Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Cowardice of Iraq Hawks

Gawker nails it :
Cowardice defined the public debate leading up to the Iraq War. How is it that millions upon millions of ordinary citizens around the world could plainly see that the case for war was a farce, yet our nation's most respected pundits, with their inside access, could not? Even then, you did not have to be a genius to see that Iraq's connection to 9/11 was tenuous at best. And you did not have to be an insider to know that a war would kill and maim and destroy the lives of millions of people. And you did not have to be a great philosopher to draw the conclusion that it was a bad idea. The fact that pundit class supported the war en masse is not evidence of some great and sophisticated trickery on the part of the White House. It is evidence of cowardice. Liberal politicians and thinkers—the very set of people who were supposed to form the opposition to such rash violent imperial crusades—talked themselves into supporting the war because it was popular. It is that simple. They allowed themselves to be taken for a ride, because that ride was more comfortable for them than facing the loud backlash of post 9/11 war machine, which had captured public support—with the help of the very pundits and journalists and politicians who were supposed to be providing the counterbalance to it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Deeper Meaning of Cyprus

Worth a read

This is good too.

Ash Ashaninka

Bloody hell! This guy, Ash, was at our house last week. Very gentle, soft-spoken indigenous activist.

Today it seems like he was arrested in Rio as the police are clearing people out of Aldeia Maracanã. 

This is basically a museum of the indigenous people in Rio de Janiero. The local government have decided they want to repurpose it as a museum of sport before the Olympics. The indigenous are occupying it, protesting that the government is destroying their tradition and heritage. There are plenty of other sites suitable for a sport / Olympic museum. But, as usual, there are moneyed interests who want a prime piece of real-estate and this is an excuse to get their hands on it.

  You can see a short documentary about the museum here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

We're Idiots

I mean, how stupid are we, really?

We are sprinting to put in place a network of autonomous, self-feeding, all-seeing drones that are too small and manoeuvrable to avoid, outrun or fight. One of two things will happen : we'll lose control of them (Skynet scenario) or the state will retain control of them (Big Brother scenario). There isn't a third option.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hipster Olympics

Wow! Just found a Korean hip-hop mp3 on an old disk. Something I downloaded from the internet about 10 years ago.

File is called "psy_halloween.mp3". I therefore totally demand my Hipster Olympic Gold Medal in the "I liked them before they were famous" event.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Oil Shale Bubble

You really should read this. Connects the dots between the financial impropriety and ecologically disastrous energy policies.

Wall Street culture—not to mention the entire suite of economic expectations that guides the behavior of governments, businesses, and most individuals in today’s America—assumes that the close-to-zero return on investment that’s become standard in the last few years is a temporary anomaly, and that a good investment ought to bring in what used to be considered a good annual return: 4%, 6%, 8%, or more. What only a few thinkers on the fringes have grasped is that such returns are only normal in a growing economy, and we no longer have a growing economy.

Sustained economic growth, of the kind that went on from the beginning of the industrial revolution around 1700 to the peak of conventional oil production around 2005, is a rare anomaly in human history. It became a dominant historical force over the last three centuries because cheap abundant energy from fossil fuels could be brought into the economy at an ever-increasing rate, and it stopped because geological limits to fossil fuel extraction put further increases in energy consumption permanently out of reach. Now that fossil fuels are neither cheap nor abundant, and the quest for new energy sources vast and concentrated enough to replace them has repeatedly drawn a blank, we face several centuries of sustained economic contraction—which means that what until recently counted as the groundrules of economics have just been turned on their head.

You will not find many people on Wall Street capable of grasping this. The burden of an outdated but emotionally compelling economic orthodoxy, to say nothing of a corporate and class culture that accords economic growth the sort of unquestioned aura of goodness other cultures assign to their gods, make the end of growth and the coming of permanent economic decline unthinkable to the financial industry, or for that matter to the millions of people in the industrial world who rely on investments to pay their bills. There’s a strong temptation to assume that those 8% per annum returns must still be out there, and when something shows up that appears to embody that hope, plenty of people are willing to rush into it and leave the hard questions for later. Equally, of course, the gap thus opened between expectations and reality quickly becomes a happy hunting ground for scoundrels of every stripe.

Wikihouse Rio

I wonder what, actually, is the point of Wikihouse Rio.

If anyone knows how to build their own homes it's the inhabitants of the favelas. They have a huge expertise in vernacular construction from cheap bricks, breeze blocks, cement and plastic. There are problems ...particularly lack of sewage system. Some issues about lack of deep foundations and a lot of issues about the potential for mud-slides when it rains. Favelas typically perch on the side of the hill.

I like the Wikihouse idea a lot. I'm intrigued by the technologies involved etc. But I don't see it solving any of these real problems. Seriously? Large pieces of expensive CNC cut (hard?)wood? For the favela?

The Wikihouse project is designed for people who have money, materials and expensive technology but no information. It packages up information as open-source designs. Fantastic. But the faveladas are the opposite. They have plenty of knowledge, but lack resources and have an awkward construction site. Neither of which, wikihouse solves.

Poor Brazilians have plenty of problems, but lack of European architecture is not one of them.