Industrial disputes – including a spate of on and off again strikes at national carrier Qantas – are becoming once again a frequent feature of the Australian media. Unions are pushing for wage rises in the face of the falling buying power of the fixed wage (as costs of living rise). Those wage push pressures are being resisted by businesses trying to stay afloat in a very ordinary domestic economy and amidst rising global competition. read more »
In the wake of Solyndra's failure, pundits have latched on to a simple, compelling narrative: government can't do energy right.
From synfuels to solar panels to "clean coal" (written, inevitably, with knowing quotation marks), demonstration projects funded by the Department of Energy are described as one failed white elephant after another. Today the DOE is the agency everyone loves to hate (and, at least in Texas Gov. Rick Perry's case, the agency to forget). read more »
TV network MSNBC's left-leaning commentator Rachel Maddow has opened herself up to ridicule by the conservative blogsophere over her advert featuring the Hoover Dam. The thrust of the spot is that “we don’t do big things anymore” but that we should. But critics say the dam couldn’t be built today due to environmental opposition to exactly these kinds of projects. Indeed many in the Administration and their green allies are more likely to crusade for the destruction of current dams than for the building of new ones.
Both sides have their points. read more »
"Privileged people don't march and protest; their world is safe and clean and governed by laws designed to keep them happy. I had never taken to the streets before; why bother? And for the first block or two I felt odd, walking in a mass of people, holding a stick with a placard..." Michael Brock in John Grisham's The Street Lawyer (Doubleday, 1998). read more »
Over the past decade Los Angeles has steadily declined. It currently has one of the the highest unemployment rates (roughly 12.5%) in the U.S, and there’s little sign of a sustained recovery. The city and county have become a kind of purgatory for all but the most politically connected businesses, while job creation and population growth lag not only the vibrant Texas cities but even aged competitors such as New York. read more »
Righteous cries of outrage and anger dominate Florida these days, as unreasonable assaults upon common sense seem to roll with regularity out of the governor’s office. Recently, Governor Scott published a list of Florida’s higher education faculty, matching salaries to names. This act was disingenuously styled as an effort towards transparency, but it was really a good old-fashioned right-wing poke at the eggheads. read more »
2011 brought us the Arab Spring, a year of protests, turmoil, and revolution. 2012 will usher in the American Winter, a new era of withdrawal and separation for America and the Middle East. Contrary to conventional wisdom, America is poised to step back from the dominant role it has played in the Middle East since 1948.
The author has traveled to the Middle East for more than two decades during which time there was little change among the dictators, strongmen and mullahs that ruled the desert lands. read more »
For many conservatives, the notion of class warfare that President Barack Obama now evokes is both un-American and noxious — a crass attempt to cash in on envy among the masses. Yet the problem is not in class warfare itself — but in being clear what class you are targeting. read more »
Next week Australia's Parliament is set to pass a carbon tax that has proven so divisive it may bring down the Labor-Green government. By setting a low price on carbon, returning the money raised to industry and consumers, and relying so heavily on offsets, the legislation is further proof of the iron law of climate policy. A better way forward would be for Australia to impose a modest fee on coal mining and use the money to support its advanced manufacturing industries and innovation to make clean energy cheap. Below is our take on the legislation in Australia's news magazine, Crikey. read more »
Chan Koonchung’s chilling science fiction novel The Fat Years — already an underground sensation in China — will be published in the U.S. January 2012. The book, first published in Hong Kong in 2009, is partly so chilling because it reveals a scenario that is all too plausible. Set in 2013, it takes place after a second financial crisis (euros, anyone?) that all but destroys the Anglo-American economies and ushers in “China’s golden age of ascendancy.”
The nation that leads the world in The Fat Years is less bleakly dystopian than the Stalinist state portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984 or the biologically controlled society of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Yet it is supremely authoritarian — harassing and even executing the rare dissident and putting drugs in the water supply to inflate a sense of well-being among the masses. read more »