Saturday, May 31, 2008

Speaking of 3rd Rails - Legitimizing Marijuana

In today's NYTimes online;
Medical marijuana is legal in California, but federal law still bans sales. Amid the uncertainty that this creates — including the occasional raid by federal agents — a full-fledged industry has blossomed, taking in about $2 billion a year and generating $100 million in state sales taxes, CNBC reported.

Setting up a clinic “can cost as much as a hundred grand,” Ms. Wells reports. The equipment, the cuttings from which plants are grown and office space all tend to be expensive. And from there, the costs only grow, mostly in the form of legal fees. Many clinics keep lawyers on retainer.

Nonetheless, “this is the business model of the future,” says JoAnna La Force of Farmacy, an herbal remedy shop in Southern California. Ms. LaForce says her business is close to breaking even (
The business model of the future won't just be about folks in California who want to self-medicate or even just to get high, rather, it'll be about locally cultivated and utilized Food, Fuel, and Fibre.

Energy - THE Political Third Rail

OK, so this one comes directly out of the twilight zone. I can't believe I missed it last week, but then again, it WAS strategically placed in the Religion section of the Sunday Washington Post. James Howard Kunstler was one of the first non-petroleum hitters to write a book and participate in a documentary intended to colorfully and accessibly communicate the challenges aborning from Peak Oil.

Wake Up, America. We're Driving Toward Disaster
Everywhere I go these days, talking about the global energy predicament on the college lecture circuit or at environmental conferences, I hear an increasingly shrill cry for "solutions." This is just another symptom of the delusional thinking that now grips the nation, especially among the educated and well-intentioned.

I say this because I detect in this strident plea the desperate wish to keep our "Happy Motoring" utopia running by means other than oil and its byproducts. But the truth is that no combination of solar, wind and nuclear power, ethanol, biodiesel, tar sands and used French-fry oil will allow us to power Wal-Mart, Disney World and the interstate highway system -- or even a fraction of these things -- in the future. We have to make other arrangements.

The public, and especially the mainstream media, misunderstands the "peak oil" story. It's not about running out of oil. It's about the instabilities that will shake the complex systems of daily life as soon as the global demand for oil exceeds the global supply. These systems can be listed concisely:

The way we produce food

The way we conduct commerce and trade

The way we travel

The way we occupy the land

The way we acquire and spend capital

And there are others: governance, health care, education and more.
So those are the facts and they comprise a lot of the grist we mill hereabouts.

In any discussion of political "third rail" issues, it's meet and right to talk about the climate setting that takes place in the mainstream media, given the media's role in defining normative discourse. I mean, there's gotta be a reason they call it "mainstream" right? Kunstler goes there, and I guess thereby provided the WaPo with all the reason it needed to bury this column in its religion section;
Years ago, U.S. negotiators at a U.N. environmental conference told their interlocutors that the American lifestyle is "not up for negotiation." This stance is, unfortunately, related to two pernicious beliefs that have become common in the United States in recent decades. The first is the idea that when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. (Oprah Winfrey advanced this notion last year with her promotion of a pop book called "The Secret," which said, in effect, that if you wish hard enough for something, it will come to you.) One of the basic differences between a child and an adult is the ability to know the difference between wishing for things and actually making them happen through earnest effort.

The companion belief to "wishing upon a star" is the idea that one can get something for nothing. This derives from America's new favorite religion: not evangelical Christianity but the worship of unearned riches. (The holy shrine to this tragic belief is Las Vegas.) When you combine these two beliefs, the result is the notion that when you wish upon a star, you'll get something for nothing. This is what underlies our current fantasy, as well as our inability to respond intelligently to the energy crisis.

These beliefs also explain why the presidential campaign is devoid of meaningful discussion about our energy predicament and its implications. The idea that we can become "energy independent" and maintain our current lifestyle is absurd. So is the gas-tax holiday. (Which politician wants to tell voters on Labor Day that the holiday is over?) The pie-in-the-sky plan to turn grain into fuel came to grief, too, when we saw its disruptive effect on global grain prices and the food shortages around the world, even in the United States. In recent weeks, the rice and cooking-oil shelves in my upstate New York supermarket have been stripped clean.
So here's our catch-22 in all its bizarre magnificence. Because it's been ignored, and all mainstream policy and praxis, including corporate for-profit policy and praxis has been driven in the absence of knowledge about Peak Oil, everyone is essentially unprepared for the massive changes at hand.

Because no one is prepared to deal, nobody of consequence in the public sphere is empowered to responsibly broach the central issue facing the American polity, i.e., the end of the era of cheap energy and all that that entails for the end of the American "way of life". Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar, but you're gonna catch unheard of political hell if you're a presidential candidate and you try to light that bad boy up in a public space.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Kent WA Joins the $4.00 Gas Club

Courtesy Big Don - Today in Kent Washington


Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser, said that the pro-Israel lobby in the US was too powerful, while the slur of anti-Semitism was too readily used whenever its power was called into question.

Presenting a solution for the Middle East, he listed historical compromises that had to be made by Israelis and Palestinians but accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) – the largest and most influential Jewish lobby group – of obstructing peace efforts.

He said: "Aipac has consistently opposed a two-state solution and a lot of members of Congress have been intimidated and I don't think that's healthy." Full Monty in the UK Telegraph.

Father Pfleger

Obama said he was "deeply disappointed" by Pfleger's comments. "As I have traveled this country, I've been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that unites us," he said in a statement. "That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger's divisive, backward looking rhetoric, which doesn't reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause."

Where is the Outrage?

Robert Scheer at TruthDig; Are we Americans truly savages or merely tone-deaf in matters of morality, and therefore more guilty of terminal indifference than venality? It’s a question demanding an answer in response to the publication of the detailed 370-page report on U.S. complicity in torture, issued last week by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

Because the report was widely cited in the media and easily accessed as a pdf file on the Internet, it is fair to assume that those of our citizens who remain ignorant of the extent of their government’s commitment to torture as an official policy have made a choice not to be informed. A less appealing conclusion would be that they are aware of the heinous acts fully authorized by our president but conclude that such barbarism is not inconsistent with that American way of life that we celebrate.[...]

Evidently the FBI’s long history in such matters had led to a protocol that stressed gaining the confidence of witnesses rather than terrorizing them into madness. But an insane prisoner is the one most likely to tell this president of the United States what he wants to hear: They hate us for our values.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Global Rorschachian

In english Al-Ahram, Gamal Nkrumah writes one of the strangest, most disjoint assessments of a political figure that I've ever seen. It's a mess which perfectly exemplifies the unique rorschachian qualities that Baraka Obamamandius brings to the face of global hegemony.
Barack Obama is a deft politician. He makes sure that all and sundry understand that there is much to be gained from peering into the deep recesses of his mind. Obama is not, contrary to what many of his detractors would have us believe, about obscurantism. There is a world of difference between an obscurantist attitude and a multifaceted and manifold mind.

There is nothing nebulous about Obama. He is also a heart-throb with a head for political foresight. He is not about entertaining his audience, as many American politicians, particularly black ones, have been prone to do. The phenomenon of a magnetic politician driving America in a new direction is nothing new. Comparisons have been made between Obama and John F Kennedy. However, steering America away from the warpath is no walkover task, as the latter learned the hard way.

However, the political climate in America today appears to be ready for change, even though those who espouse anachronistic opinions hold out.
"...And during the few moments that we have left, we want to have just an off-the-cuff chat between you and me -- us. We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand."

"Ask not what your country can do for you"

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Cult of Personality

Global Scenario Planning

From the dystopian management consulting files, i.e., the stories used to rationalize operational changes, rather than the substantive changes in how we do what we do, "Future scenarios is intended to help both policy makers and activists come to terms with the end of the era of growth."

While the end of growth is so unthinkable to many policy makers and economists that they use the term ‘negative-growth’, we now face less and less available energy each year, coupled with a destabilized climate. The simultaneous onset of climate change and the peaking of global oil supply represent unprecedented challenges for human civilisation. Each limits the effective options for responses to the other.

Future Scenarios uses a scenario planning framework to bring to life the likely cultural, political, agricultural and economic implications of peak oil and climate change. Scenario planning uses stories about the future as a reference point for imagining how particular strategies and structures might thrive, fail or be transformed. Future Scenarios depicts four very different futures. Each is a permutation of mild or destructive climate change, combined with either slow or severe energy declines. Scenarios range from the relatively benign Green Tech to the near catastrophic Lifeboats scenario.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cerritos Joins the $4.00 Gas Club

Courtesy Rembom - May 28, 2008, at Bloomfield and Artesia, in Cerritos, CA

The Genetic Determinism Open Thread

quoth Big Don;
You can't debate with folks who won't even believe mountains of undisputed peer-reviewed research and related supporting statistics from a multitude of respected sources that all point to the same conclusions.
responded Submariner;
What exactly are those conclusions? Do they confirm preexisting bias on the part of the investigator or advance the agenda of the study's underwriter? Are the categories value laden or truly random assignments, like one's Zodiac sign, which don't confer or denote advantage?
Now somewhere in there, I got in it for half a hot second. Okay, twice actually and once with an uncivil dose of mean-spirited ridicule, not exactly a gracious host. My bad. Everytime I try to get out, they pull me back in!!!

quoth rembom, "Ah'm yo huckleberry";
BD, 17,000 goes to basic principles, combinatoric explosions, and such. Pretty anyone who has done even a modicum of homework on the fundamentals of the theories at issue with this genetic determinacy of yours.

What is to be said of people who are provably mistaken, and yet actively resist knowledge or understanding of the proof? I call that willfully ignorant. If you want to call it ad hominem, I suggest you look the word up.
So here's where we're at. If you search eugenics or IQ on this blog, you'll pull up pretty much the lion's share of my thoughts on the subject. I'm not really feeling the urge to debate what for all intents and purposes, (my intents and purposes at least), is a settled matter. However, since the spirit seems to be moving folks, I thought I'd go ahead and dedicate a post and associated open comment thread to scrip-a-scrapping about the heritability of IQ.

I'm going to stay out of it. My point of departure on this theme was nicely summed up by the autocratic Abiola Lapite. Four of whose treatments of the issue;
Genetic Determinism
Population Genetics
Quantitative Traits
IQ Genes
I linked in a post last year - at the peak of my own multi-front debates on the subject. If you feel so moved to enter the fray, and you're more than welcome to bring reinforcements, by all means do so here, on this thread, dedicated to that purpose.

Iran Air Strike by August?

Rumors of the impending attack on Iran have been rife for three years now. Here's the latest in Tuesday's Asia Times online.

The George W Bush administration plans to launch an air strike against Iran within the next two months, an informed source tells Asia Times Online, echoing other reports that have surfaced in the media in the United States recently.

Two key US senators briefed on the attack planned to go public with their opposition to the move, according to the source, but their projected New York Times op-ed piece has yet to appear.

The source, a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community, speaking anonymously, said last week that that the US plans an air strike against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The air strike would target the headquarters of the IRGC's elite Quds force. With an estimated strength of up to 90,000 fighters, the Quds' stated mission is to spread Iran's revolution of 1979 throughout the region.

Targets could include IRGC garrisons in southern and southwestern Iran, near the border with Iraq. US officials have repeatedly claimed Iran is aiding Iraqi insurgents. In January 2007, US forces raided the Iranian consulate general in Erbil, Iraq, arresting five staff members, including two Iranian diplomats it held until November. Last September, the US Senate approved a resolution by a vote of 76-22 urging President George W Bush to declare the IRGC a terrorist organization. Following this non-binding "sense of the senate" resolution, the White House declared sanctions against the Quds Force as a terrorist group in October. The Bush administration has also accused Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program, though most intelligence analysts say the program has been abandoned.

An attack on Iraq would fit the Bush administration's declared policy on Iraq. Administration officials questioned directly about military action against Iran routinely assert that "all options remain on the table".

Worldwide Energy Costs Increased $6 TRILLION by War in Iraq

The invasion of Iraq by Britain and the US has trebled the price of oil, according to a leading expert, costing the world a staggering $6 trillion in higher energy prices alone.

The oil economist Dr Mamdouh Salameh, who advises both the World Bank and the UN Industrial Development Organisation (Unido), told The Independent on Sunday that the price of oil would now be no more than $40 a barrel, less than a third of the record $135 a barrel reached last week, if it had not been for the Iraq war.

He spoke after oil prices set a new record on 13 consecutive days over the past two weeks. They have now multiplied sixfold since 2002, compared with the fourfold increase of the 1973 and 1974 "oil shock" that ended the world's long postwar boom.

Goldman Sachs predicted last week that the price could rise to an unprecedented $200 a barrel over the next year, and the world is coming to terms with the idea that the age of cheap oil has ended, with far-reaching repercussions on their activities.

Dr Salameh, director of the UK-based Oil Market Consultancy Service, and an authority on Iraq 's oil, said it is the only one of the world's biggest producing countries with enough reserves substantially to increase its flow.

Production in eight of the others -- the US, Canada, Iran, Indonesia, Russia, Britain, Norway and Mexico -- has peaked, he says, while China and Saudia Arabia, the remaining two, are nearing the point at of decline. Before the war, Saddam Hussein's regime pumped some 3.5 million barrels of oil a day, but this had now fallen to just two million barrels.

Dr Salameh told the all-party parliamentary group on peak oil last month that Iraq had offered the United States a deal, three years before the war, that would have opened up 10 new giant oil fields on "generous" terms in return for the lifting of sanctions. "This would certainly have prevented the steep rise of the oil price," he said. "But the US had a different idea. It planned to occupy Iraq and annex its oil."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gas Jacking?

So a month ago, it was about construction site and abandoned house copper jackings. Now it's down to straight up gas jackings. I don't mean the tried and true drive-offs no, that's a dignified old-school method for uncompensated fuel appropriation.

And it's not about siphoning either. With locked caps and sensor balls in the tank, those are increasingly difficult to accomplish. This new maneuver is straight out of the methhead's cookbook of high-risk, low thought, low yield hardscrabble crime and criminality. Gas thieves puncture tanks, steal fuel; SUVs easier targets;
"What made this particular method so dangerous and concerning for us was the way in which they were doing it — using cordless drills to puncture holes in these tanks," he said of the rash of cases his department has investigated this spring. "The heat, friction generated could have easily sparked a fire. It just made for a dangerous situation for the suspects and the community."

Tank puncturing has yet to reach the radar screens of law enforcement organizations such as the National Sheriffs' Association, or the Automotive Service Association, a group that represents independent garage operators.
If you're still rolling around in a big old gas guzzling truck, best to check underneath on the regular and keep your eyes peeled for scurvy looking types roaming the neighborhood with gas cans....,

ExxonMobile Shareholder Activism

So I've been tracking the theme of responsible corporate governance for a minute or two. Starting with the hopeless, let's boycott ExxonMobile hoax, on to the Rockefeller family shareholder resolutions, and then the likely real threat to reptilian supremacy in the executive suite, bounty-hunting trial lawyers.

Wednesday is showtime, when the potentially rancorous shareholder meeting will take place in Dallas. Comes now to the fray a new entrant, this one on the side of the dragons vs the would be dragon-slayers;
It could be the nuclear option to silence rebellious investors. A libertarian activist has hit back at ExxonMobil's environmental critics by tabling a resolution that would outlaw shareholder social activism.

The Free Enterprise Action Fund, which controls $11m (£5.5m) of assets, has proposed amending Exxon's articles of association to prevent the oil company's shareholders from putting forward advisory resolutions at annual meetings.

The fund's managing partner, Steven Milloy, opposes a coalition led by the Rockefeller family that is calling on Exxon to pay more attention to global warming. "They're not bona fide shareholders," Milloy says. "They're not shareholders who are invested in Exxon because they think it's a good investment - they're shareholders who want to use Exxon to advance their social and political agenda."
Libertarian? Not so much. Looks for all the world to me like a corporate political action committee - which instead of working the public polity, is focused on political action within the ranks of voting shareholders. Interestingly, the Fraternal Order of Police has also sided with the reptilians, as well;
The National Fraternal Order of Police, which represents public safety officers who have pensions invested in Exxon Mobil, has publicly opposed the shareholder effort to change company policy.

"By splitting the jobs of chairman and chief executive officer, by imposing rigid, ideologically based conditions on the company's future operations," the organization wrote in a letter to Tillerson, the reform effort "would hamstring Exxon Mobil's profitability and growth."
Law and order every time....,

Warsocialism and the Price of Oil

Oil Wars - Not only are the raging wars in the Middle East responsible for energy price inflation, they are also responsible for price inflation of many other commodities, especially grains and other foodstuff, whose production and transportation depend on fuel. According to the World Bank, food prices have more than doubled over the past three years. The price of rice, the staple for billions of Asians, is up 147% over the past year alone. The mounting food prices have caused hunger and deadly violence in many countries, including Haiti, Egypt, Thailand, Indonesia, Senegal, and Malaysia.[...]

Neoconservative forces in and around the Bush administration and beneficiaries of war dividends—wishing to deflect attention away from war as the main culprit for the skyrocketing energy prices—tend to blame secondary or marginally relevant factors: OPEC, China and India for their increased demand for energy, or supply-demand imbalances in global markets.[...]

It is not surprising, then, that many elected officials with input or voting power in the process of the appropriation of the Pentagon budget find themselves in the pocket of defense contractors. Neither is it surprising that these dubious relationships should serve as breeding grounds for the near legendary levels of waste, inefficiency, and corruption that surround the military-industrial-congressional complex.

Two major conclusions follow from this discussion. The first is that, as pointed out earlier, war and political instability in the Middle East are the major driving forces behind the soaring price of oil; and that, therefore, to contain or reverse the rising trend of energy prices requires bringing U.S. troops home. The second conclusion is that achievement of this goal, the goal of ending U.S. wars of aggression, is possible only if (a) money or profits are taken out of war, and (b) money is taken out of elections.


Came across a very interesting group blog this weekend, called we can do better. The post quoted here is a translation of a french news story about the U.S. housing foreclosure crisis. With amazement in his voice, the French newsreader announces the gruesome details of homelessness in the United States: "During the US election campaign the number of evictions continues to rise, even to double, as the credit crisis affects more and more people. In the American way, unfeelingly, the bailiffs arrive, put the furniture on the footpath, and the only thing left for the evicted families is their eyes to weep with."

A woman interviewee says, "When I telephoned the credit society, they said, "Well, if you can no longer pay, just leave the keys for us and go outside."

But finally people are beginning to revolt against these insane impositions by their mere fellows in a financial system which is no longer serving the community!

Although so many more people are returning their keys, they are first "meticulously vandalising" the houses they are forced to leave. "Systematic destruction of walls, toilets, electrical wiring, decorations - they destroy everything, with rage in their hearts to avenge themselves."

A bailiff describes his experience: "We have found toilets destroyed by sledge-hammers. People have disemboweled pipes to make them leak; they have cut the wires to the air-conditioners and pulled wiring out of the light fittings."

And it's working: these vandalised properties become unsaleable, even at half-price. Of course this means that cancelling mortgages is costing the banks a lot of money. So now they have begun to pay people bonds if they leave their houses in good condition.

Commentary from newsreader: "Yet the simple solution of renegotiating credit simply doesn't seem to occur to anyone!"

Report based on "Etats-Unis : la crise des subprimes poussent les Américains à quitter leur maison et parfois à la saccager" 20h15m32s, from France2 News 25-5-08, 20h15m32s

Monday, May 26, 2008

Military Theoconservatism

The Yurica Report has done yoeman's work for several years detailing the extent to which dominionism has infiltrated and infected the U.S. armed services. This past week, there was a local story detailing what it can be like, on the ground.

An atheist soldier from Fort Riley says his higher-ups in Iraq didn’t like his non-Christian ways.

Army Spc. Jeremy Hall did two tours in Iraq, saw his share of fire and came back in one piece. Too bad he needs a bodyguard to keep his fellow soldiers from attacking him now that he's back in the States.[...]

Fort Riley command, worried that Hall was in danger of being attacked by one of the more fervent Christian soldiers, has sometimes assigned him a guard to accompany him on and off the base.

Hall's lawsuit doesn't ask for money. Eye says Hall's main goal is to prod the military to issue an order that forbids soldiers from discriminating or persecuting non-Christians. "You can't use someone's atheism or religious beliefs as a means to judge their performance. I don't for a moment anticipate the Christian dominionist faction is going to change their views because of that, but I would expect that the chain of command still means something."

What Buffett Said.....,

First, there's the small matter of the credit crisis; Blame for the sub-prime crisis lies at the feet of banks who took too many risks in mortgage lending, U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffett told newspaper El Pais in an interview published on Sunday.

"The banks exposed themselves too much, they took on too much risk .... It's their fault. There's no need to blame anyone else," he said.

Then secondly, the severity of the pending economic depression; The United States is already in a recession and it will be longer as well as deeper than many people expect, U.S. investor Warren Buffett said in an interview published in German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday.

He said the United States was "already in recession" and added: "Perhaps not in the sense that economists would define it" with two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

"But the people are already feeling the effects," said Buffett, the world's richest man. "It will be deeper and last longer than many think." What's most important is the fact that he's now embarked on an acquisition campaign outside the U.S.. His comments on the lack of effective regulation of business within the U.S. were most telling; Buffett also renewed his criticism of derivatives trading.

"It's not right that hundreds of thousands of jobs are being eliminated, that entire industrial sectors in the real economy are being wiped out by financial bets even though the sectors are actually in good health."

Buffett complained about the lack of effective controls.

"That's the problem," he said. "You can't steer it, you can't regulate it anymore. You can't get the genie back in the bottle."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oil Transforms Siberia

It is Oilers' Day in the western Siberian province of Khanty-Mansi. This annual holiday, honoring the hard labor of the oil workers, the neftyaniki, falls early in September, after the worst of the summer mosquito season and before the first snowfall, in October. Hours earlier, as daylight faded, thousands crowded into a huge outdoor sports complex. A stage was framed by a deep-green backdrop of unbroken forest. Balloons were released, torches were lit, and a troupe belted out a song:

There is only one joy for us,
And this is all we need,
To wash our faces in the new oil,
Of the drilling rig.

Little wonder Russians are toasting oil: These are boom times. Global oil prices have increased tenfold since 1998, and Russia has pulled ahead of Saudi Arabia as the world's top crude oil producer. The Kremlin's budget now overflows with funds for new schools, roads, and national defense projects, and Moscow's nouveau riche are plunking down millions of dollars for mansion-scale "dachas." Interesting article in the June National Geographic.

Fear Transforms America

Convinced the planet's oil supply is dwindling and the world's economies are heading for a crash, some people around the country are moving onto homesteads, learning to live off their land, conserving fuel and, in some cases, stocking up on guns they expect to use to defend themselves and their supplies from desperate crowds of people who didn't prepare.

The exact number of people taking such steps is impossible to determine, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the movement has been gaining momentum in the last few years.

These energy survivalists are not leading some sort of green revolution meant to save the planet. Many of them believe it is too late for that, seeing signs in soaring fuel and food prices and a faltering U.S. economy, and are largely focused on saving themselves.

Some are doing it quietly, giving few details of their preparations — afraid that revealing such information as the location of their supplies will endanger themselves and their loved ones. They envision a future in which the nation's cities will be filled with hungry, desperate refugees forced to go looking for food, shelter and water.

"There's going to be things that happen when people can't get things that they need for themselves and their families," said Lynn-Marie, who believes cities could see a rise in violence as early as 2012.

Lynn-Marie asked to be identified by her first name to protect her homestead in rural western Idaho. Many of these survivalists declined to speak to The Associated Press for similar reasons. Interesting Associated Press article featured in today's Yahoo headlines.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rapid Unraveling And The Demise Of Adolescent America

Some years ago, I found Carolyn Baker's nascent writings about Peak Oil fascinating and exceptional. Over time, I've come to discern a certain triteness (arm-chair new-age-iness) in the meta-narrative which frames her worldview. That's certainly evident in this opinion piece;
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of what we are witnessing-and there are oh so many, is the ubiquitousness of blame. Attending almost every report on skyrocketing gas prices is the question: "So whose fault is it?" I certainly am not surprised by this, but I find it unsettling to say the least. Because Americans in particular have been absolutely recalcitrant and incapable of looking at collapse, they are being and will continue to be increasingly blindsided by it. Sadly, when humans are traumatized, their functioning becomes progressively more primal and animal-like, and their capacity for taking in and assimilating new information is markedly reduced.

When Peak Oil experts first began sharing their research, they told us that food, perhaps more than any aspect of our lives, would be impacted by it, and so it is. The double-barreled trauma now hitting Americans which is putting both gasoline and food out of their reach, is certain to result in reactive, vindictive behavior that will irrationally target a plethora of scapegoats. Add to this a foreclosure or two, a bankruptcy, car repossession, job loss or loss of health insurance and you have a recipe for mayhem. Such behavior, understandable as it may be, is adolescent in nature and therefore, untempered and unwizened, making acting-out individuals exceedingly dangerous to themselves and others.

Like me, you are probably witnessing the barrage of blame in your community and nationally if you are paying attention to mainstream news. Dmitry Orlov has given us a treasure-trove of information about human behavior in the throes of collapse chaos. What is and will be different from the collapse of the Soviet Union for Americans, however, is the level of violence that is likely to proliferate as collapse accelerates. Russians were never intoxicated with affluence and entitlement as Americans are. Their history has been replete with suffering; ours marinated in privilege reinforced by gun culture and firearm fetishes.
That said, I believe the overall premise of her article is on point. Namely, that other more mature societies have indeed experienced and overcome profound traumas and hardships within living memory and in the process, been "initiated" into a more humane and discerning collective sensibility. America's cultural initiation is simply nigh at hand. I suspect that a lot of weaklings will be culled from the herd;
The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and the thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own; for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to The Twilight Zone.

Sounds About Right - UK Price is already $9/Gallon

It may be the mother of all doom and gloom gas price predictions: $12 for a gallon of gas is “inevitable". Robert Hirsch, Management Information Services Senior Energy Advisor, gave a dire warning about the potential future of gas prices on CNBC’s May 20 “Squawk Box”. He told host Becky Quick there was no single thing that would solve the problem, due to the enormity of the problem.

“[T]he prices that we’re paying at the pump today are, I think, going to be ‘the good old days,’ because others who watch this very closely forecast that we’re going to be hitting $12 and $15 per gallon,” Hirsch said. “And then, after that, when oil – world oil production goes into decline, we’re going to talk about rationing. In other words, not only are we going to be paying high prices and have considerable economic problems, but in addition to that, we’re not going to be able to get the fuel when we want it.”

Hirsch told the Business & Media Institute the $12-$15 a gallon wasn’t his prediction, but that he was citing Charles T. Maxwell, described as the “Dean of Oil Analysts” and the senior energy analyst at Weeden & Co. Still, Hirsch admitted the high price was inevitable in his view.

“I don’t attempt to predict oil prices because it’s been impossible in the past,” Hirsch said in an e-mail. “We’re into a new era now, and over the next roughly five years the trend will be up significantly. However, there may be dips and bumps that no one can forecast; I wouldn’t be at all surprised. To me the multi-year upswing is inevitable.”

Maxwell’s original $12-15-a-gallon prediction came in a February 5 interview with, a Web site run by two former Wall Street Journal staffers.

“[Maxwell] expects an oil-induced financial crisis to start somewhere in the 2010 to 2015 timeframe,” reported. “He said that, unlike the recession the U.S. appears to be in today, ‘This will not be six months of hell and then we come out of it.’ Rather, Maxwell expects this financial crisis to last at least 10 or 12 years, as the world goes through a prolonged period of price-induced rationing (eg, oil up to $300 a barrel and U.S. pump prices up to $15 a gallon).”

Friday, May 23, 2008

Airports Grow Quiet...,

Eliminating flights is the latest move by the airlines in a cost-cutting drive that also has led to ticket prices climbing 10 times this year and new fees, from charges for checking extra bags to changing itineraries.

Almost every major carrier, from American Airlines to Delta Air Lines and US Airways, is crossing cities off its list, leaving passengers with fewer choices than a year ago.

Some travelers have no choices, but it is not for lack of trying by city and state officials. After Hagerstown briefly lost its eligibility for a government program called the Essential Air Service last year, Maryland’s Congressional delegation helped win an extension that allowed Hagerstown, as well as Lancaster, Pa., and Brookings, S.D., to remain in the program until Sept. 30.

The Essential Air Service program was created in 1978, when the airline industry was deregulated, to ensure that communities in rural and remote areas would be linked to the nation’s air system.

Under the program, the government provides subsidies of about $100 million a year to the airlines, resulting in service to 102 communities.

But the subsidies have not risen fast enough to cover the jump in jet fuel costs, and passengers have resisted paying higher prices for plane tickets, prompting carriers to pull out of a number of cities, including Hagerstown.

the “subprime” crisis and how we got into it

In April I posted an article from the Post Autistic Economics Network called The Strange History of Ecomomics. I hope you took the opportunity at that time to subscribe to this information goldmine. If you did - then you received issue 46 yesterday and you're already in information-hog heaven. If you didn't, here's a taste in the form of the very best and most detailed treatment I've seen to date of the subprime mortgage crisis. It's called Global Finance in Crisis by Jacques Sapir, and no, it's not even this issue's article on the Housing Bubble, (I haven't read that one yet) so there's still much else to look forward to;
The bubble bursts - Defaults increased steadily from early 2007 onwards, reaching 16% of the outstanding subprime loans by October 200719. By late January 2008, 24% of subprime mortgages were delinquent or in foreclosure. By late September 2007 nearly 4% of all mortgages were delinquent or in foreclosure, meaning that for non-subprime compartments the average rate of delinquency was 2% against the traditional 0.5% rate. By late January 2008 the figure was 7.3% of all mortgaged loans, and 3.7% for all non-subprime compartments or seven times higher than the traditional rate. During 2007, nearly 1.3 million U.S. housing properties were subject to foreclosure, an increase of 79% over 2006.
In February 2008, the number of foreclosures was at the highest monthly level since the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. Nevada was the worst hit state with a monthly foreclosure ratio of 1 in 165 homes, followed by California (a 1 to 242 ratio), Florida, Texas, Michigan and Ohio21.

The Great Unravelling

In this brief two page article, Jayati Ghosh of Nehru University exemplifies pithy profundity;
The financial liberalisation of the past two decades across the world was based on two mistaken notions. First is the "efficient markets" hypothesis beloved of some economists and many more financial players, which asserts that financial markets are informationally efficient, in that prices on traded financial assets reflect all known information and therefore are unbiased in the sense that they reflect the collective beliefs of all investors about future prospects. Second is the notion that financial institutions, especially large and established ones, are capable of and good at self-regulation, since it is in their own best interests to do so. And therefore external regulation by the state is both unnecessary and inefficient.

Both of these presumptions are now in tatters, completely destroyed by the waves of bad news that keeps coming from the financial markets, and by the growing evidence of foolish and irresponsible behaviour that was clearly indulged in by large and respectable financial players. It has emerged that unreliable behaviours is not the preserve of a few relatively small fly-by-night operators, but is endemic even among the largest private players in the financial system.
About here is where I'd invoke Jay Hanson's merciless critique of economics as the province of professionally trained liars for the elite. Not because I think Professor Ghosh was untruthful, rather, because it's clear that he by no means went far enough in his assessment of the pushme/pullyou relationship existing between elite financial institutions in a current state of freefall, and the allegedly independent machinery of governance that's supposed to independently and objectively regulate and govern the aforementioned financial institutions. It's a short read - check it out and tell me what you think is left unsaid - if anything - in the great unravelling?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Obama Addresses Gluttony

and speaks words that make the theoconservative crowd go wild

OBAMA: All right. So that's what we want to do on global warming here in the United States. We are also going to have to negotiate with other countries. China, India, in particular Brazil. They are growing so fast that they are consuming more and more energy and pretty soon, if their carbon footprint even approaches ours, we're goners. That's part of the reason why we've got to make the investment. We got to lead by example. If we lead by example, if we lead by example, then we can actually export and license technologies that have been invented here to help them deal with their growth pains. But keep in mind, you're right, we can't tell them don't grow. We can't drive our SUVs and, you know, eat as much as we want and keep our homes on, you know, 72 degrees at all times, whether we're living in the desert or we're living in the tundra and then just expect every other country is going to say OK, you know, you guys go ahead keep on using 25 percent of the world's energy, even though you only account for 3 percent of the population, and we'll be fine. Don't worry about us. That's not leadership.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Elite Governance at the Crossroads?

The London Review of Books featured an oddly repellent review of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. Ultimately, this review was a backhanded slap at democratic populism and an apologetic for the future of humanity in the hands of a ruling elite. You'll have to read the whole thing in order to see for yourself. Two excerpts from the review galvanized my attention, first this thumbnail sketch of warsocialist praxis;
what, if anything, makes the Bush administration uniquely odious?

Her answer is that the Bush administration draws its political support not from America’s corporate class generally, but rather from a particular part of it: ‘the sprawling disaster capitalism complex’. She has in mind the companies that reap huge profits from catastrophes, both man-made and natural. They include defence contractors, arms dealers, high-tech security firms, the oil and gas sectors, construction companies, private healthcare firms and so on. Not exactly ambulance-chasers, they are driving the ambulances themselves – for a profit. For the most part, they capitalise on emergencies rather than deliberately bringing them about. But the distinction is not always so clear: the stock price of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defence contractor, almost tripled between 2003 and 2007 after a former vice president at the firm chaired a committee agitating for war with Iraq. The Iraq war was also ‘the single most profitable event’ in the history of Halliburton, whose former CEO, who still retains stock options, is Dick Cheney.

Klein is outraged by the rapacity of corporations that see ‘exciting market opportunities’, rather than human suffering, in wars, hurricanes, epidemics and other disasters.
Second, this downright Cobbian assertion that benevolent elites are the only barrier against populist and democratic expression of xenophobia;
Anti-immigrant xenophobia, hostile as it is to the free-market model that she, too, opposes, is never mentioned as a genuine expression of democratic populism. Wasn’t there majority white support for the dispossession of New Orleans’ black community after Katrina? And wasn’t there majority Russian support for Putin’s wars in Chechnya? Isn’t the ordinary citizen’s fear and hatred of otherness as malicious a force as the corporate profiteer’s insatiable greed?[...]
This hope that ordinary people will ‘at last’ take control of large historical processes may explain, by backward reasoning, why Klein assumes that such processes are now tightly controlled by a predatory elite adhering to a sinister doctrine. If that were the case, then refuting ‘the shock doctrine’ would be a first step towards wresting control of world history from the corporate masters. Unfortunately, the developments she so tellingly describes, such as the proliferation of barricades and other techniques for managing class conflict, have deeper and more impersonal roots than greed and ideology. Current trends may be stymied or reversed, but, if this happens, Klein’s admirable aspirations for democracy and justice are not very likely to play much of a role.
Holmes has set up an interesting juxtiposition in this review of The Shock Doctrine. I find it more illustrative of the extent to which governance narratives have been undermined by the rapacious incompetence of the current administration, i.e., all faith in judicious rule by elites has been undermined, and to the extent that a truly chaotic tipping point may have already been reached.

Warsocialist Perversion Exposed

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I am not a fan of warsocialism. I tend to believe - in accordance with Pres. Dwight Eisenhower - that the warsocialist enterprise is like a cancer on the American political economy.

The other night, I saw for the first time a very eye-opening exposition on the criminal profiteering that has taken place pursuant to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. (to the left is a 4 minute excerpt - below I've linked the full monty) If you had any prior doubts about the evils of warsocialism, this movie will completely put those doubts to rest.

Eisenhower Warns of the Military Industrial Complex

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Theoconservative BioEthics

The Stupidity of Dignity - Conservative bioethics' latest, most dangerous ploy - Steven Pinker;
This spring, the President's Council on Bioethics released a 555-page report, titled Human Dignity and Bioethics. The Council, created in 2001 by George W. Bush, is a panel of scholars charged with advising the president and exploring policy issues related to the ethics of biomedical innovation, including drugs that would enhance cognition, genetic manipulation of animals or humans, therapies that could extend the lifespan, and embryonic stem cells and so-called "therapeutic cloning" that could furnish replacements for diseased tissue and organs. Advances like these, if translated into freely undertaken treatments, could make millions of people better off and no one worse off. So what's not to like? The advances do not raise the traditional concerns of bioethics, which focuses on potential harm and coercion of patients or research subjects. What, then, are the ethical concerns that call for a presidential council?[...]

The sickness in theocon bioethics goes beyond imposing a Catholic agenda on a secular democracy and using "dignity" to condemn anything that gives someone the creeps. Ever since the cloning of Dolly the sheep a decade ago, the panic sown by conservative bioethicists, amplified by a sensationalist press, has turned the public discussion of bioethics into a miasma of scientific illiteracy. Brave New World, a work of fiction, is treated as inerrant prophesy. Cloning is confused with resurrecting the dead or mass-producing babies. Longevity becomes "immortality," improvement becomes "perfection," the screening for disease genes becomes "designer babies" or even "reshaping the species." The reality is that biomedical research is a Sisyphean struggle to eke small increments in health from a staggeringly complex, entropy-beset human body. It is not, and probably never will be, a runaway train.

Be that as it may, it's most interesting to observe the staunch prohibitions attempted as against the leading edges of biomedical research and the contrasting theoconservative ethics vis-a-vis cheap energy as an inalienable American right.

Human Rights, Science and the Energy Emergency

Dr. Arthur Robinson at
Today, we announce that more than 31,000 U.S. scientists -- over 9,000 of whom hold PhD degrees in relevant scientific fields -- have signed a petition to the U.S. government that states:

The people of the United States find themselves in an economic crisis caused, in large part, by energy shortages and rapidly increasing prices for energy.

Yet, the United Nations and other vocal political interests are urging the U.S. to enact new laws that will sharply reduce U.S. energy production and raise energy prices even higher. These interests claim that continued U.S. use of hydrocarbon fuels -- which account for 85% of U.S. energy supplies -- will destroy the Earth’s climate and cause many environmental catastrophes.

What should the U.S government do in response to this situation? The answer is provided by science, by economics, and by the basic principles of human rights. The inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in a civilization based upon the achievements of science and technology, include the rights to obtain access to life-giving and life-enhancing technology. This is especially true of the right of access to the most basic of all technologies -- the right of access to energy. This right, we recognize, means we have the right to purchase energy, though the government does not owe us a supply of it. To the contrary, the government owes us an obligation to remove itself as an obstacle to our access to energy unless there is a reason our nation’s security is endangered by it. And there is no such reason.

The so-called “global warming” measures advocated by the UN and others create obstacles, rather than eliminating them.

Our right to access to energy and removal of government obstructions have been significantly abridged.During the past two generations in the U.S., a system of high taxation, extensive regulation, and ubiquitous litigation has arisen that prevents the accumulation of sufficient capital and the exercise of sufficient freedom to build and preserve needed modern technology.

This unfavorable economic environment has caused the transfer of many industries abroad and cessation of growth of many others. Nowhere is this damaging trend more evident than in our energy industries, where lack of industrial progress has left our country dependent upon foreign sources for 30% of the energy required to maintain our current level of prosperity.
etc., etc., and so on and so forth....,

America is a nation of 300 million citizens who consume 25% of the world's daily oil production. In a world populated by 6.7 billion people this means that there are approximately 2 billion who have access to *no* energy at all -- no automobiles, no air conditioners, and very little food.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Bear Stretches....,

Russia accused of annexing the Arctic for oil reserves by Canada

The battle for "ownership" of the polar oil reserves has accelerated with the disclosure that Russia has sent a fleet of nuclear-powered ice breakers into the Arctic.

It has reinforced fears that Moscow intends to annex "unlawfully" a vast portion of the ice-covered Arctic, beneath which scientists believe up to 10 billion tons of gas and oil could be buried. Russian ambition for control of the Arctic has provoked Canada to double to $40 million (£20.5 million) funding for work to map the Arctic seabed in support its claim over the territory.

The Russian ice breakers patrol huge areas of the frozen ocean for months on end, cutting through ice up to 8ft thick. There are thought to be eight in the region, dwarfing the British and American fleets, neither of which includes nuclear-powered ships.

Canada also plans to open an army training centre for cold-weather fighting at Resolute Bay and a deep-water port on the northern tip of Baffin Island, both of which are close to the disputed region. The country's defence ministry intends to build a special fleet of patrol boats to guard the North West Passage.

"The message from Vladimir Putin is that Russia will no longer be shackled to treaties signed by Yeltsin when he was half drunk or when Russia was on its knees,"

Russia rivals Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer and is estimated to have the largest natural gas supplies. Energy earnings are funding a $189 billion (£97 billion) overhaul of its armed forces.

Cold War Oil Politics

The U.S. and the Soviet Union;
Richard Heinberg, a professor from Santa Rosa, California argues that a newly declassified CIA document shows that the U.S. used oil prices as leverage against the economy of the Soviet Union:

"The Memorandum predicts an impending peak in Soviet oil production 'not later than the early 1980s' (the actual peak occurred in 1987 at 12.6 million barrels per day, following a preliminary peak in 1983 of 12.5 Mb/d). 'During the next decade,' the unnamed authors of the document conclude, 'the USSR may well find itself not only unable to supply oil to Eastern Europe and the West on the present scale, but also having to compete for OPEC oil for its own use.' The Memorandum predicts that the oil peak will have important economic impacts: 'When oil production stops growing, and perhaps even before, profound repercussions will be felt on the domestic economy of the USSR and on its international economic relations.'"

"...Soon after assuming office in 1981, the Reagan Administration abandoned the established policy of pursuing détente with the Soviet Union and instead instituted a massive arms buildup; it also fomented proxy wars in areas of Soviet influence, while denying the Soviets desperately needed oil equipment and technology. Then, in the mid-1980s, Washington persuaded Saudi Arabia to flood the world market with cheap oil. Throughout the last decade of its existence, the USSR pumped and sold its oil at the maximum possible rate in order to earn foreign exchange income with which to keep up in the arms race and prosecute its war in Afghanistan. Yet with markets awash with cheap Saudi oil, the Soviets were earning less even as they pumped more. Two years after their oil production peaked, the economy of the USSR crumbled and its government collapsed.
As noted in April - In a radically altered world— where Russia is transformed from battered Cold War loser to arrogant broker of Eurasian energy, and the United States is forced to compete with the emerging “Chindia” juggernaut—the only route to survival on a shrinking planet, lies through international cooperation.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gurdjieff Movements

The Enneagram - A Lecture by G.I. Gurdjieff

In every man there has been implanted a need of (desire for) knowledge, differing only in its intensity. But the passive human mind, while utilizing every means possible to it of taking in (and working over) impressions, often gets into an impasse in trying to find an answer to the question "Why".

Man's eyes are dazzled by the bright play of the colors of multiformity, and under the glittering surface he does not see the hidden kernel of the one-ness of all that exists. This multiformity is so real that its single modes approach him from all sides - some by way of logical deduction and philosophy, others by way or faith and feeling. From the most ancient times down to our own epoch, throughout the ages of its life, humanity as a whole has been yearning for a knowledge of this one-ness and seeking for it, pouring itself out into various philosophies and religions which remain, as it were, monuments on the path of these searches for the Path, leading to the knowledge of unity. Very extensive lecture here.

Gurdjieff on Influences

ONCE there was a meeting with a large number of people who had not been at our meetings before. One of them asked: “From what does the way start?” The person who asked the question had not heard G.’s description of the four ways and he used the word “way” in the usual religious-mystical sense.

“The chief difficulty in understanding the idea of the way,”‘ said G., “consists in the fact that people usually think that the way” (he emphasized this word) “starts on the same level on which life is going. This is quite wrong. The way begins on another, much higher, level. This is exactly what people usually do not understand. The beginning of the way is thought to be easier or simpler than it is in reality. I will try to explain this in the following way. Full excerpt here.

Don't Believe Your Lying Eyes - Whatever They're Telling You About Biden Is Disinformation

Biden campaign spokesman Adrienne Elrod tries to spin the viral video of Biden wandering aimlessly across Italy as "disinformation"...