Burning Words

Sadly, there is yet one more thing to be said about Congressman Joe Wilson, the latest person to demonstrate that you can become rich and famous; not despite being an idiot, but because of it.
This one more thing needs to be said because, as we contnue to reduce the content of our national discourse while we increase its heat, we are all in danger of becoming idiots, and angry idiots as well, which is not only pointless but dangerous.
This thing that needs to be brought to mind is that this country is by design a republic. The president of a republic is its head of state, in addition to being its chief executive officer. Once sworn in, the president is no longer a candidate, he holds the office, and the office embodies the United States of America. It follows that showing disrespect for the president is as grave an offense against the Republic as, for example, burning its flag.
It would have been good to see President Obama, on being called a liar by Mr. Wilson during a joint session of Congress, say to him what President Truman said after being slighted by General Douglas MacArthur: you can think whatever you like of me personally, sir, but you will respect the office that I hold.
It would have been good to see the sunshine patriots and summer soldiers of the raucous right demonstrate a twinkle of awareness of the real traditions and values of the republic on whose behalf they so lavishly emote. They who get tears in their eyes at the thought that someone somewhere might one day burn a flag are happy to see the surly and vacuous Joe Wilson set fire to the country another, more destructive, way.

Sadly, there is yet one more thing to be said about Congressman Joe Wilson, the latest person to demonstrate that you can become rich and famous, not despite being an idiot, but because of it. This one more thing needs to be said because, as we continue to reduce the content of our national discourse while we increase its heat, we are all in danger of becoming idiots, and angry idiots as well, which is not only pointless but dangerous. Continue reading

Red Snow, Adobe Rain, Rippin’ Your Strip

In the new lexicon of the increasingly desertified American West, red snow is what you get after the wind has deposited what’s left of the disappearing soil on what’s left of the disappearing snow pack; adobe rain is composed of the mud splatters you get when rain has fallen through a dust cloud; and rippin’ your strip — taking out your lawn and replacing it with gravel or seriscape — is the West’s new black.

This is all laid out in a riveting article by Chip Ward, just posted on TomDispatch, titled “Red Snow Warning.” It’s a terrific elaboration on, and confirmation of, Chapter 3 of Brace for Impact, “A Drinking Problem.”

Check it out. Then tell me if you still think that we who see the whole industrial edifice coming down are alarmists. Then do something to secure a sustainable water supply for you and your family.

Water We Gonna Do?

The New York Times is running a series called “Toxic Waters” on the breathtaking extent of water pollution in the United States and the astonishing indifference of our government to its toll of human misery. The link above is to the home page of the series, so you can go back to read subsequent instalments.

To quote the opening salvo:

Almost four decades after Congress passed the Clean Water Act, the rate of water pollution violations is rising steadily. In the past five years, companies and workplaces have violated pollution laws more than 500,000 times. But the vast majority of polluters have escaped punishment.

This will not be news to anyone who has read Chapter Four of Brace for Impact.

What’s That Sucking Sound?

What’s That? A Sucking Sound?
Don’t take my word for it, or that of Brace for Impact: one of the foremost energy economists in the world says that “the world is heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery because most of the major oil fields in the world have passed their peak production. [T]he public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated.”
That’s the bad news; there’s worse. But first the bona fides: Dr Fatih Birol is the chief economist at the  International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, which assesses energy markets for the 30 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). His views appeared in the British newspaper The Independent [Warning: Oil supplies are running out fast] on August 3.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/warning-oil-supplies-are-running-out-fast-1766585.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/25/opinion/25lynch.html?bl&ex=1251345600&en=f0a941c577e3a21f&ei=5087%0A
His views made headlines in Europe, Asia, even Canada. But US newspapers did not mention them until the New York Times ran a mocking op-ed piece by big-oil apologist Michael Lynch [Peak Oil is a Waste of Energy] ridiculing Dr. Firol and all of the world’s scientists who have come to the conclusion that there is not enough oil to satisfy preneially increasing demand, forever. Lynch and his ilk cannot, of course, claim that oil will never run out; the standards of public discourse will have to deteriorate a little more before that becomes acceptable. They rely on arguing that it won’t for a while yet.
But like their brethren the climate-change deniers, the peak-oil deniers have to ignore the avalanche of evidence from saner scientists. Such as those who, for the IEA, have just completed the first detailed assessment of more than 800 oil fields in the world, covering three quarters of global reserves, and have  found that most of the biggest fields have already peaked and that the rate of decline in oil production is now running at nearly twice the pace as calculated just two years ago.
Demand, meanwhile, continues to accelerate, especially as China emerges from recession.  According to Dr. Birol, even if demand remained steady, the world would have to find the oil equivalent of four Saudi Arabias to maintain production, and six Saudi Arabias if it is to keep up with the expected increase in demand between now and 2030.
But if you are not inclined to have confidence in a guy with a foreign-sounding name — he might be a Muslim! — speaking from France, of all places, then let me offer you this conclusion reached by the United States Joint Forces Command in its stretegic report “Joint Operating Environment 2008 published last November:
“By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD… The implications for future conflict are ominous..”
http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2008/JOE2008.pdf
In other words the Department of Defense is telling its commanders, with respect to peak oil, to brace for impact.

Don’t take my word for it, or that of Brace for Impact: one of the foremost energy economists in the world says  “the world is heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery because most of the major oil fields in the world have passed their peak production. Continue reading

Go Ahead. Cry for Argentina

Go Ahead. Cry for Argentina
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/09/AR2009090903211.html?hpid=topnews
Industrial agriculture is in the process of taking down another country. For half a century, Argentina has prospered by raising the world’s finest grass-fed cattle on its vast plains. In the process, it did not degrade its land, nor did it abuse its animals. But in the world according to industry, enough is never enough.
According to the Washington Post today [“Day of the Gaucho Waning in Argentina”], the Masters of the Argentinian Universe are moving as quickly as they can to destroy their country by plowing under their sustainable grass to make way for huge expanses of corn and soybeans, and shunting their cattle off pasture and into feedlots.
The Argentinian Pampas, like our own Western Plains, is hot and arid. When you strip the soil of its protective grass, it blows and washes away. When you plow the soil, severing the myriad arterial connections linking the sunshine and water of the surface with the minerals and organic material below, the soil begins to die and lose its fertility. The industrial response is to apply massive doses of fertilizer. made with and from petrochemicals, followed by herbicides, pesticides and fungicides as needed, and in shot order the soil is entirely dead, anmd leaving.
As I report in Brace for Impact, since the 1970s American agriculture has lost, for every pound of food of fiber grown, seven pounds of topsoil. Who can blame Argentina for envying us?
Then of coure there are the cattle, fitted by eons of evolution to eat one thing — grass. They have developed four stomachs, assembled a team of microbes that pre-digests their meal for them by fermenting the grass, to turn straw into steak. But it takes three years for a cow on grass to reach slaughter weight. And its lean meat is not as desirable to today’s overweight, undernourished, diabetic and touchy consumer as meat that is marbled and juicy with saturated fat.
So Industry snatched the calf off pasture at six months or so and puts it in a concentration camp where for the rest of its life it stands in its own manure being force fed — corn. Corn makes the cow sick. Its turns its digestive system acidic (normally it’s neutral) and the animal suffers from acidosis — heartburn — often severe enough to cause physical damage. Microbes trying to ferment corn generate an excess of both gas and a thinck slime that can trap the gas, causing bloat that can kill.These chronic afflictions leave the cattle open to opportunistic infections by such things as pneumonia.
In order to keep these sick and miserable animals alive long enough to slaughter, Industry pumps them full of antibiotics to ward off the more serious and deadly infections, a practice that has a number of side effects that pose serious threats to human health.
Unnatural? Rodrigo Troncoso scoffs that the notion. The General manager of the Argentine Feedlot Chamber, Troncoso tiold the Washington Post: “Who is to say what’s natural and what’s not natural? What’s natural is for a cow to grow, to reproduce and to die.”
Yes, and God intended topsoil to blow in the wind, his creatures to live in misery, and people to swell up, get diabetes and die.
Brace for imnpact, Argentina.

Industrial agriculture is in the process of taking down another country. For half a century, Argentina has prospered from raising the world’s finest grass-fed cattle on its vast plains. In the process, it did not degrade its land, nor did it abuse its animals. But in the world according to industry, enough is never enough. Continue reading

Three Strikes

Two of the country’s leading columnists are inching toward the first part of the premise of Brace for Impact — that the industrial world is facing imminent collapse and cannot prevent it.
Eugene Robinson, writing in the Washington Post [“Seemed Like a Good Idea…”], looks long and hard at fire-ravaged, earthquake-threatened California, then at hurricane-battered New Orleans, and wonders whether they ever should have been built. Immediately he shrugs this notion off, as if physically burned by contact with the heresy, to say that not building them, not repaitring them after every predictable, unavoidable catastrophe, would be “unthinkable.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/31/AR2009083102910.html?nav=hcmoduletmv
In one sentence he comes very close to where Brace for Impact starts: “In the end, the least — and, probably, the most — we can do is try our best to envision which of our good ideas seems least likely to burden future generations…Is there anything in the works, in other words, that’s the equivalent of building one great city that regularly burns and another that regularly drowns?”
Of course there is not. Big Oil and Big Agriculture need New Orleans, Big Money of all kinds needs California, and they need them just as they are where they are, and they don’t mind spending the money to convince us that any alternative is “unthinkable.”
And the alternative — sustainable living, which can save any of us from the coming crash — will remain “unthinkable” as long as Big Money retains its grip on our government, as Paul Krugman recognizes in his New York Times column [“Missing Richard Nixon”]. He points out that the health care reform that Nixon proposed 35 years ago looked very much like what Barack Obama is proposing today, indeed was in some respects more “socialist.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/opinion/31krugman.html?_r=1&em
Krugman marvels that in the face of extreme partisanship and unfettered corporate spending, significant reform of health care and/or health insurance is simply not going to happen. And, he says, it’s not just health care: “Every desperately needed reform I can think of, from controlling greenhouse gases to restoring fiscal balance, will have to run the same gantlet of lobbying and lies.”
A third example, from yesterday’s Washington Post [“Environmentalists Slow to Adjust in Climate Debate”], details how corporate money is killing the current attempt to place a few restraints on carbon emissions. The contest, as the report typically portrays it, is between the “oil lobby” and the “coal industry” on one side, and “environmentalists” — that radical fringe group that desires the survival of humans on the planet — on the other. Ordinary people do not appear in this article, which reports admiringly that industry is providing free lunches, concerts and t-shirts (not to mention millions of dollars worth of propaganda on TV) then oserves sarcastically that all the environmentalists were offering, on this particular day in Athens Ohio, was a “sedate panel discussion.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/30/AR2009083002606.html
How naive of these radicals, to think that important legislation ought to be discussed — sedately, at that! Don’t they know that what you do now is accuse the oil companies of killing grandma, and hand out guns to everybody who comes to your town meeting?
“Actually turning this country around,” writes Krugman, “is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.” Who is going to conduct this warfare, and where are they going to get the money to do it? The most probable answer: No one and no where.
Brace for impact.

Two of the country’s leading columnists are inching toward the first part of the premise of Brace for Impact — that the industrial world is facing imminent collapse and cannot prevent it.

Eugene Robinson, writing in the Washington Post [“Seemed Like a Good Idea...”], looks long and hard at fire-ravaged, earthquake-threatened California, then at hurricane-battered New Orleans, and wonders whether they ever should have been built. Continue reading

It’s Not Funny

Of all the players in the rancid shoutfest — please don’t call it a “debate” — about “health care reform,”  the most reprehensible may be the journalists. At least the others — the politicians, the lobbyists, the corporations, the perpetually paranoid — are acting and speaking in ways that are true to their natures.
Most journalists, on the other hand, pretend to a higher calling, then fail to answer the call. Most of them are as cowed by the loud and the stupid as anyone, but pretend to be judiciously weighing their words. Because the right has trumpeted that the government is proposing to conduct euthenasia on old people, the journalists have cravenly classified this as a conservative-liberal dispute, calling for an even-handed presentation quoting both sides. In fact (if I may use that word in its absolute sense) the only useful distinction to be made about this odious allegation is whether it is true, which it patently and obviously is not, or whether it is a lie. Not a mis-statement, not an exaggeration or a matter of opinion, but a damned lie.
Journalistic objectivity does not forbid the branding of a lie as a lie, it requires it. Who has done it?
I have seen a woman proclaim on a television ad dozens of times that she was denied treatment for her brain tumor in Canada, and the ad proceeds to imply that “health care reform” will lead to a Canadian style of health system in America. I have never seen a news cable network or newscast check the womn’s claim, or analyze the ad’s implication. Every news organization had fact-checks for all the allegations made in the presidential election campaign, but they don’t do it when it concerns the actual government of the country?
Perhaps the industrial media are so distracted by their own death spiral of declining circulation, ratings and revenues that they are unable to remember, let alone summon, the integrity, courage and service to the truth that is supposed to be their hallmark.
The depth of their failure in this essential regard is illuminated by the stellar performance of a non-journalist, a man who insists he is just a comedian, in doing the work that journalism is supposed to do. John Stewart’s Daily Show interview of Betsy McCaughey — a slightly-less-loopy-than-usual proponent of the death squad crowd, is by far the best journalistic performace of the year. He knows the subject better than she does, refuses to let her get away with non-sequitirs, lies, and other offenses, exposes her as a demagogue, and does so without becoming in any way offensive.
Watch both parts of the interview. And see what we’re missing on CBS and CNN.    Of all the players in the rancid shoutfest — please don’t call it a “debate” — about “health care reform,”  the most reprehensible may be the journalists. At least the others — the politicians, the lobbyists, the corporations, the perpetually paranoid — are acting and speaking in ways that are true to their natures.
Most journalists, on the other hand, pretend to a higher calling, then fail to answer the call. Most of them are as cowed by the loud and the stupid as anyone, but pretend to be judiciously weighing their words. Because the right has trumpeted that the government is proposing to conduct euthenasia on old people, the journalists have cravenly classified this as a conservative-liberal dispute, calling for an even-handed presentation quoting both sides. In fact (if I may use that word in its absolute sense) the only useful distinction to be made about this odious allegation is whether it is true, which it patently and obviously is not, or whether it is a lie. Not a mis-statement, not an exaggeration or a matter of opinion, but a damned lie.
Journalistic objectivity does not forbid the branding of a lie as a lie, it requires it. Who has done it?
I have seen a woman proclaim on a television ad dozens of times that she was denied treatment for her brain tumor in Canada, and the ad proceeds to imply that “health care reform” will lead to a Canadian style of health system in America. I have never seen a news cable network or newscast check the womn’s claim, or analyze the ad’s implication. Every news organization had fact-checks for all the allegations made in the presidential election campaign, but they don’t do it when it concerns the actual government of the country?
Perhaps the industrial media are so distracted by their own death spiral of declining circulation, ratings and revenues that they are unable to remember, let alone summon, the integrity, courage and service to the truth that is supposed to be their hallmark.
The depth of their failure in this essential regard is illuminated by the stellar performance of a non-journalist, a man who insists he is just a comedian, in doing the work that journalism is supposed to do. John Stewart’s Daily Show interview of Betsy McCaughey — a slightly-less-loopy-than-usual proponent of the death squad crowd, is by far the best journalistic performace of the year. He knows the subject better than she does, refuses to let her get away with non-sequitirs, lies, and other offenses, exposes her as a demagogue, and does so without becoming in any way offensive.
Watch both parts of the interview. And see what we’re missing on CBS and CNN.

Of all the players in the rancid shoutfest — please don’t call it a “debate” — about “health care reform,”  the most reprehensible may be the journalists. At least the others — the politicians, the lobbyists, the corporations, the perpetually paranoid — are acting and speaking in ways that are true to their natures. Continue reading

Shorting Out

Now Russia, as well as South Africa, is on the list of industrial countries whose electric grid is on the verge of collapse (as explained in detail in Brace for Impact Chapter Six: Grid Lock). An exploding transformer at a major Siberian hydro-electric plant has taken out three of ten turbines and has moved the whole region closer to the edge of blackout.

[See “Accident at Russian hydroelectric plant kills 8.” — The Associated Press]

Read past the account of the accident to get the real news. Continue reading

Demonocracy in Action

The pundits are condescending and indulgent about the town hall meetings being conducted around the country to discuss health care reform. The TV anchors describe the meetings as rowdy arguments by angry people; they elbow each other and snicker about the amusing excesses of the stupid class.
These thugs are stupid like foxes and about as amusing as a heart attack. I know thus because of a study I did years ago of a small town in Germany. But I’ll get back to that.
We need to distinguish between the simpletons we see brandishing signs and screaming their fears about death squads being sent to euthanize Grandma, and government taking over Medicare, and socialized medicine and the like. Most of them are harmless in their natural state, fulminating about the government conspiracy to supress UFO sightings and confiscate guns. But they have been whipped into a rabid frenzy by well-paid experts in using ignorance, fear, hatred and racism to win arguments in which they otherwise would not have a chance.
They win the day not by discussing but by screaming so loudly and so long that their opponents do not get a chance to respond. And what is it that they are screaming? It doesn’t matter. They have learned that if you say anything often enough, angrily enough, you can get up a mob. Accuse a decorated, wounded war hero of cowardice. Proclaim it to be un-American to count all the votes. Equate discussion of end-of-life medical care with euthanasia. Why not? It works.
We know it works because this drive-by shooting of our demnocracy has resulted in headlines indicating that Obama’s popularity is declining, that the adminsitration has “lost momentum” in the so-called “debate” over health care, that “people” are afraid and upset about reform. This in a country where all objective measures show clearly that people are deeply upset about the present state of health care and health-care insurance (two different things, by the way: how come nobody makes the distinction in this “debate”?) and want, by a large majority, a single-payer system to replace it.
We also know these tactics of intimidation work because of that small town in Germany I mentioned. When the least capable, most resentful and intellectually challenged of its citizens were shown by political operatives how to dominate town meetings and local political events by shouting down and threatening decent people, they succeeded in delivering their town — which disagreed with them by a large majority — to their party. The National Socialists of Adolf Hitler.

The pundits are condescending and indulgent about the town hall meetings being conducted around the country to discuss health care reform. The TV anchors describe the meetings as rowdy arguments by angry people; the members of the chattering class elbow each other and snicker about the amusing excesses of the stupid class.

The thugs who are engineering the disruption of these meetings are stupid like foxes and about as amusing as a heart attack. I know this because of a study I did years ago of a small town in Germany. But I’ll get back to that. Continue reading