Sunday, August 19, 2012

assange will take britain to the "world court"

Telegraph | The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations says a host country may not enter the premises of an embassy without the represented country's permission.

Sir Tony Brenton, who served as the United Kingdom's ambassador to Russia between 2004 and 2008, said "arbitrarily" overturning the status of the building where Mr Assange has taken shelter to avoid extradition, would make life "impossible" for British diplomats overseas.

But embassies are not fully exempt from the jurisdiction of the countries they're in and are not sovereign territory of the represented state.

The FCO wrote to the embassy saying "You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy.

"We sincerely hope that we do not reach that point, but if you are not capable of resolving this matter of Mr Assange's presence in your premises, this is an open option for us."

Baltasar Garzon, Mr Assange's lawyer who came to international attention in 1998 when he indicted Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet, said Britain was acting far beyond its authority because Mr Assange was a political refugee accepted for asylum by a sovereign nation and Britain was obligated to honour that.

"They have to comply with diplomatic and legal obligations under the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and respect the sovereignty of a country that has granted asylum," he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

The refugee convention defines who is a refugee, and sets out the rights of individuals granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum.

It provides for special travel arrangements for refugees granted asylum under the convention.

He said: "If Britain doesn't comply with its obligations, we will go before International Court of Justice to demand that Britain complies with its obligations because there is a person who runs the risk of being persecuted politically."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

not a single iota of testicular fortitude between the two-of-em...,

RollingStone | I’ve been on deadline in the past week or so, so I haven't had a chance to weigh in on Eric Holder’s predictable decision to not pursue criminal charges against Goldman, Sachs for any of the activities in the report prepared by Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn two years ago.

Last year I spent a lot of time and energy jabbering and gesticulating in public about what seemed to me the most obviously prosecutable offenses detailed in the report – the seemingly blatant perjury before congress of Lloyd Blankfein and other Goldman executives, and the almost comically long list of frauds committed by the company in its desperate effort to unload its crappy “cats and dogs” mortgage-backed inventory.

In the notorious Hudson transaction, for instance, Goldman claimed, in writing, that it was fully "aligned" with the interests of its client, Morgan Stanley, because it owned a $6 million slice of the deal. What Goldman left out is that it had a $2 billion short position against the same deal.

If that isn’t fraud, Mr. Holder, just what exactly is fraud?

Still, it wasn’t surprising that Holder didn’t pursue criminal charges against Goldman. And that’s not just because Holder has repeatedly proven himself to be a spineless bureaucrat and obsequious political creature masquerading as a cop, and not just because rumors continue to circulate that the Obama administration – supposedly in the interests of staving off market panic – made a conscious decision sometime in early 2009 to give all of Wall Street a pass on pre-crisis offenses.

No, the real reason this wasn’t surprising is that Holder’s decision followed a general pattern that has been coming into focus for years in American law enforcement. Our prosecutors and regulators have basically admitted now that they only go after the most obvious and easily prosecutable cases.

If the offense committed doesn’t fit the exact description in the relevant section of the criminal code, they pass. The only white-collar cases they will bring are absolute slam-dunk situations where some arrogant rogue commits a blatant crime for individual profit in a manner thoroughly familiar to even the non-expert portion of the jury pool/citizenry.

miners-2, cops-34 in south african 99% vs. 1% throwdown...,

Reuters | In a loping, crouching run, striking South African miners advance towards a line of police in helmets and flak-jackets who are pointing automatic rifles at them. The police open fire.

In less than a minute, the men, some of whom police say conducted witchcraft rituals they believed would protect them from bullets, crumple and fall in a hail of gunfire that kicks up clouds of yellow dust.

Television footage starkly captures the moment of the police shootings at a dusty platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg on Thursday that killed at least 34 protesting workers and tore a gash in the soul of post-apartheid South Africa.

The sight of protesters falling dead before guns fired by government security forces strikes a jarringly painful chord in a nation ruled by Africa's oldest liberation movement, the African National Congress.

Its proud anti-apartheid image has long been nurtured by memories of fallen martyrs and massacres committed by police and troops under white-minority rule that ended 18 years ago.

Except this time the shooting, the deadliest security operation since apartheid was abolished, was carried out by a police force under the responsibility of an ANC government.

Seeking to answer why an industrial dispute ended in what many are calling a "bloodbath", ministers and senior police went out of their way to say officers were forced to fire to protect themselves from charging armed strikers.

"We did what we could with what we had," Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega told a news conference on Friday, flanked by senior officers who were peppered with questions by journalists about how and why the police used their firearms as they did.

Phiyega, a former banker only months in the job and seen by many in the force as a political appointee, said the police were responding to a week of violence in which two Marikana security guards, a supervisor and two police officers were hacked to death by workers armed with spears, machetes and clubs.

Friday, August 17, 2012

kip's trips....,

federalnewsradio | The former commander of U.S. Africa Command engaged in "multiple forms of misconduct" related to his use of government aircraft, misused and wasted government funds on parties and gifts and abused his authority during his four-year tenure as the command's first leader, a Defense Department Inspector General's report alleges.

The report, provided to Federal News Radio in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, sheds new light on allegations against Gen. William "Kip" Ward that were first reported by the Associated Press earlier this week.

Although the Army held a retirement ceremony for Ward last year, he has been temporarily serving as a two-star general in a Pentagon staff job while the Army decides whether to pursue disciplinary action against him.

The IG recommends Army Secretary John McHugh consider "appropriate action" against Ward, and that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta take steps to train combatant commands on the appropriate use of military aircraft and other ethics matters.

On the matter of travel, the inspector general found several instances in which Ward travelled at government expense for personal matters and conducted little government business at his destination. Seven times he extended his stay on what were claimed as official trips without spending much time on official business.

In one case, the IG found the main purpose of a government-funded, three-day, two-night trip to New York City in July 2010 was to socialize and see a Broadway show. Investigators also determined he accepted free tickets to that performance from a defense contractor, a "prohibited source" under federal laws.

In another example, Ward hastily arranged a meeting with the commander of Army Forces Command in Atlanta after being told he could not use military aircraft for unofficial travel to attend an awards ceremony. The 90-minute meeting was intended to turn the previously-planned trip into "official" travel, the report suggests.

The Atlanta visit was part of an 11-day, $129,000 U.S. trip that also included travel to the D.C. area for Ward, his wife Joyce and 13 aides. Ward conducted official business on only three of those 11 days, but Ward never took any leave and billed the government for reimbursement for each day of the trip.

In other cases, he wasted travel funds including during a stopover in Bermuda where he stayed in a $740 a night hotel suite — twice the allowable rate, the report found.

While Ward's wife frequently travelled with him, the couple never reimbursed the government for the cost of airfare, a requirement under DoD regulations unless both of them were travelling in an official capacity for an "unquestionably official" function.

In many cases, they were not, the report found. Investigators determined Ward's practice was to "identify reasons to allow Mrs. Ward to accompany him…and Mrs. Ward directed the [redacted] to 'make programs' to enable this practice."

One unidentified witness told investigators that planning such trips was "an ethics nightmare…[we had to] swim the waters and know the code. Nothing's kept me awake in the past 20 years except this."

Nonetheless, on at least 15 flights, Mrs. Ward was travelling in an "unofficial" capacity. The general also misused military aircraft to provide free transportation to other generals and members of the media without proper authorization, the report found.

The IG also found Ward abused his authority by having military staff perform personal errands for him and his wife Joyce using government vehicles.

Of one AFRICOM staffer, a witness said "everyone knew he was Joyce's driver," who transported her to spas, department stores and fundraisers. Military personnel also were used for such things as dropping off personal real estate documents, shopping, delivering flowers and picking up candy.

intellectually aggressive statement of the week!!!

britain's threat to ecuador without precedent...,

TheAustralian | The mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Christine Assange, says it would be an act of war for police to enter Ecuadorian embassy in London where her son seeking political asylum. BRITIAIN'S threat to revoke Ecuador's diplomatic immunity and arrest Julian Assange is "extraordinary and without precedent", an Australian international law expert has said.

"It highlights how serious the United Kingdom government is about extraditing Assange to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault," the Australian National University's Don Rothwell said in a statement.

"If the United Kingdom revoked the Embassy's diplomatic protection and entered the Embassy to arrest Assange, Ecuador could rightly view this as a significant violation of international law which may find its way before an international court."

The WikiLeaks founder sought refuge in Ecuador's London embassy on June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault.

But Britain is now threatening to revoke the embassy's diplomatic immunity and take Mr Assange into custody for breaching his bail conditions.

Britain's Foreign Office has issued a statement citing a 1987 British law it says permits the revocation of diplomatic status of a building if the foreign power occupying it "ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post."Ecuador says it will announce its decision on the WikiLeaks founder's asylum application at 10.00pm AEST on Thursday.

The British Foreign Office said in its statement that it hoped a "mutually acceptable" solution could still be found, but warned it would do all it could to extradite the former hacker.

EcuadorianEmbassy | An Ecuadorian government spokesperson commenting on the threats by the British Government to enter the Embassy said:

We are deeply shocked by British government’s threats against the sovereignty of the Ecuadorian Embassy and their suggestion that they may forcibly enter the embassy.

This is a clear breach of international law and the protocols set out in the Vienna Convention.

Throughout out the last 56 days Mr. Julian Assange has been in the Embassy, the Ecuadorian Government has acted honourably in all our attempts to seek a resolution to the situation. This stands in stark contrast to the escalation of the British Government today with their threats to breakdown the door of the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Instead of threatening violence against the Ecuadorian Embassy the British Government should use its energy to find a peaceful resolution to this situation which we are aiming to achieve. “

Thursday, August 16, 2012

ecuador has no rights we're bound to respect...,

WaPoBlog | Arguing that the United Kingdom “does not accept” the principle of diplomatic asylum, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange doesn’t change Britain’s determination to extradite the Australian citizen to Sweden.

“Under our law, with Mr. Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We must carry out that obligation and of course we fully intend to do so. The Ecuadorian Government’s decision this afternoon does not change that in any way,” reads a statement posted by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Here is the full text of the statement:

“We are disappointed by the statement by Ecuador’s Foreign Minister today that Ecuador has offered political asylum to Julian Assange.

“Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We must carry out that obligation and of course we fully intend to do so. The Ecuadorian Government’s decision this afternoon does not change that in any way. Nor does it change the current circumstances in any way. We remain committed to a diplomatic solution that allows us to carry out our obligations as a nation under the Extradition Act.

“It is important to understand that this is not about Mr Assange’s activities at Wikileaks or the attitude of the United States of America. He is wanted in Sweden to answer allegations of serious sexual offences.

“His case has been heard in our Courts. Following the court decision of 30 May this year, he exhausted all legal options available to him in the UK to prevent his extradition to Sweden. He then entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on 19 June. And since then we have worked patiently with the Ecuadorian authorities, both in London and Quito, in private discussions to seek a mutually acceptable resolution to this situation. We have held seven formal discussions as well as many other conversations.

“Given our need to fulfil our obligations under international law to deliver a suspect for questioning on serious offences, we have ensured that the Ecuadorian authorities have a complete understanding of the full legal context in this country.

“It is a matter of regret that instead of continuing these discussions they have instead decided to make today’s announcement. It does not change the fundamentals of the case. We will not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the UK, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so. The UK does not accept the principle of diplomatic asylum. It is far from a universally accepted concept: the United Kingdom is not a party to any legal instruments which require us to recognise the grant of diplomatic asylum by a foreign embassy in this country. Moreover, it is well established that, even for those countries which do recognise diplomatic asylum, it should not be used for the purposes of escaping the regular processes of the courts. And in this case that is clearly what is happening.

“Ecuador has expressed its concerns about the human rights of Mr Assange and sought guarantees from us in that area regarding his extradition to Sweden and indeed about any onward extradition and we have painstakingly explained the extensive human rights safeguards built into our law.

“No-one, least of all the Government of Ecuador, should be in any doubt that we are determined to carry out our legal obligation to see Mr Assange extradited to Sweden. He faces serious charges in a country with the highest standards of law and where his rights are guaranteed. We believe that should be assurance enough for Ecuador and any supporters of Mr Assange.

“We will remain fully committed to seeking a legal and binding bilateral solution to this with the Government of Ecuador but it is important that everyone understands that as a nation under law, believing in the rule of law, we must ensure that our laws are respected and followed.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

human cycles: history as science?

nature | Sometimes, history really does seem to repeat itself. After the US Civil War, for example, a wave of urban violence fuelled by ethnic and class resentment swept across the country, peaking in about 1870. Internal strife spiked again in around 1920, when race riots, workers' strikes and a surge of anti-Communist feeling led many people to think that revolution was imminent. And in around 1970, unrest crested once more, with violent student demonstrations, political assassinations, riots and terrorism (see 'Cycles of violence').

To Peter Turchin, who studies population dynamics at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, the appearance of three peaks of political instability at roughly 50-year intervals is not a coincidence. For the past 15 years, Turchin has been taking the mathematical techniques that once allowed him to track predator–prey cycles in forest ecosystems, and applying them to human history. He has analysed historical records on economic activity, demographic trends and outbursts of violence in the United States, and has come to the conclusion that a new wave of internal strife is already on its way1. The peak should occur in about 2020, he says, and will probably be at least as high as the one in around 1970. “I hope it won't be as bad as 1870,” he adds.

Turchin's approach — which he calls cliodynamics after Clio, the ancient Greek muse of history — is part of a groundswell of efforts to apply scientific methods to history by identifying and modelling the broad social forces that Turchin and his colleagues say shape all human societies. It is an attempt to show that “history is not 'just one damn thing after another'”, says Turchin, paraphrasing a saying often attributed to the late British historian Arnold Toynbee.

scientists declare that non-human animals are conscious

fcmconference | The First Annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference, focusing on "Consciousness in Humans and Non-Human Animals", aims to provide a purely data-driven perspective on the neural correlates of consciousness. The most advanced quantitative techniques for measuring and monitoring consciousness will be presented, with the topics of focus ranging from exploring the properties of neurons deep in the brainstem, to assessing global cerebral function in comatose patients. Model organisms investigated will span the species spectrum from flies to rodents, humans to birds, elephants to dolphins, and will be approached from the viewpoint of three branches of biology: anatomy, physiology, and behavior. Until animals have their own storytellers, humans will always have the most glorious part of the story, and with this proverbial concept in mind, the symposium will address the notion that humans do not alone possess the neurological faculties that constitute consciousness as it is presently understood.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

taste receptors of the moral mind...,

edge | Well, if we were to write a history of moral philosophy, I think the next chapter would be called, "Attack of the Systemizers." Most of you know that autism is a spectrum. It's not a discrete condition. And Simon Baron-Cohen tells us that we should think about it as two dimensions. There's systemizing and empathizing. So, systemizing is the drive to analyze the variables in a system, and to derive the underlying rules that govern the behavior of a system. Empathizing is the drive to identify another person's emotions and thoughts, and to respond to these with appropriate emotion.

So, if you place these two dimensions, you make a 2x2 space, you get four quadrants. And, autism and Asperger's are, let's call it the bottom right corner of the bottom right quadrant. That is, very high on systemizing, very low on empathizing. People down there have sort of the odd behaviors and the mind-blindness that we know as autism or Asperger's.

The two major ethical systems that define Western philosophy were developed by men who either had Asperger's, or were pretty darn close. For Jeremy Bentham, the principal founder of utilitarianism, the case is quite strong. According to an article titled "Asperger's Syndrome and the Eccentricity and Genius of Jeremy Bentham," published in the Journal of Bentham Studies, (Laughter), Bentham fit the criteria quite well. I'll just give a single account of his character from John Stuart Mill, who wrote, "In many of the most natural and strongest feelings of human nature, he had no sympathy. For many of its graver experiences, he was altogether cut off. And the faculty by which one mind understands a mind different from itself, and throws itself into the feelings of that other mind was denied him by his deficiency of imagination."

For Immanuel Kant, the case is not quite so clear. He also was a loner who loved routine, feared change, focused on his few interests, to the exclusion of all else. And, according to one psychiatrist, Michael Fitzgerald, who diagnoses Asperger's in historical figures and shows how it contributed to their genius, Fitzgerald thinks that Kant would be diagnosed with Asperger's. I think the case is not nearly so clear. I think Kant did have better social skills, more ability to empathize. So I wouldn't say that Kant had Asperger's, but I think it's safe to say that he was about as high as could possibly be on systemizing, while still being rather low on empathizing, although not the absolute zero that Bentham was.

Now, what I'm doing here, yes, it is a kind of an ad hominem argument. I'm not saying that their ethical theories are any less valid normatively because of these men's unusual mental makeup. That would be the wrong kind of ad hominem argument. But I do think that, if we're doing history in particular, we're trying to understand, why did philosophy and then psychology, why did we make what I'm characterizing as a wrong turn? I think personality becomes relevant.

And, I think what happened is that, we had these two ultra-systemizers, in the late 18th and early 19th century. These two ultra-systemizers, during the early phases of the Industrial Revolution, when Western society was getting WEIRDer, and we were in general shifting towards more systemized and more analytical thought. You had these two hyper-systemized theories, and especially people in philosophy just went for it, for the next 200 years, it seems. All it is is, you know, utility, no. Deontology. You know, rights, harm.

And so, you get this very narrow battle of two different systemized groups, and virtue ethics--which fit very well with The Enlightenment Project; you didn't need God for virtue ethics at all--virtue ethics should have survived quite well. But it kind of drops out. And I think personality factors are relevant.

Because philosophy went this way, into hyper-systemizing, and because moral psychology in the 20th century followed them, referring to Kant and other moral philosophers, I think we ended up violating the two giant warning flags that I talked about, from these two BBS articles. We took WEIRD morality to be representative of human morality, and we've placed way too much emphasis on reasoning, treating it as though it was capable of independently seeking out moral truth.

I've been arguing for the last few years that we've got to expand our conception of the moral domain, that it includes multiple moral foundations, not just sugar and salt, and not just harm and fairness, but a lot more as well. So, with Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek, I've developed a theory called Moral Foundations Theory, which draws heavily on the anthropological insights of Richard Shweder.

Down here, I've just listed a very brief summary of it. That the five most important taste receptors of the moral mind are the following…care/harm, fairness/cheating, group loyalty and betrayal, authority and subversion, sanctity and degradation. And that moral systems are like cuisines that are constructed from local elements to please these receptors.

So, I'm proposing, we're proposing, that these are the five best candidates for being the taste receptors of the moral mind. They're not the only five. There's a lot more. So much of our evolutionary heritage, of our perceptual abilities, of our language ability, so much goes into giving us moral concerns, the moral judgments that we have. But I think this is a good starting point. I think it's one that Hume would approve of. It uses the same metaphor that he used, the metaphor of taste.

Monday, August 13, 2012

that's a wrap on the mysterious "goings-on" reported by alien abductees....,

genuine and conspicuous BD "burn the witch" insanity...,

dailykenn | There's a reason Gary Harrington is in jail.

The Oregon resident has been fighting for years to preserve his right to collect rain water. A 1925 law prohibits residents from diverting water from streams. Harrington's ponds ran afoul of that law and now he is serving 30 days in jail. He was also slapped with $1,500 in fines.

The state claims it has a vested interest in protecting the water supply of all its residents. Warehousing rain water in reservoirs on private property before it has a chance to channel downstream apparently robs others of the precious resource. The state's solution is to impose effective water rationing.

Did the state overstep it bounds? Most think so.

There is, however, an ongoing problem: Use of ground water is outstripping its supply in parts of the nation. The more people, the more water is used.

One has to wonder why state and federal governments worry themselves with ponds like Harrington's while aggressively dismantling the nation's wall of separation between illegal immigration and states' vested interest in protecting our resources, water in particular.

Or, to offer a more blunt rendition: Why do state governments jail and fine minuscule offenders like Harrington while intentionally absorbing literally millions of humans via immigration.

Mayo Clinic says every adult requires 11 cups of water per day. That's 4,015 cups of water per year, or about 250 gallons.

I don't know how many gallons of water were held in Harrington's ponds, but my best guess would suppose it's a tad bit less than the 2.5 billion gallons of water consumed each year by 10 million illegal aliens.

So how serious is the problem? Fist tap Big Don.

drought forces reductions in U.S. crop forecasts

NYTimes | With the nation’s worst drought in a half-century continuing to decimate crops, the government on Friday slashed its estimate of the soybean yield, made only a month ago, to the lowest level since 2003 and its estimate of the corn yield to the lowest level since 1995.

The smaller harvests will drive up prices for food and animal feed, analysts said. The prospects are also increasing pressure on the Obama administration to divert less corn to the production of the biofuel ethanol.

Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, visiting drought-stricken farmers in Nebraska on Friday, said that despite the reduced crop production, farmers are in better shape today than during the last major drought, in 1988.

“Last time only 25 percent of farmers had crop insurance, but this time over 85 percent are covered,” Mr. Vilsack said, noting that the government was still forecasting the eighth-biggest corn harvest ever.

But analysts warned of falling yields and spiking wholesale prices down the road. “It’s scary when you see the numbers out today,” said Terry Roggensack, an analyst at the Hightower Report in Chicago. “Unless there is normal weather and rain from here on out, I can easily see prices for corn and soybeans” rising 20 percent to 25 percent.

In the past month, as the country recorded the hottest month on record, the government lowered its production forecast for eggs, milk and pork. Beef production is expected to rise as ranchers cull more of their herds because of higher feed prices. But experts predict that the price of beef will not rise until next year as supplies tighten but feed costs continue to increase.

Last month, the Agriculture Department estimated that food prices would climb 3 percent to 4 percent in 2013. The overall economic effect in the United States, however, will be muted, given that American households generally spend only about 13 percent of their budgets on food and often elect to buy cheaper foods rather than pay higher prices.

On Friday, Capital Economics estimated that the rising food prices might knock 0.1 percent off the annual pace of economic growth.

Farmers in the hardest hit areas of the Midwest said that Friday’s report only confirmed what they already knew.

“We’ve lost 60 percent of our average production, if not 70,” said Nick Guetterman, president of the Johnson County Farm Bureau in eastern Kansas, who farms about 10,000 acres with his family. Mr. Guetterman said he expected crop insurance to cover his costs this year, but not much more. “You take what you get, that’s all you can do,” he said. “You go to church and pray.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

business insider subrealizes the oil drum publishing a fund manager being truthy...,

businessinsider | Below is an essay by Jeremy Grantham, the Chief Investment Officer of GMO Capital (with over $106 billion in assets under management). Normally, we wouldn't highlight an investment firm's quarterly newsletter, but when one of the world's largest asset managers articulates the same themes that have been debated on The Oil Drum for the past 6 years, such a watershed for biophysical awareness deserves to be highlighted.

Grantham's essay catalogues many of the issues related to resource depletion in a no-nonsense and urgent tone, yet with an odd juxtaposition - he is saying these things about limits, resource constraints, and human behavior as the head of a firm whose objective it is to increase financial capital. I expect his message will fall on deaf ears within the industry, but as has oft been pointed out here, in order to create change, we all have to start speaking a common language. This piece is a positive step in that direction.

Mr. Grantham began his investment career as an economist with Royal Dutch Shell and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Sheffield (U.K.) and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. His essay, reformatted for TOD, is below the fold. (Original, on GMO Website, here)

cement walls nine feet thick...,

theextinctionprotocol | Nuclear fallout, tsunamis, zombie invasions– impending horrors are scaring the rational thinking out of even the world’s best and brightest. And for good reason. Life is risky when lived above ground. Anybody who has ever been crapped on by a pigeon knows – living with our precious heads exposed to the sky may not be worth the hazard. Hence the new, ‘location, location, location’ driven trend in underground doomsday real estate. No bunker is quite as fail proof and luxurious as Larry Hall’s Survival Condos. Buried deep below Kansas’s golden prairies, the luxury condo complex was engineered with enough tenacity to withstand everything from epic solar flares to infectious pandemics. Built into an old missile silo, the condos feature a pool, movie theater, library, a live in orthodontist and doctor, and cement walls nine feet thick to protect occupants from something as threatening as an atomic blast. The first wave of his indestructible, underground bunkers sold out almost immediately, and now he is well into construction on his second phase. I briefly spoke to Hall about his silo success and this is what he had to say, “Survival Condo’s success had been a long time coming,” he recalled of his sustained effort in engineering the facilities. “However, as soon as people came onsite and viewed the facility for themselves and realized it was not a hoax, but a fool proof survival getaway, they wrote checks immediately and bought their share of the property on the spot,” says Hall. The condos are ranging in price from one million dollars for half a floor, to two million dollars for a full floor. The luxury hideout is fully sustainable and self-supportive; Hall is even installing an indoor farm with the hopes of growing fish and vegetables to feed seventy people for five years. But most importantly the complex has a large water tank for optimal hydration, and an advanced military security system to keep the needy masses from pillaging the vital contents of the endurable fort.

geometry for the selfish herd

sciencemag | To escape a hungry wolf, a sheep doesn't have to outrun the wolf, just the other sheep in its flock. Many researchers think that such selfish behavior, not cooperation for the benefit of the whole crowd, shapes the movements of groups of animals. But the decades-old "selfish herd theory" has been hard to back up with data. Now, a detailed analysis of how a flock of sheep moves to avoid a sheepdog has found that the theory holds true. Each sheep heads to safety in the center of the flock, rather than running directly away from the dog.

"It's really difficult to measure 2D spatial information on large animals in the wild," says biologist Theodore Stankowich of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who was not involved in the new work. "They've taken advantage of a unique opportunity to work with the sheep to answer these types of questions in a controlled environment."

Studies on seals, crabs, and pigeons have shown that those animals seem to herd for selfish reasons, but the data have often been crude. Biologist Andrew King and colleagues at the Royal Veterinary College of the University of London attached GPS backpacks to 46 sheep and to a trained Australian Kelpie dog. When they released the dog to herd the sheep, they recorded the location of each animal every second. Then, they analyzed the data to determine what factors influenced each sheep's path. The movements of the sheep, the researchers reveal today online in Current Biology, could be best predicted by the center of the flock. Rather than run in a line away from the dog, scatter in all directions, or follow their nearest neighbors, the sheep all hurried toward the flock's center. The sheep began to converge when the dog was 70 meters away. Even as the flock as a whole moved, each sheep continuously competed to be as near the middle as possible.

"The fact that they're running toward the center reduces the chances of their being on the edge and being picked off by a predator," says King. It's a selfish behavior since each sheep puts the animals at the fringes of the flock at risk in order to save itself.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

you didn't build that: systemic collapse summarized

businessinsider | The eurozone is on a path into a deep recession. As one of the largest and most advanced economies in the world, its centrality to a system of highly-interconnected global supply chains is taken for granted.

David Korowicz, a physicist and human-systems ecologist, recently authored a lengthy 78-page white paper titled: "Trade-Off: Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion: a study in global systemic collapse."

It explores the increasing systemic risk brewing in the global financial and trade systems. Using complex systems analysis, he explains how within weeks of the next major economic shock, like a major bank failure or a country exiting the eurozone, contagion would quickly spread through global supply chains, causing an "irreversible global economic collapse."

Korowicz warns that in the next crisis, "neither wealth nor geography is a protection. Our evolved co-dependencies mean that we are all in this together."

We read the paper and boiled it down to its key points.

not even a fan, but the Hon.Bro.Preznit obviously meant roads and bridges...,

TheAtlantic | President Obama uttered those four little words Republicans never tire of hearing -- "you didn't build that" -- on July 13, nearly a month ago, and yet if you do a Google News search for "Obama you didn't build that" you will turn up nearly 70,000 hits, the most recent posted within hours. It was a self-inflicted wound from which the president's reelection campaign continues to bleed steadily, if not profusely, despite the Romney campaign's not entirely satisfactory assault on the injured tissue. The election drawing ever closer in the mid-August heat, liberals wonder why the issue will not go away, and conservatives wonder why it did not immediately doom Obama's campaign. Both questions have the same answer: Obama made a shift so profound, but so easily misunderstood, that neither side has been able to end the debate, although Obama thus far is winning.

Here is what Obama said at Fire Station No. 1 in Roanoke, Va., (which Obama won with 61 percent of the vote in 2008, an island of blue in the sea of red that was western Virginia). I include the entire relevant quote so there is no question about the context:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn't -- look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own. You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That's how we funded the G.I. Bill. That's how we created the middle class. That's how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That's how we invented the Internet. That's how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that's the reason I'm running for President -- because I still believe in that idea. You're not on your own, we're in this together.
Like any classic, it is just as good the hundredth time as it was the first time and the Romney campaign has kept repeating the snippet, "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." But by "that," did Obama mean the "business" or the "roads and bridges" of the previous sentence? Let's be charitable and take the White House at its word that the president meant to say "those" and not "that." Is the whole controversy then a Machiavellian construction of the "right-wing noise machine?"