blow a whistle

Thanks to Daniel Ellsberg, who risked much to make the record of the Vietnam War public [a terribly unpopular thing], we learned about the madness that Holbrooke and others were creating. We should be grateful to the whistle-blowers who gave us the Afghanistan war documents for once again letting us in on the sick joke that passes for U.S foreign policy.

Robert Scheer at TruthDig:

What the documents exposed is the depth of chicanery that surrounds the Afghanistan occupation at every turn because we have stumbled into a regional quagmire of such dark and immense proportions that any attempt to connect this failed misadventure with a recognizable U.S. national security interest is doomed.

What is revealed on page after page is that none of the local actors, be they labeled friend or foe, give a whit about our president’s agenda. They are focused on prizes, passions and causes that are obsessively homegrown.

Our fixation on al-Qaida has nothing to do with them.

President Barack Obama’s top national security adviser admitted as much when he said last December that there were fewer than 100 of those foreign fighters left in Afghanistan. Those who do remain in the region are hunkered down in Pakistan, and as the leaked documents reveal, that nation is just toying with us by pretending to cooperate while its intelligence service continues to support our proclaimed enemies. As Gen. Stanley McChrystal made clear in his famous report, the battles in Afghanistan are tribal in nature and the agendas are local—be they about drugs, religion or the economic power of military blackmail.

The documents contain a steady drumbeat of local hustles that are certainly deadly but rise to the level of a national security threat against the U.S. only when we insist on making their history our own.

what a scam it is

Ladies and gentlemen, gold is the only investment to safeguard your livelihoods.

Glenn Beck, Gold, fraud and deceit investigationThis is about gold, currency, the end of the USA. Everybody needs gold. Glenn Beck is an upstanding man for selling us gold. We need it so badly to protect us from Obama, Pelosi, Bernanke and the Trilateral Commission.

click for ginormous chart of deceit

“Obviously all these new boiler room high pressure sales groups that used to be pushing sub-prime financing are now trying to convince the unsophisticated listeners of right wing talk that they better buy gold before the dollar becomes worthless because of Obama’s reckless spending.”

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection will investigate the business practices, fraud, deceit and aggressive sales tactics of Goldline International and Fox News’ Glenn Beck (including Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson) to sell overpriced gold coins.

Broadcasting to millions to prey upon nest eggs, how do firms like Goldline make money? The average Goldline markup was 90% above the melt value of the coin. The largest markup was 208% above the melt value. The average markup is 47% higher than competitors.

By selling gold at twice the melt value, the price of gold would need to double for suckers to break even on their so-called ‘investment’.

Requiring reasonable behavior is an interesting task. Milton Friedman assumed we would all learn by trial and error. But under an assault of false choices, not one of us will live long enough to learn how to filter out all the crap. (Can we prove that? See pdf here: “Individual Learning About Consumption”).

Education is good. Con requires restraints.

wealthy fat won’t float

The top 10%

Mountains of cash.
Hyperactive speculation.
Ponzi finance.
Captured government.

Column B – 90% of us

Anemic spending power.
Huge household debt.
Declining real wages.
Fewer jobs, more hours.

Some say laissez-faire markets are a good thing. It’s the ideology we’re sold and the hype we’ve bought.

Some say the economy is better served through pure competition. Here’s a small example, one of thousands, where leaving the marketplace alone is said to be good for the country. A case of corporate fine-print, a clause on the back of a cruise ship ticket says that if you want to sue, you have to sue in Florida. Of course, this is good for consumers!

Forcing people to sue in Florida deters frivolous lawsuits and lowers costs for the company. It can pass those savings onto consumers. Because if Alpha Cruise Lines doesn’t, then Beta Cruise Lines will.

Unhindered by consumer protection, why didn’t the cruise lines pass those savings onto consumers? Because they put that cash into shareholders’ pockets.

What did people at the top do with their money prize?

People at the top – high net worth individuals, investment funds, pension funds and the like – greatly increased the demand for complex financial products as they searched for ways to store their wealth.

The proliferating billionaires around the world pressured organizations like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan to supply them with complex financial securities.

As long as this external pressure to supply complex financial securities for the super-rich to store their wealth continues, the financial system will remain prone to generate bubbles, followed by crashes.

You’d think we’d have reams of data describing the habits of the top 10%, 1%, .5%, .1%. So what’s the problem? By merely seeking preservation in a frenzy of packaged finance and global leverage, the wealthy and their wealth are significantly under-performing.

mixology for the times

Make your own Gulf Gusher.
The glass is rimmed with sand.
The contents are saturated in crude.
The garnish floats belly-up.

1.5 oz blueberry juice
.5 oz Kahlua
.5 oz chocolate liqueur
3 blueberries
sand colored sugar, i.e. raw or demerara
shake over ice, strain, float berries on top.

surrounded by chains

USA's oldest family farmOur country’s oldest continually operating family farm is up for sale.

New Hampshire’s Tuttle Farm was founded by English settler John Tuttle with a 1632 land grant from King Charles II. The landmark property has passed from father to son for 11 generations.

“A lot of people won’t drive a few extra miles for fresh vegetables. They are going to Wal-Mart and Target and trying to save whatever they can, and we don’t have the buying power to compete.’’

“Our bodies are just basically worn out. It’s hard to conduct a farm and a business at the same time. It’s more than we can handle at this time.”

Tuttle Farm, since 1632The farm was turning a small profit until the recession.

There’s 4 million acres of family farmland in use between 2002 and 2007, an area roughly the size of Massachusetts. After 1982 the nation has lost more than 41 million acres of rural land.

ready for campaign cartoons?

Sarah Palin as a gun-blastin’, pot smokin’, pole dancin’, fundraisin’ machine set to defeat Barack Obama in a mud rasslin’ pit.

Taiwan’s Next Media Animation is the largest 3D animation studio in Asia providing clips-to-order to the world’s top entertainment and news providers.

What’s their spin for Sarah Palin’s campaign? The Alaska Dispatch is lost for words:

There’s really no good way to introduce this baffling computer-animated short….

we buy it, we use it

“We carried out about six inspections per day over a long period of time.

“All in all, we carried out about 700 inspections at different 500 sites and, in no case, did we find any weapons of mass destruction.”

[BBC, July 2010]  The UN’s former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix:

“Some people maintain that Iraq was legal. I am of the firm view that it was an illegal war. There can be cases where it is doubtful, maybe it was permissible to go to war, but Iraq was, in my view, not one of those.”

“What I question was the good judgment, particularly of President Bush but also in Tony Blair’s judgment.”

“They thought they could get away with it and therefore it was desirable to do so.”

Of course, getting away with it goes both ways. Blix said he never excluded the prospect that Iraq had begun to revive some form of chemical and biological capabilities.

water by 2050

The effects of global warming on water supply in the United States.

NRDC, Tetra Tech, future water demand and supplyMore than 1,100 counties — one-third of all counties in the lower 48 — will face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming. More than 400 of these counties will face extremely high risks of water shortages. – Natural Resources Defense Council

We can argue the accuracy of various models of temperature and precipitation, that likelihood is never science. Or we can agree that business-as-usual is a risk to water supplies.

lost half century

The net worth of housing has fallen to 1980s levels. Seems as if forty years of free markets, tax jiggering and game theory is a mere Republican frenzy. Hyped and over-generalized ideology has returned us to where we were.

Chart - Net Worth USA Housing

rigged drilling

Henry Makarka, Valdez $1“If I had a machine gun I’d shoot every one of them white sons of bitches.”

Henry Makarka was talking about the executives who came to him and his tribe 40 years ago to purchase their land at Valdez.

They were from the companies now known as Exxon and BP. The Tatitlek were paid the handsome price of $1 for Valdez, which the companies knew was worth billions.

How does BP get away with it? The same way the Godfather got away with it:

BP’s CEO of Alaskan operations hired a former CIA expert to break into the home of a whistleblower, Chuck Hamel, who had complained of conditions at the pipe’s tanker facility. BP tapped his phone calls with a US congressman and ran a surveillance and smear campaign against him.

When caught, a US federal judge said BP’s acts were “reminiscent of Nazi Germany.”

This was not an isolated case.

what we talk about

What’s our agenda?

It’s not:

  1. how the world really works
  2. what is really going on
  3. what to do about it
  4. how to live better

‘We carry on as if nothing much is wrong and as if everything in our unsustainable and doomed culture somehow makes sense, and will somehow continue, and things will just get better.’

Dave Pollard:

When I’m out in public I often listen to conversations, and what I hear is nothing but

  1. vapid time-wasting,
  2. echo-chamber reassurances,
  3. regurgitated propaganda,
  4. sob stories,
  5. unactionable rhetoric,
  6. appalling misinformation,
  7. self-aggrandizement,
  8. gossip,
  9. manipulation and denigration of others.

I hear no new ideas or insights, no cogent discussion of how we can prepare for and increase our resilience in the face of the impending sixth great extinction and the economic, energy and ecological collapse that will push extinction into overdrive and bring down the most expansive and least sustainable civilization in our species’ short history.

I no longer believe anything I read in the mainstream media.

I no longer relate to what the entertainment industry.

I have given up watching movies.

I no longer relate to what most people do with ‘leisure’ time.

I no longer have anything to talk about with most people.

laid waste

There was a leaking control pod. Equipment to secure the well wasn’t used. Test results indicating danger were ignored. Routine tests weren’t even run. The alarms were jiggered.

Jarvis DeBerry at Times Pecayune:

If the allegations are true, and rampant rule-breaking by BP led to the fatal and ecologically destructive explosion, it doesn’t necessarily follow that every safety rule that’s needed is already in place. But if reports … are true and BP and Transocean were cutting corners on a well with evident problems, then it’s right to ask if those 11 men wouldn’t still be alive if the companies had played it by the book.

Accidents happen. Weather events are acts of God. But greed and recklessness are vices.

Combine that with a seeming disregard for the lives of the workers and the sanctity of the Gulf, and you get a more fitting explanation.

Adjacent comment:

It is the universal greed that we all share. And by the way, the profit motive built America. Individuals working as hard as they can to make as much as they can to enjoy the good life as well as they can.

And we are all greedy: ‘If there is one place in heaven remaining I want God to give it to me not you. If there are only two, I want it to go to my dog. I am greedy that way.’

we are mostly delusional

Nostalgia trips manifest themselves in all sorts of curious places.

Charlie Stross:

Conservative politicians in the US — and elsewhere — get a lot of mileage from appeals to false nostalgia, to a yearning for a time when things were simpler, everyone was sturdily self-sufficient or knew their place (or both), and government was small (sometimes small enough to drown in a bathtub).

Outside [that], we have the peculiarly rustic aspirations of the green fringe, who’d like to see a world of five million or so pre-industrial humans living in harmony with nature.

I think these ideas are mostly delusional because they rely on a fundamental misapprehension about the world around us — namely that we live in a society that can be made simple enough to comprehend.

rich idiots

…the problem is that a great deal of the established media is made up of people who believe very strongly that our wealthy betters really are morally superior…

Alex Pareene at Salon:

It may surprise you to learn that these wealthy elites think the biggest problem facing America today is that the wealthy elite have to pay taxes, while the poor and unemployed sit around collecting Social Security and food stamps and unemployment benefits.

Is there anything — anything! — worse than a bunch of rich idiots telling a bunch of other rich idiots how hard rich idiots like them have it these days, and how everything would be better if only we just put these rich idiots in charge?

More on gross abuse from the rich and mean-hearted:

Specifically, we claim that higher income inequality between executives and ordinary workers results in executives perceiving themselves as being all-powerful and this perception of power leads them to maltreat rank and file workers.

We present findings from two studies – an archival study and a laboratory experiment – that show that increasing executive compensation results in executives behaving meanly toward those lower down the hierarchy.

Jim Harrison said:

I wish there were a hypocrisy index to go along with measurements of cruelty since a huge contradiction is built into a system where the sociopaths who control companies depend on the integrity of their employees…

Maxine Udall asks:

There is more at stake here than our economy. We must, as a nation, decide whether we want to continue on the path we have been on since roughly 1980.

Do we want to continue to reward disproportionately a small fraction of the population that (based on recent performance) seems better at misallocating financial, physical, and human capital through speculative endeavors?

Do we want to continue the trickle down of meanness?

Roger Gathman stomps:

I think, as you trace the amazing split between the income gains of the wealthiest 10 percent and the other 90 percent since the eighties, you will find that the more disposable money the wealthiest have, the more they will use it to ensure their positions. I don’t find this very puzzling.

And a rant from Mick Arran:

We are locked down, locked into a system which gives rights to the rich, the powerful, and the corporate.

And it doesn’t seem to matter to anyone that this only makes things worse and worse.

Believing that giving the rich control of the society will lead to economic prosperity for everyone is now dogma for the Religion of $$$.  We’ve decided to take that on faith because the rich told us to.

we live inside a black hole

Havel and Ruck Tunnel HouseThere is nothing to rule out that our entire universe is inside a black hole.

Many other massive black holes might contain their own complete universe too.

We might be silly to think that the bottom of a black hole is an actual point of infinite density.

In fact, we could immediately see that our universe is just one of many inside massive black holes if we were not already inside our own black hole!

Let’s see.

There’s an angle in the spin or momentum of all elementary particles. This angular spin of matter is a torsion in the geometry of space-time. Inside a black hole, this spinning torsion prevents matter from compressing to infinite density.

Got that?

Because of spin, the bottom of a black hole is not straight-to-a-pinpoint compression, not the ‘time-arrow’ that shrinks to what we call singularity. Instead, space-time inside a black hole must instantly start rebounding, expanding into another universe. Ours is one of those.

How would we know if we are living inside a black hole?

To explain why particles in our universe show up with a ‘preferred direction’ in their spin. a spinning black hole would have imparted some spin to the space-time inside it. That immense ‘torsion’ will propel an expanding new universe inside the black hole.

world’s largest tent

The largest tent in the world is the Khan Shatyr residential and entertainment center, an indoor city for 20,000 recently opened in Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan.

Covered in layers of translucent fabric, it’s 650 feet across, over 2 football fields, and 500 feet high.

“We are beginning to see the rise of the mega-buildingclimatic enclosures enveloping small towns—mainly because they are being built in unpleasant climates.” The roof support is 192 radial 3 inch cables with 16 wrapped restraints. How many cables for Buckminster Fuller’s dome over Manhattan?

two days of our mood

Sifting huge data sets, the Annenberg Innovation Lab and IBM put together a visualization of America’s mood over 48 hours.

from tear to shining tear

Read it and weep.

•    1% own nearly twice as much as they did 15 years ago.
•    66% income growth after 2001 went to top 1%.
•    83% of all stocks are in the hands of 1%.
•    10% extract 50% of all national income.
•    50% of us own less than 1% of all income.
•    80% of us have only 7% of all cashable assets.
•    Banks own more housing than all Americans put together.
•    Only 5% of incomes matched rising housing costs since 1975.
•    Executive pay jumped to 500 to 1 since 2000.
•    Wall Street bonuses were up 17% over 2008.
•    %16 more millionaires in 2009, to 7.8 million.
•    61% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
•    36% have no retirement savings.
•    43% have less than $10,000 for retirement.
•    24% postponed retirement in the past year.
•    ~1.4 million filed bankruptcy in 2009, up 32% over 2008.
•    Finding a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
•    40% are employed in low pay service jobs.
•    Only federal pay is more than crushed private sector.
•    40 million are on food stamps; up to 43 million in 2011.
•    21% of children live below the poverty line – highest in 20 years.

spilling testimony

“We all hate the moratorium, because its going to hurt us badly, but if anyone needs a reason to understand why its been put in place, this is it. This was not a freak accident and the widespread disabling of safety systems was not unusual.” – Mike Williams, Transocean

The rig’s one danger alarm never sounded, was disabled, could not be heard. If it had, workers in the drilling area — the shaker room, the mud room, the pit and pump room — would have immediately evacuated. The rig’s general alarm and indicator lights were set to ‘inhibited’ meaning they would record high gas levels or fire in a computer, but wouldn’t trigger any warning signals.

Experts have said it was a mistake to displace the mud before the well was completely plugged, because the mud weight is the first defense against natural gas or oil kicking up and blowing out the well.

“Maybe they were trying to save time. At the end of the well sometimes they think about speeding up.”

Underwater plumes of oil have been confirmed.

Generally 0.8 miles deep and up to 15 miles from the wellhead, the white dot in this Joint Analysis Group screen shot.

gut whisperers

We are composite beings.
Each of us carries about 10 trillion bacteria in our gastro-intestinal tract. 1000 species of microbes live inside us with 100 times more genes than in all our cells. But we did not know there are around ten times as many viruses in our guts ! living a cozy existence inside the bacteria inside us.

solve the budget

Anatole Kaletsky:

The politics of the next decade will be dominated by a battle over public spending and taxes between the generations.

  • Why are conflicts between old and young never debated?
  • The average baby-boomer’s benefits is 118 per cent of the taxes they paid.
  • Baby boomers are so numerous that no politician dares to campaign against their interests.

Will politics degenerate into a conflict between the dwindling number of voters with children, who care about education and the future, and the massive power of pensioners?

Here is a modest proposal to avert this awful outcome. Since children under 18 are not allowed to vote, perhaps pensioners could be deprived of the right to vote after 75 or 80. An equally effective alternative would be to give mothers an extra vote for every child under voting age.

failure to opportunity

The 50-mile drive to work and 5-mile drive to the supermarket. a crisis in the boomtown mentality of cheap energy, unlimited water, and effortless credit.

Beleaguered communities are now left holding the bag of an economic house of cards come crashing – harbingers of the consequences of an unsustainable economic, energy and development model.

Too often efforts toward sustainability remain just as nebulous and hard to define as the very word itself. Many aspire toward “sustainability,” but most need help in achieving it, especially at municipal or regional scale.

Brains back in the city

huge security buildup

Secrecy so massive since 9/11 that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

10,000 locations across the United States.

1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies.

pointless money-shuffling

The banks’ contribution to the economy has been overstated.

There’s terrific error that crashed huge engines. Folks are hurting, economists babble, politicians cheek, and we oscillate between suspicion and credulity—blame on one edge, blindness on the other.

Good Grief. Why doesn’t anyone talk about the corruption that’s behind all of this?

Governments are supposed to regulate a whole range of activity to ensure that the public get a fair deal and are protected from naked greed. The problem is that many of the ‘regulated’ industries have so much money behind them that companies simply bribe their way around the regulators.

In this case the financial industry pumped billions into politicians and regulators to buy a regulatory regime that suited them. Look at donations to political parties and individual politicians. Look at regulators and politicians becoming employees of regulated companies, politicians becoming lobbyists, bankers becoming regulators…. Corporate insiders wrote their own legislation. It goes on and on.

What about companies that step out of line? Fines for misbehavior are a joke. Goldman’s fine is equivalent to a couple days profit. Why? That’s the financial industry. Look at oil, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, retail, media, real estate…  goes on and on.

Corruption and greed.

The whole thing stinks to high heaven. What is being done about it?

The chief financial regulators of Britain are in the news recently more for their candor than their policy. Andrew Haldane, executive director for financial stability at the Bank of England, says the banking industry is “as much mirage as miracle”.  There is something wrong with the calculations.

The financial industry has done so well for itself, in short, because it has been given the license to make a leveraged bet on property.

The riskiness of that bet was underestimated because almost everyone from bankers through regulators to politicians missed one simple truth: that property prices cannot keep rising faster than the economy or the ability to service property-related debts.

The cost of that lesson is now being borne by the developed world’s taxpayers.

Banks increased risk-taking by selling ‘insurance policies’… offered steady returns in good times but disastrous losses in especially difficult times, but these greater risks brought little economic benefit.

And oversold:

Mortgages exceed property value