Growing replacement teeth

By Joel Garreau

As long as there are hockey players, there will be niche markets for false teeth. But the real news about the future of dentures is that there isn’t much of one.

Toothlessness has declined 60 percent in the United States since 1960. Baby boomers will be the first generation in human history typically to go to their graves with most of their teeth.

And now comes tooth regeneration: growing teeth in adults, on demand, to replace missing ones. Soon.

It turns out wisdom teeth are prolific sources of adult stem cells needed to grow new teeth for you. From scratch. In your adult life, as you need them. In the near future. According to the National Institutes of Health.

For thousands of years, losing teeth has been a routine part of aging. That’s over.

“We’re there, right now,” said Pamela Robey, chief of the Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases Branch at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health. “A lot of people will go and never lose a tooth. With good health care and proper habits, there’s no reason to lose a tooth.”

The introduction of fluoride into drinking water and toothpaste is viewed as one of the 10 greatest public-health accomplishments of the 20th century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It did not occur without controversy. In the renowned 1964 black comedy “Dr. Strangelove,” Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) attacks the Soviet Union with nuclear-armed B-52s, hoping to thwart a communist conspiracy to “sap and impurify” the American people with fluoridated water.

Leslie Seldin has some perspective on this. He graduated from dental school in 1966 and was the editor of “The Future of Dentistry,” a report published in 2001 by the American Dental Association.

“When I was growing up” — in the ’50s — “reaching the teen years you’d develop enormous amounts of decay,” he said. It wasn’t until the ’60s, when most baby boomers were growing up, that fluoridation really started having a major impact.

By the ’90s, “if new patients came in that were young people, under 30, you really were surprised if you saw significant” cavities, Seldin said.

Fundamentally intact teeth, plus the increased attention to gum disease that can loosen them, have brought about a transformation.

“When I started out in dentistry, in my practice it wasn’t uncommon for people losing their teeth — you took out all their teeth and made a denture. You were working on a denture at all times,” Seldin said.

“Now, five new dentures a year, that’s a lot. We go out of our way to avoid them.”

So what’s the future of dentures?

“Hopefully, they will become a relic,” said Mary MacDougall, director of the Institute of Oral Health Research at the University of Alabama. “Like Washington’s false teeth.”

Regenerating a whole tooth is no less complicated than rebuilding a whole heart, said Songtao Shi, of the University of Southern California, who heads a team working on creating such a tooth.

Not only do you have to create smart tissue (nerves), strong tissue (ligaments) and soft tissue (pulp), you’ve got to build enamel — by far the hardest structural element in the body.

And you have to have openings for blood vessels and nerves. And you have to make the whole thing stick together. And you have to anchor it in bone. And then you have to make the entire arrangement last a lifetime in the juicy stew of bacteria that is your mouth.

It’s a nuisance, but researchers are closing in on it. They think the tooth probably will be the first complex organ to be completely regenerated from stem cells. In part, this is because teeth are easily accessible.

So are adult stem cells, abundant in both wisdom and baby teeth, and your immune system won’t reject your cells.

Nobody is predicting when the first whole tooth will be grown in a human, although five to 10 years is a common guess.

“The whole tooth — we’ve got a long way to go,” Shi said.

From TechCrunch


What were the top social media sites of 2008? ComScore came out with its worldwide traffic stats for November a few days ago (so these don’t include December). They are a mix of social networks and blogging platforms. Blogger, the orange line in the chart above, still rules the roost with an estimated 222 million unique worldwide visitors in November (up 44 percent from November, 2007). Facebook, the blue line, is on pace to pass it soon with 200 million unique visitors (up 116 percent). (Note, though, that this is more than the 140 million active users Facebook itself reports—go figure). MySpace is pretty steady at 126 million uniques. WordPress is a close fourth and gaining with 114 million (up 68 percent). And Windows Live Spaces is down 22 percent to 87 million uniques.

ComScore keeps a list of what it calls “social networking” sites, but these include blogging platforms and other social media sites as well. While the audience for blogs is still showing healthy growth overall, Facebook stands out as the social gorilla taking share from not only other social networks but blogs and other social media as well.

Below are the top 20 sites on comScore’s social networking list. It is really more of a social media site list, which is what I’m renaming it for this post. It is not definitive, but it gives a good lay of the land. (Here is a similar ranking from 2007). Note on this list the stubborn persistence of Yahoo’s Geocities at No. 6, the rise of Yahoo’s Flickr at No. 7, Six Apart at No. 10, and the presences of Chinese sites like Baidu Space and 56.com. The real surprise, though, is document-sharing site Scribd at No. 16, with nearly 24 million worldwide uniques.

Top Social Media Sites (ranked by unique worldwide visitors November, 2008; comScore)

  1. Blogger (222 million)
  2. Facebook (200 million)
  3. MySpace (126 million)
  4. WordPress (114 million)
  5. Windows Live Spaces (87 million)
  6. Yahoo Geocities (69 million)
  7. Flickr (64 million)
  8. hi5 (58 million)
  9. Orkut (46 million)
  10. Six Apart (46 million)
  11. Baidu Space (40 million)
  12. Friendster (31 million)
  13. 56.com (29 million)
  14. Webs.com (24 million)
  15. Bebo (24 million)
  16. Scribd (23 million)
  17. Lycos Tripod (23 million)
  18. Tagged (22 million)
  19. imeem (22 million)
  20. Netlog (21 million)

Here’s a screenshot of the actual data:


By Susan Kelleher, Seattle Times consumer affairs reporter

seattlesnowstreetsTo hear the city’s spin, Seattle’s road crews are making “great progress” in clearing the ice-caked streets.

But it turns out “plowed streets” in Seattle actually means “snow-packed,” as in there’s snow and ice left on major arterials by design.

“We’re trying to create a hard-packed surface,” said Alex Wiggins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation. “It doesn’t look like anything you’d find in Chicago or New York.”

The city’s approach means crews clear the roads enough for all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles, or those with front-wheel drive cars as long as they are using chains, Wiggins said.

The icy streets are the result of Seattle’s refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster used by the state Department of Transportation and cities accustomed to dealing with heavy winter snows.

“If we were using salt, you’d see patches of bare road because salt is very effective,” Wiggins said. “We decided not to utilize salt because it’s not a healthy addition to Puget Sound.”

By ruling out salt and some of the chemicals routinely used by snowbound cities, Seattle has embraced a less-effective strategy for clearing roads, namely sand sprinkled on top of snowpack along major arterials, and a chemical de-icer that is effective when temperatures are below 32 degrees.

Seattle also equips its plows with rubber-edged blades. That minimizes the damage to roads and manhole covers, but it doesn’t scrape off the ice, Wiggins said.

That leaves many drivers, including Seattle police, pretty much on their own until nature does to the snow what the sand can’t: melt it.

The city’s patrol cars are rear-wheel drive. And even with tire chains, officers are avoiding hills and responding on foot, according to a West Precinct officer.

Between Thursday and Monday, the city spread about 6,000 tons of sand on 1,531 miles of streets it considers major arterials.

The tonnage, sprinkled atop the packed snow, amounts to 1.4 pounds of sand per linear foot of roadway, an amount one expert said might be too little to provide effective traction.

“Hmmm. Six thousand tons of sand for that length of road doesn’t seem like it’s enough,” said Diane Spector, a water-resources planner for Wenck Associates, which evaluated snow and ice clearance for nine cities in the Midwest.

Spector and snow-control experts in four cities said sand is typically mixed with salt and used for trouble spots.

“The occasional application of salt is probably not going to have a lasting effect” on the environment, Spector said. But she cautioned it’s highly dependent on where it’s used, how often and how much is applied.

Seattle’s stand against using salt is not shared by the state Department of Transportation, which has battled the latest storms in Western Washington with de-icer, 5,800 tons of salt and 11,500 cubic yards of salt and sand mix, said spokesman Travis Phelps.

Many cities are moving away from sand because it clogs the sewers, runs into waterways, creates air pollution and costs more to clean up.

Its main attraction is that it typically costs less than one-fifth the price of salt, according to Spector.

“We never use sand,” said Ann Williams, spokeswoman for Denver’s Department of Public Works. “Sand causes dust, and there’s also water-quality issues where it goes into streets and into our rivers.”

Instead, it sprays an “anti-icing” agent on dry roads before the snow falls and then a combination of chemicals to melt the ice.

Cheryl Kuck, spokeswoman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said her city prepared the streets last week with the “anti-icing” spray. Once the snow started, Portland used chemical de-icers, followed by plowing with 55 plows and treating trouble spots with sand and gravel.

Although the city had plowed 29 of its 36 major routes, “nothing is clear,” Kuck said late Monday afternoon. “This is a difficult and challenging situation that’s going to take us a long time to recover from.”

Wiggins, of Seattle’s transportation department, said the city’s 27 trucks had plowed and sanded 100 percent of Seattle’s main roads, and were going back for second and third passes.

“It’s tough going. I won’t argue with you on that,” he said. But here in Seattle, “we’re sensitive about everything we do that impacts the environment.”

Reporters Sara Jean Green and Christine Clarridge contributed to this report.

From  Elitefeet.com

cliff-young-waveThe legendary story of Cliff Young is already known to many runners. If you’re aren’t familiar with it, you’re in for a fascinating read.

An Unlikely Competitor

Every year, Australia hosts 543.7-mile (875-kilometer) endurance racing from Sydney to Melbourne. It is considered among the world’s most grueling ultra-marathons. The race takes five days to complete and is normally only attempted by world-class athletes who train specially for the event. These athletes are typically less than 30 years old and backed by large companies such as Nike.

In 1983, a man named Cliff Young showed up at the start of this race. Cliff was 61 years old and wore overalls and work boots. To everyone’s shock, Cliff wasn’t a spectator. He picked up his race number and joined the other runners.

The press and other athletes became curious and questioned Cliff. They told him, “You’re crazy, there’s no way you can finish this race.” To which he replied, “Yes I can. See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or tractors, and the whole time I was growing up, whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d always catch them. I believe I can run this race.”

When the race started, the pros quickly left Cliff behind. The crowds and television audience were entertained because Cliff didn’t even run properly; he appeared to shuffle. Many even feared for the old farmer’s safety.

The Tortoise and the Hare

All of the professional athletes knew that it took about 5 days to finish the race. In order to compete, one had to run about 18 hours a day and sleep the remaining 6 hours. The thing is, Cliff Young didn’t know that!

When the morning of the second day came, everyone was in for another surprise. Not only was Cliff still in the race, he had continued jogging all night.

Eventually Cliff was asked about his tactics for the rest of the race. To everyone’s disbelief, he claimed he would run straight through to the finish without sleeping.

Cliff kept running. Each night he came a little closer to the leading pack. By the final night, he had surpassed all of the young, world-class athletes. He was the first competitor to cross the finish line and he set a new course record.

When Cliff was awarded the winning prize of $10,000, he said he didn’t know there was a prize and insisted that he did not enter for the money. He ended up giving all of his winnings to several other runners, an act that endeared him to all of Australia.

Continued Inspiration
In the following year, Cliff entered the same race and took 7th place. Not even a displayed hip during the race stopped him.

Cliff came to prominence again in 1997, aged 76, when he attempted to raise money for homeless children by running around Australia’s border. He completed 6,520 kilometers of the 16,000-kilometer run before he had to pull out because his only crew member became ill. Cliff Young passed away in 2003 at age 81.

Today, the “Young-shuffle” has been adopted by ultra-marathon runners because it is considered more energy-efficient. At least three champions of the Sydney to Melbourne race have used the shuffle to win the race. Furthermore, during the Sydney to Melbourne race, modern competitors do not sleep. Winning the race requires runners to go all night as well as all day, just like Cliff Young.

by Erick Schonfeld

Last week, something turned. We found out that not only are we in a recession, but it started a year ago. Tech layoffs went into overdrive (12,000 at AT&T, 600 at Adobe, 130 at Real Networks), bringing the total unemployed tech workforce to at least 90,000, by our count.

Even Facebook decided to indefinitely postpone an earlier plan to allow employees to sell some stockprivately. One likely consideration in Facebook’s about-face is that outside investors may no longer be willing to buy Facebook stock at the already-lowered $4 billion internal valuation the plan called for, never mind the over-inflated $15 billion that Microsoft got in at last year.

Capital is drying up, and things may still get worse before they get better. So far in this downturn, we’ve seen startups batten down the hatches (as they should) and hope to survive long enough to make it out the other end.

But what about venture capital firms? When will we start to see the VC layoffs and fund closures?

It is already happening to some extent. The number of partners listed on some VC Websites is already quietly shrinking. Some new VC funds are having difficulty raising money and even existing funds are running into problems collecting commitments from strapped limited partners.

The carnage on Wall Street is having a trickle-down effect on venture capital firms. The limited partners who typically invest in VC funds—university endowments, pension funds, investment banks, other institutions, and wealthy individuals—are short of cash right now. Harvard’s endowment lost $8 billion in the past four months alone. Many limited partners simply cannot honor capital calls from VCs. (When a VC firm creates a new fund, it does not collect all the money at once. Instead, it receives promises from limited partners that they will invest when the capital is needed).

Rather than face the penalty of default, limited partners increasingly are trying to sell their commitments at deep discounts on secondary markets. Conversely—knowing that they may not be able to call in their chits—VC’s are motivated to slow down their investment activity.

All of this is to be expected during a recession. Entrepreneurs wait for a rebound, and then their startups get funded once again.

But what if this recession (and bear market) lasts longer than a year or two? And what if startup founders don’t feel like waiting around for VCs and their limited partners to get back on their feet?

Startups can be run so cheaply now (with open-source software, cloud computing, and virtual teams spread across the Web) that many more can achieve profitability without any VC cash. Up until recently, they still happily took that cash when it was handed to them. But certain classes of startups, especially Web startups, may now find they don’t even need that money. Y Combinator’s Paul Graham argues:

VCs and founders are like two components that used to be bolted together. Around 2000 the bolt was removed. Because the components have so far been subjected to the same forces, they still seem to be joined together, but really one is just resting on the other. A sharp impact would make them fly apart. And the present recession could be that impact.

. . . The current generation of founders want to raise money from VCs, and Sequoia specifically, because Larry and Sergey took money from VCs, and Sequoia specifically. Imagine what it would do to the VC business if the next hot company didn’t take VC at all.

The less venture capital there is for new startups, the faster the decoupling will begin.

From slavery to White House

By Dahleen Glanton and Stacy St. Clair

GEORGETOWN, S.C. — Tiny wooden cabins line the dirt road once known as Slave Street as it winds through Friendfield Plantation.

More than 200 slaves lived in the whitewashed shacks in the early 1800s, and some of their descendants remained for more than 100 years after the Civil War. The last tenants abandoned the hovels about 30 years ago, and even they would have struggled to imagine a distant daughter of the plantation one day calling the White House home.

But a historical line can be drawn from these Low Country cabins to Michelle Obama, charting an American family’s improbable journey through slavery, segregation, the civil-rights movement and a historic presidential election.

Their documented passage begins with Jim Robinson, Michelle Obama’s great-great-grandfather, who was born about 1850 and lived as a slave, at least until the Civil War, on the sprawling rice plantation. Records show he remained on the estate after the war, working as a sharecropper and living in the old slave quarters with his wife, Louiser, and their children. He could neither read nor write, according to the 1880 census.

Robinson would be the last illiterate branch of Michelle Obama’s family tree.

Census records show each generation of Robinsons became more educated than the last, with Michelle Obama eventually earning degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Her older brother, Craig, also earned an Ivy League education.

Barack Obama’s campaign hired genealogists to research the family’s roots at the onset of his presidential bid, but aides largely have kept the findings secret. Genealogists at Lowcountry Africana, a research center at the University of South Florida in Tampa, scoured documents to put together a 120-page report, said project director Toni Carrier. She said the center signed a confidentiality agreement and is not allowed to disclose the findings publicly.

However, in his now-famous speech on race during the primary, Barack Obama, whose father was from Kenya, stated he was “married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners.”

Obama aides refused to discuss the report or allow Michelle Obama to be interviewed about her ancestry. She has said she knew little about her family tree before the campaign, but census reports, property records and other historical documents show her paternal ancestors bore witness to one of the most shameful chapters in U.S. history.

In January, when the Obamas move into the White House — a mansion built partially by slaves — as the country’s first African-American first family, Michelle Obama will embark upon a life her great-great-grandfather never could have envisioned.

Living in slave shacks

Little is known about Jim Robinson’s life at the Friendfield Plantation, beyond that he worked in the riverfront rice fields after the Civil War. Local historians don’t know how or when he came to Friendfield, but census records indicate both his parents were born in South Carolina. The coastal Carolina city often is referred to as the African-American Ellis Island because of the many slave ships that docked along its shores.

A map from the early 1870s, when Robinson was living on the plantation, shows three parallel rows of slave cabins, each with 10 to 13 buildings along Slave Street. By 1911, only 14 were standing.

Five single cabins remain today. With their massive fireplaces and wood-plank walls, each tells a story about slave life on the plantation.

The small shacks, only 19 feet deep, housed several families at once, said Ed Carter, who oversees the property. Large stone fireplaces were used for cooking and heating. Attic space beneath the gable roof offered a place for extra people to sleep.

The plantation’s former owner, Francis Withers, built a “meeting house” for slaves on the estate before 1841, and the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church assigned a preacher there. A fire destroyed the church in 1940.

By the time Withers died in 1847, the family had expanded Friendfield to include six plantations and more than 500 slaves. At the height of the rice trade, Friendfield was one of the most lucrative plantations in the area, Carter said.

In his will, Withers, educated at Harvard University, provided for the care of his slaves, including the upkeep of the church and a salary for the preacher. He also requested his slaves be treated with “great kindness and be fed and clothed.”

He left $10,000 to purchase more slaves to work the plantation and provided financial incentives for his surviving relatives to retain his “Friendfield gang of slaves” as a group and not break up families.

Respect for learning

The plantation’s prosperity faded after the Civil War, and the family began selling off the property in 1879, according to land records. Jim Robinson, like many former slaves, continued to live on the farm.

It’s unclear when he died, but local historians think he is buried in an unmarked grave in a slave cemetery that overlooks the old rice fields on the edges of Whites Creek.

Among Jim Robinson’s surviving children was Fraser Robinson, Michelle Obama’s great-grandfather. Born in 1884, he went to work as a houseboy for a local family before his 16th birthday. Census records show he was illiterate as a teen but had learned to read and write by the time he had children.

As an adult, he worked as a lumber-mill laborer, shoe repairman and newspaper salesman. He registered for the draft during World War I but was turned down because he had lost his left arm, military records show.

Fraser Robinson married a local woman named Rose Ella Cohen and had at least six children. Described by a family friend as an intelligent man who wanted his children to be well-read, he always brought home his extra copies of the “Palmetto Leader and Grit,” a black newspaper that was popular in rural communities across the country.

“He used to make his children read those newspapers,” said Margretta Dunmore Knox, who still lives in Georgetown and attended the same church as the Robinsons. “Maybe that’s how they became so smart.”

His eldest son, Fraser Jr., was born in 1912 and graduated from high school. Census records from 1930 show that 18-year-old Fraser Jr. was living at home and working at a sawmill after earning his diploma.

At the time, Georgetown, a coastal town about an hour’s drive north of Charleston and the state’s third-oldest city, was split along racial lines. Basic human rights that blacks had known after the Reconstruction era disappeared as the Deep South sank into the Depression and segregationist ways.

The power of “Enough”

As Georgetown’s economy crumbled, Fraser Jr. headed north to Chicago in search of employment. There, he met and married LaVaughn Johnson. Their son Fraser Robinson III — Michelle Obama’s father — was born in 1935.

Although they never attended college, Fraser III and his wife, Marian, made education a top priority for their two children. Both would attend Princeton and earn postgraduate degrees from prestigious universities.

Fraser and LaVaughn Robinson lived on the South Side of Chicago for part of Michelle’s childhood, before retiring and moving south. After returning to Georgetown, the couple joined the AME Bethel Church, founded by freed slaves in 1865 and the oldest black church in the city. The couple sang in the choir and built a large circle of friends, Knox said.

Michelle Obama returned to the same church in January while campaigning for her husband in the South Carolina presidential primary. Addressing a packed audience that included at least 30 descendants of Jim Robinson, Obama talked about the need for change in the confident voice of a distant daughter of slavery.

“Things get better when regular folks take action to make change happen from the bottom up,” she said. “Every major historical moment in our time, it has been made by folks who said, ‘Enough,’ and they banded together to move this country forward — and now is one of those times.”

Doom-and-gloom scenarios

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) — What is next? If the “Great Depression 2” scenario plays out, what’s after 2011? Recovery? A new bull? How can you protect your money? Or are we all helpless victims of the raging winds of fate and Wall Street’s self-serving brand of capitalism.
Let’s review several scenarios in the bright lens of Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1950 film, “Rashomon,” at once an ancient Kabuki morality play, a tense modern courtroom drama, and a revealing documentary on human psychology. In “Rashomon” we witness the murder of a Samurai warrior and a rape through the eyes of several witnesses, each swearing they saw what “really happened.”
We “see” these tragedies in a forest through the eyes of a Woodcutter, Priest, Samurai’s Wife, the accused Bandit, and the Samurai, speaking through a Medium. But as “the facts” unfold, the lies and contractions of biased minds are exposed and the truth becomes increasingly blurred. In the end, we are still wondering: What really happened?
Similarly, today we’re asking; “What really happened to America, so fast?” With Bush, Paulson, Bernanke and their Reaganomics ideology? To my 401(k), my CDs, my kid’s college fund, my retirement nest egg. To the great American dream? What happened?
Nightmare scenario No. 1: No exit, a never-ending disaster
Remember former Goldman Chairman John Whitehead? He “sees” a tragic ending: This Reagan Deputy Secretary of State and former New York Fed chairman “sees” America burning through trillions, over many years: “Nothing but large increases in the deficit … worse than the Depression.”
He worries that “tomorrow is the day Moody’s and S&P will announce a downgrade of U.S. government bonds.” Politicians and public are delusional, promising huge new programs plus tax cutting: “This is a road to disaster.’ Like Sartre’s existential tragedy, “No Exit,” he says: “I don’t see a solution.”
If this dialogue emerged in “Rashomon,” deep in the forest, I could “see” Whitehead pointing a finger at Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, accusing him of terrible deeds.
Nightmare scenario No. 2: Washington’s unsustainable deficits
True to the “Rashomon” narrative Warren Buffett “sees” America sinking in a swamp of unsustainable debt to justify our excessive spending — government, consumer, corporate.
Remember Buffett’s famous farmer’s story: “We were taught in Economics 101 that countries could not for long sustain large, ever-growing trade deficits.” America “has been behaving like an extraordinarily rich family that possesses an immense farm. In order to consume 4% more than they produce, that’s the trade deficit, we have, day by day, been both selling pieces of the farm and increasing the mortgage on what we still own.”
Like his farmers, we borrowed $700 billion a year to live high on the hog, selling off American assets. Now foreign sovereign funds own trillions of our assets. Today Uncle Warren’s story is less a children’s fairy tale and more a “Rashomon” tragedy.
Nightmare scenario No. 3: The endless 100-year bear market
Robert Prechter’s a brilliant market forecaster and editor of the Elliott Wave Theorist newsletter. As early as 1978 he predicted the “raging bull market of the 1980s.” Many laughed. Then tech roared and he became “Guru of the Decade.”
In the “Rashomon” cast he’s credible. And ahead again: He “saw” the future in his “At the Crest of the Wave: A Forecast of the Great Bear Market.” Today’s darkening markets ride his “wave” theories: Rapidly unfolding, accelerating and intensifying economic cycles. First the dot-com crash, then the subprime housing bull, the credit meltdown, now the coming “Great Depression 2.”
In the ’90s, Prechter had another vision from deep in the forest. Again we ignored him. No more. The same wisdom that let him “see” the 1980’s bull years before it took off, may accurately predict the coming 100-year bear market well ahead of time.
Nightmare scenario No. 4: Pentagon ‘warfare defines human life’
In “Rashomon” they see all, we nothing. In courtrooms, lawyers deceive, suppress the truth. Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke are masters of deception in the courtroom of public opinion, as descendents of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
One intentional leak (obviously designed as a tactic to stoke public fear and create budget support for the DOD’s war machine) surfaced in the early days of the Iraq War. Fortune analyzed a classified military report, the Pentagon’s “Weather Nightmare:” “Climate could change radically and fast. That would be the mother of all national security issues … massive droughts, turning farmland into dust bowls and forests to ashes … by 2020 there is little doubt that something drastic is happening … an old pattern could emerge; warfare defining human life.”
Today, as a “Great Depression” and a “100-year Bear Market” become more real than a “Rashomon” sequel, ask yourself: Are there too many people? Too few resources? Too many competing special interests? In America? Worldwide? Are we all too greedy to compromise? Are we then left vulnerable to Paulson’s multiple Reaganomics “weapons of financial mass destruction,” land mines surviving his exit in bailout “sleeper cells,” left to sabotage government budgets, taxpayers and the future of America?
Nightmare scenario No. 5: Too many people, too few resources
The Earth supports 6.5 billion people. The United Nations predicts there will be 9.1 billion by 2050, all competing against 400 million Americans for ever-scarcer resources. The L.A. Times says that a U.N. report “paints a near-apocalyptic vision of Earth’s future: hundreds of millions of people short of water, extreme food shortages in Africa, a landscape ravaged by floods and millions of species sentenced to extinction.”
Today’s news suggests we may already be there, for the population explosion is the mother of all bubbles, a “nuclear” bomb that will explode all other bubbles, ushering onto the “Rashomon” stage a reality far beyond a 100-year bear, on a desolate, post-apocalyptic WALL-E planet Earth.
Nightmare scenario No. 6: Star Trek’s bold new ‘end of days’
One “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode haunts me, much like “Rashomon.” In it past and future collide. Set in the 23rd century, “Inner Light” gives us a brief end-of-days look at the star-crossed future of two civilizations, one boldly exploring new worlds, the other leaving behind but a small sad trace of its mysterious disappearance. Two planets, which is our metaphor?
The Enterprise encounters a probe floating in space. Suddenly an energy beam zaps Captain Picard. He wakes up on an alien planet. Recovering from a fever he is “Kamin,” can’t recognize his “wife.” Friends think he’s delusional, mumbling about being a starship captain. Trapped in this parallel universe, time passes. Memories of his prior life fade. He falls in love with his wife, raises a family, kids, grandkids, lives the peaceful life he only imagined in space.
But his new planet’s resources gradually disappear. Temperatures rise. Water scarcer. Desert lands spread. The Pentagon scenario? Near the end, he watches a missile soar into space, an intergalactic time capsule, a final record of a once-great civilization.
Suddenly the probe turns off. Picard awakes on floor of the Enterprise bridge. Twenty minutes passed. Engine power returns. They continue boldly going where no one has gone before, left with memories of a simple life on a dying planet that vanished eons ago. Ask yourself: Are we boldly going anywhere? Will someone, someday be reading our probe?
Nightmare scenario No. 7: No-Growth Economics vs. Neo-Capitalism
While Goldman former Chairman Whitehead gave up, there is still a solution, one way to dodge the “Great Depression 2,” the “100-Year Bear.” I reviewed this scenario in a recent issue of Adbusters magazine, where legendary economist Herman Daly was recently named “Man of the Year.”
The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy” says this new greener economic theory calls for “stabilized population and consumption. Such stability means that the amount of resource throughput and waste disposal remains roughly constant.” In this theory, all systems are in balance.
“The key features of a steady state economy are: sustainable scale, in which economic activities fit within the capacity provided by ecosystems; fair distribution of wealth; and efficient allocation of resources.”
This new economics may be what sustains the Star Trek culture in the 23rd century, but unfortunately, it is unlikely to get broad support in today’s free market Reaganomics capitalism, let alone support from America’s political parties or any sovereign nations in today’s highly competitive international arena … at least not until we’ve gone past the point of no return, like that mysterious planet recorded on the probe discovered in the 23rd century by Star Trek’s Captain Picard.
As in “Rashomon,” we “see” many competing scenarios, “seen” through many competing “eyes.’ Yet, for the victims, the end game is always tragically irreversible. We may, however, find some comfort in the “wave theory,” for all waves emerge, ripple, oscillate, accelerate until they inevitably self-destruct and fade.
Earth appears destined to accelerate to 9 billion … exhausting Earth’s resources … in a self-destructive Pentagon global warfare scenario … driven by another Great Depression … and 100-year bear market. In the end Whitehead said it all: “This is a road to disaster … I don’t see a solution.”
Probe dims, fade to black. Or will we finally wake up … and take command of our starship?