« September 2006 | Main | November 2006 »

October 31, 2006

Peak Grains Corporations, Globalization  Development  Environment

The world is running dangerously low on grains, writes Wayne Roberts at Energy Bulletin:

Now's the time to brace yourself for major price hikes in food, as peak grains join the lineup of lifestyle-changing events along with peak oil and peak water.

Unless this year's harvest is unexpectedly different from six out of the last seven years, the world's ever-decreasing number of farmers do not produce enough staple grains to feed the world's ever-increasing number of people. [...]

Whenever there's a shortfall in the amount of food produced in any given year, it's possible to dip into an international cupboard or "reserve" of grains (wheat, rice and corn, for example) left over from previous years of good harvests. [...]

The world's grain reserve has been dipped into for six of the last seven years, and is now at its lowest point since the early 1970s. There's enough in the cupboard to keep people alive on basic grains for 57 days. Two months of survival foods is all that separates mass starvation from drought, plagues of locusts and other pests, or wars and violence that disrupt farming, all of which are more plentiful than food.

To put the 57 days into geopolitical perspective, China's shortfall in wheat is greater than the entire wheat production of Canada, one of the world's breadbaskets. Since the World Trade Organization prohibits government intervention that keeps any items off the free trade ledger, there's no law that says that Canadians, or any other people, get first dibs on their own food production.

To put the 57 days in historical perspective, the world price for wheat went up six-fold in 1973, the last time reserves were this low. Wheat prices ricocheted through the food supply chain in many ways, from higher prices for cereal and breads eaten directly by humans, to the cost for milk and meat produced from livestock fed a grain-based diet. If such a chain reaction happens this year, wheat could fetch $21 a bushel, again about six times its current price. It might fetch even more, given that there are two other pressing demands for grains that were not as forceful during the 1970s. Those happy days pre-dated modern fads such as using grains as a feedstock for ethanol, now touted as an alternative to petroleum fuels for cars, and pre-dated factory barns that bring grains to an animal's stall, thereby eliminating farm workers who tended livestock while they grazed in fields on pasture grasses. [Emphasis added]

There's a perfect storm brewing: peak oil, peak water, peak grains, peak fish — the latter three exacerbated by global warming.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

"A Stable Of Thieves And Perverts" Politics

Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone that the current Congress is the worst ever:

These past six years were more than just the most shameful, corrupt and incompetent period in the history of the American legislative branch. These were the years when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula — a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable.

How did they do it? In five easy steps, say Taibbi. Read his explanation here.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Blacklisting Air America Media

Media Matters has obtained an internal ABC Radio Networks memo that lists nearly 100 advertisers who demand, according to the memo, that "NONE of their commercials air during AIR AMERICA programming."

Among the advertisers blacklisting Air America are Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, Federal Express, General Electric, McDonald's, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and the U.S. Navy.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Officials said Tuesday that Iraqis have agreed to develop a timetable for progress in stabilizing Iraq. So there you have it. There's now a timetable for establishing a timetable. Welcome home, boys! — Amy Poehler

Posted by Jonathan at 09:04 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 30, 2006

51% Politics

Karl Rove's GOP ruled like they had a mandate, despite getting into office by the thinnest of margins. Billmon explains:

There is nothing in the record of the past six years that suggests building a broad majority coalition has ever been the objective of the Rovian political project. Just the opposite, in fact. The goal has always been to create a narrow, but solid, majority — a dependable 51% or 52% — that would leave the GOP machine in firm control but reduce the need for the kind of moderate compromises required to hold a broad coalition together. Thus the overwhelming emphasis on keeping the conservative base energized and motivated, no matter what. As long as the base is on board, the extra 12 or 15 percentage points needed to reach a majority can always be picked up one way or another — without having to cut too many non-conservatives a slice of the pie. Or so the theory holds.

It's really just a redneck variation on the old Leninist strategy for a party dictatorship — if the GOP machine can control a majority of conservatives, and conservatives can control a majority of Republicans, then Republicans should be able to control (barely) a majority of the voters, and thus the country. [Emphasis added]

They don't care about mandates. They care about power, power that doesn't depend on consensus, coalition, or compromise. People marvelled when Bush squeaked into office and then acted like he'd won by a landslide. But the rules had changed.

It's a thug's game now, a game for pirates, cutthroats, and cold-blooded killers. I doubt very much we've hit bottom. They've got the election machinery well in hand, and November 7th may just turn out to be the bummer of all time. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:56 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

The Simple Logic Politics

Digby sums up the choice November 7th:

Let's say you have a problem. You have the choice of two people to solve the problem — the one who caused the problem, refuses to admit it even is a problem and won't change anything even as the problem grows worse — or the other one. Which do you choose?

That's the simple logic of this election.

QED

Posted by Jonathan at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:46 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush has authorized the building of a 700-mile fence. A 700-mile fence they're going to build between the United States and Mexico...That's a pretty long fence. I'm thinking to myself, I just hope there's a way Halliburton can make some money off of this deal. It would be nice to throw something their way for a change. — David Letterman

Posted by Jonathan at 09:36 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 29, 2006

Letterman v. O'Reilly — Round Two Media

This is awesome. Bill O'Reilly gets pummelled by Dave Letterman. Video at Crooks and Liars. The usual blowhard condescension from O'Reilly, but Dave's having none of it. Not to be missed.

Sample Letterman lines:

I didn't say we're a bad country, I didn't say Bush is an evil liar. You’re putting words in my mouth. Just the way you put artificial facts in your head.

And:

You raise some points, but the truth of it is, a reasonable person can't believe what you're saying.

Go watch. It'll brighten your day.

[Thanks, Paul]

Posted by Jonathan at 02:25 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Funny How That Works Politics

According to Media Matters, the verdict in Saddam Hussein's trial has been postponed until November 5, two days before the midterm elections:

The Bush administration has a long history of timing national security-related actions with the political calendar, and the media should be asking if it has done so again. The verdict of the Saddam Hussein trial, which was originally scheduled to be announced on October 16, 2006, has been postponed until November 5, 2006, just two days before the U.S. midterm elections.

Given the importance of the midterm elections, the administration's documented history of manipulating Iraq and terrorism announcements for political gain, and the heavy influence of the U.S. on the Iraqi court, David Brock, President and CEO of Media Matters for America, today called on the media to question the new date set for the release of the Saddam verdict. [Emphasis added]

Could anything be more transparent, more blatant, more obvious? Imagine the howls for his blood had Clinton had this.

Posted by Jonathan at 02:03 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 01:46 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

This is a bleak time for the Republican Party. You know you have trouble when the least embarrassing guy in your group is Arnold Schwarzenegger. — Jimmy Kimmel

Posted by Jonathan at 01:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 28, 2006

Thinking About Stem Cells Ethics

[Still on vacation, but here's a re-post of something I wrote a couple of years ago. With Rush and the right whining about Michael J. Fox campaigning for embryonic stem cell research, it may be worth revisiting.]

Last night, I heard part of a radio interview with Dr. Steven Clark, an immunologist and medical ethicist on the University of Wisconsin faculty of Human Oncology. The topic was embryonic stem cell research. Clark’s in favor of it, including the cloning of human embryos that enables the process.

What made the interview especially interesting was the fact that Clark is a political conservative and evangelical Christian. Yet he had that wonderfully refreshing attitude shared by all good scientists: you don’t fudge the data, and you think things through for yourself — logically, not dogmatically.

On the question of whether human life begins at conception, he had this to say: Ultimately, the question isn’t when does life begin. The question is when does one have a moral obligation toward that life. Embryonic stem cell research involves taking cells from a five-day-old embryo, which, as he said, is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence and has no brain, no life history, no identity.

But, opponents of stem cell research would say, that five-day-old embryo has the potential to become a fully-developed human being. Don’t we then have a responsibility to accord it the same moral status as a fully-developed human being?

Clark offered a down-to-earth thought experiment that cuts right through the dogma. Imagine, he said, you are walking by a stem cell laboratory and you see that a fire is raging inside. You see a person lying unconscious on the floor inside and, nearby, a tank containing some number of five-day-old embryos. Which do you save, the person or the embryos?

Let’s make the scenario even more clear-cut. Suppose what you see are a dozen trapped children and a petri dish containing 13 five-day-old embryos. There are more embryos than children. Which do you save, the children or the embryos? Faced with this choice, not even the staunchest fertilized-egg-equals-human-being dogmatist would hesitate to save the children.

This thought experiment illustrates exactly the choice that faces us. I.e., there are living human beings with a variety of maladies who could be saved by research and therapy utilizing stem cells. Do we save them, or do we save the five-day-old embryos?

Posted by Jonathan at 02:29 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

1-866-OUR-VOTE Vote Fraud

Americans reading this, I'll assume you're planning to go vote on the 7th. Here's a phone number to write down and put in your wallet: 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Call it if you encounter suspicious or fraudulent behavior. My guess is that fraud will be rampant. It will be impossible to keep them honest, but every little bit helps.

[Thanks, Matt]

Posted by Jonathan at 02:06 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Saturday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 02:03 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Bush is getting rid of the phrase, "stay the course." That was his phrase for the entire war. Maybe the phrase should have been, "Find bin Laden." Do you miss the old days when the phrase was, "Stay under the desk?" — David Letterman

Posted by Jonathan at 01:59 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 27, 2006

Into 5GW Global Guerrillas  War and Peace

The nature of war is changing rapidly, morphing into what might deserve to be called "fifth generation warfare". Read John Robb's discussion, here. No point in my summarizing it: it couldn't be more succinct. The US leadership doesn't understand what's happening to them, and they are doomed therefore to fail. Being a "superpower" no longer guarantees victory, if it ever did. It's more likely a case now of "the bigger they come, they harder they fall."

Essential reading.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:30 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 04:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The election is two weeks away and there are rumors the Republicans are getting ready for an election night disaster, which would be a first — a disaster they were actually prepared for. — Bill Maher

Posted by Jonathan at 04:08 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 26, 2006

On The Road

Travelling for the next four days, so posts are likely to be spotty. I'll try to get something up tomorrow, though. Stay tuned. Thanks.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:45 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Thursday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

They were talking to President Bush about what he likes to do in his spare time. He said what he likes to do is get on the Internet and he Googles. He likes to look at satellite photos of his ranch. Well, great. How about looking for Osama bin Laden? — David Letterman

Posted by Jonathan at 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 25, 2006

Staying The Course Iraq  Politics

Awesome video (via AmericaBlog):

They were for "stay the course" before they were against it. Has a familiar ring.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:33 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

World's Coral Rapidly Dying Environment

60% of the world's coral may be gone in 25 years. AP:

Researchers fear more than half the world's coral reefs could die in less than 25 years and say global warming may [be] at least partly to blame.

Sea temperatures are rising, weakening the reefs' resistance to increased pollutants, such as runoff from construction sites and toxins from boat paints. The fragile reefs are hosts to countless marine plants and animals.

"Think of it as a high school chemistry class," said Billy Causey, the Caribbean and Gulf Mexico director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"You mix some chemicals together and nothing happens. You crank up the Bunsen burner and all of a sudden things start bubbling around. That's what's happening. That global Bunsen burner is cranking up." [...]

Last year's coral loss in the Caribbean waters supports predictions that 60 percent of the world's coral could die within a quarter century, said Tyler Smith of the University of the Virgin Islands.

"Given current rates of degradation of reef habitats, this is a plausible prediction," Smith said.

More than 47 percent of the coral in underwater study sites covering 31 acres around the U.S. Virgin Islands died after sea temperatures exceeded the norm for three months in 2005, said Jeff Miller, a scientist with the Virgin Islands National Park. [...]

Up to 30 percent of the world's coral reefs have died in the last 50 years, and another 30 percent are severely damaged, said Smith, who studies coral health in the U.S. Virgin Islands and collaborates with researchers globally. [...]

The researchers said global warming was a potential cause of the abnormally high sea temperatures but was not the only suspect in the reefs' demise.

What causes disease in coral can be hard to pinpoint and could be a combination of things. Other threats include silt runoff from construction sites, which prevents the coral from getting enough sunlight, and a record increase in fleshy, green algae, which competes with coral for sunlight.

"Climate change is an important factor that is influencing coral reefs worldwide," said Mark Eakin, director of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch. "It adds to the other problems that we are having." [Emphasis added]

This is the sort of thing that should be front page news all over the world. But because it's happening in (relatively) slow motion, it barely gets noticed. In planetary terms, however, a quarter century is the blink of an eye. For 60% of the planet's coral to disappear that quickly, we have to be skating on very thin ice indeed. How many dead canaries in the coal mine will it take to get our attention?

Posted by Jonathan at 09:45 AM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

It seems a lot of things about Republicans happen to be coming out now, only after they've done them. — Jon Stewart

Posted by Jonathan at 08:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 24, 2006

Cindy Sheehan Considers Forming A Third Party Activism  Politics  War and Peace

Joshua Frank interviews Cindy Sheehan at GNN:

Joshua Frank: Cindy, we are in the armpit of another election season and it seems that the mainstream antiwar movement is rallying behind the Democrats once again, hoping if the Dems can just recapture the House that the Republicans will finally be held accountable for all their horrible faults. Impeachment will follow and the war will end. What do you think? Where do you stand on all of this?

Cindy Sheehan: I hold very little hope that, due to the utter corruption of our electoral system, and the Republican reign of terror and fear against the American public, the Democrats will even take back one or more Houses of Congress.

Even if the Democrats take back the lower House, the potential Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) has already said that impeachment would not be "in the cards." Rep. John Conyers (D-Mi) has also backed off of impeachment rhetoric. Since Bush has said over and over again that the troops aren't coming home while he is president, it is up to us to make sure that his presidency is cut short.

We all know that the Vietnam War ended when Congress cut its funding. There is a bill that has been sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern, (D-Ma) HR4232 that cuts funding to leave our troops in Iraq, but he has very little support and even a smaller chance of getting it to the floor for a vote. I believe that most representatives don’t support the bill because they will be accused of "not supporting the troops." I believe that it is not supporting the troops to leave them in that nightmare.

Although I admire the Democrats on many issues, when it comes to war and peace, most get their pockets lined by the same corporate interests.

No matter which party has control of Congress come November, we the people have to keep the pressure up to stop the current course our country is taking.

Frank: You are currently serving on the Board of Directors for the
Progressive Democrats of America, a pro-Democrat organization that calls for reform of the Democratic Party from within. The PDA consistently ignores progressive antiwar alternatives to the Democrats. Do you think that such a position could actually hurt the antiwar movement? Should we instead be supporting antiwar candidates who want to hold both parties accountable?

Sheehan: I think that the PDA endorses candidates based on their entire platforms. Of course, I only care about candidate's record on the war and what they say about peace. I prefer to call our movement a "peace" movement, because "antiwar" is too narrow.

I think it would be great if we didn't need a PDA, if all Democrats were progressive peace candidates, but we know they are not.

I would vote for a Republican if they were calling for the withdrawal of troops and for impeachment, and I definitely think a viable third party could rein in the "two" parties we have now.

We will never have a viable third party, though, as long as we vote out of fear and not out of integrity. Instead of voting for the "lesser of two evils" we should be voting for a candidate that reflects our "beatitudes" and not the war machine's. [...]

Frank: I've heard a rumor that you may be looking to start your own third party. Is that true?

Sheehan: Yes, it is true. I think that to save our democracy our country needs a viable and credible third party. This nation was founded on rule by a few rich white males, and for all intents and purposes, we are still ruled by a corporate elite.

We need a third party that will represent all the people, not just the wealthy. [Emphasis added]

Cindy Sheehan is the kind of figure who could mobilize the passionate support needed to make a meaningful third party possible. She's the closest thing we have to a Martin Luther King or a Gandhi.

Her energy is the energy of peace, not of angry opposition. It's what we all hunger and thirst after. It's what the world desperately needs. And it's time for a woman to lead.

I hope she goes for it.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:40 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Elections are only a few weeks away and it looks like the Republicans are going to lose a lot of them. I guess desperate times require desperate measures. [On screen: RNC's TV ad depicting another terrorist attack by Osama bin Laden, followed by a reminder to vote 11/7]. Let me get this straight. Osama bin Laden is threatening to attack America again, so what we should do is vote for the people who haven't been able to catch him for the last five years? — Jimmy Kimmel

Posted by Jonathan at 09:09 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 23, 2006

Perspective 9/11, "War On Terror"  Humor & Fun  Politics

Doonesbury (via Bruce Schneier) explains faulty risk assessment and the politics of fear:

First cartoon
Second
Third
Fourth
Fifth
Sixth
Seventh

A voice of reason.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:43 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Two Weeks To Go Politics  Vote Fraud

Bush and Rove talk like they're convinced they can't lose control of the Congress. NYT:

Mr. Bush has been saying for months that he believes Republicans will keep control of the House and the Senate, and he is not changing his tune now, even if it means taking the rare step of rebuking his own father.

In an interview shown Sunday on ABC News, Mr. Bush was asked about a comment by the first President Bush, who said this month that he hated to think about life for his son if Democrats took control of Congress. "He shouldn't be speculating like that, because he should have called me ahead of time," the president said, "and I'd tell him they're not going to."

The president's professed certainty, shared with outside friends and advisers, is a source of fascination among even his staunchest allies. In lobbying shops and strategy firms around town, the latest Republican parlor game is divining whether the White House optimism is staged, or whether Mr. Bush and his political team really believe what they are saying. [...]

Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove are discounting predictions of Republican demise in part because they believe they have turned out wrong before. "I remember 2004," Mr. Bush said in the interview shown on "This Week." "I was history as far as the punditry was concerned."

Mr. Rove has told associates that the party's turnout machinery, through which the White House will continue to pump an unrelenting message against Democrats on taxes and terrorism, gives Republicans an advantage of four to seven percentage points in any given race. Though Democrats call that too generous, they acknowledge that it accounts for at least a few percentage points. [Emphasis added]

They could be faking it. They could be in denial. Or, they could know something we don't: that the election's already in the bag, courtesy of electronic voting. The incessant harping on a supposed 4-7 point Republican advantage based on their GOTV ground game preps the conventional wisdom for explaining, post-election, why the polls once again mysteriously turned out to be so wrong. Let's hope not, but it is a measure of how far we've sunk that we even have to entertain such thoughts.

Posted by Jonathan at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

2800 Iraq

US troops killed in Iraq as of today: 2800.

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. For what?

This is already the deadliest month for US troops in the past year — with another week to go.

No end in sight.

Posted by Jonathan at 11:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

A consumer watch group has released its annual list of the most dangerous Halloween costumes. Apparently, the most dangerous thing for kids to wear this year is a congressional page blazer. — Conan O'Brien

Posted by Jonathan at 09:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 22, 2006

"As If In A Trance" Rights, Law

Keith Olbermann says what needs saying (via Crooks and Liars, who has the video):

And lastly, as promised, a Special Comment tonight on the signing of the Military Commissions Act and the loss of Habeas Corpus.

We have lived as if in a trance. We have lived as people in fear.

And now — our rights and our freedoms in peril — we slowly awake to learn that we have been afraid of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight, have we truly become, the inheritors of our American legacy. For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from. [...]

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done, to anything the terrorists have ever done.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who has insisted again that "the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values" and who has said it with a straight face while the pictures from Abu Ghraib Prison and the stories of waterboarding figuratively fade in and out, around him.

We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens "Unlawful Enemy Combatants" and ship them somewhere — anywhere — but may now, if he so decides, declare you an "Unlawful Enemy Combatant" and ship you somewhere — anywhere.

And if you think this, hyperbole or hysteria ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was President, or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was President, or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was President.

And if you somehow think Habeas Corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an "unlawful enemy combatant" — exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this Attorney General is going to help you?

This President now has his blank check.

He lied to get it.

He lied as he received it.

Is there any reason to even hope, he has not lied about how he intends to use it, nor who he intends to use it against? [...]

Your words are lies, Sir.

They are lies, that imperil us all. [...]

Better to watch it all, here. Outstanding.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 05:19 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Do you believe how self-destructive this Congress has become? This upcoming election is not an election, it's an intervention. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 05:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 21, 2006

Men From Mars Iraq

An excellent short film from the Guardian and BBC, Iraq: The Real Story. It pretty much demolishes all the talk of Iraqi security forces "standing up" so US forces can "stand down". The US troops in the film might as well be men from Mars, stomping around Iraq pretty much devoid of any understanding or empathy for the people they are supposedly liberating.

Guerrilla wars are won by the superior use of minds, not of weapons. One of the soldiers in the film says US forces will never be able to leave Iraq because Iraqis are "too lazy". But it's the Americans who appear to be too lazy to even try to understand the reality of what they see around them. Learning another language, absorbing new customs and political facts of life, fitting into an alien cultural milieu, those things are hard work. Way too hard for Americans.

Posted by Jonathan at 02:03 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Saturday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush now says there are similarities between Iraq and Vietnam. Of course, the big difference is, his dad could get him out of Vietnam. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 09:32 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 20, 2006

The Net @ Risk Science/Technology

Bill Moyers presents an examination of the Internet and the battle over net neutrality. Video. I haven't finished it yet, but so far it's excellent. Check it out.

You will be amazed by, among other things, how backward US Internet service is compared to other advanced nations because the telecom industry here calls the shots.

Posted by Jonathan at 06:46 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Growth Industry Humor & Fun

Election outcome experts.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:10 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The president had a press conference this week and he said that the U.S. has no plans to attack North Korea. And then he added, "Like having no plan ever stopped me before." He has something even more deadly in store for them — we're going to bring them democracy. — Bill Maher

Posted by Jonathan at 08:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 19, 2006

Shame Iraq

Stop what you're doing and read this.

Shame on us all.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:40 AM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Thursday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The American President. Throughout history, there have been many of them. Every four years, roughly 50% of roughly 40% of Americans elevate a fellow citizen to this highest post in the land. These men — and you better believe they're men — evoke many feelings. Pride, respect, loyalty. Uh, the opposite of those things. — Jon Stewart

Posted by Jonathan at 09:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 18, 2006

The Great Experiment Palestine/Middle East

While the world watches Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, a horrifying drama continues to unfold in Gaza, where Israel is attempting to starve an entire population into submission. Uri Avnery:

IS IT possible to force a whole people to submit to foreign occupation by starving it?

That is, certainly, an interesting question. So interesting, indeed, that the governments of Israel and the United States, in close cooperation with Europe, are now engaged in a rigorous scientific experiment in order to obtain a definitive answer.

The laboratory for the experiment is the Gaza Strip, and the guinea pigs are the million and a quarter Palestinians living there.

In order to meet the required scientific standards, it was necessary first of all to prepare the laboratory.

That was done in the following way: First, Ariel Sharon uprooted the Israeli settlements that were stuck there. After all, you can't conduct a proper experiment with pets roaming around the laboratory. It was done with "determination and sensitivity", tears flowed like water, the soldiers kissed and embraced the evicted settlers, and again it was shown that the Israeli army is the most-most in the world.

With the laboratory cleaned, the next phase could begin: all entrances and exits were hermetically sealed, in order to eliminate disturbing influences from the world outside. That was done without difficulty. Successive Israeli governments have prevented the building of a harbor in Gaza, and the Israeli navy sees to it that no ship approaches the shore. The splendid international airport, built during the Oslo days, was bombed and shut down. The entire Strip was closed off by a highly effective fence, and only a few crossings remained, all but one controlled by the Israeli army.

There remained a sole connection with the outside world: the Rafah border crossing to Egypt. It could not just be sealed off, because that would have exposed the Egyptian regime as a collaborator with Israel. A sophisticated solution was found: to all appearances the Israeli army left the crossing and turned it over to an international supervision team. Its members are nice guys, full of good intentions, but in practice they are totally dependent on the Israeli army, which oversees the crossing from a nearby control room. The international supervisors live in an Israeli kibbutz and can reach the crossing only with Israeli consent.

So everything was ready for the experiment.

THE SIGNAL for its beginning was given after the Palestinians had held spotlessly democratic elections, under the supervision of former President Jimmy Carter. George Bush was enthusiastic: his vision of bringing democracy to the Middle East was coming true.

But the Palestinians flunked the test. Instead of electing "good Arabs", devotees of the United States, they voted for very bad Arabs, devotees of Allah. Bush felt insulted. But the Israeli government was ecstatic: after the Hamas victory, the Americans and Europeans were ready to take part in the experiment. It could start:

The United States and the European Union announced the stoppage of all donations to the Palestinian Authority, since it was "controlled by terrorists". Simultaneously, the Israeli government cut off the flow of money.

To understand the significance of this: according to the "Paris Protocol" (the economic annex of the Oslo agreement) the Palestinian economy is part of the Israeli customs system. This means that Israel collects the duties for all the goods that pass through Israel to the Palestinian territories - actually, there is no other route. After deducting a fat commission, Israel is obligated to turn the money over to the Palestinian Authority.

When the Israeli government refuses to pass on this money, which belongs to the Palestinians, it is, simply put, robbery in broad daylight. But when one robs "terrorists", who is going to complain?

The Palestinian Authority - both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip - needs this money like air for breathing. This fact also requires some explanation: in the 19 years when Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt the Gaza Strip, from 1948 to 1967, not a single important factory was built there. The Jordanians wanted all economic activity to take place in Jordan proper, east of the river, and the Egyptians neglected the strip altogether.

Then came the Israeli occupation, and the situation became even worse. The occupied territories became a captive market for Israeli industry, and the military government prevented the establishment of any enterprise that could conceivably compete with an Israeli one. [...]

That was the situation at the beginning of the experiment: the Palestinian infrastructure destroyed, practically no means of production, no work for the workers. All in all, an ideal setting for the great "experiment in hunger".

THE IMPLEMENTATION started, as mentioned, with the stoppage of payments.

The passage between Gaza and Egypt was closed in practice. [...]

The crossings between the Strip and Israel were closed "for urgent security reasons". Always, at the right moment, "warnings of an imminent terrorist attack" appeared. Palestinian agricultural products destined for export rot at the crossing. Medicines and foodstuffs cannot get in, except for short periods from time to time, also for appearances, whenever somebody important abroad voices some protest. Then comes another "urgent security warning" and the situation is back to normal.

To round off the picture, the Israeli Air Force bombed the only power station in the Strip, so that for a part of the day there is no electricity, and the water supply (which depends on electric pumps) stops also. Even on the hottest days, with temperatures of over 30 degrees centigrade in the shade, there is no electricity for refrigerators, air conditioning, the water supply or other needs.

In the West Bank, a territory much larger than the Gaza Strip (which makes up only 6% of the occupied Palestinian territories but holds 40% of the inhabitants), the situation is not quite so desperate. But in the Strip, more than half of the population lives beneath the Palestinian "poverty line", which lies of course very, very far below the Israeli "poverty line". Many Gaza residents can only dream of being considered poor in the nearby Israeli town of Sderot.

What are the governments of Israel and the US trying to tell the Palestinians? The message is clear: You will reach the brink of hunger, and even beyond, if you do not surrender. You must remove the Hamas government and elect candidates approved by Israel and the US. And, most importantly: you must be satisfied with a Palestinian state consisting of several enclaves, each of which will be utterly dependent on the tender mercies of Israel. [...]

In order to quicken the process, the whole might of the Israeli army is now being used again, as from this week. [Emphasis added]

The Warsaw Ghetto, enlarged and updated. You'd think the people of Israel would be the last people on Earth to adopt Nazi tactics, but you'd be wrong. There seems to be an ironclad psychological law that people gradually become what they hate. And they don't even realize it.

Today Reuters reports that Israeli tanks and troops are once again moving into Gaza.

[Thanks, Miles]

Posted by Jonathan at 06:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

The Little Girl Giant Culture

Spellbinding:

[Thanks, Chris]

Posted by Jonathan at 06:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Coming Unglued Iraq

The electricity has been on in Baghdad an average of only 2.4 hours a day this month, the lowest level yet (graph). Before the war, the average was 16-24 hours a day.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:40 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Iraq: 10 US Troops Killed Yesterday Iraq

10 US troops were killed in a single day yesterday in Iraq, bringing the total for October to 69 killed with almost two weeks to go. At the current pace, October will be the deadliest month for US troops since January, 2005.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:26 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:09 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

This weekend Ohio Republican Bob Ney plead guilty to Abramoff-related bribery and corruption charges. Congressman Ney's district encompasses — this is true — most of Licking County, Ohio. Which early odds have it will also be the nickname of his jail cell. Ney asked for leniency in sentencing because he says he has a drinking problem. If you're keeping score at home, that now makes alcohol responsible for corruption, anti-semitism, and homosexual pedophilia. — Jon Stewart

Posted by Jonathan at 09:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 17, 2006

Stick A Yellow Ribbon Up Your SUV Humor & Fun

The Asylum Street Spankers offer their opinion about yellow ribbons on SUVs.

[Thanks, Paul]

Posted by Jonathan at 09:47 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Stepping Off The Normal Career Path Politics  Rights, Law

Charles Swift, American hero:

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. — Thomas Paine

John Robb has an interesting take on Swift's case:

The only thing that prevents the US or any western society from sliding into authoritarianism is the complexity and intelligence of the government machine. It pushes back when sent orders that it deems wrong. This process operates in cycles much faster than the rectification process enabled by opposition parties. IF this machine ever breaks down, we are truly screwed. ... [As Edward Luttwak wrote in his analysis of coups, the] more efficient and hierarchical...government (in that it can execute orders with little noise) is the easiest to "take over."

Charles Swift, and those like him, are heroes. More and more, our liberty depends on people like him, the Congress having pretty much surrendered its role as check and balance.

Posted by Jonathan at 05:46 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Five Million Thanks

Some time in the last few days, Past Peak's "hit" count passed the five million mark. Kent and I thank you all for your continued support. Visitors have come from 159 countries and territories, including:

Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Azerbaidjan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, British Indian Ocean Territory, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Union, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gilbraltar, Great Britain, Greece, Greenland, Guam (USA), Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia (French), New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Polynesia (French), Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts & Nevis Anguilla, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & Grenadines, Samoa Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands (USA), Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe

It never ceases to amaze me when I think about people in all those different countries, with their different languages, different climates, different customs, different costumes, sitting at their computers in their very different homes, all somehow finding their way to Past Peak. The net really is creating a new, and much smaller, world.

Posted by Jonathan at 02:15 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:55 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

In a press conference this morning, President Bush said that he has no intentions of attacking North Korea. Then Bush said, "However, I can't speak for Donald Rumsfeld." — Conan O'Brien

Posted by Jonathan at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 16, 2006

W Humor & Fun  Iraq  Politics

The leader of the free world. It's so embarrassing:

And as for cuttin' and runnin'...

Posted by Jonathan at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

President Bush said today the U.S. will not attack North Korea. Oh sure, but we may liberate them. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 09:14 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 15, 2006

Why We're Still In Iraq Iran  Iraq  Politics

Conservative William S. Lind, a leading thinking on fourth-generation warfare, tells us why we're still in Iraq:

At least 32 American troops have been killed in Iraq this month [as of October 11]. Approximately 300 have been wounded. The "battle for Baghdad" is going nowhere. A Marine friend just back from Ramadi said to me, "It didn't get any better while I was there, and it's not going to get better." Virtually everyone in Washington, except the people in the White House, knows that is true for all of Iraq.

Actually, I think the White House knows it too. Why then does it insist on "staying the course" at a casualty rate of more than one thousand Americans per month? The answer is breathtaking in its cynicism: so the retreat from Iraq happens on the next President's watch. That is why we still fight.

Yep, it's now all about George. Anyone who thinks that is too low, too mean, too despicable even for this bunch does not understand the meaning of the adjective "Rovian." Would they let thousands more young Americans get killed or wounded just so George W. does not have to face the consequences of his own folly? In a heartbeat.

Not that it's going to help. When history finally lifts it leg on the Bush administration, it will wash all such tricks away, leaving only the hubris and the incompetence. Jeffrey Hart, who with Russell Kirk gone is probably the top intellectual in the conservative movement, has already written that George W. Bush is the worst President America ever had. I think the honor still belongs to the sainted Woodrow, but if Bush attacks Iran, he may yet earn the prize. That third and final act in the Bush tragicomedy is waiting in the wings. [Emphasis added]

Lind sees no reason to expect Democratic victories in next month's midterm elections to change anything:

A Democratic Congress will be as stupid, cowardly and corrupt as its Republican predecessor; in reality, both parties are one party, the party of successful career politicians. The White House will continue a lost war in Iraq, solely to dump the mess in the next President's lap. America or Israel will attack Iran, pulling what's left of the temple down on our heads. Congress will do nothing to stop either war. [Emphasis added]

It is disgusting to think of a war being continued just to protect the egos of powerful men, but we've seen it before. Vietnam lasted for years after it was evident that no victory would be forthcoming, simply because neither Johnson nor Nixon wanted to be the first American president to lose a war. Now it's happening again. Except the danger this time around is that Bush et al will expand the war by attacking Iran, applying the desperate gambler's strategy of last resort: doubling the size of the bet, then doubling it again.

Posted by Jonathan at 04:04 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 03:11 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Yesterday, Hastert defended himself by saying he had no idea what was going on. Hey, don't laugh. It worked for President Bush. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 03:09 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 14, 2006

Goldman Sachs And The Price Of Gasoline Economy  Energy  Politics

As we've noted in the past, presidential approval ratings historically closely track the price of gasoline. The higher the price of gas, the lower the approval rating (see the graph here). That makes the recent plunge in gas prices good news for the White House, and for Republican candidates generally, going into the November elections.

Why have gas prices dropped so precipitously? Why now?

One significant factor that has gone largely unnoticed is a decision by investment bank Goldman Sachs to restructure its Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) in a way that prompted the sudden selling of some $6 billion in gasoline futures. NYT:

Politics and worries about oil supplies may have caused gasoline prices to go up at the pump earlier this year, but one big investment bank quietly helped their rapid drop in recent weeks, according to some economists, traders and analysts.

Goldman Sachs, which runs the largest commodity index, the G.S.C.I., said in early August that it was reducing the index's weighting in gasoline futures significantly. The announcement did not make big headlines, but it has reverberated through the markets in the weeks since and some other investors who had been betting that gasoline would rise followed suit on their weightings.

"They started unwinding their positions, and those other longs also rushed to the door at the same time," said Lawrence J. Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation.

Wholesale prices for New York Harbor unleaded gasoline, the major gasoline contract traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange, dropped 18 cents a gallon on Aug. 10, to $1.9889 a gallon, a decline of more than 8 percent, and they have dropped further since then. In New York on Friday, gasoline futures for October delivery rose 4.81 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $1.5492 a gallon. Prices have fallen 9.4 percent this year.

The August announcement by Goldman Sachs caught some traders by surprise. [...]

Unleaded gasoline made up 8.72 percent of Goldman's commodity index as of June 30, but it is just 2.3 percent now, representing a sell-off of more than $6 billion in futures contract weighting.

Like many market indexes, trading in the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index is publicly available, allowing individual investors and third-party asset managers to participate in that market. The $100 billion invested comes from brokers, fund managers and individuals, probably including some of the same people who were hurt by high gasoline prices earlier in the year.

Goldman's announcement on Aug. 9 was not the only downward pressure on prices that week, market participants stress. And while it may have played a part in sending prices down, the market would never have continued its downward trend unless supplies had loosened up, they say.

Also during that week, climatologists revised their hurricane forecasts, easing fears that oil supplies could be disrupted. And BP said it would still produce some oil from its field in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where leaks were being repaired. Meanwhile, the peak gasoline season was ending, and new supplies of ethanol were coming online. [...]

"We saw gasoline fall 82 cents in the wholesale market over a four-week period, which is unprecedented," he said. Mr. Goldstein said that the decline in gasoline prices helped send prices of the whole group of energy-related products down.

Now, rather than highs, these products are hitting lows — natural gas, for example, traded on Wednesday at its lowest price in four years. [Emphasis added]

There's an element of crowd psychology in commodities futures trading, as there is in the trading of stocks, real estate, etc. A number of factors contributed to the crowd's psychology changing course with respect to gasoline futures. But the fact that Goldman's announcement came on August 9 and gasoline futures plunged more than 8% the following day is hardly coincidence.

It is impossible to know if Goldman's motives were in part political, but one could be forgiven for concluding that Bush administration economic policy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Goldman Sachs. Henry Paulson, current Secretary of the Treasury, was CEO and Chairman of GS, as was Stephen Friedman, formerly the chair of Bush's National Economic Council and currently the chair of his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Bush Chief of Staff (and former director of the Office of Management and Budget) Josh Bolten is a GS alumnus, as is Reuben Jeffery, chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. It would be the responsibility of the latter to investigate any questions about manipulations of the futures markets. Not for nothing did Tom Wolfe call them "Masters of the Universe".

See also this and this. (Thanks, Miles)

Posted by Jonathan at 01:33 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Saturday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 10:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

It was reported this week that a $20 million provision has been placed in the military spending bill to pay for a party celebrating America's victory in Iraq and Afghanistan. So save the date: February 8th, 3046. — Amy Poehler

Posted by Jonathan at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 13, 2006

Prepping Public Opionion For An Attack On Iran? Iran

Jonathan Cook, British journalist and writer based in Nazareth, Israel, writes in CounterPunch that Israel may be preparing to strike Iran, possibly using nuclear bunker-busting weapons. An Israeli documentary aired this week on the BBC, he says, preps public opinion for just such an attack. Excerpts:

The Middle East, and possibly the world, stands on the brink of a terrible conflagration as Israel and the United States prepare to deal with Iran's alleged ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. Israel, it becomes clearer by the day, wants to use its air force to deliver a knock-out blow against Tehran. It is not known whether it will use conventional weapons or a nuclear warhead in such a strike.

At this potentially cataclysmic moment in global politics, it is good to see that one of the world's leading broadcasters, the BBC, decided this week that it should air a documentary entitled "Will Israel bomb Iran?". It is the question on everyone's lips and doubtless, with the imprimatur of the BBC, the programme will sell around the world.

The good news ends there, however. Because the programme addresses none of the important issues raised by Israel's increasingly belligerent posture towards Tehran.

It does not explain that, without a United Nations resolution, a military strike on Iran to destroy its nuclear research programme would be a gross violation of international law.

It does not clarify that Israel's own large nuclear arsenal was secretly developed and is entirely unmonitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or that it is perceived as a threat by its neighbours and may be fuelling a Middle East arms race.

Nor does the programme detail the consequences of an Israeli strike on instability and violence across the Middle East, including in Iraq, where British and American troops are stationed as an occupying force.

And there is no consideration of how in the longer term unilateral action by Israel, with implicit sanction by the international community, is certain to provoke a steep rise in global jihad against the West.

Instead the programme dedicates 40 minutes to footage of Top Gun heroics by the Israeli air force, and the recollections of pilots who carried out a similar, "daring" attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor in the early 1980s; menacing long shots of Iran's nuclear research facilities; and interviews with three former Israeli prime ministers, a former Israeli military chief of staff, various officials in Israeli military intelligence and a professor who designs Israel's military arsenal.

All of them speak with one voice: Israel, they claim, is about to be "wiped out" by Iranian nuclear weapons and must defend itself "whatever the consequences". [...]

Shimon Peres, the Israeli government's veteran roving ambassador, claims, for example, that Iran has made "a call for genocide" against Israel, compares an Iranian nuclear bomb to a "flying concentration camp", and warns that "no one would like to see a comeback to the times of the Nazis".

Cabinet minister Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet domestic security service, believes Israel faces "an existential threat" from Iran. And Zvi Stauber, a former senior figure in military intelligence, compares Israel's situation to a man whose neighbour "has a gun and he declares every day he is going to kill you".

But pride of place goes to Binyamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister and the current leader of the opposition. He claims repeatedly that the only possible reason Iran and its president could want a nuclear arsenal is for Israel's "extermination". "If he can get away with it, he'll do it." "Ayatollahs with atombic bombs are a powerful threat to all of us." A nuclear Iran "is a threat unlike anything we have seen before. It's beyond politics" — apparently worse than the nuclear states of North Korea and Pakistan, the latter a military dictatorship and friend of the US barely containing within its borders some of the most fanatical jihadist movements in the world.

Apart from a brief appearance by an Iranian diplomat, no countervailing opinions are entertained in the BBC programme; only Israel's military and political leadership is allowed to speak. [...]

Overlooked by the programme makers is the fact that "fragile" Israel is currently the only country in the Middle East armed with nuclear warheads, several hundred of them, as well as one of the most powerful armies in the world, which presumably make most of its neighbours feel "fragile" too, with far more reason.

And, as we are being persuaded how "fragile" Israel really is, another former prime minister, Ehud Barak, is interviewed. "Ultimately we are standing alone," he says, in apparent justification for an illegal, unilateral strike. Iran's nuclear reasearch facilities, Barak warns, are hidden deep underground, so deep that "no conventional weapon can penetrate", leaving us to infer that in such circumstances Israel will have no choice but use a tactical nuclear strike in its "self-defence". And, getting into his stride, Barak adds that some facilities are in crowded urban areas "where any attack could end up in civilian collateral damage".

But despite the terrifying scenario laid out by Israel's leaders, the BBC website cheerleads for Israel in the same manner as the programme-makers, suggesting that Israel has the right to engineer a clash of civilisations: "With America unlikely to take military action, the pressure is growing on Israel's leaders to launch a raid."

As should be clear by now, the Israeli government's fingerprints are all over this BBC "documentary". And that is hardly surprising because the man behind this "independent" production is Israel's leading film-maker: Noam Shalev. [...]

Before the disengagement from Gaza last year, for example, Shalev made a sympathetic documentary, shown by the BBC, about a day in the life of one Israeli soldier serving there. The film largely concealed the context that might have alerted viewers to the fact that the soldier was enforcing a four-decade illegal occupation of Gaza, or that the Strip is an open-air prison in which thousands of Palestinian have been killed by the Israeli army and in which a majority of Gazans live in abject poverty.

Interviewed about the documentary, Shalev observed: "The army really is very, very careful. There is no indiscriminate firing. I saw, and this was not a show put on just for us, that before any shot is fired there is confirmation that there is nobody behind or in front of the objective. The army is very sensitive to non-deliberate fire."

In other words, Shalev's film for the BBC shed no light on why Israel's "deliberate" fire has killed hundreds of Palestinian children during the second intifada or why a large number of civilians have died from Israeli gunfire and missile strikes inside the Gaza Strip.

Shalev's latest film, "Will Israel bomb Iran?", follows this well-trodden path. Arabs and Muslims are again deprived of a voice, as are non-Israeli experts.

Is the Israeli government using Shalev, wittingly or not, and is he in turn using the BBC, to spread Israeli propaganda? Propaganda that may soon propel us towards the "clash of civilisations" so longed for by Israel's leadership. [Emphasis added]

Let us hope Cook is wrong, that no such attack is in the works, but it is hard not to worry that we are being prepared for what would surely be an utter catastrophe.

[Thanks, Miles]

Posted by Jonathan at 05:49 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

For Carie.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:42 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Earlier today at a press conference, President Bush said he will not attack North Korea. Well, of course not. They actually have weapons of mass destruction. — David Letterman

Posted by Jonathan at 09:40 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 12, 2006

Big Gav

I'm not feeling well today, so no posts from me, but let me take the opportunity to plug a site I've mentioned before from time to time: Peak Energy by Australian Big Gav. Gav does an amazing job of pulling together a compendium of interesting stories every few days, covering many of the same issues we look at here at Past Peak but lots more besides. Always interesting, always valuable. Check him out.

Posted by Jonathan at 06:05 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Thursday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

A very scary situation in North Korea, but let's move on to the good news. As of Monday, North Korea has one less bomb. — Jon Stewart

Posted by Jonathan at 08:23 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 11, 2006

Let's Go For A Ride Science/Technology

This is cool.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

600,000 Iraq

Johns Hopkins researchers estimate that 654,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war, 600,000 of those due to violence. Baltimore Sun:

In an update of a two-year-old survey that sparked wide disagreement, Johns Hopkins researchers now estimate that more than a half-million Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion and its bloody aftermath.

Reporting this week in the online edition of The Lancet, a leading British medical journal, the researchers estimated that 654,000 more Iraqis died of various causes after the invasion than would have died in a comparable period before.

The scientists attributed 600,000 of those deaths to acts of violence.

Gunshots emerged as the leading cause of death, accounting for 56 percent of the total. Airstrikes, car bombs and other explosions each accounted for 13 percent to 14 percent. Almost 60 percent of the deaths were among males 15 to 44.

"In this conflict, like all other recent conflicts, it's the population that bears the consequences," said Dr. Gilbert Burnham, lead author and co-director of the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"To put these numbers in context, deaths are occurring in Iraq now at a rate more than three times that from before the invasion of March 2003," he said.

With deaths increasing at that pace, Burnham said, the crisis in Iraq qualifies as a "humanitarian emergency," a public health term applied to situations in which populations die at twice or more the usual rate. [...]

The Pentagon declined to comment on the study, saying that officials had not yet read it. Army Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the Multi-National Force in Iraq, said the force was "interested" in the study but doesn't normally comment on Iraqi deaths.

"We're obviously trying to reduce the amount of violence of all kinds in Iraq, but it's really a government of Iraq issue," he said.

In August, the Defense Department reported to Congress that the number of civilian casualties had increased sharply, without estimating total deaths.

In 2005, however, the Bush administration estimated that 30,000 civilians had died. A report by the Los Angeles Times in June, based on statistics from the Iraqi Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue, put civilian deaths at 50,000.

To estimate deaths for this week's report, the Hopkins group recruited Iraqi doctors to conduct household surveys in 47 neighborhood clusters across Iraq that contained 1,849 households and 12,801 people. The doctors asked family members to report births, deaths and the movement of people into and out of their households.

When people reported deaths, researchers asked them about the cause and obtained death certificates in 92 percent of cases. The data were then projected onto the entire nation, about 26 million people.

The Hopkins estimate is many times higher than any other group's, including Iraq Body Count, a Web-based organization that put the death count at 48,693 yesterday. Members of that group, which criticized Hopkins' earlier estimate as wildly inflated, were unavailable for comment.

Unlike the Hopkins study, Iraq Body Count has based its estimates on reports from morgues and the news media.

Michael O'Hanlon, a Brookings Institution scholar who criticized the last Hopkins study, said the method used by the Hopkins researchers this time was seriously flawed.

"The numbers are preposterously high," he said. "Their numbers are out of whack with every other estimate."

Burnham, however, said that no one else has done a population-based survey of deaths in Iraq. "There are people who have taken numbers reported from various facilities and so forth, but statistically you can't [extrapolate] from various morgue and newspaper reports to a national figure," he said.

He said the group employed standard epidemiological methods used to estimate deaths from calamities ranging from natural disasters such as Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina to the bloody war in the Congo.

In its earlier study, published in October 2004, the Hopkins group estimated that close to 100,000 people had died in the 17 months after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Critics attacked that study, in part, because of a wide "confidence interval," a range within which the true number exists.

In that case, the interval was 8,000 to 194,000 deaths, though researchers said 100,000 was most likely the actual number.

To avoid that problem this time, researchers increased the number of neighborhood clusters from 33 to 47. Additionally, Burnham said, by the time the second survey was conducted, hostilities had spread more widely through the country, reducing the possibility that the overall projection was skewed by pockets of extreme violence.

The researchers now say that Iraqi deaths totaled between 392,000 to 942,000. Their best estimate is 654,000.

In the earlier study, Iraqis told interviewers that about a third of all deaths were caused by coalition forces. Since then, the proportion has dropped to about a quarter — although the absolute number of deaths has risen in each year of the conflict. [Emphasis added]

It is noteworthy that the researchers obtained death certificates in 92% of reported cases. That creates a high level of confidence that the reports were true and accurate. The only question, then, is whether their statistical methodology was sound — i.e., that the sample was sufficiently representative and random and the extrapolation to the total population was done correctly. Note also that their confidence interval puts 392,000 as the minimum figure, already an astonishing number.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Crisis In Our Nation's Pants Humor & Fun  Politics

Jon Stewart on the Foley mess. Excellent, as always.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:38 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

The Republicans finally got some good news over the weekend. The North Koreans set off a nuclear bomb. Thank God. It was so powerful it knocked the Mark Foley story right off the front page. And knocked him off the page he was on, too. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 08:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 10, 2006

North Korean Test A Dud? War and Peace

There seems to be some doubt as to whether the North Koreans did, in fact, succeed in setting off a nuclear explosion. See, for example, here, here, here, and here. The issue will likely be resolved in a few days.

Posted by Jonathan at 02:44 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

In The Red Environment

Humanity is using up the world's ecological resources faster than Nature can replenish them. One way to dramatize that fact is to calculate the date each year when humanity has used up resources that would take a full year to replenish. This year, that date was yesterday. For the remainder of this year, we'll be stealing from our children. Guardian:

Humanity slides into the red [Monday] and begins racking up an ecological overdraft driven by unsustainable exploitation of the world's resources, according to a report by the sustainable development organisation Global Footprint Network.

In little more than nine months, humans have used up all that nature can replenish in one year, and for the rest of 2006 are destined to eat into the planet's ecological capital, the study claims.

The network calculated the day the global economy started to operate with an ecological deficit by comparing world demand for resources with the rate at which ecosystems can replenish them. The study draws on surveys from bodies such as the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation.

According to GFN, humanity first went into global ecological debt in 1987, when the year's resources were spent by December 19. Since then, the date has leapt forward year by year to November 21 by 1995 and October 11 last year. The trend reveals the alarming effect of unsustainable lifestyles which are increasingly using up world reserves. "Humanity is living off its ecological credit card," said Mathis Wackernagel at GFN.

The worst offenders are in developed countries: for North Americans the "ecological footprint" - the land and water a person needs to sustain their lifestyle - is 9.6 hectares (23.7 acres). For the typical African it is 1.4 hectares.

If every country lived frugally, only half the planet's resources would be needed to meet demand. But if the world adopted a US lifestyle, four extra planets would be needed. [Emphasis added]

And then, of course, there are the non-renewable resources that Nature will never replenish.

Posted by Jonathan at 12:37 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Augering In Politics

Not a good day to be a Republican. Billmon.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Free Fallin' Politics

New poll numbers from the New York Times:

The public's view of Iraq is as dark as it has been since the war began in 2003, with two-thirds saying it is going somewhat or very badly, while only 3 percent are saying the war is going very well. Two-thirds said they disapproved of how Mr. Bush was handling Iraq.

Mr. Bush's job approval rating has slipped to 34 percent, from 37 percent in September. That is one of the lowest levels of his presidency and poses a complication for the White House as it seeks to send him out on the road to rally base voters. Mr. Bush's job approval rating has even slipped with his base: 75 percent of conservative Republicans approve of the way he has handled his job, compared with 96 percent in November 2004.

The president clearly faces constraints as he seeks to address the public concerns about Iraq that have shrouded this midterm election: 83 percent of respondents thought that Mr. Bush was either hiding something or mostly lying when he discussed how the war in Iraq was going. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said Mr. Bush was personally aware of intelligence reports before Sept. 11 that warned of possible domestic terrorist attacks using airplanes. When the same question was asked in May 2002, 41 percent said they believed Mr. Bush was aware. [...]

So far, at least, it appears that, at least nationally, Republicans have had little success in pressing what have been their two biggest lines of attacks against Democratic challengers this fall: taxes and terrorism. The poll found that 41 percent of respondents thought Republicans were stronger on handling terrorism, compared with 40 percent who named Democrats, a statistically insignificant difference. Before Labor Day, Republicans had a 42 percent to 34 percent edge on handling terrorism.

And in a month in which Republicans have sought to discredit Democratic challengers as advocates of big spending and high taxes, 52 percent of respondents said that Democrats would make the right decisions on how to spend taxpayers' money, while 29 percent said Republicans would. [Emphasis added]

Election Day is four weeks from today.

Posted by Jonathan at 08:59 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:57 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

This Mark Foley e-mail thing caused quite a conflict within the two wings of the Republican Party. It seems the financially corrupt are now fighting with the sexually corrupt. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 08:51 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 09, 2006

Apocalypse Soon Iran  Politics

Chris Hedges, who used to be the Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times, thinks a Bush administration attack on Iran is inevitable. And the disaster that follows, he says, will be, quite literally, apocalyptic. Excerpts:

The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News, is, as I write, making its way to the Straits of Hormuz off Iran. The ships will be in place to strike Iran by the end of the month. It may be a bluff. It may be a feint. It may be a simple show of American power. But I doubt it.

War with Iran — a war that would unleash an apocalyptic scenario in the Middle East — is probable by the end of the Bush administration. It could begin in as little as three weeks. This administration, claiming to be anointed by a Christian God to reshape the world, and especially the Middle East, defined three states at the start of its reign as "the Axis of Evil." They were Iraq, now occupied; North Korea, which, because it has nuclear weapons, is untouchable; and Iran. Those who do not take this apocalyptic rhetoric seriously have ignored the twisted pathology of men like Elliott Abrams, who helped orchestrate the disastrous and illegal contra war in Nicaragua, and who now handles the Middle East for the National Security Council. He knew nothing about Central America. He knows nothing about the Middle East. He sees the world through the childish, binary lens of good and evil, us and them, the forces of darkness and the forces of light. And it is this strange, twilight mentality that now grips most of the civilian planners who are barreling us towards a crisis of epic proportions. [...]

These men advocate a doctrine of permanent war...[b]ut this war will be different. It will be catastrophic. It will usher in the apocalyptic nightmares spun out in the dark, fantastic visions of the Christian right. And there are those around the president who see this vision as preordained by God; indeed, the president himself may hold such a vision.

The hypocrisy of this vaunted moral crusade is not lost on those in the Middle East. Iran actually signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has violated a codicil of that treaty written by European foreign ministers, but this codicil was never ratified by the Iranian parliament. I do not dispute Iran's intentions to acquire nuclear weapons nor do I minimize the danger should it acquire them in the estimated five to 10 years. But contrast Iran with Pakistan, India and Israel. These three countries refused to sign the treaty and developed nuclear weapons programs in secret. Israel now has an estimated 400 to 600 nuclear weapons. The word "Dimona," the name of the city where the nuclear facilities are located in Israel, is shorthand in the Muslim world for the deadly Israeli threat to Muslims' existence. What lessons did the Iranians learn from our Israeli, Pakistani and Indian allies? [...]

Those in Washington who advocate this war, knowing as little about the limitations and chaos of war as they do about the Middle East, believe they can hit about 1,000 sites inside Iran to wipe out nuclear production and cripple the 850,000-man Iranian army. The disaster in southern Lebanon, where the Israeli air campaign not only failed to break Hezbollah but united most Lebanese behind the militant group, is dismissed. These ideologues, after all, do not live in a reality-based universe. The massive Israeli bombing of Lebanon failed to pacify 4 million Lebanese. What will happen when we begin to pound a country of 70 million people? As retired General Wesley K. Clark and others have pointed out, once you begin an air campaign it is only a matter of time before you have to put troops on the ground or accept defeat, as the Israelis had to do in Lebanon. And if we begin dropping bunker busters, cruise missiles and iron fragmentation bombs on Iran this is the choice that must be faced — either sending American forces into Iran to fight a protracted and futile guerrilla war or walking away in humiliation.

"As a people we are enormously forgetful," Dr. [William R.] Polk, one of the country's leading scholars on the Middle East, told an Oct. 13 gathering of the Foreign Policy Association in New York. "We should have learned from history that foreign powers can't win guerrilla wars. The British learned this from our ancestors in the American Revolution and re-learned it in Ireland. Napoleon learned it in Spain. The Germans learned it in Yugoslavia. We should have learned it in Vietnam and the Russians learned it in Afghanistan and are learning it all over again in Chechnya and we are learning it, of course, in Iraq. Guerrilla wars are almost unwinnable. [...]

An attack on Iran will ignite the Middle East. The loss of Iranian oil, coupled with Silkworm missile attacks by Iran on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, could send oil soaring to well over $110 a barrel. The effect on the domestic and world economy will be devastating, very possibly triggering a huge, global depression. The 2 million Shiites in Saudi Arabia, the Shiite majority in Iraq and the Shiite communities in Bahrain, Pakistan and Turkey will turn in rage on us and our dwindling allies. We will see a combination of increased terrorist attacks, including on American soil, and the widespread sabotage of oil production in the Gulf. Iraq, as bad as it looks now, will become a death pit for American troops as Shiites and Sunnis, for the first time, unite against their foreign occupiers.

The country, however, that will pay the biggest price will be Israel. And the sad irony is that those planning this war think of themselves as allies of the Jewish state. A conflagration of this magnitude could see Israel drawn back in Lebanon and sucked into a regional war, one that would over time spell the final chapter in the Zionist experiment in the Middle East. The Israelis aptly call their nuclear program "the Samson option." The Biblical Samson ripped down the pillars of the temple and killed everyone around him, along with himself.

If you are sure you will be raptured into heaven, your clothes left behind with the nonbelievers, then this news should cheer you up. If you are rational, however, these may be some of the last few weeks or months in which to enjoy what is left of our beleaguered, dying republic and way of life. [Emphasis added]

You think: they can't possibly be this misguided, this reckless, this insane. But then you look at everything else they've done, and you realize that the expectations and standards you use with your friends and neighbors simply don't apply with these people.

It's an administration of psychopaths. Anyone who wasn't a psychopath got weeded out long ago.

Posted by Jonathan at 03:31 PM | Comments (6) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:31 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

And House Speaker Dennis Hastert is under fire because he claims if he was told about Foley's sex scandal a few years ago, he doesn't remember it. Really? How bad is the rest of the Republicans' behavior if news of one having cybersex with teenage boys isn't that memorable? — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 09:29 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 08, 2006

Micro-Generation Isn't The Answer Energy  Environment

According to Britain's George Monbiot, author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning, micro-generation of electricity via small-scale wind turbines and solar panels is an over-hyped non-solution to global warming. Large-scale wind turbines, however, are a practical solution, especially for an island nation like the UK. Excerpt:

In seeking to work out how a 90% cut in carbon emissions could be achieved in the rich nations by 2030, I have made many surprising findings. But none has shocked me as much as the discovery that renewable micro generation has been grossly overhyped. Those who maintain that our own homes can produce all the renewable electricity and heat they need have harmed the campaign to stop climate chaos, by sowing complacency and misdirecting our efforts.

Last year, the environmental architect Bill Dunster, who designed the famous BedZed zero-carbon development outside London, published a brochure claiming that "up to half of your annual electric needs can be met by a near silent micro wind turbine". The turbine he specified has a diameter of 1.75 metres. A few months later Building for a Future magazine, which supports renewable energy, published an analysis of micro wind machines. At 4 metres per second — a high average wind speed for most parts of the UK — a 1.75 metre turbine produces about 5% of a household’s annual electricity. To provide the 50% Bill Dunster advertises, you would need a machine 4 metres in diameter. The lateral thrust it exerted would rip your house to bits.

Turbulence makes wind generators even less efficient. To avoid it, you must place them at least 11 metres above any obstacle within 100 metres. On most houses, this means constructing a minor hazard to aircraft. The higher the pole, the more likely you are to inflict serious damage to your house. In almost all circumstances, micro wind turbines are a waste of time and money. [...]

[S]eeking to generate all our electricity by [installing solar panels on residences] would be staggeringly and pointlessly expensive — there are far better ways of spending the same money. The International Energy Agency's MARKAL model gives a cost per tonne of carbon saved by solar electricity in 2020 of between £2200 and £3300. Onshore macro wind power, by contrast, varies between a saving of £40 and a cost of £130 a tonne.

[Another] problem is that the supply of solar electricity is poorly matched to demand. In the UK, demand peaks on winter evenings. Even if we could produce 407TWh a year from solar panels on our roofs, only some of it could be used. There would be a surge of production in the summer, during the middle of the day, and very little in the winter. While solar panels might reasonably supply 5-10% of our electricity, the size and inefficiency of the energy storage and standby power system required makes a purely solar network impossible.

Similar constraints affect all micro renewables: a report by a team at Imperial College shows that if 50% of our homes were fitted with solar water heaters, they would produce 0.056 exajoules of heat, or 2.3% of our total demand; while AEA Technology suggests that domestic heat pumps could supply only 0.022 eJ of the UK's current heat consumption, or under 1%. This doesn't mean they are not worth installing, just that they can't solve the problem by themselves.

Some campaigners accept that micro generators can make only a small contribution, but argue that they are still useful, as they wake people up to green issues. It seems more likely that these overhyped devices will have the opposite effect, as their owners discover how badly they have been ripped off and their neighbours are driven insane by the constant yawing and stalling of a windmill on a turbulent roof.

Far from shutting down the national grid,...we should be greatly expanding it, in order to produce electricity where renewable energy is most abundant. This means, above all, a massive investment in offshore windfarms. A recent government report suggests there is a potential offshore wind resource off the coast of England and Wales of 3,200TWh. High voltage direct current cables, which lose much less electricity in transmission than an AC network, would allow us to make use of a larger area of the continental shelf than before. This means we can generate more electricity more reliably, avoid any visual impact from the land and keep out of the routes taken by migratory birds. Much bigger turbines would realise economies of scale hitherto unavailable.

The electricity system cannot be run on wind alone. But surely it's clear that building giant offshore windmills is a far better use of our time and money than putting mini-turbines in places where they will generate more anger than power. [Emphasis added]

Driving along highway 18 in southwestern Wisconsin this weekend, Carie and I passed the Montfort windfarm — a string of 20 large turbines (30 Megawatt capacity) installed on a ridge running parallel to the road. The turbines are both stately and graceful — quite beautiful, in fact. The mere sight of them inspires hope. They are like visitors from a better future. They radiate peace. No carbon emitted, no oil wars required.

It should be a no-brainer.

Posted by Jonathan at 09:59 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Earlier in the week, Foley checked himself into rehab. But according to the New York Times, many people question his alcoholism claim. That's when you know things are bad in Washington: when a congressman can't even be trusted to be a drunk. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 08:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 07, 2006

Saturday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:57 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Remember the good old days when the only people that Republicans were screwing were the poor? — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 09:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 06, 2006

GOP Corruption Files Politics

When you see it all in one place, it's a pretty stunning list.

[Thanks, Maurice and Sue]

Posted by Jonathan at 04:04 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Friday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:08 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Congressmen are now on their five-week break. Did you know they were off? No, you don't even know when they're working. Anyway, they have five weeks to campaign for their upcoming elections. You know, they're traveling around the country talking about the most dangerous threats to our country — flag-burning and gay marriage. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 09:07 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 05, 2006

The Human Algae Bloom Environment  Essays  Peak Oil

[Another blast from the past, along the same lines as the pieces on exponential growth reposted Tuesday and Wednesday. This one's also a couple of years old, but I think it's worth repeating.]

Life requires energy. Without a continual input of energy, without a continual flow of energy through them, organisms die.

This is a consequence of a general natural law (the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics) that says that if you don't put energy into a system it becomes more and more disordered. Put another way, things fall apart if you don't keep after them. Anybody who's ever tended a garden or maintained a house, a car, or a lawn — or, God forbid, a sailboat — knows this principle first-hand. The same principle applies to the maintenance of the internal order required by living organisms to sustain life.

For green plants, the energy input is sunlight. For the rest of us, it's food. We eat green plants directly, or we eat things that eat green plants, or we eat things that eat things that eat green plants. We humans also use energy that we don't consume directly as food. Such energy, however, we use indirectly to produce or acquire the necessities of life — more food, for example, or warmth, shelter, water, etc. It all takes energy.

Now, a given environment has a specific "carrying capacity" for a given kind of organism. I.e., there's a maximum size population of that organism that can be sustained in that environment. The carrying capacity is determined by whatever necessity is in shortest supply. In a desert, for example, the limiting factor might be water. Typically, the limiting factor is energy in one of its forms (e.g., food). Suddenly introducing a new source of energy can change things in a hurry, however.

There's a lake near my house. Every summer, fertilizers from surrounding lawns and farms find their way into the lake, creating an environment artificially rich in energy (from a plant's perspective, fertilizer = energy). As a result, every summer there is an explosion in the algae population, turning parts of the lake into a thick green goo. The algae experience a giddy period of runaway growth fueled by the influx of energy, but this growth increases the algae population to a level that's completely unsustainable once the fertilizers are used up. When that happens the algae population crashes, and there's a huge die-off until the population returns to a level that can be sustained without fertilizers — i.e., back to more or less its original level.

For the past two hundred years, human beings have been in the position of algae in a fertilizer-rich lake. For us, the artificial energy infusion has been in the form of an incredibly concentrated and easily acquired energy source: hydrocarbon fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). In the 19th century, the key fuel was coal. In the 20th, it was oil. During this period, humanity has experienced a giddy population bloom like the algae's.

Hydrocarbon fuels are a one-time gift to humanity, however, and we're burning through them as fast as we can get them out of the ground. We in the industrialized nations — the US most of all — have been like a person who comes into a huge inheritance and proceeds to spend it as quickly as possible. The time comes when the inheritance runs out and one is forced to go back to living on what one can earn.

Most people, I think, attribute the "success" of the human population during the last two centuries to advances in technology, medicine, and knowledge generally. Of course, these have been contributing factors (to a large extent enabled by the energy surplus), but the most important factor has been the sudden infusion of an enormous supply of cheap, portable energy. Without this energy, or an equivalent substitute, the human population simply cannot be sustained at current levels.

Am I exaggerating energy's importance? Think of a modern city, with people stacked in high-rise buildings whose windows don't even open, utterly dependent on modern transportation/distribution systems to bring them the food they no longer grow or gather. Imagine New York City, or London, or Mexico City, or Los Angeles or any other modern metropolis if someone pulled the plug. Every so often we get a tiny glimpse of what this would mean when there's a blackout, but that only scratches the surface. Imagine that not only is electricity gone, but also gasoline, heating oil, natural gas, coal — and permanently.

The next time you're watching a film that has an aerial shot of a large city, especially one taken at night, think about the enormous flow of energy through that system — and the system's utter dependence on that energy flow. If you live in a large city, just look out your window. And then reflect on the fact that the majority of the world's people now live in cities and towns.

Moreover, the importance of hydrocarbons goes far beyond just their use as a source of energy. They are the raw material from which plastics and synthetic materials of all kinds are made, as well as pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. The last thing we should be doing is setting fire to them.

I'll have more to say about the specifics of our usage of and dependence on hydrocarbons — and the possibilities, if any, for a successor energy source to replace hydrocarbons — in future posts.

For now, I just want to leave you with the mental image of the algae bloom. Pump fertilizers into the algae's environment, and the algae undergo a giddy period of explosive growth, culminating in their turning what had been a stable, balanced equilibrium into a green goo. That's what living organisms do. Give them a source of surplus energy and they gobble it up and reproduce like crazy. It's the path of least resistance.

Pump hydrocarbons into the human environment and the same thing happens. We've spent the last two centuries creating our equivalent of the green goo. And the hydrocarbons are about to start running out.

Posted by Jonathan at 07:14 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Thursday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:34 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

We're covering a story about a certain congressman. Let's call him. Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida. He spent most of his career protecting children from Internet stalkers. Turns out he was doing it so he could have them all to himself. — Jon Stewart

But in fairness to the Republicans, let me just throw this out — who invented the Internet? That's right — Al Gore, a Democrat. If it wasn't for him, none of this would have happened. Run with it Fox News. — Jimmy Kimmel

(Foley's) in rehab, which means it only happened because he was drinking. We've all done it folks — drunk dialing. It's just that in Foley's case, it was drunk texting erotic messages to underage pages about masturbation. It's simple. You drink, you forget things — especially things that could endanger minors. And I know people are wondering why Condoleezza Rice can't remember a July 2001 meeting with George Tenet where he warned her an al Qaeda attack was likely, even though White House records prove the meeting happened. She probably just blacked out. She was playing a drinking game. Every time you hear George Tenet say "imminent," you take a shot. — Stephen Colbert

This is like the worst thing to happen to congressional Republicans since last Thursday...Most people think GOP stands for Gay Old Pedophile. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 08:31 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 04, 2006

Exponential Growth Cannot Last Environment  Essays  Science/Technology

[Another repost of a piece from a couple of years ago, once again dealing with the meaning of exponential growth. I hope you'll make it to the punchline at the end.]

I've written about exponential growth before, but the concept is so essential to understanding the future that awaits us that I want to revisit it.

To say something grows exponentially is to say it grows at a constant percentage rate — for example, 3% per year. Anything that grows in this way doubles at a constant rate. You can estimate how long it takes to double by dividing the percentage growth rate into 72. So, for example, something that grows at a rate of 3% per year doubles every 24 years (72/3 = 24).

So, you can think of exponential growth as growth by doubling at a constant rate.

Doubling is an extraordinarily powerful process. Some examples (from M. King Hubbert):

1. If you start with a single pair, say Adam and Eve, in just 32 doublings you’d have a population greater than the total population of Earth today. Just 14 doublings later you’d have one person per square yard over the entire land surface of the planet.

2. If someone gives you a single grain of wheat for the first square of a chessboard, 2 for the second, 4 for the third, doubling at each square, by the time you finish the 64 squares of the chessboard you’d have more than a thousand times the total annual wheat production of Earth.

3. If you play the chessboard game with automobiles instead of wheat, by the time you finish the 64 squares you’d have so many automobiles that if you stacked them uniformly over the entire land surface of the earth, you’d have a layer 1,200 miles deep. (Think of that the next time some economist says world GNP can grow at 3% per year forever.)

What these examples show is that doubling (or exponential growth) is such a powerful process, that it takes only tens of “generations” of doubling — not hundreds, or thousands, or millions — to completely exhaust the physical environment of the planet. Put another way, in the physical world (as opposed to an idealized mathematical world) exponential growth cannot last for long.

When any living species is placed in a favorable environment — meaning an environment that doesn’t limit growth because of the lack of some necessity (e.g. food), the presence of a predator, or for some other reason — its population grows exponentially. In Nature, over the long run, limitations in their environments prevent species from multiplying exponentially. Otherwise, the world would long ago have been engulfed.

Why is all this important?

Early in a doubling sequence, the numbers grow slowly. Likewise, until recently in human history, human population grew slowly. Use of energy and material resources by humans also grew slowly, and the resources used were entirely of the renewable variety, except for tiny amounts of coal and metals. Everything else (food, energy, shelter, clothing, etc.) came from animals and plants (renewable), plus a small amount of energy from wind and water (renewable). If humans had continued to rely on renewable resources, that fact would have put a ceiling on population size.

Starting about two centuries ago, however, a revolution occurred in human life: people starting using non-renewable resources — hydrocarbon fuels and a variety of minerals — in a big way. This use of non-renewables removed the constraints on human population and activity, and exponential growth really kicked in. Not only has population grown exponentially, but human use of coal, oil, gas, iron, copper, tin, lead, zinc, etc. have grown exponentially as well, as has human damage to the environment. It’s the use of non-renewables — hydrocarbon fuels, especially — that has made this growth possible.

But, inevitably, we’re going to hit the wall, and sooner than we think. Even if we had infinite resources to draw on, exponential growth would soon fill up a finite environment, as we've seen. But that hardly matters, since we do not have infinite resources to draw on. Non-renewables are a one-time gift to humanity. They are finite. We’re burning through them at an exponential pace, and when they’re gone they’re gone forever.

Now, one of the really startling characteristics of growth by doubling is the following fact: if you consider the sequence of doubled numbers — 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc. — each number in the sequence is greater (by one) than the sum of all the numbers that precede it.

Why do I call this startling? Consider oil. World oil consumption is now growing at a rate that will double it every 15-20 years. This means, as long as exponential growth continues, in the next 15-20 years the world will consume more oil than was used in all of human history up to this point. More than in the entire 19th and 20th centuries combined — in just 15-20 years — assuming exponential growth continues. I don't know about you, but I find that startling.

I want to finish with a riddle I posed in the earlier post on exponential growth. I repeat it here because I’d really like this riddle to stay with you. If it does, you’ll understand exponential growth better than 99.9% of your fellow citizens.

Suppose you put a small amount of bacteria in a Petri dish. Suppose further that the bacteria population grows exponentially (i.e., by doubling) at a pace that causes it to double each hour. Suppose finally that it takes 100 hours for the bacteria to completely fill the dish, thereby exhausting their supply of nutrients. (It's a large Petri dish.)

Question: When is the dish half full?

After 50 hours (half of 100)?

No. Because the population doubles each hour (including the final hour), the dish is half full just one hour before it’s full. For the first 99 hours the bacteria have got it made. Then wham!

To make this more vivid and memorable, imagine the following as an animated cartoon. For the first 99 hours the bacteria are just partying and congratulating themselves on how smart and successful they are. It’s party hats and noisemakers, Conga lines and champagne, the bacterial Dow Jones going through the roof. Woo hoo! No limits! After 99 hours, some of the bacteria start to worry, but the rest party on — after all, the dish is only half full. Plenty of room left, plenty of nutrients. The first half lasted 99 hours, and there's another whole half to go! Sure, somebody’s gonna have to figure something out eventually, but meanwhile life is good, and nonstop growth will only make it better! An hour later — the world ends.

When growth is exponential, limits are sudden.


Posted by Jonathan at 04:46 PM | Comments (2) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Wednesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:54 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

On Friday, Republican Congressman Mark Foley of Florida stepped down because, well, he's in big trouble. If you were watching Fox News, you might have missed this story — they're still rerunning that Clinton video. — Stephen Colbert

Florida Congressman Mark Foley has resigned over allegations he sent explicit e-mails to underage boys. What is it with congressmen? If they're not grabbing your wallet, they're grabbing your ass. — Jay Leno

How 'bout that Florida Congressman Mark Foley? At least the Democrats waited until the interns were 18. — David Letterman

The Foley saga quickly sent leaders of the North American Man-Boy Love Association, or Congress, into action. One lawmaker, the co-founder of the congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, was particularly outraged [on screen: Foley saying, "They're sick people. They need mental health counseling. They certainly don't need to be interacting with children."] That was Mark Foley from 2002, reacting to himself three years later. — Jon Stewart

Posted by Jonathan at 08:50 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 03, 2006

Feedback Loops And Exponential Growth Environment  Essays

[We live in a world of exponential growth, but most of us find it hard to grasp what that really implies. Here's a post on the subject I originally posted more than two years ago. It's worth revisiting.]

There's an old story you've probably heard. Unless you understand this story, you won't understand many of the problems that face us in the coming century.

In an ancient kingdom, a clever man saves the life of the king's daughter. The grateful king, wishing to reward the man, offers to grant him whatever he asks for, within reason. The man, being clever, says give me one grain of rice for the first square of a chess board, 2 for the second, 4 for the third, etc., doubling the number of grains of rice for each of the 64 squares on the board. The king, who's not so clever, thinks he's gotten off easy and readily agrees.

How much rice has the king just agreed to give the man? If a sack of rice holds 18 million grains, the king has agreed to fork over more than one trillion sacks. The king is ruined. End of story.

The king did not understand exponential growth, which is growth by a constant percentage (100% in our story) at each step. The number of grains starts small and grows slowly at first, but soon you're doubling larger and larger numbers:

1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16384, 32768, 65536, 131072, 262144, 524288, 1048576, etc.

20 squares yield about a million grains, 30 squares yield a billion, 40 squares a trillion, 50 a thousand trillion, 60 a million trillion.

What makes the growth so explosive is the fact that the output of each step is fed back in as the input to the next step. This is what's known as a positive feedback loop. ("Positive" not in the sense of "good", but rather in the sense of "leading to increase".) Population growth is an example. Each generation's children (the output) become the next generation's parents (the input to the next step). In the absence of outside constraints, positive feedback loops give results like in the story of the rice.

The idea of a positive feedback loop — and the kind of ever-accelerating growth that can result — can be applied in a variety of settings, from population growth, to global warming mechanisms, to the way the situation in Iraq is spinning out of control, with chaos leading to greater resistance leading to more chaos, etc. Positive feedback also explains the exponential growth of technical and scientific knowledge, since each new technical effort builds on what has been discovered or invented in the past.

Unfortunately, we seem to have a built-in bias, either neurological or learned, that makes us extrapolate linearly into the future. I.e., we tend, instinctively, to estimate future change as involving the same size steps in absolute terms — not percentage terms — as in the past, so exponential growth always seems to take us by surprise. That's why, when the king saw that in the first several steps the change was just a few grains of rice, he unconsciously assumed that at every step the change would be just a few grains of rice. We all make this mistake. And it's a very dangerous mistake to make at this point in human history.

Here's a riddle.

Suppose someone puts a few bacteria in a petri dish at noon on Monday. Suppose further that the bacteria grow at a rate that causes their population to double every hour. Suppose finally that the growth is such that the petri dish is completely full of bacteria at noon on Wednesday.

Question: When is the petri dish half full?

Click the link below for the answer.

Many people say Tuesday at noon — halfway between noon Monday and noon Wednesday. That's linear thinking, and it's incorrect. Since the population doubles each hour, the dish is half full just one hour before it's full, i.e., at 11 AM on Wednesday. From noon Monday to 11 AM Wednesday, the bacteria have plenty of room to spare. No worries. Then wham!

What's the point? When growth is exponential, or when powerful feedback loops are present, we can think everything's going along fine until just before we hit the wall. Many of the problems that face us — problems of population growth, resource depletion, environmental degradation, political instability — involve exactly this kind of exponential growth caused by powerful feedback loops. If we don't have an appropriate mental model of what that means, we'll be complacent right up to the moment when we hit the wall — hard — and, like the king, lose everything.

It's crucial that we overcome our linear bias. We're living in a world of exponential growth, and our petri dish is filling rapidly.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Tuesday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

In an interview with Mike Wallace about his new book, legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward said that Henry Kissinger is now advising President Bush on Iraq, and they're trying to fight the Vietnam War all over again. Hey, why not? Bush missed it the first time. — Jay Leno

Posted by Jonathan at 08:43 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 02, 2006

Talk Is Cheap Environment

Someone I always make a point of reading is Britain's George Monbiot. Here are excerpts from a recent piece of his on getting real about global warming:

Almost everywhere, climate change denial now looks as stupid and as unacceptable as Holocaust denial. But I'm not celebrating yet. The danger is not that we will stop talking about climate change, or recognising that it presents an existential threat to humankind. The danger is that we will talk ourselves to Kingdom Come.

If the biosphere is wrecked, it will not be done by those who couldn't give a damn about it, as they now belong to a diminishing minority. It will be destroyed by nice, well-meaning, cosmopolitan people who accept the case for cutting emissions, but who won't change by one iota the way they live. [...]

While environmentalism has always been characterised as a middle-class concern, and while this has often been unfair, there is now an undeniable nexus of class politics and morally-superior consumerism...[C]arbon emissions are closely correlated to income: the richer you are, the more likely you are to be wrecking the planet, however much stripped wood and hand-thrown crockery there is in your kitchen.

It doesn't help that politicians, businesses and even climate change campaigners seek to shield us from the brutal truth of just how much has to change. Last week Friends of the Earth published the report it had commissioned from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which laid out the case for a 90% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. This caused astonishment in the media. But other calculations, using the same sources, show that even this ambitious target is two decades too late. It becomes rather complicated, but please bear with me, for our future rests on these numbers.

The Tyndall Centre says that to prevent the earth from warming by more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere must be stabilised at 450 parts per million or less (they currently stand at 380). But this, as its sources show, is plainly insufficient. The reason is that carbon dioxide (CO2) is not the only greenhouse gas. The others – such as methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons – boost its impacts by around 15%. When you add the concentrations of CO2 and the other greenhouse gases together, you get a figure known as "CO2 equivalent". But the Tyndall centre uses "CO2" and "CO2 equivalent" interchangeably, which leads to an embarrassing scientific mishmash.

"Concentrations of 450 parts per million CO2 equivalent or lower", it says, provide a "reasonable-to-high probability of not exceeding 2 degrees C". This is true, but the report is not calling for a limit of 450 parts of "CO2 equivalent". It is calling for a limit of 450 parts of CO2, which means at least 500 parts of CO2 equivalent. At this level, there is a low-to-very-low probability of keeping the temperature rise to below 2 degrees. So why on earth has this reputable scientific institution muddled the figures?

You can find the answer on page 16 of the report. "As with all client-consultant relationships, boundary conditions were established within which to conduct the analysis. ... Friends of the Earth, in conjunction with a consortium of NGOs and with increasing cross-party support from MPs, have been lobbying hard for the introduction of a 'limate change bill' ... [The bill] is founded essentially on a correlation of 2°C with 450 parts per million of CO2."

In other words, Friends of the Earth had already set the target before it asked its researchers to find out what the target should be. I suspect that it chose the wrong number because it believed a 90% cut by 2030 would not be politically acceptable.

This echoes the refusal of Sir David King, the chief scientist, to call for a target of less than 550 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, on the grounds that it would be "politically unrealistic". The message seems to be that the science can go to hell – we will tell people what we think they can bear.

So we all deceive ourselves and deceive each other about the change that needs to take place. The middle classes think they have gone green because they buy organic cotton pyjamas and handmade soaps with bits of leaf in them – though they still heat their conservatories and retain their holiday homes in Croatia. The people who should be confronting them with hard truths balk at the scale of the challenge. And the politicians won't jump until the rest of us do. [...]

So the question which now confronts everyone...is this: how much reality can you take? Do you really want to stop climate chaos, or do you just want to feel better about yourself? [Emphasis added]

Greed kills — and greed comes in many forms. Most insidious, perhaps, is our greed for comfort and convenience. Humans, like other organisms, generally take the path of least resistance. We're supposed to be more intelligent than other organisms and therefore better equipped to understand what's going to be the real path of least resistance over the long term, but it never seems to work that way in practice. Everybody wants to be comfortable now. And besides, if the people around you aren't changing how they live, you feel like your own little contribution is meaningless. But that is a sure path to disaster for us all.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:06 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Letter To A Christian Nation Religion

This is excellent. Go read it.

I just ordered my copy of Harris' book. Only 10 bucks at Amazon.

[Thanks, Miles]

Posted by Jonathan at 09:35 PM | Comments (3) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Monday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 08:16 AM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

A report leaked to the New York Times insinuates that the Iraq war has actually helped spread the Jihadist movement. President Bush none too pleased about the report. [on screen: Bush calling the assumption that going to Iraq was a mistake, naive]. Wow, going to Iraq being a mistake is naive? How naive? This kind of naive? [on screen: VP Dick Cheney saying, "I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators."] That kind of naive?. — Jon Stewart

Posted by Jonathan at 08:11 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

October 01, 2006

25 Most Censored Stories Media

Project Censored has published its list of the 25 most important news stories that went largely uncovered for the year. Here they are:

  1. Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media
  2. Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran
  3. Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger
  4. Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US
  5. High-Tech Genocide in Congo
  6. Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy
  7. US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq
  8. Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act
  9. The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall
  10. Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians
  11. Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed
  12. Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines
  13. New Evidence Establishes Dangers of Roundup
  14. Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US
  15. Chemical Industry is EPA's Primary Research Partner
  16. Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court
  17. Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda
  18. Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story
  19. Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever
  20. Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem
  21. Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers
  22. Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed
  23. US Oil Industry Targets Kyoto in Europe
  24. Cheney's Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year
  25. US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region

No matter how much of a news junkie you are, many, if not most, of these stories will be news to you. Which is exactly the point. They're important stories, but media self-censorship keeps us from hearing about them.

Project Censored publishes extensive details on all of these stories. Check them out.

Posted by Jonathan at 10:17 PM | Comments (1) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Sunday Gumpagraph Gumpagraphs
 
Today's Gumpagraph. Kent is 'Gumpa' to his grandson Sebastian.
© Kent Tenney 

Posted by Jonathan at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Today's Bush Joke Humor & Fun

Did you see this Clinton thing on Fox? [on screen: Bill Clinton's interview with Chris Wallace on 'Fox News Sunday']. Wow, talk about an overreaction. Chris Wallace just asked him a perfectly legitimate question [on screen: Depends On What Definition of 'Legitimate' Is]. He just basically asked, why did you let those 3,000 people in the World Trade Center die? And Clinton freaks out [on screen: Burst His Bubba]. Clinton even had the nerve to question why Wallace never asked the Bush administration the same thing. Well, there's an excellent reason [on screen: You Don't Criticize Your Boss]. — Stephen Colbert

Posted by Jonathan at 09:13 AM | Comments (0) | Link to this  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb