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.