Thursday, October 22, 2009

foreclosures force ex-homeowners into shelters

NYTimes | The first night after she surrendered her house to foreclosure, Sheri West endured the darkness in her Hyundai sedan. She parked in her old driveway, with her flower-print dresses and hats piled in boxes on the back seat, and three cherished houseplants on the floor. She used her backyard as a restroom.

The second night, she stayed with a friend, and so it continued for more than a year: Ms. West — mother of three grown children, grandmother to six and great-grandmother to one — passed months on the couches of friends and relatives, and in the front seat of her car.

But this fall, she exhausted all options. She had once owned and overseen a group home for homeless people. Now, she succumbed to that status herself, checking in to a shelter.

“No one could have told me that in a million years: I’d wake up in a homeless shelter,” she said. “I had a house for homeless people. Now, I’m homeless.”

Growing numbers of Americans who have lost houses to foreclosure are landing in homeless shelters, according to social service groups and a recent report by a coalition of housing advocates.

Only three years ago, foreclosure was rarely a factor in how people became homeless. But among the homeless people that social service agencies have helped over the last year, an average of 10 percent lost homes to foreclosure, according to “Foreclosure to Homelessness 2009,” a survey produced by the National Coalition for the Homeless and six other advocacy groups.

In the Midwest, foreclosure played a role for 15 percent of newly homeless people, according to the survey, reflecting soaring rates of unemployment — Ohio’s reached 10.8 percent in August — and aggressive lending to people with damaged credit.

foreclosures - worst three months of all time...,

CNN | Despite signs of broader economic recovery, number of foreclosure filings hit a record high in the third quarter - a sign the plague is still spreading. Despite concerted government-led and lender-supported efforts to prevent foreclosures, the number of filings hit a record high in the third quarter, according to a report issued Thursday.

"They were the worst three months of all time," said Rick Sharga, spokesman for RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed homes.

During that time, 937,840 homes received a foreclosure letter -- whether a default notice, auction notice or bank repossession, the RealtyTrac report said. That means one in every 136 U.S. homes were in foreclosure, which is a 5% increase from the second quarter and a 23% jump over the third quarter of 2008.

Nevada continued to be the worst-hit state with one filing for every 23 households. But even tranquil Vermont, where the foreclosure crisis has barely brushed the housing market, saw foreclosure filings jump nearly 170% compared with the third quarter of 2008. Still, that resulted in just one filing for every 5,023 households in the state -- the best record in the country.

u.s. launches aid for state and local housing agencies

Reuters | The Obama administration on Monday launched a program to help the depressed U.S. housing market by effectively allowing state and local housing finance agencies to borrow from the U.S. Treasury.

The initiative, announced as new data showed a downturn in homebuilder sentiment, aims to restart a source of mortgage financing for first-time and low-income buyers that has Justify Fullbeen largely shut down by credit market gridlock.

Described as temporary by the U.S. Treasury, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the program will allow state and local agencies to issue bonds through government-sponsored mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those bonds would then be purchased by the Treasury.

"Through this initiative, the administration aims to help ... jump start new lending to borrowers who might not otherwise be served and to better support the financing costs of their current programs," U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a statement.

The U.S. housing market, which was at the epicenter of the global credit crisis, has shown signs of stabilizing, but it has been bolstered by an $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers that is set to expire at the end of November.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

a very lucky universe?

Guardian | In a desperate attempt to explain why Cern's Large Hadron Collider has suffered a series of mishaps preventing it from commencing its search for the elusive Higgs Boson particle, respectable physicists have suggested (apparently in all seriousness) that nature abhors the Higgs so much that ripples from the future are travelling back in time to stop the Switzerland-based particle accelerator working.

Reports of the emergence of these theories have prompted renewed contemplation of the "granny paradox", which some think debunks the very idea of time travel. In this scenario, a time traveller goes into the past and inadvertently causes the death of his/her granny, before the traveller's parents are born. So the traveller never goes back in time, so granny doesn't die – and, well, so on. I have a much simpler explanation for the collider's plight. Its failure is related to the existence of other universes, the "parallel worlds" beloved of science-fiction writers.

This theory suggests there are many – perhaps infinitely many – universes, some more or less like our own, some very different. This is not an idea confined to science fiction; it is respectable scientific speculation. Such universes are thought to exist in their own sets of space and time dimensions, and include worlds where key turning points in history, such as the Battle of Hastings, turned out differently from the way things happened in our world. The physicist Hugh Everett proved half a century ago that this "many worlds" idea is completely compatible with everything we know about the way the world works, and is a natural feature of quantum physics.

u.s. state tax revenue drops most since 1963

Bloomberg | Bloomberg is reporting State Revenue Falls Most Since 1963 on Incomes, Sales. U.S. state tax collections tumbled the most in almost half a century in the second quarter as the economic recession curbed levies on incomes and sales.

The 16.6 percent plunge was the biggest since at least 1963, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government said today. For the 12 months to June 30, the fiscal year for most states, revenue declined 8.2 percent, or $63 billion, about twice what states got from the $787 billion U.S. economic stimulus package, the institute said.

State revenue has dwindled for two straight quarters and continued to decline in July and August, the Albany-based research organization said. Budgets for the year that began July 1 already face $26 billion of deficits, the Washington, D.C.- based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said Aug. 12, forcing state lawmakers to confront additional spending cuts.

“We’re looking at a multiyear problem hitting essentially every state,” Robert Ward, the institute’s deputy director, told reporters. “It has happened during recessions before, but the depth of this decline is unprecedented in modern times.”

Collections dropped in 49 states in the second quarter as sales and personal-income taxes slid for the third consecutive period, the institute said. Income tax was down 27.5 percent and sales tax fell down 9.5 percent, its study said. Both categories fell by the most in 45 years.

“Many economists believe that the national recession has ended and that a tepid recovery is now underway,” Rockefeller analysts Lucy Dadayan and Donald J. Boyd wrote. “Unfortunately for states, an emerging economic recovery does not spell instant budget relief.”

america's soul is lost - collapse inevitable

MarketWatch | Jack Bogle published "The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism" four years ago. The battle's over. The sequel should be titled: "Capitalism Died a Lost Soul." Worse, we've lost "America's Soul." And worldwide the consequences will be catastrophic. That's why a man like Hong Kong's contrarian economist Marc Faber warns in his Doom, Boom & Gloom Report: "The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic system as we know it today."

No, not just another meltdown, another bear market recession like the one recently triggered by Wall Street's "too-greedy-to-fail" banks. Faber is warning that the entire system of capitalism will collapse. Get it? The engine driving the great "American Economic Empire" for 233 years will collapse, a total disaster, a destiny we created.

OK, deny it. But I'll bet you have a nagging feeling maybe he's right, the end may be near. I have for a long time: I wrote a column back in 1997: "Battling for the Soul of Wall Street." My interest in "The Soul" -- what Jung called the "collective unconscious" -- dates back to my Ph.D. dissertation: "Modern Man in Search of His Soul," a title borrowed from Jung's 1933 book, "Modern Man in Search of a Soul." This battle has been on my mind since my days at Morgan Stanley 30 years ago, witnessing the decline.

Has capitalism lost its soul? Guys like Bogle and Faber sense it. Read more about the soul in physicist Gary Zukav's "The Seat of the Soul," Thomas Moore's "Care of the Soul" and sacred texts.

But for Wall Street and American capitalism, use your gut. You know something's very wrong: A year ago "too-greedy-to-fail" banks were insolvent, in a near-death experience. Now, magically they're back to business as usual, arrogant, pocketing outrageous bonuses while Main Street sacrifices, and unemployment and foreclosures continue rising as tight credit, inflation and skyrocketing Federal debt are killing taxpayers.

Yes, Wall Street has lost its moral compass. They created the mess, now, like vultures, they're capitalizing on the carcass. They have lost all sense of fiduciary duty, ethical responsibility and public obligation.

Here are the Top 20 reasons American capitalism has lost its soul:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

frustration builds within the ranks

NYTimes | Only nine months ago, the Pentagon pronounced itself reassured by the early steps of a new commander in chief. President Obama was moving slowly on an American withdrawal from Iraq, had retained former President George W. Bush’s defense secretary and, in a gesture much noticed, had executed his first military salute with crisp precision.

But now, after nearly a month of deliberations by Mr. Obama over whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan, frustrations and anxiety are on the rise within the military.

A number of active duty and retired senior officers say there is concern that the president is moving too slowly, is revisiting a war strategy he announced in March and is unduly influenced by political advisers in the Situation Room.

“The thunderstorm is there and it’s kind of brewing and it’s unstable and the lightning hasn’t struck, and hopefully it won’t,” said Nathaniel C. Fick, a former Marine Corps infantry officer who briefed Mr. Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign and is now the chief executive of the Center for a New American Security, a military research institution in Washington. “I think it can probably be contained and avoided, but people are aware of the volatile brew.”

marching toward zombieland

JHKunstler | When sober-minded individuals begin to regard an enterprise within a nation as "an enemy of the people" you can bet that some serious blood is going to flow. This is now essentially the situation for the Goldman Sachs company, which last week announced third-quarter earnings of over $3 billion largely derived from converting zero percent loans from taxpayers into zero risk profits off of anything paying more than zero percent in interest, revenue, or dividends.

The "people" across this big country may not have a clue how any of this is done, and there may be much to fault them on from the care-and-feeding of their own bodies to the content of their dreams, but you can't argue with the fact that they are heavily armed to an extreme. And although it may be hard to measure with precision, one might venture to state that they are increasingly pissed off. How else explain popular entertainments like "Zombieland?"

The political part of what has to date appeared to be an economic problem is resolving into a crisis of authority and legitimacy. When those in charge of a nation's livelihood prove to be comprehensively false and dishonest, the economic automatically turns political. Nobody believes the bankers anymore, of course, and nobody believes the interlocutors of the bankers - the Federal Reserve chairman, the Secretary of the Treasury, the heads of the SEC and a dozen other regulatory bodies - and increasingly the charming figure in the White House cannot be believed on these issues of the nation's livelihood.

The questions lately revolve around whether the nation is destroying itself by inflation or deflation - by the willful destruction of the value of our currency to evade the repayment of debt, or by the hapless destruction of households, companies, and governments by default and bankruptcy. It's a fire-or-ice debate. Either way the nation is going down as a viable enterprise. The fiction that we can return to a Crate-and-Barrel credit card orgy has sustained the false of heart and mind for some months now, but even that pleasant reverie will come to an end as the foreclosures mount. Only remember, men living in their cars who have lost nearly everything else will still have guns.

All these tensions beat a path into the holiday season when emotions run high, when blessings are counted and sorrows taste most bitter. So the big question now floating above the sheer data of Goldman Sachs profit announcement is: what kind of year-end bonuses will they dare to pay their executives and minions, and how will the "people" react? It seems to me that conditions are ripening for a bloodbath. The kind of heinous acts that we have feared emanating from foreign "evildoers" since the awful stunt of 9/11/01 are now most likely to come from among our own "people" - a few pounds of Semtex in the lobby of Goldman Sachs's New York headquarters... a few men with market-grade small arms converted to full-automatic outside on the Wall Street sidewalk one evening at holiday time when the suits are leaving work for the day.... It won't take much.

Monday, October 19, 2009

u.s. military's battle to wean itself off oil

Grist | In the summer of 2006, Marine Corps Major General Richard Zilmer sent the Pentagon an unusual “Priority 1” request for emergency battlefield supplies. Stationed at a temporary base in Fallujah, Zilmer was commanding a force of 30,000 troops responsible for protecting Al Anbar, the vast territory in western Iraq bordering Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Heavily armed insurgents were hammering the region, and Al Qaeda was quickly gathering recruits. Zilmer’s beleaguered soldiers were running low on fuel for the diesel generators powering their barracks—fuel that cooled their tents in the 135-degree weather, refrigerated and cooked their food, and kept the communication lines open. The general, however, was wary of trucking in backup supplies during a time of so much turmoil. The U.S. fuel convoys that chugged along the back roads of Iraq every day—long lines of 18-wheelers hauling armored vats of gas—were among the insurgents’ prime targets.

Zilmer’s memo presented the Pentagon with an unprecedented request: “a self-sustainable energy solution,” including “solar panels and wind turbines.” This was the first time a frontline commander had formally requested renewable energy backup in battle. Without alternative power sources, the memo continued, U.S. forces “will remain unnecessarily exposed” and will “continue to accrue preventable ... serious and grave casualties.” Put in civilian-speak: Too many of Zilmer’s troops were dying in fuel convoys, and the relentless gasoline demands of the diesel generators were partly to blame.

Renewable energy was not an environmental consideration for Zilmer, it was a tactical necessity—a matter of life and death, of victory or defeat. The Pentagon is the largest consumer of petroleum in the United States. In recent years it has used between 130 million and 145 million barrels of oil annually—2 percent of America’s total petroleum demand. That translates to nearly 400,000 barrels per day, roughly the total daily energy consumption of the United Arab Emirates. Over the last century, no institution has done more to propel America’s rise to power than our military—or consumed more oil in the process. We have petroleum to thank for building the Department of Defense into an as-yet-unmatched fighting machine—but our troops are only as powerful as the flow of fuel that sustains them.

I was both baffled and hopeful when I read about Zilmer’s memo. Here was a no-nonsense Marine Corps general who has served more than 30 years in the U.S. military (not your typical tree-hugger) stationed in a country that’s virtually floating on an ocean of oil (Iraq has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, after Iran and Saudi Arabia) demanding clean energy solutions that only a few years earlier had been regarded as rinky-dink hippie technology suitable only for yurts and Earthships. Zilmer’s plea struck me as a clear harbinger of change in America’s attitudes about energy. If there was ever an opportunity to “man up” the effete image and role of solar panels, wind power, and other fossil-fuel alternatives, this was it. Just think of what the Pentagon could do to fast-track alternative-energy innovations going forward—after all, it was military R&D that led to the invention of jet airplanes, helicopters, radar, remote-control mechanisms, cell phones, global positioning systems (GPS), microchips, and the internet.

But for all the promise it augured, Zilmer’s memo also carried overtones of despair that spoke to the massive challenges that come with fueling the military—one more oil-dependent today than ever before in history.

How did the American military get so hooked on petroleum? How much does it really cost—in both blood and treasure—to fuel war? What would it take to transform the world’s biggest and strongest military into a petroleum-free enterprise? And how did this become the primary concern of a man leading 30,000 troops? To get answers, I went straight to the heart of the U.S. military establishment.

shale gas estimates optimistic?

The Oil Drum | Unfortunately I have had to miss the ASPO Meeting in Denver this week, and so cannot provide the daily reports that I have written in the past. But I notice that at least one of the talks has already caught a significant amount of press, and that is the one by Arthur Berman on the gas production from shale deposits such as the Barnett, Haynesville and Marcellus.

There has been a considerable hype in the press about the value of the gas from these shales, and the ability that they provide to bring in an “Age of Natural Gas”. This picture of a large supply of natural gas has been strengthened by the increase in production from a number of the gas shale fields, at the same time that the recession hit, and as a result there has been more gas available than needed, and the price has dropped considerably as a result. This, in turn, has led to a considerable reduction in the number of rigs that have been drilling new wells.

Natural gas has been steadily increasing its share of electricity generation, rising to over 20% of the market, on its way to 25%. Natural gas is favored because of its reduced carbon footprint over coal, and it has historically been used since it is somewhat easier to start and stop gas turbines than it is coal-fired power. Thus natural gas is seen as a favored backup to the installation of wind farms, where the vagaries of the wind are backed by the ability to use natural gas when needed.

There are, however, considerable concerns about the ability of wells in the gas shale to produce to the targets that are being set up. I first noted Arthur Berman’s concern about this back in 2007 when I drew attention to a piece he had written in World Oil, where he noted the short life of most of the gas-producing wells; the very high costs for the wells and technology required to create them and, as a result, that only 28% of them return a reasonable profit. (Unfortunately the article itself is now behind a paywall).

Since then I returned to the topic at Bit Tooth showing, among other data, the very high decline rate (now 60%) of many of the gas wells in Texas (where the Barnett shale is) that Swindell has reported.

energy crisis postponed as new gas rescues the world?

ODAC | It is hard to know where to begin regarding Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's article entitled "Energy crisis is postponed as new gas rescues the world." But since the speculative world he invokes has more to with Alice In Wonderland than the hard reality of engineering and science, let us begin - at the end.

Evans-Pritchard caps his evangelistic encomium with this: "I am not qualified to judge where gas excitement crosses into hyperbole. I pass on the story because the claims of BP and Statoil are so extraordinary that we may need to rewrite the geo-strategy textbooks for the next half century."

He admits his lack of gas qualifications but surely he is enough of a journalist - and an economist - to ask some basic fact-checking questions. What none of the boosters want to talk about is the reality of shale gas. It is true that there is most likely a lot of shale gas around, especially in the United States, but after this, the story goes down a rabbit hole. Shale gas is not like the conventional gas finds that gave the US vast supplies of cheap methane. Shale gas is locked in until the rocks holding it are fractured in a process known as hydro-fracing. This requires a lot of work, a lot of wells, a lot of water (2 - 5 million gallons per well), and some rather unpleasant chemicals. Having made all this effort, the production decline rates look like the cliffs at Beachy Head. Within two years production has typcally dropped by 80%.

Not surprisingly therefore, these expensive wells have an average commercial life of less than eight years. Worse still, in August of this year, World Oil pointed out that total production of many wells was only a third of what operators had predicted. Furthermore, of the two dozen or so shale plays in the US, Barnett appears to have the best geological profile and is responsible for 80% of current shale gas. Many of the other plays have much lower gas content density, which would likely mean yet more wells and more fracing for less gas.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

blue-collar scholar spits game

Democracy Now | William Black, Former bank regulator at the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation. In the 1980s he helped expose the savings and loan scandal. He now teaches at the University of Missouri–Kansas City and is the author of the book The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the S&L Industry. Interview money shot;
WILLIAM BLACK: Well, I mean, Summers, for example—you talked about Geithner’s aides and how much money they had made, and, of course, it’s absurdly large, and they’re making it typically for not doing much of anything. But they’re taking their cue from Summers, who got $5 million, roughly, for working one day a week in areas he had no expertise. So, you know, once you leave the federal service, then these interests that you were very helpful to find a way to make you spectacularly rich, and they know that that’s what’s coming in their future. That’s part of the problem.

But the bigger part of the problem, in many ways, is that they have such an ideology about the market and its ability to deal with all problems that has no basis in reality, has been exposed in this crisis as completely fictional, and yet they can’t give it up. I mean, think of yourself as one of these professors who’s been trained in the Milton Friedmanish views, and you’re in your fifties, and you’ve been saying—you know, everything you’ve said in your career is wrong. Everything you’ve learned in your career is wrong. All of your areas of expertise are wrong. Are you going to admit that? “Hi, I’ve been misleading you, and I’m sorry I caused this disaster. And by the way, I have no meaningful skills or experience.
As Foreclosures Hit All-Time High, Wall Street on Pace to Hand Out Record $140B in Employee Bonuses - The Dow Jones Industrial Average has topped 10,000 for the first time in a year, as JPMorgan Chase reported massive profits in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that major US banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year—a record high. But on Main Street, foreclosures are also at record levels, and the official unemployment rate is expected to top ten percent.

music, pattern, and the neurostructures of time

Noology | The term pattern has recently gained prominence as key term in understanding mankind's quest to make the universe intelligible, to fashion a Cosmos from the pure Chaos of the undiscriminate swarm of photons, electrons, air pressure changes, chemical and physical stimulants, that organisms are exposed to every instant of their living existence. On pattern are based not only the sciences, but also human society, and in the wider sense, life, and the lawfulness of the universe. The present contribution connects Gregory Bateson's work as a recent trailblazer in the recognition of the role of pattern with Goethe's earlier work on Morphology and Metamorphosis. It links this to current scientific understanding of the working of the brain, as neuronal activation patterns, consisting of oscillation fields and logical relation structures of neuronal assemblies, treated formally as coupled dynamic systems and neuronal attractors, which are characterized by their space-time-dynamics. These are called neuronal resonance patterns, and patterns of patterns: metapatterns. Thus, pattern is the "infrastructure" of neuronal processing happening in our brains, below, and a few miliseconds before our working consciousness experiences the "phainomena" and "noumena", of our discernible impressions and thoughts. This spatio-temporal neuronal infrastructure is then re-interpreted in a Neo-Pythagorean way, as the "inner music of the brain", which supports a new validation for the old Pythagorean world views.

time, anticipation, and pattern processors

Noology | Recent advances in the neurosciences are leading to an understanding of the structures and processes in neural networks as electric activation patterns, consisting of oscillation fields and logical relation structures of neuronal assemblies, treated formally as coupled dynamic systems and neuronal attractors. These are specifically characterized by their space-time-dynamics. In the present context, these phenomena are also called neuronal resonance patterns, and as higher-order hierarchical aggregates, patterns of patterns: metapatterns, as Gregory Bateson would have termed it. The term pattern is suited equally well for the spatial as for the temporal domain, and thus allows to formulate an abstract conceptual system of the neuronal computation processes of organisms. In re-formulation of Goethe's original ideas, such a systematics of metapatterns is called meta-morphology, in an effort to account especially for their dynamic, time-relevant aspects. The fundamental properties of such a system display a strong resemblance to a very ancient thought system that was known as Pythagoreanism in the Western tradition. The present contribution will show some of the parallels between the ancient system and the meta-morphology as outlined here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

resources and anthropocentrism

NatureBatsLast | Considering the history of western thought, it's no surprise we view every element on Earth as feedstock for industrialization. The only question is when we exploit Earth's bounty, not if. The logical progression, then, is to exploitation of humans to further feed the industrial machine.

Within the last few years, personnel departments at major institutions became departments of human resources. Thus, whereas these departments formerly dealt with persons, they now deal with resources. There's a reason you feel like a cog in a grand imperial scheme: Not only are you are viewed as a cog by the machine, and also by those who run the machine, but any non-cog-like behavior on your part leads to rejection of you and your actions. Seems you're either a tool of empire or you're a saboteur (i.e., terrorist).

It's time to invest in wooden shoes.

As if fifteen people are even willing to poke a stick in the eye of the corporations that run and ruin our lives. Why is that? Probably because we think we depend upon them, when in fact they depend upon us. And, to a certain extent -- to the extent we allow -- we do depend upon industrial culture for our lives. But only in the short term, and only as self-absorbed, comfortable individuals unwilling to make changes in our lives (even ones that are necessary to our own survival). Taking the longer, broader view, it is evident industrial culture is killing the living planet, and our own species. The cultural problem we face is not that we're fish out of water. Rather, it's that we're fish in a river. We don't even know there's an ocean, much less a landbase.

Aye, there's the rub. Evolution demands short-term thinking focused on individual survival. Most attempts to overcome our evolutionarily hardwired absorption with self are selected against. The Overman is dead, killed by a high-fat diet and unwillingness to exercise. Reflexively, we follow him into the grave.

shale and our water

NYTimes | New York State’s environmental regulators have proposed rules to govern drilling in the Marcellus Shale — a subterranean layer of rock curving northward from West Virginia through Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York’s southern tier. The shale contains enormous deposits of natural gas that could add to the region’s energy supplies and lift New York’s upstate economy. If done carefully — and in carefully selected places — drilling should cause minimal environmental harm.

But regulators must amend the rules to bar drilling in the New York City watershed: a million acres of forests and farmlands whose streams supply the reservoirs that send drinking water to eight million people. Accidental leaks could threaten public health and require a filtration system the city can ill afford.

Natural gas is vital to the nation’s energy needs and can be an important bridge between dirty coal and renewable alternatives. The process of extracting it, however, is not risk-free. Known as hydraulic fracturing, it involves shooting a mix of water, sand and chemicals — many of them highly toxic — into the ground at very high pressure to break down the rock formations and free the gas.

The technique is used in 90 percent of the oil and gas operations in the United States. And while most drilling occurs without incident, “fracking” has been implicated in hundreds of cases of impaired or polluted drinking water supplies in states from Alabama to Wyoming.

The dangers are particularly acute in the Marcellus Shale, which, unlike the relatively shallow formations found elsewhere, lies miles underground. Getting the gas out will require far more water and heavy doses of chemicals. While the rules would require drillers to take special precautions in the watershed, there are too many points — from the delivery of the fluid to the drilling site to the removal of spent fluid after it surfaces — where poisoned water could escape into the water supplies.

Quarantining the watershed also makes economic sense. The shale contains only one-tenth of the gas in the southern tier. One big accident could undo everything the city and state have done — buying up property, creating buffer zones around the reservoirs — to protect the watershed from development and pollution.

The hazards to fresh water posed by massive fracking are fairly well understood. Do we really have the luxury of poisoning this much of our freshwater supply in the name of natural gas development? The question needs to be asked again: What do we value more, energy to run our machines or water to sustain human life?

natural gas changes the energy map?

Technology Review | Vast amounts of the clean-burning fossil fuel have been discovered in shale deposits, setting off a gas rush. But how it will affect our energy use is still uncertain.

The first sign that there's something unusual about the flat black rocks strewn across the shore of Lake Erie comes when Gary Lash smashes two of them together. They break easily and fall into shards that give off the faint odor of hydrocarbons, similar to the smell of kerosene. But for Lash, a geologist and professor at nearby SUNY Fredonia, smashing the rocks is a simple trick designed to catch the attention of a visitor. The black outcroppings that protrude from the nearby bluff onto the narrow beach are what really interest him.

To Lash's expert eyes, the wide band of black shale, which runs roughly parallel to the beach, reveals hundreds of millions of years of geological history. The shale formed more than 350 million years ago when organic muck settled at the bottom of the shallow sea that covered much of what is now the eastern United States; it was once buried more than two kilometers underground but has gradually risen to the surface. Now, the exposed rock shows telltale patterns of breaks and splits. "We've demonstrated that these fractures could only have formed as a result of the generation of hydrocarbons," says Lash.

This formation is the edge of vast deposits of black shale that stretch under tens of millions of acres below western New York, much of western and northern Pennsylvania, and parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky. The oldest and deepest layer is called the Marcellus shale, and if geologists like Lash are correct, it holds enough natural gas to help change the way the United States uses energy for decades to come.

Experts now believe that the country has far more natural gas at its disposal than anyone thought three or four years ago. The revised estimates are largely due to advanced drilling techniques that make it economically feasible to extract the fuel from shale. And while the Marcellus is the most recently discovered and possibly the largest shale-gas deposit, others are scattered throughout the country. The U.S. consumes about 23 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas a year, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency (EIA). The Potential Gas Committee (PGC), an organization headquartered at the Colorado School of Mines, put the country's potential natural-gas resources at 1,836 TCF in a biennial assessment released in June. That's 39 percent higher than its estimate of two years earlier. Add to that the 238 TCF that the EIA has calculated in "proved reserves" (the gas that can be produced given existing economic conditions) and the PGC pegs the future supply at 2,074 TCF. In other words, there is enough natural gas to supply the country for 90 years at current consumption rates. Even if we used natural gas to totally replace coal in generating electricity, domestic supplies would last for 50 years.

Friday, October 16, 2009

naked politics at home....,

HuffPo | How the Servant Became a Predator: Finance's Five Fatal Flaws - What exactly is the function of the financial sector in our society? Simply this: Its sole function is supplying capital efficiently to aid the real economy. The financial sector is a tool to help those that make real tools, not an end in itself. But five fatal flaws in the financial sector's current structure have created a monster that drains the real economy, promotes fraud and corruption, threatens democracy, and causes recurrent, intensifying crises.

1. The financial sector harms the real economy.

2. The financial sector produces recurrent, intensifying economic crises here and abroad.

3. The financial sector's predation is so extraordinary that it now drives the upper one percent of our nation's income distribution and has driven much of the increase in our grotesque income inequality.

4. The financial sector's predation and its leading role in committing and aiding and abetting accounting control fraud combine to;

5. The CEOs of the largest financial firms are so powerful that they pose a critical risk to the financial sector, the real economy, and our democracy.

naked politics next door...,

Washington Post | Union members and their political allies filled the streets of the Mexican capital Thursday night to condemn President Felipe Calderón's recent liquidation of a state-run power utility, a surprise move seen by many as an assault on organized labor.

Declaring the state-owned company so poorly managed as to be "unsustainable," Calderón on Saturday night authorized the seizure of Central Light and Power. He also deployed about 1,000 federal police officers in riot gear to enforce his decree; workers from another state-run power company swept in to take over the electric grid and keep the lights on.

For Mexico, the takeover marked a pivotal moment. The government has long allowed state enterprises and their powerful unions to operate at a loss, in order to boost employment and keep the peace between haves and have-nots. But, at Central Light and Power, Calderón said the government could not continue to support staffing levels and salaries demanded by the powerful Mexican Electricians Union in the midst of a deep economic crisis. It did not help that the company has lost a third of its electricity to waste and theft.

Union members have reacted with outrage, sparking a widening political brawl over the new realities of the social contract in Mexico.

On Wednesday, Calderón, a member of the conservative, pro-business National Action Party, denied charges by the electricians and their political supporters that the liquidation of Light and Power was the first step in a coming campaign to dismantle other trade unions, such as guilds for teachers and oil workers, which play an outsize role in the economic and political life of Mexico.

But the president's promises did little to calm the roiling political fight, as both right and left, business leaders and union chiefs, quickly took up opposing sides.

coercive flu vaccination?

NYTimes | The New York Civil Liberties Union demanded on Tuesday that the state health commissioner withdraw a new regulation requiring hundreds of thousands of health care workers to get both seasonal and swine flu vaccinations.

In testimony before several State Assembly committees in Lower Manhattan, Donna Lieberman, executive director of the civil liberties union, said that the requirement violated the constitutional right of health care workers to control their bodies and their medical treatment.

Ms. Lieberman said that, while the civil liberties union supported voluntary flu vaccination, the “societal interest” being advanced by compulsory vaccination was dubious, since the state regulation conflicted with both international and national policy on the vaccination of health care workers.

Neither the World Health Organization nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called for mandatory vaccination, she pointed out.

Ms. Lieberman stopped short of saying that the civil liberties union would sue over the requirement, which was adopted by the state’s Health Department as an emergency regulation in August. State health officials said Tuesday that the regulation affected 500,000 health care workers and volunteers statewide.

Her testimony came a day before a judge in State Supreme Court in Manhattan was to hear a lawsuit filed by a nurse in Poughkeepsie, Suzanne Field, seeking to overturn the regulation.

In her lawsuit, filed a week ago, Ms. Field argues that the regulation is arbitrary and capricious because no other state is ordering mandatory vaccination despite concern about the H1N1 pandemic.

“It’s up to the Legislature to invoke such broad and sweeping police power,” Ms. Field’s lawyer, Patricia Finn, said Tuesday.