Saturday, February 14, 2009

zbig on iraq last year....,

Washington Post | The overall goal of a comprehensive U.S. strategy to undo the errors of recent years should be cooling down the Middle East , instead of heating it up. The "unipolar moment" that the Bush administration's zealots touted after the collapse of the Soviet Union has been squandered to generate a policy based on the unilateral use of force, military threats and occupation masquerading as democratization - all of which has pointlessly heated up tensions, fueled anti-colonial resentments and bred religious fanaticism. The long-range stability of the Middle East has been placed in increasing jeopardy.

Terminating the war in Iraq is the necessary first step to calming the Middle East , but other measures will be needed. It is in the U.S. interest to engage Iran in serious negotiations - on both regional security and the nuclear challenge it poses. But such negotiations are unlikely as long as Washington 's price of participation is unreciprocated concessions from Tehran . Threats to use force on Iran are also counterproductive because they tend to fuse Iranian nationalism with religious fanaticism.

Real progress in the badly stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process would also help soothe the region's religious and nationalist passions. But for such progress to take place, the United States must vigorously help the two sides start making the mutual concessions without which a historic compromise cannot be achieved. Peace between Israel and Palestine would be a giant step toward greater regional stability, and it would finally let both Israelis and Palestinians benefit from the Middle East 's growing wealth.

We started this war rashly, but we must end our involvement responsibly. And end it we must. The alternative is a fear-driven policy paralysis that perpetuates the war - to America 's historic detriment.

Friday, February 13, 2009

iraq was the first 'resource war' of the century

Guardian | The Iraq war was just the first of this century's "resource wars", in which powerful countries use force to secure valuable commodities for themselves, according to the UK government's former chief scientific adviser.

Sir David King predicted that with human population growing, natural resources dwindling and seas rising because of climate change, the squeeze on the planet would lead to more conflict.

"I'm going to suggest that future historians might look back on our particular recent past and see the Iraq war as the first of the conflicts of this kind – the first of the resource wars," he told an audience of 400 in London as he delivered the British Humanist Association's Darwin Day lecture.

Implicitly rejecting the American and British governments' argument that they went to war to remove Saddam Hussein and search for weapons of mass destruction, he said that the US was very concerned about energy security and supply because of its reliance on foreign oil from unstable states. "Casting its eye around the world – there was Iraq," he said.

This strategy could also be used to maintain supplies of other essentials such as minerals, water and fertile land, he added. "Unless we get to grips with this problem globally, we potentially are going to lead ourselves into a situation where large, powerful nations will secure the resources for their own people at the expense of others."

elite moral deviancy no longer shocks..,

Guardian | It is true that thoughtlessness and apathy rather than malicious intent on the part of majorities helps their representatives to perpetrate or cover up such atrocities as Gujarat, the blockade of Gaza, or the occupation of Kashmir - forms of violence less obvious or written about than 9/11, Saddam Hussein's regime, and the recent terrorist attacks on Mumbai. But this doesn't make thoughtlessness and apathy less destructive in actuality than the malevolence of despots and terrorists.

Hannah Arendt's phrase "banality of evil" refers precisely to how a generalised moral numbness among educated, even cultured, people makes them commit or passively condone acts of extreme violence. Arendt marvelled at "the phenomenon of evil deeds, committed on a gigantic scale, which could not be traced to any particularity of wickedness, pathology or ideological conviction in the doer, whose only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness".

Shallowness and ignorance have been our lot in the mass consumer societies we inhabit, where we were too distracted to act politically, apart from periodically deputing political elites to take life-and-death decisions on our behalf. We were shielded from many of the deleterious consequences, which worked themselves out on obscure people in remote lands. The free world's economic implosion is bringing home the intolerable cost of this collective deference to apparently efficient elites and anonymous, overcomplex institutions.

It is too easy to blame Bush, who told Americans to go spend and consume while he ratcheted up pain levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the grotesquely overrated technocrats running banks and businesses. As the New York Times columnist Frank Rich reminded Americans last week: "We spent a decade feasting on easy money, don't-pay-as-you-go consumerism and a metastasizing celebrity culture. We did so while a supposedly cost-free, off-the-books war, usually out of sight and out of mind, helped break the bank along with our nation's spirit and reputation."

The prosperity many democracies enjoyed lulled citizens into political torpor. The prospect of economic collapse has persuaded a majority of Americans to exercise more individual judgment than they showed while re-electing Bush in 2004. But collective failures of the kind Barack Obama spoke of in his stern inaugural speech will continue to occur among citizens of other democracies - and they will have no Obama to exhort them to personal responsibility.

In any case, economic disasters or foolish wars are hardly guaranteed to bring about large-scale individual self-examination or renew the appeal of truly participatory democracy. They are more likely to make authoritarianism attractive, as European democracies in the 1930s and Russia in recent times demonstrated. Many Indians and Israelis seem set to elect, with untroubled consciences, those who speak the language of torturers and terrorists. More disturbingly, these corrupted democracies may increasingly prove the norm rather than the exception.

global economy top threat to u.s.

NYTimes | The new director of national intelligence told Congress on Thursday that global economic turmoil and the instability it could ignite had outpaced terrorism as the most urgent threat facing the United States.

The assessment underscored concern inside America’s intelligence agencies not only about the fallout from the economic crisis around the globe, but also about long-term harm to America’s reputation. The crisis that began in American markets has already “increased questioning of U.S. stewardship of the global economy,” the intelligence chief, Dennis C. Blair, said in prepared testimony.

Mr. Blair’s comments were particularly striking because they were delivered as part of a threat assessment to Congress that has customarily focused on issues like terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Mr. Blair singled out the economic downturn as “the primary near-term security concern” for the country, and he warned that if it continued to spread and deepen, it would contribute to unrest and imperil some governments.

“The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to U.S. strategic interests,” he said.

peak oil arrived yesterday....,

Financial Times | Demand for oil will fall this year at the fastest rate since 1982, the International Energy Agency has forecast.

The rich countries’ energy think-tank has again cut sharply its prediction for world oil demand this year, and now expects it to average 84.7m barrels per day, down 1m b/d from last year, because of the steep downturn in the world economy.

This year is expected to mark two successive years of falling demand for the first time since 1982-83.

Fuel demand has ”plummeted” in the US and is falling in many other countries, the IEA said. Even in China, one of the countries that powered the global growth in oil demand up to 2007, the rise in consumption is expected to slow sharply.

However, the IEA also warned that sharp production cuts from Opec, the oil producers’ cartel, would mean that by the end of the year there would need to be a ”substantial” draw-down in oil stocks, unless demand weakens even further, or supply from non-Opec countries turns out to be stronger than expected.

Opec cut its agreed production levels by 4.2m b/d in the second half of last year, and could well cut production again at its next meeting on March 15 in a bid to raise oil prices from this week’s levels below $40.

The IEA’s forecast for oil demand this year is 570,000 b/d lower than it predicted in January, reflecting the sharp deterioration in the assessment of the world economic outlook from the International Monetary Fund.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Inflation, Money Supply, GDP, Unemployment and the Dollar - Alternate Data Series

Click to go and view GDP, Unemployment, and Dollar charts...,

is the eu cracking up?

Telegraph | To recap, Mr Sarkozy last week pointedly referred to a Peugeot-Citroen plant in the Czech Republic to say that planned French government aid to automakers would be on the condition that all cars would be "Made in France". This is what he said: "If you build a Renault plant in India to sell Renaults to Indians, that's justified, but if you build a factory, without saying the company's name, in the Czech Republic to sell cars in France, that's not justified".

Like it or not, that is what the EU's single market is all about. Is Mr Sarkozy now against it? Question that and then what is left for the EU?

This all comes as the Elysée announces up to 6 billion euro worth of handouts (£5.25 billion) to Renault and PSA Peugeot-Citroen.

The five year loans will include conditions such as a halt to layoffs and a suspension of factory closures in France.

Prague is furious.

Mirek Topolanek, the usually unflappable Czech PM, has lashed out by warning Mr Sarkozy that the Lisbon Treaty, much beloved in Paris and Berlin, might be a casualty.

"If someone wanted to really jeopardise the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, he could not have chosen a better way and a better time," he snarled on Monday.

A Czech statement: "As the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic I do not understand the argument that it is unjustifiable to manufacture cars for the French market in the Czech Republic. The attempts to use the financial crisis to introduce such forms of protectionism and protective measures may slow down and threaten the revival of the European economy".

Fist tap to Intellectual Insurgent for this data.

a toxic force rises in israel

Guardian | The hawkish camp thumped the centre left on Tuesday, and that's even when you generously count Kadima and Labour – co-authors of operation Cast Lead – as the centre left. But this is about more than a victory for the right. Something else happened and its face belongs to Avigdor Lieberman, the kingmaker whose 15 seats are essential if either Bibi or Livni are to govern without each other.

He does not fit straightforwardly on the Israeli right wing. For one thing, he is avowedly secular. Indeed, much of his appeal was to anti-religious voters who liked his demand for civil unions, thereby breaking the orthodox rabbinate's current monopoly on state-sanctioned marriage. Talk of liberalising the sale of pork products proved too much for at least one religious party, whose spiritual leader warned that a vote for Lieberman was a vote for Satan. The result is that Bibi may find assembling a coalition that includes both the religious parties and Lieberman impossible.

But it's not this idea which has made Lieberman such a toxic force. For that you have to look to the slogan that drove his campaign: "No loyalty, no citizenship." He would insist that every Israeli swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state: anyone who loses will lose his citizenship.

Israel Beytenu denies this is racist, insisting that every Israeli will have to swear the oath, Jewish or Arab. It is true that plenty of ultra-orthodox Jews who don't accept the authority of a godless secular state may also refuse. But the target is clearly Israel's 1.45 million Arabs. If they will not swear their allegiance, explains Lieberman deputy Uzi Landau, "They will have residency rights but no right to vote or be in the Knesset."

It is a truly shocking idea. I asked several Israel Beytenu luminaries if they could name a single democracy anywhere that had removed citizenship from those who already had it. I asked what they would make of demanding that, say, British Jews, swear an oath of loyalty to Britain as a Christian country on pain of losing their right to vote. I got no good answers.

There was a time when such a poisonous idea would have been confined to the lunatic extremes of the racist Kach party, led by Meir Kahane (of whose youth wing Lieberman was once a member). Twenty five years ago Kahane was banned from the Knesset. Now his heir is courted by the two main parties, desperate for his support. Kadima is untroubled by the loyalty oath scheme; Bibi says he agrees with it.

Who is to blame for this? Israel Beytenu puts the blame on the Israeli Arab leadership for flaunting their "disloyalty", especially during January's Gaza offensive when several prominent Israeli Arabs proclaimed their solidarity with Hamas. They say no democratic society could tolerate such a fifth column, cheering on a mortal enemy.

Mexico Drug Violence Spurs Worry In U.S.

NPR | U.S. intelligence officials say a collapse in Mexico is one of their nightmare scenarios, and several new studies have been raising anxiety levels further in the United States.

Mexico's ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan, brushed off some of the more dire warnings, which he said are promoted by people seeking "juicy deals" with contractors in Mexico.

Shannon, with the U.S. State Department, says he does not believe that Mexico will become a failed state, as some have warned. However, he says "the struggle is real" and the ability of the Mexican state to continue political and economic reforms is "at risk."

"Organized crime and trafficking cartels are trying to hobble the state and weaken it so that it can't interfere with their activities," he says.

A former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Jeffrey Davidow, says the U.S. shouldn't fool itself into thinking it can solve all of Mexico's problems.

"We cannot deny the responsibility of the United States in terms of a market for drugs and a sales point for guns," Davidow says. "But the fact of the matter is not much of what the United States is going to do, in the short term, is going to have an impact on this horrendous growth of insecurity."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

panasonic bird flu fear recall...,

AFP | Panasonic Corp. has ordered Japanese employees in some foreign countries to send their families home to Japan in preparation for a possible bird flu pandemic, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Family members of Japanese employees in parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Russia, former Soviet states and Latin America will fly back to Japan by the end of September, Panasonic spokesman Akira Kadota said.

The firm decided to take the rare measure "well ahead of possible confusion at the outbreak of a global pandemic," he said.

Eight people have contracted the H5N1 bird flu virus in China alone this year -- five of whom died.

"The bird flu cases reported so far are infections from bird to human, but once an infection between human beings is reported, things can get chaotic with many other companies trying to bring back their employees," Kadota said.

"We wanted to take action early before it gets difficult to book flight tickets," he said.

The company did not say how many family members would return to Japan. Employees and their families in North America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore will not be affected.

The H5N1 strain of the virus that is most dangerous to humans first emerged in Asia in 2003 and has since caused nearly 250 deaths, according to World Health Organisation figures.

"select agent" inventory control problems

Propublica | The U.S. Army has suspended research with deadly agents and toxins at the military's top germ warfare lab, which came under intense scrutiny after the FBI identified it as the source of the anthrax used in the 2001 "Amerithrax" attacks that killed five, injured 17 and kept the nation on knife-edge for weeks.

The suspension, announced internally last week at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), was attributed to concerns about whether the facility had an accurate inventory of all the deadly "select agents [1]" in its freezers and refrigerators. Select agents are the most dangerous and tightly regulated biological substances used in research, including anthrax, Yersinia pestis (plague) and the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

The FBI last year contended that Bruce Ivins, who worked on anthrax vaccines at USAMRIID's labs in Ft. Detrick, Md., engineered the 2001 attacks. Ivins, who had become emotionally troubled, committed suicide before the government could try to prove its theory in court.

As we reported in a three-part series in December [2], many WMD experts are worried that the $20 billion the federal government has spent on bio-defense research in the past seven years might actually have put the nation at even greater risk of a bioterrorism attack because the spending has spawned a proliferation of labs and scientists working with "select agents." [1]

Last week's suspension of much of the germ-warfare research at the military's top bio-defense laboratory is just the latest in safety problems at bio-defense facilities [3] around the country attributed to lax security.

silenced genes drive viral cancers

The Scientist | Epigenetic changes in certain viruses can make the difference between a simple infection and cancer, according to a new study published early online tomorrow (Feb 10th) in Genome Research.

Stephan Beck, a medical genomicist at University College London who was not involved in the research, said he was "excited" by the findings, which identify "the correlation between cancer progression and methylation."

Researchers have been examining the link between DNA methylation, which generally causes gene silencing, and cancer, and to date, "this is the most comprehensive study of a complete methylome" -- or methylation map -- of a virus, Beck said.

Some 15% of cancers worldwide can be linked to viral infection. Manel Esteller, Director of the Cancer Epigenetics and Biology Program (PEBC-IDIBELL) in Barcelona, and his collaborators set out to create maps of DNA methylation patterns in three known oncogenic viruses: human papilloma virus (HPV), Hepatitis B virus (Hep B), and the Eppstein Barr Virus (EBV).

good new banks vs. bad old banks

FT | The truth of a proposition is independent of how many people believe it to be correct. The merits of a proposal are likewise not enhanced by the number of people supporting it or making similar proposals. Still, humans, like other pack animals, thrive on companionship. It is therefore comforting that the logic behind my proposal (January 29, 2009) for one or more new ‘good banks’ to be established, capitalised with public money and with additional financial support from the state for new lending and new funding, while the toxic assets of the old banks are left with the owners and creditors of the ‘legacy banks’, is being echoed in proposals from Joseph Stiglitz (February 2, 2009), George Soros (February 4, 2009) and Paul Romer (February 6, 2009), to name but a few. I claim no authorship or originality for the ‘good bank’ proposal. The idea is obvious and no doubt was floating around the blogosphere and elsewhere as soon as the magnitude of the insolvency disaster in the banking sector became apparent.

The various proposals differ in detail. Romer’s proposal is essentially the same as my own. Stiglitz argues, according to the British Daily Telegraph that “the government should allow every distressed bank to go bankrupt and set up a fresh banking system under temporary state control rather than cripple the country by propping up a corrupt edifice”.

Fist tap to RC for this data.

financial crisis public service announcement..,

Web of Debt | Fortunately, according to a recent study using the Treasury Department’s own data, the banking crisis is not widespread but is limited to only “a few big, vocal banks.”8 The real credit problem lies with the financial institutions with significant derivative exposure, and most of this liability is carried by only a handful of Wall Street giants. In early 2008, outstanding derivatives on the books of U.S. banks exceeded $180 trillion. However, $90 trillion of this was carried on the books of JPMorgan Chase alone, while Citibank and Bank of America each had $38 trillion on their books.9 Needless to say, these are also the banks that are first in line for the Treasury’s bailout money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Rather than excising the relatively contained derivative tumor, the Treasury and the Fed are feeding it with trillions in taxpayer money; and this money is being used, not to unfreeze credit by making loans, but to buy up smaller banks.10 That means the derivative cancer, rather than being excised, is liable to spread.

We the people and our representatives in Congress have allowed Wall Street to call the shots because we think we are dependent on their credit system, but we aren’t. There are other ways to get credit -- ways that are fair, efficient, transparent, and don’t encourage greed. Public credit could be generated by a system of public banks. Precedent for this solution is to be found in the state-owned Bank of North Dakota, which has been generating credit for North Dakota since 1919, keeping the state fiscally sound when other states are floundering. (See Ellen Brown, “Sustainable Government: Banking for a ‘New’ New Deal,” webofdebt.com/articles, December 8, 2008.)

The credit crunch could be avoided by “going local” not just in the United States but around the world. Countries that have been seduced or coerced into funneling their productive assets into serving foreign markets and foreign investors could become self-sustaining, using their own credit and their own resources to feed and serve their own people.

Fist tap to Rembom for this data.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

taliban in pakistan

NYTimes | Even as C.I.A. drone aircraft pound Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal region, there is growing concern among American military and intelligence officials about different militants’ havens in Pakistan that they fear could thwart American military efforts in Afghanistan this year.

American officials are increasingly focusing on the Pakistani city of Quetta, where Taliban leaders are believed to play a significant role in stirring violence in southern Afghanistan.

The Taliban operations in Quetta are different from operations in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan that have until now been the main setting for American unease. But as the United States prepares to pour as many as 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, military and intelligence officials say the effort could be futile unless there is a concerted effort to kill or capture Taliban leaders in Quetta and cut the group’s supply lines into Afghanistan.

From Quetta, Taliban leaders including Mullah Muhammad Omar, a reclusive, one-eyed cleric, guide commanders in southern Afghanistan, raise money from wealthy Persian Gulf donors and deliver guns and fresh fighters to the battlefield, according to Obama administration and military officials.

“When their leadership is where you cannot get to them, it becomes difficult,” said Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who until June was the senior American commander in Afghanistan and recently retired. “You are restrained from doing what you want to do.”

earth-killing economics...,

New Scientist | This graph is a stark reminder of the crisis facing our planet. Consumption of resources is rising rapidly, biodiversity is plummeting and just about every measure shows humans affecting Earth on a vast scale. Most of us accept the need for a more sustainable way to live, by reducing carbon emissions, developing renewable technology and increasing energy efficiency.

But are these efforts to save the planet doomed? A growing band of experts are looking at figures like these and arguing that personal carbon virtue and collective environmentalism are futile as long as our economic system is built on the assumption of growth. The science tells us that if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy.

This, of course, is economic heresy. Growth to most economists is as essential as the air we breathe: it is, they claim, the only force capable of lifting the poor out of poverty, feeding the world's growing population, meeting the costs of rising public spending and stimulating technological development - not to mention funding increasingly expensive lifestyles. They see no limits to that growth, ever.

theory of self-deception

ABSTRACT: An evolutionary theory of self-deception—the active misrepresentation of reality to the conscious mind—suggests that there may be multiple sources of self-deception in our own species, with important interactions between them. Self-deception (along with internal conflict and fragmentation) may serve to improve deception of others; this may include denial of ongoing deception, self-inflation, ego-biased social theory, false narratives of intention, and a conscious mind that operates via denial and projection to create a selfserving world. Self-deception may also result from internal representations of the voices of significant others, including parents, and may come from internal genetic conflict, the most important for our species arising from differentially imprinted maternal and paternal genes. Selection also favors suppressing negative phenotypic traits. Finally, a positive form of self-deception may serve to orient the organism favorably toward the future. Self-deception can be analyzed in groups and is done so here with special attention to its costs.

deception and self-deception

Seed | In the 1970s, a Harvard class taught by evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers ignited a controversy that would escalate into the "sociobiology wars." His papers provided a Darwinian basis for understanding complex human activities and relationships. Across town at MIT, revolutionary linguist Noam Chomsky had earned a reputation as a leading opponent of the Vietnam War. Throughout those pivotal years, and in the following decades, the two explored similar ideas from different perspectives. Long aware of each other's work, they had never met until a couple of months ago, when they sat down to compare notes on some common interests: deceit and self-deception.

Noam Chomsky: One of the most important comments on deceit, I think, was made by Adam Smith. He pointed out that a major goal of business is to deceive and oppress the public. And one of the striking features of the modern period is the institutionalization of that process, so that we now have huge industries deceiving the public—and they're very conscious about it, the public relations industry. Interestingly, this developed in the freest countries—in Britain and the US—roughly around time of WWI, when it was recognized that enough freedom had been won that people could no longer be controlled by force. So modes of deception and manipulation had to be developed in order to keep them under control.

Transcript available here.

Monday, February 09, 2009

shocking brutality spills over into u.s.

AP | Just as government officials had feared, the drug violence raging in Mexico is spilling over into the United States.

U.S. authorities are reporting a spike in killings, kidnappings and home invasions connected to Mexico's murderous cartels. And to some policymakers' surprise, much of the violence is happening not in towns along the border, where it was assumed the bloodshed would spread, but a considerable distance away, in places such as Phoenix and Atlanta.

Investigators fear the violence could erupt elsewhere around the country because the Mexican cartels are believed to have set up drug-dealing operations all over the U.S., in such far-flung places as Anchorage, Alaska; Boston; and Sioux Falls, S.D.

"The violence follows the drugs," said David Cuthbertson, agent in charge of the FBI's office in the border city of El Paso, Texas.

The violence takes many forms: Drug customers who owe money are kidnapped until they pay up. Cartel employees who don't deliver the goods or turn over the profits are disciplined through beatings, kidnappings or worse. And drug smugglers kidnap illegal immigrants in clashes with human smugglers over the use of secret routes from Mexico.

So far, the violence is nowhere near as grisly as the mayhem in Mexico, which has witnessed beheadings, assassinations of police officers and soldiers, and mass killings in which the bodies were arranged to send a message. But law enforcement officials worry the violence on this side could escalate.

mexican general slain

Washington Post | The general didn't get much time. After a long, controversial career, Brig. Gen. Mauro Enrique Tello Quiñones retired from active duty last month and moved to this Caribbean playground to work for the Cancun mayor and fight the drug cartels that have penetrated much of Mexican society. He lasted a week.

Tello, 63, along with his bodyguard and a driver, were kidnapped in downtown Cancun last Monday evening, taken to a hidden location, methodically tortured, then driven out to the jungle and shot in the head. Their bodies were found Tuesday in the cab of a pickup truck on the side of a highway leading out of town. An autopsy revealed that both the general's arms and legs had been broken.

The audacious kidnapping and killing of one of the highest-ranking military officers in Mexico drew immediate expressions of outrage from the top echelons of the Mexican government, which pledged to continue the fight against organized crime that took the lives of more than 5,300 people last year. Military leaders, who are increasingly at the front lines of the war against the cartels, vowed not to let Tello's death go unsolved or unpunished.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Collapse Of The Entire World Economy In 24 hours


Look for the explanation close to the four minute mark.

pakistan frees khan

NYTimes | Washington’s concerns were defiantly dismissed by Mr. Khan, who, beaming and smiling, was thronged by supporters and television cameras outside his residence in an affluent neighborhood upon news of his release.

“Let them talk,” he said. “Are they happy with our God? Are they happy with our prophet? Are they happy with our leaders? Never, so why should we bother what they say about us?”

Mr. Khan added, “I would be more worried about what you say about me, not what Bush says or what Dick Cheney says.”

canada urged to forge energy ties with russia, china

Canada.com | Two weeks before Barack Obama's visit to Canada, the leaders of three top Canadian think tanks are urging Ottawa to broaden its energy horizons and initiate discussions for a North Pacific Energy Security Framework that would include Russia and China.

And depending on the U.S. President's direction on climate change, cap-and-trade and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard - measures that Mr. Obama is championing as part of his green agenda that would be harmful to Canadian energy development - Canada could accelerate the drive to diversify its energy markets, the leaders said.

"Exporters depend on a robust international trading system, and discussions surrounding a North Pacific Energy Security Framework provide Canada with the opportunity to defend a trading system aligned with Canadian interests," they said. The paper, released this week, was produced by Pierre Alvarez, former president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and chairman of the Canadian Centre for Energy Information; Michael Cleland, president of the Canadian Gas Association; and Roger Gibbins, president of the Canada West Foundation.

urban backyard food production program

Republic of the Phillipines | Executive Order No. 776 Rolling Out The Backyard Food Production Programs In The Urban Areas

WHEREAS, two-thirds of the world is in recession, though the Philippines is not;

WHEREAS, it is not business as usual; government agencies must hit the round running;

WHEREAS, the government should take advantage of the window of opportunity, i.e. declining inflation and interest rates and good weather;

WHEREAS, the government has committed Three Hundred Billion Pesos (P300,000,000,000.00) to economic stimulus programs, including comprehensive livelihood and emergency employment program (CLEEP), that will save or create millions of new jobs.

WHEREAS, part of CLEEP consists of backyard food production programs like Gulayan ng Masa and the Integrated Services for Livelihood Advancement (ISLA) for subsistence fisherfolk.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GLORIA M. ARROYO, President of the Philippines, by the power vested in me by law, do hereby order:

SECTION 1. The Gulayan ng Masa and ISLA shall be rolled out into a massive government food production program in the urban areas with the active participation of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the local governments and the Philippine Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

SECTION 2. The rollout shall consist of the setting up of urban vegetable gardens and backyard fisheries, including vacant lots and unused government land.
President Arroyo really gets it. We should all pray that President Obama breaks through the haze of bankster economist fog, smoke and mirrors to the point of understanding the exact nature of the predicament facing the U.S. and steps up his game to this level of concrete practical engagement. Good on the Philippines.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

balkanization....,

When the situation gets bad enough, the United States will break up just like the former Soviet Union did. That's what "collapse" (to simplify) is all about.

State of Arizona House of Representatives Forty-ninth Legislature First Regular Session 2009

HCR 2024 Introduced by Representatives Burges, Ash, Biggs, Boone, Gowan, Mason, Montenegro, Pancrazi, Seel, Williams: Barto, Campbell CL, Court, Crandall, Crump, Driggs, Fleming, Goodale, Hendrix, Kavanagh, Lesko, McComish, McGuire, Miranda B, Murphy, Nichols, Pratt, Quelland, Stevens, Tobin, Weiers JP, Senator Harper

Whereas, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads as follows: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people"; and

Whereas, the Tenth Amendment defines the total scope of federal power as being that specifically granted by the Constitution of the United States and no more; and

Whereas, the scope of power defined by the Tenth Amendment means that the federal government was created by the states specifically to be an agent of the states; and

Whereas, today, in 2009, the states are demonstrably treated as agents of the federal government; and

Whereas, many federal laws are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the Tenth Amendment assures that we, the people of the United States of America and each sovereign state in the Union of States, now have, and have always had, rights the federal government may not usurp; and

Whereas, Article IV, section 4, United States Constitution, says in part, "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government", and the Ninth Amendment states that "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people"; and

Whereas, the United States Supreme Court has ruled in New York v. United States, 112 S. Ct. 2408 (1992), that Congress may not simply commandeer the legislative and regulatory processes of the states; and

Whereas, a number of proposals from previous administrations and some now pending from the present administration and from Congress may further violate the Constitution of the United States.

Therefore

Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the State of Arizona, the Senate concurring, that:

1. That the State of Arizona hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.

2. That this Resolution serves as notice and demand to the federal government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.

3. That all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed.

4. That the Secretary of State of the State of Arizona transmit copies of this resolution to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate of each state's legislature and each Member of Congress from the State of Arizona.

the california tea party...,

The most fiscally irresponsible state government is beginning to discover that it cannot continue its high handed ways. It is one thing to tell taxpayers they will have to wait for their tax refund checks until the state comes up with cash. But it is quite another to tell counties, which collect certain taxes on behalf of the state, that they will have to wait for their state aid. The Sacramento Bee reports:
Counties in California say they've had enough – and they aren't going to take it anymore. In what amounts to a Boston Tea Party-style revolt against the state Capitol, they're threatening to withhold money. Los Angeles is considering such an option. And Colusa County supervisors said they authorized payment delays for February.
I think they call this anarchy. Can you blame the Counties? They are the ones on the front lines having to deal with all of this. Where are the recall petitions? Where are the bus loads of Californians protesting around the capitol? A recall drive on the capitol steps would send a clear message to the State officials. I hear Fridays will be slow downtown. Furlough Friday or Recall Friday?

Of course it's not just the counties. MSNBC reports:
"We have been borrowing since July 12, 2007. That was the last day the general fund had any cash in it, and we've been relying on internal funds and borrowing from wall street to tide us over," said Garin Casaleggio, spokesperson for the state controller. But now, the cash crunch has hit critical mass with taxpayers getting the short end of the stick.
The theme of "revolt" is rapidly spreading. Economic riots and large scale civil unrest have already rocked France, Greece, Russia, China, and Britain. Now, unrest is beginning to taking hold in the U.S. - though for the most part at this early stage - it is taking the form of financial revolt

¡Que se vayan todos!

Guardian | It's not just governing elites that the world is rising up against - it's the entire model of deregulated capitalism. Watching the crowds in Iceland banging pots and pans until their government fell reminded me of a chant popular in anti-capitalist circles in 2002: "You are Enron. We are Argentina."

Its message was simple enough. You - politicians and CEOs huddled at some trade summit - are like the reckless scamming execs at Enron (of course, we didn't know the half of it). We - the rabble outside - are like the people of Argentina, who, in the midst of an economic crisis eerily similar to our own, took to the street banging pots and pans. They shouted, "¡Que se vayan todos!" ("All of them must go!") - and forced out a procession of four presidents in less than three weeks. What made Argentina's 2001-02 uprising unique was that it wasn't directed at a particular political party or even at corruption in the abstract. The target was the dominant economic model: this was the first national revolt against contemporary deregulated capitalism.

It has taken a while, but from Iceland to Latvia, South Korea to Greece, the rest of the world is finally having its ¡Que se vayan todos! moment. The pattern is clear: governments that respond to a crisis created by free-market ideology with an acceleration of that same discredited agenda will not survive to tell the tale. As Italy's students have taken to shouting in the streets: "We won't pay for your crisis!"

Friday, February 06, 2009

here it comes....,

Speaking Truth | There is a tremendous amount of anger rising in America. You don't see it - yet - in public, but it is there, simmering just under the surface. President Obama made note of it when it was revealed that nearly $20 billion was paid out in bonuses to Wall Street firms this year - after they took $70 billion of taxpayer money in direct assistance. That's about 30% of the total that went right out the door as bonuses. In effect, we are now paying taxes so that Wall Street can hand it out to the very people who got us into this mess!

Taxpayer anger and falling tax receipts, plus the government continuing to hand money to people who demonstrably not only made bad bets but engaged in outrageous and perhaps even illegal and fraudulent conduct, yet have returned nothing of what they stole sets up a very real risk of a tax revolt by Americans. It would be ruinous and nearly impossible to control if Americans decided en-masse to simply refuse to pay and to the extent possible went "off grid" through barter and underground transactions, or started modifying W4s to greatly limit withholding and then simply didn't file. Anecdotes related to this occurring are already popping up. I realize this is extremely illegal but at some point the American public is going to reach it's breaking point with the government literally stealing their money to bail out those who robbed them in the first place!

Government must be prepared to provide the basic necessities of life for at least five to ten million Americans and possibly as many as fifty million - one in six. As I have noted before this means barracks-style places to sleep, food, clothing and basic medical care. Hungry, homeless and unemployed people are dangerous.

Government must deal with the illegal alien issue. We simply cannot have tens of millions of illegal aliens consuming public resources at a time like this in our nation - period. Americans will pick strawberries if they're unemployed; that we have illegal immigrants doing this sort of work with 5 million Americans out of work is an outrage. Again, if government does not act there is a high probability that the American people will, with disastrous consequences.

entheogen

Thursday, February 05, 2009

collective consciousness and the obama inauguration?

The red arrow points to the moment when the oath of office was being recited.

dopamine

We are all addicted to "dopamine." Dopamine is a drug produced by our body which makes us "feel good." We buy things because the "buying" (more than the "owning") gives us a dopamine rush. That's why we never get enough stuff. It's like an orgasm. No matter how many orgasms we have, we want to have at least one more.

"Dopamine belongs to a group of brain chemicals called monoamines, a family of neurotransmitters involved in many different aspects of behavior -- personality, depression, drug and alcohol use, aggression, eating, and sex. It is tyrosine, a common amino acid found in many foodstuffs, with a few little changes at one end. Dopamine alone is not enough to give us a rush. Dopamine is a key that opens a lock. The lock is called a receptor, a large protein that sits on the surface of brain cells. The receptor is recognized by dopamine but by no other chemical, just like a lock can only be opened by the correct key. When the dopamine snuggles into the waiting receptor, the tumblers turn. Inside the brain begins a series of chemical reactions."

[pp. 35-36, LIVING WITH OUR GENES: Why They Matter More Than You Think, by Dean H. Hamer & Peter Copleland; Anchor, 1999]

pandemic preparedness chief to head cdc

Reuters | Dr. Richard Besser, who heads disaster and pandemic preparedness for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was named on Thursday as acting director of the agency.

Besser, trained as a pediatrician and infectious diseases expert, replaces Dr. Julie Gerberding, the high-profile CDC head who announced her resignation quietly last week. William Gimson, who is not a medical doctor, has been acting director.

"This designation will be effective until a permanent CDC ... director is appointed and enters on duty," the Health and Human Services department said in a statement.

Besser has been director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response, which is responsible for public health emergency preparedness and emergency response.

He helped coordinate the agency's response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 along the Gulf Coast and has helped oversee CDC's spending to help states get ready for a pandemic of influenza or other disease.

it's not going to be ok....,

Alternet | The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.

At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed.

How will we cope with our decline? Will we cling to the absurd dreams of a superpower and a glorious tomorrow or will we responsibly face our stark new limitations? Will we heed those who are sober and rational, those who speak of a new simplicity and humility, or will we follow the demagogues and charlatans who rise up out of the slime in moments of crisis to offer fantastic visions? Will we radically transform our system to one that protects the ordinary citizen and fosters the common good, that defies the corporate state, or will we employ the brutality and technology of our internal security and surveillance apparatus to crush all dissent? We won’t have to wait long to find out.

the unthinkable option

NYTimes | When it comes to Iran, the choice of metaphor is limited. The United States’ role in the 1953 coup here that deposed the Middle East’s first democratically elected government lives in memory. Any U.S. attack would propel 56-year-old Iranian demons into overdrive and lock in an America-hating Islamic Republic for the next half-century.

From Basra through Kabul to the Paris suburbs, Muslim rage would erupt. The Iranian Army is not the Israeli Army, but its stubborn effectiveness is in no doubt. Rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas, and newly tested Iranian long-range missiles, would hit Israel.

Chaos would threaten Persian Gulf states, oil markets and the grinding U.S. campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. war front, in the first decade of the 21st century, at a time of national economic disaster, would stretch thousands of miles across the Muslim world, from western Iraq to eastern Afghanistan.

It is doubtful that a bombing campaign would end Iran’s nuclear ambitions, so all the above might be the price paid for putting off an Iranian bomb — or mastery of the production of fissile material — by a year or so.

In short, the U.S. military option is not an option. It is unthinkable.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Clinton Warns Iran to Comply

Washington Post | Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plunged into her first day of intensive diplomacy yesterday, meeting separately with the foreign ministers of Britain and Germany and receiving a trip report from her Middle East envoy.

Clinton sought to assure European allies that the administration would closely coordinate with them on its emerging efforts to hold direct talks with Iran. She had pointed words about Iranian behavior on the same day that Tehran announced it had successfully sent its first domestically produced satellite into orbit using an Iranian-made long-distance missile.

"President Obama has signaled his intention to support tough and direct diplomacy with Iran, but if Tehran does not comply with United Nations Security Council and IAEA mandates, there must be consequences," Clinton said with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at her side. She used the abbreviation for the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has unsuccessfully sought answers from Iran on its nuclear program.

Afghan Supplies, Russian Demands

NYTimes | The Taliban didn’t wait long to test Barack Obama. On Tuesday, militants bombed a bridge in the Khyber Pass region in Pakistan, cutting off supply lines to NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan. This poses a serious problem for President Obama, who has said that he wants more American troops in Afghanistan. But troops need supplies.

The attack was another reminder that the supply line through Pakistan is extremely vulnerable. This means that the Obama administration might have to consider alternative routes through Russia or other parts of the former Soviet Union. But the Russians were unhappy about the Bush administration’s willingness to include Ukraine and Georgia in NATO, and they will probably not want to help with American supply lines unless Mr. Obama changes that position.

Here is where Mr. Obama could use some European help. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to come soon. Many Europeans, particularly Germans, rely on Russia’s natural gas. In January, the Russians cut natural gas shipments to Ukraine. As much of the Russian natural gas that goes to Europe runs through Ukraine, the cutoff affected European supplies — in the middle of winter. Europeans can’t really afford to irritate the Russians, and it’s hard to imagine that the Germans will confront them over supply routes to Afghanistan. Pakistan, unfortunately, is hardly a reliable partner either.
Russia and China are the last major holdouts for national sovereignty. An attempt was made to subvert Russia by non-military means, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but thanks to Putin that effort finally failed. China jumped into the capitalist game, in terms of trade and exports, but it has maintained strict control over its domestic economy and it has been rapidly upgrading its military, employing the cost-effective doctrine of asymmetric warfare.

Dark Days for Green Energy

NYTimes | Wind and solar power have been growing at a blistering pace in recent years, and that growth seemed likely to accelerate under the green-minded Obama administration. But because of the credit crisis and the broader economic downturn, the opposite is happening: installation of wind and solar power is plummeting.

Factories building parts for these industries have announced a wave of layoffs in recent weeks, and trade groups are projecting 30 to 50 percent declines this year in installation of new equipment, barring more help from the government.

Prices for turbines and solar panels, which soared when the boom began a few years ago, are falling. Communities that were patting themselves on the back just last year for attracting a wind or solar plant are now coping with cutbacks.

“I thought if there was any industry that was bulletproof, it was that industry,” said Rich Mattern, the mayor of West Fargo, N.D., where DMI Industries of Fargo operates a plant that makes towers for wind turbines. Though the flat Dakotas are among the best places in the world for wind farms, DMI recently announced a cut of about 20 percent of its work force because of falling sales.

Surge in Mass, Drop in Transit

NYTimes | Buses will no longer stop at some 2,300 stops in and around this city at the end of next month because, despite rising ridership, the struggling transit system plans to balance its books with layoffs and drastic service cuts.

One stop scheduled to be cut is in the western suburb of Chesterfield, Mo., just up the road from a bright, cheerful nursing home called the Garden View Care Center. Without those buses, roughly half of the center’s kitchen staff and half of its housekeeping staff — people like Laura Buxton, a cook known for her fried chicken who comes in from Illinois, and Danette Nacoste, who commutes two hours each way from her home in South St. Louis to her job in the laundry — will not have any other way to get to work.

“They’re going to be stranding a whole lot of people,” said Val Butler, a nurses’ assistant at Garden View, who said that she feared looking for work elsewhere in a tightening economy. “A lot of people are going to lose their jobs. A lot of people.”

St. Louis may be girding itself for some of the most extreme transit cuts in the nation, but it is hardly alone. Transit systems across the country are raising fares and cutting service even when demand is up with record numbers of riders last year, many of whom fled $4-a-gallon gas prices and stop-and-go traffic for seats on buses and trains.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

bolivia has lithium...,


Big Don shares resource news;

IHT | In the rush to build the next generation of hybrid or electric cars, a sobering fact confronts both automakers and governments seeking to lower their reliance on foreign oil: almost half of the world's lithium, the mineral needed to power the vehicles, is found here in Bolivia - a country that may not be willing to surrender it so easily.

Japanese and European companies are busily trying to strike deals to tap the resource, but a nationalist sentiment is building quickly in the government of President Evo Morales, an ardent critic of the United States who has already nationalized Bolivia's oil and natural gas industries.

For now, the government talks of closely controlling the lithium itself and keeping foreigners at bay. Adding to the pressure, indigenous groups here in the remote salt desert where the mineral lies are pushing for a share in the eventual bounty.

"We know that Bolivia can become the Saudi Arabia of lithium," said Francisco Quisbert, 64, the leader of Frutcas, a group of salt gatherers and quinoa farmers on the edge of Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. "We are poor, but we are not stupid peasants," he said. "The lithium may be Bolivia's, but it is also our property.

your thoughts...,

what's wrong with this picture?

countries by population density

Monday, February 02, 2009

business as usual in the war on drugs

So last August, I posted the then breaking news about a SWAT drug-raid gone terribly, terribly wrong. (frankly the idea of mustering para-military levels of deadly force pursuant to drug interdiction is inherently wrong, stupid, and doomed to unintended consequences)

Yesterday's Washington Post Magazine dedicated its cover story and a small novel's worth of print space to recounting this quintessentially American tragedy of errors that led to the fatal shooting of Payton and Chase and the reckless endangerment of the lives of their owners along with catastrophic disruption of their lives. The seven or more pages of this story details the moment by moment events leading up to the raid, abuses during, the raid, and to an extent, the aftermath of this raid on the mayor of Berwyn Heights, his spouse and mother-in-law who were innocent victims caught up in an unnecessary and wholly contrived skirmish in the so-called War on Drugs. The money shot comes at the conclusion of the story;
They were also determined to hold the police accountable. Through a lawyer, Cheye, Trinity and Georgia have filed a notice of intent to sue the Prince George's County Police Department and the Sheriff's Office.

Cheye likes to sit near the chest on winter nights, Marshall at his feet, as he reads. Often, he sits up late researching Supreme Court rulings on police searches and seizures.

He's read the court's decision in one 2006 case, Hudson v. Michigan, more than once. In Hudson, the court found that even when police make a clearly illegal no-knock raid, the evidence they seize can still be used against a defendant at trial.

"In other words,
police can do what they did to us with impunity" Cheye concluded. "There are no consequences, not for them."
When a SWAT team raided the Prince George's County home of Cheye Calvo and Trinity Tomsic on a mistaken drug trafficking suspicion, the couple's two dogs weren't the only ones whose lives were shattered.

Cheye Calvo, mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland and Washington Post Magazine staff writer April Witt will be online Monday, February 2 at 12 noon ET to discuss Witt's cover story, "Deadly Force."

DELIBERATE LIE #3. People are “rational utility maximizers”

Warsocialism | Although even economists admit this is a lie, [7] it is still boilerplate economic theory. Economists MUST lie about this because if people are being manipulated by marketing, then the so-called “free market” obviously requires government intervention.

In a Liberal Democracy, tax payers are ultimately responsible for an individual if that individual becomes destitute or a criminal. Economists use the “rational utility maximizer” lie to prevent government intervention in markets when intervention would serve the common good. For example, a rational government would intervene in markets to prevent con artists from peddling their worthless shit to an unsuspecting public. (We have all seen those suckers dumping their last dollar in a slot machine.)

Economists argue that government can not possibly know what an individual “needs”. If people are manipulated by advertisers, flashing lights, and sex symbols, then government has a good reason to intervene in the market for an individual’s welfare because these causalities are dumped on government to care for after the con artists have cleaned them out. For example, a federal law could be passed that would limit legalized gambling to high net worth individuals (it’s now done with options and futures trading).

By having university-trained liars (economists) convince the victims that they alone are responsible for their own actions (instead of a team of best-professionals-money-can-buy who were hired to exploit the public), the rich evade responsibility for their actions. Thus, “the market” repeats the basic motif of American politics and illustrates what makes it so clever: the rich manipulate unsuspecting citizens for fun and profit, deplete common resources, externalize social costs onto the tax payer, and blame the victims themselves or the elected screw-ups and their cronies for social problems. It’s brilliant!!!

DELIBERATE LIE #2. “Wants” are identical to “needs”

Warsocialism | This is the second-most-important lie in economic theory. This lie sets one up to swallow the rest of the lies. Right wingers (it is boilerplate economic theory) deliberately lie about this because they want you to believe that Donald Trump “needs” another million dollar painting on the wall of one of his mansions just as badly as a welfare mother “needs” health care for her children. This amounts to a license for the rich to hog limited resources (on a spherical planet, all resources are “limited”) and serves as the Vaseline for the rest of the lies.

DELIBERATE LIE #1. The market is “efficient”

Warsocialism | This is the founding lie (actually an “idiosyncratic redefinition” of terms) which is designed to prevent engineers and scientists from investigating our money-based political system objectively. Economists know that people who do not have economic training are going to assume that “efficient” is used in the same way that engineers use the word: acting or producing effectively with a minimum of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort.

But for economists, “efficient” is always about “money" and means either “efficient distribution” of profits or “efficient production” ("cheapest production" as measured by money) of products – not the “efficient use of materials.” Since the market economizes “money” (that which is in limitless supply [4] ), the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The reason economists use idiosyncratic redefinitions instead of coining new terms (like every other discipline) is to make them better liars!

Idiosyncratic redefinition allows economists to stand in front of your local Rotary Club and appear to HONESTLY use words that mean one thing to them, while Club members think they mean something completely different. This is how economists evade our innate ability to spot liars.

Far from being “efficient”, the so-called “market system” is probably the MOST INEFFICIENT social organization possible! The overhead (commuting to work, banks, insurance companies, advertising agencies, etc.) associated with our present way of organizing consumes the largest fraction BY FAR of our natural resources – something like 2 billion tonnes of oil equivalent per year! [5]

Sunday, February 01, 2009

khyber rifles


it’s theirs and they’re not apologizing

NYTimes | Getting between a broker and his bonus is like getting between a schnauzer and his lunch bowl. He may not bite you, but you are going to smell his breath.

“People come here because they want to work hard and get paid a lot for working hard,” one investment banker said Friday as he wended his way, lunch bag in hand, through the World Financial Center. “I think there’s a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street.”

That certainly was the case this week when Main Street learned that, despite the craters of a down economy, Wall Street bonuses were more than $18 billion last year — roughly what they were in the fatty, solvent days of 2004. The media hollered, the president scolded, and ordinary people checked their wallets. But downtown, in the caverns of finance, the moneymakers shrugged and took it on the chin.

It is a complicated thing, they said, to apportion compensation in a bear market. First of all, profits do not stop; they often ebb. Second of all, losses move unequally, so the law of the jungle should still apply: you eat what you can kill.