Tuesday, August 31, 2010

are humans naturally violent and monogamous?

physician's religion effects end-of-life care

Video - MD's discuss end-of-life care.

CNN | A new study finds that doctors who are not religious are more likely to take steps to help end a very sick patient's life, and to discuss these kinds of decisions, than doctors who are very religious.

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, surveyed more than 8,500 doctors in the United Kingdom across a wide range of specialties such as neurology, palliative care, and general practice.

Researchers asked doctors about the last patient whom they had worked with who had died. The doctors answered questions about their own religious beliefs and ethnic background, as well as end of life care - did they give continuous deep sedation until death to the last patient who had died? Did they discuss decisions with the patient that would likely shorten the patient's life?

The study found that the strength of a doctor's religious faith is related to the incidence of continuous deep sedation until death, confirming findings of previous research. Researchers also found that a doctor who reported being "very or extremely non-religious" had an increased likelihood of taking these kinds of decisions to end a patient's life.

Doctors who said they were very religious were less willing to discuss decisions expected or partly intended to end life, the study found. This result corroborates what a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study found: That more religious doctors are less likely to believe that they should give the patient information about procedures to which the doctors held moral objections. Fist tap Arnach.

ersatz christian warns about ersatz christianity...,

Video - Kenda Creasy Dean on bringing in the sheaves.

CNN | If you're the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning: Your child is following a "mutant" form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls "moralistic therapeutic deism." Translation: It's a watered-down faith that portrays God as a "divine therapist" whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem. Dean drew her conclusions from what she calls one of the most depressing summers of her life. She interviewed teens about their faith after helping conduct research for a controversial study called the National Study of Youth and Religion.

The study, which included in-depth interviews with at least 3,300 American teenagers between 13 and 17, found that most American teens who called themselves Christian were indifferent and inarticulate about their faith.

The study included Christians of all stripes -- from Catholics to Protestants of both conservative and liberal denominations. Though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can't talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found.

Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good -- what the study's researchers called "moralistic therapeutic deism."

Some critics told Dean that most teenagers can't talk coherently about any deep subject, but Dean says abundant research shows that's not true.

"They have a lot to say," Dean says. "They can talk about money, sex and their family relationships with nuance. Most people who work with teenagers know that they are not naturally inarticulate."

In "Almost Christian," Dean talks to the teens who are articulate about their faith. Most come from Mormon and evangelical churches, which tend to do a better job of instilling religious passion in teens, she says.

No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.

Monday, August 30, 2010

psywar: the real battlefield is the mind

Video - trailer for new online documentary.

This film explores the evolution of propaganda and public relations in the United States, with an emphasis on the “elitist theory of democracy” and the relationship between war, propaganda and class. Full length feature available here online.

Includes original interviews with a number of dissident scholars including Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti, Peter Phillips (“Project Censored”), John Stauber (“PR Watch”), Christopher Simpson (“The Science of Coercion”) and others.

scan technology deployed in street roving vans

Video - AS&E's Z Backscatter Van.

Forbes | As the privacy controversy around full-body security scans begins to simmer, it’s worth noting that courthouses and airport security checkpoints aren’t the only places where backscatter x-ray vision is being deployed. The same technology, capable of seeing through clothes and walls, has also been rolling out on U.S. streets.

American Science & Engineering, a company based in Billerica, Massachusetts, has sold U.S. and foreign government agencies more than 500 backscatter x-ray scanners mounted in vans that can be driven past neighboring vehicles to see their contents, Joe Reiss, a vice president of marketing at the company told me in an interview. While the biggest buyer of AS&E’s machines over the last seven years has been the Department of Defense operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Reiss says law enforcement agencies have also deployed the vans to search for vehicle-based bombs in the U.S.

“This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever,” says Reiss.

bacon and butter?!?!? - oh hail gnaw!!!

Video - British Minister of Food talks on rationing in 1939.

Causabon's Book | The realities of climate change and energy depletion mean that at some point, we will encounter situations where there is not enough of an energy resource or one of the things it enables - whether food or transport or whatever, to go around. In fact, eventually we will enounter many of these shortages. Whether they arise initially from a situation in which there are actual shortages or whether the shortages are structural problems of transport or caused by inequity and dishonesty almost doesn't matter - we are going to run bang up against problems of access to resources.

When that happens, and assuming a functioning state, we are going to have to deal with questions of how to ration access to energy, food and other resources. This isn't really up for debate - whether we manage to put the problem of rationing off for a while or not, we know that climate change and peak oil mean we will have to confront limits of access - indeed, we confront them now, when we ration things like food and access to housing by price.

Whether regionally or nationally, rationing is one way, probably the best way, to ensure reasonably equitable distribution - so while presently people see rationing as unimaginable, I would argue that we need to be laying the groundwork for just rationing strategies, administered equitably now - and that this isn't actually as hard as we might think. No, it isn't politically possible right yet - but it could become possible very rapidly. So I present a lightly revised version of a piece I wrote more than three years ago - suggesting that we need to consider strategies for the eventual implementation of resource rationing, whether at the national, state or local levels.

rolling hemp

Video - electric automotive hemp fiber car body.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

invisible hands....,

NYTimes | There’s just one element missing from these snapshots of America’s ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the “death panel” warm-up acts of last summer. Three heavy hitters rule. You’ve heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are.

Their self-interested and at times radical agendas, like Murdoch’s, go well beyond, and sometimes counter to, the interests of those who serve as spear carriers in the political pageants hawked on Fox News. The country will be in for quite a ride should these potentates gain power, and given the recession-battered electorate’s unchecked anger and the Obama White House’s unfocused political strategy, they might.

All three tycoons are the latest incarnation of what the historian Kim Phillips-Fein labeled “Invisible Hands” in her prescient 2009 book of that title: those corporate players who have financed the far right ever since the du Pont brothers spawned the American Liberty League in 1934 to bring down F.D.R. You can draw a straight line from the Liberty League’s crusade against the New Deal “socialism” of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission and child labor laws to the John Birch Society-Barry Goldwater assault on J.F.K. and Medicare to the Koch-Murdoch-backed juggernaut against our “socialist” president.

Only the fat cats change — not their methods and not their pet bugaboos (taxes, corporate regulation, organized labor, and government “handouts” to the poor, unemployed, ill and elderly). Even the sources of their fortunes remain fairly constant. Koch Industries began with oil in the 1930s and now also spews an array of industrial products, from Dixie cups to Lycra, not unlike DuPont’s portfolio of paint and plastics. Sometimes the biological DNA persists as well. The Koch brothers’ father, Fred, was among the select group chosen to serve on the Birch Society’s top governing body. In a recorded 1963 speech that survives in a University of Michigan archive, he can be heard warning of “a takeover” of America in which Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.” That rant could be delivered as is at any Tea Party rally today.

Last week the Kochs were shoved unwillingly into the spotlight by the most comprehensive journalistic portrait of them yet, written by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. Her article caused a stir among those in Manhattan’s liberal elite who didn’t know that David Koch, widely celebrated for his cultural philanthropy, is not merely another rich conservative Republican but the founder of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which, as Mayer writes with some understatement, “has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception.” To New Yorkers who associate the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center with the New York City Ballet, it’s startling to learn that the Texas branch of that foundation’s political arm, known simply as Americans for Prosperity, gave its Blogger of the Year Award to an activist who had called President Obama “cokehead in chief.”

j. edgar mormon's agenda...,

Salon | The masses were summoned by Glenn Beck, Fox News host and organizer of the 912 Project, the civic initiative he pulled together to restore America to the sense of purpose and unity it had felt the day after the towers fell. In reality, however, the so-called 912ers were summoned to D.C. by the man who changed Beck's life, and that helps explain why the movement is not the nonpartisan lovefest that Beck first sold on air with his trademark tears. Beck has created a massive meet-up for the disaffected, paranoid Palin-ite "death panel" wing of the GOP, those ideologues most susceptible to conspiracy theories and prone to latch on to eccentric distortions of fact in the name of opposing "socialism." In that, they are true disciples of the late W. Cleon Skousen, Beck's favorite writer and the author of the bible of the 9/12 movement, "The 5,000 Year Leap." A once-famous anti-communist "historian," Skousen was too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era, but Glenn Beck has now rescued him from the remainder pile of history, and introduced him to a receptive new audience.

Anyone who has followed Beck will recognize the book's title. Beck has been furiously promoting "The 5,000 Year Leap" for the past year, a push that peaked in March when he launched the 912 Project. That month, a new edition of "The 5,000 Year Leap," complete with a laudatory new foreword by none other than Glenn Beck, came out of nowhere to hit No. 1 on Amazon. It remained in the top 15 all summer, holding the No. 1 spot in the government category for months. The book tops Beck's 912 Project "required reading" list, and is routinely sold at 912 Project meetings where guest speakers often use it as their primary source material. At one 912 meet-up I attended in Florida, copies were stacked high on a table against the back wall, available for the 912 nice price of $15. "Don't bother trying to get it at the library," one 912er told me. "The wait list is 40 deep."

What has Beck been pushing on his legions? "Leap," first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by French and English philosophers. "Leap" argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs -- based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith -- that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined. The book reads exactly like what it was until Glenn Beck dragged it out of Mormon obscurity: a textbook full of aggressively selective quotations intended for conservative religious schools like Utah's George Wythe University, where it has been part of the core freshman curriculum for decades (and where Beck spoke at this year's annual fundraiser).

But more interesting than the contents of "The 5,000 Year Leap," and more revealing for what it says about 912ers and the Glenn Beck Nation, is the book's author. W. Cleon Skousen was not a historian so much as a player in the history of the American far right; less a scholar of the republic than a threat to it. At least, that was the judgment of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, which maintained a file on Skousen for years that eventually totaled some 2,000 pages. Before he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen's own Mormon church publicly distanced itself from the foundation that Skousen founded and that has published previous editions of "The 5,000 Year Leap."

skrong mormonism meets the mainstream

WaPo | Let's dispense right away with the fiction, promoted by Glenn Beck himself, that his rally on Saturday wasn't a political event.

Let's also set aside the caricature, promoted by some critics on the left, that the demonstration was primarily a gathering of racists designed to dishonor the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the same spot and on the same date as his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Instead, let's focus on this: A sizable chunk of the conservative movement is convinced that the nation is headed toward a kind of Marxist dictatorship. It doesn't just think the government was wrong to bail out Wall Street, or that the health-care program is too costly and unwieldy, or that schools should include more religious instruction.

Instead, these people think our morals have sunk so low and our political leaders have become so unresponsive that the rule of law is breaking down in America. In interviews with members of the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial, I found that many shared such an apocalyptic view of a country on the wrong track.

But when pressed for evidence of such severe deterioration, they didn't offer very compelling examples. Basically, the "tea party" thinks the moderately liberal social agenda pushed by the Obama administration is just a short step away from, say, Communist East Germany.

This kind of exaggerated thinking, encouraged by Beck, contributes to the toxic tone of contemporary political debate. It's hard to have a reasonable discussion about the proper size and role of government in a modern society with people who think 234 years of democracy is ending.

apocalyptic interaction?

Video - cops and neighbors.

note the pattern, take the lesson...,

For a gang of monkeys making their home at the Galta Temple in the Indian city of Jaipur, it was an easy life — lounge by the sacred pool, groom your friends and accept handouts from worshippers paying respect to the Hindu Monkey God Hanuman. But their happy days are numbered. When a lingering drought threatens local food supplies, the monkeys face an end to their easy gravy train.

There were 3 bathing pools in the temple and it was decided to close 2 down and drain them because of draught conditions. This meant that only one gate to the temple would remain open and there would be a dramatic reduction in the number of food-bearing visitors allowed in.

Within a couple of days of the visitor number and corresponding food-offering reduction for the monkeys - the troop of about 80 split into two equal sized groups. The first group lead by the original matriarch, her family and other monkeys of appropriate size and status forced the other group to split off by attacking them and then took up a position by the only open gate to aquisition the food that was still comming in.

The splinter group made up of mostly smaller monkeys were not allowed to come near the open gate and within a day were forced to move from the temple to the nearby town in search of food. This was a high risk strategy because danger of injury or being caught was increased.

Violently enforced dispersal strategies are common among social primate species when dealing with scarce resources and on an evolutionary level its an old solution to the problem.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

say what you want..,

Video - Say what you want about Sarah, she raised a combat vet...,

tea party claims king mantle...,

NYTimes | It seems the ultimate thumb in the eye: that Glenn Beck would summon the Tea Party faithful to a rally on the anniversary of the March on Washington, and address them from the very place where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech 47 years ago. After all, the Tea Party and its critics have been facing off for months over accusations of racism.

But many of the busloads of Tea Party activists expected in Washington this weekend do not see any irony or offense. In fact, they have come to see the Tea Party as the aggrieved — its loosely affiliated members unfairly characterized, even persecuted, as extremists.

Eighteen months ago, many were moved to the streets by a belief that they had been not listened to by their representatives in Washington. (“How dare they ignore us?” reads a sign often seen at Tea Party rallies.) Now, encouraged by Tea Party leaders and people like Mr. Beck and Andrew Breitbart, whose BigGovernment.com is a source of news for many Tea Party supporters, they have adopted the language of the civil rights movement to describe their cause. Their sense of persecution has become a galvanizing force.

Consider the response last month when the N.A.A.C.P., the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, called on Tea Party leaders to denounce racist elements in their ranks — citing signs with racist slogans at Tea Party rallies.

Tea Party Patriots, the largest umbrella organization for thousands of local groups across the country, posted a petition on its Web site calling for the N.A.A.C.P. to revoke its resolution “condemning the Tea Party movement as ‘racist.’ ”

“It is nothing less than ‘hate speech’ for the N.A.A.C.P. to be smearing us as ‘racists’ and ‘bigots,’ ” the petition declared. “We believe, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in a colorblind, postracial society. And we believe that when an organization lies and resorts to desperate tactics of racial division and hatred, they should be publicly called on it.”

On his radio show, Mr. Beck said he had not intended to choose the anniversary for his “Restoring Honor” rally on Saturday but had since decided it was “divine providence.”

Dr. King’s dream, he told listeners, “has been so corrupted.”

building a nation of know-nothings

NYTimes | Having shed much of his dignity, core convictions and reputation for straight talk, Senator John McCain won his primary on Tuesday against the flat-earth wing of his party. Now McCain can go search for his lost character, which was last on display late in his 2008 campaign for president.

Remember the moment: a woman with matted hair and a shaky voice rose to express her doubts about Barack Obama. “I have read about him,” she said, “and he’s not — he’s an Arab.”

McCain was quick to knock down the lie. “No, ma’am,” he said, “he’s a decent family man, a citizen.”

That ill-informed woman — her head stuffed with fabrications that could be disproved by a pre-schooler — now makes up a representative third or more of the Republican party. It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.

Take a look at Tuesday night’s box score in the baseball game between New York and Toronto. The Yankees won, 11-5. Now look at the weather summary, showing a high of 71 for New York. The score and temperature are not subject to debate.

Yet a president’s birthday or whether he was even in the White House on the day TARP was passed are apparently open questions. A growing segment of the party poised to take control of Congress has bought into denial of the basic truths of Barack Obama’s life. What’s more, this astonishing level of willful ignorance has come about largely by design, and has been aided by a press afraid to call out the primary architects of the lies.

The Democrats may deserve to lose in November. They have been terrible at trying to explain who they stand for and the larger goal of their governance. But if they lose, it should be because their policies are unpopular or ill-conceived — not because millions of people believe a lie. Fist tap Nana.

fears of regime change in new york

Naked Capitalism | Normally, I don’t report on anecdotes from my immediate circle, but a set of conversations in less than a 24 hour period suggests that even those comparatively unaffected by the crisis are bracing themselves for the possibility of sudden, large-scale, adverse changes. And that sort of gnawing worry seems to be growing in New York despite being buoyed by TARP funds and covert bank subsidies.

When out on my rounds the day before yesterday, I ran into an old McKinsey colleague, who had subsequently had impressively titled jobs in Big Firms You Heard Of before semi-retiring to manage family money. He and his very accomplished wife were big Bush donors and had been invited to both inaugurations.

He made short order of niceties and got to the point: “We need more fiscal stimulus. Obama did too little and too much of what he spent on was liberal pork. We could and need to spend a lot on infrastructure. This is looking a lot like 1936. I’m afraid it could get really ugly. And I’m particularly worried that the Republicans will win big this fall. They’ll cut even deeper, that’s the last thing we need right now.”

No I am not making this up, and yes, this is one of the last people I would have expected to express this line of thinking.

Friday, August 27, 2010

the new yorker strikes the root!!!

The New Yorker | As their fortunes grew, Charles and David Koch became the primary underwriters of hard-line libertarian politics in America. Charles’s goal, as Doherty described it, was to tear the government “out at the root.” The brothers’ first major public step came in 1979, when Charles persuaded David, then thirty-nine, to run for public office. They had become supporters of the Libertarian Party, and were backing its Presidential candidate, Ed Clark, who was running against Ronald Reagan from the right. Frustrated by the legal limits on campaign donations, they contrived to place David on the ticket, in the Vice-Presidential slot; upon becoming a candidate, he could lavish as much of his personal fortune as he wished on the campaign. The ticket’s slogan was “The Libertarian Party has only one source of funds: You.” In fact, its primary source of funds was David Koch, who spent more than two million dollars on the effort.

Many of the ideas propounded in the 1980 campaign presaged the Tea Party movement. Ed Clark told The Nation that libertarians were getting ready to stage “a very big tea party,” because people were “sick to death” of taxes. The Libertarian Party platform called for the abolition of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., as well as of federal regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Energy. The Party wanted to end Social Security, minimum-wage laws, gun control, and all personal and corporate income taxes; it proposed the legalization of prostitution, recreational drugs, and suicide. Government should be reduced to only one function: the protection of individual rights. William F. Buckley, Jr., a more traditional conservative, called the movement “Anarcho-Totalitarianism.”

buy goldline

WaPo | When Fox News and talk radio host Glenn Beck comes to Washington this weekend to headline a rally intended to "restore honor" to America, he will test the strength - and potentially expose the weaknesses - of a conservative grass-roots movement that remains an unpredictable force in the country's politics.

Beck, who is both admired and assailed for his faith-based patriotism and his brash criticism of President Obama, plans in part to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. as an American hero. He will speak on the anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech, from the spot where King delivered it.

Some "tea party" activists say the event, at which former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is also scheduled to speak, will have a greater impact than last September's "9/12" march along Pennsylvania Avenue. Although the attendance figures for that anti-tax rally are disputed, it was the first national gathering to demonstrate the size and influence of the tea party movement.

But with just a few days before the Beck rally, basic questions linger, including how big it will be and whether the event, which Beck says is nonpolitical, will help or hurt Republicans in November. Also unanswered is whether Beck can pull off the connection to King without creating offense - or confrontation with another event the same day led by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Beck said in a recent broadcast that he did not intentionally choose the "I Have a Dream" anniversary for his rally - but that he believes the coincidence is "divine providence."

"Whites don't own Abraham Lincoln," he said. "Blacks don't own Martin Luther King. Those are American icons, American ideas, and we should just talk about character, and that's really what this event is about. It's about honoring character."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

there is no democracy!!!

Video - Classic scenes from the movie Network

red cell memorandum

Video - wikileaks text to voice of the memo.

wikileaks | This CIA "Red Cell" report from February 2, 2010, looks at what will happen if it is internationally understood that the United States is an exporter of terrorism; 'Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon, nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin. This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.' The report looks at a number cases of US exported terrorism, including attacks by US based or financed Jewish, Muslim and Irish-nationalism terrorists. It concludes that foreign perceptions of the US as an "Exporter of Terrorism" together with US double standards in international law, may lead to noncooperation in renditions (including the arrest of CIA officers) and the decision to not share terrorism related intelligence with the United States.

war defining human life by 2020

Video - Cenk on the Ambassador of Death

Marketwatch | Chris Hedges captures America's bizarre collective addiction to war. In "War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning" this former war correspondent describes how a "communal march against an enemy generates a warm, unfamiliar bond with our neighbors, our community, our nation, wiping out unsettling undercurrents of alienation and dislocation."

He reminds me of my days going off to the Marine Corps and Korea. As one reviewer put it, Hedges looks "at what makes war so intoxicating for soldiers, politicians and ordinary citizens," the "outbreaks of nationalism, the wartime silencing of intellectuals and artists, the ways in which even a supposedly skeptical press glorifies the battlefield and other universal features of war." Yes, yes, we love war.

WWIII is coming not because we have terrorists, dictators and evil men wanting to destroy and depose us. Not because "they" are attacking "us." WWIII is coming because we have surrendered the fight, surrendered our honor, our integrity, our values, our moral compass as a democracy. We have surrendered to a new god, to the almighty dollar, the new Invisible Hand that controls not just capitalism but our nation's very soul.

Bottom line: We are at war with ourselves. Split souls, a hero, a demon. But we do not like ourselves, can no longer face ourselves in the mirror. Why? Our dark side is winning. The other has surrendered. We have lost our "self" in denial. Now the Righteous Right is bullying us with hope of redemption. False hope. That's suicide.

Still we are waiting to start World War III. And if the wait is too long, the Right will start to "bomb, bomb, bomb" someone and trigger WWIII. It's a macho "ego thing." They got a lot to prove. Don't care if they destroy America in the process ... because they know they are Right. Yes, folks, the real "mother of all national security issues" is within us.

america a walking dead zombie country

Video - Zombieland Hostess truck Twinkie search.

chaostheorien | “The key to understanding the current situation is to understand that house prices, jobs, wages, and pensions in the US are all being attacked with original-issue debt dollar junk.

This will continue until the middle class has been completely wiped out.”

Can you elaborate on this, please?

Yes, it’s a Financial Holocaust. It is designed to destroy the American middle-class. We face an original-issue deflation, if you will. It is as if Michael Milken ran the Fed. If you look at the work of Steve Keen (http://www.debtdeflation.com/blogs/), an economist in Australia and one of a very few economists who got the crisis of the past three years accurate, you understand that the banking system does not work on a system where deposits are the basis for fractional reserve. The banking system works on the basis of loans used as the collateral for more loans.

That means that the origination of all the fractional reserve lending that is going on is just more debt. There are no retail deposit reserves or wholesale deposit reserves, just original issue dollar based junk debt. And when you understand that debt is at the bottom of the pyramid and that there’s no equity at all, or capital as this term is usually understood, then you understand that the banks and the policy makers are continuing a programme at the behest of Wall Street to commit a Financial Holocaust to eliminate the majority in America, which is the middle-class. Wall Street banks with their CDS's, High Frequency Trading and bogus market making are injecting the equivalent of financial Zyklon B into the American and world economy.

my bus driver told me this yesterday morning..,

declineoftheempire | The housing market is crashing again. There are no positive indicators—none. Housing will be a drag on the U.S. economy for many years to come, but nobody knows how many. Demand for housing is in the toilet, and inventories are very high. Nobody knows how high. Amherst Securities estimates that the "shadow inventory" of available houses—the number of homes repossessed or in default that eventually will be offered for sale—stood at 7.3 million in the first quarter. That's over and above the huge unsold inventory we already know about.

Demand for houses is directly tied to high under-employment. Obviously, being unemployed or unwillingly part-time puts a crimp in your ability to buy a house. Since it reasonable to expect that under-employment will remain very high for most of the next decade, the ability of the housing market to bounce back will be impaired for just as long.

The only mystery in the housing market is why prices are still so high. With demand deteriorating rapidly, average home prices nationwide have no where to go but down. Falling prices will destroy wealth in the Middle Class over the next year or two (at least).

In the longer term, flat inflation-adjusted prices will not add to household wealth. In the 15 years preceding the collapse of the Housing Bubble, and because wages were stagnant or falling for ordinary Americans, the only way to build a nest egg was to own a home. With house prices going up & up, homeowners, especially in bubble areas (e.g. Arizona, California), felt wealthy. And on paper, they were as long as prices kept rising. When people feel wealthy, they spend money.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

the third replicator

It's been a minute since we visited Blackmore - time for an update as she's still refining her concept of Temes.

NYTimes | All around us information seems to be multiplying at an ever increasing pace. New books are published, new designs for toasters and i-gadgets appear, new music is composed or synthesized and, perhaps above all, new content is uploaded into cyberspace. This is rather strange. We know that matter and energy cannot increase but apparently information can. It is perhaps rather obvious to attribute this to the evolutionary algorithm or Darwinian process, as I will do, but I wish to emphasize one part of this process — copying. The reason information can increase like this is that, if the necessary raw materials are available, copying creates more information. Of course it is not new information, but if the copies vary (which they will if only by virtue of copying errors), and if not all variants survive to be copied again (which is inevitable given limited resources), then we have the complete three-step process of natural selection (Dennett, 1995). From here novel designs and truly new information emerge. None of this can happen without copying. I want to make three arguments here. Imitation is not just some new minor ability. It changes everything. It enables a new kind of evolution. The first is that humans are unique because they are so good at imitation. When our ancestors began to imitate they let loose a new evolutionary process based not on genes but on a second replicator, memes. Genes and memes then coevolved, transforming us into better and better meme machines. The second is that one kind of copying can piggy-back on another: that is, one replicator (the information that is copied) can build on the products (vehicles or interactors) of another. This multilayered evolution has produced the amazing complexity of design we see all around us. The third is that now, in the early 21st century, we are seeing the emergence of a third replicator. I call these temes (short for technological memes, though I have considered other names). They are digital information stored, copied, varied and selected by machines. We humans like to think we are the designers, creators and controllers of this newly emerging world but really we are stepping stones from one replicator to the next.

your brain on computers

NYTimes | Technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.

Ms. Bates, for example, might be clearer-headed if she went for a run outside, away from her devices, research suggests.

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience.

The researchers suspect that the findings also apply to how humans learn.

“Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”

At the University of Michigan, a study found that people learned significantly better after a walk in nature than after a walk in a dense urban environment, suggesting that processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued.

Even though people feel entertained, even relaxed, when they multitask while exercising, or pass a moment at the bus stop by catching a quick video clip, they might be taxing their brains, scientists say.

“People think they’re refreshing themselves, but they’re fatiguing themselves,” said Marc Berman, a University of Michigan neuroscientist.

the decline of children and the moral sense

Psychology Today | It is becoming increasingly clear that the ways we are rearing our children today are not the ways humans are designed to thrive. As Thomas Lewis and colleagues point out: "A good deal of modern American culture is an extended experiment in the effects of depriving people of what they crave most." (A General Theory of Love).

The ill effects of these missing ancestral practices are becoming evident as children's well being is worse than 50 years ago. Characteristics that used to be limited to a subset of the population from neglect and abuse are becoming mainstream. Too many children are arriving at school with poor social skills, poor emotion regulation, and habits that do not promote prosocial behaviors or life success.

• The USA has epidemics of anxiety and depression among the young, indeed all age groups, and these are real numbers not artifacts of increased diagnosis.

• Rates of young children whose behavior displays aggression, delinquency, or hyperactivity are estimated to be as high as 25%.

• The expulsion rate of prekindergarten children31 and the number of children under age 5 with psychosocial problems or on psychotropic medications have increased dramatically.

• Ten years ago, it was determined that one of four teenagers was at risk for a poor life outcome and trends have not improved.

Although we can continue to minimize these problems and the risks in childrearing we are taking, the negative trajectories in well-being among children in the USA suggest that a reexamination of our cultural practices is needed. To the extent that our kids are not fully functioning threads in the social fabric, the quality of our cultural moral fiber is diminishing.

What Darwin considered the moral-engine of positive human thriving may be under threat. Ill-advised practices and beliefs have become normalized without much fanfare, such as the common use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms, the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby is spoiling it, the placing of infants in impersonal daycare, and so on. We recommend that scientists and citizens step back from and reexamine these common culturally accepted practices and pay attention to potential life-time effects on people. It is an ethical issue.

wrong direction on stem cells

Video - James Sherley one of two "scientists" opposing embryonic stem cell research.

NYTimes | In a huge overreach, a federal judge has decided that the legal interpretation that has governed federal support of embryonic stem cell research for more than a decade is invalid. If the ruling stands, it will be a serious blow to medical research.

The ruling by Judge Royce Lamberth would block President Obama’s expansion of federally funded research to include scores of new stem cell lines. It also appears to bar funding for research on the handful of lines that were approved by President George W. Bush in 2001. The Department of Justice has rightly announced that it will appeal.

Scientists hold high hopes that this research will lead to cures for devastating ailments like diabetes, Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries. The stem cells are also useful for screening drugs to treat such diseases. Researchers who already have federal money in hand could likely continue their work. But those who need new funding for proposed or continuing research would have to find private sources or shut their experiments down.

The judge’s ruling came as he granted a preliminary injunction blocking President Obama’s 2009 executive order expanding this research to use stem cells derived from surplus embryos at fertility clinics that would otherwise be discarded or frozen in perpetuity.

Although the injunction is temporary, the ruling is ominous because it means that the judge believes the two plaintiffs — scientists who do research on adult stem cells — have a “strong likelihood of success” if this issue proceeds to trial.

The case involves an obscure rider, known as the Dickey-Wicker amendment, that has been attached to annual appropriations bills for the Department of Health and Human Services since 1996. It prohibits the use of federal funds to support research in which embryos are destroyed or discarded. It does not directly address research on stem cells derived from embryos, a field that developed later.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

post katrina new orleans - focusing on what could be?

Video - The Sunken City: Rebuilding Post-Katrina New Orleans

UrbanLandInstitute | The city can keep its momentum going through careful consideration of how and where it grows, so that it continues to 1) become more accessible to residents and workers of a variety of incomes, age groups and household composition; and 2) more responsive to growing consumer demand for more energy-efficient and environmentally conscious places to live and work. This means sticking with a comprehensive strategy for development (and redevelopment) that conserves land and reduces the need to drive -- emphasizing development that integrates housing in a variety of price ranges, is close to employment and shopping, and is connected by transit.

Data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) offers a glimpse at where New Orleans stands in this regard. Earlier this year, the center released new data measuring location costs for more than 330 metro areas across the U.S., including combined housing and transportation expenses, miles traveled for local trips, and vehicle carbon emissions. Although New Orleans is not among the nation’s priciest markets, CNT found that the housing-transportation burden for the metro area remains high, totaling at least 45 percent of the income for the vast majority of residents.

The data also show the extent of car dependency in New Orleans: while those in the inner core drive less than 12,000 miles per year, those in the neighborhoods from just outside the core to the outlying edges drive 16,000 miles, even 18,000-plus miles per year for work and errands (nearly twice the national average). While 14 percent of downtown residents use public transit, the percentage drops to one percent or less for the suburbs. And, not surprisingly, the households farthest from major employment nodes have the highest carbon emissions. What this shows is the impact of sprawl in the suburbs, even in close-in suburbs, and even in a city with distinct land constraints.

As New Orleans continues the rebuilding process, how its suburbs grow is pivotal. Suburban growth in the 21st century does not have to be sprawl, not in New Orleans or other urban areas. In metro areas across the United States, the suburbs are where the growth will be, and in the suburbs, less land will have to be used to accommodate more people.

The need for more housing that is close to jobs, and the link between land use, driving, and environmental preservation all make a strong case for changing development patterns throughout urban regions, in the outlying areas as well as urban cores. In many ways, New Orleans is a city like no other, but in this regard, it is no different.

many clueless on how to save energy

Columbia | Many Americans believe they can save energy with small behavior changes that actually achieve very little, and severely underestimate the major effects of switching to efficient, currently available technologies, says a new survey of Americans in 34 states. The study, which quizzed people on what they perceived as the most effective ways to save energy, appears in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The largest group, nearly 20 percent, cited turning off lights as the best approach—an action that affects energy budgets relatively little. Very few cited buying decisions that experts say would cut U.S. energy consumption dramatically, such as more efficient cars (cited by only 2.8 percent), more efficient appliances (cited by 3.2 percent) or weatherizing homes (cited by 2.1 percent). Previous researchers have concluded that households could reduce energy consumption some 30 percent by making such choices—all without waiting for new technologies, making big economic sacrifices or losing their sense of well-being.

Lead author Shahzeen Attari, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the university’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, said multiple factors probably are driving the misperceptions. “When people think of themselves, they may tend to think of what they can do that is cheap and easy at the moment,” she said. On a broader scale, she said, even after years of research, scientists, government, industry and environmental groups may have “failed to communicate” what they know about the potential of investments in technology; instead, they have funded recycling drives and encouraged actions like turning off lights. In general, the people surveyed tend to believe in what Attari calls curtailment. “That is, keeping the same behavior, but doing less of it,” she said. “But switching to efficient technologies generally allows you to maintain your behavior, and save a great deal more energy,” she said. She cited high-efficiency light bulbs, which can be kept on all the time, and still save more than minimizing the use of low-efficiency ones. Fist tap Dale.

a critique of green reformism

Video - A critique of green reformism.

Green Reformism is a widespread response to the current ecological crisis. The term refers to the support for improved technology and resource efficiency combined with a commitment to the logic of capitalism. The video explains why this approach cannot work and why it represents a serious failure of intellectual leadership.

a critique of ecological economics

Video - Critique Part 1 and Critique Part 2

needsandlimits | Ecological economics is an academic field of study that merges ecology with standard economics. Here I outline its faulty historical vision as well as its errors with respect to value, cost, and capitalism. I also suggest that the field, by rejecting the necessary shift to a new mode of civilization, could be contributing to ecological collapse. Ecological economics is a prominent example of Green Reformism, which I criticized sharply in my previous video. The present video is intended for ecological economists, for students of the subject, and for those who may be attracted by the field's environmental strengths without appreciating its pronounced weaknesses.

peak oil alarm revealed by secret talks

Guardian | Speculation that government ministers are far more concerned about a future supply crunch than they have admitted has been fuelled by the revelation that they are canvassing views from industry and the scientific community about "peak oil".

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is also refusing to hand over policy documents about "peak oil" – the point at which oil production reaches its maximum and then declines – under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, despite releasing others in which it admits "secrecy around the topic is probably not good".

Experts say they have received a letter from David Mackay, chief scientific adviser to the DECC, asking for information and advice on peak oil amid a growing campaign from industrialists such as Sir Richard Branson for the government to put contingency plans in place to deal with any future crisis.

A spokeswoman for the department insisted the request from Mackay was "routine" and said there was no change of policy other than to keep the issue under review. The peak oil argument was effectively dismissed as alarmist by former energy minister Malcolm Wicks in a report to government last summer, while oil companies such as BP, which have major influence in Whitehall, take a similar line.

But documents obtained under the FoI Act seen by the Observer show that a "peak oil workshop" brought together staff from the DECC, the Bank of England and Ministry of Defence among others to discuss the issue.

A ministry note of that summit warned that "[Government] public lines on peak oil are 'not quite right'. They need to take account of climate change and put more emphasis on reducing demand and also the fact that peak oil may increase volatility in the market."

Monday, August 23, 2010

furious about a flagrant fiction

Guardian | Things seem awfully heated in America right now; so heated you could probably toast a marshmallow by jabbing it on a stick and holding it toward the Atlantic. Millions are hopping mad over the news that a bunch of triumphalist Muslim extremists are about to build a "victory mosque" slap bang in the middle of Ground Zero.

The planned "ultra-mosque" will be a staggering 5,600ft tall – more than five times higher than the tallest building on Earth – and will be capped with an immense dome of highly-polished solid gold, carefully positioned to bounce sunlight directly toward the pavement, where it will blind pedestrians and fry small dogs. The main structure will be delimited by 600 minarets, each shaped like an upraised middle finger, and housing a powerful amplifier: when synchronised, their combined sonic might will be capable of relaying the muezzin's call to prayer at such deafening volume, it will be clearly audible in the Afghan mountains, where thousands of terrorists are poised to celebrate by running around with scarves over their faces, firing AK-47s into the sky and yelling whatever the foreign word for "victory" is.

I'm exaggerating. But I'm only exaggerating a tad more than some of the professional exaggerators who initially raised objections to the "Ground Zero mosque". They keep calling it the "Ground Zero mosque", incidentally, because it's a catchy title that paints a powerful image – specifically, the image of a mosque at Ground Zero.

When I heard about it – in passing, in a soundbite – I figured it is a US example of the sort of inanely confrontational fantasy scheme Anjem Choudary might issue a press release about if he fancied winding up the tabloids for the 900th time this year. I was wrong. The "Ground Zero mosque" is a genuine proposal, but it's slightly less provocative than its critics' nickname makes it sound. For one thing, it's not at Ground Zero. Also, it isn't a mosque.

fast approaching the american shame threshold..,

Video - Daisy Khan spells out the truth of the matter.

NYDailyNews | This time it wasn't Sarah Palin leading the charge, the same yammering Palin who can dumb things down in ways that should be measured the way we measure fast times in the Olympics.

No, this time the gold medal went to Newt Gingrich, the front-runner in an awful lot of polls to be the Republican nominee for President in two years.

Gingrich showed up on a Fox morning show and talked about why the "radical Islamists" who want to build the cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, who want to show they can "build a mosque next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by Islamists," must be stopped.

"Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington," Gingrich said.

He wasn't done yet, because the guy never seems to run out of saliva: "We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor."

So somehow Gingrich, who is obsessed with what he calls the "secular socialism" of Barack Obama, was now good and geeked up, high on religion and what he believes is his higher calling to lead the whole country.

Gingrich is a Catholic now, by the way, having decided that's not just the best way into heaven for him, but perhaps into the White House as well.

recalling the negro motorist green book

NYTimes | For almost three decades beginning in 1936, many African-American travelers relied on a booklet to help them decide where they could comfortably eat, sleep, buy gas, find a tailor or beauty parlor, shop on a honeymoon to Niagara Falls, or go out at night. In 1949, when the guide was 80 pages, there were five recommended hotels in Atlanta. In Cheyenne, Wyo., the Barbeque Inn was the place to stay.

A Harlem postal employee and civic leader named Victor H. Green conceived the guide in response to one too many accounts of humiliation or violence where discrimination continued to hold strong. These were facts of life not only in the Jim Crow South, but in all parts of the country, where black travelers never knew where they would be welcome. Over time its full title — “The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide” — became abbreviated, simply, as the “Green Book.” Those who needed to know about it knew about it. To much of the rest of America it was invisible, and by 1964, when the last edition was published, it slipped through the cracks into history.

Until he met a friend’s elderly father-in-law at a funeral a few years ago, the Atlanta writer Calvin Alexander Ramsey had never heard of the guide. But he knew firsthand the reason it existed. During his family trips between Roxboro, N.C., and Baltimore, “we packed a big lunch so my parents didn’t have to worry about having to stop somewhere that might not serve us,” recalled Mr. Ramsey, who is now 60.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

on the way down....,

DerSpiegel | In America, the free market is king, and people with low incomes are seen as having only themselves to blame. Those who make a lot of money are applauded -- and emulated. The only problem is that Americans have long overlooked the fact that the American Dream was becoming a reality for fewer and fewer people.

Statistically, less affluent Americans stand a 4-percent chance of becoming part of the upper middle class -- a number that is lower than in almost every other industrialized nation.

So far, politicians have failed to come up with solutions for the growing social crisis. Washington is still waiting for jobs that aren't coming. President Barack Obama and his administration seem to be pinning their hopes on the notion that Americans will eventually pull themselves up by their bootstraps -- preferably by doing the same thing they've always done: spending money. Domestic consumer spending is responsible for two-thirds of American economic output.

But even though Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke continues to pump money into the market, and even though the government deficit has now reached the dizzying level of $1.4 trillion, such efforts have remained unsuccessful.

"The lights are going out all over America," Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman wrote last week, and described communities that couldn't even afford to maintain their streets anymore.

The problem is that many Americans can no longer spend money on consumer products, because they have no savings. In some cases, their houses have lost half of their value. They no longer qualify for low-interest loans. They are making less money than before or they're unemployed. This in turn reduces or eliminates their ability to pay taxes.

greece entering its death spiral?

DerSpiegel | The austerity measures that were supposed to fix Greece's problems are dragging down the country's economy. Stores are closing, tax revenues are falling and unemployment has hit an unbelievable 70 percent in some places. Frustrated workers are threatening to strike back.

The feast of the Assumption of Mary on Aug. 15 is the high point of summer in the Greek Orthodox world. Here in one of the country's many churches, believers pray to the Virgin for mercy, with many of them falling to their knees.

The newspaper Ta Nea has recommended that the Greek government adopt the very same approach -- the country's leaders have to hope that Mary comes up with a miracle to save Greece from a serious crisis, the paper writes. Without divine intervention, the newspaper suggested, it will be a difficult autumn for the Mediterranean state.

This dire prognosis comes even despite Athens' massive efforts to sort out the country's finances. The government's draconian austerity measures have managed to reduce the country's budget deficit by an almost unbelievable 39.7 percent, after previous governments had squandered tax money and falsified statistics for years. The measures have reduced government spending by a total of 10 percent, 4.5 percent more than the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had required.

The problem is that the austerity measures have in the meantime affected every aspect of the country's economy. Purchasing power is dropping, consumption is taking a nosedive and the number of bankruptcies and unemployed are on the rise. The country's gross domestic product shrank by 1.5 percent in the second quarter of this year. Tax revenue, desperately needed in order to consolidate the national finances, has dropped off. A mixture of fear, hopelessness and anger is brewing in Greek society.

Unemployment Rates of up to 70 Percent

Nikos Meletis is neatly dressed, and his mid-range car is clean and tidy. Meletis used to earn a good living at a shipbuilding company in Perama, a port opposite the island of Salamis. "At the moment, I'm living off my savings," the 54-year-old welder says, standing in front of a silent harbor full of moored ships.

Meletis is a day laborer who used to work up to 300 days a year; this year he has only managed to scrape together 25 days' work so far. That gives him 25 health insurance stamps, when he needs 100 in order to insure himself and his family -- including his wife, who has cancer. "How am I supposed to pay for the hospital?" Meletis asks. Unemployment benefits of at most €460 ($590) per month are available for a maximum of one year -- and only if he can produce at least 150 stamps from the past 15 months.

There's hardly a worker in the shipbuilding district of Perama who could still manage that. Unemployment in the city hovers between 60 and 70 percent, according to a study conducted by the University of Piraeus. While 77 percent of Greek shipping companies indicate they are satisfied with the quality of work done in Perama, nearly 50 percent still send their ships to be repaired in Turkey, Korea or China. Costs are too high in Greece, they say. The country, they argue, has too much bureaucracy and too many strikes, with labor disputes often delaying delivery times.

Perama is certainly an unusually extreme case. But the shipyards' decline provides a telling example of the Greek economy's increasing inability to compete. Barely any of the country's industries can keep up with international competition in terms of productivity, and experts expect the country's gross domestic product to fall by 4 percent over the course of the entire year. Germany, by way of comparison, is hoping for growth of up to 3 percent.

hush, hush, strictly on the q.t.....,

Guardian | "It seems an unusual time to embark on a career of multiple rape," said Guardian journalist David Leigh, who has worked closely with Assange over the recent WikiLeaks Afghanistan documents. "He certainly didn't come across as a violent man, not in the least. Julian was clearly preparing to release more sensitive documents."

Julian Assange, the secretive founder of WikiLeaks, the website behind the biggest leak of US military documents in history, was the subject of conspiracy theories last night after prosecutors withdrew a warrant for his arrest in connection with rape and molestation allegations.

On Friday a spokeswoman for the Swedish prosecutors' office in Stockholm confirmed an arrest warrant for Assange had been issued in absentia and urged him to "contact police so that he can be confronted with the suspicions".

According to Expressen, a Swedish newspaper, the 39-year-old Australian had been wanted in connection with two separate incidents. The first involved a woman from Stockholm who reportedly accused him of "molestation". The second involved a woman from Enköping, about an hour's drive west from Stockholm, who had apparently accused Assange of rape. The warrant was withdrawn yesterday afternoon.

Assange claimed he was the victim of a smear campaign. He denied the charges on WikiLeaks's Twitter page, saying they were "without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing".

It is believed that Assange, who has no known address and spends much of his time travelling to ensure a low profile, knew both women well. The pair had been reluctant to go to the police with their complaints, according to sources in Sweden. But the news that Swedish police were investigating the affair was leaked to Expressen, prompting further claims that a smear campaign had been orchestrated by foreign interests keen to discredit him.