We Didn't Start the Fire

SUBHEAD: You and I didn’t start the fire of empire. But we’re about to see it extinguished. Image above: Recent performance by Billy Joel. From (http://media.photobucket.com/image/we%20didn%252527t%20start%20the%20fire/xavier906/art4x.jpg).
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again. Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock. Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline. Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan. Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal suicide. Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz. Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law. Rock and Roller cola wars, I can't take it any more. - Verse from "We Didn't Start The Fire" by Billy Joel in 1989
By Guy McPherson on 1 June 2010 in Nature Bats Last - (http://guymcpherson.com/2010/06/we-didnt-start-the-fire) Actually, to counter singer/songwriter Billy Joel, we did start this FIRE. Not you and me, of course, but our culture. The U.S. industrial economy is all about Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate. The FIRE is about to run its course, extinguished by the absence of fuel in each of those interconnected sectors. The financial sector has been largely nationalized, with the U.S. taxpayer on the hook for trillions of dollars of bad loans made by big banks. Back in February 2009 our national debt was a mere $10.5 trillion, but it already exceeded the value of all the currency in the world and all the gold ever mined. Those were the good old days. Now our national debt exceeds $13 trillion (with more than $8 trillion still hidden from view), and the empire will go down like a tub full of gold bricks if we stop fanning the flames by slowing the printing press. By running the printing presses at full speed, we are inflating the most massive bubble yet. We’ve seen how those bubbles pan out for the industrial economy. If we build them, the pin-pricks will come. Can we create another financial crisis? Of course. After all, a smoke-and-mirrors economic recovery is no protection against a crash in the equities markets. The peak in industrial economic growth is already here, with about ten thousand swords out there vying for attention to burst the bubbles of Treasuries, the U.S. big banks, China’s economic growth, the re-inflated housing market, and a renewed credit crisis. Oh, and of course the interaction between these myriad factors. In summary, the countdown is well under way for completion of the ongoing U.S. economic collapse, and there’s simply no way to soften the blow when we plunge to the bottom of the economic heap. The U.S. has the world’s biggest industrial economy, and the bigger they are, … well, you know. The one-size-fits-all solution of printing money is leading inevitably to hyperinflation, even as the U.S. money supply dwindles. Think Zimbabwe, but with U.S. dollars. And the U.S. dollar is still the world’s reserve currency. All signs still point to a major crash in stock markets (see here and here, too, among a kajillion other sites). At this point in the post-peak oil era, it’s clear to anybody paying the slightest attention we’re headed for full spectrum collapse. How will it end, and when? It seems completion of the U.S. economic collapse will follow on the heels of Europe, which is cheering for its own demise even as all the PIIGS drown in a sea of debt. This is supremely good news, of course, for the dozen or so people who care about non-industrial cultures and the living planet: Our little reign of terror is just about over. We’re an empty garbage can, playing power games enabled by the hologram-like appearance of power. I’ve no doubt the empire will fail to go silently into the night. Instead, we’ll take out individuals and countries with every lethal weapon in our power, including weapons most of us don’t even know about and people we don’t care about. Iran apocalypse? Could be — talk about mutually assured destruction — and soon. How soon? Your guess is as good as mine. But is it as good as the 25 leading trends forecasters, who agree that 2010 could be the year? Hedge funder Hugh Hendry provides a concise summary: “I would recommend you panic.” As much as I appreciation the concision of Hendry’s recommendation, I would recommend you prepare and celebrate. I’ve been recommending the former for several years, while pointing out the good news associated with economic collapse. I have more company now than I’ve had for a while: Economic collapse has gone mainstream, and the occasional worthwhile ecologist is joining Daniel Quinn and Derrick Jensen in recognizing and spreading the good news. Even as the gusher in the Gulf gets much worse by the day (thus diverting our attention from BP’s other large spill), even as Barack Obama tries to use the disaster to push his ill-founded political agenda, even as the cozy relationship between BP and the Obama administration becomes clear, so too do U.S. political policies keep steering straight at the iceberg of economic and environmental collapse. As the industrial economy stumbles along, the world’s biological diversity continues to suffer even as we peer into the abyss of extinction for many of the world’s species (including, ultimately, our own). Where should you be when economic collapse comes to your house? Michael Ruppert and his protégé Rice Farmer suggest staying where you’re most comfortable. Much as I appreciate their efforts to inform and engage economic collapse, this advice seems immoral and short-sighted to me. First, it’s the comfort of city living that got us into this civilized mess to begin with, and it’s exactly this comfort that requires obedience at home and oppression abroad. Second, today’s comfortable urban existence might not be so damned comfortable when the lights go out and the water stops coming out the taps. Rice Farmer points out that people in rural areas will “have to cope with hordes of desperate, starving city people who try to steal our food. Unless you are in a really remote location, expect hungry visitors.” Good point. But why do you think those “hordes of desperate, starving city people” are bound to be desperate and starving? Why do you think they’ll be leaving the cities in hordes? I’d guess it’ll be because they’ll become suddenly and profoundly uncomfortable when the grocery stores run out of food and the water stops coming out the taps. If you think you’ll be comfortable surrounded by a few thousand desperate, starving city people when TSHTF in your backyard, by all means stay in your comfort zone. On the other hand, if you don’t think that’s going to work out well for you, I’d recommend skedaddling out of the city before the real rush gets under way. When will that be? In this case, “better late than never” is the wrong answer. The time to dig a well is not when you’re thirsty. The time to plant a garden is not when you’re hungry. The time for securing your water and food is now, before the industrial economy burns itself out. You and I didn’t start the fire of empire. But we’re about to see it extinguished. .

Siren Song of Kauai

SUBHEAD: County scam to milk Kauai residents so as to increase visitor traffic to our island is a pathetic farce.

By Andy Parx on 4 June 2010 in Parx Daily News - 

Image above: Dickie Chang holding court at Duke's Barefoot Grill on Kalipaki Beach on 8/2/09. Photo by Juan Wilson.

 [Editor's [IB Publisher's Note: In Greek mythology, the Sirens were three dangerous bird-women, portrayed as seductresses who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.]  

Just take a gander at the hook, line and sinker swallowed by “government beat” reporter Leo Azambuja in regurgitating statistics purporting a wondrous job in using the second half-million-dollar county tourism stimulus toilet-flush presented by Sue Kanoho of the Kaua`i Visitors Bureau and the county economic development director George Costa. The story of the “amazing success” Kanoho claimed at Wednesday’s council meeting in bringing more visitors to the island was an example of the worst of the worst in covering government- the unabashed unquestioning rote re-recital of governmental double-talking bulls—t.

Anyone who has been following the story knows that, as we wrote about here, here and here last year, accountability and actually being able to correlate the dollars spent to any increase- if there was one- in tourists and the resulting dollars spent was deemed essential, if not by the council by the many taxpayers who spoke out at the time .

 But of course when Kanoho’s presentation didn’t include one verified example of anyone who came as a result of any promotion- with one exception: the $30,000 spent on the “South Pacific” Mitzi Gaynor appearance- the council just sat and applauded like the trained seals they are.

Seemingly Kanoho and Costa just pulled any-kine numbers and plugged them in to show their self-declared “success”, even admitting in the case of the so-called “radio blitz” that the only thing they could report as “attributable” to the money spent is through an anecdote Chamber of Commerce honcho Randy Francisco reported after talking to someone in a bar who said they came as a result of the promotion The worst waste was in using half the money to bribe the “top six producers” of “on-line bookings”- sites like Orbitz and Priceline.

The problem is that these sites don’t actually report how many bookings were made as a result of our money being spent or provide any proof that it was a successful “buy” because, as the council knew last year when they approved the money, that information is “proprietary”. What a scam. Kanoho admitted that their “coupon book”- one of those pseudo-discount buy a thousand dollar item and get a two cent piece of crap for free promotions- was disastrously unsuccessful... something that many told the council in no uncertain terms would happen last year.

One of the most ridiculous parts of the presentation- one of course unquestioned in the newspaper article along with all of these examples- was the “Northwest media blitz” and trade show appearance by Kanoho and a slew of other Kaua`i people.

Kanoho actually said that although it was “hard to track” Francisco “put 1200” as the number of attributable tourist trips with apparently no real reason to think it was correct. As a matter of fact each item was “hard” or “impossible” to track according to Kanoho although that little fact was distinctly missing from the newspaper coverage. What we saw happening at Wednesday’s meeting- something those who read the “newspaper of record” will never know- was a presentation of a series of made-up, pulled-from-their-asses numbers that had absolutely no verified, documented correlation to the money spent.

The real shibai though wasn’t Kanoho prevarications or Azambuja’s incompetence but the council’s attempt to justify the million they spent in making sure the business community and CofC crowd will fill their campaign coffers this year, and wasting (read: stealing) a cool million (half was spent last year in the same manner) taxpayer dollars to do it. Their performance Wednesday- especially that of tourism industry shill Dickie Chang who engineered the whole debacle- in oohing and ahing at Kanoho’s faux success was just what you’d expect on Kaua`i.

Did anyone really think councilmembers were going to aggressively seek answers that they didn’t want to hear, specifically regarding their use of a million dollars that didn’t do a damn thing- and do it at a time when they just furloughed county employees for two days a month? It’s open season for the council lies and secrecy and with no one to call them on it. And they know it. Don’t ya just love this town?


Old Malls as Urban Farms?

SUBHEAD: An excuse for a food-court? This seems more a publicity stunt than a serious effort to grow vegetables. Is there any petroleum involved? Image above: Roof of failing Cleveland Galleria Mall in Erieview, Ohio, has been converted to "Gardens Under Glass". Talk about blowing green smoke up your skirt.

By Lloyd Alter on 6 June 2010 in TreeHugger.com - (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/06/new-uses-for-old-malls.php)

Ever since Architect Eb Zeidler riffed on the Galleria in Milan for his Eaton Centre in Toronto in the '70s, a lot of malls have been covered with glorious glass roofs. Many downtown malls were built as urban renewal and revitalization projects, but few of them thrived; after killing off the main street retail around them, they most have died on their own.

But they still have those glorious glass roofs. PSFK points us to Cleveland, where Gardens Under Glass is trying to put them to work, as an urban farm.

The proponents of the scheme note:

It is the ideal location for a project of this nature due to its structural design that provides a year round controlled environment, perfectly conducive to successful implementation. At the project's root is an urban farm that will use a system called "recirculating greenhouse hydroponics" to grow produce such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, herbs, peppers, sprouts, mushrooms and flowers.

But that year round controlled environment is expensive to maintain. Gardens under glass isn't only about the food, but it is also:

an urban agricultural center that will produce, inform and educate the Cleveland community about the importance of growing green. The gardens will in turn cultivate businesses with a similar mindset.

So the farm becomes a magnet for food related retail, such as restaurants, a year round indoor farmers market, a garden supply store and a health food store. That is the real promise of the idea.

Vicky Poole, who does marketing for the mall, talked to Grist:

Poole's vision for the mall is both a master marketing tool -- this one, like so many of its mid-80s brethren, was in dire straights not long ago, with dozens of vacancies in its 200 stores -- and an inventive way to promote sustainability in what has proven to be a largely unsustainable architectural dinosaur. It's pretty hard to find alternate uses for 100,000-plus square feet of mostly windowless space. "I don't look at us as a mall anymore," she says. "We really serve the downtown business community."

Which Horizon?

SUBHEAD: Petroleum, its vehicles, and their consequences are central to world problems. Image above: Photograph of downtown Atlanta by James Kunstler who says of this place of parking garages "Even the homeless avoid it." For a photo-essay tour of downtown Atlanta with Jim try(http://www.kunstler.com/Grunt_Atlanta%20Tour.html) By Jamesd Kunstler on 8 June 2010 in Kunstler.com - (http://kunstler.com/blog/2010/06/which-horizon.html) Did the nation heave a sigh of relief when BP announced that their latest gambit to "cap" the Deepwater Horizon gusher will result in hosing up fifty percent of the leaking oil? If so, the nation may be sighing too soon since the other half of the oil will still collect in underwater plumes and hover all around the Gulf Coast like those baleful mother ships in the most recent generation of alien invasion movies. I shudder to imagine the tonnage of dead wildlife flotsam that will wash up with the tide for years to come. It will seem like a "necklace of death" for several states, though even that may not be enough to distract them from the more gratifying raptures of Nascar and NFL football.
For the moment we can only speculate on what the still-unresolved incident will mean for America's oil supply. The zeal to prosecute BP for something like criminal negligence has bestirred a Department of Justice comatose during the rape-and-pillage of the US financial system. BP may be driven out of business, but then what? The net effect of the oil spill, one way or another, will be the gradual shut-down of oil drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico. New government supervision will make operations very costly, if not non-viable, and the surviving companies will probably pack up for the west coast of Africa where supervision is almost non-existent. Anyway you cut it, the US will produce less oil and import more -- and have to rely on the political stability of places like Angola and Nigeria, not to mention the simmering Middle East.
So far, also, the US has done nothing in the way of holding a serious national political discussion about the the most important part of the story: our pathological dependency on cars. I don't know if this will ever happen, even right up to the moment when the lines form at the filling stations. For years, anyway, the few public figures such as Boone Pickens who give the appearance of concern about our oil problem, end up down the rabbit hole of denial when they get behind schemes to run the whole US car-and-truck fleet on something besides gasoline.
This unfortunate techno-narcissism shows that almost nobody wants to think about living with fewer cars driving fewer miles. We're going to be dragged there kicking and screaming, but that's our destination, like it or not. All the effort now going into developing alt-fuels and "green" cars is just a form of "bargaining" on the Kubler-Ross transect of grief.
Traveling around the US, it's easy to understand our failure to come to grips with reality. The nation is fully outfitted for extreme car dependency. You go to places like Atlanta and Minneapolis and you understand how deep we're into this. We spent all our collective national treasure -- and quite a bit beyond that in the form of debt -- building the roadway systems and the suburban furnishings for that mode of existence. We incorporated it into our national identity as the American Way of Life. Now, we don't know what else to do except defend it at all costs, especially by waving the talismanic magic wand of techno-innovation.
The obvious remedy for the oil-and-car problem would be to live in walkable towns and neighborhoods served by the kind of public transit that people are not ashamed to ride in. But it may be too late for that. We're going to be a much poorer society from now on. We squandered the financial resources for that transition on too many other things. We're stuck with our investments in houses and their commercial accessories, built where they were built, and no Jolly Green Giant is going to pick them up and move them closer together in an artful way that adds up to real towns. A reorganization of American life will occur, but now it will be on much less deliberate terms, a much messier and more destructive operation, a default to the smaller scale by extreme necessity, with a lot of losses along the way. The Deepwater Horizon incident only hastens the process.
Anyway, the collapse of suburbia is running neck and neck (and hand-by-hand) with the collapse of capital. Angela Merkel, flicked US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner off like a flea over the weekend at the G-20 meeting in Sitges, Spain. Germany doesn't want to hear about bailouts and stimuli anymore. Germany is looking to reinstate something like a "normal" economy based on producing things of value and paying for things when you have the capital to do it. Germany is pulling the plug on the debt-o-rama banking rackets -- at least insofar as these rackets leave Germany holding the bag for a growing list of deadbeat nations. I don't see how the Euro survives. The remarkable appearance of prosperity in places like Greece and Spain turned out to be a combination of borrowed money and all-time-high tourist flows. Both of these "resources" are heading way down. There's a dwindling supply of middle-class candidates for tourism, especially in the US and the UK, and the Europeans have woken up painfully to the recognition that existing debt is unserviceable. National dominos are wobbling left and right, from Hungary to Latvia to Portugal....
Even the severe steps initiated by Germany may not be enough to keep the lights burning in Europe since the continent has little oil and nat-gas of its own. Europe's experiments with wind power have been valiant (and France's nuclear venture has been daring), but neither of these things will offset the problems associated with peak oil, especially if trouble starts in the Middle East. It was chastening for me to bike around Berlin a week ago and realize that even nations with sturdy cities and good railroads can fall into political chaos. Berlin was a charming place when Hitler arrived on the scene and twelve years later it was a smoldering heap of shattered brick and glass.
The American Way of Life is not so charming, but its very sprawling character may prevent a political maniac from controlling enough of a base to hold all the states and regions together in a thrall of fascism -- and there are all those firearms to think about. I maintain that the trend is down for centralized power here, in the direction of impotency and decreasing competence at anything. I don't subscribe to the paranoid themes of Big Brother government domination, the surveillance state and related fantasies. It'll be more Home Alone meets Risky Business -- a dangerous place with no adult supervision.
The New York Times ran a front-page story on Sunday suggesting that maybe there was something to this nutty idea of Americans preparing for trouble in the months and years ahead, paying down debts, putting some food aside, thinking about where to ride out a socio-economic storm. Their attitude was patronizing of course, and where the actual issues of our oil predicament were concerned, the editors went straight to their "go-to-guy" Daniel Yergin and his public relations shop, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, the official PR whore of the oil industry. The Times obviously finds it amusing that some Americans see a collapse on the horizon. The Times is so deep into its own collapse that it doesn't even remember how to cover a story. .

Israeli Attack on Mavi Mamarra

SOURCE: Kenneth Taylor (taylork021@Hawaii.rr.com)
SUBHEAD: Someone who is known on Kauai was on the ship attacked by Israeli commandos. He was almost killed after arrest.

By Fadwa Dajani (wife of Ken O'Keefe) on 5 June 2010 in Island Breath -

Image above: Israeli commandos in black with automatic weapons take over Mavi Mamarra in international waters. Nine died, including an American with four bullets to the head. Still frame from viseo released ny Israeli government.  

[IB Editor's Note: Read Ken O'Keefe's written statement about the attack on the Mavi Mamarra, and the aftermath in Israel, after a forward by his wife. Also, Janos Samu emailed us to say Ken is a citizen of the Lawful Hawaiian Government and he was here on Kauai when the reinstated government had its annual legislative session in 2009 in Nawiliwili.]  

 I write to inform you about Ken O'Keefe, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was stormed by the Israeli military in the early hours of Monday 31st May, towed to Ashdod Port in Israel and all its passengers detained. Ken was transferred to Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday and was due to be deported by the Israeli authorities to Istanbul, and then repatriated to Dublin by the Irish officials. He refused deportation and demanded that he be sent to Gaza, or the Occupied Palestinian Territories, using his Palestinian travel documents (he was awarded Palestinian citizenship when he captained one of the two Free Gaza boats into Gaza in August 2008).

The Israelis acknowledge that he is a Palestinian citizen, but refused his demand on the basis that his passport was invalid since it had not been registered. The general atmosphere in the airport on Wednesday was quite chaotic, and a scuffle broke out. Ken was bashed on the forehead and then badly beaten by the Israeli officials/police. He has a large bloody gash on his head, and some bruised ribs. When I spoke with him he had a hoarse, croaky voice. He had been put in a head lock until he nearly passed out. His aggressor released Ken at the last possible moment. Ken refused medical attention because he was not allowed access to a lawyer, nor was he being allowed to make phone calls.

On Thursday Ken's case went before a judge who ruled that he be detained pending deportation (Ken wanted to be released without charge). Having already been complaining of dizziness following his first beating by Israeli police, Ken was beaten again that night in his cell. Again, he has refused treatment for his injuries. Ken was unable to eat for a few days as his throat was sore following being held in a head lock on Wednesday. He wanted to appeal his deportation and go to Gaza, but his solicitor advised him that for his own safety he should leave Israel.

The longer he stays, the greater the detriment to his health. On Friday morning he signed his Emergency Travel Documents provided to him by the Irish Consulate and was booked onto a flight to Istanbul. Israeli officials asked him to clean himself up as his face was bloody and he was quite dishevelled. He refused, as he wanted the world to see what had happened to him. The officials threatened to keep him in custody unless he co-operates, but he called their bluff, and was allowed to board his flight to Istanbul as he was.

He was met by Irish Embassy staff and a press conference. He also gave an interview with Turkish newspaper the Hurriyet, which was featured on the front page. Prior to the press conference he had issued the following statement: "I want to discuss my role in defending the ship and disarming two Israeli commandos along with conditions and treatment while in Israeli custody, including two beatings at the hands of Israeli agents." Ken will depart Istanbul on Monday 7th June for Dublin, where he will stay for two days before returning home to his wife and baby son on Wednesday 9th June.

Please find attached a personal statement written by Ken in Istanbul, along with photographs taken on his arrival to Istanbul. Press conferences are being arranged in Dublin and London. Please contact me (f_dajani@hotmail.com) if you would like to interview Ken.

Defenders of the Mavi Mamarra & So Much More

 Image above: Ken O'Keefe after ordeal with head injuries. From his wife Fadwa Dajani.  

By Ken O'Keefe on 4 June 2010 -

I have for many years understood that we, people of conscience, are the true holders of power in this world. Frustratingly however we have largely relinquished that power and failed to reach our full potential. Our potential to create a better world, a just world. Nonetheless I have conspired with others of like mind to reveal and exercise our true power.

In 2002 I initiated the TJP Human Shield Action to Iraq because I knew that the invasion of Iraq had been planned well in advance, that it was part of a ‘Global Spectrum Dominance’ agenda as laid out by the Project For A New American Century. I knew that protests had no chance of stopping the invasion, and that largely these protests were just a way of making us feel better about the coming mass murder; by being able to say I protested against it. With that understanding I argued that the only viable way to stop the invasion was to conduct a mass migration to Iraq.

A migration in which people from around the world, especially western citizens, would position themselves at sites in Iraq that are supposed to be protected by international law, but which are routinely bombed when it is only Iraqi, Palestinian, generally non-white, western lives who will be killed. I felt 10,000 such people could stop the invasion, or at the very least, expose the invasion for what it was from the start, an act of international aggression, a war crime and a crime against humanity. When our two double-decker busses traveled from London to Baghdad through Turkey, it was ever clear that the people of Turkey also could sense the power of this act, and they were the biggest participants in it.

In the end we did not get the numbers required to stop the war, with at least one million Iraqi’s dead as a result, but I remain convinced that it was within our power to prevent the invasion. A massive opportunity lost as far as I am concerned. In 2007 I joined the Free Gaza Movement with its plan to challenge the blockade of Gaza by traveling to Gaza by sea.

 From the moment I heard of the plan I knew it could succeed and ultimately I served as a captain on the first attempt. The Israeli government said throughout our preparation that we were no better than pirates and they would treat us as such. They made clear we would not reach Gaza. And still I knew we could succeed. And we did. Two boats with 46 passengers from various countries managed to sail into Gaza on August 23, 2009; this was the first time this had been done in 41 years. The truth is the blockade of Gaza is far more than three years old, and yet we, a small group of conscientious people defied the Israeli machine and celebrated with tens of thousands of Gazans when we arrived that day. We proved that it could be done.

 We proved that an intelligent plan, with skilled manipulation of the media, could render the full might of the Israeli Navy useless. And I knew then that this was only the tip of the iceberg. So participating in the Freedom Flotilla is like a family reunion to me. It is my long lost family whose conscience is their guide, who have shed the fear, who act with humanity.

But I was especially proud to join IHH and the Turkish elements of the flotilla. I deeply admire the strength and character of the Turkish people, despite your history having stains of injustice, like every nation, you are today from citizen to Prime Minister among the leaders in the cause of humanity and justice. I remember being asked during the TJP Human Shield Action to Iraq if I was a pacifist, I responded with a quote from Gandhi by saying I am not a passive anything. To the contrary I believe in action, and I also believe in self-defense, 100%, without reservation. I would be incapable of standing by while a tyrant murders my family, and the attack on the Mavi Mamara was like an attack on my Palestinian family. I am proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with those who refused to let a rogue Israeli military exert their will without a fight. And yes, we fought.

When I was asked, in the event of an Israeli attack on the Mavi Mamara, would I use the camera, or would I defend the ship? I enthusiastically committed to defense of the ship. Although I am also a huge supporter of non-violence, in fact I believe non-violence must always be the first option. Nonetheless I joined the defense of the Mavi Mamarra understanding that violence could be used against us and that we may very well be compelled to use violence in self defense. I said this straight to Israeli agents, probably of Mossad or Shin Bet, and I say it again now, on the morning of the attack I was directly involved in the disarming of two Israeli Commandos. This was a forcible, non-negotiable, separation of weapons from commandos who had already murdered two brothers that I had seen that day.

One brother with a bullet entering dead center in his forehead, in what appeared to be an execution. I knew the commandos were murdering when I removed a 9mm pistol from one of them. I had that gun in my hands and as an ex-US Marine with training in the use of guns it was completely within my power to use that gun on the commando who may have been the murderer of one of my brothers. But that is not what I, nor any other defender of the ship did. I took that weapon away, removed the bullets, proper lead bullets, separated them from the weapon and hid the gun. I did this in the hopes that we would repel the attack and submit this weapon as evidence in a criminal trial against Israeli authorities for mass murder. I also helped to physically separate one commando from his assault rifle, which another brother apparently threw into the sea.

I and hundreds of others know the truth that makes a mockery of the brave and moral Israeli military. We had in our full possession, three completely disarmed and helpless commandos. These boys were at our mercy, they were out of reach of their fellow murderers, inside the ship and surrounded by 100 or more men. I looked into the eyes of all three of these boys and I can tell you they had the fear of God in them.

They looked at us as if we were them, and I have no doubt they did not believe there was any way they would survive that day. They looked like frightened children in the face of an abusive father. But they did not face an enemy as ruthless as they. Instead the woman provided basic first aid, and ultimately they were released, battered and bruised for sure, but alive. Able to live another day. Able to feel the sun over head and the embrace of loved ones.

Unlike those they murdered. Despite mourning the loss of our brothers, feeling rage towards these boys, we let them go. The Israeli prostitutes of propaganda can spew all of their disgusting bile all they wish, the commandos are the murders, we are the defenders, and yet we fought. We fought not just for our lives, not just for our cargo, not just for the people of Palestine, we fought in the name of justice and humanity. We were right to do so, in every way. While in Israeli custody I, along with everyone else was subjected to endless abuse and flagrant acts of disrespect. Women and elderly were physically and mentally assaulted. Access to food and water and toilets was denied. Dogs were used against us, we ourselves were treated like dogs.

We were exposed to direct sun in stress positions while hand cuffed to the point of losing circulation of blood in our hands. We were lied to incessantly, in fact I am awed at the routine and comfort in their ability to lie - it is remarkable really. We were abused in just about every way imaginable and I myself was beaten and choked to the point of blacking out… and I was beaten again while in my cell. In all this what I saw more than anything else were cowards… and yet I also see my brothers. Because no matter how vile and wrong the Israeli agents and government are, they are still my brothers and sisters and for now I only have pity for them. Because they are relinquishing the most precious thing a human being has, their humanity.

 In conclusion; I would like to challenge every endorser of Gandhi, every person who thinks they understand him, who acknowledges him as one of the great souls of our time (which is just about every western leader), I challenge you in the form of a question. Please explain how we, the defenders of the Mavi Mamarra, are not the modern example of Gandhi’s essence? But first read the words of Gandhi himself. I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence....

I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor. – Gandhi And lastly I have one more challenge. I challenge any critic of merit, publicly, to debate me on a large stage over our actions that day. I would especially love to debate with any Israeli leader who accuses us of wrongdoing, it would be my tremendous pleasure to face off with you.

All I saw in Israel was cowards with guns, so I am ripe to see you in a new context. I want to debate with you on the largest stage possible. Take that as an open challenge and let us see just how brave Israeli leaders are.


getting barreled

SUBHEAD: is love a force more powerful than greed? more patient than gravity?

By Jonathan Jay on 6 June 2010 for Island Breath -

Image above: Tod Glaser getting barreled on 5/13/2008.

getting barreled is love a force more powerful than greed?
 more patient than gravity?

more lovely than gravy, less lumpy than wavy more wind through the willows of aubergine pillows reliable as on-demand streaming? firm HD REM dreaming does love spread well on burnt toast?

could i please have your cellphone number or email address with some finesse

i might seduce perhaps reduce the mountaintops of unclean coal stupid asshole smoldering from black lungs in the far east of virginia.

can love restore sisters to all those lonely, only chinese senators' sons?

is it tough enough to spin turbines run post-soviet combines love that is - caress sublime concubines with leviathan meanders of serpentine turpentine a toxic cocktail for drunken imperial fading indian summer time.

will it fix rich daddy's broken economy? or make Obama good looking enough to pull Burt Bacharach from West Afpaciraq, North-South Koreastan and finally put an end World War Two?

Can love stop your kids from sniffing glue? Free the Israelis from their Palestinian Concentration Camps? Dismantle NATO, revive PLATO And bring the German, Japanese and Hawaiian occupation armies home? Can love finally put to bed the gore that is Rome?

Can it first fix then wash our broken windows? Mend then address our tired sinews? will it make me look fat in your little black dress?

will it whisper good night, then punch out the lights? love, that is - can it turn our tides wax the eyebrows from your thighs re-freeze the glaciers reduce by some fraction government inaction hormone cheese overproduction will it save us from our tech-no-fetish selves (those creepy feeble keebler elves). who would love bomb?

will it smash the looms, save our luddsome jobs love, that is - or might it free us from them instead - make a new bed to dream wondrous new humane tomorrows this very night!

our heads on warm aboriginal sands tender gleaming lucent whichety grubs GMO-free protein-rich and sweet sweet water and what of my sisterless boy-kitten? not even chinese, will love rub his black and white fluffy undersides?

scratch his chin and many-nippled pink furbelow or sweetly cull the sticky burrs from his hypnotically swaying swami tail he is purring - can you hear him?

all happy and down low look there he goes now little ship plough through shallow seas of bright green grass

Will love take out the trash on Tuesday nights? and what of "Socialism" or perhaps more pointedly, that oh-so noble (but semi-embalmed) Perennial Capitalist bugaboo: Democracy!

a herd of snoring sacred cows, tipped rightward middle of the road bloodless roadkill leathers of infernal combustion industrial insensibility. techno-senility

 Or is it a farce - Democracy that is - less potent than a rabid mob of highly leveraged investment wankers? less highly pressured than a deep water black puss-gusher more circuitous and ambivalent than the mighty Pacific's translucent gyre? (our planet's wee Jovian plasticine ire)

 Can democracy bring back the salad days? Fix the PH of our vinaigrette oceans? and what of You - where and when are YOU in all this? Do i even get one salty dry kiss?

Oh, I know when you are good, you are very-very good, So when's that gonna happen, Venice is sinking!

What are you thinking! manufactured hearts' desires Abu Dabi petro-spires controlled collapse to desert sands Oh you savage boys and girls!

with languid silky buoyant curls sprawled right in the middle of our poor bed, Wake up you sleepy dunderhead! Get up already, star the day Pipe the coffee - we getting barreled today.  


BP Disaster to Enter Atlantic

SUBHEAD: Although much diluted, the BP oil disaster will do damage across Atlantic Ocean. [Editor's Note: The spread of oil is greatly accelerated at day 75 of this simulation when, on about July 4th, oil touches the main Atlantic Gulf Stream.] Image above: Still from video showing extent of oil spill after 132 days smearing the Wast Coast up to the Carolinas, before heading across Atlantic Ocean. See video below. By Betsy Mason on 3 June 2010 in Wired Magazine - (http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/06/gulf-oil-could-spread-to-atlantic-coast) Oil from BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill could reach the Atlantic coast in the coming months, according to a new computer simulation. The model indicates that oil at the surface is likely to be picked up by a fast-moving stream of water in the Gulf known as the Loop Current, which feeds into the Gulf Stream current that carries water northward along the Atlantic coastline. “I’ve had a lot of people ask me, ‘Will the oil reach Florida?’” Synte Peacock, who worked on the model at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in a press release today. “Actually, our best knowledge says the scope of this environmental disaster is likely to reach far beyond Florida, with impacts that have yet to be understood.” It is impossible to accurately predict precisely what will happen to the oil because it will depend on the ever-changing Loop Current and regional weather patterns. But the model, which is based on typical wind and current patterns for the area, can provide a range of possibilities. Video above: Video of oil spill projection. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE-1G_476nA). Six different scenarios — one is shown in the video above — were run through the computer simulation. In all of them, the oil eventually gets entrained into the Gulf Stream and reaches the Atlantic coast, traveling north at speeds up to 100 miles a day as far north as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, before heading east into the open ocean. The main differences between the scenarios are in the timing of the oil’s movement. “We have been asked if and when remnants of the spill could reach the European coastlines,” team member Martin Visbeck of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University in Germany said in the press release. “Our assumption is that the enormous lateral mixing in the ocean together with the biological disintegration of the oil should reduce the pollution to levels below harmful concentrations. But we would like to have this backed up by numbers from some of the best ocean models.” The NCAR-led simulation was performed on supercomputers based at the New Mexico Computer Applications Center and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The scientists caution that the study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed and published, is not a forecast and is based on movement of a virtual dye that doesn’t resemble oil in some ways. The study also doesn’t take into account factors such as chemical breakdown and degradation of the oil or whether the oil will remain as a slick on the surface, coagulate or mix into the subsurface. The team is working on extending the model further into the future. See also: background on the study at the New York TimesDot Earth blog, in the full press release, and at the DOE. .

Coral Reef Transplants

SUBHEAD: It may be possible to increase coral reef health with coral transplant relocation.

Image above: Diver preparing to "super-glue" staghorn coral to new loacation. From NOAA in article.

By Jaimi Heinbuch on 4 June 2010 in TreeHugger.com - (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/06/transplanting-coral-as-a-cheap-easy-way-to-restore-reefs.php)

Could restoring damaged reefs be as easy as super gluing corals to new shelves and ledges? Perhaps so, according to research done by Dr. Graham Forrester from the University of Rhode Island, and a team of scientists, students and locals who worked to restore a dead reef in White Bay in the British Virgin Islands. After focusing on a specific variety of elkhorn coral often damaged during storms, they found that after transplanted, corals reattached themselves after three months and after 4 years had become large adult corals. Dr. Forrester thinks that perhaps this "transplantation" could be a solution for coral reefs worldwide.

Physorg reports "This simple restoration process requires very little training, meaning that moving and reattaching elkhorn coral fragments can be done by recreational divers and could be woven into public educational activities and adopted by volunteer groups."

"To use a gardening analogy, the sourced coral is like an orchard of fruit trees," said Forrester. "Storms knocked some twigs off the trees and we replanted them on barren ground. The twigs grow and blossom to form a new orchard. It's the same process."

Of course, there are two significant issues with this study. First, if the elkhorn coral is often naturally damaged during storms, as the team stated, then it is likely a species more adapted to take hold via transplanting, since this is something it would have had to do without human help in order to survive as a species. And secondly, wouldn't it be better if rather than finding band-aid solutions like transplanting coral, we got to the root, so to speak, of the issues causing coral reef damage in the first place, including pollution and harmful fishing techniques? For instance, creating marine preserves has proven highly effective in restoring the health of coral reefs - something difficult to set up but in the long term much more impactful.

"Coral reefs face several threats, some of which are far removed and global in scale," concluded Forrester. "The coral transplantation methods we tested provide a simple, relatively low-cost way for people to improve the quality of their local environment and enhance reefs where natural recovery is slow."

On a local level, with species capable of being happily transplanted, then this could indeed be a solution for keeping coral reefs healthier. However, the threats to corals worldwide is much broader and deeper than simple "transplantation" can address.


NOAA Insider Vents on Oil Spill

SUBHEAD: High level National Ocean & Atmospheric Administration employee comments on ineffective response to oil spill. Image above: The logo of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration By Brad Parsons on 5 June 2010 for Aloha Analytics - (http://alohaanalytics.blogspot.com/2010/06/noaa-insider-comments-on-ineffective.html) The following comes from a high-level official in NOAA *today* asked by an outside friend of a friend what he thinks about all of this:
"I live it everyday, as I work for NOAA now. I see the maps of what's been soiled and what will soon be soiled. I see the mortality. But worse, I see how the Administration is desperately treating this as more an exercise in spin than the life and death struggle that it is. I see how much NOAA is a group of ineffectuals, most of their laws expired, underfunded and clueless, gutless about how to fix that. I see the Congress give NOAA a pittance to deal with this catastrophe then take the same amount of money out of the agency's current construction budget to pay for that pittance, all the while sending billions more borrowed from the Chinese to the Defense Department to fight two losing wars..."
He does not mention that it was NOAA's estimates of the size of the spill that started that off at an extreme lowball number. Also does not mention that the maps that NOAA continues to put out do not show the full spread of the oil in the Gulf. This NOAA senior official, whom I do not know personally, mainly alludes to the fact that after years of neglect, NOAA does not have the resources nor Administrative direction to deal with this. .

Time for Salizar to go!

SUBHEAD: Obama picked Ken Salazar (for Interior Dept.) who picked Sylvia Baca (of BP) for MMS to regulate offshore drilling. Oops!

Image above: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stands with Obama costumed as a Texas Oil Baron. From (http://breadline.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/obama-adds-cowboy-to-cabinet).  

By Ken Hertsgaard on 27 May 2010 in The Nation -  

As Barack Obama arrives in Louisiana Friday for his second visit since the BP oil disaster, he faces a defining moment in his presidency. Already, the gusher ranks as the worst environmental catastrophe in American history, and it happened, as Obama says, on his watch. (The US Geological Survey estimates that as much as 39 million gallons of oil have leaked from the BP well, nearly four times as much as the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989.)

So once the president has seen the resulting devastation for himself—the miles and miles of polluted coastal marshes and beaches, the oil-coated birds and marine life struggling to survive, the ruined livelihoods of the local fishermen and women—will he continue to insist that offshore oil drilling be expanded in the United States, but simply under safer operating procedures? Or will he seize this opportunity to reframe the debate and summon America to leave the dirty, dangerous fuels of yesterday behind in favor of the clean, sustainable energy of tomorrow?

Closely related to these choices is a third: will Obama continue to stand by his secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar? One head has already rolled as the administration responds to public anger about its handling of the disaster: Elizabeth Birnbaum, the director of the Interior Department agency in charge of permitting offshore oil operations, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), resigned Thursday morning.

Asked whether Birnbaum had in fact resigned or was fired, Obama said in his press conference Thursday afternoon that he didn't know the circumstances of her departure. He then made a point of expressing support for his Interior Secretary: "I want people...who don't make excuses when things break down but get in there and fix them, and I have confidence Ken Salazar will do that."

Salazar certainly believes in offshore oil drilling, but whether he can be trusted to regulate it is another matter. One wouldn't know it from his recent public statements, but Ken Salazar has long been one of the strongest advocates of offshore oil drilling in Washington. In 2008, as a Democratic Senator from Colorado, he criticized the Bush-Cheney administration for not doing enough to promote offshore drilling. In 2006, Sen. Salazar was the architect of the Gulf of Mexico Economic Security Act, which opened eight million acres of the Gulf to drilling.

In 2009, as Interior Secretary, Salazar oversaw his department's lease of 55 million acres of the Gulf for oil and gas drilling. "The technology today is remarkable," he said, "and we are encouraged by new deep water plays in the Gulf." In 2010, Salazar led the deliberations that resulted in Obama's March 31 endorsement of expanded offshore oil and gas drilling, which made Obama the first Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson to support offshore drilling.

Now, it appears that Salazar may have lied about the Obama administration's promised moratorium on offshore drilling following the BP Deepwater disaster. At the very least, he seems to have misled outsiders—including Congress, the public and perhaps president Obama himself—about what his department has done to halt oil business as usual in the Gulf.

On May 18, Salazar testified to Congress that, responding to Obama's orders, he and his department "hit the pause button" on new drilling permits, adding that "no new deepwater wells have been spudded" (i.e., started) since the April 20 explosion. Later that day, however, a spokesperson for the Interior Department, Matt Lee-Ashley, explained via e-mail that Salazar had "misspoken" before Congress. In truth, a deepwater well was started in the Gulf after April 20, and Salazar's department had issued permits for at least seventeen other new offshore oil projects.

Credit for exposing these actions goes to the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the only environmental organizations to have opposed Salazar's nomination as interior secretary. Shortly after the April 20 explosion, the center unearthed Interior Department records showing that the department's MMS had approved—under Salazar's leadership and without the usual environmental review—the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling operation, as the Washington Post reported on May 5.

Only then did Salazar announce a moratorium on new drilling. In the words of an Interior Department press release on May 6, "no applications for drilling permits will go forward for any new offshore drilling activity" until the department completed a review Obama had requested of the causes of the BP disaster and how similar disasters could be prevented in the future.

Obama received that review today and at his press conference announced a number of apparent restrictions on offshore drilling. The president said he was suspending oil exploration off the coast of Alaska and cancelling lease sales for drilling off the coasts of Louisiana and Virginia. Perhaps most significant, Obama said his administration would extend its existing moratorium on offshore drilling for an additional six months while it pursued "a thoroughgoing scrub of safety procedures."

But Salazar's record both before and after the BP disaster raises serious questions about his fitness to "hold BP accountable," as Obama today pledged to do. In particular, the extension of the administration's existing moratorium may be more of a public relations maneuver than a genuine crackdown on irresponsible permitting.

"After Salazar announced the moratorium [on May 6], we decided to dig deeper into the MMS data base," Kieran Suckling, the CBD executive director, told The Nation. "We found that, in fact, MMS was still issuing permits, even for projects in ultra-deep water, including some 10,000 feet below the surface." (The BP Deepwater well is approximately 5,000 feet below the surface.) "The New York Times broke that story on May 14. That very day, Obama called an unscheduled press conference in the Rose Garden.

His remarks were interesting for two reasons. One, because he spent the first half of his statement talking about what a great job Ken Salazar was doing, which may end up being remembered as Obama's 'You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie' moment in this scandal. And in the second half of his statement, Obama becomes the first administration official to switch the terminology [of the moratorium] from 'no new drilling' to 'no new wells.' In other words, the moratorium would not apply to wells that already exist."

Echoing Obama's Rose Garden statement, a spokesperson for the Interior Department told The Nation that Salazar's May 6 moratorium announcement applied only to applications for new drilling permits (my emphasis), "and no permits to drill new wells have been issued since." The moratorium, it seems, is about as air tight as the drill shaft of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig.

Responding to Obama's press conference today, the Center for Biological Diversity said in a press release, "President Obama's speech follows a month of half-steps and broken promises by the Interior Department since the Deepwater Horizon explosion in which a pledged 'moratorium' on oil drilling turned out to be largely a fiction."

In today's press conference, Obama was clearly trying to appear more engaged and aggressive on the BP disaster, saying the tragedy is the first thing he thinks of every day and the last thing at night. Just this morning, he said, his daughter Malia knocked on his bathroom door while he was shaving to ask, "Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?" Obama also emphasized that the disaster underscores the need for the United States to transition to clean energy technologies. But he then balanced that assertion by acknowledging America will still be using oil ten years from now, and it's better for our national economy and security if we produce it domestically. Offshore drilling clearly remains part of his vision for the nation's energy future.

We've seen this movie before with Obama. When Wall Street nearly crashed the global economy, Obama responded by listening to advisers—notably chief White House economic adviser Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner—whose sympathies lay with the megabanks that gamed the system rather than with the ordinary Americans who paid the price in the form of unemployment slips and foreclosure notices. The bailout plan Obama ended up backing was a great deal for Wall Street, a terrible deal for Main Street. What's more, the president allowed himself to be seen during the bank bailout drama as taking the side of the villains rather than the victims—a damaging and unnecessary political choice.

Now, Obama is in danger of making the same mistake with the BP oil disaster. Substitute Salazar for Geithner, substitute continued offshore oil drilling after the worst environmental disaster in history for continued lax banking regulation after the worst financial breakdown in decades, and the parallel is complete. In his final remark of the press conference, Obama drew the parallel himself, saying, "As in the financial markets, when big crises happen, it forces us to do some soul-searching."

Obama signaled today he wants to look tough on BP and demand exemplary behavior from the oil industry in general. But credibly standing up to Big Oil is difficult when your administration's point man on the issue has long been the industry's chief cheerleader and shows few signs of changing his views. If Obama truly wants to chart a new course in dealing with the BP disaster and accelerating America's transition to a clean energy future, he should start by requesting Ken Salazar's resignation.

BP MMS USA Disaster Explained  
Video above: "Big Mike Breaks it Down". Explains how BP executive got to regulate BP in the Gulf of Mexico. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EegQJBt47hU)  

By Ilyse Hogue on 4 June 2010 for MoveOn.org

What's the connection between oil company executives, wet t-shirt contests, the Department of Interior and the disaster in the gulf? Scary thing is, there is one. Watch Big Mike break it down and connect the dots. Hey, if you're going to stand in front of a blackboard, you might as well use it to actually explain something! 

There's been a lot of finger pointing and a lot of confusion about how we came to face the greatest oil spill in US history. This video lays it out. This problem started in Washington and can end in Washington, but only if President Obama and other elected leaders get real about closing the revolving door between corporate lobbyists and our government. 

Lobbyists make up 2% of Washington DC, yet they've been able to run roughshod over our democracy, rigging the rules and fixing the system so that 98% of the country gets little or no say.
If you think it's time to take our democracy back, we think this is a video you and your friends will want to see. 


Feel Bad? Go Outside!

SUBHEAD: Nature (the "outide") is the source of our of life and health. To be separated from nature (indoors) is to be separated from wellbeing.

Image above: A still frame from the 2007 movie "Into The Wild". From (http://emerson.typepad.com/emerson/2007/10/into-the-wild.html).

By Jamie Heimbuch on 4 June 2010 in TreeHugger.org - (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/06/want-to-feel-more-alive-study-shows-you-need-to-go-outside.php)

We kind of already know this - if not intuitively then through past studies - but a new study has shown that when you spend more time out in nature, you feel more alive. Published in this month's issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, the study shows that getting out and communing with nature is better for feeling rejuvenated than reaching for the ever-so-urban cup of coffee. "Nature is fuel for the soul, " says Richard Ryan, lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. Both physically and mentally, we're zippier when we step into the wild.

Science Daily writes, "The findings, adds Ryan, are important for both mental and physical health. 'Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don't just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings,' says Ryan."

The idea of getting out in nature to improve our spirits and therefore our physical health goes hand in hand with nature deficit disorder - the diminished use of the senses, difficulty with attention and higher rates of illness associated with an estrangement from nature, from the real world. Past studies have even shown that we're kinder, more gentle folks when we feel in-touch with the natural world.

It really should come as no surprise that as we pull ourselves away from the world in which we evolved, that sustains us and keeps us ticking, we're going to function less efficiently. Think about it - how often have we witnessed animals living in captivity just wither away from depression or unexplained illness? Well, humans are animals. We need our green scene.

The authors of this particular study wanted to find out the effects of nature alone, apart from other factors. So, they performed five experiments on 537 college students, including sending them on a 15 minute walk through either a hallway or a tree-lined path, showing scenes of cityscapes or landscapes, and imagining themselves in scenes either sedentary or active, inside or out and with or without others. Across the board, those participants who spent time or imagined themselves in natural settings consistently felt more energetic, and the final results are that if you spend just 20 minutes a day in nature, vitality levels will significantly rise.

"We have a natural connection with living things," says Ryan. "Nature is something within which we flourish, so having it be more a part of our lives is critical, especially when we live and work in built environments."

So, if you're feeling tired, listless, worn out, if you're pooped at parties... Go. Out. Side. In fact, there's an app for that.

Nature Makes Us Nicer People By Jamie Heimbuch on 15 October 2009 in TreeHugger.org - (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/10/nature-makes-us-nicer-people-new-study-says.php) Don't disregard those wall calendars showing far-off nature scenes quite yet. It just might make you a more caring, community-oriented, and generous person. A new study by the University of Rochester found that after looking at nature scenes, people feel closer to their community, are willing to give more money to a charitable cause, and care more about social outcomes than they are after looking at man-made scenes. The reason, the researchers state, it communing with nature helps people also commune with their basic values.

The University of Rochester reports what we all have been savvy to for awhile now, that seeing naturescapes helps reduces stress, and even having a window in a hospital room helps people recover more quickly. "While the salubrious effects of nature are well documented... this study shows that the benefits extend to a person's values and actions. Exposure to natural as opposed to man-made environments leads people to value community and close relationships and to be more generous with money, find [Richard] Ryan and his team of researchers at the University of Rochester.

From experiments including 370 participants, the results show that after viewing urban settings or natural settings, people exposed to natural settings rated close relationships and community higher than they had before seeing the scenes, whereas after viewing urban settings, people placed more value on wealth and fame. Additionally, those who viewed nature scenes were more likely to give higher amounts of money to a good cause.

"Lead author Netta Weinstein says that the findings highlight the importance of creating green spaces in cities and have implication for planners and architects. Incorporating parks and other representations of nature into urban environments may help build a stronger sense of community among residents, she explains. By contrast, "to the extent that our links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with each other," the authors warn."

If it is the case that being around and seeing nature makes us more people-oriented and generous, perhaps we should flood the offices of Copenhagen delegates with plants, scenes from natural settings, and earthy furniture so that they're really ready to negotiate with the future of the planet front and center.


US Military too dependent on GPS

SUBHEAD: A software glitch brought thousands of Air Force weapons systems to their knees for an extended time.

By Dan Elliot on 1 June 2010 for the Associated Press - 

Image above: A USAF GPS postitioned Reaper Drone with GPS guided anti-personnel missiles. From (http://www.strategypage.com/military_photos/military_photos_2008052102710.aspx). 

A problem that rendered as many as 10,000 U.S. military GPS receivers useless for days is a warning to safeguard a system that enemies would love to disrupt, a defense expert says.

The Air Force has not said how many weapons, planes or other systems were affected or whether any were in use in Iraq or Afghanistan. But the problem, blamed on incompatible software, highlights the military's reliance on the Global Positioning System and the need to protect technology that has become essential for protecting troops, tracking vehicles and targeting weapons.

"Everything that moves uses it," said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, which tracks military and homeland security news. "It is so central to the American style of war that you just couldn't leave home without it."

The problem occurred when new software was installed in ground control systems for GPS satellites on Jan. 11, the Air Force said.

Officials said between 8,000 at 10,000 receivers could have been affected, out of more than 800,000 in use across the military.

In a series of e-mails to The Associated Press, the Air Force initially blamed a contractor for defective software in the affected receivers but later said it was a compatibility issue rather than a defect. The Air Force didn't immediately respond to a request for clarification.

The Air Force said it hadn't tested the affected receivers before installing the new software in the ground control system.

One program still in development was interrupted but no weapon systems already in use were grounded as a result of the problem, the Air Force said. The Air Force said some applications with the balky receivers suffered no problems from the temporary GPS loss.

An Air Force document said the Navy's X-47B, a jet-powered, carrier-based drone under development, was interrupted by the glitch. Air Force officials would not comment beyond that on what systems were affected.

Navy spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove confirmed the X-47B's receivers were affected but said it caused no program delays.

At least 100 U.S. defense systems rely on GPS, including aircraft, ships, armored vehicles, bombs and artillery shells.

Because GPS makes weapons more accurate, the military needs fewer warheads and fewer personnel to take out targets. But a leaner, GPS-dependent military becomes dangerously vulnerable if the technology is knocked out.

James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the glitch was a warning "in the context where people are every day trying to figure out how to disrupt GPS."

The Air Force said it took less than two weeks for the military to identify the cause and begin devising and installing a temporary fix. It did not say how long it took to install the temporary fix everywhere it was needed but said a permanent fix is being distributed.

All the affected receivers were manufactured by a division of Trimble Navigation Ltd. of Sunnyvale, Calif., according to the Air Force. The military said it ran tests on some types of receivers before it upgraded ground control systems with the new software in January, but the tests didn't include the receivers that had problems.

The Air Force said it traced the problem to the Trimble receivers' software. Trimble said it had no problems when it tested the receivers, using Air Force specifications, before the ground-control system software was updated.

Civilian receivers use different signals and had no problems.

Defense industry consultant James Hasik said it's not shocking that some receivers weren't tested. GPS started as a military system in the 1970s but has exploded into a huge commercial market, and that's where most innovation takes place.

"It's hard to track everything," said Hasik, co-author of "The Precision Revolution: GPS and the Future of Aerial Warfare."

The Air Force said it's acquiring more test receivers for a broader sample of military and civilian models and developing longer and more thorough tests for military receivers to avoid a repeat of the January problem.

The Air Force said the software upgrade was to accommodate a new generation of GPS satellites, called Block IIF. The first of the 12 new satellites was launched from a Delta 4 rocket Thursday after several delays.

In addition to various GPS guided weapons systems, the Army often issues GPS units to squads of soldiers on patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan. In some cases a team of two or three soldiers is issued a receiver so they can track their location using signals from a constellation of 24 satellites.

Space and Missile Systems Center spokesman Joe Davidson said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the system is safe from hackers or enemy attack.

"We are extremely confident in the safety and security of the GPS system from enemy attack," he said, noting that control rooms are on secure military bases and communications are heavily encrypted.

"Since GPS' inception, there has never been a breach of GPS," Davidson said. He added that Air Force is developing a new generation of encrypted military receivers for stronger protection.

The military also has tried to limit the potential for human error by making the GPS control system highly automated, Davidson said.

GPS satellites orbit about 12,000 miles above Earth, making them hard to reach with space weapons, said Hasik, the defense industry consultant. And if the GPS master control station at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., were knocked out, a backup station at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., could step in.

Iraq tried jamming GPS signals during the 2003 U.S. invasion, but the U.S. took out the jammer with a GPS-guided bomb, Hasik said.

The organizational skills required to jam GPS over a broad area are beyond the reach of groups like the Taliban and most Third World nations, Hasik said.

"The harder you try to mess with it, the more energy you need. And the more energy you use, the easier it is for me to find your jammer," Hasik said.

More worrisome, Hasik said, is the potential for an accident within U.S. ranks that can produce anything from an errant bomb to sending troops or weaponry on the wrong course.

In 2001, a GPS-guided bomb dropped by a Navy F-18 missed its target by a mile and landed in a residential neighborhood of Kabul, possibly killing four people. The military said wrong coordinates had been entered into the targeting system..

Gulf of Mexico Magic Techno Fix

SUBHEAD: "Magical Thinking" about healing the BP Gulf Gusher is anything but real magic or science. Image above: Detail of cover art for "Magical Thinking" by Augusten Burroughs, 2004. From (http://www.goodisdead.com/index.php?/work/entry/magical_thinking_2004). By John Michael Greer on 2 June 2010 in the Archdruid Report - (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2010/06/magical-thinking.html) As I write these words, the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico continues unchecked. It seems almost obscene to suggest that anything positive might come out of an oil spill that is already the largest in US history, and of course it’s true that whatever good might be salvaged from the situation will offer little consolation to the ravaged ecosystems and destroyed communities of the Gulf. Still, as teacher and Foxfire founder Eliot Wigginton noted, learning is only made possible by failure, and a failure this gargantuan and many-sided can at least offer us some pointed lessons for the future. Most of those, to be sure, should have been obvious a long time ago. The fantasy of technological potency that leads the great majority of Americans, and slightly smaller majorities elsewhere in the industrial world, to think that any imaginable difficulty must have a promptly available technical solution, has been wearing thin for some time. Still, the spectacle of one of the world’s largest oil companies trying to shove chunks of used automobile tire down an undersea gusher in a failed attempt to stanch the flow has enough of a comic opera quality to lead to hard questions about just how well prepared we are to handle the downside of our own technologies once those have been pushed to the wall by the hard limits of geology and physics. It will take time for those questions to be asked by more than a very small minority, and even longer for the answers to find their way into the collective conversation of our time. Right now, a great many people seem to be stuck in the same kind of unreason that led travelers stranded by the Eyjafjallajokull eruptions earlier this spring to pound their fists on airline employees’ desks and demand that somebody do something to get the ash out of the air. Equally useless demands that BP, or the US government, or somebody, get out there and stop the oil spill right away, have filled the media of late. It seems very hard for many people to grasp that all the possible ways to stop the spill right away have been tried and have failed, and that the one real hope left – the hard work of drilling a relief well next to the one that’s spewing oil into the Gulf, so that cement can be injected far enough down the borehole to matter – can’t be completed before August at the earliest, and could possibly take until the end of the year. The gap between that bitter reality and the fantasy of instant techno-fulfillment that plays so large a role in the modern mind has been filled, on most peak oil websites, with a flurry of comments proposing a dizzying assortment of impractical gimmicks to deal with the crisis. Perhaps the saddest of these is the insistence, repeated even by people who ought to know better, that the US ought to use a nuclear weapon against the well. This particular bit of uninspired lunacy takes various forms. Some suggest setting off a warhead at the wellhead; somehow they’ve managed not to notice the impact of the resulting tsunami on all the oil platforms and pipelines in the Gulf, just for starters. Others insist that a warhead ought to be lowered down the well bore; of course this fails to deal with the fact that the bore is jammed with wrecked drilling hardware, not to mention full of hot, sand-laden crude oil blasting up from the depths at a pressure of 13,000 pounds per square inch, not much less than that used in industrial machinery to make water cut holes in solid metal. Still others propose drilling a hole down next to the existing well and putting the warhead down that; here again, by the time a hole wide enough to admit even a small tactical warhead could be drilled to that level, the relief wells now under way will be long finished. The notion that a nuclear weapon is the answer to BP’s undersea gusher is conclusive evidence, if any more were needed, that reasonable thought has gone right out the window. Admittedly it’s only fair to say that this happened with nuclear weapons a long time ago. To a frightening extent, the US nuclear arsenal has become a phallic talisman of national omnipotence that serves mostly to help Americans distract themselves from the waning of the real foundations of their country’s former hegemony. If that arsenal ever ceases to be militarily useful – and it’s probably a safe bet that China, to name only one likely candidate, has scores of laboratories working right now on technologies to make that happen, paid by the billions a year we spend to import salad shooters and cheap electronics – our national nervous breakdown may be one for the record books. Still, there’s a sense in which it’s unfair to critique the proponents of nuking BP’s oil well merely because their plan won’t work and could very easily make an already catastrophic situation even worse. These are difficulties in putting the plan into practice, and it’s not supposed to be put into practice. It serves, rather, as an incantation, a way to banish the appalling awareness that neither you, nor I, nor anyone else except the fairly small number people actually struggling to deal with the well, can do anything about it. Incantations of this sort make up a remarkably large fraction of the talk about peak oil and the future of industrial society these days. Get into an online conversation on the subject, for example, and you can be all but certain that at least one of the people involved will pipe up with a plan to solve it. It doesn’t matter at all that, much more than nine times out of ten, the person proposing the plan is doing nothing to make it happen, and neither is anybody else. The plan is not meant to happen. It’s meant to dispell the profoundly troubling sense that the future is spinning out of control and there’s not actually all that much that we can do about it. Grand plans of this kind are hardly the only sort of incantation being chanted at the moment. A claim splashed across the cornucopian end of the internet in recent weeks insists that the world has enough readily available crude oil to keep going at the present rate of production for 800 years. To describe this as the end product of a horse’s digestive tract is to insult honest manure; not one scrap of evidence backs such a claim, but then evidence is beside the point when you’re composing an incantation. The logic that underlies this kind of incantatory communication is often called “magical thinking” nowadays. There’s a deep irony in this phrase, since this kind of thinking is exactly what mages – actual practitioners of magic – don’t do. I’ve generally avoided talking about magic in these essays, but this is a context where that can’t be avoided. I’d like to ask those of my readers who have religious or rationalist objections to magic to keep reading; they may be surprised by some of what follows. Probably the best place to start that discussion is with an elegant volume that’s sitting on the desk next to my keyboard as I type these words. Scarlet Imprint, a small British magical publisher, has just released an anthology about the crisis of our time titled XVI; students of magical symbolism will recognize this gnomic label as a reference to the sixteenth arcanum of the Tarot, which shows a tower being blown to smithereens. I have an essay in it; so do sixteen other contemporary mages; I’d be indulging in absurdity if I claimed to agree with more than a part of what’s in the book, but one thing not to be found in its pages is the sort of “magical thinking” just mentioned. There’s a reason for this. One of the most distinguished 20th century theoreticians and practitioners of magic, Dion Fortune, defined magic as “the art and science of causing change in consciousness in accordance with will.” (If that doesn’t sound like a recipe for making broomsticks fly, you’re beginning to catch on.) The basic tools of the mage are will and imagination; the raw materials he or she works with are symbolism and ritual – “poetry in the realm of acts,” as Fortune’s near-contemporary Ross Nichols defined that last term. The point of magic, as Fortune’s definition suggests, is changing states and contents of consciousness; it can have effects on the material world as well, but that normally involves influencing beings that bridge the gap between mind and matter – you and me, for example. Exactly what can and can’t be done by way of will and imagination, working through emotionally powerful symbols and ritual psychodrama, is a question on which not all mages agree. Still, I don’t know of anyone in the field who claims to be able to levitate a broom, say, or to do any of the other things that make up the stock in trade of fantasy magicians. If magic instead of science had come out on top in the reality wars of the late Renaissance, we might all be watching movies in which mysterious scientists in white lab coats mutter algebraic formulae, climb astride giant test tubes, and zoom off to the Moon; compare that to real science, and you’ve got some sense of the gap between Harry Potter and real magic. This is why serious mages generally roll their eyes when somebody comes along and insists that we ought to be able to solve physical problems – for example, shortages of material substances – with what amounts to magic. This happens quite often; I can usually count on hearing from somebody every month or so who thinks that because I’ve written several books on magic, and serve as the presiding officer of a contemporary Druid order, I ought to agree with them that we can conjure some replacement for petroleum out of thin air, or in some other way produce a world much more comfortable than the one we’ve got, by some change in consciousness or other. They tend to be rather discomfited when I explain to them, as gently as possible, that they’ve made a very elementary mistake in magical theory. The technical term for it is confounding the planes; “the planes of existence,” an old axiom has it, “are discrete and not continuous” – which means in plain English that mind is mind, matter is matter, and making the transition from mind to matter is not an easy, much less an automatic, thing; it has to be done in specific ways, and with careful attention to the very real limits of the material world. Now this does not mean that magic is useless in the face of the predicament of the industrial world. The problem is that the changes in consciousness that would actually do some good are changes that next to nobody in the industrial world is willing to make: for example, a shift in priorities that deliberately embraces poverty, accepting a rich personal, intellectual, and social life as a substitute for, or even an improvement on, the material extravagance that the industrial nations currently offer their more favored inmates. That change in consciousness is certainly accessible to each and every one of us; human beings just like us have been making it for many thousands of years; but it requires a rare willingness to step outside of the approved habits and ideas of modern industrial cultures. Striking a rebellious pose and claiming originality is very fashionable these days; actually rejecting the conventional wisdom of our time, and thinking thoughts that conflict with those of one’s contemporaries, is less common now than it was in the supposedly conformist Fifties. I’ve come to suspect that one of the principal reasons for that, and more generally for the remarkable way in which today’s industrial societies are continuing to sleepwalk toward the abyss, is precisely the habit of incantation discussed earlier in this post. The internet is the natural home of incantation; discussions on email lists and online forums, bereft of the subtleties of normal human communication, often turn into a duel of incantations that the loudest and most intransigent voice generally wins. Now it’s worth noting that incantation is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used or misused. There are plenty of contexts in which the skillful use of incantations can have beneficial effects. Assure yourself repeatedly that you can accomplish some task that is in fact within your powers, for example, and your odds of accomplishing it go up significantly; assure yourself repeatedly that it’s out of your reach, and your chances of failure do the same. Still, using incantations as a nonchemical tranquilizer to ward off stress, and to assure yourself that everything is fine when everything is not fine, is much more problematic. In a time of crisis when keeping a level head and going on with life is crucial, it can have a valid place, but if it’s being used to drown out the still small voice that warns of approaching danger, it’s an invitation to disaster. In next week’s post, however, I propose to offer a counterspell. .