Obama just announced his selections for the White House Office of Science and Technology and NOAA. His picks are good, solid choices. But what impresses me the most is Obama’sÂ perspective on science itself, which is a near-180 shift in perspective from the current administration.Â Says Obama, he has selected “leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respect the integrity of the scientific process.Â Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology.”Â Of course, political ideology, left and right, can and does obscure scientific enquiry. Let’s encourage Obama to allow science to speak for itself, relatively free of partisan
Until we actually get our hands in the soil, the experience of barely surviving helps one to question the fantasy world of artificial plenty. A middle-class or very rich person might cling to the myth of ever-rising material prosperity only for the moment, as collapse unfolds. â€“ Jan Lundburg Itâ€™s official – the U.S. banking bailout has not â€œflooded capital markets with new liquidity.â€ Just the opposite: banks taking bailout funds have spent our public debt on themselves. We were told (coerced, frightened, threatened) that, without a massive infusion to the â€œcredit markets,â€ the global economy would grind to a halt. Yet the global economy remains slow-but-active, with U.S. unemployment under 8%. This, in spite of the fact that virtually none of the bailout money has reached the open markets. I think we can call Paulsonâ€™s banking bailout a complete and utter failure. It has enriched Paulsonâ€™s banker chums while ravaging American taxpayers with massive amounts of unnecessary new debt. Itâ€™s now clear that Paulsonâ€™s Panic was nothing more than grand political-industrial theatre. America was the worldâ€™s largest creditor nation in 1929. That role is held by China in 2008. So, as we think forward about policy, we should look back to 1929 and think of the United States of today as Great Britain in 1929 and China today as the United States of 1929. – Meredith Whitney Other global bailouts have likewise failed. The German parliament has just announced that their $668B banking bailout has done virtually nothing to help the greater economy. The German bailout has not led to a resumption of inter-bank lending nor new commercial credit. Germany is now considering further nationalization of their banking sector to force credit flows. Of course, forcing credit into a dying Ponzi scheme (derivative-based economy) will only prolong the illusion of wealth. Eventually, global economies must return to a proper balance, void of excessive debt. The more we try to prop up a failed system, the harder it will come crashing down. It was reported this week that fully HALF of all Las Vegas homes are now appraised at less than their mortgage principal. Overall, 12 million U.S. families now hold mortgages in excess of the value of their homes, and that number is growing fast. As recessionary deflation continues to re-value our artificially-inflated Ponzi economies, look for a significant, continued downturn in housing values in 2009, gutting the U.S. economy of a core asset. Umair Haque at the Harvard Business Review says, â€œInvestment banks failed not just as businesses, but as financial institutions that were supposedly built to last. It was ultimately how they were organized and managed as economic institutions – poor incentives, near-total opacity, zero responsibility, absolute myopia – that was the problem. The rot was in their DNA, in their institutional makeup, not in their strategies or business models. The centuries-old institutions of orthodox capitalism cannot support the transition to a hyperconnected global economyâ€¦ what we are seeing is nothing less than the wholesale deconstruction of the global financial and economic system.â€ I would add that weâ€™re seeing a similar global deconstruction and realignment in the DNA of centuries-old Western religious institutions. Haque offers a new definition of capitalism (a must read..). Haqueâ€™s capitalism is not limited to financial capital, but seeks to capitalize human, natural, social, and cultural resources. When we capitalize rainforests, endangered species, community, the foregone opportunities of the poor, our own well-being – then they will finally have value: they can finally be priced, and so the dominant global-financial players won’t be free to destroy them with impunity. Says Haque, â€œNext-generation businesses are built on next-generation assets. Yesterday’s businesses were built on cash, factories, and IP – financial, physical, and intellectual capital. Next-generation businesses are built, instead, on human, social, natural, and cultural capital – to name just a few. It is only by capitalizing the things we really value that the spark of value creation can be lit again. “Here’s a secret: capital isn’t just whatever bean counters and boardrooms decide it is. It’s what we – collectively, as global citizens – decide has value, because it impacts our productivity, well-being, and quality of life. Want to capitalize something? Start a movement and build a consensus. Capital is formed when people are willing to agree that something has value. And the miracle of the 21st century is that in a hyper-connected world, millions of people can debate, discuss, and decide in the blink of an eye. It’s never been easier to capitalize something – so what are you waiting for?” â€œThe object of life is not prosperity, as we are made to believe, but the maturing of the human soul.” â€“ Alexander Solzhenitsyn CNN hosts eight economists, some who predicted the 2008 meltdown, on their View for 2009. I encourage you to read these brief but eye-opening
I’m getting very old. If I were a mutt in dog years I’d be seven, not stray so far. I am large. Tarpon my age are often large but they are inescapably fish. A porpoise my age was the King of New Guinea in 1343. Perhaps I am the king of my dogs, cats, horses but I have dropped any notion of explaining to them why I read so much. To be mysterious is a prerogative of kingship. I discovered lately that my subjects do not live a life, but are life itself. They do not recognize the pain of the schizophrenia of kingship. To them I am pretty much a fellow creature.Â – Jim Harrison, from Returning to
If this were the last day of my life, I wouldn’t complain about the shower curtain rod in the wrong place, even though it’s drilled into the tiles. Nor would I fret over water marks on the apricot satin finish paint, half sick that I should have used semigloss. No.Â I’d stand in the doorway watching sun glint off the chrome faucet, breathing in the silicone smell. I’d wonder at the plumber, as he adjusted the hot and cold water knobs. I’d stareÂ at the creases behind his ears and the gray flecks in his stubble. I’d have to hold myself back from touching him. Or maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I’d stroke his cheek and study his eyes the amber of cellos, his rumpledÂ brow, the tiny garnet threads of capillaries, his lips resting together, quiet as old friendsâ€” I’d gaze at him as though his were the first face I’d ever seen.Â “Remodeling the Bathroom” by Ellen Bass, fromÂ Mules of Love.
Touched by your goodness, I am like that grand piano we found one night on Willoughby that someone had smashed and somehow heaved through an open window. And you might think by this I mean I’m broken or abandoned, or unloved. Truth is, I don’t know exactly what I am, any more than the wreckage in the alley knows it’s a piano, filling with trash and yellow leaves. Maybe I’m all that’s left of what I was. But touching me, I know, you are the good breeze blowing across its rusted strings.Â What would you call that feeling when the wood, even with its cracked harp, starts to sing? – Patrick