Wednesday, October 31, 2012

turning natural material resources into garbage via manufactured demand...,

thestoryofbottledwater | The Story of Bottled Water, released on March 22, 2010 (World Water Day) employs the Story of Stuff style to tell the story of manufactured demand—how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. Over five minutes, the film explores the bottled water industrys attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. The film concludes with a call to take back the tap, not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all.

these humans and the essential water cycle...,

thescientist | A massive fish die-off in the Des Moines River this summer wasn’t just local news. An initial body count of 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon attracted the attention of the national media—and raised concern among conservationists around the world.

Indeed, the Des Moines die-off was not an isolated event. Fish biologists in Nebraska dealt with the deaths of thousands of dead sturgeon, catfish, and carp, and officials in Illinois reported dead large- and small-mouth bass and channel catfish. The cause isn’t a mystery. At least 62 percent of the contiguous United States experienced moderate to exceptional drought this summer. Flows of major Midwestern rivers hit record lows. In some places, such as Illinois’ Aux Sable Creek, the largest habitat for the state-endangered greater redhorse fish, the water dried up completely. For those streams, rivers, and lakes that remained, temperatures were abnormally warm, like tepid bathwater. Warm water can be lethal outright to some fish species. It also fosters diseases that weaken or kill others. Furthermore, warm water holds less oxygen than cool water, so an overheated stream can literally suffocate its inhabitants.

This ongoing dilemma is bigger than just one or two exceptionally warm summers, and it is more complex than the effects of a warming climate. To an ecologist, it is clear that human modifications of the landscape play as large a role in these piscine disasters as rising global temperatures.

Broken connections
For millennia, the hydrologic cycle has simply worked, with water circulating through the air and ground in ways that support all life on Earth. Water evaporates from oceans and lakes, falling back to the earth as rain and snow. This same water percolates through the surface of the earth into underground aquifers. It is cooled and filtered in the process, gradually re-emerging in seeps and springs that flow into the planet’s streams and rivers, and back into its oceans and lakes.

In times of heat and drought, slow incursion of cool ground water counteract the effects of rising air temperature on our lakes and streams, sustaining surface water temperatures favorable to a diversity of aquatic life. But in the past decade, something seems to have happened to this natural temperature regulation, resulting in fish die-offs that are increasing in magnitude and frequency.

It seems that the very plumbing of our nation’s rivers, lakes, and streams is broken. The natural hydrologic connectivity of landscapes has been ruptured, blocked, and re-routed in innumerable ways—by dams, roads, buildings, agriculture, and more.

sandy flushes some toxic abscesses...,

huffpo | Raw sewage, industrial chemicals and floating debris filled flooded waterways around New York City on Tuesday.

Left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the toxic stew may threaten the health of residents already dealing with more direct damages from the disaster.

"Normally, sewer overflows are just discharged into waterways and humans that generate the sewage can avoid the consequences by avoiding the water," said John Lipscomb of the clean water advocacy group Riverkeeper. "But in this case, that waste has come back into our communities."

One particular concern is the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, which abuts a 1.8 mile canal that was recently designated a Superfund cleanup site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency due to a legacy of industrial pollution and sewage discharges.

While a storm surge of up to 11 feet had been predicted, the confluence of Sandy and a full-moon high tide exceeded expectations: Waters rose a record 13 feet in New York Harbor.

Judith Enck, regional administrator for the EPA region that includes New York, told The Huffington Post that preparations for such a pollution event are difficult regardless of how accurate the weather forecast.
"Little can be done in the hours or days in advance of major storms that were experienced last night," said Enck. "Instead, multi-year improvements need to be made. The situation illustrated the need to clean up urban waters and the benefits of a comprehensive Superfund cleanup."

The best officials could do was urge residents to steer clear of the contaminated waters.

Late Tuesday morning, City Councilmember Brad Lunder, who serves the neighborhoods around the Gowanus Canal, sent an email message to his constituents.

"If you live near the canal, do not touch standing water in the area, or any sediment or debris left by Gowanus flood-waters," he wrote. "After the storm, the EPA and DEP are committed to work together to conduct any sampling needed to address potential issues of toxicity created by the flooding."

Unfortunately, said Linda Mariano of Gowanus, people in her neighborhood didn't have Internet service Tuesday morning to retrieve the email. Before she had read his note, Mariano was walking the streets near the canal scoping out the damage. She was surrounded by families, including young children, doing the same.
A similar post-Sandy scene played out at New York City's other Superfund site, Newtown Creek, a waterway that forms the border between Brooklyn and Queens.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

exploitation of arctic resources WILL happen...,

spiegel | September 16, 2012 was a historic date. According to the statistics of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the US, Arctic sea ice shrank to cover an area of just 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles) on that day. It was the lowest coverage measured since the beginning of satellite observations in 1979 -- some 760,000 square kilometers lower than the previous record minimum in 2007.

The extent of the shrinkage indicates that the Arctic is changing at a breathtaking pace; a new ocean is opening up.

At the same time, interest in both shorter shipping routes through the far north and Arctic mineral deposits is growing. Norway is one of the five countries bordering the Arctic that can benefit from their proximity to the region's presumed riches. The decades-long exploitation of oil and natural gas in waters further south has made the country extremely wealthy -- and hungry for more. At the same time, polar countries like Norway have to deal with increasing pressure from politicians and environmental groups, which complain about the risks of resource extraction and would like to see them remain untapped. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Norway's new Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide talks about the politics of resource extraction in the region.

Monday, October 29, 2012

monetary fascism - the rise of the financial industrial congressional complex

counterpunch | Challenging Monetary Fascism is much more dangerous for political leaders representing countries outside the G-20.  Populist leaders who put forward Nationalist policies are automatically in violation of one or more international ‘free trade’ agreements.  Non-conformity with these agreements ultimately results in trade sanctions, IMF or World Bank imposed austerity, or worse…

Friedman’s ideology is global and his rules of ‘free trade’ are deeply integrated into the laws of international trade.  All of our Nation’s international treaties on trade and banking are a series of interlocking agreements that force all nations to subvert their sovereignty and conform to Monetary Fascism.  It is a global pandemic built on a world-wide transmission system with universal powers of enforcement.  Sovereign Nations comply or they lose their credit rating.  Considering the world wide mass escalation of debt to GDP for most western nations, a small increase in the cost of borrowing would easily result in default and bankruptcy.
Today, Nation States face nothing less than financial Armageddon – the Sampson Option, if they do not comply with the demands of the global banking industry.  And it is with this weapon that the Financial Class has come to dominate the State.

Forget Al Qaeda, the only legitimate threat to U.S. and international security is the financial class.  They have created Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction (Financial WMDs) and they stand ready to take down the world economy.  They are more dangerous than any ‘terrorist group’, or even all of the ‘terrorist groups combined.

Exaggeration – consider what Friedman’s ‘free market’ banking system has done to Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Greece, Estonia, etc.  How many western nations has Islam overthrown?  Not one, and by comparison that should scare you.

Money has become the state and the traditional state is forced to serve money’s interests.  Everywhere the Financial Class is openly lording over sovereign nations.  Ireland, Greece and Spain are subject to ultimatums and remember Hank Paulson’s $700 billion extortion from the U.S. Congress.  The $700 billion was just the wedge.  Thanks to unlimited access to the Discount Window, Quantitative Easing and other taxpayer funded debt-swap bailouts the total transfers to the financial industry exceeded $16 trillion as of July 2010 according to a Federal Reserve Audit.  All of this was dumped on the taxpayer and it is still growing.

Why must the people of Ireland or Iceland accept the losses of the private banking sector as a public obligation?  Why must Greece accept austerity because its politician’s entered into a series of deals structured by Goldman Sachs specifically designed to deceive its EU partners?  If Goldman Sachs authored documents with the intent of fraud then Goldman Sachs is required to bear the losses and prosecution.  The taxpayer had no hand in this.

It is breathtaking.  Within the last 40 years ‘money’ has gained total control of each and every one of us.  Generations to come will enter this world burdened with the debts of their fathers.  It is inescapable and ubiquitous.  More than just a spider’s web, or a money-sucking vampire squid, it is a global pandemic that infects our very DNA.  It is the Original Sin of money – subject to compound interest, converted into a derivative, hypothecated and rolled into a CMO and then leveraged through CDSs.

The uber-wealthy will continue to aggregate wealth.  The banking system will continue to make ‘risk free bets,’ booking gains and shifting the losses to the public.  As these losses accumulate on the public balance sheet the state will be forced to seek austerity measures from the public. As austerity and debt levels increase the global economy will continue ‘circling of the bowl’ with increasing speed until we suddenly plunge into the vortex.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

not the 1%, the 99%, the 47%, but the 70% that are increasingly pissed!

zerohedge | people that care about civil liberties will vote for Romney saying that he will at least be better on economic policy, yet that is the exact same thing people did with Obama in reverse.  They ended up being disappointed with him and Romney will disappoint as well.  These guys are both big government, crony capitalist puppets and that’s the bottom line.

Another thing that must be considered is basic math about the U.S. political landscape.  According to the latest Gallup poll, 32% of Americans identify themselves as Democrats, 28% as Republican and 38% as Independents.  Now of course, amongst the Independents a majority lean more toward one party or the other, but this is much less the case today than it was in 2008 or in any election prior.  Furthermore, the mere fact that so many choose to identify in this manner makes it clear that they are unhappy with either of these political gangs.  These Independents want legitimate third, fourth or fifth party options but instead end up herded into the mainstream parties by a sophisticated corporate scam, part of which centers around the Commission on Presidential Debates, the gatekeeper of these circuses which ensures no alternative candidates can debate and excludes any difficult or uncomfortable questions.

There was a fantastic article written in the Huffington Post yesterday that examines the rampant frustration within the Republican Party titled: Frightened Republicans Try to Close Down Election Competitors, Such as Gary Johnson.  I thought the most powerful quote was:
Both the Republican and the Democratic presidential candidates talk about liberty, freedom, fiscal responsibility, free enterprise, choice and the Constitution. But neither candidate believes in those principles. Elect either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and government will be bigger, spending will be higher, regulation will be more intrusive, the military will be fighting more wars, more service personnel will be dying, more money will be wasted abroad, civil liberties of more people will be violated, and more privacy of more citizens will be invaded. Overall, the free society will continue to retreat.
The above is invariably true and brings me to the key point of this article.  Should Romney win, the 28% of Americans that identify as Republican will be thrilled, and the remaining 72% will be largely upset and on edge.  Should Obama win, similarly, the 32% registered Democrat with be thrilled and the remaining 68% will be upset and on edge.  Hence, the 70% referred to in the title of this article.  This is a recipe ripe for social unrest and it will be coming to our shores as I outlined recently in The Global Spring.

Personally, I am done with the two part system and will be voting for Jill Stein.  I am not playing their games any longer and I will not fall for any more of their scams.  In my brief voting years I have pulled the lever for both Republicans and Democrats, but I do not think I will vote for any one of them ever again.  I implore everyone to do the same, no matter who you vote for, vote third party.  The only wasted vote I see is one for either Mitt Romney or Barrack Obama.

copper thieves - and other infrastructure parasites - will have to be executed on sight!

theautomaticearth | Renewable energy is never going to be a strategy for continuing on our present expansionist path. It is not a good fit for the central station model of modern power systems, and threatens to destabilize them, limiting rather than extending our ability to sustain business as usual. The current plans attempt to develop it in the most technologically complex, capital and infrastructure dependent manner, mostly dependent on government largesse that is about to disappear. It is being deployed in a way that minimizes a low energy profit ratio, when that ratio is already likely too low to sustain a society complex enough to produce energy in this fashion.

Renewable electricity is not truly renewable, thanks to non-renewable integral components. It can be deployed for a period of time in such a way as to cushion the inevitable transition to a lower energy society. To do this, it makes sense to capitalize on renewable energy's inherent advantages while minimizing its disadvantages. Minimizing the infrastructure requirement, by producing power adjacent to demand, and therefore moving power as little distance as possible, will make the most of the energy profit ratio. The simplest strategy is generally the most robust, but all the big plans for renewables have gone in the opposite direction. In moving towards hugely complex mechanisms for wheeling gargantuan quantities of power over long distances, we create a system that is highly brittle and prone to cascading system failure.

In a period of sharp economic contraction, we will not be able to afford expensive complexity. Having set up a very vulnerable system, we are going to have to accept that the the lights are not necessarily going to come on every time we flick a switch. Our demand will be much lower for a while, as economic depression deepens, and that may buy the system some time by lowering some of the stresses upon it. The lack of investment will take its toll over time however.

While a grid can function at some level even under very challenging conditions - witness India - it is living on borrowed time. We would do well to learn from the actions, and daily frustrations, of those who live under grid-challenged conditions, and do what we can to build resilience at a community level. Governments and large institutions will not be able to do this at a large scale, so we must act locally.

As with many aspects of society navigating a crunch period, decentralization can be the most appropriate response. The difficulty is that there will be little time or money to build micro-grids based on local generation. It may work in a few places blessed with resources such as a local hydro station, but likely not elsewhere in the time available. The next best solution will be minimizing demand in advance, and obtaining back up generators and local storage capacity, as they use in India and many other places with unstable grids. These are relatively affordable and currently readily available solutions, but do require some thought, such as fuel storage or determining which are essential loads that should be connected to batteries and inverters with a limited capacity. Later on, such solutions are much less likely to be available, so acting quickly is important.

Minimizing demand in a planned manner greatly reduces dependency, so that limited supply can serve the most essential purposes. It is much better than reducing demand haphazardly through deprivation in the depths of a crisis. Providing a storage component can cover grid downtime, so that one no longer has to worry so much when the power will be available, so long as it is there for some time each day. Given that even degraded systems starved of investment for years can deliver something, storage can provide a degree of peace of mind. It is typically safer than storing generator fuel.

Some will be able to install renewable generation, but it will not make sense to do this with debt on the promise of a feed-in tariff contract that stands to be repudiated. Those who can afford it will be those who can do it with no debt and no income stream, in other words those who do it for the energy security rather than for the money, and do not over-stretch themselves in the process. Sadly this will be very few people. Pooling resources in order to act at a community scale can increase the possibilities, although it may be difficult to convince enough people to participate.

It is difficult to say what power grids might look like following an economic depression, or what it will be possible to restore in the years to come. The answers are likely to vary widely with location and local circumstances. Depression years are very hard on vital economic sectors such as energy supply. Falling demand undercuts price support, and prices fall more quickly than the cost of production, so that margins are brutally squeezed. Even as prices fall, purchasing power falls faster, so that affordability gets worse. Consumers are squeezed, leading to further demand destruction in a positive feedback loop.

Under these circumstances, the energy sector is likely to be starved of investment for many years. When the economy tries to recover, it is likely to find itself hitting a hard ceiling at a much lower level of energy supply. With less energy available, society will not be able to climb the heights of complexity again, and therefore many former energy sources dependent on complex means of production will not longer be available to simpler future societies. Widespread electrification may well be a casualty of the complexity crash.
We are likely to realize at that point just how unusual the era of high energy profit ratio fossil fuels really was, and what incredible benefits we had in our hands. Sadly we squandered much of this inheritance before realizing its unique and irreplaceable value. The future will look very different.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

positive presidential policies too damn hard to find or to explain

energypolicyforum | On October 21, 2012, the New York Times published an article delving in depth into the relationships between large Wall Street investment banks and shale gas operators. The article is outstanding but so much more needs to be said.

For nearly a year I have been giving presentations on this phenomenon which I refer to as financial co-dependency. A dysfunctional relationship, yes, but one which has been very lucrative for certain elite players, most particularly the investment banks and a few top oil and gas executives.

There is no doubt that the investment banking community has been the driving force behind shale production since the economic downturn. Shale should have unravelled long before now. But Wall Street saw an opportunity to generate massive fees and so shale was taken to new heights. Or perhaps some would say new depths. In August of 2011, Neal Anderson of Wood Mackenzie had this to say about the investment community and shale exploration:

“It seems the equity analyst community has played a key role in helping to fuel the shale gas M&A market, acting as chief cheerleaders for shale gas plays”.

It is important to understand how perceptions are manipulated by such “cheerleaders” in an attempt to effect changes in market direction that could be favorable to certain players.

After the economic downturn, shale operators continued to drill in spite of falling prices. Traditionally, when prices declined, oil and gas operators would shut wells in to stabilize the market. That, however, did not happen in 2008-2009. One look at the balance sheets of various shale gas companies explained why. They were exceptionally laden with debt and had no cash to speak of.

Oil and gas companies have traditionally been cash cows but not shale operators. They were highly leveraged and it seemed apparent that the only way they could continue to meet debt service was to engage in a frenzy of drilling due to shale wells steep depletions. It is extremely difficult to maintain a production plateau in shales without resort to continuous and prolific drilling. In fact, it has proven impossible.
Early in the game, Wall Street had been only too happy to provide funding to the shale operators. Many of these operators quickly became addicted to the cash. Shale production turned into more of a land grab than a legitimate oil and gas venture. In fact, I have referred to shale activities as “drilling for dollars in the capital markets”. And large Wall Street investment banks were only too willing to help…for a fee.

bankster darwinism...,

bloomberg | Is it time to put the Great Recession behind us?

Not in terms of the economy -- which remains bogged down with high unemployment, low growth and other aftershocks -- but rather when it comes to demanding a rigorous effort to hold Wall Street bankers, traders and executives accountable for their role in causing the financial crisis.

Should we just chalk it up to such simplified explanations as “animal spirits ran amok” and “these things happen occasionally”? Or should we continue to expend scarce political and law-enforcement resources trying to get to the bottom of what happened, and why, with a goal of holding the right people legally and financially accountable?

It’s a conundrum, especially since many Americans have lost enthusiasm for the fight. But the path we ultimately take will reveal to us and the world much about who we are as a people and what ethics, values and morality we stand for. It will also have serious lasting implications if we hope to avoid a rerun of what happened over the last five years.

At the moment, the message we are broadcasting far and wide is: There will be no justice; there will be no accountability; let’s return to the status quo as quickly as possible.

Moving On
There are, not surprisingly, powerful and articulate voices in favor of moving on. In his book “Unintended Consequences,” Edward Conard, a former Bain Capital partner of Mitt Romney (who is willing to say the things Romney wouldn’t dare and has given $1 million to a political action committee that supports the Romney campaign), argues forcefully that occasional market collapses such as 1929 and 2008 are a small price to pay for a system of capital allocation that has produced vast sums of wealth, extraordinary technical and financial innovation, and an incentive system that rewards people handsomely for taking risks.

For better or for worse, Conard writes, this is the country that produced Apple Inc. (AAPL), Google Inc. (GOOG) and Facebook Inc. (FB), among the most admired corporations in the world. Conard believes the sooner we get back to untethering Wall Street’s animal instincts the better. That means modest regulation, at best, and an end to any efforts at meting out justice for those personally responsible for the financial crisis because, hey, stuff happens.

Likewise, in a recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), returned to many of his favorite themes. One was how little he cares for much of what is in the Dodd-Frank law and the proposed Volcker Rule which limits banks’ ability to trade for their own account. He reiterated his belief that the right kind of financial regulation is necessary, in the vein of laws preventing drunk driving. But, like Conard, Dimon said the new regulatory environment is holding back economic growth.

He said he had discussed the topic with business owners and executives around the country: “They all say it’s terrible. So it’s not just banks. We’ve done it to ourselves, folks. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot and we’re doing it every day. Get rid of that wet blanket and this thing will take off.”

Even Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), has started to make noise again after a few years of laying low. As part of what the press has nicknamed his No Apologies Tour, which has taken Blankfein to forums and media outlets across the country, he has also called for jettisoning the wet blanket. “Getting rid of some regulations and rules that are impairing people from investing vast pools of liquidity that are on the sideline, that are not owned by the government, that are theirs to invest but are just sitting on the sideline” will help get the economy humming again, he told CNBC.

Friday, October 26, 2012

the romney horror picture show...,

auditioning for a ceremonial role divorced from reality...,

cluborlov | Since this is the height of the political season, I have decided that it would make sense for me to say something about politics which, of course, doesn't matter. And that, obviously, is a political statement.

Last night was the third and final round of what are commonly believed to be debates involving the two presidential candidates. What was said is not very interesting or surprising at all, except in one respect: the two contestants played their role in accordance with a certain unwritten and unexpressed rule of discourse. This rule requires them to strictly adhere to a fictional, toy version of the world and of the role of the President of the US within it. We did not see two candidates campaigning to be elected into a position of leadership, but two actors auditioning for the role of President in a play that takes place strictly in the past. Now, in a normal course of events, if one candidate started carrying on like that, the other candidate would be a fool to not try to score points by pointing this fact out to the electorate. But this situation is different: here, both candidates know with absolute clarity that they are auditioning for a ceremonial role, nothing more, and that bringing even the tiniest bit of reality into it would only jeopardize their chances of being elected.

You see, they are auditioning for the role of someone who pretends to be “running” a country (whatever that means) that is itself not exactly running. It is by now defined by just two things: unstoppable inertia in the wrong direction, and a long list of broken promises. The federal government over which, if elected, they will pretend to “preside” (whatever that means) has two remaining choices: continue with the strategy of hemorrhaging debt and collapse in a few years once that strategy stops working, or don't continue with that strategy, and collapse now.

an economic theory of limited oil supply

Oil as a percent of total 2006 energy consumption for European countries, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy
ourfiniteworld | We seem to hear two versions of the story of limited oil supply:

1. The economists’ view, saying that the issue is a simple problem of supply and demand. Substitution, higher prices, demand destruction, greater efficiency, and increased production of oil at higher prices will save the day.

2. A version of Hubbert’s peak oil theory, saying that world oil production will rise and at some point reach a plateau and begin to decline, because of geological depletion. The common belief is that the rate of decline will be determined by geological considerations, and will roughly match the rate at which production increased.

In my view, neither of these views is correct. My view is a third view:
3. An adequate supply of cheap ($20 or $30 barrel) oil is no longer available, because most of the “easy to extract” oil is gone. The cost of extracting oil keeps rising, but the ability of oil-importing economies to pay for this oil does not. There are no good low-cost substitutes for oil, so substitution is very limited and will continue to be very limited. The big oil-importing economies are already finding themselves in poor financial condition, as higher oil prices lead to cutbacks in discretionary spending and layoffs in discretionary industries.

The government is caught up in this, as layoffs lead to more need for stimulus funds and for payments to unemployed workers, at the same time that tax revenue is reduced. There can be a temporary drop in oil prices (as there was in late 2008), as recession worsens, but eventually demand rises again, oil prices rise again, and the pattern of layoffs and increased governments financial problems occurs again.

Without substitutes at a price that the economy can afford, economies will adapt to lower amounts of oil they can afford by worsening recession, debt defaults, and reduced international trade. There may be tendency for international alliances (such as the Euro) to fall apart, for countries to break into smaller units (Catalonia secede from Spain, or countries break up the way the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia did).

At some point, probably not too many years in the future, the amount of oil extracted from the ground will drop, reflecting a combination of geological and economic factors. The fall may very well be quite steep. While we can’t expect to extract more than geology will allow, there is nothing to say that political and economic factors will allow extraction of this amount. If civil war breaks out in an oil producer, production may drop quickly. Or if oil prices drop because of severe recession, drilling of new fields and wells may drop off quickly, leading to lower production as existing wells deplete, and not enough new supply as added. There may also be disruption in international sales of oil.

an assault on "living standards" set to run and run...,

telegraph | At the time, I was minded to dismiss the suggestion as unduly alarmist. As the years pass, however, the forecast is if anything beginning to look on the over optimistic side. Indeed, according to a first attempt by the Office for National Statistics this week to measure "national well being", we are already well on the way, with net national income per head falling by 13.2pc in real terms since the start of the crisis in 2008.

Today's third-quarter GDP figures are widely expected to show the UK economy emerging from its double-dip recession – indeed the Prime Minister virtually confirmed it in PMQ's yesterday. Unfortunately, this totemic piece of good news doesn't really reflect the underlying reality, or the degree to which paying for the excesses of the past through tax increases, spending cuts, unemployment and erosion in real wages is eating into living standards. These are suffering much more severely than the raw output data suggest.

This is no doubt what Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, had in mind when he warned this week that the next generation may have to live under the shadow of today's economic correction "for a long time to come".

The Governor is still as reluctant as ever to concede the central bank's own culpability in the crisis – no mention of that in this week's speech - but it is hard to disagree with the thrust of his comments – that though the policy response may have smoothed the adjustment, it can't eradicate it, and it may now have reached the limits of its capacity to do even that.

As regular readers will know, I've been progressively more sceptical over the efficacy or appropriateness of further demand management measures to ease the crisis, so I was heartened to hear Sir Mervyn rule out some of the more exotic suggestions for getting the economy going again.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

the removal of native americans and the subversion of professed morality...,

worldfreeinternet | There is yet a deeper widespread rationalization for our avoidance of Indians and the news they bring us. On some level we think that however beautiful Indian culture once was, however inspiring their religious ideas, however artistic their creations and costumes, however wise their choices of life within nature, our own society has advanced beyond that stage of evolution. They are the "primitive" stage and we have grown beyond them. They have not adapted as we have. This makes us superior. We are the survivors. We are the "cutting edge."

A good friend of mine (who now works in television) put it this way: "There is no getting around the fact that the Indian way is a losing way. They are no longer appropriate for the times. They are anomalies." In saying this, my friend was essentially blaming the Indians themselves for the situation that befell them. They failed to adapt their lifestyle and belief systems to keep up with the changing times. Most importantly, they failed to keep up with technological change. They were not competitive.

This statement reflects a Darwinist, capitalist outlook of survival of the fittest, with fitness now defined in terms of technological capability. If you can use the machine better than the next fellow or the next culture, you survive and they die. This may be sad, the reasoning goes, but that's the way it is in today's world. This view sees Western technological society as the ultimate expression of the evolutionary pathway, the culmination of all that has come before, the final flowering. We represent the breakthrough in the evolution of living creatures; we are the conscious expression of the planet. Indians helped the process for a while, but they gave way to more evolved, higher life forms.

Our assumption of superiority does not come to us by accident. We have been trained in it. It is soaked into the fabric of every Western religion, economic system, and technology. They reek of their greater virtues and capabilities. Judeo-Christian religions are a model of hierarchical structure: One God above all, certain humans above other humans, and humans over nature. Political and economic systems are similarly arranged: Organized along rigid hierarchical lines, all of nature's resources are regarded only in terms of how they serve the one god -- the god of growth and expansion. In this way, all of these systems are missionary; they are into dominance. And through their mutual collusion, they form a seamless web around our lives. They are the creators and enforcers of our beliefs. We live inside these forms, are imbued with them, and they justify our behaviors. In turn, we believe in their viability and superiority largely because they prove effective: They gain power.

But is power the ultimate evolutionary value? We shall see. The results are not yet in. "Survival of the fittest" as a standard of measure may require a much longer time scale than the scant 200 years' existence of the United States, or the century since the Industrial Revolution, or the two decades since the advent of "high tech." Even in Darwinian terms, most species become "unfit" over tens of thousands of years. Our culture is using its machinery to drive species into extinction in one generation, not because the species are maladaptive, but by pure force. However, there is reason to doubt the ultimate success of our behavior. In the end, a model closer to that of the Indians, living lightly on the planet, observing its natural rules and modes of organization, may prove more "fit," and may survive us after all. Until that day, however, we will continue to use Darwinian theories to support the assertion that our mechanistic victory over the "primitives" is not only God's plan, but nature's.

Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project

businessinsider | While the U.S. geared up for the second presidential debate last Tuesday, a building sat pulsing with computers, electronic surveillance, and security systems in the Utah high desert. The unoccupied site was awaiting the test of a weapon the Pentagon requested four years ago to the day on 16 October, 2008.

The Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), led by Boeing's Phantom works, promised to change the face of contemporary warfare, and its test was a complete success.
CHAMP flew over the Utah Test and Training Range last Tuesday, discharging a burst of High Power Microwaves onto the test site and brought down the compound's entire spectrum of electronic systems, apparently without producing any other damage at all. Even the camera recording the test was shut down.

Struggling to contain his enthusiasm, Boeing's Keith Coleman says, "We hit every target we wanted to. Today we made science fiction into science fact." Fist tap Big Don.

incremental collective sociopathology...,

guardian | When it comes to justifying the killing of civilians, the only difference between the Joe Kleins of the world and Osama bin Laden is that they're on different sides. To the extent one wanted to distinguish them, one could say that the violence and aggression brought by the US to the Muslim world vastly exceeds - vastly - the violence and aggression brought by the Muslim world to the US. That's just a fact.

(2) Leaving aside the sociopathic, morally grotesque defense of killing 4-year-olds with a "joystick from California", Klein's claims are completely false on pragmatic grounds. Slaughtering Muslim children does not protect American children from terrorism. The opposite is true. That is precisely what causes the anti-American hatred that fuels and sustains terrorism aimed at Americans in the first place, as even a study commissioned by the Rumsfeld-era Pentagon recognized almost a decade ago.

The reason American 4-year-olds are in danger from terrorism - to the very limited extent they are - is precisely because those empowered in US government and media circles think like Joe Klein does. Soulless cheerleaders for indiscriminate killing like Joe Klein - who once went on national television and advocated that the US should preserve the right to launch a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran in order to stop their nuclear program, prompting host George Stephanopoulos to label that statement "insane" - are the reason there is a terrorism risk to Americans, not the solution for that risk.

If you want to understand why there is such a widespread desire to engage in violence against the US, look at Joe Klein's face and listen to his words. Every Muslim who has ever engaged in violence against the US will make that as clear as can be.

(3) This exchange is a perfectly vivid expression of the Obama legacy. Here we have a standard Democratic/progressive pundit who is one of the media's most stalwart Obama fanatics defending indiscriminate slaughter of Muslim children. Meanwhile, it's left to a former right-wing, Gingrich-era congressman to raise objections, call for more public scrutiny, and cite the moral and strategic dangers, one of the very few commentators on MSNBC - the progressive network - who has ever voiced such passionate criticism of Obama's ongoing killings.

Obama has led all sorts of progressives and other Democrats to be the most vocal supporters of unrestrained aggression, secret assassinations, and "crippling" the Iranian people with sanctions. It is completely unsurprising that the most sociopathic defense of drones comes from one of the most committed Obama supporters, and that it's now left to a former GOP Congressman to raise objections. As much as anything, that is the Obama legacy.

(4) One of the primary reasons war - especially protracted war - is so destructive is not merely that it kills the populations at whom it is aimed, but it also radically degrades the character of the citizenry that wages it. That's what enables one of America's most celebrated pundits to go on the most mainstream of TV programs and coldly justify the killing of 4-year-olds, without so much as batting an eyelash or even paying lip service to the heinous tragedy of that, and have it be barely noticed. Joe Klein is the face not only of the Obama legacy, but also mainstream US political culture.

the polity approves drone war....,

washingtonexaminer | President Obama has killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children, in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia through a drone war aimed at exterminating the suspected terrorists on his unprecedented and ever-expanding "kill list" -- a list that has included U.S. citizens.

In Iraq, Obama tried to perpetuate the U.S. occupation past his promised date for withdrawal, and after Iraqi leaders wanted American troops to leave.

In Libya, Obama illegally intervened in a civil war, sending U.S. fighter jets and missiles to kill a dictator who posed no threat to America. The aftermath of this unauthorized war: a coup in neighboring Mali paired with the rise of al Qaeda in that country, and a terrorist attack in Libya ending in the death of four Americans.
Amid real successes -- such as the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, and ultimately ending the occupation of Iraq -- Obama's foreign policy has been riddled with failures, scandals and mistakes. But if you watched this week's debate or follow this election cycle's media coverage, you would assume Obama has been throwing a perfect game around the planet.

Why does Obama get a free pass on foreign policy? There are three main reasons:
First, there's good old media bias. The major media have given scant attention to Obama's transgressions and have taken his word -- on all sorts of issues.

Second, there's the mysterious disappearance of the U.S. anti-war movement. Liberals are overwhelmingly fine with drone strikes -- 70 percent of self-described "liberal Democrats" supported them in a February Washington Post/ABC News poll.

In 2010, when we had 80,000 troops each in Iraq and Afghanistan, 78 percent of Democrats in one Quinnipiac poll approved of Obama's foreign policy, and you had to look pretty hard to find an anti-war protest. The formerly anti-war Left gave new meaning to that Vietnam-era Phil Ochs song "I Ain't Marching Anymore."

Third, Obama gets a free pass on war matters because the man who would naturally be his main critic -- Republican nominee Mitt Romney -- mostly shares Obama's views.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

the true objective of debates...,

stratfor | A debate is not about policy. It is impossible to state a coherent policy on any complex matter in 90 seconds. The debates between Lincoln and Steven Douglas did go far in that direction, but then it wasn't on national television, and it was for senator of Illinois, not the presidency. That left room for contemplation. It should be remembered that prior to the Kennedy-Nixon race of 1960, there were no debates, partly because there was no television and partly, perhaps, because the ability to debate was not seen as the appropriate measure of a president.

Debates test one thing: the ability to quickly respond to questions of numbing complexity that are impossible to answer in the time available. They put a premium on being fast and clever but don't say much about how smart a candidate is. Nor are they meant to, in part because being smart, in an academic sense, is not essential to be president -- as many have demonstrated. At their best, debates test a candidate's coolness under pressure and ability to articulate some thought at least vaguely connected to the question while convincing the viewers that you are both personable and serious.

That is, after all, what leadership is about. We have had enormously intelligent presidents who simply couldn't lead. Here, I think of Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter, both of whom had substantial and demonstrable intellects but neither of whom, when confronted by the disastrous, could rapidly contrive both a response and a commanding and reassuring presence in the public. In that sense, their intellects betrayed them. Each wanted the right answer, when what was needed was a fast one. Each was succeeded by someone who could provide a fast answer. FDR's famous first 100 days did not solve the Depression, but they did give the sense that someone was in charge. FDR and Ronald Reagan could reassure the country that they knew what they were doing while they rapidly tried things that might or might not have worked.

The question of who won Monday's debate is, therefore, not one that a viewer who spends his time focused on foreign policy can answer. The candidates weren't speaking to those who make their livings involved in or watching foreign affairs. Nor can we possibly extract from the debate what either candidate intends to do in foreign policy, because that was not what they were trying to do. They were trying to show how quickly and effectively they could respond to the unexpected, and that they were leaders in the simplest sense of being both likeable and commanding, which is the incredibly difficult combination the republic demands of its presidents.

Technology's Impact

It is important to remember that for most of our history there were no televisions and no debates. Knowledge of the candidates filtered through speeches and letters. The distance between the president and the public was even greater than today. In a sense, the imperial presidency -- the president as first among equals of the three branches of government -- really began with FDR, who used radio brilliantly. But there were no debates or public press conferences in which to challenge him.

The distance collapsed with television and rapid-fire interplays, yet at the same time increased in another way, as the president became the most public and pseudo-known character in government. I say pseudo-known because, in fact, the president's greatest skill lies in revealing himself selectively, in a way and to the extent that it enhances his power.

What could be sensed in debates were things like meanness of spirit, ability to listen, willingness to improvise and ultimately, there was a chance to look for humor and good will. There was also a danger. The debate put a premium on articulateness, but it is not clear that the well-spoken candidate -- or at least the candidate who could speak most clearly most quickly -- also thought more clearly. There are many people who think clearly but speak slowly while acting quickly. They are not meant for Bob Schieffer or Candy Crowley's meat grinder.

global power in decline...,

spiegel | The two contenders for what is likely the world's most powerful office left little time for thinking -- either for themselves or for the television audience. And they failed to adequately address the new challenges facing the wobbly global power America -- climate change, for example, which was left unmentioned in presidential debates for the first time since 1984. Or the rise of Asia. Or even the lack of domestic investment in infrastructure and education.

Most of all, however, in the debate in Boca Raton they declined to discuss how they intend to address the country's central foreign policy conundrum: Americans no longer want their country to be a global police force, but they still want to continue believing in American exceptionalism.

Trapped in Bush's World
Instead, viewers were witness to a phenomenon that Luce had likewise predicted: Romney and Obama exchanged carefully prepared platitudes as though they were trapped in a world order created for them by White House predecessor George W. Bush.

The two adversaries talked about Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and the broader Middle East. And they of course also engaged in the petty discussion as to who visited Israel or American troops abroad sooner.

If Obama had ever hoped to leave these issues of yesteryear behind and devote himself to new challenges brewing elsewhere, most prominently in Asia, it is a hope that was dashed in recent weeks. Since the death of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in a suspected terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, Romney has been on the attack, saying that while much of Obama's foreign policy is correct in principal, its results are a failure. The most significant example according to Romney: The al-Qaida terrorist network has in no way been weakened, but remains dangerous.

Indeed, it appears as though Stevens' death in election year 2012 has been enough to overshadow the killing of Osama bin Laden and several other top terrorists from al-Qaida and other networks. It has been enough to keep America fixated on the war on terror and preoccupied with the Middle East.

The paradox of this fixation shown by both candidates is that neither Obama nor Romney have shown a real interest in the Muslim world. Despite overtures early in his term, the president did little thereafter to ensure that progress was made. The only regional issue that appears to be high on his priority list is Iran's nuclear program. Romney's plan for the region appears to consist almost entirely of unconditional support for Israel. Both candidates want to continue using drones unhindered.

how is it that the mexican civil war didn't surface in the foreign policy debate?

csmonitor | Mitt Romney’s single mention of Latin America last night, calling it a “huge opportunity" for the United States, generated immediate glee from Latin Americanists across Twitter – but the hemisphere got no nod from President Obama, and then both went silent on the topic.

 Given that the final presidential debate Monday evening was dominated by the Middle East and terrorism, most of the world was left out by President Obama and Mr. Romney. That includes the whole of Europe and its debt crisis. India. South Africa. And not a single mention of any country in Latin America or the Caribbean: neither Cuba specifically, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, nor Peru. (Read a transcript here.)

That means no candidate talked about the drug trade, despite historic violence playing out in Mexico, much of it along the 2,000-mile border that the US shares. They did not talk about energy policy in the Americas. Or the economies of Brazil and Mexico. 

The debate opened with promise for Latin America – with moderator Bob Schieffer referring to the 50th anniversary of the disclosure that the Soviet Union had missiles in Cuba. But he did not pose a question about it or anything else in the region, which observers say was a clear missed opportunity – even if hardly surprising.

“In a broader foreign policy context, we have to begin to mainstream the Americas,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a consultancy based in New York. “Brazil is an important international player, not just a Latin American player.… Latin America is of rising importance in the world, [we should have been hearing how the candidates] would work with Brazils, and Mexicos, and Colombias.”

Romney mentioned Latin America in the context of how to boost employment at home. “Trade grows about 12 percent year. It doubles about every – every five or so years. We can do better than that, particularly in Latin America,” he said. “The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China. We're all focused on China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us – time zone, language opportunities.”

But Obama did not respond. And the only other mention of the region came once again from Romney, who mentioned Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro as part of a list of the world’s “worst actors” whom Obama has failed to meet with, he said, despite promises to do so.

Obama has remained popular across Latin America and is favored among Hispanic voters in the US. But some of that support abroad has slipped. In a Pew poll released in June, 39 percent of Mexicans said they approved of Obama’s international policies. That fell from 56 percent in 2009. (Here is the poll.)

Much of that slide could be pegged to record deportations of undocumented immigrants under Obama, although in a huge move this year he gave a reprieve to many undocumented migrants who were brought to the US as children.

While immigration is the topic that Latin America perhaps cares most about, few expected the politically charged issue to feature at the presidential debate. Still, there was hope that the growing role that places such as Brazil and Colombia play in the energy sector would be mentioned. And if nothing else, the drug-fueled violence plaguing Mexico and Central America right now.

Mexican journalist Leon Krauze wrote in a widely shared Tweet: “Mexico, a country facing 100,000 deaths, neighbor to the United States, didn't deserve one single mention tonight. A disgrace.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

the reptilians forestalled any possibility of debate...,

kunstler | There's a good reason why nobody is paying attention to the election this year except the people who, one way or another, get paid to be interested: because for all that's at stake there is no coherent discussion about any of it. By 'at stake' I mean what we are going to do when the major systems we depend on for everyday life begin to wobble and fail.

There is zero cognizance even among the paid kibitzers that we are near that point. Rather, a rapture of techno-narcissism holds in thrall even people who ought to know better, and a chatter-stream of infotainment propaganda spreads an hallucinatory fog of national self-esteem-boosting figments ranging from "energy independence" to "green jobs."

The truth of our situation is an implacable contraction of the turbo-corporate economy due to remorseless looming energy scarcity. That is, strange to relate, not altogether bad news (if we were psychologically disposed to process it, which we are not). It doesn't have to mean that everything in American life goes straight to shit -- though it might. It could well mean that some of the most destructive corporate actors go to shit (quickly and unexpectedly), making room for some really beneficial transformation.

For instance, the tensions of excessive scale and lack of resilience could put WalMart and everything like it out of business. It wouldn't take much to fatally compromise the 12,000-mile supply lines and the 'warehouse-on-wheels' that the behemoth retailers depend on. $6 diesel fuel and a few more currency war provocations against China could put the schnitz on the operating system of national chain retail. It would be the end of the unacknowledged "entitlement" called "bargain shopping," but it would also provide the opportunity to rebuild the very local and regional economies that these predatory outfits put to death thirty years ago - and, more importantly, open up a vast range of careers, positions, and roles for Americans to play in truly running their own commercial economies in their own home-towns, in particular young Americans otherwise demoralized by an economy that has left so many of them stranded.

This is the direction that reality is taking us in, and one wonders why the candidates can't begin to articulate it in these ridiculous show-and-tell spectacles that we misunderstand to be "debates." Obviously it has as much to do with the sheer inertia of the status quo than even with the grotesque distortions of politics inspired by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that has allowed the complete corporate capture of elections. And even that nation-wrecking calamity is probably out-weighed by the US public's wish to keep all the familiar machinery of daily life going at all costs.

This last part is surely understandable, but it will certainly lead to a tragic outcome: political and social collapse. No one in any realm of US leadership will face the difficulty and uncertainty of finding our way out of this predicament. Both candidates for president are devoted to sustaining the unsustainable and telling fairy tales about running the WalMart economy on "green" pixie dust.

no one will believe it....,

forbiddenknowledgetv | In one of the most exciting interviews about the alien presence on Earth today, George Noory of Coast to Coast spoke with Gordon Duff, Senior Editor of

Among the many mind-blowing statements made by Gordon Duff:

-- There is a group of aliens with bases throughout the floor of Pacific Ocean, with one colony near Catalina Island. They are quite hostile. The November 2010 "Mystery Missile" Snafu was linked to this group and Asian forces filling in for the US Navy, whose resources were all in the Middle East at that time.

-- There are as many as 12 different off-planetary groups interacting with the various governments of our planet.

-- There are many Earth technologies at least a century in advance of what we've been told.

-- We have high-energy weapons within the Upper Atmosphere and in Low-Earth Orbit, with nano-sensors that sense distortions in space-time. These weapons are aimed out towards space.

-- The first interstellar craft built by humans was made in 1972.

-- We currently have seven craft; they're fusion-powered. Their circumference is 1.5 kilometers.

-- Duff has footage of an Earth-built UFO, flying at 300 feet with a surface temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit, accelerating in the low atmosphere to 16,000 MPH with no change in temperature. Outside the atmosphere, he was officially told that they can approach light speed.

-- There is an advanced method of power generation, a "dense plasma, hydrogen-boron fusion reactor that produces enough waste electricity out of something the size of a basketball to equal the power produced by nuclear plant -- and it costs about $70,000 to build."

-- The reason this technology is not released is because it would collapse the hydrocarbon economy and there's also a "Malthusian" issue: it would allow all nations endless free electricity, endless purified water, endless industrialization, endless desalinized seawater; that the world population would move from what it is now, generally thought to be 7 billion people within a generation, if we had free energy, we'd reach a population level of 25 billion. To some people, that would be seen as unsustainable.



“lives in a pineapple under the sea... Absorbent and yellow and porous is he.”

NYTimes | It may be distressing to those committed to “autonomy,” but such manipulators have inherited the earth. Including us.

Take coughing, or sneezing. It may be beneficial for an infected person to cough up or sneeze out some of her tiny organismic invaders, although it isn’t so healthful for others nearby. But what if coughing and sneezing aren’t merely symptoms but also, even primarily, a manipulation of us, the “host,” by influenza viruses? Shades of zombie bees, fattened mice and grass-blade-besotted ants.

Just as Lenin urged us to ask “who, whom?” with regard to social interactions — who benefits at the expense of whom? — the new science of evolutionary medicine urges a similar question: who benefits when people show symptoms of a disease? Often, it’s the critters that are causing the disease in the first place.

But what about the daily, undiseased lives most of us experience? Voluntary actions are, we like to insist, ours and ours alone, not for the benefit of some parasitic or pathogenic occupying army. When we fall in love, we do so for ourselves, not at the behest of a romance-addled tapeworm. When we help a friend, we aren’t being manipulated by an altruistic bacterium. If we eat when hungry, sleep when tired, scratch an itch or write a poem, we aren’t knuckling under to the vices of our viruses.

But it isn’t that simple.

Think about having a child, and ask who — or rather, what — benefits from reproduction? It’s the genes. As modern biologists recognize, babies are our genes’ way of projecting themselves into the future.

Unlike the cases of parasites or pathogens, when genes manipulate “their” bodies, the situation seems less dire, if only because instead of foreign occupation it’s our genes, our selves. But those presumably personal genes aren’t any more hesitant about manipulating our bodies, and by extension our actions, than is a parasitic fly hijacking a honeybee.

Here, then, is heresy: maybe there is no one in charge — no independent, self-serving, order-issuing homunculus. Buddhists note that our skin doesn’t separate us from the environment, but joins us, just as biologists know that “we” are manipulated by, no less than manipulators of, the rest of life. Who is left after “you” are separated from your genes? Where does the rest of the world end, and each of us begin?

Let’s leave the last words to a modern icon of organic, oceanic wisdom: SpongeBob SquarePants. Mr. SquarePants, a cheerful, talkative — although admittedly, somewhat cartoonish — fellow of the phylum Porifera, “lives in a pineapple under the sea... Absorbent and yellow and porous is he.” I don’t know about the pineapple or the yellow, but absorbent and porous are we, too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

ninjas (no income/no job/no assets)

portfolioist | I have just finished reading The Clash of Generations: Saving Ourselves, Our Kids, and Our Economy, the new book authored by Boston University Economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff and well-known financial journalist and advisor, Scott Burns. This is a truly important book, and I hope that it will be so widely read as to inspire a meaningful widespread dialog among individuals, families, and policymakers.

The central premise of The Clash of Generations is that we, as Americans, have essentially created a Ponzi scheme in which current and past workers have been promised future financial benefits in the form of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that are vastly beyond the accumulated value of what they have contributed. The result is that future generations of workers are now expected to pay the tab. The authors assert that our children and grandchildren are being stuck with a truly monstrous financial burden in order to fulfill the utterly unsustainable promises made to current retirees and near-retirees. Kotlikoff and Burns conclude that the level of unfunded financial commitments being forced onto future generations is quite capable of essentially impoverishing future generations and killing any economic growth. While this argument is not new, Kotlikoff has studied these problems for much of his career and brings a truly authoritative perspective to bear (Kotlikoff and Burns previously published a book devoted to these issues, as well).

 How can this situation have gotten so far out of balance? Kotlikoff and Burns suggest that politicians have simply and shamelessly pandered to older people who, as a group, aggressively promote their interests and vote accordingly. In 1983, the Social Security administration added a plan to gradually raise the age at which people would receive full benefits from age 65 to 67. This one change, accompanied by no reduction in benefits growth for older people, equates to an average 25% reduction in real benefits received by those who would receive full benefits at age 67. The younger workers are expected to pay into the system for two additional years (ages 65-67) and then will have fewer years to draw benefits (because they start later). In aggregate, this is a large effective reduction in benefits for the young. The results, in aggregate, are that older people can expect to receive much more in benefits than they have paid in to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and young people can expect to pay in more than they will receive in benefits. While Kotlikoff and Burns do not go into these numbers, I summarized the research in a blog post titled, “Social Security and Retirement: The Reality“ that I published in 2011. A great deal of this issue comes down to fairness between generations. The authors estimate, for example, that today’s 20-year olds will need to pay 3.3% of their lifetime earnings to cover the under-funding of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid by previous generations, along with their own contributions, to these programs needed to sustain them.
Is this fair and reasonable by any standard? I should say not.

Greece 2012 - black-shirts smashing migrants' homes and swastikas on the streets...,

dailymail | Academics in Greece warn of disturbing parallels between the rise of the Right today in an economically crippled country indebted to the EU and the rise of the Nazis in the Thirties after hyper-inflation in Germany’s Weimar Republic led to economic collapse.

Between the wars, you may recall, an indebted Germany was forced to make huge reparation payments to the victorious Allies of the Great War as a punishment for starting the conflict. The German people felt humiliated, just as the Greeks feel hostile to their eurozone masters and Mrs Merkel today.

The Nazis claimed their first parliamentary seats even as they were garnering the local support of Germans by sending out gangs of ‘storm troopers’ to terrorise Jewish and immigrant communities and blame them for the troubles of the time. It sounds horribly familiar.

As Nickos Dermetzis, a professor of political science at the Athens University, explains: ‘We have a major socio-economic crisis in which native Greeks are losing ground. You also have a rising number of immigrants, many illegal.

`This is a volcanic situation where all the classic parameters for the flourishing of a Far-Right force such as Gold Dawn are present.’

Of course, it does not help that police are struggling to cope with the huge numbers of illegal immigrants arriving daily in Greece. Their sweeps of immigrants happen regularly in Athens and the port of Patras, a three-hour drive away, where a thousand immigrants doss down in disused factory buildings near the promenade. They wait, hoping to smuggle themselves on to freight and passenger ferries going to Italy.

Ten days ago, 350 Afghanis, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were picked up in Patras and put in holding centres. As one disgruntled resident, a man in his 50s living near the promenade, said: ‘They only took a few and so many are here. I am no racist, but this town used to be paradise. The police sweeps are a merry-go-round. The ones they took today will be back next week, wait and see.’

It is a viewpoint supported by Andreas Nicolacopoulos. The 59-year-old architect is a leading light in the Patras Golden Dawn party.

‘The Greek people don’t want illegal immigrants,’ he says. ‘They have to be deported to their own countries. We have to stop them coming in, too. We will lay landmines at the Turkish-Greek border to blow them up so they do not enter our country. We have promised our voters this.’

Golden Dawn also wants to make immigrant criminals serve double the prison terms of their Greek counterparts and introduce capital punishment for foreign murderers.

Back in Athens, I meet Golden Dawn’s spokesman, MP Iliopoulos Panagiotis, at the Greek Parliament building.

The face of this 34-year-old former internet marketing executive can be seen clearly on the video of immigrants being attacked at the market by Golden Dawn’s louts.

Mr Panagiotis is in bullish form. He boasts that the party is so popular that at the next election it will be the second biggest in Greece. ‘In a few years, we expect to be the biggest of them all,’ he says.

The party’s MPs arrogantly puff on cigarettes even though smoking is banned inside the parliament building. They wear black shirts with the word ‘Hooligans’ emblazoned in orange on the sleeve. They have tattoos on their arms.

And on the walls are the blue flags stamped with the party’s swastika-style logo, an ancient Greek symbol.

The official Golden Dawn line is that they are not Nazis, even neo-Nazis, but nationalists wanting to save Greece for the Greek.

So what does Mr Panagiotis plan for illegal immigrants? ‘We will fly every one of them home,’ he says.

‘Even Pakistan would not dare shoot our planes down when their own people are on board and would be killed.’

And what does he think of the racist Golden Dawn gangs that systematically beat up those who were not born Greek?

‘We have a million supporters, some of them wilder elements. We cannot control them all,’ he says with a smirk.

It is hard to believe that his words are those of an elected MP in the Parliament of a modern democracy. Yet anything is possible now in Greece, as the unpalatable face of fascism makes an unwelcome return to Europe.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

seoul flaunts the come up...,

WaPo | Americans aren’t particularly accustomed to foreign music competing with their own in global markets, so when the South Korean song “Gangnam Style” popped onto U.S. music charts, it was something of a wake-up call. Korean pop music has been thriving in East Asia for years, which is remarkable in itself given the country’s small size and the wealth of successful musicians in its bigger and richer neighbor Japan.

So how do Korea’s music companies do it? Part of the industry’s success comes from being just that: industrial. Musicians are meticulously groomed, songs set to careful formulas, and all of it processed on a grand scale. The New Yorker’s John Seabrook explained the concept of “cultural technology,” a factory-like system whereby everything from composer nationality to eye shadow color to hand gestures is pre-determined by formula and protocol. Seabrook suggests that the “cultural technology” model produces music “too robotic to make it in the West” — the music’s painstaking earnestness also doesn’t quite translate for Americans — and K-pop has indeed long struggled to make it big in Western markets.

How, then, to explain the sudden U.S. success of “Gangnam Style,” written and performed by a K-popper who is of the “cultural technology” system but also an aberration within it: older, less attractive (sorry) and more satirical than his K-compatriots? How did Psy manage to utilize the successes of “cultural technology” — he’s got Americans mimicking his dance and glued to his video, in true K-pop form — while also overcoming the more “robotic” aspects of it that have hampered its Western reach?

The answer may have to do with the timing of South Korea’s “economic miracle,” in which the largely agrarian dictatorship became a wealthy and developed democracy in a few short decades. The country became rich enough to support a big domestic music industry during a time when the way people consume music was changing. Fist tap Dale.