Self-Direction

Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn't.  You cannot shirk this and be a man.  To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. 

Mark Twain

via Scott Williams

The Great Disruption in Continous Consumption

I applaud Thomas Friedman for publicizing previously unthinkable questions about the current worldwide crisis.  He and a few others see evidence that the American lifestyle of continuous consumption is unsustainable. (It's the same lifestyle that Dick Cheney said is non-negotiable.) He feels that 2008 was the tipping point.

In the meanwhile, the US government is creating money and giving it to the usual suspects who will try to get "consumers" to resume their spending so we can return to continuous consumption. Imagine this – unsustainable government spending to stimulate unsustainable consumer spending! What's wrong with this picture? Can this end well?

Below are some excerpts from Friedman's column.

Link: Op-Ed Columnist – The Inflection Is Near? – NYTimes.com.

What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese …

We can’t do this anymore.

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate …’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

Over a billion people today suffer from water scarcity; deforestation in the tropics destroys an area the size of Greece every year — more than 25 million acres; more than half of the world’s fisheries are over-fished or fished at their limit.

“Just as a few lonely economists warned us we were living beyond our financial means and overdrawing our financial assets, scientists are warning us that we’re living beyond our ecological means and overdrawing our natural assets,” argues Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. But, he cautioned, as environmentalists have pointed out: “Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.”

One of those who has been warning me of this for a long time is Paul Gilding, the Australian environmental business expert. He has a name for this moment — when both Mother Nature and Father Greed have hit the wall at once — “The Great Disruption.”

“We are taking a system operating past its capacity and driving it faster and harder,” he wrote me. “No matter how wonderful the system is, the laws of physics and biology still apply.” We must have growth, but we must grow in a different way. For starters, economies need to transition to the concept of net-zero, whereby buildings, cars, factories and homes are designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible. Let’s grow by creating flows rather than plundering more stocks.

Gilding says he’s actually an optimist. So am I. People are already using this economic slowdown to retool and reorient economies. Germany, Britain, China and the U.S. have all used stimulus bills to make huge new investments in clean power. South Korea’s new national paradigm for development is called: “Low carbon, green growth.” Who knew? People are realizing we need more than incremental changes — and we’re seeing the first stirrings of growth in smarter, more efficient, more responsible ways.

In the meantime, says Gilding, take notes: “When we look back, 2008 will be a momentous year in human history. Our children and grandchildren will ask us, ‘What was it like? What were you doing when it started to fall apart? What did you think? What did you do?’  Often in the middle of something momentous, we can’t see its significance. But for me there is no doubt: 2008 will be the marker — the year when ‘The Great Disruption’ began.”

via Sharon Astyk at Casaubon’s Book

Youtube video expresses outrage at Washington elites


Link: WorldNetDaily

The man who created two phenomenally successful "We The People" YouTube videos urging Americans to stand up against Congress and reclaim their republic now – or perhaps lose it forever – reportedly has been summoned to the White House by President Obama to discuss the subject matter of the short films.

Bob Basso, who posts videos under the name funbobbasso on YouTube, has created videos in which he portrays Thomas Paine, author of the "Common Sense" pamphlet that made the case for independence during the American Revolution.

Basso, whose website offers his services as a motivational speaker, uses the YouTube presentations to condemn "non-representing representatives" and warns, "Only when they feel the almighty wrath of 'We The People' marching in the streets from California to New York shouting 'We're mad as hell and we want our country back' will they get the message they work for you."

In his second video, which has been seen more than 1.1 million times, Basso challenges people to let Congress know their displeasure by sending tea bags.

Questioning and Happiness

All my life I've been harassed by questions: Why is something this way and not another? How do you account for that? This rage to understand, to fill in the blanks, only makes life more banal. If we could only find the courage to leave our destiny to chance, to accept the fundamental mystery of our lives, then we might be closer to the sort of happiness that comes with innocence.

Luis Buñuel, Movie Director

via IMDB.com

Likewise, I'm plagued by curiosity.

The Value of Struggle

The Parable of the Emperor Moth

Emperor Moth

A scientist was enamored by the glory and beauty of the Emperor Moth.

Its radiant colors, unique patterns and majestic wingspan inspired our scientist to study the moth. Carefully he watched a young caterpillar spin a cocoon and then he removed the cocoon to his laboratory where he could observe the process.

The day finally came that the small crawling caterpillar had become the elegant Emperor Moth and the scientist watched with great excitement as the Moth began to chew its way out of the cocoon. The tiny jaws of the moth chewed at the cocoon trying to exit, but failing it fell back time and again in what seemed to be exhaustion. The scientist watched as the moth worked and failed. He began to imagine the moth speaking to him, "Why don't you help me?"

The moth finally pushed its head out and began to work at pulling the body through the small hole. Each attempt seemed to fail. The progress was so slow that it was basically imperceptible. The scientist looked on beginning to feel guilty for not coming to the rescue of the moth.

The day was coming to an end and the progress was so fractional that the scientist finally could not hold back. With the spirit of a rescue worker, he took his tweezers and carefully opened the cocoon. The moth was free–but so badly deformed it couldn't fly and died soon thereafter.

Later our scientist learned, it is the struggle that shapes the body, forcing fluids out to the majestic wings, giving shape to the giant moth. Without the struggle, without the form resulting from the almost tortuous requirement to pull itself through a small opening in the cocoon, there is no Emperor Moth.

via Eldon Taylor

The Financial Deception Continues

Several decades ago, I read Rolling Stone magazine for the latest on my favorite music and counterculture news. Now Rolling Stone is covering the Financial Crisis in language that the young folks understand. That's good, the younger generation needs to know what's really going on because their future will be affected significantly by how this financial crisis ends.

In The Big Takeover, Matt Taibbi says the global economic crisis isn't about money – it's about power. He says that Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution.

Link: The Big Takeover : Rolling Stone.

The real question from here is whether the Obama administration is going to move to bring the financial system back to a place where sanity is restored and the general public can have a say in things or whether the new financial bureaucracy will remain obscure, secretive and hopelessly complex. It might not bode well that Geithner, Obama's Treasury secretary, is one of the architects of the Paulson bailouts; as chief of the New York Fed, he helped orchestrate the Goldman-friendly AIG bailout and the secretive Maiden Lane facilities used to funnel funds to the dying company. Neither did it look good when Geithner — himself a protégé of notorious Goldman alum John Thain, the Merrill Lynch chief who paid out billions in bonuses after the state spent billions bailing out his firm — picked a former Goldman lobbyist named Mark Patterson to be his top aide.

In fact, most of Geithner's early moves reek strongly of Paulsonism. He has continually talked about partnering with private investors to create a so-called "bad bank" that would systemically relieve private lenders of bad assets — the kind of massive, opaque, quasi-private bureaucratic nightmare that Paulson specialized in. Geithner even refloated a Paulson proposal to use TALF, one of the Fed's new facilities, to essentially lend cheap money to hedge funds to invest in troubled banks while practically guaranteeing them enormous profits.

God knows exactly what this does for the taxpayer, but hedge-fund managers sure love the idea. "This is exactly what the financial system needs," said Andrew Feldstein, CEO of Blue Mountain Capital and one of the Morgan Mafia. Strangely, there aren't many people who don't run hedge funds who have expressed anything like that kind of enthusiasm for Geithner's ideas.

As complex as all the finances are, the politics aren't hard to follow. By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.

The most galling thing about this financial crisis is that so many Wall Street types think they actually deserve not only their huge bonuses and lavish lifestyles but the awesome political power their own mistakes have left them in possession of. When challenged, they talk about how hard they work, the 90-hour weeks, the stress, the failed marriages, the hemorrhoids and gallstones they all get before they hit 40.

"But wait a minute," you say to them. "No one ever asked you to stay up all night eight days a week trying to get filthy rich shorting what's left of the American auto industry or selling $600 billion in toxic, irredeemable mortgages to ex-strippers on work release and Taco Bell clerks. Actually, come to think of it, why are we even giving taxpayer money to you people? Why are we not throwing your ass in jail instead?"

But before you even finish saying that, they're rolling their eyes, because You Don't Get It. These people were never about anything except turning money into money, in order to get more money; valueswise they're on par with crack addicts, or obsessive sexual deviants who burgle homes to steal panties. Yet these are the people in whose hands our entire political future now rests.

Good luck with that, America. And enjoy tax season.

via Chris Martenson

AIG Contributions to Politicians in 2008

The top 10…

Link: American International Group: All Recipients | OpenSecrets.

Name

Office

Total Contributions

Dodd, Chris (D-CT) Senate $103,100
Obama, Barack (D-IL) Senate $101,332
McCain, John (R-AZ) Senate $59,499
Clinton, Hillary (D-NY) Senate $35,965
Baucus, Max (D-MT) Senate $24,750
Romney, Mitt (R) Pres $20,850
Biden, Joseph R Jr (D-DE) Senate $19,975
Larson, John B (D-CT) House $19,750
Sununu, John E (R-NH) Senate $18,500

via Mike Swanson

An Amazing Gadget – Sixth Sense

TED provides a glimpse of a wow technology.

Link: Pattie Maes demos the Sixth Sense | Video on TED.com.

This demo – from Pattie Maes' lab at MIT, spearheaded by Pranav Mistry – was the buzz of TED. It's a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment.

Pattie Maes researches the tools we use to work with information and connect with one another. Full bio and more links

Pranav Mistry is the genius behind Sixth Sense, a wearable device that enables new interactions between the real world and the world of data. Full bio and more links

via James Abrams