Marcott's Climate Reconstruction For the past 11,000 Years  

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The Atlantic has a look at a new study of historical temperatures - We're Screwed: 11,000 Years' Worth of Climate Data Prove It

Back in 1999 Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann released the climate change movement's most potent symbol: The "hockey stick," a line graph of global temperature over the last 1,500 years that shows an unmistakable, massive uptick in the twentieth century when humans began to dump large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It's among the most compelling bits of proof out there that human beings are behind global warming, and as such has become a target on Mann's back for climate denialists looking to draw a bead on scientists.

Now it's gotten a makeover: A study published in Science reconstructs global temperatures further back than ever before -- a full 11,300 years. The new analysis finds that the only problem with Mann's hockey stick was that its handle was about 9,000 years too short.

The Internet is a surveillance state  

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CNN has an article by Bruce Schneier on the state of the internet in 2013 - The Internet is a surveillance state.

I'm going to start with three data points.

One: Some of the Chinese military hackers who were implicated in a broad set of attacks against the U.S. government and corporations were identified because they accessed Facebook from the same network infrastructure they used to carry out their attacks.

Two: Hector Monsegur, one of the leaders of the LulzSac hacker movement, was identified and arrested last year by the FBI. Although he practiced good computer security and used an anonymous relay service to protect his identity, he slipped up.

And three: Paula Broadwell,who had an affair with CIA director David Petraeus, similarly took extensive precautions to hide her identity. She never logged in to her anonymous e-mail service from her home network. Instead, she used hotel and other public networks when she e-mailed him. The FBI correlated hotel registration data from several different hotels -- and hers was the common name.

The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period.

Increasingly, what we do on the Internet is being combined with other data about us. Unmasking Broadwell's identity involved correlating her Internet activity with her hotel stays. Everything we do now involves computers, and computers produce data as a natural by-product. Everything is now being saved and correlated, and many big-data companies make money by building up intimate profiles of our lives from a variety of sources.

Facebook, for example, correlates your online behavior with your purchasing habits offline. And there's more. There's location data from your cell phone, there's a record of your movements from closed-circuit TVs.

This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it's efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell.

Cree Introduces an LED Bulb Edison Would Love  

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Technology Review has an article on a new LED light design that mimics the old incandescent bulb - Cree Introduces an LED Bulb Edison Would Love.

If you’ve had any experience with LED light bulbs, you know they can look pretty odd. Cree today introduced a bulb that mimics the traditional incandescent bulb design in every way–except its inefficiency.

The bulb is the first consumer bulb from Cree, which primarily supplies LED semiconductors to other lamp makers. There are three products: a 40-watt equivalent and two 60-watt equivalents with different color light. They’re available from Home Depot online now and will be made available in stores this month priced between $9.97 and $13.97.

What’s most notable is that bulbs have the same glass dome as incandescent lights and there isn’t a large metal heat sink. The first wave of general-purpose LED products have heavy metal fins to wick away heat from the LED light sources, which helps ensure life. The Cree bulb uses the same glass as an incandescent but has a rubber coating to prevent shattering.

In an incandescent bulb, a tungsten filament in the center of the glass glows to give off an even, warm light. Cree designed a “filament tower” that places a series of pin-hole-shaped LEDs in the same location as the traditional filament. I installed one yesterday and the effect is a similar light output as a traditional bulb and even light distribution.

Having a familiar shape is very important to spur more consumers to consider LEDs as a replacement for incandescent bulbs, says Mike Watson, the vice president of corporate marketing. “Consumers actually love that particular (incandescent bulb) product. It’s the shape they’re used to and it gives off a warm glow they expect, but it’s grossly inefficient and has a short lifetime,” he says. Cree’s bulb uses high-power LEDs which means it can work with a smaller heat sink, which appears like a collar around the base of the bulb.

An incandescent bulb lasts about 1,000 hours, while most LED bulbs are rated to last 25,000 hours, which can be 15 or 20 years depending on usage. The Cree bulb has a 10-year warranty.

Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security  

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The NRMA has issued a report on Australia's fuel security - Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security (pdf).

As the world’s ninth-largest energy producer, Australia has abundant renewable and nonrenewable energy resources. Despite these resources, we are heavily dependent on imports of refined petroleum products and crude oil to meet our liquid fuel demand.

This import dependency has increased in recent years.

Our transport systems are wholly oil dependent. The reasons for this dependency may be economically sound due to the relative lower cost of oil but the lack of fuel diversity significantly impacts our resilience if we experience supply interruptions or a reducing availability of affordable oil supplies in the future.

The very small consumption stockholdings of oil and liquid fuels in Australia, combined with what appears to be a narrow assessment of our fuel supply chain vulnerabilities, does not provide much confidence that the strategic risks to our fuel supply chain are well understood and mitigated by our nation’s leaders, the business community or the population at large.

In essence, we have adopted a “she’ll be right” approach to fuel security, relying on the historical performance of global oil and fuel markets to provide in all cases. Unfortunately, as a result of our limited and decreasing refining capacity, small stockholdings and long supply chains, our society is at significant risk if any of the assumptions contained in the vulnerability assessments made to date prove false.

Summer on the NEM: What the extreme heat didn’t do to demand  

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While it's been hot this summer you wouldn't be able to tell from slumping electricity grid demand (courtesy of a pleasingly large takeup of solar PV in recent years) and probably helped along by the government's efforts to push solar hot water and roof insulation a couple of years ago- Summer on the NEM: What the extreme heat didn’t do to demand.

With a run of recent summers of below par temperatures, energy pundits have been eagerly awaiting a good summer heat wave to see just how our electricity system would stand up. The big question was what would happen when all those newly installed air conditioners finally got ramped up, once the the la Nina cycle broke and we got a good roasting? Would a return to hotter conditions finally break the trend of declining energy demand over the last four or five years?

Well it looks like we got the summer that would answer these questions, and the answers are no doubt causing a fair bit of head scratching amongst the pundits.

Since the last hot summer in 2010, our electricity system has seen a lot of changes. For one thing, almost 2 gigawatts of distributed generation has been added in the form of domestic solar PV. To put that in context, 2GW represents a touch under 10 per cent of average summer demand, though of course solar PV only produces at near maximum levels for a few hours in the middle of a sunny summer day. However, when solar PV is producing it takes away from the demand for electricity that otherwise would be dispatched across the poles and wires via our National Electricity Market – or NEM.

So with this summer just past setting new records for extreme heat, it’s a good time to point the summer sun on the NEM and see how it is standing up.

With blistering summer heat, particularly across New South Wales and Queensland, there was an expectation we might see new records in peak demand. But despite the weather and the supposed new air-conditioning load, the NEM doesn’t seem to have been pushed very hard at all during this last summer.

Climate trends create an angry summer  

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The SMH pints to a new report from the Climate Commission on this summer's record heat - Trends create angry summer.

''Statistically, there is a one in 500 chance that we are talking about natural variation causing all these new records,'' said Will Steffen, the report's lead author and director of the Australian National University's climate change institute. ''Not too many people would want to put their life savings on a 500-to-1 horse.''

The statistic comes from tallying known weather records from around the world, and measuring the likelihood of record-breaking extremes happening without the influence of extra energy accumulating on Earth due to the build-up of greenhouse gases.

''We are talking about a massive amount of additional energy, most of which is being held around the surface layers of the ocean, which is driving the increased evaporation and rainfall,'' Professor Steffen said.

The tumbling of records has also prompted conversations in the scientific community to turn a corner, he said. Previously, ''weather is not climate'' was the mantra, but now the additional boost from greenhouse gases was influencing every event.

''I think the steroids analogy is a useful one,'' Professor Steffen said. ''Steroids do not create elite athletes - they are already very good athletes. What happens when athletes start taking steroids is that suddenly the same athletes are breaking more records, more often. We are seeing a similar process with the Earth's climate.''

This summer was the hottest on Australian record. In the 102 years of uniform national records, there have been 21 days where the continent averaged more than 39 degrees, and eight of those took place this year. Rainfall extremes have smashed records, with rain contributing more to floods and less to watering crops. The effects have continued into autumn.

GE vs Caterpillar in race to build LNG Trains  

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As the gas age gathers pace we are starting to see gas become a replacement option for liquid fuels in heavy transport - Bloomberg has a report on efforts in the US consume shale gas faster - GE Races Caterpillar on LNG Trains to Curb Buffett Cost

General Electric Co. (GE) and Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), the world’s largest locomotive makers, are rushing to develop natural gas-powered models in a potential shift from diesel’s six decades as the fuel of choice for railroads.

Three of the biggest U.S. rail carriers -- Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A)’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC, Union Pacific Corp. (UNP) and Norfolk Southern (NSC) Corp. -- are working with manufacturers on using gas as an alternative power source for freight trains. CSX Corp. is studying the technology.

Tapping the nation’s glut of gas as a transportation power source opens a new front in the global competition between GE and Caterpillar. Liquefied natural gas holds the promise of cutting railroads’ costs, curbing greenhouse-gas emissions and ushering in the industry’s biggest change in fuel technology since diesel displaced steam in the 1950s. “We are entering a new era where natural gas will be a major fuel,” Lorenzo Simonelli, chief executive officer of GE’s transportation unit, said in an interview. “If you believe the price advantage over diesel is going to stay here for the next 10 to 15 years, then LNG is a revolutionary fuel.” ...

“In the last 12 months, there’s been a tremendous increase in activity around LNG within North America,” Simonelli said. “In the not-too-distant future, you’ll see some announcements being made about how we can apply LNG into a locomotive.”

Fuel trails only employee compensation among American railroads’ expenses, spurring a search for cheaper alternatives. Union Pacific, the largest U.S. railroad by revenue, burned 1.09 billion gallons of fuel last year at an average price of $3.22 a gallon, according to SEC filings.

That’s significantly costlier than liquefied natural gas. It costs truckers $2.99 to buy LNG with the same energy content as a gallon of diesel at Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (CLNE)’s Port of Long Beach facility, the world’s largest LNG fueling station, said Gary Foster, the company’s spokesman. That’s before volume discounts that can reduce the price by as much as 30 percent, he said, meaning some customers pay as little as $2.10. Railroads are turning to locomotive makers, including Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE and Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar, for engines that can help them take advantage of those savings.

From El Salvador to Iraq  

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When the Iraq war was in full swing the phrase "The Salvador Option" was used to describe the death squad operations that afflicted the country for a couple of years. Paul McGeough at the SMH points this this pair of articles in The Guardian on the men who implemented this strategy - From El Salvador to Iraq: Washington's man behind brutal police squads and Revealed: Pentagon's link to Iraqi torture centres. One interesting aspect of the new round of stories is that the puppet master for the operation is apparently no longer John Negroponte - David Petraeus (career already destroyed via an extra-marital affair being outed) is now the villain of the piece. Smells a little like political infighting to me...

With Steele and Coffman as his point men, Petraeus began pouring money from a multimillion dollar fund into what would become the Special Police Commandos. According to the US Government Accounts Office, they received a share of an $8.2bn (£5.4bn) fund paid for by the US taxpayer. The exact amount they received is classified.

With Petraeus's almost unlimited access to money and weapons, and Steele's field expertise in counterinsurgency the stage was set for the commandos to emerge as a terrifying force. One more element would complete the picture. The US had barred members of the violent Shia militias like the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army from joining the security forces, but by the summer of 2004 they had lifted the ban.

Shia militia members from all over the country arrived in Baghdad "by the lorry-load" to join the new commandos. These men were eager to fight the Sunnis: many sought revenge for decades of Sunni-supported, brutal Saddam rule, and a chance to hit back at the violent insurgents and the indiscriminate terror of al-Qaida.

Petraeus and Steele would unleash this local force on the Sunni population as well as the insurgents and their supporters and anyone else who was unlucky enough to get in the way. It was classic counterinsurgency. It was also letting a lethal, sectarian genie out of the bottle. The consequences for Iraqi society would be catastrophic. At the height of the civil war two years later 3,000 bodies a month were turning up on the streets of Iraq — many of them innocent civilians of sectarian war.

But it was the actions of the commandos inside the detention centres that raises the most troubling questions for their American masters. Desperate for information, the commandos set up a network of secret detention centres where insurgents could be brought and information extracted from them.

The commandos used the most brutal methods to make detainees talk. There is no evidence that Steele or Coffman took part in these torture sessions, but General Muntadher al Samari, a former general in the Iraqi army, who worked after the invasion with the US to rebuild the police force, claims that they knew exactly what was going on and were supplying the commandos with lists of people they wanted brought in. He says he tried to stop the torture, but failed and fled the country.

"We were having lunch. Col Steele, Col Coffman, and the door opened and Captain Jabr was there torturing a prisoner. He [the victim] was hanging upside down and Steele got up and just closed the door, he didn't say anything – it was just normal for him."

He says there were 13 to 14 secret prisons in Baghdad under the control of the interior ministry and used by the Special Police Commandos. He alleges that Steele and Coffman had access to all these prisons and that he visited one in Baghdad with both men.

"They were secret, never declared. But the American top brass and the Iraqi leadership knew all about these prisons. The things that went on there: drilling, murder, torture. The ugliest sort of torture I've ever seen."

Buildings that generate more power than they use  

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World Environment News has a look at some green buildings in Norway - In radical refit, buildings to generate more power than they use.

Two office blocks by the Oslo fjord will generate more power than they use from 2014 after a radical refit meant to show that the world's energy-squandering building sector can do more to fight climate change.

Geothermal and solar energy generated on site will make the 1980s buildings "energy positive" in a tiny step to cut demand from the building sector that burns about 40 percent of world energy and emits a third of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

So far, most focus in green energy has been on new buildings, not refits. Yet about 80 percent of existing buildings in developed nations will still be standing in 2050, by when governments are planning deep cuts in emissions.

"There is a huge global potential" in renovations, said Svein Richard Brandtzaeg, chief executive of Norwegian aluminum group Norsk Hydro which is a partner in the Powerhouse alliance behind the 110 million crown ($20 million) project near Oslo. "We believe this is the first time in the world that a normal office block is being renovated to such strict standards," he said of the 3 and 4-storey blocks in Sandvika, south Norway, with space for more than 200 workers.

The renovation will use a heat-retaining black wooden facade, an interior design that makes air flow without fans, and high-grade insulation to cut energy use by up to 90 percent. Backers say it will make long-term economic sense by eliminating bills for heating and lighting.

And an energy-positive refurbishment in Norway, where winter cold pushes up heating bills and scant sunlight makes solar panels inefficient, would show that they can be achieved anywhere in the world.

High Speed Rail Cheaper Than Albanese Thinks  

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Beyond Zero Emissions has an article on how to reduce the cost of the proposed east coast high speed rail link - High Speed Rail Cheaper Than Albanese Thinks.

Transport minister Anthony Albanese is trying to derail the promising High Speed Rail option before it even leaves the platform, according to climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions.

“Mr Albanese appears to have decided to write off this nation building project before even releasing the report which he has been sitting on for four months,” said BZE's Zero Carbon Australia Transport researcher Gerard Drew. “It is time to allow the public to consider the proposal. It’s unacceptable for the government to dismiss this publicly financed research before the costs and benefits have been shown.”

BZE, in partnership with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), has analysed high-speed rail route options for Melbourne to Brisbane to arrive at a significantly lower cost figure than the Phase 1 AECOM study for the government, released in 2011.

“Based on the first study, we think that a price tag at the lower end of AECOM's costing range is what we should expect from the high speed rail network”, said Mr Drew. “Mr Albanese has declared that the alignment 'has got to be in a straight line' which is certainly false. This assumption can inflate the project cost by a huge degree by unnecessarily forcing it through adverse terrain. For example, a kilometre of tunnel can cost more than 10 times as much as track on flat ground.

The joint BZE-DLR study suggests that less than $70 billion is very reasonable for the highest-demand route from Melbourne to Brisbane, based on a more careful track alignment to avoid costly terrain.

AECOM’s routes appear to take the most direct route possible between stops. The BZE/DLR analysis indicates that allowing more flexibility to avoid difficult terrain could reduce the civil works cost of the rural sections by around 40% with negligible increases in journey time.

Image: Mapping the path of least resistance (dark blue) and precise route with optimised horizontal curvature (light blue), including bridges (purple) and tunnels (dark red)

Chavez exits, stage left  

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I was sorry to see the always entertaining Huge Chavez passed away yesterday - Greg Palast has an article pointing out why Chavez (like so many developing world leaders before him) was so disliked by the West - he wanted a greater share of revenue from local oil extraction - Vaya con Dios, Hugo Chàvez, mi Amigo.

Reverend Pat Robertson said, "Hugo Chavez thinks we're trying to assassinate him. I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it."

It was 2005 and Robertson was channeling the frustration of George Bush's State Department.

Despite Bush's providing intelligence, funds and even a note of congratulations to the crew who kidnapped Chavez (we'll get there), Hugo remained in office, reelected and wildly popular.

But why the Bush regime's hate, hate, HATE of the President of Venezuela?

Reverend Pat wasn't coy about the answer: It's the oil.

"This is a dangerous enemy to our South controlling a huge pool of oil."

A really BIG pool of oil. Indeed, according to Guy Caruso, former chief of oil intelligence for the CIA, Venezuela hold a recoverable reserve of 1.36 trillion barrels, that is, a whole lot more than Saudi Arabia.

If we didn't kill Chavez, we'd have to do an "Iraq" on his nation. So the Reverend suggests,

"We don't need another $200 billion war….It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Chavez himself told me he was stunned by Bush's attacks: Chavez had been quite chummy with Bush Senior and with Bill Clinton.

So what made Chavez suddenly "a dangerous enemy"? Here's the answer you won't find in The New York Times:

Just after Bush's inauguration in 2001, Chavez' congress voted in a new "Law of Hydrocarbons." Henceforth, Exxon, British Petroleum, Shell Oil and Chevron would get to keep 70% of the sales revenues from the crude they sucked out of Venezuela. Not bad, considering the price of oil was rising toward $100 a barrel.

But to the oil companies, which had bitch-slapped Venezeula's prior government into giving them 84% of the sales price, a cut to 70% was "no bueno." Worse, Venezuela had been charging a joke of a royalty – just one percent – on "heavy" crude from the Orinoco Basin. Chavez told Exxon and friends they'd now have to pay 16.6%.

Clearly, Chavez had to be taught a lesson about the etiquette of dealings with Big Oil.

Crikey's Guy Rundle has a straightforward left wing view of the late Hugo - Chavez dies and the West hates some more.
Hugo Chavez was a friend to the poor, in Venezuela and abroad. But the Western media all but ignored that in their demonisation of the Venezuelan president.

Last year, landing in South America just as Hugo Chavez departed it — for treatment in Cuba — your correspondent wrote an overview of the Chavez era, its achievements and shortcomings, and the sheer hatred it drew from a Western media, with few exceptions.

One story seemed to summarise it all. In 2005, the governors of Maine and New Hampshire sought help from eight oil companies to provide heating fuel for the poor. The Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina had driven oil prices sky high, and the poor in northern states had to choose between food, rent and heating.

Seven of the oil companies were US-owned; they all refused. The only one that responded was PVDSA, the Venezuelan state-owned oil company. When the provision of cheap heating oil for more than 100,000 families was revealed, the press focused not on the bizarre reversal whereby a Third-World country was subsidising a First-World one — but whether this was propaganda drive by Chavez. It was the height of the neo-liberal triumphalist era, only starting to fray at that very moment. The poor, at home or abroad, simply did not exist, save as a pretext for a “populism” whose rationale no one could remember.

That approach long ago became the template for dealing with Chavez’s Venezuela. What was at the centre of Chavez’s program for better and otherwise — the immediate alleviation of poverty — became the one thing that was never spoken of. The UK Telegraph’s ready-to-roll obit  — online today as news broke of his death — says it all:

“Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela who has died aged 58, was a shrewd demagogue and combined brash but intoxicating rhetorical gifts with a free-spending of oil revenues to turn himself into a leading figure on the world stage.”

The obit manages to give a fairly even-handed account of the years leading up to Chavez’s election in the late ’90s — how the poor watched, for decades, as the country’s burgeoning oil revenue failed to trickle down to them. Here’s the space The Telegraph gives a decade of social programs:

There then follows a long paragraph, stuffed with statistics, about the rise in crime in Venezuela. But 15 years of social programs? Not a word, not a figure. With a few exceptions, such as Al Jazeera, that has been the general condition throughout. The statistics were easy enough to find, since they came from the World Bank: poverty cut from 60% down to 25%, extreme poverty — regular hunger, malnutrition and lack of shelter — down from 30+% to 6%, millions getting regular medical care for the first time, subsidised staple food, land reform and much more.

The endless repetition of the one Chavez story in the Western media, the “populist” leader “much loved” in the slums, etc, but with a controversial record on democracy and a “worrying” tendency to pal up with dictators, etc. The very obtuseness of such insta-stories was based on the First-World/Third-World disjuncture that prompted Chavez’s election in the first place: the con job of global neoliberalism, the promise, after the collapse of communism, that playing by the rules of a market-based global system, other countries could join the First World club.

In Latin America, and perhaps more broadly, Chavez was the turning-point — the moment at which a popular process delayed by a century of US imperial dominance was restarted, and it was possible to imagine that poverty and underdevelopment could be really addressed. Chavez’s early victory, and Venezuelan oil money, went out to the whole continent, making it possible for Left victories in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and elsewhere. They were joined by Lula’s separate victory in Brazil, and by the end of the decade, Right-wing pro-US governments were in the minority.

Whatever happens, Chavez has happened. Business as usual was suspended across a continent. A whole generation of a whole class of Venezualans had the opportunity for the fundamental things of life — food, shelter and the most basic medicines. Even in the US, the heating oil program continues, now into its eighth year. If it was deployed purely in the interest of propaganda, it was a pretty poor effort — since it now extends to the poor in 25 states of the US without much being made of it. As the West goes into a so-called “quadruple dip” recession, with another crash on the way, it may turn out that Latin America, with its movements of power and its re-assertion of the possibility of change, is a vanguard of things to come, rather than the long tail.

If so, that will be Chavez’s legacy.

As We Near the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War  

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James Fallows at The Atlantic has a look back at the Iraq war - As We Near the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War.

Here is something other than The Sequester to think about at the beginning of March:

This month marks ten years since the U.S. launched its invasion of Iraq. In my view this was the biggest strategic error by the United States since at least the end of World War II and perhaps over a much longer period. Vietnam was costlier and more damaging, but also more understandable. As many people have chronicled, the decision to fight in Vietnam was a years-long accretion of step-by-step choices, each of which could be rationalized at the time. Invading Iraq was an unforced, unnecessary decision to risk everything on a "war of choice" whose costs we are still paying.

My reasons for bringing this up:

1) Reckoning. Anyone now age 30 or above should probably reflect on what he or she got right and wrong ten years ago.

I feel I was right in arguing, six months before the war in "The Fifty-First State," that invading Iraq would bring on a slew of complications and ramifications that would take at least a decade to unwind.

I feel not "wrong" but regretful for having resigned myself even by that point to the certainty that war was coming. We know, now, that within a few days of the 9/11 attacks many members of the Bush Administration had resolved to "go to the source," in Iraq. Here at the magazine, it was because of our resigned certainty about the war that Cullen Murphy, then serving as editor, encouraged me in early 2002 to begin an examination of what invading and occupying Iraq would mean. The resulting article was in our November, 2002 issue; we put it on line in late August in hopes of influencing the debate.

My article didn't come out and say as bluntly as it could have: we are about to make a terrible mistake we will regret and should avoid. Instead I couched the argument as cautionary advice. We know this is coming, and when it does, the results are going to be costly, damaging, and self-defeating. So we should prepare and try to diminish the worst effects (for Iraq and for us). This form of argument reflected my conclusion that the wheels were turning and that there was no way to stop them. Analytically, that was correct: Tony Blair or Colin Powell might conceivably have slowed the momentum, if either of them had turned anti-war in time, but few other people could have. Still, I'd feel better now if I had pushed the argument even harder at the time.

Crikey reports that after 1000 days of harsh treatment, Bradley Manning has admitted to leaking vast swathes of data to Wikileaks - Bradley Manning, succumbing to human frailty, pleads guilty.
Bradley Manning has pleaded guilty to the illegal possession and communication of government documents, and he is facing a sentence of 20 years. New revelations paint a sadder picture.

Bradley Manning, the US soldier long supposed to be the source of Wikileaks “collateral murder’ video and massive document drops, has pleaded guilty in a military court to the illegal possession and communication of government documents — some of the lesser charges against him.

The charges were a series of “sample” charges relating to documents within each of the main WikiLeaks releases — the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, the Guantanamo prisoner files, the “collateral murder” video itself and other isolated documents. That added up to 10 counts, at two years per count, for a maximum sentence of 20 years. But that’s only on the charges Manning has pleaded guilty to.

There’s also a range of more serious charges of espionage and aiding the enemy, which potentially carry life in military prison without parole. Manning has pleaded not guilty to these, and the full court martial for that will begin in early June. Originally slated to run for several months, the trial could be somewhat shorter now that Manning has admitted handling the documents in question. Despite that, the government has lined up more than 140 potential witnesses for the prosecution.

Manning and his team have elected not to go with a military jury, presenting their case to a judge only and placing a great deal of emphasis on the draconian treatment that Manning has suffered during three years of incarceration, including four months of “suicide watch”, when he was stripped naked and subject to sleep deprivation.

Making a guilty plea gave Manning a chance to make an extended statement to the court, and it was this 35-page document that really set things on their ear. Acknowledging that he had leaked the documents — an admission of an open secret, since his confession of such to fellow hacker Adrian Lamo is what had got him arrested in the first place — Manning made a bold defense of his won autonomy, saying that he did not believe himself to be communicating with the enemy, simply presenting the American people with the things that were being done in their name.

He noted his horror at the obvious dehumanisation of the US soldiers responsible for the massacre of Iraqi civilians in the “collateral murder” video and of the various massacres featured in the Afghanistan documents. He said that he had leaked the documents of his own volition after logging onto the WikiLeaks chat site and communicating with someone who presented himself as “XO” — someone he assumed was Julian Assange (Assange has neither confirmed nor denied).

Manning says there was no enticement, coercion or gaming of him by “XO” — he uploaded the files of his own volition. Most spectacularly, he revealed that WikiLeaks had not been his first port of call — he had previously tried The New York Times, The Washington Post and the website Politico. Manning says he called the tips line at the NYT and got a recorded message. More indicatively, he spoke to a Washington Post junior reporter, who gave him the brush off (and lost a Pulitzer in the process). ...

Some have tried to turn this moment of personal crisis into a purely psychological explanation of his actions; others have tried to ignore it altogether. The truth, most likely, is that such personal crises will sometimes compel us to higher ethical action, and that what Manning did was, in the final analysis, an act of love: love of truth, love of the people he had been asked to defend through the transmission of lies, and an ultimate finding of self-respect in rising out of the ruins and the loss. His statement today confirms that he is, and was, lucid and purposeful.

He was the originator of a process whose ultimate result, I believe, was the decisive and final discrediting of the decade of war and projected imperial power that began in the wake of 9/11. He is that most overapplied of adjectives, heroic. We are in his debt, and we must hope that he lands as gently as possible on the hard earth in the days and years to come.

The next big thing: 4D printing ?  

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Smart Planet has a post on "4D printing" (making objects that can assemble themselves) - The next big thing: 4D printing.

Just as 3D printing has started to come into its own, some forward-thinking architect has just announced that he’s already working on the next big thing.

It was at this year’s TED conference in Long Beach that Skylar Tibbits, an MIT professor, gave attendees a sneak peak into an even more advanced manufacturing innovation he’s calling 4D printing — naturally. I know the name seems suspect because, frankly, what the heck is a 4D printed object? Well, rest assured that it’s not something that exists in some hidden spatial realm (what use would we have for that?). Rather it’s run-of-the-mill three dimensional printing technology, but combined with a neat enhancement that allows the parts to self-assemble and re-assemble into a myriad number of products.

The device that’s used is a Stratasys 3D printer designed to produce multi-layered materials. Each part will be comprised of a regular rigid plastic layer, along with an outer layer made of “smart” materials. When submerged in water, the “smart” material absorbs and expands, causing the parts to move and form a pre-specified object. “Essentially the printing is nothing new, it is about what happens after,” Tibbits says.

The capacity for this one extra step creates a suddenly wider range of possibilities. Anything that requires intricate assembly like furniture, bikes and cars would require less manpower. “Imagine a scenario where you go to Ikea and buy a chair, put it in your room and it self-assembles,” said Carlo Olguin, principal research scientist at the software firm, told the BBC.

A Convergence Of Interests ?  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

SP at TOD ANZ has an interesting conspiracy hypothesis about the Chinese purchase of Cubbie Station cotton farm and the massive need for water the booming coal seam gas industry has (invoking the ghost of Russ Hinze along the way) - Sinogetically stuffing the basins?.

Pulling a few strands months apart together, is there a link between Paul Sheehans story (below) about how the expansion of Coal Seam Gas production is going to impact water availability for downstream food producers with last years agreement to sell Cubbie station to a Chinese consortium (now completed).

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