How To Make Your House More Valuable  

Posted by Big Gav

This may be my longest post ever - and there are still about 20 links I'd like to cram in but don't have time for - the news cycle seems to be going crazy (at least in my fields of interest) lately...

Business 2.0 has an article on how much value having solar power adds to house prices (which is a good meme to get going - once real estate agents start using this as a selling point more people will want solar panels) - "go green and add value to your home".

Considering a remodeling project to boost the value of your home? Before you drop $40,000 or more on a new kitchen or master bath, consider the newcomer on the renovation block: a rooftop solar-power system that not only will lower your overhead costs and insulate you from a volatile energy market but will likely add just as much to your home value over the long haul.

The technology has come a long way in the past 30 years. And what's starting to be good for contractors is looking sweet for homeowners too. For starters, today's solar systems are far more efficient than their commercial predecessors, and most are warranted to last 25 years.

More important, the federal government and some states are offering serious incentives that can slash the price of installation (typically over $40,000 gross for a full system) in half. In California and New Jersey - the first states to allow so-called net metering, whereby homeowners are credited for electricity they generate beyond their own use - going solar can pay for itself in several years.

Home systems are still rare, so their value is difficult to assess, but home appraisers follow this general rule of thumb: Half the gross cost can be recouped in the home sales price as soon as it is installed. True, that's well below the recovery rates for kitchens and bathrooms (which range from 70 to 90 percent), but your kitchen doesn't pay the power bills.

And solar's ability to lower energy costs also adds value. A study in Appraisal Journal found that for every utility-bill dollar saved annually because of an improvement, you gain $10 to $20 in property value. So if you can zero out a $1,000 annual electric tab by installing solar, you'll get back $10,000 to $20,000 in home value.

Another determinant is your typical electric bill. "If it's under $100 a month, people just put in solar because they want to be part of the solution," says Mike Hall, VP at Borrego Solar in Berkeley. "When you get to $100 to $150 a month, the financial arguments start to take hold. Anything north of $200 a month is a no-brainer."

Red Herring has a look at what the solar power industry needs to do to lower barriers to adoption.
A study finds the industry should focus on reducing non-equipment costs and on making it easier for users to get and use sun power.

Photographer Joseph Holmes was ready to install solar power for his Kensington, California home. He’d paid extra for a special meter required for solar projects, and he’d scoured the Internet—and grilled his solar-electricity-generating neighbors—for information, so he was better off than most.

Still, the process held surprises and complications aplenty. From his first visit from a salesperson for his installer, Sun Light and Power, it took five months and $22,000 upfront (before the 30 percent savings he’s expecting from tax credits and rebates) to install the 2.2-kilowatt system.

His experience backs up a study that technology business consultancy Topline Strategy Group and commercial solar dealer Sunlight Electric plans to publish Nov. 6.

The report, “What the Solar Power Industry Can Learn from Salesforce.com,” concludes that while the solar industry has been focused on lowering the equipment costs, core economics aren’t enough to make solar power mainstream.

To become significant, the solar industry will need to cut non-equipment costs and make it simpler to install and use solar power, said Topline Strategy Group founder Jonathan Klein and Sunlight Electric CEO Rob Erlichman, who wrote the report.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australia is punching way above its weight when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions - not only are we the biggest per capita carbon dioxide emitters, we also export more coal than anyone else - just to help the rest of the world try and pollute as much as we do.
AUSTRALIA is exporting at least $61.5 billion worth of climate change every year in the form of coal shipments, a figure that is set to rise as federal and state governments push ahead with new mines and bigger coal loaders. The cost, calculated using an economic analysis of climate change in the British Stern report, dwarfs a $60 million grab bag of industry projects the Federal Government announced yesterday, which it says will help lower carbon emissions.

The projects, which will receive funding under the Asia Pacific Clean Development and Climate Partnership (AP6), include research into solar power, how to mine coal and aluminium more cleanly, mine safety, and the establishment of a Cement Centre for Excellence.

The project to receive the most money - $8 million - is a CSIRO investigation into how to capture carbon dioxide emissions from existing power stations, separate the gases and bury the carbon. Another $5 million will go to a Victorian solar power project the Government hopes will lead to exports to China and South Korea. But compared with the $60 million in spending announced yesterday on carbon-lowering projects, the Government spends $790 million every year on aviation fuel concessions, and $1 billion on fringe benefit tax concessions for company cars, according to research by the green group the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The Howard Government has long argued that Australia's contribution to global climate change is relatively small because of its small population. However, calculations done by the Herald show that Australian coal exports make a significant contribution to a global problem. The coal industry, which receives hefty help from taxpayers through measures such as diesel fuel subsidies, last year shipped out 233 million tonnes (about 30 per cent of the world total) of coal worth $24.5 billion and employed 25,000 people, says the Australian Coal Association.

Sir Nicholas Stern, the author of the report on the economic impact of climate change, released by the British Treasury on Monday, placed a social cost of $US85 ($110) on a tonne of carbon, taking into account climate change's effect on human health, the environment, agriculture, industry and infrastructure.

The Australian Greenhouse Office says burning a tonne of coal emits 2.4 tonnes of CO 2, excluding any carbon emissions associated with transporting it. Australia's coal exports represented 560 million tonnes of carbon last year. Exports will rise dramatically, especially from NSW, so Australian coal exports will be responsible for an even bigger climate change bill.



While the government refuses to do anything substantial about global warming, the drought continues and the water supplies for Australian cities continue to dry up - and some of the stopgap measures for Sydney aren't looking too good.
Water that Sydney was counting on to relieve its water supply crisis is undrinkable, a report shows.
Sydney dam levels this week dropped below the critical 40 per cent mark, forcing the NSW government to implement plans to source more water.
The state government announced in February it would tap up to 90 billion litres of water over three years from two aquifers in the Southern Highlands and western Sydney if dam levels fell below 40 per cent.
But a plan to access water from deeper in Warragamba Dam, which provides 80 per cent of Sydney's water, is in disarray after the revelation that its emergency water supply failed drinking quality guidelines.



One amazing fact to note is that if the government hadn't basically shut off downstream flows from Sydney's main dam (thereby killing off the .local oyster farming industry) and started pumping water from other rivers into it, the level would now be down to 20% (which would start to generate a bit of panic and kick off construction of a desalination plant). In the meantime the obvious measures - more water restrictions, mandatory water tanks for houses, water recycling programs and fixing the decrepit and leaking water distribution system are simply ignored by our "leaders".
SYDNEY residents and businesses will be spared tougher water restrictions even though the city's dams levels would have fallen to 20 per cent without massive transfers of water from the Shoalhaven River.

The Minister for Water, David Campbell, yesterday said the Government had no plans to increase water restrictions despite official figures showing Sydney's dams had once again fallen below 40 per cent. As of 3pm yesterday they were at 39.7 per cent, and are falling, on average, 0.4 percentage points a week.

However, the Sydney Catchment Authority told the Herald that Sydney's dams would be at 20 per cent of capacity if the authority had not transferred about 500 billion litres of water from the Shoalhaven catchment, 120 kilometres from Sydney.

The Government has also dramatically cut the amount of water it releases from Warragamba Dam to the Hawkesbury-Nepean, which environmentalists say is threatening the river's health.

A 2004 Hawkesbury-Nepean River Management Forum told the Government the minimum environmental flow the river needed to stay healthy was 32 billion litres a year, while other environmental studies have suggested that flow should be as high as 120 billion litres a year.
But in 2005-06 the Government cut the flow to the river to just 8 billion litres.



The Rodent himself continues to show not the slightest shame for his contribution to the endless drought we're now experiencing, and has begun chanting his new mantra at every opportunity "clean and green" nuclear power will be our salvation. "Clean and green" nuclear power. Again and again. No mention of radioactive waste. No mention of the side effects of uranium mining. No mention of the enormous cost (other than to compare it to "clean" coal). No mention of how to dispose of the waste. No mention of weapons proliferation. No mention of which towns and cities will get nuclear plants built in them. Just "nuclear power is clean and green". And solar and wind (the real basis of our "smart grid" clean energy future) are never mentioned. Johnny seems to be trying to do the same Orwellian doublespeak trick on the phrase 'clean and green" that he and Bush did to the phrase "freedom and democracy"...
John Howard has put nuclear power firmly on the election campaign agenda, creating a clear demarcation between the coalition and the strongly anti-nuclear Labor and green groups. Mr Howard, attending the Queensland Liberal conference in Brisbane, said he would do nothing to put the mining industry at risk by taking a panicky approach to greenhouse emissions.

His assurance follows the leaking of the findings of the government's nuclear energy task group, headed by former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski, which said nuclear power could be commercially viable within 15 years.

Mr Howard said nuclear power was potentially the cleanest and greenest of all forms of energy.

He said Australia needed a response to climate change which protected Australia's national interest and preserved its competitive advantage.

"Wouldn't it be an extraordinary national paradox if this country had achieved great prosperity, in no small measure due to the resources that providence has given us, and we are then to be knee-jerked into a response to global warming that crippled the very industries that gave us that prosperity," he said.

Meanwhile there have been marches worldwide against global warming, with almost 90% of Australians wanting more action (and they don't mean building nuclear power plants).
Thousands of people marched through central Sydney today, ignoring wet and windy weather to protest against global warming. An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people packed the CBD around Martin Place for the start of the Walk Against Warming at 11am.

Families pushing strollers, elderly couples, dreadlocked activists and vocal youngsters joined forces to call for action on climate change. Some carried home-made banners demanding the use of renewable energy, while others had home-made wind-turbines strapped to their backs.

A grim reaper bobbed above the crowd as it marched to the Botanic Gardens while a stuffed penguin was carried on a stretcher and one float carried a 'Prime Minister John Howard' cavorting with a snappily dressed female coal mining executive.

Greens senator Bob Brown and opposition environment spokesman Anthony Albanese attacked Prime Minister John Howard's policies on climate change, and demanded leadership on renewable energy. Mr Brown dismissed the federal government's suggestion nuclear energy could offer an alternative to polluting coal-fired power stations. "Nuclear is not the answer, it is double jeopardy," Senator Brown said.

To deafening cheers, Mr Brown said the Greens would introduce a bill forcing Australia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90 per cent by 2050. "Our task is ... put a smile on the face of future generations because we were prepared to pull our belts in, pay a little more and use the technology and opportunity this wonderful country has to take a lead in the world and turn around the menace of climate change," he said.

Mr Albanese said a Labor government would act immediately on climate change; ratifying the Kyoto Protocol would be its first act in office. The proposal was greeted with loud cheers. "I say, and Labor says, renewables not reactors are the solution to climate change," said Mr Albanese.

Other than the Australian government there are still a few remnant wild eyed anti-environmentalists out in the real world claiming its all a unfounded conspiracy - I'm always amazed that anyone, let alone a national newspaper, will quote a nut like Bob Carter repeating the old lie that the "Limits to growth" have been discredited - how can a set of scenarios that modelled various trends out over 100 years be discredited 30 years in - especially when the gloomier of these are the ones that we're actually tracking against ?
I went to the National Press Club on Wednesday to listen to Bob Brown. His speech was mostly about the wasted opportunities to apply innovative Australian research on solar energy to create an renewables manufacturing industry. It's all gone offshore because the Howard Government over the last decade has withdrawn support as it has sought to protect the coal industy from competition. Brown's speech developed his key theme that green manufacturing is the upside of global warming that is increasing temperatures across the nation.

In contrast we have Greg Hunt, the parliamentary secretary for the environment,saying that addressing climate change other than Howard's way of appeasing the coal industry is pleasing the cafe latte set! That leaves the Secretary's credibility looking a little ragged.

Bob Carter, The Australian's inhouse climate rationalist, goes even further with his talk about morality taxes. He then says:
The Stern review is not about climate change but about economic, technological and trade advantage. Its perpetrators seek power through climate scaremongering... Though it will be lionised for a while yet, the Stern review is destined to join Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb and think tank the Club of Rome's manifesto, Limits to Growth, in the pantheon of big banana scares that proved to be unfounded. It is part of the last hurrah for those warmaholics who inhabit a world of virtual climate reality that exists only inside flawed computer models. Meanwhile, the empirical data stressed by climate rationalists will ultimately prevail over the predictions of the unvalidated computer models. Perhaps then we will be able to attend to the real climate policy problem, which is to prepare response plans for extreme weather events, and for climate warmings as well as coolings, in the same way we prepare to cope with all other natural hazards.

I presume Carter, who doesn't sound very rational here, is pro-biotechnology, pro-nuclear power, pro-modern farming, pro-economic growth, pro-business but not pro-environment.

Then we have the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry saying that the Greens' anti-business policies could discourage investment and strangle economic growth because putting a tax on energy failed to "acknowledge the link between economic growth, jobs and trade on the one hand, and rising living standards of the vast majority of people on the other". As Alastair Davidson observes in The Age that:
The industry rump that controls VECCI thinks of economic growth as more factories and more smokestacks. It can't conceive that sustainable economic growth can mean more investment in more energy-efficient ways of doing things and meeting needs, that the necessary precondition for a healthy economy is a healthy environment.

The VECCI sounds economically and environmentally ignorant in the light of Bob Brown's speech.

The FT seems to be going green along with the Murdoch press (The Daily Telegraph may be the only anti-environment media outlet left in the UK now - its amazing what oil and gas depletion is doing to the national mood over energy and the environment now they aren't an exporter any more) with this piece that seems strongly pro the Stern report (note all the other green sections too).
For all its 700 pages of worthy analysis, the report by Sir Nicholas Stern, former World Bank chief economist, on the economics of climate change, comes to one simple conclusion.

In Sir Nicholas’s own words, “the benefits of strong, early action considerably outweigh the costs” on tackling climate change.

What was new about the report, published in London on Monday, was not the science but the application of economics to a controversial and complicated problem. Sir Nicholas was bold enough to put figures on the costs to the world economy of acting to stem climate change and of the failure to act.

Current policies will lead to the risk of the global economy shrinking by between 5-20 per cent over the next two centuries because of the likely disruption to people’s way of life caused by global warming.

But taking action now to reduce carbon emissions would cost 1 per cent of global economic output by 2050 – equivalent to $651bn today – and would involve cutting global emissions by 25 per cent from current levels through a combination of taxes, regulation and emissions trading.

Advocating paying a small price now to head off a big future risk, allowed Sir Nicholas to bill his report as a “pro-growth strategy” that would not cap the aspirations for growth of rich countries, such as the US (which has been sceptical about action to tackle global warming) or poorer ones (including India).

“We do not have to rein back growth. We can grow and be green if we pay 1 per cent more for what we buy – equivalent to a one-off increase by 1 per cent in the price level,” he said.

Sir Nicholas also pointed to business opportunities arising from the market for low carbon technologies, which his report indicated could be worth $500bn or more by 2050.

While some economists will take issue with the precise numbers, Sir Nicholas managed to draw praise from from four Nobel prize-winning economists, including Professor Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University.

The IHT has an online interview with the aforementioned economist, with Joseph Stiglitz answering a number of reader questions.
Q. Since the beginning, economics has sought to perfect “economic well-being” as in, lay down the conditions to maximize well-being and explain faltering well-being. What does this well-being entail? There should be a definition of economic well being that functions independently of capitalist or socialist classifications. Would you care to explain your definition of the one entity that guides all economic theories: “economic well-being”?

Himanshu Kothari
United States

A. There is no simple measure of economic well-being, and unfortunately, the standard measure, gross domestic product per capita, is misleading. This is important, because what we measure affects what we do; and if we try to “maximize” the wrong thing, there can be serious adverse consequences.

I stress the importance of equitable and sustainable development and growth. GDP can be going up, yet most individuals can be worse off (as has been happening in the United States during the past 5 years).

Similarly, GDP can be going up, yet standards of living going down, as the environment becomes degraded, so much so that life expectancy can even decrease. When I was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, I pushed for the use of Green GDP, where account is taken both of the depletion of natural resources and the degradation of the environment.

If a country’s growth is based on depleting renewable natural resources, its growth will not be sustained. Neither will growth be sustained if it is based on borrowing—when debt is used to finance consumption, not investment. Argentina’s growth in the early 90s was based on debt financed consumption, and selling off its national assets (often at unreasonably low prices). The inevitable day of reckoning came, and the country’s economy collapsed. Today, many are worried about America, whose growth is based on borrowing more than $3 billion a day from abroad.

GDP may be a misleading measure for another reason: it measures the value of what is produced in the country, not the income of the citizens of the country. When a developing country opens up a mine, with low royalties, most of the value of what is produced may accrue to the foreign owners; and when account is taken of the environmental degradation and resource depletion, the country may actually be worse off.

The BBC reports that fish will only be with us for another 50 years. Which means we're going to get even stupider.
There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a major scientific study.

Stocks have collapsed in nearly one-third of sea fisheries, and the rate of decline is accelerating.

Writing in the journal Science, the international team of researchers says fishery decline is closely tied to a broader loss of marine biodiversity.

Past Peak also has a post on the fate of the fish - his news isn't good either.
Here at work there's a break room where a tv, visible from the hall, is usually on. A few minutes ago, I walked by and CNN was running an item with an on-screen graph evidently depicting the horrific rate at which the oceans are being denuded of fish. The headline on the graph was something like "Seafood gone by 2050?"

Seafood. Humans are on the verge of erasing fish from the oceans, an unthinkable, earth-shaking catastrophe, an irreversible crime of unimaginable proportions, and CNN couches the story in terms of "seafood". As if it's an issue of the availability of fish sticks. (To be fair, it's not entirely CNN's fault. The original journal article also puts an emphasis on food species. But still.)

Here are excerpts from CNN's online story:
Clambakes, crabcakes, swordfish steaks and even humble fish sticks could be little more than a fond memory in a few decades.

If current trends of overfishing and pollution continue, the populations of just about all seafood face collapse by 2048, a team of ecologists and economists warns in a report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"Whether we looked at tide pools or studies over the entire world's ocean, we saw the same picture emerging. In losing species we lose the productivity and stability of entire ecosystems," said the lead author Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are — beyond anything we suspected," Worm said.

While the study focused on the oceans, concerns have been expressed by ecologists about threats to fish in the Great Lakes and other lakes, rivers and freshwaters, too.

Worm and an international team spent four years analyzing 32 controlled experiments, other studies from 48 marine protected areas and global catch data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's database of all fish and invertebrates worldwide from 1950 to 2003.

The scientists also looked at a 1,000-year time series for 12 coastal regions, drawing on data from archives, fishery records, sediment cores and archaeological data.

"At this point 29 percent of fish and seafood species have collapsed — that is, their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating," Worm said. "If the long-term trend continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse within my lifetime — by 2048."
"It looks grim and the projection of the trend into the future looks even grimmer"

Everywhere scientists look these days, they are shocked at the rate of environmental degradation. It's all happening much faster than anyone expected. To make matters worse, these are nonlinear systems, which means that major qualitative changes — points of no return — can happen quite suddenly. And everything's inter-connected.

What will it take to wake us up?

Technology Review has an article on "GE's Two-Battery Strategy for Fuel-Cell Buses". While most of us have given up on hydrogen as a waste of time and energy, GE are still trying to find niche uses for hydrogen fuel cells - and think buses might be a place where hybrid vehicles that use batteries and hydrogen fuel cells would be viable.
Hydrogen fuel cells are still too expensive to be used widely in vehicles, so researchers at GE are taking a different tack: they're slashing the size of the fuel cell to a bare minimum while relying on two distinct kinds of advanced battery technologies to deliver the necessary horsepower under a wide range of driving conditions.

The technology is essentially an advanced version of today's hybrid-vehicle technologies. While GE is developing it to make a cheaper fuel-cell bus, the resulting technology could be applicable to diesel or gasoline hybrids too--and could make it into cars someday. GE's effort, which will draw on advances in other hybrid projects at the company, is scheduled to produce a prototype in three years.

An existing generation of demonstration fuel-cell buses is now three to four times more expensive than ordinary buses, which, along with the necessary hydrogen fueling stations, makes them too expensive to be practical. But in terms of adopting hydrogen as a fuel, buses do hold clear advantages over cars, says Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president of Weststart-Calstart, a not-for-profit organization currently developing fuel-cell buses. A city bus can been filled at a central location (requiring less infrastructure) and has far more room on board to store hydrogen.

Wired's "Autopia" column looks at the prospects for growth in hybrid car sales.

Hybrid vehicle sales will grow by nearly 400 percent during the next seven years, according to a new report from analyst firm ABI Research.

By 2013 hybrids will make up 6 percent of annual U.S. auto sales, says the analyst firm. That's more than a million hybrid vehicles per year, and along with clean diesel vehicles, which will probably sell almost as widely by then, that's a lot less emissions and a few million barrels less of oil being imported. (For example, the Ford Escape Hybrid uses about 5 barrels less of oil per year than the non-hybrid model.)

But I disagree with the folks at ABI that performance hybrids will be a significant driver in sales. The Honda Accord is aimed more at performance, and it arguably the worst-selling hybrid to date. Yes, it will be nice to get 6-cylinder performance out of a 4-cylinder engine, but that will be small potatoes compared to the folks who want to spend and expel less.

If crude oil goes back up to $70+ again and stays there and the auto companies are smart we could see 10 percent growth. I look forward to the day when passenger vehicles that get less than 30 mpg or can't use biodiesel or ethanol go the way of the dinosaur, a fitting circle.

Wired also has an article on the muzzling of global warming researchers in the US.

Two federal agencies are investigating whether the Bush administration tried to block government scientists from speaking freely about global warming and censor their research, a senator said Wednesday.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) said he was informed that the inspectors general for the Commerce Department and NASA had begun "coordinated, sweeping investigations of the Bush administration's censorship and suppression" of federal research into global warming.

"These investigations are critical because the Republicans in Congress have ignored this serious problem," Lautenberg said.

He said the investigations "will uncover internal documents and agency correspondence that may expose widespread misconduct." He added, "Taxpayers do not fund scientific research so the Bush White House can alter it."

Carbon dioxide and other gases primarily from fossil fuel-burning that scientists say trap heat in the atmosphere have warmed the Earth's surface an average 1 degree over the past century. The White House has committed to reducing the "intensity" of U.S. carbon pollution, a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic growth.

But the total U.S. emissions, now more than 7 billion tons a year, are projected to rise 14 percent from 2002 to 2012.

A report last month in the scientific journal Nature claimed administrators at the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration blocked the release of a report that linked hurricane strength and frequency to global warming. Hansen had said in February that NOAA has tried to prevent researchers working on global climate change from speaking freely about their work.

NOAA has denied the allegations, saying its work is not politically motivated.

The CSIRO has a report on how to "Green the planet, one backyard at a time" (pdf) that takes a look at some permaculturists in Melbourne.
Nestled in Clayton, in a south-eastern pocket of Melbourne, a typical suburban home inhabited by three everyday tenants was the scene for some big ideas.Dan Palmer, Adrian Wedd and Cat Moore transformed their quarter-acre backyard into a permaculture paradise. The food they grew provided them with roughly 75 per cent of their total needs – an impressive figure given they started their garden a mere two years ago, and more reason why an urban backyard garden is becoming an increasingly popular part of living sustainably.

Using permaculture design principles, which aim to mimic natural ecosystems in organic farming, the trio nurtured a produce garden that featured a worm farm, compost heap, chook tractor and ducks for pest control, to name a few of its components.While food production was at its peak in the summer months, Dan, Adrian and Cat learned to adapt their garden to all seasons by using a variety of plants and techniques.

What was the inspiration behind sacrificing a good deal of what was originally lawn on their rental property? Palmer explains: ‘We thought it ecologically irresponsible to maintain large areas of purely cosmetic lawn while relying on supermarkets, and hence environmentally destructive industrial agriculture, to meet our food needs.’

This sentiment seems to be growing as other city dwellers start to think more seriously about sustainable agriculture, and what they can do to help. Urban area under horticulture is increasing significantly each year around the world as it becomes clear that better food can easily be produced on small plots, more cheaply, and with less overall impact on both the environment and the body when compared to much of today’s commercially grown and transported produce.

I got another email from the future (Volume 9, Number 15) this week - with plenty of interesting links in it as usual. Given the background of the founders, I was somewhat staggered to see a link to UrukNet in there - I always thought that one was something of an Iraqi propaganda site. A selection of some of the more pertinent links:
DID YOU KNOW THAT...

* The Atlantic current came to halt for 10 days in 2004.
* Unabated climate change could cost the world between 5-20 percent of global gross domestic product every year.
* Australia is building the world's largest solar power plant, with a generating capacity of 154 megawatts.


EDITOR'S EMPHASIS: Where is America's democracy headed?

Pull the Plug on E-Voting -- (Opednews -- October 25, 2006)
(a two-part article)
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_bruce_o__061025_pull_the_plug_on_e_v.htm &
http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_bruce_o__061026_pull_the_plug_on_e_v.htm
All computer systems which process high-value transactions include audit mechanisms that monitor the advertised features of the system to enable an independent means of detecting flawed or fraudulent program logic - everywhere that is except for voting systems, which arguably process the most important transactions of all.

Recipe for a Cooked Election -- (Yes Magazine -- October 23, 2006)
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/102706C.shtml
An opinion piece, this article explores the details and ramifications of the millions of votes that are rejected as 'spoiled' each U.S. election - more than 3.6 million in 2004 alone.

Turning Bad Policy into Bad Law -- (Amnesty International -- September 29, 2006)
http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGAMR511542006
A fascinating opinion piece, this article contains AI's review of several pieces of 'War on Terror' legislation, with a focus on the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Bush and Martial Law -- (Uruknet -- October 26, 2006)
http://www.netscape.com/viewstory/2006/10/27/bush-moves-toward-martial-law
All too often, we fail to remember that America's actions and progress are viewed from myriad perspectives around the globe. This opinion article comes from a particularly notable, and perhaps increasingly prevalent, foreign viewpoint. Its focus is on recent legislation further empowering the office of the President of the U.S.

Pentagon Gears Up for New Media War -- (BBC -- October 31, 2006)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6103056.stm
The Pentagon's new effort to influence media coverage of the war in Iraq is an example of how governments react when a war is not going too well. They begin to think it is not the war that is the problem, but the presentation of it. The media, being the messengers, get the blame, not the message itself.

GLOBAL EPIDEMIC

Get Your Daily Plague Forecast -- (Wired -- October 19, 2006)
http://wired.com/news/technology/0,71961-0.html?tw=wn_index_4
Web-based maps are handy for keeping tabs on weather and traffic, so why not for disease outbreaks, too? The new Healthmap website digests information from a variety of sources ranging from the World Health Organization to Google News and plots the spread of about 50 diseases on a continually updated global map.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Sea Change: Global Warming Could Leave Britain Feeling the Cold -- (Guardian -- October 27, 2006)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1932760,00.html
Scientists have uncovered more evidence for a dramatic weakening in the vast ocean current that gives Britain its relatively balmy climate by dragging warm water northwards from the tropics. Most alarmingly, the data reveal that a part of the current, which is usually 60 times more powerful than the Amazon River, came to a temporary halt during November 2004.

World's 10 Most Polluted Places-- (Live Science -- October 18, 2006)
http://www.livescience.com/environment/061018_polluted_places.html
Areas that researchers have declared the most polluted in the world are typically little known even in their own countries. Yet they afflict more than 10 million people. The kinds of pollution in these areas not only lead to cancers, birth defects, mental retardation and life expectancies approaching medieval levels, but are also often found all around the globe.

Britain Issues Call for Green Growth -- (International Herald Tribune -- October 30, 2006)
http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/10/30/news/stern.php
Unchecked global warming will devastate the world economy on the scale of the World Wars and the Great Depression, eventually costing the world from 5% to 20% of global gross domestic product every year.

A Modest Proposal-- (Economist -- October 26, 2006)
http://www.theelectroniceconomist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=8086839
How to provide clean water to the vast and arid north of China has long been a headache for its rulers. Of late they have considered more ambitious proposals. One example would involve diverting water hundreds of kilometers from Tibet at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. What about a more modest approach: using market-driven prices to deter waste and pollution?


TERRORISM, SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE

Air Passengers Could be Tagged -- (BBC -- October 12, 2006)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6044310.stm
Electronically tagging passengers at airports could be the next step in the 'War on Terror'. Airports could be fitted with a network of combined panoramic cameras and RFID (radio frequency ID) tag readers, which would monitor the movements of people around the various terminal buildings.

A Dangerous Step toward Space Warfare -- (MIT Technology Review -- October 27, 2006)
http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=17668&ch=infotech
The release of the U.S. National Space Policy has worried many experts, who say the policy marks a strategic shift toward a more military-oriented, unilateral approach to space for the United States. They fear that the policy, if followed, could begin an arms race leading to catastrophic space warfare.

Airborne Laser Closer to Completion -- (Physorg -- October 28, 2006)
http://www.physorg.com/news81242559.html
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency rolled out an airborne laser aircraft, the latest development in a missile-defense system that was once ridiculed as a "Star Wars" fantasy. It should be operational within two to seven years.

DEMOGRAPHICS AND SOCIAL CHANGE

Fears of Inquiry Dampen Giving by US Muslims -- (NY Times -- October 30, 2006)
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/30/us/30CHARITY.html
Fearful that donations to an Islamic charity could bring unwanted attention from federal agents looking into potential ties to terrorism, many Muslim Americans have become reluctant to donate to Islamic causes, including charities.


Whole Life Times has an article on David Korten, author of "The Great Turning", who looks at many of the same issues that interest The Arlington Institute. In my little anti-doomer rant the other night I noted the importance of seeing both positve changes ahead as well as negative ones - David Korten calls these 2 paths “Earth Community” and "The Great Unravelling".
On a sunny azure Sunday morning, 25 or so members of Local First Chicago, a network of independent, locally-owned businesses and community organizations, have gathered at Chicago’s storied No Exit CafĂ© to talk with “David,” as everyone calls him. Though Korten possesses an awe-inspiring CV, and tongue-in-cheekily describes himself as an “elder,” after spending five minutes with him it’s eminently clear that “Dr. Korten” is too formal a mantle for this gentle sage from Bainbridge Island, Puget Sound.

His countenance beams calm as he begins. It’s going to be ok, his eyes speak softly, we’ll get through this… all of it. He opens his talk as he opens his book, portending a fast approaching grave moment in our collective history, the apex of modern industrial civilization.

“We are at a point in time in the human experience where we will soon be facing very deep and very rapid changes,” Korten intones. “It is time to begin making some very deep choices both individually and collectively.” Out of this pivotal moment will emerge one of two eventualities: The Great Turning or the Great Unraveling.

In the Great Turning, Korten explains, humanity recognizes its overshoot and begins to turn back from the 5,000-year-old values of “Empire”—exploitation, subjugation and deprivation, to those of “Earth Community”—a life-centered, egalitarian, sustainable way of ordering society based on democratic principles of partnership. In the Great Unraveling, society rapidly disintegrates into a fight to the death for rapidly dwindling resources.

Will we interpret this crossroads as the terminal crisis of the species or an epic opportunity to create the world we want? Korten believes our decision will depend on the stories by which we make sense of what is happening, and begin to recognize the choices that are ours to make. But the central message is that “business as usual” is over.

A “perfect economic storm” is looming, he warns, a consequence of the convergence of Peak Oil, climate change and a collapsing US dollar. Korten’s vast experience as an economist for third world development has allowed him a powerfully prescient vision. Growing awareness of the instability of the American (and thus the world) economy has caused no small measure of discomfort to activists and analysts alike. But what differentiates Korten from a run-of-the-mill apocalyptico is that he’s a true believer in “the potential of human-creativity and community” to reshape the world along just and sustainable lines.

Real change will consist of removing power from a central authority and returning decision-making to the local community level, Korten continues. These communities will then come together in larger collective networks to collaboratively administer society. It’s not utopian thinking; it’s simply a return to the way things were, before the era of Empire.

Mike Treder at the Centre for Responsible Nanotechnology has a glowing review of Jamais Cascio's post on future scenarios for the American Empire - "A Post-Hegemonic Future".
What happens after the United States is no longer the dominant global power?

This is a question that doesn't get asked often. Public figures who even mention some possible far-off future date when the US is no longer #1 are excoriated for their lack of patriotism. And when there are no obvious contenders for a new #1, it's easy to think that the status quo is how it shall ever be.

But anyone who has taken a world history class can tell you that no king of the mountain ever stays there. States that may once have led the world can later be relegated to geographic footnotes; even nations that might dominate for more than a century -- Pax Britannica, anyone? -- eventually fall by the wayside, becoming, in the words of Johnny Rotten, just another country.

Eventually, the US, too, will become just another country. This is not a partisan position, but a historical observation. And as fundamental changes to the international power structure rarely happen without major disruptions, it's wise to think through what might lead us to a world where the US is no longer king of the hill.


Jamais proposes a four-box set of scenarios to analyze a future where the US loses its position of dominance from either absolute decline or relative decline, and where future global competition comes from either traditional nation-states or from non-state actors.

I encourage you to read his whole analysis. It's really outstanding.

One point that Jamais doesn't mention is also conceivable -- in fact, probable, in my view -- which is that by 2030 some form of global governance may emerge that effectively replaces the nation-state as the key entity in geopolitics.

And finally, as I've said before, the best book by far that I've read on this subject is America as Empire, by Jim Garrison. Highly recommended.


From Jamais' post:

Here's a question to muse about while awaiting the results of Tuesday's election in the US: what happens after the United States is no longer the dominant global power?

This is a question that doesn't get asked often. Public figures who even mention some possible far-off future date when the US is no longer #1 are excoriated for their lack of patriotism. And when there are no obvious contenders for a new #1, it's easy to think that the status quo is how it shall ever be.

But anyone who has taken a world history class can tell you that no king of the mountain ever stays there. States that may once have led the world can later be relegated to geographic footnotes; even nations that might dominate for more than a century -- Pax Britannica, anyone? -- eventually fall by the wayside, becoming, in the words of Johnny Rotten, just another country.

Eventually, the US, too, will become just another country. This is not a partisan position, but a historical observation. And as fundamental changes to the international power structure rarely happen without major disruptions, it's wise to think through what might lead us to a world where the US is no longer king of the hill.

Falling or Just Rising Slowly?

The first issue to grapple with as we think about this future is the nature of the decline of the American hegemon. For this, we can learn a great deal from history. Very broadly speaking, a state loses its position of dominance in one of two ways: absolute decline or relative decline.

Absolute decline means losing enough territorial, population, military or economic power that the state is measurably worse off than it was in earlier years. The collapse of the Soviet Union could be described in this way; the Russia of 2000 was weaker in nearly every way than the Soviet Union of (say) 1980. Relative decline, conversely, means that the state continues to grow more powerful than it had been in past years, but does so at a pace that can't match the growth of its competitors. The post-World War II United Kingdom is an example here; in the early 1950s, the UK still had notions of imperial leadership, but the United States took a greater and greater role in the management of the West, pushing the UK aside. Few people would argue that the UK of today is weaker -- militarily, economically, culturally -- than the UK of fifty years ago, but the modern Great Britain has no pretence of global dominance, functioning more as America's sidekick.

Looking at the future of American hegemony, then, we must ask whether the US will suffer from an absolute decline -- where the America of (say) 2030 is measurably weaker than the America of (say) 2010 -- or from a relative decline, where the future America is more powerful than today, yet significantly less powerful than the other international actors that pushed the US aside.

The Few or The Many?

The second issue to consider is the nature of future global competition. In this case, the historical lessons are less clear. It's easy to assume that future competitors with the United States will be the same kinds of nation-states we have today -- after all, that's the way the international system has worked for centuries, why would it change? But the nation-state model is not a law of nature; we should ask, then, if there are any aspects of modern international power that suggest that a post-nation-state model is on the rise.

As it happens, there's a big one. The main political story of the current era is the rise of sub-national and transnational civil society actors with characteristics of national power -- that is, organizations without state size or authority that nonetheless behave like states on the international stage. A decade ago, this observation would focus on the global reach of multinational corporations; today, the focus is on fourth-generation warfare (4GW) groups, more popularly (if less usefully) called "terrorists."

The last five years have demonstrated quite convincingly that small groups with global ambitions can, by relying on the technologies, international communication networks and financial systems built by states, significantly alter the policies and behaviors of hegemonic nations. Decentralized, coordinated by ideology rather than by strategy, and heavily-networked, these 4GW organizations hit harder than their numbers might otherwise suggest, and are nearly impossible to destroy through traditional military means. The question for the American future, then, is whether the primary competitors the US will face when it's no longer the big kid on the block will be other major states (e.g., China, India, or a more unified EU) or distributed groups of guys with cell phones, nuclear bombs and an attitude.

Imagining the Unimaginable

If we think like futurists here, this gives us a traditional four-box set of scenarios: Absolute Decline/Great Powers; Relative Decline/Great Powers; Relative Decline/Non-State Powers; and Absolute Decline/Non-State Powers. Without going into far more detail than I have the energy for, my first blush "high concept" stories for each would be:

# AD/GP: "Untied States" - US falls apart internally, letting other states take lead;

# RD/GP: "Last Among Equals" - US is slow on a key innovation (e.g., molecular nanotech), and other big states rise in power faster than the US can match;

# RD/NSP: "The Linux Option" - Great power national structure becomes irrelevant, as non-state actors are able to out-compete by being more flexible and responsive, and nearly as mighty;

# AD/NSP: "Hell" - US goes down to rampant "systempunkt" attacks by super-empowered non-state actors, likely including weapons of mass destruction. None of these are happy stories, but this is the least happy.

Add to each of these scenarios large-scale problems such as pandemic disease, the impact of global warming (as the Stern Report shows in graphic detail), and peak oil, along with the continued acceleration of technological change, and (to quote Tom Barnett) you got yourself a party.

Speaking of Nanotechnology the latest podcast I've listened to from RU Sirius was on Nanotech and included a number of intersections with my favourite subjects here.

The news from the US seems to be uniformly bad for the Republicans in their quest to keep control of Congress in the upcoming elections - and while that will no doubt fill most readers with as much joy as it does me, it may not be such good news for Australia in terms of keeping our image as a loyal lapdog intact.
The public airwaves, already bloodied with the stream of reportage from Iraq, are going to become even more unruly for Howard. Once the Democrats control the house and take chairmanship of the key committees, they will set up a running inquisition of the Bush Administration's conduct of the war.

A veteran Democrat, Henry Waxman, who's expected to chair the government reform committee, has signalled he'll pursue US spending, contracting fraud and abuse in Iraq: "When the Clinton administration was in office, there was no accusation too small for the Republicans to rush out the subpoenas," he told Newsweek.

Bill Clinton's deputy national security adviser, Jim Steinberg, predicts that there are two more sensitive areas of policy where the Democrats will target Bush: "They will go very big on non-proliferation, they'll argue that things have got right out of control to the point where it's a John F. Kennedy-type situation of everyone getting nuked.

"And they'll hit Bush on his democratisation agenda and the failures there."

Bush's rhetorical commitment to democratisation around the world soared, but his performance plummetted. Howard signed up for all these elements of the Bush foreign policy, and, just as the Democrats hold Bush to account for his failures, Labor will hold Howard to account for his part in them.

Even if the Democrats seize only the house, it will be ugly for Bush and his coalition partners. If they take the Senate as well, "it's going to be unbelievable after 2006", in the words of Bush's national security adviser, Steve Hadley, according to the new Bob Woodward book on the Bush Administration.

Finally, Australia can expect no special favours from the Democrats. A former Clinton administration official says: "Your Government made a one-way bet during its 10 years in office and neglected the Democrats. "Parties change and governments change and the Australian Government has forgotten that - it has not maintained its ties with Democrats and it is seen as a front-row cheerleader for the Bush Administration. Democrats won't especially hold it against them, but they won't be special friends either."

One sickening example of Howard's foolish short termist diplomacy was his declaration after Bush's win (?) in the 2004 presidential election - "its a great day for freedom". Presumably this suckhole soundbite was intended for Fox "News" in the US rather than local consumption but I don't think I'd ever seen an Australian Prime Minister openly supporting on side of US politics before, especially in such a nauseating (and untrue) way. So I think the assumption that the White House will be rodent free under a future Democrat president is probably a good one.

Past Peak notes that the Republicans the Rodent is so enamoured of are the worst congress ever - a "Stable Of Thieves And Perverts".
Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone that the current Congress is the worst ever:

These past six years were more than just the most shameful, corrupt and incompetent period in the history of the American legislative branch. These were the years when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula — a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable.


How did they do it?

"American Conservative" wasn't too happy with Dubya before the last presidential election - at least one pre-election editorial accurately predicted the Bush presidency was going to discredit conservatism for a generation (which is quite an achievement). Now they're positively frothing in a way that I can relate to all too well - declaring that the GOP must go in the midterm elections. I think the disaffected right is now angrier than the left (who at least haven't been force to change their opinions over the past 5 years or so).
It should surprise few readers that we think a vote that is seen—in America and the world at large—as a decisive “No” vote on the Bush presidency is the best outcome. We need not dwell on George W. Bush’s failed effort to jam a poorly disguised amnesty for illegal aliens through Congress or the assaults on the Constitution carried out under the pretext of fighting terrorism or his administration’s endorsement of torture. Faced on Sept. 11, 2001 with a great challenge, President Bush made little effort to understand who had attacked us and why—thus ignoring the prerequisite for crafting an effective response. He seemingly did not want to find out, and he had staffed his national-security team with people who either did not want to know or were committed to a prefabricated answer.

As a consequence, he rushed America into a war against Iraq, a war we are now losing and cannot win, one that has done far more to strengthen Islamist terrorists than anything they could possibly have done for themselves. Bush’s decision to seize Iraq will almost surely leave behind a broken state divided into warring ethnic enclaves, with hundreds of thousands killed and maimed and thousands more thirsting for revenge against the country that crossed the ocean to attack them. The invasion failed at every level: if securing Israel was part of the administration’s calculation—as the record suggests it was for several of his top aides—the result is also clear: the strengthening of Iran’s hand in the Persian Gulf, with a reach up to Israel’s northern border, and the elimination of the most powerful Arab state that might stem Iranian regional hegemony.

The war will continue as long as Bush is in office, for no other reason than the feckless president can’t face the embarrassment of admitting defeat. The chain of events is not complete: Bush, having learned little from his mistakes, may yet seek to embroil America in new wars against Iran and Syria.

Meanwhile, America’s image in the world, its capacity to persuade others that its interests are common interests, is lower than it has been in memory. All over the world people look at Bush and yearn for this country—which once symbolized hope and justice—to be humbled. The professionals in the Bush administration (and there are some) realize the damage his presidency has done to American prestige and diplomacy. But there is not much they can do.

There may be little Americans can do to atone for this presidency, which will stain our country’s reputation for a long time. But the process of recovering our good name must begin somewhere, and the logical place is in the voting booth this Nov. 7. If we are fortunate, we can produce a result that is seen—in Washington, in Peoria, and in world capitals from Prague to Kuala Lumpur—as a repudiation of George W. Bush and the war of aggression he launched against Iraq.

I was more than a bit gratified to see that Pastor Ted "Jesus Camp" Haggard has had to resign after revelations he had regularly visited a male prostitute and smoked crystal meth before sex. I guess speed freak fascists weren't just a 1930's phenomenon.
ONE of America's most prominent evangelical pastors has resigned from a national leadership post after allegations he regularly visited a male prostitute.

A man told a Denver radio station that Pastor Ted Haggard, who runs one of the largest churches in the US, the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, had paid him for sex about once a month for the past three years.

Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, told the Associated Press he has voicemails from Mr Haggard as well as an envelope he said Mr Haggard used to mail him cash. He has offered to take a polygraph test on local radio.

Mr Jones told a Denver television station that has been investigating the allegations for two months that Mr Haggard used methamphetamine in his presence on several occasions.

"People may look at me and think what I've done is immoral, but I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind, and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody's back," Mr Jones said.

Steve at Deconsumption has a little news roundup that includes a couple of articles that I've linked to this week plus some added extras -
Former World Bank Chief Economist Predicts Global Crash
GAO Chief Warns Economic Disaster Looms
Paulson re-activates secretive support team to prevent markets meltdown
Costello seeks orderly $US withdrawal (Pete: "let me be the first to welcome our new Chinese overlords")
China saving too much money: Bush

Plus one more from the comments - Neo culpa - even the neocons want Bush (metaphorically) nailed to a wall now it seems.
As Iraq slips further into chaos, the war's neoconservative boosters have turned sharply on the Bush administration, charging that their grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence. In a series of exclusive interviews, Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum, and others play the blame game with shocking frankness. Target No. 1: the president himself.


On a slightly tinfoil note, I've seen some speculation around the traps that Bush's law (one left unhindered by a presidential signing statement saying its not really a law if he feels like breaking it) suspending habeas corpus and institutionalising kangaroo courts and torture may actually not be a law at all, having suffered what is apparently known as a "pocket veto" as he waited so long to sign it.

This makes an interesting counterpoint to the other sinister theory I noted recently about Bush waiting until the 135th anniversary of Ulysses Grant's suspension of habeas corpus while he was suppressing the Ku Klux Klan. I guess there are 2 tinfoil interpretations you could make here - either he's a fool and let an obsession with dates render his travesty of a law void, or (for loyal conservative tinfoil types who still value the constitution) he's a puppet with a small bit of conscience remaining who sneakily managed to scupper aforesaid law without openly defying the men behind the curtain...
Talk show host Alex Jones’ brief interview last week with an unknown caller has sent constitutionists and legal researchers scurrying for the law books.

“The Military Commission Act is not law!” the man barked. “The ‘pocket veto’ clause of the constitution has already nullified it.”

He then pointed out to the national radio audience exactly what the part about “pocket veto” in Article One, Section 7 of the U. S. Constitution means. Indeed, it appears that President Bush’s signing of the infamous “6166,” which in effect eliminates the 4th Amendment protection of citizens in their homes and a whole lot more, is moot. He was too late.

Now Jones and many others are wondering, who in an official capacity is going to point this out and enforce it?

Here is what the law says and what happens when a sitting president sticks a bill passed by congress into his pocket instead of signing it and sending it back:

A Pocket Veto occurs when the President fails to sign a bill within the 10 days allowed by the Constitution.

Congress must be in adjournment in order for a pocket veto to take effect.

If Congress is in session and the president fails to sign the bill, it becomes law without his signature.

From the U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 7: “…If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevents its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”

Since Congress cannot vote while in adjournment, a pocket veto cannot be overridden. A pocket veto is a legislative maneuver in American federal lawmaking. The U.S. Constitution requires the President to sign or veto any legislation placed on his desk within ten days (not including Sundays). If he does not, then it becomes law by default. The one exception to this rule is if Congress adjourns before the ten days are up. In such a case, the bill does not become law; it is effectively, if not actually, vetoed. Ignoring legislation, or “putting a bill in one’s pocket” until Congress adjourns is thus called a pocket veto.

Congress passed 6166 on September 29th, presented it to the President on October 10th, and adjourned on October 13th. Bush signed it on October 17th, the week after Congress had adjourned, thereby rendering it “vetoed” by constitutional standards.



As The Future noted, Dubya himself hasn't made too many friends around the world over the past few years - the Guardian reports on a poll showing that people in US neighbours and allies view him as almost as much of a menace as Osama bin Laden, and comfortably beating both Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who have now been demoted to the Axis of Almost As Evil).
America is now seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbours and allies, according to an international survey of public opinion published today that reveals just how far the country's reputation has fallen among former supporters since the invasion of Iraq.

Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by the US president as part of an "axis of evil", but it is Mr Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US.



Dubya does appear to have edged close to the truth in a recent interview with Rush Limbaugh though, noting that the reason he doesn't want to leave Iraq is because of all the oil owned by the country, and that he has done nothing to reduce american dependence on foreign oil.
Bush: Give me a second here, Rush, because I want to share something with you. I am deeply concerned about a country, the United States, leaving the Middle East. I am worried that rival forms of extremists will battle for power, obviously creating incredible damage if they do so; that they will topple modern governments, that they will be in a position to use oil as a tool to blackmail the West. People say, "What do you mean by that?" I say, "If they control oil resources, then they pull oil off the market in order to run the price up, and they will do so unless we abandon Israel, for example, or unless we abandon allies.


I also saw in The Guardian today that the "Great Crocodile" (no relation) PW Botha has died. They clearly weren't big fans of his.

PW Botha, who has died aged 90, ruled South Africa under apartheid for 11 years until 1989, and was gradually exposed during his long decline as one of the most evil men of the 20th century, committed to state terrorism, war and murder to thwart black majority rule.

...

The revelations of the depths to which the apartheid regime had sunk under Botha continued, including government research in the early 1980s aimed at finding chemical and biological agents that worked only against blacks. Although its two-year mandate expired before it could get to the bottom of this, the commmission got wind of the research in its final weeks. It was already known to western drug companies and intelligence services - which kept silent, their only concern apparently being to stop the results being passed to the ANC when it took over government.

Cryptogon has a whole lot of creepy posts about big brother's ever expanding reach - "Big Brother Britain 2006", "Texas Senate Candidate In President's District Jailed", "Published Neocon Agenda: Prepare to Bomb Iran, Recruit Lieberman for 2008", "U.S. ARMY REGULATION 210-35: CIVILIAN INMATE LABOR PROGRAM" and "Americans Will Have to Obtain "Clearance" to Leave U.S".

Over at RI, starroute has made one of those intermittent appearances in the comments to consider the endless string of gay sex scandals coming out of Washington (which also fits the pattern of one of the more intriguing tinfoil explanations of what was "really" going on at Watergate that I once pointed to over at RI - I suspect being a congressman might not be all pork barreling and kissing babies) - plus I liked the lines from "All Along The Watchtower"...

I am enough of an anti-cynic to remain interested in imagining ways we might just conceivably get out of the dead end we're currently jammed into.

Step one would be restoring two-party government to the point where we at least have some space to maneuver -- for example, making it possible for people to stand up and demand real change without fear of being disappeared.

Step two would be removing the visible blanket of corruption that turns politicians into the representatives of their donors and lobbyists rather than their constituents. I don't know if that's actually going to be possible, given how deep the rot goes -- but there are historical precedents for it happening. (If nothing else, the fact that when I was a kid my father was part of the Reform Democratic movement that overturned the power of Tammany Hall tells me that genuine reform can happen, given favorable circumstances.)

At any rate, if the election isn't stolen completely, and if I see real signs of a willingness to address the various economic and ecological disasters that are rushing upon us, together with the imminent and ignominious collapse of the Iraq War, I'd be willing to give the process 2-3 years and see if anything meaningful happens.

But there's a third level yet, and that's addressing the power of the deep state -- which might be willing to tolerate a certain amount of tossing out the current lot of rascals in order to save its own hide, but which is still going to remain with us afterwards, undermining any efforts for genuine renewal.
"No reason to get excited," the thief, he kindly spoke,
"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."

One thing I've been thinking about lately is the extent to which simple blackmail serves to keep the system in place -- to intimidate even the best-intentioned politicians and incite the worst to ever-greater levels of viciousness and corruption.

For example, here's one thing I ran across the other day:
Well, sexual blackmail may have a more enduring place in Washington politics than we tend to suspect. More than one vice investigator in Washington believes that mob-controlled call girls, intelligence operatives, and even Washington lobbyists have long run an underground racket aimed at sexually compromising Congress and the administration.

Conspiracy researcher Peter Dale Scott calls it "an ongoing, highly organized, and protected operation." Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, goes so far as to suggest that Washington's sex syndicate, exploited by intelligence spooks and the mob, has "driven the major scandals of Washington since at least the beginning of the Cold War."

Apparently, behind every good political scandal is a prostitute. Scott isn't alone in this thinking. According to Scott, "a retired Washington detective, one who played a small but important role in Watergate," believes that mob pimps and bigwig lobbyists use pricey call girls to put the squeeze on key officials. This is apparently a reference to Carl Shoffler, incidentally the arresting police officer who slapped cuffs on the Watergate burglars.

During a 1982 investigation into the use of "drugs and sexual activity to lobby congressmen," Shoffler did indeed advise congressional investigators to look into a male prostitution ring that serviced Capitol Hill. The veteran police detective believed that the sex ring might be linked to a high-flying Washington lobbyist, Robert Keith Cray, who had more than a few connections to CIA folk. According to Peter Dale Scott, some Washington investigators also suspected that the gay sex ring was connected to D.C. crime boss Joe "the Possum" Nesline.

Unfortunately, the congressional probe petered out before it got anywhere. Summing up the untested Libido-gate hypothesis, however, one of the congressional investigators put it this way to author Susan Trento: "If a lobbyist wants to use hookers to influence legislation, there's a pool of talent he draws from. There are certain madams in town that they make connections with. By simple logic, if you're in the business of influencing people with male prostitutes of kids, there has to be that supply chain…. [If] we start to identify some of the clients, it's possible we could find the suppliers for intelligence, organized crime, and lobbyists." In other words, follow the honey.

Former (and fugitive) CIA officer Frank Terpil had no compunction about identifying one such client, his former employer. Terpil told investigative author Jim Hougan that CIA-run sexual blackmail setups were common in Washington during the Watergate years. Terpil fingered his former partner, Ed Wilson, as the facilitator of one such CIA operation. Terpil claimed that Wilson ran the CIA mantrap from Korean agent Tong Sun Park's George Town Club, the Korean intelligence front that figured in the 1970s Koreagate scandal.

"Historically," Terpil explained, "one of Wilson's agency jobs was to subvert members of both houses [of Congress] by any means necessary…. Certain people could be easily coerced by living out their sexual fantasy in the flesh…. A remembrance of these occasions [was] permanently recorded via selected cameras."

Of course, we should note the Terpil hasn't offered any proof to back up that claim, and ex-CIA officers - not least of all, ones who have been convicted in absentia for terrorist activities - aren't celebrated for their candor. On the other hand, sexual blackmail was indeed a favorite CIA method of "turning" foreign agents or otherwise compromising them to do Uncle Sam's bidding. Considering all of the Agency's illegal doings on domestic soil during the last four decades, Terpil's story certainly seems plausible.

Interestingly, Robert Keith Gray, the omnipresent superlobbyist whose name came up during the 1982 gay sex ring investigation, also pops into the George Town Club-Terpil milieu. Gray, who (coincidentally or not) gravitates toward spy nests, was the club's first overseer and also a director at Terpil's firm, Consultants International, a notorious CIA proprietary front.

I checked Gray out a little, and these days he seems to be more into AIDS-related philanthropy than into gay blackmail. And Edwin Wilson is busy trying to clear his name from 25-year-old charges of treason. But the pattern remains the same, and if we took all the assorted political sexual scandals of the last few years -- from Jeff Gannon to Hookergate to Mark Foley -- and attached the word "blackmail" to them, we'd probably have a far clearer idea of what's really going on in DC than any other way.

I'll close with a quote that appeared on Quote of the Day this week:

"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer." - Henry Kissinger, 1973

4 comments

I don't think PW Botha has many fans. I do hope that he will find the peace in death that he seldom found in life.

Awesome...;)

One thing to add about putting solar on your house.
It can also be done in stages to avoid the cost of outlay for a full system. Even better plan that could be started right now...

Yes - I like the idea of doing solar in stages.

I have a plan to put up solar hot water later this year and some panels on the best oriented part of the roof.

Then later I'll put up some bigger panels in the less prime areas.

And finally I want to add a conservatory on the back of the house made of "power glass" - that may take a little longer though :-)

Speaking of government by blackmail, I quote that same Terpil info in a post about Gerald Ford, Watergate, and the CIA on my blog. You might find it of interest, and supportive of your suspicions re government by blackmail.

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