27 February 2009

Obama Dresses US as Banana Republic

"After the cult of personality," the Colombian explained, "what comes next is nationalization." Fidel had nationalized the Cuban sugar mills, Chavez the Banco de Venezuela, Morales the Bolivian oil and gas industries.

..."The last step?" asked the Cuban. "Censorship. It won't be obvious at first--they're always too smart for that. But it will come."

"Never," replied the American. "We have the First Amendment."

"And soon enough," the Cuban said, smiling sadly, "you will also have the Fairness Doctrine." _Forbes
Latin Americans have seen the phenomenon occur time after time. They are repeat suckers for the big talking populist. But fter 8 years of GW Bush, 8 years of Clinton's finger, and 4 years of GHW Bush, the US was completely unprepared for a catastrophic populist socialism oozing from a reassuringly soft baritone that could lip-synch to a telprompter.

America is being put to the test. Can it wake up in time to stop the slow-motion cataclysm, or will it play dead to the dictator, as Latin America has done so well so many times? Because the real world of economics will not be charmed by a soothing telepromptered voice. The real world of economics will make people bleed and die if its rules are not properly followed -- despite the consensus of rich socialites, celebrities, media culture, and left-wing politicos.
The source of skepticism for many Americans is not the prospect of government waste but Obama's theory of job creation......most jobs are created by private capital in the private sector, often by small businesses. And small businesses got little policy attention in Obama's speech. An example Obama used -- retaining police officers -- is a worthy cause, but hardly typical of American job creation. A small-business owner heard nothing about his daily struggles with litigation or regulation.

There is an element of psychology -- of confidence -- in taking the risks of entrepreneurship and small-business expansion. It is difficult to imagine how that confidence is built by being ignored.

Obama was even less credible on the issue of debt. Most Americans seem to accept the need for the temporary deficit spike to provide a jolt to the economy. But Obama's pledges to go "line by line through the federal budget" and to remove "waste, fraud and abuse" were the most tired portions of his energetic speech -- and simply were not credible with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in vivid green over his left shoulder. _WaPo
Ever since mid September, 2008, when Obama became a heavy favourite to win the US Presidency, the markets of the US and the world have been dropping. Obama should have seen the panic of the markets, and reacted as any sane leader would have done. Instead, he has moved even more wildly in the opposite direction, proving to the markets that their panic was reasonable all along.
....economic activity adheres to some predictable truths. If you tax businesses and investors more, they’ll have less money to devote to wealth creation and hiring. If you bail out firms that should be put through bankruptcy, you’ll perpetuate ineptitude in management and misallocation of resources. If you keep credit-unworthy people in homes, they’ll eventually default and further weaken financial institutions.

Some things can’t be disguised by stagecraft or media cheerleading. In the end, it matters what you do, not how you describe your plans. _Commentary
The US becomes another third world nation, if it continues along the Obama / Pelosi road.

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California Accounts for 2/3 of US Housing Losses

"66 percent of potential housing value losses in 2008 and subsequent years may be in California, with another 21 percent in Florida, Nevada and Arizona, for a total of 87 percent of national declines."

"California had only 10 percent of the nation's housing units, but it had 34 percent of foreclosures in 2008," Lucy and Herlitz reported. _Reason
California is the great basket case of the US. And it is a preview of coming economic attractions for the rest of the US under Obama. Obama is not cleaning up the economic mess. He is inflating it -- growing it incalculably larger. There is nothing so bad that foolish men (and women) cannot make it far worse.

For more on how the "sand states" of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Florida took housing value down to the cellar, check out Steve Sailer's blog.

Special Bonus: How the 2008 surge in oil prices helped take the wind out of the sails of the world economy.

How congress influenced credit rating agencies.

This is not a thinking person's congress, and Obama is not a thinking person's president. Whatever voters thought they would get by voting for Obama, they are in for an unpleasant surprise. At this point, anyone who voted for Obama and continues to support his policies has earned the label "Obama zombie." Just as in most third world countries, the US is dividing between the politically connected (and favoured) and all the rest.

Final Bonus -- Jim Rogers rains on the parade of any economic optimists out there:

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26 February 2009

What Are Best Jobs In An Obama Depression?

Survival Blog has been looking at how to survive an Obama depression. They begin by looking at safe businesses during the 1930s depression.
According to statistics published some 20 years ago by Dr.Ravi Batra, the safest businesses and industries during the worst years of the Great Depression (1929-1933) were:

Repair shops
Educational services (A lot of young men that couldn't find work borrowed money to go to trade schools and college.)
Healthcare services
Bicycle shops
Bus transportation
Gasoline service stations
Second hand stores
Legal services
Drug or proprietary stores

To bring Batra's list up to date, I would speculatively add a few more sectors and business that are likely to do well in the next depression:

Home security and locksmithing (since a higher crime rate is inevitable in bad economic times.)
Entertainment and diversions, such as DVD sales and rentals. People will undoubtedly want to escape their troubles!
Truck farming and large scale vegetable gardening (since just 2% of the population now feeds the other 98%--whereas back in the 1930s the US was still a predominantly agrarian society)
Export consumer goods. (Starting in late 2009 or early 2010, the US Dollar is likely to resume its slide versus most other currencies)
Pawn shops and gun / ammo shops should do well. Liquor, beer, wine, and other mind altering substances will no doubt be in demand. Loan sharks should do a good business, as should various small scale local gambling facilities and services. Prostitution and related services should also do very well.

Persons who specialise in construction of fortified reserves and sanctuaries may see an uptick in business, as US citizens more fully comprehend the magnitude of the D'oh-bama "reforms." Off-grid power supplies and alternative communications systems will likewise probably grow in popularity.

Some US cities should be seen as "unsustainable" due to reasons of poor government, uneducated and / or untrainable population, high crime, crumbling infrastructure and tax base, etc., and should probably be evacuated by persons who have families and small children. Large cities in general -- particularly those with high levels of crime and corruption -- should be abandoned as soon as economically possible.

Unionised government workers are currently sitting very pretty, at least until their underfunded pensions start unraveling. Tenured professors no doubt feel quite secure at this time, whether or not they should. Persons collecting government disbursements are the fastest growing population in the US. As the dollar loses value, their income (in real terms) will shrink rapidly.

The best chances for long term survival and prosperity rest in sustainable communities of persons who are highly skilled, competent, and willing to do what has to be done. Very few D'oh-bama voters fall into those categories, so a prudent person will want to choose his residence carefully, with that in mind.

More on the selection of a community likely to prosper through hard economic times, coming soon.

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Norwegian Women are Just Asking For It!

At least ten women were attacked and molested by a gang of Somali men at Sofienberg park in Oslo on Saturday evening.

Last year a record-high 161 rapes and 35 rape attempts were reported in Oslo. Over 70% of the rapists were non-Norwegian [ed. ethnically, a majority had Norwegian citizenship].

[Somali man in Norwegian cafe]: ...when then go out almost completely naked and get completelydrunk in Frogner park or go to a party together with some friend, and then they complain about being raped? It’s their fault, says the 26 year old from Somalia. _Source
We hear the same story from Muslim men now living in Paris, Brussels, Stockholm, Melbourne, Hamburg, London . . . wherever Muslim men have immigrated into the western world. "Western women are simply asking to be raped, it is their own fault . . . ." And so gangs of Muslims rove the streets of western Europe, Australia, and wherever else the women are begging to be raped, in order to answer their desires. Or so they say.

European cities are growing increasingly Muslim through immigration and high Muslim birth rates. All it takes is 10%, or so, hostile newcomers to completely alter the political dynamics of a community. Hitler certainly started out with much less and made great strides in his political career.

Muslim population in European cities

eumap.org background research reports on Muslims in European cities

Some European cities are approaching 25% or more Muslim population, well over the threshold of radical change. Since cities are the heart of a country, the entire country's politics can take a radical turn due to the Muslim influx and rapid reproduction inside its cities. The entire of western Europe may be over 25% Muslim within little more than another decade, according to a UCSD professor. (see label "european decline" below)

It's certainly a good thing that the women of Europe have the feminists of the western world looking out for them. The same goes for the gays and lesbians of Europe, who often suffer from Muslim violence.

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25 February 2009

Free Speech in Europe? Fuggedaboudet!

Netherlands legislator Geert Wilders was recently deported from the UK without being allowed to give his scheduled presentation at the House of Lords. Unlike the UK, the US allowed Wilders free access to the country. The following is excerpted from his 23 Feb 2009 speech in NYC.
Thank you very much for inviting me. And – to the immigration authorities – thank you for letting me into this country. It is always a pleasure to cross a border without being sent back on the first plane.

Today, the dearest of our many freedoms is under attack all throughout Europe. Free speech is no longer a given. What we once considered a natural element of our existence, our birth right, is now something we once again have to battle for.

As you might know, I will be prosecuted, because of my film Fitna, my remarks regarding Islam, and my view concerning what some call a ‘religion of peace’. A few years from now, I might be a criminal.

...Today, I come before you to warn of a great threat. It is called Islam. It poses as a religion, but its goals are very worldly: world domination, holy war, sharia law, the end of the separation of church and state, slavery of women, the end of democracy. It is NOT a religion, it is an political ideology. It demands your respect, but has no respect for you.

There might be moderate Muslims, but there is no moderate Islam. Islam will never change, because it is built on two rocks that are forever, two fundamental beliefs that will never change, and will never alter.

...Their disdain of the West is so much greater than the appreciation of our many liberties. And therefore, they are willing to sacrifice everything. The left once stood for women rights, gay rights, equality, democracy. Now, they favour immigration policies that will end all this. Many even lost their decency. Elite politicians have no problem to participate in or finance demonstrations where settlers shout “Death to the Jews”. Seventy years after Auschwitz they know of no shame.

Two weeks ago, I tried to get into Britain, a fellow EU country. I was invited to give a speech in Parliament. However, upon arrival at London airport, I was refused entry into the UK, and sent back on the first plane to Holland. I would have loved to have reminded the audience of a great man who once spoke in the House of Commons. In 1982 President Reagan gave a speech there very few people liked. Reagan called upon the West to reject communism and defend freedom.

...Our enemies should know: we will never apologize for being free men, we will never bow for the combined forces of Mecca and the left. And we will never surrender. We stand on the shoulders of giants. There is no stronger power than the force of free men fighting for the great cause of liberty. Because freedom is the birthright of all man. _AtlasShrugs
Wilders is under 24 hour a day armed guard, particularly when in his home country, The Netherlands. That is the price of free speech for one who wishes to stay alive in Europe today. Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh paid the price for their free speech in Europe. Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are living under constant threat of Islamic violence, as is the entire continent of Europe.

Update: Wilders in NYC at a small gathering with extended discussion.

From a post at Abu Al-Fin

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Are You One of the Atholes Offended by a Cartoon? Then What Are You Doing Here?

There are plenty of left wing and Muslim insane asylums where such perpetually offended atholes would feel more at home than at this blog. Cartoon riots are common in the Muslim world, and now under Barak Obama we are seeing cartoon riots in the US. Do these morons actually believe that they have the right not to be offended?
In protests this week, students at a New York college urged boycotts, began burning newspapers (a hop, skip and jump away from burning books) and demanding that anyone involved with the cartoon be fired. Fair enough.

But now the Reverend Al has ordered a meeting with the Federal Communications Commission so he — a man who has set off more chaos, loathing and racism in New York than any cartoonist — can discuss the ownership of The New York Post. The FCC, according to Sharpton, has acquiesced to meet in Washington.

As an antiquated government entity, the FCC controls the public airwaves and ownership of media companies. What if it meets with Sharpton and then moves against the New York Post's owner?

We've largely avoided the corrosive trend of chilling free speech — though discussions about the "Fairness Doctrine" (and its derivatives), which allows government to dictate what opinions Americans should hear on the public airwaves, remains a hobbyhorse for some lefties.

...Recently, Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who produced the film "Fitna" — which asserts that Islam is a threat to enlightened Western values — was refused entry into England because of that nation's policy to "stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages."

The Brits proved Wilders' point about Islam's influence by suppressing his right to free expression. Wilders, who is in the U.S. right now, offers a cautionary lesson: Feel free to be indignant and hurt. Feel free to boycott and to cast nasty aspersions on the decency of those who offend you. But let's keep government out of it.

The war against offensive speech can, if we're not careful, morph into a war against free speech. _DenverPost_via_Instapundit
The war against free speech has been on ever since the leftists took over the university. Leftist faculty and staff prevent non-leftists from speaking on campus. Leftist professors prevent non-leftist academics from obtaining tenure, and give non-leftist students poor grades if they dare to contradict the professor's viewpoint. These academic indoctrination camps have been going full steam for decades now.

Under D'oh-bama is it so surprising that the war against free speech would escalate to take in the entire news and entertainment media, all of popular culture, and every aspect of public (and soon private) life in America?

So if you are offended by a cartoon that makes fun of Nancy Pelosi, and takes crude advantage of a real life "chimp gone mad" that had to be put down, then go ahead and be offended, athole. But do it somewhere else.

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23 February 2009

The Next Economy & Sharpening the old Noggin

In order to comprehend and take part in the next economy, most of us will need to take active steps to sharpen and/or preserve our mental acumen. Here is a list of 6 ways from SciAm:
Mice that run on wheels increase the number of neurons in their hippocampus and perform better on tests of learning and memory. Studies of humans have revealed that exercise can improve the brain’s executive functions (planning, organizing, multitasking, and more). Exercise is also well known for its mood-boosting effects, and people who exercise are less likely to get dementia as they age....

A variety of mechanisms might be responsible for this brain boost. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which also increases the delivery of oxygen, fuel and nutrients to those hard-working neurons. Research has shown that exercise can increase levels of a substance called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which encourages growth, communication and survival of neurons....

The brain needs fuel just as the body does. So what will really boost your brainpower, and what will make you lose your mind?...The brain is mostly fat—all those cell membranes and myelin coverings require fatty acids—so it is important to eat certain fats, particularly omega-3 fats, which are found in fish, nuts and seeds. Alzheimer’s disease, depression, schizophrenia and other disorders may be associated with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Fruits and vegetables also appear to be brain superfoods. Produce is high in substances called antioxidants, which counteract atoms that can damage brain cells. Researchers have found that high-antioxidant diets keep learning and memory sharp in aging rats and even reduce the brain damage caused by strokes. That’s food for thought....

Stimulants are substances that rev up the nervous system, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, energy, breathing and more. Caffeine is probably the most famous of the group. (It is actually the most widely used “drug” in the world.) By activating the central nervous system, caffeine boosts arousal and alertness.....One study showed that the equivalent of two cups of coffee can boost short-term memory and reaction time. Functional MRI scans taken during the study also revealed that volunteers who had been given caffeine had increased activity in the brain regions involving attention. In addition, research suggests caffeine can protect against age-related memory decline in older women.

.....Surgeons who spend at least a few hours a week playing video games make one-third fewer errors in the operating room than nongaming doctors do. Indeed, research has shown that video games can improve mental dexterity, while boosting hand-eye coordination, depth perception and pattern recognition. Gamers also have better attention spans and information-processing skills than the average Joe has. When nongamers agree to spend a week playing video games (in the name of science, of course), their ­visual-perception skills improve.....

Video games activate the brain’s reward circuits but do so much more in men than in women, according to a new study. Researchers hooked men and women up to functional MRI machines while the participants played a video game designed for the study. Both groups performed well, but the men showed more activity in the limbic system, which is associated with reward processing. What is more, the men showed greater connectivity between the structures that make up the reward circuit, and the better this connection was in a particular player, the better he performed. There was no such correlation in women. Men are more than twice as likely as women are to say they feel addicted to video games.

Music can...activate your brain’s reward centers and depress activity in the amygdala, reducing fear and other negative emotions.

....music does seem to possess some good vibrations. It can treat anxiety and insomnia, lower blood pressure, soothe patients with dementia, and help premature babies to gain weight and leave the hospital sooner.

Music training can bolster the brain. The motor cortex, cerebellum and corpus callosum (which connects the brain’s two sides) are all bigger in musicians than in nonmusicians. And string players have more of their sensory cortices devoted to their fingers than do those who don’t play the instruments..... some studies have indeed shown that music lessons can improve the spatial abilities of young kids.

Meditation, or the turning of the mind inward for contemplation and relaxation, seems to help all types of conditions—anxiety disorders, sure, but it can also reduce pain and treat high blood pressure, asthma, insomnia, diabetes, depression and even skin conditions.

...Researchers are now illuminating the actual brain changes caused by meditation by sticking meditators into brain-imaging machines. For one, although the brain’s cells typically fire at all different times, during meditation they fire in synchrony. Expert meditators also show spikes of brain activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that has generally been associated with positive emotions. And those who had the most activity in this area during meditation also had big boosts in immune system functioning.

Meditation can increase the thickness of the cerebral cortex, particularly in regions associated with attention and sensation. (The growth does not seem to result from the cortex growing new neurons, though—it appears that the neurons already there make more connections, the number of support cells increases, and blood vessels in that area get bigger.) _Sciam
There you have it. A glimpse into the future, and a few of the things you will need to do to be able to take advantage of it.

H/T Zenpundit

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Who Is Killing Iran? Demographic Collapse

Iran is dying. The collapse of Iran's birth rate during the past 20 years is the fastest recorded in any country, ever. Demographers have sought in vain to explain Iran's population implosion through family planning policies, or through social factors such as the rise of female literacy. _Spengler
We remember that the mad mullahs took over Iran back in 1979, with the blessing of US President Carter. Since that time Iran has been involved in revolutions, wars, and proxy wars across the middle east. Iran lost millions of its very young in the 1980s war against Saddam's Iraq, when the mad mullahs used millions of Iran's helpless youth as cannon fodder against Saddam's more seasoned troops. What karmic shadow did that huge loss throw over the future of the fanatical theocracy?

Iran is currently involved in arming and financing ethnic/sectarian killings in Lebanon, Gaza, and Iraq, and in building the foundations of Shia rebellion inside Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations. All this emphasis on killing, religious fanaticism and oppression, and -- the apocalyptic visions of the coming of the twelfth imam -- cannot help but warp a small nation already ripped by ethnic tensions between Persians, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Azaris, Armenians, Assyrians, Georgians, and others. But, as Spengler says, a nation is never truly beaten until it begins selling its women.
...prostitution has become a career of choice among educated Iranian women. On February 3, the Austrian daily Der Standard published the results of two investigations conducted by the Tehran police, suppressed by the Iranian media. [1]

"More than 90% of Tehran's prostitutes have passed the university entrance exam, according to the results of one study, and more than 30% of them are registered at a university or studying," reports Der Standard. "The study was assigned to the Tehran Police Department and the Ministry of Health, and when the results were tabulated in early January no local newspaper dared to so much as mention them."

The Austrian newspaper added, "Eighty percent of the Tehran sex workers maintained that they pursue this career voluntarily and temporarily. The educated ones are waiting for better jobs. Those with university qualifications intend to study later, and the ones who already are registered at university mention the high tuition [fees] as their motive for prostitution ... they are content with their occupation and do not consider it a sin according to Islamic law."

There is an extensive trade in poor Iranian women who are trafficked to the Gulf states in huge numbers, as well as to Europe and Japan. _Spengler
Iranians can watch the world on satellite television. They understand that life under the mullahs is not the best life available on Earth. Many of them want something better.
For the majority of young Iranians, there is no way up, only a way out; 36% of Iran's youth aged 15 to 29 years want to emigrate, according to yet another unpublicized Iranian study, this time by the country's Education Ministry, Der Standard adds. Only 32% find the existing social norms acceptable, while 63% complain about unemployment, the social order or lack of money.

...The declining morale of the Iranian population helps make sense of its galloping demographic decline. Academic demographers have tried to explain collapsing fertility as a function of rising female literacy. The problem is that the Iranian regime lies about literacy data, and has admitted as much recently.

...The cause of Iran's collapsing fertility is not literacy as such, but extreme pessimism about the future and an endemic materialism that leads educated Iranian women to turn their own sexuality into a salable commodity. _Spengler
In Iran, they still stone women for adultery, and execute homosexuals for homosexuality. In a land of fossil fuels, people freeze in their apartments for lack of natural gas. Political connections are everything, and the politically connected can literally get away with murder, as in most oppressive authoritarian states.

Expect low energy prices to put enormous pressure on the current regime. Iran is a dead-end state, and it is becoming more difficult to conceal this fact from its citizens. Historically, such states tend to involve themselves in wars as a last ditch attempt at self preservation. Given recent revelations concerning Iran's ability to create nuclear weapons, such a war might go nuclear, and involve as much as half the world.

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Big Oil Invests In Biofuels: The Bio Future is Near

Most biofuels naysayers haven't taken the trouble to look at all the different ways that biological organisms can create energy and energy feedstocks. Brian Wang recently discussed Sandia National Lab's recent study predicting the production of 90 billion gallons a year of biofuels in the not-so-distant-future. And now, Brian Westenhaus takes a good look at the growing involvement of big petroleum in the research and development of biofuels.
Big Oil is helping the biofuel industry move past the persistent perception that cellulosic-based fuel is five years from reality. “That would have been accurate five years ago,” Riva said. “It’s not accurate today.”

Meanwhile Exxon Mobil is in the media openly talking about its interest in biofuels. With an industry reputation of strong research and high powered engineering skills, Exxon Mobil getting into the business would mark a turning point for biofuels and for the long term viability of oil being an economy dominating club for the market manipulators.

...the news is that BP is in the biofuels business. Big Oil, with all the baggage the industry has to cope with in people’s perceptions has more incentive, capital, skill and management than any other segment of the economy. What the press and media overlook is that for over one hundred years the oil industry drove to lower fuel prices, expanded markets and a higher standard of living. Check your history till 1972 when the first embargo from OPEC began the market distortions. The oil industry had been a boom and bust business before OPEC, even more so since. No one craves a low priced, high volume, steadily profitable business more than Big Oil. Nearly two generations of oil industry people have endured a torrent of troubles. _NewEnergyandFuel
British Petroleum, Shell, Exxon, Valero, Chevron, and other big oil companies are researching, developing, and / or investing in production and refining of biofuels. All of this at a time when oil prices are stuck in the doldrums. This tells you that at least most of these companies can see a time when producing biofuels will be competitive with producing petro-fuels. Sometime very soon, perhaps.

Most analysts expect oil prices to rise sharply as soon as the global economic situation begins to revive. But as biofuels production becomes more economical, and scales upward in volume, petro-fuels will have a strong competitor. And competition generally helps constrain prices. I supppose the oil companies wanted to get in on the ground floor.

Taken from a post at Al Fin Energy


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21 February 2009

We Are All Cyborgs Now: Photoelectrode Control

A fascinating new type of brain stimulating electrode is being developed at Case Western Reserve University. This new electrode can be triggered by light, yet it triggers a nerve action potential at the brain implantation site.
The team led by Ben W. Strowbridge and Clemens Burda coated the interiors of extremely finely drawn-out glass micropipettes with lead selenide nanoparticles. Lead selenide is a semiconductor that is activated by IR light. As in solar cells, irradiation “catapults” firmly bound electrons out of the valence band and into the conduction band of the semiconductor, where they can move freely. This leads to charge separation and thus to an electrical potential. With a suitable laser, defined processes elicited by short light pulses set off corresponding electrical pulses in the micropipette. An electrical field is thus formed around the pipette, which can then be used by the researchers to stimulate neurons in rat brain samples with a high degree of time-resolution.

...By using these new photoelectrodes, the cooperation of nerve cells can be studied. However, therapeutic applications are also possible: the probes could be used to activate individual regions of the brain or damaged or cut nerves to restore function - without the need for disturbing wires. _Physorg
Fascinating! The laser pulses are transmitted down the glass electrode to the special implanted semiconductor material, where it is transduced to an electrical potential. This potential then triggers nerve impulses -- apparently on a very fine time resolution scale.

Think about it for a moment. A cyborg could wear a fiberoptic receiver "cap", which can be activated with finely aimed laser light from some distance away, to provide the desired brain stimulus. Would it be possible to control a human brain with any degree of multi-sensory "conscious" awareness using this technique? Eventually, perhaps.

Although lasers require line of sight control, which restricts their use vis a vis RF controllers, the lack of need for surface electronics and power supply would seem to be a significan advantage for many purposes.

Cyborgs and Grobycs appear to offer far more promise than pure robotics, at this point in time. One normally thinks of military or law enforcement applications when thinking of a "six million dollar man" with external neural triggers or shutoffs. But as more is learned about the effect of brain stimulation, we are more likely to discover ways of enhancing normal brain function. At that point, the range of applications will broaden, and the waiting line of humans desiring augmentation is apt to grow rather long.

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Biomimetic Sky-Farm Captures Sun and CO2

Image Source
The award winning "Dystopian Farm" incorporates some interesting architectural ingredients, in an attempt to create an urban high-rise agriculture for a rapidly urbanising world.

World population in urban centers is on the rise. Experts predict that by 2050 80% of the world's citizens will reside in an urban setting. These residents will need an estimated 109 hectares of arable land to provide their food. As space on the ground is limited, one increasingly attractive solution is to build upwards, creating vertical farms. _Ecogeek

Designed for the Hudson Yard area of Manhattan, Eric Vergne’s Dystopian Farm aims to provide New York with a sustainable food source while creating a dynamic social space that integrates producers with consumers. Based upon the “material logic of plant mechanics”, the biomorphic skyscraper is modeled after the plant cells of ferns and provides space for farms, residential areas, and markets. These organic structures will harness systems such as airoponic watering, nutrient technology and controlled lighting and CO2 levels to meet the food demands of future populations. _Inhabitat
Ideally, such a structure would incorporate novel grow-lighting methods including "light pipes", custom light cycling over a 24 hour period for optimal growth, and light spectrum customisation. As noted at Inhabitat, the DF will utilise aeroponic growing methods which do not require soil. CO2 levels should be controlled at much higher than ambient levels to better carbon-fertilise growing plants. Better methods of "nitrogen fixing" for a wide array of plant families are also needed, for such intensive urban farming.

Highly controlled, intensive urban farming methods should allow a reduction in the use of liquid fuels for shipping produce into cities. They would also provide more self-sufficiency for urban environments in the face of disruption of services and transport in the countryside. Finally, such test beds for closely controlled agriculture should prove useful when humans move their center of gravity off-planet, to less life-friendly surroundings.

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When Your Average National IQ is Less Than 80, You Need a Market Dominant Minority

Riots against French colonial rule on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe have turned lethal. Sentiment has turned against not only the French, but against all Europeans, including tourists. There is an undercurrent of black nationalism behind the violence -- a resentment against being governed by whites.

Unfortunately for many indigenous tropical and semi-tropical people around the world, the average population IQ is not high enough to run a modern technological society. There is a clear association between population IQ and the GDP of countries and regions. The association is not mere coincidence. The IQ of a population assumes a bell-shaped curve. If the upper end of the curve does not contain enough persons to run the country's infrastructure, that country is doomed to poverty and misery, unless -- unless the country also has a market dominant minority to run things. Like the French in Guadeloupe, the Chinese in Indonesia and Malaysia, and the assortment of outsiders who are barely keeping South Africa above water.

Guadeloupe's average (mean) IQ for its largely black population is estimated to be near 75. Assuming a standard deviation of 15 (at the most), the proportion of black Guadeloupans who are intelligent enough to be teachers (IQ 110} is less than 4%. The number of black residents intelligent enough to be engineers or architects (IQ 120) is less than 1%. The number of black residents intelligent enough to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc. is less than 1/10th of 1%.

The same problem occurs across sub-saharan Africa, across the Arabian oil fields and infrastructure, across much of Southeast Asia, and throughout much of Latin America, and the tropical island populations of the world. Without an adequate "smart fraction", a population cannot field the star players to keep it functioning in a well and truly modern manner.

The modern technological world was created by Europeans and East/South Asians. The foundations of the modern world were built in China, South Asia, Babylon, Egypt, and Greece -- and were briefly incubated together in the multi-ethnic learning centers of Persia and Arabia before passing to Italy, Germany, France, Holland, and England for the run to modernity.

The parts of the world that never developed mathematics, never invented the wheel, never developed advanced written languages, should not be expected to excel in the modern technological world -- and they don't. Rioting against rule by market dominant minorities can feel quite righteous -- particularly to the socialist revolutionary "intellectual" who put the "commoners" up to it. (like the self-righteousness of the muslim imam who leads children into short but successful carrers as suicide bombers)

If you have a low-IQ society, you can get rid of the market dominant minority. Then you must prepare for poverty, hunger, unrelenting disease, and misery. But you can keep the self-righteousness. All that you want.

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20 February 2009

Planet Earth Adjusts Over Time to Recycle CO2 -- Planetary Rainforests Grow and Gobble Greenhouse Gases at Record Rates

It makes sense that atmospheric CO2 concentrations would rise as more CO2 is added to the air -- even the relatively small proportions of CO2 coming from humans. But the planet's rainforests are growing -- pushing back against human encroachment. And they are getting hungry, Hungry, HUNGRY! for CO2. Higher CO2 concentrations are spurring the growth of new jungles across the tropics. And these jungles are crying out "FEEED MMEEEEE!!!"
Africa's tropical forests have stored huge amounts of carbon over the last four decades and become a critical sponge for greenhouse gases, according to a study published Thursday.

Long-term measurements taken across the continent's tropical belt showed that African forests absorb as much carbon dioxide as those in the Amazon.

Tropical forests only account for seven-to-ten percent of the Earth's land area. But they hold up to half of the carbon locked inside the planet's terrestrial vegetation, giving them an outsized role in regulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

...Two dozen international researchers led by Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds in northern England pulled together data from 79 monitoring plots scattered across 10 countries in western and central Africa.

Sifting through the data, the scientists found that the region's rain forests had pumped progressively more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as trees underwent photosynthesis and grew.

The average increase was almost identical to those for Amazonia, a net plus of 630 kilos per hectare each year between 1967 and 2007, reported the study, published in the British science journal Nature.

The question, then, is why these tropical forests are continuing to draw down ever more CO2....

"Perhaps the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is effectively fertilizing tropical tree growth," speculated Muller-Landau.

"With adequate protection, these forests are likey to remain large carbon stores in the longer term," they wrote. _TerraDaily
Of course extra CO2 fertilises tropical tree growth. A scientist should understand these things, since they have been studied ad nauseum over several decades.

With rapid urbanisation occurring even in the primitive societies of the tropics, more and more previously farmed areas will revert to forest -- even in the face of biofuels-motivated cultivation of palm plantations. The longer oil prices remain low, the more progress that researchers in microbial biofuels will make in devising alternative methods of making biofuels from biomass -- for example using algae that are fertilised by CO2 from coal plants.

For a far better understanding of CO2 than anything you will get from the mainstream media or from the climate zombies, check out CO2 Science. For the best understanding of the effect of CO2 on oceans, go to Sea Friends' special treatment of the topic.

We are living through a disastrous convergence of the climate zombies and the Obama zombies. The news and entertainment media is rife with the rot-brained buggers, as are social science faculties of universities. Remember, if they come for you, you absolutely must aim for the head! ;-)

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19 February 2009

Papercrete Dome

Here is an interesting tutorial on how to build a papercrete dome by a couple who are building a life in rural New Mexico.

Their first papercrete dome was a simple project to house their PV battery bank. With only minor modification, it should be possible to use the same technique to build any small structure from a child's playhouse to a simple guest house, or even larger. Reinforced papercrete domes are both strong and weather resistant, if the proper finishing layers are applied. Insulation properties are good, and could be modified to the particular location. Thermal mass characteristics can likewise be adapted to location, with simple modifications. Creative possibilities in design are immense with these building techniques (papercrete and other 'cretes).

The overall structure will conform to the shape given it by the reinforcement structure. Steel re-bar is quite strong and rigid, and requires a bit of practise along with special tools to shape and size creatively. Steel mesh materials are less rigid, but provide excellent tensile support and can be creatively shaped more easily than re-bar. The trick there is supporting the structure against gravity while the 'crete is curing.

These structures can be made to appear as part of the landscape, rather than as human artifacts. In a post-apocalyptic world (whatever the nature of the apocalypse) -- or even a very stressed world in rapid transition -- being able to blend into the landscape can be a useful skill. Just a bit of imagination can go a long way.

H/T to MAKE and Wired

From an earlier post at Al Fin Potpourri


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18 February 2009

Can Smart Machines Bail Us Out?

Markram estimates that in order to accurately simulate the trillion synapses in the human brain, you'd need to be able to process about 500 petabytes of data (peta being a million billion, or 10 to the fifteenth power). That's about 200 times more information than is stored on all of Google's servers. (Given current technology, a machine capable of such power would be the size of several football fields.) Energy consumption is another huge problem. The human brain requires about 25 watts of electricity to operate. Markram estimates that simulating the brain on a supercomputer with existing microchips would generate an annual electrical bill of about $3 billion . _Henry Markram
Singularity devotees such as Ray Kurzweil place great hopes upon the advent of a super human level thinking machine that can show us the way out of the labyrinth. According to that meme, the appearance of superhuman intelligence and the onset of the singularity will coincide.

Smart machines do not have to work like the human brain, but since the human brain is the only "smart machine" we currently know of, the first ones probably will. Because we already have a "proof of concept" of the biological thinking machine, the smart money for smart machines is on the people who are trying to reverse-engineer the brain.

A recent Wired article looked at the IBM Almaden project to reverse-engineer the human brain. Several such projects are ongoing around the world, including the Blue Brain project in Lausanne, which was launched in 2005 as a joint venture with IBM. Henry Markram predicts that if progress in new computing machines continues at the current rate, he should be able to simulate a human brain in silico within 10 years. A shrewd observer of technological predictions might observe that a ten year prediction is cheap, allowing plenty of time for one to explain away the prediction.

Still, Markram is definitely one of the people to watch, if one wants to see the state of the art. The video below is two years old, from the 2006 IBM Almaden conference on cognitive computing. For anyone truly interested in the topic, the videos from that conference are worth watching.

Can smart machines bail us out? It depends on where they go to school, on what they learn and from whom. Smart machines, like smart brains, can develop along twisted, dysfunctional lines. Wisdom, intelligence, character, experience, perspective, savvy, competence, vision, are all important for developing truly smart brains and machines. Is it fair to expect from machines what we are unwilling to develop in ourselves? If we were serious about all this, would our educational systems, entertainment methods, and news/informational means take their present forms? Not likely.

Intelligent machines are possible -- we are proof of concept. Whether we are foresighted enough to evolve machines that are both intelligent and wise (from a human perspective) is another question.

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Who Regulates the Regulators? Important

The predominant voice from Washington DC is the demand for more government regulation over banks and financial institutions (and everything else). Who is asking the key question, "who regulates the regulators?" Or who watches the watchers? The cutting truth behind the current downturn is that it is the government regulators who caused -- and are making worse -- the crisis. But it is a grand excuse for growing government even larger, so "slam, bam, thanky ma'am" says the Obama / Pelosi reich to the American taxpayer. "I'll be back for another quicky when I feel the urge."

H/T Simoleonsense.com and Focus On Value

For more, check out the YouTube Jim Rogers Channel


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17 February 2009

Where Is the World, Without American Consumers?

In fact, the rest of the world has queued up to lend America as much money as it might wish to borrow in order to get its consumers to spend again, and buy the manufactures and raw materials of the rest of the world. _Spengler
Spengler looks at the demographics of the developed world, and wonders where the old societies (Europe, Japan etc) will find the booming young societies to invest their wealth, for good return.
Imagination fails in the case of Europe and Japan. One out of every four Germans today is older than 60, and in 30 years the proportion will rise to two-fifths. Japan is even worse: 30% of Japanese today are above 60, and in 30 years the number will be almost half. What does a national economy look like when the demographics are so skewed to pensioners?

We never have seen anything like this before in all of history. Pension and health costs projected forward will crush these economies a generation from now. Taxes will suffocate the dwindling population of young workers. A straight-line projection of present trends takes us to the cusp of national failure. We do not know whether present trends will continue in a straight line, to be sure.
Economic expansion requires the fresh ideas and energies of the young. Old Europe, Japan, etc. no longer have youth or young.
China has more young people than any other country in the world, more than all of Europe put together, but too many of them are trapped in rural poverty, uneducated and untrained.
And China's "one-child" policy means that parents will not always be cared for by their children. They must save their money for a rainy day, since China has no meaningful "safety net." They have no brothers or sisters, no uncles or aunts, no nieces or nephews. Imagine the poverty of relations, and what that must do to a person's worldview. And no one really knows where China is heading long-term.

Without the American consumer -- that over-pampered, under disciplined, psychological neotenate who measures his well-being by the number of toys he buys on credit -- the rest of the world has no one to sell to, no safe, reliable growth to invest in.
To overpay unionized construction workers to build bridges, and bail out the bloated budgets of American states, the Obama administration will flood the world with so much Treasury debt that capital will flow out of the poorest countries to buy it. Rather than protest this outrageously unilateralist action, the rest of the world encourages him to do so, hoping that somehow the Obama stimulus package will get American consumers to buy their goods once again.
An interesting analysis, Spengler. The world wants to keep the charade going because it is the only game it knows? If so, it is understandable why Europe and China want the US military to go away. If someone owes you money, you don't want them to be able to resist a strong demand for payment should it ever come to that. Of course Russia wants the US military to go away, because with all of its nukes, Russia could dictate terms to a world without the US military.

What would it take for the rest of the developed world to leave the US to rot in its Treasuries? A new frontier. A new place to invest, like a breakaway libertarian seasteading confederacy, or a spacegoing migration to the belt and beyond. Otherwise, Africa or South America might work, except for the low IQ factor, and the plethora of authoritarian and tribal states. The Persian Gulf oil states will serve somewhat as an investment haven, once oil prices rebound and stay high. If not for Islamic tribalist backwardness, the Gulf oil states might truly provide a rich haven for investment.

I vote for the breakaway libertarian seasteading networks and space migrations. For those to happen, we will need significant advances in materials science, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and a rich new vein of pedagogical theory far from the current mainstream. And a lot of spirit and courage not seen since the openings of the American colonies and frontiers.

Barak "Milli Vanilli" Obama represents the authoritarian past. He brings a new wave of government expansion and a massive growth of citizen dependency on the power structure for more and more needs. That is what we must break away from, because that is the death of what is good in humans. The reality that Obama is creating will require an abrupt, and perhaps violent exit for those who wish to live and thrive apart from government strangulation. We must try to prevent things from going to far too fast. Our range of options is shrinking by the day.


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Alien Spaceship? Or Antarctic Research Station?

Actually, it is a solar panel covered research station operated by tiny Belgium, of all countries.
Constructed on stilts on top of a ridge just north of the Soer Rondane Mountains, the base will focus on analyzing nearby deep ice shelves.

Teams of scientists, including glaciologists, are already at work there from Belgium, Japan, France, Britain and the United States.

Belgian Defense Minister Pieter De Crem and other government officials inaugurated the station on Sunday.

De Crem told VRT television from Antarctica: "It is really important that as a small country we can show our participation in large international efforts here in Antarctica."

"The base is in an isolated area where there has been little research done," said Maaike Van Cauwenbergh, from the Belgian Science Policy Office.

She said the steel-encased station is located in a vast 600-mile zone between the Russian and Japanese research stations.

The Princess Elisabeth uses microorganisms and decomposition that allows scientists to re-use shower and toilet water up to five times before discarding it down a crevasse.

Wind turbines on the Utsteinen mountain ridge provide the station with power, while solar panels on the bug-like, three-story building ensure the base has hot water. _RedOrbit
It is important that humans learn to live in polar conditions, given the inevitability of another global ice age in the coming future. It is also important to collect environmental and climate data from more points within the Antarctic continent, to avoid the type of pseudo-science recently perpetrated by Steig and Mann.

The problem of sustainable power supply in a polar winter has still not been solved. Solar panels are clearly worthless during the sunless and minimal sun months. Conventional wind turbines are unreliable, and easily overcome by severe winter conditions. In Antarctica, enhanced geothermal energy makes sense. Nuclear energy is, of course, the most sensible approach -- once reactors that allow many decades between refuelings are perfected.

For Pykrete structures floating on/in Arctic sea ice, a cold cycle form of OTEC has been proposed (as suggested in comments previously by a reader, and mentioned in Wikipedia).

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Why So Coy, Admiral Kutnezov? Russia / USSR

The Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, has had a little accident. Due to a "refueling incident", the Admiral has incontinently spilled 1,000 tonnes of oil off the southern Ireland coastline. Russian response has been to avoid taking responsibility, in the grand tradition of the USSR.
Surveillance flights by Britain’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) calculated that about 1,000 tonnes of oil were spilt.

Russian authorities put the figure at 300 tonnes and have yet publicly to admit their role.

The aircraft carrier, a Russian refuelling ship and a Russian tug were, however, found amid the oil when the spill was detected by a satelite on Saturday. Four other Russian naval vessels were nearby. _Times
Russian authorities should be proud that they can even launch such a fleet, and supply it with fuel at sea -- even if a good part of the fuel ended up in the sea, instead of in the ships' fuel tanks. Such a spill simply says to the world: "we have all the fuel we will ever need, and can even afford to dump large quantities into the ocean!" One might think they would proudly acknowledge the power and ready profligacy of the Russian Navy.

This inability to acknowledge its own actions -- even when they are open for all the world to see -- is typical of the old Soviet way of conducting business. If, instead, the Russians were to proudly declare: "sure we did it! And we'll do it again if we feel like it! Just you wait and see!", the world would be shaking in its boots at the sheer magnitude of Russian will, power, and will to power. To say nothing of its enormous natural resources.


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16 February 2009

China Drought, Pollution, Mismanagement Points to High Grain Prices Later This Year

outright shortages of water are exacerbated by water pollution, which leaves many of its rivers unfit for irrigation. _javno
China's industrial policies have devastated water resources and former farmland for decades. On top of all that, low seasonal rainfall threatens China's grain crop, already reduced by unchecked blight. Expect higher grain prices on commodities markets later this year as a result. Also, expect the "pundits" of the world to blame biofuels.
About 158 million mu (10 million hectares) of wheat crop have been damaged or destroyed by the country’s worst drought in half a century, according to official figures. Last week, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) announced that the Puccinia striiformis fungus, which is commonly known as stripe rust, had spread to 753,00 hectares of wheat, a 40% increase over last year’s outbreak. The MOA expects the prevailing dry climate to accelerate the spread of the fungus.

Rainfall this week has alleviated parts of drought-stricken provinces to some extent, with more rain forecast next week. Official data from China’s Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief estimates that as of 6 February, the drought had left more than 4.5 million people and 2.5 million livestock short of adequate drinking water.

More than two-thirds of China’s cities as well as 200 million rural residents already suffer water shortages. _GCC
China is a country full of intelligent and hard working people. It is their misfortune to be living under the CCP government, which in its single-minded obsession with power and regional hegemony has devastated the Chinese land, air, and water resources.

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Europe Goes to Dhimmi-land

Geert Wilders was invited to deliver [an address] at the House of Lords on Thursday, February 12, 2009. Instead of making this address and showing his film Fitna, he was detained by UK immigration officials on his arrival at London Heathrow airport and sent back to the Netherlands as a risk to “public security.” _BrusselsJournal
The text of the address Wilders was to have delivered is available in full at the Brussels Journal link above. Below is a discussion in the House of Lords on the topic of Wilders' shameful deportation by the UK Home Office. [See Wilders' film Fitna]
Lord Taverne: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question of which I have given private notice.

Lord West of Spithead [on behalf of the government]: My Lords, under European law, a member state of the European economic area may refuse entry to a national of another EEA state if they constitute a threat to public policy, public security or public health.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, I am aware that Mr Wilders holds views highly offensive to the Muslim community, but freedom of speech issues often raise awkward
questions. Indeed, this ban has united in opposition the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, the Dutch Government—unusual allies—and also a section of the Muslim community which cares about freedom of expression. Does the Home Office agree that causing offence, even deep offence, to particular religious groups is no reason for compromising on the principle of freedom of expression? Why else did we repeal the laws on blasphemy? Since this is a ban on an EU citizen and Member of Parliament who has been convicted of no offence, and who has been invited to a private showing of a film in this House—not a rally in Trafalgar Square—does it not set a deeply disturbing precedent for the vital question of freedom of expression?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the Government and I are great believers in freedom of expression. Indeed, I am constantly getting into trouble because I am too free with my expressions at times. But the decision was not based purely on the film “Fitna”, but also on a range of factors, including prosecution in the Netherlands for incitement and discrimination, and other statements. The Home Secretary has to make a decision, as was said, on anyone coming in if they are a threat to public policy or public security in particular. We are constantly looking at this and are very robust about it with all sorts of extremists, from whichever corner they come. I regularly, across my desk, have to give advice to the Home Secretary about stopping people coming into this country, because I do not think it is appropriate that they should be here. I think it is good that we are being robust about this, and absolutely appropriate that the Home Secretary should have made this decision.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, there seems to be a bit of a lottery as to who is admitted and who is not. Are there any criteria by which the Home Secretary works, even if advised by the noble Lord, to justify who is refused admittance and who is not?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, there is effectively a list of things the Home Secretary will check through when she is making a decision about whether someone should be allowed into this country. Of course, as the House will well know, quite often we will say that someone should not come into this country, but they then appeal and, through our judicial system, it is decided that they should be allowed to do so. One of the great strengths and joys of this country is that there is a very robust approach to these things. Sometimes, it surprises many of us that that person is allowed to come in and continue to say things—that seems very strange, whatever persuasion they come from. There is a list, and it is checked through. As I said, the Home Secretary thought long and hard about this. The decision was based on a whole raft of things, not just on this film. I believe that it was the correct decision.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I take this opportunity to thank the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, for asking this Question. I suggest to the Minister—perhaps he will correct me if I am wrong—that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty. I only have one question, because I know that we do not want to spend long on this. Does the noble Lord think that this situation would have occurred if Mr Wilders had said, “Ban the Bible”? If it would not have occurred, why not? Surely, the violence and the disturbance that may arise from showing this film in this country is not caused by the film, which merely attempts to show how the violent Islamist uses the Koran to perpetrate his terrible acts, but by the jihadist, the violent Islamist. In doing what the Government have done, surely they are therefore guilty of appeasement.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I certainly do not think that we are guilty of appeasement in any way whatever. I do not want to go down the route of discussing a hypothetical case about what if he had talked about this or that. I am afraid that I am rather constrained about exactly what I can say about him. He is under prosecution in the Netherlands for incitement and discrimination. Clearly, anything that I say in this House could become involved in that, and I would not wish that to happen. It would be wrong if that was the case. Also, he can appeal against the Home Secretary’s decision, and anything that I say could be used there.

As I said, we are very robust across the board. We take no sides on this. We treat people whom we believe are a threat to the security and safety of this nation in exactly the same way, from whatever cloth they come; that is extremely important. I believe that this was the right decision.

Lord Trimble: My Lords, the Minister has talked about incitement, and reference has been made to the possibility of counterprotests. These are public order matters. The criterion that the Minister should be operating under is public security, which is a different thing.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, again, I really cannot go too far down this route. These things will be looked at in the Court of Appeal and in the court of another nation. I do not wish to go down this route; I think that it would be wrong for me to do so.

Lord Peston: My Lords, will the Minister comment on one matter, which might enable us to make up our minds? Who brought this matter to the attention of the Home Secretary? Since this man is an EU citizen, he does not have to apply specially to come to our country. How did this become a matter of public policy?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot give my noble friend an answer to that question, because I am not quite sure how it came to the attention of the Home Secretary. I was first aware of this about a week ago. I do not know the answer. Perhaps I can write to my noble friend when I can discover the answer. _BrusselsJournal
The actions of the UK government are indefensible. Frightened out of their wits by the possibility of terrorism and riots within the UK, the cowards of the Home Office have publicly admitted that the protection of Islam is the guiding principle of UK policy at this time. When non-Muslims act as guardians of the Muslim faith, they are regarded as "Dhimmi." Appeasers. Also keep in mind that the Dutch government is prosecuting Wilders for exercising his free speech rights to warn against Islamic encroachment on freedoms within Europe, in his film, "Fitna."

The CIA projects that any near-future large scale attacks on the US by Muslim terrorists will be planned from the UK. Add to that nugget the fact that US President Obama is arranging for the UK to accept a large number of current residents of the Guantanamo terrorist holding facility on the island of Cuba. Out of sight, out of mind, eh Barack?

Dhimmis upon Dhimmis, what fools hold the seals of power in the western world. Suicidal fools.

Cross-posted at Abu Al-Fin

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15 February 2009

Demand Destruction vs. Creative Destruction vs. Opportunity Destruction

Demand destruction is an economic term used to describe a permanent downward shift in the demand curve in the direction of lower demand of a commodity such as energy products, induced by a prolonged period of high prices... _Wikipedia
Sometime late last spring, Al Fin warned that the world's economy could not support the ongoing upswing in energy prices, predicting demand destruction at the least, and perhaps even a recession as a result of the unsustainable costs of energy. In hindsight, it appears that last summer's price surge did indeed help trigger the current world economic recession -- along with other factors.
The expression "creative destruction" derives from the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter’s book, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, published in 1942. He coined the phrase to describe the process of change that accompanies innovation. In the book Schumpeter commented that capitalism:

…incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. _Business Opportunities
"Opportunity destruction" is a phrase that was either coined or re-coined by Al Fin. It refers to the a process that is exemplified by what the Obama / Pelosi reich is currently doing to the US economy. This process involves the narrowing of economic activities that are allowed, using unwarranted regulation or difficult license requirements. Or it may involve the restricting of potential gains from economic activity through extortionate penalties such as taxation, or mandated parasitism, eg labour union special preferences. Or opportunity destruction may involve mandated risk, eg tort liability structure that is slanted wildly in favour of trial lawyers. Or it may occur when the government actually takes over an entire industry, and prevents by law the entry of private individuals into that industry. Special hiring, contracting, or admissions preferences to preferred groups also constitutes opportunity destruction. Opportunity destruction is practised by politicians who do not understand the importance of freedom in the marketplace to the prosperity of the overall society.

Given enough time and power, virtually every government will practise opportunity destruction, since the advantages of favouring campaign contributors, cronies, and loyal voting blocs are far more obvious than any advantages of allowing the marketplace to work to create widespread prosperity.

Notice I said "widespread prosperity", rather than "universal prosperity." Universal prosperity is unlikely to happen in the real world given the variability of human aptitude and potential. But even if every citizen were healthy and given every opportunity to succeed, some would fail to live up to the achievements of others. This "inequity" of achievement -- even in the face of equitable opportunities -- would be grounds for a certain class of politician to campaign in the name of "universal and equal prosperity."

And so, in the name of universal prosperity -- equal or not -- politicians will gain power, and in order to solidify power they will re-structure the opportunity structure to favour their supporters. This re-structuring necessarily limits -- indeed it destroys -- overall opportunity in the society. Hence, "opportunity destruction."

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Biotech and Nanotech: Novel Cancer Killers

Until recently, physicians have had to rely on "sledge hammer" treatments for fighting cancer: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. All three mainstream approaches to cancer therapy can kill the patient, or have devastating effects on the person's quality of life above and beyond any impact from the cancer. Both doctors and patients would like access to finely targeted therapies that kill only the cancer, and leave the patient whole and healthy. Both biotech and nanotech (as well as the two combined) offer hope for such "magic bullet" therapies.

Specialists at the Curie Institute in Paris have devised a method of "baiting" cancer cells into killing themselves, using special DNA decoys.

North Carolina State University researchers are using modified plant viruses coated with targeting molecules to selectively target and destroy cancer cells.

UC Santa Cruz researchers are coating hollow gold nano-spheres with short-chain targeting molecules that bind to cancer cells. Infrared light beamed onto the tumour is trapped by the gold particles, and the cancer cells are cooked.

Tel Aviv University researchers are building nano-submarines out of phospholipids, filling them with siRNA particles that shut down the target cell's cell division machinery, and coat them with specific targeting molecules.

German researchers are injecting nano-magnetic particles of iron directly into tumours, then using an extermal oscillating magnetic field to induce a killing heat inside the cancer.

You can see how the convergence of nanotech and biotech is aiding researchers in their highly specific targeting of tumour cells, and other cells of interest (over-active immune cells in autoimmune disorders). Some of these treatments require the application of external energy (infrared light, magnetic fields, heat, etc), and other approaches insert the killing impetus inside the nanoparticle itself. Most of the methods use bio-targeting molecules to guide the nanoparticle to the cells of interest.

This is only the beginning. As long as the entire economic infrastructure of the western world is not destroyed by the neofascists currently reigning in Washington, resources will continue to find their way to productive researchers. The pace of discovery may slow, as more resources are diverted to non-productive government programs as well as to politically connected crony-friends of the reich. It is quite possible that even after cleaning out the rat's nest through future elections, recovery from the current spree of corrupt dysfunction may take many years, or decades.

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Ancient Sponges May Help Humans Survive

Researchers led by Moeller, of Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, found a sponge thriving in the midst of dead organisms. This anomalous life amidst death raised an obvious question, says Moeller: “How is this thing surviving when everything else is dead?”

Chemical analyses of the sponge’s chemical defense factory pointed to a compound called algeferin. Biofilms, communities of bacteria notoriously resistant to antibiotics, dissolved when treated with fragments of the algeferin molecule. And new biofilms did not form. _ScienceNews
Sea sponges live in a very tough neighborhood, microbially speaking. The billion-year arms race between competing organisms, and between predator and prey, has left a long trail of failed survival strategies in its wake. But the strategies that have worked, time and time again, can prove extremely potent.

Humans have their own arms race against bacteria, involving human manufactured antibiotics vs. some very clever strategies developed by bacteria over a billion year span or so. On the front lines of this battle, inside most of the hospitals of the world, bacteria are winning. Humans have been forced to come up with ever more expensive strategies to combat multiply resistant bacteria. What if we could borrow powerful strategies from other, more "street savvy" organisms? More of us might survive longer.
The compound is able to reprogram antibiotic-resistant bacteria that don’t form biofilms. When bacteria are treated with the compound, antibiotics that usually have no effect are once again lethal. This substance may be the first one that can restore bacterial resistance, Moeller says. “This resensitization is brand new.”

And the problem of perpetuating a bacterial-resistance arms race, in which bacteria rapidly develop countermeasures against new antibiotics, may be avoided entirely with the new compound. “Since the substance is nontoxic to the bacterium, it’s not throwing up any red flags,” says Moeller.

...The research is still in very early phases.

“Everyone would like to see this in antibiotic trials tomorrow,” Moeller says, but treatments for human infections are a long way off.

Sotka agrees. “Of course, we need clinical trials to take it to the next level,” she says. _ScienceNews
Scientists are sending out "scouts" to all the continents, oceans, seas, lakes, large islands, mountain peaks, and polar extremes of the world to find the winners of the ancient arms race between microbes, and between microbes and multi-cellular organisms. Improved mass screening technologies allow rapid throughput analyses of these organsims and their strategies, so that we can select the best in their class, for our purposes.

Under the Obama / Pelosi reich, the rich biomedical research community is likely to be starved for funds to conduct such research, since the new reich plans on diverting most of America's wealth -- including private sector wealth -- into government run human and social services.

Even so, the current momentum of research in university science labs, corporate labs, and other labs performing actual science, will persist for some years to come. It will take time for the reich's changed priorities to take over all the research funding agencies. Everything hinges upon the American voter, and whether they will wake up in time.

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14 February 2009

DSI: Amazing Brain Imaging Technology

The neural imaging technology known as DSI (diffusion spectrum imaging) getting better at displaying the connection pathways between areas of cortex and sub-cortical brain centers. For the patient in the video above, brain imaging explained the neurological symptoms, and alerted the neurosurgeon as to the extent of the tumour's infiltration into and disruption of normal tissue.As imaging technologies reveal the deep mysteries of brain structure, connection, and activity in greater and greater detail, the potential for emulating brain function becomes greater.

Even so, science is nowhere close to understanding the incredible multi-dimensional complexity of the simplest brain function as leading to cognition and consciousness. The challenge is so immense, that it is irresistible.

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Will America Have the Money to Treat Dementia?

• As many as 5.2 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s.

• 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer's in their lifetime.

• Every 71 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s.

• Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death [US].

• The direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer's and other dementias to Medicare, Medicaid and businesses amount to more than $148 billion each year. _Alz
The older you get, the more likely that you will suffer some form of cognitive impairment -- most likely Alzheimer's. With the aging of North America and the developed world, the need for better ways to diagnose and treat Alzheimer's is critical.

New cognitive tests are being developed to determine whether a person with early cognitive impairment can drive safely. Special MRI techniques can show the early tell-tale signs of Alzheimer brain atrophy.

On the treatment side, "brain games" that develop short term memory appear helpful in reversing early cognitive impairment.

Another hopeful bit of news is that Rember and Dimebon -- two novel drug treatments for Alzheimer's -- are working their way through human drug trials, and show some promise.

A bit further in the future is the promise of Ampakines. Cortex Pharmaceuticals is the foremost developers of Ampakines for a wide range of disorders -- including Alzheimer's in the long run.

Further into the future, an even wider array of drugs are being developed to target several pathological mechanisms that are believed to contribute to Alzheimer's.

The main question at this time appears to involve financing for drug discovery and testing in the midst of an international financial crisis. US governmental policies under the new administration suggest that US pharmaceutical research and research into other vital innovative technologies will be short-changed. New drug development may well move offshore from the US to East and South Asia, where capital is less likely to be diverted to non-productive ends.

It is ironic that just when a relaxation of stem cell research regulations occurs, that a misconceived and dysfunctional economic re-structuring should threaten the future of technological development in the biosciences and most other high tech fields.

Previously published at Al Fin Longevity


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13 February 2009

A Dying Russia Likely to Lash Out in Death Throes

“Russia will be experiencing a population decline not seen since the plague of the Middle Ages,” said Jackson. “This is a cause for concern because an extreme misalignment of geopolitical aspirations and demographic fundamentals can lead countries to behave unpredictably.”

Will Russia meekly accept the fate of its demographic decline, or will this trend feed extremism and provoke aggression?

“Russia has window of opportunity that is closing soon,” said Joe Purser, director of the JFCOM Futures Group. “It may face a situation in 20 or 30 years when it will be unable to see to its own security.” _ISN
If Russia's ethnic Slavs are aging without replacement, who will work to pay for the pensions of those who cannot work?
...in January 2010 the Kremlin may be paying nearly 40% more for old-age pensions than it is paying now because of Russia’s runaway consumer price inflation, which runs well above 20% on the tiny basket of staple products that ordinary Russians need to survive.

Where will the Kremlin get the money?

It has already wasted more than half of its FOREX reserves on a futile effort to artificially inflate the value of the ruble and the stock market. It is planning to spend a huge chunk of its budgetary reserves to cover existing expenses in 2009, when it will be entering a full-blown recession and incurring massive debt. It’s planning a gigantic increase in military spending, and now it will face the crushing burden of monumental new, permanent, pension expenses — or the prospect of senior citizens starving and freezing as their existing pensions are whittled down to nothing by the plague of inflation. _LR
The Russian economy -- like the ruble -- is in freefall. Russian doctors earn $1.25 an hour. If the doctor is willing to work overtime, she may earn as much as $2.00 an hour!
"At the state hospital, I earn $200 a month, $400 with overtime," Bogdashov says. _npr
Russian men typically die in their 50s. Drug and alcohol abuse have become a staple of Russian life, beginning in the early teenage years.
"You see 12-, 13-year-olds sitting in the benches, just drinking beer like soda. So young. That's a problem," Kelleher says.

It's even more of a problem in villages outside the city where life has stood still. Abandoned by anyone with ambition, the shabby wooden houses lean to one side, seemingly as drunk as many of the remaining residents. _npr
Putin ignores the internal tragedy of Russia, since it is the outward projection of Russian power that concerns him. Putin will need to move against the Ukraine soon, to solidify his ability to project force into central Europe and the Mediterranean. What will Obama do in response? He will bend over as far as Vlad requires.
Under the Obama administration, American foreign policy's initial focus is on fighting the Afghan war. So the question regarding the Russian resurgence is not what the Americans will give the Russians, but how much and how publicly. This will give the United States greater leverage in dealing with what it has identified as its prime concern, but at the cost of both creating a greater challenge in the future and undermining the strength of the Transatlantic alliance structure. _Source_via_LR
Russia will build a wide fence of disaster around itself in an attempt to create a safety buffer. Given the demographic collapse of ethnic Slavs and the demographic rise in the Islamic ethnic groups of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, such a policy is likely to bring on the downfall of the Russian state even more rapidly.

Chechen warlords and other powerful Muslim fighting groups within and near Russia are biding their time. They will take payoffs from Putin and fight small wars like the one against Georgia for the booty. But eventually they plan to walk the streets of Moscow as owners.


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