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

Saving the Money

Friends are surprised at my response when they ask me what I think of the debate over health care reform — okay, it was one friend. I’m not paying any attention to it.
The vast, grotesque Kabuki dance being performed on the political stage currently has nothing to do with health care, nothing to do with reform, and very little, in reality, with being a Republican or a Democrat, a liberal or conservative. It is, rather, an elaborate series of shams and alarms devised to distract us from the sight of the Money shutting down our government in plain view. (I describe in detail how they do it in Chapter Seven of BRACE for IMPACT, “The Failed State.”)
The current discussion of health care and health-care insurance was over before it started. Barack Obama is the first president in modern history to be elected without owing his election to the Money, and thus it was heartening to hear him promise to seek reform. But before he knew he was going to win, back in the primary season, in all probabaility as an effort to placate the Money (which cannot be placated), he ended the discussion of true health-care reform by taking off the table any possibility of a single payer system.
(Spare me, please the horror stories about socialized medicine. I have been hearing the bogus arguments against it for more than 40 years, since I covered its inception in Saskatchewan, the province that led Canada into health care reform. My parents lived and died under that system, and not once did they fear, on the sudden appearance of some symptom, that they would lose their home because they could not pay for their care, which is the first thought of every person I know in this country, insured or not, when illness threatens. Not once did my parents experience treatment denied or delayed. So spare me.)
President Obama is going through the motions of making good on a campaign promise, and in so doing he has turned the matter over to the tender mercies of a Congress that did not get elected without the help of the Money. Most of them could not get elected as a crossing guard without the millions lavished on them by companies who make millions off the sickness and desperation of their fellow human beings. Whatever comes of their deliberations, however packaged, however pleased Mr. Obama pretends to be, whatever practiced rantings of the left and right ensue, will not hurt the Money.

Friends are surprised at my response when they ask me what I think of the debate over health care reform — okay, it was one friend. I’m not paying any attention to it.

The vast, grotesque Kabuki dance being performed on the political stage currently has nothing to do with health care, nothing to do with reform, and very little, in reality, with being a Republican or a Democrat, a liberal or conservative. Continue reading

Where There’s Will, There’s No Way

Commenting as he does from great heights of self-regard, George Will can be pretty insufferable. But he is not always wrong.

He is at his worst when condescending to all those, including the great majority of the world’s scientists, who believe that human pollution of the air is causing global climate change. According to Will, they are alarmists. Continue reading

Farmwash

Subdivision developers have discovered, according to the New York Times [“Growing With the Crops, Nearby Property Values”] that they can get more cash for a postage-stamp building lot if it is somewhere near an “organic” “farm.”

In one of the featured examples, a developer is preparing to sell 334 homes on 220 acres in Vermont. The farm amenity consists of 16 acres which the newspaper describes as “not previously used for farming,” which may mean it was not usable for anything. A 220-home project near Atlanta is going to feed its inhabitants from a 20-acre “farm.” Continue reading

Muddy Water Rising

The tide of mortal threats to our industrial society continues to rise — as is well documented in today’s Sunday papers — while the leaders and the institutions that are supposed to preserve. protect and defend us indulge in distractions. (Whether it’s a hike on the Appalachian Trail or a rant about Socialized Medicine, it’s a distraction.) Meanwhile, the tide rises:
The Congressional Budget Office this week issued a new report on the national debt (little noticed in the furor over its cost estimates for “socialized” medicine) that reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s observation: “When I reflect that God is just, I tremble for my country.” The debt continues to skyrocket, faster than the Gross Domestic Product. “To put it bluntly,” the New York Times [“The Debt Tsunami”] observes, “the fiscal policy of the United States is unsustainable.” There’s that word again. It means we cannot keep doing it. If we try — if we allow our representatives to refuse to raise taxes, cut spending and fix health care — then we will find out the bad way what unsustainable means.
Various cheerleaders for the Way Things Used to Be pretend to see the end of the recession coming. But the end of the recession does not mean a return to what we used to think of as normal. People are showing a strong tendency to save money, drat them, rather than buy stuff, and that means that a great many people who lost their jobs in the past year are not going to get them back. Bob Herbert writes in the Times [“No Recovery in Sight”] that the official unemployment rate has reached 9.4 percent, much worse than recently predicted, and is headed for ten percent. And according to on study, the underutilized workers — who want full time but only get part-time, or who want jobs but are too discouraged to even look — now total nearly 30 million, the highest number in history and the highest rate in a quarter century.
We who worried about the dramatically increasing reproductive problems in frogs and fish used to endure a lot of ridicule. Now, not so much. [It’s Time to Learn From Frogs,” Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, again.] Because the problems are now occurring in humans, in the form of genital deformities in infants and declining sperm counts in adult males. The culprit? In all probability a class of widely used industrial chemicals called endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with the infinitely complex system that manages our bodies’ growth, functioning and reproduction. These chemicals are everywhere — in agricultural chemicals, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, cleaning compounds, children’s toys, food storage containers, furniture and carpets, computers, phones, and appliances. Only now has it occurred to some to research their long-term effects, and the results, just starting to come in, are horrifying.
Scary stuff, but remember the main thesis of BRACE for IMPACT: saving the world is not possible, but you and I can save ourselves — can start living sustainably — at any time we choose.

The tide of mortal threats to our industrial society continues to rise — as is well documented in today’s Sunday papers — while the leaders and the institutions that are supposed to preserve. protect and defend us indulge in distractions. (Whether it’s a hike on the Appalachian Trail or a rant about Socialized Medicine, it’s a distraction.) Meanwhile, the tide rises: Continue reading

Coming Detractions

Want a preview of the likely deterioration of climate and agriculture in this country over the next several years? Watch India today.

Time Magazine [“The Truant Monsoon: Why India is Worried” June 26, 2009] reports widespread panic in the country because the monsoon season of heavy rains that replenish the rivers and make agriculture possible has simply not appeared — it is at least two weeks late.

Save the story. You’re going to hear the same quotes from the chambers of commerce, the politicians, the global-warming skeptics and the miserable farmers out of the American Central Plains and Southwest over the next decade.

Tower of Power

There it is, in Chicago of all places, the Big Idea that could have saved us, in plain view for everybody to see and not talk about.

After a $350 million renovation the Sears Tower, at 110 stories the tallest skyscraper in the hemisphere, will produce 80 per cent of its own electricity. [Sears Tower to be Revamped to Produce Most of Its Own ElecricityThe New York Times.] That’s a big project, but it’s not the Big Idea. Continue reading