Mostrando entradas con la etiqueta orlov. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando entradas con la etiqueta orlov. Mostrar todas las entradas

miércoles, noviembre 13, 2013

Collapsing Consciously

Pawel Kuczyński
Carolyn Baker's CollapsingConsciously: Transformative Truths for Turbulent Times is perhaps the most approachable book on collapse you are likely to find. Compared to Jarred Diamond's Collapse, which weighs in at just over 600 pages, Baker's is well under 200. And yet in these few pages Baker manages to tackle a topic which Diamond studiously avoids: Whatever shall we do about the fact that collapse is happening all around us right now?
The reason Diamond avoids it is obvious: collapse is an unacceptable topic of discussion if it relates to us. It is perfectly fine to talk about past collapses, and perhaps even muse about future collapses, provided they happen to someone else. That's because we are exceptional and will go on forever. Here's a memorable example: I once gave a talk for the Long Now Foundation in San Francisco, and during the Q&A afterwards someone asked me about Russia's demographic crisis. Stewart Brand, who was reading off the questions from cards, chimed in to say that it looks like the Russians will be extinct in just a couple of generations (they aren't). So, Stewart, in how many generations are Americans going to be extinct? I need a number; what's the Long Now Foundation's estimate on that? Crickets...
And the reason collapse is an unacceptable topic of discussion if it relates to us, in the present or the foreseeable future, is that the moment you mention it, the topic stops being it, or us; the topic becomes you. What is wrong with you, why are you collapsing, and is it contagious? (Actually, just go away anyway, because you are probably bad luck.) This society operates on a combination of conformism and one-upmanship. Collapse as reality is nonconformist—in a society that worships success it is seen as defeatist and unpatriotic. It is also noncompetitive—because who on earth would want to buy it? “After all, who wants to hear that their very identity—the industrially civilized ego they have built throughout their entire lives, the ego that defines who they are—is, well, dying?” (p. 89) (By the way, this explains why my last book hasn't sold all that well.) In any case, if you keep at it, you come to be seen as a loser. Then you start feeling like an unlucky outcast, and before too long you end up with a psychological problem, and start asking yourself questions such as : “What's wrong with me?” “Have I gone mad?” and “Should I kill myself?”
Keep reading on ClubOrlov >>

martes, septiembre 03, 2013

ClubOrlov: Undermining the Surveillance State

[Guest post by Keith Farnish, who has a new book out.]
Some people are prone to sleepwalking. The zombie-fuelled idea of a sleepwalker, with arms outstretched and eyes closed, magically avoiding contact with walls and tables, really isn’t the way people do it. More truthfully, their eyes are open with a level of awareness usually sufficient to avoid serious injury, but with actions more akin to a computer program than a fully aware individual. Many can communicate, of a fashion, but it is cursory and stilted. It’s an appropriate metaphor when describing the functional level of a typical citizen, compared to the fully connected and aware pre-industrial human.

Some people who sleepwalk also have night terrors. They report seeing strange figures looming over them, as if watching their every move – silent, dark, conspiratorial. Not so strange, given the circumstances...
The New Secrecy
I have spent a great deal of time, perhaps too long, pondering conspiracy theories and the vast range of plots being overseen by “those in control” against the ordinary person. It wasn’t so much the nature of these conspiracies, as the nature of the belief in such conspiracies that most interested me. This came to a head when I discovered yet another apparent plot against humanity related to that old chestnut Chemtrails. Apparently people exposed to the precisely-targeted-toxins-from-thirty-thousand-feet are finding strange threads emerging from wounds that HAVE NO EARTHLY ORIGIN! The previous emphasis is that of the Conspiracy Theorists (the capitalization of the previous two words is mine—there has to be some way of identifying crackpot theories from sensible ones).
So, about two-thirds of the way through writing my most recent book, I had a pop at the whole idea of Conspiracy Theories, with the express purpose of clarifying the real dangers we face from those who purport to control our behaviour. If we can learn to look towards that which is obvious and tangible, rather than being distracted by the ethereal and, frankly, bizarre, then we will learn an awful lot and perhaps do something about it. 
Bradley Manning (soon to be Chelsea Manning, which should throw a few libertarians into apoplexy) knew that vast amounts of data were being kept out of the public realm, for no better reason than to protect the murderous activities of those keeping the information secret. His conscience, and his obvious intelligence, gave him little other option than to release what he knew – and conveniently, Wikileaks was in a position to receive that information, and channel it on to the wider media.
Keep reading on ClubOrlov >>

lunes, abril 22, 2013

REVIEW—The Five Stages of Collapse by Dmitry Orlov

By Michael C. Ruppert
The writing of this book was a rotten job, but it was absolutely necessary. If someone had to do it, I am very glad that it was Dmitry Orlov. Without his wit, alacrity and experience, the task of beating the horse of the Cartesian approach to understanding our dying world to death would have resulted in something unbearably maddening, dry and uninspiring. In this book he sneaks some LOLROF side-splitters in when you least expect them. One gathers from Orlov’s painstaking efforts, the futility of looking to outdated constructs and philosophies for understanding and relief from a crisis that demands complete innovation and inspiration.

Reading closely, one sees Orlov carefully planting seeds of reconciliation with our planet and each other throughout—as a fundamental baseline. He arrives at places outside the box of the current meme by using methodologies and analyses that are sacramental within the meme. That’s an achievement. Perhaps in his next book he will stand on that ground more forcefully and tell us what he sees. We don’t need to understand collapse right now as much as we need to survive it. And that is where Dmitry Orlov rises through the rubble and gives us magnificent gems like this: “At the rock bottom of human survival, there is no individual and there is no state; there is only the family, or, if there isn’t, there is something that’s not quite human—or there is nothing at all.”

martes, febrero 26, 2013

Monkey Trap Nation

Lukas Brezek
Dmitry Orlov
A few weeks ago I flew back to Boston from St. Petersburg. Nine time zones is a lot to fly through in a day, especially when flying west. It all adds up to a single very long day that just won't end. When I had left Boston, I set up the boat to stay above freezing using a minimum amount of electric heat, so I expected to find a cold boat, but not a frozen one, in spite of the freezing cold and the snow, which was coming down quite heavily when I landed. But it turned out that while I was away the shore power cable's connection to its socket aboard the boat started arcing and burned, leaving the boat without power. (I was lucky; the boat could have burned down.) I spent an interesting couple of hours finding tools and supplies by flashlight, then stripping and splicing cables to restore power. As I finally went to sleep that night, wrapped in an electric blanket aboard a slowly defrosting boat, I thought to myself: “What have I done?” Sure, I flew to Boston because that's where my boat is, but there has got to be a better reason than that!

The next day I wandered out toward the center of town, and on the way saw an apartment building which had burned down, it turned out, the day before. The building had been heated badly, and the fire was caused by an electric space heater. Windows had plywood nailed over them, there were blooms of soot over many of them, and the doors were boarded up and posted “Danger, keep out!” The whole structure seemed to be sagging and caving in on itself. The displaced residents stood around wondering what to do. Ironically, this building happens to be across the street from the local fire station, but you see, the fire station doesn't happen to have any windows on the side that faced it, and so the firemen were quite unaware of the blaze right next door and slow to stir to action. I later found out that the fire got so out of hand that they had to call in help from the neighboring town.

Heat, house fires... see, living in Russia, I almost forgot about these things. In St. Petersburg, apartment buildings are heated using waste heat from power plants. Steam is distributed throughout the city using a network of buried pipelines which provide both heat and hot water. Their cost is just the cost of distribution (which is, at this point, mostly a matter of upkeep) since the energy would otherwise be wasted. The buildings are so warm that nobody wears sweaters indoors, and it is usually warm enough to lounge around in lingerie. On day one of a cold spell it can get a bit chilly indoors, but then somebody somewhere gives a giant steam valve a quarter turn, and things are again toasty. On the first day of a warm spell it can get positively sweltering indoors, and people start cracking windows open even though it's still below freezing outside, until somebody somewhere gives that valve a quarter-turn in the opposite direction. If you find this arrangement inefficient, then you must be sketchy on the concept of waste heat. Power plants are heat engines, subject to thermodynamic limits which cause 2/3 to ½ of the energy consumed to be released as waste heat. Now, there is enough heat wasted by all the power plants in the US to heat every single inhabited structure in the entire country, but instead that heat is vented to the atmosphere or used to heat the rivers and the ocean, and then quite a bit of the electricity they generate is wasted using electric space heaters. In turn, these space heaters cause a lot of house fires.

During my stay in St. Petersburg I did not see a single fire or fire engine, or hear a single fire engine siren. Buildings in St. Petersburg do not have fire exits or fire escapes; they don't need them. The place does not burn. The Emergencies Ministry publishes weekly statistics for things such as fires, and they bear out my casual observation. The reason for this is that houses in St. Petersburg are made of nonflammable materials: masonry and, more recently, reinforced concrete, insulated with hard plaster. If you proposed building something out of flammable materials, such as wood or vinyl siding, your project would not be approved. The walls tend to be thick—5 courses of brick or more—to provide both insulation and the thermal mass to hold in heat. Doors are made with a core of steel plate. Thus, the worst that can happen there is an isolated apartment fire.

Here in Boston, however, houses are made of flammable sticks covered in flammable plastic, the walls are kept thin to waste as much heat as possible, and the windows... you see, windows are like doors in that they need to both open and to close tightly to avoid leaking heat, with the additional requirement of letting through light. And so, Russian windows are basically doors with glass panes in them, that swing open on hinges. But not in the US, all because of some loon of an Englishman who—back in that country's dim and miserable past when the English were so poor that they couldn't even heat their houses and just sat shivering around a fireplace—decided that windows should consist of two empty glass picture frames (square ones) that slide up and down and rattle around in loose-fitting slots, letting through as much air as possible even when shut. The English then started calling normal windows “French windows,” to signal that such continental tendencies would not be tolerated. This curse of an invention then spread to all the other English-speaking countries, including the US.

And so the Russians heat with waste heat from power plants, build well-insulated houses out of nonflammable materials and sit around in their lingerie even as mercury freezes solid and snow-dunes drift slowly past, while the Americans heat their flammable, badly insulated stick-built houses with oil, gas and electricity, do their best to battle hypothermia and are often forced to choose between turning up the heat and being able to pay for food. Does this mean that the Russians are smart and the Americans stupid? I don't think so. People are people. But there is a cultural difference that's worth pointing out, and it comes down to just one thing: short-term thinking. Historically, the Russians seem to have been less susceptible to the short-termism that afflicts so many Americans. This may be less true now, with the recent hectic pace of development in Russia, but still there is plenty of social inertia causing people to continue to ask and re-ask the same inconvenient question over and over again: “And then what?” (“Ну а потом что?”)

Wouldn't it be nice if short-term decisions had short-term consequences and long-term decisions had long-term consequences? Well, too bad; it's the other way around. Short-term decisions have long-term consequences because they tend to lock you into an arrangement that is beneficial in the short term but detrimental in the long-term. Long-term decisions have short-term consequences because planning for the long term incurs short-term expenses. For example: in the short term, it is cheaper to nail houses together out of sticks and put them up in places far removed from the power plants that could heat them for free, but in the long term the heating bills, the house fires and the expense of keeping up a temporary structure tend to get out of hand. On the other hand, in the long-term, it is cheaper to build houses next to steam mains supplied free of charge by a power plant, out of solid masonry, and with steel plate doors and insulated double-windows (saving on fire alarms, fire escapes and fire departments) but in the short term this is more expensive.

What's worse, the consequences of short-term decision-making are cumulative over time: the long-term consequences of short-term decisions just keep piling up. But people are loathe to admit the errors of their ways, and can rarely be made to accept the consequences of their decisions. Instead, the tendency is to regard these consequences as new, entirely unexpected short-term problems to be solved with more short-term thinking. The result is a tendency to double down on every bad bet, and beyond a certain point the consequences magnify and feed on each other until they add up to an intractable, systemic crisis where no more short-term solutions can be found.

* * *

The monkey trap is, as the name suggests, a device for trapping monkeys. It is ingenuous in its simplicity, and also in the fact that it does not actually trap the monkey at all: it is the monkey that does the trapping. The trap consists of a hollowed-out gourd tied to a tree using a vine. The gourd has an opening just big enough to admit a monkey's paw when it isn't clenched into a fist. Inside is a banana. The monkey reaches inside, grabs the banana, but cannot withdraw it. Even as the hunter approaches to collect it, it cannot bring itself to unclench its fist, let go of the banana and escape. What traps the monkey is the monkey's own internal cost/benefit analysis, which is slanted toward the short term, coupled with its inability to consider the long-term effect of its short-term decisions. It is a perfect metaphor for what has caused the US to go off the rails.

Let us take another look at Russia. St. Petersburg now has a standard of living that compares favorably to many places in the US, including some of its more prosperous cities. Salaries are still considerably lower, but then so are the costs. In Russia, many consumer products, such as clothes, electronics, furniture and all of the other things that can cost almost arbitrary amounts of money, are quite expensive, and few people can afford to own closets full of clothes they hardly ever wear. On the other hand, necessities are quite reasonably priced: housing, education, heath care, communications, transportation and all the other basics are far more affordable. The US is the polar opposite. Here, all sorts of consumer items can be had for next to nothing, but when it comes to the necessities (housing, education, health care, communications and transportation) the norm seems to be to bleed people dry.

With housing, the major issue is that incomes have been falling for decades, but housing prices have only gone up. Housing is a cost, not an investment, because a residence is not a productive asset but a place to eat, sleep and recreate. The obvious long-term solution is to crash the real estate market, bulldoze unpromising suburban subdivisions and revert them to farmland, then build non-flammable apartment buildings next to power plants to provide affordable housing. Next thing you know, everybody suddenly has plenty of disposable income and the economy takes off. But that's long-term thinking, you see; short-term thinking is to prop up ridiculous real estate valuations by buying up defaulted mortgages at face value and hiding them inside the Federal Reserve. And so that's what's being done.

With education, the monkey trap was assembled in stages. First, the value of a college education was inflated to the point where only college graduates could get the remaining good jobs. Next, college education was pronounced a birthright, and financial aid was extended to make it universally accessible, on terms that amount to a lifetime of indentured servitude. Next, the price of higher education was inflated out of all proportion to its value, to cash in on the bonanza of free government-guaranteed money. And so now we have a ridiculously overpriced higher education system that is considered mandatory even though for most people earning a degree no longer guarantees an income sufficient to repay the loans. The obvious solution is to do away with the now meaningless college degrees and fall back on certificates, licenses, apprenticeships and other ways of getting people directly into the workplace. But that's long-term thinking, you see; short-term thinking is to make higher education even more mandatory, but somewhat more affordable, by automating it: instead of an actual lecture hall, students are now treated to a virtual experience of listening to a talking head robo-prof over the Internet from the comfort of their parents' basement. The only two subjects that can be taught using this method are test-taking and masturbation.

I could make a similar argument with respect to health care, communications and transportation. Perhaps I will do so next week. Or perhaps you've caught on already. I hope that this will be enough to make you allergic to short-termism.

* * *

But who, you might ask, are the monkeys? Well, that's the funny bit (at least to me). The real monkeys are the people running the system: the people who think they have it made. You see, they can't let go of the banana inside the gourd, because holding onto it gives them power. They are all the people who benefit outlandishly from the current system of bleeding the system dry: the college administrators, the health care administrators, the various managers who make six figures and beyond, and who are all lavishly rewarded for bringing in good quarterly and year-end results, a.k.a. short-term thinking. They think that holding onto that banana inside the gourd for another round will make them even better off. But I believe they are wrong.

Their prize “banana,” expressed in financial terms, consists of stocks (propped up by endless quantitative easing), bonds (issued by a bankrupt government drowning in debt), real estate (which will have to be protected by a private army as the land lapses into chaos), and cash (fiat currency, subject to sudden bouts of hyperinflation). Where are they going to escape to with all this loot? Costa Gringa? El Gringador? The fabled kingdom of Abu Gringadabi? Once the abovementioned pieces of paper all turn out to be worthless, they may not get too far beyond “¡Sus papeles, por favor!” You destroyed your own country; what do you plan to do with ours? Or are they going to construct a luxury artificial island anchored on some shoal in the middle of the ocean and live there? If so, whose navy is going to protect them from the pirates who will show up and say: “What nice island you have! You want something bad to happen to it?” (They only watched the dubbed version of that movie, and something got lost in translation.)

You see, their short-term thinking is... short-termist, enough said, while their long-term thinking is mostly a work of fantasy. You don't want to be like them, do you? In that case, stop thinking for the short term! Oh, and if you do get stuck in a monkey trap: let go the banana, withdraw your paw, hold the gourd hole-down and shake out the banana, grab the banana, run up a tree and eat the banana while, optionally, making eye contact with the hunter. Got that?

martes, enero 08, 2013

The Image of the Enemy

During my brief winter sojourn in Russia a tiny cold war has erupted between Russia and the USA. First, Mitt Romney calls Russia “our number one enemy” during the presidential election campaign. Then, after the election, the US passes the “Magnitsky Act” which promises to arrest funds and deny visas to certain Russian officials based on a secret list. The Russian legislature then responds with the “Dima Yakovlev Bill,” named after a Russian boy who died of heat stroke after his American adoptive parents left him locked in a car for nine hours. In addition to vaguely symmetric retaliatory measures, this bill bans Americans from adopting Russian orphans. This last little add-on may initially seem rather daft as state policy, but it has some interesting properties as Russian propaganda, of which you may not be aware. Although from the US perspective this move has an inane “...or I will shoot my dog” element to it, spun around the other way it makes it look as if valiant Russian politicians are trying to stop American fiends from torturing and killing innocent Russian orphans.

Because, as you probably already know, that's what Americans are generally known to do: they torture (Abu Ghraib) and kill (60 thousand dead Syrians in that American-inspired régime change operation so far). They allow massacres of children (Sandy Hook Elementary School) and then, in a show of solidarity with the murderer, they run out and buy up the weapon (Bushmaster assault rifle) owned by the maniac who massacred the children. They invade and destabilize countries and overthrow governments (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya). They also hold the dubious distinction of being the only country to ever drop nuclear bombs on civilians (Hiroshima, Nagasaki) and did that not even as a matter of national survival but more as a matter of convenience. And then they have the gall to lecture other countries about human rights! Obnoxious, are they not?
It should be easy to see why the anti-American button is an easy one for a Russian politician to push. Interestingly, though, pushing this button doesn't seem to achieve much of anything, and this is something that requires an explanation. To get one relatively obvious reason out of the way: the Soviets painted the Americans as the “imperialist aggressor,” and this rhetorical device wore out along with the rest of the Soviet system. A slightly less obvious reason is that many Russians are still plagued with self-loathing, as a hold-over from the national humiliation of the Soviet collapse, and, seeing their own country in an overwhelmingly negative light, automatically entertain entirely unfounded rosy notions about the United States.
But an even more subtle and more powerful reason is this: Russia is busy becoming rather US-like in lifestyle and in social organization, and foreign relations are a hindrance to the smooth running of this process. Russians now watch American TV shows (dubbed into Russian), they lap up American-style marketing and advertising, they have bought into the SUV craze, they like to shop at the new malls and big box stores, to eat out almost every night, and some (those who can afford it) are even embracing the concept of suburban sprawl by erecting mansions in places that are a long drive from city centers. Many of them want to travel to the US, or even to move there, to better soak up even more of the profligate US lifestyle (which fewer and fewer Americans can still afford). What made the Magnitsky Act effective to the point of stirring Russian politicians to action is that they really like the idea of being able to travel to the US, invest in Miami real estate, send their children to overpriced US colleges and universities and so on. It is an effective way to put pressure on them—not to stop mistreating people in detention, like Magnitsky, mind you, but to capitulate to American/transnational corporate interests. But in this the Russian politicians are conflicted: they like having access to the US, but having it would mean nothing if they weren't rich. In turn, the reason they are rich is because, under Putin, Russia has stood up to foreign interests and curbed the power of foreign companies in the crucial oil and gas business. And for this the US officialdom will never forgive them. Post-Soviet Russia was supposed to become an impoverished banana republic ruled by a pliant Western-controlled élite and serve as a playground for Western corporations, its mineral wealth there for the taking. The fact that this has failed to happen (largely thanks to Vladimir Putin) is an affront to everything the US stands for and holds sacred.
This, by the way, explains the nature of the US campaign to vilify Putin. He has been singled out for painting with the archvillain brush not because he is a ruthless dictator (the world is full of ruthless dictators that the US likes very much and actively supports, provided they play ball). The reason is that Putin, of all the national leaders out there, actually gave a reasoned, principled response to attempts at foreign political and corporate domination of Russia: something he has called “sovereign democracy.” Now, the word “democracy” gets thrown around a lot but means ever so little (more on that in a moment) but the word “sovereign” actually does carry a meaning: there is a rather short list of nation-states that one can still call fully sovereign, and all of them are, in the eyes of the Washington régime, pariah states: Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria (formerly). They are all on the Washington's target list for régime change. Russia is actually big and powerful enough to be able to walk a fine line between being Washington's indispensable partner and guarantor of regional stability and a pariah state, and American vacillation between treating Russia as a friend or an enemy is reflective of its ambiguous position.
Now, on the question of democracy, Western media have tried their best to paint the recent Russian presidential election as riddled with fraud and therefore illegitimate. Like having the Supreme Court effectively annul election results and appoint the president by court order... oh wait, wrong country. In fact, in the elections last autumn, Putin was elected president by a landslide (he's popular, you see) for a third term, after sitting out a term as prime minister, per Russian constitution. As Putin himself pointed out, if he were a tyrant, he could have just changed the constitution. Sure, there was plenty of ballot-stuffing and other irregularities, but the more important point is that none of the other candidates posed a viable alternative to Putin, making the question of whether one likes him or not rather moot. Reminds me of another election that took place last autumn: Obama got reelected because Romney turned out to be a bit too much of a scoundrel. He is a corporate hostile takeover artist by trade, and apparently the US isn't quite ready yet for a corporate hostile takeover. (But let's check back in four years.) The other non-option was the third-party candidate Ron Paul. Now, there is an eerie similarity between these alternatives to Obama: apparently, they are all Ayn Randians.
Ayn Rand was a mediocre Russian-born novelist whose quest in life was to propagandize free market capitalism (as if that were something that one ever needs to do) and to denigrate all other forms of social organization. She stood firm against all forms of mutual aid and social support that could not be effected via the unfettered free market. The avowed free marketeers Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan definitely had Ayn Randian leanings, and it is hardly an accident that “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan” is an anagram for “My Ultimate Ayn Rand Porn.” And what about that other non-option, Ron Paul? What did he choose to name his son? That's right, “Rand.” Now, for me, fervent passion for the works of Ayn Rand has served as an accurate litmus test for a mediocre mind. The best that Ayn Rand's thinking can offer is a way of getting in touch with one's “inner asshole”: if you are the sort of person who is driven to distraction by the idea that somebody somewhere might be getting a free lunch at public expense, Ayn Rand is there to help you nurture such feelings. Ayn Rand is beloved of America's self-styled “libertarians.” The real Libertarians were socialists, but Americans have a way of borrowing words they don't know and then using them to mean things they don't understand, like saying “football” instead of “hand-egg” and then having to say “soccer” instead of “football,” never mind that the entire world finds this unintelligent and impolite. As the character Inigo Montoya put it in the film The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
So here we have a country in severe crisis (the United States) holding an important election, which should, theoretically, be over whether it should stay on course of runaway debt and government spending, or to reinvent itself and so to avoid national bankruptcy and collapse. And it turns out that all the opposition candidates it can field happen to be followers of a mediocre methamphetamine-addled Russian novelist. Now, let me ask you this: does this pathetic excuse for a democracy still have the right to lecture others about democratic governance? Perhaps the wounded beast of American democracy would be better off finding a dark place to go and lick its wounds for a couple of years.
Keep reading on  cluborlov >>

martes, julio 10, 2012

Peak Oil Oppositional Disorder: Neurosis or Psychosis?


The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has grown to include 297 disorders, but it seems that there is always room for one more.
Richard Heinberg recently published an article that addresses various recent claims that Peak Oil is no longer a concern. His term for the phenomenon is “peak denial.” It sounds good, and dovetails nicely with Richard's overall theme of “peak everything.” It's a thoughtful piece that does a thorough job of exposing the surreal nature of the optimists' projections, and I have no issues with his argument. I do, however, have an issue with his terminology. First, since denial does not happen to be a nonrenewable resource with a characterizable depletion profile, its peak, should we detect one, is not particularly meaningful, because it could just as easily peak again tomorrow and then again next century. Second, I suspect that “denial” is no longer the right word to describe the social phenomenon we are currently observing. I think that Ugo Bardi pointed us in the right direction: in his article reacting to George Monbiot's assertion that "We were wrong about peak oil, there is enough to fry us all," Ugo characterized Monbiot's approach to Peak Oil using another word: “delusion.”

If you feel that the distinction between denial and delusion is just a minor, innocuous terminological difference—a gratuitous splitting of hairs on my part—then pardon me while I whip out my Sigmund Freud: in The Loss of Reality in Neurosis and Psychosis [1924] he wrote the following: “Neurosis does not disavow the reality, it ignores it; psychosis disavows it and tries to replace it.” [p. 185] What psychosis replaces reality with is delusion.

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martes, mayo 22, 2012

In the Name of Austerity, Stimulus and Growth, Amen!

Paul Kuzhynski
Here's some food for thought. If you've been listening to the muffled and incoherent noises coming from the G8 and the surrounding political chattersphere, it's starting to sound like a prayer meeting: “In the name of Austerity, Stimulus and Growth, Amen!” And if you look at the individual leaders, what is there for them to do except pray?

Starting from the bottom, there is The Man Who Wasn't There: the newly reinaugurated Russian president Vladimir Putin. He didn't even show up, but sent his obedient deputy Medvedev instead, who made positive noises about how wonderful the meeting was. Putin is a lonely man: he's been seen in public with his wife a total of twice over the last two years; his two daughters are living incognito somewhere in Europe, there are mobs of people outside chanting “Russia Without Putin!” over and over again, and even the VIPs present at the inauguration seemed to be half-concealing a message behind their idolatrous smiles: “Wish you weren't here, Vova!”
The situation in the US isn't that much better: even his (once) ardent supporters see Obama as slightly worse than ineffectual, while many others are happy to vilify him for things he had nothing to do with. One thing is certain: the office changed him far more than he has managed to change the office. Even if he gets reelected, it will be four more years of ineffectual waffling, futile attempts to stay the course laid in by his manifestly incompetent predecessor, and frontal assaults on our remaining civil liberties. And if his opponent gets elected, it will much the same, except without the thin plastic veneer of pretending to give a damn.

Germany's Angela Merkel doesn't have much of a reason to be cheerful either. Her political support is eroding with each election. The task of pleasing the Germans while holding Eurozone together is an impossible one: the Germans are fed up with carrying the weaker European countries on their shoulders, but if they don't, then all fall down. The European dynamic is different because there the states that make up the EU negotiate with each other directly rather through the opaque proxy of Washington. If New York and California had a choice as to whether to give Louisiana, Missouri and Arkansas an endless series of financial piggyback rides, they would tell them to go ask Jesus for a loan, and then these three states would be worse off than Greece. But eventually something has to give, both here and in Europe.

The new face, the freshly elected socialist François Hollande, hasn't had a chance to do much yet, but, uncharacteristically for an elected official, he seems to want to fulfill his campaign promises: he said that he will withdraw French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, as promised. But his hand is weak: financially, France is not far ahead the Eurozone laggards; politically, Marine Le Pen's National Front is breathing down his neck.

And so, all they can do is pray: “In the Name of Austerity, Stimulus and Growth, Amen!” Growth is the holy grail, and austerity and stimulus will help us find it. But how?

Austerity is meant to bring deficit spending under control, curb the uncontrolled expansion of public debt, and avoid national default. But it has the unwelcome effect of triggering a severe recession, shrinking the tax base, and causing budget deficits to increase, not decrease.

Stimulus is meant to provide a way to kick-start economic growth, but the money for stimulus spending has to be borrowed, and this results in the expansion of public debt. And even an economist will tell you that a higher debt-to-GDP ratio results in lower growth.

This brings us to growth. The world is resource-constrained: the supply of most of the essential industrial commodities cannot be increased without triggering a price spike, which, in turn, will trigger another, even deeper, recession. Even with all the deep-water drilling (and spilling), fracking, tar sands and so on, there just isn't much growth potential for the US or the Eurozone, with their already high levels of per capita resource consumption.

Contrary to the ardent prayers of the world's leaders, the three-legged stool of austerity, stimulus and growth is a rickety piece of furniture: no matter which combination of legs they try put their weight on, they will end up sitting on the floor, and we will end up sitting on the floor with them. Now, sitting on the floor does not have to be uncomfortable. Perhaps, instead of praying, they should try some yoga: I am thinking of the lotus position. Repeating the same thing over and over again doesn't seem to be working; let's try meditating instead. Growth is over; now what?

sábado, enero 07, 2012

Where did the money go?


[A timely guest post from Gary, with all the anti-Iranian sabre-rattling going on. Spurred on by its political parasitic twin Israel, Washington seems poised to shoot itself right in the wallet. I believe that's called a "beauty shot."]

The lesson that the United States desperately needs to learn is that their trillion-dollar-a-year military is nothing more than a gigantic public money sponge that provokes outrage among friends and enemies alike and puts the country in ill repute. It is useless against its enemies, because they know better than to engage it directly. It can never be used to defeat any of the major nuclear powers, because sufficient deterrence against it can be maintained for relatively little money. It can never defuse a popular insurgency, because that takes political and diplomatic finesse, not a compulsion to bomb faraway places. Political and diplomatic finesse cannot be procured, even for a trillion dollars, even in a country that believes in extreme makeovers. As Vladimir Putin put it, “If grandmother had testicles, she’d be a grandfather.”

Reinventing Collapse, 2nd ed., p. 41
Military Keynesianism and America’s Declining Infrastructure

In August 2007, the nation was stunned by the collapse of a major Minneapolis bridge, killing thirteen. The bridge had been rated structurally deficient by the U.S. government as far back as 1990, and it was only one of 72,868 bridges (12.1%) across the country with that rating.  They also rated 89.024 bridges (14.8%) as functionally obsolete. Here closer to my home the eighty year old Champlain Bridge, also known as the Crown Point Bridge, was closed in October 2009 due to extensive corrosion of two structural piers. At least it was condemned before it fell down.  Two years later a replacement bridge has been completed, but not without substantial inconvenience and economic loss to business and workers on both sides of the bridge.  People were forced to take a ferry during reconstruction.  The DOT states the average design life of US bridges is 50 years with an average current age of 43.  The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that it would take nearly $930 billion to fix the country's failing bridges and roads over the next five years.  With estimated spending of $380.5 billion, they predict a shortfall of $549.5 billion. 

Where did all the money go?  The recently deceased Chalmers Johnson called it "Military Keynesianism".  For those who don't follow arcane economics lingo, Keynes was a British economist who said that in a period of slow or declining economic growth (recession or depression), that government spending was needed to "prime the pump" of the economy.  The US recovery from the Great Depression with help from WWII military spending gave credence to this analysis.  Except now we have permanent Military Keynesianism.

Johnson cites an incredible statistic from the late Seymour Melman, the Columbia University advocate of military conversion, and the "peace dividend".  "By 1990, the value of the weapons, equipment, and factories devoted to the military was 83% of the value of all plants and equipment in American Manufacturing.  From 1947-1990 the combined US military budget amounted to $8.7 trillion...Military industries crowd out the civilian economy (ed-and other government spending like bridges) and lead to severe economic weakness.” Consider that the US military is now spending over $1 trillion per year including all black and related expenses, which is more than the entire rest of the world combined.  The next biggest spender is China at $91.5 billion according to Chinese figures.  Johnson summarizes, “Devotion to military Keynesianism is, in fact, a form of slow economic suicide."  More >>

sábado, octubre 01, 2011

Living on Stolen Time


Consider a flame; a jet of methane, for example, injected into an oxygen-rich atmosphere and set alight. Now try to describe the shape and structure of the flame mathematically, in a way that will allow you to accurately predict how its shape and structure respond to changes in various conditions—oxygen concentration, gas pressure and so on. You will quickly discover that the mathematics of the problem can be derived from basic physical principles but are intractable: there are equations that accurately describe the situation, but they are too difficult to solve. Often the easiest solution, one that is practical in the case of a simple gas jet, is to build a physical model or a prototype, test it, and make some observations and measurements that characterize the system. But what if that's not possible? Then the usual recourse is to build a computational model that simplifies the physics in various ways and brute-forces the solution by crunching through lots of numbers.
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Retratos de fusilados por el Castrismo - Juan Abreu


"EN TIEMPOS DIFÍCILES" - Heberto Padilla

A aquel hombre le pidieron su tiempo

para que lo juntara al tiempo de la Historia.

Le pidieron las manos,

porque para una época difícil

nada hay mejor que un par de buenas manos.

Le pidieron los ojos

que alguna vez tuvieron lágrimas

para que contemplara el lado claro

(especialmente el lado claro de la vida)

porque para el horror basta un ojo de asombro.

Le pidieron sus labios

resecos y cuarteados para afirmar,

para erigir, con cada afirmación, un sueño


le pidieron las piernas

duras y nudosas

(sus viejas piernas andariegas),

porque en tiempos difíciles

¿algo hay mejor que un par de piernas

para la construcción o la trinchera?

Le pidieron el bosque que lo nutrió de niño,

con su árbol obediente.

Le pidieron el pecho, el corazón, los hombros.

Le dijeron

que eso era estrictamente necesario.

Le explicaron después

que toda esta donación resultaria inútil.

sin entregar la lengua,

porque en tiempos difíciles

nada es tan útil para atajar el odio o la mentira.

Y finalmente le rogaron

que, por favor, echase a andar,

porque en tiempos difíciles

esta es, sin duda, la prueba decisiva.


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La columna de Cubanalisis

NEOCASTRISMO [Hacer click en la imagen]

NEOCASTRISMO [Hacer click en la imagen]
¨Saturno jugando con sus hijos¨/ Pedro Pablo Oliva


Carta desde la carcel de Fidel Castro Ruz

“…después de todo, para mí la cárcel es un buen descanso, que sólo tiene de malo el que es obligatorio. Leo mucho y estudio mucho. Parece increíble, las horas pasan como si fuesen minutos y yo, que soy de temperamento intranquilo, me paso el día leyendo, apenas sin moverme para nada. La correspondencia llega normalmente…”

“…Como soy cocinero, de vez en cuando me entretengo preparando algún pisto. Hace poco me mandó mi hermana desde Oriente un pequeño jamón y preparé un bisté con jalea de guayaba. También preparo spaghettis de vez en cuando, de distintas formas, inventadas todas por mí; o bien tortilla de queso. ¡Ah! ¡Qué bien me quedan! por supuesto, que el repertorio no se queda ahí. Cuelo también café que me queda muy sabroso”.
“…En cuanto a fumar, en estos días pasados he estado rico: una caja de tabacos H. Upman del doctor Miró Cardona, dos cajas muy buenas de mi hermano Ramón….”.
“Me voy a cenar: spaghettis con calamares, bombones italianos de postre, café acabadito de colar y después un H. Upman #4. ¿No me envidias?”.
“…Me cuidan, me cuidan un poquito entre todos. No le hacen caso a uno, siempre estoy peleando para que no me manden nada. Cuando cojo el sol por la mañana en shorts y siento el aire de mar, me parece que estoy en una playa… ¡Me van a hacer creer que estoy de vacaciones! ¿Qué diría Carlos Marx de semejantes revolucionarios?”.


¨La patria es dicha de todos, y dolor de todos, y cielo para todos, y no feudo ni capellaní­a de nadie¨ - Marti

"No temas ni a la prision, ni a la pobreza, ni a la muerte. Teme al miedo"
Giacomo Leopardi

¨Por eso es muy importante, Vicky, hijo mío, que recuerdes siempre para qué sirve la cabeza: para atravesar paredes¨Halvar de Flake [El vikingo]

"Como no me he preocupado de nacer, no me preocupo de morir" - Lorca

"Al final, no os preguntarán qué habéis sabido, sino qué habéis hecho" - Jean de Gerson

"Si queremos que todo siga como está, es necesario que todo cambie" - Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

"Todo hombre paga su grandeza con muchas pequeñeces, su victoria con muchas derrotas, su riqueza con múltiples quiebras" - Giovanni Papini

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans" - John Lennon

"Habla bajo, lleva siempre un gran palo y llegarás lejos" - Proverbio Africano

"No hay medicina para el miedo" - Proverbio escoces

"El supremo arte de la guerra es doblegar al enemigo sin luchar"
- Sun Tzu

"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother" - Albert Einstein

"It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office" - H. L. Menken

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented" - Elie Wiesel

"Stay hungry, stay foolish" -
Steve Jobs

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert , in five years ther'ed be a shortage of sand" - Milton Friedman

"The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less" - Vaclav Havel

"No se puede controlar el resultado, pero si lo que uno haga para alcanzarlo" -
Vitor Belfort [MMA Fighter]


A la puerta de la gloria está San Pedro sentado y ve llegar a su lado a un hombre de cierta historia. No consigue hacer memoria y le pregunta con celo: ¿Quién eras allá en el suelo? Era Liborio mi nombre. Has sufrido mucho, hombre, entra, te has ganado el cielo.

Para Raul Castro

Cuba ocupa el penultimo lugar en el mundo en libertad economica solo superada por Corea del Norte.

Cuba ocupa el lugar 147 entre 153 paises evaluados en "Democracia, Mercado y Transparencia 2007"

Cuando vinieron

Cuando vinieron a buscar a los comunistas, Callé: yo no soy comunista.
Cuando vinieron a buscar a los sindicalistas, Callé: yo no soy sindicalista.
Cuando vinieron a buscar a los judíos, Callé: yo no soy judío. Cuando vinieron a buscar a los católicos, Callé: yo no soy “tan católico”.
Cuando vinieron a buscarme a mí, Callé: no había quien me escuchara.

Reverendo Martin Niemöller

Martha Colmenares

Martha Colmenares
Un sitio donde los hechos y sus huellas nos conmueven o cautivan


Donde esta el Mundo, donde los Democratas, donde los Liberales? El pueblo de Cuba llora y nadie escucha.
Donde estan los Green, los Socialdemocratas, los Ricos y los Pobres, los Con Voz y Sin Voz? Cuba llora y nadie escucha.
Donde estan el Jet Set, los Reyes y Principes, Patricios y Plebeyos? Cuba desesperada clama por solidaridad.
Donde Bob Dylan, donde Martin Luther King, donde Hollywood y sus estrellas? Donde la Middle Class democrata y conservadora, o acaso tambien liberal a ratos? Y Gandhi? Y el Dios de Todos?
Donde los Santos y Virgenes; los Dioses de Cristianos, Protestantes, Musulmanes, Budistas, Testigos de Jehova y Adventistas del Septimo Dia. Donde estan Ochun y todas las deidades del Panteon Yoruba que no acuden a nuestro llanto? Donde Juan Pablo II que no exige mas que Cuba se abra al Mundo y que el Mundo se abra a Cuba?
Que hacen ahora mismo Alberto de Monaco y el Principe Felipe que no los escuchamos? Donde Madonna, donde Angelina Jolie y sus adoptados around de world; o nos hara falta un Brando erguido en un Oscar por Cuba? Donde Sean Penn?
Donde esta la Aristocracia Obrera y los Obreros menos Aristocraticos, donde los Working Class que no estan junto a un pueblo que lanquidece, sufre y llora por la ignominia?
Que hacen ahora mismo Zapatero y Rajoy que no los escuchamos, y Harper y Dion, e Hillary y Obama; donde McCain que no los escuchamos? Y los muertos? Y los que estan muriendo? Y los que van a morir? Y los que se lanzan desesperados al mar?
Donde estan el minero cantabrico o el pescador de percebes gijonese? Los Canarios donde estan? A los africanos no los oimos, y a los australianos con su acento de hombres duros tampoco. Y aquellos chinos milenarios de Canton que fundaron raices eternas en la Isla? Y que de la Queen Elizabeth y los Lords y Gentlemen? Que hace ahora mismo el combativo Principe Harry que no lo escuchamos?
Donde los Rockefellers? Donde los Duponts? Donde Kate Moss? Donde el Presidente de la ONU? Y Solana donde esta? Y los Generales y Doctores? Y los Lam y los Fabelo, y los Sivio y los Fito Paez?
Y que de Canseco y Miñoso? Y de los veteranos de Bahia de Cochinos y de los balseros y de los recien llegados? Y Carlos Otero y Susana Perez? Y el Bola, y Pancho Cespedes? Y YO y TU?
Y todos nosotros que estamos aqui y alla rumiando frustaciones y resquemores, envidias y sinsabores; autoelogios y nostalgias, en tanto Louis Michel comulga con Perez Roque mientras Biscet y una NACION lanquidecen?
Donde Maceo, donde Marti; donde aquel Villena con su carga para matar bribones?
Cuba llora y clama y el Mundo NO ESCUCHA!!!

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