Plant Trees SF Events 2013 Archive: 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

Event

 
http://naturenewssf.blogspot.com/
Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say? -Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

1.   From the land of the free and the home of the brave:  NSA by the numbers
2.   San Francisco housing, not enough and too much
3.   Origin of the National Park Service/pop quiz
4.   Update on illegal Knowland Park drilling/Rally this Sunday
5.   Expanded view of expanding universe/Henrietta Swan Leavitt
6.   Don’t kill yourself.  Don’t kill yourself - Jennifer Hecht
7.   January 5 is National Bird Day - Happy Bird Day
8.   GG Audubon January field trips
9.   Feedback I - staring at your palm
10. Book of poems, about effort against electromagnetic pollution
11.  ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe
12.  Article about NY Botanical Garden database of its specimens
13.  SaveTheFrogs wants to build education center in Berkeley - and needs your $
14.  Feedback II:  full employment, depressing wages/et al
15.  Paul Krugman scares some people
16.  Florida agribusiness scares Steve Mirsky


1.
What's a little spying between old friends?

NSA, by the numbers

97 billion - items of information (web searches, live chats, file transfers, email contents, videos, photos and social networking &c) that the NSA gathered in one month in 2013

600 million - The number of telephone events GCHQ* was handling every day in 2012

98.9 million - The number of customers on the American phone company Verizon, whose phone records the NSA collects every day

25,879 - State and court requests for Google user data in the first six months of 2013

200 - Fibre optic cables GCHQ had tapped by 2012, with the agency able to process data from at least 46 at the same time

21 to the 15th power - Number of bytes the tapped cables could, in theory, deliver each day - equivalent to all the information in all the books in the British Library 192 times

100,000 Estimated number of people working at the NSA, of whom about 30,000 are military and the rest are private contractors

500,000 Estimated number of US contractors with top-secret clearance akin to Snowden's

2,776 Number of times the NSA violated a rule against warrantless surveillance on US soil in the year up to end of May 2012

Guardian Weekly 20.12.13

*GCHQ is the English counterpart (and close cooperator) of NSA

########################

2.  San Francisco housing

A handful of government programs offer some down payment and other assistance to teachers buying a first home. But in San Francisco those programs don't go as far as middle-class people need, Kelly said.

"There's just not enough money to really help people," he said. "I think we are going to have to start taking on housing much the way we have taken on health care - we need to see it as a responsibility of employment. You either have to pay people well enough that they can afford housing or you've got to do something along the lines of helping to provide housing."

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/High-housing-costs-push-many-teachers-out-of-S-F-5100678.php

_________________________

Proximity makes the heart grow colder 

Mayor proposing turning some open spaces into affordable housing

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/sf-looking-to-public-lands-to-accelerate-housing-developments/Content?oid=2658127
_______________________

Glenn Rogers:
"We have not been nimble enough," he said. "We've done some things right in the last 20 years in terms of public space and bicycling. But economically, we've priced out regular people."

"These new progressive politicians, they have no problem with going tall and vertical."

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/san-francisco-at-1-million-citys-population-is-booming-once-again/Content?oid=2659836

#########################

3.
Pop quiz time....
 

Q: What law, passed by Congress 100 years ago this month, allowed the spectacular Hetch Hetch Valley in Yosemite National Park to be flooded for use as a municipal reservoir?
 
A: The Raker Act
 
Q: What law will restore Hetch Hetchy Valley to the American people?
 
A: The Raker Act (as amended)
 
A century ago, nature looked like a limitless resource, and conservation was a novel concept.  But as facts and values evolve, so must the law.
 
And the fact is that San Francisco can meet the water and power needs of its residents and customers without storing water in Hetch Hetchy Valley.
 
Therefore Restore Hetch Hetchy is building bipartisan support in Congress to amend the Raker Act to require the city to relinquish Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and return the valley to Yosemite National Park and the American people. San Francisco will still retain its Tuolumne River diversions and other facilities outside Yosemite.
______________________________

In the last few weeks, you've heard us decry the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Raker Act, the deeply controversial legislation that allowed for the flooding of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.
 
The controversy had one silver lining - it prompted Congress to pass the National Park Service Act three years later, thereby protecting our national parks from ever being assaulted by politicians again.
 
The National Park Service Act came about thanks to lobbying from a San Francisco industrialist and environmentalist named Stephen Mather, who accepted a perfunctory salary of $1 to head the campaign. 
 
Now, 100 years after the signing of the Raker Act, and in honor of conservationists like Mather, Restore Hetch Hetchy is leading a campaign to pass an amendment to the Raker Act that will undue its damage.
 
We ask every recipient of the is email to make a donation of at least $1 today to fund a victory that Stephen Mather would be proud of.
 
2014 will be remembered as the year that Restore Hetch Hetchy took the fight to Washington, D.C. That's where the original injustice occurred 100 years ago - and where we can win the fight once and for all.

Restore Hetch Hetchy

############################

4.  Dear Knowland Park Supporters,

ZOO COVER-UP--UPDATE ON DRILLING: After we reported last week about the zoo’s contractors drilling holes and damaging sensitive wildlife and plant habitat prior to receiving permits from the state and federal wildlife regulatory agencies, an alert Park supporter Friday  found the zoo’s contracted biologist and a small crew with rakes trying to cover over the tire tracks, remove concrete and cover the holes with imported dirt.

When we arrived on the scene to video, the first worker said they were covering tire tracks, the second one said they were “pulling French Broom” which was ridiculous since a) they had no pulling wrenches, only rakes, and b) there was almost no broom visible, since our Knowland Park Coalition work crews have already pulled most of it out.

The biologist, when asked, had a third explanation as he tried to stomp down the strange yellow-colored imported soil into the holes: “we got a report of some holes up here and didn’t want anyone to fall” so they were filling them in.

To see the three videos we took, go to
	http://www.saveknowland.org/?p=4338
and	http://www.saveknowland.org/?p=4425
and	http://www.saveknowland.org/?p=4431

Since the back of their truck (one of four vehicles in which the crew arrived) held only pieces of broken concrete and rakes, and since the biologist had been heard calling for “help with this concrete over here” and then refused to answer when asked about it, it appears they were trying to cover their tracks from the previous damage.

See a picture of the truck's contents at http://www.saveknowland.org/?p=4432

We also have numerous other photos of holes covered up with imported dirt, such as the one at 	
	http://www.saveknowland.org/?p=4436
as well as photos of broken concrete that had been removed, such as the one at
	http://www.saveknowland.org/?p=4437 

It’s clear they are sweating something - so let’s turn up the heat!

RALLY THIS SUNDAY: We need every single person who supports the Park to stand up for it by turning out for our rally!

PLACE:	At the zoo entrance driveway
DAY:	SUNDAY, JANUARY 5 (THIS SUNDAY).
TIME:	PLEASE ARRIVE AT 1230 PM so we have time to distribute signs, etc. Bring water, sunscreen and your cheerful, resolute protect-the-park spirit!
PARKING: Allow time for parking on nearby streets and walking to zoo entrance; please carpool, if possible.

We’ll have everything prepared so you don’t have to do anything but show up—but for planning purposes we need to know how many are coming, so please email us at info@friendsofknowlandpark.org  and let us know if you can be there.

It is critically important that we turn out a good crowd, so PLEASE try to take an hour out of your busy weekend and exercise your right to express your support for keeping our wonderful Park wild and free to all. It’s a good way to celebrate the happy new year with others who care about protecting our last remaining wildland open spaces at the urban interface.  These areas are so critical to the survival of native species—and to the health of people, who need quiet peaceful places close to home.

Regardless of how well-intentioned the zoo’s original expansion plans may have been, times have changed. It’s not OK anymore to drill, bulldoze and fence off habitat in order to teach people about conservation, especially when that habitat is home to rare plant communities and threatened species - not to mention all the other native animals that use the land in its natural state. Lots of money and time has gone into these plans, we know—but that’s all the more reason to get it right and have the values of authentic conservation guide the plans. It’s up to us to stop this misguided use of taxpayer dollars and public parkland!

To Dos:
Email us to let us know you will attend the rally next Sunday at the zoo entrance: 
	info@friendsofknowlandpark.org

Sign our 2 petitions: saveknowland.org (petition links on right side of page)

#######################

5.  Expanded view of expanding universe

Dec 30
It was on this date in 1924 that astronomer Edwin Hubble announced the discovery of other galaxies. At the time, it was thought that our Milky Way galaxy represented the entirety of the universe. Hubble was studying the Andromeda Nebula using the 100-inch Hooker Telescope at Mount Wilson observatory in California. With a weaker telescope, nebulae just looked like clouds of glowing gas, but with the Hooker telescope — the most powerful telescope in the world at that time — Hubble was able to distinguish individual stars within the nebula. One of the stars in the Andromeda Nebula turned out to be a Cepheid variable: a particular type of star that pulsates and is very bright. Astronomers had figured out a decade earlier that, by observing a Cepheid variable and measuring its brightness and the length of time it takes to go from bright to dim and back again, they could calculate the star's distance from the Earth. Hubble crunched the numbers and realized that the star he was observing was 800,000 light-years away, more than eight times the distance of the farthest star in the Milky Way. It was then that he realized that the "cloud of gas" he'd been observing was really another vast galaxy that was very far away. He renamed the Andromeda Nebula the "Andromeda Galaxy," and went on to discover 23 more separate galaxies. His findings proved that, unimaginably vast though it seemed to us, our Milky Way was just one of many little islands of stars.

Writer's Almanac

(JS:  Hubble got the credit, but for that critical data from Cepheid variable stars he totally depended on the uncelebrated work of Henrietta Swan Leavitt.  Here is a paragraph about her):

Henrietta Swan Leavitt (July 4, 1868 – December 12, 1921) was an American astronomer, and the deaf daughter of a Congregational minister.  A graduate of Radcliffe College, Leavitt went to work in 1893 at the Harvard College Observatory in a menial capacity as a 'computer,' assigned to count images on photographic plates. Study of the plates led Leavitt to propound a groundbreaking theory, worked out while she labored as a $10.50-a-week assistant, that was the basis for the Nobel Prize-winning work of astronomer Edwin Hubble and radically changed the theory of modern astronomy, an accomplishment for which Leavitt received almost no credit during her lifetime.

Here is that Andromeda galaxy that Hubble discovered with the help of Leavitt:

And, oh yes, a few sheep

This is the only thing you can see with the naked eye that is not in our Milky Way galaxy.  You can’t see it where the sky is too polluted by light.

##########################
6.
No Hemlock Rock (don't kill yourself)
by Jennifer Michael Hecht

Don't kill yourself. Don't kill yourself.
Don't. Eat a donut, be a blown nut.
That is, if you're going to kill yourself,
stand on a street corner rhyming
seizure with Indonesia, and wreck it with
racket. Allow medical terms.
Rave and fail. Be an absurd living ghost,
if necessary, but don't kill yourself.

Let your friends know that something has
passed, or be glad they've guessed.
But don't kill yourself. If you stay, but are
bat crazy you will batter their hearts
in blooming scores of anguish; but kill
yourself, and hundreds of other people die.

Poison yourself, it poisons the well;
shoot yourself, it cracks the bio-dome.
I will give badges to everyone who's figured
this out about suicide, and hence
refused it. I am grateful. Stay. Thank
you for staying. Please stay. You
are my hero for staying. I know
about it, and am grateful you stay.

Eat a donut. Rhyme opus with lotus.
Rope is bogus, psychosis. Stay.
Hocus Pocus. Hocus Pocus.
Dare not to kill yourself. I won't either.

From Who Said. © Copper Canyon Press

#######################
7.


#########################

8.  Golden Gate Audubon Society January field trips

http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/585021/84a4f07ed6/281553221/896e3bd08a/


########################

9.  Feedback I

On Dec 28, 2013, at 10:10 PM, S. R. Gilbert wrote:
Dear Jake,
The compressed quotation captures a part of Proust's thought, but here is the complete passage from La prisonnière:

The only true voyage of discovery, the only really rejuvenating experience, would be not to visit new lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; and this we can do with an Elstir, with a Vinteuil; with men like these we do really fly from star to star. 

Le seul véritable voyage, le seul bain de Jouvence, ce ne serait pas d'aller vers de nouveaux paysages, mais d'avoir d'autres yeux, de voir l'univers avec les yeux d'un autre, de cent autres, de voir les cent univers que chacun d'eux voit, que chacun d'eux est; et cela nous le pouvons avec un Elstir, avec un Vinteuil, avec leurs pareils, nous volons vraiment d'étoiles en étoiles. 

The final image recalls a passage from a famous letter of Van Gogh's:

Painters — to take them only — being dead and buried, speak to the next generation or to several succeeding generations through their work.
Is that all, or is there more besides? In a painter's life death is not perhaps the hardest thing there is.
For my own part, I declare I know nothing whatever about it. But to look at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots of a map representing towns and villages. Why, I ask myself, should the shining dots of the sky not be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? If we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. One thing undoubtedly true in this reasoning is this: that while we are alive we cannot get to a star, any more than when we are dead we can take the train.

Written July 1888. Proust wrote the first drafts of La prisonnière in 1914 and 1915.

On Dec 30, 2013, at 11:32 AM, Chickwagon wrote:
Hello Jake,
I just wanted to take a moment to THANK YOU for your newsletters and the thought/action provoking content you so generously generate for us all year long. Wishing you a most satisfying 2014. 

On Dec 28, 2013, at 8:37 PM, Dan Richman wrote (re staring at palms):
Mr Sigg, Thank you, thank you, for this email. It may be preaching to the choir, but sometimes the choir needs to know that it is not the only one that is appalled.

On Dec 29, 2013, at 10:40 AM, Barton Mayhew wrote:
You continue to surpass all expectations of yourself, remain unique standard of one: Now conveying (always) astute observations of Voltaire, Proust, Einstein. 3 slaps to face ("books") dominating this sheep nation, global uniformity.

##########################
10.
On Dec 28, 2013, at 10:37 PM, Carll Goodpasture wrote:
Hi Jake;
Perhaps your newsletter readers may find this interesting - re electromagnetic pollution and a cultural movement towards doing something about it....

Keep them coming - among the most inspiring of all of my incoming e-mail.
Thanks ever so much.
Carll Goodpasture
Gjettum, Norway 

HYPER 
An Electromagnetic Chapbook
by Chellis Glendinning
with an introduction by Olle Johansson
--------------------------------
The first book of poems 
From-about the effort against electromagnetic pollution and the world of the electro-sensitive.

Creating a culture for our movement
**********
“Glendinning has taken on the democratic responsibility to inform. This collection of poems is indeed worth reading--and will provide you with fresh insights as well as catalyze important provocations. The author has covered the knowledge and theories of the last 30 years. You may become upset since Glendinning’s poems tell a story that should be, but is not, common knowledge for politicians, civil servants, and the general public.” -- from the introduction by Olle Johansson


Chellis Glendinning, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist and author of seven books. Her role in the effort toward a radiation-safe world has been to report the psycho-social effects of wireless technologies.

Olle Johansson, Ph.D., is Associate professor in Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, who has researched the effects of electromagnetic radiation. 

To order HYPER: Books cost US $4.50. If you reside in South America, send US $8.50 per copy via Money order made out to “Chellis Glendinning.” If within North or Central America, send US $10.00 via Money Order. From Europe, US $12.00. If you live in another part of the planet, please send US $13.50. Differences in prices reflect the postal service's variations in shipping costs. Send your request to: HYPER/Chellis Glendinning, Casilla 623, Sucre, Bolivia.

www.chellisglendinning.org

#########################
11.
JABBERWOCKY
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

#######################

12.  Avrum Shepard:

Hi Jake,
I thought you might be interested in the Popular Science article about the New York Botanical Garden database of its specimens. It has a link to the database.

http://www.popsci.com/article/science/new-york-botanical-garden-digitizes-biodiversity-history

########################
13.
SaveTheFrogs asks your support for one of the largest initiatives we have undertaken, the SAVE THE FROGS! Education Center in Berkeley, California (www.savethefrogs.com/berkeley). With your help, we can raise the $50,000 we need to turn what is currently an empty space into a world-class facility for educating thousands of people about amphibians, enabling us to significantly grow our movement and empower the next generation of amphibian conservationists. As the Education Center will provide a huge benefit to California's natural heritage, I am hoping that you can donate to make the Education Center a huge success!
www.savethefrogs.com/donate

Since our beginnings in 2008, SAVE THE FROGS! has never had a space of our own where we could educate the public about frogs. It is time we metamorphose and place ourselves directly in the public view! The SAVE THE FROGS! Education Center will provide us exactly such an opportunity. It will serve as a place to hold educational presentations, classes and workshops; it is located on a major street and will help us attract many new supporters; and it will enable us to raise more funds for frog conservation as we will finally have a physical location at which to sell our eco-friendly merchandise. 

Berkeley is a well known, international city with a world-renowned university and a history of environmental activism. Located just across the Bay from San Francisco, the SAVE THE FROGS! Education Center will be in a complex that hosts several other environmental nonprofits. We will benefit from and contribute to a community that is on the cutting-edge of environmental action. 

Please donate to SAVE THE FROGS! and help us raise the $50,000 we need to fund the first year of the Education Center and ensure we can open our doors to the public in February 2014! Everyone who donates $50 or more will have their name listed in the Thank You section of the Education Center webpage. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. So far, 38 supporters have helped us raise $2,297! We still have a long way to go to reach our goal, so please chip in and be a part of this huge step forward for SAVE THE FROGS!
www.savethefrogs.com/donate

Perhaps one day there will be SAVE THE FROGS! Education Centers in major cities around the country! But we need your help to get this first location started and turn our vision into a reality, and we can only do this with your support.

######################

14.  Feedback II

On Dec 26, 2013, at 7:44 PM, jeanne koelling wrote:
Hi Jake: I too heard Brian Edward Tiekert's interview of Allen Wiseman on his new book, "The World Without Us", and think it would be an important book to read, adding to other information relevant to problems regarding reducing the human population. 

For those who can upload MP3 files on their computer, I think for at least 2 weeks, the interview is available on KPFA' archives, "Up Front", 7:00am, Dec 24, 2013.

On Dec 25, 2013, at 5:42 PM, janet gilles wrote:
Alan Savory began as a naturalist, trying to save African wildlife, and realized ranching was key.
A change we can believe in. Buy only from pastured animals. Perennial grasses root systems go down seven feet. We need to encourage deep rooted plants. The beauty is that these meats, like fish, have few fats, and these are beneficial.
The coalition would be 1) jobs, 2) health, 3) feeding the hungry 4) preserving nature.
In the past 150 years, between 50 and  80% of the organic carbon in the topsoil has gone airborne. Alan Savory, among others, has perfected grazing systems that replenish the soil, and thus the carbon and biodiversity, in just a few years. Animals and biodiversity being key.

On Dec 27, 2013, at 3:07 PM, Linda Newton wrote:
Dear Jake,
Regarding the immigration issue:  I think the huge number coming across our southern border is a result of US policy in destabilizing our neighbors to the south.  This includes Mexico since the imposition of Nafta, Honduras and Guatemala since the '80s if not before.  Remember the Contras, for example.  I forget what all the insurgents were called, but they were instigated by the USA.
Linda:  I’m sure this is one of many factors that account for this problem.  Even if you were to think that this is the driver--which I don’t--does that mean you would just back off and do nothing?  

I’m concerned about doing something about population before it does something about us.  That is not being flip; it is widely recognized that nature bats last, and thinking people are very concerned about the fact that one species has taken over absolute power over all other species.  Nature doesn’t work the way humans do; nature will let a situation develop to the point where it destroys itself.  We seem to be going there, heedlessly.  It may even happen in my lifetime; I would prefer to not be around at that point.

On Dec 27, 2013, at 8:20 AM, Steve Lawrence wrote:
Jake, Why do employers prefer foreign workers to Americans? Clearly they do. They are cheaper; they may be willing to work for less than minimum wage, or work through breaks, or not count travel time. They work harder; they know that they must to be preferred to Americans, who are legal. They don't nit-pick work rules, which they may not know. They don't sue. It's the panoply of American law and government involvement with employment that has resulted in employers preferring foreign workers.
Steve, if I understand you, you don’t disapprove of driving down wages and working conditions.

Clearly, labor unions and others have over-reached themselves in many cases (Margaret Thatcher broke their backs in England, but still England has serious economic problems that she didn’t solve.)  If that is what you think, I am partially sympathetic.  However, what is happening to the working person here is not healthy, nor is it sustainable.  How are you to sell cars, houses, and other consumer items when consumers don’t have the purchasing power they used to?  Nor do they have pensions.  

The very people who are driving down wages and conditions depend on these people to sell to.  I don’t think we will ever have full employment again.
Jake, I don't really know where I stand on raising the minimum wage; I'm ambivalent. But I do see--and don't read about--that it and the related employment rules made by government have an effect. I'd like for these inadvertent consequences to be considered. We have good intentions, make law, but things don't work out when consequences are ignored; hope for the best.... We make a mess. 

What's wrong with less than full employment? Society doesn't need all the workers it used to need. That's been arguably true since the Sixties. It was called out in Roszak's The Making of the Counterculture (1968). Roszak argued that the counterculture was the expression of this development; hippies didn't want to work, and society had plenty without their (traditional) work. More work, more goods, more plastic and pollution. Again, it seems worth discussing; I'm not sold on what I've just said. 

It would be nice to spread work out, share, but that doesn't seem to happen, doesn't work.

If we had a rational government not shaped by money power, we would strike a balance between encouraging workers and entrepreneurs and supporting those who prefer to not work in the traditional sense--artists, performers, non-profits, etc. But that is tough to do. Each wants more.

Ah, I am pleased by your answer, Steve.  

Why am I pleased--your thinking on the subject is as unformed as mine?  Our thoughts seem very similar, but neither of us envision a way to achieve this desired state.  However, defining the problem is half-way to solving it, and what I see seems identical to yours.

The current world economic/social situation is truly peculiar:  We produce too many goods and services, far in excess of what we need, at hideous cost to the biological world and to the earth--but the response of governments is not to reduce this production/consumption, but to produce more, in hopes that the inequitable distribution can be covered up by increasing production, thus keeping everyone busy, so there is no one without a job.  Elected officials have to appear to be doing something, so they continue the charade of “getting the economy moving again”.  I doubt they believe that is possible, and if they do they are dumber than I think they are.  Possible.

Redistributing is not something governments are good at.  Those who have aren’t willing to give it up, so conditions build toward violent revolution, a la France 1789 or Russia 1917.  We don’t want to go there, but what other route is there?

########################
15.

We’re all still looking for that free lunch
The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008, by Paul Krugman. 
Review by William Leith in Guardian Weekly 09.01.09

This is a brilliant book, but it scares me, for several reasons.  One reason arises from Paul Krugman’s history of financial crashes.  Something seems to be making them happen more frequently as time goes on.  Also, they seem to be getting more destructive.  In the great depression of the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes said:  “We have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand.”  These days the machine is much bigger and infinitely more delicate, and we’re still struggling to understand how it works.
 
One of the most striking things Krugman tells us is that you can have a recession even when an economy seems basically sound…(example omitted JS).  And this is the second reason the book scares me.  Economists usually try to solve problems by tinkering with things, and making them more complicated.  That’s because it often works – until, suddenly, it doesn’t.  Krugman, who specializes in recessions, takes us through the history of why they happen.  It’s always because people devise an ingenious way to make what appears to be free money, and nobody understands the consequences until it’s too late.  There is, it turns out, no such thing as a free lunch.
 
This is another scary thing.  The entire edifice of capitalism is based on capital – which is really just another word for confidence.  Wealth is created because people who have capital, or confidence, expose it to risk.  If people believe your confidence to be authentic, the risk you take is likely to be small.  But as soon as people think you are bluffing, they panic – and panic destroys wealth faster than confidence can ever increase it.
 
Krugman looks at various crashes, such as the “Tequila crash” in South America in the mid-90s, and the Asian crash that happened three or four years later.  They all happen for the same basic reason – the banking system exposes itself to too much risk.  Then people lose confidence.  Then panic starts.  Panic doesn’t even have to be based on anything real.  Krugman compares panic to a feedback loop – noise from a speaker is magnified by a microphone, which relays this noise, now much louder, back through the speaker, and so on, until it’s an ear-splitting shriek.
 
And this is, more or less, the sound emanating from today’s global economy.  In the past, every time a crash has happened, something big has stepped in to clean up the mess.  And now what will save us?  “The quintessential economic sentence is supposed to be ‘There is no free lunch.’  Depression economics, however, is the study of situations where there is a free lunch, if we could only figure out how to get our hands on it.”
 
Krugman, one of the sharpest economists in the world, still believes in free lunches.  And that’s something that really scares me.

########################
16.
1977's Empire of the Ants acknowledges the human susceptibility to pheromonic influence:  "Giant ants...use pheromones to enslave the local human population and to compel the humans to operate a sugar factory for them."  In Florida, this same phenomenon is called agribusiness.

Steve Mirsky in Scientific American, October 2004


#########################

http://naturenewssf.blogspot.com/
For updates and info, contact scott at planttrees dot org.