Techno Optimistic Claptrap

SUBHEAD: The worst kind of pretentious insincere nonsense that apologizes for industrial consumerism. By Juan Wilson on 31 March 2012 for Island Breath - ( Image above: A plastic rabbit out of a 3D printing tophat called Thing-O-Matic. From ( This piece below by Jeremy Rifkin struck me as an exercise in delusional thinking used for mass deception. When Rifkin mentions that "mobile phones, auto and aircraft parts, medical implants, and batteries are being 'printed out' with 3D printers he is talking about industrial design components created by professionals as prototypes - not finished manufactured items. With the introduction of 3D Systems' first commercial 3D printers, about 20 years ago, the industrial design of mass produced products has been revolutionized - especially complex 3D entities like auto taillight assemblies. But once the design is settled the actual production is still done using plastic injection molding technology. The idea that your average Joe will design and "print-out" something even as simple as a usable/durable ratchet-set or Vise-grip made out of plastic from a consumer 3D printer hooked up to a laptop is ridiculous. The stresses on these "printed" plastic products would be too great for practical application, moreover temperature, oxygen and sunlight would quickly degrade the "printed" tool into the plastic dust it came from. The level of engineering and computer skills necessary to 3D model and 3D print a complicated object are comparable to the skills needed to chisel a near likeness of a loved one out of marble. Forget about home economically manufacturing needed items with a home computer for your community with a 3D printer. Even the idea of for publishing a 500 copies of a 16 page newsletter with a home 2D inkjet printer is not economical or realistic. I agree with Rifkin that "millions of people will create their own energy" but their consumption of energy will be a mere fraction of today's. Home lighting will be doable, but the average home will likely not have enough power for a refrigerator and freezer running 24/7/365. Moreover, I think the Third Industrial Revolution will take us back to an economy, that existed when I was a child in the mid 20th century, where most things will be made of wood, metal, glass, paper and/or fiber... not a complicated cocktail of petro-chemicals with traces of rare earth elements. Well so much for a critique on techno-optimism and onto Rifkin's article and take on future industrialism. See also: Ea O Ka Aina: The Hero's Way 1/13/12 by Juan Wilson
The Third Industrial Revolution

By Jeremy Rifkin on 28 March 2012 for Huffington Post - (

The great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication technologies converge with new energy systems. New energy revolutions make possible more expansive and integrated trade. Accompanying communication revolutions manage the new complex commercial activities made possible by the new energy flows.

Today, Internet technology and renewable energies are beginning to merge to create a new infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) that will change the way power is distributed in the 21st century. In the coming era, hundreds of millions of people will produce their own renewable energy in their homes, offices, and factories and share green electricity with each other in an "Energy Internet" just like we now generate and share information online. The creation of a renewable energy regime, loaded by buildings, partially stored in the form of hydrogen, distributed via a green electricity Internet, and connected to plug-in, zero-emission transport, opens the door to a Third Industrial Revolution.

While the TIR economy allows millions of people to produce their own virtual information and energy, a new digital manufacturing revolution now opens up the possibility of following suit in the production of durable goods. In the new era, everyone can potentially be their own manufacturer as well as their own internet site and power company. The process is called 3-D printing; and although it sounds like science fiction, it is already coming online, and promises to change the entire way we think of industrial production.

Think about pushing the print button on your computer and sending a digital file to an inkjet printer, except, with 3-D printing, the machine runs off a three-dimensional product. Using computer aided design, software directs the 3-D printer to build successive layers of the product using powder, molten plastic, or metals to create the material scaffolding. The 3-D printer can produce multiple copies just like a photocopy machine. All sorts of goods, from jewelry to mobile phones, auto and aircraft parts, medical implants, and batteries are being "printed out" in what is being termed "additive manufacturing," distinguishing it from the "subtractive manufacturing," which involves cutting down and pairing off materials and then attaching them together.

3-D entrepreneurs are particularly bullish about additive manufacturing, because the process requires as little as 10 percent of the raw material expended in traditional manufacturing and uses less energy than conventional factory production, thus greatly reducing the cost.

In the same way that the Internet radically reduced entry costs in generating and disseminating information, giving rise to new businesses like Google and Facebook, additive manufacturing has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of producing hard goods, making entry costs sufficiently lower to encourage hundreds of thousands of mini manufacturers -- small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) -- to challenge and potentially outcompete the giant manufacturing companies that were at the center of the First and Second Industrial Revolution economies.

Already, a spate of new start-up companies are entering the 3-D printing market with names like Within Technologies, Digital Forming, Shape Ways, Rapid Quality Manufacturing, Stratasys, Bespoke Innovations, 3D Systems, MakerBot Industries, Freedom of Creation, LGM, and Contour Crafting and are determined to reinvent the very idea of manufacturing in the Third Industrial era.

The energy saved at every step of the digital manufacturing process, from reduction in materials used, to less energy expended in making the product, if applied across the global economy, adds up to a qualitative increase in energy efficiency beyond anything imaginable in the First and Second Industrial Revolutions. When the energy used to power the production process is renewable and also generated on site, the full impact of a lateral Third Industrial Revolution becomes strikingly apparent. Since approximately 84 percent of the productivity gains in the manufacturing and service industries are attributable to increases in thermodynamic efficiencies -- only 14 percent of productivity gains are the result of capital invested per worker -- we begin to grasp the significance of the enormous surge in productivity that will accompany the Third Industrial Revolution and what it will mean for society.

The democratization of manufacturing is being accompanied by the tumbling costs of marketing. The internet has transformed marketing from a significant expense to a negligible cost, allowing startups and small and medium size enterprises to market their goods and services on internet sites, like Etsy, that stretch over virtual space, enabling them to compete and even out compete many of the giant business enterprises of the 21st Century.

As the new 3-D technology becomes more widespread, on site, just in time customized manufacturing of products will also reduce logistics costs with the possibility of huge energy savings. The cost of transporting products will plummet in the coming decades because an increasing array of goods will be produced locally in thousands of micro-manufacturing plants and transported regionally by trucks powered by green electricity and hydrogen generated on site.

The lateral scaling of the Third Industrial Revolution allows small and medium size enterprises to flourish. Still, global companies will not disappear. Rather, they will increasingly metamorphose from primary producers and distributors to aggregators. In the new economic era, their role will be to coordinate and manage the multiple networks that move commerce and trade across the value chain.

The rapid decline in transaction costs brought on by The Third Industrial Revolution are leading to the democratization of information, energy, manufacturing, marketing, and logistics, and the ushering in of a new era of distributed capitalism that is likely to change the very way we think of commercial life in the 21st Century.


The Cost of Affluence

SUBHEAD: What does the future hold? First, a warning: Abandon hope all ye who enter here. By Guy McPherson on 30 March 2012 for Nature Bats Last - ( Image above: Polar bear's fate. From several sites including ( In a letter to Ernest de Chabrol dated 9 June 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring it?”

Nearly two hundred years later, de Tocqueville has been vindicated not only as a superb social critic but also as a forecaster. Knowing nothing about de Tocqueville, the ten-year-old son of a friend put his own spin on recent history: “Mom, I think people value Father Time more than they value Mother Earth.” His words sting me like freezing rain, squeezing tears from the corners of my eyes. There’s nothing new there for me, except the perspective of youth: I often weep when I think about the hellishly overheated world we’re leaving him and his young friends. We’re destroying this world in large part because we care more about chasing fiat currency than we care about the living planet and its occupants.

Although it seems unlikely they met, de Tocqueville was writing during the time of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. As if he, too, could see the future, Kierkegaard was plagued with anxiety. However, Kierkegaard didn’t call anxiety a plague: As he pointed out, anxiety is fundamental to our sense of humanity. Although I’m tempted to discard Kierkegaard’s every thought based simply on his ludicrous leap of faith, I can’t convince myself to disagree with him about anxiety. His writings about anxiety resonate with me as strongly as anything I’ve read by Lao Tzu, Schopenhauer, or Leopold.

It’s small wonder I’ve slept so poorly since August of 1979, when I reached a vague, subconscious understanding of the dire straits in which humanity is immersed. More than three decades after that summer of my nineteenth year, “my distress is enormous, boundless,” and growing by the day. I envy those who know about ongoing climate change and yet can remain comfortable with that knowledge. If you’re among them, perhaps this essay will drag you with me, into the abyss of despair. If so, I encourage you to abide the prescient words of Edward Abbey: “Action is the antidote to despair.”

According to NASA, anthropogenic climate change is primarily due to human actions. The ongoing crisis is intensifying, and much of North America is experiencing summer in March. Ninety degrees in winter is not normal, climate-change deniers notwithstanding. Ditto for this year’s Silent Spring.

If you’re under the age of 35, you’ve never experienced “normal” temperatures despite a weakening sun. In fact, February 1985 was the last time global mean monthly average was below the twentieth-century average. Already, climate has shifted to a new state. That state can only be described as dire. And yet because Earth’s climate system behaves in a nonlinear manner, future changes could occur very rapidly, making it seem as if more than three decades without a below-normal temperature reading were the good ol’ days.

What does the future hold? First, a warning: Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

A global average rise in temperature of 2 C is now optimistic, according to French scientists. Climatologist Matthew Huber agrees. But even that seemingly modest increase in temperature raises sea level 40 to 70 feet. Meanwhile, the OECD concludes we’re headed for an average temperature increase of 3-6 degrees Celsius by 2050 (full original report is here). Supporting documentation is far more abundant than revealed by these recent headlines:

Video above: A history of CO2 from recent detailed data (since 1979) and the geological record. From ( See also: Ea O Ka Aina: May 5 - Climate Impact Day 3/28/12 .

Hanapepe Salt Pond Testimony

SOURCE: Jonathan Jay (
SUBHEAD: The time has come for concerted effort to protect and maintain the integrity of the Hanapepe Salt Ponds.  

By Jose Bulatao on 29 March 2012 in Island Breath -  

Image above: Ben Kali, of Hanapepe Valley, prepares salt pans with his family in 2009 at the Salt Ponds. Photo by Juan Wilson.

Nowhere else on the face of planet Earth is salt produced exactly in the manner and style attributed to the Hanapepe Salt Ponds. Here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and on the island of Kaua’i, the quality and the abundance of sea salt produced has been an entrusted and designated familial responsibility handed down from generation to generation for those who have held the practices in good faith and stewardship to honor and uphold the cultural traditions that have been dutifully maintained.

The product is a prized product used for cultural practices and rituals and sought after as well by gourmet chefs along with the locals who are familiar with the special quality of a natural product to enhance the flavor of food that is being prepared. There was a time when different priorities and considerations brought alternative uses to the areas adjacent to Puolo Point in Hanapepe.

Over the years, an airstrip appeared. A picnic area for island residents and visitors was established with required amenities. Nearby, an animal shelter was built. Swimming and shoreline fishing prevailed.

A roadway was placed cutting through the salt-pond area. Later, at the airstrip, fuel tanks were built to support helicopter services. A nearby residential area flourished. Additional amenities enhanced the Salt Pond Pavilion area. The animal shelter was moved and a proposal to convert the premises to a drug-rehabilitation center stimulated pros and cons on the wisdom of the site selection.
Image above: Salt pans prepared and filled with briny water, waiting for the sun to do its magic. Photo by Juan Wilson.

Consequently, the community of Hanapepe is in turmoil. Likewise, island residents, cultural advocates, and entrepreneurial entities have all added their agendas and concerns regarding Puolo Point and it’s surroundings. In sifting out the priorities of what may be “in the highest and best interests” of the Salt Ponds of Hanapepe, what are some of the bottom-line perspectives? To these questions and concerns, I offer these salient viewpoints:
1. The preservation and the restoration of the salt ponds must take precedence over all else. 2. The Hanapepe Salt Ponds is of such profound cultural significance which requires us to safeguard this “living treasure” for generations-yet-to-come. 3. Everything that is within the area that may adversely affect the Hanapepe Salt Ponds must be removed to allow the salt ponds to be repaired and/or restored to the fullest extent possible.
I see this as an opportunity for the private and public sectors to seek the ways and means by which collaborative efforts may be incorporated with clear-cut processes and procedures in place.

I see this as an opportunity to bring to the table those individuals, groups and entities who are direct stakeholders in the preservation o fthe Hanapepe Salt Ponds to BEGIN with that premise: that the Hanapepe Salt Ponds must be PRESERVED, and not merely maintained!

I take this as an opportunity to reach out to the community-at-large to become more than observers of the struggles between conflicting priorities that surround the Hanapepe Salt Ponds. I take this opportunity to appeal to those who have stood on the sidelines to step away from their comfort zones and become involved in the effort to save the Hanapepe Salt Ponds.

As a matter of record, it can be documented to show the extent to which countless meetings have been held....appeals have been made... proposals have been brought to the table... complaints and concerns have been registered... eloquent testimony has been delivered... for years, for decades, and for generations. The time has come for concerted effort to make the decision to clearly protect and maintain the integrity of the Hanapepe Salt Ponds.

For me, the opportunity I have had to present my statements before the County Council of Kauai is as an indication that our public officials are willing to listen to us and to take the necessary steps to move forward. But,also, it is essential to go beyond being “listening posts” to this dilemma. Positive action must take place with all components from the public and private sectors involved in the endeavor. This, then, is a collaborative effort between those in “positions of authority” and the grassroots constituency.

This, then, is OUR kuleana to “malama aina.” Let us remember, as stewards of the land, we must follow with action after we have spoken these words: “If we take care of the land, the land will take care of us.” Let us not falter. Let us not fail. Together, we owe this to ourselves in honor of what has been bestowed upon us as a legacy to keep intact. Together, we owe it those who will follow in our footsteps.

See also:
 Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Parks and Recreation Master Plan 11/10/04
Ea O Ka Aina: Open Space Commission: Puolo Point Plan 12/10/04
Ea O Ka Aina: Keep Puolo Point natural 4/22/06
Ea O Ka Aina: One voice: Leave Puolo Point Alone 4/26/06


Feds hunkering down for upheaval

SOURCE: Michael Sheehan (
SUBHEAD: Why would Dept. Homeland Security need 450 million rounds of lethal hollow point ammo?  

By Staff on 19 March 2012 for 2nd Amendment TV -  

See official press release on this story below.

Image above: Who exactly are these guys being paid to protect? From (

Somebody out there has decided that the Department of Homeland Security needs a whole lot of ammunition. Recently it was announced that ATK was awarded a contract to provide up to 450 MILLION hollow point bullets to the Department of Homeland Security over the next five years. Is it just me, or does that sound incredibly excessive?

What in the world is the DHS going to do with 450 million rounds? What possible event would ever require that much ammunition? If the United States was ever invaded, it would be the job of the U.S. military to defend the country, so that can't be it.

So what are all of those bullets for? Who does the Department of Homeland Security plan to be shooting at? According to the U.S. Census, there are only about 311 million people living in the entire country. So why does the Department of Homeland Security need 450 million rounds of ammunition?

Either this is an incredible waste or there is something that the Department of Homeland Security is not telling us. I could understand if the U.S. military was ordering ammunition in this quantity. When you fight wars you can go through ammunition very rapidly.

But the Department of Homeland Security is only supposed to be shooting at people very rarely. It simply does not make sense that they would need so much ammunition.

But this is not the only kind of ammo that the DHS is placing an order for. Business Insider is also reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is seeking to buy 175 million rifle ammunition rounds....
We've also learned that the Department has an open bid for a stockpile of rifle ammo. Listed on the federal business opportunities network, they're looking for up to 175 million rounds of .233 caliber ammo to be exact. The 223 is almost exactly the same round used by NATO forces, the 5.56 x 45mm.
This all comes at a time when gun sales are absolutely going through the roof in the United States. Gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co. recently announced that it would be suspending new orders until May because it received orders for more than one million guns during the months of January and February.

See also: Ea O Ka Aina: President's cabinet takes over 3/21/12

Homeland Security Ammo Buy  

By Jason Nash on 12 March 2012 in Market Watch - 

PRESS RELEASE ATK announced that it is being awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) agreement from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS, ICE) for .40 caliber ammunition. This contract features a base of 12 months, includes four option years, and will have a maximum volume of 450 million rounds.

ATK was the incumbent and won the contract with its HST bullet, which has proven itself in the field. The special hollow point effectively passes through a variety of barriers and holds its jacket in the toughest conditions. HST is engineered for 100-percent weight retention, limits collateral damage, and avoids over-penetration.

"We are proud to extend our track record as the prime supplier of .40 caliber duty ammunition for DHS, ICE," said Ron Johnson, President of ATK's Security and Sporting group. "The HST is a proven design that will continue to serve those who keep our borders safe."

ATK will produce the ammunition at the Federal Cartridge Company facility in Anoka, Minn. Deliveries are expected to begin in June.

ATK is an aerospace, defense, and commercial products company with operations in 22 states, Puerto Rico, and internationally. News and information can be found on the Internet at .

Certain information discussed in this press release constitutes forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Although ATK believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, it can give no assurance that its expectations will be achieved. Forward-looking information is subject to certain risks, trends, and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected.

Among those factors are: changes in governmental spending, budgetary policies and product sourcing strategies; the company's competitive environment; the terms and timing of awards and contracts; economic conditions; the supply, availability and costs of raw materials and components; or reliance on a key supplier.

ATK undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements. For further information on factors that could impact ATK, and statements contained herein, please refer to ATK's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and its subsequent quarterly report on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K filed with the SEC.


Too Big to Survive

SUBHEAD: The "Too Big To Fail" banks need to be broken into smaller units so they might thrive.

By Robert Reich on 29 March 2012 for Huffington Post -  

 Image above: Satire of Bank of America logo by Juan Wilson.

As the Supreme Court shows every sign of throwing out "Obamacare" and leaving 30 million Americans without health insurance, another drama is being played out in the quiet corridors of the Federal Reserve system that may affect even more of us.

Taxpayers will be on the hook for another giant Wall Street bailout, and the economy won't be mended, unless the nation's biggest banks are broken up.

That's not just me talking, or the Occupier movement, or that wayward executive who resigned from Goldman Sachs a few weeks ago. It's the conclusion of the Dallas Federal Reserve, one of the most conservative of the Fed's regional banks.

The lead essay in its just released annual report says a cartel of giant banks continues to hobble the recovery and poses an ongoing danger to the economy.

Wall Street's increasing power remains "difficult to control because they have the lawyers and the money to resist the pressures of federal regulation." The Dodd-Frank act that was supposed to control Wall Street "leaves TBTF [too big to fail] entrenched."

The Dallas Fed goes on to argue that the Fed's easy money policy can't be much help to the U.S. economy as long as Wall Street is "still clogged with toxic assets accumulated in the boom years."
So what's the answer, according to the Dallas Fed? It's "breaking up the nation's biggest banks into smaller units."

Thud. That's the sound the report hitting the desks of Wall Street executives. They and their Washington lobbyists are doing what they can to make sure this report is discredited and buried.
When I spoke with one of the Street's major defenders in the Capitol this morning he snorted, "Dallas represents small regional banks that are jealous of Wall Street." When I reminded him the Dallas Fed was about the most conservative of the regional banks and knew firsthand about the dangers of under-regulated banks -- the Savings and Loan crisis ripped through Texas like nowhere else -- he said, "Dallas doesn't know its [backside] from a prairie gopher hole."

So as Republicans make the repeal of "Obamacare" their primary objective (and Alito, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and perhaps Kennedy sharpen their knives) another drama is taking place at the Fed. The question is whether Bernanke and company in Washington will heed the warnings coming from its Dallas branch, and amplify the message.


Big Box Era Ending

SUBHEAD: Big-box retailers are shifting to smaller formats and investing in online retailing. By David Welch on 30 March 2012 for Bloomberg News - ( Image above: A daarkened Best Buy Store in Alexandria, Virginia. From original article When Best Buy said yesterday it was closing 50 big stores and opening 100 smaller ones, the world’s largest electronics retailer was adjusting to reality: The era of big-box retail dominance is coming to an end.

The new mantra is small box. While Best Buy, Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp are still opening large stores, all are putting increasing emphasis on smaller ones. Best Buy plans to double the number of its smaller Best Buy Mobile stores by 2016. Wal-Mart is building as many as 100 small-format stores this year, while Target is opening five CityTarget locations.

After 50 years of putting mom and pops out of business, big-box retail is having a mid-life crisis. A slow economy has hurt same-store sales, narrowing margins at big stores. Meanwhile, consumers, armed with price-comparison technology, are visiting more stores seeking deals or exclusive merchandise rather than making one-stop, fill-the-cart excursions.

“We’re undergoing a seismic shift,” said Natalie Berg, an analyst with Planet Retail in London. “People are still cutting back. People are buying more products online so there is a real case for downsizing stores.”

Big-box retailers essentially come in two flavors: so- called category killers such as Best Buy that focus on one type of merchandise, and discounters like Wal-Mart and Target, which sell a broader range of goods.

Declining Sales

Since the recession, big-box retailers have struggled. Until its third fiscal quarter last year, Wal-Mart had posted eight consecutive quarters of declining sales at stores open more than 12 months. Best Buy posted five straight quarters of profit decline before reporting a $2.6 billion loss on March 29, while analysts forecast declining same-store sales and profit for Target this year.

Since June 2009, when the recession officially ended, Wal- Mart shares have advanced 26 percent and Best Buy has dropped 28 percent, both trailing the 39 percent gain for the 32-company Standard & Poor’s 500 Retailing Index. Target shares gained 48 percent in that time.

Big-box retail was born in 1962. That’s the year that Wal- Mart, K-Mart and Target all opened their first large discount stores. As they grew, the new big boxes began offering broad selection and low prices to a growing population of suburbanites who had left the cities in their new cars, searching for their piece of the American Dream.

Big boxes boomed in the go-go 1990s. Fueled by an inflated stock market and loose credit, Americans expanded farther into the suburbs and filled their new homes with appliances and consumer goods, said John Lupo, a retired Wal-Mart executive who now sits on the board of AB Electrolux. The housing boom propelled the big-box retailers into the new millennium. Then came the crash and consumers pulled back.

Conspiring Forces

Other forces are conspiring against the big-box model. Baby Boomers no longer have kids at home and don’t need to stock up on food and packaged goods. Their kids are marrying later and delaying having their own children, meaning fewer are buying houses that need to be updated and furnished.

“Right now you have a trough in the need for big-box retail,” said Bryan Gildenberg, an analyst with the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research firm Kantar Retail.

Hence the rush to open smaller stores. By 2016, Richfield, Minnesota-based Best Buy plans to have as many as 800 Mobile Stores, up from 305 now. It’s part of Chief Executive Officer Brian Dunn’s plan to generate revenue from warranties, accessories and connections between phones, tablets and other electronics.

The increasing emphasis on smaller stores still leaves room for big stores, according to Dunn.

Anytime, Anywhere

“We see those stores as an important part of a network in conjunction with our small-box stores, our online capabilities and our on-phone capabilities that allow customers to reach us anytime, anywhere, anyhow they choose,” he said in a telephone interview. “While I don’t see this as a decline of the big boxes, the multi-channel approach that we are taking will require less square footage.”

Wal-Mart, which is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, is also sticking with big stores. While the company aims to add at least three times as many Neighborhood Markets as in 2011, it plans to add up to 150 supercenters, compared with 122 last year.

“The supercenter is still what works best for us,” said Deisha Galberth Barnett, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. “We will continue to work to grow the presence of supercenters.”

Shoppers’ stampede online is also hurting big-box chains. The biggest beneficiary of that shift is Inc. (AMZN), which is grabbing market share from Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target.

Online Purchases

“The biggest challenge for big boxes is increasing consumer confidence in making online purchases,” said Matt Arnold, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co. in Des Peres, Missouri, who rates Best Buy and Wal-Mart as buys. “Best Buy is arguably more exposed than the Wal-Marts of the world that are heavy in the food, apparel and consumables category. In the case of consumer electronics, it comes down to price.”

If Best Buy and its big-box ilk are to survive, they’ll have to evolve and do a better job of integrating their brick- and-mortar locations with their Web stores, Arnold said.

“While big-box retailers are struggling, they aren’t going away,” Arnold said in a telephone interview. “They are shifting to smaller formats and investing in online retailing.”

See also: Island Breath: Economy of Scale - Little Box Stores 5/3/07 by Juan Wilson published in The Garden Island News .

One size fits all

SUBHEAD: Scientists find billions of habitable planets we can use to replace Earth once we're done with her. By Brian Merchant on 28 March 2012 for TreeHugger - ( Image above: Fat chance! The smaller planets of our solar system are not even close to habitable, the bigger ones less so - and we can't even get back to our own moon. From (

Beware, any blueish loincloth-clad denizens of earth-like planets! We have discovered that your homes exist, and it is only a matter of time before we set out to exploit them for resources, once ours is satisfactorily ground into a smoldering dystopia.

You see, primitive alien race X, our scientists have just discovered that there are likely tens of billions of rocky, potentially life-supporting planets in the Milky Way alone. reports:

There should be billions of habitable, rocky planets around the faint red stars of our Milky Way galaxy, a new study suggests.

Though these alien planets are difficult to detect, and only a few have been discovered so far, they should be ubiquitous, scientists say. And some of them could be good candidates to host extraterrestrial life.

Which is good news for us, since we're on the verge of royally and permanently ruining the presently hospitable climate of the one we live on.

Also, we're cutting down all of our trees and blowing the tops off of all of our mountains at the moment. And in the future, our global elite will surely want a private planet with all of its mountains and trees intact to vacation on, or to sell to other global elites to establish an intergalactic minerals trading hub.

So what good news that there are potentially tens of billions of unspoiled, inhabitable new ones! Totally takes the pressure off of preventing this one from going to shit, you know? See you soon, aliens!

P.S. Just a heads up: Might want to heed the words of Stephen Hawking,

"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet"

... and/or rent some of our better sci-fi films for reference. Cheers!


Climate Impact Day

SUBHEAD: May 5th 2012 - It's time to connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather. By Daniel Kessler on 28 March 2012 for TreeHugger - ( Image above: Screen grab of 5/5/12 Climate Impact Day" action announcement from From ( [IB Editor's note: Nothing much said about human population growth and industrialization as causes and the need to abandon both for the sake of the living planet.] Low Regrets. That's a seemingly benign phrase that appears in a new almost 600 page study on climate change impacts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Low regrets" is used to describe the urgent policy choices that governments should be making now to avoid the worst possible consequences for people and ecosystems from our changing climate.

Such policies are needed now because we've gone so far, so fast--we are at 397 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere when scientists say we use return to a safe level of 350ppm--and our pollution mitigation and climate adaptation strategies are lacking in rigor, seriousness, and imagination. This was the message from Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Institution's department of global ecology and a lead author of the report.

"That's a time frame where most of the climate change that will occur is already baked into the system and where even aggressive climate policies in the short term are not going to have their full effects."

Here are a few key findings from the report:

  • Financial loses in developing countries from climate change disasters were substantially higher than in developed countries, with middle-income countries suffering losses of 1 percent of GDP between 2001 and 2006, compared with 0.1 percent for high-income countries.
  • Natural disasters hit developing countries the hardest--95 percent of all linked deaths between 1970 and 2008 are in these countries.
  • Now is the time to be planning for already in the pipeline consequences of climate change. The IPCC recommends that policy makers look at strategies like early warning systems, preserving ecosystems such as forests and mangroves, and overhauling failing health systems.

At we take these warnings seriously, and we are doing what we can to concentrate the world's attention on connecting the dots between weather disasters and climate change. Join us on May 5 as we launch a "Day of Climate Impacts." We're expecting over 1,000 events around the globe and it's a day you won't want to miss. Find out more at


Perpetual Ocean

SUBHEAD: Computer animation from recent data of Earth's ocean currents is downright hypnotic. By Sara Laskow on 27 March 2012 for Grist Magazine - ( Image above: Still from NASA video below of ocean currents at the 1':21" mark showing Japan in July 2007..

Last year, a group of NASA scientists and animators put together this animation of the world’s ocean surface currents, based on ocean flow data for June 2005 to December 2007. The video starts over the Atlantic, and as the globe rotates, you can see the whorls and waves dancing across the ocean, the relative calm of the Pacific, and the stillness around Antarctica. It’s dazzling an hypnotic. We really should be posting this on a Friday afternoon:

Video above: NASA animation of recent data on ocean currents titled "Perpetual Ocean". From ( The tool NASA used to make the visualization — ECCO2 or Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean — actually has a greater purpose than providing entertainment for stoners. The tool “attempts to model the oceans and sea ice to increasingly accurate resolutions that begins to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow-current systems which transport heat and carbon in the oceans.” In other words, it’s the sort of model that can help scientists understand how carbon concentrations and climate change will affect the planet. It just happens to also look extremely cool.


Smart Meter Injunction

SOURCE: Ray Songtree ( SUBHEAD: In Hawaii a federal injunction helps Kauai re-think "smart" meters, health and democracy. By Penny Apay on 28 March 2012 in After Enlightenment - ( Image above: Naatan Kauakahi in front of meter array at his HUD apartment complex in Lihue. From original article. Sparks are flying on the island paradise of Kauai, Hawaii, with yesterday's serving of summons to appear in Federal Court for possible injunction to halt smart meter installation, received by the Board Directors of the local electric utility, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, (KIUC). The purpose of new wireless ‘smart meters' on all homes and businesses, to replace the existing electric meters, is unclear, because the efficiency has not been demonstrated, while problems with higher rates and sickness have brought protests and lawsuits in many communities.

51 local governments in California alone have issued official statements to delay or criminalize ‘smart meters'. Connecticut Attorney General George Jepson urged his state to reject ‘smart meters' in 2009 because the pilot project showed no savings.

Nataan Kauakahi of Lihue, Kauai is watching the progress of the smart meter injunction here closely. Behind the wall in his HUD apartment is a bank of 8 new wireless ‘smart meters', installed without the account holders' consent . They will be turned on soon, if the injunction against them is not upheld in court.

“These wireless meters emit pulsed microwave radiation many thousand to 190,000 times a day”, Kauakahi said. “But our utility only told us about the 6 daily transmissions back to their base to deliver data. I'm disabled and home all the time. With 8 ‘smart meters' a few feet away, together sending maybe a million pulses every day, year after year, what are chances my health will not be effected?”

In 2007, the Bioinitiative Report was published in which health symptoms appearing in public from exposure to radio frequency (RF), far below FCC safety guidelines, was cataloged. The European Parliament adopted the reccomendations of .

The number of emissions mentioned by Kauakahi, is for the Landys Company ‘smart meter'. This number was hidden from the world's public until California Judge Amy C. Yip-Kikugawa, ordered a report Oct 18, 2011. For years, the incomplete story of only 6 data packages per day has been used by utilities nationally to convince public that ‘smart meters' are benign.

“Somehow there is an agreement between industry and the Dept. of Energy to not share the whole truth” said Ray Songtree of “The roll out of smart meters is actually global and is not due to demand for an excellent proven technology, as it has never been tested. So who organized and pushed this and why have they hidden health risks in all their literature?”

Kauai Resident Marilyn Axtell told the utility Board yesterday, “I am electro-sensitive. Electro-sensitivity is not anecdotal as you have stated.”

Kauakahi told the utility, “ You say, what if you are right and they are harmless? I say, what if you are wrong?”

The health concerns of Radio Frequency (RF) was underscored by the May 31, 2011 World Health Organization classification of RF as a possible class 2b carcinogen along with lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

However, the injunction served at same meeting where Axtell and Kauikahi testifed yesterday was not based on health concern. Privacy and security are the focus.

The plaintiff for the federal injunction prefers not to publicize his name. “I feel threatened by your statements”, he told the Board, moments before his federal lawsuit was served.

According to KauaiEclectic blog, the plaintiff said, “All I want, is for KIUC to honor the sanctity of my home and never attempt to install a ‘smart meter' without my written permission. If the utility agrees to that, the lawsuit will be over.”

Kauai Island Electric Cooperative (KIUC) has changed their policy statements on “opting-out” several times in the past few months. At a December 3, 2011 Board meeting, a unanimous vote supported an “opt-out”, but residents who sent in opt out letters were denied. Then on Feb 15, 2012, KIUC used new words ‘deferred installation'. A month later, at a March 15, 2011 meeting in Kapaa, the coop's CEO David Bissell said that “eventually people who don't want a ‘smart meter' may have their power turned off.” Four days later in a press release he used the words “indefinite deferred installation.”

“The utility is playing word games to trick the public. What they refuse to do is offer a permanent opt-out choice up front,” said Songtree. “Unfortunately our Board is hiding behind many confidentiality agreements so there is isolation and a lack of communication. Remember, this is supposed to be a member owned coop.”

The Kauai Island Utility Coop signed an $11 million federal contract on Sept 28, 2010 for the wireless ‘smart meters'. $5.5 million would come from Federal grant, and $5.5 million from owner/members, but the owner/members of the electric coop have never been shown the terms of contract.

"According to the second principle of our coop, we owner/ members are supposed to have active participation in setting our policies and making decisions.” Says Janet Ashkenazy, another concerned Kauaian.

KIUC Counsel David Proudfoot was asked about how the Coop Principles effect legal status of decisions by Board. He said, “The principles are aspirations, not binding by law.”

Ashkenazy said, “Since the KIUC Board of Directors has never honored the Second Principle of member active participation or other co-op values such as equality, solidarity, and openness, it appears that KIUC is not entitled to its co-op status.”

Christopher Schaefer of Kapaa, Kauai asks, “I wonder what the IRS would think of an electric coop which takes tax breaks but does not function like a coop?”

“Additionally” Ashkenazy said, “KIUC has violated the Cooperative Principle of Education which mandates that it provide necessary information to its members to reach satisfactory decisions. KIUC has failed to provide accurate information about health and privacy problems connected with ‘smart meters', claiming for instance that ‘smart meters' are harmless and do not invade privacy.”

The federal injunction here is all about privacy. The plaintiff has said, “Change the words ‘smart meter' to ‘camera', and it will make it easier to understand where I'm coming from.”

According to 2009 Colorado Report by Elias Leake Quinn , software already now exists to identify any individual home appliance, because every electric device has a unique signature in the way it consumes power. New “smart” appliances with RF chips are coming soon and then, identifying all usage patterns in home with a ‘smart meter' will be automatic. According to Quinn research, some Public Utility Comissions have already given permission and encouraged utilities to share customer information with third parties. Combined with an erosion of constitutional protections, ‘smart meters' appears to some to be a dangerous threat to freedom.

“On Kauai we don't have an anti-smart meter group,” said Songtree. “What we have is very independent people who question ‘smart meters' for health, or privacy, or democratic reasons, and are in touch with each other. The knowledge base takes expression as individual efforts, like this court action, or new websites, or new Facebook pages and many letters to local newspaper.”

“I could be silent no more” said native Hawaiian, Mark Naea, a retired network engineer, who started .

Smart Meters are touching off constitutional sparks in other places besides Kauai. In Napersville Illinois, a similar request for federal injunction against the utility has awakened that community to property rights.

Asked about what they hoped from the federal injunction request for Kauai, Ashkenazy said, “No smart meter roll out and a real Coop.”

Kauakahi said, “Freedom of choice.”

1. Municipalities

2. HUD, without consent

3. California Judge 190,000 emissions/day


A Modest Health Care Proposal

SUBHEAD: A health care system administered by the IRS may seem inhumane, but still better than ObamaCare.  

By Dmitry Orlov on 28 March 2012 for Club Orlov - 

Image above: The Arnold Palmer Hospital Hybrid Cardiac Catheterization Lab combines a fully functional pediatric operating room. From (

The US Supreme Court has taken up the issue of so-called ObamaCare: the controversial plan to extend private health insurance to all citizens, with a stiff tax penalty for those who refuse to purchase private health insurance. I know something about it, since I live in Massachusetts, a state that adopted so-called RomneyCare, after Mitt Romney, who was our governor at the time, and is now running for president. ObamaCare is modeled on RomneyCare.

The Supreme Court wasted a day discussing whether the tax penalty is a tax or a penalty, a distinction that's relevant only in the context of some arcane law concerning the litigation of unjust taxes, but lost on everyone, because the penalty shows up on one's tax bill. This point was discussed ad nauseam, so I will not discuss it or any of the other issues relating to ObamaCare that everyone banters about endlessly. Instead, I will say what no-one is saying: Obamacare (and Romneycare) invalidates the notion of health insurance.

First, let's make sure that we are all clear on the concept of insurance. Insurance is generally taken to mean a promise to pay out a settlement (or coverage) in case of a certain event (fire, flood, sickness), in exchange for a recurring cost (premium) and, usually, a deductible (or self-insurance). Insurers weigh the risk of the event against the amount of the settlement. Thus, if the policy is against your spontaneous combustion, with a risk estimated as 1 chance in a billion per year, and you want to insure yourself for $1 billion, then your premium is $1 per year, plus whatever the insurance company wants to charge you for writing the policy. If, however, you are currently engulfed in flames, then the risk goes up to 100% and the premium would theoretically be $1 billion, same as the settlement, but no insurance company would ever write such a policy because the risk is too high.

Now, health insurance is a strange proposition to start with, because everyone dies, and nobody dies healthy, so most people require medical treatment at some point. (A few people spontaneously combust, I suppose. They are still none too healthy during the few seconds before they die, but that's not long enough for them to avail themselves of medical attention. But that's a very rare case.) The point is, if all houses burned down at some point, there would be no fire insurance, and if all houses flooded at some point, there would be no flood insurance. But everyone dies, and yet there is health insurance. How is that?

ObamaCare introduces the provision that health insurers are not allowed to decline insurance coverage to individuals with pre-existing health conditions. That is equivalent to mandating fire insurance for houses engulfed in flames, or flood insurance for houses slowly sinking while floating downstream. In return, insurance companies are assured that they will be able to spread the risk over the entire population, which will be coerced to purchase their product by being threatened with a stiff tax penalty.

Some coercion is certainly required for people to accept such a faulty product. My family's health insurance bill comes to nearly $15,000 a year, with a $2,500 a year deductible. That is, we have to consume more than $2,500 a year in health care before the insurance pays anything. If I am employed, then the employer has to pay 80% of the premium; if I become unemployed through no fault of my own, then the state picks up the 80% for a few months; after that, I have the option of paying even more for an individual insurance plan, or paying somewhat less for the tax penalty but then risk being bankrupted by a medical emergency.

Recently, I called my insurer to ask how much a certain elective procedure might cost. You see, under this system, the doctor bills the insurer, the ensurer “adjusts” the amount, and then I pay the adjusted amount. I wanted to know the adjusted price beforehand, but I was told that they do not give out this information. The adjustments are generated by an inscrutable computer program, which determines the numbers on the spur of the moment based on a set of formulas. Now, normally I don't do business with companies that refuse to quote a price before I place the order. That's where the tax penalty is most helpful to them: it leaves me no choice but do business with, and get robbed by, this company.

As Vladimir Nabokov once pointed out, nothing breaks the human spirit more effectively than consistent bad treatment. To this end, forcing everyone to navigate an infuriating bureaucratic maze with their very health held at ransom is quite an effective strategy. Another is to force everyone to abide a blatant falsehood, such as calling health insurance “insurance” (now preferring, I notice, the more abstract word “coverage”) whereas it is definitely not insurance at all but a tax. Yet another is to force people to make false choices, such as between Romney, author of RomneyCare, and Obama, author of ObamaCare, which are very similar. At this point, the American spirit seems very well broken, along with the economy and the political system, and I do not advise you to squander your precious energies in trying to fix the latter two. I do, however, recommend that you mend your spirit, and stop thinking it necessary to abide a falsehood: health insurance is not insurance.

What is it then? “Insurance” that everybody is forced to buy as a legal precondition of citizenship? Where the risk pool includes the entire country? Where compliance is enforced by a federal agency, the Internal Revenue Service? (But where, if one does comply, the money goes to private entities, to pay other private entities.) What is that? Why, of course, it's a private tax collection service! Under ObamaCare, medical insurance companies become private tax collectors. Now, private tax collectors are not unprecedented in the annals of empire. The Roman senate bid tax collection contracts out to publicans, with mixed results: farmers often opted to abandon their land rather than farm it and have the grain confiscated to pay taxes. But ObamaCare takes private tax collection one step further: under it, the tax collectors not only collect the taxes, but also set the level of taxation as they see fit. That is, the medical “insurance” companies are allowed determine the “health tax.”

What makes this complex scheme of private tax collection so necessary? Its benefits include maximizing health industry profits, which can be recycled as electoral campaign contributions to elected officials who then protect the prerogatives of the health industry, keeping this private tax collection scheme running smoothly. But none of these benefits have much to do with keeping the population healthy. On the other hand, it creates a massive perverse incentive to maximize health care costs, while at the same time institutionalizing a private system of public robbery.
I therefore propose that the health tax be collected
directly by the Internal Revenue Service.
Furthermore, in absence of any competent agency within the US that could be charged with administering a public health care system, I propose that health care be directly funded by the Internal Revenue Service as well, as part of an integrated strategy for maximizing tax revenue: the “Keep American Taxpayer Healthy” plan.

The unambiguous mandate of the IRS is to maximize tax revenues. This it will do by making sure that taxpayers are healthy, so that they can earn the maximum of income and pay the maximum of income tax. It will make it a priority to provide good health care to all children, who are IRS's “seed stock”—the taxpayers of the future. It will also make sure that the health needs of the working-age population are attended to, to make sure that they continue to work, earn, and pay taxes. It will also provide palliative care to the retirees, to keep up the morale, but certainly nothing as lavish as what is available to them now. Since their tax-paying potential is negligible, keeping them alive as long as possible is not a priority from a tax revenue maximization perspective.

Not being specialists in the medical field, but realizing that basic and preventive care have the highest health care ROI and specialist care the lowest, the IRS would probably want to dramatically simplify health care delivery. Huge hospitals and medical centers, with their teams of specialists, support staff, swarms of administrators, billing departments, medical labs, intensive care units and MRI machines, are too complex for the IRS to even audit, never mind administer effectively. It is far simpler to establish neighborhood clinics, and to provide them with a fixed fee per patient per year, to spend in line with the overall mandate.

Provisions would be made for some number of specialists, probably shared between clinics, but with the understanding that, from a tax revenue perspective, specialist care reaches diminishing returns rather quickly. For instance, a triple coronary bypass is hard to justify financially, because the patient's earning potential, even after a full recovery, usually does not cover the cost of the operation.

Also, the IRS might consider actually denying health care to rich people (those with net worth over $5 million) in order for the treasury to reap the windfall from estate taxes when they die. Such people (Mitt Romney is a good example) rarely pay their fair share of tax in any case, being able to hire accountants and lawyers, who exploit every possible loophole. And so, there shouldn't be any free heart transplants for Dick or free brain transplants for George.

Having the health care system administered by the Internal Revenue Service may seem rather inhumane to you. However, I hope I have succeeded in pointing out that doing so would still work better than ObamaCare. This health care system is so bad that improving it is not any sort of challenge at all: I submit to you that even the IRS would do a better job of it.

KIUC Election Analysis

SUBHEAD: It is gonna be a long year. But the ʻgood guysʻ will be able to pick out and win something every now and then. By Jonathan Jay on 28 March 2012 for P2P Kauai - ( Image above: Election chart of 2012 KIUC Board of Directors election results. From Jonathan Jay.

KIUC vot­ers have made their views clear — ALL THREE of the newly elected Direc­tors strongly sup­port an Opt-OUT pol­icy for smart meters.

This is a sea-change from the pre­vi­ous Bissel-led & board-supported posi­tion of “like it or lump it” where the new meters were seem­ingly intended to be crammed down peopleʻs throats — Penalty fees, re-occurring monthly fines, and even the threat of cut­ting off power were all floated by CEO David “bring it on” Bissel.

Now, with a “New Major­ity” on the BOD, per­haps a new era of com­mu­nity coop­er­a­tion vs. cor­po­rate antag­o­nism shall begin where KIUC begins to work with the mem­bers, com­mu­nity and island of Kaua‘i. Way to get out there and VOTE, Kaua‘i! When Kauai speaks clearly, change is just around the corner!

With 7,145 valid ballots submitted, and the largest field of candidates eve running for office, 2012 was the third largest voter turnout in a KIUC Board of Director election in the history of the Co-op, and saw an increase of 15.4% over last year. Not bad, Kauai! Especially since Andy Parxʻs notion of a "huge" get out the vote effort is utter fiction -- unless you think a half dozen people with some xeroxed flyers is "huge". See ( [IB editor's note: Yesterday Ray Songtree commented on Andy's article (posted on our site) that: "(He) was told yesterday, by KIUC counsel David Proudfoot, that the law defines KIUC as an entity governed by board, and that principles of cooperatives listed by KIUC are only aspirations."] The real take away from this truly modest effort is that even small, disorganized, fume-funded efforts can have substantial impact on this ʻsmall pondʻ of Kauai. As you can see from the graph below, even a small nudge in the right direction means a lot when only 64 votes separates new Director Pat Gegen from Ex-Director Steve Rapozo. Thanks to Gary Hooser, Apollo Kauai and everyone else who helped make the difference! Now, Just think what a truly well organized and reasonably funded effort could produce! The bad news is that even with two new progressives on the board, Tefilio Tacbian was still able to count to five - and five is still the magic number in the zero-sum game of power politics on a nine person board. The old Chairman of the Board dethroned? Not hardly! Please join me in welcoming the New Chair... Tefilio Tacbian! Sigh. It is gonna be a long year. The ʻgood guysʻ will be able to pick off something every now and then, but the good people of Kauai will have to come forward again 12 months from now to drive in one more run, and seal the deal for progress. Until then, IMUA!


Death of Entertainment Industry

SUBHEAD: That this may be the least of our concerns in the near future, but that's kind of the point. By Ashvin Pandurangi on 28 March 2012 for the Automatic Earth - ( Image above: Detail for packaging for "NBA2K12" basketball video game produced by IGN that sells for about $50. From (

There are things that many people in the developed world take for granted, especially in the states and Western Europe. Jobs, health benefits, social safety nets, affordable credit for homes/cars/etc. and cheap energy certainly rank among the most vital expectations, but even those things have been called into question within the mainstream consciousness, if for no other reason than the fact that they have simply evaporated in many locations. What hasn't really disappeared, though, are the [mindless] entertainment industries - i.e. sports, movies and video games.

When is the last time you were around a person or group of people who were discussing the latest trends in the sports world and their predictions for how a team was going to perform next year, or the year after that? How about someone who was talking about a great movie he/she just saw and how they can't wait for the sequel to come out? Or, for the younger crowd, perhaps you were listening to someone talk about how realistic the latest game for XBOX360 looks. In my generation, we have the pleasure of being surrounded by discussion of all three at the same time.

These are not unintelligent or completely uninformed people, either. They may be well aware of the fact that Western economies are swirling down toilet bowls and that the world faces a whole range of intractable energy/environmental issues (although, they usually convince themselves that it's really not THAT bad). Still, no matter how informed they are, they refuse to stop talking about the entertainment culture as if it will keep chugging along as it always has, no matter what happens between now and the end of the world as we know it.

That is despite the fact that many of these industries are struggling just as much as your typical financial, manufacturing or retail business. Just last year it was entirely unclear whether the NFL and NBA (American professional football and basketball, respectively) would even be able to schedule any games for the season, as the players and owners could not agree on how much each faction would get of a still large, yet rapidly dwindling pie of profits. Those issues were finally resolved at the last minute, but it's safe to say that they will be returning with a vengeance in short order. As it is, many sports fans get depressed for days after their team loses a big game.

One can only imagine the post-traumatic stress that will envelop the average sports-loving American when his/her team is lost in the depths of credit collapse for all time, forever more. Whatever will the die-hard professional sports fans do when they have to go without games for an entire season...or two, or three?? Let's just say that I would not want to be living in New York or L.A. when the Knicks and Lakers go down for the count, and most definitely not in Oakland when the Raiders get raided by their creditors.

The movie industry is no better, and has already been hit quite hard since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008. Movie studios require a certain amount of funding upfront before they can give the thumbs up for expensive productions to get underway or to continue, and those are funds that simply aren't available for many of the studios right now, including relatively large ones. For every fancy, whiz-bang movie that comes out into theatres these days, there are perhaps dozens of others that were downsized, terminated or put on hold indefinitely.

How will the dedicated moviegoers feel when the only thing playing at the local cinema is some B-rated picture with no-name actors and cheap special effects, or when the sequel to their favorite blockbuster movie of last Summer simply doesn't come out? The New York Times reports on this deepening trend as is it relates to one the popular studios - DreamWorks:

Will Dreamworks be able to line up new financing when movies are struggling

Behind the scenes, however, executives at DreamWorks and its partners are quietly opening discussions that in the next few months will determine its future and answer a broader question about the state of Hollywood: Can a faltering film industry sustain a company that insists on making ambitious, Oscar-caliber, studio-size films - but without the deep pockets of a Viacom, which owns Paramount Pictures, or a News Corp., the parent of 20th Century Fox?DreamWorks is now in the ticklish position of having nearly exhausted its first round of financing, which included $325 million in equity from Reliance, and a matching $325 million in lending from banks led by J. P. Morgan Securities. An original plan called for more from each, but the struggles of the national economy brought the investment up short. Now, DreamWorks is left to line up new financing at a time when movies are struggling.

Over the years, small, independently financed companies - some with their own distribution mechanisms, others, like DreamWorks, without - have generated hits, only to disappear or be merged into larger corporations. Miramax Films was acquired by Disney after releasing "The Crying Game," a box-office success and best picture nominee; Disney has since sold the unit. Summit Entertainment was recently sold to Lions Gate; Summit investors saw the end of their blockbuster "Twilight" series as a prime moment to cash out.

For smaller film companies, the hunger for capital is a perennial problem. Making a studio-level film can require an immediate investment of $100 million or more. But even the hits pay back their investors slowly, over a cycle that may last as long as 10 years, as movies are sold successively in theaters, on DVDs, to Internet streaming and cable television services and so on.

Attendance at North American movie theaters hit a 16-year low last year. DVD sales continue to drop. Although some emerging overseas markets are picking up steam, Europe and other important sales territories are uneven. And there are no indications of an immediate reversal of the trends.

Perhaps the most disappointment will be felt by the younger generations (by this, I mean all the way up to 30 years old), who will not only miss out on their favorite sporting events and movies, but will also have to live without ever-advancing gaming consoles and video games. The fact is that it's already a couple hundred bucks to get your hands on the latest console, and another fifty bucks a pop for the latest games that go with them.

Most middle to upper-middle class parents cannot afford to keep up with this expense of their children for much longer, and most young adults cannot even come close, as they find themselves unemployed and swamped with debt. What will these idle youths do when they are priced out of the gaming market and/or they can't even find a single "Game" left in town? Helia Ebrahimi reports for the Telegraph:

Game to shut 277 UK stores and cut up to 2,500 jobs

The decision will also spark a temporary ban on all gift vouchers at the store, which sells PlayStation and Xbox videos.Game suffered a dismal Christmas and was later forced to ask suppliers for more generous trading terms. However, many stopped supplying it with new releases, such as Mass Effect 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken, leaving fans disappointed and adding to the group's trading woes.

Game – the struggling computer games retailer – was put into administration this morning after failing to reach a rescue deal over the weekend. It will now close half the UK portfolio of shops – focusing its efforts on saving the remaining 333 UK stores for a possible deal over the next week.

"We just need a bit more time to push the deal over the line," said administrator Mike Jervis of PwC.

"There is a huge amount of complexity in the Game situation, because of the technology involved and the extent of the overseas portfolio."

The chain, which employs 385 staff at its headquarters in Basingstoke, Hampshire, and around 5,100 in its UK stores, has suffered dire trading in recent months, while some suppliers refused to stock the retailer as its worsening finances came under increased scrutiny.

RBS is leading a "lender-led offer" that would see a debt-for-equity swap for the portfolio of shops. However, sources said that this remained a "Plan B option" with all lenders preferring to see a deal struck with a third party.

Game agreed fresh lending facilities with banks last month and began seeking access to alternative sources of funding earlier this month.

The group has already signalled that losses for the year to the end of January are likely to be around £18m.

These are just the first cracks in a rapidly widening chasm that will eventually swallow up entire entertainment industries whole, along with the advertising and retail jobs/revenues that rely on them. The somewhat ironic and sad thing of it is, I engage in quite a few casual conversations about sports and movies with my friends, even though I know it's a fleeting and, ultimately, unimportant dialogue. I wonder to myself, what will life be like when all of the live broadcasts and the new releases and the playoffs and the fantasy leagues come to an end, and we are left to entertain ourselves with music, books and, if we're lucky, plays?

Yes, I do realize that this may be the least of our concerns in the near future, but that's kind of the point - it's all part and parcel of a broader story of dashed expectations, forced losses and psychosocial meltdown. It is the way in which economic collapse metastacizes in all the organs of a cultural society. When multiple generations around the world would rather go without food for a day than the season-ticketed event or the latest computer/video game, and may be forced to go without all three, you know we are in for rough times ahead.