Troubled Oil on Gulf Waters

The elegant blonde lady who appears in all the Exxon commercials on TV should now appear with scorched hair, blackened face and wet clothes. It’s the least she could do after years of assuring us that, among other things, to worry about the safety of offshore oil drilling is soooo 1990. With our technology and expertise, the industry murmurs daily, nothing can go wrongongongongong. Continue reading

Looking for Rage in All the Wrong Places

We Americans live in a country engaged in the longest war of its entire history — in Afghanistan — which is now in its ninth year with no end in sight. No military or political leader of our country can explain to us why we are fighting this war, how we are going to win it, or what benefit will accrue if and when we do. (Yes, yes, we understand why we started the war, the question is why are we still fighting it?) Continue reading

Homeland Security: Report from the Front

Everything you need to know about Homeland Security: the agent is the Muslim in the hijab, the suspect is the nun in the habit. Photo by Dean Shaddock

It’s hard to pick my favorite part of flying today. I say flying, but when I travel by air today I spend most of my travel time riding: in cars going to and from airports on roads clogged to near-gridlock (but that’s only during rush hour, which now begins at 5 am and usually is over by 3 am); on buses to and from airport parking lots, which these days are often located in nearby, not-necessarily-adjoining states (for example Dulles Airport, near Washington D.C., has its economy parking in Nebraska); on people movers, multi-million-dollar wonders of technology that whisk you around an airport at the speed of — oh, I don’t know, a brisk walk; and on airplanes that instead of flying at 600 miles per hour are sitting at a gate or inching along a taxiway at the speed of the aforementioned people mover. All this non-flying gives me lots of time for quiet reflection, for example on the fact that if I had started from home and had driven toward my destination, I would be there by now (does not apply to most intercontinental flights). Continue reading

Cash and Carry On Government

Health care reform: stalled. Climate change legislation: on hold. Financial industry regulation: fogeddaboudit. Deficit reduction: gedoudahere. California and New York: gridlocked government. Instead of just being critical of the people who got us here and can’t get us out — how easy is that? — how about taking a moment to identify with them? Would that be too much to ask? Continue reading

Hope Springs: Can a Fuel Cell Save Us?

It was the morning of the third day of the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg. As his army maneuvered into place for what history would remember as Pickett’s Charge, General Robert E. Lee turned to his most trusted subordinate, General James Longstreet, and said, “This could be the day.” He could see victory for the besieged Confederacy, just a few hundred yards away, up the deceptively gentle rise of Seminary Ridge, just beyond the bristling blue line of Federal muskets, bayonets and cannon that waited there.

Today, in the 11th hour of the American Republic as it confronts the absolute limits of its supplies of energy from fossil fuels, with no preparations made for the inevitable and catastrophic encounter with those limits, I will say to you that today could be the day. Today, we just might set a new course toward a better future. For someone who has spent several years writing about the inevitability of an impending crash of the industrial age, this stirring of hope is quite unfamiliar. I had better explain. Continue reading

Deforming Health Care: A Banner Year

Note to business-school grads: if they’ve told you you’re too greedy and cruel to be an investment banker or an oil executive, don’t despair; they’re going to love you in the health-insurance industry.

The country’s five largest health-insurance companies increased their combined profits by $4.4 billion dollars in 2009 — the year everyone else was struggling to stay aflloat in the worst recession in memory — according to a study by the reform advocacy group “Health Care for America Now!” Continue reading

Blizzard Strikes US: Drops National IQ 24 inches

Two snowstorms of epic proportions in quick succession this month have triggered mass episodes of brain trauma among the public, and among public figures.

Drivers, of course, are the first to be afflicted. The third consecutive flake of snow divides all drivers (in all but the northernmost tier of states) into two categories: the feckless and the reckless. The feckless feel safer driving at 15 miles per hour, no matter how desperately momentum is needed to get up the next icy rise in the road, and no matter how many dozens of vehicles are stacked up behind them. They obey the legendary advice given the pilot by his mother: just fly low and slow, and you’ll be fine. The reckless, on the other hand, do not lower their speed or alter their driving habits for anything, because, like, why should they? Continue reading

All of Our Aquifers are Leaking

Relentlessly, our industrial society continues to destroy the natural resources essential to its survival, with industrial agriculture leading the way. Perhaps the worst — and least recognized — example, in terms of the accelerating pace and ominous portents of the destruction, is the depletion of water resources by overconsumption. Continue reading

Supreme Court Invalidates Democracy

Pledge allegiance to the corporations of the United States of America, and to the republic which they now own. One nation, indifferent to its citizens, with liberty and justice for the rich.

Anyone who still hoped, against all the evidence, that the American democracy could be saved from strangulation by the pervasive and increasing death-grip of big money, has just been served with a do-not-resuscitate order by the Supreme Court of the United States. No greater perversion of the principles of our Constitution, and of the language we use to talk about it, can be imagined. Continue reading

Haiti: Apocalypse Now, Apocalypse Foretold

If we were rational people, the evacuation of California would begin today. The destruction of Haiti by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake is not only an immense catastrophe, of Biblical proportions, for that accursed country, but is also a prophecy for California. Continue reading