Saturday, May 12, 2012

would you stay or would you go?


fukushimadiary | was taking a walk along Edogawa river before it started raining. The canola look so messed up.


fukushimadiary | Dandelions are becoming unusually huge in Funabashi Chiba too. I haven’t seen such a thing.

Friday, May 11, 2012

if every Chinese spat once, we could drown (the Philippines)

Telegraph | He Jia, anchor for China Central Television's (CCTV) nationally televised news broadcast, made the claim during a late Monday broadcast that has been repeatedly replayed on the internet.

The presenter apparently meant to say that the Huangyan islands – known in the Philippines as the Scarborough Shoal, and claimed by both nations – is China's territory.

"We all know that the Philippines is China's inherent territory and the Philippines belongs to Chinese sovereignty, this is an indisputable fact," He said in the broadcast, which has since disappeared from the CCTV website but is available elsewhere on the web.

Viewers joked in online postings that the presenter's nationalistic fervour led to her mistake.

"This anchor woman is great, a good patriot, she has announced to the world the Philippines belongs to China," said a microblogger named helenjhuang.

"We should attack directly, send (Philippine President Benigno) Aquino packing and take back our inherent territory."

Another microblogger named kongdehua said, "the Philippines have basically been making irrational trouble, if they want to start a war then we will strike, no one fears them.

simians squabbling over food....,

Telegraph | Territorial rivalry has escalated throughout the seas around China as regional and international navies seek to establish rights of passage against an expanding Chinese presence.

Chinese and Philippine vessels have been locked in a high seas stand-off since the PLA Navy prevented a Philippine warship from arresting crews of Chinese fishing boats near the Scarborough Shoal on April 8.

Both countries claim the fish rich shoal as their own and protests by Philippine fishermen over their loss of livelihood have drawn mass support in the south-east Asian country.

China International Travel Service, the state-owned tourism operator, yesterday suspended ties with the Philippines after organisers announced plans to demonstrate outside Chinese embassy buildings and property today.

Beijing also issued a travel advisory warning its citizens to keep a low profile. "Avoid going out at all if possible, and if not, to avoid going out alone," it said. "If you come across any demonstrations, leave the area, do not stay to watch."

Reports in Japan said five Chinese warships – including two guided missile destroyers, two frigates and a amphibious landing ship – had passed through waters close to Okinawa moving to Philippine reefs.

As the dispute escalated, Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, met senators in a push to ratify a treaty that would bolster legal backing for US naval patrols in dispute regions such as the South China Sea.

Seizing on warnings of the dangers of escalating "gunboat diplomacy" Mr Panetta called on the senate to ratify the Laws of the Sea, a UN treaty that has been hindered by procedural disputes.

"By moving off the sidelines and leading the discussion, we would be able to influence those treaty bodies that develop and interpret the Law of the Sea," he said. "In that way, we would ensure that our rights are not whittled away by the excessive claims and erroneous interpretations of others."

us-japan backing philippines and vietnam against china


globalresearch | External forces' intervention in the South China Sea disputes has gradually become a reality despite China's opposition against the externalization of the disputes. Last week, the US and Japan reached a new agreement on the joint use of the US military bases in the Pacific region.

According to media reports, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are expected to station forces alongside US troops in the Philippines. Once Manila approves, Japan, the US and the Philippines will conduct specific military training together in Philippine bases.

In recent years, countries like Vietnam and the Philippines have gained huge economic interests through developing gas and oil resources in the South China Sea region.

Driven by economic ambitions, they chase further expansion in the South China Sea, which intensifies the territorial disputes around the region. They see moving closer to Japan and the US as their strategy to prevent China seeking its legal rights over the South China Sea.

This provides favorable conditions and timing for Japan and the US to get involved in the South China Sea disputes.

In the process of refocusing its strategic attention to the Asia-Pacific region, Southeast Asia is an important US focus. For the last two years, the US has been increasing its strategic input in Southeast Asia.

Militarily, the US is seeking permanent stations in some military bases in this region. It has requested to return to the Subic Bay military base in the Philippines and to send its most advanced littoral combat ships there.

The US has also intensified military drills with different countries in the regions and waters around China. Though those drills are not all targeted at China, some are indeed aimed at deterring China and increasing US popularity in Asia.

Unlike the US, Japan acts quite subtly in intervening in the South China Sea disputes. But Japan lifted its restrictive policies on arms exports after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda took office. In essence this is a preparation to support countries involved in the South China Sea disputes by exporting weapons to them.

Besides, Japan also plans to supply patrol vessels to the Philippines and assist the country in training its coast guards.

These moves show that Japan is extending its military reach in the South China Sea, and the trend will further continue. A messy South China Sea situation is in Japan's interests. As the disputes between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands have intensified recently, Japan hopes confrontations with China in the South China Sea could distract China's attention.

The external intervention in the South China Sea dispute complicates the regional dynamics. As the US and Japan are backing them, countries like the Philippines and Vietnam become more and more arrogant and constantly provoke China in the South China Sea, including illegally detaining Chinese fishermen.

us-philippine military exercises directed against china

globalresearch | Joint US-Philippine military exercises are currently underway that can only heighten tensions with China over disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea and in the Indo-Pacific region more broadly.

Yesterday, 4,500 US Marines and 2,500 Philippine troops staged an amphibious landing drill at Ulugan Bay on Palawan Island to simulate the recapture of an island from “militants.” Despite denials by American and Philippine officials, the exercise was pointedly aimed at China, which contests the sovereignty of waters and islands in the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, adjacent to Palawan Island.

The South China Sea is rich in gas and oil reserves, leading to disputes over energy exploration and drilling in its waters. Last weekend, US and Philippine special forces troops took part in a simulated assault to retake an offshore oil rig from “militants” off northern Palawan.

The drills are part of annual US-Philippine Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) military exercises, which began last week and are due to conclude today. The confrontational character of the exercise is underlined not only by their location and type, but also by the involvement of troops from Australia, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia.

President Barack Obama declared last November that the US would focus on the Indo-Pacific region as its top strategic priority, announcing the greater use of military bases in northern Australia, including the stationing of US Marines near Darwin. Since mid-2009, the Obama administration has been engaged in an aggressive drive to strengthen alliances and strategic partnerships with countries throughout Asia in a bid to undermine Chinese influence.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted at an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in 2010 that the US had “a national interest” in ensuring “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Clinton’s comments signalled US backing for ASEAN nations to more vigorously press their territorial claims against China, and have resulted in the Philippines, in particular, taking a more aggressive stance.

The Balikatan exercises took place amid an ongoing standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels at the disputed Scarborough Shoal to the west of the Philippine island of Luzon. Earlier this month, the Philippine military dispatched its largest vessel—a re-fitted, former US Coast Guard frigate handed over last December—to confront Chinese maritime surveillance ships that were preventing the Philippine navy from detaining Chinese fishing boats. While the standoff has eased, both countries are maintaining ships in the area.

In a TV interview on Monday, Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario appealed for other countries for support. “I think the current standoff is a manifestation of a larger threat to many nations. The bigger picture is that anybody can be targeted,” he warned.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

ego-disruptive = non-toxic/ ego-reinforcing = toxic

realitysandwich | Since my normal presentation (which is mostly about my theory for a quantum nature for the transpersonal entheogenic experience that I outline in my book Tryptamine Palace: 5-MeO DMT and the Sonoran Desert Toad) takes at least an hour, and since I was considering 'non-duality' to be another way of describing the 'classical' mystical experience of 'transpersonal Oneness' that occurs with the complete dissolution of Ego and Identity ('the loss of all opposites'), I decided to talk about a subject that I had been thinking about more recently, namely the correlation between the effect a 'drug' has on the Ego (one's personal sense of 'I') and its relative toxicity.

So for this conference, rather than discussing my usual subject (the endogenous entheogens, DMT and 5-MeO-DMT), I decided to consider the broad spectrum of different 'mood-enhancing' compounds available, and rather than considering how each particular 'drug' affects our bodies or our 'mental well-being' as most scientific studies would, I would instead rank each compound on how it affected our sense of Ego, our sense of "I". Since the total loss of Ego and the sense of "I" is the core of the transpersonal mystical experience (and I am an experiential-mystic at heart), I decided that I would assign each 'drug' its own 'Mystical Value', with the compounds that can induce the transpersonal state of total loss of Ego and Identity having the highest value (most value to an experiential mystic), while the compounds that reinforced or inflated the sense of the Ego would have the lowest. After ranking the various compounds (according to experiential reports in literature, EROWID, etc), it was obvious that the scale naturally descended by the chemical class of the compound -- tryptamine, phenethylamine, opiates, amphetamines, alcohol -- and that this corresponded to a noticeable increase in physical toxicity. My conclusion from ranking these various compounds by their unique 'Mystical Value' and then comparing their relative toxicity could then be expressed quite simply (as):

Oroc's First Law of Entheogens: The more a compound disrupts the Ego (the sense of 'I'), the physically safer (less toxic) that compound will be, while the more a 'drug' reinforces and inflates the sense of Ego, the more physically harmful (toxic) that compound will be.

For the purpose of elucidation, here is how I ranked the various compounds, along with my personal commentary on the effects of each compound, the relative toxicity, and a brief summary of its human history.

Warning! This table ranks PHYSICAL TOXICITY, and DOES NOT consider the well-documented potential PSYCHOLOGICAL SIDE-EFFECTS of psychedelic compounds that can occur for psychologically fragile people, from being unprepared for the psychedelic experience, or from taking too-high dosages of psychedelic compounds. All compounds in this table (other than alcohol) are currently illegal in the USA and most other countries.

the antisocial brain

kingscollege | New research provides the strongest evidence to date that psychopathy is linked to specific structural abnormalities in the brain. The study, led by researchers at King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) is the first to confirm that psychopathy is a distinct neuro-developmental sub-group of anti-social personality disorder (ASPD).

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London and published in Archives of General Psychiatry.

Most violent crimes are committed by a small group of persistent male offenders with ASPD. Approximately half of male prisoners in England and Wales will meet diagnostic criteria for ASPD. The majority of such men are not true psychopaths (ASPD-P). They are characterised by emotional instability, impulsivity and high levels of mood and anxiety disorders. They typically use aggression in a reactive way in response to a perceived threat or sense of frustration.

However, about one third of such men will meet additional diagnostic criteria for psychopathy (ASPD+P). They are characterised by a lack of empathy and remorse, and use aggression in a planned way to secure what they want (status, money etc.). Previous research has shown that psychopaths’ brains differ structurally from healthy brains, but until now, none have examined these differences within a population of violent offenders with ASPD.

Dr Nigel Blackwood from the IoP at King’s and lead author of the study says: ‘Using MRI scans we found that psychopaths had structural brain abnormalities in key areas of their ‘social brains’ compared to those who just had ASPD. This adds to behavioural and developmental evidence that psychopathy is an important subgroup of ASPD with a different neurobiological basis and different treatment needs’

‘There is a clear behavioural difference amongst those diagnosed with ASPD depending on whether or not they also have psychopathy. We describe those without psychopathy as ‘hot-headed’ and those with psychopathy as ‘cold-hearted’. The ‘cold-hearted’ psychopathic group begin offending earlier, engage in a broader range and greater density of offending behaviours, and respond less well to treatment programmes in adulthood, compared to the ‘hot-headed’ group. We now know that this behavioural difference corresponds to very specific structural brain abnormalities which underpin psychopathic behaviour, such as profound deficits in empathising with the distress of others.’

oh, it's more than that...., but at least this is a start

guardian | Bacteria, viruses and parasites cause around 2m cases of cancer in the world each year, experts believe.

Of the 7.5m global deaths from cancer in 2008, an estimated 1.5m may have been due to potentially preventable or treatable infections.

Scientists carried out a statistical analysis of cancer incidence to calculate that around 16% of all cancers diagnosed in 2008 were infection-related. The proportion of cancers linked to infection was three times higher in developing countries than in developed ones.

Key cancer-causing infectious agents include human papillomavirus (HPV), the gastric bug Helicobacter pylori and the hepatitis B (HBV) and C viruses.

These four were together believed to be responsible for 1.9m cases of cancer, mostly gastric, liver and cervical cancers.

Cervical cancer accounted for around half of infection-related women's cancers. In men, more than 80% of infection-related cancers affected the liver, stomach and colon.

Dr Catherine de Martel and Dr Martyn Plummer, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, wrote in the Lancet Oncology journal: "Infections with certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites are one of the biggest and preventable causes of cancer worldwide … Application of existing public-health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practice, or antimicrobial treatments, could have a substantial effect on future burden of cancer worldwide."

The researchers used information from a number of sources, including a cancer-incidence database covering 27 cancers from 184 countries.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

quest for the connectome: human brain-mapping project



guardian | There is a macabre brilliance to the machine in Jeff Lichtman's laboratory at Harvard University that is worthy of a Wallace and Gromit film. In one end goes brain. Out the other comes sliced brain, courtesy of an automated arm that wields a diamond knife. The slivers of tissue drop one after another on to a conveyor belt that zips along with the merry whirr of a cine projector.

Lichtman's machine is an automated tape-collecting lathe ultramicrotome (Atlum), which, according to the neuroscientist, is the tool of choice for this line of work. It produces long strips of sticky tape with brain slices attached, all ready to be photographed through a powerful electron microscope.

When these pictures are combined into 3D images, they reveal the inner wiring of the organ, a tangled mass of nervous spaghetti. The research by Lichtman and his co-workers has a goal in mind that is so ambitious it is almost unthinkable.

If we are ever to understand the brain in full, they say, we must know how every neuron inside is wired up.

Though fanciful, the payoff could be profound. Map out our "connectome" – following other major "ome" projects such as the genome and transcriptome – and we will lay bare the biological code of our personalities, memories, skills and susceptibilities. Somewhere in our brains is who we are.

To use an understatement heard often from scientists, the job at hand is not trivial. Lichtman's machine slices brain tissue into exquisitely thin wafers. To turn a 1mm thick slice of brain into neural salami takes six days in a process that yields about 30,000 slices.

But chopping up the brain is the easy part. When Lichtman began this work several years ago, he calculated how long it might take to image every slice of a 1cm mouse brain. The answer was 7,000 years. "When you hear numbers like that, it does make your pulse quicken," Lichtman said.

The human brain is another story. There are 85bn neurons in the 1.4kg (3lbs) of flesh between our ears. Each has a cell body (grey matter) and long, thin extensions called dendrites and axons (white matter) that reach out and link to others. Most neurons have lots of dendrites that receive information from other nerve cells, and one axon that branches on to other cells and sends information out.

On average, each neuron forms 10,000 connections, through synapses with other nerve cells. Altogether, Lichtman estimates there are between 100tn and 1,000tn connections between neurons.

Unlike the lung, or the kidney, where the whole organ can be understood, more or less, by grasping the role of a handful of repeating physiological structures, the brain is made of thousands of specific types of brain cell that look and behave differently. Their names – Golgi, Betz, Renshaw, Purkinje – read like a roll call of the pioneers of neuroscience.

Lichtman, who is fond of calculations that expose the magnitude of the task he has taken on, once worked out how much computer memory would be needed to store a detailed human connectome.

"To map the human brain at the cellular level, we're talking about 1m petabytes of information. Most people think that is more than the digital content of the world right now," he said. "I'd settle for a mouse brain, but we're not even ready to do that. We're still working on how to do one cubic millimetre."

dopamine: duality of desire

TheScientist | Why are addicts so desperate? Why is it so hard to stop? Neuroscientists seek the answer in a single molecule: dopamine—a neuromodulator long associated with reward. Dopamine focuses attention on goals, powers motor sequences designed to achieve them, and injects them with emotional urgency. A lot of this occurs in the ventral striatum, a subcortical structure densely connected to the prefrontal cortex, the cingulate cortex, and the amygdala. Yet there remains a fundamental controversy about the role of dopamine in the striatum. Is dopamine the basis of reward? Or is dopamine responsible for a desperate longing that doesn’t feel good at all?

Many neuroscientists think of the striatal dopamine circuit as a pleasure center. That could explain why addicts have a dopamine spike around the time they get high on drugs. It could also explain the action of drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine, which release and maintain high levels of dopamine and are perceived as profoundly pleasurable.

But a new approach to dopamine has surfaced, partly through the neuroscience of addiction. University of Michigan neuroscientist Kent Berridge and his colleagues view striatal circuitry as the locus of two separate functions: liking and wanting. Their research demonstrates that liking—pleasure—is mediated by opioids. But wanting is mediated by dopamine. The feeling of desire, or wanting, evolved to get us to pursue the things that make us feel good. But the pursuit itself isn’t fun.

According to Berridge, dopamine levels peak when goals are just out of reach and drop once they’ve been attained. For addicts, dopamine increases sensitivity to drug-related cues and generates a state of pursuit. This reconceptualization could explain the findings of neuroscientist Robert Risinger and colleagues who showed that dopamine peaked in the striatum just before, not after, addicts pressed a button that delivered cocaine (NeuroImage, 26: 1097-1108, 2005). And those same addicts reported “craving”—not “high”—as the experiential correlate of dopamine.

So why do meth and coke feel so good and not just like souped-up craving? Attraction to something you don’t have access to isn’t fun. When I was in the throes of intense psychological addiction, my thoughts were continuously (and unpleasantly) drawn to drug imagery. It would be so great to have some now! How can I get some tonight?! But attraction to something you are just about to get feels marvelous. Dopamine-induced engagement turns into a headlong rush of triumph when the goal is finally accessible.

This perspective on the dual nature of attraction helps make sense of addiction. Unsated attraction can be a kind of torture, and addicts may seek drugs to put an end to that torture, more than for the modicum of pleasure drugs actually bestow.

Advances in neuroscience encourage fresh insights, not only into addiction, but into the wider domains of emotion and personality development. Yet a synthesis between neuroscience and subjectivity can perhaps teach us more than either one alone.

sword and shield hypothesis: the way we use our hands may determine how emotions are organized in our brains

PLoSONE | Background - According to decades of research on affective motivation in the human brain, approach motivational states are supported primarily by the left hemisphere and avoidance states by the right hemisphere. The underlying cause of this specialization, however, has remained unknown. Here we conducted a first test of the Sword and Shield Hypothesis (SSH), according to which the hemispheric laterality of affective motivation depends on the laterality of motor control for the dominant hand (i.e., the “sword hand," used preferentially to perform approach actions) and the nondominant hand (i.e., the “shield hand," used preferentially to perform avoidance actions).

Methodology/Principal Findings - To determine whether the laterality of approach motivation varies with handedness, we measured alpha-band power (an inverse index of neural activity) in right- and left-handers during resting-state electroencephalography and analyzed hemispheric alpha-power asymmetries as a function of the participants' trait approach motivational tendencies. Stronger approach motivation was associated with more left-hemisphere activity in right-handers, but with more right-hemisphere activity in left-handers.

Conclusions - The hemispheric correlates of approach motivation reversed between right- and left-handers, consistent with the way they typically use their dominant and nondominant hands to perform approach and avoidance actions. In both right- and left-handers, approach motivation was lateralized to the same hemisphere that controls the dominant hand. This covariation between neural systems for action and emotion provides initial support for the SSH.

Motivation, the drive to approach or withdraw from physical and social stimuli, is a basic building block of human emotion. For decades, scientists have believed that approach motivation is computed mainly in the left hemisphere of the brain, and withdraw motivation in the right hemisphere. Brookshire and Casasanto's study challenges this idea, showing that a well-established pattern of brain activity, found across dozens of studies in right-handers, completely reverses in left-handers.

The study used electroencepahlography (EEG) to compare activity in participants' right- and left hemispheres during rest. After having their brain waves measured, participants completed a survey measuring their level of approach motivation, a core aspect of our personalities. In right-handers, stronger approach motivation was associated with greater activity in the left hemisphere than the right, consistent with previous studies. Left-handers showed the opposite pattern: Approach motivation was associated with greater activity in the right hemisphere than the left.

A New Link Between Motor Action and Emotion

Most cognitive functions do not reverse with handedness. Language, for example, is mainly in the left hemisphere for the majority of right- and left-handers. However, these results were not unexpected.

"We predicted this hemispheric reversal because we observed that people tend to use different hands to perform approach- and avoidance-related actions," says Casasanto. Approach actions are often performed with the dominant hand, and avoidance actions with the nondominant hand.

"Approach motivation is computed by the hemisphere that controls the right hand in right-handers, and by the hemisphere that controls the left hand in left-handers," says Casasanto. "We don't think this is a coincidence. Neural circuits for motivation may be functionally related to circuits that control hand actions – emotion may be built upon neural circuits for action, in evolutionary or developmental time."

The authors caution that these data show a correlation between emotional motivation and motor control, and that further studies are needed to establish a causal link.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

an uncompromised view of american politics and economics

capitalismwithoutfailure | The first decade of this century was founded on official corruption, control frauds, the madness of a people incited by the propaganda of fear and ideology, leverage, and the conscious mispricing of risk.

Everything else is merely conversation...,

On High-Frequency trading: It's a zero sum game. They are skimming. Mom and pop's pension fund is being ripped off a little bit on every trade. Only shameless whores, that are the publicly traded exchanges, would steal from the public. If the exchanges were not-for-profits no one would ever think of doing this. It is this kind of behavior that makes the public wary of investing in stock markets.

On Rogue Bankers: There is no such thing as rogue traders. There are only rogue banks. If you are that grossly negligent that you have to be rescued by the government, then I guarantee you they are doing lots of other things wrong. If you have an entity that messed up so badly that it can't survive... how are you going to go out and run a marathon? Jamie Dimon is the next CEO who needs a humbling.

On Larry Summers: We now find out that the single biggest asshole in America is Larry Summers, who browbeat Obama into bailing out Citibank. Larry Summers oversaw the repeal of Glass Steagall as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton Whitehouse, and oversaw the Commodities Futures Modernization Act which took the entire universe of derivatives and hid them from federal regulators. The Treasury Secretary should have advised Clinton that it was garbage. Then, when he went back to the White House, he wasn't done fucking the country. He gave us one last bend over and grab your ankles.

On Robert Rubin: Another giant asshole - he gave us Geithner and Summers. You don't send the same surgeon in after a botched surgery because the first surgeon is more interested in covering up his work.

On Obama: Putting Rubin, Summers and Geithner in power was the tragedy of the Obama administration. Obama and Bush were both given an opportunity to be transformational - a Churchill, a Roosevelt. Obama's problem was that he sought out the biggest asshole in America - Robert Rubin.

On Credit Rating Agencies: To me, if you give up your virtue for money, you are a prostitute. Credit rating agencies are prostitutes.

To listen to the interview, visit The Big Picture Blog

On Lobbying: I have libertarian friends who are always bitching about government. I always say to them, when a dog bites you in the ass... that's what dogs do - don't blame the dog. Look up the leash and see who is holding the handle. When you look at Congress - Congress is the snapping dog. But they are somebody's bitch. You have to see who is holding the leash. Very often it is banks and Wall Street and the financial sector having Congress do its bidding. Most of the things that got us into trouble have been done at the bequest of the banks. For example, the 2004 change in leverage ratios... ironically known as the Bear Stearns Act - as in banks larger than Bear Stearns had lower ratio requirements. First of all, why do you change a law for just 5 banks and not for all of them? That shows you how corrupt the system is.

On Congress: I don't want to say Congress are whores, that go to these corporate executives with knee pads and lip-gloss... Congress is corrupt. Politicians in both parties are worthless. Every day I have to get up and prevent myself from releasing my ninja assassins to go pick out some people who are undercutting the Republic here. They don't even hide how corrupt they are anymore. It just came out that one of the new guys had sent out a note to CFO's asking them what legislation they would like to see changed. They will do anything for any kind of campaign contribution.

On Anecdotal Views of the Economy: Depending on who you are and what your circle of friends is, you will experience very different Americas in terms of the economy. If you are a college grad, the unemployment rate is 4.8%. If you are a computer programmer/engineer, the unemployment rate is 0%. The greater the skill set you have, the less employment issues you will see. I always tell people the plural of anecdote is not data. That's why it's so important not to just rely on your own experience.

To listen to the January 21, 2011 podcast, visit Jonathan Miller's Housing Helix Blog

media silent when administration targets whistleblowers

miamiherald | Obama took office pledging tolerance and even support for whistleblowers, but instead is prosecuting them with a zeal that’s historically unprecedented. His Justice Department has conducted six prosecutions over leaks of classified information to reporters. Five involve the Espionage Act, a powerful law that had previously been used only four times since it was enacted in 1917 to prosecute spies.

Some spies. We’re no longer in the era of Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen or Kim Philby, infamous Cold War turncoats.

Instead, there’s Thomas Drake, a career official of the National Security Agency, who faced 35 years in prison for telling a Baltimore Sun reporter about what The New York Times called “a potential billion-dollar computer boondoggle.” At stake was bureaucratic embarrassment, not national security. (The case against Drake collapsed last summer.)

Then there’s Shamai Leibowitz, a translator for the FBI, who believed he had intercepted evidence of illegal influence-peddling by the Israeli embassy. When his boss wouldn’t act, he leaked transcripts to a blogger. He got 20 months.

Ex-CIA agent John Kiriakou was indicted in January for allegedly identifying a Guantánamo interrogator (who was not working undercover;) Stephen Kim, a State Department analyst, allegedly told a reporter for Fox News — wait for it — that the U.S. was worried North Korea might respond to new U.N. sanctions by testing another A-bomb; and Jeffrey Sterling, who allegedly disclosed a botched CIA operation in Iran that was described in a 2006 book by a Times reporter.

And there’s the biggest case, the court martial of Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of engineering the mammoth dumps of U.S. military and diplomatic data that Wikileaks, the online whistleblower network, turned over to leading newspapers in 2010 and 2011.

The administration seems undeterred by the scanty evidence that any of these defendants was out to hurt the country, a mainstay ingredient of espionage, and the Manning judge has even warned prosecutors they must show he believed he was “aiding the enemy” or she would toss the most serious charge against him.

The public is generally unaware of how essential nominally classified information is to coverage of diplomatic and strategic news. As Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ government secrecy project, put it: “The administration’s aggressive pursuit of leaks represents a challenge to the practice of national security reporting, which depends on the availability of unauthorized sources if it is to produce something more than ‘authorized’ news.”

What’s behind the administration’s fervor isn’t clear, but the news media have largely rolled over and yawned. A big reason is that prosecutors aren’t hassling reporters as they once did. Thanks to the post-9/11 explosion in government intercepts, electronic surveillance, and data capture of all imaginable kinds — the NSA is estimated to have intercepted 15-20 trillion communications in the past decade — the secrecy police have vast new ways to identify leakers.

So they no longer have to force journalists to expose confidential sources. As a national security representative told Lucy Dalglish, director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, “We’re not going to subpoena reporters in the future. We don’t need to. We know who you’re talking to.”


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/07/2783978/media-silent-when-administration.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, May 07, 2012

well, that didn't take long, did it?



wikipedia | Golden Dawn (Greek: Χρυσή Αυγή, Chrysi Avgi, Greek pronunciation: [xriˈsi avˈʝi]) is a Greek nationalist far-right political organization led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos. It expresses anti-immigrant views and is known for its militancy. It also expresses sympathy with the totalitarian regime of Ioannis Metaxas.

Golden Dawn describes itself as a "People's Nationalist Movement" and "uncompromising Nationalists."[9] Michaloliakos described Golden Dawn as opposing the "so-called Enlightenment" and the Industrial Revolution.[9][10] Religiously, they currently support the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Michaloliakos began the foundations of what would become Golden Dawn in 1980. In 1991 it became a notable movement, and in 1993 was registered as a political party. It temporarily ceased political operations in 2005, and was absorbed by the Patriotic Alliance. The Alliance in turn ceased operations after Michaloliakos withdrew support. In March 2007, Golden Dawn held its sixth congress, where Party officials announced the resumption of their political activism. At local elections on November 7, 2010 Golden Dawn got 5.3% of the vote in the municipality of Athens, winning a seat at the City Council. In some neighbourhoods with big immigrant communities it even reached 20%.[11] In the Greek legislative election, 2012, it achieved 7% of the popular vote, enough to enter the Hellenic Parliament for the first time.

icelandic anger brings debt forgiveness

bloomberg | Icelanders who pelted parliament with rocks in 2009 demanding their leaders and bankers answer for the country’s economic and financial collapse are reaping the benefits of their anger.

Since the end of 2008, the island’s banks have forgiven loans equivalent to 13 percent of gross domestic product, easing the debt burdens of more than a quarter of the population, according to a report published this month by the Icelandic Financial Services Association.

“You could safely say that Iceland holds the world record in household debt relief,” said Lars Christensen, chief emerging markets economist at Danske Bank A/S in Copenhagen. “Iceland followed the textbook example of what is required in a crisis. Any economist would agree with that.”

The island’s steps to resurrect itself since 2008, when its banks defaulted on $85 billion, are proving effective. Iceland’s economy will this year outgrow the euro area and the developed world on average, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates. It costs about the same to insure against an Icelandic default as it does to guard against a credit event in Belgium. Most polls now show Icelanders don’t want to join the European Union, where the debt crisis is in its third year.

The island’s households were helped by an agreement between the government and the banks, which are still partly controlled by the state, to forgive debt exceeding 110 percent of home values. On top of that, a Supreme Court ruling in June 2010 found loans indexed to foreign currencies were illegal, meaning households no longer need to cover krona losses.

Crisis Lessons

“The lesson to be learned from Iceland’s crisis is that if other countries think it’s necessary to write down debts, they should look at how successful the 110 percent agreement was here,” said Thorolfur Matthiasson, an economics professor at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, in an interview. “It’s the broadest agreement that’s been undertaken.”

Without the relief, homeowners would have buckled under the weight of their loans after the ratio of debt to incomes surged to 240 percent in 2008, Matthiasson said. Fist tap Dale.

how hitler defied the bankers...,

wakeupfromyourslumber | When Hitler came to power, Germany was hopelessly broke. The Treaty of Versailles had imposed crushing reparations on the German people, demanding that Germans repay every nation’s costs of the war. These costs totaled three times the value of all the property in Germany.

Private currency speculators caused the German mark to plummet, precipitating one of the worst runaway inflations in modern times. A wheelbarrow full of 100 billion-mark banknotes could not buy a loaf of bread. The national treasury was empty. Countless homes and farms were lost to speculators and to private (Jewish controlled) banks. Germans lived in hovels. They were starving.

Nothing like this had ever happened before - the total destruction of the national currency, plus the wiping out of people's savings and businesses. On top of this came a global depression. Germany had no choice but to succumb to debt slavery under international (mainly Jewish) bankers until 1933, when the National Socialists came to power. At that point the German government thwarted the international banking cartels by issuing its own money. World Jewry responded by declaring a global boycott against Germany.

Hitler began a national credit program by devising a plan of public works that included flood control, repair of public buildings and private residences, and construction of new roads, bridges, canals, and port facilities. All these were paid for with money that no longer came from the private international bankers.

The projected cost of these various programs was fixed at one billion units of the national currency. To pay for this, the German government (not the international bankers) issued bills of exchange, called Labor Treasury Certificates. In this way the National Socialists put millions of people to work, and paid them with Treasury Certificates.

Under the National Socialists, Germany’s money wasn't backed by gold (which was owned by the international bankers). It was essentially a receipt for labor and materials delivered to the government. Hitler said, "For every mark issued, we required the equivalent of a mark's worth of work done, or goods produced." The government paid workers in Certificates. Workers spent those Certificates on other goods and services, thus creating more jobs for more people. In this way the German people climbed out of the crushing debt imposed on them by the international bankers.

Within two years, the unemployment problem had been solved, and Germany was back on its feet. It had a solid, stable currency, with no debt, and no inflation, at a time when millions of people in the United States and other Western countries (controlled by international bankers) were still out of work. Within five years, Germany went from the poorest nation in Europe to the richest.

Germany even managed to restore foreign trade, despite the international bankers’ denial of foreign credit to Germany, and despite the global boycott by Jewish-owned industries. Germany succeeded in this by exchanging equipment and commodities directly with other countries, using a barter system that cut the bankers out of the picture. Germany flourished, since barter eliminates national debt and trade deficits. (Venezuela does the same thing today when it trades oil for commodities, plus medical help, and so on. Hence the bankers are trying to squeeze Venezuela.)

Germany's economic freedom was short-lived; but it left several monuments, including the famous Autobahn, the world's first extensive superhighway.

Hjalmar Schacht, a Rothschild agent who was temporarily head of the German central bank, summed it up thus… An American banker had commented, "Dr. Schacht, you should come to America. We've lots of money and that's real banking." Schacht replied, "You should come to Berlin. We don't have money. That's real banking."

(Schact, the Rothschild agent, actually supported the private international bankers against Germany, and was rewarded by having all charges against him dropped at the Nuremberg trials.)

This economic freedom made Hitler extremely popular with the German people. Germany was rescued from English economic theory, which says that all currency must be borrowed against the gold owned by a private and secretive banking cartel -- such as the Federal Reserve, or the Central Bank of Europe -- rather than issued by the government for the benefit of the people.

Canadian researcher Dr. Henry Makow (who is Jewish himself) says the main reason why the bankers arranged for a world war against Germany was that Hitler sidestepped the bankers by creating his own money, thereby freeing the German people. Worse, this freedom and prosperity threatened to spread to other nations. Hitler had to be stopped!

Makow quotes from the 1938 interrogation of C. G. Rakovsky, one of the founders of Soviet Bolsevism and a Trotsky intimate. Rakovsky was tried in show trials in the USSR under Stalin. According to Rakovsky, Hitler was at first funded by the international bankers, through the bankers’ agent Hjalmar Schacht. The bankers financed Hitler in order to control Stalin, who had usurped power from their agent Trotsky. Then Hitler became an even bigger threat than Stalin when Hitler started printing his own money.

(Stalin came to power in 1922, which was eleven years before Hitler came to power.)

Rakovsky said:

“Hitler took over the privilege of manufacturing money, and not only physical moneys, but also financial ones. He took over the machinery of falsification and put it to work for the benefit of the people. Can you possibly imagine what would have come if this had infected a number of other states?” (Henry Makow, "Hitler Did Not Want War," www.savethemales.com March 21, 2004).

Sunday, May 06, 2012

the technical and economic magnitude of an ultra-deep oil well project

lifeitself | In the summer of 1858, Edwin Drake punched 33 ft of cast iron pipe into the earth to prevent near surface water from collapsing the hole. He then lowered drilling equipment into the cased hole and used a steam engine to drill a successful, 69 ft deep well. On August 27th, shallow oil flowed almost to the surface and was recovered with a sump pump. Edwin Drake made absolutely no money on developing modern drilling technology and died a poor man.

Let us go back to Colonel Drake and his technology. Do you see the fundamental difference between producing 20,000 barrels per day of shallow oil from 5 simple wells that may cost 0.04 million dollars each, versus 20,000 barrels of ultradeep oil and gas from one well that will cost 200-300 million dollars?

In the first case, the initial and ongoing expenditures of energy were nothing compared with the heating value of the oil. In the second case, in addition to the well hardware, we need to throw in two hundred miles of a seafloor steel pipeline or a bunch of tankers, seafloor facilities, ships, and other energy-intensive means of assuring production from our well for a few years.

Net energy gain from the ultradeep wells can be much, much less than producing the old East Texas oilfields. Net energy gain from the various oil and gas shale projects can be less yet. And this is the main energy problem the twenty first century Earthlings face. Most are ignorant, others are in denial. The current state of affairs is not a prescription for a meaningful social discourse on what to do next, when the current global economy is strangled by the lack of cheap reliable crude oil. For those in chronic denial, please note that I said "when," not "if."

P.S. What I just showed you is translated into the official business language as follows:
Our analysis of the 50 largest publicly traded oil and gas companies (ex-FSU) shows that cost inflation continues to increase sharply within the global upstream oil and gas industry. In 2011, production costs increased by 26% while the unit cost of production increased by 21%, which was higher than longer term trends. In 2011, the marginal cost of production the same companies increased 10.8% to US$92.26/bbl.
"Era of Cheap Oil Over As Secular Growth in Upstream Cost Inflation Underpins Triple Digit Oil Prices," Bernstein Research, May 2, 2012.

Do not feel guilty if you can't understand this quote, but it surely is scary when you superimpose it on top of the actual declines of production by most major oil companies.

how the federal reserve bought the economics profession...,

HuffPo | The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession, an investigation by the Huffington Post has found.

This dominance helps explain how, even after the Fed failed to foresee the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the central bank has largely escaped criticism from academic economists. In the Fed's thrall, the economists missed it, too.

"The Fed has a lock on the economics world," says Joshua Rosner, a Wall Street analyst who correctly called the meltdown. "There is no room for other views, which I guess is why economists got it so wrong."

One critical way the Fed exerts control on academic economists is through its relationships with the field's gatekeepers. For instance, at the Journal of Monetary Economics, a must-publish venue for rising economists, more than half of the editorial board members are currently on the Fed payroll -- and the rest have been in the past.

The Fed failed to see the housing bubble as it happened, insisting that the rise in housing prices was normal. In 2004, after "flipping" had become a term cops and janitors were using to describe the way to get rich in real estate, then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said that "a national severe price distortion [is] most unlikely." A year later, current Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the boom "largely reflect strong economic fundamentals."

The Fed also failed to sufficiently regulate major financial institutions, with Greenspan -- and the dominant economists -- believing that the banks would regulate themselves in their own self-interest.

Despite all this, Bernanke has been nominated for a second term by President Obama. Fist tap Dale.

more warnings to the fed about the economy

epj | I ask, is the Chairman using the United States economy as a lab with Americans as the lab rats to test his intellectual curiosity about such things as Operation Twist?

Further, I am very confused by the response of Chairman Bernanke to questioning by Congressman Ron Paul. To a seemingly near off the cuff question by Congressman Paul on Federal Reserve money provided to the Watergate burglars, Chairman Bernanke contacted the Inspector General’s Office of the Federal Reserve and requested an investigation [12]. Yet, the congressman has regularly asked about the gold certificates held by the Federal Reserve [13] and whether the gold at Fort Knox backing up the certificates will be audited. Yet there have been no requests by the Chairman to the Treasury for an audit of the gold.This I find very odd. The Chairman calls for a major investigation of what can only be an historical point of interest but fails to seek out any confirmation on a point that would be of vital interest to many present day Americans.

In this very building, deep in the underground vaults, sits billions of dollars of gold, held by the Federal Reserve for foreign governments. The Federal Reserve gives regular tours of these vaults, even to school children. [14] Yet, America’s gold is off limits to seemingly everyone and has never been properly audited. Doesn’t that seem odd to you? If nothing else, does anyone at the Fed know the quality and fineness of the gold at Fort Knox?

In conclusion, it is my belief that from start to finish the Fed is a failure. I believe faulty methodology is used, I believe that the justification for the Fed, to bring price and economic stability, has never been a success. I repeat, prices since the start of the Fed have climbed by 2,241% and there have been over the same period 18 recessions. No one seems to care at the Fed about the gold supposedly backing up the gold certificates on the Fed balance sheet. The emperor has no clothes. Austrian Business cycle theorists are regularly ignored by the Fed, yet they have the best records with regard to spotting overall downturns, and further they specifically recognized the developing housing bubble. Let it not be forgotten that in 2004, two economists here at the New York Fed wrote a paper [15] denying there was a housing bubble. I responded to the paper [16] and wrote:

The faulty analysis by [these] Federal Reserve economists... may go down in financial history as the greatest forecasting error since Irving Fisher declared in 1929, just prior to the stock market crash, that stocks prices looked to be at a permanently high plateau.

Data released just yesterday, now show housing prices have crashed to 2002 levels. [17]

I will now give you more warnings about the economy.

The noose is tightening on your organization, vast amounts of money printing are now required to keep your manipulated economy afloat. It will ultimately result in huge price inflation, or, if you stop printing, another massive economic crash will occur. There is no other way out.

Again, thank you for inviting me. You have prepared food, so I will not be rude, I will stay and eat.

Let’s have one good meal here. Let’s make it a feast. Then I ask you, I plead with you, I beg you all, walk out of here with me, never to come back. It’s the moral and ethical thing to do. Nothing good goes on in this place. Let’s lock the doors and leave the building to the spiders, moths and four-legged rats. Fist tap Dale.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

why your overlords hate the gold standard...,

whiskey&gunpowder | Ben Bernanke journeyed across town to give a 4-part seminar to 30 undergraduates at George Washington University.

This was clearly a public relations stunt. Why would the head of the world’s most powerful central bank lecture to 30 undergraduates? This was not quite the equivalent of George W. Bush reading “My Pet Goat” to third graders, but it was close. Think of it as “My Pet Peeve.” His first speech was an overview of central banking. He used PowerPoint to create slides. The presentation had 49 slides.

Any experienced lecture listener, had he known of this in advance, would have headed toward the exit. Here is the man whose verbal skills produce narcolepsy in normal people who have slept at least 10 hours. To this he added 49 slides. This violated Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule: 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point font. The slides are here.

UNDERGROUND GOLD

In his speech, he introduced some of the classic arguments of the fiat money advocates. Warren Buffett has invoked it:

Gold gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. “Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.”

This was Buffett’s reply to his father’s policy of defending the gold standard in Congress in the late 1940s. His father had far greater understanding of the gold standard than he does.

The thought of all those itching Martian heads apparently bothers Bernanke, too. So, he repeated the argument.

“Now, unfortunately, gold standards are far from perfect monetary systems. One small problem which is not on the slides but I’ll just mention is that there’s an awful big waste of resources. I mean, what you have to do to have a gold standard is you have to go to South Africa or some place and dig up tons of gold and move it to New York and put it in the basement of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, and, that’s a lot of effort and work and it’s a, you know, it’s a – Milton Friedman used to emphasize that that was a very serious cost of a gold standard that all this gold was being dug up and then put back into another hole. So there is some cost to having a gold standard.”

There is “some cost” to having a gold standard. This means that we must pay for services rendered. Will wonders never cease! There are costs in this life! I’m telling you, this fellow Bernanke is on the cutting edge of economic science.

It’s a shame that he did not have a slide for this, even though that would have meant 50 slides.
Back in 1969, I dealt with this argument. Bernanke was 15 at the time. He must have missed it.

I begin with his first statement: “Now, unfortunately, gold standards are far from perfect monetary systems.” So, let me assure you, is central banking.

Friday, May 04, 2012

paul vs. paul


waste unrivalled by anything short of uranium production...,


central bankers are intellectually bankrupt...,

zerohedge | Likely glowing from his glorious victory (h/t Trish Regan) over Krugman in Bloomberg's recent Paul vs Paul debate, Rep. Ron Paul destroys the central-planning arrogance of Bernanke and his ilk in an Op-Ed released by the FT today.

Control of the world’s economy has been placed in the hands of a banking cartel, which holds great danger for all of us. True prosperity requires sound money, increased productivity, and increased savings and investment. The world is awash in US dollars, and a currency crisis involving the world’s reserve currency would be an unprecedented catastrophe. No amount of monetary expansion can solve our current financial problems, but it can make those problems much worse.

Our Central Bankers Are Intellectually Bankrupt

by Ron Paul

The financial crisis has fully exposed the intellectual bankruptcy of the world’s central bankers.

Why? Central bankers neglect the fact that interest rates are prices. Manipulating those prices through credit expansion or contraction has real and deleterious effects on the economy. Yet while socialism and centralised economic planning have largely been rejected by free-market economists, the myth persists that central banks are a necessary component of market economies.

These economists understand that having wages or commodity prices established by government fiat would cause shortages, misallocations of capital and hardship. Yet they accept at face value the notion that central banks must determine not only the supply of one particular commodity – money – but also the cost of that commodity via the setting of interest rates.

Printing unlimited amounts of money does not lead to unlimited prosperity. This is readily apparent from observing the Fed’s monetary policy over the past two decades. It has pumped trillions of dollars into the economy, providing money to banks with the hope that this new money will spur lending and, in turn, consumption. These interventions are intended to raise stock prices, lower borrowing costs for companies and individuals, and maintain high housing prices.

But like their predecessors in the 1930s, today’s Fed governors behave as if the height of the credit bubble is the status quo to which we need to return. This confuses money with wealth, and reflects the idea that prosperity stems from high asset prices and large amounts of money and credit.

The push for easy money is not new. Central banking was supposed to have ended the types of periodic financial crises the US experienced throughout the 19th century. Yet US financial panics have only got worse since the centralisation of monetary policy via the creation of the Fed in 1913. The Depression in the 1930s; the haemorrhaging of gold reserves during the 1960s; the stagflation of the 1970s; the dotcom bubble of the early 2000s; and the current recession all have their root in the Fed’s loose monetary policy.

Each of these crises began with an inflationary monetary policy that led to bubbles, and the solution to the busts that inevitably followed has always been to reflate the bubble.

This only sows the seeds for the next crisis. Lowering interest rates in an attempt to forestall a recession in the aftermath of the dotcom bubble required massive credit creation that led to the housing bubble, the collapse of which we still have not recovered from today. Failing to learn the lesson of the bursting of both the dotcom bubble and the housing bubble, the Fed has pumped trillions of dollars into the economy and has promised to leave interest rates at zero through to at least 2014. This will only ensure that the next crisis will be even more destructive than the current one.

Not content with its failed attempts to prop up the US economy, the Fed has set its sights on bailing out Europe, too. Through currency swaps, it has committed to offering potentially hundreds of billions of US dollars to the European Central Bank and we cannot rule out the possibility of direct intervention.

The Fed’s response to the crisis suggests that it believes the current crisis is a problem of liquidity. In fact it is a problem of poorly allocated investments caused by improper pricing of money and credit, pricing which is distorted by the Fed’s inflationary actions.

The Fed has made banks and corporations dependent on cheap money. Instead of looking for opportunities to invest in real products that will serve the needs of consumers, Wall Street awaits the minutes of each Federal Open Market Committee meeting with bated breath, hoping that QE3 and QE4 are just around the corner. It is no wonder that long-term investment and business planning are stagnant.

We live in a world that seems to have abandoned the concept of savings and investment as the source of real wealth and economic growth. Financial markets clamour for more cheap money creation on the part of central banks. Hopes of further quantitative easing from the Fed, the Bank of England, or the Bank of Japan – or further longer-term refinancing operations from the ECB – buoy markets, while decisions not to intervene can cause stocks to plummet. Policy makers focus on spurring consumption, while ignoring production. The so-called capitalists have forgotten that capital cannot be created by government fiat.

Control of the world’s economy has been placed in the hands of a banking cartel, which holds great danger for all of us. True prosperity requires sound money, increased productivity, and increased savings and investment. The world is awash in US dollars, and a currency crisis involving the world’s reserve currency would be an unprecedented catastrophe. No amount of monetary expansion can solve our current financial problems, but it can make those problems much worse.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

europe's scariest chart just got scarier...,

zerohedge | We were the first to note the dire state of youth unemployment in Europe here, and reiterated here, as this terrible social situation just goes from bad to worse this month. Whether youth unemployment is a proxy for sales of PlayStations or for the much more critical likelihood of widespread social unrest and eventually the dissolution of Europe's political compact is unclear but one thing is for sure - Europe's leaders will be watching this chart and quaking as nation after nation breaks to all-time high levels of joblessness for the critical tinder-box of Under-25 year-olds. The Euro-zone youth unemployment rate is back over 22% for the first time since September 1994. With Spain and Greece over 50% (and rising) and Italy now joining Ireland over 35% at the same time as Germany's youth unemployment falls below 8% for the first time since May 1993 - one can only surmise the rising tensions between the haves and the have-nots (even as Germany's PMI disappoints).

who's in charge - you or your brain?

Guardian | It is clear at this point that we are irrevocably tied to the 3lb of strange computational material found within our skulls. The brain is utterly alien to us, and yet our personalities, hopes, fears and aspirations all depend on the integrity of this biological tissue. How do we know this? Because when the brain changes, we change. Our personality, decision-making, risk-aversion, the capacity to see colours or name animals – all these can change, in very specific ways, when the brain is altered by tumours, strokes, drugs, disease or trauma. As much as we like to think about the body and mind living separate existences, the mental is not separable from the physical.

This clarifies some aspects of our existence while deepening the mystery and the awe of others.

For example, take the vast, unconscious, automated processes that run under the hood of conscious awareness. We have discovered that the large majority of the brain's activity takes place at this low level: the conscious part – the "me" that flickers to life when you wake up in the morning – is only a tiny bit of the operations. This understanding has given us a better understanding of the complex multiplicity that makes a person. A person is not a single entity of a single mind: a human is built of several parts, all of which compete to steer the ship of state. As a consequence, people are nuanced, complicated, contradictory. We act in ways that are sometimes difficult to detect by simple introspection. To know ourselves increasingly requires careful studies of the neural substrate of which we are composed.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

the end of pax americana; how western decline became inevitable

TheAtlantic | When great powers begin to experience erosion in their global standing, their leaders inevitably strike a pose of denial. At the dawn of the twentieth century, as British leaders dimly discerned such an erosion in their country's global dominance, the great diplomat Lord Salisbury issued a gloomy rumination that captured at once both the inevitability of decline and the denial of it. "Whatever happens will be for the worse," he declared. "Therefore it is our interest that as little should happen as possible." Of course, one element of decline was the country's diminishing ability to influence how much or how little actually happened.

We are seeing a similar phenomenon today in America, where the topic of decline stirs discomfort in national leaders. In September 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed a "new American Moment" that would "lay the foundations for lasting American leadership for decades to come." A year and a half later, President Obama declared in his State of the Union speech: "Anyone who tells you that America is in decline . . . doesn't know what they're talking about." A position paper from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated flatly that he "rejects the philosophy of decline in all of its variants." And former U.S. ambassador to China and one-time GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman pronounced decline to be simply "un-American."

Such protestations, however, cannot forestall real-world developments that collectively are challenging the post-1945 international order, often called Pax Americana, in which the United States employed its overwhelming power to shape and direct global events. That era of American dominance is drawing to a close as the country's relative power declines, along with its ability to manage global economics and security.

This does not mean the United States will go the way of Great Britain during the first half of the twentieth century. As Harvard's Stephen Walt wrote in this magazine last year, it is more accurate to say the "American Era" is nearing its end. For now, and for some time to come, the United States will remain primus inter pares--the strongest of the major world powers--though it is uncertain whether it can maintain that position over the next twenty years. Regardless, America's power and influence over the international political system will diminish markedly from what it was at the apogee of Pax Americana. That was the Old Order, forged through the momentous events of World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. Now that Old Order of nearly seven decades' duration is fading from the scene. It is natural that U.S. leaders would want to deny it--or feel they must finesse it when talking to the American people. But the real questions for America and its leaders are: What will replace the Old Order? How can Washington protect its interests in the new global era? And how much international disruption will attend the transition from the old to the new?

history of the banking cartels and the federal reserve


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

private prison corporations are slave traders

bar | Crime has been going down for nearly a generation, and the states have finally put the brakes on prison growth in response to the fiscal crunch. But Wall Street prison profiteers see the crisis as an opportunity. The Corrections Corporation of America has offered to buy nearly all the nation’s state prisons. “To ensure their profitability, the corporation insists that it be guaranteed that the prisons be kept at least 90 percent full.”
The Corrections Corporation of America believes the economic crisis has created an historic opportunity to become the landlord, as well as the manager, of a big chunk of the American prison gulag.”
The nation’s largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America, is on a buying spree. With a war chest of $250 million, the corporation, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, this month sent letters to 48 states, offering to buy their prisons outright. To ensure their profitability, the corporation insists that it be guaranteed that the prisons be kept at least 90 percent full. Plus, the corporate jailers demand a 20-year management contract, on top of the profits they expect to extract by spending less money per prisoner.

For the last two years, the number of inmates held in state prisons has declined slightly, largely because the states are short on money. Crime, of course, has declined dramatically in the last 20 years, but that has never dampened the states’ appetites for warehousing ever more Black and brown bodies, and the federal prison system is still growing. However, the Corrections Corporation of America believes the economic crisis has created an historic opportunity to become the landlord, as well as the manager, of a big chunk of the American prison gulag. The attempted prison grab is also defensive in nature. If private companies can gain both ownership and management of enough prisons, they can set the prices without open-bid competition for prison services, creating a guaranteed cost-plus monopoly like that which exists between the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex.

If private companies are allowed to own the deeds to prisons, they are a big step closer to owning the people inside them.”

But, for a better analogy, we must go back to the American slave system, a thoroughly capitalist enterprise that reduced human beings to units of labor and sale. The Corrections Corporation of America’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission read very much like the documents of a slave-trader. Investors are warned that profits would go down if the demand for prisoners declines. That is, if the world’s largest police state shrinks, so does the corporate bottom line. Dangers to profitability include “relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws." The corporation spells it out: “any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them." At the Corrections Corporation of America, human freedom is a dirty word. Fist tap Arnach.

breaking the addiction to incarceration?

aclu | Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. With over 2.3 million men and women living behind bars, our imprisonment rate is the highest it's ever been in U.S. history. And yet, our criminal justice system has failed on every count: public safety, fairness and cost-effectiveness. Across the country, the criminal justice reform conversation is heating up. Each week, we feature our some of the most exciting and relevant news in overincarceration discourse that we've spotted from the previous week. Check back weekly for our top picks.

U.S. Jail Population Declines for Third Consecutive Year, Reports Justice Dept.
From June 2010 to June 2011, the jail inmate population declined 1.8 percent, dropping to 735,601 from 748,728. Jails were operating at 84 percent of their rated capacity at mid-year 2011, the lowest percentage since 1984.

House Funding Bill Includes $70 million for Second Chance Act
The House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, and Science proposed $70 million for the Second Chance Act, an increase of $7 million from the FY12 funding level. The Second Chance Act was passed by Congress in 2008 and supports evidence-based strategies proven to reduce recidivism.

California Group Collects Enough Signatures to Place Three-Strikes on Nov. Ballot
A coalition of law enforcement officials, civil rights organizations and taxpayer groups reported recently that it has submitted enough signatures to local election officials to qualify a November ballot initiative to change California's three-strikes law. The controversial statute, which deals out long sentences for any third felony, has been linked to the precipitous growth of California's bloated prison population. The measure, which received 830,000 signatures, also would allow prisoners currently serving life behind bars for nonviolent third strikes to appeal their sentences.

Vermont Reduces Prison Population Growth with Smart Reforms
In 2007, it looked like Vermont's prison population, which had doubled between 1997 and 2007, would continue its upward trend. In the five years since then, the state has reduced its prison population by changing the way it sentences offenders and rehabilitates inmates. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin credits a mix of measures that includes risk-based assessments at sentencing and drug treatment and job training for parolees with his state's success.

George Will Comments on Life without Parole for Juveniles
In the wake of the oral arguments in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, in which the Supreme Court considered whether sentencing minors to life without parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, George Will calls on the court to consider modern understandings of adolescent psychology when making its decision. Writes Mr. Will, "The court must consider not only what is society's sense of cruelty but also how that sense should be shaped by what some new technologies reveal about adolescent brain biology."

prohibition costs billions, legalization would earn billions - but what about its effect on dopamine hegemony?

aclu | Over 300 economists, including three Nobel Laureates, recently signed a petition that encourages the president, Congress, governors and state legislatures to carefully consider marijuana legalization in America. The petition draws attention to an article by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, whose findings highlight the substantial cost-savings our government could incur if it were to tax and regulate marijuana, rather than needlessly spending billions of dollars enforcing its prohibition.

Miron predicts that legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement, in addition to generating $2.4 billion annually if taxed like most consumer goods, or $6 billion per year if taxed similarly to alcohol and tobacco. The economists signing the petition note that the budgetary implications of marijuana prohibition are just one of many factors to be considered, but declare it essential that these findings become a serious part of the national decriminalization discussion.

The advantages of marijuana legalization extend far beyond an opportunity to make a dent in our federal deficit. The criminalization of marijuana is one of the many fights in the War on Drugs that has failed miserably. And while it's tempting to associate only the harder, "scarier" drugs with this botched crusade, the fact remains that marijuana prohibition is very much a part of the battle. The federal government has even classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance (its most serious category of substances), placing it in a more dangerous category than cocaine. More than 800,000 people are arrested for marijuana use and possession each year, and 46 percent of all drug prosecutions across the country are for marijuana possession. Yet this costly and time-consuming targeting of marijuana users by law enforcement and lawmakers has done little to quell use of the drug.

The criminalization of marijuana has not only resulted in a startlingly high number of arrests, it also reflects the devastating disparate racial impact of the War on Drugs. Despite ample evidence that marijuana is used more frequently by white people, Blacks and Latinos account for a grossly disproportionate percentage of the 800,000 people arrested annually for marijuana use and possession. These convictions hinder one's ability to find or keep employment, vote or gain access to affordable housing. The fact that these hard-to-shake consequences – bad enough as they are — are suffered more frequently by a demographic that uses marijuana less makes our current policies toward marijuana all the more unfair, unwise and unacceptable.