Mount St. Helens, giving a preview of events to come. When, exactly, would the main event occur? Therein lies the lesson. (USGS Photo)
On the last day of his life, May 18, 1980, David Johnston was probably tired of waiting for Mount St. Helens to erupt, much as some of us are sick of waiting for the global bubble economy to blow up. And he was no doubt tired, as are we, of warning people that it was going to blow. Back in March, swarms of earthquakes rising from deep in the earth indicated magma rising and caused volcanologists such as Johnston to proclaim, “It’s going to blow!” It didn’t. Then the mountain burped a 7,000-foot-high plume of ash. “It’s going to blow,” they said. It didn’t. By mid-April the mountain was burping ash and steam a hundred times a day, and bulging massively toward the north. Still it didn’t blow. In fact, in early May, it quieted down. It had become a tourist Mecca.
Then, on May 18, it blew. Not straight up but laterally, to the north, where Johnston was watching from the ridge of a different mountain six miles away. He had time only to grab his radio and shout to his headquarters (in Vancouver, Washington), “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!.” Then, in less than a minute, the first pyroclastic flow — hot gases and rock, over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, moving at 700 miles per hour — hit him, and he was gone. Continue reading →
Using high explosives as a distraction, extremists launched attacks in almost all major American cities on July 4, as predicted.
Grave and repeated warnings from top US security officials about the danger of terror attacks on the July 4 weekend were confirmed by what appears to this writer to be a coordinated series of attacks in virtually all major US cities. Many of the attacks used explosives as a distraction, and one of them was a suicide attack.
Ground zero for the carnage was Chicago, where nine people were shot and killed, and 46 wounded, some of them while watching explosive “fireworks” displays. A source close to the investigation (who does not want to be identified because of an aversion to ridicule) says the attackers appear to be affiliated with a group known as Illinois Students Independence Society, a shadowy organization that controls its militants with the Internet. Continue reading →
When this battle flag of the 11th Mississippi Infantry was carried up Cemetery Ridge in Pickett’s Charge, it must have felt about as friendless as the “Confederate flag” feels today. BTW, what everybody is arguing about today is not the flag of the Confederacy, but the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.
We have just seen another massive, and masterly, prestidigitation by the people who love guns and dislike poor people, and who understand that large majorities of Americans dislike gun violence and are poor. The continued existence of free and open elections in this country — albeit less free and less open every year — constrain these people from talking too openly about their vision for America, i.e. one nation, under God, armed to the teeth with people dying in the streets. So they obfuscate, and misdirect, and bloviate and lay down smoke.
And when confronted with a truly obscene massacre of innocent black people by a white whack job with a racist manifesto and a gun, right wingnuts have to work overtime to come up with a diversion to keep the chattering class from talking about their manifesto. This time, after nine people at prayer were gunned down in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, they knew they were going to have to be really good to get this off TV and out of the minds of Americans before any damage was done to their Second Amendment Rights. Continue reading →
As demonstrated in Paris in 1895, what matters is not whether the train wreck was on time. What matters is that it’s a wreck. (Wikipedia Photo)
The dominoes are toppling, just as we have been expecting for nearly a year now, but slower than we thought. The fact-resistant strain of humans (Thank you, Borowitz Report) now in charge of the world are trying to use vast amounts of money to counteract gravity, and, counterintuitively, succeeded in slowing the dominoes’ fall. But not for long.
To review our expectations of last summer: the hideous decline rate of fracking wells (of up to 90% in three years) was forcing frackers to borrow huge amounts of money to put up large numbers of new wells at a breakneck pace in order to preserve the illusion (it was always an illusion) of a revolution in American oil leading to prosperity and “energy independence.” On average, it cost the frackers over $4 to get $1 of revenue in the door during the first quarter of this year. A year ago, with oil commanding $100 a barrel, they were still spending $2. As the old joke goes, the only way to make any money when you’re losing on every transaction is to make up for it with volume. But since most of the money spent was capital expenditure — i.e. new wells — their operating statements showed profits and nobody looked at the balance sheets. Continue reading →
A passel of starving sea lion pups, rescued from the beach by volunteers, in a California rehab center. They get a lot of attention because they’re cute. But crabs, oysters and anchovies are dying just as fast.
The Pacific Ocean appears to be turning toxic to all life, a prospect with unimaginably dire consequences for humanity. News stories about it are fragmented, and slotted into the “Environment” category, and thus easily ignored by the rich and famous and their news channels. (Breaking News: Donald Trump Running Mate May be Caitlyn Jenner!) In just the latest manifestation of this calamity, what may be the largest bloom of toxic algae ever detected is poisoning sea life from California to British Columbia — with toxin from it detected not far off Alaska. Crab and clam fisheries have been shut down in two states so far, and the so-called red tide is still growing. In Monterey Bay, California, the concentration of domoic acid secreted by the algae is the highest ever recorded. Continue reading →
War used to be up close and personal. Then, with artillery, we achieved enough detachment that people started to like it. (Photo by walterpro/Flickr)
Neocons and candidates for president and others trying to establish their patriotic bona fides bray for war — with ISIS, or Iran, or China or Russia, virtually anyone will do. When those of us who have either experienced war, or read a book about it, object that to choose war is lunacy, they condescend to reassure us. It will be a surgical strike, they say; or we will just train and advise a surrogate country, and it will do the messy part; we’ll use air power, so neither you nor any of your children (Wait, none of them is a pilot, right? Good.) need worry about it. Continue reading →
On Sunday afternoon, June 15, the Doomstead Diner hosted a video discussion of the prospects for China. In addition to Doomstead‘s RE and Monsta (or whatever their real names are), the discussion included me, Tom Lewis, of The Daily Impact and Ugo Bardi of the University of Florence, Italy and the blog Cassandra Legacy. Or whatever our real names are. Running time is just over an hour — an hour you will never get back.
A Halliburton fracking setup in North Dakota’s Bakken play. “Whaddaya mean it’s over? We just got this thing connected!” (Wikipedia Photo)
It comes now from the US Energy Information Agency, and is headlined by Bloomberg Business, so yes, it’s official. As Bloomberg put it, “US Shale Boom Grinds to a Halt.” Which, actually, is overstating the case by a good bit, there isn’t going to be a “halt.” Nevertheless, as sane people everywhere have been insisting for years, the shale boom is, as it always was going to be, a bust.
This — now official — assessment is in the form of a set of projections by the EIA, which, we should remember, has pretty consistently been overly optimistic in its assessment of the oil business. Remember, they were the folks who estimated that the Monterey Shale in California held 14 billion barrels of recoverable reserves — two-third of America’s total oil wealth — until they ran the numbers again and re-estimated the Monterey at 96% lower. Continue reading →
Is China a paper tiger or a pussycat? It depends on which numbers you look at. (Photo by Jinzl’s Public Domain Photos/Flickr)
The punditocracy assembled yesterday, as they do every Sunday, to yelp their yin-yang talking points that pass, these days, for wisdom. Mostly they want to talk about who, a year and a half from now, might be chosen as the new captain of the Titanic — Hillary or anti-Hillary? Then, like the proverbial elephant terrorized by a mouse, they vent about the latest pimply-faced adolescent who, dreaming of celebrity and inspired by an ISIS website, takes the first giant step toward jihad: gets in touch with an FBI informant for his very own ACME bomb-making kit. Then before the pundits rest, they make their fervent nominations for our next war. Continue reading →
Sophie had to choose which child would live and which would die. Now multiply that problem by a couple orders of magnitude. (Photo by Bill Strain/Flickr)
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, desperate citizens of New Orleans seeking water, food and shelter began streaming by the thousands out of the city on foot over the US Route 90 bridge across the Mississippi River and into to the city of Gretna, Louisiana. The city had no electricity, no water, no medical services and little in the way of a functioning government. It had been this way for three days when the refugees began streaming in, and unless conditions improved almost immediately, the people of Gretna were looking at severe privation. So they closed the city. Put a line of armed police across the Interstate Bridge and turned the refugees back. Sorry. Can’t help you.
The story has haunted me for nearly ten years. Not just because it is one of the gnarliest ethical problems I have ever come across. But also because in the aftermath of the crash of the Industrial Age — perhaps well before the crash, during the current preliminary stresses — every one of us is going to face the kind of decision Gretna had to make. We will be asked to give help to distressed neighbors when giving that help will endanger our own survival. How will we answer? Continue reading →