Friday, January 27, 2006

Peak Oil Around the World

"Exporting oil is an act of treason"-- Heitor Manoel Pereira, president of AEPET in Brazil, January 06, 2006.
Uh-oh. Does that sound anything like “you need us more than we need you” that we heard from Iran last week?

Back to the topic at hand, first we stop over at one of the most respected news organizations on the planet (if you thought it was Faux News, you have come to the wrong place, sorry), the BBC. Blazing across the front of their website is…wait for it…peak oil! A darned fine little synopsis; one could do worse to start an education on cheap energy with this.

Next we have a ray of hope from Sweden. The cantankerous and unconventional residents of this “social democracy” have decided to reduce their dependency on oil by 2020 to…almost nothing. Figure on one of the Scandanavian countries to show the most awareness of the greatest challenge to mankind ever. These are the kind of ambitions and conversations that citizens of responsible nations need to be having to survive in this very interesting of times.

By the way, Chaos has a theory of how peak oil will play out, and here it is: the most prepared, least oil-dependent nations, regions within nations, and communities will be the most successful; conversely, the most oil-addicted, most in denial, least prepared nations, regions and communities will suffer the most when the long decline begins. Guess which country is most vulnerable? If you said the United States of America, you really have come to the right place and have been paying attention. If you said “what?” you need to do some reading (Chaos realizes it’s not a popular or modern practice, but nevertheless…).

Finally, and to bring it back home, here's a blazingly funny editorial on just how bad it is over at "The General," #1 maker of Imperial Nation's SUVs. Sad to say, the Great American General is now a shadow of its former self; market capitalization is less than Harley-Davidson's, and it is sinking fast. A true example of entropy, along with good old 'merican stupidity and resistance to change.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Just One More From Professor Bartlett

"Democracy cannot survive overpopulation..."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pursuing the Truth Further

Or, why the Empire has become a dictatorship:

Congress is a cesspool of legalized bribery and influence peddling. The big players with money prevail time after time. The cast of characters may change, but the same game is still played over and over. Bush and his minions have done more to expand the power of the US presidency than any executive since Nixon, to the point that the executive can successfully flout the laws of the nation without any penalty whatsoever. (Reserving the right to torture or spy on citizens without warrant, hold them without charges or trial, take your pick). Surely the right to disregard whatever laws the leader deems necessary is the essence of dictatorship. Unbelievably, none of this is secret; it can be read on the front pages of the national newspapers without protest or comment. The somnolent public has long ago ceased to listen or care, content to indulge in mindless shopping, celebrity-watching, and binge eating. It might be enough to observe that the public has traded civil rights for security, except that this would imply some sort of conscious decision, of which it is obviously not capable of rousing itself to make.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Why Citizens of the Empire Don't "Get It"

It rained here Sunday. Not a lot, just a little bit, and certainly not enough to make up for the lack in this semi-arid region. But plenty enough for the denizons of the World Capital of Ignorance to crash their vehicles, forgetting in their zeal to "get somewhere" that the driving conditions had changed a bit. Read all about it here in the local rag. Chaos' question is thus: how can one reasonably expect people to understand mildly complex issues discussed on this blog(take, for example, the tragic state of healthcare in this country, or social security, or peak oil, or whatever) when they don't even realize that slowing down when it rains might actually be a good driving practice?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Dmitry Orlov: Surviving the Soviet Collapse

This Russian author, an observer during the collapse of the Soviet Union, has written a series of three essays describing the differences between the two major superpowers and in particular, how a collapse might unfold here in the Empire. In comparing the two, he writes: "the Soviet Union and the United States are each either the winner or the first runner-up in the following categories: the space race, the arms race, the jails race, the hated evil empire race, the squandering of natural resources race, and the bankruptcy race." Part One is here.

Reading Orlov is a distinctly refreshing experience, largely because of his unhindered view of the US. He begins Part Two with an apt description of American racism, astutely noting that "glazed over with a layer of political correctness, at least in polite society, [racism] comes out again when observing whom most such Anglo-Saxon people actually choose to marry, or date." If part of your chosen task is to "take the red pill" and begin to strip off the layers of fantasy and ideological muffling which surrounds the citizens of the Empire, Orlov will help. Part Two is here.

Part Three concludes with several suggestions for surviving a collapse, some of which may be counterintuitive and surprising. A particular concern is how utterly dependent citizens are for the barest necessities: "suppose you live in a big city, in an apartment or a condo. You depend on municipal services for survival. A week without electricity, or heat, or water, or gas, or garbage removal spells extreme discomfort. Any two of these is a calamity. Any three is a disaster. Food comes from the supermarket, with help from the cash machine or credit card slot at the checkout station. Clean clothes come from the laundromat, which requires electricity, water, and natural gas. Once all the businesses have shut down and your apartment is cold, dark, and smells like garbage (because it isn't being collected) and like excrement (because the toilet doesn't flush), perhaps it is time to go camping and explore the great outdoors." Orlov sniffs around a most interesting idea: that societies and regions that are the most cheap energy dependent today will be the hardest hit in a collapse. Ask yourself which countries those might be. Try Orlov; he's a blast of fresh air...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Spook Capital of the Nation

Well, well, well, what have we here (literally)? The NSA, recently infamous for its illegal spying activities on innocent Americans, is now doubling its presence in the World Capital of Ignorance. Spending $100 million of your tax dollars to spy on people like you sounds like the "good clean industry" that city leaders are looking for. As one noted, "it's a quiet giant." Yeah, quiet. Typically, the agency would neither confirm nor deny that it was expanding, how many people it employs, or anything at all. Chaos guesses that from now on, the atmosphere will be "spooky" year-round, not just at Halloween. Scary stuff.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Population Growth in the Empire

Sam Roberts, author of commentaries on the US Census, takes on the issue of the 300 millionth resident of the Empire in today's paper of record. The consequences of overpopulation are faintly sketched, but can be seen towards the end of the the article: "By the time the 300 millionth individual gets to adulthood, many of the cities today we considerto be small and nice to live in won't be so nice." Of note is the projection that in 40 years, the Empire's population will reach 400 million. Not so nice indeed, and not a surprise to those who have listened to Dr. Bartlett.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Math Lesson From Dr. Bartlett

This 57 minute video is perhaps the most important lesson (on any subject) anyone might take. "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function, " says Dr. Albert Bartlett, professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and then proceeds to prove it in this highly entertaining lecture on the effects of exponential growth on finite resources, and the ignorant, carelessly inaccurate way that politicians and the media refer to supplies of energy. The formulas are simple and easy to grasp, even for a being as averse to orderly systems like mathematics as Chaos. It is the application of the principles to our growth-oriented economy, however, that is so devastating. Bartlett demonstrates that our primary problem is overpopulation and the resulting depletion of resources:

"Can you think of any problem, on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way, aided, assisted, or advanced by having larger populations at the local level, the state level, the national level, or globally?"

Food for thought.

An Antidote to Media Avian Flu Hype

Few things in modern life are as dismaying as media's tendency to hype the weather, natural disasters, pets in peril, kidnapped blonde females, shark attacks and the like. The recent outbreak of avian flu in Turkey (yeah yeah yeah, bird flu in Turkey, how ironic) provides fertile ground for those who depend on advertising and ratings. Here's the remedy: the World Health Organization avian flu site, with lots of "truthiness," as Mr. Colbert would say. Inform yourself, enjoy, but don't panic. Yet.

Quotes of the Day

"Build a man a fire and you warm him for a day; set a man on fire and you warm him for his life."

"Quitters never win and winners never quit, but those who never win and never quit are idiots."

"Every day above ground is a good day."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Trading Liberty for Security

An update to Friday's post: this editorial summarizes the position of the Emperor again for the comatose public. Predictably, not a whimper of protest has been heard. Chaos must conclude that the apathetic people of the Empire desire to lose their civil liberties, or are so indifferent and obtuse as not to care. A more diffuse explanation would be that this is to be expected in a complex society growing ever more complex. As Tainter notes, such societies cannot overcome complexity indefinitely and become at risk for collapse. Perhaps this very phenomenon is happening at the present moment. Students of entropy take note.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Emperor Ascends: Torture Update

Chaos dislikes the current fascination with the phrase "tipping point" but it may actually be applicable to certain current events. As reported in the Boston Globe, when Bush signed the McCain-sponsored anti-torture bill last week, he "reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander-in-chief." The excellent article points out that this really means that the Emperor is now truly an Emperor, subject only to his own whims as to whether and when to obey the laws of the United States. For some reason, Chaos believes this is a rather significant event in the devolution of the nation's civil rights, and others apparently agree. See this Tomdispatch post (much more eloquent and erudite than Chaos) for a more elaborate spin on this issue. Chaos sadly notes the passing of the Bill of Rights, a fine document which served well for many years. The Imperial Presidency will be hazardous to all.

Deceptive Religion Exposed: "Intelligent" Design Skewered

It's not a latebreaking news story that a judge in Pennsylvania struck down mention of so-called "intelligent design" in science classes as unconstitutional. Chaos recommends reading the entire 139 page opinion, however, to really understand the depths to which fundamentalist Christians will sink to advance their cause. Page after page in the opinion documents how, for example, intelligent design is just creationism, relabled in response to a Supreme Court decision (Edwards) striking down mentioning it in schools:

“By comparing the pre and post Edwards drafts of Pandas, three astonishing points emerge: (1) the definition for creation science in early drafts is identical to the definition of ID; (2) cognates of the word creation (creationism and creationist), which appeared approximately 150 times were deliberately and systematically replaced with the phrase ID; and (3) the changes
occurred shortly after the Supreme Court held that creation science is religious and cannot be taught in public school science classes in Edwards.”

In addition, the Court’s opinion notes that intelligent design rests merely on the syllogism, first promoted by Aquinas in the 13th century, that “wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer.” Intelligent design is nothing more than this, along with trying to cast doubt on the validity of Darwinism.(“ID is at bottom premised upon a false dichotomy, namely, that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed.”) Intelligent design is not science:

“Not a single expert witness over the course of the six week trial identified one major scientific association, society or organization that endorsed ID as science. What is more, defense experts concede that ID is not a theory as that term is defined by the NAS and admit that ID is at best “fringe science” which has achieved no acceptance in the scientific community.”

Of further note is the utter lack of credibility of the creationists. Time and again, they disclaim memory of events, testify falsely under oath, and are deemed “inconsistent,” and “non-credible” by Judge Jones. In addition, their actions were deceptive:

“The testimony at trial stunningly revealed that Buckingham and Bonsell tried to hide the source of the donations because it showed, at the very least, the extraordinary measures taken to ensure that students received a creationist alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution.”
“We are accordingly presented with further compelling evidence that Bonsell and Buckingham sought to conceal the blatantly religious purpose behind the ID Policy.”

As has been noted many times previously, this opinion comes from a conservative Republican judge. His final comments are most damning: “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”

Chaos has noted this before, but it bears repeating: what kind of religion is this whose adherents believe that the ends justify the means? Why do christians seem so prone to deception? Fundamentalism explains part of it: its disciples are fanatics by any definition, but even the Catholic church is willing to spread lies to promote its peculiar and archaic form of reproduction regulation. Don’t believe? Read this for one of the best examples ever, but it is far from the only one. This church promotes and spreads lies and death, is the only conclusion one can draw.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Let's Start the New Year Out Right; Clear Thinking About Iraq

Happy New Year!

Despite Chaos' contention that Hurricane Katrina was the event of the year, so to speak, the situation in Iraq occupied much of the Evil Empire's attention in 2005. From across the pond comes this analysis that effectively summarizes the state of the debacle for Britain and the US:

"Reliable reporting from Iraq is now so dangerous that the level of insecurity can only be gleaned from circumstantial evidence. Baghdad outside the American green zone is all "red zone', off limits to any but the most reckless foreigner. The death rate and the number of explosions are rising. While some rural areas are relatively safe there is no such thing as national security. Iraq's borders are porous. Crime is uncontrolled. The concept of an "occupying power" is near meaningless.

The Americans cannot even protect the lawyers at Saddam's trial, two of which have been killed. Iraqis are meeting violent death in greater numbers probably than at any time since the Shi'ite massacres of 1991. Professionals are being driven into exile, children are kidnapped, women are forced indoors or shot for being improperly dressed. Those Britons who preen themselves for "bringing democracy to Iraq" would not dare visit the place. They have brought three elections, but elections without security do not equal democracy."

Don't you just love the way educated Brits write? At any rate, seems that 2006 will be the year that a victory is declared and a general withdrawal starts. Not nearly soon enough, in Chaos' opinion.