treating the commons like brats gone wild

Head of a Young Girl, c1740s - 1750s. Oil on canvas. By Francois Boucher

Head of a Young Girl, c1740s – 1750s. Oil on canvas. By Francois Boucher

 The Travesty of the Anti-Commons

In his 1968 essay “The tragedy of the commons,” Garrett Hardin argued that unrestricted access to resources held in common, and, likewise, unrestricted ability to dump waste, inexorably leads to the destruction of the commons. At the time, he may not have suspected that the term would become a formidable propaganda weapon in the hands of those who would do exactly what he was arguing against—used to sing the virtues of unrestrained self-interest while destroying the ecosystems on which we, along with all life, depend for our survival.

Later on Hardin said that perhaps he should have called it “The Tragedy of the Unregulated Commons,” because in his article he presented another concept—that of negative commons, now better known as externalities, of which air and water pollution are prime examples. Since the Earth’s atmosphere and the oceans are rather difficult to privatize, this poses a general moral challenge to society. If everyone concerns themselves only with their own interests (taking while the taking is good, not expending effort on collective efforts since they are a waste of one’s precious time, and so on) one cannot avoid the tragedy of the commons.

The full essay is at the link. I must not be a complete cynic yet since I am a little surprised that we’re still having this debate in the U.S. and Europe, and increasingly in Asia. Even those who do not have children remember being a child. We had to have some limits on our behavior because it could be damaging to people and property, and endangered ourselves. Sure strictly speaking our adult caregivers were taking away freedom, but they did so for obviously good reason. The same code of behavior applies writ large to coal companies, oil companies and manufacturers. Given complete freedom or the license to run wild, they will, and have done, even with regulation, considerable damage and wasted tremendous amounts of resources. Such behavior is beyond irresponsible it borders on nihilism. They seem to operate on the assumption that either there is no future to worry about, or screw future generations. Conservatives and libertarians who think this way – and there are millions who do – can make many claims about their behavior, be moral is not one of them.


catching light in a bottle, hired thugs in wisconsin and the first amendment

wind blown grass wallpaper

wind blown grass wallpaper


German Physicists Trap Light In Crystal For Record-Breaking 60 Seconds, Could Improve Quantum Communication [VIDEO]

Light stopped for 60 seconds inside a crystal at a research center in Germany after scientists fired lasers at it. No, this isn’t the opening scene of a James Bond film — this is physics, and it’s happening right now. Scientists at the University of Darmstadt in Germany stopped light, the fastest thing in the universe, dead in its tracks, and held it there for a whole minute.

…Light travels at a speed of 186,282 miles per second. It takes just over a second (1.2862 seconds, to be exact) for a beam of light to reach the moon. The team of university researchers in Germany was able to stop light for 60 seconds using crystals and lasers.

Another physicist had previously trapped light, but not for a couple of seconds. What does it mean, besides being able to trap light and not cause some kind of tragic death wave to roll through the universe. For reasons I am not completely clear on, this opens up the possibility of quantum communication. At least a couple times a year someone makes some discovery in physicist and claims this may lead to quantum communication. Apparently the Chinese are pretty sure already they can do that (using a special German satellite). Since the Chinese quantum communication involves sending photons with a laser pulse, quantum communication can mean more than one thing. So I’ll keep a look-out for some physicists to set the ground rules on what exactly quantum communication is and specific names for the various kinds being developed.


Frances, 1930s. Toned gelatin silver photograph, by Consuelo Kanaga (1894-1978).

Wisconsin GOP Gov. Gives Thumbs-Up to Private Security Commandos Hired By Greedy Mining Co. The company has come up with a strategy to thwart future protests: label the protesters “eco-terrorists.” If you’ve scrolled through the comments on a newspaper site or some blogs you know how quickly the discussion becomes flame throwing generalizations. Those left-of-center are not angels, but they’re generally better at keeping to the facts. One easy tactic, long practiced by political zealots is to paint the other side with the wrong doings of a few. If you get a couple dozen people together one is going to be a little faster to anger and bad behavior – apply that function to hundreds, to thousands to millions of people – guaranteed a few are going to be short fuses. So it goes with the environment. Some of the protesting is like so bad dude, like shouting and calling people names – goodness forbid. Though seriously, some have gotten physically combative and damaged property beyond anything that can be justified as civil disobedience. That tiny group is all the excuse Wisconsin Gov. Walker needs to call in a private army of head busters. None of you ordinary folk concerned about water quality, clean air and slag heaps will be considered reasonable citizens, you are a defacto terror suspect against the holy goodness of everything big mining companies do. So the 1st Amendment takes another beating in the name of safety and security.

publishing pioneer, rent seekers sucking life out of the economy

The Dun Emer press-room

The Dun Emer press-room, ca. 1903. Elizabeth Corbet Yeats is at the iron hand-press; Beatrice Cassidy, standing, is rolling out ink, and Esther Ryan is correcting proofs at the table. The rear wall of the press-room displays a mural in pastel by the poet and artist AE (George Russell).

The first press founded by Elizabeth Corbet Yeats (1868-1940) was named for the Lady Emer, renowned in the Irish epics for her beauty and artistic skills. The intent was to provide training for young women in a number of occupations by which they might earn their living, including bookbinding, weaving, embroidery, and printing. Among the works Elizabeth published were those of her brother, William Butler Yeats.

Humanity achieves another milestone, Environmental Toxins Enter the Brain Tissue of Polar Bears

“If PFOS and PFCAs can cross the blood-brain barrier in polar bears, it will also be the case in humans. The brain is one of the most essential parts of the body, where anthropogenic chemicals can have a severe impact. However, we are beginning to see the effect of the efforts to minimize the dispersal of this group of contaminants.”

Select environmentally labeled products

The eight carbon chain PFOS and perfluorooctane carboxylate (PFOA) are PFASs have been phased out and are no longer produced in the western world. However, production in China, today the only known production source of PFOS and PFOA, has increased by roughly a factor of 10, since it was phased out in the USA.

China is the wonderland of economic freedom that so many conservatives and libertarians dream of – few regulations, those regs they do have are not rigorously enforced, and no unions.

Larkin Company Administration Building, Buffalo, New York Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Larkin Company Administration Building, Buffalo, New York, 1906.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The five story dark red brick building used pink tinted mortar and utilized steel frame construction. It was noted for many innovations, including air conditioning, stained glass windows, built-in desk furniture, and suspended toilet bowls. Though this was an office building, it still caught the essence of Frank Lloyd Wright’s type of architecture. Sculptor Richard Bock provided ornamentation for the building.

The Larkin building was demolished in 1950.

How Wall Street sucks all the life out of the economy,

Here’s the point that is critical to understand: the rentier performs no useful function, and the economic rent can be eliminated without reducing the supply of the resources needed for production.

[  ]…Never content with its piece of the pie, Wall Street got into the storage business. In a terrific (and all too rare) piece of reporting, the NYTimes has exposed the scam created by Goldman Sachs to corner the aluminum market. You’ve got to read this for yourself, but I’ll summarize the main point. Goldman bought Metro, a storage company in Detroit that handles a quarter of the market’s supply of aluminum. Before the Squid took control, Metro had 50,000 tons of aluminum in storage; under Goldman’s management that has increased to 1.5 million tons.

Based on that growth you might think the aluminum business is booming, right? Well, no. Producers who need aluminum cannot get it—it is all bottled up in Goldman’s warehouses. The typical wait to get an order filled by Goldman’s facilities has grown from six weeks to 16 months.

And here’s the kicker. Goldman doesn’t own an ounce of the aluminum—it merely stores it for the owners. When the owners demand their own aluminum, Goldman claims it cannot be found. This is like depositing your family jewels at the local bank, but when you go to retrieve them, the bank claims it has misplaced your safety deposit box. And so you wait for 16 months.

At the bottom of this rent-seeking are the little worker bees – in another era they were called serfs. In the U.S. No one who does an honest day’s work likes to think of themselves as a serf who is just spinning their wheels to create the capital the rent seekers play with. So change at the top requires some realizations by the average American.


wrought iron

wrought iron blue wallpaper

wrought iron blue wallpaper


The late Bruce Chatwin, author of  what has become the itinerant travelers classic In Patagonia, once noted that it has been a relatively recent development for humans to seize being nomads. Sometimes we traveled hundreds of miles, sometimes a few dozen between our winter and summer camping grounds. In THE beginning as it were, we traveled and inevitably mixed. Then we started staking out territory and building cites and castles. If we are innately creatures of war, maybe the territorial annexing and invasions were inevitable. Or maybe they  where the result of a series of sociopaths who mislead large enough swaths of mankind to screw things up for the next couple dozen centuries. I tend to think it was the invasions and the growth of greed that lead much of humanity into being nativists of one kind or another. Those people over there, the for’ners, became the dirt. It does not really serve us well to think of it that way or cultivate cultures that demonizes the outsiders. The virtues of impurity in early modern England

If dirt is matter out of place, then according to Wolfram Schmidgen, impurity is matter just where it needs to be. His adventurous new book celebrates “mixture’s elusive otherness, in its out-of-placeness”. The famous phrase that Mary Douglas claims to have taken from Lord Chesterfield (though nobody seems to have traced it in the Earl’s letters) enshrined dirt as a “residual category”, but for Schmidgen mixture is at the heart of everything, a constitutive part of meaning in all cultural activity. Far from polluting, impurity creates a healthier state of being. Centrally here, its traces can be found “in the joint scientific and political struggles of the seventeenth century to displace ideas of order that privileged strong boundaries, clear forms and sovereign essences”.

Portrait of a Lady

Portrait of a Lady. c1460. Oil on panel.  Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400 – 1464).

With 71 New ‘Tort Reform’ Conservative Legislators and Courts Are Making Criminal Conduct Legal For Corporations

For decades, ALEC has been a conduit for the oil, tobacco, and pharmaceutical industries to push legislation that changes the rules to limit accountability when a corporation’s products or actions cause injury or death — such as when a Koch Industries pipeline explodes and kills teenagers , or when the tobacco or pharmaceutical industries withhold evidence that their products are dangerous. In just the first six months of 2013, seventy-one ALEC bills that advance these “tort reform” goals have been introduced in thirty states…

Conservatives and libertarians like to speak in code. One of their code words or phrases is free enterprise. Translation: the freedom to behave without much moral responsibility. They also like to use the word regulation. Translation: Any legislation that keeps them from making more money, like limiting the amount of poison they can put into our lands and water supply, is communism or at least anti-capitalism. They generally do not entertain the complex consequences of the unregulated pursuit of money beyond any moral constraints or respect for democratic republican principles. Anyone who tries to introduce humanitarian considerations into the equation is the enemy. Billionaire Charles Koch on helping the poor: Eliminate minimum wages.

breton village, monsanto’s lies continue, beckett and nancy

Breton Village

Breton Village, c1890, oil on canvas. Odilon Redon.

For those who have not read about the issues before, Monsanto has a patent on crop foods like corn and wheat that are resistant to its herbicide RoundUp. What happens, and who would have thought, is that the pollen from the fields where their crops are planted blows into neighboring fields. Those seeds then have patented Monsanto genes in them. If a farmer goes to sell crops from the seeds from last year’s crops which have Monsanto’s genes, Monsanto says the farmer has to pay them or they sue. Monsanto has sued lots of farmers. That would seem fairly nightmarish to many people. Monsanto has made many claims in its defense of it’s ever growing ownership of the nation’s food supply. And no that is not an exaggeration. What corn and wheat we do not eat directly ( including the corn syrup that is in the majority of packaged products like cereal) is consumed by livestock like cows, pigs and chickens. One of the claims that Monsanto has made is that they have increased crop yields dramatically. So this being the case they should be left alone because they are producing food people need and keeping retail prices lower. Turns out that is not true. Research Shows that Monsanto’s Big Claims for GMO Food Are Probably Wrong

Collier “made the offhand remark during his talk that because Europe has shunned GMOs [genetically modified organisms], it’s lost productivity compared to the US,” Heinemann recalls. “That seemed odd to me. So while he was talking, I went to the FAO [UN Food and Agriculture Organization] database and I had a look at yields for corn. And over the short term, from 1995 to 2010, the US and Western Europe were neck and neck, there was no difference at all. So his assertion that lack of GMOs was causing Europe to fall behind didn’t seem true.”

[  ]…Heinemann’s group found that between 1985 and 2010, Western Europe has experienced yield gains at a faster rate than North America for all three crops measured. That means that the U.S., which grows mostly GE corn, and Canada, which grows mostly GE canola, are not doing as well as Europe, which grows non-GE corn and canola. The increases in corn yields in the U.S. have remained relatively consistent both before and after the introduction of GE corn. Furthermore, Western Europe is experiencing faster yield gains than America for non-GE wheat.

What does this mean? “There’s no evidence that [GE crops] have given us higher yields,” says Heinemann. “The evidence points exclusively to breeding as the input that has increased yields over time. And there is evidence that it is constraining yields in the North American agroecosystem.” He offers two potential reasons why. First, he says, “By making the germplasm so much narrower, the average yield goes down because the low yields are so low.”

Europe has not adopted GM seeds.

This is a cartoon panel by American cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller in the 1950s for his long running newspaper series Nancy. What does Ernie and Sluggo (pictured) have to do with the modernist Irish-French playwright- novelist Samuel Beckett? The Beckett/Bushmiller Letters

What then are we to make of the trove of letters found recently among Ernie Bushmiller’s personal papers, as his estate was being cataloged for auction? That the successful syndicated cartoonist of an immensely popular daily comic strip known for its appeal to lowbrow readers and children was corresponding for some months in the 1950s with Samuel Beckett, the austere modernist poet who authored plays and novels still considered forbidding and impenetrable, can’t but strike us as unlikely. Certainly it seems strange. Yet a correspondence between the all-American cartoonist and the Irish-French Nobel laureate does exist.

There are more panels along with some of the correspondence between Bushmiller and Beckett. Having read some Beckett and some Nancy, I can see where they had a lot in common.

tiny biology has big impact, the consequences of a stagnant median wage

 Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in À Bout de Souffle (Breathless 1960)

Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in À Bout de Souffle (Breathless 1960).There was an American remake with Richard Gere. Not great, but interesting. Quentin Tarantino thinks it is “cool,” if that means anything. Both films keep to the basic premise, young women beware of jerks.


A recent NYT article looked at the important role of microbes in the human gut. Those microorganisms may have an effect on everything from weight loss to heart attacks to infections from yet other microorganisms. Little things can have a big impact, Microbial Changes Regulate Function of Entire Ecosystems

A major question in ecology has centered on the role of microbes in regulating ecosystem function. Now, in research published ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Brajesh Singh of the University of Western Sydney, Australia, and collaborators show how changes in the populations of methanotrophic bacteria can have consequences for methane mitigation at ecosystem levels.

“Ecological theories developed for macro-ecology can explain the microbial regulation of the methane cycle,” says Singh.

In the study, as grasslands, bogs, and moors became forested, a group of type II methanotrophic bacterium, known as USC alpha, became dominant on all three land use types, replacing other methanotrophic microbes, and oxidizing, thus mitigating methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, explains Singh. “The change happened because we changed the niches of the microbial community.”

The pre-eminence of USC alpha bacteria in this process demonstrates that the so-called “selection hypothesis” from macro-ecology “explains the changes the investigators saw in the soil functions of their land-use types,” says Singh. The selection hypothesis states that a small number of key species, rather than all species present determine key functions in ecosystems. “This knowledge could provide the basis for incorporation of microbial data into predictive models, as has been done for plant communities,” he says.

Singh warns that one should not take the results to mean that biodiversity is not important. Without microbial biodiversity, the raw materials—different microbial species with different capabilities—for adapting to changes in the environment would be unavailable, he says.

Perhaps because of our physical size and brain size in proportion to body, humans tend to see detrimental change, if they bother to notice at all, solely on the macro level. If we clear cut a forest, we’ll just replant with a monoculture. If we fill in a wetland, we’ll mitigate that with a man-made lake. If we create huge mounds of mine wastes, we’ll just throw some grass and shrubs on there and everything will be fine. The real effect in the destruction of something very complex, that despite our large brains, we are not very good at replacing.

 Sidney Poitier and Juanita Hardy

Sidney Poitier and  Juanita Hardy. New York, NY. March 1959. Photo by Gordon Parks. Those who like to do the classic movie viewing night might want to give A Patch of Blue (1965) a try. Poitier has several classic movies on his resume, but Patch does not get the attention it deserves.

Our national crisis is not that most Americans have been living beyond our means, but our means have not kept up because of widening inequality:

The notion that we can’t afford to invest in the education of our young, or rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, or continue to provide Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, or expand health insurance is absurd.

If the median wage had kept up with the overall economy, it would be over $90,000 today — and tax revenues would be more than adequate to cover all our needs. If the wealthy were paying the same marginal tax rate they were paying up to 1981, tax revenues would be far more.

Get it? The problem isn’t that most Americans have been living too well. The problem is we haven’t been living nearly as well as our growing economy should have allowed us to live.

Widening inequality is the culprit. If President Obama is looking for a central theme for his second term, this is it.

There is a video at the link. Robert Reich is like the Mr. Rogers of economics. Listening to him talk about a normally dry subject is a little less painful than it usually is.

we still live in the upton sinclair’s jungle, why is biodiversity important

Author Upton Sinclair, in white suit with black arm band, picketing Rockefeller Building

Author Upton Sinclair, in white suit with black arm band, picketing Rockefeller Building. 1914. That blotch is part of the print.

“Into this wild-beast tangle these men had been born without their consent, they had taken part in it because they could not help it; that they were in jail was no disgrace to them, for the game had never been fair, the dice were loaded. They were swindlers and thieves of pennies and dimes, and they had been trapped and put out of the way by the swindlers and thieves of millions of dollars.”  Upton Sinclair, The Jungle.

Not much has changed since Sinclair wrote The Jungle. Banks, with conservative legislators paving the way, the plutocrats stole trillions from the economy. They’re still wealthy. Millions of Americans are treading water. One thing has changed about our prison system, it is now a growth industry. With a large part of the prison population being guilty of petty drug offenses. Sell a bag of pot or an ounce of coke, go to prison, and probably get raped (More than 200,000 men are raped behind bars each year). Steal millions, than spend millions on lobbyists and campaign contributions, to continue to steal. Call what you do free enterprise and your critics socialists, and you have the greatest scheme  for making money in history.

This was a great help to me. Some questions, or the answers to them seem so obvious, than you try to put it into words and find yourself babbling in bits and pieces, Why is preserving biodiversity important?

Biological diversity, commonly known as biodiversity, is a term used to describe the wide variety of living organisms and ecosystems found on Earth. Biodiversity is the extremely complex unification of innumerable species of flora, fauna and microbes that exist into one environmental system, and is the foundation for life on Earth, which is exactly why preserving biodiversity is important.

The conservation of biodiversity is of global importance, the 22nd May marks International Biodiversity day, first declared by the UN in 1993. Conservation of biodiversity is important for many ecological, economical and spiritual reasons. A diverse ecosystem means a productive ecosystem, as each small part that makes up the larger whole plays a vital and important part in keeping the machine functioning. With millions of species in the world, biodiversity is one of our biggest economic resources for medicine, food and natural materials, as well as flora helping to absorb greenhouse gases and the natural beauty of biodiversity for pure enjoyment. With so many species still undiscovered there is a strong anthropologic argument for preserving biodiversity as it could still hold the discovery to cures for the many illness and diseases we suffer. A healthy and diverse ecosystem is also a lot more likely to withstand and recover quicker from natural disasters, and equally helps to stabilize Earth’s climate.

It is hard to place a value on biodiversity, yet its inherent importance in our lives makes it a priceless asset. It is even harder to comprehend the wealth of biodiversity Earth holds; it is estimated Earth holds anywhere between five and 30 million different species, yet we have only discovered roughly 1.7-2million of these – less than half the smallest estimate. Yet scientists have acknowledged we are facing an extinction challenge, with at least 0.01% of species becoming extinct each year. Unsustainable development and exploitation of natural resources by humankind are largely to blame for this biodiversity crisis.

The economic reasons are literally everywhere. Everything around us is from nature. Even plastic. Plastic is a compound synthesized from petroleum, which is the left over carbon from life that existed millions of years ago. The spiritual reasons may seems exotic or even obtuse, but most people have something like a spiritual experience with nature. In the philosophy of aesthetics it is called an aesthetic moment. That could be watching the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Seeing a humpback whale breach off the east coast. A hummingbird taking nectar from your flower bed. A leech unblocking the clot from your wound. Hauling up a trap with your crab dinner. The mold derived compound that kills your infection. Charts and statistics are great for arguing some issues, but what makes us feel like we’re part of something bigger is hard to quantify in purely rational terms.

Am Stadtwaldweiher (Pond in the City Park)

Am Stadtwaldweiher (Pond in the City Park). gelatin silver print by August Sander. No date exact date. Part of his life long series of photographs made between 1876 and 1964.