Sunday, January 23, 2011

the food bubble

Video - Jayati Ghosh: Food prices set to surge due to Wall Street speculation

Radio Ecoshock | You have seen food prices going up at the local grocery store. That could be just the beginning. According to Lester Brown, a leading expert in both the environment and world agriculture, those bulging supermarket shelves are part of a "food bubble", which could crash.

Lester Brown founded the World Watch Institute, with it's annual "State of the World" reports. He's written 50 books, won many honors, is recognized as a thought-leader for our era. Now in his own Earth Policy Institute, Brown's new book is "World on Edge, How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse."

Brown compares our world food situation to the real estate bubble in the United States. We are in a "food bubble" he says.

Here is a quote from the Press Release at
"Our early 21st century civilization is in trouble. We need not go beyond the world food economy to see this. Over the last few decades we have created a food production bubble-one based on environmental trends that cannot be sustained, including over pumping aquifers, over plowing land, and overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide," notes Lester R. Brown, author of World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse (W. W. Norton & Company).

"If we cannot reverse these trends, economic decline is inevitable," notes Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental research organization. "No civilization has survived the ongoing destruction of its natural support systems. Nor will ours.

"The archeological records of earlier civilizations indicate that more often than not it was food shortages that led to their downfall. Food appears to be the weak link for our global civilization as well. And unlike the recent U.S. housing bubble, the food bubble is global."

"The question is not whether the food bubble will burst but when," says Brown. While the U.S. housing bubble was created by the overextension of credit, the food bubble is based on the overuse of land and water resources. It is further threatened by the climate stresses deriving from the excessive burning of fossil fuels. When the U.S. housing bubble burst, it sent shockwaves through the world economy, culminating in the worst recession since the Great Depression. When the food bubble bursts, food prices will soar worldwide, threatening economic and political stability everywhere. For those living on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder, survival itself could be at stake."
In the Radio Ecoshock interview, we also discuss the impact of climate change on world food production.

Lester Brown also explains the difference between "event driven" problems, and "trend driven." In a short example, food prices might go up for a short time, because of a failed harvest some where, or speculation. That is "event driven." But food prices will definitely go up in the long run, due to oil depletion, soil depletion, and pumping out the water tables (water depletion). That are predictable "trend driven" processes.

We also talk about the gender problem in food. In many countries, especially Muslim countries like Pakistan, but not limited to Muslim countries - men eat the most food, first. Women and children get the left-overs, if any.

I remember seeing a BBC documentary about the after-math of the Pakistan floods last Summer. In woman after woman, the fingernails were very white, a sign of malnutrition. Food aid was not getting through to them, while men were eating. And this is true for the billion or so people at the bottom of our human "food chain" - those who get perhaps only one meal a day, and go to bed hungry every night. Again, women suffer the most. That's something to keep in mind, as the food bubble bursts.

Lester Brown does not shrink from the contentious issue of over-population. After all, should we try to infinitely expand world food production, even as the eco-system deteriorates, just because humans cannot control their own population? Lester goes into various measures we could be implementing to limit, and then reduce population.

We cover a lot of other issues, please listen to the audio interview. And as a bonus, I recorded the original press teleconference for you as well. That 45 minute recording is available here (in Lo-Fi, 10 megabytes).

You may also be able to download a free preview copy of Lester's new book here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

path sought for states to escape their debt burdens

Video - You Cannae Shove Your Grannie Off The Bus

NYTimes | Policymakers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

Unlike cities, the states are barred from seeking protection in federal bankruptcy court. Any effort to change that status would have to clear high constitutional hurdles because the states are considered sovereign.

But proponents say some states are so burdened that the only feasible way out may be bankruptcy, giving Illinois, for example, the opportunity to do what General Motors did with the federal government’s aid.

Beyond their short-term budget gaps, some states have deep structural problems, like insolvent pension funds, that are diverting money from essential public services like education and health care. Some members of Congress fear that it is just a matter of time before a state seeks a bailout, say bankruptcy lawyers who have been consulted by Congressional aides.

Bankruptcy could permit a state to alter its contractual promises to retirees, which are often protected by state constitutions, and it could provide an alternative to a no-strings bailout. Along with retirees, however, investors in a state’s bonds could suffer, possibly ending up at the back of the line as unsecured creditors.

“All of a sudden, there’s a whole new risk factor,” said Paul S. Maco, a partner at the firm Vinson & Elkins who was head of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Municipal Securities during the Clinton administration. Fist tap Nana.

making social security more "progressive"

truthout | The insiders in Washington really, really want to cut Social Security and they are prepared to say or do anything to do it. Among the latest lines is that they want to make Social Security more "progressive." This sort of rhetoric appeared in a report from the "liberal" Center for American Progress (CAP) in a plan that proposes substantial cuts in benefits.

To understand what CAP and other proponents of increasing the progressivity of Social Security mean, consider the idea of raising marginal tax rates paid by many middle-income people from 25 percent to 35 percent. The current 25 percent bracket begins at an income of $34,500 for singles, and $69,000 for couples.

Raising this tax rate by 10 percentage points would be a substantial hit to tens of millions of families who are certainly middle class by anyone's definition. However, this tax increase would also be progressive. The bottom 60 percent of the income distribution would not be touched at all, and those just over the cutoffs would only see a small increase in their tax burden.

Nonetheless a couple earning $100,000 a year would see their taxes rise by $3,100, which is not a trivial matter for a middle class couple. This is the way in the CAP plan for cutting Social Security benefits is progressive. It would lead to substantial reductions in Social Security benefits for people who earned an average of $60,000 or $70,000 during their working lifetimes. While such people earned more than most workers, such salaries don't quite put them on a par with Bill Gates.

The reason why CAP wants to cut the benefits of factory workers and schoolteachers is because this is where you have to go if you want to have any substantial reductions in Social Security payments. Peter Peterson, the billionaire investment banker, is fond of telling audiences that he doesn't need his Social Security check.

However true this might be, Peterson's Social Security check, along with those received by all the other millionaires and billionaires in the country, really doesn't make any difference for the program's finances. There are not many rich people, and because Social Security is a progressive program, the billionaires' Social Security checks are not much bigger than the checks received by ordinary workers.

This means it doesn't matter for the program whether or not Peterson and his wealthy friends get their Social Security checks. When they talk about cutting benefits for "affluent retirees" or making the program more "progressive," they are talking about cutting benefits for schoolteachers, firefighters and other middle-income workers.

a progressive approach to strengthening social security

americanprogress | Social Security underpins the retirement income of 36 million Americans, provides basic survivor benefits for another 6 million widows or widowers, and delivers critical disability insurance to another 10 million working families. Social Security is arguably the greatest progressive achievement of the last century, embodying the values of shared responsibility and economic security for everyone, not just a select few. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the Committee on Economic Security—the basis for Social Security—he said he wanted a program that would “provide at once security against several of the great disturbing factors in life—especially those which relate to unemployment and old age.” Those values continue to be the foundation of Social Security today. The program represents a shared responsibility to one another and from one generation to another. It underpins the retirement income of 36 million Americans, provides basic survivor benefits for another 6 million widows or widowers, and delivers critical disability insurance to another 10 million working families.

Social Security protects almost all Americans who work or have worked for pay and their families. Currently, 156 million Americans are paying into Social Security in 2010 and 205 million people in 2009 had paid enough into Social Security or were dependent on somebody who had paid enough into Social Security to qualify for retirement and survivorship benefits. Most of these current workers and their dependents will count on Social Security as their income insurance for decades to come.

Social Security, in short, is our bedrock for basic income insurance for all Americans.

Yet the program and its founding progressive values face two significant challenges: one short term and the other longer term. The immediate challenge is defending Social Security from decades-long conservative charges that the program is too costly. What Republican Presidential Candidate Alf Landon said about Social Security in 1936—that it would encourage wasteful spending and deliver children nothing but “roll after roll of neatly executed IOU’s” from their fathers’ safe deposit boxes—isn’t very different from what conservatives of the present day continue to predict. They always see disaster just over the horizon, and propose diminishing and now privatizing Social Security.

Progressives should reach out to all sides of the political spectrum, but we cannot pretend to give “even handed” treatment to arguments that have been wrong for 75 years. Social Security today faces a conservative onslaught seeking to undermine and dismantle the program. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who will certainly enjoy an elevated position in the new 112th Congress that convenes in January next year with its Republican majority, released a budget roadmap that privatized Social Security similar to President Bush’s unsuccessful privatization plan in 2005. This conservative plan, if enacted, would dismantle Social Security’s founding progressive principles and replace it with an “on-your-own” philosophy that guts benefits for middle-class families, explodes the national debt even fur- ther, and is not supported by the majority of Americans.

Progressives must stand up to these attacks on Social Security but also tackle the long-term challenge of modernizing Social Security so that it can offer the best insurance benefits to those who need them the most. This means updates to address demographic and economic changes that have occurred over the past few decades as well as Social Security’s long-term financial challenges so that we can provide these modernized benefits for generations to come. In 2037, all of those participating in the program will suddenly receive benefits one-quarter below what they were promised—if nothing changes. This would be an unprecedented break in the generational agreement in place since the 1930s to support everybody’s retirement and those struck by disability or the death of a primary breadwinner. (See Box)

These challenges—both the conservative assault on Social Security and the need for modernization—cry out for progressive changes to Social Security to ensure the program’s long-term viability without jeopardizing the values on which it was built. Social Security is in no immediate danger of financial insolvency—the long-term financial challenge is being used by conservatives simply as an excuse to destroy the program. But Social Security does need to change in order to strengthen the program for the rest of this century.

Our nation must rise to meet these twin challenges today. Conservative plans to dismantle Social Security represent a clear and present danger, but another lesser danger is to reject any calls for updating the program. Progressive governance requires us to modernize this program to provide a strong and fiscally sustainable Social Security system to meet the economic challenges of our age. This is not the political fad of the moment, but an economic imperative for each and every generation of Americans.

In this paper, the Center for American Progress proposes a Social Security system worthy of meeting America’s challenges in the 21st century. Our approach to social insurance rewards work with secure retirement, attacks poverty, and responds in meaningful ways to the fundamental changes in how families work and live today. And our recommendations meet Social Security’s financial needs for the next 75 years.

Friday, January 21, 2011

over a million immigrants land U.S. jobs in 2008-10

Reuters | Over the past two years, as U.S. unemployment remained near double-digit levels and the economy shed jobs in the wake of the financial crisis, over a million foreign-born arrivals to America found work, many illegally.

Those are among the findings of a review of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau data conducted exclusively for Reuters by researchers at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.

Often young and unskilled or semi-skilled, immigrants have taken jobs Americans could do in areas like construction, willing to work for less wages. Others land jobs that unemployed Americans turn up their noses at or lack the skills to do.

With a national unemployment rate of 9.4 percent, domestic job creation is at the top of President Barack Obama's agenda and such findings could add to calls to tighten up on illegal immigration. But much of it is Hispanic and the growing Latino vote is a key base for Obama's Democratic Party.

Many of the new arrivals, according to employers, brought with them skills required of the building trade and found work in sectors such as construction, where jobless rates are high.

"Employers have chosen to use new immigrants over native-born workers and have continued to displace large numbers of blue-collar workers and young adults without college degrees," said Andrew Sum, the director of the Center for Labor Market Studies.

"One of the advantages of hiring, particularly young, undocumented immigrants, is the fact that employers do not have to pay health benefits or basic payroll taxes," said Sum.

From 2008 to 2010, 1.1 million new migrants who have entered America since 2008 landed jobs, even as U.S. household employment declined by 6.26 million over that same period.

post peak medicine - work in progress

PPM | The 21st century will probably be unlike any other century before or since. It will be a century of peaking and then declining natural resources: first oil, then natural gas, water, food, coal and uranium. At the same time, we will have to deal with a record number of human beings on the planet.

Our political, economic and media leaders have prepared us poorly for what is likely to come. The overwhelming message from mainstream sources is in effect that we have infinite resources and can enjoy continuous improvement and infinite growth without consequences, and that technology will find a way to overcome any obstacle. When these things fail to happen (which is almost inevitable) there is likely to be much confusion and anger and a lack of consensus about what to do next.

Guidelines for contributors

"Post Peak Medicine" is a book which is being written by and for healthcare professionals. At present it exists as this website, but when completed it will be compiled into a downloadable e-book. The intention behind the book is that it will help practitioners to make the transition to post-peak practices during what may be turbulent times ahead.

I have written Part 1: Framework and Background but I am looking for specialists in their field to write individual chapters in Part 2: Specialties. Your contribution, should you decide to make it, will be valuable both to your professional colleagues and the public. Here are some suggested guidelines for contributors which I hope you will find helpful.

You must have a recognised qualification within your healthcare specialty.

When the book is completed and published, all contributions must be attributable to a named author(s).

Each chapter need only be a few pages long, and should be about the challenges you foresee in adapting to post peak practice and how those challenges might be overcome. Don't try to write a detailed textbook about your specialty, but where detail is needed, please provide links or references to sources of information you consider helpful. If you find it difficult to imagine what your specialty will be like post-peak, it may be helpful to put it in a historical context: for example, what methods did your specialty use fifty or a hundred years ago?

Pictures and illustrations are welcome, but please ensure that you hold the copyright, or that you have obtained permission to use them, or that they are copyright-free.

This book will not be released to the public until all contributors agree that it is time for it to be released. This may be either when it is completed, or when the public attitude towards peak oil and related issues has changed to the extent that it is possible for serious discussion about them to take place in mainstream circles.

This book can't solve all of these problems, but maybe it can help in a small way. It is intended mainly as a guide by and for healthcare professionals, to help ease our transition into a post-peak healthcare system. Thank you for your interest in contributing to this book. For further information please contact

Thursday, January 20, 2011

black twitter

The Root | African Americans reportedly make up 25 percent of Twitter users, but the trending topics on any given day reflect hateful, stereotypical and misogynistic messages. Are we using our large social networking presence to do more harm than good?

Here's an interesting fact about Twitter: Black people love it. According to a study by Edison Research, we make up 25 percent of the 17 million (and counting) people who use the social networking site. And here's something else about black people and Twitter: We love to start trends -- trending topics, that is.

Twitter defines trending topics as the "new or newsworthy topics that are occupying the most people's attention on Twitter at any one time." Adding a hashtag (#) to a tweet creates a themed, grouped message. If enough people tweet the same hashtag, it's considered a trending topic.

With African Americans disproportionately represented in the Twitter game, trending topics often originate with and are perpetuated by black folks. According to Edison Research, "many of the 'trending topics' on Twitter on a typical day are reflective of African-American culture, memes and topics." Though many trending topics are about specific people, events or silliness like #liesmentell, #itsnotcheating, etc., the mood has recently shifted into far more ignorant territory. Why is this how we choose to wield our power on Twitter?

Trendistic, which ranks Twitter trends, marked the most popular trend one day last week as #hoodhoes (and its similar tag, #hoodhoe). For 16 hours, users tweeted their definitions of a "hood hoe":

"If you only get paid when yo baby daddy get paid #hoodhoe"
"I like #hoodhoe they get a discount on they rent and they always got food in the fridge foodstamps lol"
"#hoodhoe emergency kit= leggings, track glue, cab phone number, ebt card, rush visa card, boost mobile phone and pre paid legal"

Twitter users can be fickle, and what's trending at one moment can easily fall off if enough people aren't embracing it. The fact that #hoodhoes was a hot talking point for 16 hours lets us know that people are co-signing and spreading the message.

the political power of social media

Foreign Affairs | On January 17, 2001, during the impeachment trial of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, loyalists in the Philippine Congress voted to set aside key evidence against him. Less than two hours after the decision was announced, thousands of Filipinos, angry that their corrupt president might be let off the hook, converged on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, a major crossroads in Manila. The protest was arranged, in part, by forwarded text messages reading, "Go 2 EDSA. Wear blk." The crowd quickly swelled, and in the next few days, over a million people arrived, choking traffic in downtown Manila.

The public's ability to coordinate such a massive and rapid response -- close to seven million text messages were sent that week -- so alarmed the country's legislators that they reversed course and allowed the evidence to be presented. Estrada's fate was sealed; by January 20, he was gone. The event marked the first time that social media had helped force out a national leader. Estrada himself blamed "the text-messaging generation" for his downfall.

Since the rise of the Internet in the early 1990s, the world's networked population has grown from the low millions to the low billions. Over the same period, social media have become a fact of life for civil society worldwide, involving many actors -- regular citizens, activists, nongovernmental organizations, telecommunications firms, software providers, governments. This raises an obvious question for the U.S. government: How does the ubiquity of social media affect U.S. interests, and how should U.S. policy respond to it?

american politics and the second gilded age

Foreign Affairs | The U.S. economy appears to be coming apart at the seams. Unemployment remains at nearly ten percent, the highest level in almost 30 years; foreclosures have forced millions of Americans out of their homes; and real incomes have fallen faster and further than at any time since the Great Depression. Many of those laid off fear that the jobs they have lost -- the secure, often unionized, industrial jobs that provided wealth, security, and opportunity -- will never return. They are probably right.

And yet a curious thing has happened in the midst of all this misery. The wealthiest Americans, among them presumably the very titans of global finance whose misadventures brought about the financial meltdown, got richer. And not just a little bit richer; a lot richer. In 2009, the average income of the top five percent of earners went up, while on average everyone else's income went down. This was not an anomaly but rather a continuation of a 40-year trend of ballooning incomes at the very top and stagnant incomes in the middle and at the bottom. The share of total income going to the top one percent has increased from roughly eight percent in the 1960s to more than 20 percent today.

This is what the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call the "winner-take-all economy." It is not a picture of a healthy society. Such a level of economic inequality, not seen in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression, bespeaks a political economy in which the financial rewards are increasingly concentrated among a tiny elite and whose risks are borne by an increasingly exposed and unprotected middle class. Income inequality in the United States is higher than in any other advanced industrial democracy and by conventional measures comparable to that in countries such as Ghana, Nicaragua, and Turkmenistan. It breeds political polarization, mistrust, and resentment between the haves and the have-nots and tends to distort the workings of a democratic political system in which money increasingly confers political voice and power.

It is generally presumed that economic forces alone are responsible for this astonishing concentration of wealth. Technological changes, particularly the information revolution, have transformed the economy, making workers more productive and placing a premium on intellectual, rather than manual, labor. Simultaneously, the rise of global markets -- itself accelerated by information technology -- has hollowed out the once dominant U.S. manufacturing sector and reoriented the U.S. economy toward the service sector. The service economy also rewards the educated, with high-paying professional jobs in finance, health care, and information technology. At the low end, however, jobs in the service economy are concentrated in retail sales and entertainment, where salaries are low, unions are weak, and workers are expendable.

Champions of globalization portray these developments as the natural consequences of market forces, which they believe are not only benevolent (because they increase aggregate wealth through trade and make all kinds of goods cheaper to consume) but also unstoppable. Skeptics of globalization, on the other hand, emphasize the distributional consequences of these trends, which tend to confer tremendous benefits on a highly educated and highly skilled elite while leaving other workers behind. But neither side in this debate has bothered to question Washington's primary role in creating the growing inequality in the United States.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

tax leak consequences depend on details

Video - former Swiss banker gives tax evasion data to Wikileaks.

NYTimes | The individuals and companies whose offshore account information may be detailed in Swiss banking documents disclosed to WikiLeaks could face American prosecutors — or go untouched, senior tax lawyers said on Tuesday.

Whether the more than 2,000 wealthy investors and companies from the United States, Europe, Asia and elsewhere get a knock on the door from the Internal Revenue Service or other American agencies will depend in large part on if the documents contain detailed records showing criminal tax evasion.

“It’s obviously tremendously worrisome for these people, because every time a whistle-blower has said he has the goods, he’s had the goods,” said Peter R. Zeidenberg, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer at DLA Piper.

He was referring to internal bank documents and client names provided to American authorities in recent years by Bradley C. Birkenfeld, a former private banker at the Swiss bank UBS, and by Heinrich Kieber, a former data clerk at the LGT Group, the Liechtenstein royal bank. Mr. Birkenfeld’s disclosures underpinned a Justice Department investigation into UBS, which agreed to pay $780 million and admit to criminal wrongdoing with its offshore private bank.

But Mr. Zeidenberg added that “simply holding an offshore bank account is not a crime. If some of these people have already reported their accounts” on their American tax returns — if they were required to file them — “or voluntarily disclosed them to the I.R.S., they may have nothing to fear.”

The documents were handed over to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in London on Monday by Rudolf M. Elmer, a former senior private banker at Julius Baer. Mr. Elmer, who has a history of legal conflict with Julius Baer, one of the oldest and most secretive Swiss banks, ran the bank’s Caribbean operations as chief operating officer for eight years until he was dismissed in 2002.

Mr. Elmer is set to go to trial on Wednesday in Zurich on charges brought by Swiss prosecutors that he leaked client data around 2005 and engaged in threats against the bank and some employees. Julius Baer has previously said that Mr. Elmer has leaked falsified documents.

It is not clear what years are covered by Mr. Elmer’s WikiLeaks documents or if they concern years after he left the bank.

the internet: totalitarian tool?

Wired | Cold War baggage severely limits the imagination of do-gooders in the West. They assume that the Internet is too big to control without significant economic losses. But governments don’t need to control every text message or email. There’s a special irony when Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggests—as he did in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations last November—that China’s government will find it impossible to censor “a billion phones that are trying to express themselves.” Schmidt is rich because his company sells precisely targeted ads against hundreds of millions of search requests per day. If Google can zero in like that, so can China’s censors.

Calling China’s online censorship system a “Great Firewall” is increasingly trendy, but misleading. All walls, being the creation of engineers, can be breached with the right tools. But modern authoritarian governments control the web in ways more sophisticated than guard towers.

This isn’t just theory. The Kremlin is allegedly soliciting proposals for data-mining social networking sites. The police in Iran and Belarus reportedly browse such sites in order to find connections between opposition figures and dissidents. China tried to launch Green Dam, a technology that studies the browsing habits of its users before deciding to block access. And contrary to what Eric Schmidt believes, authorities do have the ability to locate and monitor mobile phone users, as well as censor their messages.

Why all the tricky techniques? Superpowers like China have to engage with the global economy. So for them, the best censorship system is the one that censors the least. Millions of people already disclose intimate social data on Facebook, LinkedIn, Delicious, and their Russian and Chinese alternatives—and that’s all the data governments need to pick the right target. Online friends with an antigovernment blogger? No access for you! Spend most of your day surfing Yahoo Finance? Browse whatever you want. Satisfied Chinese investment bankers will have access to an uncensored web; subversive democracy activists get added to the government watch list.

Can the Internet empower dissidents and pro-democracy activists? Yes. But it can also strengthen existing dictatorships and facilitate the control of their populations. Washington’s utopian plan to liberate the world one tweet at a time could also turn American innovation into a tool for the world’s subjugation. Fist tap Nana.

the digital origins of dictatorship and democracy

iRevolution | The best new book I’ve come across since my proposal is Philip Howard’s “The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Information Technology and Political Islam,” which was published just a few months ago. Howard seeks to answer the following question: “What is the causal recipe for democratization, and are information technologies an important ingredient?” More specifically, “The goal of this book is to analyze the ways in which new information technologies have contributed to democratic entrenchment or transition in countries with large Muslim communities.”

Howard demonstrates that “technology diffusion has had a crucial causal role in improvements in democratic institutions” and “that technology diffusion has become, in combination with other factors, both a necessary and sufficient cause of democratic transition or entrenchment.” Howard concludes: “Clearly the Internet and cell phones have not on their own caused a single democratic transition, but it is safe to conclude that today, no democratic transition is possible without information technologies.”

The book is getting superb reviews, and that is absolutely no surprise. This is truly the best book I’ve read on the topic of my dissertation thus far. Why? Howard’s research design and mixed-methods approach is by far the most rigorous one in the literature to date. I therefore plan to dedicate a few blog posts to summarize Howard’s approach and findings, starting here with the book’s prologue: “The Revolution in the Middle East will be Digitized,” which focuses on the Green Revolution in Iran. Below are some excerpts and commentary that reflect some of the key arguments from this first section of the book.

One of the main roles that information and communication technologies (ICTs) played in Iran was dissemination, which had a second-order effect on increasing levels of participation both in the streets and online. Fist tap ProfGeo.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

one step beyond...,

Video - One Step Beyond 1961 The Sacred Mushroom Part 1
Video - One Step Beyond 1961 The Sacred Mushroom Part 2
Video - One Step Beyond 1961 The Sacred Mushroom Part 3

i wish i could talk in technicolor

Video - 1950's LSD session - If you can't see it then you'll never know...I feel sorry for you

the harvard psychedelic club

Video - Promotion for The Harvard Psychedelic Club

Boston Phoenix | Though it imported most of its principles and philosophies from such Eastern cultures as those in India and Tibet, as well as from south of the border in Mexico, the revolutionary mind/body/spirit movement that has so transformed American and Western society actually got its start in uptight 1960s Greater Boston.

It was here, in buttoned-down Cambridge and in suburban Newton, that four men — Timothy Leary, a Harvard research psychologist; Richard Alpert (better known as Ram Dass, the persona he adopted after an enlightening trip to India), a Harvard psychology professor; Huston Smith, an MIT philosophy professor; and Andrew Weil, a Harvard medical-school student — launched what would eventually become the counterculture movement.

Through their trailblazing experimentation with (and proselytizing of) hallucinogenic drugs, this "Harvard Psychedelic Club" influenced everything from the music, films, and literature of the Western canon; to the rise of the Silicon Valley technology sector; to what we eat, how we exercise, and how we make love; and to our very psychological perceptions of ourselves.

In his new narrative nonfiction work, excerpted here, journalist Don Lattin looks at how, after expanding their consciousnesses with psilocybin mushrooms and LSD, these four "career-driven, linear-thinking intellectuals" advised a generation to "turn on, tune in, and drop out."

Monday, January 17, 2011

a new reconstruction?

Video - That last speech with the hard-hitting part about America up front.

WaPo | The history of black Americans since Emancipation is being revisited by a generation of historians who have found in it a touching and tragic story of aspirations and efforts for education, justice and equality, most of them crushed by overwhelming force and political power. But the most important figure in this reconsideration was not a historian; it was a preacher, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King, celebrated on this day two days after his birthday, came to prominence in the mid-20th century as the foremost figure in what became a new Reconstruction. Part of it was a national drama that included working people boycotting the buses in Montgomery, Ala., because a dignified and determined woman named Rosa Parks had been arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. Then there were the efforts, in different places and by different people, to take a seat at a lunch counter, ride an interstate bus, stay in a motel, register to vote. By the time of Dr. King's death, little more than a dozen years after the bus boycott, the federal government had legislated open accommodations and protection for the voting rights of all Americans. Racial prejudice, openly expressed, was gradually becoming unacceptable in this country.

As Martin Luther King and many others well knew, history in the hands of one's enemies can cripple and destroy. It can be a huge impediment to progress. In leading a movement that itself made history, that presented the country with a modern-day morality tale it could not ignore, Dr. King helped topple that barrier, to shed light on a dark past and to bring new hope for the future. The preacher had powerful uses for a biblical maxim he had no doubt uttered from the pulpit many times - that the truth shall make you free.

martin luther king jr. and the vietnam war

Video - Martin Luther King Jr. on the Vietnam War

These are video excerpts from "Evidence of Revision", a 6-DVD, 10 hour long documentary series that presents suppressed historical audio, video, and film recordings largely unseen by the public concerning the assassination of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King Jr., the war in Vietnam, CIA mind control programs and their involvement in the RFK assassination and the Jonestown massacre. The complete series "Evidence of Revision" can be viewed for free on Google Video.

50 years later, we're still ignoring Ike's warning

Video - Eisenhower - Hanging from a Cross of Iron

WaPo | On April 16, 1953, the new president spoke to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, just weeks after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's death. In this "Chance for Peace" speech - one as important as the farewell address but often overlooked by historians - he seized the moment to outline the cost of continued tensions with the U.S.S.R. In addition to the military dangers such a rivalry imposed, he said, the confrontation would exact an enormous domestic price on both societies:

"This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. . . . We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

Contrary to many historians' suggestions, Ike's farewell speech was not an afterthought - it was the bookend to "Chance for Peace." As early as 1959, he began working with his brother Milton and his speechwriters to craft exactly what he would say as he left public life. The speech would become a solemn moment in a decidedly unsolemn time, offering sober warnings for a nation giddy with newfound prosperity, infatuated with youth and glamour, and aiming increasingly for the easy life.

"There is a reoccurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties," he warned in his final speech as president. ". . . But each proposal must be weighed in light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs . . . balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

rebellion in uhmuraka

WND | The state of Montana, which came up with the idea that the guns made, sold and kept inside its borders simply are exempt from federal regulations and made that its law, now is considering a new weapon that could be used to cancel much of the authority of federal agents over its residents.

A new legislative proposal would declare that the state's local county sheriffs are the pre-eminent law enforcement authority in their jurisdictions, and federal agents such as those working for the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and others, would be required to get permission from them before they could take any action.

Get a copy of the nation's rulebook and find out what it really says: "The Constitution of the United States"

The proposal, Senate Bill 114, is called "An act regulating arrests, searches, and seizures by federal employees; providing that federal employees must obtain the county sheriff's permission to arrest, search, and seize; providing exceptions; providing for prosecution of federal employees violating this act; rejecting federal laws purporting to give federal employees the authority of a county sheriff in this state; and providing an immediate effective date."

Inside that mouthful of provisions is a requirement that federal agents work through and get permission from sheriffs before taking any action to arrest anyone, seize any object or search anywhere. And it includes a promise of consequences if that is not followed:

"An arrest, search, or seizure or attempted arrest, search, or seizure in violation of [section 2] is unlawful, and the persons involved must be prosecuted by the county attorney for kidnapping if an arrest or attempted arrest occurred, for trespass if a search or attempted search occurred, for theft if a seizure or attempted seizure occurred, and for any applicable homicide offense if loss of life occurred. The persons involved must also be charged with any other applicable criminal offense in Title 45," the bill explains.

It's been introduced by state Sen. Greg W. Hinkle, who is from Thompson Falls and represents the state's District 7.

It's been developed with the help of the same people who brought up the plan that Montana can, under the U.S. Constitution, exempt from federal regulation guns that are not in "interstate" commerce.

That plan caught on so well there already are seven other states that have adopted similar laws, and at least three more states, Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas, already have bills pending for this legislation session. Of course it's being challenged in federal court, with a review pending now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But supporters say they ultimately want a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court itself.

One of the proponents of the new regulation for federal agents is Gary Marbut, of the Montana Shooting Sports Association. He calls the idea the "sheriffs first" legislation.

At a website called Pro-gun, which is run by Marbut, there's an explanation of the plan.

"This 'Sheriffs First' bill would make it a state crime for a federal officer to arrest, search, or seize in the state (Montana in this example) without first getting the advanced, written permission of the elected county sheriff of the county in which the event is to take place. Locally elected sheriffs are accountable to the people and are supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer of the county, bar none. This bill puts teeth into the expectation that federal agents must operate with the approval of the sheriff, or not at all. It also gives the local sheriff tools necessary to protect the people of his county, and their constitutional rights. There are exceptions in the legislation for 'hot pursuit,' U.S. customs and border patrol, corrupt sheriffs, and more."

Officials with the National Sheriffs Association told WND they were unfamiliar with the plan, nor was it being tracked by the National Conference of State Legislatures yet.

But that was the same way Montana's Firearms Freedom Act got started, and it now is law in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona, Alaska and Tennessee. Another 20 states considered their own plans last year but they were not adopted immediately. According to Marbut and the Tenth Amendment Center, South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky are the first states to have begun work on their plans for this session already.

naturally racist?

Conservative Heritage Times | Are we hardwired to be ethnocentric? After all, birds of a feather flock together. Steve Sailer has tirelessly reported on findings in sociobiology that demonstrate the biological basis for ethnocentrism (i.e. preferring others of one’s own ethnicity/race), such as applications of William D. Hamilton’s theory of kin selection and inclusive fitness—the more genes we share with another individual, the more altruistic we feel toward him.

And now there is yet another study proving this insight. Nicholas Wade at the NY Times reports on a Dutch study where subjects were given oxytocin and then had to select their preferences.
Dutch students were given standard moral dilemmas in which a choice must be made about whether to help a person onto an overloaded lifeboat, thereby drowning the five already there, or saving five people in the path of a train by throwing a bystander onto the tracks.

In Dr. De Dreu’s experiments, the five people who might be saved were nameless, but the sacrificial victim had either a Dutch or a Muslim name. Subjects who had taken oxytocin were far more likely to sacrifice the Muhammads than the Maartens
Wade continues:
What does it mean that a chemical basis for ethnocentrism is embedded in the human brain? “In the ancestral environment it was very important for people to detect in others whether they had a long-term commitment to the group,” Dr. De Dreu said. “Ethnocentrism is a very basic part of humans, and it’s not something we can change by education. That doesn’t mean that the negative aspects of it should be taken for granted.”
If these findings are correct, then the war against ethnocentrism (often labeled as a war against “racism”) may itself be a war against human nature.

Carsten K. W. De Dreu’s paper, “Oxytocin promotes human ethnocentrism

Allan C. Park’s take on the experiments. Fist tap Dale.