Saturday, June 14, 2008

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.

Green is the new Black

comedy gold.....,

Having it all
Our “Having it All” Issue highlights stories about things like sustainable high fashion, eco-friendly commuting, farming in the city, and environmentally-responsible musicians. You can have it all, it just might look a little different than what you’re used to.

Interactive Experience
in|ur magazine utilizes an interactive Flash format for the online magazine, creating a more tangible online reading experience. Throughout the pages of the current issue readers will encounter clickable advertising and links (both highlighted and hidden).

Intentionally Urban Magazine......,

Around the World on a Tank of Gas

From the current issue of BusinessWeek;

Get ready for a new guessing game to pass those long hours on the road: Who pays the most to fill up the tank?

As Americans head off for the first weekend of the summer driving season, the biggest excitement may come at the start of the trip when they fill up the tank on $4-a-gallon gas. Instead of playing the license plate game, how about guessing which countries have the highest and lowest gas prices? It may be comforting to know that, even at current prices, gas in the U.S. costs less than half what it does in some European countries. But it's much, much more expensive than in, say, Venezuela, where gas costs 12¢ a gallon. In the following slides, we give you 12 of the most, and 12 of the least, expensive places to fill up, with the U.S. in the middle for a reference point. Prices are as of March, 2008.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Peak Oil Debunked in Four Minutes

The Science of Sarcasm (Not That You Care)

Dan Hurley in the NYTimes; “The left hemisphere does language in the narrow sense, understanding of individual words and sentences,” Dr. Chatterjee said. “But it’s now thought that the appreciation of humor and language that is not literal, puns and jokes, requires the right hemisphere.”

There was nothing very interesting in Katherine P. Rankin’s study of sarcasm — at least, nothing worth your important time. All she did was use an M.R.I. to find the place in the brain where the ability to detect sarcasm resides. But then, you probably already knew it was in the right parahippocampal gyrus.

What you may not have realized is that perceiving sarcasm, the smirking put-down that buries its barb by stating the opposite, requires a nifty mental trick that lies at the heart of social relations: figuring out what others are thinking. Those who lose the ability, whether through a head injury or the frontotemporal dementias afflicting the patients in Dr. Rankin’s study, just do not get it when someone says during a hurricane, “Nice weather we’re having.”

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bubble Governance Measures

Here's the real reason I'm not sanguine about imminent collapse.
The Commodity Futures and Trading Commission (CFTC) is investigating trading in oil futures to determine whether the surge in prices to record levels is the result of manipulation or fraud. They might want to take a look at wheat, rice and corn futures while they're at it. The whole thing is a hoax cooked up by the investment banks and hedge funds who are trying to dig their way out of the trillion dollar mortgage-backed securities (MBS) mess that they created by turning garbage loans into securities. That scam blew up in their face last August and left them scrounging for handouts from the Federal Reserve. Now the billions of dollars they're getting from the Fed is being diverted into commodities which is destabilizing the world economy; driving gas prices to the moon and triggering food riots across the planet.

For months we've been told that the soaring price of oil has been the result of Peak Oil, fighting in Iraq, attacks on oil facilities in Nigeria, labor problems in Norway, and (the all-time favorite)growth in China. It's all baloney. Just like Goldman Sachs prediction of $200 per barrel oil is baloney. If oil is about to skyrocket then why has G-Sax kept a neutral rating on some of its oil holdings like Exxon Mobile? Could it be that they know that oil is just another mega-inflated equity bubble---like housing, corporate bonds and stocks-that is about to crash to earth as soon as the big players grab a parachute?

There are three things that are driving up the price of oil: the falling dollar, speculation and buying on margin.
When the regulators are invoked to cool the out of control chain reaction in the reactor core, not only here in the colonies, but simultaneously in the imperial homeland, it doesn't mean that the cavalry is coming to save the day for you and I, oh no. Rather, it means that the quest to extract remaining collateral value from the middle and the bottom has become excessively frenzied to the detriment of too vast a swath of the top. Governance stability is at risk. Things could still very well spiral out of control, however, efforts are being made to bring them back under control which means you may still have enough time to get your own act together and prepare you and yours for the clampdown. It's coming. I just don't think it's coming next week or that TPTB want it to come anytime between now and the election.

Global Governance Strained

From the Christian Science Monitor - Food crisis: A daily quest for bread in Cairo;
Egyptians are living through the worst food crisis in a generation, caught in a storm of stagnant wages, rising global food prices, rampant corruption, and a quickly advancing inflation rate that hit 16.4 percent in May. The price of basic commodities like bread, wheat, rice, and cooking oil has doubled since this time last year – prompting bread riots.

The riots are why Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was a featured speaker among 40 government leaders at the three-day UN food summit that concluded Thursday in Rome. Mr. Mubarak called for an end to subsidies for biofuels because they are creating a "hazardous distortion to the present system of agricultural trade."

While Mubarak pushed for changes abroad, his government struggles to meet the basic needs of Egyptians.

Under a government order, bakers now start work at 4 a.m. to produce enough bread for everyone waiting in the city's bread lines, says Yasser Shalaby, who owns a bakery with his brother Said in another part of Imbaba.

Once at work, they labor under the careful watch of government supervisors. The supervisors ensure they bake through the day, but there are allegations that they participate in theft and smuggling as often as they prevent it.

Bread line violence in other parts of the city has led to brawls in which at least a dozen people have died since January.

Bread shortages have eased since government measures went into effect but inflation and high prices show no signs of ending anytime soon.

Not Quite Yet....,

Of course, I could be mistaken. But having slept on it, this morning I'm disinclined to think that yesterday's market meltdown and oil price spike constituted anything remotely approaching the last straw. I believe that the energy bubble is still in its early phases and that controls will be implemented to ensure that this bubble expands gradually until all possible profit is extracted. If it were to explode prematurely, then TPTB would miss out on their vampiric extraction of remaining collateral value from the middle and the bottom.

Speculative analysts echoed this view;
"In the past two months nothing very dramatic has happened to warrant an increase in the oil price to $135. This is pretty much 100 percent speculation," he told the Reuters Global Energy Summit from Singapore.

"It is very likely and possible that we will go back again to the $100 range as speculators take profits and go out of the market. It could happen by end-August or latest by September."

Friday, June 06, 2008

Blue Gardena....,

This just in from my man rembom. Gardena pushing up hard on the $5.00 Gas Club. Today, at 190th and Western, Gardena, CA. (note the palm tree in the background Ed Dunn, in case you're busy scrutinizing....,)

Nitrogen Fertilizer

My man BD keeps it truthy and keeps the subrealist ouevre on its toes, thank you sir;
Photo of $8.95 20# bag of garden fertilizer attached. I recently bought several bags for TSHTF purposes since the price has not gone up appreciably yet in response to the oil skyrocket. Price was same as a year ago.
$5 did sound waaay high - but organic fertlizer is more expensive than commercial fertilizer. At the end of the day, urine is a better nitrogen fertilizer than chemical nitrogen. A little humanure, compost from your own yard, ashes from your fireplace and barbeque and some regular golden showers, and voila! The form of the fertilizer makes a HUGE difference.

As for the rest, spending to treat wastewater sewage is both wasteful and destructive to the environment. That urban output has a far more valuable and immediate application to victory gardening and doesn't drag gallons of tapwater down the drain to send it gushing out of your apt. or house and into the infrastructural money pit.

The Water Crisis - A Practical Solution

Local food production is the basis of all economies and the missing component in modern cities.
The economic potential of capturing human urine is stunning. Human urine is 18% organic nitrogen and has been used in agriculture for thousands of years. Sweden, Germany, Holland and many other countries have been using and processing human urine for agricultural purposes and to protect the environment from water based sewer systems. Human urine is the only renewable, sustainable and economically feasible source of nitrogen available to humanity and it is free.

What is the economic value of human urine? Here is how it works, the value of comparative petroleum derived fertilizer with the same 18% nitrogen content is approximately $10.00 a gallon and requires a massive polluting industry that is not renewable. The average person produces 2 liters of urine a day or roughly $5.00 worth of organic nitrogen. A city like Miami flushes down the drain 10 to 20 million dollars worth of nitrogen a day and spends another fortune to do it. Integrated Recycling is the future of our economy and could replace taxation in funding community services. The cities will become fertilizer factories and urban and suburban farming and food production could provide a sustainable, local food supply. Schools and churches could be nurseries and local gardening centers, hubs of city and urban agriculture and recycling. This could be a sustainable, local system that is a renewable doable foundation for local economies.
This section on water/sewage is in the midst of other, more general material. For more of the author's thoughts about agriculture see Interview.

The Urban Farmer

In the Independant;
Last April, in a discussion about the global food crisis, Gordon Brown announced: "We need to make great changes in the way we organise food production in the next few years." High on the list of viable changes is the idea of inner-city agriculture. Which is the theory behind Haeg's concept, detailed in his new book Edible Estates: it proposes the replacement of the domestic front lawn in cities with "an edible landscape". Last year, to illustrate this point, Haeg was commissioned by the Tate to create a permanent "edible estate" on a triangle of communal grass in front of a housing estate near Elephant and Castle, bordered on two sides by a main road along which London buses thunder every few minutes.

The aim was to engage and involve the local residents – and together they miraculously transformed a patch of grass previously favoured by dogs and drunks into a luscious agri-plot housing apple and plum trees, a "forest" of tomato plants, aubergines, squashes, Brussels sprouts, runner beans, sweet peas, a "salad wing", herbs, edible flowers and 6ft artichoke plants. It is also quite beautiful: "The design was inspired by the ornate, curvy raised flowerbeds you find in front of Buckingham Palace," explains Haeg. Interestingly, although this space is still accessible by passers-by – unlike the traditional allotment, which Haeg feels is outdated – there has been no theft or vandalism. The London project was mirrored in several locations around the US. [...]

Many are already talking about it. Inspired by the "victory gardens" of the First and Second World Wars, when civilians were urged to "dig for victory" to survive the food shortages. [...]

It's not just about financial and health benefits – Wright has also noticed social benefits. "People who have not spoken for five years are suddenly chatting again, discussing what they've grown. And it brings together people from different cultures too – they lean over the fence and reminisce about the vegetables they grew in their countries as children – okra, bananas, yams, sweet potatoes."

Wright describes one gardener, an elderly widow, who has planted an almond tree as a memorial to her late husband and says he would have loved to see how the space had been transformed. "One guy has even replaced the photo of his family on his mobile phone with a picture of the garden. It's given them so much pride."

The impact of the garden has been enormous, says Wright. People from further and further away are coming along to get involved, learn new skills and socialise. "They see it and it's like a lightbulb and they say, 'We want our own edible estate.' Well, it makes sense, doesn't it?"

farm's wells going dry as water competition stiffens

New subdivisions, industrial sites, playing fields all pumping water from changing eastern Travis County. Since the wells on their eastern Travis County farm went dry this month, Katie and David Pitre have struggled to water and wash the vegetables they sell at farmers markets. Their three children have showered at the YMCA, and their dishes have had to be cleaned with pond water.

Relying on a nearby creek for irrigation and the generosity of neighbors for water to wash dirt off their vegetables, the Pitres say they will still show up to farmers markets today and make their weekly home deliveries to their 170 customers.

The situation exemplifies how changing land-use patterns in eastern Travis County have driven competition for water. In what was once a primarily rural area, a fleet of subdivisions, industrial sites and playing fields have jockeyed with farms for limited water resources. Gieselman said the county could probably not sell water to the farm because it is not a utility. He said the farm could try to buy water from a supplier with nearby wells, such as Manville.

When the Pitres asked a local water supplier whether an agricultural water rate existed, they had little luck. "We were told, 'Most farmers rely on Jesus,' " said Katie Pitre, 39. "When you grow row crops for your living, you can't rely on Jesus all the time." From the Austin American Statesman.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Essential BioScience

Nana, when I complete the communication tools for social networks technology project I've been working on for the past few years, I plan to retire to cultivate goats and mushrooms.

Entrepreneurial mycologist Paul Stamets seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords. The focus of Stamets' research is the Northwest's native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas.

There are cosmic implications as well. Stamets believes we could terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet.

Permanent Occupation

In today's Independant; Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

Bush wants 50 military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and legal immunity for all American soldiers and contractors

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.

The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Good Riddance......,

The Humvee has GOT to go....,

Wagoner said the change in the U.S. market to smaller vehicles likely is permanent. "We at GM don't think this is a spike or a temporary shift," Wagoner said.

On the Hummer, Wagoner said GM is "undertaking a strategic review of the Hummer brand, to determine its fit with GM's evolving product portfolio" in light of changing market conditions.

"At this point, we are considering all options for the Hummer brand... everything from a complete revamp of the product lineup to partial or complete sale of the brand," he said.

General Motors is closing four truck and SUV plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, affecting 10,000 workers, as surging fuel prices hasten a dramatic shift to smaller vehicles.

CEO Rick Wagoner said Tuesday before the automaker's annual meeting in Delaware the plants to be idled are in Oshawa, Ontario; Moraine, Ohio; Janesville, Wis.; and Toluca, Mexico. He also said the iconic Hummer brand will be reviewed and potentially sold or revamped.

Grid Lock

A month ago, I posted an article about sweeping systemic weaknesses in the U.S. electrical power grid. Sure enough, gridlock is beginning to take its toll as folks seek to bring alternative power sources online;
Thousands of wind turbines in the US are sitting idle or failing to meet their full generating capacity because of a shortage of power lines able to transmit their electricity to the rest of the grid.

The issue of transmission capacity will be high up the agenda as 10,000 wind power industry executives descend this week on Houston, Texas, where the shortage of power lines is hampering the state's alternative energy plans. The problem is particularly acute in Texas because of the speed with which it has grown its wind power industry, two years ago surpassing California as the state with the most capacity. The solutions devised in Texas could form a model for the future of the industry in the US and elsewhere, as energy companies look beyond fossil fuels for cheaper and greener sources of power.
and, as folks flee the rising costs of heating fuel and try to get their home heating needs met by power off the grid;
An emerging issue around the world and perhaps here soon is that people are switching to electric heat in response to higher heating fuel prices or actual shortages. An overload of the grid leads to "load shedding" or a complete shutdown. Rolling blackouts are the daily fare in many countries already (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, China, India, Albania, Argentina, Tajikistan, etc etc). Lack of reliable electricity already has had devastating consequences to the economy in those countries. E.g., in South Africa many mines and coal-to-liquid fuel plants had to shut down, inoperable traffic lights snarl traffic, farmers cannot irrigate their fields nor ventilate stored harvests, and dairy farmers cannot milk their cows.

Here in Vermont the current fixed low price for electricity is actually no more expensive (per delivered BTU) than the current prices of propane and heating oil (but not natural gas, yet). Check out the state's fuel price report - the per-btu chart is in the PDF report linked from there. Also, while many are pondering how to afford a fuel delivery, everybody can "buy" electricity on credit, and are not quickly disconnected if they put off paying the bill. If too many people plug in electric heaters during a cold snap, this may cause a bigger problem. If blackouts result, most people would lose their heating altogether: only those with wood stoves or generators would retain heating.
We're not even talking about the hybrid hypercars yet that will get 100 plus MPG and need to be plugged in at night to recharge, instead, we're talking about meeting existing basic needs, and, trying to bring renewable power sources online. Seems to me that a $50-100 Trillion infrastructure re-investment needs to be directed toward the power grid. Hmm.., wonder where that money's gonna come from?

The Dominoes Fall - Collapse Casualties

Trucking company downsizes;
WH Transportation Co. has plans to lay off 340 employees from its operations in Wisconsin, Ohio and Georgia, citing rising fuel expenses.

The company, which expanded into the van freight business in the 1980s, will focus on delivering housing components for its sister companies Wausau Homes and Sterling Building Systems. In addition, it will deliver general flatbed freight for other customers.

"Everyone's costs, especially fuel, continue to increase, and the industry cannot raise rates sufficiently to cover the increases due to the national economic downturn," Tom Schuette, the company's co-owner, said in a news release. "The flatbed business is the best business for us to be in."

Schuette declined to elaborate Monday about the company's decision to downsize, according to an employee at Wausau Homes. WH Transportation will continue its van trailer service through July, and then reduce its Wisconsin staff to 80 employees, according to the written statement.

The company did not specify how many employees it would lay off in Wisconsin. The 340 total employees include drivers, owner operators, service technicians, support personnel and dispatchers.

The company's Web site, ironically, stated on Monday that it's still hiring drivers.
With diesel at $4.80/gallon, this is just the first of many. Independent truckers have been falling off like flies. The long haul trucking industry is a dead man walking. The return of rail will actually be a good thing, but it will be intensely upsetting for many for some years to come.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Codex Alimentarius

Codex Alimentarius was created in 1962 as a trade Commission by the UN to control the international trade of food. Its initial intentions may have been altruistic but it has been taken over by corporate interests, most notably the pharmaceutical, pesticide, biotechnology and chemical industries. Codex Alimentarius will go into global implementation by December 31, 2009.

The Gods of Greed

Fabulous audio treatment of the failings of the "free" market in yesterday's Guardian;
the chief executives of Britain's five largest banking institutions - Barclays, HBOS, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and Royal Bank of Scotland - met the Bank of England. In the jargon of the City, they wanted governor Mervyn King to widen the types of collateral against which the Bank would lend to the clearing banks. In plain English, they wanted him to lend taxpayers' money against much flakier assets than would normally be considered acceptable.

Why did they need this handout? Because banks themselves had stopped lending each other money. The collapse of the US housing market, and the complex financial instruments that had been spun off from it, had caused chaos in the money markets. The victims of last year's "subprime crisis" included two of the world's most respected banks, America's Bear Sterns and France's BNP, while the "credit crunch" that followed claimed Britain's Northern Rock. Those banks that escaped unharmed were sure of only one thing: with so many of their peers exposed to incalculable risks, there was more bad news to come.
But it doesn't end there;
Speculation has left the global economy more vulnerable to a financial collapse than at any time since 1929. According to the supposedly sophisticated models used by market practitioners, a stock-market crash such as the one in 1929 was likely once in 10,000 years. They said the same, however, about the stock market crash of 1987, the collapse of the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management in 1998 and the subprime crisis. The obvious conclusion is that these models are flawed. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently described the crisis that erupted last August as "the largest financial shock since the Great Depression". George Soros, the billionaire speculator who knows a thing or two about financial upsets, says the world is facing the "most serious crisis of our lifetime".
Extracted from The Gods That Failed: How Blind Faith in Markets Has Cost Us Our Future by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson

Is Humanity Sustainable?

Abstract; The principles and tenets of management require action to avoid sustained abnormal pathological conditions. For the sustainability of interactive systems, each system should fall within its normal range of natural variation. This applies to individuals (as for fevers and hypertension, in medicine), populations (e.g. outbreaks of crop pests in agriculture), species (e.g. the rarity of endangerment in conservation) and ecosystems (e.g. abnormally low productivity or diversity in ‘ecosystem-based management’). In this paper, we report tests of the hypothesis that the human species is ecologically normal. We reject the hypothesis for almost all of the cases we tested. Our species rarely falls within statistical confidence limits that envelop the central tendencies in variation among other species. For example, our population size, CO2 production, energy use, biomass consumption and geographical range size differ from those of other species by orders of magnitude. We argue that other measures should be tested in a similar fashion to assess the prevalence of such differences and their practical implications.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Copper Thieves Knock Out Cable in South KC Area

Kansas City Police received a call today about copper thieves cutting wires near Red Bridge and Blue River Road.

No arrests have been made.

Time Warner Cable has a recorded message on their phone saying, “We’re experiencing an outage of all services in the south Kansas City area.”

NBC Action News tried to reach Time Warner Cable, but a representative for Time Warner did not return our calls.

Wizards at War VIII - Are Physicists Smart?

Given what we know about the social, energetic, and capital costs of the warsocialist enterprise, the fact for example, that war has driven up the cost of energy by $6 Trillion in the past few years, this is not an idle or superfluous question.

It's been a while since I posted anything to the Wizards at War series. Not for lack of information, it's just that there's been so much "the end of the world as we know it" (TEOTWAWKI) to cover, that I got sidetracked. Prof. Dennis Rancourt posed this question a couple of years ago, leading with the assertion that "80 % of physicists in North America work for the military";
Eighty percent of physicists in North America work for the military, in the world’s largest military economy. But of course physics students are drawn to physics because all can be understood via the physics portal and because worm holes are neat. Students search for meaning and social status and find military and corporate service, often in an environment that maintains the neat-problem mental bubble first cultivated in sci-fi and electronic game land.

If you’re already smarter than everyone else (as is generally the working assumption in most professions), then you don’t really need to venture out into other fields – that are so primitive and qualitative and descriptive in comparison to physics.

Other fields…? Other methods…? Complexity…? Professional physicists have so buried themselves into their culture of the doable, the mappable, the reducible, the solvable, the codable, … that they are largely unable to perceive complexity.
In objective terms, physicists are among the smartest folks in the general population. However, the institutions and acculturation surrounding the professional practice of physics channels and subverts these keen intellects into some of the most destructive and least productive areas of human endeavor.

Active Denial System

60 Minutes updated and rebroadcast its story on Raytheon's Active Denial System last night. I found the CBS story piquant in light of the domestic law enforcement applications touted in the revised story. Interestingly, alternet found it interesting in that regard last week as well and scooped 60 Minutes;
Coming soon, from the folks who brought you the microwave -- Raytheon! After more than ten years in the making and at a cost of over 40 million dollars, 'Silent Guardian', or Active Denial System, (ADS, in it's formal mood), is almost ready for public release!

Yes, Raytheon -- manufacturer of the 100 bunker buster bombs kindly flown by America to Israel at the height of their bombardment of Lebanon, and supplier of electronic equipment for the apartheid wall built on Palestinian land; -- Raytheon -- with its 73,000 employees worldwide and annual revenues of 20 billion dollars has gone and done it again!

For, Raytheon -- the world's largest producer of guided missiles, and fifth largest defense contractor in the world, provider of aircraft radar systems, weapons sights and targeting systems, communication and battle-management systems, and satellite components -- has come up with a system which could scatter a crowd in a trice without a drop of blood being spilled.

Yes, folks, originally designed to protect military personnel against small-arms fire without the use of lethal force, Silent Guardian, ADS, the Pain Ray, call it what you will, (Raytheon would prefer you not to use the latter however), will finally soon be here!
The question posed by Michael Dickinson, how long before the "Holy Grail of crowd control" is used to quell domestic dissent? Those doggone physicists are always up to something, aren't they?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Fuel is a Feminist Issue

Fascinating column in the Times Online;
Fuel duty is not just a political deal-breaker for Gordon Brown; it is a genuinely feminist issue. Without the short cuts afforded to women by cheap, flexible, personal transport, many working mothers would simply not be able to honour their various commitments to home, children and employer. Until someone can arrange the establishment of a Utopian Britain, where children cycle half a mile to school down empty, safe country lanes and mums work just around the corner, the car, for better or for worse, is going to remain king - and fuel duty an issue that affects even those sections of society without tattooed forearms.
Amanda Kovatanna put it best;
Along the way, he reveals pithy insights to explain how the American system works in contrast with the Russian one. For instance the story of the classless society is exemplified by the concept of a middle class — something Americans have proudly espoused — which he points out is held together by the common denominator of everyone owning a car. That's right, not education, not equal opportunity, or equal rights but the one-ton behemoth that we must have to get around the wasteful geography created by suburbia.

We know about this waste from the film The End of Suburbia and James Kunstler's Geography of Nowhere and all the other peak oil fellows, but Orlov points out that
because we are so identified with owning a car as part of this American middle class identity we will be hard put to let it go. And when we are forced to (due to diminishing and increasingly expensive gasoline supplies) so will go the myth of the middle class.
And there it is in a nutshell. Few national politicians dare give voice to what's just beyond the signpost up ahead. Being unwilling and unable to discuss reality, how then could they ever go about proposing, much less implementing, any of the radical engineering redesigns required to genuinely rebuild along viable and sustainable lines? The patient is as yet utterly unwilling to hear an objective and accurate diagnosis. With no diagnosis, how can she participate in her own treatment, much less get on board with the radical measures required to effect an actual cure?

Airline Deathwatch

Also in the Times Online;

Airlines are being forced to pay cash in advance for jet fuel as the major oil companies tighten the screws on an industry that is being crushed by an extraordinary surge in the price of crude oil.

Sources within the airline industry indicate that credit is being denied to most of the leading American carriers and the practice is moving to Europe and Asia. So uncertain is the cash solvency of the industry that jet fuel suppliers insist on prepayments into special bank accounts.

A credit controller at a leading European multinational oil company told The Times that the oil industry was moving to jet fuel prepayment. “It’s common in the US and it is moving to Europe. We have been moving to prepayment since Swissair went bust.”

The need to put up money before delivery of fuel is a huge financial burden that has been shifted from the oil companies to the airlines. According to John Armbrust, a US jet fuel consultant, the oil industry had $5 billion (£2.5 billion) of jet fuel credit outstanding to airlines before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now they are demanding that airlines leave cash on deposit.

You Are On Your Own!!!

Three days late, and three dollars short is all that the government is capable of being in response to the massive issues du jour. Neither presidential candidates or the deliberative body of congress is up to the task at hand. Given that all the candidates are from the deliberative body, well......,

The possible economic cost of confronting global warming — from higher electricity bills to more expensive gasoline — is driving the debate as climate change takes center stage in Congress.

The Senate will begin considering legislation Monday that would mandate a reduction in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from power plants, refineries, factories and transportation, cutting heat-trapping pollution by two-thirds by mid-century.

The debate opens as Americans are reeling over $4 gasoline and soaring expenses to heat and cool their homes. That's making it all that harder to sell the merits of a bill that would transform the nation's energy industries and — as its critics will argue — cause energy prices to increase even more.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., one of the chief sponsors of the bill, says computer studies suggest the overall impact on energy costs could be modest with several projections showing overall continued economic growth. The measure calls for tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks to offset higher energy bills, its sponsors say.

Returning from the Memorial Day recess, lawmakers also have to fix the international food aid and trade components of a farm bill that, through a printing error, were left out of the parchment version that President Bush signed into law last month. And the House and Senate are still working on a bill to fund the Iraq war another year, expand G.I. Bill college benefits and strengthen New Orleans levees.

While this week's Senate debate on global warming is viewed as a watershed in climate change politics, both sides of the issue acknowledge the likelihood of getting the bill passed is slim, at least this year.