Tuesday, October 30, 2007

U.S. Carbon "Footprints," State by State

Chaos came across this chart, which purports to rank the various states of the nation in carbon usage per capita, accounting for those with larger populations, like, for example, California. Sure enough, Texas is one of the worst (or maybe the worst) states in the nation, having an extremely large population with astoundingly large carbon emissions. Those who actually reside here should not be surprised. To reiterate...geography matters, and will matter more later. Buy a globe, and start looking around.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Straight Talk About Gambling: James Howard Kunstler

This man, author of The Long Emergency (a fine and chilling introduction to a few of the issues discussed here), has a weekly blogpost/commentary on the passing scene. His latest is exceptional and not the sort of stuff you're likely to hear in the happy-talk media. Excerpt:

"The current mania to expand legalized gambling around the country is a clear symptom of how desperate and crazy this society has become. In a culture where anything goes and nothing matters, it is perhaps hard for the public to understand what's wrong with it. The gambling "industry" itself has very successfully masked its pernicious nature by putting across the idea that it is just another form of innocent "entertainment," on a par with pro sports, theme parkery, and Hollywood. In fact, gambling, or "gaming," as it cynically calls itself, has hijacked elements of all these other activities to conceal its main business, which is the systematic hosing of those who can least afford to be hosed.
What's wrong with state-sponsored gambling is simple: it promotes the idea -- inconsistent with the realities of the universe -- that it's possible to get something for nothing. It is unhealthy to an extreme for a society to make this idea normal because it defeats another idea that a society absolutely depends on for survival -- namely that earnest effort matters. It conditions the public to magical thinking -- a characteristic of children-- and disables their ability to function as adults. The expansion of gambling is especially tragic at a time when this society faces epochal economic problems that threaten its existence, and by this I mean the permanent global energy crisis that will require us to reorganize virtually all the crucial activities of daily life. This is a time when the nation can least afford to disable adult thinking and earnest effort." (emphasis Chaos')
Chaos has often thought that the nature of the issues rapidly approaching demands the absolute best thinking, and most assuredly not the dysfunctional business as usual approach. Corrollary: irrational, magical thinking crowds out rational responses. In light of these premises, now view the culture of the US as it really is: celebrity-obsessed, crazily religious, media-saturated, and optimistic without basis. Shiver, readers.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New York Times Columnists Are Fed UP!!

Seems that some of our newspaper brethren have gotten a little disenchanted with the somnolent American public, since, well, nothing seems to really wake them up (wonder why?). A few weeks ago, Tom Friedman exclaimed, in relation to the obdurate refusal of anyone in the country to do anything in response to the problems of crumbling infrastructure, ridiculous visa entry restrictions and aging technology: "9/11 has made us stupid...we can't afford to keep being this stupid!" (Actually, we've been this stupid for quite some time, Tom.) Last week, Bob Herbert described the process that elected George W. Bush over Al Gore thusly: "In the race for the highest office in the land, we showed the collective maturity of 3-year-olds."(And not just in the last couple of presidential elections, either, Bob). Then today, Frank Rich decides that the American public is as complicit in the continuing torture/slaughter that is Iraq as the German public during the Nazi era (a little hyperbolic, yes, but that would also assume anyone here is paying attention to the Empire's little outsourcing dilemmas, wouldn't it, Frank?) Chaos sympathizes, but wonders why it took these gents so long--Chaos figured it out long ago. Look, guys, there's a reason why things are done a certain way here in the Empire; figure it out, can't you? Here's a hint: take a glance outside the borders of the nation every so often and wonder why other nations seem not to have trouble facing the looming problems of energy dependence, global warming, environmental destruction, and the like. Most of them have a rational healthcare policy, and quite a few of them don't actually start unprovoked wars or torture people as a matter of national policy. Think about it.

More Funny Stuff

To continue with Thursday's theme...here's some very odd and amusing items from Amazon: a 220 pound elk carcass, fresh whole rabbit, and a personal tank. The comments and reviews are hilarious.

Friday, October 12, 2007

American Values #16: Meet Tila Tequila

Chaos will refrain from comment on this next narrative, since it pretty much speaks for itself as a reflection of current American values. Chaos fondly recalls the startup days of the music channel MTV; many idle hours were spent (in various states of mind...kindly do not inquire further) viewing "music videos" during the early to mid-80s. As most readers know, the channel changed and well, went in different directions, to the point that it is mostly unrecognizable to a being of Chaos' years. None of the preceding has much to do with this slightly whimsical and ironic description of the current offering: Tila Tequila's A Shot of Love. Peruse it, and ponder what values are possessed by the citizens of the Empire watching this particular program.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some Funny Stuff To Start The Day

Chaos has noticed that it has been kind of a while since any humor was posted here; apologies offered for the lack. To make up for it, (and perhaps expose readers to yet another online 'world') here's the Best of Craigslist for your amusement...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Conspiracy Theorists, Put On Your Tinfoil Hats

Yes, it's another edition of Scary Stuff About The Government...bet you didn't know that the US government claims authority to confiscate gold, silver, and pretty much anything else it deems necessary to enable wars with any nation, at all, under any circumstances. Here's a letter from an actual US Treasury official to prove it. Secondly, one should be conversant with "Operation Vigilant Shield," the government plan to use the military domestically in case of a "national emergency," terrorist-induced, natural disaster, trumped-up reason, whatever. Unprecedented in scope, absolutely frightening in its potential. Also note that an "exercise" in the quoted plan is scheduled for this month. Just a few chilling thoughts to accompany the change in season....

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

American Values #19: Guns, Guns, Guns

In our continuing series of exploration of American values, we have been remiss in remarking upon the vast quantity of firearms owned by citizens of the Empire, apparently in the belief that they will have to undertake self-defense measures against: 1. invading criminals, and 2. a despotic government. Chaos has news for the latter: the government has already taken away most civil rights, so any firepower an individual citizen has will be overwhelmed by 'Blackwater' forces. At any rate, here's the proof: 90 out of 100 people in the US own firearms.

But It's Better, There: A Vacation Spot

To balance out the torrent of ever-worsening news (ok, to be fair and balanced, small signs of improvement are noted, but their tiny size and effect is also remarkable, in the face of the massive change necessary to deal with the converging catastrophes...), here's a place you can go to learn what an actual "sustainable community" looks like. Ecoreality, a website and a community village in British Columbia, has a set of detailed instructions for those who are ready to "walk the walk." You might be surprised at how simple and unassuming such a lifestyle is, and yet how unattainable, psychologically, to those trapped in the consumerist bubble. (Chaos is pointedly not noting how much earlier holiday marketing is starting this year....)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

No, No, It Really Is Worse, Here

Just a quick headline to make a quick point: not for nothing has the benighted place where Chaos resides been called "The World Capitol of Ignorance" (well, ok, Chaos called it that). In contrast to the bicycle heavens of Portland, OR, or Amsterdam (or anywhere else, for that matter) the city has little or no amenities for anything other than motor vehicles, and sports a distinctly hostile environment for pedestrians. Here's the proof: study shows the city has the worst record in the state for pedestrian fatalities, and of course, much worse than the national average. So our lesson for today (and with apologies to Sgt. Phil Esterhaus) is, "let's be very careful out there," especially if you're on foot.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Predatory Society

An interesting theme to life in the Empire has recently bubbled up into Chaos' consciousness...along with some recent items in the media, of course. The first, oft-commented upon here, is Michael Moore's Sicko, wherein the healthcare industry (and Chaos is quite deliberate in word choice here) takes full advantage of those customers who have little or no power to fight back. This last is not an unreasonable interpretation of people's experiences depicted in the film. Further, Chaos recently viewed a somewhat similar documentary dealing with the credit card industry, Maxed Out, in which individuals who have gone bankrupt (made more difficult by the changes pushed through by the same credit card companies) are then targeted by these same companies, simply because their track record establishes them as the prime candidates for more irresponsible running up of debt. Finally, this article in the nation's paper of record reveals that private investment companies have bought up chains of nursing homes, insulated themselves from liability by creating networks of interlocking corporate entities, and then cut services and staff, resulting in unnecessary deaths among the "customers." This theme of the predatory society is, to Chaos' experience, new, and has attracted the attention of some rather esteemed people. To add to the commentary, Chaos notes that a good deal of the Empire's economy is now devoted to impoverishing the lower and middle classes through the machinations of these greedy corporations. How long can you gamble, readers, that you will not find yourself caught in one of these nefarious schemes that masquerade as "services?"

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Few Useful (!) Links To Self-Sufficiency

For those sentient beings who have figured out that the maintenance of a high energy, wasteful, super-consumptive lifestyle is, well, unsustainable, or who merely wish to cushion themselves from the inevitable and enormous increases of basic necessities (like food and water, for example) here are some interesting items to get started.
Water: an extensive review of rainwater harvesting in Chaos' most unfortunate home state (warning: pdf file)
Food: Carolyn Baker interviews a couple of small organic farmers in Vermont, including why they chose this lifestyle, benefits, etc.
For further reading: Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, Eric Brende. Chaos, having purchased this book recently at a used bookstore, can highly recommend it.

Let it not be said that doomerism is, necessarily, depressing...