Tuesday, December 26, 2006
(Update:) Chaos just noticed this article in one of the nation's premier (maybe not for long, but still...) newspapers on the growing trend of insurers denying healthcare policies for persons who have such risky conditions as jock itch, swelling from a spider bite, seeing a psychologist for a few months after a breakup, breast implants, sleep apnea, ear infections, and varicose veins. Predictably, the results are people deliberately not seeking treatment, remaining at or seeking employment based solely on health insurance availability, and witholding information from doctors. Look not to the future, for it is here, and a bad thing it is too.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
"Underneath the American Christmas spirit and good cheer is a debt-laden society that appears to have lost its way, marred in the quicksand of consumerism. As a society, we seem to have forgotten how to save so we can invest in a better future. Instead of leaving our children a promising economic future, we are bequeathing them the largest debt burden of any generation in history."
How sad, and true. The rest of the article is equally penetrating and eloquent on the subject of the declining culture of the Empire....its citizens are only preoccupied with endless consumption, at the expense of future generations.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Saturday, December 02, 2006
"Here’s a scenario that is familiar to anyone who has ever set foot in Wal-Mart, CVS, Rite-Aid, or any of a dozen other major retailers. After you have made a purchase, collected your bags, or packed everything into a shopping cart, you head for the exit. Just as you approach freedom an alarm sounds (usually a sequence of ugly, electronic grunts) and a robotic voice (always female) announces: “Please return to the checkout.” Other customers immediately look in your direction, and an employee begins to approach you. What’s your next move?
If you possess an ounce of personal pride or perhaps two ounces of fortitude, then the 100 percent correct move is to proceed immediately out the door. Why? There are many reasons, chief among them being that rational adults should not instantly obey mechanical voices (unless that voice instructs us to exit a burning aircraft). Also, if you haven’t stolen anything and therefore do not require interrogation, there is absolutely nothing that should compel you to linger post-transaction. It’s depressing enough simply being there in the first place. Another good reason to make a quick exit is that you aren’t being paid to assist some giant retailer with its security measures. You aren’t part of the team, and you didn’t clock in. The clearest reason for leaving the store, however, is that there exists absolutely no legal obligation to remain there, and the store has no right to detain you.
Because all of the above constitute my position on the matter, I have established a mildly adversarial relationship with many retail establishments with whom I continue to do business. I don’t mind too much, because so far I have won all the battles in this long and silly war. What does trouble me is that retailers who, as a matter of policy, routinely treat customers like criminals have not changed their attitude about the issue. In fact, some vehemently defend their policies. I began closely paying attention to this phenomenon several years ago. My story begins at Wal-Mart during the Christmas shopping season of 2000.
It’s an unpleasant fact of life that sometimes we must shop at Wal-Mart, but the selection and savings in the pharmacy and auto department are worth braving the depressing atmosphere if you can get in and out fast enough. A speedy departure is exactly what I was thinking about that December evening as I sped my cart, after paying for all nine items, toward one of the exits. I was stopped by a 60-something gentleman who said he needed to see my receipt and check what was in my cart. I smiled and said, “I’m in a hurry to get out of this madness. Can’t help you.”
The truth is that I had no idea where that receipt was, and I wasn’t keen to search for it. The gentleman moved in front of the cart and firmly gripped the sides, saying “Sir, I must see your receipt before you leave.”
“Oh, I see what you mean,” I replied. “I guess we better get one of your security people over here.”
That puzzled him for a second. “Will you wait here while I get somebody? he asked.
“No.” I said. “I’m out the door as soon as you get out of the way.”
This was a spontaneous answer on my part, but in all honesty I was delighted to have stumbled onto a perfect dilemma for this zealous worker. If he stood his ground, he couldn’t see my receipt. But if he went for assistance, he might lose an opportunity to nail the Tylenol/Windex/Aussie Moist Conditioner thief. He then began to work his way up the side of the cart toward me, his strategy apparently being to keep one hand on the side of the cart and one foot on the floor at all times. Finally, he took hold of my forearm, which surprised me, but not in a good way.
“Never mind security,” I said. “Now you better go find a real police officer.” My captor gave that notion a moment’s thought and then began sprinting toward the rear of the building, making a dash for help in an incident that, for him, must have been escalating toward Def-Con 1. He wasn’t scared; he was determined. I stood there for some time, partly because the whole ridiculous scenario had stunned me, but also because I was even more impressed by how fast the old guy could move. Two other employees and a few customers who were observing the scene were impressed in a different way, I concluded, because they were all laughing at the poor fellow. I proceeded to my car, and that was the end of that. I kept the incident in mind for future reference.
In the spring, a man’s fancy lightly turns to lawn care, and I am therefore a frequent shopper in the gardening department at Wal-Mart, an area that in character and ambience stands in pleasant contrast to the rest of the store. I also have a habit of using the garden entrance and exit. But of course, that’s where the “greeter” invariably interrupts my reverie. “May I please see your receipt?” is the common request. The correct answer, which I also happened upon by accident, is “No, you may not.” What usually occurs next is that the greeter contacts security, because she or he never comprehends that they merely asked for permission that was subsequently not granted. There is nothing in that friendly exchange that hints of criminal activity, so what’s the point of hanging around?
If it sounds at this point as though I’m being an ornery crank about the whole matter, simply consider all those retail establishments at which customers spend vastly greater sums but are not interrogated before their departure. I’ve never been harassed at Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware, for example. I resent certain measures taken by retailers who don’t check bags or receipts, but who do, by implication, still manage to punish all shoppers for the deeds of a few criminals. A favorite means of combating that takes place at Banana Republic and Macy’s. Just for fun, I’ll browse through the leather jackets or expensive sport coats that are fastened together by a cable that holds an alarm sensor. When a clerk approaches and offers to unstrap the merchandise, I simply inform him that I don’t try on clothes in orange-alert, high-security areas. Yes, I’m being a jerk in a very technical sense, but I’m sending a message to management, I hope. Throughout my struggle, I have assumed that enough of these encounters will eventually work their way up through corporate levels to a decision maker who might implement change. That may be a flawed assumption.
The idea that small battles won might not lead to final victory first entered my mind at Costco. Costco is one of my favorite stores in the world, from a purely fiscal perspective. You do indeed save money there. Moreover, the employees at this well-organized, disturbingly efficient warehouse are consistently cheerful and helpful. The butcher shop is cleaner than those I see at the major grocers in town. You can get a case of Coke in glass bottles for just over $10. No way is anyone going to foul up that shopping experience. But Costco is apparently willing to make the effort.
When you check out at Costco, an employee takes your cart, places items on a conveyor, and then another employee rings up the items. There are no bags here (one of the many cost-saving measures) but you may gather empty boxes from a designated area and organize things yourself, once you have paid. It’s a warehouse, after all. In any event, at this point a customer is at least 20 feet from any merchandise, with no access to the store unless they return through the checkout line. There’s nothing between you and the exit, except another employee who must check your receipt and mark it with a highlighting marker. Never mind that all of the items in your cart, which have obviously been paid for, were also placed there by a Costco employee.
One problem with this receipt-checking system is that on busy days it forces customers to form long lines at the exit. On some of my visits, I decided to roll past this line with my items, now that I owned them, and head straight to my car. The first time I tried this, a woman shouted at me to return to the store. I believe she was still yelling “Sir! Sir!” as I departed Patton Creek and approached the interstate ramp. I wouldn’t know; I was listening to a CD I had just purchased at Costco. It was my CD, you understand. Why not enjoy it?
On another visit, I decided to get the lay of the land before attempting any more non-compliant exits. Perhaps there was a rule or policy about the Costco system that made sense. There on the wall at the exit, I discovered, is a huge sign that reads:
Why is my register receipt reviewed when I leave the warehouse?
To assure that you paid for and are not overcharged or undercharged for any item. Also, marking the receipt disallows its reuse.
The completely misleading nature of that message became obvious during my next encounter with Costco security enforcement. As I suspected, there were about a dozen customers in line for “receipt review” at the exit. That represented about six extra minutes that I wasn’t being paid for, and so I rolled toward freedom. The employee “reviewing” receipts left the line and cheerfully said, “I’m going to have to see your receipt first.”
Adopting her happy demeanor, I replied, “And you are going to have to chase me in order to do so.” Sometimes it’s worth being an ass just to see the response on people’s faces. Not only was the receipt lady registering total bewilderment, but several customers in line for the same hassle appeared equally baffled. One woman glanced at me with what looked like total contempt. Her response was invigorating, although I’m not sure why. I continued toward my vehicle, where I was greeted by a man who looked and sounded like “security.”
“Was there a problem at the checkout, sir?” he asked.
“No, actually, checkout was great,” I said. “Very efficient. But leaving the store was a little shaky. In fact, there’s definitely a problem there.”
“Well, for openers, I don’t like being treated like a shoplifter.”
“Sir,” he solemnly stated, “No one is treating you like a shoplifter.”
“Really? Then why, exactly, am I having a conversation with store security, who just happened to reach my vehicle at the same time I did?”
Minutes seemed to pass. I thought I noticed a funnel cloud moving toward Vestavia. A faint aroma of cotton candy was in the air. The forty-ish woman loading her purchase into a car two spaces down was wearing tight-fitting, corduroy jeans. She looked amazing. Finally the security guy responded. “Sir, our people checking receipts are doing their jobs. It’s a store policy that we inspect receipts. We’re trying to make sure you paid the right price.”
We get served a lob like that only so many times, and I wasn’t letting this one go. My research was finally paying off. I chose to be polite, because the security guy was actually quite calm and friendly about the whole incident. “This is a warehouse,” I replied. “There are no prices on those items in my cart, so how would they know if I were overcharged? Never mind, here’s another thing you should know. In my last five visits here, I allowed your staff to see my receipts, and they instantly marked them without so much as glancing at the totals. They were simply making certain that I had paid for something, and that I could not come back and use that receipt at a later date. In other words, to stop my attempts, present and future, at theft—you know, as though I were a potential shoplifter. Your sign with the message about ensuring that I wasn’t overcharged is what shoppers like me sometimes call bullshit. That’s Home Depot behind us. I spent a few hundred dollars there last year. Just to our right is Sears. I spent almost that much there last Christmas. No one reviewed my receipts at either store. Please tell me what I’m doing wrong.”
The security guy walked away, perhaps wondering if Costco had not fully explained to him all the details of “receipt review.” It’s also possible that he knew, without a doubt, that I was just one more jackass who “didn’t get it.” These are store policies, damn it
I contacted management at Wal-Mart, Costco, and other retailers to get some comments for this article about their respective policies. Long story short, no one is budging, and some retailers are downright proud of those policies. Wal-Mart has the most detached view of the issue, it seems. Their explanation of the process has to do with “security detection determining that sensors have not been deactivated; retraining transaction staff, etc.,” but nothing to do with human volition. For Wal-Mart, theft and theft prevention are natural phenomena, much like the weather. No one is being treated like a criminal, you see, it’s strictly a case of “devices detecting active sensors.” There’s really nothing Wal-Mart can do. Except have a greeter rummage through bags of items that legally belong to you. While you wait.
There are some things that shoppers can do, however. First, the deer-in-the-headlights response to security alarms must end. Smile and walk with confidence through the exit. Bear in mind that being suspected of theft is actually a reason to leave the store, not a reason to stay, in much the same way that no one remains at a party after they have been insulted by the host. If a particular retailer wants to play games by insisting that they are merely ensuring that you were not overcharged, then by all means let’s check all 74 items in the cart, poring over the receipt line by line while other customers wait. Another fun approach, if you are detained, is to inform the store that they may indeed inspect your bags or your receipt, if and only if all items are immediately returned for a full refund. That gets their attention. Or just tell them to call a cop. If you’re the theatrical type, adopt a German accent and repeat loudly that your papers are in order (with the same accent you can do the old Berlin Wall bit and say that you have friends at the central committee). The odds of a customer in the store getting the joke are very slim, but anyone who does get the reference will remember you forever. It will feel good to be someone’s hero.
Last fall, while I was waiting for a prescription to be filled, I stood near the exit of my local pharmacy reading a product description on a bottle of shampoo. Two elderly customers set off the sensor alarm as they walked out, but I told them to go ahead, because “that crazy thing had been going off all day, and we had not figured out how to stop it yet.” I also thanked them for shopping with us. When an employee arrived a few seconds later, I waved the bottle and apologized for getting too close to the sensors. All was well. I’m seldom that fast on my feet, but I was having a good week, apart from the sinus infection. With that in mind, as Thanksgiving approaches and the shopping season gains momentum, I hope that my story will be the catalyst for a quantum shift in consumer habits."
Well, Chaos hopes you enjoyed today's exercise in challenging one's assumptions...try to do more of that, it's healthy.
Source: Black & White
Friday, December 01, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Once again, Somafm, coolest station on the planet, has Xmas in Frisco, its irreverent holiday music channel, for your pleasure. Chaos ranted about the relentless commercialism of the most commercial nations on the planet last year, and is not about to do it again. (Ok, a little bit: the crowds are bigger and meaner this year, and there isn't a business establishment which is unwilling to use the holiday to sell whatever--tires, massages, etc. The decorations are more gaudy and ridiculous but the citizens of the Empire are spiritually poorer. $350.00 will get your holiday lighting installed in a 2 story suburban tract home--yes, we are taking in each other's laundry).
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Update: Here's a local letter to the paper that you can contemplate:
"It was a simpler time
Back in the good old days, remember when:
Our flag was respected, both at home and abroad. The government was of the people, by the people and for the people, not of the politicians, by the politicians and for the politicians. Families took care of families, not the government.
Girls in high school did not have children. You felt safe in your own home. Your house was seldom locked or windows closed. The key to the car was kept in the ignition. There was no such term as "drive by shooting." There was no need for a "war on drugs."
Children walked alone safely to and from school. Police and security guards were not needed at schools. Boys gathered at parks, vacant lots, open fields, etc. to play baseball and other sports. There were no knives, no guns and no need for adult supervision. It was a good time to be a boy.
Movies and TV did not rely on sex and violence to entertain; they entertained the old fashioned way. They did it with talent. You had a competent and caring personal doctor, not today's impersonal socialized medicine system. We were paid to work, not to not work. U.S. Grant was a president, not a government handout.
Children were taught manners. Your word was your bond. A person's good reputation was his most prized possession. Defending our country was a man's responsibility. Democrats and Republicans did not hate each other; they were Americans first and foremost. We fought wars for the right reasons and actually fought to win the wars. And on and on.
Today's society has more modern conveniences, but the good old days were truly "the good old days."
Yeah, those wars were pretty good, weren't they? Chaos supposes not so good for those killed in them, but pardon the digression. At any rate, an expanding population will certainly account for the effects mentioned in the letter, and the writer is to be commended for noticing the difference, although seemingly unaware of the reasons for it.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for the people to abandon civic spaces in which daily social and commercial Intercourse have, throughout history, bound neighbour with neighbour, customer with merchant, tradesman with client, manufactory with location, and citizen with community; and to indiscriminately pursue unfettered Motion and Isolation in the separate Vehicles to which their incomes entitle them; an unquestioning obeisance to the demands of motorized Movement requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all Motorists are created more equal than non-motorists; that they are endowed by Our Lord Economic Growth with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are the Right to drive wherever, whenever, and as much as they desire; and to do so in whatever size and type motor Vehicle shall please them; and that, moreover, they are entitled to as much Energy and motoring Infrastructure as shall prove needful for these purposes. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among oil Companies, motor vehicle Manufacturers, the highway Lobby, and the land development Cabal, deriving their just Powers from Consumers as evidenced by their vehicle purchases, fuel consumption, and selection of residences that make Driving a "necessity". That whenever any Form of historic municipal arrangement impedes the right to drive and park without limitation, it is the duty of departments of Transportation, acting on behalf of Motorists, to alter or to demolish it, and institute a new Master Plan, laying its foundation on an expansive Network of limited-access Highways, Streets wide enough for two ladder-type fire Trucks to pass with parked vehicles on both sides, turn Lanes, access Roads, drive Aisles, and abundant off-street Parking, as to the Motorists shall seem most likely to effect their Motoring Ease.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that city and village Designs long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that Motorists were sometimes disposed to suffer, while evils were yet sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Delays to which they had become accustomed. But when traffic Bottlenecks persist into the 21st Century, and insufficient free Parking near the front door of their every Destination continues to impede not merely the Motorist but Progress itself, it is the Motorists' right, indeed it is his duty, to condemn and pave over such confined Spaces, and to provide, moreover, abundant Capacity for future traffic Growth."
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
"The way we use the oceans is that we hope and assume there will always be another species to exploit after we've completely gone through the last one," said one of the researchers.
That's right, you can't make this stuff up, it's too depressing. What's even more depressing is the "ho-hum" response this story generated. Chaos noted the riot of exotic fish offered at the local market over the weekend: wild shark steak, Chilean sea bass, tuna, steelhead trout, etc. Oh well.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
"No empire, even in its prime, can afford policies that estrange its allies, increase its overseas commitments, make its enemies forget their mutual quarrels and form alliances with one another, and destabilize the world political order, all at the same time. American foreign policy in recent years has accomplished every one of these things, at a time when America's effective ability to deal with the consequences is steadily declining as its resource base dwindles and the last of its industrial economy fizzles out. To call this a recipe for disaster understates the case considerably."
Now compare this with the comments of poster "expat" on The Oil Drum: (he apparently is actually an expat living in Germany):
"In my opinion, the U.S. has been more or less actively isolating itself for several decades, in ways and for reasons which I'll skip over for now - they are mainly my opinion, though the use of fear goes fairly far back to the 1970s (remember the hijacking 'wave' of often politically motivated terrorists, like the PLO? That led to the first wedge of Americans getting used to the idea that security is more important than the risks of freedom.)
At this point, I suspect America's 'leading' role is more a case of social inertia than anything concrete, as the rest of the world continues to respond to challenges which America seems unable to understand, much less handle. Again, what happened in New Orleans in full color cannot be overstated in terms of what the rest of the world saw - most people in other societies were astounded to see how utterly unprepared America was to handle a completely predictable chain of events. I won't even begin to talk about Bush, except to note that the rest of the world is unable to grasp why he was re-elected.
In part, after several generations of faith in America, the rest of the world is now dealing with the fact that their belief in America needs to be changed to reflect reality, the same way they are beginning to deal with the results of climate change and a future where liquid fossil fuels will be increasingly unavailable. And what America thinks about this, or whether America will be participating in any solutions is becoming less important to other societies, as the problems are real, and are not going away.
It is strange to think that America may be the first world spanning power which simply decided to abdicate, because it preferred to live its fantasies, instead of dealing with the world around it. And what makes this really surreal is that Americans still think that bragging about their power to kill and destroy with the world's most powerful military is something which causes them to be respected and admired for their goodness.
This is not to dismiss America, but to simply point out that billions of people have different concerns than whether ExxonMobil or GM can keep the American Dream alive. For many people, the American Dream is becoming to be seen as part of a looming nightmare. Fat and ignorant are not really that admirable, after all."
Chaos finds such concurrence, if you will, between disparate writers exceedingly odd. Perhaps more than coincidental?
Friday, October 27, 2006
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Recently, Chaos referred to the "milestone" of the population of the Empire reaching 300 million, causing waves of horse hockey to be cast before the somnolent public. A finely balanced five part series that touches upon most issues has appeared in one of the more objective newspapers, the Christian Science Monitor. To appreciate the many implications of the country's continued exponential growth in humans, this article is a good start. Chaos would caution those who would mistake even-handedness with optimism, however, since the US has the highest use of resources on the planet (even the article mentions how low in sustainability the country ranks in comparison to the rest of the developed nations). Consequently, the Empire has the worst population problem on earth.
To second that last point, we find that the WWF has now released their biennial report on the state of the planet, and not surprisingly, finds that we are now in serious overshoot of the planet's carrying capacity. Vertebrate species populations have declined 33 percent since 1970, while humanity's footprint has increased ninefold from 1961 to 2003. Chaos' suggestion would be to read the full report before forming any opinions on how beneficial the continuing rise in teeming masses of humans are.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
“Clearly the save the automobile movement rules this place.
The talk centers around preserving the technology and not the human.
What I find particularly fascinating is insistence that we can just switch over to less driving, more mass transit, that we can be just like Europe and start walking.
Have you been to Europe? If yes, compare and contrast. Hmmm. US--Five miles to the nearest store. No local food production. No local clothing production. No local industry. Car culture rules. Economy based on import of energy, food, clothing, consumer goods of all stripes, decent fuel efficient cars. We export IOUs. Huge military.
Europe--Walkable cities. More local food but still imports much. Imports fuel in most of Europe. Some local industry, but mostly high tech and service. High concern about energy issues and the political will to get something done. NOT A CAR-CENTRIC CULTURE. Husbands old farming methods. Slow food movement. Small militaries.
I'd say we have about as much chance of becoming like Europe as pulling a cow through your nostril.
The energy cost of converting this vast suburban, car-loving nightmare into a walkable country with local economies will quickly subsume any savings that may be accomplished. The truth is plain. There will be privation. When the NatGas goes, there will be starvation. When the television watching rubes that make up this country see their widescreens go dark and the Mickey D's closing, they will riot. And not one of these fantasies espoused here regarding a transition to another form of energy intense society that just keeps on growing and consuming will ever happen. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN.
Now comes the point where everyone says, oh, pshaw, you doomer. How the heck could that happen? Look at us, we be so smart!!!
Well, if you are so smart, why do we continue to destroy the oceans, the arable land, our aquifers, the air, the climate? Why does our food have the nutritional quality of cardboard? Why do clothes last such a short time? Why can't we build a light bulb that lasts for 100 years? (HINT: we can and did in the fifties. My Uncle invented it for GE. They de-engineered it. "Can't make money with a device like that!") Why did we vote for a man who is clearly a retard, both morally and mentally?
Why? Because humans are incapable of thinking beyond their immediate needs.
My favorite statement today says we have "fifty years of oil left." SO, I GUESS WE ARE OKAY? Screw the future, as long as I gots mine.
Humans are vermin.”
“I think that EROEI should include a factor called the Inverse Population Effect.
Quite simply, if an effective energy alternative is developed that allows population to continue its upward growth, you must divide the EROEI by that growth factor.
Lets say your windfarm provides energy for a community of one thousand. Because of this energy, population growth business as usual continues and we add another 250 mouths to feed and energize: a quite reasonable number given our current growth rate.
As you may notice, the amount of energy produced does not increase, and the amount of energy availble per capita decreases. The standard answer is build more windmills. That requires resources including land, more energy to build the mills, metals, etc. We continue to grow our population, but if you follow the trend out to its logical conclusion, we must reach a balance point where population needs cannot be met if more windmills are built. At this point we have a moment of decision.
Either we control population, or we let the quality of life erode. (The question of what constitutes an appropriate definition of a satisfactory quality of life is another interesting issue.) Obviously more windmills will not solve the problem of insufficient arable land or potable water.
Again, the desire by the technos to keep the techno ball in the air precludes rational thinking. Overpopulation is the problem -- not the potential fall of our toy obsessed, growth addicted, and infotainment driven, energy drunk civilization. The greatest minds in our brief rise as a thinking creature lived in a pre-energy rich society. The best art we have ever created came about without the help of the Internet or 250 channel cable.
Yes, pre-hightech lives were often tougher, but not because they lacked technology per se. Their lives were tougher because they did not know how to control population. Or, they did not know that they needed to control it. We know. And, yes, that knowledge comes thanks largely to this tech bubble, but that does not mean we need to hold onto this beast forever. Think Daedalus and Icarus.
Because engineers are such short term thinkers, I doubt that my presentation of rock solid, indisputable facts will sway them. They cannot see the limits. What they know is that they can build a boat in the basement. They just won't have an "ah-hah" moment until the last nail is hammered into the last plank on their boat and they look up and realise they must disassemble the boat to get it out of the basement. Let's hope there is a world outside their closed-minded inner world for them to reassemble the boat in.”
Take a bow, Cherenkov. Not bad.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Here's an excellent example of the soporific effect the MSM has on those who still choose to listen or read: the marking of the 300 millionth inhabitant of the Empire. In keeping with the monkeys' tendency to draw lines and measure everything, this is treated as a significant event. What are the effects of a growing population? Well, to peruse the local fishwrapper is to learn that the challenges are primarily racial--that we are a "melting pot" (wasn't that usage dropped from the lexicon a long time ago?), that "some elements" fear Hispanics because they might "threaten American values" (uhoh), that large cities are all the better because of their "diversity,"and that the more people the country has, the more it is able to be a "major player in the global economy." If you were expecting something about the nation's outsize use of resources compared to the rest of the world's, and how it's population boom threatens the health of the entire planet, well sorry. To read about these things in detail one must look to something in cyberspace called Terradaily. Just a few facts and figures, which pretty much speak for themselves, and so little "editorializing" is necessary. Nonetheless, Chaos would point out that the Empire has the biggest population problem on the planet and is expected to reach 400 million residents by the 2040 or so. Talk about an uncomfortable feeling...Oh, and BTW, here's our good friend Dr. Albert Bartlett interviewed on the subject by a Denver newspaper; somehow, he presents a somewhat different outlook on growth (backed up by math, of course).
Friday, October 13, 2006
Apropos of nothing, the esteemed John Michael Greer gives us a helpful vision of what a long slow (catabolic, in other words) collapse might mean for those who still wish to go on making a living. Greer is quite the interesting fellow, having put forward a theory not exactly in opposition to, but in further refinement, one might say, of Tainter's much-discussed "collapse by diminishing marginal returns" hypothesis. His current series on The Energy Bulletin is fascinating stuff, for those who are practiced in the art of reading.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Reference: Plan B 2.0, Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute.
Here's an expanded work on the problems and some solutions (which will never be implemented, but still..) You can actually read this online, although the site will nag you for a donation. Recommended.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Sunday, October 01, 2006
And, completely off-topic, on the always thoughtful and readable Tomdispatch, Nick Turse examines the Pentagon's debut on MySpace...for recruiting purposes, of course.
Friday, September 29, 2006
To the same subject but vastly different results is our recent friend Joe Bageant. Chaos highly recommends all of this scathingly funny writer's essays; they capture profound insights on current life in the Empire one just can't find in the MSM. This one in particular has resonance to the subject at hand. Careful: fine writing ahead. Bageant's perspective is unique, and especially valuable when describing fundamentalists (his brother is a minister, and apparently will not cease trying to convert him) and the unvarnished depiction of the working classes. The unabashed consumption economy is not news to many, but the fresh take on its corrosive effects is worth the read.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Another report on American health care finds that the US system is failing: the country has a higher infant mortality rate than that of 24 industrialized countries and the lowest life expectancy of those who have reached age 60. "When graded according to 37 indicators assessing health outcomes, quality, access, equity and efficiency, [the Empire} recieved a score of 66 out of 100, a failing grade." Trends are not favorable here: more expensive and less responsive health care in the future would be Chaos' prediction. The diminishing marginal returns, in Tainter's lexicon.
Friday, September 22, 2006
At any rate, the very excellent Michael Klare (author of Blood and Oil and sometime contributor to Tomdispatch) provides the befuddled with a brief yet comprehensive view of the role of oil in the history of the Middle East and the Empire's involvement with it. Take the recommendations at the end with a grain of salt (ethanol won't be our saviour in this regard), but the overall thrust of the piece is fine.
BTW, Tomdispatch today features an interesting look at the end of Abu Ghraib and the transfer of prisoners held without charges or trial to other "facilities" in Iraq. "A rose by any other name..."
Thursday, September 21, 2006
In discussing the latest outrage, i.e., the elimination of habeas corpus by the Imperial Legislature, and by way of the 'extraordinary rendition' of Maher Arar, the poor unfortunate Canadian citizen sent to Syria to be tortured (for a year!) by American officials (acting upon the Canadian Mounties' entirely untrue information) Herbert writes, "I can't believe Americans think this is all right." (Full column here.)
Newsflash for Bob: yes, it is 'all right' for a good chunk of the public; the remainder just doesn't give a damn or thinks its just fine. To quote Joe Bageant: "[they have] the meanest kind of white man ignorance, or smug middle class obliviousness, the kind that could care less if all the babies in Iraq were fried on spits in the Green Zone of Baghdad, so long as their nails get done on Saturdays."
Reflect on that, floundering delusional liberals, and despair.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
Support the troops...
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Suggested reading: American Theocracy
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Money quote: "All of which drives me nuts because the nearly visible end of civilization strikes me as worthy of at least modest discussion. You'd think so. But the mention of it causes my wife to go into 'Oh, Joe, can't we talk about something more pleasant?' And talk about causing weird stares and dropped jaws at the office water cooler." Great stuff, and if you like it, try some more of Joe's essays, wherein you may learn that Joe is at least attempting to walk the walk, by adopting a Belizean family and building them a little bed and breakfast (although foresightedly reserving the privelege of staying there on occasion). Funny, funny man.
(basic) The Revenge of Gaia
(advanced) Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change
Monday, September 11, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
What have you been up to lately? Ah, I see; accusing critics of the Iraq adventure of "appeasement of a new kind of fascism." Boy, that takes nerve! But you're up to it, I'm sure. You must be immune to cognitive dissonance. Good thing the public has such a short memory.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
"What are you willing to do to change things in the Future?" Ultimately most here and elsewhere are not willing to do enough. For all the knowledge that is present on this board, wisdom is woefully lacking. Like the allopathic doctors that keep the westerner alive, the symptom reigns supreme over addressing the cause of the disease. Peak oil (a facet of resource depletion), like global warming, overpopulation and ecosystem destruction are symptoms of humanity's inability to recognise the limits of its host to support life and organise accordingly. In the end, the one question that has yet to be asked, and really should before any other, is how long do we really want to provide for the survival of humanity? If we want to make it until the sun reaches the far end of its life-cycle and begins to consume everything in its path during its red dwarf phase, we need to return to a stone age existence. If we want to live a little higher on the hog for somewhat less than a few billion years, we can attempt a form of iron age existence. If we want to survive less than a millennia further, we can approach any of the combination of silver bb's currently in vogue herein. All of the silver bb's use finite resources. No amount of recycling is going to get around the fact that sooner or later, sooner being the operative word, all that is basically mine-able will have been. Now couple that with the nature of ultisation rendering a percentage of each round of mining unrecoverable/unusable beyond one life cycle, and you have a recipe for disaster, not sustainability. It is a basic condition of wants being pursued instead of needs. The desire to continue this way of life at present is wrought out of a fear of loss. Life is fun now. Life is fulfilling now. Life can be fulfilling with a lot less. Just as we can talk about going through our stuff and paring down to fit into a smaller living space and find it rewarding, we can go through the trappings of modernity and do likewise and feel likewise. Science and its progeny technology are pursuits to satisfy curiosity. I will posit, so what? Do we really need to know anything more about the nature of matter for humanity to be complete? We could, with what is left of finite energy resources, embark upon a powering down that would result in a fully rewarding lifestyle that preserves knowledge, gives us a full enough understanding of existence and insures that humanity can successfully ride out the planet's life-cycle for a very long time. But that would require sacrificing our addiction to technology, a wholly unnecessary part of what it means to live and exist. For disclosure, I am not some doomer luddite hiding in the woods with a hoard of guns and beans. I am a degreed librarian at a R1 institute. I have utilised my education in researching the calories per capita per year consumption and compared it to the silver bb's potential for utilisation. I have researched the impact of continued mining of finite resources required for widget production. I have studied the history of the rise of civilisation and its attendant impacts. My life will not see the worst of PO and the mad dash to interject silver bb's. But my life is more than the total of its days. Even though I choose not to have children, I have a responsibility to those who will inhabit this planet after me. You do too. To that end, why are we not choosing to sustain needs as opposed to wants?
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
Friday, July 14, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Monday, June 26, 2006