Bank of America: ‘a criminal enterprise’


From DAVID DAYEN
Firedoglake

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s amended complaint in a lawsuit against Bank of America has so many interesting nuances, I think I need a new Internet to catalog them all. But let me start by saying that this complaint is a stick of dynamite to the foreclosure fraud settlement, exposing it as a useless whitewash that won’t deter banks from their criminal practices. Masto joins other skeptical AGs here in not acceding to such a dereliction of duty, and instead she lays out a thorough case of systematic fraud, in this case by Bank of America, at every step of the mortgage process.

First, the background. In October 2008, a group of twelve state Attorneys General, including Nevada, entered into a settlement with Bank of America over predatory lending at the mortgage lender Countrywide, which BofA had purchased in July. In the settlement, BofA promised to modify up to 400,000 mortgages nationwide, at a cost of up to $8.4 billion. This was to include principal reductions as well as refinancing, and all foreclosure operations

Preparing Poor America for Harder Times Ahead



THE COMMUNITY ACTION PARTNERSHIP

The Community Action Partnership, which is the umbrella organization of Community Action Agencies–which in turn administer the lion’s share of anti-poverty programs in the US–has just come out with a report, Facing the New Reality: Preparing Poor America for Harder Times Ahead. Input for the report came from (among others) Nate Hagens, Dmitry Orlov, Sharon Astyk, Dave Room, John Michael Greer, Megan Bachman, and Richard Heinberg.

[…] While most agree that the global economy nearly collapsed in the fall of 2008, few acknowledge that nothing has fundamentally changed to prevent this from happening again. Recent bailouts of fragile European economies like Greece, Iceland and Portugal (like the bailouts of American financial institutions) increased the debt that first caused the defaults and likely set the stage for more economic chaos not far down the road.

Why the Fukushima disaster is worse than Chernobyl


From THE INDEPENDENT

Yoshio Ichida is recalling the worst day of his 53 years: 11 March, when the sea swallowed up his home and killed his friends. The Fukushima fisherman was in the bath when the huge quake hit and barely made it to the open sea in his boat in the 40 minutes before the 15-metre tsunami that followed. When he got back to port, his neighbourhood and nearly everything else was gone. “Nobody can remember anything like this,” he says.

Now living in a refugee centre in the ruined coastal city of Soma, Mr Ichida has mourned the 100 local fishermen killed in the disaster and is trying to rebuild his life with his colleagues. Every morning, they arrive at the ruined fisheries co-operative building in Soma port and prepare for work. Then they stare out at the irradiated sea, and wait. “Some day we know we’ll be allowed to fish again. We all want to believe that.”

This nation has recovered from worse natural – and manmade – catastrophes. But it is the triple meltdown

Mendo Island Transition: The significant benefits of food localization


From MICHAEL BROWNLEE
Colorado Transition

The local food shift is gaining significant traction in Boulder County, growing well beyond the euphoric early adopter stage into early majority territory. It is unfolding so rapidly and so unpredictably that it could well be called a revolution.

If it hasn’t already, the issue of local food is about to land on the desks of public officials and political candidates, perhaps even in unexpected ways. One candidate, aware of this shift, contacted Transition Colorado and requested “talking points” on this important issue. What follows here is a very preliminary and incomplete briefing intended to help all officials and candidates quickly bone up on some of the major issues and prepare to deal with the challenges that are coming their way.

Since our current food-related laws and policies were created — and most public officials were elected or appointed — long before the local food shift began to take hold, familiarity with these issues could be crucial not only to candidates’ political future, but also the well-being of the communities they serve.

Roots of the local food shift

Saving A National Treasure: Our Libraries


Tulare County Free Library, Allensworth, California

From JAY WALLJASPER
On The Commons

[Vote Yes on Mendocino County Libraries — Measure A ~DS]

Since 1994 Robert Dawson, a photography instructor at San Jose State and Stanford, has visited more than 17,000 libraries coast-to-coast—some grand, most humble—to document the central role they play in the life of their communities. This summer he is crossing the country again with his son Walker to celebrate these national treasures. Follow his adventures and see new photos at Library Road Trip. You can also make a contribution to his project.

An exhibit of his photos, “Public Library: An American Commons” is now on display at the San Francisco Public Library. Viewing a slideshow of Dawson’s exhibit on the website of the Design Observer (here) is a moving experience.

From the computer facilities packed with users at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago to a relaxed public meeting at the Newport Public Library in Vermont

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Understanding the Right’s Attack on Social Security


From DAVE JOHNSON
Campaign for America’s Future

“When [Social Security] was developed, 50 percent of seniors lived in poverty. Today, poverty among seniors is too high, but that number is ten percent. Social Security has done exactly what it was designed to do!”

You hear over and over that Social Security is “in trouble” or that we “can’t afford it.” This is as far from true as can be, and the idea behind this is to convince people to just give up on defending the program and let the haters have their way. The people who hate Social Security the most are the ones who say they want to make these changes to “save” it. Well Bernie Sanders loves the program and has introduced a bill that actually will save it.

The Haters

Conservatives have hated Social Security from the start, because it is a program that demonstrates once and for all the value of progressive governance. Social Security is as clear an example of We, the People… Complete article here
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Three Charts To Email To Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law


From DAVE JOHNSON
The Smirking Chimp

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “Stimulus” just made things worse.

Solution: Here are three “reality-based” charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.

Spending

Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.

Katrina in Vermont


From JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER

The same creeping nausea that followed the CNN ‘all clear’ sign in New Orleans six years ago happened again yesterday. Anderson Cooper seemed a little peeved that the lights didn’t go out in Manhattan, but then the remnants of Hurricane Irene stomped up the Hudson Valley and stalled a while and commenced to rip apart the Catskills, the eastern Adirondacks, the Mohawk and upper Hudson valleys, and then almost all of Vermont, not to mention New Hampshire and western Massachusetts, and I can’t even tell you much about whatever’s going on in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland this morning. Connecticut, Long Island, and Rhode Island are in there somewhere, and surely there’s more than a few things out of place in North Carolina.

This is nowhere near Katrina’s death toll of over 1800 souls, but the damage to scores of towns, businesses, houses, and basic civic armature is going to be very impressive as the news filters in later this week and the disaster is still very much ongoing Monday, even with the sun shining bright. Towns all over Vermont and New Hampshire are still drowning. The Hudson River

Shit Jobs of the Future


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Unequal Protection — Chapter Nine: The Court Takes the Presidency



(Transcripts Below)

From THOM HARTMANN
Truthout

“The election is over. We won.”

Reporter’s voice: “How do you know that?”

“It’s all over but the counting. And we’ll take care of the counting.”

-Republican Congressman Peter King on July 4, 2003, speaking of the 2004 presidential election, interviewed by filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi for the HBO documentary Diary of a Political Tourist[1]

On December 12, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court granted yet another gift to corporate power—and hammered yet another nail into the coffin of democracy in America. They did it in a strikingly dramatic fashion: by stealing the presidency.

In the process five members of the unelected third branch of government made sure that its majority

Todd Walton: Flow


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

“Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting what you are doing. This is the ultimate.” Zhuangzi

Something happened to me a few days ago the likes of which hadn’t happened to me in eons. I was shooting hoops at the elementary school, playing alone, as is my custom now that I am deep into middle age and easily injured, when I became aware that I was caught up in an extraordinary flow of action involving my body, the ball, the air, the backboard, and the hoop. I think this was what sports commentators mean when they say a player is “in the zone,” playing with seeming effortlessness, yet playing superbly and flawlessly for an extended period of time. A frequently used adjunct comment to saying a player is “in the zone” is “he’s unconscious.”

That adjunct comment turns out not to be true, because the cool thing about being in the zone, and this has been corroborated by many athletes speaking about their in-the-zone experiences, is that they were not unconscious, but rather fully aware of being in the zone yet not consciously controlling what they were doing. That is to say, they were not conscious of making decisions about what to do next while they were caught up in the flow of action because they were, in essence, inseparable from the flow of everything going on.

9/11: Explosive Evidence


[From JIM HOULE, Redwood Valley: I am a member of Architects & Engineers for 911 Truth, a national organization of 1500 professional A&Es and some 12,400 other technical experts and supporters. We are trying to organize locally in Mendocino County for the tenth anniversary of this disaster and hope to meet with local officials, put article in the newspapers, set up a table at the Court House and show a film. Our entire focus is upon questioning the evidence concerning how the three buildings at the World Trade Center came down. We have tons of expert testimony about explosives, and incendiaries and how they contributed to the destruction of these buildings and the loss of 2900 lives that sunny day in downtown Manhattan.

Are you a member?  Would you like to get involved in this event?  Check out the web site: www.AE911Truth.org.  Give me a call if you want to help.  We are not involved in spinning conspiracy theories, we are not involved in chasing the Saudis, the Afghanis, or the Al Qaeda.  We have restricted ourselves to this very technical issue – how the hell did these three buildings come down in free fall in about 7 seconds each and well after most of the jet fuel had burned off and the fires were going out? We demand another investigation. We want to know the 911 Truth. ~Jim Houle jfh@willitsonline.com 485 8229]

9/11: Explosive Evidence – Experts Speak Out is the new documentary film by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Watch the four-minute trailer above. Then share it with all your friends

Micro-Participation Connects Citizens to Their Governments


From CHRIS HALLER
Shareable

Micro-participation is a term that’s been discussed within open government circles as a way to make citizen engagement more convenient, effective, and scalable. The idea is to fit civic activity and involvement into the everyday lives of the public, resulting in more small ways to collaborate and communicate. As this study demonstrates, it makes sense to consider micro-participation within the context of urban planning and development as well. This method may require a little more work for planners and policy-makers to implement at first, but it takes less work for citizens to get involved, which results in more feedback and participation for your projects.

Tim Bonnemann gave a great working definition of this concept in a comment on the PEP-NET blog:

…[provide] better low-level or “drive-by” participation opportunities whereby citizens can make (many) small yet valuable contributions without having to be involved over the full length of a participation project.

Imagine the practical applications of this approach within the urban planning space. The “drive-by” bit can be applied quite literally, by using signage that encourages citizens to give feedback on a project using their smartphones — right here, right now (but not while driving, of course). Technology can be a powerful tool for micro-participation efforts, but the main focus must be on ensuring convenience of the citizens.

Worker Co-ops for Local Job Creation


From MIRA LUNA
Shareable

While mainstream America is hoping for federal economic reform, some social justice organizations have a radically different idea, and are organizing low-income communities to build a new economy from the grassroots up. Tired of asking for change from the top down, they are taking their economy into their own hands. Social justice organizations, having a strong membership base rooted in community, are ideal spaces to cultivate alternative economic projects, as relationships of trust and solidarity have been nurtured over time through education and a history of taking action for justice. Here are some exciting examples of grassroots alternative economy projects for social justice.

Social Justice and Alternative Economics

Alliance to Develop Power (ADP) is social justice organization based in Massachusetts with a membership of 10,000 low-income African Americans and Latinos. According to Sally Kohn of the Nation, ADP has stated that “at the end of every issue campaign, our goal is to create an institution that our members control.” This a lofty goal for an organization that fights for basic necessities, like housing, on a regular basis. ADP is creating a 1,200 unit tenant-owned housing cooperative, a worker coops to provide landscaping, construction, building maintenance and weatherization for the homes, as well as four volunteer-run food coops for local health food access.

Can we democratize the grid? Equal energy for all


From BETH BUCZYNSKI
Shareable

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) recently published an e-book (PDF) advocating complete democratization of the electric grid by abandoning a system that is dominated by large, centralized utilities for a 21st century grid made of independently-owned and widely-dispersed renewable energy generators

A democratized system for creating and distributing electric power ensures that the economic benefits of electricity generation are as widely dispersed as the ownership.

Why Now?

As long as communities still rely on centralized, fossil-fuel powered energy plants to generate power, democratization of the electrical grid will remain a dream. But the past 10 years have seen an exponential growth in the adoption of renewable energy alternatives, namely home solar and wind power, which presents an unprecedented opportunity for transformation.

As the technology and installation of these systems continues to drop in price, more private property owners are able to take advantage of their pollution and money-saving benefits. This increased accessibility makes it possible to turn any rooftop or open field into a mini-power plant. It is this level playing field that makes the dream of a locally-owned and managed electrical grid into a reality.

Short-term capitalism


From SETH GODIN

There are a few reasons why one might not care what happens in the long run:

  • You don’t intend to be around
  • You’re going to make so much money in the short run it doesn’t matter
  • You figure you won’t get caught

Short-term marketing involves using deception to make a quick sale, or using aggressive promises to get a quick hit. Having a price war counts as well. Linkbait is on that list as well.

Short-term architecture means putting up a cheap building, a local eyesore, something that saves money now instead for building something for the long haul. The guys who put up the Pantheon in Rome weren’t doing short-term anything. Hard to say that about a big box store.

Short-term manufacturing ignores the side effects of pollution, bad design and worker impact because it’s faster money in the short run to merely make the product (and the sale) in the most direct way possible.

Short-term investment banking invests in transactions that are unsustainable and eventually blow up (after commissions are paid).

Short-term sales involve spamming as many people as you can, as fast as you can.

Short-term hiring requires you to hire cheap, train as little as possible and live with turnover.

How a Community-Based Co-op Economy Might Work


From DAVE POLLARD
How To Save The World

[My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.  Steve Jobs — Interview with 60 Minutes, 2003 ~DS]

Most people have been brought up to believe that the competitive, grow-or-die, absentee-shareholder-owned, “free”-trade “market” economy is the only one that works, the only alternative to a socialist, government-run economy. This myth is perpetrated in business and other schools, by the media, by accountants and lawyers and bankers and, of course, in the business world. This amoral-capitalist economic model has “succeeded” in the same hostile way our species has “succeeded” — by brutally suppressing, starving for resources, using power to steal from, and, when all else fails, killing off anything deemed a “competitor” or threat to its monopoly on power and resources.

It relies on massive subsidies and near-zero interest rates thanks to well-rewarded political cronies, on political graft and corruption worldwide, on oligopoly

Long live socialism! The great right-wing swindle has hoodwinked too many


From JACK LESSENBERRY
The Smirking Chimp

Here’s the truth: I love socialism, and so do you, even though you may well neither know it, nor admit it. Matter of fact, so do most of the poseurs trying for the Republican presidential nomination.

They, however, want socialism only for the rich, and never call it that. Instead, they pretend what they call “socialism” is the problem. Well, if you want to see someone who lived a life free of socialism, go to Italy.

There, you can visit the body of the so-called “Ice Man,” who was found after being frozen for 5,000 years. He was in his 40s; his teeth were decayed, his body was pretty much worn out, and, oh, yes, he had been murdered. But at least he didn’t have to pay taxes.

Nor did he have police protection, schools, health care, roads or any agency in charge of seeing he wasn’t sold tainted reindeer meat.

Well, he may have led a life Ron Paul would love, but the rest of us would probably prefer the sort of government intrusion that prevents someone from pissing in our drinking water.

Homesteading Quantified: How Much Land You Need To Go Off The Grid


From HUFFPOST

The original homesteaders, the pioneers who went West, were following the American dream as it was understood in the 19th century — they wanted a house, and land, and a farm, of their own. Those who become homesteaders today aren’t necessarily aspirational in the same way; instead, they’re looking to escape mainstream America. They want to do so for many reasons: privacy, radicalism, a philosophical belief in self-sufficiency.

But “going off the grid” is a daunting proposal, especially for those with families. Non-homesteaders rely on others for virtually everything; not just our haircuts, but our electricity and our eggs. It’s hard enough to figure out the right amount of groceries to buy for a week. Figuring out how many crops to plant to feed a family of four is exponentially more daunting. There are plenty of resources to help — message boards, how-tos. And here’s one more, aesthetically pleasing resource

Bill Gates Wants To Solve The Poop Problem


From GENE LOGSDON

I can’t write about this without sounding like I’m blowing my own horn. Bill Gates, bless him, has discovered manure. I don’t know if he has read my book, Holy Shit, or Joseph Jenkins’ book, Humanure, but he’s acting like he might have. He is offering $42 million in grants to spur new designs and ideas for handling our bodily wastes in a less bankrupting way than we are using today. There are already good compost toilets out there, and other ways to handle or replace flush toilet water are in the process of development, but I am sure, and Mr. Gates must think so too, that the more brains we can get involved in this, the better. Clint and Bobbi Elston, founders of the Equaris Corporation in Afton, Minn., tell me that they have already applied. They have invented an impressive array of home appliances

The Marihuana/Hemp Tax Act of 1937 and the Birth of a Synthetic Economy


[Let’s get back to local sustainability and transform Mendocino County into the industrial hemp capital of the Americas: “Before the synthetic boom of the 40’s, and the pharmaceutical boom of the 50’s, much of the world including America, depended upon natural products like hemp for their everyday needs such as foods, medicine, building materials, clothes, paint, and even fuel …” JJL]

The date was August 2nd, 1937 whereby a relatively empty 75th congress instituted the “Marihuana Tax Act of 1937,” after a mere 30 minutes of debate. While this act did not criminalize cannabis or hemp as it is commonly thought, it did call for heavy taxation, strict regulation, and introduced harsh penalties

The Vegetarian’s Dilemma


From DAVID SIROTA
Truthdig

For those, like my son, who are being raised as vegetarians, the supermarket’s message is downright subversive.

As a new father who (ages ago) did a short stint as a press secretary, I’m already thinking ahead to the questions my son will throw at me. Yes, I know 8-month-old Isaac can’t even say “Dad” yet, but these questions are coming, and I’m sure they’re going to be way tougher than the ones reporters usually lob at Washington politicians. (OK, in the current age of media obsequiousness, that’s not saying much…)

So I’m planning for answers

What can we do about the great American lie?


From MICHAEL A. LEWIS
Transtion Voice

I. F. Stone told us many years ago that All Governments Lie.

Daniel Ellsberg, in Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, told us why governments, including presidents, always lie, and must continue to lie about what they know to be true, but about which they cannot talk under constraints of “national security.”

Here at home, the lies place an impermeable barrier between those who know and those who cannot be told, a barrier that trickles down hill forever, separating the citizenry of the US from their government.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Today, the lies continue, as they must

Tar Sands


From PEACEFUL UPRISING

Josh Fox, creator of the award-winning film “Gasland“, has created a moving and informative new video about the Tar Sands Action in Washington DC. He joins a growing list of concerned scientists, authors, and celebrities (Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Mark Ruffalo, for example) who have voiced their support the 2000+ people who have signed up to take action.

Beginning August 20th, and continuing day after day until Sept. 3, citizens from all over the country will gather in front of the White House and participate in the time-honored tactic of peaceful civil disobedience. Why? Because President Obama has the ultimate authority to sign or not sign the authorization of the Keystone XL Pipeline, that would run from Alberta, Canada to oil refineries in Texas. This would allow oil companies

The Light Bulb Conspiracy


From NATURAL NEWS

Here’s a full-length feature you can watch on YouTube. It’s a remarkable film about planned obsolescence and the “buy more stuff” consumer society. In four parts with subtitles.
~

Tired of primitive living?… why not try civilisation!


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Dave Pollard: The Internet — A Depression Scenario


From DAVE POLLARD
How To Save The World Blog

Last year, my article What Are You Going to Do When the Internet’s Gone stirred up lots of discussion and surprisingly little pushback from the technophiles (perhaps because they’ve stopped reading this blog). I thought it might be worthwhile thinking a bit about what life will be like as a combination of economic and energy crises slowly transform the Internet from a ubiquitous tool (at least in affluent nations) to a hobbyist toy for die-hard techies and uber-geeks (kinda like amateur/ham radios were a half-century ago).

The reasons I cited last year for believing the Internet is going to be impossible to maintain as we face the end of cheap energy, the end of stable climate and the end of the industrial “growth” economy) are as follows:

Tax the super-rich or riots will rage in 2012


From PAUL B. FARRELL
MarketWatch

6 reasons we can’t stop coming economic meltdown. Plan now for the revolution, class warfare, market crash, economic collapse, plan for another depression.

What a year. Rage in London, Egypt, Athens, Damascus. All real. Just a metaphor in the new “Planet of the Apes” film? No, much more. Warning: More rage is dead ahead. Across our planet a new generation is filled with rage. High unemployment. Raging inflation. Dreams lost. Hope gone. While the super -rich get richer and richer.

Listen to that hissing: The fuse is rapidly burning, warning us. Wake up before the rage explodes in your face. This firestorm is endangering America’s future. From forces outside, yes. But far more deadly, from deep within our collective psyche. We have lost our moral compass. We are self-destructing.

Crackpot warning? No. This warning comes from the elite International Monetary Fund. A recent IMF report looked at “the causes of the two major U.S. economic crises over the past 100 years, the Great Depression of 1929 and the Great Recession of 2007,” writes Rana Foroohar, an economics editor at Time magazine.

“There are two remarkable similarities in the eras that preceded these crises. Both saw a sharp increase in income inequality and household-debt-to-income ratios.” And in each case, “as the poor and middle-class were squeezed, they tried to cope by borrowing to maintain their standard of living.”

But the rich “got richer, by lending, and looked for more places to invest, bidding up securities that eventually exploded in everyone’s face. In both eras, financial deregulation and loose monetary policies played roles in creating the bubble. But inequality itself

Unequal Protection — Chapter 8: Corporations Go Global


From THOM HARTMANN
Truthout

Curtin, what do you think of those fellows in Wall Street who are gambling in gold at such a time as this?… For my part, I wish every one of them had his devilish head shot off.

—President Abraham Lincoln, personal letter to Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, April 25, 1864

People, at the time, generally weren’t all that concerned about the fate of the world’s dolphins. It was the last week of June 1944, and the war wasn’t going well for Adolf Hitler. The killing machines of his death camps were running full out, straining his resources and creating consternation as word leaked out across Europe. His forces were falling back before the Soviets, and his generals openly worried about

an Allied invasion on the French coast. On Thursday, June 29, almost all of the eighteen hundred Jews of Corfu were murdered upon their arrival at Auschwitz, while twenty thousand Jewish women were relocated to the concentration camp at Stutthof. On Friday, June 30, more than a thousand Parisian Jews arrived at Auschwitz.

This same weekend that opened July 1944, a three-week meeting was convened in an isolated hotel in New Hampshire’s White Mountains near the town of Bretton Woods. Bankers, economists, and representatives of the governments of forty-four nations arrived for the meeting, which was convened as the International Monetary and Financial Conference of the United and Associated Nations.

The official history of the meeting suggests it was a group of nations getting together to work out a new international economic world order that would prevent a repeat of the Great Depressions and the European inflations that had occurred in the 1930s and driven Hitler to prominence and power with his promises to “restore Germany to greatness.”

Wind powered factories: history (and future) of industrial windmills


From LOW-TECH MAGAZINE

In the 1930s and 1940s, decades after steam engines had made wind power obsolete, Dutch researchers obstinately kept improving the – already very sophisticated – traditional windmill. The results were spectacular, and there is no doubt that today an army of ecogeeks could improve them even further. Would it make sense to revive the industrial windmill and again convert kinetic energy directly into mechanical energy?

More than 900 years ago, medieval Europe became the first large civilisation not to be run by human muscle power. Thousands and thousands of windmills and waterwheels, backed up by animal power, transformed industry and society radically. It was an industrial revolution entirely powered by renewable energy – something that we can (and do) only dream of today. Wind and water powered mills were in essence the first real factories in human history. They consisted of a building, a power source, machinery and employees, and out of them came a product.

Windmills and waterwheels were not new technologies – both machines appeared already in Antiquity and the ones used in the early Middle Ages were technically no different from those. However, ancient civilisations like the Greeks and the Romans hardly used them, possibly because of religious reasons and because of a large enough reservoir of human slave labour.

Water versus wind

Water powered mills were – overall – more important and numerous than windmills. This is logical since they are a simpler and more reliable technology; the flow of a river might change according to the seasons, but generally a river

Todd Walton: Rich People


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

“ Of all classes the rich are the most noticed and the least studied.” John Kenneth Galbraith

I know people who own nice houses and multiple cars and have sufficient wealth to eat and drink whatever they want to eat and drink, and to take occasional vacations, too, yet they do not consider themselves rich. That is, they do not think of themselves as people who should pay higher taxes because, well, they feel they pay high enough taxes as it is, too high, actually, and besides, they aren’t part of that one per cent we hear so much about, those multi-millionaires and billionaires who pay no taxes at all. These people I know don’t own three and four homes, for goodness sake. Some of them own two houses, and maybe a rental or two, but no one ever gave them a golden parachute. They voted for Clinton and Obama. They proudly click buttons on web sites to indicate their opposition to icky pipelines and their sympathy for homeless people and their support for endangered species. So…now their houses are plummeting in value, their stock portfolios are crashing, and the price of everything edible and the price of anything that produces heat and electricity and horse power is skyrocketing, so it’s not as if these people have much to spare. In fact, when you add everything up, these people I know with houses and money are, relatively speaking, poor, though the words poor and rich are not precise terms; so let’s just say that these people I know with houses and cars and money are adamant that they are not rich.

“A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.” W.C. Fields

I was six-years-old when my family moved from a tiny house in a working class neighborhood in San Mateo to a three-bedroom house in Atherton. For those of you unfamiliar with Atherton, it is a town of eight thousand residents and their servants not far from Stanford University, twenty-seven miles south

The bright future of solar powered factories


From LOW-TECH MAGAZINE

Most of the talk about renewable energy is aimed at electricity production. However, most of the energy we need is heat, which solar panels and wind turbines cannot produce efficiently. To power industrial processes like the making of chemicals, the smelting of metals or the production of microchips, we need a renewable source of thermal energy. Direct use of solar energy can be the solution, and it creates the possibility to produce renewable energy plants using only renewable energy plants, paving the way for a truly sustainable industrial civilization. A large share of energy consumed worldwide is by heat. Cooking, space heating and water heating dominate domestic energy consumption. In the UK, these activities account for 85 percent of domestic energy use, in Europe for 89 percent and in the USA for 61 percent (excluding cooking).

Heat also dominates industrial energy consumption. In the UK, 76 percent of industrial energy consumption is heat. In Europe, this is 67 percent. I could not find figures for the US and for the world as a whole, but these percentages must be similar (and probably even higher on a worldwide scale because many energy-intensive industries have been outsourced to developing countries). Few things can be manufactured without heat.

 The importance of heat in total energy consumption sharply contrasts with our efforts to green the energy infrastructure. These are largely aimed at renewable electricity production using wind turbines and solar panels. Although it is perfectly possible to convert electricity into heat, as in electric heaters or electric cookers, it is very inefficient to do so.

It is often assumed that our energy problems are solved when renewables reach ‘grid parity’ – the point at which they can generate electricity for the same price as fossil fuels. But to truly compete with fossil fuels, renewables must also reach ‘thermal parity‘.

Close All Nukes Now! Fukushima alarm — Ground cracking, radioactive steam seeping — Canadians receiving extreme radiation from rain


From DEBORAH DUPREÉ
examiner.com

Doomed to cripple before quake and tsunami

As Canadians learned about dangerous radiation falling on them in rain on Tuesday as far east as Toronto registered at 20,000 CPM, equivalent to the highly targeted dose of radiation for cancer radiotherapy,  the Fukushima catastrophe escalated even higher Wednesday with evidence that the ground is cracking under the crippled nuclear power plant, causing radioactive steam to escape, “very serious and alarming” according to Anissa Naouai’s guest on Russia Today, Dr. Robert Jacobs, Professor of nuclear history at Hiroshima Peace Institute.

Fukushima nuclear plant workers have reported that the ground under the facility is cracking and radioactive steam is already escaping through the cracks that Dr. Jacobs says is very serious and alarming development because it has happened after two large earthquakes over the past few weeks according to Russia Today. (See embedded Russia Today interviewing Dr. Jacobs on Youtube video on this page left.)

“There was a 6.4 earthquake on the 31st of July and a 6.0 earthquake on August 12th,” Dr. Jacobs told Russia Today’s Naoiai.

“What this indicates is there may have been some breaking of the pipes and some of the structures underground that happened during these earthquakes,” he said.

“There could be radioactive water that is venting into the soil and what’s more, as cracks are opening, the steam and radioactivity is working its way up,” he said.

It is harder for workers to work under those conditions and threatens the Japanese, their children and their hibakusha (victims of radiation exposure from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings).

Why Social Security IS NOT a Ponzi Scheme


From ANDREW SULLIVAN
The Dish

[Here’s the counter to conservative bullshit. See also: The Real Ponzi ~DS]

A reader writes:

What a silly argument made by Indiviglio. If a Ponzi scheme is “an economic arrangement where the money paid into the system by later entrants is paid right back out as benefits to earlier entrants,” that pretty much describes any form of insurance. The defining characteristic of a Ponzi scheme is that it is unsustainable, because it requires, like a chain letter or Amway, a geometrically increasing number of participants to deliver the promised returns.  (Amway stays afloat because most participants pay in a little – or a lot – but withdraw without ever receiving any return.) Neither insurance nor Social Security requires a geometrically increasing number of participants so long as the system is funded based on sound actuarial principles.

Another parses further:

Having represented the victims of actual Ponzi schemes in court, I feel compelled to point out an important distinction between Ponzi schemes and Social Security: a Ponzi scheme is just that, a scheme. The definition provided in Zaid Jilani’s dictionary omits this important component. The participants are kept in the dark about how the benefits are obtained. Thus, a Ponzi scheme is not really an economic “arrangement” in the sense that the participants have agreed to it. By contrast, we all know (or should know) how Social Security works. It is more akin to something else, namely an insurance program where the insured event (reaching the retirement age) is guaranteed (barring premature death).

Another:

How To Learn From Open Resources Online


From ANYA KAMENTZ
Shareable

There are plenty of open resources on the Internet to allow for college-level learning on almost any topic. But diving in can be daunting.

If you want to read a textbook, answer the questions at the end of each chapter, and take a sample test, you can certainly simulate that kind of traditional classroom-based learning online, but there are many, many other possibilities.

Just as the three main “buckets” of traditional education are Content, Socialization, and Accreditation, or the “what,” the “how,” and the “why,” the world of open learning can be divided roughly into the parallel buckets of open content, social learning, and reputation-based networks.

Open content is the “what.” Content means textbooks, video and audio lectures, lessons, problem sets, and sample tests and quizzes. The most common form of open content that you have probably turned to for a quick definition or overview of a topic is Wikipedia. Open content, or open educational resources, are found on websites like MIT’s Open Courseware, The Open Courseware Consortium, the Open Learning Initiative, Khan Academy, Open Yale Courses, iTunes U, Academic Earth, Saylor.org, Scribd, Slideshare, Textbookrevolution, Wikiversity, and many more. In a bricks-and-mortar university, Open Content is the equivalent of the lecture hall and the library.

Open social learning happens on sites like P2PU, OpenLearn, OpenStudy, Wikianswers, Quora, Urch, and even Twitter. These are places where you can ask or answer a complex technical question, form or join a book group, or get help studying for the SATs. These sites can be the equivalent of the pizza and study group, the tutoring center, or the seminar…

Complete article here
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Resilient Home


From THE RESILIENT COMMUNITY

“Homes that don’t produce food, energy, water, etc. will be the homes that will see a decline in value. As things stand today, it won’t be long before the value of a home is based PRIMARILY on its productive value.”‘JR

A resilient home produces:

Why?

Here’s a simple answer. A resilient home protects you against breakdowns in the global supply chain/economy. It’s not merely a black hole of consumption — a place where you consume and sleep. It should be a productive asset. The greater production value of your home, the less vulnerable you are to these disruptions.

It’s not as hard as you think. With modern technology and techniques (gathered from around the world), you can turn your home into a dynamo of production.

Energy

Food

Stop Coddling Us, the Super-Rich


From WARREN BUFFETT
NYT

Our leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes… Complete article here
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