March 22, 2015

Poem: "When the Vacation is Over for Good"

It will be strange
Knowing at last it couldn’t go on forever,
The certain voice telling us over and over
That nothing would change,
And remembering too,
Because by then it will all be done with, the way
Things were, and how we had wasted time as though
There was nothing to do,
When, in a flash
The weather turned, and the lofty air became
Unbearably heavy, the wind strikingly dumb
And our cities like ash,
And knowing also,
What we never suspected, that it was something like summer
At its most august except that the nights were warmer
And the clouds seemed to glow,
And even then,
Because we will not have changed much, wondering what
Will become of things, and who will be left to do it
All over again,
And somehow trying,
But still unable, to know just what it was
That went so completely wrong, or why it is
We are dying.

— Mark Strand

Petition to Restore Community Self-Sufficiency

[From my old Petition]

Petition to Restore Community Self-Sufficiency

All around the world, and especially here in the United States, communities have been completely disarmed by the forces of global capitalism.  Small, community-oriented businesses everywhere are getting squeezed out by large corporations flexing their legal and economic muscles--it's seldom a fair fight, especially with lobbyists setting the legal and regulatory 'mood' in DC by physically outnumbering our Congressional representatives over 3 to 1. (In America, the moral of the business story seems to have become, "May the best paid legal team win".)  Yet, it is not just an issue of competition.

If you look at the long, drawn-out recovery process in New Orleans as one example, you can see evidence in several areas of once vibrant communities that remain nearly ghost towns because corporations are still not yet willing to invest in those communities again because "they're not a good market" right now. Large corporations are more worried about profit than communities; but that's not much of a surprise, nor precisely the point here. New Orleans neighborhoods that had a richer small-business sector, prior to Katrina, were almost always the quickest to bounce back (many in just a few days after the flooding receded), and in many cases were the only help of any kind many residents received for several days during the disaster. Several small-business restaurant owners bravely ignored fines from government food-industry regulators as they served food to as many hungry, displaced residents as possible--all while FEMA's supplies were days and weeks away for most.

Several communities in Japan that bore the brunt of the tsunami were isolated and cut-off from help from higher authorities for several days in dangerously cold temperatures, even though their country is considered by most experts to be at the bleeding-edge of disaster preparedness systems and procedures.  Those communities only had each other and themselves to rely on, despite a government genuinely desperate to reach and help its own people.  Even if the federal government wanted to put its weight behind helping you, they may not be able to for a period of time quite longer than you may presume and currently be prepared for.

As a final example, the statistics on hunger and starvation in America are indicative of a for-profit, food mass-production system that makes money off selling nutritionally-deficient foods (often containing unpronounceable "fillers" and "preservatives" to boost profit margin) to Americans who can afford it, while subsidiary corporations own (directly or indirectly) most of the arable land in this country and the expense of buying land keep the poor helpless to provide for themselves and their families.  Tax-payers currently pay for food stamps for over 43 million people and families.  Unhealthy Food + Tax-Payer Subsidized Food Distribution = Increased Healthcare Costs + Stressed Crops/Animals/Soil + Welfare State (i.e. large-scale economic servitude to, and dependence on, a hand-full of affluent landowners).

Being able to provide one's self and family with nutritious foods grown out of non-toxic, nutrient-rich soil is a natural, God-given right.  Likewise, there is no excuse for millions to go hungry each day in this country while obesity is meanwhile considered an 'epidemic' here--no excuse, period.  Ultimately only greed and indifference, being the root of the problem, can explain this sad state of affairs and it needs to stop.  Remember, "global capitalism" is not the same as "global trade".  Global trade is not the disruptive, disarming force imperiling communities; it is the proliferation of monopolizing, international corporate conglomerates (calling plays from the 'profit-motive handbook') that act as middle-men in particular markets for goods and services, driving up the prices for consumers and reducing the quality-of-life for the supply-side labor force (by artificially suppressing the true value of their work), while adding little true value themselves to that particular product or service. 

A critical first step to getting 'at the root' of these particular problems and vulnerabilities is to restore families' and communities' capacity to provide (through non-profit, 'quid pro quo' cooperation) for their own basic necessities (i.e. food, water, shelter, heat, etc.)--a capacity that can not be reliant on or otherwise affected by outside socioeconomic forces, for the capacity for survival is too critical to risk unnecessary exposure. Any product or service not essential to survival would naturally continue to fall under global capitalism (at least for the time being).  As with global trade, state and federal resources are still very important and beneficial to us all, but none of those things can ever substitute for a culturally-vibrant, close-knit network of community-oriented citizens and community-oriented small-business owners whom, in times of disaster or other dire need, would be able to effectively "take care of their own", as opposed to large corporations and governments whom would either be disinterested or unable to do so. 

The country, and indeed the whole world, are in dire need of bold, selfless leaders who recognize and appreciate the importance of acting on this issue now and are willing to put their fellow human beings and the unborn before country, party, reelection, or other personal profit.  It is wholly wrong to allow our brothers and sisters in the "third world", our younger generations, and future generations to suffer a bleak existence, just so the affluent and entertained of today can continue on about their greed and indifference.

I urge those holding positions of influence in our government to consider acting on this matter as being "in the nation's vital interest".  Ultimately, it is a national security matter for a government purporting to serve "the People", particularly in light of:


Increasing frequency and severity of natural and man-made disasters in the last couple centuries (continuing to follow an exponential growth and crash cycle of increasing amplitude throughout human history)
An over-leveraged global economy that now resonates local and regional disruptions, instead of quelling them
Drastically reduced energy return on energy invested (in non-renewable energy sources, which will mean energy shortages or outages for communities reliant on external power sources {as non-renewable energy projects continue to approach a 1:1 return on investment ratio--eventually making such energy-capture ventures no longer worth the effort})
A global eco-system that is facing 'runaway' pollution-accumulation, loss of genetic-diversity, and inter-species collapse (leaving communities with fewer and fewer globally- and nationally-sourced food and fresh water resources to pull from)

By signing this petition you are sending a clear message to the highest levels of U.S. executive and legislative government (and indirectly to other world leaders), reminding them that the same principle applies to nations and humanity as does to a house: it is only as strong as its foundation.  In the case of country and humanity, the core foundation for a non-self-destructive society is one built upon strong family units, vibrant community life, and self-sustainability. Ask your leaders to take immediate actions to promote community-restoration for the sake of the greater good in securing the blessings of this Earth for all.

A View on Exploitative Economics

[From someone's old Facebook post: ]

Non-Exploitative Economics: Economic Rights, Economic Justice

For more than 300 years, economic decency, sanity and justice has been within our reach, yet we have failed to take it. This is an attempt to outline some of why our economic world is so unjust and so unsustainable, and to then show that we have some extraordinarily powerful tools at our disposal to change it. I will outline how we can make up for our past and finally create the vibrant and exciting human story that only an organization of the 99% can achieve.

The issues we face are fundamentally economic and nothing is more important in economics than money. It should be unsurprising, then, that we find the most powerful possibilities by looking at money itself. For more than 300 years, nations have lived with the existence of purely symbolic money. As a means of exchange, then, nothing more than ink printed on paper, or digits in a computer system, has served to facilitate the complex range of transactions required by modern societies. Many of you will already know that symbolic money is vulnerable and must be protected by a society, but is it worth protecting? The emergence of symbolic money, as a technological advance, is something that was and remains almost entirely missed by the vast majority of the world’s people. Quite simply, symbolic money offered humanity some extraordinarily powerful options which we are yet to grasp. By our own ignorance, we have allowed those who have understood and have seized that power, to wield that power over us. So let’s shed our ignorance and stand on an equal footing with the powerful, lest we remain ignorant and vulnerable to their abuses.

The most important thing we can say about today’s economics is that it’s fundamentally imperialistic/exploitative, operating by extracting vast amounts of wealth from those who produce/earn it, transferring it up the socio-economic pyramid towards an undeserving minority. Capitalism is already a dangerous animal, for it is an imperialistic economic system, being a system which allows the wealthy to earn wealth on wealth (I can assure you that kings and queens, the aristocracy and the propertied classes would advance no alternatives, so, unless you’re part of that 1%, I suggest you listen up). For every penny earned on wealth alone, that penny is being offered up by those who produce the value it is traded for. We must be vigilant, then, to ensure that we offer up our wealth only in faithful exchange and in a manner which conforms to basic justice. We certainly have the tools to achieve that, but if we find ourselves incapable of change, we’ll earn for ourselves continuing or worsening servitude to what appears to be an emerging global economic dictatorship. It’s about time we understood that we have the tools to stand up against the illusion of authority crafted by the controllers of money, when money has, for so long, been used to silence us and secure our impotent obedience.

Whilst we have long lived under economic structures which are designed to create and deliver upwards great wealth, the last 300 years has seen an amplification in this process, as the world’s economies have steadily been subsumed/conquered and laid under a system of (purely symbolic) ‘credit’ money (debt). The single outrage which defines human life on Earth today is the fact that all money has been privatized and is issued into existence as interest bearing debt to western financial interests. So all money is debt and bears its weight upon the world’s people. Although banking could be a legitimate business (and that’s very much what we can help to achieve here), private money powers are not doing the same job a publicly accountable authority would do. Today, banks will only create/release money into the economy as debt and only when it is profitable for them to do so. The vast majority of humanity suffers want (as much as 85% of all people know no comfort, only a struggle for survival) because most people have no way of making their existence profitable to western financial interests. Sadly, today’s banks are very much the outstretched fingers of the aristocracy and are the houses through which humanity’s indebtedness has been fashioned and exploited. In the wrong hands, the power to create and issue money has been the most powerful tool by which to conquer, to enslave and to harvest the productivity of working people that was ever conceived of; indeed, until we fix this aspect of our economics, money will continue to have a more profound and devastating impact on the world than any other weapon of war. Imagine, if you will, what kind of people are behind this operation. Whilst the developed nations of the world were better equipped to bear the weight of this draining systemic debt and usury than poorer nations, it is now becoming increasingly clear, even to westerners, that systemic debt and usury (which creates the conditions for its own exacerbation), is no basis for an economy/society.

Let’s look at some numbers. Whilst countless souls can thank the western imperial money system for the destitution and death that marks their existence on Earth, the comparatively privileged western worker is harvested for 80-90% or more of their earned wealth, with only those few, largely sub-standard public services given in return. Western workers will pay some 60-75% or more of their incomes in taxes alone, much of which can be traced back to the interest on borrowed money (don’t forget to add up all the taxes. Multiple sources for tax data on Google). On the money they do have left over, western workers are subject to near lifelong debt and unnecessary interest farming (to understand how banks create money, see ‘Modern Money Mechanics’ by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.) In addition, it has been estimated that around 50% of the cost of everything working people buy can be traced back to the interest on borrowed money (The Green Party, UK). Further still, we should add inflation; a difficult phenomenon to understand, but something which may be caused by the usury culture, monopolists’ price setting behavior, or the expansion of the money supply for parasitic money manipulations rather than investment in the productive economy.

We cannot let this global horror show continue and the growing movement of truth-seekers and Occupiers (and all those who support them) suggests that people are increasingly ready for change. If we were to decide upon a different foundation for our economies/societies, what might we choose? Well, the historical imbalance between a minority of wealthy people and the rest of humanity who are dependent/vulnerable/exploitable, is likely to be unavoidable to some extent, but what is not unavoidable is the peoples’ continuing subservience to powers that are unjust, predatory, parasitic and unserving to the point that they are undermining of the economy/society and our ability to live peacefully with others.

The alternative to privately issued and controlled money has long been argued to be full public/governmental control of money and banking. This article outlines the as yet unrecognized power of a third way, where the power to create, issue and control money is not left in the hands of concentrated private powers or concentrated State powers, but is taken up by all people. In effect, we can democratize the ‘money power’ and create a new, rights-based foundation for our economies. Money can come into existence not as debt to private banking interests, but on the back of inalienable rights to the money you can repay, interest free, for items of need like a home. Think about that; we have the power to say ‘no’ to the usurer/exploiter, who prints money into existence and then lives lavishly on our interest payments, and secure for ourselves the basic components of life unburdened. Other qualifying items of need might include education, healthcare, small and community businesses, transport etc. You decide. Wherever a society draws the line, an essentially protected zone is created, beyond which life and commerce can carry on according to rules that you lay down; will that be some form of capitalism, something more commensurate with common ownership or a meeting of the two? Either way, through economic rights, we can offer the world’s people and our societies/economies protection from the madness that is human economic relations.

I hope you can see that economic rights are not about free lunches, as what is borrowed is paid back. Indeed, the whole thrust of Non-Exploitative economics, or Economic Rights, is to reduce those community-draining free lunches our societies routinely offer up to the already vastly wealthy. By ending exploitation, we might be able to realize and enjoy our own and the economy’s capacity for full productivity. Today, not only is the debt that binds you to your desk predatory and parasitic, it is highly economically inefficient, for anything that binds you and forces you to compromise on your fullest potential runs counter to economic efficiency. Many of you will recognize that as a free-market argument, only this time, made for the benefit of working people. Of the 80-90+% of incomes currently harvested from working people, we will only need to pay that amount required to furnish us with a government and legitimate public goods/services. What will that cost, 30% of incomes? If you go from enjoying 10-20% of your income to enjoying 70% of it, that equates to a 3-7 fold increase in your real wealth. With this profound redress in the balance of economic power (and stride towards decency and justice in the world), working families can begin to shape their world according to their values. How would you use your economic power to shape your world once it has been returned to you? My experience suggests that people will invest in community enterprises and endeavors such as local permaculture and recreational/developmental activities for the young.

Understanding symbolic, social constructed money (the form it exists in today) grants us new possibilities about how we might live our lives; all of a sudden it really becomes a requirement that it be imbued with rights. In theory, there’s no incompatibility between economic rights and money backed by commodities such as gold, so don’t assume that economic rights are somehow opposed to ‘sound money’, but it appears to me that it would be far harder to implement and would, of course, rule out the noble initiative of allowing governments to spend debt- and interest-free money into the economy on valuable public projects like schools, hospitals, recycling/clean energy technologies etc. When we think deeply about money, the only thing we can really settle on is the idea that, as a tool, it should be employed for the greatest amount of good it can be employed for. Money spent freely into the economy by a publicly accountable authority, therefore, should be a very positive thing, but it is tempered by the fact that corrupt governments have used or abused this power for near limitless corruption, including waging aggressive wars of acquisition. When it comes to keeping governmental powers in line, I believe economic rights has yet one more powerful thing to offer; that is, if populations are enjoying interest-free loans for things like homes, parents and teachers will be teaching children precisely why. The power to create and issue money will therefore go from being the closely guarded secret used to drain working people and power the empire, to being the most important lessons we have in school. Economic rights will not only produce economically empowered families/communities, but also economically literate populations.

March 15, 2015

Reflections on the Nature of "Living" Systems

[Text below adapted from my college astronomy course discussion contributions:]

//Conditions Supportive of Life//
What conditions does Earth have that seem necessary to support the existence of living organisms? Be specific, and relate these conditions to the history and astronomical context of our planet.
Although other combinations of chemical compounds may possibly lead to self-organization, metabolic activity, and replication (and therefore evolution) as xenobiologists are currently studying, the most basic necessities for life in the form we are familiar with, which are provided for on Earth, include:
  • The Sun, as a source of electromagnetic energy necessary for photosynthesis and maintaining habitable temperatures on the Earth's surface (i.e. keeping water in its liquid state beyond the Archean Eon, 4.0-2.5 Ga; Note: "Astronomers think that the sun had about 70–75 percent of the present luminosity, yet temperatures appear to have been near modern levels even within 500 Ma of Earth's formation [> 4.04 Ga], which is puzzling (the faint young Sun paradox).  The presence of liquid water is evidenced by certain highly deformed gneisses produced by metamorphism of sedimentary protoliths. The equable temperatures may reflect the presence of larger amounts of greenhouse gases than later in the Earth's history.  Alternatively, Earth's albedo may have been lower at the time, due to less land area and cloud cover.").  Additionally, the Sun's electromagnetic radiation (reduced to a "healthy" level due to the Earth's magnetic field and ozone layer) accelerates evolution by introducing errors in DNA and RNA encoding sequences, a small percentage of which lead to beneficial adaptations [see Genetic Variation].
  • A very wide variety of types of elements and molecules from one or more supernovae, (reactants and catalysts) needed for complex chemical reactions, which provided the diverse array of chemical interplay and structures needed for the random creation of biochemical precursor compounds (i.e. amino acidsnucleic acids) necessary for a successful selection of chemically interacting components that could inherently self-organize, self-sustain through metabolic reactions, and replicate (via RNA or simpler precursors such as PNA, GNA, or TNA).
  • Liquid water, provided by volcanic activity as well as ice-containing asteroids, meteorites, and proto-planets (particularly during the Late Heavy Bombardment phase of Earth's history, 4.1-3.8 Ga), as a highly efficient medium for the suspension, free movement, and interaction of chemical compounds necessary for the formation of the first organic compounds (by allowing a very high frequency of random encounters of inanimate chemical compounds to occur), and to eventually continue providing cellular life the capacity for homeostasis (via self-containment within a membrane) and the medium in which to carry on cell processes, including metabolic chemical reactions.
  • An atmosphere, providing the containment (i.e. avoiding loss into space) of water vapor, a positive pressure environment necessary for cellular life to survive beyond the oceans, and a major source of molecules (such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen) necessary for the metabolic activity of more complex unicellular, and eventually multicellular, organisms utilizing photosynthesis.

How likely do you think it is that other planets in the universe have, or have had in the past, those conditions that seem necessary to support the existence of living organisms? Explain why you think so.
The following quote, which I used part of in my Week 2 discussion about the likelihood of "intelligent" life elsewhere in the universe, provides support for the idea that life must (extrapolating statistically) exist in other locations in the universe because very similar conditions to those on Earth exist in countless other solar systems in the universe:
"The chemistry of life may have begun shortly after the Big Bang13.8 billion years ago, during a habitable epoch when the Universe was only 10–17 million years old.  According to the panspermia hypothesis, microscopic life—distributed by meteoroidsasteroids and other small Solar System bodies—may exist throughout the universe.  Nonetheless, Earth is the only place in the universe known to harbor life.  Estimates of habitable zones around other stars, along with the discovery of hundreds of extrasolar planets and new insights into the extreme habitats here on Earth, suggest that there may be many more habitable places in the universe than considered possible until very recently.  On 4 November 2013, astronomers reported, based on Kepler space mission data, that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of sun-like stars and red dwarf stars within the Milky Way Galaxy.  11 billion of these estimated planets may be orbiting sun-like stars.  The nearest such planet may be 12 light-years away, according to the scientists." []
I personally concur with the panspermia hypothesis, that forms of basic animate matter (i.e. "life" and/or its precursor components) exist throughout the universe.  It is quite plausible that Earth was "seeded" with very basic form(s) of animate matter by one or more space bodies entering the Earth's atmosphere during its first billion years or so of existence.  On Earth, and on other planetary bodies in the universe with the right conditions, there as a "nursery" environment that permits the development of more complex animate matter and an evolutionary process, through natural selection, providing ever more complex forms of life to develop.

//Variety Possible in Forms of "Life"//
Many people often forget that there is a vast middle-ground of possibilities when it comes to the "variety spectrum" for animate systems.  For them there is either little, if any, forms of life beyond our planet or solar system, or there are countless other intelligent species in the universe that are generally very similar in their biochemistry and physiology to homo sapiens.  Yet, xenobiologists (and astrobiologists) have made significant progress in the last decade in expanding our realization of the vast variety of forms in which "living" things can potentially exist—forms of animate systems that are not carbon based, use a different molecular liquid besides water to provide an emulsion medium for metabolic-related chemical reactions, and even perhaps "life" that has advanced beyond biochemistry altogether (e.g. self-organized and evolving electromagnetic energy matrices that take full advantage of the significant evolutionary freedom the quantum mechanical characteristics of matter-energy systems provide at the microscopic level (the average photosynthetic efficiency in plants and photosynthetic bacteria is a staggeringly high ≥90-98%^, as compared to our most recent "cutting-edge" advance in solar cell efficiency in the lab of 46.0%, because those biochemical systems provide for the quantum process of photonic energy pathway self-selection called "quantum walk"*).
* "A phenomenon known as quantum walk increases the efficiency of the energy transport of light significantly. In the photosynthetic cell of an algae, bacterium, or plant, there are light-sensitive molecules called chromophores arranged in an antenna-shaped structure named a photocomplex. When a photon is absorbed by a chromophore, it is converted into a quasiparticle referred to as an exciton, which jumps from chromophore to chromophore towards the reaction center of the photocomplex, a collection of molecules that traps its energy in a chemical form that makes it accessible for the cell's metabolism. The particle's wave properties enable it to cover a wider area and try out several possible paths simultaneously, allowing it to instantaneously "choose" the most efficient route, where it will have the highest probability of arriving at its destination in the minimum possible time. Because it takes place at temperatures far higher than quantum phenomena usually occur in, quantum walking is only possible over very short distances, due to obstacles in the form of destructive interference that will come into play. These cause the particle to lose its wave properties for an instant before it regains them once again after it is freed from its locked position through a classic "hop". The distance towards the center is therefore covered in a series of conventional hops and quantum walks." [Source]