Archive for October, 2016

Weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin intend to build a waste incinerator in partnership with CoGen in a heavily populated area of Cardiff. It would be the second one, joining Viridor incinerator in Llanrumney.
 
I’ve just dug out my questions to Wales Online’ Chris Cousens from 2010 from the group I was a co-founder of Covanta Incinerator Objection Group (which coincidentally celebrated the 5th Anniversary of WINNING against the Brig-y-cwn Monster Incinerator proposed for Fochriw, near Merthyr Tydfil, on 24th October 2011.)
 
Obviously these Q’s have to be re-written for this new Cardiff application, but the proposed incinerator is the same Gasification technology and the same exhaust chimneys which we showed fail to filter PM10 nano-particulates and heavy metals.
I’ve sent the questions to Friends of the Earth Cymru / Cyfeillion y Ddaear Cymru and I would like to see them receive answers to similar questions put to Lockheed Martin Energy VP Frank Armijo and CoGen Limited CEO Ian Brooking.
 
(From 2010)
A. How do Covanta intend to ensure that they will not breach emission limits at its proposed Brig-y-cwm plant?
 
B. Why should the residents believe that Covanta will run their plant
safely, when their track record with numerous plants throughout America showing Covanta have been found complacent in breaching emission levels and have endangering public health on hundreds of occasions?
I am at the most basic level of competence to be able to carry out
research and yet there is a huge amount of evidence I have found to prove this, for example; WALLINGFORD – New Jersey based Covanta Energy, owner of
the trash-to-energy plant on South Cherry Street, has been ordered to pay a $400,000 fine and upgrade one of its incinerators as terms of a settlement with the state over emissions violations in summer 2010. ( http://www.myrecordjournal.com/…/article_a9b14a2a-af26… )
 
C. In Merthyr Tydfil borough, Recycling rates are running at an average of 30%, how do Covanta propose ensure that the other 70% of recyclable waste will not be incinerated, are they just relying on residents to recycle?
 
D. Why are Covanta proposing to build an old style “open grate
incinerator”, which goes against the Waste Hierarchy Directive,
(1) waste prevention
(2) preparing for re-use
(3)waste prevention
(4) other recovery, including energy recovery
(5) disposal – by not allowing sufficient process for recycling, which has a higher position in the Waste Hierarchy than energy recovery?
 
E. Why are Covanta proposing to build an old style open grate incinerator when there are better proven technologies such as established Plasma gasification plants in the UK (which the UK Government are keen to promote, National Policy Statements Debate 18 July 2011 ) which pre-recycle prior to the safer incineration process, which ensures only non-recyclable waste will be burned?
 
F. Do Covanta agree that Plasma Gasification Incinerators better meet the purpose of the EU’s Landfill Directive, Waste Framework Directive and the National Policy Statement? If Covanta don’t agree, why does their open grate plant better meet these Directives?
 
G. Is it true that Covanta are not in fact, a waste management company, but are primarily an incineration firm, as they undertake no pre-sorting or recyclings of any waste prior to its incineration?
 
H. Does Mr Chilton consider Open-Grate to be the “BEST AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGY”? Would he please provide evidence for this and cite references for this.
 
I. Does Mr Chilton and Covanta consider the lungs of American people to be different to the lungs of Welsh people, as the company pollutes American lungs regularly! Why should we believe that they won’t pollute Welsh lungs in the same way?
 
J. Can Mr Chilton confirm that Covanta has been approaching English county boroughs, such as the Royal borough of Windsor, for contracts to incinerate their waste?
 
K. How does this fit in with the Welsh Governments’ “Localism” strategy for dealing with municipal waste?
 
L. What other countries does Covanta intend approaching in order to ship waste to incinerate at the site? e.g. Ireland? France? further afield?
Causing a massive carbon footprint for the proposed plant.
 
M. Does Mr Chilton agree that we have some beautiful views of the Brecon Beacons to the North and through the Valleys to the South and West of Brig-y-Cwm as well as splendid views of the hillsides of the Eastern Rhymney valley and the mountain tops of Blaenau Gwent beyond?
How would this plant sit along side Tourism revenue?
 
N. If this incinerator proposal were to progress, has he considered
relocating his family to Pentwyn, or Fochriw, or Bedlinog, or Dowlais, or any other of the communities that will be within the polluting outfall of his blight incinerator plant?

Lockheed Martin Energy VP Frank Armijo and CoGen Limited CEO Ian Brooking sign a teaming agreement for waste-to-energy projects in the U.K., starting with a plant in Cardiff, Wales.
LONDON, Oct. 11, 2016 – Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) has signed a teaming agreement with CoGen Limited to develop energy-from-waste projects in the United Kingdom, starting with a new plant in Cardiff, Wales.
The Cardiff facility will convert waste into up to 15 megawatts (MW) of energy, enough to power about 15,000 homes and businesses in the local area. To generate energy, the plant will process approximately 150,000 tons of waste per year, significantly reducing the need for landfill use. Construction is expected to begin in 2018, with operations starting in 2020.
“This project will make a substantial contribution to Cardiff and will further showcase how bioenergy technologies can help reduce waste, decrease pollution and generate clean, renewable energy,” said Frank Armijo, vice president of Lockheed Martin Energy. “We’re excited to team with CoGen, and we’re looking forward to other projects where we can help businesses, manufacturers and U.K. municipal and regional governments address their critical waste and energy challenges.”
CoGen will serve as the owner and developer of the Cardiff project and Lockheed Martin will lead the engineering, procurement, manufacturing and construction of the plant. The facility will use Concord Blue’s Reformer® technology, which converts waste to energy through a process called advanced gasification. The technology can convert nearly any kind of organic waste into clean, sustainable energy.
In addition to the Wales project, Lockheed Martin and CoGen will jointly pursue other similar projects, and smaller-scale opportunities to develop energy-from-waste projects for commercial and industrial businesses throughout the U.K.
“CoGen is excited to be forming this partnership with Lockheed Martin and bringing the Concord Blue Reformer® technology to the U.K.,” said Ian Brooking, chief executive officer of CoGen Limited. “Cardiff will be the first of a pipeline of projects that over the coming decade will see local, smaller-scale generation play a bigger part in delivering the U.K.’s energy requirements.”
Based in England, CoGen is a leading advanced gasification energy-from-waste company within the U.K. The company develops, constructs, manages, owns and executes advanced gasification plants throughout the U.K., with five projects either generating energy or under construction, and six additional projects in planning.
Lockheed Martin Energy is a line of business within Lockheed Martin that delivers comprehensive solutions across the energy industry to include demand-response solutions, energy efficiency, energy storage, nuclear systems, tidal energy technologies and bioenergy generation.
For additional information, visit our website: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/energy
About Lockheed Martin

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 98,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

About CoGen
CoGen is at the forefront of the Advanced Gasification of Waste industry within the U.K. and develops, constructs, manages, owns and executes Advanced Gasification plants. Projects are selected to minimize the transportation of waste within the U.K. and to ensure local benefit is gained from community waste. For additional information, visit our website: http://www.cogenuk.com

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Big Up The Walloons!!!

The Belgian regional government defeated the CETA – Canadian free trade agreement, all by itself! https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2016/oct/21/wallonia-eu-latest-rogue-element-walloons


Being the opposite of an optimist, (this latest story has got me very depressed https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/24/petrol-cars-allowed-to-exceed-pollution-limits-by-50-under-draft-eu-laws) and holding no faith whatsoever in those of positions of governance, it looks like non-toxic, clean, breathable air is increasingly going to be a commodity that you have to pay to manage your own supply of – I’ve been looking at research of ways of filtering out nitrogen oxides and particulates to create at least a personal space within the smog cloud of urban living and the ubiquitous commute.

All inner city pedestrians should be considering wearing those masks the savvy cyclists use, the filtering medium they use is DACC – Dynamically Activated Charcoal Cloth.

DACC is technology developed by the UK defence industries in the 1980’s for military clothing resistant to NBC – Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Weapons!

There are already companies making home filtration systems for people living in toxic urban environments,

http://www.airclean.co.uk/1840501_iaqfilter.htm

Convert your home into a quasi fallout shelter! (no criticism of the firm, they seem rather fantastic?)

I also discovered that the manufacturers of top of the range, luxury cars which also pump out NOx poison we have to breath are being equipped with cabin filters incorporating activated carbon technology and filtration below PM2.5 to preserve the occupants from the filth that their cars generate! – not like the filthy rich to isolate themselves from us plebs eh?

Us peasants with lesser or older cars can obtain upgraded cabin filters approaching the Mad Max post apocalypse spec’ enjoyed by the elites from an enterprising firm up North…

http://pollenfilter.co.uk/puraventfilterdesign.htm

so… don’t expect our government, which has handed our sovereignty to global Corporate entities, to do anything, – just dig deep into your pockets, buy your own respirators, install domestic air filtration and upgrade your cars cabin/pollen filter to the closest ‘apocalypse’ spec you can, – your government doesn’t give a shit about you….

(there are only FIVE particulate monitoring sites in the UK and two are rural background monitoring sites)

https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/interactive-map?network=part

(you can monitor your own environment at your own expense with particulate sensors)

http://www.particle-sensor.com/

(and a personal NO2 monitor)

http://www.indsci.com/products/single-gas-detectors/gasbadgepro/

failing all these, good luck with the asthma….?


 

26th October: MSC Global Governance

Masterclass with Visiting Professor Geoff Cousins on the VW Emissions scandal

Barrett, S.R., Speth, R.L., Eastham, S.D., Dedoussi, I.C., Ashok, A., Malina, R. and Keith, D.W., 2015. Impact of the Volkswagen emissions control defeat device on US public health. Environmental Research Letters, 10(11), p.114005.

http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/11/114005/meta

Blackwelder, B., Coleman, K., Colunga-Santoyo, S., Harrison, J.S. and Wozniak, D., 2016. The Volkswagen Scandal.

http://scholarship.richmond.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1016&context=robins-case-network

Klier, T. and Linn, J., Comparing US and EU Approaches to Regulating Automotive Emissions and Fuel Economy.

http://www.rff.org/files/document/file/RFF-PB-16-03.pdf

Comparing US and EU Approaches to Regulating Automotive Emissions and Fuel Economy
Thomas Klier and Joshua Linn

Key Points

  • Historically, the United States and European Union have taken different approaches to regulating passenger vehicle fuel economy and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, affecting choices of vehicle engines and fuels.
  • The Volkswagen emissions testing scandal will likely have broader implications for
    the regulation of fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions of other pollutants.
  • The scandal has led to a tightening of US emissions testing procedures, whereas EU regulators have responded to widespread noncompliance with current emissions standards by providing manufactures more time to adjust to upcoming standards.
  • Some have suggested giving more weight to real-world testing-that is, measuring emissions and fuel consumption from vehicles while on the road, possibly over their lifetimes and not just at the time of certification

 


My view…

Of course emission standards should be as low as possible but they should also reflect economic and technical realities.
Under present standards car manufacturers have been able to exploit glaring loop holes in regulations, no doubt the extremely powerful Automotive lobby is active in ensuring the loop holes exist?
It’s clear that the VW tricks represent only the tip of the iceberg.
Other manufacturers have also exploited the same loopholes, BUT, for some reason they have not been punished by the media and authorities.
For example; the real emissions of many Ford, GM, Land rover, Volvo, Fiat and Renault cars are many times the permitted levels.

The first task therefore HAS to be European Court action and legislation to close all existing loop holes!
The result would be substantial reduction in emissions.

Lowering the emission limits will obviously also help but closing the loop holes will have a bigger impact.

Many (but not all) of the latest Euro 6 specification diesel engines will already meet the proposed emission standards.

The technology is already there but if, by exploiting loop holes, manufacturers can save a few hundred £ or € hand improve market share and a competitive edge – They will DEFINITELY do it. Especially in the EU as they won’t receive US level fines if their caught!

Oct 25, 2016 2:00 AM

Submitted by Eric Zuesse via Strategic Culture Foundation

Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency, though government-run, is providing remarkably clear and reliable diagrammatic descriptions of the current status of the
U.S – and – fundamentalist – Sunni, versus Russia – and – Shia – and – NON – fundamentalist – Sunni, sides,
in the current oil-and-gas war in the Middle East, for control over territory in Syria, for construction of oil-and-gas pipelines through Syria supplying fuel into the world’s largest energy-market: Europe.

Russia is now the dominant supplier of both oil and gas, but its ally Iran is a Shiite gas-powerhouse that wants to share the market there, and Russia has no objection.

Qatar is a Sunni gas-powerhouse and wants to become the main supplier of gas there, and Saudi Arabia is a Sunni oil-powerhouse, which wants to become the major supplier of oil, but Saudi oil and Qatari gas would be pipelined through secular-controlled (Assad’s) Syria, and this is why the U.S. and its fundamentalist-Sunni allies, the Sauds, and Qataris, are using Al Qaeda and other jihadists to conquer enough of a strip through Syria so that U.S. companies such as Halliburton will be able safely to place pipelines there, to be marketed in Europe by U.S. firms such as Exxon.

Iran also wants to pipeline its gas through Syria, and this is one reason why Iran is defending Syria’s government, against the U.S.-Saudi-Qatari-jihadist invasion, which is trying to overthrow and replace Assad.

Here are the most-informative of Anadolu’s war-maps:

The first presents the effort by many countries to eliminate ISIS control over the large Iraqi city of Mosul. A remarkably frank remark made in this map is “An escape corridor into Syria will be left for Daesh [ISIS] so they can vacate Mosul” – an admission that the U.S. – Saudi – Qatari team want the ISIS jihadists who are in Mosul to relocate into Syria to assist the U.S. – Saudi – Qatari effort there to overthrow and replace the Assad government: Syria

The second is about the Egyptian government’s trying to assist the Syrian government’s defense against the Saudi – U.S. – Qatari invasion of Syria, at Aleppo, where Syria’s Al Qaeda branch is trying to retain its current control over part of that large city.

The Saud family are punishing the Egyptian government for that:

Syria

 

Here is Russia’s proposed gas-pipeline, which would enable Russia to reduce its dependence upon Ukraine (through which Russia currently pipes its gas into Europe). Obama conquered and took over Ukraine in February 2014 via his coup that overthrew the democratically elected neutralist Ukrainian President there:

Syria

 

In addition, there is the following map from oil-price.com:

Syria

That map shows the competing Shiia (Russia-backed) and Sunni (U.S.-backed) gas-pipelines into Europe — the central issue in the invasion and defense of Syria.

On 21 September 2016, Gareth Porter headlined “The War Against the Assad Regime Is Not a ‘Pipeline War’”, and he pointed out some errors in Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s account that had been published under the headline “Syria: Another Pipeline War”.

Porter argued:

“It’s easy to understand why that explanation would be accepted by many anti-war activists: it is in line with the widely accepted theory that all the US wars in the Middle East have been ‘oil wars’ — about getting control of the petroleum resources of the region and denying them to America’s enemies.”

But the ‘pipeline war’ theory is based on false history and it represents a distraction from the real problem of US policy in the Middle East — the US war state’s determination to hold onto its military posture in the region.

Porter ignored the key question there, as to why the US war state has a determination to hold onto its military posture in the region.
Opening and protecting potential oil-gas-pipeline routes are important reasons why.

Clearly, Kennedy’s documentation that the CIA was trying as early as 1949 to overthrow Syria’s secular government so as to allow to the Sauds a means of cheaply transporting their oil through Syria into Europe, remains unaffected by any of the objections that Porter raised to Kennedy’s article.
The recent portion of Kennedy’s timeline is affected, but not his basic argument.

Furthermore, any military strategist knows that the US war state is intimately connected to the U.S. oil-and-gas industries, including pipelines (oilfield services) as well as marketing (Exxon, etc). And Porter got entirely wrong what that connection (which he ignored) actually consists of:
it consists of U.S. government taxpayer-funded killers for those U.S. international corporations.

Here is how Barack Obama put it, when addressing graduating cadets at West Point, America’s premier military-training institution:

Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbours.
From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums.
And even as developing nations embrace democracy and market economies, 24-hour news and social media makes it impossible to ignore the continuation of sectarian conflicts and failing states and popular uprisings that might have received only passing notice a generation ago.

It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world.
The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead – not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.

He was saying there that America’s military is in service to U.S.-based international corporations in their competition against those of Russia, Brazil, China, India, and anywhere else in which “rising middle classes compete with us”. Those places are what Gareth Porter referred to as “America’s enemies”.

Economic competitors are “enemies”. Obama thinks that way, and even a progressive journalist such as Porter doesn’t place into a skeptical single – quotation – mark – surround, the phrase ‘America’s enemies’ when that phrase is used in this equational context. On both the right (Obama) and the left (Porter), the equation of a government and of the international corporations that headquarter in its nation — the treatment of the military as being an enforcement-arm for the nation’s international corporations — is simply taken for granted, not questioned, not challenged.

RFK Jr. was correct, notwithstanding some recent timeline-errors. Syria is “Another Pipeline War”, and Obama is merely intensifying it. (On 9 November 2015, I offered adifferent account than RFK Jr. provided of the recent history — the Obama portion — of the longstanding U.S. aggression against Syria; and it links back to Jonathan Marshall’s excellent articles on that, and to other well-sourced articles, in addition to primary sources, none of which contradict RFK Jr.’s basic view, “Syria: Another Pipeline War”).

Another portion of Porter’s commentary is, however, quite accurate: America’s ‘Defense’ (or mass-killing-abroad) industries (such as Lockheed Martin) are not merely servants of the U.S. government, but are also served by the U.S. government: “the US war state’s determination to hold onto its military posture in the region” is protection of the major market — the Middle Eastern market — for U.S. ‘Defense’ products and services. It’s not only America’s firms in the oil, gas, and pipelines, industries, which benefit from America’s military; it is also America’s firms in the mass-killing industries, that do.

To the extent that the public (here including Barack Obama and Gareth Porter) do not condemn the presumption that “the business of America is business”, or that a valid function of U.S. – taxpayer – funded military and other foreign-affairs operations is to serve the stockholders of U.S. international corporations, the hell (such as in Syria) will continue. Gareth Porter got lost among the trees because he failed to see (and to point to) that forest.

 

One you doesn’t need to be a Professor to realise that we’re in deep sh*t. But if you ever needed it explained just “How Deep”,  Prof. Steve Keen is the guy to do it. Empirical data trumps theories built on sand any day, however, the economies of the western world are based on a failed neoclassical model, and the ideology of austerity is a busted flush!

 

Prof. Steve Keen – Published on Sep 23, 2016

Some papers that are remarkably critical of mainstream economics have been published recently, not by the usual suspects like myself, but by prominent mainstream economists:
ex-Minneapolis Fed Chairman Narayana Kocherlokata,
ex-IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard, and
current World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer.

I discuss these papers in a tongue-in-cheek introduction to another key problems of unrealism in economics — the absence of any role for energy in both Post Keynesian and Neoclassical production functions.

I also address Olivier Blanchard’s desire for a “widely accepted analytical macroeconomic core”, explain the role of credit in aggregate demand and income, and identify the countries most likely to face a credit crunch in the near future.

I gave this talk to staff and students of the EPOG program at the University of Paris 13 on Friday September 23rd.

5 years ago spoke at Occupy Sydney. The day before terrorists attacked the Occupy Protestors.


The Modern Debt Jubilee

Bill Buckler, author of The Privateer http://www.zerohedge.com/news/modern-debt-jubilee 

The modern “debt jubilee” is characterised as “quantitative easing for the public”.

It has been boiled down to a procedure where the central bank does not create new money by buying the sovereign debt of the government.

Instead, it takes an arbitrary number, writes a cheque for that number, and deposits it in the bank account of every individual in the nation.
Debtors must use the newly-created money to pay down or pay off debt.
Those who are not in debt can use it as a free windfall to spend or “invest” as they see fit.
This, it is said, is the only way left to restart economic “growth” and finally get the spectre of unending financial crisis out of the headlines.
It is the latest of a long string of “print to cover” remedies.

The major selling feature of this “method” is that it provides the only sure means out of what is called the global “deleveraging trap”.
This is the trap which is said to have ensnared Japan more than two decades ago and which has now snapped shut on the whole world.

And what is a “deleveraging trap”?
It is simply the obligation assumed when one becomes a debtor.
This is the necessity to repay the debt.

There are only three ways in which a debt can be honestly repaid.

  • It can be repaid with new wealth which the proceeds of the debt made it possible to create.
  • It can be repaid by an excess of production over consumption on the part of the debtor.
  • Or it can be repaid from already existing savings.

If none of those methods are feasible, the debt cannot be repaid.
It can be defaulted upon or the means of “payment” can be created out of thin air, but that does not “solve” the problem, it merely makes it worse.

The “deleveraging trap”, so called, is merely a rebellion against the fact that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. So is the genesis of the entire GFC.

Debt can always be extinguished by means of an arbitrarily created means of payment. But calling that process QE or a Debt Jubilee doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mask its essence, which is simple and straightforward debt repudiation.

(A “debt jubilee” is the latest attempt to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It is the latest pretence that we CAN print our way to prosperity, but only if we do it in the “right” way.)


Glossary of economic terms: http://www.zerohedge.com/taxonomy_vtn/voc/3


Maybe a big lesson here for US and UK – where corruption in government and business is rife

China’s Antigraft Enforcers Take On a New Role: Policing Loyalty Credit: CHRIS BUCKLEY (NYT, OCT. 22, 2016)

The Communist Party of China’s anticorruption commission has assumed a growing role as political inquisitor, investigating the commitment of cadres to Mr. Xi and his agenda. Credit: Jason Lee/Reuters

BEIJING — The investigators descend on government agencies and corporate boardrooms. They interrogate powerful officials and frequently rebuke them for lacking zeal. Most of all, they demand unflinching loyalty to President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party.

They are the inspectors from the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and the humbling displays they have orchestrated recently in many of China’s most influential government agencies and largest corporations are the most prominent sign of their expanding authority.

Best known as the country’s anticorruption agency, the commission has lately assumed a growing role as political inquisitor, investigating the loyalty and commitment of cadres to Mr. Xi and his agenda, while cementing the commission’s role as his chief political enforcer.

“It’s not just anticorruption, but more powerfully about central control,” said Jeremy L. Wallace, a political scientist at Cornell University who studies Chinese politics.

Mr. Xi will press his demands for top-down obedience at an annual meeting of the party’s Central Committee in Beijing starting Monday. The committee is expected to issue new rules for “comprehensive and strict management” of the party, especially its top ranks, giving the discipline commission even more leverage to police and punish officials.

The move reflects Mr. Xi’s ambitions and fears as he prepares for a second five-year term as national leader, and has confirmed the rise of the commission and its formidable secretary, Wang Qishan, a longtime ally of Mr. Xi now seen by many as the second-most powerful official in China.

But nothing has illustrated the new order as bluntly as the commission’s intimidating inspections, which the commission calls “political health checks.” They have scrutinized prominent agencies like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the party’sDepartment of Propaganda and the nation’s biggest state companies.

The commission’s investigators have shown a taste for chastening displays of power in what has become a ritual of rebuke and repentance.

At the Ministry of Public Security headquarters in Beijing this month, for instance, hundreds of officers were marched into a cavernous auditorium to listen to investigators excoriate senior ministry officials for lacking “political judgment” and demand greater loyalty to Mr. Xi and the party.

Then their boss, Guo Shengkun, the minister of public security, rose to offer contrition, vowing to make his officers “even more steadfastly and conscientiously” obedient to Mr. Xi and other party leaders. “Loyalty to the party is the top political imperative,” he acknowledged.

Mr. Wang, the commission secretary, has pointedly warned officialsthat under his commission, “being red-faced and sweating will be the norm.”

Another notable target was the Propaganda Department, which the commission censured in June, saying that it “lacked vigor” and that “the political awareness of some leading officials has not been high.”

The criticism of such a powerful arm of the party fueled speculation of a factional rift at the top of Mr. Xi’s government. But dozens of other party and government agencies have faced similar reprimands.

The discipline commission has even taken a role in enforcing Mr. Xi’s economic policies, including efforts to cut back gluts of coal, steel and other industrial products.

But the core of its work is about loyalty to the party and its top leadership, referred to as the party center.

“The entire party must safeguard the authority of the party center,” Mr. Xi said in remarks featured recently on the commission’s website. “There can absolutely be no outwardly shouting that you’re in lock step with the party center while actually you’re not really paying attention.”

Underlying the push for stricter loyalty is fear, the leadership’s nagging nightmare of the Communist Party’s crumbling in a Soviet-style collapse.

“Rebuilding a disciplined hierarchical party organization is about avoiding the collapse Xi and other leaders observed in the Soviet Union,” said Melanie Manion, a political scientist at Duke University. “I think Xi views the stakes for China as very high, but the stakes for Xi as a leader are also high.”

The campaign appears to be timed to reinforce Mr. Xi’s grip on power as the Central Committee is about to set plans in motion to give himanother five-year term as party leader.

Some officials have been publicly swearing to uphold his “absolute authority.”

“Resolutely defend General Secretary Xi Jinping as the leading core of the party’s center,” Li Hongzhong, the party secretary of the port city of Tianjin, vowed at a meeting to respond to criticism of the city by discipline commission inspectors. “Resolutely defend the absolute authority of the leading core.”

For Mr. Xi, the commission has proved a versatile mechanism for fighting corruption, with its ancillary ability to take down or intimidate potential political opponents, and now to enforce loyalty. Its leader, Mr. Wang, is a trusted friend he has known since the 1960s, when the two were sent as youths to labor in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

The commission has long had the power to secretly detain officials without court approval, a contentious and feared tool. But past leaders lacked the authority to take on the corruption and abuses that have flourished since the economic liberalization of the 1990s.

Mr. Wang, with Mr. Xi’s backing, has freed the commission of organizational shackles that once allowed local officials to stymie it, and he has taken to the task with enthusiasm.

Photo

The anticorruption campaign appears to be timed to reinforce Mr. Xi’s grip on power as he anticipates another five-year term as party leader. Credit: Wu Hong/European Pressphoto Agency

“The challenge that worries us most comes from within, from within the People’s Republic of China and from within our own party,” he said in a closed-door speech to his inspectors last year that was leaked on the internet.

He told them that the pressure would not let up. “I’ve said there’ll be no end to this, because if there’s a backlash, there’ll be big problems,” he said.

The dual missions go hand in hand. Mr. Xi and Mr. Wang see corruption as a symptom of a breakdown of control in the party that also spawned disloyal cliques, resistance to policies and disillusionment. They worry that those undercurrents could undermine Mr. Xi and his plans to revive party power.

On a practical level, the anticorruption campaign has deprived thousands of local officials of illicit income, eliciting discontent that the loyalty campaign aims to eradicate.

“The anticorruption campaign has created a lot of resentment and disincentives among public officials,” Ling Li, a lecturer at the University of Vienna who has studied the commission, said in an email. “Political discipline is to repress that resentment and to recreate an incentive for public service.”

So far there have been no signs of public backlash to the campaign. But there are fears that it risks undermining Mr. Xi’s efforts to rejuvenate the economy.

As the discipline commission has taken a role in enforcing economic policies, censuring state-controlled companies and banks, foreign investors have become worried about the effects on their Chinese business partners and clients.

The number of Chinese corporations under investigation by the commission grew to at least 60 last year, from six in 2013, said James M. Zimmerman, the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

American businesses should not tolerate corruption, he said, but “we are very much concerned about the expanding scope and uncertain duration of C.C.D.I. investigations, which appears to have extended nationwide and to practically every sector of the economy.”

More broadly, the centralization of power, incessant inspections and demands for conformity have sapped the morale of government officials, experts and investors said. China’s past spurts of economic rejuvenation often came from letting officials take risks, but the relentless pressure for loyalty to the top has instilled caution.

Even the state-run news media and some supporters of Mr. Xi have begun to obliquely acknowledge that the pressure on the officials is taking a toll.

“Since last year, our politics have become very anxiety-ridden, and President Xi is facing passive resistance across the country,” Jin Canrong, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing, said in arecent speech.

“There is widespread inaction from local elites and local governments,” he said. “Nobody opposes, but nobody does anything.”

 

A superb piece from George Monbiot, covering a lot of ground about a system that some people are not even aware exists. It is important that people start to wake up to the this. We are sleep walking our way towards disaster, be it climate change, economic and social collapse or catastrophic war.


Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher at the White House.

 

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism.

The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, has no name.
Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug.
Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it.

Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?
Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises:
the financial meltdown of 2007‑8,
the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse,
the slow collapse of public health and education,
resurgent child poverty,
the epidemic of loneliness,
the collapse of ecosystems,
the rise of Donald Trump.

But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name.

What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers.
Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone.
Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it.

The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

  • Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising.
  • Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident.
  • Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault.

In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers. Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia.

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now.

The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938.

Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control.
Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as “a kind of neoliberal international”: a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists.

The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek’s view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way – among American apostles such as Milton Friedman – to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency.

Something else happened during this transition: the movement lost its name. In 1951, Friedman was happy to describe himself as a neoliberal. But soon after that, the term began to disappear. Stranger still, even as the ideology became crisper and the movement more coherent, the lost name was not replaced by any common alternative.

At first, despite its lavish funding, neoliberalism remained at the margins. The postwar consensus was almost universal: John Maynard Keynes’s economic prescriptions were widely applied, full employment and the relief of poverty were common goals in the US and much of western Europe, top rates of tax were high and governments sought social outcomes without embarrassment, developing new public services and safety nets.

But in the 1970s, when Keynesian policies began to fall apart and economic crises struck on both sides of the Atlantic, neoliberal ideas began to enter the mainstream. As Friedman remarked, “when the time came that you had to change … there was an alternative ready there to be picked up”.
With the help of sympathetic journalists and political advisers, elements of neoliberalism, especially its prescriptions for monetary policy, were adopted by Jimmy Carter’s administration in the US and Jim Callaghan’s government in Britain.

After Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took power, the rest of the package soon followed:
massive tax cuts for the rich,
the crushing of trade unions,
deregulation,
privatisation,
outsourcing and
competition in public services.
Through the IMF, the World Bank, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organisation, neoliberal policies were imposed – often without democratic consent – on much of the world.

Most remarkable was its adoption among parties that once belonged to the left: Labour and the Democrats, for example. As Stedman Jones notes, “it is hard to think of another utopia to have been as fully realised.”

It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan “there is no alternative”.
But, as Hayek remarked on a visit to Pinochet’s Chile – one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied –

“my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism”.

The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means;
the freedom to suppress wages.
Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers,
endanger workers,
charge iniquitous rates of interest and
design exotic financial instruments.
Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.

As Naomi Klein documents in The Shock Doctrine, neoliberal theorists advocated the use of crises to impose unpopular policies while people were distracted: for example, in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina, which Friedman described as; “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system” in New Orleans.

Where neoliberal policies cannot be imposed domestically, they are imposed internationally, through trade treaties incorporating “investor-state dispute settlement”: offshore tribunals in which corporations can press for the removal of social and environmental protections.

When parliaments have voted to restrict sales of cigarettes, protect water supplies from mining companies, freeze energy bills or prevent pharmaceutical firms from ripping off the state, corporations have sued, often successfully. Democracy is reduced to theatre.

Another paradox of neoliberalism is that universal competition relies upon universal quantification and comparison. The result is that workers, job-seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, stifling regime of assessment and monitoring, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers.
The doctrine that Von Mises proposed would free us from the bureaucratic nightmare of central planning has instead created one.

Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. Economic growth has been markedly slower in the neoliberal era (since 1980 in Britain and the US) than it was in the preceding decades; but not for the very rich.
Inequality in the distribution of both income and wealth, after 60 years of decline, rose rapidly in this era, due to the smashing of trade unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation.

The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income.
When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays.
The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel.

Those who own and run the UK’s privatised or semi-privatised services make stupendous fortunes by investing little and charging much. In Russia and India, oligarchs acquired state assets through firesales. In Mexico, Carlos Slim was granted control of almost all landline and mobile phone services and soon became the world’s richest man.

Financialisation, as Andrew Sayer notes in Why We Can’t Afford the Rich, has had a similar impact. “Like rent,” he argues, “interest is … unearned income that accrues without any effort”.
As the poor become poorer and the rich become richer, the rich acquire increasing control over another crucial asset: money.
Interest payments, overwhelmingly, are a transfer of money from the poor to the rich.
As property prices and the withdrawal of state funding load people with debt (think of the switch from student grants to student loans), the banks and their executives clean up.

Sayer argues that the past four decades have been characterised by a transfer of wealth not only from the poor to the rich, but within the ranks of the wealthy: from those who make their money by producing new goods or services to those who make their money by controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains.
Earned income has been supplanted by unearned income.

Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land, Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course.
Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.

The greater the failure, the more extreme the ideology becomes.
Governments use neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to;
cut taxes,
privatise remaining public services,
rip holes in the social safety net,
deregulate corporations and
re-regulate citizens.

The self-hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector. Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis.
As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts.
Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, “people can exercise choice through spending”.
But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle.
As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement.
Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.

Chris Hedges remarks that;

“fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the ‘losers’ who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment”.

When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation. To the admirers of Trump, for example, facts and arguments appear irrelevant.

Judt explained that when the thick mesh of interactions between people and the state has been reduced to nothing but authority and obedience, the only remaining force that binds us is state power.
The totalitarianism Hayek feared is more likely to emerge when governments, having lost the moral authority that arises from the delivery of public services, are reduced to “cajoling, threatening and ultimately coercing people to obey them”.

Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed.
But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement.
We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that
“in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised”.

The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations.
What “the market wants” tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want.

“Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things.

One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities,
the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains.

Using the same word for different activities “camouflages the sources of wealth”, leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.

A century ago, the nouveau riche were disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Entrepreneurs sought social acceptance by passing themselves off as rentiers. Today, the relationship has been reversed: the rentiers and inheritors style themselves entrepreneurs. They claim to have earned their unearned income.

These anonymities and confusions mesh with the namelessness and placelessness of modern capitalism:

The anonymity of neoliberalism is fiercely guarded.
Those who are influenced by Hayek, Mises and Friedman tend to reject the term, maintaining – with some justice – that it is used today only pejoratively. But they offer us no substitute.
Some describe themselves as classical liberals or libertarians, but these descriptions are both misleading and curiously self-effacing, as they suggest that there is nothing novel about The Road to Serfdom, Bureaucracy or Friedman’s classic work, Capitalism and Freedom.

For all that, there is something admirable about the neoliberal project, at least in its early stages. It was a distinctive, innovative philosophy promoted by a coherent network of thinkers and activists with a clear plan of action. It was patient and persistent. The Road to Serfdom became the path to power.

 

Will be having a talk with photographer / journalist Jeremy Hunter (http://www.jeremyhunter.com ) tomorrow. Talking Point will be about Arirang: synchronised extravaganza and propaganda in the DPRK under Kim Jong Il

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/galleries/Arirang-North-Koreas-synchronised-extravaganza/

The Mass-Games celebrations of ARIRANG in Pyongyang, North Korea (DPRK) represents propaganda art at its most awe-inspiring with the ever-changing mosaics created by tens of thousands of teenagers holding flip-charts. Mass-Games, in general, praise the Korean Workers Party (KWP), its armed forces, Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il.

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 22.34.39.png

THE Arirang mass games in Pyongyang, North Korea, are the largest and most bombastic exercise of state propaganda in the world. Few foreigners are permitted to watch this summertime spectacle extolling the founding myths of the communist state.

With the death of the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il in 2011, however, the show has been slowly wound down. Under Kim Jong Un, his son and successor, Arirang (which takes its name from a Korean folk song symbolic of the divided peninsula) will no longer run in its current form.

Jeremy Hunter, a British photojournalist, managed to attend the penultimate performance at Pyongyang’s massive May Day stadium in August 2011. In his hands, an ordinary tourist camera is a unique window on the world’s last hereditary Stalinist regime.

The spectacle is stunning in its synchronicity, says Mr Hunter, some of whose Arirang photographs are now on view at London’s Atlas Gallery. Fifty-thousand teenagers are turned into living pixels; they create a backdrop to the live displays below in the arena. Every 20 seconds for two hours they hold a different card of colour to create a new collective image. The effect is dramatic, and features an array of uplifting scenes (the Dear Leader’s purported birthplace; the pistols he inherited from his father, etc). Another hundred-thousand people provide the dances, music and gymnastics. Mr Hunter, who has photographed ceremonies and rituals in 65 countries across five continents, says he has never seen anything like it.

“When you see these mosaics changing in a millisecond, it’s truly incredible. It could only be achieved in a place where you have an unlimited resource of humans who do whatever they are directed to do. Every breath of these people is coordinated.”

Training begins in February for ten hours a day, six days a week, says Mr Hunter, who learned more about the spectacle and the meaning of its imagery after returning to England. It is reckoned that it takes 250m man-hours—or child-hours—to produce.

“These children are really coerced into performing,” he remarks. “Almost certainly they’re children of the so-called elite or loyal class”, those given exclusive right to live in the capital.

The show itself is pure propaganda directed at the poorest, who are bussed in their thousands from the countryside. “It is a way of enthusing the peasant class about the quality of life that the regime believes they can offer.”

The shimmering skylines of Pyongyang and Shanghai, sacred mountains, rivers of leaping fish and overflowing fruits are meant to convey the fantasy of North Koreans as a “chosen people” with a life far better than any outside.

There are no images of people cutting grass with scissors to supplement their food rations of 1,000 calories a day, or of the gulags like Camp 15 and Yodok, a complex that houses 50,000 prisoners.

In this, Arirang will be remembered as the last example of propaganda displays on the order of Soviet military parades and the Nazis’ Nuremberg rallies.

The purpose is clear. “If there were to be a Korean Spring,” says Mr Hunter, “it would come from the peasant class. They’re the ones who need change the most.”

Increasingly, he says, North Koreans have access to contraband radios from neighboring China, and are able to pick up signals from the south that show a different life outside.

Warned that professional cameras, phones and GPS equipment would be seized and punishment severe for those caught sneaking photographs, Mr Hunter played the tourist. No long lenses were allowed, “but there are ways of overcoming that,” he says, giving away nothing else. His minder was extremely kind, and ensured that he got an ideal seat among the elite members of the party.

In a companion book of the Arirang photos, Mr Hunter quotes Suk-Young Kim, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara: “A spectacle like Arirang brings people together, eliminates individual will and has tremendous efficacy in running society.”

This struck Mr Hunter most forcefully when his minder translated for him the final slogan of the show: “Arirang shows how we can work together as one to achieve anything we desire.”

This makes for a disconcerting backdrop to North Korea’s announcement on January 24th of plans to carry out a new nuclear test and more long-range rocket launches. “In a way, to me,” he says, “that demonstrates that if they want to build a nuclear weapon, they will. They will construct whatever they feel is necessary to protect this hereditary Stalinist regime.”

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/01/north-korean-propaganda

North Korean propaganda – Human pixels
Jan 24th 2013