The Pentagong Show

The Pentagong Show
United State of Terror: Is Drone War Fair?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Capital Punishment: Auto Asphyxiation Exhausts Labor.

Otto's Carface from Auto-asphyxiation.

On the Oildrum's blog, Gail the Actuary asks why "United States oil consumption in 2012 will be about 4.7 million barrels a day, or 20%, lower than it would have been if the pre-2005 trend in oil consumption growth of 1.5% per year had continued". To answer that question, she posits various theories: higher fuel mileage, less vehicle miles driven, and curtailed use by a dwindling industrial sector. She also cites the high unemployment rate of the young and their resultant lack of resources with which to purchase transport, other than the public variety. All of which are variables, her aim being to discover which one holds the most weight. Not surprisingly, less vehicle miles driven holds the trump card. But what is surprising is that the correlation of that figure with high unemployment is never made.

Most drivers, other than the housewife rolling down to the grocery or other shop to do errands, are not
putting mileage on their cars in a frivolous fashion, but in order to get to a location where they can trade their labor for money. Yet all theories of Capitalism pretend that educated workers show up without any needs and magically arrive via flying car pets that need no maintenance, fuel, or initial vehicular purchase. All these are considered extraneous  to the bottom-line of industry, like power production, environmental degradation and resource depletion.  But in the real economy, for a workforce to be able to get to the location of many businesses that have long ago decided that the employees should come to them, and not locate in the cities where the workforce actually exists, when a large segment of those employees are thrown out of work the number of vehicle miles driven goes down and it does not come back up until the employment level does, which it hasn't and won't.

There is a rather wonderful analogy on Dmitri Orlov's blog about a monkey trap, wherein a monkey puts its hand into a gourd that contains a banana, but cannot withdraw its hand unless it unclenches its fist, releasing its hold on the treasure. This dilemma corresponds to one in which modern humans have entrapped themselves. Forgetting that cars were invented to increase mobility, allowing the procurement of employment even though it is located at a far remove from one's place of habitation, car ownership has morphed into a relationship with its owners that more and more resembles that of a pet. And sometimes more, it becomes a member of the family that must be maintained at all costs, even to that of the disintegration of that very family, the cohesion of which, it was purchased for in the first place.  Like the monkey, who, Dmitri reveals, need only let go of the banana, extricate its hand, turn the gourd upside down and procure its reward without being discommoded by a gourd permanently implanted on its fist, we remain perplexed at what could be causing our economic slide into third world nation status, and the car, being the goal all those third world nations hold up as the status symbol of having 'arrived', we clutch it like the mad monkey, even as it hobbles our ability to fully engage in life, because we are instead fully engaged in the upkeep, insurance, fueling, and housing of a machine. A machine that we wouldn't even need if we didn't have to go to that job in the faraway location that we need to have in order to pay for the machine we use to burn our money up with so that it can spew it in our face in the form of a polluting gas we sit surrounded by as it takes us to that job ....

This is especially true in two-income households where the income of one of the inhabitants is of the War-Mart variety, providing barely enough to keep a person housed, fed and clothed, so it is maintained solely for the purpose of providing that person with the means of conveyance to be able to live in the far off suburb/exurb with hubbie (yes, it's invariably the wife that holds the menial position, not a fact we like to admit, but there it is). Now, like any scenario in a world of 7 billion, we can, despite our obsession with the myth if individualism, multiply it by tens of millions others who live by the same strategy, and arrive at the point where vast numbers of employees are subsidizing their employers, as, for example, War-Mart could not exist in their big box splendor in isolated venues, if it were not for the enormous economic contribution of, not only its workers, but its customer base, in providing them free transportation costs.

And that's only the most egregious example. It is repeated for every employer in far-flung suburbs paying State-subsidized wages and depending on county-subsidized roads. It used to be that the enterprise would pay in tax dollars for some of the benefits derived from locating in such areas, but that is no longer the case, as companies blackmail the politicians of the locale first, playing one municipality against another before deciding to build, ensuring their low-tax status for years, after which they simply move, or threaten to move, if their rates increase.

And the reason we've arrived at this impasse, the forces that drove us to this are based on the intractable nature of the marriage contract. It is not gay marriage that is the problem no matter how we gnash our teeth and pull our hair at the very idea of such an arrangement. It is, however, hetero sexual marriage that has brought us to this state of affairs. The way in which Muslim women are kept isolated is really not that far removed from the isolation many women experienced prior to the sixties, and still do, in many parts of the country, today. Without the relief valve of that job to give them auto-nomy, human contact, cash, self-worth and dignity, they would be left at home straddled with rearing the children;  a job that can't be emphasized enough in its importance to the future health of society, and yet one that, like housework, home economics and shopping, could hardly be valued less.

And so, there is no unclenching of those car keys likely to ensue. And that is only one segment of the population that's condemns itself to machine servitude to be free of the human variety. So although Dmitiri uses his analogy to demonstrate the intractable nature of politicians holding onto power, it is we who elect the politicians, and they know that even a whisper about reduced motility in the USA is, for a politico, like reserving a spot in the unemployment line; it is We the People who will not even consider letting that banana slip out of our clutching paw, because, nowadays, sans home, sans job, sans family, for some millions of us, it is the only security, representing the last remnant of the American Dream, that we will ever really know.

Which gets us back to Gail the Actuary's statistic that the plummeting in vehicle miles driven hints at. That the Energy independence, of which the political leaders, and I use that term loosely, in both parties are trumpeting, is always assumed to be coming from the fracking revolution and the resurgence in American energy production it has made possible. But what a 20% reduction in energy usage from vehicular traffic suggests is that the so-called Independence is coming instead at the price of yours: because it is only via increased energy production coupled with decreased energy usage that makes that much-vaunted Energy Independence they crow about evenly remotely possible. Happy Motoring.

Monday, February 18, 2013

In Search of a Fix: Rationalizations Always Trump Rationality.

When $ = electrons, the Current Sea provides Liquidity.

Ever since the Financial crisis that so utterly changed the nature of the world and how it exploits its energy resources, the  responses to it can essentially be broken into three distinct camps:

The first, as in (coincidentally ?) first world's, or "pray as you grey, it'll just go away or they'll keep it at bay", is the same solution as for global climate change: do nothing and hope everything doesn't fall apart before you do. This is the Bernanke/Krugman/governments-in-general/Wall St. mantra.

Second are the Collapseniks: Survivalists, Kunstler, Dmitri Orlov, Derrick Jensen, Many Investment News letters and goldbugs: everything's going to hell in a handbasket (and the handbasket is badly frayed and you'll be pushed out of it anyway) and you're an idiot for thinking otherwise: get ready, move out of cities, grow your own everything, and stock up on gold and arms, ammunition and booze.

The third and most frightening in some ways, are the Progressives/Greenies/Techno-fix junkies: With the same fervor the survivalists have for Jesus, these ardent keepers of the faith rely on technological fixes for the solutions to the myriad problems technological enslavement has wrought. These are the Cisco engineers, the vocal-about-local, grow-your-own, solar panel, electric cars and recycling-as-salvation aficionados.

Then there's Chris Martenson of who, unlike faces the fact that, like Communism before it, Capitalism has already collapsed, it was just that Creditism replaced it so long ago, that it slid into place  after the financial crisis of 2008 without anyone noticing there was a transition (and yes, there is a, a shadow of Michael Ruppert's site, of the Bush era).

Creditism is an outgrowth of Capitalism, just as Communism was, but instead of giving all power to the proletariat, all power now resides in the hands of TBTF Banks and their unjailable, so unassailable, Officers. By extending credit to anyone, and thereby wrapping them in a straight-jacket of conformity and fiscal indenture, Creditism works in a more insidious manner, as we can see in Greece, or student loans, or ARM's: the victim is blamed for his imprisonment in debt, the Officers of the Loan having presented a rosy picture of the future happiness to their victim, hiding the risks involved and the price to be paid should a single payment over the span of thirty years be late or (shudder) missed. Adopting Lenin's dictum to "Give 'em enough rope", The Lending Tree, a better, more descriptive name for the FED, has given plenty of liquidity to water its federal reserve branches from which they will watch those who squelch on their debts swing.

Creditism is basically "Keynesianism gone Wild", for unlike the cyclical economic deficit spending used to smooth over lax demand brought on by a downturn in economic activity, Creditism, an offshoot of what Chalmers Johnson referred to as Military Keynesianism in his first of three books on American Empire, "Blowback", is built into the federal budget and is thereby transmitted to the overall economy in such a way that it becomes organic. Any attempt to decrease its input into the economics of Empire results in tremors to the underling economy that threaten to bring it to its knees. It is thus endemic, and as a scourge of sound money, epidemic.

But as suggested above, Creditism is as different from Capitalism as Communism was, because the very basis of Capital accumulation is not just undermined, it is systematically destroyed. As we can now plainly see, no conspiracy theory needed here, the stated strategy of the Fed is to undermine savings by ratcheting up inflation, with the express purpose of forcing savers to relinquish their cash, forcing it into the overpriced assets of the casino that is now Wall St., or it will simply be taken from them via a rapid and destructive inflation based on pushing the price of energy resources to higher and higher levels. This is not being done, as in the Bush era, as an anomaly, but as a bedrock foundation of the Global economic and Financial system: if energy prices collapse, they take everything else down with them.

The dynamics are really straightforward, and they have to do with peak oil  production. At the turn of the century, as outlined in the WEO (World energy report) of 2000, there were estimated reserves of 3trillion bbl's of oil in mankind's legacy, of which approximately half had been consumed. That estimated has, since that time, at least doubled. Not because any more resources were found, but because the technology to access what was already known to be there was developed; but the price, in dollars and in energy, is far higher than it was for the first half, and the payback, ie, the profit derived from the increase in production of goods that the energy resources makes possible, are not nearly what they were in times past. There are many reasons for this, with the most obvious being globalization and the concomitant depression of wages it makes possible.

However, since the only paradigm known by the Banks and financiers and industrialists, is the magic aura of automated transportation held out to the working billions, car production and highway construction are integral components. But they are, as can be seen in the leading model, the USA, after a short time, not producers of wealth, but consumers of it. Masses of people buying cars that are produced in other countries robs the US of the high margins it enjoyed paying workers wages with which they could afford, as Henry (af)Ford said,  to buy the products they produce. But, with Walmart's replacement of GM as the largest employer in America, the highest wages paid to a population have been replaced with the lowest, and they   can only afford to buy units that are subsidized, buy gas that is priced artificially low, and ride on roads that, because they can no longer afford to have more taxes taken out of their paychecks, they cannot maintain, let alone expand.

That is, not without Credit.

Now, since the industry producing the cars was pushed into bankruptcy, all their newly-hired workers can no longer afford the products they produce, and yet, for a modern nation of cars to get its workers to, well, the workplace, the manufaccturers must extend them credit, not for two years or three, or even four. Most of the loans to workers must now be extended for five to six years, even as the price the cars cost and the profits the industry derives therefrom, decreases, and the energy and materials to produce them, increases.

This is the second symptom of Creditism: when profit from manufacturing is pushed down so low that the only way for the industry to survive is via ancillary services, such as loans, insurance, gas, and maintenance. This assures that, although the nominal price is in fact lower, the overall "price to own" steadily goes up. But the whole economic structure of industrial production is based on the economies of scale, but the scale has tipped to the other side, so that the products priced so low and bought with credit, flood the system and instead of deriving economic benefit from their production, society is turned upside down in order to accommodate the very artifact it turned itself inside out initially in order to  produce. We're collectively like Jane Fonda in "9 to 5", when she tries to run a collating copy machine: when things go awry, she's so bewildered by automation run amok resulting in sheets of papers being shot out of the machine and flying all over the room, she forgets she can simply turn off the switch ... which we, of course, can't.

This is the result of the voodoo economics of Reaganism: the psychology of running up huge credit card debt in the form of huge unbudgeted defense outlays, in the belief that, if the populace that benefits from the stimulus provided by Military Keynesianism, or perhaps more aptly, Keynesian Militarism, doesn't have to pay the bill, but can push it off onto the next generation, their objections can be thereby muted and overcome, the same logic GW pursued as he pushed the last vestiges of Capitalism over a fiscal cliff into the depth of Creditism, where, in order to enter the workforce, one must first be straddled with onerous student debt, then crushing car payments, and on top of that impossible house payments, all at plum interest rates so the banks can stay fat and, just to make sure any dream of economic independence are crushed, state-mandated insurance for health, car, mortgage, and life, ie debt insurance.

This is how Reagan accomplished his dual mandate of destroying Communism and Capitalism at the same time, replacing them with Corporatism and Creditism, taking any voice the electorate had away together with free speech protection which is now enjoyed only by the monied Corporations.

I realize this is a scanty, bare-bones analysis of the metamorphosis our economic system has undergone in the last two generations, but the alternative, the Obama-stated State of the Union nonsense that, "The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on the issue of climate change while driving strong economic growth”, needs rebutting. The very basis of our lives has undergone fundamental changes, and whereas many believe that it can we can return to a gold standard, or that fiscal restraint, even as the FED's balance sheet balloons to such an extent that its planned size, by the end of 2013 will = 25% of the US GDP, is still a possibility, have failed to grasp the nature and extent of that change, and are instead bent on hoodwinking the public into accepting their new constrained and dwindling existence, where your I-phone,  monitors every move you make, and you fight for the right to pay the cost for erecting the walls of your own prison cell. 

In one of Zola's novels, he uses a runaway "Silver Streak"-type railway engine speeding toward a terminus, with those on board helpless to stop it, as an analogy of political cataclysm. It is just as apt as one for Creditism as an out-of-control machine hurtling us to our destruction, where any attempt to seize control of its levers or to stop the stoking of its engines has been abrogated by a political and militarily machine that condemns and vilifies anyone who tries, throwing them under its speeding wheels.

And because rationalization is a much more powerful force than rationality, few will even try, so on we speed until a calamity, in a process outlined in Naomi Klein's, "Shock Doctrine", forces a CPU reset, and then, just as she described, a Deus ex Machina will appear,  and, as we've already seen with Ben Bernanke and Paulson, who were among those who all along said no one could've seen the Financial Meltdown coming, miraculously had a plan all ready to put into place a system that increased their power and wrested any vestige left of our own.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Right is Might and the Rest's what's Left.

Droning on About the State of DisUnion.

From Tutu's NYT letter, President Obama's State of the Union address, the NYT article on the bewildering timidity of the consumer, it is hard to tell if anything referred to as the 'news' is any longer comprised of anything but posturing. 

Although I agree with the sentiments Tutu expressed on the deploymet and use of drones, his question, "Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours?", is pure hyperbole. What country doesn't believe the lives of its own citizens are worth more than those in other countries? They may state otherwise, but what good's having a State if not to protect its people's from the depredations of those who would take for themselves that which you've amassed? And that's really what the issue is about: judicial review and a Commander-in-Chief's right to deploy military power during times of War. And, it is on the record for anyone to see, the world is now at a constant state of War to maintain the peace. That is what Obama informed the Nobel committee in his speech when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize as the discomfited European leaders stared at him in boggle-eyed astonishment. I don't believe even they were ready for such effrontery.

Now, if you want to argue with this stance, at least you have a leg to stand on, but to pretend to be appalled because one country holds the value of its citizen's lives in higher regard than those in other countries' is simply too ridiculous, especially coming from a man of the cloth. Because we all know what religions feel about those practicing other faiths, and the everlasting damnation to which they condemn their souls, no matter what they may say publicly.

Then we have Obama's State of Dis Union Address, which is simply filled with nonsense, and the rebuttal from Cuba's oh, I mean, Florida's Marco Rubio, waving his hands like he's using them for semaphores, as he spouts every trite cliched Republican rostrum as though he's addressing, if not still in, his high school sophomore assembly. All this talk about Republican opposition to big government is so much nonsense, and, if we really did have any shred of journalism left, would be dismissed as such when it is brought up by the real big government party: The Republicans. Nuclear power, and Nuclear Bombs, an overarching, aggressive War Department, Projection of Imperial power overseas, a never-ending Drug War, NSA surveillance of private citizens, and a private sector bloated with defense firms living off their fat government dole, I mean contracts, are all firmly nailed-in planks of the Republican Party Platform, every one of which takes big Government as a given.  But you'd never know that from the silence of journalists on this issue. Which is why I included the article from this morning's NYT's in my opening line.

That they have the temerity to refer to consumer's timidity is just a cynical ploy.  The NYT knows the reason as well as we do: High Oil Prices, High Housing costs, High Healthcare costs, and High Education Costs: all rising at an accelerating rate even as the private sector sheds jobs, jettison's benefits, and refuses to hire anyone without a degree, which translates into without a burden of intractable debt before they even walk in the door.

All of which derives from a Republican spending program, started under the Blight d. landscape Eisenhower's administration, using the rubric of Defense, to build the interstate highway system, which straddles every American Citizen with the onerous costs of providing their own private transit to their place of work. This transportation nightmare we dreamed up for ourselves, however, was built on the chimera of a never ending river of Black gold, or, the Devil's excreta, depending on your point of view, which has gone from $11/bbl at the turn of the century to more than $100/bbl currently, despite the most massive investment in drilling rigs, pipelines, oil tankers, refineries, even while more wads of cash and the greatest gobs of money are thrown into the development and delivery of substitutes such as ethanol and bio-diesel in the history of the world.

A populace that now has to plow every nickel they earn back into the ground just to dig up more energy to be able to burn more fuel in the search for then, even more energy, simply has nothing left for niceties like toilet seat covers and nonsensicals like pet-rocks, on which a moribund stagflating economy was rejiggered to cater to in the eighties. Instead, as the NYT article demonstrates, we scratch our nuts and stare off into space, usually while sitting in traffic burning the oil we burnt so much oil to get in the first place so we could not get to where we're going, which is usually to work so we can earn money, a crippling percentage of which goes to pay for the fuel and the vehicle to get us there, and collectively pretend we have no idea what could've gone wrong.

Like the "Triumph", we're so convinced of our splendor, despite being bespattered by our own feces, and so brainwashed by the images constantly flashed in front of our eyes from an out of control dream machine, manufacturing one nightmare after the other, we float adrift fantasizing that life's a Carnival,wondering when, how, and by whom we'll be rescued, while the option to take matters into our own hands occurs only to a few lone madmen and wingnuts.

Obama very nearly touched on the answer at the end of his address when he said that we as citizens need to help one another. But that's not what citizens do; citizens stand up for the State first, often against one another; it is only Comrades that band together and take responsibility for each other. But as Occupy Wall St, demonstrated, and Egypt's Tahrir Square, such movements will always be quashed. Until we put the energy we put into gay marriage (just as an example), both pro and contra, into creating legally sanctioned guild's or societies or some sort of social cohesion outside of the intolerant gates of Church and State, there will be no forward motion in our struggle to help get our lives organized and sustainably wholesome. We don't need or want another Revolution, but we do need an Evolution, and a means to put a stop to what is clearly, to anyone who will see, a full scale retreat from all our most dearly held values, and that can only be described as a Devolution.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Arctic's Ring of Fire: One Ring to Melt Them All ..

The Fire of Mounting Doom.

In his post today, CK Michaelson of "Some Assembly Required" posted a pun that was, methinks, unintentional, albeit, sobering: "Methy, very, very, methy". Now, I thought he was referring to meth heads, but the link associated with his pun pointed instead to an article on the "Arctic News" webpage that was reflecting on the ramifications of the high methane releases from the Arctic seas surrounding Norway.

Aside from the fact that there is a very real analogy between meth addicts burning themselves out and the entire globe doing the exact same thing in the exact same way, what interested me the most was the complete disconnect between both the blogs' theses and reality.

Because in Michaelson's posting from just the day before, he was castigating the UK's David Cameron, for "having destroyed the British economy and Government budgets with his love of austerity". Although never shaping his arguments in a formal basis, as that is not what his blog's about, his point of view can be gleaned from his caustic remarks, such as the one noted, and they make it clear on what side of the stimulus debate he stands. However, you either support economic stimulus, or you support taking steps to curtail global warming. You can't do both.

US stimulus, although not nearly in amounts large enough  to satisfy the likes of  Krugman or Michaelson, has already started a Renaissance in the production of energy in the US so monumental that the investment news letter, "Energy and Capital" refers to the phenomenon as "America's Ring of Fire". This would not be happening, this Ring of Fire would not now be burning out of control, (and it is) if it were not for the stupendous amounts of Fed-created liquidity sloshing around in the world's markets; and although I hate to state the obvious, it seems to need to be stated:  the more economic stimulus you add, the faster global warming and climate change accelerates. It is the methamphetamine of the global economy. Is this not just accepted fact? Can K&M (Krug & Michaelson) really not see this? Or are they just of the same ilk and on the same plane as the very hucksters they pretend to wish to expose as the hooligans they are?

Rhetorical questions, all, of course. Because of course they can see it. They just hope you can't, so that they can keep wearing their "Conscience of a Liberal" drag. But, as the fates would have it, English is a dangerous language, in that you can never make an unambiguous statement, and, as I will shortly demonstrate why, Krugman's self-proclaimed title has within it the real truth of his "Stimulate, baby, Stimulate" stance, namely that it is Con Science. And, as you may have noticed, even 'con' has two meanings, both of which apply: con as in against, like ConAgra; or con, as in a scam, an attempt to get you to do something, using deception, that is against your better interests. In both these meanings, Krugman does indeed promulgate the Con Science of a 'liberal' every bit as much as Glen Beck does it for 'conservatives'.

Now, though I next wish to address the thesis, in Arctic News, that scientists should abandon their customary cautionary approach to scientific research, and, as in the Aids crisis, expedite the process and, casting aside the fear of sounding alarmist, give full voice to the rapidity with which their most dire prognostications are coming to fruition, I would first like to dwell for a minute on the "Ring of Fire". Because, whereas the coiners, well, if purloin and coin are synonymous, of that phrase were referring to the Marcellus shale and the natural gas bonanza that it's brought to the Pennsylvania area, I can't help but notice that around the Arctic, during the last generation, all through which the concept of anthropogenic Climate Change was accepted as fact by most of the world's thinking population, we have literally built a Ring of Fire, from Norway's North Sea, to Russian Siberia from Alaska's North Slope to Canada's Athabasca region, and all through North Dakota's Bakken, whose flaring of gas is so egregious you can see it from space, and is in such prodigious amounts you could fuel an entire State with it.

Yet, even as the rate and extent of melting and concomitant release of methane hydrates from shallow seabeds reaches an alarming acceleration, no climatologist anywhere on the web or in scientific journals has mentioned this Ring of Fire that has been constructed around the epicenter of global melting: The Arctic Circle.

And the faster the Arctic melts, the closer in we move the  Ring of Fire, with Shell Oil all ready to start again in the next month or two to build another drill site. Yet the article in the Arctic News ends with the statement, "Sea ice is declining at exponential pace. The big danger is that a huge rise of temperatures in the Arctic will destabilize huge amounts of methane currently held in the seabed. Comprehensive and effective action is needed now to avoid catastrophe".

Yeah, like drilling another oil well, the ultimate prize apparently being to tap a gusher right in the center of the Arctic  and spew an unctuous, tarry black liquid over everything. Which brings up the thesis from the Arctic News which I was referring to which is completely erroneous: that warning mankind in a more alarming way will change anything. It may. But not in the way they hope: it will only increase the pace at which the littoral states of the Arctic will rush in to exploit 'their' oil resources. I don't know on what world the author of these articles dwell, But on this one, on this planet, there are only humans.

 The scientists arguing thus need to read Mark Buchanan's interview, in which he posits that, "The brain seems to be more of a rationalization device than it is a rational device", and stop making such absurd assertions.  Like K&M, they want to believe what they wish were true rather than what they know to be true. Who doesn't? But this doesn't make them any less wrong. Humankind will rationalize their warnings away. Like Condoleeza Rice sitting in front of a memo warning of the scenario of hijackers slamming airliners into buildings, and saying, "We never discussed that" we say, "We never Discussed that pouring increasingly large volumes of CO2 into the atmosphere closer and closer to the Arctic circle could have any deleterious effects", and like her, we'll really believe we didn't.

Increasingly, despite Shell Oil's initial failure last summer, someone will eventually come forth who is capable of such an undertaking. And it will be another of the oil majors that is funding Climate Change Denial pundits, even as they line up to take full advantage of exactly that: if there were No Global Warming, no drilling in the Arctic would be possible. If we had a Congress that was really concerned about Climate Change instead of simply paying lip-service to it, they would ban any company funding Climate Change denial politicians from taking advantage of drilling opportunities that are only feasible because of Climate Change. They won't of course, as they get dollars from both sides of the debate this way, with nobody having a clue of their nefarious undertakings.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Exporting America's Future.

Where to start? As perhaps you've noticed, perhaps not, what I try to do on this forum is try to gather together the inputs from various sources and reconcile them to some picture of reality that, not coincidentally, seldom fits in with the pablum spoon-fed to us by the mass media. What we do have provided to us is an array of facts into which the powers that be twist, or spin, as they once called it, to fit their own picture of the world.

Not that I'm arguing that they shouldn't do that. How could I? It's what I try to do myself. The difference, of course, is that I don't control the organs of mass communication, giving me more freedom to explore the truth, as I see it. Those in power, to give them their due, don't enjoy the same latitude. For example, when Obama re-appointed Bernanke, the architect of the largest financial fiasco in the history of the world, I was, I believe justifiably, incensed. But what do I know of what goes on in secret meetings in which the future of a nation, and considering it's this nation, the world, are discussed? Or of the awesome responsibility of guiding an economy through the shoals of disaster and collapse that steering the economic engine of global growth into a new structure, one that channels the income of an ever-expanding population into the hands of a few oligarchs, all the while maintaining the support of the very people whose future you've decided should be spent trapped in debt servitude, entails?

On my desk is Van Wyck Brooks, "The Flowering of  New England", in which is described a society that had such a love of books and learning that it was considered the first of patriotic duties: "Serving women were not unknown who read their Latin with the boys and girls and heard them recite, after washing the dishes. Young girls who rose at five and asked themselves, "What hard good work have I to do today? ", began with two or three books of Paradise Lost, to give them the proper tone, then talked about Oriental studies. Older sisters advised younger sisters, who were filled with the furor scribendi, to discipline their minds by studying Butler's Analogy. One little girl of seven who had read a book on the ancient gods, telling how much they had been loved and honored, they who no one worshiped anymore, felt her heart fill with pity. All over New England, not only in the "Literary Emporium", as Boston was called, there was a passionate interest in self-culture. Countless houses followed some theory of education and practiced on their friends and youthful cousins. All the sons and daughters of the well-to-do were sent to the "literary institutions", the colleges and academies. Children of the  poorer families, who could not afford to buy paper and ink, made their own, or used chalk or charcoal, and learned to write on the kitchen floor; and here and there some group of boys and girls, who had red Washington Irving's Salmagundi, edited a family magazine. This interest in reading and study, in books and authors, laid trains of feeling in the general  mind that were about to burst into expression. "

It is through the prism formed by this background that I perceive the direction of the modern USA and the lack of learning and understanding of the world that is constantly re-enforced. A public now that's not based on understanding, but instead on promulgating a set theory of how the world should work that is delivered via a communication medium that, at its very core, is based on sly deception and outright lies, formally known as advertising, such that, here in San Francisco, a local dealer, just to pick one example, blithely promises its customers that it is 100 % dedicated to their needs 110% of the time: A ridiculous meaningless impossibility, the dissemination of which cost an equally ridiculous sum to air.

Far from the excitement of  learning you feel from just reading Brooks' passage, it has been reduced to mind-numbing drudgery engaged in for the sole purpose of enhancing the prospects of that seven-year-old girl's being employable in the future.At a time when industry is tossing people out onto the street with a shrug of the shoulders and a kick in the ass, it is endeavoring, in California, to remove fiction from children's reading, substituting it with the ability to read spreadsheets and mathematical datum. Even as it pays less and less for the schools, it demands more input into what should be taught, in order to produce little mindless drones to crunch numbers and kowtow in servile obeisance.

Lest you think I conjure such visions form my own little bean, I would point you to Michael Lind's "Made In Texas": "The purpose of the traditional Southern education was to turn the children of the rich and affluent into the well-read and sophisticated politicians, lawyers and business directors who would run society. The majority of the popluation was doomed by birth to menial agricultural or domestic or semi-skilled labor, and needed no more than basic literacy and numeracy - if they even needed that."

This is the plan for the entire country in the new millenium. While calling for Energy independence, the elite have instead rigged the game so that they get unqualified public support for their drill-baby-drill policy, whereas the true nature of their enterprise is to use the current, and largely unknown, price differential between WTI oil And Brent crude that has been runninga t $20.00/bbl for more than a year now, to export the remaining bounty of America's fossil fuels to the rest of the energy-hungry globe.

In a Bloomberg article entitled, "Trade Deficit in U.S. Plunges on Record Petroleum Exports", this true nature of the plans of the oil industry are shown to be the same as they are for coal, which is being exported in record amounts, even as the Chesapeake Energy Corporation has built an expensive LNG terminal in Louisiana for the exporting of Natural Gas. All the talk of guaranteeing the future of America's energy supply is a sham and a smokescreen. Just as they drained every last drop of oil for export, leaving us high and dry in the 70's such that we felt it incumbent to prostrate ourselves to feudal monarchies and archconservative Muslim fanatics in the Middle East, who petrodollars have enriched beyond their wildest dreams, they are pulling the same trick now on a population that should by now be well versed in their sleight of  hand , but who instead, greedily buy into the hoopla in the hopes that gas prices will go down and we can continue to be the world's avatar of energy profligacy and wasteful practices.

 By doing so we are (to quote Mr. Lind's vintage 2003 book again) turning into: "Gore Country, which may be an improvement on Bush country, but it is a slight one. To exchange domination by a Southern political-business oligarchy for domination by a coastal liberal elite of invesment bankers and media tycoons is scant progress". But by embracing the fantasy of a life on wheels no matter what we steals 'cause we like how it feels, seems to doom us to a blighted and mentally slighted future. The American Dream we're so in love with has changed dramatically from the one I had growing up (during which time I took for granted the leisure time I had for reading  precisely because of those wheels), but the fact remains there are other alternatives to the shopping-as-sport mentality and the absurd future of mankind, depicted on this month's "Discover" magazine cover, of a man with a jetpack flying off into the air and calling it Technolution. As though  strapping on yet another layer of whiz-bang technology suggests a positive step in mankind's evolution. It doesn't. Instead, it portends devolution, as a small elite takes over our minds, our lives, and our futures while we indulge in puerile "Jetson" fantasies of easy living with no consequences. We have, it appears, learned nothing.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Converse on Covert's Converts.

Give credit where credit is due, which apparently is everywhere in the OECD countries. But what about the rest of the world? Other than the BRIC's, and the Arab Spring, from the vantage point here in the USA, there simply isn't one. Unless a war breaks out, such as the one in Mali, the rest of the world may as well be in Timbuktu as far as USAryans's mass media is concerned. The exception to this is of course, America's greatest spectator sport, mass-killings of any kind, but especially popular are foreign wars, with high-casualty weather events pulling a close second.

Perhaps it's the same in other countries, but watching the American version of everything, CNN, BBC, even RT (Russian Times), and DW (Deutsche Welle (Journal), one gets the feeling of sanitized news, everything cleared through and cleaned by the US censors before airing it to the hapless, feckless masses. As if to buttress my suspicions, today George Soros sent out an e-mail containing a video detailing, "Ghost flights, black sites, and stories of appalling abuse. In which he asks readers to:

Please take a minute to watch Amrit Singh of the Open Society Justice Initiative describe the grim realities of the CIA’s post-9/11 campaign of secret detention and torture.

The fact that he uses the word secret is illuminating. Because, as Garry Wills pointed out in his book, "Bomb Power"torture, abuse of secrecy, illegal covert operations, and signing statements, are all used and kept secret, not from the USA's enemies, for which purpose the OSS, the CIA's predecessor, was founded, but to keep certain US government actions, of which our enemies are completely aware, secret from US citizens. Something they would be unable to do if we had a truly free press.

But both of theses authors express an outrage that is felt only by themselves. They write as though they are ferreting out and presenting to the US public facts that are unknown to them. Which, in an overarching sense, is true: the individual atrocities are in fact usually unknown. But the general carte blanche the US public has given these agencies, both in their latitude to perform whatever indecencies they see fit, and in the amount of dollars they spend in order to carry our their various "Mission Implausibles", implies a willingness to admit they prefer not to know the details of what is done in their name.

In both the unitary executive Whitehouses of the Nixon and Reagan administrations, criminals carried out illegal programs, the details of which, both Chief Executives made clear beforehand, they preferred to be kept in the dark. This was a manifestation of a policy of plausible deniability: no matter how implausible the denial, nor how incompetent the denial makes the executives (who stoically maintain complete ignorance of crimes done in their names and right under their noses) look. 

This policy the GW Bush administration raised to such a level of virtuosity, it now pervades every aspect of private as well as public institutions. How else explain how CEO's such as Kenneth Lay, Corzine, and a host of others, can 'earn' millions, even billions, of dollars, yet have no idea of the financial shenanigans, carried out on such a monumental scale? Shenanigans undertaken with the full co-operation of executives in high places in other corporations, such as JPMorgan, and Arthur Anderson, one of the "Big Five" accounting firms, whose lower level employees would never have dared carried out the illegalities they did for their clients without the express permission, even encouragement, of their own bosses.

Entire corporations (in the case of Enron bringing down others in their wake) came crashing to the ground as the executives scurried behind the scenes to shred evidence and steal the last nickel, lest it end up in an employee's 401k (and who's on the board, but GW Bush?). Yet they can insist they had no idea how the corporation they're pillaging makes its money. Like the wife of a Mafia boss, what do they care how the money's made, as long as the furs and diamond necklaces are forthcoming, and their liability's zilch?

And now another George is all upset because, lo and behold, the CIA tortures people. Let's see, is that the same George whose billions were made betting on, and some say, precipitating, the collapse in the currency of an entire country? Well, so sorry, Soros, the USAryans know full well what is done in their name, but so long as the powers that be keep their Wars waging everywhere but here, as long as the tanks aren't in our streets and the planes are strafing, the drones are striking, in lands far away, the carte blanche remains in effect and the news of new atrocities will get the same treatment by the populace that the executives give their company's illegalities: a big shrug, and maybe a phony intake of breath and rehearsed exclamation that "I had no idea". And, unlike under those evil 'Socialistic' regimes, where people were actually punished for crimes (in fact that was the crime: getting caught. Not anymore. Yea Capitalism: NSA! NSA!).  Plausible deniability ("We never discussed planes flying into buildings") now exonerates everyone. Trickle down Realpolitic: We may have low educational standards, but we're still fast learners.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Terrestrial or Celestial? Is it a Fossil Fuel or Abiotic Oil.

Awed Couple.

Now that even the NYT is writing about the game-changing nature of the Bakken oil spewing from the rock in North Dakota, it seems like a good time to revisit the controversy of where the hell oil comes from. Because, aside from its obvious location underground, there is a, probably pseudo, debate going on, unbeknownst to most of us mortals residing outside the realm of petroleum geology, as to the genesis of the most valuable resource known to man.

Because while most westerners assume that  the term 'fossil fuel' is an accurate description of how black gold came to be, it is by no means a universally accepted theory. The idea that stands in counterpoise to that of carboniferous-era vegetation and animal life providing the biota for the forces of pressure and bacterial action to transform into the miracle substance, is the theory of abiotic oil, which posits that oil is continuously produced in the earth's mantle in such prodigious quantities that the term 'depletion' describes a phenomenon that is an impossibility.

However, depletion should not be confused with the term 'peak oil', which is a production phenomena, (so more accurately, POP: Peak Oil Production) not a resource constraint. Just as there is plenty of water on the planet, oceans of it, producing fresh water depends on cycles of production, albeit natural ones, such that  regardless of the fact that we're drowning in the stuff, it's more and more the case that there's less and less to satisfy everyone's needs.

With the exploitation of the resources in the Bakken, Eagle Ford, Marcellus, and soon, California's Monterey shale formations, the descriptions of Russian petroleum geologists who, in the nineties, theorized that "All kinds of rocks could have oil and gas deposits", and that all we need do to extract them is, "drill deeper to find it." Russia has since become the world's number one producer of hydrocarbons.

Thus does the importance of celestial or terrestrial production become salient. In Celestial production, i.e. fossil fuels, which are made possible by photosynthesis of solar radiation into the familiar products of biological life, there is a finite amount of oil and humankind is in the act of pumping energy into the current environment that is the result of stored energy, as though the earth itself was an enormous capacitor. In terrestrial production, not only are the processes that create hydrocarbons derived from gravitational pressures, but the matter they work upon are also, resulting in a cycle that is independent of materials subsumed from the surface of not only our planet, but the sun, as light is not merely energy, but matter as well, resulting in a perennial rain of photons onto the surface of the earth.

The most likely answer is given by Alexander Kitchka of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, who estimates that 60 percent of the content of all oil is abiotic in origin, which translates into 40% being of the fossil fuel variety. This would help explain why the difference in grades of oil is so pronounced, with the light sweet, low-sulfur variety preferred in the West, being almost an entirely different substance than the heavy, viscous, high-sulfur oils of Venezuela's Orinoco belt.

Thus do we have a marriage of the two, analogous to an engagement ring, who's metal band is the result of solar gravitational pressures exerted on atoms in the heart of stars transforming them into the metals exploded into space during a Super-Nova event, and the terrestrially created gemstone that sits thereon, created in the heart of the earth's volcanoes. The placement of this upon the finger usually results in a marriage quite literally made in heaven, and consummated on this earth.

But of course, all marriages are not happy ones, and some are destructively dysfunctional. And the marriage of these two theories, it has become increasingly clear, is, far from decreasing the amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere, dramatically, exponentially, inexorably, despite all the green's machines fueled by soy beans, going to continually increase until ... what?

Geologically, I leave that prediction to others. Politically, as it has become increasingly clear during the last generation, though, I can safely say, it will mean the impoverishment and extermination of larger and larger numbers of animals, environments, and humans, as the more oil that's produced, the more people are left standing on the sidelines watching the gas-guzzlers chug away, completely oblivious to the bloated costs they push onto everyone else who they deride as freeloaders and chumps while they poison everything in sight: their own kids included. For whereas after its discovery and adoption as an energy source in factory production, burning and churning oil resulted in a shared prosperity, flooding the globe with its marvels, the new paradigm has larger and larger proportions of it being simply burned to keep the growing population of car owners able to inhabit the earth in a fantasy-like magic carpet-ride existence, where their ability to occupy the planet in one place, work on it in another and play on it in various other locales, all enabled via GPS, and other completely computer-generated technologies that require a vast array of energy-gulping machines totally invisible to the end-user, is valued over everything. Including the very future of the species. Any species. Gives a whole new meaning to Abiotic. Happy motoring.