Saturday Links for the Week: August 9, 2008

rock balancing
The ultimate test of your rock-balancing finesse, via Forum Ouvert (Open Space) practitioner JS Bouchard, who, with his family, were such wonderful hosts to me during my visit yesterday to QuÈbec.

Mainstream Media Finally Pick Up on Ivins-Squalene Connection: The motive of Bruce Ivins to send the anthrax-tainted letters to media and politicians — to get the US to attack Iraq so that his vaccine, with the unauthorized and dangerous additive squalene, could be quickly fast tracked and tested on a guinea pig military — has finally been discovered by the NYT, more than a week after I wrote about it. Squalene puts the immune system into overdrive, by generating what has been called a “cytokine storm“, but can also lead as a result to permanent autoimmune hyperactivity diseases when the immune system never reverts to normal function. The result is severe inflammation and irreparable damage to critical healthy cells and tissue, which can be crippling, agonizing, or fatal, as in arthritis or diabetes or lupus or endometriosis or MS or chronic fatigue syndrome or asthma or allergies or inflammatory bowel disease or any of the dozens of other chronic immune system hyperactivity diseases. Hey, but what’s a few lifelong disabilities and deaths when it comes to testing out a wacky vaccine against bioterror? What’s more interesting is that the people who had the most to gain from provoking an unjustified war against Iraq so they could test this vaccine, were the senior Homeland Security and Bush administration officials desperate to develop such a vaccine. Of course the FBI has its patsy now, and dead men tell no tales, so we’re never likely to find out who really sent the anthrax letters. Now the mainstream media have made the Ivins-Squalene connection, will one of them connect Squalene to the companies and higher-ups who wanted it tested despite its monstrous side-effects? For example Glenn Greenwald points us to a NYT article (by Judith Miller) written a week before 9/11 on the Pentagon program to develop a vaccine-resistant anthrax for its own biowarfare program. Guess they’d need their own ‘special’ vaccine for that, huh?

The Coffee Shop as Social Gathering-Place: Chris Corrigan picks up on an idea in Architect Magazine on how coffee shops might morph into the business and community gathering places of the future. I recently predicted the end of offices, and with their demise will come a need for such f2f gathering spots, equipped with videoconferencing and screensharing and other social tools to allow others who can’t attend to be part of the conversation.

Building in Space for Nuance: Amy Lenzo points out Seth Godin’s suggestion that, while design solutions/ideas should be intuitive, they also need to create space so that those who don’t intuitively ‘get’ the solution/idea (or some subtle and ingenious facet of it) can ask questions without feeling foolish or critical. This perhaps ties into the approach of Back of the Napkin, which basically lets you recreate how you came up with a solution/idea by telling an illustrated story, one step at a time, with the opportunity for Q&A and collaborative conversation.

The Disconnect Between the US Election Campaign and the Life of Americans: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been inviting real American voters to tell them about the economic problems they’re having. The letters are heart-wrenching and show just how irrelevant the election campaign and the media coverage of “the issues” is to them. Matt Taibbi, writing in Rolling Stone about this, tells some of the stories and concludes (thanks to Jon Husband for the link):

Our economic reality is as brutal as it is for a simple reason: whether we like it or not, we are in the midst of revolutionary economic changes. In the kind of breathtakingly ironic development that only real life can imagine, the collapse of the Soviet Union has allowed global capitalism to get into the political unfreedom business, turning China and the various impoverished dictatorships and semi-dictatorships of the third world into the sweatshop of the earth. This development has cut the balls out of American civil society by forcing the export abroad of our manufacturing economy, leaving us with a service/managerial economy that simply cannot support the vast, healthy middle class our government used to work very hard to both foster and protect. The Democratic party that was once the impetus behind much of these changes, that argued so eloquently in the New Deal era that our society would be richer and more powerful overall if the spoils were split up enough to create a strong base of middle class consumers — that party panicked in the years since Nixon and elected to pay for its continued relevance with corporate money. As a result the entire debate between the two major political parties in our country has devolved into an argument over just how quickly to dismantle the few remaining benefits of American middle-class existence — immediately, if you ask the Republicans, and only slightly less than immediately, if you ask the Democrats.

The Virtue of Beauty: A lovely piece of contemplation by Pohangina Pete on our obsession with the utility of things with poetic interjections like this:

The sun comes and goes, and a cold wind with it. A woman carrying a surfboard returns from the beach, wringing water from her hair with one hand, the board clutched under the other arm. She slides it into her BMW and drives off, leaving the winter beach empty except for the roar of the surf, the scurrying wind, the arcs and jinks of swallows. Something splashes in the creek, down among the dry dead raupo, and a duck calls. Then the rain arrives, drizzle at first then heavier, then the sun follows, shining through the haze of rain and out at sea a rainbow forms. Tell me what this is useful for.

The Climate Change Paradox: In the last few months I’ve met several climate scientists, and they’re scared. Changes are occurring much faster than they predicted even a couple of years ago, and accelerating. There’s increasing evidence that some of these changes are self-reinforcing, and pushing past tipping points that will careen us into out-of-control climate changes. They’re now working to try to recommend steps that will reduce global warming by 2 degrees celsius this century, while forecasting and trying to develop adaptation plans for 4 degree changes, because they know the politicians’ plans to keep it to 2 degrees have no chance of working. The problem is, a 4 degree change would be catastrophic. So if they’re honest, and admit what is likely to happen and what it will mean, they’ll be ridiculed by the climate change deniers, and people will just stop trying to deal with the issue. But if they lie and say that fixing the problem is possible, and if people do what they suggest and it’s still not enough, they’ll be accused to saying too little too late. They can’t win. And alas, neither can we.

Why McCain Will Win: I’ve been predicting a McCain win since I spoke with Joe Bageant and read his book. Now the polls are tipping his way, and others are trying to explain it by blaming the media. But people don’t believe the media much — they believe their friends, and the people they see and hear. The 40% who are uneducated, white, working-class Americans therefore believe McCain when he says the Iraq war is winnable, and that he cares about their values. That’s all they need to hear. To win, Obama needs 84% of the remainder of voters, an impossible stretch. And as Elizabeth Kolbert reports, McCain has thrown away all his previous principles and jumped on the pro-big-business, anti-environment bandwagon to line up the big right-wing corporatist campaign donors. On top of all that, says Sara Robinson, Obama supporters are from the Quaker/Puritan cultural heritage who don’t fight back, giving advantage to the muckraking and mudslinging McCain supporters from the Scots/Irish/Cavalier heritage. Thanks to Dale Asberry for the Robinson link.

…and Bush Steps Up Iran Invasion Plans to Help Him Win: Sy Hersh has the latest startling news about the Bush regime’s covert war on Iran, and plans to provoke violence to justify another all-out war.

Debunking the Hydrogen Economy…Again: European Tribune debunks the irrational hysteria surrounding the MIT announcement of a more efficient way to produce hydrogen. Once more, for those who missed it: Hydrogen is not a fuel source, merely a (not very efficient, yet) way to store the fuel once it’s produced.

Borrowings From the Fed, since 1910: A scary curve of desperate borrowings to cover reckless loans. Thanks to Dale Asberry for the link.

woodland home

Permaculture Building: A Model for Intentional Community?: The 500sf home above was built using local, healthy, natural materials into a woodland hill in Wales, is sustainable and energy-efficient, and cost about 1500 hours plus £3000 ($6000). They’re planning on creating whole communities of similar homes, but are, of course, having problems with zoning authorities. Imagine a whole Intentional Community of such buildings, blended together into the natural landscape! Some good links on this website, BTW. Thanks to Mattbg [OOPS CORRECTION: Thanks to Matthew Jewkes] for the link.

Quotes for the Week: In response to a question I asked at the IFLA conference in QuÈbec City yesterday What is the essence of good research?, David Stern of Brown University replied: “Asking the right questions”. And from Justin Kownacki in a Twitter comment: “Social media is populated largely by people who are not good at being social in real life”.

Thought for the Week: Looking Away from Beauty: From Orion Magazine, by Rebecca Solnit, to think about if you’re watch the tainted Olympics:

Bodies in peak condition performing with everything theyíve got are an image of freedom, as are pristine landscapes like Yosemite and the Tetons. But the reality of freedom only exists when these phenomena arenít deployed to cover up other bodies that are cringing, starving, bleeding, or dying, other places that are clearcut, strip-mined, and contaminated. Television coverage of the summer Olympics probably wonít cut away from those sleek athletes to the charred bodies of massacred villagers and the anguished faces of young gang-rape victims in Darfur, or the bloodied heads of young monks and uncounted corpses and prisoners in Burma and Tibet. But the associations between the two are crucial to our sense of compassion, and of what it means to be a partof a global community. 
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3 Responses to Saturday Links for the Week: August 9, 2008

  1. Doug Alder says:

    The article on Hydrogen is seriously flawed. It missed the fact that in the same week a new fuel cell technology ( using Gortex instead of Plantinum was announced – the kicker being that Gortex is, compared to Platinum, cheap and easily obtained. The fuel cell is every bit as efficient as current Platinum based designs. So you combine that with the invention from MIT and generate hydrogen to power your home during the non solar powered hours and also your car. This is not to say that it;s a done deal, that there are not obstacles to overcome, but NOTHING else yet proposed has the disruptive capacity to overturn the current model anywhere near the degree that these two discoveries have.

  2. Metatone says:

    1) Doug, you might want to look into some of the new ceramic capacitor ideas, they are far more disruptive and also seem far closer to making it into production that the various Hydrogen bits and pieces.2) Social media quote. Funny, but largely untrue. It used to be true, when social media was blog and IRC. But Facebook (as an example) is mostly no improvement over email and IM if you’re not very social, or even if (like me) your social network is spread over a wider geographical area. The main value of Facebook is as an interaction point for an already existing, geographically close social network.

  3. Dave, it was good to see your Building in Space for Nuance piece. I’ve quoted it on my website (your software won’t let me give the link) in support of the Experiments stage of my Now-to-New approach. I have to thank Jean-Sébastien Bouchard for directing me to your blog, and this item in particular. Jean-Sébastien has made a very useful contribution to the Now-to-New book I’m in the process of writing, by proposing Embodiment as the name of one of the qualities needed by Now-to-New activists. (I’d orignally named the quality Expression, but swiftly adopted Jean-Sébastien’s proposal. What you refer to as “Back of the napkin” is a way of making the idea tangible, bringing it to life and demonstrating the value that it will create in the world when it has been maninfested. I’ve associated Embodiment with the third chakra (traditionally labelled “Will”, but I’ve never been OK with that description) as this is the place of the breath, where oxygen is taken in. Once the idea has been breathed into life, the final two essential qualities or faculties are Devotion (selfless dedication, parental love – second chakra) and what I’m currently calling “Connection with first reality”, which is about nourishing the idea, providing the infrastructure necessary to ensure that the idea survives, thrives and creates value (first chakra). So big thanks for the small item. It has made a valuable contribution to the book. I’ve included your blog in the list of links on my website (same software / link problem). Warm wishes, Jack (Bristol, UK)

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