notes march 31 2008

March 31, 2008 § Leave a comment


Freshman Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who recently voiced concerns about the rancorous tone of the Democratic primary, said she was forced to choose between two friends and picked Obama.

“Between Barack and a hard place, I chose Barack,” she told reporters in a conference call. “He’s able to dissolve the hard cynical edge that has dominated our politics under the Bush administration.”


notes march 29 2008

March 29, 2008 § Leave a comment

When press and corporations work together..Log base 2

                  On Monday, February 18, Adbusters lost its court battle against two of Canada’s television networks that refused to sell airtime for its commercials. Adbusters claimed the CBC and Canwest Global had violated its right to free speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by refusing to sell air time, but the court decided that the Charter does not apply to private corporations.
“It’s outrageous that the fast food, oil and automobile industries can buy as much TV time as they want in order to promote their agendas, but citizens are not allowed to talk back,” said Adbusters Editor-in-Chief Kalle Lasn in response to the ruling. “Canadian democracy will not work properly until we the people have the same right to buy airtime as corporations do.”

More notes March 28, 2008

March 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

David bruck’s takes a look at Mccain speeches and sees some interesting developments.  There are hints here that I like but they require very critical reflection.


The third McCain speech was delivered on Wednesday. It is as personal, nuanced and ambitious a speech as any made by a presidential candidate this year.

McCain noted that we are not only fighting a war on terror. The world is seeing a growing split between liberal democracies and growing autocracies. We are seeing a world in which great power rivalries — with China, Russia and Iran — have to be managed and soothed.

Moreover, the U.S. is not the sole hegemon. Power is widely distributed among many rising nations. McCain’s core purpose in the speech was to revive the foreign policy tradition that has jumped parties but that has been associated with people like Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Stimson, Dean Acheson, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

In this tradition, a strong America is the key to world peace, but America’s role is as a leading player in an international system. America didn’t defeat communism, McCain said Wednesday, the American-led global community did. This is the tradition that Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment has been describing for a decade.

McCain offered to build new pillars for that system — a League of Democracies, a new nuclear nonproliferation regime and a successor to the Kyoto treaty. In stabilizing Asia and the Middle East, he would rely more on democracies like Turkey, India, Israel and Iraq, and less on Mubarak and Musharraf.

Unlike the realists, McCain believes other nations have to be judged according to how they treat their own citizens. Unlike the Bush administration in its first few years, he believes global treaties cannot solely be evaluated according to a narrow definition of the American interest. The U.S. also has to protect the fabric of the international system.

McCain opened his speech with a description of his father leaving home on the day of Pearl Harbor, and then being gone for much of the next four years. He harkened back repeatedly to the accomplishments of the Truman administration.

In so doing, he signaled that the foreign policy debate of the coming months will be very different from the one of the past six years. Anybody who thinks McCain is merely continuing the Bush agenda is not paying attention.

The most serious problem is probably the overall framing of the future as being one coached in military in conflictual terms.  Mccain is a bit of a military romanticist, not very well oriented in economics and technology. All the three speeches, of which I’ve quoted only from the commentary on one, show some signs of deeper cultural and diplomatic awareness.  What worries me the most is the pressure Mccain would be under to appoint a cabinet that was accommodating to the same larger forces that bush has been accommodating in the background -energy and banking, to give a name to it.

Notes March 28 2008

March 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

Some thoughts on an energy, climate change, technology and institutions.


The political, governmental, and corporate resistance to change is very powerful.  The technical discussions on potential solutions are too separated from the political discussions.  The basic assumption is that current political arrangements are capable of evolution.  I tend to doubt it.  So long as the story of technical progress is subordinated to the story of capital and corporations under the current rules, solutions probably will not be forthcoming.  I recall the words of one of the major executives of a major role for responding to a question about “green technology” by saying “when those technologies are mature we will buy them.”

I look ahead to times when, to defend their ocean front land, its owners will use all their political power to use the Federal and state budgets to defend the coastline from encroachments rising sea levels leaving no money for anything else.  I see here in Sonoma County that experiments in agriculture or housing homeless returning vets from Iraq (there are 200,000 homeless vets in the country) are basically impossible because no land is available.  Experiments in water use and the use of our incredible trees for new approaches to energy are defeated by the same logics.  Our institutional life is really locked up, making flexibility almost impossible.  If there were a plan that could be capitalized one could imagine corporate participation, but what is required above all is flexibility so we can respond to emerging circumstances.

The future of technology should not be in the Darwinian world where the successful solutions are only the ones that meet the needs of the bankers.  The current regime of concentrating wealth will accept green solutions when those solutions support further concentration.

An example would be the legislation on organic foods.  That legislation is used to control the potential success of the organic market.  Current regulations do not allow the use of antibiotics for example on organic cows.  The result is that much organic meat is more diseased then that produced by the cow factories.

And we need to think through the strong possibility that technical people and the general population would support an authoritarian regime that would, in the face of lack of progress, impose solutions.  If

Forthright discussion of the technical opportunities requires an integrated forthright discussion of our institutional arrangements.  Technological optimism, in order to realize its possibilities, needs to break out of its dependence on institutional stagflation.

Notes March 26, 2008

March 26, 2008 § Leave a comment

The military is a key part of the economy.

Sarkozy Says He Will Ask Brown to Cooperate on Dollar (Update2)
Bloomberg – 36 minutes ago
By Francois de Beaupuy March 26 (Bloomberg) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for closer ties with the UK to keep the European economy competitive and sustain their defense industries.

That is, as the world moves closer to reacting to its crowding (stressed under-resources lives), the danger of violence is amplified by the capacity for it.

At a meeting last night on how to get greener, it was apparent that the individualist philosophy of the each person their own consumer type deeply penetrates climate thinking: let each personc hange their behavior. Instinct for systems thinking and the rules of the game are underdeveloped. “Let’s go back to the glass bottles of childhood. The milk bottles.” Calculating the amount of glass needed to do that never seems to occur. The silicon, the heat, the bottling plants.. It was edging towards policy through nostalgia.

There were some good signs, like the contradictions getting more articulate within corporations, but the overall mission of the corporation is not deeply questioned. “Isn’t it wonderful that Coca Cola is worried about their water supply? Yes, and if they can own ours..

Most important to me was the image people have of themselves and others making continuous gradual changes. The reality is that if i commute thirty miles, i have to change my job if I am to reduce my energy use. The reality is that if the product mix changes, many people will loose their current jobs producing those products, and, inefficiently, will connect with new ones.

I proposed the flexibility center approach.  Each town or neighborhood should have one, a multi-generational meeting place to think through community strategy and help people shift what they are doing as workers, consumers, and householders. GardenWorld.

notes march 25 2008

March 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

The mood of the country is grim. Seems to me that happy or sad, we are avoiding the larger issues of climate, food, energy, health, jails and lack of justice, and – the most absent – governance. These can best be dealt with as a totality, as a system.

I have been re-reading Capitalism 3.0, free on the web. He proposes the need for a new sector in the economy: large trusts to protect the commons and let the population benefit.

I take Jarred Diamond’s Collapse, Chalmers Johnson’s Nemesis, and books like 3.0 as the framework (sorry If i repeat myself, but these are notes to myself, to constantly remind myself what I think I am working on.)

GardenWorld politics meets a need. Most of the progressive “solutions” deal with problems in a technocratic way, but lack any sense of a vision of what we are trying to do except more adequately use what we have: better distribution, less energy use, etc. What is missing is a shift to a more attractive world to live in, one where the economy reunites nature and human nature.

The physicist Wineberg says “the more we know of the universe the more meaningless it seems.” I really disagree. The more we know of it, the more it highlights what an incredible thing life is, and what an amazing step it has been to become human.

The following is impressive. Please take a look. 

The problem is, its intended use, and financing, is military. Part of the problem is that those who do tech are very reliant on military funding.


Note the logic

New Limits to Growth
Revive Malthusian Fears

Spread of Prosperity
Brings Supply Woes;
Slaking China’s Thirst



WSJ: New Limits to Growth Revive Malthusian Fears

By: TraderMark   

I take this not only as a complaint about the poor victim Profit, but a setup for marginalizing much of the population as “unaffordable.” We are witnessing the birth of a pro-malthusian logic of elite survival.

And with our structrual imbalances and reliance on other country’s generosity in continuously buying our debt to keep us sustained, we don’t appear to be heading into this multi decade “economic” war from a place of strength.

Somehow I believe the upper crust in each country will somehow survive; I expect economic disparity to continue to grow within the vast majority of countries, continuing a trend of the past 10-15 years.

My World of Shortages theme has in fact been an investing thesis of mine for a few years and will be for many years (decades) going forward. (although in the “long long run” I do expect technical innovation in many fields to help offset some of the shortages). Too many humans want to live like Americans… or at least like Brazilians or Italians (no one can quite consume like an American). And now more and more people have the means or are on the path to doing so within the next 3-10 years. I wrote last year in the blog, that it was the first year where more humans on this Earth resided in urban environments instead of rural. That trend should only continue slowly but surely. Unfortunately, even at current population levels, unless we continue having the same % of people living in morbidly poor conditions, the Earth will struggle to handle things. Human prosperity is ironically, not a good thing for Earth’s natural resources. So we will compete, as peoples and nations for these resources – I still think water one day will be what oil is today. If you don’t believe traditional wars will break out over these resource acquisitions (which is what most wars are in our history are based on – acquisition of property or resources) – then “economic” wars might be more up your alley. Essentially countries will be at odds with each other over these resources, and on a more granual level, the individual people of the US of A will be ‘fighting’ (economically) with people in many other countries for said resources. And with our structrual imbalances and reliance on other country’s generosity in continuously buying our debt to keep us sustained, we don’t appear to be heading into this multi decade “economic” war from a place of strength. More importantly, regardless of nationality, the “lower” and “middle” class across the globe will be competing with each other (on price) for these resources. Somehow I believe the upper crust in each country will somehow survive; I expect economic disparity to continue to grow within the vast majority of countries, continuing a trend of the past 10-15 years. And this will lead to more social strife within the countries. I believe this is already happening in the US….but its a slow erosion. When you cannot feed your family, you tend to get desperate. But I am open to (and hoping) I am completely wrong on this specific thesis.

But for our investing focus the game is to find the coming shortages, understand the powerful macro trends these shortages will generate, and get in before the herd. Eventually the masses will “discover it” (probably from a Wall Street Journal rticle), jump in with their leveraged unregulated pools of capital, drive the price up too far, cause havoc and volatility of unheard magnitude (if you only saw how boring fertilizer stocks used to trade), and corrections will happen along the way. CNBC will tout “the move” is over – and then we’ll start on an new leg up a few weeks/months later. And so we should repeat for many many many years. But again, Commodities are Dead – Fox Business and CNBC told me so.

  • “We’re living in an era where the technologies that have empowered high living standards and 80-year life expectancies in the rich world are now for almost everybody,” says economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, which focuses on sustainable development with an emphasis on the world’s poor. “What this means is that not only do we have a very large amount of economic activity right now, but we have pent-up potential for vast increases (in economic activity) as well.” The world cannot sustain that level of growth, he contends, without new technologies.

But note, new technologies with old patterns of ownership do mean that the rich will survive, and fight to do so.

For example

While many will hand wring over this number, it is a bullish development to me. As I’ve outlined before [What Should Median Home Prices be Today?], home prices need to fall for the free mark…. err.. for our socialist market to react. We’ve seen the homebuilders slash prices already – it was the homeowners who were still living in denial world. But as more and more supply hits the market (especially forced supply through foreclosures and walkaways), competition will increase and prices will drop. Which will eventually spur new owners into the market.

This implies that a full spectrum of the population will benefit, but i suspect that the new owners will be richer, and the old owners will be out. That is, those who have cash in this falling economy will get houses cheapen than they could have in the normal market, and the net result will be a shift of assets to those who are richer.


Stiglitz says

But Mr. Stiglitz, the economist, contends that consumers eventually will have to change their behavior even more than then did after the 1970s oil shock. He says the world’s traditional definitions and measures of economic progress — based on producing and consuming ever more — may have to be rethought.

The change will not come from people changing their behavior; consuming less, because consuming is not a gradual process. Less gas means quitting the job at a distance. the effects will be catastrophic steps unmediated by government politics.


Note in the following, the introductory use of “society” but then all the articles are technologies in isolation from social forces, enabling and enabled.



Discovery and Invention:

An Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Society

M.E. Sharpe, a New York-based academic and reference publisher, and East River Books, a reference book producer, are seeking contributing scholars for a four-volume illustrated reference work on the history of science and technology from prehistoric times through the present-day. The project is aimed at the academic high school and undergraduate student. The General Editor is Dr. James Ciment.

The encyclopedia will explore the origins, evolution, impact, and legacy of technological innovation and scientific discovery in a wide variety of fields, including agriculture, architecture, astronomy/space exploration, biology, chemistry, climate, communications, electronics, energy, food/nutrition, geology, manufacturing, mathematics, mechanics, medicine, physics, transportation, weaponry, as well as other areas.

Articles will vary in length from 1,000-4,000 (depending on significance of topic) and many will be accompanied by ancillary materials, including charts, sidebars, tables, and primary documents.

Contributors will receive authorial credit, a modest cash honorarium and/or copy of the full encyclopedia set (depending on contribution length and contributor preference).

If you are interested in contributing to this exciting and important reference project–one we hope will be the definitive reference work on the global history of technology and science?please visit our website for further information: and click on “discovery and invention.”

Please feel free to forward this notice to any potentially interested scholars (either professors, graduate students, or qualified independent scholars).


Irene Chow, Editorial Assistant

Discovery and Invention: An Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Society


This conference, note that it is in the framework of “making Europe more attractive and competitive.” Sounds like GardenWorld

notes march 24 2008

March 24, 2008 § Leave a comment

Corporations and technology are both simplification machines.

Tech has to pass far less rigorous tests for survival than those of biological evolution. For tech the criteria are much more narrow.

We can adapt a technology far more easily than we can limit it.


Political Memo

Obama’s Test: Can a Liberal Be a Unifier?

By ROBIN TONER 15 minutes ago

The Obama campaign challenges the idea that a majority coalition must be carefully centrist, if not center-right.

Yes, because most people ant an approach that is not a blend of right or left, but moves in a more pragmatic direction not represented by left, right or center (and realize that what we cal left is really center, and we have to right of center parties, but the majority or people are progressive/pragmatic.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for March, 2008 at Reflections on GardenWorld Politics Douglass Carmichael.