Friday, April 10, 2009

the swift collapse of britains major belief system

Guardian | Thoughtful sceptics warn that we should fear the consequences of the swift collapse of Britain's major belief system. The decline of religious faith has left behind a real and widespread need for wisdom and insight; the media offers only a "cruel sentimentality" and gives little space to the most difficult of our life experiences, such as failure, death or envy, nor does it offer ways to deal with them. The author Mark Vernon teaches on some School of Life courses. A former priest and atheist, he now advocates a principled agnosticism rooted in an understanding of the limits of human knowledge. He argues that the most interesting conversations about faith are among those just outside religious traditions and those just inside - along the borders of belief, if you like.

It's a perspective that Gray shares. Describing himself as a sceptic, he looks to another border of belief for deeper insight into the nature of faith: the dialogue between the theistic and non-theistic. Intriguingly, where Gray, Armstrong and Vernon all end up is with the apophatic tradition of theology. Apophatic is a word no longer even in my dictionary, but it's a major tradition of Christian thought, and central to the thinking of St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas: it is the idea that God is ineffable and beyond powers of description. S/he can be experienced by religious practice, but as Armstrong puts it: "In the past, people knew we could say nothing about God. Certain forms of knowledge only come with practice." It makes the boundary between belief in God and agnosticism much more porous than commonly assumed.

But the modern distortion was to make God into a proposition in which you either did or did not believe. He was turned into an old man in the sky with a long white beard or promoted as a cuddly friend named Jesus. Arguing about the existence of such human creations is akin to the medieval pastime of calculating how many angels could fit on the head of a pin.

So the media has been promoting the wrong argument, while the bigger question of how, in a post-religious society, people find the myths they need to sustain meaning, purpose and goodness in their lives go unexplored. What worries Gray is that we forget at our peril that all systems of thought rely on myth. By junking the Christian myths, the danger is that the replacements are "cruder, less tested, less instructive". At times of crisis - such as the economic recession - the brittleness of a value system built on wealth and a particular conception of autonomy becomes all too apparent, leaving people without the sustaining reserves of a faith to fall back on. The consequences of that will certainly not be cause for celebration, he warns.

deep solar minimum?

IceageNow | Excerpts: “The sun has gone very quiet as it transitions to Solar Cycle 24." “Since the current transition now exceeds 568 spotless days, it is becoming clear that sun has undergone a state change. It is now evident that the Grand Maxima state that has persisted during most of the 20th century has come to an abrupt end.

“(The sun) might (1) revert to the old solar cycles or (2) the sun might go even quieter into a “Dalton Minimum” or a Grand Minima such as the “Maunder Minimum”. It is still a little early to predict which way it will swing. Each of these two possibilities holds a great threat to our nation.

“We are now at a crossroad. Two paths lie before us. Both are marked with a signpost that reads “Danger”! Down one path lies monstrous solar storms. Down the other path lies several decades of crushing cold temperatures and global famine.”

“Climate change is primarily driven by nature. It has been true in the days of my father and his father and all those that came before us. Because of science, not junk science, we have slowly uncovered some of the fundamental mysteries of nature. Our Milky Way galaxy is awash with cosmic rays. These are high speed charged particles that originate from exploding stars.

“Because they are charged, their travel is strongly influenced by magnetic fields. Our sun produces a magnetic field wrapped in the solar winds that extends to the edges of our solar system. This field deflects many of the cosmic rays away from Earth. But when the sun goes quiet (minimal sunspots), this field collapses inward allowing high energy cosmic rays to penetrate deeper into our solar system.

“As a result, far greater numbers collide with Earth and penetrate down into the lower atmosphere where they ionize small particles of moisture (humidity) forming them into water droplets that become clouds. Low level clouds reflect sunlight back into space. An increase in Earth's cloud cover produce a global drop in temperature.

“If the sun becomes quieter than the old solar cycles, producing more than 1028 spotless days, then we might slip into a Dalton Minimum or maybe even a Grand Minima such as the Maunder Minimum. This solar state will last for decades. Several solar scientist have predicted this will begin in Solar Cycle 25, about a decade from now. But a few have predicted this will occur now in Solar Cycle 24.

“A quiet sun will cause temperatures globally to take a nose-dive. We will experience temperatures that we have not seen in over 200 years, during the time of the early pioneers.

“Temperatures are already falling. Satellites provide generally the most accurate atmospheric temperature measurements covering the entire globe. From the peak year 1998, the lower Troposphere temperatures globally have fallen around 1/2 degree Celsius due to the quiet sun.

“This is despite the fact that during that same time period, atmospheric carbon dioxide (at Mauna Loa) has risen 5% from 367 ppm to 386 ppm. The main threat from a “Dalton Minimum” or “Maunder Minimum” event is famine and starvation (affecting millions or hundreds of millions worldwide) due to shortened growing seasons and harsher weather. In the past, in addition to great famines, this cold harsh weather has also lead to major epidemics.

the end of christian america

Newsweek | It was a small detail, a point of comparison buried in the fifth paragraph on the 17th page of a 24-page summary of the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey. But as R. Albert Mohler Jr.—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the largest on earth—read over the document after its release in March, he was struck by a single sentence. For a believer like Mohler—a starched, unflinchingly conservative Christian, steeped in the theology of his particular province of the faith, devoted to producing ministers who will preach the inerrancy of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means to eternal life—the central news of the survey was troubling enough: the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. Then came the point he could not get out of his mind: while the unaffiliated have historically been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, the report said, "this pattern has now changed, and the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously unidentified." As Mohler saw it, the historic foundation of America's religious culture was cracking.

"That really hit me hard," he told me last week. "The Northwest was never as religious, never as congregationalized, as the Northeast, which was the foundation, the home base, of American religion. To lose New England struck me as momentous." Turning the report over in his mind, Mohler posted a despairing online column on the eve of Holy Week lamenting the decline—and, by implication, the imminent fall—of an America shaped and suffused by Christianity. "A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us," Mohler wrote. "The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture." When Mohler and I spoke in the days after he wrote this, he had grown even gloomier. "Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society," he said from his office on campus in Louisville, Ky.

There it was, an old term with new urgency: post-Christian. This is not to say that the Christian God is dead, but that he is less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory. To the surprise of liberals who fear the advent of an evangelical theocracy and to the dismay of religious conservatives who long to see their faith more fully expressed in public life, Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the American population.

what will global warming look like?

LATimes | Drought, fires, killer heat waves, wildlife extinction and mosquito-borne illness -- the things that climate change models are predicting have already arrived there, they say.

Reporting from The Murray-Darling Basin, Australia -- Frank Eddy pulled off his dusty boots and slid into a chair, taking his place at the dining room table where most of the critical family issues are hashed out. Spreading hands as dry and cracked as the orchards he tends, the stout man his mates call Tank explained what damage a decade of drought has done .

"Suicide is high. Depression is huge. Families are breaking up. It's devastation," he said, shaking his head. "I've got a neighbor in terrible trouble. Found him in the paddock, sitting in his [truck], crying his eyes out. Grown men -- big, strong grown men. We're holding on by the skin of our teeth. It's desperate times."

Thursday, April 09, 2009

madoff and the mafia?

Velvelonnationalaffairs | In papers it filed with Judge Chin just before the hearing on Madoff’s guilty plea and on bail, the government said that Madoff had promised some people returns as high as 46 percent. Dig that -- 46 percent. Now who the hell would you promise 46 percent to except gangsters? That kind of earnings rate just isn’t promised to people unless something is very wrong -- as when organized crime might be financing you at usurious exorbitant rates. And why else, except to keep organized crime satisfied lest his legs be broken at best or, worse, he be found in a concrete barrel at the bottom of the East River, would Madoff, if he was telling the truth about this in his allocution, have “felt compelled to satisfy my clients’ expectations, at any cost”? (Emphasis added.) Compelled to satisfy their expectations -- at any cost? It sounds like a Mafia deal to me.

That organized crime may have been involved in the Madoff deal is, at present, only a speculation. But the more one considers the already known evidence and the facts that lead to this speculation, the more likely it appears that the speculation could in fact be the truth. One wonders: are the FBI and the U.S. Attorney considering and investigating the possibility that Madoff was an organized crime deal? If they are not, why not? If they are, what are they finding and what and when will Madoff’s victims and the public be told? In ways that one can only begin to guess at now, the answers to these questions will bear on a host of crucial matters, ranging from various forms of possible restitution to victims to the standing of American markets in the world.

There are people who are in touch with relevant governmental actors. They, and the rest of us among victims, in the public, in the media, and in Congress, should begin to continuously demand to know the answer to the question of whether Madoff was or was not tied in with the Mafia. There seems to have been an awful lot of smoke here. Was there also a fire?

bibi's woof tickets...,

NYTimes | What’s critical right now is that Obama view Netanyahu’s fear-mongering with an appropriate skepticism, rein him in, and pursue his regime-recognizing opening toward Tehran, as he did Wednesday by saying America would join nuclear talks for the first time. The president should read Trita Parsi’s excellent “Treacherous Alliance” as preparation.

The core strategic shift of Obama’s presidency has been away from the with-us-or-against-us rhetoric of the war on terror toward a rapprochement with the Muslim world as the basis for isolating terrorists.

That’s unsustainable if America or Israel find themselves at war with Muslim Persians as well as Muslim Arabs, and if Netanyahu’s intense-eyed attempt to suck America into a perpetuation of war-on-terror thinking prevails.

The only way to stop Iran going nuclear, and encourage reform of a repressive regime, is to get to the negotiating table. There’s time. Those “months” are still a couple of years. What Iran has accumulated is low-enriched uranium. You need highly-enriched uranium for a bomb. That’s a leap.

Israeli hegemony is proving a kind of slavery. Passage to the Promised Land involves rethinking the Middle East, starting in Iran.

the quiet coup

The Atlantic | In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.

But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

Top investment bankers and government officials like to lay the blame for the current crisis on the lowering of U.S. interest rates after the dotcom bust or, even better—in a “buck stops somewhere else” sort of way—on the flow of savings out of China. Some on the right like to complain about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or even about longer-standing efforts to promote broader homeownership. And, of course, it is axiomatic to everyone that the regulators responsible for “safety and soundness” were fast asleep at the wheel.

But these various policies—lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership—had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector’s profits—such as Brooksley Born’s now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998—were ignored or swept aside.

The financial industry has not always enjoyed such favored treatment. But for the past 25 years or so, finance has boomed, becoming ever more powerful. The boom began with the Reagan years, and it only gained strength with the deregulatory policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Several other factors helped fuel the financial industry’s ascent. Paul Volcker’s monetary policy in the 1980s, and the increased volatility in interest rates that accompanied it, made bond trading much more lucrative. The invention of securitization, interest-rate swaps, and credit-default swaps greatly increased the volume of transactions that bankers could make money on. And an aging and increasingly wealthy population invested more and more money in securities, helped by the invention of the IRA and the 401(k) plan. Together, these developments vastly increased the profit opportunities in financial services.

Not surprisingly, Wall Street ran with these opportunities. From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In 1986, that figure reached 19 percent. In the 1990s, it oscillated between 21 percent and 30 percent, higher than it had ever been in the postwar period. This decade, it reached 41 percent. Pay rose just as dramatically. From 1948 to 1982, average compensation in the financial sector ranged between 99 percent and 108 percent of the average for all domestic private industries. From 1983, it shot upward, reaching 181 percent in 2007.

The great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated gave bankers enormous political weight—a weight not seen in the U.S. since the era of J.P. Morgan (the man). In that period, the banking panic of 1907 could be stopped only by coordination among private-sector bankers: no government entity was able to offer an effective response. But that first age of banking oligarchs came to an end with the passage of significant banking regulation in response to the Great Depression; the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy is quite recent.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

fear, uncertainty, doubt - CONTROL

In the news this morning;

Reuters | Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls, the newspaper said, citing current and former U.S. national security officials.

The intruders have not sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure but officials said they could try during a crisis or war, the paper said in a report on its website.

"The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid," a senior intelligence official told the Journal. "So have the Russians."

The espionage appeared pervasive across the United States and does not target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official.

"There are intrusions, and they are growing," the former official told the paper, referring to electrical systems. "There were a lot last year."
This should by no means be considered new news. As Deputy Attorney General, Jamie Gorelick sought sweeping Federal access to digital communications on behalf of the Clinton Administration. So this longstanding elite ambition, i.e., of controlling and accessing the only truly democratic technology infrastructure in the world continues unabated.

According to Mother Jones, Senators John Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) think so. On Wednesday they introduced a bill to establish the Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor—an arm of the executive branch that would have vast power to monitor and control Internet traffic to protect against threats to critical cyber infrastructure. That broad power is rattling some civil libertarians.

The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (PDF) gives the president the ability to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" and shut down or limit Internet traffic in any "critical" information network "in the interest of national security." The bill does not define a critical information network or a cybersecurity emergency. That definition would be left to the president.

The bill does not only add to the power of the president. It also grants the Secretary of Commerce "access to all relevant data concerning [critical] networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access." This means he or she can monitor or access any data on private or public networks without regard to privacy laws.

Rockefeller made cybersecurity one of his key issues as a member of the Senate intelligence committee, which he chaired until last year. He now heads the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which will take up this bill.

"We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs—from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records—the list goes on," Rockefeller said in a statement. Snowe echoed her colleague, saying, "if we fail to take swift action, we, regrettably, risk a cyber-Katrina."

This is the typical buildup of fear, uncertainty, and doubt that inevitably accompanies ham-handed attempts by the political establishment to legislate and thereby legitimate sweeping powers to access and control the democratically and organically distributed Internet infrastructure. It's not as if they could ever accomplish such an objective, however, they consistently and perennially seek to grant themselves the perogative to try. As with prior attempts in this direction, this attempt is worth watching to determine its outcome.

consequences of the oil shock of 2007-08

Econbrowser | In a paper presented at the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity Thursday, University of Calif.-San Diego economist James Hamilton crunched some numbers on how consumer spending responds to rising energy prices and came to a surprising result: Nearly all of last year’s economic downturn could be attributed to the oil price shock.

The paper uses a number of different models that had been fit to earlier historical episodes to see what they imply about the contribution that the oil shock of 2007-08 might have made to real GDP growth over the last year. The approaches surveyed include Edelstein and Kilian (2007), who examined the detailed response of various components of consumer spending, Blanchard and Gali (2007), who studied the extent to which the contribution of oil shocks has significantly decreased over time, a 2003 paper, which emphasized the role of nonlinearities, and a model-free data summary of the observed behavior of different economic magnitudes following this and previous oil shocks. Although the approaches are quite different, they all support a common conclusion: had there been no increase in oil prices between 2007:Q3 and 2008:Q2, the U.S. economy would not have been in a recession over the period 2007:Q4 through 2008:Q3.

One of the most interesting calculations was to look at the implications of the 2003 model. Using those historically estimated parameters to find the answer to the following conditional forecasting equation. Suppose you knew in 2007:Q3 what GDP had been doing up through that date and could know in advance what was about to happen to the price of oil. What path would you have then predicted the economy to follow for 2007:Q4 through 2008:Q4?

The answer is given in the diagram below. The green dotted line is the forecast if we ignored the information about oil prices, while the red dashed line is the forecast conditional on the huge run-up in oil prices that subsequently occurred. The black line is the actual observed path for real GDP. Somewhat astonishingly, that model would have predicted the course of GDP over 2008 pretty accurately and would attribute a substantial fraction of the significant drop in 2008:Q4 real GDP to the oil price increases.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

lynn margulis - symbiogenesis

Scoop | Whereas speciation by accumulation of "random DNA mutations" has never been adequately documented, a plethora of high-quality scientific studies has unequivocally shown symbiogenesis to be at the basis of the origin of species and more inclusive taxa.

Members of at least two prokaryotic domains (a sulfidogenic archaebacterium, a sulfide-oxidizing motile eubacterium) merged in the origin of the earliest nucleated organisms to evolve in the mid-Proterozoic Eon (c. 1200 million years ago).

Such a heterotrophic, phagocytotic motile protoctist was ancestral to all subsequent eukaryotes (e.g., other protoctists, animals, fungi and plants).

The defining seme of eukaryosis, the membrane-bounded nucleus as a component of the karyomastigont, evolved as Thermoplasma-like archaebacteria and Perfilievia-Spirochaeta-like eubacteria symbiogenetically formed the amitochondriate LECA (the Last Eukaryotic Common Ancestor). Their co-descendants (that still thrive in organic-rich anoxic habitats) are amenable to study so that our videos of them will be shown here.

There are no missing links in our scenario. Contemporary photosynthetic (green) animals (e.g., Elysia viridis, Convoluta roscoffensis), nitrogen-fixing fungi (Geosiphon pyriforme), cellulose digesting animals (cows, Mastotermes darwiniensis termites) and plants (Gunnera manicata) make us virtually certain that Boris Mikhailovich Kozo-Polyansky's (1890-1957) analysis (Symbiogenesis: A New Principle of Evolution, 1924) was and still is correct.

Symbiogenesis accounts for the origin of hereditary variation that is maintained and perpetuated by Charles Darwin's natural selective limitations to reaching the omnipresent biotic potential characteristics of any species.

ron eglash on african fractals

Monday, April 06, 2009

missouri documents withdrawn

A couple weeks ago, I posted a link to a KCStar article about official law enforcement documents detailing The Modern Militia Movement. This is an update on the status of those documents.

ALIPAC | A national scandal emerged in Missouri, after their MIAC Fusion Center issued an eight page document which made many false claims. The documents attempted to politicize police and cast suspicion on millions of Americans. The 'Missouri Documents', as they came to be called, listed over 32 characteristics police should watch for as signs or links to domestic terrorists, which could threaten police officers, court officials, and infrastructure targets.

Police were instructed to look for Americans who were concerned about unemployment, taxes, illegal immigration, gangs, border security, abortion, high costs of living, gun restrictions, FEMA, the IRS, The Federal Reserve, and the North American Union/SPP/North American Community. The 'Missouri Documents' also said potential domestic terrorists might like gun shows, short wave radios, combat movies, movies with white male heroes, Tom Clancey Novels, and Presidential Candidates Ron Paul, Bob Barr, and Chuck Baldwin!

The Southern Poverty Law Center was cited as a research source for the 'Missouri Documents'. Furthermore, the attempt of these documents to cast suspicion of violent and life threatening behavior on millions of Americans who are concerned about these issues is consistent with the regularly released political materials of both the SPLC and ADL.

Since the SPLC was listed as a source in the MIAC Missouri Documents, ALIPAC sent a letter of inquiry to the Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on March 20, 2009 asking for more specific sourcing information.

"When many of us read these Missouri Documents we felt that the false connections, pseudo research, and political attacks found in these documents could have been penned by the SPLC and ADL," said William Gheen of ALIPAC. "We were shocked to see credible law enforcement agencies disseminating the same kind of over the top political propaganda distributed by these groups."

Colonel James F. Keathley, Superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol issued a letter of response to ALIPAC and other sources on March 25-26, which states that the Missouri militia documents are being withdrawn, more oversight will be applied to future releases, the Missouri Documents do not meet the high quality standards expected from the MIAC, and that "certain subsets of Missourians will not be singled out inappropriately in these reports for particular associations".

FOX Radio Network is reporting that Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (R-MO) has asked that Missouri Public Safety Director John Britt be placed on administrative leave. The report also says Kinder has issued a public apology to Presidential candidates Ron Paul, Bob Barr, and Chuck Baldwin.

ALIPAC would like to advise all media sources, law enforcement officers and agencies, that the ADL and SPLC are political organizations, with stated political goals and agendas which are contrary to the candidates, political parties, and millions of Americans besmirched by the MIAC documents.

While both the ADL and SPLC actively market themselves and seek roles as advisers to law enforcement and the media, both groups regularly engage in political tactics like those observed in the now withdrawn Missouri Documents. Materials from one or both organizations contributed to this scandal.

"In the past, these groups have served a helpful role in America by providing information about racist and potentially violent groups like the KKK and Neo Nazis," said William Gheen. "Unfortunately, their mission has drifted into political efforts to paint almost any American or group who opposes their broader political agendas as being associated with racist or potentially violent groups just like what we saw in these scandalous MIAC documents in Missouri."

ALIPAC hopes that future scandals can be avoided by issuing this advisory and promoting awareness of the faulty information distributed to police and media in America by the Anti Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center to prevent future scandals of this nature.

can pakistan be governed?

NYTimes | Pakistan feels as if it’s falling apart. Last fall the country barely avoided bankruptcy. The tribal areas, which border on Afghanistan, remain a vast Taliban sanctuary and redoubt. The giant province of Baluchistan, though far more accessible, is racked by a Baluchi separatist rebellion, while American officials view Quetta, Baluchistan’s capital, as Taliban HQ. American policy has arguably made the situation even worse, for the Predator-drone attacks along the border, though effective, drive the Taliban eastward, deeper into Pakistan. And the strategy has been only reinforcing hostility to the United States among ordinary Pakistanis.

Pakistan has made itself the supreme conundrum of American foreign policy. During the campaign, Obama often said that the heart of the terrorist threat was not Iraq but Afghanistan and Pakistan, and once in office he had senior policy makers undertake an array of reviews designed to coordinate policy in the region. They seem to have narrowed the target area even further, to the Pakistani frontier. “For the American people,” Obama announced on March 27, “this border region has become the most dangerous place in the world.” Some officials see Pakistan as a volcano that, should it blow, would send an inconceivable amount of poisonous ash raining down on the world around it. David Kilcullen, a key adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, the Centcom commander, recently asserted that “within one to six months we could see the collapse of the Pakistani state,” a calamity that, given the country’s size, strategic location and nuclear stockpile, would “dwarf” all other current crises.

And amid all that, Pakistan’s president appeared to be playing with fire. Zardari was setting his security forces on peaceful demonstrators, just as his authoritarian predecessor, General Musharraf, did — against members of Zardari’s own political party — several years earlier. The government crackdown, designed to prevent the marchers from reaching the capital, began on March 11. The police swept through the homes of opposition-party leaders, lawmakers, activists, “miscreants” and ordinary party workers. Many leading officials were already underground, but hundreds of arrests were made. By the 12th, the first day of the march, much of the country was glued to the television, where swarms of heavily armed policemen could be seen knocking down protesters and dragging them off to the paddy wagons. Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the main opposition party, saw the protests as the “prelude to a revolution,” while Rehman Malik, a key Zardari adviser, accused Sharif of “sedition.”

The posturing and hyperbole would have been comical if the stakes weren’t so high. Although in Pakistan, it’s true, the stakes always feel high.

jetliner graveyard....,

AP | Old jets come here, empty engine pods shrink-wrapped in white, tall red tails fading to pink in the desert sun. More will come soon. Some will never fly again.

Airlines have announced plans over the past year to take 1,700 planes out of service as fewer people fly. United Airlines is retiring all 94 of its Boeing 737s by the end of this year, and Northwest Airlines has cut its old DC-9 fleet by about a third.

The number of planes in storage has jumped 29 percent in the past year to 2,302, according to aerospace data firm Ascend Worldwide. That includes 930 parked by U.S. operators alone.

Eventually, some will be sold, some scrapped, some will sit at desert facilities in southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. But at the moment, their number is growing faster than expected. The banking crisis has made it very difficult to get loans to buy aircraft, and the drop in commodity prices has gutted their scrap value.

That makes for busy times at facilities like Evergreen Maintenance Center near Marana. Its super-sized hangar fits a 747, and there are plenty of active planes on hand, including one 747 used to test Pratt & Whitney engines and another converted to fight forest fires.

But outside there's a ghost fleet of 204 parked planes. Some of Northwest's retired 747s are here. Planes from defunct ATA Airlines, 767s from Air Sahara and MaxJet, and a hodgepodge of other airlines from around the world are here, too.

The people who run these facilities chafe at the idea that they're groundskeepers in a graveyard. While Evergreen scraps roughly 15 planes a year, most of the stored planes still get checks, extensive record-keeping and federally mandated maintenance that will let them return to service if travel demand and the price of jet fuel cooperate in the future. Storing a 747 with the required maintenance checks costs $60,000 a year at Evergreen, half that for a smaller jet.

Steve Coffaro, vice president of marketing and sales at Evergreen, points all this out with pride as he drives around the airfield here, focusing on the company's ability to return these planes to the air safely. Out the left window: Planes that could fly again. Out the right: The scrap area, with the lower half of a fuselage standing upright, 20 or so rows of seats exposed, tray tables dangling open.

The deserts in the U.S. Southwest have become one of the top destinations for airliner storage because of the perfect combination of cheap land as far as the eye can see and a dry climate that preserves the planes. Planes deteriorate quickly in high humidity.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

liar's loans...,

Bill Moyers | Bill Black, welcome to the Journal.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: I was taken with your candor at the conference here in New York to hear you say that this crisis we're going through, this economic and financial meltdown is driven by fraud. What's your definition of fraud?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Fraud is deceit. And the essence of fraud is, "I create trust in you, and then I betray that trust, and get you to give me something of value." And as a result, there's no more effective acid against trust than fraud, especially fraud by top elites, and that's what we have.

BILL MOYERS: In your book, you make it clear that calculated dishonesty by people in charge is at the heart of most large corporate failures and scandals, including, of course, the S&L, but is that true? Is that what you're saying here, that it was in the boardrooms and the CEO offices where this fraud began?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: How did they do it? What do you mean?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, the way that you do it is to make really bad loans, because they pay better. Then you grow extremely rapidly, in other words, you're a Ponzi-like scheme. And the third thing you do is we call it leverage. That just means borrowing a lot of money, and the combination creates a situation where you have guaranteed record profits in the early years. That makes you rich, through the bonuses that modern executive compensation has produced. It also makes it inevitable that there's going to be a disaster down the road.

BILL MOYERS: So you're suggesting, saying that CEOs of some of these banks and mortgage firms in order to increase their own personal income, deliberately set out to make bad loans?


BILL MOYERS: How do they get away with it? I mean, what about their own checks and balances in the company? What about their accounting divisions?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: All of those checks and balances report to the CEO, so if the CEO goes bad, all of the checks and balances are easily overcome. And the art form is not simply to defeat those internal controls, but to suborn them, to turn them into your greatest allies. And the bonus programs are exactly how you do that.

BILL MOYERS: If I wanted to go looking for the parties to this, with a good bird dog, where would you send me?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, that's exactly what hasn't happened. We haven't looked, all right? The Bush Administration essentially got rid of regulation, so if nobody was looking, you were able to do this with impunity and that's exactly what happened. Where would you look? You'd look at the specialty lenders. The lenders that did almost all of their work in the sub-prime and what's called Alt-A, liars' loans.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. Liars' loans--

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Liars' loans.

BILL MOYERS: Why did they call them liars' loans?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Because they were liars' loans.

BILL MOYERS: And they knew it?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: They knew it. They knew that they were frauds.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

why sleep?

The Scientist | Why do we sleep? For some researchers who study memory, the findings support a popular theory that the purpose of sleep is to replay and consolidate memories from the previous day. To them, sleep is important for memory, and the deep, slow waves seen in the same part of the brain used in a task indicate that the brain circuits involved in the task are reactivating. Such reactivation, or "replay," could explain why participants perform the task with greater accuracy after a night of sleep.

But for Cirelli and Tononi, their findings suggested an entirely different—and controversial—theory was perhaps true. Sleep's core function, Cirelli and Tononi say, is to prune the strength or number of synapses formed during waking hours, keeping just the strongest neuronal connections intact. Synapse strength increases throughout the day, with stronger synapses creating better contact between neurons. Stronger synapses also take up more space and consume more energy, and if left unchecked, this process—which Cirelli and Tononi believe occurs in many brain regions—would become unsustainable.2,3 Downscaling at night would reduce the energy and space requirement of the brain, eliminate the weakest synapses, and help keep the strongest neuronal connections intact. This assumption is based on the principle in neuroscience that if one neuron doesn't fire to another very often, the connection between the two neurons weakens. By eliminating some of the unimportant connections, the body, in theory, eliminates background connections and effectively sharpens the important connections.

It's unclear how slow waves could affect synaptic strength at a molecular level, but Cirelli and Tononi suspect the slow-wave activity triggers a weakening of synapses, and the more slow waves, the more subsequent downscaling. Their belief stems from the timing of the slow waves, which swell early in the night and taper off. Plus, molecular and electrophysiological evidence indicates synapses are stronger at the beginning of the night and weakest after a long bout of sleep. To Cirelli and Tononi, the weakening of synapses overnight—which could also theoretically help people perform better on a task the next day—is the ultimate purpose of sleep.

Friday, April 03, 2009

agency - the moral dilemma of art, artifact, and artisan

Supermice were accidentally created using transgenic methods about four years ago by injecting a highly active form of a gene for an enzyme called phosphonenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK-C) into mice embryos. A couple of years ago, I posted an article about the metabolic research at Case Western Reserve that engendered these "supermice". I subsequently came across some very provocative discussion of that research at an intelligent design blog.

Last night my good friend Arnach sent me a deep meditation on the issue of human morality in the context of biotechnology. It's lengthy, but well worth your consideration. With characteristic synchronicity this morning, nanakwame poses the corresponding questions addressed in that essay
The creative/destructive principle of life. where do we go from here? what will the next human look like?
With that, I give you a brief excerpt and encourage you to read the essay and discuss it with me and among yourselves;
The "I" and the "We"
There are two contrasting attitudes that we take toward practical questions, which we might call the "I" attitude and the "we" attitude. As a rational agent, I see the world as a theater of action, in which I and my goals take a central place. I act to increase my power, to acquire the means to realize my objectives, to bring others to my side, and to work with them to overcome obstacles. This "I" attitude is implanted deep in the psyche, since it defines the starting point of all practical reasoning and contains an indelible intimation of the thing that distinguishes people from the rest of nature--namely, their freedom. There is a sense in which animals, too, are free: they make choices, do things both freely and under constraint. But animals are not accountable for what they do. They are not called upon to justify their conduct, nor are they persuaded or dissuaded by dialogue with others. This strange feature of the human condition has puzzled philosophers since Aristotle; and it is the foundation of all that is most important to us. All those goals that make human life into a thing of intrinsic value--justice, community, love--have their origin in the mutual accountability of persons, who respond to each other "I" to "I."

Behind all my projects, however, like a horizon against which they are projected, is another and quite different attitude. I am aware that I belong to a kind, and that kind has a place in nature. I am also aware that we are part of a world to which we are adapted. Whereas the "I" attitude seeks change and improvement, overcoming the challenges presented by nature, the "we" attitude seeks stasis and accommodation, confirming that we and our world are at one. Things that threaten the equilibrium between human beings and our environment, either by destroying that environment or by undermining human nature, awaken in us a profound sense of unease, even of sacrilege. The "we" attitude tells us that we must never disturb the two fixed points of our universe, the environment and human nature. This attitude may be the residue of prehistorical events, an unconscious memory of the original harmony between "our hunting fathers" and their natural home, from which our species departed on its journey into knowledge. But it continues to exert its influence on our practical reasoning, filling our minds with ideas of a prelapsarian innocence.
In my occasionally humble opinion, these questions seem far less difficult in the light of an evolved experience of the loci of agency in our conscious experience. Once you know what you are, or more importantly what you're not, then questions of anthropocentric agency and morality fall somewhat by the wayside. I'm very interested to know what you think about this "Frankensteinian" dilemma.

where is israel headed?

Foreign Policy | It seems clear to me and to many smart people I know that this story does not have a happy ending. Indeed, it looks like a disastrous ending. Greater Israel cannot be a democratic state, because there will soon be -- if there aren't already -- more Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea than there are Israeli Jews. So, if you give each person one vote, Israel becomes Palestine. That is not going to happen anytime soon, if ever, which leaves two possible outcomes: apartheid and expelling the Palestinians -- and there are more than 5 million of them -- from Greater Israel. Talk about repulsive options. It is worth remembering that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that if there is no two-state solution, Israel will end up in a South Africa-like situation and that will mean the end of the Jewish state. In effect, he is saying that Israel is turning itself into an apartheid state.

My bottom line is that Israel, with the backing of the lobby, is pursuing a remarkably foolish -- Ehud Olmert would say suicidal -- policy towards the Palestinians.

I would appreciate it greatly if Israel's American backers would explain what I am missing here. They must think that there is a happy ending to this story that Olmert and I simply fail to see. Otherwise they would not be backing the Greater Israel enterprise. There is no need for Christian Zionists to respond, because I know what their happy ending is: the Battle of Armageddon and then the Second Coming of Christ. Israel's Jewish backers do not buy this story, which, in fact, many consider anti-Semitic. But they must have an alternative explanation for how Greater Israel is good for the Jews. What is it?

in mexico the army is the law

Washington Post | President Felipe Calderón is rapidly escalating the Mexican army's role in the war against drug traffickers, deploying nearly 50 percent of its combat-ready troops along the U.S.-Mexico border and throughout the country, while retired army officers take command of local police forces and the military supplies civilian authorities with automatic weapons and grenades.

U.S. and Mexican officials describe the drug cartels as a widening narco-insurgency. The four major drug states average a total of 12 murders a day, characterized by ambushes, gun battles, executions and decapitated bodies left by the side of the road. In the villages and cities where the traffickers hold sway, daily life now takes place against a martial backdrop of round-the-clock patrols, pre-dawn raids and roadblocks manned by masked young soldiers.

Calderón's deployment of about 45,000 troops to fight the cartels represents a historic change. Previous administrations relied on Mexico's traditionally weak police agencies to combat the traffickers, who funnel 90 percent of the cocaine that enters the United States. The cartels corrupted local authorities and reached tacit agreements with the national government, limiting the violence while the drugs continued to flow.

After Calderón became president in December 2006, he told Mexicans that the use of the military against the cartels would be limited and brief. But it is now the centerpiece of his anti-narcotics strategy, according to interviews with senior U.S. and Mexican officials and dozens of people on the front lines of the war.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

the strong arm of the law...,

Guardian | By 12:30, no one was allowed to leave the protest, and no explanation was given. When we asked a policeman why, he said it was simply an order to prevent "a breach of the peace". We said we were journalists trying to cover the protests, but it made no difference. We were stuck.

People were feeling claustrophobic, hungry and aggressive. One woman sat down because she was feeling faint. A few others had just come to see all the fuss, and weren't protesting, but were not allowed to leave either.

It's worth stressing that the police decision to form a cordon and not allow people free movement started becoming a focus point for their annoyance. For a while the chanting was their only form of protest. But we felt like we were in a pressure cooker. By about 1pm, people kept pushing against the police cordon and chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!" A few bits of food and the some paint started getting chucked at the police.

We were at the front line of the police cordon because we wanted to leave, but there was no way to get out. The crowd pushed us forward, the police pushed us back – sometimes quite brutally by using batons against people and hitting some. The police were rattled by the crowd and seemed to have little idea of what their plan or position was – other than to contain us.

With so much anger, other protesters started gathering to see what the fuss was about. When they felt they couldn't leave, they started pushing. The four horses from the protests gathered at the lines ready to charge. They had found a focus point for their anger and started surging forward in waves. When they still couldn't get through, more bottles began to get hurled, gas was released and individuals pushed through more heavily.

Any resentment to do with the financial crisis was now being added to by a sense of injustice towards the police – at one point, it felt the reason we were there had been swallowed altogether. The police, in short, were making things worse.

We've seen this problem time and time again. The police seem confused about their role. They are not there to control the protesters – they are there to manage and safeguard them.

space storm alert

NewScientist | IT IS midnight on 22 September 2012 and the skies above Manhattan are filled with a flickering curtain of colourful light. Few New Yorkers have seen the aurora this far south but their fascination is short-lived. Within a few seconds, electric bulbs dim and flicker, then become unusually bright for a fleeting moment. Then all the lights in the state go out. Within 90 seconds, the entire eastern half of the US is without power.

A year later and millions of Americans are dead and the nation's infrastructure lies in tatters. The World Bank declares America a developing nation. Europe, Scandinavia, China and Japan are also struggling to recover from the same fateful event - a violent storm, 150 million kilometres away on the surface of the sun.

It sounds ridiculous. Surely the sun couldn't create so profound a disaster on Earth. Yet an extraordinary report funded by NASA and issued by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in January this year claims it could do just that.

Over the last few decades, western civilisations have busily sown the seeds of their own destruction. Our modern way of life, with its reliance on technology, has unwittingly exposed us to an extraordinary danger: plasma balls spewed from the surface of the sun could wipe out our power grids, with catastrophic consequences.

The projections of just how catastrophic make chilling reading. "We're moving closer and closer to the edge of a possible disaster," says Daniel Baker, a space weather expert based at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and chair of the NAS committee responsible for the report.

It is hard to conceive of the sun wiping out a large amount of our hard-earned progress. Nevertheless, it is possible. The surface of the sun is a roiling mass of plasma - charged high-energy particles - some of which escape the surface and travel through space as the solar wind. From time to time, that wind carries a billion-tonne glob of plasma, a fireball known as a coronal mass ejection (see "When hell comes to Earth"). If one should hit the Earth's magnetic shield, the result could be truly devastating.

The incursion of the plasma into our atmosphere causes rapid changes in the configuration of Earth's magnetic field which, in turn, induce currents in the long wires of the power grids. The grids were not built to handle this sort of direct current electricity. The greatest danger is at the step-up and step-down transformers used to convert power from its transport voltage to domestically useful voltage. The increased DC current creates strong magnetic fields that saturate a transformer's magnetic core. The result is runaway current in the transformer's copper wiring, which rapidly heats up and melts. This is exactly what happened in the Canadian province of Quebec in March 1989, and six million people spent 9 hours without electricity. But things could get much, much worse than that.

the trigger effect

The first in the Connections series Both the beginning and the end of the story are here. The end is our present dependence on complex technological networks illustrated by the NYC power blackouts. Life came almost to a standstill: support systems taken for granted failed. How did we become so helpless? Technology originated with the plow and agriculture. Each invention demands its own follow-up: once started, it is hard to stop. This segment ends in Kuwait, where society has leapt from ancient Egypt to the technology of today in 30 years

it's not getting any better

Weaseldog's Lair | We are still continuing down Argentina's path. I know I keep harping on this, but it scares the hell out of me. As Obama has argued, "This isn't a rowboat, it's a big ship and big ships are hard to turn around." And so, the administration is not even going to try to turn it around. They are simply shoveling the coal faster, and holding course, with a major landmass in the way. It reminds me of that joke with the ship captain and a radio operator, arguing about who should change course to avoid a collision. The captain doesn't realize he's arguing with a lighthouse keeper.

Before Argentina really went down the drain, the IMF took complete control over the nation through it's Austerity Program. There is lot's of good info on the net about what this program means and what it does. But under the program, the bankers take control over a nation's economic policies. The government is then directed by appointees from the IMF. This is the prelude to looting and pillaging the country. Under the Austerity Program, a nation must give away 30% of it's revenue to the bankers.

After this step, you'll find that the press continues to report that the government is doing awful deeds, but it's the IMF representatives that run the government's financial branches, that are setting up the policies and taking a share of the lucre. the politicians are all bought and paid for. Those that resist are killed, or their family members and friends are kidnapped and killed. Opposition to death squads, is typically short lived. No pun intended...

Here in the USA, we are implementing the same program, except that the IMF isn't forcing it on us. Our politicians are being bribed to follow the script, and they are doing so happily. Obama from all appearances is happy to go along with it. He is leading us into a financial hell, and a New Great Depression.

I've posted such arguments on other forums, and folks that haven't done any research into Argentina, Venezuela or the IMF in general, have nitpicked my arguments around the edges. So far though, I haven't read an argument that really addresses the meat of the issue.

1. The same bankers in charge of Argentina's finances are running the finances of the USA.
2. The politicians in both countries are almost completely corrupted and in the pockets of the banking system.
3. Neither nation is demonstrating any consideration in changing their policies.
4. The financial policies of both nations are converging.
5. Argentina is thoroughly screwed. If we continue to do what they did, we will meet the same fate.

It only took a few years for Argentina to devolve completely into a financial nightmare. Obama is retrenching his position and sticking to the same plan that got us here. There is no indication that he intends to ever change course. This ship is not turning. Let the reef and rocks change course. We will not. We will persevere and make the hard choice, to ram the land mass at full steam.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

planned demolition...,

NYTimes | What the Obama administration is doing is far worse than nationalization: it is ersatz capitalism, the privatizing of gains and the socializing of losses. It is a “partnership” in which one partner robs the other. And such partnerships — with the private sector in control — have perverse incentives, worse even than the ones that got us into the mess.

So what is the appeal of a proposal like this? Perhaps it’s the kind of Rube Goldberg device that Wall Street loves — clever, complex and nontransparent, allowing huge transfers of wealth to the financial markets. It has allowed the administration to avoid going back to Congress to ask for the money needed to fix our banks, and it provided a way to avoid nationalization.

But we are already suffering from a crisis of confidence. When the high costs of the administration’s plan become apparent, confidence will be eroded further. At that point the task of recreating a vibrant financial sector, and resuscitating the economy, will be even harder.

The Obama administration’s $500 billion or more proposal to deal with America’s ailing banks has been described by some in the financial markets as a win-win-win proposal. Actually, it is a win-win-lose proposal: the banks win, investors win — and taxpayers lose.

Treasury hopes to get us out of the mess by replicating the flawed system that the private sector used to bring the world crashing down, with a proposal marked by overleveraging in the public sector, excessive complexity, poor incentives and a lack of transparency.

Let’s take a moment to remember what caused this mess in the first place. Banks got themselves, and our economy, into trouble by overleveraging — that is, using relatively little capital of their own, they borrowed heavily to buy extremely risky real estate assets. In the process, they used overly complex instruments like collateralized debt obligations.

The prospect of high compensation gave managers incentives to be shortsighted and undertake excessive risk, rather than lend money prudently. Banks made all these mistakes without anyone knowing, partly because so much of what they were doing was “off balance sheet” financing.

no more hummer nation

NYTimes | How big do we need to be to still feel American? How big can our national debt grow? How big can our cars be? And how big is our clout abroad these days? Will Michelle’s style in Europe make as big a splash as Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s?

The cowboy push by W. and Dick Cheney to be a hyperpower and an empire left America a weakened and tapped-out power, straining to defend its runaway capitalism even as it uneasily adapts to its desperation socialism.

How do we come to terms with the gluttony that exploded our economy and still retain our reptilian American desire for living large? How do we make the pursuit of the American dream a satisfying quest rather than a selfish one?

Many people were wringing their hands about the president forcing the resignation of Wagoner, whose G.M. lost $82 billion in the last four years, took $13.4 billion in bailout money and asked for $16.6 billion more, even as the carmaker’s market share melted from 33 percent to 18 percent and its stock slid from more than $70 a share to less than $4 — about the price of a couple gallons of gas.

But Mr. Obama’s move was bracing, a sign, at long last, that the president will not tolerate failure, not when he has to print all the money in the universe to underwrite obtuseness. Wagoner showed no foresight or willingness to curb an unhealthy appetite for the big. He failed to eliminate brands and launched the Hummer line in 2001. (Hummers remain icons of power in Iraq.)

“I thought it was absolutely bizarre,” said Maryann Keller, an independent automotive analyst, adding that “it was aimed at people who didn’t know what to do with the money they had. It was discretionary spending by males who clearly had other cars in their garages.”

Wagoner stuck to gas-guzzling pickups and S.U.V.’s long after it was clear that higher gas prices meant he should vary the fleet with more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Iran hostage crisis in 1979 put America on notice that future relations with the Middle East would be volatile and that we had better get some methadone or ethanol or switch grass or something and get over our addiction to oil.

But Detroit defiantly stuck its head in the sand. A lot of longtime auto watchers felt relief and excitement at Wagoner’s crisp dismissal, knowing that the reckoning is at last here. The problems in the car industry have been so apparent for so long, and the failure to face up to them and move into a greener future has been so frustrating.

President Obama must nurse us through our affluenza, addressing both our visceral need to be big and our cerebral decision to be leaner — and much, much smarter.

earth population exceeds limits

BBC News | There are already too many people living on Planet Earth, according to one of most influential science advisors in the US government. Nina Fedoroff told the BBC One Planet programme that humans had exceeded the Earth's "limits of sustainability".

Dr Fedoroff has been the science and technology advisor to the US secretary of state since 2007, initially working with Condoleezza Rice. Under the new Obama administration, she now advises Hillary Clinton.

"We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can't support many more people," Dr Fedoroff said, stressing the need for humans to become much better at managing "wild lands", and in particular water supplies.

Pressed on whether she thought the world population was simply too high, Dr Fedoroff replied: "There are probably already too many people on the planet."

GM Foods 'needed'
A National Medal of Science laureate (America's highest science award), the professor of molecular biology believes part of that better land management must include the use of genetically modified foods.

"We have six-and-a-half-billion people on the planet, going rapidly towards seven.

"We're going to need a lot of inventiveness about how we use water and grow crops," she told the BBC. "We accept exactly the same technology (as GM food) in medicine, and yet in producing food we want to go back to the 19th Century."

Dr Fedoroff, who wrote a book about GM Foods in 2004, believes critics of genetically modified maize, corn and rice are living in bygone times.

"We wouldn't think of going to our doctor and saying 'Treat me the way doctors treated people in the 19th Century', and yet that's what we're demanding in food production."


Bill Moyer's Journal | BILL MOYERS: There are two ways to measure the health of a society, the gross national product, the sums of the goods and services that we produce, and the gross national psychology, the sums of our hopes and fears. Is it possible to think that this depression you experienced can also affect us politically, socially, and communally as a nation?

PARKER PALMER: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I don't think it's an accident that we talk about the Great Depression and maybe the impending depression that we're going into economically is about clinical depression.

There's a lot of darkness out there. And there's a lot of lossness. And there's a lot of people feeling that their lives are over. We need to learn to be present to one another in listening ways, in compassionate ways. Do we need to be doing outside work that has to do with repairing a broken economic system and a political system that's in disrepair? Absolutely we do.

But we need to be drawing for that on an inner wisdom that isn't there when it's only fake science that's driving our reconstruction efforts, when it's only an illusion of rationality or an illusion of affluence. We need to penetrate those illusion bubbles. Thoreau said reality is fabulous. And I agree with him. It's a lot more fabulous than illusion because it won't let you down. Reality won't let you down. It is what it is. And we have to learn to deal with it. Because when you're standing on the ground of your own reality, your society's reality, you can fall down, as we do and we will continue to do, and simply get up and dust yourself off. You aren't falling from 100 feet in the air where you're likely to kill yourself.

BILL MOYERS: Is this a heartbreaking moment in American history?

PARKER PALMER: Absolutely. It's a heartbreaking moment. And part of the heartbreak is around things that never should have happened, like the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. We're seeing that in our faces now. And it's good that we are because those things never should have happened.

Part of the heartbreak is around having to give up illusions that we've carried for far too long. And it's good that that's happening, too. And the two, of course, are related. But, yes, it's a moment of heartbreak. And it's a moment for people to step up and say we have to learn to hold these tensions in a life-giving way. We have to learn that Camp Obama has to be for all of us, whether we're Democrats or Republicans or Independents. We have to learn that we need to hang together or we're going to hang separately. We have to learn a new set of habits of the heart. And I think that can happen.

BILL MOYERS: Parker Palmer, thank you for being with me on the Journal.

PARKER PALMER: Thank you, Bill.

anglo-american capitalism on trial

NYTimes | In many ways, the new order was the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, embodying the common beliefs in freedom that had bound the wartime alliance, as they had infused the wider bonds between what Churchill called “the English-speaking peoples” since the flowering of liberal thought in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Just as Roosevelt and Churchill shared that bond, so, now, do Mr. Obama and Mr. Brown. Both men, reacting to events on Wall Street, in the City and in other financial centers, have spoken, with unaccustomed asperity, of the greed and irresponsibility of bankers, hedge-fund managers and others who, the two men have as much as said, have betrayed the system and come close to wrecking it.

Now, the conviction that the system must be rebuilt to curb future excesses forms a starting point for the reforms that will come under discussion in London. Like Mr. Brown’s, President Obama’s message to his own compatriots has focused on ways of revitalizing the system, often to the exasperation of those among their supporters who would favor more radical measures.

Even as both men have embarked on enormous increases in public-sector spending, they have maintained that solutions to the crisis lie in reawakening the markets and recapitalizing the banks, rather than having the government take them over, and in placing financial institutions under closer supervision rather than tearing at the system’s foundations. And both, when they respond to public anger at the private sector, have seemed more geared to managing that anger than stoking it.