Monday, December 15, 2014
Reading remarks about Bill Nye's take on human-manipulated DNA, it's easy to forget that Darwinism isn't about genetic modification, which is a term used to define mutation done via manual manipulation rather than the randomness of nature, upon whose whims one could wait until all life is extinct before it came up with a modification that would function in the actual god-given environment, howsoever you may define god. All I mean by it is the actual existing environment into which the modified seed is distributed and of which, although it is never brought up (that I've witnessed) in the GMO debate, that second part of Darwinism that the pro-GMO side of the debate is as silent on as any Bible-thumping, idiot-by-choice, Christian evolution-denier.
Manipulation of the genetic code is something that irradiation and meiotic cell division accomplishes without any interference by humans, but most of those mutations end up in a dead end once they are disseminated into the environment and prove themselves unable to proliferate with said mutation, and so that particular mutation becomes nonviable and the existing organism goes on unmodified. The mutations that are created by humans, although you'd never know it to judge by the arguments made in favor of GMO's, are subject to this same dynamic.
Now, whereas you can forgive Creationsists for their ignorance, since it is not only professed, but proudly stated, all their thoughts being based on an unquestioning faith instead of facts, those of a more scientific bent are not so easily forgiven, because since their manipulations can't be done without it, they base the very existence on science, so their purposeful ignorance is more starkly profiled as a purely propagandist's ploy using misinformation and manipulated data so as to further an agenda that is hidden behind a cloak of scientific objectivity.
But it isn't objective at all. Anyone with the sophistication to manipulate a gene, even using the relatively low-tech methods of Mendel, know that genetic manipulation is only the first part of the equation and that the second part of Darwinian theory is based on natural selection. Ignoring the second half isn't Darwin's Theory of evolution at all but is gene-tinkering, a process by which one would have to create, or allow to be created, an entire different world with entirely different factors at work to produce an outcome that is pre-ordained as opposed to one that is ongoing and based on the survival of the fittest not only in the current environment, but able to mutate to accommodate itself to an ever-changing environment.
The term that's often used to describe this phenomenon is "playing God". However, as the less rabid of religious people will readily admit, that is not an accurate term by any means. The vast majority of God-fearing humanity actually agrees with the Darwinian view of the world, which of course, means that the mechanism the Almighty put into place to allow life to not only exist, but to adapt to the ever-changing world in which it exists, is, as close as we can figure it, Darwinism. So that when scientists who genetically modify an organism to do what they want it to do, are in fact NOT playing
God, who found it much more convenient to set it and forget it, ie, put in place a dynamism that could continue its existence in a world in flux without divine intervention being needed every time the planet's volcanoes decide to blanket the earth in a suffocating cloud of CO2, but can rejuvenate itself from the genetic code already in place.
When the genes are man-made, but the environment into which they are expected to grow is not, the results, given the reality of climate change, anthropogenic or not, are of the kind referred to as a disaster in the making. Robbing our food plants of their ability to mutate and respond to the most rapidly-changing environment in human history isn't just asking for trouble: it's guaranteeing it.
GMO is the plant equivalent of sci-fi fantasies that envisage mankind creating a breathable atmosphere on another planet, a la "Total Recall", even as we destroy the only atmosphere capable of sustaining life anywhere in the known universe: our own. Analogously, even as we destroy the topsoil, the aquifers, the pollinating insects required for earth-based agriculture, we think we can tinker with a few genes and then, in our human-twisted view of reality, make it all right again. But of course, we can't. Not because we're stupid, but because we are unable to know the future, and therefore unable to create diversity in a world in which all we want to do is canonize specialization. But specificity denies mutability, and such denial fosters vulnerability, much the same way that optimal efficiency creates non-dynamic networks and robs them of true robustness; although requiring less resources to implement, they are nonetheless more prone to failure of a concatenating, catastrophic nature, than less efficient, but more robust designs that require redundant resources be left idle, or underutilized, in order to accommodate unforeseen, but inevitable, strains on the infrastructure.
But as the number of humans increases geometrically, as Malthus predicted it would, the need for increases in agricultural yield becomes more dire, and our demand for a growth that in every way resembles cancerous growth, goes on unabated, our desperation blinds us to the trap we're building for ourselves using our unbendable hubris for its bars. It's probably no coincidence that just as we are destroying diversity in our political structures and economic institutions, we have taken aim at destroying it in nature as well, replacing it with a hoped-for increase in yield that will make us look oh-so-clever for awhile before it implodes. The hope being that we can bask in our own resplendence before the edifice of idiocy crashes down around our ears (of corn?).
Meanwhile the debate will rage on ignoring the fact that mutation without natural selection is a pseudo-debate because they can refer to Darwin's theory of evolution as half-baked since all they use in their arguments is half of the theory.
As a corollary;
This cartoon uses much of the same illogic: it denies reality in order to make an argument for a position, by deliberately using a false analogy. Although the male sperm is often referred to as 'seed', it is not the same as what we usually refer to as seed in, for example, a GMO'd plant. Sperm, unlike a real seed, bears more of a resemblance to the ova in the female, as it is produced via meiosis, not mitosis, and therefore contains only half the DNA needed to create a viable entity. It would be far more accurate if it said, "If blowjobs are cannibalism, then menstruation is murder", because in both cases a nonviable cell is disposed of without having been afforded the opportunity to mate. Saying that you find the statement that abortion is the same as murder is a statement you don't agree with is one thing, and that can be argued on the basis of its philosophical underpinnings, but to make the above postcard's nonsense statement that wantoning arresting the development of a viable being is the same as swallowing a bunch of sperm cells that could possibly have united with a compatible egg cell and created a new, unique cell that one must take action to halt, does nothing for your argument because, by its very nature, it presupposes a certain amount of ignorance in those you hope to convince. Not to mention, of course, that it presupposes that everyone who gives blowjobs swallows the resultant cumload, something that reveals more about the person using this analogy than about anyone believing abortions are murder.
But this is the nature of so-called debate in this new millennium's first century, where facts are purposely obfuscated with blarney and people who should know better just cross their fingers and hope no one will notice. But dishonesty in science is not science at all, it is dogma in disguise, and that makes, not for a better world, but for a meaner nastier one where debate is simply a means to spread your preferred propaganda and facts are whatever you deem malleable to your purpose. We should demand more of our media, our writers, and our journalists. Not because we hold them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves, but because we deserve to have the truth so we can make our own decisions based on unmanipulated data, not half-truths and jerry-rigged theories.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 12:48 PM
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Oh the irony the irony, it abounds in all of today's headlines, the wringing of hands as pundits bemoan, "Who coulda known", the shaking of heads, as this or that is now too much, then old hat, the shrugging of shoulders as we indicate another cherished belief has been jettisoned or another War on Fill-in-the-blank has been lost, but not a word on the name freakism that is Ferguson. And not Ferguson Plumbing or Ferguson Carpentry, Ferguson Accounting or Ferguson Baths, but Ferguson Mo., and the three Fergusons that seem to be to be an ironic historical trio to line up with the goings on in Ferguson Missouri.
Historically, first in the queue would be Adam Ferguson, but first in irony is, of course, Plessy v. Ferguson, that being the landmark SCOTUS decision that upheld the constitutionality of state laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities under the doctrine of "separate but equal", before being overruled in 1954 by "Brown v. The Board of Education."
Now, in our current Ferguson first, we're being shown the separate but decidedly unequal treatment of the racial minority in question, where this time it is the Police Force that is separate and the minority that's proven not equal to the task of fending off their Military-style attacks against them.
The next Ferguson apropos to our discussion is, although seemingly unrelated, gets included because he, as an advocate of the USA's taking up of the mantle of Empire it wrested from Great Britain, he espouses a philosophy that explains exactly what those, and other police forces, were doing with having military weapons in their armamentaria in the first place, and that Ferguson is Niall, of the take-it-in-the Chinamerica lexiconcoction: Chimerica, a frightening chimera if there ever was one.
Perhaps it sounds unrelated to the events in Ferguson, but the fact that the so-called Republic isn't one, because an Empire simply is not a Republic, not by definition, not by its economics and finance, and certainly not by the power of its citizens over the actions and directions of its government. To an Empire, the decisions it makes are based not on how they affect its own electorate, but how they affect those of other countries, be they China, Japan, Israel, the Philippines, Iraq and Iran, Russia, Egypt, Somalia, Nigeria, or any of another dozen countries, their citizens' welfare being effectively managed by Washington, with their local leaders lining up for position at the Washington Consensus patronage trough as willingly as any State Senator. Their voices and concerns are considered as much, and as Ferguson, Missouri, not Niall this time, knows, often carry more weight in his, our Black President's, decisions.
Now, whereas it is admittedly difficult to find common ground with the only group of people that feels free to refer to my President as a nigger, black people, those who call each other brother one minute and nigger the next, pretending that there's no disrespect meant, even as they feel quite justified in physically assaulting anyone who isn't of the same complexion simply because they called them a name they claim they don't like, yet is a name which, to listen to them talk at one another, you would think is their favorite appellation, the images of military vehicles being brought to bear against these US citizens is disturbing for a number of reasons, the first of which is the resemblance it has to the too-eagerly-resorted-to deployment of stealth technology against the Iraqi's in the first of the Gulf Wars by George HW Bush, once the Soviet Union was safely out of the picture as a restraint against unbridled US power.
The citizens of the US, not just their government, seem to think people, in this Globalized world, a world that one of the most rabid War-mongers in the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, likes to call a village, are far too ready to start dropping phosphorous bombs and firing depleted uranium weaponry on their fellow villagers. Either it's a village or its a world of Sovereign nations each trying to derive advantage by undermining and otherwise putting their neighboring countries into dire straits. Since it's obviously the latter, why is it surprising that whenever the US government has a domestic problem, they use the only tool that's proven effective elsewhere: Military force and paid assassins glamorized as "Warriors", but are nothing more than snipers-for-hire. And this is but one of many instances where we keep, and by we I mean black people as well as white, and maintain the separate but equal doctrine, not caring so much about the equal part, only maintaining the separate.
So when you adopt a term like Global Village to justify your ambitions to rule an Empire, pretending the world's just a quaint hamlet wherein every one has a voice, and then bomb the bejeezus out of a part of it, the Niall Ferguson picture of the US as World Police maintained via Empire Militancy always has a way of creating a similar dysfunctional dynamic back in the Homeland, Fatherland or Mother country that results in a Ferguson, Mo.wherein a minority, that insists on striking down Separate but equal doctrine while maintaining views, such as their cry for reparations, that are at complete odds with it. In this respect, the masses, as epitomized by the behavior in Ferguson, remind one of Adam Ferguson's comments on Adam's Smith's observation that "in free countries, where the safety of government depends on the favorable judgement which the people form of its conduct a mass of ignorant, culturally degraded citizens easily becomes an immense drag on the system, because they become easy prey to demagogues and applaud every attempt to undermine the foundations of that 'natural liberty' which they've enjoyed in the first place."
This reflects on the cultural costs of Kamikaze Kapitalism, which Adam Smith, the economist most cited by the Wall St. trading community as justification for giving them a "Free Hand" to steal whatever they wanted from whomever they wanted, whenever they found it convenient, and thus brought the world to the edge of the financial abyss, from which position they then blackmailed it into meeting their ransom demands, threatening to push it crashing into oblivion otherwise. But Smith had argued that no society benefited from becoming entirely "commercial" in its mentality and attitudes, yet that is what the Wall St. cohort and their bought politicians insist the US, and of course, if you want to be held in favor by the US (i.e. be allowed to exist), other countries as well, turned into, as they monetized everything that wasn't nailed down, and then started on those things that were.
It was Adam Ferguson who argued, contrarily, in his "Essay on the History of Civil Society", published in 1768, and which was richly informed by both Adam Smith and Hume, not to mention Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that commercial society, with its over-specialization and mental mutilation, destroyed the integrity and courage of native peoples everywhere. The effect of Capitalism on those qualities, he argued, is to eat away at them as they are replaced with new, self-centered, modern traits wherein the individual considers his community only so far as it can be rendered subservient to his personal advancement and profit. Humans become weak and soft, and lose their sense of honor and courage. They must have their creature comforts, no matter what. Freedom itself becomes a commodity, to be sold to the highest bidder - or seized by the strongest power - or used as an excuse for waging interminable conflicts all around the globe.
Ferguson saw history moving along the same lines as his fellows amongst the Edinburgh literati, but the ultimate destination would be very different from what the prophets of progress were forecasting, and the events that are being show-cased in Ferguson, Mo. are proving his more sobering views to be more in line with reality as it has unfolded. Kamikaze Kapitalism has proven his thesis that although it builds walls and ramparts, it enervates the minds of those who are placed to defend them; although it forms disciplined armies, it reduces the military spirit of the entire nation, and by brandishing the sword as the alternative to the civil establishments for which it has cultivated a distinct distaste, prepares mankind for government by force.
Thus, the last stage of modern history, which is exactly what the US claimed itself to be in its post-USSR hubris-soaked triumphalism, as evidenced by its spouting such absurdities as, "The End of History", Adam Ferguson claimed, Niall Ferguson boasted, Plessy v Ferguson denied, but Ferguson Mo. highlights, would not be liberty but tyranny, unless something was done to prevent it. Because "left to itself Capitalism would become humanity's tomb." So, as you can see, when I call it Kamikaze Kapitalism Kultur, I am not being overly pessimistic nor out of line with the thinkers at the very beginnings of Capitalism, including Adam Smith himself who is cited as though he were Ayn Rand, which only the ignorance of the polity allows to happen because they swallow the rhetoric, believe the lies, without ever bothering to take up the most famous book written by the man the Wall St. swindlers quote as justification for their high-handed abuse of that most precious of commodities: Your money. A commodity that proves again that what is separate, can never be equal, otherwise, what's the justification for the separateness?
Well, Power and Control, of course. The justification for everything, and the one that Niall Ferguson uses when he advocates that the US Empire replace their empire. Wherein Great Britain, would, of course, be separate, and equal, but more equal than any other country. So the irony in the situation that I mention in the opening paragraph is one we all share, but becomes more austerely evident in the racial component of Ferguson, Mo, in that a minority, one that has blithely accepted the subjugation of the rest of the globe via military ascendancy, riots in the streets and is surprised when that military might is then turned on them. To me it appears similar to the outrage about the NSA spying that Snowden exposed. My reaction is the same. "What did you think?" Do you really think that you're immune to the whirlwind you've unleashed onto the world? Such power without restraint is, well, power without restraint, Once you've taken the muzzle off the pit bull, it can well prove impossible to get it back on, or keep it from turning on You.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 12:52 PM
Monday, November 3, 2014
|Voodoo Economix Works: Just not for You. (Hint: it was never supposed to).|
In an article in Der Spiegel, in which Michael Sauga wonders how Capitalism has "gone off the rails", he posits that "Financial institutions, focused as they are on repairing the damage done, are inhibiting the recovery". Well, maybe that's because the only damage they're focused on repairing is that done to their balance sheets. The recovery of the underlying economy, under the Kamikaze Kapitalism regime we've instituted worldwide, is none of their concern. And the damage they inflict on the rest of the world is none of their responsibility, as evidenced by the fact that not one of them have been either jailed or even curtailed in their nefarious shenanigans as they unabashedly reap enormous rewards for inflicting economic pain on the rest of humanity and the ecological systems we, as animals, need to keep healthy so as to eke out some subsistence therefrom.
And then he wrings his hands and wonder, what could be wrong? When the system that's been implemented is called, "trickle-down" economics, meaning that, at it's optimal functioning, it is like a huge dam, holding the output of the productivity of the entire labor force in one bowl for a few elites to have access to, and when the wind blows just right, maybe a little will lap over the sides for the rest of the polity to lap up before it evaporates. And now you hypocritically wring your hands when it works just as it's designed to, pretending you can't figure out what's gone wrong? So exactly what is it the so-called recovery is supposed to look like? Sauga refers to the "Real Economy", as opposed to the financial economy, in much the same way as progressive moderns look at man vis-a-vis nature, as though the financial economy is a separate entity that can exist without the real economy that underlies it, just as mankind now thinks, in its progressive hubris, that it's decoupled from nature and is above it, so its total despoliation is simply unfortunate. The language he uses to pose the question thereby answers the very question he poses. The real economy is now considered by the financial economy in the same vein as the Industrial economy considered a coal mine: the riches are to be extracted and distributed to the oligarchs who sit in judgement in a no power to the people arrangement that parodies the freedom it wrings from the rest of humanity while crowing about spreading Demockracy. Should the coal mine collapse or explode from the neglect of taking the simple steps of watering down the coal dust or paying workers to shore up weak supports, the resultant disaster is simply something no one could have seen coming, and therefore could not have been averted, so let's just clean up, dig out the dead bodies and go back to work. Of course, the miners knew what would ensue should the proper precautions not be taken, and warned the Coal Company, but they're ignorant fools, and it was probably because of their own carelessness that the disaster occurred, so well, come on, who ya gonna listen to?
So if finance is above it, it's only above it in the way that Kapitalism is above its proles. Like the description of Old Edinburgh, where there wasn't so much as a "look out below" before a chamber pot's contents were dashed out of a window above down onto the heads of the unwary below, it's only Kapitalism's benefits that are now or ever have been "trickled down", while its costs are thrown wholesale down onto the heads of those least able to bear the burden for the cleanup that's always needed in its wake. The mess made by their betters, which they curse and swear at the assholes above for dumping onto them, vowing to get up there someday and change things so that the well-to-do will no longer be allowed to pour their disgusting filth onto the heads of the innocents they consider too far beneath them to concern themselves with, only to, should they be successful in attaining the position so altruistically desired, forget the reason that drove them to such an intensity of effort, and quickly become in turn so ensconced in their Deserved Ascendancy, that they forget all about those below as they dash their own chamberpot, now filled with their own filth, out the self-same windows.
The fact is that in order for Reagan's trickle down to work industry had to remove itself to the only regime possible for it to continue to make its outsized gains by destroying the very air that's breathed and the water that's needed: Totalitarian China, where it pretended to go despite its lack of freedoms, but where it went precisely because of the lack of freedom. Industry knew the peasants would Kowtow to the demands of the Communist Party or be put into the prison camps and "Rehabilitation" schools, to learn the folly of questioning the policies of the Central Government.
And Kamikaze Kapitalism isn't piloted, it's by definition, laissez-faire, its advocates demanding that the beast of government be skewered to allow them to run roughshod over everything that anyone who opposes it holds sacred, because, how can anything be more important that making money, more and more money, even as it becomes less and less valuable, because it no longer is tied to either the productivity of the workers or the underlying economy on which its supposedly based. After all, the invisible hand will make it all work by magic. Which means of course, that the last thing the world needs is economists, even as they proliferate like mushrooms in a damp forest and suck more and more money out of, not the private systems that eschews their theories, but the public sector that embraces them, but is powerless to implement anything they suggest.
Notice the passivity in the phrase that Capitalism has "gone off the Rails", no engineer, no coalman stoking the furnace of (creative) destruction, no responsibility goes to the banks, even as in the next breath they're referred to as 'the engines of growth', ignoring that cancerous growth is never benign and that a runaway system will, all of its own accord, "go off the rails", because they've all been torn up, and will leave it to the now eviscerated government to clear up the rubble below as it moves on to a newer place to lay waste to in the name of Creative Destruction. Because, by their own definition, there are no rails, it's just an engine, a Market, that knows where its going and is going to drag the rest of us along with it even to our own destruction, because, its staunchest advocates, like David Stockman, who's featured in the article, are supply-side economists, dedicated to the idea that, "If you build it, they will come" (even if we don't pay them anything but subsistence wages to build it ... so we'll then lend them the money they need to buy it, at a cheap price, because we'll get our pound of flesh from the usurious interest rates we'll charge, which they will never be able to pay back, but that's fine too, we'll securitise it, and sell it to their retirement funds, and by the time they go to use it, it'll be far too late for them to do anything about the fact that there's nothing there but a chimera).
"Like the actor-turned-president from California, Stockman believed in free markets, low taxes and reducing the role of government", yeah, so as to allow the complete destruction of anything resembling Democracy by eviscerating the wealth of the middle class and thereby their power to put any restraints on their Masters. Stockman soon enough left the Reagan administration and started putting the theory into practice, amassing enormous wealth on the backs of laidoff workers and debauched Enterprises, plundering across the entire swath of the country.
Yet Reagan is a hero to all the people he totally stabbed in the back because he "brought down Communism", the only source of stability in the world, the only force able to resist the Full Spectrum Domination fantasies of the Uber Class that still lusted after what was left of the rest of the world's economies and resources, determined to pry them open to the rapacious maw of destructive creation of a new world order, where the newly ascendant oligarchs give the orders and the newly impoverished peasants get back down on their hands and knees for them to step on while economic writers make coin by publishing articles that wonder, "What happened to growth?"
What happened to growth was that there are far fewer people left with any form of security, and yes, a roof over one's head and food in your belly are more compelling than the latest i-pad, pod, or phone. You don't buy a toaster when you're living in your car that's not really your car, because you still owe five more years of payments ... Surprise surprise. And this isn't going to change ... ever. You don't see your parents, other relatives and friends lose everything they've worked for their whole lives, thanks to the machinations of the Central Government, via the Fed and their friendly neighborhood bankers and mortgage brokers such as American Century, Coutrywide, Wamu, CITI, BofA, Lehman's, AIG, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc., in short, the entire Banking and insurance industry, all run like a racket to steal every penny you've ever earned and leave you destitute, and then, without declaring that anybody did anything wrong, or that any thing was wrong with anything really, expect people to trust you again. They now all know, because that's what the system is telling them, that this is the way it's supposed to work. This is the system and there's nothing we can do about it, because it's the wisdom of the Panglossian Markets and what that wisdom is shouting in their collective face is that they are worthless and nothing they work for is theirs, nor will it ever be theirs. either the government-run banks will take it right out from under their noses, or the government will tax it away, not to 'build infrastructure', or to make a safety net, those concepts are oh-so-last-century, but to build more and more sophisticated armaments to sell to 'rebels' to funnel into the hands of terrorists, to attack "our" interests abroad so that they can raise taxes to build even more sophisticated weaponry to sell to even more rebels to funnel to even worse terrorists .... There's the other place your growth has gone to. Wealth squandered in exponential amounts to fuel the most-favored of our Destructive Enterprises: WAR. Nothing creates wealth in such prodigious quantities and siphons it to such a small, unanswerable elite as constant and unending War.
And remember, all of this was undertaken via the Voodoo economics of the Reagan Era in order to shrink government and to stymie its power and to lower taxes, and these same blandishments are spewed year after year decade after decade, and the government only gets larger and larger, and never so much as when the loudest advocates of shrinking it are at the helm, its power more and more invasive, its financial burden growing ever more unwieldy, without anyone questioning the premises upon which it's founded. The world has quite literally gone mad, and yet we can still wonder how the likes of ISIS can have appeal, as though nothing we've done could ever have had anything to do with it. Such is the result of being cushioned from the repercussions of your own actions while no such buffer is enjoyed by the rest of the world. Corseted in an economy that's so tied up by its debt that the so-called resilience of Kapitalism that's constantly trumpeted, has instead been rendered so rigid it is unable to take the slightest shock, or consider the least alteration in its assumptions, so anyone suggesting tinkering with its structure (ie reform of any kind) is accused of 'rocking the boat' and summarily tossed overboard and left to their plight.
This is the new Loss, same as the old Loss, in which, now that's it's six years since 2008 (the same amount of time between 2000 (the year of the tech implosion) and 2006, when the harbingers of disaster started baring their Dragon's Teeth), since the financial crisis, signs are accumulating that the cycle of despair is beginning to tighten its grip around the throat of the helpless as we start yet another spiral into the next maelstrom of Creative Destruction, of wealth, of families, of enterprises, of entire nations, as the ascendancy of the Market once again claims its meat and once again voraciously tears the flesh from those it supposedly exists to benefit, while our economic journalists will again bewail the fact that no one could have seen it coming as they wonder "What's Happened to Growth?", "How did Kamikaze Kapitalism go off the Rails?" Gee, yeah, I wonder.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 1:17 PM
Thursday, October 30, 2014
|The Hetman of Ukraine|
Having read Mikhail Bulgakov's, "The Master and Margarita" several times, and always finishing it with a hunger for more, when I saw "The White Guard" on the library's shelf, I grabbed it. But since I'd been hoping for another riotous romp, despite the back-cover blurbs, I was at first disappointed at the historical fiction it turned out to be. But not for long. Not with what's happening in Ukraine now. Because, although the events described in the novel occurred almost exactly a century ago, and were a result of the first War to end All War (hahahahaha!), which has its own modern parallel in the US fiction of Waging eternal War to keep the therefore non-existent peace, they have strong parallels to the chaos of the present-day Ukraine, and indeed, suggest many of the roots of that conflict and the unlikelihood that those will be resolved any time soon.
It is Kiev in 1918, as evidenced by its location along the Dnieper, but referred to in the novel only as 'The City', where the Socialists - considered by the Turbins, the family at the heart of the novel, in the same way as tea party Republicans consider any idea of socialism today - are encamped outside the city with their hated leader Petlyura preparing to besiege the Capital. The Turbins and their allies are what the title refers to, The White Guard, strongholds of support for a return to Tsarist Russia, who still can't bring themselves to believe that the Tsar, and therefore their privileged position (deserved, of Course) at the top of the heap, is dead.
Bulgakov refers to it as "The Ukraine", a nomenclature current-day Ukrainians object to, and one can understand why, when you read of their separate identity from the Russians who soon enough appear in turn outside the city's gates to roust the Socialists as The Reds from Russia encircle the city and prepare to take it over. So you can see just from this the close parallels to the situation today that there isn't just pro and con, you're either with us or against us, dynamic, but a political stance is possible that can be in complete opposition to the Nationalistic one, yet could be pro-communist, so that when you hear the press refer to the right-wing present day Ukrainian as 'Nazi', you wonder if their conflating National Socialism with Nazism, or if in fact their is an anti-Semitic element to it.
On that last point, there is a scene toward the end of the novel when Petlyura's Socialists are about to be driven from the City by The Reds, when Bulgakov describes one of the cruelest events in the book as an armed and angry 'Socialist', a cossack sergeant on horseback, exhibits distinctly antisocial and in fact, barbarous, behavior as he rides on his horse hitting a man over the head with a ramrod as the man's head jerks with each blow:
"The ramrod cut hard and viciously into the tattered coat and each time the man responded with a hoarse cry.
'Ah, you dirty Yid!', the sergeant roared in fury. 'We're going to see you shot! I'll teach you to skulk in the dark corners. I'll show you! Spy!...'
But the bloodstained man did not reply to the cossack sergeant who then ran ahead flailing the heavy rod with its heavy, glittering brass tip. Without calculating the force of the blow the sergeant brought down the ramrod like a thunderbolt on to the man's head. Something cracked inside it and the man in black did not even groan. Thrusting up his arm, head lolling, he slumped from his knees to one side and with a wide sweep of his other arm he flung it out as though he wanted to scoop up more of the trampled and dung-stained snow. His fingers curled hook-wise and clawed at the dirty snow. Then the figure lying in the dark puddle twitched convulsively a few times and lay still."
In this act of violence and brutal revenge against anyone helpless enough to cross his path, it's easy for us to condemn and forget that, besides the Russians and the Reds and the Socialists, the Ukranians also had the Hetman to contend with, and his betrayal, as, in the middle of the night, he slithered out of town leaving the White Guard alone, still thinking, however, that they had the backing of the legitimate government of the Post-War period on their side. But the anti-Semitic undertone in this act of heartless brutality has echoes in the current-day nature of the Nationalistic movement today. The only people "strong enough to oust the Hetman and the Germans were the Bolsheviks, but the Bolsheivks themselves were not much better: nothing but a bunch of Yids and commissars. The wretched Ukrainian peasants were in despair; there was no salvation from any quarter."
Then as now,
"There were tens of thousands of men who had come back from the war, (this time in Afghanistan?) having been taught how to shoot by those same Russian officers they loathed so much. In little towns there were countless teachers, medical orderlies, smallholders, Ukrainian seminarists, whom fate had commissioned as ensigns in the Russian army, healthy sons of the soil with Ukrainian surnames who had become staff-captains - all of them talking Ukrainian, all longing for the Ukraine of their dreams free of Russian landlords and free of Muscovite officers; and thousands of Ukrainian POW's returned from Austrian Galicia."
And who/what was this Hetman, that, to western ears, sounds so much like 'hitman'? The position and title comes from the 17'th century, but after WW1 was reestablished in 1918 by the Ukrainian General Pavlo Skoropadsky, a descendant of the former Hetman of Ukraine Ivan Skoropadsky. The Law announced at the session of the Central Council of Ukraine on April 29, 1918 laid a legal groundwork for the new position. Pavlo Skoropadsky transformed Ukraine into the autocratic Ukrainian State under the protectorate of the Central powers, while expelling the Bolshevik forces of the Russian SFSR. During his term the Communist Party was prohibited on the territory of Ukraine for the first time. After the uprising led by the Directorate of Ukraine, Pavlo Skoropadsky surrendered the title, transferring the state power to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and fleeing into Germany, disguised, as per Bulgakov, as a bandaged-up patient, like a tale from Agatha Christie.
Meanwhile, the landlord downstairs form the Turbins, our White Guard stalwarts, is, having been robbed by brigands, declaring that what they need is autocratic rule. A not-uncommon desire of all nations that are peopled by a single ethnic constituency. For all of the USA's failings, and any reader of my posts knows I find many, that is one saving grace of its immigrant-based population, it is hard to do ethnic cleansing when no one knows what ethnicity to 'cleanse'. But it also means we have no understanding for, respect of, nor experience with, the fervent desire to just get rid of all these 'ferrin' elements, nor the underlying belief that that'll make everything 'normal' somehow, but other, perhaps, especially in troubled Eastern Europe, countries have no such qualms about living only with their own kind, the ultimate expression, as I noted when Reagan first started using the term, of Family Values, with its idealization of the Nuclear family, but its ugly side of intolerance and bigotry reinforced by a paternalistic authoritarian, Christianity.
So here they sit, the struggling Ukrainians, Russia on one side, Germany, now buttressed by a NATO, that has no more regard for international Law than the Russians they condemn, on the other, and an internal drive for Autarky battling with a desire for Democracy, and an economy that's run by a bullying, bandito-minded oligarchic elite, the inevitable result of the Milton Freidmanization of the economy, while the West wonders how this could ave happened. A good reading of Bulgakov's "The White Guard" might shed a little light on that, but, unfortunately, won't help a whit in solving that suffering country's ongoing, but now, all-but-ignored, dilemma.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 10:51 AM
Thursday, October 23, 2014
The Coalminers Dodder no more.
When I agreed to go to the movies to see "Pride", I thought it'd be another PBS-style rendition of gays being liberated to celebrate their adulation of Judy Garland in public or praise for their stalwart stand against Dianne Feinstein's 'Fascist' attempt to shut down the Gay bathhouses in the eighties just because they were the venue for spreading the AIDS epidemic that was killing the very people protesting against the one step being taken to help halt it. So man, was I surprised to see an exceptionally well-made film that really touched me and made me feel, dare I say it?, Hope.
We went to the San Francisco Embarcadero's newly refurbished cinema, where the seats were sumptuously-appointed, barcalounger-like chairs that had electrically powered controls. We felt like the Airline stewardess was going to appear at any moment carrying a tray full of glasses of champagne. The only downside was the sound system. Like all modern-accoutered cineplexes, they feel that they have a new sound system, and by god, your going to HEAR it, even if the volume needed to get your attention is reminiscent of the ads for DIE-Hard II, and "Will blow you through the back wall of the Theatre!". Yes, that was an enticement. Somehow the prospect of being physically assaulted is now a reason for not missing an upcoming event, and that's what the decibel level of the speakers was like: an assault. I could plug both my ears and still hear every word shouted at me with perfect, and now comfortable, clarity. Have cell phones made everybody deaf?
But that's true in every theatre now, so it's just an aside, that I felt the need to vent, because, the movie was so captivating that I soon enough got over the aptly named deafening volume, as it really does deafen you after awhile, and had become reconciled to my aural discomfiture.
Which was good, and oh so worth it. The film is about how a group of Gay men in London were organised into a kind of splinter group who, for some ungodly reason, thought it would be a good idea to raise cash to help the Miner's strike going on in Wales that was starving the miners back into the pits. "Gays and Lesbians Support the Miners". Now, what's really strange, for me personally, is that in my jacket pocket at the time was a copy of Upton Sinclair's "King Coal" in which are depicted many of the abuses that the mine owners subjected the turn-of-the-century (not this one, the last one) coal miners to in Colorado and the resultant attempt to get the workers organised into a union. I had no idea "Pride" had anything to do with coal mining, so I was all, "Whoa!".
So, in a way that was so natural, weaving the gay aspect into the story not as though it's a 'lifestyle' choice, or had problems that couldn't be grasped by straights, it manages to make a tapestry of problems of the protagonists, from coming out, to dealing with AIDS (it took place in the 1984/5 time frame), to Lesbian invisibility in the gay movement, and brought it face-to-face with the adversities of being in a small coal mining town and working in the pits (although the nitty-gritty job of actually going down into the pits and coming back everyday, and what all that entailed was sorely lacking). This was not a Zola's "Germinal" by any stretch, or even "King Coal" in that respect, but despite that what it did do was brought to the forefront something the "Occupy" movement was not quite able to do: namely the importance of Solidarity. The wrenching realization that those people you feel a deep animosity toward are far more like you and face many of the exact same travails, only in a somewhat different guise, is unsentimentally, protrayed. (well, okay, maybe a little sentimentally, I did, after all, find myself with tears rolling down my face for a good deal of the movie, although I hardly knew why, it was as though I'd been turned into an empath when the film started).
Instead of telling more of the plot, I'd like to say instead that, what it did for me was what, to a lesser extent, the drag movie, "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar", tries to hap-hazardly, pull off, as it has an, albeit flamboyantly, similar confrontation, but is mostly just silly fun, and quite eye-opening, as Wesley Snipes (whodda-thunk?) was just brilliant, and such a sweet insightful man, as a drag queen. Or, more similarly, the British movie, "Kinky Boots", because, for all their glad-handing and feel-good chutzpah, the man-girls were still outsiders and well, on some level, freaks, but we, and the towns, love them, not just anyway, but, as it turns out, because of that.
But "Pride" takes Kinky a step further and, first, by including not just one drag-queen, but a whole panoply of gay people just trying to be: not to be gay, they don't have to try to be that, but just to Be, and then by showing their dedication and growth as people. Growth attained from trying to help someone other than themselves who is hurting as much as themselves and is being abused just as much as themselves, makes it, I think, the first film I've seen that convincingly showed what the results can be. Because, near the end, when the big rigs carrying the miners to the Gay Freedom day parade unexpectedly rolled up, what was so moving about it was that you knew that a lot of those miners weren't convinced that gay rights was something they really agreed with or that they agreed with many of the ideas of its proponents, but what they did know was that when no one else was there for them this group of intrepid people faced down the bigotry and the animosity coming from their own fellow-travelers, and stood together with the miners and fought for their cause. To step up for them in turn and walk in solidarity with them was now a matter of Honor for the miners. You don't take from somebody and then turn just your back on them: you stand together with them as One.
That's a powerful message to me, and its emotional effect reverberated in me the echo of Frodo's friend Sam in Tolkien's, "The Two Towers" when, after his moving speech, Frodo asks him, "And what are we holding onto, Sam?", "That there's some good in this world", he tells him, ... "and it's worth fighting for."
Of course, which doesn't detract from the movie nor the story it told, the fact that it was about coal, while the world continues its death march by feverishly digging up every last remnant of sequestered carbon and releasing it into the atmosphere via combustion, caused a sort of cognitive dissonance for me, because no such Solidarity is possible, nor ever will be, on that issue. There will only be continued strife, and further dissolution into squabbling factions, because, as John Horne Burnes describes in "The Gallery", a depiction of life in war-torn Naples toward the end of WW2, in one of the portraits of which it's comprised, entitled "Giulia":
"Misery doesn't necessarily make strange bedfellows - or any bedfellows at all. Privation and suffering doesn't unite people so much as they divide them. Each family went into a sniping war against all others. Everyone in Naples agreed only that the Allies were worse liars than the Fascists. Everyone was divided from everyone else. Whereas the Neapolitans had known a dreary camaraderie when they all faced the war together in the bomb shelters, they now became one another's enemies, since each must go out and forage for food. Since they'd all kept alive during the German occupation and the bombings, they looked back on those days as a rather gay paradise compared to their existence now. They hadn't minded so much living from day to day. But now it was a minute to minute struggle, in which any problem five minutes hence seemed a lifetime removed. They hadn't been liberated from anything at all, the war was just now beginning for them."
Some would say such privation won't necessarily follow a diminution in the burning of fossil fuels, but the longer we put off addressing the problem, which more and more looks like that's to be yet another decade from now, the more likelihood it will, because the more we mortgage everything to its continued "energy is free and easy" paradigm of waste, and the "to hell with everyone else", "there's no such thing as society", individualism, the less there will be left to cannibalize a different future from.
What "Pride" did was bring me up, however momentarily, out of the deep sense of loneliness believing the above engenders, because, although at the end of it all the miners lose their strike, it's somehow by then no longer the point. They had forged something that was presented as more uplifting to their spirits than a wage increase, they found Hope; they'd discovered humanity and support in a place where they had thought only perversity and decadence lived. When their morale was sagging and their resolve weakening, they had discovered a deep reservoir of Pride.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 2:12 PM
Friday, October 17, 2014
|Pumpkinhead: The strident voice of a Neoliberal.|
The Neoliberal scold starts by berating anybody so foolish as to think that there's a link between economic growth and ever-rising emissions of greenhouse gases, they are simply basking in what he ridiculously calls “climate despair”, a nonsensical term, the user of which insists that it's everyone else who, as he so often states from his increasingly pedantic rostrum, is "getting it wrong". Even as he uses the other absurd term of the avatars of economic-growth-without-emissions-growth, "renewable energy", as though it magically comes out of a magician's hat.
Energy is generated in all biological and economic processes, in order to do work, and thereby generates waste heat, but then more must be generated for the next task its user needs it for. It is never, in any of all the methods used to generate it anywhere in the known universe, "renewable". It is transformed and dissipated; if you need more, you must create more, you can never simply "renew" it as though it's a book from the library. But of course, that's science, something Pollyanna never has to really trouble himself with; he is, after all just an economist, and as a group they feel no more need to justify their statements than the pundits on Fox News.
But he indulges in even more Krugmania:
"On one side, there has been dramatic progress in renewable energy technology, with the costs of solar power, in particular, plunging, down by half just since 2010. Renewables have their limitations — basically, the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow — but if you think that an economy getting a lot of its power from wind farms and solar panels is a hippie fantasy, you’re the one out of touch with reality."
I know I shouldn't start at the end, but I mean who the hell thinks that "an economy getting a lot of its power from wind farms and solar panels is a hippie fantasy"? Much of Europe, and especially the powerhouse economy of Europe, Germany again, has been doing exactly that for this entire century, even as the emissions from the global economy have accelerated, despite the fact that they have had in place carbon trading during that whole time. When does he think he's writing this, in 1990? As for the "dramatic progress in renewable energy technology, with the costs of solar power, in particular, plunging, down by half just since 2010", with the price of oil plunging the exact same amount, by half, that will put that theory to the test, plus, every time a solar panel gets built, it uses fossil fuels to mine its ingredients, build it, transport it, install it, and to back it up when the sun isn't shining. And of course there's that thing with science getting in the way again: if the percentage growth in overall energy utilization exceeds the growth of energy generated via wind/solar installations, with no diminution, but in fact increases in energy consumed, (which it has done, even in the sluggish growth in the period of which he speaks), then CO2 production and venting into the atmosphere continues to INcrease, not decrease. During the period when the price was dropping, the CO2 generation continued to grow by 3% per annum, such that now the amount in the atmosphere exceeds 400 ppm.
Pollyanna then states, "So saving the planet would be cheap and maybe even come free." So the Krugmaniac thinks this is about "saving the planet"? I really do find it harder and harder to distinguish him from that other idiot economist gracing the pages of the NYT, Ben Stein. The planet, you poor deluded fool, is in no danger from the acts of the marauding primate known as man. It is all other lifeforms, and the stability of the conditions under which they live in order to be able to mutate and therefore continue their existence, that is in peril. The Planet Earth has been here, unless you also believe like the right-wingers you line up with on this, as on so many other issues, that it is a mere 6,000 years old, is 4.5 billion years old, and has survived a literally earth-shattering cataclysmic collision with a comet that was so violent it shore off a chunk of it that we can now look at in the dead of night as it reflects our star's light onto our planet's surface: the Moon. Earth is in no danger from Climate Change. In fact, as I look out into the universe, it has lately occurred to me that, far from being the only "intelligent" life in the universe, it could well be that we are simply all that's left of intelligent life. Its own destruction is baked in, as it makes a Faustian bargain with Nature, because Reason brings with it Hubris. We could well be the last surviving remnants of a once-far-flung lifeforce. And although that's a bit fantastical, it's no more so than the drivel being spouted here by the self-important Pollyanna Krugman.
And as for the assertion that it will, "maybe even come free"? Well, as an aside, remember the triple A's of evaluating someone's position: Anytime you hear Anyone, suggesting that Anything can be had for "Free", as a citizen of the finance-industry-as-fraud-machine known as the USA, you should know better, on the strength of that alone, than to listen to anything further coming out of their mouths.
Next the flaccid scientist takes on hard scientists by stating:
"And you sometimes see hard scientists making arguments along the same lines, largely (I think) because they don’t understand what economic growth means. They think of it as a crude, physical thing, a matter simply of producing more stuff, and don’t take into account the many choices — about what to consume, about which technologies to use — that go into producing a dollar’s worth of G.D.P."
Pollyanna always gets a little har-umphy when it comes to people who practice real science, who have to back up what they say with real world, not Pollyanna, data. Men who can't just spout something because they think it should be that way, but have to present hard data verifiable by other scientists in their fields. Otherwise, he wouldn't be needing to make such ludicrous statements as "they don’t understand what economic growth means". This is something only a person with an inferiority complex would sputter. These are the very scientists who've come up with the models that've tracked the changes in the climate that predicted many of the phenomena that we're seeing already happen on our planet. So with this statement he disparages the very people without whom there would BE no solar panels nor windfarms nor access to all those fossil fuels, for that matter, by suggesting that they can't understand something as intellectually flaccid as the concept of economic growth, which , apparently, since he uses the outmoded measure of GDP, instead of the now generally accepted metric of GNP, he apparently doesn't understand himself. Can any of the economic forecasts that any economist has made over the last two decades (Two years? Two months?) be used to predict how the world's economies will look by 2015? No. Because, even economists don't understand, and therefore can't agree on, what's meant by economic growth.
The Krugmaniac made comments of the same snarky nature about William Greider's book " One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism", all of them wrong, but failure to test theory against reality is the hallmark of academic economists, the only profession that makes psychology look like hard science.
Planes don't fly on solar or wind power, nor do the billion cars currently on the road worldwide, the replacement of which alone would burden the atmosphere with many more gigatons of CO2 (1.2 million tons of CO2 is generated to produce every million tons of aluminum ... whether the cars they are in the process of manufacturing are ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) machines or electric, but that's just one of those inconvenient truths); furthermore large industrial users don't buy into cap and trade:
Guy Bjerke, with the Western States Petroleum Association, said refinery managers are willing to look for ways to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. But they balk at the idea of an emissions cap for each facility if it restricts operations. Setting that kind of cap would undercut the operating permits that the district has already given Bay Area refineries.
In the global economy, the way it is currently structured, those 'operating permits' Guy refers to have an equivalent instrument: derivatives. For every power plant coming on line right now, in far greater quantities than solar panels or wind-farms, in terms of their electrical production, there are loans and other financial paper generated, all of which is then securitized, and swapped, and leveraged, and used to generate more debt, that bakes in the CO2 production into the cake for the entire next generation, and that amount is accelerating despite all the solar panels and wind-farms being put in simultaneously. Should these plants be taken out of operation earlier than their calculated lifespan, that represents losses: Real Losses that are taken out of any Growth that they may have contributed to the GDP, as well as their growth-enhancing energy-generating capacity.
"We’re not opposed to emission reductions,” said Bjerke, the trade association’s Bay Area manager. “What we’re opposed to is anything that undercuts the operational flexibility of the refineries and impairs the permits these facilities already hold.” That "operational flexibility" he refers to means the profits he expects to reap, and those profits, if carbon trading is made part of the picture, will be reduced, and therefore, so will growth.
So it isn't the real scientists, but the Pollyanna Krugmaniac that doesn't understand how growth works. To whit, this bit of flimflam from the Krugmaniac after the economy went over a fiscal cliff in 2008: "Our capacity hasn't been diminished". And yet here we are, six years later still diminished by our incapacity to end the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, diminished by the millions and millions unable to pay their mortgages, diminished by even more millions and millions without jobs, millions dropped from the workforce, millions on welfare, food-stamps, involuntarily working only part-time jobs, living out of their cars, diminished by the millions of seniors with reduced or no income because of ZIRP, diminished from the crash in output and inability to grow our economy without using Enron-style Fed monetary legerdemain, diminished by our inability to issue new debt unless that same Fed buys it up after the Treasury sells it to Goldman Sachs so that they can get their cut before turning around and pawning it off on the Fed, a risk-free transaction they charge a risk-premium for, or is that what you mean by "economic growth", Mr. Krugman? The funneling of the bulk of the output of an entire "Free" people into the hands of an oligarchic elite? Then you're right Pollyanna, I don't understand economic growth. Because your idea of economic growth, despite all your tsk-tsk'ing, looks more like economic doldrums, or as your buddy Larry Summers would call it, stagflation, to those of us not cushioned from its lack with a position in Academania (sic). But as long as you can maintain your bully pulpit position at the NYT, you don't really care about any of that, do you? You only care about licking the shoes of your masters in order to retain your sinecure as Mr. Supercilious Krugman.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 3:30 PM
Monday, September 15, 2014
|Al Cheves' Installation at the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery|
I Wouldn't Have Called Anyhow
Although I Wouldn't Have Called Anyhow
(It brought me a kind of sadness to hear
Your number is blocked, your Channel's not Clear),
No wrinkle of concern mars my botoxed brow.
An upgrade, a new phone, or new IOS
(And bigger screen, as you fell for the myth
Of more throughput, from a bigger bandwidth?)
Answering the sales rep with Oh my, oh yes.
Life's edges all smoothed, it's contours sanded
It's entryways with luscious colors appointed
The way's made easy if you're among the anointed,
Your water's all bottled and your clothing is branded.
Taking Internet selfies, making Facebook friends
While ads promise glamor and a life full of fun.
All without risk, simply pay out this sum
'Cause it's only the fools that meet bad ends.
Climb in! jump on! Buy into zoomzoom,
Get out of your doldrums and join the race
Hold hands with the avatars of frantic pace
Just ignore those naggings of Doctor Doom.
“It's all good”, when life's rides are chauffeured
And all your conversations streak through the air
in electro-magnetic waves that frazzle your hair
So you forget your job's been down-sized and gophered.
Chutes and Ladders, in cahoots with razors;
Sliding, gliding one giddily rides,
Laughing and gasping 'til at the end rasping
You see ragged teeth and the Lawman's tasers.
Like a trip on Muni or a bike ride in traffic,
An internet conversation that bursts into Flame.
The everyday anyday that turns into doomsday,
at the blink of an eye or the click of your Bic.
Like auto exhaust or second-hand smoke
It's only so long before life's consequences
Seep over or under our shoddily-built fences
And start to impact the simplest of folk.
Economic Energetic and Environmental
Our leaders corral into separate spaces,
But everything entwines and interlaces
Stop treating our Home as though it's a rental.
As one more ice shelf calves off from Greenland
And a Cyclone or two blow over Hawaii,
All we can do is wonder more, How we
Changed from a nice one into a meanland.
Our throw-away lives leaving trash disregarded
And islands of plastic suddenly appear
Seen swirling from space in the Northwest Gyre,
As form follows function, and then is discarded.
But sentinels stand, prophetic in silence
Like on that remote island called Easter,
Rapa nui from unplumbed depths doth bestir
Nightmares of humanity gone mad with violence.
But as matters keep going from worse onto worser,
We watch “Breaking Bad” episodes that melt human bones
And hyper-kill videos like “Game of Thrones”
Where murder is fun: execution by cursor.
Color and darkness in juxtaposition,
Standing apart and refusing to mingle,
They shoot up ones spine an ominous tingle
As existence turns into mere huckster's perdition.
The bright colors now seem just blinding distraction
Dazzling our over-strained eyes with their glare,
'til we take all that's offered with nary a care.
Too enervated now to take any action.
Ripped, sawed, and rickshawed, we're trapped in this matrix,
Sanded, dis-banded and permanent pressed,
Jet-lagged and sand-bagged and constantly stressed,
With addictions and fictions and sexual gay tricks
Lurking and smirking 'cause “Life's just a beach”.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 3:07 PM
Friday, September 12, 2014
As NATO whines about the fact that there are still 1000 Russian troops on Ukrainian soil, it carps not a whimper about the 30,000 American troops that have been in Afghanistan for more than a decade, nor does the eviscerated American press, secure in their position as toadies to power, care to bring up the fact that there would be zero US troops in Afghanistan had not the West, in the guise of Shock Troops for Freedom, invaded that hapless land to 'protect' them from a Soviet invasion in the dying days of the Cold War. Not with our own troops, of course, since the USSR had thermonuclear weapons with which to retaliate, so we used stealth bombers in the form of Wahhabi-trained mujaheddin from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries as proxy warriors, stirring up rabid Islamic fundamentalism in much the same way the Republicans stirred up rabid Christian fundamentalism in the US to further their own agenda.
Now, whereas you might be one of the people who agreed with the US intentions in the closing years of the 1980's to isolate and trap the Soviets into engaging in a land war in Afghanistan, and think that the result was a salutary one, I would argue, that, given the state of the Soviet State at the time, which the over-funded and incompetent CIA, NSA, And DIA, just to name the triumvirate of US intelligence services -there are many more- in other words, intelligence agencies that were then and are now, swallowing up by the vault-load the productivity of both American industry and American Citizens in order to do absolutely nothing except create, and eventually arm, a constant stream of new recruits for any American -haters on the planet (while simultaneously supplying them with ever-grander excuses for "hating us for our freedoms": ie, our freedom to bomb sovereign States, our freedom to send drones into other nations' airspace on missions of assassination, freedom to listen in on other countries' leaders' personal telephone calls, freedom to go into other States, kidnap their citizens from their streets and send them to puppet regimes to be tortured and imprisoned, freedom to work with Israel to spread a computer virus to destroy nuclear centrifuges in Iran as well as murder scientists we believe are working on projects we've decided they shouldn't be working on, etc etc.).
And they can do this, always in secret, their actions never admitted to, nor known, nevermind condoned, by the citizens on behalf of whom they're supposedly performing them, yet who are 'asked' to bear the brunt of the repercussions from those actions. Demockracy in action.
One of those repercussions being the Sept 11 attack on the WTC, the anniversary of which was yesterday, yet not a word was murmured about the fact that it was the actions of the US government, actions taken with neither the consent nor the knowledge of the American people, that brought the wrath of Islam, enabled by citizens of our staunchest ally in the region to whom we have kowtowed for decades, and with whom our sitting president and Vice president at the time of the attacks, had a closer relationship with than anyone else in the world, an action that can be directly traced to the Reagan administration's brilliant idea of using fired-up religious zealots, the fire of their religious hatred bellowed into a roaring blaze in US-funded Wahhabi schools teaching religiously inspired intolerance, as proxies, in a supposedly "Cold" War with the USSR. A USSR, that, BTW, was teetering on the brink of collapse, as documented by several academics, such as Andrei Amalrik, who's prescient book, asking "Will the Soviet Union Survive until 1984?" was a much better assessment of the state of the Soviet State, than the CIA's, and was therefore ballyhooed. Because the retention of their well-paid, and even better pensioned, plush positions in power depended on all of us believing that the Soviets were a threat, when in fact they were more of a threat to themselves than to anybody else, including the Afghans, to whom our meddling in their country's affairs has brought them decades of unparalleled strife, religious intolerance and physical destruction.
And all for what? If the US had never blundered into Afghanistan in the Eighties it is abundantly clear by now, yet never, ever, brought up, the Soviet Union would have followed the exact same trajectory that it did, and, being as it couldn't hold onto satellites in its own orbit, and given that the mightiest military power in the history of the world has been unable to - without the Afghans receiving any help from any outside force - bring Afghanistan under its control, and yet has bled its own citizens dry, unapologetically leaving millions and millions of them without healthcare insurance, jobs, pensions, or even a roof over their heads, while pouring billions, oh sorry, as horrible as that sounds, it's now trillions, of its treasure, emptying its vaults of bullion to fight ... exactly what? do you really know? ... to keep the powerful country of Afghanistan from what, attacking its neighbors? oh you mean to protect the dictatorship in Uzbekistan, or our favorite enemy, Iran, from Afghanistan aggression? Or to keep the Taliban from reforming, that same Taliban to whom the Bush Administration gave $43million to in May 2001, a mere four months before Sept 11, with which they were able to fund Al-Qaeda?
If the US had let the Russians wallow in their own stupidity, none of the horrible repercussions that we're still paying for, along with creating a cascading number of new ones, as we stumble from one self-inflicted calamity to the next, all while blaming everybody else but ourselves, the US and the entire world, would not be reeling from the consequences of our blundering as it is to this day.
So what do we propose to do? Oh yeah, we're gonna tighten up on more sanctions on the Russians while we bomb Syria, we're gonna save those poor Ukrainians like we saved the poor Afghans, and saved the Iraqis and the Egyptians, and the Libyans, and Somalians, so now we can have an entire other country filled with people who will organize to attack their neighbors while shouting "Down with America". What fun!
The US, instead of railing against the Russians, should be thanking them. They are corrupt, brutal, and vain, thinking themselves superior to everyone else (sound like any other country you know?), and these are traits that sow the seeds of their own destruction. The US need do nothing but let them do what Russians do so well: shoot themselves in the foot. It took no US sanctions, no US armies, no US propaganda, to blow up the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, the built-in obtuseness of the Soviets' design did that for us, and the folly of Russian designs will have the same outcome in Ukraine today if we just let if follow its destined path: it will likewise blow up in their face.
But because we insist on believing our might gives us the right to act like moronic idiots stumbling around destroying one country after the other with our "Aid", we will continue to impose a burden of incalculable suffering and destruction on the world on a scale that no AxIs of evil could ever hope to match, while impoverishing our own citizens and imposing the additional burden of a rigid militaristic surveillance State on them, which they then are forced to pay for in the bargain .
Judging by the outcome, more than a decade later, it now appears that that was the "Mission Accomplished" the Bush Neo-cons were so proud to have achieved and that the current administration is so anxious to maintain. Such is the high price of self-righteous crusades. Just ask the Christian Fundamentalists who so sanctimoniously railed against a non-existent "Gay Agenda", with orange-juice-queen Anita Bryant at their head, in the eighties, before there ever was one. It was only after the smear attacks and the mean-spirited abuse by the Moral Majority that an otherwise hedonistic, disunited minority were forged into a political force that called for and achieved the milestone of Gay Marriage in the US. It wasn't even an issue any but a few homosexuals even considered, most of them scoffing at the very idea of it; but thanks to the mendacity of the Christian right, it is now a reality across much of the country. We might want to think about that as we climb onto our high horse yet again to impose our will upon a situation about which we know nothing.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 2:21 PM
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
As the confluence of events churn up into a maelstrom of madness that points to the inevitability of perfect storm developing, Zerohedege warns that "Icahn, Soros, Druckenmiller, and now Zell, billionaires all, are quietly preparing for a market plunge". Well, not that quietly, or I, and now you, certainty wouldn't know about it.
Meanwhile, on the oil front, per Bloomburg News, the God of Crude Oil Trading, Andrew John Hall, is betting that Shale Oil, the Darling of the "Fuck you, there's no such thing as peak-oil-production crowd", is a dud. Yet when Robert Scribbler derides peak oil and documents production data that he believes leaves its theorists in the dust, because he feels that the pursuit of such belief will keep us stumbling down the same path to a world-destroying fossil-fueled future, it proved too much to tacitly sit by and let it go by unchallenged.
In a well-written and extensively documented essay, where Hall argues that the Bakken, the Athabasca tar sands and the Eagle Ford formation, as well as other enormous finds in Russia, are all proof that peak oil is decades, if not centuries, away, he fails to note that these new fields are barely replacing lost production from declining output from existing oilfields, including those in Mexico, Indonesia, Kuwait, the North Sea, and even the US. He also never mentions that, as exemplified by what happened to the US exports in the seventies (they were banned), it is only excess oil production, that is above the needs of the country in which the oil is produced, that matters in terms of supply, and as the rest of the world adopts the extravagant, energy-wasting habits of the OECD countries, it should come as no surprise that the more that excess is viewed as normal, the less likely that there will be any excess oil left to export.
Believing that believing there is any such thing as Peak oil enables the continued search for more and more esoteric sources of supply, he insists that we admit peak oil is fading away so far into the realm of a future that's too distant over the horizon to envision its impacting us any time soon, he suggests that all we need do instead is produce another billions or so cars, this time making them all electric, and then run them all off a 'green' grid comprised of wind-and-solar-generated energy and that will solve our climate-change problem.
Now I admit that simplifies his position a bit much, however it does seem to be what the main thrust of his argument boils, kerogen- like, down to. But I'm not sure I understand where such statements like, "unfortunately, as we will see below, there is more than enough oil, gas, coal, brown coal, fracked oil and gas, gas hydrates, tar sands, kerogen and other fossil fuel stores to continue burning for years", have in an argument about peak oil production. Peak extraction of fossil-fuel and exploitation of all other forms of stored carbon-based energy, is not the same thing as peak-oil production, now is it? In fact, it seems to me, he gives validation to those who claim there's no such thing as Peak oil by claiming that liquid condensates and other forms of natural gas liquids, or equivalents, is the same thing as oil. But they quite clearly are not, if for no other reason, as pointed out in a very well-documented piece by the ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas), than that oil extraction, such as conducted in conventional oil fields, and oil production, which is more typical of the unconventional oil-"plays" as they're referred to now, since without the Fed playing fast-and-loose with monetary policy and flooding such plays with credit, despite their being uncreditworthy enterprises, have quite different economic ramifications and sustainability.
Switching to electric power as the main solution to our energy-intensive transportation needs, is not going to solve the problem of global warming, because they can't support the number of miles necessary for modern suburban drivers to cover. According to Michael Klare in a post just published on Resilience, more than a third of new vehicles being purchased in the US are SUV's. So, what Mr. Scribbler's thesis suggests, is that that's perfectly alright, since we can just electrify the grid and juice all them multi-ton conveyances manufactured to carry 150 pound humans around with solar and wind power. This I simply don't believe. And Scribbler provides no technical data, unlike his well-documented production data, to back up this enormous leap in faith, one that flies in the face of everything any other sober-minded analyst has been able to predict so far. (Really? $80,000 Tesla's are the wave of the future? Even Nissan Leafs are heavily subsidized both in their production in Japan, and in their procurement in the US, where they would otherwise be $20,000 more expensive than what their sticker price is currently).
For the one, replacing an entire transit system comprised of a billion units with new vehicles requires a scale of manufacturing that is extremely energy intensive and CO2-production-intensive. For another thing, for every ton of aluminum there is 1.2 tons of carbon produced. And that 's just the vehicles themselves, but the extra power plants and extra-gauge wiring needed to produce the power necessary and transmit it over loss-induced miles to the point where said vehicles will be charged is mind-boggling. That doesn't even take into account the rare earth elements that are needed to build both the wind-generated electricity, the batteries needed to store the charge, nor the amount of oil needed to be used to manufacture not just the autos, but the enormous number of solar panels that'd be needed to generate the staggering volume of electric current necessary to power a fleet of over a billion personal transportation units, all being done to reduce the amount of CO2 and its equivalence of other gases, is just as, if not more so, fantasy-oriented as the mindset that believes there is an infinite amount of oil and all of it can be burned up with no deleterious side-effects in a finite world.
Now perhaps I'm just being a nay-sayer, because I look at scenes in the Middle East, such as the one from Alfred Hitchcock's, "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and present day photos of Morocco and other Mid-Eastern locales, and get a feeling of how different it must be to live in a culture where every public space hasn't been given up to the domination of the automobile, where there are actually people sitting and conversing outside, where they aren't surrounded by motorcars zooming by, so have a vision of the electric car future that is more of a nightmare than a dream-come-true, to it than well, really anybody I know, making me more likely to look askance at the future Scribbler scribbles than others would be likely to do, but that doesn't mean that I think he's right, either. Nor that I believe he's either made his point convincingly nor that his strategy of abandoning the concept of peak oil a wise one.
In an episode of "Charmed", after much angst and deliberation and procrastination, they choose to accept an offer that is made to them by a group called the "Avatars" (of what, I have no idea), to create Utopia on earth. What they haven't been advised of, is that anyone who creates conflict in this Brave New World, is simply , unceremoniously, removed, their existence terminated by a wave of the hand, everyone reconciling themselves to their disappearance with the platitude that they're "In a better place now". But upon discovering the true nature of the bargain they have made, the husbands of one of the witches creates conflict in order to demonstrate, via his demise, the horrible mistake they've made. His removal is first met with the same shrug, "He's moved on to a better place", until the children, not aware that they're supposed to just accept their father's sanitized death, keep crying for his return, and his wife is then asked, "But, don't you remember? The whole reason we wanted this Utopia in the first place was so that you and Leo could be together ... and Now they've Taken him?"
In some ways that is the Faustian bargain that we've all made with modernity. All the wonders it's brought us, all the ease it promised, all the plenty it parades before us. But, as the economy of one after the other of its avatars of the Space-age succumbs to the inevitability of decline, we're left with none of its promised boons, as the wastelands we've made of pristine forests and productive grasslands encroaches further and further into our own lives until there's nothing we care to look at in our environment except the TV, computer screen or our I-phones. What's happened?
Before he gets zapped, Leo tells one of the sisters, "Don't forget all the losses", but sometimes, I think that's exactly what we've done. We've forgotten that we had modes of existence that didn't require us to be at War all the time, or to be spied on constantly, or that made people who we've never known and who have never met us, Hate us with a passion so strong they cheer in the streets when thousands of us are killed. The whole reason we embrace modernity is to make our lives happier, and Now we're miserable? Or as we're told ad nauseum, "For Freedom", and yet we live under constant surveillance in cities that are prisons subject to lockdown at any moment, and subject to search and seizure without any warning, placed on 'watchlists' without our knowledge, the government legally able to disappear us, the Police nicknamed "Bigfoot" for their warrant-less intrusion into our living rooms via kicked-in front doors, and subjected to pepper spray and tear gas and tanks in the streets, and This is Liberty?
No one loves the modern world more than I do, I love reading and making art and having a beer or two (OK, maybe three) with friends, but the true costs of it, of everything, especially this newest one, computers and the internet, have all been purposely hidden, so that we're never apprised of what its real costs are us now, but what further costs are to be extracted in the future. And if we don't know the costs, how can we ever answer the question, "Is the price we're being asked to pay worth it?"
When it's firing on all cylinders, it certainly seems it, huh? But as it starts to sputter, as we look to the future and wonder what it holds, it doesn't' help to have one of the people that are the most adamant about climate change being human induced, to say that, "if people are wrongly led to believe that peak oil is a worse event than climate change, then it is unlikely people will make the changes necessary to transition away from fossil fuels" as a reason to simply pretend the concept of peak oil is unfounded, when Jim Hansen, the believer of both, states otherwise, then the same question I raised concerning modernity, and the fictional utopia, becomes relevant. Because, unlike weather events, that no one can ever say this or that weather event is directly related to climate change, changes in economies and energy equations can be directly related to peak oil, so that although peak oil may not be, as Scribbler states, a worse event than climate change, the fact is that in their lives, and how it impacts their lives, peak oil is a much more immediate and dire event than climate change. So now that we've moved electric generation away from oil, unearthed and burned vast quantities of coal, doubling its output since the turn of the century, spent the last generation building coal-burning power plants in India and China, not to mention in the US of A, NOW you say there's no such thing as Peak Oil?
And lastly, it seems to me, that since, in the Arctic, the loss of the albedo effect means that the earth now absorbs ever more solar radiation instead of reflecting it back into space, the fact that solar collectors are specifically designed to do that exact same thing, I would argue, does not bode well. For the earth, which is the basis of many of Scribbler's arguments, is a closed system, so if you're absorbing solar radiation instead of reflecting it back into space via a solar panel, you're still absorbing it and not reflecting it back in to space, that is, in fact, the whole reason to install a solar panel, the net result of which will be to make the temperature of said earth increase, whether it's by loss of albedo effect or a solar panel effect, the only difference being that then, at least, we'll be getting to use that energy to our own advantage, instead of having it melt polar icecaps. My argument being, however, that if you look at said use now, and the enormous, ENORMOUS, amount of it that is simply wasted, by doing things we otherwise would never do in places we would otherwise never do them, then although the resultant warming will, admittedly, not be as concentrated so much in such a fragile place as the Arctic, it will nevertheless still occur, only now it will be not only more widespread, but worse, because the addition of all the CO2, that was created in the production of that vast array of solar arrays, will have been added to the atmosphere beforehand. In other words, like every other so-called attempt to mitigate the problem, such as ethanol and biodiesel, it will accelerate climate change, not ameliorate it.
Therefore, because it supports the same never-ending growth paradigm, in both population and energy production that's gotten us into the conundrum we are now faced with, joining up with the climate change deniers in also denying peak oil will only exacerbate an already intractable problem.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 8:09 AM
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
|Wall St. Tweak.|
Now that I've once again caught somebody referring to some part of the world as third, I had to ask myself what is it that people mean when they use that word? Is it the developing world or an emerging economy, if so from what is it emerging and into what are they developing? And how is an economy ever considered "Developed"? And how exactly does that differ from Calcified? Which is the opposite of a vibrant, resilient economy, which is what a developing economy is.
As Wolf Richter points out, regarding the Chinese economy:
"What’s left behind is a still growing and partially hidden mountain of debt – and the threat that this contrived economic activity, this malinvestment, funded by unsustainable credit growth can’t be, well, sustained forever. That moment when it can’t be sustained any longer, when the house of cards comes tumbling down, has become a threat so serious that the government is fretting about it out loud in the Chinese media."
Now, how is this malinvestment, unsustainable credit growth, and contrived economic activity, which, as Mr. Richter points out, is not only unsustainable, but, I would say, unwise, different from the US version? Well, other than it makes everything for the entire globe, while the US makes, well, Treasuries and fraudulent financial 'products', more cars than anyone needs, or wants, or can afford, unless they're given free loans and deprived of any other means of locomotion to get to that job, that, like those in China, are 'make work' positions. Although Paul Krugman insists we should engage in even more conjured up jobs and even more malinvestment, because as he states, making things nobody wants is better than doing nothing, a pale echo of the USSR's well-known dynamic whereby, "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work".
Yet that wasn't enough,whether or not he was being deliberately ironic or not, Wolf 's post continue's to state things about the Totalitarian, Communist government of China that exactly echos the policies and actions of the Kamikaze Kapitalism Kultur of the US:
"With credit growth at around 17% per year, and GDP growing at less than half that rate, the mountain of debt in relationship to the economy continues to pile up. Hence “unsustainable.” What happens when “unsustainable” turns into actual consequences? That’s the very moment Chinese officials fret about."
Not that I'm suggesting that the figures are the same, but the sentiment is exactly the same. The relationship between credit growth and the growth of the economy, or corporate profits, or the stock market, or government debt, all of which should have some kind of effect on one another, have all come loose from their moorings and, because, as we know from LIBOR manipulations by the BOE, or Fed-intervention in the rate of return on bank loans, as reflected by ZIRP, the state of the State leads one to ask, unless one is numb, the same question Wolf poses, "What happens when “unsustainable” turns into actual consequences?"
And has an equivalent answer: That’s the very moment Fed officials fret about.
But it gets better:
"The property sector – China’s epicenter of malinvestment and bad debt – had “too great an influence” on China’s economic health, Zhu Baoliang, head of the economic forecast department at the State Information Center, was quoted as saying. Approximately 60% of financing and manufacturing activities are related to it, he said. Which is enormous. “If any big problem occurred in the real-estate industry, it would have a great impact on the economy.”
Sound familiar? Just as in the good Ol', once industry stops producing the wealth needed to pay its own unsustainable burden of indebtedness, it turns on and vulturizes the rest of the economy, making it look as thought manufacturing is still robust and thriving long after it has become a net drain on the economy, such that the Ponzi scheme of property price, or rather asset, inflation becomes the real driver of the economy, everything else being in a subservient position to the ever escalating destabilizing influence of asset-appreciation. The automobile industry is, methinks, a perfect example. Whereas when only one country had a transit system of indigent-provided gas-powered vehicles competeing against a backdrop of animal and wind-provided transportation in other countries, the profits to be made therefrom were of an order of magnitude greater than could be achieved by its trading partners, giving it a huge advantage (Translation: stellar profits). But when all those competitors achieve the same status, then all those fuel-driven transport units, now necessary, are no longer luxuries, but are an increasing cost of doing business just to get your workforce to and from the workplace, and once the source of power to fuel those vehicles now becomes exogenous, and must be paid for out of company profits, the equation is stood on its head, and government supports business, not the other way around, as the business community has been quite adept at convincing us it is.
And, as if to just help drive the deja-vu aspect of it all, Wolf throws in as fuel:
"But the real-estate industry is precisely where the problems are now occurring, though governments at every level are furiously engaged in keeping that bubble going while limiting its growth for as long as possible. When a single sector that is riding on top of the largest construction bubble in history has such an enormous impact on the rest of the economy and drives 60% of manufacturing and finance activities, it doesn’t take an outright implosion to take down China’s specialized economy. All it takes is a moderate slowdown. And POOF."
This could've been written around 2005/6, as property prices in the US peaked (Oh yeah, that's right, it was, but not by the 'right' people) except, it would've had to mention CDO's as adding an extra layer of risk, and there'd be mention of "mopping up" operations, as though any amount of mopping up helps something that's completely underwater, such as your home's value.
But the last paragraph in Wolf's piece is the real stunner, as it (can it really be unintentional?) starkly demonstrates the contrast between what our so-called Market-based economy of supposedly unmanipulated data points and Free press assumptions are, and what the reality is:
"The fact that the government is making its concerns public so bluntly appears to be a sign that it is preparing the population and the business community for whatever is to come. Diversifying an economy away from the dominating mega-property sector that kept manufacturing and financing flush with activity and money, and doing so quickly before the bubble inevitably implodes, will be another miracle for China’s central planners to figure out how to perform, and do so pronto."
It's the first sentence that is the tell. In the US, after 2006 when those who were actually watching the economy, as opposed to those who were paid by the government to watch the economy, but who instead merely became paid cheerleaders for a financial fraud the likes of which had rarely, no, I think never really is the right adjective, been perpetrated on such a scale before, were, far from making its concerns public and preparing the population for what was to come, was instead lying to their face in order to stab them in the back, exhorting them to continue, via ever-rising property appraisals and liar loans bundled and sold to investors as AAA-rated securities, financing their War Crimes and other Imperial ambitions, included in which was the total impoverishment, via unprecedented connivance and subterfuge, of a vast swath of the population. But in the country that boasts ad nauseum of its freedoms, and the most loudly about the freedom of its press, the press had nary a word to say about the increasingly obvious collapse that was staring us in the face.
In other words, to do to the USA what it had done to the USSR. This succeeded so spectacularly that it has continued as the underlying dynamic in the Kamikaze Kapitalism Kultur's engine of destruction, and, if Mr. Richter is correct, has now been exported, like everything else, to the developing world. China should be careful. When you copy everything from someone else, when you think you can 'develop' your economy so as to 'emerge' into what is considered a developed economy, the ghost in the machine comes with it, whether Mao's Communism, or Get-Rich-Quick Kamikaze Kapitalism, and it'll haunt you in ways neither foreseen nor apparent in the original version. But the Asian tendency to quash anything creative in their cultures, forcing everyone into the same State-approved molded personality and mindset, obviates the possibility of them creating any homegrown solution to their problems. They'll have to be solved elsewhere, and then they can try to copy those, too.
Posted by Robert Lowrey at 3:14 PM