Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What's Wrong with This Picture?

A large insurance company in Germany says: "Global losses linked to climate change mounting"

"Linked to climate change?" What is the link between insurance company payouts and climate change?

Does this mean more natural disasters are causing insurance companies to pay out more money? No, they admit that 2009 was a light year for hurricanes (they seem to worry a lot about hurricanes), so it can't be that.

Does it mean that higher global temperatures are causing... something unspecified... to encourage more people to make more insurance claims? No, they don't say that.

What they do say is: "Climate change likely has accounted for a significant share of the roughly $1.6 trillion in worldwide weather-related losses since 1980..."

Losses. That means money the insurance company has to pay out. That means more people affected by natural disasters. That means more expensive damage suffered by more people in natural disasters.

That means insurance companies want to blame their losses on climate change so they can blame the government for not doing something about it. That means they want their share of government bailouts.

Climate change... ?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What's So Green About Green Technology?

This just in from the As We Suspected Department:

The New York Times reports: Earth-Friendly Elements Are Mined Destructively

That would be rare Earth metals required to build large wind turbines and other efficient forms of electricity usage. Not only are they dug from open pit mines in China (not known for the greenest of green practices) but they're traded around the world in illegal, unregulated markets.

Fossil fuels are declining, as well as polluting the planet, in order to support profligate lifestyles among a minority of far too many people on Earth consuming too much of the planet.

What's the simplest solution to the above over balanced equation? Reduce consumption? Conservation? Live simply?

No, no, that won't do. How are trans-national corporations going to survive if we stop making and buying ever more stuff? Nope, gotta build more wind generators to generate more electricity to power all the WallMarts to sell all the goods to make all the profits for corporate executives and stock holders everywhere.

That means more fossil fuels burned to dig more holes in the ground to extract more minerals to make all the stuff.

What's green about that?

Can the Government Force You to Buy Health Insurance?

Can the United States government force its citizens to buy a product from a for profit corporation and fine them if they refuse? David Swanson discusses the implications in Constitutional Challenges to Health Care Reform.

When this question goes to the Supreme Court, they will decide whether or not the United States is run by a fascist government.

It is one thing for a government to support business with tariffs, subsidies and outright pay-offs. This can always be passed off as corporate socialism. Legislating a requirement that its citizens purchase a specific product from for-profit corporations is the final step to the merger of business and government, the hallmark of fascism.

Government may provide services, such as as free medical care, and tax citizens to pay for it. This supports the greater good. But mandatory purchase of a service, especially a service not needed by a large percentage of the populace, those who are healthy and not in need of medical care, disparately supports private corporations lobbying for mandated health insurance.

This is the point where Democracy, rule by the people, passes from our grasp forever, or until the next revolution.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Pigs!

Merry Christmas, Pigs!

By Edward Abbey, from Abbey's Road

Scrooge was right. What I like best about Christmas in the desert is the conspicuous absence of Christmas. By late December the cone-nosed humbugs are gone and all the horny elf toads retired into their burrows for the season. When somebody asks me what I think of Christmas (nobody ever does), I reply, "Not much." Easy to avoid it our here in the rocks.

Think about Ebeneezer Scrooge and Bobby Riggs, the twin patron saints of us middle-aged cryptoliberals. Cryptoliberal? Well, sure, why not? I have been called other names even worse. Misanthrope. Sexist. Elitist. Crank. Barbarian. Anarcho-syndicalist. Wild conservative. And my favorite, from a Maoist lady in New York--she called me a creeping Fascist hyena. Quite true, so far as it goes (you can't please everybody), but they forget to add that I am a pig lover too.

The pig I'm talking about is the one known also as a peccary or javelina, the wild pig of the Arizona desert; not a true pig exactly, according to zoologists, but a good approximation--a close relation. Close enough for me, and the javelina, commonly defined as a "wild pig-like animal," is the best kind of pig. Though that definition, come to think of it, is a shade too broad. Some of my best friends qualify as wild pig-like animals without half trying. But that's another issue. The fault of the permissive social atmosphere, the Bill of Rights, the general weakening of moral fibers everywhere you look.

Back to my topic: Christmas and pigs. Have you ever stood alone under the full moon in the prickly cholla-mesquite desert on the night before Christmas and found yourself surrounded by a herd of hungry, snuffling, anxiety-ridden javelinas? I have, and it's a problematic situation: some of those little fifty pound beasts carry tusks and have been known to charge a full-grown man right up the hairy trunk of a saguaro cactus. That's the story I've been told by old-timers around here.

In any case, this part is true: I was surrounded by javelinas while O'Ryan [sic] chased the Seven Sisters around the Big Bear and the moon looked kindly down. To say that I was nervous would have been an overexaggeration. Though unarmed and on foot, I was happy, at ease, and comfortably drunk.

The herd of javelinas was aware of my presence. The mind of a wild pig is unpredictable. These couldn't make up their minds whether to run or stay. After a while, since I made no move, they stayed. I could see them plain in the bright moonshine: parody pigs with oversized heads and undersized hams; each one bristly as a wire brush. They trotted from bush to bush and cactus to cactus, anxious restive fellows, all fits and starts, busy, busy, busy. I was accepted, but not welcome; they hoped I wouldn't stay. As I watched, I heard the sound of their vigorous jaws at work--a crunching of jojoba nuts, the munching of prickly pear. In all nature there's no sound more pleasing than a hungry animal at its feed. Ask any cattleman or farmboy.

Down by Aravaipa Creek I heard the barking of a fox. An owl called. Everybody out shopping for supper.

There was a good strong odor in the air, the rank and racy musk of half-alarmed javelinas. I like that smell, just as I enjoy the smell (at a comfortable distance) of skunk out looking for trouble. Associations: the wild tang of skunk brings back October nights, raccoons and baying hounds, the big woods and foggy hills of Old Pennsylvania. That smell means Arizona too; a border wolf, a desert bighorn, a mountain lion crouched on a ledge above the deer path in the chapparal. Good smells, good things, important, hard to find on Speedway in Tucson or Central Avenue up in Phoenix.

Now and then one of the larger javelinas, suffering from curiosity, would come close to me, sniff, advance, and retreat, trying to figure out exactly what this thing is that stands there like a bush that breathes but smells like Jim Beam, moves a little. Suspicious; from time to time, a ripple of panic passed through the herd like a wave through water. They knew something was wrong, but didn't know what. One minute they're on the point of exploding in all directions, pig fashion. A minute later they forget the danger, start feeding again.

Then what happened? An angel came down from the stars in a long white robe to give us a lecture on the meaning of Christmas? No. I'll admit I have a weakness for simple fact, even if it spoils the story. Maybe that's the main difference between a serious literary artist like me and one of your ordinary sports columnists, say, who writes for the newspaper. But I don't want to make any harsh judgments here; this is supposed to be the season of goodwill toward people. Sports columnists too. And wild pigs.

As my hero Ebeneezer says, if the spirit of Christmas is more than humbug then we're obliged to extend it to all creatures great and small including men, women, children, foreigners, Mexicans, coyotes, scorpions Gila monsters, snakes, centipedes, millipedes, termites and the wild pigs of the Arizona desert. That's the reason the Arizona Game and Fish Department puts off javelina season until January. Out of a decent respect for that annual outburst of love and goodwill we call Christmas.

As for the herd of javelinas snorting around me, the truth is, nothing much of anything happened. In fact, I got bored first, tired of simulating a saguaro cactus. I picked up a couple of rocks, in case one of those husky beasts with the tusks came at me, and tiptoed off through the prickly pear. I did not wish to disturb my friends, but they took alarm anyway, erupting in various directions. Would take them an hour to reassemble. None charged me. Despite many meetings with javelinas, I have yet to come eyeball to eyeball with one. Even though I've charged them a few times, out of meanness, just to see them run.

If I were good and hungry, would I eat a javelina? Yes. I'd roast its head in a pit of mesquite coals and scramble my eggs with its brains. I have no quarrel with any man who kills one of God's creatures in order to feed his women and children and old folks. Nothing could be more right and honorable, when the need is really there. I believe humanity made a serious mistake when our ancestors gave up the hunting and gathering life for agriculture and towns. That's when they invented the slave, the serf, the master, the commissar, the bureaucrat, the capitalist, and the five-star general. Wasn't it farming made a murderer of Cain? Nothing but trouble and grief ever since, with a few comforts thrown here and there, now and then, like bourbon and ice cubes and free beer on the Fourth of July, mainly to stretch out the misery.

Sermons aside, the javelinas and I parted company that moonlight night with no hard feelings, I hope, on either part. They had the whole east slope of Brandenburg Mountain to ramble over, and I had my cabin to crawl back into, where I keep my bearskin and this neurotic typewriter with a mind of its own. Christmas or no Christmas, it does my chilly Calvinist heart a lot of good to know those javelinas are still out there in the brush, pursuing happiness in their ancient piglike manner. What would Arizona be without a Game and Fish Department? Without a Sportsmen's Association? Hard to say. I wonder. But what would Arizona be without wild pigs? Why, no wonder at all. Arizona would be another poor, puny, poverty-struck antheap like California, not fit for man or his dog.

Happy Christmas, brothers and sisters.
Long live the weeds and the wilderness.
Merry New Year, pigs!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our Nobel Peace Prize Winning War President

As we learn in Salon.com of Cruise Missile Attacks in Yemen launched by our Nobel Peace Prize winning President, we enter the topsy world of NEWSSPEAK.

WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. Imperialism is democracy.

Forty-nine civilians were killed in air strikes in Yemen, unsuspecting people going about their quiet lives, unaware of the cross hairs painted on their grandparents, husbands, wives and children by technology beyond their ken.

Oh, you didn't read about this in your local newspaper, your state publication of record, the New York Times? Odd, that. One would think such glorious victories would be plastered in garish headlines across the nation.

But then, these would have to be actions about which we are proud, not cowardly acts to be hidden away in secret documents moldering in dark archives, stamped Top Secret. Fortunately freedom of the press still exists in other countries outside the borders of the United States Empire.

Myths die hard in the human imagination, and the myth of American benevolence dies hardest of all. The united States of America have become a mockery of the avowed ideals of their founders. Substituting an imperialist corporate oligarchy for even nominal rule by their people, the United States of America now stands as the world's foremost oppressor, striking at will, anywhere in the world, killing innocents with abandon and forethought, each attack followed by a barrage of lies. Where once we brought food and shelter to hands reaching out for aid, now we bring death and destruction.

One would hope that Nobel Prizes can be rescinded, with prejudice.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Smoke and Mirrors

Disregard, for the moment, the reality of climate change science. Yes, climate on this dynamic planet is changing, has always changed and will always change until it is consumed in the fires of an expanding sun, the ultimate global warming.

Meanwhile, hysteria over perceived man-made global warming is being used to mask the very real causes of global air and water pollution, global soil reduction, global fresh water depletion, global habitat loss and global species extinction.

The destructive effects of man's industrial activities are not restricted to Greenhouse Gases. They include billions of tons of toxic materials, the byproducts of our wasteful, industrialized consumer society, that are cast off into the local and global environment. They include the commandeering of the public commons for private profit, the paving and development of natural lands, incessant gobbling-up of critical habitat that supports the biodiversity of all life on earth.

The media-magnified events in Copenhagen have succeeded in diverting attention from business as usual on this poor, beleaguered planet, concentrating the world's attention on "undeveloped" countries (largely over-exploited ex-colonies of larger imperialist nations), who are encouraged to use the excuse of global warming oppression to support "environmentally responsible" development.

Note carefully that last word, "development."

Military and economic imperialism petered out in the failed wars of Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq. It has become clear that international adventurism is no longer to be tolerated in a world of 6 billion people, a large chunk of whom are paying more attention to world events through the Internet, bypassing the traditional stenographers of power in the world's corporate press.

A new "enemy" must be identified against which the world can mobilize.

That enemy is climate change.

The fight against climate change opens up a new world of industrial and economic expansion. Think of the possibilities: miles and miles of solar panels, wind farms stretching to the horizon, highways chucky-jammed full of sleek electric cars, networks of battery charging stations, the Arctic opened up to oil and mineral exploration. It's enough to make a corporate CEO's heart go pitter-pat.

But wait a minute. Where do all the rare minerals and metals come from to build this wondrous new future? Where does the energy come from to build the new energy infrastructure? How does all this technology get transported from source to site? And who controls access to the raw materials and who profits from its mining, distribution, manufacture and use. Those people in small, colonized countries suffering from "global warming?"

What happened to conservation, recycling, reuse, doing without? What happened to self-responsibility, self-reliance, mutual aid?

Seeing our way to a truly sustainable human future means clearing away the smoke of media obfuscation and shading our eyes from the reflected glare of technological promise.

When one is standing on the precipice, with toes hanging over the edge, progress consists of turning around and taking a step forward.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Climate Change is the New Terrorism

It's 2009, eight years after international criminals slammed airplanes into World Trade Center towers, and there have been no more attacks on United States cultural icons. Fear has subsided.

What's a self-respecting totalitarian government to do? Ratchet up the fear of a new threat to humanity - Global Warming!

Totalitarian control doesn't work well in countries where the populace is at ease, complacent, happy and self-reliant. Something must be done to shake us out of our smug self-satisfaction and turn to the government for protection. What better vehicle than images of our coastal cities awash, glaciers melting and splashing majestically into a rising ocean, desert sands inundating our croplands, wild fires ravaging our forests. And the best images: hoards of dark-skinned foreigners pouring over our borders.

Climate change has something for everyone to fear. The military must be prepared for civil unrest. The Department of Agriculture must prepare for food shortages. Economists must guard against the decline of neoclassical economics. Homeland Security must strengthen our borders. And business magnates everywhere rub their hands in glee over the prospects for new marketing opportunities.

If I didn't know better, I'd say it was a conspiracy.

And it is! The Conspiracy of Perpetual Growth. The totalitarian agenda that economic growth must continue in the face of a finite world already exploited beyond the limits of replenishment. The new terrorism must be met with new Green Technologies, brought to you by Green Exxon, Beyond Petroleum, smiling Chevron. Wind generators in every village. Pocket nukes in every garage, sleek electric cars clogged in gridlock on highways demanding expansion.

It's status quo with a Green Smiley Face, the benign MacDonalds of the energy industry, promising Happy Meals for all.

Be afraid, be very afraid. Global Warming is coming.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Right for all the wrong reasons

The hue and cry in Copenhagen is emotional, largely sincere, opportunistic and political. Science is but a shrinking handmaiden in service to more powerful forces. Protesters are demanding changes in the way humans organize their economic efforts throughout the world and especially in developing nations. Though they are demanding positive change, they may be doing so for all the wrong reasons.

There are two basic camps in the discussion. On the one hand are the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) proponents, claiming that climate change is caused by anthropogenic CO2 production, and we must reduce atmospheric CO2 in order to avoid a climate catastrophe. On the other hand are the climate change deniers, who claim that climate change does not exist, and is a conspiracy of environmental groups, developing nations and one-world government supporters. Somewhere in the wilderness between these two camps are climate change skeptics, those who examine the data, methodology and conclusions of climate change research and dare to cast doubt on the "consensus" reality of both camps.

In fact, these are only the black and white extremes of a multicolored reality that masks the true nature of the political, economic and social forces at work in the climate change debate.

The AGW side claims we must act quickly to reduce atmospheric CO2 in order to reduce anthropogenic CO2 forcing of global warming. Yet, we do not understand the complex interaction of greenhouse gases of all flavors (methane, water vapor, CFCs, etc) and their relative contributions to global positive energy imbalance. Nor do we understand
the role of solar magnetic fluctuations, cosmic rays, global cloud formation and oceanic heat in long term cycles of climate fluctuation. We don't even know what causes ice ages, let alone decadal temperature fluctuations.

It is premature to assume that anthropogenic CO2 is solely responsible for the observed upward trend in global average temperatures, if indeed such a concept as global average temperature has any meaning at all. And it could be a grave mistake to assume that by lowering CO2 levels in the atmosphere to a certain arbitrarily determined level that we are safe from climate fluctuation for ever and ever, Amen.

The danger is that we are proposing to put all of our climate mitigating eggs in one CO2 basket, while ignoring all the other factors involved in climate fluctuation evident throughout geologic history, and failing to prepare for the effects of climate change on our societies, regardless of its ultimate cause. We are proposing to commit our economic effort to one end, assuming that will be the solution to our problems.

What happens if we are wrong? We have cast our fate to the winds of of CO2 reduction, and abandoned any other approach to dealing with climate change.

If instead, we work to reduce ALL human economic activity in ALL societies in the world, we would then reduce all factors in human society that are contributing to environmental imbalance. We would reduce CO2 production, as well as production of all greenhouse gases and pollutants. We would reduce habitat loss, deforestation, desertification, resource depletion, topsoil loss, salt water intrusion, fresh water depletion, ocean dead zones, species extinction. We would begin to degrow our societies to fit within the carrying capacity various bioregions of the earth in a gradual, designed decline, rather than a precipitous crash.

It is not CO2 production alone that threatens human societies across the
globe, as well as all other life. It is the unrealistic and unsustainable neoclassical economic concept of perpetual economic growth that is driving human societies to social and perhaps even species extinction.

Without abandonment of the concept of economic growth, it doesn't matter what level we reduce atmospheric CO2 to, even if that were possible. The human economic growth juggernaut will overcome any such simplistic band-aid approach.

Degrowth, economic contraction to a steady state economy, is the only viable solution to the natural environmental constraints on human economic activity.

If we don't choose to do it ourselves, Mother Nature will do it for us.
And we won't be happy with the outcome.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Degrowth Time Has Come

In his speech to Klimaforum 09, the People's Climate Conference in Copenhagen:
Degrowth Seminar, Copenhagen Klimaforum09, Miguel Valencia lays bare the basic dichotomy in modern human societies. It is not North vs. South, or East vs. West, it is traditional village life versus modern, centralized, hierarchical, industrial, consumerist society.

"Liberating the social imagination means revitalizing the village by producing for local needs and consuming local produce; organizing micro- cooperatives and micro-syndicates; reducing work-time voluntarily and cutting consumption, and constructing new ecological communities with rigorous rules. It also means growing vegetables by our own dwellings or nearby in the eco-region; to walk and bicycle for everyday mobility; to modify toilets and water facilities; to separate residues for reuse and recycling; to support local money, savings and loans, and to use or produce hand-made products. Abandon the use of automobile, bottled water and red meat consumption."

The purpose of the mainstream Copenhagen climate conference is a desperate attempt to maintain the human economic status quo in the face of clear evidence of its destructive effects on non-industrial societies and the non-human world. The Klimaforum 09 gathering throws the social and environmental contrasts between the industrialized and non-industrialized world into sharp focus and reveals the ultimate futility of attempting to prop up an unsustainable world view.

Valencia's speech should be plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the world, distributed as broadsheets on every street corner, read aloud at peace, environmental and social justice gatherings everywhere. This is the voice of the future and the dying wail of "Civilization" brought to account for its profligate ways.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Facts Are Fixed Around the Policy

Pentagon's War Pitch Belied by Taliban-Qaeda Conflict

"U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen argued in Senate Testimony Wednesday that the 30,000-troop increase is necessary to prevent the Taliban from giving new safe havens to al Qaeda terrorists.

But that argument is flatly contradicted by the evidence of fundamental conflicts between the interests of the Taliban and those of al Qaeda that has emerged in recent years, according to counterterrorism and intelligence analysts specializing in Afghanistan."

Just as we saw a surge of lies leading up to the invasion and subjugation of Iraq and occupation of Iraqi oil fields, now we see The War for Oil, Act II, a carpet of lies, half-truths and obfuscation justifying escalation of the Battle for Our Pipeline in Afghanistan.

One need not look to the future for wars over scarce resources. It's happening right now and Our President is in charge.

Tell him to stop!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Warning: Do not take this picture - Home News, UK - The Independent

Warning: Do not take this picture

What's going on here? Photographers in London and Aptos, California are being warned by uniformed police officers to stop taking pictures of public places.

There must be some new Homeland Security/International Constabulary training program on terrorist photography.

Remind me again - Why are we at war in Afghanistan?

President Obama's Afghanistan Election Speech:

"He [Obama] ignored the fact that none of the hijackers were Afghans, none lived in Afghanistan (they lived in Hamburg), none trained in Afghanistan (they trained in Florida), and none went to flight school in Afghanistan (that was in Minnesota)."

This must be the old grade school teacher ploy: when a student acts up, you smack the one sitting next to him, as a warning.

Since we can't attack Saudi Arabia, the source of Bin Laden's wealth (not to mention "our" oil), and the "Homeland" of the hijackers, we attack Afghanistan for providing a bolt hole for Bin Laden. Someone must be attacked and forced to pay for the Twin Towers and the people who died. So the innocent people of Afghanistan (not to mention Iraq) are visited by death and misery so the people of the United States can assuage their anguish and grief over 9/11?

But wait a minute, what about the oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea region? Remember, when George W, Bush invited the Taliban representatives to The Ranch, and whined and dined them to get concessions for a pipeline corridor. Where was that in Obama's speech?

Remind me again - Why are we at war in Afghanistan?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

21st Century Minute Men

The United States is sending 30,000 fresh troops to Afghanistan, equipped with the very latest war technology, to fight against... this?

What is it about Afghanistan that brings great empires to their knees, with only a motley disorganized militia to defend its borders? Is it the rocky, mountainous landscape? Is it the cold and windy winter? Is it an entrenched insurgency familiar with the terrain and supported by the local population?

Let's turn the telescope of history around. How did a rag-tag insurgency of farmers, shop-keepers, lawyers and landed gentry defeat the mightiest army of 18th Century and send them limping back to England in disgrace?

Could it be that the people of Afghanistan are dedicated to protecting their home from invasion by foreigners at any cost? A people honed in hardship in an unforgiving landscape. A people determined to protect their way of life. A people who just happen to be in the way of an oil and gas pipeline corridor at the moment of Peak Oil.

We elected a promising new President to put an end to this nonsense. What happened? And what do we do now?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

You know you're doing something right when...

US Journalist , Amy Goodman, Grilled at Canada Border Crossing

This is the world we live in today, when the authorities stop you at the border and accuse you of plotting somthing you never thought of, something they're afraid of.

Why is the Canadian government afraid of this woman?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks

Almighty God!

We thank you for that which we are about to receive from your bountiful blessing.

We thank you for this turkey and for the factory farm that raised it in abject misery, and for the antibiotics and steroids that produced such a pitiful creature that could not feed itself nor reproduce.

We thank you for the feed lots in which animals were raised in mire and filth to bring such bounty to our groaning tables. We thank you for the slaughter houses where these animals were brought in terror and pain to be cruelly dispatched for our pleasure.

We thank your for the agribusiness corporations who sprayed the fields with toxic chemicals, who invented the genetically modified plants to withstand the poisons, so that these beautiful and tasteless vegetables could grace our tables.

We thank you for gasoline to truck these foods to our grocery stores, and for the thousands of our soldiers sent to far away lands to kill innocent women and children to make the oil fields safe for our oil companies to produce our gasoline. We thank you for the hundreds of thousands of human beings slaughtered on the battlefields, and for the families bereft of their fathers and brothers, and for the homes destroyed, the fields plowed under, the orchards ripped apart by bulldozers, so that our families can enjoy this fine meal in peace and safety.

Most of all, Merciful Father, we thank you for staying the hand of those who hate us for what we have done to them.

Building the wall around the gas stations

The Pentagon Garrisons the Gulf

No big surprises here. Those Who Pay Attention have already noted that we are building Fortresses Iraq and Afghanistan to make those countries safe for Awl Bidness. Sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors abound, attempting to avert the public's eyes from the obvious occupation and oppression of these countries to guarantee US "interests," aka oil.

Recent projections are strongly confirming that world Peak Oil occurred in late 2008 and we are beginning the long slide down to Valley Oil, where we will have much less energy available than we did at the Peak Oil moment. The length and steepness of this long glide will depend on global economic and political outcomes of the scramble to dominate that last remaining oil reserves, as well as the response of the consuming public to rapidly rising gasoline and fuel oil prices.

At some point, everyone who depends on oil and natural gas for heating and cooking will have to decide between gasoline powered transportation and staying warm and well-fed. The economics of transportation will change the way we live and work, shop and entertain ourselves. We'll see many small neighborhood "convenience" stores become real neighborhood markets again, we'll see people turning to their neighbors and families to produce their own locally grown entertainment, as we did throughout the country in the early 20th Century and especially during World War II. We're already seeing increased interest in home and neighborhood gardens, sharing networks and local currencies as the centralized economic and food system increasingly fails to provide for local needs.

There is a movement in the UK and the United States called the Transition Network, bringing together people interested in helping their neighbors and friends prepare for this transition to a post oil economy and culture. This is an attempt to assess our present communities, visualize the coming transition to a new energy reality, and helping to plan a path to the new energy future.

A key document toward this end is the Energy Descent Action Plan, that brings these elements together in a coherent plan for the future for our local communities, based on the energy and climate realities we face.

The Transition Movement understands that we cannot stop Peak Oil and Climate Change, so we must do everything we can to prepare a plan to accommodate the inevitable changes. This is the rational humanistic approach: mutual aid, localism, self-reliance, dare we say it? Anarchism in action.

Instead of building walls, we're opening doors.

They Ain't making Any More of It

Mankind Using Earth's Resources at Alarming Rate

First, there's that word: "resources." It implies that everything on the Earth is to be used for human benefit. Animals and plants don't use resources, so they'll be left out. Seems questionable taste.

While Mankind may potentially be the reasoning animal, setting Homo sapiens inevitably apart from other creatures, to date Homo has failed to live up to the sapiens part of the name.

It is entirely possible for the human race to take its rightful place alongside all other life forms on this planet, not for spiritual reasons, not for ethical or moral reasons, but for the enlightened realization that humans cannot live on this planet in the absence of all other species that make this the only place in the Universe, as far as we know, where life flourishes.

Mankind is the only animal that can peer into the future and contemplate the consequences of our actions. We can see that we are rapidly drawing down the planetary credit amassed during billions of years of rampant evolution and geomorphology. We can forecast that at some point in the not too distant future we will no longer be able to extract key biological and/or geological products of the Earth that keep our various societies and cultures growing and developing. We can understand what this means in terms of the future of Homo sapiens on this Earth.

And we can do something to postpone or even eliminate that inevitable event...or not. It's up to us. We know what to do. We know how to do it.

If we don't change our profligate ways, Mom will step in and clean our room for us, and we won't be happy with the outcome, if indeed we are still around to contemplate our plight.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Bad News

World economies rebound but China set for best growth

"The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) [mouthpiece for rich nations including the US and UK] says growth and recovery are expected in 2010 in just about all world regions, more than doubling its growth forecast to 1.9% for next year, from 0.7%."

At just the time when rich nations especially should be settling back into a steady state economy, obscenely rich "business leaders" crow on about economic growth.

Ed Abbey called it the philosophy of the cancer cell. I call it just plain stupid.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sarah Palin's Just Plain Nutz

November 17, 2009

For Immediate Release


Santa Cruz, CA. — As of today, Bookshop Santa Cruz is offering an essential item as a companion to the new Sarah Palin book, Going Rogue—with every book we will give you a free bag of nuts, Sarah Palin's Just Plain Nutz, to be exact. A bag of Sarah Palin's Just Plain Nutz is also available for $3.98 to those who can stomach a 1 ounce bag of walnuts, but can't stomach 432 pages of Sarah Palin's writing. Nutz can also be ordered at www.bookshopsantacruz.com.

"Our bag of nuts is an honest one ounce; it’s also good for you, and won't cause you to feel compelled to go out and shoot a moose. Sarah's new book of fictions is none of those things," says Bookshop owner Casey Coonerty Protti. "We felt we needed to strike a balance."

Bookshop Santa Cruz has a long history of commenting on political books. In 1993, Bookshop Santa Cruz weighed Rush Limbaugh’s book, See I Told You So, and sold it for the price of baloney. In 1995, when Newt Gingrich was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year, Bookshop Santa Cruz sold each copy of his book, Contract With America, along with a custom-made barf bag.

Before the 2008 election, Bookshop Santa Cruz manufactured and sold over 65,000 George W. Bush Countdown Clocks to help depressed Americans know that there would be an end to the national nightmare created by the Bush administration. Clocks were sold to fans as far away as China, Germany, The Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, England and New Zealand, as well as at over 80 outlets across the Unites States. Many famous people had the clock, including Former President Bill Clinton, The Dixie Chicks, and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.

In the great American tradition of political commentary on current events, Sarah Palin’s Just Plain Nutz is a little bit of nutritious needling. We can’t see Russia from our doorstep, but we can plainly see a bit of fun on our bookshelves.

Congress postpones sanity!

In an article in today's Wall Street Journal, Senate to Put Off Climate Bill Until Spring, we learn:

"Momentum for a climate bill has been undermined by fears that capping
carbon-dioxide emissions -- the inevitable product of burning oil and coal
-- would slow economic growth, raise energy costs and compel changes in the
way Americans live."

This is encouraging, despite the fact that the Senate postponed consideration of this climate bill due to political expediency (if Democrats don't get re-elected, they won't be around to support the bill). It's good to hear that capping carbon emissions will have such good social effects as well as reducing greenhouse gases.

It's a win-win situation! Less economic growth will reduce greenhouse gases. Higher energy costs will encourage transportation alternatives. Americans (some of them at least) will finally wake up to the effects of their profligate lifestyles.

Everything really is hitched to everything else.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's all about Growth!

In a BBC article, ostensibly about Low-carbon energy, the real agenda is made clear:

"New technologies will be required if the world economy is to grow without accelerating climate change."

The base assumption in all talks about climate change, Peak Oil, and the future of human civilization is the growth economy. One thing we do know about the undefinable word "sustainable," is that a growth economy isn't.

The only form of "economy" among the members of any successful species on Earth is a steady state economy. No species can expand indefinitely, taking more and more resources from other species in the neighborhood. There is a scientific name for species that continue to overstep their bounds: extinct.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Contemplating Congress

"All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity."
- Mark Twain's Autobiography; also in Mark Twain in Eruption

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This climate change is different

Arctic Sediments Show That 20th Century Warming Is Unlike Natural Variation

"The possibility that climate change might simply be a natural variation like others that have occurred throughout geologic time is dimming, according to evidence in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper published October 19.

The research reveals that sediments retrieved by University at Buffalo geologists from a remote Arctic lake are unlike those seen during previous warming episodes."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Private "Public" Option

The Washington Post reveals, in an article with this misleading headline: Prognosis improves for public insurance, that "public option" health insurance will be managed by a private corporation!

"The public option would effectively be just another insurance plan offered on the open market. It would likely be administered by a private insurance provider, charging premiums and copayments like any other policy. In an early estimate of the House bill, the Congressional Budget Office forecast that fewer than 12 million people would buy insurance through the government plan. "

Congress continues to ignore the distinction between health care and health insurance. The public option is not about government provided health insurance, it's about government provided medical care, on the model of the National Health Service in England. We don't want insurance companies involved. We don't want private corporations making profits from the misfortune of the ill and injured. We want quality medical care available for everyone, regardless of income or social circumstances.

Capitalism is based on the premise that the few should have more than the many, that some should be fed while others go hungry, that access to medical care is based on income rather than need.

Universal medical care is the basis for a strong, vibrant society in which all members enjoy equal access to necessary medical care.

Stop the charade in Congress. Pass a meaningful universal medical care bill now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shifting to Renewable Power

Shifting the world to 100 percent clean, renewable energy as early as 2030 -- here are the numbers

Most of the technology needed to shift the world from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy already exists. Implementing that technology requires overcoming obstacles in planning and politics, but doing so could result in a 30 percent decrease in global power demand, say Stanford civil and environmental engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and University of California-Davis researcher Mark Delucchi.

While this article appears to offer a pathway to a renewable energy future, it emphasizes centralized power fed into a central energy grid, with no mention of decentralized energy production (solar on every rooftop, local community wind generators). The article does not discuss the contribution of conservation, which can "produce" energy at no cost through reduction of wasted energy now consumed.

A renewable energy future will not be the non-renewable energy present we experience today. It must be accompanied by self-responsibility in energy use, backed up by changes in energy pricing and regulation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Reality Check From the Brink of Extinction

While Chris Hedges is generally on the mark, this article: A Reality Check From the Brink of Extinction suffers from an over abundance of Derrick Jensen.

Jensen is at his feverish best, calling for everyone to take on vague, unachievable tasks, such as "We need to target and take down the industrial infrastructure that is systematically dismembering the planet." and "We need to do whatever is necessary to stop this."

Everyone has to be good at something and Jensen is a master of the non-specific demand. How does one, for instance, "take down the industrial infrastructure?" With an ax? A computer? A pithy quote?

Jensen is right, of course, that industrial capitalism is the source of climate change, species extinction and widespread pollution. He makes one statement that rings true and at least echoes a movement that is growing across the world. "We need to separate ourselves from the corporate government that is killing the planet,...”

More accurately, the only effective response to a central corporate oligarchy is to withdraw our support and permission for it to operate in our name. We do this not by marching shoulder to shoulder to Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, not by taking apart the corporate infrastructure brick by brick.

We build the alternative by turning our backs on central authority (and its seductive benefits and protections) and building the local economy and social system among the ruins of the old system.

This is a facile socialist phrase. The reality is much more difficult. It means giving up all the "gimmes" of the paternalistic welfare state and taking care of ourselves and each other. It means rebuilding local democracy and solving our own problems with local resources. It means participating in growing our own food, building our own shelter, making our own clothes and providing for those who cannot provide for themselves.

Mutual Aid. Local economies.

It worked for 10,000 years before industrial capitalism. It will work for all life once again.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The world's future is being decided this weekend!

"We must agree to halt deforestation and curtail air travel now if the Copenhagen summit is to succeed." The Guardian:

It sounds so innocent seeing it lying there on the page in black and white.

Halt deforestation? Sure, why not? Just stop cutting down trees. Or plant more trees after we cut them down.

Curtail air travel? Sounds good to me. It's pretty inconvenient these days, anyway, what with all the security restrictions.

Think what this means. Think how much of "The Economy" is based on cutting trees and flying in airplanes.

Not just trees for building houses, but space where trees used to be for growing McCow burgers, sugar cane for ethanol, palm trees for oil.

Not just vacations to Grandma's house, but business travel, all those people in suits working on their laptops at 37,000 feet. And all the money those businesses spend for the seats, and all the money the airlines spend for those thousands of employees to keep those laptops at 37,000.

I'd call it a revolution, a forced change from "The (Global) Economy," to "Many Local Economies." Right here at home. Eating local food grown in local bioregions. Doing good work that doesn't require vacations to exotic locales. Visiting Grandma down the street, not thousands of frequent flyer miles away.

Why not start now and avoid the rush? Where do we sign up?

Does Flu Vaccine Matter?

My father was a doctor from the late 50s through the 80s, starting out as a GP in Broken Bow, Nebraska. I used to mow the front lawn of the neat white turn-of-the-Century two-story home that housed his office.

Although we did get our polio vaccines during those frightening polio summers, first as a shot, then as blue liquid dropped on sugar cubes, Dad didn't really believe in vaccines. He preferred natural immunity from exposure to the disease. We were exposed to mumps and measles at a young age, when our symptoms were brief and mild. When we came down with colds or flu, the treatment was: plenty of fluids, lots of rest and aspirin, if necessary. We learned not to rely on medications and to take care of our own immune systems.

In the United States, common sense response to disease has been replaced by fear and opportunism. The people are kept in a heightened state of fear through government propaganda inflamed by lurid media headlines. Pharmaceutical executives count their profits as the government orders exorbitant stockpiles of what amounts to expensive placebos, then generates fear to get the populace to line up for their vaccinations.

Now we learn in Does the Vaccine Matter? - The Atlantic (November 2009) that it really is a sham, an unwillingness on the part of the medical profession to test and analyize received wisdom and resist pressure from pharmaceutical industry lobbying,

Thank you, Dr. Dad, for your wise treatment and counsel.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Looking at nature makes you nicer - Behavior- msnbc.com

Looking at nature makes you nicer - Behavior- msnbc.com:

"...the “naturally nice” effect doesn’t so much hinge on daily hikes through the woods as it does paying attention to the natural elements we encounter each day."

There you have it: MSNBC and the University of Rochester. It must be real.

Birds around our houses, squirrels in the trees, a spider hanging on her web on the carport uprights. Nature is all around us, even in the densest of urban neighborhoods.

It doesn't take a trip to a national park, a week long back pack in the wilderness, a kayak expedition in the fjords. Just go outside, look around and open yourself to the experience of Nature everywhere.

Then share your experience with your friends.

Nature Always Bats Last

In this article from the Santa Cruz (Scotts Valley/San Jose) Sentinel, Sandy Lydon relates the natural history of the Loma Prieta earthquake that shook the earth round these parts twenty years ago today.

On October 16, 1989, I was in recovery mode on the shores of Prince William Sound some 4,000 miles north of Loam Prieta. I remember hearing about it on the radio, and seeing a picture of Candlestick Park in the Anchorage Daily News.

One must realize that news of earthquakes is a very different thing in Alaska than elsewhere. The 1964 quake established a threshold against which all others are measured. And, in Alaska, earthquakes are almost literally an everyday affair. I can't remember how many times I stood in a doorway wondering when to make a break for outside, as the house shifted back and forth around me.

Now that I live here within sight of the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and having felt a couple of notable temblors myself, the effect of earthquakes in densely populated areas has a sobering reality. I know we'll be safe here, as this house survived the 1989 quake with almost no damage, and has been retrofitted since then. With all of the retelling of twenty year-old ground-shaking tales, I know that others will be less fortunate or prepared when the next one rolls around.

There is nothing that underscores human subservience to Nature more than that moment when the ground moves under your feet and you know there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

As they discovered in Candlestick Park twenty years ago, Nature really does bat last!

Friday, October 16, 2009

On Things Facebookish (aka social networking)

OK, I give up! I don't get it.

I've worked for over thirty-five years in public radio. I always thought of it as ephemeral, there for the now, wafted across the air waves into oblivion.

Now, with podcasting, internet streams, on-demand downloading, radio has established a permanent presence, if anything in this world is permanent, which it isn't. Now you can get your radio on-demand, when and where you want it. It's not really radio anymore, it's cyber information purveyance.


I've dabbled in Facebook for the last few months, trying to figure out the draw of "Friends," "Pages," and all the streaming minutiae of "social networking." I've failed. I don't get it.

The individual contributions scroll down the screen and get lost off the bottom faster than I can read and keep track of them. There's a bewildering array of causes, groups, games, events, pictures, videos and other things I never did figure out. It's like sitting in the laundry room watching the front-loader go from agitate to the spin cycle.

Social networking is far more ephemeral than radio ever was.

And now they (you know who they are) want to combine radio with social networking, thus diluting and ephemoralizing both more than either was individually.

No wonder the young set spends hours walking, biking, driving down the street, staring into the limpid crystal screen of the hypnotic electronic communications device held before them.

We used to say, "never trust anyone over thirty!" Now we (you know who we are) say, never trust anyone under fifty!"

The world turns.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Arctic Seas Turn to Acid, Putting Vital Food Chain at Risk | CommonDreams.org

Arctic Seas Turn to Acid, Putting Vital Food Chain at Risk

This implies a lack of resilience in the world that is at odds with what we continue to learn about how our planet maintains homeostasis.

Yes, increasing ocean acidity is a challenge to existing ecologies. But ecologies are constantly changing, constantly adapting to new conditions. While the impending changes as a result of climate change and rising CO2 levels, I think there are other effects of human industrial actrocities that are more immediate and long lasting.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The angry face of fascism

In a revealing article, Chris Hedges uncovers the dark source of anger expressed recently at political town hall meetings across the country.

In a telling comparison, Hedges points out the parallel historical German group, Freikorps, the German militia formed in the 18th Century and revived by returning World War I soldiers in Weimar Germany.

Our American Freikorps are soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, alienated, angry and looking for solace from the nightmare of their war time experiences, if only in a return to violence at home.

And as if that weren't sufficient, they find their fears and anger whipped to a fever pitch by ignorant right wing radio talk show hosts, who have never been in a fight themselves but are willing to hold the coats of those who have.

This is a deadly combination that threatens to throw the United States into the same fascist nightmare that consumed Germany and Italy leading into World War II.

History doesn't often repeat itself, but it frequently rhymes.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Afghanistan Strategy Not Working, US Commander McChrystal to Tell Obama | CommonDreams.org

Afghanistan Strategy Not Working, US Commander McChrystal to Tell Obama | CommonDreams.org: "'Outside the major cities, Afghan administration is non-existent. As President Obama must realize, whether Afghanistan is led by Hamid Karzai or anyone else, the problem for the international coalition is not one of insufficient force; it is insufficient government,'"

What's an imperialist invader to do? They don't have enough government the United States can lean on, so we can force them to host our pipeline and military bases in their country.

"The Taliban were already running courts, hospitals and even an ombudsman in parallel to the government, making a real difference to local people…

Damned anarchists!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The future of agriculture

In Cuba, local farmers respond to rapidly increasing oil prices by bringing their farms close to home.

This article about local farming in Cuba is a preview of how our food will be grown in the future, in and around our homes, in our neighborhoods, on the outskirts of our towns and cities. The 100 mile meal will become the 10 mile meal, the ten block meal and the backyard meal.

Everyone can grow something at home, on a patio in pots, in planters on the concrete apron of a mobile home, in what once was monoculture grasses in our yards.

It's time to grow up!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oil Lobby's 'Energy Citizens' Astroturf Campaign Exposed

The Huffington Post exposes a new fake grass roots campaign to oppose US climate change legislation.

Greenpeace obtained a memo calling for oil company execs to encourage their employees to engage in fake activism against climate change legislation.

Can you say "Conflict of Interest?"


Lockheed Fire "consumes" 6,800 acres

Dramatic photographs and lurid headlines do little to accurately describe the Lockheed Fire now burning in the mountain slopes north and west of Santa Cruz. The area over which the fire has burned does indeed encompass 6,800 acres. But that doesn't mean the fire is that big, nor does it mean that everything within that acreage has been burned.

The fire consists of a moving front of largely low-lying flame that occasionally bursts dramatically into the treetops. These are the images that sell newspapers and advertising space. Though much is burned, much is not, leaving behind a forest that is considerably healthier than before the fire. Officials wax on about "resources" being lost, referring of course to resources that benefit humans, not the healthy forest, resources that pay the salaries of hard-working firefighters.

Interestingly, this fire is following the same path and covering the same footprint as the 1948 fire that started long before Lockheed cut down trees to build their, well, whatever it is, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It will be interesting to learn if the proximity of the Lockheed facility had any causal relationship with the Lockheed Fire.

Life goes on. The fire spreads its nutrient ash liberally hereabouts, the forest is refreshed and renewed. We hope the critters are able to make their way through surrounding development to safety, so they can return when the ground has cooled.

Ain't Nature grand?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Reinhabiting the Economy


BUCHAREST - Serge Latouche, professor emeritus of economic science at the University of Paris-Sud, is one of the main proponents of "the society of de-growth".

The need for a 'de-growth' society stems from the certainty, he says, that the earth's resources and natural cycles cannot sustain the economic growth which is the essence of capitalism and modernity. He calls for "abandoning the objective of growth for growth's sake, an insane objective, with disastrous consequences for the environment." The need for a 'de-growth' society stems from the certainty, he says, that the earth's resources and natural cycles cannot sustain the economic growth which is the essence of capitalism and modernity.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Prosperity Without Growth

Thinking the Unthinkable: Not Growing the Economy

In this article on Common Dreams, Tim Jackson dares to speak the truth about economic reality.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Scare-Ya Palin - What you see is what you get

Scare-Ya Palin Outdoes Herself | CommonDreams.org

I lived in Alaskaland for fifteen years, where I became familiar with the Palin Phenom, long before Sarah left the basketball court for politics.

In Alaska, when someone asks you if you can do something, the Official Alaska State Response is, "Sure! Why not?" Then if it turns out you can't do it, at least you know more about it than before you started. No one checks on your credentials, especially for women.

Alaska is a small town; wherever you go you run into someone you know. Anyone who wants to can become, well, Governor. Wally Hickel was George Bush, v. 0.1. Remember the Owner State, the water pipeline to Lalaland?

Sarah Palin is no mystery to Alaskans. The puzzlement has always been, "Why did she want to go Outside and play with folks in the Lesser States?"

Alaska is also the State of Unfinished Projects, due to the overwhelming negative correlation between money and brains. There's piles of money lying about to buy new projects and very little qualifications to see them through. Closets in Juneau are stuffed, Fibber McGee-like, with all sorts of paraphernalia left over from grand projects never fulfilled.

So quitting as governor in the first term is very Alaskan, in keeping with Palin's experience growing up in the Unfinished State.

I have no excuses for Republicans.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Time is money?

Time is not money.

Money is a fiction dreamed up by economists to control the minds of the people.

Time is precious. Each moment unique, each moment eternity.

Treasure each moment, live each moment to the fullest.

"All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain."

Monday, July 13, 2009

(Un)sustainable Growth

"The stakes are high, as, without sustainable growth, 'billions of people will be condemned to poverty and much of civilisation will collapse'."

In this article in Commondreams: "The Planet's Future," Jonathan Owen clearly states the inevitability of the collapse of what we optimistically call "civilization."

Since "sustainable growth" is an oxymoron, collapse is the only possible outcome of the present course of many human societies. Whether or not this equates with a Mad Max "collapse of civilization" remains to be seen.

The State of the Future report, backed by Unesco, the World Bank, the US Army and the Rockefeller Foundation, comes to the obviously ingrown conclusion that in order for human society to continue on its present course, technologies must be developed to overcome limitations of Peak Oil and climate change so that 10 billion people can continue to live on this planet in a state of continued economic growth and consumption.

This, of course, is impossible.

The only sustainable forms of human economic activity are shrinkage followed by steady state. There are already far too many humans consuming far too much to be sustainable even on the short term of human life spans. Continued growth in a finite system is impossible and any scenario that ignores this reality is fantasy at best and destructive in the long term.

Human numbers will decline. Human economic production will decline. These declines can either be gradual and manageable, or they will be precipitous and catastrophic, for humans and many other species.

Governments and corporations have proven themselves incapable of perceiving and acting on necessary changes to forestall the destructive collapse of human economies. It remains for individual humans, acting within local communities, to lead the way to steady state economies based on local production for local consumption within natural resource limitations.

Step into the future! Grow your food at home, support your local farmers markets, turn your backs on corporations and distant central governments. Build the future right here at home where we can all keep an eye on it.

Your grandchildren will thank you for your wisdom and foresight.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Three Score Years, and Homeward Bound

On July 12, 1949, after four hours of struggle, I entered this world at 4:29 in the afternoon. The doctor proclaimed me "normal," a condition I have striven to maintain over the ensuing 60 years.

It's been an interesting ride these six decades, from the optimism of the 50s, the 60s Revolution, which I mostly missed, through the MADness of the Cold War, and the even madder madness of the Reagan Right-Wing Revulsion, a brief respite of hope, then the grinding intellectual poverty of the Bush fascist regime, still lingering despite political changes in Washington.

I feel I've grown into my aspirations of curmudgeonliness and have now fully arrived. My expectations have been realized, and despite another era of hope, not yet fulfilled, I see no meaningful change on the horizon.

If I take care of my body, I should have another twenty years or so left to appreciate the great human comedy. I fully expect to see environmental conditions deteriorate worldwide during that time, resulting in deteriorating human conditions, and, thus, increased human strife, misery and woe, and increased destruction of the natural world.

"Twas ever thus," quoth Mr. Natural. I see no reason to expect that human beings will suddenly develop intelligence and common sense, at least not in time to make any difference to climate change and Peak Oil, the twin spectres looming over all, mostly unappreciated. If we upright bipeds had any real intelligence, we'd drop this insane social system based on greed and the folly of economists, scrap private automobiles, re-create a real system of public transportation, call all our soldiers and missionaries home to rebuild, refurbish and recycle the technological dead ends lying about the place. Plenty of work for everyone, no need for anyone to stand on the dole que. Plenty of food and housing to go around, in sufficiency.

This, of course, will never happen, so we are left with the alternative, which is to charge full bore toward the abyss with our eyes closed, praying for the best outcome.

When I think of what's to come, I'm glad I was born in 1949, young enough to peer out over the edge, too old to experience the sudden, fatal stop at the bottom.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Anarchy, whatever you call it

Today I visited a new on-line dictionary called Wordnik. As is my habit, I tested it with my favorite word, "anarchy." Here are the results:

American Heritage Dictionary (3)
noun Absence of any form of political authority.
noun Political disorder and confusion.
noun Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.

Century Dictionary (1)
Absence or insufficiency of government; a state of society in which there is no capable supreme power, and in which the several functions of the state are performed badly or not at all; social and political confusion.

Webster's Unabridged (1913) (1)
Absence of government; the state of society where there is no law or supreme power; a state of lawlessness; political confusion.

WordNet (1)
a state of lawlessness and disorder (usually resulting from a failure of government)

thus is demonstrated the depths to which the English language, and popular thought, have plunged.

Anarchy, of course, means no ruler, not no rules. The confusion of anarchy with chaos came about as a result of decades of government propaganda against those who agitated against the status quo of centralized, authoritarian, coercive government. Anarchy is characterized by self-reliance, self-discipline, democracy and mutual aid, supposedly the goals of society in the united States, but in reality the antithesis of the ruling ideals of those who control government in this country, which is to keep its citizens in thrall to consumerism, debt, fear, and hierarchical authority.

Interestingly enough, recent "crises" in energy and economy are paving the way for a new resurgence of anarchy. Call it localism, sustainability, Democracy, ethnic identity, or what have you, the thrust nevertheless is to bring control of our lives back home from the central authority that has demonstrated a complete inability to plan and control the lives of the people across this vast continent.

We will, of necessity, return to a focus on local economies, local food production and distribution, local social support systems, local health care, local education, as the economics of global and even national economies crumbles in the face of rapidly increasing energy costs brought about by Peak Oil and climate change.

The politicians will keep arguing about the source of global warming and what to do about it, while the corporate toadies continue to line their pockets with filthy lucre. Meanwhile, here at home, the people are turning more and more to local gardens, farmers markets, and local economies. We are beginning to deal with the realities of transportation in a world of increasingly expensive oil, and increasing evidence of environmental damage as a result of burning that oil in our burgeoning fleets of private automobiles. The culture of the private automobile is beginning to erode, slowly of course, yet the sanctity of the private automobile is beginning to show a trace of tarnish.

I see this as a healthy step toward anarchy, self-rule, government by the people and for the people. Call it what you will, it's time to throw the authoritarian monkeys off our backs and take control of our lives.

It's Nature's Way.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Religion = Brain Dysfunction?

Jack Burns has a great description in this post: The Southern Wedding of a Fundamentalist Christian wedding, replete with all of the hypocrisy and flamboyant irrationalisty that one would expect from extremist religion.

Now we learn that this god thing may be a brain dysfunction. The BBC reveals, in this article, that epileptics can have religious experiences during seizures, and even atheists can have a "universal oneness" experience through brain stimulation. It seems that human brains are hard-wired to produce what is interpreted as a religious experience under unusual stimulation.

Just as I thought - religion is an irrational, abnormal brain condition that has been exploited for the benefit of those seeking power over others.

Which means, of course, that religion can be cured!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Subterfuge and the Science of Repeating Lies | CommonDreams.org

In this article, Roberto Rodriguez explains how official state language manipulates the masses to accept war as legitimate foreign policy.

Especially when delivered on TeeVee, the technology that creates a compliant and receptive mental state among its viewers, such rhetoric, when applied consistently and repeatedly, is amazingly effective in changing the way people think. Just look at the difference among those who watch Faux News, MSNBC and those who don't watch TeeVee at all.

Richard Nixon loved TeeVee and attempted to control it from the White House.

Nuff said.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

US Out of WAR, NOW!

Even with Obama in Charge, Anti-War Democrats Powerless

It's not about Afghanistan or Iraq. It's about war as an instrument of foreign policy.

The united States government has used the military as the strong arm of big business for over two hundred years, having learned the techniques well from our bloody British ancestors. Big Business walks softly about the planet, carrying the big sticks of the CIA, NSA, Pentagon and now a phalanx of pecuniary mercenaries, in the fight for the fun of it as much as the money, paving the way for Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Agriculture, their paths greased by American consumers ground under their wheels.

Torture, mutilation, genocide, and environmental destruction are the collateral damage of official uS policy. Too bad our fancy flying robot murderers kill more innocent children, grandparents, brides and grooms and party guests than targeted combatants. Fortunes of war. The "acceptable" (for us) price (for them) of spreading democracy. Let's spread it thick!

Countries have life spans just like their citizens. It's time for the united States to grow up. We have a new Democratic President and a Democratic Congress. If there ever was a time to steer this country from the path of it war, it is now.

Let's make it so.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

You mean everything really is hitched to everything else?

According to this article in Wired, epidemiologists have long anticipated that swine flu would evolve in factory pig farms and jump to humans. Factory farms serve as incubators of myriad diseases, where animals are packed so closely together they can't turn around and they stand in their own shit and urine 24 hours a day. Pigs are shipped across North America between birth and slaughter, spreading whatever viruses they happen to contain.

It was only a matter of time.

It doesn't take threats to humans to show that factory farming is morally wrong.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu is Real

Swine flu is real. Yes it is.

It's unfortunate that it's being blamed on our innocent porcine neighbors. They had nothing to do with it. The blame falls squarely on another breed of swine, the Capitalist Pig.

This disease was bred in the packed pig factory farms of Mexico, transmitted to humans by flies feeding on huge shit and piss ponds, and spread about the world through our overwhelming reluctance to stay in one place.

Whether or not this particular virus transmits between humans remains to be seen. It's difficult to tell this virus from regular flu virus based on symptoms.

Accompanying the "swine flu" epidemic is the corporate farm PR epidemic. It started in Mexico, attempting to blame local respiratory illness in the vicinity of factory farms on the swine flu, hyping panic over a swine/avian flu pandemic, distracting the source of the disease through the smoke and mirrors of media hyperbole.

Yes, swine flu is real, and the swine are smirking through their snouts in corporate boardrooms across the globe.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Factory farming source of Swine Flu

"Residents [of Perote] believed the outbreak had been caused by contamination from pig breeding farms located in the area. They believed that the farms, operated by Granjas Carroll, polluted the atmosphere and local water bodies, which in turn led to the disease outbreak. According to residents, the company denied responsibility for the outbreak and attributed the cases to “flu.” However, a municipal health official stated that preliminary investigations indicated that the disease vector was a type of fly that reproduces in pig waste and that the outbreak was linked to the pig farms. It was unclear whether health officials had identified a suspected pathogen responsible for this outbreak."

The real purpose of torture

Two articles on Truthout, here, and here, explain the true purpose of waterboarding and other forms of abusive interrogation: to obtain statements from prisoners supporting the political agendas of the captors.

All intelligence operatives know that information obtained by torture is unreliable. Prisoners will say anything to stop the abuse and pain of torture. Anything obtained through coercive interrogation techniques must be scrupulously verified externally and is therefore of little value.

The most successful results of torture have always been statements by prisoners supporting the agendas of their captors and opposing the their own participation in acts of war. In Korea and Vietnam, torture was used to coerce American soldiers and airmen into testifying against the United States and in support of the country the United States was invading.

What we've learned from the experience in Iraq is that the use of torture by the United States erodes the moral position of our presence in Iraq, refuting democracy rather than supporting it, and promotes the recruitment of individuals dedicated to ending the US invasion and occupation of their country.

Torture is not only evil and immoral, it is counterproductive to the espoused ideals of the United States. Torture, or anything that smacks of torture, has no place in US foreign or domestic policy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Doug Peacock and Ed Abbey on Democracy Now

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales interviewed Doug Peacock about his work defending grizzlies and grizzly habitat. Doug talked about his friendship with Ed Abbey and played clips from a couple of Abbey speeches.

Listen or watch here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

From the Shoe-is-on-the-other-foot Department

Tsk, Tsk. Hoist on one's own petard. Our very own Demoplubican, Jane Harmon, caught in her own web.

I guess Mark Twain was right:

"Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

As if cell phones weren't bad enough already …

I don't need any more justification to know that cell phones are bad, irredeemable, worse than useless, socially destructive, unnecessary and just plain stupid. Now we learn, in this article, that anyone can download software into your cell phone that allows it to be used as a tracking device, a continuous monitor of your phone calls and your face-to-face conversations, even when it's not turned on.

Of all the devices foisted upon an unsuspecting consumer public by unscrupulous corporate entities, cell phones are the worst. There's no need for cell phones in anyone's life. They're rude, intrusive, cause traffic accidents, fill user's heads with uncontrolled microwave radiation, and, worst of all, they've created an entire generation of cell phone zombies who can't exist without checking their tiny screens every 30 seconds for all important messages.

As James, a character in my novel-in-progress, tells his cell phone using compadre: "Just take your damned cell phone out to the pasture and drop it in a cow pie. Maybe some cow will step on it. Let 'em listen to that."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mark Twain, come home!

"I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can't be any worse. "

The older I get, the more I understand Mark Twain's disappointment with the human race. In a time of historical challenges to human society, those near the top of the heap continue to scramble for the very pinnacle, grinding the rest beneath their silver heels.

That would be bad enough if those below were capable of grabbing the climbers by the coat tails and dragging them back to the rest of the rabble. Each and every one waxes rhapsodic about "the equality of man," goes to church on Sunday and swoons over profound sermons about loving their neighbors as themselves. Yet, not a one of them, or very few, less than 10%, is willing to stand up to the petty tyrants, government toadies and corporate sycophants in defense of life and liberty.

Humans have made a graveyard of the globe in pursuit of pitiful profits, power over others and mere material excess. "Enough" and "sufficient" lie forgotten in the dust, trampled under greed and profligacy. The noble aspirations of our immigrant forefathers, some of them at least, are forgotten, relegated to quaint pageants and epic historical tomes.

At one time I was an anthropologist and archaeologist, a student of the human condition through the lenses of time and space. I studied the lives of ancient peoples and marveled at the clever social systems they devised to live in harmony with the natural world, and with each other, mostly. Of course, they didn't have much choice then. It was either get along with the powerful forces of Nature or get kicked out of the gene pool for bad behavior.

Now, with the advent of Man the Transcendent, we think we no longer have to pay attention to the whistle blast at the edge of the pool, the sharp warnings of the Life guard. We'll cleverly invent a submarine to avoid the increasing depth and inhospitality of the pool. Our cultural stories, that once guided us through the waves, no longer provide a rational course of action in a world over-occupied by our fecund species.

My one solace is the sure knowledge that Nature bats last. My soulmate daily reminds me that a thousand years from now, all will be well. Those who survive will, of necessity, be living in harmony with natural cycles and processes. The economists, the social climbers, Pentagon fear mongers, and the growth maniacs will have have passed into history, or, like the dinosaurs, evolved into humans who fly free in a clear blue sky.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Peak Oil, Climate Change and PRT

PRT Enthusiasts ignore two critical pots of information when evaluating future transportation needs: Peak Oil and Climate Change.

Our transportation choices are influenced largely by two factors: perceptions of convenience and relative cost. Right now, private automobiles are the cheapest, most convenient mode of transportation for more than a mile up to several hundred miles of travel. Therefore, most people buy and use private automobiles and eschew public transportation.

Peak Oil and Climate Change are raising the cost of everything. During the past spike in gasoline prices, private automobile traffic declined precipitously, as did transport by truck. Cargo ships are still travelling at 10 knots rather than their earlier 24 knots to save fuel. As gas prices return to $4.00 per gallon and beyond, more people will leave their cars at home and travel by foot, bicycle and public transportation, all without the expense, energy consumption and urban blight of building a PRT network.

As climate change takes hold and global agricultural patterns change, precious fossil fuels will be reserved for moving food and water about the planet rather than people. Localism is already seen as the response to climate change, as we seek ways to grow our own food within easy transportation distance from our communities.

All this will change public attitudes about transportation, as we all pull together in mutual aid to accommodate the coming changes. PRT fosters individualism, on demand services and elitism, all of which are antithetical in a world demanding local cooperative solutions.

PRT is a 20th Century solution to a 21st Century problem

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Liveable Streets

We all know how ugly most city streets are, how uncomfortable it is to walk or bicycle on streets designed for cars, crammed in between tall buildings, with little life other than motorists in their metal cans and pedestrians sprinting for safety.

What to do? Should we build more unhuman transportation systems, hang them on the buildings, suspend them over the heads of pedestrians and bicyclists, little individual cars whizzing about on permanently affixed tracks, cluttering up our sky, crossing our greenways, using energy even when not in use.

How about the approach in the photo above? Let's make our streets more human, more organic. Let's reduce space for cars and increase space for humans. It's called Liveable Streets. You can see the legend for the photograph here, and learn more about Liveable Streets here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The PRT Beast

This is what a PRT system would look like in Santa Cruz, as proposed by Transportation Enthusiast, with PRT stations spaced .5 miles apart throughout the community. That's 50 stations at $100,000 apiece (according to a construction industry expert). Then there's guidelrails, the command and control facilities, the pod cars themselves. I'd say, at least $20,000,000 minimum to build the thing. That's not counting right of way acquisition on private land for a private development scheme. Then there's annual maintenance, personnel costs, liability insurance, licenses and fees.

This is all in addition to the existing Metro Transit system, which will have to exist side by side and compete with PRT.

All this is to be supported with an alleged 10 to 30% of commuters in a population less than 100,000. That's less than 10,000 riders to pay for this behemoth!

Nope, it doesn't "pencil out." If this were such as Stirling opportunity, it would be built already.

When does Buffalo start building its own PRT?