Saturday, November 26, 2005

Wealth and Democracy

From "Most American conservatives take it as an article of faith that the less governmental involvement in affairs of the market and pocketbook the better. The rich do not, whatever they might say--for much of their wealth comes from the "power and preferment of government." So writes Kevin Phillips, the accomplished historian and one-time Washington insider, in this extraordinary survey of plutocracy, excess, and reform. "Laissez-faire is a pretense," he argues; as the wealth of the rich has grown, so has its control over government, making politics a hostage of money. Examining cycles of economic growth and decline from the founding days of the republic to the recent collapse of technology stocks, Phillips dispels notions of trickle-down wealth creation, pricks holes in speculative bubbles, and decries the ever-increasing "financialization" of the economy--all of which, he argues, have served to reduce the well-being of ordinary Americans and government alike. Highly readable for all its charts and graphs, Phillips's book offers a refreshing--and, of course, controversial--blend of economic history and social criticism. His conclusions won't please all readers, but just about everyone who comes to his pages will feel hackles rising. --Gregory McNamee"

The Return of Israel's Left

From, a project of the Tikkun Community: "For the first time in years, Israel's Labor Party is being led by someone who speaks the language of the Left. Not since Menachem Begin's election in 1977 has Israeli politics undergone such a dramatic change."

Technology pushing political films to forefront

From CNN: "Got a political perspective? Grab a camera and make a statement. With today's technology, we can all be part of a new cinematic dialogue."

The 2 Principles of a Posthumanist Humanitarian Economy

The Fountain of Wealth

1. No one, no sentient being, should be deprived of the minimum resources necessary to his or her material and social survival.

2. No one, no sentient being, should be allowed infinite enrichment.

Or: Poverty is only tolerable when it does not degenerate into misery. Wealth is only desirable when it does not overflow into excess.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

In pain you shall bring forth children (Genesis)

The dream of the baby machine in 5 points
  1. Imagine that you have no other way to make babies than with a machine that will replace the womb. Perhaps a cataclysm has rendered us sterile and dependent on these artificial constructs so that the human species can continue to make history.
  2. Think of what could become of relations between men and women. Try to picture a family relationship in which the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ distinguishing wholly different realities are no longer a given. Try to imagine what would become of such a parental couple. Try to justify the differences in treatment that society could impose nonetheless. You can even jest and say to yourself that societies have never cease to manufacture justifications for the unjustifiable.
  3. Think of what would become of relationships between parents and children. Try to picture a subject that would be different from his mother as of conception, who would be treated like a different individual even if his parents decided to stop his development before the end of gestation.
  4. Keep thinking and never get discouraged. Know that it is by thinking that humanity has achieved its greatest exploits.
  5. Finally, breathe deeply and try to express what you see, write it down on a blog and then tell yourself that this machine does not exist and ask yourself if the world you created seems more interesting than the one you live in. Think of all the things that would need to be changed to act as if we already created it. The answer is very simple : convince your representative and senator that the time has come to reform the law.
From ‘L'Utopie de l'Utérus Artificiel’ by Marcela Iacub,
Le Nouvel Observateur Hors-Série N 59 – Juillet/Août 2005 - Les Utopies d’Aujourd’hui

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Future food to be developed with molecular biology and genetics

From "NASA studies food products, which will be able to satisfy personal needs of a particular consumer taking into account his/her allergies and other peculiarities of human organism. It is scientific alchemy rather than ordinary culinary techniques. Laboratory engineering rather than traditional industrial processes. Food that will be in the supermarkets and restaurants in the future will not have visual differences from that of today. However, it will be manufactured, processed and cooked in a different way. The future is near: "functional foods" - foods and drinks with added vitamins, minerals and fatty acids omega-3 - will look tastier (just for reference: the manufacturing of these products accounted for 800 million euros in Europe in 2004). However, the main surprises - products developed in molecular studies, genetic discoveries and space research - are still to come."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

U.N.: 40 million have AIDS virus

From CNN: "The global HIV epidemic continues to expand, with more than 40 million people now estimated to have the AIDS virus, but in some countries prevention efforts are finally starting to pay off, the United Nations says."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Fuel's Paradise?

From (2000): "In his nineties, [the late Thomas Gold was] championing the idea that the creatures living on or near the surface of the Earth - plants, people, possums, porpoises, pneumonia bacilli - are just part of the biological story. In the depths of the Earth's crust, he believes, is a second realm, a bacterial "deep hot biosphere" that is greater in mass than all the creatures living on land and swimming in the seas. Most biologists will tell you that life is something that happens on the Earth's surface, powered by sunlight. Gold counters that most living beings reside deep in the Earth's crust at temperatures well above 100 degrees Celsius, living off methane and other hydrocarbons.

Presented in full in his 1999 book, The Deep Hot Biosphere, Gold's theory of life below the Earth's surface is an outgrowth of his heretical theories about the origins of oil, coal, and natural gas. In the traditional view, of course, these substances are the residues of dead creatures. When organic matter from swamps and seafloors gets buried deep enough in the crust, it goes through chemical changes that distill it into hydrocarbons we can then dig up and burn. Gold believes none of this. He's convinced that the hydrocarbons we use come from chemical stocks that were incorporated into the Earth at its creation.

Since the oil crisis of the 1970s, Gold has been saying that the Earth is hugely well endowed with these hydrocarbons - hundreds of times more so than most geologists, or oil companies, or OPEC leaders believe. The general belief in scarcity that drives up gas prices and causes fears of inflation, Gold argues, is a mirage that has served vested interests among oil producers for decades."

Africa enters Era of Women

From "On a continent where women suffer in nearly every measure of health and welfare, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's apparent election to the presidency of war-torn Liberia is raising hopes for a new era in African politics: the era of women.

"It's a breakthrough for African women," said Florence Butegwa, West Africa director for the United Nations Development Fund for Women. "We haven't had a role model in terms of political leadership at that highest level."

Johnson-Sirleaf would be Africa's first elected female president. Until now, political power on this vast and resource-rich continent has been wielded exclusively by men, whose legacy has been one of corruption, discrimination, despotism and war.

But today women hold key government positions in South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. They occupy roughly a quarter of the parliamentary seats in Uganda and Namibia and nearly half in Rwanda. Last year, Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan Cabinet minister, won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on the environment.

While it's too early to judge their impact, experts say female leaders are bringing more attention to health and education issues and a commitment to human rights that their male counterparts have often lacked.

"It's important that women, who have been the bedrock of domestic security and family enterprise throughout Africa, now get the chance to show they can make a change in politics," said Robert Rotberg, a Harvard University professor who studies African leadership."