Monday, July 23, 2007

Cracks Appear In The Matrix: Healthcare Film Reveals Geographic Disconnect

Chaos considers the premiere of Michael Moore's newest work, Sicko, to be a watershed moment in the recent history of the Empire. Not too proud to occasionally take an "attaboy," Chaos points out that the US healthcare system has been featured regularly here on the Edge, and many posts have discussed in detail its many failings and lack of potential to change. Nonetheless, the facts presented in Sicko are not, perhaps, of much moment. The visualization of real faces to go with these statistics is in part, what gives the work it's emotional power, along with the stark question posed 2/3 of the way in: "is this what we've become?" In this way, the film's underlying message subtly shifts to that of values--the values of the US public in particular. Sadly, there seems to be little potential for change. Oh, there are quite a few very good ideas to restructure the system (for some of the best, read this), but the lack of will in the Empire today is simply stunning. (For more enlightenment, read this memo from an insurance company executive). Chaos highly recommends the film, for the reasons previously stated, and one more: a sea change in national politics is underway...observe whether this film and a growing consensus that the healthcare system is broken will result in meaningful change or merely nibbling around the edges whilst business as usual continues. Longtime readers will know Chaos' prognostication in this area...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Couple of Bracing Antidotes

Here is a fine example of the kind of thinking we need more of these days...the first is from The Oil Drum poster ResponsibleAccountable, posted on perhaps the premier liberal blog DailyKos. Chaos will reproduce it in its entirety, but the full post (with comments) can be found here.

"Stop blaming the Republicans for the War in Iraq. Just stop it.

I am so very tired of it. I hear it day-in day-out. And I am sick of it. Stop blaming Bush. Stop blaming Cheney. Stop blaming the lot of them.

The fault lies entirely with you.

It is your fault. All of you. The American people. You refuse to change your habits, you refuse to do anything about the unsustainable lifestyles you are leading. You sack any political leader that dares challenge you to do so.

Yet you refuse to really bother to understand the world as it is, and not as you wish it were, or as your wasted hours in front of the TV surrounded by your trinkets have hypnotized you into fantasizing it is.

What do I mean by how it really is? Well, for one, our food production is entirely based on petrochemical based fertilizers and pesticides and massive supplies of oil to power machinery.

The so-called Green Revolution - that's all it was... pumping oil into our food supply. Pouring massive supplies of stored sunlight onto our crops. Turning millions of energy-slaves onto our farms - a barrel of oil has 25,000 man-hours of work in it. For every barrel you consume you have the equivalent of a dozen men working for you 8 hours a day, all year long.

Without the oil inputs the food supply would collapse... ignoring all other consequences a moment - think about that. The food supply would collapse. Pause and remember what collapse really means.

And world oil production peaked in 2005 and has not been as high again since. Now, it isn't the planet running out of oil that causes us problems - there is still as much left in the ground as we've used to date...

No, it is the fact that the rate at which we can get it out has peaked and from now one we will get an ever decreasing amount of oil out every year. Less oil will be available this year than last. Less next year than this.

Even as demand grows, the supply is declining frighteningly. Mexico - the second largest exporter of oil to the US, after Canada and ahead of Saudi Arabia - Mexico's oil production is crashing. It is falling at more than 10% per year. Almost every single major oil producer in the world is in terminal decline. There is increasingly less and less oil in the world being chased by more and more people. We in America have 5% of the world's population and consume 25% of its oil. That leaves a lot of pissed off people in the world. That's why we fight bloody messy wars to secure access to it.

But we'll get back to that in a moment.

So, the oil supply is declining, yet your demand for it is increasing. This leaves an ever widening gap. Which means shortages. Gap between supply and demand. Shortages. Pretty simple.

Even if there might be ways to mitigate some of this we won't be able to do it. Everything about our economy is so dependent on a complex system of oil inputs that any serious shock to that system will cause a catastrophic collapse. People didn't starve in the great depression so much because of lack of food - it was an inability to get that produce to market as the economy collapsed.

And that was food. Essential and straightforward. Imagine how much harder it will be to do complex engineering projects like alternative energy, electrification, public transportation projects... not a chance.

We are talking about nothing less than the end of everything. Remember the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that shocked you so much when you saw it on TV? Picture that everywhere. Across the nation. All the time. With no cavalry coming over the horizon, however late, to save the day.

Try going hungry for a couple of days. Then on the third day, with the stores empty, no money and no transportation... what are you going to do? Think what are you prepared to do when your child is hungry and you have no money and no food to eat? Now think what others might be prepared to do when they are in that spot.

This is the world we face by continuing to consume at the unsustainable levels we are doing.

But you won't do anything about it. You refuse. None of this is new information. None of this is hidden away in secret files somewhere. You are surrounded by the evidence. You have been told it so often in so many ways. But you won't do anything about it. You refuse.

So we, your elected leaders, we have to go out there and kill thousands - hundreds of thousands - of Arabs to secure future supplies of the thick black lifeblood of our current decaying lifestyles. Not personally I might add - thankfully at least you give us your kids to sacrifice on these military adventures, I'll give you that. I just wish you wouldn't complain about it so much.

Don't complain about the press not telling you that the Administration lied to get you into Iraq? They didn't tell you because no-one with any critical thinking skills, no-one here in Washington, no-one... i mean NO-ONE, believed it to be anything other than what it is. A desperate attempt to secure control of energy resources, while we still had some semblance of military pre-eminence. Some believed it was the wrong strategic move and argued so. But the fact you didn't get it is your fault not theirs.

Don't complain about how the Democrats didn't stand up to the Republicans on the war. You wouldn't let them. You voted repeatedly for scare tactics and faux strength manifested in cliched rhetoric and high-school level macho.

Don't blame the Republicans themselves. They just kept giving them more of what you asked for time and again, election after election - both through your votes and through your sitting on your backsides at home not bothering to come out and vote. (Whichever category best fits you)

When Dick Cheney said that the American way of life is non-negotiable, he wasn't being some stubborn ass, or some evil mastermind. He was stating a fact. The American people will not elect a leadership that will make them change their way of life. It will kick out anyone that tries.

So, instead we do what you demand of us: we will kill over half-a-million Iraqi men women and children. We have done. And we promise to keep doing so. We will kill them in their thousands. Millions if we have to.

And if that doesn't work we'll go out there and start killing Persians. We will slaughter them. We'll drop nuclear weapons on large civilian populations if need be. We will do anything not to have to make you change your way of life. This we promise you. Because that is what you demand.

Of course, we'll leave it for someone else to tell you - when all of this has finally failed - when your insatiable thirst for oil remains unslaked - while you still long to remain the overseer to your fossil-fuel energy-slaves - something shocking will happen.

Well, when I say shocking, it shouldn't be of course. When I sit down this evening, to relax with a beer after talking with you, something natural will occur. As I drink, the amount left in the bottle will decrease. If I speed up my rate of drinking the rate of decrease speeds up too. Eventually... fairly soon if I keep drinking at a rapid pace... eventually my bottle is empty. At that point I realise that a bottle holds only a finite amount of beer. It isn't much of a shock to me.

It shouldn't need saying, but perhaps we should repeat it every morning when we wake up: There is only a finite amount of oil on the planet. Once we exhaust fossil fuels they are gone. Forever.

And we just talked about what happens at that point. The picture is a very dark one. A precipitous collapse. A disintegration of everything we know. And a lot of people will die.

Even though we'll have kept killing the Arabs, then the Persians, eventually Venezuelans - heck possibly Canadians too - just as we promised to do.

...well, at least as long as we could keep getting away with it - we may actually be surprised at some point down that road to run into an immovable barrier of world resistance... but that is a whole other topic for another time.

Even with all of the killing you have demanded that we your elected leaders command the troops of our nation to instigate, all we'll have done is put off the collapse, made it later, eliminated any possibility of any mitigation whatsoever, and made the fall oh so very much worse.

So, please. Please. I ask of you one thing - and it isn't: "vote for me for President of the United States of America". I'll do that plenty in the coming months, so let's give that one a miss tonight.

I ask of you one thing: stop blaming psychotic Republicans, or ineffective Democrats, or sinister Cheney, or buffoon Bush, or Machiavellian Rove, or some evil cabal. stop blaming anyone for the war in Iraq, but yourself. It is your fault. And it is time to face up to that.

It's hard. It's painful. But it is time to grow up and see things as they really are. And vote.

Realise you aren't in high-school anymore. It isn't someone else's job to make your decisions for you. Many will step up and offer to do so if you let them - but you won't like those decisions if you do.

Those of you with family, with kids... Do you want any chance of a future whatsoever that doesn't involve losing everyone you know and care about? Then take responsibility. Decide right now to change. Fundamentally. Immediately. If not those children of yours will probably die alarmingly soon. And not well.

Once I am elected President of the United States of America, I will ask one more thing of you. I will put it to a vote.

Quite simply: Do you want us to make the radical changes to every area in public life that will be necessary to completely restructure society to a sustainable model as quickly as possible, to the benefit of the most people possible, and do you want it to start now? Or, do you want us to keep on killing Arabs, then Persians and whoever else we need to in order to buy a couple more years of this unsustainable lifestyle that is making you miserable anyway?

If you choose the former I will do whatever it takes, and pay whatever price necessary, to save what I can of this great nation of ours for the future. If you choose the latter... well I am sure somebody will give you what you ask for...

And that's it really.

Now, no Democrat will say that. I have no interest in a Republican getting nominated, but I reckon if someone like John McCain took a platform like this to try to revive his campaign he'd be a shoo-in. But the R's won't either.

No-one will. But it needs to be said....

...and read The Oil Drum even if you just have time for the daily Drum Beat... I promise you in a few years time you will be very glad you did..."

If that's not enough for you, try this one, courtesy of David Michael Green (author of 36 Signs Your Empire's Crumbling....if you recall). Of course, this person evidently believes that a mere changing of the guard from perhaps the worst president in US history will be sufficient to cure most of the Empire's ills, a position not in accord with Chaos' estimation of the situation. However, some interesting points as to why the US public is simply incapable of democracy at this very moment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Your Turn To Laugh At The Neaderthals: Ship of Fools

More funny stuff, although actually scary too...reporter for UK's Independent got himself a berth on the National Review's cruise for conservatives. The hijinks are just, well, incredible, as well as the ridiculous attitudes of those in attendance. Think well on this, though, because this is an actual snapshot of perhaps 20% of the US public (Chaos' wild ass guess).

Pirates and Emperors: A Funny Video

Yes yes, Chaos is putting off posting on Michael Moore's Sicko, since it calls for quite a long and detailed exposition and Chaos is not quite yet in the here's more funny stuff. A clever and oh-so-true video tells us that there really isn't much difference between emperors and pirates, except perhaps that of scale.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Funny Endless Growth Stuff From The Onion

Readers wanting comic relief (because there's an upcoming post about the healthcare system) should check out this uproarious article from the masters of satire, The Onion. Exerpt:
"As we move into the 21st century, it is our responsibility to think of the future of the earth—not for ourselves, but for those who will inherit what my husband and I leave behind when we're gone. If we do not join together and do what's best for this, our only planet, there may not be an environment left in which my five children, and their 25 children's 125 children, can grow up and raise large upper-middle-class families of their own."


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An "Action" Post: Carolyn Baker, The Spirituality of Collapse

For those who have read the relevant literature (and videos, see Chaos' bibliography...), and have that all-too-common response: "what can we do," here is an article which will address that, perhaps in spades. Beware: Carolyn Baker is a fast-crash doomer who fully embraces the concept of imminent collapse and is articulate enough to be dangerous, in the manner of a Derrick Jensen, let's say. In other words, be careful what you wish for...relevant quote:

"The first thing I'm not going to tell you is that collapse can be avoided or that human ingenuity and technology will come up with something to spare us from it. I'm not going to tell you that there will be some mass movement-some magic that will organize progressives into a groundswell of protest, writing letters to Congress, creating blogs and websites, supporting the "right" candidate, and asking for donations. No, what I'm going to tell you is that as a nation and as a planet, we are screwed, fucked, and shit out of luck, or if you prefer Spanish, estamos jodidos."

Read the rest at your peril, or perhaps, enlightenment.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Too Many People Ruin Wineries

From the "the root of the problem is just too many people" department, comes this story about how ever-larger crowds have poisoned the atmosphere of the genteel wine tasting and generally, messed it up for everyone. Just a tiny story, the subject of which is not likely to be of interest to any but snobby New York Times readers and oenophiles, but do recall Dr. Bartlett's primary point about overpopulation. Readers are conditioned to view endless growth in population as beneficial, but in fact, humanity's gigantic footprint is poisoning the planet. This story provides a clue that endless population growth results in negative consequences.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Another Reason to Move to Europe

High speed trains. Ever heard the phrase? No? Well wonder why no's because there aren't any in the Empire (well, maybe a couple of Amtracks from DC to Boston or some such, but outside of that). Not so across the Pond, where this graphic come to us, displaying a good portion of the "continent" overlaid with rail lines, and usable by people at that. What a concept! If the people in the Empire are so smart, why haven't they thought of this? Hmmm...well, here's the accompanying article. If you want more, a couple of days ago on The Oil Drum an expert article was posted on the same subject. Let it never be said that Chaos is immune to synchronicity....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Two Hits By Our Favorite Dystopian Writers

James Howard Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation, a weekly commentary on subjects covered in The Long Emergency (Peak Oil and the collapse of American suburbia), has a screamingly funny analysis on the modern male modes of apparel.

Joe Bageant, chronicler of the spiraling cultural downshift of the US and expat resident of Belize, discovers the destructive power of human overpopulation in this typically eloquent essay, posted on The Oil Drum poster Cid Yama's interesting blog.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Just a Couple of Thoughts on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby

Recent happenings, (although Chaos admonishes readers to heed our friend Dmitry Orlov and ignore all national politicians, since they are mere distractions...) specifically the Boy Emperor's commutation of the jail sentence of the convicted perjurer and noted liar Libby, portend the attack of Iran by the US. Why? The commutation indicates that said Emperor cares not a whit for what the rest of the nation thinks, and is inclined to throw caution to the winds and attack yet another nation in the mideast, despite the many disastrous consequences which would most certainly result. Chaos hopes readers who are still residing in this benighted country have gotten their bugout plans at the ready....

Headline of the Day (Hell, the Week, the Month, the Year)

"Paris Hilton's Garbage Sells Big On Ebay"

Is this what we've become? Yes, it certainly is. There is no way to deny it, minimize it, or rationalize it away. Kunstler is correct: the American public lacks the character to do anything more than sit on its fat ass and watch Paris Hilton on TV, after an exhausting day of mindless shopping.