Friday, January 10, 2014

since my people are better than yours, your people are expendable, deal with it!

foreignpolicy | I have been reading My Promised Land, Ari Shavit's extraordinary account of the founding and growth of Israel. It is a book one reads not simply for historical instruction but for moral guidance. Shavit is an ardent Zionist who is nevertheless imbued with a sense of Israel's tragic condition. "Tragedy," as Shavit uses it, does not refer to the suffering of the Jewish people but rather to the suffering -- the unavoidable suffering -- of the Palestinian people as a result of the Zionist project. In his narrative of the brutal conquest of the Arab city of Lydda by Israeli forces in May 1948, Shavit returns again and again to the idealistic, even utopian young men who killed Arab civilians and forced the entire population into a death march in the desert. Their anguish, shame, confusion is Shavit's own; and so is their acknowledgment that it could not have been otherwise. Both conquest and expulsion "were an inevitable phase of the Zionist revolution that laid the foundation for the Zionist state." No Lydda, no Israel. 

What would it mean for an American to apply this tragic understanding to his own circumstances? In regard to the national founding, the analogy to Israel is glaringly obvious. If the American pioneers had accepted that the indigenous people they found on the continent were not simply features of the landscape but people like themselves, and thus had agreed to occupy only those spaces not already claimed by the Indians, then today's America would be confined to a narrow band along the Eastern seaboard. No Indian wars, no America. And yet, like slavery, the wars and the forced resettlement constitute a terrible reproach to the founders' belief that America was a uniquely just and noble experiment. 

But when I say that I am reading Shavit for moral guidance, I'm thinking of the American present, not just the past. The tragic sense is largely alien to Americans, and to American policymakers. Americans have an almost unique faith in the malleability of the world, and of the intrinsic appeal of their own principles (a faith which Shavit writes that Israel's settlers shared until the Palestinians first rose up against them in 1936). In Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger argued that all American presidents from the time of Woodrow Wilson (possibly excepting his own pupil, Richard Nixon) have been idealists, because the American people refuse to elect someone who speaks the tragic language of 19th century European statecraft.

zionist terrorism drove the creation of the british surveillance state

foreignpolicy | Recently declassified intelligence records reveal that at the end of the war the main priority for MI5 was the threat of terrorism emanating from the Middle East, specifically from the two main Zionist terrorist groups operating in the Mandate of Palestine, which had been placed under British control in 1921. They were called the Irgun Zevai Leumi ("National Military Organization," or the Irgun for short) and the Lehi (an acronym in Hebrew for "Freedom Fighters of Israel"), which the British also termed the "Stern Gang," after its founding leader, Avraham Stern. The Irgun and the Stern Gang believed that British policies in Palestine in the post-war years -- blocking the creation of an independent Jewish state -- legitimized the use of violence against British targets. MI5's involvement with counterterrorism, which preoccupies it down to the present day, arose in the immediate post-war years when it dealt with the Irgun and Stern Gang. 

MI5's involvement in dealing with Zionist terrorism offers a striking new interpretation of the history of the early Cold War. For the entire duration of the Cold War, the overwhelming priority for the intelligence services of Britain and other Western powers would lie with counterespionage, but as we can now see, in the crucial transition period from World War to Cold War, MI5 was instead primarily concerned with counterterrorism. 

As World War II came to a close, MI5 received a stream of intelligence reports warning that the Irgun and the Stern Gang were not just planning violence in the Mandate of Palestine, but were also plotting to launch attacks inside Britain. In April 1945 an urgent cable from MI5's outfit in the Middle East, SIME, warned that Victory in Europe (VE-Day) would be a D-Day for Jewish terrorists in the Middle East. Then, in the spring and summer of 1946, coinciding with a sharp escalation of anti-British violence in Palestine, MI5 received apparently reliable reports from SIME that the Irgun and the Stern Gang were planning to send five terrorist "cells" to London, "to work on IRA lines." To use their own words, the terrorists intended to "beat the dog in his own kennel." The SIME reports were derived from the interrogation of captured Irgun and Stern Gang fighters, from local police agents in Palestine, and from liaisons with official Zionist political groups like the Jewish Agency. They stated that among the targets for assassination were Britain's foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, who was regarded as the main obstacle to the establishment of a Jewish state in the Middle East, and the prime minister himself. MI5's new director-general, Sir Percy Sillitoe, was so alarmed that in August 1946 he personally briefed the prime minister on the situation, warning him that an assassination campaign in Britain had to be considered a real possibility, and that his own name was known to be on a Stern Gang hit list.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

new delhi better stop flinging feces and shell out for a competent attorney instead...,

timesofindia | In a major setback to Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, a federal judge has rejected her plea to extend the January 13 deadline for a preliminary hearing on the visa fraud issue, the date by when she has to be charged.

Shortly after the issuance of the order in which the judge said "good cause" has not been demonstrated in the plea, Khobragade's laywer Daniel Arshack said he is "considering" other options.

The three-page order, by which Khobragade will have to appear in court, means the indictment against her will now have to filed before or on January 13. It was issued late yesterday.

"We are considering our options," Khobragade's lawyer Daniel Arshack told PTI when asked about the request for extending the indictment deadline being denied by the judge. He did not elaborate.

However, sources said one of the options Khobragade, 39, now has is to file another motion in court seeking extension of the indictment deadline and preliminary hearing.

In her order, magistrate judge Sarah Netburn of the US district court for the southern district of New York said adjournment of the date will not grant her the "relief she seeks" regarding plea negotiations between her and the government to resolve the visa fraud case.

been tryna tell you valodya not scurred...,

caseyresearch | In the global war for energy supremacy, Russia has won another victory over the United States.

This time, the battleground has been South Africa, where Russia's state-owned nuclear power company, Rosatom, has just signed an agreement to build eight new reactors. Once all of them are operational, South Africa's nuclear capacity will increase more than sixfold—from 1.8 gigawatts (GW) to 11.4 GW over the next 15 years.

This means that Russia will help develop the entirety of South Africa's nuclear energy sector, including financing and training.

And just as importantly, South Africa will be using Russia's nuclear fuel.

Rosatom has been busy signing these types of deals with other foreign countries as well—Finland, Turkey, Ukraine, even the United Kingdom—which guarantees that Russia will be able to keep a stranglehold on these countries' nuclear industries.

The strategy is clear: Rosatom is aiming to become the world's largest supplier of uranium in the coming years.

Remember what we said about the ongoing "Putinization" of Europe's oil and gas; how Russia is planning to leverage its control over Europe's energy to gain political and economic benefits?

The same thing is happening in uranium, except the stakes are even higher—because Putin is now looking to dominate the global nuclear market.

Russia and the former Soviet nations (colloquially called "the -stans") already control nearly half of the world's uranium supply:

from happy days to oil apocalypse as brazil clings to petrobras...,

dailyimpact | Here’s what they were saying about Brazil six years ago: it was entering a new oil bonanza, it was going to be bigger than Saudi Arabia, it was going to enjoy energy independence, all the graphs of oil production were going straight up, through the roof, to the moon, Alice. It’s oil reserves were 50 billion…no, 100 billion…wait, 240 billion barrels. (How do you sing “Happy Days are Here Again” in Portuguese?)

Sound familiar? Sound like what the same folks are saying about the United States today? Funny how they’re not singing about feliz dias in Brazil any more. How did things work out for them down there?

Not good, according to a long piece in the Washington Post yesterday. Oil production is flat or falling; Imports of gasoline, sold to the public below cost to prevent inflation (and revolution) are climbing; the state oil company, Petrobras, is debt-ridden and has lost one-third of its value on the stock market; the second-largest oil company, OGX, declared bankruptcy in October.

The euphoria was based on the “discovery” of vast new oil “reserves.” (In Portuguese, the root words from which “discovery” and “reserves” are derived also translate as “a vague hope there’s something down there.” This is also true of Arabic and English, as spoken in the oil patch.)

The newly discovered Brazilian “reserves” were under a mile and a half of water, plus two miles of rock, and another mile and a half of salt. Drilling into this oil and getting it to market would require the most expensive and difficult corporate project in the world, at an estimated cost of $237 billion. Still, as Brazil’s president declared at the time of the “discoveries,” it seemed Brazil had won the lottery.

They must have misplaced the winning ticket.

Explanations abound for the sad state of the Brazilian bonanza. A favorite: onerous government regulation of Petrobras. For example, Petrobras is required to build its drilling platforms, ships and heavy equipment in Brazil, which has created jobs but has not guaranteed that the jobs will be done well, efficiently or on time. Losses on gasoline imports have cost the company $20 billion since 2006. Brighter prospects in America have lured away flighty investors. And there is some truth to all these excuses.

But the real problem is dry wells. For all its titanic struggles, massive spending and relentless optimism, Petrobras is managing to wring a paltry 300,000 barrels of oil per day from its vast undersea “reserves.” In 2008 OGX raised more than $4 billion dollars, in Brazil’s largest ever initial public offering of stock, for drilling in the deep blue sea. It went bankrupt last year because the wells it drilled didn’t hit oil.

north america to drown in oil as mexico begins denationalizing pemex...,

bloomberg |  The flood of North American crude oil is set to become a deluge as Mexico dismantles a 75-year-old barrier to foreign investment in its oil fields

Plagued by almost a decade of slumping output that has degraded Mexico’s take from a $100-a-barrel oil market, President Enrique Pena Nieto is seeking an end to the state monopoly over one of the biggest crude resources in the Western Hemisphere. The doubling in Mexican oil output that Citigroup Inc. said may result from inviting international explorers to drill would be equivalent to adding another Nigeria to world supply, or about 2.5 million barrels a day. 

That boom would augment a supply surge from U.S. and Canadian wells that Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) predicts will vault North American production ahead of every OPEC member except Saudi Arabia within two years. With U.S. refineries already choking on more oil than they can process, producers from Exxon to ConocoPhillips are clamoring for repeal of the export restrictions that have outlawed most overseas sales of American crude for four decades. 

“This is going to be a huge opportunity for any kind of player” in the energy sector, said Pablo Medina, a Latin American upstream analyst at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in Houston. “All the companies are going to have to turn their heads and start analyzing Mexico.” 

Unprecedented Output  
An influx of Mexican oil would contribute to a glut that is expected to lower the price of Brent crude, the benchmark for more than half the world’s crude that has averaged $108.62 a barrel this year, to as low as $88 a barrel in 2017, based on estimates from analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Five of the seven analysts who provided 2017 forecasts said prices would be lower than this year. 

The revolution in shale drilling that boosted U.S. oil output to a 25-year high this month will allow North America to join the ranks of the world’s crude-exporting continents by 2040, Exxon said in its annual global energy forecast on Dec. 12. Europe and the Asia-Pacific region will be the sole crude import markets by that date, the Irving, Texas-based energy producer said. 

Exxon’s forecast, compiled annually by a team of company economists, scientists and engineers, didn’t take into account any changes in Mexico, William Colton, the company’s vice president of strategic planning, said during a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Dec. 12. 

Opening Mexico’s oilfields to foreign investment would be “a win-win if ever there was one,” said Colton, who described the move as “very good for the people of Mexico and people everywhere in the world who use energy.”

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

speaking of busted beezies in an intellectually bankrupt and utterly hypocritical Cathedral....,

Robert Gates called out Hellury's gross inconsistency on the GWOT much as Gov. Brian Schweitzer did.

dailymail | Hillary Rodham Clinton, a likely Democratic Party standard-bearer in the 2016 presidential contest, staked out her military-related positions in the 2008 race based on how they would play politically, according to a former secretary of defense who served in both the Obama and Bush administrations.

Describing a 'remarkable' exchange he witnessed, Robert Gates writes in a book due out next week that 'Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary.'

Obama, too, 'conceded vaguely that [his] opposition to the Iraq surge had been political,' Gates recounts. 'To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.'

And Gates recounts how, as the president lost faith in Gen. David Petraeus' handling of hostilities in Afghanistan, he – Gates – lost faith in Obama's commitment to accomplishing much of anything.

'As I sat there,' he recalls, 'I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand [President Hamid] Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his.'

'For him, it’s all about getting out.'

serious public intellectuals address the educated masses and bring serious heat

Michelle Alexander is a civil rights attorney. She has serious vocational skills, i.e., independence and the capacity to pay the bills - when and if she says unpopular things or speaks truth to power.  She has powerfully documented unpopular history, practice, and facts that directly speak truth to power - and done so in a way that is broadly accessible to the American public.

These are minimum baseline requirements for serious public intellectuals, doing serious work for the common good.

Compare and contrast that with booboo the fool who was crying and reading a tele-prompted apology to the Romneys this past Saturday morning. When it's your job to compromise, clown, and entertain to fill up time on teevee, when you're answerable to a media boss, and when you lack legitimate skills to practice or teach a trade independent of a patron i.e., when your scholarship is in the dubious fields of gender, race, or sexual identity (subjects which don't even qualify as liberal arts humanities) and which guarantee the requirement of a patron who wants to use you as an organ of propaganda - YOU DON'T QUALIFY AS A SERIOUS PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL PERIOD. 

For damn certain nothing remotely approaching America's foremost public intellectual, and anybody pretending otherwise in public is simply exhibiting their own intellectual failings - until of course they get their ass handed to them in their own disqus comments which they then promptly and predictably close to forestall further humiliation....,

america's foremost public intellectual on the drug war...,

rawstory | “There are things,” Chomsky said, “the white liberal establishment just doesn’t want to be part of history.”

Another aspect of American history that was “blanked out” was “the criminalizing of black life.” He noted that abolition robbed the industrial class of cheap labor, and [they] needed a way to replace it. “Slaves were capital, but if you could imprisoned labor, states could utilize them — you get a disciplined, extremely cheap labor force that you don’t have to pay for.”

“Part of the whole industrial revival was based on the reinstitution of slave labor. That went on until the start of the Second World War,” he continued, “after which black men and women were able to work their way into the labor force, the war industries.”

“Then came two decades, the ’50s and the ’60s, of substantial economic growth. Also, egalitarian growth — the lower quintile did about the same as the upper quintile, and the black population was able to work its way into the society. They could work in the auto factories, make some money, buy a house. And over the course of those same 20 years the Civil Rights Movement took off.”

After correlating the rise of the Civil Rights Movement with the establishment of a black middle class, Chomsky went on to claim that it was on the issue of class that the black liberation movements stalled.

“The black movement hit a limit as soon as it turned to class issue,” he said. “There is a close class-race correlation, but as the black and increasingly Latino issues…began to reach up against the class barriers, there was a big reaction. Part of it was reinstitution of the criminalization of the black population in the late 1970s.” 

“If you take a look at the incarceration rate in the United States, around 1980 it was approximately the same as the rest of developed society. By now, it’s out of sight — it’s five-to-ten times as high as the rest of wealthy societies.” 

“It’s not based on crime,” Chomsky continued. “The device that was used to recriminalize the black population was drugs. The drug wars are fraud — a total fraud. They have nothing to do with drugs, the price of drugs doesn’t change. What the drug war has succeeded in doing is to criminalize the poor. And the poor in the United States happen to be overwhelming black and Latino.”

Chomsky then made his most explosive statement, claiming that the war on drugs is, in fact, “a race war.”

why did the correctional population start to rise in the 1980's together with the onset of neoliberalism?

bnarchives | The United States is often hailed as the world's largest 'free market'. But this 'free market' is also the world's largest penal colony. It holds over seven million adults – roughly five per cent of the labour force – in jail, in prison, on parole and on probation. Is this an anomaly, or does the 'free market' require massive state punishment? Why did the correctional population start to rise in the 1980s, together with the onset of neoliberalism? How is this increase related to the upward redistribution of income and the capitalization of power? Can soaring incarceration sustain the unprecedented power of dominant capital, or is there a reversal in the offing? The paper examines these questions by juxtaposing the ‘Rusche thesis’ with the notion of capitalism as a mode of power. The empirical analysis suggests that the Rusche thesis holds under the normal circumstances of ‘business as usual’, but breaks down during periods of systemic crisis. During the systemic crises of the 1930s and the 2000s, unemployment increased sharply, but crime and the severity of punishment, instead of rising, dropped perceptibly.

the last gasp of american democracy

truthdig |  This is our last gasp as a democracy. The state’s wholesale intrusion into our lives and obliteration of privacy are now facts. And the challenge to us—one of the final ones, I suspect—is to rise up in outrage and halt this seizure of our rights to liberty and free expression. If we do not do so we will see ourselves become a nation of captives.

The public debates about the government’s measures to prevent terrorism, the character assassination of Edward Snowden and his supporters, the assurances by the powerful that no one is abusing the massive collection and storage of our electronic communications miss the point. Any state that has the capacity to monitor all its citizenry, any state that has the ability to snuff out factual public debate through control of information, any state that has the tools to instantly shut down all dissent is totalitarian. Our corporate state may not use this power today. But it will use it if it feels threatened by a population made restive by its corruption, ineptitude and mounting repression. The moment a popular movement arises—and one will arise—that truly confronts our corporate masters, our venal system of total surveillance will be thrust into overdrive. 

The most radical evil, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, is the political system that effectively crushes its marginalized and harassed opponents and, through fear and the obliteration of privacy, incapacitates everyone else. Our system of mass surveillance is the machine by which this radical evil will be activated. If we do not immediately dismantle the security and surveillance apparatus, there will be no investigative journalism or judicial oversight to address abuse of power. There will be no organized dissent. There will be no independent thought. Criticisms, however tepid, will be treated as acts of subversion. And the security apparatus will blanket the body politic like black mold until even the banal and ridiculous become concerns of national security. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

walt disney: family planning

openculture | In 1951, Carl Djerassi, a chemist working in an obscure lab in Mexico City, created the first progesterone pill. Little did he know that, a decade later, 1.2 million women would be “on the Pill” in America, exercising unprecedented control over their reproductive rights. By 1967, that number would reach 12.5 million women worldwide. It was fortuitous timing, seeing that the post-war global population was starting to surge. It took 125 years (1800-1925) for the global population to move from one billion to two billion (see historical chart), but only 35 years (1925-1960) for that number to reach three billion. Non-profits like the Population Council were founded to think through emerging population questions, and by the mid-1960s, they began publishing a peer-reviewed journal called Studies in Family Planning and also working with Walt Disney to produce a 10-minute educational cartoon. You can watch Family Planning above.

walt disney: the story of menstruation

openculture | Throughout the past two years, we’ve shown you various Walt Disney propaganda films from World War II. Now it’s time to visit a very different mid-1940s Disney production – The Story of Menstruation. From 1945 to 1951, Disney produced a series of educational films to be shown in American schools. How to bathe an infant. How not to catch a cold. Why you shouldn’t drive fast. Disney covered these subjects in its educational shorts, and then eventually got to the touchy subject of biology and sexuality. If there was ever a company suited to talk about “vaginas” in the 1940s in a copacetic way, it was Disney. Hence The Story of Menstruation. The film runs 10 minutes, combining scientific facts with hygiene tips, and it was actually commissioned by the International Cello-Cotton Company, the forerunner of Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kotex products. An estimated 105 million students watched the film in sex ed classes across the US. And, according to Tinker Belles and Evil Queens, the film remained a mainstay in schools until the 1960s. It’s now in the public domain. And you’ll find it in the Animation section of our collection of 475 Free Online Movies.

consumed: inside the belly of the beast | Consumerism has become the cornerstone of the post-industrial age. Yet how much do we know about it and what it is doing to us? Using theories of evolutionary psychology to underpin a bold narrative of our times, this film takes a whirlwind tour through the "weird mental illness of consumerism", showing how our insatiable appetite has driven us into "the jaws of the beast".

"By the age of 20, the average westerner has seen one million commercial messages." With this kind of exposure, it is impossible to live in the modern world without being a product of consumer society. Now psychologists, like Geoffrey Miller, are saying that it is distorting the way we interact with the world and each other: "We've all kind of gone collectively psychotic". Evolutionary theory says we are indistinct from animals and so have two primary subconscious motives: survival and attracting a mate. As modern society has taken care of our survival, "we spend more time thinking about social and sexual issues than any animal has had the luxury of doing in the history of life on Earth".

According to scientists this has led to an obsession with 'prestige' or our rank in society, something that in consumer society has become synonymous with consumption. "The principal way you're supposed to display your mental traits now is through your purchases." Manipulating our innermost impulses, capitalism has begun to not only reflect our evolutionary tendencies but also to amplify and distort them. Creating an environment in which consumption takes the place of traditional human interaction, "consumers are neglecting to develop the crucial naturally romantic traits, saying instead, 'I've got a Porsche out front'". Yet this capitalist system, which fits so neatly with our animalistic traits, is not making us happy.

One of the great conundrums is that in an age of plenty, addictions, depression and mental health issues are becoming part of everyday conversation. The obsession with our place in society has led us to, "squander this golden age on silly anxieties." In the long term the individual and psychological cost of modern culture is relatively small. The environmental cost on the other hand could ultimately destroy life, as we know it. "It's becoming increasingly clear that the kind of growth rates that we are getting around the world are not sustainable", says Tim Cooper, a professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption.

Measures taken to try and mitigate the impact of modern life, such as transition towns, recycling, alternative power and enduring design are not dealing with the root cause, only attacking symptoms. So for the moment we must endure this strange society that is making us all so unhappy. Our only hope is that it may only be a temporary illness: "I actually think runaway consumerism is a temporary historical glitch. I think we'll grow out of it." Exploring how human psychology has moulded the society that is slowly destroying the world and us, 'Consumed' takes us inside both the apocalyptic and redemptive sides of the human condition.

Monday, January 06, 2014

evolutionary psychology: "fashionable ideology" or "new foundation"?

human-nature | At the end of The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote: "In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation. . . Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history."1 It took more than 100 years but, in the closing decades of the 20th century, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection began to be applied to minds, brains and behaviour. "Evolutionary psychology" argues that the mind is a collection of special-purpose software designed by natural selection to solve the problems of survival and reproduction that faced our ancestors -- problems such as finding food, picking suitable habitats, attracting mates, learning a language and navigating the social world.2

However, this new development is not without its critics. Alas, Poor Darwin -- a collection of essays edited by Hilary and Steven Rose -- bring these critics together to argue that evolutionary psychology is a "fashionable ideology" whose adherents are "fundamentalists" who promote "simple-minded", "socially irresponsible", "culturally pernicious" explanations of human behaviour that rest on "shaky empirical evidence, flawed premises and unexamined political presuppositions".

Many chapters in Alas, Poor Darwin repeat the accusations that evolutionary psychology is reductionist, determinist and adaptationist -- "accusations" that have been made and dealt with many times before.3 Other chapters misidentify evolutionary psychology with the theory of memes,4 or criticise versions of evolutionary psychology that no one in the field would recognise or defend.5 For these reasons, this review will not look at each chapter in detail.6 Instead, after briefly introducing evolutionary psychology, the review will look at the Roses' five main "arguments against" it, and will then consider the Roses' account of the politics of the discipline.

dennett and the darwinizing of free-will

human-nature |  It has ruefully been noted that we have lots of philosophy professors, but precious few genuine philosophers. But at least, we also have Daniel Dennett. He wrote the best book on evolution by a non-biologist (Dennett, 1995), and has been a tireless, effective, and creative advocate for incorporating natural selection into the purview of philosophers and thinkers generally. Dennett is not just a philosophy professor, but a genuine philosopher, much to our benefit. In Freedom Evolves, he takes on the question of free will and determinism, one of the oldest and most intransigent of conundrums, transporting the discussion where it belongs, into the realm of Darwinian thought.

And conundrum it is. Thus, to my mind (and I believe I write this of my own free will!), there can be no such thing as free will for the committed scientist, in his or her professional life. Thus, science itself presupposes that every phenomenon has a cause. We may speak of “spontaneous combustion” or a “spontaneous abortion” or even “spontaneous applause,” but in each of these cases, some cause is more than likely… it is essential to a sober, naturalistic worldview. “Spontaneous” is simply another way of saying: “cause unknown,” not “uncaused.” Similarly, we are unlikely to describe a stone as moving “spontaneously,” not only because it lacks any possible organs of volition, but because it is entirely subject to the laws of physics. What, then, about a jellyfish that moves “spontaneously”? A rhinoceros? A person?

At the same time, I suspect that we all - even the most hard-headed materialists - live with an unspoken hypocrisy: even as we assume determinism in our intellectual pursuits and professional lives, we actually experience our subjective lives as though free will reigns supreme. In our heart of hearts, we know that in most ways that really count (and many that don’t), we have plenty of free will, and so do those around us. Inconsistent? Yes, indeed. But like the denial of death, it is a useful inconsistency, and perhaps even one that is essential. (Nor is the free will/determinism debate unique in this regard. We might add Hume’s demonstration of the impossibility of proving causation itself, and Berkeley’s questioning of the existence of an objective world. In many ways, we are all forced to live with a degree of absurdity, if only because to acknowledge it in our daily lives is to admit yet more absurdity!)

Some philosophers and neurobiologists have sought to rescue free will - as a scientific prospect, not merely an emotional necessity - by enlisting quantum indeterminism, arguing that the physics of very small particles (or waves, or whatever) introduces room for “genuine” spontaneity. I’m not in the least persuaded by such sleight of hand, and neither, it seems, is Dennett. By what logic could free will derive from genuinely random emanations, or chaotic functions, any more than from the most rigid billiard-ball expectations of rigid determinism? As the monarch of Siam noted in The King and I, “it’s a puzzlement.” 

The difficulty goes deeper yet, penetrating the realm of personal responsibility, punishment, and praise. If, for example, to do something “of our own free will” means that it was utterly uncaused, then how can we be blamed, or praised, for it? But if caused, by previous events, neurochemical necessities, ionic perturbations of voltage differentials across cell membranes, then the same question applies.

the evolution and function of cognition

human-nature | An evolutionary thrust in psychology began with Darwin and Romanes with their respective classics on the expression of the emotions (Darwin, 1872) and the evolution of mentality throughout the animal kingdom (Romanes, 1882, 1883, 1888), was maintained in comparative psychology through to the mid-20th century, and then practically died in the first cognitive revolution. Aside from Bruner and Piaget, influential figures associated with the classical computational model of the mind, such as Chomsky and Fodor, took the view that evolutionary theory was of scant importance to cognitive science. In the past decade or so, an evolutionary perspective has re-emerged in psychology as a programme that terms itself 'Evolutionary Psychology', associated with names such as Buss, Cosmides, Pinker and Tooby. This is, I suggest, an unfortunate appropriation to a relatively narrow set of concerns and claims about the nature of the 'human mind' of what should be a generic term for the application of evolutionary thinking in psychology. One can be an evolutionary psychologist without being an Evolutionary Psychologist.

Goodson is such a psychologist. He has produced a quite monumental work in a remarkably short space that defies adequate summary in the much shorter space appropriate here. I shall, instead, be somewhat critical of what I take to be a flawed masterpiece. I feel that I open myself somewhat to a charge of arrogance in doing this, and that I am perhaps being somewhat mean-spirited here. So let me start out by saying that this is a 'must read' piece of work. I would take positive issue with the cover blurb that sees it as 'appropriate as a textbook for undergraduate and postgraduate courses'. It is much more than that. It is a most thoughtful consideration of how mental abilities could be explored from an evolutionary perspective. It draws on over 100 years of empirical work. It will reintroduce students of any level to the contributions of Brentano, Ebbinghaus, Wundt, Thorndike, Jennings, Sherrington, Kohler, Lashley, Bartlett, Lorenz, and Thorpe, amongst others: work they may nowadays be unaware of. It will contextualize the evolutionary relevance of work by more contemporary contributors such as Gordon Bower, Donald Broadbent, Michael Posner, and Martin Seligman, again amongst others whom they should know about. It is 'appropriate to undergraduates' only if you have put them through a thorough grounding in contemporary work on the psychology of learning, a thorough introduction to the history of psychology, additional courses in philosophy and cognitive science, and then posed to them the question: 'So, what does it all mean, then?'. It is after having posed that question that Goodson's book becomes a 'must read'.

First, Goodson begins at the beginning of evolution, outlining the issues that a form of organisation that is alive has to contend with. Here we get introduced to his emphasis on the 'function of cognition'. Living things only continue to 'do their thing' within relatively tight margins beyond which they cannot maintain their equilibrium and consequently revert to being non-living things. Hence his 'Fundamental Postulate of Process':
All overt or covert activity serves the immediate function of impelling the organism toward equilibrium (p.46)
This might appear to be stating the obvious until one asks 'how does this happen?'. And it is dealing with this question that primarily occupies Goodson in this book. To restore something to equilibrium requires, crudely, that an organism can detect what it is currently lacking and how it can then rectify the situation. An organism has to become a focussed time-tripper, continuously monitoring its internal situation and prioritising the information it immediately receives from its environment so as to behave in a way that will restabilize its internal situation on this dimension, and thus reprioritise its interests in the information it subsequently picks up. And to do that it has to evolve appropriate detection abilities so as to detect what Gregory Bateson called 'information': 'the difference that makes a difference'.

is consciousness universal?

scientificamerican |  I grew up in a devout and practicing Roman Catholic family with Purzel, a fearless and high-energy dachshund. He, as with all the other, much larger dogs that subsequently accompanied me through life, showed plenty of affection, curiosity, playfulness, aggression, anger, shame and fear. Yet my church teaches that whereas animals, as God's creatures, ought to be treated well, they do not possess an immortal soul. Only humans do. Even as a child, to me this belief felt intuitively wrong. These gorgeous creatures had feelings, just like I did. Why deny them? Why would God resurrect people but not dogs? This core Christian belief in human exceptionalism did not make any sense to me. Whatever consciousness and mind are and no matter how they relate to the brain and the rest of the body, I felt that the same principle must hold for people and dogs and, by extension, for other animals as well.

It was only later, at university, that I became acquainted with Buddhism and its emphasis on the universal nature of mind. Indeed, when I spent a week with His Holiness the Dalai Lama earlier in 2013 [see “The Brain of Buddha,” Consciousness Redux; Scientific American Mind, July/August 2013], I noted how often he talked about the need to reduce the suffering of “all living beings” and not just “all people.” My readings in philosophy brought me to panpsychism, the view that mind (psyche) is found everywhere (pan). Panpsychism is one of the oldest of all philosophical doctrines extant and was put forth by the ancient Greeks, in particular Thales of Miletus and Plato. Philosopher Baruch Spinoza and mathematician and universal genius Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who laid down the intellectual foundations for the Age of Enlightenment, argued for panpsychism, as did philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, father of American psychology William James, and Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin. It declined in popularity with the rise of positivism in the 20th century.

As a natural scientist, I find a version of panpsychism modified for the 21st century to be the single most elegant and parsimonious explanation for the universe I find myself in. There are three broad reasons why panpsychism is appealing to the modern mind.

the dark side of emotional intelligence?

theatlantic |  Some of the greatest moments in human history were fueled by emotional intelligence. When Martin Luther King, Jr. presented his dream, he chose language that would stir the hearts of his audience. “Instead of honoring this sacred obligation” to liberty, King thundered, “American has given the Negro people a bad check.” He promised that a land “sweltering with the heat of oppression” could be “transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice,” and envisioned a future in which “on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

Delivering this electrifying message required emotional intelligence—the ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions. Dr. King demonstrated remarkable skill in managing his own emotions and in sparking emotions that moved his audience to action. As his speechwriter Clarence Jones reflected, King delivered “a perfectly balanced outcry of reason and emotion, of anger and hope. His tone of pained indignation matched that note for note.”

 Recognizing the power of emotions, another one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century spent years studying the emotional effects of his body language. Practicing his hand gestures and analyzing images of his movements allowed him to become “an absolutely spellbinding public speaker,” says the historian Roger Moorhouse—“it was something he worked very hard on.” His name was Adolf Hitler.

Since the 1995 publication of Daniel Goleman’s bestseller, emotional intelligence has been touted by leaders, policymakers, and educators as the solution to a wide range of social problems. If we can teach our children to manage emotions, the argument goes, we’ll have less bullying and more cooperation. If we can cultivate emotional intelligence among leaders and doctors, we’ll have more caring workplaces and more compassionate healthcare. As a result, emotional intelligence is now taught widely in secondary schools, business schools, and medical schools.

Emotional intelligence is important, but the unbridled enthusiasm has obscured a dark side. New evidence shows that when people hone their emotional skills, they become better at manipulating others. When you’re good at controlling your own emotions, you can disguise your true feelings. When you know what others are feeling, you can tug at their heartstrings and motivate them to act against their own best interests.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

can plants talk?

thescientist |  It’s every plant’s worst nightmare. In the fall of 2009, in a Victorian greenhouse at the Cruickshank Botanic Garden at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, Zdenka Babikova sprinkled vegetation-devouring aphids on eight broad bean plants and sealed each plant’s leaves and stems inside a clear plastic bag. This was no act of malice, though; it was all in the name of science. 

Babikova, a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen, knew that aphid-infested bean plants release odorous chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air to warn their neighbors, which respond by emitting different VOCs that repel aphids and attract aphid-hunting wasps. What she didn’t know was whether the plants were also sounding the alarm beneath the soil surface.

Five weeks earlier, Babikova filled eight 30 cm–diameter pots with soil containing Glomus intraradices, a mycorrhizal fungus that connects the roots of plants with its hyphae, the branching filaments that make up the fungal mycelium. Like a subterranean swap meet, these hyphal networks facilitate the trade of nutrients between fungi and plants. In each pot, Babikova planted five broad bean plants: a “donor” plant surrounded by four “receiver” plants. One of the receivers was allowed to form root and mycorrhizal contact with the donor; another formed mycorrhizal contact only, and two more had neither root nor mycorrhizal contact. Once the mycorrhizal networks were well established, Babikova infested the donor plants with aphids and sealed each plant in a separate plastic bag that allowed for the passage of carbon dioxide, water, and water vapor but blocked larger molecules, such as the VOCs used for airborne communication.

Four days later, Babikova placed individual aphids or parasitoid wasps in spherical choice chambers to see how they reacted to the VOC bouquets collected from receiver plants. Sure enough, only plants that had mycorrhizal connections to the infested plant were repellent to aphids and attractive to wasps, an indication that the plants were in fact using their fungal symbionts to send warnings.1

can plants think?

npr | In his latest piece for The New Yorker, Michael Pollan discusses the scientific controversy regarding the field of "plant neurobiology," and whether plant intelligence exists. Some plants, he writes, can hear caterpillars chomping on a neighbor's leaves. Others display altruistic behavior towards kin, restraining their growth to allow relatives to thrive. But is any of that evidence of intelligence?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

simply pathetic....,

3rd way vampire squids signal their continuing committment to black mimetic cover

WaPo |  It isn’t often that the swearing-in of a new mayor of New York draws national television attention, but then, it isn’t every day that you see a mayor sworn in by a former president of the United States with a prospective presidential candidate also on the stage.

So there was plenty of symbolism and more than the usual amount of politics attached to the formal inauguration of Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday. Issues such as the prospects of liberalism in an ideologically divided country, the future shape of the Democratic Party and the political ambitions of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton all played out in front of New York’s City Hall.

De Blasio, now one of the nation’s most liberal elected officials, delivered an unabashedly progressive inaugural speech that closely tracked the themes of his “tale of two cities” campaign. It was the kind of speech not often heard in national politics since Bill Clinton redefined the Democratic Party as New Democrats.

The new mayor, who was the unexpected winner of his party’s primary and then won a landslide victory in November, sought to disabuse those who thought he would scale back his liberal ambitions once he faced the challenges of governing. To the crowd that sat huddled against the cold and to those watching on cable TV, he said: “Let me be clear: When I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.”

Outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg squeezed into a front row that included both Clintons and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). De Blasio, who had run explicitly on a platform of changing course from the Bloomberg years, briefly thanked the man who has run the city for a dozen years, first as a Republican and later as an independent. 

But that was mostly perfunctory. For the rest of his address, he promised to push New York to the left, as quickly and aggressively as his political skills will allow him. “We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love,” he said. “And so today, we commit to a new, progressive direction in New York.”

It is that impulse that will make de Blasio, the first Democratic mayor of the city in two decades, perhaps the nation’s most closely watched mayor in the coming months.

evangelicals in the midst of a calvinist revival...,

NYTimes | For those who are sad that the year-end news quizzes are past, here’s one to start 2014: If you have joined a church that preaches a Tulip theology, does that mean a) the pastor bakes flowers into the communion wafers, b) the pastor believes that flowers that rise again every spring symbolize the resurrection, or c) the pastor is a Calvinist? 

As an increasing number of Christians know, the answer is “c.” The acronym summarizes John Calvin’s so-called doctrines of grace, with their emphasis on sinfulness and predestination. The T is for man’s Total Depravity. The U is for Unconditional Election, which means that God has already decided who will be saved, without regard to any condition in them, or anything they can do to earn their salvation. 

The acronym gets no cheerier from there. 

Evangelicalism is in the midst of a Calvinist revival. Increasing numbers of preachers and professors teach the views of the 16th-century French reformer. Mark Driscoll, John Piper and Tim Keller — megachurch preachers and important evangelical authors — are all Calvinist. Attendance at Calvin-influenced worship conferences and churches is up, particularly among worshipers in their 20s and 30s. 

In the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, the rise of Calvinism has provoked discord. In a 2012 poll of 1,066 Southern Baptist pastors conducted by LifeWay Research, a nonprofit group associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, 30 percent considered their churches Calvinist — while twice as many were concerned “about the impact of Calvinism.” 

Calvinism is a theological orientation, not a denomination or organization. The Puritans were Calvinist. Presbyterians descend from Scottish Calvinists. Many early Baptists were Calvinist. But in the 19th century, Protestantism moved toward the non-Calvinist belief that humans must consent to their own salvation — an optimistic, quintessentially American belief. In the United States today, one large denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, is unapologetically Calvinist. 

But in the last 30 years or so, Calvinists have gained prominence in other branches of Protestantism, and at churches that used to worry little about theology. In 1994, when Mark Dever interviewed at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church in Washington, the hiring committee didn’t even ask him about his theology. 

“So I said, ‘Let me think about what you wouldn’t like about me, if you knew,’ ” Mr. Dever recalled. And he told them that he was a Calvinist. “And I had to explain to them what that meant. I didn’t want to move my wife and children here and lose the job.” 

Mr. Dever, 53, said that when he took over in 1994, about 130 members attended on Sundays, and their average age was 70. Today, the church gets about 1,000 worshipers, with an average age of 30. And while Mr. Dever tends not to mention Calvin in his sermons, his educated audience, many of whom work in politics, knows, and likes, what it is hearing.

the gop's darwinism...,

WaPo |  Has the Republican big tent evolved into a house of worship?

For several years, the two major parties have been moving gradually toward opposite poles: Democrats growing more liberal and secular, Republicans becoming more conservative and religious. But a survey out this week shows just how far and how fast the GOP has gone toward becoming a collection of older, white, evangelical Christians defined as much by religion as by politics. 

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center recently released the results of an extensive poll done in 2013 on Americans’ views of evolution. Like other polls, it shows that overall views are stable: Sixty percent believe that humans have evolved over time, the same as said so in 2009. 

But within those results, there was a huge shift in the beliefs of Republicans: 48 percent say that humans have existed in our present form from the beginning, compared with 43 percent who say we have evolved, either with or without help from a supreme being. That’s an 11-percentage-point swing from just four years ago, when 54 percent believed in evolution. 

Forget climate-change skepticism: Republicans have turned, suddenly and sharply, against Darwin.
How to explain this most unexpected mutation? Given the stability of views on evolution (Gallup polling has found responses essentially the same over the past quarter-century), it’s unlikely that large numbers of Republicans actually changed their beliefs. More likely is that the type of people willing to identify themselves as Republicans increasingly tend to be a narrow group of conservatives who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible — or partisans who regard evolution as a political question rather than one of science. 

The Pew poll also found that the share of Republicans who attend worship services weekly or more is 52 percent, up five points from 2009, and that the proportion who self-identify as conservative is 71 percent, up six percentage points from 2009. The party remains overwhelmingly white, at 86 percent, and the number of those ages 50 to 64 and 65 and older climbed seven points and two points, respectively.

growing partisan differences in belief about evolution...,

HuffPo | One in three Americans doesn't believe in evolution, according to new survey results from the Pew Research Center.

The results, released Monday in report on views about human evolution, show that 33 percent of Americans think "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time."

White evangelical Protestants were most likely to not believe in evolution, with two-thirds saying humans have existed in their current form since the beginning of time. Half of black Protestants said the same. Only 15 percent of mainline Protestants agreed.

Views among the general population have remained roughly the same since Pew last surveyed on evolution in 2009, although the gap between Republicans and Democrats on the issue has grown. Currently, 43 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats believe in human evolution, while in 2009, 54 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats held that view.

Friday, January 03, 2014

european right-wingers don't hate europe, but I suspect they hate banksters posing as "europe"...,

NYTimes | It may seem bizarre that two far-right, nationalist politicians — Marine Le Pen of France and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands — have reached across borders to form a Pan-European group dedicated to weakening the European Union. Their aim is a transnational political alliance that would compete in the May elections for the European Parliament; once in power, they would cooperate to try to rein in the power of Brussels. 

Are these politicians, who share an opposition to immigration and a skepticism about the free flow of labor and capital across the Continent, simply hypocritical opportunists, as many Europeans of the left believe? Perhaps. 

But in fact, since the early 20th century, Europe’s far-right nationalists have often united in search of an “other” to oppose, exclude, resist, restrict or oppress — historically, minorities like Jews, homosexuals, the disabled, Roma, Marxists and, more recently, Arabs, Africans and Asians. What emerged after World War I was a philosophy that could be called Euro-fascist. The most extreme proponents, of course, were the Nazis: Notwithstanding their doctrine of racial supremacy, even they formed alliances with Mussolini’s Italy and the militarists of Japan and found keen fascist collaborators in nations they invaded. 

This vision did not die with the end of World War II. Transnational links among right-wing parties, based on common fears of minorities and immigrants, endured. The right-wingers, while speaking different languages, borrowed ideals, strategies, slogans and theorists from one another. The National Front in France, founded in 1972 by Ms. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, imitated the symbol and political tactics of the original neo-Fascist party, the Italian Social Movement, which was formed in 1946 by admirers of Mussolini and, in 1979, coordinated with like-minded French and Spanish parties to compete (with little success) in the first popular elections for the European Parliament.

So when observers marvel about the “new” nationalist parties of Europe, they are capturing only part of the truth. These right-wingers mistrust or even detest the Continent’s core institutions — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Parliament — but they are perfectly happy to join up with extremists in other countries to weaken those institutions. 

Which raises a question: What makes the European Union so appealing as a target?

paleotard frames contraction/collapse as a "security" problem....,

stratfor | When I wrote about the crisis of unemployment in Europe, I received a great deal of feedback. Europeans agreed that this is the core problem while Americans argued that the United States has the same problem, asserting that U.S. unemployment is twice as high as the government's official unemployment rate. My counterargument is that unemployment in the United States is not a problem in the same sense that it is in Europe because it does not pose a geopolitical threat. The United States does not face political disintegration from unemployment, whatever the number is. Europe might.

At the same time, I would agree that the United States faces a potentially significant but longer-term geopolitical problem deriving from economic trends. The threat to the United States is the persistent decline in the middle class' standard of living, a problem that is reshaping the social order that has been in place since World War II and that, if it continues, poses a threat to American power.

The Crisis of the American Middle Class
The median household income of Americans in 2011 was $49,103. Adjusted for inflation, the median income is just below what it was in 1989 and is $4,000 less than it was in 2000. Take-home income is a bit less than $40,000 when Social Security and state and federal taxes are included. That means a monthly income, per household, of about $3,300. It is urgent to bear in mind that half of all American households earn less than this. It is also vital to consider not the difference between 1990 and 2011, but the difference between the 1950s and 1960s and the 21st century. This is where the difference in the meaning of middle class becomes most apparent.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the median income allowed you to live with a single earner -- normally the husband, with the wife typically working as homemaker -- and roughly three children. It permitted the purchase of modest tract housing, one late model car and an older one. It allowed a driving vacation somewhere and, with care, some savings as well. I know this because my family was lower-middle class, and this is how we lived, and I know many others in my generation who had the same background. It was not an easy life and many luxuries were denied us, but it wasn't a bad life at all.

Someone earning the median income today might just pull this off, but it wouldn't be easy. Assuming that he did not have college loans to pay off but did have two car loans to pay totaling $700 a month, and that he could buy food, clothing and cover his utilities for $1,200 a month, he would have $1,400 a month for mortgage, real estate taxes and insurance, plus some funds for fixing the air conditioner and dishwasher. At a 5 percent mortgage rate, that would allow him to buy a house in the $200,000 range. He would get a refund back on his taxes from deductions but that would go to pay credit card bills he had from Christmas presents and emergencies. It could be done, but not easily and with great difficulty in major metropolitan areas. And if his employer didn't cover health insurance, that $4,000-5,000 for three or four people would severely limit his expenses. And of course, he would have to have $20,000-40,000 for a down payment and closing costs on his home. There would be little else left over for a week at the seashore with the kids.

And this is for the median. Those below him -- half of all households -- would be shut out of what is considered middle-class life, with the house, the car and the other associated amenities. Those amenities shift upward on the scale for people with at least $70,000 in income. The basics might be available at the median level, given favorable individual circumstance, but below that life becomes surprisingly meager, even in the range of the middle class and certainly what used to be called the lower-middle class.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Jeremy Jackson: Ocean Apocalypse | January 7, 2013

What are the impacts of overfishing? (10:55)

What if the world's garbage, sewage and toxic waste had been piled up on land instead of dumped in the ocean? (17:40)

Global Warming: Are the penguins and polar bears doomed? (28:22)

How much will the sea level rise in the 21st Century? (41:07)

Can we avoid Ocean Apocalypse? (54:35)

Jeremy Jackson is Senior Scientist Emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution and Professor of Oceanography Emeritus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He studies human impacts on the oceans and the ecology and paleoecology of tropical and subtropical marine ecosystems. Jackson is author of more than 150 scientific publications and eight books. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and American Association for the Advancement of Science. Jackson has received numerous prizes and awards including most recently the Peterson Medal from Harvard University, the Paleontological Medal, the BBVA International Prize in Ecology and Conservation, and the Society for Conservation Biology LaRoe Award for Outstanding Contributions to Conservation Biology. Jackson's work on historical overfishing and the collapse of coastal ecosystems was chosen by Discover magazine as the outstanding scientific achievement of 2001. Island Press just published his latest book, Shifting Baselines: The Past and Future of Ocean Fisheries, in August 2011.

Jeremy Jackson's presentation, "Ocean Apocalypse" is the College's academic year 2012-2013 International Lecture. The lecture is sponsored by the Naval War College Foundation in memory of Edgar W.B. Fairchild, a former Foundation Trustee, through the generosity of Mr. Fairchild's estate.

peak oil is here: broken economies and resource wars are pending...,

guardian | A former British Petroleum (BP) geologist has warned that the age of cheap oil is long gone, bringing with it the danger of "continuous recession" and increased risk of conflict and hunger.
At a lecture on 'Geohazards' earlier this month as part of the postgraduate Natural Hazards for Insurers course at University College London (UCL), Dr. Richard G. Miller, who worked for BP from 1985 before retiring in 2008, said that official data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), US Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), among other sources, showed that conventional oil had most likely peaked around 2008.

Dr. Miller critiqued the official industry line that global reserves will last 53 years at current rates of consumption, pointing out that "peaking is the result of declining production rates, not declining reserves." Despite new discoveries and increasing reliance on unconventional oil and gas, 37 countries are already post-peak, and global oil production is declining at about 4.1% per year, or 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) per year:
"We need new production equal to a new Saudi Arabia every 3 to 4 years to maintain and grow supply... New discoveries have not matched consumption since 1986. We are drawing down on our reserves, even though reserves are apparently climbing every year. Reserves are growing due to better technology in old fields, raising the amount we can recover – but production is still falling at 4.1% p.a. [per annum]."
Dr. Miller, who prepared annual in-house projections of future oil supply for BP from 2000 to 2007, refers to this as the "ATM problem" – "more money, but still limited daily withdrawals." As a consequence: "Production of conventional liquid oil has been flat since 2008. Growth in liquid supply since then has been largely of natural gas liquids [NGL]- ethane, propane, butane, pentane - and oil-sand bitumen."

Dr. Miller is co-editor of a special edition of the prestigious journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, published this month on the future of oil supply. In an introductory paper co-authored with Dr. Steve R. Sorrel, co-director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex in Brighton, they argue that among oil industry experts "there is a growing consensus that the era of cheap oil has passed and that we are entering a new and very different phase."

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

a coherent picture of the sequence of decisions which resulted in the anthropocene catastrophe at Fukushima

GE/TEPCO lowered the Fukushima coast by 10 metres to make it cheaper to pump cooling water to the proposed power plant.

GE/TEPCO built the power plant over an aquifer and on ground with a fault line present
GE/TEPCO built the basements below sea level.
The quake diverted the underground river of the aquifer through the basements

Being below sea level the emergency generators and switchgear were doomed to be flooded.

Cooling failed, the reactors melted down, the 70 holes in each reactor bottom (design of control rod entry) meant fuel and water leaked from bottom of reactors.

GE/TEPCO decided to put emergency generators and switchgear in basements. to save money in 1966.

400 tons of water must be poured into reactors per day to keep them  cool. 

This water enters the underground river and flows to the sea. 

Fuel is too radioactive to approach and remove and will remain so for years. 

The flow of radioactive water to the sea will continue. 

No nuclear expert on earth knows the disposition of the fuel inside and outside the reactors. 

Japan and the world must live with GE/TEPCO's beady-eyed fuckery for a long time to come. 

There is insufficient knowledge and no technology which will stop the consequences of GE/TEPCO's beady-eyed fuckery within my lifetime.

GE/TEPCO has issued a river of lies and withheld a mountain of information for the past 2.5 years about the monumental extent of its obscene anthropocene fuckery. 

GE/TEPCO is spouting abject nonsense about freezing the soil to stop the flow of water to the sea

GE/TEPCO cannot freeze enough and go down deep enough to freeze the aquifer.

If GE/TEPCO had disclosed all the facts at its disposal in March 2011, the people of Japan and the world would have turned with very great anger against GE/TEPCO

It is not an accident that the Abe government is re-turning Japan into the land of the Black Sun.

what's wrong with TED?

Guardian | In our culture, talking about the future is sometimes a polite way of saying things about the present that would otherwise be rude or risky.

But have you ever wondered why so little of the future promised in TED talks actually happens? So much potential and enthusiasm, and so little actual change. Are the ideas wrong? Or is the idea about what ideas can do all by themselves wrong?

I write about entanglements of technology and culture, how technologies enable the making of certain worlds, and at the same time how culture structures how those technologies will evolve, this way or that. It's where philosophy and design intersect.

So the conceptualization of possibilities is something that I take very seriously. That's why I, and many people, think it's way past time to take a step back and ask some serious questions about the intellectual viability of things like TED.

So my TED talk is not about my work or my new book – the usual spiel – but about TED itself, what it is and why it doesn't work.

The first reason is over-simplification.

an evolutionary biologist discusses chernobyl and fukushima...,