Wednesday, May 11, 2011

greece considers exit from the eurozone

Spiegel | Greece's economic problems are massive, with protests against the government being held almost daily. Now Prime Minister George Papandreou apparently feels he has no other option: SPIEGEL ONLINE has obtained information from German government sources knowledgeable of the situation in Athens indicating that Papandreou's government is considering abandoning the euro and reintroducing its own currency.

Alarmed by Athens' intentions, the European Commission has called a crisis meeting in Luxembourg on Friday night. The meeting is taking place at Château de Senningen, a site used by the Luxembourg government for official meetings. In addition to Greece's possible exit from the currency union, a speedy restructuring of the country's debt also features on the agenda. One year after the Greek crisis broke out, the development represents a potentially existential turning point for the European monetary union -- regardless which variant is ultimately decided upon for dealing with Greece's massive troubles.

Given the tense situation, the meeting in Luxembourg has been declared highly confidential, with only the euro-zone finance ministers and senior staff members permitted to attend. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Jörg Asmussen, an influential state secretary in the Finance Ministry, are attending on Germany's behalf.

'Considerable Devaluation'

Sources told SPIEGEL ONLINE that Schäuble intends to seek to prevent Greece from leaving the euro zone if at all possible. He will take with him to the meeting in Luxembourg an internal paper prepared by the experts at his ministry warning of the possible dire consequences if Athens were to drop the euro.

"It would lead to a considerable devaluation of the new (Greek) domestic currency against the euro," the paper states. According to German Finance Ministry estimates, the currency could lose as much as 50 percent of its value, leading to a drastic increase in Greek national debt. Schäuble's staff have calculated that Greece's national deficit would rise to 200 percent of gross domestic product after such a devaluation. "A debt restructuring would be inevitable," his experts warn in the paper. In other words: Greece would go bankrupt.

It remains unclear whether it would even be legally possible for Greece to depart from the euro zone. Legal experts believe it would also be necessary for the country to split from the European Union entirely in order to abandon the common currency. At the same time, it is questionable whether other members of the currency union would actually refuse to accept a unilateral exit from the euro zone by the government in Athens.

What is certain, according to the assessment of the German Finance Ministry, is that the measure would have a disastrous impact on the European economy.

the greece fire never did go out..,

Market-Ticker | The debt crisis in Greece has taken on a dramatic new twist. Sources with information about the government's actions have informed SPIEGEL ONLINE that Athens is considering withdrawing from the euro zone. The common currency area's finance ministers and representatives of the European Commission are holding a secret crisis meeting in Luxembourg on Friday night.

Several European ministers tried to deny this, but there are now confirmations leaking out.

Folks, there's no way for Greece to "voluntarily" restructure that makes sense. Their only hope is to do what Iceland did, which is to tell the banksters to blow it out their asses and leave the currency union.

Yes, this will thrash foreign banks - especially German ones - and the ECB. It damn well should.

The fact of the matter is that buying someone's debt on the premise that they will be bailed out (not because you think it's a good investment) is idiotic and if you do that you deserve to lose every penny you put in.

Well, now that may happen. And given how government bonds have a habit of becoming the tools of leverage, the impact of this action is likely to be extraordinarily severe.

For Merkel, Trichet and the Banksters, here 'ya go:

pakistan gives china a peek at stealth blackhawk down...,

Video - ABC News sounding silly talking about EMPing and cyberattacking a country notable for its rolling blackouts and electrical load shedding.

ABCNews | Pakistani officials said today they're interested in studying the remains of the U.S.'s secret stealth-modified helicopter abandoned during the Navy SEAL raid of Osama bin Laden's compound, and suggested the Chinese are as well.

The U.S. has already asked the Pakistanis for the helicopter wreckage back, but one Pakistani official told ABC News the Chinese were also "very interested" in seeing the remains. Another official said, "We might let them [the Chinese] take a look."

A U.S. official said he did not know if the Pakistanis had offered a peek to the Chinese, but said he would be "shocked" if the Chinese hadn't already been given access to the damaged aircraft.

The chopper, which aviation experts believe to be a highly classified modified version of a Blackhawk helicopter, clipped a wall during the operation that took down the al Qaeda leader, the White House said. The U.S. Navy SEALs that rode in on the bird attempted to destroy it after abandoning it on the ground, but a significant portion of the tail section survived the explosion. In the days after the raid, the tail section and other pieces of debris -- including a mysterious cloth-like covering that the local children found entertaining to play with -- were photographed being hauled away from the crash site by tractor.

Aviation experts said the unusual configuration of the rear rotor, the curious hub-cap like housing around it and the general shape of the bird are all clues the helicopter was highly modified to not only be quiet, but to have as small a radar signature as possible.

The helicopter's remains have apparently become another chip in a tense, high-stakes game of diplomacy between the U.S. and Pakistan following the U.S.'s unilateral military raid of bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, more than a week ago. The potential technological advancements gleaned from the bird could be a "much appreciated gift" to the Chinese, according to former White House counterterrorism advisor and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke.

"Because Pakistan gets access to Chinese missile technology and other advanced systems, Islamabad is always looking for ways to give China something in return," Clarke said.

The Chinese and Pakistani governments are known to have a close relationship. Last month Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif concluded a trip to Beijing, afterwards telling Pakistan's local press that China was Pakistan's "best friend."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

when the solution is much worse than the problem

Video - Chris Rock supports Ron Paul 2012

CounterPunch | Only the most nave, cynical or deluded among us can subscribe to the pervasive mythology of drug police, prosecutors and judges as fearless warriors valiantly fighting a depraved horde of heartless pushers and evil dope fiends whose anti-social pursuit of self-gratification by getting high threatens to destroy the American way of life and everything it stands for.

The War on Drugs has served primarily to construct a police state apparatus basically unchecked in its pursuit of power and control over elements of our society deemed undesirable and detrimental to the economic and cultural forces that shape and direct our national life.

Start with this: There's nothing intrinsically wrong with getting high. People have been getting high as long as there have been people. People get high on beer, wine, whiskey, vodka and gin without criminal sanction. They get high on pills prescribed by their doctors or purchased on the black market. And people get high on marijuana or cocaine or heroin or whatever they desire for the physical and mental effects.

People get high when they want to. They obtain the drugs they crave however and wherever they can, and if they can't buy them over the counter somewhere they will find them in the drug underworld and pay whatever price is required to get what they want. People are relentless in their pursuit of the drugs they want to get high on, and they generally devise some sort of way to make it happen despite the various obstacles thrust in their way by economic circumstances, physical dislocation and the formidable forces of law and order arrayed against them wherever they turn.

Marijuana was legal in the United States until 1937. Cocaine could be purchased over drugstore counters until well into the 20th century, and heroin wasn't really demonized until the second half of the 1940s. In passing their draconian laws against use, possession and distribution of these once-tolerated recreational substances, our federal and state legislative bodies repeatedly cited ethnic and cultural minorities as the principal offenders and feared that their example would corrupt and undermine the very fabric of American life.

Marijuana and cocaine were demonized as engines of erratic and dangerous social behavior, geeking up black men and Mexicans to commit sexual assaults on white women and making the fiends unfit to function as productive members of the work force and responsible Christian citizens. Jazz and swing musicians, poets and writers, painters and other artists were tarred with the brush of illegal drug use and tormented by the narcotics police and their burgeoning consort of rat bastards and snitches.

Illicit drug use was pretty much an underground phenomenon confined to the ranks of ethnic minorities and the bohemian element until the hippie movement erupted out of suburban America in the 1960s. Legions of white, middle-class youths turned their backs on the prescribed way of life and embraced the cultural leadership of people of color and renegade Caucasians exemplified by persons like Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary.

Music suddenly became central to life for millions of young white Americans — not the lily-white music of their parents, but African-American music grounded in the realities experienced by the victims of a segregated social order and charged with unprecedented emotion and human feeling. At the same time, the courage and moral authority manifested in the civil rights movement inspired hippies to dream visions of social justice, nonviolent resistance, world peace and a radical new way of life.

Black people fighting for their lives and demanding their freedom, white youth rejecting the skewed reality of their parents, refusing to fight their wars and trying to construct the world of their dreams — these were new and dangerous challenges to the hegemony of the people in charge of America, and they demanded innovative new strategies and tactics in the struggle for continued supremacy.

The battle against the Red Menace that fueled the machinery of the forces of law and order had been raging since the end of World War I and the establishment of communism in the Soviet Union, reaching its peak in the early 1950s. American Reds were demonized as agents of the Communist International and persecuted for "un-American" political views. Their movement could be contained by the FBI and its sympathizers in commerce, industry and the courts, and culturally they posed little challenge to the prevailing orthodoxy.

But the soul power of blacks and the flower power of hippies were radically different. Both mass movements sprang from the daily lives of people who, in the first instance, had been locked out of any opportunity to share in the vast national wealth and, in the second, had been groomed to operate the oppressive machinery of the ownership class and were now refusing to follow the program.

Both movements were fueled by passion and high ideals, yearning for a social order that would promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and guarantee equal opportunity. This would never do: There would never be a place in the economic order for the masses of people of color in this segregated nation, and the white renegades had to be forced back into compliance with the iron rules of consumerism.

This is where the War on Drugs has its start. The phony rhetoric of the drug warriors served to divert public attention from the righteous social concerns of blacks and hippies and brand them instead as enemies of society who must be hounded, snitched on, dragged into court, locked away, stripped of their possessions and otherwise removed from real life. If they escaped arrest and prosecution for their illicit behaviors they would still live their lives in a state of fear and trembling that the narcotics police would find them out.

Our legal system routinely operates as a key component in maintaining the established economic, cultural and political order. This is a rotten system, and they'll do anything to keep it in place — and never forget that the War on Drugs is a really big part of the big picture.

Like I've said here before, try to imagine a world without the War on Drugs. This would be a whole different place indeed.

who was osama bin laden anyway?

Kunstler | This is a nervous country. I'm not sure that hanging Osama Bin Laden on the White House wall like a coonskin really helps that much. Already, a familiar darkness sets back in, a loss of purpose of the kind that Lindsay Lohan must feel when she gets out of rehab. This is exactly the situation that empty rhetoric was designed for, so we got a week of talk about "bringing our nation together" when the truth is that Fox News would like to send Team Six into the oval office with guns blazing and helmet cams on "record."

We have no idea what we're going to do as a people and absolutely no credible thought on this emanates from the upper echelons. Leadership is more than telling people what they want to hear. In the middle ranks of society, a sullen docility rules, no matter how many affronts to reality we witness. You ride this wreck until the wheels come off and think of what to do next when you're sitting in the drainage ditch by the side of the road. There's no period in US history that matches this for lassitude.

I saw teenagers here and there along the way, wherever a convenience store exerted its magnetic pull of sweet and salty snacks, the boys all wearing black outfits, those dumb-looking calf-length baby pants, and death-metal T-shirts. This must be the longest period of history for a particular teen fashion - going on two decades now? When even teenagers lack the enterprise to think up a new look (that is, to make a fresh statement about who they are), you know you're in a moribund society. I saw some young adults, too. You could tell more or less because they had young women and babies with them, and they were stopping for gas or groceries (if you call a sack full of Froot Loops, jerky, Mountain Dew, and Pringles "groceries"). Their costume innovation du jour is the cholo hat, a super-deluxe edition of a baseball cap with special embroidered emblems and a completely flat brim -presenting a look of equal parts idiocy and homicidal danger. The day was warm enough for "wife-beater" shirts, all the better for displaying tattoos, which are now universal among a working class that has no work and no expectation of work, ever. I tried to think of them as the descendants of men who had marched off to Cold Harbor, Virginia, and those who built the great engine that the American economy once was - but it was no go.

strange new enemies in an everchanging war..,

DailyReckoning | Times have changed. When governments sent out hit squads to kill someone, they used to keep quiet about it. But this time, Obama called a national press conference to claim credit. His poll ratings rose.

Rarely has a killing been such a crowd pleaser. There was dancing in the streets. It recalled the happy mob that kicked around Louis 16th’s head or the crowd that spat upon Mussolini’s corpse. Americans were jubilant. The newspapers were universally joyful and upbeat. “Mission accomplished,” said the editorials.

Arms maker Berretta took out a full-page ad in the weekend USA Today to applaud the Navy SEALS who pulled the trigger. Beretta and other handgun makers typically apologize when their products are used to kill unarmed civilians. This time, they were using it to gain market share.

And feeling their oats, US officials decided to try to make it two for two, with a drone attack on a “terror suspect,” in Yemen. The radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi survived, reported the Hong Kong paper.

Asked where in the Constitution the federal government was given the right to murder people, Eric Holder, US Attorney General, replied that this was certainly not murder. And not an assassination either. This was war! Osama bin Laden was an enemy combatant. US forces mounted an operation to kill him, as they might target an opposing general. Fair and square.

But if Osama bin Laden were an enemy general, his was a strange army. How many divisions did he have? Where were his warships? His aircraft carriers? His submarines? Where were his tanks? And his trained legions? He had no army. No navy. No marines. No air force. Not even a few praetorians guarding his headquarters. He was almost alone. No Swiss guards, no home guard; for there was no homeland to guard. And not a single troop carrier, for there were no troops and nowhere to take them. He had no tanks. No fighter planes. No bombers. No artillery. In fact, his most effective weapon was the lowly box cutter.

Why waste drones on Osama bin Laden? He posed no real threat to the government of the United States of America. Even in his own backyard, he was a loser. He was unable to take over a single woebegone, Muslim-drenched country in the Mid-East. There was never any question that he would be able to defeat the US.

Nor was he a substantial threat to the American people. For all his box cutters and suicidal followers, statistically – according to The Financial Times – he did less damage to Americans than accidents caused by wild deer. In the 10 years following the announcement of the War on Terror, as far as we know, he was not responsible for a single North American casualty. As a general, he was worse than any we ever heard of; even Sir Douglas Haig was not that bad.

Osama bin Laden didn’t pose a threat to the US or its people; instead, the danger he posed was more like the danger of an interest-only, low-doc, automatically reset mortgage with a teaser rate. Bin Laden, in an early video address, announced his strategy. He could sucker the US into spending an enormous amount of money to combat him. He would not try to defeat the US on the field of battle; instead, he would lure the giant into expenses it could not afford.

And lo, it has come to pass just as the bearded one forecast. According to The Financial Times, the US has spent $2 trillion on the war against terror…or about a million times more than Osama bin Laden spent.

Monday, May 09, 2011

try'na tell you - Double "O" don't play!!!

Salon | That Barack Obama has continued the essence of the Bush/Cheney Terrorism architecture was once a provocative proposition but is now so self-evident that few dispute it (watch here as arch-neoconservative David Frum -- Richard Perle's co-author for the supreme 2004 neocon treatise -- waxes admiringly about Obama's Terrorism and foreign policies in the Muslim world and specifically its "continuity" with Bush/Cheney). But one policy where Obama has gone further than Bush/Cheney in terms of unfettered executive authority and radical war powers is the attempt to target American citizens for assassination without a whiff of due process. As The New York Times put it last April:
It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president. . . .
That Obama was compiling a hit list of American citizens was first revealed in January of last year when The Washington Post's Dana Priest mentioned in passing at the end of a long article that at least four American citizens had been approved for assassinations; several months later, the Obama administration anonymously confirmed to both the NYT and the Post that American-born, U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was one of the Americans on the hit list.

Yesterday, riding a wave of adulation and military-reverence, the Obama administration tried to end the life of this American citizen -- never charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime -- with a drone strike in Yemen, but missed and killed two other people instead:
A missile strike from an American military drone in a remote region of Yemen on Thursday was aimed at killing Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric believed to be hiding in the country, American officials said Friday.

The attack does not appear to have killed Mr. Awlaki, the officials said, but may have killed operatives of Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen.
The other people killed "may have" been Al Qaeda operatives. Or they "may not have" been. Who cares? They're mere collateral damage on the glorious road to ending the life of this American citizen without due process (and pointing out that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly guarantees that "no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law" -- and provides no exception for war -- is the sort of tedious legalism that shouldn't interfere with the excitement of drone strikes).

There are certain civil liberties debates where, even though I hold strong opinions, I can at least understand the reasoning and impulses of those who disagree; the killing of bin Laden was one such instance. But the notion that the President has the power to order American citizens assassinated without an iota of due process -- far from any battlefield, not during combat -- is an idea so utterly foreign to me, so far beyond the bounds of what is reasonable, that it's hard to convey in words or treat with civility.

media scrambles as bin laden story crumbles

NewAmerican | While the establishment media was busy parroting President Obama’s announcement of Osama bin Laden’s supposed assassination, reporting the unsubstantiated claims as if they were unquestionable facts, much of the so-called “alternative” press was far more cautious — and accurate, it turns out. But more importantly, with the new official storyline indicating that bin Laden was in fact unarmed, bigger and much more important questions are beginning to emerge.

In terms of coverage, it turns out that the skeptical approach proved far superior in terms of getting it right. Countless mainstream sources were so confident in Obama’s word that they reported many of the claims as fact without even attributing them to the President.

But the official White House narrative has been changed so many times in recent days that now it’s almost unrecognizable. There wasn‘t even a fire fight; yet this was one of the crucial elements of the original story that justified the assassination of a person the government painted as the most valuable source of information on the planet — the leader of al-Qaeda. And in reporting the statements as fact, the establishment press has officially been left with egg all over its face again.

"[Bin Laden] was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in," said terror czar John Brennan. Similarly, Obama said that “after a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.” The next day, however, the White House spokesman admitted bin Laden “was not armed." Trying to save face and justify the killing of an unarmed man, the spokesman added, without elaborating, that “resistance does not require a firearm."

More than a few other important parts of the storyline have been altered, contradicted, or simply exposed as false, too. Everything from which of bin Laden’s sons was supposedly killed to the claim that his wife was killed after being used as a “human shield” — all of it has changed for some reason or another. The transcript after Brennan’s speech was altered to change the name of the dead son. The new and improved narrative now says that not only was bin Laden’s wife not killed, but that she was not used as a human shield.

Originally the White House also suggested top officials watched the raid live through a video feed. Terror czar Brennan, for example, claimed that they “had real-time visibility into the progress of the operation.” CIA boss Leon Panetta later exposed that claim as false in an interview with PBS, saying: “There was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes that we really didn't know just exactly what was going on."

That means the “photo op” of Obama and other officials intently “watching” the operation in the “Situation Room” was almost certainly staged for the press. And almost every media outlet that ran the picture used inaccurate captions parroting the White House claims.

And there’s more.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

chomsky's reaction to the assassination...,

Guernica | We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

usda's food desert locator map

Good | Yesterday, the United States Department of Agriculture unveiled its latest online tool: an eye-opening map of the nation's "food deserts."

These food deserts (marked in pink above) are places where there is "low income" and "low access"—or places where at least a fifth of the population lives at or below the poverty line and where there isn't a supermarket within a one-mile radius (or within a 10-mile radius in rural areas). All things told, about 13.5 million people nationwide have little or no access to stores selling healthful food.

The complete dataset is downloadable, so it should spawn mash-ups. The USDA has also created the Food Environment Atlas, which maps factors ranging from food taxes to farmers' markets (below). What correlations can we make about the absence of food deserts and farmers' markets?

The data's impressive and certainly opens up opportunities to map other connections: What's the impact of healthy corner stores, walkable school districts, or even McDonald's locations on food deserts? Could we put the "Wal-Mart as food desert solution" theory to the test? Fist tap ProfGeo.

u.s. squanders energy on food chain

Video - First McDonald's commercial featuring Ronald.

CNBC | Between 1997 and 2002, in fact, over 80 percent of the increase in annual U.S. energy consumption was food related.

And estimates for 2007 suggest the U.S. food system accounted for nearly 16 percent of the nation’s total energy budget, up from 14.4 percent in 2002, according to the report, which measured both the direct energy used to power machines and appliances (like trucks and microwave ovens) as well as the “embodied” energy used to manufacture, store and distribute food products.

“This is what they call a fossil fuel party,” says Kamyar Enshayan, director of the Center for Energy & Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa. “We’ve created a food system that relies heavily on fossil energy, and it’s become so globalized that there are literally grapes from South Africa in the grocery store in Cedar Falls, Iowa. It’s a long-distance shipping economy, which makes all of us vulnerable to disruptions in the supply chain and other unforeseen emergencies.”

That’s particularly troublesome, he notes, when so much of the U.S. — particularly the Midwest — has such potential for primary production.

“We have the best soils and a great climate and yet, most of what we eat is imported,” says Enshayan. “You have to step back and say, ‘Wait, why is a region like Iowa not feeding itself?”

The environmental consequence of relying so heavily on a national and international network of suppliers is even greater, he notes.

“It dulls our imagination and prevents us from paying attention to what sustains us,” says Enshayan. “The loss of water and soil quality is right in front of us, but since our food doesn’t come from it, why worry?”

And then, of course, there’s the impact on our climate.

“The production and distribution of food has long been known to be a major source of green house gas and other environmental emissions, and, for many reasons, it is seen by many environmental advocates as one of the major ways concerned consumers can reduce their carbon footprints,” writes Christopher Weber, an environmental engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in a 2008 paper called “Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the Unites States” that he co-authored with H. Scott Mathews.

According to the report, the average household’s climate impact related to food is estimated to be 8.1 t CO2/yr, or tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, a common measure for determining how much global warming a type of greenhouse gas may cause.

To put that figure into perspective, driving a car that gets 25 miles per gallon roughly 12,000 miles produces 4.4 t CO2/yr.

Why So High
One of the reasons energy use in the food system is growing so rapidly is that there are more of us to feed.

The U.S. population grew by more than 9.7 percent to 308.7 million in 2010, according to the Census Bureau.

A second culprit is higher food expenditure for the amount of food marketed to U.S. consumers, which boosted food system energy use in America by 25 percent, the USDA report notes.

By far, though, the use of energy-intensive technologies as a substitute for manual labor is the biggest contributor.

energy use in the u.s. food system

USDA | Energy is an important input in growing, processing, packaging, distributing, storing, preparing, serving, and disposing of food. Analysis using the two most recent U.S. benchmark input-output accounts and a national energy data system shows that in the United States, use of energy along the food chain for food purchases by or for U.S. households increased between 1997 and 2002 at more than six times the rate of increase in total domestic energy use. This increase in food-related energy flows is over 80 percent of energy flow increases nationwide over the period. The use of more energy-intensive technologies throughout the U.S. food system accounted for half of this increase, with the remainder attributed to population growth and higher real (inflation-adjusted) per capita food expenditures. A projection of food-related energy use based on 2007 total U.S. energy consumption and food expenditure data and the benchmark 2002 input-output accounts suggests that food-related energy use as a share of the national energy budget grew from 14.4 percent in 2002 to an estimated 15.7 percent in 2007.

Summary and discussion of the paper. Keywords: Energy use, energy technologies, food expenditures, input-output analysis, population change, structural decomposition analysis, supply chain analysis, ERS, USDA

Saturday, May 07, 2011

radicals quiet as a church mouse...,

WaPo | As details and rumors about the killing of Osama bin Laden coursed this week through Pakistan’s streets, there was near-total quiet from an unexpected quarter.

In a nation that is home to an alphabet soup of militant organizations subscribing to the late al-Qaeda leader’s violent ideology, retaliatory bombs did not explode. The cities did not fill with banned organizations’ foot soldiers vowing revenge. A top religious party drummed up a few hundred demonstrators Friday afternoon, but their stated agenda — to protest the bin Laden killing — barely seemed to register, and instead they fell back on familiar anti-government, anti-American slogans.

The subdued reaction from Pakistan’s most radical groups — at least for now — may reflect the eroded resonance of bin Laden’s message and the disarray of Pakistani militant groups, whose attacks have slowed in recent months, analysts said.

In interviews, members of Pakistani extremist organizations also seemed to express confusion: Some said they did not believe bin Laden had died. More said they did, but that they were still in mourning — and calculating their response.

“Everybody in the organization is in a state of shock,” said one 27-year-old member of a banned militant group. “Nothing will be done in haste.”

Despite the muted response, security officials said it was hardly time to relax. An online posting attributed to al-Qaeda on Friday confirmed bin Laden’s death and vowed retaliation. It also called specifically upon Pakistanis to “rise up and revolt to cleanse this shame that has been attached to them by a clique of traitors and thieves.”

Several of Pakistan’s prominent militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban and various sectarian organizations, have long-standing ties to al-Qaeda. Intelligence officials said the Pakistani army had pointedly distanced itself from the U.S. raid this week in part to discourage an insurgent backlash.

A senior police official in Lahore, the capital of a province that is the base of several banned jihadist outfits, said authorities expected strikes within two weeks.

“They are wise enough to just hold on,” the police official said. “Then they will respond, once all the security apparatus becomes complacent.”

That is what the groups have warned. The day of the killing, the Pakistani Taliban, which focuses its attacks on the Pakistani state, threatened that it would soon lash out.

A pro-Taliban weekly newspaper, published in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, asserted that bin Laden’s followers had restricted their attacks to “protect” their leader, but that “now they are free with full revenge.”

“This is the beginning. We will take the revenge from both Pakistan and the United States,” one Taliban fighter said by telephone from North Waziristan, a mountainous border area where a stewpot of militant groups, including al-Qaeda, have bases. On Friday, a suspected CIA drone strike hit North Waziristan, killing 13, Pakistani media reported.

‘We are all Osama’

benazir bhutto: omar sheikh murdered osama bin-laden

Video - Benazir Bhutto states Osama bin Laden murdered by ISI.

LCL | In an interview with David Frost on November 2, 2007, Benazir Bhutto mentioned in passing that Omar Sheikh murdered Osama bin-Laden.

David, one of my readers, asked if this interview was broadcast outside of the Al-Jazeera network. The answer is yes - and no.

The BBC aired the interview, but edited out the sentence where Benazir Bhutto says Omar Sheikh murdered Osama bin-Laden. Fist tap Galactic-Nine.

lit his house with red dots like it had a rash...,

Video - Obama on the death of Osama spoof.

why the twilight zone puts todays sci-fi to shame

Video - Twilight Zone - To Serve Man Part 1 of 3

Guardian | "There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition and it lies between the pit of man's fears and summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call … The Twilight Zone."

Now, that's how you start a television show. Those words were first heard coming out of TV sets across the USA on 2 October 1959. In the decades since, The Twilight Zone has become shorthand for anything offbeat, with that spooky four-note theme ("do-dee-do-do") an instant signal that something unusual is about to happen.

While the short story with a twist ending has always been a staple of storytelling, it was Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone that refined it to an artform. It deservedly casts a long shadow in popular culture: if you stick together The Time Element, where a man repeatedly "dreams" he's waking up in Pearl Harbor on the morning of the attack, with Where Is Everybody?, which contains images of a flight-suited army pilot in a capsule, you've pretty much got Source Code. Then there's An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge, based on Ambrose Bierce's classic short story where a man about to be hanged in the American civil war escapes the noose, ventures across country to rejoin his wife and child and realises this has all been a dream condensed into seconds as the noose breaks his neck. Expand on that "dreams with time distortion" routine and you'll eventually hit Inception. The Simpsons still riffs on TZ episodes, particularly in their Halloween Treehouse Of Horror specials, and there's not an episode of Futurama that passes without some reference. Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly's bizarre oddity The Box was based on Button, Button, a Twilight Zone episode from its 1980s revamp. Once you get into the Twilight Zone you'll see writers and directors such as M Night Shyamalan as less remarkable: what is The Sixth Sense if not a half-hour Zone episode stretched out to over an hour and a half?

Watching The Twilight Zone today, it's striking how complex, satirical and thought-provoking it all is. While the tales include such fantastical imagery as a stopwatch that can stop time, department store mannequins coming to life, or a child whose dreams take corporeal form, you can clearly see that they're really about the early-60s: an era of race riots, assassinations, crooked politicians and the Vietnam war, when communism and nuclear bombs were palpable fears. People were confused, scared and paranoid, yet so little of the television of the time reflected this mood. Sponsors, executives, salesmen and producers were in charge of the networks and they didn't want viewers distracted by big issues when they should have been thinking about what products to buy. It was in this climate that 34-year-old writer-producer Rod Serling devised The Twilight Zone. After having almost all the contemporary political references excised from an early drama about a crooked senator, he hit upon the idea of using science fiction and fantasy to smuggle in more controversial elements, in plain sight of the moneymen.

Our world is just as chaotic as the 1960s, but you'd never know it from our genre shows. Apart from Battlestar Galactica's space-war on terror, they're full of missed opportunities; flashy and entertaining, sure – but did Lost really have anything to say? Did the remake of V tell us anything other than they really shouldn't have remade V?

Friday, May 06, 2011

social activity signals what is authoritative and good?

Technology Review | This ambitious project gets much of its information from the simple "Like" button, a thumbs-up logo that adorns many Web pages and invites visitors to signal their appreciation for something—a news story, a recipe, a photo—with a click. Taylor created the concept in 2007 at FriendFeed, a social network that he cofounded, which was acquired by Facebook in 2009. Back then, the button was just a way to encourage people to express their interests, but in combination with Facebook's user base of nearly 600 million people, it is becoming a potent data-collecting tool. The code behind the Like button is available to any site that wants to add it to its pages. If a user is logged in to Facebook and clicks the Like button anywhere on the Web, the link is shared with that person's Facebook friends. Simultaneously, that thumbs-up vote is fed into Taylor's Web-wide index.

That's how the Wall Street Journal highlights articles that a person's friends enjoyed on its site. This is what lets Microsoft's Bing search engine promote pages liked by a person's friends. And it's how Pandora creates playlists based on songs or bands a person has appreciated on other sites.

This method of figuring out connections between pieces of content is fundamentally different from the one that has ruled for a decade. Google mathematically indexes the Web by scanning the hyperlinks between pages. Pages with many links from other sites rise to the top of search results on the assumption that such pages must be relatively useful or interesting. The social index isn't going to be a complete replacement for Google, but for many types of activity—such as finding products, entertainment, or things to read—the new system's personal touch could make it more useful.

Google itself acknowledges this: it recently rolled out a near-clone of the Like button, which it calls "+1." It lets people signify for their friends which search results or Web pages they've found useful. Google is also using Twitter activity to augment its index. If you have connected your Twitter and Google accounts, Web links that your friends have shared on Twitter may come up higher in Google search results.

Another advantage of a social index is that it could be less vulnerable to manipulation: inflating Google rankings by creating extra links to a site is big business, but buying enough Facebook likes to make a difference is nearly impossible, says Chris Dixon, cofounder of Hunch, a Web startup that combines its own recommendation technology with tools from Facebook and Twitter. "Social activity provides a really authentic signal of what is authoritative and good," says Dixon. That's why Hunch and other services, including an entertainment recommendation site called GetGlue, are building their own social indexes, asking people to record their positive feelings about content from all over the Web. If you're browsing for something on Amazon, a box from GetGlue can pop up to tell you which of your friends have liked that item.

A social index will be of less use to people who don't have many online connections. And even Facebook's map covers just a small fraction of the Web for now. But about 10,000 additional websites connect themselves to Facebook every day.

wall st. journal launches wikileaks "rival"

Physorg | The Wall Street Journal launched a WikiLeaks rival called "SafeHouse" on Thursday, calling for online submissions to help uncover fraud and abuse in business and politics.

"If you have newsworthy contracts, correspondence, emails, financial records or databases from companies, government agencies or non-profits, you can send them to us using the SafeHouse service," the Journal said at

The newspaper said SafeHouse's security features include file encryption and the possibility for a contributor or whistleblower to remain anonymous.

It said the SafeHouse site was located on secure servers managed directly by Journal editors.

The Journal said SafeHouse's interests include "politics, government, banking, Wall Street, deals and finance, corporations, labor, law, national security and foreign affairs."

"SafeHouse will enable the collection of information and documents that could be used in the generation of trustworthy news stories," Journal managing editor Robert Thomson said in a statement.

"We're open to receiving information in nearly any format, from text files to audio recordings and photos," the newspaper said. "Help The Wall Street Journal uncover fraud, abuse and other wrongdoing."

The is the latest to launch a site similar to , which has released tens of thousands of US from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and secret diplomatic cables.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The , told Yahoo! News in January that the newspaper was considering the creation of a site for leakers.

Pan-Arab television network Al Jazeera launched a "Transparency Unit" in January seeking documents, photos, audio and video clips as well as "story tips."

A former WikiLeaks spokesman, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, has also launched a WikiLeaks competitor, OpenLeaks.

pentagon takes steps to stop wikileaking...,

WaPo | The U.S. national security establishment drew fierce criticism after Sept. 11, 2001 because it hadn’t shared data that could have prevented the attacks that day – its so-called failure to “connect the dots.” In response, government officials sought to make it easier for agencies to share sensitive information. Then, as the United States went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, efforts that began after the Persian Gulf War to push more timely intelligence to personnel on the front lines also were ramped up.

But “that aperture went too wide,” Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said after WikiLeaks began disclosing sensitive materials last year. So, Pentagon officials say they have begun to take steps aimed at preventing future breaches:

■ Disabling the “write” capability on most computers in SIPRNet, the military’s secret-level classified network. The 12 percent of computers that retain the capability are under strict controls, such as requiring two persons to be present when downloading information onto a CD-ROM or other removable media.

■ Issuing smart cards with special identity credentials required to log on to SIPRNet. The cards allow holders access to only those portions of the network that contain information relevant to their jobs. The goal is to “both deter bad behavior and require absolute identification of who is accessing data and managing that access,” said acting Pentagon Chief Information Officer Teresa Takai. The plan is to issue 500,000 cards by 2012.

■ Working with the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive to create a formal insider threat program.

■Piloting insider threat detection technology developed by the National Security Agency.

■ Developing an information technology audit to identify suspicious behavior on all Department of Defense information systems.

“We’re very aware of the need to share information on behalf of the war-fighter,” said Col. Sean Broderick, senior analyst working for the Pentagon chief information officer. “Our goal is to deploy tools that ensure people have access to the data they need and appropriately restrict access to data they don’t need.”

Last November, after WikiLeaks announced it was releasing State Department cables that reflected diplomats’ candid views of foreign governments and their policies, the State Department suspended SIPRNet access to its database of cables, though access remains available via a more limited classified military network. Officials testifying before Congress said the department has updated policies that ban the downloading of classified information to removable media such as thumb drives and CDs. It also continues to deploy an automated tool that monitors the classified network to detect anomalies.

“Simply put, we must more consistently sort out what we share before determining how we share it,” Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, State Department undersecretary for management, said to Congress in March.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

rt interviews julian assange

Video - In an exclusive interview with RT, Julian Assange said it is only a matter of time before more damaging information becomes known.

Russia Times | One of the hopeful things that I’ve discovered is that nearly every war that has started in the past 50 years has been a result of media lies. The media could've stopped it if they had searched deep enough; if they hadn't reprinted government propaganda they could've stopped it. But what does that mean? Well, that means that basically populations don't like wars, and populations have to be fooled into wars. Populations don't willingly, with open eyes, go into a war. So if we have a good media environment, then we also have a peaceful environment.

how long had osama's whereabouts been known?

Video - Satellite pictures of Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad,

Counterpunch | And Osama? What about Osama bin Laden? Now we know that the US knew of his whereabouts; they knew of the trail, they asked Leigh and Keller to remove relevant references. Why didn’t they capture him or kill him earlier?

OBL’s organisation did what the US authorities wanted to be done. They fought the Russians and ruined Afghanistan. They conspired and fought against Hezbollah, slaughtered Shias in Iraq, undermined Qaddafi, hated Hamas and Iran. They supported ethnic cleansing of ‘infidels’ in Chechnya and in the Balkans. They never ever attacked Israel: they preserved their vigor for Sayyed Nasrallah. Like a dreadful beast nurtured in the CIA secret labs, only once they reportedly rebelled against their merciless creator - on 9/11. Osama was greater than, but similar to such American friends as Jonas Savimbi of Angola or Shamil Basayev of Chechnya, and hopefully after his death his organization will vanish like Unita and Basayev did.

The Guantanamo files reveal utter wretchedness of Osama’s unlucky followers. With exception of a few dozen close associates, the rest of the prisoners made a wrong choice ever listening to him. They (especially foreigners) were idealists, who wanted to establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth; they were encouraged by the US to flock to Afghanistan to fight the Commies. The majority of them never even had a chance to hold the gun. They, the foreigners in Afghanistan and Pakistan were sold for bounty to the Americans as fast as possible. They paid for this by years of torture. And now they are about to learn that their supreme chief was safeguarded by the same Americans who tortured them!

But in the mind of the Muslim masses OBL will be remembered (justly or not) as the architect of the only successful response of the oppressed to the Empire on its own soil. And that ensured him greatness of his own and a place in history.

assassination details...,

alarabiya | Senior Pakistani security officials said Osama bin Laden’s daughter had confirmed her father was captured alive and shot dead by the US Special Forces during the first few minutes of the operation carried out at the huge compound in Bilal Town, Abbottabad. 

Besides recovering four bullet-riddled bodies from the compound, Pakistani security agencies also arrested two women and six children, aged between 2 and 12 years, after American forces flew toward Afghanistan. Some reports suggest 16 people, including women and children, were arrested from the house, most of them Arab nationals.

A Pakistani security source told Al Arabiya that Bin Laden family members had been transported to Rawalpindi, which is near Islamabad. He added, “They are now under treatment in the military hospital of Rawalpindi, where they have been transported in an helicopter.” A source told Al Arabiya that Bin Laden’s wife had been injured either in her leg or her shoulder.

He added that the members of the household were children and Bin Laden’s wife, in addition to a Yemeni woman. He added that the woman might be the personal doctor of the family. Bin Laden was known to be afflicted with renal failure. He had reportedly received treatment in Hyderabad, India, before the 9/11 attacks.

Sources speculated that US Forces could not arrest these family members because there weren’t enough places for them in the helicopter, after they lost another chopper during the operation.

About the slain woman: officials said she could either be Bin Laden’s wife or a close family member since she offered to sacrifice her life for him. “As per our information, she shielded Bin Laden during the operation and was killed by American commandos,” an official said. 

The US Special Forces only took two bodies with them in the military chopper; one is said to be Bin Laden’s and the other his son’s. By the time Pakistani security agencies and soldiers arrived at the spot, the US commandos were flying over the mountains in the Pakistani tribal belt, well on their way to Afghanistan. 

Sources said one of the two women taken into custody from the compound by Pakistani forces was one of Osama bin Laden’s several wives.

“She is Yemeni and became unconscious during the operation,” said an official. Pleading anonymity, he said the woman was provided necessary medical aid till she became conscious. 

“During preliminary investigations, the lady said they moved to the Abbottabad house five to six months ago,” the Pakistani official said, adding that she did not provide further information about bin Laden or his shifting to the house. 

The official said a 12-year-old daughter of bin Laden was among the six children rescued from the three-storey compound.

The daughter has reportedly told her Pakistani investigators that the US forces captured her father alive but shot him dead in front of family members. 

According to sources, Bin Laden was staying on the ground floor of the house and was dragged on the floor to the helicopter after being shot dead by US commandos. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

profile of states

Sources (all via States Perform ):
[1] U.S. Census Bureau, 2009 American Community Survey
[2] SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Illicit drug use by those age 12+ in the past month. Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish,
cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-type psychotherapeutics used nonmedically. Based on the results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of STD Prevention, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2008: November 2009
[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of STD Prevention, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2008: November 2009
[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of STD Prevention, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2008: November
[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Divisions of HIV/AIDS
prevention, Reported AIDS cases and annual rates (per 100,000 population), by area of residence, 2006, 2007 and cumulative United States and dependent areas: 2009
[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Tobacco Use 2008: 2009
[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2008 Overweight and Obesity (BMI): 2009

are mexican oil politics keeping riches just out of reach?

NYTimes | To the Mexican people, one of the great achievements in their history was the day their president kicked out foreign oil companies in 1938. Thus, they celebrate March 18 as a civic holiday.

Yet today, that 72-year-old act has put Mexico in a straitjacket, one that threatens both the welfare of the country and the oil supply of the United States.

The national oil company created after the 1938 seizure, Pemex, is entering a period of turmoil. Oil production in its aging fields is sagging so rapidly that Mexico, long one of the world’s top oil-exporting countries, could begin importing oil within the decade.

Mexico is among the three leading foreign suppliers of oil to the United States, along with Canada and Saudi Arabia. Mexican barrels can be replaced, but at a cost. It means greater American dependence on unfriendly countries like Venezuela, unstable countries like Nigeria and Iraq, and on the oil sands of Canada, an environmentally destructive form of oil production.

“As you lose Mexican oil, you lose a critical supply,” said Jeremy M. Martin, director of the energy program at the Institute of the Americas at the University of California, San Diego. “It’s not just about energy security but national security, because our neighbor’s economic and political well-being is largely linked to its capacity to produce and export oil.”

Mexico probably still has plenty of oil, especially beneath the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but Pemex lacks the technology and know-how to get it out. Inviting foreign companies into the country to help is one of the touchiest propositions in Mexican politics.

As the Mexican government struggles to find a way forward, production keeps falling.

The basic problem is simply that Mexico’s readily accessible oil is used up — pretty much the same thing that happened to the United States when production began falling in the 1970s. Output from Mexico’s giant Cantarell field, in shallow waters near the eastern shore, has plunged by 50 percent in recent years. Output at the country’s other large field is expected to begin falling in the next year or two.

Historically, oil has supplied 30 to 40 percent of the Mexican government’s revenue. Confronting a potential calamity, President Felipe Calderón has pushed through the strongest reforms he can defend politically, in hopes of attracting foreign investment. But he dare not do anything that would appear to reverse the 1938 nationalization. Even the modest reforms he has managed to pass are being challenged in court.

Officially, the government is optimistic that Mexico can reverse its decline as an oil-producing nation. But its efforts so far have yielded more rhetoric than oil.

Last year, on the day celebrating the 1938 seizure, the president’s helicopter landed in a hilly oil field outside this farming town. He announced that a new era of Mexican gushers would dawn soon.

“Under this soil,” Mr. Calderón told thousands of oil workers, lay “the richness that could propel development in our country and help Mexico accelerate our path to progress and well-being.” He promised that 20 wells would be spurting crude “very soon” from the ground on which he stood.

Almost a year later, only three wells were pumping on a recent afternoon. Eleven had been shut after producing little or no oil. In fact, the effort to develop the geologically challenging Chicontepec field here, near the gulf coast, is deteriorating into an embarrassing disaster for Pemex, the latest in a string of them.

In all, Mexican oil output has dropped from just short of 3.5 million barrels a day in 2004 to a projected average of 2.5 million barrels this year. Mexican oil exports to the United States, now 1.1 million barrels a day, have fallen by nearly a third in the last six years.

The United States Energy Department projects that Mexican production will decline by an additional 600,000 barrels a day by 2020; combined with growing domestic demand, that would probably make the country an oil importer.

In the last two years, Mexico provided about 12 percent of all crude oil imports to the United States, supplying about 8 percent of the total oil used by American refineries, according to the Energy Department.

Pemex — officially Petróleos Mexicanos — is the most important company in Mexico, employing 140,000 people. Oil money is used for everything from building schools to fighting the war against drug cartels.

“The fact that Mexico’s production is rapidly declining could potentially cause a financial crisis not only for Pemex but for the government,” said Enrique Sira, the Mexico director of IHS Cera, an energy consulting firm.

complaining about mosquitos while a crocodile bites your leg

Post Carbon Institute | Last week, in a repeat of 2008, reports of fat earnings from the oil majors were met with blame and outrage from American consumers, who are stressed from $4+ gas prices and strapped finances. Exxon Mobil, the 18th-largest oil company in the world, with about 3% of world production (~4million barrels of oil equivalent per day), reported quarterly earnings of $10.7 billion dollars. Americans are upset because they envision such hefty profits as direct transfers from their thin pocketbooks to Exxon, itself the recipient of government oil and gas subsidies to boot.

I am not an oil industry apologist, but recognize that I live in an oil-centric world, own a car, enjoy air travel and partake in the daily smorgasbord of food, services, and novelty made possible in the cheap energy age. To me, given the problems our country and government face, blaming Exxon for high gasoline prices and excessive tax subsidies is akin to complaining about a mosquito bite on your arm when a crocodile has your leg in its mouth.

First, it is a stretch to say that Exxon is under-taxed; last year Exxon's worldwide total taxes amounted to $86 billion, or 23% of its revenue (by comparison, at this country's second-largest corporation — Apple, Inc. — taxes were 6.9% of revenue. Yet Exxon understandably is a lightning rod, because the ~3 cents per gallon it makes as the world's largest refiner add up to very large numbers. And yes they make large sums on their oil production when commodity prices rise more than costs. But these are two sides of the wrong argument, and are not the real story.

Under a lens of ecology and biophysical economics, the vitriol being expressed at the Exxon is misplaced at best and counterproductive at worst. Though our culture perceives dollars and digits in the bank as wealth, in reality they are only markers. Our real wealth comes from the sun, including its direct daily insolation, its role in photosynthesis (which creates biomass, including fossil fuels), and its pushing natural and hydrological cycles that perform vital services to our species and others.

Our primary wealth is our finite endowment of resources, like oil and gas, timber, water, and minerals. We extract resources from this natural "bank account" and combine them with human ingenuity and technology to produce things we can use, such as tractors, houses, and clothing. Our socio-political system then overlays monetary tokens: stocks, bonds, bank deposits and cash that function as markers of our real wealth, markers that are increasingly disconnected from the reality of our natural resource balance sheet.

But energy is different from iPads or Doritos in its impact on our lives. The laws of economics (more like guidelines) state that energy, capital and labor are all substitutable. This turns out not to be true; there is no substitution for energy in our economy — every single economic product created requires first an expenditure of energy.

The amount of human labor that oil and other fossil fuels have been able to replace or allocate to other pursuits is gargantuan. The average human can generate only about 0.6 kilowatt-hours per day from physical effort, which, based on median U.S. salaries, equates to more than $300 per kWh generated by human labor. Oil, even at $110 per barrel, costs us just 6 cents per kWh, or 500 times cheaper than human labor. This replacement of human effort with fossil fuels has been the single primary driver of economic riches of the past couple of generations. For all intents and purposes, on human time scales, oil in our lives is indistinguishable from magic.

And it is depleting. U.S. oil production has been in steady decline since its peak in 1970. World production has been stagnant since 2005, despite a tripling in price last decade. The marginal barrel of oil now costs $85, as we are drilling deeper and in harsher environments, and now having to include fuels with lower net BTUs like tar sands, natural gas liquids and ethanol into the oil category just to stay even.

So when Exxon reports $10.7 billion in earnings, this is the monetary accounting of the chemical and kinetic energy it contributed to society in the form of oil and gas sales. This oil and gas then went on to perform myriad other activities in our economy — and 4 million barrels per day is the equivalent of over 2 billion human-days of useable energy. About equal to the working population of the world. Quite a deal actually, for us.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Double "O"

the destruction of economic facts

Businessweek | During the second half of the 19th century, the world's biggest economies endured a series of brutal recessions. At the time, most forms of reliable economic knowledge were organized within feudal, patrimonial, and tribal relationships. If you wanted to know who owned land or owed a debt, it was a fact recorded locally—and most likely shielded from outsiders. At the same time, the world was expanding. Travel between cities and countries became more common and global trade increased. The result was a huge rift between the old, fragmented social order and the needs of a rising, globalizing market economy.

To prevent the breakdown of industrial and commercial progress, hundreds of creative reformers concluded that the world needed a shared set of facts. Knowledge had to be gathered, organized, standardized, recorded, continually updated, and easily accessible—so that all players in the world's widening markets could, in the words of France's free-banking champion Charles Coquelin, "pick up the thousands of filaments that businesses are creating between themselves."

The result was the invention of the first massive "public memory systems" to record and classify—in rule-bound, certified, and publicly accessible registries, titles, balance sheets, and statements of account—all the relevant knowledge available, whether intangible (stocks, commercial paper, deeds, ledgers, contracts, patents, companies, and promissory notes), or tangible (land, buildings, boats, machines, etc.). Knowing who owned and owed, and fixing that information in public records, made it possible for investors to infer value, take risks, and track results. The final product was a revolutionary form of knowledge: "economic facts."

Over the past 20 years, Americans and Europeans have quietly gone about destroying these facts. The very systems that could have provided markets and governments with the means to understand the global financial crisis—and to prevent another one—are being eroded. Governments have allowed shadow markets to develop and reach a size beyond comprehension. Mortgages have been granted and recorded with such inattention that homeowners and banks often don't know and can't prove who owns their homes. In a few short decades the West undercut 150 years of legal reforms that made the global economy possible.

The results are hardly surprising. In the U.S., trust has broken down between banks and subprime mortgage holders; between foreclosing agents and courts; between banks and their investors—even between banks and other banks. Overall, credit (from the Latin for "trust") continues to flow steadily, but closer examination shows that nongovernment credit has contracted. Private lending has dropped 21 percent since 2007. Outstanding loans to small businesses dropped more than 6 percent over the past year, while lending to large businesses, measured in commercial loans of more than $1 million, fell nearly 9 percent.

The importance of economic facts may not be obvious to Americans. "What does the fish know about the water in which it swims?" asked Albert Einstein. But it's easy to grasp from the perspective of the developing and former communist countries where I live and work. In these countries, most of our assets and relationships are in the informal sector, outside the legal economy. Because they're not recorded in public memory systems, they cannot be written up as facts and are, in effect, invisible. All we have are shadow markets.

Without standardization, the values of assets and relationships are so variable that they can't be used to guarantee credit, to generate mortgages and bundle them into securities, to represent them in shares to raise capital. Nor do they fit the standard slots required to enter global markets. That's why credit crunches and massive unemployment are chronic conditions for most people forced to operate in the informal economy. These are the ones you see protesting in the streets of Arab countries or living in tents surrounding Port-au-Prince. We know only too well that facts don't speak for themselves: They have to be constructed through legal processes and kept transparent. They have to be defended, too.

all hail the PUBLIC library..,

Onthecommons | "The word 'public' has been removed from the name of the Fort Worth Library. Why? Simply put, to keep up with the times." From the Media release on the rebranding of the Fort Worth Library

Fort Worth, you leave me speechless. You’re certainly correct about one thing. The public library is indeed an institution that has not kept up with the times. But given what has happened to our times, why do you see that as unhealthy? In an age of greed and selfishness, the public library stands as an enduring monument to the values of cooperation and sharing. In an age where global corporations stride the earth, the public library remains firmly rooted in the local community. In an age of widespread cynicism and distrust of government, the 100 percent tax supported public library has virtually unanimous and enthusiastic support.

This is not the time to take the word “public” out of the public library. It is time to put it in capitals.

The public library is a singularly American invention. Europeans had subscription libraries for 100 years before the United States was born. But on a chilly day in April 1833 the good citizens of Peterborough, New Hampshire created a radical new concept—a truly PUBLIC library. All town residents, regardless of income, had the right to freely share the community’s stored knowledge. Their only obligation was to return the information on time and in good condition, allowing others to exercise that same right.

By the 1870s 11 states boasted 188 public libraries. By 1910 all states had them. Today 9,000 central buildings plus about 7500 branches have made public libraries one of the most ubiquitous of all American institutions, exceeding Starbucks and McDonalds.

Almost two thirds of us carry library cards. At least once a year, about half of us visit a public library, many more than once. Library use varies by class and race and by age and educational level. But the majority of blacks and Latinos as well as whites, old as well as young, poor as well as rich, high school dropouts as well as university graduates, use the public library.

neighborhood tool-sharing

Video - Portland's neighborhood tool sharing libraries.

PeakMoment | Need a tool for a few days? Don’t have it? Neighbor doesn’t have it? Borrow it from your neighborhood tool library! No tool library? Check out Portland, where several neighborhoods have started successful tool libraries just in the last few years. Organizers Tom Thompson, Karen Tarnow and Stephen Couche discuss how they got started, stories of community generosity, and the enthusiastic response of all who stop by. In these neighborhoods, there’s no reason not to grab the tools you need and do that project!

the world's last typewriter factory closes in india

Business Insider | Obsolete technologies don't die right away, they just move to places like India. Such was the case with typewriters, which were produced by Godrej & Boyce in Mumbai until recently.

Now the typewriter era is officially over.

Godrej & Boyce's Milind Dukle tells the Business Standard:

"From the early 2000 onwards, computers started dominating. All the manufacturers of office typewriters stopped production, except us. Till 2009, we used to produce 10,000 to 12,000 machines a year.

"We stopped production in 2009 and were the last company in the world to manufacture office typewriters. Currently, the company has only 500 machines left. The machines are of Godrej Prima, the last typewriter brand from our company, and will be sold at a maximum retail price of Rs 12,000."

The factory has been converted to a refrigerator manufacturing unit.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

julian jaynes - poetry and song

All the above discusssion is mere literary tradition and sounds more plea than proof. We should, therefore, ask if there is another way of approaching the matter to show the relationship of poetry to the bicameral mind more scientifically. There is I think, if we look at the relation of poetry to music.

First of all, early poetry was song. The difference between song and speech is a matter of discontinuities of pitch. In ordinary speech, we are constantly changing pitch, even in the pronunciation of a single syllable. But in song, the change of pitch is discrete and discontinuous. Speech reels around all over a certain portion of an octave (in relaxed speech about a fifth). Song steps from note to note on strict and delimited feet over a more extended range.

Modern poetry is a hybrid. It has the metrical feet of song with the pitch glissandos of speech. But ancient poetry is much closer to song. Accents were not by intensity stress as in our ordinary speech, but by pitch. In ancient Greece, this pitch is thought to have been precisely the interval of a fifth above the ground note of the poem, so that on the notes of our scale, dactyls would go GCC, GCC, with no extra emphasis on the G. Moreover, the three extra accents, acute, circumflex, and grave, were, as their notations /,^,\ imply, a rising pitch within the syllable, a rising and falling on the same syllable, and a falling pitch respectively. The result was a poetry sung like plainsong with various auditory ornamentation that gave it beautiful variety.

Now how does all this relate to the bicameral mind? Speech, as has long been known, is a function primarily of the left cerebral hemisphere. But song, as we are presently discovering is primarily a function of the right cerebral hemisphere. The evidence is various but consistent.

  • It is common medical knowledge that many elderly patients who have suffered cerebral hemorrhages on the left hemisphere such that they cannot speak can still sing.
  • The so-called Wada Test is sometimes performed in hospitals to find out a person's cerebral dominance. Sodium anytal is injected into the carotid artery on one side, putting the corresponding hemisphere under heavy sedation but leaving the other awake and alert. When the injection is made on the left side so that the left hemisphere is sedated and only the right hemisphere is active, the person is unable to speak, but can still sing. When the injection is on the right so that only the left hemisphere is activeactive, the person can speak but cannot sing.
  • Patients in whom the entire left hemisphere has been removed because of glioma can only manage a few words, if any, postoperatively. But at least come can sing. One such patient with only a speechless right hemisphere to his name was able to sing "America" and "Home on the Range" rarely missing a word and with nearly perfect enunciation.
  • Electrical stimulation on the right hemisphere in regions adjacent to the posterior temporal lobe, particularly the anterior temporal lobe, often produces hallucinations of singing and music. I have already described some of these patients in I.5. And this in general is the area, corresponding to Wernicke's area on the left hemisphere, which I have hypothesized was where the auditory hallucinations of the bicameral mind were organized.
Singing and melody then are primarily right hemisphere activities. And since poetry in antiquity was sung rather than spoken, it was perhaps largely a right hemisphere funtion, as the theory of the bicameral mind in I.5. would predict. More specifically, ancient poetry involved the posterior part of the right temporal lobe, which I have suggested was responsible for organizing divine hallucinations, together with adjacent areas which even today are involved in music.

julian jaynes - poetry was the language of gods

Why has so much of the textual material we have used as evidence in the earlier chapters been poetry? And why does poetry flash with recognitions of thoughts we did not know we had, finding its unsure way to something in us that knows and has known all the time, something, I think, older than the present organization of our nature?

I shall state my thesis plain. The first poets were Gods. Poetry began with the bicameral mind. The God-side of our ancient mentality, at least in a certain period of history, usually or perhaps always spoke in verse. This means that most men at one time, throughout the day, were hearing poetry (of a sort) composed and spoken within their own minds.The evidence is, of course, only inferential. It is that all of those individuals who remained bicameral into the conscious age, when speaking of or from the divine side of their minds, spoke in poetry.

The great epics of Greece were of course heard and spoken by the aoidoi as poetry. The ancient writings of Mesopotamia and Egypt are darkened with our ignorance of how such languages were pronounced, but with such assurances in transliteration as we can muster, such writings when spoken were also poetry. In India, the oldest literature is the Veda, which were dictated by gods to the rishi or prophets; these too were poetry. Oracles spoke poetry. From time to time, their utterances from Delphi and elsewhere were written down, and every one of them that survives as more than a simple phrase is in dactylic hexameter. The Hebrew prophets also, when realying the hallucinated utterances of Yahweh, were often poets, though their scribes did not in every case preserve such speech in verse.

Poetry then was divine knowledge. And after the breakdown of the bicameral mind, poetry was the sound and tenor of authorization. Poetry commanded where prose could only ask. It felt good. In the wanderings of the Hebrews after the exodus from Egypt, it was the sacred shrine that was carried before the multitude and followed by the people, but it was the poetry of Moses that determined when they would start and when stop, where they would go and where stay.

The association of rhythmical or repetitively patterned utterance with supernatural knowledge endures well into the later conscious period. Among the early Arabic peoples, the word for poet was sha'ir "the knower", or a person endowed with knowledge by the spirits; his metered speech in recitation was the mark of its divine origin. The poet and the divine seer have a long tradition of association in the ancient world, and several Indo-European languages have a common term for them. Rhyme and alliteration too were always the linguistic province of the gods and the prophets. In at least some instances of spontaneous possession, the demonic utterances are in meter. Even glossolalia today, as we have seen in III.2, wherever it is practiced, tends to fall into metrical patterns, particularly dactyls.

Poetry then was the language of gods.