Jun 25, 2011

Hines Farm - Pretty Sunset - Rainbow - Birds Singing - Iowa Train Whistle... June 25, 2011

Love the sound of those birds, crickets, ... along the river... We even love that train whistle over in Iowa along IA Route 22...!!!

Mississippi River Sunset on Hines Farm June 25, 2011 (Larger View)

Hines Farm - Our Little Pot Of Gold at the End Of Rainbow June 25, 2001 (Larger View)

Pleasant evening in spite of a little rain... mother nature always makes you feel lucky and blessed...   Monte

Why the Republican War on Workers Rights Undermines the American Economy | Truthout

As the Washington Monument looms in the background, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) addresses the media in front of the White House in Washington on June 1, 2011. (Photo: Stephen Crowley /The New York Times)

Robert Reich's book,"Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future - Eccles's Insight" is the Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week.

The battle has resumed in Wisconsin. The state supreme court has allowed Governor Scott Walker to strip bargaining rights from state workers.

Meanwhile, legislators in New Hampshire and officials in Missouri are attacking private unions, seeking to make the states so-called “open shop” where workers can get all the benefits of being union members without paying union dues. Needless to say this ploy undermines the capacity of unions to do much of anything. Other Republican governors and legislatures are following suit.

Republicans in Congress are taking aim at the National Labor Relations Board, which is likely to consider a relatively minor rule change allowing workers to vote on whether to unionize soon after a union has been proposed, rather than allowing employers to delay the vote for years. Many employers have used the delaying tactics to retaliate against workers who try to organize, and intimidate others into rejecting a union.

This war on workers’ rights is an assault on the middle class, and it is undermining the American economy.

The American economy can’t get out of neutral until American workers have more money in their pockets to buy what they produce. And unions are the best way to give them the bargaining power to get better pay.

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For three decades after World War II – I call it the “Great Prosperity” – wages rose in tandem with productivity. Americans shared the gains of growth, and had enough money to buy what they produced.

That’s largely due to the role of labor unions. In 1955, over a third of American workers in the private sector were unionized. Today, fewer than 7 percent are.

With the decline of unions has come the stagnation of American wages. More and more of the total income and wealth of America has gone to the very top. The middle class’s purchasing power has depended on mothers going into paid work, everyone working longer hours, and, finally, the middle class going deep into debt, using their homes as collateral.

But now all these coping mechanisms are exhausted — and we’re living with the consequence.

Some say the Great Prosperity was an anomaly. America’s major competitors lay in ruins. We had the world to ourselves. According to this view, there’s no going back.
But this view is wrong. If you want to see the same basic bargain we had then, take a look at Germany now.

Germany is growing much faster than the United States. Its unemployment rate is now only 6.1 percent (we’re now at 9.1 percent).

What’s Germany’s secret? In sharp contrast to the decades of stagnant wages in America, real average hourly pay has risen almost 30 percent there since 1985. Germany has been investing substantially in education and infrastructure.

How did German workers do it? A big part of the story is German labor unions are still powerful enough to insist that German workers get their fair share of the economy’s gains.

That’s why pay at the top in Germany hasn’t risen any faster than pay in the middle. As David Leonhardt reported in the New York Times recently, the top 1 percent of German households earns about 11 percent of all income – a percent that hasn’t changed in four decades.

Contrast this with the United States, where the top 1 percent went from getting 9 percent of total income in the late 1970s to more than 20 percent today.

The only way back toward sustained growth and prosperity in the United States is to remake the basic bargain linking pay to productivity. This would give the American middle class the purchasing power they need to keep the economy going.

Part of the answer is, as in Germany, stronger labor unions — unions strong enough to demand a fair share of the gains from productivity growth.

The current Republican assault on workers’ rights continues a thirty-year war on American workers’ wages. That long-term war has finally taken its toll on the American economy.

It’s time to fight back.

If the middle class continues to disappear, our country economically fails, how rich will the really rich be...???  Monte

2011 Dirt Late Model Dream recap from Eldora Speedway

Don O'Neal picks up his first ever crown jewel win in the 2011 Dirt Late Model Dream, after overtaking Billy Moyer with 13 laps to go. Recap and video highlights from the event available on this clip.

No better racing than Dirt Late Models... !!! My opinion and I am sticking to it... !!! Monte

Jun 22, 2011

Climate of Denial | Rolling Stone Politics

JUNE 22, 2011 7:45 AM ET
Article speaks for itself... Please read no matter what your politics... Monte
Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison?

Illustration by Matt Mahurin

The first time I remember hearing the question "is it real?" was when I went as a young boy to see a traveling show put on by "professional wrestlers" one summer evening in the gym of the Forks River Elementary School in Elmwood, Tennessee.

The evidence that it was real was palpable: "They're really hurting each other! That's real blood! Look a'there! They can't fake that!" On the other hand, there was clearly a script (or in today's language, a "narrative"), with good guys to cheer and bad guys to boo.

But the most unusual and in some ways most interesting character in these dramas was the referee: Whenever the bad guy committed a gross and obvious violation of the "rules" — such as they were — like using a metal folding chair to smack the good guy in the head, the referee always seemed to be preoccupied with one of the cornermen, or looking the other way. Yet whenever the good guy — after absorbing more abuse and unfairness than any reasonable person could tolerate — committed the slightest infraction, the referee was all over him. The answer to the question "Is it real?" seemed connected to the question of whether the referee was somehow confused about his role: Was he too an entertainer?

Photo Gallery: 11 extreme-weather signs the climate crisis is real

That is pretty much the role now being played by most of the news media in refereeing the current wrestling match over whether global warming is "real," and whether it has any connection to the constant dumping of 90 million tons of heat-trapping emissions into the Earth's thin shell of atmosphere every 24 hours.

This article appears in the July 7, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available on newsstands and in the digital archive on June 24.

Admittedly, the contest over global warming is a challenge for the referee because it's a tag-team match, a real free-for-all. In one corner of the ring are Science and Reason. In the other corner: Poisonous Polluters and Right-wing Ideologues.

How Obama gave up on climate change legislation

The referee — in this analogy, the news media — seems confused about whether he is in the news business or the entertainment business. Is he responsible for ensuring a fair match? Or is he part of the show, selling tickets and building the audience? The referee certainly seems distracted: by Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen, the latest reality show — the list of serial obsessions is too long to enumerate here.

Photo Gallery: 12 politicians and executives blocking progress on climate change

But whatever the cause, the referee appears not to notice that the Polluters and Ideologues are trampling all over the "rules" of democratic discourse. They are financing pseudoscientists whose job is to manufacture doubt about what is true and what is false; buying elected officials wholesale with bribes that the politicians themselves have made "legal" and can now be made in secret; spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on misleading advertisements in the mass media; hiring four anti-climate lobbyists for every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. (Question: Would Michael Jordan have been a star if he was covered by four defensive players every step he took on the basketball court?)

How oil and gas companies have blocked progress on global warming

This script, of course, is not entirely new: A half-century ago, when Science and Reason established the linkage between cigarettes and lung diseases, the tobacco industry hired actors, dressed them up as doctors, and paid them to look into television cameras and tell people that the linkage revealed in the Surgeon General's Report was not real at all. The show went on for decades, with more Americans killed each year by cigarettes than all of the U.S. soldiers killed in all of World War II.

This time, the scientific consensus is even stronger. It has been endorsed by every National Academy of science of every major country on the planet, every major professional scientific society related to the study of global warming and 98 percent of climate scientists throughout the world. In the latest and most authoritative study by 3,000 of the very best scientific experts in the world, the evidence was judged "unequivocal."

But wait! The good guys transgressed the rules of decorum, as evidenced in their private e-mails that were stolen and put on the Internet. The referee is all over it: Penalty! Go to your corner! And in their 3,000-page report, the scientists made some mistakes! Another penalty!

And if more of the audience is left confused about whether the climate crisis is real? Well, the show must go on. After all, it's entertainment. There are tickets to be sold, eyeballs to glue to the screen.

Part of the script for this show was leaked to The New York Times as early as 1991. In an internal document, a consortium of the largest global-warming polluters spelled out their principal strategy: "Reposition global warming as theory, rather than fact." Ever since, they have been sowing doubt even more effectively than the tobacco companies before them.

To sell their false narrative, the Polluters and Ideologues have found it essential to undermine the public's respect for Science and Reason by attacking the integrity of the climate scientists. That is why the scientists are regularly accused of falsifying evidence and exaggerating its implications in a greedy effort to win more research grants, or secretly pursuing a hidden political agenda to expand the power of government. Such slanderous insults are deeply ironic: extremist ideologues — many financed or employed by carbon polluters — accusing scientists of being greedy extremist ideologues.

After World War II, a philosopher studying the impact of organized propaganda on the quality of democratic debate wrote, "The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false."

Is the climate crisis real? Yes, of course it is. Pause for a moment to consider these events of just the past 12 months:

• Heat. According to NASA, 2010 was tied with 2005 as the hottest year measured since instruments were first used systematically in the 1880s. Nineteen countries set all-time high temperature records. One city in Pakistan, Mohenjo-Daro, reached 128.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the hottest temperature ever measured in an Asian city. Nine of the 10 hottest years in history have occurred in the last 13 years. The past decade was the hottest ever measured, even though half of that decade represented a "solar minimum" — the low ebb in the natural cycle of solar energy emanating from the sun.

• Floods. Megafloods displaced 20 million people in Pakistan, further destabilizing a nuclear-armed country; inundated an area of Australia larger than Germany and France combined; flooded 28 of the 32 districts that make up Colombia, where it has rained almost continuously for the past year; caused a "thousand-year" flood in my home city of Nashville; and led to all-time record flood levels in the Mississippi River Valley. Many places around the world are now experiencing larger and more frequent extreme downpours and snowstorms; last year's "Snowmaggedon" in the northeastern United States is part of the same pattern, notwithstanding the guffaws of deniers.

• Drought. Historic drought and fires in Russia killed an estimated 56,000 people and caused wheat and other food crops in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to be removed from the global market, contributing to a record spike in food prices. "Practically everything is burning," Russian president Dmitry Medvedev declared. "What's happening with the planet's climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us." The drought level in much of Texas has been raised from "extreme" to "exceptional," the highest category. This spring the majority of the counties in Texas were on fire, and Gov. Rick Perry requested a major disaster declaration for all but two of the state's 254 counties. Arizona is now fighting the largest fire in its history. Since 1970, the fire season throughout the American West has increased by 78 days. Extreme droughts in central China and northern France are currently drying up reservoirs and killing crops.

• Melting Ice. An enormous mass of ice, four times larger than the island of Manhattan, broke off from northern Greenland last year and slipped into the sea. The acceleration of ice loss in both Greenland and Antarctica has caused another upward revision of global sea-level rise and the numbers of refugees expected from low-lying coastal areas. The Arctic ice cap, which reached a record low volume last year, has lost as much as 40 percent of its area during summer in just 30 years.

These extreme events are happening in real time. It is not uncommon for the nightly newscast to resemble a nature hike through the Book of Revelation. Yet most of the news media completely ignore how such events are connected to the climate crisis, or dismiss the connection as controversial; after all, there are scientists on one side of the debate and deniers on the other. A Fox News executive, in an internal e-mail to the network's reporters and editors that later became public, questioned the "veracity of climate change data" and ordered the journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."

But in the "real" world, the record droughts, fires, floods and mudslides continue to increase in severity and frequency. Leading climate scientists like Jim Hansen and Kevin Trenberth now say that events like these would almost certainly not be occurring without the influence of man-made global warming. And that's a shift in the way they frame these impacts. Scientists used to caution that we were increasing the probability of such extreme events by "loading the dice" — pumping more carbon into the atmosphere. Now the scientists go much further, warning that we are "painting more dots on the dice." We are not only more likely to roll 12s; we are now rolling 13s and 14s. In other words, the biggest storms are not only becoming more frequent, they are getting bigger, stronger and more destructive.

"The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change," Munich Re, one of the two largest reinsurance companies in the world, recently stated. "The view that weather extremes are more frequent and intense due to global warming coincides with the current state of scientific knowledge."

Many of the extreme and destructive events are the result of the rapid increase in the amount of heat energy from the sun that is trapped in the atmosphere, which is radically disrupting the planet's water cycle. More heat energy evaporates more water into the air, and the warmer air holds a lot more moisture. This has huge consequences that we now see all around the world.

When a storm unleashes a downpour of rain or snow, the precipitation does not originate just in the part of the sky directly above where it falls. Storms reach out — sometimes as far as 2,000 miles — to suck in water vapor from large areas of the sky, including the skies above oceans, where water vapor has increased by four percent in just the last 30 years. (Scientists often compare this phenomenon to what happens in a bathtub when you open the drain; the water rushing out comes from the whole tub, not just from the part of the tub directly above the drain. And when the tub is filled with more water, more goes down the drain. In the same way, when the warmer sky is filled with a lot more water vapor, there are bigger downpours when a storm cell opens the "drain.")

In many areas, these bigger downpours also mean longer periods between storms — at the same time that the extra heat in the air is also drying out the soil. That is part of the reason so many areas have been experiencing both record floods and deeper, longer-lasting droughts.

Moreover, the scientists have been warning us for quite some time — in increasingly urgent tones — that things will get much, much worse if we continue the reckless dumping of more and more heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere. Drought is projected to spread across significant, highly populated areas of the globe throughout this century. Look at what the scientists say is in store for the Mediterranean nations. Should we care about the loss of Spain, France, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey, Tunisia? Look at what they say is in store for Mexico. Should we notice? Should we care?

Maybe it's just easier, psychologically, to swallow the lie that these scientists who devote their lives to their work are actually greedy deceivers and left-wing extremists — and that we should instead put our faith in the pseudoscientists financed by large carbon polluters whose business plans depend on their continued use of the atmospheric commons as a place to dump their gaseous, heat-trapping waste without limit or constraint, free of charge.

The Scorched Earth

How will climate change affect the planet? A new study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research warns that based on current projections of global-warming pollution, vast swaths of the world’s most populated areas could begin suffering from extreme drought within decades. The increasingly dry soil would threaten water and food for hundreds of millions.

Areas in darkest red represent most extreme drought, while those in blue indicate wetter areas. No data was available for areas in white.

2000 - 2009

Although periodic dry spells have always been normal, the new study suggests that global warming is already causing more serious droughts, which have more than doubled since the 1970s. (Drier areas are indicated in red, wetter areas in blue.) The extra heat in the atmosphere evaporates more water and dries out the land, which in turn fuels devastating fires. Extreme droughts in China and France are currently drying up reservoirs and killing crops, while the fire season in the American West has increased by 78 days over the past 30 years.

2090 - 2099

Using 22 computer models of the climate, the study indicates that the extent and severity of droughts could soon be unprecedented. While some areas of the northern latitudes may grow wetter, much of the U.S. and Latin America – along with central China and most of Europe, Africa and Australia – could be hit by extreme and prolonged drought. “If the projections come even close to being realized,” says climate scientist Aiguo Dai, who conducted the study, “the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous.”

Source: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research Data Visualizations by Joe Zeff Design

The truth is this: What we are doing is functionally insane. If we do not change this pattern, we will condemn our children and all future generations to struggle with ecological curses for several millennia to come. Twenty percent of the global-warming pollution we spew into the sky each day will still be there 20,000 years from now!

We do have another choice. Renewable energy sources are coming into their own. Both solar and wind will soon produce power at costs that are competitive with fossil fuels; indications are that twice as many solar installations were erected worldwide last year as compared to 2009. The reductions in cost and the improvements in efficiency of photovoltaic cells over the past decade appear to be following an exponential curve that resembles a less dramatic but still startling version of what happened with computer chips over the past 50 years.

Enhanced geothermal energy is potentially a nearly limitless source of competitive electricity. Increased energy efficiency is already saving businesses money and reducing emissions significantly. New generations of biomass energy — ones that do not rely on food crops, unlike the mistaken strategy of making ethanol from corn — are extremely promising. Sustainable forestry and agriculture both make economic as well as environmental sense. And all of these options would spread even more rapidly if we stopped subsidizing Big Oil and Coal and put a price on carbon that reflected the true cost of fossil energy — either through the much-maligned cap-and-trade approach, or through a revenue-neutral tax swap.

All over the world, the grassroots movement in favor of changing public policies to confront the climate crisis and build a more prosperous, sustainable future is growing rapidly. But most governments remain paralyzed, unable to take action — even after years of volatile gasoline prices, repeated wars in the Persian Gulf, one energy-related disaster after another, and a seemingly endless stream of unprecedented and lethal weather disasters.

Continuing on our current course would be suicidal for global civilization. But the key question is: How do we drive home that fact in a democratic society when questions of truth have been converted into questions of power? When the distinction between what is true and what is false is being attacked relentlessly, and when the referee in the contest between truth and falsehood has become an entertainer selling tickets to a phony wrestling match?

The "wrestling ring" in this metaphor is the conversation of democracy. It used to be called the "public square." In ancient Athens, it was the Agora. In the Roman Republic, it was the Forum. In the Egypt of the recent Arab Spring, "Tahrir Square" was both real and metaphorical — encompassing Facebook, Twitter, Al-Jazeera and texting.

In the America of the late-18th century, the conversation that led to our own "Spring" took place in printed words: pamphlets, newsprint, books, the "Republic of Letters." It represented the fullest flower of the Enlightenment, during which the oligarchic power of the monarchies, the feudal lords and the Medieval Church was overthrown and replaced with a new sovereign: the Rule of Reason.

The public square that gave birth to the new consciousness of the Enlightenment emerged in the dozen generations following he invention of the printing press — "the Gutenberg Galaxy," the scholar Marshall McLuhan called it — a space in which the conversation of democracy was almost equally accessible to every literate person. Individuals could both find the knowledge that had previously been restricted to elites and contribute their own ideas.

Ideas that found resonance with others rose in prominence much the way Google searches do today, finding an ever larger audience and becoming a source of political power for individuals with neither wealth nor force of arms. Thomas Paine, to take one example, emigrated from England to Philadelphia with no wealth, no family connections and no power other than that which came from his ability to think and write clearly — yet his Common Sense became the Harry Potter of Revolutionary America. The "public interest" mattered, was actively discussed and pursued.

But the "public square" that gave birth to America has been transformed beyond all recognition. The conversation that matters most to the shaping of the "public mind" now takes place on television. Newspapers and magazines are in decline. The Internet, still in its early days, will one day support business models that make true journalism profitable — but up until now, the only successful news websites aggregate content from struggling print publications. Web versions of the newspapers themselves are, with few exceptions, not yet making money. They bring to mind the classic image of Wile E. Coyote running furiously in midair just beyond the edge of the cliff, before plummeting to the desert floor far beneath him.

The average American, meanwhile, is watching television an astonishing five hours a day. In the average household, at least one television set is turned on more than eight hours a day. Moreover, approximately 75 percent of those using the Internet frequently watch television at the same time that they are online.

Unlike access to the "public square" of early America, access to television requires large amounts of money. Thomas Paine could walk out of his front door in Philadelphia and find a dozen competing, low-cost print shops within blocks of his home. Today, if he traveled to the nearest TV station, or to the headquarters of nearby Comcast — the dominant television provider in America — and tried to deliver his new ideas to the American people, he would be laughed off the premises. The public square that used to be a commons has been refeudalized, and the gatekeepers charge large rents for the privilege of communicating to the American people over the only medium that really affects their thinking. "Citizens" are now referred to more commonly as "consumers" or "the audience."

That is why up to 80 percent of the campaign budgets for candidates in both major political parties is devoted to the purchase of 30-second TV ads. Since the rates charged for these commercials increase each year, the candidates are forced to raise more and more money in each two-year campaign cycle.

Of course, the only reliable sources from which such large sums can be raised continuously are business lobbies. Organized labor, a shadow of its former self, struggles to compete, and individuals are limited by law to making small contributions. During the 2008 campaign, there was a bubble of hope that Internet-based fundraising might even the scales, but in the end, Democrats as well as Republicans relied far more on traditional sources of large contributions. Moreover, the recent deregulation of unlimited — and secret — donations by wealthy corporations has made the imbalance even worse.

In the new ecology of political discourse, special-interest contributors of the large sums of money now required for the privilege of addressing voters on a wholesale basis are not squeamish about asking for the quo they expect in return for their quid. Politicians who don't acquiesce don't get the money they need to be elected and re-elected. And the impact is doubled when special interests make clear — usually bluntly — that the money they are withholding will go instead to opponents who are more than happy to pledge the desired quo. Politicians have been racing to the bottom for some time, and are presently tunneling to new depths. It is now commonplace for congressmen and senators first elected decades ago — as I was — to comment in private that the whole process has become unbelievably crass, degrading and horribly destructive to the core values of American democracy.

Largely as a result, the concerns of the wealthiest individuals and corporations routinely trump the concerns of average Americans and small businesses. There are a ridiculously large number of examples: eliminating the inheritance tax paid by the wealthiest one percent of families is considered a much higher priority than addressing the suffering of the millions of long-term unemployed; Wall Street's interest in legalizing gambling in trillions of dollars of "derivatives" was considered way more important than protecting the integrity of the financial system and the interests of middle-income home buyers. It's a long list.

Almost every group organized to promote and protect the "public interest" has been backpedaling and on the defensive. By sharp contrast, when a coalition of powerful special interests sets out to manipulate U.S. policy, their impact can be startling — and the damage to the true national interest can be devastating.

In 2002, for example, the feverish desire to invade Iraq required convincing the American people that Saddam Hussein was somehow responsible for attacking the United States on September 11th, 2001, and that he was preparing to attack us again, perhaps with nuclear weapons. When the evidence — the "facts" — stood in the way of that effort to shape the public mind, they were ridiculed, maligned and ignored. Behind the scenes, the intelligence was manipulated and the public was intentionally deceived. Allies were pressured to adopt the same approach with their publics. A recent inquiry in the U.K. confirmed this yet again. "We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence," Maj. Gen. Michael Laurie testified. "To make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence, the wording was developed with care." Why? As British intelligence put it, the overthrow of Saddam was "a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies."

That goal — the real goal — could have been debated on its own terms. But as Bush administration officials have acknowledged, a truly candid presentation would not have resulted in sufficient public support for the launching of a new war. They knew that because they had studied it and polled it. So they manipulated the debate, downplayed the real motive for the invasion, and made a different case to the public — one based on falsehoods.

And the "referee" — the news media — looked the other way. Some, like Fox News, were hyperactive cheerleaders. Others were intimidated into going along by the vitriol heaped on any who asked inconvenient questions. (They know it; many now acknowledge it, sheepishly and apologetically.)

Senators themselves fell, with a few honorable exceptions, into the same two camps. A few weeks before the United States invaded Iraq, the late Robert Byrd — God rest his soul — thundered on the Senate floor about the pitiful quality of the debate over the choice between war and peace: "Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent — ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing."

The chamber was silent, in part, because many senators were somewhere else — attending cocktail parties and receptions, largely with special-interest donors, raising money to buy TV ads for their next campaigns. Nowadays, in fact, the scheduling of many special-interest fundraisers mirrors the schedule of votes pending in the House and Senate.

By the time we invaded Iraq, polls showed, nearly three-quarters of the American people were convinced that the person responsible for the planes flying into the World Trade Center Towers was indeed Saddam Hussein. The rest is history — though, as Faulkner wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Because of that distortion of the truth in the past, we are still in Iraq; and because the bulk of our troops and intelligence assets were abruptly diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq, we are also still in Afghanistan.

In the same way, because the banks had their way with Congress when it came to gambling on unregulated derivatives and recklessly endangering credit markets with subprime mortgages, we still have almost double-digit unemployment, historic deficits, Greece and possibly other European countries teetering on the edge of default, and the threat of a double-dip recession. Even the potential default of the United States of America is now being treated by many politicians and too many in the media as yet another phony wrestling match, a political game. Are the potential economic consequences of a U.S. default "real"? Of course they are! Have we gone completely nuts?

We haven't gone nuts — but the "conversation of democracy" has become so deeply dysfunctional that our ability to make intelligent collective decisions has been seriously impaired. Throughout American history, we relied on the vibrancy of our public square — and the quality of our democratic discourse — to make better decisions than most nations in the history of the world. But we are now routinely making really bad decisions that completely ignore the best available evidence of what is true and what is false. When the distinction between truth and falsehood is systematically attacked without shame or consequence — when a great nation makes crucially important decisions on the basis of completely false information that is no longer adequately filtered through the fact-checking function of a healthy and honest public discussion — the public interest is severely damaged.

That is exactly what is happening with U.S. decisions regarding the climate crisis. The best available evidence demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that the reckless spewing of global-warming pollution in obscene quantities into the atmospheric commons is having exactly the consequences long predicted by scientists who have analyzed the known facts according to the laws of physics.

The emergence of the climate crisis seems sudden only because of a relatively recent discontinuity in the relationship between human civilization and the planet's ecological system. In the past century, we have quadrupled global population while relying on the burning of carbon-based fuels — coal, oil and gas — for 85 percent of the world's energy. We are also cutting and burning forests that would otherwise help remove some of the added CO2 from the atmosphere, and have converted agriculture to an industrial model that also runs on carbon-based fuels and strip-mines carbon-rich soils.

The cumulative result is a radically new reality — and since human nature makes us vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable, it naturally seems difficult to accept. Moreover, since this new reality is painful to contemplate, and requires big changes in policy and behavior that are at the outer limit of our ability, it is all too easy to fall into the psychological state of denial. As with financial issues like subprime mortgages and credit default swaps, the climate crisis can seem too complex to worry about, especially when the shills for the polluters constantly claim it's all a hoax anyway. And since the early impacts of climatic disruption are distributed globally, they masquerade as an abstraction that is safe to ignore.

These vulnerabilities, rooted in our human nature, are being manipulated by the tag-team of Polluters and Ideologues who are trying to deceive us. And the referee — the news media — is once again distracted. As with the invasion of Iraq, some are hyperactive cheerleaders for the deception, while others are intimidated into complicity, timidity and silence by the astonishing vitriol heaped upon those who dare to present the best evidence in a professional manner. Just as TV networks who beat the drums of war prior to the Iraq invasion were rewarded with higher ratings, networks now seem reluctant to present the truth about the link between carbon pollution and global warming out of fear that conservative viewers will change the channel — and fear that they will receive a torrent of flame e-mails from deniers.

Many politicians, unfortunately, also fall into the same two categories: those who cheerlead for the deniers and those who cower before them. The latter group now includes several candidates for the Republican presidential nomination who have felt it necessary to abandon their previous support for action on the climate crisis; at least one has been apologizing profusely to the deniers and begging for their forgiveness.

"Intimidation" and "timidity" are connected by more than a shared word root. The first is designed to produce the second. As Yeats wrote almost a century ago, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

Barack Obama's approach to the climate crisis represents a special case that requires careful analysis. His election was accompanied by intense hope that many things in need of change would change. Some things have, but others have not. Climate policy, unfortunately, is in the second category. Why?

First of all, anyone who honestly examines the incredible challenges confronting President Obama when he took office has to feel enormous empathy for him: the Great Recession, with the high unemployment and the enormous public and private indebtedness it produced; two seemingly interminable wars; an intractable political opposition whose true leaders — entertainers masquerading as pundits — openly declared that their objective was to ensure that the new president failed; a badly broken Senate that is almost completely paralyzed by the threat of filibuster and is controlled lock, stock and barrel by the oil and coal industries; a contingent of nominal supporters in Congress who are indentured servants of the same special interests that control most of the Republican Party; and a ferocious, well-financed and dishonest campaign poised to vilify anyone who dares offer leadership for the reduction of global-warming pollution.

In spite of these obstacles, President Obama included significant climate-friendly initiatives in the economic stimulus package he presented to Congress during his first month in office. With the skillful leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and committee chairmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, he helped secure passage of a cap-and-trade measure in the House a few months later. He implemented historic improvements in fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, and instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to move forward on the regulation of global-warming pollution under the Clean Air Act. He appointed many excellent men and women to key positions, and they, in turn, have made hundreds of changes in environmental and energy policy that have helped move the country forward slightly on the climate issue. During his first six months, he clearly articulated the link between environmental security, economic security and national security — making the case that a national commitment to renewable energy could simultaneously reduce unemployment, dependence on foreign oil and vulnerability to the disruption of oil markets dominated by the Persian Gulf reserves. And more recently, as the issue of long-term debt has forced discussion of new revenue, he proposed the elimination of unnecessary and expensive subsidies for oil and gas.

But in spite of these and other achievements, President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that "drill, baby, drill" is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.

The failure to pass legislation to limit global-warming pollution ensured that the much-anticipated Copenhagen summit on a global treaty in 2009 would also end in failure. The president showed courage in attending the summit and securing a rhetorical agreement to prevent a complete collapse of the international process, but that's all it was — a rhetorical agreement. During the final years of the Bush-Cheney administration, the rest of the world was waiting for a new president who would aggressively tackle the climate crisis — and when it became clear that there would be no real change from the Bush era, the agenda at Copenhagen changed from "How do we complete this historic breakthrough?" to "How can we paper over this embarrassing disappointment?"

Some concluded from the failure in Copenhagen that it was time to give up on the entire U.N.-sponsored process for seeking an international agreement to reduce both global-warming pollution and deforestation. Ultimately, however, the only way to address the climate crisis will be with a global agreement that in one way or another puts a price on carbon. And whatever approach is eventually chosen, the U.S. simply must provide leadership by changing our own policy.

Yet without presidential leadership that focuses intensely on making the public aware of the reality we face, nothing will change. The real power of any president, as Richard Neustadt wrote, is "the power to persuade." Yet President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis. He has simply not made the case for action. He has not defended the science against the ongoing, withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community — including our own National Academy — to bring the reality of the science before the public.

Here is the core of it: we are destroying the climate balance that is essential to the survival of our civilization. This is not a distant or abstract threat; it is happening now. The United States is the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future. And the president is the only person who can rally the United States.

Many political advisers assume that a president has to deal with the world of politics as he finds it, and that it is unwise to risk political capital on an effort to actually lead the country toward a new understanding of the real threats and real opportunities we face. Concentrate on the politics of re-election, they say. Don't take chances.

All that might be completely understandable and make perfect sense in a world where the climate crisis wasn't "real." Those of us who support and admire President Obama understand how difficult the politics of this issue are in the context of the massive opposition to doing anything at all — or even to recognizing that there is a crisis. And assuming that the Republicans come to their senses and avoid nominating a clown, his re-election is likely to involve a hard-fought battle with high stakes for the country. All of his supporters understand that it would be self-defeating to weaken Obama and heighten the risk of another step backward. Even writing an article like this one carries risks; opponents of the president will excerpt the criticism and strip it of context.

But in this case, the President has reality on his side. The scientific consensus is far stronger today than at any time in the past. Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act.

Those who profit from the unconstrained pollution that is the primary cause of climate change are determined to block our perception of this reality. They have help from many sides: from the private sector, which is now free to make unlimited and secret campaign contributions; from politicians who have conflated their tenures in office with the pursuit of the people's best interests; and — tragically — from the press itself, which treats deception and falsehood on the same plane as scientific fact, and calls it objective reporting of alternative opinions.

All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality. We ignored reality in the marketplace and nearly destroyed the world economic system. We are likewise ignoring reality in the environment, and the consequences could be several orders of magnitude worse. Determining what is real can be a challenge in our culture, but in order to make wise choices in the presence of such grave risks, we must use common sense and the rule of reason in coming to an agreement on what is true.

So how can we make it happen? How can we as individuals make a difference? In five basic ways:

First, become a committed advocate for solving the crisis. You can start with something simple: Speak up whenever the subject of climate arises. When a friend or acquaintance expresses doubt that the crisis is real, or that it's some sort of hoax, don't let the opportunity pass to put down your personal marker. The civil rights revolution may have been driven by activists who put their lives on the line, but it was partly won by average Americans who began to challenge racist comments in everyday conversations.

Second, deepen your commitment by making consumer choices that reduce energy use and reduce your impact on the environment. The demand by individuals for change in the marketplace has already led many businesses to take truly significant steps to reduce their global-warming pollution. Some of the corporate changes are more symbolic than real — "green-washing," as it's called — but a surprising amount of real progress is taking place. Walmart, to pick one example, is moving aggressively to cut its carbon footprint by 20 million metric tons, in part by pressuring its suppliers to cut down on wasteful packaging and use lower-carbon transportation alternatives. Reward those companies that are providing leadership.

Third, join an organization committed to action on this issue. The Alliance for Climate Protection (climateprotect.org), which I chair, has grassroots action plans for the summer and fall that spell out lots of ways to fight effectively for the policy changes we need. We can also enable you to host a slide show in your community on solutions to the climate crisis — presented by one of the 4,000 volunteers we have trained. Invite your friends and neighbors to come and then enlist them to join the cause.

Fourth, contact your local newspapers and television stations when they put out claptrap on climate — and let them know you're fed up with their stubborn and cowardly resistance to reporting the facts of this issue. One of the main reasons they are so wimpy and irresponsible about global warming is that they're frightened of the reaction they get from the deniers when they report the science objectively. So let them know that deniers are not the only ones in town with game. Stay on them! Don't let up! It's true that some media outlets are getting instructions from their owners on this issue, and that others are influenced by big advertisers, but many of them are surprisingly responsive to a genuine outpouring of opinion from their viewers and readers. It is way past time for the ref to do his job.

Finally, and above all, don't give up on the political system. Even though it is rigged by special interests, it is not so far gone that candidates and elected officials don't have to pay attention to persistent, engaged and committed individuals. President Franklin Roosevelt once told civil rights leaders who were pressing him for change that he agreed with them about the need for greater equality for black Americans. Then, as the story goes, he added with a wry smile, "Now go out and make me do it."

To make our elected leaders take action to solve the climate crisis, we must forcefully communicate the following message: "I care a lot about global warming; I am paying very careful attention to the way you vote and what you say about it; if you are on the wrong side, I am not only going to vote against you, I will work hard to defeat you — regardless of party. If you are on the right side, I will work hard to elect you."

Why do you think President Obama and Congress changed their game on "don't ask, don't tell?" It happened because enough Americans delivered exactly that tough message to candidates who wanted their votes. When enough people care passionately enough to drive that message home on the climate crisis, politicians will look at their hole cards, and enough of them will change their game to make all the difference we need.

This is not naive; trust me on this. It may take more individual voters to beat the Polluters and Ideologues now than it once did — when special-interest money was less dominant. But when enough people speak this way to candidates, and convince them that they are dead serious about it, change will happen — both in Congress and in the White House. As the great abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass once observed, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will."

What is now at risk in the climate debate is nothing less than our ability to communicate with one another according to a protocol that binds all participants to seek reason and evaluate facts honestly. The ability to perceive reality is a prerequisite for self-governance. Wishful thinking and denial lead to dead ends. When it works, the democratic process helps clear the way toward reality, by exposing false argumentation to the best available evidence. That is why the Constitution affords such unique protection to freedom of the press and of speech.

The climate crisis, in reality, is a struggle for the soul of America. It is about whether or not we are still capable — given the ill health of our democracy and the current dominance of wealth over reason — of perceiving important and complex realities clearly enough to promote and protect the sustainable well-being of the many. What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it.

From biochar to organic crops, Cornell research farm helps grow N.Y. economy - myScience / science wire

Field Day tours connect farmers to research they can put to use in their fields back home.

Paul Stachowski, farm manager at Cornell’s Musgrave Research Farm near Aurora, N.Y., pilots his tractor along rows of winter wheat waving in the wind. Beneath them a carpet of red clover blankets the earth.

Stachowski sowed the wheat last fall to give it a head start. But he waited until March to sow roughly 75 million seeds of red clover over this Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station field.

"Much research on this technique was done at Cornell," Stachowski says. "You don’t have to till the soil, since late frosts pull the seed into the ground." The clover roots "fix" nitrogen from the air (i.e., pull nitrogen from the air into the soil, replenishing its nitrogen) and help prevent erosion. Once tilled next spring as a "green manure," the clover provides natural nutrients for the crops that follow.

Now Stachowski, his crew and a few seasonal staff are preparing dozens of plots on 100 acres for Cornell scientists to use in a wide range of research projects on grains, soybeans and forage crops. These crops -- which account for 90 percent of all crop acreage in New York and whose combined value exceeds $1 billion -- are critical to New York’s economy and self-sufficiency.

Although fertile now, these soils were depleted when Cornell purchased the farm in 1949. Cornell’s first crop ecology researcher, Professor Robert Musgrave, did much of his seminal research on the farm that now bears his name.

One project that’s turning heads today, with stories in Nature, Time magazine and National Geographic, is research on biochar -- organic matter that’s slowly cooked in the absence of oxygen into a charcoal-like soil additive. Ancient Amazonian farmers created fertile oases in otherwise thin, poor forest soils by burning leftover crop and forest waste into biochar in underground pits. Their gardens are still rich with nutrients a thousand years later. At Musgrave, researchers not only are studying how the biochar process works but also are undertaking an organic cropping systems project to see how different yearly rotations of soybeans, corn and spelt (an ancient wheat variety with a strong organic market) sustain soils and save money. Since corn is a heavy feeder, the team seeds clover into their spelt; once tilled into the soil, nutrients from decaying clover provide an extra nutritional boost for corn.

Cornell researchers focus on organic waste streams such as residential yard trimmings and agricultural leftovers like rice and peanut hulls to create carbon-rich biochar. Once turned into the soil, biochar has the potential to lock in carbon while enriching the earth for centuries.

"We wanted to mimic the needs of a farm with no livestock, a farm that might need to purchase extra manure or compost to nourish the corn," says team member Brian Caldwell. The team found that despite its reputation as a light feeder, the spelt performed better than controls with the boost from the clover -- while corn grown on the soil later was happy either way.

Such projects are only two of about 50 that Stachowski oversees. The Aurora crew also produces several hundred acres of cash crops each year, such as soybeans or corn, to help pay the farm’s bills.

Mary Woodsen is a science writer with the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station.

Top Ten Garden Insect Pests and How to Control Them Organically

The following list of pest descriptions and control measures provides a good starting point for tackling pest control in gardens throughout the United States and Canada. Control solutions are listed in order of environmental friendliness. Botanical sprays, which can have detrimental effects on beneficial insects and other animals, should be used only as a last resort. learn how to control aphids in the  garden1. Aphids (many species). Tiny, pear-shaped; long antennae; two tubes projecting rearward from abdomen. Host/Range: Most fruits and vegetables, flowers, ornamentals, shade trees. Found throughout North America. Damage: Aphids suck plant sap, causing foliage to distort and leaves to drop; honeydew excreted on leaves supports sooty mold growth; feeding spreads viral diseases. Control: Wash plants with strong spray of water; encourage native predators and parasites such as aphid midges, lacewings, and lady beetles; when feasible, cover plants with floating row cover; apply hot-pepper or garlic repellent sprays; for severe problems, apply horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, or neem. 2. Cabbage maggot (Delia radicum) Adults: 1⁄4-inch gray flies. Larvae: white, tapering maggots. Host/Range: Cabbage-family crops. Found throughout North America. Damage: Maggots tunnel in roots, killing plants directly or by creating entryways for disease organisms. Control: Apply floating row covers; set out transplants through slits in tar-paper squares; avoid first generation by delaying planting; apply parasitic nematodes around roots; burn roots from harvested plants; mound wood ashes or red pepper dust around stems.

learn how to control caterpillars

3. Caterpillars (many species) Soft, segmented larvae with distinct, harder head capsule; six legs in front, fleshy false legs on rear segments. Host/Range: Many fruits and vegetables, ornamentals, shade trees. Range varies with species. Damage: Caterpillars chew on leaves or along margins; droppings soil the produce; some tunnel into fruits. Control: Encourage native predators, parasites; hand pick; apply floating row covers; spray with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or spinosad. 4. Cutworms (several species) Fat, 1-inch-long, gray or black segmented larvae; active at night. Host/Range: Most early vegetable and flower seedlings, transplants. Found throughout North America. Damage: Cutworms chew through stems at ground level; they may completely devour small plants; most damaging in May and June. Control: Use cutworm collars on transplants; delay planting; hand pick cutworms curled below soil surface; scatter bran baits mixed with Btk (B.t. var. kurstaki) and molasses before planting.

learn how to control aphids in the  garden5. Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) Adults: yellow-orange beetles with 10 black stripes on wing covers. Larvae: orange, hump-backed grubs with black spots along sides. Eggs: yellow ovals, laid in upright clusters. Host/Range: Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, petunias. Found throughout North America. Damage: Beetles defoliate plants, reducing yields or killing young plants. Control: Apply floating row covers; use deep straw mulches; hand pick; attract native parasites and predators; spray with Beauveria bassiana or spinosad; spray with neem. 6. Mexican bean beetle (Epilachna varivestris) Adults: oval, yellow-brown, 1⁄4-inch beetles with 16 black spots on wing covers. Larvae: fat, dark yellow grubs with long, branched spines. Host/Range: Cowpeas, lima beans, snap beans, soybeans. Found in most states east of the Mississippi River; also parts of Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Utah. Damage: Adults and larvae chew on leaves from beneath, leaving characteristic lacy appearance; plants defoliated and killed. Control: Apply floating row covers; plant bush beans early; hand pick; plant soybean trap crop; put out lures to draw spined soldier bugs (predators) to your yard. Spray Beauveria bassiana, insecticidal soap, or neem.

learn how to control aphids in the  garden7. Flea beetles (several species) Small, dark beetles that jump like fleas when disturbed. Host/Range: Most vegetable crops. Found throughout North America. Damage: Adults chew numerous small, round holes in leaves; most damaging to young plants; larvae feed on plant roots. Control: Apply floating row covers; repel the pests by spraying plants with garlic spray or kaolin clay; for a serious infestation, try repeated sprays of Beauveria bassiana or spinosad.

8. Tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris) Fast-moving, mottled, green or brown bugs, forewings with black-tipped yellow triangles. Nymphs: similar to adults, but wingless. Host/Range: Many flowers, fruits, vegetables. Found throughout North America. Control: Adults and nymphs suck plant juices, causing leaf and fruit distortion, wilting, stunting, and tip dieback. Damage: Keep garden weed free in spring. Apply floating row covers; encourage native predatory insects; spray young nymphs with Beauveria bassiana or neem.

learn how to control aphids in the  garden9. Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) Adults: metallic blue-green, 1⁄2-inch beetles with bronze wing covers. Larvae: fat, white grubs with brown heads. Host/Range: Many vegetables and flowers, small fruit. Found in all states east of the Mississippi River. Damage: Adults skeletonize leaves, chew flowers, may completely defoliate plants; larvae feed on lawn and garden plant roots. Control: Shake beetles from plants in early morning; apply floating row covers; set out baited traps upwind of your garden on two sides and at least 30 feet away; apply milky disease spores or Herterorhabditis nematodes to soil; spray beetles with insecticidal soap. 10. Scales (more than 200 species) Adults: females look like hard or soft bumps on stems, leaves, fruit; males are minute flying insects. Larvae: tiny, soft, crawling larvae with threadlike mouthparts. Host/Range: Many fruits, indoor plants, ornamental shrubs, and trees. Found throughout North America. Damage: All stages suck plant sap, weakening plants. Plants become yellow, drop leaves, and may die. Honeydew is excreted onto foliage and fruit. Control: Prune out infested plant parts; encourage native predators; scrub scales gently from twigs with soft brush and soapy water, rinse well; apply dormant or summer oil sprays; spray with neem oil.

Lightning Bugs (or Fireflies)

Lightning bug, or firefly
Adult firefly. Light emanates from the rear end, or abdomen, showing up as bright yellow in the picture © Greg Scott

larva of a lightning bug, or firefly


Flashing Lightning Bugs are trying to attract mates. Among most but not all species of North American Lightning Bugs, males fly about flashing while females perch on vegetation, usually near the ground. If the female sees a flasher and she's ready to mate she responds by flashing right after the male's last flash. A short flash dialogue takes place as the male flies closer and closer, and then, if all goes well, they mate.

Careful... It's spelledlightning, not lightening...

So that a flasher doesn't attract a firefly of adifferent species, each Lightning Bug species has its own special flash pattern. Flash patterns range from continuous glows or single flashes, to series of multi-pulsed flashes.

Among some species both males and females flash, but among others only the members of one sex do it. Some Lightning Bug species don't flash at all. All known firefly larvae, which are wingless and mostly live on the ground and under bark, produce light. If you see only a glow on the ground, it can be tricky deciding whether you're seeing a firefly larva, a glow-worm, or some other luminescent insect.

To learn more about how Lightning Bugs make their light, visit the Bioluminescence Web Site.WHAT DO LIGHTNING BUGS EAT?

Lightning Bug larvae live on the ground, under bark, and in moist swampy places. They eat earthworms, snails and slugs, plus they may scavenge certain small dead animals and other organic material . They have been seen following slime trails to their slug and snail victims. Lightning Bug larvae, one of which is shown at the right, have sickle-shaped mandibles with which they can inject a kind of chemical that paralyzes their prey and helps digest it. Several larvae have been seen attacking large prey together.

Adult Lightning Bugs, who can live for several months, probably feed on plant nectar. A few adult Lightning Bug species practice an especially tricky kind of cannibalism. Already-mated females emit flashes similar to the female responses to male Lightning Bugs of other species. When the male of the other species lands, the female emitting the false flashes pounces on the poor male and eats him!

Lightning Bugs are the same as Fireflies. They are members of a particularfamily of the Beetle Order. The Firefly Family is technically known as the Lampyridae.

Lightning Bugs are beetles. They can't be "flies" as their name suggests because "flies" are members of the Fly Order. Glow-worms, which produce light similar to Lightning Bugs', also are beetles, but they belong to a different though closely related family, the Phengodidae. There are many Lightning Bug species.

Last evening the Hines Farm was aglow with thousands of Lightning Bugs... !!! Better than a fireworks display... !!! ... Monte

Jun 21, 2011

Farmageddon - Movie Trailer

Farmageddon - Movie Trailer from Kristin Canty on Vimeo.

Americans’ right to access fresh, healthy foods of their choice is under attack. Farmageddon tells the story of small, family farms that were providing safe, healthy foods to their communities and were forced to stop, sometimes through violent action, by agents of misguided government bureaucracies, and seeks to figure out why. farmageddonmovie.com/​

Has the Industrial Age Finally Run Out of Gas?

Complete video at: http://fora.tv/conference/ideas_economy_information Don Tapscott, author of Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World, argues that the hierarchical institutions of the industrial age are over, and that new models of participatory communication will usher in greater transparency and collaboration. The Ideas Economy: Information is a fresh look at knowledge management for the information age. The Economist will bring together theorists, strategists, and innovators who understand how to harness data to create value and advance individual, corporate, and social good. 

To view the full version of any video featured in this playlist, visit: http://fora.tv/conference/ideas_economy_information 

Don Tapscott is one of the world's leading authorities on innovation, media and the economic and social impact of technology. He is an internationally sought writer, consultant and speaker on business strategy and organizational transformation. His clients include top executives of many of the world's largest corporations and government leaders from many countries. Mr. Tapscott has been named one of the 50 most influential living management thinkers in the world by Thinkers50. The influential Washington Technology Report called him the most influential media authority since Marshall McLuhan. He is the author of several books, including Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. His most recent book is Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World.

Measuring Plant Health from Fluorescent Light : Image of the Day

Measuring Plant Health from Fluorescent Light
download large EVI image (289 KB, PNG)
acquired December 1 - 31, 2009download large EVI image (230 KB, PNG)
acquired July 1 - 31, 2009download large Fluorescence image (269 KB, PNG)
acquired December 1 - 31, 2009download large Fluorescence image (209 KB, PNG)

Scientists who study plants and trees from space have long relied on satellite-derived measures of “greenness”—that is, observations of the amount of sunlight reflected by vegetation. Greenness increases with seasonal growth and decreases with droughts, frosts, seasons, or other events that cause leaves to die and change color.

Now scientists have tested a new method for monitoring the health of vegetation by measuring emissions that the human eye cannot detect. Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have produced the first global maps of land-plant fluorescence, a reddish glow that leaves emit as a byproduct of photosynthesis. Researchers had previously mapped such emissions from ocean phytoplankton.

The maps above on the left depict the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) for July and December 2009, a measure of greenness based on data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite. Scientists also rely on the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (not shown) to observe vegetation.

The maps on the right show the new measurement of chlorophyll fluorescence for the same months, based on data from a spectrometer on Japan's Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT). The new maps are significant as a "proof of concept" that fluorescence can be measured from space.

When sunlight strikes a leaf, disc-like structures called chloroplasts absorb most of the light and convert it into carbohydrates through photosynthesis. Chloroplasts re-emit about two percent of incoming light at longer, redder wavelengths. That is the light that the new method detects.

While EVI and NDVI are well-established and reliable measurements, there can be a lag between what happens on the ground and what satellites can detect. It can take days—even weeks—before changes in greenness are apparent. The chlorophyll fluorescence method offers a more direct view into the photosynthetic machinery of plants and might provide an opportunity to detect stress sooner.

“With chlorophyll fluorescence, we should be able to tell immediately if plants are under environmental stress—before outward signs of browning or yellowing become visible,” said Elizabeth Middleton, a NASA biologist who helped create the maps.

In the future, the Goddard team expects fluorescence measurements will complement EVI and NDVI, helping farmers and aid workers to respond to extreme weather events and potential crop failures and famines sooner. Fluorescence could also lead to breakthroughs in scientists’ understanding of how carbon cycles through ecosystems.

Joiner, J., A. Yoshida, P. Vasilkov, Y. Yoshida, L. A. Corp, and E. M. Middleton (2011) First observations of global and seasonal terrestrial chlorophyll fluorescence from space. Biogeosciences, 8, 637-651.
NASA (2011, June 6) First-of-its-Kind Fluorescence Map Offers a New View of the World's Land Plants Accessed June 20, 2011.

NASA Earth Observatory image created by Robert Simmon, using data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT). Caption by Adam Voiland and Mike Carlowicz.Instrument:

Aqua - MODIS

Chomsky: Wealthiest 1% Rule Our Politics -- But There's Hope in the Fight Against Global Capital | Economy | AlterNet

In the past thirty years there has been enormous concentration of wealth in a very tiny part of the population. Noam Chomsky talks about how to fight back.

June 14, 2011

Michael Lerner (ML): You have made many excellent analyses of the power of global capital and its capacity to undermine ordinary citizens’ efforts to transform the global reality toward a more humane and generous world. If there were a serious movement in the U.S. ready to challenge global capital, what should such a movement do?

Or is it, as many believe, hopeless, given the power of capital to control the media, undermine democratic movements, and use the police/military power and the co-optive power of mass entertainment, endless spectacle, and financial compensations for many of the smartest people coming up through working-class and middle-income routes? What path is rational for a movement seeking to build a world of environmental sanity, social justice, and peace, yet facing such a sophisticated, powerful, and well-organized social order?

Noam Chomsky (NC): There is no doubt that concentrated private capital closely linked to the state has substantial resources, but on the other hand we shouldn’t overlook the fact that quite a bit has been achieved through public struggles in the U.S. over the years. In many respects this remains an unusually free country. The state has limited power to coerce, compared with many other countries, which is a very good thing. Many rights have been won, even in the past generation, and that provides a legacy from which we can move on. Struggling for freedom and justice has never been easy, but it has achieved progress; I don’t think we should assume that there are any particular limits.

At the moment we can’t realistically talk about challenging global capital, because the movements that might undertake such a task are far too scattered and atomized and focused on particular issues. But we can try to confront directly what global capital is doing right now and, on the basis of that, move on to further achievements. For example, it’s no big secret that in the past thirty years there has been enormous concentration of wealth in a very tiny part of the population, 1 percent or even one-tenth of 1 percent, and that has conferred extraordinary political power on a very tiny minority, primarily [those who control] financial capital, but also more broadly on the executive and managerial classes. At the same time, for the majority of the population, incomes have pretty much stagnated, working hours have increased, benefits have declined -- they were never very good -- and people are angry, hostile, and very upset. Many people distrust institutions, all of them; it’s a volatile period, and it’s a period which could move in a very dangerous direction -- there are analogues, after all -- but it could also provide opportunities to educate and organize and carry things forward. One may have a long-term goal of confronting global capital, but there have to be small steps along the way before you could even think of undertaking a challenge of that magnitude in a realistic way.

ML: Do you see any strategy for overcoming the fragmentation that exists among social movements to help people recognize an overriding shared agenda?

NC: One failing of the social movements that I’ve noticed over many years is that while they are focusing on extremely crucial and important social issues like women’s rights, environmental protections, and so on, they have tended to ignore or downplay the economic and social crises faced by working people. It’s not that they are completely ignored, but they are downplayed. And that has to be overcome, and there are ways to do it. So, to take a concrete example right near where I live, right now there is a town near Boston where a multinational corporation is closing down a local plant because it’s not profitable enough from the point of view of the multinational. Members of the workforce have offered to purchase the plant and the equipment, and the multinational doesn’t want to do that; it would rather lose money than offer the opportunity for a worker self-managed plant that might well become successful. And the multinational has the power to do what it wants, of course. But sufficient popular support -- community support, activist support, and so on -- could swing the balance. Things like that are happening all over the country.

Take Obama’s virtual takeover of the auto industry. There were several options at that point. One option, which the Obama administration chose, was to restore the old order, assist in the closing of plants, the shifting of production abroad and so on, and maybe get a functioning auto industry again. Another option would have been to take over those plants -- plants that are being dismantled -- and convert them to things that are very badly needed in the country, like high-speed rail -- it’s a scandal that the United States doesn’t have this kind of infrastructure, which many other countries have developed. In fact at the very time that Obama was closing down plants in the Midwest, his transportation secretary was in Europe trying to get contracts from Spain for high-speed rail construction, which could have been done in those very plants that were being dismantled.

To move in the direction that I suggest would take substantial organization, community support, national support, and recognition that worker self-managed production aimed at real social needs is an option that can be pursued; if it is pursued, you move to a pretty radical stage of consciousness, and it could go on and on from there. Unfortunately, that was not even discussed.

Noam Chomsky is always brilliant in his observations and analysis.
I really enjoyed the rest of the interview. Read the rest of the interview on Tikkun.org.

Jun 20, 2011

Ohio.com - Ohio farmers to get U.S. funds to plant type of Asian grass (miscanthus giganteus) that converts to fuel

File:Miscanthus giganteus.jpg
Published on Thursday, Jun 16, 2011
Beacon Journal staff report

Federal officials on Wednesday approved a plan for eligible farmers in Northeast Ohio to grow an Asian grass as a biomass fuel.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved plans to grow the grass, miscanthus giganteus, in Ashtabula, Geauga, Trumbull and Lake counties plus three adjoining Pennsylvania counties.

The grass will be harvested and converted into fuel pellets, a clean-burning renewable fuel, at an existing facility in Conneaut by Aloterra Energy LLC.

The grasses might be burned at an old FirstEnergy Corp. power plant in Ashtabula. Johnson Controls and the Ashtabula County Port Authority have been investigating such an operation.

Farmers in the seven counties will be eligible for $5.7 million in federal funds, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.Under the federal program, farmers are eligible for federal money to establish, produce and deliver biomass fuels.

The federal program is targeting 5,344 acres in the seven counties.

Producers are eligible for reimbursements of up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing a perennial bioenergy crop.

Under the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program, farmers will derive income from tonnage payments, plus carbon credits and profit sharing from the conversion facility.

Farmers will also earn rent payments on the acres planted and the federal program will pay $45 a ton harvested for two years.

The project is expected to create 1,210 new jobs.

Yields for biomass from miscanthus giganteus are expected to range from 10 to 12 tons of dry matter per acre and might be as high as 15 tons per acre, officials said.

It can produce nearly as much energy as some coals, officials said.

It is a sterile hybrid warm-season grass, and farmers must plant stems called rhizomes underground every spring.

The biomass proposal including acreage in Arkansas and Missouri was developed by Aloterra and MTA Oil Biomass LLC.

Rense & Emord - The 'FDA' is Essential

An introduction to Pharmaceutical attorney Jonathan W Emord's work against the FDA and the Federal Bureaucracy in general.

In The Rise of Tyranny, he argues that the United States has been transformed from a constitutional republic into a bureaucratic oligarchy because over three-quarters of all federal laws are not created by the elected representatives of the people but by the unelected heads of federal bureaucratic agencies. He urges adoption of Congressman Paul’s Congressional Responsibility and Accountability Act which would prohibit agency regulations from being implemented until Congress enacted them as legislation, thereby returning the law making function to Congress and re-establishing the separation of powers. In Global Censorship of Health Information, Emord explains that legal prohibitions on the right to communicate truthful nutrient-disease information in the market are present in every country that regulates drugs and argues for elimination of those prohibitions in favor of speech freedom and fully informed consumer choice.

Jonathan W. Emord - Wikipedia

Jonathan W Emord's deeds do his talkin'... Monte

Flannery on Evolution: Competition Leads to Cooperation

Complete video at: http://fora.tv/2011/04/25/Tim_Flannery_Here_on_Earth Paleontologist Tim Flannery states that, although evolution functions as a competitive mechanism, the mutually dependent relationships that it produces should not be taken for granted. "The mechanism is pretty nasty and brutish," he says. "The legacy -- the thing it gives rise to -- is an enormously cooperative world." ----- Tim Flannery is one of the country's leading thinkers and writers...an internationally-acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist, not to mention former Australian of the Year. Here on Earth is Flannery's first major book since The Weather Makers. In it, he takes a big-picture look at where we are as a species, and what we need to do in order to survive into the future. Flannery draws on Darwin, Wallace and Lovelock to discuss evolution, co-evolution and the issue of sustainability, in the broadest sense. And, as he tells the National Press Club, it's ultimately a message of hope. In this address, Flannery expounds on why he won't vote Labor, how London fixed its sewerage pollution problem in the 1880s, how the Chinese are ahead of the curve on major sustainable technology infrastructure, and how they helped derail the Copenhagen climate agreement. - Australian Broadcasting Corporation Tim Flannery has written such books as the definitive ecological histories of Australia (The Future Eaters) and North America (The Eternal Frontier). He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers. As a field zoologist he has discovered and named more than thirty new species of mammals (including two tree-kangaroos) and at 34 he was awarded the Edgeworth David Medal for Outstanding Research. Tim Flannery spent a year as professor of Australian studies at Harvard, where he taught in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. In Australia he is a leading member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, which reports independently to government on sustainability issues. Tim Flannery was named Australian of the Year the day before Australia Day on 25th January 2007.

Important discussion of a basic concept (philosophy) of life - "Competition Leads to Cooperation"Nature (evolution) teaches us, so much, if we observe it... Monte

U.S. Companies Press for Repatriation Holiday - NYTimes.com

Inside the Accountants' Playbook: Four strategies that American companies use to reduce their taxes.

Some of the nation’s largest corporations have amassed vast profits outside the country and are pressing Congress and the Obama administration for a tax break to bring the money home.


Apple has $12 billion waiting offshore, Google has $17 billion and Microsoft, $29 billion.

Under the proposal, known as a repatriation holiday, the federal income tax owed on such profits returned to the United States would fall to 5.25 percent for one year, from 35 percent. In the short term, the measure could generate tens of billions in tax revenues as companies transfer money that would otherwise remain abroad, and it could help ease the huge budget deficit.

Corporations and their lobbyists say the tax break could resuscitate the gasping recovery by inducing multinational corporations to inject $1 trillion or more into the economy, and they promoted the proposal as “the next stimulus” at a conference last Wednesday in Washington.

“For every billion dollars that we invest, that creates 15,000 to 20,000 jobs either directly or indirectly,” Jim Rogers, the chief of Duke Energy, said at the conference. Duke has $1.3 billion in profits overseas.

But that’s not how it worked last time. Congress and the Bush administration offered companies a similar tax incentive, in 2005, in hopes of spurring domestic hiring and investment, and 800 took advantage.

Though the tax break lured them into bringing $312 billion back to the United States, 92 percent of that money was returned to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks, according to a study by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research.

This money comes from overseas operations and in some cases accounting maneuvers that shift domestic profits to low-tax countries. The study concluded that the program “did not increase domestic investment, employment or research and development.”

Indeed, 60 percent of the benefits went to just 15 of the largest United States multinational companies — many of which laid off domestic workers, closed plants and shifted even more of their profits and resources abroad in hopes of cashing in on the next repatriation holiday.

Merck, the pharmaceutical giant based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., was one of those big winners. The company brought home $15.9 billion, second overall to Pfizer’s $37 billion. It used the money for “U.S.-based research and development spending, capital investments in U.S. plants, and salaries and wages for the U.S.,” a Merck spokesman, Steven Campanini, said last week.

According to regulatory filings, though, the company cut its work force and capital spending in this country in the three years that followed.

Merck used the cash infusion to continue paying dividends and buying back stock for the benefit of shareholders and executives — even as it was rocked by more than $8 billion in costs to settle a variety of disputes after executive missteps. Merck had to pay billions in back taxes to the I.R.S.; billions more to consumers suing because of the dangerous side effects of the painkiller Vioxx, and hundreds of millions to the Justice Department, which had accused the company of defrauding Medicare.

The tax break, part of the American Jobs Creation Act, lacked safeguards to ensure the companies used the money for investment and job creation in the United States, as Congress intended. “There were no direct tracing requirements,” said Jay B. Schwartz, head of Merck’s international tax unit until 2006. “So once the money came home, it gave you great flexibility.”

Finding Work-Arounds

Although the law forbade the use of repatriated funds directly for executive compensation or stock buybacks, companies found plenty of ways around it. “Fungibility is one of my favorite words,” Mr. Schwartz said.

As Congress was debating the tax cut in 2004, senior executives at Merck anxiously followed the battle through Congress. Some company officials were worried that the costs of the Vioxx lawsuits might top $10 billion and push the company to the brink of bankruptcy, Mr. Schwartz said. When the measure was finally signed into law by President George W. Bush in October 2004, “there was a lot of excitement, a lot of cheering,” among senior management, he said. Merck executives declined to comment.

Merck brought back $15.9 billion in October 2005. The next month, it unveiled a restructuring plan to cut 7,000 jobs. Over the next three years, about half those cuts were made in the United States, where the company’s employment fell to 28,800 jobs, from 31,500.

How big the job cuts would have been without the tax break is unknown, though Mr. Schwartz said contingency plans called for painful reductions throughout the company.

That restructuring was harsh in places like Albany, Ga., one of the nation’s poorest communities, where Merck closed its Flint River manufacturing plant and shed more than 400 workers.

“It was like going through a sudden divorce,” said Connie McKissack, now 45, who had worked at the company for a dozen years as a systems analyst.

While it is impossible to pinpoint where its repatriated dollars went, Merck devoted much more money in the next few years to closing plants and dismissing workers. For the three years that ended in 2008, those outlays jumped to $455 million annually, from $107 million in 2004. (Merck officials declined to respond to detailed questions about how the repatriated money figured into its cash flow.)

Meanwhile, the company accelerated payments on its debt, kept its dividend steady and continued to buy back more than a billion dollars a year in its own stock — cushioning the blow of immense legal costs to its shareholders and executives.

Drug companies benefited greatly from the tax break, but many companies in other industries did, too. Ford, Pepsi and Honeywell took advantage. Like Merck and Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard repatriated money, $14.5 billion, and soon after it announced it was eliminating jobs, 14,000.

The WIN America coalition, a multimillion-dollar campaign underwritten by dozens of global businesses, counters that many companies like Cisco Systems, Adobe and Qualcomm used some of the repatriated money to hire thousands of workers.

The group says another tax holiday would bring even more jobs now. Doug Thornell, an adviser to WIN America, cites a 2008 study commissioned by the corporations suggesting that it could spur 450,000 new jobs.

“This is about creating jobs, expanding U.S. businesses and strengthening American companies,” said Representative Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas, who has introduced such a bill.

Yet the author of the corporate study, Allen L. Sinai, has since cooled on the idea. His research was conducted during the financial crisis in late 2008. Then, corporations could not easily raise capital, Mr. Sinai, an economist at Decision Economics, explained in an interview last month. They were reluctant to hire workers or spend in other ways.

Rethinking the Plan

Today, credit is readily available. In fact, many of those pushing hardest for the break are sitting on billions in cash in the United States that they could use to hire if they chose.

The break would make sense, Mr. Sinai now says, only if Congress carefully restricted the proceeds to increases in domestic hiring and investment.

“Many who want this policy try to advocate it as a jobs-creation program, but that is not what I found,” he said. “What I found was that it would shore up the corporate balance sheets during the depths of the financial crisis and create some jobs. But the balance sheets are already so good that I don’t think there’s a rationale any longer that simply rebuilding the companies’ finances will lead to hiring.”

Supporters of the measure had also promoted the tax law as good for investment in plants and research. An academic study, published in the National Tax Journal last December, said companies reported investing as much as $75 billion of the money in equipment and facilities.

For Merck, it was nearly a wash. In the three years beginning with the repatriation, the company increased its spending on research and development domestically by several billion dollars, according to regulatory filings. But its capital spending actually declined in that time.

Much the same happened elsewhere, according to a review of taxpayer data by the National Bureau of Economic Research. “For every dollar that was brought back, there were zero cents used for additional capital expenditures, research and development, or hiring and employees wages,” said Kristin J. Forbes, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management who was a member of President Bush’s council of economic advisers and who led the study. A Short-Lived Boost

The break did provide the Treasury with a quick shot in the arm. When Merck brought its $15.9 billion back, it paid $731 million to the I.R.S. All told, companies brought back $312 billion in 2005 and paid $16 billion in taxes.

The numbers would presumably be much bigger now. Technology companies, in particular, have been holding more profits abroad. Companies based in the United States have increased their holdings offshore to more than $1.5 trillion, meaning the tax break could generate $50 billion in tax revenue the first year.

The budget aid could be short-lived, however. Because companies would be encouraged to bring back profits in one year, tax revenues would be smaller in future years. Furthermore, companies might park future profits offshore in hopes of another holiday. The Joint Committee on Taxation, the nonpartisan Congressional office, estimated the program’s cost at $79 billion in lost revenues over 10 years.

Supporters of the proposal say that estimate is too high and predict that the repatriation holiday would pay for itself by encouraging hiring and other economic activity. Others say it is a reasonable price for economic aid from the private sector.

The Obama administration has been uncharacteristically harsh in its criticism of the idea. President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner have said they will support it only if it is part of a corporate tax overhaul that results in no decline in federal revenues.

The prospect of profitable corporations getting a break as social programs are being cut has aroused tax protesters and labor organizations like the Service Employees International Union, which say it would reward companies for moving jobs and investment overseas.

US Uncut, a group that protests corporate tax avoidance, has criticized Apple for seeking tax breaks even as it racks up enormous growth and profits. The group has held dance-ins at Apple stores, demonstrated outside a company conference and released a video spoofing an iPod commercial, declaring “I love my iPod, but iHate the tax cheat.”

But the break could still be part of a budget compromise. With the economy languishing, unemployment high and Congressional Republicans opposed to additional stimulus, the idea has gained some unlikely allies, including some Democrats, the organization Third Way and the onetime union leader Andy Stern.

“Even if it costs the government $80 billion in the long haul, it would be worth it to try to put people to work now,” said Mr. Stern, the former president of the S.E.I.U., who suggests dedicating the tax revenue to an infrastructure bank that would support public works projects. “Having it overseas doesn’t help. And we have to do something.”

Why is it now that all the breaks have to go to the rich...?  Those who played the biggest part in creating the crises (shipping jobs and profit over seas) are now to get all the breaks...? ... Monte