Monthly Archives: September 2012

Reader’s Digest Time Machine

Dedicated to Melvin and Joelle

Discuss this article in the Diner Forum.

Like many people, I grew up reading Reader’s Digest. It was a fixture in my childhood home. It was inexpensive, readily available, and often featured heavily edited excerpts and simplified versions of articles which appeared in other periodicals of the time. At that, it was a perfect reading companion for a young and curious child eager to soak up knowledge about the world.

Many shared my early experience. The Reader’s Digest could certainly be counted upon to offer family-safe fare well within the bounds of good taste. Its editorial position was certainly on the conservative side of middle-of-the-road. Not for nothing was it published in Pleasantville, New York.

The magazine was started by DeWitt Wallace, while recovering from shrapnel wounds received in World War I. Wallace had the idea to gather a sampling of favorite articles on many subjects from various monthly magazines, sometimes condensing and rewriting them, and to combine them into one magazine. Since its inception, Reader’s Digest has maintained a predictably conservative and anti-communist perspective on political and social issues.

According to Wikipedia, For many years, Reader’s Digest has been the best-selling consumer magazine in the United States, losing the distinction in 2009 to Better Homes and Gardens.

Reader’s Digest has a global circulation of 10.5 million, making it the largest paid circulation magazine in the world.  The magazine is compact, with its pages roughly half the size of most American magazines.

For all that this circulation, it had been years since I had actually held a copy of the Digest in my hand. So it was with great delight that my friend Melvin, another committed and hard-working Occupier, brought over a copy of the Reader’s Digest from 1983. Melvin was working on one of his continuous home renovation projects,  building bookshelves to accommodate many of the boxes of books he has stored. Among this to treasure trove was a large number of Reader’s Digests from days long gone, which provide insight into what we read, what we thought, how we bought, and what was top of mind.

In July of 1983, we were fully two years into the Reagan era, and had yet to begin the orgy of privatization and demonization of government that has become the norm 30 years hence.

One of the articles featured a look at what really happened at the EPA. It recounts how fully 2 years into the Reagan Administration, the foxes were hired to guard the chicken coop. A supporter of the so-called ”Sagebrush Rebellion,” in which ranchers were pitted against the federal Bureau of Land Management, who wished to restrict or limit their God-given right to use public lands to graze their cattle. Reagan would place industry types in charge of the agencies charged with regulating the environment.

Vile names from the past pop up as villains in the set piece: Joseph Coors, a rabid anti-environmentalist, supported the goals of the Sagebrush rebellion and brought many of his followers and acolytes along for the ride. James Watt was named interior secretary. Robert Burford, a leader of the Sagebrush rebellion, was appointed director of the Bureau of land management, the agency that the rebellion was engaged with in many pitched battles. The notorious Anne Gorsuch, whose legacy of abuse was such that she became the first agency head to be cited for contempt of Congress, was made head of EPA. These Reaganauts eviscerated the regulatory oversight that their respective agencies were to have provided, with predictable results. As we look back over the span of 30 years, and wonder how did we become so cynical, if it is easy to trace how the popular vision of government as a champion for the aims and desires of ordinary people was transformed into that of an oppressor of those aims, and a waste of money besides.

What is remarkable about this article is, from a remove of 30 years, how naïve it seems. The author traces how budgets were cut, how regulations were upended, and the very mission of regulatory agencies themselves tainted. In Reagan’s wanton destruction, we see the beginnings of the “oppressive government regulations” meme so prevalent today.

Speaking of naïveté, there’s a wonderful article in this edition called “Why PACs Spell Trouble”. This article traces the remarkable growth of the new method of funding political campaigns called political action committees. At this time PACs were described as having being sponsored by trade associations, labor unions, corporations, and various other groups. This article traces many of the potential problems at PACs present, how they would undermine electoral reform, subvert the public funding mechanism for elections, and otherwise sow pernicious mischief. For all that, it is worth noting that placed directly in the middle of the article is a sidebar box making the case for PACs, and arguing that they do more good than harm. Not surprising for a center-right publication to suborn its own article with the sidebar arguing against the premise of the article it commissioned.

As we are now in the middle of a fevered electoral campaign, with money sloshing in the battleground states like Virginia at a record pace, the sluice gates having opened as a result of the Citizens United ruling, the cautionary tone of this innocent Reader’s Digest article from 1983 seems poignant indeed. Karl Rove must be laughing in his crypt. Not for nothing have groups like American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity become household names.

This from the local newspaper’s online site:

Jaw-dropping sums of money are being spent to sway Virginia voters this campaign season, and not just by the candidates.


In many cases, there’s no way to know the actual source of the cash. Spending on TV ads by outside political groups – negligible in past presidential campaigns – has exploded this year, and Virginia is one of their prime targets.

Two months before the Nov. 6 election, they’ve bought $37 million worth of airtime in the state’s four major TV markets. Half of that money has been spent by groups that keep their donors a secret.

Republican-leaning groups are outspending Democrat-leaning groups by a 3-1 ratio.

Half of all the money spent in Virginia so far by outside groups, $18.7 million, is from American Crossroads, the group founded by longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove, and its spinoff, Crossroads GPS.

The numbers were compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit tracker of money in politics, from public files kept by TV stations.

1983 was clearly far more innocent time. Rove’s group, Crossroads GPS, has already spent 12.6 million in Virginia alone.


When even the ads and the graphics use speak to a different people, living in a different time, with less media-honed expectations. Ads for painkillers, Libby’s corn, for Kool-Aid, for insurance. The ads even featured actual copy; even a double truck from KitchenAid would feature a full page of copy, as if, imagine this, people had the patience to read. Astonishing.

The old familiars are in there to: Points to Ponder, Picturesque Speech, Laughter, the Best Medicine, Life in these United States, and my youthful favorite, Word power.


Loving the word processing unit in this picture.

It is remarkable to pick up a document like this after a mere 30 years has elapsed. It is also remarkable to realize how far in the wrong direction we as a people have allowed ourselves to go. Our children will not believe the stories of the country that we grew up in, so far to the righthave we raced in 30 years.  At least my daughter will, in the fullness of time, be able to go to Melvin’s house, and asked Melvin to unshelve some of those Reader’s Digest from the Pleistocene so that she may hold them in her hands, read for herself, and understand more fully what has been lost.

How Energy Shapes the Economy

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

Posted originally on Our Finite World on September 3rd, 2012

Discuss the article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

In the beginning, the Master Economist created the Economy.  He created businesses large and small, consumers, governments with their regulation, and financial institutions of all types. And the Master Economist declared that the economy should grow. And it did grow, but only for a while. Then it stalled. Then He declared that stimulus of various types should fix it, and it did, for a while. Then He declared that if humans would just wait for a while, it would fix itself, but it wouldn’t.

We all know that the foregoing isn’t the real story about the economy, but what is the real story?

I think if we dig deeper, we discover that energy plays an all-powerful role, just as it does in the natural world in general.

Population: How Inadequate Energy Acts as a Limiting Factor 

Human population is of course an important part of the economy. If population keeps growing, it helps the economy grow, because more consumers mean more demand.  Can human population keep growing?

Figure 1. World Population Growth, based on summary data provided by US Census. Population growth became much more rapid after fossil fuels began adding to food supply, in the 1800s. Coal enabled much greater use of metal and glass, allowing changes which permitted horses to do more work on farms, and innovations such as electric light bulbs.

The answer seems to be no. Here we find that researchers have found an extremely important role for energy. The relationship they have found relates to any species, not just to homo sapiens.

Ecologists often talk about the existence of a natural cycle between predators and prey. The predators eat the prey that is available, but in time, the predators drop in number, as less food becomes available. When the population of predators drops, the prey is able to expand its population. In fact, Lotka and Volterra created a model that has been used to model a number of predator-prey relationships, including the wolf and moose population on Isle Royal National Park (Lotka) (Volterra) (Jost).

Figure 2. Lotka-Volterra Predator-Prey Model
Source: Wikipedia

Humans are now the dominant predator species on earth. Our numbers have grown from a relative handful in our earliest days to over 7 billion in 2012. Other species have had to contract in relationship to the advances man has made.

The United Nations is now forecasting a world population of over 9 billion in 2050, and over 10 billion in 2100 (United Nations).  If this happens, the populations of other species will need to be pushed down to offset the growth in the human species. Eventually, this situation will reach a limit, since we need to eat other species, both plants and animals.

The situation is more complicated than Figure 2 suggests, because there are many species involved, and there are many other changes taking place—temperature of the sun is gradually changing, the earth’s orbit around the sun varies, etc. Also, external energy, including fossil fuels and nuclear, is adding to total energy available to man. But the point remains: we cannot expect population growth to continue indefinitely.

The situation in Figure 2 is described as a  predator-prey situation, but if we analyze the situation, it is really an energy situation as well, because prey is an energy source to the predator. Howard T. Odum has written extensively on this subject. Let me explain his view.

The Role of Energy in the Population of Species

Energy plays a major role in the balance between predators and prey. Natural systems, such as groups of plants and animals, arrange themselves to get the best possible use of energy resources available. All of us know that if there is a bare spot on our lawn, and enough sunlight and water, it is not long before some kinds of plants come along to fill the gap. Sunlight allows photosynthesis to take place, producing food for plants. If more sunlight is available, more plants will grow.

This tends to work with animals as well. Let’s take the example of wolves that are predators of moose (mentioned above as being modeled using Lotka-Volterra equations). From the point of view of a wolf, a moose is a form of stored energy, since eating it provides calories that provide energy to the wolf. If at some point more moose become available to eat, then more offspring of wolves will be able to survive to adulthood, under survival of the fittest, so the wolf population will increase. As a result, the wolves get as much use as possible of the energy available to them.

Howard Odum, in A Prosperous Way Down, credits Lotka with discovering the fundamental energy law that underlies ecological systems, which Odum calls the Maximum Power Concept and rephrases as follows:

In the self-organization process, systems develop those parts, processes, and relationships that capture the most energy and use it with the best efficiency possible without reducing power.[1]

This means that ecosystems (and in fact, other self-organizing systems, such as economies), will gradually adapt to get the best use possible of the energy available to them. Ecosystems are “self-organizing” in that with the abundance of offspring of animals, and the abundance of seeds of plants, there are always offspring available to move into available niches with excess energy. There are other ways of making use of  available energy—for example, selection of the fittest can lead to people with the right skin color being adapted to best using the intensity of the suns rays in their part of the globe.

Energy Use by Humans

Energy plays an important role for each of us as humans, just as it does for other species in ecosystems. The most obvious use for energy is in the food that we eat. Some of the energy we use is embedded energy—that is energy from the past that has been used to make something that we use today. The stored energy can be human energy, as in the energy it would take to shear wool from a sheep, make it into yarn, and knit a sweater from it. Stored energy can also be from other sources. For example, it takes a great deal of energy to extract and refine metals. It also takes a great deal of energy to make today’s concrete.

One type of stored energy comes in the form of education (Odum). Education is available because the student’s labor is not needed in the workforce to create the food and other goods that he consumes while being educated.  Education requires that teachers attend school themselves for many years, meaning that teachers must somehow be supported by the energy of the rest of society both during their own education and while they are teaching students.

Education also involves the concentration of knowledge in the form of books and on the Internet. All of this requires energy. Books require energy to support the people taking time to write the books, to physically make the books, and to transport them to the location where they are read. The Internet requires electrical energy.  Even thinking requires energy. The human brain uses a disproportionate share of man’s energy, up to 20% of the energy used by humans (Swaminathan). The people with the highest education tend to receive higher salaries than others, indicating that this form of embedded energy is highly valued by society.

The Role of Energy in Numbers and Types of Businesses and Governments

Businesses, governments, and consumers form another self-organizing system, not unlike ecological systems (Odum).  This system has gradually arisen over many years, and adapts itself as conditions change. The financial system is the part of the self-organizing system that keeps track of the energy costs of the system (as well as other costs), and pushes the whole system toward the lowest cost approach to creating goods and services. Businesses tend to succeed or fail in ways that make the most productive use of energy resources, according to the rules set out by the system.

Let’s consider a small-scale example of a potential addition to this self-organized system. An entrepreneur decides to plant a field of turnips. In this case, part of the energy for the business comes from the sun, and part of the energy comes from the labor of the entrepreneur. The calories the entrepreneur eats provide energy for his labor. The entrepreneur’s education represents another form of stored energy, affecting his success. If the entrepreneur buys fertilizer, it is an energy input as well, since energy was required to make and transport the fertilizer to the location where it is used.

Part of the energy used by the entrepreneur may come from mechanical equipment that was made in the past using heat energy, and part from fuels that power that equipment. If purchased energy is scarce, and because of this, high-priced, the entrepreneur will have to charge a higher price for turnips he sells in order to cover his costs. The entrepreneur has a much greater chance of success in selling his turnips to customers if energy is low-priced rather than high-priced because many more customers will be able to afford turnips at $1.00 pound than at $4.00 pound. So it is the price of goods, which is tied to energy costs, that helps determine both which goods are sold and which businesses will succeed. High energy cost tend to lead to business failures.

Governments, too, use energy, and fit in with the same self-organizing system as businesses. The type of government requiring the least amount of energy is one run by a single person, perhaps a king or dictator. In order to support the king, the economy needs to have enough spare energy (in the form of food) available so that the king or dictator doesn’t himself need to work to grow food. It is also helpful if there is excess energy generated by society to provide clothing, a home, heat for the home, and the many other things that the king or dictator expects to own.

More complicated governments require more energy. A government of elected officials requires not only the excess energy from society to feed and clothe the elected officials, it also requires the energy to build the buildings where polling takes place, and the energy for officials to travel to the location of the government offices. The offices themselves also require energy, both for their construction and their maintenance. If energy supply is constricted, the price of energy is likely to be higher, and thus the cost of government will be higher. Taxes will need to be raised. If there is a sufficient energy surplus elsewhere to afford these higher taxes, these higher taxes may be acceptable to taxpayers. If not, some government officials may need to be laid off, to balance the (energy) budget.

What Happens When Energy is Deficient?

Something has to “give,” when there is not enough energy.

A deficiency in solar energy would likely cause the world to get colder. Crops would fail, prices would rise, and the problem of low solar energy would affect both the natural world, and the economy consisting of businesses, governments, consumers, and financial institutions. The last time this was a major issue was during the Little Ice Age. The biggest impact seems to have been during the 1600s. I show in The Long-Term Tie Between Energy Supply, Population, and the Economy that this seems to have been the case.

What happens when energy supply such as wood, coal, oil or natural gas is constrained?

Unfortunately, we are getting a chance to find out. There is considerable evidence that oil, our largest and most flexible source of energy, is now encountering supply issues.  Oil price in 2012 is more than three times the price it was ten years ago, in inflation-adjusted prices.

Figure 3. Historical inflation adjusted oil price per barrel, (Brent equivalent in 2011$), based on amounts shown in BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy.

It is during the time that prices have been high (indicating short supply) that the world has been suffering from recession. This is precisely the impact one would expect, if energy is closely tied to the economy. Adequate supply would be reflected in low price. When it is not, the economy of countries, especially of oil importers, tends to go into recession. We will discuss this more in future posts.

Figure 3 shows that there was a previous time, in the 1970s and early 1980s, when oil prices were very high in inflation adjusted terms. This was the time shortly after the United States discovered that its own oil supply was decreasing rapidly (Figure 4).

Figure 4. US crude oil production based on data of the US Energy Information Administration.

After United States oil production began decreasing in 1970, a huge amount of effort was put into finding more oil supplies, increasing efficiency, and converting oil use to other types of energy use. There was considerable success in these areas. The second “bump” in Figure 4 reflects the addition of oil from Alaska, something that is now in decline also. Oil uses that could be easily switched to another fuel were switched away. For example, where oil had been used to create electricity, new generation using nuclear or coal was built. In the case of oil for home heating, the switch was often made to natural gas. Cars became smaller and more energy-efficient during this period.

It might be noted that the period of high oil prices in the mid 1970s and early 1980s was also a time of recession. Economist James Hamilton has shown that 10 out of 11 US recessions since World War II were associated with oil price spikes (Hamilton, 2011). He has also shown that there appears be a direct connection between the price run-up of 2007-08, cutbacks in consumer consumption and spending on purchases of domestic automobiles, and the economic slowdown of 2007 – 2008 (Hamilton, 2009).

The run-up in oil prices in the past few years seems to be related to a combination of (a) world oil supply that is not growing very rapidly, and (b) increasing demand from developing economies, such as China and India, and (c) higher production costs for oil, because much of the inexpensive to extract oil has already been extracted.

There is a great deal more that could be said about these issues, but I will save this information for later. I will make a couple of observations, however:

1. The United States has not been very successful in increasing its oil production, in spite of improved technology. The right hand side of the graph in Figure 4 is higher than what it would have been because of opening areas to drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, new technology, and enhanced oil recovery methods. But current production still lies far below the 1970 peak of oil production.

2. The government has not been forthright in telling us about this problem. Science textbooks don’t generally discuss this issue, nor do history books. Some things are embarrassing. This seems to be one of them.


[1] Power is the rate at which energy is used.  For example, a 100 watt light bulb uses more energy per unit of time than a 50 watt bulb, so has more power. Any organism has a rate at which it uses energy. For example, we may eat 2200 calories a day. This quote is just saying that the rate at which organisms use energy is considered in this self-organization process.


Lotka, A.J., Elements of Physical Biology, Williams and Wilkins, (1925)

Volterra, V., Variations and fluctuations of the number of individuals in animal species living together in Animal Ecology, Chapman, R.N. (ed), McGraw–Hill, (1931)

Jost, C., Devulder, G., Vucetich, J.A., Peterson, R., and Arditi, R., “The wolves of Isle Royale display scale-invariant satiation and density dependent predation on moose”, J. Anim. Ecol., 74(5), 809-816 (2005)

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Population Prospects the 2010 Revision. Total Population – Both Sexes.

Odum, H. T. and Odum E. C., A Prosperous Way Down: Principles and Policies, University Press of Colorado, (2001)

Barnosky, A. D. et al., Approaching a State Shift in the Earth’s Biosphere, Nature, 486, 52-58 (07 June 2012)

Swaminathan, N. Why Does the Brain Need So Much Power? Scientific American, April 29, 2008.

Hamilton, J. D. Historical oil shocks. NBER working paper No. 16790.  Feb 2011. Available from

Hamilton J. H. Causes and consequences of the oil shock of 2007-08. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity:215e61. Spring 2009. Accessible at

A Diner’s Eye View of 9-11

Off the keyboard of A.G. Gelbert

Discuss this article inside the Diner

This being 9/11, I’ve decided to let the Diners in on some knowledge I have as a former air traffic controller that convinced me it was an inside job within a day or so of the event. The tip-off for me was the Pentagon.

I aired this knowledge on the Huffington Post years later (I think it was in 2005) when she finally couldn’t censor comments on it because an article was written on the subject by some movie star or writer (AFTER Arianna had denied Jesse Ventura the freedom to write on 9/11 at hufpo). An army of Hasbara assholes were out in force (you could tell they were A. not Americans by their writing and B. They had all these cartoon character avatars). I took one of them apart piece by piece and he ended up asking me where I lived.  :evil4:   :evil7:
I got a little more aggressive in my comments and, of course, they were censored.

So what do I know? Washington D.C. is wall to wall radar AND is a prohibited area. That means you fly in and out of Reagan International on a VERY specific route along the Potomac (River route). The “excuse” that the Tracon (tower radar approach control) was  “out of communication” with the “outside world” was the most outlandish piece of bullshit I have ever heard. Remember, THAT was the reason given for them not communicating with the Air Force to scramble jets (in this case jets were ALREADY in the air being sent to the wrong areas).

Potomac Tracon (terminal radar approach control) controls the approach of all aircraft coming into Reagan International and several other area major airports. Potomac Tracon is 33 miles west southwest of Reagan and the Pentagon. There is no way in God’s good Earth that ANY lack of communications occurred between them and Reagan Tower. There are about SIX levels of redundancy in communications from several transmitters on dedicated frequencies, back up transmitters and receivers on each frequency to fiber optic land lines that provide voice and remote radar data from the overlaying artcc (enroute radar traffic control center 10,000 feet and above) to satellite feed backups for everything. There are multiple lines to various Air Force Bases around with INDEPENDENT systems for a fail safe operation in case of nuclear missile attack.

Washington Center was tracking the aircraft headed for the DC area. The false generated targets from NORAD exercises is total bullshit because NORAD doesn’t work airplanes! Air traffic controllers work airplanes! And we know damned good and well what a computer generated false target looks like. I trained people and ran the target generator scenarios myself as a training department instructor during the late 70s. Now they’ve got LCD displays and then we had CRT (cathode ray tube) round scopes but the radar and computer operation to translate a primary (no transponder to give altitude data) target to a data bock with speed and direction has not changed. I could NOT, as an instructor generating targets to make my students sweat, generate those targets onto an active display. All training targets have a “T” on the data block anyway. NO ONE in atc was confused due to “exercises”.

Back to 9/11, the twin towers had been hit and every atc facility and their mothers knew that aircraft had hit (at the management level within minutes – less than 15). At the controller level, you can be sure the people in Washington Center were told by controllers from Boston center and New York center that some hijackings were in progress BEFORE the planes hit the towers. Next you have this primary target (no transponder to give altitude data – just some moving object that provides a radar return above 50 mph) headed towards the DC prohibited area. Immediately Washington Center tells Potomac Tracon who, in turn, tells Reagan Tower. This must be done because no altitude info is available so you don’t know who’s airspace this NORDO (NO RADIO) potential hijack is going to violate in the capital.

But here’s the kicker. We HAD TO routinely save two weeks of radar tracking data with a 100% accurate record of air traffic movements in case a loss of separation standards had occurred (known in atc parlance as a “deal” that you could get disciplined and possibly fired for). Controllers don’t report “deals” unless they can’t avoid it unless it was a near mid-air collision, the pilots saw each other and are screaming bloody murder. Again, the guy/gal on position normally is not being monitored by a sup so they cross their fingers. The pilots land and call the facility or wait a few days to do it. Sometimes they don’t bother. If they do, your  sup tells the training department to pull the voice tapes (also saved for two weeks) and the radar data to see if you went below minimum separation standards. You, the controller, are required to write up a statement summarizing the events. The controller knows his goose is cooked here so he doesn’t dare lie.

When the “aircraft” that hit the pentagon performed it’s impossible maneuver of a descending 360 degree spiraling turn at around 500 mph the tower radar recorded the track and the speed, Potomac Tracon recorded the track and the  speed and Washington center recorded the track and the speed. The paltry visuals the Pentagon released of a MISSLE striking the pentagon was blatantly obvious to me. I’m very experienced in seeing planes fly near buildings; they move MUCH slower than that. It was a missile. All they had to to in ATC was look at those radar tracking tapes. A missile has 1,000 mph or greater velocity. The thing that hit the Pentagon was moving a lot faster than 500 mph. It’s on the radar data. If the data from THREE INDEPENDENT ATC FACILITIES was destroyed, that is undeniable proof that Donald Rumsfeld and Cheney ran an inside job, PERIOD. Guess what? When I mentioned the radar data on hufpo the Hasbara dude asked where I lived.

But there is more. A B767 is, as you know, is an airplane. Airplanes have a limitation in flight. The turning radius is a function of the bank angle and speed. That means that the faster you go, the steeper you need to bank the airplane in order to keep your turn radius, as in a 500 mph jet, from being several miles in radius (if you are turning 360 degrees as was the case on 9/11). Missles are not airplanes and don’t have this problem because they use vectored thrust, not bank angle, to control turning radius.  The 360 degree banked turn the alleged B767 executed in a descending spiral to smack the Pentagon was NOT possible for a B767 at that speed due to the stresses the required bank angle would have on the aircraft (look ma, no wings!).

Aircraft in a 30 degree banked angle turn

In any aircraft from a piper cub to a B747, when you exceed 60 degrees of banked turn, you are oulling 2 Gs plus on the entire aircraft structure. Above 60 degrees, the Gs increase exponentially. Aerobatic aircraft require plus or minus 6 G strength for FAA certification. Commercial jet liners lose their wings (B767 max allowed plus 2.5 Gs and minus 1.0 G to avoid structural damage) trying to keep a 70 or 80 degree bank angle at 500 mph in a descending spiral needed to cover the track the government says was traversed  to smack the Pentagon. Only a missile or a fighter aircraft with a missile ready to fire could do that.

As a matter of fact you COULD beef up the wings of a B767  DRONE to do this maneuver (the only possible scenario in the second twin tower strike due to speed and turn rate). However, at the Pentagon, the hole was too small. It was a missile.

The Long-Term Tie Between Energy Supply, Population, and the Economy

Off the Keyboard of Gail Tverberg

Published originally on Our Finite World on August 29th, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord of the Diner

The tie between energy supply, population, and the economy goes back to the hunter-gatherer period. Hunter-gatherers managed to multiply their population at least 4-fold, and perhaps by as much as 25-fold, by using energy techniques which allowed them to expand their territory from central Africa to virtually the whole world, including the Americas and Australia.

The agricultural revolution starting about 7,000 or 8,000 BCE was next big change, multiplying population more than 50-fold. The big breakthrough here was the domestication of grains, which allowed food to be stored for winter, and transported more easily.

The next major breakthrough was the industrial revolution using coal. Even before this, there were major energy advances, particularly using peat in Netherlands and early use of coal in England. These advances allowed the world’s population to grow more than four-fold between the year 1 CE and 1820 CE. Between 1820 and the present, population has grown approximately seven-fold.

Table 1. Population growth rate prior to the year 1 C. E. based on McEvedy & Jones, “Atlas of World Population History”, 1978; later population as well as GDP based on Angus Madison estimates; energy growth estimates are based on estimates by Vaclav Smil in Energy Transitions: HIstory Requirements, and Prospects, adjusted by recent information from BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy.

When we look at the situation on a year-by-year basis (Table 1), we see that on a yearly average basis, growth has been by far the greatest since 1820, which is the time since the widespread use of fossil fuels. We also see that economic growth seems to proceed only slightly faster than population growth up until 1820. After 1820, there is a much wider “gap” between energy growth and GDP growth, suggesting that the widespread use of fossil fuels has allowed a rising standard of living.

The rise in population growth and GDP growth is significantly higher in the period since World War II than it was in the period prior to that time. This is the period during which growth in which oil consumption had a significant impact on the economy. Oil greatly improved transportation and also enabled much greater agricultural output. An indirect result was more world trade, which enabled production of goods needing inputs around the world, such as computers.

When a person looks back over history, the impression one gets is that the economy is a system that transforms resources, especially energy, into food and other goods that people need. As these goods become available, population grows. The more energy is consumed, the more the economy grows, and the faster world population grows. When little energy is added, economic growth proceeds slowly, and population growth is low.

Economists seem to be of the view that GDP growth gives rise to growth in energy products, and not the other way around. This is a rather strange view, in light of the long tie between energy and the economy, and in light of the apparent causal relationship. With a sufficiently narrow, short-term view, perhaps the view of economists can be supported, but over the longer run it is hard to see how this view can be maintained.

Energy and the Hunter-Gatherer Period

Humans, (or more accurately, predecessor species to humans), first arose in central Africa, a place where energy from the sun is greatest, water is abundant, and biological diversity is among the greatest. This setting allowed predecessor species a wide range of food supplies, easy access to water, and little worry about being cold. Originally, predecessor species most likely had fur, lived in trees, and ate a primarily vegetarian diet, like most primates today. The total population varied, but with the limited area in which pre-humans lived, probably did not exceed 1,000,000, and may have been as little as 70,000 (McEvedy).

Man’s main source of energy is of course food. In order to expand man’s range, it was necessary to find ways to obtain adequate food supply in less hospitable environments. These same techniques would also be helpful in countering changing climate and in mitigating deficiencies of man’s evolution, such as lack of hair to keep warm, limited transportation possibilities, and poor ability to attack large predators. The way man seems to have tackled all of these other issues is by figuring out ways to harness outside energy for his own use. See also my previous post, Humans Seem to Need External Energy.

The earliest breakthrough seems to be the development of man’s ability to control fire, at least 1 million years ago (Berna). The ability to cook food came a very long time ago as well, although the exact date remains uncertain. A diet that includes cook food has a number of advantages: it reduces chewing time from roughly half of daily activities to as  little as 5% of daily activities, freeing up time for other activities (Organ); it allows a wider range of foods, since some foods must be cooked; it allows better absorption of nutrients of food that is eaten; it allows smaller tooth and gut sizes, freeing up energy that could be used for brain development (Wrangham).

There were other advantages of fire besides the ability to cook: it also allowed early humans to keep warm, expanding their range in that way; it gave them an advantage in warding off predators, since humans could hurl fiery logs at them; and it extended day into night, since fire brought with it light. The wood or leaves with which early man made fire could be considered man’s first external source of energy.

As man began to have additional time available that was not devoted to gathering food and eating, he could put more of his own energy into other projects, such as hunting animals for food, making more advanced tools, and creating clothing. We talk about objects such as tools and clothing that are created using energy (any type of energy, from humans or from fuel), as having embedded energy in them, since the energy used to make them has long-term benefit. One surprising early use of embedded energy appears to have been making seaworthy boats that allowed humans to populate Australia over 40,000 years ago (Diamond).

The use of dogs for hunting in Europe at least 32,000 years ago was another way early humans were able to extend their range (Shipman). Neanderthal populations, living in the same area in close to the same time-period did not use dogs, and died out.

With the expanded territory, the number of humans increased to 4 million (McEvedy) by the beginning of agriculture (about 7,000 or 8,000 BCE). If population reached 4 million, this would represent roughly a 25-fold increase, assuming a base population of 150,000. Such an increase might be expected simply based on the expanded habitat of humans. This growth likely took place over more than 500,000 years, so was less than 0.01% per year.

Beginning of Agriculture – 7,000 BCE to 1 CE

Relative to the slow growth in the hunter-gatherer period, populations grew much more quickly (0.06% per year according to Table 1) during the Beginning of Agriculture.

One key problem that was solved with the beginning of the agricultural was, How can you store food until you need it? This was partly solved by the domestication of grains, which stored very well, and was “energy dense” so it could be transported well. If food were limited to green produce, like cabbage and spinach, it would not keep well, and a huge volume would be required if it were to be transported.

The domestication of animals was another way that food could be stored until it was needed, this time “on the hoof”. With the storage issue solved, it was possible to live in settled communities, rather than needing to keep moving to locations where food happened to be available, season by season. The domestication of animals had other benefits, including being able to use animals to transport goods, and being able to use them to plow fields.

The ability to grow animals and crops of one’s own choosing permitted a vast increase the amount of food (and thus energy for people) that would grow on a given plot of land.   According to David Montgomery in Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization, the amount of land needed to feed one person was

  • Hunting and gathering: 20 to 100 hectares (50 to 250 acres) per person
  • Slash and burn agriculture: 2 to 10 hectares (5 to 25 acres) per person
  • Mesopotamian floodplain farming: 0.5 to 1.5 hectares (1.2 to 3.7 acres) per person

Thus, a shift to agriculture would seem to allow a something like a 50-fold increase in population, and would pretty much explain the 56-fold increase that took place between from 4 million in 7,000 BCE, to 226 million at 1 CE.

Other energy advances during this period included the use of irrigation, wind-powered ships, metal coins, and the early use of iron of tools (Diamond) (Ponting). With these advances, trade was possible, and this trade enabled the creation of goods that could not be made without trade. For example, copper and tin are not generally mined in the same location, but with the use of trade, they could be combined to form bronze.

In spite of these advances, the standard of living declined when man moved to agriculture. Hunter-gatherers were already running into limits because they had killed off some of the game species (McGlone) (Diamond). While agriculture allowed a larger population, the health of individual members was much worse. The average height of men dropped by 6.2 inches, and the median life span of men dropped from 35.4 years to 33.1 years, according to Spencer Wells in Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization.

Deforestation rapidly became a common occurrence, as population expanded. Chew lists 40 areas around the world showing deforestation before the year 1, many as early as 4000 BCE. Montgomery notes that when the Israelites reached the promised land, the better cropland in the valleys was already occupied. In Joshua 17:14-18, Joshua instructs descendants of Joseph to clear as much of the forested land in the hill country as they wish, so they will have a place for their families to live.

Energy, Population, and GDP: Year 1 to 1820

Table 1 shows that during the period 1 to 1000, both population and economic output were very low (population, 0.02% per year; GDP, 0.01% per year). During this period, and as well as in the early agricultural period (between 7,000 BCE and 1 CE), there was a tendency of civilizations that had been expanding to collapse, holding the world’s overall population growth level down. There were several reasons for collapses of well-established societies, including (1) soil erosion and other loss of soil fertility, as people cut down trees for agriculture and for use in metal-making, tilled soil, and used irrigation (Montgomery) (Chew), (2) increasingly complex societies needed increasing energy to support themselves, but such energy tended not to be available (Tainter), (3) contagious diseases, often caught from farm animals, passed from person to person because to population density (Diamond), and (4) there were repeated instances of climate change and natural disturbances, such as volcanoes (Chew).

Even after 1000 CE, growth was limited, due to continued influence of the above types of factors. In most countries, the vast majority of the population continued to live on the edge of starvation up until the last two centuries (Ponting). Most growth came from expanded acreage for farming.

There were exceptions, however, and these were where growth of population and GDP was greatest.

Netherlands. Kris De Decker writes about the growing use of peat for energy in Netherlands starting in the 1100s and continuing until 1700. Peat is partially carbonized plant material that forms in bogs over hundreds of years. It can be mined and burned for processes that require heat energy, such as making glass or ceramics and for baking bread. Because it takes hundreds of years to be formed, mining exhausts it. Mining also causes ecological damage. The availability of peat for fuel was important, however, because there was a serious shortage of wood at that time, because of deforestation due to the pressures of agriculture and the making of metals.

Wind was also important in Holland during the same period. It produced primarily a different kind of energy than peat; it produced kinetic (or mechanical) energy. This energy was used for a variety of processes, including polishing glass, sawing wood, and paper production (De Decker).  Measured as heat energy (which is the way energy comparisons are usually made), wind output would have been considerably less than the heat energy from peat during this time period.

Maddison shows population in Netherlands growing from 300,000 in the year 1000 to 950,000 in 1500; 1,500,000 in 1600 and 1,900,000 in 1700, implying average annual population growth rates of 0.23%, 0.46%, and 0.24% during the three periods, compared to world average annual increases of 0.10%, 0.24%, and 0.08% during the same three periods. Netherlands’ GDP increased at more than double the world rates during these three periods (Netherlands: 0.35%, 1.06%, and 0.67%; world: 0.14%, 0.29%, and 0.11%.)

England. We also have information on early fuel use in England (Wigley).

Figure 1. Annual energy consumption per head (megajoules) in England and Wales 1561-70 to 1850-9 and in Italy 1861-70. Figure by Wrigley.

Here, we see that coal use began as early as 1561.  To a significant extent coal replaced fire wood, since wood was in short supply due to deforestation. Coal was used to provide heat energy, until after the invention of the first commercially successful steam engine in 1712 (Wikipedia), after which it could provide either heat or mechanical energy.  Wind and water were also used to provide mechanical energy, but their quantities remain very small compared to coal energy, draft animal energy, and even energy consumed in the form of food by humans.

Maddison shows population and GDP statistics for the United Kingdom (not England by itself). Again, we see a pattern similar to Netherlands, with UK population and GDP growth surpassing world population and GDP growth, since it was a world leader in adopting coal technology. (For the three periods 1500-1600, 1600-1700, and 1700-1820, the corresponding numbers are Population UK: 0.45%, 0.33%, 0.76%; Population World: 0.24%, 0.08%, 0.46%; GDP UK: 0.76%, 0.58%, 1.02%; GDP World: 0.29%, 0.11%, 0.52%.)

Growth “Lull” during 1600s. Table 1 shows that both population growth and GDP growth were lower during the 1600s. This period matches up with some views of when the Little Ice Age (a period with colder weather) had the greatest impact.

Figure 2. Winter Severity in Europe, 1000 to 1900. Note period of cold weather in 1600s. Figure from Environmental History Resources. Figure based on Lamb 1969 / Schneider and Mass 1975.

If the weather was colder, crops would likely not have grown as well. More wood would be needed for fuel, leaving less for other purposes, such as making metals. Countries might even been more vulnerable to outside invaders, if they were poorer and could not properly pay and feed a large army.

Coal Age for the World – 1820 to 1920 (and continuing)

When the age of coal arrived, the world had two major needs:

  1. A heat-producing fuel, so that there would not be such a problem with deforestation, if people wanted to keep warm, create metal products,  and make other products that required heat, such as glass.
  2. As a transportation fuel, so that walking, using horses, and boats would not be the major choices. This severely limited trade.

When coal arrived, it was rapidly accepted, because it helped greatly with the first of these–the need for a heat-producing fuel. People were willing to put up with the fact that it was polluting, especially in the highly populated parts of the world where wood shortages were a problem. With the availability of coal, it became possible to greatly increase the amount of metal produced, making possible the production of consumer goods of many kinds.

Figure 3. World Energy Consumption by Source, based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects and together with BP Statistical Data on 01965 and subsequent

Between 1820 and 1920, which is the period when coal came into widespread use, the world’s use of energy approximately tripled (Figure 3). The large increases in other fuels later dwarf this increase, but the use of coal was very significant for the economy. Table 1 at the top of this post shows a fairly consistent rise in GDP growth as coal was added to the energy mix in the 1820 to 1920 period.

With the invention of first commercially successful steam engine in 1712 (Wikipedia), coal could also be used for processes that required mechanical energy, such as milling grain, running a cotton gin, or weaving cloth. It also helped as a transportation fuel, in that it could power a railroad train or steam boat. Thus, it did help with the second major energy need noted above. It was not very suitable for airplanes or for private passenger cars, though.

One invention that was made possible by the availability of coal was the widespread use of electricity. Without coal (or oil), it would never have been possible to make all of the transmission lines. Hydroelectric power of the type we use today was also made possible by the availability of coal, since it was possible to create and transport the metal parts needed. It was also possible to heat limestone to make Portland cement in large quantity. The first meaningful amounts of hydroelectric power appeared between 1870 and 1880, according to the data used in Figure 3.

Agriculture was helped by the availability of coal, mostly through the indirect impacts of more/better metal being available, more ease in working with metals, improved transportation, and later, the availability of electricity. According to a document of the US Department of Census,  changes were made which allowed more work to be done by horses instead of humans. New devices such as steel plows and reapers and hay rakes were manufactured, which could be pulled by horses. Later, many devices run by electricity were added, such as milking machines. Barbed-wire fence allowed the West to become cropland, instead one large unfenced range.

Between 1850 and 1930, the percentage of workers in agriculture in the US dropped from about 65% of the workforce to about 22%. With such a large drop in agricultural workers, rising employment in other parts of the economy became possible, assuming there were enough jobs available. If not, it is easy to see how the Depression might have originated.

If we look at the coal data included in Figure 3 by itself, we see that the use of coal use has never stopped growing. In fact, its use has been growing more rapidly in recent years:

Figure 4. World annual coal consumption, based on same data used in Figure 3. (Vaclav Smil /BP Statistical Review of World Energy)

The big reason for the growth is coal consumption is that it is cheap, especially compared to oil and in most countries, natural gas. China and other developing countries have been using coal for electricity production, to smelt iron, and to make fertilizer and other chemicals. Coal is very polluting, both from a carbon dioxide perspective, and from the point of view of pollutants mixed with the coal. For many buyers, however, “cheap” trumps “good for the environment”.

A look at detail underlying China’s coal consumption makes it look as though the recent big increase in coal consumption began immediately after China was admitted to the World Trade Organization, in December 2001. With more trade with the rest of the world, China had more need for coal to manufacture goods for export, and to build up its own internal infrastructure. The ultimate consumers, in the US and Europe, didn’t realize that it was their demand for cheap products from abroad that was fueling the rise in world coal consumption.

Addition of Oil to World Energy Mix

Oil was added to the energy mix in very small amounts, starting in the 1860s and 1870s. The amount added gradually increased though the years, with the really big increases coming after World War II. Oil filled several niches:

  1. It was the first really good transportation fuel. It could be poured, so it was easy to put into a gas tank. It enabled door-to-door transportation, with automobiles, trucks, tractors for the farm, aircraft, and much construction equipment.
  2. It (and the natural gas often associated with it) provided chemical fertilizer which could be used to cover up the huge soil deficiencies that had developed over the years. Hydrocarbons from oil also provide herbicides and insecticides.  Oil also enabled the door-to-door transport of mineral additions to the soil mix, enhancing fertility.
  3. Oil is very easy to transport in a can or truck, so it works well with devices like portable electric generators and irrigation pumps. It can be used where other fuels are hard to transport, such as small islands, with minimal equipment to make it usable.
  4. With the huge change in transport enabled by oil, much greater international trade became possible. It became possible to regularly make complex goods, such as computers, with imports from many nations. It also became possible to import necessities, rather than using trade primarily for a few high-value goods.
  5. Hydrocarbons could be made into medicines, enabling defeat of many of the germs that had in the past caused epidemics.
  6. Hydrocarbons could be used to make plastics and fabrics, so that wood and crops grown to make fabrics (such as cotton and flax) would not be in such huge demand, allowing land to be used for other purposes.
  7. Hydrocarbons could provide asphalt for roads, lubrication for machines, and many other hard-to-replace specialty products.
  8. The labor-saving nature of machines powered by oil freed up time for workers to work elsewhere (or viewed less positively, sometimes left them unemployed).
  9. The fact that tractors and other farm equipment took over the role of horses and mules after 1920 meant that more land was available for human food, since feed no longer needed to be grown for horses.

If we look at oil by itself (Figure 5, below), we see much more of a curved figure than for coal (Figure 4, above).

Figure 5. World annual oil consumption, based on the same data as in Figure 3 above. (Vaclav Smil /BP Statistical Review of World Energy)

My interpretation of this is that oil supply is more constrained than coal supply. Coal is cheap, and demand keeps growing. Oil has been rising in price in recent years, and the higher prices mean that consumers cut back on their purchases, to keep their budgets close to balanced. They can’t afford as many vacations and can’t afford to pave as many roads with asphalt. Oil is still the largest source of energy in the world, but coal is working on surpassing it. In a year or two, coal will likely be the world’s largest source of energy. Together, they comprise about 60 percent of today’s energy use.

If we look at per capita fuel consumption based on the same data as in Figure 3, this is what we see:

Figure 6. Per capita world energy consumption, calculated by dividing world energy consumption (based on Vaclav Smil estimates from Energy Transitions: History, Requirements and Prospects together with BP Statistical Data for 1965 and subsequent) by population estimates, based on Angus Maddison data.

Figure 6 indicates that there was a real increase in total per capita energy consumption after World War II, about the time that oil consumption was being added in significant quantity. What happened was that coal consumption did not decrease (except to some extent on a per capita basis); oil was added on top of it.

If we look at world population growth for the same time period, we see a very distinct bend in the line immediately after World War II, as population rose as the same time as oil consumption.

Figure 7. World Population, based on Angus Maddison estimates, interpolated where necessary.

Clearly, the arrival of oil had a huge impact on agriculture. Unfortunately, the chemical fix for our long-standing soil problems is not a permanent ones. Soils need to be viewed as part of an ecological system, with biological organisms aiding in fertility. Soils also need an adequate amount of humus, if they are to hold water well in droughts. There are natural things that can be done to maintain soil fertility (add manure, terrace land, use perennial crops rather than annual crops, don’t till the land). Unfortunately, using big machines dependent on oil, plus lots of chemical sprays, tends to operate in the opposite direction of building up the natural soil systems.

Our Energy Niche Problem

There are other fuels as well, including nuclear, wind energy, solar PV, solar thermal, biofuels, and natural gas. The production of all of these are enabled by the production of oil and coal, because of the large amount of metals involved in their production, and because of the need transport the new devices to a final location.

All of these other fuels tend have their own niches; it is hard for them to fill the big coal-oil niche on the current landscape. Solar thermal and natural gas are both directly heat-producing, and play a role that way. But it is hard to see how adequate metals production would continue with these fuels alone. Of course, with enough electricity, we could create the heat needed for metal production. The catch would be creating enough electricity.

“Cheap” is a very important characteristic of fuels to buyers. Coal is clearly beating out oil now in the area of “cheap”. Natural gas is the only one of the other energy sources that is close to cheap, at least in the United States. The catch with US natural gas is that producers can’t really produce it cheaply, so its long-run prospects as a cheap fuel aren’t good. Perhaps if the pricing issues can be worked out, US natural gas production can increase somewhat, but it is not likely to be the cheapest fuel.

One of the issues related to finding a replacement for oil and coal is that we already have a great deal of equipment (cars, trains, airplanes, farm equipment, construction equipment) that use oil, and we have many chemical processes that use oil or coal as an input.  It would be very costly to make a change to another fuel, before the end of the normal lives of the equipment.

Wrapping Up

Over the long haul, energy sources have played a very large and varied role in the economy. In general, increases in the energy supply seem to correspond to increases in GDP and population.  Necessary characteristics of energy supply are not always obvious. We don’t think of low-cost as an important characteristic of energy products, but in the real world, this becomes an important issue.

As we move forward, we face challenges of many types. The world’s population is still growing, and needs to be housed, clothed, and fed.  None of the energy sources that is available is perfect. Our long history of using the land to produce annual crops has left the world with much degraded soil. The way forward is not entirely clear.

I will look at some related issues in upcoming posts.

The Running Game

Off the Keyboard of Steve from Virginia

Published originally on Economic Undertow on September 6th, 2012


– Unknown cinematographer ‘Titanic Scene’ (Paramount/20th Century Fox)


The ‘question du jour’ is — and has been for awhile — ‘when’?

‘When’ is the dam going to burst? ‘When’ will the coyote hanging in mid-air fall? ‘When’ is the decrepit status quo going to collapse?

‘When’ is so … yesterday! Coyotes have been dropping for five years. The process has been satisfactorily papered over to a large extent. Managers have learned a lot about crisis management since 1929 and 1973 and 1987. When there are difficulties the managers know to run out the shills. The public — and markets — are credulous. They want to believe. Nobody wants a Greater Depression and will do whatever is possible to avoid one.

There was no television in 1929. There was no Internet in 1973 or ’87. With modern media there are unlimited distractions that can be offered at near zero-cost. In order to divine reality one has to look for irretrievable actions on the part of managers themselves: you have to follow the running feet.

Here is some distraction right here:


Building the Next China

Stephen S. Roach (Caixin)

Concerns about the country’s economic situation are overblown and ignore a significant fact: urbanization will be the next engine of growth.

But the hype of the pessimists overlooks one of the most important drivers of China’s modernization: the greatest urbanization story the world has ever seen. In 2011, the urban share of the Chinese population surpassed 50 percent for the first time, reaching 51.3 percent, compared to less than 20 percent in 1980. Moreover, according to projections by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, China’s already burgeoning urban population should expand by more than 300 million by 2030 – an increment almost equal to the current population of the United States. With rural-to-urban migration averaging 15 to 20 million people per year, today’s so-called ghost cities quickly become tomorrow’s thriving metropolitan areas.

Shanghai Pudong is the classic example of how an “empty” urban construction project in the late 1990′s quickly became a fully occupied urban center, with a population today of roughly 5.5 million. A study by international management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates that by 2025 China will have more than 220 cities with populations in excess of one million, versus 125 in 2010, and that 23 mega cities will have a population of at least five million.

China cannot afford to wait and build its new cities until after newly migrated citizens have arrived. Instead, investment and construction must be aligned with the future influx of urban dwellers. The “ghost city” critique misses this point entirely.


See? Everything is going to be fine! Why? Because Roach says so! He’s a high-powered financier shill with fingers on the pulse. He makes the, “They aren’t making any more land,” argument. With more people and the limited amounts of build-able land certainly demand/prices/economies have nowhere to go but up, right?

Problem is nobody is making more people with money. The money trend is going in the wrong direction: the reality direction as James Howard Kunstler would put it. More people are going broke faster. What remains of money vanishes from circulation, lines of credit are cut off, putative apartment buyers are denied mortgages because they simply don’t earn enough to make the payments. The tens of millions of empty apartments that Steve Roach celebrates are mostly owned by a modest group of Chinese speculators with access to no-questions-asked, low-cost credit. These speculators are stranded, waiting for the horde of Chinese consumers who are never going to arrive. As in the West, the cost of credit … has become too high for individual buyers to afford.

The speculators are victims of their own greed. In order to sell and capture gains they must find buyers who are more successfully greedy than they are (or the government has to bail them out).

The 300 millions that Roach and the Chinese speculators are counting on are near-penniless rural peasants and sweatshop workers. Already these workers complain that urban housing is unaffordable. This worker-demand never really mattered, instead it was the supply of credit from overseas looking for yield. China has been at the end of a massive capital pipeline from the US and elsewhere. The Chinese narrative of perpetual real estate growth and ever-increasing prices is the same as the free-money narrative in America, UK, Dubai, Spain, Ireland and elsewhere. Credit flowed into real estate in all these countries at the same time. Meanwhile, economies were cutting workers’ earnings: something has to give.

There is more to economies than assuming can openers, they are sub-components of culture. What economies manage are cultural goods, not ‘things’ but surrogates for things. What makes China China are the cultural fetishes that represent Chinese ‘modernity’ with an accompanying narrative of American-style material progress.

What American commercial artists, television producers and advertising managers devise, the unimaginative Chinese instantly covet. Their defining idea of America is post-Dean Martin-Joey Bishop-Liberace-Bugsy Siegel Las Vegas: the entire country is turned into a cheesy version of The Strip. The ‘Old China’ that passed the test of centuries is swept away as rapidly and completely as possible. It is replaced with forests of vacant, brutalist 60 story concrete towers, freeways, rail networks, shipping terminals, shopping centers, airports and the rest of Sprawl-America automobile detritus. All of this rests uneasily alongside gigantic, Earth-destroying/polluting industrial complexes … collateral needed to propel the whole mess forward.

The China narrative has been offered as the improbable Horatio Alger communist-rags to riches story: gritty (fanatically xenophobic) workers compete with the rest of the world to make its shoes, pants, salad shooters, lawn furniture, oil tankers, catalytic crackers, CNC machines, automobiles, nuclear reactors, poison dog food and other consumer ‘durables’. According to the narrative, Chinese are ambitious, hard-working, enduring, risk-taking hyper-capitalists. The Chinese planned economy is well-managed. The Chinese don’t make foolish policy errors as do Americans or Europeans, they aren’t lily-livered softies, they crush anyone and anything who stands in the way of progress. They do whatever is necessary to become rich as fast as possible.

This is the establishment’s narrative, one of non-stop ‘sustainable growth’ … Despite hiccups, growth is assured to begin … tomorrow!

Tomorrow: if you have to ask how much it costs you cannot afford it, (BBC):


China city party chief ‘fled with money’

A Chinese report says billions of dollars have been stolen by corrupt officials in recent years

A former top official of a city in northeast China has fled the country – reportedly with millions of dollars, Chinese reports say.

Wang Guoqiang, who was party secretary of Fengcheng city in Liaoning province, left for the United States in April with his wife, the People’s Daily said.

Local officials said Mr Wang, who was being investigated for corruption, had been removed from his post, it said.

Several reports cited 200m yuan ($31.5m; £20m) as the amount taken.

The local officials did not elaborate on allegations that he had embezzled and transferred the funds to the US, where his family is believed to be.

A report released by China’s central bank last year said more than $120bn (£74bn) had been stolen by corrupt officials who fled overseas, mainly to the US.

Between 16,000 and 18,000 officials and employees of state-owned companies left China with the funds from the mid-1990s up until 2008, the report said.


Officials and other prominents taking wads of cash and going to another country is irreversible. Rather than happy multitudes goose-stepping toward prosperity and their very own high-rise apartments, the rats are fleeing from the sinking Chinese ship as fast they can.

Bruce Krasting asks:


If the Treasurer for the city of Las Vegas (Pop. 580,000) stole $30Mn of tax payer money and fled to Canada or Australia, the US FBI would have the Aussies and Canucks hunt them down and have them extradited back home. Why aren’t the Chinese doing the same thing? 

The authorities enacted a ban immediately to report on the case, and blocked Wang’s name in search engines. However, in blogs, the news spread faster than censors could delete it.


What matters is the sanctity of the narrative, who cares about the money? Under everyone’s noses, China is morphing from a capitalist paragon into (another) nose-diving coyote.

It’s not just the thievery and corruption, it is the business ‘slowdown’. Steel makers, ship builders, property developers, banks and finance guarantee companies and manufacturers are corpses floating down the river. It really is different this time: none of these enterprises are ‘coming back’.

China + modernity = business collapse is not the dynamic the bosses had in mind when the made the jump to the America Way. As such, the Chinese arrived at the party just as the last line of cocaine was being snorted: the US narrative has fallen apart, so has the hyper-snobbish stiff-little-finger bourgeois narratives of Americanized Europe and Japan. Perhaps the Chinese should have examined the old whore’s fake boobs and pustulent genitalia more carefully before deciding to jump in bed with her.



Join Up!

James Howard Kunstler

Meet the new third party in national politics: Reality.

Reality is the only party with an agenda consistent with what is actually happening in the world.


Heh heh … reality IS what’s happening in the world.


Reality doesn’t need to drum up dollar donations from anyone. Reality doesn’t have to pander to any interest group or subscribe to any inane belief system. Reality doesn’t even need your vote. Reality will be the winner of the 2012 election no matter what the ballot returns appear to say about the bids of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to lead the executive branch of the government. In the vicious vacuum that national party politics has become, the Republicans and Democrats are already dead. They choked to death on the toxic fumes of their own excreta. They are empty, hollow institutions animated only by the parasites that feed on and squirm over the residue of decomposing tissue within the dissolving membranes of their legitimacy. Think of the fabled Koch brothers as botfly larvae and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association PAC (SIFMA PAC) as a mass of writhing maggots.


The Reality Party is something that can be gotten behind here at Economic Undertow. Where does one go with all this? Managers race out the door with whatever loot than can be stuffed into suitcases. Here is the Euro-style reality, by way of Mark Grant:


The central bank of Spain just released the net capital outflow numbers and they are disastrous. During the month of June alone $70.90 billion left the Spanish banks and in July it was worse at $92.88 billion which is 4.7% of total bank deposits in Spain. For the first seven months of the year the outflow adds up to $368.80 billion or 17.7% of the total bank deposits of Spain and the trajectory of the outflow is increasing dramatically. Reality is reality and Spain is experiencing a full-fledged run on its banks whether anyone in Europe wants to admit it or not.


Just like China only more so …


Between December of 2011 and the end of March 2012 the Spanish banks bought $109 billion of the Spanish sovereign debt. Much of this was facilitated by the ECB who lowered and lowered again the collateral rules and handed the money to the Spanish banks in such a size that bad things, very bad things will result if Spain hits the wall and defaults. Then since March, as forced by their own inadequate capital positions, the trend has reversed and the Spanish banks have sold $21.3 billion of Spanish sovereign debt with $11.7 billion in July alone as capital flees from the Spanish banks and the actuality of the balance sheets overcomes the “dynamic provisioning” that helped to cause the fantasy. The friendly “suggestions” by national governments in Europe are also getting a push back from European buyers. BNP recently imposed a $12.5 billion debt limit by country and many other banks in Europe are following suit. BNP has reduced their sovereign debt holdings by 35% since June 2011. In July, the aggregate of sovereign debt reduction for all of the French banks was $8.7 billion as they took advantage of the ECB speculation to lower their holdings.


When the central bank is insolvent because it makes leveraged/unsecured loans or appears to do so — there is no lender of last resort. No lender of last resort and there is no guarantor for deposits. If all institutions are insolvent the currency which represents these things is worthless.

Capital flow is from bank account => account at another bank => account in another country => account in another currency => out of currency into durable good/asset. Unsurprisingly, the gold price is increasing during a period of credit deflation.



Figure 1: Keep in mind there are also bank runs out of Greece, Italy, Portugal and Ireland. funds flow from Europe into Switzerland, the flow itself jeopardizes the viability of the Swiss franc as it becomes a proxy for the increasingly worthless euro … the reason to prop up the euro at some stable rate of exchange is to facilitate removing funds from one country to another.


Spanish Bank Runs and Struggling Deutsche Bank:

There is a fully fledge bank run ongoing in Spain that is not being adequately reported in the mainstream news media. In June $70 billion dollars left their system. In July it was $92 billion which is 4.7% of total banking deposits. This means that from January to July of this year $368 billion or 17.7% of total banking deposits has fled Spanish institutions. Previously this money was heading for Switzerland and Germany but with the truth filtering out concerning the weakness of German and Swiss banks alternative destinations are now being chosen. The emerging weakness of Deutsche Bank is a particular worry for the ECB and the situation is being exacerbated by a sharply contracting German economy. As reported in Spiegel today:

“Euro Crisis Starts to Bite. German Export Orders Fell Sharply in August.

Exports are a major pillar of the German economy, but now the sector is starting to feel the impact of the euro crisis and the global economic slowdown. German export orders fell in August by the highest rate in more than three years, the Markit financial information company announced Monday after conducting a survey of 500 industrial firms.

“Survey respondents commented on a general slowdown in global demand and particular weakness in new business inflows from Southern Europe,” the institute said. The firms hardest hit by declines are manufacturers of machinery and other investment goods as well as producers of intermediate goods such as chemicals.

In the first half of 2012, German exports had still grown thanks to demand from Japan, the United States and Russia. But it was already evident then that exports to crisis-hit countries were falling sharply, and that trend is now continuing.

Markit economist Tim Moore said the German industrial sector is going through its worst quarter — the three months to the end of September — in more than three years.

“The new orders figures are especially disappointing, with export work dropping at the fastest pace since April 2009 amid an ongoing deterioration in global demand,” he said in a statement.”


ECB Boss Mario Draghi is trapped. He needs to keep propping that euro even as doing so is fatal. Direct bond-buying by the bank will accelerate bank runs and there will be nothing to be done to stop them.

Building/not building more concrete towers in China is fatal. Germany selling/not selling more automobiles in Europe is fatal. Adding more carbon/not adding carbon to the atmosphere is fatal. As for the Americans, the running game has been underway since the crisis began. The smart money is long gone from speculative markets, all that remains is the dumb money milling around waiting for tomorrow to arrive.

Comes that happy day, there are runs out of currencies. The Chinese thieves, the Spanish depositors and the rest are voting with their feet. The game is over and they are taking their balls home. All of them. It’s every man for himself and devil take the hindmost.


Jobz, God and the DNC

Off the Keyboard of William Hunter Duncan

This article first appeared at Off the Grid in Minneapolis.

Discuss this in the Epicurean Delights thread of the diner forum


Last week was my second, in my return to the beast, my return to another behemoth. If there is anyone out there who remembers my early days as a blogger, you might recall that at my last job under the wing of the beast, I spent part of my days on the job, blogging about the job, in a not very flattering way about the job, or the behemoth. That job was like paradise compared to my current employment; there will be no more blogging about the beast on the job. The last behemoth didn’t care much what I did, or even if I was there, as long as what they expected of me got done. This new job, if I am not a computer or a machine, big bank will force me to think and act like one. This behemoth is about breaking the spirit, in as subtle a way as is possible.

It’s the hand of God, don’t you know, that I have ended up here. The hand of God is the reason I am working for less than I make landscaping, less than half I made at that other behemoth, doing something that is entirely outside my primary skill set. I know how to take a house off the grid; I know how to grow large amounts of food; I write prolifically and well; I am good at managing people. But God apparently has said, you will stare at a computer all day and organize digital mortgage documents because my favored children made loans to people to buy houses they couldn’t afford, while imploding the global economy with those mortgages – therefore you, as my not-favored child, because you have not preyed upon your fellow humans, because you have not been greedy and have not twisted yourself in knots justifying your exploitation, shall wither as an automaton!

My one “abuse” of the clock is to read the banking “news” as proferred by big bank on it’s website. The newz can be summed up as, regulations are bad, the mysterious market heals all wounds, and shouldn’t you be happy to have a job, even if you are making half to a third of what you were making before the collapse, (even if the cost of everything important has risen or remained equal, not least of all your mortgage, assuming you still have one.) The latest scheme is to bundle big blocks of those foreclosed homes and sell them to speculators, who will rent them, or have the option to sell. Said speculator getting a far sweeter deal than Joe and Jill Schmo would. Because don’t you know you don’t have the incentive to work your ass off and justify warmongering and global exploitation, if you aren’t compelled to by a fat mortgage? I’m sure the speculators will take excellent care of the houses and the renters, at a price the market can bear (read, work your ass off and keep your mouth shut about the way God runs things.)

Meanwhile, this week like the week prior with the RNC, I stayed up past my bedtime to listen to the Democratic National Convention. I turned to NPR Tuesday evening, to catch the tail end of John Kerry pimping for war in Syria, Bill Burton of Priorities Superpac, quoting Donald Rumsfeld and analogizing Pearl Harbor, and that warmonger EJ Dionne gushing about how unlike any previous Dem convention, everybody in the mob was in sync. If you listened or watched at all you know the Dems are plenty capable of mindlessly chanting USA. For awhile listening to Michelle Obama, I remember thinking I’d prefer her as president, until I remembered that she is a lawyer too. An ace for Barack though, for sure.

Bill Clinton is an Ace too. Too bad he forgot to mention, it was during his presidency that the financial markets were deregulated. He did mention that regulations are important, and the Republicans want to go back to the way it was before the crash. Hmm…That was about the time I began to reflect on the fact, that to the extent Americans are paying attention, policy does not matter anywhere near as much as rhetoric. The Dems in their convention did an excellent job, IMHO, of telling a story that is in contrast to the Republican story (the Repubs did a horseshit job of telling theirs, which is a hard sell admittedly, it’s so goddamned mean.) The trouble is, it’s only a story, and if you don’t give a damn about the story and you actually pay attention to the policies, at the core there isn’t any fundamental difference between the parties. It’s really all about big corporate, big banks and global war.

Biden was up next, Thursday prior to Obambam. Grandpa Joe, the abider. Now, I listened to the DNC, I didn’t watch it on tee-vee. And I can tell you, without the visuals, the voice-over in the video introduction to Biden’s speech, was just plain creepy. But not as creepy as Grandpa Joe. What sort of American VP, the author of anti violence-against-women legislation no less, refers to his wife, the mother of his children, the matriarch to his grandchildren, as Kiddo, on the stage at the DNC? But that is not necessarily as creepy as a sitting American VP who goes to Jerusalem and says publicly, “It’s good to be home.” Or his professed loyalty to a president with a spine like a “ram rod.” On the whole, a speech that can be summed up as warmongering, “BOOM BOOM BOOM,” and support for carz, because don’t you know, it was the makers of carz that “put America on the map.” “No intention to downsize the American Dream,” clearly. His choked up pity party for the “fallen angels” was pure political fakery. No ace there, though his speech was far more impressive rhetoric than Romney’s, the standard bearer.

Obama is an Ace, too. A testament to his celebrity, that the much less obtrusive voice-over in his video was no less than George Clooney. Though what does it say about a sitting American president, who takes the stage to accept his party’s nomination for a second term, to the soothing sounds of Coldplay? I can imagine that was an oblique reference to O’s ice cold handling of the Bin Laden affair (and by extension, though never mentioned of course, his kill list, or his lawyerly dismantling of the Constitution.) But Coldplay are Englishmen.

“Hope has been tested,” he said. Indeed, he sounded like a practiced actor, until he got to the point about how much land he had and would open up to gas, oil and “clean coal” extraction. Though hey, he talked about renewables, and he even mentioned global warming! But then he repeated the well refuted lie about 100 years of natural gas, with emphasis. Nevertheless, the crowd was fired up! even chanting USA with intensity when he got to talkin about Osama. Though there was an ever so subtle pause in the fervor, when he talked about maintaining the strongest military the world has ever known – not long after which he reiterated America’s loyalty to Israel, and rebuked Iran. “God bless the Democratic Party.”

First of all, I’m wondering, when did the numbers 2016 and 2024, in reference to the insolvency of Medicare, become part of the lexicon? I consider myself a fairly astute observer of the newz, and I have never heard these numbers before. They were up front and center, at the DNC. And since when has this President embraced the Simpson/Bowles commission, and their deficit reduction scheme? Not at all in the first four years – he walked away from it! But now it’s what he’s been fighting for all along? I listen to these men, and I can’t help but think, this is only theatre. There is some agenda that transcends America. There is some plan that supercedes the American dream, and these men are commissioned to tell us what we want to hear, when it comes time to make a good face of it, so we continue to think we are voting for people who have ours or America’s best interest in mind.

I said last week the Dems have no soul. That would be a generalized reference to the party that has not abandoned “science”, or scientific materialism. Which is to say, the party that believes literally that we have no soul, notwithstanding what anyone in the party thinks for themselves. Though “God” was referenced in abundance at the convention, if not in the platform. As if God were any measure of the behavior of, say, the Republicans? As if proclamations about God are not mostly about justifying whatever corrupt, vicious, inhuman behavior one wishes to justify? Warmongering, for instance. Or making the poor poorer. Or treating people like automatons.

The Dems have no soul because they are as captive as any American, to the narrative of progress and growth, which is inextricably leading them to support military action in the Middle East, again. Only this time, for all the marbles. Except such a war is going to crack, nay, shatter all the marbles, destroying modernism as we know it, potentially even reducing global population by the billion, leading to an attempt at total government lock down here in America and eventually total chaos.

But wtf am I barking about? I took this job because I made a commitment to this community, and I stayed up late analyzing the message of the supposedly separate political parties, out of a sense of duty. And what has that got me? Sick. A chest infection, exactly like the one I had when I left the beast four years ago, a sickness which I haven’t had anything like, these last four years.

The Great Race at the Finish Line

Off the keyboard of RE


Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner


A fairly popular perspective around the Collapse Blogosphere is that the overall collapsing economy will result in just the Uber Rich still driving around in Carz, while J6P makes it to work and the grocery store on foot, bicycles and trains.  Is it really possible though to maintain a network of roads and bridges suitable for Carz when only the Uber Rich can afford both the hardware of the Car and the Konsumable of Gas to run it?

Gottlieb Daimler's First Car

Back at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution when Carz were invented, they were a Toy for the very rich. They drove no faster than the typical Horse driven Carriage on the same roads designed for those vehicles. Maybe 15-20mph tops there. Yes horses CAN run faster than that, but if you are inside the stage coach and the horses are at full gallop yanking the coach behind on a dirt road, you likely hit your head on the ceiling innumerable times and come out seriously Brain Damaged.

Our Industrialist Ubermeisters though were enamored of this new technology, and wanted to build ever faster and more powerful Carz they could zip around in, just as they had built Private Railroad Cars to tack onto the back of trains carrying the Hoi Polloi.

Thes new toys were GREAT, and the Uber Rich started Racing them around tracks, and even organized up Races across countries in the new fangled Horseless Carriages. A Spoof of this called “The Great Race” with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon produced by Hollywood back in the 60s showed the vast number of PROBLEMS these guys had racing their carz “Around the World”

Of course, being stuck on a melting Iceberg isn’t a REAL problem early drivers dealt with, but rutted and muddy dirt roads were, along with many roads regularly washed out in the Springtime which a Horse could easily negotiate by wading through but a Car could not. 3 feet of standing water anywhere and you submerge the exhaust, water gets into the engine, DEAD IN THE WATER.

Who dealt with this problem in all its magnificent glory the most? A Young Lieutenent in the FSofA Big Ass Military, Lt. Dwight D. Eisenhower, was assigned the task in 1919 of bringing a Military Convoy across the FSofA on the Road Network of the era:


World War I (1914-1918) was the first large scale military conflict that employed vehicles powered by the relatively new internal combustion engine. Airplanes, trucks, motorcars, and tanks were used on both sides. However, they lacked the reliability, flexibility, and capacity for moving large masses of troops or equipment over long distances on inferior European roads. The vast majority of WWI military transportation on land was done by horses and railroad trains; nevertheless, by the end of the war, most military leaders saw the potential for increased use of motorized troops and equipment in military campaigns of the future.

The end of the war also inspired the leaders of the Good Roads Movement to resume their public relations (PR) campaign to convince the public to demand better roads from state and local governments. The PR campaign had been put on hold during the 1917-1918 period while America was engaged in WWI. Early in 1919, Lincoln Highway Association leader Harry Ostermann had persuaded the War Department to conduct a transcontinental motor convoy trip from the East Coast to San Francisco on the marked route of the Lincoln Highway.

The purpose of the convoy was two fold: 1) it was to be a training exercise and 2) a test of the feasibility of the long distance movement of military men and supplies by auto and truck.

From the Good Roads Movement’s viewpoint, the convoy was meant to produce positive PR by demonstrating that long distance motor travel was possible. It was also meant to heighten awareness of existing poor roads that comprised much of the Lincoln Highway and other roads in the Unites States. Return to Top


Amid much hoopla, speeches and fanfare, a 76-vehicle combined “public-private” convoy, including 56 military vehicles, 209 officers and enlisted men, and dozens of private citizens took off from the White House on July 7, 1919. (LH/MAIN STREET, p. 83).

Later that evening, the convoy was joined by two, last minute volunteer Army officers. They were Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower and Major Sereno Brett, who were to serve as observers for the Army Tank Corps. PHOTO: Major Sereno Brett, Harvey Firestone, Jr., and Lt. Colonel Dwight Eisenhower at 1919 Army Convoy stopover at the Firestone Homestead, Columbania, Ohio, July 13, 1919. Eisenhower Library Audiovisual Department, photo 70-520-3.

The convoy was to operate as if the country was at war and that an Asiatic enemy had destroyed railroad lines, bridges, and tunnels. They were also to act as if they would be traveling through enemy territory and thus, had to be self-contained and self-sustaining over the 3,250-mile route. Maintaining the illusion of being at war or being truly self-sustaining proved to be very difficult, as was the trip itself.

Among some of the military personnel, there was even doubt whether or not the convoy could actually make it across the continent. The vehicles were untested over long distances. Many sections of the Lincoln Highway were unimproved dirt roads. Finally, few military personnel; especially enlisted men, had much experience with motor vehicle driving or maintenance. Eisenhower later wrote that the trek was a genuine adventure. “We were not sure it could be accomplished at all. Nothing of the sort had ever been attempted.”

At first, in the East from Washington through Indiana, the roads were generally good but mechanical problems with the various vehicles and logistical problems slowed the convoy’s progress. Military discipline among the men also was “conspicuous by its absence,” according to one observer. About the familiarity of the men with operating trucks, Eisenhower wrote:

All drivers had claimed lengthy experience in driving trucks; some of them, it turned out, had never handled anything more advanced than a Model T. Most colored the air with expression in starting and stopping that indicated a longer association with teams of horses than with internal combustion engines. (EISENHOWER REPORT)

As the convoy (also referred to as the “train” by some) headed into Illinois and the West, road conditions along the Lincoln Highway presented serious challenges that often delayed and sometimes halted the convoy. The Highway ran on dirt roads through most of Illinois, but the weather was dry, so it was possible to cross the state in a few days. Of the roads between Illinois and California, Eisenhower, in his post-trip report wrote:

The dirt roads of Iowa are well graded and are good in dry weather; but would be impossible in wet weather. In Nebraska, the first real sand was encountered, and two days were lost in western part of this state due to bad, sandy roads. Wyoming roads west of Cheyenne are poor dirt ones, with weak culverts and bridges. In one day, 14 of these were counted, broken through by the train. The desert roads in the southwest portion of this state are very poor. In western Utah, on the Salt Lake Desert, the road becomes almost impossible to heavy vehicles. From Orr’s Ranch, Utah, to Carson City, Nevada, road is one succession of dust, ruts, pits and holes. This stretch was not improved in any way, and consisted only of a track across the desert. At many points on the road water is twenty miles distant, and parts of the road are ninety miles from the nearest railroad. (EISENHOWER REPORT)

In fact, one of the biggest problems was the poor state of the bridges along the Lincoln Highway. PHOTO: Army Truck testing the holding power of one of many small bridges crossed during the Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy, 1919. Eisenhower Library Audiovisual Department, photo 81-17-25.

Advance notice of the convoy spread and its arrival in towns along the Lincoln Highway were occasions for celebrations and plenty of speeches imploring listeners to demand more public funding for “Good Roads.” The convoy passed through 350 communities, and it was estimated that more than 3,000,000 people witnessed it along the route. Millions more followed the trek in newspapers and early motion picture “newsreels.” PHOTO: 1919 Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy on Review, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1919. Eisenhower Library Audiovisual Department, photo 81-17-55.

The convoy did make it. Battered, but unbowed, the caravan arrived at the gates of Lincoln Park in San Francisco. However, it had taken until September 6, 1919 for it to reach its destination, a grueling sixty-two (62) days!

In November 1919, Lieutenant Colonel Eisenhower wrote a seven-page report relaying the observations he made during the Army Convoy to the Chief of the Army’s Motor Transport Corps (M.T.C.). He summarized the results as follows:

The truck train was well received at all points along the route. It seemed that there was a great deal of sentiment for the improving of highways, and, from the standpoint of promoting this sentiment, the trip was an undoubted success. As stated before in this paper, it is believed that the M. T. C. should pay more attention to disciplinary drills for officers and men, and that all should be intelligent, snappy soldiers before giving them the responsibility of operating trucks. Extended trips by trucks through the middle western part of the United States are impracticable until roads are improved, and then only a light truck should be used on long hauls. Through the eastern part of the United States, the truck can be efficiently used in the Military Service, especially in problems involving a haul of approximately 100 miles, which could be negotiated by light trucks in one day. (EISENHOWER REPORT.)

Return to Top


The 1919 Army Transcontinental Army Convoy crossed into Illinois on the afternoon of Saturday, July 19, 1919. It stopped the next day for a Sunday rest period in Chicago Heights. The trip was resumed on Monday July 21, 1919, and the convoy camped over that night in DeKalb. On Tuesday July 22, 1919, the convoy left DeKalb and crossed over the Mississippi River Bridge at Fulton, Illinois and entered into Iowa that evening.

During the two full days it spent on the road in Illinois, the convoy covered about 172 miles in a little over 21 hours on the road. It was fairly lucky with the weather and thus the roads, but as the following account from the convoy’s daily log reveals, it had its share of problems with the vehicles, drivers, and equipment in its journey across the Land of Lincoln.

(Read the official Army account of the convoy’s journey thru Illinois).

So here in fact is the real MOTIVATION for developing a Road Network around the FSofA that could support Motorized Transport.  It was necessary to make it possible to move the new fangled War machines of Tanks and APCs around the country quickly, so as to “Protect” it from a Hypothetical Invasion of Asiatic Forces.  Problem of course was the road system did not ALLOW for that,   It took 62 DAYS for the convoy to cross the country, as compared to the 3 days or so it would take me driving my Big Rig SOLO across the country a decade or so ago.  Team driving, you can do it in under 2 days.  To traverse 172 miles in Illinois it took 21 HOURS, an average speed of a bit over 8 MPH, which Horseback Cavalry would CREAM and even Infantry can probably keep up with pretty well.

So now you have not one but TWO motivations for why we “needed” a road system for these vehicles.  First for the Wealthy Great Leslie’s and Dr. Fate’s to be able to zip quickly Around the Country and NOT get stuck in Mudholes; and  Second so these same folks could move around Big Ass Military equipment basically to be able to steal from whomsoever they wanted whenever they wanted. “Build us a Road into your Town so we can Roll our Hardware down Main Street and run the show for you here!”  LOL.

How do you SUCKER people into paying for something they don’t need at all, because they do NOT have Carz to zip around in?  Answer: You build “Affordable Carz” for EVERYONE, and convince EVERYONE they need one!  So you Fund Hank Ford as many times as necessary until he comes up with a cheap enough car and promote to everyone with Advertising why they really NEED such a vehicle.

Which after a while they actually DO need, because the farmers who have a Tractor are out-producing the farmers still running Horse Drawn Plows, and new Trucks are moving goods around cheaper and faster than any Teamster driving a Horse Drawn Carriage can keep up with.

In 1919, less than 100 years ago, it really was close to impossible for Carz to move around the country, all they really could do was drive around at just about the same speed as the Horse Drawn Carriages, Stagecoaches and Wagons.  In the intervening time, a MASSIVE expenditure of capital was undertaken to build a road network in the FSofA to support that, and the way it was built was to distribute out the debt and the cost over EVERYONE in society who had a Car.  Unless everyone DOES have a car and Drives it willy-nilly around though, not only can you not afford to build MORE roads, you can’t afford to Maintain the ones already built!

The Electric Grid is not a whole lot different than this.  Electricity when Edison first put up his DC system was only available to a VERY few people, and was clearly not economicaly viable.  However, those who did have access to it wanted MORE of it!  They didn’t want just their house ILLUMINATED, they wanted the Restaurants they frequented Illuminated ALSO.  They wanted the Streets around their Upper East Side Apartments Illuminated also.  Of course though, they themselves could not AFFORD to pay for the Streetlights, so they gotta CONVINCE J6P HE really needs Streetlights so he will pay for it with his TAXES.

Only by getting DA GOOBERMINT involved here and taking on Debt in the name of the People to build these grids did they get built.  Same story all over the world really, Goobermints taking on fabulous amounts of Debt in the name of the people so they too could have an Electric Grid and a Road system, both of which you MUST have if you are to attract Capital to your country to build Factories utilizing still MORE fossil fuel energy and become a PLAYER in this great game of Industrialization.

One by one the Dominoes fell over the intervening years as really every Elite in every country Aspired to run with the Big Boys.  If you are in charge of China, you don’t want to be running a country of Ag workers in Rice Paddies, you wanna be big time Producer of Goods to sell to everybody else and as a member of the Han Chinese Elite, begin to live the same kind of Super Lifestyle of your Western Counterpart Elites.  The Big Yachts, the Private Jets, all that nonsense.  You do NOT earn enough FOREX running Rice Paddies to become a Master of the Universe, you are just a pipsqueak Feudal Lord until you jump on the bandwagon of Debt and Industrialization.

Anybody who believes the Chinese are SOLVENT with their late entry into the Industrialization Game is seriously DELUDED.  In order to become the Mercantilist Power they are, the Chinese took on a shit load of debt  Nobody built those factories for free, and nobody built the Chinese Electric grid for free either, anymore than it wa built for free here in the FSofA.  The Debt the Chinese have is hidden in innumerable ways, they run all sorts of Public/Private “Partnerships” between the Politburo and Capitalista Pigmen.  Da Chinese Goobermint promises to Tax the Living Shit out of Chinese Peasants, and in return Capitalistas fork over megabucks for Elite Han Chinese to build Factories staffed by Slave Wage Chinese Peasants.

The continuity/discontinuity problem is partially one of BELIEF, in that does anyone actually BELIEVE the massive debt that the FSofA owes to the Chinese will or can ever be paid off?  Even more that does anyone BELIEVE the the Massive Debt the Chinese undertook to Illuminati Bankster “investors” have can ever be paid off when energy costs go stratospheric in real terms, and Konsumers of Chinese Goods no longer have MONEY to buy those goods?

It remains a bit unclear as to who goes DOWN here first, the heavy Debtors or the heavy Creditors, they are both inextricably linked and really the Creditors themselves are in fact debtors also.  The chinese Economy is EXTREMELY fragile, despite what the MSM makes it out to be and how the China Bulls spin it.  The Chinese have Bubbles in every sector of their economy all just WAITING to POP here!  Real Estate, Regional Debt, insolvent Banks, the WORKS.  They are no different in this respect than the PIIGS.

Given all of this fairly obvious stuff, does it seem likely that the Chinese can continue to “Grow” at anywhere NEAR the growth rate they have show on paper here for the last Score of Years?  Seems highly unlikely to ME, and I haven’t even touched on their ecological problems and the drought situation they face.

Where I began this article was with the QUESTION of whether it is possible to maintain a Boutique Economy of Carz for the Wealthy while the rest of the population Walks or rides Bikes. How is it really possible to maintain all the infrastructure necessary for Happy Motoring with only the Uber-Rich Driving Carz? No, it is not possible.  China is important in this question, because if there is anywhere in the world where “Investors” think Growth is Possible, it is China.  Point is here, China has no more hope of Growing than Spain or Italy does, they are equally Fucked here. In fact due to their extreme Overshoot problems and extreme Environmental problems, the Chinese are in fact in WORSE shape than the PIIGS are.

Given that it is so unlikely the Chinese will be able to pursue a Boutique Carz Economy very long, why would anyone believe it could be pursued anywhere else either?  Carz are not going to disappear here overnight, and the roads won’t get SOOOO bad you can’t drive on them for a few years, but inexorably the system will decay, until at last there are no more Carz driving around at all, though many may become Homes of the Future.  In their Final Resting Place when the Gas Runs Out, until they Rust Away to Nothingness, these Carz already are providing Shelter for the Homeless.


The Great Race Run on the Thermodynamic Energy of Fossil Fuels has reached its Final Stage.  As the Saudi Phrase goes:

My father drove a Camel.  I drive a Car.  My Son flies a Jet.  His son will drive a Camel.


Labor Day Off the Grid in Minneapolis

Off the Keyboard of William Hunter Duncan

Published originally on Off the Grid in Minneapolis on September 3rd, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Please excuse my anger last post, with that tirade at my fellow Gen Xer.  Prior to that, I had been gathering Frontenac grapes at my sister’s house, for my third attempt at fermenting wine. It went well, but for the city having butchered the grape vines. They sent a letter to my sister apparently, a demand to remove the “sidewalk obstruction”; but the letter never arrived, forwarded instead to the address of a friend (who is on the mortgage but no longer lives there [not me]). The city workers or contractors could have removed the soil and weeds that have encroached twelve inches onto the sidewalk from the boulevard side, but instead they took a gas trimmer and hacked off every vine on the the side walk-side of the 100ft length of my sister’s south fence, leaving a ragged mess of shredded vines, absconding with approx 100 lbs of grapes, a week before harvest. That’s about 30 bottles of wine equivalent @ $10/ bottle, plus the $250-$350 my sister will be charged for the “work” done, or $550-$650 for grape vines hanging over a portion of a sidewalk. That’s like twice the theft  – which contributed to my anger at Payl Ruan (which I will continue to call him until such time as he proves that he will not help initiate WWIII.)
Ok, I’m still a little angry.
Plus, I was contemplating a new job, working as a temp for a big bank helping to foreclose on houses, if you can believe that. I wasn’t sure what to expect. How could it possibly be, that of all the jobs I have applied for, the one entity willing to hire me, for on-going employment, is a big bank? What sort of command and control oppression could I expect to butt heads with? Besides, the past four years. my attitude has been, I don’t make appointments before 10am. I’m up and awake at 5am now, to catch a bus, to get there by seven, to work for less than I make pushing dirt around landscaping with my friend Organic Bob, less than half I was making for The Behemoth at their world headquarters, just before the collapse of 2008.
My first impression was of a cattle yard, for documents. I wasn’t quite prepared for global bank document carts, 18in wide by 4ft tall by 4ft long, on six inch wheels, all carts being made of plywood, many of which are unpainted, of which there are many, painted and not. Nor was I prepared for a socialist bureaucrat’s utopia, the most ethnically and race diverse workplace I have ever encountered, where none of the thousand (at least) people looks particularly happy, but no one looks necessarily pissed off at the world, either.
I’ve spent the last week training as an auditor, to assure the documents are in order, before they are shipped back to the “investors”, Fanny and Freddie. Wading through the wreckage of the housing debacle, in other words, is what I have been doing. I wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume either, of the $275-400,000 houses and second homes, which account for about 75-80% of the loans I’ve audited. That’s not saying there aren’t people still in the houses I am foreclosing on, but most every loan I have audited thus far, has suggested outright fraud on the part of bankers and buyers, and over-reaching on the part of buyers, or intoxication, or outright obliviousness.
It’s a curious thing. The Fed made credit cheap, the government encouraged home ownership (BUSH’s “Ownership Society,”) while agreeing to back-up at least half the mortgages (HUD, FHA, Fannie, Freddie), and then they, Fannie and Freddie, contract-hire big bank to clear the mortgages big bank signed for the fees, to tens of millions of greedy, intoxicated and outright oblivious “borrowers” (not “buyers”.)

Nor was I expecting the very warm and genuinely concerned reception, from the training staff, who made the experience a great deal more enjoyable than it might have been. Everyone I have encountered has seemed, if not particularly joyous, astute, on task, and engaged in whatever they are doing. Doing the best with what they have, basically. The command/control is more ingrained in the structure of the system, less overt. More, I sense a people coping as best they can with command/control directives trickling down from above, which are what they are and are tolerable at least. If it was an overt command/control environment, people yelling and domineering, the work would be intolerable. As is, the work lends well to letting go into the task, to get one’s small part in the greater whole done, on time, and done well, depending on how much one wants to hold onto the job, or move into something more enjoyable/less exhausting than whatever one is doing now. We all show at least some mastery over technology, and/or ourselves; we even have a certain contempt for the technology. It’s not as fast as we are; it lags. Big Bank loses more money cumulatively, by far, from slow-ass technology that makes us sit and wait to get done what we are ready and want to get done, than Big Bank would lose if they just trusted us to do the work we are contracted and hired to do, and worried less about tracking us minute by minute.
Head trainer offered us copious amounts of cheap candy to keep us awake, and to lighten the mood, and to make the onslaught of information more palatable, during the training. I let go of my general prohibition on High Fructose Corn Syrup and gorged, while I consumed an extraordinary (for me) amount of coffee, to cope with the massive amount of technical information, and the early morning shift, which has been less a challenge than sitting in a room all day every day with a dozen other of the same humans. I brought veggies from the garden on Friday, a kind of cornucopia, which was well received. I’m optimistic about my immediate future at big bank, notwithstanding how I feel about modern economics generally.
Meanwhile I was listening to the Republican National Convention, on the radio. From about 8pm-close, approx, all three nights. About as much as I could stand. Which makes me a patriot, comparative to the majority of my fellow Americans. Of Ann ro-Money I can only say, I cannot listen to a word that flows from your mouth without juxtaposing, that you brought your horse to the London Olympics. I listened to Payl Ruan’s speech (I wonder what AC/DC and Led Zepplin have to say about being appropriated into the Republican war machine?) I hear many people (in the media) talking about the speech by Mill ro-Money, without saying anything (I found the incessant breathlessness of the final syllable of just about every phrase to be nauseating.) The only speech that really mattered, came from Condoleezza Rice. The elder stateswoman, the Republican Party rock star, speaking directly to the narrative, that the path forward is war in Syria and Iran, and conflict with Russia and China.
(Of particular interest, the narrative encapsulated, 1:35-3:40)

Mill confirmed it, with his attempt to initiate another cold war with Putin, so Mill could show some “backbone”, giving Putin exactly what Putin needs to regain power, to incite the Russian people against the West. Apparently the terrorism bit is wearing thin, so it’s time to ratchet down on some old rivalries.

Where is the media on this? No less than EJ Dionne of the Washington Post, claimed on NPR that neither Condelezza nor ro-Money even spoke about foreign policy! What sort of fukitol pharmaceuticals is everybody on, that almost no one seems able to ascertain the meaning of anything anymore? Or maybe EJ’s admiration of Condolezza Rice is a sign that he’s just a warmonger too?
That speech by Condolezza Rice was crafted in the very bowels of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). There is no economic policy, there is only war. Which is exactly what ro-Money, or Obama, will initiate.
The American people are being asked to dispense with their medicare, social security and safety net, to finance tax cuts for the wealthy so the wealthy can wage and profit from global war. ro-Money claims the potential to create 12 million jobs, in four years. I think he will, in an effort to prosecute the war, and expand the surveillance state; while another 15-20 million jobs are lost, in the debauchery – or the racket – of war, and the reality of declining resources.
The creepiest moment of the convention, by far*, was the mob. When ro-Money mocked O for his claim to want to prevent the rising of the seas, the crowd cackled, maniacally. When ro-Money accused O of wanting to heal the earth, the mob cackled deeper. Followed closely by, after a lie about America and dictators, the most intense chant of U. S. A. of the convention. And then the call to war against Putin. The rest of the world must shiver. I certainly did.
(A particularly enlightening sequence, 31:30-34:30)

There will be NO healing of the earth in a ro-Money presidency. There will only be chants to prevent the rising of the sea. Chants to incite global Armageddon.
Even the Outlaw Josey Wales called it out, that we might want to remember the ten years lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a faux conversation with Obama.
(4:45-5:18. Sorry I’m not skilled enough yet to generate the clip.)

In what otherwise might have been construed as a speech whoring for warmongers. Josey, of course, has nothing on Condoleezza. “Aunt Tomasina” is too kind.
But such an extreme statement is meant to elucidate the severity of the situation. Global war is being crafted. Troops and supporters are being incited.
Know, that such a path can only end in ruin. Which we seem to be walking into as greedily and obliviously as we did the housing debacle. And in the aftermath people will ask how did that happen?
I’m not going to participate this time, like I did buying this house at the peak of the boom. Hopefully though, me and my fruit trees and gardens will still be around when it’s time to clean up the wreckage of global war mongering. I really hope Americans are not that dumb.
Though at least the Republicans have a soul, as twisted as it is. They can talk about love without visibly flinching. Dems are comparatively soulless. More on that and the new job, this week.
*Though I seem to recall something from a video montage preceding Mill ro-Money’s speech, of which I have not been able to find corroborating video, Mill uttering the words, about Ann, “Oh baby,”…

High Energy Love; The Shortcut To Entropy Hell

Off the Keyboard of A.G. Gelbert

Discuss this article inside the Diner

This article is about scientific bullshit and how it is used to distort our view of sustainable energy transfer mechanisms in the biosphere by wrongly relegating them to a position of lesser importance than the vaunted rapid oxidation of hydrocarbons.

Humans are, the last time I checked, living organisms governed by biochemical reactions involving complex energy transfer mechanisms. Life, like the machines man has invented, requires energy in order to function. Life, as opposed to an ICE (internal combustion engine) or a nuclear reactor, operates in a Goldilocks energy transfer zone; too little and death results; too much and death results. Homeostasis is the name commonly given to this phenomenon.

Some creatures with less sophisticated energy transfer biochemistry, like reptiles, need to position themselves in or out off a photon shower to assist their energy transfer biochemistry but, regardless of the method, rapid oxidation is never used to preserve, prolong and protect life. There are some beetles out there than can perform rapid oxidation (small explosions) to defend themselves or propel themselves a short distance but that is rare and is not favored by evolution for reasons I will get into later.

Electricity used by eels is not rapid oxidation so no one can point to that as a high energy use process in nature. However, the process by which an electric eel can generate 500 watts to kill prey is an excellent example of what 19th century scientists missed in their zeal to measure energy transfer. More on that later.

Neurotoxins and various other life terminating, as well as protein denaturing (digestive enzymes), chemicals in nature are prevalent because they are a defense and a tool for capturing and digesting prey. For some reason, evolution didn’t design humans with brick fireplaces or nuclear reactors in our stomachs to achieve energy transfer (i.e. digestion) through rapid and explosive oxidation or fission. Why not? Because nature is geared toward the most efficient method of energy transfer to preserve, prolong and protect life WITHOUT destroying the environment that provides a supply of more energy (prey). This is important. This is math. This is nature’s Homeostatic logic at the biosphere level. This is the Goldilocks energy transfer mechanism that the scientific priesthood that worships at the enthalpy altar of “more = better” NEVER understood.

Without the sun’s energy, the Earth would be a frozen planet. Any life on it would probably be some version of microscopic extremophiles such as cryophiles (extreme cold loving) and/or endoliths (underground rock dwelling). While the sun’s energy is absolutely essential for most life on this planet, the biosphere can only “handle” an extremely small percentage (.000000045%1) of the sun’s total radiant energy output. The Earth is in a Goldilocks orbit with the moon keeping the winds on earth from being routinely in excess of 200 mph and Jupiter has blocked untold meteors from slamming us. Those are facts. But the “scientific” mind has a fascination with gobs of power like those the sun possesses that could burn us to a cinder with one well aimed burp.

This is where I am convinced the “science” of physical chemistry went off the deep end into masturbatory exercises in calculus jabberwokky to define energy in search of more methods of transferring energy at faster and faster rates, consequences be damned. The bias of physical science towards measurement “admiration” of massive, lifeless energy transfer mechanisms like those in stars and planetary cores on some glorified number line with positive values as “better” while “low” values on the energy number line from natural physical forces like capillary action, evaporation and counterintuitive energy miracles like frozen water occupying more space than liquid water (no miracle, they say, just a random chance – that life would be impossible without) are given little notice as a potential power source. Negative value substances (endothermic) are a curiosity good for this and that industrial process but not worthy of the worship due the ill defined “powerful” energetic processes.

Spiders don’t die from eating something they killed with their venom because eating the venom is harmless outside the bloodstream in the digestive tract. Spiders deposit digestive enzymes that help denature proteins (remember that denaturing a protein requires ENERGY) along with the venom but that’s just fine tuning the energy transfer mechanism. Cats have a pH of aound 1 (VERY high acidity) in their stomachs to aid digestion and kill most disease causing bacteria in the food they eat. Acid is another way that nature facilitates energy transfer.

Scientists say, yeah, sure, anabolism and catabolism in metabolism is important and all that. It’s wonderful that water floats when it freezes and evaporation is nice too. Learning about that helped us design air conditioners!  But hey, those are puny energy transfer mechanisms. We need to power jets, tanks, cars and make bombs and provide electricity to millions of homes, etc.

How in the hell do you expect us get that kind of power from this puny shit you are talking about here? As for the moon, it’s really cool the way the lunar orbit keeps the winds down and provides tides but hey, that’s a given! The energy the moon is using to keep those winds down and promote ocean life through tidal activity is just a big math equation we don’t use much; it’s not centralized enough but, don’t worry, we are looking into some tidal power mechanisms just as soon as we can figure a way to SCALE UP tidal power generation.

I say they are wrong on all counts. I say they have a bias towards death WORSE than the entropic processes that lead to absolute zero on the negative part of their number line that they fear and work to avoid by going in the other extreme. They say energy is energy. Nineteenth century scientists took care of all that with the work on enthalpy. I say the only RIGHT use of energy in a closed system is to be in the ZONE, not reaching for more raw extremes in energy transfer.

So where do we begin? The Homeostatic biosphere energy transfer Goldilocks model doesn’t sound too scientific, now does it?
So lets get down to the brass tacks of energy transfer. The sun shines, a plant grows, something eats it and you eat the plant and/or the animal, transfer energy from the food to your body with the indispensable help of your gut microbes and then YOU provide FOOD for the plants and tiny microbes by depositing your nitrogen rich plant food known to us as urine and feces back onto plants. It’s not race car sexy but it ain’t optional.

Before I get to the neanderthal and primitive pig poison spewing invention known as the ICE, lets talk about how biologists figure out the “efficiency” of a life form in transferring energy (i.e. getting it out of food). They take an identical portion of food being fed to an animal, weigh it and burn it. Hello, enthalpy! They measure the energy of rapid oxidation as best they can. They weigh the droppings in a continual cycle making sure the droppings correspond to the measure of food eaten. They burn the droppings. Hello enthalpy again. Now they get real scientific and anal about all this because carbohydrates, fats and proteins burn differently. Mineral content is studied to see what is no longer there.

The point is that there is an ASSUMPTION made that doesn’t have beans to do with the energy transfer process known as digestion. WE DO NOT BURN OUR FOOD! All that CRAP you and I learned about caloric content is based on physical chemistry leaps of faith (not math) about enthalpy and the “lets burn it and see how much energy it has” boys. Of course this stuff is only partial bullshit in nonliving energy transfer processes so they were quite objective in determining MJ of energy transferred in burning hydrocarbons and many other substances but catalysts messed with their results so they invented a fudge factor called “energy of activation”. More on that later.

What is it that living systems DO if they don’t BURN the food? Something similar to what they do to move muscles; they use catalysts (substances that affect a chemical reaction BUT do not gain or lose energy or are degraded in a chemical reaction) to keep HEAT and pH from getting out of the Goldilocks zone of life. How do they do that with those enzymes (biochemical catalysts)?

The physical scientists with their knowledge of molecules and the different kinds of chemical bonds will tell you that enzymes DO NOT rig a chemical reaction so it uses less energy. They say it can’t be done. They say the enzyme just lowers the “energy of activation” so the reaction can proceed at lower temperatures. They claim the reaction itself will ALWAYS produce a certain amount of heat once it begins. I disagree. I believe the enzymes affect the speed of the reaction AFTER it has been initiated to keep the heat emitted below the normal reaction rate of the chemicals involved. I believe they do this by temporarily distorting the shape of the reactants during the reaction. This is physical chemistry heresy!

This the scientific concensus: Question: Do enzymes lower the energy of the overall reaction? Answer: Enthalpy, entropy, and Gibbs free energy are all state functions. This means they depend only on the initial state and the final state. Anything that happens between those states is irrelevant. So no, enzymes have no effect on the enthalpy of a reaction.

I see enthalpy is back right there with the word enzyme. I see that really fascinating term “state function” as a rationale for the “no effect”. This is all quite valid and true in nonliving energy transfer mechanisms. This is bullshit in living systems. Why? Because the biochemical reaction DOES NOT release the same amount of HEAT that it would in the absence of the enzyme. That HEAT that wasn’t emitted is an amount of energy that is CONSERVED! That means that the figures for caloric content based on brute force rapid oxidation are WRONG. Enzymes (BILLIONS OF THEM!) are constantly operating at an efficiency level no ICE could ever approach. It’s not just sweat that keeps you from overheating, folks.2Furthermore, they have a “slight” problem you probably were never told about in measuring enthalpy (Especially if you work with hydrocarbons).


Although enthalpy is commonly used in engineering and science, it is impossible to measure directly, as enthalpy has no datum (reference point). Therefore enthalpy can only accurately be used in a closed system. However, few real-world applications exist in closed isolation, and it is for this reason that two or more closed systems cannot be compared using enthalpy as a basis, although sometimes this is done erroneously. 3

So, as you can see, “scientists” can have a ball with fudge factors and tell YOU they are doing science.
Even now the myriad chemical reactions in the human body are not fully understood. Scientists can write these calculus formulas for “work” done in a reaction that include the different state functions along the way and dazzle us with numbers and “empirical” evidence OUTSIDE living systems. Inside living systems, they still do not understand how gamma radiation can upregulate (cause them to accelerate activity) Tyrosine Kinase enzymes that, as a consequence of upregulation, tell cells to divide like crazy and simultaneously turn off apoptosis (cell death clock) so the newly multiplied cells don’t die. It’s called cancer (Almost all kinds have this same trigger – radiation just does it faster than other toxins out there).  Cancer, boys and girls, is caused by too much energy slamming a tyrosine kinase enzyme. This is what happens when you depart the Goldilocks zone towards higher energy.


Plant foods contain many of the same enzymes that humans use to metabolize different kinds of macronutrients. Proteases and peptidases, which help digest protein; lipases, which help digest fat; and cellulases and saccharidases, which help digest starches and sugars are examples of the kind of digestive enzymes that would normally be secreted in our digestive tract or in nearby organs like the pancreas or liver. However, these same digestive enzymes can be found in the plant foods that we eat. 4

How do the enthalpy boys deal with the above reality? You were lacking some of those enzymes that help you transfer energy and you ate some vegetables. How EXACTLY does that translate to “state functions”, enthalpy and WORK that you can quantify as MJ of energy? It doesn’t! They BURN that stuff to see what the caloric content is. That’s mechanistic reductionist science at its most neanderthal. Sure, it works “great” (not really but it looks that way from a distance) for engines and rockets but it’s a FAIRY TALE as far as humans are concerned. Consider that the enthalpy of a human body with all its carbon, nitrogen oxygen, hydrogen, potassium, sodium, sulfur compounds and all the rest of the trace elements that make up what it is one second before it dies and 10 minutes later is, according to the enthalpy measurers, the same. Do you believe a dead body has the same energy content as a live one? You’d better if you believe the published stats on caloric food content.

Let’s compare an electric eel with a human manufactured battery.


When the eel locates its prey, the brain sends a signal through the nervous system to the electric cells. This opens the ion channel, allowing positively-charged sodium to flow through, reversing the charges momentarily. By causing a sudden difference in voltage, it generates a current. The electric eel generates its characteristic electrical pulse in a manner similar to a battery, in which stacked plates produce an electrical charge. In the electric eel, some 5,000 to 6,000 stacked electroplaques are capable of producing a shock at up to 500 volts and 1 ampere of current (500 watts). 5

The electric eel is really not an eel but a type of catfish. It lives, eats, mates, lays eggs and dies. It serves a viable and useful function in the biosphere in life and in death. It’s in the Goldilocks zone.
Now for a 20th century product of our “vast” understanding of energy transfer mechanisms, chemical reactions and, of course, enthalpy.


Used Lead Acid Battery Recycling
Lead acid batteries are rechargeable batteries made of lead plates situated in a ‘bath’ of sulfuric acid within a plastic casing. They are used in every country in world, and can commonly be recognized as “car batteries”. The batteries can be charged many times, but after numerous cycles of recharging, lead plates eventually deteriorate causing the battery to lose its ability to hold stored energy for any period of time.1 Once the lead acid battery ceases to be effective, it is unusable and deemed a used lead acid battery (ULAB), which is classified as a hazardous waste under the Basel Convention.6


Exposure Pathways
Throughout the informal recycling process, there are opportunities for exposure. Most often the battery acid, which contains lead particulates, is haphazardly dumped on the ground, waste pile or into the nearest water body. As the lead plates are melted, lead ash falls into the surrounding environment, collects on clothing, or is directly inhaled by people in close proximity. Soil containing lead compounds can turn to dust and become airborne, enabling the lead compounds to be easily inhaled or ingested in a variety of ways. Lead can also leach into water supplies. Children, in particular are often exposed to lead when playing on the waste furnace slag and handling rocks or dirt containing lead, while engaging in typical hand-to-mouth activity, as well as by bringing objects covered with lead dust back into the home. The most common route of exposure for children is ingestion, as lead dust often covers clothing, food, soil and toys.
Health Effects

Acute lead poisoning can occur when people are directly exposed to large amounts of lead through inhaling dust, fumes or vapors dispersed in the air. However, chronic poisoning from absorbing low amounts of lead over long periods of time is a much more common and pervasive problem. Lead can enter the body through the lungs or the mouth, and over long periods can accumulate in the bones. Health risks include impaired physical growth, kidney damage, retardation, and in extreme cases even death. Lead poisoning can lead to tiredness, headache, aching bones and muscles, forgetfulness, loss of appetite and sleep disturbance.

This is often followed by constipation and attacks of intense pain in the abdomen, called lead colic.5 Extreme cases of lead poisoning, can cause convulsions, coma, delirium and possibly death. Children are more susceptible to lead poisoning than adults and may suffer permanent neurological damage. Women that are pregnant and become exposed to lead can result in damage to the fetus and birth defects.6

I’m just curious, but what “state function” in physical chemistry applies to the above? How about the enthalpy, entropy or energy of a stack of battery casings? What’s the “energy of activation” needed to brain damage a kid? Where are the “elegant” calculus equations to show the “energy” used to make, use, discard and poison the biosphere, HUH!!? Anyone? How about someone from The Oil Drum? Can you explain the superiority of the car battery over the electric eel? I can’t. BUT, if you worship DEATH; if you worship energetic processes above the Goldilocks zone, then it is fucking OBVIOUS why the battery is head and shoulders above the electric eel!

Which brings us back to the BANKRUPTCY of the physical sciences in describing energetic processes in living systems. The cells in an electric eel function as a group of many, many individuals, each producing a tiny change in electric potential. In order to have an energetic process that doesn’t harm the people using it (e.g. humans) you are SUPPOSED to keep each individual process tiny so as to maximize efficiency and minimize or totally avoid biosphere damage. The moment you exit that zone into “bigger is better explosive energy output”, for every single MJ/L of energy you extract above the Goldilocks zone of life, you are generating life destroying entropy with waste heat and poisonous chemicals. The blind, greedy fuckers that built the ICE refused to see that. Most people today STILL refuse to see that.

THIS is what the IDIOTS in science never get. For many decades they were scratching there moronic heads about why a dolphin can swim as fast as it does (Gray’s paradox). The dolphin didn’t match their equations so they went TILT. The arrogance is breathtaking. The same thing is going on today with the slavish devotion to oil and nuclear as some great and glorious energy process. LOOK AROUND! Look what all this “cheap” energy has produced. Don’t you get it? There was NO WAY you could exit the Goldilocks zone in energy output and NOT produce untold garbage, poison and waste. The two things go in opposite directions in equal vector strength! The “externalized” effects of oil and nuclear CAN be quantified in NEGATIVE MJ/L of entropy and poisons.  THAT is what the early scientists studying energy failed to see. The blindness just accelerated from then. For every bomb, car, truck, tractor, tank, plane, train, ship or powerplant high energy transfer device the Industrial Revolution IDIOCY of brain dead mechanistic reductionism worshippers brought us, we received a corresponding  equal and opposite reaction in the biosphere.

For a viable society, absolutely every energetic process must be measured in the total cycle. Every ICE out there NOW, if the TOTAL enthalpy, entropy and poison generating math was done, would never have been built because NONE of them were EVER cost effective compared to living system energy transfer mechanisms, PERIOD! Everybody that likes cars should lock themselves in their garage with one and start the engine. After an hour or so, you will experience the part oil EROI worshippers and the scientists like those at The Oil Drum fail to mention. The fact that these oil energy loving FUCKS that call themselves scientists can believe it’s wrong to run your car in a garage but a mark of “advanced civilization” to do it outside is proof that they are SERIOUSLY math challenged idiots. The killer combination for mankind is a love of science and a lack of consideration about its place in the world. Have a nice day.

“In our mechanistic greco roman western reductionist linear fragmented compartmentalized disconnected democratized individualized parts oriented thought process, we never think about the whole.”    Alex Hillman
“Whether one views the modern world as insane or not may even be a criterion of one’s own sanity.”   Masanobu Fukuoka
Renewables, why they work and fossil and nuclear fuels never did
Gas fracking corruption posts

Guerilla Internet Free Speech-The Oil Drum Debate

Off the Keyboard of RE

Discuss this article at the Guerilla MRE Foxhole of the Diner

A few days ago a Refugee from The Oil Drum, Futilitist Loren Soman arrived in the Diner after being BANNED from the Commentariat there.  The main point of contention in that Banning seems to have been Loren’s low opinion of the work of Arch Druid John Michael Greer. He published his recounting of the discussion on TOD which led up to it on his new Futilitist Blog, and I cross posted it on the Diner.

Part of the Guerilla Internet Free Speech Project is that the Diner will Publish at least inside the Diner any Banned Commenter from any other Website, which I did shortly after the Futilitist was banned.  If the content is good enough and the Banning capricious enough, I will publish a Blog article to highlight it also.  This I did as well.

What makes a Banning Capricious?  Well, it’s one thing if a Commenter gets Banned for hurling around a lot of foul language on a website that does not allow that.  Although I don’t agree with such a banning it is not capricious, it is a clear violation of a standing rule the participants tacitly accept on the website.  Another non-capricious Ban is when a commenter SPAMS a site with completely off-topic material.

After reading through the posting, neither of these conditions were met.  The discussion was about the theories of John Michael Greer, and all the posting was to that topic.  The ostensible reason for the Ban was that the Futilitist was “Trolling” and making Ad Hom attacks on JMGs Intellectual Honesty.  This is certainly a valid criticism of any Pundit, and there was no foul language involved, so why the Ban?  Just because you disagree with this evaluation by a given Commenter?  If you disagree, just knock down the argument with counter examples.

So in all respects, this Ban met my conditions for Full Guerilla Support of the Futilitist.  I don’t necessarily agree with his opinions, but I support his right to express them on a Website open to the Public which presents such ideas and allows commentary.  The second part of Full Support is my Promise to go over to the Website in the aftermath of the Ban and Lawyer it for the Victim of the Banning.

So I registered on TOD a couple of days ago and dropped in on the September 1st “Drumbeat”, the Column which Admin of TOD Leanan writes her material in.  Actually writes is something of a misnomer, since she basically seems to compile Newz Stories in the Drumbeat.  I have a History wih Leanan, she was Newz Editor of Peak Oil during my time spent in the Commentariat of that Forum.  I began with a Greeting and an oblique reference to the JMG controversy, after which Leanan and I engaged in a protracted 2 day discussion of the Principles of Free Speech as they pertain to Blogs and Forums on the Internet.  The COMPLETE discussion follows below here.  It’s LONG.

In the debate, Leanan claims to be a supporter of Free Speech, while at the SAME time maintaining it is her right to Censor or Ban any commentary on the site for whatever reason she deems is appropriate.  Her rationale is that only if Da Goobermint suppresses Free Speech is the principle violated.  The “Private” ground of Internet Blogs and Forums can be Censored by the Owner/Admin without violating Free Speech according to Leanan.

The problem of course with this idea is that about all Information Media are “Privately Owned”, from Newzpapers to TV Stations to even the BIGGEST of all now Google, and of course all of us Pipsqueak Bloggers as well.  You can take it as Axiomatic that Newzpapers owned by Rupert Murdoch and TV Stations owned by Clear Channel Communications are not going to provide Free Speech opportunity to the masses, and Google is in the bizness of real information editing through access to their Search Engine.  For the most part, if you cannot find the links on Google, even if the Information exists somewhere on the net, it might as well not exist at all, nobody will ever find it or read it.

Similarly, if you start one of the Bazillion Blogs on Blogspot, the chances you will find any readership are pretty small.  Even a first class Economic Blogger like Steve from Virginia has MINISCULE readership for his Economic Undertow Blog, he’s even way below the Diner in Alexa Ranking.

So in terms of “Free Speech” exactly WHERE in the Media is J6P supposed to exercise this RIGHT guaranteed by the Constitution and actually be HEARD?  Nowhere really, except for one possible place, the Blogosphere of fairly successful Blogs and Forums like The Oil Drum, Denningers Market Ticker, The Automatic Earth, Zero Hedge etc.  On these Blogs, there is substantial Readership, so if you make a Comment, it likely gets a whole lot more Readership than your Blogspot Blog does.  ideas can actually be EXCHANGED ebtween commenters.  The veracity of Articles can be EXAMINED.

This cannot happen of course if you go about capriciously BANNING people just because they annoy you and don’t buy the Spin of your blog hook,line and sinker.  The only people who remain in the commentary are those who buy the Group Think and don’t make any waves.  The result is not FREE SPEECH, it is PROPAGANDA.

At the end of this protracted debate, I INVITED Leanan to make a Voluntary Commitment with the Diner to support Free Speech on The Oil Drum.  She refused the offer.  So chalk up The Oil Drum as being yet another Propaganda Website feeding out their spin on Energy Issues.  Like Denninger’s Market Ticker, don’t take a contrary opinion to Karl’sKapitalista Spin on Ticker Forum.  Like TAE, don’t question the Energy Expertiese of Stoneleigh, and DEFINITELY don’t cross swords with Ilargi, you’ll get your First Class Ticket to the Great Beyond of that website faster than you can say “EROEI”.  Don’t question the Intellectual Honesty of John Michael Greer on The Oil Drum either.  This in the mind of Leanan is “Free Speech”, since Da Goobermint isn’t the one doing the Censoring.

In a Pig’s Eye.



 Reverse Engineer on September 2, 2012 – 4:05pm Permalink | SubthreadComments top

Greetings Leanan!

Long time no chat. You may remember me from the Peak Oil Forum.  Other TOD members of the commentariat also may remember my Nom de Plume. 🙂

Just registered here on TOD, resultant from a recent discussion on the theory of Catabolic Collapse of John Michael Greer.  Discussion in that topic is apparently closed now.

Anyhow, for all Old Friends from Peak Oil, I would like to invite you all to the Doomstead Diner, an Industrial Civilization Collapse Blog and Forum dedicated to principles of Free Speech on the Internet.

You can find the Diner at

The Diner features the ability of all Commenters to create their own threads, as well as place Multimedia like Graphics and YouTube Videos into all their posting.  No commentary is ever Censored on the Diner (except for clear SPAM).

Come on over to the Diner and join the fray as we hash out the implications of Industrial Civilization Collapse at the End of the Age of Oil.


 Leanan on September 2, 2012 – 5:38pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

Threads automatically close for comments here after a week (I think).  It’s an anti-spam measure.  Generally, a thread more than a few days old is no longer active.  Spammers swoop in after people are no longer reading the thread and fill it up with spam.

If there’s still an active discussion, I can open up the comments again, or you can bring the discussion forward.  (Generally, I discourage bringing old discussions into new threads, but if the original thread is old enough that it’s closed for comments, it’s different.)


 Reverse Engineer on September 3, 2012 – 12:40am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

I never close threads on the Diner. When Spammers show up to clog up a thread with Pharmaceutical Ads, I just eliminate whatever they got up and then Ban the IP Addy.  Long as you have a few people monitoring this it is not hard to sweep out the SPAM as it shows up.  It is annoying, but overall a tractable problem.

Is it possible here for Members to Originate threads?  I could not find  how to do that if it is possible.  Seems all you can do is Comment on a thread already originated by yourself or a few others.



 Leanan on September 3, 2012 – 3:47am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

Long as you have a few people monitoring this it is not hard to sweep out the SPAM as it shows up. It is annoying, but overall a tractable problem.

It’s more difficult here.  This is a blog, not a message board.  We’ve got a huge database of articles now, and posts with new comments don’t “pop to the top” as they do with the message board system.  So spam would go unnoticed for years before we started “age-ing out” comments.  Just because of the structure of this site, there’s no point in leaving comments open forever.

Is it possible here for Members to Originate threads?

No.  Call us elitist, but we’ve decided we want quality rather than quantity, and that means strict control over the articles that are posted here.  Even those on staff cannot get their articles posted unless they get enough votes from the other editors.  (Drumbeat excepted, of course.)

 Reverse Engineer on September 3, 2012 – 12:57pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

Very limited system, IMHO.  You can have both Quality & Quantity by marrying Blogs and Message Boards.  You can maintain editorial control over the Blog while allowing members to begin their own threads on the Forum.  That is how I have the Diner set up.

Also, you never miss SPAM as it gets dropped on the Forum, since it queues to the top of the list of most recent posts.You knock it down as soon as it gets posted up.

Anyhow I notice you are cross posting some of Gail’s articles, who should I submit mine to here?


 Leanan on September 3, 2012 – 5:10pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

Very limited system, IMHO.

We know that, and we’re fine with it.  Our intent is not be an “everything bagel” – all things to all people.  We are what we are.  People who come here are here because they like what we are.  People who don’t like it can go elsewhere, or set up their own sites.

Why should we try to do what you’re doing, when you’re already doing it?

Anyhow I notice you are cross posting some of Gail’s articles, who should I submit mine to here?

Use the editors address (on the right sidebar).

However, the standards for accepting articles are fairly high, and the acceptable topics somewhat narrow.  Don’t be upset if you are turned down.


 Reverse Engineer on September 3, 2012 – 8:21pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

“Why should we try to do what you’re doing, when you’re already doing it?”-Leanan

Because it would improve the experience of the Commentariat and provide more information accessibility to your readership.

“However, the standards for accepting articles are fairly high, and the acceptable topics somewhat narrow.”-Leanan

I have read through a number of articles here and I can’t figure out exactly what the standards are or what fits the category of acceptable topics.  The quality varies tremendously, and the range of topics isn’t that narrow far as I can tell.  Do you have a style sheet you can send me?


 Leanan on September 4, 2012 – 2:47am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

Because it would improve the experience of the Commentariat and provide more information accessibility to your readership.

I disagree.  The internet provides plenty of information, and plenty of opportunity for free speech.  Far more than any one person can make use of.  What people are looking for is a gatekeeper.  Some people want stricter gatekeepers than others, but that’s what you’re really selling when you put up a web site: a gatekeeper.

I have read through a number of articles here and I can’t figure out exactly what the standards are or what fits the category of acceptable topics. The quality varies tremendously, and the range of topics isn’t that narrow far as I can tell. Do you have a style sheet you can send me?

You’ll have to ask the editors.  I have nothing to do with the key posts.  I only do the Drumbeat.

I will say our structure and focus changed recently – within the last year or two.  So look at recent articles, not the older ones.  I believe the idea is to focus more narrowly on oil and energy, and also to provide more solid data and analysis, rather than the more speculative stuff.

Reverse Engineer on September 4, 2012 – 3:58am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

“I disagree. The internet provides plenty of information, and plenty of opportunity for free speech. Far more than any one person can make use of. What people are looking for is a gatekeeper. Some people want stricter gatekeepers than others, but that’s what you’re really selling when you put up a web site: a gatekeeper.”-Leanan

I could not disagree with this more.

Free Speech exists almost nowhere on the Internet, certainly not in the Blogosphere Commentariats.  I not only was regularly Censored on Peak Oil, I was Banned not once but TWICE from that Forum.  Similarly Banned on Market Ticker and The Burning Platform as well.  I gather from recent action here that some of the Commentariat have been either Censored or Banned as well.  How is that Free Speech?  I suspect I will be banned here as well, but until I am banned I will elucidate this for you.

MOST commenters have neither the time, energy or expertiese to run their own Blogs/Forums.  So if/when they get BANNED, their Speech is SHUT UP.  Each and every Blog has its own “Spin” and “Group Think” and if you deviate from it too far and persist in deviate thinking, you get accused of “Trolling”.

You cannot get a full perspective on Peak Oil or the Economic spin down so long as you persist in this type of Censorship.  I have been the victim of such censorship more times than I can count, but unlike most “Trolls” I do have expertiese enough and time and energy enough to create an alternative Forum for Free Expression and Discussion of the concepts underlying Peak Oil and the Economics of Industrialization.

You have a CHOICE as a Proprietor of a Newz Information Medium, either to provide Free Speech or to Limit Speech only to “approved thought”.  Long as you choose the latter alternative, you are simply doing Propaganda.

This is my last word on this subject here, I won’t Troll you and make a nuisance of myself here.  I will however post to Topic on the threads on this website as long as I am not CENSORED.  When that occurs, you identify yourself as an Enemy of Fr4ee Speech on the Internet.


 Leanan on September 4, 2012 – 4:21am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

MOST commenters have neither the time, energy or expertiese to run their own Blogs/Forums.

This is simply not true.  Anyone with Internet access can put up a blog for free, no expertise needed.  Indeed, that is how this site started: as a free blog on Blogspot.  If you have time to comment on another blog, you have time to post on your own. Heck, it’s easier to post at Blogspot than it is to post here.

Each and every Blog has its own “Spin” and “Group Think” and if you deviate from it too far and persist in deviate thinking, you get accused of “Trolling”.

I don’t see anything wrong with that.  Each site is different.  You just have to find (or create) the one that suits you.

Be warned: this site is tightly moderated.  Probably far more so than  Our guidelines are here, but we also reserve the right to remove any comments for any reason.  In particular, off-topic posts, political rants, and conspiracy stuff will probably be removed.

I am all for free speech on the Internet, but it doesn’t all have to be here.  As Nate put it, Gresham’s Law applies: bad posters drive out the good ones.  That’s the reason we moderate this site.

I also think you’re being somewhat naive.  If you achieve any kind of success with your site, I suspect you’ll find you have to censor some posts.  Heck, even 4chan censors some things.

“I also think you’re being somewhat naive. If you achieve any kind of success with your site, I suspect you’ll find you have to censor some posts. Heck, even 4chan censors some things.”-Leanan

Clearly you have not visited the Diner.

I have plenty of tools available to marginalize a persistent ******* without resorting to a Ban or Censoring a post.  I’ve been at the game of board moderation since AOL days.  Quite a bit before you ever got on the net moderating boards I am sure.  Naive I am not.

ANYTHING that ANYONE has to say on the relevant topics can be posted on Doomstead Diner, and it does not stop good analysis from happening at the same time.  All the tangents have some value, we have people analysing the perspectives from Fundamentalist Christian Perspective to New Age Philosophers and SERIOUS Conspiracy Theorists, you name it.  There is MUCH more to consider in this dynamic than just EROEI or depletion rates.

I censor NOTHING besides clear Pharmaceutical SPAM really.  You should try reading the Dirdy Birdy Chronicles to see that I not only will not Censor, I in fact will PROMOTE idiosyncratic arguments on the Diner.

Anyhow, as I said, I will not Troll you, I will just point out to you that the Banning and Censorship you are engaged in now is counterproductive.  I am in the Bizness of trying to get the MESSAGE out of Industrial Civilization Collapse, so I do not want to get Banned here myself.  You have to accept however that you ARE engaging in propaganda the way you run this website.


Leanan on September 4, 2012 – 4:48am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

Sorry, had to censor your post.  We don’t allow profanity here.

RE – I can understand your frustration: “Free Speech exists almost nowhere on the Internet, certainly not in the Blogosphere Commentariats. I not only was regularly Censored on Peak Oil, I was Banned not once but TWICE from that Forum.” But I think there’s something very important that you and others who feel the same completely miss. Free speech also includes not being required to listen to someone else’s speech. You have absolutely no right to express your opinions to me unless I choose to hear them. I’m free to have any conversation I want just as much as I’m free to not have that conversation. The Oil Drum, as well as nearly every other web site, is privately owned and was created for the benefit of a defined group. And each web site has the right to restrict membership as it wishes. If the Oil Drum only allowed folks over 6’4″ with blue eyes to post on its site then that’s as much about free speech as anything else IMHO. Those of us shorter types with brown eyes might not like those rules but that is the nature of freedom, isn’t?

Someone doesn’t have time or capability to build their own web site? So what? Where is it written that it must be so? If you owned a web site would you allow anyone to post if they didn’t follow guidelines you set up? Or would you let the site go completely uncontrolled and allow anyone and everyone to post anything they wanted? I seriously doubt it. I, for one, hope you stay around. Conversations with opposing views are more interesting IMHO. I would hope you have the capability to structure your posts so they stay within the parameters that the OWNERS of TOD have established. If not I’m sure you can find other sites more accomidating.


Reverse Engineer on September 4, 2012 – 5:01am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

“If you owned a web site would you allow anyone to post if they didn’t follow guidelines you set up? Or would you let the site go completely uncontrolled and allow anyone and everyone to post anything they wanted? I seriously doubt it.”-Rockman

I DO “own” a website Rockman, and I in fact DO allow “anyone and everyone” to post whatever they want!  LOL.  So your assumption and “serious doubt” is WRONG from the GET-GO.  You just got no clue dude on how it can be done.

Come visit the Doomstead Diner and LEARN what Free Speech really means and how you can allow all perspectives to be heard, without BANNING and CENSORING the Commentariat.


Leanan on September 4, 2012 – 5:09am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

I’d go so far as to say it’s necessary to have some restrictions in order to create a space for reasonable discussion.  As we see in the comments at MSM sites, the same old partisan liberal vs. conservative rants take over, driving out all other discussion, if you don’t limit them.

We started out pretty much “everything goes” here, but as the site grew, it simply became untenable.  In theory, the answer to bad speech is more speech; in practice, it doesn’t work that way.  At least, not on the Internet.  On the net, the people who have the most time and inclination to post are often…um…”neurologically atypical”?  I can’t count the times I’ve sent someone a warning and got a reply along the lines of “Sorry, I’m on new meds and they’re not working.”  They’re on disability, and have nothing to do but post all day, and there’s no way people who have jobs and families can keep up.

I’d go so far as to say you are WRONG, you just need to segregate discussions by type and by participants.  You create separate categories for those who Napalm and those who write off toic and those who actually make intelligent and to topic commentary.  You move the posting as necessary tot he approrpiate category.  Readers can view what category pleases them to read.  All the wirters can write what they want, all the readers can read what they want. Win-Win for all.


All the wirters can write what they want, all the readers can read what they want.

But that’s kind of the point of having different sites on the net, isn’t it?

We simply aren’t interested in some topics and some posting styles.  Why should we devote our time, energy, and money to supporting them?  There’s plenty of other places where people can post political rants, argue about whether AGW is real, debate 9/11 “truth,” etc.

This site is designed to be easy for the staff to run.  The theory being that whether peak oil looks like the Greater Depression or Mad Max, it’s likely we are all going to have less time to babysit our blog.

It’s a big Internet.  There’s room for your site as well as ours, and many others.  Why not give people the choice?  Why should we be like you? Vive la difference.

I am all for variety and “Vive la Differance”, issue being that the Doomstead Diner is an Anomaly, it is not the NORM.  Sites like TOD are the Norm, and these are the preponderance of sites that people seeking information arrive at as they awaken to the problems.

About ALL the most read sites engage in Censorship, I know Zero Hedge does I know y9ou do, I know The Automatic Earth does.  It is exceedingly rare to find a site where Censorship is NOT engaged in reularly.  Karl Denninger does it, and Peak Oil did it as well when you were Newz Editor there.  So how can you make the case that there is “Free Speech” on the Internet when about every website BESIDES the Doomstead Diner engages in this sort of Propagandizing?

I am trying to motivate other Bloggers to be more FREE in speech, and I can show how to do it also without diminishing the Quality of your website.  It truly angers me to se intelligent posters BANNED for “Trolling”, mainly because they just do not buy the groupthink of the website.  Its not abotu off color language, I got now problem with you putting a bunch of **** for a one of George Carlins Seven Dirty Words, it is about IDEAS beign censored.  Valid Critiques of people liek John Michael Greer, who while he has a decent grasp of history also has his own spin he is promoting and his history is colored by that.

You told me in order to drop an article on TOD, I gotta meet some requirements which you do not really specify.  You are publishing only what YOU think is valid.  How can anyone get a complete perspective that way?  Sure, you can bookmark 100 websites all with different spins, but again MOST people do not have time to surf through so many sites.  If you just put up ONE spin, you are no better than the MSM and Rupert Murdoch.

Grow out of such a narrow perspective Leanan, it is not productive.  It does not serve to rbing all thoughts TOGETHER, it it isolates rather than consolidates.

Anyhow, I am done tonight with making this case.  Do as you will with TOD.  I just see it as sad that on such a well read website you will pursue these policies when they are not necessary at all to pursue.


I am all for variety and “Vive la Differance”, issue being that the Doomstead Diner is an Anomaly, it is not the NORM.

Perhaps this is because Doomstead Diner is not what most people want?

Valid Critiques of people liek John Michael Greer, who while he has a decent grasp of history also has his own spin he is promoting and his history is colored by that.

Valid critiques are fine.  Just don’t cross the line into personal attacks. And people who do stuff like create sockpuppets and post comments to support and attack themselves are likely to get the banhammer.

You told me in order to drop an article on TOD, I gotta meet some requirements which you do not really specify.

Sorry, but as I said, I really don’t know what the requirements are.  I am not on the board or the editorial staff (by my own choice), and I have never tried to submit an article myself.  Asking me about it is like asking an Orthodox rabbi about the best way to cook bacon.

It does not serve to rbing all thoughts TOGETHER, it it isolates rather than consolidates.

I think it’s the opposite.  We’ve made a conscious decision to remain small.  Everyone who posts here has to share the Drumbeat, and the result is an interesting synthesis that might not happen on a message board.


Reverse Engineer on September 4, 2012 – 12:36pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

Perhaps this is because Doomstead Diner is not what most people want?-Leanan

On the contrary, just about everyone I have spoken with finds the type of censorship engaged in here to be damaging to its credibility, and are looking for alternatives.  The Diner grows as a result of such censorship on sites like TOD, TAE and others.

I think it’s the opposite. We’ve made a conscious decision to remain small. Everyone who posts here has to share the Drumbeat, and the result is an interesting synthesis that might not happen on a message board.-Leanan

You’ve made a CONSCIOUS choice to marginalize yourself and engage in Group Think?  That is NUTS.


Think of it this way.   We’re a small specialty store.  You want to know why we aren’t trying to be Wal-Mart.  Well, because we don’t want to be Wal-Mart.

We’re not for everyone.  We’ve never been the biggest peak oil site on the net, nor the most accessible, and do not aspire to be. If that’s what you want to be, go for it.  I wish you all the success in the world, if only because maybe you’ll draw off some of the spammers, trolls, scammers, nutburgers, industry shills, etc. that make moderation necessary.

Who’s asking you to be Walmart?  I’m asking you to stop CENSORING and BANNING commenters on your Blog who are doing nothing more than expressing a contrary opinion (albeit at some length, but then those articles you drop on are plenty long themselves).

Nor does the Diner aspire to be Walmart either, I like to think of it as a Smorgasbord where you can sample Caviar and Crepe Suzette, Potato Chips and Onion Dip, Chocolate Covered Grasshoppers, along with some dishes from Outer Space 🙂  LOL.  You pick what appeals to you.

Don’t count on my saving you from “spammers, trolls, scammers, nutburgers, industry shills,etc”. They don’t last long on the Diner.  I can out-Troll anybody.  😉


I’m asking you to stop CENSORING and BANNING commenters on your Blog who are doing nothing more than expressing a contrary opinion (albeit at some length, but then those articles you drop on are plenty long themselves).

I don’t think I do that, but why do you care?  You have your own site.  Run it as you wish. I promise I will not show up there making demands that you change to accommodate my desires.

I CARE because a main focus of the Diner is to defend the principles of Free Speech on the Internet.  I CARE because this sort of Capricious Banning is what I was subjected to on Peak Oil, where in fact you were Newz Editor at the time.

I suggest you read my article on the Guerilla Internet Free Speech Project to understand my POV on this better.…


I tried reading your link, but it makes no sense to me since I am not involved in those sites and do not know who you are talking about, or what happened.  However, I support TAE’s right to moderate their own site as they see fit.  I think small sites like TAE are best run with a policy like that at The Big Picture:

This may be a free country, but The Big Picture is my personal fiefdom. I rule over all as benevolent dictator/philospher king/utility infielder. Fear my wrath, mortals!

I will ban anyone whom I choose from posting comments — usually, for a damned good reason, but on rare occasions, for the exact same reason God created the platypus: because I feel like it.

You don’t know who Ilargi and Stoneleigh of The Automatic Earth are? Good grief, Stoneleigh was editor of TOD Canada! Ashvin Pandurangi either?  I find that hard to believe.

“I will ban anyone whom I choose from posting comments — usually, for a damned good reason, but on rare occasions, for the exact same reason God created the platypus: because I feel like it.”

In other words, you do not support Free Speech, you support Capricious Censorship by Newz Organizations for no better reason than you “feel like it”.  Because people accept this is why we have Newz Organizations like Fox and MSNBC.  People don’t grasp they are being fed only what the proprietors of those sites want them to read or hear.  So it is here on TOD as well, just on a much smaller scale.

At least you admit to being a Propagandist and Censor though, that is some level of honesty.


I know who Stoneleigh and Ilargi are, but I don’t regularly read their site.  So I don’t know what’s going on there. No clue who Ashvin Pandurangi is.

I support free speech, but I believe the concept applies to the government, not individuals – or web sites.  I feel very strongly that everyone has the right to run their sites as they see fit.  It’s like a private home.  If you’re going to visit, you have to obey the house rules, and if the owners decide they want to kick you out, you should go.  It’s the civilized thing to do.

Ashvin is the other Admin of TAE along with Stoneleigh and Ilargi.  He ran the site while they were Globe Trotting in OZ.

Far as supporting Free Speech, you don’t practice what you preach.  That is not support.  “Government” doesn’t run Newzpapers, TV Stations or Websites, Private Enterprise does.  If the individuals who run these organizations will not practice Free Speech, it does not exist.  You are contributing to the totalitarian state by silencing those who do not agree with you.  You are not a supporter of Free Speech if you will not practice it on your website.  You are a Propagandist.


I didn’t even know they were globetrotting in Oz.

Not a big fan of the MSM in the US, but I don’t think having the government running newspapers and TV stations is the answer.  I’d rather have private enterprise and individuals doing it than the government.  As long as the government doesn’t censor them, free speech is upheld.

“Not a big fan of the MSM in the US, but I don’t think having the government running newspapers and TV stations is the answer. I’d rather have private enterprise and individuals doing it than the government. As long as the government doesn’t censor them, free speech is upheld.”-Leanan

Who would approve of Goobermint running TV and Newz Stations?  This is another Strawman like your Walmart argument.  The point here is if the 4th Estate does NOT practice Free Speech (and TOD is a member of the 4th Estate reporting on Energy issues), there is no Free Speech.  You EXPLICITLY ADMIT you do not practice Free Speech, so it CLEARLY is not upheld by you.  You are a Censor and a Propagandist, just cop to it.  You don’t Walk the Walk.


As I said, I think freedom of speech applies to the government, not to web sites or the MSM.  And no, I don’t think TOD is part of the 4th estate.  We’re just a little blog.  Size matters.

The real problem with the MSM is that they are giving people what they want.  And apparently, what people want is views that support their own.

There’s other sources out there.  Al-Jazeera, BBC, Press TV.  During the Gulf War, I remember going to foreign news sites to find out what was really happening.  I was not censored.  Unlike in China, where CNN and other US news sources were blocked.  The information is out there, if people want it.  They don’t want it.

“The information is out there, if people want it. They don’t want it.”- Leanan

Really?  You believe that?  You think people WANT to be fed lies?  Pardon me for saying so, but you are outta your mind.

I now understand how you rationalize your behavior.  Have a nice day.


The thing is…they don’t believe it’s lies.  They believe everything else is lies, and they don’t want to hear it.

I say this as someone whose parents have become complete Fox News groupies.  It’s on 24/7, and they gripe like crazy if they go someplace where CNN is on the TV.  CNN is all lies, see.  Fox News is the “no spin zone,” where the truth and only the truth is heard.  Seriously…it reminds me of the TV commercial with the girl who’s convinced you can’t put anything on the net if it’s not true.  My parents believe that if it’s on Fox News, it must be true.  They have graduate degrees and strictly limited my TV viewing when I was a kid.  And now this.

You don’t GET that you do precisely the same thing as Fox Newz does?  You eliminate contrary opinion on your channel.  You accept articles only from Editorial Board Approved Pundits. You just are not as big as Fox is, but the PRINCIPLE is the same, and it is the principle that counts, not the size.  If the discussion is not proceeding as YOU would like it to, you’ll hit the Ban button whenever it suits you to do so. You explicitly said so. Who but other people who March to the same Drumbeat you do will ever expect a level playing field for debate about some of the most important subject matter of our time on a website with such a policy?

They have graduate degrees“-Leanan

Ph.Ds have no more CFS than anybody else.  You find at least as many cockamamie ideas being spouted off by folks with Grad degrees as anybody else, in fact probably a good deal more of them.  Case in point would be a few of the folks with Grad degrees you publish here on TOD on a regular basis.  Every idea under the sun has somebody who wrote a doctoral dissertation defending the idea.  The reason you need free and open discussion is so that these ideas can be refuted and repudiated as necessary.  If you don’t allow that, your website is just a Propaganda organ for a given subset of ideas that YOU think are true.

You can run your website however you please, but I will call you out for what you are.  A Censor and Propagandist in the Fox Newz mold.


Leanan on September 4, 2012 – 6:07pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

I said I support private enterprise in the MSM.  Or at least, I don’t see any better alternative.  I don’t care to watch Fox News myself, but I don’t think it should be banned.  Nor do I think the government, or you or I, should be telling them what they can or cannot say.

What is the alternative?  Government rules determining what must be shown on TV or printed in newspapers?

Reverse Engineer on September 4, 2012 – 6:41pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

“What is the alternative? Government rules determining what must be shown on TV or printed in newspapers?”-Leanan

The ALTERNATIVE is for Private Proprietors of Websites to VOLUNTARILY open their websites up to Free and Open discussion with a No Ban/No Censorship Policy.

Unlike Newzpapers, you have essentially Unlimited numbers of Pages and no real limit on Space.  Particularly if you use linking and store high bandwidth material offsite, like Videos on YouTube.  You can create hierarchies for viewing and publication, so you can “spin” your website as you please while still allowing the readers to have their say.

The real Revolution in communication that is the Internet is that it provides for 2-Way communication, not just Writer to Reader.  Any Reader can become a writer, and vica-versa.  Not if you pursue the policy of Banning and Censoring what “malcontents” and “trolls” will post though.

Look, if it wasn’t possible to do this, I could see the rationale for some Banning and Censoring, but it IS possible to do it.  I do it on the Diner.  You just have to set your systems up correctly.

It all depends on the Individual and his/her beliefs and Commitment to the Principles of Free Speech.  Those of us who are proprietors of Information Websites are at the leading edge of this, and if we do not provide the mechanism for the Average J6P to get his Voice Heard, NOBODY will do it.  Da Goobermint certainly will not, and the MSM will not either.  Who is LEFT Leanan?  Just you and me.  Join with me VOLUNTARILY in this adventure.  You can reconfigure this website with better tools for management of trolls and industry shills.  I will help, pro bono, no charge.  I don’t do this for money, I am on a Mission From God on the Issue of Free Speech.

It is UP TO US.  WE HAVE TO PROVIDE THE MEDIUM.  Most people cannot do this.  We CAN.


Leanan on September 4, 2012 – 6:49pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

I can’t do it.  I don’t particularly want to, either.  But I’m glad you are.  Best of luck.

Reverse Engineer on September 4, 2012 – 7:00pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthreadComments top

You can, you just don’t WANT to.  Just don’t claim to be a supporter of Free Speech.  You are not.


Break the Back of Corporate Intellectual Domination

Off the Keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

Published originally on Land Destroyer on September 3rd, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Boycott corporations monopolizing, misguiding, and destroying human civilization.

September 3, 2012– Movies, music, and TV created by huge monopolizing media cartels like Disney, Sony, Warner Brothers, Fox, Paramount, as well as software companies like Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Autodesk, and many others, belong to a consortium of corporate-financier interests driving the the “intellectual property” crusade and many of its unpopular creations, including SOPA, ACTA, and a campaign of jailing grannies and college kids for simply sharing information deemed “property” of these corporations.

Image: The “Intellectual Property” racket. You do not own “ideas” or “information,” only the tangible assets used to either record, view, or transmit them. The paradigm these corporate-financier interests are attempting to create and perpetuate is one that inevitably places all under their contrived “intellectual domain” because it is they alone who have the money and power to register and defend them. In the process, they are hindering technological as well as social progress in the defense of their antiquated business models.


What they represent in reality is the antithesis of real business and progress – modern technological reactionaries, staving off advances that threaten their antiquated business models and the immense, unwarranted influence they have accumulated over decades.
The existence of independent movies, music, and of open source software and publications proves that knowledge, entertainment, and everything in between not only can surrive beyond the tired paradigms of copyrights, trademarks, and “intellectual property,” but can thrive.
A new paradigm of giving credit where credit is due, but making all information and the media it is contained within, freely available to all is emerging. Taking a physical CD from another individual is depriving them of a tangible object, and therefore theft. Copying digitally, the information on that CD with the consent of the CDs owner is not theft.
Technology has made it possible to copy information without depriving individuals of tangible, valuable objects. Because this culture of sharing costs those involved nothing, and the more that is shared, the easier it is for all involved to find information they seek, it has understandably spread to all aspects of digitally encoded media. Software,book publishers, movie and music producers all face an industry transforming from simply creating media and selling the medium upon which it is contained.
There is still money to be made with performances, in theaters, and with physical productions others find valuable enough to pay for. However, even in this aspect, the tools for creating movies, music, software, and books are becoming increasingly cheaper and accessible to large numbers of people who would gladly share their work within a culture of sharing.
What these corporate-financier interests are protecting then, is not their “rights” or themselves from “theft,” but their monopoly over an antiquated system that if not protected, will crumble away. Like a consortium of horse-carriage makers lobbying for laws against “new fangled cars,” or libraries around the world uniting to outlaw the Internet and websites like Wikipedia, the reaction of mega-media corporations is one of profound absurdity – one entertained only because of the vast wealth their monopoly has granted them over the decades, and one entertained because still vast numbers of people across society still watch, listen, read, and unfortunately believe everything they say and write.
Below is a list of media cartels and the corporations that constitute their membership, responsible for the absurd “intellectual property” crusade. Each corporation produces products we are all more than capable of living without – and as is the case with many other corporate-financier monopolies, would probably be better off doing without anyway.
Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Members National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) Board Members Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Members Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA) Member Directory Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Members Business Software Alliance (BSA) Members
For every movie, song, or piece of software produced by this collection of monopolistic, corporate parasites, there are equivalent or superior open source, creative commons, public domain alternatives. There are myriads of open, free news, information, and entertainment online created by both amateurs and a growing number of professionals. There is also a large (and increasing) selection of open source software available.
We get the society we pay for. If we continue paying Fortune 500 corporate-financiers who continue to concentrate wealth and power in fewer hands, and continue using that wealth and power to create and guide an agenda that serves only special interests at the cost of the vast majority, we have only ourselves to blame. Boycotting these corporations deprives them of the vast wealth they need to draw from their equally vast legal, lobbying, and legislative resources. And by boycotting these vast corporations, we have money to spend locally, for local artists who go through the trouble of putting on live shows or creating tangible assets we can enjoy.
That human beings are spending months, even years in jail because of “copyright infringement” while mass murderers are allowed to roam America with absolute impunity, is indicative of the immense injustices bred by this very system – highlighting the urgent need to excise and replace it with utmost expediency.

Romney/Ryanism in Tampa

Off the Keyboard of Steve Lendman

 Published originally on August 31st, 20121 on the Steve Lendman Blog
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Tampa may never be the same. Republicans left it pockmarked. At least they’re gone. Residents welcomed their departure. Three days of pre-scripted hokum were featured. Romney/Ryan speeches featured revisionist history. Democrats get their turn next week.
Campaigning is in high gear. According to Bloomberg, “you’d need six months to watch every presidential campaign ad.” As of August 22, 526,633 (30 or 60 second) spots were run.
By election day November 6, perhaps they’ll top a million. And that’s only for president. All House and 33 Senate seats are up for grabs. So are numerous others at state and local levels. They range from gubernatorial to local school boards.
A war of words hammers US voters nonstop. Relief won’t come until post-election. America’s campaign season never ends. Preparations begin immediately for the next cycle. Big money plans it that way. Candidates and officeholders either go along or find another line of work. Voters get betrayed every time.
Tampa was Exhibit A. Romney/Ryan represent socially destructive interests. Obama’s the same. Voters are stuck between fire and brimstone.
America’s political process is too dysfunctional and corrupted to fix. People should either vote independent or stay home. Both major parties are two sides of the same coin. Not a dime’s worth of difference that matters separates them.
They represent money power and imperial lawlessness. People needs are spurned. Bipartisan complicity plans destroying them entirely. Social America is on the chopping block for elimination. Political Washington’s vision is dark age harshness.
Obama/Biden/Romney/Ryan represent the worst of all possible worlds. Obama’s con man days began in Illinois. Before entering politics, Romney parlayed grand theft into super wealth.
As Bain Capital head, he profiteered by leveraged buyouts, asset-stripping companies, and leaving thousands of workers high and dry. As president, he’ll do for America what he did to one plundered company after another.
On August 29, Matt Taibbi headlined his Rolling Stone article “Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.”
He calls him the flip side of Che or Trotsky. He’s a human wrecking machine. He’s right out of predatory capitalism’s central casting. He’s a visionary for everything harming people.
His campaign reflects “a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy.” He’s kept it hidden out of sight. Ryan’s his alter ego. He’s “a self-righteous anal, thin-lipped, Whitest Kids U Know penny pincher who’d be honored to tell Oliver Twist” the soup bowl is empty, go hungry.
On the one hand, Romney claims “a prairie fire of debt” is ravaging America. On the other, he got super-rich by “borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back.” He’s one of the “most irresponsible debt creators of all time.”
In Ryan, he’s got “perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous” than himself on the evils debt piled up by borrowed money. “No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big a lie.” In November, he may become the exception that proves the rule.
He’s unapologetic. He’s emblematic of Wall Street fraud, greed, and indifference about human need and welfare. He’s one of their own. He can be president, Treasury secretary and Fed chairman all in one. He represents everything wrong with America getting worse.
He’s a dagger at humanity’s heart. He’s the perfect frontman for destroying decades of social progress. Give him four years and it won’t exist. He endorses government of, by and for super-rich elites like himself.
He’s “a new and improved version” of Gordon Gekko dressed up in better PR and more grandiose notions of wealth and power. He envisions leveraged buying out America. He’ll leave everyone else to pay the tab.
His business model is scorched earth asset stripping. Expect ordinary people to be left high and dry. He wants America looking like one company after another he wrecked. He thinks it’s OK as long as his hands don’t look dirty.
His free market notions suck life from people. He’s a brigand who discards them like trash. He believes only making money matters. He made piles the old fashioned way by stealing it. Dirty money buys as much as honest cash. Romney got lots of federal help making plenty.
Government giveaways enriched him. So did business-friendly tax provisions. They facilitate leveraged buyout scams. They made Romney super-rich.
Before he took office, James Petras called Obama “the greatest con man in recent history.” He compared him to Melville’s Confidence Man. “He catches your eye while he picks your pocket.” Romney one-ups him and then some. He knows every dirty trick in the book to steal, wreck human lives, and get off scot free.
He’s the perfect frontman for financialized America. It uses money to make more of it without manufacturing anything. It prospers at the expense of others. It hides wealth in tax havens. It watches from the sidelines while America crumbles.
It’s being transforming into Guatemala, complete with police state harshness. Come January, Romney may head the grand scheme. Obama’s able to match him blow for blow.
Imagine the state of the nation four years hence under either leader. Imagine having endless wide awake nightmares. Imagine the worst of all possible worlds. Obama/Romney assure it. They’ll be no place to hide.
Take no prisoners defines their style. Romney comes off brash. Obama’s more subtle. Either way they’re flip sides of the same coin. Decades earlier Republicans and Democrats wouldn’t recognize their modern-day successors.
Political conventions today bear little resemblance to earlier ones. Predictability replaced suspense. In 1976, Gerald Ford contested Ronald Reagan on the convention floor to become Republican nominee.
In 1960, Jack Kennedy lacked a majority until Wyoming voted last. Everything now is pre-scripted theater. It’s like watching an old film aired many previous times.
Tropical storm Isaac/turned hurricane had first say in Tampa. It shortened circus shenanigans to three days. Reactionary extremism, hokum, grandiosity, and revisionist history took center stage. Influence peddling dominated behind the scenes deal making.
Pre-scripted bluster went off as planned. Dissembling obscured reality. Delegates were fed red meat malarkey. Tough issues were ducked. They were distorted by falsely claiming Romney/Ryan have ways to fix America.
Today’s political conventions are coronations, not nominations. Suspense and political honesty are nowhere in sight. Everything heard is predictable.
In Tampa, politicians impersonated actors. Clint Eastwood played the opposite role. He fell flat and then some. He sounded more under the table than over the top.
Critics called his cameo “bizarre” and “embarrassing.” At age 82, best stick to gardening. Even Republicans called it a mistake to invite him. Democrats make fools of themselves next week. Ready or not, Charlotte awaits their arrival.
They’ll match Republicans blow for blow. Rhetoric alone separates them. Politics on either side of the aisle reflect flip sides of the same coin. They’re lawless, merciless, inhumane, anti-labor, anti-welfare, racist, neoliberal, elitist, pro-business, pro-war, and anti-populist.
A previous article said both parties believe America’s future depends on greater wealth disparity, ignoring public need, waging war on humanity, silencing truth, and cracking down on non-believers.
On November 6, voters get to choose between either wing of America’s money party. Duopoly power offers no alternative.
A Final Comment
All week, Tampa was on virtual lockdown. Hundreds of protesters showed up. Thousands of cops confronted them. Media scoundrels largely ignored them.
They marched on the RNC’s convention site. Occupy Tampa came out. Ahead of convention week, they noted an unemployment crisis, a do-nothing Congress, and other vital unaddressed issues. They complained about security protocol restrictions compromising their First Amendment rights.
Occupy the RNC was there. They’re unaffiliated. They stand in solidarity with Charlotte DNC protesters. They railed against both parties. They’re tied to corporate rule, war, economic injustice, and freedom extinguishing policies.
America’s “entire system….is rooted in greed and power.” Exploitation and oppression are prioritized. They demand better like others. They facilitated logistics for protesters.
They published Tampa Principles. They support political diversity within their struggle for social, economic, and environmental justice. They’re committed to treating everyone with respect.
They oppose repressing dissent, surveillance, infiltration, disruption, police brutality, and restrictive “free speech zones” far from convention activities. They united for change not possible without sustained commitment.
Code Pink came out in force. During Romney’s speech, their members stood up chanting and unfurling banners saying “People over Profits.” “Democracy is not a business.”
They interrupted Ryan’s speech. They demanded women’s rights, control over their own bodies, and healthcare, not warfare.
They stormed the streets and convention site day and night. They delivered messages saying end wars and get money out of politics. They explained America’s broken electoral system. What’s the point of kicking out bums for new ones.
Dressed as pink police, they staged mock citizens’ arrests at every Condi Rice event. At a pro-Israeli one, they denounced its illegal occupation. They spoke out against war on Iran. With barely a chance to exhale, they’re off for Charlotte and more demonstrations.
Others in Washington shut down a busy intersection as Romney was about to accept his party’s nomination. They chose a spot known for activism.
They protested his politics of the rich. They held signs saying “Stop the Romney economy.” “We are here to protest Romney’s nomination.” People need to hear disenfranchised voices.
Others must lend support. The only solution is world revolution. Change comes only from the bottom up. It’s time to challenge the beast and slay it.

The Tempest in the Oil Drum

Off the Keyboard of Futilitist Loren Soman

Note from RE: New Diner and New Blogger Futilitist arrives here from the shores of The Oil Drum, where his recent lambasting of Arch Druid John Michael Greer resulted in his being BANNED from TOD Platform.  In keeping with the Diner INTERNET FREE SPEECH GUERRILLA PROJECT, we will publish that which was CENSORED on TOD. 


Published originally on The Futilitist Blog

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Friday, August 31, 2012

The Cat in John Michael Greer’s Kitchen

This story is true.  Take from it what you will. Chapter 1 The Game Begins and the Games Begin The following conversation has been compiled from the comments section of a recent Drumbeat on  It has been edited to suit me.  The entire cat fight can be found beginning at:  Check it out at your own risk. The set up: Another boring day at TOD.  The topic of the day’s discussion revolves around the downsizing of the Drumbeat and the recent drop-off in interest in peak-oil generally.  A real snooze-fest so far, but all that is about to change… We join the conversation already in progress.  Leanan, the Drumbeat’s moderator, is speaking: [new] Leanan on August 23, 2012 – 8:23am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

As much as I enjoyed it, I understand how difficult it can be working in a volunteer organization with a number of personalities pulling in different directions, all equally sincere. It’s an energy drain to not only try to do your best work but to also have to champion that work’s legitimacy.

There’s some of that, I’m sure, but from my view, the changes have been mostly external. Peak oil just isn’t what it used to be. Yes, I know some people still expect TEOTWAWKI soon. But for many people, events over the past 3-4 years have led them to realize that there isn’t going to be a fast collapse, and/or that other issues are more urgent (climate change, financial collapse, getting a job). It’s not just The Oil Drum. Searches on peak oil have fallen steadily since 2008. LATOC has closed shop, EB has merged with the Post Carbon Institute,’s message board now gets no messages for days in what used to be the most active forums. There simply isn’t the interest in peak oil that there used to be. It’s become a lot harder to keep people on topic. There’s nothing going on peak oil-wise – no ever-higher oil prices, no riots at gas stations, no hurricanes damaging oil platforms – so the discussion becomes silly and trivial. Some might say let people post whatever they want, since there’s nothing else to talk about. But I think that makes the problem worse. Letting the threads fill up with one-liners and links to funny cat videos on YouTube is going to drive out people who actually are interested in peak oil. The Internet version of Gresham’s Law, as Nate put it.

[new] LOREN_SOMAN aka FUTILITIST on August 23, 2012 – 3:40pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Leanan, You said: “But for many people, events over the past 3-4 years have led them to realize that there isn’t going to be a fast collapse, and/or that other issues are more urgent (climate change, financial collapse, getting a job).” That statement describes a rationalization that some people seem to have adopted lately. The original doomer perspective that peak oil would lead to the total collapse of industrial civilization and a rapid and severe human die-off, was, and still is, correct. It just hasn’t happened yet. The logic behind the idea of an eventual fast collapse has never been successfully rebutted on this site or anywhere else. The arguments against a fast collapse are illogical are circular. John Michael Greer is the poster boy for the slow collapse idea. Whenever anyone argues against a fast collapse, they generally reference Greer and his “catabolic collapse” theory. I recently read the latest Feasta paper by David Korowcz which lays out in excruciating detail the many ways in which a fast collapse will likely begin and then must accelerate because of the positive feed backs that would be activated. I would invite anyone who shares your view to read that paper and then explain how it’s projected outcomes can possibly be avoided. Here is how Greer carefully words his attempt to refute Korowicz’s paper in his Archdruid blog from July 18: “…Faced with the imminent reality of national collapse, the US government did not sit on its hands, which is what those with the capacity to do something are always required to do in fast collapse theories. Instead, it temporarily nationalized the entire American banking system, declared that all assets held by the banks were owned by the government until further notice, made private ownership of gold by US citizens illegal, and ordered every scrap of gold in the country much bigger than a wedding ring sold to the government at a fixed, below-market price, with stiff legal penalties for anybody who tried to hang onto their gold stash. (I’m not making up any of this, either. Look it up.) Flush with seized bank assets and confiscated gold, the government poured money into the nationalized banks, which could then meet every demand for funds, stopping the panic in its tracks. Once stability returned, the banks returned to private ownership and got their assets back, though gold remained a government monopoly for decades longer. This sort of drastic measure is far from rare in economic history. Germany in the 1920s put paid to its era of hyperinflation by issuing a new currency, the rentenmark, which was backed by taking out one big mortgage on every single piece of real property in the country. Other countries have done things even more extreme. A nation facing collapse, it bears remembering, has plenty of options, and it also has the means, motive, and opportunity to use them. It’s only fair to point out that this sort of drastic response is something that the Feasta study specifically excludes. One of Korowicz’ basic assumptions, stated as such in his study, is that governments will respond to the crisis by choosing the minimal option they think will solve the immediate problem. It’s a reasonable assumption, right up to the point that national survival is at stake, but at that point history shows in no uncertain terms that the assumption goes right out the window. Nation-states are good at surviving—that’s why they’ve become the standard form of human political organization in the viciously Darwinian environment of modern history—and it’s hard to think of anything a nation-state won’t do if it thinks its survival is threatened. That said, Korowicz’ study points to one very plausible way that the next major round of crisis could slam into the industrial world. The fact that the nations affected by it could kluge together responses to it, slap the equivalent of defibrillator paddles onto their prostrate economies, and get a heartbeat again for the time being doesn’t change the fact that a financial collapse followed by even a partial supply chain breakdown would be a massive crisis, the sort of thing that could well plunge hundreds of millions of people into permanent poverty and push the global economy further down a long ragged decline that will be much less amenable to drastic responses. We’re in agreement, in effect, that the patient is terminally ill; the question is simply whether first aid measures available to the paramedics on site can get his heart beating again, so he can drag out the dying process for a while longer.” Greer begins here with the straw man that fast collapse would require that governments ‘sit on their hands’ and not react. But Korowicz never suggests anything like that in his paper. Quite the opposite actually. Korowicz details how any possible government responses will be ineffective and likely even make the situation worse. In effect, Greer (a historian?, not a scientist) is saying that nation states are inherently powerful and literally too big to fail. When the nation’s existence is threatened, it would be able to control the situation favorably, and when faced with imminent collapse it would do just that. That argument is obviously completely circular. Greer’s analogy of the terminally ill patient is not very well thought out either. It is better used to prove the opposite point. If the patient is resuscitated at great expense “so he can drag out the dying process for a while longer”, what happens next? We would have to assume that all the problems couldn’t be permanently fixed and the patient would be left to face the next crisis in a much weakened state. Presumably in this scenario, the government would step in again and save the day. Over and over again to infinity! Obviously that couldn’t work. Just like in a real human patient, life can be prolonged by extraordinary measures, but death will still be the ultimate outcome. And the transition from life to death is always sudden (a fast collapse). Greer’s rebuttal of Korowicz’s paper is intentionally dishonest, misleading, insulting, and completely inadequate (i.e. silly). If anyone on this site wants to take up and champion Greer’s cause, or if Greer himself were to debate this on this site, I think it would be the best discussion The Oil Drum has ever had. Greer’s position is so obviously the losing one. I guess it is always socially easier to agree to disagree than to have one side actually lose the argument.
[new] Leanan on August 23, 2012 – 4:04pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
I don’t see how either side can win or lose the argument until after the collapse. Which may not happen in our lifetimes, or may be so gradual it will not be recognized by those now alive. The arguments on both sides are, IMO, equally “illogical and circular.” Interesting and worth expressing, maybe, but this is isn’t classical physics. No one really knows what will happen, because we have never been in this situation before. (And even if we had, it’s possible it would not play out the same way twice.) And I think you are being very unfair to Greer. He may turn out to be wrong, but there’s no evidence that he’s being intentionally dishonest.
[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 23, 2012 – 6:02pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Leanan, You say: “I don’t see how either side can win or lose the argument until after the collapse. Which may not happen in our lifetimes, or may be so gradual it will not be recognized by those now alive.” I do believe that a fast collapse is imminent, but that is not the point I was trying to make. My main point is that a collapse cannot be gradual. You might be right (though I doubt it) that it won’t happen in our lifetimes, but I believe it is incorrect to assume that a collapse could be so gradual as to go mostly unnoticed. That is Greer’s biggest error. The prelude may stretch out a bit longer, but the show must eventually get started. And I am hardly being unfair to Greer. He seems like a nice guy, this not personal. And he is a very good and clever writer, but, yes I do think he is intellectually dishonest. In the blog I referred to, Greer begins with a discussion of the Kubler-Ross concept of stages of grief in order to paint anyone with a different view than his as sadly delusional due to being stuck in one of the early, immature grief stages. Greer says: “The fascination with sudden collapse—call it the Seneca cliff if you must, though it’s only fair to note that Seneca was talking about morality rather than the survival of civilization, and the civilization to which he himself belonged took centuries to decline and fall—is to the peak oil scene exactly what the fixation on Bakken shale oil and “effectively infinite” natural gas is to the collective imagination of industrial society as a whole: a means of denial.” Like I said, clever writer. He somehow manages to paint cornucopians and doomers with the same denial brush in order to dismiss them both. That is one hell of a stretch that would be hard to do by accident. Thus, I credit Greer with being intentional. I am not trying to be mean, but when you read David Korowicz’s 75 page detailed risk analysis and compare it to John Michael Greer’s casual, wave of the hand blog response, do you seriously place them at the same intellectual level of discourse? Do you really think that Greer’s arguments hold any weight by comparison? [new] sgage on August 23, 2012 – 6:28pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Instead of sniping at JMG here on TOD, why don’t you engage him on his blog?
[new] Ghung on August 23, 2012 – 7:28pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
“Instead of sniping at JMG here on TOD, why don’t you engage him on his blog?” Tried that. See below. But it’s his blog, and he controls the discussion, and is generally dismissive of those who may disagree with the story he’s telling. I respect his perogative to do so, if not always his conclusions.
[new] sgage on August 23, 2012 – 7:37pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
You disagree with him. That’s all. It’s one thing to disagree with somoone, it’s another thing to call them “intentionally dishonest”. That’s really my point. And yes, I’ve seen your posts on the ARD. You disagree. So what? I disagree about a lot of thngs with a lot of people. You are dismissive of people who disagree with you. So what?
[new] AlanfromBigEasy on August 23, 2012 – 8:12pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
“intentionally dishonest” is *WAY* out of bounds and into troll territory when discussing JMG. It devalues your analysis when making such attacks. Alan
[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 23, 2012 – 9:06pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Alan, Why is it *WAY* out of bounds? Is JMG above all criticism? He writes a column and makes at least some part of his living trying to refute ideas that I happen to think are true. His reputation in the world depends on him being right. He uses many common literary and debate tricks to slide around the ideas that don’t fit his model. I gave a couple examples in my post. He is under ever increasing pressure if ideas like Korowicz’s come to be widely accepted. I don’t believe it devalues my analysis one bit. Any time I bring up the idea here that Greer might be wrong about something, I find myself getting dragged into a critique of my bad manners. Best hopes for not getting bogged down in useless distractions when trying to discuss important IDEAS, Loren
[new] AlanfromBigEasy on August 23, 2012 – 9:25pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
I disagree with the above post on just about every point. Let’s just leave it at that. I gave my own take of the likelihood of national vs. global fast collapse in another post. Alan
[new] jokuhl on August 23, 2012 – 10:38pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
No. You’re calling him a liar. That’s not about being ‘above all criticism’ , that’s libel, and ascribing that kind of motive to him here, where there are others who know him, but not addressing it to his face, that brings it to where people are calling you on using particularly unproductive (ie, Antisocial) discussion tactics.
[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 24, 2012 – 12:11am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

jokuhl, No, I did not call him a liar. That is way hyperbolic. I said basically that he is a professional commentator who has hitched his wagon to a bad idea (slow catabolic collapse). I said he uses the tools of his trade to support his theories. I gave examples from his own blog. I ascribed no motive to him other than that he wants to be right and needs to be for social reasons. These motives are very common and apply to most humans. Please feel free to review my original post on this topic and point out the libelous sections for me. I don’t believe that what I said rises anywhere near the level that would constitute libel in any legal sense or any sense for that matter. Maybe I should get a lawyer! If it hasn’t been edited out, please check out my friendly post directly to John Michael Greer inviting him to have a friendly debate on the subject and let me know what I did wrong there too. P.S.– I can’t help but notice that we are not discussing Greer’s ideas. [new] jokuhl on August 24, 2012 – 1:10am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

“Greer’s rebuttal of Korowicz’s paper is intentionally dishonest..” You trying to say this is not a clear accusation of lying? I don’t doubt you meant your later offer sincerely, having now found that comment.. but sheesh, you peppered your post with some serious catcalls up there. I think there are some things that are really hard to erase once they’re out there.. There have been been some comments in here that have gotten back to the Collapse topic, but as we have been talking foremost about the valuable discussions we have on the drumbeat, ‘discussions about energy and our future’, I think it’s been very valuable that this Website has also kept a high standard of conduct, and when it is broken, the rest of the discussion soon falls with it.. There IS a generous range of tolerance here, and with that comes no small amount of bitter retorts and puerile insinuations.. but when comments really do start becoming unfairly derisive, and I think some of yours today have been that, then this sort of ‘Housekeeping’ conversation shows up, where posters will say that they feel the line has been crossed too much. (PS, I think History is clearly a Science, and if one chooses to call it ‘Social’ and therefore ‘soft’, still that makes it a much harder and subtler discipline, not the opposite. You lost a bunch of altitude with “Greer (a historian?, not a scientist)”. )
[new] Richard Eis on August 24, 2012 – 4:05am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
I thought Greer went with the stair step idea, not just a slow collapse. Of course it also depends on what you call fast, and what you call total collapse. Greer has two main things on his side. One is ancient history and the pattern of other civilisations that have collapsed, the other is recent history as we have already seen several steps down in different countries and these coutnries keep going. As such his ideas are the ones I choose to follow… in general. When the alternatives it seems are either BAU, or OMG World Destruction, i’ll choose Greer and his middle path.
[new] John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 12:40pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Richard, thank you for the vote of confidence, and also for actually paying attention to what I’ve been saying! It’s seemingly a rare habit. Yes, I’m arguing for a stairstep or, as I’m thinking of it these days, a fractal collapse — a long ragged process packed with crises on various scales and of varying severity, taking one to three centuries to complete the descent into the deindustrial dark ages.
[new] greenish on August 24, 2012 – 1:05pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
In “fractal collapse”, I think you have a winner. I imagine that the fact the complete system is composed of so many different fractal patterns, power-law distributions, chaotic systems, uncharacterized initial conditions and noise means it may be a fractal pattern that’s hard to characterize usefully beforehand. But then again, simplicity sometimes emerges from absolute cluster**ks. We really don’t have a well-developed taxonomy of dooms, do we? Of course, this time it actually IS different.
[new] eric blair on August 26, 2012 – 12:48pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
This time, like every time, is different. As one of the maxims of law says: “A thing similar is not exactly the same.” This time there are far more people with far wider and faster communication between the people. This time there is a far wider base of knowledge to draw upon and the storage and searchabiliy of that knowledge is far better than the past.
[new] AlanfromBigEasy on August 24, 2012 – 7:12pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

“Fractal collapse” through media with a wide variety of properties is my take. Some stiff & strong, others supple, flexible & adaptable, many weak that, once cracked, collapse quickly. Others that can continue to function even though highly stressed. Different crisis will have different impacts on different parts of societies – and different societies. Peak Oil won’t be so bad for oil exporting nations – till they stop exporting for example. Alan [new] suyog on August 24, 2012 – 8:17am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Give it a rest, already. What difference does it make what Greer thinks, what I think and what you think? Why do you want Greer to change his mind and agree with you? Perhaps Greer has invested a lot in his current viewpoint and therefore doesn’t want to change his mind. So what? It is not like Greer is going to run for office, get elected and make policy that affects our life. Nothing in this universe cares for anybody’s opinion. What is going to happen is going to happen regardless of what anybody thinks. Agree to disagree and move on.
[new] Earthbound Misfit on August 24, 2012 – 12:13pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Bah humbug to you all! Honestly, you haven’t the ammunition to be sniping! While I lean toward a fast collapse, Mr. Greer has a well thought-out approach to the subject. Time will tell. [new] Ghung on August 23, 2012 – 8:35pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

“You are dismissive of people who disagree with you. So what?” I make an effort to not be dismissive or invalidate others who honestly argue the issues (and I didn’t start this thread). As I said, If Greer is dismissive of those who refuse to stay on his point, it’s his site.
[new] sgage on August 23, 2012 – 8:37pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
You disagree.
[new] Leanan on August 23, 2012 – 8:50pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
His site is tightly moderated, and I suspect that’s what many like about it. It’s an attempt to move beyond the same old arguments, and create a space for the kind of discussion he is interested in. It’s like when created the “Doomers only,” “Moderates Only,” and “Cornucopians Only” forums. It was so people could discuss their expected future without having those who expected something else jump all over every thread and derail it into the same old arguments. We kind of do the same thing here. Some topics are not welcome, not because they are unspeakable, but because they’ve been beaten to death already, and they tend to suck so much oxygen out of the room there’s nothing left for anything else.
[new] sgage on August 23, 2012 – 9:00pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Leanan, You are the very voice of reason. Were you born this way, or did you have to work at it? 🙂 Seriously, you do a very good job here – we owe you a great deal. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again- Many thanks… [new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 23, 2012 – 9:49pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Leanan, Whenever I sit down to play a drum solo, I have to remind myself that my audience is hearing me for the first time. The musical ideas I play are (hopefully) not as stale to them as they are to me, having practiced them extensively. I think of this site as presenting open debates on important topics for people outside the TOD community to read and help make up their minds. I was one of those people for a few years before I ever left a comment here. I see TOD as being for the public record and public good. As such, we as commentors have a kind of duty to discuss unpleasant topics even when we get bored with them. I still believe that some topics are as unspeakable on TOD as they are every place else in the world, for the same reasons. I think saying that the ideas are beaten to death can be a convient way to rationalize avoiding their discussion.
[new] Leanan on August 23, 2012 – 10:02pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Fast crash vs. catabolic collapse is not off-topic here. Feel free to discuss it if you wish, without personally attacking those who disagree with you.

I think saying that the ideas are beaten to death can be a convient way to rationalize avoiding their discussion.

There’s no need to rationalize it. We freely admit it: we don’t allow some topics here. Not because they are unpleasant, but because they’re boring and pointless, and in some cases, makes us look like lunatics to those “people outside the TOD community.” Of course, everyone has a different idea of what’s reasonable discussion and what’s tedious or crazy. But there are many different sites on the internet, and if none of them suits you, you can make your own. JMG has a right to set the guidelines at his site; we have the right to set them here. You can set them at your own blog. I see this as desirable, not a problem. We cannot be an “everything bagel” and are not trying to be. We are not offering a platform for free speech for everyone who comes along.

[new] Leanan on August 23, 2012 – 8:58pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

It’s one thing to disagree with somoone, it’s another thing to call them “intentionally dishonest”.

I agree. Just parking this here because it’s convenient…. Remember, folks – attack ideas all you want, but not the people who hold them.

[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 23, 2012 – 9:16pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Leanan, Can I at least call the “catabolic collapse theory” a dumb idea?
[new] Leanan on August 23, 2012 – 9:24pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
As long you support your view without going ad hominem.
[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 23, 2012 – 10:13pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Leanan, That’s fair. I’ll certainly be more sensitive from here on. I have to say, though, that I don’t think my original comment was ad hominem in any way, although it is now being treated as such. I think that showing examples of how a professional commentator plays with the facts a bit to suit his purposes, and then ascribing some reasonable intent to such actions is a fairly benign act. Methinks everyone protests a bit too much.
[new] Ghung on August 23, 2012 – 7:18pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Yeah, Loren, I was basically put on notice a couple of weeks ago for my persistent insistence that a fast collapse, though not assured, is certainly possible. It seems that anyone who continues to discuss this possibility will be encouraged to leave the Archdruid’s Court:

JMG: Ghung, I disagree with you; you disagree with me. I’m familiar with your arguments, and I’m sure you’re familiar with mine; they clearly aren’t going to change anybody’s mind. That being the case, if you still find this blog useful, good; if not, there are plenty of others. ‘Nuf said.

I still enjoy Greer’s blog, but he keeps tight control over ideas that don’t fall into his prophecy meme. He seems to allow little room for the input of those who may have dramatically more real-world experience in situations where societies implode; assumes those of us who’ve been there, done that, learned little. It’s telling, and has diminished my respect for his views somewhat. That said, I do believe his “voluntary poverty” suggestions have merit, though he’ll likely still be insisting that catabolic collapse is ongoing when TSHTF for a lot of us. Relatively sudden collapse is here, and ongoing for many; hard to ignore. Many other societal bombs are armed and ready, and it’s apparent, at least to me, that TPTB are in denial and grossly ill-equipped to intervene in the process once things go critical, and likely have little motivation to do so. They have better options. Methinks Greer, obviously motivated towards a sense of gentile kindness, overestimates the goodness and altruism of his fellow humans, especially those in power. That’s what happens when one is totally immersed in the musings of a largely insulated academic elite. I’m in the 50/50 club, and keeping my resilience local.

[new] John Michael Greer on August 23, 2012 – 9:34pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Ghung, oh for heaven’s sake. My blog’s comment section is not, and has never pretended to be, a general forum for debating issues around peak oil. It’s a place where people can discuss each week’s Archdruid Report post with other readers and with me, and that’s all it is; among other things, it’s not a pulpit for other people’s ideas or a theater for the endless circular disputes so common on the internet. Thus my comment to you. If you want a place to talk about your opinions about the imminence of fast collapse, or whatever, there are plenty of places on the internet that encourage that sort of thing, or you could launch your own blog, the way I did, and attract an audience for your ideas. There are plenty of options. The comments page on my blog isn’t one of them, and if that offends you, well, then it offends you.
[new] Ghung on August 23, 2012 – 11:02pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Jeez, JMG, at what point have I ever said I was offended? Just askin’, because, if you’ll read my comments in this thread, hopefully you’ll notice that I defend your right to control the content of your own blog, whether or not I agree with that content. However, I do find your suggestion that I imply otherwise a bit offensive. It’s a line of respect that, I for one, take pains to not cross. Further, it distresses me that you clearly discourage challenges to your conclusions. IMO, this limits the value of what I consider to be one of the premier discussions on the web. But, again, it’s your perogative. My Father was a great teacher, a dean of academics, educational law and education at a major university, though his best quality was his humility and his willingness to consider other’s ideas, no matter how lowly the source, and no matter how much he disagreed with the premise. I witnessed that he expended much of his energy considering the things he disagreed with the most. His greatest quality was that he never rejected or dismissed ideas that potentially held merit, or those who forwarded them, even into his 80s. It took courage, especially during tumultuous times in the South. I admit that I suffer due to this standard that he set. Forgive me that I see that potential in you.
[new] John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 12:13am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Ghung, I don’t discourage challenges to my conclusions; you’re free to challenge my conclusions anywhere else on the web you want.

“As a director of the U.S. government’s ministry of propaganda during World War II, Archibald MacLeish knew that dissent seldom walks onstage to the sound of warm and welcoming applause. As a poet and later the librarian of Congress, he also knew that liberty has ambitious enemies, and that the survival of the American democracy depends less on the size of its armies than on the capacity of its individual citizens to rely, if only momentarily, on the strength of their own thought. We can’t know what we’re about, or whether we’re telling ourselves too many lies, unless we can see or hear one another think out loud. Tyranny never has much trouble drumming up the smiles of prompt agreement, but a democracy stands in need of as many questions as its citizens can ask of their own stupidity and fear. Unpopular during even the happiest of stock market booms, in time of war dissent attracts the attention of the police. The parade marshals regard any wandering away from the line of march as unpatriotic and disloyal; unlicensed forms of speech come to be confused with treason and registered as crimes.” ~ Lewis Lapham

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” ~ Abraham Lincoln Online forums seem like virtual kingdoms, small as they are.

[new] notanoilman on August 24, 2012 – 2:18am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
‘anywhere else on the web’ but where? NAOM [new] John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 12:42pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Anywhere else but on the comments page of my blog, where he’s already repeatedly stated his opinion on the subject.
[new] Earthbound Misfit on August 24, 2012 – 12:38pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Hahaha! Nicely said, Mr. Greer! No offense, Ghung, at all. I think John simply wants to explore his ideas with like-minded folk. Not unlike us on TOD, eh?
[new] dcoyne78 on August 24, 2012 – 1:31pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Not like TOD at all in my opinion. A diversity of opinion is what makes this website interesting. DC
[new] Earthbound Misfit on August 24, 2012 – 2:26pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Yeah, sure, but a peak oil denier just won’t last long here, no?
[new] dcoyne78 on August 24, 2012 – 1:27pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
JMG, Am I misunderstanding you? You don’t allow people to disagree with your ideas on your blog? DC
Unsure as it is unfrequented by myself. In any case, if I had a blog/forum and went to the unlikely extent of stifling dissent (rhymes), I might at least refrain from “chasing” my dissenters elsewhere or at least bite my tongue where I was concerned if I happened upon the same forum/thread as they, lest I be seen as wishing to eat my cake and have it too. I can imagine how a certain form of control of a blog’s comment section might function similarly to the glowing endorsements one often can find on the back of a book cover.
[new] Leanan on August 26, 2012 – 9:58am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
JMG has been a member of TOD for years. He has as much right to comment here as anyone.

I am speaking about myself in relation, and I’m all for rights. John popped in and we exercised them. Of course with rights and power come responsibilities. Small potatoes in this context, but big as an example of the bigger picture, which we all contribute to its creation, such as via John’s books, Green Wizards (which I have bookmarked) and blog: I admit that the tone

…of his [Rob Hopkins] response took me aback, and so did the number of misrepresentations that found their way into it; I have no objection to criticism – quite the contrary, an idea that can’t stand up to honest criticism isn’t worth having in the first place – but it might have been helpful if Hopkins had taken the time to be sure the ideas he was criticizing were ones I’ve actually proposed… ~ John Michael Greer

John’s relatively-short 2 years and 39 weeks surprised me by the way. I might have thought it would have been longer.

[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 26, 2012 – 10:45pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Tribe, “In any case, if I had a blog/forum and went to the unlikely extent of stifling dissent (rhymes), I might at least refrain from “chasing” my dissenters elsewhere or at least bite my tongue where I was concerned if I happened upon the same forum/thread as they, lest I be seen as wishing to eat my cake and have it too.” Beautiful, insightful, and…poetic! WOW Best, Loren
[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 23, 2012 – 11:15pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
John Michael Greer, I’m very glad you decided to comment today. It seems I’m the one whose comment started all this excitment today. Let me introduce myself. My name is Loren Soman and I would like to engage in a friendly open debate with you on the subject of fast vs. slow collapse. I am not a scientist. I am an artist and a musician. This is simply a topic of great interest to me. As you say, your blog is not the place for such a discussion. Unfortunately I do not have my own blog. In any case I am not interested in attracting an audience for my ideas. I just want to dig deeply into these ideas as a way of dicovering the truth. Perhaps the editors of The Oil Drum might consider hosting such a thing? There are lots of people here on TOD who would love to see and join such a discussion. I would probably need a lot help anyway, mostly due to my extremely slow typing speed. Hopefully something could be worked out. Thanks. Best Regards, Loren
[new] John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 12:55am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Oh, man. This is too funny. Loren, you’ve accused me of deliberate dishonesty, labeled my ideas “dumb” and “silly,” made sweeping and wildly inaccurate claims about my motives, mischaracterized my ideas to an extent that makes me wonder if you’ve ever actually read anything I’ve written, flung around insults with a fine disregard for even the most basic notions of civility…but when I show up to comment, all of a sudden you’re all formal politeness and why don’t we have a nice friendly debate? I’m reminded forcibly of the time I watched a cat who’d had a bowel movement on the kitchen floor and was frantically trying to scratch nonexistent sand out of the linoleum to cover it up. I have an alternative suggestion: please go look up the meaning of the phrase “ad hominem argument” and study it until you understand why everybody here but you recognizes that that’s what you’ve engaged in. That said, you mentioned that you disagree with my theory of catabolic collapse. I would be most interested in hearing your reasons for that disagreement; I’ve been waiting since the original paper was first published for somebody to present a meaningful critique of the theory — that is, a critique that showed that the critic had taken the time to understand the theory I propose, and was prepared to present reasoning or evidence to challenge it. If you’ve got such a critique, perhaps you could post it here, or place it with Energy Bulletin. Edit: corrected link
[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 24, 2012 – 6:46am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Sir, I am all about politeness now because if I am not I will continue to be picked on here and not taken seriously (not feeling sorry for myself, just describing the general situation). I am a serious person and I have serious points to make. Having now adopted the proper attitude as instructed by everyone here, your next move is to not forgive and instead persist in belittling me. Cool. I guess I should have expected this, but I am still surprised. It is so hard to try not to react and to keep from getting drawn into trading insults with you now. If I do, I will be seen as discrediting myself, since at this point many people here seem to think it serves me right. I wonder how long that will last. Comparing me to a cat taking a bowel movement on the kitchen floor…Wow, that’s amazing. You are a very good writer and you are totally rude. Did I really say anything to warrant that? Please quote from my post and find me the exact comment that I made about you that rises to that level. I think this seems like a very desperate way to defend your theory. Just like with Korowicz, I am dismissed with a wave of the hand. But you stopped in to TOD today because you felt you had to. That is progress. Your ideas are under pressure. Maybe you think you had a good day today with some but you may have damaged your reputation with important others, such as Darwinian and Ghung. Risky business. And I did read your paper when it was first published. I even passed it around for other’s to read. I thought it was pretty interesting and there wasn’t much else out there with that much detail at that time. Over the years I’ve become more and more convinced that you are wrong (nothing personal). If you are serious about wanting a meaningful critique of your catabolic collapse theory, I’ll sure take a shot at it. Since I’ve been told by Leanan that slow vs. fast collapse is a valid topic for this forum, I think I will post my short critiques here. I would welcome you to join in if you feel like it. Respectfully walking on egg shells, Loren
[new] John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 12:49pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Loren, I’ll look forward to your critique.
I think you got a “poetic backhanded indirect ad-hominem” with the linoleum bowel-movement cat analogy from someone who would seem to know better– long beard, white robe and all– so I think you’re even. Personally, I’m unsure I would like to be associatively-analogized with it and might find it offensive. Or funny. Or both. ;D
[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 26, 2012 – 10:56pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Tribe, HA HA HA! I agree, we’re even. [new] Tribe Of Pangaea- First Member on August 24, 2012 – 12:35am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Ghung, oh for heaven’s sake…

LOL… Too funny/cute! =) But first, John, maybe Ghung has to write a book (or more) and that gets published. Maybe Ghung has. Ghung? 😉 If not, I would respectfully suggest you cull all your comments at TOD and compile them into a nice book. (As an aside, publishers seem their own gatekeepers, where their personalities/biases/styles echo the books that get through.) But in any case, one concern with that is that many people don’t necessarily have it in them to write at particular lengths– even to the point of needless verbosity– for a book or even a daily blog. Not that I am necessarily suggesting that, the needless verbosity, of you. So, what seems to end up happening is that certain opinions/ideas get (arguably too much) exposure/salience/distribution/lectures/platforms/etc.. Maybe something near an “idea monoculture”… Like those same “talking heads” I used to endure on tv (long ago when I had a tv)– and often, if not usually, talking about things outside of their area of, say, relative knowledge. I used to wonder why they didn’t bring those more knowledgeable in. Kunstler this, Greer that… as much as I appreciate you both. But I also appreciate a diversity of communication and that which is more along the lines of maybe what could be called short-and-sweet/subtle/obscure/direct/efficient/brief/to-the-point/etc.. Like simple comments in comment sections. And in a sense, that’s what you guys seem in part all about; localisation, “neo-tribalism” and stuff like that. Idea/Opinion democracy. …Now that I think about it, I actually read far more Ghung than Greer… but perhaps there are some Greer ideas/opinions behind Ghung’s. BTW; with regard to collapse, what is ‘fast’ and what is ‘slow’? I ask because, some time ago, I mentioned hereon my sense of the global oil production curve as maybe having a different resolution– like those pixel graphics– than a national oil production curve. (So a global peak may feel more like a plateau, rather like where we don’t notice the curvature of the earth) I mention this because I wonder if a global collapse might have a different “resolution” and therefore relative speed, than a classic/historical and more local collapse that is often referenced (Roman, Mayan, etc.).

[new] John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 1:12am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Tribe, that’s nearly as funny as Loren’s sudden about-face. An idea monoculture? In what possible sense? There are plenty of people in the peak oil blogosphere arguing for a fast collapse, plenty more arguing for a gradual decline, and a very large number insisting that we can have a relatively smooth transition to some kind of green utopia. My viewpoint — which is different from all three of these — is still very much a minority view, denounced in heated if not always accurate terms by all sides. It’s a source of wry amusement to me when people insist that I’m somehow hogging the limelight when all I do is post one essay a week on a blog that nobody, anywhere, is required to read. As for definitions of fast vs. slow, all I can do is reiterate the model that I’ve been proposing all along: “a ragged process of breakdown and decline, consisting of repeated crises on various geographical scales and of varying severity, unfolding over the course of one to three centuries.”

Actually, it’s possible that Loren just read some comments from various readers about etiquette right before responding to your post. At the same time, our corporate oligarchy culture is rife, and saturates us with, ad hominems, snarl words and so forth (A culture based on violence some say.) so I try to see past them/suck them up sometimes. Still, the cat-linoleum analogy was funny and reminds me of a toilet-trained cat You Tube video where the cat could be seen, afterward, scraping/rubbing the toilet seat. As for, as you say, ‘hogging the limelight’, well just looking at your recent article’s comments (assuming it’s The Archdruid Report), you already have 54, and most other, say, “Ghung-level”, blogs seem to struggle to get maybe one every few articles? Over time this– your voice– magnifies. So maybe what I’m suggesting is to consider ‘sharing the limelight’ or more of it, and/or reasonably “flexing” with the comments, such as vis-a-vis this limelight, if you don’t already. I’m inclined to agree with your collapse thing, but in a sense it seems to stand to reason: By your description of it– ragged, etc.– it somehow feels “fractally”, and what with self-similarity/chaos/complexity and all that, again, it seems to stand to reason. I would consider one to three centuries relative to one’s lifespan to be a relatively slow “collapse”. At the same time, ‘collapse’ would seem a curious term to describe something like this, such as where things reconfigure at the same time, but what the hell. [new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 24, 2012 – 7:15am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Tribe Of Pangaea- First Member, You said: “Actually, it’s possible that Loren just read some comments from various readers about etiquette right before responding to your post.” That is precisely what occured. I wonder if I can ever be forgiven.
Let’s all forgive each other, how’s that? And keep doing so. The angels that we are.
[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 24, 2012 – 8:15am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Thanks Tribe. [new] John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 2:39am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Tribe, the reason I get that many comments — or so I’ve been told by a number of those who make them — is precisely because so many people are tired of the rehashing of conventional wisdom, the endless and pointless arguments, and the other less than amiable features of so many internet forums. If more people read and comment on my blog than the other blogs you have in mind, that’s hardly an argument for scrapping the features that make my blog a little different, and embracing the habits of the blogs these same readers are choosing to avoid — quite the opposite, don’t you think?
John, the Wikipedia entry suggests you are half a century this year. Well I have a better idea than this tack we are on. What do you say? I might have a 50th. birthday present for you if you are interested. In fact it is something I feel is very important that I’d like to discuss with you. That said, how may I reach you?
[new] Ghung on August 24, 2012 – 6:21am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
The question I think most folks skip is; why didn’t Rome, or most previous empires collapse swiftly? Perhaps because they couldn’t; everything was too distributed, too local. Next question: What does our current civilization lack compared to most previous civilizations. What are its unique vulnerabilities?

What lengths-of-time are we talking about with regard to a slow or swift collapse?

What does our current civilization lack compared to most previous civilizations. What are its unique vulnerabilities? ~ Ghung

Maybe this isn’t a global civilization so much as a connected global patchwork of a few civilizations with some commonalities due to their connections. A 100+ Romes each with subtle differences. So if global civilization “collapses”, maybe it’s “just” a case of the clipping and/or atrophying of the various connections and a shrinking of each cell or node. Makes me think of a brain as the globe with each neuron being a city or nation-state and the connections being the synapses. I suppose this kind of thing in a real human being might have them lose motor control, have emotional swings, bouts of paranoia, losses of memory, etc..

[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 26, 2012 – 11:58pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Tribe, slow collapse means 200-300 years. fast collapse generally means less than 20 years. 90% or so human die-off. I would argue that it will be much faster, possibly mere weeks or months. Sounds totally wild, huh? I admit, at first it is a little hard to get your head around. You said: “Maybe this isn’t a global civilization so much as a connected global patchwork of a few civilizations with some commonalities due to their connections.” One of the key things here is the commonality of lifestyles all relying on the same highly intereconnected and fragile delivery systems. We have become a world-wide human mono-culture. Think Irish Potato Famine here. The whole system is vulnerable to the slightest disturbance in BAU. We are essentially one sovereign debt default, or hurricane, or terrorist attack, or you name it, from total collapse. In terms of Greer’s terminal patient metaphor or analogy, no matter how long the patient’s life is preserved it still ends the same way. With death. And death is really a rapid phase change from living to non-living. i.e. a fast collapse. I have been invited to do a formal critique of his (slow) catabolic collapse theory by JMG, and time is short, (oh, the pressure) so I’ll have leave it at that for now. Best, Loren

I presume you are going to post your response within a drumbeat comment section? I look forward to it wherever it goes. Don’t forget the ostensible redundancies: Apparently, locally-caught fish, for example, at least where I live, get shipped to Asia and then back again to our grocery stores. If this is the case worldwide and with other products, then removing this simple effect of globalization might go some way toward reducing the down slope. Likewise with apples grown here that compete side-by-side with apples grown elsewhere, like Chile. [new] Darwinian on August 23, 2012 – 4:17pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Loren, thanks for a fantastic post. I read the very long David Korowicz Trade-Off-Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion: a study in global systemic collapse twice. Now a paper has to be very good to get me to read it twice, especially one that is 75 pages long. But it outlined the best case for a fast collapse I have read… ever. And I was really disappointed with Greer’s response which you outlined above. I would just like to add this to your excellent review. From Greer: A Crisis of Legitimacy.

Money, let us please remember, is not wealth; it’s a set of arbitrary tokens people in complex human societies use to manage the distribution of real wealth; if a monetary system breaks down, other ways can readily be jerry-rigged to keep real wealth moving.

No, that is simply wrong. Though money may not really be considered wealth it will do until wealth comes along. Money, or capital, is what our economy is built around. Money is what you buy groceries with. And without money you cannot do anything, you cannot even keep the electricity flowing in your house. Without money we would have a barter system. What would you trade for a beef roast or 10 pounds of potatoes? But more importantly if had a business with what would you pay your employees? Does Greer think they would work for nothing? Without a liquid currency that everyone trusts the economy comes crashing down, and fast. We live in a totally different world today than did the ancient Romans or the Mayas. We even live in a different world than we did in 1929 when the economy (almost) collapsed in just three years. Back then people went back to the farm. Today the world has almost three and one half times the population we had then. Today there are no farms to go back to. Not one person in 100 knows anything about farming. The collapse will surely come and the crash will be so fast it will shock everyone. It will likely happen in a matter of months. Ron P.

[new] Leanan on August 23, 2012 – 4:26pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

The collapse will surely come and the crash will be so fast it will shock everyone. It will likely happen in a matter of months.

I would bet the mortgage that it doesn’t. Eh, I’m not the gambling type, but I will predict that a few months from now…say, February 2013…people will be still more concerned about the Super Bowl than about energy or finance.

[new] Darwinian on August 23, 2012 – 4:41pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

NO, no, no. I did not mean that the collapse will happen in the next few months, I meant that it will only take a few months from start to finish. A fast collapse rather than a slow collapse, that was the point I was trying to make. If it starts in January 2025 then we will have total collapse before 2026 rolls around. Sorry if I was not clear, I should have caught that before I posted. But then I really expect it to happen before 2025, possibly as soon as 2017 but who knows. I have told all my kids and grandkids that I hope to be safely dead before the collapse happens but now I am having my doubts. But I can still hope. 🙂 Ron P. [new] wiseindian on August 24, 2012 – 5:53am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

I would bet the mortgage that it doesn’t.

I would too, it’s simple human psychology, we deal well with fast collapses. Martial law, rationing and things like that. A slow collapse is another matter, we have no idea how to deal with it.

[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 27, 2012 – 2:08am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
wiseindian, Your rational puzzles me a bit (a lot actually). And I’ve seen this idea expressed before (I think it qualifies as a genuine meme), so I’d like to take a close look at some of the logical contradictions inherent in what you are saying. You are implying that we get to choose which outcome will happen based on a personal preference for one or the other. You are also saying that we should logically be more afraid of the consequences of a slow, gradual, hardly noticable collapse as opposed to, say, IMMEDIATE STAVATION! Really? Because we don’t know how to ‘deal’ with a slow collapse? Do you have an idea how to ‘deal’ with immediate starvation? You seem to be confusing how we deal with the IDEA of collapse—with how we deal with the REALITY of an actual collapse, fast or slow. And what if I prefer a fast one and you prefer a slow one? Do we have to choose the same one or do we get to experience alternate realities? Majority rule?
[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 23, 2012 – 5:00pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Ron, Thank you so much for helping me to point out just how silly Greer’s position really is. When I first pondered the idea of a fast collapse, it seemed so obvious logical. No subsequent evidence has emerged to change my mind on that. True, if you had told me in 2008 that we would still be here debating this on the Oil Drum by 2012, I would not have taken you seriously. It did not seem possible then that we could have avoided complete collapse by now. For wishful thinkers, I guess this is evidence that the original idea must have been wrong. For people like me, it is very frustrating, but until I see some real evidence to the contrary, it is still hard for me to change my mind. Your post concludes with: “The collapse will surely come and the crash will be so fast it will shock everyone. It will likely happen in a matter of months.” I completely agree. I think things are beginning to slip as we speak.
[new] jokuhl on August 23, 2012 – 8:39pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
One thing that makes predicting this sort of thing so thorny (and contentious), is that we now have the technology to look at the entire globe and the peoples across it.. we have a number of connections, economic, trade, cultural, contractual that provide bonds and make the world look in some ways more homogenous and unified.. which makes some think that any fall will surely entangle and drag down all these connected nations and peoples.. and yet, there are cultural, environmental, resource and pure distance and geographical distinctions to every inhabited region, and after a certain degree of energy decline and maybe cultural or economic chaos, it seems quite likely that there will be a greater gulf between regions on widely varying scales.. some isolated places will lose their imports, but will find the local riches to be able to continue on quite well.. and may be enough out of the way that invasion or colonization would be unlikely. Point is, these sorts of variations will be reengaged in peoples all over the world, and some will find they are in places that cannot survive without the umbilical of cheap energy and goods, some will have wars, either ruinous or ultimately redrawing borders.. while other places will be able to regrow. Painting ‘The Collapse’ in any sort of monolithic framing seems too simplistic, while the potential for varied responses also, in my mind, would make the ‘average decline’ much milder than the one that the fast crashers often paint as if it were going to be that way everywhere..
[new] Jedi Welder on August 24, 2012 – 4:31am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

The collapse will surely come and the crash will be so fast it will shock everyone. It will likely happen in a matter of months.

Wow, you realy are a doomer. I will refrain from jokes about december 21. Although I plan to throw a party that day. I don’t think there is more than a narrow chance of a fast collapse any time soon. But I also find it equally impossible to avoid it long term. Imagine two islands moving apart from each other through super fast tectonic movements (say Cm/day). There is a bridge between them, but no more building material. Engineers are working every day to canibalize the bridge for material and stretch the bridge further and further, thus making it more and more fragile. That is what we are doing with the world economy (from eco systems and natural resourses, to jobs and financial instruemts). There are still room to stretch resources over even bigger gaps, but when it comes down, it will. More and more people are adding weight to a resource base that don’t grow and partly is even shrinking. The reason I don’t see the fast collapse on the emediate horizon is that I expect noise and rumblings before it happen. Call it pre-quakes if you want to. While things are happening right now and the situation is much worse than just 5 years ago, and that indicate we are moving closer towards the inevitable, we still have some more distance to cover. The world ain’t shaking enough. I may re-evaluate this analysis at any point in the future. EDIT: I now read Leanans comment,and your comment to hers. This was fun!

[new] orbit7er on August 24, 2012 – 8:41am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Darwinian writes:

Back then people went back to the farm. Today the world has almost three and one half times the population we had then. Today there are no farms to go back to.

Looking out the windows of my concrete and steel suburban Corporate office building I see trees, acres of grass and at night herds of deer. In the USA at least all those old farms plowed under for surburban sprawl have just been converted to energy wasting lawns of grass and asphalt parking lots. The deer can be hunted. Lawns can grow vegetables again. Acres of asphalt parking lots can be torn up and food planted in them again. Even in Manhattan public schools are growing their own vegetables! Lets not overlook the resources right in front of our own eyes out here in the suburban wasteland…

[new] Darwinian on August 24, 2012 – 8:54am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Yes, when the economy collapses you can just start growing food on your lawn. After cultivating them for a year, and keeping starving people out by keeping watch all night, you might get enough food to keep you alive for a month or so, or until the food rotted.

The deer can be hunted.

Yes they can. By the end of the first year we will have eaten the songbirds out of the trees. Ron P.

[new] Jedi Welder on August 25, 2012 – 10:58am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

The Swedish army calculates the swedish forests can sustain a population of 50 000 (hunting/gathering). This is the pop we had before agriculture. We are now 9 million. [new] John Michael Greer on August 23, 2012 – 9:23pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Loren, the fact that you disagree with my viewpoint — or, more precisely, your rather remarkable distortion of my viewpoint, speaking of straw men — is hardly grounds for claiming that I’m being deliberately dishonest. I disagree with your viewpoint — does that make you a liar? Of course not. Neither you nor I nor anyone knows in advance how this is going to play out. I hold, for reasons I’ve discussed at great length in four books and six years of blog posts, that the end of the industrial age is most likely to involve a long ragged sequence of messy crises followed by periods of relative stabilization and partial recovery. To use the metaphor of the terminally ill patient, which you somehow managed to misunderstand — please look up the meaning of the phrase “terminally ill” sometime — the doctors get his heart started again, but the underlying disease remains and worsens; there will be more heart failures, more crises, a steady decrease in vital signs and quality-of-life issues, and sooner or later the doctors aren’t going to manage to revive him. Is that what’s going to happen? Good question. Again, neither you nor I nor anyone knows. What I’m saying is that, in my view, this is the most likely scenario, and that most fast-collapse arguments share a set of flaws that, in my view, make them very implausible. You don’t have to agree with that view, but that’s the way I see things, and this notion of yours that I must be deliberately lying because I couldn’t possibly disagree with you for honest reasons is really a bit much.
[new] Darwinian on August 23, 2012 – 9:46pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
John, in times past I have been one of your greatest supporters on TOD. When others have criticized you I have come to your defense. But here I must side with avid Korowicz. I read his paper… twice… and found it absolutely compelling. I did not find your refutation, such as it was, very compelling. Your dismissal of the role of money I found especially weak. If money collapses, people cannot live, they cannot buy the necessities of life. People are civilization, not wealth. People must eat, people must have shelter, people must have a means of support. Without money they have nothing regardless of what they possess in the form of tangible wealth other than currency. People on this list talk of what we waste and how if we only stopped wasting so much then we could get by with a lot less. Perhaps but all that waste is produced by someone else’s gainful employment. When the majority of people in a society are unemployed the system collapses. End of story. During the great depression we had only 25 percent unemployed. If we get to 50 percent unemployed we will, I believe, have total collapse. That can happen fast, very fast. And that is the difference in times today and times past. Back then people were closer to the land. Even if they lived in the city they purchased food from peddlers on the street and small shops who got the produce directly from those who grew it. Not so today. Food comes mostly from a can or from a factory farm. Things are totally different today. Ron P.
[new] AlanfromBigEasy on August 23, 2012 – 9:52pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
In occupied Germany, money was cigarettes. Switching from a failed currency to a new one has been done *SO* many times in history, and never caused a complete and utter collapse of society that I can think of. I was tempted to read his analysis, but if that is all it is about, I won’t bother. Currency & Financial Collapse /= Social Collapse. Hundreds (thousands ?) of examples and not one contra example I can think of. Good to own gold & silver then, of course. Alan
[new] John Michael Greer on August 23, 2012 – 11:37pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Alan, thank you. You beat me to it!
[new] Darwinian on August 24, 2012 – 6:52am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
That’s it? That’s your answer? Cigarettes or gold trinkets? You are going to run a society on that? Or liquor? Now I know no slow crash advocate has ever given this problem much thought. If you had you would not post such a silly answer as that. In a partial collapse, one that affected only a few and a few countries one could get by by trading what few items they have. But a total collapse these kind of items would be of use only to a very few and then only for a few days. The cigarettes would be smoked and the liquor would be drank and there would be no more coming down the pike… ever. And people would soon find that their gold trinkets would be of little value. They could not eat any of them. I do not consider your or Alan’s reply a reply at all. You are going to run the world by trading trinkets, cigarettes and liquor. Even manufacturers and service employers will pay their employees with them. As Charlie Brown often says. Good Grief! Ron P. Edit: But Alan and John, I do thank you for your answer. I am going to save it and use it every time someone talks argues for a slow crash. It will always settle the debate.
[new] Leanan on August 24, 2012 – 7:20am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
I agree with them. Financial collapse is not the same as societal collapse. Many countries have suffered financial collapse without suffering societal collapse. Korowicz’s arguments remind of the ones Stoneleigh made before and during the 2008 crisis. I think she was definitely onto something. There were rumors of goods piled up on docks, because the credit lines had dried up. And remember how we were all watching the Baltic Dry Index? But it didn’t translate into empty store shelves. And while I generally find “this time it’s different” arguments suspect…in this case, I wonder if it might really be different. In particular, we are so close to a cashless economy. We use credit cards, debit cards, and cell phones to pay for everything. Even food stamps are debit cards now. There was an unexpected delay when I closed my HSBC account and opened an account at my local credit union, and I had to go a couple of months without cash. It was no hardship at all. Even the farmer’s market takes plastic these days. In Argentina, a lot of the hardship was caused by the government’s attempt to keep people from moving cash outside the country. They limited withdrawals, and it wasn’t enough to live on. But if money is electrons instead of paper, they could keep it in the country without limiting how people spent it domestically. I dunno, maybe it would somehow make things worse instead of better. But given the wide range of scenarios we’ve seen from past financial crises…I don’t think anyone can say for certain that financial collapse would lead to societal collapse, never mind predict the speed at which it would happen.
[new] Darwinian on August 24, 2012 – 7:32am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Okay, now I understand. No one in this debate arguing for slow collapse has even bothered to read the David Korowicz paper. Too long and too much trouble I suppose. And besides, you already have you mind made up and that’s it.

In terms of impact, a large-scale financial collapse would far surpass the fuel blockades in impact and speed of onset. The movement of goods, people, and critical functions would be rapidly affected. The catastrophic impact arising from McKinnon’s study would be merely a sub-set of the potential impact.

He is talking about the real life fuel blockades in the United Kingdom in 2000. Grocery store shelves had began to empty and people were starting to panic. A full scale financial meltdown would far surpass anything that has ever happened… anywhere. I understand now Leanan. Thanks for your reply. Ron P.

[new] Leanan on August 24, 2012 – 7:42am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
I’m arguing that we really don’t know, more than for slow collapse. I don’t think anyone can be sure, one way or other, about this topic. It’s possible for intelligent, well-informed people to disagree about this. I’m also reminded of those studies that found the most accurate predictions about the future are made by those who are least sure they are right.
[new] Darwinian on August 24, 2012 – 7:59am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments topYes we do know. We do know what would have happened in the UK if the trucks had not started rolling again. We know what happened in 1932 when 25 percent of the workforce was out of work. We know what would happen if there were no currency to pay anyone with. We know what would happen if world commerce came to a halt. And I do not believe for one minute that David Korowicz has any serious doubts as to what would happen in the event of a worldwide financial meltdown. Saying that he is amount the least sure of the results of his study is just not accurate, not by a long shot. And I also understand that if a strong argument needs to be made it will take many pages to cover all bases, all counter arguments. But if one were to do that then the study would be too long for anyone to read it, especially those who are already sure of their current beliefs. I repeat my earlier argument. No one on this list, or on any other blog has refuted the points made in the David Korowicz study. That’s because they have not read it so how could they possibly refute it. Ron P.
[new] Leanan on August 24, 2012 – 9:04am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

We do know what would have happened in the UK if the trucks had not started rolling again.

Actually…I don’t think we do. Moreover, we don’t know that the trucks will stop rolling. And if they do, it might not be permanent. One thing that’s become clear to me over the past few years is that collapse is not a one-way street. There are stair steps up as well as down. New Orleans was a Mad Max nightmare come true. But they recovered. Not fully, but they’re hosting the next Super Bowl. Similarly, the chaos after the hurricanes, with fistfights at gas stations, people sleeping at work because they couldn’t get gas, the National Guard protecting fuel tankers, and drivers filling up even their coffee cups with gas when it was available – didn’t last.

And I do not believe for one minute that David Korowicz has any serious doubts as to what would happen in the event of a worldwide financial meltdown.

And that increases the chances of his being wrong

[new] LOREN_SOMAN on August 27, 2012 – 12:19am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Leanan, “Not fully, but they’re hosting the next Super Bowl.” Maybe, maybe not. Philosophically speaking, your idea of what is certain in the future is really not any more certain than an immediate, total, rapid collapse. The future is inherently unknowable, right? I think Darwinian is right. People who want to argue against a fast collapse really ought to read the Korowicz paper. –Loren



Let’s Get Real

Before I post chapter 2 of “The Cat in John Michael Greer’s Kitchen”, I just wanted to take a brief time out here and switch gears to my upcoming analysis of Greer’s Theory of Catabolic Collapse.  As has been documented in my previous post, John Michael Greer himself has invited me to write a formal critique of his theory.  I am beginning that exciting process as we speak.  What follows here grows out of that effort, but should not be mistaken as the formal critique itself.  In fact, this page is meant as a serious critique in terms of content, but it’s tone is more that of a scathing, sarcastic, rude (and hopefully humorous) attack on both the theory and it’s creator.  And it should by no means be considered complete.
To get the ball rolling, I would first like to closely examine the ad hominem attack I was accused of making last week.  Here is the critical part of my original post on theoildrum regarding Greer’s offhanded blog response to David Korowicz’s excruciatingly thorough Trade-Off: Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion: a study in global systemic collapse , which I would recommend everyone read now, if you have not done so already.
LOREN_SOMAN on August 23, 2012 – 3:40pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Greer’s rebuttal of Korowicz’s paper is intentionally dishonest, misleading, insulting, and completely inadequate (i.e. silly). If anyone on this site wants to take up and champion Greer’s cause, or if Greer himself were to debate this on this site, I think it would be the best discussion The Oil Drum has ever had. Greer’s position is so obviously the losing one. I guess it is always socially easier to agree to disagree than to have one side actually lose the argument.

This attack, as written, is technically an ad hominem attack; but it is a special exception to the usual rule, and is known as a valid ad hominem attack.  From an article in Scientific American called “Character Attacks: How to Properly Apply the Ad Hominem” by Yvonne Raley.
“Although ad hominem arguments have long been considered errors in reasoning, a recent analysis suggests that this is not always the case. In his new book, Media Argumentation: Dialectic, Persuasion, and Rhetoric, University of Winnipeg philosopher Douglas Walton proposes that fallacies such as the ad hominem are better understood as perversions or corruptions of perfectly good arguments. Regarding the ad hominem, Walton contends that although such attacks are usually fallacious, they can be legitimate when a character critique is directly or indirect­ly related to the point being articulated….
…What types of ad hominems might then be justified? Walton argues that  an ad hominem is valid when the claims made about a person’s character or actions are relevant to the conclusions being drawn. Consider, for example, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who was caught on a wiretap arranging to hire a prostitute for $4,300. Because this behavior ran counter to Spitzer’s anticorruption platform, its unveiling would prevent Spitzer from governing successfully; thus, criticizing this aspect of his character was relevant and fair. In an earlier scandal, in 1987, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart was seen at a motel with a prostitute. Because his behavior undercut his preaching and status as a Christian role model, a character attack based on this incident would have been spot-on.”
So, with all that in mind, let me make something perfectly clear right here and now that I obviously would never be allowed to say on

John Michael Greer is a Charlatan!

Let me say that again.  John Michael Greer is a modern day, snake oil selling charlatan.  I just wish I could say it louder.  I will now offer the following indictment in support of my position.

Why John Michael Greer is a Charlatan

1.  John Michael Greer does not seem to want to discuss his actual theory very much.

See if you can find a very good explanation of catabolic collapse from the threads in question.  Real scientists and academicians do not miss the chance to explain their ideas.

2.  John Michael Greer does not seem to much like questions or comments opposing his ideas, and in fact does not allow them on his own blog.

This is also inconsistent with the general attitude common to real researchers, scientists, and academicians (and that includes historians).
Ghung on August 23, 2012 – 7:28pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

“Instead of sniping at JMG here on TOD, why don’t you engage him on his blog?” Tried that. See below. But it’s his blog, and he controls the discussion, and is generally dismissive of those who may disagree with the story he’s telling. I respect his perogative to do so, if not always his conclusions.
And: John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 12:13am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Ghung, I don’t discourage challenges to my conclusions; you’re free to challenge my conclusions anywhere else on the web you want. notanoilman on August 24, 2012 – 2:18am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

‘anywhere else on the web’ but where? NAOM John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 12:42pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
Anywhere else but on the comments page of my blog, where he’s already repeatedly stated his opinion on the subject.

3.  John Michael Greer seems quite proud of his position with regard to not entertaining opposing ideas on his own blog.

He seems preoccupied with commerce and popularity, as opposed to ideas.
John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 2:39am Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top

Tribe, the reason I get that many comments — or so I’ve been told by a number of those who make them — is precisely because so many people are tired of the rehashing of conventional wisdom, the endless and pointless arguments, and the other less than amiable features of so many internet forums. If more people read and comment on my blog than the other blogs you have in mind, that’s hardly an argument for scrapping the features that make my blog a little different, and embracing the habits of the blogs these same readers are choosing to avoid — quite the opposite, don’t you think?
Ron,… …I’d also point out that it’s ironic, to use no stronger word, that this tempest in an oil drum should have blown up shortly after a lengthy discussion, on this same forum, of the fact that online attention to peak oil sites such as this one has been dropping since 2008. I haven’t had that experience on The Archdruid Report, oddly enough; my page views per month have been climbing steadily during that same period. Could it be that this is because most online peak oil forums keep on rehashing the same tired debates in the same stereotyped terms, and my blog doesn’t? It’s an interesting question to which I don’t have a firm answer — but I do have my suspicions.

4.  John Michael Greer is quite fond of accusing his detractors of not understanding his ‘theory’.

This is a common defense often used by charlatans.
Some examples from the thread:
“The arguments I offered haven’t been refuted, or even addressed, by Korowicz — or, indeed, any of the studies just mentioned.”
“Richard, thank you for the vote of confidence, and also for actually paying attention to what I’ve been saying! It’s seemingly a rare habit.”
“Loren, you’ve…mischaracterized my ideas to an extent that makes me wonder if you’ve ever actually read anything I’ve written….”
“(the tone)…of his [Rob Hopkins] response took me aback, and so did the number of misrepresentations that found their way into it; I have no objection to criticism – quite the contrary, an idea that can’t stand up to honest criticism isn’t worth having in the first place – but it might have been helpful if Hopkins had taken the time to be sure the ideas he was criticizing were ones I’ve actually proposed…”

5.  John Michael Greer is not even taken seriously by the academic community he pretends to be a part of!

…I’ve been waiting since the original paper was first published for somebody to present a meaningful critique of the theory — that is, a critique that showed that the critic had taken the time to understand the theory I propose, and was prepared to present reasoning or evidence to challenge it.

6.  John Michael Greer speaks in analogies and metaphors.

The terminally ill patient metaphor comes to mind.
From an analysis by “Prestige” on James Randi Educational Foundation web site, whose founder is a long time debunker of frauds and a personal hero of mine.  This took place on their discussion forum way back in 2007:
The idea of catabolic collapse is simple enough, and it’s best communicated through a metaphor.
     —-John Michael Greer
No. Absolutely not. First, an idea is always best communicated in its own terms, not in terms of something else.
Second, if his idea really is “simple enough”, he should have no trouble explaining it simply enough in its own terms.
Third, the problem with metaphors and analogies is that they require you to assume as given things that have yet to be established. In this case, the author wants us to assume as given that civilizations share certain fundamental constraints, dynamics and consequences with home ownership.
…This use of metaphor, in place of actual research, of analogy in place of evidence, is a lie. A cheat. A fraud.
An analogy might be useful for introducing schoolchildren to novel concepts that are not “simple enough” in their own terms. And even then, the concepts they introduce have been thoroughly researched and proven, in their own terms, by people who are not schoolchildren.
We’re not schoolchildren. To be lectured as if we were, with childish and simplistic analogies, is insulting enough. When that lecture is delivered by someone whose own efforts on the subject show no signs of having progressed beyond such childishness, it is downright laughable.

7.  John Michael Greer seems to be revising his ‘theory’ on the fly.

It is hard to critique a moving target.
John Michael Greer on August 24, 2012 – 12:40pm Permalink | Subthread | Parent | Parent subthread | Comments top
…Yes, I’m arguing for a stairstep or, as I’m thinking of it these days, a fractal collapse — a long ragged process packed with crises on various scales and of varying severity, taking one to three centuries to complete the descent into the deindustrial dark ages.

8.  John Michael Greer’s ‘theory’ is not even a proper theory in the first place.

But that’s OK since I’ll bet that his biggest supporters on the oildrum have not even bothered to read it anyway.
Once again from “Prestige” of the James Randi Educational Foundation discussion forum:
“In the final paragraph of his paper:
     1. He hasn’t done any of the hard work necessary to validate his proposal.
Such assessments of past and present societies, in order to achieve a high degree of analytic or predictive value, require careful quantitative analysis of a sort this paper has not attempted.
(page 12, paragraph 2, sentence 1)
     2. In fact, it may be impossible to validate his proposal.
Since each element in the conceptual model presented here stands for a diverse and constantly changing set of variables, such analysis offers significant challenges, and in many historical examples it may be impossible to go beyond proxy measurements of uncertain value for crucial variables.
(page 12, paragraph 2, sentence 2)
     3. He’s willing to admit supposition in place of actual evidence or serious research efforts
However, general patterns corresponding to the catabolic collapse model may be easier to extract from incomplete data.
(page 12, paragraph 2, sentence 3)
     4. In closing, he asserts that such supposition should be biased in favor of his proposal.
Any society that displays broad increases in most measures of capital production coupled with signs of serious depletion of key resources, in particular, may be considered a potential candidate for catabolic collapse.
(page 12, paragraph 2, sentence 4)”
And further:
“…Also, the research isn’t very detailed, and the detail is most notably absent from the parts of the examples that are supposed to support his claims. He even admits as much: “… careful quantitative analysis of a sort this paper has not attempted”.
…After admitting that actual evidence may be difficult or impossible to obtain, he says, “general patterns corresponding to the catabolic collapse model may be easier to extract from incomplete data”. He’s suggesting that anything that looks like his model can be supposed to validate his model.
…So don’t you find bias in favor of an untested, unsupported, unresearched model a little problematic?”
This breakdown doesn’t begin to critique the so called Theory of Catabolic Collapse from a standpoint of the actual scientific evidence available or with reference to actual scientific theories that stand in stark opposition.  I will begin to outline those objections in the next post.
In any event, I invite any and all comments, questions, objections, or whatever to this or any other blog entry I submit, and I will attempt to answer each and every one directly.  Take your best shot.  I gladly welcome a free and open discussion of ideas on my blog, unlike some people I know.
Until next time,
PS—Perhaps the con man has, wisely, already left town.  From Greer’s latest blog entry:
“It has been three years now since I took a break from these weekly essays, and for a number of reasons, now’s a good time not to take that any further. The fictional scenario that was going to be the last post in this series of three has unexpectedly grown into an extended narrative five posts long, one that needs to be filled out by a good deal of further research; I also have a contract, finally, for the Green Wizardry book project, and a major writing project on the other side of my career, both of which could use some concentrated attention just now.
This will therefore be the last Archdruid Report post until the beginning of October. I’ll be responding to comments on this post for the next week or so, but after that, you’re on your own for the month of September. Put the time you’d spend reading these essays into digging in your gardens, building solar ovens, learning to brew beer, or in some other way developing skills that will help you weather the opening years of the deindustrial age, and you’ll be ahead of the game. See you again on October 3!”
                                                                                            —John Michael Greer
I guess we will have to wait until then to see if John Michael Greer shows his white robed, long bearded, snake oil selling, charlatan face ever again!


Off the Keyboard of Steve from Virginia

Posted originally on Economic Undertow on August 29, 2012

 Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Nicole Foss — Stoneleigh — recently published an article about the recent electric blackout in India where hundreds of millions lost power. The article is very comprehensive and well worth the time to read it. As informative as the article are some of the photographs;

A slum is a favela is a shanty-town. Here is a typical slum in India/anywhere in the world (unknown photographer). The canal in the foreground is both sewer and source of drinking/washing water. Life in this slum is brutish, nasty and short. How can it be otherwise?

Slums are a product of modernity just the same as automobiles and jet airplanes. They are economically segregated areas, places where society’s losers are swept. Modernity washes its hands of the slum-dwellers then moves onto other business … the creation of more slum dwellers. Slums are the end product of social Darwinism, the necessary ‘yin’ to business success ‘yang’.

More success = more slums. Failure of the process also = more slums. Modernity asserts that it eliminates poverty. Slums stand as evidence that modernity creates poverty. More modernity = more poverty.

Anywhere from 800 million to 2 billion of the world’s citizens live in shanty-towns, many within/surrounding sprawling modern mega-cities. A few older slums are stable, their inhabitants are transforming these places into functional urban neighborhoods with land title, utility services and permanent structures. Most slums are temporary pop-up collections of plastic trash and worn packaging materials, that only last until the landowner, flood or other disaster wipes them away.

Creating neighborhoods is something humans have done for thousands of years, are generally good at it. Third-world slums are city building on a human scale: they are non-automobile habitats. In this sense they represent both humanity’s past and future.

Slums appear where there are people desperate for housing, where a piece of land can be occupied at little- or no cost. Often these are industrial spoil dumps or city garbage pits, border-area refugee camps, abandoned- or contested development sites. Some slums are a single building or collection of older, obsolete structures.

Ad-hoc landlords divide the space into shack-sized lots or ‘rooms’ that are rented for pennies per day to the poorest of the poor. Because slums are ‘unofficial’ there are generally no services other than the odd street light and perhaps a water tap. One tap may be the only source of clean water for five thousand- or more people. Many slums have no clean water supply at all and require trips by residents to distant wells or periodic visits by (expensive) water trucks. There are scarce- or no toilets or sewers, few rules, no police or government authority, no medical care. There are improvised micro-economies of interrelated small businesses many of which are tinkers’ trades. Like the slum itself, its economy is both anti- and postmodern. Interface with ‘regular’ finance and industry takes place at the margins of the slum.

Because slums are not automobile habitats they can be confused by some with traditional city developments that emerged before the auto-industrial period. The ‘traditional city’ has high density human dwellings and small businesses with all areas accessible on foot. This kind of development are also refined: inhabitants are prosperous, there are excellent services available.



Mallorca street (Nathan Lewis) This is an economically segregated area but cannot be considered a slum. It shares many of the physical characteristics of one: narrow streets, buildings up against the street, the absence of a central ‘plan’ or developer. Narrow streets allow more living space in a given area. At one time this village might have have been a slum, if this is so these beginnings were left behind once original shacks were replaced with permanent structures and the owners given property rights.

Stewart Brand believes slums have something to offer: they are ‘efficient’:


How Slums Can Save The Planet

In 1983, architect Peter Calthorpe gave up on San Francisco, where he had tried and failed to organise neighbourhood communities, and moved to a houseboat in Sausalito, a town on the San Francisco Bay. He ended up on South 40 Dock, where I also live, part of a community of 400 houseboats and a place with the densest housing in California. Without trying, it was an intense, proud community, in which no one locked their doors. Calthorpe looked for the element of design magic that made it work, and concluded it was the dock itself and the density. Everyone who lived in the houseboats on South 40 Dock passed each other on foot daily, trundling to and from the parking lot on shore. All the residents knew each other’s faces and voices and cats. It was a community, Calthorpe decided, because it was walkable.

Building on that insight, Calthorpe became one of the founders of the new urbanism, along with Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and others. In 1985 he introduced the concept of walkability in “Redefining Cities,” an article in the Whole Earth Review, an American counterculture magazine that focused on technology, community building and the environment. Since then, new urbanism has become the dominant force in city planning, promoting high density, mixed use, walkability, mass transit, eclectic design and regionalism. It drew one of its main ideas from the houseboat community.


How precious: Calthorpe “introduced the concept of walkability in “Redefining Cities.” What did people do before marketing? People have been walking in cities for as long as cities have existed. People live in slums because they cannot afford to live elsewhere, not because they are walkable. Persons with sufficient incomes exit their slums without hesitation. There is no upside to living in squalor, no matter how much the concept is ‘redefined’.

Every year millions are swept out of the countryside by agricultural colonialism and expansion of industrial agriculture. There are insufficient opportunities in rural communities to employ displaced agricultural workers. A lure of the cities is industrial jobs in- and outside of urban sweatshops: labor migrates toward income as it has since the dawn of mankind, it also goes where it must.


There are plenty more ideas to be discovered in the squatter cities of the developing world, the conurbations made up of people who do not legally occupy the land they live on—more commonly known as slums. One billion people live in these cities and, according to the UN, this number will double in the next 25 years. There are thousands of them and their mainly young populations test out new ideas unfettered by law or tradition. Alleyways in squatter cities, for example, are a dense interplay of retail and services—one-chair barbershops and three-seat bars interspersed with the clothes racks and fruit tables. One proposal is to use these as a model for shopping areas. “Allow the informal sector to take over downtown areas after 6pm,” suggests Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil. “That will inject life into the city.”


The informal sector in slums is drug dealing, robbery and kidnapping, punctuated with battles fought with automatic weapons between gangsters and the police.


The reversal of opinion about fast-growing cities (slums), previously considered bad news, began with The Challenge of Slums, a 2003 UN-Habitat report. The book’s optimism derived from its groundbreaking fieldwork: 37 case studies in slums worldwide. Instead of just compiling numbers and filtering them through theory, researchers hung out in the slums and talked to people. They came back with an unexpected observation: “Cities are so much more successful in promoting new forms of income generation, and it is so much cheaper to provide services in urban areas, that some experts have actually suggested that the only realistic poverty reduction strategy is to get as many people as possible to move to the city.” 

The magic of squatter cities is that they are improved steadily and gradually by their residents. To a planner’s eye, these cities look chaotic. I trained as a biologist and to my eye, they look organic. Squatter cities are also unexpectedly green. They have maximum density—1m people per square mile in some areas of Mumbai—and have minimum energy and material use. People get around by foot, bicycle, rickshaw, or the universal shared taxi.

Not everything is efficient in the slums, though. In the Brazilian favelas where electricity is stolen and therefore free, people leave their lights on all day. But in most slums recycling is literally a way of life. The Dharavi slum in Mumbai has 400 recycling units and 30,000 ragpickers. Six thousand tons of rubbish are sorted every day. In 2007, the Economist reported that in Vietnam and Mozambique, “Waves of gleaners sift the sweepings of Hanoi’s streets, just as Mozambiquan children pick over the rubbish of Maputo’s main tip. Every city in Asia and Latin America has an industry based on gathering up old cardboard boxes.”


Slums carry with them the constant risk of displacement, generally slum dwellers have no property rights. It is difficult for those with small means to divert some of them toward improving places they have little or no interest in.

Life in the slums is anchored in modernity, consumer demand is taken wherever it can be found:


Life In The World’s Slums

In Bangkok’s slums, most homes have a colour television—the average number is 1.6 per household. Almost all have fridges, and two-thirds have a CD player, washing machine and a mobile phone. Half of them have a home telephone, video player and motorcycle. (From research for UN report The Challenge of Slums.)

Residents of Rio’s favelas are more likely to have computers and microwaves than the city’s middle classes (Janice Perlman, author of The Myth of Marginality.)

In the slums of Medellín, Colombia, people raise pigs on the third-floor roofs and grow vegetables in used bleach bottles hung from windowsills. (Ethan Zuckerman, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.)

The 4bn people at the base of the economic pyramid—all those with [annual] incomes below $3,000 in local purchasing power—live in relative poverty. Their incomes… are less than $3.35 a day in Brazil, $2.11 in China, $1.89 in Ghana, and $1.56 in India. Yet they have substantial purchasing power… [and] constitute a $5 trillion global consumer market.


Population growth gallops ahead of the ability of development to deliver anything more than cheap, energy gobbling consumer goods. These give the illusion of ‘progress’ while inflation suggests that the poor are earning more money when in real terms they aren’t.

It’s hard to compare life in a medieval European village or a yacht harbor in the San Francisco Bay area with living in a shanty town in Bangkok, Mumbai or elsewhere in this world:


Paul Fenn 

I unintentionally found myself living (flat broke at 34 years old) in a slum off Jalan Wahid Hasyim in downtown Jakarta in ’94 for two months. It was the most disgusting, scary, dark, bleak, psycho, messed up two months a person could have. I’m talking about swarms of dengue-infected mosquitoes from dusk till dawn, cockroaches slapping off the walls like flying moccasins nightly, bloated ticks on the walls, intense heat and 100% humidity always, an auto body shop that started banging hammers on car panels at 6am 7 days a week, a mosque on each side of our house, complete with blown-out speakers calling locals to prayer 5 times daily, a disco behind us thumping on till 7am every morning, rats, dogs, cats all of them wild, mangy, diseased, flea-and-tick-bitten, puking and hunger-crazed, regular power failures, single-mom hookers lurking, screaming, pot banging food vendors day and night, storm-triggered floods of black, stinking filth, the toxic stench of burning plastic and vegetation always. And that was just down the alley I lived on.

Walk out into the streets and it was thousands on thousands of cars, trucks, motorbikes, buses and two-stroke Indian-made Bajai taxis all jammed up, barely moving, all churning out black and blue smoke. Fold in rotting, burning garbage piled randomly with no hope of ever being collected, missing sidewalk covers over canals filled with what looked like black snot and choked with a billion plastic bags, coconuts, palm fronds, trees and Christ knows what else, plus disfigured, heartbreakingly filthy beggars here and there, the sick and aged homeless selling their trifles to make ends meet, corruption from the parking mafia on up to the president… and this wasn’t the city’s worst slum. Though I went there too and saw people bathing babies and brushing teeth in rivers you wouldn’t dare throw a lit match into.

Sorry, Mr. Brand. This is the most insane, out-of-touch pile of white-guilt-assuaging crap I’ve come across in decades. You have no idea what you are talking about, sir. Stay aboard your yacht in Marin where you’ll be safe in your delusions. I’ve also spent time on a yacht in your marina, and can tell you that that life couldn’t be any further removed from the reality of slum living, unless you moved it to the moon.

People in the slums hate their lives (no matter how much they may smile at you as you pass by in your Indiana Jones hat and cargo pants full of candies for their kids), and for thousands of sound reasons. There is nothing happy or applicable to be pulled out of slums other than the knowledge that they are cesspools of tragedy, misguided dreams, unimaginable filth and evil.


In slums there are no regular sources of power. Instead, there are jury-rig connections to the grid from street lighting cables along with small generators. The generators are dependent upon a steady supply of diesel fuel or gasoline, the connections rely on periodic blackouts:

A rigger makes a new connection to a street light circuit (unknown photographer): jury-rigged connections are found in every slum around the world. Making unofficial connections is a dance with fiery death unless the power is off during a blackout. There is little information about how many are killed making unsanctioned connections to energized circuits. In most poor nations there are periodic blackouts during which time do-it-yourselfers and hired riggers climb poles and attach lines.

A rigger connects a house to live wires in the Rocinha slum in Rio. (Fred Alves, Washington Post)

Unknown photographer: the wires bring lighting, refrigerators and air conditioners: at the end of every single wire there is a television set. The desire is for all to buy and buy: the fantastic world will be the slum-dwellers’ tomorrow as long as they endure the unendurable today …

Support for the business lords’ agenda springs from the underclass’ misery and human desire for ‘improvement’. The television puts form to the multitudes’ fantasies …

Photo by Kevin Frayer (AP): a man walks past temporary high-tension power supply cables in New Delhi. It is unfair to characterize the entire country of India as a gigantic slum but the photograph is indicative. The drainage canal is both sewer and water supply for those in the surrounding neighborhood. Note the garbage dump to the left sloping into the canal. The infrastructure of India and in similarly situated parts of the world cannot support the growing human mass that depends upon it.

The lack of clean water for drinking and cleaning as well as proper waste sanitation are gigantic health problems. Large slums housing thousands often have latrines that are nothing more than open pits with boards over them. New pits are dug when the originals are filled. When the rains come the pits overflow with human waste which floods into the housing.

Slums are considered to be green due to density however the hundreds of millions who live in them are without waste-water treatment. This pollution ultimately winds up in the ocean, beaches in Rio have been closed by sewage floods from the city’s notorious favelas. Along with sewage is millions of tons of indestructible plastic waste.

The concept of slum is expandable, some forms are purposefully created and are not to be confused with anything else.

Unknown photographer: the dystopian nightmare without end, humans as lobotomized rats running in a sewer … a canal sluicing with a torrent of mechanized waste, every occupant a slave to auto manufacturers and the petroleum industry.

Jericho Turnpike in Long Island, NY (Scouting New York)


Sleepwalking Into the Future

James Howard Kunstler

Years from now, the denizens of Long Island may shake their heads in wonder and nausea as they attempt to repair the mighty mess that was made here during the 20th century.  My term for this mess is the national automobile slum. I think it’s more precise than the usual generic term suburban sprawl. A slum, after all, is clearly understood to be a place that offers a very low quality of life. And the mess is everywhere. Every corner of our nation is now afflicted. The on-ramps of Hempstead aren’t any more spiritually rewarding than the ones in Beverly Hills. We’ve become a United Parking Lot of America.

We have utterly relinquished the everyday world of our nation to the automobile. I don’t think it is possible to overstate the damage that this has done to us collectively as a civilization and as individual souls. The national automobile slum is a place where the past has been obliterated and the future has been foreclosed. Since past represents our memories and the future our hope, life in a car slum is life with no memory and no hope. How many of us can gaze out over a typical highway strip like the Jericho Turnpike and imagine a hopeful future for it or for the people who will have to live with it?


Slums are variation on the theme of dehumanization. Humans are reduced to being cogs in gigantic machines or waste products. Individuals in the waste category sometimes lift themselves up by becoming drug kingpins, informal ‘mayors’, celebrities or shills for Ponzi schemes. The rest are trapped, the slums swallow them.

What is underway is the slum-ification of the entire world. The great machines cannot provide middle-class lives to all because the necessary materials are absent. If the slum-dweller cannot regularize the status of his ‘house lot’ if he cannot afford the materials to craft a permanent structure that does not leak whenever it rains, there are no others who will gain these things for him.



An abandoned, unfinished skyscraper in downtown Beijing (Glen Downs): where did all that money go? The industrial ‘solution’ is always more development but this shifts costs around, it doesn’t eliminate them. Every slum that is developed out of existence in China pops up in Africa or South America. With more humans there are more slums, eventually the new developments become slums as well.

When the fossil fuel becomes unobtainable the great auto slums of America and its wannabes will become the real things or places of ruin and abandonment.

Consider all of our precious infrastructure without the means to keep it maintained. Here are your shining cities on the hill: the slums beckon, the default future for what remains of the human race in a world that is stripped of all accessible resources.

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