Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The State of the Nation: Healthcare

Chaos had occasion on the night of the winter solstice (last night, for the rest of you) to speak privately with a Congressional staffer of the soon-to-be-ruling Democratic party concerning the topic of healthcare. More specifically, Chaos was curious of this person's views on how likely a major change was in this area. And the answer was....not very. This person admitted what Chaos has long suspected: that powerful forces which derive great profits from the present system make political change highly unlikely. In absence of any such change (and there is no reason to surmise otherwise), Chaos must assume that the system will continue to devolve, leaving more devastation in its wake. Healthcare is one of several converging crises likely to engulf the Empire in the coming years, and as such, is worthy of interest here at the Edge. Oh, and a happy winter solstice to faithful readers...

(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

One Final Holiday Message: Nawida at 2150

Continuing on in the series of utterly frightening glimpses of the future, our favorite archdruid, John Michael Greer, dramatizes the long slow catabolic collapse with a look at 2150, in which Antarctica has melted completely, flooding most the southeast US. The continuation of loss of knowledge and the reversion to more primitive ways make this post (and the accompanying interview of the primary character) essential reading for students of the subject. Use this, perhaps, to reflect on the fleeting nature of time and how fortunate you are to be able to concern yourself with celebrities, sports teams, and how much cheap goods you acquired yesterday and today.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Holiday Peak Oil Humor

Try this little site for a psychological look at resource depletion. Latest entry is "A Dozen Peak Oil Quips You Might Want to Avoid During Holidays Get-Togethers." Funny stuff, for those who are aware; probably incomprehensible for anyone else (which is to say most people). Again for the chosen few, when you are out and around performing the traditional holiday chore of gift-buying, cast your eyes around you at the society and marvel at how clinically dysfunctional, nay, crazy it all seems, in light of the looming problems all the monkeys on the planet are so soon to have to face.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lester Brown Wishes You A Happy Holiday

This eminent being, featured here several months ago in context of his book, is here with us again with a message of holiday cheer:

"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

Innocent Americans Imprisoned: The Empire Strikes Back

Ok, a somewhat maudlin title, but still, it gets one's mind off the immediate horror which comes from reading this account of how an American whistleblower working for the FBI was wrongfully imprisoned for 97 days in one of the many mini-gulags around the world (this one happened to be in Iraq, but it could have been anywhere). One's depression is heightened by how this is only "news" since it concerned a citizen of the Empire, and not one of those lesser brown peoples whose lives we tend to disregard, or at least, discount. (In the case of Iraqis, we tend not to count them at all). Still believe we wear the white hats? Oh right, Chaos forgot, the Empire is fighting them over there so as not to fight them over here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cheery Message of the Season

"What are the hot gifts that will make my kids worship me?"
----direct quote from internet shopping site, 12/10/2006.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Something You Won't Read Here: Too Many People

Leave it to the BBC to say what you cannot say here in the Empire: there are too many people, which are the cause of all the planet's problems, and we must reduce our population to get to "Utopia." Uh, no, that will not be on CNN, the NY Times, WashPost, LA Times, or your local birdcage liner. You won't read it in People, Time, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, or anywhere else. You can, however, read it here on the Edge, just by clicking here. Don't you feel special?

Winter Solstice: 2100 A.D.: The Catabolic Collapse

A continuation of the previous posts of Christmas 2050 referred to here a couple of weeks ago, collapse blogger Greer of the Archdruid Report brings us up to date 50 years later. As you might expect, things have not gotten better, and much knowledge available earlier has been lost. If reading these tiny projections into the future engenders some discomfort, Chaos suggests you examine where the feelings might be coming from. If the topic disturbs, consider that a sign that you might pursue the subjects a bit further, or you could just return the head to its previous position in the sand. BTW, here is the interview with the character in 2100.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dmitry Orlov, Again: Prepare For Collapse

This perceptive writer has been featured several times here at the Edge. His mordant wit and international perspective are quite valuable to beings stuck inside the Imperial bubble, and his writings and speeches on collapse are extraordinarily on point. Here he presents, in slides and commentary, a comparison between the former Soviet Union and the US, vis a vis collapse. Easy and fun reading.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Way We Live Now: Store Security Harassment

Here, a really funny writer contemplates just why we have to "return to the register" every time an alarm goes off, or allow store employees to check our receipts as we exit. Never thought about this one, did you? Since the article is difficult to get to, here it is in its entirety:

"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.”
“What’s wrong?”
“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

New York Times Columnist(s) Reinvent the Wheel!

Good morning, gentle readers. In the news today, Tom Friedman, (sorry, pay site) former cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq, has discovered that there might actually be another reason the Empire has been so overly involved in one extremely flammable region of the planet for the last, oh, say, fifty years or so. Let's see, what could it be? It's...wait for it...BECAUSE WE'RE ADDICTED TO OIL!!! No, really. The extreme gullibility of this columnist cannot be measured with any devices at this moment known to man. Likewise, his lack of memory and sense of history perfectly reflects the extreme ignorance one finds in the MSM today. But keep it up, Tom: your readership at the Times is probably now aware of its own culpability in ruining the planet, but keep on beating this drum and you may find some success in battering down the stone wall of denial that exists outside your bubble. Well, no, not really: somehow, the idea that the unlimited operation of 6000 pound monstrosities are wrecking the planet and contributing to Islamic resentment is not one that the wasteful citizens of the Empire are prepared to embrace. The only saving grace for Tom is that he is not alone in his ignorance: last week Bob Herbert (once again, the greedy NYTimes, sorry) discovered that most citizens of the Empire have no truck with Iraq, and are only concerned with shopping. Chaos thinks that it must be nice to wake up every morning to a brand new world.

No, George Bush Will Not Be Indicted

Usually, Tomdispatch is one of the clearest, most erudite voices on the Net on Iraq-related subjects, and highly recommended. (Chaos in particular prefers Tom's own pieces to most of the guests'...) So it is doubly saddening to find that the site this week has succumbed to the worst kind of liberal masturbatory fantasies, in the form of excerpts from former federal prosecutor Elizabeth De La Vega's book, United States v. George Bush, et al. Apparently, this is the author's educated imaginings about how to indict the Emperor and some of his underlings for the lies and deliberate deceptions which led the stupid people of the Empire to rally behind the Iraq "war." (Many of them, unbelievably, still firmly insist that the events of 9/11 are connected to that most wretched of states, Iraq, like this). Even worse are Tom's admonitions to purchase the book for friends and enemies alike, and circulate it as much as possible. Chaos notices that liberals tend not to want to notice that the nation is made up largely of "dolts, asses, and blockheads" who are incapable even if they were inclined to understand anything about the Empire and world events. No, no, much better to believe that "if only they were shown the truth" they would rise up and overthrow their evil masters. Instead of wasting time with such drivel, Chaos suggests you read some or all of Joe Bageant's essays, particularly those dealing with the nature of the great unwashed. Having been one, the man knows whereof he speaks.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Holy Shit! It's Xmas!

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

A Message From The Ghost of Xmas Future

Something about how humans think makes dramatizations more telling than dry recitations of facts. To put it another way, you can learn a lot from fiction, especially well-researched stuff. Case in point is John Michael Greer's latest couple of posts, starting here, depicting Jane Average and her family as they celebrate Xmas in 2050. Read it and the following one for a punch in the gut, and don't neglect the comments at the bottom, where the author explains a bit about the context and why certain elements appear. Even a brief visit with the Averages is enough to make one thankful that a catabolic collapse has not yet occurred.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Endless Growth, Our National Religion

At one point our estimable friend, Dr. Albert Bartlett, in his presentation on Arithmetic, Energy and Population, states that endless exponential growth is our national religion. A startling statement, to be sure, but one which certainly will serve readers of MSM stories in good stead. Like so. To be brief, the semi-arid region in which Chaos currently resides is undergoing explosive growth, and concerns have been raised, as they have for many years, about sufficient water to enable said growth. There is zero recognition in local rag that perhaps there might be, at some point, and hopefully before all the water is gone, an end to growth, or perhaps just a slowing. Chaos would suggest to gentle readers to employ the 'national religion' framework in their daily perusal of news, both local and worldwide; the results are quite interesting. Equally compelling is applying the concept that "overpopulation is the root cause of most human problems" to a few news reports one might encounter. Try it, you'll have fun.
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

Declaration of Dependence

Well, once again, Chaos has very little to add to this...authored by Hans Noeldner, trustee in the village of Oregon, Wisconsin, a bedroom community of Madison in frustration of his struggles with exponential growth.

"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

Enjoy the Fish (While We Can)

Not especially new, but breaking new ground in severity (basically, the story for the past year on species extinction, global heating, etc.), is a new study from the crackpot science journal Science which baldly states that unless drastic measures are taken NOW (wake up, sleepyheads!), there will be nothing left to fish for in the oceans within Chaos' optimistically expected lifetime (2050).

"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.

A Few Choice Words From A.A. Bartlett

Here's another gem from our friend, Dr. Albert Bartlett, the former physics professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in testimony before the US House of Representatives, May 2001. Ok, so a bit dated, but the principles do not change and the man, as always, is exceptionally clear. One could argue that all you need to know about energy and resource depletion is found in Dr. Bartlett's lecture on exponential growth, (if you've seen it, congrats) thus saving countless hours reading mental masturbatory sites like The Oil Drum, where angels dance on pinheads (are we there yet, Daddy? how about now? are we there yet?), one-shot Johnnies tout their pet techno-fixes, and optimists eternally hope for a "soft landing" or "gentle decline."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What About the Weather?

Economists can do some pretty interesting things. A couple recently have studied the effect of weather on various human activities and found some startling "facts." For instance, droughts in Africa are positively correlated (read "cause") with civil wars. Here's another: rain has a strong negative effect on riots. (Makes sense: who wants to riot in the rain?) And finally, the kicker: global warming is predicted to cause mortality rates in the US to rise, at a cost of some $31 billion per year. Some states will do better than others (uhoh). Fun stuff.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Hallows Eve: The Treat

For the faithful readers of this humble blog, the traditional gift of the season (although it's a bit difficult to get into the mindset when the daytime temperature on the last day of the tenth month of the year hits 90...): Free Horror Movies, watchable or downloadable. Chaos could end with a rant about how the Halloween in years past was strictly for children and the infantile culture of the Empire is reflected in the numbers of costumed streetwalkers, French maids, gargantuan decorations and elaborate festivities, but that would cast a pall over the entire enterprise, wouldn't it?

Monday, October 30, 2006

The (Necessary) Empire and Synchronicity

John Michael Greer, of The Archdruid Report, referred to here a few weeks ago as one offering a critique to the classic "The Collapse of Complex Civilizations," continues his nine-part series on the collapse of the Empire. In it, you many learn something slightly surprising: that the Empire is in some sense, a necessary construct in the world we live in. Even so, the prognosis for such is not so good:
"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

The Local Beat: Please Don't Eat The Fish

Since the local rag cannot seem to quite connect the dots, perhaps Chaos and faithful readers can help out a bit. Kindly recall that Chaos has mentioned not so long ago the phenomenon of 19 new coal-fired electricity plants being built in the great state of Texas and the resulting effects of air pollution (well, to be fair, the many chemical plants and oil refineries, not to mention the vast numbers of giant SUVs and pickup trucks, may have something to do with it also). Today, our local scandal sheet mentions in passing that you might not want to eat some of the fish caught at a nearby lake--mercury levels are too high, you see. The article takes some pains to point out that "mercury is a naturally occurring element that gets into the water from the weathering of rocks (oh), and (wait, here it comes) also from burning fossil fuels and some industrial discharges" (really?!? that wouldn't be coal, would it?). Gosh darn those weathering rocks! Well, anyway, coal-fired plants are such a bad idea anyway (you know, global warming and all that) that a few mercury-laden fish is really not such a big deal. Or is it? Just another reason not to permanently reside in Texas, unless you like the idea of birth defects, infertility (hey, wait a minute, that might not be so bad), MS, breast cancer, fibromyalgia, damage to liver, kidneys, heart, etc.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

U.S. at 300 Million

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

Aesthetics By Richard Heinberg

Heinberg, for those unfamiliar, is the author of several Peak Oil books ("The Party's Over," "Powerdown,"), a fixture at conferences and events, and general all-around activist and fine fellow. His website is here. At any rate, his latest article is a fine one, over at EnergyBulletin, itself a nice resource. If you ever wondered what "hydrocarbon style" was, or why all the cargo in the stores is cheap ugly junk, look here for answers.

New! Why I Am A Doomer

A new series here on the Edge: posters will tell our gentle readers, in eloquence far exceeding Chaos’, why they espouse a dark age, collapse, dieoff and the end of most life on the planet. First up is Cherenkov from The Oil Drum. Perhaps, in Chaos’ opinion, the finest expositor of doom in one paragraph one could find. Really hard to argue with, yet the cornucopians manage to do so, although not effectively. Well, to the point, then:

“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.”
And this:
“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

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Chaos really has little to say about this one...seems there's an area of Pacific Ocean bigger than the State of Texas, which, because of currents and such, is one slow swirl. In it are the flotsam and jetsam of humanity: plastic, plastic, plastic, as far as the eye can see. The unfortunate tendency of the monkeys to foul their own nest is on full display here: marine creatures ingest the unbiodegradable trash and die lingering deaths. How long does plastic last in the ocean? Pretty much forever, if this example is any indication. Makes one wonder just how necessary most of the plastic trash humans produce actually is....not very, it seems.

Celebrating the 300 Millionth Resident

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

Humanity's Gigantic Footprint

Something most sentient beings don't spend a lot of time thinking about is how much "influence" humanity has on this small sphere...a legacy of the illusory appearance of limitlessness, Chaos guesses. The facts, however, are considerably different and anxiety-inducing. Human monkeys dominate the planet, to the planet's detriment. No better example of this is today's article in New Scientist, which invites us to imagine the planet in future years without any people whatsoever. An eye-opener to be sure.

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

The Demography of Russia: A Nation Succumbs to Despair

Chaos has long considered Russia to be a fascinating case of declining population and eventual collapse, although the country's current status as record oil-producer may mitigate this for some years. A fine article in the LA Times, a paper itself currently beset by entropic troubles, provides us with an excellent summary of just how bad things are in that dark place on the planet. Life expectancies are perched just above Afghanistan, the birthrate has sunk to well below replacement rate (and has been for years), much of the population lives in poverty and despair, and alcoholism and AIDS are the evil twins of death for much of the younger generation. Pair this article with Dimitry Orlov's previously posted and you have an interesting and forboding story.

Another Print and Take Home Summary

After excellent writers publish such stuff as this, Chaos wonders what purpose would be served in continuing to post: one can't hope to do much better than this flyer, meant to be printed and handed out. Those who continue to adopt the "ostrich" approach might finally allow something meaningful to seep into their empty heads (or perhaps not; those heads are invariably filled with magical thinking, which, to Chaos' current formulation, means that reality-based subjects are crowded out, and wilful ignorance is the order of the day), and those who believe that 'surely something can be done' will assuage their consciences. To repeat Chaos' position, it is the lack of character of the public at large that will prevent meaningful action to mitigate the looming environmental and economic catastrophes discussed in detail here. ("We are a wicked people who deserve to be punished"--James Howard Kunstler). Here at the Edge, nevertheless, we admire those who tilt at windmills.

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.

Theocracy Watch: The Unlevel Playing Field

Check out this very long series in the Empire's paper of record concerning the priveleges and exemptions from laws religious organizations have managed to carve out. And these people have the nerve to feel persecuted? Hah! Chaos reminds you that a tax break for a megachurch means the rest of the citizenry takes up the slack, and that Texas allowed its exemption for faith-based day care to expire, upon discovering that instances of abuse were 10X more than for the regulated ones. Think that the creeping theocracy in the Empire won't amount to much? This series will show you different. Another spooky subject for the month of October.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Living 'With' Limits? Who, Us?

Headline from yesterday's local birdcage liner: "We Face Another 30 Days of Living With Water Limits" Oh good, after that we can continue our limitless consumption of a scarce resource. Thirty miles east, some express concern ("unnerved," as the paper puts it) for a coming 3000 home subdivision and how state laws allow it to release 225,000 gallons of treated sewage per day into local creeks. Growth (unlimited, exponential) is, as Dr. Bartlett has told us, the national religion of the US. Chaos reminds readers that any adjectives placed in front of the term (smart, responsible, planned, sustainable) are meaningless platitudes.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Charity Begins At Home

Yes, yes, Chaos is now asking for another 55+ minutes of your life. (Incidentally, the books recommended on this site are likely to completely change how you look at the world, but you knew that, didn't you?) The subject at hand is Theocracy in the Empire, which has been mentioned in passing previously, but now there's a video. For those who dislike reading (Chaos understands that that covers quite a lot of the population these days) here's a fine perspective--courtesy of British TV, of course--on a training school for aspiring theocrats. Patrick Henry College, though only 6 years old, is debt-free and is quite open about its ambitions: to mold the next generation of politically-minded home-schooled fundies. Although its only the first day of October, Chaos doubts that the month will produce scarier goblins than the ones depicted. Still sure you want to make the Empire your permanent home?

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

The Inauthentic Life: Christy Rodgers, Joe Bageant

We have visited with Christy Rodgers previously in the context of collapse, wherein she took to task three contemporary visions of our future: Diamond, Kunstler, and Lovelock. This entry is more to Chaos' current interest: the national and sociological "character" of the American public, and how it got to this point, perhaps. Rodgers asks, "so what is it that characterizes us most profoundly? Disconnection from place. It creates a distinct set of pathologies." Well-thought out, and disturbing, if you let it simmer a bit.

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

God Bless Texas (Cough, Cough) Again!

Texas is number one in so many ways, it would take Chaos a couple of posts (hey, that's an idea there...) to cover them all. Here's today's though: number one in--wait for it--air pollution! Yes! (Specifically, number one in six outta eight categories and second in another...) The King of the Red States' coal-fired electric plants, for which there is great enthusiasm for more, along with an environmentally backward regulatory system and a populace who truly loves the internal combustion engine, have created the perfect nightmare.

Life in the Bubble

Check out this link to see just how much of a bubble citizens of the Empire find themselves, courtesy of the MSM. Hint: look at the international covers at the left on the page. At the bottom is the one for the Empire. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Health Care in the Empire

We revisit health care today, to find that it has produced the vast majority of new American jobs since 2001. The sector is growing exponentially, which should set off alarm bells, especially since it certainly isn't expanding the number of citizens covered (at last count, more than 45 million citizens of the Empire were not covered by health insurance). In fact, insurers are growing ever more clever in their attempts to eliminate costly claims. Seems that actually attempting to use the insurance one has paid for will now trigger a detailed extensive review of the original application. Any discrepancies, omissions or misunderstandings will result in denial of coverage and to add insult to injury (literally, haha), said insurance company will often attempt to recover funds already expended on the claim. Sounds too outlandish to believe? Kindly peruse this (registration may be required). Those who are receiving their coverage through their employers are considered safe from this dirty practice at the moment, but don't get too comfortable; things like this have a way of expanding.

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

Why Do They Hate Us?

Did you ever wonder why the Empire has attracted so much "attention" from the various groups of Islamic freedom fighters? Considering the ridiculous explanations of the current Emperor on the subject, it is no wonder that many remain confused. (Yes, Chaos is feeling polite today...perhaps too much ranting over the past couple of days induces the need for balance...)
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

Easter Islanders Speak

"The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth"
---Easter Islander saying.

Bob Herbert Gets It Wrong

Here again, the New York Times columnist in all his naivete, painful for those who know better, subscribing to the inevitable, essential liberal delusion that the American public is ohsogood, just misguided or fooled by those clever rightwingers, Faux News, or the mainstream media.

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

Global Warming Update

Of all the subjects covered here at the Edge, global warming (or "heating," as Lovelock likes to put it) is consistently the most alarming, simply because the rate of change keeps surpassing the best scientific predictions. In part this can be explained by the phenomenon of the "feedback loop," popularly known as the vicious cycle, i.e., once things get going, they continue on their own, regardless of the original stimulus. The heating of the planet is particularly susceptible to a feedback loop. (You did see An Inconvenient Truth, didn't you? If not, perhaps this site will help you...) Today's news is the shocking developments in the Arctic, wherein you could actually this summer sail a boat to the North Pole. Previously, this was thought to be somewhat further in the future, and thus the news is not the phenomenon itself but the speed at which bad news has accelerated. Alarming, yes, and sad too, since it is obvious that any efforts at this point will be mere window dressing, since nobody is about to give up their irresponsible energy-hogging lifestyles, not the overfed mean-spirited inhabitants of the 'richest nation on earth' (hah!) nor the many wannabes around the world. Population control is a nonstarter, and a worldwide ban on carbon usage is a sad delusion.

Reflection on Totalitarianism

Contemporaneous with the debate on Rules for Torture, this morning we consider the irony of a government, a state, which, while reserving the right to spy upon its citizens, imprison them without trial, lawyer, or charges, outsource them to other countries for torture, and sets up its own gulag, holds itself up as the embodiment of individual rights, liberty and freedom. That there is actually a debate on what kinds of torture to allow (admittedly, after the fact , considering that many have already been tortured on the Emperor's orders, in the most despicable manner [note: Chaos implores you not to read the last link, unless your gastronomic constitution is robust]) is almost beyond comprehension to a being of Chaos' age; younger sentients may be more inured to the phenomenon. Chaos can only echo the amazement felt recently, when the Emperor in passing admitted to maintaining "secret CIA prisons", to scant attention in the public arena. Somehow this phrase seems to echo in Chaos' conciousness, along with the inevitable corollary that the overstuffed citizens of this declining state by their silence think that celebrity babies, female news anchors, and the activities of various sports teams are of far greater importance. Not too much of a stretch to conclude that the evil fascists who head the government are merely the authorized reflection of the people who allow them their power.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Try this video and laugh, courtesy of Youtube, Chaos, Darwinian from The Oil Drum, and Gaia...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Would You Like to Know More?

Hey, remember in the film Starship Troopers (you know, the one that combined the biggest bug hunt of all time with a tongue-in-cheek World War II theme) when the recruiting commercials flashed on the "join the military and become a citizen" thingie? Well, Chaos is happy to report that life does imitate art here in the Empire. Seems that the all-volunteer military is having, well, some recruitment problems. Citizens are becoming more reluctant to join up to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, and the overstretched military has lowered its standards, taking in high school dropouts, felons, skinheaded racists, gang members and older folks. Imaginative recruiters have now focused on noncitizens, with the predictable reward for enlisting (along with a bucket of cash) easy, no-cost citizenship. The Emperor signed an executive order offering citizenship after one day of military service. Now that's an armed forces citizens of the Empire can be proud of.

Support the troops...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dmitry Orlov Has Some Advice...

Chaos heartily recommended this writer a few months ago, and he has now started a three-parter on Life After The Oil Crash on advice for the collapse-aware resident of the Empire. In Dmitry's inimitable style, these pieces make for entertaining reading, both for the valuable content and the unsparing view of this country from one who has lived in the original Evil Empire and observed its collapse. Part One of this primer is here; Part Two is here, Part Three is here. (You may have to load this up in Internet Explorer if the links don't work well in Firefox...)

The Empire Devolves to Theocracy

If you are at all concerned about how much influence the fundamentalist christians have gained over policy and government the last few years, here's a nice site to check up on those devoted followers of the blood cult. Interesting link on the site leads one to the "Texas GOP Platform," wherein one learns some really scary stuff about what 'real' Republicans believe. (Even scarier if you actually live in the state). It baldly proclaims, for example, that "our party pledges to assert its influence...to dispell the 'myth' of separation of church and state." Doesn't get any clearer than that, and as a reflection of what people in this country actually believe, it is simply another day in the Empire as now changed utterly from just a few years ago.

Suggested reading: American Theocracy

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Funniest Dieoff Article Ever!

A special fall treat: how very rare it is that a writer can combine humor and the coming dieoff of humanity in one piece, but here it is, courtesy of the estimable Joe Bageant.
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.

Global Warming Update: Say Goodbye To The Northern Forests

As forecast in An Inconvenient Truth (and shame on you if you've not seen it), the northern forests of the Pacific Northwest are now succumbing to the ever-increasing human-induced global rising temperatures. As noted, some of these trees have lived successfully for the last one thousand years, but they cannot survive humanity's desire to drive a monster SUV to the grocery store. How oddly the article is titled: "Cascades' Reddened Forests Signal Threat to Humans;" Chaos suggests "Humanity's Growth Signals Threat to the Entire Planet," but perhaps that would understandably irritate the source newspaper's advertisers, wouldn't it? Besides, the sheep do not want to read such provocative stuff...oh well.

Suggested reading:
(basic) The Revenge of Gaia
(advanced) Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Edition: Where Are We Now?

Sadly, many words are currently being wasted on "remembrances" of this event now receding into history. Few (of the words) deserve to live. Clearer voices on this day are provided to us by the estimable Tom Englehardt (whose post today features an article by Ira Chernus, who remarks upon how the event sanctioned the creation of an enemy, which the American nation so desperately needed to reinforce its own identity and had been searching for, if unconciously, since the fall of the Berlin Wall), and Immanuel Wallerstein, who notes that the undeniable fact that Empire has been losing ground (i.e., power and influence) pretty steadily the more force and violence it employs around the world, and speculates upon future adventures, based in part on more desperation (and right wing politics). Chaos would also point to the announced strategy of ubervillian Osama bin Laden, who quite rightly was advised that the Empire would respond to attacks with a "cowboy mentality," and play directly to the Muslim world's preconceptions that Americans would invade their lands and take their oil. For further reading on the weakness of violence and the ability of small groups to defend their own lands, see The Unconquerable World, a stoutly written work of vast explanatory power.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another Bon Mot From Rummy

Hi Don! Who's that you're shaking hands with? Oh, that's right: Saddam was "our guy" back in the 80s. Didn't we give him a few weapons of mass destruction?
Oh bother!

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

What a Wonderful World: The Happy Planet Index

Well, on one level this is a rather droll novelty, but it makes intuitive sense, once one thinks about it: let's rank the countries of the world according to an "index of happiness," derived by mutliplying life satisfaction by life expectancy and divided by ecological footprint. And how does the Empire rate? Read it and weep. For explanation, the US has a MASSIVE ecological footprint, and not a particularly high life expectancy (the infant mortality rate is the highest among Western nations, don't you know...) so it is ranked 150th, alongside Lithuania, Cote d'Ivoire, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and other fine examples. Nothing like a little happy news to start the week. Oh, and the happiest countries? Vanuatu, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Panama.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Overpopulation Trumps All

Another in Chaos' "Nutshell" series when a short article appears on the net that offers a much better synopsis than could Chaos' meager skills. Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of Earthwatch Institute, Columbia University, explains just why we need to lower our fertility rate. Faithful readers are not likely to be surprised, but it certainly bears repeating: most if not all of human problems on this planet could be mitigated or solved with a dramatic fall in population.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The World In a Nutshell

This poster to The Oil Drum summarizes the human dilemma much better than Chaos could at this very moment:

"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

Middle East Conflagration Update: The Limits of Force

As we sail on directly towards the shoals of ever increasing entropy, it might be helpful to review the current situation in Lebanon. As most are aware, the Israeli Defense (!) Forces used the kidnapping of a couple of soldiers by guerrilla group Hezbollah (Chaos uses the most familiar spelling: there are many others...) to launch an all-out attack on the entire country, giving new meaning to the phrase "collective guilt," and in the process, abandoning the high moral ground, to the extent they had ever occupied it in the first place. Egged on in secret by the Empire, which evidently viewed this "exercise" as a dry run for a future invasion of Iran, the Israelis tried their own version of "shock and awe," which, come to think of it, worked about as well as when the Empire tried it back in 2003. Having accomplished the uniting of Lebanon the country behind the "greatest guerilla force in the world," along with the rest of the Arab world (which was initially reluctant to embrace the Shiite-led group), Israel was surprised to find themselves walking into a buzzsaw, having seriously underestimated the capabilities of the enemy. Further surprises ensued when rockets were fired into Israeli cities, and Hezbollah fighters inflicted significant causalties on the invaders. Bombing the infrastructure of Lebanon and killing many innocents in hopes of the population "blaming" Hezbollah were equally ineffective tactics. Hezbollah, not to be outdone, has now sewn up its victory by heading up the reconstruction of the bombed out areas. All in all, a good set of innings for the home team. Here's hoping Israel can learn a lesson the Empire cannot: people tend to resist being invaded. The mightiest military on the planet can be stymied by a small band of "insurgents," especially when the guerillas have the support of some of the population. Seems simple, no?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pest Patrol

"Buddha Pest Control--we don't kill, we just shoo them away..."

You Can't Say That! (And Why Not...)

Here is a somewhat long but eminently readable essay on the underlying assumptions the members of a society make and how those members "edit" their thoughts and statements. (Chaos recognizes this lively essay deserves a much more enthusiastic introduction, but appropriate words are difficult at this very moment...). To summarize, the subject is "what can't you say" in polite society, and why are there some things that are socially unacceptable (or "inappropriate") to utter. What are some things that you believe that you might be afraid to say? (How about "I am an atheist, and proud of it" to start?) Why are you afraid to say such things? What reason might people have in discouraging such talk? These interesting questions are addressed in unique fashion. Try it, you'll like it.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Interlude: When Soundtracks Outlast Their Origin

Can anyone doubt that Theme From S.W.A.T has outlasted the actual show? Anyone remember anything at all about the TV series?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

American Values #5: The Empire as World Armorer

One of the few products the United States still manufactures in these waning days is weaponry for the world. The Empire is the number one exporter of weapons ($18.55 billion in 2005); its nearest competitor is--no surprise--Russia, with $4 billion in yearly sales. This article, courtesy of the erudite and excellent TomDispatch, is eye-opening, to say the least. Although the US ostensibly allows weapons exports to countries consistent with its own interests, the reality is much different, at least to the extent that the Empire supposedly promotes "freedom and democracy" abroad; dictatorships and totalitarian regimes are well-supplied and sometimes two sides in conflict (e.g., Pakistan and India) are both sold the same weapons systems. Good stuff; thank you, Tom.

Best Peak Oil Article Ever; Read It and Weep

The Chicago Tribune has come out with perhaps the finest piece in memory on the subject of peak oil. The reporter follows the trail of oil back from a convenience store in Chicago's suburbs to its many sources, including Iraq, Venezuela, and Nigeria, along the way interviewing the "small" people who are affected/addicted to oil. Chaos can do little justice with inadequate words to describe how amazing this article (with even more effective accompanying video; pay attention to the "oil used since you started watching" timer) is, considering the MSM's (mainstream media) previous silence or lame attempts to portray the issue. Chaos has little hope that the Fatherland's citizenry will wake up to this looming crisis, but interesting it is to follow the progression.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tuna Becomes Extinct in the Med

For those who have been following the issue, this latest is no surprise: bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, previously numerous enough to constitute a tourist attraction, are down 80% and expected to become extinct due to overfishing. The ultimate cause, as well, is no surprise to faithful readers or those who are familiar with Dr. Bartlett's work: the sheer weight of human populations naturally produces this result (along with many others; the visibility of the vanishing tuna is why this article appears; smaller, yet still compelling examples can easily be found). What Chaos finds depressing about this is the inevitability: population control will not take hold in time for species extinction, wildlife habitat destruction, arable land desertification, pollution of air water and soil, human conflict and dieoff.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Entropy Rules in the Middle East

(Sigh) Where to begin? On a day when the most volatile region of the world is aflame with ancient and contemporary hatred, bombs, rockets and machine gun fire aplenty, perhaps it is appropriate to revisit that 'bottomless catastrophe,' Iraq. Courtesy of The London Times, a viewpoint readers in the Empire aren't likely to encounter, it seems that residents of the city of Baghdad have givnen up the struggle and are streaming out of the country in droves (well, more like 800,000, creating the largest group of refugees on the planet). The relentless sectarian warfare defies American and Iraqi government efforts at "reconciliation," a concept foreign to religious zealots.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

American Values #4: We Have No Friends, Anymore

Yes, it's true: Americans now have fewer friends than 20 years ago. A study published in American Sociology Review finds that close friends are down, and people who have no one to confide in are up to the tune of 25%. For those who believe that the country will soon face major challenges in energy and resource depletion, this trend is not encouraging. Perhaps friends in other countries will fill the breach? Think again, as the Empire's image continues to fall worldwide. Even staunch supporters like Japan have rethought their previously sympathetic position. Ich bein ein berliner, indeed.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Long View: David Price

To pull back from our at-the-moment perspective, the essay of Dr. David Price on Energy and Human Evolution, although now clearly dated, begs our attention. Since the "reality-based" life forms among us have already embraced the process of the Origin of Species, a remaining question is why? Price provides the answers here: our species, the most efficient user of energy on Earth, evolved in response to the vast amounts of energy (carbon) stored on the planet. Humanity's use of fire and fossil fuels has accelerated this use of energy. As the energy is consumed, human populations have exploded; overshoot and dieoff is now inevitable, much like the behavior of yeast in sugar or the reindeer of St. Matthew Island. Fossil fuels are now being used up 100,000 times faster than they are being formed. (Perhaps this is why talk of "sustainability" makes Chaos uncomfortable...) Similarly, the decline in human population given this context is evidence of eventual collapse, since per-capita energy growth has now come to a standstill. Price believes that the collapse will be marked by havoc caused by starvation, social strife, and disease, all of which interact in multiple and complex ways to cause dieoff of most, but perhaps not all, of the human population. Have a nice day, gentle readers.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

An Immigration Interlude: Don't Confuse the Issues With Facts!

To briefly interrupt our exploration of American values, let us now consider the oft-cited work of Harvard scholars Borjas and Katz, who have produce this paper on the history of (mostly Hispanic) immigration and its consequences to the Empire. Chaos has watched the demagogery on both sides of this issue escalate to extreme levels, without corresponding understanding or historical context. To the contrary, emotion seems to be the main driver of the progress, if any, of this issue, a fine recipe for polarization (does this sound familar? abortion, perhaps? look at the progress that's been made on that one...). Chaos suggests a more fact and data-based approach, as exemplified by the cited article, might dampen the hysteria levels. Alas, not much of a market for rational discourse exists in the prevailing climate.

American Values #3: Living Within Our Means

Once upon a time, American citizens saved a portion of their income. Likewise, their government was a net creditor to other nations, exporting more than it imported. Over the last fifteen years or so, these conditions are no longer so. The Empire is now a debtor nation, relying upon foreign central banks to accept and hold large numbers of dollars and exporting less than it imports (other than food and weapons, what is the Empire actually producing these days? Wags say that the buying and selling of homes to each other now constitutes the major portion of the country's economy...). Similarly, the US savings rate has fallen from 7.5% to below zero in that time period. The practice of using one's home as an ATM has long been noted as unsustainable, an effect of an asset (real estate) bubble. As with most things, there is usually an unpleasant day of reckoning: in this case, the gradual decline of the dollar relative to other currencies, a very slow--so as not to cause a crash--shift away by the foreign central banks, and a steep rise in foreclosures as interest rates begin their inevitable rise. This will come at a particularly inopportune time: the Empire will need more funds to keep afloat. Let us once again note that this is only the beginning as the Empire and its citizens rediscover reality with an extended visit to the House of Pain: Social Security and Medicare are going to begin paying out more than they take in as the bulging Boomer generation retires in a financial fog, believing that a magical, mythical pension will appear and take care of them. Chaos believes that this generation still has lessons to (re)learn, particularly about getting something for nothing and "old fashioned" values like thrift.

American Values #2: Civil Rights

The issue of deteriorating civil rights of the Empire's citizens (with, for the most part, their willing acquiescence) is not a new one, and may in part be explained as a somewhat inevitable consequence of increasing population. (Let us recall a "Bartlettism": more people=less freedom). Just last week, however, a further "breakthough" in the downward spiral appeared, in the form of the newly constituted Supreme Court's decision to throw out a 50 year precedent of excluding evidence obtained by police in violation of Constitutional rights (known, appropriately enough, as the "exclusionary rule"). It is considered by legal scholars that the sanction of exclusion of evidence serves as a, and perhaps the only, legal deterrent to police misconduct (Scalia's feeble attempt to portray police disciplinary action and civil rights lawsuits as viable remedies only points out how far from reality this opinion strays). At any rate, a significant step in the devolution of freedom, and aside from a few stories and even fewer protests, this decision has since sunk below the surface of the national "pool" of conversation. Chaos can only conclude that the citizens of the Empire have reached the point of no return in somnolence. Civil rights are gradually going extinct, as surely as the buffalo.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

American Values #1: Free and Fair Elections

Recently the Emperor, while vainly trying to end the impasse on immigration, remarked to a group of would-be citizens that immigrants "should learn American values" if they want to stay here. Which got Chaos to thinking: exactly what are these "American values" anyway? Not the ones that Chaos grew up with, but the ones exhibited now. To that end, here's the first one: elections untainted by rigging, tampering, vote manipulation, and various other skullduggery. Surely that is an American value if there ever was one. Well, not really so much, as those who have subscriptions to Rolling Stone and/0r spend way too much time surfing the Web have recently discovered. A blazing indictment of the 2004 Presidential election, particularly in the battleground state of Ohio, written by Robert F. Kennedy,Jr.,has caused those of us who pay attention to realize that free and fair elections here in the Empire are only a sometime thing. Since the silence of the mainstream media and the public is somewhat deafening, one can only conclude that untainted elections are more or less a thing of the past. More explorations of American values will follow.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Peak Oil Hits the Comedy Circuit

Here's proof that being a doomer doesn't mean you can't laugh...Robert Newman's very funny take (if you're into British humor) on the last 80 years or so of oil and the Middle East. Chaos apologizes in advance to those who don't have the "high speed connection" necessary, but it's worth the wait.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hurricanes Wipe Out Oil Production: US Vulnerable

Here's an excellent and sober synopsis, done by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, of just how dependent the US Empire is on foreign oil, and why. In brief: all our oil "partners" have major supply/political/logistical problems, and the only growing source of new US oil production comes from the Gulf of Mexico, which is vulnerable to (you guessed it) hurricanes, which are on the rise, along with the temperatures. Makes for a pretty picture: peak oil, and its evil twin, global warming.