Sunday, July 15, 2012

debt slavery 2012: judicially sanctioned extortion racket

NYTimes | Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked.

When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.

For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that “two can dine for $5.99,” is not about innocence.

It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions.

“With so many towns economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to bring in money rather than mete out justice,” said Lisa W. Borden, a partner in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, a large law firm in Birmingham, Ala., who has spent a great deal of time on the issue. “The companies they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake.”

Half a century ago in a landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that those accused of crimes had to be provided a lawyer if they could not afford one. But in misdemeanors, the right to counsel is rarely brought up, even though defendants can run the risk of jail. The probation companies promise revenue to the towns, while saying they also help offenders, and the defendants often end up lost in a legal Twilight Zone.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

porn is NOT glamorous....,


recognizing civic virtue


57 more reasons non-violence must always be eschewed...,



WSJ | A ceaseless self-promoter, Gandhi bought up the entire first edition of his first, hagiographical biography to send to people and ensure a reprint. Yet we cannot be certain that he really made all the pronouncements attributed to him, since, according to Mr. Lelyveld, Gandhi insisted that journalists file "not the words that had actually come from his mouth but a version he ­authorized after his sometimes heavy editing of the transcripts."

We do know for certain that he ­advised the Czechs and Jews to adopt nonviolence toward the Nazis, saying that "a single Jew standing up and ­refusing to bow to Hitler's decrees" might be enough "to melt Hitler's heart." (Nonviolence, in Gandhi's view, would apparently have also worked for the Chinese against the Japanese ­invaders.) Starting a letter to Adolf ­Hitler with the words "My friend," Gandhi egotistically asked: "Will you listen to the appeal of one who has ­deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?" He advised the Jews of Palestine to "rely on the goodwill of the Arabs" and wait for a Jewish state "till Arab ­opinion is ripe for it."

In August 1942, with the Japanese at the gates of India, having captured most of Burma, Gandhi initiated a ­campaign designed to hinder the war effort and force the British to "Quit ­India." Had the genocidal Tokyo regime captured northeastern India, as it ­almost certainly would have succeeded in doing without British troops to halt it, the results for the Indian population would have been catastrophic. No fewer than 17% of Filipinos perished under Japanese occupation, and there is no reason to suppose that Indians would have fared any better. Fortunately, the British viceroy, Lord Wavell, simply imprisoned Gandhi and 60,000 of his followers and got on with the business of fighting the Japanese.

Gandhi claimed that there was "an exact parallel" between the British ­Empire and the Third Reich, yet while the British imprisoned him in luxury in the Aga Khan's palace for 21 months ­until the Japanese tide had receded in 1944, Hitler stated that he would simply have had Gandhi and his supporters shot. (Gandhi and Mussolini got on well when they met in December 1931, with the Great Soul praising the Duce's "service to the poor, his opposition to super-urbanization, his efforts to bring about a coordination between Capital and ­Labour, his passionate love for his people.") During his 21 years in South Africa (1893-1914), Gandhi had not opposed the Boer War or the Zulu War of 1906—he raised a battalion of stretcher-bearers in both cases—and after his return to India during World War I he offered to be Britain's "recruiting agent-in-chief." Yet he was comfortable opposing the war against fascism.

Although Gandhi's nonviolence made him an icon to the American civil-rights movement, Mr. Lelyveld shows how ­implacably racist he was toward the blacks of South Africa. "We were then marched off to a prison intended for Kaffirs," Gandhi complained during one of his campaigns for the rights of ­Indians settled there. "We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the ­Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized—the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals."

Friday, July 13, 2012

sshhh....,



let's draft our kids...,

NYTimes | In late June, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan, called for reinstating the draft. “I think if a nation goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk,” he said at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game.”

This was the first time in recent years that a high-profile officer has broken ranks to argue that the all-volunteer force is not necessarily good for the country or the military. Unlike Europeans, Americans still seem determined to maintain a serious military force, so we need to think about how to pay for it and staff it by creating a draft that is better and more equitable than the Vietnam-era conscription system.

A revived draft, including both males and females, should include three options for new conscripts coming out of high school. Some could choose 18 months of military service with low pay but excellent post-service benefits, including free college tuition. These conscripts would not be deployed but could perform tasks currently outsourced at great cost to the Pentagon: paperwork, painting barracks, mowing lawns, driving generals around, and generally doing lower-skills tasks so professional soldiers don’t have to. If they want to stay, they could move into the professional force and receive weapons training, higher pay and better benefits.

Those who don’t want to serve in the army could perform civilian national service for a slightly longer period and equally low pay — teaching in low-income areas, cleaning parks, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, or aiding the elderly. After two years, they would receive similar benefits like tuition aid.

And libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.

Critics will argue that this is a political non-starter. It may be now. But America has already witnessed far less benign forms of conscription. A new draft that maintains the size and the quality of the current all-volunteer force, saves the government money through civilian national service and frees professional soldiers from performing menial tasks would appeal to many constituencies.

sounds like chicago....,



NYTimes | Everybody thinks they are countercultural rebels, insurgents against the true establishment, which is always somewhere else. This attitude prevails in the Ivy League, in the corporate boardrooms and even at television studios where hosts from Harvard, Stanford and Brown rail against the establishment.

As a result, today’s elite lacks the self-conscious leadership ethos that the racist, sexist and anti-Semitic old boys’ network did possess. If you went to Groton a century ago, you knew you were privileged. You were taught how morally precarious privilege was and how much responsibility it entailed. You were housed in a spartan 6-foot-by-9-foot cubicle to prepare you for the rigors of leadership.

The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations. They cruelly ostracized people who did not live up to their codes of gentlemanly conduct and scrupulosity. They were insular and struggled with intimacy, but they did believe in restraint, reticence and service.

Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this.

If you read the e-mails from the Libor scandal you get the same sensation you get from reading the e-mails in so many recent scandals: these people are brats; they have no sense that they are guardians for an institution the world depends on; they have no consciousness of their larger social role.

The difference between the Hayes view and mine is a bit like the difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution. He wants to upend the social order. I want to keep the current social order, but I want to give it a different ethos and institutions that are more consistent with its existing ideals.

sounds like kansas city...,



CBSNews | Chicago is in the grips of a deadly gang war. At least 275 people have been killed in the city so far this year and many more have been shot, many of them innocent bystanders to the gang violence. Among the latest victims were 12- and 13-year-old girls shot Tuesday night. They survived.

Sgt. Matt Little leads one of the teams in Chicago's Gang Enforcement Unit. There are about 200 such officers in the city-- versus 100,000 gang members.

"Almost all the violence we're seeing now is from the gangs," Little said. "When there's a shooting we'll respond to the shooting. We'll figure out where we believe the most likely area for retaliation is and we'll work that area trying to both prevent retaliation and possibly build a case on offenders."

CBS News rode along with Little's team as dusk fell on poor neighborhoods of vacant lots and high anxiety.

"The gangs have lost their hierarchy, so to speak, and without a chain of command, there's really nobody keeping things in check," Little said. The leaders are mostly in prison -- or dead. Those left are young, reckless, and often terrible shots.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

banksters are sociopaths hired, fired and directed by the inherited rich to execute shock doctrine

nakedcapitalism | Last week, the British press was in full-throated cry on the Libor scandal , both as a political story (the connections to the Conservative party; the questions over the Bank of England’s role) and for its economic repercussions (who else was involved, who wound up on the losing side). Many commentators took note of the Economist’s cover:

But despite the dramatic image and the use of the pejorative “banksters,” the article combined some helpful analysis with a call not to act against banks in haste:

The attempts to rig LIBOR (the London inter-bank offered rate), a benchmark interest rate, not only betray a culture of casual dishonesty; they set the stage for lawsuits and more regulation right the way round the globe. This could well be global finance’s “tobacco moment”.

The dangers of this are obvious. Popular fury and class- action suits are seldom a good starting point for new rules. Yet despite the risks of banker-bashing, a clean-up is in order, for the banking industry’s credibility is shot, and without trust neither the business nor the clients it serves can prosper….

Translation: don’t do too much while tempers are hot. Yet this stance also happens to be the one used again and again by incumbents and lobbyists: drag out discussions of what to do until the public’s attention has moved elsewhere. As Frank Partnoy recounted in his book Infectious Greed, this strategy was particularly effective in the 1994 derivatives wipeout, which destroyed more wealth than the 1987 crash. A series of investigations and hearings in the end produced close to nothing because the banking industry was able to drag out the process, and then argue that things were back to normal, so why were any changes needed?

LIBOR was a criminal conspiracy from the start...,

automaticearth | So far, everybody who's said anything about the Libor rigging affair appears to have been lying. And if Nouriel Roubini can call for "somebody hanging in the streets", I can at least call for all the Libor liars to go to jail for it. AND lose all their money, benefits, pensions, everything.

And while we’re at it, why not also throw in jail anyone who suggests that Barclays "might not" have been the only bank rigging the rates. Might not? As if Barclays could have manipulated Libor significantly all on its own?! Against scores of other major banks reporting their daily rates?!

Look, when calculating Libor rates, the British Bankers Association (BBA) throws out the 4 highest and 4 lowest of rates reported by 18 banks. Hence, one single bank cannot possibly manipulate rates down; that is, not on its own. The only way this could have worked, it's pure and simple math, is if a substantial number of banks were involved. A majority of them, to be precise.

Indeed, it is worse than that: all the evidence over the past week, if not long before, suggests that Libor was set up the way it was, BECAUSE the idea was to make it prone to manipulation. It was a criminal conspiracy from the start, and a whole slew of regulators and politicians were in on it. And still are.

Bankers were left free, legally, to call each other every morning and set Libor rates where it suited them. There was no outside control. None.

Why, and why did it happen when it did? You could make a solid case that the 1986 beginnings of Libor fall seamlessly in line with the - true - advent of the derivatives markets, where Libor manipulation is the most lucrative for the banking industry. And all politicians and regulators at the very least looked the other way, deliberately. They will continue to do so, if given half a chance. Let's not give it to them.

Here's a little timeline:

mass psychosis in the u.s.?



aljazeera | Has America become a nation of psychotics? You would certainly think so, based on the explosion in the use of antipsychotic medications. In 2008, with over $14 billion in sales, antipsychotics became the single top-selling therapeutic class of prescription drugs in the United States, surpassing drugs used to treat high cholesterol and acid reflux.

Once upon a time, antipsychotics were reserved for a relatively small number of patients with hard-core psychiatric diagnoses - primarily schizophrenia and bipolar disorder - to treat such symptoms as delusions, hallucinations, or formal thought disorder. Today, it seems, everyone is taking antipsychotics. Parents are told that their unruly kids are in fact bipolar, and in need of anti-psychotics, while old people with dementia are dosed, in large numbers, with drugs once reserved largely for schizophrenics. Americans with symptoms ranging from chronic depression to anxiety to insomnia are now being prescribed anti-psychotics at rates that seem to indicate a national mass psychosis.

It is anything but a coincidence that the explosion in antipsychotic use coincides with the pharmaceutical industry's development of a new class of medications known as "atypical antipsychotics." Beginning with Zyprexa, Risperdal, and Seroquel in the 1990s, followed by Abilify in the early 2000s, these drugs were touted as being more effective than older antipsychotics like Haldol and Thorazine. More importantly, they lacked the most noxious side effects of the older drugs - in particular, the tremors and other motor control problems.

The atypical anti-psychotics were the bright new stars in the pharmaceutical industry's roster of psychotropic drugs - costly, patented medications that made people feel and behave better without any shaking or drooling. Sales grew steadily, until by 2009 Seroquel and Abilify numbered fifth and sixth in annual drug sales, and prescriptions written for the top three atypical antipsychotics totaled more than 20 million. Suddenly, antipsychotics weren't just for psychotics any more.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

License to Kill: The Hon.Bro.Preznit Double-O

esquire | Sure, we as a nation have always killed people. A lot of people. But no president has ever waged war by killing enemies one by one, targeting them individually for execution, wherever they are. The Obama administration has taken pains to tell us, over and over again, that they are careful, scrupulous of our laws, and determined to avoid the loss of collateral, innocent lives. They're careful because when it comes to waging war on individuals, the distinction between war and murder becomes a fine one. Especially when, on occasion, the individuals we target are Americans and when, in one instance, the collateral damage was an American boy.

You are a good man. You are an honorable man. You are both president of the United States and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. You are both the most powerful man in the world and an unimpeachably upstanding citizen. You place a large premium on being beyond reproach. You have become your own deliberative body, standing not so much by your decisions as by the process by which you make them. You are not only rational; you are a rationalist. You think everything through, as though it is within your power to find the point where what is moral meets what is necessary.

You love two things, your family and the law, and you have surrounded yourself with those who are similarly inclined. To make sure that you obey the law, you have hired lawyers prominent for accusing your predecessor of flouting it; to make sure that you don't fall prey to the inevitable corruption of secrecy, you have hired lawyers on record for being committed to transparency. Unlike George W. Bush, you have never held yourself above the law by virtue of being commander in chief; indeed, you have spent part of your political capital trying to prove civilian justice adequate to our security needs. You prize both discipline and deliberation; you insist that those around you possess a personal integrity that matches their political ideals and your own; and it is out of these unlikely ingredients that you have created the Lethal Presidency.

You are a historic figure, Mr. President. You are not only the first African-American president; you are the first who has made use of your power to target and kill individuals identified as a threat to the United States throughout your entire term. You are the first president to make the killing of targeted individuals the focus of our military operations, of our intelligence, of our national-security strategy, and, some argue, of our foreign policy. You have authorized kill teams comprised of both soldiers from Special Forces and civilians from the CIA, and you have coordinated their efforts through the Departments of Justice and State. You have gradually withdrawn from the nation building required by "counterinsurgency" and poured resources into the covert operations that form the basis of "counter-terrorism." More than any other president you have made the killing rather than the capture of individuals the option of first resort, and have killed them both from the sky, with drones, and on the ground, with "nighttime" raids not dissimilar to the one that killed Osama bin Laden. You have killed individuals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and are making provisions to expand the presence of American Special Forces in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In Pakistan and other places where the United States has not committed troops, you are estimated to have killed at least two thousand by drone. You have formalized what is known as "the program," and at the height of its activity it was reported to be launching drone strikes in Pakistan every three days. Your lethality is expansive in both practice and principle; you are fighting terrorism with a policy of preemptive execution, and claiming not just the legal right to do so but the legal right to do so in secret. The American people, for the most part, have no idea who has been killed, and why; the American people — and for that matter, most of their representatives in Congress — have no idea what crimes those killed in their name are supposed to have committed, and have been told that they are not entitled to know.

This is not to say that the American people don't know about the Lethal Presidency, and that they don't support its aims. They do. They know about the killing because you have celebrated — with appropriate sobriety — the most notable kills, specifically those of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki; they support it because you have asked for their trust as a good and honorable man surrounded by good and honorable men and women and they have given it to you. In so doing, you have changed a technological capability into a moral imperative and have convinced your countrymen to see the necessity without seeing the downside. Politically, there is no downside. Historically, there is only the irony of the upside — that you, of all presidents, have become the lethal one; that you, of all people, have turned out to be a man of proven integrity whose foreign and domestic policies are less popular than your proven willingness to kill, in defense of your country, even your own countrymen ... indeed, to kill even a sixteen-year-old American boy accused of no crime at all.

harold ford jr. smirking sociopath posterboy for the psychopathocracy

salon | Harold Ford, Jr. is the walking, breathing embodiment of virtually everything rotted and corrupt about the American political class. He entered Congress at the age of 26 only by virtue of nepotistic benefits: while in law school, he ran for the seat long held by his father of the same name (he then promptly failed the test for admission to the Tennessee bar). In Congress, he voted for de-regulation of Wall Street (which helped precipitate the 2008 financial crisis); to authorize the Iraq War (and then harshly criticized Democrats who opposed it and refused to admit its error even as late as 2007); in favor of a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages (The Advocatebranded him “anti-gay”); and was one of the few Democrats to support the credit-card-industry-demanded bankruptcy “reform” bill that made it harder for impoverished consumers to discharge consumer debt.

After Tennessee voters drove him from Congress by rejecting his 2006 Senate bid, Ford immediately cashed in on his servitude to Wall Street and peddled his D.C. influence by becoming Vice Chairman and Senior Policy Adviser of Merrill Lynch. During Ford’s tenure, “Merrill Lynch nearly collapsed, was bailed out by US taxpayers, and went through a troubled merger with Bank of America,” yet he nonetheless received $2 million a year in guaranteed salary plus what were almost certainly substantial annual bonuses. He left what had become Bank of America Merrill to become a Senior Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, at which time he bought a $3 million co-op in Manhattan. Upon leaving Congress, Ford also cashed in by becoming the last Chairman of the corporatist Democratic Leadership Council (“last” because, typifying his career, the DLC ceased to exist under his leadership). He cashed in further by becoming a Fox News contributor, until he left for MSNBC.

peak oil oppositional disorder: neurosis or psychosis?



cluborlov | The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has grown to include 297 disorders, but it seems that there is always room for one more.

Richard Heinberg recently published an article that addresses various recent claims that Peak Oil is no longer a concern. His term for the phenomenon is “peak denial.” It sounds good, and dovetails nicely with Richard's overall theme of “peak everything.” It's a thoughtful piece that does a thorough job of exposing the surreal nature of the optimists' projections, and I have no issues with his argument. I do, however, have an issue with his terminology. First, since denial does not happen to be a nonrenewable resource with a characterizable depletion profile, its peak, should we detect one, is not particularly meaningful, because it could just as easily peak again tomorrow and then again next century. Second, I suspect that “denial” is no longer the right word to describe the social phenomenon we are currently observing. I think that Ugo Bardi pointed us in the right direction: in his article reacting to George Monbiot's assertion that "We were wrong about peak oil, there is enough to fry us all," Ugo characterized Monbiot's approach to Peak Oil using another word: “delusion.”

If you feel that the distinction between denial and delusion is just a minor, innocuous terminological difference—a gratuitous splitting of hairs on my part—then pardon me while I whip out my Sigmund Freud: in The Loss of Reality in Neurosis and Psychosis [1924] he wrote the following: “Neurosis does not disavow the reality, it ignores it; psychosis disavows it and tries to replace it.” [p. 185] What psychosis replaces reality with is delusion.

Let's take this one step at a time. Denial is where you know something full well (e.g., that there is a finite amount of economically recoverable oil and that we have already burned through about half of it) but refuse to consider it as important. Denial is symptomatic of neurosis. Neurotics are not considered particularly dangerous; they can be quite annoying, and they can sometimes pose a threat to themselves, but they are, in general, not considered to pose a threat to society. They can also be quite charming: Woody Allen parlayed his neuroses into a successful acting/directing career. (In German the title of his film Annie Hall is Stadtneurotiker—“urban neurotic.”)

Delusion, on the other hand, is symptomatic of psychosis. Now, when was the last you ran across a charming, urbane, popular, successful psychotic? Back to Freud: old Sigmund distinguishes two types of thinking: there is secondary process thinking—the good kind—the domain of the well-adjusted, socialized self, grounded in consensual reality, reasonableness, rationality and logic. And then there is primary, or archaic process thinking—the bad kind—the product of obsession, compulsion, hallucination and... here we go... delusion. The path that leads from neurosis to psychosis is a regression toward a more primitive, archaic, infantile self. Take your typical neurotic (refuses to face Peak Oil, spouts gibberish about it when pressed), put that neurotic through a terrible, ego-destroying crisis, and that individual may regress and lapse into psychosis.

What happens to individuals also happens to entire societies. Take a neurotic Peak Oil-denying industrial civilization, put it through a terrible global financial crisis, tell it that economic growth is over forever, and what you get a psychotic, delusional industrial civilization.

peak denial

postcarbon | There is nothing but “Sad News for Peak Oil Disciples” these days, according to the Financial Post.

The latest example: Leonardo Maugeri, a fellow in the Geopolitics of Energy Project at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs—and a long-time critic of Peak Oil analysis—has just published a new report, “Oil: The Next Revolution,” in which he forecasts a sharp increase in world oil production capacity and the risk of an oil price collapse. His report has triggered a spate of press articles with titles like “No Peak Oil In Sight”, “Potential U.S. Oil Boom shakes Up Energy Politics,” and “Peak Oil Is Simply Not a Threat Anymore.”

These follow on the heels of a string of other articles touting increasing production of oil from “tight” shale deposits in the US—pieces with titles like “Has Peak Oil Peaked?” and “Is ‘Peak Oil’ Idea Dead?” And those in turn ride the slipstream of Daniel Yergin’s widely feted book The Quest, which provided last year’s fodder for an anti-Peak Oil media frenzy.

The recent deluge of cornucopian triumphalism has provoked a few thoughtful responses, including, “Has Peak Oil Idea . . . Peaked?” and “Is Peak Oil Dead?”, both of which carefully sift the evidence and conclude that world oil production is better understood when viewed through the depletionist lens than through the rose-colored glasses of the Peak Oil naysayers.

No doubt peakists will continue to produce thoughtful, well-reasoned, and fact-filled articles elucidating the precariousness of global energy supplies. Nevertheless, the sheer number and media prominence of “No Peak Oil” pieces (in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, and even on NPR) is having an effect. Depletionist sites are seeing declining web traffic. And while far more people now have heard of Peak Oil than was the case just a few years ago, many mistakenly believe that its core assertion has somehow been “debunked.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

roubini's perfect storm now fully under way...,



eft | Dominique de Kevelioc de Bailleul: What Zerohedge stated is a “must watch 9 minutes of reality,” Dr. Doom Nouriel Roubini, Monday, broke the bad news about the global economy to Bloomberg News. That day, the day that everyone has been hoping to avoid is now unavoidable. No later than 2013, the world will know how hard the collapsing Ponzi scheme will crash, which, according to him, will be much worse than 2008, if that can be imagined following nearly seven decades of successful central banking policy maneuvers.

But first, Roubini discussed the historically-rooted social/political implications of the next crisis. Since the beginning of recorded historical events, money changes have been a root of social decay, crime, political oppression, revolutions and wars. In the end, reforms and a new start are made, but not until revenge is exacted on the scourge of society—the bankers.

“Bankers are greedy; they’ve been greedy for the last hundreds of years,” said the 53-year-old self-described “global nomad.” “It’s not a question if they are more immoral today then they were a thousand years ago, you have to make sure they behave in ways in which you minimize those risks.

“One way of doing it is to separate activities, so you minimize the conflicts of interest,” he added. “Otherwise, this thing is going to happen over and over again.”

When asked for his opinion about the best way to manage banker greed, criminal activity and immoral behavior, Roubini didn’t mince words, a refreshing departure from comments made by analysts dependent upon the Wall Street/Washington circle of friends for a paycheck. Criminal behavior should be punished through appropriate and sanctioned criminal proceedings, according to him. That assessment comes following Barclay’s ‘crime of the century’, in which, it appears no one will be criminally prosecuted for jury rigging an estimated $100 trillion worth of debt securities marked to LIBOR+.

“Well, they [jail sentences] should occur, because no one has gone in jail since the global financial crisis for any of these things,” he said in a matter-of-fact manner. “The banks do things that are illegal, at best, a slap you know, a fine. Some people will end up in jail, maybe that will teach a lesson to somebody. Yeah, or maybe someone hanging on the streets.”

As far as the media and ‘official’ portrayal of the crisis, it’s all propaganda, cover up and lies, according to many financial analysts led by ‘On the Edge’ host Max Keiser, Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff, economist Marc Faber and commodities trader Jim Rogers. Roubini strongly agrees with these men.

“Things have become worse, not become better,” stated Roubini, in direct contradiction to senior ‘officials’ at the European parliament and a complicit media from both sides of the Atlantic. “Nothing has changed.”

japan: machine orders drop, current account surplus shrinks 63%

bloomberg | Japan’s current-account surplus was the smallest for the month of May since at least 1985 and machinery orders fell the most in more than a decade.

The excess in the widest measure of trade shrank 63 percent from a year earlier to 215.1 billion yen ($2.7 billion), the Ministry of Finance said in Tokyo today. The median estimate of 24 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a surplus of 493.1 billion yen. Machinery orders, an indicator of capital spending, fell 14.8 percent in May from the previous month, the Cabinet Office said, the biggest drop since 2001.

Japan’s trade position has weakened due to growing energy imports after last year’s earthquake and nuclear meltdown and also the yen’s gain of 4.9 percent against the dollar since mid- March. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gave approval for a restart of reactors at the Ohi nuclear plant, which resumed power generation last week, to avoid power shortages and rolling blackouts over the summer.

“Today’s machinery order drop is very large, and it may be a signal that Japanese companies are becoming cautious about investment” amid concern about a global economic slowdown, said Hiroaki Muto, a senior economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management in Tokyo. “Though exports have been slumping, we don’t expect Japan to have any major trade deficit.”

The yen traded at 79.73 against the dollar as of 2:32 p.m. in Tokyo. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) slid 1.2 percent. Tokyo Electron Ltd. (8035) fell 5.8 percent after the company last week said orders in April-June period fell 28 percent.

Monday, July 09, 2012

serious administrative courage in the face of profoundly anti-democratic skullduggery

eff | EFF Asks Court to Reject Stale State Secret Arguments So Case Can Proceed


San Francisco - Three whistleblowers – all former employees of the National Security Agency (NSA) – have come forward to give evidence in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) lawsuit against the government's illegal mass surveillance program, Jewel v. NSA.

In a motion filed today, the three former intelligence analysts confirm that the NSA has, or is in the process of obtaining, the capability to seize and store most electronic communications passing through its U.S. intercept centers, such as the "secret room" at the AT&T facility in San Francisco first disclosed by retired AT&T technician Mark Klein in early 2006.

"For years, government lawyers have been arguing that our case is too secret for the courts to consider, despite the mounting confirmation of widespread mass illegal surveillance of ordinary people," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Now we have three former NSA officials confirming the basic facts. Neither the Constitution nor federal law allow the government to collect massive amounts of communications and data of innocent Americans and fish around in it in case it might find something interesting. This kind of power is too easily abused. We're extremely pleased that more whistleblowers have come forward to help end this massive spying program."

The three former NSA employees with declarations in EFF's brief are William E. Binney, Thomas A. Drake, and J. Kirk Wiebe. All were targets of a federal investigation into leaks to the New York Times that sparked the initial news coverage about the warrantless wiretapping program. Binney and Wiebe were formally cleared of charges and Drake had those charges against him dropped. Fist tap Arnach.

hush now....,

Fist tap Dale.

hypersonics - the new stealth

darpa | DARPA’s research and development in stealth technology during the 1970s and 1980s led to the world’s most advanced radar-evading aircraft, providing strategic national security advantage to the United States. Today, that strategic advantage is threatened as other nations’ abilities in stealth and counter-stealth improve. Restoring that battle space advantage requires advanced speed, reach and range. Hypersonic technologies have the potential to provide the dominance once afforded by stealth to support a range of varied future national security missions.

Extreme hypersonic flight at Mach 20 (i.e., 20 times the speed of sound)—which would enable DoD to get anywhere in the world in under an hour—is an area of research where significant scientific advancements have eluded researchers for decades. Thanks to programs by DARPA, the Army, and the Air Force in recent years, however, more information has been obtained about this challenging subject.

“DoD’s hypersonic technology efforts have made significant advancements in our technical understanding of several critical areas including aerodynamics; aerothermal effects; and guidance, navigation and control,” said Acting DARPA Director, Kaigham J. Gabriel. “but additional unknowns exist.”

Tackling remaining unknowns for DoD hypersonics efforts is the focus of the new DARPA Integrated Hypersonics (IH) program. “History is rife with examples of different designs for ‘flying vehicles’ and approaches to the traditional commercial flight we all take for granted today,” explained Gabriel. “For an entirely new type of flight—extreme hypersonic—diverse solutions, approaches and perspectives informed by the knowledge gained from DoD’s previous efforts are critical to achieving our goals.”

To encourage this diversity, DARPA will host a Proposers’ Day on August 14, 2012, to detail the technical areas for which proposals are sought through an upcoming competitive broad agency announcement.

“We do not yet have a complete hypersonic system solution,” said Gregory Hulcher, director of Strategic Warfare, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. “Programs like Integrated Hypersonics will leverage previous investments in this field and continue to reduce risk, inform development, and advance capabilities.”

The IH program expands hypersonic technology research to include five primary technical areas: thermal protection system and hot structures; aerodynamics; guidance, navigation, and control (GNC); range/instrumentation; and propulsion.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

suburbs: everyday I'm struggalin, everyday I'm struggalin



NYTimes | Hardship has built a stronghold in the American suburbs. Whatever image they had as places of affluence and stability was badly shaken last year, when reports analyzing the 2010 census made it clear that the suburbs were getting poorer.

While the overall suburban population grew slightly during the previous decade, the number of people living below the poverty line in the suburbs grew by 66 percent, compared with 47 percent in cities. The trend quickened when the Great Recession hit, as home foreclosures and unemployment surged. In 2010, 18.9 million suburban Americans were living below the poverty line, up from 11.3 million in 2000.

It is possible to see this struggle just beyond New York City in a quintessentially suburban place, Long Island. There have long been pockets of poverty there, created by race and income segregation. But it is not just in pockets anymore. These days the struggle has metastasized: foreclosed homes are just as empty in the better-off subdivisions, with the same weed-choked yards, plywood windows and mold-streaked clapboard siding.

Long Island’s two counties, Nassau and Suffolk, have the second- and third-highest foreclosure rates in New York State, behind Queens. Debt counselors across the island juggle a mix of clients: immigrant families undone by predatory lenders and middle-class professionals impoverished by illness, layoffs or credit-card bills. Families who once donated food now wait in line to receive it at pantries that empty out week after week. Homeless women with children move in with relatives or into motels, the government-paid shelters of last resort.

The deepening of suburban poverty is putting new strains on government agencies, parish outreach programs and other institutions in the suburbs’ gauzy safety net. At the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, which handles programs like food stamps, Medicaid, emergency housing and cash assistance, needs have increased across the board.

The number of food stamp cases reached 40,699 in April, compared with 26,193 two years ago. Almost 195,000 people in a county of 1.54 million are on Medicaid. More people are asking for help to cover emergency bills for rent or heat; more than 10,500 did so in the first quarter of 2012, an 8 percent increase over 2010. The county’s emergency-housing caseload hit a 10-year peak in January, with 488 families and 261 individuals living in shelters and motels.

But the Social Services Department has not been able to stay ahead of demand. It has been under a court order since 2009 to shorten egregious delays in processing applications for food stamps and Medicaid. The average wait for Medicaid applicants fell to 29 days last year from 83 days in 2007, but that is still bad. One of the groups that brought the lawsuit, the Empire Justice Center, is planning to go back to court to force the county to meet its obligations.

These services apply primarily to the poorest Long Islanders, many of whom earn less than the federal poverty line ($22,113 for a family of four) and qualify for government aid. Those above that income level often don’t qualify. About 468,000 people in Suffolk and Nassau, out of a total population of about 2.7 million, live in households earning up to 200 percent of the poverty line, or about $45,000 a year for a family of four. They are barely scraping by, but are often ineligible for programs like food stamps and subsidized housing and child care because their incomes are too high.

In May and June, a commission set up by the Suffolk Legislature held hearings on poverty. County and nonprofit officials warned of problems on multiple fronts — of hundreds of working parents losing subsidized child care, for example; of low-paid social-service employees buried under growing caseloads while heading toward the brink of poverty themselves.

This month, the county announced that because of reduced state aid, it was tightening day-care eligibility rules for the third time in six months. Up to 1,200 families may be losing child care in summer, the worst possible time.

The suburbs were not designed for the poor. And even now, local governments are not equipped to see, much less answer, a lot of their needs.

time to stop whining and start breaking bad...,

WaPo | Michelle Amaral wanted to be a brain scientist to help cure diseases. She planned a traditional academic science career: PhD, university professorship and, eventually, her own lab.

But three years after earning a doctorate in neuroscience, she gave up trying to find a permanent job in her field.

Dropping her dream, she took an administrative position at her university, experiencing firsthand an economic reality that, at first look, is counterintuitive: There are too many laboratory scientists for too few jobs.

That reality runs counter to messages sent by President Obama and the National Science Foundation and other influential groups, who in recent years have called for U.S. universities to churn out more scientists.

Obama has made science education a priority, launching a White House science fair to get young people interested in the field.

But it’s questionable whether those youths will be able to find work when they get a PhD. Although jobs in some high-tech areas, especially computer and petroleum engineering, seem to be booming, the market is much tighter for lab-bound scientists — those seeking new discoveries in biology, chemistry and medicine.

“There have been many predictions of [science] labor shortages and . . . robust job growth,” said Jim Austin, editor of the online magazine ScienceCareers. “And yet, it seems awfully hard for people to find a job. Anyone who goes into science expecting employers to clamor for their services will be deeply disappointed.”

One big driver of that trend: Traditional academic jobs are scarcer than ever. Once a primary career path, only 14 percent of those with a PhD in biology and the life sciences now land a coveted academic position within five years, according to a 2009 NSF survey. That figure has been steadily declining since the 1970s, said Paula Stephan, an economist at Georgia State University who studies the scientific workforce. The reason: The supply of scientists has grown far faster than the number of academic positions.

Research jobs slashed

The pharmaceutical industry once was a haven for biologists and chemists who did not go into academia. Well-paying, stable research jobs were plentiful in the Northeast, the San Francisco Bay area and other hubs. But a decade of slash-and-burn mergers; stagnating profit; exporting of jobs to India, China and Europe; and declining investment in research and development have dramatically shrunk the U.S. drug industry, with research positions taking heavy hits.

Since 2000, U.S. drug firms have slashed 300,000 jobs, according to an analysis by consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. In the latest closure, Roche last month announced it is shuttering its storied Nutley, N.J., campus — where Valium was invented — and shedding another 1,000 research jobs.

“It’s been a bloodbath, it’s been awful,” said Kim Haas, who spent 20 years designing pharmaceuticals for drug giants Wyeth and Sanofi-Aventis and is in her early 50s. Haas lost her six-figure job at Sanofi-Aventis in New Jersey last year. She now works one or two days a week on contract at a Philadelphia university. She dips into savings to make ends meet.

“Scads and scads and scads of people” have been cut, Haas said. “Very good chemists with PhDs from Stanford can’t find jobs.”

Saturday, July 07, 2012

WILLIAMS!!!! ...accept no substitutes....,





the first wave of the world's collapsing cities

edro | Below table lists the world’s cities that are likely to collapse completely or partially by or before 2012¹ in the first wave of collapse. The collapse would be caused by a combination of failing ecosystems, human-enhanced environmental catastrophes; failing infrastructure; food, water and fuel shortages; infectious disease; war, civil conflict and other dynamics. Following the first phase of collapse, massive waves of human migration from the affected areas create a domino effect that causes the collapse of the remaining population centers shortly after.

Is your city safe?

To prevent misuse of data, commercial exploitation, or property speculation, the project coordinators are withholding names and specific details of the first phase of world’s collapsing cities until further notice. See table below for general information.

Important Notice:

1. The date “2012” is based on the dynamic model simulations analyzing the environmental impact of excessive energy consumption. The CASF Committee and Members do NOT endorse Mayan Calendar, any New Age, ancient, or bible prophecies whatever.

how stockton went broke



Reuters | * City manager: Retirees' healthcare "a Ponzi scheme"

* Police officers can retire at 50 years old with pension

* No early signs of alarm about city's fiscal mismanagement

* Stockton's fortunes linked to housing boom and bust

The man in charge of the biggest U.S. city ever to file for bankruptcy is clear about the root of the crisis.

It was a decision that gave firefighters full healthcare in retirement starting on Jan. 1, 1996, s aid Bob Deis, the city manager of Stockton, California.

At the time, the move seemed cheaper than giving pay raises s ought by unions, officials involved in the decision said. When other Stockton employees demanded the same healthcare deal in following years, the city agreed.

Deis, who signed Stockton's bankruptcy filing last Thursday, s lammed the decision to provide free healthcare to retirees as a "Ponzi scheme" that eventually left the city with a whopping $417 million liability.

Before the turn of the millennium, things looked very different in California.

The U.S. stock market was booming, bolstering Stockton's p ension funds. Real estate values were about to soar, too, bringing a flood of new tax revenue to the once quiet farming town of about 300,000 people - abo ut 85 miles east of San Fran c isco - in California's Central Valley.

THE TRADE-OFF

To counter demands for wage hikes from city workers in the 1990s, Stockton offered to extend their health insurance in retirement past age 65 - a benefit they embraced and assumed to be rock solid until the insolvent city's officials put it on the chopping block in a bankruptcy plan last week.

"It was a balancing act," said Dwane Milnes, Stockton's city manager at the time. "The unions wanted retiree medical ... We said if you want to continue your medical for current employees and retirees, you'll have to do it through wage containment."

Milnes, who represented Stockton's retirees in recent talks with City Hall, said the strategy was sound at the time.

"We were satisfied that based on a conservative view of the economy and based on the medical inflation rate we were experiencing in the 1990s, the city could adequately fund retiree medical."

80% of the world's industrial activity is now contracting

zerohedge | Tomorrow's NFP may or may not beat expectations, following some modestly better than expected employment-related data points (then again last month NFP was again supposed to come in solidly above 100K only to cross below the critical threshold), but keep one thing in mind: with the average June seasonal adjustment being a deduction of over 1 million jobs, several tens of thousands in marginal absolute job numbers + or - will be nothing but statistical noise. Furthermore, with seasonality playing such a huge role tomorrow, it is quite likely that merely the ongoing seasonal giveback will result in June being yet another subpar month. And that does not even take into account the quality assessment of the job number, which if recent trends are any indication, will be another record in part-time jobs at the expense of full-time jobs. Yet no matter where the NFP data ends up, the following chart from David Rosenberg puts a few thousand job into perspective, showing that regardless of how many part-time jobs the US service industry has added, there is a far greater problem currently developing in the world: "We now have 80% of the world posting a contraction in industrial activity." This is the second worst since the great financial crisis and only matched by last fall, when in response Europe launched a $1.3 trillion LTRO and the Fed commenced Operation Twist. Now except the occasional rate drop out of the PBOC or modest QE expansion out of the BOE (not to mention the Bank of Kenya's rate cut earlier), there is no real, unsterilized flow of money coming from central bank CTRL-P macros to stabilize the global economy. Which leaves open the question: just where will the latest spark to rekindle global growth come from? And no, 10 hours a week waitressing jobs in Topeka just won't cut it.

Friday, July 06, 2012

when scientists predict calamity, politicians plug their ears...,


LATimes | If life were a movie, the president of the United States (probably played by Will Smith) would be leaping into action to save humankind from the calamity that a new scientific report says is about to befall the Earth.

A paper prepared by 22 international scientists and just published in the journal Nature warns that overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change have pushed the world toward a tipping point beyond which lie irreversible, frightening alterations in the biosphere that supports life on this lonely planet.

Of course, since this is not a movie and is, instead, just another surreal election year, the scientists’ alarming analysis will go unheeded. If the report is addressed at all by Republicans, it will be dismissed as another attempt by fiendish environmentalists to destroy the American economy by reining in polluting industries. If Democrats take note, they will tout their green jobs program as a panacea and quickly move on to a different, less disturbing, subject.

The fact is the scope of the problem as described by the scientists is so immense and so intractable that denial is a natural response. Here is what is happening as we cling to our ignorant bliss and bicker about the president’s birth certificate:

• The world population has passed 7 billion and will hit 9 billion before the middle of the century. To make room for all these people, 40% of the Earth’s surface will be cleared for farms and cities.

• Continued burning of fossil fuels will spew more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and that will make the oceans more and more acidic and literally lethal for sea life.

• All that CO2 will continue to push up global temperatures at a rate too quick for species to adapt. That, combined with the loss of habitat, will result in a massive extermination of bugs and birds and plants and fish and other links in the chain of life that humans depend on.

In an interview for a story by Los Angeles Times reporter Bettina Boxall, the report’s lead author, Anthony Barnosky, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, seemed to resist sounding too alarmist, but it was obviously hard for him to hold back.

remember yucca mountain?

NYTimes | Lawmakers and policy planners must revive the search for safe ways to store used fuel rods from nuclear power reactors. The long-term solution favored by most experts, which we endorse, is to bury the material in geologically stable formations capable of preventing leakage far into the future.

But no politically acceptable site has yet been found, and leaving the used fuel rods at each reactor — more than 62,000 metric tons had accumulated across the country by the end of 2009 — seems increasingly problematic. At least nine states have banned the construction of new reactors until a permanent storage site is found or progress toward finding one is made. The only potential permanent storage site examined so far — at Yucca Mountain in Nevada — has been blocked for more than two decades by technical problems, legal challenges and political opposition from the state.

President Obama pledged in the 2008 campaign to shut down the project, and his Energy Department withdrew its application for a license before the safety of the project could be evaluated. Mitt Romney said in a primary debate in Nevada that the state’s people should have the final say. Even without a permanent disposal facility, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a “waste confidence decision” in 2010 that asserted that used fuel rods could be stored at power plants for 60 years after they close down. It also asserted that a permanent repository would be ready to handle such wastes “when necessary.”

That decision was challenged in federal court, and last month a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the commission had failed to prepare an adequate analysis of the future risks, such as leaks and fires, if the used fuel rods end up being stored at nuclear plants indefinitely. That decision could slow the commission’s ability to extend the licenses of existing plants or grant new licenses.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

state control of information and the ability to manipulate it makes the right to vote largely meaningless

Independent | As Julian Assange evades arrest by taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge to escape extradition to Sweden, and possibly the US, British commentators have targeted him with shrill abuse. They almost froth with rage as they cite petty examples of his supposed gaucheness, egotism and appearance, as if these were criminal faults.

These criticisms tell one more about the conventionality and herd instinct of British opinion-makers than they do about Assange. Ignored, in all this, is his achievement as founder of WikiLeaks in publishing US government cables giving people across the world insight into how their governments really behave. Such public knowledge is the core of democracy because voters must be accurately informed if they are to be able to chose representatives to carry out their wishes.

Thanks to WikiLeaks, more information has become available about what the US and allied states are doing and thinking than ever before. The only competing revelations that come to mind were the publication by the victorious Bolsheviks in 1917 of secret treaties, including plans to carve up the Middle East by Britain and France. A more obvious parallel was the publication of the Pentagon Papers thanks to Daniel Ellsberg in 1971, revealing systematic lying by the Johnson administration about Vietnam. In similar fashion to Assange, Ellsberg was reviled by the US government and threatened with the severest punishment.

An extraordinary aspect of the campaign against Assange is that op-ed writers feel free to pump out thousands of words about his alleged faults, with never a mention of far more serious state crimes revealed by WikiLeaks. All these critics, and readers who agree them, should first switch on YouTube and watch a 17-minute video film taken by the crew of an Apache helicopter over east Baghdad on 12 July 2007. It shows the helicopter crew machine-gunning to death people on the ground in the belief that they are all armed insurgents. In fact, I cannot see any arms and what in one case was identified as a gun turned out to be the camera of a young Reuters' photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, who was killed along with his driver, Saeed Chmagh. The video shows the helicopter coming in for a second attack on a van that had stopped to pick up the dead and wounded. The driver was killed and two children wounded. "Ha! Ha! I hit 'em," shouts one of the US crewmen triumphantly. "Look at those dead bastards."

I was in Baghdad when the shooting took place and I remember at the time disbelieving, along with other journalists, the Pentagon's claim that the dead were all armed insurgents, but we could not prove it. Rebel gunmen did not amble about the streets in plain view when a US helicopter was nearby. The existence of a video of the killings became known, but the US Defense Department adamantly refused to release it under the Freedom of Information Act. The official story of what had happened would not have been effectively challenged if a US soldier, Bradley Manning, had not turned over the video to WikiLeaks, which released it in 2010.

The cables obtained by Wiki–Leaks were published later that year in five newspapers – The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País – but the response to Assange himself was surprisingly mean-spirited and dismissive. Journalists seemed angry that their professional territory was being invaded by an Australian computer nerd who was doing their job. The British commentariat is notoriously club-like, conservative and hostile to those with different cultural and political norms.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

BD has created fine art....,


If you didn't already know about this, 50 years or so ago, in response to complaints about inadequate production of fine art, a federal agency, the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) was created with a budget to fund new works of art. One scandalous product, funded on a $15,000 commission was the award-winning The Piss Christ, a Crucifix in a jug of the artists own urine. Probably still on display in some hip trendy NYC art museum to a continued stream of oohs and aaahs from upscale apreciants...

BD has been inspired to create similarly: For your critical review, we present The Piss POTUS (attached) produced using BD's very own urine with a well-deserved touch of his fecal material. We confer this to the public domain, no rights are reserved. You are free to post it on your site, spam the appropriate link to key focal points, and rack up a few million hits when it goes viral....(John Kurman, eat your heart out)

{disclaimer - I didn't write any of the above, it is an "unfiltered" pass-through from an email sent me by Big Don yesterday. From Big Don's brainstem to your eyes, as it were...,}

Monday, July 02, 2012

recognizing the systemic negligence of an earth summit

laetusinpraesens | Oxfam has released a discussion paper produced by Kate Raworth (A Safe and Just Space for Humanity: can we live within the doughnut?, Oxfam, February 2012). The paper presents a single visual framework – shaped like a doughnut – that represents a space within which humanity can thrive. This doughnut-like area is defined by combining the much-debated set of 9 "planetary boundaries" with a new set of 11 social boundaries, based on the 11 dimensions of human deprivation that emerged from the issues raised by governments in their Rio+20 submissions.

The nine Earth-System boundaries are associated with nine natural processes – including the freshwater cycle, climate regulation, and the nitrogen cycle – which are critical for keeping the planet in the stable state that has allowed civilizations to arise and thrive over the past 10,000 years. The area within the nine Earth-system boundaries was called "a safe operating space for humanity". This has been widely recognized as a powerful means of giving comprehensible visual focus to the limits that conventional growth economics is widely acknowledged to have failed to recognize.

For Oxfam, however, something critical is still missing from this representation. This "safe operating space" may serve to protect the environment, but it speaks little to the millions of people living in extreme poverty.

As Raworth notes, the concept of social boundaries therefore needs to be added to the picture. Just as there is an environmental ceiling of resource use, above which lies unacceptable environmental degradation, so too there is a social foundation of resource use, below which lies unacceptable human deprivation including hunger, ill-health, income poverty and energy poverty. Resource use has both an environmental ceiling and a social foundation, below which lies deprivation, but the doughnut-shaped space between the two demands attention. This "doughnut" is understood as bringing fresh meaning to the idea of sustainable development, because pictures have the power to reshape the way we think. The simple image of planetary boundaries and social boundaries is seen as a neat way of articulating a goal for 21st-century prosperity: meeting everyone's human rights within the planet's critical natural thresholds (Kate Raworth, The doughnut can help Rio+20 see sustainable development in the round, The Guardian, 16 June 2012). The "doughnut" framework has been endorsed by various NGOs and is now the focus of a new blog to encourage debate on "Doughnut Economics".

In its focus on a visual framework, the Oxfam doughnut contrasts markedly with the report to the Earth Summit of the UN Secretary General's High Level Panel on Global Sustainability (Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing, 2012) -- which proved unable to embody its comprehensive vision in any visualization of significance.

In the spirit of recognizing both the value of a visual representation and what was missing from the environmental boundaries, the following is an exploration of the limitations of both the doughnut form and what is missing from the social dimensions it currently incorporates. As noted both with respect to Earth-System planetary boundaries and the Earth Summit preoccupations added by Oxfam, the concern is now how any significant political action is to be engendered -- hopefully at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro at this time. In that respect there is widespread recognition of the inadequacies of outcomes of past Earth Summits and significant concern at the probability of major inadequacies as a consequence of the current event (Richard Black, Uncertainty Hampers Rio+20 Talks, BBC News, 16 June 2012).

It was for this reason that a previous comment on the Earth-System boundaries resulted in a focus on the "boundaries" to any effective political action (Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009). However the concern here with what might be "missing" from a "doughnut" representation goes further. The question, notably highlighted by the current global financial crisis, is how "thoughtlessness" is to be appropriately associated with a "doughnut" form -- if only in ignoring factors which inhibit strategic action. To what extent is global civilization effectively "unconscious", as suggested by John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization, 1995) -- or constrained in the application of its ingenuity, as argued Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Ingenuity Gap, 2000)?

From such a perspective is there some kind of "cognitive hole" which undermines the ability for coherent political action, as previously discussed (Unthought as Cognitive Foundation of Global Civilization, 2012)? The Oxfam report specifically attributes "critical human deprivations" to the central hole of the doughnut. The question explored further here is whether these "deprivations" have a cognitive dimension associated with thoughtlessness, carelessness and negligence.

Is there a danger that the Earth-System focus on a "a safe operating space for humanity" and the doughnut focus on a "a safe and just space for humanity" simply ensure together a space for modes of behaviour which are inherently unsustainable -- but to which the doughnut form fails to draw attention in the more comprehensive overview it offers? What vital significance might be attributed to the hole in the doughnut with respect to effective strategic action -- and the assiduous avoidance of its consideration?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

the agribusiness coup in paraguay: Monsanto’s latest assault on democracy

foodfirst | Curuguaty in the department of Canindeyú, Paraguay near the Brazilian border, to evict a group of peasants peacefully occupying a parcel of land. Upon arrival, another group of police snipers ambushed the officers and peasants, killing seventeen people: 6 police officers and 11 peasants, with dozens of people seriously injured.

The consequences of this baffling incident? The impeachment of the weak government of president Fernando Lugo by the right-wing controlled congress; a hard blow to the left, social movements and peasants, accused by the landed elite of instigating peasant occupations; the increased power of translational agribusiness firms like Monsanto; the continued persecution and eviction of peasants from their land; and finally, the stage set for the right’s triumphal return to power in the 2013 presidential elections.

On October 21, 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture, headed by Enzo Cardozo, illegally approved Bollgard BT cotton, a product of Monsanto, for commercial planting in Paraguay. Peasants and environmental organizations immediately protested. The cotton seed’s genetic material is crossed with the gene Bacillus thurigensis (Bt), a toxic bacterium that kills certain pests, such as the larvae of the weevil, a beetle that lays its eggs in the plant’s cocoon.

The National Service of Plant Health, Quality and Seeds (SENAVE), a government agency headed by Miguel Lovera, had not included the Bt variety in the official record of seed cultivars, since reports from the Ministries of Heath and Environment had not been submitted, as required by law.

mutated pests are quickly adapting to biotech crops in unpredicted and disturbing ways

io9 | Genetically modified crops are often designed to repel hungry insects. By having toxins built into the plant itself, farmers can reduce their use of environmentally unfriendly insecticide sprays. But as any first-year evolutionary biology student can tell you, insects are like the Borg in Star Trek: they quickly adapt. And this is precisely what is happening – but in ways that have startled the researchers themselves.

The discovery is a wakeup call to geneticists because it has highlighted the importance of having to closely monitor and counter pest resistance to biotech crops. The development also raises the question of the potential futility of having to change the genetic structure of crops in perpetuity; given that insects are constantly evolving, to what degree will geneticists have to go to ensure crop immunity to pests? And what does that say to the ongoing safety of such crops as far as human consumption is concerned?

Case in point are cotton bollworms. To deal with these pests, genetic scientists have developed an insect-killing cotton plant that produces toxins derived from the Bt bacterium (geneticists say that these toxins are harmless to most other creatures, including humans). But the bollworms are developing a resistance. Scientists have observed that a rare genetic mutation in bollworms makes them immune to Bt – and that the mutation isn't so rare any more.

One scientist who predicted that these insects would adapt is Bruce Tabashnik, head of the department of entomology at the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and co-author of the study making note of these findings. To stay ahead of the game, Tabashnik studied bollworms in the lab just to see how they would adapt to the toxin. Then, expecting to see the same sorts of adaptations in the real world, he took a look at bollworms in China.

What he found there was a bit disturbing. Yes, he discovered bollworms that exhibited the exact same mutations as the ones in his lab – but the Chinese insects also showed some adaptations that were completely unexpected. Speaking through a University of Arizona release, Tabashnik noted that, "[W]e also found lots of other mutations, most of them in the same gene and one in a completely different gene." Fist tap Dale.

how the taste of tomatoes went bad and kept right on going...,

npr | The tomato is the vegetable (or fruit, if you must) that we love to hate. We know how good it can be and how bad it usually is. And everybody just wants to know: How did it get that way?

Today, scientists revealed a small but intriguing chapter in that story: a genetic mutation that seemed like a real improvement in the tomato's quality, but which actually undermined its taste.

Before we get to the mutation, though, let's start with the old tomatoes — the varieties that people grew a century or more ago.

Thanks to enthusiastic seed savers and heirloom tomato enthusiasts, you can still find many of them. Eric Rice, owner of Country Pleasures Farm near Middletown, Md., first encountered heirloom tomatoes when he was a graduate student in North Carolina.

"I decided I really liked them," he says. He liked the vivid taste and the unusual colors, from orange to purple. These tomatoes also have great names: Cherokee Purple, Dr. Wyche's, Mortgage Lifter.

Rice now grows these tomatoes to sell at a farmers market in Washington, D.C. But he admits that all that tomato personality can make heirlooms harder to grow and sell. "Heirloom tomatoes don't ship very well because they're softer. And frankly, they're all different shapes and sizes." This makes them more difficult to pack.

There's something else you'll notice as these tomatoes start to get ripe — something central to this story. The part of the tomato near the stem — what's called the shoulder of the fruit — stays green longer.

"I think it is an issue for the consumer," says Rice, "because people do buy with their eyes. And green shoulders also mean it's not entirely ripe or not as soft and tasty there."

Those green shoulders turn out to be more significant than you might think. In this week's issue of the journal Science, scientists report that when they disappeared from modern tomatoes, some of the tomato's taste went with them.

Here's how. Sometime before 1930, somewhere in America, a tomato grower noticed a plant that was producing distinctive fruit. These fruit turned red from stem to tip in a uniform way. They didn't have any of those bothersome green shoulders.

It was a new mutation, and plant breeders saw it as the next big thing.

They called it the "uniform ripening" trait. In 1930, the agricultural experiment station in Fargo, N.D., released a new tomato variety containing this mutation. The variety was called All Red.