Thomas Lewis

Fuel Subsidies & JFK Memorium

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  May 22 & May 28, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Fuel Subsidies Are Destroying the World

 

 

 

 

(Photo by Gideon Wright/Flickr)

 

 

 

 

One of the most potent forces acting to destabilize the world is seldom mentioned, let alone acknowledged, by corporate journalists or industrial politicians. It is so unfamiliar to Americans as to be virtually invisible, and requires a somewhat lengthy introduction.

Let’s start with the worst exemplar — Saudi Arabia. For many decades, Saudis have enjoyed the cheapest gasoline and diesel-fuel prices on the planet — in 2011, gas sold there for 57 cents a gallon. Now it costs 91 cents. (Think about that for a minute: while world oil prices have dropped to less than half what they were in 2011, the price of Saudi gas has nearly doubled?)

The reason that Saudi gas has been so cheap — and that its price is going up while in most other countries it is going down — is that the Saudis decided long ago to use their fabulous incoming oil wealth to subsidize the fuel prices paid by its citizens. This was not benevolence, it was done to maintain calm and quiet among a harshly subjugated people. The collapse in oil prices has done what the playing out of their oil fields was about to do — slashed their income dramatically. Meanwhile their population has increased, and cheap gas has encouraged profligate consumption. By 2011, nearly one quarter of the entire Saudi budget was being siphoned off by gas subsidies. The Saudis simply cannot afford to maintain the subsidies any longer.

But they can’t afford to stop them, either. History shows that there is no more certain igniter of civil unrest, anywhere in the world, than a sudden increase in fuel prices. And few countries are more afraid than Saudi Arabia of internal unrest. So they are enduring jaw-dropping deficits to keep the subsidies more or less in place. They tinker with them, and complain constantly that they cannot afford them, but so far, they stay, albeit in reduced form. Resistance flares, and flickers, but so far has not exploded into revolution.

In countless other countries around the world, the ebbing of fuel subsidies is second only to climate change as an unacknowledged efficient cause of riot, revolution and ruin. Other examples (not an encyclopedic list):

  • Indonesia announced the end of gas subsidies in 2015, hoping to free up about $20 billion a year to pay for, among other things, the oil it can no longer produce and must import.
  • Malaysia announced the end of gas and diesel fuel subsidies in 2014, looking to save $6 billion a year.
  • Venezuela, its economy decimated by the collapse in oil prices, suspended subsidies two years ago. Now the country that contested with Saudi Arabia for the lowest gas-pump prices in the world is virtually a failed state.
  • Mexico, in January of this year (while Americans were transfixed by the spectacle of their new clown prince), facing rampant inflation, a weakening currency, and a faltering oil industry, eliminated gas subsidies and let the pump price shoot up 20 per cent.  Mass demonstrations and deadly riots ensued, all across the country, and have not yet subsided,
  • Egypt, which once produced all its own petroleum and all its own food, now has to import both. Yet supporting the subsidies established when it was oil-rich is taking a terrible toll. The International Monetary Fund reports that Egypt has been spending on gas subsidies three times its education budget and seven times what it spends on health care.  
  • Iraq eliminated energy subsidies in 2007, but replaced with price controls, so the population continues to receive a sizeable implicit subsidy as domestic fuel prices  are set well below international levels. The size of this implicit subsidy was estimated at over 11 percent of Iraq’s GDP in 2011.
  • Iran pays far more in fuel subsidies — $45 billion a year — than Saudi Arabia, or any other country, and has been struggling to get rid of them for a decade. A series of complicated master plans had been enacted, delayed, and partially implemented with the goal of keeping public outrage just below the boiling point. As the tightrope walker said halfway across Niagara Falls —  so far, so good.

If we also take into account the massive subsidies given by the wealthy consuming nations of the world to the producers of  gas and oil, it becomes obvious that government subsidies are a massive contributor to the other onslaught that is destabilizing the world — climate change. If the governments of the world find it impossible to stop financing this destructive behavior, how can we expect them to find a way to stop it?

———————–

In Memoriam: JFK

 

 

 

 

“Once upon a time the world was sweeter than we knew. Somehow once upon a time never comes again.”

 

 

 

 

Monday is the 100th anniversary of the birth of John F. Kennedy. I suppose we should do as Christians do — celebrate the birth on its anniversary, mourn the death when its date comes around, but I cannot separate them.

I remember all too well having a President who embodied grace, intelligence, learning, excellence and humor; whose every utterance, from formal speeches to casual asides, reminded me that I was a citizen of a remarkable country, summoned in me a swelling pride in its principles and achievements, while at the same time calling me to strive to make it better.

If you did not live through that time, or if you do not agree with some policies or beliefs he espoused (as I did not, at the time) you will find it easy to dismiss my pain as the edited dreams of an old man remembering a Golden Age that never was. You would be wrong. My memories are verifiable.

I make no claim that it was an easy age. The arms race, the Cold War, the failed invasion of Cuba followed by the terrifying Cuban Missile Crisis, the first mutterings of the storm that would break in Vietnam, the crisis in civil rights in America, all these were part of an age that was far from tranquil. But we were led by a man who held before us constantly a vision of a country that stood for things — important things such as honor, compassion, human rights, freedom. And we stood for those things, as he once said of the race to the moon, not because they were easy, but because they were hard. And that is why that difficult age was, at the same time, golden.

Until that awful afternoon and endless night in November of 1963. It was then, for me, that the music died. And it seems to me now, although it’s probably just coincidence, that it was on that very day that America began its long, inexorable slide into the status of a Third-World banana republic — a slide that, for 99% of our people, has yet to slow down. We never saw his like again.

So I wish your spirit Happy Birthday, Mr. President. I hope you will forgive me if I am not able to celebrate.

 

 

 

 

Climate Gentrification & This Week in Amerika

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  May 5 & May11, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

“Climate Gentrification” a.k.a. Miami Vice 

 

 

 

 

The sea is coming for Miami, and the rats — protesting that they don’t believe it — are making deals. Is “Miami Vice” redundant?

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to imagine that the plug-ugliness of the American climate-change denier could be made more loathsome, but it has been. The Masters of the Universe and their wholly-owned-and-operated politicians have plumbed new depths in their ability to make money while aiding and abetting the increasing misery of their fellow human beings.

Their latest refinement has been detected in Miami, which is fitting, because few places on earth rival Miami’s wretched excess in the heedless pursuit of megabucks. Fitting, too, because Miami may well be the first large American city to be submerged by seas rising in response to climate change. The prospect is of course hotly denied or coldly ignored by Miami’s politicians and uglygarchs, who insist there is nothing to see there, even while the rising waters — especially in South Miami, Coral Gables and Miami Beach — are quite literally, with increasing and dismaying frequency, lapping at their ankles.

Now it appears that Miami real estate developers are actively working to profit from the thing they deny is happening — the rising of the warming sea. Their schemes have been illuminated in, of all places, the website of the venerable science magazine Scientific American.

Ever since the 1920s, when they started transforming south Florida from a mosquito-infested swamp to a Mecca for rich old capitalists, the highest and best form of real estate has been “waterfront.” “Water (or beach) access” was a distant second, and landlocked land was for the little people. For many decades, custom — and, under Jim Crow, zoning laws — restricted the habitats of the poor and the persons of color of Miami to the city’s urban core. The same thing happened in many if not most other American cities.

Such urban cores can and do remain slums forever unless someone decides to build a freeway, or the rich and famous run out of living room and begin the process known as gentrification, which involves displacing the poor and racially disadvantaged to an even less visible and hospitable location. So the fact that gentrification is beginning to happen to urban MIami would not seem to be a surprise, or interest for a science magazine.

Here’s why it is. There is another attribute to the urban core of Miami that is drawing the attention of speculators and developers. It occupies the highest ground in South Florida. And studies are starting to show that land more than nine feet above sea level (in South Florida, 15 feet is described as “mountaintop”) is becoming the prime target for gentrification, and for developers accumulating parcels for high-density development.

On the one hand, it is hard to get your head around the venality of people who would, while denying the reality of sea-level rise in order to protect the value of their sea-level properties — which they are building as fast as they can as we speak — at the same time hedge their many bets by quietly buying up higher ground to have available for sale when the little people realize they’re drowning.

On the other hand it is impossible to measure the stupidity of people who believe that all the ocean is going to do is redraw a few maps. Whatever chalets they build on the 15-foot mountains, assuming they survive their first hurricane, will eventually be surrounded by a sea of garbage and sewage, and will not received from their drowned city any of the services they require, such as champagne and caviar deliveries.

One of the people who has been scrutinizing the behavior of the uglygarchs is Jesse Keenan, a lawyer and Florida native who teaches climate-change adaptation at Harvard. He has noticed that the lower classes of Miami are becoming similarly motivated:

“Everybody I know that is a small owner of real estate that isn’t within the billionaire class — average middle-class, upper-middle-class Miamians who have real estate on the beach — is in the process of selling their properties and moving to the mainland.”   

Unable to invest in the future misery of their fellow property owners, these folks are simply getting out of Dodge. Their numbers. like the numbers of speculators investing in mountaintop Miami, are small, but growing fast. And the day they become visible to more than the curious scientists who write for Scientific American, and to websites more mainstream than The Daily Impact, is the day the crash  starts for real.

—————————

This Week in Amerika

 

 

 

Back in Washington D.C. in 2002, Neo-Nazis were on one side, police on the other. Now, the distinctions are getting blurry. (Photo by Elvert Barnes/Flickr)

 

 

 

Here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, during the last few weeks, the following things have occurred:

A 61-year-old woman was convicted of disorderly conduct after a two-day jury trial in Washington. Desiree Farooz faces a sentence of up to one year in jail for what federal prosecutors described as an attempt to “impede, disrupt and disturb orderly conduct” of a Senate committee hearing back in January. It was the confirmation hearing for the nominee to be the next Attorney General of the United States, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama. During the hearing, Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby said out loud that Sessions — a renowned racist who for that very reason was once denied a federal judgeship by that very Senate — had a “clear and well-documented” record of “treating all Americans equally.” Ms. Farooz laughed. According to witnesses it was not a particularly loud or prolonged laugh. Other witnesses said it was the only appropriate response to Shelby’s outlandish claim. Capitol police pounced and hauled her away to prison.

In a hallway of the State Capitol Building in Charleston, West Virginia, last week, a veteran reporter, Dan Heyman, was walking alongside the federal Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, asking a question repeatedly without getting a response. Not that it matters, but the question was about the latest Republican health-care-insurance legislation. Without warning a police officer pulled the reporter aside, handcuffed him, and put him in jail for “causing a disturbance by yelling questions.” Heyman said later, after posting bond, that in his 30-years as a journalist he had never heard of a reporter being  arrested for asking a question.

A few weeks ago, human rights investigators for the United Nations pointed out what they called an “alarming and undemocratic trend” in the United States. Since the last presidential election, they pointed out, at least 19 states have enacted, or tried to enact, legislation that criminalizes protest demonstrations. Proposals included seizing the assets of anyone arrested in a protest (Arizona); making it legal to run over protesters blocking a roadway (North Dakota); and classifying protests as “economic terrorism,” a felony offense carrying a prison sentence (Washington State). The UN investigators called on the United States to stop trying to criminalize peaceful assembly, which they described as a fundamental right under the US Constitution, not a privilege to be licensed and regulated by the government.

Oh, I almost forgot, this also happened. The President of the United States summarily fired the director of the FBI, who was directing an investigation of the President’s campaign and conduct. The President previously fired the acting attorney-general of the United States, Sally Yates, who was investigating the President’s National Security adviser, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, who was investigating the President’s campaign and business affairs. These three people had three things in common; they were investigating Trump; they were outstandingly competent and professional; and they had behind them the power of the United States Department of Justice. That power, which has been this country’s last-ditch defense against racketeers, coal barons and corrupt politicians, lies in tatters now, at the feet of  a jug-eared racist as attorney general and an empty-headed game-show host playing the part of president.

So those four things happened in the past few weeks. What do you think? Is Amerika great again, yet?

 

 

 

 

Industry Kills & The Columbo Gambit

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  May 1 & May 3, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Industry Kills What Industry Touches: Now Solar Power

 

 

 

 

Concentrated solar power — in which sunlight is focused to boil water, for example, which then is used to generate power — is the highest industrial form of renewable energy. And is turning out to be a very big mistake.

 

 

 

 

When a practice arises that is detrimental to the profits of industry — you know, any practice that helps to heal the planet and its human occupiers — industry has a long-practiced, graduated response. First it ignores, then it attacks, and if all else fails it co-opts, and having co-opted, advertises heavily.

Organic farming, for example, was first ignored as a fad, then derided as “no way to feed the world,” then co-opted. Now every other box and package in any supermarket, including cow milk and chicken parts, bears the label “organic.” And by this stage, you know it’s a lie. When asked if he would seek federal certification as an organic grower (federal certification follows industrialization, as the flies the garbage) Joel Salatin famously replied that he would never lower his standards that much.

Another example: Do you remember what happened to the first mass produced electric car, General Motors’s EV1, when the idea was first recognized by industry back in the 1990s? Yeah, me neither, and I drove one.

And so we come to renewable energy, despised and derided by industry for years, until some bean counter measured the market and realized there was real money involved. All they had to do was scale that puppy up, which is what industry does first and best, and pretty soon you would have something worth doing.

(I got schooled in this when I went to BP Solar’s ginormous solar panel factory in Maryland some years ago seeking support for a seminar on sustainable living. You could have cut the disdain with a knife. We aren’t interested in selling solar panels one at a time, I was told. We’re interested in the big projects. They did a few, and then BP departed from the business and the factory closed.)

Others persisted, however, and now we have blizzards of news stories about the declining cost of (industrial scale) solar power, its increasing contribution to the power supply of (insert name of state or country here) and isn’t that great for the planet. Well, no.

Much of this industrial solar power comes from the (artfully labelled) solar “farms” that BP Solar loved so much. As Fortune Magazine swooned last fall,almost 14 gigawatts of solar panels could be installed in the U.S. by the end of 2016, and over 70% of that will come from what they call “utility-scale” solar farms. These solar farms generate energy using thousands—or even—millions of panels, often piping energy long distances to residents and companies to use to power homes and offices.”

The first problem, from the point of view of the earth, is the installation of those thousand or millions of solar panels in a remote California desert, where many of them have been located. The road in is a major disruption of the fragile ecosystem, as are the hundreds of acres of bulldozed and trampled land. Then there’s the small city, first for construction crews, then for tenders, with its water-supply and sewage-disposal needs.

Then there’s that “piping” that Fortune referred to. The construction of massive power lines connecting the “farm” to the grid. With all this massive expense, how could the cost of solar keep going down? Well, the 30% federal tax credit for investment in solar power is a major factor. (Federal subsidies follow industrialization as the flies….well, you know.)

Even more beloved of industry are the vastly more complicated — and of course expensive — concentrated solar plants. These plants used focused sunlight to boil water, generating electricity with the steam. The first known review of how six of these mega-projects are doing finds them to be plagued by breakdowns, operating far below advertised expectations, and consuming far more natural gas (they have to jump-start the systems every morning) than predicted.  Despite their enormous expense (thank you, tax credits) they are only slight improvements on your standard gas burning power plant.   

Like wind “farms,” solar “farms” are a hideous industrial hybrid that transformed a mildly hopeful prospect for a cleaner way to get energy, into a world-destroying cash cow. The only way renewable energy can make a significant contribution to what’s left of the planet’s health, and that of its occupants, is if the energy is distributed — that is, made where it’s used. (I’m leaving aside, for this discussion, the whole knotty question of the impact of manufacturing any solar panels or wind turbines, on any scale.)

There’s no solution for this, of course, except the solutions you and I can implement in our households or farms. Thinking outside the boxes built by industry and maintained by industrial might will be possible only after the boxes have collapsed under their own weight.

 

The Columbo Gambit: Just One More Thing

The TV detective Columbo had a favorite ploy: he would allow his suspect to seem to outwit him, and then, as he was shambling out the door in apparent defeat, he would turn and say, “Oh, just one more thing.” And that question would crack the case like a hatchet applied to a year-old egg.

I highly recommend yielding the hatchet of “one more question” as we wend our way through the age of fake news and truthy information. In many cases, the suspect’s prepared answers all indicate innocence, truth and utter reliability, until we can think of that “one more question” that reverses the magnetic field and exposes the guilt.

A recent, pretty spectacular example: The suspect says he has discovered a worm that eats plastic, so all we have to do is cultivate the worm, set billions of them to work, and we can continue, guilt-free, to litter the planet with water bottles. Almost out the door to buy a case of water, we think to ask: wait, worms are larvae, what does the moth eat? Guilty response: the moths eat beeswax, and any significant increase in their numbers would doom bees and thus humanity. Hmmm.

A personal example: I had a conversation with a doctor associated with leading-edge research into the genetic origins of a certain neurological disease. The suspect answered all the questions deftly as he built the case that genetic research — and very expensive genetic tests on patients — offered great hope for future treatment. (And thus, of course, was worth the millions of dollars being appropriated to study the issue.) All went well until someone — okay, it was me — said “One more thing. If I spend the money, and the test says that I have the gene, does that mean that I will certainly get the disease?” Answer: No. “If I don’t have the gene, does that mean I definitely won’t get the disease?” Answer: No. Hmmm.

A humdrum, well-worn example: Suspect John McCain, on national TV on Sunday, said that nuclear power is the cleanest way in the world to generate electricity. His prepared answers to the follow-up questions made the case that America and the world need more nuclear power plants. The “one more thing” that nobody asked was, “If you include the problem of the expended fuel, which will be dangerously radioactive for thousands of years, would it still be the cleanest in the world?” Answer: Hell, no.

A true crime example: two years ago in Waller County, Texas, a pretty young black woman was roughed up by a state trooper who stopped her for a traffic violation. She was charged with assaulting a police officer — a charge not supported by bystander accounts and phone videos — and jailed. Three days later she was found hanged in her cell. What was her initial traffic offense? Changing lanes without signalling. Almost no one asked the one more thing that reverses the polarity of this case, but someone did: “Why did she change lanes?” Answer: to get out of the way of the trooper, who had executed a high speed U-turn to come up behind her. She assumed he was on a call and tried to get out of his way. Hmmm. (The trooper was indicted for perjury and fired; the county lost a wrongful-death lawsuit and paid the family big bucks.)

An energy example: The relentlessly happy corporate media are full of stories about the oil and gas industries roaring back after a brief (okay, maybe it’s three years now) price setback. The suspect goes on and on about the rising number of wells drilling for gas (for example), which has in fact doubled since last fall. Wow, that means new confidence and recovery of the markets and happy days are here again, right? Well, one more thing — what about production? Funny you should ask. In the Marcellus shale formation, for example, they are getting about half the gas they produced a year ago. Hmmm.

No matter how many factoids are lined up for us to drive us to a certain conclusion, it is often the case that just one more fact — one more question asked, one more website consulted, one more story read all the way to the end — may reverse the polarity of true and false, right and wrong, good and evil. We must always go for that one more thing.

Thanks, Columbo.  

No Electricity & Hack My Tractor

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  April 26 & 28, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

No Electricity, No Russians, No Story

 

 

 

 

San Francisco, noon, April 21, 2017. Traffic not moving, buildings dark. Similar things happening in New York and Los Angeles. Was it the Russians? No? Then forget about it.

 

 

 

 

Last Friday, the lights went out in New York. And San Francisco. And Los Angeles. Not all the lights, and not all day, but still. It’s only April, three months before the summer heat challenges the electric grid to within an inch of its life, as the summer does every year. Three serious outages in three major cities seems like grist for the cable news mill, wouldn’t you think, with talking heads wall to wall saying things like, “Well, I know nothing about it, and none of us will for days, but it could have been a Russian cyber attack.”

That happened, of course, but only on a handful of conspiracy-loving, fake-news-peddling, objectivity-challenged publications. Like the Washington Post and the New York Times. (Just kidding. They didn’t pay much attention to the story at all.) Let us look at what happened, as exactly as we can, and then consider how it was handled.

  • New York 0725 — The B line of the New York subway system lost all power for about five hours, screwing up the morning commutes of thousands of people. Delays and re-routings rippled outward from the 7th Avenue and 53rd Street station to affect much of the system for much of the day. Presumed cause — failure of a service line.
  • Los Angeles 0900 — power was lost to Los Angeles International Airport and several surrounding areas. Caused some consternation at the airport, otherwise minimal.
  • San Francisco, about the same time — a more serious and protracted outage that shut down traffic lights,  the rapid-transit system, and dozens of major office buildings for up to five hours. The cause — an overloaded circuit breaker that caught fire..

Some publications (for example, oilprice.com) referred to these outages as “simultaneous.” We can’t tell whether they were hyping the story or simply didn’t know the meaning of the word “simultaneous.” In either case, the outages clearly were not simultaneous. A few other publications invoked the Russians, and cyber-attacks, without a shred of evidence that either was involved.  Responsible reporters quickly found out that a simple, unrelated mechanical failure was behind each of the outages, and they dropped the story.

But, see, that IS the story — the fact that pieces and parts are rotting and falling off our 100-year-old electric grid so often now, and have gone so long without any serious effort to maintain or repair it, that bigger and bigger chunks of the country are losing power more and more often. The United States has more power blackouts than any other industrialized country in the world. What demonstration of that little known fact could be more to the point than the loss of power in three of our largest cities in the same day? But in the absence of a Russian plot, it just wasn’t worth covering.

As it was not covered, so it is not being discussed, certainly not by politicians and their constituents (by which I mean their actual constituents, not their financial patrons). Among the things not discussed:

  • The major and increasing strains being exerted on the grid by climate change, both in terms of hotter summers and colder winters that increase the need for electrical energy for heating and cooling, and in terms of more numerous and savage storms that every few days tear out another stretch of wire.
  • The average age of the system’s large transformers (to pick just one component of the grid’s elderly infrastructure)  is now north of 40 years, well beyond their design life span. Ever more subject to failure, these monsters take up to two years to build, and nobody in this country builds them.

Computer cyber attacks, or electromagnetic pulses from enemy action or sun storm, are real and present dangers as well. But we don’t need to even go there to realize that we are about to see cheap and reliable electricity go the way of cheap and plentiful fossil fuels (when they go, which won’t be long). Do you suppose that will be a story on CNN?

——————————————

Hack My Tractor. Please.

 

 

 

 

Touch a new tractor with that old wrench and you’re going to court, Elwood. Yes, even if it’s bought and paid for. Yes, even if you’re in the middle of harvest.

 

 

 

 

If you’re an industrial farmer, making a living from monoculture — and that’s most farmers today — your life consists of months of boredom punctuated by weeks of unrelieved terror. The terror comes once in the spring, when you’re trying to get your crop seeded between rains before the window closes on the growing season; and once in the fall when you’re trying to get your crop harvested before the first blizzard. (I am leaving out the brief summertime terrors induced by approaching thunderstorms, they are not part of this story.)

Imagine you’re in the harvest terror, you’re just getting started doing whatever your crop requires, and your tractor starts coughing like a lifetime smoker and falls on its face in midfield, as inert and unresponsive as a power drinker on Sunday morning. Your entire year’s income, maybe the future of your mortgage,  is lying there in those fields and, as they say on Game of Thrones, winter is coming.

But you’ve been working on machinery all your life, and that sure sounded like a failed oxygen sensor to you, nothing that a wrench, a 100-dollar part and a half hour can’t fix. But you can’t do that. If your machine is a John Deere, for example, even though you paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to “own” it, you only rented the software that makes it run.

It’s a cliche now that the average car has more computing power aboard than the moon lander. And everybody’s tired of hearing us old farts lament the passing of the days when we would rip the heads off our Ford flathead V-8, install new rings, and drive it on a date the same night. Today is our car quits and we raise the hood, we might as well be looking at the moon lander.

We’ve all pretty much accepted that we can’t work on our own cars, or phones, or computers or appliances, even though we own them, because to even look at them wrong would void the warranty, or cancel the insurance, or bring on a plague of locusts.

But that is penny ante stuff. We’re talking about a guy about to lose his entire year’s income, and he has to call a John Deere service center, who knows how far away, and schedule a visit from a John-Deere-certified technician, who knows when, because only a called and ordained John Deere technician can talk to the software on the behemoth that is sleeping in your field.

If you ignore the rules (yes, they are spelled out in the fine print of your “purchase” contract), and install a part such as an oxygen sensor, then the software, not receiving the secret password, and not recognizing the part as approved (by which it means sold by John Deere with maximum markup), will continue to sleep through your harvest.

Needless to say, farmers are going berserk. They have created a global market for John Deere software that has been hacked, which is to say rewritten to give the farmer access to his own machine. For some reason, almost all this software is coming out of Ukraine, or Poland, and is being sold on secret Internet sites.

For a time, such tinkering was illegal under copyright laws, but recently an exception was made for land vehicles in need of repair. That’s when John Deere inserted the hands-off language into the purchase contact, making it a breach of contract to save your harvest.

So while some farmers go in search of old machinery with fewer electronic controls, and others go on the Dark Internet in a desperate search for a Ukrainian hacker, could the rest of us maybe take a minute here, and doff our tractor caps in a moment of silent horror for what the Masters of the Implement Universe have wrought?

This is not an example of technology oncology — this technology usually works just fine. It is rather an example of the extent to which the oligarchs are relentlessly bending us all toward serfdom, a condition in which we labor for their profit with no rights of our own. They are working to confiscate property rights for the benefit of the oil and gas industries, to immunize themselves from our lawsuits for damages inflicted by their products.

But in this case as in others, the backlash is building. Throughout the farm states, legislation has been filed that would retain the “right to repair” in the hands of the owners of the equipment. On a clear day you can see them coming, farmers by the thousands with figurative pitchforks and torches.

The serfs are up, dude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flight of the Titanic Ends with a Bang & Whimper

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  April 18 & 24, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

 

The Flight of the Titanic

 

 

 

This is your captain speaking. Everything is proceeding normally, and we expect to arrive at our destination in about 30 seconds. Thank you for flying with us, and have a nice day.

 

 

 

The pilot of our great metaphorical economic airplane has just been on the PA system — again — to assure us that everything is going great. But it’s getting harder and harder to believe him. He says we’re making a slow and careful ascent to cruising altitude but it’s been hours since takeoff and we’re only 50 feet above ground. Is that normal? Should there be flames erupting from all the engines? With the turbulence, and the violent maneuvers to fly around tall buildings, concentrating on watching the movie and eating our peanuts is almost impossible. And we just heard the captain mutter, unaware that his mic was on, “What the hell does this button do?”

The state of the industrial economy, 2017.

It’s an engine that runs on spending by consumers, and can soar only when it figures out how to sell more crap to more people every quarter. It used to be easy. Lately — for several years, actually — the whole edifice has rested heavily on the relative well-being of two industries: the restaurant industry and the automobile industry. Now both are flashing red lights and sounding klaxon alarms in the cockpit.

A thriving restaurant industry (much of it fast-food places) is not only comforting to the Overseers (see, consumers have plenty of pocket money, they’re obviously lying about not being able to afford their medications) but the mainstay of the low, low unemployment rate we enjoy as long as we don’t count the unemployables. (You know who was right about that, over and over? Donald Trump, that’s who. During the campaign, not any more.)

But the formerly reliable bastion of prosperity is sputtering. For 11 of the last 12 months, total restaurant sales in the US have declined, even more steeply in February and March. It’s the worst tailspin for the industry since 2009-10 (when Obama was president — wouldn’t you know it.) The industry is responding to this trend by laying off people and raising prices.  The Masters of the Restaurant Universe are confident that offering slower service at higher prices will turn things around  any minute now.

Over in the automobile sector, things are similarly rosy-looking and under control. Lenders are out swarming hospices in search of people with a pulse who will accept 20-year, zero-interest, no-down-payment, cash-back car loans, which are then bundled as blue chip securities and sold to desperate pension fund managers who are weeks away from insolvency. Inexplicably, problems have arisen. Defaults are sky high, lenders have run out of subprime prospects (they’re  going for sub-sub-prime now), inventories of both new and used cars are swelling up like a Kardashian’s rear end. Nothing like this has ever happened before.

Overall, retail sales are down for the second month in a row. This is largely, but not entirely, because of the slump in auto sales; retail stores and shopping malls are closing all over the country at unprecedented rates. WalMart is laying off people, Sears and KMart do not expect to survive the year. Last month, we were told to rejoice, because February retail sales were up. This month’s report had a footnote saying that last month’s numbers have been revised, and sales were actually down. Isn’t it interesting how they do that?

Back in the cockpit, the captain is happily surveying the flashing red lights and shutting off the klaxon alarms and coming back on the intercom to tell us that actually, 50 feet is a perfect cruising altitude, and is the new normal, along with the sputtering of the flaming engines. Nothing can go wrong, he says, because he is the greatest pilot in the history of the world.

 

Not with a Bang, or a Whimper. A Tink.

 

 

 

The bridges of Coral Gables, Florida, have become harbingers of the havoc to be wrought by climate change.

 

 

 

The mayor of Coral Gables, Florida believes the world will end not with a bang, but a tink — the sound of an aluminum mast striking a steel girder. That sound, he explained to Bloomberg News the other day, will be the manifestation of climate change that crashes the Florida real estate market and brings on the Apocalypse. Okay, he didn’t say anything about Apocalypse. But his explanation, and the fact that Bloomberg gave it a lot of attention, is striking evidence of the growing awareness of the inevitability and imminence of the ultimate disaster that is climate change.

Coral Gables is a suburb of Miami, a planned community built in the original boom of the 1920s on the coast just south of the larger city. It is home to the University of Miami and the Miami Biltmore Hotel. The essential word in Florida real estate is “waterfront,” and Coral Gables has nearly 50 miles of coastline. (Technically, it’s bayfront, but here the chain of barrier islands, known here as keys, are so far out to sea — Key Biscayne is the nearest — that for all intents and purposes the Coral Gables waterfront is seacoast.)

The original designers of Coral Gables styled it as the Venice of Florida, and graced it with miles and miles of canals. Whether or not it was really their purpose at the time, the canals created thousand and thousands of waterfront lots, now highly valued by skippers who love the idea of parking their yachts in the back yard — properties on the canals comprise about one quarter of the entire value of real estate in Coral Gables. But because we were and remain a car-loving nation, Coral Gables also has, of necessity, your normal network of roads. Which cross, and recross, the canals on bridges. 302 bridges.

Aye, there’s the rub, as Hamlet said.

The sea level at Coral Gables has risen four inches since 1992, and is rising now at a rate of an inch a year. The world’s glaciers are melting, and the oceans are expanding, as the average temperature inches ever higher. In South Florida, seawater is lapping up onto inland streets and properties, in the absence of any storm, with increasing frequency. Salt water is intruding into the aquifers that provide the area’s drinking water. Sea level is expected to rise three more feet by 2060. (South Florida is also in Hurricane Alley, at risk from stronger and more frequent hurricanes, also because of climate change, but that is another story.)

Pretty soon now, Mayor Jim Cason reckons, we will hear the tink. The first mast will strike the first bridge, announcing that there is no more access to the open sea for sailing boats from Coral Gables’s canals. Property values inland from the bridges will tank. The willingness of buyers to buy, lenders to lend, and insurers to insure will all be severely constrained. Loss of revenue will cripple the city, making it ever less desirable as a place to live or even visit.

But here’s what’s so important about this, and what Mayor Cason understands about it; what the mast hitting the bridge will do is pop the bubble of denial that allows people to function as if the climate isn’t changing, the sea isn’t rising, the storm isn’t coming, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Business as usual persists. The band on the deck of the Titanic keeps playing. We appreciate the people who keep telling us that everything is alright, we resent those who see doom coming, as if they were bringing on the doom, not warning us to get out of the way.  

In six years, the median price of homes in the Miami area has risen 120%, much faster than the sea level and twice as fast as values in the rest of the state. And yet mayors, and the mainstream business press, are now talking openly about the end of the road. Already, people in South Florida are selling out and moving away to avoid the rush. They are outliers, and few in number, but Bloomberg found them, and interviewed them. The lemmings have started to move. The mayors are not sleeping well.

hey hear things in the night, going “tink.” And “pop.”

50 Minutes, Slobs & Frackers

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  March 31 & April 1 & 5, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Let’s Watch 50 Minutes

 

 

 

 

In a whole year of covering climate change, the TV networks, all of them combined, didn’t even get to 60 minutes.

 

 

 

 

On their evening and Sunday news programs during 2016, the four major American television networks devoted 50 minutes of their airtime to covering climate change. No, that’s not 50 minutes a week, or each, it’s all of them combined for the whole year. 50 minutes (according to a study by Media Matters). CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox (which is cable, and does not have an evening newscast but is prominent among Sunday news shows), all of them, all year, produced enough content about climate change to fill a single edition of 60 Minutes.

This was in a year that was, worldwide, the hottest year on record and the third year in a row to set that record; a year that set records in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, sea level, shrinkage of glaciers and sea ice in the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica; that saw wildfires, tornadoes, floods, storms and droughts of unprecedented numbers and severity; and in which 120 nations gathered in Paris to actually start to think about planning to do something about all this. But 50 minutes was all it took to tell the tales. And that was a decline of 66% from the meager amount of time they spent on the subject in 2015.

Personally, I did not watch a minute of any network’s evening news in 2016. The whole notion of turning on the TV set at suppertime to see what happened in the world today seems quaint now, in the age of fake Internet news and wall-to-wall cable hysteria, like when the whole family gathered around the big Crosley radio set to listen to Our Miss Brooks. Still, it’s how about 24 million Americans get their news every night, which is pretty muscular for an old-timer when you consider that it’s about four times the number that watch all three major news channels on cable.

No wonder, then, that climate change ranks low in every survey of concern about world problems, and that therefore goes unmentioned by successful politicians — you know, the ones that get elected to something. Such politicians are lobbied relentlessly by the purveyors of coal- and oil-burning industries, and discover early that to the extent they doubt the universally accepted science on climate change, to the extent that they deny it is happening at all despite a half century of accumulated proof, their fundraising cups runneth over.

The only political antidote to money is an aroused public, and when the politicians, ever wary of public arousal, poll their constituents about how aroused they are by climate change, the answer is a collective yawn. Public concern about, even interest in, the multiple existential threats of climate change has been dropping off sharply since the financial contractions of 2008, both in the United States and around the world. This despite the increasing number and expense of the impacts of climate change — storms, sea-level rise, droughts, wildfires, mass dying of (especially marine) species and the like.

I knew an experienced and cynical (I know, that’s redundant) journalist who insisted that if you saw something — anything — on television, it did not happen. The great majority of us, it seems, has adopted as an inflexible rule the opposite: if you don’t see it on television, it did not happen. And we are not seeing anything — I’m sorry, 12 minutes per year per channel does not qualify as “anything” — about one of the greatest threats to our lives and our civilization that we will ever see.

That TV journalism can continue to pretend that it is functional and valuable and professional; that politicians can pretend to be serving the people and defending their Constitution “from all enemies, foreign and domestic;” and that you and I, free thinking, well-informed citizens of a once magnificent Republic, have let this happen; these are the propositions of a chain of reasoning that leads inexorably to madness, and the death of everything we value.

 

A New Administration Takes Control of the House

 

 

 

 

When you put a dumb slob in charge of the House, it’s amazing how fast things go downhill. (Photo by Ryo Chijiiwa/Flickr)

 

 

 

 

Almost a week ago now, She Who Must be Obeyed decamped to Florida. That left me, for the first time in ages, in total charge of the government of this House, and gave me a chance to deconstruct the oppressive administrative state under which I had been suffocating.

I began by signing several executive orders repealing long-standing, senseless regulations. It is now okay, for example, to leave the toilet seat in the up position, for the convenience of the male member of the household, so to speak. Eating ice cream directly from the carton, for hours at a time, is perfectly acceptable. Portion control, especially where steaks and french fries are concerned, is a thing of the past. Having a beer for breakfast, or declaring happy hour to be any hour that appears on a clock, are now deregulated practices. If any of these practices have serious side effects, I don’t know about them, and if I don’t know about them they cannot possibly hurt me.

I will admit that, especially on the first few nights, I experienced a few bouts of midnight nausea and early-morning headaches. Such is the price of freedom.

This is, after all, what the American people — well, at least male American people — have been yearning for, for these many years: a chance to let their inner slob run free. Political correctness has robbed us of our pride, not to mention our natural odor and our butchering skills. So it is a great relief to have no controls once again. You know, like when we were pre-teenagers.

Dirty clothes go anywhere. Dirty dishes pile up in and near the sink, dining room, living room and bedroom. Dust bunnies swirl across the floors like tumbleweeds in a Texas windstorm.  Stereo and TV volume controls are set on “stun” and stay there, while the dusty drum set gets dragged out and pounded to within an inch of its life. (Although this brought an intrusion from the Judicial Branch of home government — the neighbors called the cops. Turns out that “if the head of the House does it, it’s legal” does not apply outside the House. Either.)

The one big project I always intended to do if I ever got possession of the House for long enough was to build a soundproof no-girls-allowed man-cave tree-house with a wet bar — and get Mexico to pay for it. Unbelievably, the project got vetoed by the bank, the neighbors, and She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Who returns tomorrow.

So the dishwasher, clothes washer, vacuum cleaner and shower are all running non stop. I haven’t had a drink in an hour, and tonight it’s a sensible dinner and early bedtime. Tomorrow it’s back to a life of rules, manners, restraints, proscriptions, order and cleanliness. No longer President of the House, I will have to content myself once again with being just the Loyal Opposition, complaining vociferously about the administrative state.

What a blessed relief.  

 

The Fakest News of All: The Fracking Revolution

Experienced con artists — the people who write clickbait ads, manage political campaigns and shake down old people for what’s left of their life’s savings —  will tell you that people who get conned, want to be conned. Many, many people go through their lives straining to hear the magic words; “You deserve to be rich,” or “Someone has to win the lottery, why not you?” or “cure cancer with one simple trick.” And when they hear those words, they experience the irrational exuberance of long-denied, at-last-confirmed faith, and are likely to do anything they are asked to do by those who have fulfilled the prophecy.

That’s the way it has gone with one of the longest and most successful cons in American history — the New American Oil Revolution, aka the Fracking Revolution. “You deserve all the cheap oil you can use,” the frackers began to croon about a decade ago, “America deserves energy independence.” People who had always wanted those things, and thought they deserved those things, sat up and took notice as the con artists set the hook: “we can have it forever with one simple trick of technology.”

Fracking. The greatest con, ever. If you want to read almost ten years’ worth of fracking debunking, go to the Energy section of The Daily Impact and read your heart out. I have grown tired of writing the same things over and over, so I don’t do it much anymore,  but here’s a quick recap:

  • fracked oil is an inferior product with limited uses that can not be taken in by just any refinery, so its price is usually discounted below that of ordinary crude;
  • fracked oil is devilishly expensive to get out of the ground, as it requires enormous quantities of water, sand and toxic chemicals to break it loose;
  • fracking wells play out within four years (traditional wells get around 20 years, at least) which means that if you’re a fracker you have to find and start developing your next well the minute your current well is in production;
  • as a result of the tight margins and high capital expenses, virtually no one has made any money fracking oil. Really. They claim profits from individual wells, but all the profits and more are required to get the next well ready to go;
  • the only thing that has sustained the industry this long is the gullibility of the junk-bond and subprime-loan investors who still believe they deserve to get 20% interest on their investments, and will shovel money at anyone who promises it to them.

And the reason the hedge-fund gamblers still push the chips across the table to the frackers, as frantic and delusional as their bets have become? The gullible media, most of whom have bought whole hog the improbable story of the fracking miracle and an imminent return to energy independence. (They even got Hillary Clinton, who during the 2016 campaign developed some expertise on fake news, but still succumbed to this con. See: “Hillary Hallucinates Energy Independence,”  The Daily Impact, October 10, 2016)

As just one example of the mindless fluff being pumped out everywhere, all the time, by the corporate shills, check out CNN’s offering, “Here Comes the Next Wave of the US Oil Boom.” It’s like watching one of those TV commercial animations explaining how laxatives work. Wouldn’t it be great if things were that simple.

Where to get the real story? A few places, such as SRSrocco, Oilprice.com (sometimes), and the like, have been consistently and strenuously trying to tell the truth all along, but have been drowned out by the “Happy Days” crowd.

For a reality check, take the time to read all of SRSrocco’s reports, MEDIA DELUDE AMERICANS: Shale Oil Production Suffers Massive Decline Rates, and the related US SHALE GAS INDUSTRY: Countdown to Disaster.

Fake news gives you a momentary thrill and distracts you until the speeding truck runs you over. The truth, in this case, won’t make us feel better, let alone setting us free. But it will prepare us to make better decisions in the future that is now bearing down on us, like for example getting off the road where the speeding trucks are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Cities, Repeal Obamacar & Dee-fense!

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  March 15, 19 & 23  2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

American Cities Fight for Their Lives — Alone

 

 

 

The city of Homer, Alaska, achingly beautiful, is fighting for its life against a relentless enemy. Like several other American cities, it is losing its war. The government in Washington insists it’s not happening.

 

 

 

This American city of 5,000 people is under siege by an implacable enemy. Its food supply has been poisoned, its water supply affected, its main industry crippled, it loses big chunks of its territory every month or so, and several times the enemy has almost severed its only road out. The city has committed all its resources to the fight and regularly pleads with the state government for help, but the state is so besieged by other towns and cities, also under attack, that there is not enough to go around. Appeals to the national government are pointless because in the view of the national government, the enemy does not exist.

The city is Homer, Alaska, and the enemy is of course climate change. Here’s what Homer is up against:

  • For nearly a hundred years, the average low temperature in February has been 19 degrees Fahrenheit; last February it was 30 degrees.
  • Warmer winters mean more rain than snow, and rain is eroding the coast and threatening to cut the road.
  • The lack of snow means the streams run shallower and warmer, threatening the area’s billion-dollar fishing industry.
  • The warmer ocean waters in the area foster frequent blooms of toxic algae that poison the shellfish.
  • Rising water is eating away the city’s seawall, which it has no way to replace.

Many of the towns competing with Homer for state help are in even worse shape — they are sinking into melting permafrost, or sliding into the ocean’s rising waters while being battered by more frequent and ferocious storms, and threatened by wildfires that now erupt almost year-round. The state is doing what it can but it is impoverished; once swimming in oil money with plenty for everyone, it is now watching the last dregs of North Slope oil trickle away through the aged and decrepit Alaska Pipeline.  

Nor is Alaska the only state under siege. The residents of South Miami and Miami Beach, Florida, are regularly dealing with rising sea water bubbling up around their ankles in their city streets on days when their is no storm — “blue-sky flooding” is what they call it. It’s sea-level rise, caused by global warming, and for them it’s not theoretical, it’s here. Now. [Make that three years ago: see Miami Beach, October 9: Apocalypse Foretold]

Norfolk, Virginia knew it was in trouble five years ago, it was losing streets and waterfront property to the encroaching sea and was facing the prospect of more, more powerful, hurricanes. It pleaded with state government for help with the enormous costs of mitigation, and was told that any request containing the words “climate change” would not be considered.

All these thousands of people with their backs to the wall, fighting for their futures, their very survival, with an enemy toward which most of their political leaders maintain an attitude of amused disdain. There is no such thing as climate change, insist the legislators and governors of Florida, and Virginia, and South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. The President of the United States has said that climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by China to get an advantage in global trade, or something. The federal government is in the process now of defunding and dismantling the agencies and programs that research, and help fight, this enemy.  

So the people in their thousands fight on, losing ground as slowly as they can, much like the people facing the tsunamis of opioid addiction and black lung disease and failing pension funds and closing clinics and cancelled policies. Fighting on alone until they die, while their government in Washington plays billionaire games with tax breaks and subsidies for people who don’t need them, partying madly at the all-you-can-eat, free-champagne Titanic buffet.

—————————

Repeal Obamacar and Set Car Insurance Free

 

 

 

See, it’s drivers like this who are ruining the insurance industry under Obamacar. No more, if the Trumpists have their way. (Wikimedia Photo)

 

 

 

The Trump administration is preparing legislation to repeal and replace Obamacar — their name for the automobile insurance industry, which they say is imploding because of President Obama. “The American people are sick of being forced to buy this hated insurance,” said a Trump spokesman who declined to be identified on the grounds that the President is certifiable and could turn on him at any moment.

“The first thing we’ve got to do,” said the spokes individual, “is get rid of the mandate. It is simply not fair to make everyone buy one-size-fits-all insurance. Or to ask someone whose Mercedes is parked in an air conditioned garage most of the time to pay for the mishaps of someone running around and running into things in a 1989 Honda. In the future we’re only going to sell car insurance to people who don’t have car accidents. Besides, people don’t want to have car insurance, they want access to car insurance, and we’re going to give them lots of choices they can’t afford. Because freedom of choice is what matters.”

In order to stimulate competition in the industry, the proposal bans the term “automobile insurance” and replaces it with “automobile default swaps.” Since it is no longer insurance, there is no further need to regulate the market or the companies in it, and they will be free to do whatever they want. This has always, say the plan’s proponents, been good for America.

Asked what the administration plans to do to protect people damaged by uninsured motorists who in the future may wipe out their cars and their families without recourse, the spokeshuman said, and we quote, “What?”

The plan authorizes the creation of “individual accidental savings accounts.” Poor people will be authorized to set aside up to $50,000 a year in a special account for paying for collision damage. Plus they will be encouraged to do so by not having to pay any federal taxes on the interest earned. “This is a saving of several dollars a month — you get it eventually, when your accountant finally gets your tax refund — and frankly I can’t imagine any poor person not taking full advantage of it.”

Then the spokesthing went on to make an offhand comment that has since become controversial: “Frankly,” it said,  “if these people would buy fewer Bentleys and Jaguars and content themselves with Fords and Chevies, it would be better for them and for America.” This is being widely criticized as an ignorant observation, given the popularity of Lincoln Town Cars among the indigent.

The Obamacar Repeal and Replace legislation has several additional provisions that are proving wildly popular among President Trump’s base (which is now estimated to consist of 250 people in a Johnstown, Pennsylvania bowling league):

  • cars may no longer be used to transport people to or from abortion clinics.
  • car insurance will no longer be offered to LBGTQX drivers. “They have accidents,” said the spokesbeing, “we can’t have that.”   
  • Under no circumstances will insurance be granted to people who, in the words of the statute, “look Muslim. Or Mexican. Or brown.”

In short, said the spokesdude, “America’s long nation Obamacar nightmare is about to be over, as we set car insurance free, to return to the wild where it belongs.

———————————————-

DEE-FENSE! DEE-FENSE! DEE-FENSE!

 

 

 

The F-35 has single-handedly made America Number One again — at wasting money on weapons that don’t work. But wait there’s more. (Photo by Heath Canjandig/Flickr)

 

 

 

It is entirely fitting and proper that we scrape together $85 billion by defunding federal programs that “show no results” — such as Meals on Wheels, school lunch programs and health care for poor people — and give it to the defense department. Because unlike these loser programs, the defense department always gets results. If you have any doubts at all about this, three examples should suffice to set you straight:

I. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program has already made America proud by achieving the rank of most expensive military program in the history of the world. At one trillion dollars, this project accounts for fully one-twentieth of the U.S. national debt. But thanks to the Pentagon managers and the defense contractors who refused to pinch pennies when it comes to national defense, the F-35 is a shining example of what money can do:

  • The F-35 has 276 critical deficiencies that must be fixed before the craft can be considered ready for duty, and an average of 20 more such deficiencies are being discovered every month.
  • The software package that controls the plane’s functions in combat is not yet capable of a few things, such as tracking moving objects on the ground, detecting incoming enemy radar signals, or firing the 25mm machine guns. (Which may be a good thing — when the doors open so the machine guns can fire, the aircraft yaws to the left, making it unlikely the gun will hit what it was aimed at.)
  • The aircraft is capable of carrying and deploying two air-to-air missiles (long range, useless in a dogfight) and two bombs. This is about as much armament as a Piper Cub could carry.
  • The aircraft’s helmet, which features the world’s most advanced heads-up display and aiming controller, often displays more targets than exist and often can’t hit what the pilot is aiming at.     
  • Despite all this and more, the Air Force declared the aircraft ready for deployment last year. The Marines activated a squadron of them and sent them to Japan, where they are trying grimly to get them airborne once in a while. One month later the Air Force grounded all its F-35s pending further developments.

II. The USS Zumwalt is to the sea what the F-35 is to the air — a fabulously expensive tribute to military intelligence. The promise was that this super-sized, hard-to-detect destroyer with a tiny crew would give the United States dominance of the world’s oceans at a bargain price. So far we have learned:

  • Forget the bargain price. Initial estimates were that the ships would cost $1.34 billion each and we would build 32 of them. The first one cost $7 billion (about what we spent for our last aircraft carrier) and we can only afford three of them.
  • Of the eleven critical technologies required to make this vessel work, only three are “mature.”
  • The promise that this “smart ship” would require a crew of only 95, compared with the usual 500 or so, was never studied. Or realized. The present vessel has 147 hands on deck, and everyone is praying nothing goes wrong with the ship and that it never has to do any fighting.
  • The ship’s Advanced Gun System delivers 24 pounds of explosive in a 155mm shell to a target 60-80 miles away (NOT another ship, it can’t do that) for $800,000 per round. It is so expensive that practice is unthinkable, and combat may be unaffordable. The round it replaced, which delivered the same 24 pounds of explosive with slightly less range and accuracy, costs $700.
  • Launched last October in Maine, the ship sprang a leak trying to get to nearby Norfolk, Virginia. And, heading for its new home port in California, the ship lost power — both of its propeller-drive shafts seized up entirely — in the Panama Canal and had to be towed to safety.

III. Littoral Combat Ships — fast, shallow-draft vessels for close-to-shore fighting — are a dream at which the Navy has been throwing money for more than a decade. Half a billion dollars later. one prototype vessel, launched in 2006, rides at anchor, unused and unusable. [“Lesson on How Not to Build a Navy Ship,” The New York Times.]

Obviously, the solution to all these problems is to throw more money at them. Which, apparently, is what we are going to do.

[POST SCRIPT — If you want a complete, factual briefing on how the Pentagon screws these things up so magnificently, watch the movie The Pentagon Wars, starring Kelsey Grammer. Funny as hell, until you realize it’s not a comedy. Written by James Burton, who lived it, and whom I got to know in his later life as a supervisor in Loudoun County, Virginia.]

 

 

 

Oil Facts & American Dreams

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  March 6 & 9, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

The Oil Industry’s Alternate Facts

The two articles appeared within 48 hours of each other. One was produced by Bloomberg News, one of the most respected names in traditional journalism. The other appeared in Oilprice.com, a veteran and well respected source of objective news about the oil industry. No one has ever credibly accused either of these organizations of producing “fake news.” Yet when each of them decided to publish an assessment of the state of the American shale oil industry in the first week of March, 2017, the two articles were diametrically opposed in all their conclusions.

Bloomberg proclaimed “The second Coming of American Oil Shale…” with production “on the rise again.” [This is a piece of unrelieved optimism. Do the headline writers at Bloomberg know that the Second Coming is the end of the world?] Oilprice.com, rather than a trumpet fanfare, sounded a klaxon alarm —  “Why Investors Should Beware of the Bakken” (the premier American oil-shale field) — beginning with “It is the beginning of the end for the Bakken oil shale play.” Each article is long, well-written, lavishly illustrated with charts, and serious, meant for serious people making momentous decisions. The articles do not describe the same planet, let alone the same industry.

According to Bloomberg:

  • The number of U.S. drilling rigs has grown 91 percent to 602 in just over nine months;
  • production has gained more than 550,000 barrels a day since the summer, rising above 9 million barrels a day for the first time since April;
  • Exxon is diverting about one-third of its drilling budget this year to shale fields that will deliver cash flow in as little as three years;
  • the election of President Donald Trump, carrying the promise of fewer regulations, added pipelines and energy independence;
  • So far this year, U.S. energy companies have raised $10.5 billion in fresh equity, with shale and oil service groups drawing the most investment, the best start of the year since at least 1999 and equal to a third of what the sector raised in the whole of 2015

According to Oilprice.com

  • The decline in Bakken oil production that started in January 2015 is probably not reversible. December 2016 production fell 92,000 barrels per day (b/d)–a whopping 9 percent single-month drop. Over the past two years, output has fallen 285,000 b/d (23 percent). This was despite an increase in the number of producing wells
  • New well performance has deteriorated, gas-oil ratios have increased and water cuts are rising. Much of the reservoir energy from gas expansion is depleted and decline rates should accelerate. Estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) decreased over time for most operators and 2015 EUR was lower for all operators than in any previous year (Figure 2). This suggests that well performance has deteriorated despite improvements in technology and efficiency.
  • More drilling may increase daily output for a while but won’t resolve the underlying problem of poorer well performance and declining per-well reserves.
  • all major Bakken producers continue to lose money at current wellhead prices. Higher oil prices may not help much because the best days for the play are behind us.

This is why I have not written about the state of the oil industry for over a year — it’s been a year of yin and yang, the-crisis-is-almost over and the-crisis is just beginning, glass-half-full, glass-half-empty stories like these two. To sort out for oneself which narrative to believe — which planet one lives on — requires hours of checking and assessing the writers’ sources, definitions, assumptions and credibility.

Just take the starting point of the two articles: that shale oil production in the U.S. is going up/down. Only after parsing the Bloomberg piece carefully do you realize that while its headline and lede refer to shale oil, in the middle of paragraph five there is a seamless shift to all U.S. oil production, which is up. The Oilprice.com piece is correct in saying that shale oil production in the Bakken is falling.

When I do the same, migraine-inducing level of research on every single point, I come back again to the place where I began writing about this stuff ten years ago. The so-called new American oil revolution is not ushering in a triumphant new age of energy independence; it’s a bunch of desperate people clawing the last few drops of oil out of increasingly reluctant ground. None of them is making any money, none of them has ever made any money in the shale-oil patch.

But, like Kellyanne Conway and Bloomberg News, they can be nimble manipulators of alternate facts, who are well paid for distracting us from the fact that the light and smoke and luxury and ease of the industrial age is fast fading now, to a darkness we have seldom known, on this, the only planet on which we have ever lived.

————————–

The American Dream Has Retired

 

 

This what you had in mind for your retirement? Think again. (Photo by kenteegardin/Flickr)

 

 

It has always been an essential part of the modern American Dream that after you have put in 20 years of work, your company rewards your loyalty with a pension, to keep the gold in your Golden Years. Like most promises of the Industrial Age, it was a wonderful dream as long as no one did the math. What would happen, no one asked, when there were more pensioners than workers? Nothing, the answer would have been, because funds for each and every pension were set aside as the worker worked, and invested wisely, so that there would be plenty of money for each and every retiree.

But what would happen, no one thought to ask, if American industry and government lost their basic decency, and sacrificed the welfare of future pensioners to swell the fortunes of the current Masters of the Universe? What would happen, no one wondered, if the managers of the pension funds were so incompetent that instead of fattening the accounts, they starved them. Now we know what would happen.   

Virtually every pension fund in the country — for municipal, state and federal government workers, union members, and employees of private companies —  finds its treasury stuffed with IOUs from the companies and agencies that were supposed to keep it solvent (“sorry we can’t meet our obligations to you this year but we will next year or the year after that or the year after that or the year after that or the year after that. we promise”) and the records of bad stock market bets gone sour.

This is usually a topic for debate among actuaries and accountants — everyone else’s eyes glaze over at the mere mention of  this, one of the most treacherous and lethal campaigns to be directed at any class of Americans since the Indian Wars. We don’t take responsibility for the Indian Wars because they happened so long ago, and we shrug off the implications of the pension  debacle — the sudden depriving of millions of elderly Americans of the money for food, shelter, medicine and clothing — because it somewhere off in the distant future.

Except it’s not. It’s starting now:

  • At the end of 2015, the pension funds of the companies listed in the S&P 500 were underfunded by a staggering 375 billion dollars, after having been fully funded as recently as 2007. Underfunded is a polite term for treachery: the companies have not deposited in the pension fund the money they have promised to pay their qualified retirees.
  • State and local government pensions are in far worse shape: they are five and one-half trillion dollars short of the money they have promised — and are obligated by law — to pay their retirees.
  • The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), a US government agency, insures the private pension funds covering 40 million Americans. So far, it is responsible for paying the benefits owed by 71 pension funds that have gone broke (it does not pay the full benefit, more like 70 per cent, and it does not use taxpayer funds — yet.). The PBGC says it will run out of cash within ten years.
  • The Central States Pension Fund, for Teamsters union truck drivers in several states, one of the country’s largest funds covering a quarter of a million people, plans to cut benefits for more than a quarter million retirees — some by more than half — beginning July 1, and expects to be insolvent by 2025.

This rapidly gathering storm is not going to limit its effects to retired people. No less an authority than Investor’s Business Daily suggests that the public pension shortfalls alone could bankrupt the Unites States government. They estimate the existing debt at over $17 thousand for every American. Failure to honor a private pension is a breach of trust; failure to pay a public pension is a breach of the law.

As this crisis matures, with announcements coming every week now that another fund is reducing benefits or otherwise in trouble, so too will the related crises in social security and among the people — nearly half the households of working people — who have no personal savings or preparation for their retirement.  

When they came for the Muslims and the Mexicans, I did not speak up for obvious reasons. But now they’re coming for the old people.

Sin Taxes & Not your father’s Cold War

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  March 1 & 3, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

In Praise of Sin Taxes

 

 

 

The world’s best example of the evils of unearned wealth argues against it. Of course, it should read “…discourage them from working and achieving…” but, hey, if he could speak the language he wouldn’t be who he is. Whom?

 

 

 

In the 1970s, Republicans discovered they could reliably win elections by pronouncing taxes to be anathema, which is to say, evil, irredeemable, on a par with the seven deadly sins. Henceforward, they declared, there would be no new taxes and no tax increases. Also henceforward, members of the other party  would be referred to exclusively as “tax-and-spend” Democrats.  It worked so well that now, Republicans are in control of everything.

But taxes, it turned out, were essential to the functioning of a free republic. Our nation’s roads, bridges, airports, trains, water pipes, sewer mains and power grid have rotted almost completely away for lack of maintenance, repair and replacement. Yet taxes remain anathema.  

When, from time to time, in the brief interludes between elections, the Untaxables had to come up with some money to keep a school open here and there or put a bridge back up (just enough to get the torches doused and the pitchforks put away), they found they could get away with imposing a tax — although it was a very great sin to do so — as long as they imposed the taxes on a sin. Cigarettes became a favorite, after Big Tobacco became too poor to own and operate legislatures like it used to, and today in West Virginia, for example,  there is a tax on each pack of cigarettes of about $25,000.

The thing about sin taxes is, they tend to be self-extinguishing: the rising cost of sinning reduces the number of people who can, or will, indulge. There are only about six people left who can afford to be smokers of commercial cigarettes in West Virginia, everybody else is smoking oak leaves. Now West Virginia at the moment — and I do mean this very moment — has a budget shortfall of half a billion dollars. The federal debt has reached $20 trillion, and in a couple of weeks the debt limit (the law Congress passed that says, “stop us before we borrow again”) is once again going to throw a monkey wrench into the government money-printing press.

Our legislators are laboring mightily to solve these problems by not raising taxes, even on sins. The West Virginia solons are urgently debating prohibiting bestiality and making the Bible the state book. I swear I am not making these things up. Go ahead, check the links, I’ll wait.

What we need here, obviously, is a new sin to tax. As it happens, I have a candidate. No sin has done more damage to the Republic, the world, or indeed to the souls of men, than unearned wealth.

Those who become wealthy through pure dumb luck — those who inherit fortunes, or marry them, or win the lottery or pick a stock — are a worse plague on the world than pollution. Insulated from the real world by their wealth, they never learn anything about how the world works. Nevertheless, surrounded by sycophants, they develop an overinflated opinion of themselves. Unable to actually use more than a small fraction of their money, they send the rest of it off, in the hands of hedge fund operators and personal wealth managers and other con men, in search of outrageous profits, thus inflating and exploding various financial bubbles around the world.

These periodic tsunamis of money that create and then pulverize vast fortunes in dot-coms, shale-oil, farmland, residential real estate, high tech, on and on, are the modern day equivalent of the periodic plagues of locusts described in the Bible. Whatever brief benefits there are, go to the already wealthy. When the bubbles collapse the pain is felt only by those already poor.

Solution: A confiscatory tax, 90 per cent would be about right, on all inherited and otherwise luck-induced wealth. Including lottery and casino winnings, such as stock trading profits. It would be a lot of money, that could fix a lot of highways and bridges, while preventing a great deal of destructive behavior around the world.   

And it’s not like it would be hurting anybody. Most of these people have no idea how much money they have or where it is. All they know is, they want more.

Let us go forth, and tax sinners. There simply is no down side.

 

This is Not Your Father’s Cold War

It all has such a familiar feel. Russia is once again our primary enemy in the world. Implacably, tyrannically, cunningly, it plots our downfall, engineers our destruction, and prepares for war without ceasing. It’s déjà vu all over again, we even catch ourselves referring to them as Soviets, and Godless Communists, which is silly, they are no more Communists than Trump is a Republican. But the thrill is the same as it used to be, the thrill of the monster under the bed, the nameless, faceless dread from which only Mom, or Saint Ronald of Reagan, or The Donald, can save us.

Nothing that feels so right and familiar has to make sense, and that must be a good thing, because none of this does. Start with the fact that the $600 billion elephant (that’s what America spends on “defense” every year) is pretending to be terrified of a $50 billion mouse. That’s right — The Donald’s proposed increase in military spending for the next budget equals the entire annual Russian defense budget.

The Russians have one — count it, one — aircraft carrier, so old and decrepit that when they “deployed”it to Syria last year they sent a tugboat along in case the carrier crapped out before it got home. We, on the other hand, have 19 carriers and just launched the world’s most expensive and most technologically advanced warship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt. Which crapped out in the Panama Canal on its maiden voyage and had to be towed to a nearby naval base for extensive repairs.  Um, where were we? Oh, yeah.

Listen,  granted the Russians have a formidable air force, nuclear weapons, a ton of tanks, and about half the people under arms that we do. But that does not explain why the mouse is suddenly terrorizing the elephant. Most likely, something is going on in the elephant’s mind. So let’s review how we got here:

  • During the election campaign, The Donald expressed a mystifying and definitely non-Republican admiration for Vladimir Putin. But most of what Trump said was mystifying, and he never pretended to be a Republican.
  • In the final stretch of the campaign, some emails came to light that were somewhat embarrassing for the Clinton campaign, and some fake news stories were circulated that were even more so, and these were alleged to have come from Russian sources.
  • When, to everyone’s astonishment, Trump actually won the election, the only explanation that made sense to HIllary’s people was that the Russians did it. To say that Trump was smart enough to have done it, or that Hillary was dumb enough to have blown it, made no sense to them. So for them and their friends in and out of government, “the Russians hacked the election.”
  • Now, it is being revealed that the Trump Campaign had an amazing number of meetings, before and after the election, with Russian officials. The Trumpits are first denying, then failing to remeember, then reluctantly admitting to these contacts, which colors them all nefarious whether they were or not.

What does all this amount to? Probably much less than meets the eye, although it compares favorably with the new season of Homeland for entertainment and diversion (if not yet for firefights).

But one thing is sure — the Cold War is on again. The armed men and tanks that we shipped home from Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union are going back. The defense budget that withered after our detentes in Iraq and Afghanistan is headed back up. Pretty soon we’ll be having “duck-and-cover” civil defense exercises in elementary schools again.

Why? Forget Trump’s election. Whatever the Russians tried to do on his behalf had roughly the effect of trying to turn a hurricane with a snowplow. Forget Putin. He is, as Obama correctly labelled him, the leader of a regional power who loves to pretend the Soviet Union is back. It’s not. If we did with Russia what we finally learned to do with Sarah Palin, and just ignored it, we could soon forget it altogether.

The old Cold War was about empire, about world domination. The Soviets lost because they could not afford to continue, let alone win. Now we are intent on world domination, and we are going to lose this quest, regardless of what Russia does, for the same reason. We can’t afford it.

If you want to understand why we have gone so far back to the future, why our world is focussed once again on the Cold War, you must ask qui bono? Who benefits?

The arms dealers, the builders of aircraft carriers, warships, airplanes, tanks and guns, the makers of ammunition and caskets, the provisioners and suppliers of war and war preparations. They are having their way with us again, and we’re letting them do it.

And this time, in this Cold War, there is and will be no moral high ground. It will not be the side that invades sovereign countries, and executes regime change when it feels like it, and kills civilians and women and children, and ignores the rules of civilized warfare, torturing people and putting them in concentration camps and assassinating people who end up on its lists; while the other side preaches democracy and treats everyone well and strives for peace, good will on earth.

No, this is not your father’s Cold War.

New Cold War

 

 

 

 

Chance the Gardener & Technology Oncology

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  February16 & 23, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

On Being President Chance the Gardener

[NOTE: Promotion of this post was rejected by Facebook. No reason given.]

In his 1971 novel Being There, Jerzy Kosinski told the story of Chance the Gardener, a simple-minded laborer cloistered his whole life in the townhouse of the wealthy man for whom he worked. When, on the death of his employer, Chance is cast into the world, people insist on mistaking his profound ignorance — he can’t read or write, knows only what he has seen on TV or in the garden — as Zen-like wisdom.

In the novel, virtually everyone who encounters Chance refuses to accept that he could be as limited as he seems, and imagines for him an alternate reality of profound wisdom, which they then manage to see confirmed in the real world. Before long, Chance is advising the President of the Unites States on economic policy. This scene demonstrates how it works::

President “Bobby”: Mr. Gardener, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives? [Long pause]

Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.

President “Bobby”: In the garden.

Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

President “Bobby”: Spring and summer.

Chance the Gardener: Yes.

President “Bobby”: Then fall and winter.

Chance the Gardener: Yes.

Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.

Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!

Benjamin Rand: Hmm!

Chance the Gardener: Hmm!

President “Bobby”: Hm. Well, Mr. Gerdener, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time.

[Benjamin Rand applauds]

President “Bobby”: I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

In 1979, when Peter Sellers played Chance in the Academy-Award-winning movie, it was an amusing satire that obviously could not happen in the real word. Now that, in the real world, Chance has been elected President of the Unites States, Kosinski’s fiction deserves another close look. Particularly with regard to projection.

We usually encounter the notion of projection — attributing our own attitudes and beliefs to others — in connection with fears and shortcomings, as when people who are serial adulterers, for example, are consumed with suspicion that their spouses are unfaithful. But people also project upwards, as when they assume that people who are well known and/or well off are also wise and good and talented. As the song says, “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” but we tend to insist that it is.  

Our present-day, real, President Chance and the media mob around him give us an example of this projection every day. One example: the President, at a news conference with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, had this to say about the so-called “two-state solution,” the foundation for decades of the struggle for peace in the Middle East, the presumption that eventually, there will exist there both an Israeli and a Palestinian state:

“So I’m looking at two states and one state. And I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two states looked like it may be the easier of the two. To be honest, if Bibi and the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy – I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

In the ensuing hours and days, as Britain’s Independent newspaper reported, “Unable to understand what the President’s inanities actually meant, the lads and lasses of the satellite channels were telling us that he was not as committed as his predecessor to the “two state” solution but might favour a “one state” solution – yet wasn’t ruling out a “two state” solution. “

Now admit it. Isn’t that one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements you’ve heard in a very, very long time? All hail President Chance the Gardener.

 

Technology Oncology: The Spreading Plague

 

 

Captain? You can stop pounding on the GPS receiver now. I don’t think it’s working.  (Photo by motorkid.com/google images)

Ayurveda teaches us: “as is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm.” Stuff happens pretty much the same way whether on a very small scale, as in subatomic, or a very large one, say cosmic.

So here’s the microcosm: I have a so-called “smart” phone that, when I got it four years ago, was very smart indeed. Since then, several times a day, it has been subjected to countless improvements, otherwise known as updates — security patches, glitzy new capabilities that no one asked for or wants, repairs of really glonky mistakes that lurk in the code —  that have steadily diminished its reliability and usefulness. It now takes up to a half hour to get started, and every once in a while announces that it is tired and is going to take a nap. (Come to think of it, we are getting more and more alike.)

Recently it did that to me — that is, took a sudden nap —  while I was using it to navigate heavy traffic in downtown Washington, D.C. This caused me to panic briefly about how I was going to drive out of an area I have been driving into and out of, with no digital assistance, for 40 years. But I’m okay now. This same phone gives me random warnings that I have exhausted my data allowance, or not, or maybe soon; that there is a tornado watch in a county I never heard of, or an Amber alert in a galaxy far, far away. Neither the people who made the phone or the people whose network it’s in seem able to discover who is driving it (and me) crazy, or why.

And now, a few examples from the macrocosm: On February 13, The National Weather Service experienced a “catastrophic” failure of both the primary and backup routers that send virtually all its products — forecasts, warnings, radar images, maps, just about everything — to the satellites that distribute them to the public. None of these products was available, in the entire United States, for three hours, a period during which a blizzard was pummeling the East and torrential rains were threatening the country’s tallest dam in the West. You might not think this a big deal at first, the forecasts aren’t that great anyway, but forecasts are not the NWS’s only important product. Air travel, for example, requires data — winds aloft, the location of fronts, etc. — so that pilots can plan their flights, estimate their times and calculate their fuel consumption. The sudden absence of digital assistance in these matters, like the crash of my navigator-phone, can induce feelings of panic.

These outages — of our cell phones and our weather forecasts and everything in between — have quietly become a frequent, familiar and largely accepted part of our lives. (Lambert Strether of Naked Capitalism calls it “the crapification of everything.”) The macro systems that control the worldwide operations of great airlines, for example, are ever more frequently these days, like my smart phone, taking unexpected naps that may be hours, or days, in duration:

  • On January 29  Delta, KLM and Virgin Airlines at New York’s JFK Airport were all experiencing delays caused by technical issues. Back in August, Delta suffered a systemic breakdown after a brief, small-scale power outage in its operations center. The airline canceled more than 2,000 flights over three days.
  • On February 1, a computer malfunction snarled traffic at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport for hours, causing delays or cancellations of more than 100 flights at one of Europe’s largest transportation hubs.
  • On February 8, United Airlines said it was experiencing delays at airports across the country because of a system wide computer problem affecting flight plans.

The root of most of  these problems is that systems have been forced to grow far beyond the natural, logical, immutable limits to their growth. Systems that are too big are lashed together to make even bigger systems; systems that are too small — say for example a booking app that looks for cheap fares — are allowed into the main system like deer prancing around on a freeway, sometimes with terrible results. Really old systems are lashed to cutting-edge programs, and if you’re ever had to work fast and under pressure with your aged grandfather you might have an inkling of what could happen.

It’s a cancer. And it’s spreading. And no one is saying, whoa, let’s shut this system down for six months and fix the damn thing, because that would be inconvenient and would cost a lot of money. Instead they tell the coders to fix it, patch it, splice it, work around it, make it last. Which allows the tumor to grow and grow until one say the whole system dies.

An outcome that will redefine the words “inconvenient” and “expensive.”

Distributed Energy & Clickbait

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  February 10 & 13, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Distributed Energy Soars at Last

 

 

 

Finally, after 130 years or so, we’re thinking about a better way to handle electricity than with strings strung on sticks. (Wikimedia Photo)

 

 

 

For those of us who have been arguing into the wind for years about the urgent need to abandon our total reliance on the electric grid in favor of distributed energy — making it where you use it — it’s a sight for sore eyes. An enormous government program is building tens of thousands of direct-current microgrids to power homes and businesses and towns all over the country, providing people with electricity that is far less expensive and more reliable than is provided by the grid.

The program began field testing its microgrids just three years ago. For a single household it consisted of a solar array, a basic battery, and a 12-volt wiring harness. By staying in 12 volt, the microgrid avoids the expense and inefficiencies of inverting the power to 120-volt, and makes use of the increasing availability of 12-volt lights, motors, computers, TVs and appliances.  By the end of of this year, 100,000 microgrids will be up and running, with no slowdown in sight.

Another triumph of American ingenuity? Hardly. You can have America’s grid when you pry it from our cold, dead hands. This is a triumph of Indian innovation.

With its one and a quarter billion people — four times the population of the United States — India is the second largest country in the world. Since achieving independence from Britain in 1947, the massive and long-subjugated country has moved with surprising speed toward a position of world leadership; it is, for example, one of the few countries in the world to possess nuclear weapons.

But progress has been uneven. Poverty, environmental degradation, corruption, and plain vanilla incompetence lay across the country’s many accomplishments like a toxic fog. This is especially true when it comes to energy: one fifth of the population has no access to electricity at all; half of those who are connected to the grid find it so unreliable and expensive they may as well not have it at all

For years India has been pouring money into bigger generating plants, bigger and longer transmission lines, and myriad electrification projects. Yet of its 29 provinces, only four can boast that all of their households have electricity. The only meaningful gains have been made by the recently inaugurated microgrid program initiated by the Indian Institute of Technology at Madras.

Now, tens of thousands of homes are making enough power — reliably and cheaply — to power their lights, computers, phones, televisions, fans and certain other appliances. Whether the microgrid is alone or working in tandem with the grid, it allows people for the first time to count on being able to read at night, cool themselves with fans, communicate, and watch entire TV shows uninterrupted.

That might not seem like much to you and me, and we may not see the point at first of doing microgrids here. That’s because you and I think of the grid as sturdy and reliable, and most of us consider investing in backup power only if it lowers our electric bills. But the grid is not sturdy and reliable, it is elderly, leaky, outdated and infirm [See “Rage Against the Dying of the Lights,” The Daily Impact December 5, 2014], and one day soon it is going to fail us entirely.

On that day we are going to regret deeply all that time and money we spent grafting wind “farms” and solar “farms” and nuclear plants and coal plants and natural gas plants onto our rusting forest of sticks and strings. There is nothing sustainable, or renewable, or common sensible about gathering a gazillion watts of “renewable” energy in the middle of a desert or on a remote mountaintop and them having to ram it through an aged, leaky, decrepit grid to its eventual destination. We will also deeply regret, for example,  saving a few bucks by installing solar panels with built-in inverters to 120 volt — inverters that must be connected to the live grid for the solar panel to work.

We will regret letting the industry convince us that the only way to make energy is to burn fossil fuels in huge plants, the only way to distribute it is through strings strung on sticks (wait, hook it to the Internet and call it a “smart” grid), that high costs and frequent outages and increasing vulnerability are just the way it is. We may even, if we have the time while trying to survive, take a moment to regret that Thomas Edison lost his argument with Nikola Tesla, and Edison’s vision of an America of neighborhoods served by small DC generators never came to be.

Until now. In India.      

 

Clickbait, Fake News and Low-Calorie Science

 

 

 

 

A tiny drone tries to gather pollen from a lily, to show that it is just as good at it as a bee. [Photo by E.Miyako]

 

 

 

The hucksters of high tech are abroad in the land, proving they are the equal of Donald Trump in their ability to tell brazen lies and feel no shame. These days, that’s called leadership. Their latest whopper is that we don’t need to worry about the fact that we are killing off the bees that pollinate our food crops, we can do the job mechanically. Here’s a typical headline inspired by the latest revelations in the field: “Should pollinating drones take over for honey bees?”

 

Consider the technique used in the headline –it’s the craft of clickbait, not journalism. The journalistic headlines would be “Scientists have used a small drone to pollinate a flower.” Yawn. If you said, “Scientists prepare to replace bees with drones,” the lie would be so big and so obvious that scientists would have to protest and your credibility, if any, would suffer. But who could blame you for simply asking the question? (Headlines asking questions, by the way, are an indicator of fake news.)

The story itself breathes heavily through an account of a team in Japan outfitting a little drone with some horsehairs and sticky stuff and successfully transferring some pollen from one lily (a flower selected for its large size and accessible pollen) to another. Mission accomplished, in approximately half the attempts made. The team leader — Eijiro Miyako of Japan’s Nanomaterials Research Institute — said he felt “happiness that I’m a scientist.”

Couple things. The drone they used cost over a hundred dollars and required a human operator. To pollinate just the almond crop, in California alone, each year requires 35 billion bees pollinating three trillion flowers on 900,000 acres. Each little drone, with its four slashing propellers, is going to scare and injure real bees and damage plants while barging around the flowers.

Well, sure, comes the response, we’ll have to develop some kind of artificial intelligence to make the drones self-piloting, and we’ll have to achieve economies of scale, but we can do that. Eventually. In other words if we had some ham we could have ham and eggs if we had some eggs.

Over and over again we are treated to the same cycle; some minor achievement in the lab, announced with a flurry of irrational predictions about the brave new world to come because of this breakthrough. Fusion (at room temperature) has been announced a half dozen times. A week or so ago a breathless account of the creation of metallic hydrogen caught the world’s attention until it fell apart of its own weight.

These “studies” continue to flourish for the same reason that clickbait ads and fake news flourish; because of the avid appetite of ill-informed people for easy solutions. When the ad offers a quick and easy cure for cancer, or the fake news proclaims that a politician we don’t like has been caught running a child sex-slave ring out of a pizza parlor, or fake science proclaims that we no longer have to worry about the bees dying or the globe warming or the world running out of oil, way too many of us turn off our critical faculties and go back to sleep.

Money flows to the grant proposals that envision finding out that what we want to be true, is true. Money flows to the clickbait ads that offer easy solutions to complex problems. Eyeballs cascade to the fake news that proclaims what we want to hear, or what we are afraid we’ll hear. And the institutions that once imposed responsibility on these offerings — the universities, the regulatory bodies, the great newspapers — are vampires now whose souls have fled, leaving behind only a vast craving for cash.   

There’s no one left to tell us there aren’t going to be driverless cars and tabletop fusion and eternal life and a cure for cancer and a mechanical replacement for bees and a simple fix for climate change; to tell us it’s up to us not to be taken, not to be gullible, not to accept a view of the world that’s simple and easy and deadly wrong. It’s hard work, but somebody’s got to do it, and there’s no drone that will do it for you.

Cometh Civil War? & Cancelled Infrastructure

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  February 5 & 8, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Antidote to Civil War? Or Precursor?

New York attorney Gregory Locke boarded the subway last Friday night and was appalled by what he saw. Every window in the car, every advertisement and map, had been defaced with a swastika. And there were slogans, such as “Jews belong in the oven.”

“The train was silent,” he said in his Facebook post about it, “as everyone stared at each other, uncomfortable and unsure what to do. One guy got up and said, ‘Hand sanitizer gets rid of Sharpie. We need alcohol.’ He found some tissues and got to work. I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously reach into their bags and pockets looking for tissues and Purel. Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone.

 “Nazi symbolism. On a public train. In New York City. In 2017.

 “I guess this is Trump’s America,” said one passenger. No sir, it’s not. Not tonight and not ever. Not as long as stubborn New Yorkers have anything to say about it.”

Two Americas. Using the same subway car in close succession on a Friday night in February, each leaving their mark. Each with something very important to say to us.

First, consider the swastika drawers, who were not very good at it — they inadvertently drew the sacred Hindu character for “good fortune” (it has to be tilted 45 degrees to the right to become the Nazi icon). But that’s an important thing to understand about haters and bigots: they’re not very good at anything.

One of the first courses I took in Sociology 101 taught me an invaluable lesson I have never forgot. It was a study of inter-racial relations among the (primarily Vietnamese) shrimp fishermen and the people of South Florida. The study found a strong, direct and inverse relationship between the state of the local economy and the quality of the interactions among ethnic groups. When times were good people were tolerant and welcomed diversity. The worse the economy became, the more bigotry appeared, and if it got bad enough there were outbreaks of violence.

Everything I have seen in the ensuing decades has confirmed for me the simple fact that people choose racism primarily when they are experiencing financial hardship, and want — no, need — someone to blame. Some “other” kind of person. easily identifiable as an enemy. The worse the hardship, the more violent, widespread and prolonged the expressions of blame/hate.

Is this Trump’s America? Yes and no. It is remarkable that hate crimes, including attacks on synagogues and mosques, and the defacing of public spaces with swastikas, have increased dramatically since his election. But it would be a serious mistake to attribute this only to him and the people who voted for him.

Despite what they say, political leaders do not run the economy, they cannot “create jobs” or “bring back industries.” They cannot make better the severe conditions that bring out in us our impulses to blame and punish. What they can do is summon us to our best efforts, to our better natures, to the rational tolerance and good will that tamp down our more hateful urges.

Or they can do what tyrants and would-be tyrants do. By encouraging the notion that we are experiencing hard times because of the Jews/Mexicans/Muslims/terrorists, the WBT (Would Be Tyrant) can more easily make the case that he, and he alone, can save us. All we have to do is give him the power. Unrestrained, absolute power. Beyond energizing his supporters to bristle at the “others,” the WBT also enables — by hinting, repeating, winking, implying, berating and just saying — many others to allow barely-restrained frustration to blow sky high.

In my own neighborhood last week a young mother described on Facebook how her (colored) child was suddenly berated in a public place by another (white) child, a total stranger, and told to go back where he came from because nobody wants him here. The white child’s grandmother corrected the white child, not for being rude or expressing racism, but because “we don’t say those things outside the house.”

Don’t worry, little precious, soon you may be able to say all those things everywhere, while decorating everything with swastikas, when it truly is Trump’s America.

But maybe not. Consider the second group of people on the subway car, with their tissues and hand sanitizers. They live in the America that I have always lived in and loved, and they have signaled their determination to keep it. I wonder if we can.

 

The Great Recovery of America’s Infrastructure: Cancelled

 

 

 

Wondering what happens when you don’t maintain the Interstate Highway system? Wondering if we can get along without it? Minneapolis, 2007. (Wikipedia Photo)

 

 

 

Watch closely any group involved in dealing with a disaster — let’s say, a fire company battling a structure fire — and you may catch the moment when they share a glance that says, “You know what, we’re not going to win this one.” Their conduct changes almost imperceptibly from “balls to the wall, we can do this,” to “watch where you step, and back away from the walls, she’s gonna burn to the ground.”

Such a moment may well have come this week for the people who still believe — or have believed since Donald Trump was elected president — that we are going to experience a Great Recovery of this country’s rotting roads and decrepit bridges, which will in turn create millions of jobs, restore the middle class, eliminate poverty, homelessness and cancer, save the economy and make it 1958 in America once more. And Mexico is going to pay for it. (Actually, candidate Trump promised $50 billion for the purpose, double Hillary Clinton’s proposed spending. But neither of them explained where they were going to get the money.)

No one questions that this massive construction program is not only necessary but urgent. Our entire economy, all of it, travels on the backs of 18-wheelers, and if anything at all interferes with their tightly scheduled travel, we are all in the  soup, neck deep and right now.  The American Society of Civil Engineers, the people who would do this work if they were hired, has been warning us for years about the deterioration. The Interstate Highway system (900,000 miles) and all its bridges (600,000) and overpasses, came with an expiration date stamped on them, just like so many quarts of milk. Their life expectancy was 50 years when they were built — 60 years ago.

The civil engineers are very civil when they try to tell us why their hair is on fire: “by 2024, the U.S. will face an infrastructure funding gap of $1.4 trillion.” It’s not in their nature to draw pictures of empty stores, food riots, endless lines for gasoline, and various other civil insults, because they don’t want to trigger the general panic that the situation deserves. Instead, we will just agree that it’s a heckuva problem, Brownie.

And now there’s hope, right? Maybe the Child President will remember his concern about the roads (infrastructure is way too long a word, get outta here) long enough to try to do something about them. Maybe his excellent Cabinet can come up with a way to pay for fixing them (Rex Tillerson could just write a check, but that would probably be a conflict of interest).

But here’s the thing. In a few weeks, this massive project won’t even be possible, even if Canada pays for it in cash. Because the largest asphalt plant in the United States is shutting down for lack of business. According to Bloomberg, Axeon Specialty Products is converting to other uses a plant in New Jersey capable of producing 50,000 barrels of asphalt per day. U.S. consumption of asphalt has been hovering below 350,000 barrels a day since 2009.  To support a meaningful overhaul of the road system the county would need to manufacture at least an additional 200,000 barrels per day.

With Axeon’s New Jersey plant gone, there is no way that is going to happen. Even if Canada does pay for it.  The engineers are looking at each other funny — it may be time to back away from those walls before they fall on us.

 

 

 

Driverless Carz & The Pricetag of Civilization

youtube-Logo-4gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on The Daily Impact  January 30 & February 2, 2017

Discuss these articles at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Driverless Cars: Their Time Will Never Come

 

 

 

 

 

 

The driverless car. An idea whose time will not come. Ever.

Can we just get real here for a minute? Our streets and highways are never going to be populated by a significant number of driverless cars. Any more than our lives are going to be enriched by attentive robots exhibiting artificial intelligence. We are no closer to deploying fleets of driverless cars now than we were to having a flying car in every garage, as the illustrated predictions in Popular Mechanics and the like insisted through the 50s and 60s. And 70s and 80s. (I should have warned you about the disorientation a sudden dose of realism can have; sit down and breath into a paper bag, it will pass.)

The deafening hype we are hearing about driverless cars is the sound of an entire industry trying to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to itself. Everything we hear about the auto industry is good (“2016 U.S.Auto Sales Set New High Record”) because everything we hear comes from the auto industry. And yet its healthy glow is beginning to take on the ghastly sheen of a dead mackerel.

Ever since President Obama saved the auto industry from meltdown in 2008 (yes, he did, you can look it up) it has been the leading light of American industrial activity. Sales bottomed out at fewer than 10 million units in 2009, but have risen steadily since, to an all time high of 17.5 million units, in 2016. What could be wrong with this picture?

Couple of things. First, these sales were accomplished by offering low- and no-interest loans, low- and no-down-payment loans, then extending the length of the loans to lower the payments still more. The average term of a car loan is now five and a half years, with six- and seven-year loans ever more frequent. Still this wasn’t enough. To get the numbers they wanted they had to start making loans to less and less credit-worthy buyers. Before long, in order to keep the big wheel turning, lenders were bundling car loans and securitizing them for more cash to lend to sub-prime borrowers. The sales were booked. The loans were booked (with everyone involved collecting their commissions in cash).  But the cars haven’t been paid for yet, and now the default rates are in the stratosphere. According to MarketWatch:

The number of subprime auto loans sinking into delinquency hit their highest level since 2010 in the third quarter, with roughly 6 million individuals at least 90 days late on their payments. It’s behavior much like that seen in the months heading into the 2007-2009 recession, according to data from Federal Reserve Bank of New York researchers. “The worsening in the delinquency rate of subprime auto loans is pronounced, with a notable increase during the past few years,” the researchers…said Wednesday.

Nobody could have seen that coming.

Another thing. When the factories ship cars and trucks to the dealers, to sit on lots for no one knows how long, they count them as “sold” even though the dealer has the right to return them. At the end of 2016, a banner year for “sales,” an all-time high of almost four million cars were sitting on dealer lots unsold.

So despite the glossy paint on its exterior,  the auto industry is rapidly rusting out from within, and desperately needs its Next Big Thing to appear NOW. Hybrids were it for a while, but gas prices went down and huge SUVs rule the road again. Electric plug-ins? Naw. See the fate of the hybrid. But self-driving cars? Now you got some buzz, man. This could be it.

But desperation generates its own buzz. The makers of computers and cell phones and tablets have all been seeking the Next Big Thing with equal desperation for years. A few years ago it was The Smart Watch. Drum roll!!! Fanfare!!! Launch!!! Nobody bought ‘em. Remember Google Glass? Gone. Virtual reality is currently having its 15-minute audition. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7? Crashed and burned. Literally.

None of these products came to market in response to a need people had. You know, like when they invented the fly swatter. These were things that engineers and marketers believed the general public could be enticed to buy. And that used to work, back when we had a middle class in America with money to spare. Then, you could make a go of pet rocks with the right advertising campaign.

But driverless cars? Let’s try one though experiment. It’s a couple years from now, and you call an Uber car, and when it pulls to the curb and waits for you to get in, there is no one in the car, and there are no controls in the car. Are you going to get in?

Me neither.

 

That Which Kills Me Also Costs Me Money: Study

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackout 1965: Think of it — all those people trapped in all those apartments, needing to know: how much is this going to cost?

According to a new study, if a solar storm blew out most of America’s electric grid, it would cost us $41.5 billion dollars. The worst scenario calculated in the study would affect 66 per cent of the population, as well as the nation’s manufacturing, government and finance sectors. Other countries would be affected as well, but we don’t care about that, the study simply created a seven-billion-dollar chump-change jar for the foreigners. After putting a price tag on every imaginable aspect of Apocalypse Now, one of the study’s authors said somberly, “We felt it was important.” He found it “surprising” that prior studies — yes, there are prior studies making the same calculations — lacked “transparency” and missed entirely some direct and indirect costs.

Encyclopedic as it may be, and transparent as well — you can see right through it — the study raises at least as many questions as it answers [Please disengage your fake-news sensor and engage your irony alert]:

  • now that we know what the incineration of the grid will cost, can we just not do it? Is that why you told us?
  • now that we know what it will cost, shall we just put that much money in a savings account, so that when it happens, we can just write a check and we won’t be affected at all?
  • Utilities have always known about the threat from severe solar storms, and  how to protect the grid from them, but have so far refused to spend the money. So now can we get them to spend up to $40 billion? At least?
  • Isn’t this pretty much the same things as commissioning a financial analysis to calculate how much money you will not make in the 10 years after your death? (A million dollars? Holy crap! Now I really don’t want to die!)

But here’s the real question. Have we as a culture become so devoid of human values and empathy that we no longer even have the language to discuss the meaning of anything without assigning cash values? Where are the studies concluding that an event like this would put us all instantly back in the Stone Age, that most of us would die in the first year, that our civilization might never recover? 

In our world, knowledge has been industrialized. Armies of researchers often funded by the companies that will benefit from a right conclusion, delve into everything from the health benefits of food to the effects of chemicals, from evaluating stocks and bonds to  the economic cost of homophobia. If the conclusion is wrong — that is, of no benefit to the sponsors — it can be buried, and alternate studies funded. See “Exxon and climate-change research.”

Rice University researchers have calculated the cost of carbon emissions, and called for a compensatory carbon tax. In other words, never mind the visible pall of pollution, the coughing children, the elevated cancer rates, the increasingly obvious destabilization of the planet’s climate, let’s figure out how many dollars it might cost and impose a fine, in dollars. Similarly, Stanford researchers have estimated the high cost of global climate change. Duh!

As with all crimes against humanity, we must first ask cui bono? Who benefits? Studies cost money, often big money. Promoting their results to a gullible public costs really big money. Somebody is getting something for all that money. [Note to self: Apply for grant to conduct large-scale study of the cost of studying the cost of things.]

Without conducting a study, I can only surmise that the beneficiaries of studies such as the solar-storm accounting are the very industries it studied. If we focused in detail on the human cost of such a Black Swan event — that is, an event of extremely low probability but extremely high cost — and the relative ease with which the industries could prevent it, we would be storming their gates. Or at least trolling them on Twitter.  

But put a price tag on it, any price tag, and our tendency is to think, “Yeah, we could do that.” It doesn’t matter how big it is. Personally, I cannot get my head around any number that has more than six digits. I thought it was a private affliction, but it turns out to be pretty widespread.

Talk to any industry about its responsibility to the humans it is supposed to be serving, and to future generations of them, and it goes into a defensive crouch and insists that a corporation is not a person when it comes to ethics and responsibility. But threaten them with a future fine or cost, and the board meets, and says “Yeah, we could do that.” 

So that’s cui bono, baby.

No Newz is Good Newz

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Friend us on Facebook

 

Published on The Daily Impact on January 23, 2017

Discuss this article at the Newz Table inside the Diner

An early adopter of manipulating masses with fake news.

Fake news has been with us for a very long time. Has anyone heard about (I won’t ask if you remember it, because nobody is that old) the Gulf of Tonkin attack on U.S. ships that never happened, but that caused Congress to validate the Vietnam War? Anyone remember Saddam Hussein’s fictional weapons of mass destruction? If we stop and think about it, a large proportion of all news is, and always has been, fake. But then, if we stopped and thought about it, it would be a victimless crime.

There is much less going on here than meets the eye.

If you get an email from a deposed Nigerian oil minister offering to share a fortune with you, do you turn over your bank account details and social security number and wait for the windfall? Of course you don”t. (Wait, you did?) Because you are not consumed by greed nor activated by an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. You and I have a hard time mustering sympathy for the scammed and the pfished and the swindled, because if they hadn’t lusted after unearned wealth, or if they had informed themselves just a little, they would not have been victims. Con artists cannot flourish without eager victims — a basket of gullibles, so to speak.

What does the victim get out of a fake news story? Cheap confirmation of preconceived ideas. A thrill of validation (I knew Hillary was rotten, and here she is running a child sex slave operation out of a pizza parlor, or, I knew Trump was rotten and here he is bragging on tape about groping women. He didn’t, by the way, he said if you are rich and famous they will let you grope them.)

It has always been our choice, whether to be deluded, or not. When the con is laid out on the table or the screen, we can pick a card, any card, or we can walk away. And we, you and I, have been making the wrong choices for a very long time.

When Edward R. Murrow famously posed the question: would we use television to educate, inform and elevate us, or to amuse us, we had already decided. TV stations that featured violent crime, terrible accidents and celebrities got way more viewers. Very quickly, the rule for editors became, “if it bleeds it leads.” And for decades, as a result, Americans have been convinced that violent crime is far worse in this country than it has ever been. That fake news and its adherents led to any number of “law and order” candidates and consequent “wars on crime.” So yes, fake news has consequences, but that particular deception was a drumbeat that went on for decades and continues today.

We make other bad choices. We reward with our spending the most vacuous and illogical claims made by advertising, we click on Internet headlines proclaiming that “one simple trick cures cancer,” we constantly display our willingness to be hornswoggled. So it should come as no surprise that those with the most to gain from manipulating us did so with a remarkable torrent of fake news during the election and since.

For example, take the story now known everywhere as “Russians Hacked U.S. Election.” This is the very best kind of fake news, because it contains a tiny germ of truth somewhere in it, and many high officials are intent on keeping it alive (although no one with any standing has said anything like, “Russia hacked the election” — for the simple reason that no one seems to know what exactly was done, or whether the Russians did it, or what effect if any it may have had on the election.

So here’s what we must all remember about fake news, past and present:

  • Fake news isn’t news unless we say it is. If we don’t believe the Nigerian oil minister is who he says he is, no money changes hands, no harm, no foul. So let’s stop talking about preventing fake news, or banning it, or punishing it — just stop reading it.
  • Fake news is easy to debunk. Google it. Check it on Snopes.com. The Internet has more to offer than cute animals and trolls.
  • Fake news has remarkable little real effect on the real world. Stanford University found that only 15 per cent of Americans were even aware of any fake news stories during the 2016 campaign, and of those who were aware of them, only half believed any of them. This is about how many Americans believe that they personally have been abducted by aliens from space.

Millions and millions of whom voted against Trump, and that’s why….no. wait, that’s another fake news story.

Hillary Hallucinates Energy Independence

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Friend us on Facebook

 

Published on The Daily Impact on October 10, 2016

we-can-do-it

Wait, we don’t have to do it! Just roll up our sleeves and imagine it’s already done!

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

Just when we were beginning to accept that the lesser evil in this batshit-crazy, un-presidential election was also the safer option, we get confirmation that Hillary Clinton is almost as delusional as Donald Trump. In last night’s debate, minutes after scornfully describing Trump as “living in an alternative [sic] universe,” Mrs. Clinton emailed a dispatch from her private planet, announcing for the first time anywhere that in the United States, “We are now, for the first time ever, energy independent.”

Now, among English speakers, the words “energy” and “independence,” used together, have a specific meaning. (I know, it’s quaint of me to suggest that words have meaning independently of who is using them, but you can have my dictionary when you pry it from my cold, dead hands…) A country is energy independent if, and only if, it produces all the energy it needs.

Mrs. Clinton was seriously mistaken to suggest that the United States is energy independent now, and further mistaken to say that if it were true it would be for the first time ever. The United States produced more energy than it consumed until World War II, and never again.  

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest (September) “Short-Term Energy Outlook,” the United States is still extracting about nine million barrels of its own oil per day and burning about 20 million barrels per day. I say “still” because the numbers and their relationship have not changed substantially for several years. The EIA forecasts that next year we will produce less oil and consume more.

With the U.S. government reporting that we still import about half of the oil we use, and that imports have been rising during the first half of this year, how are we to process the fact that a woman who is about a step and a half away from the presidency of the United States professes to believe that we are energy independent and says we no longer have to concern ourselves about the instability of the oil-rich countries of the Middle East? Some of us remember that the near paralysis of this country during the Arab Oil Embargo (Remember? The closed gas stations, the endless lines, the short hours? Anybody?) occurred when we were only importing 30% of our oil, and the Arabs shut off a mere 10% of that.

If there is any logical consistency on Planet Clinton  — I know, another quaint concept, just shut up and hand me my broken lance — we can expect some awesome changes in foreign policy under the new President Clinton. You know, like closing U.S. military bases in 150 countries and bringing home 150,000 service members. Of course that’s not going to happen. Because of course Mrs. Clinton does not believe — cannot possibly believe — that the United States is energy independent.

The most charitable interpretation of what she said last night — actually the only charitable interpretation —  is to assume that she is referring to the fact that for brief periods of time we produce a few more barrels of oil than we import, and defining that as energy independence. So if the Middle East gives us any instability, we only have to park half our cars and shut down half our economy.

Oh, and by the way. According to the EIA, next year we are going to be less independent than that.

So the most charitable interpretation of Mrs. Clinton’s assertion is also the most terrifying — that she is utterly ignorant of the energy realities, and future, of this planet. On Trump’s planet, meanwhile, they have a thousand years’ worth of coal left to burn and, lo and behold, it is “clean coal.”  

There is no lesser evil. We are going to be completely fracked.

Stupid Engineer Tricks

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Friend us on Facebook

 

Published on The Daily Impact on October 2, 2016

strangelove

Discuss this article at the Science & Technology Table inside the Diner

hydrogen-bomb

 

 

 

Ask an engineer to reverse global warming, he’ll do it. Just don’t ask about thwe side effects. (Photo by Pixabay)

Saudi Arabia is a desert, with oil under it. There’s nothing you can do with oil in a desert, so the Saudis sell it, for money. That makes them filthy-rich nomads who crave big cities, with palaces for them to live in, slums for foreign workers and lots of fountains, you know, like in Las Vegas. But there’s no water in a desert. Call in the engineers.

(In Vegas, another oxymoronic desert city, their engineers’ solution was to build one of the world’s biggest dams to create one of the world’s biggest reservoirs, which worked for a while but is now drying up and is likely to make Las Vegas uninhabitable. Soon.)

The answer for Saudi Arabia and several other oil-rich desert states around the Persian Gulf was desalinization. Sure, it takes a lot of money to build the plants ($24 billion in Saudi Arabia alone) and a lot of energy to run them, but that’s what oil is for, right? So you use the oil to pump and filter and boil the salt water, and you get tons of fresh water, along with tons of leftover, super-salty water. Worked great, for a while.

There was one nagging problem attending desalinization for which the engineers’ solution was perhaps not as elegant as some others. What to do with all that concentrated, super-salty brine? They say that for every problem there is a solution that is simple, obvious — and wrong. And thus with desalinization. They decided to simply, obviously, dump the brine back into the Gulf. About 70 million cubic meters every day.

Now the water in the Gulf is so salty, from all that concentrated brine being dumped into it, that it is more and more difficult, and will soon be impossible, to desalinate.

Nobody could have seen that coming.

In Miami Beach, among several other American cities along the Atlantic Coast, rising sea water is beginning to encroach with increasing frequency and depth on the city’s streets. They called the engineers.

Their answer: a $500 million project to raise some streets and install 80 super-high-capacity pumps to suck the water up before it could swamp the streets. And where do they pump all that water?

Back into the rising ocean. So far, it’s working. Hard to see what could go wrong.

For the oil industry in California, the question for the engineers was; what to do with billions of gallons of water after it has been used in fracking operations and is polluted with scores of toxic chemicals and may be radioactive. The engineers’ answers to questions of waste disposal, throughout much of the industrial revolution, has been “out of sight, out of mind.”  Or, in other words, just pump the stuff into a hole in the ground. Problem solved.

The oil guys liked it. The state regulators liked it. And so three billion gallons of the poison were pumped into the ground — in some cases directly into freshwater aquifers, in a state suffering from an unprecedented drought, whose surface reservoirs were rapidly evaporating.

Eventually it dawned on someone that this might not be a great idea, and they started shutting the injection wells down.

This is why we are where we are, and why engineers and other technical experts are incapable of saving us. Ask an expert where to dispose of some poison, he’ll tell you. Come back and say what is the matter with you, putting that crap in our well, and the expert says; you didn’t ask me what would happen when we did it, you asked me if we could do it.

Engineers are not stupid, but their tricks are as stupid as the questions they are asked, or not asked. Can we desalinate water for the desert nations of Arabia? Sure. Will it despoil the Gulf for future generations? Better not ask that. Can we pump this seawater somewhere? Or this fracking water? Sure, but don’t ask any more questions.

Can we reverse global warming, Mr. Enginer? Yes? Great! Wait, why are you reaching for that hydrogen bomb, I have a few more questions…..

[PS — lest you think I exaggerate the problem, please come with me now back to 1958, to a time when the US Atomic Energy Commission was agitating to blow a new harbor for Alaska using nuclear warheads. Championed by Edward Teller (the inspiration for Dr. Strangelove in the movie), supported by Alaska’s government, Chamber of Commerce and churches (!) the project got perilously close to execution even though no one could think of a reason to have a harbor on the North Slope, in the ice-bound Arctic Ocean. It would be an excellent demonstration of the peaceful uses of nuclear bombs, the Strangeloves argued, because although serious radiation would girdle the globe, no one lived up there. Seriously. Google Project Chariot. ]

Global Cooling Threatens Life on Earth

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Friend us on Facebook

 

Published on The Daily Impact on September 29, 2016

free-trade

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

ice-age

 

 

I know. Not what you were expecting. (Photo by Serendigity/Flickr)

While the planet’s air, water and land are heating to dangerous levels because of human pollution, the world’s trade is cooling off, slowing down and coagulating in the deepening chill, threatening the well-being of every country and virtually every person. I remember very well in 2008 watching the most powerful members of Congress emerge from a come-to Jesus meeting conducted by the Treasury Secretary on what was about to happen to the world’s financial institutions and America’s economy. They had the pale faces and staring eyes of people who had just been introduced to the angel of death.

The world of trade and finance is confronting such a moment now, and is every bit as much in denial as it was in 2008. This time it’s not America’s Lehman Brothers tottering into an early grave and pulling half the world in with it; it’s Deutsche Bank.

Germany’s largest bank is not doing well. Its operating loss last year was almost seven  billion Euros; its share price has fallen almost 70% since April of 2015, and dropped over seven per cent in a single day this week, to just over 10 Euros. Go back to September of 2008 and read the news reports about Lehman, and feel the burn.

If Deutsche Bank’s share price drops another Euro, the total capitalization of the bank will be less than 14 billion Euros, which is the amount of a fine the U.S. Department of Justice has proposed to levy against the bank for its sins in handling subprime mortgage derivatives leading up to the deadly financial eruption of 2009. It’s not the only trouble the bank is in; it’s under investigation for transgression in currency trading, precious metals trading, and money laundering. It recently settled a massive case alleging manipulation of interest rates. (That’s it, I’m moving my money to Wells Fargo. Oh, wait….)

Masters of the Universe are talking openly about — and betting massively on —  a Deutsche Bank failure (yes, it’s another Big Short). The German government has vowed not to bail it out, but the bank’s assets, ravaged though they may be, represent nearly 60% of Germany’s gross domestic product. This is the very definition of too big to fail.

Meanwhile Germany’s second-largest bank, Commerzbank, which has lost nearly 40% of its market value this year, has just announced a desperate reorganization plan. It’s firing 10,000 people and downsizing operations in a manner that strikes some as more like butchery than surgery. Moreover, the seven Landesbanken are hemorrhaging capital because the global shipping industry, in which they are heavily invested, is imploding.  

Germany is hardly the only country whose banks are deeply troubled right now. This week the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — comprising 34 member democracies committed to improving world trade — issued a stern warning about pursuing toward the brink of disaster the policies that led to the crash of 2009. The warning was not only to Germany, but to Japan and the United States as well.

 “These developments [i.e. the awful performances of banks and corporations] exacerbate the challenges to improving well-being of people in both advanced and emerging economies.” The problem for the OECD is this: people are consumers, and if consumers don’t do well, they can’t consume enough, and in consumption-based economies, that’s a cardinal sin.”

The central banks, it seems to me, are trying to feed the wrong end of the horse; stuffing perfectly good hay in places where it doesn’t belong, while the animal starves. Making sure the banks and corporations have tons of money to play with, when they don’t use it to make products or hire people, helps no one but people who do not need help.

Of course, enormous forces are at work propping up these zombie banks and their pretensions, staving off any day of reckoning until the day after tomorrow, just as they were doing in 2008. How did that work out for them, anybody remember? But whatever they do, they cannot change the fact that out where stuff is manufactured, and shipped, and sold, the temperature is falling, the pipes are freezing up, and a new Ice Age has taken hold. Stop expecting us to congratulate you for giving away free ice cubes.

[Now, as the world churns, we return you to our regularly scheduled news programs, featuring Donald’s sniffles, Hillary’s emails and who’s running for president in 2020?]

SEE ALSO: “They’re Parking the Trains and the Ships and Planes…”
“World Trade is Coming to a Halt.”

RIP Bruce Charles “Bill” Mollison: 1928-2016

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Friend us on Facebook

 

Published on The Daily Impact on September 27, 2016

http://www.naturalnews.com/Quotes/Quote-Consumption-to-Production-Bill-Mollison.jpg

Discuss this article at the Permaculture Table inside the Diner

 

mollison-credo

I never knew Bill Mollison. I have known of him for only a few years. But his vision has touched — in fact, transformed — the core of my being. As long as I live I will honor him for a vision that has vastly improved the way I understand and react to the world, a vision that could have vastly improved the world itself, had we listened to him in time.

Mollison, along with Boll Holmgren and others, was a principal founder of the  Permaculture movement, a way of looking at agriculture with emphasis on symbiosis among plants, including trees and other perennials; the soil, with its myriad components and organisms; and the climate with its gifts of rain, wind and sunshine. This contemplative way of farming — permanent agriculture — has since its advent in Australia in 1968 morphed into a way of looking at life itself — permanent culture.

bill-mollison

 

 

Bill Mollison, father of Permaculture


The most important thing about the way Bill Mollison thought about the world, in my view, was this: he was not an expert. In his life he was a baker, a trapper, a fisherman, a forester, a cattleman, a bouncer and a mill worker. Sure, he got an academic degree, and spent time in academia, but not, as experts do, learning more and more about less and less. He was a generalist, who when he looked at life saw a marvelous web of relationships, not a simplified, straight-line diagram of causes and effects.  

What Bill Mollison saw when he looked at the world was what the native American Lakota called “Wakan Tanka” — the Great Mystery. Permaculture teaches us to study the processes of nature at great length, but not, as modern humanity supposes, thinking we can understand it completely and take over its management, but in the hope we can learn enough to get out of its way, avoid destroying it, maybe even one day make a contribution to its well being.

The practice of Permaculture as codified by Mollison requires us to shed like old snakeskins many of the attitudes and assumptions that are so basic to modern life we seldom think about them, let alone question them. Before we can even begin the practice, for example, we and our family have to make a multi-generational commitment to live on and work with a piece of land, because much of the abundance to be had from Permaculture may not appear in our lifetimes. In a country where people move every three years, on average, this is a strange concept.  

The practice of Permaculture, Mollison taught us, requires less and less work over time. One puts things in place, and then lets them be. One gradually returns to the life most familiar to the human race over hundreds of thousands of years, that of the hunter-gatherer. And instead of the life of grueling labor and frequent famine, described by the apologists for chemical-industrial agriculture, it turns out to be a life of ease and plenty. Sort of like the Garden of Eden, before we brought in Monsanto.

The prospect of surviving the crash of the industrial age is more than daunting when we think about growing our own food (and defending it) in the ways that have become familiar to us in the past two centuries. But those who have a mature food forest with which to face the days after tomorrow have much less to fear from either deprivation or depredation. (It’s what made the potato the staple food of Ireland; hay and corn and livestock and preserved food were easy for the omnipresent British soldiers to steal or destroy, but it was just too much damn work to dig all those potatoes.)

So thank you, Bill Mollison, for opening my eyes to the Great Mystery, for relieving my mind of the lust to comprehend nature in order to control it, freeing me to simply sit in the midst of the Great Orchestra and hum along with delight. You came to me too late, as you came to the world too late, to save us from the consequences of our arrogance and greed, but not too late to give us, in what would otherwise have been an unbearably Dark Age at the closing of our lives, a lustrous hope for renewal.

Accept the thanks of a grateful world, Bill Mollison, and rest in peace.

Oil Company Carnage Continues

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Friend us on Facebook

 

Published on The Daily Impact on September 12, 2016

deepwater-horizon

When an oil well like Deepwater Horizon explodes, the images are unforgettable. When the entire industry starts to collapse, it’s hard to see and to remember.

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

deepwater-horizon

 

 

 

When an oil well like Deepwater Horizon explodes, the images are unforgettable. When the entire industry starts to collapse, it’s hard to see and to remember.

In a recent essay I proposed the existence of a new human subspecies – homo sapiens ephemera — that is smart (thus sapiens) but severely afflicted by attention deficit disorder and long-term memory loss. Thus ephemera may understand, for example, the connection between a burning fuse at his feet and an imminent explosion, but almost immediately forgets it, goes on to something else, and is surprised by the blast. Nowhere is this behavior more evident than in the U.S. oil patch, whose collapse, predicted here and elsewhere for years, is now described by none other than Moody’s Investors Service, quoted in Bloomberg News as “catastrophic” and perhaps “the worst bust of any industry this century.”

 

Does anybody remember the Savings and Loan debacle? The Enron (“smartest guys in the room”) implosion? The Dot-Com collapse? And the Sub-Prime Mortgages that Ate the World? After each of these episodes, Ephemera slapped his slanted forehead and said, “Boy, that was dumb. But nobody could have seen it coming.” Put on your protective headgear, because it’s happening again.

When they came to you, Ephemera, and asked you to invest gazillions of dollars up front in the New American Oil Revolution, they talked about energy independence! and America, Number One! and everything back the way it was in 1950! But the burning fuse at your feet was about fracking wells that cost ten times that of a conventional oil well and play out nearly ten times faster, about exploding trains and polluted water and earthquakes, in a market that would soon devalue the product by 50%.

Of course you gave them the money. You bought their stock, you bought their bonds, you bought their junk bonds. You lent them money, and when they couldn’t pay it back you lent them more to roll over the debt, which almost immediately became enormous because every one of those expensive wells had to be replaced every three years. You let them convert your secured debt to unsecured debt, or to watered down stock, or to fairy dust. Now, according to Moody’s, there has finally been an explosion. Who could have seen that coming?     

Moody’s reports that twice as many oil and gas companies have gone bankrupt so far this year than did so in all of last year. Investors affected by these failures have seen an average 21 percent return. No, that’s not return on their investment, it’s return of their investment; they lost 80 per cent of their money. And those were secured lenders; junk-bond holders got back 6 cents for every dollar they invested.

Yet the fuse burns on. In the Bakken fracking field in North Dakota, for example, where no oil company has made any money, even when oil was priced at over $100 a barrel, where the total accumulated debt of the players is north of $30 billion, where production has been declining for over a year with oil prices below $50 and well below the cost of production — the zombie companies, almost all of them technically insolvent, continue to borrow operating money through such creative pitches as “distressed exchanges.”

The fuse burns faster, smokes even more, and doesn’t have much farther to go. What’s that? Hillary sneezed? Tell me more…..

World Trade Lost at Sea

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666

Friend us on Facebook

 

Published on The Daily Impact on September 12, 2016

container-ship

Containers crammed with electronics, clothing and other potential Christmas presents are stranded at sea by the bankruptcy of one of the world’s largest shipping lines. There's more to come. (Photo by NASA)

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

homo sapiens, well, that’s another question, for another time.)

But the fact is that homo sapiens ephemera simply cannot grasp the fact that a long, slow-burning fuse, however boring it is to watch, almost always leads to a terrible explosion. By that time, ephemera has forgotten the fuse and is always surprised. (“Wow, no one could have seen that coming,” he says.)

So it is with globalized trade, the system set up to allow increasingly impoverished people to borrow money on their credit cards to buy cheap crap — made in China by totally impoverished and sometimes enslaved people — at their local MartMart store. The brilliance of the system is that while the people who make the crap and the people who consume it remain impoverished, the corporations that manufacture, finance, transport, market and insure the crap get filthy rich. (Stay with me, homo sapiens ephemera, something’s going to happen in the next graph, I swear.)

Teensy flaw in the operating theory: once the lower (formerly known as middle) class has spent all its money and maxed out all of its credit and lost all of its jobs to the truly impoverished in the Third World because they work for so much less, there’s nothing left with which to buy cheap crap. Consequently — make that inevitably —  global trade has been slowing steadily since 2010, which you may remember was Year Two of the Great Recovery from the Great Recession. (I know, Ephemera, I lied about something happening in this graph, the next one, I promise. Stay with me! Where’s a good clickbait writer when you need one? “Financial genius reveals shocking truth about global bikini trade! You won’t believe your eyes!!!”)  

Okay, now that I’ve got you for a few more seconds, here’s what’s happened. After years of telling you about the burning fuse [Global Recession Accelerating toward Depression last October,  World Trade is Coming to a Halt [UPDATED]  in January and  They’re Parking the Trains. And the Ships and Planes and Trucks… in May, to name a few] something has finally blown up. Not the whole enchilada yet, but a big chunk of it. The seventh largest container-ship operator in the world is insolvent.

Who gives a farthing? You do, that’s who, because as a result YOUR KIDS MAY NOT GET THIS YEAR’S MUST-HAVE, EVERYBODY-ELSE-HAS-ONE XMAS TOYS! Talk about Apocalypse Now.

 89 monster container ships owned by Hanjin Shipping Company, South Korea’s largest shipping line, were at sea when the company asked for bankruptcy protection from South Korean courts. Immediately, ports worldwide began refusing them permission to dock for fear they would be unable to collect docking fees. If they did dock, they would be unable to unload without paying upfront the costs of unloading. If they did unload the cargo would not be moved from the terminal unless shippers were paid in advance. And of course refueling the vessels would require cash in advance.

Fourteen billion dollars worth of cargo, much of it Christmas merchandise that must be unloaded so to make the peak shopping season that begins the day after Thanksgiving,  is stranded on ships that need over half a billion dollars in cash to cover current expenses. The company has raised $90 million, and has asked the South Korean government for an emergency loan of $90 million, but prospects for avoiding liquidation are bleak. The company needs another $1.2 billion almost immediately to roll over maturing debt, and having incurred staggering losses for four of the last five years, may not be able to do it.  

Hanjin is hardly alone. The world’s shipping industry has been losing serious money since last year, and is on track to lose $5 billion this year. Industry analysts attribute the losses to an oversupply of ships, but another way to put that is to blame it on an undersupply of cargo.

Although four Hanjin ships have been granted protection by US courts and have raised the money to unload their cargoes in the U.S., havoc continues to spread through global commerce where Hanjin is being seen as merely the first card to fall.

I know. It took too long to explain. Tune in tomorrow, homo sapiens ephemera, for the 140-character version.  

Support the Diner

Search the Diner

Surveys & Podcasts

NEW SURVEY

Renewable Energy

VISIT AND FOLLOW US ON DINER SOUNDCLOUD

" As a daily reader of all of the doomsday blogs, e.g. the Diner, Nature Bats Last, Zerohedge, Scribbler, etc… I must say that I most look forward to your “off the microphone” rants. Your analysis, insights, and conclusions are always logical, well supported, and clearly articulated – a trifecta not frequently achieved."- Joe D

Archives

Global Diners

View Full Diner Stats

Global Population Stats

Enter a Country Name for full Population & Demographic Statistics

Lake Mead Watch

http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/NA-BX686_LakeMe_G_20130816175615.jpg

loading

Inside the Diner

Palloy, You're usually spot on with your physics, but I think you're a little off here. What the rocks offer is high thermal mass, something RE and I spent some time learning about from a master, David South. You don't want metal, which is efficient a...

It is 4PM Alaska time.  The doorbell rings.  These days, when the doorbell rings it's not usually the Jehovah's witnesses or the Mormons seeking to recruit me, it's usually a UPS delivery.  I've been ordering shit faster than I can get rid of the packa...

RE,I suspect there is a fellow out there  that is is not aware that you graduated from Columbia University and can teach anyone who doesn't understand thermodynamics, heat transfer rates in various materials, thermal paths and gradients, insulation...

This seems like a far better bet to look for who stole the DNC emails.http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-24/fbi-seized-crushed-hard-drives-h...

Hooded Seal (Cystophora cristata) Mom makes it clear that her SUPER MILK of seal kindess  is only for her pup.  ...

Diner Twitter feed

Knarf’s Knewz

Quote from: knarf on Today at 02:58:28 PM  [...]

The crisis of our age has many facets. All of them [...]

Diner Newz Feeds

  • Surly
  • Agelbert
  • Knarf
  • Golden Oxen
  • Frostbite Falls

Doomstead Diner Daily 7/24[html] [...]

Quote from: azozeo on July 23, 2017, 01:31:13 PMQu [...]

Quote from: Surly1 on July 23, 2017, 04:45:30 PMFo [...]

Agelbert Note: Hat tip to Azozeo for this news: [q [...]

Why do wind turbines have 3 blades? Hint: Cost of [...]

Air pollution limits in U.S. inadequate to prevent [...]

Quote from: knarf on Today at 02:58:28 PM  [...]

The crisis of our age has many facets. All of them [...]

Quote from: K-Dog on July 20, 2017, 01:36:05 PMOil [...]

Oil for gold. Black Russian gold, no Texas tea.Whi [...]

As I remember the deal was struck & signed on [...]

Martin Landau was probably most famous for his rol [...]

If the Nukes don't get ya, the STDs will.  Th [...]

I'm jealous. I wanna go to collij. [...]

I have been doing research for my next adventure w [...]

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/governor-d [...]

Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

Have You a Positive Personal Practice? By Cognitive Dissonance   Those who dive deeply into unmaskin [...]

Dark Homes By Cognitive Dissonance   While we closed on the purchase of our mountain cabin in March [...]

The Greater Depression By Cognitive Dissonance   Once or twice a month Mrs. Cog and I pack up the ca [...]

SkyNet is Sentient and Will Destroy Your Investments and Pension By Cognitive Dissonance     Do you [...]

Poo Be Gone…Please! By Cognitive Dissonance (And now for a little humor.) For countless millions of [...]

Event Update For 2017-07-22http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-07-21http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-07-20http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-07-19http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-07-18http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Well, at least it was made sure that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault looks real pretty (photo courtes [...]

Now it's data that makes the world go round? It's comfortably accepted by many that what w [...]

I left off last week's post – "Money Doesn't Grow on Trees, Industrial-Scale Renewabl [...]

When you wish upon a star the Blue Fairy sends Tinker Bell, who plants a magic seed, which grows int [...]

Wendell Berry: "What I stand for is what I stand on"; Fanfare Ciocărlia: "What we pla [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

Can Foodies Save the Planet?"Facing all of these grave threats, humans collectively have chosen to go insane."Having a [...]

Snowflake Summer"Why has academia descended into neo-fascist regimentation?"We didn’t give serious thought [...]

Maya Theater States"What generally occurs when a civilization over-extends is not a complete disappearance but a r [...]

The Ragweed Tribe"We bonded much more deeply than crash-pad stoners or cubicle rats. More like soldiers in a com [...]

Concrete Solutions"We want to take the atmosphere back to its pre-industrial chemistry as quickly as possible. Fo [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

Democracy and politics would be messy business even if all participants were saints. But America doe [...]

A new book argues that, in order to survive climate change and peak oil, the global money economy ne [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

Correct Bergen! We are knocking on the 100Mbd door for global oil demand. A figure Matt Simmons sugg [...]

If shale oil cannot fuel modern society then solar panels certainly cannot. Shale oil is about as cl [...]

Wrong again..... well done! Your prize is 7 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag. Congratulations! [...]

For getting the answer wrong ... you win a 6 pounds of shit stuffed into a 5 pound bag Well done [...]

Welcome to new day, added 's' to 'http' so everyone should feel more secure ... [...]

Just to be clear about all the different administrations mentioned; All the while not one thing that [...]

Clintons job was to keep the party going, BJs under the desk for all! Bushs job was to tell jokes an [...]

Hey Steve, why don't you look into becoming REs neighbor. After the great power down, you can l [...]

Think Vermont. All you need is a wood stove and an internet connection. I'll bet you have a lot [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Simplifying the Final Countdown

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

Off the Keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Merry Doomy Christmas

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

There is evidence that access to green spaces have positive effects on health, possibly through bene [...]

The objectives of this study are to use a clustering technique to identify homogeneous rainfall regi [...]

The city of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) is located in a tropical zone of the planet, in medium latitude [...]

Drought is one of the major threats to societies in Sub-Saharan Africa, as the majority of the popul [...]