The God Particle found?

SUBHEAD: The Large Hadron Collider may have found the Higg boson particle thought to endow matter with mass.  

By Ian O'Neill on 10 December 2011 for ABC News -  
(http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/higgs-boson-rumors-fly-god-particle-announcement-cern/story?id=15124806#.TuZTO0pfW2B)

 
Image above: The Large Hadron Collider at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), near Geneva, Switzerland. From (http://4add.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/large-hadron-collider-rumoured-to-have-found-god-particle/).
 
This could be the announcement we've all been waiting for.



As soon as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) revved up its supercooled electromagnets in 2008 -- which promptly "quenched" (read: broke down in a very expensive way) and then restarted the following year -- it's been the one piece of news the world has been eagerly awaiting: confirmation of the discovery of one of the Universe's most secretive particles -- the Higgs boson.

After gazillions of particle collisions and countless rumors of Higgs discoveries, we have... yet another rumor of a Higgs discovery. But this time, the rumor seems to be meatier than ever.

ANALYSIS: What is the LHC Trying to Accomplish?

According to PhysicsWorld.com, CERN's Scientific Policy Committee will be meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 13) to discuss, amongst other things, an update on the search for the Higgs boson. Teams from the LHC's ATLAS and CMS experiments will be in attendance.

Interestingly, as noted by the Guardian.co.uk's science correspondent Ian Sample, the head scientists of the two groups will be there to give the Higgs update. "That in itself is telling – usually more junior researchers present updates on the search for the missing particle," Sample pointed out in his Dec. 6 article.

Apart from the heads of ATLAS and CMS being there, why all the excitement?

According to comments left on a number of particle physics blogs, the word is that the LHC is closing in on the Higgs.

SCIENCE CHANNEL VIDEO: Large Hadron Collider
The Higgs boson is theorized to be the "force carrier" of the Higgs field -- a field thought to permeate the entire Universe, endowing matter with mass. Only by using powerful particle accelerators like the LHC do we stand a chance of seeing these mysterious particles.

Apparently, both the ATLAS and CMS experiments are independently seeing a Higgs signal, and the predicted mass of the particle agrees with the experimental results. In particle physics-speak, the Higgs appears to have a mass of 125 GeV (giga­electronvolts).

The upshot is that if this is proven, one of physics' bedrock theories -- the Standard Model -- is holding steady. If the Higgs does exist with this mass, then perhaps some more tricky Universal mysteries can be resolved.

If the insider-trading-like rumors are substantiated, the ATLAS detection has been measured to a 3.5-sigma certainty and the CMS result has been measured to a 2.5-sigma certainty. All these "sigmas" may not mean much, but they are a measure of the statistical certainty of a given result.
ANALYSIS: What is the Higgs Boson?
In an earlier Discovery News article Sean Carroll, senior research associate in the Department of Physics at Caltech, shed some light on what this means.

"Three-sigma events happen occasionally, especially when you look at a lot of data," he said. "But it could be real."

At 3.5-sigma, the ATLAS measurement has a 0.1 percent chance of being a "random fluke." The 2.5-sigma result has a 1 percent chance of being a fluke. With those odds, it's little wonder there's some excitement stirring. However, particle physicists are meticulous about their statistics before going public with any discovery.

"Three-sigma isn't seen as a 'discovery,' but it would be strong evidence for the existence of the Higgs," said Jon Butterworth, an LHC physicist working with the ATLAS detector. "Really, a 'five-sigma' is classed as a discovery. Five-sigma is the 'Gold Standard.'"
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Agreement on landmark climate deal

SUBHEAD: It's a major development that all countries have decided to go into a global binding agreement on CO2 emmisions by 2015.  

By Richard Harris on 11 December 2011 for NPR -  
(http://www.npr.org/2011/12/11/143532103/global-deal-reached-in-wee-hours-of-climate-talks?sc=17&f=1001)

 
Image above: Exhausted delegates worked into the early hours of Sunday morning on the final day of the climate talks in Durban, South Africa. From original article.

After a third sleepless night, climate negotiators in Durban, South Africa, finally found a way to reach a compromise early Sunday morning. The deal doesn't set hoped-for new targets to limit global warming, but delegates ultimately decided to embrace it rather than risk a major collapse of this international process. Few people had high expectations for this year's annual round of United Nations climate talks.

The main hope was to finalize an agreement reached in principle the year before — that is, establishing a major new fund to help funnel billions of dollars from rich nations to poor nations. That will help them adapt to a changing climate and to produce clean energy so they don't contribute so much to climate change themselves. They got that deal. Europe also agreed to keep the Kyoto treaty alive for at least five years.

But ambitions also grew, and by 1 a.m. Sunday, European Union Environment Commissioner Connie Hedegaard expressed the nervous excitement in the room.

 "We are now on the brink of getting more," she said. "We are on the brink; it is within our reach to get what the world is waiting for and what only few thought would happen now." That was an agreement that would chart a course for a legally binding climate pact that would include all the major emitters, including China, the United States and India.

That has been a hard-fought battle because up until now, China and India have been treated as developing countries, exempt from reducing their emissions. India's spokeswoman, Jayanthi Natarajan, took strong exception to the suggestion they would be put on the same legal footing as the rich nations of the world in an as-yet undefined agreement.

 "How do I give blank check, and give a legally binding agreement to sign away the rights of 1.2 billion people — and many other people in the developing world?" she said. "Is that equity, Madam? I ask you, is that equity?"

 For a tense hour, it seemed that disagreement over this issue would sink the talks. There was a long series of speeches, going back and forth on this issue. Finally, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane called a huddle of the major players in a last-gasp effort to find compromise language. That worked. The deal was made 14 years to the day that this U.N. group negotiated the Kyoto climate treaty in Japan.

The deal maintains momentum for a series of climate talks that have been divided over issues like the ones India brought up – like just how much special dispensation is due to the world's developing nations, some of whom are also major emitters of carbon dioxide. Jennifer Morgan at the World Resources Institute saw a lot of good in the agreement. "It's mixed," she said. "I think it's a major development that all countries have decided to go into a global binding agreement and negotiate that by 2015." That's a major accomplishment for the U.S. government, which has been trying to make that happen for more than 15 years, she says.

The downside for her and many others in the room is that the pledges between now and 2020 are still far substantially short of what's required to rein in climate change. No doubt, negotiators will come back to exactly that issue when these talks pick up again next year.

 See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Hope in Durban 12/10/11

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The Cookie Crumbles

SUBHEAD: Obama's job was to lead an epochal re-set of the economy to a very different disposition of things, smaller, finer, more local.  

By James Kunstler on 12 December 2011 for Kunstler.com - 
  (http://kunstler.com/blog/2011/12/the-cookie-crumbles.html)

 
Image above: Michelle Obama showing the Christmas cookies she made together with the kids of U.S. servicemen. From (http://wonderaday.com/blog/The_White_House_Is_Ready_For_Christmas_Holidays/).


A lot can happen in two weeks, which is what remains before the glorious orgy of gifts, sugar plums, and roast goose. Imagine what a global bank run would do for that ole holiday spirit - not to mention the GDPs of the world. Oh, weeping celestial choirs! I suppose we generally assume that God Almighty himself would move heaven and Earth to prevent such a dire convergence of Christmas and a banking collapse, but perhaps the Old Diety is asleep at the switch like the US Department of Justice, the SEC, and a whole alphabet load of other watchful regulators in this, our only known universe.

Reality is a harsh mistress. She insists that you pay attention and then, having done so, take care of business. Politics, on the other hand, is more like stage magic. The man in the tuxedo is always trying to divert your attention. The world has run out of money, that is credible money of the type that represents real wealth, and yet is up to its ears in paper representations of putative wealth-like stuff: mortgages, credit default swaps, Gold ETFs, synthetic CDOs, naked shorts, bonds of all sorts.

And now, alas, at Christmas time, the world has gotten a margin call and needs to fork over a whole lot of collateral in order to demonstrate that the global system of financial obligations is legit. Only the collateral turns out to be all this dubious paper, really just a bouquet of promises to pay in distant future Tuesdays for trillions of hamburgers today.

Nobody who observed the proceedings in last week's European Union talks came away from that spectacle feeling reassured. Brussels is like a ventriloquist's dummy sitting on Germany's knee. Germany cannot just step up and act like the Boss of Europe. Too many bad memories of an earlier instance, when a gang of maniacs wearing uniforms studded with grinning totenkopf insignia turned the whole region into a charnel house. So, Germany has to pretend to speak through Brussels. The message was: listen up all y'all nations of the Eurozone! Prepare to live on a whole lot less than you're used to! Do not exceed your borrowing and spending! Or else!

Yes, the lingering question: or else...what?

It is safe to say that nobody believed this mummery. Anyway, Great Britain (a.k.a. Old Blighty) simply checked out. The sceptered isle is now Europe's dog-house. They stayed out of the Euro currency for a reason: so that their equivalent of Wall Street, the City of London, could short the shit out of it when the time came, a strategy that begins to look absolutely brilliant - except considering what Old Blighty is otherwise left with as an economy: Scotch whiskey, mints, and a whole lot of Hallel grocery shops, with the Royals as window dressing. (I'd sooner invest in Argentina, with its amber waves of grain.)

The old animosities are leaking out of Pandora's History Box. Stolid Angela Merkel is stepping on Nikolas Sarkozy's size 14 ½ neck - how long before he starts to buck and holler? The astrologasters cannot come up with any math that shows Italy can meet its forthcoming debt payments. But they are only the leaders of a deadbeat posse that includes virtually everybody else in EuroClub, except perhaps Holland, Germany, and Finland.

Could they really start beating up on each other with armies again? It would appear unthinkable. But that is exactly why the First World War destroyed the morale of Western Civ in 1914, too, after the Long Peace that followed the Napoleonic Wars. You're standing there on a lovely street corner in Verdun and the unthinkable whaps you upside the head. So much for the quality of advanced thinking in the Modern Age. Maybe its Poland's turns to rule the world?

In any case, the storyline is as much about the banks as the nations they are in. The banks are at the point where they can conduct business with each other only by pretending that exchanges of value are taking place. Nobody sees any lines of depositors forming on the sidewalks outside their branch offices, but then again nobody can see the digital zeros and ones streaming through the fiber-optic cable, either, and that's certainly where the action is. For the moment that action has a direct line into the perceived greater safety of Wall Street.

Oh, yeah, follow Jim Cramer's advice and buy buy buy. Invest in a nation of lawless slobs with a two-second attention span oscillating between Nascar and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Did you catch President Obama on 60 Minutes last night. Charming fellow. Sincere and even purposeful, too. But displaying a big patch of cluelessness, like virtually everybody else in a position of authority in this benighted land. The President intimates that we will surely return to the turbo economy of a fast-receding yore. He is missing something big there. We are not going back to that.

The fiesta is over.

And his job is not to try to go back there, because it is impossible. His job was to lead an epochal re-set of the economy to a very different disposition of things, smaller, finer, more local. It is so far outside the box he's in that light-years cannot even begin to describe the distances involved. And I completely dismiss his claim that the reason no prosecution of Wall Street misconduct happened was because, however odious their schemes and scams were, they were technically legal.

Anyway, I'm already looking forward to the nominating conventions of next summer, when angry mobs of the swindled and desperate descend on Charlotte and Tampa like ravaging locusts. Won't that be a wake up call!

And now to bake all my Christmas Cookies.

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One High Day

SUBHEAD: The blessings of a bong - a single gorgeous meal and a few laughs after weeks of chemotherapy and nausea.  

By Marie Myung-Ok Lee on 10 December 2011 for the New York Times -  
(http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/10/opinion/medical-marijuana-and-the-memory-of-one-high-day.html)

 
Image above: Woman smoking medical marijuana. From (http://medicalmarijuana411.com/mmj411_v3/?cat=4275&paged=2).



When my mother-in-law was in the final, harrowing throes of pancreatic cancer, she had only one good day, and that was the day she smoked pot.

So I was heartened when, at the end of last month, the governors of Washington and Rhode Island petitioned the Obama administration to classify marijuana as a drug that could be prescribed and distributed for medical use. While medical marijuana is legal in 16 states, it is still outlawed under federal law.

My husband and I often thought of recommending marijuana to his mother. She was always nauseated from the chemotherapy drugs and could barely eat for weeks. She existed in a Percocet and morphine haze, constantly fretting that the sedation kept her from saying all the things she wanted to say to us, but unable to face the pain without it. And this was a woman who had such a high tolerance for pain, coupled with a distaste for drugs, that she insisted her dentist not use Novocain and gave birth to her two children without anesthesia. But despite marijuana’s power to relieve pain and nausea without loss of consciousness, we were afraid she would find even the suggestion of it scandalous. This was 1997, and my mother-in-law was a very proper, law-abiding woman, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College in the 1950s. She’d never even smoked a cigarette.

But then an older family friend who worked in an AIDS hospice came bearing what he said was very good quality marijuana. To our surprise, she said she’d consider it. My husband and I — though we knew nothing about marijuana paraphernalia — were dispatched to find a bong, as the friend suggested water-processing might make the smoking easier for her. We found ourselves in a head shop in one of the seedier neighborhoods in New Haven, where my husband went to graduate school, listening attentively to the clerk as he went over the finer points of bong taxonomy, finally just choosing one in her favorite color, lilac.

She had us take her out on the flagstone patio because she refused to smoke in her meticulously kept-up house. Then she looked about nervously, as if expecting the police to jump out of the bushes. She found it awkward and strange to smoke a bong, but after a few tries managed to get in two and a half hits.

And then she said she wanted to go out to eat.

For the past month, we’d been trying to get her to eat anything: fresh-squeezed carrot juice made in a special juicer, Korean rice gruel that I simmered for hours, soups, oatmeal, endless cans of Ensure. Sometimes she’d request some particular dish and we’d eagerly procure it, only to have her refuse it or fall back asleep before taking a bite. But this time she sat down at her favorite restaurant and ordered a gorgeous meal: whitefish poached with lemon, hot buttered rolls, salad — and ate every bite.

Then she wanted to go to Kimball’s, a local ice cream place famous for cones topped with softball-size scoops. The family had been regular customers starting all the way back when my husband and his brother were children, but they hadn’t been there since her illness. My husband and I shared a small cone, which we could not finish, and looked on in awe as my mother-in-law ordered a large and, queenishly spurning any requests for a taste, polished the whole thing off — cone and all — and declared herself satisfied.

We were of course raring to make the magic happen again, but it never did. The pot just frightened her too much. She was scared her friend would be arrested for interstate drug trafficking, that my husband and I would be mugged in New Haven; she was afraid she’d become addicted or (à la “Reefer Madness”) go insane. It was difficult watching her reject something that had so clearly alleviated her nausea and pain and — let’s admit it — lightened her mood in the face of the terrible fact that cancer had invaded nearly every essential organ. And it was even worse to watch her pumped, instead, full of narcotics that made her feel horrible. The Percocet gave her a painfully dry mouth, but even ice chips made her heave. We were reduced to swabbing her lips with little sponges dipped in water, and waiting out her agony.

My husband and I have dredged up the memory of that one good day many times since, how she smiled and joked, for the last time seeming a little like her old self.

After the funeral, saying goodbye to all the family and friends, supervising the removal of the hospital bed, bedpans and related paraphernalia, one of the last things my husband and I did, under the watchful eyes of the hospice nurse, was destroy her remaining Percocets. We opened the multiple bottles and knelt in front of the toilet to perform this secular water rite, wishing there had been other days, other ways, a softer way for her to leave us.

• Marie Myung-Ok Lee, the author of the novel “Somebody’s Daughter,” teaches writing at Brown University.
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Hope in Durban

SUBHEAD: UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, enter chaotic finale that may lead to an agreement.  

By Richar Black on 10 December 2011 for the BBC - 
  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16124670)

 
Image above: Detail of illustration for climate article in Rolling Stone by Matt Mahurin. From (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/climate-of-denial-20110622).
 
At UN climate talks in South Africa, the host government says agreement has been reached on many of the key issues.

But some delegations are very unhappy with elements of the draft text drawn up by the hosts, in particular on the "roadmap" to a binding global deal.

The EU and many small, poor nations want a legally-binding deal that will curb emissions well before 2020.

But the draft text talks only of curbs after 2020, and does not specify a legally-binding outcome.

"The latest text is not acceptable to us and to many other parties," said UK Climate Secretary Chris Huhne.

"The UK, as part of the EU, will continue to push for the most credible deal that meets the needs of the science."

Many other issues are tied up in long documents before delegates, who have embarked on a series of official sessions at which all the texts must be approved.

If they cannot reach agreement, there is a real prospect of talks collapsing.
'Lack of urgency'
Small-group meetings are also continuing on the main points, though it is hard to see what can be achieved, given the incompatibility of the basic positions.

An added complication is that some ministers have already left, with the meeting running more than a day beyond its scheduled close.

The South African hosts have come in for a lot of criticism over a perceived lack of strategy and urgency.

And the new draft text appears to go back towards the position of the few big, important countries opposing a strong deal - the US, Brazil, China, and India among them.

"There's so much clarity about the crisis - when even the International Energy Agency says 'you've got five years', it couldn't be clearer," said Tim Gore, senior policy adviser with Oxfam.

"And if they can't find a way to solve it with everyone in the room, they have to do it with those that want to, leaving the US behind."

What delayed matters further was a fake text issued apparently by the South African presidency after consultation with the EU, US, Brazil, India and China.
Consternation and fury
It contained weaker targets and longer timescales, and was initially greeted with consternation by the EU, Aosis and the LDCs, which have been pressing hardest for a strong deal.

The consternation turned to fury when it was discovered that the text was fake. European officials said it appeared to be a deliberate attempt to stall negotiations.

The perpetrator has not been identified. But it appears likely that the aim was to fracture the ad-hoc partnership between the EU and its developing world allies.

The real earlier draft, released on Saturday morning, proposed that the "roadmap" towards a new deal encompassing all countries would begin in the New Year and complete by 2015 at the latest, to come into force at an unspecified later stage.

If also spelled out the fact that there is a mismatch, a gap, between the pledges countries have already made on cutting emissions and the cuts necessary to keep global temperatures within 2C of pre-industrial levels.

Developing countries have insisted that EU nations must put their existing pledges on restricting emissions under the Kyoto Protocol; and this appears to have survived through to the latest text.

It would not mean tougher cuts in Europe in the near future, but it would put EU pledges under an international legal framework.

Agreement on managing the Green Climate Fund, which will eventually gather and disburse finance amounting to $100bn per year to help poor countries develop cleanly and adapt to climate impacts, also appears within reach.

But with disagreement clearly manifesting itself in early exchanges in the formal sessions, everything could be held hostage to the main disagreement on the roadmap.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Pacific nation to get off fossil fuel 12/9/11
Ea O Ka Aina: The Fast Lane 12/7/11

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Pacific nation to get off fossil fuel

SOURCE: Brad Parsons (mauibrad@hotmail.com)
SUBHEAD: Micro-state Tokelau will switch to renewable energy, challenging nations at COPS17 follow its lead.  

By John Vidal on 8 December 2011 fin The Guardian - 
  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/08/pacific-micro-state-renewable-energy)

 
Image above: Photo of boat in Nokunonu Lagoon in Tokelau. From (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokelau).

Tokelau, a Pacific micro-state with only 1,500 people and three cars, today challenged world leaders at the UN climate talks in Durban to follow its lead and switch entirely to renewable energy. The pinprick of low-lying land halfway between new Zealand and Hawaii, is two days' boat ride – and no aeroplane – from anywhere.

But, cyclones permitting, next September it will switch off its old diesel generators and be powered by a $7.5m solar PV system designed to provide 90% of its energy. The rest will come from home-made coconut oil. "If all goes to plan, the three islands of Tokelau will formally lead the world in percentage reduction in the use of fossil fuels, will be number one leader in carbon emissions savings per person, and number one renewable energy country," said Foua Toloa, the ulu, or head, of the New Zealand protectorate.

"We stand to lose the most of any country in the world due to climate change and the rising sea levels, so leading the way by making the highest per person investment in the wold is a message to the world to do something," he said "It took me 64 hours to get here. Before I left my eldest daughter said: 'Go challenge the world in Durban to match or better the renewable energy targets we have set ourselves and which we will meet next year,'" said Toloa. "We will be among the first to go under water. Already we are suffering extreme weather, storm surges, droughts, coral-bleaching, inundation of land and groundwater salination.

The islanders, who depend on fish, can grow only a few crops on their 12sq kilometres of land." This year, because of a seven month long drought and a series of cyclones, which contaminated the underground water supplies, the islanders could not access water for the first time ever and have started to import it.

Other Pacific islands have considered relocating their populations, but not Tokelau. "We have no intention of leaving. This is a God-given land, we have a culture, a language, an identity and a heritage. We want to preserve Tokelau for future generations.

 "My heart is heavy. Climate change does not distinguish between colour or race. It is an everyday reality here. It is our life. If nothing comes from this meeting, then we will continue to suffer," he said. Tokelau's switch to renewables is expected to encourage scores of other islands. It expects to save 12,000 tonnes of CO2 over the life of the 1MW solar power plant – around 1,600 times the annual CO2 emissions of the average person in the UK. Tokelau will also have no more worries over changing fuel prices and intermittent supplies.

"No more noisy generators will disturb the quiet of the islands. We will be an example to the world, even though we have done nothing to deserve this," said Toloa. The only trouble is the tiny state must find $900,000 as its share of the $7.5m project. "That is why we are hoping that the green climate fund is established in the next few days. It is very urgent," he said.
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Economic Canabalism

SUBHEAD: As the Eurozone economy collapses you're either at the table or on the menu. And that means you. By Ilargi on 8 December 2011 for the Automatic Earth - (http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/2011/12/december-8-2011-youre-either-at-table.html) [Editor's note: This is the beginning and end of a long Ilargi post. For the middle go to link above.] Image above: Creepy illustrated advertizement for "Cellophane" ("Cannabalism"). Mashed by Juan Wilson. From (http://www.fedupusa.org/2011/11/calling-it-what-it-is/). Earlier today, in a fancy location in Brussels, - no, you're right, they probably had it €500 a plate catered, can't take the risk of venturing out into the real world where the people live they're supposed to represent-, one bullet-proof limo after another arrived to deliver the honorable hoi polloi from 27 EU countries and their servants for an informal gala dinner during which they could, in hard-fought peace, discuss the maximum extent to which austerity measures can be taken in various member countries without provoking outright civil war. Security costs? Just a few million bucks; what are you insinuating? We do this every week. And I'm thinking: the limo's may be bullet proof, but they're certainly not fool proof. It links up perfectly with something the Polish Prime Minister said to his MPs this week: "You're either at the table or you're on the menu." Only, he meant his country's government should have a say in what goes on (not just France and Germany). He did not mean the people of Poland themselves should be at the table. They are, like all other European people who were not delivered by bullet-proof limo to attend the dinner, very much on the menu. It's the 1% vs the 99%. "European leaders Merkel and Sarkozy have reached "complete agreement" (mostly) on a new treaty that would restrict the budgeting and size of future deficits for eurozone nations. ", or so I read somewhere this week. Sounds great guys! Problem is, though, that the problem is not future deficits, it's present ones. What do you have for those? Thing is, they have nothing. The EFSF stability fund was supposed to be leveraged up to €2 trillion or more. Not happening. The ECB was supposed to buy trillions in useless and worthless sovereign periphery bonds. Not happening. Geez, wonder why. Incestuously adding the EFSF to its own daughter (just temporarily..), the ESM; actually proposed. But not going to happen. The busiest people today and tomorrow in Brussels at the EU meeting are the spin doctors. It’s about form, not content. Not what you say, but how you say it. They have nothing. The interests of the countries involved are by now so far apart, it's somewhat insane that Merkel and Sarkozy even try to maintain that "we're all in this together" stance. Well, then again, they have by now both realized what predicament they're in. There's no way out that would allow either to keep their jobs. So they're together in that at least. But it's not going to be for their lack of trying! For the financial markets, Merkel and Sarkozy, and all the rest of Europe, have long since lost all credibility. So they may pretend to be still in control, but there is no such thing as control without credibility. It’s all about faking it from here on in. Look, the US has a constitution. The EU has 27 different constitutions. Some modeled after England, some after France, some after the US, and some just made it up as they went along. There are lawyers and judges in all these 27 countries that know their respective constitutions. And I'll leave you a wild guess as to how many of them stipulate that you can't just sign away broad based sovereign powers and rights to Brussels or anyone else without first consulting your parliament and/or your people. Whichever grand scheme comes out of this summit will have to, if it were to be any good in achieving any of the goals they're aiming for, include parts that violate the constitutions of at least some of the 27 EU members. Cue referendums, cue elections, cue many months of delay that isn't realistically available. Most European banks, all 17 Eurozone countries, all 27 EU countries, the EFSF and the EU itself are now all under credit downgrade watch. If there is no grand enough plan on Friday evening, S&P, Moody’s and Fitch will start picking them off one by one, downgrade by downgrade. With devastating consequences for the Eurozone: the downgrades will be perceived and taken as accumulative, not separate. Can't do the math, you're not alone. Just watch it unfold. Which will in turn lead to higher interest rates on sovereign bonds, which will lead to less growth (make that more contraction), which will lead to more austerity, which will lead to less growth, which will lead to more downgrades etc. Yes, children, deflation is a bitch. But even then, going forward the sovereign issues will turn into nothing more than a sideshow. The banks will be the main issue from here on in. If there is no consensus within the EU to support European banks (and how could there be with both French and German - and everyone else's - banks on the perch?), that will be even more apparent, but even apart from that fight, things are plenty ominous. The whole H. Mary Dumpty is falling to pieces, and there isn't a Merkel in the land to put it back together again. While the EU leaders talk about sovereign debt issues, they are being overtaken and incapacitated by what's happening in the banking world. It really doesn’t matter what they decide. The smart people in the markets have long since realized that there are so many vulnerabilities in the very system they make their money in. They can sit back, pick off countries and financial institutions one by one, get rich, eat grapes, boink their servants and play their harps while Rome burns and loves them long time. The EU as fish in a barrel. Many of these people work for, with or through those financial institutions. From that angle it shouldn't perhaps be all that surprising that they go after sovereign countries first. The next step, going after the banks, will feel like cannibalism. Still, why would they want Rome to burn while they live and prosper in it? Simple: they know it'll burn no matter what. But they’ll live long enough to see it, and enjoy the spectacle. After them, the flood. EU banks will have to meet new capital requirements at the exact time when hundreds of billions of euros in debt needs to be rolled over. Which if at all possible, will lead to substantial increases in interest to be paid. Damned if you do, doomed if you don't. Not an unfamiliar theme. They are borrowing - near - record amounts of dollars these days. Lots of USD denominated debt that needs to be serviced. The ECB base rate cut to 1% today is mere window dressing. Even the stock markets got that one right. Come on guys, there's way over $2 trillion in toxic assets sitting in European bank vaults. Who's going to take that on? Not the EFSF, it can’t even get to €900 billion, and that is meant for sovereigns, not banks. Not the ECB, which would itself be downgraded if it even tried. Come to think of it, downgrading a central bank would be a sight to see... Get Out of the Way ... The entire Eurozone project, and indeed its very failure, have been based on "voluntary coordination". Greece volunteered to dive into trillions of dollars of debt, and banks all over Europe did it to a factor of 100. And now anything voluntary would still instill confidence? Oh wait, he did say "massive increase", true. Come to think of it, given the preceding events, that just makes it all the more scarier, doesn't it? "Get out of the way of this thing" is not just the best, but indeed all I can say. The spin doctors may come up with something on Friday that smoothes things over for a bit, but by Monday it may well be a feeding frenzy out there. That is, unless Ben Bernanke saves the day with $5 trillion or so. In that case, it may just all be postponed until next Monday. They can't enforce treaty changes without triggering referendums and elections, which take months to complete. They can't leverage their stability fund anywhere near the necessary level. That can't get the ECB to do it all for them. All they can do is play word games, hoping that at least someone will believe them. And while their own voters might for a bit longer, the markets will not. Will we make it until Christmas? Hard to gauge. There's always a few more days to be bought. It's just that the cost increases all the time, and exponentially so. We won't make it in one piece for much longer than that though. Either Merkel and Sarkozy voluntarily abandon their shadow theater and go home, or the markets will force their hands. And if they don't, the street protests will. And then the day will come when one of these 27 EU countries will elect a guy or gal based on the promise of not paying back what they "owe". You know, as metaphors go, for far too many people it won't even be about fighting over the left over scraps swept off the bullet proof limo table; they will be on the menu. They already are, they just don't know it yet. And in all that, something just ain't right. From where I'm sitting, at least. .

Ben Dover Time

SUBHEAD: Ben's a nice guy and we're sure he actually believes in what he says and what he does. Buuttt... By Andy Parx on 8 December 2011 for Parx News Daily - (http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2011/12/its-ben-dover-time.html) Image above: Mashup of Bernad and Ben by Juan Wilson. From (http://www.midweekkauai.com/2011/09/aloha-ike-fundraiser/kmwpaina091411_20/). Our "extra" post yesterday- a news item on Ben Sullivan's hiring by the county to be the new Energy Coordinator- was confirmed in a county press release today. But apparently others weren't as caught off guard as we were. We heard from quite a few readers saying that they were Casablanca-style "shocked-shocked" that Sullivan parlayed his short stints as founder and head of Apollo Kaua`i and election to the Kaua`i Island Utilities Coop (KIUC) Board of Directors into a well-paid job in the administration of Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. But looking back on Sullivan's rise from FOB malahini to appointment to Carvalho's crony-filled staff shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who watches the administration's hiring practices and has interacted with Sullivan since his election to the KIUC board. We began getting them soon after Sullivan's election- emails, comments and phone calls increasingly expressing disillusionment and dissatisfaction with Sullivan's apparent unwavering shift from perceived dissident to KIUC defender of the realm. It came to a head with his support for the whole FERC-FFP deal followed by the propaganda- some say misinformation- driven vote that allowed the co-op to go ahead with federal involvement in hydropower projects rather than rejecting FERC in favor of strictly state oversight... especially given the potential for federal "trumping" of the more environmentally-protective local regulations and approval process. But that alone wouldn't be enough to be a "good fit" for the yes-men and women that kow-tow to Carvalho, in an administration where "never is heard a discouraging word" from appointees... or at least not if they expect to serve in their "at-the-pleasure-of" positions for long. Sullivan didn't just support board decisions as is required under KIUC rules- he firecely defended them. Board Rule 27 mandates lock-step public adherence to board-determined positions and policies and requires all public statements by board members to be cleared by either the chair or (get this) the CEO. The latter creates a potentially unethical if not illegal situation whereby employees of the not-for-profit are directing members of the board. He has seemingly relished engaging members of the public in support of those positions and dove in head-first in a rare-for-Kaua`i trait of personal engagement with dissidents... of which there are many when it comes to the electricity coop. And that is what has made Sullivan a perfect fit for the Carvalho administration. It seems to matter not that he is an architect by education and, although his non-profit work has dealt with electrical power issues, one would think that a highly paid, highly skilled position like this would be filled by someone with training and/or experience in the field... although that hasn't stopped most of Carvalho's appointees from landing jobs with a notable lack of credentials. Sullivan has proved his worth to Carvalho simply through his ability to stick to the guns of his higher-ups, as evidenced by his stick-to-it-ive-ness in taking on all comers in defending the KIUC realm. It matters not that he is a relative newcomer to the island or that he is a not "local"- usually a negative for patronage hires under Carvalho. It matters only that he is ready, willing and able to act as a human shield for arrows directed at his boss. We like Ben. He's the nicest of guys and actually we're sure he actually believes in what he says and what he does. It's likely he will bristle at this analysis of why he got his "dream job." But given the history of the hiring practices since Carvalho took office just over three years ago, it's hard to come to any other conclusion. .

What Peak Oil Looks Like

SUBHEAD: With oil above $100 a barrel, world economies are mired in a paper “recovery” worse than most recessions. By John Michael Greer on 7 December 2011 for the Archdruid Report - (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2011/12/what-peak-oil-looks-like.html) Image above: The virgin Mary cradles a couple of gallons of Shell gasoline. Still from video below. There are times when the unraveling of a civilization stands out in sharp relief, but more often that process makes itself seen only in the sort of scattered facts and figures that take a sharp eye to notice and assemble into a meaningful picture. How often, I wonder, did the prefects of imperial Rome look up from the daily business of mustering legions and collecting tribute to notice the crumbling of the foundations on which their whole society rested? Nowadays, certainly, that broader vision is hard to find. It’s symptomatic that in the last few weeks I’ve fielded a fair number of emails insisting that the peak oil theory—of course it’s not a theory at all; it’s a hard fact that the extraction of a finite oil supply in the ground will sooner or later reach a peak and begin to decline—has been rendered obsolete by the latest flurry of enthusiastic claims about shale oil and the like. Enthusiastic claims about the latest hot new oil prospect are hardly new, and indeed they’ve been central to cornucopian rhetoric since M. King Hubbert’s time. A decade ago, it was the Caspian Sea oilfields that were being invoked as supposedly conclusive evidence that a peak in global conventional petroleum production wouldn’t arrive in our lifetimes. Compare the grand claims made for the Caspian fields back then, and the trickle of production that actually resulted from those fields, and you get a useful reality check on the equally sweeping claims now being made for the Bakken shale, but that’s not a comparison many people want to make just now. On the other side of the energy spectrum, those who insist that we can power some equivalent of our present industrial system on sun, wind, and other diffuse renewable sources have been equally vocal, and those of us who raise reasonable doubts about that insistence can count on being castigated as “doomers.” It’s probably not accidental that this particular chorus seems to go up in volume with every ethanol refinery or solar panel manufacturer that goes broke and every study showing that the numbers put forth to back some renewable energy scheme simply don’t add up. It’s no more likely to be accidental that the rhetoric surrounding the latest fashionable fossil fuel play heats up steadily as production at the world’s supergiant fields slides remorselessly down the curve of depletion. The point of such rhetoric, as I suggested in a post a while back, isn’t to deal with the realities of our situation; it’s to pretend that those realities don’t exist, so that the party can go on and the hard choices can be postponed just a little longer. Thus our civilization has entered what John Kenneth Galbraith called “the twilight of illusion,” the point at which the end of a historical process would be clearly visible if everybody wasn’t so busy finding reasons to look somewhere else. A decade ago, those few of us who were paying attention to peak oil were pointing out that if the peak of global conventional petroleum production arrived before any meaningful steps were taken, the price of oil would rise to previously unimagined heights, crippling the global economy and pushing political systems across the industrial world into a rising spiral of dysfunction and internal conflict. With most grades of oil above $100 a barrel, economies around the world mired in a paper “recovery” worse than most recessions, and the United States and European Union both frozen in political stalemates between regional and cultural blocs with radically irreconcilable agendas, that prophecy has turned out to be pretty much square on the money, but you won’t hear many people mention that these days. The point that has to be grasped just now, it seems to me, is that this is what peak oil looks like. Get past the fantasies of sudden collapse on the one hand, and the fantasies of limitless progress on the other, and what you get is what we’re getting—a long ragged slope of rising energy prices, economic contraction, and political failure, punctuated with a crisis here, a local or regional catastrophe there, a war somewhere else—all against a backdrop of disintegrating infrastructure, declining living standards, decreasing access to health care and similar services, and the like, which of course has been happening here in the United States for some years already. A detached observer with an Olympian view of the country would be able to watch things unravel, as such an observer could have done up to now, but none of us have been or will be detached observers; at each point on the downward trajectory, those of us who still have jobs will be struggling to hang onto them, those who have lost their jobs will be struggling to stay fed and clothed and housed, and those crises and catastrophes and wars, not to mention the human cost of the broader background of decline, will throw enough smoke in the air to make a clear view of the situation uncommonly difficult to obtain. Meanwhile those who do have the opportunity to get something approaching a clear view of the situation will by and large have every reason not to say a word about what they see. Politicians and the talking heads of the media will have nothing to gain from admitting the reality and pace of our national decline, and there will be a certain wry amusement to be had in watching them scramble for reasons to insist that things are actually getting better and a little patience or a change of government will bring good times back again. There will doubtless be plenty of of the sort of overt statistical dishonesty that insists, for example, that people who no longer get unemployment benefits are no longer unemployed—that’s been standard practice in the United States for decades now, you know. It’s standard for governments that can no longer shape the course of events to fixate on appearances, and try to prop up the imagery of the power and prosperity they once had, long after the substance has slipped away. It’s no longer necessary to speculate, then, about what kind of future the end of the age of cheap abundant energy will bring to the industrial world. That package has already been delivered, and the economic rigor mortis and political gridlock that have tightened its grip on this and so many other countries in the industrial world are, depending on your choice of metaphor, either part of the package or part of the packing material, scattered across the landscape like so much bubble wrap. Now that the future is here, abstract considerations and daydreaming about might-have-beens need to take a back seat to the quest to understand what’s happening, and work out coping strategies to deal with the Long Descent now that it’s upon us. Here again, those scattered facts and figures I mentioned back at the beginning of this week’s post are a better guide than any number of comforting assurances, and the facts I have in mind just at the moment were brought into focus by an intriguing essay by ecological economist Herman Daly. In the murky firmament of today’s economics, Daly is one of the few genuinely bright stars. A former World Bank official as well as a tenured academic, Daly has earned a reputation as one of the very few economic thinkers to challenge the dogma of perpetual growth, arguing forcefully for a steady state economic system as the only kind capable of functioning sustainably on a finite planet. The essay of his that I cited above, which I understand is scheduled to be published in an expanded form in the journal Ecological Economics, covers quite a bit of ground, but the detail I want to use here as the starting point for an unwelcome glimpse at the constraints bearing down on our future appears in the first few paragraphs. In his training as an economist, Daly was taught, as most budding economists are still taught today, that inadequate capital is the most common barrier to the development of the so-called "developing" (that is, nonindustrial, and never-going-to-develop) nations. His experience in the World Bank, though, taught him that this was almost universally incorrect. The World Bank had plenty of capital to lend; the problem was a shortage of "bankable projects"—that is, projects that, when funded by a World Bank loan, would produce the returns of ten per cent a year or so that would be needed to pay off the loan and and also contribute to the accumulation of capital within the country. It takes a familiarity with the last half dozen decades of economic literature to grasp just how sharply Daly’s experience flies in the face of the conventional thinking of our time. Theories of economic development by and large assume that every nonindustrial nation will naturally follow the same trajectory of development as today’s industrial nations did in the past, building the factories, hiring the workers, providing the services, and in the process generating the same ample profits that made the industrialization of Britain, America, and other nations a self-sustaining process. Now of course Britain, America, and other nations that succeeded in industrializing each did so behind a wall of protective tariffs and predatory trade policies that sheltered industries at home against competition, a detail that gets discussed next to nowhere in the literature on development and was ignored in the World Bank’s purblind enthusiasm for free trade. Still, there’s more going on here. In The Power of the Machine, Alf Hornborg has pointed out trenchantly that the industrial economy is at least as much a means of wealth concentration as it is one of wealth production. In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, when the hundreds of thousands of independent spinners and weavers who had been the backbone of Britain’s textile industry were driven out of business by the mills of the English Midlands, the income that used to be spread among the latter went to a few mill owners and investors instead, with a tiny fraction reserved for the mill workers who tended the new machines at starvation wages. That same pattern expanded past a continental scale as spinners and weavers across much of the world were forced out of work by Britain’s immense cloth export industry, and money that might have stayed in circulation in countries around the globe went instead into the pockets of English magnates. Throughout the history of the industrial age, that was the pattern that drove industrialism: from 18th century Britain to post-World War II Japan, a body of wealthy men in a country with a technological edge and ample supplies of cheap labor could build factories, export products, tilt the world’s economy in their favor, and make immense profits. In the language of Daly’s essay, industrial development in such a context was a bankable project, capable of producing much more than ten per cent returns. What has tended to be misplaced in current thinking about industrial development, though, is that at least two conditions had to be met for that to happen. The first of them, as already mentioned, is exactly the sort of protective trade policies that the World Bank and the current economic consensus generally are unwilling to contemplate, or even to mention. The second, however, cuts far closer to the heart of our current predicament. The industrial economy as it evolved from the 18th century onward depended utterly on the ability to replace relatively expensive human labor with cheap fossil fuel energy. The mills of the English Midlands mentioned above were able to destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of independent spinners and weavers because, all things considered, it was far cheaper to build a spinning jenny or a power loom and fuel it with coal than it was to pay for the skilled craftsmen and craftswomen who did the same work in an earlier day. In economic terms, in other words, industrialism is a system of arbitrage. Those of my readers who aren’t fluent in economic jargon deserve a quick definition of that last term. Arbitrage is the fine art of profiting off the difference in price between the same good in two or more markets. The carry trade, one of the foundations of the global economic system that came apart at the seams in 2008, was a classic example of arbitrage. In the carry trade, financiers borrowed money in Japan, where they could get it at an interest rate of one or two per cent per year, and then lent it at some higher interest rate elsewhere in the world. The difference between interest paid and interest received was pure profit. What sets industrialism apart from other arbitrage schemes was that it arbitraged the price difference between different forms of energy. Concentrated heat energy, in the form of burning fossil fuel, was cheap; mechanical energy, in the form of complex movements performed by the hands of spinners and weavers, was expensive. The steam engine and the machines it powered, such as the spinning jenny and power loom, turned concentrated heat into mechanical energy, and opened the door to what must have been the most profitable arbitrage operation of all time. The gargantuan profits yielded by this scheme provided the startup capital for further rounds of industrialization and thus made possible the immense economic transformations of the industrial age. That arbitrage, however, depended—as all arbitrage schemes do—on the price difference between the markets in question. In the case of industrialism, the difference was always fated to be temporary, because the low price of concentrated heat was purely a function of the existence of vast, unexploited reserves of fossil fuels that could easily be accessed by human beings. For obvious reasons, the most readily accessible reserves were mined or drilled first, and so as time passed, production costs for fossil fuels—not to mention the many other natural materials needed for industrial projects, and thus necessary for the arbitrage operation to continue—went up, slowly at first, and more dramatically in the last decade or so. I suspect that the shortage of bankable projects in the nonindustrial world that Herman Daly noted was an early symptom of that last process. Since nonindustrial nations in the 1990s were held (where necessary, at gunpoint) to the free trade dogma fashionable just then, the first condition for successful industrialization—a protected domestic market in which new industries could be sheltered from competition—was nowhere to be seen. At the same time, the systemic imbalances between rich and poor countries—themselves partly a function of industrial systems in the rich countries, which pumped wealth out of the poor countries and into corner offices in Wall Street and elsewhere—meant that human labor simply wasn’t that much more expensive than fossil fuel energy. That was what drove the "globalization" fad of the 1990s, after all: another round of arbitrage, in which huge profits were reaped off the difference between labor costs in industrial and nonindustrial countries. Very few people seem to have noticed that globalization involved a radical reversal of the movement toward greater automation—that is, the use of fossil fuel energy to replace human labor. When the cost of hiring a sweatshop laborer became less than the cost of paying for an equivalent amount of productive capacity in mechanical form, the arbitrage shifted into reverse; only the steep differentials in wage costs between the Third World and the industrial nations, and a vast amount of very cheap transport fuel, made it possible for the arbitrage to continue. Still, at this point the same lack of bankable projects has come home to roost. A series of lavish Fed money printing operations (the euphemism du jour is "quantitative easing") flooded the banking system in the United States with immense amounts of cheap cash, in an attempt to make up for the equally immense losses the banking system suffered in the aftermath of the 2005-2008 real estate bubble. ndits insisted, at least at first, that the result would be a flood of new loans to buoy the economy out of its doldrums, but nothing of the kind happened. There are plenty of reasons why it didn’t happen, but a core reason was simply that there aren’t that many business propositions in the industrial world just now that are in a position to earn enough money to pay back loans. Among the few businesses that do promise a decent return on investment are the ones involved in fossil fuel extraction, and so companies drilling for oil and natural gas in shale deposits—the latest fad in the fossil fuel field—have more capital than they know what to do with. The oil boomtowns in North Dakota and the fracking projects stirring up controversy in various corners of the Northeast are among the results. Elsewhere in the American economy, however, good investments are increasingly scarce. For decades now, profits from the financial industry and speculation have eclipsed profits from the manufacture of goods—before the 2008 crash, it bears remembering, General Motors made far more profit from its financing arm than it did from building cars—and that reshaping of the economy seems to be approaching its logical endpoint, the point at which it’s no longer profitable for the industrial economy to manufacture anything at all. I have begun to suspect that this will turn out to be one of the most crucial downsides of the arrival of peak oil. If the industrial economy, as I’ve suggested, was basically an arbitrage scheme profiting off the difference in cost between energy from fossil fuels and energy from human laborers, the rising cost of fossil fuels and other inputs needed to run an industrial economy will sooner or later collide with the declining cost of labor in an impoverished and overcrowded society. As we get closer to that point, it seems to me that we may begin to see the entire industrial project unravel, as the profits needed to make industrialism make sense dry up. If that’s the unspoken subtext behind the widening spiral of economic dysfunction that seems to be gripping so much of the industrial world today, then what we’ve seen so far of what peak oil looks like may be a prologue to a series of wrenching economic transformations that will leave few lives untouched. Video above: Punk band the Newton Neurotics sing "When the Oil Runs Out" in 1980. From (http://youtu.be/fnsBtUx75-w). .

The Fast Lane

SUBHEAD: It's time to ease ourselves out of the fast lane and search for an off ramp. Maybe we can find some shelter. By Juan Wilson on 7 December 2011 for Island Breath - (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2011/12/fast-lane.html) Image above: The German Autobahn at night. From (http://www.bmwblog.com/2011/04/08/more-speed-restrictions-coming-to-autobahn/). Have you noticed how unnoticed is the UN Conference on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa. Perhaps the event is so depressing that the media cannot bear to cover the events. Kyoto I can understand this. It began with the Kyoto Protocol in 1992 when the United States refused to ratify the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that designated a mandatory reduction of industrial/energy CO2 emissions. Part of the problem for the US was that the "developing" countries, including China, would not have been subject to the same restrictions as the industrial nations. Copenhagen Almost twenty years later, in 2009, during the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, there was a chance for America to get onboard with supporting life on the planet. We had a new president committed to change, but we learned that Barrack Obama was capable of wrecking the planet's future to keep America "competitive" in maximizing corporate profits. He parachuted in at the end the 15th Conference of Parties (COPS15) meeting and wrecked what little could have been accomplished in Copenhagen. I suppose the Great Depression had a lot to do with that. Although we were in the dark, Obama was aware that even the $trillions the US Federal Reserve was secretly pouring into the banks of the world would not save the financial system. The fiat money simply would not jumpstart a world poor in energy limping along a damaged ecosystem that was leading to climate chaos. Cancun In 2010 The 16th Conference of Parties meetings held in 2010 in Cancun, Mexico (COPS16) were even more pathetic than events in Copenhagen. It appeared to be an international college-beach-break for politicians, lobbyists, and cronies. As the BP oil spill continued to destroy the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico you could almost sense the sea rising to wash over the poolside cabanas on the beach patios of the hotels where conference members slept off hangovers from the late night revelries. Durban Now we come to COPS17 in Durban, South Africa. This will be the last chance to get our CO2 regulations in order before the twenty-year Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012. It will be very hard to bring together meaningful mandatory international efforts afterwards.China and the United States are to two biggest CO2 polluter nations in the world. The US has a substantially higher per capita rate of generating CO2 put China is rising fast. If a Sino-American agreement could be hacked out much could be done. But instead of taking his foot off the gas, Obama has floored it by doubling-down on the bet that more industrialization would lead America back to economic growth and jobs. He's betting on more government stimulus will finally light a fire under growth do he will get re-elected, we will get richer, and China can go off to whither and die. EU Summit But even he knows that the trouble brewing in Europe (together a bigger economy that the US) is going to sink the ship of Western Industrialization. The European stock markets are almost back to trough they found themselves during the crash of 2008. The Euro countries are in free fall over the fate of sovereign debt contagement amongst its members. The EU Summit this week is overshadowing the COPS17 conference in South Africa. If, as is likely, Germany and France cannot come up with a unified front on a strategy for saving the Euro in the next day or so, there is not going to be time to reach an agreement to save the currency. Any solution is complicated by the fact that only 17 nations (Euro Zone) of the the 27 nation European Union actually use the Euro currency. Failure of a credible solution will trigger a chain reaction of sovereign defaults that cannot be backstopped. Standard and Poors has already warned 16 European nations of a downgrade of their credit worthiness (including six with AAA ratings). The financial contagement will rage from bottom to top (Greece to Germany) and lead to a worldwide economic failure. And that's the good news. Climate Change Solution Regardless of what happens in Durban COPS17 conference halls, the events his Friday, December 9th, 20011, at the EU Summit that relate to European debt will have more to determine the fate of Climate Change. Many predict no solution is in sight, knowing full well that a world wide depression will likely follow a Euro collapse. It's time to ease ourselves out of the fast lane and search for an off ramp. Maybe we can find some shelter. .

Amazon deforestation rate slows

SUBHEAD: The lower rate of deforestation is clearly a positive step forward, though the Amazon region is not without continued threats. By Stephen Merchant on 5 December 2011 or TreeHugger - (http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/amazon-deforestation-rate-lowest-point-1988.html) Image above: Amazon deforestation continues with dire consequences. From (http://thewatchers.adorraeli.com/2011/05/23/deforestation-of-the-brazilian-amazon-rainforest-has-increased-almost-sixfold/).

Between August 2010 and June 2011, 2,408 square miles of Amazon was illegally denuded in Brazil -- and although that's roughly equivalent to the area of Delaware -- it's actually a welcome number. According to a statement released by the Brazilian government, the latest figures on the rate of deforestation in the world largest rainforest show a drop to the lowest levels since satellite monitoring began in 1988. What's more is that the new figures suggest a trend of decreasing forest loss; the previous record low was seen the year before.

The encouraging announcement was put forth by the director of Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Beginning in the late 1980's, INPE has sought to monitor Amazon forest cover via satellite imaging on a monthly basis. Since then, it has become an invaluable tool to assess the state of the rainforest and to quickly dispatch authorities to specific areas where deforestation appears to be on the rise.

With the help of this system, known as Project Monitoring Deforestation in the Amazon (PRODES), along with improvements in land management on a local and federal level, that has allowed for illegal logging practices to slow in recent years.

G1 Globo/via

While environmentalists are no doubt welcoming of the apparent decrease, some are awaiting all deforestation data to be consolidated in early 2012 which will better reflect the clearing rate than the current month-by-month figures assessed by PRODES.

The lower rate of deforestation is clearly a positive step forward, though the Amazon region is not without persisting threats. Many believe that recent changes to Brazil's Forest Code, in addition to an alarming poor record of prosecution of deforesters, casts a long shadow on the future of the world's largest rainforest.

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Militarization of "Peace Officers"

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (kosherkimchee@yahoo.com) SUBHEAD: Thanks to US military, police in Cobb County, Georgia now have an amphibious tank.  

By Robert Johnson on 5 December 2011 for Business Insider - 
(http://www.businessinsider.com/program-1033-military-equipment-police-2011-12)

 
Image above: U.S. military amphibious tank. From original article.



The U.S. military has some of the most advanced killing equipment in the world that allows it to invade almost wherever it likes at will.

We produce so much military equipment that inventories of military robots, M-16 assault rifles, helicopters, armored vehicles, and grenade launchers eventually start to pile up and it turns out a lot of these weapons are going straight to American police forces to be used against US citizens.

Benjamin Carlson at The Daily reports on a little known endeavor called the "1033 Program" that gave more than $500 million of military gear to U.S. police forces in 2011 alone.

1033 was passed by Congress in 1997 to help law-enforcement fight terrorism and drugs, but despite a 40-year low in violent crime, police are snapping up hardware like never before. While this year's staggering take topped the charts, next year's orders are up 400 percent over the same period.

This upswing coincides with an increasingly military-like style of law enforcement most recently seen in the Occupy Wall Street crackdowns.

Tim Lynch, director of the Cato Institute's project on criminal justice told The Daily, “The trend toward militarization was well under way before 9/11, but it’s the federal policy of making surplus military equipment available almost for free that has poured fuel on this fire.”

From The Daily:

Thanks to it, cops in Cobb County, Ga. — one of the wealthiest and most educated counties in the U.S. — now have an amphibious tank. The sheriff of Richland County, S.C., proudly acquired a machine-gun-equipped armored personnel carrier that he nicknamed “The Peacemaker.” This comes on top of grants from the Department of Homeland Security that enable police departments to buy vehicles such as “BearCats” — 16,000-pound bulletproof trucks equipped with battering rams, gun ports, tear-gas dispensers and radiation detectors. To date, more than 500 of these tank-like vehicles have been sold by Lenco, its Massachusetts-based manufacturer, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. 

“It’s kind of had a corrupting influence on the culture of policing in America,” Lynch says. “The dynamic is that you have some officer go to the chief and say, people in the next county have [military hardware], if we don’t take it some other city will. Then they acquire the equipment, they create a paramilitary unit, and everything seems fine.

“But then one or two years pass. They say, look we’ve got this equipment, this training and we haven’t been using it. That’s where it starts to creep into routine policing.”

• Robert Johnson is the military, defense, and features reporter for the main page of Business Insider

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: OWS & Police Militarization 10/21/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Militarization of American Live 5/2/10
Island Breath: The Kauai Police Mission 5/15/08
Island Breath: Police Militarization 5/14/08
Island Breath: Cops need bikes - not riot gear 4/5/08 .

Kauai & Japanese tsunami debris

SOURCE: Brad Parsons (mauibrad@hotmail.com)
SUBHEAD: A mini-conference on marine debris generated by March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami disaster in Japan.  

By Surfrider Kauai on 4 December 2011 in Island Breath - 
  (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2011/12/kauai-japanese-tsunami-debris.html)

 
Image above: Japanese tsunami debris shortly after march earthquake. From (http://www.infowars.com/japanese-debris-to-start-hitting-western-u-s-and-canada-this-week).

Surfrider Kauai is organizing a Japan Tsunami Debris Conference, bringing together experts in the field of ocean currents and debris tracking. Will be held 12/10/11 at Kauai Community College, 9am, and is free. Will be live streamed at www.Livestreamcom, "surfriderkauai".  

WHAT:
Conference will address Japanese debris:
  • Where is it?
  • When will it get here?
  • How much is there?
  • Is it radioactice?
  • What can we do?
WHEN:
Saturday December 10, 2011 9:00am until Noon  

WHERE: Kauai Community College Cafeteria  

SPEAKERS:  
Dr. Nikolai Maximenko,
Univ. Hawaii Ocean currents and the arrival of debris in Hawaii.  

Dr. Henrieta Dulaiova,
Univ. Hawaii Radioactivity of the ocean and marine debris.  

Ms. Carey Morishige,
NOAA Marine Debris Program NOAA’s plan for monitoring and removal of debris.

 Dr. Carl Berg,
Surfrider Kauai Surfrider’s beach clean-up program and its new volunteer program to monitor Japanese Tsunami Debris and its radioactivity.

 County of Kauai and Hawaii State Department of Health

   
Video above: Dr. Carl Berg speaks on Japanese tsunami debris impact. From (http://youtu.be/iiX29bxvkV4).

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Into the Wild

SUBHEAD: Nature calls. She calls all of us, though most of us have managed to plug our ears to her siren song.  

By Guy McPherson on 5 December 2011 for Nature Bats Last -  
(http://guymcpherson.com/2011/12/into-the-wild/)

 
Image above: Still frame from movie "Into the Wild" From (http://www.technodisco.net/eddie-vedder/into-the-wild-1238524.html).
 
American essayist Norman Cousins wrote:
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
Personally, I’ve never been content sitting still, surviving for survival’s sake. Evidence is found in the roller coaster of my academic career, which was marked by significant change every few years. My scholarship, teaching, and service were characterized by unpredictable, nonlinear, seemingly chaotic swings from one topic to another.

The adventure of new experiences always trumped the security of the bricks-on-a-pile approach revered in the ivory tower. A primary point I made in every course I taught: It’s always more difficult to do the right thing than to do the wrong thing. In fact, you can usually tell the right direction simply by the difficulty of the choices you face.

For working outside the mainstream in a dysfunctional system, I paid in expected ways, including financial. But I benefited in ways I could not expect and cannot fully describe. A rich life comes from taking risks, and the risks range from physical to emotional. I’ve had a rich life.

Most recently, I’ve thrown my heart, soul, and every last dime into the mud hut. I suspect it’s the consummate lifeboat, and it illustrates how improperly talented but thoughtful people, working together, can develop a durable set of living arrangements. And in the desert, no less. If we can make it work here, I suspect it can work just about any habitable place on this blue dot.

The response from the masses: I’m insane. I suppose this should have been expected from a culture characterized by sheer insanity. As with nearly everybody in this culture, I was born into captivity (hat tip to my friend Tim Bennett for the perfect descriptor). I spent most of my life in the zoo that is contemporary culture, drinking and feeding at the troughs of indulgence and denial and playing with toys that substitute for reality (albeit poorly). To a great extent, I’m still in the zoo, still immersed in the culture of make believe.

I’m attempting to pursue, and encourage, agrarian anarchy in this small valley. We’re at the edge of empire, but we’re still part of the American Empire. David Graeber explains the general idea in his analysis of the Occupy movement:
The easiest way to explain anarchism is to say that it is a political movement that aims to bring about a genuinely free society — that is, one where humans only enter those kinds of relations with one another that would not have to be enforced by the constant threat of violence. History has shown that vast inequalities of wealth, institutions like slavery, debt peonage or wage labour, can only exist if backed up by armies, prisons, and police. Anarchists wish to see human relations that would not have to be backed up by armies, prisons and police. Anarchism envisions a society based on equality and solidarity, which could exist solely on the free consent of participants.
Graeber’s description offers a worthy ideal for civil society. Serious pursuit of this ideal would go a long way toward allowing us to regain our humanity. Whether is goes far enough depends on the human. I’m wondering if living on the edge is good enough for me, whether instead I should leap from the edge into the abyss.

There is another challenge, perhaps as great and certainly as important as the one I’ve undertaken here at the mud hut: making it work on the road, thus engendering full expression of the human animal. Imagine a minimalist approach to the road and to the wilds surrounding the road. Imagine the exhilaration of abandoning a lifeboat to swim in frigid, shark-filled waters. Imagine the wonder of full immersion into the world, surrounded by every element of the human condition and every element of nature.

Ultimately, barring our own near-term extinction, full immersion into the world is exactly where we’re headed. I could show the way, as I’ve shown the way by exiting empire. And although I suspect the number of followers would be similarly disappointing, I would be taking this step for myself, not for others, as is the case now.

Nature calls. She calls all of us, though most of us have managed to plug our ears to her siren song. For a few, though, the temptation is supreme from the ultimate temptress. She’s kind, playful, passionate, courageous, strong, and whimsical. Can I pursue her? Can I capture her spirit, as she has captured my heart? Can I find the human animal within me before I breathe my last breath? Nature, as always, is amorally indifferent to my (therefore unrequited) love. But touching her and, more importantly, having her touch me, seems a one-way street: Once ensconced in her embrace, there’s no going back.

At this point in the age of industry, perhaps any attempt to venture into the wild is pure fantasy. Culture certainly suggests as much, while indicating that a step away from my current living arrangements is one large step on the short path to a bygone era. Bygone for a reason, says culture: There’s no going back to nature. That’s just crazy talk.

Last month, commenting on my new love, I wrote, “Nature provides all I need, and all I’ve ever needed.” If I believe myself, shouldn’t I attempt to prove it? Or, to put the scientific spin on it, shouldn’t I attempt to disprove it?

Can I find my way into a world that is brave and new and as old as humanity? More importantly, should I?

Taking this step will almost certainly shorten my life. As I’ve pointed out many times in this space, (1) birth is lethal and (2) some things are worth dying for. Whereas I’ve no intention of becoming yet another starry-eyed Messiah destined for a violent farewell, neither am I interested in a sedate, risk-free life.

Like most people, I’m trying to find the line Cousins inferred, the line between living outside — in the world — and dying inside. And, of course, doing the right thing, regardless of the inherent risks and challenges.


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Suspended Civilization

SUBHEAD: There is so much to do in this country. If you are young, especially, it's all waiting for you. By James Kunstler on 4 December 2011 for Kunstler.com - (http://kunstler.com/blog/2011/12/suspended-civlization.html) Image above: Illustration of riot police trying to control an uprising of chimps from "Rise of Planet of the Apes". From (http://livin-in-fiction.blogspot.com/2011/05/rise-of-planet-of-apes-concept-art.html). Question du jour: why is Jon Corzine still at large? In what fabulous Manhattan restaurants has he been enjoying plates of cockscombs and lobster with sauce hydromel and cinghiale ai frutti di bosco, while less well-connected citizens of this degenerate republic have to order their suppers from the dumpster in the WalMart parking lot where they have been living lately.
Is there still an Attorney General in this country? Will somebody please follow Eric Holder down a hallway and see if he leaves a trail of sawdust on the floor. Or did congress just retract all the fraud statutes by stealth in the same way that the Federal Reserve handed out $7.7 trillion in bailouts back in 2008 (much more than the generally accepted figure of the $800 billion TARP) without anyone finding out until three years later when some Bloomberg reporters rooted the numbers out of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filing. And by the way, what is the US Federal Reserve doing handing out billions of dollars to the Royal Bank of Scotland? Was Scotland admitted to the Union by stealth, too? Or did Jamie Dimon just buy it as a birthday present for Barack Obama, who likes golf.
This is what life in the USA is like nowadays: shit happens and shit un-happens, and you find out about it years later. Only a desperate and hopelessly degenerate nation would choose to live this way, in a law-optional society, in which money means everything, and yet nobody even knows what money is (or where it goes, and what it does when it goes there.)
Jon Corzine has not revealed the destination of the loot (somewhere between $600 million and $2.5 billion, estimated) that vanished from the "segregated" accounts of his many clients at MF Global. The rumor is that it went to cover a rude margin call from Jamie Dimon's bank, JP Morgan, after JC took some unfortunate positions in European sovereign bonds in a bad month. Beyond the question of why Mr. Corzine is not in jail (as a flight risk, just like DSK) is how come the Department of Justice has not so much as issued a statement saying that they were looking into the matter, so as to reassure both the victims and the financial markets that this is not a culture that just makes shit up as it goes along - i.e. that we have predictable rules and formal procedures for doing stuff.
The clowns and villains who run America have accomplished something really epic: they have vanquished meaning. Nobody knows what anything means anymore. Anything goes now. All bets are off. It's not reassuring. It leads to bad things happening like blood in the streets. When nothing means anything anymore, some people will actually strive, make an effort, to reestablish meaning in practical economic and political life, because civilized life is impossible without it. So, in those historic moments when civilization is suspended, people will work like hell to restore meaning. Sometimes though, like Germany in the 1930s, you discover that the suspension of civilization is itself intoxicating, and you ride with that for a while.
Things are really flying apart now, and just in time for Santa Claus. The European bond rollovers are about to come in fast and furious during the season of Advent and nobody can make their interest payments. They will be skipped or postponed and promised for "next Tuesday," and yet the bizarro universe of credit default swaps will not be triggered - is there a counter-party on God's green earth who could afford a pay-out? Of course not. It was all a charade. So we'll just learn that there actually is no "insurance" on all this paper. Yesterday's "hair-cut" will be tomorrow's "throat cut" as the middle innings of suspended civilization play out.
There are heroes as-yet-sung-and-unsung in America, people who prefer reality over reality-TV, people with a taste for meaning in life, which often requires the recognition that some things are true and some not so true, and you're better off with what's true. What appears to be true is that the old order is finished and a new disposition of things is coming along. The Long Emergency will beat a path straight to the Great Re-set. Sign up for it. Roll up your sleeves. There is so much to do in this country. If you are young, especially, it's all waiting for you. .