Vermont Zombie Nuclear Plant

SUBHEAD: Vermont denied the right to shut down the state's aging nuclear power plant when it's license expires.

By Staff on 18 February 2012 for Reuter's
(http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/18/us-utilities-entergy-vermontyankee-idUSTRE81H0N520120218)


Image above: Protestors hold signs during a vigil to support the closing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant at the Statehouse 1/23/12.. From (http://radioboston.wbur.org/2012/03/05/vermont-yankee-nuclear-aging).

Vermont's Attorney General appealed on Saturday a federal judge's ruling that had prevented the state from shutting down its only nuclear power plant, escalating a two-year battle over state's rights and atomic energy.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled that federal law preempted a state law that would have shut the Vermont Yankee plant in March, at the end of its original 40-year operating license.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin says the state secured the right to decide whether it continues running as a condition of operator Entergy Corp's purchase of the plant in 2002.
Although Vermont is the only state in the nation with authority over its nuclear facilities, the debate is being closely followed by other states like New York that want more say over whether to continue running older plants.

"We have strong arguments to make on appeal. The district court's decision improperly limits the State's legitimate role in deciding whether Vermont Yankee should operate in Vermont beyond March 21, 2012," Attorney General William H. Sorrell said in a statement on Saturday.
"The court's undue reliance on the discussions among our citizen legislators, expert witnesses, advocates, and their constituents has the potential to chill legislative debates in the future. Left unchallenged, this decision could make it harder for ordinary Vermonters to clearly state their views in future legislative hearings," Sorrell said.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City will hear the appeal, he said.
While debate over the safety of nuclear energy has intensified since last year's Fukushima disaster in Japan, the battle over Vermont Yankee goes back several years.

In February 2010, the Vermont Senate, then headed by now Governor Shumlin, voted 26-4 against authorizing the Public Service Board to issue a certificate of public good that the state required in order to keep the 620-megawatt plant running.

But last year, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) -- which has authority over the nation's nuclear fleet - extended Vermont Yankee's original 40-year operating license for another 20 years until 2032.


"We as a state have had many important and legitimate concerns with Entergy Louisiana and its operation of Vermont Yankee that are not reflected in (Murtha's) opinion," Shumlin said in a statement on Saturday. "I support the Attorney General's work in getting a positive result on appeal."
STATUS CONFERENCE MARCH 9
Judge Murtha blocked the state from shutting the reactor before March 21, but required Entergy to seek the certificate of public good from the Board. Entergy has now filed for that certificate, which would extend operations another 20 years.
New Orleans-based Entergy Corp, the country's second-biggest nuclear power operator, said on Saturday it was ready to respond to the appeal and committed to ensuring the plant, which employs 600 people, continues to generate power.
The Public Service Board has scheduled a status conference on the Vermont Yankee case for March 9, according to state utility regulators.
In its filing with the Public Service Board, Entergy said the Board already "has a fully sufficient record, without taking any additional evidence, to issue a decision either amending the existing certificate of public good or issuing a new one to authorize operation of Vermont Yankee for twenty years."
Entergy originally filed with the Board in 2008 and hearings were held in 2009 before the state senate voted in 2010 to stop the Board from deciding on the certificate.
The Public Service Board is a quasi judicial board that supervises rates, quality of service and financial management of the state's utilities, including Vermont Yankee.
In his January 19 decision, Judge Murtha ruled the state laws were preempted by the Federal Atomic Energy Act because the state laws were enacted with radiological safety concerns in mind. The safety of nuclear power is a federal issue, not a state issue.
One state act required legislative approval for continued operation of the plant after March 21, 2012 before the Public Service Board could decide to grant a certificate of public good.
The state gained authority over the plant in 2002, when Entergy bought it from New England utilities and agreed to seek a new certificate of public good if it decided to run the plant beyond March 2012 when its first license expired.
Other states like New York are keen to have that kind of power over the state's nuclear plants.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to shut Entergy's 2,063-MW Indian Point plant in part because it is located within the heavily populated New York metropolitan area just 45 miles north of Manhattan. Entergy hopes to keep running the two reactors for another 20 years after their federal operating licenses expire in 2013 and 2015.
See also: Ea O Ka Aina: NRC knows but hides info 7/10/11 Ea O Ka Aina: Katrina in New England 8/29/11 .

Despoiling Jeju island coast begins

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (kosherkimchee@yahoo.com)
SUBHEAD: Blasting begins for naval base construction on the Gureombi seashore on the "Island of Peace".  

By Kim Rahn on 7 March 2012 for the Korean Times -  
(http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2012/03/117_106450.html)

 
Image above: Police officers drag out activists who tied themselves to vehicles blocking the roads to a naval base construction site in Gangjeong Village on Jeju
Island. From Original article.  

A construction company began blasting a rock bed at the site of a new naval base on Jeju Island Wednesday despite calls from the provincial government and civic groups to halt the controversial project. Workers detonated explosives on the Gureombi seashore off Gangjeong Village in Seogwipo at 11:23 a.m. Several more blasts followed in the afternoon, using 800 kilograms of explosives. 

The blasting came about three-and-a-half hours after Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Governor Woo Keun-min issued an emergency written appeal to the government to suspend construction out of concern over physical clashes between police and people opposed to the project for environmental damage reasons. 

 Nonetheless, violent clashes happened among police, and activists and residents opposed to the construction during the latter’s attempt to prevent the preparatory work. Hundreds of them tied themselves to buses blocking roads to the village in order to prevent workers from entering the construction site. Some 20 others, protesting on the seashore, were taken into police custody. 

Gureombi has become a symbol of the anti-naval base movement for environmental activists due to its rare topographical feature _ it is comprised of a single rock bed that stretches for 1.2 kilometers. Experts believe lava flowing to the sea and rocks rising from the seabed merged into a single fused mass. Dozens of endangered marine species are thought to inhabit the seashore. 

After the construction company sought approval to start blasting last Friday, Woo and Jeju-based lawmakers requested the government to suspend the work, saying there needed to be a further review on whether the base can also be used as a commercial port for 150,000-ton cruise ships as planned. 

But the government ignored the call and said any more delays would only cause a further waste of taxpayers’ money. Police gave the go-ahead Tuesday evening. Following the blasting, Woo sent an official letter to the Navy saying he plans to issue an administrative order to stop the construction until a further inspection on the commercial use of the base is carried out. “We’ll have a hearing, and request the Navy to participate in it on March 20. Even before the hearing, the construction should also be suspended,” Woo said in the letter to the Navy chief of staff. 

Woo said the government changed the design for parts of the base and according to the law, the local government head can order a halt to construction to examine whether the changes were proper. He also said the Ministry of Defense alone inspected the feasibility of the base’s commercial use without local government participation. 

 The Navy will have to participate in the hearing with materials to prove its claims. If it fails to prove the feasibility of its plan or doesn’t appear at the hearing, local authorities will order the construction to be halted. The ministry said the Navy will take part in the hearing but added it will continue the blasting work. 

“If Jeju governor orders a halt, we’ll have the construction minister annul the order,” it said in a press release. Such an annulment is possible by the law when a local authority head’s order is detrimental to the public interest, a ministry official said. The blasting work is expected to be carried out for five months using 43 tons of explosives. The government plans to finish the 480,000-square-meter base by 2015.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Jeju Island protest Navy Base 2/26/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Korean Island of Peace 2/26/12

.

Economic recovery for whom?

SUBHEAD: The "Recovery," in this capitalist economy, refers to corporate profits, not to people's lives. By Richard Wolff on 7 March 2012 for Truthout - (http://www.truthout.org/economic-recovery-whom/1331043859) Image above: Average people standing i line for unemployment benefits. From (http://sanantoniobankruptcyattorneylawyerinformation.com/faq/2010/07/04/the-jobless-recovery-it-is-now-official-even-abc-news-acknowledges-this).

We expect ever-grosser competitive lying from the presidential primary candidates. We should expect no less from the media "analysts," politicians and academics competing for big business favors. With those expectations, we might be less disappointed by what we get.

These days, the hype about "economic recovery" is intense. Obama pitches it as a reason to reward him with campaign donations and votes. The money should flow in from the business community that wants badly to hide the fact that recovery has - from the beginning of this crisis - been only for them at the expense of recovery for everyone else. They need a president who hypes "recovery" as if it's about helping everyone in some general or "fair" way. The votes should come, Obama's team calculates, because average people are becoming increasingly desperate. They want someone in power who might help them even just a bit.

The Republicans had planned to use the economy against Obama (as he did against them in 2008). The recovery hype drove them to emphasize instead contraception, religion and the ever-popular Iran-bashing. By abandoning their attacks on "Obama's bad economy," Republicans leave the field to those hyping recovery.

The major media take their cues from politicians and their orders from the mega-corporations that own them. Mainstream academics, lowest on the public relations hype totem pole, celebrate recovery, too. Then they remember that they are supposed to be independent thinkers, so they find something about "the recovery" to "debate." That turns out to be, yet again, whether government interventions help or hinder economic recovery. In reality, big business leaders and the top politicians they control collaborate ever more closely for their mutual benefit. To mainstream academics falls the public relations task of pretending that big business and the government are adversaries.

However convenient to some, to speak of economic recovery today is false. There is no general improvement in economic conditions, let alone the sustained, self-reinforcing economic upturn that the word "recovery" is supposed to mean. Here is what we know early in March, 2012. The "good" news is about unemployment (slowly declining for a few months), retail sales (slowly rising) and especially sales of automobiles (rising quickly). It is also about corporate profits (high) and General Motors' (GM) profits (record high). Finally, the stock market had a nice upturn over recent months as well. That's pretty much it for the good news.

Here's the "bad" news. Housing prices are falling again (their much-hyped "recovery" earlier during the crisis turned out to be false). Manufacturing was down in the latest reports, while consumer spending and construction spending were flat. Consumer debt is rising again. The largest city bankruptcy in US history has been announced for Stockton, California (population: 300,000). State and city services across the country continue to be cut. Real wages and job benefits keep trending down.

A closer look at the good news raises even more doubt about "recovery" than the bad news does. Let's focus on those robust car sales and the hiring back of some laid-off auto-workers. Consider just two facts. First, the average age of cars on the roads in the US today is 10.8 years, making them the oldest fleet since the records began many years ago. People are not buying cars because they can afford them. Rather, their old cars now cost too much to repair too often. What they borrow to spend on car replacement now will require spending less on everything else in the months ahead. Second, hiring more auto-workers will have a much smaller impact on the US economy than rehiring used to. That is because the auto-industry bailout deal with the unions allows GM, for example, to hire "new" workers at $16 per hour, half of what they used to pay for the exact same jobs.

Looking closer at high corporate profits shows that they come more than ever from overseas activities of US corporations. Indeed, the country's sad condition and worse prospects are why so many US corporations place their hopes and investments outside the US.

The truth about "economic recovery" is that, for the mass of people, it is untrue. For the top 10 percent and especially the top 1 percent - those who brought global capitalism into crisis in 2007 - recovery has been real. They got the huge bailouts from Bush and Obama. They got the trillions in government loans at low interest that they then lent back to the government at higher interest rates (so much for how profits are capitalists' rewards for "taking risks"). To pay for its expensive bailouts (hyped as "stimulus plans"), the US government chose NOT to tax big businesses and their rich executives. Doing that, we were told by business and government alike, might "hamper the recovery."

So, the government borrowed trillions to "fund the recovery." And from whom? From the same banks, insurance companies, large corporations and rich executives whom the government had bailed out and NOT taxed. When those creditors began to worry that the US government's debt was becoming too high to sustain, they demanded that government cut back public services and use the money instead to pay interest and principal back to those creditors. And so it does.

"Recovery" is a recurring hype for a grotesquely unjust economic system. It is dusted off and reused whenever possible to cover the basic policy shared by both major parties in the US during major capitalist crises: help those at the top so maybe it will "trickle down" to everyone else. "Recovery" is the go-to word when business and government impose conditions to make the US more profitable especially for big business. Those conditions now include declining real wages, job benefits and public services for most Americans. They also include the huge numbers of personal and small business bankruptcies that cheapen the costs of second-hand equipment; empty office and retail space; and professionals (accountants, lawyers etc.) desperate for work.

"Recovery," in this capitalist economy, refers to profits, not to people.

.

Growth creating illth not wealth

SUBHEAD: Uneconomic growth is not the same as economic growth, in that it creates impoverishment. 

By Raol Ilargi Meijer on 5 March 2012 for the Automatic Earth -
(http://theautomaticearth.org/Earth/uneconomic-growth-when-illth-trumps-wealth.html 


Image above: Population growth in Sao Paulo Brazil has rached 19 million. Where the 99% poor meet the 1% rich. From (http://civilclothing.com/blog/2010/01/07/brazil-contrast/). 

Herman Daly is a formidable mind. He has been writing for many years about the true effects of clinging to our perpetual growth paradigm. Daly concluded long ago that the solution to the plethora of problems this paradigm leads us to would be to move to a steady state economy. This conclusion is questioned by many, and perhaps not always for the wrong reasons.

There can not really be a question, though, about the data that bring him to his conclusions. From a purely economical point of view, we can see that the added value conveyed by every additional - borrowed - dollar has at the very least threatened to become negative.

That would of course mean the end of the game, even if those operating in the narrow confines of the financial world are loathe to even contemplate it. They see nothing narrow in their view of the world. For them, they are the world. They will simply refuse to entertain the idea that injecting more money/credit could start leading to less growth.

But the numbers don't lie; if there's any growth left, it's very marginal. And that's in a system where externalities, the costs of things like depletion of resources and pollution resulting from consuming resources, are simply not counted. We discount the future, by pretending we live only in the here and now (and damn our children). It's our reptillian or even amoeba brain speaking.

In short, we may have already reached the point where there no longer is any economic growth, there is only uneconomic growth. Or as Daly puts it: "illth increases faster than wealth".

This realization is a major threat to our economic system, and it will therefore continue to be completely ignored and discounted - until the system collapses -. Businessmen, bankers and politicians realize they owe their positions to the growth paradigm. No present-day banker or businessman will make a profit when the paradigm dissolves, nor will any incumbent politician be re-elected on a platform of "hold it right there".

From their point of view, this is a logical conclusion; for mankind as a whole, it's the stupidest idea ever, and a very destructive one. It's just that the destruction doesn't take place at this moment. It takes place at some point in the future. And so we ignore it; we discount the future, and we discount the lives and well-being of our children.

Here's Professor Daly's latest:


Uneconomic Growth Deepens Depression
(http://steadystate.org/uneconomic-growth-deepens-depression)
The US and Western Europe are in a recession threatening to become a depression as bad as that of the 1930s. Therefore we look to Keynesian policies as the cure, namely stimulate consumption and investment—that is, stimulate growth of the economy. It seemed to work in the past, so why not now? Should not ecological economics and steady-state ideas give way to Keynesian growth economics in view of the present crisis?

Certainly not! Why? Because we no longer live in the empty world of the 1930s — we live in a full world. Furthermore, in the 1930s the goal was full employment and growth was the means to it. Nowadays growth itself has become the goal and the means to it are off-shoring of jobs, automation, mergers, union busting, importing cheap labor, and other employment-cutting policies. The former goal of full employment has been sacrificed to the modern ideology of “growth in share holder value.”

Growth has filled the world with us and our products. I was born in 1938, and in my lifetime world population has tripled. That is unprecedented. But even more unprecedented is the growth in populations of artifacts — “our stuff” — cars, houses, livestock, refrigerators, TVs, cell phones, ships, airplanes, etc. These populations of things have vastly more than tripled. The matter-energy embodied in these living and nonliving populations was extracted from the ecosystem.

The matter-energy required to maintain and replace these stocks also comes from the ecosystem. The populations or stocks of all these things have in common that they are what physicists call “dissipative structures” — i.e., their natural tendency, thanks to the entropy law, is to fall apart, to die, to dissipate. The dissipated matter-energy returns to the ecosystem as waste, to be reabsorbed by natural cycles or accumulated as pollution.

All these dissipative structures exist in the midst of an entropic throughput of matter-energy that both depletes and pollutes the finite ecosphere of which the economy is a wholly contained subsystem. When the subsystem outgrows the regenerative capacity of the parent system then further growth becomes biophysically impossible.

But long before growth becomes impossible it becomes uneconomic — it begins to cost more than it is worth at the margin. We refer to growth in the economy as “economic growth,” — even after such growth has become uneconomic in the more basic sense of increasing illth faster than wealth. That is where we are now, but we are unable to recognize it.

Why this inability? Partly because our national accounting system, GDP, only measures “economic activity,” not true income, much less welfare. Rather than separate costs from benefits and compare them at the margin we just add up all final goods and services, including anti-bads (without subtracting the bads that made the anti-bad necessary). Also depletion of natural capital and natural services are counted as income, as are financial transactions that are nothing but bets on debts, and then further bets on those bets.
Also since no one wants to buy illth, it has no market price and is often ignored. But illth is a joint product with wealth and is everywhere: nuclear wastes, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, gyres of plastic trash in the oceans, the ozone hole, biodiversity loss, climate change from excess carbon in the atmosphere, depleted mines, eroded topsoil, dry wells, exhausting and dangerous labor, exploding debt, etc. Standard economists claim that the solution to poverty is more growth — without ever asking if growth still makes us richer, as it did back when the world was empty and the goal was full employment, rather than growth itself. Or has growth begun to make us poorer in a world that is now too full of us, and all our products, counted or not in GDP?

Does growth now increase illth faster than wealth? This is a threatening question, because if growth has become uneconomic then the solution to poverty becomes sharing now, not growth in the future. Sharing is frequently referred to as “class warfare.” But it is really the alternative to the class warfare that will result from the current uneconomic growth in which the dwindling benefits are privatized to the elite, while the exploding costs are socialized to the poor, the future, and to other species.

Finally, I eagerly submit that even if we limit quantitative physical throughput (growth) it should still be possible to experience qualitative improvement (development) thanks to technological advance and to ethical improvement of our priorities. I think therefore we should urge policies to limit the quantitative growth of throughput, thereby raising resource prices, in order to increase resource efficiency, to force the path of progress from growth to development, from bigger to better, and to stop the present folly of continuing uneconomic growth.

A policy of quantitative limits on throughput (cap-auction-trade) will also block the erosion of initial resource savings resulting from efficiency improvements (the rebound effect or Jevons paradox). In addition the auction will raise much revenue and make it possible to tax value added (labor and capital) less because in effect we will have shifted the tax base to resource throughput.

Value added is a good, so stop taxing it. Depletion and pollution, the two ends of the throughput, are bads, so tax them. If you are a technological optimist please have the courage of your convictions and join us in advocating policies that give incentive to the resource-saving technologies that you believe are within easy reach. You may be right — I hope you are. Let’s find out. If you turn out to be wrong, there is really no downside, because it was still necessary to limit throughput to avoid uneconomic growth.
.

KIUC Board Recommendations

SUBHEAD: Even though we are not KIUC members and cannot vote for board members, we do have an opinion. By Juan Wilson on 6 March 2012 for Island Breath - (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2012/03/kiuc-board-recommendations.html) Image above: Detail of poster created by Jonathan Jay. From (http://p2pkauai.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/GOTV2.jpg) It has been our opinion that KIUC has not been a co-op from the get-go and that its board, lead by David Bissel has been secretive, high-handed and backward thinking. There have been a few sparks of light over the last few years, but only a few. We, like Andy Parx, think that what we thought were progressive thinkers elected to the board have been a disappointment (see Disconcerting Disconnection). However, this year there is an opportunity to change the balance of power on the board that could bring a more progressive majority to the decision making process. It could take KIUC in the direction of being a real co-operative. We agree with the recommendations of www.P2kauai.org (Power to the People Kauai) and advocate voting for three of the four following individuals seeking KIUC board positions (in our preferred order):
Pat Gegen, Energy, and Zero Waste Activist, Leader Apollo Kauai Karen Bald­win Attor­ney at law, for­mer Senior Coun­cil for KIUC Ken Stokes, Green Econ­o­mist, Blog­ger and Sus­tain­abil­ity ╩╗guru╩╗

Joel Guy, North Shore Com­mu­nity Orga­nizer, for­mer aide to Mina Morita

Image above: Kauai Electric box from the old days. From (http://www.flickr.com/photos/luckycomehawaii/5771975533) in (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2011/07/another-reason-to-vote-no.html). Recommendation from Marj Dente on 6 March 2012 - (mdente@hawaii.rr.com) Aloha friends, neighbors, relatives and everyone on Kauai who understand this is the year to change the majority on the KIUC Board of Directors in order to make significant and timely progress toward installing renewable energy sources to eventually reduce our electricity rates. KIUC Ballots are in the mail, having just received mine Saturday. Most if not all of you know that I do my homework when it comes to elections for local issues, so that is why you are on my list. I have a change in my recommendations for the 3 candidates to vote for from my previous Feb 14 e-mail to you. Since then, a new person added her petition to be a candidate. Her name is Karen Baldwin . After attending four out of the five community forums to hear all candidates speak, I am changing my 3 votes to include Ken Stokes, Pat Gegen and Karen Baldwin. I am so sorry there are only 3 positions open as I would definitely cast my 4th vote for Joel Guy as he is a very worthy and qualified candidate and would work toward my goals for the Co-op. But, a member can vote only for 3 candidates, so YOU choose. And please note that only the person's name on your ballot is allowed to vote. If you do not get a ballot because you are a renter, please pass my information onto your owner. There is no excuse for any KIUC member to NOT VOTE or to vote for someone because they have been "told" to vote for a certain person(s) who may be recommended by their organized social club. Those that I have recommended far outweigh any of the qualifications of the other 5 candidates, including the two incumbents. Two of the other KIUC Nominated candidates, Lester Calipjo and Calvin Murashige apparently did not think it important enough to attend more than only one forum for Calipjo and two for Murashige, and their answers were embarrassingly uninformed. My three choices attended EVERY forum and were totally prepared to give in depth responses with excellent ideas as how to achieve very important KIUC goals that will be necessary for at least the next 5 years. Joel Guy unfortunately could not attend the last two due to an unplanned health issue. So, I hope you will spread the word about the best candidates and vote accordingly. I've taken the time to attend the forums and all Board meetings since Spring 2011 to get my choices and information out to you. AND I am counting on you to change the majority on the Board so that, in my opinion, we can make amazing progress in the years ahead to eventually lower our electric rates and work toward a completely transparent democratic process for our co-op. Thanks for your consideration. .

Disconcerting Disconnection

SUBHEAD: KIUC is doing everything they can to put money into the pockets of investors- those who buy the land and build the facilities and then sell the electricity to our "co-op". By Andy Parx on 5 March 2012 for parx News Daily - (http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2012/03/disconcerting-disconnection.html) http://www.islandbreath.org/2012Year/03/120306reddy.jpg Image above: Reddy Kilowatt on the cover of a comic book advocating nuclear energy. He had been around since 1926 and was being used by 188 of the nation's private power companies as of 1951. Electric cooperatives initially wanted to use Reddy as their mascot too. However, Reddy's creator, Ashton B. Collins, believed that electric cooperatives were “socialistic”. Collins refused to let Reddy be associated with cooperatives. From (http://www.creativepro.com/blog/scanning-around-gene-great-reddy-kilowatt). It gets harder and harder each year to get excited- make that "involved" since we left "excited" behind years ago- in the election of board members of Kaua`i Island Utilities "Co-op" (KIUC). Note the word co-op in quotes. Every year it's the same thing. First a short list of "good" candidates is circulated, promises are made to shake things up, and then those that do manage to get elected do absolutely nothing. Not only do they do nothing but they magically seem to get KIUC-style religion and suddenly start toeing the "company" line. Note the word company in quotes. When asked "what the heck happened," they claim that they "can't do anything without a majority" on the board, But of course there is one thing they could do- speak out or at least stop parroting whatever the "official policy" happens to be. And when asked again "why the heck?",they pull a "Board Rule" out, claiming that it prevents them from even speaking unless they speak for the whole board. That of course is utter bullshi*t. We'd love to see what would happen if those who say this would actually get together and put out a press release- or even verbally inform people who ask- stating that they disagree with the direction of the co-op and espouse their supposed "real thoughts." If the rest of the board tried to remove or otherwise discipline them we'd expect to see a public battle and a public relations nightmare for KIUC that would make the FERC debacle look like the annual picnic. We've yet to hear the real issues with KIUC addressed by any candidates, even Pat Gegen and Ken Stokes, two on the slate of hopefuls upon whom many are placing their hopes. We'd support them if we weren't symbolically boycotting the "Soviet-style" election where voters and candidates are limited to "party" members- we say "symbolically" because we don't get a vote in the first place. But our message to them, should they be elected, is: if you are going to run as "dissidents" and talk about change, act like dissidents and demand change. So rather than tell you why to vote and who to vote for we'll go over what we'd do if we ran the zoo. First of all, let's get one thing straight- KIUC is not a cooperative. In a cooperative, according to all definitions of consumer co-ops. members make all major decisions leaving a board of directors to oversee daily operational matters As we wrote last month, KIUC is what's called a "Consumers' Cooperative" in which, according... to Wikipedia, "(m)embers vote on major decisions and elect the board of directors from amongst their own number." With the lack of democracy has come a corporate mindset where the idea of "serving and facilitating members' electricity needs" is an alien concept and, just like an investor-owned electric utility "selling electricity to customers" is the way KIUC operates. In order to become a co-op, KIUC must change its business plan. Yet no one running has pledged to do this in the materials we've seen and heard. And that brings up the matter of who is a member. The current set up is one of divide and conquer. Only those whose names appear on the bill has a vote. No account? No accountability. The fact is that there is no one on this island who is not a consumer of electricity in one way or another. All adult residents must be allowed to become members and be entitled to a vote in order for KIUC to function as a true cooperative. Yet no one running has pledged to change this. Many do not know that when KIUC was first forming there was a competing plan to set up a municipal electric utility. As a matter of fact a structural format for doing so was voted upon by the electorate and passed and is now enshrined in our county charter. It was done by the county council so as to leverage certain accountability standards from the formative board. It was a serious competitor at the time especially because, as would be prescient, many did not trust the co-op to be operated as an open and transparent entity. Promises were made at the time- alas not in writing- to make sure that the initial by-laws would, to a large degree, reflect the state's open meetings and record law. But when the dust settled nothing of the sort was so enshrined. KIUC must start to operate, not just as a co-op, not just with an expanded membership, but under, if not the letter at least the spirit of the state's Sunshine and Freedom of Information laws. Now let's get to the real heart of the problem with the resultant corporate- as opposed to the co-op- concept. Much of it is explained in excellent fashion in three of recent posts by Life of the Land's Executive Director Henry Curtis, who has been a public interest watchdog of the electricity industry and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for many years:
What is the relative cost of different types of electricity? Is Avoided Cost to blame for high electric rates? Why is my electric bill so high?
We urge you to read them. But in a nutshell here's why your rates are sky high and why they will never come down under the current way business is done--even though the use of renewable, non-carbon electricity generation should be ultra-cheap compared with the use of fossil fuel. Theoretically, through things like solar and wind power (although many say that with current technology wind on Kaua`i may be impossible due to the danger to endangered bird species), we should be able to cut our bills by as much as 75%--some say by even more. Solar however is "intermittent"--it doesn't generate anything when the sun doesn't shine. So theoretically there is a limit as to how much we can depend on it for our electricity needs Without storage- not just batteries but other technologies like thermal storage- for now, there's a limited amount of solar that the whole "grid" can use. As time goes by, and newer and better storage mediums come on-line, that amount will rise significantly. But let's assume for now that there is a limit to the amount of solar. Even with that assumption, rather than be a facilitator for individuals to generate their own electricity through on-bill payment of zero-percent loans for photovoltaic systems (and maybe even storage), KIUC is selling off whatever solar capacity the island has for use in solar "farms" where they can buy the electricity and sell it to the consumers. The problem is that the amount of electricity from solar farms built and owned by our "co-op" is minimal as compared to the amount we contract for with investor-owned and operated farms That's bad enough. But according to Curtis it is federally mandated that electric companies- and co-ops- buy all the electricity produced from investor-owned farms at the same rate that it would cost to generate the same amount of kilowatts of electricity with fossil fuel. That's a vast simplification and Curtis goes into detail--but you get the idea. Certainly if all this were to be opposed by KIUC and the PUC, the county and state might put limits on, possibly even ban, investor-owned solar through land-use laws. But in our name KIUC has gone before the county council and state legislature and asked for- and received- laws that will insure automatic approval with no permits necessary. And that's where the capacity for solar is going- not onto your roof where you could take advantage of the savings but to investors who will charge the same arm and a leg as we are paying for fossil-fuel-generated electricity. KIUC should be making sure that as many users as possible are able to self-generate their electricity with photovoltaic systems, and either help provide storage on site or via central storage facilities. And they should be taking all that "investor-owned solar-farm" capacity to expand "net metering"- selling and buying back the electricity at the same rate. But instead KIUC is not just using up all the capacity the grid can handle for intermittent energy to build vast facilities which are mandated to be bought by us at close to the cost of fossil fuels, but they are discouraging home generation by denying any more net metering and charging high buy-back rates. And- believe it or not- they are charging huge up-front payments- sometimes up to tens of thousands of dollars- for "studies" to show the grid can handle each user, one at a time. In a nutshell the reason your rates are so high is because KIUC is doing everything they can to put money into the pockets of investors- those who buy the land and build the facilities and then sell the electricity to our "co-op" at multiples of the price people would pay for those same types of facilities on their roofs or in their back yards. Some have pointed out many technical issues as well as some issues of fairness with the facilitation of net-metering photovoltaics for individual homeowners. But those are solvable problems and certainly there are even more "issues," as we've raised here, with the "we sell you electricity" model that KIUC insists on using despite the opportunity that being a unique type of co-op presents. KIUC is apparently the only electric co-op in the country to both generate and distribute electricity. Others do one or the other. KIUC has said that this is problematic. But with a different type of business plan this could actually help provide the savings that home generation facilities provide. Additionally if we're going to "farm" things like hydro, geothermal and wave generation, they should be done internally by the co-op and owned by "us" rather than allowing others to sell us electricity at exorbitant rates. We certainly haven't heard this discussion from any candidates. There are other things we'd like to hear from candidates and, when and if they are elected, board members. Why in the world we are paying millions every year for public relations, advertising, community activities, scholarships and all the rest of that crap is beyond comprehension. It is a remnant of the investor-owned utility that were designed to "give back to the community"- something a co-op doesn't need to do by definition, especially if they, as we said, allowed every adult user of electricity on the island to be members. (Actually there is one candidate who talks about this but she is a right-wing nut that perennially comes out at election time- one who wants us to use nuclear energy.) Also because KIUC operates with a corporate mind-set there's a tendency to "cheat" on "renewables" targets as mandated by law. Rather than defining renewables as being "carbon-free" we include things like bio-diesel and ethanol as well as bio-mass and even garbage-to-energy in meeting those "goals." Finally the ultimate goal of any strategic plan- which of course should be done through membership participation and be membership-approved instead of written in some back room and approved by the board only- should have a target of, not reducing but, eventually eliminating fossil fuel from our generation mix. It may be a long range target and one that will be very difficult to achieve but there's no good reason not to put the goalposts where they belong. There are others- if we listed everything and fully discussed each issue we'd be here until after the election is over. But the bottom line is that if any of the "good" candidates get elected this time, unless we hear from them throughout their terms and they don't just sit down and shut up like they're told, then this election, like those in the past, will have been another exercise in futility. .

US Anti-OWS legislation

SOURCE: Judie Hilke Lumborg (judie@aloha.net) SUBHEAD: US Congress passes authoritarian anti-protest law with felony charges for impeding government. By Tom Carter on 3 March 2012 for World Socialist Website - (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/mar2012/prot-m03.shtml) Image above: Demonstrators walk through the make-shift tent city as part of the Occupy D.C. demonstration at Freedom Plaza, in Washington on Oct. 11, 2011.From (http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-202_162-20119236.html).The United States is now in a full-blown crisis because its "corrupt foundation has been exposed to the American people. The US government may crack down on this movement but cannot uproot it. Ultimately, it will grow so that it will bring down the capitalist system and the West." - Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 10/12/11. A bill passed Monday in the US House of Representatives and Thursday in the Senate would make it a felony—a serious criminal offense punishable by lengthy terms of incarceration—to participate in many forms of protest associated with the Occupy Wall Street protests of last year. Several commentators have dubbed it the “anti-Occupy” law, but its implications are far broader. The bill—H.R. 347, or the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011”—was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, while only Ron Paul and two other Republicans voted against the bill in the House of Representatives (the bill passed 388-3). Not a single Democratic politician voted against the bill. The virtually unanimous passage of H.R. 347 starkly exposes the fact that, despite all the posturing, the Democrats and the Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder with the corporate and financial oligarchy, which regarded last year’s popular protests against social inequality with a mixture of fear and hostility. Among the central provisions of H.R. 347 is a section that would make it a criminal offense to “enter or remain in” an area designated as “restricted.” The bill defines the areas that qualify as “restricted” in extremely vague and broad terms. Restricted areas can include “a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting” and “a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.” The Secret Service provides bodyguards not just to the US president, but to a broad layer of top figures in the political establishment, including presidential candidates and foreign dignitaries. Even more sinister is the provision regarding events of “national significance.” What circumstances constitute events of “national significance” is left to the unbridled discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. The occasion for virtually any large protest could be designated by the Department of Homeland Security as an event of “national significance,” making any demonstrations in the vicinity illegal. For certain, included among such events would be the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, which have been classified as National Special Security Events (NSSE), a category created under the Clinton administration. These conventions have been the occasion for protests that have been subjected to ever increasing police restrictions and repression. Under H.R. 347, future protests at such events could be outright criminalized. The standard punishment under the new law is a fine and up to one year in prison. If a weapon or serious physical injury is involved, the penalty may be increased to up to ten years. Also criminalized by the bill is conduct “that impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” and “obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds.” These provisions, even more so than the provisions creating “restricted areas,” threaten to criminalize a broad range of protest activities that were previously perfectly legal. In order to appreciate the unprecedented sweep of H.R. 347, it is necessary to consider a few examples:
  • A wide area around the next G-20 meeting or other global summit could be designated “restricted” by the Secret Service, such that any person who “enters” a that area can be subject to a fine and a year in jail under Section 1752(a)(1) (making it a felony to enter any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so).
  • Senator Rick Santorum, the ultra-right Republican presidential candidate, enjoys the protection of the Secret Service. Accordingly, a person who shouts “boo!” during a speech by Santorum could be subject to arrest and a year of imprisonment under Section 1752(a)(2) (making it a felony to “engag[e] in disorderly or disruptive conduct in” a restricted area).
  • Striking government workers who form a picket line near any event of “national significance” can be locked up under Section 1752(a)(3) (making it a crime to imped[e] ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds).
Under the ancient regime in France, steps were taken to ensure that the “unwashed masses” were kept out of sight whenever a carriage containing an important aristocrat or church official was passing through. Similarly, H.R. 347 creates for the US president and other top officials a protest-free bubble or “no-free-speech zone” that follows them wherever they go, making sure the discontented multitude is kept out of the picture. The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act is plainly in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which was passed in 1791 in the aftermath of the American Revolution. The First Amendment provides: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (The arrogance of the Democratic and Republican politicians is staggering—what part of “Congress shall make no law” do they not understand?) H.R. 347 comes on the heels of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed by President Obama into law on December 31, 2011. The NDAA gives the president the power to order the assassination and incarceration of any person—including a US citizen—anywhere in the world without charge or trial. The passage of H.R. 347 has been the subject of a virtual blackout in the media. In light of the unprecedented nature of the bill, which would effectively overturn the First Amendment, this blackout cannot be innocent. The media silence therefore represents a conscious effort to keep the American population in the dark as to the government’s efforts to eviscerate the Bill of Rights. The bill would vastly expand a previous law making it misdemeanor to trespass on the grounds of the White House. An earlier version of the bill would have made it a felony just to “conspire” to engage in any of the conduct described above. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature before it becomes the law of the land. What lies behind the unprecedented attack underway on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is a growing understanding in the ruling class that the protests that took place around the world against social inequality in 2011 will inevitably re-emerge in more and more powerful forms in 2012 and beyond, as austerity measures and the crashing economy make the conditions of life more and more impossible for the working class. The virtually unanimous support in Congress H.R. 347, among Democrats as well as Republicans, reflects overriding sentiment within the ruling establishment for scrapping all existing democratic rights in favor of dictatorial methods of rule. This sentiment was most directly expressed this week by Wyoming Republican legislator David Miller, who recently introduced a bill into the state legislature that would give the state the power, in an “emergency,” to create its own standing army through conscription, print its own currency, acquire military aircraft, suspend the legislature, and establish martial law. “Things happen quickly sometimes—look at Libya, look at Egypt, look at those situations,” Miller told the Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyoming. Repeating arguments employed by every military dictatorship over the past century, Miller declared, “We wouldn’t have time to meet as a Legislature or even in special session to do anything to respond.” Miller’s so-called “doomsday law” was defeated in the Wyoming legislature Tuesday by the narrow margin of 30-27. See also: Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act Lib of Cong: 112th Congress - House Res 347 Lib of Congs: 112th Congress - Senate Bill 1794 Ea O Ka Aina: Wyoming Doomsday Bill 2/24/12 .

China's $22 Trillion Timebomb

SUBHEAD: China's growth model is based on the oldest rapid economic growth hormone available: debt. By Shankar Sharma & Devina Mehra on 2 March 2012 for Business Standard - (http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/shankar-sharmadevina-mehra-china%5Cs-22-trillion-time-bomb/466379/) Image above: The Chinese dragon fights the tiger by Heatherbeast. From (http://heatherbeast.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d2c8nup).

For years, a wispy, gossamer dream has been spun by economists working for Wall Street investment banks about how China has managed the impossible: high growth with a very low debt-to-GDP ratio. The dream has been so aggressively sold that almost everybody believes it, including editors of this newspaper who have written glowingly about China’s growth, how far ahead it is of India, how India should give up this race once and for all and so on.

Like all things churned out by Wall Street, this romantic story is also complete rubbish. Regardless of the level of education, we all behave the same way when we analyse countries: we land at the airport, see multi-lane highways, gleaming skyscrapers in the city centre, massive infrastructure development, teeming shopping malls, tall apartment blocks and golf courses. And immediately jump to the conclusion that this country has done it. It has made it. If you are an Indian, you say this country has left India behind by 100 or 200 years.

Just as behind nearly every rapid economic growth story, lies hidden, debt. Usually lots of it. Just like Ireland that went from being a really poor country in the 1980s to getting to the top of European Union’s per capital GDP league tables — all within 20 years or so.

China is no exception. The common wisdom is that China runs a very low debt-to-GDP ratio of around 30 per cent (this ratio was in the low 20s till 2007 but jumped sharply during the 2008 crisis), which gives it lots of firepower to keep reflating the economy and to keep recapitalising its banks. The reality is that this ratio is plain wrong. China’s growth model is based on the oldest rapid economic growth hormone available: debt.

China has debt at various levels and pockets. Let’s add to this central debt, the local government and provincial debt figures. This figure is around $1.9 trillion. Let’s further add the obligations of the Ministry of Railways. That’s $360 billion. And finally let’s also add 80 per cent of outstanding bank credit. This adds $6.3 trillion. We add bank loans to national debt because unlike most countries, China uses banks for nearly all of its directed, policy lending programmes. For example, the stimulus of 2008-09 was financed largely by banks. By pushing its lending via the banks’ balance sheets, China creates the impression of a country that has very low budget deficits and, of course, very low central debt. We take 80 per cent of bank debt into the national debt figures under the assumption that 20 per cent goes towards consumer and private sector credit.

Now let’s total up the few trillions we have unearthed. As of 2011, this figure amounted to a tad over $10 trillion! And the ratio of total debt to GDP becomes a more ominous 149 per cent. Mind you, there may be other debts that are obligations of the central government that we don’t know about since reliability of data in China is suspect, to say the least. It is eminently possible that debt is understated and GDP overstated.

But the story gets worse from hereon. China’s growth model is highly capital or, more accurately, debt intensive. We have calculated a ratio called DIG (debt intensity of GDP), that is, the amount of debt needed to generate one unit of GDP. This ratio started out being in the 0.9 to 1.2 range in the first half of the nineties. During the Asian crisis, this ratio worsened to around two as China again threw loads of debt to come out of the slowdown.

The ratio subsided a bit to below one in the boom years from 2003 to 2007. But it jumped dramatically to over four in 2008 as China threw a huge amount of money at an unprecedented slowdown. The trouble is that given the overall low growth environment globally and the worsening trade situation for China, generating a unit of GDP growth now requires higher and higher doses of debt. And, in hindsight, we will look back and say this stimulus of 2008-09 was a colossal mistake.

So what does the DIG ratio lead us to?

Each crisis leads to a worsening of the DIG ratio and, concomitantly, a sharp worsening of the total debt-to-GDP ratio as China starts building bridges and roads to nowhere in order to reflate.

The bigger problem lies ahead. Given this inclined treadmill model, if China grows faster, the bigger the debt problem becomes. For the sake of calculation, let’s assume the DIG ratio goes to 1.7 over the next four years till 2016 and that China wishes to grow at eight per cent. The total debt-to-GDP ratio at the end of 2016 becomes 180 per cent, up from the 150 per cent of 2011! In absolute terms, China’s total debt will reach $22 trillion. Coupled with a worsening demographic picture, this high total debt-to-GDP ratio becomes a trap from which there is virtually no escape.

To compound the problem, China’s private consumption expenditure (PCE) to GDP has declined sharply to 33 per cent from 55 per cent 20 years ago. The ratio of net exports to GDP has fallen to 3.9 per cent in 2010, from 8.8 per cent in 2007. It’s only the ratio of gross fixed capital formation to GDP that has jumped to over 50 per cent in 2011 from 25 per cent a few years ago. As is clear, if China has to maintain its pace of growth, it has to pile on more debt. If it slows down, its social powder keg starts getting incendiary.

We are not even counting the burgeoning, widespread non-performing loans problem that is looming large and will, in all probability, lead to China’s fourth systemic banking crisis in less than 25 years. If this is a growth model, then it is even worse than the Western growth model.

So, the bullets China has in order to emerge from this rock-and-a-hard-place situation are few, if any at all. China is indeed riding the tiger. In contrast, India’s is the Toyota Prius of growth models. India should simply avoid the trap of excessive public spending on infrastructure. That’s where almost every country in Asia, including Japan in the nineties to China and Dubai now, has run into problems. India’s growth model is infinitely more robust and time will prove this to a world bedazzled by China.

.

Greece at the Crossroads

SUBHEAD: This week we'll knowthe last big unknown on the road to sovereign default for Greece. By John Ward om 5 March 2012 for The Slog - (http://hat4uk.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/greek-bondholders-the-last-big-unknown-on-the-road-to-greek-default/) Image above: Bilbo and Sam at the crossroads. From (http://fan.theonering.net/~rolozo/cgi-bin/rolozo.cgi/collection/sam?hide=-9&order=filesize). The site greekcrisis.net summed it up two weeks ago: ‘large bondholders say the take-up is likely to be high, if only because the alternative of a full-blown Greek default is so bad’.

However, the key words there are ‘large bondholders’. These are, on the whole, the big banker guys with a lot to lose from Greek default: many of them are the same guys from International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) who last week voted against seeing an open-and-shut case of bond-issuer default as a default. It was a case of turkeys voting for the abolition of Thanksgiving. But the markets are not about to abolish it.

Yesterday, the pessimistic view came from London. The Daily Telegraph financial columnist Louise Armitstead wrote that;

"Authorities in Athens are ready to enforce the ontroversial Collective Action Clauses, or CACs, to impose the restructuring deal on all bondholders as the number of voluntary agreements look set to fall short of the required amount."

And the influential Open Europe website’s Raoul Ruparel opined that,

“Greece is likely to struggle to reach the targets for a voluntary agreement, so the credit rating agencies are almost certainly going to see this as a default.”

This makes for a stark contrast with the remarks of International Institute of Finance (IFF) negotiator Charles Dallara, who yesterday pronounced himself “quietly confident” of the swap going ahead without complications.

Clearly, they can’t both be right.

There are a number of other players involved apart from the instituions Charles Dallara claims to represent. The hedge funds are said to have anything from $10-$50bn of exposure in terms of Greek bond purchases. To make a decent profit, they need a default. Some of them already feel screwed by ISDA: they’re not in the mood to compromise. As I keep on saying, nobody knows what these guys will do – or even whether their holding is,say, $12bn or $52bn.

Then there is the US Fed, and the White House. They are, respectively, out to protect the US Dollar banking hegemony and the President’s electoral chances. They’re worried about other stuff too: the raw materials in the Med and the Aegean around Greece; military bases from which to contain Islam; and the access to Cyprus as a friendly mid-Med island….especially after today’s Turkish opportunism on the sovereignty issues there.

I retain a confidence in my sources. They say that the US has what it sees as a deal with the EU: you dump Greece and grow a firewall to protect all the banks, we help you prop up those banks. Of course it is typical of the Americans to think they can reliably plan such unpredictable outcomes to protect themselves: but that there IS a plan, I have no doubt. Whether it succeeds or not is another matter.

The Fed will have an armlock on some of the IIF members. Charles Dallara will be aware of some of it. But all of it? I doubt that. Deals will be done and promises made to ensure that American will prevails. But will it prevail over fear?

And of course, there is the patriotic German contingent in "Bankfurt:... along with Schauble’s Finance Ministry, the Federal Democratic Party, senior Christian Democratic Union members nervous about German debt exposure, and the ultimate successor and survivor, Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Far less of their institutions hold Greek bonds than did so four months ago – and all of them are either sandbagged by Draghi money, or buoyed up by Berlin guarantees. They too can be persuaded to do Berlin’s bidding. In many cases, that is exactly what they want to do anyway. For them, the deal is some short-term losses versus the long-term financial viability of Germany.

It’s a no-brainer, especially for the likes of Bundesbank boss Jens Weidmann, who yesterday again demonstrated Bankfurt’s determination to limit eurozone losses. In a letter leaked to Mario Draghi at the European Central Bank (ECB), Weidmann made his disapproval of both LTRO and the separate ECB bond deal with Athens abundantly clear.

The news leaking in dribs and drabs from Athens yesterday was that the Greeks themselves are pessimistic about bondholder take-up being enough to keep the deal voluntary. Everyone has until Thursday to sort that one out. Don’t be surprised if, during the week, a new bondholder offer is forthcoming. Because – and one shrinks from saying anything with certainty about this circus any more – if the CACs have to be used, then compulsion is obvious, and it’s a full-blown default.

Remember: we’re talking about escrow monies, only half of it having been approved, and almost none of it going into Greek hands. This is 130bn euros that could be rapidly redeployed elsewhere in the eurozone if enough powerful people decide that Athens is beyond help. I think most of those people decided that weeks ago: I still think they have every intention of letting this deal unravel, having now taken all the steps they can to contain the likely tidal waves resulting from that. I still think that – even if by some circuitous reality alteration – the bond swap proceeds, elements within the default-planners will ensure that Greece goes down anyway.

My suspicion remains that toing and froing will continue into next week, and then – ‘reluctantly’ – the eurozone will kiss Greece goodbye. But anything and everything can go wrong in a war, and be under no illusion: this is a war for survival. I am fairly certain that the US/EU axis have no idea just how surely they are kissing their asses goodbye by playing these games, because the one element they still seem unable to take on board – widespread civil unrest and potential revolution among the ClubMeds – is going to wind up deciding far too many things in the end – as it always does.

Last night, Lucas Papademos said resisting the austerity measures in Greece would “set the country on a disastrous adventure” and “create conditions of uncontrolled economic chaos and social explosion”. Along with boils, a plague of locusts, and a collapsing sky. It’s bollocks, naturally, but the sheep have to be nipped into the pen.

A poll of more than 1,000 Greeks for the Kathimerini newspaper yesterday found that 67% said a return to the drachma would make the country’s situation worse compared with 13% who believed the country would be better off with its own currency. But that’s what happens when you ask a bunch of people their opinion about something they don’t understand: Greece would, in the medium term, be far better off without the euro. And contingency plans for a return to the drachma have been drawn up in Athens, Berlin and Brussels.

Anyway, today is Monday. The participants have between 70-80 hours to get their various ducks in a row. Whether those duck will fly – or simply be shot in a barrel – will be much clearer by next weekend. Stay tuned.

.

Reality Check

SUBHEAD: American leadership lacks conviction and competence, and does not want to enter the actual future.  

By James Kunstler on 5 March 2012 for Kunstler.com -  
(http://kunstler.com/blog/2012/03/reality-check.html)

 
Image above: Detail of oil painting "Ubu and the Children of Paradise" by Mark Bryan. 2010. From (http://www.artofmarkbryan.com/Ubu_Paradise.html).

 America is starting to remind me of Bette Davis in the horror movie classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? America is losing its grip on reality. America is acting like an elderly strumpet in too much pancake makeup performing a song-and-dance on the beach while its kinfolk lie dying in the sand.

History is taking us in a certain direction and we don't want to hear about it. We've got our hands clapped over our ears and we're shouting "Kittens and puppies! Kittens and puppies!" Here are some of the things that we're confused about:
  • We tell ourselves we're in an economic recovery, meaning we expect to return to a prior economic state, namely, a turbo-charged "consumer" economy fueled by easy credit and cheap energy. Fuggeddabowdit. That part of our history is over. We've entered a contraction that will seem permanent until we reach an economic re-set point that comports with what the planet can actually provide for us.

    That re-set point is lower than we would like to imagine. Our reality-based assignment is the intelligent management of contraction. We don't want this assignment. We'd prefer to think that things are still going in the other direction, the direction of more, more, more. But they're not. Whether we like it or not, they're going in the direction of less, less, less. Granted, this is not an easy thing to contend with, but it is the hand that circumstance has dealt us. Nobody else is to blame for it.
  • A particular set of economic behaviors are over. The housing sector will never come back to what it was because that whole living arrangement is over. We built too many houses in the wrong places in no particular civic disposition and it only worked for a few decades because of cheap oil, cars purchased on credit, and foreigners lending us their money. We're done building suburbia, and after while, when we can no longer stand the dysfunction and inconvenience, we'll be done living in the stuff that's already there. To complicate matters, we have no idea how over all this is.

    That's why one of the main themes in this presidential election - not even stated explicitly - is the defense of the entitlement to a suburban lifestyle; in other words, a campaign to sustain the unsustainable. As the suburban dynamic increasingly fails, disappointment may turn to fury. It will be the result of leaders not telling the public the truth for many many years. This public fury may be very destructive. It could bring down the government, provoke civil war, or lead us into foreign military adventures - the result of blaming other people for our own bad choices. If we put our effort and spirit into inhabiting our piece of the planet differently, this might turn out differently and better. By this I mean returning to traditional development patterns of civic places (towns) embedded in productive rural places (the agricultural landscape).
  • More higher education is not going bring back the turbo-charged consumer economy. We will not need more office gerbils, bond salesmen, regional deputy managers, or Gender Studies PhDs. That's going in the opposite direction too. Though corporations and giant institutions seem to rule our lives these days, they will soon go extinct. Anything organized at the giant scale is going to wobble and fall: national chain retail, trans-national companies, colossal banks, big universities, you name it.

    The center of economic life in America will be food production and other agricultural activities, not computer gaming, big box bargain shopping, and hybrid car sales. We will need more farmers, more people competent in agricultural management, and more human laborers working in the fields. There will be a lot of other practical, "hands-on" kinds of jobs, but not so many positions in air-conditioned cubicles. You might want to check the "no" box on those things, but reality will have her way with you anyway.
  • We're real confused about our energy predicament. Stories are flying all around the news media to the effect that the USA will soon be an oil exporter. That's utter nonsense, by the way. We still import more than two-thirds of the oil we use. Another story is that the Bakken shale oil fields will make us "energy independent." That is a complete misunderstanding of reality. Another widely-repeated untruth is the notion that we have "a hundred years of shale gas." These are stories generated by the particular stage of collective grief we have entered - the bargaining stage, where we attempt to negotiate a better contract with reality. Good luck with that.

    The truth is, we're nearly out of the good cheap oil and gas and what's left is so expensive and difficult to extract that we may not have the capital investment resources to get it. One byproduct of ignoring the disorders in our banking system is that we are also failing to pay attention to the absence of real capital formation. Meanwhile, the oil and gas companies are propagandizing tirelessly in TV commercials in order to get "other people's money" to sustain their Ponzi operations. (Translation: swindling retirees who cannot get yield from "safe" investments such as bonds.) Eventually we'll have to face it: the fossil fuel age is ending and there are no miracle rescue remedies waiting to come on-stage.
  • We're not going to "tech" our way through the array of mega-problems we face, in particular the energy predicament. The American mind-space today is clogged with cargo-cult fantasies about electric cars, nano-manufacturing, and "information" technology that would allow the trajectory of progress to continue just as we have known and loved it. This too, like the end of suburbia, will lead to vast disappointment. We're heading instead into a "time-out" from technological progress, duration unknown, which will probably also result in the loss of some tricks we've already learned.

    The leading wish-fulfillment fantasy, of course, is that we will change out all the gasoline and diesel cars for electric cars. This is not going to happen. We will be a far less affluent society. There will be much less capital available to devote to auto loans. Our towns, counties, and states are all going broke and will not be able to keep the stupendous roadway system in repair. That's a major reason why we have to return to living in walkable towns instead of disaggregated suburbs, and why we desperately need to repair the regular (not high-speed) rail system.
  • We pretend that if we ignore the problems in banking / money / capital formation they might just fade away like the morning dew. The failure to reintroduce the rule-of-law into these matters will destroy the system, and will probably even overtake the destabilizing potential of the peak oil problem - in fact, will accelerate it due to capital scarcity.

    President Obama is not doing America any favors by, for instance, allowing Jon Corzine to remain at large. If we continue this policy of pretending that nothing has gone wrong, reality will correct our money system for us, by sweeping away all our current arrangements and forcing us to begin over again from scratch. I mean literally from scratch.
It would be nice if we could correct the disorders in the collective conversion that we call "politics," but we are probably going to see ever greater divergence with reality. For the moment, all leadership in America has drunk too much Kool-aid, all of it lacks conviction and competence, none of it wants to enter the actual future.
.

The Titanic or Noah's Ark

SUBHEAD: I don't care how good First Class was,  in times like these I'd rather be aboard the Ark than the Titanic. 

By Juan Wilson on 4 March 2012 for Island Breath - 
  (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2012/03/titanic-or-noahs-ark.html)


Image above: Illustration of Noah aboard the ark. From (http://kezi.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/10-life-lessons-from-noahs-ark).

We are coming up on the 100th Anniversary of the spring 1912 sinking of the English ship HMS Titanic. The ship was emblematic of the pride of the fading British Empire. The ship was the most technically advanced and largest passenger liner built, and was considered unsinkable. It was hoped that it would be the fastest vessel to cross the Atlantic.

As you know, it never did cross the ocean. It sank on its maiden voyage. Few events better express the tragedy of early 20th century's social condition than the story of the Titanic: The social class system; the techno-optimism of industrialism; the dismissal of nature's physical reality; the confidence in Anglo-American supremacism.

In hindsight the sinking of the Titanic can be been seen as a sign of things to come. A dramatic parable, or moral tale, on the folly of imperial industrialism. Pax Britannia was actually in ashes.

Shortly following the sinking of the Titanic was the unraveling of the social order of Europe that culminated in The World War (WWI); followed by the decade of the Great Depression; followed by the cataclysm of World War Two (WWII) that was punctuated at mid century with the dropping of nuclear weapons on civilian cities. Britain won the war and lost the empire. At mid-century America became the dominant military/industrial powerhouse in the world.

We forgot whatever lesson the Titanic might have taught us about folly. We began building interstate highways for cars and international airports for jets. We had a fifty year run at empire that ended in a head-on with the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.

Pax Americana was over. What lesson is there? One I keep coming back to is the fragility of those things we put forward as the biggest, the strongest; the most indomitable symbols of our strength. When they are destroyed we aren't - but we are changed. Some of us become more entrenched in the system that is failing us and double-down on a bad bet. Others let go of their binding connections and try to float to the surface of a new world. I believe that the Occupy Wall Street movement has accomplished much in counterpoint to the Tea Party movement. I have admiration for their fearlessness, determination, organization, inclusiveness and more.

However, in a sense I think they're stuck on the Titanic after the first class passengers have taken off with the available lifeboats. The OWS are trying to get out of steerage and divide the ship stores among those still aboard. They should be finding things that float; abandoning ship and paddling for higher ground.

Clues? Increasing CO2 Emissions; Global Warming; Climate Change; Chaotic Weather; Desertification; Seas Rising; Ocean Acidification; Population Growth; Accelerating Extinctions.

Oh! Noah's Ark comes to mind. I'm not trying to be a downer.

It's "The facts mam. Just the facts". [ Joe Friday, in the 1950's tv series "Dragnet"]

As parables with moral lessons go I am turning away from the legend of the Titanic and turning to the story of Noah. I am not a Bible reader. I don't think there is even one in the house, so I had to go online and googled my way to www.biblegateway.com. There I found the story of Noah and the Ark (Old Testament: Book of Genesis; Chapter 6-9). At the site were dozens versions besides the King James in many languages besides English. The easy-to-read English version is here (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+6-9%3A17&version=ERV). We all know the story.
God is sick of humans and what they have done to his creation. They have multiplied and are doing evil things. He decides to rid himself of people, and everything else that's been corrupted in this world. But God is taken with the virtue of the man Noah. He tells Noah of his intent to create a storm to raise the seas and drown all. He warns him to take precautions by building a boat that can save his family and the animals he can bring along. Noah heeds the warning and with his family prepares for the disaster just as God described. Noah brings aboard the animals and birds that he can save before the deluge. The seas rise drowning all alive on the land. After the rain stops and many months afloat, the Ark comes to rest on a mountain. God is pleased. Eventually Noah, his family and the beasts and birds repopulate the world.
The part of the story they don't have in the Bible is that the progeny of Noah screw up just as badly the next time. Who knew? The fact that we screwed up again is not surprising. In fact, we've done it several times. It's just that this time is bigger than the times before. But, that does not mean you should despair. Get your people together and start building the Ark you will need for the future you see. Include as many of the beasts as you can - while you're at it bring along as many plants, bugs, fish, etc.too. The more the merrier.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: We are still aboard the Titanic 2/18/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Winter Solstice 2011 12/21/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Top-Down and Bottom Up 10/11/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Infallible, Unsinkable & Inconceivable 2/2/11
Ea O KA Aina: Only one kind of sustainability 2/9/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Welcome Aboard! 12/9/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Here's the Deal 7/5/09 .

Hawaii Senate & Koloa Camp

SUBHEAD: Senate resolution attempts to give Koloa Camp tenants a stay of eviction.  

By Vanessa Van Voorhis on 2 March 2012 for The Garden Island - 
 (http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/senate-tries-to-give-koloa-camp-tenants-stay-of-eviction/article_7a196bf8-6515-11e1-866d-001871e3ce6c.html)

 
Image above: View down the road in Koloa Camp. The way Kauai used to be. See poem below "Eviction Notice" by Rhiannon. From (http://collectionsfrommyheart.blogspot.com/2012/01/eviction-notice.html).

 Hawaii State Senate passed a resolution Friday urging Grove Farm Company to place an immediate stay of eviction and engage in meaningful formal discussions with the 13 tenants of historic Koloa Camp, who are scheduled to be evicted by the company on March 8 to make way for a 50-unit housing development called Waihohonu.

The purpose and intent of the measure is to urge Grove Farm to allow Koloa Camp tenants to remain on the property past the eviction date and assign the tenants affordable housing units once the company’s proposed development project is complete, the measure states.

“We’re just asking Grove Farm to see if there’ s potential to resolve the situation with the tenants,” said Sen. Ronald Kouchi, D-Kaua‘i, Ni‘ihau.

Koloa Camp residents have suggested Grove Farm move its planned 12-acre project to its undeveloped property on the opposite side of Ala Kinoiki (Koloa bypass road).

“It’s zoned ag,” Kouchi said, “but we can help them in that regard. It seems like an interesting opportunity because the project is less than 15 acres, so they can go through county. If it was more than 15 acres, they would have to go through state.”

The resolution was introduced by Kouchi and Sen. Clayton Hee, D-Kahuku, Kane‘ohe.
“Senator Hee talked to me about his concerns and asked if I would sponsor the resolution,” Kouchi said.

Kepa Kruse, son of Koloa Camp resident John Kruse, said Hee was instrumental in getting the resolution passed and giving Koloa Camp “a legislative voice.”

Some camp residents, such as 83-year-old Catherine Fernandez who has lived in Koloa Camp for 57 years, have said they’re not moving despite the March 8 eviction order. Others have said they plan to barricade themselves in their home.

Grove Farm spokeswoman Marissa Sandblom on Friday said in an email that most of the tenants are cooperating and that Grove Farm is working with them toward transitioning elsewhere.

“For the tenants who have taken the initiative to find housing, we have offered to reimburse them for moving expenses up to $3,000,” Sandblom said. “We offered to rent one of our Lihu‘e rental units to multiple Koloa Camp tenants. We are also working with one tenant to move their existing house to another property they own.”

Asked what Grove Farm will do if residents refuse to leave, Sandblom said, “We hope that they honor their agreement with us.”

The resolution will now go to the House for approval.


Eviction Notice By Rhiannon on 7 January 2012 for From the Heart - (http://collectionsfrommyheart.blogspot.com/2012/01/eviction-notice.html)

 
I grew up in the town of Koloa on the island of Kauai.
I feel very fortunate to be able to have been raised the "old style".
We lived in a Plantation Camp.
Life was simple.
We had no traffic.
We knew EVERYBODY in our town.
(and EVERYBODY knew our parents/grandparents)
We never had to lock our doors. Some of us took a bath in outside bathhouses.
Going outside to play marbles meant we would go to the cane field up the road and dig marbles out of the ground to play with.
Baseball was played with a stick from the mac nut tree and rocks from the road.
The road was (and still isnt) paved. It's a gravel road made out of crushed coral.
We rode our bikes and stuck playing cards or our grandpa's old beer cans to the spokes of our bikes to make loud noises.
We played in our neighbors tree houses and knew it best to be home before it got dark or we would get 'lickens'.
Back in November, Grove Farm notified the last of the residents to live in the camp they had 120 days to vacate as they would be demolishing their homes, their lives, all their memories and making room for development and so called 'affordable housing coming from China. China? Really? We have a struggling local economy and they want to bring in prefab homes from China?


The first article came and this article followed. The neighborhood has received amazing support from the community even more so proving we are an Ohana. This past Sunday Lee Cataluna wrote an article in the Honolulu Star Advertiser posted here. Lee Cataluna's parents lived in this very camp. This neighborhood is where I lived up untill I got married. I spent majority of my life there. 

 I work in the construction industry and so I understand very well the importance of development and new construction. Change is inevitable, I get that. What I don't get is how they are evicting these people whom majority of the residents are elderly, who have never lived anywhere else in their life, who live on very strict and limited incomes to make way for development. Money Hungry. For years the camp has been so called 'shut down' so no new residents could move there. 

 At any point if someone would move out or pass away (which remember these are mostly elderly people) the house would be demolished and the lot left empty or leased for agriculture reasons. (Most lots are used to raise fighting chickens) Why they cannot continue to do this, I have no idea. But Grove Farm has decided in this tough economy they want to develop. 

To read more on the issues surrounding everything please take the time to read this blog post and the website Save Koloa Camp which was created by another lifelong resident and my childhood neighbor Kepa Kruse.
 
My question to Grove Farm is touched upon in this article written by Lee Cataluna, who's parents as I mentioned were also residents of the camp. And I have to add the photo in the post, that's my grandparents house where my mom lives till today.

 
The window on the far right was my bedroom I shared with my grandmother.
Grove Farm is proposing this new development and offer affordable homes and the residents that they are evicting will be given first chance at those affordable homes.
Published reports put these affordable homes at around $400,000.
I have two points to make regarding this:

ONE
My husband and I got suckered into purchasing 'affordable housing' 6 years ago at the height of the big real estate boom.
We purchased our home for $420,000 and took out a 30 year mortgage for $400,00 at 5.75% interest.
Our monthly mortgage payment is $2,900. 
My husband and I both have very good jobs and it's a struggle to pay our mortgage every month and make ends meet. We tried to refinance our mortgage but we cannot, why?
Because the market has shifted extremely downwards and now our brand new ocean view home is worth only $320,000 on the HIGH side.
So how is it they figure that $400,000 is fair market value of 'affordable housing' pricing? 
TWO
The rent that these residents are paying currently is $600 & $700.
The residents there are my mom's age and older up to in their late 80's.
Do they think at their age and income these residents are going to first of all qualify for a mortgage and secondly how are they going to afford it? 
Needless to say, my mom and the other residents of Koloa Camp didnt have a great Thanksgiving or end of the year.
It has been however, very encouraging to see the community come out to show their support. Thankfully my mom does have a plan and a place to move when the time comes.
Until then the residents and community is asking for Grove Farm to find another location for their planned development.
(Grove Farm does only own half the friggen island!!)
Ok, I know its been a long post I hope you've stuck around and read all the way through.
Please do take the time to read all the articles I posted links to and also check out Save Koloa Camp.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Koloa Camp Petition 2/23/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Help Preserve Koloa Camp 2/16/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Losing Lifelong Koloa Homes 12/13/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Saving Koloa Camp 1/8/12

 .