Strong words about dumb policies

Higher oil prices are driving up food prices.

We are witnessing the beginning of one of the great tragedies of history.

The United States, in a misguided effort to reduce its oil insecurity by converting grain into fuel for cars, is generating global food insecurity on a scale never seen before.

More at FuturePundit


Psalm 127, Chapter 1:

Unless the Lord builds a house,
the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
guarding it with sentries will do no good.

Bush a liar at the core

G. W. Bush would “rather talk about sex than God”.

From nine hours of secret audio tapes and from a close adviser to Bush:

“He has absolutely zero interest in anything theological – nothing.”

“We spent hours talking about sex . . . who on the campaign was doing what to whom – but nothing about God. And I tried many, many times.”

Since the 1980s, Doug Wead was a surrogate Bush family member playing various roles in Bush Jr’s life as counselor, political adviser and spiritual companion. The campaign had prepared state-by-state analysis of the electorate. “When he got the one on Texas, his eyes just bugged out.” Bush said: “This is just great! I can become governor of Texas just with the evangelical vote.”

As he and [Karl] Rove later mapped out his presidential bid, Bush faced a new problem: how to retain the support of the right-wing evangelical leaders that he privately called “wackos” ….

The answer was to expand his support for religiously based treatment for drug and alcohol abuse into “faith-based initiatives”, his signature social policy. The phrase he picked up from Wead that encapsulated this philosophy was “compassionate conservatism”.

Wead asks rhetorically, “Is it all politically calculated?”

To help Wead answer his own question, Jacob Weisberg is reviewing nine hours of secretly recorded tapes:

The tapes reveal how political the faith of George W. Bush is.

Wead said that during the countless hours the two spent talking about religion over a dozen years, they discussed endlessly the implications of attending services at different congregations, how Bush could position himself in relation to various tricky questions and how he should handle various ministers and evangelical leaders.

In Jacob Weisberg’s analysis of these audio tapes and public data about Bush – tacked in the Entertainment Section at The Times – it’s clear we’ve seen too little information about the man and his supporters.

[It]…comes at a tragic cost. A too crude religious understanding has limited Bush’s ability to comprehend the world. The habit of pious simplification has undermined the decider’s decision-making.

Major media hoodwinks us. The fibs that drew fundamentalists and too many others to vote for G. W. Bush were easy to unravel. These few years have shown us we do not receive adequate analysis of political candidates.

Still damages the brain

This AP story is a short and sorta lame update about lead pollution in our world.

Dust, Air, Water
(AP) — The dangers of lead in some toys are well-known, but there are plenty of other ways people can be exposed to the metal.

Reminds me how to describe a banker:

A banker has silver in their hair,
gold in their teeth
and lead in their ass.

And AP posted another story warning that as lead accumulates it damages the older brain too:

(AP) — Could it be that the “natural” mental decline that afflicts many older people is related to how much lead they absorbed decades before?

That’s the provocative idea emerging from some recent studies, part of a broader area of new research that suggests some pollutants can cause harm that shows up only years after someone is exposed.

Can you decode this top banker?

Do not design great policies
I pointed out in a previous post that a banker has silver in their hair, gold in their teeth and lead in their ass. That’s cute but maybe way off the mark because sometimes I wonder if bankers deserve that much credit.

I’m surprised by these self-serving, trite and confusing remarks (perhaps I’m cynical and harsh) made in Davos by Jamie Dimon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the renowned JP Morgan Chase and Company.

MR. DIMON: Thank you very much. First of all, I also appreciate being invited to Davos. And I was once asked, you know, what’s the most important thing to you personally, not as a corporate executive, and I answered that humanity is obviously the most important. So I really applaud Madame Secretary, Tony Blair, Henry Kissinger, for the work they’ve done, you know, trying to make this a better world, which I think is the most important thing we do.

You know, as a corporate executive, one of the things that I think most – I think I probably speak for most corporations here – they really do try hard to be great corporate citizens, whether it’s, you know, helping the disabled or getting jobs or the homeless or charities or after catastrophes being helpful. And climate change – I won’t go through a lot of it, but in terms of investing in technology, building green buildings, testing green branches.

But one of the things that is – I just think is so important it that – that’s helped this world a lot is globalization. And globalization itself is being attacked from the left, it’s being attacked from the right, and there are legitimate concerns and some legitimate losers in globalization that, you know, we should thoughtfully think about and talk about.

But if you talk about the poverty, you know, most economists say the last 20-30 years globalization has taken something like 2 billion people out of poverty. And this also brought the world closer. You know, most of us now – you know, a lot of people travel around the world. They have friends around the world. It’s made a big difference.

So I just urge that we continue to work not just as corporations but as individuals on things like globalization. And I think, Klaus, like you said, they are things that take collaboration, that it’s not going to be determined by, you know, a corporation or just even one country.

And the other – one last point is that there’s good policy and bad policy, and you know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions There are a lot of people, I always hear, have these fabulous values – which I believe in the values – but I think their policies may very well have the opposite effect. And so we have to be very careful at designing great policies.

Not listening to Einstein?

AttentionMax lists 10 maxims from the wisdom of Albert Einstein.

Who? Albert Einstein, the German-born theoretical physicist, best known for his theory of relativity, and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics? Yes.

For all the brilliance, punditry and eloquence of today’s marketing pundits, the teachings of Albert Einstein offer far superior insights and lessons into business and marketing – even life, for that matter.

Over the years my favorite quote from Einstein is,

“Follow your curiosity. It’s the only thing that knows where you’re going.”

Estate of von Backenforth Saving Gas

Dehydrated WaterAfter a few hours ignoring annoyance and discomfort, it was clear from the start to this reporter that the Count von Backenforth Collection has been unfairly restrained or some say arrested in what the neighbors are calling a Tiffany Cacophony.

It’s common in these art and auction suburbs when declining mortgage values bring high value artifacts to the Saturday flea markets. There’s regal and there’s derelict. Goods are spooned like turkey stuffing from nearby public warehouse rentals to peddler stands under the white tents west of the pavement at First and Benedict Street.

If there are rich discoveries, it’s on the radio and the local public television, but everyone has a cover story like they found it near Tahiti or were guided by an inner way, and no, no Canadian cigarettes were in the back of the car since the dollar is in the basement.

A Backenforth attorney was found by this reporter to be in town. He said, ignoring the box of documents filed yesterday, that whether this is the way or that was, we should only bid during the Friday Sale please. He said to notice there was a reserve bid for four lots of the rolled way, the three are new and fortified, listed in the evening auction programme as New Tzu A, New Tzu AB, New Tzu A#3. These are the newest lots of Tzu since last October and are registered as revenue plus commission. He also said it doesn’t matter what they say later since the city’s cost and cashflow is included, he had a name for it he said, joking that he remembered the first time Ayn Rand called taxation “the squaring of the loop”, his words exactly.

I’ve also heard the Count von Backenforth offspring have filed eleven claims for property against the Huntingmen Archives in Santa Berra County Court on the 5th next month. At lunch the Clerk said they overheard the Bakenforth children say the Huntingmen’s authority isn’t valid and wasn’t in the Backenforth will and testament but scribbled on some cocktail bar brochure. The children say it’s a dilution of compensation, that’s what they wrote in the deposition, but he said it’s more along the lines of the missing automated deposits that were overdue Thursday.

Exclusive in this paper, you’ll be the first to hear the children settled the Count von Backenforth claims against Huntingmen Archives. They said the new Agreement about automated deposits would be increased by 14 per cent.

Later in the afternoon the judge said the details of the case were sealed but a new compensation award had been ordered by the Court. The deal gives the immediate von Backenforth survivors full rights to the old south county Bernard factory that has been held under another dubious Trust at the Huntingmen.

“It’s a fight to reverse global warming”, they said Tuesday, “By reducing rail, trucking, pipe and bottle tonnage weight and eliminating Schwarzenegger’s plan to expand the San Joaquin Irrigation Canal east of Phoenix, from here on out the von Backenforth’s New American Bernard Brand will soon will be the world’s top firm in dehydrated water.”

Nuke in your backyard

Coming to a subdivision near you is a small power plant with no emissions.

Portable nuclear reactor

Hyperion Power Generation is promoting a new design for a small scale nuclear power system developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory that is a cleaner greener method of providing electrical power.

“The portable nuclear reactor is the size of a hot tub.

“It’s shaped like a cup, filled with a uranium hydride core and surrounded by a hydrogen atmosphere.

“Sealed in a buried concrete vault, refueled every five years, its steam turbine generates nonstop power for 25,000 homes.”

And science is??

These are children’s views while learning science…

  • The law of gravity says it’s not fair jumping up without coming back down.

  • The earth knows its distance from the sun, but it’s really only centrificating.
  • Someday we may discover how to make magnets that can point in any direction.
  • They say our sun is a star, but it still knows how to change back into a sun in the daytime.
  • A vibration is a motion that cannot make up its mind which way it wants to go.
  • Rainbows are just to look at, not to really understand.

Not revealed by our media

Clipped from European media:

John McCain, is being billed as the Republican liberals can live with. He is “a bipartisan progressive””, “a principled hard liberal”, “a decent man”…

He brags he would be happy for US troops to remain in Iraq for 100 years.

Don’t be fooled by the myth of John McCain. John McCain is to the right of George Bush across a whole range of subjects. He is the Republican candidate we should fear the most.


McCain is third-generation navy royalty, raised from a young age to be a senior figure in the Armed Forces, like his father and grandfather before him. He was sent to one of the most elite boarding schools in America, then to a naval academy where he ranked 894th out of 899 students in ability. He used nepotism to get ahead: when he was rejected by the National War College, he used his father’s contacts with the Secretary of the Navy to make them reconsider. He then swiftly married the heiress to a multi-million dollar fortune.


Right up to his twenties, he remained a strikingly violent man, “ready to fight at the drop of a hat”, according to his biographer Robert Timberg. This rage seems to be at the core of his personality: describing his own childhood, McCain has written: “At the smallest provocation I would go off into a mad frenzy, and then suddenly crash to the floor unconscious. When I got angry I held my breath until I blacked out.”


…he used his wife’s fortune to run to as a Republican senator.

He was a standard-issue Reaganite corporate Republican – until the Keating Five corruption scandal consumed him. [collapse of most USA Savings and Loans] In 1987, it was revealed that McCain, along with four other senators, had taken huge campaign donations from a fraudster called Charles Keating. …pressured government regulators not to look too hard into Keating’s affairs, allowing him to commit even more fraud. …turned the scandal into a debate about the political system, rather than his own personal corruption.

Oh, there’s more…an über-hawk on foreign policy:

To give a brief smorgasbord of his views: at a recent rally, he sang “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann”. He says North Korea should be threatened with “extinction”.

Ranking Rules

Rules of thumb.org
Rules of Thumb intends to collect every rule of thumb on earth.

The website offers social voting to discard junk and promote tips and wisdom. Methinks it will be awhile before pearls float to the top. The new database is small. If you have a few sayings, truisms, shortcuts, tenets of ancient wisdom, stop by to populate the archive. In time, perhaps humanity can benefit from a library of distilled wisdom.

Current samples

You can think ahead half your age.
To get the most out of your car, treat it like a pet.
When the bird and the bird book disagree, believe the bird.
If your feet are cold, put on your hat.
If you’re thirsty, you’ve waited too long.
If an ad is well designed, it will look just as good upside down.
The moon rises 50 minutes later than it did the day before.
Never see a doctor whose office isn’t large enough to swing a cat.

A Green Burp Device

Cows burp up to 20% of our greenhouse gas in the form of methane. It’s gas from one of the ruminant gut as bacteria break down grain or other feed.

This new breakthrough can absorb methane.
Maybe we can sequester burps from cows.

Record High Methane Storage Material Found

Can you visualize a surface area of over 2000 square yards?
I suppose that’s under half a football field.

Can you visualize a surface area of over 2000 square yards crammed into a small grape?

Power becoming tyranny

Petty tyranny, history proves, sparks and grows easily into dangerous times.

We must know by now that the War on Terror has stimulated excess rule making and is carried out by poorly trained employees following shortsighted policies that are commonly ineffectual while damaging innocent lives.

This story at Sign of the Times is a horrid example of ‘brown suit’ behavior: A young blonde Icelandic woman’s recent experience visiting the US, The Story of Eva Ósk Arnardóttir:

Eva Ósk ArnardóttirDuring the last twenty-four hours I have probably experienced the greatest humiliation to which I have ever been subjected.

During these last twenty-four hours I have been handcuffed and chained, denied the chance to sleep, been without food and drink and been confined to a place without anyone knowing my whereabouts, imprisoned.

Now I am beginning to try to understand all this, rest and review the events which began as innocently as possible.

Last Sunday I and a few other girls began our trip to New York. We were going to shop and enjoy the Christmas spirit. We made ourselves comfortable on first class, drank white wine and looked forward to go shopping, eat good food and enjoy life. When we landed at JFK airport the traditional clearance process began.


I was exhausted, tired and hungry. I didn’t understand the officials’ conduct, for they were treating me like a very dangerous criminal. Soon thereafter I was removed from the cubicle and two armed guards placed me up against a wall. A chain was fastened around my waist and I was handcuffed to the chain. Then my legs were placed in chains.


I could hardly believe that this was happening. Was I really about to be jailed? I was led inside in the chains and there yet another interrogation session ensued. I was fingerprinted once again and photographed. I was made to undergo a medical examination, I was searched and then I was placed in a jail cell. I was asked absurd questions such as: When did you have your last period? What do you believe in? Have you ever tried to commit suicide?

I was completely exhausted, tired and cold. Fourteen hours after I had landed I had something to eat and drink for the first time. I was given porridge and bread.


Now the Foreign Ministry [of Iceland] is looking into the matter and I hope to receive some explanation why I was treated this way.

Sadly, I wasn’t alarmed by this comment following the post: “How far down into the bowels of insanity the U.S. has fallen!”

Update:
A mother from Britain, Yvonne Bray, took her daughters, 15 and 13, to New York shortly after Christmas for a shopping trip but was hospitalized with pneumonia during their visit and told the daughters couldn’t stay.

Social workers took the daughters to a municipal orphanage in downtown Manhattan, where they were separated, strip-searched and questioned before being kept under lock and key for the next 30 hours.

The two sisters were made to shower in front of security staff and told to fill out a two-page form with questions including: “Have you ever been the victim of rape?” and “Do you have homicidal tendencies?”

One question asked “are you in a street gang?” to which a daughter replied: “I’m a member of Appledore library.”

Still dressed in hospital pajamas, the mother tracked down the girls.

While we without leadership

What’s being said before Davos?

Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization, said before traveling to Davos:

“The year 2008 is a crucial year that could end up setting the tone for some time to come. What we need is an ideological mutation without falling into the trap of protectionism.”

One such mutation in mainstream economic policy took place after the Depression of 1929…

“We are seeing the seeds of a new paradigm,” said Kenneth Rogoff, a professor at Harvard University and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, who will be at Davos this year. “Whoever wins the U.S. election will have to pay more attention to equity. And whatever comes out of the next climate change agreement will be international economic cooperation on a scale never seen before.”

“Economic theory tells us that globalization is a win-win, but it isn’t, at least not in the West,” said Stephen Roach, chief economist for Asia at Morgan Stanley.

“The theory was written for another era. We have to ask some hard questions about unfettered capitalism. We need a new script.”

Weekly earnings for full-time American workers in the second quarter last year were unchanged from their 2000 levels – even though productivity grew by 18 percent in the same period.

Fifty-four percent of Western Europeans and 43 percent of Americans now believe their children will be worse off than they are in economic terms, according to a Gallup International poll in the last quarter of 2007 across 60 countries.

Davos dedicated page here

Is economic history about to change course?

Among the chieftains of politics and industry gathering in Davos for the World Economic Forum, a consensus appears to be building that the capitalist system is in for one of those rare and tempestuous mutations that give rise to a new set of economic policies.

Important comforting guidance during this era, from Oscar Wilde,

We are all of us in the gutter
But some of us are looking at the stars.

A culture for what?

A 2006 study by Duke University Professor Lynn Smith-Lovin found that Americans are more socially isolated than only 20 years ago.

Nearly a quarter of us have “zero close friends” with which to share or talk over issues. More than 50 percent named two or fewer confidants, most often immediate family members.

Unclaimed People
A new Oregon Ombudsman program for the elderly found that sixty percent living in elder care never get a visitor. This American Life at NPR Radio has a podcast about what happens when people are left alone: “There’s a body to be buried, a house full of stuff to get rid of. It so happens there’s a county bureaucracy for just this type of problem.

What is happening?
What are humans for?

War changes people

New Generation Of Homeless Vets Emerges

For as long as the United States has sent its young men – and later its young women – off to war, it has watched as a segment of them come home and lose the battle with their own memories, their own scars, and wind up without homes. [Huffington Post]

The field of my moral vision

In a 1967 speech, Martin Luther King provides us character.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.


Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.


With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life.


Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. … Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.


We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.

We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.

In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action.


We will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first.

Fires burning underground

The Science pages of the NYTimes carried a story about underground fires burning years and years, even smoldering for centuries. Did you know?

Fires are burning in thousands of underground coal seams from Pennsylvania to Mongolia, releasing toxic gases, adding millions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and baking the earth until vegetation shrivels and the land sinks.

The coal fires are similar to those that smoldered for months beneath the wreckage of the World Trade Center, in that they involve buried fuels and are sustained and intensified by slight drafts of air and heat locked into surrounding rubble or rock.

In 2002, Maureen Sullivan at Slate asked about a Colorado fire that’s been burning since 1910, “How can a fire burn underground for 92 years, and why hasn’t anyone put it out before now?” Coal fires can reach temperatures of 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, so water dumped on them evaporates instead of putting them out.

Burning 250 years?
The Smithsonian reports that across the globe, thousands of coal fires are burning. More than forty-five years ago in Centralia, Pennsylvania, “a vast honeycomb of coal mines at the edge of the town caught fire. An underground inferno has been spreading ever since, burning at depths of up to 300 feet, baking surface layers, venting poisonous gases and opening holes large enough to swallow people or cars. The conflagration may burn for another 250 years, along an eight-mile stretch encompassing 3,700 acres, before it runs out of the coal that fuels it.”

Underground coal fireUnderground coal fires are burning in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Utah, Colorado, Kentucky and Wyoming.

Scientists believe that anywhere from 20 million to 200 million tons burn from underground coal fires in China alone – producing 1% of the world’s excess carbon dioxide each year. (Coal consumption in the United States during 2000 was just over one billion tons.) India’s coal fires are more numerous. A coal seam inside Australia’s Burning Mountain has been smoking for over 5500 years.

There are so many perpetual coal fires it might be possible to extract the heat to generate electricity after capping and directing the heat source with vertical thermal extraction.

Chemicals and fuel can be extracted from the internal gases as well. A proposal for China will ignite an underground coal mine for an above ground coal-gasification power and chemical plant, keeping the sulfur, tar, particulates and mercury underground. In some parts of the world, if it’s too costly to bring coal to the surface, British Petroleum and others believe they can burn the coal while it’s still underground.

Here’s an excellent synopsis of underground coal fires, Fire in the Hole – Coal’s Underground Secret.

Discovery is always deeper

1978 American Indian Movement Longest WalkAfter digging to a depth of 50 feet last year, Mexican scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the Mexicans, in the weeks that followed Texan scientists dug to a depth of 75 feet. Headlines in the Houston newspapers read: “Texas archaeologists have found traces of 200 year old copper wire and have concluded they had an advanced communications network a hundred years earlier than Mexico.”

One week later, the Navajo Nation Council published in the Window Rock Navajo Times, “After digging to a depth of 90 feet in wash beds near Kayenta, Elmer Chee reported that he found absolutely nothing. The tribe has therefore concluded that 300 years ago the Navajo were already wireless.” [link]

The National Film Board of Canada has posted insightful footage of the effort to call attention to broken treaty. This is a documentary that reveals courage and frustration in a nonviolent demonstration where men, women and children become a people standing. You Are on Indian Land, 1969

2008 Longest Walk across USA

Love and infinity

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side by side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky. – Rainer Maria Rilke

Another terror

Don’t be alone. There are few advocacy rules.

“Ronni Bennet has a new Time Goes By post which should terrify anyone who is getting on in age and is without close friends and relatives. She tells the story of a 73 year old woman who went into the hospital with a broken ankle expecting to go home after a short stint in a re-hab hospital but never got out. Instead, she is a prisoner in a nursing home with a radio anklet that alerts the nurses if she sets foot out of the building. She was committed as mentally incompetent even though she had a long history of managing her own affairs on the terse and illegible diagnosis of a doctor that was not even her primary care physician. This frightens me far more that anything Al Qaeda could do. This is terrorism aided and abetted by law and social prejudice.”

This type of poor institutional outcome has little oversight. [Link to post]

All together now

I have this incredible dream that one day, one minute, the whole world, at the same time, will decide it’s time for peace and love. So I just do my part. And I think that’s all you can do. I’m not telling anyone else what to do. I do this, and that’s the end of my story. – Ringo Starr