Archive for September, 2009

Why Market Is Obsolete

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 Positive — Timothy Wilken writes: The American political economic system is is classified by synergic science as a neutral system. Neutral systems require unlimited resources to grow and thrive.

Neutrality means you don’t need help from others. You are so rich that you can survive all by yourself. And, we Americans have been very rich for the last 100 years. Now I know some of you will scream, RICH! I am not rich. But really you are. You see we Americans have so much cheap energy we don’t even notice it. We modern humans have been sucking petroleum out of the ground as hard as we can for those 100 years. We don’t pay for it. We do pay for the straw, but not for the oil.

In 1981, Buckminster Fuller calculated the real cost of that oil, if we were paying for the oil itself and not just the cost of sucking it out of the ground. Buckminster Fuller estimated that the real value of one gallon of gasoline was ~$1,000,000. Correcting for inflation to 2008, that would be $2,340,000 for every gallon of gasoline. How many gallons of gas did you use this month? Then consider the fact that most of our electricity is generated by burning petroleum, so how many gallons did you use to heat your home, or cool your home, or run your electric appliances and cook your food, and pump and heat the water for your bathrooms and laundrys? One survey in 2007 estimated that the average American consumes 7.8 gallons of gasoline each week. That would be 405 gallons a year times $2.34 million per gallon. This comes to ~$1 billion per year for every living American. In a lifetime, Americans are consuming non-renewal resources worth billions of dollars. Now we humans can only continue to waste such great wealth, if wealth is unlimited.

Guess what? Santa Clause is dead. We are running out of oil. The earth itself, and certainly the oil reserves of earth are finite. That means they are limited. …

Think back for a moment to the year 1801, only two hundred years ago, that was a time when there was no gasoline, no refined oil, no natural gas, and no electrical power derived from oil and gas. As a thought experiment, try to  imagine what life was like at the beginning of the 19th century. If you were transported back two hundred years, how would the lack of petroleum affect your lifestyle?

While we might accurately imagine the loss of cheap energy from petroleum, most of us would overlook the 70,000 products that are manufactured using petroleum as a raw feedstock. This includes plastics, acrylics, cosmetics, paints, varnishes, asphalts, fertilizers, medications, etc., etc., etc.. Now, in addition to our loss of cheap energy and the 70,000 products that you and I have come to depend on, imagine our sharing that impoverished Earth with over six billion other humans?

When the price of oil reaches $2,000,000 a gallon. How much oil will you use? Listen at the sounds as your automobiles sit in the driveway without gas, listen as all your appliances and electrical pumps all go silent. Not even the sound of running water. Nice and quiet, huh.Now think of the physical work you will have to do to suvive. Think you might need help? Perhaps you really aren’t independent.

As things start to get scarce, the humans lose their option for Neutrality. Soon they have to learn to do without. They go without owning their own homes. They go without higher education for their children. They go without free time for recreation as they are forced to get a second job. Or, they sidestep back into the adversary world – they steal, embezzle, or defraud. …

Today, it is up to us. You and me. Our governments can’t help us. They don’t understand the problem. Our corporations can’t help us they don’t understand the problem. We can only rely on ourselves. Individuals of integrity will need to join together to build a new model of society that depends on co-Operation and abundance. And, by abundance I am referring to an abundance of integrity, intelligence and responsibility. Then we can begin restructuring our society in ways that will lead to a relative abundance even within the finite world we inhabit.

Wake up Humanity! WE must learn “to hang together,” or as Benjamin Franklin predicted, “we will most assuredly hang separately.” (09/30/09)


An Idea whose time has come?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Give-Get WheelCommUnity of Minds — Timothy Wilken, MD writes: Tensegrity is the pattern that results when push and pull have a win-win relationship with each other. The pull is continuous and the push is discontinuous. The continuous pull is balanced by the discontinuous push producing an integrity of tension and compression. This creates a powerful self-stabilizing system. The term tensegrity comes from synergic science.

The gifting tensegrity is a newly invented mechanism for the exchange of human help. Let us begin by describing how a GIFTegrity might be structured and how it could work. Every member of a synergic help tensegrity would participate in two roles. That as a giver or giftor and that as a receiver or giftee.

The continuous pull of the giftees’ needs are balanced by the discontinuous push from the giftors’ offers  of help. Again we see as an INTERdependent life form, there will be times when we will help others and times when others will help us.

The GIFTegrity works on trust. I give help to those in need and trust that when I am in need there will be those who will give me help. Synergic Trust was discovered long ago, and was once known as:

The Spiritual Principle Of Giving And Receiving

“When we give to one another, freely and without conditions, sharing our blessings with others and bearing each other’s burdens, the giving multiplies and we receive far more than what was given. Even when there is no immediate prospect of return, Heaven keeps accounts of giving, and in the end blessing will return to the giver, multiplied manyfold. We must give first; to expect to receive without having given is to violate the universal law. On the other hand, giving in order to receive — with strings attached, with the intention of currying favor, or in order to make a name for oneself — is condemned.”

And while, The Spiritual Principle of Giving and Receiving relies on “Heaven to keep account of giving,” the Gift Tensegrity relies on a public database to keep account of giving and receiving. This database of the synergic help exchange is a public space where the exchanging of help is made visible to all members who are participants in good standing.When you join a Gift Tensegrity you sign in and register as a Giftor-Giftee. You will fill out two profiles. The first profile is for your role as a giftor. Your giftor profile is the list of the types of help you would like to give to other members of the synergic help tensegrity.

The second profile is for your role as a giftee. Your giftee profile is the list of the types of help you would like to receive as gifts from other members of the synergic help tensegrity. A third profile will develop as Giftor-Giftee members use the synergic help exchange. This is the personal history of each member’s giving and receiving. This profile is transparent. It can be seen by all members who are participants in good standing. It shows all the gifts you have given, all the gifts you have received, and any comments made by other members of the synergic exchange tensegrity that you have interacted with in relation to the exchanging of help. Every exchange generates a Giftor’s comment rating the Giftee, and a Giftee’s comment rating the Giftor.

Now once a new member has completed their Giftor and Giftee registration and entered all their data into the data base, the computer sorts and matches gifts of help with needs for help. …


Oops! Study links H1N1 to Seasonal Flu Shots

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 — WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Sept. 28 (UPI) — A new study is about to be published in Canada that links the swine flu virus to seasonal flu shots, Canadian health officials say. The report, which is under peer review, suggests that people vaccinated against seasonal flu are twice as likely to contract the swine flu, The Globe and Mail of Canada reported Monday.

Researchers Danuta Skowronski of the British Columbia Center for Disease Control and Gaston De Serrres of Laval University of Quebec are not allowed to comment on their findings until the study has been published. An international panel is scrutinizing their research data.

So far, the study’s impact has been confined to Canada, where Quebec’s Health Ministry Sunday joined Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia in suspending seasonal flu shots for anyone under 65 years of age.

“It has confused things very badly,” says Dr. Ethan Rubinstein, head of adult infectious diseases at the University of Manitoba.


Time to Put Away Guns?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 Guardian / UK — Jenny Price writes: Every year, 12,000 people are shot to death in the US – accounting for more than two out of every three killings. That’s an average of 33 people daily. An additional 240 people get shot and injured every day, and more than 65 million Americans own a total of 283,000,000 firearms. Where, exactly, do we expect the 12,000 homicides to happen? Do we really think that the places with gangs and high crime rates are the only places where people are going to use their guns?

The widespread numbness to the especially high murder rates in our poor inner-city neighbourhoods is egregious enough. But that’s matched by the widespread denial that the epidemic of gun violence is playing out every day in every kind of neighbourhood across America.

Of course it happened. The inevitable, psychology-laden post-mortem news coverage in the coming days will purport to explain why, exactly, this man allegedly killed his ex-wife – as if we need to understand in detail why such a shocking thing could have happened there. And if you knew the man, then you might be truly shocked that this specific person is being accused of this specific unspeakable act. You might need this complex explanation.

For the rest of us, though, the relevant explanation is far simpler. The man was angry. Deranged, probably. A lot of people are. He owned a gun, which is unmatched as a powerful and easy tool to kill people – either in the heat of the moment or with premeditation. If someone assaults you with a knife, you are five times less likely to die. So he used a gun, according to the police. It happens all the time.

I personally know three people who have been shot. My brother and his fiancee were shot and killed by her mother in a dispute over an apartment in San Pedro, California. A friend of my mother was shot and injured in the 2008 shooting at a city council meeting in a St Louis suburb.

How many people does the average American know? Since December in the Los Angeles area, victims have included a man in Koreatown who confronted someone who threw a beer can at his car, a woman at her home in Burbank, a well-know actor’s brother in Beverly Hills and nine members of a family at a Christmas Eve party in Covina.

Of course it happened. In April, 13 people were shot and killed in a citizenship class in Binghamton, New York. Two were shot at a hospital in Long Beach, California. Three by a marketing professor in Athens, Georgia. Four at their home in Morro Bay, California. Two at a religious retreat in Temecula, California. Five children by their father in Graham, Washington. Two in a dorm at Hampton University in Virginia. All in April.

All of these shootings were followed by news coverage of how shocked the community was. But of course it happened. The massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech? It was tragic and horrifying, but it was going to happen somewhere. Five people at a Salt Lake City mall the same year? Of course.

And it’s going to happen again. Every day. In the near future – this year, most likely – someone is going to open fire on a university campus. Another at a high school. Another in a restaurant. … … …


Overpopulation or the Rich?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 Guardian/UK — George Monbiot writes: A paper published yesterday in the journal Environment and Urbanization shows that the places where population has been growing fastest are those in which carbon dioxide has been growing most slowly, and vice versa. Between 1980 and 2005, for instance, sub-Saharan Africa produced 18.5% of the world’s population growth and just 2.4% of the growth in CO2. North America turned out only 4% of the extra people, but 14% of the extra emissions. Sixty-three percent of the world’s population growth happened in places with very low emissions.

Even this does not capture it. The paper points out that about one sixth of the world’s population is so poor that it produces no significant emissions at all. This is also the group whose growth rate is likely to be highest. Households in India earning less than 3,000 rupees (£40) a month use a fifth of the electricity per head and one seventh of the transport fuel of households earning 30,000 rupees or more. Street sleepers use almost nothing. Those who live by processing waste (a large part of the urban underclass) often save more greenhouse gases than they produce.

Many of the emissions for which poorer countries are blamed should in fairness belong to the developed nations. Gas flaring by companies exporting oil from Nigeria, for instance, has produced more greenhouse gases than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa put together. Even deforestation in poor countries is driven mostly by commercial operations delivering timber, meat and animal feed to rich consumers. The rural poor do far less harm.

The paper’s author, David Satterthwaite, points out that the old formula taught to students of development – that total impact equals population times affluence times technology (I = PAT) – is wrong. Total impact should be measured as I = CAT: consumers times affluence times technology. Many of the world’s people use so little that they wouldn’t figure in this equation. They are the ones who have most children.

While there’s a weak correlation between global warming and population growth, there’s a strong correlation between global warming and wealth. I’ve been taking a look at a few super-yachts, as I’ll need somewhere to entertain Labour ministers in the style to which they are accustomed. First I went through the plans for Royal Falcon Fleet’s RFF135, but when I discovered that it burns only 750 litres of fuel per hour I realised that it wasn’t going to impress Lord Mandelson. I might raise half an eyebrow in Brighton with the Overmarine Mangusta 105, which sucks up 850 litres per hour. But the raft that’s really caught my eye is made by Wally Yachts in Monaco. The WallyPower 118 (which gives total wallies a sensation of power) consumes 3,400 litres per hour when travelling at 60 knots. That’s nearly a litre per second. Another way of putting it is 31 litres per kilometre. …

James Lovelock, like Sir David Attenborough and Jonathan Porritt, is a patron of the Optimum Population Trust. It is one of dozens of campaigns and charities whose sole purpose is to discourage people from breeding in the name of saving the biosphere. But I haven’t been able to find any campaign whose sole purpose is to address the impacts of the very rich.

The obsessives could argue that the people breeding rapidly today might one day become richer. But as the super wealthy grab an ever greater share and resources begin to run dry, this, for most of the very poor, is a diminishing prospect. There are strong social reasons for helping people to manage their reproduction, but weak environmental reasons – except among wealthier populations.

The Optimum Population Trust glosses over the fact that the world is going through demographic transition: population growth rates are slowing down almost everywhere and the number of people is likely, according to a paper in Nature, to peak this century, probably at about 10 billion. Most of the growth will take place among those who consume almost nothing.

But no one anticipates a consumption transition. People breed less as they become richer, but they don’t consume less – they consume more. As the habits of the super-rich show, there are no limits to human extravagance. Consumption can be expected to rise with economic growth until the biosphere hits the buffers. Anyone who understands this and still considers that population, not consumption, is the big issue is, in Lovelock’s words, “hiding from the truth”. It is the worst kind of paternalism, blaming the poor for the excesses of the rich. (09/30/09)


State of the World’s Energy

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

The Oil Drum — A few days ago, I gave a presentation in Poland that talks about how much difficulty the world is having maintaining its oil production. The presentation was not set up to be a response to Jad Mouawad’s recent New York Times article, Oil Industry Sets a Brisk Pace of New Discoveries, but in many ways it is one. Our recent discoveries really have not been enough to make up for our many production problems elsewhere. We are having problems not only with oil, but with natural gas. The solution the financially distressed world is increasingly considering is … well, read the story to see.


Folding Light?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Laser PulsesBBC Light Science — A general rule in physics is that the shorter a pulse is in time, the higher its “bandwidth” – a measure of the spread of colours within it, and therefore of its information-carrying capacity. State-of-the-art devices used in telecommunications today generate pulses with a bandwidth of 10 GHz, using standard electronics to encode information onto those pulses directly.

Purely optical systems can generate pulses with a bandwidth nearly 100,000 times higher. However, getting the information onto the pulses, or modulating them, has been beyond the reach of the electronics that are currently used.

Light pulses are spread out in space; if an instantaneous snapshot could be taken of them, those that are longer in time would appear physically larger. The trick to the new work is to use “temporal lenses” that can squash comparatively long pulses in time by selectively speeding up or slowing down their different parts.

The idea uses silicon waveguides as the lenses. A long, 10-GHz pulse containing bits of data and a much shorter laser pulse with no information pass through one of these waveguides. Laser pulse depiction (SPL) Laser pulses are as spread out in space as they are in time A race is then set up between the halves of the pulse, with the back speeding up and the front slowing down as it passes through an optical fibre. That is due to complex interactions with the silicon, forcing the data-rich pulse to take on the temporal properties of the shorter pulse. Just like an optical telescope, combining two of these temporal lenses creates a time telescope that can take a standard 10 GHz pulse and create an “image” of it. That jams the same information into a pulse just one twenty-seventh as long. …

Dr Foster said that the system, while complex, is very robust and needs relatively little power, making it potentially attractive for industrial use. Moreover, he said, it could be applied to the fields of chemistry and biology, which can probe the most minute and fastest processes in nature – such as protein folding or chemical reactions – if only given structured pulses of sufficiently short duration. The new method could vastly improve the ultimate time limit of these studies. (09/30/09)


Is the Recession Good for the Earth?

Saturday, September 26th, 2009 Nature Science —The recession has had little impact on humanity’s over-consumption of resources, says a report. The New Economics Foundation (Nef) calculates the day each year when the world goes into “ecological debt.” This is the date by which humanity has used the quantity of natural resources that ought to last an entire year if used at a sustainable rate.

This year, “ecological debt day” falls on 25 September – just one day later than in 2008.

According to Nef, this means that the biggest recession for nearly a century has made very little difference to global consumption. The report, entitled The Consumption Explosion: the Third UK Interpendence Day Report, asserts that the overall trend of our collective ecological footprint is deeply negative, with humanity still environmentally over-extending itself to a dangerous degree.

Andrew Simms, Nef policy director and co-author of the report, said: “Debt-fuelled over-consumption not only brought the financial system to the edge of collapse, it is pushing many of our natural life support systems toward a precipice. Politicians tell us to get back to business as usual; but if we bankrupt critical ecosystems, no amount of government spending will bring them back. We need a radically different approach to rich world consumption.”

Calling for an end to the consumption explosion, he said that while billions in poorer countries subsist, “we (in the rich West) consume vastly more, and yet with little or nothing to show for it in terms of greater life satisfaction.”

The report calls for an end in particular to what it calls “boomerang trade”, where countries simultaneously import and export similar goods. For example, the report says the UK imports 22,000 tonnes of potatoes from Egypt and exports 27,000 tonnes back the other way. While 5,000 tonnes of toilet paper heads to Germany from the UK, more than 4,000 tonnes is imported back. The report calls for us to pay the full environmental cost of transport, and calls for more investment in renewable energy. It also rejects suggestions that reducing the size of the Earth’s human population would help the environment, claiming this focus is a critical distraction from tackling over-consumption in wealthy countries. It points out that one person in the US will, by 4am on the morning of 2 January, already have been responsible for emitting as much carbon as someone living in Tanzania would generate in an entire year. It says that a UK citizen would reach the same position by 7pm on 4 January. (09/25/09)


Cancer Treatment Advance!

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 Medical Science — Scientists have presented results of an experimental new drug which in early stage trials has significantly shrunk skin cancer tumours. …

They were given a new drug that blocks the activity of a gene thought to be involved in the spread of skin cancer, the so-called BRAF gene.

Within two weeks they noticed what they described as a “rapid and dramatic” shrinking of the tumours in the cancer patients:

Lead researcher Dr Paul Chapman said: “We’ve seen responses in patients who didn’t respond to chemotherapy before. So far 70 per cent of patients have responded. So that is unprecedented for us.”

New treatments can often seem promising to begin with – but have disappointing results in later larger trials.

However, the doctors involved in the trial – and those at the European Cancer Organisation who have organised the conference – have never seen a cancer drug act so quickly on such a high proportion of patients. …

Lead researcher Dr Paul Chapman said: “We’ve seen responses in patients who didn’t respond to chemotherapy before. So far 70 per cent of patients have responded. So that is unprecedented for us.” … …the doctors involved in the trial – and those at the European Cancer Organisation who have organised the conference – have never seen a cancer drug act so quickly on such a high proportion of patients.

The drug, PLX4032, is the latest in a new generation of cancer drugs that block the action of cancer causing genes. The most successful of these so far has been Glivec (imatinib), which is used to treat myloid Leukaemia and gastric cancer. Professor Alexander Eggermont, president of the European Cancer Organisation, said: “The new drug is the equivalent of Glivec in terms of the effect its having in advanced melanoma.” …

Alexander Eggermont, president of the European Cancer Organisation, described the trial as “simply spectacular”. He said it showed the benefits of targeting treatment. The news would transform melanoma work into “a very exciting field instead of a graveyard.” (09/23/09)


Blocking Foreclosure on 60 Million Mortgages

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 Huffington Post — Ellen Brown writes: A landmark ruling in a recent Kansas Supreme Court case may have given millions of distressed homeowners the legal wedge they need to avoid foreclosure. In Landmark National Bank v. Kesler, 2009 Kan. LEXIS 834, the Kansas Supreme Court held that a nominee company called MERS has no right or standing to bring an action for foreclosure. MERS is an acronym for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, a private company that registers mortgages electronically and tracks changes in ownership. The significance of the holding is that if MERS has no standing to foreclose, then nobody has standing to foreclose — on 60 million mortgages. That is the number of American mortgages currently reported to be held by MERS. Over half of all new U.S. residential mortgage loans are registered with MERS and recorded in its name. Holdings of the Kansas Supreme Court are not binding on the rest of the country, but they are dicta of which other courts take note; and the reasoning behind the decision is sound.

The development of “electronic” mortgages managed by MERS went hand in hand with the “securitization” of mortgage loans — chopping them into pieces and selling them off to investors. In the heyday of mortgage securitizations, before investors got wise to their risks, lenders would slice up loans, bundle them into “financial products” called “collateralized debt obligations” (CDOs), ostensibly insure them against default by wrapping them in derivatives called “credit default swaps,” and sell them to pension funds, municipal funds, foreign investment funds, and so forth. There were many secured parties, and the pieces kept changing hands; but MERS supposedly kept track of all these changes electronically. MERS would register and record mortgage loans in its name, and it would bring foreclosure actions in its name. MERS not only facilitated the rapid turnover of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, but it has served as a sort of “corporate shield” that protects investors from claims by borrowers concerning predatory lending practices. California attorney Timothy McCandless describes the problem like this:

[MERS] has reduced transparency in the mortgage market in two ways. First, consumers and their counsel can no longer turn to the public recording systems to learn the identity of the holder of their note. Today, county recording systems are increasingly full of one meaningless name, MERS, repeated over and over again. But more importantly, all across the country, MERS now brings foreclosure proceedings in its own name — even though it is not the financial party in interest. This is problematic because MERS is not prepared for or equipped to provide responses to consumers’ discovery requests with respect to predatory lending claims and defenses. In effect, the securitization conduit attempts to use a faceless and seemingly innocent proxy with no knowledge of predatory origination or servicing behavior to do the dirty work of seizing the consumer’s home … So imposing is this opaque corporate wall, that in a “vast” number of foreclosures, MERS actually succeeds in foreclosing without producing the original note — the legal sine qua non of foreclosure — much less documentation that could support predatory lending defenses.

The real parties in interest concealed behind MERS have been made so faceless, however, that there is now no party with standing to foreclose. The Kansas Supreme Court stated that MERS’ relationship “is more akin to that of a straw man than to a party possessing all the rights given a buyer.” (09/22/09)