Thursday, March 10, 2011

earliest evidence for magic mushroom use in europe

NewScientist | EUROPEANS may have used magic mushrooms to liven up religious rituals 6000 years ago. So suggests a cave mural in Spain, which may depict fungi with hallucinogenic properties - the oldest evidence of their use in Europe.

The Selva Pascuala mural, in a cave near the town of Villar del Humo, is dominated by a bull. But it is a row of 13 small mushroom-like objects that interests Brian Akers at Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey, Florida, and Gaston Guzman at the Ecological Institute of Xalapa in Mexico. They believe that the objects are the fungi Psilocybe hispanica, a local species with hallucinogenic properties.

Like the objects depicted in the mural, P. hispanica has a bell-shaped cap topped with a dome, and lacks an annulus - a ring around the stalk. "Its stalks also vary from straight to sinuous, as they do in the mural," says Akers (Economic Botany, DOI: 10.1007/s12231-011-9152-5).

This isn't the oldest prehistoric painting thought to depict magic mushrooms, though. An Algerian mural that may show the species Psilocybe mairei is 7000 to 9000 years old.

multicellular evolution not linear

The Scientist | Multicellular blue-green algae made the transition from single-celled to multi-celled not once, but several times over the course of history, according to a study published last week (February 14) in BMC Evolutionary Biology, giving support to the idea that the evolution of multicellularity may not have been as big of an evolutionary leap as scientists once believed.

"Simple multicellularity has evolved a number of times within the bacteria and as many as two dozen times within the eukaryotes," paleobiologist Andrew Knoll of Harvard University, who was not involved in the research, said in an email, but relatively little is known about how that transition occurs. This paper provides an "explicit phylogenetic reconstruction" of one group that has evolved multicellular forms, and shows that it's not a simple linear progression of complexity.

In cyanobacteria, "multicellularity is easy to lose and regain," agreed Bettina Schirrmeister of the University of Zurich, who co-authored the study. "It's not this classical transition from unicellular to multicellular to more complex forms as we might have expected in the past."

Blue-green algae, photosynthetic prokaryotes also known as cyanobacteria, first appeared in the fossil record almost 2.5 billion years ago, and have since populated most of the world in a variety of unicellular and multicellular forms. Using gene sequences from 1,254 species of modern cyanobacteria, a team of researchers led by Bettina Schirrmeister of the University of Zurich
created over 11,000 different phylogenetic trees that helped pinpoint when multicellularity evolved in this lineage.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

how the swedes set up julian assange...,

Video - Claes Borgstrom explains how a Swedish politician became involved in the Julian Assange case.

CounterPunch | Our hero has found himself in quite a mess. And meanwhile, in order to create more confusion and undermine Julian’s unflagging popularity, the Guardian team has cooked up a new charge: this time it is anti-Semitism. It is much easier to shout “Anti-Semite!” than to defend The Guardian against these very real accusations: falsification of cables, plagiarism, manipulation, deliberate smearing of Julian Assange…

tyranny, rebellion, and corporate media monopolies

MediaLens | Julian Assange recently said of the Guardian, formerly one of WikiLeaks’ media partners:
‘There’s a point I want to make about perceived moral institutions such as the Guardian and the New York Times. The Guardian has good people in it. It also has a coterie of people at the top who have other interests…

What drives a paper like the Guardian or the New York Times is not their inner moral values; it is simply that they have a market. In the United Kingdom, there is a market called "educated liberals". "Educated liberals" want to buy a newspaper, they buy the Guardian, and therefore an institution arises to fulfil that market, and that institution needs to be managed. And those people at the top of that institution simply manage the institution that fulfils that market.

‘What is in the newspaper is not a reflection of the values of the people in that institution. It is a reflection of the market demand for particular material. Not a reflection of good values.’
The world really does need to take the golden opportunity offered by the internet to break from corporate media driven by market demands. Just as Obama and Cameron are selling themselves as passionate supporters of revolution in the Middle East, so the liberal media are selling themselves as enthusiastic partners in the social media revolution.

But we need an authentic people’s media rooted, not in profit, not even in revenue, not in power, status or phoney establishment respectability. We need media driven by an uncompromised commitment to investigating the true causes of the problems afflicting our world. Many of these problems are rooted precisely in corporate greed.

welcome to the abyss

Guardian | In the history of painting one can sometimes find strange prophecies: prophecies that were not intended as such by the painter. It is almost as if the visible by itself can have its own nightmares. For example, in Breughel's Triumph of Death, painted in the 1560s and now in the Prado museum, there is already a terrible prophecy of the Nazi extermination camps.

Most specific prophecies are bound to be bad, for, throughout history, there are always new terrors. Even if some of the terrors disappear, there are no new happinesses - happiness is always the old one. It is the modes of struggle for this happiness that change.

Half a century before Breughel, Hieronymus Bosch painted his Millennium Triptych. The left-hand panel shows Adam and Eve in Paradise, the large central panel describes the Garden of Earthly Delights, and the right-hand panel depicts hell. And this hell has become a strange prophecy of the mental climate imposed on the world, at the end of our century, by globalisation and the new economic order.

Let me try to explain how. It has little to do with the symbolism employed in the painting. Bosch's symbols probably came from the secret, proverbial, heretical language of certain 15th-century millennial sects, who believed that, if evil could be overcome, it was possible to build heaven on earth. Many essays have been written about the allegories to be found in his work. Yet if Bosch's vision of hell is prophetic, the prophecy is not so much in the details - haunting and grotesque as they are - as in the whole. Or, to put it another way, in what constitutes the space of hell.

There is no horizon there. There is no continuity between actions, there are no pauses, no paths, no pattern, no past and no future. There is only the clamour of the disparate, fragmentary present. Everywhere there are surprises and sensations, yet nowhere is there any outcome. Nothing flows through: everything interrupts. There is a kind of spatial delirium.

Compare this space to what one sees in the average publicity slot, or in a typical CNN news bulletin, or any mass-media commentary. There is a comparable incoherence, a comparable wilderness of separate excitements, a similar frenzy.

Bosch's prophecy was of the world-picture that is communicated to us today by the media under the impact of globalisation, with its delinquent need to sell incessantly. Both are like a puzzle whose wretched pieces do not fit together.

And this was precisely the phrase that the Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos used in an open letter about the new world order. He was writing from the Chiapas, southeast Mexico, where he leads insurgents fighting for liberation from the Mexican state. He sees the planet today as the battlefield of a fourth world war. (The third was the so-called cold war.) The aim of the belligerents is the conquest of the entire world through the market. The arsenals are financial; there are nevertheless millions of people being maimed or killed every moment.

The aim of those waging the war is to rule the world from new, abstract power centres - megapoles of the market, which will be subject to no control except that of the logic of investment. "Thanks to computers and the technological revolution," he writes, "the financial markets, operating from their offices and answerable to nobody but themselves, have been imposing their laws and world-view on the planet as whole. Globalisation is merely the totalitarian extension of the logic of the finance markets to all aspects of life." Meanwhile, nine-tenths of the women and men on the planet live with the jagged pieces which do not fit.

how the end begins: the road to nuclear ww-III

NYTimes | When Rosenbaum turns to the Middle East as a hot center of nuclear danger, however, he hits his stride. He’s already explored the question of the morality of deterrence, of threatening to kill millions of people in a retaliatory nuclear attack if the United States were struck with nuclear weapons. He’s noted that the World Court in 1996 adjudged “that the entire system of nuclear deterrence was a war crime.” That may be so, Rosenbaum acknowledges, but what is Israel, in particular, to do?

Surrounded by enemies who call for its destruction, Rosenbaum writes, Israel has assembled a substantial if unacknowledged nuclear arsenal. An attack by a ­nuclear-armed regional enemy — perhaps Iran at some future date when it has acquired nuclear weapons and the missiles with which to deliver them — could materialize without effective warning, and only a few nuclear weapons would be enough to destroy the country. Israel has therefore deployed nuclear cruise missiles on a small fleet of German-made submarines that reportedly patrol the Iranian coast. The submarines give Israel a secure second-strike capability, which deterrence theory predicts should be adequate to prevent a rational enemy from attacking. But what if deterrence fails?

The Jews would then be visited with a second Holocaust, Rosenbaum observes. He calls this possibility “Hitler’s chain reaction,” noting that the United States had raced to develop the atomic bomb in the first place because it feared that Nazi Germany was working on such a weapon. “The contemporary Middle East is a Hitler dream come true,” he writes sardonically. “The Jews have been compelled by the Holocaust and history to, in effect, round themselves up and may feel compelled by history to inflict an attack with genocidal consequences on others that could well precede a second one for them.” That is, either Israel would attack first with nuclear weapons, pre-emptively, and then be attacked in turn, or its submarines would retaliate after Israel was destroyed. Either way, a second Holocaust would result.

why no defence of saudi "right to protest"?

ActivistPost | Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been exhaustively in front of cameras promoting the right for people to protest in Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, and Libya. She's been touting the freedom to use social networking sites as a way for Arab people to organize against their oppressive regimes. Now, the Administration is even considering arming the opposition in Libya.

Clinton's perpetual propaganda efforts exposed her blatant hypocrisy when a silent peaceful protester was violently removed from one of her recent speeches on the very subject. However, the hypocrisy now seems to go much deeper in her deafening silence over the prospect for protests in Saudi Arabia.

After Human Rights Watch revealed that a nationwide "Day of Rage" protest had been planned in Saudi Arabia for this week, March 11th, Bloomberg reported that the Saudi government claims that demonstrations and marches are "strictly" prohibited by law. A Saudi Interior Ministry official said protests "contradict Islamic values" and "They harm public interest, infringe on the rights of others, spread chaos and lead to bloodshed."

This prohibition of popular dissent proves beyond a shadow of doubt that Saudi Arabia is indeed the most tyrannical authoritarian regime in the Arab world. Yet, U.S. Administration officials have been strangely silent about supporting the people's uprising there.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Story of Citizens United v. FEC (2011)

Video - The Story of Citizens United v. FEC (2011)

aljazeera has won the information war...,

Uploaded by Top-Notch112. - News videos from around the world.

CounterPunch | None other than the US Secretary of State herself, Hillary Clinton, paid fulsome tribute to Al Jazeera last Wednesday, March 2. Appearing before a US Foreign Policy Priorities committee, she was asked by Senator Richard Lugar to impart her views on how well the US was promoting its message across the world.

Clinton promptly volunteered that America is in an "information war and we are losing the war," and furthermore, that "Al Jazeera is winning".

"Let’s talk straight realpolitik," Clinton went on. "We are in a huge competition" for global influence and global markets. China and Russia have started multi-language television networks, even as the US cuts back in this area. "We are paying a big price" for dismantling international communications networks after the end of the Cold War. "Our private media cannot fill that gap."

As noted here across the past couple of weeks, there’s been a flourishing little internet industry claiming that the overthrow of Mubarak came courtesy of US Twitter-Facebook Command. The New York Times runs numerous articles about the role of Twitter and Facebook while simultaneously ignoring or reviling Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

Of course, in any discussion of the role of the internet in fuelling the upsurges across the Middle East, WikiLeaks should be given major credit. But WikiLeaks, along with Twitter and Facebook, all pale into insignificance next to the role of Al Jazeera,

Millions of Arabs can’t tweet. Facebook is unfamiliar to them. But most watch TV, which means they all watch Al Jazeera. And of course it was Al Jazeera which detonated the IED exploding under the Palestinian Authority, namely the cache of documents known as the Palestine Papers.

There were huge ironies in Clinton’s confession to Senator Lugar and his colleagues. In the late 1970s, radicals in the United Nations were eagerly promoting the need for a 'New World Information Order' (NWIO) to counter the lock on world communications and hence propaganda by the advanced industrial countries, preeminently the United States.

distorting the essence of the arab revolutions

Counterpunch | “Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West. . . As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression.” ~ Edward Said

In his book “Manufacturing Consent,” Noam Chomsky discusses the role of the mainstream, corporate media in conditioning the public to conform to the views and policies of society’s powerful ruling elite.

Regarding these media outlets- as supposed to independent ones- he argues that “their role is quite different, it's diversion.” He describes those who distort facts to suit the interests of the powerful as living “in a world of comforting illusion.” They present a narrative that is more fiction than fact, one of fantasy rather than analysis. It’s actually “a form of propaganda, which is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state,” Chomsky argues.

One such enabler is New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. His frequently shallow and eccentric analysis of events in the Middle East has been noted for many years, whether it is his deliberate misrepresentation of the Camp David negotiations in July 2000, or his hyped columns regarding alleged – and as it turned out non-existent- weapons of mass destruction in Iraq on behalf of the Bush administration in the prelude to the 2003 war.

And now he’s at it again, with his incredible contention that the revolutions sweeping the Arab World, from Tunisia Egypt, and Libya, to Yemen, Bahrain, and beyond are due to external factors. In Friedman’s delusional world, the presence of decades-long repression, police state, corruption, poverty, economic strangulation, lack of infrastructure, or, in short, the collapse of the modern civil state in the Arab World for the benefit of thugs, thieves and Western underlings were not the real factors in the uprisings and revolutions of millions of Arabs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf.

In his column on March 2, 2011, Friedman gives five reasons for these great revolutions, none of which is true. He starts by ridiculously claiming that it was President Barack Obama who inspired the Youth in the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries because of his race, middle name, and his 2009 Cairo speech. Clearly such opinion is an ethnocentric and distorted view of the Arab Middle East. Obama may inspire minorities in the West, but why would his skin color or the religion of his forefathers inspire people in the Middle East?

Former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice did not inspire the Arab masses although they were also African Americans occupying high positions in government. On the contrary these Secretaries attained the Arabs’ scorn because they represented a U.S. administration that invaded two Muslim countries, killing tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, with millions more suffering. Their administration used torture, carried out unjust prosecutions, and abused its power against Arabs and Muslims not only in Guantanamo Bay and other prisons around the world, but also inside the U.S. against many Muslim leaders and charitable organizations. Arabs are not so naïve as to be inspired by the symbolism of skin color or middle name. It is a government’s policies and principles that inspire the oppressed whether in the U.S. or the Arab World.

Undoubtedly people around the world had hoped that the election of Obama would bring a new dawn of American foreign policy that would not only reverse much of the previous administration’s atrocious policies with regard to the Muslim World, but also institute pro-people policies against their dictators.

But Obama has broken nearly every meaningful promise he made in his June 2009 Cairo speech (see my article Promises Made.. Promises Unkept). If anything, Obama is perceived as a big disappointment across the Arab World. He exhibits the image of a weak and ineffective leader, as in the case of closing Guantanamo, as well as an unprincipled and hypocritical politician with regard to the illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian lands.

How could Obama inspire a small child, much less revolutionaries, when he has just vetoed in the U.N. Security Council his own declared policy that the Israeli settlements are illegal and must stop? During the 28 and 18 revolutionary days of continuous demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt respectively, not a single statement by any opposition figure had mentioned Obama in a positive light.

Monday, March 07, 2011

the high cost of oil..,

Video - Matt Damon "I no longer hope for audacity".

LATimes | The spread of popular revolt in the Middle East to Libya has exacerbated a spike in oil prices and gasoline costs at the pump. In turn, this has stimulated widespread complaints about the lack of a coherent U.S. foreign policy toward despots in the region. This is not the first time this has happened.

More than four decades ago, a military coup, led by a 27-year-old Moammar Kadafi, overthrew Libya's ineffectual King Idris and expelled all American and British troops from their large Libyan airbases. The new regime demanded a substantial increase in the price of Libyan oil — at a time when Libya supplied about 30% of Europe's oil.

Following Kadafi's lead, Abu Dhabi, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia soon sought higher prices for their oil. But the price increases didn't satisfy Kadafi or the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries for long. The nations of OPEC demanded "equity participation" in the oil companies. This was a turning point as the oil-producing nations established control over the oil in their lands. The Arab embargo of October 1973 soon thereafter made it unmistakable that control over Middle East oil production had shifted from U.S. and European oil companies — which for decades had controlled both output and prices — to the nations in whose lands the oil was located.

President Nixon had a clear foreign policy response to this. The United States turned to our Cold War allies Saudi Arabia and Iran for support, in spite of their autocratic nature. Washington provided them with military aid and encouraged economic interdependence, hoping that in exchange the countries would serve as the Middle East's "two pillars" of anti-Soviet stability and free-flowing oil. Needless to say, that plan failed miserably.

The Iranian "pillar" collapsed a few years later in an anti-American Islamic revolution. And even though Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states of the Persian Gulf have nominally remained U.S. allies, they, not we, hold the key strings in the relationship. The United States continues to support and aid these regimes despite their authoritarianism. If the sheiks of the Persian Gulf decide to put down popular unrest with the same fervor Libya has, the hands of U.S. foreign policy almost certainly will be tied.

The problem, however, is not that the United States has had the wrong foreign policy. The problem lies in the failures of U.S. domestic policies. For 40 years, we have had no effective response to what eight presidents — from Nixon to Barack Obama — have called our addiction to oil. The fundamental problem, of course, is that notwithstanding all the laws Congress has enacted since the oil embargo of 1973, we have still not solved the nation's energy problems.

The fundamental difficulties that brought energy into the policy forefront then remain unabated. The United States has 4% of the world's population, but we consume 25% of the world's oil. Today, we import more than 50% of our oil, compared with 35% in 1973, the year the Arab oil embargo shocked consumers at the pump.

tap the strategic petroleum reserve? why?

CNN | This isn't like the last time the U.S. tapped the SPR back in 2005. That followed a huge surge in oil and gas prices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which did actually wreak havoc on production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite all the worries about supply disruption, the U.S. still is not facing any shortage. In fact, it's the exact opposite.

"If you really look at the inventories in the U.S., frankly we're oversupplied," said Blake Fernandez, an analyst who covers shares of integrated oil companies and independent refiners for energy research firm Howard Weil in New Orleans.

According to the most recent figures from the Department of Energy, the stockpile of oil is 1.4% above levels from last year. Fernandez added that according to his firm's estimates, inventories are 4% above their 5-year average.

Tapping the SPR is short-sighted, said David Pursell, managing director with Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., a Houston-based investment bank focusing on the energy industry.
CNN iReport: How much is gas where you live?

Pursell said he recognizes that lawmakers must be getting angry calls from anxious constituents about gas prices. But that's not an excuse to do something without fully thinking about the consequences

"Outside of Washington, this plan doesn't make sense," Pursell said. "But we don't have a shortage of crude, just a fear of a shortage. So where would you put the oil you release from the SPR?"

moore on monopoly's endgame...,

Video - Speech delivered at Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, March 5, 2011

HuffPo | America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you'll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It's just that it's not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer "bailout" of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can't bring yourself to call that a financial coup d'état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we'd have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic -- and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

singin those $4.00/gallon blues already...,

Fox4News | AAA reports gas prices rose by four cents on Saturday night. The new national average is $3.47. People is Kansas City say they're feeling the pain at the pump as prices continue to soar.

FOX 4 visited Poco's Mexican Restaurant on Sunday morning. Customers say they eat there because the food's good and the prices are good too. Still, the owner admits sometimes people keep a watchful eye as the gas prices change across the street from the restaurant. Poco's also pays attention to the price of gas because delivery is a part of their business.

"It's really tough for us because we also do catering and we're always on the road," said Claudia Gutierrez with Poco's. "We had to up our prices a little bit and the customers aren't really happy about that."

Raymond and Gina Munoz say they take their kids to Poco's twice a month. On Sunday, their bill was about $50.

"That's a tank of gas for one of our vehicles," said customer Gina Munoz.

The Munoz family says they may have to cut back on eating out.

"You've gotta have gas to go places, so it's like, what do you do?" said Raymond Munoz. "You've got to find ways to compensate I guess."

The Munoz family say they may end up walking to the restaurant next time. Other customers say they'll keep a bright outlook even though it doesn't look so bright at the gas station across the street.

The owner of Poco's says they shop around for the best gas prices in both Kansas and Missouri before they head out on a food delivery.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

is you is or is you ain't fit'na tap?!?!?!

Reuters | White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said on Sunday the Obama administration is considering tapping into the U.S. strategic oil reserve as one way to help ease soaring oil prices.

Speaking on NBC television's "Meet the Press," Daley said: "We are looking at the options. The issue of the reserves is one we are considering. ... All matters have to be on the table."

There has been support among Senate Democrats for tapping the reserves. Senator Jay Rockefeller on Thursday became the third Democrat to ask President Barack Obama to tap America's emergency oil supply to cool prices that have risen past $100 a barrel on the strife in Libya.

In a letter to Obama, Rockefeller said a "limited draw-down" from the nation's 727-million-barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve "can protect our national security by preventing or reducing the adverse impact of an oil shortage."

On Wednesday, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu ruled out releasing oil from the reserve, saying ramped up oil production in Saudi Arabia should lower the crude price.

"That's going to mitigate the price increase," he told reporters on Wednesday. "We're hoping market forces will take care of this."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Thursday the United States and other major economies could tap strategic reserves to keep oil prices from derailing a global recovery.

Geithner said high food and oil prices were causing hardships in many parts of the world. But he said Americans were feeling less impact.

the top vs the food-powered make-work multitude

The L-Curve | The red line represents a graph of family income across the population. The height of the curve at any point is the height of a stack of $100 bills equalling that income. Unless you have a very old browser you will be able to zoom. Be sure to zoom both in and out.

The US population is represented along the length of the football field, arranged in order of income.

Median US family income (the family at the 50 yard line) is ~$40,000 (a stack of $100 bills 1.6 inches high.)

--The family on the 95 yard line earns about $100,000 per year, a stack of $100 bills about 4 inches high.

--At the 99 yard line the income is about $300,000, a stack of $100 bills about a foot high.

--The curve reaches $1 million (a 40 inch high stack of $100 bills) one foot from the goal line.

--From there it keeps going goes up 50 km (~30 miles) on this scale!

What are the implications of this picture?

I am not an economist, but then again, most likely you aren't either. On the other hand, the economy affects you and me, so we need to come to grips with these issues to participate intelligently in the political process. There needs to be a genuine national dialog on these issues at all levels. The L-Curve graph represents income, not wealth. The distribution of wealth is even more skewed.

how will america handle the fall of its middle-east empire?

Telegraph | Empires can collapse in the course of a generation. At the end of the 16th century, the Spanish looked dominant. Twenty-five years later, they were on their knees, over-extended, bankrupt, and incapable of coping with the emergent maritime powers of Britain and Holland. The British empire reached its fullest extent in 1930. Twenty years later, it was all over.

Today, it is reasonable to ask whether the United States, seemingly invincible a decade ago, will follow the same trajectory. America has suffered two convulsive blows in the last three years. The first was the financial crisis of 2008, whose consequences are yet to be properly felt. Although the immediate cause was the debacle in the mortgage market, the underlying problem was chronic imbalance in the economy.

For a number of years, America has been incapable of funding its domestic programmes and overseas commitments without resorting to massive help from China, its global rival. China has a pressing motive to assist: it needs to sustain US demand in order to provide a market for its exports and thus avert an economic crisis of its own. This situation is the contemporary equivalent of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the doctrine which prevented nuclear war breaking out between America and Russia.

Unlike MAD, this pact is unsustainable. But Barack Obama has not sought to address the problem. Instead, he responded to the crisis with the same failed policies that caused the trouble in the first place: easy credit and yet more debt. It is certain that America will, in due course, be forced into a massive adjustment both to its living standards at home and its commitments abroad.

This matters because, following the second convulsive blow, America’s global interests are under threat on a scale never before seen. Since 1956, when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles pulled the plug on Britain and France over Suez, the Arab world has been a US domain. At first, there were promises that it would tolerate independence and self-determination. But this did not last long; America chose to govern through brutal and corrupt dictators, supplied with arms, military training and advice from Washington.

The momentous importance of the last few weeks is that this profitable, though morally bankrupt, arrangement appears to be coming to an end. One of the choicest ironies of the bloody and macabre death throes of the regime in Libya is that Colonel Gaddafi would have been wiser to have stayed out of the US sphere of influence. When he joined forces with George Bush and Tony Blair five years ago, the ageing dictator was leaping on to a bandwagon that was about to grind to a halt.

In Washington, President Obama has not been stressing this aspect of affairs. Instead, after hesitation, he has presented the recent uprisings as democratic and even pro-American, indeed a triumph for the latest methods of Western communication such as Twitter and Facebook. Many sympathetic commentators have therefore claimed that the Arab revolutions bear comparison with the 1989 uprising of the peoples of Eastern Europe against Soviet tyranny.

I would guess that the analogy is apt. Just as 1989 saw the collapse of the Russian empire in Eastern Europe, so it now looks as if 2011 will mark the removal of many of America’s client regimes in the Arab world. It is highly unlikely, however, that events will thereafter take the tidy path the White House would prefer. Far from being inspired by Twitter, a great many of Arab people who have driven the sensational events of recent weeks are illiterate. They have been impelled into action by mass poverty and unemployment, allied to a sense of disgust at vast divergences of wealth and grotesque corruption. It is too early to chart the future course of events with confidence, but it seems unlikely that these liberated peoples will look to Washington and New York as their political or economic model.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

the collapse of the old oil order: how the petroleum age will end

TomDispatch | Whatever the outcome of the protests, uprisings, and rebellions now sweeping the Middle East, one thing is guaranteed: the world of oil will be permanently transformed. Consider everything that’s now happening as just the first tremor of an oilquake that will shake our world to its core.

For a century stretching back to the discovery of oil in southwestern Persia before World War I, Western powers have repeatedly intervened in the Middle East to ensure the survival of authoritarian governments devoted to producing petroleum. Without such interventions, the expansion of Western economies after World War II and the current affluence of industrialized societies would be inconceivable.

Here, however, is the news that should be on the front pages of newspapers everywhere: That old oil order is dying, and with its demise we will see the end of cheap and readily accessible petroleum -- forever.

Ending the Petroleum Age
Let’s try to take the measure of what exactly is at risk in the current tumult. As a start, there is almost no way to give full justice to the critical role played by Middle Eastern oil in the world’s energy equation. Although cheap coal fueled the original Industrial Revolution, powering railroads, steamships, and factories, cheap oil has made possible the automobile, the aviation industry, suburbia, mechanized agriculture, and an explosion of economic globalization. And while a handful of major oil-producing areas launched the Petroleum Age -- the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Romania, the area around Baku (in what was then the Czarist Russian empire), and the Dutch East Indies -- it’s been the Middle East that has quenched the world’s thirst for oil since World War II.

In 2009, the most recent year for which such data is available, BP reported that suppliers in the Middle East and North Africa jointly produced 29 million barrels per day, or 36% of the world’s total oil supply -- and even this doesn’t begin to suggest the region’s importance to the petroleum economy. More than any other area, the Middle East has funneled its production into export markets to satisfy the energy cravings of oil-importing powers like the United States, China, Japan, and the European Union (EU). We’re talking 20 million barrels funneled into export markets every day. Compare that to Russia, the world’s top individual producer, at seven million barrels in exportable oil, the continent of Africa at six million, and South America at a mere one million.

As it happens, Middle Eastern producers will be even more important in the years to come because they possess an estimated two-thirds of remaining untapped petroleum reserves. According to recent projections by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Middle East and North Africa will jointly provide approximately 43% of the world’s crude petroleum supply by 2035 (up from 37% in 2007), and will produce an even greater share of the world’s exportable oil.

To put the matter baldly: The world economy requires an increasing supply of affordable petroleum. The Middle East alone can provide that supply. That’s why Western governments have long supported “stable” authoritarian regimes throughout the region, regularly supplying and training their security forces. Now, this stultifying, petrified order, whose greatest success was producing oil for the world economy, is disintegrating. Don’t count on any new order (or disorder) to deliver enough cheap oil to preserve the Petroleum Age.

To appreciate why this will be so, a little history lesson is in order.

saudis mobilize thousands of troops to quell revolt

The Independent | Saudi Arabia was yesterday drafting up to 10,000 security personnel into its north-eastern Shia Muslim provinces, clogging the highways into Dammam and other cities with busloads of troops in fear of next week's "day of rage" by what is now called the "Hunayn Revolution".

Saudi Arabia's worst nightmare – the arrival of the new Arab awakening of rebellion and insurrection in the kingdom – is now casting its long shadow over the House of Saud. Provoked by the Shia majority uprising in the neighbouring Sunni-dominated island of Bahrain, where protesters are calling for the overthrow of the ruling al-Khalifa family, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is widely reported to have told the Bahraini authorities that if they do not crush their Shia revolt, his own forces will.

The opposition is expecting at least 20,000 Saudis to gather in Riyadh and in the Shia Muslim provinces of the north-east of the country in six days, to demand an end to corruption and, if necessary, the overthrow of the House of Saud. Saudi security forces have deployed troops and armed police across the Qatif area – where most of Saudi Arabia's Shia Muslims live – and yesterday would-be protesters circulated photographs of armoured vehicles and buses of the state-security police on a highway near the port city of Dammam.

Although desperate to avoid any outside news of the extent of the protests spreading, Saudi security officials have known for more than a month that the revolt of Shia Muslims in the tiny island of Bahrain was expected to spread to Saudi Arabia. Within the Saudi kingdom, thousands of emails and Facebook messages have encouraged Saudi Sunni Muslims to join the planned demonstrations across the "conservative" and highly corrupt kingdom. They suggest – and this idea is clearly co-ordinated – that during confrontations with armed police or the army next Friday, Saudi women should be placed among the front ranks of the protesters to dissuade the Saudi security forces from opening fire.

If the Saudi royal family decides to use maximum violence against demonstrators, US President Barack Obama will be confronted by one of the most sensitive Middle East decisions of his administration. In Egypt, he only supported the demonstrators after the police used unrestrained firepower against protesters. But in Saudi Arabia – supposedly a "key ally" of the US and one of the world's principal oil producers – he will be loath to protect the innocent.

why washington doesn't care about jobs

The Nation | Remember when everyone agreed that what the American people wanted from Washington was, in John Boehner’s words, a “relentless focus on creating jobs”? In the past few months the unemployment rate has barely budged, and yet lawmakers of both parties have jettisoned the jobs agenda in favor of an austerity program that will barely reduce the deficit but will almost certainly hurt employment. If the Republican proposal to trim $60 billion from the fiscal budget puts thousands out of work, well then, says Boehner, “so be it.”

This disconnect between the jobs crisis in the country and the blithe dismissal thereof in Washington is the most incomprehensible aspect of the political moment. But I think there are two numbers that go a long way toward explaining it.

The first is 4.2. That’s the percentage of Americans with a four-year college degree who are unemployed. It’s less than half the official unemployment rate of 9 percent for the labor force as a whole and one-fourth the underemployment rate (which counts those who have given up looking for work or are working part time but want full-time work) of 16.1 percent. So while the overall economy continues to suffer through the worst labor market since the Great Depression, the elite centers of power have recovered. For those of us fortunate enough to have graduated from college—and to have escaped foreclosure or an underwater mortgage—normalcy has returned.

The other number is 5.7 percent. That’s the unemployment rate for the Washington/Arlington/Alexandria metro area and just so happens to be lowest among large metropolitan areas in the entire country. In 2010 the DC metro area added 57,000 jobs, more than any in the nation, and now boasts the hottest market for commercial office space. In other words: DC is booming. You can see it in the restaurants opening all over North West, the high prices that condos fetch in the real estate market and the general placid sense of bourgeois comfort that suffuses the affluent upper- and upper-middle-class pockets of the region.

What these two numbers add up to is a governing elite that is profoundly alienated from the lived experiences of the millions of Americans who are barely surviving the ravages of the Great Recession. As much as the pernicious influence of big money and the plutocrats’ pseudo-obsession with budget deficits, it is this social distance between decision-makers and citizens that explains the almost surreal detachment of the current Washington political conversation from the economic realities working-class, middle-class and poor people face.

Social distance of this sort isn’t new, of course. The “out of touchness” of the Beltway is such a cliché that Beltway denizens themselves love to invoke it to demonstrate their self-awareness. But I’d wager the social distance that characterizes this moment is probably as bad as it’s been in at least a generation. We’ve had more than three decades of accelerating inequality that has placed the top 10 percent further and further away from the bottom 90 percent, followed by a financial crisis and “recovery” that has only exacerbated these distributional trends. There were already Two Americas before the Great Recession, but in the wake of that seismic disruption, those two continents have only moved further apart.

Friday, March 04, 2011

when the game is over, it all goes back in the box...,

Video - Zeitgeist Moving Forward

Wikipedia | Zeitgeist: Moving Forward is arranged into four successive parts. Within each part is an amalgam of interviews, narration and animated sequences.

Part I: Human Nature
The film begins with a brief animated sequence narrated by Jacque Fresco (founder of The Venus Project). He describes his adolescent life and discontinuation of public education at the age of 14 to study under his own will. Fresco's radical views resulted from his experiences during the Great Depression and World War II. Studying the social sciences, mechanical and social engineering, architecture among numerous other fields of study for 75 years have failed to alter this initial radical disposition, which is outlined in greater detail later in the film. The discussion turns to human behavior and the nature vs. nurture debate. This portion begins with a small clip with Robert Sapolsky summing up the nature vs. nurture debate in which he essentially refers to it as a "false dichotomy." After which he states that "it is virtually impossible to understand how biology works, outside the context of environment." During which time the film then goes onto describe that it is neither Nature or Nurture that shapes human behavior but both are supposed to influence behavior. The interviewed pundits state that even with genetic predispositions to diseases, the expression and manifestation of disease is largely determined by environmental stressors. Disease, criminal activity and addictions are also placed in the same light. One study discussed, showed that newly born babies are more likely to die if they are not touched. Another study which was mentioned, claimed to show how stressed women were more likely to have children with addiction disorders. A reference is made to the unborn children who were in utero during the Dutch famine of 1944. The "Dutch Famine Birth Cohort Study" is mentioned to have shown that obesity and other health complications became common problems later in life, due to prolonged starvation of their mother during pregnancy.[4] Comparisons are made by sociologists of criminals in different parts of the world and how different cultures with different values can often have more peaceful inhabitants. An Anabaptist sect called the Hutterites are mentioned to have never reported a homicide in any of their societies. The overall conclusion of Part I is that social environment and cultural conditioning play a large part in shaping human behavior.

Part II: Social Pathology
The origins of our modern economic paradigm are explored, beginning with John Locke and Adam Smith. In Two Treatises of Government, John Locke lays out the fundamental principles of private ownership of land, labor and capital. In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith mentions the invisible hand balancing out supply and demand leading to trade equilibrium.[5] The argument becomes religious as the invisible hand is interpreted as the hand of God. A critical view of economic theory is made by questioning the need for private property, money and the inherent inequality between agents in the system. Also seen critically is the need for cyclical consumption in order to maintain market share which results in wasted resources. Planned obsolescence is shown to be another important side-effect of the market system, where goods are deliberately made defective or not having sufficient technology in order to maintain a large turnover rate. The economic paradigm is then termed anti-economy due to these profligate activities. The above described process of individuals and groups exchanging goods, labor and capital is mentioned as the market economy.

The other component is the monetary economy. The monetary system regulates the money supply and interest rates by buying/selling treasuries. More critical views of the monetary system are explained. According to Zeitgeist, in the final analysis the current monetary system can only result in default or hyperinflation. This is because when money comes into existence it is created by loans at interest. The existing money supply is only the principal. The interest to pay the loan that created the money does not exist in the money supply and must be borrowed repetitively in order to service the debt. Due to this exponential money supply growth, Zeitgeist predicts the value of money is eventually destroyed as evidenced by the 96% devaluation of the U.S. money supply since the Federal Reserve was chartered in 1914 and 80% devaluation since the U.S. ended the Bretton Woods agreement in 1971. [6][7]

Part III: Project Earth
As with Zeitgeist: Addendum, to improve the human condition the film presents a "Resource-Based Economy" as advocated by Jacque Fresco. The dialogue leads to a train of thought on how human civilization should start from the beginning. Imagine an exact copy of Earth somewhere in space: conduct a survey of the planet, to assess the resource types, locations, quantities, to satisfy human demands; track the consumption and depletion of resources to regulate human demands and maintain the condition of the environment; localize the distribution of resources, to control environmental impacts and maintain self-sufficiency; place an emphasis on recycling and the use of public transportation, in order to avoid resource waste. Through the global application of existing revolutionary technologies in the manufacturing and distribution sectors, labor and money will eventually become obsolete; thereby establishing the foundation of a Resource-Based Economy. Various technologies for improving civilization under the Resource-Based Economy are described. The city structure will consist of concentric rings, every ring serving one critical function necessary for the function of a self-sufficient city: agriculture, energy production, residents, hospitals, schools, etc. For agriculture, hydroponics and aeroponics are mentioned as a possible solutions for food shortages. Maglev trains provide transport for the city residents. Manufacturing and construction become automated with mechanized technologies, such as three-dimensional printing and computer-aided manufacturing. Mentioned energy production methods: photovoltaic paint, wind turbines, pressure transducers and geothermal power plants.

Part IV: Rise
The current world state of affairs is described in a dire light. The peak oil phenomenon is seen as a threat to civilization’s progress, potentially resulting in extinction. A strong case is presented that pollution, deforestation, climate change, overpopulation, and warfare are all created and perpetuated by the socioeconomic system. Various poverty statistics shown as progressive worsening of world culture. According to the United Nations, currently 18,000 children a day die from starvation.[8] Also according to the UN, global poverty rates have doubled since the 1970s.[9][10][11] Not directly mentioned, currently the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than at any time since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The top 1% own more than 40% of the planet’s wealth.[12] In other estimates not mentioned, the top 2% own more than 50% of the planet’s wealth.[13]

The movie closes with a standoff between protesters on the streets of Times Square in New York City facing off against police in riot gear while in the midst of global economic depression. People withdraw trillions of dollars from the world’s central banks, then dump the money at the doors of the banks. The police stand down

a dirty little oil market secret

KCStar | Oil markets are settling down this morning as analysts report Saudi Arabia has boosted their oil output to over 9 million barrels / day.

Holy smokes. Are we gullible!

Have the Saudis really boosted oil output?

Fresh Saudi oil output or are they just tapping storage?

In spite of this short term respite, it’s becoming increasing evident; we are in one heck of an oil related economy crunching quagmire. Oil prices are moving to catastrophic levels and there doesn’t seem to be much we can really do about it. Contrary to what’s been foretold by economists, new energy supplies aren’t gushing into these higher oil prices. Nor is it really curtailing the global demand.

So how did we get into this crucial societal dry hole?

I’ll contend we’ve been led astray by a false faith in economics, a misunderstanding of basic geologic depletion and an intentional false yarn spun about prolific oil supplies.

Although most think oil producers withhold supplies to evoke higher prices, it might well be that oil producers- including Saudi Arabia- are currently producing flat out. There’s just no more there! This is exactly the definition of ‘peak oil’. With the world’s voracious consumption of +87 million barrels / day, we are now up against the limits to growth. Oil production might not ever be able to expand from here. It’s either a downhill slide, or it soon shall be. Sure there will be new oil fields brought on line but this fresh output won’t even counter the current depletion rates of existing aging fields. After all, the average age of the world’s giant oil fields (+500,000 barrels/ day) is 55 years! We aren’t out of oil, but we are out of the capacity to produce more.

How did we miscalculate so badly on something so crucial?

norway: drillers hit record dry spell as reserves wane...,

Bloomberg | Statoil ASA (STL) and Eni SpA (ENI) are among companies with plans to drill a record number of wells in Norway’s far north this year to help the world’s second-largest gas exporter to sustain output. So far, they’ve struck out.

All four wells drilled in the Barents and Norwegian seas this year have failed to find oil or gas, adding to two dry wells in the North Sea, the biggest number of failures to start the year since the country’s oil era began in 1966, according to government data. Oil companies plan as many as 22 wells in Norway’s Arctic this year, up from 12 last year.

Helge Lund, chief executive officer at state-controlled oil company Statoil, says the industry has been unable to “crack the code” of the Barents Sea, off Scandinavia’s northern tip. Norway, where energy production makes up about 25 percent of the economy, is pushing into the Arctic and relying more on gas because oil output has slumped 50 percent since peaking in 2000.

The Barents Sea “is extremely important for Norwegian oil production given that the mature areas are in extreme decline,” said Torbjoern Kjus, an analyst at DnB NOR ASA in Oslo. “Every dry well is a setback, but we have to keep trying where there might be resources left if we’re going to maintain Norwegian production going for as long as possible.”

Thursday, March 03, 2011

the rise of "anti-western" christianity

BrusselsJournal | Occidental Christians assume that Christianity is Western. After all, “Europe is the faith”, asserted Hillaire Belloc. Although by birth a Middle Eastern religion, Christianity, at least as Westerners know it, soon became a European religion in the sense that it melded with various forms of European paganism. Christianity, the story runs, cannot exist in a vacuum. It conforms to the various cultures with which it comes in contact. In its European manifestation (after syncretization with Celtic, Germanic, Greek and Roman paganism), Western Christianity became the religious expression we know today. Comfortable with pagan-Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter, most Westerners could not conceive of Christianity any other way. (By “Westerner” is meant a European or someone of the European Diaspora.)

Yet Jenkins maintains this is not the entire picture. The idea of “Western Christianity,” he maintains, “distorts the true pattern of the religion’s development over time”. First, even during medieval Europe (which is heralded as the epitome of European Christendom), many Christians lived outside Europe and practiced other forms of Christianity. To the Armenian or Ethiopian Christian, European Christianity would have seemed odd. Furthermore, in more recent times, the missionary work of modern Europe has laid the foundation for a new type of Christianity that is different from anything that preceded it.

If “Europe is the faith” for Western Christianity, then, Jenkins maintains, “Africa is the faith” for the coming Christianity. In 1900, Europe possessed two-thirds of the world’s Christians. By 2025, that number will fall below 20%, with most Christians living in what Jenkins calls the “Global South”, largely a proxy term for “Third World”. The Global South could be thought of as slightly modified Gondwanaland, including Africa, Latin America, Philippines, southeast Asia/India, etc. This Global South, not the West, will be the new heart of Christendom.

The statistics are compelling. By 2025, nearly 75% of the world’s Catholics will be non-Western (mostly African and mestizo). At present, Nigeria has the world’s largest Catholic theological school. Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro may be the world’s largest Catholic church. India has more Christians than most Western nations. By 2050, more than 80% of Catholics in the U.S. will be of non-Western (often mestizo) origins. By 2050, only a small fraction of Anglicans will be English or of the European Diaspora. Nigeria, not England, is the new heart of Anglican Christianity. Lutherans, Presbyterians and other mainstream denominations find their chief centres of growth in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Then there are the ever-growing Pentecostal and other indigenous Christian churches. Pentecostals have made tremendous inroads in Latin America, and churches like the Zion Christian Church have grown tremendously in South Africa. The Zion Christian Church attracts over a million pilgrims every Easter (more than greet the Pope in St. Peter’s Square on Easter mornings).

But this is not simply a matter of static (European) Christianity being implemented by people of other races. Christianity itself is radically changing. The New Christendom is “no mirror image of the Old. It is a truly new and developing entity”. Jenkins writes:
“As Christianity moves South, it is in some ways returning to its roots. To use the intriguing description offered by Ghanaian scholar Kwame Bediako, what we are now witnessing is ‘the renewal of a non-Western religion.’”
As once Europeans appropriated Christian iconography as their own, so does the New Christianity in Latin America, where images are filtered through the lens of mestizo identity. The Catholic Church has proclaimed the Virgin of Guadalupe as the patron of all the Americas. Probably the result of syncretization with the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, the Guadalupe Virgin, the dark one (La Morena) as she is called, looks like the local Americanian and mestizo populations, not like Europeans. Likewise, images of the Cuban La Caridad show her “appearing to rescue black and mestizo sailors”. In Equador, the Virgin of El Quinche is popular “because her skin color is that of the local mestizos”. “Ethnically as much as spiritually,” these non-European Virgins are their Virgins.

mormon socialism?

Salt Lake Tribune | Whether one accepts the historical or theological claims of the Book of Mormon, one theme in it is obvious: At their most righteous, the Nephites presented in the book were benevolent socialists; at their most depraved, they were greedy free-market capitalists.

In the zenith of Nephite culture, “the Lord called his people Zion because they were of one heart and one mind and they did have all things in common — and there were no poor among them.” Having “all things in common” suggests a society invested in public infrastructure and welfare for the whole.

Redistribution is not an anomaly in Mormon scriptures. Joseph Smith declared that “It is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.” (Doctrine and Covenants 49:20).

For any conservative this is surely commie talk! Yet Smith persisted, “If you are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things” (D&C 78:5-6).

Early Mormon leaders advocated a United Order to redistribute wealth for the benefit of all Saints.

Though redistribution is the highest economic order in Mormon scripture, Sen. Chris Buttars vehemently denounced Alpine School District for allegedly advocating “democratic socialism.” He, Mitt Romney, Glenn Beck and others seem to believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a de facto 14th Article of Faith: We believe in the unquestioned virtue of unregulated capitalism.

But Mormon scripture makes such a belief indefensible. The notorious villains of Nephite civilization were the Gadianton Robbers, who perpetuated policies that exacerbated class inequality. They eventually “did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God” (Helaman 6:39).

Many politically powerful Latter-day Saints have also turned their back on the poor and working class in this country. The Patrick Henry Caucus, Eagle Forum and Romney are determined to eliminate the very social programs that have traditionally protected vulnerable populations. Conversely, they are equally invested in protecting the wealthy.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

can open science end the climate-change war?

Video - Two hour lecture on Berkeley climate science.

Guardian | For the past year, Muller has kept a low profile, working quietly on a new project with a team of academics hand-picked for their skills. They meet on campus regularly, to check progress, thrash out problems and hunt for oversights that might undermine their work. And for good reason. When Muller and his team go public with their findings in a few weeks, they will be muscling in on the ugliest and most hard-fought debate of modern times.

Muller calls his latest obsession the Berkeley Earth project. The aim is so simple that the complexity and magnitude of the undertaking is easy to miss. Starting from scratch, with new computer tools and more data than has ever been used, they will arrive at an independent assessment of global warming. The team will also make every piece of data it uses – 1.6bn data points – freely available on a website. It will post its workings alongside, including full information on how more than 100 years of data from thousands of instruments around the world are stitched together to give a historic record of the planet's temperature.

Muller is fed up with the politicised row that all too often engulfs climate science. By laying all its data and workings out in the open, where they can be checked and challenged by anyone, the Berkeley team hopes to achieve something remarkable: a broader consensus on global warming. In no other field would Muller's dream seem so ambitious, or perhaps, so naive.

"We are bringing the spirit of science back to a subject that has become too argumentative and too contentious," Muller says, over a cup of tea. "We are an independent, non-political, non-partisan group. We will gather the data, do the analysis, present the results and make all of it available. There will be no spin, whatever we find." Why does Muller feel compelled to shake up the world of climate change? "We are doing this because it is the most important project in the world today. Nothing else comes close," he says.

could small nuclear war reverse global warming?

National Geographic | Even a regional nuclear war could spark "unprecedented" global cooling and reduce rainfall for years, according to U.S. government computer models.

Widespread famine and disease would likely follow, experts speculate. During the Cold War a nuclear exchange between superpowers—such as the one feared for years between the United States and the former Soviet Union—was predicted to cause a "nuclear winter."

In that scenario hundreds of nuclear explosions spark huge fires, whose smoke, dust, and ash blot out the sun for weeks amid a backdrop of dangerous radiation levels. Much of humanity eventually dies of starvation and disease.

Today, with the United States the only standing superpower, nuclear winter is little more than a nightmare. But nuclear war remains a very real threat—for instance, between developing-world nuclear powers, such as India and Pakistan.

To see what climate effects such a regional nuclear conflict might have, scientists from NASA and other institutions modeled a war involving a hundred Hiroshima-level bombs, each packing the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT—just 0.03 percent of the world's current nuclear arsenal. (See a National Geographic magazine feature on weapons of mass destruction.)

The researchers predicted the resulting fires would kick up roughly five million metric tons of black carbon into the upper part of the troposphere, the lowest layer of the Earth's atmosphere.

In NASA climate models, this carbon then absorbed solar heat and, like a hot-air balloon, quickly lofted even higher, where the soot would take much longer to clear from the sky.

(Related: "'Nuclear Archaeologists' Find World War II Plutonium.")

Reversing Global Warming?
The global cooling caused by these high carbon clouds wouldn't be as catastrophic as a superpower-versus-superpower nuclear winter, but "the effects would still be regarded as leading to unprecedented climate change," research physical scientist Luke Oman said during a press briefing Friday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

Earth is currently in a long-term warming trend. After a regional nuclear war, though, average global temperatures would drop by 2.25 degrees F (1.25 degrees C) for two to three years afterward, the models suggest.

At the extreme, the tropics, Europe, Asia, and Alaska would cool by 5.4 to 7.2 degrees F (3 to 4 degrees C), according to the models. Parts of the Arctic and Antarctic would actually warm a bit, due to shifted wind and ocean-circulation patterns, the researchers said.

After ten years, average global temperatures would still be 0.9 degree F (0.5 degree C) lower than before the nuclear war, the models predict.

are nukes the most urgent environmental threat?

Time | Why are nuclear bombs an environmental problem? We have long known that a large-scale nuclear war would lead to a sudden change in climate—called a nuclear winter—that could threaten all life on earth. But in the past decade, climate scientists have used advanced climate modeling to show that even a small exchange of nuclear weapons—between 50-100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, which India and Pakistan already have their in arsenal—would produce enough soot and smoke to block out sunlight, cool the planet, and produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history.

Scary? It gets worse. New research by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) suggests that the above scenario of a "limited" nuclear war would also burn a hole through the ozone layer, allowing extreme levels of ultraviolet radiation to reach the Earth's surface, which would greatly damage agriculture and most likely lead to a global nuclear famine.

It seems it does not take a cold war posture of MAD—mutually assured destruction—to threaten civilization as we know it.

Presenting the research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Washington D.C. last week, NCAR scientist Michael Mills explained that the heat and soot in the stratosphere following limited nuclear war would lead to "low-ozone" columns over cities, which would increase cancer rates and eye damage dramatically. But the ozone loss would be so great that it would also have serious repercussions for plant life, including “plant height reduction, decreased shoot mass, and reduction in foliage area” and long-term genetic instability. Another risk is depletion of phytoplankton that feed sea life.

“It would be very difficult for us to grow the type of crops we grow today,” Mills said, according to Global Security Newswire. “In addition to ecological damage, there would be a global nuclear famine.”

nuh-UHN...,did NOT!!!!!!

Nasdaq | Bahrain's government Tuesday denied rumors that Saudi Arabian tanks had crossed into the island kingdom.

"There are no Saudi Arabian tanks in Bahrain," Bahrain's information ministry said in a statement, adding that tanks identified in news reports as crossing the border Monday evening were Bahraini tanks returning from Kuwait, where they had taken part in national day celebrations.

"Tanks identified on Monday evening were Bahraini tanks returning from Kuwait National Day celebrations, where military from several Allied countries participated in an event commemorating Kuwait's liberation in 1991," the statement said. Fist tap Dale.

bahrain "borrows" a few saudi tanks?

Citywire | A report that Saudi Arabia has sent tanks to neighbouring Bahrain knocks UK shares and pushes oil and gold prices higher.

The Saudi Arabia stock exchange fell nearly 500 points or over 5% after a local news agency reported Saudi tanks were heading to neighbouring Bahrain while other reports suggested unrest in the kingdom was picking up momentum.

Eyewitness reports say Saudi Arabia is sending 15 tanks to Bahrain to help shore up the country's government ahead of pro-democracy marches in the country.

Last week Saudi's ruling King Abdullah unveiled $36 billion worth of benefits for the country's poorest people to help prevent unrest spreading.

According to the BBC, a Facebook site calling for a 'day of rage' in Saudi Arabia on 11 March has seen its number of subscribers increase from 400 to 12,000 in recent days.

Saudi Arabia has the fifth largest oil and gas reserves in the world and is the second largest exporter after Russia. The unrest that is sweeping the region and led to changes in government in Tunisia and Egypt and violent struggles in Libya has raised concerns that Saudi too will become embroiled. That could lead to a sharp spike in oil prices and potentially throw the global recovery off kilter.

Many analysts believe if the cost of oil climbs and stays at around the $120 per barrel level global growth will slow. Commentators point out that soaring oil prices have often been a precursor to recession in the US in the past.

Yesterday the cost of a basket of oil from the OPEC nations rose to $108 while the cost of North Sea Brent was back on the rise today at over $112 per barrel.

The price of gold jumped another $11.10, or 0.79%, to $1,421.

In the UK the FTSE 100 edged to a day's low of 5,979 points, down 0.2% on the news, having touched a peak of 6,040 earlier in the day. Fist tap Dale.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Reality Sandwich | In Part One of this article, I contemplated a psycho-spiritual disease of the soul that I call malignant egophrenia and indigenous people call wetiko which is undermining the evolutionary development of our species. Wetiko/malignant egophrenia (heretofore referred to as wetiko) is nonlocal, in that it is an inner disease of the spirit, soul and psyche that explicates itself through the canvas of the outside world. Certain people, groups of people, corporate bodies, or nation-states embody and act out this psychological malady in the world. Specific situations in the world, such as the destruction of the Amazon rainforest by myriad multi-national corporations, or Monsanto instituting terminator seeds as it tries to gain control of the production of the food supply, are real-life enactments, both literally and symbolically, of this self-destructive, inner process. Certain potent symbols in our shared waking dream are literally showing us this inner, vampiric dynamic, a stupefying process in which we get bled dry of what really counts.

Seen as a symbolic entity, the global financial system, for example, is the revelation of wetiko disease displayed graphically and schematically in its architecture, operations and overall design, so that anyone with a trained eye can discern the telltale signs and spore prints of this maleficent psycho-pathology getting down to business. The global economy (which can appropriately be referred to as the ‘wetikonomy'), displays the fear-based, linear logic of wetiko disease as it reduces everything to the bottom line of dollars and cents. We are living inside of a horrifying, abstract economic structure that itself is a living symbol and re-presentation of the out-of-control insanity of the wetiko virus. The global financial system is one of the most rapid vectors and pathways through which the virus of wetiko is going pandemic in our world.

The economy as an entity is a projection of the collective human psyche, but particularly of the "Big Wetikos," who hold a disproportionate power in crafting its operating system and in running its day-to-day operations in the world. In the wetikonomy, money has become indispensable for our biological survival, as well as our psychological well being and need for social prestige. This results in the drive for acquiring money becoming hardwired into the most primal centers of our lower, animal nature. This can generate a dependency that can easily lead to a treadmill that spirals downwards towards degeneracy, a true ‘rat race' in which we become addicted to chasing after ‘the buck,' as we increasingly worship Mammon (the God of the love of money; Interestingly, the esteemed economist John Maynard Keynes considered the love of money a form of mental illness). Our need for money becomes the ‘hook' through which the Big Wetikos, who control the supply and value of money, can ‘yank our leash' and manipulate humanity. To say it differently, the economy is engineered by a few, the "Big Wetikos," who then utilize their creation to manipulate the collective human psyche and in so doing influence and warp it in a wetiko-like way.

Using the global financial and monetary system as our case study, we can see and understand how the wetiko virus operates in the psyche and in the world, which are both interactive and co-creative reflections of each other. The invention of money was a breakthrough in human affairs, an innovation in which real wealth is allowed to be symbolically re-presented by something else. Money is a construct, something made up, which adds convenience in the trading of goods and services that have value. The wetiko-created fiat money system, however, is the doorway through which a deviant distortion in this co-operative process of exchanging value amongst ourselves emerges. The wetikonomy's fiat-currency is not backed by real value, but rather, is a system in which, as if by magic, money is created out of thin air. Having fallen through the rabbit hole, we now live in a world where money materializes simply by decree (fiat) of an elite cabal of Big Wetikos, who can exchange the tokens of value they have conjured up for the time and natural resources of everyone else. The wetiko-economy is basically a legitimized counterfeiting operation. The Big Wetikos use their military and police state ‘enforcement' resources to ensure that others cannot accumulate and circulate capital outside of their system. As if that isn't bad enough, in a further diabolic sleight of hand, this virtual fiat currency, backed by nothing real and having no intrinsic value in and of itself, is then equated with debt, thus making it worse than nothing. This total inversion of our concept of value itself is a glaring symbol in our midst primal screaming that there is something terribly amiss with our financial system. There is indeed something wrong with a virtual, bubble economy that is decoupled from the real economy and is dictated and manipulated by the few at the expense of the many.

wetiko: malignant egophrenia

Reality Sandwich | In the book Columbus and other Cannibals, indigenous author Jack D. Forbes lucidly explores a psychological disease that has been informing human self-destructive behavior that Native American people have known about for years. After reading his book, it was clear to me that he was describing the same psycho-spiritual disease of the soul that I wrote about in my book, The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis. I introduce the idea that from the dawn of human history our species has fallen prey to a collective psychosis which I call malignant egophrenia. Speaking about this very same psychic epidemic, Forbes writes, "For several thousands of years human beings have suffered from a plague, a disease worse than leprosy, a sickness worse than malaria, a malady much more terrible than smallpox."[i] Indigenous people have been tracking the same "psychic"[ii] virus that I call malignant egophrenia for many centuries and calling it "wetiko," a Cree term which refers to a diabolically wicked person or spirit who terrorizes others. Professor Forbes, who was one of the founders of the Native American movement during the early sixties, says, "Tragically, the history of the world for the past 2,000 years is, in great part, the story of the epidemiology of the wetiko disease."[iii] Wetiko/malignant egophrenia is a "psychosis" in the true sense of the word as being a "sickness of the soul or spirit." Though calling it by different names, Forbes and I are both pointing at the same illness of the psyche, soul and spirit that has been at the root of humanity's inhumanity to itself.

As if performing a magic ritual, in exploring the entity of wetiko, we first have to invoke its spirit and enter into relationship with it. We must contemplate and engage wetiko as objectively as we are able, as if it exists outside of ourselves, lest we get too "mixed up" with the object of our contemplation. Due to its unique psychic origin, the epidemiology of wetiko is different than any other disease. An intrinsic challenge to our investigation of the wetiko virus is that it is incarnating in the very psyche which itself is the means of our investigation. Aware of this conundrum, Forbes explains that he is attempting to examine the disease, "from a perspective as free as possible from assumptions created by the very disease being studied."[iv] If we are not aware of the frame of reference through which we are examining the wetiko virus, our investigation will be tainted by the disease, obscuring the clear vision needed to start the healing process. Studying how wetiko disease manifests in others, as well as in the "other" part of ourselves, will help us to see "it" more objectively. Seeing this psychological disease manifesting in the world is the looking glass through which we can potentially recognize this same illness as it arises subjectively within our own minds.

After evoking an entity like wetiko, in order to study it as objectively as possible, we have to hermetically seal it within an alchemical container. This ensures that its mercurial spirit doesn't vaporize back into the invisibility of the unconscious, where it would act itself out through us. Jung continually emphasized the importance of developing a container or vessel in which to catch troublesome spirits like wetiko. He writes, "Therefore, if anything is wrong, take it out of its place and put it in the vessel that is between your neighbor and yourself...For love of mankind, create a vessel into which you can catch all that damned poison. For it must be somewhere -- it is always somewhere -- and not to catch it, to say it doesn't exist, gives the best chance to any germ."[v] Wetiko is an elusive spirit that is challenging to pin down and say it is "this" or "that." At the same time, it is critical that we attempt to delineate its properties. Unlike a physical virus, the wetiko bug can not be isolated materially, but its characteristic signature can be detected and seen in the peculiar operations of a psyche that is under its spell. To not recognize the existence of the wetiko germ -- "to say it doesn't exist" -- allows the psychic infection to act itself out unrestrained. Being "always somewhere" is to be nonlocal, which means that it is always around, even potentially, or especially, within ourselves. In calling forth the wetiko spirit, we are simultaneously creating, through our inquiry itself, the container in which we can study this bug so as to understand what in fact we are dealing with, see how it operates out in the world, in others, and subjectively, within ourselves. In order to come full circle in our contemplative exercise/exorcise, we have to homeopathically take our contemplation back within ourselves. As if in a dream where the inner is the outer, we can recognize that the wetiko virus that we have been tracking "out there," outside of ourselves, is a reflection of and co-related to the same process within ourselves. Encoded in wetiko's symptomology is a revelation, something that is most important for us to know.

A Disease of Civilization
Wetiko/malignant egophrenia is a disease of civilization, or lack thereof. To quote Forbes, "To a considerable degree, the development of the wetiko disease corresponds to the rise of what Europeans choose to call civilization. This is no mere coincidence."[vi] The unsustainable nature of industrial civilization is based on, and increasingly requires violence to maintain itself. Genuine "civilization," in essence, means not killing people. Referring to the lack of "civility" in modern society, Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilization and responded by saying, "I think it would be a good idea." It makes sense that native people would know about malignant egophrenia, as they were both oppressed by, but weren't, at least initially, under the "curse" of modern civilization.