Saturday, June 18, 2011

As the world turns

Saw a program last night that mentioned how the earth got all its coal deposits: Eons of tropical climate and its accumulated biomass under pressure. Must have been quite the wet bog back then for it not to have broken down into live aerated soil.

How cyclical things are on this planet. They say there were several times when the earth was a giant ice covered snowball, interrupted by long tropical periods.

Now so much of that captured carbon has been re-released into the atmosphere. And the re-released methane. Whether one blames this recent warming trend on the sun or on human activity, perhaps it is both, the earth will return to its prehistoric boggy condition to build up its coal deposits once again.

What we definitely are doing is depleting the resources upon which our population explosion relies. Like ever-multiplying yeast colonies, when we reach the edge of our Petri dish, what then?

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Third Storm: Why the bubble economy affects Transition

If all economists were laid end to end, they [still] would not reach a conclusion. - George Bernard Shaw

The Transition Movement focuses on energy and environment; but it doesn’t pay as much attention to economics. Perhaps it is because economists never seem to agree. For years, economists have variously: declared an economic recession; denied that any recession existed; admitted in hindsight that a recession had been happening after all; claimed to observe signs of a ‘green shoots’ recovery; repeatedly predicted a growth economy recovery “just around the corner” [every 6 months]; declared a ‘jobless’ economic recovery; officially declared in September, that the recession had ended in June of 2009; argued both for and against a ‘double dip’ recession; predicted a Second Great Depression; and predicted a collapse of Capitalism.

How could there be such a wide range of opinion about our economy? Economists make such conflicting observations because many rely on government economic statistics and contradictory theoretical models.

Let’s expose the lie behind official economic statistics: politicians limit economic data to a tolerable level of bad news by defining their own terms. So for instance they define unemployment in a way that only measures less than half the actual unemployed. Thus the Obama administration claims the unemployment rate is only “10%”. Their official definition excludes anyone unemployed for longer than a year; and those who gave up job hunting; and those who settled for part time work. They also make questionable assumptions about population growth and death rates.

So if you really want to know the unemployment rate, don’t ask the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Instead, follow a research economist like Walter J. Williams of the website Shadow Government Statistics. According to Williams, the actual U.S. unemployment rate is closer to 22%!

By comparison, the unemployment rate during the Great Depression was 25%. So we are nearing those levels of joblessness again in America. The question is, will it get worse or will it get better?

Again, the politicians would have us believe the rosier picture. It is in their best interest to talk “green shoots”, rising stock market values, GDP growth, and recovery. The Bush administration had repeatedly denied the official start of this recession for over a year. So it is no surprise that the government recently announced that the current recession had already ended over a year ago. The Obama administration would have us believe, during the mid-term election campaign, that happy days are here again. But are they?

Consumption drives our “service” economy and rising personal debt financed consumption. Homeowners borrowed against rising home values to finance: home upgrades and redecorating; new cars; multiple vacations; private school and college tuition; and credit card balances. As long as home values rose, all was well.
But the housing bubble finally burst: the home ATM shut down and consumer spending dropped. Soon, auto companies needed bailouts; airlines merged and cut routes; private school enrollment dropped; furniture companies disappeared; unemployment rose; home foreclosures made headlines. Banks lost asset values on risky mortgage-backed “securities”. Small banks are still being closed, but the “too big to fail” banks with government connections were given taxpayer money to remain open. But they still remain insolvent. They have stopped lending in order to boost their asset values. Our economy has entered a long credit crisis.

Credit had kept consumption going and consumption drives the economy. So without credit, it is impossible for the recession to have ended. In fact it is just getting started. Soon, despite government “stimulus” spending, the official unemployment rate will resume rising above “10%”. The real unemployment rate is already hovering near 1930’s levels. As consumption drops, we are more likely to enter a second Great Depression than to see an economic recovery.

So what does this situation have to do with the Transition Movement? Whether we realize it or not, our Transition plans are based on certain assumptions about our economy. Transition literature focuses on transcending the negative impact of two storms: Peak Oil and Climate Change. Economic crisis is seen primarily as the end result of our unrestrained use of scarce energy. Under this assumption, economic worst case scenarios, similar to planetary over-heating, are considered avoidable if enough energy usage were voluntarily conserved now.

But Peak Oil and Climate Change are not the only storms on the horizon. The current Economic storm must now be considered as we estimate the impact of these crises. Proposed Transition solutions may fail without considering the changing economy. At the very least, an unanticipated arrival of a second Great Depression would severely restrict our financial ability to prepare for Peak Oil and Climate Change. Therefore we must pay attention not only to fundamentals of Energy and Environment but also to Economics as we plan for Transition.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Denial Trance

I used to have it. Once you snap out of it, though, you can't go back.
It’s the glazing over of the eyes when a person’s reality is challenged by facts. You know, whenever you mention the contrary information out there: that this so-called economic recovery is a chimera designed to attract more fools to fleece; or that the FDIC doesn’t have enough money to cover our deposits when enough banks go under; or that the grid won’t be upgraded to provide reliable power to households; or that essential local services, such as fire response and public schooling, are gradually being defunded due to the disappearance of capital. The desire to avoid noticing the new harsh reality is a powerful hypnotic. People literally would rather die than look. They’re still in the trance.
I get the same denial trance look from parents when I question the logic of putting our most precious possessions onto a yellow school bus with no seatbelts for a ride down the highway - or worse - onto a tour bus with no seatbelts and no real windows. This EVEN after we've been conditioned for years to use those car safety seats, and use them properly , [“oh wait perhaps we installed it wrong, let’s check with the fire department just in case; can’t be too careful, after all it's about our kids’ safety on the road”]. But when the kids enter kindergarten, all that thinking goes out the window, along with bodies of children, unfortunately for some families.

The default position is to trust authority, because, by definition, they must have all our best interests in mind.

Therefore no-one can imagine that a wealthy corporation could have got that way by cheating others; or that a politician would seek office in order to vote in favor of donors wishes and against voters needs; or that the bus safety regulation proposals were thwarted by the bus manufacturers; or that your parish priest has been raping your neighbors kids and the bishop knowingly enabled him to rape even more kids.

Reality is that authority is populated by sociopaths because the system rewards sociopathy. And nobody wants to even think that's how the world works. So they tune out and shut up the truth-tellers: that's the trance.

But I think more of us are waking up all the time.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

One Dollar One Vote

Thinking about the divergent reactions of the GOP [smug delight] and the Dem [feigned horror] politicians to the Supreme Court's carte blanche homage to overt corporate bribery:

Perhaps corporations will still feel obligated to back both party horses just in case. But if it is true that as a result of this ruling, Democrats will lose more future elections, then it serves them right - for refusing to filibuster Roberts and Alito's nominations to the court, for compromising on the bill of rights violations and on healthcare and oversight and the constitutional balance of powers and voting machines and impeachment of the prior administration….

Third parties like to claim that there is no real difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. The Supreme Court has made it possible for everyone to recognize it. The Party that Wrecked America shall return full force to finish their smashing job. The Party that Betrayed America will demonstrate their true allegiance - to the perks of elected office - by switching their party registration to Republican. From federal to state to locally elected officials, to the voters employed by a more powerful corporate plutocracy, the 'Southern strategy' effect on party affiliation may soon spread across the whole country.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

George Bailey Speaks

Our annual Christmas Eve tradition is to watch the movie 'It's a Wonderful Life'.
The story is a good reminder of the impact that one person's good behaviors and selfless choices can have on the lives of others around them and beyond them.

This year I was particularly struck by the way the plot line also pointed out how today's bad banking behaviors and selfish corporate attitudes are negatively impacting so many average people's lives. As a result, the film's "Pottersville" nightmare, in all its harshness and vulgarity, now looms before us in real life.

But here, for your viewing pleasure, is Jimmy Stewart poignantly delivering the quintessential Frank Capra-esque comment on, and warning for, our times:

It's A Wonderful Life (1946) - James Stewart - George Bailey's Speech to Potter & the Loan Board

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cui bono

Yesterday the MSM was burying the Yemen connection to the Christmas eve airline terrorist. How exactly to say to TV viewers "Yemeni alQaida terrorists claim it's retaliation for - oops we forgot to report last month about Obama bombing Yemen - after all the Tiger story was so much more important to you". No, the dumbed down American audience can't handle the truth: better just say "Arabian peninsulars" did it and not explain any background. Just like the 1979 revolution in Iran had no US causation either, they're just crazy A-rabs! Better not use the word blowback either. Wouldn't want to confuse the message of the day which is
'They're out to get you" and

..."You shall be avenged!"

So today the MSM squawks lets go bomb em [again] in Yemen in retaliation for this inexplicable unprovoked [sic] act.

Blowback from Obama's bombs almost got those passengers and crew killed. And Obama answers retaliation with even more blowback risk for a bump in the polls amid floundering legislation. Look how resolute and presidential he can be! Very Churchillian.

Meanwhile names of peaceful dissidents are kept on the no fly lists and denied visas but the frigging bomber is let in despite warnings to the US embassy from his own dad? That list discrepancy involving banning peaceful foreign speakers with inconvenient truths didn't come up in the ad nauseum MSM "coverage" either.

I think they are not as stupid as they lead us to believe. I think they purposefully let this known threat in to keep up the domestic scare tactics. Why? For obfuscating more government-authorized theft. For changing the subject domestically away from the economy stupid. For rallying the sheeple to revenge. For reversing poll numbers. For war in Yemen over control of oil routes. Yes the system "worked" exactly the way they wanted it to work!

It is only a miracle that those passengers and crew are alive today.

Expect more inexplicable multi-layer security bungles from the "system" that mysteriously always works for the war profiteers and their power mongrels in Washington.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Hopeful Cynic

My friends are sometimes surprised to learn that gylangirl did not vote for Obama [nor for McCain]. Instead she “protest-voted" third party. The Democratic Party’s Hope candidate was all about betraying the base, which, after all, is what the Democratic Party is famous for [see Clinton, William Jefferson: vis a vis “the end of welfare as we know it”; “don’t ask don’t tell”; NAFTA; the repeal of Glass Steagall banker abuse protection etc].

Gylangirl watched with dismay the presidential candidate's role in the Bush administration's Goldman Sachs bailouts and the president-elect's Goldman Sachs cabinet selections. Obama would betray us, gylangirl reasoned. But even she admits that when he walked out on that stage election night with his family, she felt that tiny glimmer of [soon-to-be-dashed] hope.

But that was then. It is becoming obvious to all but the most loyal party hack that Obama is only pretending to help the middle class during this recession; he is only pretending to oppose Bush’s Afghanistan and Iraq wars; and he is only pretending to rein in the US Treasury-sucking vampire banks; he is only pretending to support democratic elections in foreign countries like Afghanistan, even as he successfully engineered his very first foreign coup d’etat of another democratically elected president in Honduras.

His campaign volunteers and supporters are imploring him to stop and do the right thing. They seem on the verge of a heart-breaking psychological breakdown. Or rather, one could hope, a psychological breakthrough: to cynicism, the only reality-based political sentiment these days.

So tonight Obama will announce his second troop increase for the war in Afghanistan. Thanks to the peace-prize winning president, there will now be more US troops in Afghanistan than there were Soviet troops back in the day. That’s a lot of blowback risk. Not to mention a lot of troop losses and billions of dollars in more national debt. And did you notice that Afghanistan is where empires go to die? But I digress.

The truly left wing peace activists who incorrectly placed him upon the anti-war pedestal are now in shock that they helped elect another war escalator. However, judging by the TV punditry, the dyed-in-the-wool Democratic Party partisans are neither shocked nor ashamed: they are dutifully shifting away from their Bush era anti-war positions so as to defend their leader. Because that’s what team cheerleaders do. They’ll justify the betrayal and accept any crumbs that fall: “no no-bid contracts this time” so hurray for Our war president! The more naive ones will endlessly hope, like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, that someday, real soon now, or certainly after his 2012 re-election, Obama will justify their misplaced trust and their 2008 vote.

But gylangirl hopes that real soon now, many Obama supporters will join gylangirl in the ranks of the cynical, never to be fooled again. Yes, there she goes again, thinking it will be different this time. Hope springs eternal.