Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pin the tail on the donkey

I found this at J. W. Harrison's blog Largest Minority:
I know I’m preaching to the choir, but by now it ought to be painfully obvious that the Democratic Party is a pro-war party. What’s different between them and the Republicans is that this pro-war party has an anti-war base. This leads the Democratic leadership to create the façade that they’re simply inept at stopping the war, rather than successful at prolonging it with continued funding. The Democrats are known for being weak and conceding to conservatives the same way Alberto Gonzales or Bush are known for being incompetent or stupid. It’s all an act to keep their real motives hidden. Both sides play on the unquestioning loyalty of their constituents to accomplish the exact opposite goals they promised to achieve.

By dropping the timelines for withdrawal, the true motives of the Democratic Party have been revealed to the Democratic base. More Democrats are finally waking up to the fact that the “good cop” and the “bad cop” are on the same team. Yet some naïve voters and bloggers are still praying for the Dems to save the world. It’s not going to happen. The Democratic Party holds allegiance only to money and votes, not to any ethical set of ideals.
That seems to have hit the nail right on the head, articulating the suspicions of many of us. I don't think it is preaching to the converted, however. If we already knew this we wouldn't have acted as we had. Rather than deserting the Democrats to create a third party, the best path may still be to infiltrate the party (or ruling parties) and change it from within, the tactic favored by the other big durable 20th century multiethnic autocracies of China and the USSR. We need to do the same thing in the United States. Also, throw out the Democrats who voted to fund the war at the primary stage.

Actually, the government site (THOMAS) is too messy for actual use. I found this Sourcewatch site which seems to be better. It links to these roll call votes at the Washington Post:

The best hope now may lie in the Iraqi politicians actually listening to their people and humiliating the Americans by asking them to leave, since they are too proud to leave the country without the further humiliation of being kicked out.


Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel has at least one good idea:

Harris: ... so, I want to know if you would share with us what you think should be next for us in Iraq.

Gravel: What should be next is to get out, and one of the things that we should do is—. There’s a civil war going on, and so when you hear Hillary and the others say, “Well, we’re going to get out,” they’re not getting out; they’re talking about just pulling back the combat troops. That still leaves 100,000 American soldiers there and 50,000 mercenaries and then all those war profiteers that are over there ripping it off at the expense of the Iraqis. So we’re going to leave all those people there and “Sure, we’re going to end the war.” You can’t end the war. Our presence is causing the war, our very presence. So if we leave any troops there at all, the insurgents will continue the war and they’ll continue killing other people. So their plan is a non-starter.

My plan would be very simple: We pull our troops out. As we’re pulling our troops out—that takes about 60 days—we turn around and get the puppet government ... and I want to say it, the word is probably ... the puppet government that we’ve set up ... we get them to draft 3 million young Iraqis. These young Iraqis are unemployed. Who do you think is part of the insurgency or these militias? It’s these young people that have no way of making a living and so they do this “insurgency” with banditry—the whole nine yards. What we do is draft them, put them in uniforms. OK? No civilian clothes. No arms. No arms. Begin to disarm them and turn around and give them the tools to rebuild their country with their own hands. And get the damned American war profiteers out of the country. Let them build their country, let them have some pride.

We had a program like this in the
'30s. It was called the Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC. That’s what we need to do with Iraq and then get out, and use diplomacy, let them form their own government. It’s their country. Politicians in Washington feel we’re going to cut the country up in this way, that we’re going to get them to do this with their oil. ... It’s their oil! Let them do what they want with it. Who are we to go tell them what to do? Can you imagine if we had a million and a half, a million five hundred troops in the United States—and that’s about the proportions now population-wise. If we had a million and a half troops in the United States that had the power to go anywhere with their weapons and to kick in any door and to shoot anybody when they panic, what do you think would happen in the United States of America?
His May 4 interview (audio and transcript) with James Harris and Josh Scheer is at

Friday, May 25, 2007

US may investigate non-homocidal sources of energy

Dennis Kucinich on Democracy Now: makes it clear why the neocons in the United States went to war in Iraq: $20 trillion worth of oil reserves at estimated future prices, an amount that dwarfs even the $1,000,000,000,000 (one-trillion) in asset appreciation enjoyed by Exxonmobil, Bush's largest backer after Enron.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, there’s a fundamental misperception about the path the Democrats should be taking. We shouldn’t be offering any legislation at all. We should just simply tell the President we’re not going to fund the war. And this idea about funding the war to help the troops is absurd. You want to help the troops, bring them home.
I offered a plan, HR 1234, that would provide for a plan that would bring the troops home, close the bases, end the occupation and reach out to the international community for an international peacekeeping and security force that would move in as our troops leave. But we can’t do that until we end the occupation. We can’t end the occupation until we stop funding the war. We simply do not have to have a bill, Amy. It’s just as simple as that.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, you spoke for about an hour on the floor of the House about the proposed Iraq oil law. Can you talk about this?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: …You have to keep in mind that this process that the Bush administration has been pushing began even before the invasion of Iraq. They were meeting with oil companies, looking at how they could create a beachhead, essentially, in the Middle East, and they have been looking at the prize of Iraq oil for many years now.
And so, you have to remember that even though it looks like this legislation isn’t going anywhere, there is enormous pressure being put on the Iraqi government, and you can bet that before too long they’ll put the kind of pressure on them that the Iraqi government will break, will relent, and go ahead and pass this law that will permit about 80% of its oil to be controlled by multinational oil companies. Now, keep in mind that Iraq has as many as 300 billion barrels of oil. At a market price that looks like it’s going toward $70-a-barrel, you can be talking about $21 trillion worth of oil, 80% of which will be under the control of multinational oil companies, if it’s up to the Bush administration.
This is a crime, literally. And so, I’m challenging it. I’m letting the Congress know about it, and I’m going to keep an eye on this, because I think it’s the basis for a war crime charge.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Vice President Cheney was meeting with oil company executives. They were planning this takeover of Iraqi oil. You know, everyone knows that it has one of the largest oil supplies in the world. This war has been about oil from the beginning. And I’ve been one of the few people who’s been willing to challenge it and say that. And I think the American people need to know that our government has been instrumental in trying to push the privatization of Iraq oil for the profit of multinational oil companies. Our soldiers shouldn’t be there in Iraq. We need to bring our troops home. And when someone looks at the long test of truth over the last five years, I’m the one who’s been telling the truth. This administration has not told the truth. And some of my colleagues in Congress have kept their head in the sand, while there’s been enormous catastrophe in Iraq, loss of life there, loss of lives of our troops, up to over $500 billion wasted already in American taxpayers’ funds. I mean, someone has to stand for the truth here. Someone has to stand for the Constitution. And that’s what I’m doing.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the Democratic-led Congress has failed the American people right now?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Absolutely. Are you kidding? This isn’t even a close question. We were elected in November to end the war. That’s why people voted Democrat. That’s why they gave us control of the House and the Senate. And they expected us to take a new direction. They didn’t want a Democratic version of the war, and they didn’t want to be told later on, “Well, we just don’t have the votes.” Well, you know what? You don’t need the votes to say no. You just don’t offer any legislation at all.
Too bad Dennis couldn't convince his fellow Reps that less is more, and doing nothing would get the job undone. See the full article (Democratic Leadership Failing U.S. Citizenry on War) at Democracy Now for the full transcript!

While the Congress was deciding whether to spend $96 billion on killing more Iraqis in the war, note that the amounts being spent on renewable energy are trivial in comparison. According to the White House OMB budget for fiscal year 2008, these amounts are being spent:
Solar America Initiative. The Budget provides $148 million to continue this initiative toward the goal of making solar photovoltaic technology cost competitive with conventional electricity by 2015. If successful, the technology could help power the equivalent of one million homes by 2015.

Biofuels Initiative. The Administration continues its commitment to make ethanol practical and competitive by 2012 by providing $179 million for research in producing ethanol not just from corn, but also from wood chips, dedicated energy crops like switchgrass, and other organic materials.

More Efficient Vehicles. Advanced battery technologies could reduce near-term oil consumption significantly with “plug-in” hybrid vehicles that can run on either electricity or gasoline; recharging their batteries at night. The 2008 Budget includes $81 million to accelerate research on advanced hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. The Budget provides $309 million to complete the President’s five-year, $1.2 billion commitment to support development by 2020 of commercially viable hydrogen infrastructure technologies and fuel cell vehicles that produce no air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.
These figures, nestled in among our precious nuclear waste resources management, are $148 million for solar, $179 million for ethanol, $81 million for batteries, and $309 million for hydrogen. Grand total here is $717 million, or 0.75% of the Iraq War expenditure that is being approved by the Reprehensibles and Sedators. That amount is equal to 2 days, 17 hours, and 25 minutes of America's Iraq Occupation spending.

Another source of data dated February 7, 2007 at the Department of Energy, puts it differently:
This budget includes President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI) which aims to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil and transforming our national energy economy by promoting development of cleaner sources of electricity production. For too long, our nation has been dependent on oil. America's dependence leaves us more vulnerable to disruptions to domestic production like hurricanes, to hostile regimes, and to terrorists - who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy. In concert with the President’s Twenty In Ten initiative to reduce U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next ten years, or by 2017, a total of $2.7 billion is requested in FY 2008 to support the AEI. These funds support a diverse portfolio of energy research and development (R&D) and deployment programs designed to help meet the energy challenges of the 21st century. Highlights of the request include the following components of the President’s AEI:

The President’s Biofuels Initiative. The President’s goal to make cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive by 2012 is the focus of the biomass program. Biomass is the key renewable resource supported by the Department because it is a promising renewable option for producing liquid transportation fuels in the near term, thereby reducing our dependence on imported oil. In FY 2008, the Department is investing $179 million to support the goals of the initiative.

The President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. This budget request includes $309 million (an increase of $19.5 million above the FY 2007 request) for the President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative and completes the President’s commitment of $1.2 billion over five years for this initiative. Increased funding is proposed to expand research in several areas, including: hydrogen production from renewables; materials for hydrogen storage; fuel cell stack components; and a new R&D effort on cost-effective manufacturing technologies to help industry build a competitive, domestic hydrogen and fuel cell supplier capability.
Vehicles Technologies and FreedomCAR. This year’s request emphasizes plug-in hybrid vehicle component technologies by increasing the requested research support to $81 million. These technologies offer the potential to make significant additional improvements in petroleum reduction beyond that achievable with standard hybrid configurations. By utilizing energy drawn from the nation’s electricity grid at off-peak times to charge high energy batteries, these technologies will be able to operate in an electric vehicle mode for expanded distances, potentially meeting most drivers’ needs for commuting and short distance driving.

The President’s Solar America Initiative (SAI). Launched in FY 2007, SAI is designed to achieve cost competitiveness for photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity by 2015. With a request of $148 million in FY 2008, SAI seeks to achieve its mission through public-private partnerships with industry, universities, national laboratories, states, and/or other government entities.

The FY 2008 budget request also supports renewable energy and energy efficiency R&D that could help reduce the overall demand for natural gas and lower emissions in the electricity sector. The FY 2008 request for the Wind Energy program includes $40 million to continue wind energy research to reduce costs and overcome barriers to large-scale use of wind power. The FY 2008 budget also includes $19 million to continue the accelerated development of Solid State Lighting technologies that have the potential to reduce commercial building lighting electricity consumption by 50 percent and could revolutionize the energy efficiency, appearance, visual comfort, and quality of lighting.
According to this, $2.7 billion is being spent to support the "AEI" (the sound made by readers of this) but the figures do not seem to add up unless this includes the energy from the nation's precious nuclear-waste reserves and coal, which are the two items this info is bookended between. If you choose to believe that larger number, know that it is under 3% of the Iraq request (disregarding the other $483 billion the Pentagon already spends) America would spend its energy research budget in 10 days in Iraq. These proportions should be reversed.

What is the FreedomCAR? Does it run on Freedom Fries? More likely, bullshit. This is not a serious effort. The United States is like a crazy survivalist neighbor who has spent 100 times as much on ammunition as he has spent on learning something new or building something productive. I think the neo-con artists' reasoning is that there is a war on terrorism going on. Just look at how many Americans die in car bombs every week as they battle to rid the streets of Islamofascists. None, right? Well, it's working, then, isn't it?

Check this out (March 26, 2007): (
For FY 2008, the Bush administration has requested $647.3 billion to cover the costs of national defense and war. This includes the Defense Department budget ($483 billion), some smaller defense-related accounts ($22.6 billion), and the projected FY 2008 cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and counter-terror operations ($141.7 billion). However, it does not include non-DOD expenditures for homeland security ($36.4 billion) or the Veterans' Affairs budget ($84.4 billion). Nor does it include the request for supplemental funds for outstanding FY 2007 war costs ($93.4 billion).

The Shins: Sea Legs

Sea Legs is another catchy track from the new album by The Shins via KEXP Seattle Song of the Day. I am getting a long list of music I want to buy these days. Hurray for the removal of DRM from many online music stores. I might actually consider buying digital music online for the first time. Thanks to Steve Jobs for the push on that.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I was pleased to find a new Brazzaville podcast on my computer (from NPR-affiliated WXPN program WorldCafe:Next) and learn that they have a new album out, East L.A. Breeze. I never even got their last album, Hastings Street, despite having been in Vancouver, the namesake of the album, last summer. It might have something to do with the album being released in Russia, where they found some kind of pop star status, and the fact that they are based in Barcelona now. I don't have the Welcome to… album either, but it only had 2 new tracks. It seems that they have never toured in Japan -- as far as I know. Their myspace page isn't as suckingly fugly as most myspace pages are. David Brown has a journal on the band's site. They have 3 free tracks and a hyena on their site, too. I see some links to YouTube videos that I haven't watched yet. The AllMusicGuide page has been considerably enhanced, and perhaps they have found enough success in Eurasia to make progress on the ship.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Democrats Cave -OR- Spinelessness on Parade

The Democratic majority in the United States Congress has surrendered their policy-making and funding power and become enablers to the Perpetrator-in chief. (Truthdig, Huffington Post) They now will fund the occupation of Iraq by the invading forces with no exit strategy or withdrawal date. This makes any delaying they have done up to now a waste of time, validates the bad-dog attitudes of Cheney-Bush, and makes potty-training much more difficult. No wonder the Democrats have so quickly approached and actually exceeded Bush-Cheney-like low levels of public approval, and they didn't need six years or even one year to do it. (Gallup, AP/Ipsos)

Maybe some people need to be reminded that the U. N. mandate that granted some international cover to the U.S. invasion and occupation expires soon. This seems to be a little-known fact not even discussed in the Iraq debate! You need to search google news for Chinese news sources to find mention of this fact.

The UN Security Council decided in November 2006 to extend the mandate of the international forces in Iraq to Dec. 31, 2007.
The Democrats in Congress who seek to fund and support the U.S. occupation should not just be removed from office, but ought to be brought before the World Court in the Hague, tried as war criminals, and imprisoned for long terms.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chevron's anti-wind-energy campaign

In a misguided attempt to know what is happening in the world, I often make the mistake of looking to satellite television. There is an annoying television spot that is aired repeatedly by Chevron, using the obscene profits that they don't squirrel away as the middlemen for Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, and Dubai, to brainwash the public and protect their oil racket. It attempts to ridicule wind energy in a mild-mannered, condescending tone, with an image of the Eiffel Tower converted into a heavy-looking wind turbine, as a man's bowler hat blows away into the wind. It is mostly visual and musical, but here is the script:

As a source of energy, wind power alone can't do it all.
Because just to power a city like Paris would take 20,000 turbines.
We believe that meeting all our energy needs will take innovation,
conservation...and collaboration. Will you join us?
You can view the spot(s) here. The script and the source of their data is listed here as:
735 Wind Turbines in Japan produce 0.9 billion kWh of power with a 15% load factor, 1.8 billion with a 30% factor, or 3.0 billion with a 50% factor. Paris' 11.5 million people consume 90 billion kWh annually. 90 billion kWh / 0.9 billion kWh = 100; 90/1.8= 50; 90/3.0= 30. So somewhere between 30 & 100 times the 735 wind turbines, or between 22000 & 73000 wind turbines would be needed to power Greater Paris (Ile de France).
Chevron is an honest broker for the analysis of the potential of wind energy, just as people who raise cattle and sell beef would be excellent consultants regarding the nutritional value of fish. Likewise, to learn more about the effects of sexual abstinence, consult a prostitute.

This seemed like a silly ad to me, because 20,000 wind turbines is not a terribly huge number, and might fit in a rather compact square of land, depending on how much space each one requires. I decided to look into the spacing requirements for wind turbines a little more closely.

According to this pdf, from, a wind power project could use as much as 59 acres per turbine (39 acres per megawatt of generating capacity) in plans which allow for multidirectional sources of wind, or 26.7 acres per turbine (17.8 acres per megawatt) in sites that have a consistent wind direction. If we trust the Chevron numbers as for the number of turbines required, and make the assumption that the turbines in Japan are similar to the ones described in the wind power pdf, the 22,000 to 73,000 wind turbines that Chevron says greater Paris needs for its 11 million people would require (22,000 X 59) 1,180,000 acres of land, or in the worst case, (73,000 X 59) 4,307,000 acres of land. That is equal to a range from 4775 square km to 17,000 square km. How much is that? The area of France, not counting the offshore coastal areas which would be most optimal for wind energy, is 674,843 square kilometers. The area required would be about seven-tenths of one percent of France's land area, or up to 2.5% in the case for which turbines, due to the lack of a consistent wind direction, need to be located farther apart to reduce turbulence. Ninety-five percent of the land on a wind farm remains available for other uses, such as grazing cattle to produce milk and cheese. If these wind farms were located offshore, the base of the support structure could also be extracting wave energy, tidal energy, or could serve as an artificial reef to increase marine resources. Scaling up by a factor of 5 or 6 to cover supply all of France's population would use only about 10% of the land, or an offshore area of equal size. Although it is unlikely that France would try to provide all of its energy from wind, wind is not as unreliable as it is made out to be, if a long network of wind generators were to networked together along a long coastline, much of the network is certain to be producing power at any given time.

This is all very back-of-the-envelope, but I don't think it is too far off the mark.

By the way, France already produces over 90% of its electricity from carbon-free sources (mostly nuclear plus hydroelectric). (Tip to M. Fuhrer, who referred to this ad when it first aired in… October '05? No wonder I'm so sick of it.) It also seems that this ad is aired internationally, in Russia as well as the US and Japan.

Chevron and their bosom buddies should spend less time and money at the quixotic task of attacking wind (and windmills) and get to work building wind turbines. It isn't quite as easy as the traditional fire-monkey tactic of getting control of flammable substances which shoot out of the ground at high pressure, but it is good, honest, carbon-free work. Builds character, too.

Corporate irresponsibility will make it harder for a responsible government --in the event one should ever come to power -- to avoid the step of nationalizing the oil companies and seizing their assets to use in the crash global program to deploy the earth's human capital and labor toward a sustainable energy model for the civilization.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Ideal 2008 Candidate

I tried the computerized calculator (bot-assisted politics) approach to choosing a twenny-oh-eight presidential candidate today. According to, I can agree with Barack Obama 75% of the time, which is pretty good –about as often as I agree with myself. For the week at least, I will be backing the Obama/Kucinich ticket. Just for the hell of it, I threw together a Dead Kennedys -based campaign sticker for Dennis Kucinich (adhesive not included). My apologies to Jello Biafra.

It looks like from candidate number twelve, Mike Gravel, on down, it would be better to lock them up in Guantanamo and just do the opposite of whatever policy they propose on controversial issues (especially since they hate American values, and favor torture –'cept for McCain). Newt-Gingrinch would be perfect for the unadvisabler-to-the-president post.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Focus on the J-Family

A 17-year-old has turned himself in at a police station in Aizu-Wakamatsu, after severing his mother's head and packing it in his school bag. He said he wanted to kill people and fight terrorism. Under Japanese law, he was not able to purchase automatic weapons. Apparently he was not well-organized or patient enough to travel to the United States before beginning his killing spree. He will probably go into counseling for a few years and come out later with a new identity like former teenage decapitation fetishists. Or, with any luck, they just may try him as an adult. (Asahi, DY)

In other news focusing on the family, the controversial newborn baby abandonment drop slot at Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto has had its first customer, a child about 3 or 4 years old, left by his father. (JT, DY, Asahi) I don't like the idea of this easy baby drop-off. It legitimizes the idea of baby abandonment. I don't oppose it for the reason that Prime Minister Abe does, that parents should not be able to abandon their children anonymously. I think perhaps parents who do not love and will not care for their children should lose their children, and society should care for them, in particular Japanese society, which has a severe depopulation problem. I also think that it should be easier for parents to give up their children for adoption if they do not want them. As the Japan Times reported:

Jun Saimura, a senior researcher at the Japan Child and Family Research Institute, said he thinks the boy was dropped off at the hospital because people tend to feel that it's difficult to talk to municipal governments or public child consultation centers.
This drop box cater to people who are too timid to step up and talk to an actual human about giving up their child for adoption. The controversy about this is increasing the stigma, but it actually needs to be addressed squarely and not by shame, or the child abandonments will increase more. We need to say, look, if for whatever reason, you cannot deal with it, you need to come forward and say that. If that is accepted, there will be no stigma in giving your name. There should be few questions asked, whether your reason is financial, emotional, or due to a relationship. Thanks for coming forward. This could prevent suicides, infanticides, abuse, neglect, and abandonment. I guess that what I am saying is that the solution is in the human systems, not in the installation of a baby drop box, a physical technology. It also too closely resembles the idea of trash bins for recycling paper, plastic, cans, bottles, and feces (see picture). Imagine responding to a child's question and having to explain, "Oh, that's the place where we take the babies when we don't want them anymore." I also doubted that many people would use it. While meant to prevent deaths due to child abandonment in unsafe places, it really sends the message that society accepts and enables that. The parents will not use the designated box, however, (I thought), for fear of being observed and photographed, but will just dump the kid somewhere else as they did with their puppies years earlier.

Gonzo attacks the wrong rights

Alberto Gonzales (a.k.a. "Fredo", "Gonzo") believes that there is no right of habeus corpus in the U.S. Constitution, since the constitution merely says that it cannot be taken away! By that logic, there is no right to bear arms either, since the Second Amendment merely says that the right cannot be taken away. (Think Progress)

Habeus Corpus has a history that is centuries old, and is part of what once made America a better place to live. The Second Amendment existed for the purpose of creating a citizen's militia, or people's army, to stage a revolution and defend freedom whenever necessary. Thomas Jefferson once said that he expected the republic to last about 20 years. It was common sense that each generation would have to fight (the government) to defend their freedom. But the Second Amendment is never interpreted to mean the right to bear nuclear arms and chemical weapons is protected. The founders probably never meant to include automatic weaponry, or support the possession of weapons by citizens who were not even part of a well-organized militia defending the security of a free state.

Wingers always like to ignore the "well-regulated militia" part of the second amendment. Dashboard Widget Google Fight shows "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State" out-frequencied by "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" by 1,430,000 hits vs 378,000 hits.

If we are going to live under a dictatorship with no rights, it would be better to have an authoritarian socialist dictatorship rather than one to defend the property rights of the parasitic class. This is the erosion of freedom that was presented as a worst-case outcome under communism, but now promoted as everyday life under capitalism, slavery being the cost of freedom.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Holocenic hominid self-extinction event

Anti-anthropocentric ecologist Paul Watson was criticized for suggesting that the optimal carrying capacity of the Earth is around one billion human beings, and that we should consciously seek that number as a policy target. But if you had told educated people one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred years ago, that the population of the Earth would exceed six billion, it seems likely that many of them would find that figure to be unimaginably high and ill-advised. I doubt that any or many people before the twentieth century would have said that the optimal population of the Earth could or should be more than one billion.

There is an instinctive negative reaction to any idea that the ideal population is less than it is now. Yet the science suggests that we have exceeded the carrying capacity of the Earth, and are consuming more resources than the Earth can produce for us each year, ultimately eating up our own future potential. Watson's sketch of sustainable lifestyles, combined with a gradual, voluntary reduction of human numbers, would avoid decimation of the human population by war, disease, and famine. In fact, much of the world (especially by surface area) is already below the replacement fertility rate, giving some hope. A global strategy less coercive and less radical than China's forced one-child policy should be possible. Just holding people to 2 children per family would be below the replacement rate, which is closer to 2.1.

The large numbers of people who want no children, just one child, or two children brings Japan's total fertility rate to 1.23, one of the lowest-ranked in the world, and enables some to have more than two children without moving Japan from the top 10 low-fertility countries.

There should be a global health care system, perhaps financed by a tax on containers or global trade, to tie together all of the national systems and protect human health worldwide. It would provide birth control to every woman on Earth after her second child. Getting the national birth rate below 2 children per woman would be a precondition for being included in the global health plan, with assistance offered to help reach that goal.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Children of Men

I finally saw Children of Men, (as a dvd rental) on Friday night, Children's Day eve, as it turns out. I liked it, but I'm not sure if it was just the believable look, the art direction and most of all, the premise of the thing, the recognizable alternate future, that I liked.
One thing that I never care much about is the acting. The way I see it, acting is almost always believable enough to suspend disbelief. If not, I'd give it a zer0, if it is adequate, as almost everything is, a 1, if it is exceptionally believable, to the extent that it is impossible to believe that it is acting at all, a 2. In other words, I only observe three levels of distinction. Even in real life, people don't usually deliver their lines efficiently or with the right sound. Also, I would prefer that most actors retire after one film so I could see different actors in every film. Most people want to see the same actors again and again.
My significantO wasn't too crazy about it, though, needing an entire viewing of LIAR LIAR to decompress. I think I could have been spared all of that if Jim Carrey had been cast in the film in place of Clive Owen, and had taken a Life is Beautiful approach (Roberto Benigni directing in place of Alfonso Cuarøn -- Oøps). But that would have been another film.

The Japanese title is TOMORROW•WORLD, which reminds me of tomorokoshi, corn, and TomorrowLand in Disneyland every time I hear it. They managed to use a decent translation of the original title everywhere else, so I wonder why the Japanese got stuck with an embarrassingly clumsy title like TOMORROW•WORLD? Going for the teen Disney audience? All that tells you is that it is set in the future, a science fiction or speculative fiction story. There is also quite a major difference in the poster art, or cover art, used for promoting the movie and dvds.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

2BR02B (Two-B-R-Naught-Two-B )

I was curious about any Kurt Vonnegut writing that might be in the public domain, having not read much Vonnegut since high school or university, so was happy to find this Kurt Vonnegut short story, 2BR02B. It's available at Project Gutenberg in html or txt, or from Time Traveller Show as an mp3. It was first published in (Worlds of) If magazine in January 1962, and later in Bagombo Snuff Box (Amazon, Wikipedia) in 1999.
(via BoingBoing)
Update: Minor motherlode of Kurt Vonnegut material here, for academic use only, while it lasts. Check out Kurt's Daily Show appearance.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

An Interview with Hare Brane

A news item originally published in Current Biology and reported in New Scientist and Science Daily in early and mid-April documented the differences in cooperative problem-solving between chimpanzees and bonobos. New Scientist reported:
Brian Hare of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues tested how well chimps and bonobos coped with challenging social situations. Bonobos, they found, were more likely to share a plate of food, using play or sex to defuse social tensions. In contrast, chimps' more limited social skills meant one individual was more likely to take all the food.
The research was led by Brian Hare of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Unable to contact Mr Hare, and waste his time, I mistakenly contacted instead a persistent critic of Mr Brian Hare, his arch-nemesis, Dr Harry "Hare" Brane, Senior Research Fellow at the Brane-Phardt Institute's Center for Applied Primatology in Washington, DC. I spoke with Mr Brane at length. He was unable to hear me, however, due to the fact that the interview was conducted by e-mail. I should say at the outset that the Brane-Phardt Institute is considerably less prestigious than the Max Planck Institute, being funded entirely by donated methane emissions and unused processor cycles contributed by concerned and sympathetic –or simply pathetic– scientists. It is less a "Think-Tank" than a "compost heap of discarded thoughts and ideas". You too can help support Brane-Phardt, just by thinking about it.

I wondered whether resemblances (in the inability to solove problems by sharing) to the Deer Leader, our Chimperor-in-Chief, were accitentional, or purely interdental. Also, is this evolutionary divergence happening all over again, and would the bonobo and chimpanzee make better animal mascots for the two main political parties, despite W's ability to remember and revenge every insult, and John Kerry's uninspiring donkeyness? I meant to ask Hare Brane these questions, but the interview was conducted by the Vancouver staff.
> Could you explain all the back scratching the Republipanzees do?
> You know, I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine. Is it vital
> to their survival?

Republipanzees (Chimpublicans) do have some bonobo characteristics,
but differ from Demobonobos (Bonocrats) in that the Republipanzees
are willing to consider limited cooperation and conspire to work
together for the benefit of a small group of dominant alpha males.
That is, a small group of hairless tailless fire-monkeys will
cooperate with each other in order to steal from the masses of fire-
monkeys, and defend their privileged status collectively. They
cooperate with others in order to improve their domination or
exploitation of the greater hive. The difference, in other words,
comes from the large-scale hierarchies and social strata created by
hairless tailless fire-monkey hives.
Demobonobos, in contrast, while respectfully navigating these strata,
claim that their bonocratic alpha-males are defending rights of the
hairless tailless fire-monkeys who have previously been exploited by
Republipanzee violence. Another difference is that Demobonobos primarily
conspire in order to have extra sex and play without the knowledge of
other fire-monkeys, not to extract more resources.
These two major strains of fire monkey dominate terrestrial mammalian
orders on the mid latitudes of the North American continent.
Elsewhere, other primatological curiosities abound. Anarcho-rangutans
seek the elimination of all hierarchies and the violent control of
fire-monkey over fire-monkey, as represented by the anthropoid State,
used to unite groups of fire-monkeys in violent competition with
other bands of bipedal primates. These state formations are
frequently represented with an emblem, or flag, which hairless
tailless fire-monkeys display to demonstrate their submission to the
alpha males' power structure. Green-headed fire-monkeys strive for the
creation of a lush global forest with liberty, renewable energy, and
ample bananas for all.

In direct response to your query, the answer is yes. Republipanzees
have limited intellectual and moral faculties and can only survive by
banding together to form parasitic, exploitative social formations,
often seeking to gain armed control of vital public resources.

2007 04 14, at 1:36 PM:
Can they all survive or will one die out from competition of limited resources? The more selfish Republipanzees, by excluding others seem to ensure enough for their own survival, the sharing types may not keep enough for themselves. Remember it is a jungle out there.

Because of their genetic weaknesses, and dependence on a source of exploitable worker-monkeys, one might think the Republipanzees to be in danger of extinction. This is far from the truth. The exploitable fire-monkeys are ample, the Republipanzees have squirrelled away heaps of resources, and when faced with starvation, they will reorganize into smaller cliques and casually cannibalize their former comrades. For this reason, they are thought to face no danger of extinction. Mr Bush is seldom seen together with Mr Cheney for this very reason: the danger that the larger and more aggresive Mr Cheney will attack and eat Mr Bush and his pudding-like brains during a lapse in Bush's wariness. Republipanzees' geographical isolation on the central latitudes of the North American continent is their greatest weakness. A nuclear or asteroid strike on their limited habitat is thought to pose the only credible threat to their existence.

Demobonobos are also so numerous, breeding rather quickly, and possess such a wide range of genetic diversity, that they are also in no danger of extinction.

Anarchorangutans were once thought to be extinct, but they periodically emerge from urban centers, mountains, islands, and other unlikely isolated locales, where they seem to breed underground. It also appears that spontaneous mutations of the Republipanzees and Demobonobos can produce Anarchorangutans on occasion.

The Green-headed hairless tailless fire-monkeys are also increasing their range from central, western, and northern Europe to small roving bands worldwide. They are unlikely to go extinct in all of these locations.

Apr 16, 2007, at 8:48 AM:
How about if the Republipanzees are assimilated into being Demobonobos? If interbreeding was done wouldn't the fewer Republipanzees eventually disappear? The attractive Demobonobos just have to seduce the Republipanzees until they die out and disappear – just like the Neanderthals.

This approach has promise, and is currently being experimented with in a long-term study by Demobonobo Marian Schriber with her research subject, great ape-Repubabboon and Kaleefåüwnya Gubernator Arnholt Schnauzerschnitzel. Initial results indicate a maturing and softening of the Republipanzee tendencies even in the first generation. Long term study is needed to determine if antisocial Republipanzee traits recur in the offspring or second generation. Because of the sexual and playful strategies available to Demobonobos, they have an advantage in this area. Vigorous and repeated couplings with Republipanzees may placate them and exhaust their aggressive tendencies. This approach should be combined with birth control and safe legal abortion to limit the number of any Republipanzee throwbacks that may result. Researchers are cautiously optimistic, but the widespread revulsion of Demobonobos for Republipanzees limits this approach unless advanced techniques such as bondage and SM are employed. Fortunately for researchers in this area, Republipanzees, despite their amoral character, retain some residual "human" characteristics which cause them to feel guilt and crave punishment, which also sexually excites them. A number of Demobonobos are thought to also enjoy delivering punishment to particularly deserving neocon-macaques.