Saturday, September 18, 2010

peak oil : “a conspiracy to keep it quiet” in washington


Video - President Jimmy Carter telling the intolerable truth about energy 30 years ago.

blog le monde | [oil man] - What happened after you published your 2005 report on ‘peak oil’ for the US Department of Energy (DoE) ?
The people that I was dealing with said : « No more work on peak oil, no more talk about it. »

People that were high in the administration hierarchy ?
The people that I was dealing with were high in the laboratory level. They were getting their instructions from people on the political side of the DoE, at high levels.
After the work we did on the 2005 study and the follow-up of 2006, the Department of Energy headquarters completely cut off all support for oil peaking and decline analysis. The people that I was working with at the National Energy Technology Laboratory were good people, they saw the problem, they saw how difficult the consequences would be – you know, the potential for huge damage – yet they were told : « No more work, no more discussion. »

That was in 2006, under Bush administration. Has anything changed with the Obama administration ?
It has not changed. I have friends who simply won’t talk about it now. So I have to assume that they are receiving the same kind of instructions.

Yet in an interview he gave me in March 2010, Glen Sweetnam, who was heading the publication of DoE’s annual Energy Outlook at that time, admitted that « a chance exists that we may experience a decline » of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015. Less than a month later, he was transfered to the National Security Council, where he is now under direct authority of the White House. Were you surprised by his statement ?
Yes, I was very surprised by what Glen (Sweetnam) said, because everything in the DoE is very controlled. Glen must have gone ahead and done it, and nobody reviewed his remarks.

When I asked Secretary Steven Chu and the political staff of the DoE to comment on Glen Sweetnam’s statement, they replied with a « no comment ».
I think it would be very difficult to get any more information on this. Now that Glen Sweetnam is at the National Security Council, it’s like he’s not in the circulation, he’s not going to give any public presentation anymore.

Yet it seems like Steven Chu, Obama’s Secretary of Energy, is aware of the ‘peak oil’ issue.
Oh yes he is !

But ?…
Clearly Secretary Chu is a very good physicist. But I think he does not have a broad view of energy. He’s also an ideologue : he is academic in his approach of those matters. And that’s a big difference with people who have spent time in the industry, who had to make things happen, who are aware of the underlying reality.

Still, Steven Chu and Barack Obama are pushing renewable energy, aren’t they ?
Well… In the book that we are about to publish, we spend 60 % on oil, and then we look at the other sources of energy : coal, nuclear, renewables. We make very strong arguments that wind, solar cells and biomass will never amount to hardly anything. A lot of people are misguided because they think : let’s just go to wind and everything will be fine.

What about the Department of Defense (DoD) ? Two recent reports show that some people in the US army are willing to give very bold warnings.
You’re right. Things may be different there. The DoD is headed by Robert Gates, a brilliant guy and a good friend of James Schlesinger, the first US Secretary of Energy, who wrote the foreword of our book. Schlesinger is continuously used as an adviser by the DoD.

In 2005, Robert Gates took part in a war game named « Oil Shockwaves », with a number of other very high senior people involved in the administration, both Democrats and Republicans. What they did is they looked at a severe cut off of world oil production, something like five percent.

Like in 1973 ?
Something even worse than that. So they looked at the impact, and they saw severe problems for the economy. And they looked at the options that existed, and of course there are no options. There are no valves to turn on someplace.

They even considered military interventions in the Middle East as a means to change things. And they basically concluded that this was an impossible situation.

What about James Schlesinger : for how long has he been concerned about a possible decline of world oil supplies ?
He has been concerned about peak oil since he read the seminal paper by King Hubbert in the 60’s. That was before he became the Secretary of Defense under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

And then, there were those famous talks that Jimmy Carter gave about the US dependence on foreign oil…
Yes, James Schlesinger was behind this, as Carter’s Energy Secretary. And Admiral Rickover, the father of the US nuclear navy, was involved in those talks too.

jimmy carter’s secretary of energy sounds the alarm

blog le monde | James Schlesinger, President Carter’s Energy Secretary, wrote the foreword to a book written by Dr Robert Hirsch, a former US official who predicts a fall of the oil production within 5 years.

Never before has a high-ranking political figure like Schlesinger gave his support to such a prognosis.

The book will be published in the US on October the 1st. Here is an exclusive interview with its author.

Dr. Robert Hirsch has a unique place in the ‘peak oil’ issue. Back in 2005, he was the main author of the first pessimistic report ever published by a public administration (presentation on Wikipedia).

Not any public administration : the Department of Energy of President George Bush.

Robert Hirsch has been a manager of petroleum exploratory research at Exxon, a senior staff member at the RAND Corporation, and director of the US research program on nuclear fusion energy.

His 2005 conclusions did not get any attention from any the mainstream or financial media. Today, Robert Hirsch perseveres. According to him, it’s now obvious : we will soon face a decline of world black gold supplies.

In The Impending World Energy Mess (*), Robert Hirsch tries to make people listen to an alarm that he no longer is almost the only one to sound, as was the case in 2005.

An important detail : the foreword of the book was written by James Schlesinger, secretary of Defense under Richard Nixon et Gerald Ford, who then became the first secretary of Energy of the US history, under Jimmy Carter

Schlesinger and Hirsch are today the only government officials or ex-goverment officials in the United States that take the responsibility to cry wolf publicly.

Here is the first part of an interview with Robert Hirsch that we did in August near Washington, DC.

This first part deals with Robert Hirsch’s forecast about an imminent decline of world oil production.

The second part deals with what Dr. Hirsch considers as “a conspiracy” in Washington to keep the peak oil issue “quiet”.

Friday, September 17, 2010

the challenges of growth, employment, and social cohesion


Video - Ice T - Colors soundtrack1988 crips bloods LA gangs

osloconference | The global financial crisis and the ensuing recession have had devastating consequences for employment and poverty reduction. The ILO estimates that 34 million more people worldwide are unemployed now as a result of the crisis. Combating unemployment and striving to attain decent work for all must be a key priority as the global economy emerges from the downturn.

The September 13 IMF-ILO conference on “The Challenges of Growth, Employment and Social Cohesion” in Oslo is designed to tackle the difficult—but critical—policy questions posed by the steep rise in joblessness and the setback to growth and poverty reduction. The conference, which is sponsored by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, will bring together senior government officials, labor and business leaders, and well-known economists to address the possible long-term and short-term responses to the employment crisis. IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and ILO Director General Juan Somavia will chair the conference. Among the international figures that have already accepted speaking invitations are: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde of France, U.K. Secretary of State for Labour Iain Duncan Smith, and International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

High unemployment and underemployment have high economic and social costs that—unless addressed—have the potential to drain the vitality out of any recovery. The great risk is that short-term job losses become long-term unemployment, producing a progressive loss of workers’ skills and exclusion from the productive economy. In such circumstances, demand can languish and the economy can become trapped in a cycle of stagnant growth and high unemployment. Increasing economic dislocation and marginalization can undermine social cohesion—carrying with it dangers to peace and stability.

Global media attention to the economic downturn has focused on the advanced economies, where jobless rates have risen sharply since 2008. However, the consequences of unemployment and underemployment can also be very severe in developing counties, because they often can provide less social protection to support basic living standards. The World Bank estimates that up to 60 million people may have been pushed into severe poverty in the low-income countries as a result of the crisis, setting back recent efforts to improve living standards.

The conference will focus on both short and long-term policy measures. The short-term measures—to be addressed during a morning roundtable discussion—consider the human cost of the financial crisis and how to ease the burden of joblessness. The second roundtable, in the afternoon, will focus on the longer-term policy measures, and address new strategies to kick-start vibrant employment growth and make markets work more for people. It will discuss wage policies, education and training, support to smaller enterprises and 21st century social protection. By bringing together a diverse group of speakers and participants, the conference will seek to define global solutions relevant to all regions.

longlasting unemployment threatens "stable" "democracies"

Global Guerillas | Here are some interesting charts that show that there is a huge and growing group of people (nearly 50% of all unemployed have been so for 27 weeks or more) that have become structurally unemployable. This group will continue to grow and increasingly seek group/tribal affiliations that offer alternative forms of advancement/protection.

Why? Simply, the global market system the US fostered/defended to defeat Communism, took on a life of its own in the late 70's. It's now massive, insanely complex, blindingly fast, and completely out of control.

Worse, it's easily corrupted by cancers (a financial oligarchy) that operate without constraint inside its core platform. All attempts at mitigation of this disease are intellectually rebuffed by an economic theocracy out of touch with reality (reminiscent of the divine right of kings). Its rise is the reason incomes in the West haven't increased in over three decades (!). Its dominance and increasing turbulence is the reason we are in D2, the second global depression.


One potential future is that the social pressures of D2 will shred what's left of the social contract in the Western democracies. That would mean that the only way out (for those of us unwilling to be passive) is to build something new. Something that mitigates our connection to this global system. My best attempt at a solution to this conundrum is the resilient community. A resilient community that can protect and sustain us. A community that can provide prosperity and a future worth living in. A community that can out compete successfully at a global level while protecting its members from the viciousness of an unconstrained invisible hand.

religious selection and neurobiology

neuropolitics.org | Every now and then, the Darwinian underworld of religiosity rises like the blinding sun. The not-so-secret world of religion and reproductive advantage came to fore when the Texas Department of Protective Services took temporary custody of over 400 children from the compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) near the small city of Eldorado.

Historically, the Darwinian origins of religiosity have drawn little attention from the community of evolutionary psychologists, due in part to the subtle and sometimes dangerous political undercurrents that frame scientific research. This hands-off policy has come to an end, just in time to catch this small sect of 10,000 members with its polygamous pants down. The FLDS has such an aggressive and religiously-tainted reproductive strategy that it has become the smoking gun of Friedrich von Hayek's proposal (1982) that the primary function of religion is reproductive advantage.

The FLDS is most notable by its peculiar adaptation of religious polygamy. Polygamy is a divisive problem for the continuity of social groups, as it produces large percentages of surplus males, with the corresponding negative social consequences. Monogamy is a safety valve for such societies, with only about 20% of the male population actually taking advantage of plural arrangements.

This cross-cultural polygamy estimate is very close to some estimates of the rate of Mormon polygamy in Utah in 1870, about 20 years before the institution of the anti-polygamy laws. By 1910, the rate of polygamy dropped in half, countering some of its negative cultural and genetic consequences: group splintering; lowered age of first-intercourse and conception for females; lower educational levels for females; greater average age of reproductive males; and, higher rates of inbreeding.

The rise of the FLDS, like the rise of Mormonism, follows a long tradition of religious splintering and reproductive advantage. The FLDS was formed after the Mormon renunciation of polygamy, which was punctuated by statehood for Utah in the late 1890s. The formation of the FLDS (and its sister splinter groups) had much in common with the original formation of Mormonism, and indeed, with sect formation in general: elevated male dominance and polygamy (or virtual polygamy); emigration to "promised lands"; high levels of intragroup cooperation and income redistribution; elevated levels of outgroup competition; xenophobia; "prophet" leaders with a privileged relationship to god (and privileged sexual access to the sect's females); high levels of reproductive output; economic endogamy (the favoring of religious insiders in economic transactions); and last but not least, a new variation or a recycling (fundamentalism) of religious doctrine.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

humanity's defining moment?

Counsel on Renewal | Mish Shedlock has made a well-deserved name for himself, especially since the crash of 2008, as one of the few people who understand the problem we’re facing. I agree he’s way beyond the regular financial media that’s utterly clueless. This means he carries a certain moral obligation. But based on a recent article

I’m afraid he has yet to step up to the plate because he’s still endorsing the same archaic left vs. right, union vs. business, capitalist vs. socialist rhetoric from politicians who have no clue about the flaws in our debt-based monetary system.The 2-tier Economy
Embedded in the article is an unspoken assumption that the lower classes need to take pay cuts and layoffs so global bondholders and Chase bankers can be paid in full. That’s so…uh…20th century. If astute bloggers don’t start educating politicians by injecting into the political debate what they clearly know when they engage in market debate, the coming downward mobility for everyone but the bondholders is going to be galactic.

Mish agrees with NJ Governor Christie that the reason teachers are facing layoffs is because of teacher unions. Of course that’s true within the constraints of our current monetary system where lower class pay cuts are “good for the economy” while at the same time increased rent extraction by the financial class is “good for the economy.” One is the flip-side of the other. Manufacturing workers have learned this in spades, especially since their communities and way of life have been completely destroyed and moved to China. It’s a predator-prey economic relationship, precisely the reason unions exist in the first place. So what’s the real problem: the unions or the nature of the monetary system itself?

In a system where 100% of all money is sourced by going into debt to private capital holders who demand exponential returns, employees in fields like education which are managed on the balance sheet as “cost centers” must live within the austerity of cost reduction metrics. In real life terms, this means in order for the bondholders at the top to maintain their ever-increasing quality of life, millions of employees in cost centers must be happy with continually declining quality of life. During inflationary periods when capital holders are injecting more liquidity, this translates into cost center employees receiving raises that stay below the inflation rate (these teachers stayed ahead, but systemically across the entire economy, cost centers are managed below inflation–again just look at the offshoring). During deflationary periods when capital holders are removing liquidity, cost center AND revenue center employees take pay cuts and get fired so the capital holders can keep making more money.

Questioning the Status Quo
Unlike politicians, Mish is smart enough to step out of the existing monetary framework and ask himself what might be a better solution given the extreme situation we’re facing. Why doesn’t he? Why don’t most people? Perhaps they haven’t been faced with the type of austerity that forces a person to question the sanity of a system where all money is controlled by private capital. Or perhaps they’re “survival of the fittest” fundamentalists like Larry Summers, i.e. private sector bondholders deserve to win all the poker chips while everyone else is left with nothing. Or maybe they’ve just been enjoying a comfortable inflationary ride for so long that they can’t fathom the fatal flaw that’s been embedded in the monetary system from the very beginning.

That is…until now. The exponential game is reaching its end as the debt load approaches the point of saturation. If we don’t change the system before that inflection point, we’ll see the biggest austerity program ever as millions of people enter a tomorrow most people can’t dare to ponder today. In market terms, that inflection point is when global capital holders run on Treasuries and the Fed is forced to jack up its short rate to defend its balance sheet. That point may be next year or 10 years from now, but it’s coming if the status quo is not changed. And look out when it does.

This is not populist rhetoric, but the basic mathematical fact of our system.

Rather than justifying it, this should make us reevaluate the monetary system we’ve been living under for 100 years. We’ve experienced a lot of development. We’ve already built the brave new world. Does a never-ending stream of new gadgets from Apple, reality shows from Fox, and dead bodies from wars really justify milking more return on capital (ROC) from the lower classes forever? Of course we know that’s impossible. The system is reaching not only its human velocity limits but its mathematical limits. A systemic sabbatical has never been more necessary, so an alternative form of liquidity to supplement our current system is necessary. Fist tap Dale.Justify Full

money as a zero-sum game

Reality Sandwich | In game theory, zero-sum games are those where one person's gain is another's loss. A poker game is zero-sum. Those busy accumulating hoards of money try to hide its zero-sum nature by saying that the "pie" is getting bigger. Prosperity is not a zero-sum game, though "prosperity" is too easily conflated with monetary wealth, which is not the same thing at all. Clearly, quality of life is not a zero-sum game-quite the contrary. The whole bodhisattva impulse of Mahayana Buddhism stems from recognizing that individual nirvana is incomplete until everyone is liberated.

All of the things that we might call "true wealth": health, enough to eat, shelter, meaningful work, diverse habitats and resources, beauty around one-natural beauty and artistic beauty-none are diminished by all having more.

But this is not true of money. If everyone had a million dollars, what would a million dollars be worth? Money is a usurper, it pretends to be wealth. And its pretension is backed up by force, creating a new type of slave: the mercenary. And most conveniently, the mercenary, truly the oldest profession, is paid in the money he protects. Money has power because of scarcity, and the threat of scarcity. Without money you will starve and die, even if there is food around. Without money you will become homeless, sleeping in the rain and shivering in the cold. Therefore when I say I need some dirty work done, you say yes. I say yes. We say yes.

Money is coercive, seductive, corrupting, and exploitative, hence often linked with diabolical power. "The love of money is the root of all evil," Paul's first letter to Timothy. Or, as amended by George Bernard Shaw: "The lack of money is the root of all evil." Both sayings seem true: greed for more in the already-haves wreaks destruction on a scale orders of magnitude beyond the petty crimes of the indigent. Still, lack of money, need for money, loads my soul with care.

Money seems like a natural and necessary part of the world, but, actually, it is neither. Money has a history and a biography. It had a childhood and an adolescence. No one knows if it has an old age and senility, unless that is now. No one really understands money, and certainly no one, not even the governments that print money, control it, despite their best efforts.

In some ways money is the ultimate pyramid scheme -- its value is surprisingly sensitive to human attitudes.

"Your money's no good here."

Others make money their god, their master. Pragmatic. Realist.

"Money will win. Trust me. And either you are with the haves or you are with the have-nots."

But how much "have" is enough? There seems no limit.

"use value" economics in the microcosmos

The Scientist | Microorganisms living in deep sea hydrothermal vents can grow off of energy derived from one of the simplest forms of anaerobic respiration ever described, according to a study published this week in Nature.

The reaction -- in which a chemical called formate is broken down into hydrogen and carbon dioxide -- was previously thought to be too energy poor to support the growth of even the smallest organisms. Finding single-celled microbes from Domain Arcahaea that can glean energy from it may point the way towards efficient hydrogen fuel production while providing clues as to how our planet's earliest inhabitants survived the harsh environment of a young Earth.

Formate is the simplest carboxylate anion, consisting of just one carbon, one hydrogen, and two oxygen atoms, and is an important player in fermentation reactions and anaerobic digestion. Some microbes are known to convert formate to methane and CO2 to produce energy, but the conversion of formate into hydrogen and CO2 wasn't thought to release enough energy to support microbial growth.

The problem, it seemed, was that the accumulation of hydrogen inhibits the reaction from continuing to occur. But in special circumstances, this may not be the case. In 2008, for example, Stams and his colleagues showed that in microbial communities where methanogens -- archaea that produce methane as a byproduct of metabolism -- live in partnership with fermentative bacteria that convert formate to hydrogen and CO2, the methanogens consume the hydrogen product of the reaction, allowing the reaction to continue. In doing so, enough energy is generated to support the growth of the bacteria.

The new study provides the first evidence that a microbe can derive energy from this conversion without the help of any partners. Sung Gyun Kang of the Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute and his colleagues were sequencing the genome of a strain of the deep-sea hydrothermal vent archaea Thermococcus onnurineus when they noticed it contained many copies of formate dehydrogenases and hydrogenases thought to be involved in formate conversion reactions.

yeast banksters....,

The Scientist | Yeast colonies with mooches, thieves and cheats actually grow faster and larger than colonies without these freeloading individuals, according to a study published 15th September in PLoS Biology, challenging the widely held belief that cheaters bring only bad news to cooperating populations.

Researchers found that when some yeast cheat their neighbors out of glucose, the entire population grows faster. "This is a most surprising result," said Laurence Hurst of the University of Bath in the UK, who coauthored the study. "The theory of cooperation was one of the best worked theories in all of evolution. Everyone assumed that it had to be the case that the world is better off when everyone cooperates."

The results may explain why yeast populations tolerate the presence of cheaters, added Michael Travisano, a biologist at the University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the research -- "because a mixed strategy is to everyone's benefit."

Most yeast secrete invertase, which hydrolyzes sucrose into fructose and glucose, their preferred food. However, some yeast are known to cheat the system. Cheater yeast don't secrete invertase and therefore don't contribute to the glucose production, yet they still eat the glucose that is generated by the rest of the population.

According to the theory of cooperation, which states that organisms are better off when everyone cooperates, yeast populations should be best off when all the yeast produce invertase. This would maximize the availability of glucose, which should enable more yeast growth. But when Hurst and his colleagues grew yeast populations with both producers and non-producers of invertase, this is not what they saw. Instead, the yeast grew the fastest and saw the highest population numbers when a proportion of the population was cheating.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

phyles

Deugarte | The Internet is the great steroid jar of this century. Take the ethics of the lonesome Ivy League hackers of the 80′s and set them loose on the web: in 15 years you will get Linux, Firefox, free music, the Public Domain movement and the end of the old culture industry. Take the old BBS, fanzines and fan conventions, move them to the Internet, and you will get the greatest conversational community boom since the Babel Tower.

When conversations take place in languages such as French, Spanish, or Arabic, they become transnational with great ease. Only 2 out of every 5 people who write in French on the Internet live in France. More than half the readers of any Madrid website with more than 1000 visitors per day are in Latin America. Arabic in the Western islamic world has gone, in ten years, from being a religious language superimposed onto regional, almost mutually unintelligible varieties (Moroccan, Algerian, etc.), to having a standard that is gradually reunifying the local dialects: Al Jazeera Arabic.

Virtual communities arise in new spaces, the spaces of the various globalisations associated with the great transnational languages. The main players in these communities belong to two generations that have grown up with Himanen’s hacker ethic: the network logic of abundance and the work ethic of free software are the glue that binds the blogosphere. The result: conversational communities, identitarian, transnational non-hierarchical tribes, based on the powerful incentive that is recognition.

Let us place these communities in the midst of the whirlwind that is a world where national states are sinking and the globalisation of the economy is eroding all the good old institutions that used to make people feel secure. Many of these communities will wish to have their own economy, community companies and common funds.

Spanish cyberpunks went from cyberactivism and literature to constituting a group of cooperative enterprises straddling South America and Madrid. Their new banners: economic democracy, resilience, and transnationality. They changed names: now they are known as “Indianos”, the Spanish word for the emigrant who would return to his home village after making his fortune in the Americas. Only that the Indianos’ America has been the Internet, and their business has spread from consultancy to sustainable production or local development.

In these very same years, the Murides, the old pacifist Sufis from Senegal, went from having a nationalist discourse and growing peanuts to constituting a community trade network with two million members that spreads from South Africa to Italy. Its transformation isn’t over yet, but the young Murides have turned the da├»ras, the old Koranic schools, into urban communes that are also business cells.

At first blush, nothing could be farther apart than cyberpunks and the Murides. But the parallelism is significant: they are not companies linked to a community, but transnational communities that have acquired enterprises in order to gain continuity in time and robustness. They are phyles. Fist tap Dale.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

peak denial about peak oil

TheBurningPlatform | It is par for the course that with oil hovering between $70 and $80 per barrel Americans have continued to buy SUVs and Trucks at a rapid pace. Politicians don’t have constituents screaming at them because gas is $4.00 per gallon, so it is no longer an issue for them. They need to focus on the November elections. It is no time to discuss a difficult issue that requires foresight and honesty. It is no time to tell the American public that oil will be over $200 a barrel within the next 5 years. Anyone who would go on CNBC today and declare that oil will be over $200 a barrel would be eviscerated by bubble head Bartiromo or clueless Kudlow. Bartiromo filled up her Escalade this morning for $2.60 a gallon, so there is no looming crisis on the horizon. The myopic view of the world by politicians, the mainstream media and the American public in general is breathtaking to behold. Despite the facts slapping them across the face, Americans believe cheap oil is here to stay. It is their right to have an endless supply of cheap oil. The American way of life has been granted by God. We are the chosen people.

A funny thing happened on our way to permanent prosperity and unlimited cheap oil. The right to prosperity was yanked out from underneath us by the current Greater Depression. The worldwide economic downturn has masked the onset of peak cheap oil. Therefore, when it hits America with its full fury, it will be a complete surprise to the ignorant masses and the ignorant politicians who run this country. A Gallup Poll in August asked Americans about our most important problems. Where is the concern about future energy supplies? It isn’t on the radar screens of Americans. They are probably more worried about whether The Situation will hook up with Snookie on the Jersey Shore reality show.

It is not surprising that the American public, American politicians, and the American media don’t see the impending crisis. The organizations that have an interest in looking farther than next week into the future have all concluded that the downside of peak oil will cause chaos throughout the world. The US Military, the German Military, and the UK Department of Energy have all done detailed studies of the situation and come to the same conclusions. Social chaos, economic confusion, trade barriers, conflict, food shortages, riots, and war are in our future.

15 shocking american poverty statistics

EconomicCollapseBlog | The following are 15 shocking poverty statistics that are skyrocketing as the American middle class continues to be slowly wiped out....

#1 Approximately 45 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009.

#2 According to the Associated Press, experts believe that 2009 saw the largest single year increase in the U.S. poverty rate since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.

#3 The U.S. poverty rate is now the third worst among the developed nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

#4 According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on a year-over-year basis, household participation in the food stamp program has increased 20.28%.

#5 The number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 41 million for the first time ever in June.

#6 As of June, the number of Americans on food stamps had set a new all-time record for 19 consecutive months.

#7 One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program.

#8 More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.

#9 One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.

#10 Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment insurance, which is almost four times as many as were receiving it in 2007.

#11 The number of Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits has risen over 60 percent in just the past year.

#12 According to one recent survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.

#13 Nationwide, bankruptcy filings rose 20 percent in the 12 month period ending June 30th.

#14 More than 25 percent of all Americans now have a credit score below 599.

#15 One out of every five children in the United States is now living in poverty.

As millions more Americans continue to climb on to the "safety net", how long is it going to be before it breaks?

The reality is that the system can only support so many people. We are now at a point where our anti-poverty programs are clearly unsustainable in the long-term, but nobody has a solution for how we are going to get all of these people off of these programs or how we are going to provide good jobs for all of them.

u.s. poverty on track to post record gain in 2009

AP | The number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Barack Obama's watch, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty.

Census figures for 2009 — the recession-ravaged first year of the Democrat's presidency — are to be released in the coming week, and demographers expect grim findings.

It's unfortunate timing for Obama and his party just seven weeks before important elections when control of Congress is at stake. The anticipated poverty rate increase — from 13.2 percent to about 15 percent — would be another blow to Democrats struggling to persuade voters to keep them in power.

"The most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there," Obama said Friday at a White House news conference. He stressed his commitment to helping the poor achieve middle-class status and said, "If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous cycle."

Interviews with six demographers who closely track poverty trends found wide consensus that 2009 figures are likely to show a significant rate increase to the range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent.

Should those estimates hold true, some 45 million people in this country, or more than 1 in 7, were poor last year. It would be the highest single-year increase since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. The previous high was in 1980 when the rate jumped 1.3 percentage points to 13 percent during the energy crisis.

Among the 18-64 working-age population, the demographers expect a rise beyond 12.4 percent, up from 11.7 percent. That would make it the highest since at least 1965, when another Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson, launched the war on poverty that expanded the federal government's role in social welfare programs from education to health care.

A formula by Richard Bavier, a former analyst with the White House Office of Management and Budget who has had high rates of accuracy over the last decade, predicts poverty will reach 15 percent.

That would put the rate at the highest level since 1993. The all-time high was 22.4 percent in 1959, the first year the government began tracking poverty. It dropped to a low of 11.1 percent in 1973 after Johnson's war on poverty but has since fluctuated in the 12-14 percent range.

number of families in shelters rises

NYTimes | For a few hours at the mall here this month, Nick Griffith, his wife, Lacey Lennon, and their two young children got to feel like a regular family again.

Never mind that they were just killing time away from the homeless shelter where they are staying, or that they had to take two city buses to get to the shopping center because they pawned one car earlier this year and had another repossessed, or that the debit card Ms. Lennon inserted into the A.T.M. was courtesy of the state’s welfare program.

They ate lunch at the food court, browsed for clothes and just strolled, blending in with everyone else out on a scorching hot summer day. “It’s exactly why we come here,” Ms. Lennon said. “It reminds us of our old life.”

For millions who have lost jobs or faced eviction in the economic downturn, homelessness is perhaps the darkest fear of all. In the end, though, for all the devastation wrought by the recession, a vast majority of people who have faced the possibility have somehow managed to avoid it.

Nevertheless, from 2007 through 2009, the number of families in homeless shelters — households with at least one adult and one minor child — leapt to 170,000 from 131,000, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

With long-term unemployment ballooning, those numbers could easily climb this year. Late in 2009, however, states began distributing $1.5 billion that has been made available over three years by the federal government as part of the stimulus package for the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which provides financial assistance to keep people in their homes or get them back in one quickly if they lose them.

More than 550,000 people have received aid, including more than 1,800 in Rhode Island, with just over a quarter of the money for the program spent so far nationally, state and federal officials said.

Even so, it remains to be seen whether the program is keeping pace with the continuing economic hardship.

Monday, September 13, 2010

bacteria and climate change - invisible carbon pumps

The Economist | UNDERSTANDING how the oceans absorb carbon dioxide is crucial to understanding the role of that gas in the climate. It is rather worrying, then, that something profound may be missing from that understanding. But if Jiao Nianzhi of Xiamen University in China is right, it is. For he suggests there is a lot of carbon floating in the oceans that has not previously been noticed. It is in the form of what is known as refractory dissolved organic matter and it has been put there by a hitherto little-regarded group of creatures called aerobic anoxygenic photoheterotrophic bacteria (AAPB). If Dr Jiao is right, a whole new “sink” for carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has been discovered. Fist tap ProfGeo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

doomsday begins when a nuclear state goes hongry

probaway | A patriotic young man fighting off the vultures of world famine coming to steal the food he has brought forth from the earth with his honest labor and toil.

These are probable precursors to the Doomsday event:

1. The possession of an arsenal of A-bombs by one of the victim countries of famine.
2. A leadership that believes it has the right to use atomic weapons to obtain food.
3. A supporting population of people who feel dispossessed of a necessity like food.
4. An essential item, probably food, water or energy, becoming difficult to acquire.
5. A dearth of an essential like water for crops and even for personal use because of another country’s actions.
6. The price of food exceeding 80% of the income of most of a country’s people with associated thefts becoming commonplace.
7. A religious belief in the righteousness of killing other people to save ones friends.
8. A 50% worldwide shortfall of a major food crop — wheat, rice, corn, soybeans.
9. Major theft of food supplies at sea or on highways by organized groups.
10. State sponsored theft of another country’s water or food.

china's voyages to the bottom of the sea


Video - Chinese high-performance resource exploration submersible.

NYTimes | When three Chinese scientists plunged to the bottom of the South China Sea in a tiny submarine early this summer, they did more than simply plant their nation’s flag on the dark seabed.

The men, who descended more than two miles in a craft the size of a small truck, also signaled Beijing’s intention to take the lead in exploring remote and inaccessible parts of the ocean floor, which are rich in oil, minerals and other resources that the Chinese would like to mine. And many of those resources happen to lie in areas where China has clashed repeatedly with its neighbors over territorial claims.

After the flag planting, which was done in secret but recorded in a video, Beijing quickly turned the feat of technology into a show of bravado.

“It is a great achievement,” Liu Feng, director of the dives, was quoted as saying by China Daily, an English-language newspaper, which telegraphs government positions to the outside world.

The global seabed is littered with what experts say is trillions of dollars’ worth of mineral nodules as well as many objects of intelligence value: undersea cables carrying diplomatic communications, lost nuclear arms, sunken submarines and hundreds of warheads left over from missile tests.

While a single small craft cannot reel in all these treasures, it does put China in an excellent position to go after them.

“They’re in it for a penny and a pound,” said Don Walsh, a pioneer of deep-ocean diving who recently visited the submersible and its makers in China. “It’s a very deliberate program.”

The small craft that made the trip — named Jiaolong, after a mythical sea dragon — was unveiled publicly late last month after eight years of secretive development. It is designed to go deeper than any other in the world, giving China access to 99.8 percent of the ocean floor.

Technically, it is a submersible. These craft differ from submarines in their small size, their need for a mother ship on the surface, and their ability to dive extraordinarily far despite the darkness and the crushing pressures. The world has only a few.

Jiaolong is meant to go as deep as 7,000 meters, or 4.35 miles, edging out the current global leader. Japan’s Shinkai 6500 can go as deep as 6,500 meters, outperforming craft “all over the world,” according to its makers. Russia, France and the United States lag further behind in the game of going deep.

china's oil consumption THE western security threat

TheEconomicsofOilEmpire | At the current rates of growth of US and China oil imports and consumption, China's oil consumption will match US oil imports by '16-'17. China's oil imports and consumption will reach parity with the US by '21-'22, at which point the US and China will together consume 60% of peak global oil production (assuming 73-75M bbl/day) versus 37-38% today, leaving the rest of the world to adapt to receiving the remaining 40% (35-40% less than is received today).

However, at the same trend rates of imports and consumption, the US and China will consume 80% of global oil production by the late '20s to early '30s, leaving the rest of the world just 20% of supplies, and China is on track to consume the entire world's oil production by the '40s-'50s; needless to say, this cannot occur.

Assuming the US and China can secure the necessary oil (???), and that global oil production remains at the plateau since '04-'05 (???), the EU+, Latin America, and Africa will experience a decline in oil supplies/consumption of 35-70% over the next 10-20 years, i.e., 4-6% avg. annual decline over the period. (This does not include faster depletion and/or the higher price of oil reducing growth of demand and thus cutting further supplies/consumption for the EU, Latin America, and Africa.)

Growth of the modern oil-based global economy is simply no longer possible, especially not the 8-10% reported growth in China-Asia. The West faces an increasingly grave, winner-take-all, geopolitical and military end game for the remaining oil supplies, a growing share of which China must secure or face outright decline and eventual collapse.

Historically, such conditions have led to resource wars, and the larger the scale of resource scarcity and the ability of social and political units to mobilize military resources to secure the resources, the larger the scale of mass violence and destruction of human life, productive wealth, and the natural environment. Peak Oil compels us to risk destroying much of the world's resources and environment in order to save what is left for the West.

Peak Oil makes China's (and Asia's) unsustainable growth a national security threat to the West that exceeds that of the mythical Al Qaeda or Radical Islam.

theatre iran near term (TIRANNT)

globalresearch | The stockpiling and deployment of advanced weapons systems directed against Iran started in the immediate wake of the 2003 bombing and invasion of Iraq. From the outset, these war plans were led by the US, in liaison with NATO and Israel.

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration identified Iran and Syria as the next stage of “the road map to war”. US military sources intimated that an aerial attack on Iran could involve a large scale deployment comparable to the US "shock and awe" bombing raids on Iraq in March 2003:

"American air strikes on Iran would vastly exceed the scope of the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osiraq nuclear center in Iraq, and would more resemble the opening days of the 2003 air campaign against Iraq.(See Globalsecurity )

"Theater Iran Near Term"

Code named by US military planners as TIRANNT, "Theater Iran Near Term", simulations of an attack on Iran were initiated in May 2003 "when modelers and intelligence specialists pulled together the data needed for theater-level (meaning large-scale) scenario analysis for Iran." ( (William Arkin, Washington Post, 16 April 2006).

The scenarios identified several thousand targets inside Iran as part of a "Shock and Awe" Blitzkrieg:

"The analysis, called TIRANNT, for "Theater Iran Near Term," was coupled with a mock scenario for a Marine Corps invasion and a simulation of the Iranian missile force. U.S. and British planners conducted a Caspian Sea war game around the same time. And Bush directed the U.S. Strategic Command to draw up a global strike war plan for an attack against Iranian weapons of mass destruction. All of this will ultimately feed into a new war plan for "major combat operations" against Iran that military sources confirm now [April 2006] exists in draft form.

... Under TIRANNT, Army and U.S. Central Command planners have been examining both near-term and out-year scenarios for war with Iran, including all aspects of a major combat operation, from mobilization and deployment of forces through postwar stability operations after regime change." (William Arkin, Washington Post, 16 April 2006)

Different "theater scenarios" for an all out attack on Iran had been contemplated: "The US army, navy, air force and marines have all prepared battle plans and spent four years building bases and training for "Operation Iranian Freedom". Admiral Fallon, the new head of US Central Command, has inherited computerized plans under the name TIRANNT (Theatre Iran Near Term)." (New Statesman, February 19, 2007)

In 2004, drawing upon the initial war scenarios under TIRANNT, Vice President Dick Cheney instructed USSTRATCOM to draw up a "contingency plan" of a large scale military operation directed against Iran "to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States" on the presumption that the government in Tehran would be behind the terrorist plot. The plan included the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state:

"The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections." (Philip Giraldi, Deep Background,The American Conservative August 2005)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

and now a word from fidel castro...,

The Atlantic | He said the Iranian government should understand the consequences of theological anti-Semitism. "This went on for maybe two thousand years," he said. "I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything." The Iranian government should understand that the Jews "were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world, as the ones who killed God. In my judgment here's what happened to them: Reverse selection. What's reverse selection? Over 2,000 years they were subjected to terrible persecution and then to the pogroms. One might have assumed that they would have disappeared; I think their culture and religion kept them together as a nation." He continued: "The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust." I asked him if he would tell Ahmadinejad what he was telling me. "I am saying this so you can communicate it," he answered.

Castro went on to analyze the conflict between Israel and Iran. He said he understood Iranian fears of Israeli-American aggression and he added that, in his view, American sanctions and Israeli threats will not dissuade the Iranian leadership from pursuing nuclear weapons. "This problem is not going to get resolved, because the Iranians are not going to back down in the face of threats. That's my opinion," he said. He then noted that, unlike Cuba, Iran is a "profoundly religious country," and he said that religious leaders are less apt to compromise. He noted that even secular Cuba has resisted various American demands over the past 50 years.

We returned repeatedly in this first conversation to Castro's fear that a confrontation between the West and Iran could escalate into a nuclear conflict. "The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated," he said. "Men think they can control themselves but Obama could overreact and a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war." I asked him if this fear was informed by his own experiences during the 1962 missile crisis, when the Soviet Union and the U.S. nearly went to war other over the presence of nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba (missiles installed at the invitation, of course, of Fidel Castro). I mentioned to Castro the letter he wrote to Khruschev, the Soviet premier, at the height of the crisis, in which he recommended that the Soviets consider launching a nuclear strike against the U.S. if the Americans attack Cuba. "That would be the time to think about liquidating such a danger forever through a legal right of self-defense," Castro wrote at the time.

I asked him, "At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?" He answered: "After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it all."