No matter what your particular political perspective is, if there is one thing that virtually everyone in the United States can agree upon it is the fact that America’s infrastructure is crumbling. Previous generations of Americans conquered an entire continent and erected the greatest system of infrastructure that the world had ever seen, but now thousands upon thousands of those extremely impressive infrastructure projects are decades old and in desperate need of repair or upgrading. The near catastrophic failure of the Oroville Dam is a perfect example of what I am talking about. We should be constructing the next generation of infrastructure projects for our children and our grandchildren, but instead we are in such sorry shape that we can’t even keep up with the maintenance and upkeep on the great infrastructure projects that have been handed down to us.
Once upon a time nobody on the entire planet could even come close to matching our infrastructure, but now our crumbling infrastructure has become a joke to much of the rest of the industrialized world. Sadly, this is just another symptom of our long-term economic collapse. We simply are not able to put as much of our money toward infrastructure as previous generations of Americans did, and as a result we have a giant mess on our hands. The following are 11 deeply alarming facts about America’s crumbling infrastructure…
#1 According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, nearly 56,000 bridges in the United States are currently “structurally deficient”. What makes that number even more chilling is the fact that vehicles cross those bridges a total of 185 million times a day.
#2 More than one out of every four bridges in the United States is more than 50 years old and “have never had major reconstruction work”.
#3 America does not have a single airport that is considered to be in the top 25 in the world.
#4 The average age of America’s dams is now 52 years.
#5 Not too long ago, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the condition of America’s dams a “D” grade.
#6 Overall, the American Society of Civil Engineers said that the condition of America’s infrastructure as a whole only gets a “D+” grade.
#7 Congestion on our highways costs Americans approximately 101 billion dollars a year in wasted fuel and time.
#8 According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, over two-thirds of our roads are “in dire need of repair or upgrades”.
#9 In order to completely fix all of our roads and bridges, it would take approximately 808 billion dollars.
#10 Federal spending on infrastructure has decreased by 9 percent over the past decade.
The quality of our infrastructure affects all of our lives every single day. For instance, we all simply take it for granted that safe, clean drinking water is going to come out of our taps, but recent events have shown that is not necessarily always going to be the case.
Just ask the residents of Flint, Michigan.
Water pipes, sewer systems and water treatment facilities all over the nation are aging and are in desperate need of repair. Of course the exact same thing could be said about our power grid. It was never intended to handle so many people, and on the hottest days of the summer the strain on the grid is very evident.
And of course the power grid is exceedingly vulnerable to an electromagnetic pulse event, and this is something that I covered in my book on getting prepared. It has been projected that it would only cost a couple billion dollars to harden the grid against an EMP event, but our politicians refuse to spend the money.
Meanwhile, President Trump is completely correct when he says that our airports look like something that you would see in a third world country. Most of our airports are at least several decades old, and they are definitely showing their age.
But things are even worse when you look at other systems of mass transit around the country. While other nations such as Japan and China are investing huge amounts of money into high speed rail, we are doing next to nothing even though what we currently have is absolutely pathetic.
I could go on and talk about our ports, schools, waterways, parks, etc. but I think that you get the point.
President Trump’s instincts are right on the money when he says that he wants to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure. Without a doubt, we desperately need it.
The problem is that we are flat broke.
We are 20 trillion dollars in debt, and we are adding more than a trillion dollars to that total every year.
So where are we going to get the money?
It is easy for liberals to say that we should raise taxes, but how much more are you going to squeeze out of U.S. consumers? Two-thirds of the country is living paycheck to paycheck, and we just learned that U.S. household debt has risen to a grand total of 12.58 trillion dollars.
Once upon a time, America was the wealthiest nation on the entire planet and we could afford to construct bold, new infrastructure projects from sea to shining sea.
But today we have the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world and we can’t even afford to repair what we already have.
When I speak of our long-term economic collapse, this is precisely the sort of thing that I am talking about. We have clearly been in decline for a very long time, and anyone that would suggest otherwise is simply not being honest with you.
Published on Peak Surfer on January 29, 2017
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Jazz musician and iconoclast Harry Shearer observes that Donald Trump’s ability to openly lie and then deny he did and then move on to telling the same lie again is “profoundly transactional.”
This trait is not new in US presidents, merely less concealed in our era by the RealPolitik that kept it more discrete before. We could go back and find examples from the very first presidency, but let’s just retrace to Franklin Roosevelt who, besides concealing his infidelities, of necessity had to dissemble about wartime secrets, as did Truman and Eisenhower when the wars grew cold. Nixon was profoundly secretive, arrogating to his office a false claim of constitutional authority, that, while it cost him his job, was kept around for his successors to use, more liberally with each administration.
To dissemble lubricates a slippery slope. Nixon was impeached for lying about the Watergate cover-up. Clinton was impeached for dallying with an intern. Mountains of lies invite being tunneled into and mined, and mining tools are getting better all the time. Is it any wonder then, that ‘secret’ lying by Reagan, Clinton, Obama, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC and others begat the baldface lying of Drudge, Fox, Trump and the new generation of fake news on steroids?
In the days before Christmas it easily escaped attention — certainly that of the mainstream echo chamber — that the US Lame Duck in Chief signed into law the LDNDAA (Lame Duck's National Defense Authorization Act) which legalized government propaganda — fake news — when deployed for national security against the citizenry of the US. The law gave the government sweeping powers to feed its minions — CNN, ABC, MSNBC — and covertly take down any competing news outlets that might dare to put out an alternative narrative or question the veracity of the fakes. RT Commentator Max Keiser called it a bailout for the bankrupt mainstream press.
If you can't maintain the dominant paradigm, at least you can subvert the emergent ones.
When our souls are mollified, a bee can sting.
[T]he Democrat / Prog coastal elite, hardcore Hillary, PC-and-unicorn crowd are moving through their post-election Kubler-Ross Transect-of-Grief from denial to anger….
Lately the Democratic Party in the US has adopted its own form of birtherism, which is using the “Russians hacked my homework” excuse for losing the last election. The evidence is flimsy, but that does not stop the handwaving, pompous haranguing, or other forms of smoke and mirrors. Lets look at the evidence.
According to the Obama spook estate, Russian hackers sent out volleys of phishing emails hoping someone would click. If you have email, you’ve seen this. They tell you that you won something, you qualify for a free trip, there is a bank error in your favor, or you have to upgrade some common piece of software like Java or Flash. Maybe, as in the case of a Russian hacker group that successfully phished Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party for 6 months in 2016, they’ll use un.org as their trojan domain. If you follow the link, they get your credit card info or your password. Maybe the password you are prompted for is the same one you use for gmail. That’s what happened to John Podesta.
He got a suspicious mail, sent it to an aide to look at, the aide thought it was legit and some lucky hackers in Moscow downloaded 60,000 messages from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager’s gmail account. So what do you do with 60000 messages if there is no money in it? Give it to Wikileaks.
At least one targeted individual activated links to malware hosted on operational infrastructure of opened attachments containing malware. APT29 delivered malware to the political party's systems, established persistence, escalated privileges, enumerated active directory accounts, and exfiltrated email from several accounts through encrypted connections back through operational infrastructure.
That was the normal part. Now comes the nasty part. Unnamed “security experts” in the employ of the Democratic National Committee but now cited by the White House and cyberwar apparatchiks within the beltway “believe two Kremlin-connected groups were behind the hack.” Take that apart: Two hyphen connected groups. For Kremlin, substitute Vladimir Putin, because surely nothing in the Kremlin happens unless he directs it (?). So boom: frontpage stories that Putin stole the US election and gave it to Donald Trump, and media cheerleaders go with that because, boy does that boost ad revenues. Soon to be a major motion picture. Saturday Night Live is having a field day.
The two groups were Moscow hackers known to Microsoft as APT (“advanced persistent threat”) 28, a.k.a. Fancy Bear, and APT 29 or Cozy Bear.
“We were shocked to find our names there,” Aleksey Gubarev [who alongside his IT company, has been listed in an FBI report as the cyberlink connecting Trump and Russian hackers, told RT-TV, saying he had “never met” anyone listed in the report. “Nobody from the intelligence agency contacted me about this story… to verify this information,” he said. Neither did any journalists reach out to him.
We are reminded of the Italian Memo. In a story for Vanity Fair in 2006, Craig Unger recalled:
Though it may be unprepossessing, the Niger Embassy is the site of one of the great mysteries of our times. On January 2, 2001, an embassy official returned there after New Year’s Day and discovered that the offices had been robbed. Little of value was missing—a wristwatch, perfume, worthless documents, embassy stationery, and some official stamps bearing the seal of the Republic of Niger. Nevertheless, the consequences of the robbery were so great that the Watergate break-in pales by comparison.
In his January 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush let this shoe fall: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” What came next is too horrible to recount, and it continues today, with each U238-mangled baby born in Fallujah. [Footnote: The new US Secretary of Defense is General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who ordered his marine tank corps to put a depleted uranium shell in every house in the city. More than 300,000 DU rounds are estimated to have been fired. The uranium dust in the air turned sunsets green. Birth defects are now much higher than those recorded among survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.]
The British government, of course, had learned nothing of the sort, although Tony Blair jumped on the Cheney bandwagon, calling it the “Dossier of Doom.” Within months, polls showed 90 percent of USAnians believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN, “There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Unger reported:
On the same day the “mushroom cloud” slogan made its debut, The New York Times printed a front-page story by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller citing administration officials who said that Saddam had “embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.” Specifically, the article [planted by White House Aide Scooter Libby] contended that Iraq “has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.”
It was a clever hoax. Well, actually, not all that clever. Just repeated often, and loudly, from the bully pulpit. “That was their favorite bureaucratic technique —ruthless relentlessness,” Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell told Vanity Fair. The CIA had a mole inside Saddam’s war cabinet who told them there was no WMD program. The White House told the CIA that it no longer mattered and by the way they were the designated fall guy for the ensuing “intelligence failure.”
Disinformation of this kind was not new and the Italian bit players in the Niger ruse had entered the American political arena twice before. The first was during Reagan’s election campaign when embarrassing “facts” about Billy Carter, the President’s bubba brother, taking slush money from Libyan president Mohamar Khadafi to meet with Yassir Arafat. Never mind that Billy denied it, the news came out the last week in October, just before the election, and by then it was too late to track down the source: an Italian covert agency run by militant anti-Communists that had infiltrated the highest levels of Italy’s judiciary, parliament, military, and press, and was tied to assassinations, kidnappings, and arms deals around the world.
In 1981, the same covert network orchestrated a disinformation campaign saying Mehmet Ali Agca, the right-wing nut who shot Pope John Paul II, had been taking orders from the Soviet KGB and Bulgaria’s secret service. As Unger put it:
In light of the ascendancy of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, the Pope’s homeland, the Bulgarian Connection played a role in the demise of Communism in 1989.
When Nixon stepped down in 1974, two individuals ascended to positions of almost unlimited power in the Ford White House. Donald Rumsfeld was the sixth White House chief of staff. Dick Cheney was the seventh. Cheney was House Minority Whip during the Reagan years, Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee and later the Ranking Member of the Select Committee to investigate the Iran-Contra Affair. He became Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush and Vice President under Number 43.
Did Cheney and Rumsfeld pull the Italian strings in Billygate and the Bulgarian Connection? No one is telling. What we know is that stationary stolen from the Niger embassy was used for a forgery and ultimately combined with other papers that were already in Italian secret service archives. A codebook and a dossier with a mixture of fake and genuine documents were delivered to Blair. Among the fakes, embassy stationery was used to forge a two-page memo purportedly sent to the president of Niger concerning the sale of 500 tons of pure uranium per year to Iraq.
The forged documents were full of errors. A letter dated October 10, 2000, was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Allele Elhadj Habibou — even though he had been out of office for more than a decade. Its September 28 postmark indicated that somehow the letter had been received nearly two weeks before it was sent. In another letter, President Tandja Mamadou’s signature appeared to be phony. The accord signed by him referred to the Niger constitution of May 12, 1965, when a new constitution had been enacted in 1999. One of the letters was dated July 30, 1999, but referred to agreements that were not made until a year later. Finally, the agreement called for the 500 tons of uranium to be transferred from one ship to another in international waters—a spectacularly difficult feat.
* * *
Over the next two years, the Niger documents and reports based on them made at least three journeys to the C.I.A. They also found their way to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, to the White House, to British intelligence, to French intelligence, and to Elisabetta Burba, a journalist at Panorama, the Milan-based newsmagazine. Each of these recipients in turn shared the documents or their contents with others, in effect creating an echo chamber that gave the illusion that several independent sources had corroborated an Iraq-Niger uranium deal.
A story by Seymour Hersh for The New Yorker suggested that retired and embittered C.I.A. operatives had intentionally put together a lousy forgery in hopes of embarrassing Cheney’s hawkish followers. If that was true it backfired. Never underestimate the gullibility of the press.
First Case in point: the fake National Guard documents that cost Dan Rather and Mary Mapes their jobs at CBS News.
Second Case in point: Russian hackers stole my election.
Another point we observe as we follow this thread was how language is used to frame subject. The “mushroom-cloud” and “smoking gun” visuals were so visceral they were repeated by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and became standard NeoCon talking points in the run-up to the Second Gulf War.
When RT says that President Obama leaves behind a “vast, unaccountable permanent warfare state,” or that levels of economic inequality in the West are “obscene,” or that Trump “terrifies European leaders,” it’s worth asking if it might be Russian disinformation. But it’s also worth asking if it might be true. Distrust but verify.
With the power to persecute and prosecute journalists, the American government is a dangerous media critic. Judging by the report on RT, it’s also a lousy one.
The Russian hacking story gets reframed to appeal to different echo chambers. For the left wing it assuages the cognitive dissonance that comes when you try to wrap your mind around President… Donald… Trump. Never mind that what is said to have bent the election at the 11th hour was the content of the Podesta emails, not their source. For the right, it’s a chance to blame Obama for the “Cyber Gap” and the anticipation of another wondrous pot of gold at the end of a forthcoming defense authorization rainbow. Of course, neither side questions the veracity of electronic voting machines.
Next week we will look at how the same genetic program that allows us to swallow a yarn like the Russian hacker tale keeps us from doing the right thing about climate change. Later, we will learn how to turn that gene off. In the meantime, the best antidote to fake news is to take yours from as broad a spectrum of opinions as you can find and make your own judgment.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on February19, 2017
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As our economy spins down, our climate deteriorates, our geopolitical system descends into chaos and warfare, placing BLAME for this sad state of affairs is a popular thing to do amongst Bloggers and people who comment on blogs. This Blame Placing works its way down from the very large to the very small. In this article, I will cover the way various Pundits and Commenters in the Collapse Blogosphere like to place blame for the ongoing Collapse of Industrial Civilization.
WE ARE ALL TO BLAME
This is the biggest subset, as in all of Humanity. The reason for our self-destruction is all of us, and Human Nature. Because "we" are all to blame, we also all deserve to DIE. As soon as possible too, since if we all die fast enough, maybe some other furry animals and trees will get to live! This is the argument you get most often on blogs like Nature Bats Last. It's the Nihilist/Misanthrope argument.
WESTERN WHITE PEOPLE ARE TO BLAME
This reduces the subset to a smaller group of people, those who as gross cultures took the most advantage the earliest from the accessing of the fossil fuel energy resource. Once that was accomplished, these cultures went on a centuries long tear subjugating other cultures all over the world, from the First Nations people in the FSoA to the Villagers in Me Lai in Vietnam and the residents of Allepo in Syria today.
BOOMERS ARE TO BLAME
This is very popular amongst the Millenial crowd, although there is a lot of self-directed guilt by the Boomers themselves as being responsible for this mess. The meme here is that Boomers created the wasteful, consumerist culture we live in and today live high on the hog while the younger generation suffers and their future is ruined.
THE BLACKS/LATINOS/NATIVES WELFARE LEECHFUCKS ARE TO BLAME
This is the spin you get on the alt-right type of website, where the population of the underclass is painted as lazy and stupid and sucking wealth from the "good productive" members of the society who still have jobs. This remains a popular blaming meme, but is beginning to fail as more of the people who used to blame these folks themselves fall off the economic cliff. To paraphrase Martin Niemholler, "First they came for the Blacks. I did not speak for them. Then they came for the Mexicans. I did not speak for them. Then they came for the Water Protectors trying to stop the Oil Pipeline under the Missouri River. I did not speak for them. When they came for me, nobody was left to speak for me".
THE CHINESE/RUSKIES ARE TO BLAME
The argument here is that these nations are the aggressors, while the Western Iluminati counties are just trying to defend "Freedom & Democracy" globally. Which by any measure is a complete crock of shit. By no means are the folks running China or Mother Russia very nice, warm and friendly people, but you can't really place the blame on them for this clusterfuck. Mostly, they have been behind the Eight Ball and just reacting all along the way. As things really spin up here, Vlad the Impaler is being painted as the Big Bad Guy, but he's just a creation of the whole system, and no different than the people who are running NATO, th EU or the FSoA. Well, you could make the case he is doing better at it, since his popularity ratings are consistently higher than those of EU heads of state. lol.
THE .01% IS TO BLAME
This blame paradigm puts our problems on the shoulders of those who have reaped the most profit from the system, the .01% of the population that controls the banking system, most means of production and most of the land mass of the earth. The folks who today fly around in Private Jets to go to conferences at Bilderberg in Switzerland. AKA, The Masters of the Universe or Illuminati.
THE CENTRAL BANKS ARE TO BLAME
This blame placing goes on the back of Fiat Money, and generally those who do this blaming are Gold Bugs. The idea being here if we had just stayed on a Gold Standard for money, our economic system would not have run amok. The CBs are blamed for the problems whether they print money or don't print money. If they print money, it devalues and you get inflation in something, somewhere. If they don't print money, you get a loss of "liquidity" and deflation. Either one screws with the purchasing power of the average J6P.
THE MEDIA IS TO BLAME
In this case, because the MSM has been brainwashing us with Bernay's style Propaganda for so long, people don't know the Truth (with a capital T), and as a result have been hoodwinked by the .01% that controls this media. So it's a corollary of the Illuminati argument. The media is also blamed for being "lefty" or "liberal", another popular group to receive blame, particularly from the Alt-Right folks mentioned above.
LEFTIES ARE TO BLAME
A very popular meme amongst the fans of Capitalism as an economic system. Socialism or Communism according to them were big failures, and all the people receiving some sort of social welfare benefit are a drain on the society. Lefties also like to kill unborn babies and want to steal money from good hard working citizens through taxation and give it to lazy, unproductive citizens.
RIGHTIES ARE TO BLAME
Righties are blamed for being war mongering, selfish and greedy people only looking out for themselves. By and large, righties have more money than lefties, and the righties feel they deserve their money and the lefties are thieves trying to steal it from them. Righties also tend to be fairly intolerant of any group other than themselves, mainly White European descendents. They also tend to believe abortion is murder and women should be forced to have babies they don't want or can't support. They definitely think LGBTQ people are perverts in need of a shrink at least, if not being jailed for moral turpitude.
CORPORATIONS ARE TO BLAME
Corporatism is a fairly new word, which fans of Capitalism invented to try and make a distinction between the Big Corporations they hate and the Small Bizman they love. Corporations get blamed from both sides of the Lefty-Righty divide for just about everything, from screwing up our economic system to screwing up the environment to stealing resources from poor people…you name it, if it is Evil the corporations are responsible for it!
RELIGION IS TO BLAME
A very popular meme, as long as it is somebody ELSE'S Religion you are blaming. Atheists blame all religions for the woes of the world. Christians blame the Muslims, Muslims blame the Christians, and everybody blames the Jews. lol. Buddhists don't get much blame, because if a Buddhist falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Druids occassionally get blamed, because they wear silly costumes and have long beards full of yesterday's lunch menu particles. Panentheists like me don't get much blame, because first of all there are vanishingly small number of Panentheists around and just about nobody else even understands what they are and how Panentheism differs from Pantheism.
BIG GOOBERMINT IS TO BLAME
Goobermint is the favorite Blame Punching Bag of the Alt-Right, Tea Party & Libertarian type folks who believe in the "Free Market", "Property Rights", "Deregulation", etc etc etc. Goobermint is blamed for getting in the way of bizness, encroaching on Freedom and Liberty, waging wars, being inefficient and wasteful of money, being loaded with imbecilic politicians, and most of all, TAXING too much!
OK! There's a brief rundown of many of the forms of blame you run across around the Collapse Blogosphere. It's not complete, for instance Vegans blame Carnivores for eating meat, and Permaculturists blame Industrial Ag for running an unsustainable food production paradigm. Pedestrians and Cyclists blame Car drivers for wasting gas and running them off the road. etc, etc, etc. Everybody's got an axe to grind on someone or something else.
Now, the issue is, what in this litany of things to blame is worthwhile to consider in terms of it being True or not as the underlying cause of the problems we face? I'm not going to make a Value Judgement on that in this article for the most part (it would take too long and this article is already long enough), if you have read my work for long enough you know where I place most of the blame.
I will take issue with the "Blame Generalists" though, the folks at the top of the list who blame ALL of Humanity for our problems! That is ridiculous though, because if you blame everyone, you blame no one. HTF is a Kalahari Bushman responsible for this mess? He has the same "Human Nature" you do or Lloyd Blankfein does, but he hardly caused the same damage as either you or Lloyd did. He did cause some of course, but what you have to do is determine LEVELS of blame. Who caused the MOST damage? Who was MOST responsible? Who had the MOST control? Who was relatively Powerless and who had Power to change the direction of society at any given point in history?
Also pointless is to blame entire generations of people, because all generations have been part of one long continuous slide, basically from the time we invented Agriculture to today. I never had any say in the choice from moving from Nomadic Hunter-Gatherer living to sedentary Ag livingor Industrial living, so HTF is that MY fault? I'm not going to take the blame for that. I'm also not going to take blame for being born a White Male, nor will I take blame for the folks running the country I live in dropping the Death From Above on Syria either. I DEFINITELY will not take the blame for The Donald being elected POTUS or the fucking stupid Executive Orders he pitches out either.
Then you have the issue of whether it is worthwhile to try and assign blame at all? Individuals, even entire classes of people get blamed, and often enough that blame is incorrectly applied, so does that mean we stop placing blame entirely because it's "not productive"? I can't place blame on DAPL for trying to run a pipeine under the Missouri River? I can't blame them for setting Attack Dogs on the Water Protectors? I can't place blame on Lloyd Blankfein for being a greedy scumbag? It's unproductive of me to blame The Donald and all the people who voted for him for being idiots? What?
Basically, somebody has to be held accountable for the actions taken as a society, and saying "We ALL are to Blame" is completely ridiculous, because we are NOT all to blame, at least not in equal amounts anyhow. The amount of blame you shoulder depends on how much control you had over the direction the society took. Most of us had virtually ZERO power even just during the time period we were alive, and we certainly had no power whatsoever over what came before the date of your birth. You're stuck with the society you are born into unless you have enough power to change it, and few do.
However, unless SOMEBODY is held accountable for the poor choices, you can't change the direction of the ship, the Titanic will sail into the Iceberg. The very FIRST thing you must do to change the direction of the society is get RID of the people in command of the ship who are sending it into the iceberg. To do that, you have to place some BLAME here, and blaming all the passengers on the Titanic for being passengers is just plain stupid. There IS Blame to be assigned here, it must be assigned and then there must be Punishment assigned as well. Otherwise, the same shit keeps happening.
Our society in aggregate has become like Parents who never will spank their children or even rebuke them in any significant way. Kids pick up on this pretty quick, and generally by the time they hit Junior High they feel INVINCIBLE! The Teachers are POWERLESS to punish them for misbehavior or disrupting the class learning. In fact, often the TEACHER is blamed for the problem, both by the parents and by the school administrators. All sorts of totally useless forms of punishment like Detention are dropped on, which actually punishes the teacher as much as the student, since now you have to spend an hour or two extra after the school day is over to monitor this detention, and you have the same behavior problems to deal with in the detention room as you had in the classroom! So your daily torture as a teacher is just extended here with this method.
Published on The Daily Impact January 30 & February 2, 2017
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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?
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.
Published on From Filmers to Farmers on February 13, 2017
While trying to get to the bottom of the underlying reasons for geopolitical events has always been enough of a challenge, an unfortunate side-effect of the explosion of information that the Internet has provided us with is the even further erosion of the signal-to-noise ratio. The mainstream media can pretty much be ignored altogether unless the intent is to understand the context and/or see how current events are getting framed and spun by the powers-that-be, which pretty much leaves one with having to seek out more independent sources of media – such as blogs – if what is sought after is insightful and revealing material.
Supposing you've actually managed to make your way through the morass and have found yourself a few good blogs that aren't just charlatans trying to pawn off guides to buying gold or some questionable vegetable seeds, there's also the unfortunate fact that information on the Internet tends to come out in staccato bursts, not as an encompassing whole. To coalesce all this information into a proper narrative requires time and effort of course, to go along with the fact that virtually no one wants to scroll through and actually read 100,000 – 200,000 words on an Internet page. So although books can't possibly be as up to date as a blog, they can give the much needed "big-picture" account that tends to be anathema to the Internet. And that "big-picture" regarding global events of the early-21st century has fortunately now been assembled by blogger (Insurge Intelligence) and author Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed – Failing States, Collapsing Systems: Biophysical Triggers of Political Violence.
At the core of Ahmed's argument is that we're not facing a "clash of civilizations" but rather a "crisis of civilization". And at the centre of this crisis, which is all but certainly going to beset us throughout the 21st century, is the triple whammy of energy, climate and food crises. As Ahmed returns to several times, a major roadblock hampering us from taking action in regards to this "crisis of civilization" is that we generally suffer from what he calls "whole system knowledge deficit", primarily thanks to the slipshod job of what he then refers to as the Global Media-Industrial Complex. As described in Failing States, Collapsing Systems,
Despite an abundance of information, there is a paucity of actionable knowledge which translates this information into a holistic understanding of the nature of the current global phase-shift and its terminal crisis trajectory for all relevant stakeholders. While much of the human population has been denied access to such information, and thus actionable knowledge, vested interests in the global fossil fuel and agribusiness system are actively attempting to control information flows to continue to deny full understanding in order to perpetuate their own power and privilege. The only conceivable pathway out of this impasse, however difficult or unlikely it may appear, is to break the stranglehold of information control by disseminating knowledge on both the causes and potential solutions to global crisis [pp. 91-92].
In his contribution towards rectifying our knowledge deficit, Ahmed draws early attention to the fact that oil's global EROEI levels have been declining since the 1960s. Coupled with a global oil production rate whose continued increase since the 1960s has been going on at a slower and slower rate, and what we're left with is the startling correlating fact that the global growth rate of GDP has been slowly dropping since the 1960s as well [p. 27]. Energy makes the world go round.
Added to this is the fact that while abundant fossil fuel supplies have allowed for the expansion of the monetary and financial system, decreasing EROEI levels have now implied an increasing need to rely on financialization (lest our Ponzionomic system implode in on itself). Or as Ahmed puts it, "the shift from the expansion of money, to the expansion of credit (debt-money) [p. 37]". This was most recently seen by the quantitative easing (AKA "printing money", AKA credit creation) to bail out insolvent banks after the rash of predatory lending-induced consumer defaults.
In the meantime, Ahmed points out that various forms of state-level violence have been intensifying since the 1970s and then accelerated in the late 1990s, the former corresponding with the period when oil's global EROEI level peaked, the latter with the year that the global EROEI level for all fossil fuels (not just oil) reached its overall peak (1999 to be exact), both of which have been steadily declining since.
What is probably Ahmed's most cogent example of this emerging "crisis of civilization" is the ongoing problems currently besieging Syria. The conventional argument given as explanation for Syria's plight is that of repression by its president, Bashar Al-Assad, an argument that is a grossly oversimplified explanation, in line with explaining away the "Arab Spring" as being due to a "deficit of democracy". As Ahmed points out, this misconception has resulted in "international policy [that] has focused on viewing the conflict through the lens of geopolitical interests and regional security [p. 49]". Fortunately, there are however those who recognize the role that climate change has played with Syria's misfortunes, others who recognize peak oil's role, and yet others who factor in the recent food price spikes. But as Ahmed sees it, all of these fail to recognize the systemic interconnections between these factors and so don't offer a systemic understanding.
For starters, Syrian oil production peaked in 1996, dipped by almost half by 2010, and then plummeted again by even more than half upon the outbreak of war. With a dwindling influx of currency due to shrinking exports of crude, the government was forced to slash fuel subsidies in May of 2008, tripling petrol prices overnight and significantly driving up the price of food (a serious problem when food makes up an overwhelming part of your budget, and when what you eat is virtually nothing but staples). Ongoing drought conditions have only exacerbated poor harvests in what used to be a country self-sufficient in wheat, and so coupled with spiking food prices and Assad's inability to maintain subsidies due to dwindling influxes of foreign currency, the situation has only gotten worse, and then worse, and then worse.
Using the situations in Syria and Yemen as base-points, Ahmed surmises that it takes about 15 years from when a country hits its peak in oil production before additional systemic pressures – such as drought, overpopulation, climate-induced water and food scarcity – contribute to outbreaks of systemic state failure. How's that bode for the rest of us?
To answer that, one must take another look at the situation in the Middle East, if not at its largest producer, Saudi Arabia. While Saudi Arabia's primary source of revenue is of course oil, according to Ahmed Saudi Arabia is expected to reach its peak of oil production by no later than 2028. But that isn't its only problem, because due to a significantly rising population which is adding to what are already rising internal consumption levels, Saudi Arabia has actually been exporting 1.4% less oil year upon year. While implying an earlier kind of peak, this of course doesn't bode well for those expecting Saudi Arabia to be their sweet-crude-daddy (which I'll get to in a moment), and will eventually impose upon Saudi Arabia a world of its own problems.
While Saudi Arabia went on a crash course several decades ago to increase its wheat production in order that food couldn't be used as a weapon against it in the same way that it withheld oil from the West (for a while Saudi Arabia, a desert country, was actually one of the world's largest exporters of wheat), its depleting aquifers have been recently putting an end to production that was also using up 18 percent of its oil revenue. While the state-sponsored Saudi Arabian wheat production is now kaput, Ahmed points out that 80% of Saudi Arabia's food is purchased through subsidies. Along with that, he states that 70% of Saudi Arabia's domestic water supplies are procured through desalination, an extremely energy-intensive process that estimates state burns through about half of its domestic oil consumption.
For the time being, and unlike Syria and Yemen, Saudi Arabia has been able to stave off its own "Arab Spring" thanks to bounteous subsidies for housing, food, water, oil, and other consumer items. But as Saudi Arabia's oil exports decline to zero in the next 15 years, and as the then-subsequent dwindling production for internal usage means less air conditioning, less water, less happy motoring (that is, supposing your gender is even allowed to drive in the first place), less everything, life in the desert is once again going to become like life in the desert. As the saying goes, and to put it lightly, "My father rode a camel. I drive a motor car. My son flies a jet plane. His son will ride a camel."
That's not to say though that Saudi Arabia is only Saudi Arabia's problem. As Ahmed points out, Saudi Arabia's and the Middle East's exports of oil will be significantly decreasing right when China and India will be expecting significant inputs in order to power their booming economies (not to mention their need for increasing imports of food). Since China's supplies of coal and conventional oil have in all likelihood just recently peaked (as stated by Crude Oil Peak, Peak Oil Barrel, and others) and its supplies of unconventional oil are expected to peak in another five years (as Ahmed relays), then like India China is in all likelihood going to be experiencing "outbreaks of domestic disorder [that] will become more organized, and will eventually undermine state territorial integrity before 2030 [p. 75]", all of which will render a shift of power to the East all but fantasy.
Might at least Europe be a safe haven? Well, while European oil producing countries have all passed their peaks (with only Denmark producing more than it consumes),
As crisis convergence unravels the global food system across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, geopolitical pressures and northern Europe's relative immunity from the immediate impacts will make the region a prime target for regional and international migration [p. 80].
In short, and to go along with Ahmed's expectation that Mexico will experience state failure sometime between 2020 and 2035 due to its peak of oil production in 2006,
it is difficult to avoid the conclusion as we near 2045, the European and American projects will face escalating internal challenges to their international territorial integrity, increasing the risk of systemic state-failure [p. 85].
Mexico is getting close to having no excess oil to sell for foreign
currency, which theoretically implies there being no crude to spare
for its volatile neighbour with the voracious appetite to the north –
unless (ahem) a certain dealmaker could swing a "you give us all
your remaining oil, we won't make you pay for the wall" kind of deal
With intractable border issues between Mexico and the United States an inevitability – wall or no wall – and with increasing instability in the Middle East and North Africa an eventuality even with mitigation efforts, Europe and the United States are likely due for an influx of migrants that will make the relatively mild-mannered amount of middle-class Syrians currently able to pay for the costly overtures look like a pleasant Sunday-afternoon jaunt on the ferry.
Alongside that, while 2011's Occupy and "Arab Spring" are but a taste of things to come, there's also the fact that while the situation in Syria has allowed for the emergence of ISIS and other jihadis, the coming state-level failures in the Middle East will only exacerbate this. Looking at intra-state conflict, civil unrest, Islamic terrorism, and far-right terrorism, Ahmed's studies show that
the escalation of Western military interventionism has provoked an increase in Islamist militancy, which has further fueled far-right extremism, both comprising the principal sources of escalation in PV [political violence] pandamics [sic?]. Both, of course, have further elicited further militarization in response to these different forms of rising militancy and terrorism [p. 43].
The problem here of course is that influxes of migrants will further fuel nationalist sentiments, which we are likely only just seeing the initial emergence of. Is there anything that can be done regarding all – or any – of this? Well, as Ahmed puts it,
The cases examined here thus point to a global process of civilizational transition. As a complex adaptive system, human civilization in the twenty-first century finds itself at the early stages of a systemic phase-shift which is already manifesting in local sub-system failures in every major region of the periphery of the global system. As these sub-system failures driven by local ESD-HSD [Earth System Disruption – Human System Disruption] amplifying feedbacks accelerate and converge in turn, they will coalesce and transmit ever more powerfully to the core of the global system. As this occurs and re-occurs, it will reach a system-wide threshold effect resulting in eventual maladaptive global system failure; or it will compel an adaptive response in the form of fundamental systemic transformation [p. 88].
Put a bit more succinctly,
The system must either adapt to these threshold effects by transforming its structure, adapting its overarching rules, norms and values, and thus transitioning to a new evolutionary state – or experiencing a protracted collapse process by failing to do so [p. 47].
With a bit of a positive note, Ahmed points out that
Human civilization is in the midst of a global transition to a completely new system which is being forged from the ashes of the old. Yet the contours of this new system remain very much subject to our choices today. If the forces of systemic failure overwhelm us, then the new systemic configuration is likely to represent a maladaptive collapse in civilizational complexity. Yet even within such a maladaptive response – which arguably is well-underway as these cases show – there remains a capacity for agents within the global system to generate adaptive responses that, through the power of transitional information flows, hold the potential to enhance collective consciousness. The very breakdown of the prevailing system heralds the potential for long-term post-breakdown systemic transformation [pp. 88-9].
As a side note, and having read a previous book of Ahmed's years ago, I'll add that Ahmed is one of the few writers I've come across that is cognizant of the conflict between our (Ponzionomic) money system and peaking energy supplies. For as he puts it, what we need is
democratic money creation processes, including community currencies, in place of debt-based fractional reserve banking; communities reclaiming the commons, especially in the sense of communal land stewardship systems; [p. 91]
Along with other suggestions, Ahmed then points out that
Such a vision may, in the current context, appear impossibly utopian. By 2030, and even more so by 2050 – as the manifestations of global capitalism's self-catabolic trajectory become more obvious – it will appear increasingly realistic [p. 91].
Although the book's first two introductory chapters may be a bit too theory-laden for some, the remainder of the book – a very accessible 94 pages in total – without a doubt gives the best "big-picture" explanation of why world events are currently playing out the way they are. If you're new to the notions of peak oil / EROEI / collapse of industrial civilization, and/or would like to try and enlighten a friend that might be receptive to these issues, I'd say that you can't go wrong by picking up a copy (a hardcopy!) of Failing States, Collapsing Systems.
Published on The Doomstead Diner February 16, 2017
Discuss this article at the Collapse Naratives Table inside the Diner
Karl woke up early, and set about his usual routine of collecting chicken eggs, milking the goats and watering his raised beds, then headed inside for a shower and to brew the morning coffee. The sound of the water running in the bathroom and the jostling around in the kitchen awakened Karen, and she followed Karl after he finished the morning cleanup, and took his humanure out to the compost pile, covering it with wood chips, straw and leaves to let it ferment. Although he had a flush toilet and a septic system installed, he hardly ever used it, not wanting to waste the precious nutrients and fertilizer contained in his own excrement. He had installed the septic and toilet early on in building the earthship, before he had learned all the techniques of Permaculture and how to compost your own waste to recycle it, but had hardly used it over the last decade.
Karen observed Karl taking out his morning poop and emulated him, shitting into the clean bucket that Karl had left next to the flush toilet after taking his own waste to the compost pile. The bucket had a nice Camping Toilet seat on it and was quite as comfortable to poop in as a normal toilet. Actually even more comfortable since the squatting position was closer to the normal position Homo Saps who do not use toilets take in defecating. Kenny heard Karl and Karen trudging over to the composting area, and took his own bucket of shit from the van, and then walked down to the stream to give the bucket a rinse out before putting it back in the van, in it's storage compartment beneath the bed with his 1 gallon piss jug. Rather than taking a shower as Karl and Karen had, Kenny took a Sponge Bath utilizing water from one of the two 5 gallon water containers he always kept topped off in the van. One container held non-potable "grey water" which he usually got from the streams in the area and was used for washing purposes, and the other contained his drinking water, which he generally got from the Missoula City water system, filling Up a gallon jug every so often when using a public bathroom in a convenience store, of at the Fitness Center where he worked out in the mornings. He also had a water filtration and purifying system, including a small distiller he could use to distill otherwise impotable water if he had to. That generally had not been necessary so far for him though, through the last winter he simply melted snow for drinking water. The streams in the area also were generally quite clean and free of pollutants or bacteria, and just boiling some water from them was good enough to make it potable.
Kenny wandered up the hill to the house after getting dressed, and found Karl and Karen busy getting breakfast ready in the Kitchen. He poured himself a cup of black coffee, nicely brewed from the fresh coffee beans he had brought with him from the gourmet roaster in Missoula. It was WAY better than Maxwell House! Kenny was not looking forward to the day when good coffee was no longer available! How would he manage to get going in the morning? This aspect of the future was not something he liked to contemplate, it might be better just to be BBQed up by Zombies!
"I've got to head back to my place after breakfast, I have the Sunday afternoon shift at Quinn's." Karen said.
"Why don't you cut back on your hours at Quinn's and spend more time out here? Karl asked. He was really enjoying having Karen's company. "Huckleberry really seems to like the place and all the extra space to roam around, plus she seems to have made friends with Mr. Ed and Quick Draw." he added as an enticement.
Karen frowned, thinking. "I don't know dad. I'm not sure I am ready to be a full time doomer yet. Plus, most of my friends are at Quinn's, and if we are going to get a community together I need to spend time with them."
Karl nodded his head, slightly disappointed. "Yea, that's true. Having the condo in Lolo is also good to maintain so probably just a couple of visits a week on days off is the best plan until we have a SHTF scenario."
"I'll make sure to get days off on the weekends so I can be here when Kenny comes." Karen said, smiling at Kenny.
Kenny smiled back, looking forward to getting to know Karen better and working with her. Her engineering knowledge would come in very handy with many of the projects he was hoping to build. The only problem was Kirsten, he couldn't stop thinking about her either! The female companionship thing was getting complicated, and Kenny could almost see why Karl had chosen the life of a Solitary Man. Almost. His close companion behind the zipper of his Levi Strauss jeans argued otherwise.
After doing the dishes and getting her bag packed, Karen got Huckleberry into the back seat of the Ford Escort and headed back out to Civilzation in Lolo. Not that Lolo was much of a town of course, but it still ran on grid electricity and had a local grocery store, and the drive on State Highway 93 wasn't far to the Walmart Supercenter either. She was still adjusting to the idea that all the conveniences she had taken for granted growing up were going to disappear, although neither Kenny nor Karl could put a precise finger on the date, nor even could RE on the Diner. The more she read though, the more convinced she became that these folks were right, and things would probably start to deteriorate faster with the election of The Donald as POTUS. She had been a strong Bernie Sanders supporter during the primaries, and was devastated when the nomination was stolen from him by the criminal Clinton Gang. Besides all the economic and climate problems she was becoming aware of, Global Thermonuclear War seemed a strong possibility also with a clown like Trump in the White House.
Once the goodbyes were said, Kenny and Karl waved to Karen as she headed out the private road and back to civilization and they walked back toward the Earthship to get ready for a day of prepping.
"So, what kind of plans have you got for today Kenny? We can't really do much more work on getting the Cable System and Funicular Railroad set up until you pick up more hardware next week at Home Depot in Missoula."
"I have a couple of projects to do over on my property I brought some supplies for starting. I want to put together a picnic table that is more permanent for outdoor eating than the folding table we had breakfast on last week, for one thing."
"That shouldn't take long between the two of us if you have all the materials, maybe a couple of hours." Karl replied.
"Probably not." Kenny agreed. "Although staining it and coating it with linseed oil and polyurethane will need to be done over the next couple of weekends. I also have a bigger project to start on, I want to excavate and build a Walipini Greenhouse on the property as well."
"How big a Walipini were you planning on excavating?" Karl inquired.
"I was thinking about 20' by 60' " Kenny replied.
"That is a fucking BIG hole to dig Kenny!" Karl laughed.
"Yea, I figured to dig it out would take me most of the summer, doing a little each weekend."
"Fuck that idea." Karl replied. "I'll rent a Daiwoo Back Hoe and Front End Loader and we'll get the excavation done in a weekend, no problem.", Karl proposed.
Kenny laughed. "Yea that certainly would speed things up! I didn't really consider doing that because first off I didn't want to spend the money on the rental, and second I've never used one of those monster machines."
Karl waved his hand in the air. "The money is nothing. A weekend rental for a Back Hoe costs maybe $1000 the most, and I think I can get one maybe for free from a contractor in Lolo who built a lot of the cabins up here. I own several of them and had them built as rentals and for sale over the years. He'll probably let me use one for a Moose Roast or some Venison."
"Well as long as you drive it Karl, I'm certainly good with that!", Kenny laughed.
Karl threw a few of his own tools into Kenny's trailer, and they made the drive over to Kenny's property via the logging roads.
"It sure would be nice if we could take a more direct route from your property over to mine." Kenny observed. "We gotta drive over 20 miles here, but your place is really less than 5 miles away as the crow flies."
"Yea, it would be nice to have such a road, but tough in practice to do. There are 3 other privately owned properties between here and your place, and we would need permission from all of them to build a road, or even just cut a decent trail. I know the people who own these properties, at least I have talked with them a few times. They are well to do Dentists and Doctors mostly who would not be amenable to a road being build on "their property". Isolationists mostly who just like to have their own hunting land and a nice summer cabin to vacation with the family."
Kevin sighed and nodded in acceptance. "Yes, most of the people who actually still have enough money to make preps and buy land still buy into the old memes, and wish to 'go it alone', not working together with others to 'Build a Better Tomorrow', as RE often says in his Tag Lines. You and me are rare breeds I think, unfortunately, thinking about the fate of others as we plan for ourselves. Most people brought up in the acquisition culture of the Industrial Civilization cannot grasp this, and desperately hold onto their meme of Private Ownership of property."
"A direct road isn't really necessary right now though, the surrounding roads are not too bad, although the road up to your property is not being maintained these days. In the future, after TSHTF, we can maybe build a more direct route. It would be a big project in any event to even make it passable for my Polaris Ranger EV. We would need to build a couple of bridges and do quite a bit of earth moving too." Karl concluded.
Construction of the Picnic Table went pretty quickly, just a matter of bolting together the 2X4s for the most part for the table top and benches, just using the stock 8' length for both. About the only thing the least bit tricky was cutting the 45 degree angles for the X-pattern legs, which just took a quick line from a protractor to do.
After finishing the table, Karl and Kenny took a walk around the property looking for the best spot to excavate the Walipini. Kenny used the opportunity of the exploration to bring up Kirsten.
"Karl, I have a little problem. On Friday before I drove up this weekend I met someone who I know from High School. We are supposed to go camping next weekend together and I am not sure if I should bring her to my property or not. Karen is also supposed to be coming up next weekend and I want to see her too."
Karl let out a belly laugh. "Did you ever have to make up your mind?", he said, quoting the title of an old song from the Lovin' Spoonful written by John Sebastian Kenny had never heard. "Man am I glad I left that shit behind, it can drive you insane."
Keny nodded. "No shit. First in High School I couldn't get a date to save my life, now there seem to be females everywhere. It's driving me nuts."
"No worries Kenny, you only have about another 40 years or so of being driven crazy by this problem." Karl said with a grin. "Once you hit your 60s it calms down some, although some guys never escape it."
"Only 40 more years to go? Shit, we'll probably be extinct by then! I'll never get any peace!" Kenny said semi-sarcastically.
"Life sucks, and then you die.", Karl remarked philosophically. "Far as it goes, I'd love to see you hook up with Karen, but far be it from me to get in the middle of anyone else's love life, that's even worse than managing your own. You'll have to figure that one out for yourself."
"Gee, thanks Karl, you're a fountain of wisdom." Kenny remarked sarcastically. "What about the other problem though, should I bring her up here, or maybe just go over to Lolo National Forest and do some camping there without telling her about the property?"
Karl gave this some thought for a bit as they reached a nice portion of the property that had a slope facing to the south for excavating the Walipini.
"Probably not a good idea yet to bring her over here, until you are more sure of where you are going with it. You could bring her to the Lean-To though, and Karen and I can meet you there. Then you can really experience torture trying to make up your mind." Karl remarked.
"Great! Another fucking pearl of wisdom from the wise Guru! Kenny remarked with an eye roll.
Karl pursed his lips. "Personally, I think it would be rather humorous."
"For YOU maybe!" Kenny replied.
Karl shrugged. "It's your problem, not my problem. Now, what do you think of this spot for the Walipini? Good southern exposure, nice slope to cut into."
Kenny let go of the discussion about the females. Karl was obvious not going to be of any help, and actually seemed to enjoy his suffering. He vowed to himself to get revenge on Karl for this someday. He'd find a female to sic on Karl to invite to the community! He couldn't be as immune to the attraction as he made himself out to be! That would serve him right! Kenny satisfied himself with this nefarious plan and got back to discussing the Walipini.
"Yea, this looks pretty good, although it's a lot of trees to cut down.", Kenny remarked with sadness.
Karl shrugged. "The trees are no more permanent than you or me, and someday after we're gone new ones will grow in their place, or maybe they won't if the climate change gets bad enough. Meanwhile, if we're going to grow enough food beyond what we can hunt and gather out of Lolo for a full community of people, we're going to need more than just my raised beds and greenhouse garden."
Kenny nodded in understanding. "Yea, that's true. Sure will be plenty of wood for the next couple of years for cooking and heating and campfires. Lotta wood splitting to do."
"No worries on the splitting Kenny, I have a Champion Hydraulic Wood Splitter for this. I quit on splitting with an axe and wedges when I hit 60."
Kenny still had trouble believing Karl was 66. Other than his complaints about arthritis in his knees, he was even bigger and more robust than his daughter, maybe 6'3" and 220 lbs. He looked to Kenny to be in his mid 50s.
"A hydraulic splitter will certainly make that job easier.", Kenny remarked. "We'll need to get it over here though to get the job done."
"No problem there, I can drag it over with the pickup, it's on wheels. Once we cut the trees into sections, Mr Ed and Quick Draw can pull them over to the splitter back in your campsite area."
"That works.", Kenny replied. It was getting late in the day and the sun was beginning to set, so the two friends walked back to the campsite to get in Kenny's van and head back over to Karl's place for dinner of some Smoked Trout from Karl's freezer, honey glazed peas and carrots from his garden and from his bee hives and butter from the goat's milk. They spent a couple of hours surfing the internet for Doom Newz, beginining with the Doomstead Diner, where the regulars were all napalming each other as usual. They spent time together composing up a PM to to send to RE once Kenny got back to Missoula and could use an anonyomous connection to the internet.
I have been a lurker on the Diner almost since you began it in 2012. I am a regular reader, and get many of my ideas from your website.
Currently, together with a friend we have a large property in the lower 48 we would like to get a SUN☼ Community going on when TSHTF. However, we are highly concerned about security and about simply inviting people to the place now, which would make it too widely known. We estimate our possible carrying capacity for our land to be about 200 people, although it could be substantially more since the properties are adjacent to a large National Forest.
Do you have any suggestions on how we might find some people, but not necessarily give them the location of the Doomstead at this time?
Published on Peak Surfer on January 22, 2017
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Naysayers about the potential for a radical shift in the foundational structure of civilization argue by looking backward, not forward. “It has never happened before and so it cannot happen now.” But there are three fundamental differences.
First, the change of our climate away from the Holocene and into the Anthropocene is without any historical analog, even looking back hundreds of millions of years. Nafeez Mosadeq Ahmed terms this "Earth System Disruption."
Industrial civilization is undergoing a second geophysically driven change that will shake it to its roots. It has never happened before and it cannot happen again. You can call this “peak oil,” but as Richard Heinberg pointed out, it's really "peak everything."
The thin driving wedge that will crack open our assumptions about what is normal will be financial collapse, but that is just a reflection of what the peak oil community has been saying since M. King Hubbert presented a paper to the 1956 meeting of the American Petroleum Institute:
[W]e are living on a finite world and infinite growth of material consumption is simply not possible.
Nor, as Paul and Anne Ehrlich warned nearly half a century ago, is exponential population growth. Ahmed terms this "Human System Destabilization."
The unprecedented part — something few advocates for a renewables revolution yet grasp — is that each time humans moved from one dominant energy supply to the next it was towards greater caloric density at lower cost. We went from firewood to charcoal, to whale oil, to coal and coal gas, to petroleum and natural gas, and each time we got more bang for our buck, production and automation revolutionized, and our population and its footprint leaped another notch. After conventional oil peaked in the first years of the new millennium (just as Hubbert forecast in 1974), unconventional sources like fracked gas and oil shales filled the gap, but with a significant hitch — they cost more.
The same is true of renewables. We set aside discussion of nuclear energy here — even though it has the greatest power density of any — because that industry is a colossal con-game when it is not busy concealing its silent death toll. Even Hubbert was misled on that point. One might also boil water to make steam to make electricity by burning human embryos, children and old people, but it would cost more and have the same stranded ethics as atomic energy. Just imagine for a moment a gigawatt-sized Auschwitz- or Buchenwald-like furnace powering every major city. Fukushima is morally indistinguishable from that.
Solar and wind energy is now cheaper across much of the world than coal, oil or nuclear energy, but the real cost is not the market price, but rather the non-renewable components made from rare earths like ion-absorbing lanthanum, super-magnetic neodymium and luminescent, paramagnetic europium. At present China mines 90 percent of the world supply of those rare earths (at untold human and ecological cost) but a 2012 government assessment put the reserves to extraction ratio at 15, meaning a 15-year supply at then rates of removal.
Last week Barack Obama wrote for the peer-reviewed journal Science (with ghostwriting by John Holdren and Brian Deese):
[T]he business case for clean energy is growing, and the trend toward a cleaner power sector can be sustained regardless of near-term federal policies."
Unless a new Saudi Arabia of rare earths magically emerges in the next 10 years (or a date far sooner, given the exponential expansion of the solar industry), renewable energy will meet a hard biophysical limit.
After climate and energy, the third onrushing constraint to our present civilizational structure is “Whole System Disruption.” The global consumerist culture seems nearly oblivious to its dependence on a web of life — the inability of humans to go it alone. We seem unaware that our solar orbit is at the inner edge of the zone where biological life is possible this close to the Sun.
Our political capital — the wiring diagram for modern societies — is built on denying these three pillars — climate, peak everything and respect for limits. Dysfunctional systems have a way of disassembling themselves, with no assistance required. In his new book, Failing States, Collapsing Systems, Naffiz Ahmed gives the recent example of Syria (forgive the extended excerpt but this may soon be behind a paywall and it's worth it):
The conventional narrative of the causes and consequences of the 2011 'Arab Spring' tends to focus on the idea of a democratic deficit in the region as the primary trigger, but fails to integrate this with a wider vision of the range of factors involved.
It is increasingly recognized that climate change played a major role in establishing conditions of societal vulnerability for the conflicts that followed the Arab Spring (Johnstone and Mazo 2011). Others argue correctly that the uprisings of the Arab Spring itself were triggered by unprecedented global food price spikes, (Lagi et al. 2011) while still others show that peak oil occurred in Egypt and Syria prior to the uprisings (Hallock et al. 2014). However, these studies neglect the systemic interconnections across these different factors. They thus fail to offer a truly systemic understanding of these phenomena.
In reality, the string of state failures across the region, and the inexorable swing toward multiple conflicts spurred on by the rise of various Islamist militant groups, can be traced directly to ESD (Earth System Disruption) phenomena unravelling the local sub-systems underpinning state integrity. In short, HSD (Human System Destabilization) in the form of the escalation of political violence has been fueled by ESD driven by interconnected biophysical processes of climate change, energy depletion and food crises.
The collapse of Syria into internecine warfare is, as with the Arab Spring, largely viewed as a direct consequence of the extreme political repression of President Bashar al-Assad, and the competing role of outside powers. To that extent, international policy has focused on viewing the conflict through the lens of geopolitical interests and regional security.
There has been some important recognition that climate change played at least an indirect role in catalyzing the Syrian conflict by creating a drought that led to social pressures conducive to civil unrest. Yet there has been no recognition at all that a primary factor in the Syrian state's extreme vulnerability to such pressures was peak oil.
Prior to the onset of war, the Syrian state was experiencing declining oil revenues, driven by the peak of its conventional oil production in 1996 (Ahmed 2013). Even before the war, the country's rate of oil production had plummeted by nearly half, from a peak of just under 610,000 barrels per day (bpd) to approximately 385,000 bpd in 2010 (Department of State 2014).
Since the war, production dropped further still, once again by about half, as rebels took control of key oil producing areas. Faced with dwindling profits from oil exports and a fiscal deficit, the government was forced to slash fuel subsidies in May 2008—which at the time consumed 15 % of GDP. The price of petrol tripled overnight, fueling pressure on food prices (IRIN 2008).
The crunch came in the context of an intensifying and increasingly regular drought cycle linked to climate change. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has provided the most compelling research to date on how climate change amplified Syria's drought conditions, which in turn had a "catalytic effect" on civil unrest. The authors found that the 2007-2010 drought was the worst "in the instrumental record, causing widespread crop failure and a mass migration of farming families to urban centers", and was made three times more likely than by natural variability alone: "We conclude that human influences on the climate system are implicated in the current Syrian conflict" (Kelley et al. 2015). Compounding the impact of climate change, between 2002 and 2008, the country's total water resources dropped by half through both overuse and waste (Worth 2010).
Syrian refugees in Bulgaria – Milwaukee Jewish Federation
Once self-sufficient in wheat, Syria has become increasingly dependent on increasingly costly grain imports, which rose by one million tonnes in 2011-2012, then rose again by nearly 30% to about 4 million in 2012-2013. The drought ravaged Syria's farmlands, led to several crop failures, and drove hundreds of thousands of people from predominantly Sunni rural areas into coastal cities traditionally dominated by the Alawite minority. The exodus inflamed sectarian tensions rooted in Assad's longstanding favouritism of his Alawite sect—many members of which are relatives and tribal allies — over the Sunni majority (Agrimoney 2012).
Since 2001 in particular, Syrian politics was increasingly repressive even by regional standards, while Assad's focus on IMF-backed market reform escalated unemployment and inequality. The new economic policies undermined the rural Sunni poor while expanding the regime-linked private sector through a web of corrupt, government-backed joint ventures that empowered the Alawite military elite and a parasitic business aristocracy. Then from 2010 to 2011, the global price of wheat doubled — fueled by a combination of extreme weather events linked to climate change, oil price spikes and intensified speculation on food commodities — impacting on Syrian wheat imports. Assad's inability to maintain subsidies due to rapidly declining oil revenues worsened the situation (Friedman 2013).
As of 2010, Syria's then 20 million-strong population had one of the highest growth rates in the world, at around 2.4 %. In the first two months of 2011 alone, Syria's population grew by a monumental 80,000 people, most of whom were concentrated in the poorest eastern regions most badly affected by drought conditions (Sands 2011). The food price hikes triggered the protests that evolved into armed rebellion, in response to Assad's indiscriminate violence against demonstrators. The rural town of Dara'a, hit by five prior years of drought and water scarcity with little relief from the government, was a focal point for the 2011 protests. The emerging Syrian conflict then paved the way for the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) and other jihadist groups. Regional and international geopolitics fanned the flames of various rebel movements who moved into the widening vacuum of Syrian systemic state-failure to build new proto-state criminal enterprises.
Yet parallel processes have also been at play across the border, where ISIS is also active. US meteorologist Eric Holthaus specifically points out that the rapid rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014 coincided with a period of unprecedented heat in Iraq, recognized as being the warmest on record to date, from March to May 2014. Recurrent droughts and heavy rainstorms have also played havoc with Iraq's agriculture. With water supplies dwindling, and agriculture waning, Iraq's US-backed Shi'ite-dominated government has largely failed to address these burgeoning challenges, even as ISIS has moved quickly to exploit these failures, for instance by using dams as a weapon of war. Holthaus points out that climate-induced droughts have accompanied rapid population growth and agricultural stagnation, both of which are straining the capacity of the central government to feed its own population and deliver basic goods and services. As that state-level failure has been exacerbated, ISIS has rapidly filled the vacuum (Holthaus 2014).
|Outgoing UN leader Ban Ki Moon and Bashar al-Assad|
Lamenting lack of progress on climate change, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, said:
“Too many leaders seem content to keep climate change at arm’s length, and in its policy silo. Too few grasp the need to bring the threat to the center of global security, economic and financial management.”
It is easy to understand why policymakers ignore the elephant in the room. In a 2015 study by the George C. Marshall Institute, Fossil Fuel Energy and Economic Wellbeing, the NeoCon think tank turned the need for change on its head, arguing that everything we’ve just argued above is a reason not to change.
Despite the obvious reliance of the entire world on fossil fuels and the prospect that such reliance is likely to continue for decades, particularly in the developing world, it has become fashionable to argue that such fuels must be phased down and perhaps discarded entirely. The targets tend to be longer range, but they involve drastic proportions. For example, the European Council calls for an 80-95% reduction in CO2 emissions in advanced countries by 2050 which, because fossil fuels account for the great majority of these emissions, almost certainly would require an enormous reduction in their use. In 2009 the Obama Administration pledged the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, but made clear this is just a first step towards much more stringent goals in future years.
It is simply a mistake, conceptually and practically, to propose a drastic phasing out of fossil fuels. Even a relatively high cost assigned to anthropomorphic climate change does not imply such a phase-out, and given the tremendous value of these fuels to country economies everywhere, no such phase-out is likely.
Worldwide gasoline consumption is at least 2 1⁄2 times U.S. consumption, so we are speaking of at least 25 billion miles traveled every day worldwide. This mobility enables people to take jobs they otherwise would find hard to access and to move about more within those jobs as needed. It also enables them to access more goods and services, visit family and friends more, etc. The result is that people are more productive than they otherwise would be, and are able to experience a higher quality of life. It is hard to overstate how important mobility is to people around the globe.
Yes, mobility becomes extremely important when you are leaving an area struck by famine, having lost its energy and agricultural underpinnings, and climate change is beating at your back as you confront hard physical barriers like the Mediterranean or Caribbean Seas. The disconnect between the risk assigned to something that might potentially damage the global economy by reducing mobility and that assigned to the alternative — auguring near term human extinction within the space of a lifetime — is stark. It is only made possible by the denial of the three pillars of this analysis — ESD, HSD and WSD — which of course can only be expected by the author of the paper, an oil industry flack working in a right wing echo chamber. His variety of “fake news” is what provides a lavish standard of living for the legions of ear whisperers in the Power Zone.
The curious thing about what just happened in 2016 is that mostly the ear whisperers were exposed as clueless or misinformed. Most, like the pundits of K-Street, MSNBC and FOX, the President’s National Security Advisor, or the seers of Silicon Valley, assumed that BREXIT would be defeated, Hillary Clinton would become President of the United States, ISIS was a spontaneous anti-American insurgence, Assad and Erdogan would be deposed, and the Cubs would lose the World Series. If they had placed a $5 bet on Trump, Brexit and Leicester City they would have earned $15 million. Instead, rather than admit they were wrong, they create a kind of new “birtherism,” demanding that Vladimir Putin be held accountable.
Imagine for a moment a country that unexpectedly has their national presidential elections tampered with, not through the balloting process but by media buys, leaked documents, last minute revelations of corruption and millions of foreign dollars flowing in to boost the lagging candidate who gets a last minute, 10 percent surge over polling predictions. Imagine further that the new president is immediately surrounded by advisors from the same foreign power who trash universal medical coverage, abandon free education, and slash away the social welfare net while feathering the nests of a new class of billionaire oligarchs made fat off privatization of the former treasures of the state. Millions of the unemployed, sick and elderly simply die. The national economy of the country is in tatters.
If you think we are describing Trumpageddon you would be mistaken. We are describing the 1996 election in Russia, when the party stalwart Gennady Zyuganov was defeated by the enormously unpopular drunken buffoon Boris Yeltsin by a margin of 13.7 points, riding on a wave of support openly engineered by George Soros and the Clinton White House.
He vowed to transform Russia's socialist economy into a capitalist market economy and implemented economic shock therapy, price liberalization and nationwide privatization. Due to the sudden total economic shift, a majority of the national property and wealth fell into the hands of a small number of oligarchs. The well-off millionaire and billionaire oligarchs likened themselves to 19th century robber barons. Rather than creating new enterprises, Yeltsin's democratization led to international monopolies hijacking the former Soviet markets, arbitraging the huge difference between old domestic prices for Russian commodities and the prices prevailing on the world market.
Much of the Yeltsin era was marked by widespread corruption, and as a result of persistent low oil and commodity prices during the 1990s, Russia suffered inflation, economic collapse and enormous political and social problems that affected Russia and the other former states of the USSR.
|Clinton, Yeltsin, Trump and Zyuganov —Russian Universe|
To imagine that something similar to this could have occurred 20 years later and that it was engineered by none other than the aspiring young apparatchik who replaced the disgraced Yeltsin when he resigned in 1999, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, beggars belief. Nobody is that cunning. Or possessing such a deliciously ironical sense of humor.
We have described the challenge. We need to move on to provide the solution, but first let us reiterate a phrase used by Bill Mollison: “the problem is the solution.” By pushing the system beyond the brink, the status quo protectors have now put it into free fall. It will crash, and there is really no way to avoid that. Nafeez Ahmed puts the date at 2018. James Howard Kunstler says don't count out 2017. But make no mistake: the coming collapse is a blessing in disguise.
Had Syria not experienced the twin curses of peak oil and climate change in rapid succession, it would have continued to grow its population at exponential rates until it invited the Whole System Disturbance. The outcome, even as bad as it has been, would have been exponentially worse. Now, with the benefit of experience with severe and radically transformational change, the Syrian people are more favorably disposed to something completely different.
What that might be, precisely, will be described in future installments.
The current recession is just a prelude. We have passed biophysical limits. This explains the current era of political weirding but it doesn’t help us to avoid or soften it. We shall get to that, but we have to concede, our situation will very likely get much worse before it gets better.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on February 14, 2017
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Above is a link to a set of slides in pdf format which you can present to your family and friends, on why the IPCC projections are watered down guff, why climate catastrophe is inevitable and why you should stop worrying about it. The slides are largely self explanatory however two slides require elaboration which I have provided below. Before presenting this information to others I recommend you listen to David Wasdell's "facing the harsh realities of now" talk http://www.apollo-gaia.org/harsh-realities-of-now.html at least 2 to 3 times. His summary is probably the best compiled by anyone to date (although he ends with a delusional message that solar energy can save us, which is unfortunate).
Why the IPCC's information selection process is deeply flawed:
In October 2013 at the Griffith University Southbank campus in Brisbane, I attended a talk by Professor Nathan Bindoff, a climate scientist from the University of Tasmania who is highly regarded by the international scientific community and who was chairman of many previous IPCC proceedings. He presented the IPCC fifth assessment report.
The knowledgable audience were less than convinced about the IPCC projections, which were out of date even before AR5 was published and we asked him specific questions about the IPCC process and assumptions.
He described their process of information selection: scientific studies for inclusion into or exclusion from the IPCC report are selected by a large number of government employed scientists from around the world. However it is not a democratic process where, say, if more than half of the group decide a particular paper is important, it is included. The IPCC uses a "lowest common denominator" process whereby if just one member of the audience objects to any part of any paper, it is completely thrown out.
Dr Bindoff described the process where perhaps a couple of hundred scientists sit in a room and painstakingly go through every line of every paper submitted. He mentioned that typically by the third day, 80% of the originally submitted peer reviewed scientific studies have been thrown out, to be completely excluded from IPCC consideration.
Clearly this is not honest science, it is a political process designed to select only the most watered down, low ball estimates, so as to fabricate the most optimistic future climate scenarios. This explains why report after report, real world events have exceeded the worst case IPCC projections eg ice loss, sea level rise, severe weather events etc.
Why the IPCC's climate sensitivity calculations are grossly inadequate:
When specifically questioned, Dr Bindoff also admitted that the IPCC had completely ignored the most important climate event ever since the Earth was hit by a dinosaur killing asteroid 66 million years ago: the release of methane from the Arctic coast which has gone ballistic since around 2008. To me this confirms that the IPCC is a bogus pseudoscience body perverted by governments addicted to fossil fuels and that they only tell the public half the truth.
Arctic methane release is just one source of methane they have ignored and methane release is just one of the so-called "slow" feedback loops they have ignored, which are in fact occuring much faster than anticipated.
The IPCC calculate future temperature rises based only on the direct greenhouse effect of CO2 and a few fast feedback loops which themselves have been grossly underestimated. For example the IPCC grossly underestimated the loss of Arctic sea ice and therefore grossly underestimated the loss of albedo over the Arctic and therefore grossly underestimated the magnitude of this feedback loop.
There are other new, previously unanticipated, self reinforcing feedback loops which are now coming to light and therefore also completely off the radar of the IPCC eg the ingress of warm air into the Arctic due to marked weakening and waviness of the North circumpolar jet stream. The IPCC can hardly be blamed for not considering that, however it shows how the rapid onset of real world events quickly render their assessment reports obsolete.
Why Guy McPherson's prediction of NTHE by 2026 due to global warming is complete nonsense:
Just as the IPCC have misrepresented things by selecting only the most unreasonably optimistic scientific papers to promote their views, similarly GM has misrepresented things by selecting only the most unreasonably pessimistic scientific papers to promote his views.
We do not know what the most probable future scenario is, nobody does, but let us make an assessment of circumstances in the year 2100 based on a worse than worst case scenario. Let us assume all people in the Northern Hemisphere will be dead by 2100.
The IPCC AR5 worst case sea level rise by 2100 of 1 metre has now been rejected by most climate scientists since publication of a paper in 2016 by James Hansen and colleagues. That other doyen of climate science, Dr Michael Mann, had some reservations about the Hansen paper, but many scientists now regard a 2 metre sea level rise by 2100 as possible.
Hansen had however in an older paper projected as much as a 10 metre sea level rise by 2100, so let us instead adopt this worse than worst case scenario.
We know that complete melt of both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice shields will raise sea levels by more than 14 metres https://water.usgs.gov/edu/sealevel.html
By implication, the worse than worst case sea level rise of 10 metres by 2100 means that some of the Greenland and/or West Antarctic ice shield will still be intact in 2100, and indeed most of the ice on the Antarcticic continent will also be intact then.
Ice moderates nearby air and water temperatures. Cold melt water flowing into the sea keeps that sea temperature cool, which in turn keeps coastal areas bathed in that sea cool.
Therefore high latitude coastal areas in the Southern Ocean (the southern tips of NZ, Chile and Argentina and some islands eg the Falklands) will remain relatively cool even if GATR rises by 8 or 10degC by 2100. Those areas in the deep south will still have habitats with moderate temperatures conducive for growing food and rearing livestock in the year 2100 (and for substantial time after), even using this worse than worst case scenario. By definition, survival of even a small number of people means that human extinction will not occur by 2100 even based on this worse than worst case scenario. For someone to declare that NTHE will definitely occur by 2026 is thus completely nonsensical, is not scientific and is based on nihilistic ideology, not logic or reason.
As the Antarctic ice melts it is almost inevitable that humans will migrate to Antarctica if all other parts of the world become too hot.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on February 12, 2017
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Just going back a few years, the "BRICS" were all the rage as the next great Superpower conglomeration. BRICS stood for Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa.
3 of them Brazil, India and South Africa also fit in the category of "Emerging Markets", and EMs were where all the Hot Money was flowing for investment during the period, seeking high yields and return on investment.
What could be more perfect, right? Great resource availability and populations willing to work at low wages to supply industrial products to the world! Not to mention Russia & China as large military powers with the capability of making a good fight with the FSoA if challenged! Even if they don't have the aircraft carriers the FSoA has, they have Nuke ICBMs, and they have cruise missiles capable of sending any FSoA Carrier Group to the bottom of Davey Jones Locker. The Chinese field a 1 Million Man Standing Army. Lotta potential Boots on the Ground there!
So a lot of betting went down that this group of Nation-States was going to make a serious challenge to the European and Anglo-Amerikan hegemony over the industrial economy, not to mention the Bankstering system which runs it. Even to this day, you have some pundits like Pepe Escobar claiming the Chinese are going to build a "New Silk Road" that will bring the BRICS to ascendancy as the inheritors of the failed policies of the Western Europeans and Anglo-Amerikans.
Unfortunately, something went wrong along the way here, and precisely the opposite has occured or is occuring as I write this article. What fucked up in the BRICS master plan?
To begin with, it was a typical financialized bubble. Beyond that, you have countries here with Goobermints that are corrupt beyond belief, it's possible they are all more corrupt than the FSoA Goobermint, although of course that is hard to imagine. To top it all off, you have the issue that even if said countries have energy resources left like Brazil and Russia do, you have populations that cannot afford to buy those energy resources and retire the debts incurred by the extractors of the energy.
India already jumped off the cliff with the demonetization of the biggest Rupee notes by His Modiness, which sent the entire economy into a tailspin. Not to mention the fact it further impoverished already impoverished people, and as bad as their farmer suicide problem was before this, one has to figure it has been worse since. A VAST number of Indians have no bank account, or even Goobermint ID. For them, it's entirely a Cash Economy, and no Cash, no Economy.
This of course does not even touch on the Climate and Environment problems the Indians have, or their Energy problems or population overshoot problems. Then they have the constant battle with the Pakistanis, so overall the place is a complete fucking mess. They may even start exchanging Nukes with the Pakis, since they both got 'em
Moving down to South Africa, they probably have the worst problems with drought of any of the BRICS, although Brazil is not doing too well with this problem either. Besides that is the perpetual racial divide problem of South Africa and the fact that its entire economy is a mineral resource extraction economy, and globally nobody is paying much for resources, because the Konsumers of the resources are running out of money to buy them with. Well, except for the filthy rich who are still buying some Diamonds at Tiffany's, but unfortunately there aren't enough filthy rich to fund an entire economy this way. Tiffany's isn't doing too good either, they just fired their CEO.
Doing slightly better than these two locations are the Middle Kingdom of China and Mother Russia, but not by all that much plus Newz doesn't really escape well from either Nation-State, so you can't be entirely sure of WTF is going on there. In Mother Russia, one of Vlad the Impaler's political opponents recently went to the Great Beyond, apparently resultant from Poisoning. Another one, Alexander Navalny who was a Blogger so I like him 🙂 was convicted of some kind of felony so is no longer eligible to run against Vlad to run Mother Russia. He was probably the only opponent of Vlad who stood some chance of beating him, at least in popular voting. The Ruskies do have some cheap Oil left though, and their population is not too large given the land mass available there. On the other hand they have NATO troops massing on their borders, not a good sign.
Of all the BRICS, the Chinese have weathered the storm the best so far, but by no means does this presage a rosy future for them. In fact the Chinese are TOAST, and are in worse shape than everyone in the BRICS except perhaps the Indians. Reason of course is Population Overshoot, but by no means is that their only problem. They've blown a Credit Bubble that makes the one Da Fed blew up look like Child's Balloon next to the Hindenburg. Forget about not drinking the water, half of it is not even fit for human contact! You can't walk outside in Beijing without at least a surgical mask on, but really you need a full blown activated charcoal gas mask or better yet a SCUBA tank. This is not a recipe for a bright future for the Chinese.
However, of all the BRICS, the one in the WORST shape right now and is clearly exeriencing a FAST COLLAPSE is Brazil. Their economy is in complete collapse, corruption is systemic and now they are losing control of the social structure as well.
In the state of Espirito Santo which borders on the state of Rio de Janeiro which is home to the city of Rio, Corcovado (the big Christ statue on the mountain) and numerous Favelas (slums), the Military Police recently went on strike because…they weren't getting PAID! Big fucking surprise, who is going to work at anything if you don't get your paycheck at the end of the week?
Problem for these cops of course is that just like under Amerikan Law, Strikes of "publicly essential personnel" are ILLEGAL! So even if you're not getting paid, you're supposed to KEEP WORKING! Does this sound like SLAVERY to you? It does to me.
Since these cops are MILITARY cops, one suspects they can't even quit either until whenever their enlistment in the military runs out. Not that they would quit anyhow, because in all likelihood there are no other jobs for them to take in the neighborhood. So they got a bit creative here on this one, and instead of the cops themselves not showing up for work, their families went out and blockaded the stations, so the cops could not go out on patrol. Of course, they had the option of possibly Arresting their own families for "obstruction of justice", but who is going to go out and arrest their own wives, kids, fathers and mothers, or shoot them? Not gonna happen.
So in the wake of this absence of cops on the streets of Vitoria (the capital of Espirito Santo), the population at large took the opportunity to go an a rampage of looting, raping and killing. There is of course a large population of people living the criminal life in Brazil, because there are no opportunties for them in the "legitimate" world. They deal drugs, they steal, they kill people. It's like Chicago on Steroids and much larger. Its not like everyone is a criminal, but without a police presence, it's "Criminals Gone Wild".
So Da Goobernator of Espirito Santo asks for help from Da Federal Gobermint, and they promise to do "watever it takes" to restore order and send in the Military to replace the cops on the streets. Except how many do they send in? A Big 200 soldiers to police a city of 2M people! That is 1 for every 10,000. Even only 1% of those 10K are criminals, that is still a 100:1 ratio! However, in this situation it's probably more than 1%, since many normally law abiding type citizens will take the opportunity to go loot the local grocery or Iphone store.
Normally, they put out on the street 1800 cops, so to do the same job you would need around the same number of soldiers. So now you have to pay the soldiers instead of the cops, and Da Federal Goobermint of Brazil is in no better position to do that than the states are, they are BROKE also!
Even if they could field enough paid soldiers to go in there to restore order, Vitoria and Espirito Santo as a whole is a relatively small state in Brazil. What happens when the same thing occurs in Rio De Janeiro or Sao Paolo or Brasilia? Sao Paolo has something like 20M people now, that by itself is an order of magnitude larger than Vitoria. What is to stop this from spreading to Sao Paolo? They are broke too, and besides that running short on water and the money to run their sewage treatment plants, garbage collection etc. It's not just cops not getting their paychecks, just about all the public workers are seeing wages withheld because Da Goobermint doesn't have the money to pay them.
Unlike the FSoA (also broke), the Brazilleiros cannot just issue infinite debt and have it recognized as worth anything. They have gone through NUMEROUS periods of Hyperinflation, and they are trying to avoid that problem with "austerity", but austerity means people either are paid to little to live on or not paid at all. Jobs are cut, pensions are cut and you get a downhill spiral as people have no money to spend in the economy. They can't afford to buy enough food to feed their kids. At this point, they get desperate, and take desperate measures. That is what the cops in Espirito Santo are doing.
The problem here of course is that like many other resource based economies, the Brazilleiros are running short on resources people around the globe can afford to buy at the prices they cost to extract. There are some big oil fields in deep water off the coast of Brazil, but their own state company of Petrobras is broke, and oil majors like Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are not going to put up debt money to drill these fields, because there is no profit in it. These companies are already bleeding red ink on properties they are drilling here in the FSoA, and beyond that there is an oil GLUT due to collapsing demand around the world. So the Brazilians will not be saved by the Oil underneath the ocean floor surrounding them.
It's only a matter of time before the chaos in Espirito Santo spreads to the rest of Brazil. How much time? Then from there it spreads to other SA countries dependent on resource exports, and the chaos grows. Then it makes it to Mexico, then it migrates across the border to the FSoA. How long will that take? Timeline, Timeline, Timeline. Like Location, Location, Location in the world of Real Estate, that's always the question, not what the final outcome is.
Published on the The Slog on January 30, 2017
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Tired of Trumpophobia and tempted by the New: an Oldie moves on
It can be tedious listening to some old fart in a fuzzy photograph pulling out the Experienced Wisdom card. I’m sure many of the radically progressive certainty merchants out there will find this piece just another bit of blah blah from a nasty Baby Boomer who stole all your benefits, and then ruined the future of your children by voting for Brexit.
For those of you with minds still open to the lessons of history and the dynamics of the future, however, you are invited for a little meander around the block of life, liberty and learning. I write tonight because, believe me, the tedium of listening to global Leftlib showboaters all day – on all media in all the colours – was infinitely more enervating than this piece is likely to be. But you must decide.
From 1977 until 1984, I lived in Brixton – in twee ‘Poets’ Corner’ if you were an estate agent – because my wife and I couldn’t afford anything else. I went back there with a chum a week ago, for an informal lunch in a Brazilian restaurant run by an Argentinian. It cost threepence and was terrific.
Brixton has changed bigtime. The place is very Jonty and Katherine these days, but around Electric Avenue and the indoor market are the same cosmopolitan characters selling good value stuff to people not yet doshed by the compromises of corporate life.
In Shakespeare Rd (where I lived, at No 17) there was a mix of Hard Left whites, agrarian Jamaican poor, liberals like us, middle class Barbadan evangelist Christians, Indians, and African professionals – mainly landlords and lawyers.
The following things happened to us in the first six months:
- We were robbed three times. We couldn’t afford a burglar alarm.
- The empty house next door was squatted, and turned into a knocking shop.
- We twice watched – at 3am in the morning – as a pimp knocked seven bells out of one of his ‘girls’.
- We – and five neighbours either side – were bombarded by the mega-decibel music of one young guy.
- The car radio was stolen twice.
- Our insurance premium doubled. We could barely afford the one we had.
The support we got from all our decent neighbours of every culture was a memory that will live with me forever. We got invited to a lot of West Indian weddings, and ate a lot of curried goat. Let me tell you, curried goat is nice.
The reaction of the Brixton Police was to ask whyTF we’d moved there in the first place.
The reaction of Lambeth Council under Ted Knight was to send along a Noise Pollution Officer, and then do nothing. Actually, the Council did do something: they expressed solidarity with Comrade Brezhnev on MayDay, and put up notices everywhere saying Lambeth was a Nuclear-free Zone. I might add that, every winter, our street was also a grit-free zone.
I went along to a couple of Labour Party meetings. I was not and never have been a Labour member, but I went along to listen. Actually, I went twice: on each occasion, they talked about issues and causes thousands of miles away in Africa, Russia, China and South America. These did not strike me as the correct concerns for officials elected to run a community riven with the problems of vice, poverty, misogynist pimps, ignorant cops and loose West Indian familial structures.
The tabloids, as you’d expect, dubbed this Looney Labour.
Without this kind of nonsense, there would never have been Thatcherism.
We lived through two riots in Brixton. My first child, aged two months, needed feeding as we returned the Sunday of the first riot after visiting friends. The police reaction was to declare Poets’ Corner a nogo Ghetto. My reaction was to drive round the road block, and studiously take the numbers of all the officers on duty. I needn’t have bothered.
That night, I walked to the end of Shakespeare Road and onto Railton Road…the much-vaunted ‘Front Line’. I saw several people throwing Molotov cocktails, almost all of whom were white. They probably vote Tory these days. I don’t: I did in 1979, and regretted it immediately. See bold, rust-coloured print above.
Throughout all this period, left-leaning bourgeois friends turned up to our house for supper to lecture me on the institutional racism that caused young black boys to underperform at school. I asked them why this racism didn’t seem to stop black girls from getting on. Radical feminists in particular reacted badly to my questions….and the conclusion I’d reached: that crap fathering was the problem.
Brixton Labour never accepted that truth. I’d imagine they still don’t. But Black community leaders in Notting Hill and south London did, because they knew young homeless boys turned to gang culture in pursuit of a father figure.
Had the issue been left to Labour, nothing would have improved.
The examples I’ve offered so far relate to my big problem with the Left in the West: its inability to look for a good governance solution from the evidence available, and its preference for staring up the dark back passage of ideology for some kind of ridiculously contrived interpretation.
But then, regulars here know that this is also my problem with the contemporary Right and its Nutty Neocon codswallop – which is, without doubt, the equal of every last bit of collective Socialist claptrap. I despise all of them, you see: they’re not so much a waste of space, as a criminal waste of intelligence given over to catechismic devotion.
I do, however, have far more to offer than excoriating dislike. Believe it or not, I can actually be very nice indeed to the open-minded, the genuinely vulnerable, the legally wronged, and the sensibly kind. The proper application of love really does solve every community problem in the end.
Sadly, what gets in the way of everyone trying to practice just that is religious and ideological bigotry.
I’m taking here about those people who beeleeeve. Those who knew evereeething. The people who are always right, until it all goes wrong. After which they creep quietly away to some bunker while we the People deal with the mayhem. Then they reappear afterwards – often slightly rebranded as ‘ecconomic deregulators’ or Greenpeace – to start telling us again why they’re right.
Let me outline some reality again.
- They don’t know about CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, whether it’s a good or a bad thing, or even what the root cause of its elevation is. Nobody does.
- There will not be 77 Virgins waiting in Heaven, and beheading folks is not the fast lane towards a US Green Card.
- Wealth does not trickle down, it gushes up.
- Socialist ideas of equality do not produce real equality because they are not based on social anthropology.
- Devil take the hindmost is not the ‘natural order of things’. Senior apes in the wild do not behave like neocons do. (Go on a safari, and see for yourself)
- Superstates and globalism are unlikely to be the future, because Homo sapiens – in both a citizen and administrative role – cannot cope with the numbers and complexity involved. This is why small communities are better run and less criminal than large urban conglomerates.
- We cannot ask politicians to be more accountable – and then sign Opposition petitions allowing them to ignore the responsibilities of government.
- In that context, an expert is only worth listening to if he or she has a track record suggesting discernment of the sky/floor difference thing. Gordon Brown became known as our Greatest Ever Chancellor. But only Gordon Brown ever propagated that conclusion.
Nevertheless, no matter how often religious, ideological and other Groupthink cult mania turn out to be wrong, there is no correlation between that reality and the lemming-like willingness of the wide-eyed to buy their snake-oil over and over again. This is because we are livings things: we die, and our wisdom is not (often) collected and passed on. The Oldies can write stuff down, but the internet will put them down. The internet, my friends, really is profoundly ageist.
We learn from mistakes. Leave everything to the Young, and life will never get better.
So these are some historical learnings to consider. I don’t present them as Golden Rules, merely as a personal record:
- Politicians with a likeable image usually achieve nothing, and die young.
- Churchill was a misogynist arsehole, but without him Hitler would’ve won.
- Fifty years after every war to end all wars, there’s still plenty to fight about.
- Minority issues rarely solve majority problems.
- Gender, ethnicity and sexuality count for little if the problem is planetary.
- Fiddling with the central heating thermostat will not make a hole in the roof go away.
- With responsibility for lives comes compromise. The alternative is Pol Pot.
- The raw material here is people. We’re as far from perfect as ever.
- Technology can kill Truth and expose it. The choice is ours.
- Systems are fine but people are finer. One size never fits all.
- Those with double standards always want double helpings.
- Ideologists present their values as absolute. They are not: they are passing mores.
- Philosophy opens minds. Ideology closes ranks.
- The greatest fulfillment of the greatest number is as good as it gets.
- The search for Utopia produces Dystopia.
- Never let the sun go down on a day without learning.
- Be nice to everyone until they prove you wrong.
Now there is a reason for all this tonight. I planned (as much as I ever plan anything) my recent UK trip around the birth of 2nd granddaughter Rosa; but during that trip I spent time with most of my real friends and family to gather opinion about what I should do next. The best friends are those who tell you the unvarnished truth. And what came back – having pitched an idea for a novel to some of them – was “Stop farting around and write the bloody thing”.
What appears above – and in the 6,360 posts since January 2010 -is everything I want to say to all those who value the individual citizen’s lifespan quality and social contribution above any system, construct, space, belief thing or other bollocks likely to rule or even ruin their lives. There’s nothing of any real substance to add. From here on, I want to try another route likely to be more successful in persuading people that it can be much better. Persuasion has, after all, been the driving force of my adult life.
Blogs will be more infrequent, and Twitter presence diluted. I’m not deserting anyone, just looking for something that works better. I don’t know how many of you like the work of Ritchie Havens, but this is part of the lyric of his song When. It seems pertinent:
My dreams have all been raided/by every kind of greed
my liberties were traded/for nothing that I need
So won’t you tell me when you’re gonna go
Been living here so long, I Just might wanna know.
History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme. The history of the Left is one of being distracted by ideology from the needs of the People. In every case, the result has been the triumph of the Right.
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Published on The Daily Impact on January 23, 2017
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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.
Published on Cassandra's Legacy on January 22, 2017
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Defeats are supposed to teach people how to do better; in theory. In practice, it often happens that defeats teach people how to become masters in blame-shifting. With some exceptions, this seems to have been the main result of the recent defeat of the Democrats in the 2016 presidential election, where we saw a truly spasmodic search for culprits: Putin, the Russian hackers, the Fake News, the Rednecks, the FBI, Exxon, the aliens from Betelgeuse, and more. Everything except admitting one's mistakes.
Even less soul searching has been performed by those who turned out to be among the major losers in this story: science and scientists. In particular, climate scientists saw their field wiped out from the White House Website minutes after President Trump took office. That may have been simply a question of protocol, but surely it is not a good omen for the future.
So far, scientists have reacted with appropriate outrage to possibilities such as Trump repudiating the Paris climate treaty. However, on the average, scientists seem to be completely unable to even imagine that there may be something wrong with what they have been doing. We may have here a good illustration of the principle expressed by James Schlesinger that "people have only two modes of operation: complacency and panic". Even though some scientists are starting to show symptoms of panic, most of them seem to be still in complacency mode.
Yet, for everything that happens there is a reason and if you invaded Russia in winter it is no good to blame the snow for the defeat. So, what did scientists do that led them to a situation that may turn out to be even worse than the retreat from Moscow for Napoleon's Grande Armée?
One problem, here, is that if scientists had wanted to present themselves to the public as a priesthood of acolytes interested only in maintaining their petty privileges, they succeeded beyond the rosiest expectations. Yet, I don't think that this is the problem. Overall, science is still a sane profession and very few scientists have been directly involved in financial scandals. The public perceives this and normally rates scientists as much more trustworthy than – say- journalists or politicians. And modern climate science, as part of the field of Earth sciences, is nothing less than a triumph of human knowledge. Truly a major advance of what we know on the way our planet and our ecosystem work.
The problem, in my opinion, is a different one. It goes deeper and it is not related to individual scientists or to specific scientific fields. It has to do with science as a whole and, in particular, with the inconsistent messages that scientists are beaming to the public. According to the results reported by Ara Norenzayan's in "Big Gods" (Princeton, 2013), people have a built-in "lie detector" in their minds that works by a heuristic algorithm: people will evaluate the truth of what they are told on the basis of consistency. Not only the message must be consistent in itself, but also the messenger must be consistent with the message carried. This is a fundamental point: people don't normally care about data and factual evidence: they care about the consistency of the message in their social environment; it is something that Dan Kahan has shown in a series of studies on the public perception of climate science.
So, if your local prophet tells you that you must be chaste, he'd better be chaste himself. If he tells you that you must make sacrifices and accept poverty, he'd better be poor himself. And chastity/poverty must be acceptable in your social environment. These are things that Francis of Assisi understood already long ago. Then, think of Donald Trump: why was he elected? It was, mainly, because Trump's political message was consistent with Trump himself. Trump was telling people that he would make America rich and powerful and that was perfectly consistent with the fact that he is rich and powerful himself. Because of this, Trump's message didn't trigger people's lie detector and Trump the unthinkable became Trump the unavoidable.
Getting back to science, the message of climate change is intimately linked to the need of making sacrifices. We are asking people to reduce their consumption, reduce waste, travel less, and the like. It is a perfectly legitimate message and many religious groups have been carrying similar messages successfully. Of course, it would never work if Donald Trump were to propose it; but why can't scientists propose it successfully? Scientists are not Franciscan monks, but normally they are not rich. I often tell my PhD students that they are exchanging three years of starvation for a lifetime of unemployment. I don't really need to tell them that: they know that by themselves.
The problem is that there exists another side of science where scientists are beaming out exactly the opposite message of that of the need of making sacrifices. It is the side of the "gee-whiz science" or, maybe, "Santa Claus Science", scientific research still operating along the optimistic ideas developed in the 1950s, at the time of the "space age" and the "atomic age". The message that comes from this area is, "give us some money and we'll invent some magic device that will solve all the problema." It is a message that's ringing more and more hollow and the public is starting to perceive that the scientists are making promises they can't maintain. Not only the various scientific miracles that were promised are not materializing (say, nuclear fusion) but many pretended scientific revolutions are making things worse (say, shale oil). Still, many scientists keep making these promises and a certain section of society accepts – even requires – them.
So, the name of the problem is inconsistency. Scientists are taking two different and incompatible roles: that of doom-sayers and that of gift-givers. And "inconsistency" is just a polite way to say "lie." White scientist speak with forked tongue. Ye can't serve God and mammon.
The result is that not just Donald Trump despises science; it is a consistent fraction of the public that just doesn't believe the scientific message, especially about climate. The fraction of Americans who think that climate change is a serious threat has remained floating around 50% – 60%, going up and down, but not significantly changing. It is trench warfare in the climate communication war. Things may get worse for science under the Trump presidency. It already happened at the time of McCarthy, why shouldn't it happen again?
At this point, good manners dictate that when you write about a problem, you should also propose ways to solve it. Of course, there are ways that could be suggested: first of all, as scientists we should stop asking money for things that we know won't work (the "hydrogen-based economy" is a good example). Then, science badly needs a cleanup: we should crack down on predatory publishers, fight data fabrication, establish transparent standards for scientific publications, provide for free results of science to those who pay for it (the public), get rid of the huge number of irrelevant studies performed today, and more. Personally, I would also like a science that's more of a service for the community and less of a showcase for primadonnas in white coats.
But, as we all know, large organizations (and science is one) are almost impossible to reform from inside. So, where is science going? Difficult to say, but it may need a good shake-up from the outside (maybe from Trump, although he may well exaggerate) to be turned into something that may be what we truly need to help humankind in this difficult moment. The transformation will be surely resisted as much as possible, but change is needed and it will come.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else. he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24)
Published on The Doomstead Diner February 8, 2017
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Waiting for the bus out of town in Portland was nerve racking for Kensoto, but buying the ticket went smoothly and the clerk only glanced at the fake driver's license that Kim had forged, using an Atlanta address and the Georgia format. The license wouldn't do him any good if he was driving and pulled over by a Trooper and it was checked against the Georgia database, but for typical tasks like buying bus tickets, beer or a cheap motel room, it was just fine.
Once on the bus, he blended in well, most of the other passengers were either Black or Latino, with just a few White Trash sprinkled in. Bus travel was the main transport for the underclass, particularly for undocumented migrants. Once in Los Angeles, he once again had a wait for the next bus heading for Denver, and after buying his ticket he elected not to wait in the Bus Station, where he might be accosted by a Gestapo agent. He left the station and took a local bus over to a movie theater to catch a film, and then to a Wendy's for a meal. He headed back to the bus station about 20 minutes before the bus was due to depart, and once again had no issues. Listening to the news reports on the Radio, there was nothing about the shootings in Missoula on the National Newz as of yet, so he began to calm down and was able to get some shut-eye on the bus to Denver.
From there it was on to Indianapolis, then Pittsburgh and finally on to Atlanta. He was pretty exhausted after all the days of travel trying to sleep in the bus seats, but dragged himself over to a library where he finally turned on his secure smartphone and laptop to get on the internet and fire off an encrypted message to Kim via the Iceland server that he had made it to Atlanta safely. Kim fired back a message with a couple of names and addresses of relatives that Kensoto's parents had furnished him, and let him know there was ongoing investigation of the shoot-em-up, but so far the Terminators had not been rousted.
Rather than calling his relatives looking like a disheveled mess, even though it was slightly risky Kensoto elected to take a Bates Motel Room in a Motel 6 where Tom Burdett had left the light on for him, and a few cockroaches also. Still, the bed was fairly comfortable and did not seem to be infested with bed bugs, and he needed a good night's sleep and a shower. He stopped at Walmart on the way to the motel and bought a couple of changes of clothes and an airline size carry-on Wheely bag to supplement the small Bugout Bag Backpack he had travelled with.
After checking in, Kensoto took a quick shower and changed into one of the fresh sets of clothes purchased at Walmart. Then over to the Bates Motel laundry to wash the clothes he had been sleeping in for the last week, which were pretty stinky by this point. While the clothes were in the washer, he took a walk across the street to the Popeye's Fried Chicken and bought a 5 piece Spicy Chicken Tenders dinner with a side of Red Bean & Rice and 2 Jalapeno Peppers and a large Coke as takeout. Returning back to the motel and almost getting run over by a bus trying to cross the 4 lane secondary road, he dropped off his food in the room and then went over to the laudry room to shift his clothes into the dryer, depositing another dozen Quarters into the slots to get that running.
Returning back to his room, Kensoto flipped on the TV to see if he could find anything to watch while consuming the Popeye's meal, but after futiley punching through more than 100 channels, the best he could do was an Infomercial on Weight Loss featuring some skinny girls doing Yoga. So he left it on that while eating, then went back to collect his now industrially cleaned and dried clothing and folded it then packed it into the recently purchased wheely bag from Walmart, so it would be ready to go the following morning.
Morning came and he felt reasonably refreshed after a shower and a couple of cups of pretty thin Motel 6 Coffee. Prior to Check Out at Noon from the Motel 6, he gave his cousin Mohammed a call, to see if they could get together.
"Mohammed! Guess who?" Kensoto asked when Mohammed answered the call on his Iphone. Kensoto hadn't seen Mohammed since grade school in West Africa, so he wasn't entirely sure he would remember him.
"No idea. Who?", Mohammed inquired suspiciously. The caller did know his name though, so it probably wasn't a Bot Call.
"It's Kensoto! Your cousin! I'm in Atlanta!"
"Kensoto? Really? I thought you were in Montana, at least that is what my mom & dad told me."
"It's a long story. Can you meet me this evening for dinner?"
"Sure! Why don't you come over to the house? Mom & Dad would love to see you!"
"Uhhh, no not yet." Kensoto said carefully. "I have some stuff to talk over with you first."
Mohammed sensed immediately that Kensoto was in some trouble. "Trouble" was a regular feature of life for everyone in the West African community in Atlanta.
"Oh, OK. I work in the warehouse district here as a Lumper. I did 2 years at the Community College to get all my pre-requisites for a major in Nursing Science and maintained a 4.0 average, but there is a 2 year waiting list to matriculate into the Nursing Major. So I am living at home with my parents for now and just taking what jobs I can get. There's a Bar & Grill near here called Casey's that serves up a decent steak. Is 6PM OK? Do you want the address?"
"6 is good. I will find it on the Internet, I don't need the address. I'll see you tonight".
"OK, sounds good." Mohammed replied.
Although it would have been easier to just have Mohammed text him the address, Kensoto wanted as little information stored on servers and his smart phone as possible. Although the audio was likely recorded and stored, it was more difficult to search with bots. Besides that, as of yet neither he nor Mohammed appeared to be on any Radar over the shootings in Missoula. So it still seemed pretty safe to communicate this way, although once he got together with Mohammed he would advise him on how to send encrypted mesages over the SMS network using GPG4USB 256 bit encoding.
After checking out of the Bates Motel, Kensoto killed time until dinner by heading over to the Public Library and signing on to their Wi-Fi with his secure laptop. Searching on Google revealed that Casey's was on the other side of town and would take at least an hour to get there on the bus system. He still was not too encumbered with gear though, just his Bugout Bag Backpack and the recently purchased Wheely Bag for additional clothing.
Kensoto made it to Casey's just a little late, there had been a considerable amount of traffic and the bus trip went slower than he had expected. He was used to Missoula traffic and distances, and Atlanta was another bear entirely, so his estimates of time were off. When he finally made it to Casey's around 20 minutes late, Mohammed recognized him immediately and waved him over to his table, where he was passing the time sipping on a 24 oz Sam Adams Boston Lager from the tap and an appetizer of Fried Onion Rings.
"Damn Kensoto, I thought you were NEVER going to get here! It's great to see you!"
"Great to see you too, Mohammed", Kensoto said with a genuine smile of relief, giving his cousin a big hug. "It's been a trial. I could really use a beer here."
The two cousins sat down at the table, and Kensoto ordered a Foster's Lager from the tap, and munched out on one of the Onion Rings on the stand on the table.
"So WTF is going on Kensoto? Why all the secrecy?
"Big shit went down in my neighborhood, I got caught in the crossfire. I had to GTFO of Dodge in a hurry. I just was in the wrong place at the wrong time, on the way to meeting up with my friends. There was a big shooting match between two gangs and I got hit by a stray bullet. I'm down here laying low until it hopefully dies down. I'm not implicated at all as of yet."
"Shit, that is bad." Mohammed nodded. "How long are you going to stay down here for?"
"Hopefully only a month or two. I have enough money to get by. Not sure what I am going to do for housing yet though."
Mohammed pondered for a bit. "Well, it's probably not a good idea to come stay with us. If you do get implicated, they'll be checking into all your relatives, and we all came over at the same time."
"Yea, I thought of that. That's why I didn't want to meet at your parent's place. My phone is pretty safe, the account is anonymous, but it's still a good idea to use encryption in all communications. Do you know how to use GPG4USB 256 bit encryption?"
"Uhhh, no. I've never had anything that serious I was worried about being read."
Kensoto took some time to explain how Public and Private Keys work, and then how to install the software on his computer for encrypting messages. They ordered a couple of NY Strip Steaks and Potato Skins for dinner while working out their communications protocols.
Finishing off his steak, Mohammed got back to the housing problem.
"It's probably OK for you to come over to stay the night at our place. If you get implicated later and somebody sees you, we can just say you stopped in but we haven't seen you since. I'll call some friends tonight to see if I can find someone you can Couch Surf with. If you can contribute to the rent, it will be easier."
"I can easily contribute $500/mo for a good spot to sleep for at least the next 2 months", Kensoto replied.
"Oh, that's a lot. I don't think so much will be necessary just for a couch spot. $200 is probably enough."
"Important here is not to reveal my real identity. My forged Georgia Driver's License says my name is Ibrahim, not Kensoto. You should always refer to me as Ibrahim now, not Kensoto with anyone.", Kensoto advised.
"Yes, understood 'Ibrahim'.", Mohammed said with a wink.
With the plans settled for the evening, they ordered desert, Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream, and Kensoto picked up the whole tab courtesy of the cash the Terminators dropped on him to make his escape from Missoula and the clusterfuck of the shootings at the 7-11.
After dinner they headed back to Mohammed's parent's house, where he had set up in the basement and his parents were providing him with free rent. Upon arriving, Mohammed's mother's eyes lit up in happiness.
"Kensoto! You made it! Your mom called me and told us what happened. You are welcome to stay with us as long as you need to."
"No mom, Kensoto and I talked about this already. It's not safe for him or for us to stay here. This will be one of the first places the Gestapo come looking for Kensoto if he gets implicated in the shootings. I am going to find some friends he can couch surf with for the time being."
Adding to this security precaution, Kensoto gave more advice.
"Also, don't talk with my parents anymore on your cell phone. Let's just communicate through the secure channels that Kim has set up for this. No emails either."
"OK, I guess that is a good idea." Mohammed's mom replied. "This is so tragic!" she said, bursting into tears.
"Well, hopefully it is temporary and this will blow over in a couple of months." Kensoto replied, felling guilty he had worried her so much.
"Yes, I' sure it will.", she replied without much conviction, but managing a weak smile. "Meanwhile, are you hungry?", she asked.
"Oh no, Mohammed and I went out to dinner. I'm stuffed. Looking forward to a good breakfast though tomorrow morning! I've eaten enough Egg McMuffins for the last week to last a lifetime!", Kensoto declared with a laugh.
"I will make the best breakfast EVER tomorrow morning Kensoto.", Mohammed's mom promised with a smile.
Kensoto and Mohammed headed downstairs to the basement of the McMansion where Mohammed had his digs, and lit up some Ganga to mellow out. Then Mohammed began calling friends to find a couch for Kensoto to sleep on, while Kensoto played Grand Theft Auto V on the X-Box on the Big Screen OLED TV Mohammed got hot from one of his lumper friends at the warehouse. After about the 5th phone call and Kensoto had blown away a few dozen bad guys on GTA5, Mohammed finally located a couch at a reasonable price of $300/mo with 5 other guys in a McHovel across town on the wrong side of the tracks renting out at $1500/mo, less utilities.
"I'm going to need some transportation to get around town, Mohammed. Can we stop by Walmart tomorrow before you drop me off to pick up a bicycle and bike trailer?" Kensoto asked.
"Yea sure. We'll need to get up pretty early though, because I need to be on the docks at 8am if I am going to get at least 2 truckloads to unload for the day. I'll tell mom we'll need breakfast for 6am."
Mohammed headed upstairs to inform his mom on the early wake up call time, and Kensoto rolled one more splif for the night before sack time. The two cousins shared some memories of childhood in West Africa, and recounted some of their experiences since making the migration to the FSoA, then hit the hay for another sunrise in the morning, and new adventures in their lives.
Published on the Economic Undertow on January 30, 2017
Discuss this article at the History Table inside the Diner
Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves
— William Shakespeare
The Colosseum in Rome was named for a gigantic portrait statue of Nero commissioned by the emperor in AD 64 to commemorate … himself. It stood within the Domus Aurea, a 300 acre complexes of palaces, gardens and pavilions Nero ordered built at public expense not far from the old Republican Forum, between the Palatine and Esquiline hills. The Domus’ occupied what was previously a residential district for Roman elites adjacent to a marshy lowland. The grounds can be compared to another marshy lowland favored of the elites, the National Mall in Washington, DC. At 309 acres, the two compounds are not entirely identical: one was intended to be as a tourist attraction, the other, a playground for a single person,.
As for the Domus …
… Its size and splendor will be sufficiently indicated by the following details. Its vestibule was large enough to contain a colossal statue of the emperor a hundred and twenty feet high; and it was so extensive that it had a triple colonnade a mile long. There was a pond too, like a sea, surrounded with buildings to represent cities, besides tracts of country, varied by tilled fields, vineyards, pastures and woods, with great numbers of wild and domestic animals. In the rest of the house all parts were overlaid with gold and adorned with gems and mother-of‑pearl. There were dining-rooms with fretted ceilings of ivory, whose panels could turn and shower down flowers and were fitted with pipes for sprinkling the guests with perfumes. The main banquet hall was circular and constantly revolved day and night, like the heavens. He had baths supplied with sea water and sulfur water. When the edifice was finished in this style and he dedicated it, he deigned to say nothing more in the way of approval than that he was at last beginning to be housed like a human being.
The pond was supplied with water from an aqueduct built for the purpose and surrounded with its own colonnade. The rotating hall and other features were said to be powered by a water wheel. The 400 rooms were arranged on two floors as a kind of maze intended for banquets and entertainments, there are no signs of any sleeping quarters. Nero did not live there but in another palace on the Quirinal Hill.
Rooms were built with 30- foot vaulted ceilings, were lit with skylights and clerestories, decorated with frescoes, elaborate mosaics, fountains and grottoes. The complex was constructed largely of brick and Roman concrete then finished over with marble, alabaster and other colorful stones. Nero’s statue might have been the largest cast bronze artwork of ancient times, exceeding the by-then destroyed Colossus at Rhodes. By comparison, New York’s Statue of Liberty rises one hundred and fifty-one feet from her metal base to the torch. Lady Liberty was built like a car or a washing machine in a factory, assembled from hammered copper sheets riveted together onto an iron armature. Nero’s sculpture was cast in sections which were then braze-welded together and hoisted onto its base. It was a marvel of Roman artistry and craft; the techniques needed to make large castings were lost and forgotten for over 1,200 years until they were reinvented by Donatello in the early half of the fifteenth century.
Not content with showing his proficiency in these arts at Rome, he went to Achaia, as I have said, influenced especially by the following consideration. The cities in which it was the custom to hold contests in music had adopted the rule of sending all the lyric prizes to him. These he received with the greatest delight, not only giving audience before all others to the envoys who brought them, but even inviting them to his private table. When some of them begged him to sing after dinner and greeted his performance with extravagant applause, he declared that “the Greeks were the only ones who had an ear for music and that they alone were worthy of his efforts.”
While he was singing no one was allowed to leave the theater even for the most urgent reasons. And so it is said that some women gave birth to children there, while many who were worn out with listening and applauding, secretly leaped from the wall since the gates at the entrance were barred, or they feigned death and were carried out as if for burial. The trepidation and anxiety with which he took part in the contests, his keen rivalry of his opponents and his awe of the judges, can hardly be credited. As if his rivals were of quite the same station as himself, he used to show respect to them and try to gain their favor, while he slandered them behind their backs, sometimes assailed them with abuse when he met them, and even bribed those who were especially proficient.
As he grew into maturity, Nero was consumed by his insecurities, his crimes were many, there were no checks upon his viciousness and greed. The Domus was built in an area that had been ravaged the great fire of 64:
When someone in a general conversation said: “When I am dead, be earth consumed by fire;” Nero rejoined “Nay, rather while I live,” and his action was wholly in accord. For under cover of displeasure at the ugliness of the old buildings and the narrow, crooked streets, he set fire to the city so openly that several ex-consuls did not venture to lay hands on his chamberlains although they caught them on their estates with tow and fire-brands, while some granaries near the Golden House, whose room he particularly desired, were demolished by engines of war and then set on fire because their walls were of stone. For six days and seven nights destruction raged, while the people were driven for shelter to monuments and tombs. At that time, besides an immense number of dwellings, the houses of leaders of old were burned, still adorned with trophies of victory, and the temples of the gods vowed and dedicated by the kings and later in the Punic and Gallic wars, and whatever else interesting and noteworthy had survived from antiquity. Viewing the conflagration from the tower of Maecenas and exulting, as he said, in “the beauty of the flames,” he sang the whole of the “Sack of Ilium,” in his regular stage costume. Furthermore, to gain from this calamity too all the spoil and booty possible, while promising the removal of the debris and dead bodies free of cost he allowed no one to approach the ruins of their own properties; and from the contributions which he not only received, but even demanded, he nearly bankrupted the provinces and exhausted the resources of individuals.
Nero was known to disguise himself then go out into the city at night and rob passersby, also break into houses and shops and steal the contents which he would later sell in the palace. These encounters were often violent so that soldiers were sent to follow behind at a discrete distance and rescue the emperor from those who fought back.
Then, it became notorious that the depredator was the Caesar; outrages on men and women of rank increased; others, availing themselves of the license once accorded, began with impunity, under the name of Nero, to perpetrate the same excesses with their own gangs; and night passed as it might in a captured town. Julius Montanus, a member of the senatorial order, though he had not yet held office, met the emperor casually in the dark, and, because he repelled his (Nero’s) offered violence with spirit then recognized his antagonist and asked for pardon, was forced to commit suicide, the apology being construed as a reproach.
Nero was suspected of conspiring with his mother to murder by poison his step-father, the emperor Claudius. It is possible the youthful Nero was not involved directly, but he became emperor as a consequence and was thereby an accessory. He later grew weary of his mother’s interference and had her put to death after a brutal ordeal; he also murdered his half-brother, also the daughter of Claudius by his second wife (Claudius had four wives); Nero also killed his own two wives along with the husband of the first so as to gain access to her; also a man who was his mother’s lover; also his first cousin and maternal second cousin along with that individual’s widow, children and father-in-law. Nero did away with many servants including long-time tutors and advisors, Seneca, and possibly Sextus Burrus, his military aide. Due to his insatiable need for funds he used the plot of Gaius Calpurnius Piso as an opportunity to murder hundreds of distinguished Romans; their wives, children, even their servants in order to confiscate their properties, he also murdered ordinary citizens.
Nero needed the money because of his stupendous wastefulness …
Accordingly he made presents and wasted money without stint. On Tiridates though it would seem hardly within belief, he spent eight hundred thousand sesterces a day, and on his departure presented him with more than a hundred millions. He gave the lyre-player Menecrates and the gladiator Spiculus properties and residences equal to those of men who had celebrated triumphs. He enriched the monkey-faced usurer Paneros with estates in the country and in the city and had him buried with almost regal splendor. He never wore the same garment twice. He played at dice for four hundred thousand sesterces a point. He fished with a golden net drawn by cords woven of purple and scarlet threads. It is said that he never made a journey with less than a thousand carriages, his mules shod with silver and their drivers clad in wool of Canusium, attended by a train of Mazaces and couriers with bracelets and trappings.
Nero gave himself over entirely to debauchery and vice.
Besides abusing freeborn boys and seducing married women, he debauched the vestal virgin Rubria. The freed-woman Acte he all but made his lawful wife, after bribing some ex-consuls to perjure themselves by swearing that she was of royal birth. He castrated the boy Sporus and actually tried to make a woman of him; and he married him with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil, took him to his house attended by a great throng, and treated him as his wife. And the witty jest that someone made is still current, that it would have been well for the world if Nero’s father Domitius had had that kind of wife.
All of this and more were paid for out of the Treasury then extracted with increased violence by the tax collectors.
In point of extravagance and notoriety, the most celebrated of the feasts was that arranged by Tigellinus; which I shall describe as a type, instead of narrating time and again the monotonous tale of prodigality. He constructed, then, a raft on the Pool of Agrippa, and superimposed a banquet, to be set in motion by other craft acting as tugs. The vessels were gay with gold and ivory, and the oarsmen were catamites marshaled according to their ages and their libidinous attainments. He had collected birds and wild beasts from the ends of the earth, and marine animals from the ocean itself. On the quays of the lake stood brothels, filled with women of high rank; and, opposite, naked harlots met the view. First came obscene gestures and dances; then, as darkness advanced, the whole of the neighboring grove, together with the dwelling-houses around, began to echo with song and to glitter with lights. Nero himself, defiled by every natural and unnatural lust had left no abomination in reserve with which to crown his vicious existence; except that, a few days later, he became, with the full rites of legitimate marriage, the wife of one of that herd of degenerates who bore the name of Pythagoras. The veil was drawn over the imperial head, witnesses were dispatched to the scene; the dowry, the couch of wedded love, the nuptial torches, were there: everything, in fine, which night enshrouds even if a woman is the bride, was left open to the view.
Nero was a coward, he never led an army in battle, nor was the Empire expanded during his rule. The Romans waged an on-again, off-again war against the Parthians in Armenia (eastern Turkey). An uprising by Boudica in Celtic Britain was triggered by oppressive taxation and cruel Roman administration …
To all the disasters and abuses thus caused by the prince there were added certain accidents of fortune; a plague which in a single autumn entered thirty thousand deaths in the accounts of Libitina; a disaster in Britain, where two important towns were sacked and great numbers of citizens and allies were butchered; a shameful defeat in the Orient, in consequence of which the legions in Armenia were sent under the yoke and Syria was all but lost.
The legions ultimately prevailed in both places, Boudica’s army was scattered and she committed suicide. The Parthians withdrew and Armenia remained a Roman client.
I may fairly include among his shows the entrance of Tiridates into the city. He was a king of Armenia, whom Nero induced by great promises to come to Rome; and since he was prevented by bad weather from exhibiting him to the people on the day appointed by proclamation, he produced him at the first favorable opportunity, with the praetorian cohorts drawn up in full armor about the temples in the Forum, while he himself sat in a curule chair on the rostra in the attire of a triumphing general, surrounded by military ensigns and standards. As the king approached along a sloping platform, the emperor at first let him fall at his feet, but raised him with his right hand and kissed him. Then, while the king made supplication, Nero took the turban from his head and replaced it with a diadem, while a man of praetorian rank translated the words of the suppliant and proclaimed them to the throng. From there the king was taken to the theater, and when he had again done obeisance, Nero gave him a seat at his right hand.
Given a little time it is likely Nero would have put on the bridal veil and wed the king of Armenia, the dowry was already paid. And yet, the ordinary Romans were satisfied with their emperor, whose outrages were directed toward others, whose vices were to them only rumors. The plots against Nero rose from the elites, whom he prosecuted with increased ferocity until he was undone by bad luck: besides pestilence, there were damaging storms and food shortages. Rome was entirely dependent upon grain shipments from the provinces particularly Egypt. Interruptions for any reason held serious consequences. As belts were tightened, Nero’s popularity with the ordinary citizens evaporated:
When another rebellion arose in the western provinces he ignored the warnings, seeming at first not to take them seriously. After a delay of some days, during which he was abandoned by his courtiers and bodyguards, he fled to the house of a servant in a nearby suburb. Declared a public enemy by the Senate, he committed suicide to avoid being beaten to death in the Forum. He was 32.
Nero was in office for fourteen years, which seems to suggest his reign was successful; he was not deified afterward which suggests it was not. Leaving aside the epidemic and famine, it is likely the better classes of Rome had grown anxious of his vanity and licentiousness; the constant demands of the tax collectors; also the debasement of the currency and persecutions and murders. Nero’s follies did not bring the empire to a end or even lead to it; ironically his vast money-waste stimulated the Roman economy … there were no other places for the funds to go outside of the empire. Over the course of the following year, Nero was succeeded by three mediocrities; Galba, Otho and Vitellius; the fourth, Vespasian, was at least competent.
The Domus was a public reminder of Nero’s excesses, within a decade it was stripped of its decorations and partly abandoned to the bats and wild dogs. Parts of the building were used as storerooms or as stables. The pond was drained to allow for the foundations of the enormous amphitheater built in its place. Other parts of the palace were built over or became dumping grounds for garbage and rubble left over from earthquakes and building demolition. It was this accretion of structures and material that preserved the remains of the Domus that can be seen today …
Vespasian removed Nero’s likeness from the Colossus and fitted it a new head representing the Roman sun god; later Hadrian moved the statue to allow construction of the new temple of Venus and Rome on the original site. The triumphal arch of Titus and the Bath of Trajan were built nearby along with warehouses, bakeries and apartments. Note: the temples of ancient Rome were not houses of prayerful worship and propaganda like churches today; the priests acted as notaries, mediators, fiduciaries, keepers of vital records and contracts; temples functioned as banks, law offices and trading rooms as these things did not exist as such during that time. The last mention of Nero’s statue was in a description of the city in a manuscript published 354 AD. It was likely broken up, perhaps toppled by an earthquake, with the remains sold off as scrap: Sic Semper Tyrannis.
– C. Suetonius Tranquilis, ‘The Lives of the Twelve Caesars’
– Publius Cornelius Tacitus, ‘The Annals’
– Furius Dionysius Filocalus / Unknown author ‘The Chronography of 354’
Published on Peak Surfer on January 15, 2017
Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner
We are in a crisis of civilization but most people, by and large, have not realized it yet. It is as if we are a prizefighter in the ring with a stronger opponent and we have just been dealt a knockout punch but we are still on our feet, uncomprehending of what has just happened. It is not as though the fight can continue. We will shortly be on the floor. It is not as though we will suddenly bounce back, alert and still fighting. We are done. We just don’t know it yet. If we are lucky, our opponent will relent for the moment it takes us to go down, sparing us another, potentially lethal blow from which we would be completely defenseless.
Lets bore in on the illusion that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), having been awarded the Nobel Prize, has prescribed a rescue remedy to “avoid dangerous interference with climate” if nations are willing to take it.
Perhaps you concur with that conventional wisdom even while lamenting that national governments lack spine.
“The scientists have been the finger-pointy adults in the room on this issue,” said Andrew Revkin, former NY Times reporter and author of the dot earth blog. But the IPCC quickly learned that not only did it not have any authority to set policy, it was an object of ridicule. It came to expect that any advice it gave would be resisted and so it took measures to soften its approach. It fed governments baby food — sugar coated, easy to digest, and somewhat shy of full nutrition.
Case in point: the IPCC future scenarios (RCPs for “Representative Concentration Pathways”, and ECP’s for “Extended Concentration Pathways”).
Over the course of many years the IPCC science community produced RCP and ECP models representing a broad range of climate outcomes, based on the peer-reviewed literature. The RCPs and ECPs are defined by their total radiative forcing (cumulative measure of human emissions of atmospheric pollution from all sources expressed in Watts per square meter) starting in 2005 and accumulated change by 2100 in the case of the RCPs and 2300 in the case of the ECPs.
In 2011 the figure to the right appeared in the journal, Climatic Change:
The dark grey area contained the range of estimates previously deemed to be 90% certain. The blue line — RCP 8.5 — is tracking closest to actual data at the moment, and so the light great area was added to extend the range to a 98% certainty for 2050-2100.
If you were assigning likelihoods, you would probably give RCP 8.5 a pretty high probability now, but bear in mind you are just looking at where the line begins to arc upwards in 2016 and there is no real evidence that the arc will then settle into a straight line and even bend back down a little in the 2090s. It could as easily turn straight up and shoot off the top of this chart in the 2040-2075 interval.
The other three lines were chosen in 2011 to represent a few selected RCPs that expressed the confidence range. Each RCP could result from different combinations of economic, technological, demographic, policy, and institutional futures. For example, the second-to-lowest RCP assumes technological improvements and a shift from manufacturing economies to service industries but does not make any efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions as a goal in itself. The highest line represents industrial expansion as usual, or, alternatively, industrial contraction supplanted by runaway methane releases, radical deforestation, change of arctic albedo or some other phenomenon, or combination, that keeps the rate of forcing growing even though industrial GHG emissions decline.
The scenario process then moves to translating what effect each Watts per meter change would have on the biosphere.
These scenarios have been developed by the same means humans have planned for their future since we first started keeping history: by observing past events and projecting that process of development into the future. It is entirely linear. Pattern recognition.
Granted, when you are projecting an observed exponential rate of growth into the future (such as a doubling rate for CO2 concentration, which can be taken from Keeling’s Mauna Loa data) at some point the curve turns a corner and rockets upward until the distinction between linearity and non-linearity becomes moot. Like a broken clock, even linear models will be right occasionally in a non-linear world. What the IPCC models do not do, and cannot do, is predict the geobiological results of non-linear change. That’s unknowable.
[T]he present anthropogenic carbon release rate is unprecedented during the past 66 million years. We suggest that such a ‘no-analogue’ state represents a fundamental challenge in constraining future climate projections.
— Zeebe, R., A. Ridgwell, and J. Zachos. 2016. Anthropogenic Carbon Release Rate Unprecedented during the Past 66 Million Years. Nature Geoscience 9:325–29.
|Observed decline in global sea ice to Jan 2017|
A second problem is that the RCPs only look from 2005 to 2100, a little less than a century. Consequently, they do not consider what changes may occur before Earth’s systems may recover equilibrium with the new forcings, a process that can require millennia. For example, estimates of global average sea level rise were recently revised to 2 meters this century, based on observations of ice loss in Antarctica. Those studies did not include observed loss of ice in Greenland and so the revision is still too low. And yet, we know from the geologic record and the equations of thermodynamics that equilibrium for present concentrations of GHGs take global sea level to about 23 m (75 feet) higher than today and average global temperature to about 17 degrees C (30 F) warmer. (Goreau, T.J.F., 2016. Regenerative Development for Rapid Stabilization of CO2 and Climate at Safe Levels, Soil Carbon Alliance White Paper). Even applying the ECPs, the equilibrium state will not likely be achieved by 2300. It could take a few thousand years.
The only thing holding this global tsunami back is the cold depth of the deep blue sea. Deep sea holds around 95% of the heat in the climate system. It is the biosphere’s thermal battery. The deep sea is now just above freezing, but it is warming. If we stopped adding GHGs today, it would take about 1600 years for the ocean to stop warming. Additions are not slowing down however — they are speeding up.
Implicit in the failure of the IPCC to model non-linear dynamics and long-term equilibrium is the gap in information being communicated to decisionmakers regarding the potential for the unexpected. One “known unknown” is the capacity of critical failures to cascade complimentary forcings. Any sound policy response should be building resilience and antifragility to buffer against these unknowns. Employ nature as a hedge. Instead, nature is being rapidly removed and in its place we are being sold risky geoengineering schemes.
IPCC prides itself on taking the conservative approach and being non-alarmist, but it does not offer hedges. To the contrary, it makes grand speculations based on science fiction. The most recent annual reports assume that as we pass some as yet unknown threshold of political pain, presumedly around mid-Century, human civilization will implement large scale CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) and begin pulling legacy carbon back from the atmosphere.
Anyone who has seriously studied this assumption (the US National Academy of Sciences and the UK Royal Society, for instance) has concluded it is one part wishful thinking and 9 parts fairy dust.
CCS does not exist.
Experiments at putting liquefied carbon dioxide into geological storage have been both horrendously expensive and remarkably ineffective — leaking back to the atmosphere relatively quickly. The technology only holds promise for those unwilling to crunch the numbers. In that camp are most of the national delegations to the UN climate talks and much of the business world.
Technological fixes, after all, would be so much easier than systemic social change.
Of the 400 scenarios that have a 50% or better chance of no more than 2°C warming . . . 344 assume the successful and large-scale uptake of negative-emission technologies. Even more worryingly, in all 56 scenarios without negative emissions, global emissions peak around 2010 . . . In plain language, the complete set of 400 IPCC scenarios for a 50% or better chance of meeting the 2°C target work on the basis of either an ability to change the past, or the successful and large-scale uptake of negative-emission technologies.
— Anderson, K. 2015. “Duality in Climate Science.” Nature Geoscience 8:898–900.
Over the next few months, this weekly blog will sketch our manifesto. We will try to set forward a multitrack approach that has a realistic chance of reversing climate change within the short window of time required. It is no secret — it does it by building resilience and letting nature do the heavy lifting.
Motivating this change is another matter. It is our view, born of our experience, that nothing short of extreme social change is capable of relieving the existential crisis of climate change and nothing short of extreme crisis will be capable of motivating that kind of extreme social change. If we learned anything from 2016, it is that people are clamoring for change.
So, buckle your seatbelts. We are going to crash. What it looks like on the other side of that crash, however, is utterly charming. It is not like being hit by Conor McGregor and going down hard in the first round. It is more like a snowboarder’s crash in powder or a kiteboarder on water. You can get back up.
We need not fear the power zone, but we should be cautious as we approach.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on February 5, 2017
Discuss this article at the Anniversary Table Inside the Diner
In my New Year's recap article I covered the recent accomplishments on the Diner in terms of growing the readership base, as well as other notable activities like the SUN Convocation held down in Inman, SC in conjunction with their Harvest Day Festival.
This month marks an even more notable date, it is the 5th Anniversary of the Doomstead Diner Blog & Forum. Keeping a blog going this long on the topics of collapse and trying to stay fresh with new material every day to read is something of a chore, although for me it has the benefit of keeping me bizzy and keeping my mind active.
Many of the other Bloggers I used to cross post are either not active at all anymore, or they post very rarely. For instance, the last blog from Tom Lewis of the Daily Impact was in October of 2016. The last blog Steve Ludlum published on Economic Undertow was a month ago in December 2016 (update: Steve just posted a blog!) and same for Jason Heppenstall of 22 Billion Energy Slaves. Ugo Bardi of Cassandra's Legacy still publishes regularly at least once a week and so does Albert Bates of Peak Surfer.
I also dropped some folks from the list of those I will cross post, either because of disagreements with them or simply because their posting has become so repetitive. The disagreements for the most part come over the question of Near Term Human Extinction, and the degree to which some bloggers have now joined with Guy McPherson of Nature Bats Last on the Hopelessness & Despair Bandwagon. There also are some bloggers as well as people in the commentariat who have become so obsessed with the Climate aspect of collapse it's all they will talk about to the exclusion of all other areas of collapse we have to deal with, most notably Economics, Energy and Geopolitics.
While the climate issue is no doubt quite bad and getting worse, in reality even with very rapid change accelerating up, it's not the proximal problem we have to face. Our economic system is so unstable at this point it could literally collapse any day, and the length of time it takes for it to go completely down the toilet could be measured in days or even hours. While climate may certainly be a more serious problem in 5 or 10 years, it's not that way right now.
Similarly, Geopolitical tensions are at an all time high as Nationalist (Fascist) politicians like Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Frauke Petry gain further power, and tensions between NATO and Russia and the FSoA and China become more extreme by the day. A Global Thermonuclear War is not out of the question as starting up any day either, particularly since there are some neo-con jackasses in the FSoA Goobermint who think such a thing is winnable. If they start pitching out the Nukes, Sea Level Rise is going to be among the last of your worries.
Looked at as a Health problem, it's like having 3 diseases all at the same time, you have a slowly developing cancer tumor, you have pneumonia and you have a faulty valve in your heart. The cancer will take a while to kill you, but the pneumonia will get you first if you don't get rid of it, and until you get rid of that you can't go in for the heart valve operation you need to keep your ticker working. Only once the two proximal problems are resolved is the cancer really an issue.
So here on the Diner in my own blogging, I still mainly focus on the Economic issues which are what brought me into blogging collapse in the first place. Surly mainly focuses on Geopolitical issues, as you can see in his Yearly recap article this year. We also have other Native Diner Bloggers such as Eddie, Monsta, Palloy, Geoff Chia and K-dog who have their own issues they focus on, from the Stock Market and Investment to Standing Rock, Cyber Security and Tiny Homes. In fact the one area we do not cover that regularly on the Blog is the Climate issue, because that issue is being beaten to death on so many other blogs. That is not to say that Climate is not a regular topic for discussion Inside the Diner on the Forum, it most certainly is.
Another issue with respect to Climate Change is really at this point there is not much the individual can do to prevent it. In fact it is unlikely even entire Goobermints could prevent it at this point, even if they all worked together in concert, and that's not going to happen. What the individual CAN DO though is to prepare for Climate Change, in general by moving away from neighborhoods most subject to the worst problems like Drought and regular Flooding events in coastal areas coming from the combination of sea level rise and more active and volatile weather systems. You can also work on becoming more food self sufficient, using techniques like Hydroponics and Aquaculture which are water and fertilizer conservative and more resistant to climate change than typical outdoor agriculture.
If you are a Religious Believer in Near Term Human Extinction, the tendency is toward inaction, because, why bother? In your mind, EVERYBODY is gonna DIE anyhow, and doing all these things at best only gets you a couple of extra years, and do you want to live when everyone around you is dieing?
First of all, without a Crystal Ball you can't really make an absolute prediction on how long it will take before the climate is so bad everywhere that ZERO Homo Saps can survive on the Planet. In the super rapid worst case scenarios of positive feedback loops that Guy McPherson pitches out, he's got everybody dead by 2025 now, which is HIGHLY unlikely. More reasonable fast extinction scenarios are in the 50-100 year range, and if it takes that long and you want to see a few extra sunrises, it's a wise idea to begin planning for this now.
It's also not guaranteed that NOBODY can survive ANYWHERE, even with a Global Average Temperature rise of 10C, which is about as hot as it ever gets on Earth no matter how much CO2 is up in the atmosphere. In all the prior 5 Extinction Level Events not ALL forms of life were killed off, if they were we would not be here today and I would not be keyboarding out this blog post. lol. Who is to say that some Homo Sap cannot survive a higher AGT regime, particularly if they move to higher latitudes and altitudes? Granted, it may not be many, but it's still not extinction until every last member of the species is DEAD.
On other 5 Year Anniversary topics, the Diner has seen many changes and ups and downs over the years, with the first Peak Readership coming in 2014, but now beginning to grow again. The membership of regular Diners also fluctuates quite a bit, with various Diners taking periodic "Walkabouts" when they get too fed up with other Diners or discussing Collapse on a daily basis gets too depressing for them. I don't have the luxury of going Walkabout, since besides blogging I do most of the daily management tasks on the Diner and I also pay the Diner bills. So when I lose patience with other Diners I basically just gotta deal with it, as long as I want to keep this chronicle of the Collapse of Industrial Civilization going anyhow.
Which leads to the question of DO I want to do that? There have been a couple of times in the last year I really became completely fed up with nonsense being pitched out across the forum pages and the behavior of some Diners. I ended up Banning a Diner permanently, something I never hoped I would have to do. I had other Diners I value as friends both in cyberspace and IRL getting pissed off at ME for stuff I said and opinions I hold. There's a lot of fatigue involved here, and besides that just about everything has been discussed, analyzed and talked to death over a 5 year timespan. I have 100s of blogs up and detailed my economic theories at great length. I can usually still find things to write about though, I started a Collapse Novel How I Survived the Collapse as one means to have more to write each week. Fiction is inexhaustible, as long as you have a decent imagination anyhow.
A couple of months ago after one disagreement I determined that I would close down the Diner Forum on the 5th Anniversary, and just run the Blog to publish the HISC Novel, and maybe any non-fiction of late breaking Collapse Newz that was big enough to merit attention. These days, there's only around 10-15 regular Diners posting up on the forum and it's never been that huge, even at the peak of Diner Readership in 2014. Forums appear to have been supplanted by Social Media like Facepalm and Twitshit as the Go-To places for people to chat with friends and not so friends interested in similar topics to themselves. I don't like either one of those platforms, so I wouldn't switch over to them in any case.
So if I did shut down the forum, I really would not have any place to go chat about collapse and write my own little diary of stuff that happens to me but really isn't worthy of a full blog. Like my recent problems with my car batteries and with the heat going out in my digs (although that might actually be worthy of a full blog). For the Diners who still do participate on the forum also, it becomes kind of habitual to see what's up, and we trade Newz Links all the time on the newz channels, although not nearly as much anymore as we used to when we had some prolific Newz Linkers like Knarf, the Buddhist Monk participating. Still, the newz articles that are dropped on are usually very well selected and not ones I may have run across during my own web surfing time. So I get additional information and perspectives on collapse this way.
For Newz Links now I also run the r/globalcollapse Sub-Reddit, and I participate regularly on the larger collapse sub, r/collapse. However, as discussion platforms go, Reddit isn't much better than Facepalm, and it's definitely no substitute for the kind of intelligent and in depth discussion we still occassionally engage in Inside the Diner on the Forum.
So after considering all of this, I changed my mind and I will keep the Diner Forum running along with the Blog. For the Diners who still do drop in regularly, it's still a great place to catch up on the latest Collapse Events and to do some bickering. lol.
5 Years is a pretty good run for a blog, especially one where you try to have something new up each day and write yourself at least once a week. In the old days, TV Series used to have an average lifespan of around 3-5 years, although you got a few like Gunsmoke and MASH that ran for 20 years. On the Daily level, it's more like a Soap Opera, which had to be a real grind for both the writers and the actors. Days of Our Lives has run continuously nearly every day since 1965! That's over a half a century!
The Diner of course is unlikely to last 45 more years. I definitely won't last 45 more years anyhow, and the Internet itself unlikely to last 45 more years. In the meantime though, Collapse Days of Our Lives is renewed for another season at the URL DoomsteadDiner.net.
The Diner Show Must Go On!
Thanks again to all the Diners who have helped make the Diner what it is…
#1 for Doom on the Net! 🙂
RE Superstar of Doom
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on February 5, 2016
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
–Pastor Martin Niemoller
Our foreign policy requires an externalized enemy, as our economy requires a state of permanent war. Were peace to break out across the world, the US economy would shudder to a halt within 60 days.
Ever since Reagan announced "Morning in America" we have been tempted with the promise of returning America to the golden postwar era when white male colossi like Patton, Marshall and MacArthur strode like heroes astride a grateful world. And the corresponding postwar boom in which American industry sold everything it could make to a prostrate world. Who paid for it with money we lent them.
Trump's call to "Make America Great Again," prints nicely on red ball caps but is short on specifics. One example put in practice is the recently announced Muslim Ban, giving color of law to demonization of the Muslim "other." [Note: On Friday night, U.S. District Judge James Robart blocked the entirety of trump’s de facto Muslim ban from taking effect. His ruling, which applies nationwide, froze all relevant provisions of trump's executive order.]
In a recent Harper's article, Lawrence Jackson ruminates about the leaders of the Atlantic-facing victors, usually known as "the West:"
The most arrogant inhabitants of these nations …understood themselves to be the ordained directors of human beings across the globe, across space and time. They were committed to civilization by the sword. Yet not even Reagan was mighty enough to reinstall the American militants who ached to battle the Russians and the Chinese. Reagan took to politics for what he couldn’t achieve in his original profession, acting. He stood in the shadow of John Wayne, a cultural hero who… declared that the problem was that the values of white rule weren’t being exported vigorously enough. Wayne’s films gave audiences a steady dose of what historian Richard Slotkin calls “regeneration through violence.” Both civilization and capitalist bonanza depend on violent encounters and imperial expansion. If the country is to be healthy, it needs some frontier populated by some brand of enemy.
After 9-11, to forestall a "peace dividend" breaking out, America's best minds concocted the Global War on Terror, a concept plastic enough to permit many interpretations, and unwinnable enough to guarantee the Permanent War Economy. Having recently defined that enemy as brown people planet-wide coming for our golfs and guns, now they have infiltrated our borders! Clear and present danger! Wearing hijab! Sharia Law in our streets! Can female genital mutilation for Barbie be far behind?
Enter trump. In our empathy-free times, we think little and care less about what such reckless decisions mean to individuals. Today I am going to challenge you to care.
Several weeks ago, I listened to a Ted Talk by Deeyah Khan, raised in Norway by an Afghan mother and Pakistani father. Khan recounted the rejection and isolation felt by Muslim kids growing up in the West, and the way they get squeezed between two worlds. At a time when executive action careens towards an unconstitutional ban on immigrants fleeing the very countries we bomb, this talk opened my eyes—and ears.
Khan recounted the story of how she had to subsume her own dreams for her life and take on those given her by her father. To be famous, he said, “it's either got to be sports, or it's got to be music." So he threw away her toys and dolls at age seven, and was given a ratty Casio keyboard. She practiced music for hours each day.
Khan started singing and playing, and became good enough to perform before growing audiences. Let her tell it:
I became almost a kind of poster child for Norwegian multiculturalism. I felt very proud, of course. Because even the newspapers at this point were starting to write nice things about brown people, so I could feel that my superpower was growing.
Until one day, she was headed into a store for candy, and found her way blocked by a man intent on making sure she understood who really ran things in Norway.
There was this grown white guy in the doorway blocking my way. So I tried to walk around him, and as I did that, he stopped me and he was staring at me, and he spit in my face, and he said, "Get out of my way you little black bitch, you little Paki bitch, go back home where you came from." I was absolutely horrified. I was staring at him. I was too afraid to wipe the spit off my face, even as it was mixing with my tears. I remember looking around, hoping that any minute now, a grown-up is going to come and make this guy stop. But instead, people kept hurrying past me and pretended not to see me.
So she learned that when faced with persecution of brown people, white people tend to not want to get involved. But her fellow brown people would have her back, right? Not exactly.
Some men in my parent's community felt that it was unacceptable and dishonorable for a woman to be involved in music and to be so present in the media. So very quickly, I was starting to become attacked at my own concerts. I remember one of the concerts, I was onstage, I lean into the audience and the last thing I see is a young brown face and the next thing I know is some sort of chemical is thrown in my eyes and I remember I couldn't really see and my eyes were watering but I kept singing anyway. I was spit in the face in the streets of Oslo, this time by brown men.
The threats continued and the oppression, this time from her fellow Muslims, got worse. And it took the edge that we often hear that the Islamic world visits upon women:
The death threats were endless. I remember one older bearded guy stopped me in the street, and said, "The reason I hate you so much is because you make our daughters think they can do whatever they want." A younger guy warned me to watch my back. He said music is un-Islamic and the job of whores, and if you keep this up, you are going to be raped and your stomach will be cut out so that another whore like you will not be born.
Her family realized they could no longer keep her safe, so they sent her to London. She resumed her music career, but with similar results.
Different place, but unfortunately the same old story. I remember a message sent to me saying that I was going to be killed and that rivers of blood were going to flow and that I was going to be raped many times before I died. By this point, I have to say, I was actually getting used to messages like this, but what became different was that now they started threatening my family.
Eventually after transitioning to work as a maker of films, she moved again, this time to the US. She makes this point:
What most people don't understand is that there are so many of us growing up in Europe who are not free to be ourselves. We're not allowed to be who we are. We are not free to marry or to be in relationships with people that we choose. We can't even pick our own career. This is the norm in the Muslim heartlands of Europe. Even in the freest societies in the world, we're not free. Our lives, our dreams, our future does not belong to us, it belongs to our parents and their community.
So this lack of freedom to choose personal autonomy is what we decry in our conflict with Islam: "Islam is a death cult." "Look how it treats women." Yet compare and contrast with the policies announced and espoused by the current trump/pence regime.
Trump wants to completely ban abortion, with exceptions only for rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is in danger. He's backed this up by showing support for a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. He has also said there should be "some sort of punishment" for women who seek abortion if outlawed.
He has said of Planned Parenthood, which provides low-cost family-planning services, cancer screenings, and other health care to millions every year, "It is like an abortion factory, frankly."
Mike Pence said he wants to see Roe v. Wade on "the ash heap of history", and has a long record of attacking reproductive freedom in his state.
Also on the books are rollbacks of all 25 of the grant programs managed by the Office on Violence Against Women, housed in Justice. The grants, established by 1994’s Violence Against Women Act, go to organizations working to prevent domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and elder abuse. Perhaps to be expected from an administration that featuresprincipal with a history of domestic battery.
Denying women reproductive freedom has long been the Holy Grail of Christian Dominionists who have never gotten over The Pill. The Pill gave women the ability to control pregnancy, and with it far more autonomy over their lives. Couple these efforts with the assault on programs that combat violence agaist women, and you begin to trace the outlines of a program to re-chattelize women that sounds positively… Islamist.
Consider in the singular example of Deeyah Khan how Islamists treat women, and realize that this story is re-enacted across the world millions of times over. Then compare with announced trump/pence policies designed to deny women access to services won over decades of activism and legislation. It would appear that the difference is merely one of degree. Policies to repress the rights of women stem from the same shrunken root: an insecure manhood and a need for control. Women, beware short fingered vulgarians and the men who serve them.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Published on From Filmers to Farmers on February 3, 2017
Feeling in a bit of a masochistic mood a couple of Saturdays ago I decided to take a stroll over to the Donald Trump protest outside of Melbourne's State Library, the place to be if you had the need of getting the wax cleared out of your ear drums. I managed to listen to the first couple of speakers, but the inanity of it all became way too overwhelming and I realized I had to get my apparently not-quite-masochistic-enough arse out of there before I did something stupid like turn around to the lady behind me and tell her "I hope you're hurting your voice as much as you're hurting my ears."
Not that I needed the protest to confirm things for myself, but there still doesn't seem to be all that many people in the United States – nor Australia for that matter – that appear to have much of a grasp of why it is that so many people managed to have voted for Trump, some pundits even dismissing the very reasons when they're staring them right in the face – that this was essentially the result of class warfare, not racism. Just before leaving office Barack Obama himself stated that had of he run for a third term he would have defeated Trump. If he's correct – and I think he is – then how is it that Trump won the election thanks to racism? Put a bit differently, how is it that Obama was able to win two elections in a nation that's supposedly so racist that it was able to put Trump into office? Answer: That's not why Trump got elected.
Fact of the matter is that out of the two most detested candidates in US election history, voters were more disgusted with the tried-and-tested corruption, and so rather than vote for the devil they knew who wouldn't release her Wall Street speeches and possibly would have started a war with Russia, they voted for the devil they didn't know who wouldn't release his taxes and might possibly start a war with China. As a result, and with many would-be Democrat voters deciding to sit this one out, Hillary Clinton received 3.5 million fewer votes than Obama did in 2008, and could very well have been the one person in the United States most unlikely to beat Trump.
Anyway, while Trump protesters couldn't be doing a better job of doing exactly what is needed to get Trump re-elected in four years' time, Australians might be doing exactly what is needed to get Pauline Hanson – dissenter of "multiculturalism" and leader of Australia's right-wing One Nation party – eventually elected as well, albeit with a bit of "catch up" required first. Because if Hanson can bide her time, it's only to her benefit that Australia happens to be a country populated by a significant enough amount of bigots which may one day be enough to tip the scales in her favour. And no, what I'm talking about isn't Australia's storied preponderance of racial bigots, but the astounding amount of classicist bigots it has. All one needs to look at for evidence of this is the tragic event that unfolded in Melbourne's CBD just two weeks ago to the day.
Deciding to delay my lunch by half an hour so I could get my latest blog post up, while walking up Elizabeth Street to the Queen Vic Market I happened to be cut off at Bourke Street by police tape that was just going up, about half an hour after a crazed individual had indiscriminately plowed through pedestrians on one of Melbourne's busiest streets, killing six and injuring scores of others.
Without knowing what had happened I pulled up Reddit on my phone-number-deficient smart phone to get the low-down, and going through the first round of comments on the relevant post it wasn't too surprising to see a stream of people surmising it was an ISIS hit and that Muslims were ultimately behind it all. These were the racial bigots, and they were summarily responded to with derision by their fellow Redditors.
An hour or so later it was revealed however that not only was the crazed individual not affiliated with ISIS in the slightest, but that he wasn't Muslim either – he was a born-and-bred Australian of European background who had been involved in a stabbing just a few hours earlier. While this shut up the racial bigots, a whole new wave of comments came in denouncing the individual as a "bogan meth-head". These commenters are what I'd call the less sophisticated portion of Australia's classicist bigots, and as is about the standard fare here the derision on Reddit was nowhere to be seen this time around. (I have noticed exceptions before, but they're comparably rare.)
For those who don't know the local lingo, "bogan" is Aussie for the more American and Canadian epithet of "redneck". Spend enough time here, and with Australia being one of the most urbanized countries in the world (one can never actually overtake the kollapsnik's wet-dream of Singapore of course), if you have an eye or an ear for such things you might soon notice that Australia should perhaps be more known for its classicist bigotry rather than its racial bigotry.
Gold diggers out to get their hands on the Trump family jewels
While it's often stated that racial bigots are "uneducated" (which I think is a gross over-simplification), I've come to notice, in Australia at least, that most classicist bigots stem from the educated classes. And while there is undoubtedly Australians who like to "punch up", I can't help but get the impression that there is a vastly greater amount of Australians who like to "punch down", down upon those who they themselves are intent on not becoming. And although this can only be chalked up to personal, anecdotal experiences, the majority of Australian classicist bigots that I've come across have been of the female persuasion, and a majority of those have been of non-European backgrounds (some born in Australia, some not). Coincidences? For the most part, yes, I think so (I certainly hope so!). Nonetheless, I think it speaks volumes when the part of the population (and I'm not just talking about women with non-European backgrounds) that prides itself over its supposed inclusiveness via "multiculturalism" – a system that is supposedly free of prejudice against other people – readily, and most often without derision sent back its way, partakes in "punching down" – the quasi national sport for the recently vindicated and their European brethren of the more privileged classes.
As recently stated by Tim Soutphommasane, Australia's race discrimination commissioner and author of the book Don't Go Back to Where You Came From: Why Multiculturalism Works, "Too often people can forget that the burden of racial tolerance isn't something that weighs upon everyone evenly." Very true. But what isn't also mentioned is that people – possibly even Soutphommasane – can forget that the burden of socio-economic tolerance isn't something that weighs upon everyone evenly either. And if there's one person out there that understands and took advantage of this, that would be Donald Trump.
To Trump's advantage, the candidate he was up against in the recent United States general election happened to be a classicist bigot, one that wasn't quite adept as he was at BSing certain portions of the populace. Perhaps it was a bit unfair when Clinton was called out for wearing a $12,000 Armani jacket while giving a speech on income inequality, because it should be no surprise that billionaire Trump routinely wears $7,000 Brioni suits. But while Clinton could nonchalantly state to the "LGBT for Hillary Gala" crowd that "you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables", Trump was in Las Vegas (absurdly) stating that "I love the poorly educated!" One of these people was better than the other at hiding that they're full of it – as well as at pandering to the poor, the racial bigots, and the Bernie Sanders supporters disgusted with the sabotage-extraordinaires Hillary Clinton, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the Democratic National Committee – and it was that person who won the election.
The voluntary inmates protesting Trump, escorted and proceeding
in an orderly fashion (those are police vehicles in the top-left)
In the meantime, the one candidate that wasn't full of it (albeit seemingly daft when it came to peak oil and the collapse of industrial civilization) had his campaign sabotaged by Clinton, Schultz and the DNC, and had of he fairly won the Democratic primary it's quite likely that he would have trounced Trump at the polls. That being so, who then is ultimately more responsible for Trump's election? Trump's backers, or Clinton/Schultz/the DNC and all those who voted for Clinton in the Democratic primaries, in effect preventing Sanders from being the rightful president of the United States, a president who by no means would have required a Woman's March?
On top of that, is firing away at Trump really going to be any more productive now than it's been over the past year, or is it not possible that it's the very thing that will further galvanize his supporters (and win him new ones) on his way to re-election in 2020? Trump's strategy has essentially been to (falsely) frame himself as the victim of a rigged system and then pander to millions of people who are victims of a rigged system, rigged for people like, well, him. Not only that, but Trump is still playing the victim, and people are still falling for it – most recently with his comment in front of the CIA's Memorial Wall where he claimed to have had more inauguration attendees than Obama in 2009. (I've expounded on this strategy of Trump's earlier, one where he's playing the "heel" of which he's drawn upon from his time in World Wrestling Entertainment.)
What Trump is essentially doing is running the "eternal campaign" (as South American populist presidents have been doing for decades), because not only has he not errantly forgotten to get out of campaign mode, but rather is already campaigning for 2020 – "Keep America Great!" is the campaign slogan he's already registered – although he doesn't seem to have gotten the domain name in time. The only thing left to wonder is, once the United States is inevitably in a (by no means Trump-induced) appreciably worse economic and social condition in three years' time, whether Trump will place the blame on Obama or some other scapegoat, or whether he'll claim against all evidence that things are doing much better than before and that any media outlet and pundit who says otherwise is lying.
This is where we return to the situation in Australia, the place where the operator of Hanson's social media strategy, Saraya Beric, seems to have at least an inkling of what's going on. As The Guardian reported,
The more party figures attacked Hanson – who routinely attracts withering derision from members of the broader public opposed to her right-leaning agenda – the more supporters rallied around her, Beric says.
Isn't it a bit ironic that by voting for the corrupt vagina-clad
candidate in the Democratic primaries that we're now having
Vagina Marches to stop the vagina grabber? Particularly
when there were women much more worthy than Clinton,
and who don't playing the gender card?
If Hanson's as sharp as I'm not so sure she is, I imagine she'd be well served by having her followers going around places like Melbourne and Sydney and rather than have them tear down Donald Trump protest posters, have them take just one down, photocopy it a few hundred times, then plaster said cities in hopes of riling up the vitriolic, earwax-clearing anti-Trump sentiment. And if she could figure out her own way to bait her opposition into denouncing her the way Trump did with all his Tweeting and "straight talk", then she may be able to create an aura around her of somebody who's on the receiving end of the classicist bigot's condescension, thus gaining sympathy with what is bound to be Australia's increasing population of "bogans" (more on that in a moment).
Because while Trump does have some valid platforms (he did after all back out of the TPP, as Sanders would have done), Hanson does as well (One Nation is provisionally against coal seam gas, AKA hydraulic fracturing, AKA fracking). And the more Trump has gotten vilified, and the more his economically downtrodden supporters have been dismissed as nothing but deplorable, irredeemable, sexist, racists, the more his voters – some of whom fall under none of those categories/stereotypes – have gotten galvanized. Even worse, these marginalized portions of the world's first-world countries are quite likely to increase in the next few years when the next economic bubble bursts (the fracking bubble?), enlarging the proportion of those who see people like Trump as the "human molotov cocktail" to be thrown upon the "punching down" portion of the upper crust, and possibly as the means to burn down the village to
save burn down the village.
Returning to Australia again, if there's one thing though that Hanson doesn't have going for her it's that Australia is nowhere close to being the socio-economic basket case that the United States is. While Australia's minimum wage of AUD $17.25 is almost double that of the United States' USD $7.25 per hour, it also has a pretty decent universal health care system (although not as good as Canada's if I'm not mistaken), a decent unemployment system, a decent retirement system, and on and on. However.
This can't, and won't, last forever – and probably for not too much longer either, for the simple reason that the onset of peak oil and other energy shortages imply the protracted collapse of industrial civilization in Australia, just like everywhere else. While Australia came out of the recent recession virtually unscathed for the simple reason that China was its largest trading partner, the United States and the worldwide economic slowdown has finally been catching up with China, which has thus had its desire for Australian coal, iron, and other mining products – the biggest, but shrinking, sector of Australia's economy – wither away. On top of that, and with Australia having reached its peak of oil supplies in 2000 (increasingly supplanting them with imports from Middle Eastern countries, which themselves are on their way to peaking), the party is really on its way to being over.
Taking all this into account, one need only look at the creeping situation in Australia: while the mining industry is slowly collapsing, Australia has willingly jettisoned its entire car manufacturing industry and now must import every last vehicle. It should go without saying that losing and disposing of a growing amount of predominantly blue-collar jobs bodes no better for Australia than it has for the United States, and Melbourne and the rest of Australia has another thing coming to it if it really thinks it can sustain its way of life via imports of Chinese tourists, imports of Chinese students paying inflated student fees, and imports of latté-sipping Europeans.
In the meantime, Hanson's One Nation secured 4.3% of Australia's vote in 2016's federal election, including 9% of the vote in Queensland. Is Queensland therefore a "backwards" den of "bogans" – as educated, female visible minorities proud of their "multiculturalism" have told me – or might it actually be an early warning system providing a closer ear to the ground? Taking a look at the election results in the northern beach suburbs of Queensland, it is seen that One Nation actually scored as high as 24.7% of the vote in some regions; could something be in the drinking water that's making Alice River, Deeragun, Northern Beaches, and Bluewater more racist than other places? Not quite.
Lo and behold, and mimicking what's been going on in the United States' rust belt areas that voted for Trump (after, I'll repeat, they had Sanders stolen from them by Clinton/Schultz/the DNC), these suburbs surround the now-defunct Yabulu nickel plant. So while there may very well be a higher than average amount of people who hold racial prejudices in certain parts of Queensland than other parts of the country, it's quite possible that a fair amount of these people who are being economically marginalized are vulnerable and/or susceptible to falling for racial scapegoating (which in Australia may unfortunately not be very tough to pull off), or that for whatever reason they've felt that they've had little other option that to hold their noses while voting for One Nation.
In regards to the former, while Australia is a nation pretty much founded on racism (which, to be fair, so is the United States – a country founded by slave owners who wanted their freedom from the oh-so oppressive Brits) and which only four decades ago got rid of its White Australia policy, there's also the fact that 49% of Australians recently polled as being in support of One Nation's ban on Muslim immigration, including 34% of Green Party respondents. And just a few days ago Scott Morrison – Australia's current treasurer, former immigration minister, and the guy who some see as the country's next back-stabbing successor to the prime minister's office – refused to denounce Trump's recent travel ban and instead stated that "Really, the rest of the world is catching up to Australia." And that's all during a time when the Australian economy is still doing quite well. One can only imagine how such situations are going to escalate once things actually start to get hairy (and by hairy I mean hairy – hairier than all the front-mullets of Melbourne's hipsters combined).
"When [fill in the blank], we fight back!" Alright, sure
While mentioning all this to an acquaintance of mine – a card-carrying member of Victoria's Green Party and former political science student nonetheless – I was assuredly told that because of Australia's parliamentary system where politicians – not the people – pick the party leader, Hanson will never be able to come to power in a major party. And because of preferential voting, I was again assured, One Nation will never be able to win an election. Roughly translated, this suggests that better-off Australians can screw over the lower classes and the otherwise economically marginalized all they want and not suffer any blowback nor rendezvous with pitchforks, thanks to governmental firewalls. "It can't possibly happen here!"
Not only is this nonsense (and bound to backfire), but this was said to me after said individual informed me over and over again that were he American he would have voted for Trump in order to rid the country of Clinton corruption. In other words, the cognitive dissonance in Australia can be just as astounding as anywhere else.
This all being so, is attacking Hanson and One Nation head-on the wisest thing to be doing if the idea is to avoid a White Australia Redux? We've already seen – and still see, but generally still aren't cluing in – that this hasn't, isn't, and won't ever work with Trump. But having also attended a Hanson/One Nation protest a few months ago (out of curiosity – and masochism) where the modus operandi seemed to be that "we" win if we can yell louder than they can (and which gave me the impression that rabies does in fact exist in Australia), the approach seems to be the exact same as to what got Trump elected in the first place. Namely, the dismissal of the concerns of the marginalized, and the over-simplifying idea that voters of right-wing populists are nothing but backwards, racist "bogans", thus missing out on the valid concerns that right-wing leaders – sometimes far right-wing leaders – are tapping into: economic marginalization.
Is there anything that can be done to counter this? Well, having read Soutphommasane's book a few years ago, it's quite apparent that he has absolutely no comprehension of what multiculturalism authentically is. In short, since the term "culture" comes from the Latin cultura (to cultivate plants and/or animals), an authentic multiculturalism would, at its base, thus entail multiple methods of cultivation – the implication being local cultures adapted to their places, irrespective of skin colour or any other differences. For as I wrote in a previous post (in part 1/4, listed below),
It's often said that 'we are what we eat.' But since the majority of the food that the majority of us eat is grown in monocultures, would that not then make us monoculturalist rather than multiculturalist?
With everything I've written in this post in mind, I'm starting to get the impression that the only way to stop this far-right insurgence is to outflank them, similar to how Trump snagged the disaffected would-be-Democrat-voters who watched as Clinton and company sabotaged Bernie Sanders' campaign. How to do that? Well, as absurd as it sounds, and having nothing to do with that identitarian BS, the best way to assure that Australia never sees Hanson and One Nation (or some other equiavalent) rise to power might very well be to rescind Australia's Multicultural Policy, the same as it got rid of its White Australia Policy some fourty years ago.
I won't start elaborating on that for another few months, but in the meantime, and for those who are a bit curious and want a head start in understanding what an "authentic multiculturalism" actually is, I'll leave you with the following (which I'll be re-posting before I start elaborating):
Paging Tim Soutphommasane!
Published on the The Slog on January 28, 2017
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
Why the False Alphas in power fear citizens who discriminate, discern and decide for themselves
There has always been a tension between the citizen self as selector of the best future, and the controlling State as guardian of the revered past. Elector naivety and technological advance are combining to destroy contrarian creativity.
I want to open today if I may with a brief observation about the noun ‘discrimination’, and the verb to discriminate.
The history of this noun over the last half century has been one of almost unmitigated negativity. Although in the last two decades it has been replaced by the even more vague suffix ‘ism’, it began life in the race relations industry as ‘racial discrimination’ – that is, discrimination against someone on the basis of ethnicity – skin colour, facial features and so forth.
This has led two generations to be unthinkingly convinced that all discrimination is A Very Bad Thing. By slipping into such a misguided belief, they have allowed the idea to take hold that nothing – no person, no country, no system and indeed no culture – should be “judged”….except, of course, about those things that their own belief systems deplore….and even there, double standards abound and abide.
My point is simply this: among many other elements of genuine tolerance, what the intolerantly correct have forgotten is the diametric difference represented by discrimination against and discrimination between.
The ability to discriminate between truth and lie, persuasion and dictation, original and copycat, silly and sensible, intelligent and wise, genuine and counterfeit, real passion and simulated enthusiasm, social good and political tactic, ideological bigotry and measured governance – or ultimately, empirical and fanciful – is the most important foundation stone of equality of opportunity and civilised fair play. It underpins everything to do with the best option.
The muddling of ‘against’ and ‘between’ goes a long way towards explaining the contemporary retreat of, and decline in, the persuasive power of those of us broadly in favour of kindness, compassion, laughter, goodwill and reality in the shaping of communities.
Sadly, it also explains completely the nonsense of “quotas of success” based on gender, age, social class, culture and ethnicity. It promotes the poorly qualified as a sop to indiscriminate equality – and allows those who succeed on the basis of tribal connections based on nepotism, networks, old school ties and so forth to laugh in the face of those with better qualifications being left behind. It dumbs down education by lowering the bar. It patronises those perceived by radical chic whites to be “in need of help” to succeed. And above all, it results in a dearth of competence. But apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, it’s an excellent play.
It is ironic, is it not, that Leftlib fluffy fancy helped produce a mathematically illiterate Tory Chancellor in George Osborne, and a constitutionally illiterate Shadow Home Secretary in Diane Abbott. Neither have any of the qualifications required for good governance, and both of them are obscenely obvious double-standard hypocrites.
It would probably be fair to say that the Left has lost the plot on social equality, the Right retains its plot to remain socially superior…and the Establishment continues to pervert any semblance of equality before the law.
This is why I have seen myself for many years now as both disenfranchised by politics, and yet at the same time above it. It’s why I reject ideological hubris in favour of Benthamite governance to the benefit and fulfilment of the greatest number.
The Left is obsessed with special-case minorities, the Right remains determined to promote the undeserved privilege of monied minorities. A plague on both their houses, I say.
But there is more to my frustration with contemporary Groupthink than a simple desire to be rid of its dysfunctional discipline.
The West’s cultures – especially those pertaining in the UK and US – represent a coincidental copulation between two devilish influences: the insistence on ideological conformity, and the development of increasingly advanced technology.
Homo sapiens has been (for all its flaws) a remarkably successful species. This success is based on competitive selection within tribes, and cooperation between them. Not only do we have powerful survival instincts and unconscious selective drives, the overwhelming majority also have a left brain hemisphere which dominates the emotions while we are awake.
The bad news is that, for much of the time, the uncontrolled drive for greed and power among a tiny minority ensures their emergence as what I choose to call False Alphas. These self-styled leaders do not operate for the good of the greatest number in human society….but their fame, power, oratory and wealth make them highly electable to public life, the most likely to succeed in business and banking, and the most attractive to potential Alpha and Beta partners of the opposite gender.
Be they persuasive as part of a political Party, social movement or religious tendency, the control freakery of such False Alphas insists on unswerving loyalty to a belief system in general, and them personally. The application of “correctness” to several key areas of human life – education, religion, politics, gender relations and commerce – has been an enabling process for the establishment of rigid conformity. I think there is little doubt that it started in politically devised education; but there is no knowing how or where it will end, other than the certainty of tears being involved.
The bottom line is a stronger pull towards the herding instinct than perhaps at any time in the recorded history of Homo sapiens. Referring back to the first section of this essay, there has never been more pressure to stop the natural process of intelligent minds discriminating between what they are told….and what they might, as unique individuals, think. Seventy years ago, George Orwell predicted the emergence of Thoughtcrime. Today’s robotic thinking is but a small step away from such legislation….think ‘non-violent extremist’. Think Theresa May.
It is to our great collective misfortune that this inherent danger has been exacerbated by technology in many forms.
It allows for 24/7 surveillance of actions and geographical location – a capability bound to strike fear into the hearts of intelligent contrarians.
Worse still, it presents itself variously as fun, as positive social behavour, and even “for your own protection”. For the less intelligent or enquiring among us, Facebook and Twitter, Blogging threads, vlogs and so forth are called – surprise, surprise – social media. In reality, they are anything but. Equally, every shop, petrol station, public arena, club, mall, legislature, bank and office building is riddled with cameras.
But while this is the highest profile concern in 2017 – and even now, I would estimate only around 15% of any citizen franchise is worried – there are other dimensions of technology at least as dangerous to the survival of personal liberty.
Uppermost in my mind at the minute are a growing genre of “labour saving/greater efficiency” devices.
SatNav is one. Not only does it, in neuroanatomy terms, cause the orienteering centres to atrophy; it is also developing in a direction via which in-car devices will be two way: you will know exactly where you are…and so will the security services.
Buying online is another. Much easier, cheaper and convenient than physical shopping in most cases: but opening every castle’s front door to those keen to know what you’re buying…from which they can extrapolate why. Would you, today, go to a website explaining fully what paedophilia is and offering scientific books about it for sale? I wouldn’t: such an action could be construed by sovereign blackmailers as more than enough evidence to put you away as “some kind of sicko”
EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at the point of sale) is a third very real and present danger. Stops the risk of being mugged for your cash, saves all that struggling with change…and increasingly now, no need even for a pin number on smaller purchases: tap the terminal with your magic plastic and hey presto – paying for stuff was never easier. What this process will facilitate, of course, is the eventual disappearance of untraceable cash…and your last chance of nickel-and-dime tax evasion – while large multinational businesses continue to make ‘deals’ that are flagrant tax evasion in return for cash-flow.
In the last year alone, France has cut the amount one can pay a supplier in cash by 90%….and developed an ID card for self-employed suppliers designed to become, over time, an electronic record of all outgoings and receipts – but already issued with an upfront tax demand for €2,500.
In that same year, electorates in Britain and America have dared to flout received wisdom and vote down what the Establishments so clearly want. The reaction of both the neocon and liberal élites to these developments has been to orchestrate “opposition” to the democratic decisions involved. This is reassuring to the duped herds, and frightening for the objectively supine.
More and more of us are supine, distracted, disenfranchised, and cynical than ever before. More and more monied power is being distributed among fewer and fewer False Alphas than ever before. More and more easily updated records exist to control, scold, threaten and smear every contrarian voice. More and more types of tax expenditure and privilege have moved beyond our power to oppose them.
In 2017, 21 out of 28 EU States have overt legislation making it illegal to encourage non-payment of tax.
On every level, our ability to discriminate between élite greed and good governance is under attack and thus being undermined. At every turn, the False Alphas’ ability to discriminate against individual citizens via financial, social and media penalties is being expanded. But the Rule of Law and Equality before the Law are withering on the vile dead wood feared by every discerning cultivator of civilisation.
Don’t be fooled by those who insist that to critique the status quo is to commit a criminal act. To paraphrase JFK, “Ask not what your State can do for you….investigate instead what your leaders are doing to you in the name of the Superstate”.