Monday, March 24, 2014

ANS -- Conservative Book Sales Plummeting

this is a short "book report" that tells us that sales of "conservative" political books are suddenly very low, but sales of paper books in general are up more than ebooks. 
Find it here: #   

Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 06:07 PM PDT

Conservative Book Sales Plummeting

by Eternal Hope Follow

The Conservative publishing industry has been experiencing a boom along with the rise of right-wing talk radio. But now, that has come to an end like anything which is assumed to grow forever and ever. Buzzfeed reports that conservative book sales have suddenly plummeted.
This pattern continues as you scan the works of recent and prospective Republican presidential candidates. According to one knowledgeable source, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker received an even larger advance than Pawlenty�s, and Bookscan has his 2013 book Unintimidated selling around 16,000 copies. Sen. Rand Paul�s latest, Government Bullies, has barely cracked 10,000 sold; and despite spending months in the 2012 GOP primaries, Rick Santorum�s book about the founding fathers, American Patriots, sold just 6,538 copies. Perhaps most surprising, Immigration Wars, co-authored by Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who consistently polls in the top tier of the Republican 2016 field, sold just 4,599 copies.

This has caused a lot of book publishers to lose money. Certain publishers like to advance prospective Presidential candidates a lot of money, hoping that they will cash in if their candidate wins the White House. But that is simply not viable anymore because people are simply not buying their books.

One of the problems is that the market has become saturated.
That of course isn�t the only problem afflicting the conservative publishing market. Borders bookstores, whose widespread placement in exurban malls and rural communities made them magnets for right-leaning customers, shut down in 2011. And the web has decimated the subscription-based �book clubs� that launched a slew of conservative best-sellers in the �90s and early 2000s.

Meanwhile, the proliferation of conservative publishers has made the economics of their genre much tougher, with an ever-increasing number of books competing for an audience that hasn�t grown much since the �90s. One agent compared conservative literature to Young Adult fiction, an unsexy niche genre that quietly pulled in respectable profits for years until the big houses took notice, and began entering into bidding wars for promising authors, and flooding the market in a frenzied attempt to find the next Twilight.

The next problem is demographics. A greater percentage of people in this country are Blacks, Latinos, and other minorities, meaning that at some point, our country will become a majority-minority nation. And a lot fewer younger people are right-wingers compared to their older peers, meaning that when older conservatives die, there will be fewer people to replace them with.

That brings up a question which the article didn't address -- are there similar declines in book sales across the board, or is this decline limited to Conservative book sales? The answer surprised us.
Hardcover book sales in the U.S. are up over 10% through the first eight months of 2013, according to the latest numbers from the Association of American Publishers. At the same time, adult ebook sales are only up 4.8%; all U.S. ebook sales, including children�s and religious ebooks, are down about 5%.

So, contrary to the perception that hard copy is going down the drain due to technology, it has been making a comeback. And nobody is exactly sure why. People are still up for a good book.

Originally posted to Stop the Police State! on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 06:07 PM PDT.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

ANS -- TWO ARTICLES: Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'? AND The End of the World As We Know It? The rise of the post-carbon era

Here's some frank talk about the coming disaster.  And, a second article linked to in the first article.  The dates of these disasters are projected everywhere from 2011 to next century.  But several predictions were for the next five years.  It even mentions Thorium reactors.
Find them here:  
and here:   

Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?

Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system This NASA Earth Observatory released on  
This Nasa Earth Observatory image shows a storm system circling around an area of extreme low pressure in 2010, which many scientists attribute to climate change. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."

Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:

"... accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels."

The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:

"Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use."

Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from "increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput," despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions "closely reflecting the reality of the world today... we find that collapse is difficult to avoid." In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:

".... appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature."

Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that "with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites."

In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)."

Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:

"While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory 'so far' in support of doing nothing."

However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:

"Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion."

The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business - and consumers - to recognise that 'business as usual' cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.

Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies - by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance - have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. But these 'business as usual' forecasts could be very conservative.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

The End of the World As We Know It? The rise of the post-carbon era

In an exclusive new essay, political scientist Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed presents a dramatic picture of the world we're about to leave behind, and the new possibilities ahead. He argues that the age of Carbon is coming to a close, and only a concerted effort can prevent an impending crisis on a global scale.

Arts & Culture, The Cutting Edge - Posted on Monday, September 20, 2010 0:30 - 90 Comments

Tags: climate change, peak oil, post carbon

[] By Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

Only 500 generations ago, hunter-gatherers began cultivating crops and forming their tiny communities into social hierarchies. Around 15 to 20 generations ago, industrial capitalism erupted on a global scale.

In the last generation, the entire human species, along with virtually all other species and indeed the entire planet, have been thrown into a series of crises, which many believe threaten to converge in global catastrophe: global warming spiraling out of control; oil prices fluctuating wildly; food riots breaking out in the South; banks collapsing worldwide; the spectre of terror bombings in major cities; and the promise of 'endless war' to fight 'violent extremists' at home and abroad.

We are running out of time. Without urgent mitigating, preventive and transformative action, these global crises are likely to converge and mutually accelerate over the coming decades. By 2018, converging food, water and energy shortages could magnify the probability of conflict between major powers, civil wars, and cross-border conflicts. After 2020, this could result in political and economic catastrophes that would undermine state control and national infrastructures, potentially leading to social collapse.

Anthropogenic global warming alone illustrates the gravity of our predicament. Global average temperatures have already risen by 0.7C in the last 130 years. In 2007, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told the world that at current rates of increase of fossil fuel emissions, we were heading toward a rise in global average temperatures of around 6C by the end of this century, leading to mass extinctions on a virtually uninhabitable planet. The Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences has reported that current fossil fuel emissions are exceeding this worst-case scenario.

Many scientists concede that without drastic emissions reductions by 2020, we are on the path toward a 4C rise as early as mid-century, with catastrophic consequences, including the loss of the world's coral reefs; the disappearance of major mountain glaciers; the total loss of the Arctic summer sea-ice, most of the Greenland ice-sheet and the break-up of West Antarctica; acidification and overheating of the oceans; the collapse of the Amazon rainforest; and the loss of Arctic permafrost; to name just a few. Each of these ecosystem collapses could trigger an out-of-control runaway warming process. Worse, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley now project that we are actually on course to reach global temperatures of up to 8C within 90 years.

But our over-dependence on fossil fuels is also counterproductive even on its own terms. Increasing evidence demonstrates that peak oil is at hand. This is when world oil production reaches its maximum level at the point when half the world's reserves of cheap oil have been depleted, after which it becomes geophysically increasingly difficult to extract it. This means that passed the half-way point, world production can never reach its maximum level again, and thus continuously declines until reserves are depleted. Until 2004, world oil production had risen continuously but thereafter underwent a plateau all the way through to 2008. Then from July to August 2008, world oil production fell by almost one million barrels per day. It's still decreasing, even according to BP's Statistical Review 2010 (which every year pretends that peak oil won't happen for another 40 years) – in 2009 world oil production was 2.6 percent below that in 2008, and is now below 2004 levels.

Oil price volatility due to peak oil was a major factor that induced the 2008 economic recession. The collapse of the mortgage house of cards was triggered by the post-peak oil price shocks, which escalated costs of living and led to a cascade of debt-defaults. A study by US economist James Hamilton confirmed there would have been no recession without the oil price shocks. While the recession slumped demand, allowing oil prices to reduce, experts now warn of a coming oil supply crunch by around 2014. As climate change intensifies natural disasters – such as droughts in food-basket regions, floods in South Asia and the heatwave in Russia – and as the full impact of peak oil eventually hits, costs to national economies will rocket, while world food production declines.

[] Already, global warming has exacerbated droughts and led to declines in agricultural productivity over the last decade, including a 10-20 per cent drop in rice yields. The percentage of land stricken by drought doubled from 15 to 30 per cent between 1975 and 2000. If trends continue, by 2025, 1.8 billion people would be living in regions of water-scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress. By 2050, scientists project that world crop yields could fall as much as 20-40 per cent.

Maps released by scientists at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), University of Wisconsin-Madison, show that the earth is "rapidly running out of fertile land" for further agricultural development. No wonder, then, that world agricultural land productivity between 1990 and 2007 was 1.2 per cent per year, nearly half compared to 1950-90 levels of 2.1 per cent. Similarly, world grain consumption exceeded production for seven of eight years prior to 2008.

Apart from climate change, the ecological cost of industrial methods is fast eroding the soil – in the US, for instance, 30 times faster than the natural rate. Former prairie lands have lost one half of their top soil over about a 100 years of farming – but it takes 500 years to replace just one-inch. Erosion is now reducing productivity by up to 65 per cent a year. The dependence of industrial agriculture on hydrocarbon energy sources – with ten calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce just one calorie of food – means that the impact of peak oil after 2014 will hugely constrain future world agricultural production.

But oil is not the only problem. Numerous studies show that hydrocarbon resources will become increasingly depleted by mid-century, and by the end of this century will be so scarce as to be useless – although we do have enough to potentially tip us over into irreversible runaway global warming.

Former TOTAL geologist Jean Laharrere projects that world natural gas production will peak by around 2025. New technologies mean that unconventional forms of natural gas in the US might prolong this some decades, but only if future demand doesn't increase. The independent Energy Watch Group (EGW) in Berlin projects that world coal production will also peak in 2025, but the journal Science finds that this could occur "close to the year 2011." EGW also argues that world production of uranium for nuclear energy will peak in 2035. According to the Hydrocarbon Depletion Study Group at Uppsala University, unconventional oil – such as oil shale and tar sands –will be incapable of averting peak oil. Greater attention has turned to thorium, which certainly holds greater promise than uranium, but as pointed out by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Washington DC, thorium still requires uranium to "kick-start" a nuclear chain reaction, and as yet no viable commercial reactors have been built despite decades of research.

The exponential expansion of modern industrial civilization over the last couple of centuries, and the liberal ideology of 'unlimited growth' that has accompanied it, has been tied indelibly to 1) the seemingly unlimited supply of energy provided by nature's fossil fuel reserves and 2) humankind's willingness to over-exploit our environment with no recognition of boundaries or constraints. But the 21st century is the age of irreversible hydrocarbon energy depletion – the implication being that industrial civilization, in its current form, cannot last beyond this century.

This means that this century signals not only the end of the carbon age, but the beginning of a new post-carbon era. Therefore, this century should be understood as an age of civilizational transition – the preceding crises are interlocking symptoms of a global political economy, ideology and value-system which is no longer sustainable, which is crumbling under its own weight, and which over the next few decades will be recognized as obsolete. The question that remains, of course, is what will take its place?

[] While we may not be able to stop various catastrophes and collapse-processes from occurring, we still retain an unprecedented opportunity to envisage an alternative vision for a new, sustainable and equitable form of post-carbon civilization.The imperative now is for communities, activists, scholars and policymakers to initiate dialogue on the contours of this vision, and pathways to it.

Any vision for 'another world', if it is to overcome the deep-rooted structural failures of our current business-as-usual model, will need to explore how we can develop new social, political and economic structures which encourage the following:
  1. Widespread distribution of ownership of productive resources so that all members of society have a stake in agricultural, industrial and commercial productive enterprises, rather than a tiny minority monopolising resources for their own interests.
  2. More decentralised politico-economic participation through self-managerial producer and consumer councils to facilitate participatory decision-making in economic enterprises.
  3. Re-defining the meaning of economic growth to focus less on materially-focused GDP, and more on the capacity to deliver values such as health, education, well-being, longevity, political and cultural freedom.
  4. Fostering a new, distributed renewable energy infrastructure based on successful models such as that of the borough of Woking in Surrey, UK.
  5. Structural reform of the monetary, banking and financial system including abolition of interest, in particular the cessation of money-creation through government borrowing on compound interest.
  6. Elimination of unrestricted lending system based on faulty quantitative risk-assessment models, with mechanisms to facilitate greater regulation of lending practices by bank depositors themselves.
  7. Development of parallel grassroots participatory political structures that are both transnational and community-oriented, by which to facilitate community governance as well as greater popular involvement in mainstream political institutions.
  8. Development of parallel grassroots participatory economic institutions that are both transnational and community-oriented, to facilitate emergence of alternative equitable media of exchange and loans between North and South.
  9. Emergence of a 'post-materialist' scientific paradigm and worldview which recognizes that the cutting-edge insights of physics and biology undermine traditional, mechanistic conceptions of the natural order, pointing to a more holistic understanding of life and nature.
  10. Emergence of a 'post-materialist' ethic recognizing that progressive values and ideals such as justice, compassion, and generosity are more conducive to the survival of the human species, and thus more in harmony with the natural order, than the conventional 'materialistic' behaviours associated with neoliberal consumerism.

[] Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development in London. His latest book is A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization (Pluto, 2010).

Thursday, March 13, 2014

ANS -- There are Co-Op Options for Healthcare, but Major Insurers Don’t Want You to Know

Here's a short article with not enough information -- but they explain why, I think.  If you don't read it all, read the last line. 
Find it here:   

There are Co-Op Options for Healthcare, but Major Insurers Don't Want You to Know

There are Co-Op Options for Healthcare, but Major Insurers Don&  

get causes updates

One of the primary goals of the Affordable Care Act was to make health insurance more affordable for the millions of Americans who had to get insurance on the individual market. The changes in the new law required plans to have better coverage and by requiring everyone to have insurance, spread the risk across a broader spectrum of people to help lower costs. While these changes would help more people be able to get health insurance, the architects of the bill knew that competition within the industry would be a necessary component to help ensure affordability.

During the contentious debate during the creation of the law, there was a big push to include a public option. The most popular idea was to have a 'Medicaid for all" type of program which would be one of the choices on the insurance exchange along with other private health insurance plans. In between the shouts of death panels and anti-government sentiment, there was little support for such a plan. Still, the Senate tried to create some form of competition and was able to come up with a compromise option.

A Consumer Oriented and Operated Plan, or Co-Op, is a non-profit health insurer designed to offer individuals and small businesses more affordable, consumer-friendly and high quality health insurance options. They are run by boards that are voted on by their members – the consumers. They are licensed by the state(s) in which they operate, and may operate locally, statewide, or in more than one state. Created specifically for the purpose of enhancing competition, they can offer insurance to individuals and small businesses. Beginning with the launch of open enrollment in October 2013, plans offered by co-ops were available as an often less expensive option for consumers in 23 states.

Often focused on smaller groups of people, co-ops can take many different forms. They can consist of farmers, freelancers or started by hospitals and healthcare providers. The provider networks are smaller, and in some cases the providers are salaried, helping to keep costs lowers. Co-ops also try different cost sharing plans, such as eliminating co-pays for doctor visits and rewarding providers that focus on preventative health.

However, many consumers still aren't aware of them.

Co-ops are offered both on and off the insurance exchanges, but their entrance into the market has been very difficult. Based on the input of commissioned insurance agents and actuarial experts, early drafts of the law included $10 billion dollars in grants. This would help fund startup costs, such as setting up administrative and provider networks, as well as ensure that the co-ops had the necessary solvency funding to handle claims as they built their membership networks. By the time the time open enrollment began, cuts in funding and rigid rules of operation severely reduced the number of co-ops originally planned.

All of which was orchestrated by the for-profit health insurance industry.

As word of the provision spread, the health insurance lobby worked overtime to water it down. Claiming it was unfair competition, they convinced Congress to convert the federal grants to loans and reduced them from the originally recommended amount. The loans are structured so that they must begin paying the startup loans within five years and the solvency loans within fifteen. The tight repayment schedule saddles them with a high burden to overcome in a market where they are already the underdog. Furthermore, the original $10 billion dollars recommended had been reduced to $2 billion by January 2013, making it impossible to fund all of the 40 planned co-ops.

Already hampered by the financial constraints at the national level, many had to face hurdles at the state level. With funding in place with federal loans, they still had to get additional funding from private sources prior to accepting members. As these were a new kind of insurer, state licensing requirements had to be created and were more stringent. Before open enrollment even came around, two co-ops had folded due to being unable to get state approval.

Nevertheless, 23 co-ops have been able to make it onto the market and are selling plans. The bumpy rollout of the website rollout slowed enrollment for them, which has hurt the bottom line. Provisions in the law prevents them from using federal loan money for marketing, nor are they allowed to participate in the large employer market.

In other words, they can't spend money to let consumers know they exist, or participate in the most lucrative insurance market.

As we enter into the final two weeks of open enrollment, co-ops are looking for innovative ways to get the word out about their existence. Some are going door to door, resorting to old fashioned street marketing. Some have gotten private funding for marketing costs. The federal agency in charge of overseeing the co-ops, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has relaxed some regulations in order to help. They can use some of the federal money to educate consumer about their companies, but cannot highlight specific plans. They are also allowed to have one-third of their policies in the large employer market.

Due to these obstacles, co-ops are still a long shot at being a true competitive force in the health insurance market. A recent report shows that at least nine are at risk of financial trouble. Still, preliminary evidence shows that when they are allowed to operate as they should, they can make a difference. In states where successful co-ops are running, costs of policies are averaging about 9 percent lower than states without. They are often the lower priced options on the exchange and have had a comparable share of policies as the other major insurers.

Sometimes the free market does work ­ which is exactly what for-profit health insurers are trying to stop.

Read more: