Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Spores Like Us

Like Avedon pointed out

Someone was trying to assassinate Daschle and Leahy, and John Ashcroft (who preferred to pretend it was related to "terrorism" in that new, broad, "your personal life is in danger!!!" way and had nothing to do with trying to assassinate two Democratic Senators), apparently decided it was a guy named Hatfill. Since the Bush administration apparently regarded the DOJ as just another political organization that worked on their behalf, they didn't really seem to care that FBI agents wanted to follow other, more promising leads. But they enjoyed leaking information to the press and ruining the guy's career...

Dr. Hatfill, career in tatters after a scapegoating attempt, deserves his compensation. The Feds had no evidence whatsoever, and ignored other possible avenues of investigation because of political pressure.

But it's also worth examining some points from one of the better discussions I've encountered on the anthrax terrorism.

Fox tells us it came from high level security labs.

Not only did the anthrax come from a government lab, a week before 9-11 The New York Pravda reported the Pentagon was testing the stuff. Two weeks before the first attack Bushie and Cheney got their shots,

...The FIRST victim of the anthrax attacks was the SAME Tabloid company that hosted the 9/11 hijackers in a Florida condo weeks before the attack?
The same guy that was killed by anthrax was going to the same tiny flight school at the same time as Mohamed Atta?

Yeah, lots of coinkydinks.

Whats NOT a coinkydink is that it was the two senators who OPPOSED the Patriot Act that got sent the anthrax letters...no shocker, the USA Patriot Act was rushed through immediately there after.

Not an accident at all...

Read the whole thread, there's some good stuff amidst the disinformation.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mc$ame: War Without End, Incompetently Fought

There are many people of progressive liberal bent disappointed in the Unibama these days, for good reason.

But lest your dashed hopes of having a real progressive leader cause you to eschew the $election, consider the Endless War under John McCain. Frank Rich does, today:

... If a terrorist bomb did detonate in an American city before Election Day, would that automatically be to the Republican ticket’s benefit?

Not necessarily. Some might instead ask why the Bush White House didn’t replace Michael Chertoff as secretary of homeland security after a House report condemned his bungling of Katrina. The man didn’t know what was happening in the New Orleans Convention Center even when it was broadcast on national television.

Next, voters might take a hard look at the antiterrorism warriors of the McCain campaign (and of a potential McCain administration). This is the band of advisers and surrogates that surfaced to attack Mr. Obama two weeks ago for being “naïve” and “delusional” and guilty of a “Sept. 10th mind-set” after he had the gall to agree with the Supreme Court decision on Gitmo detainees. The McCain team’s track record is hardly sterling. It might make America more vulnerable to terrorist attack, not less, were it in power.

Take — please! — the McCain foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann. He was the executive director of the so-called Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, formed in 2002 (with Mr. McCain on board) to gin up the war that diverted American resources from fighting those who attacked us on 9/11 to invading a nation that did not. Thanks to that strategic blunder, a 2008 Qaeda attack could well originate from Pakistan or Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden’s progeny, liberated by our liberation of Iraq, have been regrouping ever since. On Friday the Pentagon declared that the Taliban has once more “coalesced into a resilient insurgency.” Attacks in eastern Afghanistan are up 40 percent from this time last year, according to the American commander of NATO forces in the region.

Another dubious McCain terror expert is the former C.I.A. director James Woolsey. He (like Charles Black) was a cheerleader for Ahmad Chalabi, the exiled Iraqi leader who helped promote phony Iraqi W.M.D. intelligence in 2002 and who is persona non grata to American officials in Iraq today because of his ties to Iran. Mr. Woolsey, who accuses Mr. Obama of harboring “extremely dangerous” views on terrorism, has demonstrated his own expertise by supporting crackpot theories linking Iraq to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On 9/11 and 9/12 he circulated on the three major networks to float the idea that Saddam rather than bin Laden might have ordered the attacks.

Then there is the McCain camp’s star fearmonger, Rudy Giuliani, who has lately taken to railing about Mr. Obama’s supposed failure to learn the lessons of the first twin towers bombing. The lesson America’s Mayor took away from that 1993 attack was to insist that New York City’s emergency command center be located in the World Trade Center. No less an authority than John Lehman, a 9/11 commission member who also serves on the McCain team, has mocked New York’s pre-9/11 emergency plans as “not worthy of the Boy Scouts.”

If there’s another 9/11, it’s hard to argue that this gang could have prevented it. At least Mr. Obama, however limited his experience, has called for America to act on actionable terrorist intelligence in Pakistan if Pervez Musharraf won’t. Mr. McCain angrily disagreed with that idea. The relatively passive Pakistan policy he offers instead could well come back to haunt him if a new 9/11 is launched from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Should there be no new terrorist attack, the McCain camp’s efforts to play the old Rove 9/11 fear card may quickly become as laughable as the Giuliani presidential campaign. These days Americans are more frightened of losing their jobs, homes and savings...

There's Terra, and there's Terror, and there's more than one threat to National Security. The Republicans' venality dwarf even the stupidest DINOcrat maneuver any day. Get out and vote for Obama and the Democrats when the time comes. Even though they suck.

And give them their just desserts when you get the Republicans far away from the reins of power.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

So Many Uses, So Little Crime

All for your own good, of course.

MSNBC’s Alex Witt talked to Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff about a new proposal by the Bush administration to use satellites for domestic surveillance.

Isikoff told MSNBC, “The Homeland Security Department is talking about expanding the program to use military satellites really, for domestic purposes. They say the primary driver is natural disasters — like the recent flooding in the midwest — to pinpoint areas that are most hard hit and to help with responses, first responses. But they also leave open the possibility that this could be used for other purposes, law enforce many purposes. Tracking potential terrorists but also tracking potential drug operations.”

“And that is where the concerns about civil liberty abuses come in. First of all, there are strict laws about the act that limits the use of the U.S. military for law enforcement purposes. But the precision of these satellites, they can literally capture crystal clear images of your car as you leave the studio this afternoon. And capture them in computer databases — in the governmentcomputer databases. And it raises all sorts of concerns. To some degree, the administration is paying the price of what is for — what many in congress see as way over stepping — in the electronic surveillance era.”

Isikoff in Newsweek:

On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment denying money for the new domestic intelligence operation—cryptically named the "National Applications Office"—until the Homeland Security secretary certifies that any programs undertaken by the center will "comply with all existing laws, including all applicable privacy and civil liberties standards."

Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on intelligence, told Newsweek that majorities in both the House and Senate intend to block all funding for the domestic intelligence center at least until August, when the Government Accountability Office, an investigative agency that works for Congress, completes a report examining civil-liberties and privacy issues related to the domestic use of picture-taking spy satellites.

Harman, who was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee when Republicans controlled Congress earlier in Bush's tenure, said she still felt burned by the president's secret expansion of domestic electronic spying after 9/11. At the time, she and other intel committee leaders were assured that the increased intelligence activity was legal, only to learn later that the basis for the new surveillance was a set of opinions by administration lawyers that are now widely considered to be legally questionable...

...Russ Knocke, a Homeland Security spokesman, told Newsweek that fears about the program are unfounded. "We've repeatedly met with Congress to answer questions about the NAO," he said. "As we have said, the purpose of the NAO is not to expand existing legal authorities. Rather, it will allow the government to better and more efficiently prioritize the use of scarce resources in support of major disasters, homeland security efforts and perhaps—in the future—law enforcement. We have also been clear that we would brief Congress before moving to support law enforcement. Efforts to further stall the NAO are misguided and keep us from making the best use of overhead imagery for a number of public safety and security missions."

Learn to love Big Brother, and accept the rule of Skynet. It's misguided to think otherwise. And likely to be a doublebad thoughtcrime.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stormy Weather

via Cryptogon, the London Telegraph:

Barclays Capital has advised clients to batten down the hatches for a worldwide financial storm, warning that the US Federal Reserve has allowed the inflation genie out of the bottle and let its credibility fall "below zero".

"We're in a nasty environment," said Tim Bond, the bank's chief equity strategist. "There is an inflation shock underway. This is going to be very negative for financial assets. We are going into tortoise mood and are retreating into our shell. Investors will do well if they can preserve their wealth."

Barclays Capital said in its closely-watched Global Outlook that US headline inflation would hit 5.5pc by August and the Fed will have to raise interest rates six times by the end of next year to prevent a wage-spiral. If it hesitates, the bond markets will take matters into their own hands...

Meanwhile, the Pole is anticipated to melt completely this year, 50 years ahead of schedule.

But it's all good, you know:

(CNN) -- The North Pole may be briefly ice-free by September as global warming melts away Arctic sea ice, according to scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

"We kind of have an informal betting pool going around in our center and that betting pool is 'does the North Pole melt out this summer?' and it may well," said the center's senior research scientist, Mark Serreze.

It's a 50-50 bet that the thin Arctic sea ice, which was frozen in autumn, will completely melt away at the geographic North Pole, Serreze said.

The ice retreated to a record level in September when the Northwest Passage, the sea route through the Arctic Ocean, opened briefly for the first time in recorded history.

"What we've seen through the past few decades is the Arctic sea ice cover is becoming thinner and thinner as the system warms up," Serreze said.

Specific weather patterns will determine whether the North Pole's ice cover melts completely this summer, he said.

"Last year, we had sort of a perfect weather pattern to get rid of ice to open up that Northwest Passage," Serreze said. "This year, a different pattern can set up. so maybe we'll preserve some ice there. We're in a wait-and-see mode right now. We'll see what happens."

The brief lack of ice at the top of the globe will not bring any immediate consequences, he said.

"From the viewpoint of the science, the North Pole is just another point in the globe, but it does have this symbolic meaning," Serreze said. "There's supposed to be ice at the North Pole. The fact that we may not have any by the end of this summer could be quite a symbolic change..."

Of course, it's only symbolic.

...There are some positive aspects to the ice melting, he said. Ships could use the Northwest Passage to save time and energy by no longer having to travel through the Panama Canal or around Cape Horn.

"There's also, or course, oil at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean," he said. "Now, the irony of that is kind of clear, but the fact that we are opening up the Arctic Ocean does make it more accessible."

You see, it's all good.

After the Pole melts, the heat sink buffer to the North will be gone.

Greenland's next. There's a real symbolism when a subcontinent covered with ice a mile high melts, and Wall Street, and Manhattan, and Singapore, and Hong Kong, and Tokyo, and London, and Washington D.C., and all the old halls of Power lie under the wave.

Meet the new climate, same as the old climate.

Ah, the Bu$hCo-installed new generation of climate scientists. You might notice that wasn't James Hansen being quoted. He's much too concerned about circumstances that obviously could be turned to the advantage of Right-thinking people.

Me, I'm down with it. I'm planting Bald Cypress and Metasequoia in the swamps of Michigan, trees that are resistant to the emerald borer and the Japanese beetle, in their new habitat, now 1000 feet above sea level today, perhaps soon to be 600 feet above sea level when the ice is gone.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Concern Trolling is a Lucrative Occupation

They're very concerned about his turnaround on public financing, but could give a rat's ass about his turnaround on telcom immunity.

This is a great example of framing the story.

But they aren't alone, as Greenwald reports.

According to Olberman, what was

...a "shameless, breathless, literally textbook example of Fascism -- the merged efforts of government and corporations that answer to no government."

when Dear Leader first suggested it is now

..."Senator Obama also refusing to cower even to the left on the subject of warrantless wiretapping"...

So it looks like Olbermann is about to Unity with Coulter and Obama is about to Unity with Mc$ame in declaring the lefty blogosphere traitors and Terra'ists.

But it's like Digby points out, DINOcrats like Hoyer and Pelosi and HHHillary and the Unibama are relatively cheap dates.

I suppose $500 is a lot of money to a $50 dollar whore.

Without Mind: the Replicators

If you have





You MUST get design out of Chaos
without mind.

And that is dangerous.

"My God, It's Full of Stars..."

Or maybe those are just wormhole event horizons:

...the NYT's Floyd Norris points to what can only be described as the single most absurd commentary on Sentiment data you will likely read in your lifetime.

"Consumer confidence is unusually low, at its fifth all time worse reading in 40 years of Conference Board data. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index literally plunged in June, down nearly 8 points to 50.4. The expectations component is at a record low of 41.0, down more than 7 points, with the present situation at 64.5, down nearly 10 points for its worst reading since the early part of the ongoing expansion in 2003. But there is an expansion still underway and this is not a time of war, which makes the results difficult to figure."

Normally at this point in our conversation, I would be railing about whether the economy is expanding, given the negative readings in jobs creation, manufacturing, income, and consumption, and how understated inflation makes GDP look better than it is regardless.

But considering that this is not a time of war, I must have another explanation. It seems I have fallen thru a tear in the fabric of spacetime into an alternate universe. Back in my universe, where the US is likely in a recession, there is also two wars going on, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.

This tear in the fabric of spacetime does explain some of the more absurd commentary we have heard over the past few years: That the credit crisis is contained, or the economy was doing well, that real estate has bottomed, etc. We are simultaneous inhabiting two separate universes, one where everything is going swimmingly -- and this one.

The disagreements about the state of the economy, the housing debacle, and the credit crisis seem to come about when someone from THAT universe -- the one where the economy is expanding and there is no war -- accidentally falls into OUR universe -- but keeps discussing their universe.

Other than that, I can find no other explanation for the Barron's Econoday commentary. Can you?

Could be the Mc$ame old reason: just a hole full of worms.

Nothing Like the Smell of Fresh Change in the Morning

I think they're on to something at the Poor Man Institute.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The motivations run a few inches deeper...

I don't think money alone explains why the telcom corporations are so adamant about getting retroactive immunity for their illegal deeds...

I don't think so, either. I think the desire for raw power has a lot to do with it.

The sooner we get rid of that musty old Constitution, the sooner a real Romulan Warlord can move into the driver's seat.

So Override It

June 24, 2008
Senate increases help for veterans but Bush likely to veto

As Appropriations season opens on Capitol Hill, both the House and Senate are approving increases in veterans causes such as construction and programs.

The bill runs the risk of being vetoed by President Bush.

So override the veto, you spineless blowhards.

Just sayin'.

No Wonder They Ignored Him

June 24, 2008

Remarks as Prepared - Mr. President: I rise—once again—to voice my strong opposition to the misguided FISA legislation before us today. I have strong reservations about the so-called improvements made to Title I. But more than that, this legislation includes provisions which would grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that apparently have violated the privacy and the trust of millions of Americans by participating in the president’s warrantless wiretapping program. If we pass this legislation, the Senate will ratify a domestic spying regime that has already concentrated far too much unaccountable power in the president’s hands and will place the telecommunications companies above the law.

I am here today to implore my colleagues to vote against cloture in the morning.

And let me make clear, at the outset of this debate, that this is not about domestic surveillance itself. We all recognize the importance of domestic surveillance – in an age of unprecedented threats. This is about illegal, unwarranted, unchecked domestic surveillance.

And that difference—the difference between surveillance that is lawful, warranted and that which is not—is everything...

[tip o'teh tinfoil to Atrios]

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cyberspace Mockingbirds

Is Democratic Underground really a right-wing front organization, or is something else altogether going on?

Two comments I ran across on these threads struck me as insightful.

nathan28 wrote
You know what the problem is? A lot of historical facts, like "the CIA ran drugs through Mena AK" or "Money to fund two 9/11 hijackers was funneled through less than five people from Bandar bin Sultan's wife's bank account at Riggs Bank" are "lunatic." The gate-keeping at DU strikes me more as an example of the success of Public Fantasyland and "truthiness" over reality than it does a deliberate machination. So a couple right-wingers have successfully passed themselves off as democrats. Wow. Big surprise. Or not.

Well, I'm just baffled that anyone would think that a site called "Democratic Underground" and serving as an adjunct to the Democratic Party would not be tightly controlled by the establishment, i.e. said Democratic Party. To believe that DU is actually "underground" strikes me as terribly naive.

Sometimes what's going on with the media isn't so obvious...

All it takes is a handful of Company men to ruin any community in realspace or cyberspace.

Right wing is not the most accurate description of what's going on there and elsewhere, but it seems there are undeniably some people working more than one side of issues posting and monitoring. But DU's far from alone in that respect.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Welcome to the Desert of the Real. Again.

Lots of ripples in the left end of the Matrix, as various progressives realize that Obama bin Bought.

A good comparison and contrast is over at Chris Floyd's place.

...The FISA compromise bill is abominable, without question; anyone who supports it cannot possibly be regarded as a serious believer in constitutional democracy. Yet behind this truth is another one, noted above: the FISA system itself is an abomination for a free people. And behind this comes yet another, grimmer truth: the FISA system, either old-style or the new Obama-abetted version, is just a miniscule part of the "endless array of weapons" at the disposal of the National Surveillance State...

... Obama has taken some heat for his embrace of the Democrat's deadly FISA farce. Disappointment, even anger, is certainly rife across the progressosphere. For some stalwarts, it has induced a new sense of grim realism, ranging from "ya gotta do what ya gotta do, and I'm glad our guy's got the balls to do what he gotta do" offered by Jonathan Leigh Solomon, to the strange blast produced by Digby, which Silber, in another piece, rightly describes as "We're 2% less shitty than Pure Evil! It's all we've got!"

Digby too has criticized Obama's FISA move, albeit with the usual "I just can't figure out why he would do such a thing" trope, which she has had to apply to virtually every action taken by the Democrats in recent years. [The answer, of course, as Silber has often noted, is plain: they "do it" – sell out to corporations, to warmongers, to authoritarianism and unaccountable power – because they want to do it. It's what they believe in.] ...

It's the folly of thinking you can use a Ring of Power for good. The Power always ends up using you for its own ends.

But really I can no more support Barak bin Lyin than I could John Mc$ame. Nor will I throw a quatloo into Digby's and Greenwald's Stange Bedfellows alliance, nor Al Gore's, nor Silber's tiny hat. Nor would I suggest you do so either.

To financially support the Powers in the quest for Dominion is pure idiocy. Unless you've got several million to toss in the pot, they never even read your email. Nor am I willing to waste my money on other bloggers, nor pro-Constitutional left-right coalitions. Unity? Don't let's be silly.

I'll vote Democratic this time around, and suggest you do too. Because these crooks continue to seem to be the ones most capable of muddling onwards without precipitating global thermonuclear conflagration. They seem to be the ones most likely to think about the development of alternative energy to fossil fuels. There's list of issues the Democrats are more likely to act on than the Republicans- because a world people can survive in is better for business. The Republicans can't see any further than the next paycheck.

But end the Empire? Destroy the Ring of Power? Don't be silly. The Democrats won't do it, not in this age of this world.

But whether the Dominionists like it or not, every day their Armageddon is postponed is one day closer to the time the species gets off the surface of this world.

It took thousands of years for the human race to spread out of Africa. Ever since, the hold of the alpha male apes on the human race has tended to wane. Ever since, as bloody a path as we've cut, it's no more bloody than our ancestors, and in many ways less for some of us.

Maybe when the Earth is in the rear view mirror, those of us able to look back at it will be a better species. Maybe not. But the choice now is between certain stagnation and decay under the same autocracy, or a possible new deal.

My business is to ensure the survival of human sapience for its own sake.

In the desert of the real, one travels at night, and learns the stars.

Like Indicting Satan

Good luck with getting the Barons of Hell for damages:

Dr. James Hansen, who warned Congress 20 years ago today that human-induced global warming had begun, will “call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.”

Read him rage against the machine today here.

Market Farces

Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman, left, said there was no evidence that speculators are driving futures prices.

... Rather than finding areas of agreement, participants in the one-day meeting in this coastal city on the Red Sea illustrated the sharply diverging views on what has caused oil prices to double in the past year to the $130 to $140 per barrel range.

Consumer nations, led by the United States, Britain and Japan, see more supply as the answer to higher prices. But most producing nations are either reluctant to or unable to pump more oil, and they say a big reason for the price inflation is speculation. Everyone agreed that surging demand in the developing world was a major factor.

That point was punctuated last Thursday when China, the world’s fastest-growing consumer of oil, announced it was sharply raising the subsidized prices that its own citizens pay. The price of oil temporarily dropped more than 3 percent on that news alone because of expectations that demand from China would slow. ..

Dear Leader sez "Drill Everywhere!

"Blood and Soulz for ExxonMobil!"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Remember, It's Not What You Know to Be Fact

...it's what the perpetrators believe to be Truth.

Me? I sincerely doubt it was the United States government.

But I really think it was many people who think L'etat, c'est moi.

I think they were (and are) a silly, superstitious lot. Just like the Zodiac killer, but on an international scale. And I think the idiots on trial now are simple willing fools with martyr complexes and not the real masterminds at all.

Future Rememberance

A few million years from now they'll be an interesting fossil record for our android inheritors.

Sea of Trash

...A 55-year-old lawyer with a monkish haircut, glasses that look difficult to break, an allergy of the eyes that makes him squint and a private law practice in Anchorage, Pallister spends most of his time directing a nonprofit group called the Gulf of Alaska Keeper, or GoAK (pronounced GO-ay-kay). According to its mission statement, GoAK’s lofty purpose is to “protect, preserve, enhance and restore the ecological integrity, wilderness quality and productivity of Prince William Sound and the North Gulf Coast of Alaska.” In practice, the group has, since Pallister and a few like-minded buddies founded it in 2005, done little else besides clean trash from beaches. All along Alaska’s outer coast, Chris Pallister will tell you, there are shores strewn with marine debris, as man-made flotsam and jetsam is officially known. Most of that debris is plastic, and much of it crosses the Gulf of Alaska or even the Pacific Ocean to arrive there.

The tide of plastic isn’t rising only on Alaskan shores. In 2004 two oceanographers from the British Antarctic Survey completed a study of plastic dispersal in the Atlantic that spanned both hemispheres. “Remote oceanic islands,” the study showed, “may have similar levels of debris to those adjacent to heavily industrialized coasts.” Even on the shores of Spitsbergen Island in the Arctic, the survey found on average a plastic item every five meters.

Back in the 1980s, the specter of fouled beaches was a recurring collective nightmare. The Jersey Shore was awash in used syringes. New York’s garbage barge wandered the seas. On the approach to Kennedy Airport, the protagonist of “Paradise,” a late Donald Barthelme novel, looked out his airplane window and saw “a hundred miles of garbage in the water, from the air white floating scruff.” We tend to tire of new variations on the apocalypse, however, the same way we tire of celebrities and pop songs. Eventually all those syringes, no longer delivering a jolt of guilt or dread, receded from the national consciousness...

I'm sure a little corporate Mockingbird had something to do with that.

...Not even oceanographers can tell us exactly how much floating scruff is out there; oceanographic research is simply too expensive and the ocean too varied and vast. In 2002, Nature magazine reported that during the 1990s, debris in the waters near Britain doubled; in the Southern Ocean encircling Antarctica the increase was a hundredfold. And depending on where they sample, oceanographers have found that between 60 and 95 percent of today’s marine debris is made of plastic.

Plastic gets into the ocean when people throw it from ships or leave it in the path of an incoming tide, but also when rivers carry it there, or when sewage systems and storm drains overflow. Despite the Ocean Dumping Reform Act, the U.S. still releases more than 850 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm runoff every year, according to a 2004 E.P.A. report. Comb the Manhattan waterfront and you will find, along with the usual windrows of cups, bottles and plastic bags, what the E.P.A. calls “floatables,” those “visible buoyant or semibuoyant solids” that people flush into the waste stream like cotton swabs, condoms, tampon applicators and dental floss.

The Encyclopedia of Coastal Processes, about as somniferously clinical a scientific source on the subject as one can find, predicts that plastic pollution “will incrementally increase through the 21st century,” because “the problems created are chronic and potentially global, rather than acute and local or regional as many would contemplate.” The problems are chronic because, unlike the marine debris of centuries past, commercial plastics do not biodegrade in seawater. Instead, they persist, accumulating over time, much as certain emissions accumulate in the atmosphere. The problems are global because the sources of plastic pollution are far-flung but also because, like emissions riding the winds, pollutants at sea can travel.

And so, year after year, equipped with garbage bags and good intentions, the volunteers in the International Coastal Cleanup fan out, and year after year, in many places the tonnage of debris is greater than before. Seba Sheavly, a marine-debris researcher who ran the I.C.C. until 2005, says the Ocean Conservancy’s cleanup “has never been about curing the problem of marine debris.” It has always been, she told me, “a public awareness campaign.” Now a private consultant to the plastics industry and the United Nations Environment Program, among other clients, Sheavly says she believes that the primary value of coastal cleanups lies in the lesson they teach volunteers — “that what they’re picking up comes from them.” On Alaska’s outer coast, however, only a fraction of the debris washing in comes from local litterbugs. On much of Alaska’s 33,000-mile shoreline, in fact, there are no local litterbugs. On much of Alaska’s shoreline there are no people at all.

When Pallister took me there last July, a GoAK crew had been at work for two weeks cleaning up Gore Point (population: 0), part of a 400,000-acre maritime wilderness at the heart of the Kenai Fjords. Despite the pretty scenery, few nature lovers bother to visit. You can travel to Gore Point only by helicopter, seaplane or boat, and then only when weather permits, which it often does not. In the lower 48, beach cleanups tend to involve schoolchildren gleaning food wrappers and cigarette butts left by recreational beachgoers. GoAK’s cleanups, by contrast, are costly expeditions into the wild. The group’s volunteers must be 18 or older, and all must sign a frightening waiver in which they agree not to hold the organization liable for perils like “dangerous storms; hypothermia; sun or heat exposure; drowning; vehicle transportation and transfer; rocky, slippery and dangerous shorelines; tool and trash related injuries; bears; and” — in case that list left anything out — “other unforeseen events.”

The windward shore of Gore Point is what’s known among beachcombers and oceanographers as “a collector beach.” In 1989, according to The Anchorage Daily News, more of Exxon’s spilled oil ended up there than on any other beach on Alaska’s outer coast, but unlike the oil, the incoming debris never ended. Every tide brings more. Over the course of several decades, ever since the dawn of the plastics era, a kind of postmodern midden heap accumulated behind the driftwood berm. To beachcombers in the know, Gore Point was a happy hunting ground, one of the best places in Alaska to find exotic oddities. To Pallister, it was a paradise lost. Now, subsidized by a $115,000 matching grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.), he had embarked upon a possibly quixotic mission to regain it...

In its first summer in action, GoAK managed to clean 350 miles of rugged shoreline, picking up enough trash to fill 46 trash-hauling bins. Pallister wasn’t satisfied. It wasn’t enough to clean beaches near coastal communities. And so, last summer, Gore Point became a front line in the federal government’s campaign against debris. What would it take, Pallister hoped to learn, to clean up one wild beach?

To me, Gore Point seemed like the scene of an unsolved environmental mystery — unsolved and possibly unsolvable. Who, if anyone, can be held accountable for all that plastic trash? What, if anything, does it forebode for us and for the sea?

...Pallister has a theory about where all this trash comes from. “There’s a weather phenomenon we have here,” he told me in Anchorage. “A winter low sets this prevailing wind pattern that will just funnel this way for days on end if not weeks on end. That wind is blowing right across that bunch of plastic out there.” The “bunch of plastic” he was talking about is the flotilla of trash, purportedly at least as big as Texas, that has accumulated at the becalmed heart of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a giant clockwise circuit of currents that revolves between East Asia and North America.

High-pressure systems like the one that predominates over the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre force currents to spiral inward. Oceanographers call these spirals “convergence zones.” Low atmospheric pressure systems like the one that predominates over the Gulf of Alaska have the opposite effect, creating “divergence zones” where the surface currents move outward toward shore. Divergence zones tend to expel debris. Convergence zones collect it.

In 2001 a peer-reviewed scientific journal called The Marine Pollution Bulletin published a study, whose undramatic title, “A Comparison of Plastic and Plankton in the North Pacific Central Gyre,” belied its dramatic findings. The lead author — a sailor, environmentalist, organic farmer, self-trained oceanographer and onetime furniture repairman named Charles Moore — went trawling in the North Pacific convergence zone about 800 miles west of San Francisco and found seven times as much plastic per square kilometer as any previous study.

“As I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean,” Moore later wrote in an essay for Natural History, “I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic. It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.” An oceanographic colleague of Moore’s dubbed this floating junk yard “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” and despite Moore’s efforts to suggest different metaphors — “a swirling sewer,” “a superhighway of trash” connecting two “trash cemeteries” — “Garbage Patch” appears to have stuck.

The Garbage Patch wasn’t merely a cosmetic problem, nor merely a symbolic one, Moore contended. For one thing, it was a threat to wildlife. Scientists estimate that every year at least a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die when they entangle themselves in debris or ingest it. “Entanglement and ingestion, however, are not the worst problems caused by the ubiquitous plastic pollution,” Moore wrote. Plastic polymers, as has long been known, absorb hydrophobic chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants, or POPS, like dioxin, P.C.B.’s and D.D.T. Highly controlled in the U.S. but less so elsewhere, such substances are surprisingly abundant at the ocean’s surface. By concentrating these free-floating contaminants, Moore worried, particles of plastic could become “poison pills.” He also worried about toxins in the plastic itself — phthalates, organotins — that have been known to leach out over time. Once fish or plankton ingest these pills, Moore speculated, poisons both in and on the plastic would enter the food web. And since such toxins concentrate, or “bioaccumulate,” in fatty tissues as they move up the chain of predation — so that the “contaminant burden” of a swordfish is greater than a mackerel’s and a mackerel’s greater than a shrimp’s — this plastic could be poisoning people too.

...The hardest question to answer about the Garbage Patch, it turns out, isn’t whether plastic threatens animals and ecosystems, but what, if anything, can be done about it. “We haven’t been able to hatch up any good ideas,” Flint admitted. Albatross chicks don’t forage on land, she said. In fact they don’t forage at all. Their parents do, flying far and wide across the Pacific, swooping down to snatch morsels off the surface, which they bring back home and regurgitate into a hungry chick’s mouth. That’s where all the detritus in that Greenpeace ad came from. Even if we were to clean every beach in the world, it wouldn’t keep albatrosses from stuffing their offspring full of plastic. “You’d have to clean the entire ocean,” Flint said...

“That’s not unusual,” Charles Moore told me, when I described the midden at Gore Point. “Any windward side of an island’s going to have situations like that. The question is, how much can we take? We’re burying ourselves in this stuff.” Moore sympathized with Pallister’s motives, and said that GoAK’s efforts could help “raise awareness.” But if Pallister thought he was saving Gore Point from plastic pollution, he was fooling himself. “It’s just going to come back,” Moore said.

This, in Moore’s opinion, is why the 2006 Marine Debris, Research, Prevention and Reduction Act is likewise doomed to fail. “It’s all been focused on cleanups,” he says of federal policy. “They think if they take tonnage out of the water, the problem will go away.”

In the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, whose shores are washed by the southern edge of the Garbage Patch, federal agencies are staging one of the biggest marine-debris projects in history. Since 1996, using computer models, satellite data and aerial surveys, they have located and removed more than 500 metric tons of derelict fishing gear in hopes of saving endangered Hawaiian monk seals from entanglement. The results have been mixed at best. Biologists are now finding fewer monk seals entangled in debris; but they are also finding fewer monk seals, period. Meanwhile, an estimated 52 tons of fresh debris inundates the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands every year.

Along with financing and volunteers, corporate sponsors of the International Coastal Cleanup contribute homilies about saving the planet. “Working together we help keep our coasts clean,” ran Coca-Cola’s contribution to the I.C.C.’s 2006 report. Marine debris, declared Dow Chemical, is a “people problem that we, the citizens of the world, have the power to stop.” Is it? Yes, says Moore, but “there is no magic bullet,” and the solutions may require sacrifices that the citizens, governments and corporations of the world are reluctant to make. Eventually we will have to abandon planned obsolescence, and instead manufacture products that are durable, easily recyclable or both, Moore said. And we will have to overcome our addiction to conspicuous consumption...

Fat chance of that occurring...

...As nearly everyone I spoke to about marine debris agrees, the best way to get trash out of our waterways is, of course, to keep it from entering them in the first place. But experts disagree about what that will take. The argument, like so many in American politics, pits individual freedom against the common good. “Don’t you tell me I can’t have a plastic bag,” Seba Sheavly, the marine-debris researcher, says, alluding to plastic-bag bans like the one San Francisco enacted last year. “I know how to dispose of it responsibly.” But proponents of bag bans insist that there is no way to use a plastic bag responsibly. Lorena Rios, an environmental chemist at the University of the Pacific, says: “If you go to Subway, and they give you the plastic bag, how long do you use the plastic bag? One minute. And how long will the polymers in that bag last? Hundreds of years.”

“The time for voluntary measures has long since passed,” says Steve Fleischli, president of Waterkeeper Alliance, a network of environmental watchdogs to which, it should be noted, the Gulf of Alaska Keeper does not belong. (Waterkeeper officials have objected to GoAK’s use of their brand, but Pallister insists that their objections are without legal merit. “They’ve trademarked ‘Riverkeeeper,’ ‘Soundkeeper,’ ‘Baykeeper,’ ” he told me, “but not ‘Alaska keeper.’ ”) Fleischli would have us tax the most pervasive and noxious plastic pollutants — shopping bags, plastic-foam containers, cigarette butts, plastic utensils — and put the proceeds toward cleanup and prevention measures. “We already use a portion of the gasoline tax to pay for oil spills,” Fleischli says. Such levies shouldn’t be seen as criminalizing the makers and sellers of plastic disposables, he argues; they merely force those businesses to “internalize” previously hidden costs, what economists call “externalities.” This market-based approach to environmental regulation, known as extended producer responsibility, is increasingly popular with environmental groups. By sticking others with the ecological cleaning bill, the thinking goes, businesses have been able to keep the price of disposable plastics artificially low. And as Pallister learned at Gore Point, the cleaning bill may be greater than we can afford.

We still have limited tax dollars to spend and scarier nightmares to fear. No one — not Pallister, not Moore — will tell you that plastic pollution is the greatest man-made threat our oceans face. Depending whom you ask, that honor goes to global warming, agricultural runoff or overfishing. But unlike many pollutants, plastic has no natural source and therefore there is no doubt that we are to blame. Because we can see it, plastic is a powerful bellwether of our impact upon the earth. Where plastics travel, invisible pollutants — pesticides and fertilizers from lawns and farms, petrochemicals from roads, sewage tainted with pharmaceuticals — often follow. Last June, shortly before my voyage in the Opus began, Sylvia Earle, formerly N.O.A.A.’s chief scientist, delivered an impassioned speech on marine debris at the World Bank in Washington. “Trash is clogging the arteries of the planet,” Earle said. “We’re beginning to wake up to the fact that the planet is not infinitely resilient.” For ages humanity saw in the ocean a sublime grandeur suggestive of eternity. No longer. Surveying the debris on remote beaches like Gore Point, we see that the ocean is more finite than we’d thought. Now it is the sublime grandeur of our civilization but also of our waste that inspires awe...

"Sublime grandeur..."?

Set Up


As I've written before, Democrats will regret embracing the expansion of executive power because a President Obama will find his administration undone by an "abuse of power" scandal. All of those powers which were necessary to prevent the instant destruction of the country will instantly become impeachable offenses. If you can't imagine how such a pivot can take place then you haven't been paying attention.

Of course, the real Company abuses of power under an Obama administration- which looks increasingly submissive to the will of the 4th branch of government- will come from an entirely different set of directions than what Obama will get nailed for.

It's entirely unclear that Obama will win this, whatever his lead over Mc$ame. Issues like the requirement the FISA court oversight of eavesdropping should have and could have been used to rally the progressive Democratic base.

Instead, Obama's advisers have him going along with the Bu$h line, taking the wind out of the sails of his campaign.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Photographing the Photographers

A little education is a dangerous thing, because as Jeff Wells says, what you don't know can't hurt them.

Photographer Documents Secret Satellites — All 189 of Them
By Bryan Gardine

BERKELEY, California -- For most people, photographing something that isn't there might be tough. Not so for Trevor Paglen.

His shots of 189 secret spy satellites are the subject of a new exhibit -- despite the fact that, officially speaking, the satellites don't exist. The Other Night Sky, on display at the University of California at Berkeley Art Museum through September 14, is only a small selection from the 1,500 astrophotographs Paglen has taken thus far.

In taking these photos, Paglen is trying to draw a metaphorical connection between
"I think that some of the earliest ideas in the modern period were actually from astronomy," Paglen explains. "You look at Galileo: He goes up and points his telescope up at Jupiter and finds out, hey, Jupiter has these moons."

More significant than the discovery itself, Paglen says, was the idea that anyone with a telescope could verify it and see the same exact thing that Galileo saw -- an idea Paglen is trying to re-create in his own photographs.

"It really was analogous to a certain kind of promise of democracy," says Paglen, who sees a similar anti-authoritarian premise running through his own work...

To capture his images, the researcher and "experimental geographer" employs a motorized mount with various combinations of telescopes and digital and large-format film cameras. Paglen uses spy-satellite data compiled by Ted Molczan -- a renowned amateur astronomer profiled by Wired magazine in 2006 -- to predict where a given "black satellite" will be in the sky. Then he decides how he wants to compose the image.

"I'll find where a star will be in the compositional plane," he says. "Then I'll use one telescope, which is attached to a webcam, to focus on that star."

With the help of a computer program that controls the mount of the telescope and keeps it focused on the heavenly body, Paglen says he can get the telescope to swivel with the Earth's rotation.

He then uses another telescope attached to a high-end digital camera for his deep-sky shots, similar to the rig he used for his desert shots.

"I'll see the satellite in the sky, kind of know where it's going to be in the frame, then I'll open the shutter and take a long exposure of the satellite passing through."

Paglen's initial interest in the government's so-called "black projects" took shape while combing through U.S. Geological Survey archives of satellite prison photos in 2002. He noticed that many of the photo frames of prison sites were missing or, in some cases, heavily edited...

While the budget for black military operations has more than doubled in the last 10 years and the government continues to espouse the virtues of secrecy, it can't prevent interested amateur astronomers from calculating the orbital paths of spy satellites.

"The National Reconnaissance Office cannot classify Kepler's laws of planetary motion," Paglen says. "They just work ... and they're unbelievably accurate."


[tip o'teh tinfoil to orz]

No, We Can't

Robert Parry

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims that a key positive feature of the new wiretap "compromise" is that the bill reaffirms that the President must follow the law, even though the same bill virtually assures that no one will be held accountable for George W. Bush's violation of the earlier spying law. Share this article

In other words, in the guise of rejecting Bush's theories of an all-powerful presidency that is above the law, the Democratic leadership cleared the way for the President and his collaborators to evade punishment for defying the law.

So, why should anyone assume that the new legislative edict demanding that the President obey the law will get any more respect than the old one, which established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 as the "exclusive" means for authorizing electronic spying?

It wasn't that Bush and his team didn't understand the old law's language; they simply believed they could violate the law without consequence, under the radical theory that at a time of war -- even one as vaguely defined as the "war on terror" -- the President's powers trump all laws as well as the constitutional rights of citizens...

So Bu$hie was right. They are walking.

And the DINOcrats seemed determined to lose this $election. Again. But Obama's gonna raise one whole helluva lot of money, and it's gonna go somewhere...

The Best $election Money can Buy


...The Democratic Congress is more popular with Republicans than with Democrats. And that doesn't even include yesterday's events, so I'm sure the Democratic Congress will become even more popular among Republicans...

The people that own the DINOcrats figure they have a captive constituency. Either vote Dem or you get the really destructive policies of Dear Leader. It's sugar coated poison or simple bitter arsenic.

Aren't you glad you're Amerikan? At least you know you're Free®.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blood and Souls for ExxonMobil

I agree with Chris Floyd. They might have no-bid contracts, but the oil companies paid for Iraq.

With everyone else's.

Continuity of Empire

WASHINGTON -- With two wars raging and an election approaching, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has sent senior civilians at the Pentagon a clear message: Be ready to stick around into a new administration to ensure a smooth hand-over in a time of war.

But increasingly, the campaigns of Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have considered sending a similar message to Gates.

According to aides and allies close to both candidates, the idea of keeping Gates at the helm of the Pentagon under the next president has begun to gain support from national security advisors in both campaigns.

"My personal position is Gates is a very good secretary of Defense and would be an even better one in an Obama administration," said Richard Danzig, a top Obama national security advisor and a former Navy secretary...

This is, how do you say, a very bad idea.

Speaking of bad ideas, Arthur Silber has uncovered the source of quite a few of them in the rapidly morphing DINOcratic campaign for Preznit.

* Secretary of State Madeleine Albright * Senator David Boren, former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence * Secretary of State Warren Christopher * Greg Craig, former director of the State Department Office of Policy Planning * Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig * Representative Lee Hamilton, former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee * Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder * Dr. Tony Lake, former National Security Advisor * Senator Sam Nunn, former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. * Secretary of Defense William Perry * Dr. Susan Rice, former Assistant Secretary of State * Representative Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commissioner * Jim Steinberg, former Deputy National Security Advisor

Whazzat? Warren Christopher??? Madeline Albright???

Exactly how is this any different than HHHillary would've been?

Say it ain't so...

The source, no doubt, of the decision to approve of the telcom immunity Obama approved of today. Just like Mc$ame. Oh, excuse me, correction: Obama wasn't happy about it.

[tip o'teh tinfoil to Howie Klein]

Obama seems to be of the opinion they won't be listening in to him, unless, of course, you know they really want to...


It turns out the Maverick has more than a whiff of that old Keating 5 magic about him, in the different form of ex-Senator Phil Gramm.

Follow the money, honey.

Just Clap Louder

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Done Deal

Not that your opinion had anything to do with it. Greenwald:

...CQ reports (sub. req.) that "a final deal has been reached" on FISA and telecom amnesty and "the House is likely to take up the legislation Friday." I've now just read a copy of the final "compromise" bill. It's even worse than expected. When you read it, it's actually hard to believe that the Congress is about to make this into our law. Then again, this is the same Congress that abolished habeas corpus with the Military Commissions Act, and legalized George Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program with the "Protect America Act," so it shouldn't be hard to believe at all. Seeing the words in print, though, adds a new dimension to appreciating just how corrupt and repugnant this is.

The provision granting amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, Title VIII, has the exact Orwellian title it should have: "Protection of Persons Assisting the Government." Section 802(a) provides:

[A] civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be properly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending that . . . (4) the assistance alleged to have been provided . . . was --

(A) in connection with intelligence activity involving communications that was (i) authorized by the President during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on January 17, 2007 and (ii) designed to prevent or detect a terrorist attack, or activities in preparation of a terrorist attack, against the United States" and

(B) the subject of a written request or directive . . . indicating that the activity was (i) authorized by the President; and (ii) determined to be lawful.

So all the Attorney General has to do is recite those magic words -- the President requested this eavesdropping and did it in order to save us from the Terrorists -- and the minute he utters those words, the courts are required to dismiss the lawsuits against the telecoms, no matter how illegal their behavior was.

That's the "compromise" Steny Hoyer negotiated and which he is now -- according to very credible reports -- pressuring every member of the Democratic caucus to support. It's full-scale, unconditional amnesty with no inquiry into whether anyone broke the law. In the U.S. now, thanks to the Democratic Congress, we'll have a new law based on the premise that the President has the power to order private actors to break the law, and when he issues such an order, the private actors will be protected from liability of any kind on the ground that the Leader told them to do it -- the very theory that the Nuremberg Trial rejected...

The full text of this bill is where it belongs: on Steny Hoyer's website, here (.pdf)...

...I'd like to underscore the fact that in 2006, when the Congress was controlled by Bill Frist and Denny Hastert, the administration tried to get a bill passed legalizing warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, but was unable. They had to wait until the Congress was controlled by Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to accomplish that.

So now Big Brother can legally watch you and all public lands belong to ExxonMobil. If they want them.

Isn't about time for Dear Leader to joust with Social Security again, just so he can show us who the real boss is?

Disaster Capitalism at the Pump

It's the oil price version of the Shock Doctrine:

... This is worse than a dumb idea. It is cruelly misleading. It will make only a modest difference, at best, to prices at the pump, and even then the benefits will be years away. It greatly exaggerates America’s leverage over world oil prices. It is based on dubious statistics. It diverts the public from the tough decisions that need to be made about conservation.

There is no doubt that a lot of people have been discomfited and genuinely hurt by $4-a-gallon gas. But their suffering will not be relieved by drilling in restricted areas off the coasts of New Jersey or Virginia or California. The Energy Information Administration says that even if both coasts were opened, prices would not begin to drop until 2030. The only real beneficiaries will be the oil companies that are trying to lock up every last acre of public land before their friends in power — Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney — exit the political stage.

The whole scheme is based on a series of fictions that range from the egregious to the merely annoying. Democratic majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, noted the worst of these on Wednesday: That a country that consumes one-quarter of the world’s oil supply but owns only 3 percent of its reserves can drill its way out of any problem — whether it be high prices at the pump or dependence on oil exported by unstable countries in Persian Gulf. This fiction has been resisted by Barack Obama but foolishly embraced by John McCain, who seemed to be making some sense on energy questions until he jumped aboard the lift-the-ban bandwagon on Tuesday.

A lesser fiction, perpetrated by the oil companies and, to some extent, by misleading government figures, is that huge deposits of oil and gas on federal land have been closed off and industry has had one hand tied behind its back by environmentalists, Democrats and the offshore protections in place for 25 years.

The numbers suggest otherwise. Of the 36 billion barrels of oil believed to lie on federal land, mainly in the Rocky Mountain West and Alaska, almost two-thirds are accessible or will be after various land-use and environmental reviews. And of the 89 billion barrels of recoverable oil believed to lie offshore, the federal Mineral Management Service says fourth-fifths is open to industry, mostly in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaskan waters.

Clearly, the oil companies are not starved for resources. Further, they do not seem to be doing nearly as much as they could with the land to which they’ve already laid claim. Separate studies by the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Wilderness Society, a conservation group, show that roughly three-quarters of the 90 million-plus acres of federal land being leased by the oil companies onshore and off are not being used to produce energy. That is 68 million acres altogether, among them potentially highly productive leases in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska...

Yes, you heard that right. They've already got the oil fields and they're not using them. It's not just the Saudis, it's not just the Chinese demand, it's not just the speculators. It's largely the oil companies creating and taking advantage of a bad situation to shock you, Americans, into handing oil rights over to them in all public lands.

Don't give me the weak-minded lines about the Democrats taking a Carteresque approach to energy. If we had taken Carter's approach to Energy issues 30 years ago we wouldn't be in this trouble today.

What happened to Carter was that he won the undying enemity of the Company by throwing out Poppy and a lot of Poppy Bush's minions from the CIA when he took the job of President. His mistake was he didn't throw out all of them, as well as all the Nixon-Ford cronies left in the CIA and the Pentagon. What Carter had to deal with was a Republican government he thought he could negotiate with for the good of the country.

He was naive and wrong. The Company didn't like his politics, and when he started telling it like it is about oil, they bankrolled the propaganda push for his political demise. The good of the Nation wasn't part of their bottom line.

If we are in an energy crisis now, it's because some very rich people want it that way. They've learned to use crisis to force their agenda. It's called the Shock Doctrine.

The real question is how many Americans will fall for this mind trick. Again.

There are ways to produce renewable energy. Bacteria can turn garbage into octane. With a little financing, we could engineer microorganisms to fix atmospheric CO2 into hydrocarbon using sunlight and water.

But then the oil companies and their theocratic cohorts couldn't own us.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Garbage In, Garbage Out, Über Alles

You can't make this shit up:

...At least 15 different sites are competing to become the headquarters for the Air Force's new Cyber Command... But no matter which base ultimately gets picked, the flyboys are looking to spread the digital wealth. I mean really spread it, with a "a cyber unit in every state," GovExec.com's Bob Brewin reports. It's a time-honored technique for "secur[ing] the Hill's backing -- and bucks -- for any new program."

...All told, the service said in a recent letter to governors, Cyber Command is supposed to have "a headquarters of approximately 550 personnel; a Numbered Air Force (NAF) of approximately 275 personnel; and four wings... with more than 65 subordinate squadrons assigned to those wings collectively, to include units from the Reserve and Air National Guard..."

Beats Hell out of Iraq. Kudos to the desk jockeys that avoid the Sandpit. Now, if they only gave a damn about weaseling the rest of the soldiers out of there, too.

...Those folks won't just be there to shore up military networks, the letter goes on to say. Cyber Command's troops will use "electromagnetic and directed energy to... attack the enemy Computer Network Operations." And they'll engage in "psychological operations, military deception and operations security... to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own."

But no. The Pentagon's elite are much more interested on playing Battlestar Erotica right here at home, getting the Big Bucks in the War on Terra, and watching all those insurgents in the ACLU.

Because there are so many automated decision makers out there to fight with our directed energy weapons in all 50 states.

The real reason gasoline is heading to $5/gallon

WASHINGTON — President Bush, reversing a longstanding position, will call on Congress on Wednesday to end a federal ban on offshore oil drilling, according to White House officials who say Mr. Bush now wants to work with states to determine where drilling should occur...

Reversing whose "longstanding position"? Certainly not Bush's or Cheney's.

The only one who's flip-flopped is Mc$ame:

It's interesting how the same people who have made so much money on the price of oil- the speculators on Wall Street and the oil barons- are the same people who will make untold billions more if the Gulf of Mexico is turned into ExxonMobil's playground and the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve becomes Houston North.

It certainly won't effect the price of oil.

And if drilling's the problem, why don't the oil companies want to drill in places that are legally open but they won't touch? It's like Avedon sez, this isn't about oil availability or price, it's about giving the Company the ability to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, however it wants.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Finishing School

Ever since it was formed by the CIA in the late 70's [although the State Department department calls this misinformation], Al Qaeda has been at the lucrative center of the warlords' world, a place where opium, slavery, and petrodollars all mix with violence, in the hearts of men who justify their actions as the Will of God.

It was morning in Amerika, and the Hand of God was on St. Ronald, and his spiritual disciple and ex-Company head, St. Poppy [you do realize those are Sainted CIA sites, don't you?].

The spiritual successor to St. Ronald realized you can't find qualified help in a War on Terra without a good training program.

What better way to make sure there is war without end than to take a lot of petty thugs and lock them up with fanatic jihadists? What better way to promote the viral meme of hate? It's got the best of both worlds: lock the Afghani equivalent of Murder, Incorporated up with those most likely to soothe their spiritual angst.

Their violence is justified in their own minds. See how the infidels torture you for something you did not do? the jihadis ask. So they torture us for our Faith, they assert.

There is no way the Company can lose from this. They get their jihadis who seek martyrdom. They get to release the most vicious little fish and to catch 'em again when they're full grown sharks. The Endless War, funded forever.

More news ExxonMobil doesn't want you to hear

The Saudi Royals will probably not too happy about this either:

from The London Times
June 14, 2008
Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol
Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide 'renewable petroleum'

Chris Ayres

“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”

He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.

Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. “All of us here – everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency,” Mr Pal says.

What is most remarkable about what they are doing is that instead of trying to reengineer the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.

LS9 has already convinced one oil industry veteran of its plan: Bob Walsh, 50, who now serves as the firm’s president after a 26-year career at Shell, most recently running European supply operations in London. “How many times in your life do you get the opportunity to grow a multi-billion-dollar company?” he asks. It is a bold statement from a man who works in a glorified cubicle in a San Francisco industrial estate for a company that describes itself as being “prerevenue”.

Inside LS9’s cluttered laboratory – funded by $20 million of start-up capital from investors including Vinod Khosla, the Indian-American entrepreneur who co-founded Sun Micro-systems – Mr Pal explains that LS9’s bugs are single-cell organisms, each a fraction of a billionth the size of an ant. They start out as industrial yeast or nonpathogenic strains of E. coli, but LS9 modifies them by custom-de-signing their DNA. “Five to seven years ago, that process would have taken months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he says. “Now it can take weeks and cost maybe $20,000.”

Because crude oil (which can be refined into other products, such as petroleum or jet fuel) is only a few molecular stages removed from the fatty acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation, it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result.

For fermentation to take place you need raw material, or feedstock, as it is known in the biofuels industry. Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the byproduct ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.

The company is not interested in using corn as feedstock, given the much-publicised problems created by using food crops for fuel, such as the tortilla inflation that recently caused food riots in Mexico City. Instead, different types of agricultural waste will be used according to whatever makes sense for the local climate and economy: wheat straw in California, for example, or woodchips in the South.

Using genetically modified bugs for fermentation is essentially the same as using natural bacteria to produce ethanol, although the energy-intensive final process of distillation is virtually eliminated because the bugs excrete a substance that is almost pump-ready...

I take that remark about the Saudi Royals back: if Shell's involved, they're into this up to their beards.

Craig Venter's group has had these bugs around for awhile, but hasn't wanted to release them because they wanted to figure a way to keep them from growing outside of proprietary hands.

Looks like Shell Oil- or someone familiar with it- has done an end run around that, to avoid Venter's clutches.

The next step will be to transfer the gene complex for making complex hydrocarbons into photosynthetic bacteria, that can use sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to make hydrocarbons and oxygen.

Sooner or later it will be done, it's just a question of getting a few million bucks to bankroll the project.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iran has not denied that they have not hidden plutonium on a secret moon base.

[tip o'teh tinfoil to Searcher08]

I'm shocked, shocked I tell you.

I thought every science geek connected to the intertubes had at least a couple.

But Khan's? Good grief, they can't be the old plans Bechtel and Cheney's old black ops gang sold them back when the Rooskies had Afghanistan? I thought everyone knew those were a lot of disinformation designed to send red flags to the IAEA, the CIA, the NSA and Ma Bell, not neccessarily in that order.

Why politicians don't like net neutrality either

NEW YORK - Americans dissatisfied with political sound bites are turning to the Internet for a more complete picture, a new study finds.

In a report Sunday, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said that nearly 30 percent of adults have used the Internet to read or watch unfiltered campaign material — footage of debates, position papers, announcements and transcripts of speeches.

"They want to see the full-blown campaign event. They want to read the speech from beginning to end," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew group. "It's a push back from the sound-bite culture."

Google Inc.'s YouTube and other video sites have become more popular. Thirty-five percent of adults have watched a political video online during the primary season, compared with 13 percent during the entire 2004 presidential race.

The study also found that 10 percent of adults have used online hangouts like Facebook and News Corp.'s MySpace for political activity, whether it's to add a campaign as a friend on their personal profile pages, discover a friend's political interests or join an online political group...

It's bad enough people want to know the deep story. But organizing for political action? Sounds like Domestic Terra'ism to Dear Leader and the Feds.

Galaxies like grains of sand

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Two good questions

Avedon asks

...why the hell this FISA thing is rearing its ugly head, again?

Umm, because the telcoms own Congress, and the government needs the telcoms' silence to get away with some pretty heavy crimes?

The Existentialist Cowboy asks, among other good questions he raises:

...Disney animated a mouse! Does that make Mickey real?

I dunno, he sure as hell made that old fascist Walt Disney a lot of money just like the Official Version did for Bu$hCo.

I bet you didn't clap for Tinkerbell, either, did you Cowboy?


Glenn Greenwald notes the 30 25% of Amerika that keeps the Faith by and for their Dear Leader is only growing in their agitation. Unfortunately, the DINOcratic "leadership" seems more inclined than ever to back down.

...Laura Ingraham was on Fox News last night interviewing Majorie Cohn about the Supreme Court's habeas corpus ruling in Boumediene, and advocated that the President should simply ignore the ruling of the Court...

Talk radio host (and sometimes Fox News guest anchor) Michael Reagan yesterday noted that a new group was sending letters to U.S. soldiers arguing that the U.S. Government had a role in the 9/11 attacks and then said this about people who argue that:

Take em out and shoot em. . . . They are traitors to this country, and shoot them. . . . Anybody who does that doesn't deserve to live. You shoot them. You call them traitors. That's what they are. And you shoot em dead. I'll pay for the bullets.

The rant went on like that for awhile. Reagan, the son of the canonized former President, previously said that "Howard Dean should be arrested and hung (sic) for treason or put in a hole until the end of the Iraq war."

Obviously, people like Laura Ingraham and Michael Reagan are crazed and absurd figures, but they have large audiences. There is a sizable portion of this country's population that has been fed a steady diet of ideas of this sort for years, a view of Government and political power that prevails in the worst tyrannies on the planet. The Leader has the right to break our laws. He should defy court rulings that enforce constitutional guarantees. The Government has the right to put people in cages for life with no process. People should be imprisoned or shot by virtue of the views they express.

As the Right comes to accept that their political movement lies in ruins -- as evidence of their rejection by the country becomes too compelling to ignore -- the desperation and frustration level increases and much of this rhetoric will become more extreme (note that Ingraham cited the President's low popularity ratings as a reason why he should ignore the Supreme Court's ruling; National Review's Andy McCarthy on Thursday suggested that in response to the Court's ruling, we should take all of the Guantanamo detainees and just slaughter them en masse). Having millions of citizens inculcated over many years with truly deranged, extremist tripe of this sort -- and Fox just announced that Ingraham would have her own show beginning next week -- obviously has consequences. We've seen just some of those over the last seven years, and the reaction is likely to intensify as that movement grows more impotent and marginalized.

I'm not so sure about that impotent and marginalized part. As Greenwald points out further on...

...Two articles -- one from Congressional Quarterly and one from The Hill -- yesterday reported what has appeared inevitable for some time. Specifically, Democratic Congressional leaders (i.e., Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Silvestre Reyes) have now reached agreement with the White House and the GOP to pass a FISA bill that would give the President, in essence, everything he wants: guaranteed dismissal of the telecom lawsuits and vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers...

Suffice to say, the Democrats are about to reverse the only worthwhile act they've undertaken since being handed control of the Congress 18 months ago, and will endorse and authorize yet another aspect of the Bush lawbreaking regime. I ask this literally, not rhetorically: can someone identify even one meaningful event from the past 18 months that would have been different had the GOP retained control of both houses of Congress? Just one.

No can do, sir. But it seems pretty clear that the end result of placing a DINOcrat even in the Oval Office again will be a less confrontational but no less authoritarian continuation of the unofficial rewriting of the Constitution.

Look for an Obama presidency to greatly resemble a Carter presidency. While he's a relatively good man, he will be hedged in by a hysterical media and a recalcitricant Pentagon. To say nothing of the CIA and its Company of private contractors that now run much of what passes for government.

Don't forget: under Carter it was Zbiggy who had the CIA form Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Under Carter the Rethuglicans managed to negotiate much of the Reagan arms-for-guns cooperation with the Iranians that turned into secret wars in Central America.

Don't forget that Clinton implemented the Free Market globalization that's devastating the world economy.

If the Democrats continue to play footsie with the Company- and if Reid, Hoyer, and Pelosi have anything to do with it they will

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Turn to Face the Change

Read Kirk James Murphy: Another Gift From Global Climate Change: That Ugly Weather for context.

The Change is here, like it or not, and whatever we do, it's likely to accelerate. The pH of the ocean is already starting to change. And beetle infestations are destroying the great northern forests.

The only thing we can do is try to slow the rate of change, and foster adaptations that will stabilize life on the planet.

Again, this isn't the first time in the history of the world this has happened, although in the past the greenhousing hasn't had an allegedly sapient source [we'll debate hominid sapience later- Vonnegut was never convinced].

There are a number of plants well adapted to whether extreme climatic changes.

Consider the bald cypress. The image you may have in your mind is a tree like this:

This tree is notable for withstanding hurricane and tornadic winds as well as flood.

But it doesn't require immersion in water for growth either.

It's grown as an ornamental.

It has decent drought tolerance. Moreover, it can grow in a climate as cold as Minnesota, and with a life-span as long as a thousand years, grows to over a hundred feet tall and twenty in diameter.

That's a lot of carbon fixed.

The point is, we live under a variable star, and as traumatic as the next century is likely to be in climate change, there is only so much water tied up as ice. It's all melted before. There is life that's able to handle the changes.

We'd be best advised to take advantage of the biodiversity of the world and learn from it.

No Wonder the Saudis are Starting to Worry

If Japan figures there's a market for it, they're just the engineers to break the back of Big Oil.

New Fuel Cell System 'Generates Electricity with Only Water, Air'
Jun 13, 2008 19:30
Kouji Kariatsumari, Nikkei Electronics

Genepax Co Ltd explained the technologies used in its new fuel cell system "Water Energy System (WES)," which uses water as a fuel and does not emit CO2.

The system can generate power just by supplying water and air to the fuel and air electrodes, respectively, the company said at the press conference, which took place June 12, 2008, at the Osaka Assembly Hall.

The basic power generation mechanism of the new system is similar to that of a normal fuel cell, which uses hydrogen as a fuel. According to Genepax, the main feature of the new system is that it uses the company's membrane electrode assembly (MEA), which contains a material capable of breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen through a chemical reaction.

Though the company did not reveal the details, it "succeeded in adopting a well-known process to produce hydrogen from water to the MEA," said Hirasawa Kiyoshi, the company's president. This process is allegedly similar to the mechanism that produces hydrogen by a reaction of metal hydride and water. But compared with the existing method, the new process is expected to produce hydrogen from water for longer time, the company said.

With the new process, the cell needs only water and air, eliminating the need for a hydrogen reformer and high-pressure hydrogen tank. Moreover, the MEA requires no special catalysts, and the required amount of rare metals such as platinum is almost the same as that of existing systems, Genepax said...

So by inflating the cost of hydrocarbons 50 years before they run out, the speculators seem to be in the process of popping their own bubble. They're providing the pressure and profit incentive needed to produce alternative fuel sources that by-pass the need for fossil fuels. The King does not like that one little bit.

The NeoCon vs. the Chicago Backslider

Just go read Naomi Klein.

Obama over Mc$ame, but holy shit hitting the fan, Batman.

$peculation on the Fall

What happens when many people have a real financial interest in seeing the collapse of a nation? What happens when this financial incentive is coupled religous zealotry?

The Der Spiegel would like to educate you about the nuts and bolts of speculation, having been through this before a couple of times last century:

...This is about more than just economics. It is also an ethical and highly moral question. Much depends on the answer, including the credibility of our economic system.

Perhaps this is why there are so many voices seeking to defuse the issue and calm things down, those who admit that speculators are at work in the commodities markets, but who also insist that they have little influence over prices. And if they do have an influence, these people say, it can only be a good thing, because it will force humanity to prepare itself more quickly for the unavoidable: the growing scarcity of resources.

"This is not about blame," US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson recently said. "It's about supply and demand." According to Paulson, "speculators have had very little impact."

That's the Bu$hCo story, and hence a transparent lie.

...the people who are affected by rising commodity prices see it differently. "The flood of money from Wall Street and hedge funds is driving up prices -- and the effects are potentially destructive," says Tom Buis, president of the US National Farmers Union.

As prices become further removed from reality, another risk begins to grow: the development of another bubble similar to the one fueled by overinflated stock prices in the so-called New Economy. A crash would be unavoidable.

It would be good news for drivers in Germany and the people starving in Africa. But it would also send the financial markets into turmoil once again, causing problems for hedge funds and perhaps a few banks...

"The financial industry," says Heinrich Haasis, president of the German Federation of Savings Banks, "has disconnected itself from the real economy."

This is both correct and incorrect.

It's correct because the transactions concluded in this sector no longer have anything to do with real goods. The industry deals in expectations, and in expectations of expectations, often on borrowed money. And it's also correct because it is an industry in which obscene amounts of money are being earned.

But Haasis's statement is wrong because these transactions can in fact end up affecting the real economy. They can fire it up, as in the years of the recent boom, or they can slow it down, as is the case today. They could also drag it into an abyss, as many still believe is possible in the wake of the most recent credit crisis.

This crisis has shaken the financial markets for months. The central banks were forced to pump hundreds of billions into the global economy to provide it with liquidity and prevent a collapse. The otherwise unpopular state-owned sovereign wealth funds from the Middle East and Asia jumped in, using their money to prop up venerable institutions (more...) like Citigroup or Switzerland's UBS.

...Globalization, a success story for many until now, has stalled. After initially helping hundreds of millions of people escape from poverty, it is now showing its ugly side. As profits grow on one side of the world, hunger is on the rise once again on the other.

It's a completely different story on the computer screens of Wall Street analysts, where commodities are the biggest growth industry of the 21st century. Vast sums of money are being invested in the markets for food commodities and energy. These markets, which have been relatively straightforward until now and have operated in accordance with the same principles for decades, are suddenly being overrun by financial investors.

In late 2003, they invested only $13 billion (€8.4 billion) in the food commodities business. By March 2008, that number had jumped to $260 billion (€168 billion), an increase of 1,900 percent.

Last year, new investments in the commodities markets amounted to roughly $100 million (€65 million) a day. At the beginning of this year, what had been a steady flow turned into a torrent, with more than $1 billion (€650 million) flooding the market every day. Hedge funds, banks, pension funds, investment funds -- in other words, groups that represent millions of small investors -- are all involved. At first they invested their money in the dot-com market, then in real estate, and now agriculture and the energy markets are the hot new investment opportunity.

From the point of view of fundamental investment analysis, there are good reasons to continue to bet on further increases in commodities prices. Resources are becoming scarcer, while global demand for energy, mineral resources like copper and coal and crops like wheat and corn will continue to rise. Traders on the commodities exchanges call it a "supercycle" -- a trend that will continue for a long time.

The problem is that commodities don't behave like stocks or mortgages, the last two darlings of the investment community. It is often the case that many fund managers cannot (or choose not to) understand the specific rules of their latest toy on more than a superficial level. They trade in pieces of information that mean nothing until they are in possession of one of them...

In the case of oil, a foggy day in Houston's harbor is enough to trigger a panic in the market because it means that a few tankers will be unable to unload their cargos until the fog lifts. When a pipeline burst in Canada, "the price immediately jumped by $4," says Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst with Oppenheimer in New York with 20 years of experience in the industry. Gheit, also an engineer, knows how pipelines are repaired. "This isn't heart surgery. It's a plumber's job, child's play, finished in three days," he says. "The traders use every excuse in the book to drive up prices."

As a young man, Gheit was still analyzing oil prices at $4 a barrel. The ritualized relationship between production volume and consumption, demand that has been growing for years in China, unrest in the Middle East or Nigeria, the threat of cold snaps -- none of this is enough to explain the current price explosion, says Gheit. In fact, he is convinced that speculators are completely responsible. "It's pure hysteria," he says.

Other analysts agree. "The market is reacting to the fact that we might not have enough oil in the market 13 years from now -- excuse me?," says Edward Morse, chief energy economist at the investment bank Lehman Brothers. "You never recognize it's a bubble until the bubble is over." he says.

Signs of unusual behavior abound across the commodities markets. Take cotton, for example. In late February, the price of cotton futures jumped by 50 percent within two weeks. But cotton farmers haven't even been able to sell half of their harvest from the previous year yet. Warehouses in the United States are fuller than they have been since 1966. Indeed, all signs point to a price decline.

In a statement to the US Congress, the American Cotton Shippers' Association blames this "irrational" development on "speculators driving up prices." According to the trade group, cotton processors would never pay the fantasy prices being quoted on the commodities futures exchanges...

Prices for wheat, rice or pork have always been negotiated among farmers, dealers and their customers. The same thing normally holds true on the commodities exchanges. In the end, futures transactions eventually lead to the actual delivery of a product. In industry parlance, this is called real trading.

But those days are gone. Real trading, says Hubert Gabrisch of the Institute for Economic Research in the eastern German city of Halle, has "become the exception on the exchanges." In the case of wheat, for example, only three percent of traded volume actually changes hands. Prices are now determined by speculators, financial jugglers with no interest whatsoever in having any contact with or physically delivering the vast amounts of grain they own...

Failed speculation, followed by hardship and suffering, has been around since human beings first engaged in commerce. And it has always been the fatal combination of excessive liquidity and the herd instinct of speculators that has caused markets to climb and then explode and ultimately collapse...

Out of fear that the markets could collapse, US central bankers have made money cheaper and cheaper, but in doing so they are fighting fire with gasoline instead of water. As capital grows, it seeks increasingly rigorous new sources of return.

Hedge funds are the most aggressive, collecting vast sums of money and investing them in an extremely speculative manner. If all goes well, they can earn extremely high returns for their investors and, for their managers, salaries that would have seemed inconceivable until not too long ago.

John Paulson is a case in point. A former investment banker, he has managed his own group of hedge funds, largely unnoticed, since 1994. In 2006, he was earning an estimated annual income of $100-150 million (€65-97 million). Though certainly a vast sum by ordinary standards, Paulson's income was relatively modest within the industry, and not enough to merit any media attention.

That changed in 2006 when Paulson, 52, decided to place his bets on a crash in the US real estate market, especially in the subprime sector, while the overwhelming majority of speculators were still betting on unbridled growth. Last year one of Paulson's funds, Credit Opportunities II, climbed in value from $130 million (€84 million) to $3.2 billion (€2.1 billion), a 2,362-percent increase. Paulson himself made it to the top of the industry publication Trader Monthly's ranking of the top 100 earners in the industry -- with an estimated annual income of more than $3 billion (€1.9 billion)...

Recent data generated by the US market analysis firm Barclay Hedge point to the massive influx of hedge fund money into the commodities futures markets in the past few years. Since 2003, these investments have increased by 372 percent, to the most recent figure of roughly $190 billion (€123 billion)...

Because the stock markets are no longer as attractive an investment as they once were, many banks are also betting on commodities. Ethical qualms are generally not mentioned in their promotional literature, nor do they note that private investors pay for their investments elsewhere, at the supermarket or when filling up their gas tanks, for example. And hardly a banker is likely to point out that lucrative fund prices translate into rising food prices in places like Burkina Faso...

There is hardly a better backdrop for the rampant global capitalism of speculators large and small. No wonder even the occasional insider is starting to feel queasy, while more and more people are wondering how the out-of-control markets can be subdued once again.

A lack of regulation has allowed the financial industry "to become far too profitable and much too big," says George Soros. The legendary investment guru has been warning for years of the dangers of the global money business. In a hearing before the US Congress last week, Soros even spoke of a "super-bubble" that he believes has been building over the last 25 years.

The record high oil prices are also the result of a bubble, according to Soros. "Speculators and index funds that follow the trend are only increasing the pressure on prices," he says. For this reason, Soros proposes making it more difficult for pension funds and index funds to trade in futures contracts on the commodities markets. One method would be to impose higher minimum investment requirements for speculative capital...

In addition to tighter regulations, economists are also calling for stricter monetary policy. This means higher interest rates, less inflation and, ultimately, a stronger dollar. "Investors worldwide see commodities as a hedge against inflation," says Ben Steil of the American Council on Foreign Relations. This means that as long as the dollar remains weak, oil prices will not decline. For starters, oil is the world's new reserve currency.

Meanwhile, in the offices of hedge funds, pension funds and investment firms, a feverish search for the next big thing is already underway. Conservative investments -- concrete things that cannot go up in smoke as easily as a futures contract on the Chicago and New York exchanges -- are suddenly back in vogue.

In keeping with the new trend, hedge funds and investment banks have started buying up farms worldwide. Morgan Stanley, for example, already owns several thousands of hectares of agricultural land in Ukraine. An agriculture fund operated by Blackrock, a New York investment group, acquired more than 1,100 hectares (2,717 acres) in Britain's Norfolk County. Others are combing the world, from Russia to South America, for investment opportunities. In Argentina, prices for the most productive fields have increased by 80 percent in recent years...

Conservative investments, suddenly turned into Chicago School Free Market ventures.

If someone wanted to drive a society into economic ruin, this is the way they'd do it and make some big bucks on the side.