Saturday, August 31, 2013

ANS -- Farming Without Water? It’s Possible and Tasty

Short article on another way of farming.  One of the commenters said if you much instead of till, you get larger crops, but I'm not sure about that -- do they still grow deep if you do that? 
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Farming Without Water? It�s Possible and Tasty

Farming Without Water? It’s Possible and Tasty  

Everyone knows water and sunlight are essential to gardening, but what�s a farmer in a drought-struck area to do? Amazingly, some farmers have found a way to grow crops without the H2O and the results are remarkably tasty.

As NPR reports, the technique is known as dry farming. Dry farmers intentionally limit the amount of water they provide to their crops. Though some water is needed in the first few weeks to get the plants going, after that, the farmers cut the supply off entirely.

Surprisingly, withholding the water doesn�t kill the produce. Instead, it forces the baby plants to grow vines that go incredibly deep into the soil. These vines are searching for a water source, and soil tends to retain moisture throughout the year.

Consumers in the know have been flocking to dry farmed products and not just because they enjoy the conservation aspect. They find the food grown in this manner to be sweeter and have more flavor than their traditionally watered counterparts.

In California, farmers in rain-free areas dry farm products like tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, apples and melons. The harvest does well not only at local supermarkets, but also in distant places where shoppers have acquired the taste for dry farmed goods but cannot find it grown locally due to rainfall. As a result, dry farmers admit they have trouble producing a supply to meet the current demand.

One downside to dry farming is the crops� limited harvest. Though the un-watered plants may prove more flavorful, their production is drastically reduced. Farmers estimate that, per acre, they grow anywhere between 3 to 10 times less food than they would if they watered their crops instead.

Moreover, dry farming also requires a lot of upkeep. While farmers may save time by not watering, they generally till the top of the soil throughout the year until it reaches a dusty consistency. In doing so, the farmers prevent the moisture from escaping through the surface.

For these reasons, dry farming is currently more of a labor of love than a road to profits. Nonetheless, it shows that even places with limited water resources can grow crops. Perhaps with more experimentation, dry farmers can find ways to yield more of their sweet-tasting produce, while simultaneously tackling the problem of many across the world going without food and water.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

ANS -- Elizabeth Warren's Secret

Here's a report on how Elizabeth Warren is doing so far in the Senate.  She has figured out some ways to be effective even in our do-nothing congress.  Smart lady.  I sure would like to see her as President, but I don't think she has a chance against the evil media. 
This is an article about an interview with Ms. Warren, and then the interview transcript.  They are fairly redundant, so just read the article if you can only get to one. 
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Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (photo: Eric Thayer/Reuters  
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (photo: Eric Thayer/Reuters)

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Elizabeth Warren's Secret

By David Dayen, Salon

29 August 13

The senator tells Salon how one senator can wield tremendous power - and (kind of) addresses those '16 rumors

[] t's been well-documented that the 113th Congress specializes in getting nothing consequential done. While the nation's supply of named post offices is apparently well-stocked, anything more critical has generally stalled out, with little hope to break the gridlock.

So let's say you're a high-profile freshman senator walking into this den of inertia, and you want to make your large following proud and advance your agenda, but you're in no position to do that legislatively? How do you, Elizabeth Warren, find your way through this minefield, and even chalk up successes?

"It's all about learning to use the new tools," Warren told Salon in an interview this week. "In the Senate, there are more tools in the toolbox than are obvious." Warren, now the senior senator from Massachusetts (Ed Markey, with a 37-year congressional career, is the junior member), has employed those more unconventional tools effectively, doing her part to both change the conversation around the financial industry inside and outside Washington, and change the sharpness of the regulatory response to financial misdeeds.

Warren sits on the Senate Banking Committee, which has marked up all of two bills so far this year (she played a role in both, passing an amendment to a national insurance licensing bill and working closely with the committee leadership on reforming the Federal Housing Administration). But she has really shone in oversight hearings, where she has gained a reputation for offering uncomfortable questions to regulatory officials about their lack of prosecuting criminal activity on Wall Street. "Too big to fail has become too big for trial," she said at a hearing in February. "How big do the biggest banks have to get before we consider breaking them up?" she asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in May. And she's used the bully pulpit outside the hearing room, too, schooling CNBC anchors so badly on the history of financial regulation that the network forced the clip to be removed from YouTube.

This creates a consequence for the regulators for lax enforcement. Nobody wants to end up on the business end of an Elizabeth Warren viral video, and the hope is that the prodding will spur the regulators into action, or at least keep them alert. "There's a lot that banking regulators can do to make the system safer without Congress passing any new laws," Warren told Salon. "But only if they do their jobs. It's about accountability in both directions. The largest financial institutions should be held accountable, and so should the regulators."

She added, "They are not there to serve the banks, they are there to serve the public. I'm reminded of that when we have public hearings. I try to ask questions that the public wants to hear."

This extends beyond the occasional badgering of witnesses ("I beg your pardon," said Warren when I termed it that way, though she misunderstood, as I have a great affection for badgering). In one of her first major actions, Warren opened an investigation into the Independent Foreclosure Review, which was supposed to review every foreclosure from 2009-2010 for errors, but ended up so botched (the banks picked their own reviewers) that regulators shut it down and gave wronged homeowners a seemingly random amount of cash compensation, typically around $300. Warren demanded information on how the aborted reviews were conducted, what they found and how regulators arrived at the final penalties. After a series of embarrassing hearings on the subject, last month Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke promised the release of some details, though none have yet come out.

Other agencies have come to expect Warren's queries. Just yesterday, she asked the Justice Department about why it settled with five large banks who submitted fraudulent mortgage insurance claims to the FHA for $225 million, when based on the number of claims made public in a government report, the damages could have been as high as $37 billion. That comes out to a settlement for 0.6 percent of potential damages.

Warren has had more luck with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which she previously criticized for generating settlements with giant financial institutions on securities fraud and other violations without making the guilty party admit wrongdoing. Corporations can't stand this because they expose themselves to future litigation, could suffer reputational risk and even lose their banking licenses. But putting this price on misconduct could have a tremendous deterrent effect (in addition, fines in cases where the defendant admits wrongdoing are not tax deductible).

The Massachusetts senator used both hearings and a series of letters to new SEC chairwoman Mary Jo White to question the policy. This has borne fruit: White announced a new settlement policy that will require admissions of guilt in more cases. "I'm very optimistic about the direction Mary Jo White is taking the SEC," Warren said. "She didn't make a generalized 'we're going to get tough' statement, she identified a class of cases in which the agency would take a different position, with harsher consequences for companies that don't cooperate."

"Commissioner White is showing some real spirit," Warren added. "She has come in and made it clear that it's a new day in town."

Just this week, hedge fund manager Philip Falcone admitted wrongdoing in a settlement over improper use of funds at Harbinger Capital, the first individual to do so since White announced the new policy. While Falcone didn't admit to liability on specific violations of law, Warren called it a "step in the right direction," and an indication that "the SEC is a watchdog that's starting to show some teeth."

So while critics call Warren's verbal jabs mere showboating, combined with her persistence they have had a tangible impact, both exposing some bank-friendly regulators and spurring others to better alternatives. "Those who criticize her for being all talk and no achievements don't understand the Senate," said Jeff Connaughton, a former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Kaufman who wrote an appreciation of Warren earlier this year. "I think she and others have made regulators think twice about how kid glove treatment of the banks will look in a harsh Senate spotlight."

Warren has also done plenty of unsung work in her freshman year. She actually has the highest attendance at Banking Committee proceedings so far this year, making 27 out of 35 hearings and executive sessions, more than chairman Tim Johnson or ranking member Mike Crapo. And in hearings, she almost always stays from start to finish, learning from her fellow members' questioning and often tailoring hers to cover a different subject area. "I learn a lot from those hearings," Warren said. "Not everyone is engaged, but there's a core of people really interested in the issues and really driving them."

The freshman senator named her Banking Committee colleagues Sherrod Brown and Jeff Merkley as part of this core group. (She even had nice words to say for Republican Bob Corker, whom she has worked with on the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "since before I was a senator.") Another reformer, Carl Levin, has made a habit of using his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to delve into issues of financial crimes, most recently with the "London Whale" trade by JPMorgan Chase. Levin's report was instrumental in the criminal indictments of two ex-traders at the bank for hiding losses and lying to regulators and investors. "Progress on the London Whale and admit or deny has come because of three or four determined senators and despite two captured committees," argued Jeff Connaughton.

The increased scrutiny has a cumulative effect. When one regulatory agency like the SEC changes its policy, it provokes other agencies to consider toughening theirs. When one senator points the way toward more provocative questioning of the broken regulatory response to a tsunami of financial crimes, other senators want in on the act. "She has elevated 'the game' of other senators," said Bartlett Naylor of Public Citizen. "No longer can her peers survive a committee hearing on a one-minute staff briefing before asking a question written for them, if it might be at odds with one of her positions."

Warren is hoping such momentum-building will play out in her first banking legislation, which would reinstate the Depression-era "Glass-Steagall" protections separating commercial banking (like taking deposits and making loans) from investment banking (like trading derivatives and other Wall Street casino gambling pursuits). Critics allege that the Glass-Steagall repeal had nothing to do with the financial crisis. But in a system where those duties are separated, Warren believes, regulators would have an easier time at their jobs. "They wouldn't have to develop expertise in multiple lines of business," she said. "The SEC can oversee the non-bank institutions, and bank regulators could focus on the safety of banks." While all big legislation faces a long road in a divided Washington, Warren partnered with Republican John McCain, Democrat Maria Cantwell and Independent Angus King on the Glass-Steagall bill to raise its profile, using an outside-inside approach. "We're two freshmen and two members not on the Banking Committee," Warren said, "and we got together to make this a more urgent issue."

Regardless of the eventual outcome of that bill, Warren has learned that a senator has power if he or she knows how to wield it. As for how else she can make an impact, Jeff Connaughton has a suggestion. "Run for president."

I asked if she had any reaction to that kind of buzz. The senator had a pat response. "No!"

Hello Senator, where are you today?


I'm headed to Hanscom Air Force Base to talk about cybersecurity, and no, you can't know about it! Seriously, this is something in the military budget, one of the areas where we should spend more money not less, and this is why the sequester drives me crazy because across the board cutting is mindless. On the military budget, instead of thinking about whether there should be cuts where needs are not so great, and investing in things like cybersecurity, we're just cutting across the board. It's crazy.

So what do you want to talk about?

I thought we'd talk about banking. Obviously you're in a different role in the Senate than when you ran the Congressional Oversight Panel or were standing up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. How have you been able to use your perch in the Senate to advance your agenda? How have you adapted?

It's all about learning to use new tools. In the Senate, there are more tools in the toolbox than are obvious. That's what I like about this. For example, there's a lot that banking regulators could do to make the system safer. They could make the system a lot stronger without Congress passing any new law. But only if they do their jobs. The Banking Committee has oversight over those agencies. And so I think encouraging the regulators to do their jobs is a way to have an important impact on the banking system.

Yes, I've noticed your role is as much about badgering regulators as badgering banks.

I beg your pardon! I would use words like "encourage."

Fair enough.

But you know, it's about accountability in both directions. The largest financial institutions should be held accountable, and so should the regulators. They are not there to serve the banks, they're there to serve the public. I'm reminded of that when we have public hearings. I try to ask questions that the public wants to hear.

And do you feel like you've been successful in, shall we say, encouraging the banks to be more forceful in their regulatory oversight? It seems that the SEC has changed some of their policies as a result of your encouragement.

Well, I am very optimistic about the direction Mary Jo White is taking the SEC. She has come in and made it clear that it's a new day in town. She expects her agency to take an aggressive stance against those who break the law, and against those who don't cooperate in investigations. This is part of what gave me more hope, Commissioner White didn't make a generalized "we're going to get tough" statement. She identified a class of cases in which the SEC would take a different position. And she made it clear in that announcement that companies that don't cooperate with SEC will face different consequences. In other words, there will be harsher consequences if the SEC uncovers wrongdoing. So now, there's a price, not only for doing wrong but for hiding it. I'm very glad to see that. Commissioner White is showing some real spirit.

Indeed, just yesterday the SEC forced Philip Falcone to admit wrongdoing, but he did not admit liability for a specific rule or law. Is that satisfactory to you?

It's another step in the right direction. The SEC is a watchdog that's starting to show its teeth.

That's good, but I don't think I could begin to list all the criminality revealed in the financial industry just since you came into office. Is this industry at some level just too big to regulate or even detail to the public? And how do you create new structures for regulation to make meaningful oversight possible?

I want to be careful, because there are two separate points to make. By saying that I don't have to change law to make impact, I don't mean there aren't laws that could be changed. Because there are. The point is that we should be using every tool in the toolbox. The answer to your more specific question is yes and no. Changes in the structure would definitely make the financial system safer and make regulation easier, my bill on restoring Glass-Steagall is the perfect example. If commercial banks are split off from non-banking activity, the whole banking system would be safer. But also, regulators could specialize in what they do best. They wouldn't have to develop expertise in multiple lines of business. The SEC can oversee the non-bank institutions. If they're systemically important financial institutions, there are other mechanisms for oversight. But bank regulators could focus on the safety of banks. And that's simpler and more effective.

You say legislation is another tool. You've been active on the Banking Committee, in fact your office tells me you have the best attendance record there. But is the fact that there have only been two markups in eight months, does that show any reticence on the part of the committee to significant reforms?

I don't think so. Statutory change takes some lead time to get people talking about the idea, working on specific legislation. There are a lot of pieces to it. A couple big pieces we know are coming up. GSE [government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac] reform, FHA. Those are pressing problems. So it's not as if the committee is not dealing with significant issues, they are. But it's important to keep pushing. That's why Sen. McCain and I pushed forward on Glass-Steagall now, to get it back into the conversation. Sen. McCain wanted to be part of it, he and Sen. Cantwell tried to push this a few years ago. On Glass-Steagall, with Sen. King and myself, you have two freshmen, and with Sens. McCain and Cantwell, two members not on the Banking Committee. The four of us got together to make it a more urgent issue. We're trying to work together to move it up on the agenda.

How do you like working on the committee?

I like it. You mentioned attendance; not only do I go to the banking hearings, I stay. I'm very interested in the questions other senators ask. They often ask smart and thoughtful questions. I learn a lot from those hearings. I try to talk with senators afterwards, to ask follow-ups or get more information. And I often change what I'm going to ask because someone else has asked it. I feel good about the way it works in that committee. People there are interested in the issues. It shows up in questions they ask, the conversations we have in the hallways. It's a good group. Not everyone is engaged. But there's a core really engaged in issues and really driving. Sherrod Brown, for example, doing a hearing on commodities and what's happening around bank holding companies having powerful influence on the price of aluminum. What it means to the economy. I was very impressed by his work on that. Jeff Merkley, always very thoughtful. Sen. Corker, I've been talking to him about GSE reform since before I became a senator. So a lot of people on the committee are smart, they dig into the issues, and they care.

And any comment on the 2016 buzz for you?


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

ANS -- A Town Without Poverty?

I heard about this program many years ago, and then never again (until now) -- I was beginning to think it was my imagination.  Good to hear of it again.  It's about an experiment  giving a basic income to everyone in town to see what happens.  (a hint: the only people who stopped working outside jobs were Moms with small children and teens in school.)  Don't bother reading the comments on this one -- most of the commentors clearly didn't read the article. 
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Issue: 78 Section: Labour Geography: Prairies Dauphin, Manitoba Topics: poverty, social programs, minimum income, poverty reduction

September 5, 2011

A Town Without Poverty?

Canada's only experiment in guaranteed income finally gets reckoning

by Vivian Belik
[]  Photo: Dave Ron
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"It would be a major contribution for the functioning of a free society to have independent news sources, free from corporate or state control, internally organized in ways that exemplify what a truly participatory and democratic society would be. I was therefore delighted to learn of the Dominion... an ambitious and impressive effort to fulfill this urgent need. I know of nothing like it, and wish it the greatest success, for the benefit of all of us." --Noam Chomsky

WHITEHORSE, YK­Try to imagine a town where the government paid each of the residents a living income, regardless of who they were and what they did, and a Soviet hamlet in the early 1980s may come to mind.

But this experiment happened much closer to home. For a four-year period in the '70s, the poorest families in Dauphin, Manitoba, were granted a guaranteed minimum income by the federal and provincial governments. Thirty-five years later all that remains of the experiment are 2,000 boxes of documents that have gathered dust in the Canadian archives building in Winnipeg.

Until now little has been known about what unfolded over those four years in the small rural town, since the government locked away the data that had been collected and prevented it from being analyzed.

But after a five year struggle, Evelyn Forget, a professor of health sciences at the University of Manitoba, secured access to those boxes in 2009. Until the data is computerized, any systematic analysis is impossible. Undeterred, Forget has begun to piece together the story by using the census, health records, and the testimony of the program's participants. What is now emerging reveals that the program could have counted many successes.

Beginning in 1974, Pierre Trudeau's Liberals and Manitoba's first elected New Democratic Party government gave money to every person and family in Dauphin who fell below the poverty line. Under the program­called "Mincome"­about 1,000 families received monthly cheques.

Unlike welfare, which only certain individuals qualified for, the guaranteed minimum income project was open to everyone. It was the first­and to this day, only­time that Canada has ever experimented with such an open-door social assistance program.

In today's conservative political climate, with constant government and media rhetoric about the inefficiency and wastefulness of the welfare state, the Mincome project sounds like nothing short of a fairy tale.

For four years Dauphin was a place where anyone living below the poverty line could receive monthly cheques to boost their income, no questions asked. Single mothers could afford to put their kids through school and low-income families weren't scrambling to pay the rent each month.

For Amy Richardson, it meant she could afford to buy her children books for school. Richardson joined the program in 1977, just after her husband had gone on disability leave from his job. At the time, she was struggling to raise her three youngest children on $1.50 haircuts she gave in her living room beauty parlour.

The $1,200 per year she received in monthly increments was a welcome supplement, in a time when the poverty line was $2,100 a year.

"The extra money meant that I was also able to give my kids something I wouldn't ordinarily be able to, like taking them to a show or some small luxury like that," said Richardson, now 84, who spoke to The Dominion by phone from Dauphin.

As part of the experiment, an army of researchers were sent to Dauphin to interview the Mincome families. Residents in nearby rural towns who didn't receive Mincome were also surveyed so their statistics could be compared against those from Dauphin. But after the government cut the program in 1978, they simply warehoused the data and never bothered to analyze it.

"When the government introduced the program they really thought it would be a pilot project and that by the end of the decade they would roll this out and everybody would participate," said Forget. "They thought it would become a universal program. But of course, the idea eventually just died off."

During the Mincome program, the federal and provincial governments collectively spent $17 million, though it was initially supposed to have cost only a few million.

Meant to last several more years, the program came to a quick halt in 1978 when an economic recession hit Canada. The recession had caused prices to increase 10 per cent each year, so payouts to families under Mincome had increased accordingly.

Trudeau's Liberals, already on the defensive for an overhaul of Canada's employment insurance system, killed the program and withheld any additional money to analyze the data that had been amassed.

"It's hugely unfortunate and typical of the strange ways in which government works that the data was never analyzed," says Ron Hikel who coordinated the Mincome program. Hikel now works in the United States to promote universal healthcare reform.

"Government officials opposed [to Mincome] didn't want to spend more money to analyze the data and show what they already thought: that it didn't work," says Hikel, who remains a strong proponent of guaranteed income programs.

"And the people who were in favour of Mincome were worried because if the analysis was done and the data wasn't favourable then they would have just spent another million dollars on analysis and be even more embarrassed."

But Forget has culled some useful info from Manitoba labour data. Her research confirms numerous positive consequences of the program.

Initially, the Mincome program was conceived as a labour market experiment. The government wanted to know what would happen if everybody in town received a guaranteed income, and specifically, they wanted to know whether people would still work.

It turns out they did.

Only two segments of Dauphin's labour force worked less as a result of Mincome­new mothers and teenagers. Mothers with newborns stopped working because they wanted to stay at home longer with their babies. And teenagers worked less because they weren't under as much pressure to support their families.

The end result was that they spent more time at school and more teenagers graduated. Those who continued to work were given more opportunities to choose what type of work they did.

"People didn't have to take the first job that came along," says Hikel. "They could wait for something better that suited them."

For some, it meant the opportunity to land a job to help them get by.

When Doreen and Hugh Henderson arrived in Dauphin in 1970 with their two young children they were broke. Doreen suggested moving from Vancouver to her hometown because she thought her husband would have an easier time finding work there. But when they arrived, things weren't any better.

"My husband didn't have a very good job and I couldn't find work," she told The Dominion by phone from Dauphin.

It wasn't until 1978, after receiving Mincome payments for two years, that her husband finally landed janitorial work at the local school, a job he kept for 28 years.

"I don't know how we would have lived without [Mincome]," said Doreen."I don't know if we would have stayed in Dauphin."

Although the Mincome experiment was intended to provide a body of information to study labour market trends, Forget discovered that Mincome had a significant effect on people's well being. Two years ago, the professor started studying the health records of Dauphin residents to assess the impacts of the program.

In the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 per cent. Fewer people went to the hospital with work-related injuries and there were fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. There were also far fewer mental health visits.

It's not hard to see why, says Forget.

"When you walk around a hospital, it's pretty clear that a lot of the time what we're treating are the consequences of poverty," she says.

Give people financial independence and control over their lives and these accidents and illnesses tend to dissipate, says Forget. In today's terms, an 8.5 per cent decrease in hospital visits across Canada would save the government $4 billion annually, by her calculations. And $4 billion is the amount that the federal government is currently trying to save by slashing social programming and arts funding.

Having analyzed the health data, Forget is now working on a cost-benefit analysis to see what a guaranteed income program might save the federal government if it were implemented today. She's already worked with a Senate committee investigating a guaranteed income program for all low-income Canadians.

The Canadian government's sudden interest in guaranteed income programs doesn't surprise Forget.

Every 10 or 15 years there seems to be a renewed interest in getting Guaranteed Income (GI) programs off the ground, according to Saskatchewan social work professor James Mulvale. He's researched and written extensively about guaranteed income programs and is also part the Canadian chapter of the Basic Income Earth Network, a worldwide organization that advocates for guaranteed income.

GI programs exist in countries like Brazil, Mexico, France and even the state of Alaska.

Although people may not recognize it, subtle forms of guaranteed income already exist in Canada, says Mulvale, pointing to the child benefit tax, guaranteed income for seniors and the modest GST/HST rebate program for low-income earners.

However, a wider-reaching guaranteed income program would go a long way in decreasing poverty, he says.

Mulvale is in favour of a "demo-grant" model of GI that would give automatic cash transfers to everybody in Canada. This kind of plan would also provide the option of taxing higher-income earners at the end of the year so poorer people receive benefits.

A model such as this has a higher chance of broad support because it goes out to everybody, according to Mulvale. GI can also be administered as a negative income tax to the poor, meaning they'd receive an amount of money back directly in proportion to what they make each year.

"GI by itself wouldn't eliminate poverty but it would go a heck of a long way to decrease the extent of poverty in this country," says Mulvale.

Conservative senator Hugh Segal has been the biggest supporter of this kind of GI, claiming it would eliminate the social assistance programs now administered by the provinces and territories. Rather than having a separate office to administer child tax benefits, welfare, unemployment insurance and income supplement for seniors, they could all be rolled into one GI scheme.

It would also mean that anybody could apply for support. Many people fall through the cracks under the current welfare system, says Forget. Not everybody can access welfare and those who can are penalized for going to school or for working a job since the money they receive from welfare is then clawed back.

If a guaranteed income program can target more people and is more efficient than other social assistance programs, then why doesn't Canada have such a program in place already? Perhaps the biggest barrier is the prevalence of negative stereotypes about poor people.

"There's very strong feelings out there that we shouldn't give people money for nothing," Mulvale says.

Guaranteed income proponents aren't holding their breaths that they'll see such a program here anytime soon, but they are hopeful that one day Canada will consider the merits of guaranteed income.

The cost would be "not nearly as prohibitive to do as people imagine it is," says Forget. "A guaranteed minimum income program is a superior way of delivering social assistance. The only thing is that it's of course politically difficult to implement."

Vivian Belik is a freelance journalist based in the frozen northlands of Whitehorse, Yukon. She was, however, raised in Manitoba where she has spotted many of the provinces small-town statues including the giant beaver in Dauphin.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ANS -- How The 'World's Dumbest Idea' Killed The US Economic Recovery

I just wanted to show you that even Forbes thinks what the big corporations are doing is wrong!  I've included the comments because they were interesting and literate. 
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Steve Denning, Contributor

I write about radical management, leadership, innovation & narrative
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7/29/2013 @ 10:36AM |95,073 views

How The 'World's Dumbest Idea' Killed The US Economic Recovery

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Readers of this column know that short-term shareholder value, which is still pervasive in large organizations, has a lot of accomplishments to its credit. It has led to "bad profits" that have destroyed customer loyalty. It is responsible for massive offshoring of manufacturing, thereby destroying major segments of the US economy. And it has even undermined US capacity to compete in international markets.

Now the Financial Times reports that the short-term shareholder value theory has a new feather in its cap: it is responsible for killing the economic recovery that should have occurred after the financial meltdown of 2008.

Over the last month, the Financial Times has been doing a great job in cataloguing the problems caused by the shareholder value theory. Now Robin Harding has terrific article pinpointing its role in undermining the US economic recovery.

In his article entitled " Corporate investment: A mysterious divergence" he explores a conundrum that has puzzled the world's top economists: why is net investment at a measly 4 per cent of output when pre-tax corporate profits are now at record highs – more than 12 per cent of GDP?

In standard economic theory, this makes no sense. When profits go up, companies should be seizing investment opportunities to lay the groundwork for even more profits in future. In turn, that investment should create jobs, generate more capital goods and lead to higher wages. That's how capitalism is meant to work. So why isn't it happening? Mr. Harding explores systematically why all the leading scapegoats for what's gone wrong­regulations, Obamacare, tax policy, fear of another financial crisis and so on­and shows why they don't add up.

Then he comes up with the kind of thing that you rarely see in economics­a study that enables us to pinpoint the problem by offering "with" and "without" data.

A brilliant study by economists from the Stern School of Business and Harvard Business School, Alexander Ljungqvist, Joan Farre-Mensa, and John Asker, entitled "Corporate Investment and Stock Market Listing: A Puzzle?" compares the investment patterns of public companies and privately held firms. It turns out that the lag in investment is a phenomenon of the public companies more than the privately held firms.

"They find that, keeping company size and industry constant, private US companies invest nearly twice as much as those listed on the stock market: 6.8 per cent of total assets versus just 3.7 per cent."

As Matthew Yglesias at Slate writes:

"On this account we are reaping the bitter fruits of the "shareholder value" revolution. Executives at publicly traded companies are paid to generate higher share prices, which is done by hitting quarterly earnings targets. This leads to underinvestment relative to the behavior of managers of privately held firms. Not because managers of private firms are indifferent to the interests of shareholders, but because there's less need for creating the shareholder value link via a simplistic relationship between compensation, share price, and quarterly earnings."

As Mr. Harding concludes, it is "time to stop thinking about corporate governance and executive pay as matters of equity and to regard them instead as a macroeconomic problem of the first rank."

There is another way: the Creative Economy

There is of course another way to run organizations, as illustrated by Amazon [AMZN] and other companies that are pursuing the Creative Economy. Their objective is not short-term profits but value for customers. The financial returns from this different approach are extraordinary.

The argument offered by executives that "the stock market made us do it" has the same legitimacy as "the dog ate my homework", when public companies like Amazon [AMZN], Whole Foods [WFM] and Costco [COST] have successfully pursued customer value, despite the pressures of Wall Street. So isn't it about time we stop compensating corporate leaders for meeting their quarterly numbers and instead shift the focus of business to its true goal of adding value to customers?

And read also:

The origin of the world's dumbest idea

How modern economics is built on the world's dumbest idea

When will the world's dumbest idea die?

Leadership in the Creative Economy

The five surprises of radical management


Steve Denning's most recent book is: The Leader's Guide to Radical Management (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

Follow Steve Denning on Twitter @stevedenning


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  • []   daviddelosangeles 4 weeks ago Mr. Denning,
    You quoted Mr. Harding as saying "time to stop thinking about corporate governance and executive pay as matters of equity and to regard them instead as a macroeconomic problem of the first rank."

    This is no doubt so but this is a political issue to be addressed by the United States Congress. However, there is no one in Congress with enough political will to even raise this issue in a serious way, much less address it substantially. This is so because the people who benefit the most from the current system are the ones with the greatest political clout. Capital is entirely triumphant in the United States from a political perspective. In decades past, labor unions, farmers, small businesses and the like has sufficient political strength the force congress and the president to pass laws limiting the power of the big business. That is all long gone.
    Moreover, how much of this emphasis on short-term profits is a symptom and how much is the cause? May not be this management philosophy merely be a reflection of changes in how the economy operates? In the United States, in the past, capital took the form of factories, mills, refineries, mines, and the like. A company's investments were physical facilities which were expected to yield profits over decades. Today this is much less the case. Capital is much more likely to take the form of money invested in a factory owned by another company overseas or patents on technology that can be manufactured by a sub-contractor. Apple once owned its own factories in the United States but now has the vast majority of its products manufactured by Foxconn overseas. While in the past Apple might have worried about long term investment in its own facilities, today it has little in the way of concerns for these matters, those are contracted out. In a world of sub-contracted manufacturing overseas, why would a firm not focus solely of stock-holder value? The long-term is someone else's problem.
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  • Author []   Steve Denning, Contributor 4 weeks ago
    Dear daviddelosangeles

    Thanks for sharing your viewpoint.
    You write "corporate governance and executive pay {are] … a political issue to be addressed by the United States Congress."
    That's not what I am saying. Corporate governance and executive pay is a matter for corporations to sort out. If they can't or won't do it, it's true that they will have it done to them. But my suggestion is that they get their own house in order.
    "The long-term is someone else's problem." You certainly epitomize the issue here. When everyone thinks the long term future is someone else's problem, there is no long term future.
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  • []   prost 4 weeks ago I would guess Congress and the President would do much more harm than good if they tried to correct any perceived or real problems with corporate governance or executive–the right place is at the corporation, but there is little stockholders can do, and the people who sit on corporate boards who are supposed to hire/fire the executives have a substantial conflict of interest–if they start demanding accountability of the kind your "Radical Management" book advocates, then wouldn't they be facing the same accountability in the companies they run from their own boards?
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  • []   ectrimm 4 weeks ago "That's not what I am saying. Corporate governance and executive pay is a matter for corporations to sort out."
    Actually, this should be a mater for the market to sort out. The status quo rarely changes when an entity makes decisions outside of a competitive environment. Those corporations that choose a corporate structure that leads to under-investment and eventual loss of market share should die (e.g., GM).
    The idea of making best use of current information (which I would argue is what basing compensation on short-term variables such as quarterly earnings) could be more relevant in faster moving industries such as tech. Irrespective, corporate structure flexibility should be allowed with the caveat that failure is possible.
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  • []   daviddelosangeles 3 weeks ago Hello ectrimm,
    I believe the salient point here is that equity markets have sorted this issue out, the equity markets find that maximizing shareholder valve makes the most profits for holders of equity in companies.
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  • Author []   Steve Denning, Contributor 3 weeks ago
    Dear daviddelosangeles

    "I believe the salient point here is that equity markets have sorted this issue out, the equity markets find that maximizing shareholder valve makes the most profits for holders of equity in companies."
    It's true in a sense that "equity markets have sorted this out" in a way that leads to bad profits, increasingly short-lived firms, low long-term returns for shareholders, destruction of whole sectors of the economy through short term focus, an inability to compete internationally, an overall decline in rates of return for the private sector as a whole, widespread unemployment and underemployment, a dispirited workforce and blighted communities, along with huge gains for the C-suite and the financial sector through short-term arbitraging. There are some who are understandably happy with that kind of "sorting out". The catch is that it's not sustainable.
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  • []   daviddelosangeles 3 weeks ago Mr. Denning,
    You are basically arguing that managers of large, publicly held companies do not know what is best for their own companies. I do not believe that this is the case, even if it is macro-economically self-destructive. This is exactly why the study of economics is divided the way it is, processes at the micro-economic level are very different the process at the macro-economic. The drive toward short-term profit maximization over longer a long-term focus is an example of this dichotomy. This is exactly why there is a Federal Reserve Bank, there are decisions that maximize profits for individual banks but are bad for the economy as a whole. What applies to banks applies to any individual company, what makes perfect sense for that company may not be good for the economy overall.

    It is rather like a Greek tragedy. Every "failure" in a Greek tragedy is completely logically and morally necessary, that is the point. In a Shakespearean tragedy, there is a villain who is wrong (Shylock) and there is hero – or victim – (Antonio, the Merchant of Venice) who is right. The tragedy is when good people go wrong and cause suffering on those who have not gone wrong.
    Agamemnon sacrifices his eldest daughter, Iphigenia, to the gods for victory in the Trojan War. This is his duty as king. Clytemnestra avenges her wronged daughter by murdering Agamemnon upon his return from Troy. This is her duty as a mother. Orestes and Electra must murder their own mother to avenge their father. They are morally obligated to right the wrong done to their father but to do so, they must commit an equal crime. Every one is doing the "right thing", Agamemnon must do everything that he can to assure victory, Clytemnestra is righting the wrong done to her daughter, and Orestes and Electra are righting the wrong done to their mother. Yet in doing "right" they must then do "wrong", kill one's own daughter, kill one's own husband, kill one's own mother.

    In a Greek tragedy, everyone is doing the right thing, and that causes more tragedy, and that is the greater tragedy.

    The same is true in your story. The manager is right to maximize profits in the short term and the Champions of the Creative Economy are right in the long term. Neither is a villain or motivated by ill will or lacks vision but each has a different perspective and set of interests.

    The tragedy is that everything goes wrong because everyone is right.
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  • Christian Day   Christian Day 3 weeks ago David, He comes out and states what he believes in the article, which is that short term thinking is not good for a company or investors. I think you are projecting here. You are also projecting your thoughts on the Greek tragedy mythos and missing the larger point in that when someone does something bad there are ramifications. The focus in the Greek plays are not about who does things right, but rather on what happens when people do the wrong thing, like adultery and greed, etc… You are assuming to know what the moral of a Greek tragedy is while looking at the stories written as if they were written with our values and our way of life, which they were not. Besides the point I'm not sure that this whole comparison is really applicable to this discussion.
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  • reltonoone   reltonoone 1 week ago Sort of, kind of, but not really – recall that the tragedies in Greek tragedy are the result of divine punishment (usually with plenty of collateral damage) for misdeeds caused by a fatal character flaw – usually but not always hubris. The analysis you are providing above is a very modern interpretation of segments of a much longer story involving, in general, the House of Atreus – cursed in the long run for the arrogance and temerity of one of its early members, and punished for generations after in a sins-of-the-fathers manner.
    If anything, the appropriate analogy to be drawn from the Greek tragic tradition would be that the degree and scale to which this articles eponymous "dumbest idea" influenced actual management decisions is a testament to our collective intellectual arrogance when trying to model forces that we understand, but not fully.
    In short, the tragedy is that there appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the shareholder value model, that it was propped up by human confidence and belief in its accuracy, and that said confidence and belief resulted in a whole lot of damage.
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  • Guido Galliani   Guido Galliani 4 weeks ago Dear Mr. Denning,
    While reading your article I have noticed one thing. The "champions" of Creative Economy are all companies where the founder still has (or had until recently) an active role in managing it: Apple (Steve Jobs), Amazon (Jeff Bezos), Costco (James D. Sinegal), Whole Foods (John Mackey). From a certain perspective, they are "privately held", i.e. there is somebody at the top who cares about the company. That's I believe the key: whoever has the responsibility of running the company has to have the future prosperity of the company as his goal. And that is the "natural" behavior of a founder (and owner) of a company. We need shareholders (no hope with C-Suite) to embrace this behavior if we want to stop the decline of the economy.
      Called-out comment

[]   Steve Denning Contributor
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My most recent books are the Leader's Guide to Radical Management (2010), The Leader's Guide to Storytelling (2nd ed, 2011) and The Secret Language of Leadership (2007). I consult with organizations around the world on leadership, innovation, management and business narrative. At the World Bank, I held many management positions, including director of knowledge management (1996-2000). I am currently a director of the Scrum Alliance, an Amazon Affiliate and a fellow of the Lean Software Society. You can follow me on Twitter at @stevedenning. My website is at

The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

ANS -- Things to Know as Collapse Becomes Hip

This is about the coming collapse.  It's about that we need to address the real problems rather than the symptoms, and come up with solutions beyond just analyzing the problems. 
those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.  Every time the major source of energy changes, the biggest empire collapses -- because it didn't want to change.  That's the USA this time around. 
I don't mean to be depressing, and I was just feeling so positive from some of the other articles I've seen.....
There are things out there that are positive, but are they going to beat the collapse?  We don't know. 
I left their request for donations line in because I get some of my best articles from Truthout, and I do donate monthly, but I thought you should have a chance too. 
Find it here:   

Things to Know as Collapse Becomes Hip

Saturday, 24 August 2013 01:43 By Jan Lundberg, Truthout | Op-Ed

World bomb (Image: World bomb via Shutterstock)A consensus seems to be building toward anticipating collapse. So what's your flavor? Financial meltdown with chaos? Petrocollapse? Climate extinction? The contributing crises are seemingly diverse, including Fukushima's mounting radioactive releases into the Pacific, the growing plastic plague and creeping GMO contamination. If none of those are your thing, you can acknowledge accelerating bee colony collapse.

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You may feel the days of "innocence" have receded in the rear-view mirror as we drive off the ecological cliff like motorized lemmings. Even so, maybe you see such resilience in the corporate state and its war machine that you anticipate dictatorship à la Children of Men, the ominous film set in 2027.

It appears that things must get worse before they get better. The United States has become especially absurd with its intensifying mess of debt and flailing leadership. If a major event in the Persian Gulf or China can trigger the toppling of the US House of Cards, increased consumer vulnerability must be the order of the day. It is surprising to some that total collapse has not yet happened, but news such as record new car sales in July suggests the entire system can keep on going indefinitely. Such news supplies happy-talk for the embattled corporate agenda.

A more disturbing and shocking statistic than car sales going in the wrong direction for Mother Earth:

"Four out of five US adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream." ( Associated Press, July 28, 2013)

Is this a wake-up call or just part of the relentless barrage of disillusion? What about things the four-fifths can do now that they are not doing? Are they - we - helpless victims? We'll need to do more than wait for the next election, write to Congress or demonstrate in the streets against economic hardship and mismanagement. Yet many of the four-fifths still assume that they can rise above any temporary period of struggling and that money will solve their problems. Meanwhile, the holy grail of national Recovery beckons without arriving.

How many of the four-fifths are talking about bartering and seeing what else they can do for more self-sufficiency? Are they growing their own food? Creating compost for soil-building instead of land-filling the food-waste? Boycotting corporate products by eschewing car dependence, for example? Depaving and installing gardens? Sharing appliances and skills in their apartment buildings and neighborhoods?

Only a tiny minority of consumers lifts a finger in its own long-term interest. One factor is that progressive commentators concentrate on "the 1%" or the one-out-of-five not currently struggling as the source of economic security via redistribution of wealth. Redistribution is not going to happen while the financial system is intact. Even the triumph of a revolution over wealth redistribution and provision of social services could still fail to secure the survival of the species or prevent a thorough economic collapse.

The alternative press all too often limits its coverage of the sociological problem by not addressing the system itself, instead excelling in pointing out the dastardly attempts of the guardians of the status quo to exert control and feather their own nests. The result is reading material that simply riles us up without providing a solution. The message of the alternative press and social-justice activists almost never prioritizes radical lifestyle change and emancipating ourselves from the broken, dangerous system. A controversial or taboo topic is the concept of too many people for the ecosystem's carrying capacity - or certainly far too many fossil fuels-dependant people. This detail of our times was accomplished with dwindling petroleum that's harder and more toxic to extract, and lacks the high net-energy yield of yore.

When the unraveling intensifies, whether primarily from oil supply crisis, climate failure, or financial meltdown, then even the 1% will experience upheaval and perhaps deprivation. They won't be able to live as isolated jet-setting shoppers. Some will try it, but there's no future for living off the cream of global consumerism when growth finishes imploding. A big reason is that a shrunk-down version of the vertically integrated oil industry for the elite is very unlikely.

What About "Jobs?"

Since the abundant, cheap, flexible energy that we have known is already a thing of the past, there is no jobs program that will ever allow for a continued, growing consumer economy. Besides, we should question working for The Man when it's not actually a job one needs, but rather the essentials that jobs and money help obtain. Simple changes in social relations cut out the middle man and get us closer to nature and our local communities. This guts corporate domination more than signing petitions, writing letters, and even marching on Washington or Wall Street. So why can't we get the job done without wrenching collapse?

It is perverse to wish for the effects of collapse, but we ought to understand any basis for a silver lining. And as long as collapse looks more inevitable, as it does in the minds of many, we would do well to take a break from distractions. Celebrity-obsession in the mass media draws attention away from the melting Arctic, for example. But serious commentators' finger-pointing at politicians and passion to reform unfair policies may be pointless in regard to the unaddressed bigger picture. This is not to say that being critical and resisting oppression today are a mistake.

We have come to expect yet another major blow to hit us in tomorrow's news, so it would be wise today to develop better understanding about the end of the consumer economy. Jobs and other programs of modern society can become obsolete if populations are hitting resource limits and can't seem to get their act together. How could the end of the world of wondrous technological goods and upward mobility be coming about in our lifetime?

The "growth" of the last century has been primarily a function of cheaply extracted petroleum in "endless" supply, whose peak occurred in approximately 2005. If we are to get on with the historic task of recognizing and preparing for general collapse, we will have to wean ourselves not just from high-energy materialism, but also from merely lamenting the long list of failures and disappointments of civilization.

That lament is useful and has a steady following, but is seldom phrased that way or seen for its limitations. It remains the unconscious, ineffective strategy of most social-justice activists and commentators who seem to not see the forest for the trees. They vacillate about what is really wrong with the direction society is going in, and they almost all have simplistic ideas about energy industries. Across the ideological spectrum, an unsubstantiated faith in a recurring techno-fix is thwarting action to change our clever, polluting way of life.

This mindset has to do with embracing "jobs" and "growth" as sacrosanct and eternal fixtures of humanity. The mindset's promoters are across the traditional left-right spectrum, and most want more massive deficit spending over years and years, regardless of who pays for it. The New York Times Quotation of the Day, Aug. 3, 2013:

"At a time of mass unemployment, it's clear, the economics textbooks tell us, that this is not the right time for fiscal retrenchment. To watch it be ignored like this is exasperating, horrifying, disheartening." - Justin Wolfers, an economics professor at University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Economists never seem to connect the eco in economy to the eco in ecosystem - as if unlimited consuming on a finite, increasingly crowded planet is possible and desirable. In opposition, the "deep greens" or even your Aunt Mabel might exclaim, "As if healthy nature is not our prime safety net! As if Nature does not bat last!"

In rare public discussion of collapse, when overcoming the corporate media blackout, the only way to keep the worried, depressed citizen's attention is to include a positive message. Then wonderful ideas for alternative living and liberation can surface. But we need to face what kind of world we are willing to live with that's realistic. Although the blackout has been practiced also by most progressive media, this has started to change in the last year or so, as collapse indications proliferate. Simultaneously one can find heartening news on lifestyle improvement, and of innovative, low-tech alternatives to the business-as-usual Rat Race.

The best known student of collapse and living simply is Dmitry Orlov, who witnessed the rapid collapse of the USSR. His recent books on comparing applicable patterns for the United States, Reinventing Collapse and The Five Stages of Collapse, are grounded in observing oil supply's relationship to wasteful empires. The entire topic of collapse encompasses a large body of analytical works that have been multiplying in the last two decades in an exponential curve. The recent, sudden upward swing of the graph is like the observed intensification of atmospheric and oceanic CO2 levels.

Success on the material plane has been for a small minority on the planet. But surveys have shown that material gain has for most people not produced as much happiness as taking the time to enjoy friends and family. With collapse, we'll all be looking at less material pursuit and more reliance on friends and family: i.e., community. Becoming closer to one's family will be the order of the day in the United States. When people have mutual aid, cooperation and community, they need nothing else except an accommodating natural environment. The latter is the biggest worry for the future, because we're losing it.

The clamor for "more jobs" and "take back what the banksters grabbed" is about compassion and justice. But this focus almost always ignores three things: putting nature first so as to uphold environmental and ecological health; understanding the energy basis of economic collapse; and clear and better ways of organizing society for fairness and general welfare.

Collapse needs to be understood as a sweeping away of unworkable schemes of excess, greed, inefficiency and corporate wage-slavery, although we cannot predict exactly how collapse will play out. With the inevitable changes upon us, some have a vision - if somewhat diffused and marginalized - for positive developments involving green livelihoods and fostering community. Rather than a "techno-fix" under central authorities, the vision is for a return to decentralized "appropriate tech." For example, to the rescue will be the rising sail transport movement and reorienting urban areas toward local, but globally linked, sustainable trade and travel. Last but not least, total financial collapse offers opportunity for deeper partnership, as we saw in the 1981 film Rollover.

Knowing What Our Troubles Really Are

Confusing the symptoms of deeper problems with their causes is a common tendency. Status quo institutions are adept at not addressing root causes of any basic societal or cultural crisis. So any progressive movement would have to overcome that. When nonprofit groups and large membership associations are funded to just slightly reform the system, they serve mostly to obstruct fundamental change.

In contrast, the "positive-collapse activist" tries to get more people thinking about self-sufficiency and the natural environment than, say, about a better Democratic Party.

Could the Occupy movement come back more land-based? It needs to happen before widespread food riots, touched off perhaps by a crippling failure of crops due to climate chaos. It is only a matter of time before such a scenario comes to your petroleum-dependent neighborhood. That is the challenge for the US population - the most energy-wasteful on the planet. The hour is late for rethinking what has passed for "progress": the isolated-consumer high-tech lifestyle.

There are steps to take now that put power in people's hands, by not waiting for politicians to act or corporations to sell. Real wealth is not on Wall Street, but rather in utilizing and sharing healthy land. To help cope with bioregional and geographical limitations of food supply and other goods, sail transport will come back in a big way. Bicycles and bike trailers have huge potential - and improve health. A better future should be ahead, but how much time and what resources will we waste before making it happen? It is essential that the progressive media shed stark light on our changing, precarious world and aid us in sailing onward and away from the dysfunctional and phony world we will leave behind.

Further reading:

"Climate change occurring 10 times faster than at any time in past 65 million years"

"No honey, more problems: A 'catastrophic' year for bee colonies"
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

ANS -- Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You

Here's some interesting trivia on sleep patterns in history.  Enjoy.
Find it here:   

Your Ancestors Didn't Sleep Like You

Author: SlumberWise | Posted in Science, Trivia 2 Comments

Your ancestors didn't sleep like you

Ok, maybe your grandparents probably slept like you. And your great, great-grandparents. But once you go back before the 1800s, sleep starts to look a lot different. Your ancestors slept in a way that modern sleepers would find bizarre – they slept twice. And so can you.

The History

The existence of our sleeping twice per night was first uncovered by Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech.

His research found that we didn't always sleep in one eight hour chunk. We used to sleep in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.

References are scattered throughout literature, court documents, personal papers, and the ephemera of the past. What is surprising is not that people slept in two sessions, but that the concept was so incredibly common. Two-piece sleeping was the standard, accepted way to sleep.

"It's not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge," Ekirch says.

An English doctor wrote, for example, that the ideal time for study and contemplation was between "first sleep" and "second sleep." Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her "firste sleep." And, explaining the reason why working class conceived more children, a doctor from the 1500s reported that they typically had sex after their first sleep.

Ekirch's book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past is replete with such examples.

But just what did people do with these extra twilight hours? Pretty much what you might expect.

Most stayed in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. Religious manuals included special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours.

Others might smoke, talk with co-sleepers, or have sex. Some were more active and would leave to visit with neighbours.

As we know, this practice eventually died out. Ekirch attributes the change to the advent of street lighting and eventually electric indoor light, as well as the popularity of coffee houses. Author Craig Koslofsky offers a further theory in his book Evening's Empire. With the rise of more street lighting, night stopped being the domain of criminals and sub-classes and became a time for work or socializing. Two sleeps were eventually considered a wasteful way to spend these hours.

No matter why the change happened, shortly after the turn of the 20th century the concept of two sleeps had vanished form common knowledge.

Until about 1990.

The Science

Two sleeps per night may have been the method of antiquity, but tendencies towards it still linger in modern man. There could be an innate biological preference for two sleeps, given the right circumstances.

In the early '90s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr of National Institutes of Mental Health conducted a study on photoperiodicity (exposure to light), and its effect on sleep patterns.

In his study, fifteen men spent four weeks with their daylight artificially restricted. Rather than staying up and active the usual sixteen hours per day, they would stay up only ten. The other fourteen hours they would be in a closed, dark room, where they would rest or sleep as much as possible. This mimics the days in mid-winter, with short daylight and long nights.

At first, the participants would sleep huge stretches of time, likely making up for sleep debt that's common among modern people. Once they had caught up on their sleep though, a strange thing started to happen.

They began to have two sleeps.

Over a twelve hour period, the participants would typically sleep for about four or five hours initially, then wake for several hours, then sleep again until morning. They slept not more than eight hours total.

The middle hours of the night, between two sleeps, was characterized by unusual calmness, likened to meditation. This was not the middle-of-the-night toss-and-turn that many of us experienced. The individuals did not stress about falling back asleep, but used the time to relax.

Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford, points out that even with standard sleep patterns, this night waking isn't always cause for concern. "Many people wake up at night and panic," he says. "I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern."

Outside of a scientific setting, this kind of sleep pattern is still attainable, but it does require changing our modern, electric lifestyle. Very cool person J. D. Moyer did just that. He and his family intentionally went an entire month with no electric light.

In the winter months, this meant a lot of darkness and a lot of sleep. Moyer writes "…I would go to bed really early, like 8:30, and then get up around 2:30am.  This was alarming at first, but then I remembered that this sleep pattern was quite common in pre-electric light days.  When this happened I would end up reading or writing by candlelight for an hour or two, then going back to bed."

Moyer didn't set out to reproduce our ancestors sleep pattern, it just happened as a byproduct of a lot of dark hours.

Should We Revive Two Sleeps?

Although history shows that two sleeping was common, and science indicates that it is (in some conditions) natural, there is no indication that it is better. Two sleeps may leave you feeling more rested, but this could simply be because you are intentionally giving yourself more time to rest, relax, and sleep. Giving the same respect to the single, eight-hour sleep should be just as effective.

Note too that two sleeping needs a lot of darkness – darkness that is only possible naturally during the winter months. The greater levels of daylight during summer and other seasons would make two sleeping difficult, or even impossible.

Perhaps two sleeping is merely a coping mechanism to get through the long, cold, boring nights of the winter. Today, we don't need to cope. So long as we give our sleep the time and respect it needs, getting the "standard" eight hours of sleep should be fine.

But next time you wake up at 2 AM and can't sleep, just remember your great, great, great, great, great grandfather. He did the same thing every night.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

ANS -- Special Medical Glasses Accidentally Cure Colorblindness

Here's a short article about something positive.  These glasses accidentally help with some kinds of color-blindness. 
Find it here:   

Special Medical Glasses Accidentally Cure Colorblindness

Special Medical Glasses Accidentally Cure Colorblindness  

A type of high-tech eyeglasses meant to help doctors get a clearer view of patients' veins and skin problems have turned out to have an unintended side effect. When worn by someone with red-green colorblindness, the lenses can help viewers distinguish reds and greens more clearly.

Colorblindness is a genetic vision deficiency that decreases a person's ability to distinguish similar colors. People affected by the condition have a lower-than-normal number of color-detecting cells, called "cones," in their eyes. The problem is caused by a defect on the X chromosome ­ so while it's common in males, who only have one X chromosome, it also appears occasionally in women with a strong family history of colorblindness. It's estimated that about 10% of the population has some type of color vision defect.

Red-green colorblindness is the most common form, followed by blue-yellow colorblindness. Achromatopsia, or a complete lack of color vision, is actually quite rare. While colorblindness could be considered a mild disability, it's not without an upside ­ some studies show that colorblind people can distinguish some colors that normal people can't, and that they're more skilled at seeing through certain types of camouflage.

Unfortunately, the new lenses only seem to help people with red-green colorblindness, and can't help people who have the most severe forms of colorblindness. One brand of lenses, Oxy-Iso, is only suitable for people with mild colorblindness and also makes it more difficult for wearers to see yellow lights. The other brand, EnChroma, works better for people with more serious colorblindness ­ but only really functions outdoors, in natural light.

With a price tag of $300-600, these aren't lenses anyone's likely to try on just for kicks. But considering that there are many industries in which colorblindness can hold you back from a promotion ­ law enforcement, design, the military, some engineering jobs ­ the lenses might be the perfect solution for those people struggling with tasks that require normal color vision.

For everyone else, there's the simple satisfaction of finally being able to see a full rainbow in the sky…or just being able to pass your doctor's colorblindness tests for the first time. Worth a few hundred dollars? That's up to customers to decide.

Read more:

Monday, August 19, 2013

ANS -- NYPD assaults judge trying to protect handcuffed homeless man from beating, judge sues

Yes, we are becoming a police state.  In this case, the police seems to have attacked the "wrong" man.  He is a judge, and is suing them. 
Find it here:   

Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 10:17 AM PDT

NYPD assaults judge trying to protect handcuffed homeless man from beating, judge sues

by Horace Boothroyd III Follow for Police Accountability Group

Hearing someone cry out in distress is difficult for many to endure. When the distress is caused by a gang with badges accountable to no one it is difficult to protect anyone. A judge made an effort to calm a situation that should not have happened.

A homeless man already in restraints was being attacked by police.

The police response, hide the evidence and lie to the district attorney. Shop owners were threatened not to show security footage of the man being attacked. Responsible citizens gathering evidence with their cameras were pushed out of range to hide the misdeeds of the NYPD.

A seventy year old judge was struck in the neck by an officer intent on hiding the criminality of his peers. The ER told the judge he had a crushed larynx. The police who have no medical license told the DA the judge had a sore throat from yelling.

And from what appears to be standard, the video evidence of the misdeeds was not even considered when the NYPD investigated themselves and found no wrongdoing.

  In the 43-page lawsuit, Raffaele claims he went to help a homeless man in the neighborhood who was being attacked by police.

    Raffaele says he heard the handcuffed homeless man pleading with unknown officers, "I beg you please stop, I beg you please stop," while police assaulted him in front of a swelling crowd...

...He claims police arrived and threatened many in the crowd who were filming the attack with cell phones. He says police threatened local shop owners not to provide security footage of the incident.
    An unknown officer "charged up" to the judge, shoved him and then "using a karate chop-like" hit him in the neck, Raffaele says in the complaint.
    He claims police refused to take an official statement from him that he had been attacked, and then tried to hide the unknown officer's identity.
    The judge says he went to the hospital that night and was diagnosed with a crushed larynx.

That homeless man could have been any one of us.

Originally posted to Police Accountability Group on Mon Aug 19, 2013 at 10:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by New York City.