Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crime That Cannot Succeed...,

Guardian | Israel's decision to launch its devastating attack on Gaza on a Saturday was a "stroke of brilliance", the country's biggest selling paper Yediot Aharonot crowed: "the element of surprise increased the number of people who were killed". The daily Ma'ariv agreed: "We left them in shock and awe".

Of the ferocity of the assault on one of the most overcrowded and destitute corners of the earth, there is at least no question. In the bloodiest onslaught on blockaded Gaza since it was captured and occupied by Israel 41 years ago, at least 310 people were killed and more than a thousand reported injured in the first 48 hours alone.

As well as scores of ordinary police officers incinerated in a passing-out parade, at least 56 civilians were said by the UN to have died as Israel used American-supplied F-16s and Apache helicopters to attack a string of civilian targets it linked to Hamas, including a mosque, private homes and the Islamic university. Hamas military and political facilities were mostly deserted, while police stations in residential areas were teeming as they were pulverised.

As Israeli journalist Amos Harel wrote in Ha'aretz at the weekend, "little or no weight was apparently devoted to the question of harming innocent civilians", as in US operations in Iraq. Among those killed in the first wave of strikes were eight teenage students waiting for a bus and four girls from the same family in Jabaliya, aged one to 12 years old.

Anyone who doubts the impact of these atrocities among Arabs and Muslims worldwide should switch on the satellite television stations that are watched avidly across the Middle East and which - unlike their western counterparts - do not habitually sanitise the barbarity meted out in the name of multiple wars on terror.

Acute Betrayal...,

NYTimes | There is a teaching in the Talmud that says an individual who comes before God after death will be asked a series of questions, the first one of which is, “Were you honest in your business dealings?” But it is the Ten Commandments that have weighed most heavily on the mind of Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles in light of the sins for which Bernard L. Madoff stands accused.

“You shouldn’t steal,” Rabbi Wolpe said. “And this is theft on a global scale.”

The full scope of the misdeeds to which Mr. Madoff has confessed in swindling individuals and charitable groups has yet to be calculated, and he is far from being convicted. But Jews all over the country are already sending up something of a communal cry over a cost they say goes beyond the financial to the theological and the personal.

Here is a Jew accused of cheating Jewish organizations trying to help other Jews, they say, and of betraying the trust of Jews and violating the basic tenets of Jewish law. A Jew, they say, who seemed to exemplify the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes of the thieving Jewish banker.

So in synagogues and community centers, on blogs and in countless conversations, many Jews are beating their chests — not out of contrition, as they do on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, but because they say Mr. Madoff has brought shame on their people in addition to financial ruin and shaken the bonds of trust that bind Jewish communities.

In addition to theft, the Torah discusses another kind of stealing, geneivat da’at, the Hebrew term for deception or stealing someone’s mind. “In the rabbinic mind-set, he’s guilty of two sins: one is theft, and the other is deception,” said Burton L. Visotzky, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Most Tragic Irony.....,

The Independent | How easy it is to snap off the history of the Palestinians, to delete the narrative of their tragedy, to avoid a grotesque irony about Gaza which – in any other conflict – journalists would be writing about in their first reports: that the original, legal owners of the Israeli land on which Hamas rockets are detonating live in Gaza.

That is why Gaza exists: because the Palestinians who lived in Ashkelon and the fields around it – Askalaan in Arabic – were dispossessed from their lands in 1948 when Israel was created and ended up on the beaches of Gaza. They – or their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren – are among the one and a half million Palestinian refugees crammed into the cesspool of Gaza, 80 per cent of whose families once lived in what is now Israel. This, historically, is the real story: most of the people of Gaza don't come from Gaza.

But watching the news shows, you'd think that history began yesterday, that a bunch of bearded anti-Semitic Islamist lunatics suddenly popped up in the slums of Gaza – a rubbish dump of destitute people of no origin – and began firing missiles into peace-loving, democratic Israel, only to meet with the righteous vengeance of the Israeli air force. The fact that the five sisters killed in Jabalya camp had grandparents who came from the very land whose more recent owners have now bombed them to death simply does not appear in the story.

Both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres said back in the 1990s that they wished Gaza would just go away, drop into the sea, and you can see why. The existence of Gaza is a permanent reminder of those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes to Israel, who fled or were driven out through fear or Israeli ethnic cleansing 60 years ago, when tidal waves of refugees had washed over Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and when a bunch of Arabs kicked out of their property didn't worry the world.

Well, the world should worry now. Crammed into the most overpopulated few square miles in the whole world are a dispossessed people who have been living in refuse and sewage and, for the past six months, in hunger and darkness, and who have been sanctioned by us, the West. Gaza was always an insurrectionary place. It took two years for Ariel Sharon's bloody "pacification", starting in 1971, to be completed, and Gaza is not going to be tamed now.

One Missing Word....,

The Independent | A nit-picker this week. And given the fact that we're all remembering human rights, the Palestinians come to mind since they have precious few of them, and the Israelis because they have the luxury of a lot of them.

And Lord Blair, since he'll be communing with God next week, might also reflect that he still – to his shame – hasn't visited Gaza. But the nit-picking has got to be our old friend United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. This, you'll recall, was supposed to be the resolution that would guide all future peace efforts in the Middle East; Oslo was supposed to have been founded on it and all sorts of other processes and summits and road maps.

It was passed in November 1967, after Israel had occupied Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Sinai and Golan, and it emphasises "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and calls for "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict".

Readers who know the problem here will be joined by those who will immediately pick it up. The Israelis say that they are not required to withdraw from all the territories – because the word "all" is missing and since the definite article "the" is missing before the word "territories", its up to Israel to decide which bits of the occupied territories it gives up and which bits it keeps.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Choice of a New Generation?

amateur genetic engineering at home

Physorg | Meredith L. Patterson, a computer programmer by day, conducts an experiment in the dining room of her San Francisco apartment on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008. Patterson is among a new breed of techno rebels who want to put genetic engineering tools in the hands of anyone with a smart idea. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering - a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories.

(AP) -- The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself.

Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering - a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories.

In her San Francisco dining room lab, for example, 31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.

"People can really work on projects for the good of humanity while learning about something they want to learn about in the process," she said.

So far, no major gene-splicing discoveries have come out anybody's kitchen or garage.

But critics of the movement worry that these amateurs could one day unleash an environmental or medical disaster. Defenders say the future Bill Gates of biotech could be developing a cure for cancer in the garage.

Many of these amateurs may have studied biology in college but have no advanced degrees and are not earning a living in the biotechnology field. Some proudly call themselves "biohackers" - innovators who push technological boundaries and put the spread of knowledge before profits.

In Cambridge, Mass., a group called DIYbio is setting up a community lab where the public could use chemicals and lab equipment, including a used freezer, scored for free off Craigslist, that drops to 80 degrees below zero, the temperature needed to keep many kinds of bacteria alive.

Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell, a 24-year-old who majored in biology in college, said amateurs will probably pursue serious work such as new vaccines and super-efficient biofuels, but they might also try, for example, to use squid genes to create tattoos that glow.

Cowell said such unfettered creativity could produce important discoveries.

"We should try to make science more sexy and more fun and more like a game," he said.

Observational Learning

Wikipedia | Observational learning (also known as: vicarious learning or social learning or modeling or monkey see, monkey do) is learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and, in the case of imitation learning, replicating novel behavior executed by others. It is most associated with the work of psychologist Albert Bandura, who implemented some of the seminal studies in the area and initiated social learning theory. It involves the process of learning to copy or model the action of another through observing another doing it. Further research has been used to show a connection between observational learning and both classical and operant conditioning.

There are 4 key processes of observational learning. 1.) Attention: To learn through observation, you must pay attention to another person's behavior and its consequences. 2.) Retention: Store a mental representation of what you have witnessed in your memory. 3.) Reproduction: Enacting a modeled response depends on your ability to reproduce the response by converting your stored mental images into overt behavior. 4.) Motivation: Finally, you are unlikely to reproduce an observed response unless you are motivated to do so. Your motivation depends on whether you get benefits from responding that action.

Many mistake observational learning with imitation. The two terms are different in the sense that observational learning leads to a change in behavior due to observing a model. This does not mean that the behavior exhibited by the model is duplicated. It could mean that the observer would do the opposite of the model behavior because he or she has learned the consequence of that particular behavior. Consider the case of learning what NOT to do. In such a case, there is observational learning without imitation.

Although observational learning can take place at any stage in life, it is thought to be particularly important during childhood, particularly as authority becomes important. The best role models are those a year or two older for observational learning. Because of this, social learning theory has influenced debates on the effect of television violence and parental role models. Bandura's Bobo doll experiment is widely cited in psychology as a demonstration of observational learning and demonstrated that children are more likely to engage in violent play with a life size rebounding doll after watching an adult do the same. However, it may be that children will only reproduce a model's behavior if it has been reinforced. This may be the problem with television because it was found, by Otto Larson and his coworkers (1968), that 56% of the time children's television characters achieve their goals through violent acts.

Monday, December 29, 2008

don't fix the economy - change it

The Star | Amid the discordant clash of solutions being served up to address the global financial crisis, a common refrain can be heard: Most global leaders and their economic advisers key their policy prescriptions to "sustained economic growth." The prevailing debate is how to get there most quickly. In Canada, how this debate plays out could bring down the government in a matter of weeks.

Unfortunately, it is the wrong debate. Neither the Conservative minority nor the opposition has proposed anything that will set Canada on a long-term path toward the kind of economy that will both provide for the well-being of Canadians and enhance and preserve the ecological community of which people are but one dependent part.

All eyes may now be on the kind of fiscal budget the Conservatives might produce next year, but a more essential budget also demands urgent attention: the global ecological budget. The financial crisis has brought into sharp focus the need to fundamentally change, not merely repair or rebuild, our economy. Because, quite simply, sticking with an economic model that is driving toward ecological catastrophe will kill us. So, it is essential to address the financial and ecological crises together.

The ecological budget, on which all life and, consequently, the human economy depends, is already in dramatic deficit. Why is this budget ultimately more important than the fiscal budget? Sept. 23, 2008, was Earth Overshoot Day. The period after Sept. 23 represents the time the human population causes an ecological deficit, using up the Earth faster than it can regenerate.

Every year, Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier. This moving date tells the story of a global environment rapidly losing its ability to support life: accelerating climate change; the loss of species and habitats; declining fisheries; the proliferation of ocean dead zones; diminishing freshwater resources; and more. Ecological overshoot is climate change on steroids.

the minority reality

There are two realities "out there" now competing for verification among those who think about national affairs and make things happen. The dominant one (let's call it the Status Quo) is that our problems of finance and economy will self-correct and allow the project of a "consumer" economy to resume in "growth" mode. This view includes the idea that technology will rescue us from our fossil fuel predicament -- through "innovation," through the discovery of new techno rescue remedy fuels, and via "drill, baby, drill" policy. This view assumes an orderly transition through the current "rough patch" into a vibrant re-energized era of "green" Happy Motoring and resumed Blue Light Special shopping.

The minority reality (let's call it The Long Emergency) says that it is necessary to make radically new arrangements for daily life and rather soon. It says that a campaign to sustain the unsustainable will amount to a tragic squandering of our dwindling resources. It says that the "consumer" era of economics is over, that suburbia will lose its value, that the automobile will be a diminishing presence in daily life, that the major systems we've come to rely on will founder, and that the transition between where we are now and where we are going is apt to be tumultuous.

My own view is obviously the one called The Long Emergency. (read more of James Howard Kunstler's Forecast for 2009)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

GOP Minstrelsy?

Washington Post | Former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell defended Saltsman and attacked the media.
"Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-elect Obama being the first African American elected president," Blackwell, who is black, said in a statement.

"I don't think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them," he said. "When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people."
Saltsman adopted a similar line yesterday, calling out the media for reporting on his holiday gift.
"Liberal Democrats and their allies in the media didn't utter a word about David Ehrenstein's irresponsible column in the Los Angeles Times last March. But now, of course, they're shocked and appalled by its parody on 'The Rush Limbaugh Show,' " Saltsman said in a statement, referring to the op-ed article that reportedly inspired the song lyrics.

"I firmly believe that we must welcome all Americans into our party and that the road to Republican resurgence begins with unity, not division. But I know that our party leaders should stand up against the media's double standards and refuse to pander to their desire for scandal," Saltsman added.
So right off the top, there are two things warranting direct consideration.
  1. The original Ehrenstein article in the LA Times linked above.
  2. The Shanklin/Limbaugh parody song allegedly based on the Ehrenstein article.
Was the Ehrenstein article irresponsible? Is the song a valid parody of the Ehrenstein article? What was Saltsman's motive for including the song in his gift to party members? Is there a double-standard at work here? Is Saltsman really a fine person as Ken Blackwell contends, simply misunderstood for publicly indulging lighthearted parody? Is Saltsman being singled out by the media in an effort to monetize scandal? Is Saltsman's behavior illustrative of the anti-Black sentiment that has animated a significant percentage of the GOP's base since the Nixon administration's electorally opportunistic employment of the southern strategy?

The Irresponsibility of Thomas Friedman

I'm not a big fan of Tom Friedman. Evidently, Tikkun is fed up with this superfluous windbag too.

Tikkun | In the introduction to his 2002 book that reprinted many of his columns on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11), Friedman boasts that he has “total editorial freedom to take whatever stance I want on an issue,” that no one but the copy editor sees his column before it is published, and that the publisher of the Times has never commented on anything he has written. “I am completely home alone,” he writes in his preface.

It shows. In his columns on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, especially in the first three or four years after Camp David, Friedman utilized this complete freedom from criticism and accountability (1) to make arguments, statements, and charges that had been repeatedly demonstrated to be factually wrong; (2) to make a number of assertions for which there was no evidence, as if they were so self-evident that no evidence was required; (3) to oversimplify and even, on occasion, vulgarize the issues; and (4) on several occasions to indulge in emotional diatribes that managed to be simultaneously unpersuasive and self-contradictory.

At least on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then, Friedman’s unbounded self-confidence in his own views is an unearned one, for he has not been seriously interested in learning in depth about the events in recent years, or in correcting his many errors or poorly-grounded arguments as new information and analyses became available. As a result, Friedman’s discussions of the breakdown of the peace process at Camp David and after, as well as his analyses of the causes of the Palestinian intifada, are neither intellectually respectable nor, given his great influence, morally responsible.

Speed Camera "Pimping"

Sentinel | As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county's Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.

Students from Richard Montgomery High School dubbed the prank the Speed Camera "Pimping" game, according to a parent of a student enrolled at one of the high schools.

Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.

"This game is very disturbing," the parent said. "Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.

The parent said that "our civil rights are exploited," and the entire premise behind the Speed Camera Program is called into question as a result of the growing this fad among students.

The Speed Camera Program was implemented in March of this year and used for the purpose of reducing traffic and pedestrian collisions in the county. Cameras are located in residential areas and school zones where the posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour or lower. A $40 citation is mailed to the owner of the car for violating the speed limit in these areas.
The punchline comes near the end of the story where a city councilman expresses his concern that this activity may undermine confidence in the integrity of the program. The fact of the matter is that the children have identified a fundamental and insurmountable weakness, exploited that weakness, and rendered "the program" functionally obsolete in the process. Time to go back to the drawing board and devise a less vulnerable scheme for passive municipal revenue generation.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fundamental Innovation....,

So, I've been asking some questions about innovation over at Spence's in response to his post The 21st Century Crisis of the Black Intellectual. As fate would have it, Ed Dunn wrote a stunning example of fundamental innovation in practice just a couple days ago. Responding to a Question About Google, Inc. Search Operation
I received a question regarding Google, Inc. search operation presented by their founders nearly 10 years ago and that document can be seen here. This is my response and “they” specifically means Google, Inc.:

I saw the holes in this presentation when I first read it nearly 10 years ago.

I do not believe they are scalable and their approach created tremendous amount of opportunity for me. Most of their approach is self-imposed overhead and an albatross they created that won’t be easy to remove when competing against us.

The primary component needed for a scalable search operation is giving web site operations the power to index themselves. I believe they believed too much in their own search algorithms due to personal arrogance. And this documented made the same mistake all the other search operations have done that I have not - they mistaken the ‘customer’ as the people who perform search (due to advertiser-orientated mentality) where I identified the customer as the web site operators who provides the content (due to an empowerment mentality).

In summary, they were arrogant to assume they could index/organize it all and better than the web site operators operating collectively and in self-interest. In fact, their pay-per-click system invalidates this outdated document because majority of their revenue is dependent on web site operators bidding on keywords and they (and other search operations) have yet to find a viable revenue model that support this document.

This goes directly to the heart of my recent post about economics which Mr. Dunn correctly and succinctly summarized thus;
This phenom also happened in the search/information retrieval industry where these complex text algorithms and AI patterns designed by these Phd grads are way out of touch of simple human context.

I find this observation to be interesting because it fundamentally explains why I feel to be the only one who can see the weakness in current search models and algorithms..
and underscores a broad intersection of complementary interests that could be expeditiously merged and served if folks put their heads together in just a little bit of discussion about collaboration.

US Police Get 'Pain Beam' Weapons

New Scientist | The research arm of the US Department of Justice is working on two portable non-lethal weapons that inflict pain from a distance using beams of laser light or microwaves, with the intention of putting them into the hands of police to subdue suspects.

The two devices under development by the civilian National Institute of Justice both build on knowledge gained from the Pentagon's controversial Active Denial System (ADS) - first demonstrated in public last year, which uses a 2-metre beam of short microwaves to heat up the outer layer of a person's skin and cause pain.

Like the ADS, the new portable devices will also heat the skin, but will have beams only a few centimetres across. They are designed to elicit what the Pentagon calls a "repel response" - a strong urge to escape from the beam.

A spokesperson for the National Institute for Justice likens the effect of the new devices to that of "blunt trauma" weapons such as rubber bullets, "But unlike blunt trauma devices, the injury should not be present. This research is looking to reduce the injuries to suspects," they say.

Existing blunt trauma weapons can break ribs or even kill, making alternatives welcome. Yet ADS has recorded problems too - out of several thousand tests on human subjects there were two cases of second-degree burns.

Afghan Warlords Get Little Blue Pills....,

Washington Post | The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes -- followed by a request for more pills.

For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won. While the CIA has a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency has prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country's roughest neighborhoods, according to officials directly involved in such operations.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sen. Inhofe: Paulson Made Martial Law Threats

Business and Media | At the time of the votes on the $700-billion bailout bill, which finally passed Oct. 4, there were dire warnings of calamity if the bill failed. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., said martial law would have to be enacted to keep public order if it didn’t pass. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala. said the aftermath would be comparable to the scenes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., revealed on “The Pat Campbell Show” on 1170 KFAQ, a talk radio station in Tulsa, Okla., where some of these ideas in Congress may have originated. He divulged details of a conference call with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson from mid-September, which may be behind why some members of Congress were warning of catastrophe.

“We had a conference call early on,” Inhofe said on Nov. 18. “It was on a Friday I think – a week and half before the vote on Oct. 1. So it would have been the middle … what was it – the 19th of September, we had a conference call. In this conference call – and I guess there’s no reason for me not to repeat what he said, but he said – he painted this picture you just described. He said, ‘This is serious. This is the most serious thing that we faced.’”

According to Inhofe, Paulson said this would be far worse than the Great Depression - a time when unemployment was at 24.9 percent and U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) suffered steep declines.

“He said, ‘This is going to be far worse than the Great Depression in the ’30s,’” Inhofe said. “And all these things – he was very descriptive of exactly what would happen if, if we didn’t buy out these toxic assets which he abandoned the day after he got the money.”

However, nearly a month and a half later, Paulson changed course on his bailout plan. Instead of buying up troubled assets as he originally proposed, the former head of the investment bank Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) announced on Nov. 12 the Treasury would instead on injecting capital directly into banks, upsetting some lawmakers in Congress. Paulson had to defend this decision before the House Financial Services Committee on Nov. 18.

Inhofe also appeared on CNN’s Nov. 18 “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and said even as senior member of the U.S. Senate he just found out only $60 billion of the initial $350 billion amount remains. He also said he feared the amount of power Paulson has to do with the $410 billion remaining.

“I have introduced a bill and it’s called Senate Bill 3683,” Inhofe said. “And, it would freeze any further spending. And if you look at what’s just left now and the $350 billion that would come up, I’m very much disturbed because there is a process to enter into that, to access that $350 billion. That means if we’re not here in session, then it’ll be done unilaterally by the Treasury Department.”

“When in the history of America has one unelected person had the control of a massive amount of money like this – total control to do with whatever he wishes?” Inhofe asked.

The Day the Earth Went Broke

This is excerpted from a very well-written sales pitch for precious metals. Well worth reading down to the paragraph below which precedes the pitch to buy silver and gold.
So it makes me wonder. How bad is it out there? How many other Ponzi schemes are there besides Madoff’s? How many more financial psychopaths are ginning up fake account statements? How many little old ladies are there out there who think they have money in an account, but it’s all just some big scam? How many more bad banks? How many bad brokerage houses? How many more bad companies with bad stock? How many more bad government entities with bad finances and worse bonds? How many bad pension funds?

It drives home the point of wondering whom you can trust. And how bad is it with even the U.S. government? Do you really trust government statistics, like the one for the rate of inflation or unemployment? And how about the numbers in the national budget accounts? We’re spending how much? Does money even have any meaning to the people who have the power to appropriate it? Our whole national accounting process has turned into an intergenerational Ponzi scheme.

Really, our $10 trillion national debt is not enough? We are looking at trillion-dollar deficits in just the next year or two. How long can it last? And whom can you believe in any position of authority? So Bernard Madoff had a “system” for investing? And Ben Bernanke has a “system” for managing the monetary policy of the country, right? Hank Paulson has a “system” for managing the Treasury accounts? And Congress and the president — G.W. Bush, and after him B.H. Obama — have a “system” for spending the nation’s limited wealth on important things, yes?
Begs so many questions. For example, how does the devastation resulting from Madoff's fraud compare with the WTC devastation precipitating the GWOT? If as I suspect, Madoff is just the visible tip of a much larger iceberg, what level of alert is appropriate in response to what will ensue as other such schemes unfold over the next few weeks and months? (and no, I don't think buying silver and gold at this late hour is the answer)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Inner-world Struggle..,

Christmas 1926. Prieure. Gurdjieff, in reflecting on his productivity in regard to writing, realizes that "in reality at all times strictly corresponded in its duration with the length and quality of the, so to say, 'degree of contact,' between my consciousness and the suffering proceeding in me on behalf of my mother and wife."

He had written before with Olga de Hartmann. Dr. Stjoernval, and C.S. Nott sitting beside him, they acting as a sort of negative pole in the 'battery' set up. But with his wife and mother Gurdjieff suffered unconsciously. And so he elicits the use of unconscious suffering as well as conscious.

While "watching the children around the Christmas tree and their unrestrained joy," Gurdjieffsays he comes to the recognition "of the full possibility of attaining his aims through the forces of the inner-world struggle."

Pages 84 and 119, Struggle of the Magicians William Patrick Patterson

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gas Impasse....,

Washington Post | Russia and Ukraine appear to be heading for a new collision over natural gas that could disrupt supplies to Europe this winter, with Russia threatening to stop selling the fuel to Ukraine on Jan. 1 if it does not repay more than $2 billion in debt.

Russia called on European nations Tuesday to pressure Ukraine to guarantee the delivery of Russian natural gas to the continent. The appeal, made by Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko, came as negotiators prepared to meet in Moscow in an attempt to resolve the politically tinged standoff.

Russia briefly reduced its supply of gas to Ukraine in March and shut it down for a few days in January 2006. But the latest disagreement could be more severe because the global financial crisis has battered both countries and left them hungry for funds.

Any disruption could affect Europe because Russia supplies as much as a quarter of the gas the continent uses, most of it delivered through pipelines in Ukraine. Analysts say Ukraine could divert gas intended for Europe to satisfy its own needs if Moscow carries out its threat to shut off the supply to Ukraine.

"Europe must be concerned by the decisions made by Ukraine," not by Russia, Shmatko said at a news conference. "Russia will ship and export gas in quantities stipulated in our agreements."

He added that Europe should "exert required pressure" to ensure "guaranteed gas transit."

Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly, Gazprom, set the Jan. 1 deadline for payment of Ukraine's gas debts at a news conference last week, saying Ukrainian officials had informed the company they could not raise any more funds for gas for the rest of the year.

But Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said the country had already paid Russia for gas consumed in the summer and autumn, and the national gas company, Naftogaz, said additional payments were planned.

Putin says 'cheap gas era' ending

BBC News | The era of cheap gas is coming to an end, Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has told ministers from the world's major gas-exporting countries.

Mr Putin said the cost of extracting gas was rising sharply, therefore "the era of cheap energy resources, of cheap gas, is of course coming to an end".

The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) meeting in Moscow has agreed a charter and plans for a permanent base.

Some observers say the GECF may develop into an Opec-style producers' cartel.

This speculation increased with the news that the charter had been adopted and that GECF leaders had agreed to establish permanent offices in Doha, Qatar.

Mr Putin had earlier said Russia was ready to set up the headquarters in St Petersburg and give it full diplomatic status.

"A new organisation has been born today, said Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko.

As the head of the government of the world's biggest gas exporter, Mr Putin's word carries weight both with producers and consumers, the BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow. Concerns over energy security mean a formal organisation of gas exporting countries would be deeply unpopular in Europe and the US.

It is feared that such an organisation could hold a monopoly on world supply and set prices to suit its own needs.

The countries attending are Algeria, Bolivia, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. Equatorial Guinea and Norway are attending as observers.

It is not ruled out that the current position of the Ukrainian side... could lead to disruptions in the stability of gas supplies

As well as the possibility of formalising the organisation, issues including possible future cuts in gas production and the effect of lower oil prices are also likely to be on the agenda, our correspondent says.

Industry analysts say technical differences between the oil and gas markets - including longer-term contracts for gas exports - make it unlikely for now that gas exporters will set Opec-style quotas.

Officials at the meeting stressed they were not trying to set up a price-fixing cartel.

Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said participant countries wanted to build a solid organisation, "which has in its foundation the same principles that gave birth to Opec".

But he added: "It's not a cartel. We are defending the interests of our countries, that's all."

Generational Causus Belli....,

My man Spence has been holding it down this week on the subject of youth rioting in Europe and some of what's motivating the current wave of unrest. David Green explored some of this same territory with an American focus at Counterpunch.
I cannot think of a single time in American history where one generation left their children such a stunningly large and complete a mess to clean up.

The fiscal part of it is astonishing, though only the most visible element. A wrecked economy that may sink below the depths of the Great Depression is just the latest contribution. But even before that, economists have been predicting that today’s young people will be the first generation in American history to be less well off than their parents. That doesn’t even account for the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, which has been almost completely neglected for thirty years, so that we could party now and pay later. It also doesn’t include bills encumbered as Baby Boomers begin to retire and demand their promised Social Security and Medicare. These would be almost impossible to meet by virtue of demographic and rising healthcare factors alone. But we might have had a chance at doing so had we set aside the revenues coming in all these last decades while Boomers were working, for use at the time when the payers would became the payees, en masse. But, of course, that would have meant raising taxes or spending less – and we can’t have that! – since we’ve been using that money instead to pay for general budget expenses.

Or, should I say, to not pay for general budget expenses? Could you imagine parents so reckless that they would party themselves into a drunken stupor by stealing the funds from their children? I’m not talking about burning through the inheritance, which, after all, is the parents’ money to do what they want with. No, I’m talking about spending the money the kids have saved themselves for their own college education, or for a down-payment on a house. Outrageous, eh? Well, guess what? That’s exactly what the Baby Boomers did. Because they wanted all the government services they got, plus the tax cuts that put a little extra jingle in their pockets, plus the luxury of being so stupid and ill-informed that they didn’t have to grapple with the questions of where that tax ‘cut’ money was really going, or how utterly bogus were the administration’s claims about its policies, especially concerning the hugely expensive Iraq war. Put it all together and it equates to living well beyond your means. And when you do that, there are only so many ways to deal with the difference in what you’re spending versus what you’re bringing in. Cue the kids here.

The math is astonishing. The current amount of the national debt is a staggering 10.667 trillion dollars, and climbing fast (indeed, it has already risen substantially since I typed that number). Let’s leave aside for the moment that it is rising every year with each annual deficit – which some people now think could be a dramatically record-breaking trillion dollars next year – added to the pile. And let’s also leave aside the fact that each of those dollars are borrowed, and are thus accruing additional liability every day in the form of interest. If we just take the current debt, and divide it by the number of payroll workers in America (about 150 million), that means each worker’s share of the existing debt is $71,113. Now, just for the sake of argument, let’s say a worker has a job pulling down fifteen bucks per hour in pay. At that rate, they would have to work 4,741 hours to do nothing but pay off the amount that has been borrowed in their names, without their assent, and just to cover only what has been loaned so far to date – not counting new additions to the pile each day, and not counting accruing interest. At forty hours a week, that’s 2.37 years of someone’s life. In fact, that’s 2.37 years of 150 million people’s lives. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine going to someone and saying “I’m going to force you to work over two years of your life in some job you probably don’t like, so that I don’t have to”? Because that’s exactly what this represents: Baby Boomers refusing to live within their means and desperately turning to their own children to facilitate the parents’ irresponsibility. Parents stealing more than two years of their children’s lives, to add two years of play time to their own. Unreal.
Interestingly, there is as yet no current mobilization along generational lines in the U.S. such as we're witnessing in Europe. I suspect we can easily understand why this is the case. I suspect that as we descend further into the devastating economic crisis of the Greatest Depression that Barack Obama cannot halt, there will be tens of millions of Americans who will be ruthlessly thrust aside. As their houses are foreclosed, as their jobs are lost, as they are forced to declare bankruptcy and watch their communities collapse, they will retreat even further into irrational fantasy. It will be very interesting to see what glittering and self-destructive illusions the dopamine hegemony - our corporate advertisers, our charlatan preachers, our television news celebrities, our self-help gurus, our entertainment industry and our political demagogues—have in store for American youth who have yet to face their own rude awakening. We ain't seen nothing yet.....,

Liar Apes...,

NYTimes | When considering the behavior of putative scam operators like Bernard “Ponzi scheme” Madoff or Rod “Potty Mouth” Blagojevich, feel free to express a sense of outrage, indignation, disgust, despair, amusement, schadenfreude. But surprise? Don’t make me laugh.

Sure, Mr. Madoff may have bilked his clients of $50 billion, and Governor Blagojevich, of Illinois, stands accused of seeking personal gain through the illicit sale of public property — a United States Senate seat. Yet while the scale of their maneuvers may have been exceptional, their apparent willingness to lie, cheat, bluff and deceive most emphatically was not.

Deceitful behavior has a long and storied history in the evolution of social life, and the more sophisticated the animal, it seems, the more commonplace the con games, the more cunning their contours.

In a comparative survey of primate behavior, Richard Byrne and Nadia Corp of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland found a direct relationship between sneakiness and brain size. The larger the average volume of a primate species’ neocortex — the newest, “highest” region of the brain — the greater the chance that the monkey or ape would pull a stunt like this one described in The New Scientist: a young baboon being chased by an enraged mother intent on punishment suddenly stopped in midpursuit, stood up and began scanning the horizon intently, an act that conveniently distracted the entire baboon troop into preparing for nonexistent intruders.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

US warns Russia against selling missiles to Iran

Brattleboro Reformer | U.S. officials said Monday that they want answers from Russia on whether it is selling advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran, a move the U.S. insists could threaten American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. A senior military intelligence official said that while Moscow has sent out conflicting responses to reports on the sale of long-range S-300 missiles, the U.S. believes it is taking place. However, it appears that no equipment has yet been delivered to Iran, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Russia's state arms export agency said Monday it is supplying Iran with defensive weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, but did not say whether they include sophisticated long-range S-300 missiles.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the U.S. is seeking clarification from Russia.

"We have repeatedly made clear at senior levels of the Russian government that we would strongly oppose the sale of the S-300," Wood said. "As the U.S. government has said before, this is not the time for business as usual with the Iranian government."

Iran currently has an antiquated missile defense system, dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, so the Russian sale would provide Tehran a much longer range, more mobile and lethal capability. With a range of roughly 75 miles, the Russian system would allow Iran to reach coalition forces operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, if the missiles were moved near the borders.

Both the U.S. and Israel have strongly opposed the sale, saying that supplying such an advanced anti-aircraft system to Iran would shift the military balance of power in the Middle East. It also would make any strike at Iran's first nuclear power plant — which Russia is helping to build — more difficult.

There have been indications that Russia intends to supply only defensive weapons to Iran, thus keeping in line with U.N. Security Council resolutions that impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment and prohibit supplying Iran with materials that could contribute to its nuclear program.

Officials acknowledge that the sale of the S-300 system is not prohibited by the resolution.

Time for a Global Science Corps

The Scientist | In 1882, Iranian scholar and political activist Sayyid al-Afghani made a prescient argument that there is no "European science" or "Muslim science." Those who say there is, he went on, "have not understood that science is that noble thing that has no connection with any nation and is not distinguished by anything but itself." 1 Today, in a world increasingly fractured by national and cultural differences, we scientists should be seeking ways to promote science as a universal activity with the potential to advance public welfare.

One way to do this - and to help reduce economic and social disparities between nations - is to provide opportunities for well-trained scientists to work at those few places in developing countries where excellent scientific work is already possible. That's the goal of the Global Science Corps (GSC), a new program to build scientific capacity in the developing world. The GSC aspires to place scientists and engineers, referred to as GSC fellows, at research facilities in developing countries for one-year terms to collaborate with local partners.

Such efforts need not be drudgery or self-sacrifice; they can be productive intellectual adventures. Imagine spending a postdoctoral year in Botswana collaborating with local chemists and ecologists to study the largest inland delta in the world. Consider a sabbatical year in Chile as a member of an international network of scientists conducting applied research on complex engineering systems. Think about collaborating as a senior scientist with Ugandan colleagues in biochemistry and bioinformatics as they study antimalarial drug resistance and malaria vaccines.

Astronomy in Brazil, epidemiology in Vietnam, and molecular biology in Cameroon are among the opportunities that will be available. The hope is that with the right funding, five to 10 fellows could be selected next year, with growth after that. Placements will be custom-designed to suit the strengths and needs of fellow and host. Typically, fellowships will emphasize research and include some lecturing and teaching. The program will encourage and support long-term collaboration through electronic communication, possible exchange visits, and the establishment of a GSC alumni network.

Since I introduced the idea in 2001 at the Nobel Jubilee Symposium in Stockholm, the GSC concept has gradually gained attention and support from organizations and individuals around the world. It moved toward implementation when it found an administrative home with the Science Initiative Group (SIG), a small, international team of leading scientists. SIG also works in informal partnership with the World Bank to manage the Millennium Science Initiative (MSI), which supports competitively selected centers of scientific excellence in developing countries. MSI centers will be among GSC host institutions, and SIG, with its extensive international network of contacts, will help make appropriate placements for GSC fellows.

The Knack

Monday, December 22, 2008

All roads lead out of Afghanistan

Asia Times | It seems almost inevitable that Moscow and Tehran will join hands. In all likelihood, they may have already begun doing so. The Central Asian countries and China and India will also be closely watching the dynamics of this grim power struggle. They are interested parties insofar as they may have to suffer the collateral damage of the great game in Afghanistan. The US's "war on terror" in Afghanistan has already destabilized Pakistan. The debris threatens to fall on India, too.

Most certainly, the terrorist attack on Mumbai last month cannot be seen in isolation from the militancy radiating from the Afghan war. Even as the high-level Russian-Indian Working Group on terrorism met in Delhi on Tuesday and Wednesday, another top diplomat dealing with the Afghan problem arrived in the Indian capital for consultations - Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mahdi Akhounjadeh.

Speaking in Moscow on Tuesday, chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, General Nikolai Makarov, just about lifted the veil on the geopolitics of the Afghan war to let the world know that the Bush administration was having one last fling at the great game in Central Asia. Makarov couldn't have spoken without Kremlin clearance. Moscow seems to be flagging its frustration to Obama's camp. Makarov revealed Moscow had information to the effect that the US was pushing for new military bases in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Coincidence or not, a spate of reports has begun appearing that Russia is about to transfer the S-300 missile defense system to Iran. S-300 is one of the most advanced surface-to-air missile systems capable of intercepting 100 ballistic missiles or aircraft at once, at low and high altitudes within a range of over 150 kilometers. As long-time Pentagon advisor Dan Goure put it, "If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran. This is a system that scares every Western air force."

It is hard to tell exactly what is going on, but Russia and Iran seem to be bracing for a countermove in the event of the Obama administration pressing ahead with the present US policy to isolate them or cut them out from their "near abroad".

greek youth violence could be contagious...,

IHT | Firebombs and breaking glass, tear gas and burning cars. The images from Greece this month were enough to put the fear of youth into the hearts of European leaders.

That dread was palpable in France when President Nicolas Sarkozy abruptly delayed for one year a plan to overhaul France's high schools, after students from Bordeaux to Brittany took to the streets in protest.

Those demonstrations haven't turned violent yet. But French history, and the example of Greece, suggests they might. At least that is what people like Laurent Fabius, a Socialist Party leader, are saying on French radio.

"What we see in Greece is not out of the realm of possibility in France," Fabius said on Europe 1. "When you have such an economic depression, such social despair, all it takes is a match."

An editorial in the daily newspaper Libération said the decision to delay the education law - which would change schedules and academic requirements for the last three years of lycée, or high school - was purely defensive. "One senses among the team in power a hesitation, a dread of riots, a fear of explosion," wrote Didier Pourquery.

The rapid rise in unemployment among people under age 25, particularly in southern Europe, is one concern. In Spain, for instance, youth unemployment shot up from 18.4 percent in August 2007 to 28.1 percent in October 2008. The average jobless rate for young people in Italy, Greece and France is well above the average for the European Union, according to Eurostat, the Luxembourg agency that collects EU statistics.

"All these events have at their core a sense among youth that their lives are not going anywhere, and they have nothing to lose," said Ken Dubin, a visiting associate professor at University Carlos III in Madrid. But economics alone doesn't explain the restlessness in universities and high schools. Students, after all, have no jobs to lose.

India will have to reduce energy consumption by 20%

Economic Times | Some sections view the current economic meltdown as a direct fall-out of consumption exceeding money supply. Power policy makers of the country seem to have stuck on the analogy to caution energy consumption in urban India.

“In fact, we need to expand energy consumption in this country, mainly to the two-thirds of our population who have scarce or no access to electricity, and non-biomass fuels,” said Planning Commission principal adviser (energy) Surya P Sethi. India’s per capita consumption of power is 20% the world average, 4% that of the US, and 28% that of China.

“To achieve a desirable human development index growth, the present power consumers will have to cut their usage by 20%, by which growth may come down by a percentage point or two”. Speaking at the panel discussion on sustainable electricity in India, at Pan IIT, an IIT alumni conference, at the Indian institute of technology Madras on Saturday, he said the situation was potentially explosive unless we invest talent, technology and innovation in equitable allocation of basic resources like energy, water and land.To achieve 20% energy conservation we need to increase the energy efficiency of our appliances by 20%, he said.

“Theft happens 90% in urban industrial lines, and not in rural areas, as many of us have misconceived,” Mr Sethi said. “As electricity is stolen only to be consumed, the basic problem is a supply-demand mismatch.” According to AES corporation director Sanjeev Agarwal, the three main issues hindering the advancement of power projects in India are land acquisition, environmental clearance and evacuation infrastructure.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Swindler's List

Counterpunch | In terms of financial and psychological impact, Bernard Madoff's $50 billion heist certainly ranks as a major ethnic cleansing here in America, a hugely traumatic event for American Jewry. Of course Madoff had clients of every creed and nation, but he made a specialty of trolling for Jewish money. I asked a Jewish woman I know here in California if any in her circle had taken a hit. She looked at me tremulously, shaking her head, on the edge of tears. Though no one was in immediate earshot, she whispered, “They kept telling me to put my money with Madoff. At that time the entry level was $250,000. I dodged the bullet. Some of my friends didn’t. They’ve lost everything. This is Kristallnacht Two.” Her fear and horror would scarcely have been diminished if she’d heard what a perfectly nice young person had remarked to me earlier, apropos the Madoff affair: “Now the rich people will know what it’s like.”

"‘It’s an atomic bomb in the world of Jewish philanthropy,’ Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, told Anthony Weiss and Gabrielle Birkner of The Forward newspaper. ‘There’s going to be fallout from this for years to come.’ The collapse of the investment firm of Bernard Madoff has opened a black hole at the center of the tight knit circles of wealthy Jews who socialize and do business together, and who, year after year, support Jewish causes… ”
Watching how this saga unfolds in the media will prove most edifying. Madoff has been handled VERY gingerly here-to-date. Think about what that means. He has absolutely devastated a lot of people and organizations. One would imagine that such an act would get him violently tarred, feathered, and strung up ASAP. The fact of the matter, however, is that given the magnitude of what his organization did, it's inevitably true that what we read now as the extent of the devastation - is really only the tip of the iceberg. Madoff will continue to receive kid glove treatment because if subjected to aggressive interrogation and rough handling, there's no telling how far reaching and extensive the rot he epitomizes could prove to be. Shake Madoff hard and watch the Swindler's List further metastasize through an even larger expanse of the financial system.

Motive IS 20/20

Washington Post | Madoff played to two of our most serious weaknesses as investors and human beings.

As investors, we love to believe in market wizards who hold the secret to making serious money. In fact, there's no such secret, but admitting it is like abandoning a childhood faith. Faith propels the money-management business, despite the evidence that managers rarely beat the market indexes, over time. We especially love a fatherly wizard who's close to his children, plays golf, supports caring charities and lays expensive carpets on his office floor.

As human beings, we love status symbols and, to those who knew him, Madoff was status on wheels. Investing with him proved your wealth, position and general superiority to the poor slobs bobbing around on the fringe. His investors believed they were earning steady monthly increases of 1 percent or 2 percent, even when markets went bad. Who would dream of vetting such a prize?
Pam Martens is quoted at Counterpunch as saying; Of course many of them thought Madoff’s famous model was dubious. After all, how could the laws of financial gravity be defied, year after year, producing an unending yield (for the fortunate) of 10 to 12 per cent annual returns on capital invested. But the thought came with a knowing wink, that Bernie was scoring these huge returns, by being in the know, running on the inside track, using insider knowledge. As my father pointed out to me many times, many people have a bit of larceny in their bloodstream, and it’s what con men trade on, as Gogol imperishably described in Dead Souls.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Unconventional "Strategic Shocks" in Defense Strategy

This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. As such, it is in the public domain, and under the provisions of Title 17, United States Code, Section 105, it may not be copyrighted.

Pages 31-33

Violent, Strategic Dislocation Inside the United States. As a community, the defense establishment swears to protect and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. DoD's role in combating "domestic enemies" has never been thoughtfully examined. Thus, there is perhaps no greater source of strategic shock for DoD than operationalizing that component of the oath of service in a widespread domestic emergency that entails rapid dissolution of public order in all or significant parts of the United States.

While likely not an immediate prospect, this is clearly a "Black Swan" that merits some visibility inside DoD and the Department of Homeland Security. To the extent events like this involve organized violence against local, state, and national authorities and exceed the capacity of the former two to restore public order and protect vulnerable populations, DoD would be required to fill the gap. This is largely uncharted strategic territory.

Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security. Deliberate employment of weapons of mass destruction or other catastrophic capabilities, unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters are all paths to disruptive domestic shock.

An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home. Already predisposed to defer to the primacy of civilian authorities in instances of domestic security and divest all but the most extreme demands in areas like civil support and consequence management, DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States.

Further, DoD would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multistate or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance.

A whole host of long-standing defense conventions would be severely tested. Under these conditions and at their most violent extreme, civilian authorities, on advice of the defense establishment, would need to rapidly determine the parameters defining the legitimate use of military force inside the United States. Further still, the whole concept of conflict termination and/or transition to the primacy of civilian security institutions would be uncharted ground. DoD is already challenged by stabilization abroad. Imagine the challenges associated with doing so on a massive scale at home.


Any concern that the economic crisis would soften the resolve of the Obama administration to deal with the sad state of the environment was swept away today by the choice of Harvard physicist John Holdren to be presidential science advisor, and Oregon State marine biologist Jane Lubchenco to head the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Both have battled industry opposition to climate initiatives.

Along with Steve Chu as Secretary of Energy they should form a powerful block of scientists in the Obama administration. It will almost certainly be the most influence science has had in the White House since the Eisenhower administration.

But we don't have much time. Let me tell you what no one else is saying publicly: every step we take to improve the environment will soon be wiped out by population growth. The fact is that we are already beyond a sustainable population. We can't keep talking in terms of reducing the rate of growth.

That's the second derivative. What's New

Friday, December 19, 2008

War College warns military must prep for unrest

Phoenix Business Journal | A new report by the U.S. Army War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks.

“Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,” said the War College report.

The study says economic collapse, terrorism and loss of legal order are among possible domestic shocks that might require military action within the U.S.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned Wednesday of economy-related riots and unrest in various global markets if the financial crisis is not addressed and lower-income households are hurt by credit constraints and rising unemployment.

U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., both said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson brought up a worst-case scenario as he pushed for the Wall Street bailout in September. Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, said that might even require a declaration of martial law, the two noted.

Nuke-U-Ler Slide Rule

The ABC-M1A1 RADIAC Calculator is used by the US Army to determine the dose rates and doses to personnel after a nuclear explosion. It is the military version of the "Radiation Dosage Calculator" developed by William Orr.

Former US admiral: Don't fear Iran

Jerusalem Post | Israel is one of the strongest countries in the Middle East and needs to stop giving in to a "fear factor" with regard to the prospect of a nuclear Iran, Adm. (ret.) William Fallon, the former commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

In Israel for a regional security conference at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, Fallon told the Post that he could not understand why Iran would even contemplate using nuclear weapons against Israel unless the country wanted to be destroyed.

"Do they wish to go away?" he asked, insinuating that a nuclear attack on Israel would elicit a devastating response.

"They are not nearly as strong as their rhetoric indicates," Fallon said of Iran. "They are not particularly strong militarily outside their own internal entity, and they have huge economic issues and political instability. Their nuclear capability might give them something to feel consolation in."

Fallon abruptly stepped down from the command of CENTCOM in March after Esquire magazine portrayed him as being opposed to President George W. Bush's Iran policy, describing him as a lone voice against military action aimed at halting the Iranian nuclear program. Today, he is a fellow at the MIT Center for International Studies.