Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Peacock/Peahen Spectacle

"I put for the general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceases only in death." -- Thomas Hobbes

Six billion or so of you humans are imprisoned in a status-driven social paradigm. You are bound and determined to increase your social status -- i.e., increase the size of your peacock tail. The only way for you to increase the size of your peacock tail is to deplete natural resources. I call this process the Peacock/Peahen Spectacle.

All of the organizations comprising your society -- be they branches of government, universities, corporations, politicians, churches, and philanthropies -- work to support the genetic drive for increased status. The leading members of those social organizations (i.e. highest status individuals) work to increase the status of the organizations and in the process, increase their own personal status. Throughout this process, opinions expressed by dissenting individuals are suppressed. Dissent within the overarching paradigm is not conducive to the achievement of high status.

In addition to being among the most powerful genetic drives, the genetic drive for status is utterly insatiable, in other words, if your neighbor appears to increase his status beyond yours, then you must work harder to increase your status and get ahead of him (buy more-expensive car, bigger house, better job, etc.). This tendency is commonly referred to as "keeping up with the Joneses".

All high status individuals within your social paradigm deliberately lie (many subconsciously though none the less obviously) to further their drive to increased status. Moreover, no high status individual is willing to lose social status by admitting lies, errors, or omissions in the decisions that they've taken pursuant to their status-seeking aims. So, not only do all of the organizations within your society work in concert to promote this paradigm, but, all the current high-status individuals leading these social organizations are genetically-biased against telling the truth because it threatens to cost them their hard-won social status.

When people are frustrated in their endless drive to increase status, they often resort to violence. The only alternative to public violence is the endless conversion of finite natural resources into ever-more-marvelous peacock tails - thus it is that the Peacock/Peahen Spectacle operates within a system of governance via dopamine hegemony.

With fewer natural resources available for conversion into ever-more-fabulous and more widely sought-after peacock tails - the insatiable and infinite genetic drive for increased status must inevitably lead to a new world war over finite natural resources.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bugs that Eat Waste and Excrete Petrol

Big Don brings it this morning; Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide 'renewable petroleum'.
“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”

He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.
This is where it's at. Via these and related cutting edge agricultural methods, the humans either solve the equation and elude the Great Filter, or else...,

Thanet Earth

The biggest greenhouse in Britain unveiled; This week, workers are putting the finishing touches to Britain's largest hydroponic greenhouse an astonishing construction in white steel and glass. By the time the site is complete in 2010, another six massive greenhouses will have been constructed, providing a home to more than 1.3million tomato, pepper and cucumber plants - grown hydroponically, without soil. Kent is often called the Garden of England. When this village of glass is complete, it will be more like England's factory. The site will contain seven greenhouses, each the size of 10 football pitches. At a time when people are increasingly concerned about industrial-scale farming, this latest, monumental step in the steady, insidious creep of factory farming is a controversial one.

Emulate Japan to cope with oil shocks

Again from Asia Times; With the price of oil rocketing to the unprecedented level of US$130 a barrel and more, there is a talk of another oil shock. Unlike past instances, this one is unlikely to subside and may indeed keep intensifying. The only way out is for Western nations, the gluttonous users of petroleum, to cut their consumption and emulate Japan in its consistent drive for energy efficiency and alternate sources.[...] Since supply is unlikely to rise appreciably in the near future, the stress must be laid on curtailing demand. That can only happen in the Western nations. As it is, in the face of soaring prices at gasoline stations, US demand fell by 3% during the first three months of this year.

It's worth noting that a similar decrease occurred in America after the quadrupling of oil prices in 1973-74. That oil shock led to a drive for fuel efficiency in the United States, West Europe and Japan. It also gave a boost to developing renewable sources of energy. But whereas Japan has followed a consistent, long-range policy, and reduced its petroleum usage, America has not. [...] Little wonder that the oil usage in Japan has dropped by 15% over the past dozen years.

Americans rediscover the railroad

BOSTON (Reuters) - As oil prices spike, many Americans are rediscovering the railroad.

Amtrak, America's struggling passenger railroad, saw record numbers in May when ridership rose 12.3 percent from a year earlier, and ticket sales climbed 15.6 percent, according to company data.

Amtrak President Alex Kummant said the numbers point to a sixth straight year of record passengers. He estimated a more than 11 percent rise this year on its 21,000 miles of track, building on last year's 26 million passengers.

He attributes about half that growth to higher gas prices. "It depends on the service but certainly our ridership growth is linked to the fuel prices," he said in an interview. "We are up against capacity limits."

The Bush administration has sought to scrap direct federal funding for Amtrak, a for-profit federal corporation that has bled red ink since its 1971 creation. Its backers contend that passenger rail services in other countries also lose money.

Pentagon blocked Cheney's attack on Iran

From the Asia Times; Pentagon officials firmly opposed a proposal by Vice President Dick Cheney last summer for airstrikes against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) bases by insisting that the administration would have to make clear decisions about how far the United States would go in escalating the conflict with Iran, according to a former George W Bush administration official.

J Scott Carpenter, who was then deputy assistant secretary of state in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, recalled in an interview that senior Defense Department (DoD) officials and the Joint Chiefs used the escalation issue as the main argument against the Cheney proposal.

McClatchy newspapers reported last August that Cheney had proposed several weeks earlier "launching airstrikes at suspected training camps in Iran", citing two officials involved in Iran policy.

According to Carpenter, who is now at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, a strongly pro-Israel think-tank, Pentagon officials argued that no decision should be made about the limited airstrike on Iran without a thorough discussion of the sequence of events that would follow an Iranian retaliation for such an attack. Carpenter said the DoD officials insisted that the Bush administration had to make "a policy decision about how far the administration would go - what would happen after the Iranians would go after our folks".

The question of escalation posed by DoD officials involved not only the potential of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army in Iraq to attack, Carpenter said, but possible responses by Hezbollah and by Iran itself across the Middle East.

Carpenter suggested that DoD officials were shifting the debate on a limited strike from the Iraq-based rationale, which they were not contesting, to the much bigger issue of the threat of escalation to full-scale war with Iran, knowing that it would be politically easier to thwart the proposal on that basis.

The former State Department official said DoD "knew that it would be difficult to get interagency consensus on that question".

Friday, June 13, 2008

Meet the Intraterrestrials

Olivia Judson is nearly always three days late and three dollars short. This article is no exception.

However, given the agenda-driven, cornucopian interrogatory from my long time literal-fundamentalist, conservative evangelical gadfly Ken;
Do you think plants and dinasaurs decomposed and were compressed and then came the hydrocarbons on this Saturn moon?

Hey back on earth, I was hoping for clarification on the evolution process. The plants and dinasaurs and all this life decomposed and then through heat and compression came hydrocarbons, I got that, is it then hydrocarbon eating animals began to evolve? Here is where this article had me wondering...
her modest little contribution is right on time.
Then there are the “intraterrestrials” — the organisms that live in rocks deep in the earth, the creatures of the “deep subsurface biosphere.” Bacteria have been found in rock samples taken several hundred meters below the sea floor, even when the sea floor itself is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) below sea level.

We don’t know how many organisms are living in this (to us) alien environment. But based on what’s been found in rock samples so far, the numbers are likely to be gigantic. One recent study found between 1 million and 1 billion bacteria per gram of rock (a gram is 1/28 of an ounce). It may be that a large proportion — perhaps as many as a third — of all bacteria on Earth live in rocks below the floor of the sea. That would be a lot of bacteria.

Until recently, it was assumed that the chemical alteration and decomposition of rocks in the ocean crust was due purely to elemental forces — the circulation of seawater, the grinding of rocks against one another. But increasingly, intraterrestrial bacteria are suspected of making a contribution, too. Shards of volcanic glass from basaltic rocks hundreds of meters beneath the seabed show grooves and etchings that appear to have been made by bacteria.

So Ken, though I've not really troubled myself to explain where I believe oil comes from, instead of making silly assumptions and dubious projections that disclose more about the inner workings of your formatory apparatus than about anything I might think or believe, you might instead simply ask the question in good faith. Hamfisted attempts at sophistry are bound to yield little more than sustained malevolent ridicule from yours truly. Given our lengthy discoursive history, you know me more than well enough to know that by now.

Condoleezza Rice's Neo-colonial Manifesto

In today's Agenceglobal; A striking example of the Bush administration’s divorce from reality may be seen in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s 9,000 word article in the current issue of the U.S. journal Foreign Affairs.

“The democratization of Iraq and the democratization of the Middle East [are] linked,” she writes. “As Iraq emerges from its difficulties, the impact of this transformation is being felt in the rest of the region… Our long-term partnership with Afghanistan and Iraq, to which we must remain deeply committed, our new relationships in Central Asia, and our long-standing partnerships in the Persian Gulf provide a solid geostrategic foundation for the generational work ahead in helping to bring about a better, more democratic, and more prosperous Middle East.”
It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry when one reads this manifesto. The Iraqis don’t want to be ‘democratized’ by American military power; the Afghans don’t want a Western model of society forced upon them; the impact of Iraq’s ‘transformation’ -- that is to say its destruction -- has been highly destabilizing for the whole region; some Gulf rulers may misguidedly feel the need for U.S. military protection, but most of their subjects emphatically do not. Arab prosperity, such as it is, owes nothing to the American military presence and everything to oil and to Arab trading skills.[...]

As had long been suspected, it looks as if the Bush administration is seeking to tie its successor to its own failed policies, and make it difficult, if not impossible, for a candidate like Barack Obama, if he is elected President, to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, as he has pledged.

The United States wants Iraq to sign a so-called Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) by 31 July, to replace the United Nations mandate, which expires on 31 December, and which has so far provided the legal cover for the presence of coalition forces in Iraq.

The obvious and far better alternative would be for the United States to seek a new and brief UN mandate -- say of six months -- to allow the next American President to assess the situation next year and make his own decisions.

Although U.S.-Iraqi negotiations are being held in secret, the terms of the proposed SOFA have been widely leaked to the British newspaper, The Independent. They include the long-term U.S. use of 50 bases in Iraq; U.S. freedom to conduct military operations and arrest anyone it wants in pursuit of the ‘war on terror’, without consulting the Baghdad government; immunity from Iraqi law for U.S. troops and contractors; and control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000 feet. This is nothing less than a neo-colonial strait-jacket, which has already mobilized strong political and religious opposition in Iraq.

There’s An Iranian Under Our Bed!

Iran’s President Ahmadinejad’s regime is a threat to all of us. His words contain a chilling echo of some of the world’s most tragic history.

~ Senator Barack Obama

Everywhere one turns these days, we find a politician screaming about Iran and the dire threat it supposedly represents to America. President Bush has been spinning dark tales about this for years, his claims dutifully echoed by most of the presidential candidates (with the musical score provided by Senator McCain). Even Barack Obama, ostensibly the "antiwar" Democratic nominee, has taken to rattling sabers at the behest of his new neocon handlers.

But if we brush away the rhetorical fog, does a tangible threat really exist? Is Iran actually a danger to our way of life? And if so, what does this threat look like?

Let us suppose for a moment that Iranian President Ahmadinejad decided that the time had come to launch a glorious mission to conquer the United States of America. Suppose, furthermore, that he proceeded to order the massive Iranian Army (actually, Ahmadinejad is not the commander of the Iranian military...but let’s put that aside for a moment) to board transport ships of the mighty Iranian Navy (although Iran doesn’t really have a navy, but let’s put that aside for a moment too) and set sail.

In concrete terms, how would this scenario unfold?

If the neocon warnings are accurate, this armada would have to sail out of the Persian Gulf, up the Red Sea, and through the Suez Canal (though why the Egyptians – Sunni rivals of Shiite Iran – would allow a massive Iranian military force to pass through the canal is another mystery).

Picking up speed, the armada would then sail across the Mediterranean Sea and through the Straits of Gibraltar. Once in the open Atlantic (though still without air cover or any logistical supply-chain whatsoever), the Iranian armada would then race across the ocean, presumably making landfall somewhere in New Jersey (where they could no doubt link up with their many secret agents posing as convenience store cashiers up and down the Garden State Parkway).

Once reassembled on the ground – but still without air cover or re-supply – this force would, according to our warmongering politicos, fight its way across the continental United States, thus completing Ahmadinejad’s mad plan of global domination.

This is, without embellishment, the actual threat that Iran poses to the United States.
Steven LaTulippe at - is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.

Irony of Ironies.......,

People with higher IQs are less likely to believe in God, according to racist "psychologist" Richard Lynn.
Professor Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, said many more members of the "intellectual elite" considered themselves atheists than the national average.

A decline in religious observance over the last century was directly linked to a rise in average intelligence, he claimed.

But the conclusions - in a paper for the academic journal Intelligence - have been branded "simplistic" by critics.
Whatever this sea cucumber's sphincter thinks can only be considered in the light of his own unfalsifiable belief in biological "races".

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mulholland Falls

I'm very tempted to put up Eisenhower's departing address here - because there just aren't that many ways to effectively contextualize and convey the domestic enormity of the political and economic genie that's been unleashed by the invasion of Iraq and the GWOT. But I put up the more cryptic Mulholland Falls because to me that movie more fully captures and conveys the complex quilt of "interests" competing in the presidential election for control of the direction of the country.

Because of the peculiar demographic status of the all volunteer and corporate mercenary expeditionary force, the domestic sense and sensibility concerning this very large and very protracted war has been kept to an unprecedented minimum. As a society, we have been anesthetized to the reality of the national commitment.

Comes Submariner in the comments;
This is intriguing and I'll definitely bookmark the link. Of the top, what I know is that McCain's dad and granddad were both admirals. His father in particular was CINCPAC during the Vietnam War and was an advocate for more aggressive maneuvers that would have confronted China directly.

That said, the lesson of Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, about the futility of containing a rising Asian power short of nuclear weapons is being painfully relearned. Resorting to wholesale purges of CENTCOM, Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff in a compressed period tells me that Bush is having serious trouble holding the reins on his war horses.
Followed by Rembom;
"In the end, there is no simple solution. It is probably dangerous, for the republic and the armed forces that defend her, for this situation to exist. But it is also the logical result of 232 years of evolution between the military and the civilian authorities that control them. The question that remains is this: When nobody is willing to sit in judgment of the combat performance of the generals, including the generals, then who is really in control of our armed forces?"
who throws an article containing perspective and corroborating data on the subject not commonly aired or known in the public domain. Seems to me we have all the makings of an extremely interesting political discussion. It gets even more interesting if we ponder what's just around that signpost up ahead. The invasion of Iraq was an all or nothing gambit. There is no simple national retreat available to the U.S. from the operationalized objective of acquiring control of Iraq's oil. That the law of unintended consequences took effect almost immediately after the campaign began in earnest, and that American consensus reality has not accommodated itself to the facts of Peak Oil - means that a very rude awakening is in store. In the words of Nick Nolte before he throws William Petersen over the cliff, "this isn't America, this is L.A.....,"

Fin d'Siecle Governance Issues

The US Senate yesterday introduced a biosafety bill that takes small steps towards resolving some controversial aspects of the system regulating research with agents that could be used for bioterrorism.

The regulations, called the Select Agent Program, have been controversial since they were established in 2002. The new bill, introduced by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) on behalf of himself and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), extends funding for the program, which expired last September, for five years. It calls for the federal government to update its agents list and clarify its definition of the smallpox virus to exclude less dangerous viruses, and demands that the government conduct a study on how well the Select Agent Program is functioning. It also mandates biosafety training for researchers working in biosafety level 3 and level 4 labs, and a reporting system for safety breaches -- suggestions made at a Congressional hearing on biosafety held last October. Finally, it gives state governments access to select agent registration information.

Gigi Gronvall of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center noted that some researchers believed that the Select Agent Program should be scrapped entirely -- a sentiment she disagrees with. "I don't hold any illusion that this would stop anyone from stealing [a listed pathogen] and potentially working on it as a weapon," she said, but it was still important "to know who is working on what." During the 2001 anthrax attack, she noted, the government's response was, "'We have no idea who works with anthrax.'" But, she said, "that's the wrong answer."

Senate tweeks bioterror regs - The Scientist NewsBlog.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An ominous warning..,

In today's UK Independent, from the CEO of Gazprom that the rapid rise in oil prices has only just begun. As a side note, I've been listening to NPR's coverage of the fuel-price strikes taking place now in Europe - what is striking to me is that the EU nations effected by rising prices have achieved levels of energy efficiency that the U.S. can only aspire to. What this portends for our leaky bucket is truly draconian;
While Europeans are used to paying a lot for unleaded gasoline, the sudden rise in the more popular and usually cheaper diesel fuel has come as a shock. In Spain this week, truckers blocked roads and stopped making deliveries to protest the soaring fuel costs. Spanish fishermen are also striking, and the French Navy has canceled three summer missions.
The chief executive of the world's largest energy company has issued the most dire warning yet about the soaring the price of oil, predicting that it will hit $250 per barrel "in the foreseeable future".

The forecast from Alexey Miller, the head of the Kremlin-owned gas giant Gazprom, would herald the arrival of £2-per-litre petrol and send shockwaves through the economy. His comments were the most stark to be expressed by an industry executive and come just days after the oil price registered its largest-ever single-day spike, hitting $139.12 per barrel last week amid fears that the world's faltering supply will be unable to keep up with demand.

BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions

So it's been a minute since I saw the documentary on perverse Iraq war profiteering, and that documentary was two years old at the time of the posting. Thankfully, it looks like investigations into what it recounted are underway.
A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

For the first time, the extent to which some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding has been researched by the BBC's Panorama using US and Iraqi government sources.

A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.

The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.
  • While George Bush remains in the White House, it is unlikely the gagging orders will be lifted.
  • To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.
  • The president's Democrat opponents are keeping up the pressure over war profiteering in Iraq.
  • Henry Waxman who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said: "The money that's gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious.
  • "It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history."

What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains?

In the July/August Atlantic Monthly, Nicholas Carr asks; Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets—reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)

For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

At the Tip of Iran's Spear

Good profile of Petraeus' Iranian counterpart, Brig. General Qassem Soleimani in Sunday's WaPo;
Let's try for a moment to put ourselves in the mind of Brig. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. For it is the soft-spoken Soleimani, not Iran's bombastic president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who plays a decisive role in his nation's confrontation with the United States.

Soleimani represents the sharp point of the Iranian spear. He is responsible for Iran's covert activities in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and other battlegrounds. He oversees the regime's relations with its militant proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. His elite, secretive wing of the Revolutionary Guard is identified as a terrorist organization by the Bush administration, but he is also Iran's leading strategist on foreign policy. He reports personally to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his budget (mostly in cash) comes directly from the supreme leader's office.
Bill O'Reilly's been making apocalyptic noises on his radio program for the past two days. One wonders what's in store between now and the November elections.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brainpower May Lie in Complexity of Synapses

It's been a minute since we last visited the topic of connectomics.

T3 hollar'd at me this morning about neural density. This in turn provoked me to dredge up this post on neuroeconomics from the archives and do a bit of google-ing. My remarks to T3 were rather disparaging of the state of the art. As it turns out however, the dismissive remarks were right on target as this article in the current Technology Review bears out.
The diagram is the fruit of an emerging field called "connectomics," which attempts to physically map the ­tangle of neural circuits that collect, ­process, and archive information in the nervous system. Such maps could ultimately shed light on the early development of the human brain and on diseases that may be linked to faulty wiring, such as autism and schizophrenia. "The brain is ­essentially a computer that wires itself up during development and can rewire itself," says ­Sebastian Seung, a computational neuroscientist at MIT, who is working with Lichtman. "If we have a wiring diagram of the brain, that could help us understand how it works."
But my man Nana has gotten us back on track with an update on one of the core data sets we like to monitor - that which illuminates the structural and functional underpinnings of cognition and everything we consequently hold dear - this one concerning measurable interspecies differences in synaptic density and complexity;
The computing capabilities of the human brain may lie not so much in its neuronal network as in the complex calculations that its synapses perform, Dr. Grant said. Vertebrate synapses have about 1,000 different proteins, assembled into 13 molecular machines, one of which is built from 183 different proteins.

These synapses are not standard throughout the brain, Dr. Grant’s group has found; each region uses different combinations of the 1,000 proteins to fashion its own custom-made synapses.

Each synapse can presumably make sophisticated calculations based on messages reaching it from other neurons. The human brain has about 100 billion neurons, interconnected at 100 trillion synapses.
Lets see how long it takes for Big Don and his confederates to begin foraging around for additional data along this cytoarchitechtonic variable to shore up the preconceived notions they hold so dear. Interestingly, if I had to wager as to a group of homo sapiens with exceptional phenotypical characteristics in this area, I'd wager that Australian aboriginals have the rest of you humans beaten hands down along this measure. Just a hunch on my part....,

Oil Crisis: Obama vs. Mccain

Whoever wins the White House this fall WILL spend more time tackling energy challenges than any other president in history.

The energy policies of Barack Obama and John McCain differ widely and voters can bet on some spirited political debate.

McCain would mandate reductions in greenhouse gasses, then largely rely on the free market to spur conservation. In order to ease the pain of high gas prices he also wants to suspend the federal gas tax.

Obama would tax oil companies and use the money to help low income people. He would also restrict greenhouse gasses, but charge more for companies to pollute and use the money to fund renewable energy research. He also sees a bigger role for government in encouraging conservation. asked the candidates questions which we feel are central to solving the world's energy challenge. Here's what they said:

look at the two candidates' fathers

As we simplistically blather about the candidates' race and age – it's hip vs hip operation, folks – we seem to be ignoring the best guide we have to John McCain and Barack Obama's hearts.

Both men have written strange, searching books about their fathers. It is in their pages that we can find the clearest clues to their potential presidencies. At first glance, these slabs of non-fiction – Dreams From My Father by Obama, and Faith of My Fathers by McCain – are strikingly similar. They both tell the autobiographical story of an insecure young man who flails around for an identity, and finds it by chasing the ghost of his absent father to a dangerous place far beyond the United States. Yet Obama ended up writing a complex story of colonised people – while McCain wrote a simple celebration of the coloniser.

Johann Hari in last Friday's Independant: If you really want to understand what this race is about, look at the two candidates' fathers

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Varying Impact of Gas Prices

Gas prices are high throughout the country, but how hard they hit individual families depends on income levels, which vary widely. Click on the image to go to NYTimes Interactive article - then go check out the companion article Rural U.S. Takes Worst Hit as Gas Tops $4 Average.