Tuesday, December 27, 2005
In past posts, Chaos has noted how the facts of peak oil have recently been slipping into news media and government hearings. It is now time to wonder why the Imperial government continues to remain silent, since waiting to educate its citizens and initiate action is clearly deterimental to dealing with the problem. Or, is the government's response to this issue more resource wars in the Middle East and other places around the world? Clearly, competition for energy among nations will be the next wave of international politics, but this only amounts to a short term rearranging of the chairs on the Titanic. Sadly, Chaos believes that the government's lack of response speaks volumes, and requires citizens to make their own preparations for the inevitable end of oil. For further exploration: Sustainable Living Forum ( registration required to view articles), Peak Oil Forums (try Planning For the Future).
Monday, December 26, 2005
Friday, December 23, 2005
"The Fox News campaign against Wal-Mart and other outletsÂwhose observance of the official feast-day is otherwise fanatical and punctilious to a degree, but a degree that falls short of unswerving orthodoxyÂis one of the most sinister as well as one of the most laughable campaigns on record. If these dolts knew anything about the real Protestant tradition, they would know that it was exactly this paganism and corruption that led Oliver CromwellÂmy own favorite Protestant fundamentalistÂto ban the celebration of Christmas altogether.
No believer in the First Amendment could go that far. But there are millions of well-appointed buildings all across the United States, most of them tax-exempt and some of them receiving state subventions, where anyone can go at any time and celebrate miraculous births and pregnant virgins all day and all night if they so desire. These places are known as "churches," and they can also force passersby to look at the displays and billboards they erect and to give ear to the bells that they ring. In addition, they can count on numberless radio and TV stations to beam their stuff all through the ether. If this is not sufficient, then god damn them. God damn them everyone."
Amen, and happy solstice.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
By the way, if you said "the House embarked on a crash course to assure the U.S. has sufficient alternatives to oil in the future," sorry. Nothing will happen, is Chaos' prediction.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Here's another gamer item that illustrates the unreality of life in the Empire today: adult gamers are devastated by Sony's decision to revamp their favorite online game into a juvenile first person shooter. Says one gamer," ...for many people it's much more than a game. It is a part of their lives where they have invested huge amounts of time building a community."
Thursday, December 08, 2005
We've used up about 40% 0f the planet for growing crops or raising livestock, leaving little left for more expansion. The United States became a net importer of food for the first time recently. Try, if you can, to square this with ever increasing populations of hungry or greedy people.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Friday, December 02, 2005
Second finding: The Atlantic Conveyer, also known as the Gulf Stream, responsible for bringing warm water to Northern Europe, has been discovered to be slowing. This is in line with previous computer modeling predicting that the current may collapse from global warming, paradoxically causing the climate in Europe to cool substantially. This recent data clearly needs more study and corroboration, but as a confirmation of previously offered theories, it's an important piece in the puzzle. Of course, humans need a crisis to wake up from holiday shopping and pay attention, so the steady drip of bad news will have no effect on nonnegotiable lifestyles. Chaos wishes readers a happy weekend, unencumbered by entropy.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Saturday, November 26, 2005
On another front, the ACLU takes on the Bush Administration for denying visas to foreign intellectuals and scholars for taking ideological positions contrary to (what else?) the Bush Administration's policies. "The government should not be banning scholars from the country simply because it disagrees with what they have to say," said an ACLU attorney. The justification for this despicable action comes from (again, what else?) the Fascist USA Patriot Act, which allows the government to deny visas to those advocating terrorism. That "marketplace of ideas-free speech" thing is so quaint, so outdated. The oblivious public now has the government it voted for, and deserves, and the collective IQ slips a tad more...
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
Here's a recent piece in USA Today concerning budget deficits and what will happen to the profligate nation's economy when the Boomer Generation starts retiring. Unlike a real tsunami, this one is mathematically certain to happen, and when it starts and how bad it will be can be precisely predicted, because of demographics. In brief, there simply will not be enough working people to pay for the unfunded liabilities (that's Social Security and Medicare) when the large numbers of Boomers retire, as they will in 2011. Every year after that will produce larger and larger deficits: they are now estimated at $74 trillion. Reasonable people would note that seniors are the most active voting group in Imperial Nation and will fight to the death to preserve "their" benefits. (Many of this generation have not saved much money and believe that a magic pension will somehow appear when it's time to retire...). Much could be done now to stave off this tsunami, but of course there is no political will to do so. (See next post). For further reading, although it won't be pleasant: The Coming Generational Storm, Burns and Kolitkoff (2004), Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It, Peterson (2004).
Meanwhile, back in the Land of Nod: remember the $223 million Bridge to Nowhere? Since it became so highly puclicized, those in Congress have become sensitive to "how it looks," and decided to scrap this particular piece of pork. Oh, Alaska will still get to keep the money (!), the mandate for the bridge will just be "eliminated." In light of this, Chaos wonders why anyone need bother with delineating actual projects for Congressional (that's taxpayer) largesse: just announce the amounts and don't bother coming up with "the Museum for Golden-Cheeked Orioles" or "studies of why people like to scratch their heads."
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Hey Chuck, what happens when you flip the switch and the lights don’t go on? Do you bawl and call for your mommy? What happens when you put the hose in your gas tank and nothing comes out? Do you petition the Great White Father in Washington?
The infantilism and arrogance in Grassley's statement is just breathtaking...
Saturday, November 12, 2005
" Once upon a time Democrats were big spenders and Republicans were fiscal conservatives. That was a while ago. Ronald Reagan's defense buildup and tax cuts caused deficits to soar in the 1980s, and it was Bill Clinton who brought the budget back into surplus in the 1990s, partly by curbing spending. But those fiscal role reversals were timid by today's standards. Since 2000 the Democratic Party has been left in the dust when it comes to spending.
The Republican Party is the new, undisputed champion of big government. The Bush administration has presided over an explosion of public borrowing, fueled partly by tax cuts but also by huge new outlays. Both sides of the public accounts were out of control even before the enormous increases in spending to cope with Hurricane Katrina and the persistently dire situation in Iraq (see "Disasters and the Deficit," next page). The administration's incompetent handling of the hurricane will exact its own price over and above disaster relief, as the White House tries to buy its way back up in the polls. The Republican Party's former reputation for prudent fiscal management is no longer merely compromised; it is ruined, perhaps for good.
Among Republicans in Congress squeaks of complaint are heard here and there. But the White House has drowned them out. Before Katrina, at any rate, the administration was still insisting that the budget deficit would fall over the next few years. That prediction might have been right if Katrina and Rita had not happened and if Iraq had come good—at least if one further assumed that no other emergencies would arise, that most of the administration's tax cuts would be reversed by the end of the decade (which the administration itself, of course, is determined to block), and that demographic pressures (which are causing the government to pile up vast liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) would magically abate. On this side of the looking glass the deficit will not shrink unless something bold is done.
For those who find its budget forecasts unconvincing the White House has another line—one that slightly undercuts its assurances of fiscal responsibility. It is that the deficit does not matter. Economists have been predicting fiscal meltdown for years, officials point out. It has not happened and it won't, they say, even if the deficit sticks. The reason is that foreign investors just love this country's assets.
The resulting flow of funds—a global vote of confidence in American capitalism—means that the government can borrow without strain. Spend more, tax less, be happy.
It sounds like a confidence trick, and in the end it is—though, like all the best scams, it contains particles of truth. For much of the past decade private foreign investors have poured funds into the United States because they saw faster economic growth and better returns than were available elsewhere. As long as that kind of investment keeps flowing in, the deficit can be financed painlessly. Government spending still has to be paid for eventually, mind you—it is only a question of taxes today or taxes tomorrow. But a willing inflow of capital means that the eventual, inescapable cost to American taxpayers can be postponed at little risk.
Another thing helps. America enjoys the rare privilege of being able to borrow what it needs—currently on the order of $782 billion a year—mostly in its own currency. Countries heavily in debt usually have to borrow in a foreign currency. If they later get into trouble and the foreign-exchange market drives their currency down, the burden of their debt, measured in local money, weighs heavier, pressing them into an even deeper hole. But if the United States got into that kind of fix and the dollar fell abruptly, the value of America's debt would not rise. Instead the countries that had lent the dollars would see the value of their investments (measured in yen, say, or euros) fall.
As far as the United States is concerned, this is an excellent arrangement. With foreign lenders choosing to carry more of the risk, a credit-hungry America can afford to be less cautious.
But not this much less. If America were borrowing at half the present rate, it could probably relax. But $782 billion a year—more than six percent of GDP—is outlandish. Such reckless behavior has made America's privileged place in the world economy as much a curse as a blessing. Foreign capital is no longer voting as confidently for America. Private investors are spending less than before on American assets. Lately the slack has been taken up by foreign governments and central banks, which are pursuing not profit but doubtful policy goals of their own. (China's holdings of dollar reserves are already far greater than makes sense for China.) At some point these lenders are going to curb investment in American assets. Should this happen suddenly, here are some of the likely consequences: a spike in interest rates as the government is forced to find new takers of its debt, at dearer terms; a surge in personal bankruptcies and a sharp curtailment of spending among America's heavily indebted households; a stock-market crash; an increase in inflation; and a slide back into recession.
The present course of fiscal policy is not certain to end badly, but the risks are increasing. This summer, before Katrina, the economist Brad DeLong put the chance of a major U.S. financial crisis at 20 percent. The former Fed chairman Paul Volcker puts it at 75 percent within the next few years if we don't change our policies. Stephen Roach, the chief economist at Morgan Stanley (and a notorious pessimist), thinks it's about 90 percent. Whether any of these predictions is close to the mark is anyone's guess, but that's not the point. The point is that the chance of a bad outcome is substantial—and much higher than it needs to be.
Changing course now—before circumstances leave no choice—would be hard even if the administration believed it had to act. Starting from here, the combination of higher taxes and lower public spending required to bring the deficit down to manageable levels is politically daunting. Yet at the same time, Katrina has perhaps created a political opportunity to undo some of the fiscal damage this administration has wrought—by, say, curbing tax cuts and scaling back the Medicare prescription-drug bill.
Unfortunately, big-government Republicans see no need for such measures; they look at deficit hawks and see Chicken Littles. But this fiscal environment is more dangerous than any other America has faced in its modern history. Without corrective action the sky may fall.
Have a restful weekend; do your part to spread entropy.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Meanwhile, Texas continues its' enthusiastic spiral down into ignorance, bigotry, and theocracy, aided in part by rabid applause from the World Capitol of Ignorance. What really rankles is the statement from Glen Maxey, gay former legislator: "this issue is clouded by people's religious views (Duh! you think?)...I don't think Texans are overwhelmingly hateful kinds of folks and I think eventually they will come around." Liberals just can't believe that people choose to be moronic, homophobic and vile. No no no, they're just misinformed, misled, have their judgment clouded, relied on incorrect numbers, had the wool pulled over their eyes by Republicans or some other ridiculous excuse. Sorry, Glen, this wasn't even close.
Drawing upon trends in immigration, education and demographics, Chaos makes the following prediction for the state of the State in 20 years or so: the children of Mexican immigrants inundate the already overcrowded public schools, at least for awhile, until they are forced out by high stakes testing of the Every Child Kicked in the Butt (oh sorry, No Child Left Behind) Law. Non-immigrant (or wealthy Anglo, if you will) schoolchildren enjoy the teaching of creationism in their homes or private "christian" schools, devoid of testing of any kind, while the brain drain caused by the No Gays Allowed In This State referendum reduces the state collective IQ to dull normal or borderline retarded levels.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Chaos wishes to make the following observations concerning the "holiday" season: one can now reasonably conclude that any spiritual component of said holiday has been gradually and finally leached out by the relentless grinding of the American retail machine. The demands of the market now dictate how Americans spend their holidays. At best, the rituals have become so degraded by gross materialism that they now resemble a caricature of the original themes and practices. The bestowing of gifts now substitutes for authentic sentiment and is best exemplified by that most modern of gift shortcuts, the gift card, a bonanza for retailers and a boon for time-pressed or careless shoppers. In contrast to the original feasting and merrymaking, many people undertake tasks so numerous that the holiday "break" is in fact more stressful than the normal routine. Overindulgence in food and alcohol, depression and even suicide are typical responses to the dysfunctional anomie of the season. Travel on the holidays is ill-advised, because of huge lines at the airport and price-gouging, but going into debt to "pay" for Christmas is common and expected. The holidays have morphed into such a gargantuan commercial fiesta that retailers now expect that up to 40% of sales and most of the profits for the entire year will be reaped during this three month period. Given the context, Chaos has no doubt that the insensible American public will go along with this "marketing strategy," much like the drooling Pavlovian canines. It may, however, be quite a chilly January when the bills come due.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Doomerosity Index: Elevated
Your daily shot of doomerism appears courtesy of Population Connection and no, it's not a fertility site (hint: formerly known as Zero Population Growth) but one concerned with the horrific impact homo sapiens has on the planet. Check out this fact sheet; highlights: the U.S. has 5% of the world's population but produces 25% of pollutants, 27,000 species become extinct every year, 80% of rain forests have been lost, if every one on Earth enjoyed the U.S.'s "non-negotiable" lifestyle, it would require the resources of 3 additional Earths, and so on.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
From the News You Can't Use Department: Boy King's Tax "Reform" Commission produces politically impossible recommendations no one will follow-- let's eliminate deductions for mortgage interest, property taxes, employer-provided health insurance, state and local taxes. Sure. Anyone with a brain notice that these are all political nonstarters? In an ideal world, there might be some leadership willing to take on these popular items, but this world is not that world.
From the Actual News Department: More warnings from scientists who say that vast unprecedented changes in the climate will occur in the next 20-70 years unless global warming is halted and reversed. Said one of the authors of the study, Dr. Kenneth Caldeira, "the question is no longer whether we will need to address this problem, but when we will need to address this problem. We can either address it now, before we severely and irreversibly damage our climate, or we can wait until irreversible damage manifests itself strongly. If all we do is try to adapt, things will get worse and worse." Chaos wonders how many more scientists will undertake to futilely sound the alarm to the persons on the planet who contribute most to the problem (hint: it's the ones who make up 5% of the world's population but use 40% of the resources).
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Here you go, this is it, civilization's final call: need a new career? unhappy with old economy ChinaMart job with stingy health care? Chaos has the answer, as well as why things will start to spiral out of control relatively soon: it's...animal massage practitioner!! For a mere $1500, you can change your career and change your life. Whee! As is obvious, Chaos is a devoted student of American frivolity, but this represents an unprecedented peak. One can only conclude that Imperial Theocracy is now on the downhill slope.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
More broadly, the U.S. economy has lately been propped up by a consumption binge brought about by low interest rates, mortgage refi's and cheap foreign goods. Since the U.S. savings rate has now dwindled down to 0.00% (lowest recorded since 1959!) and our budget and account deficits (the "twins") are at shockingly high levels, depending on ever more consumption seems reckless at best. If foreign central banks decide not to continue financing the U.S.'s spending, the result may be a race out the door to dump dollars. Simply put, the country has forgotten how to live within its means, and neither the politicians nor the public wish to make inconvenient choices that require sacrifice.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Imperial Nation becomes Imperial Theocracy: Cervical cancer strikes an estimated 10,000 women in the U.S. every year, killing some 3700. It is mostly caused by strains of the human papilloma virus, considered a sexually transmitted disease. Good news: there is a preventive vaccine. Bad scary news: mandatory vaccinations of schoolchildren are opposed by fundamentalist theocrats of death, who say that it "undermines our abstinence message" and thereby encourages sexual activity. Chaos supposes that the net effect of this benighted nation's descent into ignorance will be more dead laid at fundamentalist religion's doorstep. Happy Halloween!
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Chaos considers Hurricane Katrina a distant early warning to the greedy inhabitants of the planet, a mild but insistent omen of future shortages and lifestyle changes wrought by the slow end of fossil fuels. Peak oil is becoming increasingly hard for the unconscious American public to ignore: articles that attempt to present the issue, albeit in the shallowest and most superficial way, have become common. The larger truth has peeked out, however, in today's paper of record, in an article largely concerned with why food prices haven't increased as a result of rising oil prices. Not yet, anyway, as it's clear that the supply side of the food chain can only be squeezed so much. Expect inevitable increases in prices for sustenance to hit about the same time as winter heating bills. Note well how ubiquitous oil and gas are to the food supply: tractors, fishing boats, fertilizers, plastics, refrigeration, transport.
At the bottom of the article, however, (that's where the truth tends to leak out, have you noticed?) one finds the key as well as a harbinger of the future: a restaurant owner in Cleveland, who relies solely upon small local growers, hasn't gotten a price increase of any kind in the last year. Chaos does not prognosticate often or well, but believes that small and local farming will be the only viable methods in the post-peak era. Brush up on gardening skills.
Friday, October 28, 2005
"Hi, I'm Chaos and I'm a cocaine addict."
"I've been an addict for so many years I can't even remember living without my cocaine. I used to use a little bit every day, and it wasn't much of a problem. I even used to grow my own coca plants! But over the years I've gradually ramped up my appetite, and I've gotten to the point where I have to rely on many many coke dealers to keep me happy. I've had a lot of bad stuff happen to me because of my cocaine use: my health has gradually gotten worse and I have a lot of trouble just getting through the day. I'm sure more cocaine would help this, so I use even more. The stuff has gotten a lot more expensive lately; it used to be real cheap and some people say that all the good coca fields are played out and one day there might not be any left. A few days ago, one of the major dealers I buy from even said that most of the cheap cocaine is already gone and what's left is expensive and hard to grow. I can't believe this; the idea that there won't be any cocaine someday is just ridiculous, I mean there's always been plenty of cocaine so there always will be, right? I'd rather believe the people who say there's plenty of coke left. When the dealers raise the price of my cocaine, I get really mad. They always say that the market is to blame, that it costs more for them to get it for me, but I don't buy that. I think it's just these greedy coke dealers who are making big profits on addicts like me. When I tell them this, they just laugh and say I should use less cocaine, but how can I? It's not like there's something else I can replace cocaine with, and it's my God-given right to use as much cheap cocaine as I want to, isn't it? My lifestyle isn't negotiable! I've never tried to live without coke; I think it'd be real bad if one day I couldn't get some, or even as much as I want, but I can't stand to even think about it, so I don't. Can anyone help me?"
"No one here can help you, Chaos; you don't realize you have a problem"
Thursday, October 27, 2005
As previously noted, the North Pole will in a few decades cease to be a place one can walk to and instead kayaks, oil tankers or the like will be necessary. But the real punch in the gut from global warming, which is now too advanced to stop, lies on the frozen island of Greenland. Described as an upside down Gulf of Mexico, a vast sheet of overlaying ice has started to melt and by the time it ceases, sea levels will rise 20 feet or more. Although temporarily based 150 miles inland, Chaos has always enjoyed ocean views, and the summer seabreeze can be quite refreshing. The condition of the coral reefs, however, is not so nice. Those who wish to experience undersea vistas should plan to become SCUBA certified and visit a reef sometime soon, preferably before 2050 AD.
Message from the Boy King: Oooops! When that guy in the headdress held my hand and told me he could send me plenty of oil, I looked into his soul and believed him. Hey, give me a break, our families go back a long way, and he was telling me stuff I wanted to hear, unlike Matt Simmons.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
On a cheerier note, one 86 year old man has the cure for healthcare, and it's a booming endorsement of prevention. Exercise and diet (and, possibly, a wife 29 years his junior) keeps this fellow in top form: his doctor, frustrated with his nonparticipation in the healthcare system, tries vainly to attribute his success to nonprescription drugs. Chaos observes that the novelty of the author's habits are the reason for publication, and wonders how many sedentary citizens of the Republic can or will avail themselves of the methods detailed. Given the current rates of obesity, skepticism seems the best course.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Tomorrow: Healthcare cleanup...
Monday, October 24, 2005
--preview to Alien (1979)
Jared Diamond is a Pulitzer Prize-winning professor of geography and physiology at UCLA. Best known for Guns, Germs and Steel, a survey of prehistoric history designed to answer the question: why did some societies succeed and conquer other, less successful societies (or more concretely, why did the Spaniards sail across the Atlantic and conquer the Incas, rather than the other way around?). The answers to this question fascinate; Chaos highly recommends this work.
Diamond's current book is Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, in which he examines several societies, past and present, under varying circumstances, as to why each succeeded or failed. Diamond finds that several factors are usually present in the collapse of societies, among them:
1. Environmental damage
2. climate change
4. changes in trading partners
5. political, social and economic responses to the first four.
Diamond notes in particular that societies have collapsed at the height of their dominance, as he puts it, in a an effective synopsis of Collapse, "peak power usually means peak population, peak needs, and hence peak vulnerability."
Not content with an historical analysis, Diamond reviews the environmental conditions of several countries (China, Japan, Australia) and regions (Montana, Rwanda) through the prism of societal collapse. (The environmental roots of the Rwandan genocide in particular make compelling reading). Although it is apparent that Diamond sees population overshoot as the precondition of the environmental devastation that he describes, the work overall has a discongruently hopeful tone. A more pessimistic reader may believe Diamond's examples of hopeful progress are creeping incrementalism, instead of necessarily drastic action. (Even the author refers to a race between environmental destruction and human enlightenment, with the outcome far from certain). Further, regional solutions are unlikely to succeed in the present global interconnectedness and indeed, global collapse is possible.
Chaos views Diamond's work in Collapse as the backdrop or landscape to an upcoming series of posts on the effects of entropy in the coming century, in particular the twin towers of uncertainty in the economy, the impending retirement of the baby boomers, peak oil, and global warming. Chaos observes that Diamond has elucidated a theory and a theme, universal across time and place, which can serve both as an organizing principle and an admonition to American exceptionalism. Is the Imperial Nation, now at the height of dominance, also at peak vulnerability? Stay tuned, there's more.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
1. Can't read or write.
2. Reside in dangerous, crime-infested areas.
3. Have no access to uncensored media (and no, we're not talking about Fox News, or Faux News, as they say).
4. Don't have jobs and live on no more than $2 per day.
5. Live in corrupt countries where civil rights are curtailed (hey wait a minute, that sounds familiar...)
6. Barely get the minimum caloric intake (that's food) to survive.
7. Have no access to electricity or phone service of any kind.
8. Have little or no health care, resulting in high infant mortality and childbirth deaths.
The article points out that our assumptions that what we have is normal or should be, when applied outside the western industrialized world, lead to dangerous (unintended) consequences when we treat other countries as slightly less efficient and free versions of our own. Given the Imperial Nation's lack of sophistication in foreign policy these days, Chaos has little hope that the U.S. will stop trying to impose American "values" on the rest of the world, and do we really want everyone worldwide to emulate our SUVs, strip centers, tract housing developments and insatiable appetite for natural resources?
Friday, October 21, 2005
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
T.E. Lawrence (the famed "Lawrence of Arabia") was a British military liasion officer to the Arabs during World War I. At the time, Arabia was part of the Turk empire and the Arabs rebelled against the Turks. Lawrence ended up fighting alongside the Arabs and produced a book (The Seven Pillars of Wisdom) as a result of these experiences. Lawrence is sometimes called the "Clausewitz of guerilla warfare." His influence reached far beyond the Middle East: General Nguyen Giap, commander of the Vietnamese forces against the French in Indochina, stated that his primary influence was T.E. Lawrence. In particular, Lawrence elucidated six principles of guerilla warfare that have proved to be timeless and are relevant to the Imperial Nation's occupation of Iraq. These are:
"First, a successful guerrilla movement must have an unassailable base-a base secure not only from direct physical assault, but from attack in other forms as well, including psychological attack. Second, the guerrilla must have a technologically sophisticated enemy. The greater this sophistication, the greater this alien force would rely on forms of communications and logistics that must necessarily present vulnerabilities to the irregular. Third, the enemy must be sufficiently weak in numbers so as to be unable to occupy the disputed territory in depth with a system of interlocking fortified posts. Fourth, the guerrilla must have at least the passive support of the populace, if not its full involvement. By Lawrence's calculation, "Rebellions can be made by 2 percent active in striking force and 98 percent passively sympathetic." Fifth, the irregular force must have the fundamental qualities of speed, endurance, presence and logistical independence. Sixth, the irregular must be sufficiently advanced in weaponry to strike at the enemy's logistics and signals vulnerabilities."
Alas, Chaos observes that the Boy King and his minions have been woefully ignorant of history, and reading Lawrence now would be an exercise in futility, even if they were so inclined, which they are not. Iraq is now a dramatic example of Lawrence's principles in action, effectively stymieing the mightiest military on the planet.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Recently, Chaos took a firsttime involuntary tour of a local hospital on an emergency basis (appendectomy, for the curious, and there were actually two visits, and yes, it hurt). Although Chaos was impressed with the conscientiousness and caring of the physicians and staff (while noting that, in many instances, nurses seemed to be required to perform more menial tasks than one would have thought) as well as the superior technology brought to bear (MRI, lapriscopy, etc.), it wasn't until Chaos recieved the first statement from the insurance company that the revelation occurred: $19,500 (that's dollars, not pesos or yen) for the first three day stay! Yikes!
The U.S. healthcare "system," if one can even call it that, is, by all accounts, grossly dysfunctional, at once wildly expensive and wasteful (the US spends 2 1/2 times more per capita than any Western industrialized nation and a lower life expectancy than Costa Rica), and ridiculously unfair: 44 million or so Americans are uninsured. The US spends three times as much as Canada, for example, just on paperwork. The paperwork can overwhelm even people who are completely familiar with the system, to the point that paperwork "specialists" are available to wade through it for a fee, much like employing a CPA to do ones taxes. It's been estimated that 18,000 people in America die each year as a result of being uninsured. The system has been described as a "hybrid," in that approximately 50% of health care goes through various government programs (Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran's Administration) while the remainder is through private insurance. What this means in practice is that the system is like a game of musical chairs, with each entity attempting to shift the costs to someone else until the music stops. This is what Chaos experienced--"sticker shock," even though the insurance company was paying most of it. The hospital attempts to charge the full "rack rate," (to make up for paying the government much less for Medicare patients) the insurance company negotiates this down a little, and the taxpayers pay for the uninsured, but not before their health problems have so deteriorated that they become a screaming emergency. Of courser, medical problems untreated often worsen (and become more expensive) so that costs for "last minute" treatment are much greater, and people die earlier and more often.
Politicians sometimes defend the current system by claiming that the U.S.can't have a singlepayer system like Canada's because that amounts to "rationing health care." If one ever says this within earshot, box his ears, vote him out of office (yeah right) or throw a shoe at the TV screen. Yeah, there's rationed health care all right: the rich get all the health care they need and the uninsured (notice Chaos didn't say poor, since many people who lose their "good" jobs end up without health insurance) ration themselves by not going to the doctor, and taxpayers have to clean up the mess.
A political solution? Don't bet on it. Powerful forces, who benefit from the current system, will rise up to spew propaganda and corral their paid-for "representatives." Remember the last time health care reform came up? The industry squashed the Clintons easily. Bush's health savings accounts? Great for the healthy and wealthy. Chaos' advice: bet on the current system continuing and invest in health care; it's a sector brokers call "outperforming."
One positive note: following Chaos' release from the hospital, several acquaintances who have been uninsured were persuaded to purchase health insurance. "A ray of light breaks through the clouds..."
Monday, October 17, 2005
As documentary, however, Over There has provided the U.S. public with a more realistic view of the war on the ground than most anything offered by the self-censoring news media or the cheery pronouncements of the Bush Administration. Interestingly, the show was described by Bochco as non-political and indeed, there seems to be no need for preachiness. The squad has weekly encounters with a witches brew of Iraq war horrors: limbs blown off, children killed, deaths from friendly fire, and an Iraqi population bitterly hostile to Americans. The show has even been prescient: an episode a few weeks ago showed the character Bo, who lost his foot and was shipped home in the pilot, getting a bill from the Army for missing equipment, while the Army sent his pay to an old address, where it was misappropriated by his dad. Characters often (and rightly) question what they are doing in this seemingly purposeless maelstrom of violence. It is an observed peculiarity in American culture that "fictional" violence and mayhem are acceptable to sell scented toilet paper and other frivolities, but graphic "news" of the real war is not. In this light, Chaos suggests that a more valuable use of time might be to skip the news of the war on FOX/CNN/MSNBC and the print media and just tune in to F/X on Wednesday nights, at least until the reruns begin...more to the point, does Over There undermine the armed forces attempts at recruitment?
Saturday, October 15, 2005
The Oil We Eat, (Harpers, 2004).
Long and quite excellent discussion of the platform on which global society is based. Chaos especially likes the explication of the Laws of Thermodynamics, but there is much more as to why the long term exploitation of the planet will have to end. Did you know that much of the corn we grow goes into...sugar? (Check out the list of ingredients in the food items in your pantry. Hint: the words "fructose corn syrup" are what you're looking for...) Think your vegetarianism will save the planet? Maybe not so much, as John Stewart would say. Did you realize nitrogen as fertilizer is environmentally radioactive? If this article makes you uncomfortable, Chaos suggests that you might ask yourself why.
Friday, October 14, 2005
*Geographic epiphany: enlightenment achieved upon the realization that another city/region/state/country has pursued a different way of addressing an issue or solving a problem. Ant.: geographic ignorance
Thursday, October 13, 2005
"To the Editor:
It's heartening to see that Nicholas Kristof has found a fresh humanitarian cause: starving children in Nigeria, and indeed, it is and will continue to be an ongoing tragedy. Kristof would be better advised, however, to inform readers of the larger problem Nigeria will face in the coming years, chiefly that, because of its high fertility rate (5.32, more than twice the replacement rate), the U.N. projects its population to double between now and 2050. In light of this, it is clear that the country's inability to feed itself today is an indication of population overshoot and a distant early warning of worsening conditions in the future. Simply put, there are too many people in Nigeria now; there will be many more later and teaching them Western agriculture is insufficient to address the underlying population explosion. We would do better to marshal our limited resources to provide Nigerian women access to contraceptive education."
The twin dilemmas of overpopulation and declining population are going to become more salient in the next 30 years, in Chaos' opinion. Curiously, some nations will be extremely overpopulated, while others will have declining (and aging) populations. Look for future posts on the details of this issue. By the way, readers irritated with the Times' pay-to-read policy may wish to visit this site.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
This discusses the human face of "tort reform," the artificial setting of limits to recovering damages in civil cases. As it applies to nursing homes, expected effects are fewer, less trained staff (to save money) and no incentives to provide adequate care. If it does nothing else, the civil justice system punishes negligent or intentional misbehavior of large entities who cut corners to enhance profits. As the largest generation in the history of America prepares to retire, it warms Chaos' heart to know Texas is at the head of the line in encouraging poorly run nursing homes.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Global Warming: The Carbon-based Life Forms Fiddle While Rome Ignites (The Tectonic Plates Begin to Speed Up)
Were Chaos to truly delight in the self-immolation (this image comes to mind) of the human race, he would need look no further than the melting polar ice cap, projected to be completely ice-free in summertime by the end of the century. The first hurricane in the Southern Hemisphere has appeared and droughts in Colorado have caused a massive die-off of pinyon pines. Alas, examples like these are now ridiculously easy to track and depressingly common. Sadly, no one is seriously attempting to do much (governmental-level intervention is widely acknowledged to be the only avenue to halt or reverse such a massive planetary phenomenon, and even then it may be too late to accomplish anything--thanks, Mike Davis) and in fact, the Fatherland, Canada, Russia, Norway and various entrepreneurs are now maneuvering, squabbling, and generally falling all over themselves to establish exclusive oil, gas and mineral rights, fisheries, trade routes and newly "expanded territories." Chaos observes that once the polar ice caps melt , the Gulf Stream is subsumed, and the Capitol of Ignorance becomes a coastal city (look, Mom! the beach is coming!) conflicts over who gets what at the North Pole may become sort of, well, irrelevant. Oh, and Chaos does admit to a teensy bit of glee over the coming demise of the SUV and its devoted following.
Monday, October 10, 2005
As noted yesterday, "illegal" immigration (we speak here primarily of Mexican immigration into the US) has become quite the divisive issue of late. Mexican immigrants are on the rise after a few years of decline, and are spreading out all over the country. Increasing the number of Border Guards, building walls, fences and the like are the traditional Xenophobic methods of combatting the phenomenon (along with calls to "enforce the law," forgetting perhaps in our Wal-Mart economy, we likey our meat packed cheap, our houses built cheaper, and our fruit picked cheapest of all, pesticides or no). At the other end are analyses such are this indicating that Mexican immigrants tend to be high school dropouts; their children also drop out of high school in greater numbers than either the general population or other(almost always more educated) immigrant groups. Recently, the law of unintended consequences has intruded on Chaos' conciousness...seems that immigrants, while not discouraged from coming over here, are going back in fewer numbers because of increased border enforcement. Is it Hotel California (you can check in, but not ever leave...) revisited? If the concerns of the Xenophobes ( lack of assimilation of Mexicans in contrast with previous generations of immigrants who came from overseas) are correct, increased border enforcement may actually lead to more assimilated and successful (economically, anyway) Mexican immigrants.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Saturday, October 08, 2005
"Uneven development is high in almost all the states in the index, suggesting that inequality within states—and not merely poverty—increases instability. Criminalization or delegitimization of the state, which occurs when state institutions are regarded as corrupt, illegal, or ineffective, also figured prominently. Facing this condition, people often shift their allegiances to other leaders—opposition parties, warlords, ethnic nationalists, clergy, or rebel forces. Demographic factors, especially population pressures stemming from refugees, internally displaced populations, and environmental degradation, are also found in most at-risk countries, as are consistent human rights violations."
Let's see, inequality of economic development, ineffective state institutions (FEMA? Iraq? Hello?), rise of religious leaders, population pressures (from south of the border, you think?) and environmental degradation...hmmm, sounds a lot more like the US than Chaos is comfortable with right now.
Nicholas Kristof ("Order in the Court, NYTimes, October 5) makes an attempt at evenhandedness, as is his habit, in chastising both liberals and conservatives for relying on the Supreme Court to engage in judicial activism for their own particular causes. His efforts, however well-intentioned, fail to persuade. First, the "liberal"examples he cites, without exception are decisions which ocurred well in the past and now reflect mainstream thought (desegregation, Roe, private discrimination, various freedom of speech issues). He then follows these "examples" of judicial activism with a disclaimer (these were "manifestly right"and "fine justice," but achieved through the"torturing" of the Constitution). Next, Kristof postulates that these decisions were not well-received by the man in the street (or "ordinary Americans in the heartland," as he puts it--could this possibly be code for redstaters? fundamentalist Christians?). I suppose that really is the heart of the problem, when a majority (or vocal minority, perhaps) simply refuse to believe in the racial desegregation of schools, that accused persons without financial means ought to be provided free legal counsel, or that perennial issue before Congress, that the burning of the flag does not constitute free speech. I suspect Kristof is afraid to openly state what this column tapdances around: that it is in fact the Court's role to step in when all other branches of government have simply refused to address the "inalienable rights" guaranteed by the Constitution. When the will of the people, as expressed through the legislative and executive branches, is simply wrong, it falls upon the Court as a last resort to provide redress. There is no requirement that the decisions rendered from such a state of affairs need be popular, and indeed it may be a perverse measure of a decision's "rightness" that it is unpopular. Further, it is significant that Kristof cannot cite any specific examples of "conservative" judicial activism, much less any of the stature of Brown, Roe, Gideon, or Miranda. The reason for this is most likely that conservative judicial activism consists simply of striking down laws that conservatives do not like. Kristof's evenhandedness, far from illuminating these issues, serve merely to obscure the obvious truth: conservatives have used the "judicial activism" label as code for judges who decide the issues before them contrary to conservative orthodoxy, whatever that may be.
Don't look for this letter to be published (alas, it exceeds the 150 word limit, and Chaos was not inclined to edit). Chaos cares nothing for recognition....