Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Results's got some great coverage after the elections, though I do like the NY Times's election graphics.  Well, with Obama's pending 303 electoral college points, there are a few other issues around the US.  Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin gained big victories for the Dems in the Senate.  Several other progressive ballot measures had success.  The NY Times has an article today, Thursday the 8th of Nov, 2012 about the Republicans raging at how they could spend so much money, and lose.  Laura Flanders comments at DemNow on their "magical thinking" that a white man's world policy line could still win in modern America.   Well, well.  Thank God.  I'd prefer the Green Party and Jill Stein in my "avante garde" stance, but congratulations America for having enough people who hope for the best with Barack Hussein Obama.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Alternative Economics in Spain in Crisis and more

At last, this article on time banks in Spain came to my attention when I found it at, the US Solidarity Economics Network site.

I looked for an article on the various countries and their crises in Europe.  The BBC had a good one:

  At the same site, a year ago, I found an article on Greece's alternative economy, which I've added after the Spain article:

There are also various Gift and Barter economy pioneers and projects, and I added a few references after that down below.

In Spain, financial crisis feeds expansion of a parallel, euro-free economy

ANGEL NAVARRETE - Jacinto Garcia buys baked goods with Turutas, the social currency used in the Catalonian fishing town of Vilanova i la Geltru, Spain.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha,

Aug 27, 2012 10:05 PM EDT

The Washington Post


For another article on time banks in Spain, see the link to below.

Barcelona — Psychologist Angels Corcoles recently taught a seminar about self-empowerment for women, and when she finished the organizers handed her a check with her fee. The amount was in hours, not euros.
But Corcoles didn’t mind. Through a citywide credit network that allows people to trade services without money, the 10 hours Corcoles earned could be used to pay for a haircut, yoga classes or even carpentry work.

At a time when the future of the euro is in doubt and millions are unemployed or underemployed with little cash to spare, a parallel economy is springing up in parts of Spain, allowing people to live outside the single currency.
In the city of Malaga, on the country’s southern Mediterranean coast just 80 miles from Africa, residents have set up an online site that allows them to earn money and buy products using a virtual currency. The Catalonian fishing town of Vilanova i la Geltru has launched a similar experiment but with a paper credit card of sorts. It implements a new currency worth slightly more than the euro when it is used at local stores.
In Barcelona, the country’s second-largest city after Madrid, the preferred model is time banks, which allow people to trade their services in hours without the involvement of money.
“This is a way for people who are on the fringes of the economy to participate again,” said Josefina Altes, coordinator of the Spanish Time Bank Network.
Similar projects are popping up in Greece, Portugal and other euro-zone countries with troubled economies. These experiments aim to take communities back to a time when goods and services were bartered, before things such as interest rates, market speculation and derivatives complicated the financial world.
While some local governments have enthusiastically backed these efforts, others have raised questions about their implications for taxes, the effect on local wages and the potential for fraud.
Social money or alternative currency systems have existed throughout history, mostly in places such as remote coal towns or occupied countries during war, or during times of great economic stress, such as the Great Depression.
In recent decades, a number of communities — including Ithaca, N.Y., and South African townships — have launched social-money projects as a way to strengthen civil society, promote the local economy and reduce the impact of globalization.
Many of these efforts took years to set up, and the number of people involved is limited. In Spain, however, the economic crisis has been an impetus to move faster. There are now more than 325 time banks and alternative currency systems in Spain involving tens of thousands of citizens. Collectively, these projects represent one of the largest experiments in social money in modern times.
Peter North, a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool who has written two books about the subject, said alternative currencies — or scrips — have tended to appear during times of crisis and often disappear soon afterward. But North says the recent efforts in Spain may last longer because they are connected to the 15M, or “Indignados,” movement, originally a youth initiative organized through online social networks that was the inspiration for the Occupy protests around the world.

“Instead of just being a desperate way for people to survive a horrible economic crisis, this is part of the cooperatives, credit unions, community banks, organic farms and recovering factories — the alternate economy — that the Occupy movement is groping towards,” North said.
‘Turutas aqui si’

While each social-money project has its own accounting rules, the basic concept is the same. You earn credits by providing services or selling goods, and you can redeem the credits with people or businesses in the network.
In Vilanova i la Geltru’s central square, a growing number of stores — including a Catalonian bread shop, a deli and an electronics vendor — now post blue “Turutas aqui si” (Turutas accepted here) signs in their windows, along with the ones that let people know that MasterCard and Visa are welcome.
Started as a way of breaking with the global financial system, the alternative currency — named after a traditional wind instrument — has been embraced by only about 190 of the town’s 67,000 residents. But organizers say more are signing up as the crisis deepens.
Ton Dalmau, 57, one of the founders of the initiative, said the goal is to keep the money in circulation so the bank where people keep their Turutas does not offer any interest.
“We are returning money to its origins and making it purely a system of exchange,” he said.
Jordi Morera, 25, whose family owns the bread shop, said that accepting Turturas hurts his bottom line because his raw materials can be paid for only in euros. But he said the sacrifice is worth it because he believes in the goals of the initiative.
“Money limits our lives more than we realize,” Morera said.
In Malaga, David Chapman, 65, said social money encourages innovation because you have to start thinking about different services or products you can offer to be able to participate in the market.
Chapman, a carpenter originally from Britain who has made Spain his home for 25 years, said he recently sold six sun ovens he had made, for a total of 300 comuns, the community’s virtual currency. He was planning on cashing some of them in to pay someone to paint his house.
Launched three years ago by Chapman and some friends, the project has seen dramatic growth. From March to August, the number of people using the virtual currency has jumped from about 250 to 470, with most of the newcomers in their 20s and 30s.
Equal time
The scale of the Barcelona projects is significantly larger, with more than 100 time banks that range in size from a few dozen members to 3,000.
Many of the time banks operate like real banks — with individual accounts, ledgers, checkbooks and, in many cases, even auditors. Some conduct transactions with physical checks and are overseen by a secretary who keeps track of deposits. Others exist solely on the Internet.
Sergi Alonso, a 30-year-old computer technician who has been unable to find a full-time job, said he has helped numerous neighbors develop Web pages and troubleshoot hardware problems through a time bank. In return, he was able to get private sewing instruction and piano lessons and learn about graphic design.
Time banks help remind people that “regardless of your skills, you can always bring things to others,” Alonso said.
Melissa Privitera, a 41-year-old restaurant owner, is working with other parents in her 4-year-old son’s school to set up their own time bank. As the crisis spreads, even those in her upper-middle-class neighborhood are losing jobs. People can no longer afford to send their children to camp or to extracurricular classes or pay for extra babysitting for those nights they want to go out.
“Even here there is a lot of anguish,” Privitera said.
The one thing that unifies many of the banks is their philosophy that everyone’s time is equal— even if you’re a doctor, like Corcoles.
Corcoles is in private practice and has seen a decrease in her salary because fewer people can afford her services. She said she planned to use about 30 of the 50 hours she had accumulated to pay a woman who is unemployed to dog-sit while she is on vacation.
“We have to bend our minds to understand time banks because they change the relationships between people,” said Corcoles, 50.

Also on time banks in Spain:

Battered by Economic Crisis, Greeks Turn to Barter Networks

Submitted by Emily Kawano on Mon, 10/03/2011 - 9:02am

By RACHEL DONADIO, NYT October 2, 2011Angeliki Ioanniti, a seamstress, runs a small shop in Volos and participates in a network that uses barter and vouchers. Such networks build on a sense of solidarity in tough times as people seek creative ways to cope with a radically changing landscape.

VOLOS, Greece — The first time he bought eggs, milk and jam at an outdoor market using not euros but an informal barter currency, Theodoros Mavridis, an unemployed electrician, was thrilled.

“I felt liberated, I felt free for the first time,” Mr. Mavridis said in a recent interview at a cafe in this port city in central Greece. “I instinctively reached into my pocket, but there was no need to.”

Mr. Mavridis is a co-founder of a growing network here in Volos that uses a so-called Local Alternative Unit, or TEM in Greek, to exchange goods and services — language classes, baby-sitting, computer support, home-cooked meals — and to receive discounts at some local businesses.

Part alternative currency, part barter system, part open-air market, the Volos network has grown exponentially in the past year, from 50 to 400 members. It is one of several such groups cropping up around the country, as Greeks squeezed by large wage cuts, tax increases and growing fears about whether they will continue to use the euro have looked for creative ways to cope with a radically changing economic landscape.

“Ever since the crisis there’s been a boom in such networks all over Greece,” said George Stathakis, a professor of political economy and vice chancellor of the University of Crete. In spite of the large public sector in Greece, which employs one in five workers, the country’s social services often are not up to the task of helping people in need, he added. “There are so many huge gaps that have to be filled by new kinds of networks,” he said.

Even the government is taking notice. Last week, Parliament passed a law sponsored by the Labor Ministry to encourage the creation of “alternative forms of entrepreneurship and local development,” including networks based on an exchange of goods and services. The law for the first time fills in a regulatory gray area, giving such groups nonprofit status.

Here in Volos, the group’s founders are adamant that they work in parallel to the regular economy, inspired more by a need for solidarity in rough times than a political push for Greece to leave the euro zone and return to the drachma.

“We’re not revolutionaries or tax evaders,” said Maria Houpis, a retired teacher at a technical high school and one of the group’s six co-founders. “We accept things as they are.”

Still, she added, if Greece does take a turn for the worse and eventually does stop using the euro, networks like hers are prepared to step into the breach. “In an imaginary scenario — and I stress imaginary — we would be ready for it.”

The group’s concept is simple. People sign up online and get access to a database that is kind of like a members-only Craigslist. One unit of TEM is equal in value to one euro, and it can be used to exchange good and services. Members start their accounts with zero, and they accrue credit by offering goods and services. They can borrow up to 300 TEMs, but they are expected to repay the loan within a fixed period of time.

Members also receive books of vouchers of the alternative currency itself, which look like gift certificates and are printed with a special seal that makes it difficult to counterfeit. Those vouchers can be used like checks. Several businesspeople in Volos, including a veterinarian, an optician and a seamstress, accept the alternative currency in exchange for a discount on the price in euros.

A recent glimpse of the database revealed people offering guitar and English lessons, bookkeeping services, computer technical support, discounts at hairdressers and the use of their yards for parties. There is a system of ratings so that people can describe their experiences, in order to keep transparent quality control.

(The network uses open-source software and is hosted on a Dutch server,, which offers low hosting fees.)

The group also holds a monthly open-air market that is like a cross between a garage sale and a farmers’ market, where Mr. Mavridis used his TEM credit to buy the milk, eggs and jam. Those goods came from local farmers who are also involved in the project.

“We’re still at the beginning,” said Mr. Mavridis, who lost his job as an electrician at a factory last year. In the coming months, the group hopes to have a borrowed office space where people without computers can join the network more easily, he said.

For Ms. Houpis, the network has a psychological dimension. “The most exciting thing you feel when you start is this sense of contribution,” she said. “You have much more than your bank account says. You have your mind and your hands.”

As she bustled around her sewing table in her small shop in downtown Volos, Angeliki Ioanniti, 63, said she gave discounts for sewing to members of the network, and she has also exchanged clothing alterations for help with her computer. “Being a small city helps, because there’s trust,” she said.

In exchange for euros and alternative currency, she also sells olive oil, olives and homemade bergamot-scented soap prepared by her daughter, who lives in the countryside outside Volos.

In her family’s optical shop, Klita Dimitriadis, 64, offers discounts to customers using alternative currency, but she said the network had not really gained momentum yet or brought in much business. “It’s helpful, but now it doesn’t work very much because everybody is discounting,” she said.

In an e-mail, the mayor of Volos, Panos Skotiniotis, said the city was following the alternative currency network with interest and was generally supportive of local development initiatives. He added that the city was looking at other ways of navigating the economic situation, including by setting aside public land for a municipal urban farm where citizens could grow produce for their own use or to sell.

After years of rampant consumerism and easy credit, such nascent initiatives speak to the new mood in Greece, where imposed austerity has caused people to come together — not only to protest en masse, but also to help one another.

Similar initiatives have been cropping up elsewhere in Greece. In Patras, in the Peloponnese, a network called Ovolos, named after an ancient Greek means of currency, was founded in 2009 and includes a local exchange currency, a barter system and a so-called time bank, in which members swap services like medical care and language classes. The group has about 100 transactions a week, and volunteers monitor for illegal services, said Nikos Bogonikolos, the president and a founding member.

Greece has long had other exchange networks, particularly among farmers. Since 1995, a group called Peliti has collected, preserved and distributed seeds from local varietals to growers free, and since 2002 it has operated as an exchange network throughout the country.

Beyond exchanges, there are newer signs of cooperation from the ground up. When bus and subway workers in Athens went on strike two weeks ago, Athenians flooded Twitter looking for carpools, using an account founded in 2009 to raise awareness of transportation issues in Athens. The outpouring made headlines, as a sign of something unthinkable before the crisis hit.

With unemployment rising above 16 percent and the economy still shrinking, many Greeks are preparing for the worst. “Things will turn very bad in the next year,” said Mr. Stathakis, the political economics professor.

Christos Papaioannou, 37, who runs the Web site for the network in Volos, said, “We’re in an uncharted area,” and hopes the group expands. “There’s going to be a lot of change. Maybe it’s the beginning of the future.”

Dimitris Bounias contributed reporting from Volos and Athens.

Daniel Suelo:

Heidemarie Schwermer:

Living without money

Former teacher Heidemarie Schwermer has lived without money in Germany for 13 years. Our writer finds out how she does it
Twenty-two years ago Heidemarie Schwermer, a middle-aged secondary school teacher just emerging from a difficult marriage, moved with her two children from the village of Lueneburg to the city of Dortmund, in the Ruhr area of Germany, whose homeless population, she immediately noticed, was above average and striking in its intransigent hopelessness.

Peace Pilgrim, Mark Boyle, and Tomi Astikainan are other Gift Economy pioneers.

The Freeconomy Community was started by Mark Boyle, and there also exists the Freecycle Network,
and Streetbank:
and Timebanks (e.g. the US):

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Based here in Brazil, I only found out about Sandy on Tuesday.  I got a good detailed description from the NY Times, along with its maps showing how Sandy left wreckage and death in Cuba, and Haiti too it seems, and then moved by sea until it landed with its eye in New Jersey. impressed me with their coverage of Nuclear Plants and Climate Change discussions, as well as the impacts of inequality in the market fundamentalist capitalist stew.  The final two articles here are about an ex-climate skeptic.  I find particularly amusing his comments on how we can teach the Chinese to use better technology to get away from coal, to natural gas, of course.  Oh, how people love the fresh, clean water from fracking.....  Moreover, what he does not know of decentralized and hybrid power generation.  Unfortunately, Bill McKibben doesn't mention decentralized hybrid generation either.  One day, I want to make a big splash talking about the history of wind power in Danish anti-nuclear protests and co-operative enterprise in Scandanavian social democracy.  The Germans followed the Danes, and show it at an even larger level, with incredible hybrid developments.  Minnesota and Vermont, and some other local areas like Gainesville, Florida have made some modest advances, while net metering at least has a pretty broad presence in the US.

After the Devastation, a Daunting Recovery

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
Keith Klein and Eileen Blair among homes destroyed by fire in the Breezy Point section of Queens. More Photos »
Published: October 30, 2012

The New York region began the daunting process on Tuesday of rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that remade the landscape and rewrote the record books as it left behind a tableau of damage, destruction and grief.

The toll — in lives disrupted or lost and communities washed out — was staggering. A rampaging fire reduced more than 100 houses to ash in Breezy Point, Queens. Explosions and downed power lines left the lower part of Manhattan and 90 percent of Long Island in the dark. The New York City subway system — a lifeline for millions — was paralyzed by flooded tunnels and was expect to remain silent for days.

Accidents claimed more than 40 lives in the United States and Canada, including 22 in the city. Two boys — an 11-year-old Little League star and a 13-year-old friend — were killed when a 90-foot-tall tree smashed into the family room of a house in North Salem, N.Y. An off-duty police officer who led seven relatives, including a 15-month-old boy, to safety in the storm drowned when he went to check on the basement.

On Tuesday, the storm slogged toward the Midwest, vastly weaker than it was when it made landfall in New Jersey on Monday night. It delivered rain and high winds all the way to the Great Lakes, where freighters were at a standstill in waves two stories tall. It left snow in Appalachia, power failures in Maine and untreated sewage pouring into the Patuxent River in Maryland after a treatment plant lost power.

President Obama approved disaster declarations for New York and New Jersey, making them eligible for federal assistance for rebuilding. “All of us have been shocked by the force of mother nature,” said the president, who plans to visit New Jersey on Wednesday. He promised “all available resources” for recovery efforts.

“This is going to take some time,” he said. “It is not going to be easy for these communities to recover.”

There was no immediate estimate of the losses from the storm, but the scope of the damage — covering more than a half-dozen states — pointed to billions of dollars. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey called it “incalculable.”

Rescuers looked for survivors in the wet rubble in places like Atlantic City, and state and local officials surveyed wreckage. Utility crews began working their way through a wilderness of fallen trees and power lines. And from Virginia to Connecticut, there were stories of tragedy and survival — of people who lost everything when the water rushed in, of buildings that crumbled after being pounded hour after hour by rain and relentless wind, of hospitals that had to be evacuated when the storm knocked out the electricity.

The president spoke with 20 governors and mayors on a conference call, and the White House said the president would survey damage from the storm with Mr. Christie on Wednesday. Mr. Obama’s press secretary said the president would join Mr. Christie, who has been one of his harshest Republican critics, in talking with storm victims and thanking first responders.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Mr. Obama had also offered to visit the city, “but I think the thing for him to do is to go to New Jersey and represent the country.”

Connecticut, New Jersey and New York reopened many closed roads and bridges, and the New York Stock Exchange made plans to resume floor trading on Wednesday after a two-day shutdown, its first because of weather since a blizzard in 1888.

There were no traffic signals on the walk from Fifth Avenue to the East River. Police officers were directing traffic; here and there, bodegas were open, selling batteries and soft drinks. In Times Square, a few tourists walked around, though some hotels still had sandbags by the doors.

Mr. Bloomberg said 7,000 trees had been knocked down in city parks. “Stay away from city parks,” he said. “They are closed until further notice.”

The mayor also said that trick-or-treating was fine for Halloween, but the parade in Greenwich Village had been postponed. The organizers said it was the first time in the parade’s 39-year-history that it had been called off.

New York’s subway network, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year-history, faced one of its longest shutdowns because the problems were so much worse than expected, said Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman and chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that runs the subways and several commuter railroads.

Water climbed to the ceiling of the South Ferry subway station, the end of the No. 1 line in Lower Manhattan, and debris covered tracks in stations up and down other lines after the water rushed in and out. Mr. Lhota said that seven subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn were flooded.

He also said that the Metro-North Railroad had no power north of 59th Street on two of its three lines, and that a 40-foot boat had washed up on the tracks in Ossining, N.Y.

The Long Island Rail Road’s West Side Yards had to be evacuated, and two railroad tunnels beneath the East River were flooded in the storm. The railroad had not restored power on Tuesday and had no timetable for restoring service. The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, officially the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel also remained impassable, he said.

Airports, too, took a beating. More than 15,000 flights were canceled, and water poured onto the runways at Kennedy International Airport and La Guardia Airport, both in Queens. Officials made plans to reopen Kennedy, the larger of the two and a major departure point for international flights, on Wednesday. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said La Guardia would remain closed “because of extensive damage.”

The flooding in the tunnels in Lower Manhattan was so serious that the Federal Emergency Management Agency asked specialists from the Army Corps of Engineers to help. The “unwatering team,” as it is known — two hydrologists and two mechanical engineers from the corps with experience in draining flooded areas — flew to the airport in White Plains because it was one of the few in the area that was open.

Buses began running again on Tuesday afternoon, and the mayor ordered a ride-sharing program for taxis. He said more than 4,000 yellow cabs were on the streets by Tuesday afternoon.

From southern New Jersey to the East End of Long Island to the northern suburbs in Connecticut, power companies spent Tuesday trying to figure out just how much damage the storm had done to their wires, transformers and substations.

The work will take at least a week, possibly longer, because the damage was so extensive, and utility companies called in thousands of crews from all around the country to help out. Consolidated Edison reached to San Francisco to bring in 150 workers from Pacific Gas and Electric.

Even with the additional manpower, Con Edison said it could still take more than 10 days to complete the repairs. Con Edison had more than 285,000 customers in Manhattan who were in the dark on Tuesday, and more than 185,000 in Westchester.

Things were worse east of New York City, where nearly one million customers of the Long Island Power Authority did not have power on Tuesday and Mr. Cuomo made clear he wanted the authority to restore power faster than it had in the past. He said it was “not O.K.” for it to take two weeks to repair lines brought down by tree limbs.

In New Jersey, Public Service Electric and Gas said it had 1.3 million electric customers in the dark, including 500,000 without power because a surge in Newark Bay flooded substations and other equipment. Another New Jersey utility, Jersey Central Power and Light, whose territory covers many shore towns, said almost all of its customers had lost power in some counties, including Ocean and Monmouth. More than one-third of Connecticut Light and Power’s 1.2 million customers had no electricity, either.

The fire in Breezy Point, Queens, leveled scores of houses, among them one that belonged to Representative Bob Turner, who was riding out the storm at home despite the mayor’s order to evacuate low-lying areas. Mr. Turner’s spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, said he and his wife made it out safely after flames reached their house. Michael R. Long, the chairman of the state Conservative Party, had a home nearby that also burned down, she said.

Flooded streets in the area prevented firefighters from reaching the blaze, a Fire Department spokesman said, and the mayor, who toured the area on Tuesday afternoon, said the neighborhood was devastated.

“To describe it as looking like pictures we have seen at the end of World War II is not overstating it,” the mayor said.

The off-duty officer who drowned in his basement was identified as Artur Kasprzak, 28, who was assigned to the First Precinct in Manhattan. He had led seven relatives upstairs to the attic as the water rose in his house on Doty Avenue on Staten Island. He said he was going to check the basement and would be right back. About 20 minutes later, one of his relatives called 911 and said he was missing.

A rescue team with boats and motorized water scooters tried to answer the call but could not reach the house at first because power lines were in the water. His body was found shortly before sunrise.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Freeport, Illinois. But on the East Coast, one million people remain without power across 15 states following Hurricane Sandy, one of the most devastating storms to ever hit the eastern United States. Storm’s death toll has reached 55 in the United States and is expected to rise. The storm also killed at least 69 people in the Caribbean, including 51 people in Haiti.

In New York state, 90 percent of Long Island remains in the dark, as does Lower Manhattan and other parts of the city. Democracy Now!'s studio in Manhattan has been without power for 36 hours. In New Jersey, 65 percent of homes and businesses are without power. Large sections of the Jersey Shore have been destroyed. New York City's subway shutdown remains shut down after suffering its worst-ever disaster. The chair of the Metropolitan Transit Authority said, quote, "The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced." The storm also caused one of the worst fires in New York City’s history. A hundred eleven homes were destroyed and 20 more were damaged in the neighborhood of Breezy Point, Queens.

The storm also forced three nuclear reactors offline: Nine Mile Point unit 1 near Syracuse, New York; Indian Point unit 3 just north of New York City; and the Salem plant’s unit 1 on the Delaware River in New Jersey. Meanwhile, officials declared an alert at Oyster Creek in New Jersey.

The Appalachian Mountains, the storm produced massive amounts of snowfall. Parts of West Virginia are now under two feet of snow.

We’re going to, in a few minutes, go to Suzanne Goldenberg, the environment correspondent of The Guardian newspaper. She’s been reporting on the storm from New Jersey. But first we’re going to Washington, D.C., where we are joined by Brenda Ekwurzel. We urge you to keep on listening and watching. Brenda Ekwurzel is the assistant director of climate research and analysis at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Brenda, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this storm, what it means and the significance of climate change when it comes to this superstorm?

BRENDA EKWURZEL: Sure. What was very important with this storm, Sandy, is it was charting through waters heading north in above-normal sea surface temperature conditions, and that allowed it to thrive as a hurricane. So by the time it made landfall on New Jersey, it was still a Category 1 hurricane, which means warm waters are fueling this hurricane so that it has much higher wind potential, which is far more damaging to people who have structures that are in the path of the hurricane.

AMY GOODMAN: You know—

BRENDA EKWURZEL: The other factor is that the warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, and so there’s vast tracts of the United States on the Eastern Seaboard and all over, all the way up to Chicago and other places up to Maine, Florida, that had torrential rainstorms that were sustained. So that means that you can uproot trees, and they are more easily to be blown over, because you’ve saturated the soils, and they increase the water levels. What’s different from Hurricane Irene is, luckily, in some parts of the United States, we have less soil saturation compared to the situations with Hurricane Irene, which caused massive flooding in Vermont and other places. And so, there are some places like Pennsylvania where the conditions were wet, but other parts of the United States that were a little drier and needed some rain. But this is such a situation where the warmer atmosphere, the warmer oceans, are something that helped power this particular hurricane.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet, Brenda, why is it, with the 100 percent coverage of the—of the hurricane on the networks—I mean, as it should be—we almost never hear reference to the words "climate change"? Brenda, if you—did you hear my question, the question of why we never hear reference to the words "climate change"?

We are talking to Brenda Ekwurzel. She is with the Union of Concerned Scientists. I’m actually speaking to you from Freeport, Illinois, from an encampment set up by workers across the street from their plant that will soon be closing, their jobs being sent off to China. The company, Sensata, is owned by Bain Capital. And for the second half of the broadcast, we’re going to be bringing you that information.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue our coverage of Hurricane Sandy. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has acknowledged the massive storm could impact coastal and inland nuclear plants. At least 16 plants are in the storm’s projected path, including North Anna and Surry in Virginia; Calvert Cliffs in Maryland; Hope Creek and Salem in New Jersey; Indian Point in New York; Millstone in Connecticut. So far, there have been no reports of reactors shutting down, despite operating under licenses that require them to do so if weather conditions are too severe.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission met on Sunday to discuss the precautions needed to secure vulnerable plants during the storm. Spokeswoman Diane Screnci said, quote, "They’re all designed to withstand the natural phenomena, including hurricanes and what comes with hurricanes—high winds, high water, that kind of thing."
Well, for more, we go now to Burlington, Vermont, to speak with Arnie Gundersen, former nuclear industry senior vice president who has coordinated projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the country, now chief engineer at Fairewinds Associates.
Arnie Gundersen, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about what you’re concerned about.
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Yeah, thanks for having me. The key here is that when a uranium atom splits, that only gives off about 95 percent of the power, so when these plants shut down, 5 percent of the power is still going to come out of the power plants after they’re shut down. I think the industry should preemptively shut down plants in the storm’s wake, but it’s not going to solve the entire problem. It’s really likely that the grid, the electric grid that’s out there, will collapse, and these plants will become islands, electric islands, and they’ll have to rely on their diesel generators to provide power. A bunch of these plants are in refuelings right now. And when you’re in a refueling outage, you are not required to have all your diesels running. You can be tearing apart one and only have one diesel available. So the concern is that, should they lose offsite power, all of this heat needs to be removed, and you’re relying on just one diesel to keep the nuclear reactor cool.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what you feel needs to happen right now? And talk about nuclear power plants in Connecticut, in Vermont, your main concern.
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Yeah. The biggest problem, as I see it right now, is the Oyster Creek plant, which is on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey. That appears to be right about the center of the storm. Oyster Creek is the same design, but even older than Fukushima Daiichi unit 1. It’s in a refueling outage. That means that all the nuclear fuel is not in the nuclear reactor, but it’s over in the spent fuel pool. And in that condition, there’s no backup power for the spent fuel pools. So, if Oyster Creek were to lose its offsite power—and, frankly, that’s really likely—there would be no way cool that nuclear fuel that’s in the fuel pool until they get the power reestablished. Nuclear fuel pools don’t have to be cooled by diesels per the old Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. I hope the Nuclear Regulatory Commission changes that and forces the industry to cool its nuclear fuel pools, as well.
This time of year, there’s a lot of power plants in refueling outages. And all of those plants will be in a situation where there’s no fuel in the nuclear reactor; it’s all in the fuel pool. Systems have been shut down to be maintained, including diesels, perhaps even completely dismantled. And in the event that there’s a loss of offsite power from the high winds from this hurricane, we will see the water in the fuel pools begin to heat up.
AMY GOODMAN: Neil Sheehan, a representative of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said, "These plants have to be able to withstand all sorts of natural phenomena: earthquakes, severe flooding, tropical storms, lightning storms, tornadoes. They need to be able to deal with all of that. We like to say they’re very robust structures, they can deal with a lot of punishment, but at the same time they have procedures in place to guide them through this." So then, Arnie Gundersen, what is your concern?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: You know, this isn’t like—like the Big Bad Wolf. They can huff and puff, and they won’t blow this plant down, especially a hurricane that’s only 85-mile-an-hour winds. It’s not a question of the winds from this hurricane blowing the plant down. It’s a question of the loss of offsite power. That’s exactly what happened after Fukushima Daiichi. The earthquake destroyed the offsite power. At that point, the nuclear plant relies on its diesels. And my big concern is diesel reliability and the fact that nuclear plants don’t have to cool their nuclear fuel pools off their diesels per NRC regulations. I think those are the two big concerns for Hurricane Sandy.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what’s happening in Vermont. Tell us what’s happening with Vermont Yankee, Arnie Gundersen, a plant you know well.
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Yeah. Irene hit Vermont Yankee pretty hard. And we are expecting a little less rain from Sandy than we were from Irene. What was interesting—talk about the law of unanticipated consequences—there was so much flooding in Vermont that large gas canisters that people had in their backyard to heat their homes or heat their trailer parks or to heat their barbecues went floating down the Connecticut River and bumped into a hydroelectric dam, which is just south of Vermont Yankee. And the state police actually blocked off the road heading into Vermont Yankee because they were afraid all the hydrogen in those canisters was likely to explode. Now, that’s not in the design bases of a nuclear plant. Nobody ever thought that we’d have to worry about explosive gases floating down rivers by our nuclear plants and potentially causing damage. Here in Vermont, I think we’ll have a less severe event near our nuclear plant than we had last year, but it really depends on the degree of the flooding.
AMY GOODMAN: What are the most important issues we can learn from Fukushima right now in the United States? And how does climate change fit in with both, Arnie Gundersen?
ARNIE GUNDERSEN: Well, climate change has affected nuclear plants this year. Quite a few had to reduce power in the summer because river flow rates had dropped and there wasn’t enough water to cool them. And that happened in France and around the world, as well. So we portray nuclear power as a way to eliminate climate change, but in fact we need to solve climate change before we can have nuclear power plants, because there’s just not enough cooling water to cool these plants in the event of hot summers.
Well now, in the fall, and the lesson from Daiichi, is that the nuclear fuel pools are a major liability. There’s more nuclear—more cesium in the fuel pool at Vermont Yankee than was ever exploded in all of the 700 above-ground bomb testing. I think the most important lesson we can take out of the Fukushima Daiichi and climate change, and especially with Hurricane Sandy, is that we can’t expect to cool these fueling pools. We need to remove the fuel. We need to put it in dry casks and get it down from these high fuel pools, get it down onto the ground in dry cask storage. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not insisting on that, because it’s going to cost a couple billion dollars for the industry.
AMY GOODMAN: Arnie Gundersen, I want to turn south for a moment to Patrick Elie.


AMY GOODMAN: "Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math." That’s the name of a Rolling Stone piece that’s written by Bill McKibben. He is the co-founder and director of He joins us now from Vermont.
Bill, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about global warming, where it stands today, what needs to be done.
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, look, we’re really seeing this summer, around the world, despite what Dr. Muller was peddling a minute ago, what climate change looks like in its early stages. And it’s been a pretty scary summer, not just here in this country, where we’re seeing epic heat and drought, but up on Greenland, maybe the most important place in the world where the science and the actualities of what’s going on are sort of clearer day by day by day. We’re seeing record melt. We’re seeing snow turning to water and soaking up more of the sun’s heat. It’s been a ragged summer.
And the point of this piece in Rolling Stone, which, oddly enough, though it’s fairly mathematical, has gone kind of viral, the point of it is we now know enough to know what the future holds unless we change fast. The piece points out that scientists have long told us that if we want to stay below two degrees warming, which is what the—every government in the world, even the most conservative, have adopted as the bottom line, we can only burn 565 more gigatons of carbon. Unfortunately, a new analysis by a bunch of U.K. financial analysts showed that the fossil fuel industry and those countries that kind of operate like the fossil fuel industry—you know, Venezuela or Kuwait—have in their reserves 2,795 gigatons of carbon in their coal and gas and oil. That’s still below ground, but economically it’s essentially above ground. They’re borrowing money against it. Their share prices are based on it. Unless we change things very dramatically, it’s going to get burned, and we are going to overwhelm the climate system. And so—
AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, your—
BILL McKIBBEN: —we’re going to need to stand up to that industry. I mean, that’s the bottom line.
AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of Dr. Muller’s "conversion," as he describes it, now saying that global warming is human-caused, and what he said?
BILL McKIBBEN: It’s scientifically not very interesting, because, you know, most scientists figured it out 20 years ago, and all he’s done is confirm their work. Politically, it’s interesting because we’re reaching the point where even the kind of industry-funded deniers can’t, with a straight face, say that it’s not warming. In fact, CEO—Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, two weeks ago, probably more importantly, said, "Yes, forget all the things that my predecessors have said about how global warming was a hoax. Global warming is real, and we’re causing it."
He then went on to say, "But it’s an engineering problem with engineering solutions." And the example that he gave was, if we need to move our crop production areas, we will. By crop production areas, I think he means what the rest of us call farms. And if you look at an atlas, there’s really not a lot of room to move them. You can’t take an Iowa cornfield, where we’re not going to grow any corn this year because of the heat and drought, and somehow transplant it up to the melting Arctic tundra, because when you get up there, there is no soil. What needs to be adapted is not our crop production areas. What needs to be adapted are the business plans of the fossil fuel industry. They need to stop exploring for more hydrocarbons. They need to stop warping our democracy by buying off the House and the Senate. And instead, we need to put a—I mean, the most obvious thing to do, what every economist now for 20 years has been saying—
AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.
BILL McKIBBEN: —is put a stiff price on carbon to reflect the damage that it does. And that’s one of the things we work on at
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much, Bill McKibben, for being with us. We’ll link to your piece at Rolling Stone.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a story making headlines in the science world. One of the country’s most prominent global warming skeptics has openly admitted he was wrong. Over the weekend, Richard Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled "The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic."
Dr. Muller began the piece by writing, quote, "Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause."
Richard Muller’s admission has gained additional attention because some of his research has been funded by Charles Koch of the Koch brothers, the right-wing billionaires known for funding climate skeptic groups like the Heartland Institute. Richard Muller is the author of the newly published book, Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Muller. Talk about your change.
RICHARD MULLER: Well, I felt there were legitimate issues that had not been addressed. There’s the whole issue of climate change and whether hurricanes are increasing and so on, but the most solid evidence was the temperature data, and questions had been raised. The stations that were used were of poor quality. Could that be addressed? Could you use such data? There were issues that prior groups had highly selected the data—in the U.K., using only 5 to 7 percent of the data, here in the U.S., only 20 percent of the stations. It was a concern whether they had picked stations that showed warming and not the others. There were other issues, too, about the influence of urban heat islands. Cities get warmer, but that’s not the greenhouse effect. So, is that—how do we estimate the greenhouse effect? And there was the data adjustment and then the huge computer programs that they used to make the attribution to humans. All of these things deeply concerned me, and I could not get the answers in a satisfactory way.
As a scientist, on such an important issue, I felt it was my duty to be what I would call properly skeptical. And the only way to answer this was to put together a program. So, we gathered together a group of truly eminent scientists, so people who are really good at analyzing data. These include Art Rosenfeld, who’s a hero in the energy conservation field, and Saul Perlmutter, who actually last December, after working on our project for a year, over a year, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, not for work he was doing for us but for prior work he had done in astrophysics.
So, it began to come together about a year ago. We were able to show that the poor station quality, although it affected the temperature measurements, didn’t affect the temperature changes. We were able to use 100 percent of the data, not the 20 percent that others had used. We found that data selection bias didn’t affect things. We looked at the urban heat island. It came together. We concluded that global warming was indeed real.
But then, about three to six months ago, thanks largely to the effort of a brilliant young scientist named Robert Rohde, who we hired to do and use the best possible statistics in order to be able to use all the data, he was able to push our record back to 1753. That’s before the American Revolution. That’s back when the measurements in the U.S. were being made by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. With that long record, we could look for the fingerprints. We could see how much was due to volcanoes, how much was due to ocean currents, how much was due to the variability of the sun. We could do this much better than people had done before.
And I’ve got to admit, I was shocked when I saw the results. There was short-time—short-term variability that was due to volcanoes, essentially nothing due to the solar variation. Theoretically, that’s not too surprising, but I was surprised nonetheless. But the remaining curve, the rise in that curve, was dead on to human production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. At that point, the data had led me to a conclusion I would not have expected a few years earlier.
AMY GOODMAN: And what has been the response of your colleagues, those who, like you, have been skeptical for so long?
RICHARD MULLER: Well, I don’t expect people to say, "Oh, Muller has changed his mind, therefore I do." What we’ve done is, I think, an exceptional level of transparency. We have five detailed scientific papers, which we have placed online. These have all been submitted to peer-reviewed journals. We have put all of the data online. We’ve put all of our computer programs online, along with a lot of supplemental information that your watchers and listeners might like. If you go to, you’ll find—you can look up the temperature record in your hometown or your home state. But by putting this online, we have a transparency where people who think we did something wrong can find, well, this is your assumption right on this line here, this is what we don’t like. And our responses is, OK, change it, see if it makes a difference, or we can change it for you and see if it makes a difference. So, this is, I think—the wonderful thing about science is that it’s that narrow realm of knowledge on which we expect to achieve universal agreement.
I believe that some of the—most of the skeptics—there were some deniers who refuse to pay any attention to the science, but many of the skeptics recognized there were valid problems with the data. And we have now directly addressed those. So my hope is that as they study our work, that they will recognize that we did address these in the proper way, and that now the—now we can agree on the science. How you address this, what you do on the international arena, is a separate question.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the role of Congress in the climate debate, Dr. Muller. On Wednesday, the Senate held its first hearing on the topic in more than two years. The Republican-controlled House has turned down 15 requests from Democrats for a similar hearing. Senator Barbara Boxer, of course Democrat of California, your state, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, opened the session.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Colleagues, climate change is real. Human activities are the primary cause, and the warming planet poses a significant risk to people and the environment. I believe to declare otherwise is putting the American people in direct danger. The body of evidence is overwhelming. The world’s leading scientists agree, and predictions of climate change impacts are coming true before our eyes. The purpose of this hearing is to share with the committee the mountain of scientific evidence that has increased substantially over time—time that I believe we should have used to reduce carbon pollution, the main cause of climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your message, particularly to Republican lawmakers like Senator Inhofe? And were you consulting with them before your conversion?
RICHARD MULLER: Oh, yes, I’ve met with both the Republicans and the Democrats and explained things to them. I’ve been asked to come several times to Washington, D.C. The message, however, is not an easy one, and I find nobody really likes my message, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats.
My new message is there are two things that must be done if we’re going to stop this. There are many things you can do. We each can do our part. You know, we can get higher-mileage automobiles and all that kind of stuff. But from the world point of view, there are only two big things that can be done. One of them is an extensive program in energy conservation and energy efficiency. This is absolutely essential, and there are huge gains to be made. The fact is, energy efficiency and conservation are profitable. And that’s really important, because, unfortunately, most of the global warming, most of the carbon dioxide, is going to be coming not from the U.S. but from China. Anything we do must be something that can be emulated and followed in China. Electric cars, for example, don’t do any good. If a Chinese person switched from a gasoline car to an electric car, he would wind up producing more carbon dioxide, because that electricity is coming from coal, and that’s worse than gasoline. So, we have to do things that will have an impact.
The other thing we need to do is—and this is one where, unfortunately, a lot of my Democrat friends have a knee-jerk reaction against it, but I think it’s essential—we have to get the Chinese to convert, to move over, get away from coal into a natural gas economy. By the end of this year, China will be producing twice the carbon dioxide of the United States, and whereas our carbon dioxide is going down, their carbon dioxide is shooting up. So it will get worse and worse. Natural gas produces only one-third of the carbon dioxide that does coal. And the coal chokes their citizens, too. Now, in the U.S., a lot of people say, "Oh, fracking is bad. It’s dirty," which is true, "and it’s a fossil fuel." Well, China can’t afford—will not be able to afford massive solar and massive wind for several decades. In the meantime, soon they’ll be producing more carbon dioxide per person than we are. So, we have to help them, expedite them switch over to natural gas, that has one-third of the emissions of carbon dioxide. Anything we do in the U.S., if we ignore China, is not really addressing the problem.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Marc Morano, publisher of Climate Depot, run by the website—the climate denier group Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. Dr. Muller, your response?
RICHARD MULLER: Well, I think that in opposing any—joining the Kyoto agreement, President Obama recognized that the non-involvement of China made our participation—would not have done much. At Copenhagen, President Obama went there to try to get the Chinese involved. He insisted on having inspections, because the Chinese rate of growth, they’ve averaged 10 percent growth over the last 20 years. That growth is so enormous that they are going to dominate the global warming—global warming of the future. And if they wouldn’t even allow us to inspect, then we can’t do—if we were, in the United States, to cut back to zero—ridiculous, but let’s say we cut back to zero emissions—within three-and-a-half to four years, the emissions would be back where they were just from the growth of China. So I think President Obama has done the right thing in insisting that China must be involved.
In the proposed Copenhagen treaty, they were going to slow their growth to 6 percent per year rather than cut it to zero. And even at that, they would be surpassing us. So I think he’s done the right thing. Now, what we need to do, I believe, is to—we need a presidential program, a national program, in which we will share our technology. No, we don’t want dirty fracking in China any more than we want it here, but we can make it clean. It’s just a matter of using the technology to assure that it will be clean, that it won’t cause earthquakes and so on. That, as a technical problem, is not that difficult. We need to share our technology with them to help them switch away from coal, which is what is going to be responsible for the global warming of the future.

Venezuela in the NY Times

I recently read an International NY Times piece about Venezuela here in Brazil where I am based.  It is by SA Consalvi, a Venezuelan conservative.  I did a little more research on the internet, couldn't find it in English, then found some pieces critiquing the NY Times coverage of Venezuela.
      As they point out, Consalvi's views are typical, with W. Neumann providing the rest of the coverage.  Shallow and almost entirely false, they are typical of ideological thinking, and worse, propaganda.  Chavez has helped incentivize co-operative enterprise there, and many of the poor have benefited.
     Mark Vorpahl in Counterpunch writes that UN ECLAC indicates that Venezuela has reduced inequality more than any other Latin American country in recent years.  Unemployment has been reduced significantly, extreme poverty has been reduced, housing is improving.  All this in stark contrast to the US, no less.

According to studies by the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Venezuela ranks first in a list of 12 Latin American countries that have reduced inequalities amongst their members.

In contrast, in the U.S., according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), between the years 2003 – 2005, $400 billion in pre-tax dollars was shifted from the bottom 95 percent to the top 5 percent, costing the bottom 95 percent households $3,660 each. While there was a drop in inequality for a short time after the stock market crash as a result of depleted stock portfolios, it has again accelerated. Since 2010, the top 1% has captured 93 percent of income gains.

When Chavez was first elected president, unemployment was 16.1 percent. Today it has been reduced to 6.5 percent (1) with one of the highest minimum wages in Latin America and food stipends. In contrast, in the U.S., 23 million remain unemployed or underemployed while the minimum wage has dramatically fallen behind the cost of living.

In Venezuela extreme poverty has shrunk from 21 percent in 1999, to 6.9 percent today. (2) For the United States, the movement is in just the opposite direction. According to the Census Bureau last year another 2.6 million Americans fell below the official poverty line on top of the 46.2 million already there. This resulted in the highest number of citizens in poverty since the Census Bureau started tracking the figure 52 years ago.

Millions of U.S. families have been kicked onto the streets because of the high rate of forecloses. There are no foreclosures in Venezuela. In fact, the money that used to go into the pockets of its wealthy elite is now being used to build hundreds of thousands of dignified homes for those in need.

By Murray Polner

Murray Polner has written for many publications. His most recent book, written with Thomas Woods Jr., is “We Who Dared Say No To War”.

The original article can be found here:

New York Times Coverage of Venezuelan Elections was Poor

Hugo Chávez won his third straight presidential election this past weekend, and as the New York Times correspondent William Neumann put it in his latest article, “Chávez Wins New Term in Venezuela, Holding Off Surge by Opposition,”: “Though his margin of victory was much narrower than in past elections, he still won handily.” By more than 10 percent, Chávez defeated center-right candidate for the Justice First party, Henrique Capriles.

The problem with Neumann’s article, and his pre-election article “Fears Persist Among Venezuelan Voters Ahead of Election” is that he said nothing about Capriles’ campaign while providing considerable space to hearsay and accusations he, and Times editors, didn’t back up with examples. What resulted was clear cases of anti-Chávez hysteria and poor journalism.

In Neumann’s pre-election article he wrote that “polls diverge widely, with some predicting a victory for Mr. Chávez and others showing a race that is too close to call,” but he offers no examples of these “too close to call” polls. When the Center for Economic and Policy Research looked at available data they found that “Capriles [had] a 5.7 percent probability of winning the election.”

And just as Neumann doesn’t provide any examples of those who have “anxiety” about ”a new electronic voting system that many Venezuelans fear might be used by the government to track those who vote against the president” there are no examples provided of “[m]any government workers” whose names “were made public after they signed a petition for an unsuccessful 2004 recall referendum to force Mr. Chávez out of office” and subsequently ”lost their jobs.” This claim has been circulating for nearly ten years, and if Neumann has proof it occurred he should certainly share it. That would be more newsworthy than the unfounded fears of unknown persons.

The fearmongering does not stop there. Neumann also claims, without providing any supporting evidence, that “Government workers are frequently required to attend pro-Chávez rallies.” Despite having won three successive presidential elections by large margins, and whose voter base continues to grow, it seems Neumann cannot accept the fact that Venezuelans vote for and “attend pro-Chávez rallies” because they actually support the man and his policies.

Another problem with Neumann’s articles is that, on one hand of Neumann’s Anti-Chávez argument, Chávez has sown “fear” and rules by intimidation. This is why nearly eight million Venezuelans voted for him—an increase by more than half a million votes, or an almost ten percent gain in votes since the 2006 election. Then, on the other hand, we are told that Chávez rules by bribery. Neumann claims that the reason “it has been harder for Mr. Capriles to dent the strong support for Mr. Chávez in rural areas” is the government spending on poverty, which Neumann refers to as “the government largess [Mr. Chávez] doles out with abandon.”

In his post-election article Neumann continues with his bias, which would be more appropriate in the opinion section, when he offers advice to Capriles. Neumann warns that ”the opposition is a fragile coalition with a history of destructive infighting, especially after an election defeat,” and that “Mr. Capriles will have to keep this fractious amalgam of parties from the left, right and center together in order to take advantage of the new ground they have gained.”

While noting that “Mr. Chávez has trumpeted his programs to help the poor,” or the so-called “government largess” which Chávez “has pointed to a sharp reduction in the number of people living in poverty” as proof that he is delivering the goods, Neumann tries to explain this not so much as an actual agenda by Chávez but due to the fact that the president “has governed during a phenomenal rise in oil prices, which have soared from $10 in 1998, the year before he took office, to more than $100 in recent years and the high $80s now, pouring huge amounts of revenue into Venezuela.” When it comes to Neumann, Chávez can’t win for losing.

Neumann also spends an inordinate amount of time talking about Chávez’s health. In fact, he provides more coverage of that, as well as criticizing Chávez at every turn and giving voice to unqualified accusations, than he does talking about the actual campaigns of the candidates. While Neumann writes in his post-election article that Capriles “campaigned almost nonstop” he doesn’t say what Capriles campaigned on, and if he provided his readers with such information they might actually get a glimpse into why the opposition fared much better than the past two elections.

In an article published this past April, Reuters wrote that “Henrique Capriles defines himself as a center-left ‘progressive’ follower of the business-friendly but socially-conscious Brazilian economic model,” while Global Post wrote that “Capriles has based his campaign on improving education, which he sees as a long-term solution to the country’s insecurity and deep poverty,” and that ”Capriles’ methods are not to shout down Chavez — indeed, he praises many of the president’s ideas.” Far from being an “opposition” candidate, Capriles tried to appear as Chávez-lite.

New York Times coverage of the presidential election in Venezuela was bizarre, but typical. The political leanings of the “paper of record” are notorious for reflecting the views and interests of the political and economic establishment. And with Chávez not being an ally of the U.S. government and business community, and is instead encouraging the regional independence that has been unfolding for the past decade much to their ire, and with Chávez expected to and having “won handily,” it comes as no surprise that the Venezuelan election process, which former American president Jimmy Carter has hailed as the “best in the world,” would get picked over by the New York Times as being the results of intimidation and bribery.

By Michael McGehee

The original article can be found here: