Thursday, August 11, 2005

recent links

Kitty is still missing :'( but the blog must go on.

Here are the articles that caught my attention in the last few days.

1) Permafrost
Bad news about the permafrost from Peak Energy.
A vast expanse of western Siberia is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today.

Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres, the size of France and Germany combined, has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000
years ago at the end of the last ice age.

The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" -- delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures.
I know its hard to come up with a response to this kind of information. But we need to start thinking about dramatic changes in our coastlines in our lifetime. And there are things that we can do to make a difference. The New York Times published this article, reprinted at Common Dreams. And check out the environmental footprint quizzes to the right.


2) Energy Bill
Resource Insights has a great article analyzing the problem with the Energy Bill.
America's new energy policy isn't so much about the future as it is about the past. Drawing down precious finite resources of coal, oil and natural gas worked in the past to "solve" our problems, so we are going to try doing even more of it now. Of course, the irony of this is that all the money spent on better technology to draw down finite resources at faster rates only brings the inevitable crisis that much closer while making it that much worse when it does arrive.
3) Big Brother
Lew Rockewll has a chilling explanation of the new Anti-Money Laundering Laws.
Having been recently appointed Anti-Money Laundering Officer at my investment firm, I now have the official, government-sanctioned power to scrutinize our clients' account activity and report almost anything I deem "suspicious activity" to the federal government. Be worried, friends, be very worried, since every bank, every brokerage house, every financial institution in the U.S. is required by the Patriot Act to appoint an AML Officer, enact procedures to combat money-laundering, and file Suspicious Activity Reports on U.S. citizens.
It gets worse: "According to the statute, if I simply should have become aware of suspicious activity and fail to report it, I may have broken the law. " And " AML Officer I'm safe-harbored against violations of privacy laws I may be forced to commit while adhering to the regulations of the Patriot Act."
To sign a petition calling for a repeal of the Patriot Act, click here.
4) The Branding of America
Deconsumption has an interesting post about the Branding of America. "...[I]f you boil the American image down to one thing, it would be 'The Last Remaining Superpower'. And that, he said, was a terrible 'brand' to market."
The effort to redeem the American name would have involved something like paying a worldwide cross-section of focus groups directed toward honing in on one word or phrase to symbolize everyttranscendentndant and desirable that America represents, then a systematic campaign to relate that concept through images, stories, events, organizations, etc to enhance this identification and goodwill. Even in the midst of the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq, in fact especially in the midst of it, this should have been SOP (standard operating procedure). Large corporations quite often run afoul of the public trust (say, for instance, an oil spill or chemical leak), and that's why they keep "damage control" handlers--propaganda gurus trained to take the offensive in order to save the company's reputation.

All in all, I'm forced to conclude that the reason this hasn't been done is because there was really no interest in doing it. I don't think the ball was dropped...I think the marketing campaign is in effect. In fact, it's a raging success. It's just that it was decided that "anger" and "resentment" were a better brand to market. The campaign was rolled-out, a campaign entitled: War on Terror(TM).

Think about it...War on Terror(TM) It says "War. War with no boundaries. War with no goals. War with no rules. The enemy is anyone, anywhere. Live in fear. The enemy might be you... Don't get out of line."
And another angle that I have never seen addressed is the literal meaning of the phrase--that its a war on a particular emotional response: terror. A war on a feeling that is perfectly legitimate but is constantly put down for existing because it means that the person has "failed" in some way and allowed the terrorists to "win." We are supposed to dsuppresssupress our real response to terrorists in the name of patriotism. This disturbs me as much as anything else about this war.

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