Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Be Happy Now"



Amy Goodman, "We Can’t Afford War"

"We Can’t Afford War"
By Amy Goodman

“General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts,” began the MoveOn.org attack ad against Gen. David Petraeus back in 2007, after he had delivered a report to Congress on the status of the war in Iraq. George W. Bush was president, and MoveOn was accusing Petraeus of “cooking the books for the White House.” The campaign asked “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” on a full-page ad in The Washington Post. MoveOn took tremendous heat for the campaign, but stood its ground.

Three years later, Barack Obama is president, Petraeus has become his man in Afghanistan, and MoveOn pulls the critical Web content. Why? Because Bush’s first war, Afghanistan, has become Obama’s war, a quagmire. The U.S. will eventually negotiate its withdrawal from Afghanistan. The only difference between now and then will be the number of dead, on all sides, and the amount of (borrowed) money that will be spent. Petraeus’ confirmation to become the military commander in Afghanistan was never in question. He replaces Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who resigned shortly after his macho criticisms of his civilian leadership became public in a recent Rolling Stone magazine article.

The statistics for Afghanistan, Obama’s Vietnam, are surging. June, with at least 100 U.S. deaths, is the highest number reported since the invasion in 2001. 2010 is on pace to be the year with the highest U.S. fatalities. Similar fates have befallen soldiers from the other, so-called coalition countries. Petraeus is becoming commander not only of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, but of all forces, as the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is run by NATO. U.S. troops, expected to rise to 98,000 this year, far outnumber those from other nations. Public and political support in many of those countries is waning.

Journalist Michael Hastings, who wrote the Rolling Stone piece, was in Paris with McChrystal to profile him. What didn’t get as much attention was Hastings’ description of why McChrystal was there: “He’s in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies—to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany’s president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.”

The whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.org, which received international attention after releasing leaked video from a U.S. attack helicopter showing the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians and a Reuters cameraman and his driver in Baghdad, has just posted a confidential CIA memo detailing possible public relations strategies to counter waning public support for the Afghan War. The agency memo reads: “If domestic politics forces the Dutch to depart, politicians elsewhere might cite a precedent for ‘listening to the voters.’ French and German leaders have over the past two years taken steps to preempt an upsurge of opposition but their vulnerability may be higher now.”

I just returned from Toronto, covering the G-20 summit and the protests. The gathered leaders pledged, among other things, to reduce government deficits by 50 percent by 2013. In the U.S., that means cutting $800 billion, or about 20 percent of the budget. Two Nobel Prize-winning economists have weighed in with grave predictions. Joseph Stiglitz said, “There are many cases where these kinds of austerity measures have led to ... recessions into depressions.” And Paul Krugman wrote: “Who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.”

In order to make the cuts promised, Obama would have to raise taxes and cut social programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Or he could cut the war budget. I say “war budget” because it is not to be confused with a defense budget. Cities and states across the country are facing devastating budget crises. Pensions are being wiped out. Foreclosures are continuing at record levels. A true defense budget would shore up our schools, our roads, our towns, our social safety net. The U.S. House of Representatives is under pressure to pass a $33 billion Afghan War supplemental this week. We can’t afford war."

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 800 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.
•••
A lot of innocent people can't afford war, either...
End these insane wars. Bring our people home, alive.

War Insanity: "The Anatomy of An Israeli Attack on Iran"

"The Anatomy of An Israeli Attack on Iran"
By David Moon

"In mid-June, Hugh Tomlinson in the "Times of London" wrote that the government of Saudi Arabia conferred on Israel the "green light" for use of its airspace for an attack on Iran. This revelation was said to be conventional wisdom inside the Saudi military. Tomlinson also quoted an unnamed United States military source stating to the effect that the US Department of State and the Defense Department had both said "grace" over this arrangement. The Saudis and Israelis immediately denied the report, while US officials made no specific comments on the subject. The silence and denials nixed further media speculation. First reported in the Times of London in July 2009 and referred to again in Tomlinson's recent article is word of a supposed meeting between Israel's Mossad chief Meir Dagan and unnamed Saudi intelligence leaders to discuss such an arrangement that both governments denied then and now.

Given the apparent regional political status quo, how might the Israeli Air Force (IAF) strike Iran undetected on approach and at the very least unacknowledged on return if the decision is made in Jerusalem that the existential threat posed by Iran's arc of nuclear progress can no longer safely be tolerated? Although the coordination of logistics and tactics of such a long distance mission - 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) on the straight line from Tel Aviv to Iran's uranium enrichment facility in Natanz - is daunting, the strategic or political realities must be defined before all else.

Overflight of Iraq on a direct bearing to Iran is out of the question. Such a path would cause friction between the US, responsible for Iraq's aerial sovereignty, and the next Iraqi government sure to be of delicate composition. It's safe to assume that the US views stability in Iraq far higher on the national interest meter than say apartments in east Jerusalem, thus for Israel the straight line over Iraq comes at a price that it can ill afford to pay.
The likely route to Iran, beginning at regional dusk preferably in the dark a new moon, is to fly a great circle around Iraq. Only careful planning carried out with precision timing and execution will ensure success. For this route, almost every applicable IAF logistics and support asset would be utilized. The first leg for any F-15I and F-16I fighter bombers is a low-level run up the Mediterranean in the area of the Syrian town of Latakin, where up to three KC-707s (aerial tankers) in race track orbit would top up the tanks of the strike group. This tankage is absolutely necessary for the shorter-legged F-16I (range 1,300 miles). Refueling the F-15I (range 2765 miles) is desirable but not a necessity unless intelligence suggests targets beyond eastern Iran.

To skirt Turkish airspace and the ability of the Turkish military to raise an alarm heard throughout the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the strike group, with two pairs of Gulfstream G-550s (one of each outfitted as a network-centric collaborative targeting (NCCT) and one each employing Senior Suter technology) must fly low across northern Syria. The G-550 is a small package with the range the speed to accompany the strike group round trip without refueling - therefore up to the challenge.

The NCCT aircraft ferrets out air defense radars. The Suter partner beams a data stream containing, what in computer parlance is called a "worm", into air defense radars with the capability of incapacitating an entire air defense network, if such a network is under centralized control. This technology pioneered by the US Air Force and part of the code named the "Big Safari" program is heady stuff said to work wonders over Syria during the IAF's strike on Syria's North Korean-designed nuclear reactor in September 2007. The support of the G-550s will be instrumental every mile of the mission. Non-networked anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) in states hostile to Israel may necessitate F-16Is in the tried and true AGM-88 high speed anti-radiation missile (HARM) mission.

Yet another application of high technology was the launch on June 11, 2007, of Ofek-7, as noted by Richard B Gasparre, also a source on G-550s in IAF service at airforce-technology.com, is a "... reconnaissance satellite, which gives Israeli intelligence specialists site and system mapping capability of unprecedented accuracy". Ofek-7 undoubtedly contributed to strike planning for the IAF's mission to Syria.

These powerful tools will be counted on to enable the strike package to skirt either Turkish or Iraqi airspace for a short jump of 150 or so miles to reach Iranian airspace undetected. The distance on a straight line from Latakin to Tabriz in Iran is 618 miles. The flight is shorter if the Israelis avoid Turkey and cut the Kurdish corner. At a designated point over northern Iran, the strike group splits into Q and E-flights. Q-Flight flies southeast 348 miles to reach the known uranium-enrichment sites in Qom (under construction) and Natanz (operational). E-Flight homes in on the gas storage development site at Esfahan and the heavy water reactor complex at Arak on a more southerly path of 481 miles.
All the while in Iranian airspace, the G-550 Suter and NCCT aircraft work in tandem and with F-16I aircraft to suppress radars and AAA, while F-15Is designated top cover guard against any air-to-air threat put up by Iran's air force. The strike package can count on aid in the form of Popeye Turbo cruise missiles launched by at least one Israeli submarine from the Arabian Sea against targets in Iran designed to shield the Israeli planes, degrade enemy responses and sow confusion among the Iranian military.

At some point, one of the three US Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint ELINT (electronic intelligence) platforms in the area will "see" Iranian air defense radars and hear an explosion of Iranian voices on open airwaves and quickly piece together events in Iran. This collected product will be immediately passed through Central Command to Washington for dissemination to the principles of the National Security Council, including US President Barack Obama.

Seven hours earlier, at least three IAF KC-707s would have flown the 3,500 miles around the Arabian Peninsula, likely painted up like commercial 707 cargo aircraft, transiting international airspace to a meeting point over the northern Persian Gulf. At this extreme range, each KC-707 carries only an estimated 85,000 lbs of fuel to pass to the hungry F-16Is flying 451 miles from Qom and 350 miles from Esfahan. Each F-16I will require at least 5,000 lbs of jet fuel for the final leg of nearly 1,000 miles through northern Saudi Arabia then home. Thus, a hinge point in IAF planning; the Israelis must determine the mix of F-16Is and KC-707s committed to the mission.

On and over the Persian Gulf, given the presence of US Navy and Air Force AWACS platforms such as the EC-2 Hawkeye and E-3 Sentry along with SPY-1 radars of US Navy cruisers and destroyers, the Israelis can have no expectation at all that the refueling scrum of the F-16Is will go undetected. During this evolution, any IAF planes too damaged to make it home can ditch close to a US Navy ship with a reasonable expectation of rescue.

Much will depend on what the US does with the information in hand. Does Obama choose to inform Iraqi and Gulf Cooperation Council allies of the situation, or will various US radars simply go into "diagnostic mode", as if operators cannot believe what they see? If Obama's decision is to watch and listen, the strike group can try a run for home across northern Saudi Arabia. Here, the Saudis have a decision. The Saudi Air Force can defend the kingdom's airspace, possibly taking loses and handing out same, or the Israelis can bet on G-550s tricking out the kingdom's air defenses in a manner that gives the Saudis an excuse to say they were blinded by the IAF and the non-cooperation of the US.

By flying north, the IAF reaps the benefits of plausible deniability, a political necessity for US and allied Arab states. These states can honestly say they had no prior knowledge of IAF planes winging it to Iran with full racks of missiles and bombs. Another option is available to the Israelis to increase the IAF's odds of flying the northern leg undetected. This choice is to strike the "Duchy of Nasrallah" - Hezbollah under Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon - to create cover and sow confusion. If the IAF is to strike Iran, immediate blowback is to be expected from Iran-supported Hezbollah's extensive inventory of unguided missiles.

On June 18, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman and task group including the German frigate Hessen in the company of an unidentified Israeli naval vessel made a fast transit of the Suez Canal. The Egyptians not only closed the canal to all traffic, all fishing boats where docked, while the Egyptian military lined the banks of the canal. All facets of this passage rank as extraordinary. It is readily apparent that the US Department of State and the Pentagon collaborated closely with an Arab country to create a lane of fast transit not only for US Navy assets and an attached NATO ally, but for an Israeli ship.

One more element, the IDF launched their improved Ofek-9 reconnaissance satellite on June 22. Is this a matter of timing or of coincidence? Tensions are high in the region, yet little could precipitate a full diplomatic meltdown quicker than for Iran to directly challenge Israel's blockade of Gaza. And this confrontation is in no way limited to Israel and Iran. Such a provocation could easily inflame public opinion in Sunni Arab states, where leaders are weary of Tehran's grandstanding on the question of Israel. Tehran's rhetoric of threats toward Israel politically undermines Arab governments seen as less fervent on the subject.

CNN reported on June 24 on Iran's canceled designs to directly test the Gaza blockade. Hossein Sheikholeslam, secretary general of the International Conference for the Support of the Palestinian Intifada, said, "In order not to give the Zionist regime an excuse, we will send the aid through other routes and without Iran's name." Sheiholeslam's comment makes little sense, as the point of Iran's aid exercise was to win the propaganda war against Israel and Arab states. Whatever Iran's "excuse", there is reason now to suspect the Tehran regime will back down if decisively confronted by a motivated and unified coalition of area states."
- http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LG01Ak01.html
David Moon is a regular contributor from the United States.
He can be contacted at uscontributor@aol.com.

Obviously, we all can hope these madmen don't do this, but who can say?- CP

Hat tip to RealityZone for this story.

The Economy: "Deficit Terrorism" and Economic Warfare"

"'Deficit Terrorism' and Economic Warfare"
by Ellen Brown

"Wall Street banks have been saved from bankruptcy by governments that are now going bankrupt themselves; but the banks are not returning the favor. Instead, they are engaged in a class war, insisting that the squeezed middle class be even further squeezed to balance over-stressed government budgets. All the perks are going to Wall Street, while Main Street slips into debt slavery. Wall Street needs to be made to pay its fair share, but how?

The financial reform bill agreed to on June 25 may have carved out some protections for consumers, but for Goldman Sachs and the derivatives lobby, the bill was a clear win, leaving the Wall Street gambling business intact. In a June 25 Newsweek article titled “Financial Reform Makes Biggest Banks Stronger,” Michael Hirsh wrote that the bill “effectively anoints the existing banking elite. The bill makes it likely that they will be the future giants of banking as well.”

The federal government and Federal Reserve have advanced literally trillions of dollars to save the big Wall Street players, to the point where the government’s own credit rating is in jeopardy; but Wall Street has not had to pay for the cleanup. Instead, the states and the citizens have been left to pick up the tab. On June 17, Time featured an article by David von Drehle titled “Inside the Dire Financial State of the States,” reporting that most states are now facing persistent budget shortfalls of a sort not seen since the 1930s. Unlike the Wall Street banks, which can borrow at the phenomenally low fed funds rate of .2% and plow that money back into speculation, states don’t have ready access to credit lines. They have to borrow through bond issues, and many states are so close to bankruptcy that their municipal bond ratings are collapsing. Worse, states are not legally allowed to default. Unlike the federal government, which can go into debt indefinitely, states must balance their budgets; and they cannot issue their own currencies. That puts them in the same position as Greece and other debt-strapped European Union countries, which are forbidden under EU rules either to issue their own currencies or to borrow from their own central banks.

States, of course, don’t even have their own state-owned banks, with one exception - North Dakota . North Dakota is also the only state now sporting a budget surplus, and it has the lowest unemployment and mortgage delinquency rates in the country. As von Drehle observes, “It’s a swell time to be North Dakota .” But most states are dealing with serious, chronic defaults, putting them in the same debt trap as Greece : they are being forced to lay off workers, sell public assets, and look for ways to squeeze more taxes out of an already over-taxed populace. And their situation is slated to get worse, since the federal government’s stimulus package will soon be cut, along with assistance to the states.

The federal government is not only leaving the states high and dry but is threatening to impose even more taxes on their beleaguered citizens. Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve Chairman and current White House economic adviser, said in April that Congress needs to consider a Value Added Tax (VAT) – a tax on various stages of production of consumer goods. A VAT of 17.5% is now imposed in Britain , and 20% is being proposed; while some EU countries already have a VAT as high as 25%. In Europe, at least the citizens get something for their money, including federally-funded health care; but that is not likely to happen in the U.S., where even a “public option” in health care is no longer on the agenda. The VAT hits the lower and middle classes particularly hard, since they spend most of their incomes on consumables. The rich, on the other hand, put much of their money into speculative trades, and those sales are not currently taxed.

Business Cycle or Class War? Ismael Hossein-Zadehi, who teaches economics at Drake University in Iowa , calls the whole economic crisis a class war. What is being billed as public debt began as the private debt of financial speculators who offloaded it onto the public. The governments that bailed out these insolvent speculators then became insolvent themselves; but the bailed-out banks, rather than lending a helping hand in return, have demanded their pound of flesh, with payment in full. The perpetrators are blaming the victims and insisting on “fiscal responsibility.” Wall Street bankers are dictating the terms of repayment for debts they themselves incurred.

“Fiscal responsibility” means cutting spending, something that is inherently deflationary during a recession, as seen in the disastrous Depression-era policies of President Herbert Hoover. Not that it was solely a Republican error. In 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt also cut public spending, tipping the economy back into recession. Spending cuts cause tax revenues to shrink, which results in more spending cuts. Contrary to what we have been told, national governments are not like households. They do not have to balance their budgets and “live within their means,” because they have the means to increase the money supply. They not only have the means, but they must engage in public spending when the private economy is shrinking, in order to keep the wheels of the economy turning. Virtually all money now originates as bank-created credit or debt; and today the money supply has been shrinking at a rate not seen since the 1930s, because the banking crisis has made credit harder and harder to get.

Instead of “reflating” the collapsed economy, however, national governments are insisting on “fiscal responsibility;” and the responsibility is all being put on the states and the laboring and producing classes. The financial speculators who caused the debacle are largely getting off scot free. They not only pay no tax on the purchase and sale of their “financial products,” but they pay very little in the way of income taxes. Goldman Sachs paid an effective income tax rate of only 1% in 2008. Prof. Hossein-Zadehi writes: “It is increasingly becoming clear that the working majority around the world face a common enemy: an unproductive financial oligarchy that, like parasites, sucks the economic blood out of the working people, simply by trading and/or betting on claims of ownership. . . . The real question is when the working people and other victims of the unjust debt burden will grasp the gravity of this challenge, and rise to the critical task of breaking free from the shackles of debt and depression.”

Working people don’t rise to the task because they have been propagandized into believing that “fiscal austerity” is something that needs to be done in order to save their children from an even worse fate. What actually needs to happen in a deflationary collapse is to spend more money into the system, not pull it back out by paying off the federal debt; but the money needs to go into the real economy – into factories, farms, businesses, housing, transportation, sustainable energy systems, health care, education. Instead, the stimulus money has been hijacked, diverted into cleaning up the toxic balance sheets of the financial gamblers who propelled the economy into its perilous dive.

Evening Up the Score: While Congress caters to the banks, the states have been left to fend for themselves. Where is the money to come from to pull off the impossible feat of balancing their budgets? Bleeding a VAT tax out of an already-anemic working class is more likely to kill the patient than to alleviate the disease. “Unlike EU countries, where the VAT is the largest single source of tax revenue,” notes Professor Randall G. Holcombe in a recent study, “the states of the United States already tax the VAT tax base with their sales taxes.” This doubling down on the same base would not only reduce the amount of money states are able to raise, but it would seriously hinder VAT’s role as a money generator. By 2030, says Prof. Holcombe, this effect would have offset any increase in government revenue from the VAT.

A more viable and more equitable solution would be to tap into the only major market left on the planet that is not now subject to a sales tax – the “financial products” that are the stock in trade of the robust financial sector itself. A financial transaction tax on speculative trading is sometimes called a “Tobin tax,” after the man who first proposed it, Nobel laureate economist James Tobin. The revenue potential of a Tobin tax is huge. The Bank for International Settlements reported in 2008 that total annual derivatives trades were $1.14 quadrillion (a quadrillion is a thousand trillion). That figure was probably low, since over-the-counter trades are unreported and their magnitude is unknown. A mere 1% tax on $1 quadrillion in trades would generate $10 trillion annually in public funds. That is only for derivatives. There are also stocks, bonds and other financial trades to throw in the mix; and more than half of this trading occurs in the United States .

A Tobin tax would not generate these huge sums year after year, because it would largely kill the computerized high-frequency program trades that now compose 70% of stock market purchases. But that is a worthy end in itself. The sudden, thousand-point drop in the Dow Industrial Average on May 6 showed the world how vulnerable the stock market is to manipulation by these sophisticated market gamblers. The whole high-frequency trading business needs to be stopped, in order to protect legitimate investors using the stock market for the purposes for which it was designed: to raise capital for businesses. As Mark Cuban observed in a May 9 article titled “What Business Is Wall Street In?”: “Creating capital for business has to be less than 1pct of the volume on Wall Street in any given period. . . . My 2 cents is that it is important for this country to push Wall Street back to the business of creating capital for business. Whether it’s through a use of taxes on trades, or changing the capital gains tax structure so that there is no capital gains tax on any shares of stock (private or public company) held for 5 years or more, and no tax on dividends paid to shareholders who have held stock in the company for more than 5 years. However we need to do it, we need to get the smart money on Wall Street back to thinking about ways to use their capital to help start and grow companies. That is what will create jobs. That is where we will find the next big thing that will accelerate the world economy. It won’t come from traders trying to hack the financial system for a few pennies per trade.”

Besides protecting legitimate savers and investors by exempting stock held five years or more, they could be exempted from a Tobin tax on total stock purchases of under $1 million per year. That would make the tax literally a millionaire’s tax - and a small one at that, at only 1% per trade.

At the G20 summit in Toronto last weekend, a financial transaction tax was discussed and supported by France and Germany but was opposed by the U.S. and Canada , although nothing binding was resolved. However, the states do not have to wait for the federal government or the G20 to act. They could levy a Tobin tax themselves. Objection might be made that the Wall Street speculators would take their revenues and go elsewhere, but big banks and brokerages have branches in every major city in every state. They are hardly likely to pack up their tents and leave lucrative centers of business. Nor can it be argued that we should cater to the pirates who are looting our stock markets because they are paying us a nice bribe, because they aren’t even paying a bribe. Financial trades do not currently generate tax revenues.

Two Green Party candidates for governor, Laura Wells in California and Rich Whitney in Illinois, have included a state-imposed Tobin tax in their platforms. Both are also campaigning for state-owned banks in their states, on the model of the Bank of North Dakota. People around the world look to the United States for boldness and innovation, and California and Illinois are two of the hardest hit states in the nation. If those states manage to turn their economies around, they could establish a model for economic sovereignty globally."

Chief Seattle, White Feather

From Chief Seattle to the President of the United States, 1852

"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you sell them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of a pony, and man, all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each ghostly reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The waters murmur in the voice of my father's father. The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give to the river the kindness you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow Flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our Mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

One thing we know: Our God is your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with his wilderness and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children and love it, as God loves us all.

As we are a part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you. One thing we know: There is only one God. No man, be he Red Man, or White Man, can be apart. We are all brothers"
- Chief Seattle

"Native American isn't blood. It is what is in the heart. The love for the land, the respect for it, those who inhabit it, and the respect and acknowledgement of the spirits and elders. That is what it is to be Indian."
- White Feather, Navajo Medicine Man

We are all one Tribe, the Human Tribe...

"BP's Temple of Doom"

"BP's Temple of Doom"
By Alan Farago

"The electronic ether is crackling with rumors of suspected collateral damage from the BP Gulf Oil catastrophe. A Youtube video purports to show rain falling in Louisiana, streaking the earth with a Deepwater Horizon sheen of oil. In Tennessee, near the Big River, TV news reports bird deaths and damage to all kinds of plants, bearing scars of an unidentified toxin. Widespread crop damages. A leitmotif emerges, that corporate America is deliberately scuttling the ship, punching holes in its ribs below the waterline. 9/11 conspiracies have a new sibling: the Gulf Coast catastrophe. Still, I am interested in answers: could poisons in Corexit, the chemical dispersant being used by BP, be carried aloft with aromatic compounds released from the oil. Does methane convert to ozone as bloggers claim, concentrated in droplets that fall from the air like mercury in the Florida Everglades?

I read into these websites, how so many people never gave a second's thought about precaution in the matter of laws and regulations protecting public health and the environment. On the Gulf Coast, a majority of prayers are voiced by people who would rather be free than encumbered with the costs of laws and enforcement protecting God's creation. Just leave us alone, the states said to the federal government. In Louisiana, the locals danced at the Shrimpers and Oil Drillers Ball. I am not ready to say anything has changed, even with billions of dollars of industry and tourism and wetlands and wildlife sinking into the oil slick.

We are like a pack of dogs holding our snouts aloft, sensing for something we can't quite smell but intuit. Mothers won't let children on the beaches. Fathers walk away from vacation deposits on Florida condominiums. Motel lobbies, empty. The cleaning ladies go over the same surfaces with disinfectants although no one has disturbed them. We've never pierced Mother Earth before, a mile underwater; this blowout, these toxins stored in hundreds of millions of years of geologic history: how dare we unlock the Temple of Doom?

One senses through these internet rumors, a mass alarm bell has gone off. It should stop ringing. When it does, the multi-billion dollar industries based on well drilling- for oil, for natural gas, for water, to retrieve, to store, to mine and extract- will grow fatter and wiser. They will organize a swing in the pendulum; back from chaos to order. Here is the hoped-for sequence. In August, BP engineers defeat the blowout, capping the well with intricate, remote-controlled surgery. Triumph by joystick. Accolades. Sighs of relief. Here is the technology. Here are the engineers who saved us from wrack and ruin.

The narrative has legs. We accustom ourselves to oil-stained beaches that have to be cleaned up every night. At least for the time being, BP resolves the chronically unemployed and the need of volunteers to do something. We become night creatures trolling the high tide line with skimmers and shovels and filtering machines, so tourists can see what they bargained for. Suppliers of cotton waste become rich soaking up oil. A new baseline for recreation is accepted by the consumer- living with oil is what we do every day. Beyond petroleum, but now drill here and drill now.

This is in the future. Not in time for the November elections, but not far from them. The Gulf communities are still in a state of suspended animation. The Chambers of Commerce need to process that cleaning beaches is not something that only goes on twice a day, but will go on twice a day for years. If the experience of Alaska and the Exxon Valdez holds, there will be no choice but to live dirty. And dirty, we will. Mothers will scoot their kids into the water. There is no sea life, but it is still refreshing and the children will not be stopped. Gulf coast seafood restaurants will restock with more Asian farm-raised shrimp and tilapia. Machine made "crab" legs extruded from bits and pieces of trash fish. All-you-can-eat in Pensacola with clams from dirty water in the Phillipines, $10.99. New businesses will spring up, cleaning kids, pets and parents as they step from the beach. Anything is possible.

For now, tourism on the Gulf Coast is evaporating fast as organic compounds are volatilizing from the Deepwater Horizon. No one knows where they are going. Everyone is going, somewhere. Gradually, over time, the courts will intervene. BP will withdraw its subsidies, and life in the Gulf will return to this normal. Elected officials who railed against Big Oil will go to Washington or become lobbyists for Big Oil. This can all be anticipated, because it happens all the time."
Alan Farago, conservation chair of Friends of the Everglades, lives in south Florida. He can be reached at: afarago@bellsouth.net

"BP Slick Covers Dolphins and Whales.mov"



"BP Oil Disaster Claims: Not Enough Money In the World"

"BP Oil Disaster Claims:
Not Enough Money In the World"
By Agence France-Presse

"The prominent US lawyer managing BP's 20-billion-dollar oil disaster fund said Wednesday not all claimants will be paid, especially some of those seeking compensation for falling houses prices. "There's not enough money in the world to pay every single small business that claims injury no matter where or when," Kenneth Feinberg told the House of Representatives Committee on Small Business. "You've got to decide in a principled way... and work out some definition in that regard," he said, while stating his determination to "pay every eligible claim. I use that famous example of a restaurant in Boston that says, 'I can't get shrimp from Louisiana, and my menu suffers and my business is off.'" Well, no law is going to recognize that claim."

In another example, Feinberg said the fund was not meant to pay out to all home owners whose properties had declined in value. "There's no question that the property value has diminished as a result of the spill. That doesn't mean that every property is entitled to compensation," he said, adding: "There's not enough money in the world to pay everybody who'd like to have money."

Feinberg, who also headed a compensation fund for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, was tapped by President Barack Obama to administer the 20-billion-dollar fund established by BP earlier this month. He assured lawmakers it would be "totally independent" and said BP "has agreed to supplement this escrow fund as needed to assure full and fair compensation to all individuals and businesses that are found to be eligible for payment. I'm inclined to begin with the same analysis I did in 9/11," added the leading attorney, who plans to set up procedures for paying claims in the coming weeks."

The Daily "Near You?"

South Dennis, Massachusetts, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

Human Interest: "The Psychology of Affairs in Today's Culture"

"The Psychology of Affairs in Today's Culture"
by Douglas LaBier
This will not end well...

"Have affairs become part of the "new normal?" It sure looks that way: Hardly a day goes by without learning that a politician, celebrity - or someone you personally know - has been having an affair. And Ashley Madison, the internet site for people seeking affairs, has gone mainstream with TV advertisements and $25 million offer to buy naming rights to the new Meadowlands stadium.

Of course the public always enjoys being titillated with stories of public figures' affairs, especially when hypocrisy is exposed. But cultural attitudes have clearly shifted towards greater acceptance of affairs, and being open to them. Reflecting on that brought to mind George, who had consulted me about how to deal with the "logistics" his new affair had created. "She was standing off by herself during a conference break, leaning against a wall, sipping coffee," George said. "As I walked by, our eyes met and I felt a sudden jolt - a rush of energy, real connection. Suddenly we found ourselves talking, feeling like we had known each other for years." The affair "just "happened," he added, casually.

That's a common explanation I hear these days. Another one - sounding a bit more "strategic" - came from Jan, a 41 year-old lawyer. She called her affair a "marriage stabilizer....safe and discreet, a perfect solution for me." She decided it was a rational alternative to the disruption of divorce.

People increasingly view an affair as a life-style choice; an option for men and women yearning for excitement or intimacy that's lacking or has dulled during their marriage. Given that new reality, it's worth understanding the psychology of affairs - their meaning and their consequences - from a non-judgmental perspective. I find six different kinds of affairs in today's culture. Learning what they are can help people deal with them with greater awareness and responsibility. Here they are:

The "It's-Only-Lust" Affair: The most common, it's mostly about sex. It can feel really intense, but it's also the quickest to flame out. John and Kim met through work, and felt a strong physical attraction. John was separated; Kim, married. They felt powerless to resist the pull. "It was inevitable. We ended up in bed, as well as a lot of other places! It was wonderful," John added, with a big grin. The liberating and compelling feeling from this kind of affair, though, can mask hidden emotional conflicts.

An example is the person who's able to feel sexually alive and free only in a secret relationship, hidden from the imagined hovering, inhibiting eye of one's parent - which the person may experience unconsciously with his or her spouse. The lust affair is often short-lived, and passion can slide downhill pretty fast as the excitement declines or underground emotional issues surface again. It can also fade if the lovers discover that there wasn't much connecting them beyond sex. As John later told me, "As great as the sex was, we didn't really have much to say to each other. Eventually, that became a turn-off."

The "I'll-Show-You" Affair: Rachel began realizing the depth of her anger and resentment towards her husband after years of an unhappy marriage. She had long felt unaffirmed, ignored, and disregarded by him. His adamant refusal to go to couples therapy pushed her into acting upon her anger. Rachel told me that a previous therapy had helped her recognize her collusion in becoming so subordinate in the marriage. But she couldn't create a solution, nor figure out how to deal with her desire for revenge. She knew that "getting back" at her husband wasn't going to produce empowerment or healing, but nevertheless began a disastrous affair. She subsequently discovered that the man was only interested in a narcissistic conquest, and he quickly dumped her. Eventually, she realized that beneath her anger was a desire for a man who would really recognize her, who could "see" her, as her father never did. But before that awakening occurred, she suffered, and she still had to deal with the reality of her marriage and how to heal her own trauma.

The "Just-In-The-Head" Affair: Can you call it an affair if the "lovers" don't have sex? Consider Paul and Linda. They became very close working together on a volunteer project. Paul was married, and Linda was divorced but living with a boyfriend. They found they had much in common - a similar outlook on life and a spiritual compatibility as well. They enjoyed talking and looking forward to time together. They spoke on the phone frequently and lingered around afterward working on the project. Soon they realized that a very intimate and emotionally close bond had developed. It definitely felt like much more than just a friendship.

So why didn't they have sex? Linda, who was my patient, said that neither of them wanted to disrupt or leave their primary relationship, or "mess it up." So, they chose to keep it platonic. That level of intimacy and intensity makes it an affair of the mind, if not the body; it's more than just a friendship. I find that people in this kind of affair find something in each other that's lacking in their "real" relationship, and they're not dealing with that. Aside from the challenge of remaining on the chaste side of the sexual borderline, such "lovers" must hope that their primary partners continue to believe they're telling the truth. And there's a risk that what they're not finding in their primary relation-ship will become increasingly disruptive to it.

The "All-In-The-Family" Affair: Bill thought this was fail-safe, because no one would suspect. He and his wife's sister finally had sex after years of mutual, erotic teasing. Suddenly they were in the midst of an affair that neither wanted to end. They thought they could keep it secret; that neither would make any demands on the other and it would be perfectly safe. If you think that was naive, it was. Most "family" affairs are interwoven with family dysfunctions and buried resentments. Neither Bill nor Tina, his sister-in-law, looked seriously at the issues in their respective marriages or inter-locked families; or even how dangerous it was. Postscript: One of their spouses eventually discovered the incriminating e-mails, and the family affair quickly turned into a family nightmare.

The "It's-Not-Really-An-Affair" Affair: We humans are experts at creating illusions for ourselves. In this affair one party is available but the other isn't. The available part-ner believes that the other really will leave his or her spouse, given enough time and patience. Jane, divorced for several years, began seeing a married man. She told me vehemently, "It's not an affair! It's a relationship!" But that takes two equally available and committed people. I've seen many women and women over the years (though it's usually women caught in this trap) who truly believe their lovers will leave their spouses. Ninety percent of the time it never happens. Jane eventually realized that her lover never had any intention of leaving. In fact, he had had multiple affairs throughout his marriage.

The "Mind-Body"Affair: Here's the most dangerous one of all for the lovers' existing relationships. It's so powerful because it feels so complete - emotionally, sexually, intellectually, spiritually. Matt and Ellen, who consulted me as a couple, met through a parents' function at their children's school. Right away, they felt a strong, mutual connection. "If I believed in reincarnation," Matt told me, "I would say that we were together in a former life. We feel like 'soul-mates.'" "I never thought a relationship could feel like this," said Ellen.

The "mind-body" affair is highly threatening to a marriage because it feels so "right." Of course, the couple may try to end it or turn it into a "just-in-the-head" affair, but that rarely works. Of all the different affairs, I've found that this kind most frequently leads to divorce and remarriage. The upside is that the new relationship often proves to be the right match for the couple. Nevertheless, it generates all the mixed consequences that all affairs produce, especially when children are involved.

Learning From Affairs: You might assume that you can isolate your affair from the rest of your life. Or, you might not give much thought to its consequences. Both are mistakes. If you're contemplating an affair or in the midst of one, consider the following:

• Some affairs are psychologically healthy. That right. An affair can help leverage you out of a destructive or deadened relationship that's beyond the point of renewal. The positive feelings of affirmation and restored vitality generated by an affair can activate the courage to leave a marriage when doing so is healthiest decision for both yourself and your partner. I've seen both men and women become psychologically healthier through an affair. It springboarded them into greater emotional honesty and mature action. Of course, you have to be honest with yourself, here, and not rationalize yourself into having the affair while postponing necessary action.

• An affair can help renew your relationship with your existing partner. An affair can spur you to confront what you really want from your existing partner and motivate you to try creating it. Larry, a journalist, had an affair for nearly four years. After an argument with his lover one day, he realized he was beginning to feel much of the same irritation and sexual boredom that he felt towards his wife. "This is pretty screwed-up," he said to me. "I've got to do something." As he examined what he really wanted and valued he recognized his own role in evading long-standing conflicts in his marriage. He saw that he wanted to experience what he did during the affair... but with his wife. "I want my wife and lover to be the same person," he said. Larry began to confront, with his wife's participation, the real problems in their relationship and the steps it would take to rebuild it.

• There's always a reason for beginning an affair, and it relates to some issue in your existing relationship. It's far better to face and resolve that first. You don't just "find" yourself having an affair, or "end up" in bed with someone. It's your choice, but it can be beautifully rationalized. So take a look at what's missing or unfulfilling in your relationship, why that is, and whether you can - or even want to - do something about it. It's preferable to try renewing your relationship, or end it with mutual respect.

By acknowledging that an affair means you're living a lie in some form, you have a greater chance to deal with the emotional and practical consequences of the affair in a healthier way. And there are plenty of consequences - for yourself, your children, your existing relationship. But if you fool yourself about the reasons for your affair and what it may set in motion, you can squander irreplaceable years, trapped within illusions and rationalizations. When it all comes crashing down, loneliness and emptiness may be all that remains. That's why I advocate awareness at the outset: You can become more conscious of your actions, and use that awareness to deal maturely with their consequences. Or yes, you can remain unconscious... but then you still have to deal with the consequences!"

Barbara Hall

"You're alive. Do something.
The directive in life, the moral imperative was so uncomplicated.
It could be expressed in single words, not complete sentences.
It sounded like this: Look. Listen. Choose. Act."

- Barbara Hall

"What is In Lak'ech Ala K'in?"

"What Is In Lak'ech Ala K'in?"
by Aluna Joy Yaxkin

"In Mayan tradition, there is a greeting that many people working with Mayan wisdom know of. It is the law of In Lak'ech Ala K'in, which means I am another yourself (A modern day interpretation). It also means I am you, and you are me (A traditional Mayan interpretation). We have come to understand that this Mayan greeting is an honoring for each other. It is a statement of unity and oneness. In Lak'ech Ala K'in mirrors the same sentiment of other beautiful greetings such as Namaste for East India, Wiracocha for the Inca, and Mitakuye Oyasin for the Lakota. It doesn't matter which culture you come from. But when one of these sacred greetings is given, there is always an action of placing the hands over the heart.

The more I walk the Mayan path, the more I understand the depth that In Lak'ech Ala K'in teaches. This greeting has become more than a simple, honorable Maya greeting. It has evolved into a moral code, and a way to create a positive reality for all life. As we near 2012 with all its doom and gloom prophecies, we have a moral obligation to Spirit to live the code of In Lak'ech Ala K'in

It is common knowledge these days that every action we take in our lives affects all living things. We understand that if we act negatively, our actions impact all life negatively. When we act positively, we affect all life in a positive manner. When we live the Mayan code of In Lak'ech Ala K'in, we know that every action we take is out of respect for all life, and we are living and giving from our hearts.

We can give our hearts in a positive manner every day by saying In Lak'ech Ala K'in to each other, to the trees, to the sky, to the birds, and to the stars. You can greet each sunrise by saying In Lak'ech Ala K'in. Each and every day we have together is sacred, so acknowledge this day by giving it your heart. Remember when you give in this way, you are also giving to yourself! You are not giving your energy away to something separate from yourself. You are giving to another part of yourself!

I understand the challenges in staying positive in these days where the energy is so compressed that we can hardly breathe, but there is one simple exercise that can turn it all around for us. Each day, simply walk in gratefulness. We can say In Lak'ech Ala K'in to that which gives us life everyday, and that is the heart of the Great Spirit. Instead of solely taking from the Great Spirit by asking for insight and direction, give back your heart, love, and appreciation. You will be amazed at the results. If we open our hearts and send gratitude, it opens all doors that were previously closed to us. Remember you are a part of Great Spirit! When you give to Great Spirit you are giving to yourself.

We can practice In Lak'ech Ala K'in tirelessly, because when and what we give to others is giving energy to ourselves. When we give, we receive. So how do we know if we giving right? It is really simple. When we are energized by our giving, we know we are giving from our hearts and from the code of In Lak'ech Ala K'in. If we feel drained or exhausted, it is possible that we gave out of fear, lack, obligation, ego, or a need to be accepted or liked. The more one practices In Lak'ech Ala K'in, the clearer we will become about our motivations regarding our actions, and the more we will receive. Remember . . . what goes around comes around exactly the way it was sent out. If you don't like what life is sending to you, look at what you are sending out to life.

When we begin to live and practice In Lak'ech Ala K'in, a lot of our old ways of doing things will no longer work for us. For instance, we cannot act like victims anymore, and we cannot live out of fear either. We find ourselves no longer preparing for disaster; instead we anticipate a glorious future. It is time for us to rewrite the prophecies. They have become obsolete. The past will become just a bad dream, and the future will become a beautiful vision of which we will create right now.

When we practice In Lak'ech Ala K'in, we quit being neutral in our world, because we understand that Spirit works with those that take action. We begin to take action by adding to the positive experience of this dimension. So what kind of world do you want? Don't just stand there waiting for the world to appear in front of you. Spirit helps those who help themselves. It is up to us.

When we practice the moral code of In Lak'ech Ala K'in, we are producing and sending positive and vital energy that can literally transform our troubled world into Paradise. When we live from In Lak'ech Ala K'in, we are putting to use our natural ability to create our reality. We are affecting the collective consciousness of humanity in a positive way. The Cosmic Maya, also known as the "Star Elders" or "Invisible Council", understood this natural power to create their reality. Their sacred calendars mapped the natural laws of the universe. Now it is our turn to come to this understanding. It is time for us to walk as the Star Elders did so many years ago. The time has come for us to change the world.

The more humanity begins to live In Lak'ech Ala K'in, the less we will think in terms of our separateness. There can be no competition, jealousy or envy between us, because we are pieces of each other. We can share and help each other with our connections, ideas and resources without fear that there will not be enough to go around. When we live the reality of unity, abundance and wholeness, there will be unity, abundance and wholeness! The more of us that participate in the creation of a better world, the quicker it will arrive. We will have peace, love, harmony and unity, and will finally have arrived home."
- http://www.kachina.net/~alunajoy/2007nov.html

Center of the SUN - Aluna Joy Yaxk'in
Webpage: www.AlunaJoy.com E-mail:aluna@alunajoy.com.

"How It Really Is in Arizona, California, Texas, and on and on...

Will Rogers



"I don't make jokes.
I just watch the government and report the facts."
- Will Rogers

The Economy: "The Three Biggest Lies About the Economy"

"The Three Biggest Lies About the Economy"
by Brett Arends

"The G-20 calls for members to slash their budget deficits. The U.S. Senate ices further aid for the unemployed. The head of the Business Roundtable slams President Obama for undermining American capitalism. Wall Street succeeds in watering down reform. Depending on your politics, you'll love this or hate it. But there's just one problem. We're still living in a fantasyland. Most people have no idea what's really going on in the economy. They're living on spin, myths and downright lies. And if we don't know the facts, how can we make intelligent decisions? Economists worry that jobs, consumer confidence readings won't support hope for economic recovery, Barrons.com's Bob O'Brien reports. Here are the three biggest economic myths - the things everything thinks they know about the economy that just ain't so.

Myth 1: Unemployment is below 10%. What nonsense that is. The official jobless rate, at 9.7%, is a fiction and should be treated as such. It doesn't even count lots of unemployed people. The so-called "underemployment" or U-6 rate is an improvement: For example it counts discouraged job seekers, and those forced to work part-time because they can't get a full-time job. That rate right now is 16.6%, just below its recent high and twice the level it was a few years ago And even that may not tell the full story. Many people have simply dropped out of the labor force statistics.

Consider, for example, the situation among men of prime working age. An analysis of data at the U.S. Labor Department shows that there are 79 million men in America between the ages of 25 and 65. And nearly 18 million of them, or 22%, are out of work completely. (The rate in the 1950s was less than 10%.) And that doesn't even count those who are working part-time because they can't get full-time work. Add those to the mix and about one in four men of prime working age lacks a full-time job. Dean Baker, economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., says the numbers may be even worse than that. His research suggests a growing number of men, especially in deprived, urban and minority neighborhoods, have vanished from the statistical rolls altogether.

Myth 2: The markets are panicking about the deficit. To hear the G-20 tell it, the U.S. and other top countries had better slash those budget deficits before the world comes to an end. And maybe the markets should be panicking about the deficits. But they're not. It's that simple. If they were, the interest rate on government bonds would be skyrocketing. That's what happens with risky debt: Lenders demand higher and higher interest payments to compensate them for the dangers. But the rates on U.S. bonds have been plummeting recently. The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond down to just 4%. By historic standards that's chickenfeed. Panicked? The bond markets are practically snoring.

They aren't seeing inflation either. On the contrary, they're saying it will average just 2.3% a year over the next three decades. That's the gap between the interest rates on inflation-protected Treasury bonds and the rates on the regular bonds. By any modern standard the forecast is low. Instead of worrying about inflation, some are starting to worry about something even more dangerous: deflation, or falling prices. If that takes hold, cutting spending and raising taxes would be a bad move.

It's certainly possible the lenders buying these bonds are being foolish. And it's worth noting that the Treasury market is also subject to political distortions, because foreign are among the heavy buyers of bonds. So it's worth treating its apparent verdicts with some caution. Nonetheless, the burden of proof, as usual, is on those who argue the market is wrong.

Myth 3: The U.S. is sliding into "socialism." For a system allegedly being strangled in its bed, U.S. capitalism seems to be in astonishingly robust shape. Numbers published by the Federal Reserve a few weeks ago show that corporate profit margins have just hit record levels. Indeed. Andrew Smithers, the well-regarded financial consultant and author of "Wall Street Revalued," calculates from the Fed's latest Flow of Funds report that corporate profit margins rocketed to 36% in the first quarter. Since records began in 1947 they have never been this high. The highest they got under Ronald Reagan was 30%.

The picture is also similar when you exclude financials. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA 9,881, +10.21, +0.10%) is above 10,000. Small company stocks have rallied astonishingly since early last year: The Russell 2000 index is back to levels seen not long before Lehman imploded. Meanwhile Cap Gemini's latest Wealth Report notes that the North American rich saw an 18% jump in their wealth last year. Meanwhile, federal spending, about 25% of the economy this year, is expected to fall to about 23% by 2013. In 1983, under Ronald Reagan, it hit 23.5%. In the early 1990s it was around 22%. Some socialism.

These days, three-fifths of the entire budget goes on just three things: Insurance for our old age (through Social Security and Medicare), defense, and debt interest. Conservatives don't want to cut the $700 billion-plus we spend on defense. We can't cut debt interest payments. And while Social Security and Medicare certainly need reform, the main "problems" are simply rising life expectancy and health care demands. If we didn't provide for the insurance through our taxes we'd have to do it individually.

What about the rest of the budget? It's jumped from around 7% of GDP a few years ago to about 10% now. Out of control? It's been in the 6% to 9% range for decades. It's forecast to fall to about 8% again in a few years. So much for a revolution. But here comes the counter-revolution just the same."

The Economy: "For the Baby Busters, It's Downsize or Die"

"For the Baby Busters, It's Downsize or Die"
by Richard Benson

"Living realistically is not something anyone wants to do in an election year, and it may be especially difficult for the Baby Boomer generation to grasp, along with their children. Over the last two decades as wages swelled, and job prospects were unlimited, the Baby Boomers became accustomed to living well beyond their means. Moreover, if money wasn’t coming in fast enough, there was either a stock market or housing bubble to tap into to keep spending alive. Even condominium buildings were built and given names with this in mind.

A high-rise condominium completed around 2005 in Boca Raton, Florida, was named “Luxuria.” Models are lavishly decorated with names like “Milano” and “Toscana.” The project back then was marketed as “a gem and one of the most spectacular preconstruction projects in Florida.” One ad even claimed it would be “an exceptional privilege” to live there. The last time I drove by the “Models Open” signs were flapping in the wind, many units remained unsold, and prices were slashed (still extraordinarily expensive) with no buyers in sight. My research also indicates that well over one-half of the units are still owned by the developer.

American Boomers thought that the future would always bail them out, but the future is here and the house is upside down, the credit cards are maxed out, and job stability has vanished. The prosperity they thought they had achieved was only a fantasy and the Boomers have now become the Baby Busters.

When you actually sit down and examine the cost of living these days, the nickels and dimes can add up real fast. After paying for food, phone, cable, electricity, newspapers, maintenance, gas, taxes, and insurance, most of us are left with only pennies. Also, a healthy lifestyle – gym memberships, organic fresh fruits and vegetables – is beyond reach for many creating a frustrated society where diabetes is fast becoming a pediatric disease. It’s no wonder fast food restaurants continue to thrive as they cater to the masses; they’re inexpensive for sure, but the food can make you obese and send you to the emergency room.

Surprisingly, the Boomers remain in denial and disbelief that the party is over, but perhaps not for long. How can they vacation in Europe or buy that house in the Hamptons when their utility bills and property taxes are eating them alive, as they search for work? Evidence suggests that the behavior of the Baby Busters may be evolving from being frozen like a deer in the headlights, to slow capitulation of letting go of the old lifestyle. Slowly, the second and third home that can’t be rented out is being sold or simply abandoned because it’s underwater. The first home, a huge McMansion, is being swapped for a more affordable place one-third its size. Not even the very rich can afford to heat or air-condition a place the size of a small hotel, and the Baby Busters are realizing they desperately need to be saving for retirement rather than spending into oblivion.

As my wife and I watch these events unfold before our eyes, we both feel fortunate not to have fed into the frenzy. We never really upsized, perhaps because of our upbringing, but our parents had common sense and a strong work ethic which fortunately rubbed off. More likely, though, it’s because my wife and I both lived for decades in Manhattan where the cost of living is extraordinarily high. An average two-bedroom 2-bath apartment there could cost a whopping $1.5 million or more, without a great view. This price point is way beyond the cost of a modest apartment of the same size on the island of Palm Beach, yet we get free parking, a stunning view, and a swimming pool. By focusing on keeping the monthly expense “nut” down and having the old-fashioned attitude that if you can’t buy it for cash, you shouldn’t buy it at all, we’ve discovered that, by luck, we managed to downsize by never really upsizing to begin with!

But time is not on our side. Some Baby Busters only have a few years left to provide for retirement. Others might have as much as ten years, which can pass in the blink of an eye. If a Boomer wants to avoid becoming a Buster (living on cheese wiz and saltines) they’ll need to do the following: First, cut back by living within their means and stop incurring debt; Second, a safe retirement is unattainable when there is debt so you’ll need to cut back even more to pare down that debt; and, Third, you’ll need to save. Saving is not easy in a zero interest rate environment but you’ll need to save even more because the Fed wants savers to get nothing! Worse yet, counting on winning at the stock market casino is not a plan for the average saver, just a surefire way to make the owners of the casino (Goldman Sachs) rich. So, downsize, pay down debt, and tighten the belt again to save before it’s too late!

For far too many Baby Busters living frugally is like being held in purgatory, living without easy credit feels like an excruciatingly slow death, and saving money, while paying back debt, is a living hell. For lack of a better word, my wife and I were “lucky” to have survived the turmoil of our generation. As my wife politely reminds me from time to time, “it’s nice to live in heaven before you die”, but the joke is if we had upsized in the ‘90s like most Boomers, today we would be having a hell of a time."

Ralph Nader


"The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is
the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations
knock on their door. That's the only difference."
- Ralph Nader

BP Gulf Oil Disaster: "Dept. of Energy Statement"

"Department of Energy: Segments of Drill Pipe Were
Violently Ejected Upwards Into the Blowout Preventer"
by Washington's Blog

Correction: Oil industry experts have pointed out that drill pipes are not the same as segments of well casing. I apologize for the error.

"Oil industry expert Matt Simmons has said for many weeks that the well casing was destroyed by the initial explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig. He said that when oil wells blow out, the casing often shoots up above ground. He has been ridiculed by many because no one has seen well casing on the seafloor. But the Department of Energy has just partly exonerated Simmons. As the Los Angeles Times notes today: "A team of scientists from the Energy Department discovered a new twist: Their sophisticated imaging equipment detected not one but two drill pipes, side by side, inside the wreckage of the well's blowout preventer on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

BP officials said it was impossible. The Deepwater Horizon rig, which drilled the well, used a single pipe, connected in segments, to bore 13,000 feet below the ocean floor. But when workers cut into the wreckage to install a containment cap this month, sure enough, they found two pipes. The discovery suggested that the force of the erupting petroleum from BP's well on April 20 was so violent that it sent pipe segments hurtling into the blowout preventer, like derailing freight cars.

It also offered a tantalizing theory for the failure of the well's last line of defense, the powerful pinchers called shear rams inside the blowout preventer that should have cut the pipe and stopped the rising oil and gas from reaching the Deepwater Horizon 5,000 feet above. Drilling experts say those rams, believed to be partially deployed, could have been thwarted by the presence of a second pipe. The doubled-up drill pipe joins a list of clues that is helping scientists understand the complexities of the Deepwater Horizon accident, and from that, craft changes in how deep-water drilling is conducted."

"We still don't really know what's in" the well wreckage, said Energy Secretary Steven Chu, whose team discovered the second pipe using gamma-ray imaging. He added: "If there were two drill pipes down there when the shear rams closed, or two drill pipes below, is it possible that in the initial accident … there was an explosive release of force?…Did it buckle and snap?…The more we know about this, the better we can know what to do next." In other words, the explosion apparently did cause portions of the well casing to shoot upward. But the upward thrust of the destroyed segment of casing was stopped by the blowout preventer. (Simmons' theory that the wellhead had ended up several miles from the drilling location might not be correct, and the theory that casing got jammed into the blowout preventer might, instead, be the correct one).

As I wrote on June 12th: As noted yesterday in The Engineer magazine, an official from Cameron International - the manufacturer of the blowout preventer for BP's leaking oil drilling operation - noted that one cause of the failure of the BOP could have been damage to the well bore: "Steel casing or casing hanger could have been ejected from the well and blocked the operation of the rams. This could, in fact, be part of what caused the blowout preventer to fail (although it does not absolve BP of criminal negligence)."

As I have repeatedly pointed out, substantial destruction of the well casing could cause the relief wells to fail. Indeed, the New York Times reported yesterday: "BP and government officials are now talking about a long-term containment plan to pump the oil to an existing platform should the relief well effort fail. While such a failure is considered highly unlikely, the contingency plan is the latest sign that with this most vexing of engineering challenges — snuffing a gusher 5,000 feet down in the gulf — nothing is a sure thing. Experts said it was conceivable that the “kill” procedure would not be effective, particularly if only a single relief well was used and the bottom of the well bore was damaged in the initial blowout. Pumping large quantities of erosive mud into the well could even end up damaging the well further, hindering later efforts to seal it. “I won’t say there haven’t been relief wells that haven’t worked,” said a technician involved in the effort. There are questions about the damaged well’s condition, particularly near the point where the interception would take place, and whether it could affect the kill procedure. “No human being alive can know the answers,” said the technician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the work."

1 COMMENTS: NightBlogger said... The Department of Energy DID NOT say segments of "oil well casing were violently ejected upwards into the blowout preventer". Their imaging equipment detected two drill pipes, side by side, inside the wreckage of the well's blowout preventer. "The discovery suggested that the force of the erupting petroleum from BP's well on April 20 was so violent that it sent pipe segments hurtling into the blowout preventer, like derailing freight cars." You're confusing "well casing" with "drill pipe".

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Calvin


"Know what's weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change,
but pretty soon... everything's different."
- Calvin, from "Calvin and Hobbes"

"The Well from Hell", Live Video Feeds, "By the Numbers,"

"Reaching Too Far, Delving Too Deep: The Well from Hell"
by Christian A. DeHaemer

"The Dwarves dug too greedily and too deep.
You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum...
shadow and flame."

- Saruman, "The Lord of the Rings"

"There is something primordial about BP's quest for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. It's an Icarus-like story of super-ambition; of reaching too far, delving too deep. I don't know if you've stopped to contemplate what BP was trying to do. The well itself started 5,000 feet below the surface. That's the depth of the Grand Canyon from the rim. And then the company attempted to drill more than 30,000 feet below that - Mt. Everest would give 972 feet to spare. Furthermore, the company sought oil in a dangerous area of the seabed. It was unstable and many think BP sought it out because seismic data showed huge pools of methane gas - the very gas that blew the top off Deepwater Horizon and killed 11 people.

More than a year ago, geologists criticized Transocean for putting their exploratory rig directly over a massive underground reservoir of methane. According to the New York Times , BP's internal "documents show that in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig, BP was struggling with a loss of 'well control.' And as far back as 11 months ago, it was concerned about the well casing and the blowout preventer.” The problem is that this methane, located deep in the bowels of the earth, is under tremendous pressure. Some speculate as much as 100,000 psi — far too much for current technology to contain. The shutoff vales and safety measures were built for only 1,000 psi. It was an accident waiting to happen, and there are many that say it could get worse - much worse. Geologists are pointing to other fissures and cracks that are appearing on the ocean floor around the damaged wellhead.

According to CNN: "The University of South Florida recently discovered a second oil plume in the northeastern Gulf. The first plume was found by Mississippi universities in early May." And there have been other plumes discovered by submersibles. Some geologists say that BP's arrogance has set off a series of events that may be irreversible. There are some that think that BP has drilled into an deep-core oil volcano that cannot be stopped, regardless of the horizontal drills the company claims will stop the oil plume in August. Geologist, Chris Landau, for instance, has called for a showing of the mudlogs. A mudlog is a schematic cross sectional drawing of the lithology (rock type) of the well that has been bored. So far, no one has seen them- BP keeps them hidden.

Mr. Landau claims: "It is a dangerous game drilling into high pressure oil and gas zones because you risk having a blowout if your mud weight is not heavy enough. If you weight up your mud with barium sulfate to a very high level, you risk BLOWING OUT THE FORMATION."

What does that mean? It means you crack the rock deep underground; as the mudweight is now denser than the rock, it escapes into the rock in the pore spaces and the fractures. The well empties of mud. If you have not hit high pressure oil or gas at this stage, you are lucky. But if you have, the oil and gas come flying up the well and you have a blowout, because you have no mud in the well to suppress the oil and gas. You shut down the well with the blowout preventer. If you do not have a blowout preventer, you are in trouble as we have all seen and you can only hope that the oil and gas pressure will naturally fall off with time, otherwise you have to try and put a new blowout preventer in place with oil and gas coming out as you work.

Obviously, the oil and gas pressure hasn't fallen off. In fact, it's increased. The problem is that BP may not only have hit the mother of high-pressure wells, but there is also a vast amount of methane down there that could come exploding out like an underwater volcano.

I recently heard a recording of Richard Hoagland who was interviewed on Coast to Coast AM. Mr. Hoagland has suggested that there are cracks in the ocean floor, and that pressure at the base of the wellhead is approximately 100,000 psi. Furthermore, geologists believe there are another 4-5 cracks or fissions in the well. Upon using a GPS and Depth finder system, experts have discovered a large gas bubble, 15-20 miles across and tens of feet high, under the ocean floor. These bubbles are common. Many believe they have caused the sinking of ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle. That said, a bubble this large - if able to escape from under the ocean floor through a crack - would cause a gas explosion that Mr. Hoagland likens to Mt. St. Helens, only under water.

The BP well is 50 miles from Louisiana. Its release would send a toxic cloud over populated areas. The explosion would also sink any ships and oil structures in the vicinity and create a tsunami which would head toward Florida at 600 mph. Now, many people have called Hoagland a fringe thinker and a conspiracy theorist. And they may be right... But that doesn't mean he isn't on to something. The escape of other poison gases associated with an underground methane bubble (such as hydrogen sulfide, benzene, and methylene chloride) have been found. Last Thursday, the EPA measured hydrogen sulfide at 1,000 parts per billion - well above the normal 5 to 10 ppb. Some benzene levels were measured near the Gulf of Mexico in the range of 3,000 - 4,000 ppb - up from the normal 0-4 ppb.

The Oil Drum, an industry sheet, recently ran an article about the sequence of events that tried to stop the oil spill. The upshot of industry insiders was that after trying a number of ways to close off the leak, the well was compromised, creating other leaks due to the high pressure. BP then cut the well open and tried to capture the oil. In other words: BP shifted from stopping the gusher to opening it up and catching what oil it could. The only reason sane oil men would do this is if they wanted to relieve pressure at the leak hidden down below the seabed. And that sort of leak- known as a “down hole” leak- is one of the most dangerous kind.

No stopping it. It means that BP can't stop if from above; it can only relieve the pressure. So, more oil is leaking out while BP hopes it can drill new wells before the current one completely erodes. BP is in a race against time. It just won't admit this fact. According to the Oil Drum: "There are abrasives still present, a swirling flow will create hot spots of wear and this erosion is relentless and will always be present until eventually it wears away enough material to break it's way out. It will slowly eat the bop away especially at the now pinched off riser head and it will flow more and more. Perhaps BP can outrun or keep up with that out flow with various suckage methods for a period of time, but eventually the well will win that race, just how long that race will be?" No one really knows. Which leads us back to Mr. Landau's point about the mudlogs and why BP won't release them. I don't know. Maybe I'm wearing my tinfoil hat too tight this morning. But this stuff seems possible - if it's only a worst case scenario.

What strikes me as odd is the way the leadership of BP and the Obama administration is acting. BP is running around apologizing to everyone they can find. Obama says give us $20 billion in escrow and $100 million for the people Obama put out of work on the oil rigs due to his six month ban — and BP says, "Sure thing mate, no problem." And all of this in a 20-minute meeting? I've been dealing with oil companies for a long time and it just doesn't add up. Contrast it, for instance, with the Exxon situation in Alaska or the Union Carbide disaster in India. Exxon fought tooth and nail for its shareholders; it appealed court rulings for 19 years. Union Carbide wasn't settled for 25 years. BP is rolling over like a simpering dog. Why? The only reason I can think of is that the company knows- better if not as well as the Obama administration does- that it will get worse. Much worse."
Christian DeHaemer is the Editor of Energy and Capital.
•••
Gulf of Mexico Live Feeds:
"The camera feeds are from the remote operated vehicles (ROV) working on the sea floor. (The feeds use Windows Media Player). The feeds may take a moment to load and go on and off. If all the screens are black, BP may be resetting. We'll keep the panel up as long as they indicate the links are available. Live feed of all eleven cameras on the ocean floor:
- http://climate.the-environmentalist.org/2010/06/live-video-feeds-of-gulf-oil-disaster.html

From the Huffington Post:
A 378 picture slide show and two BP oil spill live feeds are shown:
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/26/bp-oil-spill-live-feed-vi_n_590635.html

CNN: No embedding, please click link for live feed: http://live.cnn.com/
•••
By the Numbers, 6/29/10:
BP is lying through their teeth about how much oil has been vented, as well as about cleanup efforts and the amount of dispersant they've used. They cannot be relied upon as an accurate source of truth. Matt Simmons, a long time expert in these matters said, after examining the video of the rupture, that the volume of oil escaping was approximately 120,000 barrels per day. Each barrel contains 42 gallons of oil. The rupture has been flowing for 71 days now. Let's do the math:

71 days X 120,000 barrels per day= 8,520,000 barrels, or 357,840,000 gallons to date.
At this rate, Matt Simmons has estimated it could flow for "30 years" before the reservoir is exhausted.

Under existing Federal environmental law BP faces a $4,300 fine per barrel discharged:
8,520,000 barrels X $4,300 = $36,636,000,000 in fines, to date.