Wednesday, October 19, 2011

energy vs. analysis

Video - Futurama Do the Hustle

MorrisBerman | Like most folks reading this, I want the Wall St. protests to succeed, though at this point I'm not exactly clear as to what that would look like. Minimally, the arrest and trials (preferably at the World Court in The Hague) of numerous CEOs for financial terrorism; confiscation of the wealth of the top 1% and the redistribution of it among the rest of us; immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan; reduction of the Pentagon budget by 90%; massive reparations, plus heartfelt apologies, to Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, and several other countries, for the horror we visited upon them through the CIA and our foreign policy; and so on. In terms of what needs to be done in order to turn America around, these are admittedly very small steps—baby steps, really—but one has to begin somewhere, after all. However, this is to get ahead of ourselves. Right now, as far as Occupy Wall Street goes, anything might happen. Historically speaking, demonstrations that seemed tame suddenly caught fire, as in the case of, say, the Russian Revolution. So it’s hard to predict the outcome of these protests in any definitive way.

That being said, I confess it doesn't seem likely that these protests can reverse 400 years of a culture based on “hustling,” as I call it in my most recent book, Why America Failed, or the post-Civil War consolidation of corporate America. Which brings to mind a quote from Lincoln: we must "disenthrall" ourselves, he said. Are we now clutching at straws, and getting all enthralled? Look at the enthrallment over Obama in 2008, and how he turned out to be the very opposite of what he said he was. (Basically, a George Bush who can speak English.) I hear Michael Moore saying how these protests will sweep the country, and I think: but you thought Obama was going to sweep the country. Maybe it's time to look at our tendency toward enthrallment, and figure out why “sweeping” is not very likely.

So much is made of the role of the “social media” in these types of uprisings; I remain skeptical on a number of grounds. I mean, Facebook didn’t play much of a role that I know of in Paris during 1789; and where is the Egyptian “revolution” now? But it goes much deeper than this. Even if we credit the social media with being able to mobilize youthful energy, this is only Stage 1 of any successful protest. Stage 2 is really being able to know and analyze what this country is about, or what a new US foreign policy might consist of; and on this score, the very things that made Stage 1 possible now ironically serve to make Stage 2 extremely difficult, if not impossible. For it is because of these media, and the cumulative impact of television and the Internet in our lives, that young Americans are literally unable to think. They don't know what the difference is between information and knowledge, nor do they really understand what an argument is; and thanks to the new telecommunications technologies, they now have the attention span of a gnat. Printed books take time; they are designed for thinking and reflection, whereas screens are designed for scanning, for bouncing around, for “Whassup, dude?” And if these folks should happen to attend a lecture, they typically sit there and check their e-mail or text-message their friends. In such a context, Stage 2 of the protest is not likely to come about.

chris hedges: ows exposing mendacity, corruption, and decay

Video - Chris Hedges shares his thoughts on where OWS has come from and where it's headed.

consistency is the hobgoblin of truth

Video - Ron Paul's message to OWS "stop interventionism and end the Fed".

help stop COICA 2.0

Video - President Obama urged repressive regimes around the world to stop censoring the Internet. But at the same time, the United States Congress is hatching a plan to censor the Internet here at home. A new bill being debated this week would instruct the Attorney General to create an Internet blacklist of sites that US Internet providers would be required to block

DemandProgress | Oppose PROTECT-IP Act: U.S. Government Wants To Censor Search Engines And Browsers Tell Congress to Kill COICA 2.0, the Internet Censorship Bill

UPDATE: Great news. We don't always see eye-to-eye with Google, but we're on the same team this time. Google CEO Eric Schmidt just came out swinging against PROTECT IP, saying, "I would be very, very careful if I were a government about arbitrarily [implementing] simple solutions to complex problems." And then he went even further. From the LA Times:

"If there is a law that requires DNSs, to do X and it's passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president of the United States and we disagree with it then we would still fight it," he said, according to the report. "If it's a request the answer is we wouldn't do it, if it's a discussion we wouldn't do it."

Big content is irate. The Motion Picture Association of America released a statement saying, "We’ve heard this ‘but the law doesn’t apply to me’ argument before – but usually, it comes from content thieves, not a Fortune 500 company. Google should know better."

ORIGINAL: We knew that members of Congress and their business allies were gearing up to pass a revised Internet Blacklist Bill -- which more than 325,000 Demand Progress members helped block last winter -- but we never expected it to be this atrocious. Last year's bill has been renamed the "PROTECT IP" Act and it is far worse than its predecessor. A summary of it is posted below.

Senators Leahy and Hatch pretended to weigh free speech concerns as they revised the bill. Instead, the new legislation would institute a China-like censorship regime in the United States, whereby the Department of Justice could force search engines, browsers, and service providers to block users' access to websites, and scrub the American Internet clean of any trace of their existence.

Furthermore, it wouldn't just be the Attorney General who could add sites to the blacklist, but the new bill would allow any copyright holder to get sites blacklisted -- sure to result in an explosion of dubious and confused orders.

Will you urge Congress to oppose the PROTECT IP Act? Just add your name at right.

PETITION TO CONGRESS: The PROTECT IP Act demonstrates an astounding lack of respect for Internet freedom and free speech rights. I urge you to oppose it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review of Lieutenant Colonel Fleming’s U.S. Army War College thesis on Peak Oil

EnergyBulletin | LTC Christopher M. Fleming has made a valuable contribution to peak oil research with his concise thesis, Considering Oil Production Variance as an Indicator of Peak Production (June 2010, 26 pgs).

In his Abstract, LTC Fleming summarized both the purpose and the conclusions of his research: “Peak Oil predictions range from the year 2000 to 2100 with the highest concentration of forecasts from 2005 to 2016. Confidence in international oil reserves data is lacking. As such, different forecasters make different assumptions about future undiscovered oil amounts and oil reserves, resulting in a wide range of peak oil estimates. Viewing this wide time disparity in forecasts as problematic, the research objective was to look for an economic cross-check indicator, metric, or alternative data-based means to corroborate or refute existing peak oil estimates."

The primary finding was unprecedented statistical variance in oil production rates as well as in oil prices beginning approximately 2005 to 2010. In the case of oil production rates, variance is at historically low levels. In the case of oil prices, variance is at historically high levels. The data indicate a new higher order of inelasticity between oil price and oil production.

These findings support peak oil forecasts in the range of 2005 to 2010 and together provide strong evidence that geological factors could presently be limiting world oil production.”

In his section, Hydrocarbon Man and the Petroleum Age, LTC Fleming clearly appreciates the fundamental role of petroleum: “All the marvels of the twentieth and twenty-first century were made possible by our connection to cheap, plentiful fossil fuels.”

He then provides a compelling analogy to express the energy density of petroleum in practical terms:
“There are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil which contains about 1667 kilowatt-hours of energy. A gallon of gasoline energy content is about 33 kilowatt-hours. In perspective, 33 kilowatt-hours is the equivalent of a healthy male pedaling a stationary bike for 330 hours – if he can maintain 100 watts per hour. If he pedals 40 hours per week, he will generate the same amount of energy as in one gallon of gasoline in about eight weeks. Pedaling 40 hours per week for just over eight years equates to 1667 kilowatt-hours of energy in a barrel of oil.

Now, if we attach a financial cost per hour to the pedaling, we begin to understand what is meant by “cheap” abundant fossil fuels. At the current $7.25 per hour minimum wage, the coast of pedaling 330 hours (energy in one gallon of gasoline) is $2,392.50; and pedaling 16,667 hours (energy in one barrel of oil) cost $120,835…. We have exploited this cheap abundant source of energy for over 150 years” (p. 3).

In his section, Oil Discoveries in Perspective, LTC Fleming points out how recent high-profile reports of oil discoveries should be interpreted as evidence of trouble ahead, rather than as reassurance that all is well: “BP’s discovery of three billion barrels of oil represents a 1.15 month supply to the overall global market” (p. 9). Fleming adds, “It should be noticed that the explorations, whatever they might be, tend to be setting records for depth, and are in harsh, forbidding places” (p. 10).

The chief contribution of this thesis is its statistical analysis of oil production variance and oil price variance (with a particular focus on the five years between March 2005 and February 2010):

“Oil production variance and oil price variance have never been so far apart…. [There is] an inelasticity at least ten times greater than at any time during the previous 30 years, and 100 times greater than during the previous decade. One might conclude that what we have considered ‘normal’ oil production and oil price cycles have ceased to exist” (p. 15-16).

LTC Fleming concludes, “The synchrony of unprecedented low production variance, unprecedented high price variance, and the number of peak oil forecasts in the range of 2005 to 2010 provide strong evidence that, regardless of price pull, geological factors could be presently limiting world oil production” (p. 17).

Finally, LTC Fleming notes the gravity of what lies ahead and the need for realistic planning: “It is important to make the distinction between a temporary oil supply disruption and oil’s terminal production decline. Managing the risk of one is much different than managing the risk of the other” (p. 12).

LTC Fleming and his War College advisers are commended for their concise, insightful analysis of one of this century’s most formidable challenges, the peaking of global oil production. The US war colleges have produced a number of first-rate analyses of peak oil during the past six years, and this recent thesis is a significant contribution to that body of research.

LTC Fleming’s study is available here.

what is nanotechnology?

crnano | A basic definition: Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced.

In its original sense, 'nanotechnology' refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

The Meaning of Nanotechnology

When K. Eric Drexler popularized the word 'nanotechnology' in the 1980's, he was talking about building machines on the scale of molecules, a few nanometers wide—motors, robot arms, and even whole computers, far smaller than a cell. Drexler spent the next ten years describing and analyzing these incredible devices, and responding to accusations of science fiction. Meanwhile, mundane technology was developing the ability to build simple structures on a molecular scale. As nanotechnology became an accepted concept, the meaning of the word shifted to encompass the simpler kinds of nanometer-scale technology. The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative was created to fund this kind of nanotech: their definition includes anything smaller than 100 nanometers with novel properties.

Much of the work being done today that carries the name 'nanotechnology' is not nanotechnology in the original meaning of the word. Nanotechnology, in its traditional sense, means building things from the bottom up, with atomic precision. This theoretical capability was envisioned as early as 1959 by the renowned physicist Richard Feynman.
I want to build a billion tiny factories, models of each other, which are manufacturing simultaneously. . .The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. It is not an attempt to violate any laws; it is something, in principle, that can be done; but in practice, it has not been done because we are too big. Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner in physics
Based on Feynman's vision of miniature factories using nanomachines to build complex products, advanced nanotechnology (sometimes referred to as molecular manufacturing
will make use of positionally-controlled mechanochemistry guided by molecular machine systems. Formulating a roadmap for development of this kind of nanotechnology is now an objective of a broadly based technology roadmap project led by Battelle (the manager of several U.S. National Laboratories) and the Foresight Nanotech Institute.

Shortly after this envisioned molecular machinery is created, it will result in a manufacturing revolution, probably causing severe disruption. It also has serious economic, social, environmental, and military implications.

Four Generations
Mihail (Mike) Roco of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative has described four generations of nanotechnology development (see chart below). The current era, as Roco depicts it, is that of passive nanostructures, materials designed to perform one task. The second phase, which we are just entering, introduces active nanostructures for multitasking; for example, actuators, drug delivery devices, and sensors. The third generation is expected to begin emerging around 2010 and will feature nanosystems with thousands of interacting components. A few years after that, the first integrated nanosystems, functioning (according to Roco) much like a mammalian cell with hierarchical systems within systems, are expected to be developed.

dylan ratigan on political efforts to hijack OWS

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Monday, October 17, 2011

occupy lsx welcomes julian assange

Video - Julian Assange addresses Occupy LSX at St. Paul's Cathedral

SMH | WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has joined about 800 people at a heavily policed rally in London's financial heart, part of worldwide protests against corporate greed and budget cutbacks.

The demonstrators, some of them masked, were pushed back by police as they marched from St Paul's Cathedral to the London Stock Exchange, around the corner from the famous landmark.

There were only minor scuffles with five people arrested, three for assaulting police officers and two for public order offences, Scotland Yard said.
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"Today's protest has been largely calm and orderly," a statement said.

The demonstration went on after nightfall, with police urging protesters to leave the area.

Organisers in a group calling itself OccupyLSX were hoping for thousands of participants after some 15,000 people expressed support on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

Assange, flanked by bodyguards, received a warm reception from the demonstrators as he addressed them from the cathedral steps.

"One of the reasons why we support what is happening here in Occupy London is because the banking system in London is the recipient of corrupt money," the Australian said.

The marchers, bearing banners reading "Strike Back", "No Cuts" and "Goldman Sachs Is the Work of the Devil", were ringed by police cordons while mounted officers and vehicles stood by.

After London's police were severely criticised for being caught out by riots in August, they were clearly taking no chances on Saturday and were out in force.

"Police have a duty not just to provide a proportionate response, but to minimise the potential disruption to Londoners going about their business. This isn't an easy balance to strike," Scotland Yard said.

Ben Walker, 33, a teacher from Norwich in eastern England, was carrying a rolled-up sleeping bag and said he planned to spend one or two nights in the area.

"I'm here today mainly as a sense of solidarity with the movements that are going on around the world," he told AFP. "We're hoping for a kind of justice in the global financial system."

British student Amy Soyka, 22, who set up a tent outside the cathedral said: "I feel passionately that young people have been let down. All this hope and opportunity has been taken away from them ... it's a terrible situation and we shouldn't even be in this economic situation."

She was among a number of students at the rally. Others came from Greece, Spain, South Korea and the US.

But the protest, to the sound of guitars and drums, was overwhelmingly peaceful and the cathedral remained open to visitors.

Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and Spain's "Indignants", people took to the streets across the world during the weekend, targeting 951 cities in 82 countries.

the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed..,

Nature | Self-replication of information-bearing nanoscale patterns. DNA molecules provide what is probably the most iconic example of self-replication—the ability of a system to replicate, or make copies of, itself. In living cells the process is mediated by enzymes and occurs autonomously, with the number of replicas increasing exponentially over time without the need for external manipulation. Self-replication has also been implemented with synthetic systems, including RNA enzymes designed to undergo self-sustained exponential amplification1, 2, 3, 4, 5. An exciting next step would be to use self-replication in materials fabrication, which requires robust and general systems capable of copying and amplifying functional materials or structures. Here we report a first development in this direction, using DNA tile motifs that can recognize and bind complementary tiles in a pre-programmed fashion. We first design tile motifs so they form a seven-tile seed sequence; then use the seeds to instruct the formation of a first generation of complementary seven-tile daughter sequences; and finally use the daughters to instruct the formation of seven-tile granddaughter sequences that are identical to the initial seed sequences. Considering that DNA is a functional material that can organize itself and other molecules into useful structures6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, our findings raise the tantalizing prospect that we may one day be able to realize self-replicating materials with various patterns or useful

wall st. is privately critical of the protesters

NYTimes | Publicly, bankers say they understand the anger at Wall Street — but believe they are misunderstood by the protesters camped on their doorstep.

But when they speak privately, it is often a different story.

“Most people view it as a ragtag group looking for sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll,” said one top hedge fund manager.

“It’s not a middle-class uprising,” adds another veteran bank executive. “It’s fringe groups. It’s people who have the time to do this.”

As the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations have grown and spread to other cities, an open question is: Do the bankers get it? Their different worldview speaks volumes about the wide chasms that have opened over who is to blame for the continuing economic malaise and what is best for the country.

Some on Wall Street viewed the protesters with disdain, and a degree of caution, as hundreds marched through the financial district on Friday. Others say they feel their pain, but are befuddled about what they are supposed to do to ease it. A few even feel personally attacked, and say the Occupy Wall Street protesters who have been in Zuccotti Park for weeks are just bitter about their own economic fate and looking for an easy target. If anything, they say, people should show some gratitude.

“Who do you think pays the taxes?” said one longtime money manager. “Financial services are one of the last things we do in this country and do it well. Let’s embrace it. If you want to keep having jobs outsourced, keep attacking financial services. This is just disgruntled people.”

He added that he was disappointed that members of Congress from New York, especially Senator Charles E. Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, had not come out swinging for an industry that donates heavily to their campaigns. “They need to understand who their constituency is,” he said.

Generally, bankers dismiss the protesters as gullible and unsophisticated. Not many are willing to say this out loud, for fear of drawing public ire — or the masses to their doorsteps. “Anybody who dismisses them publicly is putting a bull’s-eye on their back,” the hedge fund manager said.

economics has met the enemy, and it's economics...,

GlobeandMail | After Thomas Sargent learned on Monday morning that he and colleague Christopher Sims had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for 2011, the 68-year-old New York University professor struck an aw-shucks tone with an interviewer from the official Nobel website: “We're just bookish types that look at numbers and try to figure out what's going on.”

But no one who'd followed Prof. Sargent's long, distinguished career would have been fooled by his attempt at modesty. He'd won for his part in developing one of economists' main models of cause and effect: How can we expect people to respond to changes in prices, for example, or interest rates? According to the laureates' theories, they'll do whatever's most beneficial to them, and they'll do it every time. They don't need governments to instruct them; they figure it out for themselves. Economists call this the “rational expectations” model. And it's not just an abstraction: Bankers and policy-makers apply these formulae in the real world, so bad models lead to bad policy.

Which is perhaps why, by the end of that interview on Monday, Prof. Sargent was adopting a more realistic tone: “We experiment with our models,” he explained, “before we wreck the world.”

Rational-expectations theory and its corollary, the efficient-market hypothesis, have been central to mainstream economics for more than 40 years. And while they may not have “wrecked the world,” some critics argue these models have blinded economists to reality: Certain the universe was unfolding as it should, they failed both to anticipate the financial crisis of 2008 and to chart an effective path to recovery.

The economic crisis has produced a crisis in the study of economics – a growing realization that if the field is going to offer meaningful solutions, greater attention must be paid to what is happening in university lecture halls and seminar rooms.

While the protesters occupying Wall Street are not carrying signs denouncing rational-expectations and efficient-market modelling, perhaps they should be.

They wouldn't be the first young dissenters to call economics to account. In June of 2000, a small group of elite graduate students at some of France's most prestigious universities declared war on the economic establishment. This was an unlikely group of student radicals, whose degrees could be expected to lead them to lucrative careers in finance, business or government if they didn't rock the boat. Instead, they protested – not about tuition or workloads, but that too much of what they studied bore no relation to what was happening outside the classroom walls.

They launched an online petition demanding greater realism in economics teaching, less reliance on mathematics “as an end in itself” and more space for approaches beyond the dominant neoclassical model, including input from other disciplines, such as psychology, history and sociology. Their conclusion was that economics had become an “autistic science,” lost in “imaginary worlds.” They called their movement Autisme-economie.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

corporal punishment may have shaped world religions

Cypresstimes | The academic journal Archive for the Psychology of Religion has published a provocative article which argues that some of the most basic teachings of major religions may have developed in response to the corporal punishment of children.

The article notes that the punishment of children was common and severe in the cultures where major religions developed. These harsh childrearing practices, the article asserts, may have skewed religious theologies towards themes of sin, obedience, and punishment. Childhood punishment may even be the source of the idea that salvation from divine punishment is needed, according to the article.

The article focuses on Christianity but also discusses traditions as diverse as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The author of the article, Dr. Benjamin Abelow, has studied links between childhood and religion for over a decade.

"Throughout history, children have been punished for disobedience and not punished when they are obedient," says Abelow. "In effect, children have been ‘saved' from punishment through their obedience." Abelow thinks this childhood situation may have laid a foundation for the idea that believers are saved from divine punishment through obedience to God, a teaching that lies at the heart of the New Testament, Hebrew Scriptures, and Koran.

The article raises basic questions about traditional religious teachings but does not automatically point to atheism. "One can accept my argument yet still believe in a God who created the world, intervenes for the good, and provides comfort to those in need," says Abelow.

The article is important for scholars to consider, Abelow says. He notes that portrayals of believers as children, of God as a father-like figure, and of divine punishment as a response to disobedience are common in religious teachings. But he says most scholars have not considered the possibility that these portrayals might reflect how children have been treated historically. "That approach is just not part of current mainstream models used by most scholars of Bible and religion."

Abelow thinks the article is also important for the culture at large because it sheds light on the emotional needs of children. "If the physical punishment of children was powerful enough, on a cultural level, to shape entire religious traditions, we need to be aware of this fact. It tells us how impressionable children are. It has implications for how we treat children today," he says.

telegraph: las vegas is so over...,

Telegraph | A faded blonde in her mid-forties with a gaming-room pallor said it was all so sad. When she heard the Sahara was closing, she said, she had come and had a farewell drink in every bar. Two labourers were prising an ornate wooden pillar 12ft high from the wall. 'It wouldn’t fit into my apartment,’ the blonde said. She gave a deep sigh. 'Las Vegas,’ she added, 'is so over.’

To the tourists who flock up and down the Strip, the impact of the recession on Las Vegas might not be immediately apparent. The casinos still thrum with cries of jubilation and, more often, the groans of disappointment. Queues still form at the hotel-theatres where The Lion King and Viva ELVIS are playing.

Few people have any reason to venture into the suburbs, where, if you look carefully, a different vision of Las Vegas presents itself: the rows of foreclosed properties; the mile upon mile of unfinished housing developments; the 'going out of business’ signs on shops.

For a period in the 1990s and 2000s, Las Vegas was the fastest-growing city in America. Drawn by the flourishing fortunes of the casino industry (and too by Nevada’s benign tax laws: the State has no individual or corporate income tax, most of its revenue coming from gambling and sales taxes), workers flocked to the city. In the four years leading up to 2007, the population increased by 104 per cent – the largest population growth of any city in the entire United States. (It now stands at 2.03 million.)

But Las Vegas’s days as a boom town are long gone. At 14 per cent, unemployment is the highest in America (the national average is 9.1 per cent). House prices have fallen 58.1 per cent since their 2006 high – the biggest losses of anywhere in America, while according to the website RealtyTrac, which specialises in foreclosed properties, Las Vegas is the nation’s foreclosure capital. Some 70 per cent of homes in Las Vegas are thought to be 'under water’, or in negative equity, meaning their value is worth less than the amount owed on the mortgage, while foreclosure notices have been served on one in 16 properties. A survey last year by the local Las Vegas Review-Journal and Channel 8 News Now found that 34 per cent of locals would leave Las Vegas if they could find a job elsewhere, or if they weren’t underwater on their home loan.

A report last year by the Brookings Institute and the London School of Economics ranked Las Vegas’s economic performance in 2010 as one of the five worst out of 150 metropolitan areas around the world, due in large part to the collapse of the real estate market. Many of the problems are down to Las Vegas having relied too much on one industry for its growth: 20 per cent of the town’s workforce is employed in gaming and tourism.

In the peak years of 2006 and 2007, roughly 39 million people per annum flocked to Vegas. In the worst of times – 2008 and 2009 – that number fell by only three million, but the effect on the complex arithmetic of the Vegas economy was critical. Room rates dropped, and crucially so did gambling revenues. Between 2007 and 2010 gaming revenues on the Strip fell by 15.4 per cent – $1.05 billion – driving three major casinos into bankruptcy.

Nor can Las Vegas any longer claim to be the gambling capital of the world. Last year gaming revenues in Macau were four times those generated on the Strip, and this year it is estimated that Singapore will also overtake Las Vegas. Local operators such as Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts, the company run by Steve Wynn, who is credited with much of the Strip’s burgeoning economic growth over the past 20 years, now get the lion’s share of their revenue from Asia, and Wynn is said to be contemplating relocating his centre of operations to Macau.

suburbs - designed to keep the poor out - pure hell for the newly poor within

HuffPo | EDGEWATER, Colo. -- Before the unraveling, Selena Blanco and her family felt secure in their hold on middle class life in this bedroom community just west of Denver. She and her husband both held professional jobs in industries that seemed sheltered from trouble, his in technology, hers in health care. Together they brought home $100,000 a year, enough to allay concerns about paying the bills, let alone having to ask for help.

But over the last two years, both have lost their jobs. Her unemployment check ran out in the spring, leaving them to subsist on his jobless benefits alone, about $1,500 a month.

The Blanco's shattered fortunes have supplied them an unwanted new status, one they share with millions of suburban households in a nation previously accustomed to thinking of suburbia in upwardly mobile terms: They are poor.

They are officially so according to the federal government's definition, which sets the poverty line for a family of five at an annual income of $26,023 or less. It is viscerally true when one sees how Blanco, 28, now spends her day. She takes her four-year-old son to a county-operated Headstart program, free preschool for the poor. She forages for clothes at thrift stores. She scrounges for coupons to keep her family fed.

"We were doing well," Blanco says, dabbing at reddening eyes with a tissue, trying to make sense of events that contradict her understanding of what is supposed to happen to people who work, save and provide for their children. "My husband and I would go out to eat without even thinking about it. We bought shoes. When I needed a bra, I went to Victoria's Secret. Now we're like, 'Which Goodwill is having a sale?'"

They have applied for food stamps and the cash assistance program familiarly known as welfare, crossing a previously unimaginable threshold: For the first time in her life, Blanco -- a self-possessed, confident, intelligent woman who still carries herself like someone who used to work in an office -- has entered the ranks of those in need of public assistance.

"It's a horrible feeling," she says, tears staining her face. "There's pride. I don't show my kids that we're hurting, but it hurts me. It makes me feel like I'm failing as a parent. It's embarrassing."

Despite the typically urban associations evoked by talk of poverty in America, Blanco is the face of an emerging segment of the nation's poor now growing faster than any other. Though cities still have nearly double the rate of poverty as suburban areas, the number of people living in poverty in the suburbs of major metropolitan areas increased by 53 percent between 2000 and 2010, as compared to an increase of 23 percent among city-dwellers, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of recently released census data. In 16 metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Dallas and Milwaukee, the suburban poor has more than doubled over the last decade.

The swift growth of suburban poverty is reshaping the sociological landscape, while leaving millions of struggling households without the support that might ameliorate their plight: Compared to cities, suburban communities lack facilities and programs to help the poor, owing to a lag in awareness that large numbers of indigent people are in their midst. Some communities are wary of providing services out of fear they will make themselves magnets for the poor.

In the suburbs, getting to county offices to apply for aid or to food banks generally requires a car or reliance on a typically minimal public transportation network. The same transportation constraints limit working opportunities, with many jobs potentially beyond reach and would-be employers reluctant to hire people who lack their own vehicles.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

america is being extracted...,

Video - Dylan Ratigan detonates 100 megatons of truth on teevee

chalmers johnson on american hegemony

Speaking Freely - Chalmers Johnson on American Hegemony from Ice Goldberg on Vimeo.

Author of Blowback, The Sorrows Of Empire and Nemesis: The Last Days Of The American Empire, Chalmers Johnson has literally written the book on the concept of American Hegemony. A former naval officer and consultant of the C.I.A., he now serves as professor Emeritus at UC San Diego. As co-founder and President of the Japan Policy Research Institute, Mr. Johnson also continues to promote public education about Asia's role in the international community.

In this exclusive interview, you will find out why the practice of empire building is, by no means, a thing of the past. As the United States continues to expand its military forces around the globe, the consequences are being suffered by each and every one of us.

ex-CIA: u.s. making up stoopid stuff about iran...,

Video - Iran Assassination plot is an obvious hoax.

ABC | ELEANOR HALL: Now to the United States where a former intelligence analyst is warning the Obama administration to step back from blaming Iran for the foiled assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador in Washington. Listen to MP3 of this story

The US attorney-general says Iran is behind what would have been a blatant act of international terrorism and which investigating authorities said was intended to be a prelude to other attacks.

The Iranian regime is denying any involvement in the plot and says the allegations are US propaganda.

At a press conference announcing the plot and the charging of two Iranians, attorney-general Eric Holder said that the US would "hold Iran accountable for its actions".

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton also warned that the US will consider ways to isolate Iran from the international community.

HILLARY CLINTON: This kind of action which violates international norms must be ended and other areas where we can cooperate more closely in order to send a strong message to Iran and further isolate it from the international community will also be considered.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

But a former CIA analyst with decades of experience studying Iran, says the US may have got this dangerously wrong.

Robert Baer spent 21 years working as a CIA case officer in the Middle East.

When he spoke to me this morning, he said this plot does not appear to him to be driven by the Iranian government and he says the US administration must now step back from its comments and open a direct diplomatic channel with the Iranian regime or risk igniting an uncontrollable war.

Robert Baer, were you surprised when you heard about this assassination plot?

ROBERT BAER: Oh absolutely. I mean right now is not the time for Iran to provoke the United States. We're on edge already vis-à-vis Iran and it came as a total surprise to me.

ELEANOR HALL: The Iranian authorities have dismissed this as US propaganda; is it credible that the Iranian government is behind it?

ROBERT BAER: I don't think it's credible, not the central government, there may be a rogue element behind it. This doesn't fit their modus operandi at all. It's completely out of character, they're much better than this. They wouldn't be sending money through an American bank, they wouldn't be going to the cartels in Mexico to do this. It's just not the way they work.

I've followed them for 30 years and they're much more careful. And they always use a proxy between them and the operation, and in this case they didn't. I mean it's the, either they're shooting themselves in the foot or there's pieces of the story, I don't know what they are.

the peak oil crisis: contagion

FCNP | With every passing day it is becoming more apparent that the crisis of the depletion of cheap oil has become deeply enmeshed in the European debt crises.

The sequence of events is well known. Greece's economy is imploding; the government can no longer pay its bills without continuing bailouts from the EU; at some point Greece will have to default on at least part of the $430 billion it owes to mostly European banks. Such a default would in turn do severe damage to the viability of many major European Banks which are already suffering a liquidity shortage from the slowing global economy. It is widely believed that these problems quickly would spread to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and now Belgium which are too large to ever be bailed out by France and Germany. Credit Default Swaps would kick in and, taken to the extreme, the world could conceivably not have much of a banking system left.

What is most disconcerting is that many believe that unless all this is settled in the next few weeks, the deluge will begin. Obviously the Europeans do not want to see their financial system collapse and are scrambling to find a solution. EU leaders have given themselves a deadline of October 23rd to come up with a plan to settle the Greek debt question and then recapitalize the European banks that will have to take heavy losses on Greek and possibly other nations' sovereign debts. One of the many issues involved in this crisis, of course, is how much of these heavy losses will be absorbed by the banks making the loans, and how much will be absorbed by the taxpayers of the better-off Eurozone states. London and Washington are putting heavy pressure on the EU to settle this issue, realizing the havoc that would ensue should there be even a partial meltdown of the EU banking system.

There is a big systemic problem going on here. So long as 17 sovereign states and their parliaments have to approve major actions the likelihood that there will be quick and decisive solution to all this seems remote. As we have seen with the Greek situation over the last two years, there is very little the Eurozone as a collective can do to enforce new and highly unpopular economic and social policies on the members, short of kicking them out of the Eurozone and suffering the consequences of a hard default. Despite all the optimism in the financial press and rising equity prices, it seem that in reality there is very little the EU can do to effect a long-term solution.

africom slipping further into darkness...,

WaPo | President Obama will send about 100 U.S. troops to Uganda and nearby countries to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army and kill or capture its leader, Joseph Kony, who has been charged with war crimes for a decades-long campaign against civilians in Central Africa.

In a letter to Congress on Friday, Obama outlined a strictly advisory role for U.S. forces, whom he said would engage in combat only in self-defense. The initial military contingent numbering about a dozen troops arrived in Uganda on Wednesday, and will grow to full strength in the coming weeks.

The decision follows more than a year of study within the White House on how to support the intent of a bill passed by Congress to help several Central African nations defeat a destabilizing guerrilla movement.

Human rights officials have urged Obama to deploy troops against the Lord’s Resistance Army, arguing that it would be a justified use of force to resolve a humanitarian crisis. The International Criminal Court indicted Kony and four other commanders in 2005 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But the deployment comes as the Obama administration is withdrawing from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, where long wars have tested the patience of the American public and consumed resources the president has argued are needed at home. White House officials said that this troop deployment — the most substantial to an African conflict zone since Marines landed in Liberia in 2003 — is modest in number and in the scope.

“This is an advise and assist mission,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council. “It’s an indication of our support for the ongoing regional effort to confront this threat.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

is occupy wall st. the tea party of the left?

Slate | Time has a blog post pondering whether the two anti-elite, anti-corruption movements could ever unite. “It’s not that far-fetched,” Roya Wolverson writes. “In some ways, the tea party and OWS are like doppelganagers… Both groups are repulsed by their taxpayer dollars funding Wall Street’s bailout. Both are disenchanted by the death of the American dream. And both feel left out of a system that seems less like a democracy than a cavalier plutocracy.” The post links to a Venn diagram by blogger James Sinclair showing where the two movements’ grievances overlap.

Not so fast, tea partiers say. Politico reports that major Tea Party groups are mounting an assault intended to delegitimize the Occupy Wall Street protests. They’re “hunting for evidence of union ties, fringe rhetoric and bad behavior — ranging from news of arrests, to recordings of incendiary speeches, to tales of littering, drug use and debauchery,” Politico writes. “They’re posting what they find online, like a photograph of a demonstrator apparently defecating on a cop car that has circulated widely, and are accusing the mainstream media of ignoring extremist elements.”

The conservative columnist George Will argues in the Washington Post that the two groups aren’t comparable because Occupy Wall Street is much smaller and its tactics more radical. And a campaign director for the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks argues in the Politico article that tea partiers are “cheerful, happy warriors” while the Occupy Wall Street crowds are unhappy and angry. He compares the Tea Party to Martin Luther King Jr. and Occupy Wall Street to Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael.

One sign that the comparison might be flawed: A new Time poll shows that Occupy Wall Street is twice as popular with Americans as the Tea Party. Fifty-four percent of Americans view the “Occupy” movement favorably, compared to just 27 percent for the Tea Party. Slate’s David Weigel has a brief blog post examining the numbers.

we demand the restoration of the rule of law!

Video - Chris Hedges eviscerates a Canadian Broadcast blowhard.

Dailybail | O'Leary : So what exactly is everyone complaining about? And also give me a sense of how much momentum this movement has because it's pretty nothing burgers so far - just a few guys, guitars. Nobody knows what they want - they can't even name the names of the firms that they're protesting against - very weak, low budget.

Hedges : I wouldn't agree with that assessment at all. They pulled thousands of people into the street last night and here in Washington when everyone marched past the Bank of America, they were shouting Shame! Shame! Shame! They know the names of these firms and they know what these firms have done not only to the American economy but to the global economy, and the criminal class who runs them.

Fill-in for Lang : Well Kevin made this point that nobody knows what they want. What do you say to that? We know that this is a very diverse group, there are many different agendas at play ... what is the sense you have of what this movement would like to see happen?

Hedges : They know precisely what they want ; they want to reverse the corporate coup that's taken place in the US and rendered the citizenry impotent and they won't stop until that happens and frankly if we don't break the back of corporations, we're all finished anyway since we're rapidly trashing the ecosystem on which the human species depends for survival. This is literally a fight for life - it's that grave, it's that serious. Corporations, unfettered capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, is a revolutionary force - it commodifies everything - human beings, the natural world which it exploits for profit until exhaustion and collapse. The bottom line is we don't have much time left - we are on the cusp of perhaps another major banking crisis in Europe, defaults in Greece, followed by Spain, Portugal. There's been no restrictions, no regulations on Wall Street - they've looted the US Treasury, they've played all the games that they were playing before and we're about to pay for it all over again.

O'Leary : Listen don't take this the wrong way but you sound like a left wing nutbar. If you want to shut down every corporation, every bank, where are you going to get a job? Where are you gonna work? Where's the economy gonna go?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

power structure research | Power structure research is an approach to the study of power that highlights the unequal distribution of resources upon which power is based (e.g., wealth, political office, control of the mass media) and the importance of formal and informal social networks as the means by which power is concentrated and institutionalized.

Modern power structure research has its roots in the radical social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Building upon the pioneering work of sociologists like Floyd Hunter and C. Wright Mills, radical scholars of the era sought to debunk the prevailing myths about American democracy and to advance an alternative view of power in America. Not content merely to criticize the system, they took up the tools of empirical social science and used them to document the domination of big corporations and the upper class over American political life and to analyze the mechanisms by which that domination was maintained.

The most important and widely read early work of power structure research was Who Rules America?, published by G. William Domhoff in 1967. The book has gone through five subsequent editions and the current edition, Who Rules America? Challenges to Corporate and Class Dominance (6th ed.), remains the best and most complete introduction to power structure research available today. (Click here to connect to the Who Rules America? website that accompanies the book.)

Much power structure research is conducted by academic social scientists, although similar studies are often undertaken by independent scholars, investigative journalists, trade union researchers, and social movement activists. Until recently, most of the information needed to trace the webs of power in American society could be obtained only through extensive library and archival research, close monitoring of the press, searches of government records and documents, and interviews with knowledgeable insiders. These remain important sources of data for power structure research, but today much of the information previously obtained in these ways can now be acquired more quickly and easily on the Internet.

This site provides a guide to resources for doing power structure research, including both those available on the Internet and those found elsewhere. Using these resources, you should be able to do such things as:
  • research the backgrounds, economic interests, and social connections of individual members of the power elite
  • disclose the internal power structure of major corporations and the political activities in which they are engaged
  • trace the flow of money from corporations and wealthy capitalists to political candidates and parties
  • monitor the role of special interests in lobbying congress and shaping legislation
  • investigate the role of foundations, think tanks, and business associations in creating public policy
A few of the resources cited here are proprietary databases that are licensed to the University of Oregon. Online access to these resources is limited to students, faculty, and staff at the University of Oregon. However, identical or similar proprietary databases can be found at most college and university libraries as well as many public libraries.

occupy the hood includes all 99%

aljazeera | Just one week into the Occupy Wall Street movement, some activists identified what they considered a major flaw in the organising process, saying that people of colour in the United States were left out of the initial mobilisation.

From the start, the Occupy movement has prided itself on representing "99 per cent" of the population, meaning they have vastly different experiences from the highest earning one per cent, who have a much stronger ability to control and affect both the financial system and the government.

But some activists view the 99 per cent claim critically, saying that they were not included, and therefore the claim is problematic.

As soon as Malik Rhaasan began to use Facebook and Twitter for his idea of "Occupy the Hood", an Occupy sub-organisation that would aim to bring people of colour into the organising process, it began to catch on.

Between the two outreach tools, the group has more than 7,000 followers from around the world, and at least five major US cities have organised their own chapters.

Al Jazeera spoke with Ife Johari Uhuru, a mother and activist in Detroit, Michigan, who signed onto Rhasaan’s idea early on, and began coordinating outreach for the group.

AJE: What is Occupy The Hood and why is there a need for it?

IJU: When Occupy Wall Street started it just focused on capitalism and classism, and I think that some social issues were not brought up. You can't separate capitalism from racism - even if we did away with capitalism there would still be racism - so I posed this question to people of colour on Twitter and Facebook: Do you think more people would be involved if racism was included in this movement along with capitalism? And the overwhelming consensus was yes.Occupy The Hood was born out of a need that we saw to try to get people of colour involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement - not just in New York, but all around the world - to get involved in the general assemblies where decisions are made.

Without everybody, it's not a true representation of the 99 per cent. I don't know if the doors are being closed to people of colour, but this does involve us - come out and get involved in it. It's not a white fight, it's a people's fight. We can't be counted if we're not there - if we're not present to be counted.

2nd time fighting for the u.s., 1st time knowing the enemy....,

Video - Marine veteran 99% interviewed.

ahem 1%, remember the guillotine?

Video - Max Kaiser reminds the 1% of a little history.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

the forbidden fruit...,

Salon | It’s fascinating to juxtapose America’s reverence for Steve Jobs’ accomplishments and its draconian drug policy with this, from the New York Times‘ obituary of Jobs:
[Jobs] told a reporter that taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life. He said there were things about him that people who had not tried psychedelics — even people who knew him well, including his wife — could never understand.
Unlike many people who have enjoyed success, Jobs is not saying that he was able to succeed despite his illegal drug use; he’s saying his success is in part — in substantial part — because of those illegal drugs (he added that Bill Gates would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once”). These quotes (first published by a New York Times reporter) have been around for some time but have been only rarely discussed in the recent hagiographies of Jobs: a notable omission given that he himself praised those experiences as an integral part of his identity and one of the most important things he ever did. A surprisingly good Time Magazine article elaborates on this Jobs-LSD connection further:

why the elites are in trouble

TruthDig | Even now, three weeks later, elites, and their mouthpieces in the press, continue to puzzle over what people like Ketchup want. Where is the list of demands? Why don’t they present us with specific goals? Why can’t they articulate an agenda?

The goal to people like Ketchup is very, very clear. It can be articulated in one word—REBELLION. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the oligarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back.

This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening. They are deaf, dumb and blind.

“The world can’t continue on its current path and survive,” Ketchup told me. “That idea is selfish and blind. It’s not sustainable. People all over the globe are suffering needlessly at our hands.”

The occupation of Wall Street has formed an alternative community that defies the profit-driven hierarchical structures of corporate capitalism. If the police shut down the encampment in New York tonight, the power elite will still lose, for this vision and structure have been imprinted into the thousands of people who have passed through park, renamed Liberty Plaza by the protesters. The greatest gift the occupation has given us is a blueprint for how to fight back. And this blueprint is being transferred to cities and parks across the country.

“We get to the park,” Ketchup says of the first day. “There’s madness for a little while. There were a lot of people. They were using megaphones at first. Nobody could hear. Then someone says we should get into circles and talk about what needed to happen, what we thought we could accomplish. And so that’s what we did. There was a note-taker in each circle. I don’t know what happened with those notes, probably nothing, but it was a good start. One person at a time, airing your ideas. There was one person saying that he wasn’t very hopeful about what we could accomplish here, that he wasn’t very optimistic. And then my response was that, well, we have to be optimistic, because if anybody’s going to get anything done, it’s going be us here. People said different things about what our priorities should be. People were talking about the one-demand idea. Someone called for AIG executives to be prosecuted. There was someone who had come from Spain to be there, saying that she was here to help us avoid the mistakes that were made in Spain. It was a wide spectrum. Some had come because of their own personal suffering or what they saw in the world.”

the real cause of the urban school problem

Chicago Tribune | America's urban public schools are in trouble: Student test scores are low and dropout rates are high. Recent remedies proposed include everything from reducing the power of teachers unions and opening more charter schools to ending test-based accountability. But what if education critics are focused on the wrong problem?

Implicit in these very different proposals is the assumption that urban schools are failing because they are run badly, and that the solution lies in improving their management. Over the last five years, we have been involved in a wide-ranging research project that provides compelling evidence to the contrary. Our findings show that the root of the problems facing urban schools can be found in gradual but extremely powerful changes in the nation's economy — not the least of which is the increasingly unequal distribution of family incomes. Policies that address the consequences of these changes, which recent poverty figures show have worsened, are more likely to improve the life chances of the children from low-income families.

For the first three-quarters of the 20th century, economic growth, fueled in large part by the increasing educational attainments of successive generations of Americans, was a rising tide that lifted the boats of the rich and poor alike. During the most recent three decades, by contrast, the fruits of economic growth have not been widely shared and the gap between the incomes of the nation's rich and poor families has grown enormously.

Little noticed, but vital for our nation's future prosperity, is the equally dramatic widening of the gap between the educational attainments of children growing up in rich and poor families. Between 1978 and 2008, the gap between the average mathematics and reading test scores of children from high- and low-income families grew by a third. This growing test score gap has been reflected in a growing gap in completed schooling. Over the last 20 years, the rate of affluent children who completed college increased by 21 percentage points, while the graduation rate of children from low-income families increased by only 4 percentage points.

Growing economic inequality contributes in a multitude of ways to a widening gulf between the educational outcomes of rich and poor children. In the early 1970s, the gap between what parents in the top and bottom quintiles spent on enrichment activities such as music lessons, travel and summer camps was approximately $2,700 per year (in 2008 dollars). By 2005-2006, the difference had increased to $7,500. Between birth and age 6, children from high-income families spend an average of 1,300 more hours than children from low-income families in "novel" places — other than at home or school, or in the care of another parent or a day care facility. This matters, because when children are asked to read science and social studies texts in the upper elementary school grades, background knowledge is critical to comprehension and academic success.

Historically, we have relied on our public schools to level the playing field for children born into different circumstances, but in recent years, the gaps in achievement and behavior between high- and low-income children have only grown wider. Why? For one thing, residential segregation by income has meant that poor children are concentrated in the same schools to a much greater extent today than 40 years ago. As a result, children from low-income families are far more likely to have classmates with low achievement and behavior problems, which have a negative effect on their own learning. Children from poor families are also especially likely to attend schools with high rates of student turnover during the school year, and there is clear evidence that students learn less under such circumstances. In Chicago's public schools, 10 percent of students change school every year and it is not uncommon for some classrooms to have five new students arrive during the year. Research shows that students learn less if they attend schools with high student turnover during the school year.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

occupy wall st. and the decline of the west

WaPo | This piece is part of an On Leadership roundtable on the Occupy Wall Street protests.

“Money is overthrown and abolished by blood.” Oswald Spengler wrote these words more than a century ago in The Decline of the West. And while the imagery here may be a bit much, there’s something of it in the Occupy Wall Street protests.

This movement profoundly threatens the legitimacy of the system on which corporate power is based, and boards of directors should be concerned.

Corporations are creatures of statute. There is no Common Law of corporations, they are instruments licensed by the state originally in aid of certain public objectives. But few of these objectives are left. With the passage of time, corporate charters have lost any power to keep corporations in check. What is left? Only the pursuit of wealth. As Baron Thurlow reportedly said, “Corporations have no soul to save and no body to incarcerate.” Their charter is in the gift of the public. They have no inherent right to exist.

Amidst the welter of information about executive pay, only one simple conclusion is possible: Pay is not correlated in any way with the value these leaders create for shareholders, society or any other corporate constituency. CEOs largely pay themselves, notwithstanding a raft of misnomers such as “independent compensation committee member” and “independent compensation consultant.” The system imbalances are there for all to see.

Recent protests—Occupy Wall Street, of course, but also the Tea Party movement as it first began—rise out of a profound rage over unfairness in this country. The scale of this unfairness and inequity makes it hard to know where to direct that rage, to know what to do. Occupy Wall Street has the right target; but where their rage will go, nobody today knows. I am certain, though, that any alert board should be instructing their managers to do three things: admit the problem exists, take positive steps to make the corporation function fairly, and consider what other steps would address the concerns of the protests.

Simple? Not quite. But necessary? You bet.

If the present Occupy Wall Street protests do not create an unignorable threat, they certainly raise the prospect of one in the near future. Rage at unfairness is not easily quenched and once started can be hard to curtail. We’ve seen this time and again throughout history. Shareholders may think of themselves as victims of CEO power, as innocent shareholders, but we need only look to the Russian and French Revolutions to see that everyone having anything to do with fallen power, or in this case “guilty corporations”, may be attacked and injured—even if, like shareholders, their only crime is doing nothing.

NYSE site has slowness on day of planned hack

Video - Operation Wall Street was a media scare tactic

WSJ | The New York Stock Exchange's website experienced slowness for a brief period of time Monday afternoon, on the same day that the hacker group "Anonymous" called for an attack against the Big Board operator's site.

There was some intermittent bandwidth saturation that prompted slowness on the site, according to a person familiar with the matter. But this person said the NYSE's internal systems weren't intruded upon and the site didn't experience an outage.

The slowness comes after Anonymous, a name used by an amorphous group of hackers, last week posted a YouTube video threatening to "erase" the stock exchange from the Internet. It claimed a denial-of-service-attack would occur on Oct. 10.

The call was made as a part of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York, which have been going on for weeks.

News reports said the NYSE's site had been interrupted between 3:35 p.m. EDT and 3:37 p.m.

A NYSE spokesman said trading wasn't affected. "We don't comment on security matters," he added. The spokesman said earlier Monday, before the opening bell, that NYSE was fully operational and ready for business as usual.

virus infects drone network

NPR | A few weeks ago, at Creech Air Force base in Nevada, computer security experts came upon a virus in their network. The virus was recording every keystroke made by Air Force pilots who remotely operate Predator and Reaper drones that fly over war zones. And so far, they can't seem to wipe the virus from the system. Guy Raz talks to Noah Shachtman, contributing editor at Wired magazine, who first reported the story.

remember, dark market was an FBI sting...,

NPR | Keith Mularski doesn't look like someone with a lot of secrets. He has this aw-shucks demeanor, like an overgrown kid in a business suit.

But back in 2005, his first assignment with the cybercrime division at the FBI was to hang out on the underground sites where stolen credit cards are bought and sold. By 2006, he would be running one of the biggest underground sites on the Internet.

The first thing Mularski had to do was come up with his hacker handle. He chose Master Splyntr, after the name of an underground rat in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Mularkski had to create an entire backstory for Master Splyntr to get the criminals on the sites to trust him. So he contacted an anti-spam organization and got it to list his name as a Polish spam king. If you Googled his nickname, he would come up as a notorious spammer, known for buying stolen credit card information.

Master Splyntr was wheeling and dealing on the underground at a moment of particular upheaval in the credit card black market.

There were about four or five major sites where criminals bought and sold stolen credit cards, according to Kevin Poulsen, the author of Kingpin, a new book on cybercrime. Each site had about 1,500 users.

The websites battled for control of the market, much like everyday firms do in the corporate world. Some of the sites suffered hostile takeovers. Finally, two sites emerged as the dominant players: Carders Market and Dark Market.

Mularski was working undercover as an ordinary user on Dark Market when the hostile takeovers happened. At this point, he had already developed a friendship with the head of the site, a British hacker called Jlsi. One night, when Dark Market was under spam bombardment by Carder's Market, Mularski made his move:

I said: "You know my reputation as a spammer. I'm very good at setting up websites. I can hide them from law enforcement. I have my site ready. I have my servers ready." And he said: "Let's move it, bro."

And so one October night in 2006, as we were watching Saturday Night Live, Mularski moved Dark Market to his servers and the FBI took control of one of the biggest criminal sites for stolen credit card information on the Web.

Monday, October 10, 2011

how is occupy wall street not like the tea party

Video - How is Occupy Wall St. not like the Tea Party.

the know-nothings take aim at education...,

NYTimes | Representative Michele Bachmann promises to “turn out the lights” at the federal Education Department. Gov. Rick Perry calls it unconstitutional. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, would allow it to live but only as a drastically shrunken agency that mainly gathers statistics.

Even Mitt Romney, who in 2008 ran for president defending No Child Left Behind, the federal law that vastly expanded Washington’s role in public schools, now says, “We need to get the federal government out of education.”

For a generation, there has been loose bipartisan agreement in Washington that the federal government has a necessary role to play in the nation’s 13,600 school districts, primarily by using money to compel states to raise standards.

But the field of Republican presidential candidates has promised to unwind this legacy, arguing that education responsibilities should devolve to states and local districts, which will do a better job than Washington.

It can seem like an eon has passed since George W. Bush aspired to be the “education president.” Mr. Bush’s prized No Child Left Behind law used billions of dollars of federal aid to compel schools to raise student achievement on standardized tests.

President Obama’s own signature education initiative, Race to the Top, similarly used federal money to leverage change that many Republicans had long endorsed — charter schools and teacher evaluations that tied effectiveness in the classroom to tenure.

But now, the quest to sharply shrink government that all the Republican candidates embrace, driven by the fervor of the Tea Party, has brought a sweeping anti-federal government stance to the fore on education, as in many other areas.

The question is whether states and local districts, without Washington’s various carrots and sticks, will continue to raise academic standards and give equal opportunity to traditionally ignored student populations.

“People want government money, they want higher standards, they want greater accountability,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education policy group, who was an education official in the Reagan administration. “None of those things in most places comes from local control.”

So far, the candidates have not been specific about what a drastically reduced federal role would look like. Education has not become a major issue, and when candidates do address it, they tend to paint the Education Department with the same broad brush used to criticize Mr. Obama for what they see as government overreach on health care, Wall Street reform and the environment.

Tom Luna, the elected superintendent of schools in Idaho, said Washington’s oversight of education is different from health care or environmental regulations. The Education Department dispenses a large share of its billions of dollars to states and local districts on the condition that they uphold two pillars of national law — that students who are economically disadvantaged and students who are disabled get extra classroom enrichment.

most instructional technology sucks...,

NYTimes | The Web site of Carnegie Learning, a company started by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University that sells classroom software, trumpets this promise: “Revolutionary Math Curricula. Revolutionary Results.”

The pitch has sounded seductive to thousands of schools across the country for more than a decade. But a review by the United States Department of Education last year would suggest a much less alluring come-on: Undistinguished math curricula. Unproven results.

The federal review of Carnegie Learning’s flagship software, Cognitive Tutor, said the program had “no discernible effects” on the standardized test scores of high school students. A separate 2009 federal look at 10 major software products for teaching algebra as well as elementary and middle school math and reading found that nine of them, including Cognitive Tutor, “did not have statistically significant effects on test scores.”

Amid a classroom-based software boom estimated at $2.2 billion a year, debate continues to rage over the effectiveness of technology on learning and how best to measure it. But it is hard to tell that from technology companies’ promotional materials.

Many companies ignore well-regarded independent studies that test their products’ effectiveness. Carnegie’s Web site, for example, makes no mention of the 2010 review, by the Education Department’s What Works Clearinghouse, which analyzed 24 studies of Cognitive Tutor’s effectiveness but found that only four of those met high research standards. Some firms misrepresent research by cherry-picking results and promote surveys or limited case studies that lack the scientific rigor required by the clearinghouse and other authorities.

“The advertising from the companies is tremendous oversell compared to what they can actually demonstrate,” said Grover J. Whitehurst, a former director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the federal agency that includes What Works.

School officials, confronted with a morass of complicated and sometimes conflicting research, often buy products based on personal impressions, marketing hype or faith in technology for its own sake.

“They want the shiny new one,” said Peter Cohen, chief executive of Pearson School, a leading publisher of classroom texts and software. “They always want the latest, when other things have been proven the longest and demonstrated to get results.”

Carnegie, one of the most respected of the educational software firms, is hardly alone in overpromising or misleading. The Web site of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt says that “based on scientific research, Destination Reading is a powerful early literacy and adolescent literacy program,” but it fails to mention that it was one of the products the Department of Education found in 2009 not to have statistically significant effects on test scores.

Similarly, Pearson’s Web site cites several studies of its own to support its claim that Waterford Early Learning improves literacy, without acknowledging the same 2009 study’s conclusion that it had little impact.

And Intel, in a Web document urging schools to buy computers for every student, acknowledges that “there are no longitudinal, randomized trials linking eLearning to positive learning outcomes.” Yet it nonetheless argues that research shows that technology can lead to more engaged and economically successful students, happier teachers and more involved parents.

“To compare this public relations analysis to a carefully constructed research study is laughable,” said Alex Molnar, professor of education at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado. “They are selling their wares.”

what is unschooling?

PsychologyToday | Unschooling is a movement that turns conventional thinking about education upside down. I'd like to learn more about it and tell the world more about it, and for that reason I'm conducting a survey of unschooling families. If you are a member of such a family and are willing to participate, you can download the survey form by going to Pat Farenga's website and scrolling down to find the link (Pat has kindly posted the form). If you can't find it that way, you can request the form from me by email, at The form itself contains all the information you need to complete and return it. It's short and not hard to complete. I would be very grateful for your participation. I invite you also to forward the form, or a link to this post, to other unschooling families, so they might also participate. (I plan to analyze the responses by the beginning of November, so please return your form before then).

Here's some of what I know already about unschooling, before conducting the survey. Defined most simply, unschooling is not schooling. Unschoolers do not send their children to school and they do not do at home the kinds of things that are done at school. More specifically, they do not establish a curriculum for their children, they do not require their children to do particular assignments for the purpose of education, and they do not test their children to measure progress. Instead, they allow their children freedom to pursue their own interests and to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know to follow those interests. They also, in various ways, provide an environmental context and environmental support for the child's learning. Life and learning do not occur in a vacuum; they occur in the context of a cultural environment, and unschooling parents help define and bring the child into contact with that environment.

All in all, unschoolers have a view of education that is 180 degrees different from that of our standard system of schooling. They believe that education is something that children (and people of all ages) do for themselves, not something done to them, and they believe that education is a normal part of all of life, not something separate from life that occurs at special times in special places.