petrocollapse

Hot Brain, Cool Brain

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Published on Peak Surfer on June 12, 2016

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Discuss this article at the Psychology Table inside the Diner

 

 

  Lion and wolf cubs, when they learn to stalk prey, learn fairly quickly that they must delay the urge for immediate gratification if they are to be successful. They have to cultivate patience.

 

 
Babies who are taken to their mother's breast whenever they cry do not learn this as early. Those allowed milk only after they stop crying, and maybe even then not right away, learn patience.
 
Last month Walter Mischel gave a Long Now talk that eventually found its way to our earbuds as we bicycled through Amish country in Southern Tennessee.
 
It is wheat harvest time here and Amish men are out scything the sheaves, tying bundles, and forming them into shocks to field dry in the sun. When the wheat has cured, the shocks will be collected by horse wagon and carried back to the barn for threshing. The Amish abide in the Long Now.
 

Walter Mischel’s psychology experiment at Stanford in the 1960s took students from the Bing Nursery School, put them in a room one-by-one, gave them a choice of a cookie, mint, pretzel, or marshmallow and the following deal: they could eat the treat right away, or wait 15 minutes until the experimenter returned. If they waited, they would get an extra treat. 

Michel and his team then went behind the one-way glass and filmed for 15 minutes.

Footage of these experiments, which were conducted over several years, is poignant, as the kids struggle to delay gratification for just a little bit longer. Some cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they can’t see the tray. Others start kicking the desk, or tug on their pigtails, or stroke the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal. One child, a boy with neatly parted hair, looks carefully around the room to make sure that nobody can see him. Then he picks up an Oreo, delicately twists it apart, and licks off the white cream filling before returning the cookie to the tray, a satisfied look on his face.
— Jonah Lehrer, The New Yorker 


The genius of the experiment was not in discovering what percentage of children delayed gratification and how that might correlate to sex, age, race, ethnicity or income, but in following the children with a longitudinal study for the rest of their lives.

 

As they matured and became adults, the kids who had shown the ability to wait got better grades, were healthier, enjoyed greater professional success, and proved better at staying in relationships—even decades after they took the test. They were, in short, better at life.
— Drake Bennett, Bloomburg 

 

Mischel showed that a child’s ability to delay eating the first treat predicted higher SAT scores (by 210 points) and a lower body mass index (BMI). They got paid more, lived longer, and had fewer divorces. 

 

 
In 2012, researchers at the University of Rochester added more nuance to the original work.  In "Rational snacking: Young children’s decision-making on the marshmallow task is moderated by beliefs about environmental reliability," Celeste Kidd, Holly Palmeri and Richard N. Aslin tested children who had little reason to trust that the scientists would return in 15 minutes versus a control group of children who were more likely to have trust. Children raised in homeless shelters or alleys, for instance, have much less faith in the reliability of their environments, or adult authorities, than children who are raised in stable family settings surrounded by environmental constancy.
 
What do children plucked from bus station bathrooms do when told that if they delay gratification they will get a bigger reward? They eat the treat right away. While the study is too recent to track those kids for a lifetime, the long term effects of mistrustful childhood do not require a leap of imagination.
 
Kidd et al report:
The results of our study indicate that young children’s performance on sustained delay-of-gratification tasks can be strongly influenced by rational decision-making processes. If self-control capacity differences were the primary causal mechanism implicated in children’s wait-times, then information about the reliability of the environment should not have affected them. If deficiencies in self-control caused children to eat treats early, then one would expect such deficiencies to be present in the reliable condition as well as in the unreliable condition. The effect we observed is consistent with converging evidence that young children are sensitive to uncertainty about future rewards.
***
To be clear, our data do not demonstrate that self-control is irrelevant in explaining the variance in children’s wait-times on the original marshmallow task studies. They do, however, strongly indicate that it is premature to conclude that most of the observed variance—and the longitudinal correlation between wait-times and later life outcomes—is due to differences in individuals’ self-control capacities. Rather, an unreliable worldview, in addition to self-control, may be causally related to later life outcomes, as already suggested by an existing body of evidence.
 
There is also an existing body of evidence that tells us that humans are predisposed to disbelieve scientific facts, or even their own experiences, if they conflict with strongly held beliefs. This is likely the phenomenon most responsible for our failure not merely to make the cultural changes required of us to avert climate Armageddon and Near Term Human Extinction – even simple lifestyle changes like eating lower on the food chain, cutting discretionary travel, living in a smaller house and having no more than one child – but our failure to even acknowledge, as individuals or collectively, that we have a problem. We have chosen instead, to use the words of Dr. Kidd, an unreliable worldview.
 
As John Michael Greer says, human beings are like yeast. They respond to increased access to food and energy with increased reproduction. In other words, marshmallows make us horny.
 
Our cockeyed worldview has a concatenation of causes. We are products of the religious views of our parents. We inhabit a globalized culture that infantilizes us while it trains us to become dedicated followers of fashion.  We like hearing the sound of our "own" voice in our heads. Add all that up and it amounts to simmering distrust. We are not at all prepared to delay gratification. The average child in Kidd's study waited only 6 minutes.
 
In his Long Now talk and in his book, The Marshmallow Test,  Walter Mischel spoke of our internal dialog in terms of a conflict between the "hot brain" that wants to operate on impulse and take what is right in front of it, and "cool brain," that is willing to wait, willing to trust, and then to reap the greater rewards.
 
Those who find themselves more often on the winning side – whether in athletics, business, politics or relationships – are those who have cool brains. They play the long game.
 
All too often they use the inabilities of opponents to see that long game to pad their advantage. That is how they get ahead.
 
Climate change and the existential threat it holds cannot even be perceived without a long view. It needs a cool brain, not a hot one. But there is a self-reinforcing feedback being played out here that does not work in favor of our species. Climate change weirds the normal course of things. It makes the environment for everyone unreliable. It seeds distrust. It makes brains hot.
 
The question then becomes, how can we develop cool brains? Mischel suggests several techniques of ideation that can help build self-control. What is clear, however, is that the best self-control starts early in life and is built upon a foundation of trust. The environment a child experiences will affect how much trust they can invest in adults, their culture — its rules and social responsibilities — and their future. Take away stability and trust from children and the effects of that loss ripple out to very large consequences for everyone.
 
"By changing cognitive skills and motivation, we can use the cool system to regulate the hot system," Mischel says. "Is it all pre-wired? My answer is an emphatic no."
Attention control strategies and cognitive transformations/reappraisals can 'cool' the immediate temptations and 'heat' the delayed consequences is what's important.
***
The point I am trying to make is that if we are going to talk seriously about taking long term consequences like climate change into account, we've got to make the consequences hot. We have to really make them hot. And that's not easy to do.
 
One of the reasons that it is not easy to do is because that limbic system, that hot system that activates automatically when you have high stress, is there for good reason.
 
We have often wondered whether continuing to write scary tomes about our future is an effective strategy. Mischel says it is and we need more of it. But we also need to cool our brains once they have grasped hot consequences.
 
His advice is to narrow the economic class divide, teach self-control in schools, assume everyone is capable of improving their skills, and stop creating new victims of biological and social biographies.
Mischel’s main worry is that, even if his lesson plan proves to be effective, it might still be overwhelmed by variables the scientists can’t control, such as the home environment. He knows that it’s not enough just to teach kids mental tricks—the real challenge is turning those tricks into habits, and that requires years of diligent practice. “This is where your parents are important,” Mischel says. “Have they established rituals that force you to delay on a daily basis? Do they encourage you to wait? And do they make waiting worthwhile?” According to Mischel, even the most mundane routines of childhood—such as not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning—are really sly exercises in cognitive training: we’re teaching ourselves how to think so that we can outsmart our desires. But Mischel isn’t satisfied with such an informal approach. “We should give marshmallows to every kindergartner,” he says. “We should say, ‘You see this marshmallow? You don’t have to eat it. You can wait. Here’s how.’ “
— Jonah Lehrer
 
From the presidential campaign now playing out in the United States and similar dramas in Brazil, Philippines and elsewhere, we can surmise that a cool brain standard is not in the immediate offing. It is easy to see the distinctions between the many hot brain / instant gratification candidates and constituencies, whose policies would widen the class divide, rekindle the Cold War and heat the planet, and the rare cool brain / calm and steadfast candidates and constituencies, who want to end divisive rhetoric, level the playing field, and pursue a path to real progress in peace, justice and transformative change.
 
Voting these days is like choosing between the hot faucet and the cold faucet, but only the hot faucet works.
 
Watching the Amish gather in the sheaves we see a culture that invests in trust. Children grow up relying on adults to be steadfast, seasons to come and go, and the good earth to provide. They learn self-denial and delayed gratification early. It becomes a joyful practice because it underpins a greater love of community, and the return of community love for each member.
 
Humans are capable of these things. We are capable of designing entire societies that function this way. Whether we choose to act rationally, with self-control, and not on impulse, is simply a matter of choice.

The Paris Gravity Well 2: Trillionization

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Published on Peak Surfer on January 24, 2016

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Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner

"We will not suddenly convert steel mills, cement kilns and road surfacing machines to operate on sunbeams."
 

Charlie said, "That's the trouble. You see it the way the banking industry sees it and they make money by manipulating money irrespective of effects in the real world. You've spent a trillion dollars of American taxpayers' money over the lifetime of the bank and there's nothing to show for it. You go into poor countries and force them to sell their assets to foreign investors and to switch from subsistence agriculture to cash crops. Then, when the prices of those crops collapse, you call this "nicely competitive" on the world market. The local populations starve and you then insist on austerity measures even though your actions have shattered their economy….

"You were intended to be the Marshall Plan, and instead you've been carpetbaggers."

— Kim Stanley Robinson, Sixty Days and Counting: Science in the Capitol (2007).

“With fundamentals changing slowly and risk appetite falling rapidly, the stage is set for a longer period of risk asset underperformance,” Jabaz Mathai, a strategist at Citigroup Inc., said.  “There is no quick fix to the headwinds facing global growth.”

"Similar periods of weakness have occurred in only five other instances since 1985: (1) the majority of 1988, (2) the first half of 1991, (3) several weeks in early 1996, (4) late 2000 and early 2001, and (5) late 2008 and the majority of 2009 … all either overlapped with a recession, or preceded a recession by a few quarters."

There has been a storm brewing since the last trifle with full-on collapse in 2008-2009. The extend-and-pretend debt balloon was reinflated and stretched to new enormities as Keynesian cash infusions fueled a Minsky Moment, if not a Korowicz Crunch.

The instability in finance is compounded by the instability in demographics. In Mexico City, Bogata and Rio they call them NINIs — the millions of youth between 15 and 24 who neither study nor work. They are now about a fifth of the population in the underdeveloping world, responsible for higher rates of homicide, gangs, and unwed pregnancy. Of those born to NINI mothers, there is a 22.3% greater likelihood of becoming a NINI, according to the World Bank. All this tinder simply builds, bides its time, wanders the streets, waits for a revolutionary spark.

As we said here last week, the trigger for the markets' sudden move may have been what happened in Paris but could not stay in Paris. When it filtered out from the December summit that 195 countries had actually done the unimaginable and set a goal of carbon neutrality, meaning phasing out net fossil fuel emissions by 2050, the financial sector was at first caught dumbfounded. The World Bank guys flinched.

Now it has sunk in. The Guardian reports:

Former OMB Chief David Stockman's recap

Investors face a “cataclysmic year” where stock markets could fall by up to 20% and oil could slump to $16 (£11) a barrel, economists at the Royal Bank of Scotland have warned. In a note to its clients the bank said: “Sell everything except high quality bonds. This is about return of capital, not return on capital. In a crowded hall, exit doors are small.” It said the current situation was reminiscent of 2008, when the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank led to the global financial crisis. This time China could be the crisis point.

Government subsidies are about to undergo a titanic shift. Many governments spend more on fossil-fuel subsidies than they do on health and education, more than a trillion dollars. Consumer benefits such as subsidized fuels and cheap finance add $548 billion per year. Government support for companies to expand production add another $542 billion just in G20 overdeveloped countries, and a mere top 8 of those will spend $80 billion of this kind every year, four times the investments going to renewables globally.

Tomorrow those same Big-8, and 188 others, will begin spending several times those trillions subsidizing renewables. Jeremy Leggett, founder of Solar Aid and Solarcentury, calls it "trillionization." It won't begin to fill the energy gap that the switch will create, but the psychology of sunk investment will be in charge from thereon out.

Oil producing states and countries are aghast. The "clear signal" that Paris sent was not what they were expecting. In Alaska, the Permanent Fund has been running in the red and the legislature is talking about an income tax. Had the Paris Agreement not come together, they might hope for a rebound of fossil prices and investments in drilling the North Slope and Arctic Refuge.

Petroblas, the national oil company of Brazil and wellspring of the Brazilian Economic Miracle, is now cash negative. It will be forced to turn to the government for a bail-out, but to where will its government turn?

In Mexico, the deficit is running 100 billion and the peso has dropped from 12 in 2014 to soon-to-be 20 against the dollar. If you have dollars you can get a meal in a good restaurant or a room for the night for 5 or 10 of them. So far in January the price rise of food for the average Mexican is alarming. Onions are up 19%, poblanos 15%, bananas 10%, tomatoes 9%.
 
The national oil company, PEMEX, came out on Monday saying it is not true that its operating with losses, but below the $26 per barrel it would be. On Tuesday the price dropped to $24.74. It closed the week at $22.77 but as we write this you can buy a barrel in Mexico City for as little as $20.32. Mexico's federal budget is entirely dependent on oil money and don't look now but Mexico, when it was petrodollar flush, became a net importer of most staple foods and many other essential commodities, which helps explain the grocery dilemma. Mexico now buys onions, poblanos, bananas and tomatoes from California. Also beans, corn and rice.

Gotta love those World Bank guys.

Venezuela, which surprised everyone by signing the Paris Agreement at the final hour, declared an economic emergency on January 15. France, which foolishly drank too much atomic kool aid thinking it might spare itself from petrocollapse, has a budget shortfall of 2.2 billion dollars and declared national economic emergency on January 17. The jobless rate in France, the eurozone's 2d largest economy, is above 10%, compared with a 9.8% EU average.

Andrew Roberts, RBS’s credit chief, said:

European and US markets could fall by 10% to 20%, with the FTSE 100 particularly at risk due to the predominance of commodity companies in the UK index. London is vulnerable to a negative shock. All these people who are long [buyers of] oil and mining companies thinking that the dividends are safe are going to discover that they’re not at all safe.

We suspect 2016 will be characterized by more focus on how the exiting occurs of positions in the three main asset classes that benefited from quantitative easing: 1) emerging markets, 2) credit, 3) equities … Risks are high.

Zero Hedge reports:
 

"For dry bulk, China has gone completely belly up,” said Erik Nikolai Stavseth, an analyst at Arctic Securities ASA in Oslo, talking about ships that haul everything from coal to iron ore to grain. “Present Chinese demand is insufficient to service dry-bulk production, which is driving down rates and subsequently asset values as they follow each other.”

“China’s slowdown has come as a major shock to the system,” said Hartland Shipping’s Prentis. “We are now caught in the twilight zone between shifts in China’s economy, and it is uncomfortable as it’s causing unexpected slowing of demand.”

The continued collapse of The Baltic Dry Index remains ignored by most.

According to  Zero Hedge:

The North Atlantic has few to nil cargo traveling in its waters. Instead, the giant container ships are anchored. Unmoving. Empty.

Commerce between Europe and North America has literally come to a halt. For the first time in known history, not one cargo ship is in-transit in the North Atlantic between Europe and North America. All of them (hundreds) are either anchored offshore or in-port. NOTHING is moving.

This has never happened before. It is a horrific economic sign; proof that commerce is literally stopped.

The slow response to the Paris outcome has been a complete portfolio review by every actuary and bean-counter in the biggest banks and investment houses, pension funds and mutuals. Hedge fund managers are scratching and sniffing for places to park billions being lifted from soon-to-be-stranded fossil assets. The clean-tech market, signaled first by China, is reacting by recycling cash out of fossil holdings.

Peter Sinclair of ClimateCrocks.com reports:

The Energy Information Administration calculates in its 2015 analysis that the average U.S. levelized cost for new natural-gas advanced combined cycle plants is 7.3 cents per kilowatt-hour — the same as solar.

However, to compare accurately, we have to add about 10 percent to the cost of solar to firm up this variable resource. So we’re close to cost parity, but not quite there.

At $1 per watt, the levelized cost falls to just 5.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, well below cost parity with new natural-gas plants. With two-axis trackers and the best solar resources, which increase the capacity factor to 32 percent, that cost falls to just 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. We’re headed to $1 per watt as an all-in cost in the next five to 10 years.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported last summer that wind power was the cheapest source of power in the U.K. and Germany in 2015, even without subsidies. The article’s tagline reads: “It has never made less sense to build fossil fuel power plants.” The same article highlights the feedback loop that solar and wind power have in terms of reducing the cost-effectiveness of fossil fuel power plants due to the dispatch order of renewables versus fossil fuel plants.

The solar singularity is indeed near (here?) in the U.S. and increasingly around the world. I described previously that 1 percent of the market is halfway to solar ubiquity because 1 percent is halfway between nothing and 100 percent in terms of doublings (seven doublings from .01 percent to 1 percent and seven more from 1 percent to reach 100 percent). The U.S. will reach the 1 percent solar milestone in 2016. We’re halfway there. Buckle your seatbelts.

There are plenty of unemployed oil workers ready for retraining. James Howard Kunstler: 

So, in 2015, the shale oil companies laid off thousands of workers, idled the drilling rigs, and kicked back to pray that the price would go back up. Which it didn’t…. The landscape of North Dakota is littered with unfinished garden apartment complexes that may never be completed, and the discharged construction carpenters and roofers drove back to Minnesota ahead of the re-po men coming for their Ford F-110s.

To see what does well in the new, post-Paris domain, watch stocks like First Solar (FSLR), Renewable Energy Group (REGI), SolarCity (SCTY) and Siemens (SIE) over the next quarter, and mutuals like Firsthand Alternative Energy (ALTEX), New Alternatives (NALFX) and Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy (GAAEX). Some of these know their audience and have vowed to screen for social justice. Gabelli SRI AAA says, for instance:

The fund will not invest in the top 50 defense/weapons contractors or in companies that derive more than 5% of their revenues from the following areas: tobacco, alcohol, gaming, defense/weapons production….

There is a psychology that sets in once the corner is turned on fossil investments that may make a big difference in the political debate about climate change. For more than half a century the GOP, the Fossil Lobby and Wall Street have blocked, cut or delayed investments in renewables and papered it over with greenwash. Forced by pledges made in Paris — and a legally-binding agreement with the word "shall" used 143 times — and the emergence of a huge new global competition to begin not only unchaining the clean-tech sector, but to actively promote it with subsidies, research grants and moonshot-scale deployments, the psychology of chasing after sunk investments will drive an apolitical energy conversion.

Moreover, 350.org and Greenpeace are ramping up campaigns to make sure the promises made in Paris are kept.
 

No pipelines, no mines. You said 1-point-5!
No pipelines, no mines. You said 1-point-5!
No pipelines, no mines. You said 1-point-5!

Clean energy will not deliver a 1:1 replacement for fossil fuels. Get over it. We will not suddenly convert steel mills, cement kilns and road surfacing machines to operate on sunbeams. But the investments we do make, and the worsening weather, will drive us to make even more and ever larger investments, in a forlorn search for a full replacement. While wasteful, it is not nearly as wasteful as the industrial and military investments of the past century or more.

Persian Gulf wars, going back to antiquity, have never been fought over sunlight. As David Stockman recently recalled:

[A] 45-year old error … holds the Persian Gulf is an American Lake and that the answer to high oil prices and energy security is the Fifth Fleet.

***

That doctrine has been wrong from the day it was officially enunciated by one of America’s great economic ignoramuses, Henry Kissinger, at the time of the original oil crisis in 1973. The 42 years since then have proven in spades that its doesn’t matter who controls the oilfields, and that the only effective cure for high oil prices is the free market.

The switch to sunlight will make the lives we are living better for many, especially those on the front lines of the oil wars, even as we continue towards an Anthropocene Armageddon with little sign of being able to change that trajectory.

Guy McPherson is fond of reminding us, after University of Utah professor Tim Garrett's deft analysis, that industrial civilization is a heat engine.

In a well-read article in Climate Change in November 2010, Garrett ran the simple arithmetic:

Specifically, the human system grows through a self-perpetuating feedback loop in which the consumption rate of primary energy resources stays tied to the historical accumulation of global economic production — or p×g — through a time-independent factor of 9.7±0.3 mW per inflation-adjusted 1990 US dollar.

If civilization is considered at a global level, it turns out there is no explicit need to consider people or their lifestyles in order to forecast future energy consumption. At civilization’s core there is a single constant factor, λ = 9.7 ± 0.3 mW per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar, that ties the global economy to simple physical principles. Viewed from this perspective, civilization evolves in a spontaneous feedback loop maintained only by energy consumption and incorporation of environmental matter.
 

Unsold cars sit on receiving docks all over the world

Because the current state of the system, by nature, is tied to its unchangeable past, it looks unlikely that there will be any substantial near-term departure from recently observed acceleration in CO2 emission rates. For predictions over the longer term, however, what is required is thermodynamically based models for how rates of carbonization and energy efficiency evolve. To this end, these rates are almost certainly constrained by the size and availability of environmental resource reservoirs. Previously, such factors have been shown to be primary constraints in the evolution of species


What this means is the same thing that Gail Tverberg, Richard Heinberg and many others have been saying for a very long time — modern economies are a product of cheap energy. Take that away and they crash and burn. That’s the good news. Garrett says there is no other climate remediation model that works. Civilization is a heat engine whether it is powered by nuclear fusion or photovoltaics. The global economy must crash for humanity to stand a chance. McPherson would take it a step farther and say it is already too late, enjoy what time you have.

The famous Fermi paradox raises the question: why haven’t we detected signs of alien life, despite high estimates of probability, such as observations of planets in the “habitable zone” around a Sun-like star by the Kepler telescope and calculations of hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy that might support life. To produce a habitable planet, life forms need to regulate greenhouse gases such as water and carbon dioxide to keep surface temperatures stable. Early extinction, before interstellar communication, solves the Fermi Paradox. So does merely the extinction of civilization capable of interstellar communication without the same degree of trauma. No civilization, no heat.

But wait! Can that excess heat civilization is producing be turned into air conditioning for the planet? Is there a permacultural decroissance that could rescue our genome? Stay tuned, but first, next week, we play the Trump card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blowback Paris: Exxonomics 102

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Publishes on the Peak Surfer on November 13, 2015

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Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

"‘If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks, they’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions.' – George W. Bush, 2006"
 

 

This past week a number of our respected readers took us to task for our post, Exxonomics 101, not because we were wrong (although we were visited by our usual gaggle of climate deniers) but because we had made so many bald statements about US foreign policy without referencing sources.

We wrote:

"That whole shooting match in Syria, driving millions of refugees into Europe, is about whether Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran and a proponent of a gas pipeline from Iran across Kurdistan to the sea, will be deposed by ISIS terrorists trained by CIA in the Colonel Kurtz style of spectacular horror and funded by the Pentagon so that the US could instead build a pipeline to European markets through Syria from Iraq. The Russian Air Force, with a new generation of fighters that can fly circles around anything built by Lockheed Martin, is looking like it will decide that one. It is pulverizing ISIS."


We find our critics' point about undocumented sources valid, so this week we'll dive deeper into the morass which is petropolitics in hopes of speeding the day it will become paleopolitics. This will be about three times longer than our usual post. We could have broken it into three parts – a four semester course in Exxonomics – but we could just visualize our regular readers slipping out for a smoke in the parking lot.

On Friday evening Paris was attacked by a coordinated, well-armed guerrilla group that caused at least 129 deaths and 352 injuries, 99 critical, while losing 8 jihadis. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. As we shall show in this post, direct responsibility for the attack traces back to President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Parenthetically, Sen. Bernie Sanders on September 18 voted against the United States financing, training and arming ISIS by proxy astroturf Syrian "freedom fighters.") The Paris attacks are being called France's worst terrorist attack, but only a day earlier, ISIL attacks on Beirut left 41 dead and 181 injured and in the week before IS is believed to have downed a Russian passenger jet over Egypt with 224 people on board. 

The President of France was quick to link the attacks to its own military action in Syria, calling for stronger efforts at "regime change" to oust Assad. In the Syrian conflict, France is anti-Assad. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is pro-Assad. Russia is an ally of Assad. The ISIS targeting has nothing to do with President Bashir Al-Assad. It has to do with confusion.

The Origins of ISIS

In our humble opinion, it should be abundantly clear that the Beltway NeoCons, who were unable to gain much traction for their most wacky ideas with Carter, Bush-I or Bill Clinton, burned rubber with Bush-II, a.k.a. Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice. Yahoooo! Just wait until they meet Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Pushed to the fore during that golden era of unaccountability was the proposition that for Right Wing Christianity to prevail over Fundamentalist Islam in the Battle of Armageddon to come, it will be necessary to fragment the Middle East and to get those Oil Sheiks and Gas Kings who are busy spending petrodollars on military hardware to fight each other.
 

Ronald Reagan meets with future Al Qaeda leaders in the White House

Zbigniew Brzezinski:

Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.


Last week touched some nerves when we described the US’s 9/11 moment as a new Pearl Harbor,  despite the loss of fewer civilian casualties that day than when GHW Bush galloped through Panama City chasing after one of our assets gone off reservation. Then followed the “smoking gun” Kabuki at the UN Security Council, untold billions in small bills being offloaded from numerous C-130J Super Hercules for delivery to non-state-actors, the downing of Paul Wellstone’s plane, and we’ll anthrax your mailbox if you oppose us on this.

We know, even fellow travelers like James Howard Kunstler just closed their laptops and walked away. If you are allergic to conspiracies, well, sorry. Conspire means to breathe together. If you are willing to stick around, then take a deep breath.

We opined long ago that the YouTube'd kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl was at the behest of the CIA because he was a loudmouth. The orange jumpsuit was a pretty good “tell” that this was not just a ragtag band of rag-head discontents putting a knife to his throat. Now we propose to prove that.

Here are a few more threads:

Although the FBI now admits that the 2001 anthrax attacks were carried out by one or more U.S. government scientists,  a senior FBI official says that the FBI was actually told to blame the Anthrax attacks on Al Qaeda by White House officials (remember what the anthrax letters looked like). Government officials also confirm that the white House tried to link the anthrax to Iraq as a justification for regime change in that country.

Similarly, the U.S. falsely blamed Iraq for playing a role in the 9/11 attacks – as shown by a memo from the defense secretary – as one of the main justifications for launching the Iraq war. Even after the 9/11 Commission admitted that there was no connection, Dick Cheney said that the evidence is “overwhelming” that al Qaeda had a relationship with Saddam Hussein’s regime, that Cheney “probably” had information unavailable to the Commission, and that the media was not ‘doing their homework’ in reporting such ties. Top U.S. government officials now admit that the Iraq war was really launched for oil … not 9/11 or weapons of mass destruction (despite previous “lone wolf” claims, many U.S. government officials now say that 9/11 was state-sponsored terror; but Iraq was not the state which backed the hijackers).

In a thorough but very long post by Washington's Blog on September 11, 2015, Antiwar’s Justin Raimondo observes:

Iraq’s fate was sealed from the moment we invaded: it has no future as a unitary state. As I pointed out again and again in the early days of the conflict, Iraq is fated to split apart into at least three separate states: the Shi’ite areas around Baghdad and to the south, the Sunni regions to the northwest, and the Kurdish enclave which was itching for independence since well before the US invasion. This was the War Party’s real if unexpressed goal from the very beginning: the atomization of Iraq, and indeed the entire Middle East. Their goal, in short, was chaos – and that is precisely what we are seeing today.

Europe is reeling from the waves of refugees pouring across every border as people from all walks of life flee from the randomized violence wrought by this atomization, set against a background of unsustainable population growth, resource depletion and rapid climate change. In Syria, with a population of little more than Florida, some 250,000 civilians have been killed by the violence brought about by the Western attempt at regime change. And yet there seems to be a disconnect between cause and effect, as a disproportionate amount of money is spent to atomize more while band-aids like border detention centers are erected to further victimize the victims.

"You will find that regime change– whether it was in the early '50s in Iran, whether it was toppling Salvador Allende in Chile or whether it was overthrowing the government Guatemala way back when– these invasions, these– these toppling of governments, regime changes have unintended consequences." –– Sen. Bernie Sanders


It seems evident to us, if not to most, that President Obama and Hillary Clinton were initiated to the strategy of inflicted chaos some time ago, perhaps during the 2008 transition when Brzezinski was on the Obama foreign policy team, or maybe earlier, when Obama studied under Zbiggy at Columbia. Since 2010 they have extended the plan to other parts of the Empire. Hence Victoria Nuland’s mischief in Kiev — the Balkanization of the Balkins if you will. Puerto Rico wants to become the 51st State but they may have to stand in line behind Estonia.

One of our critics said we were not known as an expert on foreign affairs, but, hey, news flash! We don’t claim to be expert on anything. We are merely opinionated, like Donald Trump or Quentin Tarrentino. Still, it might be worth tracing the evidentiary breadcrumbs we have been following.

The ‘Skittles’ Theory

Brian Whitaker, writing for The Guardian in September, 2003, said the game plan among Washington's hawks has long been to reshape the Middle East along US-Israeli lines.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt predicted devastating consequences for the Middle East if Iraq is attacked. “We fear a state of disorder and chaos may prevail in the region,” he said.

    ***

They are probably still splitting their sides with laughter in the Pentagon. But Mr Mubarak and the [Pentagon] hawks do agree on one thing: war with Iraq could spell disaster for several regimes in the Middle East. Mr. Mubarak believes that would be bad. The hawks, though, believe it would be good.

For the hawks, disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan.
 

    ***

The “skittles theory” of the Middle East – that one ball aimed at Iraq can knock down several regimes – has been around for some time on the wilder fringes of politics but has come to the fore in the United States on the back of the “war against terrorism”.

Its roots can be traced, at least in part, to a paper published in 1996 by an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Entitled “A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm”, it was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Binyamin Netanyahu. As the title indicates, it advised the right-wing Mr Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism ….”
 

    ***

The paper set out a plan by which Israel would “shape its strategic environment”, beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad.

With Saddam out of the way and Iraq thus brought under Jordanian Hashemite influence, Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and “roll back” Syria. Jordan, it suggested, could also sort out Lebanon by “weaning” the Shia Muslim population away from Syria and Iran, and re-establishing their former ties with the Shia in the new Hashemite kingdom of Iraq. “Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them”, the paper concluded.
 

    ***

The leader of the “prominent opinion makers” who wrote it was Richard Perle – now [2003] chairman of the Defence Policy Board at the Pentagon. Also among the eight-person team was Douglas Feith, a neo-conservative lawyer, who now holds one of the top four posts at the Pentagon as under-secretary of policy.
 

    ***

Two other opinion-makers in the team were David Wurmser and his wife, Meyrav (see US think tanks give lessons in foreign policy, August 19). Mrs Wurmser was co-founder of Memri, a Washington-based charity that distributes articles translated from Arabic newspapers portraying Arabs in a bad light. After working with Mr Perle at the American Enterprise Institute, David Wurmser is now at the State Department, as a special assistant to John Bolton, the under-secretary for arms control and international security.

A fifth member of the team was James Colbert, of the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa) – a bastion of neo-conservative hawkery whose advisory board was previously graced by Dick Cheney (now US vice-president), John Bolton and Douglas Feith.

The rise of the Islamic State

"At times it can resemble Andy Kaufman in the wrestling ring, taunting Memphis hayseeds that he's from Hollywood, where people use their brains." — Bill Maher on the ISIS threat.

On October 14, 2015, Sophie Shevardnadze interviewed FBI whistleblower Sibel Edwards for the back story on US covert support for ISIS. President Obama had just come out to say the rise of Islamic State was never properly addressed by the U.S. intelligence community. Dangling from the President's puppet strings, Vice-President Biden then stepped to the Press Room podium to scapegoat NATO and its Arab allies, saying it was they who funded jihadists, not the US. (Laughter). This is still the official position. Lets look at the evidence.

 
 


This video from LiveLeak shows an Apache attack helicopter following a huge ISIS convoy of white pickup trucks crossing from Iraq to Syria but instead of attacking is more or less “escorting” it across the border. The key "tell" is not the Apache but the Toyotas. While crossing the desert for 3 days in a very long convoy line, they did not elicit a military response from NATO or the US in spite of 24/7 satellite surveillance.

That still does not pin it on the US. ISIS could be supported by our NATO allies, whom Biden says are the real bad actors here. The Apache might just be supporting evil NATO.

But then, U.S. counter-terror officials launched an investigation into how ISIS got so many of those identical Toyota pickup trucks for their convoys.

The Spectator reported:

The [Toyota] Hilux is light, fast, manoeuvrable and all but indestructible (‘bomb-proof’ might not, in this instance, be a happy usage).  The weapons experts Jane’s claimed for the Hilux a similar significance to the longbows of Agincourt or the Huey choppers of Nam. A US Army Ranger said the Toyota sure ‘kicks the hell out of a Humvee’ (referring to the clumsy and over-sized High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle made by AM General).

    ***

The fact is the Toyotas were supplied by the US government to the Al Nusra Front as ‘non-lethal aid’ then ‘acquired’ by ISIS.


This is how it was outlined by PRI (Public Radio International):

Recently, when the US State Department resumed sending non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, the delivery list included 43 Toyota trucks. Hiluxes were on the Free Syrian Army’s wish list. Oubai Shahbander, a Washington-based advisor to the Syrian National Coalition, is a fan of the truck.

“Specific equipment like the Toyota Hiluxes are what we refer to as force enablers for the moderate opposition forces on the ground,” he adds. Shahbander says the US-supplied pickups will be delivering troops and supplies into battle. Some of the fleet will even become battlefield weapons.

That’s exactly what happened, along with shoulder-fired Manpad ground-to-air missiles, TOW antitank missiles and other fancy smart weapons. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

The U.S. and its regional allies agreed to increase shipments of weapons and other supplies to help moderate Syrian rebels hold their ground and challenge the intervention of Russia and Iran on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. officials and their counterparts in the region said.

It now appears that while Russian fighter jets can evade or outrun Manpad missiles, ISIS may have used a Manpad to shoot down a Russian civilian airliner last week, killing more innocent civilians than died in Paris.

Al Nusra Front is literally Al Qaeda. The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan – Lt. General William Odom said:

By any measure the US has long used terrorism. In ‘78-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism – in every version they produced, the lawyers said the US would be in violation.

Here is a part of last month's exchange between Sophie Shevardnadze and Sibel Edwards:

SS: Now, the former CIA chief and the ex-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. is looking at at least a 30-year war against ISIS, which is not at all what the White House is telling the public. Is he exaggerating? What’s your estimate?

SE: I would say it’s a very short period; I’m really surprised, because we just talked about the brand change. The war against Al-Qaeda was declared as a “forever war” and it has been expanding. I mean, when the war against Al-Qaeda started, it was supposed to be in Afghanistan, and we started chasing Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and Pakistan with all the drone attacks, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the fact that this was going to be a forever war… and now that the brand has changed to ISIS, I’m very surprised that the former FBI director is stamping it with a short-time period. I believe 30 year period is very short, unless that have already in plan other sects or other factions that they are going to declare the “world’s great and most dangerous terrorists”, I would say it’s a very short period of time. We currently are more interested in an ongoing, never-ending, perpetual war, so I would, if you compare it with what we have been characterizing – or our government and the media – Al-Qaeda, I’m surprised that he has put such a short time-stamp on ISIS. Considering the attraction, or the attractiveness, of the brand, because it has the world “Islam” built into it, and let’s just forget Al-Qaeda. I mean, Al-Qaeda was the just the noun, the name – and this case you’re looking at the far-reaching implications. Now you declare that current greatest threatening organization that has the word “Islam” built into it – and I think it’s much more attractive to be used. So, I would say, yeah, it should be forever. I’m surprised it’s 30 years.
 

***

SS: All right, here’s another possible and interesting turn of events – FBI chief James Comey warned terrorists are working on an effort to attack the U.S. very-very soon. Is the U.S. ready to respond?

SE: We have to look at different things and see why this statement was made. Is it based on some sort of facts and real solid intelligence gathered, or is it the fact that… for example, we have had for the TSA, for the flights, the threat level has been really low, and when that goes for a long time, people get antsy, they say “This is really annoying to have all these screens out there and going through them, we haven’t had any terrorist threats really, the level has not been blinking red or even orange, it’s been yellow, let’s go through the rainbow colors” – so, it’s time to re-energize the Americans with the fear of terrorism. We need to have more expenditure for things to put in place, because we can go ahead and increase the threat level within the airports. Let me give you an example. If you look at the stock market and stock prices for all the military-industrial complex-related companies and firms, you will see how they have just gone up tremendously since the brand switch from Al-Qaeda to ISIS, and this is, again, the brand-change I’m referring to, this is when you say “yes, now we can go ahead and produce and sell more to the government and it will spend billions more”. So, the same thing is true for the internal security, fear-mongering factors on the ground in the U.S. It’s time to re-energize that fear, and that is exactly what they are doing. What’s going to follow this is there’s going to be more measures put in place, whether it’s in the airports, or whether it’s the hiring within the FBI, or increasing the number of informants. Those are the things that are going to follow this announcement: “we have to have more expenditure, because of the public consent, because the fear level is going to go up, and therefore those expenditures are going to be justified” – and it is that simple as that.

A quick history refresher on Syria:

  • The U.S. carried out a coup in Syria in 1949. The reason? In late 1945, the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) announced plans to construct the Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (TAPLINE) from Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean. With U.S. help, ARAMCO secured rights-of-way from Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The part crossing Syria stalled in the Syrian parliament.
  •  In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once more agreed to use Arab extremists – including the Muslim Brotherhood –  to effect regime change in Syria. A joint CIA-MI6 operation was launched to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria’s pro-western neighbors, and then to “eliminate” the top figures.
  • The U.S. has been arming the Syrian opposition since 2006, years before the present uprising started.
  • It was the “rebels” – not the Syrian government – who carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria.
  • The CIA plotted to poison the Iraqi leader in 1960.
  • In 1963, the U.S. backed the coup which succeeded in killing the head of Iraq.
  • Until he was toppled by a popular uprising, the US supported the tyrannical rule of the Shah of Iran and supplied his military with the latest in weapons and aircraft.
  • Syria controls one of the largest conventional hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Syria controls of one of the main oil arteries of the Middle East, the pipeline which connects pro-western Iraq’s oilfields to Turkey.
  • Syria possessed 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil as of January 2013, which makes it the largest proved reserve of crude oil in the eastern Mediterranean according to the Oil & Gas Journal estimate.
  • Syria also has oil shale resources with estimated reserves that range as high as 50 billion tons, according to a Syrian government source in 2010.
  • Syria is the key link in the flow of any oil or gas from Iraq or Iran to the Mediterranean and thence to Europe.
  • Because of the sordid role of the US in his country's history, Bashir Al-Assad tilts towards Russia and Iran, and away from the US and Iraq.

The New York Times writes:

President Obama’s determination to train Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria leaves the United States dependent on a diverse group riven by infighting, with no shared leadership and with hard-line Islamists as its most effective fighters.

After more than three years of civil war, there are hundreds of militias fighting President Bashar al-Assad — and one another. Among them, even the more secular forces have turned to Islamists for support and weapons over the years, and the remaining moderate rebels often fight alongside extremists like the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
 

    ***

The fluidity of battlefield alliances in Syria means that even mainline rebels often end up fighting alongside the Nusra Front, whose suicide bombers are relied on by other groups to soften up government targets.

“Even the groups that the U.S. has trained tend to show up in the same trenches as the Nusra Front eventually, because they need them and they are fighting the same battles,” Mr. Lund said.
 

    ***

Current and former American officials acknowledge the government’s lack of deep knowledge about the rebels. “We need to do everything we can to figure out who the non-ISIS opposition is,” said Ryan C. Crocker, a former United States ambassador to Iraq and Syria. “Frankly, we don’t have a clue.”

Washington’s Blog wrote in September:

And yet, as the Wall Street Journal,  PBS, CNN, New York Times, Medium, Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh and others note, the U.S. and its allies have poured huge amounts of weapons and support to the Syrian Islamic “rebels”. This is in spite of the CIA warning President Obama that arming rebels rarely works.

Washington wants regime change in Syria, so it’s making up a myth of the “moderate Syrian rebel” who hates Assad and ISIS. But they “don’t have a clue” as to whether such a mythical unicorn actually exists (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).

Its about Russia

Before the Russian Air Force entered the picture, ISIS had more than tripled the size of its territory in Syria and greatly expanded its territory in Iraq. Q: What does the Russian Air Force call all those stockpiles of expensive new arms and billions of dollar bills that ISIS has sitting on air-dropped, shrink-wrapped pallets all over Syria? A: Target practice. 

Despite US unwillingness to cooperate with Russia in destruction of ISIS and the White House complaining that President Vladimir Putin was targeting its anti-Assad forces, Russia has been cooperating with the US-sponsored, Anti-Assad Free Syrian Army (FSA). Putin said on Friday that FSA had shared their intelligence on ISIS positions and convoys, which were then targeted by Russian airstrikes.

On November 9, 2015, RT-TV interviewed Oxford University's Sharmine Narwani about the conflict between the Russian anti-ISIS offensive and the US military objectives in Syria.

RT: What are the reasons, do you think the [US-Arab] coalition is breaking apart? How can the coalition increase the efficiency of its actions?

US air attack on Kobani, Syria 10/8/14. © Umit Bektas/Reuters

 SN: I see the coalition breaking apart or being redundant for two reasons. One is the lack of common objectives among the 11 actors participating in the coalition, but the other is more in lines with military strategy in fighting any war or conflict, anywhere. We’ve heard this over and over again in the Syrian conflict – you need a coordination of air force and ground power. The US-led coalition does not have this. Part of the reason it doesn’t have this is because it entered Syrian air space and violated international law in doing so against the wishes of the Syrian government. So it cannot coordinate with the Syrian government who leads the ground activities, whether it is the Syrian army or various Syrian militias that are pro-government; or Hezbollah – a non-state actor from Lebanon; or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their advisory capacity. The Russians of course do enjoy that relationship, so their airstrikes are not only both valid and legal, but also useful – a coordinated effort to target ISIL and other terrorist organizations.

RT: Do you think the US doesn’t have real intentions to fight ISIS, and that is the main reason of instability of its coalition?

SN: Absolutely. The US-led coalition has failed in attaining goals to defeat ISIS, not just because it cannot lead a coordinated military effort in air, land and sea in Syria, or because it lacks legality, or because the member states of the coalition have diverging interests. But I think the US interest as well has to be called into question. I mean: does the US want to defeat ISIS? I would argue very strongly based on what we’ve seen in the last year that the US is not interested in defeating ISIS. The US is interested in perhaps controlling ISIS’ movements, so that it helps to create a geopolitical balance on the ground that will provide the US government and its allies with leverage at the negotiating table. So they don’t want ISIS to take over all of Syria [because] that poses threats to allies in the region. They don’t want ISIS and other terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and others, and the various coalitions they have formed to lose ground, because at the end of the day the only pressure there are going to be able to apply on the Syrian government and its allies is what is happening on the ground. And they need something; they need advantage on the ground that they can take with them to the negotiating table in Vienna. 


Its About Israel

General Wesley Clark – former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO – said:

It came back to me … a 1991 meeting I had with Paul Wolfowitz.

    ***

In 1991, he was the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy – the number 3 position at the Pentagon. And I had gone to see him when I was a 1-Star General commanding the National Training Center.
 

    ***

And I said, “Mr. Secretary, you must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm.” And he said: “Yeah, but not really, because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, and we didn’t … But one thing we did learn [from the Persian Gulf War] is that we can use our military in the region – in the Middle East – and the Soviets won’t stop us. And we’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet client regimes – Syria, Iran, Iraq – before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.”


Former U.S. Secretary of Defense – and former 12-year Republican Senator – Chuck Hagel said of the Iraq war in 2007:

People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America’s national interest. What the hell do you think they’re talking about? We’re not there for figs.

General John Abizaid – the former commander of CENTCOM with responsibility for Iraq – said:

Of course it’s about oil, it’s very much about oil, and we can’t really deny that.

President George W. Bush said in 2005 that keeping Iraqi oil away from the bad guys was a key motive for the Iraq war:

‘If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks, they’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions.”

The Cheney Energy Task Force Report, Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century — a full five months before September 11 — describes how the West is facing the biggest energy crisis in its history because of Peak Oil. It named Saddam Hussain as a threat to American interests because of his control of Iraqi oilfields and recommended the use of ‘military intervention’ as a means to fix the US energy crisis.

One of the most telling passages in the document reads:

Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to … the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets.

Haaretz reported soon after the Iraq war started in 2003:

The United States has asked Israel to check the possibility of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil refineries in Haifa. The request came in a telegram last week from a senior Pentagon official to a top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem.

The Prime Minister’s Office, which views the pipeline to Haifa as a “bonus” the U.S. could give to Israel in return for its unequivocal support for the American-led campaign in Iraq, had asked the Americans for the official telegram.

The new pipeline would take oil from the Kirkuk area, where some 40 percent of Iraqi oil is produced, and transport it via Mosul, and then across Jordan to Israel. The U.S. telegram included a request for a cost estimate for repairing the Mosul-Haifa pipeline that was in use prior to 1948.  During the War of Independence [what Jews call the 1948 war to form the state of Israel], the Iraqis stopped the flow of oil to Haifa and the pipeline fell into disrepair over the years.
 

    ***

National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said yesterday that the port of Haifa is an attractive destination for Iraqi oil and that he plans to discuss this matter with the U.S. secretary of energy during his planned visit to Washington next month.
 

    ***

In response to rumors about the possible Kirkuk-Mosul-Haifa pipeline, Turkey has warned Israel that it would regard this development as a serious blow to Turkish-Israeli relations.

Some of the seeds for the current conflict were sewn between 1932 and 1948. As Wikipedia explains:

Mosul-Haifa Pipeline 1935

The Mosul–Haifa oil pipeline (also known as Mediterranean pipeline) was a crude oil pipeline from the oil fields in Kirkuk, located in north Iraq, through Jordan to Haifa (now on the territory of Israel). The pipeline was operational in 1935–1948. Its length was about 942 kilometres (585 mi), with a diameter of 12 inches (300 mm) (reducing to 10 and 8 inches (250 and 200 mm) in parts), and it took about 10 days for crude oil to travel the full length of the line. The oil arriving in Haifa was distilled in the Haifa refineries, stored in tanks, and then put in tankers for shipment to Europe.

The pipeline was built by the Iraq Petroleum Company between 1932 and 1935, during which period most of the area through which the pipeline passed was under a British mandate approved by the League of Nations. The pipeline was one of two pipelines carrying oil from the Kirkuk oilfield to the Mediterranean coast. The main pipeline split at Haditha with a second line carrying oil to Tripoli, Lebanon, which was then under a French mandate. This line was built primarily to satisfy the demands of the French partner in IPC, Compagnie Française des Pétroles, for a separate line to be built across French mandated territory.

The pipeline and the Haifa refineries were considered strategically important by the British Government, and indeed provided much of the fuel needs of the British and American forces in the Mediterranean during the Second World War.

The pipeline was a target of attacks by Arab gangs during the Great Arab Revolt, and as a result one of the main objectives of a joint British-Jewish Special Night Squads commanded by Captain Orde Wingate was to protect the pipeline against such attacks. Later on, the pipeline was the target of attacks by the Irgun.

In 1948, with the outbreak of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the official operation of the pipeline ended when the Iraqi Government refused to pump any more oil through it.

Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported in 2014:

A Free Syrian Army commander, arrested last month by the Islamist militia Al-Nusra Front, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support, in a video released this week.

In a video uploaded to YouTube Monday … Sharif As-Safouri, the commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Al-Haramein Battalion, admitted to having entered Israel five times to meet with Israeli officers who later provided him with Soviet anti-tank weapons and light arms. Safouri was abducted by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in the Quneitra area, near the Israeli border, on July 22.

International Business Times reported in 2003:

Halliburton [which Dick Cheney was President of] is one of the firms thought by analysts to be in line to make a killing in any clean-up operation after another US-led war on Iraq.

All five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the UK, France, China, Russia and the US — have international oil companies that would benefit from huge windfalls in the event of regime change in Baghdad. The best chance for US firms to make billions would come if Bush installed a pro-US Iraqi opposition member as the head of a new government.

Representatives of foreign oil firms have already met with leaders of the Iraqi opposition. Ahmed Chalabi, the London-based leader of the Iraqi National Congress, said: ‘American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil.’

Thomas Harrington, professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, writes:

To read the cold-blooded imperial reasoning in both of these documents—which speak, in the first case, quite openly of the need to destabilize the region so as to reshape Israel’s “strategic environment” and, in the second of the need to dramatically increase the number of US “forward bases” in the region ….

To do so now, after the US’s systematic destruction of Iraq and Libya—two notably oil-rich countries whose delicate ethnic and religious balances were well known to anyone in or out of government with more than passing interest in history— and after carefully calibrated efforts to generate and maintain murderous and civilization-destroying stalemates in Syria and Egypt (something that is easily substantiated despite our media’s deafening silence on the subject), is downright blood-curdling.

And yet, it seems that for even very well-informed analysts, it is beyond the pale to raise the possibility that foreign policy elites in the US and Israel, like all virtually all the ambitious hegemons before them on the world stage, might have quite coldly and consciously fomented open-ended chaos in order to achieve their overlapping strategic objectives in this part of the world.

Antiwar’s Justin Raimondo observed:

“[T]he actual purpose [of the Iraq War] was to blow the country to smithereens: to atomize it, and crush it, so that it would never rise again.

“When we invaded and occupied Iraq, we didn’t just militarily defeat Iraq’s armed forces – we dismantled their army, and their police force, along with all the other institutions that held the country together. The educational system was destroyed, and not reconstituted. The infrastructure was pulverized, and never restored. Even the physical hallmarks of a civilized society – roads, bridges, electrical plants, water facilities, museums, schools – were bombed out of existence or else left to fall into disrepair. Along with that, the spiritual and psychological infrastructure that enables a society to function – the bonds of trust, allegiance, and custom – was dissolved, leaving Iraqis to fend for themselves in a war of all against all.

“… What we are witnessing in post-Saddam Iraq is the erasure of an entire country. We can say, with confidence: We came, we saw, we atomized.”

Mass deaths from terrorist attacks are now doubling every 2 years

Washington's Blog asks:

Why? This is the question that inevitably arises in the wake of such an analysis: why deliberately destroy an entire country whose people were civilized while our European ancestors were living in trees?

The people who planned, agitated for, and executed this war are the very same people who have advanced Israeli interests – at America’s expense – at every opportunity. In “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a 1996 document prepared by a gaggle of neocons – Perle, Douglas Feith, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was urged to “break out” of Israel’s alleged stagnation and undertake a campaign of “regime change” across the Middle East, targeting Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and eventually Iran. With the exception of Iran – and that one’s still cooking on the back burner – this is precisely what has occurred. In 2003, in the immediate wake of our Pyrrhic “victory” in Iraq, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared to a visiting delegation of American members of Congress that these “rogue states” – Iran, Libya, and Syria – would have to be next on the War Party’s target list.

The Washington Post reported in 2010:

The United States has long been an exporter of terrorism, according to a secret CIA analysis released Wednesday by the Web site WikiLeaks.  That is the conclusion of the three-page classified paper produced in February, 2010 by the CIA's Red Cell, a think tank set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet to provide "out-of-the-box" analyses on "a full range of analytic issues."

We have Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange to thank for that disclosure. The President, when he is not reading to his daughters, is currently thanking Private Manning for her patriotism by torturing her (solitary confinement without reading material) over possessing expired toothpaste and the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair in her Ft. Leavenworth prison cell.

Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War by Alexander L. George of Stanford University describes how the U.S. and its allies were the main supporters of terrorism throughout the world.

Terrorism is defined as:

 The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

It seems to us, in our humble, non-expert opinion, that the War on Terror should not continue for generations more, but be brought to a swift end with an FBI raid and trial of the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, and on the private residence of Hillary Clinton, whose face is pictured at the top of this post.

Exxonomics 101

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Published on the Peak Surfer on November 8, 2015

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Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

"You don't need 100,000 marines to secure windmills in North Dakota."

 

 The New York Times, which is quickly becoming to print media what Fox is to television news, has done what no first year news stringer should do. It buried the lead. 

It buried the lead on what is likely to become one of the most important stories of all time.

Hidden in the science section of its November 6th daily edition is this headline from a story by Clifford Kraus: More Oil Companies Could Join Exxon Mobil as Focus of Climate Investigations.  Kraus's lead is:

HOUSTON — The opening of an investigation of Exxon Mobil by the New York attorney general’s office into the company’s record on climate change may well spur legal inquiries into other oil companies, according to legal and climate experts, although successful prosecutions are far from assured.

The story goes on to describe the fraudulent activities undertaken by Exxon Mobil, Chevron and other oil majors from 1990 to 2001, using astroturf fronts with names like Global Climate Coalition and the American Legislative Exchange Council. The writer, and presumably the Times editorial team, assumes the reason NY Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is investigating is because the companies spent millions or billions on a disinformation campaign, purchasing no fewer than four U.S. presidents and vast numbers of Congressmen and Senators. These disinformation campaigns cast doubt on climate science by parading shill pseudoscientists before legislative committees. The purchased politicians then went before the public and parroted the oil company line: "Climate Change? Nothing to see here, move along."

The Times seems to think the NYAG is after some kind of conviction for perjury or advertising fraud.

By now this spin on the story is so old and been told so many times, we are surprised that it is still considered news. Maybe that is why it got bumped to the science page. Everyone knew, despite the feigned shock of Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and others, that Exxon had extensively researched the subject in the 1970s, concluded by the mid-80s that climate change was a serious threat, and then killed its own research program and financed opposition.

The real news story is something else. It is not what the investigation is but where it is. The New York Attorney General's office peers from its eyrie in Albany down the Hudson River, across the white plains and palisades to lower Manhattan, but it is only one of two such offices that watches. The other is located closer to the action, in the Federal Courthouse just below Wall Street, where dwells the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a Mr. Preet Bharara. If you bike by there, however, you see that dog is chained by a very long chain that runs all the way to the back porch of a big white house in Washington. Lest we forget, the nation's last Attorney General came from and went back to Wall Street's Covington & Burling, after 6 years of hearing nothing, seeing nothing and saying nothing as the nation's top law enforcer.

Why should Exxon and Chevron be worried? That would be because what is of interest to a NYAG watchdog is not about buying politicians or suborning perjury. It's about stock manipulation. After a decade of pretty good in-house science, Exxon and the other majors knew by the 80s that the pace of global warming was accelerating and that very soon there would be a massive, increasingly desperate effort underway to shift from fossil fuels to carbon-free renewables in order to escape Cauldron Earth. The hotter it gets, the more frenzied this effort will become, and the less likely Exxon will be able to cash in its balance sheet of fossil assets.
 

Meadows, et al, 1971 Limits to Growth with overlay of
Bates 1990, Climate in Crisis

If you were a CEO of one of these companies, the math would trouble your mind. It would cloud your thinking as you set up for that long putt on the 8th green. It would creep into your internal dialog as you are eyeing that cocktail waitress at a swank restaurant. Your worth as a company, the basis for the company's share price, and your own compensation and stock option packages, all depend on the estimated and proven reserves of oil and gas still in the ground. If, for some reason, those reserves could never be withdrawn – never be burned – then you have a serious problem. Your company is overvalued, and likewise the share price, and your own personal net worth. This is what interests the NY Attorney General. It's the math. Its also the mens rea – your state of mind; what you knew and when you knew it.

It is one thing to have a company whose worth exceeds not only that of any company on Earth but also of any company in history. It is another entirely if that worth is overstated, perhaps by a factor of 100, 1000, or one million times. That becomes the biggest stock fraud in history. For a young or politically ambitious AG, it is a ticket to glory.

On Thursday the Times reported:

Attorneys general for other states could join in Mr. Schneiderman’s efforts, bringing far greater investigative and legal resources to bear on the issue. Some experts see the potential for a legal assault on fossil fuel companies similar to the lawsuits against tobacco companies in recent decades, which cost those companies tens of billions of dollars in penalties.

Potential fines and imprisonment don't begin to tell the story here. Devaluation of the stock – mark to market – is the real penalty. Is Exxon, whose shares are held by teachers' credit unions, public employee pension funds, and more people than almost any other stock, too big to fail? Whether it is too big to jail is irrelevant. Once that asset is devalued, something huge will be set in motion: a trillion dollar switch away from fossil investment, and just coincidentally, an end to the leading justification for military adventurism, support for Israeli hardliners, the puppet regime in Kiev, the ISIS black op and Saudi Arabian feudalism, among other pastimes.


That whole shooting match in Syria, driving millions of refugees into Europe, is about whether Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia and Iran and a proponent of a gas pipeline from Iran across Kurdistan to the sea, will be deposed by ISIS terrorists trained by CIA in the Colonel Kurtz style of spectacular horror and funded by the Pentagon so that the US could instead build a pipeline to European markets through Syria from Iraq. The Russian Air Force, with a new generation of fighters that can fly circles around anything built by Lockheed Martin, is looking like it will decide that one. It is pulverizing ISIS.

You don't need 100,000 marines to secure windmills in North Dakota.

That is the story the Times is missing.

In the Thursday story, the Times had a link to a 29-page Exxon report for its shareholders. The company essentially ruled out the possibility that governments would adopt climate policies stringent enough to force it to leave its reserves in the ground, saying that rising population and global energy demand would prevent that. “Meeting these needs will require all economic energy sources, especially oil and natural gas,” it said. Here is an image from that report. We especially enjoyed the absurdity of their idea of what better farming looks like.

 

World population is going to grow by 3 North Americas in 15 years.

In their report, Exxon predicts that the world will add 2 billion more people in the next 15 years, or roughly four more North Americas if you include Mexico and Canada. This tracks similar assessments by the UN and the World Population Council. That increase is baked in the cake just from the number of adolescents reaching childbearing age in these coming years. Exxon believes GDP will grow at 3 times the rate of population if energy supply is adequate. "We see the world requiring 35 percent more energy in 2040 than it did in 2010."
 

"In analyzing the evolution of the world’s energy mix, we anticipate renewables growing at the fastest pace among all sources through the Outlook period. However, because they make a relatively small contribution compared to other energy sources, renewables will continue to comprise about 5 percent of the total energy mix by 2040."


While we don't buy the whole package, we find ourselves agreeing with Exxon about one thing. Business as usual is not possible with an all-renewables portfolio. We wonder where even the finance for such a build-out would come from? More debt? The world financial system came with in a hair's breadth of financial collapse in 2008. Since then the balloon has reinflated and stretched bigger. China just arrested its free-falling stock market by issuing even more debt. But sooner or later loans have to be repaid, with interest, and in a shrinking resource economy they cannot be. When the day of reckoning eventually arrives, our chances of avoiding collapse are very slim. Gail Tverberg says,  "The change … is similar to losing the operating system on a computer, or unplugging a refrigerator from the wall."

Where we part company with Exxon is that Exxon thinks governments will choose to keep heating the planet and we think they will dispense with business as usual. Only time will tell, although the issue will be up for serious debate this December in Paris.

Business as usual will not be an easy thing to give up.

In terms of energy conservation, the leaps made in energy efficiency by the infrastructure and devices we use to access the internet have allowed many online activities to be viewed as more sustainable than offline.

On the internet, however, advances in energy efficiency have a reverse effect: as the network becomes more energy efficient, its total energy use increases. This trend can only be stopped when we limit the demand for digital communication.
 

***

In recent years, the focus has been mostly on the energy use of data centers, which host the computers (the “servers”) that store all information online. However, in comparison, more electricity is used by the combination of end-use devices (the “clients”, such as desktops, laptops and smartphones), the network infrastructure (which transmits digital information between servers and clients), and the manufacturing process of servers, end-use devices, and networking devices.  

Low Tech Magazine

By 2017, the electricity use of the internet globally is expected to rise to between 2,547 teraWatt-hours (low case) and 3,422 tWh (high case). The high case is made more likely by underdeveloping nations bypassing wired communications to go directly to smart phones and other devices, which are increasingly dependent on cloud services. Under these circumstances electricity use for internet will likely double every 5 years, to 110000 tWh (110 petaWatt-hours) by 2040. This would add another USA in electricity consumers every 5 years  three more USAs in 15 years. That, of course, assumes that cloud computing doesn't follow the exponential growth its proponents seek.

Can renewables meet this demand? Right now in the US, renewables account for 13.2 percent of domestically produced electricity. Wind turbine capacity is 65 GWe installed (0.07 tWe), but because of wind and load intermittency, the mills only turn about 32% of the time, producing about 180 million kWh last year (180 GWhr, or 0.2 TWh). That was one ten-thousandth of what was used globally by the internet. To build out renewables to power just the internet by 2040 would require 110 pWh, or more than a million times all the renewable electricity produced by the USA today.

How probable is that? Exxon is completely accurate in labeling it fantasy.

And speaking of fantasy, imagine for a moment that Mr. Schneiderman gets his teeth into Exxon's stock fraud and won't stop shaking until the company restates its book value, sans proven reserves. There has been a recent fall in oil price (owing less to fracking, as the popular narrative has it, than to China's deflationary spiral that has tanked world demand), but if you are a shareholder, this might be a good time to sell.

Or you could take your advice from the nation's paper of record and assume everything is hunky dory. 

Stranded Expectations

Off the keyboard of Albert Bates

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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Published on Peak Surfer on July 19, 2015

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Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

 

  
 One of the birthplaces of civilization is having its cradle rocked again. Apart from the subjugation of women, children and slaves, Greece's beta version, going back 2500 years, was pretty cool – men in togas strolling though olive groves asking existential questions about life, the universe and all that. An updated version, without the wars, slaves and chauvinism, might not be half bad.

Today Greece is the European Union's current favorite whipping boy – the example to be made in order to keep all the other Ponzi'd patsies in line. It is no small irony that despite street protest bringing a new, defiant Syriza  (“from the roots”) government to Athens and a resounding No! Icelandic-style referendum placing Greece in technical default, the realities of needing a cash drip to keep pensioners breathing and buses running have given the upper hand to German, French and British banksters. 

The irony is compounded when one glances at the score sheet for total debt to GDP, with China at 250%, Germany 302%, Greece 353%, USA 370%, Britain 546%, Japan 646% and Ireland at an enchanted 1,000%.

Commented Dmitry Orlov:

The IMF won't lend to Greece because it requires some assurance of repayment; but it will continue to lend to the Ukraine, which is in default and collapsing rapidly, without any such assurances because, you see, the decision is a political one.


After the US-controlled International Monetary Fund acknowledged that Greece has no possibility of ever repaying its debts, the central bankers’ bank, the Bank of International Settlements, recently issued a very blunt warning

“[T]he world will be unable to fight the next global financial crash as central banks have used up their ammunition trying to tackle the last crisis."


If neoliberalism has a Hall of Fame, surely China has a bronze bust somewhere near the entrance. Literally millions of Chinese, newly employed and making consumerist wages, have opened stock trading accounts. For them, its the Roaring Twenties. What changed? China took extreme measures to increase the liquidity in their financial system – precisely what the European Central Bank denied to Greece. 

Liquidity is what pays off the account holders in the event of a run on the bank, because in reality, banks don't store money or any other assets, they only record accounts of running debts. Liquidity builds confidence. Liquidity is what Ben Bernacke forced down the throats of the Wall Street cabal to staunch the bloodletting in 2008. When Europe pulled the liquidity backstop away from Greek banks, ATMs ran dry and depositors took a haircut on their holdings, but systemically, it was much worse than that.

 


 

Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and other debtor countries have been under the same mode of attack that was waged by the IMF and its austerity doctrine that bankrupted Latin America from the 1970s onward.

–Michael Hudson

Currently, the average USAnian's net worth is at a record high, but if you were to try to find that average person, it could take you quite a while. Seventy million US citizens are teetering on the edge of financial ruin. They’re one paycheck away from default on their mortgage or health insurance premium. How does one explain their record high net worth? (a) concentrations of extreme wealth at the top of the pyramid; (b) inflated real estate and other asset valuations; and (c) inflated valuation of the dollar, backed by nothing more than vivid imagination. Fantasy is infectious, so there has been a capital flight to Turtle Island on the expectation that it would be a bastion of stability, its deregulated regulators standing as a tall cliff over the tsunami about to engulf the world economy.
 

Hellenistic Greece "Diadochen1" by Captain_Blood – Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Greeks invented modern banking a couple millennia ago – credit based trade, hedge funds, options, foreign exchange, and so on. And, as we might expect, what's happening in Greece now is nothing new. Athens suffered a land and agrarian crisis in the late 7th century BCE and its citizens took to the streets, throwing bottles and protesting food prices. The Archon (city manager) Draco made severe reforms in 621 BCE ("Draconian" they were called), but these failed to quell the conflict. The crisis lasted another 27 years until the moderate reforms of Solon (594 BCE) lifted austerity while paying off creditors, with the added benefit of firmly entrenching the aristocracy.

The first financial crisis happened in Greece around 600 BC. Since then, Greece has defaulted on their loans more often than any other country in the modern world. In the past 200 years or so, Greece has defaulted about half the time.

Even though Greece has already received $284 billion in bailout money over the past five years, they still couldn’t get it together. One reason why was because most of that money went to financial institutions, and only a small portion went to the people.

Another reason why was due to their pension system. By now, everyone has heard the stories of the hairdresser example… That is, someone who’s worked as a hairdresser for three years, then retires around age 50-55 and receives nearly a full pension. Multiply this by more than two million pensioners, along with a whole lot of other financial problems, and you see why Greece is in such deep trouble.

Aden Forecast
 


Our spider senses tingle when we hear someone reading from one of Ronald Reagan's index cards about mooching welfare mamas driving a Cadillac. Those spendthrift pensioners! Originally the Greek debt was owed to French, Dutch and German banks but now is owed mainly to agencies like the European Financial Stability Facility, run on behalf of 19 governments, that most recently lent Greece (to kick the can down the road) 145 billion euros borrowed from the bond markets at high interest. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the sub-prime market of, say, 2005, with European banks in the position of Countrywide and AIG.
Brian Davey writing for Feasta says:

If you kick the can down the road repeatedly you eventually run out of road. What should have happened much earlier in this process was an admission that the French, Dutch and German banks had made a mistake lending to Greece and they should have taken their loss. Perhaps Greek officials and Goldman Sachs, which helped to hide the fact that Greece could not pay, should have been prosecuted.


Davies goes on to draw the crucial link between energy and economy:

[W]hile Greece (and Spain and Italy and Ireland) was growing there were good reasons to send money to Greece – to invest in the building of holiday hotels for example, or in the building and civil engineering companies that built the hotels and the roads to the resorts. This was not buying and importing Greek goods – but it was putting money back into the pockets of Greeks in the form of investment in the business activities of a growing economy. If deficit countries are growing then mechanisms will exist to recycle purchasing power internationally. Once growth stops then there is no reason to send money to deficit countries and they are in trouble – as has happened throughout southern Europe and Ireland. I think that this is the most plausible way of seeing things. And the reason that growth began to fall off was rising energy prices because of depletion, because we are reaching the limits to economic growth. Because energy enters into all economic activities this undermines growth because people and companies struggle to service their debts AND pay the higher energy prices. That’s the ultimate reason that interest rates had to come down through quantitative easing.

 
Looking at a historical chart of US debt, one sees that it remained virtually unchanged from first ill-fated settlement in the 16th century, showing only slight bumps with each major war, until approximately 1970 when it went ballistic. What happened then? Gold bugs will tell you it was Nixon taking the dollar off the gold standard, unleashing the beast of fractional reserve banking and fiat currency. Rather, we find it more plausible that 1969 was the year US oil production peaked and, like their Greek counterparts, US companies began to struggle to service their debts AND pay the higher energy prices.

The US trashed Bretton Woods when it took the dollar to the oil standard by getting Saudi Arabia and other producers to sell their oil for dollars only. If you wanted to buy oil you needed dollars, and so dollars flowed back into the US, favorable trade balances masked the dollar's inflation (and the massive debt to sustain cheap energy) and American banks laughed all the way to the voting booths.

Meanwhile, life in Greece goes on, amid the financial wreckage. As Jan Lundberg, who has been trying to revive commercial sail transport in the Mediterranean (to replace more than four million fishing and small cargo vessels now spewing oil smoke and bilge) reports:
 

The jump in homelessness, many of the housed doing without heat in winter, and foregoing improvements in life that people had grown accustomed to, are well known. So it is no wonder that money is almost universally seen as the problem and the solution. The once hopeful consumer population has been ravaged: 1.3 million people, or 26% of the workforce, are without a job (and most of them without benefits); wages are down by 38% since 2009, pensions by 45%, GDP by a quarter; 18% of the country’s population unable to meet their food needs; 32% below the poverty line. Almost 3.1 million people, 33% of the population, are without national health insurance.


The ECB could solve Greece’s problem with a few computer keystrokes. The effect would actually be to stimulate the European economy.
 
Instead, Greece remains a whipping boy to keep the rest of the periphery in line. If either side decides to reject the latest deal, we could see an exit from the European Union, and a return to the drachma. This would likely be good for Greece but not for the EU, which could then see so many countries exit that the central currency tumbles into obscurity.

If Greece switches to drachmas, the funding possibilities are even greater. It could generate the money for a national dividend, guaranteed employment for all, expanded social services, and widespread investment in infrastructure, clean energy, and local business. Freed from its Eurocrat oppressors, Greece could model for the world what can be achieved by a sovereign country using publicly-owned banks and publicly-issued currency for the benefit of its own economy and its own people.

 Jan Lundberg says:

There are two kinds of people, whether in Greece or elsewhere: those who welcome or understand that fundamental change and discontinuity are inevitable, perhaps on the way too soon for convenience, and, those who fervently want the level of income and consumption of the past — regardless of economic and ecological realities. Fortunately for Greeks, they have a continuous and ancient society under the surface of the unstable transnational corporate state.


Summer in Greece often brings wildfires and this year is no different, although climate change doesn't help. In 2007 one fire covered 25.000 hectares north of Athens and as we write this flames are again creeping towards Athens from the North and the government has called out the Air Force and Army to help fight 34 separate fires. Isn't it lucky they still have organized fire departments and emergency responders there? They have come very close to not having that.

Greece is retracing its steps back through the ascent of Western Civilization to an earlier era when the best hedge was a good olive press. Many there, as elsewhere, cannot imagine losing the perks of advanced civilization. Stranded expectations – whether in Athens or Brussels – cloud peoples' thoughts. We are all Greeks. Harder lessons are coming. 

Of Squirrels and Bicycles

Off the keyboard of Albert Bates

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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Published on Peak Surfer on June 21, 2015

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Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner

We were biking on a backcountry lane this week when we surprised a squirrel about to cross the highway.

Observing the interaction between squirrel and machine, we noted that the maladaptive squirrel did not take a straight line to escape the sudden appearance of the bicycle, a perceived predator, because to do so would conflict with its genetically hard-wired fight-or-flight survival response.

Countless generations of dead squirrels had, by process of elimination, coded a certain wisdom into our squirrel's sudden reaction, which was to zig away from the bike, then zag back into the path of peril, then zig away again.

For millennia this randomized algorithm of zigs and zags thwarted the astute calculus of hawks, owls, eagles, foxes, cougars, coyotes and other cagey hunters of squirrel who put themselves on a perfect intercept trajectory, only to find the quarry gone when they arrived. Who can parse a random algorithm? It defeats both speed and angle of attack, putting the contest into one of nimbleness, stamina and availability of cover.

Against automobiles and other fast-moving machines, the program is utterly maladaptive. Having escaped the danger zone, the squirrel rushes back into the path of oncoming death. In a significant percentage of encounters they find themselves occupying the same position in time and space as the rotating tire of a car. Remnants of squirrel smeared on pavement, a boon to turkey buzzards and other scavengers, attest to a failed algorithm that should have been retired half a century ago. Similarly maladaptive to the automobile age are the defense strategies of opossums and armadillos.

But on the other hand, a mere half-century of paving progress is just a bat of evolutionary time's eyelash for a squirrel. The 100-year auto age may be a passing fad, and in not so many years (already Peak Oil+10 at this writing) the fox and hawk may assert prior rights to the average country squirrel.

We have been speaking recently of the energy calculus of renewables and whether they can be brought on line fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change and save our civilization. We hold the humble opinion that while renewables must indeed replace our self-destructive addiction to oil, gas and coal, there is no possible way that such a switch could save our profligate and bloated civilization. Just do the math.

Nonetheless, switching back to sunlight is our only option, climate change or no, and assigning reality-based costs to fossil fuels, or merely removing their obscene trillion-dollar subsidies, should be done immediately.

But we need to realize that while we can move some sectors of the energy economy to renewables, not all of them will follow, and not most of the really big ones that a globally industrialized economy requires. We can easily electrify cars but not steel mills, cement factories, container ships or airplanes. We can replace agrochemical farming with bioenergy-to-carbon-storage (BECS), but we cannot as easily dry the grains, transport, process and package them unless we are prepared to relocalize farming to a scale last seen before World War II, when the world's population was about 12% of present.

Our maladaptive civilization model is not in the position of the bicycle or the automobile here, it is the squirrel. We race to and fro in a desperate attempt to escape our fate, but odds are roughly even in any given encounter that our fragile economy will wind up under the tire, and splayed across the pavement. The tire missed it in 2008. That may or may not happen again next time, and dumb luck will have a hand in the outcome.

We are happy to report that in our case, we did not waiver in our bicycle's trajectory. The squirrel escaped unharmed.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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  • Economic Undertow

It's interesting the Saudis are going for wind when they are blessed with so much sunshine. Ara [...]

We've always been at war with Eurasia, or was it Eastasia? As an explanation for the current US [...]

Can someone help me out here. The world is awash in ballooning debt. The question is, who is advanci [...]

The degenerated language is used to make things sound complicated and to impress the punters, but mo [...]

Maybe shale drillers won't have as difficult deal getting additional financing as we thought, i [...]

Hi Steve. I recently found what I believe is a little gem, and I'm quite confident you'd a [...]

The Federal Reserve is thinking about capping yields? I don't know how long TPTB can keep this [...]

As some one who has spent years trying to figure out what the limits to growth are. let me say that [...]

Peak oil definitely happened for gods sake. Just because it isn't mad max right now is no indic [...]

@Volvo - KMO says he made some life choices he regrets. Not sure what they were. And I don't th [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

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

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

The monthly averaged data time series of temperatures and rainfall without interruption of Conakry A [...]

The Himalayas are highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, as it consequently increases [...]

Spatial hydroclimatic variability of Eastern North America’s Allegheny Mountain System (AMS) i [...]

Climate change mitigation targets have put pressure to reduce the carbon footprint of cultural herit [...]