Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Birth rate myths

...three deeply misleading assumptions about demographic trends have become lodged in the public mind. The first is that mass migration into Europe, legal and illegal, combined with an eroding native population base, is transforming the ethnic, cultural, and religious identity of the continent. The second assumption, which is related to the first, is that Europe’s native population is in steady and serious decline from a falling birthrate, and that the aging population will place intolerable demands on governments to maintain public pension and health systems. The third is that population growth in the developing world will continue at a high rate. Allowing for the uncertainty of all population projections, the most recent data indicate that all of these assumptions are highly questionable and that they are not a reliable basis for serious policy ­decisions...

From The World's New Numbers by Martin Walker. See also this [in Greek, first part] for pretty much the same points.
Also in the news: France, UK, NZ, US, UAE, Ukraine...

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Propaganda Model, exhibit 15432

/ good victims rule, boring victims suck /

From Julie Hollar's Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten, [via] in FAIR, this chart is impressive:

As the article mentions:
To put the death rate in perspective, at the peak of the Darfur crisis, the conflict-related death rate there was less than a third of the Congo’s, and by 2005 it had dropped to less than 4,000 per month (CRED, 5/26/05). The United Nations has estimated some 300,000 may have died in total as a result of the years of conflict in Darfur (CRED, 4/24/08, SSRC.org, 3/25/09); the same number die from the Congo conflict every six and a half months.

And yet, in the New York Times, which covers the Congo more than most U.S. outlets, Darfur has consistently received more coverage since it emerged as a media story in 2004 (Extra!, 1–2/08). The Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur.

Let me make this clear: undoubtedly there are crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. Yet the incredible relative indifference of the US press (but not just the US press of course) to the astonishingly bloody Congo conflict speaks about something different: about the media propaganda model. This is right off the book:

Using a propaganda model, we would not only anticipate definitions of worth based on utility, and dichotomous attention based on the same criterion, we would also expect the news stories about worthy and unworthy victims (or enemy and friendly states) to differ in quality. That is, we would expect official sources of the United States and its client regimes to be used heavily-and uncritically-in connection with one's own abuses and those of friendly governments, while refugees and other dissident sources will be used in dealing with enemies. We would anticipate the uncritical acceptance of certain premises in dealing with self and friends-such as that one's own state and leaders seek peace and democracy, oppose terrorism, and tell the truth-premises which will not be applied in treating enemy states. We would expect different criteria of evaluation to be employed, so that what is villainy in enemy states will be presented as an incidental background fact in the case of oneself and friends. What is on the agenda in treating one case will be off the agenda in discussing the other. We would also expect great investigatory zeal in the search for enemy villainy and the responsibility of high officials for abuses in enemy states, but diminished enterprise in examining such matters in connection with one's own and friendly states.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Running out of everything: minerals

Minerals scarcity: A call for managed austerity and the elements of hope, by André Diederen:

If we keep following the ruling paradigm of sustained global economic growth, we will soon run out of cheap and plentiful metal minerals of most types. Their extraction rates will no longer follow demand. The looming metal minerals crisis is being caused primarily by the unfolding energy crisis. Conventional mitigation strategies including recycling and substitution are necessary but insufficient without a different way of managing our world’s resources. The stakes are too high to gamble on timely and adequate future technological breakthroughs to solve our problems. The precautionary principle urges us to take immediate action to prevent or at least postpone future shortages. As soon as possible we should impose a co-ordinated policy of managed austerity, not only to address metal minerals shortages but other interrelated resource constraints (energy, water, food) as well. The framework of managed austerity enables a transition towards application (wherever possible) of the ‘elements of hope’: the most abundant metal (and non-metal) elements. In this way we can save the many critical metal elements for essential applications where complete substitution with the elements of hope is not viable. We call for a transition from growth in tangible possessions and instant, short-lived luxuries towards growth in consciousness, meaning and sense of purpose, connection with nature and reality and good stewardship for the sake of next generations.

You jail them and they multiply!

A metric of the historical development of the hard, incessant and fucking pointless war against a plant and the criminalization of peace-loving yet fiendish pot-smokers: