Sunday, June 21, 2009


Despite Fox’s whining about ABC’s upcoming special on health care reform which will include a town hall conducted in the White House, it turns out that when George W. Bush was President, Fox did exactly what they are accusing ABC of.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Out of Time, Out of Luck

"We have run out of time," Ashok Khosla, president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's largest environmental association, told IPS. "Climate change is happening at a swifter speed than we thought so far."

Khosla, an Indian national, holds degrees in physics and natural sciences, and has taught and worked on environmental and social economics since the 1970s. He leads several non-governmental organisations committed to human development.

Katherine Richardson, a leading marine biologist researching the effect of climate change effect on the oceans, told IPS, "Sea levels are rising 50 percent faster than expected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"If humankind does not stop climate change in the immediate future, at the observed present rate sea levels shall rise by at least one metre by the year 2010." This would aggravate the catastrophic consequences already forecast for human settlements along coasts, especially in the developing world, she said.

Faster, Further, Hotter. It's like a new Olympic motto, only this one's about civilized human life on Earth. The rest of the story is here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

As American as Apple Pie

Interesting post at Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing on the legend of Johnny Appleseed. Explains when and why apple pie came to be associated with wholesome American values. Because the true story of Johnny Appleseed is just the tinest bit different.... Fascinating example of how real history is sanitized over time.

(Sociological Images is a great blog by the way. I read it every day, and it hardly ever disappoints....

Monday, June 08, 2009

More Bailouts

So, someone explain the Canadian GM bailout package to me. $10 billion dollars to 'save' a company building cars nobody wants to buy.

I thought the conservatives believed in capitalism? Isn't the whole point of capitalism and the free market that competition ensures quality and efficiency by weeding out inefficient producers of crap? Isn't the whole point of recessions to clear out the deadwood? What is the point of Adam Smith's invisible hand punishing GM if the government comes and props it up? They won't give welfare to the poor because that would be interfering in the market place, but 10 billion to GM is okay. What am I missing?

To prop up a manufacturing industry in a post-industrial age. Why are we investing 10 billion dollars in an outdated, polluting industry that we need to ban to save the planet from global warming? The fact that GM is failing is telling us that the industrial sector is done. That's not what the economy is about any more. We might as well be investing in buggy whip plants as gasoline engine cars. I could see 10 billion investment in nano tech because that might help keep Canada abreast of developments in nano tech; or genetics or synthetic biology or etc. But investing in an industry thats done?

Not that you can refer to it as 'investing', because Harper was uncharacteristically up front that tax payers will never see most of that money back. I had thought that it was about saving jobs, and I get that from time to time governments may need to step in to stimulate employment etc. But it looks like GM is getting to cut their workforce too.

10 billion dollars. Deficit spending, Borrowed money. We'll be paying not just the 10 billion but the interest on the 10 billion. And for what. To shore up a doomed industry.

What if that were invested in education? In post-secondary training in nano or genetics or any of the other emerging tech. Or research. Or the arts. $10 billion would feed an army of Canadian artists, film makers, writers. 10 billion works out to what, a living wage for about 250,000 writers/artists/etc. Can you imagine what a quarter million writers could accomplish? Even if only one in a thousand became an international best seller, that's still another 250 Canadian authors contributing to world culture, putting Canada no the map, and bringing in revenue and tax dollars. 250 new Margret Atwoods.

If that money was used to launch a quarter million writers, even if only half of them ever got published, and only a half of those ever wrote a second book, that still means 75,000 new writer. Selling books. Paying taxes, paying back, over the lifetime of their writing careers, the full amount of the initial investment, plus a significant return on investment. Non polluting, sustainable renewable resource development.

But no, we throw the money into a black hole where no return on investment is anticipated...

And on a related issue, here's that Canadian Guy talking about bank bailouts:

Friday, June 05, 2009

Flash Dance!

Mad props to Lila for finding this! Flash mob + Hammer Time!

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Someone's Paying Attention

Just not in the way you might hope. When it comes to issues of food security, countries around the world are buying up huge tracts of farmland in the Third World in order to ensure their own food security. As global food production suffers, these investments in offshore land stand to become very profitable, and then essential. Just not to the country where the food is grown.
There's a new website dedicated to tracking this trend;

Reuters | Wednesday June 3 2009

By Bate Felix

BRUSSELS, June 3 (Reuters) - The European Union is concerned by the trend of foreign investors and countries acquiring large tracts of farmland in developing countries to guarantee their own food security, a senior EU official said on Wednesday.


“The poorest countries are selling commodities, they are exporting migrants and now they are selling their land from which they will not take any kind of benefit in terms of food or whatever,” Manservisi added.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, China and South Korea are looking to buy farmland beyond their borders after sharp food price hikes in 2008 highlighted a need for greater food security.

Gulf Daily News | Wednesday, June 03, 2009


After suffering losses on investments in firms such as Citigroup, Gulf sovereign wealth funds are pumping billions of dollars into local industries such as banks and governments are boosting spending to avert an economic slowdown.

Gulf countries, mainly reliant on food imports, have also increased efforts over the last year to buy land in developing nations from Pakistan to the Philippines and Ethiopia, to help cater for a growing population.

Addendum: Gwynne Dyer talks about the same issue here.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Weirdness

What do you think when you see a sign like this?

Especially when its in front of a Tennessee Burger King? Chris Davis, a staff writer for the Memphis Flyer, noticed these signs outside two local BKs and decided to look into the matter (I want to pat him on the head and say "Good reporter! That's what good reporters do!"), and made some phone calls. The upshot? Burger King's CEO gets it-- John Chidsey has been quoted as saying that climate change is "an overriding issue of importance for the global community, business community and people in general." But the head of Mirabile Investment Corporation apparently doesn't get it--and his company owns more than 40 Burger Kings across Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi, as well as a handful of Popeyes and All In One franchises.And the signs have been showing up in front of his restaurants.
So Leo Hickman has picked this story up in
The Guardian, and The Memphis Flyer has the follow up.

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