Sunday, November 06, 2011

in six days: connecticut community resiliency failing on an epic scale...,

Video - CP&L CEO answers kwestins...,

AP | Tempers are snapping as fast as the snow-laden branches that brought down power wires across the Northeast last weekend, with close to 300,000 Connecticut customers still in the dark and the state's biggest utility warning them not to threaten or harass repair crews.

Angry residents left without heat as temperatures drop to near freezing overnight have been lashing out at Connecticut Light & Power: accosting repair crews, making profane criticisms online and suing. In Simsbury, a hard-hit suburban town of about 25,000 residents, National Guard troops deployed to clear debris have been providing security outside a utility office building.

At a shelter at Simsbury High School, resident Stacy Niezabitowski, 53, said Friday she would love to yell at someone from Connecticut Light & Power but hadn't seen any of its workers.

"Everybody is looking for someplace to vent - not a scapegoat, just someplace to vent your anger so somebody will listen and do something," said Niezabitowski, who was having lunch at the shelter with her 21-year-old daughter. "Nobody is doing anything."

The October nor'easter knocked out power to more than 3 million homes and business across the Northeast, including 830,000 in Connecticut, where outages now exceed those of all other states combined. Connecticut Light & Power has blamed the extent of the devastation partly on overgrown trees in the state, where it says some homeowners and municipalities have resisted the pruning of limbs for reasons including aesthetics.

The company called the snowstorm and resulting power outages "an historic event" and said it was focused on getting almost all power back on by Sunday night.

For some residents still dealing with outages, no excuse is acceptable.

In Avon, a Farmington Valley town where 85 percent of customers were still without power on Friday, town manager Brandon Robertson said he faulted CL&P for an "absolutely unacceptable and completely avoidable" situation. He said the high school that is being used as an emergency shelter was still running on a generator. Although public works crews had cleared most of the town roads, he said, more than 25 still were blocked as they waited for CL&P crews to clear power lines.

"Our residents are angry. We're angry," he said. "It's just really shocking."

stand up chicago shows how it's done!!!

Video - Wisconsin Koch Bros sockpuppet Scott Walker gets MIC checked in Chicago.

When Wisconsin Governor gave a speech at Chicago's Union League Club the morning of Nov 3rd, he has some unexpected guests: Stand Up! Chicago

wait, does anybody believe this old fake, kept poodle gas?

 Video - Occupy protests allegedly costing businesses and cities 1% patronage money.

how much of the global economy is useless friction?

oftwominds | There is no way that printing money or standard "austerity" measures can overcome the structural friction crippling economies such as Greece and Italy--or those of the U.S., the rest of the E.U. and China.

If we set aside the absurdist headlines about various "rescues" of insolvent governments, we might focus instead on a larger question: how much of the Greek and Italian economies is useless friction? How much of the U.S. economy is useless friction? How about economies like China and India that are rife with corruption at every level?

The question matters because friction will seize up a machine once the energy devoted to overcoming it drops below a critical threshold. It seems painfully obvious that Europe is about to reach that threshold, the U.S. is getting close and China is teetering on the precipice. Once those three seize up, then the rest of the world will follow.

Behind all the headlines of rescues, bailouts, austerity packages and all the rest of the propaganda spewed out by eurocrats and their media lackeys, let's ask the question no one dares ask: what if the entire European Union bureaucracy is nothing but friction? If so, then the E.U. isn't the "savior" of the Eurozone economies, it is the cause of their systemic ills.

Let's explore the analogy of friction a bit.

Friction is the resistance between moving parts that cause a bicycle in motion to come to a stop once you stop pedaling. If you flatten the bike’s tires, increasing the resistance between the rubber and the road, that increase in friction causes the bike to slow far more quickly than a bicycle with inflated tires. Increase the friction enough, and you can barely push the bike forward.

Though friction cannot be eliminated entirely, it can be reduced to the point that very modest amounts of energy create substantial results. Alternatively, friction can increase to the point that the energy input required to maintain output rises far beyond the value of the output. At that juncture, the system freezes up. The returns are so marginal that they no longer justify the energy and expense needed to maintain the machine.

A bicycle with wheels that barely turn will be tossed aside when the rider realizes he can go faster by walking -- and with much less effort.
How Much of the US Economy is Friction?

Economies have friction, too. When the friction increases to the point that much of the economy’s energy and surplus are being consumed in overcoming systemic friction, then the system will eventually freeze up and be abandoned.

How much of the U.S. and other global economies is friction? It is a difficult question, as we’ve grown so accustomed to our way of doing things that we tend to assume that the present system is the most efficient one possible. If it is visibly inefficient, that we assume it serves a social need so vital that its maintenance overrides the high costs of maintaining the system.

Much of our faith is based on the belief that because we live in a market economy, the efficiencies intrinsic to a market economy -- such as customers gravitating toward the goods and services that offer the lowest costs and highest benefits -- are being effectively captured by the US economy.

But this is mostly wishful thinking, the net result of ceaseless self-promotion by the Status Quo that benefits from the enormous friction that is, in fact, grinding down the US economy. In actuality, market forces influence very little of the US economy, and what they do influence is a series of carefully limited false choices constructed by non-market forces and the immense powers of marketing.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

roman catholic church's pedophile investigator jailed for possessing thousands of child porn images

DailyMail | A Catholic Church child safety co-ordinator who was in charge of investigating sexual abuse allegations was jailed for 12 months today for internet peadophile offences.

Christopher Jarvis, 49, a married father-of-four, investigated historic claims of child abuse, interviewing the victims when they were adults.

He was responsible for child protection at 120 churches and parish community groups for nine years.

He also, as a member of the Devon and Cornwall Multi-Agency Safeguarding Team, had access to police and social services information about victims of child abuse.

As a result of the conviction and sentencing, the Roman Catholic Church has ordered a review of child protection across the South West of England.

According to The Times, the Bishop of Plymouth, the Right Rev Christopher Budd, has asked the NSPCC to carry out the inquiry into child protection arrangements in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.

The revelations that the church hired a peadophile in a key child protection role will add to the controversy surrounding the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales over its handling of sexual abuse.

At the time of his arrest in March this year, Jarvis was leading an investigation into an historic sex abuse allegation at Buckfast Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Devon.

He was arrested after uploading images of pre-pubescent boys on to the Ning social networking website.

Police officers who traced him to his home in Plymouth, Devon, found more than 4,000 child porn images, mainly of boys aged 10 to 12, on his church-supplied computer and a memory stick when they raided the house in Penrose Road.

The court heard that 4,389 images were found on the laptop and memory stick.

The majority, 3,721, were at Level One, the lowest level for abusive images.

But there were 120 at Level Four, which includes scenes of child rape, and 12 at Level Five, which can include scenes of torture and sadism.

Jarvis, who the court heard claimed he was abused as a child, was sentenced at the city's crown court after admitted 12 counts of making, possessing and distributing indecent images at a previous magistrates' court hearing.

that cop in oakland who injured scott olson was trying to kill somebody...,

Business Insider | As the events that led to Oakland protester Scott Olsen's head injury continue to unfold and investigations begin, we thought it important to offer some perspective.

This comment is from a former Marine with special operations in crowd control.

He points out that shooting canisters such as those that likely hit Scott Olsen is prohibited under rules of engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. Regardless of any political position on the Occupy protests, these are some Interesting insights:

Before gas goes into a crowd shield bearers have to be making no progress moving a crowd or crowd must be assaulting the line. Not with sticks and stones but a no bullshit assault. 3 warnings must be given to the crowd in a manner they can hear that force is about to be used. Shield bearers take a knee and CS gas is released in grenade form first to fog out your lines because you have gas masks. You then kick the canisters along in front of your lines. Projectile gas is not used except for longer ranged engagement or trying to steer the crowd ( by steering a crowd I mean firing gas to block a street off ). You also have shotguns with beanbags and various less than lethal rounds for your launchers. These are the rules for a WARZONE!!

How did a cop who is supposed to have training on his weapon system accidentally SHOOT someone in the head with a 40mm gas canister? Simple. He was aiming at him.

I'll be the first to admit a 40mm round is tricky to aim if you are inexperienced but anyone can tell the difference between aiming at head level and going for range.

The person that pulled that trigger has no business being a cop. He sent that round out with the intention of doing some serious damage to the protestors. I don't care what the protestors were doing. I never broke my rules of engagement in Iraq or Afghanistan. So I can't imagine what a protester in the states did to deserve a headshot with a 40mm. He's damn lucky to be alive and that cop knows he was using lethal force against a protester he is supposed to be protecting.

Additionally: Jesse Davis mentions "The methods prohibited in war, and actions after the fact are also against war zone policy." Check out his infographic here.

Specifically these two transcribed directly from US Army Law of War/Law of Armed Conflict training.

The Military manual states:
…have a duty to collect and care for the wounded. Prioritize treatment according to injuries. Make NO treatment distinction based on nationality. All soldiers, enemy or friendly, must be treated the same.

Second, the officer threw a flash-bang directly into a group of people trying to carry him away for medical treatment. Here's the Military guidance on that decision: Medical Personnel Considered out of combat if they exclusively engaged in medical duties. (GWS, art. 24.) Doctors, surgeons, nurses, chemists, stretcher-bearers, medics, corpsman, and orderlies, etc..., who are “exclusively engaged” in the direct care of the wounded and sick.

speaking of debt collection and debt collectors...,

NYTimes | On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum threw a Halloween party. The firm, which is located near Buffalo, is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. Steven J. Baum is, in fact, the largest such firm in New York; it represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

The party is the firm’s big annual bash. Employees wear Halloween costumes to the office, where they party until around noon, and then return to work, still in costume. I can’t tell you how people dressed for this year’s party, but I can tell you about last year’s.

That’s because a former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.

When we spoke later, she added that the snapshots are an accurate representation of the firm’s mind-set. “There is this really cavalier attitude,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that people are going to lose their homes.” Nor does the firm try to help people get mortgage modifications; the pressure, always, is to foreclose. I told her I wanted to post the photos on The Times’s Web site so that readers could see them. She agreed, but asked to remain anonymous because she said she fears retaliation.

Let me describe a few of the photos. In one, two Baum employees are dressed like homeless people. One is holding a bottle of liquor. The other has a sign around her neck that reads: “3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served.” My source said that “I was never served” is meant to mock “the typical excuse” of the homeowner trying to evade a foreclosure proceeding.

A second picture shows a coffin with a picture of a woman whose eyes have been cut out. A sign on the coffin reads: “Rest in Peace. Crazy Susie.” The reference is to Susan Chana Lask, a lawyer who had filed a class-action suit against Steven J. Baum — and had posted a YouTube video denouncing the firm’s foreclosure practices. “She was a thorn in their side,” said my source.

A third photograph shows a corner of Baum’s office decorated to look like a row of foreclosed homes. Another shows a sign that reads, “Baum Estates” — needless to say, it’s also full of foreclosed houses. Most of the other pictures show either mock homeless camps or mock foreclosure signs — or both. My source told me that not every Baum department used the party to make fun of the troubled homeowners they made their living suing. But some clearly did. The adjective she’d used when she sent them to me — “appalling” — struck me as exactly right.

twits tweeting telling on themselves...,

Nature | US intelligence agency aims to forecast unrest by reading the runes of social media. It is every government's dream: a system that can predict future events such as riots, political upheavals and the outbreak of wars. Last week, a collection of academics and private businesses was scrambling to meet the deadline for proposals for research aiming to do just that.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), a research arm of the US intelligence community, is sponsoring the work under the Open Source Indicators (OSI) programme. The three-year project, with an unspecified budget, is designed to gather digital data from a range of sources, from traffic webcams to television to Twitter. The goal, according to IARPA, is to provide the intelligence community with predictions of social and political events that can "beat the news".

Initially, the OSI project will focus on Latin America, which has abundant publicly available data and offers a convenient test bed for researchers' models. Those models will build on strategies that have already shown promise for predicting disease outbreaks and consumer behaviour, and which are becoming increasingly popular with US national security agencies (see Nature 471, 566–568; 2011).

Indeed, the OSI project is one of many being sponsored by the US national security community, which seeks to meld mathematics, computer science and economics with the social sciences, creating a new field of social and political forecasting that has often been compared to Isaac Asimov's concept of 'psychohistory'.

At the Center for Collective Intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, computer scientist Peter Gloor has been working with colleagues to build models that can predict consumer behaviour, such as ticket sales for Hollywood films, using a range of online sources including social media. "We're up to 90% accuracy" for predicting box-office returns, says Gloor, who is part of a team applying for OSI funding.

Friday, November 04, 2011

democracy incompatible with debt collection

MichaelHudson | AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean if Papandreou is out?

MICHAEL HUDSON: It could mean a number of things. Either it means that other members of his party—the finance minister, who is against the referendum—will come in and not hold a referendum at all, and try to keep Greece on the austerity plan, or there will be a fall in the government, a no-confidence vote, and people will presumably vote for the Conservative Party, which is very much like the Republican Party in the United States.

The reason there have been all of these demonstrations is the same reason that the Occupy Wall Street movement is in New York and the rest of the United States. The frustration is not only at the financial overhead, the debt overhead; it’s at the political fact that there is no choice. Both the Conservative Party and the Socialist Party in Greece, just like the Republicans and Democrats here, are both taking the side of the banks. So people don’t even have a chance to express a democratic alternative to essentially being ground down by debt peonage and letting the economy polarize even further between creditors and debtors.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of President Obama being there, and what this means—the meeting of the G20, what is happening in Greece—for the United States?

MICHAEL HUDSON: He’s making the threat that Europe has to cut its own throat in order to save the United States hedge funds and banks from taking a loss on the Greek bonds that they’ve insured. One of the reasons that people have been willing to buy Greek bonds is they bought credit insurance. And the European banks, mostly—maybe not Barclays or Deutsche Bank, but most banks—are not willing to write credit insurance, because everybody at the Böckler Foundation conference here in Berlin, every single economist says there is no conceivable way in which Greece can pay its debts. But the American hedge funds and bankers have come in and said, “We’ll write a guarantee.” Then they lean on President Obama and Tim Geithner to tell the Europeans: “You have to make Greece pay, so that we win the bets that we’ve made, because if we lose the bets, then we go under and the stock market crashes, and a lot of people can’t collect on their money market funds.” So this is just naked brute force that Mr. Obama is doing. He’s basically telling Europe, “Don’t go the democratic route. Support Wall Street.”

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Hudson, economist, president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, distinguished research professor of economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, author of Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire.

We’re going to go to break. When we come back, we’re going to talk about a related issue. What happened with MF Holdings? How is related to Greece and to the United States? Its head, Jon Corzine, was both a senator and governor from New Jersey. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Michael Hudson, the economist, back in to relate what we’re seeing with MF Global to what’s happening in Greece and in Europe right now. Michael?

MICHAEL HUDSON: I was discussing that earlier this morning with a German investment banker, and their belief is that, so far on Wall Street, Wall Street’s been able to have the attorney general they want, Eric Holder, who has refused to prosecute any financial crime on Wall Street at all, as my colleague Bill Black has pointed out. But now, the investment banker told me, it’s very much like The Godfather. Even the Mafia once in awhile has to get rid of one of its own members and sacrifice its own members for the common good. And the European told me that in Europe, it’s really a no-no to use customer funds for your own—to gamble with that at all, that this is so criminal that if there is no criminal prosecution of Corzine, if it turns out that he did take the money, then that is going to lead the European capital markets to withdraw their money from the American capital markets, because the whole — the whole of Wall Street would turn out to be gangsters, without any prosecution, without any rule of law at all.

So, this is the moment of decision.

Is Mr. Holder going to continue to refuse to prosecute any financial criminal and saying, “Crime is us,” or is he finally going to do—enforce the rule of law on America? Nobody knows over here.

AMY GOODMAN: William Cohan, your response?

WILLIAM COHAN: Well, I think Professor Hudson is a little extreme in comparing Wall Street to the Mafia and gangsters.
MICHAEL HUDSON: I didn’t compare it. That was the Wall — that was the German banker.

AMY GOODMAN: And Michael Hudson, we just got this word, breaking news, that the Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, is expected to offer his resignation within the next half-hour of this broadcast, sources in Athens have just told the BBC. Your response?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, I think the issue is—

AMY GOODMAN: We’ve got five seconds.

MICHAEL HUDSON: —what the man just said: what kind of capitalism are we going to have? Will it be industrial capitalism—

the corzine wall st. ag holder vampire squid gangster bankster backstory

Democracy Now | AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to Oakland to find out about this first general strike since 1946. But first, from the economy in Europe, we turn now to a major banking scandal here in the United States. On Monday, the commodities and derivatives brokerage house MF Global Holdings filed one of the largest bankruptcies in American corporate history, with almost $40 billion in liabilities. It’s the largest failure on Wall Street since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

The chair and the chief executive officer of MF Global Holdings is Jon Corzine, the former New Jersey governor, U.S. senator. Corzine is also the former CEO of Goldman Sachs.

MF Global is also the biggest U.S. casualty so far of the European debt crisis. MF Global filed for bankruptcy in part because of risky bets on debt issued by Italy, Portugal and Spain. MF Global shocked markets last week after disclosing a $191 million quarterly loss. This saw its shares fall by two-thirds and its credit rating cut exponentially. The firm had made big bets on sovereign bonds issued by European countries, but the unsteady future of the eurozone meant investors downgraded the firm’s prospects.

Yesterday, regulators noted MF Global did not separate its customers’ money from its own funds, although required to do so by law. They also said the firm may have transferred hundreds of millions of dollars in customer funds to avoid detection by authorities. In a Bloomberg article called "Others Pay Price for Corzine’s Risky Revenge," journalist William Cohan writes, "More than three years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the financial crisis, we don’t have in place anything close to necessary regulations to try to prevent companies like MF Global from exploding."

So we’re going to William Cohan right now. He lives right here in New York City. He’s in our studio, contributing editor to Vanity Fair, author of several books, including Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World.

William Cohan, welcome to Democracy Now!

WILLIAM COHAN: Thank you, Amy. Nice to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of this bankruptcy?

WILLIAM COHAN: Well, I mean, it’s extraordinary—that’s the thing—because it didn’t have to happen. You have a former CEO of Goldman Sachs, albeit he left in 1999, and between now and then he was a senator from New Jersey and a governor from New Jersey, as you pointed out. He hadn’t done, himself, a trade since 1986, so he was somewhat removed. But this was all about his own psychological need for redemption, to get back what he lost by getting canned from Goldman Sachs in 1999, his desire to be a major player again on Wall Street. He decided to swing for the fences, make a huge bet on these European bonds, which, by the way, may turn out to be correct. We don’t know yet, because as you were saying in your previous reports, you know, this is all in flux. However, the markets, once they heard about the size of the bet—and Corzine should have known better, because he’s lived through 2008—once they heard about the size of the bets, they realized that this is essentially a house of cards, and they had lost total confidence in his leadership and his ability to pay their debts when they became due.

AMY GOODMAN: The FBI is now investigating?

WILLIAM COHAN: The FBI is investigating because, you know, one of the no-nos on Wall Street is using your customers’ funds for your own corporate needs. Those are supposed to be segregated. It’s unclear still—I mean, let’s not jump to too many conclusions here. They’re investigating it. It’s unclear. It could be bad accounting. It could be bad reconciliation of those accounts. But at the moment, it’s looking like funds are missing and that they were used—customer funds were used to try to shore up their own internal problems.

AMY GOODMAN: You interviewed Jon Corzine in MF Global, right?

WILLIAM COHAN: Yes, at his offices. He had one—he took over the old offices, and then he moved them to new offices, to Park Avenue Plaza on East 52nd Street, which is a, you know, sort of notorious Wall Street building. And basically, his whole strategy—he was very clear—

AMY GOODMAN: You mean, Occupy encampment is in the wrong place?

WILLIAM COHAN: Well, I would say yes. That’s a whole 'nother subject, but yes. Wall Street is in midtown, not downtown anymore. But Corzine was—we were talking about Goldman Sachs, obviously, in the course of my book, but he was very clear about what he was going to do at MF Global. He was going to take basically a sleepy, backwater—basically a clearing operation and really juice it in terms of risk taking. And this was all a plan. I mean, he, in his—he was brought into MF Global by another former Goldman Sachs senior partner, a guy by the name of Chris Flowers, who is now a private equity—a successful private equity investor, who had been a colleague of Jon Corzine's at Goldman when Corzine was the CEO. This fellow, Flowers, owns about a 10 percent stake in MF Global. He’s one of its biggest investors. And so, he thought bringing Corzine in would, again, help change the strategy, juice the strategy, and encourage the firm to take more risk.

AMY GOODMAN: And what’s Corzine’s relationship with Goldman right now?

WILLIAM COHAN: Well, he’s just an ex-senior partner who, you know, benefited to the tune of something like $300 or $400 million in Goldman Sachs stock when Goldman went public in 1999.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the $700 million that are missing?

WILLIAM COHAN: Well, that number seems to be shifting all the time. But again, that’s the customer accounts. In other words, if I was doing business with MF Global, and I now wanted to get my money out, they’re telling me, "Oh, either your account is blocked, or we can’t get that to you. We don’t know where that money is." Well, that is a major no-no on Wall Street, and probably criminal if it’s found out that they intentionally did this to cover their own losses on these investments that they made in these bonds.

greek governance exceedingly fluid about now...,

Video - Greek military and police had joined riots earlier this summer.

AthensNews | Tuesday's changes in top roles of the country's military had been scheduled since early October, were not extraordinary and were based on objective criteria, the defence minister said on Wednesday, responding to intense opposition party criticism.

Opposition parties had reacted with outrage to the sacking of the country's military chiefs, calling it a bid to stack the armed forces with party loyalists before a possible government collapse over the country's debt crisis.

Speaking to an Athens radio station, Panos Beglitis said that the army, navy and air force chiefs of staff and the chief of the general staff had completed their term in their individual posts and were thus replaced.

He also underlined that the procedure could have taken place in August but was postponed as a result of the crisis in the southeastern Mediterranean, referring to Turkey's threats against Cyprus over the latter's decision to begin drilling for hydrocarbons.

Beglitis accused opposition parties of hypocrisy and petty party politicking.

He also pointed out that the outgoing military leadership was appointed in August 2009 by the previous New Democracy government, just before the Octover 4 general elections, in what he said was a move unprecedented in the country’s postwar history.

In a surprise move, on Tuesday evening the defence minister replaced the country’s top brass. An extraordinary meeting of the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (Kysea), which comprises the prime minister and other key cabinet members, accepted Defence Minister Panos Beglitis' proposal that the following changes be made to army, navy and air force and the general staff:
* General Ioannis Giagkos, chief of the Greek National Defence General Staff, to be replaced by Lieutenant General Michalis Kostarakos
* Lieutenant General Fragkos Fragkoulis, chief of the Greek Army General Staff, to be replaced by lieutenant general Konstantinos Zazias
* Lieutenant General Vasilios Klokozas, chief of the Greek Air Force, to be replaced by air marshal Antonis Tsantirakis
* Vice-Admiral Dimitrios Elefsiniotis, chief of the Greek Navy General Staff, to be replaced by Rear-Admiral Kosmas Christidis
Governments have exerted tight control over the armed forces since the collapse of the junta in 1974. Army chiefs are often selected on the basis of party loyalty as part of a deeply-entrenched system of political patronage.

The move to replace the military chiefs may have also been hastened by a Greek protest at austerity measures that halted a major national parade last week.

The annual military parade in the northern city of Thessaloniki is one of the most symbolic events in Greece's political calendar and it was the first time it had been cancelled.

Opposition reactions
The decison drew strong reaction from opposition parties. Main opposition New Democracy (ND) defence spokesman Margaritis Tzimas spoke of "an undemocratic act which is directed against national interest", adding that "at the time when the Pasok government is collapsing, it is proceeding with ... changes in the leadership of the country's armed forces". He said that his party would not accept the decisions.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) called on the minister and the government to give clear explanations to the people on why they replaced the armed forces leadership under these conditions.

The Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos) termed the appointments "politically indecent and morally unacceptable" and added that "a few hours before the government's fall, the leadership of the armed forces has been broken up in its entirety."

Lastly, a Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) official said it was unacceptable for the defence minister to decide on such an important issue at a time when the government is facing collapse.

dayyum..., papandreou picked up the soap

Globe and Mail | George Papandreou, the Greek Prime Minister, has, if nothing else, succeeded in provoking Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and other European leaders into almost threatening to expel Greece from the euro zone – not that there is any known procedure for doing so. Their previous insistence that the euro could never be withdrawn from a country may have encouraged the Greeks to think they could drag their feet on structural reform and austerity – or worse, march and riot.

The response to Mr. Papandreou’s now abandoned referendum proposal has had some influence on Greek politicians. The Minister of Finance, Evangelos Venizelos, openly dissented. But the changed position of Antonis Samaras, the leader of the New Democracy, the main opposition party, which is traditionally regarded as conservative, is more significant. He has taken an unconstructive stance toward the government’s quasi-insolvency and the attempts of the euro zone group to deal with it. Yesterday, however, Mr. Samaras – who happens to have been a roommate of Mr. Papandreou at an American university – has proposed a transitional national-unity government, with a cabinet largely composed of non-partisan “technocrats,” to manage the restructuring of the country’s government and economy.

Mr. Papandreou reacted to this idea with stony silence, pending a doubtful vote of confidence on Friday, but his mutability has been amply demonstrated in the past few days. Mr. Samaras has now shown some welcome, and overdue, flexibility. The Greek people, it seems, do not want to lose the use of the euro and go back to the drachma – still less do they wish to suffer from a run on the Greek banks, if those banks’ large holdings of Greek government bonds become nearly worthless.

Among the few people who spoke favourably of Mr. Papandreou’s ill-timed, short-lived referendum idea was Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, who, in speaking to the House of Commons finance committee, said (in answer to a question) that painful economic restructurings need broad democratic support – which is quite true. Inept as the Greek Prime Minister has been (unless there is method in his madness), he may have helped build consensus.

The prospect of economic shock therapy, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, concentrates the mind wonderfully. Greece may yet co-operate.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

levels of symbiotic cooperation previously unknown...,

Hotspots in the top right triangle, which compares all gene transfer events, shows microbes that live in the same niche more readily exchange genetic material. Looking at antibiotic resistance genes (bottom left triangle), however, paints a more complex and nuanced portrait of genetic transfer. (Nature)
Wired | Researchers have discovered an underworld of genetic exchange among bacteria, one more vast than previously imagined.

A comparison of thousands of bacterial genomes from around the world found genes flowing easily between species separated by hundreds, even thousands of miles. Whether the bacteria were related or not didn’t matter — a fascinating phenomenon on its own, but disturbing when the genes involved could turn pathogens into drug-resistant superbugs.

“We should have done this study and asked these questions five years ago,” said microbiologist Eric Alm of MIT, leader of a study published online Oct. 30 in Nature. “The significance was off the charts.”

Bacteria readily exchange DNA between closely related species, and much less frequently across unrelated lineages. This so-called horizontal gene transfer fuels adaptation, allowing for rapid adjustments to local pressures. Its full extent, however — especially in bacteria associated with humans, including those in our bodies, where bugs outnumber cells by 10 to 1 — are unknown.

To get a global picture of horizontal gene transfer, Alm, two graduate students and other collaborators compared 2,235 different bacterial genomes. “I was hoping to find five to 10 examples of recent gene transfers,” he said. “My students came back in a week with 10,000 different genes that had been transferred.”

The researchers compared transfers in several ways: first by the microbes’ genetic similarities, and then by geographic distance separating the locations of their collection. Neither followed a predictable pattern, but patterns did emerge when the researchers analyzed ecological niches.

Instead of swapping genes with microbes genetically related to them, or near them, bacteria seem to be swapping with microbes fulfilling similar roles. Alm’s team also found that genes especially important to humans — those found in our stomach flora, for example, or genes conveying antibiotic resistance — are particularly good at long-distance swaps.

In the future, Alm hopes to look more closely at gene transfer in virulent microbes, such as those that cause meningitis. Tracking genes that are especially likely to flow could help identify new disease-battle targets. Alm also wants to find out exactly how business is conducted in what he called a genetic “black market.” DNA can travel on dead cell fragments, viruses, and other sub-cellular vehicles, and the exact routes remain unknown.

“It could be almost anything,” he said. “We have no idea. I would love to know.” Fist tap Dale.

an educated mind depends on a properly trained behind...,

Video - A word about corporal punishment

Royal Society | Understanding how societies resolve conflicts between individual and common interests remains one of the most fundamental issues across disciplines. The observation that humans readily incur costs to sanction uncooperative individuals without tangible individual benefits has attracted considerable attention as a proximate cause as to why cooperative behaviours might evolve. However, the proliferation of individually costly punishment has been difficult to explain. Several studies over the last decade employing experimental designs with isolated groups have found clear evidence that the costs of punishment often nullify the benefits of increased cooperation, rendering the strong human tendency to punish a thorny evolutionary puzzle. Here, we show that group competition enhances the effectiveness of punishment so that when groups are in direct competition, individuals belonging to a group with punishment opportunity prevail over individuals in a group without this opportunity. In addition to competitive superiority in between-group competition, punishment reduces within-group variation in success, creating circumstances that are highly favourable for the evolution of accompanying group-functional behaviours. We find that the individual willingness to engage in costly punishment increases with tightening competitive pressure between groups. Our results suggest the importance of intergroup conflict behind the emergence of costly punishment and human cooperation. Here's the full paper.

the return to feudalism

Synearth | The consumption of fossil fuels took about 200 years to go through the first half of the supply. The second half will disappear much faster because the energy consumption per person keeps increasing. Market forces keep driving this consumption continuously upward.

The fossil fuels not only supplied our energy, they supplied most of the raw materials for the production of goods for our society. Imagine a world without our current plastics, many of our drugs, current construction materials (like asphalt and paint), clothing material and the list goes on. Virtually the entire chemical production system will have to be reinvented to cope with these changes. This new system is likely to be based upon biochemistry.

The transformation of the infrastructure to satisfy future needs will be even larger than the infrastructure created from 1800 to the present. It took 200 years for our old system to evolve. We do not have that much time for the future reconstruction. A realistic estimate is about 50-100 years.

There is another lesson from history. This lesson is that the more complicated that governments or societies become, the greater is the strain upon the resources available to that ruling body. All of the ancient empires fell because of this problem. The Egyptian, Sumerian, Greek and Roman empires are examples. They all became larger or more complicated than their resources could sustain. This problem is now facing the entire world not just a single government.

In order to transform the infrastructure of the world, the governments of the world (at least the major governments) are going to be forced into scientific cooperation as never before. There may be healthy competition between the scientists of various countries but the “best” work must be shared by all the countries. To do otherwise is to invite more wars. The monopolization of resources and new technology must be avoided at all cost. There are no “free market” entities that can accomplish projects of these magnitudes. Research and development must be conducted on a “wartime” basis like the Manhattan Project. Time is the enemy.

Whatever the new infrastructure is going to be, it must stay in balance with nature. The systems proposed here attempt to sustain carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water “neutrality”. This should help prevent us from killing ourselves. Doing nothing to create a new infrastructure will guarantee that most of humanity will die in a struggle for survival.

The route to overcoming the loss of fossil fuels will eventually involve the politics of many countries. It is sad to say that this may be the greatest impediment to success. Programs enormously larger than the space programs and the Manhattan Project will be involved. Research and development will require worldwide cooperation. Financing these endeavors is beyond the scope of private enterprise or a single government. Mankind may not be capable of such cooperation. Nationalism may destroy success.

The outline presented here for creating an exhausted fossil fuel world infrastructure is certainly not the only one possible. More ingenious solutions may exist. The route to these solutions must not be decided upon by political or economic methods but by scientific ones. Politicians are not likely to accept these restrictions of their power. Business leaders are also not good choices for directors of such projects. Military leaders would be problematic also.

The time allowed to complete a restructure of our old infrastructure will be measured in decades and not centuries. An overarching program of this magnitude has never been attempted. Such things are accomplished in Science Fiction but not in the real world. The end result of doing nothing is to return to the feudalism of the past. Living in a new world based upon the old paradigm of “one man, one mule, one plow, one gun” is not a happy consideration.

It is hoped that mankind will begin to take action now to replace our entire fossil fuel based system. This not only decreases global warming, it actually preserves some of our irreplaceable resources. Population control will also have to be initiated. Population expansion is limited by the resources from the sun.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

consent needed for debt repayments

Video - Michael Hudson: Peoples of countries indebted without their consent should refuse to repay odious debts

MichaelHudson | PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. In Europe, people in many countries are saying no to paying for the crisis and bailing out banks. And to a large extent leading the way have been people in Iceland, who have said no at the ballot box and on the streets. Now joining us to talk about that is Michael Hudson. He teaches economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Thanks for joining us again, Michael.


JAY: So you have colleagues you’re in touch with in Iceland a lot. What’s going on there now?

HUDSON: Well, as many people know, there was a bank failure, and Iceland’s currency plunged and then sort of fell off the pages in the paper. What people don’t realize is that what happened in Iceland has been used as a test case for what’s happening in Greece and what’s happening in Europe, and maybe what happens in the United States. When the three big crooked banks failed, they were sold out to vulture banks, basically, at $0.10 on the dollar. The vulture banks came in and are moving to begin evicting huge amounts of Icelanders from their homes. Ninety percent have their own homes. Three hundred thousand Icelanders have moved to Norway to get work. The country’s been plunged into a depression. Earlier this week, the Social Democratic prime minister gave a speech saying, essentially, we want to give away the country and the banks. They’re backing me. I’ve given the country away to the banks. Now, what do the population do [incompr.] the public opinion polls show that the fascist party there–they call themselves Social Democrats, but they call them fascists–have a 10 percent approval rating. That means a 90 percent disapproval. What they did was get together outside of Parliament with about 20 huge oil drums, and at the point where the prime minister began to speak in Parliament, they all begin banging the huge oil drums and any other noise makers they had in order to make it impossible to hear even the speech, so that any recording of the speech would have this huge din of noise going on. And they did that for the same reason that the people in Occupy Wall Street are gathering. They’re there to say, look, whatever deal this right-wing reactionary prime minister lady makes with Europe, we’re not going to obey it. As soon as we can throw these thieves out of power, we’re going to come in and we’re going to have another government, and we’re not going to pay, because if a government gives away to–the country to foreign bankers and foreign creditors and we don’t have a say in it, that’s not democracy. That’s [crosstalk]

JAY: Right. So they had a referendum about whether or not to do this, you know, use public money to pay off and bail out the banks. They voted no. Then what happened? I mean, it sounds like a lot of this is happening anyway.

HUDSON: The referendum was not whether to pay off the banks. The prime minister, again, had wanted to pay off Gordon Brown in England and the Dutch government–nothing to do with banks at all–for Icesave debt that the governments had to pay and did pay to bail out their own banks. The prime minister, Sigurdardottir, wanted to pay the money to finance England and Netherlands, essentially doing their own bank bailout, for which Iceland didn’t owe a penny. And the president, who normally is like a notary public and has to sign off, says, wait a minute, if we’re going to agree to pay debts that are going to plunge the economy into a decade of depression and force most Icelanders to leave the country to find work, they at least get to vote on it. That’s international law. So they voted no. And then the government said, oh, let’s have another vote, and finally a year later put the referendum again. The people voted no again. That referendum was against bailing out Gordon Brown and the British Labour Party and the Dutch government. It had nothing to do with the banks. This is yet another bank giveaway. The Social Democratic Party, not only in Iceland but throughout Europe, is basically the party of the bank lobbyists. And the other people are saying, wait a minute, we want an election to throw these guys out. They’ve been bought out. They’re crooks. And the government says, we’re not going to let you vote. Whatever we say, we’re going to do. There is no democracy here. And that’s why–.

JAY: And is there a party in Iceland that reflects this that isn’t going to be a right-wing alternative that does the same thing, or another form of right-wing alternative, if you want?

HUDSON: In the past, the only alternative to the Social Democrats were the neoliberal party that gave away the store to the banks to begin with. So they’re in the process of founding a new party. But without letting people vote, when you stop, when you just suspend voting and you won’t let people have any voice in government, no party can function, because there’s no vote, no chance to have a ballot. So the government is–essentially, the Social Democrats have imposed the dictatorship in Iceland that they’re trying to impose in Greece under the socialist government there and in other social democratic governments throughout Europe.

JAY: Thanks for joining us, Michael.

HUDSON: Thanks.

the achilles heel of the eurozone

LATimes | The Greek drama is heightening by the day. Last week, Europe's leaders came up with a $180-billion rescue package for its most troubled member, Greece. Like previous efforts, the plan combines bailout funds with demands for continued austerity in an attempt to isolate Greece and leave the rest of Europe economically intact. This week, in response, a call by Greece's prime minister for a national referendum on the proposal surprised the world.

The referendum may accelerate the inevitable fall of the Greek government. And it only emphasizes that a belief in the latest deal as a "Euro success story" — that it solves Greece's problems and prevents a larger Eurozone crisis — is pure fantasy. Whatever the referendum results turn out to be, we are still heading toward the unraveling of an economically united Europe, a union that, despite its many downsides, is in the best interests of the continent's countries — rich and poor — and the global economy.

That the European Union finally recognizes the need to push forward on Greece's solvency problem is a positive development, even though the latest fix basically amounts to providing it with some new breathing room. Greece's payments on its debt principal will be postponed, and interest rates will be lowered. This might, in 2013, begin to bring its deficit under control. The price, though, will include a very high unemployment rate. And, most significantly, the underlying problem of an economy without growth has not been addressed.

Greece lacks both an industrial base and the widespread availability of technology. It simply can't be productive enough to compete with neighbors such as Germany, France or the Netherlands. It's in deep recession and doesn't have the resources to grow out of it, even with an easing of its still-enormous debt level.

Most of the austerity measures and reforms in place — and calls to continue or increase them — won't work. Raising taxes in a society distinguished by flagrant tax evasion has only boosted the shadow economy. Wage and pension cuts are further reducing tax receipts. Worse, these measures are depressing both demand and retail sales, resulting in more unemployment and civil disturbances.

A quarantine of the disaster isn't possible. Europe's banks and nations are too closely entwined. Financial institutions in the Eurozone have made large loans to Greece's government and private sector, as well as to other distressed European nations.

The core European banks hold hundreds of billions of euros in debt issued by Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain, all struggling nations. Banks within these nations hold tens of billions more. Add in losses at the European Central Bank, where incoming President Mario Draghi is providing only lukewarm support for an active role by the bank. Greece still could collapse, provoking a rush to the exits that would trigger bank insolvencies across the continent.

The effects extend beyond Europe. The U.S. and Japan would not be immune from the turmoil. And at least two-thirds of lending to emerging markets originates in European banks. If European institutions start calling back these loans, markets around the globe will be destabilized.

Greece’s bailout referendum gambit: grave error or glimpse of greatness?

Toronto Star | Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s call for a referendum on a massive bailout package has all but swept away hopes of finally stemming his country’s massive debt crisis.

Now it looks like his own government will be pulled under by the same current.

A man who spent a decade fighting for the prime minister’s post, and whose name carries the resonance of America’s beloved Kennedys in his own country, Papandreou shocked political allies and enemies alike with his call to take the European bailout plan to the voters.

Some see the referendum call as a reckless move by a cornered politician who refuses to shoulder the legacy of brutal cost-cutting measures. Others charge it is a brilliant, gutsy strategy designed to silence his critics and ultimately garner the support the bailout needs to be successful.

Is Papandreou saving his career at the expense of the global economy — or is that the only way to save it?

Now his government is teetering on the verge of collapse. It faces a confidence vote at the end of this week.

Stock markets swooned and European leaders scrambled following Monday night’s Greek bombshell, which threatens to undo 18 months of negotiations by the European Union to ease the debt emergency.

Working deep into the night last week, eurozone countries agreed to a package to cut Greek’s public debt by half and strengthen banks’ balance sheets to guard against a continentwide banking crisis.

“The summit last week was to deal with the uncertainty in the eurozone . . . and this grenade is thrown in just a few short days later,” groused Lucinda Creighton, Ireland’s minister of European affairs.

With the EU deal now in doubt in the fast-moving political situation in Athens, world leaders face the possibility of a disorderly debt default by Greece, which could spread financial chaos to other countries such as Spain and Italy.

That would in turn raise the possibility of another global banking calamity that could prompt a repeat of the 2008 recession. Also at stake is the future of Greece within the EU, the credibility of the euro as a 17-nation currency and, in the worst scenario, the survival of the half-century-old EU itself.

Antonis Samaras, leader of Greece’s opposition New Democracy Party, hissed that his party would never accept “reckless adventurism.”

“Mr. Papandreou, in his effort to save himself, has presented a divisive and extortionate dilemma,” Samaras said.

Papandreou said that he needs wider political backing for deep spending cuts tied to the new €130 billion aid deal.

He wanted Greek voters “to take a position, to see the choice before us in its starkness, hoping they will back the lesser of two evils, instead of letting irate reactions in the streets dominate the debate,” one adviser to the prime minister told The New York Times.

greek prime minister wins backing for referendum

Guardian | 8.20am: So what happened at last night's cabinet meeting? We know that it ran for seven hours (after starting late), finally finishing at 3am Greek time (1am GMT).

According to government spokesman Ilias Mossialos, government ministers expressed "total support for the initiatives taken by the prime minister." That doesn't exactly chime with the growing mood of opposition among the Pasok party yesterday.

George Papandreou's office has released a statement, showing the prime minister insisted that the Greek people must give their approval to the next stage of austerity:
The referendum will be a clear mandate and a clear message in and outside Greece on our European course and participation in the euro.

No one will be able to doubt Greece's course within the euro.
Only if you win, though, Prime Minister....

According to Associated Press, Papandreou also insisted that the rules of democracy must be observed:
We will not implement any program by force, but only with the consent of the Greek people.

This is our democratic tradition and we demand that it is also respected abroad.
8.00am: Good morning, and welcome to another day of drama in the European debt crisis.

We said yesterday that George Papandreou had a history weathering political crises. Well, the great survivor has done it again – after a marathon cabinet meeting, he has persuaded his cabinet that Greece should indeed hold a referendum on the eurozone rescue plan.

We'll be following all the developments from Greece, where the parliament is expected to start debating a confidence vote this afternoon.

World leaders are also heading to Cannes, ready for the G20 which begins on Thursday. Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and other key players are due to meet with Papandreou late tonight to discuss the situation.

Global Economy Threatened As World Oil Production Stalls For Seventh Year

ASPO | An array of energy experts gathered in front of the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today to criticize the agency for what they called “dangerously unrealistic” oil and natural gas production forecasts. Calling for "truth in energy," they delivered a letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu seeking greater transparency in how the agency formulates its energy projections and urging development of a plan to address the growing possibility of near-term oil supply disruptions and persistent, long-term oil shortages.

“Despite rising demand and a large increase in oil prices, world oil supply has been on a plateau; it has stayed relatively constant since 2005,” said Robert L. Hirsch, co-author of The Impending World Energy Mess. “Simultaneously, production from existing world oil fields is declining at a high rate. Both of these developments are unprecedented, yet DOE and EIA [Energy Information Administration] have dismissed them as not being of major concern.”

Hirsch added, “Many oil production analysts believe that in a relatively few years, total world oil production will go into decline. That may sound like we have time to react, but our 2005 study for the DOE clearly demonstrated that we now have essentially no time to effectively react. This is because of the huge amount of oil consumed worldwide and the fact that a relatively few percent oil production decline will be difficult, expensive and time-consuming to make up.”

“The Department of Energy’s optimistic forecasts for future supply are dangerously unrealistic,” said Jim Baldauf, president and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas-USA (ASPO-USA). “The risk/benefit ratio is out of balance. If these exuberant predictions are wrong, the consequences could be catastrophic. We need to be conservative in planning for the future. We can’t bet America’s economy and national security on Pollyanna predictions.” Baldauf added, “We are not running out of oil. But we appear to be running out of oil that we can afford.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

the 99% have lost out beyond occupy wall street's wildest imagining..,

Video - an exploration of the inordinate power that corporations exercise in our democracy.

truthout | "Property is theft," French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon famously declared in 1840 - a judgment clearly shared by many of those involved in the occupations in the name of the 99 percent around the country, and especially when applied to Wall Street bankers and traders. Elizabeth Warren also angrily points out that there "is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody." Meaning: if the rich don't pay their fair share of the taxes which educate their workers and provide roads, security and many other things, they are essentially stealing from everyone else.

But this is the least of it: Proudhon may have exaggerated when, for instance, we think of a small farmer working his own land with his own hands. But we now know that he was far closer to the truth than even he might have imagined when it comes to how the top 1 percent really got so rich, and why the 99 percent lost out. The biggest "theft" by the 1 percent has been of the primary source of wealth - knowledge - for its own benefit.

Knowledge? Yes, of course, and increasingly so. The fact is, most of what we call wealth is now known to be overwhelmingly the product of technical, scientific and other knowledge - and most of this innovation derives from socially inherited knowledge, at that. Which means that, except for trivial amounts, it was simply not created by the 1 percent who enjoy the lion's share of its benefits. Most of it was created, historically, by society - which is to say, minimally, the other 99 percent.

Take a simple example: In our own time, over many decades, the development of the steel plow and the tractor increased one man's capacity to farm, from a small plot (with a mule and wooden plow) to many hundred acres. What changed over the years to make this possible was a great deal of engineering, steelmaking, chemistry and other knowledge developed by society as a whole.

Another obvious example: Many of the advances that have propelled our high-tech economy in recent decades grew directly out of research programs financed and, often, collaboratively developed, by the federal government and paid for by the taxpayer. The Internet, to take the most well-known example, began as a government defense project, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), in the 1960s. Today's vast software industry rests on a foundation of computer language and operating hardware developed, in large part, with public support. The Bill Gateses of the world might still be working with vacuum tubes and punch cards were it not for critical research and technology programs created or financed by the federal government after World War II.

The iPhone is another example: Its microchips, cellular communication abilities and global positioning system (GPS) all flowed from developments traceable to significant direct and indirect public support from the military and space programs. The "revolutionary" multi-touch screen was developed by University of Delaware researchers financially supported by the National Science Foundation and the CIA. It is not only electronics: of the 15 modern US-developed "blockbuster" drugs with over $1 billion in sales, 13 received significant public research and development support.

But taxpayer-financed government programs (including, of course, all of public education!) are only the tip of the iceberg. And here we are not talking rhetoric, we are talking the stuff of Nobel prizes. Over the last several decades, economic research has begun to pinpoint much more precisely how much of what we call "wealth" society in general derives from long, steady, century-by-century advances in knowledge - and how much any one individual at any point in time can be said to have earned and "deserved."

Recent estimates indicate, for instance, that national output per capita has increased more than twentyfold over the 200-plus years since 1800. Output per hour worked has increased an estimated fifteenfold since 1870 alone. Yet the modern person is likely to work each hour with no greater commitment, risk or intelligence than his counterpart from the past. The primary reason for such huge gains is that, on the whole, scientific, technical and cultural knowledge has grown at a scale and pace that far outstrips any other factor in the nation's economic achievement.

A half-century ago, in 1957, economist Robert Solow showed that nearly 90 percent of productivity growth in the first half of the 20th century alone, from 1909 to 1949, could only be attributed to technical change in the broadest sense. The supply of labor and capital - what workers and employers contribute - appeared almost incidental to this massive technological "residual." (Solow received the Nobel Prize for this and related work in 1987.) Another leading economist, William Baumol, calculated that "nearly 90 percent ... of current GDP [gross domestic product] was contributed by innovation carried out since 1870."

The truly central and demanding question is obviously this: If most of what we have today is attributable to knowledge advances that we all inherit in common, why, specifically, should this gift of our collective history not more generously benefit all members of society? The top 1 percent of US households now receives far more income than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. The richest 1 percent of households owns nearly half of all investment assets (stocks and mutual funds, financial securities, business equity, trusts, nonhome real estate). A mere 400 individuals at the top have a combined net worth greater than the bottom 60 percent of the nation taken together. If America's vast wealth is mainly a gift of our common past, how, specifically, can such disparities be justified?

a simple three item agenda...,

oftwominds | There are really only three ways to cripple Wall Street's democracy-killing concentration of wealth and power: take our money out of Wall Street and the TBTF banks, eliminate private money from elections and abolish Wall Street's dealer, the Federal Reserve.
There are only three things--and only these three--that will cripple Wall Street's democracy-killing concentration of wealth and power:

1. Transfer the 99%'s money out of Wall Street and the Too Big To Fail Banks

2. Remove campaign contributions from our democracy in a way that the corporate legalist lackeys in the Supreme Court cannot overturn, i.e. entirely publicly financed elections

3. Abolish Wall Street's dealer, pusher and protector, the Federal Reserve.

My reasoning is very simple:

Everything else people want to see happen cannot happen if:

1) Wall Street and the SDI (systemically dangerous institutions) a.k.a. too big to fail banks, control most Americans' financial assets and debts

2) The Federal Reserve exists to enable and protect the SDI's wealth and power via Primary Dealers, the discount window and other pusher/dealer mechanisms

3) Wall Street and the other SDIs can use the billions of dollars they skim from our accounts, IRAs, 401Ks and pensions to buy political influence and protection from regulation and competition.

Therefore these are the necessary foundations of any real change.

treasury secretary up for auction and goldman sachs the highest bidder...,

Video - David DeGraw, Bill Black and Dylan Ratigan discussing Occupy Wall Street and prosecution of banking fraud.

is the environmental crisis caused by the 7 billion or the 1%?

The Grist | The United Nations says that the world's population will reach 7 billion people this month.

The approach of that milestone has produced a wave of articles and opinion pieces blaming the world's environmental crises on overpopulation. In New York's Times Square, a huge and expensive video declares that "human overpopulation is driving species extinct." In London's busiest Underground stations, electronic poster boards warn that 7 billion is ecologically unsustainable.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich's bestseller The Population Bomb declared that as a result of overpopulation, "the battle to feed humanity is over," and the 1970s would be a time of global famines and ever-rising death rates. His predictions were all wrong, but four decades later his successors still use Ehrlich's phrase -- too many people! -- to explain environmental problems.

But most of the 7 billion are not endangering the earth. The majority of the world's people don't destroy forests, don't wipe out endangered species, don't pollute rivers and oceans, and emit essentially no greenhouse gases.

Even in the rich countries of the Global North, most environmental destruction is caused not by individuals or households, but by mines, factories, and power plants run by corporations that care more about profit than about humanity's survival.

No reduction in U.S. population would have stopped BP from poisoning the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Lower birthrates won't shut down Canada's tar sands, which Bill McKibben has justly called one of the most staggering crimes the world has ever seen.

Universal access to birth control should be a fundamental human right -- but it would not have prevented Shell's massive destruction of ecosystems in the Niger River delta, or the immeasurable damage that Chevron has caused to rainforests in Ecuador.

Ironically, while populationist groups focus attention on the 7 billion, protestors in the worldwide Occupy movement have identified the real source of environmental destruction: not the 7 billion, but the 1%, the handful of millionaires and billionaires who own more, consume more, control more, and destroy more than all the rest of us put together.

In the United States, the richest 1% own a majority of all stocks and corporate equity, giving them absolute control of the corporations that are directly responsible for most environmental destruction.

we really need a widespread, bottom-up social movement

Stanford | Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich still sees runaway population growth as a threat to the planet, but is hopeful that humans can avoid the first catastrophic collapse of a global civilization.

The United Nations projects that world population will reach 7 billion this month and could top 10 billion by the end of the century.

In his 1968 book, The Population Bomb, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich warned of the threat of unchecked human population growth. Over the past four decades, the book has brought attention to the question of how many individuals our planet can sustain.

As we approach Oct. 31, the United Nations' symbolic day of 7 billion, Ehrlich discusses post-Population Bomb growth with the Stanford News Service.

Global population has more than doubled since you wrote The Population Bomb. What major consequences of that growth do we see today?

We are seeing climate disruption leading to rising food prices, loss of biodiversity, deteriorating ecosystem services, increased chances of vast epidemics and nuclear resource wars and a general reduction in the odds of avoiding the first catastrophic collapse of a global civilization.

Have any of your prescriptions from The Population Bomb been followed to success in the last 40 years?

There has been a cheering reduction in birth rates, but sadly not far enough in rich countries such as the United States and Australia, and not sufficiently widespread.

Will the additional 2 billion people projected to arrive by 2050 have the same environmental impact as adding the last 2 billion?

No, they won't. People are smart. Farmers didn't first till marginal soils where water was scarce, but rather the most productive, well-watered soils they could find. To support 2 billion more, it will be necessary to farm ever poorer lands, use more dangerous and expensive agricultural inputs, win metals from ever-poorer ores, drill wells deeper or tap increasingly remote or more contaminated sources to obtain water, and then spend more energy to transport that water ever greater distances. All this will require vastly more energy than is now used. As a result, the next 2 billion people probably will do disproportionately much more damage to our life-support systems than did the last 2 billion. Of course, if humanity got serious about protecting the environment, and now especially the atmosphere, the next 2 billion could do less damage.

Sometimes we hear reference to a "cluster bomb" of growth rather than a "population bomb." What does this mean?

Sadly, this howler slipped through the refereeing system at Science, the world's premier science journal, in a recent issue on population. The "cluster bomb" focuses on the population plight of a cluster of poor countries that struggle with rapid population growth and increasing hunger, without looking at the role of rich countries in worsening that plight. More importantly, it doesn't look at the role of wealthy countries in contributing to the most important population-related problems that are global: climate disruption, toxification of the entire planet, the possibly insurmountable challenge of transitioning rapidly away from fossil fuels, looting of the seas, and increasing the risks of pandemics and nuclear war.

How do you respond to the statement that we should focus on overconsumption, not population growth?

Most of humanity's environmental problems trace to too much total consumption, but that consumption is a product of population size and per-capita consumption. Population and consumption are no more separable in producing environmental damage than the length and width of a rectangle can be separated in producing its area – both are equally important.

Can individuals with high per-capita consumption make a difference by changing their behaviors, or do we need to look to systematic changes?

Individual changes can help, but we really need a widespread, bottom-up social movement such as the one which Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB) is trying to generate. The MAHB is an outfit you can join if you want to help figure out how society can avoid a collapse. Political action is essential.