Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Inbreeding and cake-eating will do it to you

Five years after launching the U.S. invasion of Iraq, President Bush is making some of his most expansive claims of success in the fighting there. Bush said last year's troop buildup has turned Iraq around and produced "the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden."

Massive anti-war demonstrations were planned in downtown Washington to mark Wednesday's anniversary of the war, which has claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 U.S. troops. Across the river at the Pentagon, Bush was to give a speech to warn that backsliding in recent progress fueled by the increase of 30,000 troops he ordered more than a year ago cannot be allowed.

"The challenge in the period ahead is to consolidate the gains we have made and seal the extremists' defeat," he said in excerpts the White House released Tuesday night. "We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast — the terrorists and extremists step in, fill the vacuum, establish safe havens and use them to spread chaos and carnage."

Bush added: "The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable, yet some in Washington still call for retreat."

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Jennifer Rubin: Silly Women --- And Men

Great post on Commentary Magazine :

One explanation for this mass wimp out by men is that male politicians, particularly Democrats, have simply learned to play on women's emotions, adopting an excessively emotionalized style of politics and the language of self-help therapy that permeates feminine culture. Another is that liberal men have bought into the victimhood narrative of the women's movement and have adopted the language and mindset of the “oppressed” while casting off that of the rational, linear “oppressor” male worldview. Whatever the explanation it seems plain that there are a lot of silly men who sound an awful lot like silly women.


Court restricts German data gathering law

From Deutsche Welle :

Germany's highest court has ruled to restrict the scope of a law on the use of telephone and internet data. The decision, handed down by the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe says that such data may be saved for up to six months, but that it may only be passed on to the authorities to help in investigations involving major crimes. Under a law that came into effect at the start of this year, telecommunications companies were also required to pass on information relating to minor crimes. The decision comes after the law was challenged by a member of parliament from the opposition liberal Free Democrats and a number of private citizens. They argued that the law restricted their right to privacy.

Retired Gurkhas to hand back medals in protest

Thousands of retired Gurkha soldiers will gather outside Parliament today to campaign for justice and fair treatment.

In a symbolic gesture of protest, 50 pensioners will hand back their precious Long Service and Good Conduct medals to the Government.

Gurkhas - soldiers from Nepal - have been part of the British Army for almost 200 years.

Despite a number of recent Government announcements thousands of retired Gurkhas are still suffering great injustice, organisers said.

Currently only those that retired after 1997 have the right to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the country.

Gurkhas who retired before 1997 do not have the right to settle in the UK even though many of them have served more than 25 years in the British Army and many have seen active combat.

~ read on... ~



Ghost of usenet conspiranoia past

'Kansan' and his obsessions with various celebrity women (and Heidi Klum in particular)

From Misc Thread Archive from Usenet.com

By the year 2000 my own conspiracy theory investigations led me to my latest obsession: *** Heidi Klum. My obsession with her started in 2000 and by the Spring of 2001 it turned to romantic feelings for Ms. Klum. Dina is not thrilled about my feelings for Heidi, but does not see Heidi as a realistic rival. We live in Houston, Texas, and Heidi in New York City. Theophano, however, who Dina was very much worried about, used to live just a few miles away from us in New Jersey in the 1980s. Dina saw my obsession with Madonna as an obsessive hobby and was not particularly troubled by it. She hardly noticed my obsession with Shania. If I assigned 100 points to my present obsession with Heidi, then my obsession for Madonna was about 10 points' worth and that for Shania 5 points. My obsession for Theophano would rate about 30 points. In retrospect, I have come to realize that the Entities gave me these obsessions for particular reasons: *** Theophano is an avatar of the beautiful Byzantine Princess Theophano, who, in the 10th century AD, married the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, the son of the Empress Adelheid. (Heidi Klum is an avatar of the beautiful Empress Adelheid.) The proof of my claim is that the modern Theophano's married last name is Sevastos, meaning "august" in Greek. The historical Theophano had assumed the title Imperatrix Augusta, i.e., August Empress. *** Heidi Klum, as I write above, is the avatar of St. Adelheid ("Heidi"), the first Holy Roman Empress.

[ ... ]

*** Heidi Klum is an avatar of St. Adelheid, the wife of Otto I and mother of Otto II.

Pakistan's Black Flag Week - A Call for Solidarity

From Chapatti Mystery :

1. CM will be participating in Aitzaz Ahsan's Black Flag Week. I am doing it a little early because I will be traveling for the next few days and will be away from the computer. You can make your own blog's stylesheet go black, put a banner on your index page, wear a black arm-band or do something else that suits you. The point is simple enough: Pakistan needs a return to Law now that the elections have happened and the people have spoken. You can follow the issue at Fast Rising and Teeth Maestro. Help spread the word.

2. I need your help in writing a paper on dissent. I need any and all examples of jokes, poems, puns, satire of Musharraf that you might have received via email, sms messages, or however else. The deadline is kinda short so, if you ever want to pay me back for all the words I done wrote for you; now is the time. Details on the paper, and an acknowledgment of your contributions, will follow soon.

Musical Innerlube: Jeff Beck - Nadia

The news is too depressing

No time to gloat

America's demise at the hands of insane, homicidal maniacs is nothing to cheer about.

The one country that, ever so briefly, had the potential to change the world for the better chose instead to drown in the morass of its own apathy.

It will take a while for the majority to fully grok. They're probably too busy hunting for bargains in some discount outlet...

Congress encouraged to include federal scientists in whistleblower bill

From the Union of Concerned Scientists :

Groups across Political Spectrum Tell Congress to Include Federal Scientists in Pending Whistleblower Bill

Four dozen groups spanning the political spectrum today sent a letter to the Senate urging lawmakers to include federal scientists in pending legislation designed to protect whistleblowers. The coalition of academic, consumer, environmental, government reform and health groups -- which includes the Consumer Federation of America, Common Cause, Federation of American Scientists, Liberty Coalition and Rutherford Institute -- was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

"Scientists are less inclined to speak out when they have no protection against retaliation," said Francesca Grifo, director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program. "We must encourage federal scientists to report when research is censored or manipulated. Bringing misconduct to light can help protect American families from unsafe consumer products, unsafe drugs, and a polluted environment."

Sometime in the next few weeks the House and Senate are expected to reconcile differences between their versions of the whistleblower bill. In general, both versions strengthen protections for federal workers who report waste, fraud and abuse. But the final bill may not extend those protections to federal scientists who speak out when federal research is distorted or suppressed. The House legislation includes specific protections for scientists, but the Senate version does not.

"Federal government scientists play a crucial role in providing data and scientific analyses to policy makers so they can make the best, most informed decisions about our environment, health and national security," the coalition letter states. "Whether it is toy safety, drug efficacy or air quality, we count on federal agencies to use independent and unbiased science to protect us from harm." (For the letter, go here.)

Federal scientists need whistleblower protection now more than ever, Grifo said. Over the last few years private groups such as UCS and news organizations have documented what appears to be a growing incidence of political interference in federal science. For example, more than a third of the nearly 3,400 federal scientists at nine agencies who responded to UCS questionnaires since 2005 reported they fear retaliation for openly expressing concerns about their agency's work.

The letter's 48 signatories include: American Association of Law Libraries, American Association of University Professors, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, Association of American Publishers, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, Californians Aware, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Inquiry, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Common Cause, Concerned Foreign Service Officers, Conservation Northwest, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Defenders of Wildlife, Doctors for Open Government, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Essential Information, Ethics in Government Group, Federation of American Scientists, Georgians for Open Government, Government Accountability Project, Health Integrity Project, Justice Through Music, Liberty Coalition, Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Research Center for Women & Families, National Women's Health Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Work Environment Council, OMB Watch, OpenGovernment.org, PEN American Center, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, The Multiracial Activist, The New Grady Coalition, The Ornithological Council, The Rutherford Institute, The Student Health Integrity Project, U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Western Nebraska Resources Council.

Noteworthy from the same site: GAO Report Finds EPA Library Closures Undercut Agency's Mission; UCS Research Concludes Closures Impede Fed Scientists' Work

Treasury Wins 2008 "Rosemary Award" as Worst FOIA Agency

From the National Security Archive :

National Security Archive Annual Award Cites Shredded Letters, Decade-Long Delays, and Sub-Prime Performance

[ ... ]

“The Treasury Department has brought new meaning to the notion of sub-prime performance,” remarked the Archive's director Tom Blanton. “Instead of answering Freedom of Information requests, Treasury puts the burden on requesters to repeatedly confirm interest in their requests and actually destroys the original request letters the way Rose Mary Woods erased the tapes.”

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Wet Paint for President 2008

Drying out behind the tool shed or next president of the United States? You decide!

http://wetpaint2008.blogspot.com/

The Two Cultures Problem

Many post World War II thinkers have been perplexed by the problem of how or even whether people from different cultures can understand each other. The problem arose when we started to think of culture as formative of language and thought. The common assumptions of most theorists of language are that language is fundamental to thinking and culture; and language, thought, culture or humanity is a natural product of biological evolution. Karl Popper and Michael Polanyi-seen as diametrically opposed-both independently criticize these assumptions and provide alternative theories of humanity (i.e. culture, thinking, and language) whereby cross-cultural understanding is a real problem that can be broached through engaging in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. So, though language and culture creates hurdles for achieving cross-cultural understanding, the pursuit of science transcends the limitations of culture.

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Musical Innerlube: Alex deGrassi's 'Causeway' par Pierre Fortin

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the GM crowd have kept busy

Brinjals commit suicide for Greenpeace cause

Thousand brinjals were found hanging from electricity poles, street lamp posts and trees across Mumbai with suicide notes attached — attracting curious onlookers.

The stunt was a part of Greenpeace's unique protest against genetically modified vegetables that could soon find their way into your neighbourhood vegetable market.

Greenpeace Campaigns Manager, Rajesh Krishnan says, "We selected brinjal because it will be the first genetically modified vegetable to be introduced in the Indian market in early 2009."

U.S. farmers up the ante on Japan's struggle against modified corn
Japan, the last major importer in Asia still holding out against genetically modified corn for human food use, could soon be forced into a corner by record corn prices in the United States.

The world's largest corn importer has long had animal feed that uses genetically modified organisms, or GMO, but buys only a small amount of such corn for human food use.

But food makers are caught between U.S. farmers demanding a higher premium for GMO-free corn and Japanese grocers and consumers, who are the last in Asia still resisting modified crops.

Anti-GM activists keep tabs on 21 SA field trials
Almost two- dozen experimental field trials of genetically engineered potatoes, maize, cotton, groundnuts and sugar cane were held in SA last year, according to the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB).

Although details of the experiments were published in advance in regional newspapers, the ACB's report is the first attempt to consolidate the information . The report shows that field trials were conducted in all provinces except Eastern Cape by state-funded bodies, such as the Agricultural Research Council, and by seed companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta .

The ACB, which campaigns against genetically modified (GM) crops, said it had published a “biohazard update” to raise awareness about the extent of experiments into the technology.

Australia Will Promote Drought-Resistant Crops
Agricultural minister Tony Burke has announced Australia will promote the development of drought-resistant genetically modified (GM) wheat.

Burke said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd supports the idea of improving the drought tolerance of crops as an alternative to continuing the current system of insurance and financial disaster relief for Australian farmers. Such relief has cost the Australian government more than $3 billion since 2001.

Carrots get even healthier
Moms may soon have even more reason to tell their children to eat their veggies. Specially developed carrots have been produced to help people absorb more calcium, a mineral necessary in building strong bones. Milk, yogurt, and cheese, major contributors of calcium in the typical diet, have a new friend. Studies conducted by the Texas A&M AgriLife's Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine, finds that the genetically modified carrots, called sCAX1, can help prevent such diseases as osteoporosis.

Genetically altered mice are "superathletes"
The altered mice can run at 20 meters per minute (0.75 miles per hour or 1.2 kilometers per hour) for up to six kilometers (nearly four miles) without stopping. The average treadmill time for strenuous exercise on a 25-degree incline is 31.9 minutes, well in excess of the 19 minute average of unmodified mice. Females can breed at two and a half years of age, whereas most female mice cannot breed after the first year.

Leading supermarket labels GMO products
Even as Qatar is working overtime to bring in a labelling system for the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) products available in the retail outlets in Qatar, a supermarket has already introduced the system at its Doha outlet.

An expert displayed a GMO-labeled food product bought from the local market at a workshop hosted by the Supreme Council for Environment and Natural Reserves (SCENR) here yesterday.

Displaying a specific brand of labelled yogurt, Benedikt Haerlin, Head, Foundation on Future Farming, Berlin, said the retail major has introduced the labelling system across the world.

Ethical Image Hard Sell For Chemical Companies
In the end of 2007, BASF shows the best EthicalQuote score out of 18 Chemical companies, closely followed by DuPont, while Syngenta and Monsanto occupy the last positions. From January to December 2007, DuPont, BASF and Bayer show the best progression. Results expressing the Reported Performance (positive news only) place DuPont in first position, followed by Dow Chemicals, Bayer and BASF.

Why is it so difficult for Chemical companies to be perceived as ethical? Because of their products, Covalence says. GMO is the biggest issue within negative news. It is a focal point of criticisms geared towards the Chemical industry. Other product-related issues that have made the ethical reputation of chemical companies suffer in 2007 are: Agent Orange, Biofuel production, DBCP pesticide in Central America, patent abuse / evergreening, Atrazine (PFO, Tauccamarca 1999), crop protection (Atrazine, Paraquat), and Aspartame/Nutrasweet risk. Pollution appears as the second most important issue within negative news.


Reporters Without Borders calls for boycott of Beijing Olympics opening ceremony

Reporters Without Borders today urged heads of state, heads of government and members of royal families to boycott the 8 August opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games because of the Chinese government's mounting human rights violations and the glaring lack of freedom in China.

“China has not kept any of the promises it made in 2001 when it was chosen to host these Olympics,” the press freedom organisation said. “Instead, the government is crushing the Tibetan protests and is imposing a news blackout, while Hu Jia, a tireless human rights campaigner, is facing a possible five-year prison sentence at the end of a summary and unfair trial.

“Politicians throughout the world cannot remain silent about this situation. We call on them to voice their disapproval of China's policies by announcing their intention not to attend the opening of the Olympic Games. Britain's Prince Charles has already said he will not go to Beijing on 8 August. Others should follow suit.

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Transgenic Lines Unstable hence Illegal and Ineligible for Protection

From U.N. Observer & International Report :

2008-03-17
  New evidence may pull the plug on GMOs. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Transgenes unstable in more ways than one

Transgene instability has been known at least since 1994 [1] (reviewed in Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare, p.140), though it is seldom, if ever, reported in the popular media. Transgenes (the synthetic foreign genes transferred into the genetically modified organism (GMO)) can become silent or inactive during growth and development of the GMO, or in its progeny. This has been attributed to defence mechanisms that silence genome invaders such as viruses. But transgenes can also stop working on account of structural factors intrinsic to the transgenic DNA inserted into the genome of the GMO [2] (reviewed in Living with the Fluid Genome, pp. 128-135). Transgenic DNA has been artificially constructed by stitching together synthetic copies of DNA from different sources, and often contain additional weak points that tend to break and rejoin (recombination hotspots). The most widely used cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter is associated with such a recombination hotspot [3], as we have warned [4-6]. Transgenic constructs are also designed with ends that can break into genomes such as the repeated sequences of viral vectors, and the left and right borders of the T-DNA of Agrobacterium, widely used as a vector. These ends too, are recombination sequences, and facilitate movement of the transgenic DNA within as well as between genomes. For more details see [7] (Horizontal Gene Transfer from GMOs Does Happen, SiS 38)

Transgene instability makes transgenic varieties illegal and ineligible for patent protection
MORE
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/transgenicLinesUnstable2.php



The exorcism of Amy Winehouse

Some seemingly crazed bloke from the US has crawled out of the woodwork and claims to have the answer to Amy Winehouse's prayers - an exorcism.

American Rev Bob Larson, who claims to be the world's foremost exorcist, says that he could have her demons "driven out", if he got her mitts on her.

Rev Larson - soon to be a star on British TV - has now volunteered to save the jazz pixie from certain doom by "ridding her of the devil".

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Reverend wants exorcism for Winehouse

He added: "This is obviously just a long-distance diagnosis and I'm not passing judgment. But in her case there are a lot of similarities to possessed people.

"I would love 15 minutes with her to see whether I could help her. A lot of the time people appear utterly ordinary to the outside world but inside they are in living hell."

Sydney: They sought help, but got exorcism and the Bible

A secretive ministry with direct links to Gloria Jean's Coffees and the Hillsong Church has been deceiving troubled young women into signing over months of their lives to a program that offers scant medical or psychiatric care, instead using Bible studies and exorcisms to treat mental illness.

Government agencies such as Centrelink have also been drawn into the controversy, as residents are required to transfer their benefits to Mercy Ministries. There are also allegations that the group receives a carers payment to look after the young women.

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They prayed to cast Satan from my body

THEY call themselves the Mercy Girls. And after years of searching they have found each other.

Bound by separate, damaging experiences at the hands of an American-style ministry operating in Sydney and the Sunshine Coast, these young women have clawed their way back to begin a semblance of a life again.

Desperate for help, they had turned to Mercy Ministries suffering mental illness, drug addiction and eating disorders.

Instead of the promised psychiatric treatment and support, they were placed in the care of Bible studies students, most of them under 30 and some with psychological problems of their own. Counselling consisted of prayer readings, treatment entailed exorcisms and speaking in tongues, and the house was locked down most of the time, isolating residents from the outside world and sealing them in a humidicrib of pentecostal religion.


Mekong schistosomiasis more widespread than previously thought

Researchers Stephen W. Attwood of China's Sichuan University, Farrah A. Fatih of London's Natural History Museum, and E. Suchart Upatham of Thailand's Mahidol University analyzed DNA sequences of sample organisms collected from the Mekong river and its tributaries in Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia. They found, contrary to the previously held belief that S. mekongi is confined to a small section of the lower Mekong River, that organisms collected in its tributaries across Cambodia were also of the species S. mekongi. The range of the snail intermediate host and the ecological conditions for potential transmission were also shown to be much broader than once thought.

Prior to this study it was also assumed that S. mekongi originated in Yunnan, China, migrated southwards across Laos and into Cambodia, and later became extinct in Laos due to conditions unsuitable for transmission. However, Attwood and colleagues' analysis suggested a more recent, and ongoing, migration northwards from Vietnam, towards Cambodia and Laos.


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[ research article ]


" 'Necessity, the tyrant's plea,' Milton called it"

The closest American politicians come to breathing a word about desire is to talk about hope, as Barack Obama is doing now. And to see the terminal weakness of hope rhetoric you need only recall the refrain of John Edwards's speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention: "Hope is on the way." Hope isn't much—it's not help, not happiness, not even security—but now even hope could only be hoped for. What happens to a deferral deferred? A depressing question.

Our taboo on desire owes something to the fact that all desire has its libidinal component, and so long as American politics concentrates mawkishly on the family—always working families, never simply working people—desire will seem an intrusive and inappropriate force. The other reason for Democrats to keep quiet about their desires is simply that they don't have any they can recognize; for a generation or more, they have been in the literal sense a conservative party, mostly concerned with maintaining existing institutions of social welfare or moderating the pace at which they are dismantled. The Democrats never know what they want; they do know they'd like to go about it cautiously.

It hardly seems likely that Democrats will soon evolve any frank politics of desire—the desire (it is mine anyway) for a society just, sustainable, creative, and free. And the same goes for the traditional socialist left. Probably a larger portion of the global proletariat consists, today, of the superfluously large "reserve army of labor" than of wage laborers in factories or on farms, and no one can easily imagine a coordinated international movement led by the jobless inhabitants of slums. If we still imagine barricades being stormed, they are stormed by high seas.

~ from The Politics of Fear, Part II: How Many of Us? ~


Kremlin warns Britain to shed Cold War mentality

The Kremlin gave Britain warning yesterday that there would be no improvement in relations until it abandoned Cold War-hostility towards Russia.

The Foreign Ministry said that Britain had become increasingly critical of Russia, urged on by Boris Berezovsky, the billionaire anti-Kremlin campaigner, and other political refugees.

Its annual diplomatic review appeared to dash hopes of a fresh start between London and Moscow once Dmitri Medvedev succeeds Vladimir Putin as President in May. The ministry accused Gordon Brown's Government of holding outdated attitudes in its dealings with Russia.

“There has been no decisive moving away from the stereotypes of the Cold War era in the political policies of the British elite,” it said. “If this problem is not resolved it will be hard to count on the normalisation of Russian-British relations.” It said relations had worsened as a result of the decision by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, to expel four Russian diplomats last July. The envoys were expelled after Mr Putin refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoy, the man suspected of murdering Alexander Litvinenko, the dissident former spy, with radioactive polonium-210 in London in November 2006.

The ministry said that tensions had been fanned by Mr Berezovsky and Akhmed Zakayev, the Chechen separatist envoy, who have political asylum in London. Both men are wanted in Russia but British courts have rejected extradition requests, ruling that they would not face a fair trial.

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Government Contractor Ethics Ranking 2008

" ... Rather than tar all government contractors with a broad-tagging brush as “wasteful, deceitful and fraud-ridden,” the Ethisphere Institute decided to research the issue. Surely some government contractors care about ethics, and had implemented the controls, culture and programs to communicate such values and prevent unethical behavior.

[ ... ]

What we found, not surprisingly, is that there is a big disparity between the calibers of ethics programs within these companies. And, although the reports of heavy abuse and scandal can be unforgettable, many contractors actually have very effective ethics and compliance programs in place. Take a look for yourself through the following pages and see which companies made the grade, and which companies fell flat on their face. ... "

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[ With gratitude to Tom ]


'Nader/Gonzalez demand that impeachment be put back on the table'

"The American people have no authority to challenge these governmental crimes, which are committed in their name. They are rendered defenseless except for elections, which the two party duopoly has rigged, commercialized, and trivialized. Even in this electoral arena, a collective vote of ouster of the incumbents does not bring public officials to justice - just to another position usually in the high paying corporate world."

~ from Nader Makes A Spitzer/Bush Analogy ~

Nader said he is running again this year because Clinton and Obama don't offer a clean enough break from business-dominated politics.

"Five or six percent is our floor," his campaign said in an message today seeking donations. "We're movin' on up to challenge the corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans in the general election. On single payer [healthcare], war in the Middle East, union busting, nuclear power, solar energy and a host of other issues that matter to the American people, Nader/Gonzalez are on one side of the political fence, Clinton/Obama/McCain are on the other."

~ from Nader making presence felt ~


Sorry, I wasn't pessimistic enough

The house price decline from top to bottom will now pretty clearly be larger than I predicted. The decline in 2007, according to the Case-Shiller index, was almost 10%; more ominously, in the fourth quarter of 2007, prices were dropping at a 20% annual rate. It thus seems unlikely that the overall decline in house prices will be limited to 20%, and more probable that when prices finally turn, they will have dropped 25-30%, with drops of as much as 50% in some heavily speculative markets such as much of California. This is an exceptional outcome by US standards, ranking with the 1930s as a house price downturn, but it must be remembered that in Japan Tokyo house prices dropped by over 70% from their 1990 peak before stabilizing.

The depth of house price declines has a near-exponential effect on mortgage defaults, since a borrower can walk away from a home mortgage without declaring bankruptcy - the transactions are generally non-recourse. Roubini estimates that if house prices decline 20% 16 million mortgages would be "under water" with principal amount greater than the value of the underlying asset, and that 50% of those underwater mortgages will default. If house prices decline 30%, 21 million mortgages will be underwater, with the same percentage defaulting.

At the lower price decline, that seems to me a little pessimistic. A borrower who can make payments on his mortgage, and whose house is temporarily worth 5% or even 10% less than the mortgage is unlikely to default, if only because he has to live somewhere and moving costs, let alone real estate brokerage costs, are substantial (he would also damage his credit rating.) Thus once we get beyond the universe of people who should never have had a mortgage in the first place, a moderate decline in house prices does not necessarily hugely increase defaults. However as price declines approach the 25-30% level, let alone the 50% that is possible in California, the percentage of mortgages defaulting is likely to rise sharply.

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[ via Carolyn Baker ]


Thickest, oldest Arctic ice is melting

Some 965,300 square miles of perennial ice have been lost -- about one and a half times the area of Alaska -- a 50 percent decrease between February 2007 and February 2008, Meier said.

The oldest "tough as nails" perennial ice has decreased by about 75 percent this year, losing 579,200 square miles (1.5 million sq kms, or about twice the area of Texas, he said.

This doesn't mean the Arctic is open water during the winter, but it does mean that in many areas, the stronger perennial ice is being replaced by younger, frailer new ice that is more easily disturbed by wind and warm sea temperatures.

"It's like looking at a Hollywood set," Meier said of an Arctic largely covered with younger ice. "It may look OK but if you could see behind you'd see ... it's just empty. And what we're seeing with the ice cover is it's becoming more and more empty underneath the ice cover."

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Taste play Rory Gallagher's 'What's Going On' (audio)

James H. Kuntsler: A Real Freak Out

From The Clusterf*ck Nation Chronicle, March 17, 2008

Ultimately, in my view, the issue of what happens next will be settled not by the fantasies of the algae-biodiesel geeks or the wishful thinking of the sustainable futures organizers, but by the natural, self-organizing properties of a society responding 'emergently' to new circumstances. One of the implications of destiny-as-emergence is the probability that we will try any damn fool thing besides the right things to keep the old game going for a while -- even in the face of obvious failure.


When the novel confesses the murder

Great post from Maud Newton :

The book depicts a murder by stabbing. That's not the way Janiszewski died, but the narrator-killer, also named Chris, sells the weapon, a knife, “on an Internet auction.”

These are only the first convergences that led the police toward the conclusion that an unholy mixture of postmodern theory and garden-variety jealousy propelled the narcissistic author to murder, and to celebrate the crime in fiction.

Blog Against the Theocracy - Easter Weekend March 21-23, 2008


More details here.

(With gratitude to Blue Gal.)

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