While under Bush

The New York Times noticed:

The price of rice, a staple in the diets of nearly half the world’s population, has almost doubled on international markets in the last three months.

That has pinched the budgets of millions of poor Asians and raised fears of civil unrest.

Shortages and high prices for all kinds of food have caused tensions and even violence around the world in recent months.

Since January, thousands of troops have been deployed in Pakistan to guard trucks carrying wheat and flour. Protests have erupted in Indonesia over soybean shortages, and China has put price controls on cooking oil, grain, meat, milk and eggs. Food riots have erupted in recent months in Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Ethanol Scam

TIME weighs in on Bush ethanol policies:

The environmental cost of this cropland creep is now becoming apparent. One groundbreaking new study in Science concluded that when this deforestation effect is taken into account, corn ethanol and soy biodiesel produce about twice the emissions of gasoline.

Cellphone deaths

Popular story in Europe today:

Earlier this year, the French government warned against the use of mobile phones, especially by children. Germany also advises its people to minimize handset use, and the European Environment Agency has called for exposures to be reduced.

Dr Vini Khurana – a top neurosurgeon who has received 14 awards over the past 16 years, has published more than three dozen scientific papers – reviewed more than 100 studies on the effects of mobile phones. He has put the results on a brain surgery website, and a paper based on the research is currently being peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.

He admits that mobiles can save lives in emergencies, but concludes that “there is a significant and increasing body of evidence for a link between mobile phone usage and certain brain tumours”. He believes this will be “definitively proven” in the next decade.

Noting that malignant brain tumors represent “a life-ending diagnosis”, he adds: “We are currently experiencing a reactively unchecked and dangerous situation.” He fears that “unless the industry and governments take immediate and decisive steps”, the incidence of malignant brain tumors and associated death rate will be observed to rise globally within a decade from now, by which time it may be far too late to intervene medically.

“It is anticipated that this danger has far broader public health ramifications than asbestos and smoking.” [story]

We are our own enemy

Enemies have been known to unite. Bush’s war has this strategic weakness too. Maybe we’ll see a very different Arab world soon.

Al Jazeera’s Middle East analyst, Lamis Andoni says: “Gaddafi says what many think, but do not say. His words reflect a prevailing sentiment in the Arab streets that is fed up with the failure of Arab leaders to rise up to challenges.

‘Your turn is next’

Gaddafi asked: “How can we accept that a foreign power comes to topple an Arab leader while we stand watching?”
He said Saddam had once been an ally of Washington, “but they sold him out”.

“Your turn is next,” Gaddafi told the Arab officials gathered for the conference, some of whom looked stunned while others broke into laughter at his frankness.

In his speech, the Libyan leader also criticised Arab disunity and inaction on the region’s multiple crises.

“Where is the Arabs’ dignity, their future, their very existence? Everything has disappeared,” he said.

“Our blood and our language may be one, but there is nothing that can unite us.”

Gaddafi also mocked a plan by the Arab League to start Arab cooperation on a joint nuclear programme.

“How can we do that? We hate each other, we wish ill of each other and our intelligence services conspire against each other. We are our own enemy.”

Bullets in donated food

Safari Club International’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program donated 317,000 pounds of venison last year to the needy, said Doug Burdin, a lawyer for the Tucson, Ariz.-based group.

The meat donated by hunters was enough for more than 1.2 million meals, he said. “It’s provided a lot of free meals to a lot of people.”


Dr. William Cornatzer, a Bismarck physician and hunter, alerted health officials after he conducted his own tests on venison using a CT scanner and found lead in 60 percent of 100 samples.


Officials in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa warn that the meat could be contaminated by lead from bullets, and North Dakota health officials told food pantries in the state to throw out donated venison.

Birds under Bush

1) Feed costs rose as much as 50% last year.
2) Feed represents about half the cost of raising a bird.
3) Poultry farms are beginning to close around the country.

The CEO of Pilgrim’s Pride, the world’s biggest poultry processor, says, “Our company and industry are struggling to cope with unprecedented increases in feed-ingredient costs this year due largely to the U.S. government’s ill-advised policy of providing generous federal subsidies to corn-based ethanol blenders.” [link]

The poultry industry isn’t alone. At SolveClimate, they’re asking, “In an age of peak oil, are we also reaching peak meat?”

As prices rise…

National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders

“We made progress on virtually every aspect of race and poverty for about a decade after the Kerner Commission report and then, particularly with the advent of the Reagan administration and so forth, that progress stopped. And we began to go backwards…

“I think virtually everything [the Kerner Commission recommended] was right… one of the awfulest things that came out of the Reagan presidency and later was the feeling that government can’t do anything right and that everything it does is wrong. The truth is that virtually everything we tried worked. We just quit trying it. Or we didn’t try it hard enough. And that’s what we need to get back to.”

More at Bill Moyers

Sharpened Saliva

My friend Gary said, “Great story. Enjoyed every bit. Makes me feel useless living my simple life. That man knew how to live!”

From Discover Magazine, Inuit Knives Made of Feces, Wade Davis, a real-life Indiana Jones, describes the Inuit ‘shit-knife’:

“As the feces began to freeze in his hand, he shaped it into an implement. When the blade started to take shape, he put a spray of saliva along the leading edge to sharpen it. He used it to butcher a dog. Improvised a sled with the dog’s rib cage and disappeared into the night.”

ScienceBlog found a thrilling talk on ethonsphere that Wade Davis, a National Geographic explorer, gave at TED – “the perils facing cultural diversity in this increasingly monocultural world”.

Sinkholes in the sky

Our costly local armies are eager to purchase fleets of unmanned flying drones to fight crime.

“…law enforcement agencies across the United States have voiced a growing interest in using drones for domestic crime-fighting missions.”

The aerospace industry building these unmanned aerial vehicles is lobbying hard for what it calls a huge demand, but the FAA is worried.

The Federal Aviation Administration – the government agency responsible for regulating civil aviation – has been slow in developing procedures for the use of drones by police departments.

“You don’t want one of these coming down on grandma’s windshield when she’s on her way to the grocery store.”

Rather than spending where it matters, robot pork will soon be flying over our homes. Story at IHT

In case we don’t know

Barack Obama’s speech on the economy points to a number of truths that have corrupted our nation over the last decades. Describing Whitehouse proposals for dealing with the finance crisis, Obama says President George W. Bush is “completely divorced from reality.”

“Under Republican and Democratic administrations, we failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practices.”

“The result has been a distorted market that creates bubbles instead of steady sustainable growth — a market that favors Wall Street over Main Street, but ends up hurting both.”

He said Washington shouldn’t be merely bailing out banks holding risky mortgages because that’s far too little for our deteriorating economy.

“While this is consistent with Senator McCain’s determination to run for George Bush’s third term, it won’t help families who are suffering.”

He said industry lobbyists and weak legislators have created a misshapen deregulated economy.

“Instead of establishing a 21st century regulatory framework, we simply dismantled the old one.”

More at IHT

Induced cracks

The numbers are getting warmer here too. One in three from time to time fails to control his or her temper.

“Angry young men and women suffering from arrogant bosses, rigid, oppressive class systems or sexual inadequacy, or laboring under thwarted ambitions, even if these have been inspired by grandiosity and unrealistic expectations rather than ability, have been destroying self-esteem and engendering fury since the Roman Empire.

Reporting a survey showing that people are becoming angrier, The Times reminds us that Jesus displayed commendable rage and that it’s stress that causes previously well-balanced personalities to crack.

On the other hand, maybe we choose to crack. Stanford University reports that more of us are willing to blow if we think our anger is useful. [story]

…people prefer to experience emotions that are potentially useful, even when they are unpleasant.

…what people prefer to feel at any given moment may depend, in part, on what they might get out of it.

Power from the people

Challenging thoughts, with advice for community organizing, i.e. how to enjoy meetings and how to progress locally.

“The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement.

Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.

It is not that the system has problems, rather the system itself is the problem.

Democracy isn’t merely power to the people, but power from the people too.

Thoughts from the Outland

When in doubt, trade up:

It has long been thought that our consciousness – which we shall define here as that which we know, think and feel – is located in our brains. This has been the “standard model” since some time before the Enlightenment and today nearly everyone accepts it as a given. Much research has been expended in psychology, biology and neuroscience to find just where in the brain human consciousness resides. We are proposing that this is just so much barking up the wrong tree.

Human consciousness uses the human brain. It does not originate in the brain nor is it in any way a permanent feature of the brain. Human consciousness resides in the unobstructed universe, that realm which so many of us cannot see yet is around us all.

Another Era

Ron Paul gained the attention of millions of Americans and set records for fund raising. He says we need to dismantle this insolvent corrupt mess of our government, and revitalize ourselves back to a Republic of, by, and for We, the People. We know that, but for many reasons Ron Paul won’t take us there. He’s been deleted.

As Orwell rolls over in his grave, we’ve forgotten how to make what we believe. Whether leaders such as Ron Paul or 1,000s of others try to remind us, we’ve forgotten how to make our world.

Yes, there are leaders outside of Washington and outside of major media that point to better culture and greater choices, but we’ve forgotten how to join together, how to define our needs, and how to insist.

Another election will take us to a few more years. I’d prefer we jump to an entirely new era.

It’s Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Truth Emergency

It’s painfully clear,

“we do not lack brilliant voices, great stories, or mounting evidence of illicit forces run wild. What we do lack is a coherent vision of what we face and ways to quickly communicate it to the public with galvanizing power.

Our challenges are ignorance, fear, censorship, propaganda and an increasingly lethal merger of authoritarian corporate values and repressive military force.

Despite our unprecedented array of talents, truths and new tech resources, conditions continue to worsen at a truly surreal rate. Many say our democracy will not survive the decade. Others have difficulty recognizing it right now.

We only know it’s time for the best & brightest working against this coup to come together now and urgently explore what can and must be done.”

Summer of Lovehandles

Connie Madden, former journalist and programmer at KSAN Radio, attended the 40th Anniversary Reunion of the Summer of Love:

Summer of Love 40th AnniversaryOther writers take other tacks on Summer of Love. Joel Selvin in the San Francisco Chron seemed to think it was about music and nostalgia, checking each other out and trying to be 20 something again.

I thought it was remarkable how little many had aged, though there was that weight -gain thing; some said it was Summer of Lovehandles!

For me, it was a grand gathering of so many tribes I couldn’t name them, so diverse and yet all familiar.

“Marxists of the Groucho variety”

Connie reminds us of Scoop Niskar who signed off with KSAN’s famous last words, “Remember, if you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”

He wasn’t asked. So?

The head of the world’s biggest food and beverage company warns:

“If as predicted we look to use biofuels to satisfy 20 percent of the growing demand for oil products, there will be nothing left to eat,” Nestle’s chairman and chief executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said.

“To grant enormous subsidies for biofuel production is morally unacceptable and irresponsible.”

Greed grease

From the New York Times, What Created This Monster?

The investment community has morphed into something beyond banks and something beyond regulation.

We call it the shadow banking system.

It is the private trading of complex instruments that lurk in the financial shadows that worries regulators and Wall Street and that have created stresses in the broader economy.

In the past decade, there has been an explosion in complex derivative instruments, such as collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps, which were intended primarily to transfer risk.

These products are virtually hidden from investors, analysts and regulators, even though they have emerged as one of Wall Street’s most outsized profit engines. They don’t trade openly on public exchanges, and financial services firms disclose few details about them.

Packaging without restraint

Phillip Blond comments at the Independent on today’s “asset insolvency crisis brought about by massive debt leverage.”

The Western world is in an economic crisis similar in scale to the oil shock of 1973. What we are seeing is nothing less than the unravelling of neo-liberalism – the dominant economic and ideological model of the last 30 years. [I think he’s saying deregulation and laissez-faire government has flaws!]

The disintegration of Anglo-Saxon-inspired markets has come about largely because of the confluence of two tendencies of the “free market”: speculation and monopoly capitalism.

Contrary to received opinion, free markets – unless subject to civil regulation, asset distribution and persistent intervention – always tend to monopoly.

Similarly, there is nothing inherently efficient about free markets – they do not of themselves promote sound investment or wise management.

Rather, when markets are conceived wholly in terms of price and return, and when asset wealth and the leverage that this provides becomes as concentrated as it was in the 19th century (which is a scenario we are approaching), then markets encourage nothing other than gambling masking itself as sound investment.

This incalculable level of speculation is abetted by the huge concentration of wealth that has occurred since 1973. Why?

Because if markets tend to monopoly then smaller groups of people control larger amounts of assets. The latest figures demonstrate this admirably: the richest 10 per cent of the UK population increased their share of the nation’s marketable wealth (excluding housing) from 57 per cent in 1976 to 71 per cent in 2003. Over the same period, the speculative capital that could be deployed or invested by the bottom 50 per cent of the British population fell from 12 per cent to just 1 per cent. Indeed, the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population, on current government figures, now control more than a third of all the marketable wealth – and this ignores the vast sums held in offshore tax havens.

The New Economics Foundation has shown that global growth has not aided the poor. In the 1980s, for every $100 of world growth, the poorest 20 per cent received $2.20; by 2001, they received only 60 cents. Clearly neo-liberal growth disproportionately benefits the rich and further impoverishes the poor.

Real wage increases in the top 13 countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have been below the rate of inflation since about 1970 – a situation compounded in Britain as the measure of inflation massively underestimates the real cost of living.

Civilians are more powerful

A weakness of a standing army is it will acculturate itself to conflict, framing humanity as the dominant or the defeated, a militian’s choice.

Vietnam Inc.

To expect foreigners to be able to tune into this complexly structured existence, even when afforded every encouragement, is to be highly optimistic, especially in the case of the Americans whose alienation as a group from the Vietnamese is extreme; but, when the society as a whole is actively using every means possible to prevent its happening, the expectation is wildly unrealistic.

So, what the previous American administration should have asked itself is, whether or not to become involved in revolutionising (and simultaneously being exploited by) a people with whom it could not communicate: whether or not Americans should attempt to win the hearts and minds of a people who never reveal their desires or aspirations: whether or not it would be feasible to co-operate with a people who have a language that is impossible to speak and difficult to read even with the aid of a dictionary or phrase book . . . To put it another way, was it fair to send American boys to a country where they have twenty-five different ways of pronouncing the word “Ma”?

Damn donkey’d criminals that have lifted rage on us. Find them. Kill them if it saves our children. But see humanity as greater, cultivate our aspirations, or become too weak to defend us.

Bush traps us in corn

The OilDrum blog summarized the mess of shortsighted and pork barrel fuel policies and calls it a vicious circle of rising prices:

“…surging energy prices are a big component of surging inflation, but with the ethanol mandates we are throwing jet fuel on an already raging fire.”

Who’s hurting?

  1. The ethanol producer
  2. The rancher and farmer
  3. The farmland buyer
  4. The environment
  5. Anyone who eats

The Mate Calibration

From the comments at Science blog: Do Attractive Women Want It All?

Men, if you thought dating was complicated before, I think the good people at the University of Texas have just raised the bar.

Researchers have identified four categories of characteristics women seek in a partner:

  1. good genes, reflected in desirable physical traits,
  2. resources,
  3. the desire to have children and good parenting skills, and
  4. loyalty and devotion.

And they found that “women gauge what they can get based on what they got”; that attractive women usually are going for the whole package of looks, bucks, skills and faithfulness.

The team developed a new term for women wanting it all. They call it the “mate value calibration adaptation”. Woot!

Did he know?

Judicial Watch is suing Bush to learn why top officials were placed on antibiotics the day of the September 11 attacks.

In October 2001, press reports revealed that White House staff had been on a regimen of the powerful antibiotic Cipro since the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Judicial Watch is aggressively pursuing the disclosure of the facts and the decision for White House staff, and President Bush as well, to begin taking Cipro nearly a month before anthrax was detected on Capitol Hill.

The American people deserve a full accounting from the Bush administration, the FBI , and other agencies concerning the anthrax attacks.