A previous LucidPipe installation, with one of the turbines visible inside the pipe (Photo: Lucid Energy)
Portland to Generate Electricity Within Its Own Water Pipes
By Ben Coxworth
SolidarityEconomy.net via Gizmag
Feb17, 2015 – There’s a lot of water constantly moving through the municipal pipelines of most major cities. While the water itself is already destined for various uses, why not harness its flow to produce hydroelectric power? Well, that’s exactly what Lucid Energy’s LucidPipe Power System does, and Portland, Oregon has just become the latest city to adopt it.
LucidPipe simply replaces a stretch of existing gravity-fed conventional pipeline, that’s used for transporting potable water. As the water flows through, it spins four 42-inch (107-cm) turbines, each one of which is hooked up to a generator on the outside of the pipe. The presence of the turbines reportedly doesn’t slow the water’s flow rate significantly, so there’s virtually no impact on pipeline efficiency.
A diagram of the system (Image: Lucid Energy)
The 200-kW Portland system was privately financed by Harbourton Alternative Energy, and its installation was completed late last December. It’s now undergoing reliability and efficiency testing, which includes checking that its sensors and smart control system are working properly. It’s scheduled to begin full capacity power generation by March. (Continued)
April 30, 2015 marks the 40th Anniversary of the end of the war in Vietnam and its total liberation from US imperialism and foreign occupation. For ten years, from 1965-1975, Vietnam was at the center of world attention as a small but proud country fought the most powerful imperialist military power in history and won. The price was very high. Three million to four million Vietnamese were killed, millions more maimed, and another 5 million people poisoned with Agent Orange. A massive anti-war movement, in the US and world-wide, grew during the war years to support the Vietnamese people, to put social, economic and political pressure on the US war makers to withdraw funds and troops from the war.
Since the war’s end, Vietnam has overcome tremendous obstacles to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With nearly full employment, Vietnam has made among the greatest improvements in raising living standards and eradicating poverty of any country in the world.
Vietnam is also a leader in increasing life expectancy, advancing education, electing women and minorities to government at all levels, and developing a rich humanistic culture, all components in building a vibrant socialist society.
The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism sends warm fraternal greetings to the people of Vietnam, its government, the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Vietnam Women’s Union, the Vietnam-USA Society, the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange, and the many mass people’s organizations on the 40th Anniversary of its total liberation, and wishes Vietnam and its people many future successes. Many of the leaders and members of CCDS were leaders and activists in the US anti-war movement over 40 years ago. We continue to express our solidarity with Vietnam and pledge to continue our work for the victims of Agent Orange, and to advance the friendship between our two peoples.
April 14, 2015 – Hillary Clinton’s decision to “go small” by formally announcing her presidential campaign in a video, before heading off for “intimate” meetings in Iowa, touched off saturation national press coverage that other contenders can only envy. The former first lady, former senator, former presidential contender, former secretary of state has been in the public eye for nearly a quarter of a century. She’s the prohibitive favorite to get the Democratic Party nomination this time, and odds-on to win the presidency.
Yet hurdles remain. Clinton’s biggest challenge probably isn’t in capturing the middle from the Republican nominee. Republicans have already virtually ceded that. Her challenge is to inspire the Obama majority coalition to vote in large numbers, not only to guarantee her election but also to help Democrats take back the Senate, gain seats in the House and capture a clear mandate.This won’t be easy. Historically, after eight years of one party in the White House, voters are ready for change. The Republican base will be roused by venom toward Clinton that is almost as poisonous as that directed at President Obama. In contrast, many Democrats are discouraged by the disappointments of the Obama years. Key parts of Obama’s base — African Americans, Latinos, millennials — haven’t exactly thrived during his presidency. The election of 2014 took place in a low-turnout, by-election year, but it showed how destructive a lack of enthusiasm could be on the Democratic side.
Some pundits suggest 2016 will be a foreign policy election. Some Democrats are tempted to turn it into a culture clash, since Republicans are now on the wrong side of a growing range of concerns — gays, women, immigrants, voting rights and global warming. But as Clinton’s campaign acknowledges, the central question is still about the economy: how to make this economy work for working people once more, to rebuild a broad middle class, increase wages and reduce income inequality. Here, although Clinton has been in the public eye for decades, her views are largely unknown, if not unformed.
And on these questions, a populist temper is building in the party — symbolized by the split between the “Warren” and Wall Street wings of the party, and by the spread of the movement to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to run for the presidency. And Clinton will find that this movement will force her to decide where she stands early and often. (Continued)
Is the Age of Renewable Energy Already Upon Us?
By Michael Klare
SolidarityEconomy.net via TomDispatch.com
April 16, 2015 – Consider the extremes of our present climate moment by the numbers. Recently, Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the former chief economist of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, did a little calculating. He was curious to find out just how much the planet’s temperature might rise if we managed to burn all the fossil fuel reserves that “can be extracted with today’s technology.”
Without beating around the (burning) bush, the answer he came up with was a staggering 16.2 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that in perspective, climate science suggests that unless we keep the temperature rise from the burning of fossil fuels under 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) catastrophic changes are likely to occur, including, as Greenstone points out, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which will reshape human life on this planet in grim ways. And even that 3.6-degree mark might be too high. Add in another nearly 13 degrees of warming and you could have the definition of an uninhabitable planet (at least by humans).
It should give us all the chills — or more appropriately, leave us with fever dreams of a future in which humanity was incapable of getting itself together, dealing with entrenched fossil fuel interests, and saving a planet that had for so many tens of thousands of years been the rather habitable home of our species.
On the other hand, look at Spain: as Juan Cole reported recently at his Informed Comment website, that country is now getting almost 70% of its electricity in ways that do not generate carbon dioxide. That’s little short of extraordinary. It’s possible that somewhere down the line that country could even become “the first net-carbon-zero G-20 state”! As of this March, it received 22.5% of its electricity from wind power (with solar trailing badly behind), 17.5% from hydro power, and 23.8% from nuclear power (which will make some environmentalists uneasy). And the country hopes to almost double its wind power contribution to 40% in the next five years.
In other words, depending on what you care to look at, this planet offers a grim vision of humanity preparing to scourge and flood its own home or — and this is a new development — a more hopeful one. In that, humanity, under pressure and moving too slowly by half, is nonetheless beginning to reshape our world yet again in unexpected ways, using new technology that is quickly becoming ever cheaper and easier to employ.
TomDispatch energy expert Michael Klare suggests today that while nothing may be settled, damage is clearly being done, and the fossil fuel machine remains deeply entrenched and determined, there are nonetheless unexpected signs that we, like the cavalry of movie fame, may finally be saddling up to ride to our own rescue. This is the sort of news that should stir the blood and soul in all of us. It should leave us thankful for the years of toil in the wilderness by climate activists like those at 350.org who have worked so hard to bring us to awareness of the dangers ahead, and of activists like those in the fossil fuel divestment movement who want to shake what may be the most profitable industry in history to its core. –Tom
Don’t hold your breath, but future historians may look back on 2015 as the year that the renewable energy ascendancy began, the moment when the world started to move decisively away from its reliance on fossil fuels. Those fuels — oil, natural gas, and coal — will, of course, continue to dominate the energy landscape for years to come, adding billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon to the atmosphere. For the first time, however, it appears that a shift to renewable energy sources is gaining momentum. If sustained, it will have momentous implications for the world economy — as profound as the shift from wood to coal or coal to oil in previous centuries. (Continued)
Coming to Terms With the American Empire
[Editor’s note: The following interesting piece is from an ‘independent’ group of private US intelligence analysts, and reflects the views of ruling elites. We should note, however, that there is nothing accidental or new in the US empire, embodied from the early days of the Republic in the widely embraced notion of ‘Manifest Destiny.’]
By George Friedman
Stratfor’s Geopolitical Weekly
April 14, 12015 – "Empire" is a dirty word. Considering the behavior of many empires, that is not unreasonable. But empire is also simply a description of a condition, many times unplanned and rarely intended. It is a condition that arises from a massive imbalance of power. Indeed, the empires created on purpose, such as Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, have rarely lasted. Most empires do not plan to become one. They become one and then realize what they are. Sometimes they do not realize what they are for a long time, and that failure to see reality can have massive consequences.
World War II and the Birth of an Empire
The United States became an empire in 1945. It is true that in the Spanish-American War, the United States intentionally took control of the Philippines and Cuba. It is also true that it began thinking of itself as an empire, but it really was not. Cuba and the Philippines were the fantasy of empire, and this illusion dissolved during World War I, the subsequent period of isolationism and the Great Depression.
The genuine American empire that emerged thereafter was a byproduct of other events. There was no great conspiracy. In some ways, the circumstances of its creation made it more powerful. The dynamic of World War II led to the collapse of the European Peninsula and its occupation by the Soviets and the Americans. The same dynamic led to the occupation of Japan and its direct governance by the United States as a de facto colony, with Gen. Douglas MacArthur as viceroy.
The United States found itself with an extraordinary empire, which it also intended to abandon. This was a genuine wish and not mere propaganda. First, the United States was the first anti-imperial project in modernity. It opposed empire in principle. More important, this empire was a drain on American resources and not a source of wealth. World War II had shattered both Japan and Western Europe. The United States gained little or no economic advantage in holding on to these countries. Finally, the United States ended World War II largely untouched by war and as perhaps one of the few countries that profited from it. The money was to be made in the United States, not in the empire. The troops and the generals wanted to go home.
But unlike after World War I, the Americans couldn’t let go. That earlier war ruined nearly all of the participants. No one had the energy to attempt hegemony. The United States was content to leave Europe to its own dynamics. World War II ended differently. The Soviet Union had been wrecked but nevertheless it remained powerful. It was a hegemon in the east, and absent the United States, it conceivably could dominate all of Europe. This represented a problem for Washington, since a genuinely united Europe — whether a voluntary and effective federation or dominated by a single country — had sufficient resources to challenge U.S. power.
The United States could not leave. It did not think of itself as overseeing an empire, and it certainly permitted more internal political autonomy than the Soviets did in their region. Yet, in addition to maintaining a military presence, the United States organized the European economy and created and participated in the European defense system. If the essence of sovereignty is the ability to decide whether or not to go to war, that power was not in London, Paris or Warsaw. It was in Moscow and Washington.
The organizing principle of American strategy was the idea of containment. Unable to invade the Soviet Union, Washington’s default strategy was to check it. U.S. influence spread through Europe to Iran. The Soviet strategy was to flank the containment system by supporting insurgencies and allied movements as far to the rear of the U.S. line as possible. The European empires were collapsing and fragmenting. The Soviets sought to create an alliance structure out of the remnants, and the Americans sought to counter them.
The Economics of Empire
One of the advantages of alliance with the Soviets, particularly for insurgent groups, was a generous supply of weapons. The advantage of alignment with the United States was belonging to a dynamic trade zone and having access to investment capital and technology. Some nations, such as South Korea, benefited extraordinarily from this. Others didn’t. Leaders in countries like Nicaragua felt they had more to gain from Soviet political and military support than in trade with the United States. (Continued)
Listen, It’s Still Their F**king Fault: Bush, Cheney, Neo-Con Drivel, and the Truth About Iraq and ISIS
Salon via alternet
April 10, 2015 – Foreign policy is already looming much larger in the 2016 election than it did in 2012. When Obama ran for re-election, the inescapable fact that Osama bin Laden had been killed on his watch (after Bush had admittedly lost interest in him) essentially foreclosed any serious foreign policy challenge from the Republicans. Hence the profound silliness of their Benghazi obsession, and Obama’s cool, detached debate invitation to “Please proceed…”
But the trajectory of resurgent international conflict during Obama’s second term—epitomized by ISIS, though not limited to it—has already infused the 2016 election with much higher levels of foreign policy concern. If 2012 was all about trying to blame Obama for not adequately fixing Bush’s spectacular domestic economic catastrophe, then 2016 is shaping up—at least in part—to be about blaming him for not adequately fixing Bush’s spectacular foreign policy catastrophe, either. It will only be further complicated by the fact that Obama himself won’t be on the ballot—the more hawkish Hillary Clinton almost certainly will.
At the moment, Obama’s historic nuclear deal with Iran is center stage, but the much more widespread geopolitical problem typified by (though not limited to) ISIS has a much more pervasive political influence. Case in point: the emergence of ISIS, with its provocative spectacles of violence have unexpectedly renewed American’s willingness to send troops to fight overseas , completely forgetting that this was precisely bin Laden’s reason for 9/11 in the first place: to lure the U.S. into a “holy war” with Islam. Election year dynamics being what they are, there’s no telling how badly this could turn out. So before we go off and blow several trillion dollars  recruiting the next wave of terrorists, perhaps it would be a good idea to reconsider what we did the last time around.
First, though, an observation about framing arguments. Republicans, naturally, want to blame the rise of ISIS on Obama, which is absurd. Three extremely foolish actions undertaken by Bush were absolutely crucial for the emergence of ISIS: First, by responding to 9/11 as an act of war, rather than a crime, Bush gave al Qaeda and its future ISIS off-shoots the holy war and the status of holy warriors they so desperately craved, but could never attain on their own. Second, by invading Iraq—which had nothing to do with 9/11, and was actually a counter-weight both to al Qaeda(ideologically) and to Iran (both theologically and geo-strategically)—Bush destabilized the entire region, creating a tinder-box of multifaceted incentives for sectarian violence. Third, by disbanding Iraq’s Sunni- and Bath-Party-dominated army, Bush both ensured an intense power struggle and civil war in Iraq (with vastly more power in Iran-friendly Shiite hands) and provided Sunni terrorist ideologues with hardened, experienced military command personnel. (The government Iraq ended up with, and the subsequent U.S. withdrawal, were also results of Bush policy which Republicans have tried to blame on Obama, but they were relatively late-stage decisions, severely constrained by these earlier disastrous decisions.)
The combined effect of all three Bush actions was to turn Iraq into a virtual hell—along with various portions of several other countries as well. America had one 9/11, one massive loss of 3,000 innocent civilian lives, and that was enough for us to lose all sense of proportion, restraint, and good judgment. Why should the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan respond any better? How many Middle East civilians have died in America’s “war on terror” as a result? How many 9/11s worth? And what difference does that number make? (Continued)
Media Had Already Bought Police’s Fantasy Version of Walter Scott Killing Before Video Surfaced
By Adam Johnson
FAIR via Alternet
April 8, 2015 – The New York Times (4/7/15 ) released a video of a black South Carolina man Walter Scott being shot, casually and without apparent mercy, eight times in the back by white police officer Michael T. Slager. The media’s outrage  after the video’s publication was righteous and swift. The state of South Carolina followed suit, filing murder charges  against Slager. Indeed, the video offers no ambiguity whatsoever:
Before this shocking video surfaced, however, most of the local press coverage, per usual , followed the police’s official narrative and amplified a storyline that, in retrospect, was entirely made up.
The Scott shooting, as Think Progress’s Judd Ledgum pointed out , provides unique insight into the way the police use inherent asymmetry of information to assert their narrative:
Between the time when he shot and killed Scott early Saturday morning and when charges were filed, Slager — using the both the police department and his attorney — was able to provide his “version” of the events.
He appeared well on his way to avoiding charges and pinning the blame on Scott.
Then a video, shot by an anonymous bystander, revealed exactly what happened .
In all police killings, one side–the victim–is, by definition, dead. So the “both sides” type of reporting we’re so often used to almost invariably becomes a one-sided airing of accounts, facts and selective details from the police side that the corporate media repeats without question. Indeed, Charleston’s local ABC affiliate would begin  their report with, what turned out to be, an outright lie:
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — A man involved in a traffic stop that turned into a physical altercation with a North Charleston police officer died Saturday after being shot by the officer.
But the New York Times video shows there was no “physical altercation.” There was someone being shot in the back eight times while trying to run away. The report would go on to mix up police assertion with fact again, seemingly inventing witnesses  who weren’t there:
Police and witnesses say Scott tried to run from Slager before turning to fight for the officer’s taser. It was during that scuffle that the officer fired his service weapon, fatally wounding Scott.
But what witnesses? I have asked the reporter, Greg Woods, to name the witnesses he documented; as of press time, he has not responded. Woods did not, in any of his reports, actually quote any witnesses saying they saw a “fight.” What appears to have happened is that Woods was told by police there were witnesses and he reported it, uncritically.
In another piece –that, in fairness, did have interviews with the victim’s family–local CBS affiliate WCSC effectively handed the report over to North Charleston police for their uninterrupted retelling of events:
Slager deployed his taser weapon to detain the driver but was unsuccessful, Pryor said.
Police say an altercation then began between Slager and Scott, resulting in a fight for the officer’s taser.
During the fight, Scott gained control of the taser to use it against the officer who then fired his service weapon at the suspect, Pryor said.
While en route, the sergeant reported that he heard Slager say that he deployed his taser and was requesting for back up units, and seconds later reported “shots fired and the subject is down, he took my taser.”
We now know, by the sheer accident of someone filming the event, this narrative was false. We know Scott never “gained control” of a taser, and we know Scott only received medical attention from police minutes after they planted a weapon on him and handcuffed him as he lay dying. But the media, in an effort to report “both sides,” ends up transcribing the deceptive police report verbatim.
While providing an initial qualifier of “spokesman said,” NBC affiliate News 2, would do one better and go on to drop this modifier altogether and simply report the police account as fact: (Continued)
By Ellen Brown
Web of Debt Blog via Alternet
April 8, 2015 – According to a new study from Princeton University , American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded  that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America’s political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites.
“Making the world safe for democracy” was President Woodrow Wilson’s rationale for World War I, and it has been used to justify American military intervention ever since. Can we justify sending troops into other countries to spread a political system we cannot maintain at home?
The Magna Carta, considered the first Bill of Rights in the Western world, established the rights of nobles as against the king. But the doctrine that “all men are created equal” – that all people have “certain inalienable rights,” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – is an American original. And those rights, supposedly insured by the Bill of Rights, have the right to vote at their core. We have the right to vote but the voters’ collective will no longer prevails.
In Greece, the left-wing populist Syriza Party came out of nowhere  to take the presidential election by storm; and in Spain, the populist Podemos Party appears poised to do the same. But for over a century, no third-party candidate has had any chance of winning a US presidential election. We have a two-party winner-take-all system, in which our choice is between two candidates, both of whom necessarily cater to big money. It takes big money just to put on the mass media campaigns required to win an election involving 240 million people of voting age.
In state and local elections, third party candidates have sometimes won. In a modest-sized city, candidates can actually influence the vote by going door to door, passing out flyers and bumper stickers, giving local presentations, and getting on local radio and TV. But in a national election, those efforts are easily trumped by the mass media. And local governments too are beholden to big money.
When governments of any size need to borrow money, the megabanks in a position to supply it can generally dictate the terms. Even in Greece, where the populist Syriza Party managed to prevail in January, the anti-austerity platform of the new government is being throttled by the moneylenders who have the government in a chokehold.
How did we lose our democracy? Were the Founding Fathers remiss in leaving something out of the Constitution? Or have we simply gotten too big to be governed by majority vote?
Democracy’s Rise and Fall
The stages of the capture of democracy by big money are traced in a paper called “The Collapse of Democratic Nation States” by theologian and environmentalist Dr. John Cobb. Going back several centuries, he points to the rise of private banking, which usurped the power to create money from governments:
The influence of money was greatly enhanced by the emergence of private banking. The banks are able to create money and so to lend amounts far in excess of their actual wealth. This control of money-creation . . . has given banks overwhelming control over human affairs. In the United States, Wall Street makes most of the truly important decisions that are directly attributed to Washington.
Today the vast majority of the money supply in Western countries is created by private bankers. That tradition goes back to the 17th century, when the privately-owned Bank of England, the mother of all central banks, negotiated the right to print England’s money after Parliament stripped that power from the Crown. When King William needed money to fight a war, he had to borrow. The government as borrower then became servant of the lender. (Continued)
Black Panthers made headlines.
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Z Communications Daily Commentary
A front page story in the Washington Post struck me. [David A. Fahrenthold, “GOP field backs gun rights with both barrels,” March 29, 2015] As one would expect, the potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are jumping all over themselves to show how ‘pro-gun’ they are.
In the USA we have discussions about guns that pretend to be based in history, but actually miss certain key features. In so doing, the heart and soul of the gun debate is overlooked and the issue devolves into questions of morality and gun safety.
The gun issue in the USA is related to history but not particularly to the 2nd Amendment (the supposed right to bear arms). The debate precedes the 2nd Amendment by more than a century and it revolves around settlers and race.
The gun debate in the USA started in the 1600s and, while there were always matters of safety and hunting, the key question was actually one of who had the right and authority to possess weapons. The second question centered on why the centrality of weapon possession at all.
The settlement of North America, and specifically the original thirteen colonies, was not a non-violent act. It represented an invasion. There immediately arose the question of the protection of the invaders, i.e., the colonists. Thus, weapons, at all costs, had to be kept out of the hands of the indigenous population—the Native Americans or First Nations. Severe penalties were created for any settler who sold or traded weapons to the Native Americans. This notoriety made its way into the popular media over the years with stories about so-called mavericks who supplied Native Americans with weaponry. During much of the colonial era, and into the 19th century, by the way, this form of activity was frequently associated in the minds of much of the white public with Irish dissidents who were in opposition to the British colonization of Ireland.
Weaponry was also essential for handling an ‘internal’ problem within the emerging settler state: indentured servants and slaves. The 1600s was a period of regular uprisings carried out by indentured servants and slaves. The indentured servant workforce was originally composed of Africans, Europeans and some Native Americans. It was the turmoil during this period that drove the colonial ruling elite to identify the need to splinter the workforce in order to retain power. In that context arose the modern usage of “race,” based largely upon the successful experience of the British in the occupation and suppression of the indigenous population in Ireland. (Continued)
Afghani President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. In the new foreign policy that Ghani recently outlined, the United States finds itself consigned to the third of the five "circles" of importance. (Photo: US Institute of Peace)
By Dilip Hiro
April 1, 2015 – Call it an irony, if you will, but as the Obama administration struggles to slow down or halt its scheduled withdrawal from Afghanistan, newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is performing a withdrawal operation of his own. He seems to be in the process of trying to sideline the country’s major patron of the last 13 years — and as happened in Iraq after the American invasion and occupation there, Chinese resource companies are again picking up the pieces.
In the nineteenth century, Afghanistan was the focus of “the Great Game” between the imperial powers of that era, Britain and Czarist Russia, and so it is again. Washington, the planet’s “sole superpower,” having spent an estimated $1 trillion and sacrificed the lives of 2,150 soldiers fighting the Taliban in the longest overseas war in its history, finds itself increasingly and embarrassingly consigned to observer status in the region, even while its soldiers and contractors still occupy Afghan bases, train Afghan forces, and organize night raids against the Taliban.
In the new foreign policy that Ghani recently outlined, the United States finds itself consigned to the third of the five circles of importance. The first circle contains neighboring countries, including China with its common border with Afghanistan, and the second is restricted to the countries of the Islamic world.
In the new politics of Afghanistan under Ghani, as the chances for peace talks between his government and the unbeaten Taliban brighten, the Obama administration finds itself gradually but unmistakably being reduced to the status of bystander. Meanwhile, credit for those potential peace talks goes to the Chinese leadership, which has received a Taliban delegation in Beijing twice in recent months, and to Ghani, who has dulled the hostility of the rabidly anti-Indian Taliban by reversing the pro-India, anti-Pakistan policies of his predecessor, Hamid Karzai.
How to Influence Afghans
Within a month of taking office in late September, Ghani flew not to Washington — he made his obligatory trip there only last week — but to Beijing. There he declared China “a strategic partner in the short term, medium term, long term, and very long term.” In response, Chinese President Xi Jinping called his Afghan counterpart “an old friend of the Chinese people,” whom he hailed for being prepared to work toward “a new era of cooperation” and for planning to take economic development “to a new depth.” (Continued)