Archive for February, 2010

What Are We Bid for American Justice?

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

by: Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

That famous definition of a cynic as someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing has come to define this present moment of American politics.

No wonder people have lost faith in politicians, in parties and in our leadership. The power of money drives cynicism deep into the heart of every level of government. Everything – and everyone – comes with a price tag attached: from a seat at the table in the White House to a seat in Congress to the fate of health care reform, our environment and efforts to restrain Wall Street’s greed and prevent another financial catastrophe.

Our government is not broken; it’s been bought out from under us, and on the right and the left and smack across the vast middle more and more Americans doubt representative democracy can survive the corruption of money.

Last month, the Supreme Court carried cynicism to new heights with its decision in the Citizens United case. Spun from a legal dispute over the airing on a pay-per-view channel of a right-wing documentary attacking Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential primaries, the decision could have been made very narrowly. Instead, the conservative majority of five judges issued a sweeping opinion that greatly expands corporate power over our politics.

Never mind that in at least two separate polls an overwhelming majority of Americans from both political parties say they want no part of the court’s decision; they want even more limits on the power of money in elections. But candidates and their campaign consultants are gearing up to exploit the court’s gift in the fall elections.


Lobbying Firm Advising Corporate Clients How to Take Advantage of Campaign Finance Ruling

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

A month after the Citizens United ruling, corporations are considering how to take advantage of their newfound ability to advocate directly for federal candidates, as indicated in a memo drafted by K&L Gates, a top Washington lobbying firm.

The memo, originally revealed in Talking Points Memo, explains how corporations can avoid “public scrutiny” and potentially damaging disclosures by funneling the money through lobbying groups or “trade associations.” K&L Gates is a massive law firm with revenues of over $1 billion per year, and their many international clients could have an interest in how the ruling affects their ability to influence American elections.


Shrimp’s Dirty Secrets: Why America’s Favorite Seafood Is a Health and Environmental Nightmare

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

– Not my first post on this subject.  See: also.

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The environmental impact of shrimp can be horrific. But most Americans don’t know where their shrimp comes from or what’s in it.

Americans love their shrimp. It’s the most popular seafood in the country, but unfortunately much of the shrimp we eat are a cocktail of chemicals, harvested at the expense of one of the world’s productive ecosystems. Worse, guidelines for finding some kind of “sustainable shrimp” are so far nonexistent.

In his book, Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, Taras Grescoe paints a repulsive picture of how shrimp are farmed in one region of India. The shrimp pond preparation begins with urea, superphosphate, and diesel, then progresses to the use of piscicides (fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone), pesticides and antibiotics (including some that are banned in the U.S.), and ends by treating the shrimp with sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxicant), Borax, and occasionally caustic soda.

Upon arrival in the U.S., few if any, are inspected by the FDA, and when researchers have examined imported ready-to-eat shrimp, they found 162 separate species of bacteria with resistance to 10 different antibiotics. And yet, as of 2008, Americans are eating 4.1 pounds of shrimp apiece each year — significantly more than the 2.8 pounds per year we each ate of the second most popular seafood, canned tuna. But what are we actually eating without knowing it? And is it worth the price — both to our health and the environment?


– Research thanks to Michael M.

‘Let go and let Love’…. why did no-one tell me it’s so simple?

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

– It’s odd how one thing leads you to another.  John Micheal Greer over on The Archdruid Report mentioned in a post, as an aside, that one of his pet peeves was that people frequently misspelled Mathatma Gandhi’s name as Ghandi.

– This lead me to scan this Blog for such misspellings and, indeed, I found and corrected several.

– One of the misspellings was associated with a post I’d made back in February of 2007 referring to a beautiful post over on Life 2.0 entitled,

‘Let go and let Love’…. why did no-one tell me it’s so simple?

– As I made my correction, I began to reread the ‘Let go and let Love…’ post and was deeply captivated again by it.   So much so, that I want to re-post it here in it’s entirety.  It’s a very beautiful and timely piece and I encourage you, if you like it to visit Life 2.0 and explore for more of the same.

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First up, an explanation of sorts.  There’s been a continued ‘enlightenment’ theme to recent posts.  Maybe it’s because I try not to plan what I write that posts here tend to follow a path of their own, I don’t really know.  All I can say is that I have a load of ideas around entrepreneurship, creativity and life hacks that I’d love to share with you too.  But whilst we’re still on this subject, and just so you have a little perspective as to ‘where I’m coming from’, I’ll tell you about my own journey so far:

I guess we all come to the recognition of Truth in our own way and in our own time,  and that’s good.  My way seems very strange though.  I was one of the so called lucky ones – I had my very own ‘burning bush’ experience.. but what I did with that beggars belief.  I very, very subtly (so that I wouldn’t even notice I was doing it) turned and walked away from it.
The burning bush
Some years ago, after a lifetime of being determined to find out ‘how things really worked’, and having studying  A Course in Miracles for a year or so, I was out walking my Labrador on the hill behind my home.  After I had gotten tired of throwing sticks for Ben I sat down on a stile to watch the world go by for a while, and the dog curled up under my feet. In the next few minutes I came to see my whole life in a completely new light, totally reframed and everything fitting perfectly together – like adding the last few lines to a ‘join the dots’ picture where suddenly you see what it is all about for the very first time.  I thought I had been building businesses, raising my children, trying to be all the things I wanted to be.  I had no idea that totally unbeknown to me, life had had a completely different agenda.

This ‘secret’ agenda had been working through everything I had ever thought, spoken and done, through every so called failure and success and through every traumatic or blissful moment in my life.  I saw so clearly that everything that had happened since the day I popped onto this planet had been orchestrated to bring me to this place where I was now sat and was able to see the perfection and beauty of it all.  It all was suddenly so clear, every single part of my life fitted together faultlessly, with not one piece missing or to spare.  Enlightenment had been going on all the time…. perfectly.

Here’s what I now knew:  After all my efforts to understand, to ‘get it’ and then to walk the path, the path has been walking through me all along.  We had always been the vehicle for enlightenment, we just didn’t see ourselves as doing that, and certainly didn’t see ourselves as being in the driving seat.  There was one beautiful purpose to life and my expression of that had been played perfectly by me all along, and this was true for everyone.  Suddenly all concept of right and wrong and guilt and doubt disappeared completely.  And there was no place for  regrets anymore, only this one vast, all encompassing Love….. and it had only been my desire to find happiness in this life that had blinded me to seeing it was already here.
Good intentions gone wrong
I knew from that moment on that my life was changed because there could be no forgetting this.  By some form of grace I had glimpsed Reality and all I wanted or needed to do was find a way of helping the rest of the world see the same thing. And that’s where I started to lose the plot again.

The more I tried to explain this, to myself or others, the more distant it seemed to become.  All I wanted do was to help and yet the more I tried, the more this epiphany turned into a distant memory.  What I didn’t see then was that the very act of trying to understand was the act of denial of what I had so clearly seen.  By trying to understand I was separating the one who was trying to understand from that which he was trying to understand.  By attempting to reconcile God and Life and Love and Enlightenment and ‘Who I am’, I was denying that they are all the same thing….. this Oneness that I had been so fortunate to experience.

It’s only when I imagine there is more than one thing, like when I put the little word ‘my’ in front of the word ‘life’, that there arises the concept of an under-stander and an under-stood and then the need to understand.  Oneness can only ever be experiential because it is all inclusive.  Reality can only be known, because there is no-one separate to understand it. It’s only the mind that obfuscates this feeling of Love and connection that we already exists in.  And anything I can imagine to do to come to this realisation, can also only be part of my denial of this feeling of Love that is constantly trying to seep into our conscious awareness.  As Thomas Aquinas one said:

Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.”

Awakening was life’s role not mine.  I had forgotten that our part is only to allow it to happen.
Wising up
So little by little I’ve come to accept there is nothing I can do to awaken because life itself is the process of awakening.  It’s a process of accepting what already is and that requires no doing and no effort, just a surrender to what is already here in this moment.  Life delights to set us free, to make us happy.. and everything we need to fulfill that purpose comes to us, perfectly.  When we really accept that we don’t know how to wake up then a miracle happens.  Instead of not-knowing being the problem, not-knowing becomes the answer – our whole way, because ‘not-knowing’ is the clean and empty slate on which Love will write a different story through our lives.  It is in the invitation and the opening to grace.

I suppose we could paraphrase the whole process of life down to this one thing:  A process of letting go of our resistance (in a multitude of ways) to the Love that Is.  This is all that is really going on here.  And so we come home to Truth, to the knowing of our true Self, simply by allowing it to happen – by allowing ourselves to become non-resistant to everything.

At the end of the day the choice is this:- we can either be true to Truth of our own experience or true to the latest idea of what is still needed.  This is seen so clearly in the way the great religions keep us in chains by lowering expectations and by promising freedom some time in the ‘future’.  And so we end up settling for being Christians instead of Christs and Buddhists instead of Buddhas.  Didn’t Jesus once say, “Greater things than these things shall ye do”.  Adyanshanti says it well in this essay entitled  ‘You are the Buddha’.

This is what the Buddha did.  He didn’t say, “I’ll try.”  He didn’t say, “I hope I’ll find the Truth.”  He didn’t say, “I’ll do my best.”  He didn’t say, “If not in this lifetime, then maybe next lifetime.”  He came to the point where he didn’t look for anyone else to tell him the Truth or show him the Truth.  He came to the point where he took it all on himself.  He sat alone under the Bodhi Tree and vowed never to give up until the Truth be realized.

The power of this very simple, yet unshakable intention and absolute stand to be liberated in this lifetime propelled him to awaken to the simple fact that he and all beings are liberated—that all beings are freedom itself.  Pure awakeness.

The Buddha was no different from you.  No different. …..

Adyanshanti also says “What we serve we cannot lose”.  True enough, but even this idea of ‘serving Truth’, at least for a  bear-of-little-brain like me, is too much.  I have seen that we already do this and I have seen that in spite of appearances, everything we have ever done has served Truth.  We were just mistaken, and thought there was something else going on here.  And so when I attempt to serve Truth there is this very human tendency that arises in me to judge how I am doing, and then I lose my way again – lose sight of the fact that we already do this perfectly – that we are already awake and perfectly creative, and just don’t see it yet.
Homeward bound

So for me at least, I need to finally let go of trying to live it, of trying to serve it, and simply  allow It to live and serve through me – become nonresistant (‘surrender’ if you like) to this Love that we call life that already flows through us.

There’s a huge freedom in this tiny change of intent because now there is no cause for stress or concern.  When we replaces all the reasons ‘why’ we do things (especially all those spiritual or do-goody reasons) for this single ‘why’ of allowing Truth/Love/Life/Joy/*your own term here* to express itself through me, then there are no worries any more.  Life makes no mistakes….. ‘mistakes’, ‘problems’ – that’s all mind stuff.  Success in this is always certain, but now we come to  know it is so.

So perhaps I finally am ‘getting it’:  Just surrender to life…..let life flow through me un-resisted…. and see what happens.  ‘Listen and allow’…. as my friend  Jodee Bock tells me to do.

What a release not to have to do or understand anything anymore …. just enjoy the ride.  No worries, no cares, it’s not up to me now… not my problem.  And what problems could there be once their cause, my resistance, has gone.  Trusting instead, that when we are just being who we Are, in harmony with Universe, everything just works out fine.

Love Is…. what more could we do than simply let it be?

To let go and let Love……Why did no-one tell me it’s this simple?

Or perhaps they did and I just wasn’t ready to hear. 😉
Life as celebration
So what to do, now that I know that anything I try to do to bring about enlightenment blinds me to the recognition that it’s already here?

How about just doing whatever it that makes us happy and trust life to take care of all the rest?  Hard as it is to shatter the egos belief in unworthiness and sacrifice and struggle, it’s only in the path of our happiness that we find what we have come here to learn.  Life has only one agenda: –  that we be happy, now.

And what better way to strengthen this realisation than to see it everywhere, take joy in everything that comes our way and share it freely?  It’s this what we came for.

So to me, our greatest role models and teachers are not the obvious ones.  Not the ones that lecture or hold retreats, but those who know how to squeeze the juice out of life and then invite you to dine with them.

Evelyn at  Crossroad Dispatches and Tittin at  Backtracking Slowly Forward spring immediately to mind.  Click over there and you’ll find a pot-pourri of art, raw life and insight……. and you’ll perhaps also discover what  George Bernard Shaw meant when he said,  “The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and all time.” (we can forgive him the gender bias of those times).  But like any good feast, the best times to go there are when you are little hungry and when you have a little more time than you need… so you can savour and enjoy all the different flavours.

– To the original post on Life 2.0

Best Healthcare in the World, Baby

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

California may be a bellwether for the rest of nation, but apparently it doesn’t take long for the rest of the nation to catch up these days:

Consumers in at least four states who buy their own health insurance are getting hit with premium increases of 15 percent or more — and people in other states could see the same thing.

….The Anthem Blue Cross plan in Maine is asking for increases of about 23 percent this year for some individual policyholders. Last year, they raised rates up to 32 percent. And in Oregon, multiple insurers were granted rate hikes of 15 percent or more this year after increases of around 25 percent last year for customers who purchase individual health insurance, rather than getting it through their employer.

….”You’re going to see rate increases of 20, 25, 30 percent” for individual health policies in the near term, Sandy Praeger, chairwoman of the health insurance and managed care committee for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, predicted Friday.


Nature’s hot green quantum computers revealed

Monday, February 15th, 2010

– I’ve been watching this story for a year or more since I saw the first reference to this new work.

– Fascinating stuff.  If something as simple as Chlorophyll can employ quantum computing to search multiple paths at simultaneously, then is it so far out to imagine that the mechanisms employed by an thinking brain may do the same?

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WHILE physicists struggle to get quantum computers to function at cryogenic temperatures, other researchers are saying that humble algae and bacteria may have been performing quantum calculations at life-friendly temperatures for billions of years.

The evidence comes from a study of how energy travels across the light-harvesting molecules involved in photosynthesis. The work has culminated this week in the extraordinary announcement that these molecules in a marine alga may exploit quantum processes at room temperature to transfer energy without loss. Physicists had previously ruled out quantum processes, arguing that they could not persist for long enough at such temperatures to achieve anything useful.

Photosynthesis starts when large light-harvesting structures called antennas capture photons. In the alga called Chroomonas CCMP270, these antennas have eight pigment molecules woven into a larger protein structure, with different pigments absorbing light from different parts of the spectrum. The energy of the photons then travels across the antenna to a part of the cell where it is used to make chemical fuel.

The route the energy takes as it jumps across these large molecules is important because longer journeys could lead to losses. In classical physics, the energy can only work its way across the molecules randomly. “Normal energy transfer theory tells us that energy hops from molecule to molecule in a random walk, like the path taken home from the bar by a drunken sailor,” says Gregory Scholes at the University of Toronto, Canada, one of the co-authors of the paper published in Nature this week (DOI: 10.1038/nature08811).

But Scholes and his colleagues have found that the energy-routeing mechanism may actually be highly efficient. The evidence comes from the behaviour of pigment molecules at the centre of the Chroomonas antenna. The team first excited two of these molecules with a brief laser pulse, causing electrons in the pigment molecules to jump into a quantum superposition of excited states. When this superposition collapses, it emits photons of slightly different wavelengths which combine to form an interference pattern. By studying this pattern in the emitted light, the team can work out the details of the quantum superposition that created it.


The world according to ExxonMobil

Monday, February 15th, 2010

– The big insurance companies like Lloyd’s of London have a vested interest in getting their analyses right as they have big money riding on their predictive skills.

– One might argue that a company like Exxon might have a greater interest in ‘spinning’ their analyses.  But, they have to get it right with the version they’re using behind closed doors.   Here’s what they are publicly saying.   Makes for interesting reading.

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ExxonMobil – known as the world’s largest, most efficient, and most profitable oil company – has its own distinctive way of looking at the world. In its starkly realistic annual “Outlook for Energy”, it concludes that until 2030: CO2 emissions will continue to grow, fossil fuels will continue to dominate energy supply, and solar power, electric cars and carbon capture & storage will not become cost-competitive. But the company is not without idealism: it believes in the power of efficiency, dreams of turning algae into oil and favours a carbon tax over a cap-and-trade policy.

Todd Onderdonk, Senior Energy Adviser at ExxonMobil

Every year, energy giant ExxonMobil presents its own “Outlook for Energy”, its view of the world’s energy future until 2030. Although ExxonMobil’s outlook is based on essentially the same historical data as similar “outlook” reports from the International Energy Agency in Paris and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in Washington, it offers in many ways a different – and fascinating – perspective on the world. It may well be – although this is something no one can say for sure – a more realistic, anticipatory vision than the one offered by the “official” energy institutions.

Todd W. Onderdonk, Senior Energy Adviser in ExxonMobil’s Corporate Strategic Planning Department, and one of the main authors of the “Outlook for Energy”, explains the uniqueness of ExxonMobil’s report as follows: ‘The energy outlooks of some key government institutions typically reflect a set of certain policy assumptions, which help provide a wide bracket of possible outcomes rather than a forecast of what is likely to happen by 2030. For example, they often provide a baseline outlook that assumes no changes in energy policy. By comparison, in developing an outlook to guide our long-term investment decisions, we have to take a view on how policies, energy markets and technology are likely to evolve through 2030 to address economic, energy and environmental challenges worldwide.


– Research thanks to Mike D.

Turkish girl ‘buried alive for talking to boys’

Friday, February 12th, 2010

– Turkey wants into the European Union, Right?  Yeah, sure.

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A 16-year-old Turkish girl was buried alive by relatives as a punishment for talking to boys, the Hurriyet newspaper reported on Thursday.

Police discovered the body of the girl, identified only as M.M., in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-meter-deep hole dug under a chicken pen outside her house in Kahta in the southeastern province of Adiyaman, the Turkish daily reported on its website.

The body was found in December, around 40 days after M.M. went missing. Police have arrested and charged the girl’s father and grandfather over the murder. The father reportedly said in his testimony that the family was unhappy his daughter had male friends. Her mother was also arrested but later released.

A postmortem examination revealed a significant amount of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she was buried alive and conscious, forensic experts told the Anatolia news agency.


Pentagon Looks to Breed Immortal ‘Synthetic Organisms,’ Molecular Kill-Switch Included

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

– Our hubris will be the ruin of us yet.   And we wonder why the SETI folks haven’t picked up any signals from other civilizations out among the stars.

– I think it is because in almost all cases, when animals evolve to the point where we are, with generalized intelligence, they  shoot themselves in the head by messing with stuff they shouldn’t have.  Stuff that then gets away from them and kills them.

– A year or two ago, I Blogged about Craig Venter’s attempts to create a bacteria from scratch.

– Then, more recently, I’ve posted several times about the risks of nanotechnology.  See these: and

– Now today, I see that the U.S.’s Pentagon is going to breed immortal lifeforms but that no one should worry – because they’re going to put a ‘kill switch’ in also.

– Has no one read Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and his prescient story about Ice-9?

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The Pentagon’s mad science arm may have come up with its most radical project yet. Darpa is looking to re-write the laws of evolution to the military’s advantage, creating “synthetic organisms” that can live forever — or can be killed with the flick of a molecular switch.

As part of its budget for the next year, Darpa is investing $6 million into a project called BioDesign, with the goal of eliminating “the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement.” The plan would assemble the latest bio-tech knowledge to come up with living, breathing creatures that are genetically engineered to “produce the intended biological effect.” Darpa wants the organisms to be fortified with molecules that bolster cell resistance to death, so that the lab-monsters can “ultimately be programmed to live indefinitely.”

Of course, Darpa’s got to prevent the super-species from being swayed to do enemy work — so they’ll encode loyalty right into DNA, by developing genetically programmed locks to create “tamper proof” cells. Plus, the synthetic organism will be traceable, using some kind of DNA manipulation, “similar to a serial number on a handgun.” And if that doesn’t work, don’t worry. In case Darpa’s plan somehow goes horribly awry, they’re also tossing in a last-resort, genetically-coded kill switch:

Develop strategies to create a synthetic organism “self-destruct” option to be implemented upon nefarious removal of organism.

– More…

– Hat tip to Cryptogon for this story.

Python Predation: Big snakes poised to change U.S. ecosystems

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Brought to the U.S. as pets, Burmese pythons have made headlines with their uncontrolled spread in the Florida Everglades and willingness to challenge alligators for the position of top predator. A report released by the U.S. Geological Survey last fall delivered more bad news: two other constrictor species, also former pets, are thriving in the area, and six others could pose similar threats. Researchers fear that reproductive populations could spread and eat native animals into extinction.

The new interlopers—northern and southern African pythons, reticulated pythons, boa constrictors and four species of anacondas—have “ecological similarities,” explains Robert Reed, a USGS biologist and one of the authors of the report. “They are large invasive predators that native birds and mammals aren’t adapted to, and they are highly fecund, capable of producing up to 100 hatchlings in one nest.” They’re also big; some grow up to 20 feet and 200 pounds. They seize prey with their teeth and then wrap around the prey’s body, squeezing it to death.