Kauai Seed & Plant Exchange

SUBHEAD: Sixth biannual event o be held on Norvember 13th in Hanapepe. Bring plants - Get plants.

By Linda Pascatore on 31 October 2010 for Island Breath -  

Image above: The papyrus growing in the Children's Garden of Prace at the Storybook Theatre in Hanapepe. Kauai. Photo by Juan Wilson.  

Free Event: 6th Biannual Kauai Community Seed and Plant Exchange  

United Church of Christ in Hanapepe (on makai side of Highway, next to Hanapepe Library)  

Saturday, November 13, 12 noon to 6pm  

Registration: 12 noon to 1:30 pm
Blessing: 2:00 pm
Exchange begins after the group Blessing Special
Guest Speaker: 4 pm Film "Malama Haloa - Protecting the Taro, starring Uncle Jerry Konanui  

Regenerations Botanical Garden (www.ribg.org), Kauai Community Seed Bank, GMO Free Kauai (gmofreehawaii.org), and Akamai Backyards (akamaibackyard.com).  

Call (808) 652-4118 or go to www.ribg.org

Bring'em, Share 'em, Grow 'em! Calling all gardeners, planters & farmers! Bring the very best of your Kauai grown seeds, plants & cuttings to share and exchange with others Enjoy educational booths, food, music, and more.

Anyone interested in growing plants are invited to attend. Even if you have no plants or seeds to give away, you can take some to grow and share next time. Please take care to bring clean GMO free, non-invasive & pest free plants.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: 5th Kauai Seed & Plant Exchange 5/14/10
Ea O Ka Aina: 4th Kauai Seed & Plant Exchange 10/4/09


Twas the Evening of Samhain

SUBHEAD: A poem inspired by "Twas the Night Before Christmas" honoring Samhain in the context of Halloween. Image above: Trick or Treaters at the door. From (http://media.photobucket.com/image/trick%20or%20treat,%20doorway/rosliothman/Selingan/halloween2.jpg). By Cather Steincamp on 31 October 1999 - (http://www.twpt.com/samcatalyst.htm)

'Twas the evening of Samhain, and all through the place

were pagans preparing the ritual space.

The candles were set in the corners with care,

in hopes that the Watchtowers soon would be there.

We all had our robes on (as is habitual)

and had just settled down and were starting our ritual

when out on the porch there arose such a chorus

that we went to the door, and waiting there for us

were children in costumes of various kinds

with visions of chocolate bright in their minds.

In all of our workings, we'd almost forgot,

but we had purchased candy (we'd purchased a LOT),

And so, as they flocked from all over the street,

they all got some chocolate or something else sweet.

We didn't think twice of delaying our rite,

Kids just don't have this much fun every night.

For hours they came, with the time-honored schtick

of giving a choice: a treat or a trick.

As is proper, the parents were there for the games,

Watching the children and calling their names.

"On Vader, On Leia,

On Dexter and DeeDee,

On Xena, on Buffy,

Casper and Tweety!

To the block of apartments

on the neighboring road;

You'll get so much candy,

you'll have to be TOWED!"

The volume of children eventually dropped,

and as it grew darker, it finally stopped.

But as we prepared to return to our rite,

One child more stepped out of the night.

She couldn't have been more than twelve or thirteen.

Her hair was deep red, and her robe, forest green

with a simple gold cord tying off at the waist.

She'd a staff in her hand and a smile on her face.

No make-up, nor mask, or accompanying kitsch,

so we asked who she was; she replied "I'm a witch.

And no, I don't fly through the sky on my broom;

I only use that thing for cleaning my room.

My magical powers aren't really that neat,

but I won't threaten tricks; I'll just ask for a treat."

We found it refreshing, so we gave incense cones,

A candle, a crystal, a few other stones,

And the rest of the candy (which might fill a van).

She turned to her father (a man dressed as Pan)

and laughed, "Yes, I know, Dad, it's past time for bed,"

and started to leave, but she first turned and said

"I'm sorry for further delaying your rite.

Blessed Samhain to all, and a magical night."

See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Frost is on the Pumpkin 10/18/10

Tale of Two Cities

SUBHEAD: On one side of the channel, it is the spring of hope, or so they believe. On the other, it is winter of despair.

By Bill Bonner on 29 October 2010 in Daily Reckoning -

Image above: Detail Penguin Classic Books cover for "A Tale of Two Cities".  

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

It is certainly the best of times for economists with a sense of humor. Absurdity and cupidity are right out in the open where you can laugh at them. Today’s financial events – predictable consequences of clownish meddling and currency debasement – are funny enough. The official reactions practically double us up. Central bankers and finance ministers are proudly doing things that they used to be punished for. Henry II brought his bankers together in 1124. Those found guilty of debasing the coinage – an earlier form of quantitative easing – were either castrated or they had their right hands cut off. What can you say about that kind of monetary policy? It worked.

But as for today’s monetary system…it is the worst of times. Not in 3,000 years, says Nobel prize winner Robert Mundell, have we experienced such “monetary instability.” What? What about when a German Mark lost nearly all its value in a single day? What about when the French replaced the old francs for new francs at 100 to one? What about the Hungarian pengo hyperinflation of 1947? Currency crises come around much more frequently than Mundell, the “father of the euro,” thinks.

In London, England the government of David Cameron has announced the biggest cutbacks since WWII. He’s going to lighten the UK government expense load by 81 billion pounds over the next 5 years. Nearly half a million government employees are to be given the heave-ho. So far, the British public is taking the news like a donkey informed about original sin. “Carry on!” they said to each other as if it were the Blitz, as if there were something vaguely noble at stake.

In Paris, France, the government is implementing pension reforms, the highlight of which is to increase the retirement age for government employees from 60 to 62. This seems like such a timid reform. Anglo Saxons wonder what the frogs are so upset about. But they’ve taken to the streets. Early this week, one out of four French gas stations were out of fuel. Hundreds of autos were torched. Even schoolchildren were on the barricades. At least most of the manifestants were in it for a good reason – to get money. The deluded students thought they were upholding a matter of principle.

On the surface, the two nations seem to be taking two very different approaches to solving a problem. The English buckle down. The French rise up. London submits to reality. Paris sticks to fantasy. In London it is the season of Light. In Paris, Darkness descends before noon.
“What separates civilized man from the wild beasts?” “The English Channel,” comes the reply, followed by a good chuckle. - The Tale of Two cites

On one side of the channel, it is the spring of hope, or so they believe. On the other, it is winter of despair. And yet, they all hope to go to Heaven and sit on the right hand of God. That they are headed in another direction is the point of today’s reflection.

The real problem in both countries is the same. The welfare democracies made promises they can’t keep. “Government can have only two legitimate purposes,” said William Godwin, “the suppression of injustice against individuals…and the common defense against external invasion.” Beyond that the decline in marginal productivity of government spending is remarkably steep. The courts and police protection have real and immediate payoffs.

Retirement, unemployment, bailouts, payoffs, tariffs, subsidies, free food and lodging, committees, councils, regulations – all quickly have perverse outcomes. More and more people switch from producing to conniving and chiseling. The more something for nothing is available from the government, the more people do nothing useful to get it – including getting control over the government itself.

In both England and France, the spending cuts on the table so far are too little, too late. A three percent deficit was regarded as such a serious threat to the financial integrity of the European Union that member states who surpassed that level were supposed to lose their right to vote. France runs a budget deficit of nearly 8% of GDP. Its public expenses are about $1.5 trillion per year. Even if the projected savings of $96 billion by 2018 (when the pension cuts kick in) were realized, the amount is trivial. But so are the savings to be realized by the Cameron government – also trivial, and likewise programmed so the presumed benefits are realized sooner while the costs are suffered later.

But at least give them credit for pretending. Over in the USA, the Obama government shows no interest in jettisoning any of the accumulated ballast of the last half a century of boondoggles, bailouts and bunkum. Instead, with new health care and regulatory programs, it is adding to them. The current budget deficit is close to 10% of GDP, with no plausible plans to reduce it significantly. Instead, the political elite dream that they will “grow their way out” of their financial problems.

They count on stimulus to rev up their economy. But what do they have to “stimulate” with? Only the same quack elixirs that got them into trouble in the first place. The government either spends more money…or creates more of it to spend. More fiscal stimulus is off the table in Britain, and probably in America too. Instead, they both aim to get by with a little help with their friends at their central banks. Ben Bernanke has made it clear that he is ready to provide more unconventional stimulus – via money printing. The smart money is betting that Mervyn King will do the same.

And the really smart money is getting out of town.


Gold Will Outlive Dollar

SUBHEAD: The Fed is organizing an attack on the dollar’s value, believing that this is the most expedient way to defuse deflationary market forces.

By John Hathaway ON 28 October 2010 in Bloomberg - 

Image above: Face of a 1922 ten dollar U.S. gold note, when our money was backed by the gold in Fort Knox. From (http://www.getmoneyenergy.com/2009/11/reasons-why-price-of-gold-going-up).  
The world’s monetary system is in the process of melting down. We have entered the endgame for the dollar as the dominant reserve currency, but most investors and policy makers are unaware of the implications.

The only questions are how long the denouement of the dollar reserve system will last, and how much more damage will be inflicted by new rounds of quantitative easing or more radical monetary measures to prop up the system.

Whether prolonged or sudden, the transition to a stable monetary system will become possible only when the shortcomings of the status quo become unbearable. Such a transition is, by definition, nonlinear. So central-bank soothsaying based on the extrapolation of historical data and the repetition of conventional wisdom offers no guidance on what lies ahead.

It’s amazing that there is no intelligent discourse among policy leaders on the subject of monetary rot and its implications for the future economic and political landscape. Until there is fundamental monetary reform on an international scale, most economic forecasts aren’t worth the paper on which they are written.

Telltale signs of future trouble aren’t hard to spot. Only a few months ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and a chorus of other high-ranking Fed officials were talking about exit strategies from the U.S. central bank’s bloated balance sheet and the financial system’s unprecedented excess liquidity. Now, those same officials are talking about pumping more money into the system to stimulate growth.

Risky Targets

And they’re not alone: Six months ago, the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Olivier Blanchard, suggested that raising inflation targets to 4 percent from 2 percent wouldn’t be too risky.

This sort of talk must grate on the nerves of our trading partners, China, India, Russia and others, who have accumulated pyramids of non-yielding Treasury debt. No haven there. Return- free risk may be a better way to put it. And bickering among central bankers over currency manipulation and rising trade tensions doesn’t exactly reinforce one’s confidence in a scenario of sustained economic growth and a return to prosperity.

The prospects for an orderly unwinding of the extreme posture of global monetary policy are zero. Bernanke, Jean- Claude Trichet and Mervyn King, his counterparts in Europe and the U.K. respectively, are huddling en masse upon the most precarious perch in the history of monetary affairs. These alleged guardians of monetary stability, in their attempts to shore up the system, have simply created the incinerator for paper money. We are past the point of no return. Quantitative easing may well become a way of life.

No Freak Occurrence
The consensus investment view seems to be that the credit crisis of 2008 was a freak occurrence, unlikely to repeat. That is wishful thinking. Monetary policy has painted itself into a corner. Based on our present course, there will be more bubbles and more meltdowns.

Financial markets and institutions sense trouble, as reflected in the flight to supposedly safe assets such as Treasuries and corporate-debt instruments with paltry yields, as well as the reluctance to lend by commercial banks. We are stuck in an epic liquidity trap. The irony is, if global central banks succeed in creating inflation, the value of these safe assets will be destroyed. It is a slaughter waiting to happen.

In the pedantic mentality of central bankers, their playbook creates just the right amount of inflation. As inflation accelerates, consumers will spend to get rid of their dollars of diminishing value and spur the economy. Once consumers start spending, it will be time to raise interest rates because a solid foundation for prosperity will have been established, they say.

Slender Thread
But whatever the playbook promises, the capacity of financial markets to overshoot can’t be overestimated. The belief among policy makers and financial markets in the possibility of this sort of fine-tuning is preposterous, but it is the slender thread on which remaining investment and business confidence rests.

The breakdown of the monetary system will be chaotic. When inflation commences, it will be highly disruptive. The damage to fixed-income assets will seem instantaneous. Foreign-exchange markets will become dysfunctional. The economy will become even more fragile and unpredictable.

Gold is an imperfect, but comparatively reliable, market gauge for the extent of current and future monetary destruction. The recent acceleration in the dollar price of the metal to $1,381, a record high in nominal terms, coincided with talk of a new round of quantitative easing and highly visible discord among major nations on trade and currency-valuation issues.

Naysayers’ Bubble
Naysayers point to gold’s price and see a bubble, without understanding that the only acceleration that is taking place is in the rate of decline of paper currency. The Fed is organizing an attack on the dollar’s value, believing that this is the most expedient way to defuse deflationary market forces. The man in the street is unaware, a perfect setup. Inflation can only be successful when the public doesn’t see it coming.

The sudden torrent of commentary on gold isn’t the sign of a bubble. Anti-gold pundits provide a great service to those who grasp this historical moment: They facilitate the advantageous positioning of the one asset most likely to be left standing when the dust settles.

New Money Theory Needed

SUBHEAD: By understanding that money is simply credit, we unleash it as a powerful tool for our communities.

By Ellen Brown on 28 October 2010 in Yes Magazine -  

Image above: Still frame from Frank Kapra's 1946 classic "It's a Wonderful Life". See (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038650)  

The reason our financial system has routinely gotten into trouble, with periodic waves of depression like the one we’re battling now, may be due to a flawed perception not just of the roles of banking and credit but of the nature of money itself. In our economic adolescence, we have regarded money as a “thing”—something independent of the relationship it facilitates. But today there is no gold or silver backing our money. Instead, it’s created by banks when they make loans (that includes Federal Reserve Notes or dollar bills, which are created by the Federal Reserve, a privately-owned banking corporation, and lent into the economy). Virtually all money today originates as credit, or debt, which is simply a legal agreement to pay in the future.

Money as Relationship

In an illuminating dissertation called “Toward a General Theory of Credit and Money” in The Review of Austrian Economics, Mostafa Moini, Professor of Economics at Oklahoma City University, argues that money has never actually been a “commodity” or “thing.” It has always been merely a “relation,” a legal agreement, a credit/debit arrangement, an acknowledgment of a debt owed and a promise to repay.

The concept of money-as-a-commodity can be traced back to the use of precious metal coins. Gold is widely claimed to be the oldest and most stable currency known, but this is not actually true. Money did not begin with gold coins and evolve into a sophisticated accounting system. It began as an accounting system and evolved into the use of precious metal coins. Money as a “unit of account” (a tally of sums paid and owed) predated money as a “store of value” (a commodity or thing) by two millennia; the Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations using these accounting-entry payment systems lasted not just hundreds of years (as with some civilizations using gold) but thousands of years. Their bank-like ancient payment systems were public systems—operated by the government the way that courts, libraries, and post offices are operated as public services today.

In the payment system of ancient Sumeria, goods were given a value in terms of weight and were measured in these units against each other. The unit of weight was the “shekel,” something that was not originally a coin but a standardized measure. She was the word for barley, suggesting the original unit of measure was a weight of grain. This was valued against other commodities by weight: So many shekels of wheat equaled so many cows equaled so many shekels of silver, etc. Prices of major commodities were fixed by the government; Hammurabi, Babylonian king and lawmaker, has detailed tables of these. Interest was also fixed and invariable, making economic life very predictable.

Grain was stored in granaries, which served as a form of “bank.” But grain was perishable, so silver eventually became the standard tally representing sums owed. A farmer could go to market and exchange his perishable goods for a weight of silver, and come back at his leisure to redeem this market credit in other goods as needed. But it was still simply a tally of a debt owed and a right to make good on it later. Eventually, silver tallies became wooden tallies became paper tallies became electronic tallies.

The Credit Revolution

The problem with gold coins was that they could not expand to meet the needs of trade. The revolutionary advance of medieval bankers was that they succeeded in creating a flexible money supply, one that could keep pace with a vigorously expanding mercantile trade. They did this through the use of credit, something they created by allowing overdrafts in the accounts of their depositors. Under what came to be called “fractional reserve” banking, the bankers would issue paper receipts called banknotes for more gold than they actually had. Their shipping clients would sail away with their wares and return with silver or gold, settling accounts and allowing the bankers’ books to balance.

The credit thus created was in high demand in the rapidly expanding economy; but because it was based on the presumption that money was a “thing” (gold), the bankers had to engage in a shell game that periodically got them into trouble. They were gambling that their customers would not all come for their gold at the same time; but when they miscalculated, or when people got suspicious for some reason, there would be a run on the banks, the financial system would collapse, and the economy would sink into depression.

Today, paper money is no longer redeemable in gold, but money is still perceived as a “thing” that has to “be there” before credit can be advanced. Banks still engage in money creation by advancing bank credit, which becomes a deposit in the borrower’s account, which becomes checkbook money. In order for their outgoing checks to clear, however, the banks have to borrow from a pool of money deposited by their customers. If they don’t have enough deposits, they have to borrow from the money market or other banks.

As British author Ann Pettifor observes: "the banking system... has failed in its primary purpose: to act as a machine for lending into the real economy. Instead the banking system has been turned on its head, and become a borrowing machine."

The banks suck up cheap money and return it as more expensive money, if they return it at all. The banks control the money spigots and can deny credit to small players, who wind up defaulting on their loans, allowing the big players with access to cheap credit to buy up the underlying assets very cheaply.

That’s one systemic flaw in the current scheme. Another is that the borrowed money backing the bank’s loans usually comes from shorter-term loans. Like Jimmy Stewart’s beleaguered savings and loan in It’s a Wonderful Life, the banks are “borrowing short to lend long,” and if the money market suddenly dries up, the banks will be in trouble. That is what happened in September 2008: According to Rep. Paul Kanjorski, speaking on C-Span in February 2009, there was a $550 billion run on the money markets.

“Monetizing” Loans Not with Gold But with Homes

The money markets are part of the “shadow banking system,” where large institutional investors park their funds. The shadow banking system allows banks to get around the capital and reserve requirements now imposed on depository institutions by moving loans off their books.

Large institutional investors use the shadow banking system because the conventional banking system guarantees deposits only up to $250,000, and large institutional investors have much more than that to move around on a daily basis. The money market is very liquid, and what protects it in place of FDIC insurance is that it is “securitized,” or backed by securities of some sort. Often, the collateral consists of mortgage-backed securities (MBS), the securitized units into which American real estate has been sliced and packaged, sausage-fashion.

Like with the gold that was lent many times over in the 17th century, the same home may be pledged as “security” for several different investor groups at the same time. This is all done behind an electronic curtain called MERS (an acronym for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc.), which has allowed houses to be shuffled around among multiple, rapidly changing owners while circumventing local recording laws.

As in the 17th century, however, the scheme has run into trouble when more than one investor group has tried to foreclose at the same time. And the securitization model has now crashed against the hard rock of hundreds of years of state real estate law, which has certain requirements that the banks have not met—and cannot meet, if they are to comply with the tax laws for mortgage-backed securities. (For more on this, see here.)

The bankers have engaged in what amounts to a massive fraud, not necessarily because they started out with criminal intent (although that cannot be ruled out), but because they have been required to in order to come up with the commodities (in this case real estate) to back their loans. It is the way our system is set up: The banks are not really creating credit and advancing it to us, counting on our future productivity to pay it off, the way they once did under the deceptive but functional façade of fractional reserve lending. Instead, they are vacuuming up our money and lending it back to us at higher rates. In the shadow banking system, they are sucking up our real estate and lending it back to our pension funds and mutual funds at compound interest. The result is a mathematically impossible pyramid scheme, which is inherently prone to systemic failure.

The Public Credit Solution

The flaws in the current scheme are now being exposed in the major media, and it may well be coming down. The question then is what to replace it with. What is the next logical phase in our economic evolution?

Credit needs to come first. We as a community can create our own credit, without having to engage in the sort of impossible pyramid scheme in which we’re always borrowing from Peter to pay Paul at compound interest. We can avoid the pitfalls of privately-issued credit with a public credit system, a system banking on the future productivity of its members, guaranteed not by “things” shuffled around furtively in a shell game vulnerable to exposure, but by the community itself.

The simplest public credit model is the electronic community currency system. Consider, for example, one called “Friendly Favors.” The participating Internet community does not have to begin with a fund of capital or reserves, as is now required of private banking institutions. Nor do members borrow from a pool of pre-existing money on which they pay interest to the pool’s owners. They create their own credit, simply by debiting their own accounts and crediting someone else’s. If Jane bakes cookies for Sue, Sue credits Jane’s account with 5 “favors” and debits her own with 5. They have “created” money in the same way that banks do, but the result is not inflationary. Jane’s plus-5 is balanced against Sue’s minus-5, and when Sue pays her debt by doing something for someone else, it all nets out. It is a zero-sum game.

Community currency systems can be very functional on a small scale, but because they do not trade in the national currency, they tend to be too limited for large-scale businesses and projects. If they were to grow substantially larger, they could run up against the sort of exchange rate problems afflicting small countries. They are basically barter systems, not really designed for advancing credit on a major scale.

The functional equivalent of a community currency system can be achieved using the national currency, by forming a publicly owned bank. By turning banking into a public utility operated for the benefit of the community, the virtues of the expandable credit system of the medieval bankers can be retained, while avoiding the parasitic exploitation to which private banking schemes are prone. Profits generated by the community can be returned to the community.

A public bank that generates credit in the national currency could be established by a community or group of any size, but as long as we have capital and reserve requirements and other stringent banking laws, a state is the most feasible option. It can easily meet those requirements without jeopardizing the solvency of its collective owners.

For capital, a state bank could use some of the money stashed in a variety of public funds. This money need not be spent. It can just be shifted from the Wall Street investments where it is parked now into the state’s own bank. There is precedent establishing that a state-owned bank can be both a very sound and a very lucrative investment. The Bank of North Dakota, currently the nation’s only state-owned bank, is rated AA and recently returned a 26 percent profit to the state. A decentralized movement has been growing in the United States to explore and implement this option. [For more information, see public-banking.com.]

We have emerged from the financial crisis with new clarity: Money today is simply credit. When the credit is advanced by a bank, when the bank is owned by the community, and when the profits return to the community, the result can be a functional, efficient, and sustainable system of finance.

Geo-engineering Moratorium

SUBHEAD: UN to impose geo-engineering moratorium on risky climate techno-fixes, but the moratorium does not apply to the U.S., which has yet to ratify the convention.
Image above: Chemtrails in sky over Germany. From (http://cropfm.at/cropfm/jsp/index.jsp).  

By Staff on 28 October 2010 for Climate Ark -

Major victory for common sense as hacking of planetary ecosystems is premature until such time as all other options are exhausted; and there are global protocols, consensus and a sound scientific basis for any geoengineering that may or may not occur. This is the 8th major conservation victory for Ecological Internet (EI) in 2010, though chronic lack of funds and a slow 11th annual fund-raiser makes for an uncertain future for EI’s ground-breaking biocentric advocacy.

Ecological Internet welcomes reports that the 193-member UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will close its tenth biennial meeting with a de facto moratorium on geo-engineering projects and experiments.

This is a tremendous victory for the ETC Group’s “Hands Off Mother Earth” campaign [1], which has carefully researched and presented the case for such a moratorium on “planet hacking”, and with whom Ecological Internet is affiliated. “Any private or public experimentation or adventurism intended to manipulate the planetary thermostat will be in violation of this carefully crafted UN consensus,” stated Silvia Ribeiro, Latin American Director of ETC Group.

In announcing the outcome, the ETC Group publicly thanked Ecological Internet “for help winning a moratorium on Geoengineering” and particularly those that had “written to CBD delegates and spread the word… Many many thanks for your active campaigning. Your letters… really had an impact.”

This is in reference to Ecological Internet’s Earth Action Network’s largest online email protest ever, where people from 83 countries sent 1,806,339 protest emails to CBD delegates just before the conference commenced [2]. Each delegate received just over 2,000 letters – just enough to make a critical ecological point, while being minimally disruptive – letting those in positions of power to do something know that global citizens are opposed to geoengineering. It appears to have made a huge difference in the outcome.

“Ecological Internet is simply thrilled to have been involved with the ETC Group led campaign to place a moratorium on geoengineering. The atmosphere is a global commons, and ‘hacking’ it to avoid reducing emissions, protecting old forests, and ending coal and tar sands is dangerous and irresponsible. The precautionary principle clearly justifies a ban on large-scale geoengineering experiments and implementation, until all other options are exhausted, and there are global protocols, consensus and a sound scientific basis for any geoengineering that may or may not occur,” explains Dr. Glen Barry, EI’s President. “This is likely the biggest victory EI’s large global network, together with allies, has ever achieved – as without this UN guidance, almost certainly private interests and climate-negligent countries were poised to launch large-scale, risky experiments upon our shared biosphere.”

Geoengineering is the proposed large scale manipulation of Earth’s oceans, soils and atmosphere with the intent of combating climate change. Geoengineering advocates have put forward a wide range of proposals to artificially modify these ecosystems to address climate change including: blasting sulfate particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun; dumping iron particles in the oceans to grow CO2-absorbing plankton; firing silver iodide into clouds to produce rain; genetically engineering crops to have reflective leaves; spraying seawater into clouds to make clouds whiter; dumping large quantities of plant matter into the ocean, and burning plants from a huge land area to produce charcoal for burying in soils. Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering [3] is a new publication by ETC Group that provides an overview of the issues involved. Ecological Internet holds that modifying Earth at a planetary scale is so complex, and ecological and other side effects potentially so severe, that clearly humanity is incapable of safely engineering a biosphere. EI advocates for this and other ecologically sufficient positions necessary to achieve global ecological sustainability.

Video above: "What in the world are they spraying?" (part 1 of 7). From (http://www.youtube.com/user/LoneStar1776#g/c/F1C61CF5A3E443A2).  

See also: Reality Zone: What in the world are they spraying? (http://www.realityzone.com/whatspray.html)

SUBHEAD: Some background on United Nations decision concerning geo-engineering climate.  
UN Urged to Freeze Geo-Engineering  

By Chis Fujioka on 21 October 2010 for Reuters -  

The United Nations should impose a moratorium on "geo-engineering" projects such as artificial volcanoes and vast cloud-seeding schemes to fight climate change, green groups say, fearing they could harm nature and mankind. The risks were too great because the impacts of manipulating nature on a vast scale were not fully known, the groups said at a major U.N. meeting in Japan aimed at combating increasing losses of plant and animal species.

Envoys from nearly 200 countries are gathered in Nagoya, Japan, to agree targets to fight the destruction of forests, rivers and coral reefs that provide resources and services central to livelihoods and economies. A major cause for the rapid losses in nature is climate change, the United Nations says, raising the urgency for the world to do whatever it can to curb global warming and prevent extreme droughts, floods and rising sea levels.

Some countries regard geo-engineering projects costing billions of dollars as a way to control climate change by cutting the amount of sunlight hitting the earth or soaking up excess greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide. "It's absolutely inappropriate for a handful of governments in industrialized countries to make a decision to try geo-engineering without the approval of all the world's support," Pat Mooney, from Canada-headquartered advocacy organization ETC Group, told Reuters on the sidelines of the October 18-29 meeting.
"They shouldn't proceed with real-life, in-the-environment experimentation or the deployment of any geo-engineering until there is a consensus in the United Nations that this is okay."
Some conservation groups say geo-engineering is a way for some governments and companies to get out of taking steps to slash planet-warming emissions. The U.N. climate panel says a review of geo-engineering will be part of its next major report in 2013. SOLAR REFLECTORS Some of the geo-engineering schemes proposed include: -- Ocean fertilization. Large areas are sprinkled with iron or other nutrients to artificially spur growth of phytoplankton, which soak up carbon dioxide. But this could trigger harmful algal blooms, soak up nutrients and kill fish and other animals.
  • Spray seawater into the atmosphere to increase the reflectivity and condensation of clouds so they bounce more sunlight back into space.
  • Placing trillions of tiny solar reflectors out in space to cut the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth.
  • Artificial volcanoes. Tiny sulfate particles or other materials are released into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight, simulating the effect of a major volcanic eruption.
  • Carbon capture and storage. Supported by a number of governments and involves capturing CO2 from power stations, refineries and natural gas wells and pumping it deep underground.
Mooney said the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) should expand its de-facto moratorium on ocean fertilization agreed in 2008 to all geo-engineering, although the proposal was resisted by some countries, including Canada, earlier this year.

 Canada said in Nagoya that it would work with the CBD. "Canada was simply concerned about the lack of clarity on definitions including what activities are included in 'geo-engineering'," Cynthia Wright, head of the delegation, said in an email response. "Canada shares concerns of the international community about potential negative impacts of geo-engineering on biodiversity and is willing to work with other CBD Parties to avoid these impacts," she said. Environmentalists said geo-engineering went against the spirit of the Nagoya talks, which aims to set new targets for 2020 to protect nature, such as setting up more land and marine protected areas, cutting pollution and managing fishing. "We are certainly in favor of more (geo-engineering) research, as in all fields, but not any implementation for the time being because it's too dangerous. We don't know what the effects can be," said Francois Simard of conservation group IUCN.
"Improving nature conservation is what we should do in order to fight climate change, not trying to change nature."
See also:
"Geoengineering sparks international ban, first-ever congressional report" October 30, 2010 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/29/AR2010102906361.html)

The 2010 Midterms

SUBHEAD: Sensible proposals are completely absent from the political dialogue.

By Tom Whipple on 27 October 2010 in Falls Church News-Press -  

Image above: Detail from Mark Bryan's "Republic of Suicide". From (http://www.artofmarkbryan.com/Republic_of_Suicide.html).  

As we approach another round of Congressional elections, it is a good time to review how the peaking of the world's oil supply fits into the American political scene. It has been obvious to anyone who cared to look at the issue that for the last six or seven years something has been seriously wrong with the global supply of oil.
Prices have moved to up from their traditional $10-20 a barrel range to roughly four times higher. Looking behind this number, it does not take long to learn that world oil production has been static for the last five years and that demand for oil in China, India, the oil-exporters, and a few other developing countries is moving up rapidly.
Indeed, a few knowledgeable observers are beginning to say that it was the rapid increase in oil prices and the concomitant inflation and higher interest rates between 2002 and 2006 that started the ball rolling towards our current global recession. The great oil price spike to $147 a barrel in the summer of 2008 was the icing on the cake. The great financial/credit bubble that had been growing in the U.S. and Europe for several decades began to deflate.
If one cares to look still further into the situation one would learn that a consensus of knowledgeable observers is saying that total world oil production will likely start to decline within the next three or four years causing another great oil price spike and incalculable damage to the world's economy in its present configuration. Within the next ten years, the American (and in most other countries) way of life as it developed in the last century of abundant and cheap energy will become unsustainable and far reaching changes will have to take place.
In a perfect world, such a drastic shift in our economic and societal prospects would be at the top of the political agenda. Elections would be fought over the best way to transition our economy and civilization to surviving with reduced and much more expensive energy. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and soon three federal elections will have come and gone without a hint of public debate as to the real causes and feasible solutions to our coming affliction.
With little or no understanding of what is happening to them, and with many acting out of near desperation as their economic prospects plummet, a substantial portion of the electorate seems to have chosen the path of throwing incumbents of both political parties out of office. They seem to be hoping that some new, even unknown and unqualified, face can bring back the prosperity of the age of cheap oil. The voters, however, cannot really be blamed, for thus far no major political figure or opinion setting part of the mass media has stepped forward to explain what is happening to us and what are realistic courses of action.
Presidents, of course, have to balance many competing forces. Since the nature of our coming problem became obvious to many five or six years ago, both the Bush and the Obama administrations have concluded that it is best to muddle along and not say anything to disturb the national polity. Both administrations have laid out the prospects of a return to the good times and economic growth that we in America have known for much of our lifetimes.
The calculation has been that telling it like it is - complete with the prospect of little or no economic growth for a long time and the growing impoverishment of most of the population -- would be at best political suicide and at worst would crash the stock markets leading to instant misery and impoverishment for millions.
When the Obama administration came into office nearly two years ago, they decided that in contrast to the Republican policies of tax cuts, a large dose of Keynesian deficit financing was all they could really do to help the economy recover. In reality, the massive dose of government spending seems to have only slowed the decline and did little to halt or reverse the steady rise in true unemployment that some unbiased observers now put in the vicinity of 22 percent.
The unwillingness of both parties to deal with the real issue -- that the fossil fuel age is coming to an end and that we must rapidly restructure our economy and lifestyles -- means that sensible, proposals are completely absent from the political dialogue. Instead, the campaign of 2010 has degenerated into one of demonizing opponents and/or calling for a return to the values of the 18th century. No matter which party gains control of Congress next week, the inevitable outcome is still more gridlock, more economic decline, and rising unemployment.
How is all this going to play out and how much longer will it take to set the country on some sensible transition to a world where, at least for a while, there will be much reduced availability of affordable energy? A change of heart by a President who soon will be up for reelection does not seem likely. Should he sit down in front of the cameras some night and explain the realities of depleting fossil fuels to American people, the results are likely to be bad.
His opponents would immediate denounce such thoughts as un-American in a land where growth and optimism has always prevailed. The likelihood of any meaningful proposals for national action especially if they involved any new taxes or any perceived costs whatsoever to the hard-pressed voter would be dead on arrival.
It seems almost certain now that we are actually going to drive ourselves over a great economic cliff with banners of "growth," "jobs," "return to the good old days," and "no taxes" streaming in the wind. It is going to be one hell of a train wreck - unlike anything the American people have ever known.

The World Liberals Made

SUBHEAD: The death of the liberal class cuts citizens off from the mechanisms of power.

By Chris Hedges on 25 October 2010 in Truthdig - 

Image above: Liberals have their heads on upside-down. Mashup of John Kerry. From (http://www.freakingnews.com/John-Kerry-Pictures-65253.asp).  

The lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, which looks set to make sweeping gains in the midterm elections, is the direct result of a collapse of liberalism. It is the product of bankrupt liberal institutions, including the press, the church, universities, labor unions, the arts and the Democratic Party. The legitimate rage being expressed by disenfranchised workers toward the college-educated liberal elite, who abetted or did nothing to halt the corporate assault on the poor and the working class of the last 30 years, is not misplaced.

The liberal class is guilty. The liberal class, which continues to speak in the prim and obsolete language of policies and issues, refused to act. It failed to defend traditional liberal values during the long night of corporate assault in exchange for its position of privilege and comfort in the corporate state. The virulent right-wing backlash we now experience is an expression of the liberal class’ flagrant betrayal of the citizenry. The liberal class, which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible, functioned traditionally as a safety valve. During the Great Depression, with the collapse of capitalism, it made possible the New Deal. During the turmoil of the 1960s, it provided legitimate channels within the system to express the discontent of African-Americans and the anti-war movement.

But the liberal class, in our age of neo-feudalism, is now powerless. It offers nothing but empty rhetoric. It refuses to concede that power has been wrested so efficiently from the hands of citizens by corporations that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty are irrelevant. It does not act to mitigate the suffering of tens of millions of Americans who now make up a growing and desperate permanent underclass. And the disparity between the rhetoric of liberal values and the rapacious system of inverted totalitarianism the liberal class serves makes liberal elites, including Barack Obama, a legitimate source of public ridicule. The liberal class, whether in universities, the press or the Democratic Party, insists on clinging to its privileges and comforts even if this forces it to serve as an apologist for the expanding cruelty and exploitation carried out by the corporate state.

Populations will endure repression from tyrants as long as these rulers continue to effectively manage and wield power. But human history has amply demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet retain the trappings and privileges of power, they are swiftly and brutally discarded. Tocqueville observed that the French, on the eve of their revolution, hated the aristocrats about to lose their power far more than they had ever hated them before. The increased hatred directed at the aristocratic class occurred because as the aristocracy lost real power there was no decline in their fortunes. As long as the liberal class had even limited influence, whether through the press or the legislative process, liberals were tolerated and even respected.

But once the liberal class lost all influence it became a class of parasites. The liberal class, like the déclassé French aristocracy, has no real function within the power elite. And the rising right-wing populists, correctly, ask why liberals should be tolerated when their rhetoric bears no relation to reality and their presence has no influence on power. The death of the liberal class, however, is catastrophic for our democracy. It means there is no longer any check to a corporate apparatus designed to further enrich the power elite. It means we cannot halt the plundering of the nation by Wall Street speculators and corporations.

An ineffectual liberal class, in short, means there is no hope, however remote, of a correction or a reversal through the political system and electoral politics. The liberals’ disintegration ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and the middle class will find expression in a rejection of traditional liberal institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy. The very forces that co-opted the liberal class and are responsible for the impoverishment of the state will, ironically, reap benefits from the collapse. These corporate manipulators are busy channeling rage away from the corporate and military forces hollowing out the nation from the inside and are turning that anger toward the weak remnants of liberalism. It does not help our cause that liberals indeed turned their backs on the working and middle class.

The corporate state has failed to grasp the vital role the liberal class traditionally plays in sustaining a stable power system. The corporate state, by emasculating the liberal class, has opted for a closed system of polarization, gridlock and political theater in the name of governance. Thist has ensured a further destruction of state institutions so that government becomes even more ineffectual and despised. The collapse of the constitutional state, presaged by the death of the liberal class, has created a power vacuum that a new class of speculators, war profiteers, gangsters and killers, historically led by charismatic demagogues, will enthusiastically fill. It opens the door to overtly authoritarian and fascist movements. These movements rise to prominence by ridiculing and taunting the liberal class for its weakness, hypocrisy and uselessness.

The promises of these proto-fascist movements are fantastic and unrealistic, but their critiques of the liberal class are grounded in truth. The liberal class, despite becoming an object of public scorn, still prefers the choreographed charade. Liberals decry, for example, the refusal of the Democratic Party to restore habeas corpus or halt the looting of the U.S. Treasury on behalf of Wall Street speculators, but continue to support a president who cravenly serves the interests of the corporate state.

As long as the charade of democratic participation is played, the liberal class does not have to act. It can maintain its privileged status. It can continue to live in a fictional world where democratic reform and responsible government exist. It can pretend it has a voice and influence in the corridors of power.

But the uselessness of the liberal class is not lost on the tens of millions of Americans who suffer the awful indignities of the corporate state. The death of the liberal class cuts citizens off from the mechanisms of power. Liberal institutions such as the church, the press, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts and labor unions once set the parameters for limited self-criticism and small, incremental reforms and offered hope for piecemeal justice and change.

The liberal class could decry the excesses of the state, work to mitigate them and champion basic human rights. It posited itself as the conscience of the nation. It permitted the nation, through its appeal to public virtues and the public good, to define itself as being composed of a virtuous and even noble people. The liberal class was permitted a place within a capitalist democracy because it also vigorously discredited radicals within American society who openly defied the excesses of corporate capitalism and who denounced a political system run by and on behalf of corporations.

The real enemy of the liberal class has never been Glenn Beck, but Noam Chomsky. The purging and silencing of independent and radical thinkers as well as iconoclasts have robbed the liberal class of vitality. The liberal class has cut itself off from the roots of creative and bold thought, from those forces and thinkers who could have prevented the liberal class from merging completely with the power elite. Liberals exude a tepid idealism utterly divorced from daily life.

And this is why every television clip of Barack Obama is so palpably pathetic. Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class warfare and filled with those who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated junior partners of the capitalist class. Cars rolling out of the Ford and GM plants in Michigan were said to have been made by Ford-UAW. And where unions still exist, they have been reduced to simple bartering tools, if that. The social demands of unions early in the 20th century that gave the working class weekends off, the right to strike, the eight-hour workday and Social Security have been abandoned. Universities, especially in political science and economics departments, parrot the discredited ideology of unregulated capitalism and globalization. They have no new ideas. Artistic expression, along with most religious worship, is largely self-absorbed narcissism meant to entertain without offense. The Democratic Party and the press have become courtiers to the power elite and corporate servants.

Once the liberal class can no longer moderate the savage and greedy inclinations of the capitalist class; once, for example, labor unions are reduced to the role of bartering away wage increases and benefits; once public education is gutted and the press no longer gives a voice to the poor and the working class, liberals become as despised as the power elite they serve. The collapse of liberal institutions means those outside the circles of power are trapped, with no recourse, and this is why many Americans are turning in desperation toward idiotic right-wing populists who at least understand the power of hatred as a mobilizing force. The liberal class no longer holds within its ranks those who have the moral autonomy or physical courage to defy the power elite. The rebels, from Chomsky to Sheldon Wolin to Ralph Nader, have been marginalized, shut out of the national debate and expelled from liberal institutions.

The liberal class lacks members with the vision and fortitude to challenge dominant free market ideologies. It offers no ideological alternatives. It remains bound to a Democratic Party that has betrayed every basic liberal principle including universal healthcare; an end to our permanent war economy; a robust system of public education; a vigorous defense of civil liberties; job creation; the right to unionize; and welfare for the poor. “The left once dismissed the market as exploitative,” Russell Jacoby writes. “It now honors the market as rational and humane. The left once disdained mass culture as exploitative; now it celebrates it as rebellious.

The left once honored independent intellectuals as courageous; now it sneers at them as elitist. The left once rejected pluralism as superficial; now it worships it as profound. We are witnessing not simply a defeat of the left, but its conversion and perhaps inversion.” Capitalism, and especially corporate capitalism, was once viewed as a system to be fought.

But capitalism is no longer challenged in public discourse. Capitalist bosses, men such as Warren Buffett, George Soros and Donald Trump, are treated bizarrely as sages and celebrities, as if greed and manipulation had become the highest moral good. As Wall Street steals billions of taxpayer dollars, as it perpetrates massive fraud to throw people out of their homes, as the ecosystem that sustains the planet is polluted and destroyed, we do not know what to do or say. We have been robbed of a vocabulary to describe reality. We decry the excesses of capitalism without demanding a dismantling of the corporate state.

Our pathetic response is to be herded to political rallies by skillful publicists to shout inanities like “Yes we can!” The liberal class is finished. Neither it nor its representatives will provide the leadership or resistance to halt our slide toward despotism. The liberal class prefers comfort and privilege to confrontation. It will not halt the corporate assault or thwart the ascendancy of the corporate state. It will remain intolerant within its ranks of those who do.

The liberal class now honors an unwritten quid pro quo, one set in place by Bill Clinton, to cravenly serve corporate interests in exchange for money, access and admittance into the halls of power. The press, the universities, the labor movement, the arts, the church and the Democratic Party, fearful of irrelevance and desperate to retain their positions within the corporate state, will accelerate their purges of those who speak the unspeakable, those who name what cannot be named.

It is the gutless and bankrupt liberal class, even more than the bizarre collection of moral and intellectual trolls now running for office, who are our most perfidious opponents. .

Frost on the Pumpkin

SUBHEAD: Halloween is the end of the warm times and the beginning of the cold. The harvest is in. Let's hope it is enough.

By Juan Wilson on 28 October 2010 for Island Breath -

Image above: Frost on the pumpkins. From (http://timehaven.us/).  

Halloween is upon us. A time of ghosts, witches and pumpkins. Celebrating it is an ancient tradition in our culture reaching back before Christianity to the ancient Celts and later Gaelic traditions. Why does it seem to increasingly be important to us in the 21st century? It may have to do with a rejection of western Christian morality (Evangelical Fundamentalism) and a sense of anxiety about our economic future (Peak Oil, End of Suburbia,etc.). I know that’s a stretch so some background is required.  

The Earth and Sun
The annual course of the Earth around the Sun is easily divided into four quarters. These four seasons are divided at the solstices and the equinoxes. The winter solstice in December is the shortest day of the year, the Spring Equinox in March is when days and nights are of equal length, the Summer Solstice in June is the longest day, and then the day and night are equal again at Fall Equinox in September.

These dates are universally considered the beginnings of our four seasons, but they do not represent the epitome of each season. That is why the cross-quarter dates were important to those who watched the seasons for their survival. The cross-quarter dates were that halfway points in each season. Halloween is one of those cross-quarter dates - the Peak of Fall.

The Celts celebrated Halloween by the name Samhain. It falls midway between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice and traditionally was celebrated over several days beginning on November 1st. Samhain, to the Celts, marked the end of the harvest, the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half".

Many scholars believe that it was the beginning of the Celtic year. Traditionally, Samhain was time to take stock of the herds and grain supplies, and decide which animals would need to be slaughtered in order for the people and livestock to survive the winter. The Christian's set the same time of year for their holy days Halloween (All Hallow's Eve) or All Souls Day and All Saint's Day on November 1st.

On the wheel of the year it was opposite May Day, which was the midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice. In ancient tradition May Day was called Beltane and it represented the epitome of Spring and the resurgence of life. If baby lambs and clover characterized May Day, then slaughtered cattle and cut grain characterized Samhain. Samhain was also a time to experience the ghosts of ancestors. Samhain was also the time that the work in the fields ended and the season of feasting was just beginning.

The times of plenty were at their peak and would last through to about Christmas (winter solstice). After that would come the leaner time and even starvation, if the larder did not last past the spring equinox and to re-greening of the fields. As the frost came on the pumpkin and the nights grew colder our forefathers looked ahead to the long winter through which they would have to survive.  

Modern Halloween
The great popularity of the modern Halloween celebration goes back less than generation. Before that in small town America, and especially since the fifties, when the suburbs were rolling out across America, Halloween was for kids. Then it was safe and easy to go door-to-door Trick-Or-Treating, without a thought of needing a parental chaperone.

In the rural farmland and in the cities Halloween was no big deal. It was not until the mid 1990’s that I began to see suburban neighbors outdoing one another to drape their houses with spray-on cobwebs and giant plastic spiders or hanging the tree in the front yard with cutouts of black cats and witches.

What had merely been a pumpkin on the porch was morphing into a competitor with Yuletide ostentation. On the retail front this coincided with moving the start-off of massive Christmas buying season from Thanksgiving Day to Halloween. You know that if the marketing people were getting involved, something was afoot. Halloween has remained popular with youngsters. In fact, it now rivals Christmas in popularity with children.

Where the real growth of new Halloween recruits comes from is adults. Part of the attraction is that there is no need to tow-the-line or be a goody-two-shoes on Halloween (unless that’s your costume character). You can be anybody you want to be, including your true self. It is at the same time when you can publicly touch on the dark side (that is discouraged at all other times), and, paradoxically, hide one’s true self behind a mask. For two millennia Christians co-opted pagan holidays like Christmas and Halloween and Easter.

But recently elements of the Christian community now wish they had left Halloween to the few remaining Druids still practicing, and not marked the date on their calendar. Much of apple-pie, football-fan, soccer-mom, SUV-drivin Christians are in the suburbs and are getting a whiff of the smoke. Suburbia isn't working.

Image above: Zombie Walk in October 2009 at a Shreveport, Louisiana mall. From (http://www.flickr.com/photos/iamjones/4015321324/in/photostream/lightbox).

The organization Christian Answers asks whether Christians should celebrate Halloween? (http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/halloween.html) The short answer is No!
“The October 31st holiday that we today know as Halloween has strong roots in paganism and is closely connected with worship of the Enemy of this world, Satan... Have you noticed how costumes and masks are getting generally more bloody, gory, and depraved each year? Unfortunately, the gruesome and grotesque and the occult are increasingly glorified in American society, not only on Halloween, but throughout the year in horror movies and in television programs... What about church “Harvest Festivals” held on October 31? Although we understand the rational and good intentions behind them, we don't think they are the best approach... Harvest parties tend to assume that "our children need something to take the place of Halloween, since they won't be participating in the secular and pagan celebrations. It suggests our kids are missing out on something. And indeed they are, if we allow them to spend Halloween in celebration." There are better things to do on Halloween than partying.”
So Christians believe that Halloween, and Paganism, represent evil. In reality, Paganism revolved around the worship of nature. It's holidays, including Halloween, were the celebrations of the turning of the seasons. This wheel of the year was a metaphor for life--birth, youth, maturity, death, and rebirth.

 Scary Times - Good Times
We live in a time when works of fiction like the Twilight and Harry Potter series take on the role of filling the spiritual needs of adolescents. A time when zombie-flash-mobs appear at the food-court of the local Galleria Mall. Many are accepting the lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual (LGBT) social issue as a civil rights issue. This issue is redefining sexuality, identity and family. It is not without reason that traditionalists worry.

 All of these phenomena point to a change in our identities, or sense of self. Scary to some, welcome to others. A few are beginning to embrace the idea that the Good-Old-Days won’t be coming back... and that’s okay... they really were not so good. The suburbs, the growing tip of America is stalled and we are about to find out what comes next.

As Americans come to grips with Peak Oil and Climate Change, we are beginning to realize that we are at the peak of our material abundance, to be followed by darker times. The Great Recession we are in now is leading to something new and unknown.

We are metaphorically at the time of Halloween; peak harvest with feasts and celebration, followed by the waning of the year and the dead of winter. Let us hope that we have stocked our larder well and that the winter is kind. Happy Halloween!

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Autumnal Equinox 2010 9/22/10
The Gobbler: Festival of Samhain 10/31/98 .

Education-Technology Inflation

SUBHEAD: The incentives embedded in high-technology and higher education are perverse.

By Steve Ludlum on 27 October 2010 in Economic Undertow -  

Image above: Robotic agricultural technology. From (http://www.informationweek.com/news/mobility/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=200900618). 

Bruce Krasting notes Planet Bernanke has gotten so much pushback from his leaked monetary policy initiatives he's now has cold feet. Quantitative Easing (QE... that is Fed buying debt) is the gift that never quits giving. Markets have been thinking that bad economic news is good news for investors. Bad news has propelled more free central bank money to be swapped for worthless stocks and mortgage-backed securities ... Sez Bruce:
"Mr. Bernanke has used the analogy of a golfer with a new putter: Unsure how it will work, he finds best strategy is to tap lightly at first and keep tapping until the golfer figures out how best to use the putter.
A putter? Does Mr. Bernanke think this is a game he is playing? He is saying that he has never putted before, has no clue how to do it, so it it is best to tap lightly? What kind of monetary policy is that? "Learn as you go", (This) does not make me feel that there is much hope."
Uh, Bruce, there really IS no hope ... Meanwhile, Tom Friedman at the New York Times has taken a few moments to spam (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/27/opinion/27friedman.html) a National Academy of Sciences report (http://download.nap.edu/cart/deliver.cgi?&record_id=12999) which suggests there is no hope but some better education would help. The report in turn is spam for those that pimp technology: the military; video game; entertainment; medical; and personal 'distraction' industries. The NAS is the massive organization that is the validator for the tech ideas. The report itself is a free download with email. Like Krasting's short bit-it is worth reading if only for comic relief :
The Gathering Storm report concluded that America was in substantial danger of losing its economic leadership position and suffering a concomitant decline of the standard of living of its citizens because of a looming inability to compete for jobs in the global marketplace.
One really does not need to go further. The report suggests more high-paying technology jobs are desirable. Okay, observable reality indicates an inability of Americans to compete with the Pedroes of the world in the all-important leaf-blower segment! In 21st century America, only low-wage service and retail jobs are desirable to employers as the retail and marketing sectors are where the money returns remain. It is cheaper to produce where costs are lower; it is easier to hire sub-continental skill at $25 a day rather than expense learning in this country at $4 million per worker lifetime! (http://www.earnmydegree.com/online-education/learning-center/education-value.html) Without the cheapness the all-important American companies go out of business:

Lifetime Earnings for Full-Time Employees Average earnings (in $millions) for different levels of education. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Surveys 1998-2000.

Professional Degree
Doctoral Degree
Master's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Associate's Degree
Some College
High School Grad
Some High School

The error is in thinking the addition of more $4 million-dollar men and women will automatically generate an increase in final demand and purchasing power. The theory is education is 'magic' to make the economy go! On the contrary, adding more workers is a form of 'inflation' which devalues the worth of each worker. As is the case right now, college educated cannot find leaf- blowing jobs yet are saddled with enormous debt burdens ... burdens accepted to gain for themselves what is proving to be worthless. There is a reason people are choosing not to be engineers or scientists. It's a hiring dead end.

What matters is return, on the education, on the companies that would hire the education, upon the companies' output and upon that output's effects on the business environment as a whole. The problem is diminishing returns on the output of productive business worldwide. This phenomenon can be seen in the public employee sector. Employee costs are so high the sector is imploding. Analysts suggest that public employees are not 'productive' but this is not so.

Private sectors cannot function efficiently without the services provided by the public sector including law enforcement, courts, property records, highway and road maintenance along with the education service pimped in the NAS report! Unfortunately, there are no sub-minimum wage substitutes for public employees. Oxnard cannot sell its firefighters to China. It must either pay or do without services. This is deflation in action. Sticky costs such as contract- constrained wages cannot be afforded by those who rely on the services provided. Renegotiating the costs takes time. The time costs plus the money costs accrue in the interval of renegotiation.

The outcome is galloping expenses that cannot be rendered affordable under any set of circumstances leading to liquidation. This is taking place right now in almost all 50 states. How much would it cost in time and lost 'productivity' to switch the school system of any state from public to private? How much would it cost in money? The infrastructure to enable such a change does not exist. That deficiency would impose more costs.

These costs when added would press on a community that lacks sufficient returns on its commerce to carry its current costs. Technology itself is possessed of its own significant structural shortcomings. The iPod cannot compete with the productive capacity of the simple vacuum cleaner invented a hundred years ago. The vacuum saves trillions of cleaning hours per year while the iPod wastes an equivalent amount of labor hours.

The great inventions of the late-19th century will not be redone. There is no tech equivalent for the Otto or Diesel cycle internal combustion engines, for the airplane, the locomotive, the steamship, the telephone or flush toilet. Adding more tech adds more costs which cannot be paid by the products themselves but must be submerged within the productive capacity of the 'legacy' economy. The productivity of vacuum cleaner users supports the iPod industry.

iPods are not productive in and of themselves. They and similar gadgets are proxies for energy waste. Wages not paid to immigrant leaf blowers are excess which is directed toward tech gadgets. As the costs of using vacuums and leaf blowers increases, the legacy economy shrinks, the earning power of tech evaporates. Like Krasting sez, no hope! The entire focus of the world's decision-making and policy mechanisms has been and is to strengthen finance and reward finance employment. Governments playing currency and interest rate games are hedge funds. Productive companies, even in China are also hedge funds.

Money making money is the job of the world. There is less of a productive 'there' there. It costs more and more to bring real products to markets. Part of this is increasing startup costs. Engineering high-tech products is very expensive along with the tech demands of production itself. China's 'investment' in educating its multitudes is good for the sake of liberalizing the collective Chinese mind but is not a business investment. The end users for what products these multitudes would provide are together a fading enterprise, being too expensive. One reason being the cost of educating these end users.

China succeeds because of its vast pool of uneducated workers willing to work cheaply rather than a pool of expensive labor that cannot afford to take a job that doesn't repay the cost of training. Labor at any price competes with energy hungry dumb machines. This is industrialization's fundamental dynamic, it propelled Europe's manufacturing jobs to America then America's to China and Mexico. Adding smart machines and smart employees is unprofitable to business, otherwise America with its expensive employees and automation would be the world's manufacturing center, not China.

Arguments can be made regarding this but the facts speak for themselves. Production is declining relative to finance is because most if not all modern goods are energy waste-enablers. The increasing cost of energy inputs diminishes the ability of the products to 'earn' an energy payback in money terms. This is the dynamic behind the current crisis. Energy costs are taken right out of business product, and worker earnings. The 600% increase in crude costs since Peak Oil in 1998 has been a business profit death angel. Unless technology can undo physical laws such as entropy it is helpless!

Because of cost, making products more efficient energy users by engineering - using high cost engineers - makes them inefficient money makers. It's a zero-sum operation. Even as the money sector shows various pitiful gains and costs, etc. the natural resource 'bank' continues to hemorrhage. By means of shabby accounting and outright lies we fool ourselves along with the National Academy of Sciences and Tom Friedman who in turn complete the cycle of fools by validating nonsense as fact.
"When scientists discovered how to decipher the human genome it opened entire new opportunities in many fields including medicine. Similarly, when scientists and engineers discovered how to increase the capacity of integrated circuits by a factor of one million as they have in the past forty years, it enabled entrepreneurs to replace tape recorders with iPods, maps with GPS, pay phones with cell phones, two-dimensional X-rays with three-dimensional CT scans, paperbacks with electronic books, slide rules with computers, and much, much more. Further, the pace of creation of new knowledge appears by almost all measures to be accelerating."
Which avoids entirely the baleful effects of ever-increasing numbers of humanoids. With tech or without the machines cannot grow returns fast enough to compete with human baby-making along with baby-making's tech enablers. The incentives embedded in tech are perverse. The only things tech can do is come up with ever more efficient ways for humanoids to kill each other or to produce more humanoids.

This smears the human misery component across a larger field of measurement. Fast food and 'technology' will kill more people than genomic engineering will ever save. The simplest and lowest cost approach to tech is to demand it pay for itself! Take away its energy subsidy and demand tech stand on its own without cheating.

Let tech compete with other solutions. The direct route to human health is agriculture reform, adding millions more competent organic farmers and removing the high-stress, toxic, money-centric rat race from the food cycle. It's hard to get the NASA or Tom Friedman to endorse this simply because it lacks the fashionable sex appeal of tech ...