Monday, October 31, 2011

cities doing it right; respecting occupy's right to free speech and assembly

Video - Putting Occupy Wall Street into perspective

Washingtonsblog | Given all of the police brutality in Oakland, Denver and New York City (here, here, here, here, here, here and here), it is important to give credit to the cities which are respecting the protesters’ rights to free speech and assembly.

As Occupy Orange County reported Wednesday;
Late last night after a 5 and-a-half hour marathon city council meeting [in Irvine, Orange County, in Southern California], in which 72 speakers took the floor to express the need for the Occupy OC Tent Village to be accepted as a form of free speech, the city council passed an emergency motion to add the needs of “The 99%” to their official agenda. This was a feat which, according to one more conservative Councilman, he had never seen in 7 years of service.

The council members each spoke in turn to the civility, articulateness and peaceful process represented by the Irvine Occupation , at contrast with the several other Occupational Villages in California, which were, at that very moment being tear-gassed. The general sentiment of the officials being: “This is quite clearly the model. And the occupation most in tune with city needs.”

One councilman stated clearly, “I disagree with most of what you’re saying. But you’ve clearly shown that this is an issue of free speech. So if you need to sleep on our lawn,… by all means,… sleep on our lawn.”

Shortly after, a motion was brought to the council to grant license to the occupiers to occupy the public space overnight citing the unusual form of the movement. (Another first in council history.)

It was then passed unanimously to the sound of thunderous applause.

Shortly thereafter, the City Council was invited to attend the General Assembly of the People. (Which takes place each night in the Occupation Village at 7:00 PM.)

On a personal note,… I myself was stopped by the Mayor on my way up the hall, when he said, “You know what concerns me?” “What’s that”, I asked. Expecting him to cite a civil code. “Do you have enough blankets? Or should I get you some?” He asked.

And while they might not be as respectful of the Constitution (even when they disagree with the protesters’ beliefs) as Irvine, other cities have at least handled the protests better than the cities who have sent in the riot police.
For example, AP notes, in a story entitled “Occupy Wall Street: Many Cities Leaving Protesters Alone

occupy richmond converts rightwing blogger...,

Video - Rightwing blogger's Richmond Occupy Wall Street conversion experience.

VARight | Going perhaps a bit undercover I wandered down to Kanawha Plaza in downtown Richmond this afternoon to get a few pictures and gauge the people of whom I have been so critical first hand, up close and personal.

It was a cold and rainy afternoon with a snow storm moving in to our west and north. Pellets of sleet intermittently mixed with the light drizzle and the temperature hovered in the low 40′s. Cold and nasty.

I expected exactly what I had heard and seen on the news. Trash, filth, drugs, human excrement and terrible odors. And obnoxious people demanding handouts.

In fact, that is what I went down there to document.

But a strange thing happened on the way to expose these greedy freeloaders for the vermin we believe them to be.

When I drove by yesterday, the tents and signs and scraggly people confirmed my impression of the place. From the outside looking in, everything appeared to be exactly as I had seen in the media and read on the internet.

But that was on the outside looking in.

I parked the car, put 50 cents in the meter, and headed into the modern day version of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And I was stunned at what I saw.

There were tents, hand painted signs, almost child-like art work in poster paint reminiscent of the 60′s. Love. Peace.

I was politely greeted by several as I snapped pictures and looked around. I came upon a medical tent and was greeted by a young African-American man named Chris. I asked him a few questions and then asked his permission to record him as he gave me the grand tour. I really hadn’t expected to find a clean camp, let alone a medical tent – one of two!

There are supply rents with clothes, food and gloves. The port-a-pottys were at the far end of the park, away from the food area and they had hot food available all the time. 24 hours.

Chris told me about their “PA” system as a few people walked by shouting “Mic Check!” Chris explained that they use this system to make announcements around the camp. One makes the announcement and the others repeat the message around the encampment. An efficient system to say the least.

He also explained the Democratic Government they had established. To pass “legislation” requires 90% approval.

I spoke with a young woman who was in the Legal Tent. I didn’t ask her name or “qualifications” but she did tell me that the group applied for a permit 9 days ago and had heard nothing.

By biggest problem with this movement has been their disregard for the law. But it seems that they are at least making an effort to comply with the law and the City of Richmond is actually dragging their feet. I have no reason to believe this woman was not being truthful, which means that the City and local media has been less than candid about the Occupy Richmond group’s efforts to do things the right way.

Shame on Mayor Jones. While I criticized Jones earlier today in a post for not evicting the scofflaws who refuse to abide by the law and obtain the proper permits, it seems that the criticism of Jones was deserved, but not because he failed to remove this group who is unlawfully assembled, but because his administration has failed to either approve or disapprove the permit.

My camp guide Chris, speaking for himself (and not the group) said he believed that the Richmond TEA Party should be refunded their money. The Public Park is free.

data on oil speculation shows that more traders are betting on higher prices.

Telegraph | Releasing 60m barrels of reserves was meant to dampen the high price of $113 per barrel, attributed to lost ouput from war-torn Libya and worries that the Arab Spring could spread to more oil producers.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) made no secret of the fact it was worried that oil above $100 was unsustainable and damaging to the global economy.

Since then, the world's financial outlook has considerably worsened and about 430,000 barrels of Libyan oil have returned to the market.

Surely, amid the doom and gloom, plus extra production, the natural direction of oil ought to be down?

However, the price, though volatile, has remained stubbornly above the $100 level. And last Monday, Brent crude even returned to the $113 per barrel level seen before the emergency release of supplies.

Data on oil speculation also shows that more traders are betting on higher prices. At the end of last week, data from the US Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) showed an increase in long positions in oil futures.

From a macro viewpoint, such continued support for oil doesn't appear to make sense given the number of predictions that the world is on the brink of another recession, tipped over the edge by a volatile eurozone.

From America to Europe, countries are struggling with sovereign debt. And even China is not immune, with demand for oil at its lowest level so far this year.

There is no doubt that the pace of consumption is slowing. Opec, the cartel of producers, the IEA, the Energy Information Agency and numerous companies all say the economic downturn is taking its toll on world oil demand.

This leaves the most plausible explanation for such high prices as tight supply, counteracting the economic gloom.

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the extra culprits on top of Libya's lower output are North Sea maintenance and pipeline attacks in Nigeria.

Its analysts refer to "a string of supply shocks affecting Libyan, North Sea and Nigerian light sweet barrels. Some of the recent supply losses may reverse in the next few months, but only a global double-dip recession will be able to remove medium-term tightness in the seaborne crude oil markets."

Angola, a recent addition to the Opec cartel, has not been producing anywhere near the 1.85m barrels it pumped last year, with technical problems at some fields.

And Adam Sieminski of Deutsche Bank also mentions "slower than expected ramp-up of new production and unplanned outages" from non-Opec producers.

There is a similar picture in America, where stockpiles of its benchmark WTI crude are remarkably low. This has turned out to be a function of lower imports rather than increased consumption.

While supply remains problematic, only one thing is going to cause a collapse in prices – even lower demand in the face of a full blown economic crisis. It appears that the market is not pricing this in just yet.

the class war has begun...,

Bonus Army veterans on the U.S. Capitol lawn in 1932. 
NYMag | During the death throes of Herbert Hoover’s presidency in June 1932, desperate bands of men traveled to Washington and set up camp within view of the Capitol. The first contingent journeyed all the way from Portland, Oregon, but others soon converged from all over—alone, in groups, with families—until their main Hooverville on the Anacostia River’s fetid mudflats swelled to a population as high as 20,000. The men, World War I veterans who could not find jobs, became known as the Bonus Army—for the modest government bonus they were owed for their service. Under a law passed in 1924, they had been awarded roughly $1,000 each, to be collected in 1945 or at death, whichever came first. But they didn’t want to wait any longer for their pre–New Deal entitlement—especially given that Congress had bailed out big business with the creation of a Reconstruction Finance Corporation earlier in its session. Father Charles Coughlin, the populist “Radio Priest” who became a phenomenon for railing against “greedy bankers and financiers,” framed Washington’s double standard this way: “If the government can pay $2 billion to the bankers and the railroads, why cannot it pay the $2 billion to the soldiers?”

The echoes of our own Great Recession do not end there. Both parties were alarmed by this motley assemblage and its political rallies; the Secret Service infiltrated its ranks to root out radicals. But a good Communist was hard to find. The men were mostly middle-class, patriotic Americans. They kept their improvised hovels clean and maintained small gardens. Even so, good behavior by the Bonus Army did not prevent the U.S. Army’s hotheaded chief of staff, General Douglas MacArthur, from summoning an overwhelming force to evict it from Pennsylvania Avenue late that July. After assaulting the veterans and thousands of onlookers with tear gas, ­MacArthur’s troops crossed the bridge and burned down the encampment. The general had acted against Hoover’s wishes, but the president expressed satisfaction afterward that the government had dispatched “a mob”—albeit at the cost of killing two of the demonstrators. The public had another take. When graphic newsreels of the riotous mêlée fanned out to the nation’s movie theaters, audiences booed MacArthur and his troops, not the men down on their luck. Even the mining heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean, the owner of the Hope diamond and wife of the proprietor of the Washington Post, professed solidarity with the “mob” that had occupied the nation’s capital.

The Great Depression was then nearly three years old, with FDR still in the wings and some of the worst deprivation and unrest yet to come. Three years after our own crash, we do not have the benefit of historical omniscience to know where 2011 is on the time line of America’s deepest bout of economic distress since that era. (The White House, you may recall, rolled out “recovery summer” sixteen months ago.) We don’t know if our current president will end up being viewed more like Hoover or FDR. We don’t know whether Occupy Wall Street and its proliferating satellites will spiral into larger and more violent confrontations, disperse in cold weather, prove a footnote to our narrative, or be the seeds of something big.

What’s as intriguing as Occupy Wall Street itself is that once again our Establishment, left, right, and center, did not see the wave coming or understand what it meant as it broke. Maybe it’s just human nature and the power of denial, or maybe it’s a stubborn strain of all-­American optimism, but at each aftershock since the fall of Lehman Brothers, those at the top have preferred not to see what they didn’t want to see. And so for the first three weeks, the protests were alternately ignored, patronized, dismissed, and insulted by politicians and the mainstream news media as a neo-Woodstock for wannabe collegiate rebels without a cause—and not just in Fox-land. CNN’s new prime-time hopeful, Erin Burnett, ridiculed the protesters as bongo-playing know-nothings; a dispatch in The New Republic called them “an unfocused rabble of ragtag discontents.” Those who did express sympathy for Occupy Wall Street tended to pat it on the head before going on to fault it for being leaderless, disorganized, and inchoate in its agenda.

Despite such dismissals, the movement, abetted by made-for-YouTube confrontations with police, started to connect with the mass public much as the Bonus Army did with a newsreel audience. The week after a Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that “no one seems to care very much” about the “collection of ne’er-do-wells” congregating in Zuccotti Park, the paper released its own poll, in collaboration with NBC News, finding that 37 percent of Americans supported the protesters, 25 percent had no opinion, and just 18 percent opposed them. The approval numbers for Occupy Wall Street published in Time and Reuters were even higher—hitting 54 percent in Time. Apparently some of those dopey kids, staggering under student loans and bereft of job prospects, have lots of parents and friends of all ages who understand exactly what they’re talking about.

blame the parasitic government for not thoroughly regulating the parasitic banks...,

Video - A fast, easy, free, and non-violent way to drive the big banks out of their greedy little minds is sitting in your mailbox right now.

WSJ | People are increasingly fearing the divisions within, even the potential coming apart of, our country. Rich/poor, black/white, young/old, red/blue: The things that divide us are not new, yet there's a sense now that the glue that held us together for more than two centuries has thinned and cracked with age. That it was allowed to thin and crack, that the modern era wore it out.

What was the glue? A love of country based on a shared knowledge of how and why it began; a broad feeling among our citizens that there was something providential in our beginnings; a gratitude that left us with a sense that we should comport ourselves in a way unlike the other nations of the world, that more was expected of us, and not unjustly—

"To whom much is given much is expected"; a general understanding that we were something new in history, a nation founded on ideals and aspirations—liberty, equality—and not mere grunting tribal wants. We were from Europe but would not be European: No formal class structure here, no limits, from the time you touched ground all roads would lead forward. You would be treated not as your father was but as you deserved. That's from "The Killer Angels," a historical novel about the Civil War fought to right a wrong the Founders didn't right. We did in time, and at great cost. What a country.

But there is a broad fear out there that we are coming apart, or rather living through the moment we'll look back on as the beginning of the Great Coming Apart. Economic crisis, cultural stresses: "Half the country isn't speaking to the other half," a moderate Democrat said the other day. She was referring to liberals of her acquaintance who know little of the South and who don't wish to know of it, who write it off as apart from them, maybe beneath them.

To add to the unease, in New York at least, there's a lot of cognitive dissonance. If you are a New Yorker, chances are pretty high you hate what the great investment firms did the past 15 years or so to upend the economy. Yet you feel on some level like you have to be protective of them, because Wall Street pays the bills of the City of New York. Wall Street tax receipts and Wall Street business—restaurants, stores—keep the city afloat. So you want them up and operating and vital, you don't want them to leave—that would only make things worse for people in trouble, people just getting by, and young people starting out. You know you have to preserve them just when you'd most like to deck them.

Where is the president in all this? He doesn't seem to be as worried about his country's continuance as his own. He's out campaigning and talking of our problems, but he seems oddly oblivious to or detached from America's deeper fears. And so he feels free to exploit divisions. It's all the rich versus the rest, and there are a lot more of the latter.

Twenty twelve won't be "as sexy" as 2008, he said this week. It will be all brute force. Which will only add to the feeling of unease.

Occupy Wall Street makes an economic critique that echoes the president's, though more bluntly: the rich are bad, down with the elites. It's all ad hoc, more poetry slam than platform. Too bad it's not serious in its substance.

There's a lot to rebel against, to want to throw off. If they want to make a serious economic and political critique, they should make the one Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner make in "Reckless Endangerment": that real elites in Washington rigged the system for themselves and their friends, became rich and powerful, caused the great cratering, and then "slipped quietly from the scene."

It is a blow-by-blow recounting of how politicians—Democrats and Republicans—passed the laws that encouraged the banks to make the loans that would never be repaid, and that would result in your lost job. Specifically it is the story of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage insurers, and how their politically connected CEOs, especially Fannie's Franklin Raines and James Johnson, took actions that tanked the American economy and walked away rich. It began in the early 1990s, in the Clinton administration, and continued under the Bush administration, with the help of an entrenched Congress that wanted only two things: to receive campaign contributions and to be re-elected.

The story is a scandal, and the book should be the bible of Occupy Wall Street. But they seem as incapable of seeing government as part of the problem as Republicans seem of seeing business as part of the problem.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

peak natural resources message introduced to occupy wall street...,

Video - Talib Kweli addresses Occupy Wall Street

PostCarbon | Recently, we sent filmmaker Ben Zolno to New York to bring the “end of growth” message to Occupy Wall Street. While the global Occupy movement is right to name inequity and lack of opportunity for what they are—unacceptable and un-American—addressing these alone cannot fix an economic system that is fundamentally unsustainable.

Below is Ben’s story of what he learned in New York as he hand-delivered 100 copies of PCI Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg’s The End of Growth to #OWS participants. We hope to send Ben back to New York soon so that he can further the critical work of spreading literacy around the dwindling resources that run our economy.

Meet Beth. She just dropped out of NYU $50,000 in debt because, with job prospects so dire, she doesn’t want to dig a deeper hole for herself.

Meet Brian. He’s software engineer from Minnesota who knows his job is entirely dependent on a growing economy, so he’s planning on leaving tech to focus on back-to-the-land basics.

Meet David. David is an environmental science professor disgusted to see his university selling the “growth-lite” paradigm to his Sustainable MBA students.

On my first day in New York, I met Beth, Brian, David and many others…and quickly learned Occupy Wall Street is the hub for highly intelligent, educated citizens who have been brought to the edge by a sense of desperation.

Desperate for change. Desperate for work. Desperate for answers.

While I enjoyed the dialogue and learned a lot, I heard many solutions that didn’t take the big picture into account. Instead, most demand their "fair share”--higher taxes on the rich, more corporate responsibility and, of course, Goldman Sachs schemers sent to the slammer. All valid, if you're looking at the current injustices of the system, but I found little examination of the system itself.

And so, I teamed up with Post Carbon Institute to spread the word. The real story is that our economic system requires infinite inputs, on a planet with finite resources. It's just not physically possible to continue this way. Sooner rather than later we’re going to run out of the resources that maintain our growth.

Thus, most "solutions" of equity and accountability will actually make things worse--by increasing participation, increasing growth, speeding up the train's path toward ultimate destruction of the planet we depend on to further our quantity and quality of life.

We must now broaden the questions beyond, "How can we make sure we all get our fair share in this system," to include: "How do we make sure we all get our fair share in the new system--a lower-carbon system--and how do we handle this transition?” Also, “What economic change can we create, and what default changes must we learn to accept?"

I shared these questions with hundreds of Occupiers, and stood patiently while they went through the usual phases: confusion, denial, anger and acceptance. Ultimately, they each walked away with a good grasp on this new perspective, grateful to have a copy of The End of Growth to explore and share.

OCCUPY is the new national discourse. This moment is permeable, yearning for an honest exchange of ideas. Good ideas can push the movement forward into territory never seen before; bad ones could mean the end of the movement. Now is the opportunity to use the energy of passionate, intelligent people to make an all-hands-on-steering-wheel turn away from out-of-control consumption and toward a path of conscious sustainability.

This is why I’ve proposed to go back. I want to continue inserting Post Carbon Institute’s message into the discussion. I’m currently hammering out details of my proposal with PCI. If we can swing it, I will give more seminars, like this impromptu speech that got 40 people engaged. I will talk to the press more, which is waiting to spread coherent messages like the quote I gave to Fox Business News. Working with Occupy Wall Street’s Education and Empowerment Group, I'll help start ecological/economic education groups. I'll present the ideas to the General Assembly and stay engaged until "the end of growth" becomes part of the national dialogue. Thanks and stay sane.

the clampdown gets uglier by the minute...,

DailyMail | A tense standoff between Occupy Denver protesters and authorities near the Colorado Capitol erupted Saturday with a surge of demonstrators being met with police force that included pepper spray and rubber bullets.

The clash came as Occupy Wall Street protesters and state officials in Tennessee squared off for a third consecutive night Saturday, even though a local judge has refused to jail demonstrators who have been arrested and said the state lacks the authority to set a curfew on the property.

In Denver, some supporters of the Occupy movement, marching with a group of about 2,000, tried to advance up the Capitol steps.

In San Diego, police arrested a similar number of people who occupied the Civic Center Plaza and Children's Park for three weeks.

In Nashville, magistrate Tom Nelson has said there's no legal reason to keep demonstrators who have been arrested behind bars and he has released them after each arrest.

He has refused each night to sign off on arrest warrants for more than two dozen people taken into custody.

Protesters were galvanized by the friction between state officials and Nelson.

'My heart has been here all along, but the arrests gave me the momentum to come," said Vicki Metzgar, 61, director of a Nashville Public Schools science and math initiative who joined the protests Saturday.

'This plaza belongs to us, not the politicians.'

dear officer..,

A Message to All Police Officers From Occupy Wall Street from on Vimeo.

Brokeback America | I don't want to kill you. I don't even want to wound you. I admire your courage and the commitment you've made to help others, often at risk of own your life. I hope you won't come for me, because if you do, one of us will die. It may be you.

I've done nothing wrong. I don't intend to. But the government which you serve has passed too many laws, and I am sure to accidentally break one, some day. And that same government is systematically destroying the unalienable rights which our Constitution says may not be infringed — very specifically, my right to keep and bear arms.

I am not some wacko lunatic, but I can no longer stand idly by, while decent people are systematically enslaved by an out-of-control government. I cannot allow a corrupt judiciary to use its power to destroy my rights and my country. That government and that judiciary has begun to use you to arrest and kill people just like me — people who believe that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights mean what they say.

You don't know me, but you see me every day. I may be a businessman, a truck driver, an executive. I could be a housewife or a salesman. But I am armed, as Americans have been for over 250 years, and I am determined to keep the freedoms which only an armed people may retain. With a rifle, I can hit a man-sized target at 800 yards. At shorter distances, in the blink of an eye, I can hit a head-size target with a rifle or a handgun. I don't wear a uniform. I don't drive a marked car. I don't wear camouflage. I could be your own secretary, or your barber. I might be the guy who delivers your bottled water, or the parcel delivery lady. You don't know who I am, or what arms I have, and you never will. I am tens of millions. I am America.

But I know you. I know your uniform, your car, and your work schedule. I know where you work, and where you live. And that is good for you, because not only am I no threat to you, so long as you do the job for which you are hired, I am also prepared to assist you when you are threatened by real criminals. There aren't many of me left, you may think, but believe me, there are many, many more than you can imagine. When the chips are down, we are the ones who are truly on your side.

On your side, that is, so long as you honor your Oath. We are on your side if you are one of the majority of peace officers who are not corrupt and who have not sold out to the socialists and communists — freedom betrayers who will do anything, say anything to destroy the America our fathers and grandfathers bequeathed us.

No, I am no threat to you, but your bosses in government don't see it that way. They think that I, and my arms, are a threat to them, and they are planning to send you for me, just as they've sent armed, dangerous officers on select little missions for years, taking out targeted individuals. On their orders, you may succeed in murdering me for my beliefs. Or you may not.

Whether or not you succeed in murdering me, as federal agents murdered Vicki Weaver and her young son in Idaho; or as those same federal agents murdered 81 men, women and children at Waco, Texas; there will be others who will rise up in my memory, as I now rise up in honor of the innocent lives taken by the jack-booted thugs and black-clad imitation ninjas who think it is fun to murder Americans — who have somehow become convinced that it is their job to murder Americans!

I am prepared to die, honoring my sacred Oath as an American, to defend and protect the Constitution of the united States of America. Are you prepared to die to violate the Oath you took?

Reward for the Identity of the Police Officer Who Shot Marine Vet Scott Olsen

Video - detailed video coverage of the unprovoked police assault on Occupy Oakland.

Washingtonsblog | A generous friend is offering a $5,000 reward for the identify of the policeman who shot Scott Olsen.

The officer can likely be seen in publicly available videos (see this and this). But his badge and face are not visible.

Similarly, Anonymous is already leaking names and information of officers in the Oakland P.D., but it is still difficult for outsiders to identify the shooter.

As such, the tip will likely have to come from someone within the Oakland Police Department or the other law enforcement agencies present at the protest.

Do your force proud and stand up for liberty … identify the shooter.

egyptians march from tahrir square in support of occupy oakland

boingboing | As they vowed earlier this week to do, Egyptian pro-democracy protesters marched from Tahrir square to the U.S. Embassy today to march in support of Occupy Oakland—and against police brutality witnessed in Oakland on Tuesday night, and commonly experienced in Egypt.

Above and below, photos from Egyptian blogger Mohammed Maree, who is there at the march live-tweeting. He is a journalist with, a human rights activist, and a veterinarian. All photos in this post are his.

The larger demonstration back at Tahrir was about issues closer to home: Egyptians are demanding that the military transfer power quickly to a representative civilian government, after the death by torture of a 24-year-old political prisoner named Essam Ali Atta. As the Guardian reports, critics say his death proves that the junta is failing to dismantle Mubarak's brutal security apparatus:
Essam Ali Atta, a civilian serving a two-year jail term in Cairo's high-security Tora prison following his conviction in a military tribunal earlier this year for an apparently "common crime", was reportedly attacked by prison guards after trying to smuggle a mobile phone sim card into his cell. According to statements from other prisoners who witnessed the assault, Atta had large water hoses repeatedly forced into his mouth and anus on more than one occasion, causing severe internal bleeding. An officer then transferred Atta to a central Cairo hospital, but he died within an hour.
His funeral took place today. Follow live tweets from the memorial at #esamatta. Journalist Reem Abdellatif, who is there, tweets:
His sister just passed out screaming they took my brother from me. [photo]. The scene is devastating at the morgue #essamatta's mom and sister keep calling out to him like he's still alive. Essam was 24.
As some protesters noted, that is exactly the same age as Scott Olsen, the US vet injured at Occupy Oakland. They see both men as victims of state brutality.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

your brain won’t allow you to believe the apocalypse could actually happen

io9 | You may love stories about the end of the world, but that's probably because, deep down, you don't believe it could ever happen. But that's not because you're realistic. It's actually a quirk of the human brain, recently explored by a group of neuroscientists, which prevents us from adjusting our expectations about the future — even if there's good evidence that bad things are about to happen.

A group of researchers from Germany and the UK designed a fairly complex psychological test to determine how people planned for negative events in the future. First, they asked the about the likelihood of 80 different disturbing events happening, such as contracting a fatal disease or being attacked. After they'd recorded people's responses, researchers told each subject the actual, statistical likelihood of such events happening. In some cases, people had overestimated the likelihood and in some cases they'd underestimated it.

Then, after some time had passed, the researchers asked subjects again about the likelihood of these events happening to them. Interestingly, they found that people had a much harder time adjusting their expectations if the real-world statistical likelihood was higher than what they had first guessed. They had little trouble adjusting expectations for a more favorable outcome. It was as if people were selectively remembering the likelihoods of future events — forgetting the bad odds but not the good ones.

And in fact, that's exactly what was happening. The researchers had been doing fMRIs on the people when they did these tests, and were able to see which areas of the brain became active when people remembered (or failed to remember) how likely it was that they would face a horrible calamity. In their paper, published this week in Nature Neuroscience, the researchers write:
We found that optimism was related to diminished coding of undesirable information about the future in a region of the frontal cortex (right IFG) that has been identified as being sensitive to negative estimation errors . . . this human propensity toward optimism is facilitated by the brain's failure to code errors in estimation when those call for pessimistic updates. This failure results in selective updating, which supports unrealistic optimism that is resistant to change.
Basically, human optimism is a neurological bug that prevents us from remembering undesirable information about our odds of dying or being hurt. And that's why nobody ever believes the apocalypse is going to happen to them.

There is one fascinating exception to this rule, though. As the researchers note, the only people who consistently offer accurate estimates of bad things happening to them are clinically depressed. So — perfect depression is perfect awareness?

Ultimately our neurological bugginess could serve an adaptive function, which is preventing us from becoming so depressed about the impending apocalypse that we can't get out of bed in the morning.

optimism vs. ignorance

EnergySkeptic | When it comes to scientific topics like peak oil and climate change, are people’s opinions based on optimism, or ignorance? Does optimism prevent people from even obtaining the information that would make them less optimistic?

I think that it’s okay people don’t understand the situation we’re in because there’s nothing that can be done, we’ve so way, way, way overshot carrying capacity locally, regionally, and globally. If people did realize the real situation, the financial system would have already collapsed when Science announced peak oil happened sometime in 2005 and the IEA said peak happened in 2006. That means our economy can’t grow endlessly and the entire credit/debts-payed-off system no longer works. As long as people think other kinds of energy will seamlessly replace oil and don’t know how much their lives depend on oil, civilization continues, and when it crashes, will crash that much harder and faster, perhaps our only hope of preventing our extinction (and millions of other species).

I think that it’s okay people don’t understand the situation we’re in because there’s nothing that can be done, we’ve so way, way, way overshot carrying capacity locally, regionally, and globally. If people did realize the real situation, the financial system would have already collapsed when Science announced peak oil happened sometime in 2005 and the IEA said sometime in 2006. That means our economy can’t grow endlessly and the entire credit/debts-payed-off system no longer works. As long as people think other kinds of energy will seamlessly replace oil and don’t know how much their lives depend on oil, civilization continues, and when it crashes, will crash that much harder and faster, perhaps our only hope of preventing our extinction (and millions of other species).

children being taken to the street

NYTimes | MALKA LUBELSKI marched for economic justice last Sunday dressed as Minnie Mouse.

In a pink costume with white polka dots and black mouse ears, she circled Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street protests, carrying a homemade sign that read, “From the very young, the very old, we are the 99%.”

It would have been one more bit of street theater, except that Malka is 4, an age when girls are generally thought to be more interested in Disney characters than protest marches.

While her father, Abraham Lubelski, publisher of NY Arts magazine, talked about his decision to take Malka and her 1 1/2-year-old sister, Josepha, to the scene so they could “see real human needs,” Malka concerned herself with the more mundane needs of her baby sister, who had been sitting in her stroller munching contentedly on a vanilla ice cream cone till the ice cream tumbled onto her sweater.

“Dad,” Malka interrupted, pointing to her younger sibling.

And so it goes in the second month of Occupy Wall Street, where children are becoming an increasing presence as parents try to seize a “teachable moment” to enlighten them on matters ranging from income inequality to the right to protest.

The park’s makeshift collective library has a children’s section, complete with a copy of “Harry Potter,” Beverly Cleary titles and Meg Cabot’s “Holiday Princess.” A group called Parents for Occupy Wall Street, headed by Kirby Desmarais, a Brooklyn mother and record label owner, even organized a sleepover at the park for more than 80 parents and children on a recent weekend night. (The families had to be moved at dawn to make way for new police lines and barricades.) Spin-off parent groups have sprung up in other cities like Denver and Seattle.

But most mothers and fathers bring their children on their own. Some recall marching in antiwar protests in the 1960s and ’70s, and say they would like to show their children what it means to be part of a large movement advocating for social change. Those with babies and toddlers admit that the children are unlikely to remember anything of their time at Zuccotti Park, but that they believe the children will one day appreciate that they were present.

“When he’s older, I want him to know we cared enough to bring him down,” said David McClelland, a resident of Clinton Hill in Brooklyn who came with his son, Franklin, 2.

For Stephen Belber, a screenwriter who is adapting Dana Spiotta’s novel of 1970s left-wing activism gone awry, “Eat the Document,” Occupy Wall Street presents a unique opportunity to discuss his work with his two children, Clementine, 7, and Tobi, 11.

Clementine had questions. “Are the people who are sleeping here poor?” she asked, pointing to the tents and sleeping bags.

“They choose to be here,” her father replied. “They are upset because there are a few rich people and so many more poor people.”

Occupy Wall Street is hardly the first protest movement to include children. They were often present at civil rights marches, and more recently, boys and girls (complete with placards) have become a familiar presence at Tea Party events. There were children at Tahrir Square in Cairo, as well as at many other events that marked the Arab Spring.

cities cracking down on occupy protests...,

NYTimes | in the usually liberal environs of San Francisco, city officials there had also seemingly hit their breaking point, and they warned several hundred protesters that they were in violation of the law by camping at a downtown site. Concerns had been raised about unhealthy and often squalid conditions in the camp, including garbage, vermin and human waste.

In Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed ordered the police to arrest more than 50 protesters early Wednesday and remove their tents from a downtown park after deciding that the situation had become unsafe, despite originally issuing executive orders to let them camp there overnight.

And like many of his mayoral colleagues nationwide, Mr. Reed openly expressed frustration with the protesters’ methods.

“The attitude I have seen here is not consistent with any civil rights protests I have seen in Atlanta,” Mr. Reed said in an interview, “and certainly not consistent with the most respected forms of civil disobedience.”

Similar confrontations could soon come to pass in other cities, including Providence, R.I., where Mayor Angel Taveras has vowed to seek a court order to remove protesters from Burnside Park, which they have occupied since Oct. 15.

And while other, bigger cities, including New York, Boston and Philadelphia, have taken a more tolerant view of the protests — for now — officials are still grappling with growing concerns about crime, sanitation and homelessness at the encampments. Even in Los Angeles, where the City Council passed a resolution in support of the protesters, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa warned Wednesday that they would not be allowed to remain outside City Hall indefinitely.

Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston, echoed that sentiment. “It’s a daily assessment for us,” Ms. Joyce said.

More and more, mayors across the country say they have found themselves walking a complex and politically delicate line: simultaneously wanting to respect the right to free speech and assembly, but increasingly concerned that the protests cannot stay orderly and safe.

“We can do lots of different things to help them on our end,” said Mr. Taveras, who estimated that roughly 200 people had camped out in Providence, despite a city rule forbidding such behavior. “But we cannot allow an indefinite stay there, and we can’t allow them to continue to violate the law.”

The protests showed little sign of slacking. In Chicago, for example, demonstrators gathered Wednesday outside the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel requesting 24-hour access to Grant Park and demanding that charges be dropped against the more than 300 protesters arrested there in the past weeks.

“He’s denying us our constitutional right to not only free speech, but peaceful continual assembly,” said Andy Manos, 32, one of the protesters.

Even in Democratic Chicago, officials seemed to be straining to allow for dissent, while maintaining order. “We’ve been working hard to strike a balance,” said Chris Mather, a spokeswoman for Mr. Emanuel. Ms. Mather added that the mayor’s office had tried to set up meetings with protesters, who themselves said they were trying to find a permanent home for their demonstrations.

Indeed, some city officials said the tensions surrounding the Occupy protests have been increased by the fact that many of the groups involved have few recognized leaders.

“It’s a significant challenge to deal with their decision-making process,” said Richard Negrin, the managing director of Philadelphia, where tents form a protest village outside City Hall.

beyond the age of petroleum

TheNation | This past May, in an unheralded and almost unnoticed move, the Energy Department signaled a fundamental, near epochal shift in US and indeed world history: we are nearing the end of the Petroleum Age and have entered the Age of Insufficiency. The department stopped talking about "oil" in its projections of future petroleum availability and began speaking of "liquids." The global output of "liquids," the department indicated, would rise from 84 million barrels of oil equivalent (mboe) per day in 2005 to a projected 117.7 mboe in 2030--barely enough to satisfy anticipated world demand of 117.6 mboe. Aside from suggesting the degree to which oil companies have ceased being mere suppliers of petroleum and are now purveyors of a wide variety of liquid products--including synthetic fuels derived from natural gas, corn, coal and other substances--this change hints at something more fundamental: we have entered a new era of intensified energy competition and growing reliance on the use of force to protect overseas sources of petroleum.

To appreciate the nature of the change, it is useful to probe a bit deeper into the Energy Department's curious terminology. "Liquids," the department explains in its International Energy Outlook for 2007, encompasses "conventional" petroleum as well as "unconventional" liquids--notably tar sands (bitumen), oil shale, biofuels, coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids. Once a relatively insignificant component of the energy business, these fuels have come to assume much greater importance as the output of conventional petroleum has faltered. Indeed, the Energy Department projects that unconventional liquids production will jump from a mere 2.4 mboe per day in 2005 to 10.5 in 2030, a fourfold increase. But the real story is not the impressive growth in unconventional fuels but the stagnation in conventional oil output. Looked at from this perspective, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the switch from "oil" to "liquids" in the department's terminology is a not so subtle attempt to disguise the fact that worldwide oil production is at or near its peak capacity and that we can soon expect a downturn in the global availability of conventional petroleum.

Petroleum is, of course, a finite substance, and geologists have long warned of its ultimate disappearance. The extraction of oil, like that of other nonrenewable resources, will follow a parabolic curve over time. Production rises quickly at first and then gradually slows until approximately half the original supply has been exhausted; at that point, a peak in sustainable output is attained and production begins an irreversible decline until it becomes too expensive to lift what little remains. Most oil geologists believe we have already reached the midway point in the depletion of the world's original petroleum inheritance and so are nearing a peak in global output; the only real debate is over how close we have come to that point, with some experts claiming we are at the peak now and others saying it is still a few years or maybe a decade away.

Until very recently, Energy Department analysts were firmly in the camp of those wild-eyed optimists who claimed that peak oil was so far in the future that we didn't really need to give it much thought. Putting aside the science of the matter, the promulgation of such a rose-colored view obviated any need to advocate improvements in automobile fuel efficiency or to accelerate progress on the development of alternative fuels. Given White House priorities, it is hardly surprising that this view prevailed in Washington.

In just the past six months, however, the signs of an imminent peak in conventional oil production have become impossible even for conservative industry analysts to ignore. These have come from the take-no-prisoners world of oil pricing and deal-making, on the one hand, and the analysis of international energy experts, on the other.

Friday, October 28, 2011

vigilantes going in on cartels

Video - Mata Zetas putting in work on the cartels

LATimes | The callers to the radio program were voicing their support for the Matazetas, the Zeta killers.

Better they fight among themselves. Let them kill each other. Anything to rid us of the thugs who long ago took control of our city and are slaughtering our people.

It is a sign of the desperation and deep outrage over surging drug-war violence that a shadowy group of vigilante killers is not only tolerated but welcomed by many here in Mexico's third-most populous state.

Yet it also comes with a disturbing question: Just who is behind the killings of Zetas — another drug gang? Agents acting on behalf of the government or military? An ad hoc group whose presence is being tolerated by authorities as well as the public?

Coastal Veracruz, the gateway to Mexico for centuries of immigrants from Europe and beyond, a laid-back beachfront vacation spot for legions of Mexicans, has in recent months become the latest state to be thoroughly sucked into the deadly and devastating drug war.

On Sept. 20, nearly three dozen half-naked bodies were dumped in broad daylight on a busy highway underpass in a well-to-do tourist area of the city of Veracruz. Fourteen more turned up a few days later — during a convention of the nation's top state and federal prosecutors. Then, on Oct. 6, barely 48 hours after announcing a major security offensive, military and police found an additional 36 bodies, and 10 more turned up the following day.

In videotaped presentations, a group of masked men with military bearing has claimed responsibility for the spate of killings, portraying it as a cleansing operation. Many of the bodies had a "Z" for Zeta written on the back with ink marker, a witness said.

The mystery group announced that it was in Veracruz state as "the armed branch of the people, and for the people."

"We are asking officials and authorities who support the Zetas to stop doing so, and let the armed forces know that our only objective is to finish the Zetas," the spokesman for the group told the camera. "We are anonymous warriors, without faces, proudly Mexican."

For years with the Zetas tightly in charge, and the public terrified into submission, the state had stayed relatively calm. But months ago, traffickers associated with top drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman are believed to have moved in from the north with an eye toward seizing territory from the Zetas, who had long controlled Veracruz's valuable routes for smuggling drugs, migrants and contraband.

The "Zeta killers" burst on to the scene shortly before President Felipe Calderon deployed fresh military forces into Veracruz this month.

Their sudden rise and the surgical precision with which the killers systematically picked off nearly 100 people in 17 days has led to conjecture among some people that they may be operating with implicit or direct support of the government or military.

cartel's practicing with ieds...,

borderlandbeat | A parked car loaded with explosives was detonated by remote control as a military convoy drove by in Monterrey's southside in an ambush reminiscent of attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East.

The incident took place around 5:10am this morning on Avenida Revolucion close to the intersection with Ricardo Covarrubias, in the Colonia Ladrillera, outside of a machine shop/auto garage.

A military source said that during a surveillance patrol in the colonia Ladrillera soldiers detected a suspicious vehicle, a black Jetta, which resulted in a pursuit thru Avenida Revolución.

As the pursuit continued north on Avenida Revolucion a Nissan Sentra or Tsuru with Tamaulipas license plates was detonated remotely moments before the Army vehicles passed the location, between Berel and Ricardo Covarrubias.

No soldiers or civilians were reported injured in the attack.

Debris from the blast was scatterd over several meters. The door to the machine shop was heavily damaged and windows were broken in buildings for at least a block.

Avenida Revolucion remained closed as bomb experts and forensic examiners investigated the blast scene.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

oakland one-time: ows protesters and raiders fans

Video - Oakland one-time goes paramilitary on non-violent OWS protesters.

Video - Oakland one-time coddles violent and intoxicated Raiders fans.

FBI: gangs have infiltrated every branch of the military

Business Insider | The FBI has released a new gang assessment announcing that there are 1.4 million gang members in the US, a 40 percent increase since 2009, and that many of these members are getting inside the military (via Stars and Stripes).

The report says the military has seen members from 53 gangs and 100 regions in the U.S. enlist in every branch of the armed forces. Members of every major street gang, some prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) have been reported on both U.S. and international military installations.

From the report:

Through transfers and deployments, military-affiliated gang members expand their culture and operations to new regions nationwide and worldwide, undermining security and law enforcement efforts to combat crime. Gang members with military training pose a unique threat to law enforcement personnel because of their distinctive weapons and combat training skills and their ability to transfer these skills to fellow gang members.

The report notes that while gang members have been reported in every branch of service, they are concentrated in the U.S. Army, Army Reserves, and the Army National Guard.

style="padding-left: 30px;">Many street gang members join the military to escape the gang lifestyle or as an alternative to incarceration, but often revert back to their gang associations once they encounter other gang members in the military. Other gangs target the U.S. military and defense systems to expand their territory, facilitate criminal activity such as weapons and drug trafficking, or to receive weapons and combat training that they may transfer back to their gang. Incidents of weapons theft and trafficking may have a negative impact on public safety or pose a threat to law enforcement officials.

The FBI points out that many gangs, especially the bikers, actively recruit members with military training and advise young members with no criminal record to join the service for weapon access and combat experience.

2007 USAF nuclear weapons incident

wikipedia | Between 08:00 and 09:00 (local time) on August 29, 2007, a group of USAF airmen, called the breakout crew, entered one of the weapons storage bunkers at Minot to prepare AGM-129 missiles for transport to Barksdale. That day's missile transport, the sixth of 12 planned ferry missions, was to have consisted of 12 AGM-129s, installed with training warheads, with six missiles per pylon and one pylon mounted under each wing of a Barksdale-assigned, 2nd Bomb Wing B-52 aircraft. When the airmen entered the bunker, six actual warheads were still installed on their missiles, as opposed to having been replaced with the dummy training warheads. A later investigation found that the reason for the error was that the formal electronic production system for tracking the missiles "had been subverted in favor of an informal process that did not identify this pylon as prepared for the flight." The airmen assigned to handle the missiles used an outdated source that contained incorrect information on the status of the missiles. The missiles originally planned for movement had been replaced by missiles closer to expiration dates for limited life components (standard procedure). The change in missiles had been reflected on the movement plan but not in the documents used for internal work coordination processes in the bunker.

Although the breakout crew in the weapons storage began to inspect the missiles, an early-arriving transport crew hooked-up the pylons and towed them away without inspecting or ensuring that the missiles had been inspected or cleared for removal. The munitions control center failed to verify that the pylon had received proper clearance and inspection and approved the pylon for loading on the B-52 aircraft at 09:25. After taking eight hours to attach the pylons to the aircraft, the aircraft with the missiles loaded then remained parked overnight at Minot for 15 hours without special guard as required for nuclear weapons.

On the morning of August 30, one of the transport aircraft's flight officers, a Barksdale-assigned B-52 instructor radar navigator (name unknown), closely inspected the six missiles on the right wing only, which were all properly uploaded with training warheads, before signing the manifest listing the cargo as a dozen unarmed AGM-129 missiles. The B-52 command pilot did not do a final verification check before preparing to depart Minot.

The B-52 departed Minot at 08:40 and landed at Barksdale at 11:23 (local times) on August 30. The aircraft remained parked and without special guard until 20:30, when a munitions team arrived to remove the missiles. After a member of the munitions crew noticed something unusual about some of the missiles, at 22:00 a "skeptical" supervisor determined that nuclear warheads were present and ordered them secured and the incident reported, 36 hours after the missiles were removed from the bunker at Minot.

The incident was reported to the National Military Command Center as a Bent Spear incident, which indicates a nuclear weapon incident that is of significant concern, but does not involve the immediate threat of nuclear war (Pinnacle - Nucflash) or the accidental detonation of or severe damage to a nuclear weapon (Pinnacle - Broken Arrow). Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General T. Michael Moseley quickly called the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, on August 31 to inform him about the incident. Gates requested daily updates regarding the investigation and informed President Bush about the incident. The USAF has yet to officially designate what type of incident actually occurred, Bent Spear or otherwise. The incident was the first of its kind in 40 years in the United States and was later described by the media as "one of the worst breaches in U.S. nuclear weapons security in decades".

worse than originally thought

Video - Move along Canadians, nothing to see over here...,

atmos-chem-physics | Abstract. On 11 March 2011, an earthquake occurred about 130 km off the Pacific coast of Japan's main island Honshu, followed by a large tsunami. The resulting loss of electric power at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant (FD-NPP) developed into a disaster causing massive release of radioactivity into the atmosphere. In this study, we determine the emissions of two isotopes, the noble gas xenon-133 (133Xe) and the aerosol-bound caesium-137 (137Cs), which have very different release characteristics as well as behavior in the atmosphere. To determine radionuclide emissions as a function of height and time until 20 April, we made a first guess of release rates based on fuel inventories and documented accident events at the site. This first guess was subsequently improved by inverse modeling, which combined the first guess with the results of an atmospheric transport model, FLEXPART, and measurement data from several dozen stations in Japan, North America and other regions. We used both atmospheric activity concentration measurements as well as, for 137Cs, measurements of bulk deposition. Regarding 133Xe, we find a total release of 16.7 (uncertainty range 13.4–20.0) EBq, which is the largest radioactive noble gas release in history not associated with nuclear bomb testing. There is strong evidence that the first strong 133Xe release started very early, possibly immediately after the earthquake and the emergency shutdown on 11 March at 06:00 UTC. The entire noble gas inventory of reactor units 1–3 was set free into the atmosphere between 11 and 15 March 2011. For 137Cs, the inversion results give a total emission of 35.8 (23.3–50.1) PBq, or about 42% of the estimated Chernobyl emission. Our results indicate that 137Cs emissions peaked on 14–15 March but were generally high from 12 until 19 March, when they suddenly dropped by orders of magnitude exactly when spraying of water on the spent-fuel pool of unit 4 started.
This indicates that emissions were not only coming from the damaged reactor cores, but also from the spent-fuel pool of unit 4 and confirms that the spraying was an effective countermeasure. We also explore the main dispersion and deposition patterns of the radioactive cloud, both regionally for Japan as well as for the entire Northern Hemisphere. While at first sight it seemed fortunate that westerly winds prevailed most of the time during the accident, a different picture emerges from our detailed analysis. Exactly during and following the period of the strongest 137Cs emissions on 14 and 15 March as well as after another period with strong emissions on 19 March, the radioactive plume was advected over Eastern Honshu Island, where precipitation deposited a large fraction of 137Cs on land surfaces. The plume was also dispersed quickly over the entire Northern Hemisphere, first reaching North America on 15 March and Europe on 22 March. In general, simulated and observed concentrations of 133Xe and 137Cs both at Japanese as well as at remote sites were in good quantitative agreement with each other. Altogether, we estimate that 6.4 TBq of 137Cs, or 19% of the total fallout until 20 April, were deposited over Japanese land areas, while most of the rest fell over the North Pacific Ocean. Only 0.7 TBq, or 2% of the total fallout were deposited on land areas other than Japan. Fist tap Arnach.

the last of the B-53's

Video - Tsar Bomba Explosion

NPR | MICHELE NORRIS, host: The United States is taking one of its nuclear options off the table today. The B-53 is a 10,000-pound relic of the Cold War days. A bomb so big it could have obliterated a big city in a single blow. Well, now near Amarillo, Texas, the last B-53 is being dismantled.

And Hans Kristensen joins us now to talk about that. He directs the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. So glad you came into the studio.

HANS KRISTENSEN: Thanks for having me.

NORRIS: Can you tell us a little bit more about the B-53, how did it compare to other weapons? And how was it intended to be used?

KRISTENSEN: It was a city buster, literally. In its first incarnation, it was a warhead on the tip of a long-range ballistic missile called the Titan. And it was designed to blow-up cities. And a later version was converted into a gravity bomb, which is the one that we now see being taken apart. That was built for the B-52 long-range bomber.

And, of course, over the years the mission changed that delivery vehicles became more accurate. And so, instead of being a city-busting weapon, it turned into a bunker-busting weapon, where it was designed to literally dig up underground command and control facilities in the Soviet Union, later Russia.

NORRIS: So, facilities perhaps in the side of mountains and things like that.

KRISTENSEN: Correct. They can be under a, you know, great big granite formation to protect better or they can just be very deep in general.

NORRIS: What does this thing look like?

KRISTENSEN: Well, it's a size of a little car. I've been standing right next to one of them and it's humongous. And it's so big that the large B-52 bomber could only carry two of them in its belly. I mean, one in each bomb bay, and it was full.

NORRIS: How do you dismantle a monster bomb like this?


KRISTENSEN: Well, it's like taking a car apart except you do it much more carefully. The, you know, nuts and bolts, the glue - you name it. I mean, it's just peeling apart layer by layer. And there are very strict manuals on exactly what you have to do, how much pressure can you apply to each screw, what kind of glue holds the chemical high explosives together around the spear of uranium - highly enriched uranium, in this case. Also, how to handle it because you don't want to drop some of this stuff.

The high explosives are not what we have in the most modern weapons that are called insensitive high explosives. These are sort of conventional high explosives. And if you drop them they can explode. And so, they take these weapons apart in these weapons bays, as they call them, that are underground hardened concrete-steel structures that can contain a blast if these high explosives go off.

NORRIS: This is part of a global effort to step away from the Cold War and the machinery of the Cold War. In your estimation, how much progress has been made in that effort? How much is yet to be done, not just here but around the world?

KRISTENSEN: Well, as everything, it depends on when you compare it to. Because, I mean, we had arsenals on our side at a peak somewhere around 32,000 weapons in our stockpile. Today, we're down to 5,000. On the Soviet side, they had at their peak some 45,000 weapons in their stockpile. And they're now down to perhaps eight. So, a big job has been done.

But, as you can imagine, five and 8,000 weapons is still an enormous amount of overcapacity for the kind of world we live in today. These large arsenals, they were built, you have to remember, to battle, to fight nuclear wars - large arsenals against large arsenals. So, now we're struggling with how to drawdown these big arsenals and make them more applicable to the kind of world we live in today.

NORRIS: I've been speaking with Hans Kristensen about the dismantling of the last B-53 bomb. He's the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Thanks so much for coming in.

KRISTENSEN: Thanks for having me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

profgeo leads the class to the root cause analysis

SFGate | What was the real cause of the Great Recession? More importantly, in a country accustomed to robust rebounds from burst bubbles, why is our economy stuck in neutral?

In his latest book, The Third Industrial Revolution, economist and author Jeremy Rifkin argues that the crash of the US housing market was not the proximate cause of the Great Recession, but was instead an aftershock of crude oil hitting a price of $147 per barrel oil in July 2008 – 60 days prior to the crash of the financial markets.

Mr. Rifkin makes a compelling case that our economy reached the end of the second industrial revolution in the 1980’s, and has been largely sustained by debt and the consumption of savings ever since. He argues that the kind of growth witnessed after the first and second industrial revolutions will be impossible to achieve without a third energy-communications revolution – one that leverages Internet-esque smart grids to transition from a centralized “elite” energy paradigm to a highly granular, lateral model. He contends that, as was the case with the first two industrial revolutions, the third revolution will be the foundation of the next great wave of economic growth.

Our energy infrastructure may not be the only thing that requires a rethink. In his book, Mr. Rifkin takes on Adam Smith, challenging classical economic theory with the contention that it does not take thermodynamics into account. The Third Industrial Revolution presents economic theory that incorporates entropy and the relationship between commerce and the planet.

Mr. Rifkin is the principle architect of the European Union’s Third Industrial Revolution long-term economic sustainability plan to address the triple challenge of the global economic crisis, energy security, and climate change. The Third Industrial Revolution was formally endorsed by the European Parliament in 2007 and is now being implemented by various agencies within the European Commission as well as in the 27 member-states. He has served as an advisor to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister Jose Socrates of Portugal, and Prime Minister Janez Janša of Slovenia, during their respective European Council Presidencies, on issues related to the economy, climate change, and energy security.

Mr. Rifkin is president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and the author of seventeen bestselling books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. He has been a senior lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania since 1994, where he instructs CEOs and senior management on transitioning their business operations into sustainable Third Industrial Revolution economies.

Todd: So if we can, can we start by framing the discussion with the cause of the Great Recession. And I understand that your contention is that the Wall Street crash was not the proximate cause of the recession but was actually an aftershock of the real economic earthquake, which was $147 barrel oi

Jeremy: Yes. I spend the whole first chapter on the book on it because I’m at real odds with my colleagues as to what’s going on here. I think what happened is that when oil hit $147 a barrel back in July of 2008, purchasing power plummeted all over the world and the economy totally shut down in July – completely shut down.

And the reason, of course, is that everything’s made out of fossil fuels or run by them – pesticides, construction materials, pharmaceutical products, synthetic fiber, power, transportation – everything.

So what happened is, in late 2007, crude oil started going over $75 a barrel. What we saw is all the prices started going up across the supply chain. And then at $120 a barrel you remember we had food riots in 22 countries because 40 percent of the human race is living on $2.00 a day or less. Wheat, rye, barley and rice were doubling and tripling. And you remember, the UNFAO put out a report saying “We have an alert. We’ve got a billion people who could be in big trouble here.”

So what happened is speculators came in to game the market around $100 a barrel. But the reason this is happening, this is peak globalization – at least in the business community. I chair a group of 120 global companies that are involved in this. We now know the outer limits of how far we can globalize this economy based on fossil fuel energies, the technologies that go with them, and the infrastructure. It’s about $150 a barrel, and it’ll shut down every time.

This is an end game. And the reason it’s happening is we’ve hit peak oil per capita, and now peak oil production – both. Peak oil per capita no one talks about much.

Global peak oil production per capita is not well known. It happened in 1979, it’s not controversial. BP did the original study, and it’s been confirmed by everybody else since. If we had distributed all the crude oil we had at that point to everyone alive in the planet, that’s the most each person could have. We’ve found more oil since then but population rose quicker.

So if you distributed all the crude oil we have now to 6.8 billion people, there’s enough to go around. But then add to this – we hit global peak oil production as well. That’s when half the crude oil was used up by the geological bell curve. When half your crude oil is used up, you can’t afford it. Prices aren’t affordable. And that’s been pretty controversial about global peak oil when it would hit. The optimists’ spot maybe mid-2020’s to 30s, the pessimists’ models show 2010 to 2020.

Well, the IEA dropped the bombshell last December. That’s the International Energy Agency, and they’re the authoritative body for the oil industry and the energy industry. They said “It looks like we now peaked in 2006 at 70 million barrels a day. And we’re going to plan for around 69 billion barrels of crude oil for the next 20 years, but it’ll cost $7 trillion to get the remaining oil out.

So what happened is this. When China and India made a bid to drag a third of the human race into the game in the last 10 years, at an 8, 10, 12 percent growth rate, the actual aggregate demand for oil has just shot through the roof – and then all the other prices went up.

So what I’m suggesting is every time we try to regrow the global economy at the same rate we were growing before July 2008, oil prices go up – all the other prices made out of crude oil go up – purchasing power goes down – we collapse.

That’s what’s happening right now today. The economy was dead flat in 2009, so oil was $30 a barrel. Nobody was using it. As soon as we started to try to restart the engine, to replenish it towards 2010, oil shot to $100 a barrel for crude. Brent crude. That’s how we measure – not Texas crude.

And now what’s happened is all the other prices are going up, and purchasing power is going down, and we’re headed toward a second collapse right now. Fist tap and double-dap to ProfGeo.

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