KN4M: JFK Day 2012
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Editor, The Konformist
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IS SECESSION REALLY BATSHIT CRAZY?
Just four years ago, when the George W. Bush presidency brought on two wars and endless corruption, Feral House published Thomas H. Naylor's book, Secession: How Vermont and All the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire.
Although the author and Kirkpatrick Sale, who provided the introduction, were essentially more liberal than not, the point of their book was not particularly partisan among all Secession movements it listed pro-Confederate Dixiecrats and Alaskan state Secessionists promoted by Sarah Palin's husband.
The Secessionist Movement outlined by Thomas Naylor ( http://vermontrepublic.org ) was to provide the means to opt out of the venal leviathan known as the U.S. of A. No more participation in the military-industrial juggernaut, and the corrupt corporate mandates nourished by The System.
Today, following President Obama's re-election, over a million dissatisfied conservatives and racists are signing petitions to Secede. Whether or not we agree with their intentions, let us remember the leftist Secession movements during Bush's two terms, and let us all have a good look at the Obama administration.
Do we all love Monsanto, and its intention to take over the food chain, with its lawsuits against farmers who refuse to purchase their GMO seeds? Obama has appointed many Monsanto employees and lobbyists to critical positions in the USDA and FDA.
Do we all also support Obama's signing of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which effectively endorses war without end and makes indefinite military detention without charge or trial a permanent feature of the American legal system?
You don't have to be a racist or a total kook to dislike or fear these crucial decisions made by the President. Would the Mormon robber baron have been any better?
Perhaps the state is too damn big to allow decisions that go against military-industrial bombs or poisonous food. Let us all consider the Secession option.
THE FUTURIST Magazine Releases Its Top 10 Forecasts for 2013 and Beyond
October 9, 2012
Each year since 1985, the editors of THE FUTURIST have selected the most thought-provoking ideas and forecasts appearing in the magazine to go into our annual Outlook report. Over the years, Outlook has spotlighted the emergence of such epochal developments as the Internet, virtual reality, the 2008 financial crisis and the end of the Cold War. But these forecasts are meant as conversation starters, not absolute predictions about the future. We hope that this report--covering developments in business and economics, demography, energy, the environment, health and medicine, resources, society and values, and technology--inspires you to tackle the challenges, and seize the opportunities, of the coming decade.
With no further ado, THE FUTURIST Magazine releases its top ten forecasts for 2013 and beyond.
1. Neuroscientists may soon be able to predict what you'll do before you do it.
The intention to do something, such as grasp a cup, produces blood flow to specific areas of the brain, so studying blood-flow patterns through neuroimaging could give researchers a better idea of what people have in mind. One potential application is improved prosthetic devices that respond to signals from the brain more like actual limbs do, according to researchers at the University of Western Ontario. World Trends & Forecasts, Jan-Feb 2012, p. 10
2. Future cars will become producers of power rather than merely consumers.
A scheme envisioned at the Technology University of Delft would use fuel cells of parked electric vehicles to convert biogas or hydrogen into more electricity. And the owners would be paid for the energy their vehicles produce. Tomorrow in Brief, Mar-Apr 2012, p. 2
3. An aquaponic recycling system in every kitchen?
Future "farmers" may consist of householders recycling their food waste in their own aquariums. An aquaponic system being developed by SUNY ecological engineers would use leftover foods to feed a tank of tilapia or other fish, and then the fish waste would be used for growing vegetables. The goal is to reduce food waste and lower the cost of raising fish. Tomorrow in Brief, Nov-Dec 2011, p. 2
4. The economy may become increasingly jobless, but there will be plenty of Work
Many recently lost jobs may never come back. Rather than worry about unemployment, however, tomorrow's workers will focus on developing a variety of skills that could keep them working productively and continuously, whether they have jobs or not. It'll be about finding out what other people need done, and doing it, suggests financial advisor James H. Lee. "Hard at Work in the Jobless Future," Mar-Apr 2012, pp. 32-33
5. The next space age will launch after 2020, driven by competition and "adventure capitalists."
While the U.S. space shuttle program is put to rest, entrepreneurs like Paul Allen, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos are planning commercial launches to access low-Earth orbit and to ferry passengers to transcontinental destinations within hours. Challenges include perfecting new technologies, developing global operations, building new infrastructure, and gaining regulatory approval. "The New Age of Space Business," Sep-Oct 2012, p. 17
6. The "cloud" will become more intelligent, not just a place to store data.
Cloud intelligence will evolve into becoming an active resource in our daily lives, providing analysis and contextual advice. Virtual agents could, for example, design your family's weekly menu based on everyone's health profiles, fitness goals, and taste preferences, predict futurist consultants Chris Carbone and Kristin Nauth. "From Smart House to Networked Home," July-Aug 2012, p. 30
7. Corporate reputations will be even more important to maintain, due to the transparency that will come with augmented reality.
In a "Rateocracy" as envisioned by management consultant Robert Moran, organizations' reputations are quantified, and data could be included in geographically based information systems. You might choose one restaurant over another when your mobile augmented-reality app flashes warnings about health-department citations or poor customer reviews. "`Rateocracy' and Corporate Reputation," World Trends & Forecasts, May-June 2012, p. 12
8. Robots will become gentler caregivers in the next 10 years.
Lifting and transferring frail patients may be easier for robots than for human caregivers, but their strong arms typically lack sensitivity. Japanese researchers are improving the functionality of the RIBA II (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance), lining its arms and chest with sensors so it can lift its patients more gently. Tomorrow in Brief, Nov-Dec 2011, p. 2
9. We'll harness noise vibrations and other "junk" energy from the environment to power our gadgets.
Researchers at Georgia Tech are developing techniques for converting ambient microwave energy into DC power, which could be used for small devices like wireless sensors. And University of Buffalo physicist Surajit Sen is studying ways to use vibrations produced on roads and airport runways as energy sources. World Trends & Forecasts, Nov-Dec 2011, p. 9
10. A handheld "breathalyzer" will offer early detection of infections microbes and even chemical attacks.
The Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer under development at Stony Brook University would use sensor chips coated with nanowires to detect chemical compounds that may indicate the presence of diseases or infectious microbes. In the future, a handheld device could let you detect a range of risks, from lung cancer to anthrax exposure. Tomorrow in Brief, Sep-Oct 2012, p. 2
All of these forecasts plus dozens more were included in Outlook 2013, which scanned the best writing and research from THE FUTURIST magazine over the course of the previous year.
Now, here's something even cooler. THE FUTURIST has made public the contents from Outlook 2006 through 2012, more than 400 forecasts in all relating to 2013 and beyond:
Patrick Tucker is deputy editor of THE FUTURIST and director of communications for the World Future Society. He's writing a book for Current, Penguin's new science imprint, on big data and prediction.
The annual Outlook report is compiled by Cynthia Wagner, Patrick Tucker, and Rick Docksai
Who Killed Hostess Brands and Twinkies?
I'm sure you have, by now, heard the news. Hostess Brands, the company that gave us such remembered childhood treats as Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Devil Dogs and other baked foodstuffs that have fallen into disfavor in our more gourmand age, announced today that it would be closing for business, effective immediately.
More than a few observers say they know who to blame for the demise of the iconic company: the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union, which represents thousands of striking Hostess Brand workers who have refused to accept a new contract that would do everything from slash their salaries to their retirement benefits.
Hostess has been sold at least three times since the 1980s, racking up debt and shedding profitable assets along the way with each successive merger. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2004, and again in 2011. Little thought was given to the line of products, which, frankly, began to seem a bit dated in the age of the gourmet cupcake. (100 calorie Twinkie Bites? When was the last time you entered Magnolia Bakery and asked about the calorie count?)
As if all this were not enough, Hostess Brands' management gave themselves several raises, all the while complaining that the workers who actually produced the products that made the firm what money it did earn were grossly overpaid relative to the company's increasingly dismal financial position.
So now an estimated 18,500 workers will join the nation's unemployment rolls. But while Hostess Brands might soon become a forgotten name from the past, it's unlikely such a fate awaits such signature products as Twinkies. Company executives have already asked for bankruptcy court permission to begin the process of selling off their famed product lines to other companies.
Finally, a personal note: A few years ago, my husband picked our children up from a playdate at a home where, he said, it seemed like more food was banned than allowed, there was no television, and it was all too politically correct in the way all too many middle class childhoods are today. My husband's response? Before bringing the boys home, he stopped in at a local grocery and introduced our ecstatic children to fine products of Hostess Brands. "Yodels," he told me, "never tasted so good."
Democratic Senator Introduces Bill To Lift Social Security's Tax Cap, Extend Its Solvency For Decades
Nov 16, 2012
Social Security, the government entitlement that provides support to seniors in retirement, the disabled, and other Americans, has long been in the cross-hairs of budget reformers. The program's trust fund currently won't be spent out until 2033, and after that it would still pay 75 percent of scheduled benefits.
Most of the proposed solutions to the shortfall involve cutting back benefits and raising the minimum retirement age. Both are deeply problematic; at its current level of benefits Social Security kept over 20 million people out of poverty in 2011, many Americans in demanding manual labor jobs already take early retirement and thus reduced benefits as it is, and lower-income Americans have not particularly benefited from the average rise in lifespans.
This week, however, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) put forward a reform package that goes in the opposite direction, while still financially securing the program's trust fund for roughly the next seven decades. The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews laid out the details:
The Begich bill would lift the current payroll tax cap, which exempts wages in excess of a certain amount ($110,100 this year) from the tax. In turn, it would give high earners, who would pay more, additional benefits upon retirement, just as benefits increase as wages do for workers below the cap. [ ]
It also increases benefits across-the-board. While Bowles-Simpson and Domenici-Rivlin adopt a stingier "chained CPI" measure for inflation, Begich adopts "CPI-E," or a measure that specifically captures inflation in goods that seniors buy.
Due to deteriorated health and other considerations, goods seniors buy tend to be more expensive than those younger people purchase. Begich's CPI-E change would mean, effectively, a 4.5 percent benefit increase for the program's beneficiaries, including not just seniors but their designated survivors and disabled Americans as well.
The Congressional Research Service ran the numbers back in 2010 and concluded that eliminating the payroll tax cap while also paying out the new benefits to wealthier Americans in accordance with their new taxes would eliminate 95 percent of the trust fund's shortfall over the next 75 years.
Begich may not hit that goal exactly, depending on how the legislation is written. In particular, his change to CPI-E also lifts the overall benefit level, on top of the changes in CRS' scenario. But his reform would probably come very close.
U.S. Oil Output to Overtake Saudi Arabia's by 2020
Nov 12, 2012
Growing supplies of crude extracted through new technology including hydraulic fracturing of underground rock formations will transform the U.S. into the largest producer for about five years starting about 2020, the Paris-based adviser to 28 nations said today in its annual World Energy Outlook. The U.S. met 83 percent of its energy needs in the first six months of this year, according to the Energy Department in Washington.
"The IEA outlook feeds into the idea of a shift in the center of influence in the world oil market," said Gareth Lewis-Davies, an analyst at BNP Paribas SA in London. "Given Saudi Arabia is willing to shift production up and down it will retain a large degree of influence, and remain important as a price-influencer."
The U.S., whose crude imports have fallen 11 percent this year, is on track to produce the most oil since 1991, according to Energy Department data. In a year when Iran has threatened to halt Persian Gulf oil shipments, the growing output, coupled with a gas-production boom, may help insulate the nation from supply disruptions. President Barack Obama cited "freeing ourselves from foreign oil" as a policy goal in his election victory speech last week, echoing his predecessor, George W. Bush, who in 2006 urged the U.S. to break its "addiction" to imported crude.
West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark U.S. grade, has dropped 13 percent this year to $85.55 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as stockpiles swelled to a 22-year high. Prices have more than quadrupled in the past decade, reaching as high as $147.27 a barrel in July 2008.
Global demand for oil is projected to rise to 99.7 million barrels a day in 2035, up from 87.4 million last year, according to the IEA, which advises industrialized nations including the U.S., Germany and Japan. Today's report projects trends to 2035.
Saudi Arabia pumped 9.8 million barrels of oil a day last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. U.S. output was 6.7 million barrels a day in the week ended Nov. 2, according to the Energy Department.
Overtaking Saudi Arabia
The U.S. will pump 11.1 million barrels of oil a day in 2020 and 10.9 million in 2025, the IEA said. Those figures are 500,000 barrels a day and 100,000 barrels a day higher, respectively, than its forecasts for Saudi Arabia for those years. The desert kingdom is due to become the biggest producer again by 2030, pumping 11.4 million barrels a day versus 10.2 million in the U.S.
"Around 2017, the U.S. will be the largest oil producer of the world, overtaking Saudi Arabia," IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol said at a press conference in London today. "This is of course a major development and definitely will have significant implications."
Officials at the U.S. Energy Department weren't available for comment because government offices were closed in observance of the U.S. Veteran's Day holiday today. A Saudi Arabian oil ministry official based in Riyadh wasn't immediately available to comment on the report when contacted by phone today.
The IEA report described the U.S.'s advancement toward energy self-sufficiency as "a dramatic reversal of the trend seen in most other energy-importing countries." The nation is developing so-called tight oil reserves including the Bakken shale formation, which are extracted by hydraulic fracturing or horizontal drilling.
U.S. oil imports will drop to about 4 million barrels a day in 10 years from a current average of 10 million because of new production and stricter fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, which will curb demand, Birol said.
The IEA isn't alone in forecasting that the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the largest oil producer. The U.S. will achieve that goal before the end of this decade, Citigroup Inc. said in a March 20 report that included biofuels and natural gas liquids in its calculations.
The European Union banned oil imports from Iran in July over the nation's nuclear program, reducing shipments from a country that was until then the second-biggest producer in OPEC.
The IEA's members will probably pay about $125 a barrel for imported oil by 2035, compared with Brent crude prices near $109 today on London's ICE Futures Europe exchange. The North Sea grade peaked at a record $147.50 a barrel in July 2008 before tumbling to about $46 that December, and has gained in each of the three years since then.
Efforts by global policy makers to promote energy efficiency have been an "epic failure" and fallen short of their economic potential, Birol said. Increased energy-saving measures could cut worldwide oil demand by almost 13 million barrels a day by 2035, or the current combined output of Russia and Norway. Put another way, were efficiency measures suggested by the IEA enacted in full, the increase in world energy demand over the period would be cut in half.
Natural gas consumption will rise in the forecast period, driven by China, India and the Middle East.
"In the United States, low prices and abundant supply see gas overtake oil around 2030 to become the largest fuel in the energy mix," according to the report, written by a team of researchers led by Birol.
Iraq will be the biggest contributor to new oil supplies, raising production to 6 million barrels a day by 2020. By 2035, the nation's output rate will rise to more than 8 million, overtaking Russia to become the world's second-largest exporter, the IEA said. The country pumped 3.4 million barrels a day last month, making it the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, after Saudi Arabia, according to Bloomberg estimates.
The forecasts for Iraq, a special focus of this year's IEA outlook, were previously published on Oct. 9.
In emerging nations, government subsidies will continue to spur fossil fuels use, even as lower-carbon energy sources become more popular. State subsidies cost $523 billion last year, up almost 30 percent from 2010. Subsidy programs, which remain most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa, have become more expensive as oil prices rose, the agency said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lananh Nguyen in London at lnguyen35@...
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@...