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.