Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why It's Over For America

Why It's Over For America

At least some things are encouraging.

I've had it up to here... no, here. There's so much talk, no action. Yes, I add to it, I write these words, I sit at my desk, I take no action.

It's time.

I'm off to Alaska. If I make it back, I'll have something more to say, something based on experience.

Keep an eye on the news. If nothing happens, they've won again.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

5 Million years of evolution reversed by a fashion statement

Today I walked, for about a half mile, behind a young male person of high school age. He was togged out in the latest fashion: hair net, t-shirt down to his knees, black shorts with the pockets hanging down behind his knees, the crotch below knee level. I couldn't see the waistband.

As I watched, there was something decidedly odd about his gait. His toes were turned out, his knees were bent and splayed apart, he walked with a kind of rolling motion. It suddenly occurred to me that he walked like a chimpanzee!

Homo sapiens has spent 5 million years learning how to walk upright and bipedally and here we have a fashion design from ignorant rappers in New York City turning back the clock of evolution. This poor young man will grow up with hip displasia from wearing ill-fitting shorts and forever change the culture of walking for his descendents, if he has any.

We're fucked!

Monday, May 29, 2006

It's not just the war...

I'm one among a growing cadre of anti-war activists, trying to bring a stop to the madness of the United States government (not my government) in Iraq and Afghanistan (and other places not seen on the nightly TeeVee news).

Yet even if the US were to withdraw all its troops from these countries, with a Limey under each arm. If the killing were to stop tomorrow and all the soldiers put to useful work back here at home, even then the insanity would not stop.

Its not just war that's the problem, it's the entire society based on the idea that "we are right, and they are wrong." And since "we are right," we can justify taking their resources for our use because "they are wrong." Not just wrong like Saddam Hussein, but wrong in that they are not us and they have resources that we need, and we are civilized and cultured and free and democratic and they don't deserve the resources they're sitting on because they're not putting them to civilized and cultured and free and democratic uses like we would do if we had them. And if any of them object or try to stop us and protect their land and resources, we trivialize their claims and demonize them and pretend they're not human and we kill them and the wives and their children and their grandparents and we make their land unfit to live in and we take what we want and leave the people and the land bleeding and dying.

So it has gone for hundreds of years. The United States is merely the latest and best at the game of colonialism that started centuries ago when ruffians in towns decided that the water and the fuel and the animals and the plants outside the town should belong to those who live in the town, not to those uncouth ruffians who live outside of the town and don't fully utilize the largesse that surrounds them. So the people of the town went out unto the people outside the town and killed them and took their animals and their plants and their minerals and their water and hid them away in the town for their own uses and profit.

Trans-national corporate industrial capitalism is simply the latest form of this ancient story, brought up to date with Tomahawk missiles, B-1 bombers, cluster bombs, laser sites, hi-tech torture and electronic propaganda and thought police.

Fortunately, Peak Oil looms on the horizon, larger than the United States government, more powerful than all the bombers in the world, able to bring fleets of warships to quiescence in the middle of the sea.

It will take time. Mother nature commands glaciers and vast continent-wide ice sheets, hurricanes and monsoons, tornados, drought and plague.

And Mother Nature is infinitely patient...

And just.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Quick Martha, hand me the wooden stake!

I thought I put oil shale safely to bed in the 80s, when I demonstrated in a video documentary the only successful oil shale retorting operation in the world: the runaway fire under the spent shale fines pile at the Book Cliffs mine near Rifle, Colorado.

Yep, kerogen (not oil) was seeping from the pile into the Colorado River.

They closed down the whole operation shortly after that boondoggle was cleared up, deciding it was all a bad deal that took more energy to process than could be derived from the kerogen. Not to mention shale piles twice as large as the shale dug out of the mountain.

Nope, oil shale is an energy sink. No amount of $3.00 a gallon gas can change that. Tar sands is good for what it suggests: surfacing roads right out of the ground.

Just gonna have to get used to the idea: there's only so much oil that can be pumped out of the ground for less energy than comes from the oil. After that, it's a downhill, mighty slippery slope.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a cross-roads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." Woody Allen

It's all about choices, choices made and irretrievable, choices facing us every day, choices looming over us in the future.

It's difficult and probably counterproductive to think of "society" making choices, since society and culture are the sum of all choices made by their members. Society and culture provide information to their members to make further decisions. It goes round and round.

At some point in the past "we" chose to use oil-powered internal combustion engines to transport us and our stuff about the face of the earth. Society didn't make the choice; individual humans decided to embrace this new invention and use it to replace the then current modes of transportation: feet, horses, bicycles, coal-powered trains, each of which had advantages and disadvantages to be weighed against the advantages and disadvantages of oil-based power. As is usual, the disadvantages were never fully perceived and articulated, so we made these decisions without access to all the necessary information.

As is the custom, we live with the results of choices made in the past. The road once taken cannot be retraced. Progress has no reverse gear; we cannot go back to the last fork and choose the other path.

As we gaze dimly into the future, we begin to realize that the road we have chosen goes over a cliff, there is no bridge to the other side, there are fewer and fewer forks in the road ahead, and we are proceeding at maximum speed to the inevitable drop to the rocks below. Worse yet, the brakes don't seem to respond and the throttle is stuck.

If we are to avoid the glorious flight to oblivion ahead, and the shocking, abrupt stop at the bottom, we must get out of the car and build a new road. We can employ our individual choices, just as our ancestors did, to find a new direction, new speed and new destination.

We can choose to inform ourselves of the reality of the path we are on and the reality of alternative paths ahead.

We can choose to change the way we live individually so as to lesson the effects of coming changes in our personal lives. We can choose to live within walking and bicycling distance of home. We can choose to eat fresh, nutritious foods grown locally. We can choose to live, work and play where we live rather than travel thousands of miles for business and entertainment . We can choose to work together with our neighbors to create and support opportunities for local democratic decision-making.

Just as the choices made by our ancestors led us to the path we are on today, our choices made today and tomorrow form the future we create and the future our children will inherit.

We have a finite number of choices left in our lives. Let's make every one count.

Leona Gulch
Pacific Plate

Monday, May 15, 2006

Cell phone wiretaps

Next revelation will be cell phone wiretaps
Secret Gov't Source Tells ABC News: "Get New Cellphones"

No need to wait or get in line, cell phone "wiretaps are already here. The government (not my government) admits that they are already monitoring journalists cell phone calls to find out their "secret" sources. That means that the government (not my government) is already monitoring and/or tracking your cell phone calls. Not mine. I don't have a cell phone. Never have. Wouldn't have one if someone gave it to me. Especially if someone gave it to me!

Next is email and web site monitoring, if it's not already here, which it is. There are no secrets.

Good! Let's give them something to think about! Let's let them know, on our telephones, on your cell phones, in our emails, detailed in web site visits, that we think they're all a bunch of bottom-dwelling, scum-sucking maggots (apologies to incipient blow flies); that we'd appreciate it if they'd all go take a long walk off a short pier; that if Democrats had any balls, they would have already impeached the bastards and gotten their sorry asses (and mules) out of Washington, that great national asylum for the criminally helpless.

Lets get some real democracy going in the United States for a change, maybe for the first time ever. We've got all these computers and cell phones, and PDAs and other assorted electronic jiggery-pokery lying about the place. Let's put it to good use for once. Let's communicate with the scum-bags in Washington, DC and tell them what we really feel. Let's talk it up among ourselves while we still can, and let's set up new communications connections so we can keep talking when the bastards shut down the internet and email and cell phones to try to keep us suppressed and quiescent.

They ain't seen nothing yet. There's a bunch of people in this country who're getting royally pissed-off with the ninnies and feebs slouching about the Oval Office these days, and with the Oval One hisself. Yes, we can't help it. The Village Idiot was especially chosen for this job, based on the model of LBJ, with none of the innate intelligence and yokel smarts that Lynden had. Yes, he was a paranoid bastard, a cheat and philanderer, but he was an intelligent human being, at least before 1965. The present Resident can claim no such earthy honors.

It's time to throw the rabble out, muck out the shit from the White Horse Stables, and start all over again. Democrats? Who is worthy to step forward and fill the shoes of the Kennedys? Republicans? No one worthy of donning the elephant suit, except maybe Pete McClosky and he looked mighty tired to me at the fund raiser Saturday night. Dennis Kucinich? Now there's an intelligent man, perhaps too intelligent to take on the Presidency in these waning days of empire. I hope he'll run, at least, and breathe some fresh air in US politics.

Get busy, dial those cell phones, send those emails. We got a heap o' work to do.


Friday, May 12, 2006

I am a pedestrian!

Hello, my name is Michael. I am a pedestrian. It's been three years since I last drove a car.

Something happened to me on a trip to the UK last year. I became a pedestrian. Oh yes, I used to walk frequently, rode my bicycle even more often, rarely drove or rode in a car. After using public transportation and feet to get around England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for a few weeks, I gave up on the idea of wheeled transportation almost entirely.

Feet are much more efficient. It takes no preparations to go out on foot, merely lace up one's shoes and step out the door. The same food that keeps my body in good health also provides fuel for my daily commute, my trips to the market and the video boutique and the occasional foray to the beach (often combined with the other aforementioned pedestrian opportunities).

Walking 4 to 6 miles daily through my neighborhood has given me a new perspective on the human condition. I've discovered that 90% of the people I meet during the day are uncaring louts: they drive too fast, they don't stop at cross walks, they ride their bicycles on the sidewalk and don't stop at stop signs of lights. Ten percent are courteous, friendly and helpful; the rest are yobs, ninnies and feebs.

I rarely meet another human on my daily walks, maybe one or two a week, more when I walk through the small craft harbor where people walk, from their parked cars, for recreation. On my mile walk along 7th Avenue to work I almost never see another walker.

As I walk, I pick up trash, roll wheely-bins back out of the bike lane, greet the few bicyclists riding in the bike lane, smile politely when inattentive motorists pull out of their driveways in front of me without looking for pedestrians. I shout at bicyclists who don't stop at stop signs and motorists who don't stop for me in the cross walks. It's good healthy exercise, clears the lungs, airs out the brains. Just incidentally, it's good exercise for the rest of my body.

My wife chose wisely when she decided to live here, and I chose wisely when I decided to join her. I think I'll stay, on my feets!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The government only wants one thing...


Who do they think they're fooling with the claim that they're not prying into the private lives of millions of Americans? Where do you suppose all that data goes? Is there no other use for millions of phone records, even without the details of the contents?

Once the data is collected it never goes away. As long as it's sitting around, tapping its little feet, someone... someone who doesn't have your best interests in mind... will use it for something. It will be for making money, controlling dissent, controlling what you think and what you buy.

Count on it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Threat Seen From Antibacterial Soap Chemicals

Now we live in an age of ubiquitous threats. Even soap is bad for you! The NSA has a record of all your phone calls. A cardboard box left by the road is a potential bomb and blocks traffic for hours during your morning commute.

This is not accidental. It is essential that the ruling oligarchy wield a mailed fist of fear. The United States government is organized on a permanent war footing, and its citizens must be kept in constant, cowering fear in order to remain quiescent and complicit. Even the dissent of a few must be quashed, through popular oblique if not official sanction. The power of one dissenting voice casts doubt in the minds of millions.

We must continue to speak out against our own government. We must dissent, we must resist, we must not obey. Those burly men in black padded suits are not our friends, they are the enemies of freedom and democracy, those same enemies against which the President has vowed to defend us.

It's a topsy world, again. Fascist ideologies have long attempted to hold sway across the globe, and now they have succeeded. The populace, held in a grip of fear, dare not resist.

Fortunately, the twins specters of Peak Oil and global climate change will bring down the whole house of cards, and free us once again to find our own destiny.

Waiting is.

Saturday, May 06, 2006 Despite a troubled history, police across the nation are keeping tabs on ordinary Americans

This is why we have the local constabulary infiltrating local organizations trying to put together a peaceful parade. Our local coppers have become militarized by the feds, tempted with Homeland (In)Security money to keep tabs on us and pass the information on to the regional fusion center and the national network.

Matters not what we do. Might as well take it over the top!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The World is not On-Demand!

On the decreasingly few occasions when I'm not pounding on this poor abused keyboard, reading or dreamily staring into space (creating), I work at our local Public Radio station. I've done this work, off and on, for the past thirty years or so, working as volunteer programmer, operations manager, program director, volunteer coordinator, and lately as administrative assistant/operations manager.

Some of you may remember radio. It was those sounds that came out of the curvy plastic box on top of the refrigerator; from the four-foot high, exquisitely polished wooden furniture piece with a couple of dozen bakelite buttons and knobs in the living room; or over the tinny speaker on top of the dash in your parent's car. I used to lay awake at night and listen to the sounds of the Universe coming through the twelve-inch speaker on my Philco AM-FM-Shortwave Radio in my bedroom. I fell asleep to radio preachers from Texas, high energy DJs from Mexico, the hiss and crackle of static on the short-wave bands, ship-to-shore Morse Code, and the music of far off countries fading in and out of the swirl of electronic ether. It was magical! I listened to radio drama, adventure serials, eclectic mixtures of stream of consciousness (or unconsciousness) music programs, complete with the hiss and pop of well used vinyl. (Here's a a test: how many grooves are on each side of a 33 1/3 rpm record album?)

This week I discovered I don't work for a radio station anymore; I work for a "content provider." This bloodless descriptive is just one example of a basic philosophical change occurring throughout our society, a change that is unbidden, uncontrolled and unstoppable. We are becoming an "On-Demand" society.

Here's how you listen to radio: when you want to listen to a specific radio program, you look up the schedule for the station, find out when the program is airing, make sure you are by a radio at the appointed time, turn the radio on and listen to the program. You enjoy the program in fullness as it comes through the speaker(s), and, when its finished, you retain fond memories (or not) of its contents. Period. That's it. The program is off into the ephemeral radio waves never to be heard again (unless you recorded it on a tape recorder).

In the new "On-Demand" world, you don't have to plan anything. Everything is available anytime and anywhere you want. Want to hear Ravi Shankar play the sitar? Download it on your computer, transfer it to your iPod and take it with you to the beach. Missed yesterday's call-in talk show? Go online, listen to the archived program, submit your comments on the accompanying blog. Don't like the programming on your local listener-supported community radio station? No problem! Go online and listen to any of hundreds of different "content providers" all over the world! Subscribe to podcasts and have your favorite programs from East Rubberball, Ontario, Lille, France and Sitka, Alaska waiting for you on your computer whenever you want to hear them! Burn them to a CD and share them with your friends. Make yourself a content provider and podcast your favorite music to anyone in the world who wants to listen, both of them, anytime they want to!

Wow! And this is not just radio. On-Demand applies to any and every form of print, visual and audio expression. Virtually any content is available on-demand, in any format, to be downloaded, transferred to a portable electronic device and watched, listened to or read anytime, anywhere, over and over. Content is no longer limited by space and time.

Think of young people growing up now to whom on-demand is normal. No waiting for a phone call, just whip out your cell phone and make a connection. No need to look at a map for directions. Call on your cell phone and they'll talk you in, just like an airplane landing on an aircraft carrier. No need to plan ahead, everything is instantly connectable for events on the run. Your TeeVee and radio programs wait for you on your computer at 10 PM or 2 AM. Food is delivered to your door, movies are ordered online and appear in your mailbox, school assignments are a simple download off the web.

Think of that: no need to plan ahead. No need to consider the consequences of your actions. No need to think of raw materials running out, waste piling up in landfills, air and water becoming toxic. Why worry? Everything is provided whenever and wherever you need it! Everything is on-demand!

What is the cost of the On-Demand Society? Community.

In a society in which every bit of information is exactly equal to every other bit of information, there is nothing special about the bit of information that originates in your immediate surroundings or that relates specifically to your household, neighborhood, community or bioregion. On-demand radio will be the death of community supported radio. Why should anyone support their local community radio station when they can, just as easily, listen to content provided by a hundred other radio stations all across the globe any time they want?

When community encompasses 6 billion people throughout the world, there is no community. Community is local. Community is relevant. Community exists in real time, that is, sidereal time, sun time, Earth time, seasonal time, geologic time. When attention is dispersed among a myriad of competing messages, those messages that are most pertinent at the local level are lost.

What is the cost of the On-Demand Society? Connectiveness.

When everything appears on demand, anytime, anyplace, there is no connection to its origin or appreciation of the cost of its production. We don't see the immense technocratic infrastructure necessary to allow a 13 year-old to whip out a cell phone and call her friend in the classroom next door. We don't see the huge investment in digital transmission, satellite distribution, computer storage, wifi broadcasting and computer construction and distribution necessary for podcasting and on-demand "content providing." Nor do we see the incredible, mind-boggling destruction of the planet on which our individual, on-demand lives depend. It's invisible, out of sight and certainly out of mind.

What is the price of a cell phone call? Gorillas killed for meat and trophies in Africa, smog-filled skies over the Grand Canyon, a Navajo child dying of cancer caused by breathing uranium dust.

Even worse, a society dominated by dedication to instant gratification and fulfillment of on-demand demands, is a society ignorant of the the far more subtle and long term natural cycles of resource production and waste absorption that operate in the real real world, outside of human societal concentration. The global climate change currently devouring the natural world that sustains human society is a direct result of the inability of humans to perceive complex, long-term natural cycles, and the inability of human society to react to long-term change until it reaches crisis proportions.

On-demand technology is driving human society rapidly over the looming precipice. Fortunately, in the process, we are irretrievably consuming the very resources that allow such a technology to exist, so that, after the inevitable short stop at the bottom of the fall, there will be insufficient resources available to recreate, in any conceivable time period, the destructive society we experience today.

This is it. Enjoy it while it lasts. The ride will be fast and exciting, the end abrupt and ineluctable. The future is less, not more.

In this there is satisfaction and contentment enough.

Leona Gulch
Pacific Plate