Wednesday, February 10, 2010

what today's republicans believe

The Atlantic | Bruce Bartlett posts this Kos/Research 2000 poll of self-identified Republicans and concludes "that between 20% and 50% of the party is either insane or mind-numbingly stupid." I always respect Bruce's view but think rather that this is a function of the GOP becoming more about identity politics and paranoia than individual freedom and hope. Any party that could treat Sarah Palin as a serious candidate for the vice-presidency has lost its mind - almost as surely as she has lost what remains of hers.

Of course, I notice the question of openly gay men and women as high school teachers. I notice this because I bet every single one of the respondents who said yes to banning such teachers revere Ronald Reagan, And yet Reagan took a strong stand against exactly that position in 1978 as governor of California. Yes, 1978 - decades before the enormous shift in public attitudes toward homosexuality that has made a new and more tolerant world today.

What you begin to realize is that on a whole host of issues, the GOP is going backward in areas of social tolerance, as they marinate in their own paranoia and purge every non-ideologue from their ranks. And as they go backward and feel, yes, left behind, their virulence and resentment intensify. It's a classic fundamentalist response to modernity.

It has a parallel in the way in which non-violent Islamists have doubled down on medievalism as they feel an overwhelming sense of their own failure to succeed in modernity. There is a profound insecurity and dysfunction in these subcultures which cannot make the transition to modern life and thereby surrender more totally to the ancient past and to hatred of those who succeed. The hatred of Obama - a clearly decent and obviously Christian man - is not about him. It's about them. It's about their resentment of a man who has integrated his own identity and made a place for himself in a pluralist world. They cannot do that - so, like Palin, they invent a world of ancient virtues and moral absolutes that they routinely fail to live up to in reality. I mean: look at Palin's family and Obama's. Whose is the more traditional? And yet Palin is allegedly the avatar of family values - and Obama is a commie subversive.

It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

politics of fear

NYTimes | An election is coming, so the Republicans are trying to scare Americans by making it appear as if the Democrats don’t care about catching or punishing terrorists.

It’s nonsense, of course, but effective. The be-very-afraid approach helped former President George W. Bush ram laws through Congress that chipped away at Americans’ rights. He used it to get re-elected in 2004. Now the Republicans are playing the fear card for the fall elections.

The most recent target is the Obama administration’s handling of the failed Christmas Day bomber, particularly its decision (an absolutely correct one) to have the F.B.I. arrest and interrogate the suspect and file federal terrorism charges rather than throw him into a military prison where the Republicans seem to expect that he would be given no rights, questioned and held without charges.

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, suggested — without any evidence — that vital intelligence was lost by that approach. Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, told Politico that he wants to block financing for civilian trials of terrorism suspects so Republicans can brag about it this fall. He said “the core question is whether the attorney general of the United States ought to be in charge of the war on terror.”

As Mr. McConnell should know perfectly well, that is not the question at all, core or otherwise. The Obama administration has embraced the idea of using military tribunals for some terrorism suspects. The Christmas bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was arrested in the United States. The American justice system does not allow people arrested in the United States for serious offenses to be detained and held without access to an attorney.

It is good that the administration is pushing back.

restructuring woes in greece

WaPo | Reversals of fortunes have come fast and hard, and nowhere more so than Greece.

This Mediterranean country dumped its own currency, the drachma, in 2001 in favor of the European Union's new currency, the euro. As a result, it gained unprecedented footing in financial markets. With Greek debt backed by the rock-solid euro, Athens raised billions from foreign pension funds and global banks at interest rates nearly as low as those offered to Germany, the fiscally conservative titan of Europe. Flush with easy money, government spending soared and the economy boomed.

But just as investors found millions of U.S. homeowners to be riskier bets than initially thought, they are now realizing that Greece -- as well as other weaker economies that use the euro -- is no Germany. Political handouts and padded employment rolls helped public-sector wages double here over the past decade. Rampant tax evasion -- at least a quarter of the economy operates under the table -- drained government coffers even as public spending soared. When the global financial crisis hit, Greece cooked the books to mask the extent of its massive budget deficit, with the fiscal emergency becoming clear only over the past few months.

Greece is now racing to push through budget cuts to stabilize its finances and convince investors of its creditworthiness before spring -- when it must refinance $25 billion in debt or risk default.

On Tuesday, hopes hinged on reports that Germany may be preparing to lead a group of European Union nations in loan guarantees to Greece and other hard-hit countries in the region. Olli Rehn, who takes over as European economic affairs commissioner Wednesday, told Bloomberg News that Greece has to "do the necessary measures" in exchange for E.U. support.

One reason the markets reacted with such enthusiasm is that Greece's problems aren't its alone. Similar fears have hit nations such as Portugal, Spain and Italy, which also benefited from historically low borrowing rates but which critics say were riskier investments than they seemed.

"There are parallels to the subprime mortgages in the U.S., especially with Greece," said Thomas Mayer, chief economist with Deutsche Bank in London. "They borrowed money on an economy with almost no manufacturing base, one that lives off tourism and agriculture. They have been living beyond their means. Even if they get short-term help from Europe, the question is still, how and when are they going to cut back?"

The answer, Mayer and others say, involves painful structural reforms that may mean significant belt-tightening for Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese and Italians in the years ahead to justify their memberships in the eurozone. To that aim, Greece's new Socialist government is moving to increase the retirement age, cut competition for state workers and overhaul the broken tax system.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

the worst of the pain

NYTimes | There is a great tendency in this country to refuse to see what is right in front of everybody’s eyes.

While there is now, finally, a great deal of talk among the politicians and in the news media about unemployment, there is still almost a willful refusal to focus on just who is suffering the most from joblessness and underemployment.

When it comes to employment, there are roughly three broad categories in the United States. The folks in the upper-income group are not suffering much, if at all, from the profound reversals in employment brought about by the Great Recession. Those in the middle have been hit hard. The job losses there have been severe and long-lasting. But for those in the lower-income groups, the scale of the employment crisis has been mind-boggling.

What you’re not hearing from the politicians and the talking heads is that the joblessness and underemployment in America’s low-income households rival their heights in the Great Depression of the 1930s — and in some instances are worse. The same holds true for some categories of blue-collar workers. Anyone who thinks this devastating problem is going away soon, or that the economy can be put back on track without addressing it, is deluded.


will obama play the war card?

Creators Syndicate | Republicans already counting the seats they will pick up this fall should keep in mind Obama has a big card yet to play.

Should the president declare he has gone the last mile for a negotiated end to Iran's nuclear program and impose the "crippling" sanctions he promised in 2008, America would be on an escalator to confrontation that could lead straight to war.

And should war come, that would be the end of GOP dreams of adding three-dozen seats in the House and half a dozen in the Senate.

Harry Reid is surely aware a U.S. clash with Iran, with him at the president's side, could assure his re-election. Last week, Reid whistled through the Senate, by voice vote, a bill to put us on that escalator.

Senate bill 2799 would punish any company exporting gasoline to Iran. Though swimming in oil, Iran has a limited refining capacity and must import 40 percent of the gas to operate its cars and trucks and heat its homes.

And cutting off a country's oil or gas is a proven path to war.

In 1941, the United States froze Japan's assets, denying her the funds to pay for the U.S. oil on which she relied, forcing Tokyo either to retreat from her empire or seize the only oil in reach, in the Dutch East Indies.

The only force able to interfere with a Japanese drive into the East Indies? The U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Egypt's Gamel Abdel Nasser in 1967 threatened to close the Straits of Tiran between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba to ships going to the Israeli port of Elath. That would have cut off 95 percent of Israel's oil.

Israel response: a pre-emptive war that destroyed Egypt's air force and put Israeli troops at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Straits of Tiran.

Were Reid and colleagues seeking to strengthen Obama's negotiating hand?

The opposite is true. The Senate is trying to force Obama's hand, box him in, restrict his freedom of action, by making him impose sanctions that would cut off the negotiating track and put us on a track to war — a war to deny Iran weapons that the U.S. Intelligence community said in December 2007 Iran gave up trying to acquire in 2003.

Sound familiar?

iran's two-edged bomb

NYTimes | WITH Iran having notified the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency on Monday that any day now it will begin enriching its stockpile of uranium in order to power a medical reactor, we should admit that Washington’s approach to countering the Islamic Republic is leading nowhere. What’s needed, however, may be less of a change of plan than a change in how we view the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Believe it or not, there are some potential benefits to the United States should Iran build a bomb. (I’m speaking for myself here, and in no way for the Air Force.) Five possibilities come to mind.

First, Iran’s development of nuclear weapons would give the United States an opportunity to finally defeat violent Sunni-Arab terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. Here’s why: a nuclear Iran is primarily a threat to its neighbors, not the United States. Thus Washington could offer regional security — primarily, a Middle East nuclear umbrella — in exchange for economic, political and social reforms in the autocratic Arab regimes responsible for breeding the discontent that led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Until now, the Middle East autocracies have refused to change their ways because they were protected by the wealth of their petroleum reserves. A nuclear Iran alters the regional dynamic significantly, and provides some leverage for us to demand reforms.

Second, becoming the primary provider of regional security in a nuclear Middle East would give the United States a way to break the OPEC cartel. Forcing an end to the sorts of monopolistic practices that are illegal in the United States would be the price of that nuclear shield, bringing oil prices down significantly and saving billions of dollars a year at the pump. Or, at a minimum, President Obama could trade security for increased production and a lowering of global petroleum prices.

Third, Israel has made clear that it feels threatened by Iran’s nuclear program. The Palestinians also have a reason for concern, because a nuclear strike against Israel would devastate them as well. This shared danger might serve as a catalyst for reconciliation between the two parties, leading to the peace agreement that has eluded the last five presidents. Paradoxically, any final agreement between Israelis and Palestinians would go a long way to undercutting Tehran’s animosity toward Israel, and would ease longstanding tensions in the region.

Fourth, a growth in exports of weapons systems, training and advice to our Middle Eastern allies would not only strengthen our current partnership efforts but give the American defense industry a needed shot in the arm.

With the likelihood of austere Pentagon budgets in the coming years, Boeing has been making noise about shifting out of the defense industry, which would mean lost American jobs and would also put us in a difficult position should we be threatened by a rising military power like China. A nuclear Iran could forestall such a catastrophe.

one step closer...,

WaPo | Iran's formal notification Monday to a United Nations nuclear watchdog that it will begin producing higher-grade enriched uranium marks a new and potentially dangerous turn in Tehran's confrontation with the West over its nuclear ambitions.

Iran couched its announcement in terms of a pressing need for fuel at a 41-year-old, U.S.-built research reactor that produces medical isotopes for an estimated 850,000 kidney, heart and cancer patients. But in reality it means that Iran will be a significant step closer to possessing the raw material needed to build a nuclear bomb.

Indeed, Iran does not have the expertise to build the specialized fuel rods needed for the research reactor -- only France and Argentina are expert at it -- so the main consequence of Iran's decision appears to be moving up the enrichment ladder. If Iran tried to fuel the reactor itself, absent international assistance, it would be risky to the reactor and for public safety, according to David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.

Iranian officials have acknowledged the difficulty of using homemade fuel. In an interview in December, Mohammad Ghannadi, vice president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that while Iran could try to produce the fuel itself, "there would be technical problems. Also, we'd never make it on time to help our patients."

Meanwhile, enriching uranium under the guise of medical needs will get Tehran much closer to possessing weapons-grade material. Iran insists it has no interest in nuclear weapons. But Albright said 70 percent of the work toward reaching weapons-grade uranium took place when Iran enriched uranium gas to 3.5 percent. Enriching it further to the 19.75 percent needed for the reactor is an additional "15 to 20 percent of the way there."

Once the uranium is enriched above 20 percent, it is considered highly enriched uranium. The uranium would need to be enriched further, to 60 percent and then to 90 percent, before it could be used for a weapon. "The last two steps are not that big a deal," Albright said. They could be accomplished, he said, at a relatively small facility within months.

Monday, February 08, 2010

brand management - message control

WaPo | Six months ago, network executives were complaining that the White House was costing them tens of millions of dollars by pressing them to carry presidential news conferences in prime time.

Problem solved: President Obama hasn't held a full-scale news conference since July. Instead, he answered a dozen people's questions last week on YouTube, most of them easily finessed and -- extra bonus! -- no annoying follow-ups of the kind posed by real, live journalists.

It would be hard -- impossible, actually -- to argue that Obama hasn't been accessible to the media, not with his constant television interviews. The man has even done color commentary at a Georgetown basketball game. But the decision to bypass the White House press corps is no accident.

"It's a source of great frustration here," says Chip Reid, CBS's White House correspondent. "It's important for us to hold the president's feet to the fire."

NBC White House reporter Chuck Todd calls the situation a "shame," saying the administration is trying to control the message rather than allowing Obama to be seen "unscripted."

naked banksterism

NYTimes | If the Democratic Party has a stronghold on Wall Street, it is JPMorgan Chase. Its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, is a friend of President Obama’s from Chicago, a frequent White House guest and a big Democratic donor. Its vice chairman, William M. Daley, a former Clinton administration cabinet official and Obama transition adviser, comes from Chicago’s Democratic dynasty.

But this year Chase’s political action committee is sending the Democrats a pointed message. While it has contributed to some individual Democrats and state organizations, it has rebuffed solicitations from the national Democratic House and Senate campaign committees. Instead, it gave $30,000 to their Republican counterparts.

The shift reflects the hard political edge to the industry’s campaign to thwart Mr. Obama’s proposals for tighter financial regulations.

Just two years after Mr. Obama helped his party pull in record Wall Street contributions — $89 million from the securities and investment business, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics — some of his biggest supporters, like Mr. Dimon, have become the industry’s chief lobbyists against his regulatory agenda.

Republicans are rushing to capitalize on what they call Wall Street’s “buyer’s remorse” with the Democrats. And industry executives and lobbyists are warning Democrats that if Mr. Obama keeps attacking Wall Street “fat cats,” they may fight back by withholding their cash.

“If the president doesn’t become a little more balanced and centrist in his approach, then he will likely lose that support,” said Kelly S. King, the chairman and chief executive of BB&T. Mr. King is a board member of the Financial Services Roundtable, which lobbies for the biggest banks, and last month he helped represent the industry at a private dinner at the Treasury Department.

“I understand the public outcry,” he continued. “We have a 17 percent real unemployment rate, people are hurting, and they want to see punishment. But the political rhetoric just incites more animosity and gets people riled up.”

branson warns of oil crunch in five years

Guardian | Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, will say the coming crisis could be even more serious than the credit crunch. Photograph: Peter Schneider/EPA

Sir Richard Branson and fellow leading businessmen will warn ministers this week that the world is running out of oil and faces an oil crunch within five years.

The founder of the Virgin group, whose rail, airline and travel companies are sensitive to energy prices, will say that the ­coming crisis could be even more serious than the credit crunch.

"The next five years will see us face another crunch – the oil crunch. This time, we do have the chance to prepare. The challenge is to use that time well," Branson will say.

"Our message to government and businesses is clear: act," he says in a foreword to a new report on the crisis. "Don't let the oil crunch catch us out in the way that the credit crunch did."

Other British executives who will support the warning include Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish and Southern Energy group, and Brian Souter, chief executive of transport operator Stagecoach.

Their call for urgent government action comes amid a wider debate on the issue and follows allegations by insiders at the International Energy Agency that the organisation had deliberately underplayed the threat of so-called "peak oil" to avoid panic on the stock markets.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

she dead...,

CNN | The last member of an ancient tribe that has inhabited an Indian island chain for around 65,000 years has died, a group that campaigns for the protection of indigenous peoples has said.

Boa Sr, who was around 85 years of age, died last week in the Andaman islands, about 750 miles off India's eastern coast, Survival International said in a statement.

The London-based group, which works to protect indigenous peoples, said she was the last member of one of ten distinct Great Andamanese tribes, the Bo.

"The Bo are thought to have lived in the Andaman islands for as long as 65,000 years, making them the descendants of one of the oldest human cultures on earth," it noted.

With her passing at a hospital, India also lost one of its most endangered languages, also called Bo, linguists say.

"She was the last speaker of (the) Bo language. It pains to see how one by one we are losing speakers of Great Andamanese and (their) language is getting extinct. (It is) A very fast erosion of (the) indigenous knowledge base, that we all are helplessly witnessing," read an obituary in Boa Sr's honor posted on the Web site of the Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese (VOGA) project.
"Boa Sr was the only speaker of Bo and had no one to converse with in that language.
--Anvita Abbi

Project director Anvita Abbi, a professor at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, met with Boa as recently as last year. "She was the only member who remembered the old songs," Abbi recounted in her obituary.

"Boa Sr was the only speaker of Bo and had no one to converse with in that language," Abbi told CNN. Her husband and children had already died, the linguist said.

Other than Bo, she also knew local Andaman languages, which she would use to converse, according to Abbi.

Boa Sr was believed to be the oldest of the Great Andamanese, members of ten distinct tribes. Survival International estimates there are now just 52 Great Andamanese left.

fat old sun

a childhood favorite...,

Saturday, February 06, 2010

the psychology of power

The Economist | REPORTS of politicians who have extramarital affairs while complaining about the death of family values, or who use public funding for private gain despite condemning government waste, have become so common in recent years that they hardly seem surprising anymore. Anecdotally, at least, the connection between power and hypocrisy looks obvious.

Anecdote is not science, though. And, more subtly, even if anecdote is correct, it does not answer the question of whether power tends to corrupt, as Lord Acton’s dictum has it, or whether it merely attracts the corruptible. To investigate this question Joris Lammers at Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, and Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University, in Illinois, have conducted a series of experiments which attempted to elicit states of powerfulness and powerlessness in the minds of volunteers. Having done so, as they report in Psychological Science, they tested those volunteers’ moral pliability. Lord Acton, they found, was right.

An intriguing characteristic emerged among participants in high-power states who felt they did not deserve their elevated positions. These people showed a similar tendency to that found in low-power individuals—to be harsh on themselves and less harsh on others—but the effect was considerably more dramatic. They felt that others warranted a lenient 6.0 on the morality scale when stealing a bike but assigned a highly immoral 3.9 if they took it themselves. Dr Lammers and Dr Galinsky call this reversal “hypercrisy”.

They argue, therefore, that people with power that they think is justified break rules not only because they can get away with it, but also because they feel at some intuitive level that they are entitled to take what they want. This sense of entitlement is crucial to understanding why people misbehave in high office. In its absence, abuses will be less likely. The word “privilege” translates as “private law”. If Dr Lammers and Dr Galinsky are right, the sense which some powerful people seem to have that different rules apply to them is not just a convenient smoke screen. They genuinely believe it.

What explains hypercrisy is less obvious. It is known, though, from experiments on other species that if those at the bottom of a dominance hierarchy show signs of getting uppity, those at the top react both quickly and aggressively. Hypercrisy might thus be a signal of submissiveness—one that is exaggerated in creatures that feel themselves to be in the wrong place in the hierarchy. By applying reverse privileges to themselves, they hope to escape punishment from the real dominants. Perhaps the lesson, then, is that corruption and hypocrisy are the price that societies pay for being led by alpha males (and, in some cases, alpha females). The alternative, though cleaner, is leadership by wimps.

hunger - a global justice problem?

The Atlantic | A year ago I sat in a room at the Earth Institute at Columbia surrounded by executives from big food companies. One of them, I believe from Unilever, clicked to a slide that read "The solution to global hunger is to turn malnutrition into a market opportunity." The audience—global development practitioners and academics and other executives—nodded and dutifully wrote it down in their notebooks; I shuddered. The experience stayed with me and I haven't gotten over it. Last month, I had a flashback.

On a Tuesday evening I sat in a room on the 44th floor of a building in the financial district of lower Manhattan with representatives from General Mills, Monsanto, Dean Foods, Deutsche Bank, and the Rainforest Alliance. We were there to speak to institutional investors—the hedge fund managers, bankers, and others who invest in big food companies—about sustainability and food. In particular, we were there to talk about how sustainability and hunger issues may give these companies both exposure to risk and access to opportunity.

It was not your average sustainable food panel discussion. Reflecting back on it, three things jump out at me. The first was a false premise that is taken for fact. The false premise:

Both Deutsche Bank and Monsanto made it clear that they are basing their business strategy on answering a simple question: How will we feed the world in 2050, when the population reaches over 9 billion and global warming puts massive strains on our resources? The answer for Deutsche Bank: increase yields by investing in industrial agriculture in the developing world, with an emphasis on technology; put lots of capital into rural land to shift subsistence and local market agricultures to commodity export agriculture. The answer for Monsanto: increase yields by decreasing resource dependence using genetically modified crops.

At first glance, these answers make both Monsanto and Deutsche Bank look virtuous. But they rest on a false premise: "There will be over 9 billion people by 2050. We have less than 7 billion today, and people go hungry. We need to increase food production if we are going to feed them." Indeed, there will be over 9 billion people by 2050, and indeed, with less than 7 billion today, people still go hungry. But we don't need to increase crop yields to feed these people. In 2008, globally, we grew enough food to feed over 11 billion people. We grew 4,000 calories per day per person—roughly twice what people need to eat.

obama levy and volcker rule

FT | Paul Volcker and Barack Obama have either thrown the world into chaos or given the cause of global bank regulation new impetus – it depends on your point of view. But one thing is for certain: the twin US initiatives to derisk banks and tax them according to their size – the Volcker rule and the Obama levy as they have been dubbed – have seized the attention of bankers and regulators around the world.

The US last month first made clear that it wanted to exact a levy of 0.15 per cent on any bank balance sheet over $50bn. Then it said that banks should no longer engage in what it felt were riskier practices – investing in hedge funds, private equity or proprietary trading, the archetypal casino-style betting of bank funds for a quick profit.

As part of that second crackdown, US officials said banks would not be able to grow beyond their current share of the market.

Underpinning both initiatives is a crackdown on institutions deemed “too big to fail” – an area regulators admit had not been settled via the international supervisory authorities, such as the Financial Stability Board and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, until the US political intervention.

There are at least four competing ideas under discussion among regulators, politicians and bankers. These include the extension of existing regulatory initiatives; the introduction of contingency capital planning; the rewriting of rules around different capital instruments, such as bank bonds; and a full-scale adoption at the level of the Group of 20 countries of a form of the Obama levy.

Friday, February 05, 2010

dopamine receptor density correlates with social status

Physorg | People have typically viewed the benefits that accrue with social status primarily from the perspective of external rewards. A new paper in the February 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry suggests that there are internal rewards as well.

Dr. Martinez and colleagues found that increased social status and increased social support correlated with the density of dopamine D2/D3 receptors in the striatum, a region of the brain that plays a central role in reward and motivation, where dopamine plays a critical role in both of these behavioral processes.

The researchers looked at social status and social support in normal healthy volunteers who were scanned using positron emission tomography (PET), a technology that allowed them to image dopamine type 2 receptors in the brain.

This data suggests that people who achieve greater social status are more likely to be able to experience life as rewarding and stimulating because they have more targets for dopamine to act upon within the striatum.

Dr. Martinez explains their findings: "We showed that low levels of dopamine receptors were associated with low social status and that high levels of dopamine receptors were associated with higher social status. The same type of association was seen with the volunteer's reports of social support they experience from their friends, family, or significant other."

Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry commented, "These data shed interesting light into the drive to achieve social status, a basic social process. It would make sense that people who had higher levels of D2 receptors, i.e., were more highly motivated and engaged by social situations, would be high achievers and would have higher levels of social support."

These data also may have implications for understanding the vulnerability to alcohol and substance abuse, as the work of Dr. Nora Volkow, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and colleagues suggests that low levels of D2/D3 receptors may contribute to the risk for alcoholism among individuals who have family members who abuse alcohol. The current data suggest that vulnerable individuals with low D2/D3 receptors may be vulnerable to lower social status and social supports, and these social factors have previously been suggested as contributors to the risk for alcohol and substance use.

These findings are particularly exciting because they put human neurobiology into a social context, and we humans are fundamentally social creatures. It is in these social contexts that the biological effects on behavior obtain their real meaning.


LATOC | From the early days of the industrial revolution into the early 1970s, the United States possessed the immense economic advantage of sizeable reserves of whatever the cutting-edge energy source happened to be. During what Lewis Mumford called the eotechnic era, when waterwheels were the prime mover for industry and canals were the core transportation technology, the United States prospered because it had an abundance of mill sites and internal waterways. During Mumford’s paleotechnic era, when coal and railways replaced water and canal boats, the United States once again found itself blessed with huge coal reserves, and the arrival of the neotechnic era, when petroleum and highways became the new foundation of power, the United States found that nature had supplied it with so much oil that in 1950, it produced more petroleum than all other countries combined.

That trajectory came to an abrupt end in the 1970s, when nuclear power – expected by nearly everyone to be the next step in the sequence – turned out to be hopelessly uneconomical, and renewables proved unable to take up the slack. The neotechnic age, in effect, turned out to have no successor. Since then, for most of the last thirty years, the United States has been trying to stave off the inevitable – the sharp downward readjustment of our national standard of living and international importance following the peak and decline of our petroleum production and the depletion of most of the other natural resources that once undergirded American economic and political power. We’ve tried accelerating drawdown of natural resources; we’ve tried abandoning our national infrastructure, our industries, and our agricultural hinterlands; we’ve tried building ever more baroque systems of financial gimmickry to prop up our decaying economy with wealth from overseas; over the last decade and a half, we’ve resorted to systematically inflating speculative bubbles – and now, with our backs to the wall, we’re printing money as though there’s no tomorrow.

Now it’s possible that the current US administration will be able to pull one more rabbit out of its hat, and find a new gimmick to keep things going for a while longer. I have to confess that this does not look likely to me. Monetizing the national debt, as economists call the attempt to pay a nation’s bills by means of a hyperactive printing press, is a desperation move; it’s hard to imagine any reason that it would have been chosen if there were any other option in sight.

What this means, if I’m right, is that we may have just moved into the endgame of America’s losing battle with the consequences of its own history. For many years now, people in the peak oil scene – and the wider community of those concerned about the future, to be sure – have had, or thought they had, the luxury of ample time to make plans and take action. Every so often books would be written and speeches made claiming that something had to be done right away, while there was still time, but most people took that as the rhetorical flourish it usually was, and went on with their lives in the confident expectation that the crisis was still a long ways off.

We may no longer have that option. If I read the signs correctly, America has finally reached the point where its economy is so deep into overshoot that catabolic collapse is beginning in earnest. If so, a great many of the things most of us in this country have treated as permanent fixtures are likely to go away over the years immediately before us, as the United States transforms itself into a Third World country. The changes involved won’t be sudden, and it seems unlikely that most of them will get much play in the domestic mass media; a decade from now, let’s say, when half the American workforce has no steady work, decaying suburbs have mutated into squalid shantytowns, and domestic insurgencies flare across the south and the mountain West, those who still have access to cable television will no doubt be able to watch talking heads explain how we’re all better off than we were in 2000. Fist tap Big Don.

moody's says u.s. credit rating's in the crapper

Financial Times | Moody’s Investors Service fired off a warning on Wednesday that the triple A sovereign credit rating of the US would come under pressure unless economic growth was more robust than expected or tougher actions were taken to tackle the country’s budget deficit.

In a move that follows intensifying concern among investors over the US deficit, Moody’s said the country faced a trajectory of debt growth that was “clearly continuously upward”.

Steven Hess, senior credit officer at Moody’s, said the deficits projected in the budget outlook presented by the Obama administration outlook this week did not stabilise debt levels in relation to gross domestic product.

“Unless further measures are taken to reduce the budget deficit further or the economy rebounds more vigorously than expected, the federal financial picture as presented in the projections for the next decade will at some point put pressure on the triple A government bond rating,” the rating agency added in an issuer note.

This week, the White House forecast a $1,565bn budget deficit for 2010, which represents 10.6 per cent of gross domestic product and is the highest such ratio of debt to GDP since the second world war. Fist Tap Dale.

quantum photosynthesis

The Scientist | Biologists have traditionally left quantum theory to physicists. But the complicated interactions between matter and energy predicted by quantum mechanics appears to play a role in photosynthesis, according to a study published this week in Nature -- affecting how energy from the sun makes its way to a cell's reaction centers before being converted to chemical energy that powers cellular functions.

"The main surprise was that you could actually see" these quantum effects influencing real world biology, said biophysicist Rienk van Grondelle of VU University in Amsterdam, who did not participate in the work, and "that you could observe this phenomenon underlying how [photosynthesis] was working."

Quantum mechanics is a theory that describes the behavior of subatomic particles such as photons and electrons. But scientists have long believed that predictions made by the theory would only be evident in an idealized world that lacks environmental noise of molecules moving around and bumping into one another. People thought that "at room temperature, the noisy environment would kill this kind of quantum interaction," said van Grondelle, who wrote an accompanying review in Nature.

But examining the light-harvesting systems of two species of photosynthetic algae, physical chemist Gregory Scholes of the University of Toronto and his colleagues observed that energy introduced to the system acted in a distinctly quantum manner, even at ambient temperatures.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

the target is now iran

Guardian | We were ­supposed to have learned the lessons of the Iraq war. That's what Britain's ­Chilcot inquiry is meant to be all about. But the signs from the Middle East are that it could be happening all over again. The US is ­escalating the military build-up in the Gulf, officials revealed this week, boosting its naval presence and supplying tens of billions of dollars' worth of new weapons systems to allied Arab states.

The target is of course Iran. Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain are all taking deliveries of Patriot missile batteries. In Saudi Arabia, Washington is sponsoring a 30,000-strong force to protect oil installations and ports. The UAE alone has bought 80 F16 fighters, and General Petraeus, the US commander, claims it could now "take out the entire Iranian airforce".

The US insists the growing militarisation is defensive, aimed at deterring Iran, calming Israel and reassuring its allies. But the shift of policy is clear enough. Last week Barack Obama warned that Iran would face "growing consequences" for failing to halt its nuclear programme, while linking it with North Korea – as George Bush did, in his "axis of evil" speech in 2002.

When Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week renewed Iran's earlier agreement to ship most of its enriched uranium abroad to be reprocessed, the US was dismissive. Obama's "outstretched hand", always combined with the threat of sanctions or worse, appears to have been all but withdrawn.

The US vice-president, Joe Biden, underlined that by insisting Iran's leaders were "sowing the seeds of their own destruction". And in Israel, which has vowed to take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, threats of war against its allies, Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas, are growing. "We must recruit the whole world to fight Ahmadinejad," Israeli president Shimon Peres declared on Tuesday.

The echoes of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq are unmistakable. Just as in 2002-3, we are told that a dictatorial Middle Eastern state is secretly ­developing weapons of mass destruction, defying UN resolutions, obstructing inspections, threatening its neighbours and supporting terrorism.

u.s. raising the stakes on iran

Guardian | Tension between the US and Iran heightened dramatically today with the disclosure that Barack Obama is deploying a missile shield to protect American allies in the Gulf from attack by Tehran.

The US is dispatching Patriot defensive missiles to four countries – Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait – and keeping two ships in the Gulf capable of shooting down Iranian missiles. Washington is also helping Saudi Arabia develop a force to protect its oil installations.

American officials said the move is aimed at deterring an attack by Iran and reassuring Gulf states fearful that Tehran might react to sanctions by striking at US allies in the region. Washington is also seeking to discourage Israel from a strike against Iran by demonstrating that the US is prepared to contain any threat.

am not! are so!

BusinessGreen | We're running out of oil, warns Total boss; no we're not, says Saudi chief exec

Leading figures within the oil industry have clashed this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos over the risk to energy security posed by the "peak oil " phenomenon.

Thierry Desmarest, chief executive at French oil giant Total, yesterday told a meeting on energy supplies at the annual summit that the world's oil supplies were approaching their peak, the point at which many experts fear energy prices will begin to rise exponentially.

He said the industry would struggle to go beyond 95 million barrels per day, about 10 per cent above current levels of supply. "The problem of peak oil remains," he added.

His comments will be seized on by oil industry whistleblowers and environmental groups, who have been warning for years that the world is approaching an energy supply crunch that threatens to cripple the global economy. Experts have argued that the global recession has served to delay oil shortages for several years, noting that prior to the economic downturn, oil prices were running at record levels.

However, the chief executive of the Saudi state oil firm Saudi Aramco, Khalid al-Falih, told the same meeting in Davos that fears over "peak oil" had been hugely exaggerated.

"The concern about peak oil is behind us," he said, adding that "of the four trillion (barrels) of oil the planet is endowed with, only one has been produced ".

He did, however, admit that "most of what remains is more difficult and complex" to extract, but insisted there was "no doubt" the world can produce more than the 95 million to 100 million barrels a day that are projected to be required in the next few decades.

The spat came on the same day as the chief economist of the International Energy Agency, Dr Fatih Birol, cast fresh doubt on the wisdom of many oil firms' long-term investment plans, warning that demand for oil from industrialised nations has already peaked.

new peak in oil production needed

Telegraph | At a meeting of oil leaders at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Tony Hayward, group chief executive of BP, said that there was a “supply challenge” for the industry which would have to increase output to 100mbd - a new peak for oil. Mr Hayward said that at present the world was producing between 83 and 84mbd.

He said he hoped Iraq would become a major oil player, producing up to 10mbd in the next decade if the political situation remains relatively stable.

A need for a new peak in oil production will dismay environmental campaigners who hoped that the West’s declining reliance on oil would mean less CO2 emissions. Instead, demand from the emerging economies, including India and the other BRIC countries, China, Russia and Brazil, will lead to new record levels of consumption.

Mr Hayward’s comments were supported by Peter Voser, the chief executive of Shell, who said that the industry would have to find up to $27trn of investment over the next 20 years to meet demand.

At the session new figures from PriceWaterhouseCoopers revealed that non-OECD countries will account for two-thirds of world consumption by 2030. Mr Hayward said that demand from non-OECD nations would increase by 40pc.

“The obvious thing in the mature markets of Europe and the United States is that demand for oil products is in structural decline,” Mr Hayward said. He argued that demand was now coming from the East, pointing out that China sold 13m cars last year.

“The challenge is how do we meet this growing demand for oil and keep a lid on price?” Hayward said.

quiet as it's kept....,

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

don't feed those stray animals...,

continuing brand management struggles...,

WaPo | President Obama's 165th flight on Air Force One required all the customary protocols of a presidential trip. He took a helicopter from the White House lawn to Andrews Air Force Base, where seven military officers waited at full attention. He entered his plane through a door decorated by the presidential seal and settled into a suite that includes an office and a conference room. After a short flight, he exited to cheers from a greeting party before disappearing into a limousine that cruised down the barricaded streets of this New Hampshire city.

When Obama arrived here Tuesday afternoon, he stopped at a suburban industrial park to visit a machinery company. Snipers surveyed from the roof. Secret Service agents monitored the warehouse. A 19-car motorcade idled outside. Obama, meanwhile, stood on the gray concrete floor with the company's employees, studying their manufacturing materials and trying to convey his new favorite message: He understands the problems of what he calls "everyday Americans."

It is a tough sell for any president who lives inside what Obama refers to as "the bubble," but tougher still for Obama. His first year in office was defined in part by a paradox. He is a rare president who comes from the middle class, yet people still perceive him as disconnected from it. As he arrived in Nashua, nearly two-thirds of Americans believed that his economic policies had hurt the country or made no difference at all; almost half thought he did not understand their problems.

Obama has made it his goal in the past 10 days to convince them otherwise. In Nashua, he hoped to connect with the unemployed despite holding the country's most prestigious job; to disparage Washington politics despite being a product of them; to have a self-described "direct conversation with the folks of New Hampshire" even as bomb squads, Secret Service officers, political dignitaries and television cameras occupied every corner of the room.

gates sets new global war

Daily Bell | Free-Market Analysis: Wow, this is news. Maybe Gates has said this before, but we're not aware of it, or not like this. His speech seems to be positioning nonstate terrorism as a definitive fulcrum of a new cold war. That's some budget request!

But let us begin at the beginning - especially as we have already analyzed the dominant social theme of terrorism in several recent articles. You can see Scott Smith's analysis here, at the end of the Simon interview, click here.

In fact it is a kind of twofer.

First there is the "uniqueness of state military protection" - one of the longest-lived and most pernicious dominant social themes in the arsenal of the powers-that-be. It makes use of humankind's instinct, millions of years old, to band together to defend against the "other." In fact, it is a tribal instinct that was most useful when there were fewer humans and more lions and tigers. Today, all over the world, especially in the West, power elites (in our opinion) do whatever it takes to frighten their OWN populations in order to provide the necessary military and policing services that then justify their services, privileges and powers.

Then there is the meme of nonstate terrorism - that "terrorism can strike from anywhere." Starting with the "anarchist" promotion of the early 20th century, Western elites have been busily inculcating the meme that terror is entirely unpredictable and that sustained campaigns of violence can be initiated and carried forth by a few dedicated individuals.

For a long time, Israel served as a good example of this promotion. Shadowy bands of terrorists were reported attacking Israeli citizens on a regular basis, yet one was never really given to understand how these terrorists banded together, where they came from or how they received their support. Israel seemed to be afflicted by modern terrorism - by a peculiar aspect of modernity, the "stateless terrorist."

And now here is Gates speaking of a ...


Do you see? Here is the BIFURCATED meme in its all its glory being trotted out. This is a historical moment folks. You are in on the ground floor. You are looking at liftoff. Right now, just this minute, Gates has declared a NEW GLOBAL COLD WAR. That's right - he's saying that the DANGER posed by the stateless terrorist "transcends" the threats, and therefore the contingencies or solutions, generated by Pentagon Cold War planning. And that the danger of the stateless terrorist is even bigger than the threat of the Soviet Union (and to a lesser extent China), which spawned the last cold war.

From our point of view (humble as it is) this is THE MOTHER OF ALL PROMOTIONS. In fact, a terrorist without a state is as much of a danger, long term, as a toaster without power, a flashlight without a battery or an agenda of religious violence without state backing. We have come to believe this because we are students of free-market economics. Absent the coercion of the state, there is competition - and people are free to choose whether or not to support a "terrorist."

DoD fy 2011 budget request

Overview - FY2011 Defense Budget

Program Acquisition Costs by Weapons System

Military Personnel Programs (M-1)

Operation and Maintenance Programs (O-1)

Revolving and Management Fund (RF-1)

Procurement Programs (P-1)

Procurement Programs Reserve Components (P-1R)

Research, Development, Test & Evaluation Programs (R-1)

Military Construction, Family Housing, and Base Realignment and Closure Program (C-1)

Other Justification Material

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

why are u.s. voters stupid?

The Daily Bell | Thomas Frank, the author of the best-selling book What's The Matter with Kansas, is an ... exasperated Democrat. He believes that the voters' preference for emotional engagement over reasonable argument has allowed the Republican Party to blind them to their own real interests.

The Republicans have learnt how to stoke up resentment against the patronizing liberal elite, all those do-gooders who assume they know what poor people ought to be thinking.

Right-wing politics has become a vehicle for channeling this popular anger against intellectual snobs. The result is that many of America's poorest citizens have a deep emotional attachment to a party that serves the interests of its richest. Thomas Frank says that whatever disadvantaged Americans think they are voting for, they get something quite different: "You vote to strike a blow against elitism and you receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our life times, workers have been stripped of power, and CEOs are rewarded in a manner that is beyond imagining.

Thomas Frank thinks that voters have become blinded to their real interests "It's like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy."

As Mr. Frank sees it, authenticity has replaced economics as the driving force of modern politics. The authentic politicians are the ones who sound like they are speaking from the gut, not the cerebral cortex. Of course, they might be faking it, but it is no joke to say that in contemporary politics, if you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.

And the ultimate sin in modern politics is appearing to take the voters for granted. This is a culture war but it is not simply being driven by differences over abortion, or religion, or patriotism. And it is not simply Red states vs. Blue states any more. It is a war on the entire political culture, on the arrogance of politicians, on their slipperiness and lack of principle, on their endless deal making and compromises.

The passage above, coming toward the end of the article is, in our opinion, the real reason the article was written. The BBC generally is not a great fan of the American Republican Party and of "right wing" politics in general. The article's real thesis, from our point of view, is that "Americans are once again being lied to by the fascist right wing - which has learned to adopt an "authentic tone."

Poor BBC. They have got it wrong again. This is important because in the Age of the Internet, such propagandistic handiwork has ramifications. In fact, what is going on in America, thanks in large part to information available on the Internet, is that literally millions of people, many of them youngsters, have rediscovered classical liberalism and real republican values. The Tea Parties are an outgrowth of this discovery, though also of general American voter rage with the continued decline of civil society and living standards.

To answer the BBC's question, American voters ARE NOT voting against their interests, nor are they voting for "authenticity." What American voters are voting for increasingly is more freedom, less government, fewer taxes and a political system that is seen as working for the people rather than against them. President Barack Obama has misread the will of the voters and the "change" he was elected to provide.

The biggest and most powerful movement in the United States, as we have long predicted, is the classical liberal message of Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex). Eventually, maybe sooner rather than later, his movement (with some 250,000 members) will have signed up one million members, making it the most powerful force for freedom in America since before the Civil War. The British - the BBC and even the Telegraph - are blithely ignoring the convulsive changes that are taking place in American political life.

the okey doke...,

AlterNet | In the following interview Bill Moyers and Thomas Frank, author of "What's the Matter With Kansas" and "The Wrecking Crew," talk about why conservatives can get away with blaming Obama for the past decade of conservative failures.

Bill Moyers: There were hands in the air in Washington this week, but it wasn't a stickup. The new Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, appointed by Congress to find out how America got rolled, began hearings this week. These four are not the victims of one of the greatest bank heists in history - they're the perpetrators, bankers so sleek and crafty they got off with the loot in broad daylight, and then sweet talked the government into taxing us to pay it back.

Watching that scene on the opening day of the hearings, it was hard enough to believe that almost a year has passed since Barack Obama raised his hand, too -- taking the oath of office to become our 44th President. Even harder to remember what America looked like before Obama, because we've also been robbed of memory, assaulted by what the Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz described as a "fantastic proliferation of mass media." We live in a time "characterized by a refusal to remember." Inconvenient facts simply disappear down the memory hole, as in George Orwell's novel, "1984."

President Obama's made plenty of mistakes during his first year, and we've critiqued them frequently here on the JOURNAL, but hardly anyone talks any more about what happened in the years before. He inherited from George W. Bush the biggest financial debacle since the Great Depression, along with two unpopular and costly wars, and a dysfunctional and demoralized government.

It's important to remember those years, a time that has been characterized by the historian Thomas Frank, as "A Low, Dishonest Decade." He's here to talk about them with me. Thomas Frank is editor of the recently relaunched BAFFLER magazine, a literary journal; a contributing editor of HARPER'S; a weekly columnist for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL; and the author of ONE MARKET UNDER GOD, the bestselling WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS? and his latest bestseller, THE WRECKING CREW, now out in paperback. Good to have you back.

unapologetic conservative double-standards...,

WaPo | The nation owes a substantial debt to Justice Samuel Alito for his display of unhappiness over President Obama's criticisms of the Supreme Court's recent legislation -- excuse me, decision -- opening our electoral system to a new torrent of corporate money.

Alito's inability to restrain himself during the State of the Union address brought to wide attention a truth that too many have tried to ignore: The Supreme Court is now dominated by a highly politicized conservative majority intent on working its will, even if that means ignoring precedents and the wishes of the elected branches of government.

Obama called the court on this, and Alito shook his head and apparently mouthed "not true." His was the honest reaction of a judicial activist who believes he has the obligation to impose his version of right reason on the rest of us.

The controversy also exposed the impressive capacity of the conservative judicial revolutionaries to live by double standards without apology.

The movement's legal theorists and politicians have spent more than four decades attacking alleged judicial abuses by liberals, cheering on the presidents who joined them in their assaults. But now, they are terribly offended that Obama has straightforwardly challenged the handiwork of their judicial comrades.

There is ample precedent for Obama's firm but respectful rebuke of the court. I know of no one on the right who protested when President Ronald Reagan, in a 1983 article in the Human Life Review, took on the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision of 10 years earlier.

"Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution," Reagan wrote. "No serious scholar, including one disposed to agree with the court's result, has argued that the framers of the Constitution intended to create such a right. . . . Nowhere do the plain words of the Constitution even hint at a 'right' so sweeping as to permit abortion up to the time the child is ready to be born." Reagan cited Justice Byron White's description of Roe as an act of "raw judicial power," which is actually an excellent description of the court's ruling on corporate money in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Reagan had every right to say what he did. But why do conservatives deny the same right to Obama? Alternatively, why do they think it's persuasive to argue, as Georgetown Law professor Randy Barnett did last week in the Wall Street Journal, that it's fine for a president to take issue with the court, except in a State of the Union speech? Isn't it more honorable to criticize the justices to their faces? Are these jurists so sensitive that they can't take it? Do they expect everyone to submit quietly to whatever they do?

Monday, February 01, 2010

the counter revolution

NYTimes | Now at the remove of 50 years, we can ask how it happened so fast — but not only that. We can also usefully ask how such an idealistic and altruistic movement might fare in today’s media environment. As Jack Bass, a Southern newspaperman turned historian, observed when we talked the other day, it was a time when everybody watched the three network news programs. It was also a time when hysterical jeremiads about the perils of change were not part of the mainstream news flow.

Sure, conservative columnists like Rowland Evans and Robert Novak clucked about Communist influence on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Paul Harvey seemed vaguely disturbed by dark-skinned youngsters who talked back to Southern sheriffs. But straight, eyewitness reporting dominated television news, and Northern print reporters flooding the region quickly shamed Southern newspapers into covering civil rights in a way that began to look, let us say, balanced — or even, in a few cities, fair.

What seems remarkable in retrospect is the factual authority of network news in those days. Dixie’s politicians, of course, accused the national anchors of bias. But the pictures trumped the home-cooked propaganda, as when you put a spittle-spraying Southern governor up against a Greensboro Four leader like Franklin McCain, in his earnest Sunday clothes, offering a cogent critique of Woolworth’s Southern business strategy as it related to black shoppers nationwide. It took only one national telecast of Nashville students being assaulted at the lunch counters to demonstrate that segregation everywhere depended on the unconstitutional application of police brutality.

With such an agenda of real news, how one dreaded seeing some ponderous network commentator interrupt the reporters to claim his 90 seconds of air time. There was simply no need to put a scrim of opinion between the viewer and fresh news film.

Today, however, there’s no denying that traditional reportage of political and social trends seems almost as out of date as segregation. Surely the civil rights movement would have been hampered by the politicized, oppositional journalism that flows from Fox News and the cable talk shows. Luckily for the South, that kind of butchered news was left mostly to a few extremist newspapers in Virginia and Mississippi and to local AM radio talk shows that specialized in segregationist rants.

is there an ecological unconscious?

NYTimes | There are numerous psychological subfields that, to one degree or another, look at the interplay between human beings and their natural environment. But ecopsychology embraces a more revolutionary paradigm: just as Freud believed that neuroses were the consequences of dismissing our deep-rooted sexual and aggressive instincts, ecopsychologists believe that grief, despair and anxiety are the consequences of dismissing equally deep-rooted ecological instincts.

“If you look at the beginnings of clinical psychology,” Patricia Hasbach, a psychotherapist and prominent ecopsychologist based in Eugene, told me, “the focus was on intrapsychic forces” — the mind-bound interplay of ego, id and superego. “Then the field broadened to take into account interpersonal forces such as relationships and interactions between people. Then it took a huge leap to look at whole families and systems of people. Then it broadened even further to take into account social systems” and the importance of social identities like race, gender and class. “Ecopsychology wants to broaden the field again to look at ecological systems,” she said. “It wants to take the entire planet into account.”

The terms in which ecopsychology pursues this admittedly ambitious goal are steeped in the field’s countercultural beginnings. Ecopsychology emerged in the early 1960s, just as the modern environmental movement was gathering strength, when a group of Boston-area graduate students gathered to discuss what they saw as the isolation and malaise infecting modern life. It had another brief period of efflorescence, particularly on the West Coast and among practitioners of alternative therapies, in the early ’90s, when Theodore Roszak, a professor of history (he coined the word “counterculture”) published a manifesto, “The Voice of the Earth,” in which he criticized modern psychology for neglecting the primal bond between man and nature. “Mainstream Western psychology has limited the definition of mental health to the interpersonal context of an urban-industrial society,” he later wrote. “All that lies beyond the citified psyche has seemed of no human relevance — or perhaps too frightening to think about.” Ecopsychology’s eclectic following, which includes therapists, researchers, ecologists and activists, still reflects these earlier foundations. So does its rhetoric. Practitioners are as apt, if not more apt, to cite Native American folk tales as they are empirical data to make their points.

Yet even as it remains committed to its origins, ecopsychology has begun in recent years to enter mainstream academic circles. Last April, Doherty published the first issue of Ecopsychology, the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to “the relationship between environmental issues and mental health and well-being.” Next year, M.I.T. Press will publish a book of the same name, edited by Hasbach and Peter Kahn, a developmental psychologist, and Jolina Ruckert, a Ph.D. candidate, both at the University of Washington. The volume brings together scholars from a range of disciplines, among them the award-winning biologist Lynn Margulis and the anthropologist Wade Davis, as it delves into such areas as “technological nature” and how the environment affects human perception. Ecopsychology is taught at Oberlin College, Lewis & Clark College and the University of Wisconsin, among other institutions.