about the lack of young people choosing to study STEM subjects. Perhaps if broadcasters were able to find a few more experts with ability to explain science with the simplicity of some of those, who graced our TVs then, people able to convey real enthusiasm for the subject, and weren’t afraid of putting more popular science programmes on TV, there would be more school and university students taking up these subjects.

 

 

Video of DIY Atmospheric Water Generators

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 6:26am in

Atmospheric Water Generators are machines that work on the same principle as dehumidifiers. They produce water from atmospheric moisture. The difference between them and the dehumidifiers is that the water they produce should be safe to drink.

In this video from desertsun 02’s channel on YouTube, a man shows off a simple AWG that’s he’s built himself. The explanatory paragraph for it runs

DIY Atmospheric Water Generator. Unit pulls Pure ‘distilled water’ straight out of the air! works best in hot humid conditions. this simple design pumps near freezing water thru a long section of copper coil. coil becomes very cold and dew (condensate) forms on the coil. the dew is then caught by a drip-pan located beneath the coil. *note that this unit has the added benefit of dehumidifying the air. *an AWG is essentially just a “Food Safe” dehumidifier. (my previous video shows this unit being operated primarily as a dehumidifier… the difference being that that design has plastic parts that come in contact with the water). to keep the water as ‘pure’ as possible, i used only aluminum and copper in this version. main thing with these is to keep the coils clean. if coils are cleaned after each use, the water generated is ‘distilled water’.

Of course, it raises the question that if he’s using cold water to condense the water in the atmosphere, why doesn’t he simply drink the water rather than go to all the bother of cooling and pumping it around just to get a few ounces from the atmosphere. But it’s a brilliant piece of home engineering, and scientists and engineers are building machines like these to give people in deprived, parched areas potable water. And we may need more of these machines very soon if the planet continues to warm up and desertification increases.

Wake up, Australia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 11:47am in

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Environment

By RosemaryJ36   Some years back, there was a philosophy in mathematics education circles that students should be encouraged to create knowledge via discovery processes. It is true that finding out how to find out is incredibly valuable, indeed actually invaluable, but the time factor has to click in at some stage. Also, if every generation…

The post Wake up, Australia appeared first on The AIM Network.

£70 Bn Black Hole in Tory Spending Pledges

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 3:36am in

Despite all the Tory bluster, as Mike has pointed out Labour’s spending plans are properly costed and have the support of 163 leading economists. They have sent a letter to the Independent stating their support, saying

It seems clear to us that the Labour party has not only understood the deep problems we face, but has devised serious proposals for dealing with them.

We believe it deserves to form the next government.

Labour spending plans are backed by leading economists

The Tories, however, have always claimed that they are the party of proper fiscal responsibility, who truly understand economics. In contrast to profligate, spendthrift Labour, they can be trusted with wise, frugal expenditure.

So how do their manifesto pledges stand up?

Not well. According to an article in Tuesday’s I, they’ve got a black hole to the tune of £ 70 bn in theirs.

The article by Hugo Gye reads

The Conservatives face a £70bn black hole in their spending plans after making a string of manifesto promises without explaining how to pay for them.

Boris Johnson has pledged to build dozens of hospitals, create a new rail network and set up a hi-tech “gigafactory” to make electric cars. He is also promising national insurance cuts, a new system of social care and relief for indebted students. None of his policies is costed in the party manifesto revealed on Sunday. They add up to £52.2bn in added capital investment, and an extra £20.6bn on the annual bill for day-to-day spending, according to figures calculated by I.

The Conservative manifesto proposed a rise in day-to-day spending of £2.9 bn as well as £3.6bn in tax cuts. But it also contained a number of policies with no price tag attached.

The biggest is Northern Powerhouse Rail, a new network linking Liverpool to Hull via Manchester and Leeds, which will cost £39 bhn. Other promised capital projects not costed by the manifesto include building 40 new hospitals and the construction of a gigafactory to make eco-friendly vehicles.

Tory sources said future investment plans would be funded by a £100 bn pot of capital expenditure, only £22 bn of which has so far been allocated to specific projects. The shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said, “With no evidence behind any of their figures, it looks like the Conservatives’ fake news approach applies to their manifesto too.”

The deputy Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, added: “Boris Johnson’s relationship with numbers has all the hallmarks of his relationship with the truth – nonexistent.”

That’s precisely how it seems to me.

The fact that these pledges are not costed suggests very strongly to me that, like his promise to build 40 new hospitals, they’re lies. The Tories have no intention of honouring them. They’re only interested in slashing welfare spending and privatising the NHS and anything else they can get their hands on for the benefit of their rich corporate donors, Donald Trump and the American private healthcare industry, and the hedge funds. And they are going to wreck this country to do so.

Don’t be fooled by them. Labour really stands for restoring the welfare state, public infrastructure and the NHS. And it’s all properly costed.

They are the party of economic sense. Not the loony, lying Tories.

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