Recent World News Links and Blog Entries

Recent US News Links and Blog Entries










[Jan25,2000] The US killed 3-5,000,000 people in Vietnam and surrounding countries (mostly civilians) and created over 5,000,000 refugees (about a third of the population of South Vietnam at the time) because 'we had no choice but to finish the job we started'. This was a heinous, terrorist war crime many orders of magnitude greater than anything that has happened since--almost 1,000 times (!) as many civilians as were tragically killed in the WTC. [update: see Nick Turse's 2013 book on this]. It barely seeps into the consciousness of the newly hawkish 'baby bombers' who witnessed it in the 60's from college campuses. Reasoning by analogy with the recent US military action, perhaps Vietnamese air strikes on US student unions, radio stations, and hospitals could have stopped it. It would have been a small price to pay to avoid the needless slaughter of 3-4,000,000 other living humans and the mutilation and burning of that many more--along with 60,000 American deaths and 60,000 subsequent suicides of Vietnam vets who fought there. The US carpet bombing of Cambodia from 1969 to 1975 is estimated to have killed over half a million Cambodians--mostly civilians. Obscene US war crimes were perpetrated in Laos in the same years. What rationale is there for putting those deeds into a different category than the 'killing fields' (or the recent events) engineered by the other bad guys? Because we killed them from a distance as opposed to using knives? (letter to NPR). The Kerrey (not Kerry!) revelations suggest that knives were used, too. Which level of the civilian and military hierarchy is most at fault for his particular deed can be disputed. But let's cut the crap about 'war is hell'. Much of the 'American war' as the Vietnamese call it involved US servicemen slaughtering unarmed women, children, and old men in their home towns during a protracted invasion of their country halfway across the world. Kerrey's unit was likely part of the infamous Phoenix program. What he did was a war crime, period. If a Serb or an Iraqi did something like Kerrey did, wouldn't he be a war criminal? Milosevic and Saddam are small-time next to the likes of Kissinger and McNamara. Then to top it off, the US, through its IMF economic hit men, forced through a neoliberal 'reform' program in the mid-80's that caused a dramatic drop in real salaries, demanded repayment of debts incurred by the US-supported puppet government, increased malaria, left all the Agent Orange on the ground, and preempted any liability for it. Disgusting. Someday in the future, the world may savor the 'favor' being returned.

The US killed 3,000,000 civilians in Korea (out of a population of 30 million). That's about 700 WTC's in terms of people or 7,000 WTC's as a percentage of the population.

The main scene of the Nazis' defeat wasn't Normandy or anywhere else Americans fought, but rather the Eastern Front, where the conflict was the most terrible war fought in human history. It claimed perhaps as many as 50 million Soviet civilian deaths and almost 30 million Soviet military casualties (the actual numbers, amazingly, are not known to within plus or minus 10 or 15 million people). But more to the point, Americans should recall that about 88% of all German casualties fell in the war with Russia. (Benjamin Schwarz in the LA Times)
The death of one million children in Iraq as a result of US-imposed sanctions (on top of the 130,000 civilians the Red Cross estimates to have been killed in the initial bombing) and the starvation of an entire people hardly rates a comment these days. This unbelievable genocidal violence against an innocent civilian population didn't resulted in getting Saddam Hussein, our former handsomely paid ally, to step down. When the history of the end of the twentieth century is written 100 years from now, I'm afraid the 'good Americans' who let this happen with a slightly uncomfortable yawn, will be remembered for who we really are.

The US State Dept had the opportunity to remove Saddam Hussein from power in 1991, following the Gulf War, and chose not to. The Bush administration explained that it did not want Iraq to become fragmented and that it felt the Baath party was the only group that could hold it together. They continue to want the current regime to be strong internally and weak externally. They want to keep Saddam Hussein in power, crippled, but as a convenient excuse to maintain the economic sanctions and US dominance in the region. This is their policy, but they don't want to verbalize it. This is what they've achieved, but they've achieved it at a terrible price for Iraqi children.
--Kathy Kelly, Voices in the Wilderness
The Russian Defense Budget is $4 Billion, the American--$284 Billion" (New York Times 1/16/2000). We should transfer at least a billion of that to the study of the brain!
More than $1 billion in military aid has made its way to Columbia. Not a peep out of the press sheep following the candidates. In my dreams, I imagine Clinton and his advisors being banished to rural Columbia for a few months next year. In reality, Clinton needed 5000 (!) soldiers and police, and 6 helicopter gunships overhead to survive an 8 hour stay. He was too afraid to even spend one night. And so soon after 'feeling the pain' of the victims of our previous adventure in Guatemala... What a sickly, gutless, cowardly thing you are (now, were), Bill.
Americans now spend $120 billion a year on fast food, more than on higher education, PCs, computer software or new cars, or on magazines, going to see films, recorded music, newspapers, videos and books combined. --Fast Food Nation
Half of the people in the world survive on $2 a day.
In the past year, 90% of Iraqi oil output has been bought by the US.
The current military budget is $344 billion--8 times as much as what we spend for education ($42 billion).
2.5 million people have died in the past 3 years as a result of an ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The carnage has barely registered on the world's stage. The WTC disaster was evil, but not the greatest evil of our time, by far.
95% of people living with AIDS reside in developing countries; 95 percent of AIDS prevention money is spent in industrial countries.
My speech at the Feb 15, 2003 downtown San Diego anti-war demonstration.

Life in the US

The incarceration rate at the end of the Clinton administration was 476 per 100,000 citizens (the highest in the world), versus 332 per 100,000 at the end of Bush1's term and 247 per 100,000 at the end of Reagan's administration. The incarceration rate for black males is an amazing 3,620 per 100,000 (3.6%). An additional 1% of the entire population is on probation or parole. The current incarceration rate is over 5 times what it was in every year between 1920 to 1980.
--from a study by the Justice Policy Institute

"What we're seeing in California is price manipulation by the handful of power producers who exert total market control over the wholesale market. This manipulation is clear: The amount utilities paid for wholesale power in November and December 2000 exceeded by 28 percent the amount the utilities paid for wholesale power during all 12 months of 1999.... The seven biggest unregulated energy companies operating in California posted $4.6 billion in after-tax profit since the May 2000 price spikes -- a 57 percent increase from the same period in '99.... George W. Bush has said that the crisis is a state, not a federal, issue. He couldn't be more wrong. The federal government, through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has the authority to set cost-based rates on California power producers."
Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen, more info here

"When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were. It was us versus them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they're there."
--George W Bush, January 21, 2000 Iowa Western Community College

"I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."
--Dick Cheney commenting on his four regular deferments and a fifth for expectant fatherhood during the US/Vietnam war. Actually war is a very important priority, one too important to be left to regular people--only generals and war secretaries should be allowed to fight.

When people tell me that I'm wrecking the Democratic Party, I ask them, 'What's left to wreck?' -- Ralph Nader

The number of Americans in prison for drug offenses has multiplied by 10 since 1980, from 41,000 to 458,000. The 458,000 men and women now in U.S. prisons on drug charges are 100,000 more than all prisoners in the European Union, whose population is 100 million more than ours. The annual cost of incarcerating them is $9 billion.

The great irony of the growth in imprisoned drug users--much of it occurring under Democratic administrations, is that it probably cost the Democrats the Presidency and the Congress.

Texas ranks first among states, not only in executions, but also in the number of uninsured children.

"Our children will gaze back aghast upon our own time, a period of waste and abandon on a scale so vast it knocked the planet out of whack for a thousand years." --Kalle Lasn, www.addbusters.org

There were about one million personal bankruptcies in 1999 in the US. One half of these (half a million) are due to the crushing burden of medical expenses. Most of the others are due to loss of a job (which usually leads to loss of medical benefits). Seniors, women, and families headed by single women are the groups hardest hit by medical expenses. One main cause is that medical expenses now have a much larger dynamic range then they had 30 years ago. For example, it is now easily possible to run up a $500,000 bill in one week.

In March 2001, the Senate passed a 'get tough' Bankruptcy bill. As in 1999, the main reasons for bankruptcy are medical bills, divorce, and job loss.

AOL Mind Filter
America Online provides "youth filters" that are supposed to keep kids out of dangerous Web sites--but they seem designed to eliminate creeping liberalism. For example, if you've set up AOL to restrict your children to "Kids Only" Web sites: Your children can easily view the site of the Republican National Committee, but the Democratic National Committee is blocked. Children can call up the conservative Constitution Party and Libertarian Party, both of which are promoting their own U.S. presidential candidates. But if they attempt to view Ralph Nader's Green Party or Ross Perot's Reform Party, they see only a "not appropriate for children" error. AOL's "Young Teens" filter, designed for older children, allows a few more Web sites to be viewed. The apparent political bias, however, remains the same: Sites promoting gun use are available, including Colt, Browning and the National Rifle Association. But prominent gun safety organizations are blocked, including the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Safer Guns Now and the Million Mom March. Common Dreams NewsCenter is blocked for teens by AOL while the rightwing gossiper Matt Drudge is not.
Brian Livingston (!), at cnet mirrored by www.commondreams.org

A spectator at the arraignment of several hundred activists [arrested at the April 16 anti-IMF demonstrations], heard the presiding commissioner Ringelle imply that if activists did not cooperate he would place them with the general jail population, where they they would be raped. "He told us 'For a day or a week or a month [Jail] is not a pleasant place. People get sodomized. The inmates run the D.C. Prison. In the prison, the weak are preyed upon". Another group of activists was also threatened with incarceration with the general population, and told "they love to kill white boys over there, you pussy-faggot protesters." Nearly 1,300 people were arrested. commondreams, www.a16.org
[cf. US complaints about other countries like China]

"The [Orange County] Register reports that a typical [organ] donor produces $14,000 to $16,000 in sales for the nonprofit agency, but yields can be far greater. Skin, tendons, heart valves, veins and corneas are listed at about $110,000. Add the bones, and one cadaver can be worth $220,000. Good grief -- if they're going to use your body, the proceeds should go to your estate or your favorite charity. No one signs up as an organ donor so some jerk can make $533,000 a year [the salary of a top official at an LA tissue bank]". --Molly Ivins, Forth Worth Star Telegram.

Less than 1% of the of the world's assets are held in the name of women. From 1993 to 1996, 1.6 percent of the venture capital raised in the United States ($33 billion) was invested in businesses led by women.

If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates (title of a book by Jim Hightower)

16,000 gun murders last year in the US:
  • 15,500 killed by someone they knew (husband, boyfriend, neighbor, at work)
  • 500 killed by stranger who broke into home (300 of which killed by own gun)

    It's more dangerous to be a fisherman or a convenience store clerk and esp. a taxi driver than to be a police officer (a higher percentage get killed). Somehow, tho, I don't see virtual state funerals for those poor Seven-Eleven guys...

    A $1 change in Microsoft's stock price leads to a market capitalization change of $6 billion since there are 5.2 billion shares plus almost a billion employee options out there. Gross annual sales are only $20 billion. A large amount of teacher pension funds are invested in Microsoft. Bubble. Eeek. [written in 2000...]

    From 1980 to 1999, the average CEO compensation went from 42 times the average worker in the company to over 400 times the average worker--a yearly wage paid every day including weekends (it's even more extreme now). Michael Eisner's bonus in 1999 was half a billion dollars (again!). We need a maximum wage, not a minimum wage. Time to 'out-source' some of those over-priced CEO's. In the most recent figures out in 1999, the ratio has risen once again, to 475. As Holly Sklar has said, "How big a gap will we tolerate?"

    Since 1990, more than 80 countries now have per capita incomes lower than a decade ago. Average world per capita income has increased 3.0% per year, but the great majority of this wealth increase was in already rich countries. Increased free trade since 1990 has generated more wealth for rich people and less for poor people. Time to change the rules. Wealth doesn't trickle down by itself.

    The UN Developing Nations Program reported that in 1998, the world's 225 richest people had a combined wealth of $1 trillion--equal to the combined annual income of the world's 2.5 billion poorest people. That's not right (more stats here).

    According to Gallup polls, about 44 percent of Americans believe in a strict biblical creationist view. But at the same time, genetically engineered food has come to be considered harmful to pets: "Even Iams Co., the Ohio-based pet food maker, recently told its grain suppliers it would no longer accept genetically engineered corn for use in its premium dog and cat chows unless the corn varieties were among the few approved by the European Union." [Rick Weiss, WashPost]
    -------------------
    The irony is immense. Monsanto's molecular biologists, who have a spectacularly intimate knowledge of the low level details of evolution, are driven back by the the same suspicious public that believes in creationism. Wrong reason, positive outcome.

    Bill Gates now owns more wealth than the combined wealth of the bottom 40% of the US population (and he probably doesn't believe in creationism).

    Two years ago, Disney's Michael Eisner made $575M, or $250,000 per hour.

    Ralph Nader had a ticket to the first debate and was also invited by several news organizations to appear on their broadcasts, but upon arriving (via the Boston subway system, not a limo) he was met by a representative of the Commission on Presidential Debates as well as the state police. He was informed that despite his ticket and invitations, the commission would not allow him on the premises. He was also threatened with arrest by the state police on two occasions during the evening for simply being there. Now that's democracy for you.

    Whites in high school are seven times more likely than blacks to have used cocaine, eight times more likely to have smoked crack, and there are more white high schoolers who have used crystal methamphetamine than black students who smoke cigarettes --Tim Wise, St Louis Post Dispatch

    If the whole world consumed oil as does America, the Earth's oil reserves would be gone in 10 years.

    America's farm animals consume roughly 10 times as much antibiotics as the human population.

    Microsoft donated about 5 million dollars to the last campaign cycle to many people, such as Dianne Feinstein ($8,000), John Ashcroft ($9,000), Edward Kennedy ($6,000), and Trent Lott ($5,000). That was cool.

    The Internet was invented as a highly dependable, high-speed, distributed, secure, and powerful network so that in the event of a nuclear crisis, military officials would always have access to pornography.

    "Newly arrived in New York City, I puzzled, 'Where are the Americans?' for I met only Italians, Jews, Puerto Ricans." --John Ashcroft, our Attorney General

    "Negroes, Asians and Orientals (is Japan the exception?), Hispanics, Latins and Eastern Europeans; have no temperament for democracy, never had, and probably never will..." --John Ashcroft, our Attorney General

    The CIA knows that polygraphs don't work. Aldrich Ames sailed through his tests, for example. Polygraph tests are used mainly for intimidation.

    If you get to an emergency room on foot (or by crawling), they have to take you eventually, whereas an ambulance can be diverted, esp. if you are poor. Reminds me of Chicago police policy in the 80's. If you called 911 from the South Side saying you had been shot, they would send a paddy wagon, not an ambulance-- and people died this way. To get an ambulance, you needed to call the fire dept. Using a similar logic: "Do you think you could you just drop me off about half a block away from that emergency entrance, I think I should be able to crawl the rest of the way..."

    So-called "internet worms" and "email viruses" not named properly. They are virtually all *Microsoft* bugs--poor, sloppy, insecure program design.

    Bush says: I had no relationship with that man, Mr. Lay before I became governor in 1995. Tee hee.

    "That's when I first got to know Ken and worked with Ken and he supported my candidacy for -- and -- but this is what -- what anybody's going to find if -- is that this Administration will fully investigate issues such as the Enron bankruptcy".

    "To the layman on the street, it will look like we recognized funds flow of $800 million from merchant asset sales in 1999 by selling to a vehicle (Condor) that we capitalized with a promise of Enron stock in later years. Is that really funds flow or is it cash from equity issuance?" -- a quote from an internal Enron memo as things began to collapse. Man on the street, indeed!

    "Enron was able to play fast and loose in a financial boom and Clintonian moral climate" -- the Wall Street Journal.
    So Enron is actually Clinton's fault! And you can't have unions in the Justice Department because they represent a security risk. Class war, man.

    "Companies come and go. It's part of the genius of capitalism." -- secretary of the treasury, Paul O'Neill on Enron. The pension-less 10,000 must realize now realize they were lesser geniuses than the executives who walked off with $1 billion.

    Enron has 2,832 subsidiaries, of which 874 are registered in the Cayman Islands or other tax and bank secrecy havens.

    "How did Enron lose so much money? That question has dumbfounded investors and experts in recent months. But the basic answer is now apparent: Enron was a derivatives trading firm; it made billions trading derivatives, but it lost billions on virtually everything else it did, including projects in fiber-optic bandwidth, retail gas and power, water systems, and even technology stocks. Enron used its expertise in derivatives to hide these losses." --Frank Partnoy

    What with all the talk about maybe we might have to resort to torture in the homeland to protect the homeland (as opposed to torture out in the marches to protect the homeland) (Dershowitz, etc), just think how much stuff Kenny Boy would tell us if the Congress threatened to attach electrodes to his privates. Some people had problems with us torturing people here, so maybe we should send him to another country--say Columbia--and have them do it. We spent enough cash training them, eh?

    "Criminal: A person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation." --Clarence Darrow

    Many years ago there was a TV show called the Prisoner where these guys on a see-saw looked into monitors while a bald intelligence guy with glasses intoned "orange alert" into a phone, and called up Rover to chase down escapees. Today (3/12/02) we are on 'yellow alert' according to our Home Security guy, Tom Rigid. Only one more notch to orange (!)

    Microsoft Word dumps Windows runtime data structures directly to disk with block writes -- which makes it virtually impossible to write a program not on Windows that can *write* the format. Even Microsoft can't do it! An operating system patch that affects runtime data structures might end up getting written out to a Word file, making it unreadable by an unpatched system that reads the Word file directly into memory. It's easier for a secondo party program to *read* the format because you can pick and choose from among the sewage in the file, and not crash. This is the real Microsoft monopoly--disguised as bad programming practice, 101.

    "We have about 50 per cent of the world's wealth, but only 6 per cent of its population...In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task is to maintain this position of disparity without detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming.
    "We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better...." -- George F. Kennan, 1948.

    CEO compensation rose 571% from 1990 to 2000. That's *108* times the rate of gain for workers.

    "The government took music out of the schools, and kids have no way to learn an instrument or theory and harmony. So they have to resort to sampling. If music were taught in the schools, kids would learn how to create on their own" -- Rick James.

    "At least the original Caesar could speak his own native language" -- Josef Stromberg.

    Americans, about 4% of the world's population, consume 50% of the worlds illegal drugs.

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    [Jul06'02] In 1990, the collective value of all homes was about $6.7 trillion. It increased to only $7.6 trillion by 1995, and then shot up to $10 trillion by 1999 and now stands at more than $12 trillion. In some real sense, it is clear that 2002 houses and property couldn't possibly be worth twice what they were in just 1995. The deflation of the dotcom bubble resulted in the loss of over $4-5 trillion in stock value. The housing bubble--perhaps the largest bubble in human history--may be in for a similar popping.

    [Jul14'02] Guess crony capitalism's got the herd a'fearin'.

    [Aug20'02] Attempts to make un-copy-able files/CDs/etc have not been that successful. But even if better digital copy protection becomes available, the high quality data still has to come out of a wire and go into a speaker at some point so you can listen to it legally. There, it is vulnerable to re-digitization. If Microsoft's Palladium (encrypting your own files with a key that you don't get to see) is a clue, this suggests that someone right now is trying to figure out how to take over the speaker market with speakers that only accept encrypted inputs.

    [Aug25'02] Have you heard about the new product that guarantees firmer thighs while putting an end to war? It's called a protest march. -- Carol Schiffler

    [Sep10'02] Well, it finally had to happen. We're at 'Orange Alert', like the evil guy with glasses would say in 'The Prisoner'. I just hope that 'Rover' isn't soon on the way, too.

    [Nov16'02] "With $345 million worth of U.S. Air Force contracts, MIT received a larger amount of Air Force contracts than did IBM or General Dynamics in 1999. And in 2000, MIT's $339 million worth of U.S. Air Force contracts was a larger amount of Air Force contracts than either Rockwell, Littleton, Carlyle or Textron received in 2000." -- Bob Feldman

    [Dec20'02] When it costs 5% more to buy a share of a company than it did yesterday, that is considered growth -- good economic news. When wages rise 5% a year (as opposed to a 5% a day), that is considered inflation -- bad for the economy. The only problem with this is that when people have more money, they buy more things, which means that companies can sell more things.

    [Mar22'03] This February, the US budget deficit increased by 90 billion dollars -- that is, a deficit *increase* equal to almost 1/6 of the yearly federal budget in one month of spending. The stock market soars now. But the human mind is an wondrous thing. You can implant the idea that the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis into half of the infantile brains in this country, getting them mad enough to punch out a peacenik, but then 6 months later, they turn on you in favor of someone whose smirk is less disgusting.

    [May18'03] Test animals cannot distinguish between the effects of cocaine and Ritalin.

    [Jul19'03] The federal deficit is currently estimated at 450 billion This does *not* (!) include Iraq and Afghanistan and various other "black" expenditures. If we include those, the deficit probably approaches the size of the budget itself. Instead of worrying about that, the focus of the White House is on how to placate the yahoos who suppported the war and who are not happy now that we appear to be 'pulling our punches' while one soldier a day gets killed. This reminds me of pro-war talk during Vietnam where we 'pulled our punches' and still killed 2-3 million civilians (I hate to think of what not pulling our punches would have meant); likewise, we are killing a lot of non-Americans every day in Iraq -- a lot more than one a day. The yahoos just want to nuke Iraq and they don't really want to hear that the whole point of the war was to establish a bases there, near the oil, and that we can't nuke the oil.

    [Jul23'03] Yahoos are placated for this week (see above). Most observers think it is unlikely to reduce the lethality of the daily attacks, and in fact, two more Americans were killed today.

    [Jul26'03] Basic facts about the re-distribution of wealth: --US income tax from corporations: 1952, 1960, 1970, 1985 => 32%, 23%, 17%, 9%
    --number of billionaires: 1983 - 1990: => 15, 12, 13, 26, 49, 68, 82, 99
    --richest 1% own more wealth than the bottom 90% (US record)

    --next richest 9% also own more wealth than the bottom 90% (US record)

    [Sep24'03] "Ironically, Microsoft's efforts to deny interoperability of Windows with legitimate non-Microsoft applications have created an environment in which Microsoft's programs interoperate efficiently only with Internet viruses" [commenting on the virus-driven shutdown today of government computers involved in issuing visas] -- Dan Geer [he was fired/resigned from the Boston company he founded the next day]

    [Sep25'03] The latest suggestion to deal with music file copying (see Charles Haddad below) is to try to mimic the Monsanto 'terminator' gene in seeds. With farm plants, the idea is to prevent plants from generating fertile seeds. This is 'normally' done in the US [but not Europe] by selling hybrids, whose main advantage is not imaginary 'hyrid vigor', but the fact that they generate sterile seeds. This superseded the practice of farmers over the millenia of saving a portion of their crops as seed in order to sow it the next year. With songs, the idea would be that you would have to repeatedly pay to download a song. The license to listen to it would rapidly expire, making it worthless to copy. Just think of the possibilities. Books could be printed with disappearing ink, special vinyl- and mylar-eating bacteria and mp3-ablating viruses could be released to deal with any pesky remaining records, tapes, and computer files. Hey, maybe you should get your brain erased ever so often! You never know what sort of revenue-denying stuff might accumulate in there.

    [Sep28'03] Whiny American yahoos make me sick. First they get whipped into idiotic patriotic fervor by a bunch of transparent lies. Then the lies get outed -- by the chimp, himself! (but the lies, amazingly, still continue to gain in the polls after that). That leaves going over and stealing/hording/securing/dog-in-the-manger-ing the oil and the land around it as the only real reason for the war. Deep down, they know it: people in the government government (or at least rich people worried about their businesses' future) are trying to plan for the all-too-soon future of scarce oil (while sopping up a ten billion here and a ten billion there in tax receipts for a job not very well done). So why all the sudden cold feet about it costing $1 billion a week? Grow up, guys! Either stop complaining about the so far relatively moderate cost in money and (American) lives of stealing the oil, or stop trying to steal it. Stop your sobbing.

    [Oct12'03] Listening to the CBS world (!) news yesterday (LA's KNX on AM). The top headlines, in total, were: (1) Kobe Bryant's trial (this year's Gary Condit), (2) the preparation for surgery to separate third-world twins joined at the head (this year's third-world conjoined twins) (3) a report that supposed letters from different troops saying how well things were going turned out to all have the exact same wording, and (4) a jokey tag story. Not even any sewage from Mark Knoller! And, of course, nothing about 1,500 people having been ethnically cleaned out of their homes this day in Rafah with (US-made-and-paid-for) helicopters and bulldozers. It made me feel like I was an American.

    [Oct27'03] "I knew it was wrong, but it was accepted practice" -- that is, cutting off baby's heads to get jewelry, using slaughtered women's scalps to decorate your rifle, etc. -- see new report of Vietnam era atrocities by the 'Tiger Force' here. However, this was hardly an isolated incident, as implied by the authors of the report, given that two to three *million* civilians were killed by the US in the American war on Vietnam -- it was the *official* policy. Like the kid soldier said, "it was accepted practice".

    [Nov13'03] The brave American Congress decides to stand up to Israel and demand that they move the exact position of some of its Wall so that that only 97,000 people have to apply for permits to their own homes instead of 100,000 people -- or else they will trim the 9 billion dollar 'loan' package to 8.95 billion. Sometimes you just have to stand up for what you believe. After all, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

    [Nov30'03] The unseen third party at the grocery store strike is Walmart. Their *only* 'innovation' is that they pay their employees less and they give them less health benefits, mainly because they have no unions. As Walmart advances like a fast-growing cancer across the US with intent to deeply penetrate food marketing, they want you to think that their attempt to turn the US into a third-world country is inevitable and good. We should play more like they do! The world is hurtling toward a precipice as hydrocarbon resource extraction peaks, yet business gallops on faster and faster without the slightest embarrassment. So should we. Join a union, live a little, and position yourself better for deglobalization. Party will soon be over, man.

    [Dec04'03] Bush's poll numbers are starting to rise again in the wake of him carrying a camera-ready turkey (not an edible one, it turns out). I guess there is no way that you can ever really get around the turkey brain that lies deep at the center of every American brain. Sometimes, the turkey genes just win out, despite our best intentions.

    [Dec10'03] In an average flu epidemic year, the flu virus kills 36,000 people. That's 100 people a day, mostly older people. This year may be average. From the coverage, though, you'd think that the flu was as common as a shark attack. 100 people a day in North America have continued to die from non-treatable viral pneumonia (comparable to the total number of people that died of SARS -- but every day). Luckily, though, the threat of SARS has passed.

    [Dec13'03] Current 'news' reporting is *so* dismal and ahistorical and unobjective and ascientific that I've lost the will to even yell back. If there ever was a unusally severe flu epidemic (like the one right after WWI), the flu shots wouldn't work and the anchors would be soiling their shorts on screen (which we would no doubt, have the opportunity to view in close-up: "Peter, you seem to have water running down your leg... are you OK?). Perhaps the reality of the situation is simply way over the heads of concerned parents, since almost half of them don't even believe in evolution (flu vaccines are made by infecting chickens months in advance, using existing viruses, not the slightly mutated versions of the virus that herald the start of the flu season; the reason they work at all is that the mutations are *usually* small enough that the antibodies that are generated still bind to the newly mutated virus coat protein).

    [Jan01'04] "If you vote against the war in Iraq, the Bush administration will do whatever is necessary to get you. There will be severe ramifications for you and the state of Minnesota." -- Dick Cheney to Paul Wellstone, one month before Wellstone died in a plane crash.

    [Jan09'04] The new Bush plans to put people back on the moon and possibly on Mars -- in the year that oil may have peaked -- just goes to show you how hard it is to predict the future.

    [Jan14'04] Sadly, Bush is not the problem. Except for cosmetic differences on abortion, gay marriage, and stem cells, the positions of Kerry are barely distinguishable from those of Bush. After Kerry's unique input (and that of his near-billionaire wife) have been filtered through the power structures of US government and global finance, it is not clear that 'anybody but Bush' will make a bit of practical difference (he will sound less stupid, but that's not an advantage). Sure Kerry is now sort of against the Iraq war (the one he voted for only a few months back), but there is no way he will withdraw if he were to be elected. Complaining about the pre-war intelligence is *totally* beside the point. We didn't invade Iraq because of WMDs. We *knew* they had none (which was why it was safe to invade!). When the first big oil shocks hit in a few years, and we try to steal China's or Europe's or Japan's (not to mention, Iraq's) oil, and the Iraqi resistance continues resisting, and we have to send more troops, and the dollar collapses, and northern Europe starts to glaciate again, Bush versus Kerry will sure seem like small potatoes. Rome is starting to burn. Electing Kerry is just fiddling.

    "The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent." -- Keynes.

    Nature bats last [bumper sticker]

    "There will be cars, they just won't be running" -- Jan Lundberg

    [Industrial civilization] is a one shot affair.... there will be one chance, and one chance only." -- cosmologist Fred Hoyle, in 1964, on human evolution and course of energy use on Earth.

    The vehicle you deserve: the Ford "Extinction" -- from Phil Rockstroh

    [Mar17'04] "The chief problem with this movie wasn't so much the content, but the title. It was too drab, too serious, too liturgical. So I spent a long time trying to come up with alternatives. There was Bravechrist, Die Really Hard, The Golgotha Chainsaw Massacre, Starsky and Christ... -- Matt Taibbi

    [Mar18'04] "No blood for oil" is a crock! Once the shortages hit, every US-ian will line up obediently behind "lot's o' blood for oil" in a split second.

    [May28'04] 1 out of 75 US men are now in prison, a world record. The prison population is disproportionately poor and non-white: 12% of black men in their 20's are in jail versus 1.6% of young white men. There are twice as many *male* victims of rape as there are female victims of rape in the US because of the record male prison population.

    [May31'04] 33% of homeless men are veterans. I'm sure that 'war work' had nothing to do with this, and this is why it's not worth mentioning on Memorial Day. Or if it is, then the PC solution is to hire counselors to help feel their pain. That's what the problem is: not enough military social workers!

    [Jun05'04] Walmart's warehouse on wheels must be quaking in its enormous boots as the increased cost of oil starts to draw blood. However, I worry that those are the same trucks that bring me my food. Luckily, Reagan's death today provides a kernel around which our fine 'liberal' press has already built a huge, valium-filled pacifier for Americans to suck on for the next month (seasoned lightly with an armored bulldozer rampage, except that it slightly reminds one of a certain squished American who went up against an armored bulldozer with a megaphone). Meanwhile, yesterday, the Pope religously told George Bush to get out of Iraq while George's minions were guarding the nuclear 'football' -- the briefcase containing the codes required to destroy the non-US world -- in a Vatican antechamber. This shows why we're better than animals: because language gives us the ability to commit such ineffable situations to the page.

    [Jun06'04] Next weekend, there is a first-400-in-get-free-beer dance party on the USS Midway for San Diego postdocs funded by Invitrogen, Fisher Scientific, as well as Scripps, the Salk Institute, and UCSD. I hear they know some cool party games, so bring your hood and dress sexy!

    [Jun09'04] "In this country, tens of millions of people choose to watch FoxNews not simply because Americans are credulous idiots or at the behest of some right-wing corporate cabal, but because average Americans respect viciousness" .... "Spending time watching Sean Hannity is enough for your average American white male to feel less cowardly than he really is. The left won't accept this awful truth about the American soul, a beast that they believe they can fix 'if only the people knew the Truth.'" -- Mark Ames

    [Jun13'04] There are reports that the Abu Ghraib scandal is about to blow up again this week. I sure didn't expect that! The 'immune system' of world business seems to have turned on Bush as 'non-self'.

    [Jun18'04] Well, the reports mentioned in the UK press didn't materialize, Iraq's oil is now completely turned off this week, the new US-appointed 'coalition' government is about to declare marshall law (it's a natural step on the way to democracy), Iran denies reports that it's massing troops on the Iraq border (shades of the faked photos used to get Saudi to approve and pay for the first Iraq war), the UN/IAEA says time is running out again for Iranian compliance (compliance sure helped Iraq, didn't it...). Sheesh, it's like a re-run, and I don't even watch the damn TV.

    [Jun20'04] We've spent $200 billion in Iraq in the past year mainly to get military bases around the oil, and maybe $500 billion/year on the military and the black budget agencies. During the same time, we've spent a teeny, tiny fraction of that total on alternative energy source research (much less alternative energy source developement). On Easter Island, when all the trees got cut down (their only energy source since they were 1000 miles away from any other speck of land), the end came so fast that there were stone axes dropped in place around partly finished statues). It's kinda creepy watching the huge lumbering social organism of all of us market-savvy humans Easter-islanding our whole damn selves in slo mo.

    [Jun25'04] The amount of oil needed to *make* a new car is about equivalent to the amount it will use during the lifetime of the car. Thus, from the perspective of running the oil down and adding to greenhouse gases, it's probably worse to get rid of a currently running, less-fuel-efficient car (provided it's not a super-size SUV), and replace it with a hybrid, than it is to just drive your less efficient car into the ground.

    [Jul01'04] We walked by the carrier Midway parked in SD harbor last week to get dinner. It's so big that it looks like a computer-generated animation as you walk past it. There was a party on board with a live band -- including horns -- playing "She's a Brick House". This is the ship that among other things, launched some of the planes that lead to 2 to 3 million civilian deaths during our 1963-1973 war on Southeast Asia. Party on, dude, at our very own floating holocaust museum! Sick. Of course, the whole decade of our half-a-holocaust of atrocities can be explained by 'the fog of war'. That's some pretty nasty fog.

    [Jul03'04] Only 16 months late, the LA Times comes through with a report about the faked/psyop 'civilians toppling the statue of Saddam' operation. A little late guys, esp. given that this info was available *at the time* of the fake toppling. Also, the new report came straight out of an internal Army report -- true bravery in reporting! If this is a 'liberal' media, I'd sure hate to see what a 'convervative' one would look like. Few people will read this 'retraction' of the press participation in psyops, and just like the faked psyops 'incubator massacre' story which solidified public support at a key point for the first Gulf war/massacre, most people will still believe it years later. Shame on the press for 'getting in bed the with fascist insect' -- *esp.* now when finding out what really happened is easier than before.

    [Jul11'04] The yearly world oil usage is about 1 cubic mile. This is easier to remember than 30 gigabarrels.

    [Jul20'04] A car is a 100,000 watt device (1 horsepower is about 750 watts). When you press the accelerator, it is the same as turning on a *1,000* hundred watt light bulbs. Cruising smoothly uses less energy (e.g., 20,000 watts). For comparison, a 1000 sq foot roof covered with photocells generates about 1000 watts (about 1 horsepower). Powering one modern car for an hour, including stop and go driving would approximately require an hour of bright sun on 50 such roofs, or a fifty hours of sun on one such roof (one hour of driving equals 5 days of sunlight on your house photocells), and that's assuming no transmission or storage losses. For reference, converting electricity to hydrogen and back involves a loss of more than 50% of the energy.

    [Jul24'04] Current (2002) US inputs and outputs (http://eed.llnl.gov.flow) give some idea of what level of losses (well over half of energy input) are currently achievable by the US. The number are in quads (10^15 BTU's). Since the total input is 97 quads, the numbers are also close to percent of total energy inputs.

    Inputs: (97 quads):
    -- imported oil and liquid-gas (24.3)
    -- US coal (22.6)
    -- US oil and liquid-gas (14.9)
    -- US natural gas (19.6)
    -- US nuclear (8.1)
    -- imported natural gas (3.6)
    -- US wood/waste/alcohols/geothermal/solar/wind (3.2)
    -- US hydro (2.6)
    Outputs, lost energy: (56.2 quads)
    -- electrical system losses (26.3) (power plant efficiency less than 40%)
    -- transportation losses (21.2)
    -- residential losses (4.9)
    -- industrial losses (3.8)
    Outputs, useful energy (35.2 quads):
    -- industrial (15.2)
    -- residential (14.7)
    -- transportation (5.3)


    [Jul26'04] "You want an American Empire -- the safety, anyway, of being able to impose our will on any possible opponents? Then don't be upset when the old goals invoke the old means, but modernized: with drugs and electrodes and sexual humiliation replacing the crudities of whip and cross." -- Richard Erlich. Our fine ABB Kerry knows about Project Phoenix first hand, and wants to send 40,000 more troops to Iraq.

    [Jul28'04] Be careful of what you ask for, ABB's: do we really want to have a kinder-gentler-Bush-Democrat in office (probably with a Republican congress) if the economy contracts sharply in 2005? Home mortgage debt for Americans has risen almost 100% since 1997. This rate of debt growth is not sustainable. The rate of increase in housing prices has increased in the last year, looking ominously like the NASDAQ before the pop. When the rate of new debt acquisition slows, the effects of less spending will ripple powerfully through the world economy with unpredictable effects, and an almost certain change in the party in office at that time. Strategically, it might be better to wait until after the pop, when a real non-Bush-like candidate might be competitive. This would be risky, too, though depending on the size of the pop. People make poor choices under extreme, sustained economic stress (cf. 20th century European history).

    [Aug09'04] Ann Veneman, the current Secretary of Agriculture came from the board of directors of Calgene, a part of Monsanto, which is the world's largest GM seed producer. No doubt, she has our interests in a safe food supply near the top of her list. Besides, "safety" and profitability are, no doubt, the same thing. African food aid is being tied to the acceptance of GM crops. This shows that "concern for the less fortunate" and profitability are the same thing. It would seem that promoting expensive, energy-intensive GM foods is a very poor way to plan for less energy-intensive food production likely to be necessary when the "great economic contraction" sets in permanently in a decade or two, as we run down our finite fossil fuel energy supply to virtually nothing (which is the way it will stay for all future generations) in the next 30 years. This in turn will make it impossible to drive long distances to buy food and stuff, and more importantly, to grow that food and make that stuff on the other side of the globe and transport it all the way back here, but hey, who asked me. I'm just hoping that "starvation" and profitability don't turn out to be the same thing.

    [Aug11'04] "[Kansas] watches impotently as its culture, beamed in from the coasts, becomes coarser and more offensive by the year. Kansas aches for revenge. Kansas gloats when celebrities say stupid things; it cheers when movie stars go to jail. And when two female rock stars exchange a lascivious kiss on national TV, Kansas goes haywire. Kansas screams for the heads of the liberal elite. Kansas comes running to the polling place -- and Kansas cuts those rock stars taxes" -- Thomas Frank

    [Aug21'04] The brains of more than half of all American continue to believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or a program to develop them before the United States invaded last year. This is a stupefying fact. Modern society is about using some of the most complex and rarified fruits of human thought -- mathematics, physics, and engineering of computers, broadcasting, receiving, internet, displays; art, design, writing, and acting of media content -- to stuff a hundred million brains, each several orders of magnitude more powerful than the best computer, straight down the toilet. What's so great about 'natural computation', emotion, and human language? Sometimes, the object of study seems beautiful; sometimes it positively disgusts me.

    [Aug23'04] Insider energy investors warn us that alternative energy sources are still years away from being commercially viable (NYT, yesterday). These insider investors are showing us the genius of the market -- wait until we are well on the downward slope of oil extraction before even bothering to start research and development of alternative energy sources (hydrogen is not an energy *source*). Genius! The market is smarter than geology and physics combined because it takes not only them but also the stinky butt cracks of moneybag investors optimally into consideration. Over the past two years, the worldwide market value of companies developing renewable energy technology dropped from $13 billion to $10.7 billion. Genius!

    [Aug30'04] Recent raw oil production numbers for 1995 to 2003 in this pdf (from Petroleum Review, based on numbers originally from British Petroleum that were converted to thousands of barrels per day) show that the US still produces a lot of oil -- almost as much as Saudi Arabia -- even though the US peaked in 1970 and has began steadily dropping every year after 1985. There was an unusual spike in world production this year (+3.6%) compared to the previous rate of increase (actually, there was a small drop last year from 2 years ago). Given that a little over 1/3 of the total production this year came from countries that are already in permanent decline (past their peak and past the start of an every-year decline like the US), it meant that countries that are still increasing had to increase even more than they were already increasing in order to achieve this. The increases were remarkable in the Mideast, where Iran, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia all increased their production from 10-20% in one year. Obviously, this can't be sustained. In fact, it may have already stopped; Saudi production appears to have leveled off this quarter. The other big-producer increasers were Russia (+10%, but it's already past its peak, on a small secondary bump that won't reach the 1980 peak; the secondary peak was caused by the recovery from Yeltsin, not from recovery of oil out of the granitic basement rocks, a la Joe Vialls), Libya (+8%), and Mexico (+5.7%). These 10% year-to-year increases aren't going to hold for very long. A real danger is that when the inevitable dropoffs come in Mexico, the Mideast, and Russia, they may be much more catastrophic than the nice smooth US dropoff (1-2% per year), because of the different technologies involved. In the US, "primary production" (first let it ooze out and then just pump) was allowed to run its course before progressing to "secondary production" (pump water or nitrogen or natural gas down to rejuvenate wellhead pressure, drill horizontal holes, etc). In both Mexico and the Mideast, they are doing simultaneous primary and secondary production to maximize output now. This can result in a more sudden decline when peak production is reached (unexpected 5-10% drops in a year; 50% drops in 10 years; cf. the North Sea). This may very well happen to some of the big remaining increasers in the context of the whole rest of the world permanently on the downslope. But why conserve now? That might cause market 'distortion' and deprivation of incentive, right? We will probably only get one chance at an advanced civilization on this planet. Too bad it just might flame out with a huge loss of life later this century because of the fleeting (in terms of the 100,000 year history of modern humans) political and social dominance of a short-term-greed-based economic system that plans no more than 6 months into the future. I think we blew it.

    [Sep13'04] Kerry is wobbling downward right now near the 270 electoral votes needed to win (see pollkatz, who runs the polls through the winner-take-all-by-state electoral college -- why don't the idiotic media just do this routinely? If the overall popular vote isn't the thing that legally determines the outcome, why report *only* that? Sheesh.). Bush's numbers on his handling of the war are going up, in the midst of the deadliest battles of the entire war! Could Kerry's dismal numbers be because of Kerry's positions? -- (1) he voted for the Iraq war, (2) he said he would have voted for it even if he had known in advance there were no WMDs there, (3) he initially said he planned to commit *even more* troops to Iraq, for 4 more years, but then recently talked about reductions during his 'first term' (tchya, right), (4) he plans to try to involve the UN and a world coalition in Iraq, despite the fact that everybody knows neither would touch Iraq with a ten foot pole now, (5) he voted for, and even wrote (!) part of the Patriot Act, (6) he has no plans to substantially increase taxes on rich people like himself and his billionaire wife (how could any sane person *not* regard being very rich coupled with the ability to set tax policy on rich people as a conflict of interest?), (7) he plans to end our dependence on foreign oil by finding more here (one tiny problem with this plan: US oil production peaked in 1970 and has been dropping ever since and geology always wins over campaign promises). Nah, that can't be why he's flailing. It must be because of the way his face and hair look, which is, admittedly, something that distinguishes him from Bush. The bootlicking spaniel press -- who dutifully stopped reporting on the war in Iraq when Bush told them that it was really over now that Iraqis were 'sovereign' -- should be added to the list above.

    [Sep15'04] There is something darkly humorous about the oil price gyrations this week (down, after back up, after drop from record highs [though not record yet when inflation factored in]). At the current moment, the oil markets are actually somewhat *over*-supplied because OPEC has jacked up its output to record levels (2 million b/d more than their official limit of 26 million b/d). Despite all this, the stinky butt cracks of the oil moneybag people got sweaty earlier in the week because of bombed Iraqi pipelines and a big hurricane. But then, the price went *down* again, because the shutdown of refineries (also caused by the hurricane) reduced demand for oil. Genius. The bombed Iraqi pipelines will continue to be bombed (no change, that is), and the hurricane'd rigs and pipelines and terminals will be quickly repaired (unlike Iraq). What can't be easily fixed, and what still, sadly, is having virtually no effect on the market compared to these idiotic day-to-day gyrations is the long term (well, if you think of one decade as 'long term'...) picture. Amazingly, almost 3/4 of the total oil on our planet will have been used up during the span of my life. I guess I just don't feel that the lives of us boomers are so much more valuable than the lives of all future humans on this planet.

    [Sep23'04] Two tons of 'oil sands' must be dug and processed (using a lot of water) to get one barrel of oil (that is, the oilsand-to-oil weight-ratio is 14:1). Because of this, the energy required to get the oil out of the sands is pretty close to the amount of energy you get from burning the oil. The daily US gulp of oil would therefore require about one hundred thousand *tons* of these sands (200 million pounds) to be processed be *per day*.

    [Oct04'04] Unintentional black humor: "I think we need to get off this planet, because I'm afraid we're going to destroy it." -- Washington State physicist Kelvin Lynn, who works on storing antimatter for the defense department so that they can make extra super-duper-powerful 'clean' matter-antimatter bombs (which just emit gamma rays, allowing soldiers to storm immediately into obliterated target zones) -- but it could also possibly be useful for space propulsion.

    [Oct07'04] US oil production went down to 5 million barrels a day this week. The US peak production happened in 1970 (10 million barrels a day). Since 1970, US production has declined gradually to about 7 million barrels a day last year (this is still a lot -- almost as much as Saudi Arabia, which produces about 10 million barrels a day). Only about 10% of US production normally comes out of the Gulf of Mexico (the hurricanes caused a drop of 30% in that 10% which is only 3% of total US production). The storms also caused Mexico's oil production (usually 1.7 million barrels a day) to drop 25%. However, together, these drops are small compared to the world production of about 80 million barrels a day. Therefore, the recent price spikes sugggests that the world oil market is quite tight -- surplus production production capacity is essentially gone. This can lead to extreme price spikes since the demand for oil is pretty inelastic. Of course, a situation like this is also the perfect breeding ground for parasitic businesses like Enron, and no doubt, part of the recent run-up in prices ($53 a barrel today -- high, but still below inflation-adjusted $80 peak in the 1970s) reflects the careful efforts of Enron's bold successors. But just because there are Enron-like bedbugs feeding on our carcass doesn't mean we won't run out of oil. The fact that oil companies are going to get very rich off of peak oil -- aided by the hordes of oil company businessmen that infest our government and regulatory agencies -- is unfortunate. Left-ish peak oil doomsayers like Michael Ruppert are getting moderately rich, too. But even if we were able to impose more sensible limits on oil profits, it wouldn't save us from the ugliness coming our way on the downslope, and it won't cause depleted oil fields to refill with 'abiotic oil'. "Peak oil" is a scam -- and, unfortunately, it's also true.

    [Oct08'04] Kerry says we will wean ourselves from reliance on Saudi oil in ten years. He's right -- in ten years we will all be on the roller coaster that always goes down.

    [Oct11'04] Commenting on the reduction in spending over the past 5 years by the world's biggest for new oil exploration, Robert Plummer, a corporate analyst at Wood Mackenzie said: "a number of constraints will continue to act on exploration performance, the most important of which is being access to material opportunities". This takes a little explaining. The background is that the results of recent exploration have not been profitable. Twice as much was spent exploring for new oil as the value of the new oil that was found. This means that oil would have to be over $100 dollars a barrel for any new oil exploration to be profitable. There *is* a place where exploration is profitable -- that is what is referred to as "material opportunities" -- namely, the Mideast and Venezuela. The only fly in the ointment is "access". Got blood?

    [Oct15'04] "Taking a leaf from his record on sustainable energy, John Kerry now wants to make the war in Iraq sustainable" -- Greg Bates.

    [Oct16'04] Jon Stewart's performance on Crossfire (wmv below) was amazingly masterful. It gives me a ray of, what do call it, hope?

    [Oct31'04] Many conspiracy sites were mistakenly expecting a more expensive, elaborate, and splashy 'October surprise'. They (and I) failed to notice that since the election has remained nearly a tie, only a small well-timed nudge would be needed. The video may be just the ticket, esp. if the spaniel media spins the terror side of it (how could they fail to rise to the occasion...). Once again, I bow to the genius of Rove (even *Cronkite* fingered him!). And if a resuscitated Osama doesn't work, a few lost ballots and hacked machines here, a few blacks blocked from voting by 'faulty' lists there, will.

    [Nov03'04] The day after the election. Eeesh. Two days before the election, the price of oil started to drop, in expectation of a Kerry victory. Then, ominously, at the start of election day, and continuing even after the exit polls began showing Kerry ahead, oil started to rise again. Somehow the oil-money-heads figured it out before it happened. As Stalin said: "it's not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes". The impossible-to-audit nature of the partial electronic vote will make a challenge virtually impossible. Situation looks bleak, but remember that only *one year* after Nixon won every state but Massachusetts (against McGovern in 1972), he was booted out of there to quickly become a bad memory. And then his temp replacement, Ford, even lost the following (1976) election.

    [Nov04'04] Gay marriage became the Nader of 2004. Now all the week-kneed SUV-driving Kerrycrat security moms and dads in NY and SF are wringing their hands about Kerry not having been rightwing enough (et tu, Juan Cole?!), and how we *must* fix that next time. Why couldn't Kerry have campaigned on nuking Mecca? Why didn't the Dems nominate Jeb instead of Kerry? (Jeb would have played better in the South since he's from from a good suthern family, right? -- not!). But why all the sobbing, you cowardly right-o-phile 'Dems'? You should be *thanking* all the Red State trash that we got Bush back because he *is* rightwing enough. If you can't stand up and be counted like Robert Byrd (!), then just step and fetch it. The 'Dems' lost the election more clearly than last time despite (1) a 50% presidential disapproval rating, (2) massive jobs losses, (3) massive debt increases, (4) unprecedented oil price increase, (5) continuing disaster in Iraq, (6) a win in all three debates, (7) and a billion campaign dollars to spend (what a waste!). What do these guys need? The loser 'Dem' strategy of out-righting the right is hereby fired.

    [Nov05'04] Many people have worried about the effects of higher oil prices on the economy. However, it seems more likely that rising oil prices will initially be coupled with strong economic *growth*. And oil is still not that expensive at all, even at $50/barrel -- the cost of housing has tripled over the past thirty years but the cost of domestically produced US oil has stayed the same (at about $30/barrel) until just this year. All good things must come to an end, and the expected spurt in economic growth and oil usage accompanying $80-$100/barrel oil will deplete oil reserves even more rapidly, eventually leading to an even steeper decline when geology finally rises up and grinds the market under its stony heel. Then you will tell your kids: "no one told us it was going to happen, so it's not our fault that we used 75% of the world's energy and fresh water reserves in the span of one boomer (human?) lifetime".

    [Nov05'04] Policing who you have sex with in private is an American "moral value". Slaughtering 100,000 humans in Iraq in order to establish military bases in order steal Mideastern oil on the basis of obvious lies is a war crime, but hopefully not immoral, right?

    [Nov06'04 -- commentary submitted to NPR Morning Edition and rejected because 'mailbox full' -- presumably because I had sent one previous commentary, which was not run] "On Saturday morning (Nov 6, 2004), there was a report by Anne Garrels about the impending assault on the 50,000 to 100,000 people that remain in Fallujah after 200,000 women and children were allowed to flee the daily US bombing. Most of these are men, since all men under 45 were not allowed to leave. Having reporters embedded with our storm troopers doesn't give NPR listeners a full picture of what is going on. Garrels carefully explains how the US troops are going to have a difficult time because they are being extremely careful not to kill civilians. Without context, you would hardly know that the last time we tried to subdue Fallujah, we were forced to withdraw when the rest of the world responded with outrage to the criminal slaughter of more than 500 civilians there -- 20% as many civilians as died in 9-11. A short internet scan is sufficient to reveal the extremely biased nature of these kinds of reports. For example, on the same day, the BBC reported that a Fallujah hospital was razed to the ground in one of the heaviest US air raids yet on Fallujah (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3988433.stm). There were no reports whether or not people were inside. Likely there were, given that the BBC and many other more objective news outlets have reported daily civilian casualties from months of continuous bombardment. Even if the Harvard-educated Garrels knew about the US having demolished a hospital (a war crime by standard definitions), her embedded status would have prevented her from reporting it. NPR manages a facade of objectivity -- worrying, for example, whether it should be associated with Slate since most of Slate's staff said they supported Kerry -- yet it serves as a propaganda mouthpiece for the war crimes of the administration. The press was braver during Vietnam. I think history will not look kindly upon media outlets such as yourselves who serve as cheerleaders of imperial war." -- Martin Sereno

    [Nov18'04] In the past two years, we have tossed an *additional* $250 billion into our already amazingly huge military so it could trash an essentially defenseless Iraq (I hate to think of what a war against a worthy foe would cost). That $250 billion should have been put toward a crash research, development, and manufacturing program for photovoltaic cells and solar heat concentrating devices instead of trying to site military bases around somebody else's oil. The current best guess is that peak extraction of oil will happen within 5 years, natural gas in about 10 years, and coal (which is responsible for all that mercury in fish) in about 15 or 20 years. The downside of those curves is likely to be very rough, with disruptions of world trade, Walmart (yeah!), food production, car transportation, suburbs, and with the probability of (more!) resource wars. It takes a lot of energy to make factories where solar-energy-generating devices are manufactured, a lot of energy to make the devices themselves, and a lot of energy to distribute and install the devices. *All* of that needed energy will have to come in the near future from fossil fuels (current solar energy provides a tiny fraction of 1% of our energy). Instead of trying to exert even a tiny bit of rational control over the slavering, greed-based market, we worship it. The wonderful intelligence of greed has led to a 30% *reduction* of investment in alternative energy in the past few years! And our gropinator governor just floated a proposal this week to tax gas by miles driven instead of by the gallon, because more fuel-efficient vehicles will reduce gasoline usage and gas tax revenues. This will remove part of the economic incentive to buy fuel-efficient vehicles. There are other more subtle problems with the impending fossil fuel peaks. It is little mentioned that helium is a byproduct of oil and gas wells, that it escapes into space when exhausted into the atmosphere, that it cannot be manufactured, and that it is currently required for things like MRI machines and magnetic containment coils for fusion reactors. Bummer. Because, as Richard Heinberg has said, peak oil will finally put some real teeth into that namby-pamby, green-washed word, "sustainability". Also, don't forget that our military is about 70% hydrocarbon fuel by weight, when it's out and about, doing its dirty deeds.

    [Nov19'04] The Pentagon reports that it is now spending $5.8 billion a month in Iraq (not counting Afghanistan). That's a burn rate of $70 billion dollars per year up from $48 billion a year. At that rate, we're spending more money each year destroying Iraqi cities and people (so that the survivors will be able to vote, of course) than we spend on all scientific research in this country. That's so insane that even the *market* would do better of allocating this money :-}

    [Nov23'04] Each *day*, the US imports $2.6 billion in cash -- 80% of the world's savings -- while the dollar is falling. This finances our current account deficit with the world. The scene where Slim Pickens rides the bomb down comes to mind. But, who knows -- as a lefty doomsayer, I always seem to be crying wolf and nothing happens. Maybe this will just be inflated away slowly without any catastrophic effects because there is no other credible place for savings to go to. Maybe.

    [Nov26'04] The tremendous irony of the election follies is that the red states as a whole actually get *more* tax dollars back from the Federal government (up to 2 times the amount that they collect) than blue states, which, by contrast, actually subsidize the red states. Meanwhile, the red states complain about taxes, which if they were all ended, would actually result in a net dollar *loss* for the reddies. The red states are actually the 'welfare queens'. This is by design and supported by blue-ies (summary here ). Most of the paid-out money is redistribution of wealth from the blue states to not-the-lowest-income strata of the red states, by way of social security to old people, education, science, technology, and transportation, military bases, medicare to old people, interest payments on the debt. Only about 15% of the total redistribution goes to poor people in the red states (so you red-state yahoos who want to kill the poor should know that we blue-ies are doing our best...). When I'm feeling esp. misanthropic, I look forward to the collision of peak oil with "our lifestyle is not negotiable". Our lifestyle is not only negotiable, it's going to be dictated. But it's not clear if the reddies or the blue-ies are going to come out worse here in the US. The reddies rely heavily on oil, which is going to go up and up. However, the blue-ies rely heavily on oil, too, for, among other things, food. Hard to say which way people of both colors will be running when the s*** hits the fan.

    [Dec03'04] Tar sand oil production accounted for 1.2% of world oil production this year (about 1 million barrels/day). Tar sand supporters predict that they should be able to double that to 2 million barrels/day by 2010. The world oil production (usage) is currently 83 million barrels a day. Go, tar sands. Just think where they could get to by 2030 (maybe 4% of daily world usage). Tar sands won't save us. The best always comes first. This is the rising part of the tar sands production curve. Then there's the falling part -- when the EROEI (energy return on investment) gets close to 1.0 (that is, it takes the same amount of energy to get the oil out that you get back out of it when you burn it).

    [Dec03'04] "Be studious, stay in school, and stay away from the military. I mean it." -- an Iraqi marine's advice to his son, shortly before he was killed last month.

    [Dec06,04] Coal and gas prices (the other red meats) have tripled in the last year and a half. Oil actually increased the least. Peak coal and peak gas are supposed to be a little further out than peak oil (about 20 years) so it's probably just the genius of the market causing the increases. If we start replacing oil with coal and gas, however, it might bring the coal and gas peaks closer to the oil one. That will probably make for a particularly nasty 'triple witching hour' -- one that lasts forever. For some interesting background on peak oilers (that however does not refute the basic discovery vs. production facts), see this 2003 article, by the late sociologist Walt Contreras Sheasby who died of West Nile virus in June 2004.

    [Dec08'04] Veterans of the second Iraq war are already arriving at homeless shelters. A majority of homeless are war veterans (almost half of the homeless are Vietnam veterans). Yups pass them thinking "get a job". The appropriate response is, "you and *your* kids should fight your own damn wars".

    [Dec08'04] Before the election was decided, Alex Pelosi caught a slightly drunk Peter King on film saying: "It's already over. The Election's over. We Won." Nancy Pelosi asks, "How do you know that?" King replies, "It's all over but the counting. And we'll take care of the counting."

    [Dec09'04] The return of veterans from Vietnam in the late 1960's and early 1970's was associated with an all time peak in the murder rate in the US (and a recession).

    [Dec11'04] "We shouldn't be here. There was no reason for invading this country in the first place... I don't enjoy killing women and children. It's not my thing." -- marine infantryman to the Christian Science Monitor. Probably wasn't their thing either. Probably wouldn't be the thing of a hypothetical Iraqi soldier machine-gunning your sister or mother in their car or your home. That this can be printed without comment shows that Iraqis are un-people -- it's at most a bit inconvenient to have to casually slaughter them. People in the US think they are the master-race. Do onto others, man, because sooner or later, they are going to do onto you.

    [Dec13'04] Oil is amazingly localized. Today, the world produces 82.5 million barrels of oil a day. A full 11% of that comes from just 4 oil fields: Ghawar (Saudi), Cantarell (Mexico), Burgan (Kuwait), and Da Qing (China). Oil is not localized because people haven't looked in enough places. It's just localized. 'The market' isn't going to make it less so because it's running out. First, it will just get more and more expensive. That will of course help stimulate increased exploration for the remaining needles in a haystack. But then a critical rubicon will be crossed at more and more oil fields, where it takes a lot more energy to get it out than you get back out of it by burning it. This can happen, for example, when the level of the 'water table' being injected underneath the remaining oil (to keep up the wellhead pressure up so production doesn't slow down) reaches the extraction pipes, and suddenly, you are just pumping out the water you pumped in. When the water hits the pipes at Ghawar, no amount of economic mumbo jumbo will turn the remaining oil in that field back into an energy *source*. When the first huge oil price spike finally arrives (it hasn't happened yet -- oil at $50/barrel is still well under its all-time inflation-adjusted peak of $80/barrel, hit in the 70's), it will hopefully cause people to step back and begin to think about 'negotiating our lifestyle'. And perhaps it will put a spike into the number of operating Abrams tanks (gas mileage: 0.5 miles/gallon). I suppose another possibility would be for our fine body politic to demand that we gas up the tanks and dust off the nukes and eliminate all 'lesser races' because they're using up 'our' oil too fast. This is probably why the 'lesser races' want their own nukes.

    [Dec16'04] Michael Neumann says it right. 'Collateral damage' is expected, not accidental. If you shoot at your cheating wife at a party and accidentally kill a bystander, it's still murder, because you were shooting at a party. Collateral damage is purposeful, pre-meditated killing of civilians. Just because we tear off the skin of children using remote-control bombs doesn't make it different from tearing off the skin of a child tied down to a torture table. It just makes it easier on the torturer.

    [Dec18'04] Don't fight a rich man's war; they'd never fight one for you.

    [Dec21'04] In the 'free election' about to take place in Iraq -- which has cost US taxpayers a mere $200 billion (at $2.5 billion, our recent election/whatever was a steal!) -- only candidates' feet and torsos are shown in campaign ads, for fear they will be identified. Why can't we have that kind of respect for candidates here?

    [Dec21'04] So it looks like Rumsfart is going to get booted -- not for slaughtering 100,000 civilians, but instead, he will fall down the Earl-Butz/James-Watt toilet chute because he rubber stamped US soldier death condolences instead of signing them. He should be strung up for ordering the flaying of kids, the burning of mothers, and the disemboweling of aunties with high-tech people-shredders -- as well as for the much smaller number of equally horrible casualties among the attacking US soldiers. But good Americans *approve* of all that, while being horrified by the rubber stamps. What is wrong with you people? Of course, everything is dual purpose, and perhaps the flesh-eating ghouls running our fine country want him booted because he didn't agree to shred *enough* low-value people. He probably had an illegal nanny, too, omigod.

    [Dec26'04] "And I think all of us have a sense if we imagine the kind of world we would face if the people who bombed the mess hall in Mosul, or the people who did the bombing in Spain, or the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania and attacked the Pentagon, the people who cut off peoples' heads on television to intimidate, to frighten -- indeed the word "terrorized" is just that. Its purpose is to terrorize, to alter behavior, to make people be something other than that which they want to be." -- Donald Rumsfeld, Iraq visit speech, Dec 24. Who shot down what plane where??!

    [Dec26'04] "US soldiers took my fingerprints and checked my eyes, and then asked for more than one document". Welcome to newly democratic Fallujah. I'm glad our tax dollars are being put to good use for iris scanners in Fallujah. Probably, if we invested instead in alternative energy, it would only distort the genius of the market.

    [Dec30'04] With all the breathless disaster porn on the teevee, they never give you key numbers (whatreallyhappened.com): the US will generously send $35 million to help the survivors of the tsunami that killed 125,000 people (about how many civilians we killed in Iraq war II). This compares unfavorably with the $45 million that is being spent for the inaugural of our chimp, and even more unfavorably with the $177 million we spend *each day* to keep up the Iraq war. What an expert performance, with your flying logos and empathic shots of non-white women with pierced noses, you media types. May you rot in hell, etc.

    [Dec30'04] Unintended humor dept: while searching for information on the web about lemur brains, I got to a site that had auto-inserted some "Ads by Google", which presented me with a helpful link entitled "Discount Spider Monkeys". More specifically, "New & used Spider Monkeys -- Check out the huge selection now!" at eBay. I suppose it will be a loss when AI finally does semantics.

    [Jan03'05] So now, perhaps out of embarrassment, the US is upping its diaster relief to $350 million -- about what we spend in Iraq *two days* ($177 million/day). Also, they will be taking up a collection of private donations. Fine. But why don't they take up a frigging collection for the whole damn war? That way, the reddies could give till it hurts. Put your money where your yellow ribbons are. The problem is not the bat guano Congress (can't be fixed -- it's bat guano by definition), but the fact that the war has no immediate effect on the great majority of people; they can't see blown-off limbs and squished babies, there is no draft, and the bad economic effects are delayed. There needs to be a more immediate emotional and financial cost (just like the economists always say!).

    [Jan06'05] Reinventing doctors. According to Dr. David Mengele, I mean, Tornberg, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, when a doctor participates in interrogation, "he's not functioning as a physician," and the Hippocratic ethic of commitment to patient welfare does not apply (from today's New England Journal of Medicine). Kewl. I suppose there will be a lot of other professions that need to be reinvented, too.

    [Jan11'05] "Imagine a world where such ferocious attacks [like those on Fallujah's hospitals and water supply] become common [they left out the implied "here"]. Imagine the Puget Sound region's hospitals and clinics as targets, our water supply fouled. Imagine our outrage. Let's not walk any farther down that path." -- Jim McDermott, M.D., and Richard Rapport, M.D.

    [Jan17'05] It's been *months* since the last story on conjoined third-world twins. C'mon media guys, get to work! They're not paying you to sit around! Shouldn't you guys at least *check* if Michael Jackson had a conjoined twin over for tea?

    [Jan18'05] The US peak in natural gas production was 1994, at 55 Bcfd (billion cubic feet per day). Today, production is at 50 Bcfd. Because gas is hard to transport (it must be liquified for long-distance transport), gas prices have spiked to triple the average of the 1990's, despite the fact that many other gas producers have not yet peaked. We use gas for electricity, heating, and making fertilizer.

    [Jan18'05] My peak oil/energy presentation is now online in both powerpoint and pdf format.

    [Jan23'05] World oil production/usage increased by 2.5 million barrels a day from Dec03 to Dec04 (over 3%). This *increase* is more than the current output of Iraq (1.5 million barrels a day, which as a result of sabotage and infrastructure decay is substantially less than Iraq's peak output of 3.5 million barrels a day in the early 80's). This didn't make the evening Matrix-news for American putty-brains. Even if you know nothing about geology, you probably have a sneaking suspicion that we're not finding an Iraq's worth of new oil production each year. Party on, dude. link

    [Jan26'05] "This so-called ill treatment and torture in detention centers, stories of which were spread everywhere among the people, and later by the prisoners who were freed were not, as some assumed, inflicted methodically, but were excesses committed by individual prison guards, their deputies, and men who laid violent hands on the detainees." -- Rudolf Hoess, SS Kommandant, Auschwitz

    [Jan27'05] What *really* worries me is the possibility of a peak-oil/global-warming double-whammy exacerbated, paradoxically, by the peak-energy-caused end of particulates. The atmospheric heating effects of increased CO2 seem to have been partly offset by increased particulates in the atmosphere, mostly as a result of increased fossil fuel (esp. coal) use. Last year, for example, there was an unusual 'darkness at noon' from particulate fog across all of China, which shut down flights across the country. When fossil fuel (and wood!) use finally winds down, however, the particulates will precipitate (cf. the Pinatubo eruption -- which cleared in a few years). The extra CO2, however will take 50 to 100 years to clear. So then, right in the middle of chaotic energy/food shortages, we may also have to endure a really nasty heating session like the one at the end of the Permian, when life almost ended. 90-95% of all species went extinct and the oceans were almost sterilized. Hopefully, a few initial scares (the end of Ghawar, a big Antarctic melt) will bang some long-term sense into people before then. Currently, we're running around like a bunch of economists in an airtight room -- "breathe harder guys! -- the genius of the market can't work unless we increase demand..." link

    [Jan31'05] The survey of 112,003 high school students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion. Kewl. Government censors rawk. I wonder what they think about blogs? link

    [Feb01'05] Quote of the day: "We now are told, according to my sources, that the administration has been reaching out to Mr. Chalabi, to offer him expressions of cooperation and support and according to one report he was even offered a chance to be an interior minister in the new government." -- Judith Miller from the NYT explaining how the US makes appointments in the new government just elected by the Iraqi people. There were a few "wake up! time for your insurgent ass to be electrified in Abu Ghraib, oh, I mean sorry lady, time to vote!" and "vote or we cut off your food rations", but overall, it was a smashing success, which included daily bombing of Iraqi cities like Ramadi, and their not-worth-counting, low-market-value untermenschen.

    [Feb14'05] The value of the oil in the ground discovered by the major oil companies was *exceeded* by the costs of exploration for the past 3 years, because the finds were smaller, and harder to find and verify. Economists are correct that this is 'merely' a problem of oil prices, which are not high enough yet (at $50/barrel, which is still under the late 70's inflation-adjusted alltime peak of $80). This is an ROI (return on investment) ratio of less than 1.0 -- more money spent on exploration than money expected for the sale of the entire discovery. This imbalance would normally have the effect of increasing oil prices or reducing oil exploration. Currently, both oil prices *and* exploration seem to be increasing (probably because oil companies realize that oil prices will soon go much higher). At some point in the not-too-distant future (probably around 2025), however, the EROEI (amount of *energy*, at whatever cost -- cost is immaterial -- returned on *energy* investment) will go below 1.0. No increase in the price of oil can fix an EROEI ratio below 1.0. It will no longer make sense to extract oil for the purpose of providing energy, period. That doesn't mean that drilling will stop. For example, some rich slob hiding on a South Sea island might want to to pay for his own private oil supply (probably along with a private army from DynCorp to protect it). But when that point comes, humans as a whole will begin to stop using oil as an energy *source*. link

    [Feb15'05] The problem with outsourced US jobs is annoyingly obvious. With no controls on capital movement and lots of controls on low-income people movement, it's trivial to see that the best business strategy is to move capital overseas where wages are less. Duh. The only way to stop this is to raise the minimum wage in poorer countries by threat of capital control, or by threats of a multi-country strike. This was obvious to many workers in 1910! (IWW, etc). Instead, the carefully curried knee jerk reaction among the reddies now is the fervent desire to completely seal the borders to people while at the same time removing any small remaining contraints on the flow of capital -- exactly what multinational corporations need to make their operations even more lucrative. We have massively regressed, maybe because iPod is a better religion than religion itself. This basic analysis is now utterly beyond today's working Americans. On the positive side, I suppose it shows that human nature really is nice and trusting at heart, very much *unlike* what evolutionary psychologists say! (you're trusting the wrong guys, people...).link

    [Feb16'05] While reading an article about tasers for the home (which worried in a peecee way about 'off label' use of tasers for child discipline, whatever) -- it dawned on me that tasers are going to become the perfect politically-correct gun! No self-respecting pwog house will soon be without one! Of course, they'll be of little use in keeping the barbarian hordes out of the organic victory garden when the SHTF....

    [Feb17'05] Maureen Dowd quote: "I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?"

    [Feb17'05] James Howard Kunstler quote: "Globalism was never an 'ism,' by the way. It was not a belief system. It was a manifestation of the 20-year-final-blowout of cheap oil. Like all economic distortions, it produced economic perversions. It allowed gigantic, predatory organisms like WalMart to spawn and reproduce at the expense of more cellular fine-grained economic communities.

    [Feb17'05] Akeel quote (Christian Parenti's Baghdad translator): "Ah, the freedom. Look, we have the gas-line freedom, the looting freedom, the killing freedom, the rape freedom, the hash-smoking freedom. I don't know what to do with all this freedom."

    [Feb18'05] "Radio frequency identification (RFID) and satellite tags allowed the Department of Defense (DoD) to transform its patchy, paper-based logistics system -- in which troops were forced to go "container diving" through thousands of unlabeled "mystery containers" -- to one where they had total asset visibility of every item in every container as it moved across the world to Iraq." -- William Eggers in Public CIO explaining how the attack on Iraq went so fast.
    Seems like RFID is ready to go domestically. It will surely be a great impediment to terrorism when every citizen and employee is protected by "total asset visibility". RFID only works at very short distances. But I wonder what those "satellite tags" are? They sound kinda longer range. Probably tags will be needed for both assets and liabilites. Just think of it like Santa, who knows whether you've been bad or good.

    [Feb19'05] 5 years ago, a survey of what was floating in the North Pacific Gyre found that the mass of small floating plastic fragments was *6* times the mass of floating plankton there. Plankton are probably comparably weighty to plastic elsewhere, however, since the ocean currents probably concentrate the 'plas-ton' there, and plankton productivity is higher elsewhere.

    [Feb21'05] "I feel like [Fallujah] was the pinnacle of my existence -- that nothing I will ever do will be like what I have done," says the religious marine from Spotsylvania, Virginia. "I'm pretty sure there will be times just as good ... just as awesome -- and I'll appreciate it in a different way". -- Cpl. Christopher DeBlanc to Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor. Dude, that's a pretty scary religion you've got there. It's awfully hard on the women and children.

    [Feb22'05] There was an interesting and detailed comment in Monday Feb 21's urbansurvival.com -- purportedly from an oil exploration company executive. After whining about not enough rigs and personnel because of the heartbreak and fear of a repeat of 1980's low oil prices (it's just the genius of the market, man -- stop your sobbing; plus, there's no danger of that any more, as you yourself say!), and then whining about not being able to make the east and west coast shoreline both look like Gulf of Mexico (be patient, my friend), he makes a key point about the economics of drilling as oil prices increase. At first, you might think higher oil prices would drive more drilling. But as oil prices rise, they drive up the prices of a lot of the things required for oil drilling, including plastics, steel, transportation, and chemicals. Thus, fields that have been bypassed previously as uneconomic to drill because the traps are too small may remain that way forever, even as oil prices increase to astronomical levels. I'm glad to see that the more fundamental EROEI (energy return on energy investment) ratio is seeping into the subconscious of the focus-only-on-money crowd. Extracting hard-to-get oil is expensive precisely because it takes more and more energy to do it. This oil guy expects the s*** will hit the fan in less than ten years. He concludes: "Just wanted to get that off my chest. I have been maligned and spit on by too many people who drive cars and use electricity, and then bitch about prices or claim some kind of 'Big Oil Conspiracy'. I can tell you that the collective consensus within my business will be 'let the bastards freeze in the dark' when the big wail arises." Or as another anonymous petroleum geologist said upon seeing recent 3D seismic data from Ghawar: "It's over! Kiss your lifestyle goodbye!". link

    [Feb28,05] Whatever you think about what should be done with/to the 'feeding tube woman', the idea of killing a brain-damaged person by removing the tube so that the person dies slowly over several weeks from dehydration does seem pretty sick. According to hospice nurses and doctors, non-brain-damaged patients who have lived through it (well until the last bit) report that death by dehydration/starvation is actually less unpleasant than it sounds (though note that this is compared to whatever horrible disease was actually killing them, and probably, this was assessed by them while they were on an opiate drip...). Such conscious terminally ill patients often refuse food and water on their own, except to keep their mucous membranes wet, because they say that they actually feel more comfortable (note here that opiates can induce nausea). In any case, it is common enough of a practice that there are many hospice-supplied descriptions). What irks me is that if euthanasia by removal of a feeding tube is allowed, why not also allow a sensible overdose of Nembutal? For reference, you wouldn't generally be allowed to kill an unanesthetized animal by dehydration/starvation for a research project, even if it had a severely damaged neocortex. It's important to keep in mind that there are rare but well documented and terrifying cases of 'locked in' syndrome, the result of damage to the lower brainstem interrupting spinal motor output pathways but leaving the thalamus, midbrain, and forebrain intact, where patients have reported awakening from a coma but finding themselves paralyzed (except for eye movements), but fully conscious. Patients sometimes recover to some extent, but many remain paralyzed and conscious for many years, like Julia Tavalaro. It seems extremely unlikely that this is the case here, given the massive cortical damage sustained (apparently after cardiac arrest apparently brought on by a potassium imbalance possibly triggered by chronic bulimia), and lack of paralysis. At any one time, there are perhaps 35,000 people in a similar vegetative state after massive cortical damage in the US, so there is quite of bit of medical experience out there. It's also good to remember that ideas about what is 'natural' and 'moral' have changed markedly over the years. For example, in the 19th century, some doctors argued against painkillers and anesthesia, because it used to be thought that deep wounds couldn't heal properly without the experience of severe pain. Anesthesia by isoflurane is not any more 'natural' than driving a car is, but I doubt anybody wants to go back to 'natural' (unanesthetized) surgery (we will eventually have to give up driving cars, though :-} ). Also, before the infection process was well understood, there was the medical idea that the (formerly inevitable) infection that accompanied a deep wound was actually good; it used to be called 'laudatory pus'!

    [Mar01,05] "One of the reasons I did not refuse the war from the beginning was that I was afraid of losing my freedom. Today, as I sit behind bars I realize that there are many types of freedom, and that in spite of my confinement I remain free in many important ways. What good is freedom if we are afraid to follow our conscience?" -- Camilo Meija, imprisoned for refusing to return to Iraq.

    [Mar14'05] In the year 2004, total world discovery of oil was 7 Gb (3 months world supply). 2 Gb of that was deep-water finds for which the cost of exploration (*not* including development and production!) exceeded the value, at current prices, of the oil found. The world consumed around 30 Gb of oil in 2004, a 2.5% increase over 2003. This was caused by an all-around demand increase (e.g., US petroleum demand grew at its strongest rate in five years). ANWR is optimistically estimated to contain a total of 10 Gb, somewhat more than a year of US usage, though a more realistic estimate of practically recoverable oil is more like 4 Gb (about 6 months US usage). Note, however, that oil can only be pumped out of an oil field at a finite rate. Thus, at top speed, ANWR might be able to provide 1 million barrels a day (0.37 Gb/year), which is only 5% of current US usage. For comparison, the top producing field in the world produces 5 million barrels a day (Ghawar, Saudi), and the second produces 2 million barrels a day (Cantarell, Mexico). Both of these fields are much bigger than ANWR. The unreality of the idiotic discussion about 'the market' somehow 'fixing' these frightening facts reminds me of a quote from the Feral Metallurgist: "Economics is the game of tiddly-winks that we can afford to play only in the midst of easy, abundant energy." We are currently spending about $2.5 billion a week on the Iraq occupation. The current value of Iraq's total current oil output (1.5 million barrels/day * 7 days * $55/barrel) is $0.58 billion a week. Just to recoup our 'investment' without any profit, (assuming we eventually end up stealing Iraq's entire output), oil 'only' has to go up to $240/barrel. It will probably get there sooner than anyone is expecting. Of course, the part about stealing all their oil is still going to take some 'work'. As one of the soldiers whose heavy-metal Iraqi snuff videos turned out to be a bit shocking to their wives said: "This isn't some jolly freakin' peacekeeping mission." link

    [Mar18,05] "The bottom line is were were very concerned about the *perceptions* that somehow we were doing this to steal the oil" [my emphasis] -- Amy Jaffee, James Baker Institute, interviewed by Greg Palast, commenting on why big oil companies opposed selling off Iraq's oil (to big oil companies, but maybe not US big oil). (quote from BBC Newsnight video linked on this page). Palast seems to imply that if we had just taken over the oil fields like the neocons wanted, oil prices could have been kept down, but that oil companies stopped the neocons. Aside from the fact that they hardly seem 'stopped', I don't see how running Iraq back up to its maximum ever output of 3.5 million barrels a day from its current 1.5 million barrels a day (which would have taken years anyway) would have dealt with year after year increases of world consumption of 2.5 million barrels a day. True, it might have worked for 6 months. Do the numbers, man. The other thing is, do you, Palast, have the slightest idea where the proceeds of Iraq's oil (currently, $0.58 billion a week) are actually going today? Who are you going to ask?

    [Mar20,05] The Fed and the commercial banks have great jobs. When banks come to the Fed's "discount window" for a loan, computers create money out of nothing, and the banks pay the Fed interest for the newly created money using already existing money (previously created in similar fashion; when the banks pay back the loan, the money disappears into the same hole from which it was created). Then the banks that have borrowed this money into existence (now called "cash reserves") can lend out 10 times the amount that they have borrowed/created, in effect, creating even more money. This means if a bank gets $1,000 of created money from the Fed, they can actually lend out $10,000 ($1,000 + $9,000). Another way of looking at it is that out of the $1,000, they only need to keep $100 as true "reserves", and so $900 is "excess reserves". Now, the key part. When anyone deposits money into the bank, the same thing happens to it (only 10% of it needs to be kept as reserves). After many cycles of converting 90% of each deposit into "excess reserves", 9x as much money has been generated as was originally 'injected' into the bank by the Fed. This 'second generation' money (beyond the initial creation by the Fed) is much more interesting to banks than the standard kind of money they get from deposits, because they don't have to pay interest on it like they do with deposits (or borrowings from the Fed). Also, banks typically loan out the created money at a higher rate of interest than the Fed (compare the Fed's interest rate to the interest on a mortgage). Cool 'jobs' these guys do, eh? And you thought post-modern critical theory was a hard job?

    [Mar21,05] GM market capitalization (value of all its stock) is now $16 billion, after a loss this week of around $3 billion. Its debt is $300 billion. Its main money making business is loans, not cars (how Enron-y). If it goes bankrupt, its bondholders will own a company worth much less than $300 billion. That would be a loss bigger than than the losses of Enron, Global Crossing, Long Term Capital Management, K-Mart, and the Iraq war put together. Hey, that's getting close to the size of the yearly military budget. Eeeeeww. Definitely time for the plunge protection people!

    [Mar22,05] The wealth of the world's billionaires reached $2.2 trillion, which was a 57% increase over 2 years ago. At that rate, the entire world will be owned by billionaires in a few decades (world GDP is about $40 trillion). Meanwhile, 2.7 billion people live on less than $2 a day (this is almost half of all humans alive today), and the bottom 1 billion of those live on less than $1 a day. This polarizing trend is not due to a sudden increase in the intelligence of billionaires, or a sudden decrease in the intelligence of poor people, but is largely the result of legislative trends in the past two decades of reducing taxes on rich people, increasing burdens on poor people, and allowing rich people to skim off the often tax-supported efforts of scientists and artists and hide away offshore, without paying anything back to the society that helped create that knowledge and art. It's all a matter of boundary conditions. We can set them however we want. As industrial society reaches peak energy and begins to head down the 'slope that always goes down' over the next 30 years or so, perhaps this discussion will be seriously opened. Right now, it's completely off the table. We are buzzing along like yeast cells reaching their peak population in a fermenting vat -- just before the resources start to run out and everybody starts getting killed off by waste products. But we're intelligent yeasts, right? In theory, that means that we have brains that can figure out how to stop self-destructive greedy behavior in time. Hopefully, reining in greed will be on the table 10 years from now.

    [Apr02,05] The continuing religious faith that the 'the market' will somehow trump oil geology and physics and save our behinds continues to amaze me. The discovery of oil is basically uncoupled from market forces. The peak in world discovery occurred in the 1960's. Sure there was demand back then. But there's a lot more now, and the supply is shorter. The world discovery peak occurred back then because that was when we finished finding the easier-to-find stuff. After that, despite spending *a lot* more time and more energy and using more tech, we've found a little less each few years for the past 40 years. The insanity of thinking that 'the market' will somehow change this is like believing in creationism and your cell phone at the same time. The second physical/geological fact that the market can't fix is the rate at which oil can be pumped out of small holes drilled several miles down into the earth. It doesn't matter if demand spikes relative to supply. The oil has to be pumped out through those tiny holes and it's time-consuming and energy intensive to drill them (imagine drilling a 3 mile deep hole in solid rock by hand) and to pump them. Demand all you want, suckers. The third false tenet of economic faith is that higher oil prices will directly lead scientists to discover new or more efficient forms of energy. Maybe, maybe not. No matter how much 'the market' wails, it's not going to change Maxwell's equations or the energy density of sunlight. Hopefully, scientists will come up with a efficient, easier-to-fabricate photovoltaic cells that don't use as much silver (according to one calculation, the world's silver would be entirely consumed if we made enough current-model photovoltaic cells to replace just 1/3 of the world's electric power). I'll relax when someone actually demos a photovoltaic-cell-powered photovoltaic cell manufacturing plant. We've still got a good 20 years to do this. Not like it's an emergency or anything.

    [Apr06,05] Norman Church makes the point that the just-in-time, globalized features of modern living have only existed for a few decades. Virtually every aspect of our life and food and water is now highly dependent on long-distance, oil-powered transport lines and the fossil-fueled internet and computers on which we type and bank. This modern system has not yet been tested as to its robustness to perturbation. As oil peaks in the next decade or so, the system is going to be strongly perturbed. As Norman Church says, "The division of labor is at risk. It means our civilization is at risk". There is little historical precedent as to what might happen. In a few decades, globalization may end up being generally seen as a much greater evil and much more fundamental failure of human society than WWII, communism, or capitalism. Scientists, engineers, and businessmen have a lot of experience making individual system components (disk drives, power plants, satellites) that perform robustly. The problem is that in every case, these system components rely on immediate (seconds, minutes, days) external inputs completely beyond local control (the electrical grid, the internet, phone lines, long-distance trucking and rail and shipping, food production, water pumping and distribution). And many of these 'outside' systems rely on each other. If one of those 'outside' systems fails, as they very well might in the event of an interruption in our daily gulp of fossil fuels -- even if it was (initially) an interruption of just a week or two -- it is quite possible that it could lead to a rapid, cascading failure of industrial society analogous to the one that recently brought down the Eastern US grid. Such a breakdown would have to be rapidly repaired to prevent further permanent damage (dehydration, looting, nobody showing up to work). Industrial civilization is becoming more and more like an enormous integrated living organism. This in itself is not a new phenomenon. All human cultures have these qualities. Like individual cells in a multicellular organism, individual humans have always relied on each other. And this is not just a human feature; individual dogs in dog packs are similar. A female dog will risk her life for the offspring of another dog that is genetically unrelated to her (this doesn't occur in non-human primates). The main new thing about globalized industrial civilization is the scale of this integration, and ever-increasing speed of the long-distance interconnections. In a tightly integrated multi-cellular organism like a mammal, the system that runs the heart can *never* 'crash' for the entire life of the organism. If the heart goes down for even a minute or two, irreparable damage to the brain and heart occurs. Major body systems are permanently damaged after a few more minutes of stoppage, and the rest of the body then begins to die. Animal bodies are as reliable as they are because they have been tested trillions of times by natural selection. This is our very first run of the networked world organism. It's too complicated to model. Could be a rough ride.

    [Apr08,05] Custer Battles (yep, that's the name -- the two last names of the founders of a security company with contracts in Iraq) has been accused of setting up a shell company in the Cayman islands to bill US taxpayers during the time of the Coalition Provisional Authority. The company and the Bush admin argue that since CPA was an 'international organization', US fraud laws don't apply. This is just a little spatter of slop out of the huge trough in which our 'captains of industry' are feeding. It's simple business logic. First the US government collects a small donation from each taxpayer (say $20 a week). Together, our donations add up into a giant gushing money pipe ($2.5 billion a week). The pipe ends up in Iraq, where the fraud laws (and water and sewage and electricity and hospitals and security) have all been going downhill since Saddam (who could have known Saddam was a tough act to follow, eh?). Even small taps into this high pressure money pipeline siphon off lots of loot in no time. Meanwhile, back at home, we're removing evolution from textbooks (and from the standardized tests our more and more de-skilled students constantly take). Mad Max 'business ethics' for those in the know, while the rubes watch what's left of the Pope (and Michael Jackson's nose) on teevee (don't you think we need more closeups on what feeding tubes actually look like?). The problem with history is that it moves just slowly enough that people don't notice if they're not paying close attention.

    [Apr20'05] Well, after a respite of a few days, the "bull market" in oil is back. I could rail on about the complete lunacy of calling the beginning of the end of high industrial civilization a "bull market in commodities", but whatever. I am afraid it's only a few years until we get to the "s***-in-your-pants market" for commodities (perhaps after a brief world recession, which will temporarily moderate demand), when businessmen with their fine quarterly (3 month) look-ahead finally get their first good glimpse of the roller-coaster drop off ahead. Using the fruits of our fine human brains -- human language, human civilization, and human science -- it is trivial to step back and look at the whole damn roller coaster track at once. But the chimps are in control now, and these chimps command a pretty mean military machine. If you know anything about common chimpanzees, you'd probably would think twice before putting one in charge of 12 aircraft carriers. Who knows what they might do to the chimpanzee troop the next valley over.

    [Apr27'05] The supposed 'liberal press' doesn't even utter one peep about the fact that Gannon checked in but he didn't check out, or that he was there on press conference videotapes, but hadn't checked in. He could have stayed overnight multiple times at the White House. Somebody there probably knows in which room. Instead of investigating the possibility that a high class male prostitute may have stayed overnight in the White House, the 'liberal press' says things like "Sometimes the [checkout] machine doesn't go beep, and you leave anyway" (that doesn't explain being at a press conference without having checked in), and "The most plausible thing is that these aren't complete records" (both, Dana Milbank). You can say that again, Dana. We want webcams and stained cloth. And who actually does (normally) stay in the White House overnight anyway? ...

    [May01'05] The US now has 7 times as many people per capita in jail as Russia and China do -- an all-time high that is approaching 1% of the population (much higher rate for poor people). The US incarceration rate per 100,000 population is 726, compared to 142 for Britain, 118 for China, 91 for France, and 58 for Japan (at that rate, why can't they dump Phil Spector's a** in there, too). The new bankruptcy legislation doesn't yet include jail time for being poor, but Republicans can always hope. Just think how much safer the streets would be! It *would* make it more difficult for Matthew Perry, who just purchased a $2.5 million 2 BR condo in Hollywood with "a service entrance" (according to the LA Times real estate section).

    [May10'05] It appears that, even with all the news about having a larger reserve than last year (the largest in 20 years, though still well under a year of US oil usage), oil is still flopping around, and can't manage to stay under $50. But this is all just the market j*rking off. Today, for example, oil prices leaped $3 to $53 because of a problem with a *refinery* (something that takes oil as *input*; that makes a lot of market sense, right?). In the next recession, the price of oil may even crash for a year or two. Then we will have to grit our teeth as the 2-week-look-ahead press waahhh-s about how the "bear market in commodities" is leading us to ruin, and how we should all save GM's butt by patriotically buying more we're-not-going-to-negotiate-our-lifestyle SUV's again. None of this market self-pleasuring is going to change the basic facts. Oil discovery peaked in the 1960's and there is no obvious replacement on the horizon, except for a temporary spurt of coal synfuels. If we hit synfuels hard in a decade or two when the final oil crisis kicks in (it *will* happen -- the market will demand it!), we will generate an even bigger belch of greenhouse gas, because the coal-to-liquid-fuel process is very energy-inefficient. Then, as industrial civilization begins to wind down because somebody (who us?) yanked the power cord, there will be a great many earnest prayers from cargo cult economists for 'scientists to please come up with something', and then our grandchildren and their kids (and a lot of other species) will begin to fry as big-time global warming hits. Serves 'em right, those profligate generation Z losers, because they forgot to deposit oil into their individual retirement accounts to run full-city air conditioners. Capitalism would be a great system if we had an extra backup planet or two. Since we don't, it will probably turn out to be the biggest disaster in all of human history.

    [May10'05] "It just doesn't look good to the public" said Seattle's Sgt. Donald Davis, of the case where a Seattle police officer tasered an 8 months pregnant women in the thigh, neck, and arm, leaving electrical burn marks, while trying to drag her out of her car after she refused to sign a traffic ticket. She was rushing her son to school at the time when she was caught speeding. But Sgt. Davis also worried about *not* being able to taser pregnant women, kids, and old people in the future: "If in your policy you deliberately exclude a segment of the population, then you have potentially closed off a tool that could have ended a confrontation." Great, sarge. Wonder what you'd say if someone tasered *your* granny, your pregnant wife, or your little 'Jessica'. There was another story last week about police coming into a class room and handcuffing a grade school girl for crying and acting up. I'm getting that creeping police state, boiling frog kind of feeling. It happens slowly enough that people don't notice how big the changes are from year to year. They just agree, 'well, I guess it's OK as long as you had to do it to keep us safe' (from pregnant women and grade school kids).

    [May12'05] Today, Larry Flynt outs Bolton with allegations that Bolton forced his former wife to engage in group sex at Plato's retreat. I guess Bolton could argue that it was all part of his job at the State department (vetting new interrogation techniques?). In the end, I agree with one of the commentatators, Wonkster, at rawstory.com: "Bolton's ex wife, Larry Flynt and sex stories, another Bush pr*ck lies, SO THE F WHAT? Where's the outrage over Peak Oil?" :-}

    [May15'05] With 55% of the public disapproving of Bush's handling of the Iraq crisis, the planaria-like 'Democrats' can't bring themselves to utter even a timorous little peep against the war. What disgusting cowards. Meanwhile on so-called pwog radio, Al Franken is still fighting Nader! (last week on the Oy Oy Oy show). His antiwar comments about the American invasion and occupation of Iraq are about as enlighting as those of Kerry, who "would have done *eveything* different" -- by using even more troops, equipment, and bombs. And don't forget, the biggest problem is our cultural sensitivity. Kerry and Franken would no doubt make sure that home invasion, strip searches, and firing randomly into passenger cars were carried out in a more culturally sensitive way. This is what now passes for left?? Oy! And Air America filters out all calls asking that the US withdraw from Iraq. During the US invasion of South Vietnam, I would often hear, "how can we possibly withdraw from Vietnam *now*?". Back then, the correct answer was: "with ships and planes." Works great today, too. [May16'05] Yesterday, Condoleeza Rice showed that like Laura, she can do comedy too, when she told the Iraqi government that US forces would remain until Iraq can defend itself. I can see that the Iraqis *have* been getting better at defending themselves. The dust-up about flushing holy books is its own dark comedy. Slaughtering 100,000 civilians and torturing mostly innocent civilians swept up in Gestapo-style home invasions doesn't rate a comment on the nightly news or cause changes in policy, but now Newsweek is forced into piously eating its own words -- which were nothing more than a re-tread/re-publication of something that originally came out last year! Of course, talking about getting more peecee with books takes the focus off of the daily torture and slaughter. The idiotic, vicious unreality of it all almost makes me want to see us stupid humans get banged over the head by the reality of energy depletion. It's the same urge that drives you to pinch a denervated patch of skin in order to get *some* kind of sensation out of it.

    [May17'05] According the the US Treasury dept, international investments in U.S. securities dropped to $46 billion/month in March from $84 billion/month in February, a larger drop than expected. About 75% of the US economy's borrowing is met by foreign central banks buying dollars. If this keeps up for a few months, a guy could get a little nervous (phrasing from "How to Speak Minnesotan" -- I was raised in Illinois). On a much more positive note, George Galloway's performance in the US Congress today blasting lickspittle Norm Coleman who replaced Paul Wellstone when Wellstone was killed in a suspicious plane accident) *totally* rocked! (see link below). I only found out that Galloway had also used the fine English word, "lickspittle", himself when I read the apathetic account of the Senate hearing in the LA Times :-}

    [May20'05] Rob Kirby (Pirates reprise below), alerted by Willem Middelkoop, has noticed that the Treasury Dept silently altered their months records of the total holdings of US Treasury bills by (in order of holdings) Japan, China, Caribbean Banking Centers (natch!), and the UK, by 20 to 60 billion each (which sounds like awfully big errors -- around 10% -- for presumably well-monitored transactions...). The new figures suggest that China and Japan suddenly stopped accumulating US debt since the beginning of the year. This would seem like big financial news, but it isn't.

    [Jun03'05] In the story below by Mitchell E. Potts, a religious, now antiwar, Iraq war I Navy veteran, are reports of his conversations with currently deployed injured teenagers outside Walter Reed hospital. One of them described how he felt bad about raiding schools (because that's where insurgents hide -- e.g., the US military still occupies all the schools in Fallujah, and any classes taking place there now happen in tents). The same veteran said he felt the worst about the US military "routinely round[ing] up the kids [to] use them as human shields" because "the Muslims would not shoot their own children". Most people, illogically to my mind, find this more repugnant than dispensing high tech death to children from a safe distance in a plane, helicopter, navy ship, or artillery piece, without seeing the resulting little blown up bodies. At least the human shields thing has a personal touch -- and the number of kids killed and injured this way is no doubt *much* smaller than the number shredded by our electronic Darth Vader weaponry. Furthemore, it has an evolutionary foundation! Of course, that argument won't mean much to most of the country. A NYT poll last year showed that the 55% of Americans believed that "God created us in our present form," while 13% believed that "we evolved from less-advanced life-forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process" (referenced in Matt Taibbi article below). But piffles aside, monkeys with certain social structures (e.g., baboons), where male-male agression is common under circumstances where infants are present will routinely grab infants to use them as a 'baboon shields'. It works well; the attacker will typically back down, and the infants are rarely injured. I certainly don't like high tech soldiers grabbing kids and strapping them to humvees to save their own butts but if I had to rank things, I think tearing up children's bodies with electronically guided antipersonnel bomblets launched from from a safe distance is worse.

    [Jun09'05] "Wow. You guys are breeding yourselves some *good* Good Germans over there." Comment by Derek in response to previous comments about police in Taserland (for now, esp. Florida -- 17 Taser fatalities there since 2000, kids tasered in ER's, female bartenders who called police for help tasered instead, etc). I agree with Lanya at Banality of Evil -- it pretty much ruined my day. Welcome to tortureland (pace Daniel Hopsicker). Also remember that policing isn't even close to being the most dangerous profession. Maybe I need to get a taser for stopping students from from using cell phones, mouthing off, and of course, sleeping in my classes...

    [Jun10'05] Here are the latest confidence ratings for different professions: the military (74%), police (63%), organized religion (53%), Preznit (44%), US Supreme Court (41%), newspapers (28%), TV news (28%), Congress (22%), big business (22%), HMO's (17%).

    [Jun14'05] Here is something both the left and the right don't like to acknowledge: the Iraqi resistance, through daily bombings against US military convoys using whatever they had lying around, has forced the American public (including red state guys) to begin to favor pulling out of Iraq. The reason is that it shows that the most powerful, high tech, and expensive army in the world (by a long shot), is still not able to completely dominate another country -- and even one weakened by a previous war in which its power generation, electric grid, and sewage facilities were heavily damaged, which was then followed by a decade of sanctions and more bombings, following by another high tech war against which they had even less defense. All that, and we still are not decisively winning. A hard pill to swallow, which is why both the left and the right can barely utter the words. I suppose there is even a little dread about whether Americans would be able to similary rise the the challenge of a similarly technologically dominant foreign invader. The US losing world military dominance certainly can't happen overnight, but remember: the US military on the move is 70% fossil fuel by weight, and there will never be battery-operated tanks, aircraft carriers, or fighter jets.

    [Jun22'05] The popularity of Bush continues to plummet, now approaching the lowest-ever numbers which were reached before the election during the first disastrous invasion of Fallujah in April 2004. The war in Iraq is also more unpopular than ever, much lower than in April 2004. Even the "Freedom Fries" guy recanted! The number of troops killed by IED attacks reached an all-time high this June (700 IED attacks in June). Meanwhile, the trade deficit continues to balloon at a record rate, and the Fed continues to pump huge amounts on cash into M3, even while continuing to raise interest rates. All told, this seems like a very dangerous time for the Bush administration, and therefore, for you and me. They will stop at nothing to retain power. One blogger has suggested that Bush will change tack and begin to continously announce an Iraq pull-out for the next two years, but not actually pull out (shades of the Gaza 'pullout' that is always about to happen, but somehow never does). This will allow another neo-con-controlled Republican drone to take over. The polyp-like Democrats -- who have just about screwed up their enormous courage to the sticking point of starting to think about getting ready to make a few feeble whispers under their breath about the general concept of a pullout (did they say pullout? I think they meant reconfiguration and right-sizing and doing *everything* completely different...) -- will be deprived of their main issue, even before they manage to utter a single word about it out loud. Maybe. But things could continue to go downhill in Iraq -- and in Afghanistan, where the per capita troop fatalities have been higher than in Iraq this year. Continuing deterioration of the Iraq and Afghanistan situations during two years of withdrawal talk may fight its way through an expected media black-out, forcing more drastic action by the Bushies -- which is frightening to contemplate.

    [Jun24'05] I wrote a letter to Boxer and Feinstein against the new war on Iran.

    [Jun30'05] The US has shown no sign of intent to abandon the huge permanent military bases Halliburton is constructing in Iraq. The insurgency will therefore continue. My guess is that -- barring some kind of terror stunt in an American city -- things will go as they have, with another 1,000 American deaths and maybe another 25,000 Iraqi deaths by this month next year, and an escalation of the US war on Iran. The beginning of the Iran war will probably pump Bush's popularity back to 50% for a year and probably reduce the number of people (now over 40%) that agree that Bush should be impeached "if it can be shown that he lied about the reasons for the Iraq war" (you gotta give these pollsters credit for for their hallucinatory questions). However, we will be one year closer to Peak Oil (probably in 2008). Because Americans have such finely tuned minds, they will take all this in stride, and then elect Frist to 'stay the course'. That will allow us to stay in Iraq and Iran for another several thousand American deaths and another hundred thousand Iraqi and Iranian deaths. Peak oil will hit in the first year of Preznit Frist's term. Just then, it might be 'head for the hills' time in an old jalopy (well, maybe a 1989 Honda Civic :-} ).

    [Jul03'05] I just saw a remarkable graph on urbansurvival.com showing the percentage of program trading on the NYSE. In 1999 and 2000, it was running around 20%, if you exclude spikes. From 2000 to 2005, it increased to about to about 60% of all trades (with spikes, like last week, at over 75%!) -- a slightly more than linear rate of increase. At this rate, trading will be entirely done by computer programs in a few years.

    [Jul07'05] The Plame case has turned out strangely indeed. One idea is that Judith Miller (who previously was responsible for a long series of NYT scare articles that built support for the war using information now uniformly shown to be faked or false) actually told the administration about Plame, not the other way around. Then Rove told Novak, the one who actually released the information to the public, and who has strangely somehow avoided any fallout.

    [Jul11'05] Well great, Supersize-Me Morgan Spurlock has been serialized and now has a show in which he does other things for 30 days, like going off the grid. How lame. Living off the grid is going to be more like a plot where you have to live in a house with Gary Coleman, Ron Jeremy, and Tammy Faye for 30 years, and there are no cameras...

    [Jul12'05] I've posted my (oversize) response to comments on my energy presentation here . The main point is that the reason why renewable energy is expensive, is that it takes a lot of energy to make renewable energy-generating devices because they include things like steel, high quality silicon crystals, rare metals, glass, precise machining, transporting heavy things over long distances, and so on. Economists often say that increasing fossil fuel prices will help renewables, because then renewables will become more price competitive. This ignores the fundamental fact that renewable energy devices are currently made exclusively using oil, gas, and coal energy as inputs! As fossil fuel prices increase, the price of renewables is likely to increase in parallel with them. Of course, if it is actually possible to make a solar-cell-powered solar-cell-manufacturing plant (including the steel and silicon furnaces, the machine tools, the silver mining, etc), then the day is saved. This is not to deny that actually constructing such a plant would depend on getting a sufficient return on money investment, or a government subsidy, or both. I'm not against money. But whether it is ultimately worth making solar cells depends more fundamentally on *energy* return on *energy* investment. If it takes more *energy* to make a solar cells (counting everything needed including getting the raw input materials) than you can get out of the resulting photocells over a reasonable period of time, then no amount of money/price or greed or self-interest or altruism or fear will make such energy a *renewable source* -- it will instead just be another way of spending non-renewable oil, gas, and coal energy. I hope the answer to this question is "yes".

    [Jul13'05] Economists, unfortunately, find the concept of EROEI as "meaningless" as "mass return on mass invested" (econobrowser, today). As one poster quipped, there is no reason economists shouldn't also rev up their perpetual motion machines while they're at it...

    [Jul25'05] The US defies a judge's order to release torture pictures because "they could result in harm to individuals" tortured in the pictures (girls and boys who were raped and sodomized in front of other prisoners to coerce them, etc, as leaked almost a year back by Seymour Hersh). Sounds more like protection for our "boys" who did the sodomizing (and the administrators who ordered them to do it). 2,000 vets have called for the release of the information.

    [Jul30'05] [rant follows] Just returned from an excellent talk in SD by Dahr Jamail. He, along with David Enders, is one of the two total currently unembedded US reporters in Iraq. All the rest stay inside the Green Zone, never leave their hotels in Baghdad (not sure I would be brave enough to venture out myself), or go on patrols with the US military and submit censored reports. Even at a left/peace meeting, though, it was hard to put the two main points on the table. First, the only reason there is *any* public opinion against the war is because the Iraqis have fought back. If we had been able to invade their oil patch and set up our 14 permanent military bases along with the largest US embassy in the world, and the locals just got McDonald-ified without a whimper, even at more than $100 billion in tax money a year, good Americans wouldn't be 50-50 against the war now. The peace movement (of which I am a part) has had virtually no responsibility for this change of opinion, and the 'peace movement' basically collapsed to 'regulars' immediately after the start of the war. And we *are* building the bases and embassy anyway. Second, at the current moment, 95% of the population has not even heard of peak oil, sitting right here on the peak! It was the main reason for the occupation of Iraq. Instead, oil demand in the US so far this year, even with the higher prices, even before the middle of the travel season, is already *up* 2.5% (0.5 additional million barrels a day on top of the usual 20 million barrels a day of US demand compared to last year). When the population finally does hear of and understand just how dire the situation with respect to energy is, it will only take a small event to bring most of them back into line, to goosestep our way into Iran. Just because the US bases, even in the south ('mortaritaville'), are mortared every day, and the US supply lines are often cut, forcing helicopter supply, and US forces are a long way from the coast doesn't mean that the US can't bomb and partly invade Iran. An Iran bombing/invasion would be a self-tightening noose that will bring out a patriotic burst. So party on, dudes. Burn through the last of the easy oil. Plan to burn through twice as much coal as now when the oil runs out and inefficient synfuel production (cf. Germany in WWII) begins in earnest. Roast the whole damn planet while you're at it -- you're worth it. And your grandkids can build character by rising from the ash heap at the end of the century.

    [Aug01'05] Apologies for ranting. Over the weekend, I began getting spam about oil. At this rate, by fall, there will be an oil reality show. This is beginning to remind me of an old science fiction story I read in high school about an advanced culture that had lost the ability to do actually do anything but rather just vicariously experienced other people doing violent and sexy things (but they never said what their energy sources would be then... :-} ). Things *have* turned out a bit blade-runnery. My guitar effects processor imitates the distorted sound of a Marshall tube amp head, and then that output put through a particular speaker cabinet, and finally, the transformation due to having a dynamic microphone put in front of the speaker -- either centered or off-center (which goes to the big PA). Sounds pretty good (1 guitar track, direct to disk), and I didn't even turn it up to 11.

    [Aug10'05] Hundreds of truckers have blocked the road in South Florida today to protest high gas prices. I'm sure this will help cause all those depleted oil fields to begin refilling. A similar, but more concerted blockade in the UK in 2000 brought the economy to a virtual halt for a few days. Unfortunately, it had little effect on North Sea wells, which peaked in 1999.

    [Aug11'05] Oil spiked to $66 a barrel today, and once again, the media explained this as partly due to outages in *refineries*. Refineries take oil as *input*. I fail to understand why a slowdown in a business that *buys* oil would cause oil price to go up. Whatever. I suppose it makes about as much sense as Google hiding Cindy Sheehan's comments behind a 'only for adults' shield (probably because she made a mention of Israel). Swift-boaters are no doubt soon on the way.

    [Aug12'05] James Hamilton, here at UCSD, argues that Peak Oil people are naive about how demand affects price. He thinks that as oil depletes, prices will rise, causing oil usage to be restrained (since "demand" is defined as equivalent to what is supplied). This will delay the peak and give more time (e.g., than the Hirsch study has suggested) for alternatives to be researched, engineered, and implemented. I hope he's right. I see four main outstanding problems. First, oil prices are quite volatile, as he himself admits. Right now, oil prices may be in a bit of a speculative bubble (broke $67 today). But there may very well come a dip, and then people/businessmen/gov't will be lulled again. Second, the alternatives all take time to ramp up. Even well-understood ones like nuclear fission won't be back for at least a decade. Third, the alternatives to liquid fuel for transport (fission for electrical generation is not currently a viable replacement for transport) all seem like they might have considerably worse EROEI ratios (these are hard to determine and controversial, but almost certainly much worse than late s`20th century oil). Finally, as the cost of fossil fuel inflates, it will likely *raise* the cost of renewables, since they are all currently made exclusively using non-renewable fossil fuel energy sources. Hopefully, as non-renewables start to come online, they may be able to counteract this trend. Hopefully.

    [Aug15'05] An AP-AOL News poll on public attitudes about rising gasoline prices showed that the public thought the following things were responsible, in order: too much oil company profit (30%), foreign countries (22%), politicians (21%), environmentalists (9%), SUV owners (7%), other (3%). That the demand for oil might be running up against limited geological resources didn't make the named list! And environmentalists are thought worse bad guys than SUV owners. We do live in a flat-earth country, just like Thomas Friedman says; and unfortunately, we're about to fall off its edge. Meanwhile, Cindy has Bush hunkered down on his latest, record-breaking vacation. He had to take a helicopter to a little league game 20 miles away from Crawford to avoid her. His handlers are terrified of what he might say in an unscripted encounter. The swift-boaters haven't been able to take her out yet because she's turning into a Natalee Holloway. Google put her comments behind an 'adult' shield, probably because she took a certain country's name in vain. Meanwhile, sensing the mood of the country, top Democratic lawmakers demanded that *more* troops be sent to Iraq (Biden and McCain). Like Kerry in 2004, they no doubt "would have done *everthing* different in Iraq". Too bad they can't both go over there themselves and help out -- I think they're short of help. We should be OK here, though, thanks to eagle-eyed, large-brained airport security people who are busy protecting us from terr'ist babies! I think the proper word is "de-skilling" -- the turning off of whatever small amount of brain was still independently functioning in order to more closely follow instructions. I'm sure not looking foward to the time when these automatons get issued the latest, new and improved tasers ... Could take a bite out of the travel business ("We decided not to fly after grandma messed her pants after being tasered for mouthing off to the security guard who was feeling her up...").

    [Aug17'05] Just for scale, a medium-sized oil tanker holds around a million barrels of oil. That means that our daily gulp of oil here in the US (about 20 million barrels a day) sucks 20 such oil tankers dry every single day. The strategic petroleum reserve holds enough oil for about a month, or around 600 oil tanker's worth.

    [Aug18'05] "I am not a hero. Guys like me are just a necessary part of things. To maintain this way of life in a fine community like this, you need psychos like us to go and drop a bomb on somebody's house." -- the response of a marine who just returned from Iraq to a request to speak to a wealthy community, as told to Evan Wright. On a completely different, sad note, I just read that Michael Brecker is very sick with bone marrow cancer. He is looking for a bone marrow donor of a rare type, not matched by his brother or other family, and has had to stop performing. And yet different again, the Aug 17 San Diego City Beat published my response to a clueless July 27 column on Iraq by MsBeak.

    [Aug20'05] Lately, I've been watching daily oil prices on theoildrum and 321energy. For something as tangible and slowly changing as oil production and global oil usage, the wild flopping around in price amuses me. Somebody farts in a refinery causing the secretaries to leave early for lunch, and the price shoots up, despite the fact that refineries *use* oil, meaning that refinery problems should *reduce* demand. A few hours later, some dufus who knows nothing about geology writes a bumbling puff piece about 'reserves building up' and the price plummets. The last upward jump came after three small, inaccurate rockets missed a US warship and hit a taxi (the occupants survived). I don't look forward to what a bunch of self-pleasuring 'geniuses of the market' will do to oil prices when they finally wake up and realize the true gravity of the situation. They should be forced to go to college and learn something. It's embarrassing -- like football players that supposedly got a degree but never went to class. Meanwhile the price of photoelectric (solar) cells has been *increasing*. This was explained in a NYT article by Chris Dixon as a textbook supply/demand curve (more people buying them, leading to a shortage of silicon crystals), but it is more complicated. Photoelectric cells currently use waste silicon crystals from the semiconductor industry. As demand sops up the throwaways, the price will go up permanently, because the throwaways are being sold for less than they cost to make. They are expensive because it requires a lot of energy to make them. The energy comes from fossil fuels. As fossil fuel prices rise, it is likely that photoelectric cell prices will increase even more. The Onion had an article about "Intelligent falling" -- a new religious theory of gravity. Sometimes, the way economists talk about oil, energy, and the markets makes them sound awfully religious. They're like the priests on Easter Island who said, "don't worry, nothing bad will happen if you cut down all the trees -- the guys with the doomsday scenarios are only tree huggers who don't know anything about the genius of the moai..." They act like "Intelligent energy" can detect that we need it, and so will therefore virtually invent itself into existence. There *are* some positive developments on the horizon. Solar heat-concentrating devices are probably better long-term solutions than photoelectric cells, at least for sunny places. They don't work at all when it's cloudy. And there is a lot of research and development going on with thin film copper/indium/gallium/selenium photoelectric cells. These may be cheaper to manufacture than current silicon crystal cells.

    [Aug24'05] For better or worse, I posted several times in response to an amazingly clueless article by one of the Freakonomics authors in his blog. My posts in that endless discussion are here: ( post1 , post2 , post3 ).

    [Aug25'05] The credit derivatives market more than doubled last year to $8.4 trillion dollars (yep, that's about the same size as the GDP of the US, and this is just a particular subset of derivatives). Kewl rate of growth. Thank god the "The Counterparty Risk Management Policy Group" is in control. These are the people that helped 'fix' the 4 billion dollar mistake made in 1998 by Long Term Capital Management, a company run partly by the Nobel laureate who invented a derivative pricing equation, and which, somewhat counter to its name, made huge short bets that went bad when things went the 'wrong' way with the ruble, of all things. They got a $4 billion dollar bail out and nobody went to jail. The only punishment was that a few people lost their jobs (I wonder where they doing their genius thing, now?). Bankruptcy no problem, as long as you're down more than a billion. The "Counterparty" guys have 'explained' that now "urgent effort is needed to tackle the serious accumulation of trade confirmations". If you can understand what this means, then maybe you could tell me whether I should take what little money I have out of the bank now :-}

    [Aug28'05] Bye-bye LA Times. With opposition to the war approaching the levels only seen late in the Vietnam war, Doyle McManus' front page column today explains, "War critics have backing but not much of a following". The Opinion section has been bizarrely modified and neutered, with its front page containing an article by Leila Beckwith explaining why the State legislature needs to add an amendment prohibiting professors from supporting the Palestinians. Probably needs to also have a rider prohibiting discussion of how huge amount of our taxes were first used to bulldoze houses and illegally settle people, and then huge additional amounts of aid is then sent to remove them ($2 billion in new aid for the removal alone). Bush's numbers have fallen to scary, stunt-inducing levels. Besides the war, part of the reason for his low ratings is the high price of oil. Americans are in a pissy mood. The war is going badly, they know deep down it was in part about oil, but oil price is waaay up, anyway. They're mad, but they can't really come out and say why -- it's because the Iraqis are successfully fighting off our Death Star Darth Vader empire. They intuitively know that this looks bad to the rest of the world (the people who were getting their oil from Iraq before we blew in there). The rest of the world has not been weakened by two wars, ten years of sanctions, and thousands of tons of 'depleted' nuclear waste. The US would have a much less easy time taking on the rest of the world than destroying Iraq. This is a sensitive point in history. With respect to oil, things will probably get much worse on Monday, when the enormous category 5 hurricane, Katrina, slams into New Orleans, some Gulf of Mexico oil platforms and oil terminals, and the Port of South Louisiana. This will likely cause a spike in oil prices and disrupt manufactured imports and exports, all bad for Bush (and us!). But all the breathless CNN babe coverage will greatly help Bush, taking the focus off the war. Bad weather is a little like a terrorist event, and it may temporarily decrease the chance of him doing something extremely destabilizing. I'm not looking forward to the aftermath, though, in late September, when the situation is likely to get critical again.

    [Aug30'05] Eeesh, things look bad in New Orleans. The entire city is being evacuated. Floating dead bodies are being ignored as they try to rescue many people who are still trapped. There are thousands of dead, maybe even 10,000. Bad timing for Bush to have sent 4,000 Louisiana National Guard people to Iraq, and to have instituted the steepest cut ever in funding for levee strengthening and repair in Feb 05 in order to spend it on the Iraq disaster instead. There are reports that a recent Iraq line item was $75 million to try to bribe Sunnis to sign their new Constitution (written in English!); it didn't work. There is widespread looting but not enough National Guard to shoot looters because they're too busy shooting Iraqis. MSM won't touch these things yet ("confirmed dead now over 50"), of course, except to bemoan the fact that not enough looters have been shot -- if we could only have shot more looters, that would have fixed things, right? All of New Orleans is slowly flooding now, long after the hurricane has passed. If the levee breaches can be repaired, this will just stop the rise in the water level. It still all has to be pumped out. That will take months. This hurricane essentially created 1 million US refugees (a little more than the original 1948 Palestinian diaspora). They're not going to be going home for a long time, if ever. It looks like the biggest natural disaster in US history, yet the media feel like they are getting ready to move on to the next Scott Peterson; they just don't quite know what to do with a story that is 100,000 times as big as Aruba. The latest Pew poll of our populace shows that 42% believe that "living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time", 38% think that creationism should be taught instead of evolution in school, and 64% are open to teaching both creationism and evolution. I wonder if half of these lemmings also think that God is punishing the South for voting for Bush? (Trent Lott's house was knocked down). I think that people who believe in creationism should have their cell phones confiscated, their teevees darkened, their internet pr0n disconnected, and their OnStar service cancelled, because the Maxwell equations are not consistent with the Bible, either. Put your money where your mouth is. The cowardly, doddering Todd Gitlin warns antiwar protestors to be civil. Thanks for all your help, Todd.

    [Sep01'05] $250,000 of US tax receipts for each 'settler' to leave their stolen land last month, but black Americans in New Orleans don't deserve anything because they didn't have the 'personal responsibility' (e.g., cars) to run away. Red state libertarian whiteys should watch their backs, though, because the blue state whiteys that are subsidizing them could decide at some point to demand even more 'personal responsibility' (e.g., when the power goes out in Phoenix and Phoenix starts to feel like a holiday in Fallujah). Louisiana was a red state in 2000 and 2004, but they're still getting screwed by Mr. Red. For *1.5 days* worth of Iraq tax receipt spending (a quarter of a billion dollars), the levees could have been strengthened and most of the damage averted. Ethnicity and its interaction with and exploitation by the media is a complete disaster for humans. And you can bet, we're going to see a lot more race-baiting (whites 'finding', blacks 'looting'), which is basically 'poor-baiting' as the long emergency starts to slowly get underway.

    [Sep02'05] Hearing some of the voices of 'the people' is sure scary, eh? I'll put words into the people's mouths, if I may. San Diego gets around 10% of its water from local sources. When people nearer the source of the other 90% decide they need more of it, stupid San Diegans will probably riot. Shoot 'em. Big earthquake in San Fransicso has people looting sushi restaurants? Stupid for living there -- shoot 'em. Fossil water from the giant Ogallala aquifer in the middle of the country is being pumped at many times its replenishment rate. Illinois is now having the worst drought in 50 years. Stupid midwesterners -- they couldn't think ahead, even with all those agricultural subsidies. When a 200 year drought comes, they may not be too happy. Shoot 'em if they get out of hand. New Yorkers have a lot of buildings that are virtually uninhabitable without air conditioning in the summer. There may be grid problems again in a few years, and they may last for more than a day this time. Tough luck, stupid New Yorkers. Shoot 'em if they misbehave. Tornados are more common in the middle of the country. Only stupid people live near tornados. Serves 'em right (no need to shoot 'em). The reason poor people and old people don't have cars is that they are stupid and lazy. Because of this, they can't get away, and therefore, they shouldn't be helped if they get into trouble, and they should be shot if they straggle into your town. This isn't the 'reptilian brain' -- a total crock perpetrated by Paul MacLean and popularized by Carl Sagan -- but rather the characteristically linguistic human brain running with only teevee input (it's all about language and naming and culture, which turtles and snakes distinctly lack!). There are already a chunk of people in this country who think that what we really need is to have a national quick response police force that can immediately step in anywhere and shoot people as soon as trouble breaks out (Wired has an article today about how the military is taking sound weapons to LA for testing on poor people, oh I mean, to help broadcast 'instructions' over long distances). It's hard to know what percentage currently harbors these fascist sentiments, which predictably bubble up in times of crisis, because pollsters are too 'civil' to ask real questions (political polling is like s*x research in this respect). This is similar to the support for the Iraq war -- people have no trouble 'supporting' having other people's teenagers kill other people's kids. Well, at least September is "National Preparedness Month".

    [Sep04'05] Yesterday, the Red Cross was stopped by 'Homeland Security' from bringing food and water into New Orleans. Bush must be so desperate to avoid Labor Day pictures of even one of the 10,000 (or even 30,000) dead, that he is willing to kill more low-market-value people. Katrina will have a death toll *at least* several times that of 9-11, but because the dead are mostly poor and black (old ladies trapped in their apartment blocks knocking on the ceiling until the water went to the next higher floor), they hardly count. The official propaganda death toll for New Orleans is 59. This is completely ridiculous (compare 9-11 when the initial estimates were 5,000 dead). There won't be a months-long nightly empathetic story about a personal tragedy because the victims have the wrong skin color for empathy. Not that swat teams are clearing everybody out that is not dead or dying, we may never know the real death toll. The federal government gets most of the $5 billion in yearly royalties from oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico, but it couldn't even cough up a 1/20 of that for one year to fix the levees. Instead, the disgusting puke mainstream media subtly whips up race hatred with a shrouded comment about looting and shooting -- Katrina's 'incubator babies' -- at the end of every crucial initial report on the disaster. Then, later, they 'correct' the record (e.g., yesterday and today's LA Times, with multiple admissions that initial reports of lawlessness were exaggerated). Too late, media scumbags. Your swill is permanently installed in the brain puppets of good Americans. Everyone will remember black looting and no one will remember the actual gist of what happened: like 30 poor black old people drowned in their beds in an unevacuated old folks home -- times a thousand.

    [Sep05'05] Dianne Foster makes an interesting point (in Xymphora comments) on putting people in the Superdome. I thought about this at the time, but forgot the uncertainty after events played out. When people were being put into the Superdome, the storm was still Category 5 with some remaining uncertainty in landfall longitude. If it hadn't weakened as much as it did, or if it had hit a mere 50 miles to the west so that the characteristically stronger east side of the eyewall had hit NO (instead of the west side), or both, then the Superdome may well have collapsed on all those people. The decision was taken anyway (versus emergency bussing). The jamming of various emergency frequencies as well as Citizens Band (CB) continues around New Orleans (heard by truckers on Interstate 10 -- update: NOAA claims solar X-ray flare may have been disrupting Gulf emergency communications). Aaron Broussard's well-publicized interview told that FEMA cut emergency telephone lines to his community after denying him the food and water he requested for the peole still there. Broussard had the lines hooked back up and he posted an armed guard to stop FEMA from doing it again. Mayor Nagin (Bush-contributor, lifelong Republican until just before his election in Democratic N.O.) has sent away the local police. The hapless remaining peole say they are being treated like Al Queda, hearded out of their non-flooded homes, and stripped of their possessions. Imagine doing that to white New Yorker professors after 9-11. Wouldn't fly.

    [Sep06'05] The US is slowly turning into a third world country -- a banana police state, as some have quipped. If the current trends in manufacturing/engineering/software outsourcing, loss of health insurance, wealth inequality, debt, and homeland militarization continue unabated -- even assuming an unlimited supply of oil -- in another 20 years, the place will be a complete wreck. Add in a long-term peak-oil-caused contraction and it *really* looks ugly. This is fine for the estate tax crowd (this week, Bush is working on making sure this top 1% get 95% of this latest giveaway). The richies can move their booty somewhere else and find another host to parasitize, or come back and buy cheap after a collapse. Not such a good outlook for the great majority of us, though. It's slow-motion class war. Don't get fooled by the slow part. As Michael Ruppert has warned , all the reasonable calls to expand and un-gut the disaster relief part of FEMA (and get rid of the incompentent patronage-appointed director who was fired from his previous decade-long job as, uhh, head lawyer for the International Arabian Horse [show] Association!) will result not in better disaster relief (what reasonable people want), but rather better Continuity of Government (COG) operations -- that is, SWAT teams to cut emergency lines, shoot starving looters, drive around in armored personnel carriers, crowd-control you with microwave and sonic weapons, cancel the Bill of Rights, stick you in temporary prison camps without trial, and of course, rescue pets -- when the next big bad something happens. I think what most reasonable people want instead is a government response analogous to what Cuba delivered last year when it evacuated a million and a half people from the path of a Category 5 landfall hurricane (Hugo) with virtually no loss of life (but without other repressive parts of the Cuban government). All the yahoo sheep who were calling for black blood last week may have a surprise in store one day when they run into the wrong side of the Continuity of Government police in their home town.

    [Sep07'05] In the days before Katrina hit, I was assuming (stupidly as usual) that the disaster would result in a big uptick in popularity for Bush and would take the focus off Iraq. I think he somehow flubbed this 'opportunity'. After leaving Crawford to come to San Diego af few days after the disaster (where his tottering public appearance forced the cancellation of a raft of chemotherapy patients' treatment, but then he was too unsteady to actually appear at the place where the treatment cancellation occurred), Bush got into high gear. He went to New Orleans, where his appearance forced the suspension of all ongoing aquatic and aerial rescues. His Goebbels team set up a fake levee-fixing scene and a fake food distribution center. Both were disassembled as soon as he left, and then real rescue operations could resume. Given the many stories of apparently premeditated interference with rescue teams, it seems like the plan was to respond slowly or even hinder the first responders, let things get out of hand, whip up some always-dependable race hatred, bring in troops and seal things off, evacuate everybody at gunpoint, and then when all the locals were gone, give all the reconstruction contracts to out-of-town Halliburton buddies in order to reconstruct a New Orleans Lite, with a jazz theme, but a lot less black people (no right of return for Americans, if they have the wrong ethnicity). Most of this seems to have gone through, but a good chunk of the general public seems to have become a little bit revolted by the spectacle (after their race hatred ebbed a little), and the complete control of the media seems to have suffered a temporary lapse. Also, Mayor Nagin's (remember: a 'Democratic' Bush contributor) recent order to forcibly evict all the remaining residents (maybe 10,000) is being disobeyed by people in the army, esp. those from the region. However, I've been wrong so many times about how things look to the 'common man', that I will wait until I see the real numbers on pollkatz next month. It it still possible that despite disapproving of Bush's handling of Katrina, they may not increase their disapproval of him. If there is a big dip, then I might get worried, seeing as there was this weird early August firing of U.S. Army General Kevin P. Byrnes, just before his retirement, over an extra-marital affair (?!) (his divorce has now gone through), with many different speculations as to what the real reason was, including something about a middle August Northcom nuclear terror exercise based in Charleston, S.C. that may or may not have been cancelled.

    [Sep14'05] Things grind depressingly along. Bush's poll numbers are down a little, but not that big of a drop. Despite all the blowhard press on this, not one of those endless, breathless, useless reports *ever* shows you a decent graph like pollkatz , even for their own polls. How can you possibly understand what polls mean without looking at them this way? Shame on you 'reporters'. If businessmen can understand a powerpoint graph of one variable as a function of time, then so can the unwashed masses. In Houston, Katrina evacuees are being serviced by a huge amount of volunteer work. I don't know about you, but I would *sure* like to see Cheney 'volunteering' (at gunpoint would work) to clean toilets and disimpact a few bowels. Bush allows 'Brownie' to 'resign' instead of firing him. Privatized Blackwater mercenaries blow into New Orleans to eject people from their homes (where are the damn libertarians when you need them...). FEMA outsources the body cleanup and counting for about $1 million/week to an 'outstanding' firm, SCI, one of whose subsidiaries was recently convicted of piling up hundreds bodies in sheds and in the woods in instead of cremating them (SCI settled by paying the relatives $100 million). But you can't photograph the bodies, or the 82nd airborne will stomp your camera, a**hole. The libertarian yahoos started squealing at the idea of a windfall oil profits tax (like the one announced in France that immediately dropped fuel prices a notch there). They should put their whiny money where their whiny mouths are and not only privative all our trains and busses but all our roads and road repair and traffic lights, too -- get our highways off our backs and off the dole, right? (actually, it would probably reduce the amount of driving we do -- a good thing). And finally, the 'Brownie' replacement is the pathetic 'duct tape' guy! In Iraq, most reconstruction projects (e.g., electrical, water and sanitation) have been shut down and the money diverted to private security companies who are guarding the people who are no longer doing these projects. We're still spending almost $2 billion a week in Iraq and Afghanistan -- money which we should obviously be spending on renewable energy, instead of trying to hopelessly encircle the paltry 20 or so years worth of oil that remains there. The don't-talk-about-the-elephant-in-the-room aspect of it leaves me speechless and depressed. It's all part of our one shot at high civilization on this planet courtesy of fossil fuels -- the product of solar energy collected over hundreds of millions of years and turned into highly-energy-dense oil, gas, and coal, and which is about half used up now. The second half will be mostly gone before the midpoint of the century, leaving us to stew in our global-warming-heated juices. The University just repaved all the still-in-good-condition roads around my office and built three new buildings, all with fossil fuels. Tons and tons of the stuff was used. Elixir of the gods. Makes me proud to have the power of language and be a human, I suppose.

    [Sep15'05] Dang. Karl Rover is now in charge of a $200 billion dollar fund for reconstruction. I'm sure he will use this discretion wisely. This is class war, plain and simple. It's time for the villagers to turn off Big Brother, get out the torches, and smoke out the Frankenstein monster. It's alive and gaining power every day.

    [Sep17'05] Are Americans truly 'getting it'? As a result of higher gasoline prices, SUV's have been depreciating more rapidly (as discounts on new ones are offered), and car shoppers have elevated fuel efficiency all the way up to 23rd-most-important factor in what kind of car they will buy (the usual position of fuel efficiency is about 35th-most-important). Who knows, in a decade or two, fuel efficiency might make it into the top three -- right around the time the grid starts to get intermittent as result of chronic natural gas shortages...

    [Sep21'05] Rita has ballooned up to a category 5, and more intense (though currently slightly smaller) than Katrina -- Rita is currently the 3rd most intense recorded hurricane in American history (behind Gilbert, 1988 and Labor Day, 1935). Unfortunately the predicted path runs way close to my sister's house near Houston. Perhaps God is talking to Bush and Cheney in the only language they understand -- oil and money. As searchers recover bodies from Katrina, they are finding mostly old people and children. Though our putrid scumbag media will never say it, shooting more looters wouldn't have helped old people and kids to leave when they had no means to do so, and when no one came to help them.

    [Sep25'05] Yesterday I went marching with the about 2,000 people -- the largest antiwar demo in two and a half years -- through the deserted streets of downtown San Diego, ending in Balboa Park. There were 2 or 3 pro-war protestors. We didn't even know they were there until KSWB gave one of them equal time to our 2,000 on the nightly newspeak. Whatever. Today, Phoney Tony Bliar officially withdrew from global warming treaties by putting his faith in "science and technology". The price of oil has continued to drop as self-pleasuring oil traders wrap their you-know-what's in dollar bills and get themselves off. The price drop is presumably because some refineries have been temporarily disabled, temporarily lowering demand for oil. The idea that something like this should radically change the price of oil seems insane to me. A barrel of oil contains 42 gallons. It can be made into about 20 gallons of gasoline (more or less -- this varies a little depending on the grade of the oil). A gallon of gasoline contains about 36 kW-hours of chemical energy. An internal combustion engine turns about 9 kW-hours of this energy into useful work (the rest is lost as heat). One horsepower is equivalent to about 3/4 of a kW. However, a human working hard continuously can only put out about 1/10 to 1/5 of a kilowatt (compare the power output of a human to a one-horsepower horse). So, the 20 gallons of gasoline from one barrel of oil contains about 180 useful kilowatt-hours, divided by say, 1/8 of a kilowatt per person, which gives about 1400 hours of hard human work. Divide this by 6 hours of continuous hard work per day (no breaks), and you get about 230 days, or approximately one year of 5-days-a-week hard labor by a human. This boils down conveniently to: ONE BARREL of oil = ONE YEAR of hard human work. This makes sense when comparing digging a foundation or grading a road by hand (Roman-style) to doing the same thing with an oil-powered bulldozer and a backhoe. A barrel of oil currently costs $64. Clearly, this price *waaaay* underestimates its true worth to us humans (how much do you have to pay a human to do one year of hard labor?). I could give two hoots what the economists say about how money is more important. I look forward to discussions about the true worth of oil while doing hard labor alongside an economist when scientists fail to come up with a replacement. Watching the newspeak people read their teleprompters had gotten me depressed (I don't normally watch teevee), but then I got back on the web and came across this gem . As many as 36 trained Navy dolphins may have been freed by hurricane Katrina. The Navy has trained dolphins for many years to attack divers (humans in wetsuits) using small electrodes implanted under the skin for reinforcement. This works because dolphins are naturally aggressive. But the recently freed/escaped dolphins are apparently armed with 'toxic dart' gun harnesses. You divers and windsurfers in the Gulf and Caribbean should watch out, because a bunch of 007 Flippers are coming to getcha. No details/confirmation are available because, natch, they're classified. There is not too much to see or eat down there, however, since there are huge dead zones where fertilizer-laden runoff has led to anaerobic conditions, killing virtually everything in huge swaths of the Gulf coast (John Coleman, retired to San Diego 'weather' teevee, has even suggested that the dead zones might partly explain why Rita weakened just before landfall). So the 'Flippers' will probably head out to resort islands in the south Atlantic in search of fish and enemy divers. Perhaps the yacht-people and their concubines will match close enough... link

    [Sep26'05] It would seem to be the case that higher gas prices will soon be on the way, given that 100% (!) of Gulf of Mexico oil production is currently "shut in" (1.5 million barrels a day, with average total US consumption around 20 million barrels a day), up from about 60% shut in from Katrina, just before Rita hit. US Natural gas consumption is about 62 billion cubic feet per day, and maybe 10-15% is currently shut in as well (since the Henry hub where a lot of the pipelines come together may have been damaged). High gasoline and gas prices will make Bush much more unpopular than the disaster in Iraq. The ironic thing is that it's not really Bush's fault that oil demand finally starting to bump up against all-out production capacity this year (well, other than not preparing for the inevitable). Rather, it's just the predictable consequences of industrial civilization. No matter how mad the people get, the remaining oil in the ground isn't going to listen; it won't come out of well bores any faster because people are mad. Let the anger of the people increase and seethe. Meanwhile, the Fed has been creating money this year at the rate of about $20 billion dollars a week, and credit (which is created from the money that the fed creates, and which works just like money, and which comes in too many varieties for me to remember) is being created at an even faster rate (fractional reserve banking eventually multiplies fed-created money by a factor of at least 10). Other currencies somehow even seem to be inflating in tandem with the dollar (?). In this light, who could bother about a mere 2 billion a week down Halliburton's maw in Iraq and Afghanistan? It doesn't seem possible that this rampant creation of money can continue forever; but it's worth nothing that it's been running like this non-stop since 1996. I really don't understand how it works well enough to guess what will happen next. At least Bush and Chertoff are back from their scary visit the past few days to Peterson Air Force Base (underground nuclear war central -- headquarters of US Northern Command) in Colorado Springs. They went there just before Rita hit the coast/oil.

    [Sep27'05] The story below says that Rita damaged more oil rigs than any previous storm in history. You would think that would be a bad thing (AKA "bullish for oil" by the money people). Also, it appears that virtually all oil from the Gulf of Mexico remains "shut in", along with much of the natural gas (the Henry Hub may have sustained some damage). Again "bullish". In the past, oil prices have shot up even after a small refinery fire. Here, with production equal to 7% (!) of total US oil consumption turned off, prices are going down or just wavering. It just doesn't make sense to me.

    [Oct03'05] Imagine the media firestorm that would have erupted if Al Sharpton hypothetically suggested aborting every white baby or every Jewish baby. By contrast, Bennett's genocidal suggestion however hypothetical that aborting every black baby would cut crime sadly won't even slightly bite into that swine's opulent speaker fees. The objective scientific reality of races -- that 80% of the variation within the average human gene is *within* 'races' as opposed to *between* 'races' (or the fact that Israelis and Palestinians in the mideast are genetically indistinguishable) -- are irrelevant. This is about a *socially* defined concept of race, AKA class war. On *completely* different note, a small car efficiently tooling down the interstate burns about 1 gallon of gasoline per hour, while a large jet plane burns about 1 gallon kerosine per second at takeoff and about 1/3 gallon per sec when cruising. However, the plane goes a lot faster and carries a lot more people, and this basically cancels this difference. The fact that planes and cars are roughly equally efficient demonstrates how fundamental liquid fuels are to modern life. The main outlier is rail, which is a major win over cars and planes -- 5 to 10 times as efficient -- for long distance because of the markedly lower friction and wind resistance (wheel flexing and drag in cars/trucks, large aerodynamic drag in fast flying planes). Find out here how trains go around curves (on a good day) without a differential. However, largely as a result of our current pavement/airport subsidy structure, long distance rail is currently *more* expensive to the enduser than planes and cars. On the positive side, people have been buying a lot more bicycles recently, which is excellent news.

    [Oct06'05] Reading the lastest Gulf of Mexico oil/gas DOE situation report ( pdf ) while looking at a picture of rigs and hurricane paths, and then looking at the price of oil continue to *drop* really emphasizes just how short the outlook of the markets is. On page 2 of the report you can see that the cumulative shut-in loss ("bbls" confusingly means "barrels") over the last month and a half has been 48 million barrels of oil. This should be compared to our daily gulp of 20 million barrels as well as the 5 month cumulative loss from Ivan of 44 million barrels. Since Katria+Rita was *much* more severe than Ivan (111 oil platforms destroyed vs. only 7 by Ivan), the total loss from Katrina and Rita may approach several percent of our yearly usage. The fact that oil prices remain low reflects demand reduction, Saudi selling oil to us below world price, refineries using less because they're still broken, backed up tankers because ports are broken, European donations, and strategic reserves withdrawals. From a three-day point of view, given those facts, it is logical that oil should drop. But *someone* should be talking about the longer picture, because it could mean life and death. The mainstream media yammers on in a drug-induced haze. It is as if a person jumped out a window and then half way down, noted that things so far were going quite well. Think about conducting other parts of life -- e.g., agriculture -- with a 3 day look-ahead. Agriculture is not possible with a 3 day look-ahead. We shouldn't worship such extreme short-sightedness. It's going to be extremely dangerous to our health. Meanwhile scientists have reconstructed viable, approximate copies ( pdf ) of the original 1918 flu virus that killed 50 million people worldwide in 1918 (more than WWI, and the worst pandemic in human history), and have killed mice with it, showing that it is much more virulent than current flu strains. This same week, Bush announces that martial law will be imposed if there is a flu outbreak. Given that the anthrax mailed to Senator Leahy was a strain developed in US biowarfare labs, a guy could get a little nervous, and hope that it was a joke instead of the real thing in a Biosafety Level 3 lab in Georgia.

    [Oct09'05] The Senate unanimously approved a defense spending bill containing another $50 billion for part of the coming year in Iraq and Afghanistan. For scale, this is more that we spend on all biomedical research every year. And all to kill extremely low-tech poor Iraqis and make a complete shambles of their country and government, halfway around the globe.

    [Oct11'05] Gulf of Mexico oil production is recovering slowly. Currently, about 1 million barrels a day is shut-in (about 70% of total). From Sept 26 to now, the cumulative shut-in is 55 million barrels, or about 1% of total yearly US usage. The total loss may end up around 2% of yearly US usage (0.5% of global usage). Projected percentage loss of natural gas is similar. This is significant, but so far, we may just miss actual shortages and pipeline shutdowns this winter, in part because of other other countries helping us out. I don't know if this will be enough of a stimulus to get the general public to face up to the long continuous downslope that we will be facing in the next decade.

    [Oct16'05] In Alex Cockburn's Counterpunch diary today, among other things, he proposes that global warming is not CO2-caused but rather 'natural variation', that ethanol would be a plausible replacement for oil, and that anyway, peak oil is not true because oil is abiotic. What a howling non-sequitur that last one is! Even if oil was abiotic, which it's not (Ghawar, for example, is almost pure plankton dung, and plankton never lived underground the last time I checked), how would that help with observed depletion? Alex is a cultured writer who effortlessly draws on many historical references, doesn't like too many commas, and writes in a refreshing, fun-to-read style. Fine. But it's pretty weak writing and thinking to ignore the views of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists and geologists without giving any reason. That's worse, even, than, say, using way, way too many commas. Alex would get equally upset if someone completely mangled recent history. I have nothing against a contrarian. But many times, science has found reasonably good answers were before here were arguments and uncertainty. Then we have to move on, and the contrarians concede; you can't go back to the old way of thinking (unless, I suppose, we first run out of oil...).

    [Oct18'05] Recent spygate revelations that Cheney aide Hannah will snitch, and rumors that Cheney might be replaced with Condi suggest that the administration is in desperate straits. This may push forward the upcoming war with Iran. It makes sense (from their perspective) to act now to avoid a Republican wipe-out in the midterm Congressional elections. I fear we are getting close to a turning point. You would hardly know anything was amiss from the mainstream media (see, for example, Google news). And what a continuing disaster for industrial civilization this will be! Right now, we should be intensely planning and testing and designing and manufacturing and optimizing alternative energy sources and alternative transportation and manufacturing methods to cushion the great contraction. Intead, we are flushing ourselves and our children and grandchildren right down the toilet. What a shame. Sometimes, I feel I should be more sad about it. Probably, when the fourth reich gets really cranked up, I will regret not having done more to stop it. As the avian flu scare gets cranked up on the eve of the war on Iran, I think back to the SARS pneumonia scare, which occurred right after the start of the second US invasion of Iraq in early 2003 (aided and abetted by none other than Judith Miller). Every year, 36,000 North Americans die of regular pneumonia (about 100 a day). And every year, another 40,000 North Americans die of the regular flu (mostly older and immune-compromised people). So far, less than 100 people have died of avian flu *across the planet* -- that is, a whole year of the dreaded avian flu (or SARS) is less than one *day* of regular flu or regular pneumonia in North America. What a strange and fishy replay of SARS. Why aren't we worried about SARS or Ebola now? Where did *they* go? What will the Asians come up with next? Why do we need martial law for avian flu but not SARS? It is true that I am a little worried about the possibility that the recently reconstructed and reconstituted *1918* flu could get out -- no doubt during a 'well-meaning' attempt to make a vaccine to it.

    [Oct21'05] Economists often claim that we can deal with oil shocks better now because we have gotten more efficient with fuel use since the 1970's oil shock, and remain so, even with SUV's. However, to deal with another oil shock, we will have to replace current vehicles with even more efficient ones. There are about 130 million cars and 80 million light trucks on the road in the US (210 million vehicles). The US produces about 5 million cars and 7 million trucks annually (12 million vehicles, about 6% to total on the road). From these numbers, it is not obvious that we (or the rest of the world) will be able to respond quickly enough to an oil shock, esp. when you consider that it takes a lot of energy to manufacture a car (a substantial portion of the energy it uses in its lifetime). Finally, you can't wring more efficiency out of a standard 80,000 pound payload truck without reducing its payload. Trucks got about 5 miles per gallon in 1970. Trucks get about 5 miles per gallon today. Suggestions that the auto makers are withholding 100 or 200 mile per gallon cars are utter cargo cult fantasies -- if by a 'car', you mean something that encloses at least 4 people sitting upright plus some of their stuff and that can cruise at 65 miles per hour. Now, if a 'car' includes something about 2 feet off the ground that you lie down in, with thin bicycle tires pumped up to 120 psi, that cruises at 30 miles an hour, then 150 miles per gallon is no prob.

    [Oct22'05] "It does no good to ask the weakling's pointless question, 'Is America a fascist state?' We must ask instead, in a major rather than a minor key, 'Can we make America the best damned fascist state the world has ever seen'". -- Lewis H. Lapham.

    [Oct23'05] From all the saber-rattling accompanying the lapdog UN report on the Hariri assassination, it is looking more like the US may attack Syria first, instead of Iran. Hersh and Ritter originally suggested Iran in June 2005. By the end of August, Tarpley was still suggesting Iran on Nov 1 or Dec 1, which is still vaguely possible. However, the hurricanes and the momentum of the bizarro leak investigation were not predictable in early or mid-2005, and this may have somewhat interfered with war planning. Hersh's and Ritter's articles -- possibly motivated by leaks from military people opposed to another invasion -- also may have slowed things down (or they may have merely been smokescreens). It is worth noting that Syria is a much weaker target than Iran. The US military is only confident of attacking extremely weak opponents such as Iraq, which had been economically starved and bombed for over a decade, and which was known before the attack to have no air defenses, no air force, virtually no helicopters, and of course, no WMDs. It has been suggested that perhaps the US will use small nuclear bombs on Iran and then just run away, but that would likely have very negative impacts on US troops who only remain in Iraq largely on the good graces of the Iran-sympathetic Shi'ites. If the entirety of Iraq was united against the US occupation, US troop concentrations, which are in bases a long distance from the southern ports, could be starved of fuel and supplies and seriously endangered. Of course, the US could 'win' by carpet-bombing or even nuclear bombing Iraqi cities. At first I was going to write that this would be impractical because of world opinion, but maybe that's wrong. Look what the US did to Fallujah without any significant reprisals from any other country. It is not clear that a small nuclear bomb would have been worse. But I think the most likely scenario is not an invasion of Iran, but rather a half a year of partial invasions and provocations of Syria (already begun), which will continue to be studiously ignored by the mainstream media, and then an outright confrontation only be mid-2006. We are now where we were with respect to Iraq in mid 2002. I distinctly remember thinking then "it sure looks like they are planning a war, but I don't see how they will be able to drag everyone along". It took about 9 months of continuous propaganda to whip the American mind into shape. Also, average Americans never get mad when they have been fooled/taken/chumped.

    [Oct24'05] The US prison population has continued its inexorable growth -- up almost 2%, which is in line with a 3.2% annual growth rate over the past decade. We now have 1 out of 128 people in prison (2.3 million people). This compares with China's 1 out of 866 (1.5 million people). We have more total people in prison than China because we imprison almost 7 times as many people in jail per capita. But there is still room for growth. If we work hard, we can make this the best damn prison country in the world! In a recent poll , a majority of Americans rejected the theory of evolution (just 15% believe in God-free evolution). They should also poll people on quantum mechanics, which people understand about as well as evolutionary biology. I wonder what the response would be to: "Do you believe that measurements taken at a distance can be correlated without the invention of God?" Also, they should probably find out how many people think it would be OK to put people who believe in evolution in jail. Hopefully still under 10-15% of the 80-85% of people who think that God is responsible for evolution.

    [Oct27'05] While the synthetic bird flu scare continues, 106,000 people died of adverse drug reactions and 115,000 people died this year from *bedsores*. Bedsores and drug reactions are not as good for scaring our non-numerate populace -- but they kill a quarter of a million North Americans *a year*. How many US-ians killed so far by bird flu? None.

    [Oct28'05] Just like the case of Nixon getting booted for a two-bit burglary instead of for killing 1-2 million South East Asian civilians, the press is now slavering over the outing of an already-outed-by-Aldrich-Ames (!) spy instead of over the lies that led our bin Laden'd populace to war and the killing of 100,00 to 200,000 civilians. For shame, guys, since you damn well know better -- just as you knew better when Clinton's support of the Iraq sanctions that killed a lot more Iraqis than Bush so far did.

    [Oct31'05] The current hot topic on the UCSD campus is whether the student-run television station piped into dorms should be allowed to air pr0n, home-grown or otherwise. This fine example of student activism comes courtesy the right-wing Koala student newspaper. There is not a peep from the left about the war (or energy) on campus. Complete silence. I admit I am a little disconcerted by the thought of pr0n free speech coming to my classroom. So far, my students have only been getting upset if the lectures aren't delivered on PowerPoint... (yes, they specifically want Microsoft, whose profits rose 30% this one year, keeping pace with those of oil companies).

    [Nov11'05] Finally, the odd softness in oil and gasoline prices is explained! Petroleum imports have increased 60% (YTD) over last year (!). Demand (a ridiculous name for actual usage) has recovered from the effects of the hurricanes and is now up once again. But the enormous increase in imports has increased the supply even more, leading to lower prices. The huge import increase has already started to tail off. It will take a while for that bolus to work its way through the digestive tract. I will be surprised if oil prices don't resume their upward trend in another few months once it does. The latest data from the UK and Norway suggests that production is down almost 20% from last year (ouch!). Before long, we will be in the situation were we are in Prudoe Bay (US 1980's Alaska oil) where the 'whatever reserves' keep increasing (see Prudoe graph in my oil presentation ) but the actual oil production and water cut keep getting worse (so much water gets pumped down in depleting fields like Prudoe that the water-to-oil ratio coming back up can be as high as 10 or 20-to-1). Oil fields never recover from downslopes like those; rather, more oil is found elsewhere. But at some point, there is not enough elsewhere. When Alaska/Prudoe was found, it helped US oil production to not decline faster; it *didn't* reverse the decline that started in 1970.

    [Nov18'05] Recent reports suggest that the US has snatched with no trial or public charge 83,000 people , transporting some of them in unmarked planes to secret detention and torture centers in other countries and possibly in the US itself. That's a lot of people. 108 of those snatched are known to have died in US custody, some probably tortured to death about the location of non-existent WMD's. Although Cheney knew there weren't any, the torturers probably didn't know. I've worried about getting on the Kafkesque always-search or no-fly lists because nothing you can do will get you off of them (there was a baby on one of the lists, and the airport drones dutifully searched it). But this other list is much worse. Good Americans should be wary of the creeping police state they are implicitly approving. Many approve of torture: 15% say it is often justified, 31% say sometimes, 17% say rarely, and only 32% unconditionally oppose it. This is worrisome, esp. since the going hasn't gotten tough yet -- such as an energy shortage, another synthetic terror event, a housing bubble burst, a dollar crisis, another war or two, and so on. On a wry positive note, it is a bit fun to watch the Sony PR dept scrambling to disassociate in consumers little minds the following two things: (1) the recent Sony rootkit DRM (that came on 2 million movies Sony disks sold this year), the 'fix' for which opens up people's computers to cloaked viruses courtesy of the DRM cloaking functions, and, (2) the unclean spyware and viruses themselves. Also Sony got caught using freeware (LAME) in their distros without attribution. At least the freeware they stole ran without bugs while Sony's dufus rootkit used a few percent of a 3 GHz CPU continuously. Sheesh, programming standards sure have fallen. For another laugh, check out this GE ad from a few months back with sexy models mining coal (!?) in tank tops flexing their glistening muscles in almost non-existent US shaft mines (virtually all US coal is strip mined). You can't make this stuff up. Meanwhile, in China where they still *do* have dangerous shaft mines, 4000 people have so far died mining coal this year.

    [Nov28'05] After 3 years in secret detention with no charges, Padilla is finally indicted for conspiring "to commit at any place outside the United States acts that would constitute murder". No scary dirty bomb, but just that he conspired to try to kill an unspecified person in an unspecified place? I suppose that's still pretty scary, boys and girls. If they told us any more, they'd have to kill us.

    [Dec05'05] Maybe Rumsfart and his ghoul generals should go back and read Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), published in 1486 and written by two Dominican inquisitors, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger (go here or here for extracts). They could brush up on technique (e.g., the one where you repeatedly break a woman's shin bone using a special metal boot). Works almost every time (well except when the woman dies on you before you get a chance to burn her). One small problem that emerged was that there weren't any witches. Estimates of the female death toll range into the millions. *Lots* of women confessed to being witches, and were then burned to death if the torture hadn't already killed them (though 'kinder gentler' executioners would often strangle them before the flames rose up). Given that only 32% of Americans unconditionally oppose torture now, a guy could could get a little nervous that one of the new Ayatollah Asscroft a**holes they've been hiring lately might have a new 'Hammer' up his sleeve. This will come to tears and worse at home if you don't run 'em out now, Good Americans.

    [Dec12'05] A recent USDA report ERS-ERR-11 "Household Food Security in the United States 2004" reports that hunger increased almost 15% in one year (2004) in the US, during the 'recovery' from a recession. 13.5 million households are currently "food insecure". That's a pretty hefty growth rate. Meanwhile, about the torture thing again (just saw Syriana). Torture has always been a part of US foreign policy, and people who piously say how torture is ruining our image need to read a little history. The difference is that before, we used to officially say that torture was bad, while still using/funding/teaching it. Now, at a time when we are probably torturing less people than we did in Vietnam, we are starting to say it's OK (e.g., 82 percent of FOX News Channel viewers said torture is acceptable in "a wide range" of situations). That's an ominous development given that things have yet to get really tight with respect to energy. The recent execution of Alpizar was almost a carbon copy of the tube execution in London with respect to brainwashing the populace. The 'I have a bomb' disinfo planted after agents shot Alpizar dead after he was surrounded in the jetway is collapsing (report in Time!), but as usual, it already did its job. The story is being reported as showing that homeland security works -- because an innocent person was gunned down (!). No passenger confirmed the bomb story despite hours of prodding, after having to sit terrorized in their seats with their hands over their heads at gunpoint for an hour while they cleaned up the blood in the jetway. Instead, passengers reported that Alpizar's wife had run after him saying "My husband's sick. He's sick. He's bipolar. He didn't take his medicine. It was my fault. I made him get on the plane. You know, we just came from a medical mission. Oh, my God! They've killed my husband!" (quote from Orlando architect Jorge Borrelli). Soon after the fact, we had the execrable 'Lionel' on supposedly left Air America (not!) riffing on how Alpizar sounds like a Muslim name. How cute. But maybe you should get a little skin bleach the next time you fly, Li, eh? Sheep Americans, you shouldn't keep your heads down and go along with this! Sheep eventually get slaughtered.

    [Dec14'05] "How can you support the troops and not support the war? What is it that the troops were doing, except waging that war?! Those soldiers who should be supported are those who are resisting -- or seeking the means to resist -- the war." -- Bob Avakian, on Vietnam. Right now, the US military is escalating bombing raids across Iraq, and the press has barely reported it. This an escalation from about 2 *million* 500 pound bombs dropped last year (Hersh). This has been killing mainly civilians (see the Lancet study). I don't support that order or the people carrying it out. The arguments about 'supporting the troops' are carbon copies of the arguments about Vietnam. We killed perhaps 2 million southeast asian civilians and perhaps 2 million soldiers in our lost war on Vietnam (both numbers plus or minus 1 million). It was more than half a Holocaust. It was a horrible wrong against humanity. It happened because people supported our troops and the troops followed their orders. It only stopped when our troops *stopped* following orders and the military hierarchy started losing control of the army (e.g., 'fragging' -- killing of superior officers by troops). The mental toll on the troops that survived was substantial -- as many committed suicide after the war as were killed in the war (about 60,000). It is likely that the Iraq war will continue until something similar to the late stages of Vietnam occurs. Democratic hawk Murtha's recent turn against the war suggests to me that this may be a little closer than most people think. That probably explains why the US is escalating the bombing now. As Dahr Jamail has commented, it is interesting to see that the military propaganda machine (sorry, the mainstream media) hasn't highlighted this latest 'shock and awe' campaign. The whole war is now completely politically radioactive. It surprised me that Bush's poll numbers popped back up to 40% this week. Perhaps lower gas prices and various republican scandals have temporarily focussed people's attention away from the war. Meanwhile, after their huge success in gunning down a panicked bipolar missionary (!) off his meds, Air Marshals are being deployed to "counter potential criminal terrorist activity in all modes of transportation". Sheesh. 'Running while Brazilian' is now a capital crime in London, but at least I'm not Brazilian (well, I'm part Portuguese). But at this rate, it won't be too long before 'running while looking like someone not from a red state' becomes a capital crime here. I may soon have to curtail my own 'running around campus' habits. Then I'll be really tardy marty.

    [Dec15'05] With all the discussion lately of hypothetical scenarios about whether it's nobler to torture an about-to-be terrorist who might have information about a ticking nuclear fission bomb capable of killing, say 100,000 people in New York, than to not do it, how about let's consider for a change things that actually happened. About 100,000 civilians similarly innocent to those in a hypothetical New York attack actually *were* killed in Iraq (Lancet study) after an invasion which the Bush and Blair administrations orchestrated on the basis of lies. Let't forget about the primary reason (oil) and just admit that 100,000 people were killed in a pre-meditated way for a lie. Shock and awe and cluster bombs and laser guided bombs and artillery shells are known to kill mostly civilians, whether or not the high-tech attacking country deigns to count the shredded and burned dead people. Given that many people in the US knew before the start of the war that there was a possibility that Bush and Blair might be planning to kill 100,000 people, and that they were probably lying, it looks a lot like a ticking time bomb scenario to me. Hypothetically, could we could have prevented the loss of those 100,000 innocent lives by torturing Bush and Blair? Probably no need to rip out fingernails. Merely enhanced interrogation -- in Syria, for example.

    [Dec16'05] As the public begins to turn against the Iraq war, but still without a conscious realization of the original reason for it -- namely, oil, staring them right in the face -- it's blackly hilarious to read stuff like this or this from the supposed 'left', carefully dancing around the elephant in the room. With our half-a-trillion dollar a year military sitting right on top of the Iraqi oil patch and awfully close to the Saudi and Iran oil patches (which are actually all part of the largest oil-producing region in the world), how on earth could oil *not* rate a mention? Shameful. This is the kind of stuff historians dig up years later to ogle at.

    [Dec18'05] As mentioned above in several posts, the 'only' reason we are losing the war in Iraq is that we haven't actually pulled out the big guns -- like indiscriminate carpet bombing of cities, neutron fission bombs, chemical weapons, or even hydrogen bombs. I have often heard hawks bemoaning the fact that it's not politically correct to simply do the modern version of Carthage on 'them' (cf. Gary Brecher). My worry is that the only thing that has so far stopped the General Turgidsons from doing a country-sized Carthage -- a 10x Vietnam -- is that the US's dominant position has not previously been at risk. However, as a result of the ongoing Iraq disaster, there is a new $100 billion/year drain on the economy, and we still don't have a stranglehold on their oil. Some of this giant firehose of tax money is of course being recycled into the maws of the principal shareholders of the Halliburtons and siphoned off to the Caymans. But much of it is just being spent. As this flesh wound continues to drain blood, the organism will eventually have to bandage it (and not because the populace demands it -- e.g., the most recent NBC poll just after Bush's speeches showed that only 27% of USians were in favor of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq). A weaker and slightly dizzy US is a much more dangerous US. If the situation deteriorates further, the restraints on the General Turgidsons will gradually be loosened. Then the mindless hawks may get what they've been lusting after all these years. And unfortunately for more humane humans, it will probably initially 'work'. Several small mini-nuke fission bombs exploded in a ciy of dark-skinned people will not be horrible enough to make the entire world immediately rise up against us. A small fission bomb (we now have mini-nukes much smaller than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs) might kill 'only' a 500 or 1,000 people -- many less than the 100,000 we've killed using conventional explosives and bullets (and cluster bombs and phosphorus and land mines and depleted uranium rounds, etc etc) in just the past few years of the current Iraq war. And even the 100,000 was only perhaps 1/5 the number killed by the pre-war Iraq sanctions, which were approved year after year by the UN! A small fission bomb would only destroy a portion of a medium-sized city (a city like LA could 'laugh off' a small fission bomb). But once the 'gloves come off' of a weakened, slightly staggered US, a worldwide reaction would eventually develop (uhh, continue to develop). If the rest of the world decides to economically cut us off, bombing them probably won't make them start trading with us again. And our piddly army is way too small to 'invade the world'. But though we have only moderate amounts of natural gas and even less oil left, we still have a lot of coal and iron, and the best farmland in the world and lots water, so even hated and cut off from the rest of the world, we will make a pretty good Gilligan's island (probably more like 'KKK island') for a while, until the battery runs down. As Jorge Hirsch recommends, we should discuss these things -- unpalatable as they may be -- more frankly, out in the open. Do we want to live on KKK Island or do we want to behave like grownups? Though there is a certain black pleasure in imagining the desparate yahoos here clamoring to find somebody who still actually knows something to help them pick of the pieces of industrial civilization after a partial collapse, I would rather have it not collapse in the first place. And anyway, the yahoos won't just be "clamoring" -- they'll have us all at gunpoint. Here's hoping we can get through March 2006 without a nuclear attack by the US.

    [Dec24'05] In just two days this week (Tues and Wed), the Fed Repo-injected a total of $38 billion dollars into the US money 'supply'. That's about as much as we spend in 5 months in Iraq or more than the entire NIH budget for a year -- or in other words, a lot of money creation in just 2 days (I know, probably not the units that normal people use to judge amounts of money). Those are close to 9-11-sized injections. M3 (of which repos are just a part) normally grows at a rate of 'only' $1.4 billion a day. Hopefully, it was just a temporary cash-flow problem and not a sign of something bad about to happen. Meanwhile, the average USian mind appears to be not worrying (see the always amazing-to-me graph at pollkatz); a few utterly generic propaganda speeches to hand-picked audiences about how we will actually eventually win the war in Iraq and the approval polls jump discontinuously upward like clockwork -- and this during the week that Iranian fundamentalists won the Iraq elections. Almost 60% of USians now think we are *already* winning. Utterly depressing how propaganda just works. On the positive side, by stopping the continuous approval decline, the need for more extraordinary measures is perhaps temporarily postponed.

    [Jan02'06] Here is where we are importing our oil from these days (in Gb, where yearly US usage is a little over 7 Gb, with over half imported): Canada--1.6, Mexico--1.5, Saudi--1.4, Venezuela--1.3, Nigeria--1.0, Iraq--0.5, Angola--0.4 (note that we don't really get any oil from Iran; China is a main buyer of Iranian oil). Thus, we get about 7% of our yearly oil from Iraq (this constitutes around 1/3 of Iraq's total output). Embezzeler Chalabi was just made permanent oil minister of Iraq a few days ago, ousting the existing minister, who had balked at rapid IMF-mandated increases in fuel prices, in what was described as a coup. It is true that Chalabi got 1% of the vote in the most recent election, so it stands to reason that he should control the oil -- the main cash-generating business in Iraq.

    [Jan03'06] The evidence is now in that the US has increased bombing raids across Iraq by more than a factor of 5 since the summer (500% increase), slaughtering hundreds of civilians in each 'campaign'. Meanwhile, back at home, merry little US war criminals sport their yellow ribbons. I only wish there was a God ("But Mr. God, sir, everybody else was supporting the troops, too!").

    [Jan04'06] Demand for oil shows no sign of letting up, either in the US, EU, or in developing countries. The only place where real demand destruction has occurred as a result of recently increased oil prices is in places like Eritrea, where high oil prices have cleared the streets of cars. Meanwhile, improved recovery methods such as horizontal well terminations have increased the extraction rate of existing well and kept up production. As Simmons and others have been warning for a few years, better extraction technology results in faster fall-off rates when the peak for such a field finally does come. For example, horizontally drilled UK North Sea oil has been declining at an astounding 10% per year -- far faster than the shallow post-US-peak post-1970 decline in older-style US oil production at that time. There is still about half of the oil left in the world, so we are not about to run out next year. However, you'd have to be an economist not to get a shiver down your spine at the thought of 10% per year decline rates running into 10% per year demand increases in the near future. It is true that people slowed down their buying of SUVs with the recent hurricane related gas price increases, but it's going to take a lot more than not buying a few SUVs to fix 10% per year declines. As much as I respect the market as an efficient short-term optimization method, I'm worried.

    [Jan13'06] This picture, which shows Jose Padilla, says a lot. You can see that, in contrast to the ubiquitous Photoshop-darkened perp photos, he is almost as light skinned as his guards. Dressed in an orange terr'ist suit, he is so dangerous, even handcuffed and ankle-chained -- after all he is accused, literally, of 'conspiring to do something to somebody in some other country' (pretty scary boys and girls) -- that both guards have to have headsets on and... kneepads?! Maybe it's a recruitment photo for other wannabe stormtroopers. After all, stormtroopin' for the man is one of the last things to get outsourced, and all that math just hurts your brain anyway...

    [Jan21'06] I've assembled some graphs from Bud Conrad and the St. Louis Fed. They show the cumulative current account deficit and the M3 money supply (the most inclusive) on the same vertical and horizontal scale. The graphs do not look stable in the long term. It should be noted, however, that M3 has been inflating at this same rate this since 1996 (starting before the end of term one of Clinton). And except for a brief respite during the early 1990's (end of Bush1, most of Clinton's first term), M3 was inflating (albeit at a somewhat slower rate) since the 1970's, well *before* the current account deficit ballooned. The M3 graph shows surprisingly little effect of the Clinton-to-Bush transition or 9-11. Also, the cumulative current account deficit took a steep downward turn *before* the end of Clinton's second term and then substantially increased its negative slope with Bush. This resulted in M3 growth and cumulative current account deficit being virtual mirror images of each other. So for the past 10 years, we have been 'printing' electronic money to send over the internet to foreigners' computers, and then, amazingly, they ship actual physical stuff to us in return. I don't see how things can go on like this for too many more years, but it sure is good 'work' when you can get it! :-} However, the Economist has recently 'explained' this by citing a paper by Hausmann and Struzenegger (pdf here), who develop a theory of economic 'dark matter' (hehe -- see critique of that paper here). Is economic dark matter something like naked shorting? Maybe I've underestimated the relation between economics and physics. Physicists have a theory of 'vaccuum energy' whereby complete emptiness is in fact filled with a seething background energy of particles coming into existence out of nothing and disappearing back into the empty void in times so short that energy conservation is not violated. This is a little like money borrowed/created by the Fed -- these dollars are emitted from a vaccuum, you pay interest on them, and then they disappear back into the void when you pay them back. Well, except for the interest. I guess the Fed is more like a black hole where one of the pair of a created-out-of-nothing particles can escape if the pair is created on the event horizon.

    [Jan24'06] Out of curiosity I just googled Roger Boisjoly (cv here), the Morton Thiokol solid booster engineer who tried to stop the launch of the Challenger in 1986 because he thought the rubber O-rings would fail (even more severely than previously) because of the extreme cold. The O-rings were supposed to keep the joints in the solid rocket booster air-tight during their slight flexing during firing (fire resistant putty inside of the O-rings actually took the heat). On the cold day of the explosion, the cold rigid rubber failed to seal, allowing hot gases to burn through the O-rings, the booster support, and eventually the adjoining liquid oxygen fuel tank, which caused it to explode. Boisjoly had refused to sign the launch papers that day because of his reasoned assessment of this risk, despite extreme pressure on him. But he was overruled by a supervisor who was advised 'to take off his engineering hat and put on his management hat' -- which the supervisor had already done. It was rumored that some of the pressure for take-off was that Reagan wanted to talk to the Christa McAuliffe, the "teacher in space" live at his upcoming state of the union address. But no hard evidence of that emerged (Feynman went looking for telephone records but didn't get anything). Boisjoly explained what happened at a Congressional hearing on the diaster. The result was that he was promptly and permanently black-balled from industry. He remade his career as a lecturer on professionalism and organizational behavior -- and on explaining to other people how to recover after your professional career has been ended by doing the right thing. People like this make me proud to be a human.

    [Jan25'06] "Doug [Douglas Barber] was in a traffic jam one day, feeling very vulnerable, and the US units dismounted to clear the traffic jam -- angry and afraid and waving weapons at the civilians -- when a woman in a bus held up her baby for them to see... like that window-sign we see in cars on American highways: 'Baby on Board'. Only she wasn't cautioning other drivers to be careful. She was trying to prevent an armed attack that could kill her child." -- Stan Goff. Classic primate behavior! This is exactly how macaques defuse a tense situation when males are about to fight -- they grab a kid and hold it up. Unfortunately, this only works up close and personal. It's hard for our boys to see the kids when they're on a bombing run for da man, esp. at night. When they *do* see them (sometimes they do get up close and personal), they often end up like Doug. It's intrinsic to the nature of any war and the people who implement it. An equal number of Vietnam vets committed suicide after the war as were actually killed in the war (about 50,000). Unfortunately, a majority of American's still think 'it' is worth the price -- or at least they are willing to let it go on. I think that's mainly because they can't see 'it'.

    [Jan26'06] It's blackly hilarious watching the oil, gasoline, and natural gas prices wobble around in synchrony on theoildrum.com. Gasoline is refined out of some kinds of oil, but it takes time. Natural gas comes out of some oil wells, but is largely decoupled in place, time of extraction, and transport methods. The chance that coupled intraday movements in price of these three commodities reflects something 'real' about production, transport, refinement, or demand seems remote to me.

    [Jan28'06] The polls published in the LA Times and elsewhere suggesting that a majority of Americans support an attack on Iran leave me stunned. As usual, I poorly gauge the man on the street whose pliable sponge-like brain soaks up the nightly newspeak which I don't watch (I should). How did we get here so soon? The stunning irreality of it all! Attacking a country supplying a couple of percent of of the world's yearly oil production to every other industrialized country except the US? While the occupied territories of Iraq are in chaos? While things are so bad on the ground that the US military has doubled its per capita fuel used (by avoiding ground transport) since last year? No prob! Just do Iran! I had been worrying that people are too much like yeast, living in the huge beer barrel of Earth without understanding or having the time to investigate how the purchasing choices they make every day are affecting the entire barrel/Earth. But I was secretly hopeful that the same mind that sometimes makes beautiful words and pictures and music and science might still shine through. No way, baby! Human minds are so weak! The Blitzer puppet injects a handful of words every day: "must. attack. Iran". They don't even have to be in the right order. Stick in a random satellite photo. It doesn't have to be the right one (sometimes it wasn't). Over half the peeps are already convinced and they haven't even brought out the big propaganda guns! People don't even know where Iran is. Doesn't matter. It's enough to fire up the mini-nukes and get the battle-plan drones to do their dirty deeds. The AIDS virus has less than ten genes but it takes over a certain kind of cell and eventually can bring down the whole Leviathan. The 'attack Iran now' meme is only 3 friggin' words! That's like a virus containing 9 base pairs. Maybe language would have been better off it had been comprehension-only, like DNA/RNA/protein. For something completely different, here is Richard Rainwater, a 5 billionaire talking about peak oil: "This is a nonrecurring event. The 100-year flood in Houston real estate was one, the ability to buy oil and gas really cheap was another, and now there's the opportunity to do something based on a shortage of natural resources. Can you make money? Well, yeah. One way is to just stay long domestic oil. But there may be something more important than making money. This is the first scenario I've seen where I question the survivability of mankind. I don't want the world to wake up one day and say, 'How come some doofus billionaire in Texas made all this money by being aware of this, and why didn't someone tell us?'" I hate it when the richies start going all soft and guilty on you. Are they worried about an undersupply of trained servants? An oversupply of villagers with torches? Whatever it is, it's not good.

    [Feb02'06] Isn't there *one* reporter out there that got through high school physics?? Can't *any* of them calculate simple ratios?? The reporting on the state of the union address was worse than what a fifth grader could have done. This isn't rocket science. The US uses about 20 million barrels of oil a day. About 12 million barrels of that (60%) is imported and 2.4 million barrels (20% of imports, 3% of total use) comes from the mideast (mostly Saudi). Reducing our mideast imports by 75% (state of the union speech) therefore means reducing our total oil usage by 1.8 million barrels (2.2%). Then, hilariously, the idea of reducing Saudi imports was withdrawn the day after the speech. Let's put aside oil and batteries and ethanol for a minute to consider the most critical shortage on the horizon -- natural gas. It wasn't even mentioned in the speech. Despite the fact that oil is more depleted worldwide than natural gas, natural gas will be the first truly generally visible fossil fuel problem in North America because it is much harder to transport than oil. When the gas pipeline pressure goes down, increasing the price won't make it go back up if there is not enough gas to put in the other end. That is, it's not like when the Russians recently turned down the pressure in the pipeline to Ukraine to get them to pay more. When shortages come to North America (because of depleting US and Canadian production) it will be a massive shock. Natural gas wells deplete much faster than oil wells (2-4 years), and require constant drilling to keep production up -- that is, until there is no more to drill. To use an odd analogy between energy use and anesthetia, oil is more like barbiturates and natural gas is like isoflurane; it takes a long time to groggily awake from barbiturate anesthesia; but when they turn off the gas, you're awake in less than a minute. Turning back to batteries, hydrogen, and ethanol, the speech contained the usual non sequiturs. C'mon reporters -- call him on it! Better batteries and hydrogen are merely lossy energy storage media -- they do nothing to increase energy *supply*. Finally, there was ethanol, which is potentially a new source of energy. Missouri has mandated that fuel there contain 10% ethanol and it plans to produce even more ethanol from corn than it is already. They are currently producing 0.31 million gallons of ethanol a day using 11% of the state's entire corn crop (info here ). Ethanol has comparable energy density to gasoline (actually 70% the energy density of gasoline but let's say it's the same). We get about 20 gallons of gasoline out of a 42 gallon barrel of oil. Ignoring the other energy-producing stuff we get out of a barrel of oil to be favorable to ethanol, the current Missouri ethanol output is therefore equivalent to 0.015 million barrels a day of oil, or 0.075% (1/1330) of our 20 million barrels of oil daily usage. When the newest Missouri ethanol plants go online, it is prediced that they will use 25% of Missouri's corn crop to produce 0.71 million gallons of ethanol a day or 0.18% of our daily oil gulp. Let's assume that this planned increase in ethanol production (0.4 million gallons a day) goes directly into replacing the called-for-then-retracted-the-next-day 75% reduction in mideast imports. That ethanol, made from 14% of Missouri's corn, would account for only 1% of the planned mideast oil reduction! If 100% of the corn of Missouri was used, it would generate only 8% of the now-retracted mideast reduction suggestion, which is only 0.71% -- less than 1% -- of our total daily oil. A high school student could see some problems here in expanding this to other states, not the least having to do with, uhh, food. Also, none of this takes into account the fact that corn is grown using gasoline- and diesel-powered farm machinery, and fertilizers and pesticides made from oil and natural gas (as opposed to Roman Empire style); and it is turned into ethanol in plants powered by natural gas, and more recently by coal (because natural gas prices recently quintupled). The energy return on energy investment (EROEI) of the state subsidized ethanol from corn process is disputed and hard to calculate, but it is near 1.0 (that is, break even). It could even be negative (Pimentel) -- that is, you use more fossil fuel to produce ethanol from corn it that you get back from it, making burning the fossil fuel directly more efficient. Now, one could complain that a hypothetical switchgrass biodigester using processed cow manure fertilizer (switchgrass typically needs 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre per crop) would have a better EROEI than corn. Perhaps, if you don't believe Pimentel. But it's still way hypothetical. And though switchgrass is better than corn, switchgrass is still basically a photosynthetic plant collecting solar radiation, which has a fixed, low density. Some plants do this a little bit better than others. But we are not going to get 10x corn, or probably even 2x corn. And it's going to be a decade before currently nonexistent switchgrass ethanol plants are scaled up to even the current trivial-with-respect-to-oil size of ethanol-from-corn. And scaled up real big, it would still compete in a big way with food. Not doom and gloom -- just straightforward, sensible-shoes worries about our continued existence. Actions speak louder than words: $0.3 billion promised for alternative energy vs. $100 billion a year actually spent for Iraq occupation -- that's a ratio of 330 to 1. I think the priorities are clear: we have decided to occupy the land around the remaining oil with a trivial token investment in alternative energy.

    [Feb04'06] I was surprised to read in a report on a talk by Steven Jones that even half of that audience -- definitely not a cross section of the population -- had not seen the WTC7 collapse video. I guess that's why MSNBC Tucker Carlson at MSNBC was so adamant about not showing it when he interviewed Jones a few months back.

    [Feb06'06] There was a confusing ethanol puff piece published in Science last week out of Dan Kammen's group at Berkeley that has gotten a lot of publicity (with a front-of-the-magazine 'scientific editorial' by Steve Koonin from BP). The most bizarre graph is in Fig. 2, where it is shown that gasoline has a negative net energy of 0.2 MJ/L (!) while current ethanol production has a net positive energy of around 4 MJ/L (positive, but not that much more than Pimentel's slightly negative net energy value). They arrived at this bizarre 'conclusion' by including the total energy of the input petroleum into the energy 'cost' of gasoline. This totally ignores the fact that we drill for oil so we can make gasoline and get a lot of energy out of it! It *is* true that a small percentage of the retrieved energy is lost in refining. But a huge amount is left! (over 34 MJ/L for gasoline). Subtracting out that huge majority of the remaining energy in the gasoline is just perverse. This is all a matter of deciding where to set the boundaries of the system. Shouldn't the real net energy of gasoline be 34 MJ/L minus the fossil fuels that were used in drilling for oil and producing gasoline from it??? That's definitely not negative (yet!). Then if you want to show that using oil and natural gas and coal to make ethanol is better than using the fossil fuels directly, you would get a net energy calculation that would show something like 30 MJ/L for gasoline (34 minus refining, discovery, and transport) and something similar for natural gas and coal (after conversion into equivalent liquid energy units), and then this would be compared to something like 38 MJ/L for ethanol (that is, the 34 MJ/L previously subtracted out plus the 4 MJ/L net gain). That would put the actual percent net energy gain -- from using oil and coal and natural gas to capture energy from the sun via photosynthsis -- in better perspective. Assuming you believe the positive 4 MJ/L net, then this would be a 1.26x gain in energy over burning the fossil fuels directly. That sounds good, but cost would be huge. To actually retrieve this 1.26 times gain using current methods, we would have to convert all productive agricultural land to ethanol production. As outlined in a previous post, using 100% of the corn in Missouri to generate ethanol would cover only 0.71% of our daily gasoline needs. Thus, to replace all our daily oil with more efficient ethanol, we would need to use the complete corn output of 140 Missouri's). Even with some as yet completely hypothetical switchgrass process that was more efficient in fertilizer, water, land space, soil degradation, planting, harvesting, and processing, I don't think we will ever get close to this coverage since the density of solar radiation, water, and arable land are hard limiting factors -- and we still have to use a lot of water and arable land to grow food (unless you want to just eat the ethanol production leftovers...). So a practical magnification of our energy sources by passing oil, natural gas, and coal through current ethanol production methods is probably more like 1.1 or 1.05 times gain -- again, assuming the positive net gain they calculate for ethanol is correct (almost all of it comes from energy credits for the co-products: dried distiller grains, corn gluten feed, and corn oil). That would cover a few years of current growth in US energy usage. And all of this *completely* depends on having fossil fuels on the input side -- unless you want to plant, water, fertilize, harvest, crush, and cook the corn or switchgrass by hand. Publishing something like this in Science in this form is a political statement, similar to the "don't you scientists worry your little heads about peak oil" article by Leonardo Maugeri last year (disclosure: I knew Dan Kammen when he was a post-doc with Christof Koch when I was at Caltech). link

    [Feb06'06] Here is an example of how the confusing statements in the Kammen article lead to a garbled public translation. A news report describing the Kammen study says: "Producing a gallon of ethanol 'gas' from corn requires 95 percent less petroleum than producing a gallon from fossil fuels, a new study finds." Well, duh. That's because the fossil fuels used to produce ethanol are mostly natural gas and coal, not oil. The Kammen study states that 1.1 units of petroleum are used to produce 1.0 unit of gasoline, while 0.75 units of fossil fuels (0.05 oil, 0.4 coal, and 0.3 natural gas) are used to produce 1.0 unit of ethanol (which is how they got "95% less"). Ethanol could still be a good thing, if you buy the current positive 4 MJ/L net energy calculation (mostly from energy credits for the ethanol coproducts since the energy of the output ethanol is basically equivalent to the energy of the fossil fuel inputs). But the headline is way misleading, esp. when you don't mention that this 4 MJ/L net is riding on top of 30 MJ/L available from both gasoline and ethanol (ethanol is less energy-dense than gasoline but it can be made to burn a little more efficiently). Also, the article fails to point out that you get a similar amount of CO2 from burning ethanol and gasoline; and this end-use CO2 is much more than production-related CO2 (else there would be no point in burning fossil fuels to extract and refine fossil fuels, since the CO2 bascially indexes how many energy-releasing bonds have been broken). It's all a matter of establishing the overall picture before snowing people with irrelevant and misleading details.

    [Feb09'06] A soldier, who was forced to pay for his body armour because a medic threw it out because it was a 'biohazard' (because it was soaked with the soldier's blood), said: "I still love the Army, loved being a soldier and loved my unit". He was refunded after Senator Byrd questioned Army Gen. Peter Schoomaker about it. The former soldier has had seven operations on his arm and still has movement problems and pain. Can you imagine an intrepeneurial corporate CEO making these statements? Me neither. That's why we need more CEO's on the front lines. Our wars would be 'right-sized' in a jiffy.

    [Feb11'06] Here is a list of Bush's proposed program cuts. The AP didn't give a total, but I added it up and it comes out to about 14 billion dollars. All these programs would be cut in order to allow us to continue spending almost $100 billion tax dollars a year for the occupation and bombing of Iraq under false pretenses. C'mon press guys! You need to mention the names of the programs for $14 billion, $100 billion for Iraq (for giant, permanent bases like al-Asad), and "lies" in the same damn article for once. All we have is Helen Thomas, and not one of her wimpy colleagues ever utters a peep in support of this fine old lady for fear of losing their jobs as what? -- court jesters? Is it such a great job?

    [Feb15'06] A Ford Explorer with three people in it is better than three Priuses with one person each. Why should single-person Priuses be able to use the car pool lane?

    [Feb16'06] The military is a major user of fossil fuels. Each of our 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers needs to be filled up every three months with 3 million gallons of jet fuel for the planes it hauls around.

    [Feb21'06] The power goes down in Denver and upstate New York probably because of natural gas shortages, catching Kunstler of all people with his grid down (!); he was heating his house with his stove because his electric furnace igniters didn't work, and none of his phones were usable without electricity. Also, all hell breaks loose in Nigeria's oil patch over the weekend. None of it makes the mainstream media news. Move along, nothing to see.

    [Feb23'06] The money guys have lately been worrying about the "yen carry trade unwinding". This has to do with a very abstract way to 'make' money (indeed!). You borrow Japanese yen at almost zero percent interest and then invest them in US treasuries at about a 3% interest rate gain net. Since Japan's economy has perked up, it is considering raising interest rates, which would make this "carry trade" less lucrative. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around such disparate activities as this, and, say, trying to localize food production. Yet the money guys' "unwinding" could very much affect my food supply, so I try to listen up.

    [Feb28'06] Almost 90% of US troops in Iraq think the war they are implementing is a retaliation for Saddam's role in 9/11. Only about 30% of their loyal 'supporters' back at home think this. The troops also think the war should end. Wrong on both counts.

    [Mar02'06] This year, we used about 30 Gb of oil and discovered 4.5 Gb. That's about 6.5 used to 1 discovered. I've updated my peak oil intro to include more info on global temperature changes.

    [Mar05'06] Our Guantanamo gulag is partly powered by renewable energy (25% of electricity from windmills in windy months). Great. Green torture.

    [Mar06'06] "Making ethanol from corn is a process by which a certain amount of energy in the forms of natural gas and diesel fuel are used to create an equivalent amount of energy in the form of ethanol, with the primary output being money from government subsidies." -- Bob Hirsch.

    [Mar16'06] Bush's approval polls are looking pretty dire; and 43% are currently in favor of outright impeachment. But the last time the approval polls got this low (just after Katrina), all it took was 5 or so speeches to hand-picked audiences (this makes me think of the speech Bush recently had to give in an Indian zoo to avoid the demonstrators...). The 5 or so speeches were then amplified and re-re-re-re-broadcast by the scumbag media to bring Bush back to just over 40% in a few weeks. The lapdog press has now even taken to 'pre-announcing' the next set of Bush speeches about preemption, even before he reads the stupid things. Good show, guys! Worms! The largest airstrikes since the 2003 Iraq invasion are underway today (probably what some of the AC-130's were for), and the speeches/media in the pipeline will probably get robotic North Americans to rise to the occasion. What's all the to-do about 'man the thinking animal'? It makes them so much less cute.

    [Mar18'06] I don't don't know what to think about the Operation Swarmer psyop/photo-op/assault. It is true the US stormed and blew up few houses and killed a few women and children, or rather "collateral", elsewhere (Tikrit), and they dragged off a bunch of men, I mean, "terrorists", from Samarra to the torture prisons, but it is an open question of how widespread the airstrikes were/are. Some Iraqi sites say it's real. The level of mainstream disinfo/BS is so high (the Time article suggesting it was a photo-op/disinfo operation could easily itself be disinfo), trying to be objective makes you feel just a little bit schizo. There are essentially no non-embedded independent Western reporters in the area, so we won't know what really happened for a month or two.

    [Mar20'06] Oil prices had their biggest drop today in 7 months as stockpiles of oil rose to a 7-year high. Those supplies jumped 4.8 million barrels to 340 million barrels. That sounds like a lot. However, we use 20 million barrels a day, so our current supplies are equivalent to 17 days of US usage. That sounds like a much smaller cushion (just in time, man). Of course, it is unlikely that all domestic supply and all imports would be shut down simultaneously, so supplies are no doubt safe for at least a few months. Another thing to consider about the price drop is that the second quarter of each year is normally a quiet time for oil since winter demand fades and summer demand has not yet started. So that's what oil prices are fundamentally driven by: a few months look-ahead. You'd have to be a rabid anti-capitalist to think -- living here on our finite blue sphere -- that it's worthwhile trying to look/plan any further into the future, right?

    [Mar24'06] The flow of idiotic bird flu propaganda continues without stop -- from the regular media as well as the blogs, left and right. Politics and mind control is fundamentally based on the fact that many people can't remember anything but television shows for more than two years. The reason they *can* remember television shows (often used in tests of long-term memory) is partly because they practice with them more. Unfortunately, there are no nightly 're-runs' of recent history -- where an explicit piece of recent history is re-run with a title indicating that this actually happened. Remember SARS? It killed a tiny handful of people, like the currently 'dreaded' bird flu. Then and now, thousands of humans are dying every day from diarrhea and regular old incurable viral and somewhat more curable bacterial pneumonia, and of course, regular non-bird flu. Never a peep about those diseases in the daily effluent -- or anything about SARS. Where did SARS go? Isn't SARS still out there waiting to getcha?? (or West Nile!) Well, maybe they are after all! -- in about 2 more years. Oceania, Eurasia, and East Asia, indeed.

    [Mar27'06] The commentator Westexas had an interesting comment about peak college enrollment at theoildrum.com. The massive building out of the physical plant is sure visible here at UCSD! The peak of US college graduates will probably hit in a few years, right about the time that natural gas really starts spiking in price (natural gas will probably ding us in the US before oil, even though there is more of it left in the world because it's hard to transport). In 5 or 10 years, young academic people are going to be very mad at us (I'm 50). They will have some justification. We should probably should have been trying to control our academic reproduction -- esp. at the graduate level -- for the past few years -- right as the undergraduate boom was occurring. But that wouldn't have made anybody happy (parents, applicants, current undergraduates, current graduate students, campuses, journals, granting agencies), even though it was probably the right thing to do. Currently, things are pretty quite in energyland. But we just had one of the mildest winters on record. Oil has been wobbling around just above $60 for the last few months. When it gets hot in summer, it could really take off (along with natural gas). Right during the stupid election contest between two equally execrable parties. The democrats will be trying to outflank, out-war, out-surveillance, out-Israel, and out-rightwing their republican opponents who will instead be setting up to fix voting machines in key races -- all right when oil and/or natural gas prices hits them both in the face. Great stategies, both of you bozos. Of course, the oil companies *will* be making out like (even fatter) gangbusters when oil goes above $100. Yet, trying to hold their muzzles away from the ever-growing trough of money will unfortunately not make any more oil appear underground or make it take less energy to get the remaining harder-to-get second half out. Also, capitalists and politicians and consumers won't budge on large-scale alternative energy until fossil fuel prices get painful. Higher energy prices will cause many other prices to increase, and may very well increase the price of alternative energy, too. One can hope that those prices won't go up faster than fossil fuel prices. Peak oil *is* a big oil scam; but it's also true. But I always like to end on the positive side. Light rail is being built in *Dallas*. If they can build more light rail in Dallas (and use it to sell houses), they can build a more across the rest of the country, too.

    [Apr11'06] The price of steel, aluminum, nickel, zinc, and copper (and silver and gold) are all going up along with oil (which went above $69 today). All of these have doubled or tripled over the past few years. The cost of energy certainly factors into the cost of other things that require energy to get them (e.g., copper), but it seems hard to believe that all the increased cost of copper comes from the increased cost of energy. So the parallel price runs also probably have to be explained by us starting to run out of copper and other things.

    [Apr13'06] I am worried about the combination of a tepid public response to the Iran nuke leaks/disinfo and upcoming oil supply problems. Though catatonic US-ians have finally begun to dislike the Iraq war (they forgot that they started off perhaps 5 to 1 in favor of it) because it has continued to kill a few of our boy stormtroopers (and thousands of Iraqis every month, but that doesn't matter), dazed slack-jaw CNN-ified US-ians currently support an attack on Iran 48% to 40%. The numbers supporting an attack on Iran are distressingly identical in the UK. In general, people didn't want to send troops (and certainly not their own precious Camerons and Williams), just remote control bombs. How nuanced. With continued saturation coverage of 'Iranian nuke within 16 days' no doubt soon to be followed by 'Iranian nuke here in 15 minutes' (how quickly the sheep forget) by our disgusting state/corporate media/sewer that never even whispers a word about the permanent bases being constructed across Iraq, these numbers will slowly 'improve'. But there is also oil (and gas) trouble on the horizon. Canterell in Mexico (2% of current world oil production) is about to fall off a 40%-decline-per-year cliff; Saudi intimates that it may have peaked; Kuwait calmly announces it has only 5% of total world oil reserves instead of 10% (and nobody burps); the former Soviet Union is near peak; 2006 is shaping up to be another nasty hurricane season; and the rest of the world is already in 'depletion'. The problem I see is that if a plurality of US-ians and UK-ian *already* support an attack on Iran, just think what will happen when they get a little economic shock to their shorts. Things could get Reich-y here in a hurry! The 'whatever' response to torture and imprisonment without trial of darkies is small potatoes compared to what Good Americans might approve under serious economic duress. Intelligent people are beginning to think about getting out ahead of the game, like many did in Germany in the late 30's. But where to go? The UK has an even better surveillance state underway. And the world is a lot more filled up then it was then...

    [Apr15'06] I think that the market is a fine optimizer when the boundary conditions are set right. I don't think they currently are, since environmental costs are not included. But let's set that aside. The main hope is that correct boundary conditions or not, as fossil fuel prices increase, businesses will surely 'innovate'. With respect to fossil fuels and their replacements, however, there are two giant question marks. The first is that as fossil fuel prices go up, they will also drive up the prices of renewables, since renewables are currently exclusively made with fossil fuels (for steel, copper mining, silicon smelting, etc). This may keep the cost of renewables higher than the cost of fossil fuels for a long time. It is also likely to drive up the price of lower EROEI fossil fuel sources like tar sands. Second, as total energy peaks and starts to slowly run down, it will slow down the replacement of fuel inefficient cars, buildings, power plants without carbon sequestration, and more generally, fuel-inefficient city designs. This will make it harder to avoid running down the remaining fossil fuel supplies. A tax on fossil fuels that could be used to develop alternatives before the market gets to them would seem like a good idea. But we are far away politically from being able to implement something like this given how politicians are funded; and there is no political change in sight (Democrats in Congress would not be a political change in this respect). Also, it is obvious that this strategy has led to distortions in the past. Take the case of corn-based ethanol, where a process with a dubious energy-return-on-energy-investment (0.8 to 1.25) exists mainly because of subsidies (N.B.: a lot of energy used in making ethanol goes into boiling the ethanol out of the ethanol-water mixture that is initially generated by fermentation; all the other non-corn processes also first generate an ethanol-water mixture). So it's more new iPods for the time being. Peak oil-ists often talk about all the oil we could save with more efficient cars. But the main way to use less energy is to simply have less people in the world! There is no reason populations can't contract gracefully. Just a few percent a year for a few decades would make a huge difference. It's amazing to me that people don't discuss this more. Instead, they have idiotic discussions about going to live in the woods when most of them have barely been hiking. It all gets hopelessly bogged down when they find out about ticks and Lyme disease (hilarious comments on Anthropik). Why not just try to get everyone to have less babies? It's all good.

    [Apr18'06] Several days ago, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 9 Israeli civilians and injured more, which rightfully made the mainstream news and was rightfully condemned. But over the last three weeks, when Israel rained hundreds of shells a day on civilian Gaza neigborhoods last week (2,000 artillery shells on civilian neighborhoods since the beginning of April), killing 27 Palestinian civilians and injuring more (a college student lost one of her eyes to an Israeli sniper), it wasn't mainstream news. How is an artillery shell more moral than a suicide bomb? Because it's fired out of a computer-aimed gun? Palestinian civilians don't count -- after all, there are no Palestinian civilians by definition: they're all terrorists, even the kids (because they were thinking about becoming terrorists when the shells landed in their house). And besides, the kids have terrorist uncles, so tough luck, for sleeping in a house on the same block, untermenschen -- you don't exist, you're not news.

    [Apr19'06] All but one or two of our Democratic worms are in Congress are digging deep into the soil to avoid mentioning anything about Iran. When you can get them to say anything, they all say they are leaving all Iran options 'on the table', including the US use of nuclear weapons! Disgusting worms. What are they scared of? Cheney? With an approval rating lower than OJ (and even lower than Congress itself)? I wonder what would it take for them to crawl out into the light? There was a peace march sign: "Would someone please give the President a blow job so we can impeach him?" Funny as this is, it wouldn't work! The Democrats would still be hiding under the soil, since it could be anti-gay to denigrate blow jobs. And anyway, Gannon-gate came and went, and Bush is still here...

    [Apr20'06] The US is a TP Nation! The US has about 5% of the world's population, uses about 25% of the world's oil, but 50% of the world's toilet paper (from Amanda Kovattana). The US is Mr. Clean. In other news, two men from Houston were arrested after setting off alarms at a nuclear plant in Pennsylvania. They were carrying $500K in small bills in a bag from Chicago (which they hadn't opened, Big Lebowski style), and dogs detected drugs in their vehicle. They were released without charges. Huh? Finally, a few days ago, Michael Alan "Savage" Weiner said this on Talk Radio Network about Muslims: "They say, 'Oh, there's a billion of them.' I said, 'So, kill 100 million of them, then there'll be 900 million of them.' I mean, would you rather die -- would you rather us die than them?" Hey, that's only 16 holocausts worth. You can go to jail for holocaust denial, but calling for 16 new holocausts is no prob, as long as you are careful to only call for the genocide of Muslims (and despite that fact that Arab Muslims are Semites, it's not even anti-sem itic). This is the same Michael Weiner who once was a beatnik, frolicking nude on the beach with Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti. Why not go back to the beach, guy? It's easier on the women and children (though perhaps not on the eyes at this point).

    [Apr21'06] The Washington Post today had an interestingly titled article by Rick Weiss on climate change: "Climate Change Will Be Significant but Not Extreme, Study Predicts". He explains that the most extreme of the climate change predictions (more than 11 deg F increase this century) have only a 5% chance of being correct and that the most likely outcome is about 5 deg F. This is not news. This has, in fact, been the mainstream scientific consensus for the past decade (not counting the musings of that famous 'climate researcher' and sometime presidential science advisor, novelist Michael Crichton). The story, however, coyly fails to mention that a 5 deg F change is close to the difference between no glaciation (where we are now) and glaciation, except that it will be added onto no glaciation, making the globe hotter than it has been in millions of years. Half full or half empty, I guess. This reminds me of oil prices, which are constantly 'easing' but somehow always end up higher than a few months ago. Today, they 'eased' their way up to $75 (from $73 yesterday). Yergin was hauled out of storage; and the Economist put out its yearly 'there is plenty of oil article'. Finally, I was a bit worried to read an article by John Dean suggesting that there might be a synthetic terror event to win elections or justify an attack Iran. My worry was tempered by his mention of the possibility of a bin Laden capture October surprise. That would be a smelly surprise indeed, since OBL's probably been dead since 2001 (it is true they could capture a lookalike, and how would we ever know?). Sniffing the web for the last few days, there seems to have been a slight pull back with respect to an Iran attack. Dean is correct that a new synthetic terror would change that in a hurry.

    [Apr26'06] There was a sort of article in Newsweek by Michael Hirsh introducing the sheep to the idea of permanent Iraq bases, though these were only 10-years-permanent, and then only for attacking other places as opposed to mere occupation -- how comforting. On a completely different note, a while back I read and linked an article by Rob Kirby called "Pirates of the Caribbean" about debt buying. I don't think I really explicitly understood what he was saying. I think the idea is that the Fed creates money and then somehow transports it to 'offshore' Caribbean banks, who then use the created money to buy American debt. I think the problem I had was understanding the meaning of "using created money to buy debt" -- the first time you read it, it's just nonsensical. Recently, it appears that UK has taken over from the 'pirates' who have not even been keeping up with Saudi, much less China and Japan. Here is the clearest, shortest article I've ever seen on the Fed, repos, and fractional reserve banking.

    [May02'06] Bush's popularity is at its lowest ever (about 33%) and yet the spineless Democratic worms can't even vote against the ridiculous Iran resolution. What unbelievable cowards! What would it take for them to vote against Bush? If a crowd of villagers stormed the White house, d'ya think they might finally 'revolt'? It's stuff like this that makes me thing the boat really is going down. As Michael Donnelly writes below, this is not a new thing: The Democrats only finally voted to end funding for the Vietnam war in 1975, several years after the generals had already ended it! The main reason the peace movement consists largely of a bunch of fossilized anybody-but-Bush oldies is that there is so far no draft (not mentioned by Donnelly, despite the fact he was a Vietnam conscientious objector). That might change with a few more back-to-back wars, though.

    [May07'06] James Hamilton (econbrowser.com) presents the case for possibly lower oil prices (new fields coming online, price-driven reduction in demand). Some small price drops are not out of the question. I just wonder what will happen to child-like Americans when the price inevitably starts to go back up. With Cantarell going off a cliff and Ghawar soon to follow, Venezuela having to buy oil from Russia (!?), the use-to-discovery ratio running at 6:1, a price rise seems likely by years end -- even if the lunatics in currently charge decide not to attack Iran. Then, who will tell Americans, that even after getting rid of the porker from Exxon, oil prices may still not go down because there just isn't enough oil left given how many people are using it? Certainly not the Republican here's-a-hundred-dollars rats or the Democrat let's-drop-gas-taxes mice. This will require an adult discussion of how to negotiate our lifestyles, which is *completely* out of the question given our current system. Unfortunately, not discussing it won't make the problem go away.

    [May09'06] Kyle has some great tidbits on biodiesel at the oildrum today. Dynoil is planning to build a 1.5 billion gallons a year biodiesel refinery in Houston. The main type of input oil is soybean oil. The current US production of soybean oil is 2.5 billion gallons/year, so this plant will consume 60% (!) of that total. For comparison, our yearly use of gasoline is about 150 billion gallons a year (10 million barrels a day refined from 20 million barrels of oil a day). So... 60% of our total soybean oil will generate, uuh, 1% of our daily liquid fuel gulp? Well, I never really did like tofu or veggie burgers that much... A ways down, Robert Rapier points out that the price of ethanol -- even subsidized, as ethanol has always been -- moves in lockstep with oil (and always higher than oil). This is because the EROEI of ethanol is close to 1.0 (mainly because you have to distill a water/ethanol mixture to get the ethanol out), and is an excellent illustration of my repeatedly expressed worries above about the problem that all 'renewables' are currently made with fossil fuels.

    [May12'06] Well now it looks like Rove might go down for some stupid Watergate-like Plame-related idiocy. This would be like getting rid of Nixon for a two-bit break-in instead of getting rid of him for slaughtering an extra million or so South east asians. But the worst part is that as all the pukes still left in the current administration start to get a little fidgety, they might consider doing something really rash. As much fun as it is to look at Pollkatz and see Bush's numbers going below 30%, the latest dip is making me a little queasy. Where are those life-style-non-negotiating, richie-loving, gas-guzzling, anti-evolutionist glass-half-full backwash kinda guys when you need them?

    [May21'06] The predicted Rove indictment didn't happen, which was obvious by May 15 when Rove went on conspicuous parade instead of hiding. Initially, it seemed like it might be a classic Rove stunt (leak disinfo, then out it), but other people have speculated that Gonzales was involved in actually stopping Fitzgerald or that Rove has turned state's evidence. It certainly is strange that Joe Wilson might have have been Jason Leopold's source for the indictment story. It's bad to ever underestimate these guys. Also, bad to overestimate US-ians. Though Bush's approval numbers are low (around 30%), Kerry, Gore, and Hillary's number are *all* slightly lower (!). One wonders what Bush would have to do for US-ians not to prefer him.

    [Jun14'06] The DOD has instituted a de facto ban on all new wind power installations in the because they might affect nearby radar bases. Really bright.

    [Jun19'06] The pollkatz graph never ceases to amaze. The sizeable Zarqawi uptick is now visible. The sudden upticks were, in order of size: 9-11, invade Iraq, capture Saddam, post-Katrina road show, and Zarqawi (the 2004 election campaign was the only slow upslope of 5 percentage points total; it was expensive and the whole thing was smaller than Zarqawi). In the absence of a stunt, the downward slope is relatively constant at 2 percentage points loss per month. That would put him at zero in a year and a half. A new stunt will be needed before the year is out.

    [Jun30'06] I laugh when I see the latest 'bin Laden' tape talking about 'Zarqawi', but sometimes I think the joke's on me, because nobody else seems to be laughing.

    [Jul03'06] Jokes on me again (second 'bin Laden' tape). Polls have now recovered to near post-Katrina-road-show levels.

    [Jul09'06] The cost of producing oil from oil sands has sextupled in about 6 years. A little more of this and making oil from oil sand will become uneconomic, even with high oil prices (currently about $74/barrel). The likely cause of this is that higher energy costs have increased the cost of obtaining energy from a low EROEI (energy return on energy investment) resource. The point at which oil sands reach EROEI = 1.0 (i.e., no longer be an energy source) may be closer than some think. It is likely to occur long before the 'reserves' are depleted. It is a cruel joke to call EROEI-less-than-1.0 things 'reserves', though I suppose they are the best kind -- ones that you can never deplete...

    [Jul17'06] A senior State department official said today: "I don't expect there's going to be any requirement for the United States forces" in Lebanon to defend Israel. I wonder exactly what forces he had in mind? This is beginning to sound a little draft-y. Of course, we could just rubble-ize whatever hasn't been rubble-ized yet, and this wouldn't require additional non-existent ground troops. Also, it wouldn't be terrorism because countries with air forces are by definition incapable of terrorism and only carry out strikes with "surgical precision" -- which translates to "strikes requiring surgery without anesthetic or electrical power".

    [Jul26'06] When I was younger, I read a lot of history in addition to science. I always found it incredibly depressing. Sure there were uplifting bits about nice buildings, but it was impossible to ignore the constant wars, genocides, tortures, enslavements, and the towering, ubiquitous inequality (I have no problem with having 5 or 10 times as much, but having 1000 times as much is simply obscene to me, and it will always be). Back then, I still had a feeling that despite all that, an alternate human social organization might be possible where things could be better -- less violent, more equitable. And I still get a tear in my eye when I see a wonderful musical performance or read a finely written-down idea. At moments like those, I am briefly proud to be a human. But taking the whole human picture into consideration -- on the threshold of peak energy and impending irreversible, catastrophic climate change -- humans and language have been a disaster for the planet and for themselves. Here at the acme of civilization, overweight humans take an SUV to the exercise place to watch Wolf Blitzer talk to some minister of propaganda on a flat screen in a not very stylish building. This is this high point of language and the primate brain! I am not proud to be human. When human animals first accidentally acquired the increased power of language and linguistic thought, which led eventually to dominion over other animals, plants, minerals, rivers, shoreline, and oceans, there was no requirement that things work out in the end. If history is a guide, the hotter, drier, lower-energy road ahead is likely to be pretty rough. It might work out, or it might not. If it doesn't, it won't be a tragedy.

    [Jul27'06] Well, now that Floyd Landis has tested positive for doping (testosterone), I should probably revise my calculation on theoildrum (based on his measured wattage) of how much human power there is in a barrel of oil... :-}

    [Aug09'06] Creepy Palast goes on his usual bait and switch on the Alaskan pipeline shutdown and peak oil. Sure, the pipeline inspectors were a little lax in their inspections and some repairs were postponed. But the widespread problem appears to have been caused by a complicated, unexpected turn of events. Insiders suggest that increased acetate from water in the oil and lower flows interacted to lead to the development of sulfide-generating metal-corroding bacteria (see theoildrum.com). Acetate feeds the bacteria and lower flows of lower grade (more viscous) oil allow them to stick to the pipe and then build up a protective coating so they can do their anaerobic work. This doesn't prove that peak oil is an oil company scam. In fact, the problem was *due* to depletion! The acetate is from sea water injected to fix declining well head pressure and the lower flows and lower grades are because the oil field is past its peak. Of course the companies were trying to get away with as little maintenance as possible. But I highly doubt a complete pipeline shutdown was planned, even if the expected result would be a temporary few percent bump in oil prices. And it is not clear whether it would have been more efficient (in terms of not disturbing oil prices) to shutdown the pipeline multiple times for smaller repairs. Finally, spilling all that ink over a temporary interruption in 0.5% of world oil production (Prudoe) distracts attention from the much more serious permanent problems at Ghawar (~5% of world total oil plus more in 'gas liquids') and Cantarell (~2% of world total oil plus more in gas liquids), which never make the news (or appear in Palast's articles).

    [Aug12'06] Given (1) all the lies about previous terror scams (e.g., random Brazilian guy executed by UK secret police in the tube, Florida dummies, fake NY tunnel bomb), (2) the biggest lies of all that convinced John Q Idiot to donate half a trillion of his hard-earned dollars to occupying and destroying Iraq, and (3) the obvious boost to the sociopaths in charge, why would anyone with half a brain believe any of the load of cr*p that is being shoveled out at us about 'liquid explosives'? That said, it truly was genius to do it in the UK, where the population is slightly less out of it than here and Blair is floundering with internal party desertions, but then still use it to make all Americans dump out their orange juice, lipstick, toothpaste, and laptops. Genius. If people keep uncritically swallowing all this bullsh*t without making fun of it or asking hard questions, another real event could lead us down the slippery slope real quick. The purpose of these events and the coordinated media Blitzer is to train people to become subservient slaves. Use it or lose it (your mind).

    [Aug13'06] Liquid explosives and Hezbollah have been linked -- by being used in the same sentence by Bush. C'mon you human monkeys! Use the gift of language. Are we not men? Because some were deceived last time is an excellent reason to think ahead this time.

    [Aug17'06] The terror alerts are getting more cartoonish, but I'm worried that not enough people are laughing. Two days ago, a woman on a London-to-D.C. flight was so dangerous (she was said to be carrying a screwdriver, matches, a note from al Qaeda, and a jar of Vaseline), that her London-to-D.C. flight had to be escorted by two fighter jets to Boston. Fox said she was Middle Eastern. Then yesterday, she was a woman from Vermont having a panic attack (the screwdriver, matches, and al Qaeda note had disappeared). One wonders who that stuff in the story in the first place? Could it be... Satan? Today, she turned out to be a 59 year old mentally ill woman who urinated on the floor when the flight attendants made her use a different bathroom (terr'ist training is sure going down the tubes these days). I suppose we should be grateful she wasn't shot to death. Also yesterday, women were warned not to wear gel bras when they fly (in addition to not urinating on the floor, I suppose). Sounds funny, but read some of the comments on the bra story. Half the people are just about ready to bring on cavity searches. Perhaps we need these lie detector sunglasses (this company can detect "love" too) or this lie-detector booth. Since these are at least 85% accurate according to the companies, that should only have the airport goons working over a couple of hundred thousand hapless non-white travelers a day. All to make the the rest of us safer (I guess the fact that Aldrich Ames passed all his lie dectector tests is irrelevant). What is wrong with you, Americans? Can't you see where this is going? Several people in the bra story comments mentioned the possibility of explosive breast implants. Clearly, this means that only men and extremely flat-chested women should be allowed to fly since "it will make us safer". Well, penile implants are actually extremely common (one of the most common operations, up there with by appendectomies). OK, so maybe just castrated, thin, senile, naked old men that made it out of the Israeli-made Cogito1002 lie-detector booth without cracking a sweat because they couldn't remember the questions... (and since the bathrooms will be locked, everybody gets adult diapers).

    [Aug22'06] Today, there is a terr'ism drill on campus with helicopters circling even lower than they would in a bad neigborhood (normally we only hear fighter jets taking off from the nearby military airfield). This was presumably so they could better see the terr'ists under every bed. In the UK, Blair is so unpopular, and Labor so pusillanimous, that the moribund Tories are finally ahead of Labor in the polls. In Israel, Netanyahu is about to come back after the IDF, which had gone soft in their daily job of humiliating and terrorizing Palestinians, actually ran into somebody who could fight back. Netanyahu could be stopped if Olmert manages to start another bombing campaign. In the US, the Iraq war is the most unpopular it has ever been, but the daily bogus terror follies has actually given Bush's polls an uptick (vs. in the UK, where Reid's and Labour's fake terror gambit seems to have penalized Labour). Life sucks all around.

    [Aug25'06] I get tired of reading about 100 mpg 'cars'. The amount of force it takes to push a car through still air at 60 mph is not going to change because the price of oil goes up or Vinod Khosla decides to skim off some tax subsidies by investing in almost-energy-neutral ethanol plants. Sure, you can make a 'car' that has racing bike tires pumped up to 150 psi that looks like a giant roach standing two feet off the ground that can get 100 mpg. But there will never be a real car that will get 100 mpg -- if by a 'car' you mean something that is big enough to hold 4-5 people sitting up, plus some cargo. Of course, we *already* have vehicles that get *200* mpg per passenger -- trains (this is because of less wind resistance and steel-on-steel wheels). The practical limit for a real, affordable 4-person capable car is around 50 mpg (which is about what the aerodynamic, lightweight, high-tire-pressure, small-engine Prius gets in real life).

    [Aug30'06] After having the JonBenet guy shoved down our throats for weeks, it turns out he didn't do it, so forget that, and on to an unsightly polygamist. Teevee -- an open corporate sewer that pours right into your brain. Forget about peak oil, forget about climate change, forget about WWIII, lookie here at this Mormon. While the rubes are are catatonic and drooling, the federally funded Dr. Strangeloves are hard at work on the 'Terminator' gene technology. Monsanto just bought the seed company, Delta & Pine Land, that has been working on this technology with the USDA for several decades. The basic idea is to create a biotech version of a hybrid -- that is, a viable plant that produces edible seeds, but seeds that won't germinate -- so you have to buy new seeds every year. In Europe, instead of using hybrids to keep people from saving seeds, there are laws to protect breeder's rights (US 'hybrid vigor' is a PR crock). People have saved seeds since the dawn of agriculture (it's nature's way after all), and they still do so in most countries of the world (e.g., India, Europe). The Terminator gene is nothing more than a (potentially) more general way of making any plant produce non-germinating seed -- a peculiarly American obsession. It would be a bad idea, even if the world *wasn't* on the threshold of world food problems, with climate-change-induced droughts killing off Midwest crops (dust-bowl-like conditions in Nebraska this month), grain surplusses at twenty year lows, and depleted aquifers and reduced snowmelt threatening future water shortages and conflicts. There could be a world of pain on the horizon as oil- and natural-gas-fueled industrial agriculture (fertilizer, cultivation, processing, transport) begins its slow and potentially catastrophic descent. Instead of doing something useful, we've got a bunch of evil nincompoops spending our tax dollars for several decades trying to figure out how to put 'copy-protection' into the plants that we eat, so that Monsanto, Bayer Crop Sciences, Syngenta, and DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred International can spread the joy of sterile food crops to the rest of the world (i.e., China or India or Brazil) and protect the investments of these wonderful companies (who also just happen to make the Roundup that 'goes well together with' Roundup-Ready genetically modified food crops). The whole scheme is revealed as a scam because the performance of GM food crops is actually no better or slightly worse than non-genetically-hacked crops. It's like a bad sci-fi movie -- except that these sickening suicidal sociopathic drones currently control the world. Ignore all the crap about the genius of capitalism. This is the genius of class war, pure and simple -- their going right for your food.

    [Sep14'06] The capital expenditure per barrel of oil produced per day from deep water wells (like the new 'Jack' discovery in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico) is about *thirty times* that of the shallow water wells that include almost every every other well in the Gulf of Mexico. The reason is the distance from the shore (175 miles -- right in the middle of where hurricanes are the biggest), the deep water (7,000 feet), and then the deep hole into the seabed: the Jack #2 hit oil at 20,000 feet below the seabed. This is below the usual 'oil window' which is 7,500-15,000 feet below the earth's surface; as a result of the depth, the oil is very hot (390 degrees, Fahrenheit) and at very high pressure (20,000 psi). Dealing with all this is expensive. For example, Chevron has invested an estimated $1 billion in its 'Blind Faith' project (cool name, eh?) that is expected to yield 30,000 barrels per day. The fact that companies are willing to go after such expensive oil is perhaps the best evidence that oil has indeed peaked. Meanwhile, take a look at these remarkable statements by Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne, who wants to test non-lethal crowd control weapons on American crowds. The incredible reason given is so that there won't be an outcry from peecee whiners in the 'world press' when we start using them on the untermenschen (we haven't been?). Together with a recent pictorial in Vogue Italia showing us police state as fashion statement, I'm, like, thinking, first they came for the super-models, but I didn't say anything because I wasn't, like, a super-model (pace Pastor Niemoller).

    [Sep17'06] Only one out of ten people on the planet currently drive cars. That number will begin to be *reduced* as oil passes its bumpy peak in the next ten years. Despite all the squawking in the business press over the temporary drop in oil prices last week, a one-week or one-month or one-year drop in oil price is going to do precious little to change the amount of oil remaining in the ground that is easy enough to get to that more energy is released from burning it than you use up getting it out. Even Econobrowser thinks the recent price drop is partly due to a demand reduction indicating economic distress, not a result of an increase in supply. 50 years from now, it will be patently obvious how ridiculous it is to *drive* to the *exercise* place.

    [Sep20'06] Well, pollkatz' poll collection has spoken. By confiscating lipstick, coffee, and hand lotion, by making a new fake bin Laden tape (he's dead, Jim), and by pasting the public with endless idiotic 9-11 festivities, Bush's polls numbers have experienced a definitive uptick -- of almost the same amplitude as the one from Zarqawi. Sometimes I just hate our stupid animal brains, despite all my efforts to study them. Looking over what I wrote above just before both of these upticks, I predicted there would have to be some kind of stunt to keep Bush from going below 30%. As always, I failed to appreciate just how *cheap* effective stunts can be. I hate to think of what would happen if there was (another) expensive one! (it's not facism when we do it).

    [Sep23'06] Sure seems like an attack on Iran may be moving forward once again. If Bush moves to attack, there will be little opposition from mostly pro-Israel Democrats, just as was the case with Iraq. There isn't a peep of antiwar protest here. I agree with JoAnn Wypijewski that the 9-11 black t-shirt people have functioned to some extent as a distraction (esp. the Pentagon no-plane people), but not with the idea that the topic is unimportant -- after all, 9-11 is being re-used for the third time -- Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Iran. Who benefits? The truly Reich-y feeling I got here during the original Iraq invasion will come back with a vengence if Iran is bombed. Right now, instead, I just feel like people are tired and worried about the economy and housing prices (as we are!). But that could change. An Iran strike would almost surely be a big hit to the economy, and the resulting fear and loathing could easily be used to power more rapid moves toward a police state here and in the UK. I like Alexander Cockburn with his snappy writing style and all. He doesn't think an attack on Iran will happen. But then, he doesn't believe in global warming and thinks that peak oil is just an oil company plot. Sure it's an oil company plot; but the fact that we used up about half of the world's oil and that our current rate of usage is the highest ever is also *really* important -- much more important -- for the future of industrial civilization than a few fatted oil company executives (read some damn geology and www.realclimate.org, Alexander) or some professional traders getting rich (or losing their investor's shirts) on preposterously rapid swings (relative to the underlying geology) in commodity prices.

    [Sep30'06] The Congress' latest legislation about secret detention and torture without trial defines an "enemy combatant" as anyone who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." That's awfully general. A lot of what I have written above could be construed as hostile to some Americans in the United States -- like the ones that have spent 500 billion of our tax dollars to slaughter people in Iraq. All joking aside, this is an extremely dangerous law that sets aside habeas corpus and makes it possible to detain and 'disappear' anybody without public due process. It is somewhat stupefying to think that Bush's success in ramming this through will benefit the Republicans and Bush because it returns the emotional focus to fear and submission. The current polls suggest that only 20% of Americans approve of the way the current Iraq war is being run, but an additional 33% approve of it 'if a new strategy were used' (if it were Kerry-ified). So that means that a majority approve; Less than half disapprove. This is quite amazing, considering the actual 'facts on the ground' and is omninous with respect to a possible attack on Iran, which in older polls cited above was even more popular than the Iraq war.

    [Oct04'06] Foley says he wrote the dirty love emails (and had cyber sex while voting on the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriation for Iraq in 2003) because he was molested by clergy. So to fix this, he resigned and checked himself into an alcohol rehab run by Scientologists (better clergy?). Sounds like Frank Zappa. And how do we know that he's not lying to cover up the fact that he was actually molested by conjoined Amish twins? (oh, mercy). The great majority of child molesters are heterosexual but this isn't useful Repug spin. Teehee. While this hallucinogenic circus goes on, out of view of the news, 17 US soldiers were killed in Iraq from Saturday to Tuesday, and 263 other humans were killed in Iraq Tuesday -- all in just one day. Amazingly, Bush's poll numbers have continued their rise from his all time low in May 2006, which was partly due to a spike in gas prices, which are now easing. Unlike gas prices, sex scandals have no affect on an already-made-up Republican mind. In fact, I fear that Republicans may not lose control of either house of Congress if enough media chaff is blown into the air in the next few weeks. For example, alert viewers noticed that on Tuesday, Foley was repeatedly listed as a Democrat on Fox 'News' O'Reilly Factor. Kewl Rove effect. Americans sure are cheap dates -- the 'laughing terrorist' tape released last week was already in US possession at the end of 2001 as explained (!) by expert Evan Coleman on NBC "Ladies and gentlemen -- this is a psyop; do not attempt to adjust the controls; we control the vertical". Of course, depending on how pesky those daily polls look, some stronger medicine may be required, but I doubt it will be needed. I suppose the thing that depresses me the most is the leisurely mechanical way in which policy works. For example, the "Salvador option" for Iraq was announced by John 'Death Squad' Negroponte almost two years ago (see above). Now we see its full expression.

    [Oct05'06] Drudge explains today that the "naughty emails" were just a prank. Works for me. An 'insider' responding to Drudge said it couldn't be a prank but insisted on anonymity. It worked for him/her, too!

    [Oct07'06] There is a useful book "Where There is No Doctor". But that's a little premature. First we need "Where There is no iPod" (yes, I own an early model). It is insane to be spending $100 billion a year to make a shambles of Iraq instead of spending $100 billion a year on upgrading non-car transport, given predictions about near future oil production. Why do people look at you dirty for trying to plan ahead? Why is it considered immoral and anti-business to even think about planning more than 1 year into the future?

    [Oct09'06] Bush's polls took about a 5% hit from PageGate. But I think the NK test may reverse that and resume the upward trend stimulated by low gas prices over the past few months. We will have to wait for another week to see. The aircraft carrier Eisenhower and its escort set sail for Iran a week ago and will get there around October 21. That's seems a little small for an Iran attack. Perhaps the attack has been put off until after the election.

    [Oct20'06] What's up? The continuing Pagegate dribbles suggest some kind of internal squabble amongst the ruling junta. I had expected that the neocon Republicans would have been pushed out years ago in favor of equally pliant Clinton-style 'Demopublicans', but I was mistaken. But now that it looks looks like they may finally be on the ropes, I'm not sure I am looking forward to the alternative. The 'I can't believe it's not torture' Military Commissions Act sailed through with hardly a comment. Most Democrats voted against it, but Hillary voted for it. It is worth noting that the people who are probably doing the pushing in Pagegate are the same people who book rendition flights to Syria. The Foley follies may have served a dual purpose as both house-cleaning as well as a smokescreen for the creeping police state.

    [Oct25'06] The news that ethanol producers are being hurt by the recent drop in oil prices fills my brain with a weird feeling that combines ennui and disgust. Ethanol from corn is a pretty stupid idea since currently you have to put in about 4-5 units of fossil fuel to get 4-5 units of ethanol plus 1 energy unit worth of brewers grains (fermentation leftovers -- yum). This is mostly because it takes a lot of energy to distill the ethanol-water mixture generated by fermentation. It's obviously not practical to scale up an EROEI = 1.2 to 1.25 process that much, even ignoring the cost to soil fertility and water supplies. And as soon as the market for brewer's grains saturates, you'd end up with an energy break-even (EROEI = 1.0) process. But the news that ethanol is taking a beating because of a few weeks dip in oil prices strikes me as absurd -- even given that ethanol from corn is a very bad idea. This is how we plan to power our fine civilization? Changing our plans on the roll of an oil hedge fund's dice? What insanity! Even Vinod Khosla -- so recently a major ethanol booster -- has suddenly turned against it this week. Imagine if people treated infrastructure like roads this way. Luckily, roads are harder to tear up that quickly. Besides, they will eventually make fine bicycle paths if we can get a hold of them before road maintenance goes away :-}

    [Oct29'06] The elections are almost upon us. The Democrats have graciously promised to continue the war in case they 'win' (gee thanks, you disgusting worms). But it has been apparent for over a month that a pre-election Saddam surprise was being planned. It is a testament to the power of government-corporate media that things like this can be planned in advance, basically in public, *but they work anyway* -- even with the internet. The 'bin Laden' tape shown a few days before Nov 2004 election (plus a little vote machine fraud) was all that was needed back then. It is true that Bush himself couldn't win now because he is about 13 points below when he was at breakeven in Nov 2004. But the Republiworms still might survive the midterms with a little help from the Saddam verdict, the ongoing counter-barrage of sex dirt, and another 'bin Laden' tape. From an anonymous comment by "w" at informationclearinghouse: "Oh, how I love the smell of human nature in the morning"...

    [Nov02'06] Boy, the rats are really leaving the sinking ship! Bechtel, Halliburton and Kroll are exiting Iraq after prying their mouths loose from the money spigot. And redundant scumbags Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens get on Paula Zahn and say they oppose Bush and the war without mentioning how, when it counted in the run-up to war, they supported it all the way. It's skin-crawlingly embarrassing to watch. The likely bill for the Iraq war will come in at at least 1 trillion dollars. That would have paid for about 3 years of total US oil imports (15 billion barrels of oil at 75 dollars a barrel). We certainly have not managed to steal anywhere near that much oil. Total Iraq production numbers are unreliable, but is likely to have been less than 2 billion barrels of oil total since the war started. I have always suspected that the chaos was part of the plan to keep the oil in the ground for when the crunch really starts to hit in a few years. Conventionally, Iraq's reserves are thought to be around 100 billion barrels, though this is after the mid-80's doubling of reserves when oil prices crashed. If the real reserves are closer to 50 billion barrels, then we could have just bought everything remaining for 3 trillion, and nobody would have gotten hurt. The permanent bases and the biggest embassy in the world are still under construction, so it is hard to believe the war is over yet. I'll believe that the US is leaving when *those* construction projects (as opposed to electricity and sewage for Iraqis) end. If we stay for a while longer, the total cost easily get up to 3 trillion.

    [Nov08'06] Well, the most expensive midterm election in history ($2.8 billion dollars) is over and looks the Democrats have taken the House, partly because opposition to the war is growing and partly out of disgust. The news sites all mention the war, but not the fact that a number of the gained seats are occupied by pro-war Democrats, courtesy of Democrat master planner, Rahm Emanuel (though his pro-war war-injury wheelchair candidate lost). So the war will go on for the foreseeable future. Phased redeployments will occur. That means staying. The Democrats may end up devoting *even more* resources and troops to the war, to 'do it right'. I'm sure that the Iraqis would have liked us *so* much better and would have been happy to have us steal their oil if only our troops had had better body armour, and if we had only used more robot drones to sneakily blow them up at night instead of shooting them in their beds up close and personal, and if all our troops got counseling for PTSD not only after but also *before* slaughtering families. Riiight. The Democrats do have a problem, though -- if they don't make *some* kind of antiwar noise, they may be back out the door soon. It should be interesting seeing the centrist neocon-like core of the Democratic party trying to weasel their way around this one. They will have to repeatedly explain their votes to pay for the continued occupation -- since we can't leave all that oil just sitting there 'unprotected', can we? -- yet they will have to explain every time that the war it is just about to end, any minute now, and that it's all Bush's fault. Iran fired a large number of surface-to-air missiles in a test and the US armada in the Persian gulf seems to have temporarily backed off. Perhaps that Iran tests had something to do with the back down.

    [Nov11'06] The U.S. armed services have requested a staggering $160 billion supplemental appropriation to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan just for the second half of fiscal year 2007. For context, this half-a-year request is roughly 10 times what we spend in half a year on all biomedical research in this country. This request is on top of the half a trillion or so appropriated for 'defense' each year. Way to go, America. Thank god we no longer have to fight this war 'on the cheap', Rumsfeld-style, since he's gone, right?

    [Nov13'06] I have begun to curb the misanthropy that can sometimes well up when I read that the best way to fix finite energy, water, soil, and food resources in the face of growing human population and growing human demands is to keep on buying *even more* things in order to help creative businessmen innovate. If only *even more* plasma screens could be bought on credit, our cunning businessmen would be able to make *even more* money, which would help them to solve the peak oil problem for us (we don't have to do anything ourselves -- just buy), because that's why we pay them the big bucks. Instead of letting my brain react to this crap as if it had smelt something bad, I am learning in my old age that it's better to take complete control of my mind, sit back, and watch the river flow. One or two billion people are just starting to slowly and desperately creep northward in search of water and food. In a decade or two, more will moving faster. The northerners will try to keep them out. Eventually, cars and roads and chip fabs will begin to be abandoned. Some humans may embrace earlier patterns of living. It's neither bad or good, beautiful or ugly. They don't call us Baby Doomers (from Jas Jain) for nothing!

    [Nov17'06] Hoyer (pro-Israel, liberal, hawk) crushes Murtha (conservative, ABSCAM-swift-boated, antiwar, former Marine) for House Democratic majority leader in a secret vote. Standard labels sure are strange these days. Matt Barganier wrote on antiwar.com a few days ago, "Here's a plan: leave". But now that the election is safely over, the mainstream media blitz against withdrawal has reached a new screeching crescendo to make it clear why now we have to spend more than twice as much on Iraq (the latest *half-year* extra-for-Iraq request will be for $125 to 160 billion!) and send 20,000 more troops on top of the 150,000 already there. As usual, I'm amazed by how pliable the public is. While Al Franken is distracting the proles with his stupid victory dance on Colbert, the war is *escalating* (in order to end it, of course). The rats are boarding the new ship. A great election victory! How Orwellian.

    [Nov22'06] The 'I can't believe it's not apartheid' Dems have jumped over themselves to rebut the title of Jimmy Carter's new book. The destruction of the two-state solution has left only the one-state solution (or the final solution for Palestinians, a la Avigdor Lieberman). The eventual one-state solution will simply be a public recognition of the 'facts on the ground' -- the shelled bombed walled Bantustan prisons of Gaza and the West Bank will never be a Palestinian state. A (even bloodier) assault on Gaza is likely to occur soon under cover of Thanksgiving and the Gemayel assassination in Lebanon It will probably look something like this accidental attack on BBC reporters in Iraq in 2003. It will be on teevee everywhere but here in the US [update: Nov29 -- more killings on Sat, none on Sun, more on Monday]. And as Nancy Pelosi has explained, the original and ongoing seizure of Palestinian land has *absolutely nothing* to do with the conflict.

    [Nov29'06] It is difficult to curb the tendency of the human mind toward black and white. Sometimes, things *are* basically black and white. In the case of the Iraq war before it started in late 2002, I was virtually positive (see above) that there were no WMDs. This was based on all the faked propaganda as well as the fact that the US was preparing to invade without any obvious fear of WMD retaliation. Anyone with a scientific attitude and an internet connection could have come to the same conclusion before the war started. Not 100% positive, but 99.9% positive. With respect to the current situation in Iraq, it's important keep similar probabilities in mind. I think that there is no question that a divide-and-conquer strategy of encouraging Shi'a vs. Sunni vs. Kurd sectarian violence was an explicit strategy of the US and UK -- e.g., see the "El Salvador option" comment of Negroponte, or UK soldiers caught by Iraqis dressed as Arabs carrying car bombs. Over the past 6 months, however, it looks like things have gotten slightly more out of control than even the Rumsfelds and Negropontes planned. The Negropontes et al. have their own probability estimates, but they are hardly perfect either. The US and the UK appear to be somewhat less in control of the oil than they were initially planning to be. But the problem comes in estimating just how out of control things actually are. This is currently very difficult, since there is virtually no independent non-propaganda information coming out of Iraq and virtually nothing is known about what is really going on with their oil industry, aside from reports of pipeline attacks and repairs. Patrick Cockburn took a dangerous drive along the Iranian border and talked to a few people on the way this week. He said it was too dangerous to go into many towns. That's as good as it has gotten for the past few months. So, I maintain a high level of uncertainty with respect to what is currently happening and what will happen next. It is possible that the US could have its Vietnam evacuation moment in the next year as a result of an interruption of the main supply line north from Kuwait and Basra, should the US significantly attack their Shi'a death squad allies. Or the Green Zone could suffer a major Ba'athist attack on the Shi'a death squad administrators housed there. Currently, it seems somewhat more likely to me that the US military will hang on without a major disaster, and retreat somewhat into its permanent bases and into the Green Zone to cut casualties. I am virtually certain that the US will not voluntarily leave all that oil behind. They will only go if they are forced out militarily. Oil prices appear to be on the way back up. If prices get up to $100 next year, it probably won't be difficult to convince the proles to start changing their mind about the occupation. The oil card has already been floated by Bush.

    [Dec01'06] Natural gas prices have jumped up because it got cold for a few weeks. Just the warm (cold?) feeling of the invisible hand at work. This graph of conventional and non-conventional gas production in the US is not comforting (notice how non-conventional is not compensating for the drop in conventional). Natural gas is also the feedstock for making fertilizer. I'm not looking forward to when the invisible hand starts grabbing my food.

    [Dec03'06] The world is getting pretty weird. Perhaps Rumsfeld was fired partly because he was planning an Iraq drawdown!? As expected (by me and others), the 'commission' doesn't suggest withdrawal, Bush ignores it anyway, and the Orwellian press explains it all to the proles. Bush's numbers are down but still haven't breached the post-Katrina low.

    [Dec12'06] World 'oil' production is holding steady as larger and larger amounts of 'condensate' or 'natural gas liquids' are substituting for traditional crude oil. In the depleted US, only a quarter of our 6 million barrels of a day of 'oil' production comes from *crude oil*. The rest is 'condensate', which is slightly shorter chain hydrocarbons that condense from a gas to liquid (e.g., pentane) when they come up the well bore and are cooled to surface temperatures (don't get these 'natural gas liquids' mixed up with 'liquified natural gas', which is cooled, compressed methane). The earth is hotter and hotter with depth. For example, it can be 180 deg centigrade -- well above the boiling point of water -- in a deep gas well. Natural gas liquids come out of gas wells, which are generally deeper than oil wells. They mostly produce gas (methane) and 'natural gas liquids' because the higher heat at greater depths 'cracks' the oil to shorter chain hydrocarbons. The lastest way to make oil production look like it's not dropping is to not only include condensates (natural gas liquids) but also ethanol (!). This total number, which is available for liquid fuels for cars, trucks, and planes, is called 'all liquids'. The problem is that ethanol is made using a lot of natural gas and coal, and is mainly a conversion product of fossil fuels, not a big energy source (energy returned on energy invested, EROEI, is only 1.2-1.3 for corn ethanol in the US, and this is only after including spent brewers grains as an energy output). The rest of the oil-producing world is inexorably headed to where the US is now. Gas wells also deplete much faster than oil wells, because the gas comes out of porous rocks more quickly. Thus, the production from a typical US gas begins to drop off markedly after only 5 or 6 years. Move along, nothing to see here.

    [Dec19'06] Stuart Staniford returned to posting on The Oil Drum after an absence and had a few recent posts on how we are spending too much money on public transit and should instead count on smaller, better gas mileage vehicles. Ooooh! Don't get the scary American consumers mad! Ooooh! Don't anger the godlike venture capitalists! (Stuart do you really think that that dufus Vinod Khosla is godlike in anything else than the ability to line his pockets with the money of stupid people?). Stuart didn't include all of the subsidies given to cars and highways, or the costs associated with the fact that there are 750,000 maimings a year on US highways (defined as the loss of at least an arm, a leg, or an eye), but he is probably right that better mileage will give us the biggest bang for the buck in the next few years. Also, Stuart had it right about scary Americans, but for the wrong reason. Sure they won't support a large tax on fossil energy. But down the line, I'm worried about what they might support when the sh** really starts to hit the fan as the world arrives at the endgame of peak 'all fossil energy' (coal+oil+gas+nuclear). That's still a ways off (2030 by the sensible estimates I know). My worry is that then, the US will still have the world's best WMD's, but will likely have continued its ongoing contraction in percent of the world gross national product (currently, about 22% down from 60% in the middle of the 20th century and will probably have lost its ability to outbid other major powers for energy resources. Scary indeed. Of course, Stuart can't imagine planning that far ahead because that's not how capitalism works, currently, in the US and UK. Too bad. Another thing that irks me about The Oil Drum is the studied avoidance of the elephant-in-the-room topic of the ongoing occupation of the country containing 12% of the world's remaining oil. Sheesh! It's the *oil* drum. It's embarrassing to see otherwise smart people with all their graphs (I like graphs!) skirting around the issue. This doesn't mean that the Iraq oil steal is a slam dunk -- though the operation has not yet failed and we are now getting a lot of oil from Iraq (again), it's not completely out of the question that the US military could actually lose.

    [Dec20'06] Bush announces that 70,000 more troops are going to Iraq along with an extra $100 billion (on top of the regular half-a-trillion Bloat-a-gon budget), the Democratic worms hide in their own night soil (that's what we elected them for, right?), and for a distraction, Wolf Blitzer interviews David Duke, who accuses Wolf of still working for AIPAC and of having him on to try to spin 'Iran' (he probably meant Iraq). Good Americans yawn uncomfortably as they prepare to pay for the holocaust of another half a million Iraqis because underneath it all, they know they value their SUV's more than other human lives. Why protest? Good Americans.

    [Dec21'06] In a talk at Berkeley last month, Peter Dale Scott made the point that by 9:59 AM on 9-11, the time of the second collapse, the FBI already had a list of the alleged hijackers (Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies, pp. 13-14). But according to the 9-11 Report, NORAD only became aware that Flight 93 was hijacked 9 minutes later at 10:08, after it had already crashed (the 9-11 Report says it crashed at 10:03). Those FBI guys sure got that list out quick.

    [Dec28'06] "Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist. That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming" -- Supreme Court Justice Scalia, 2006. Don't worry, Tony, you won't have to deal with global warming. Your 9 kids and their grandkids will deal with it (whether or not they're scientists...).

    [Jan04'07] The virtual silence of the antiwar movement is dreadful. Just about the only visible resistance is Cindy Sheehan (go Cindy!) closing down an Orwellian Rahm Emanuel event with a moment of clarity. Nancy Pelosi flexes her biceps for the camera, which is fine, but the upcoming escalation of the Iraq war merits hardly a peep from her. The only thing she will say about Iraq in her acceptance speech is: "It is the responsibility of the President to articulate a new plan ... that allows us to responsibly redeploy American forces". What complete trash! I'm sure the preznit is articulating a new plan for redeploying troops. The 2006 election was completely irrelevant! Bush will propose a troop increase, the Democratic worms and roaches will bravely force him to increase a tiny bit less, and then they will vote to pay for it all, which will be an increase over current funding, without ever bringing up the elephant-in-the-room fact that the whole multi-trillion dollar war was based on outright lies (WMDs and Iraq/9-11). The only way to end the war quicker is to vote *against* appropriations, not to increase them! That's exactly how the Vietnam war ended. The Democratic guy with the blown arteriovenous malformation will be replaced by a Republican worm, and the Democratic worms will just wriggle a bit. Oil is actually dropping. It went down $5 over the past two days (over 8%, $61 -> $56). So life is good. And blowing that trillion or two to demolish Iraq and continuously terrorize all of its inhabitants is, oh well, it's impolite to bring it up during the shopping season. Bush's numbers numbers *are* almost down to his post-Katrina all-time low (which was, averaging across polls about, 34% approval). If they go down another 10% into the twenties -- which would be quite possible if there were to be an oil price spike -- there might be some actual unease in Washington. Since the largest two currently producing oil fields are crashing (Ghawar at 5% and Cantarell at 2% of current world production), and since crude oil stocks are rapidly dropping, the spike may be just around the corner. However, it's good to remember that Congress routinely polls in the twenties and even below, and that doesn't mean people care enough to do anything about it. Just drive the SUV to the exercise place.

    [Jan10'07] This article by Robert Parry is profoundly depressing. Among other things, it confirms the notion I suggested above that Rumsfeld was fired because he had 'gone wobbly' on the Iraq war (!). And the disgusting vicious Negroponte -- originally associated with the Vietnam CIA Phoenix assassination program, and after that, architect of the Central American death squads in the 80's -- may have been demoted from intelligence czar to Condi's helper because he argued that intelligence suggested that Iran was still many years away from bomb-grade uranium enrichment. As Chalmers Johnson (former CIA) and others have written, as empires start to decay as a result of the run-down of energy, food, metals, soil, and climate change, they often find it impossible to avoid over-allocating resources to foreign and domestic militarization. This diverts resources -- at the most critical point in time -- from constructive efforts to reorganize the empire to avoid collapse. As an example, the enormous drain of tax money into Iraq (3-5 times the entire budget for biomedical research, a comparable amount of money to what is spent to import oil!) has resulted in the freezing of science budgets, esp. in the physical sciences (e.g., better renewable energy, better batteries, etc.). When per capita energy begins to decline in a decade or two (it has been flat since 1980), it will be more and more difficult to undo the infrastructure decisions -- such as low density spread-out suburbs -- made in a time of higher per capita energy consumption, because undoing them requires so much energy. Society will likely get less complex. The reduction in complexity of societies has happened very many times in human history. Sometimes it was fast and disorderly; other times it was slower and more dignified. Many people think that the development of modern technology and science in the twentieth century has moved us beyond the possibility of complexity reduction. Certainly, there are more smart, technologically capable people alive today than there were at any point in human history; and smart humans are more fully interconnected than they have ever been in history. But that interconnection relies primarily on late nineteenth to mid twentieth century energy supplies -- coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium -- that are running out (humans now use oil at a rate of 150 tons per second, every second). As someone recently pointed out, an avatar in Second Life uses as much energy as a real Brazilian. I don't think that complexity reduction is unavoidable. And there is still a lot of 'slack' in the system (e.g., cars that are way too big). But watching the Democrats cave on increases in militarization (Pelosi is 'against the war' but will not cut funding for it -- WTF?), and seeing the late-Roman-empire-like imperial overstretch overseas and the militarization of domestic life (daily innundation with images of SWAT teams and hazmat suits; the latest '24' is about domestic internment camps), it seems clear that at this point, we are still moving in the wrong direction.

    [Jan15'07] Today was the Orwellian "Martin Luther King" parade. Over the years in San Diego, it has gradually attracted larger and larger numbers of the military and prison industrial complex, which finally this year prompted the peace community to withdraw (King opposed the Vietnam war early on, in 1967 -- the war ended in 1973). The US now has 5 to 10 times as many people in jail per capita as any other Western country -- the highest percentage in the entire world (3x China, 2x Russia). The US was more or less like other Western countries from 1920 to 1980. Since then, the number of people in jail per capita has gone up over 500%, a lot of it, the result of the war on pot. In California, prison guards make more money than University full professors. In 1980, we used to spend twice as much tax money on the Universities as we did on prisons. Now we spend more than twice tax money on prisons as we spend on Universities. In this light, it was perhaps not surprising to see the a prison transport bus, decorated as a float, with people waving happily through barred windows -- in the "Martin Luther King" parade? How sad. War is peace. Imprisonment is freedom.

    [Jan16'07] Every day is a decision. The problem with ballots is that they just have stupid face contests and bozo propositions on them instead of issues. There should be votes in which you have to choose between health insurance and invading a foreign country to make sure we get the oil and someone else doesn't. Or, 'do you want to change over to coal-to-liquids as regular oil depletes thereby ruining the Earth for your grandchildren, or do you want everybody to buy smaller cars'? Decisions, decisions.

    [Jan21'07] Here is my annotation of Stuart Eugene Thiel's (Pollkatz') Bush approval poll compilation for today, showing the Mighty Wurlitzer in action over the past 6 years. By my calculations, it looks like the uptick from the 'war on shampoo' was almost exactly nullified by the downtick from the Abramoff/Page-gate/Republicans-feeding-in-the-money-trough scandals. The graph sure looks like is ripe for another uptick to me...

    [Jan22'07] Global carbon emissions are currently about 1 ton per person per year on average. But we Americans put out and average of 10 tons each per year once indirect output (CO2 generated when stuff is made elsewhere and transported here) is included. We could reduce global carbon outputs in a fair way by having Americans reduce a lot and having other people not increase too much. Unfortunately, I think this is very unlikely to happen voluntarily on either end. However, looking on the bright side :-}, oil+gas will peak soon, which will start to force a slow decline in CO2 output from oil+gas, perhaps as soon as by the end of this decade (ASPO). What happens *then* with respect to coal will be critical for the quality of human (and other) life on the planet after the middle of this century. If we burn all the remaining EROEI>1.0 coal or convert most of it to liquids in an attempt to keep our current lifestyle going for another few decades, our kids probably won't forgive us for ruining the Earth, and why should they? That is exactly what we are currently setting up to do! Large numbers of coal plants without CO2 sequestration are being planned and built, and coal-to-liquids is the next big thing, in America and elsewhere (e.g., see Stern report, or the fact that a new coal power station is coming online every 5 days in China). This winter has been very warm (December 2006 average as much as 10 degrees higher than previous averages) in northern America and northern Europe, and this has spooked some people there a little; but it was also unusually pleasant (I grew up in Chicago). But I am afraid it is not scary and not nearly unpleasant enough. Given that weather has some chaotic features, the best I can 'hope' for is a really shocking event -- a once-in-a-millenium storm that causes a dam to fail or a freak once-in-a-millenium winter that causes a worldwide crop failure. It won't be directly attributable to global warming, but people will think it is a sign from the gods, and might start to wake from their daily walking (I mean driving...) dreams and do something to avoid leaving their grandchildren a fried earth. Alternatively, peak oil+gas could cause an economic collapse that prevents the immediate atmosphere-i-fication of all the remaining coal. Hmmm... I'm not sure which I would prefer (an act of god or an act of economics). But I think both are preferable to business as usual for the simple reason that the bad effects of CO2 additions take many decades to kick in (this is what the climate scientists really mean when they say that the system is now 'not in equilibrium with current forcings'). Business as usual is likely to result in a terrible coming together of global warming, sea level rise, increased storminess, crop failure, water shortages, and energy starvation in the second half of this century.

    [Jan24'07] SWAT teams are called out 40,000 times annually -- over 100 times a day. There have been essentially no terrorist incidents for years, and so most of the time, the SWAT teams are serving warrants, often drug-related. The great majority of the drug-related late night home invasions are based on tips from snitches (people trying to cop a plea), and many have resulted in mistakes and murders (next old lady door neigbor, the address provided the snitch was drawn at random). Here is a map map of where the SWAT teams murdered innocent people (e.g., after being startled by their own flash bang grenades) and where they broke into the wrong house. Sometimes, a snitch might sell a small amount of pot to a person to create a suspect (and some income). At its height, the East German Stasi turned a substantial portion of the population into snitches and had enormous paper files on just about everybody. The real problem is providing 'market incentives' to people to become snitches. There are various kinds of incentives. In the bad old days of El Salvador, death squads would torture each suspect they kidnapped until they came up with a few names. Then they would kidnap those people and torture them. We really don't want to (continue to) go there, people.

    [Jan24'07] Well, so much for the hydrogen economy (that was a few state-of-the-unions ago). Hydrogen is *soooo* 2004, man! This year, it's corn ethanol. The energy return on energy invested for ethanol is at best 1.3, after counting dried distiller grains as output (the market for them as cow food is already saturated). If you just the count fossil fuel input, the EROEI for corn ethanol is more like 1.1 (from the pro-ethanol Kammen lab study in Science), so you need 10 units of fossil fuel to make one unit of ethanol. This is so you can replace one unit of fossil fuel. This idiocy of it all is stunning. By contrast, Brazilian ethanol is more energy positive because they harvest a lot of the sugar cane by hand, and then they burn the bagasse leftovers (instead of fossil fuel) to distill the ethanol. Scaling this up would result in at least 2x the CO2 output of fossil fuels (cane bagasse burnt for distilling, then the ethanol itself burnt as fuel). To scale this up much at all would cut deeply into soil fertility, cropland, and water supply. But who needs food and water as long as you can *drive*?

    [Jan25'07] No reasonably well-to-do middle-class US- or UK-ian would think of *not* driving a kid around in a giant SUV with a special car seat to 'make them safe'. They're doing it for the children! At the same time, not one of these people thinks twice about destroying the earth for those very same kids by moving to a huge house in the suburbs and driving them around in a giant SUV. In *that* case: "it's not our problem; somebody will figure something out; everybody else is doing it; it's child abuse to discuss such a scary topic with a child; it won't happen for a while anyway; it's too inconvenient to not do it; public transportation is for poor people and therefore unsafe; blah, blah". When our kids grow up, they will find us disgusting.

    [Jan26'07] Chomsky is always babbling on about how the world is getting so much more civilized (smaller and smaller holocausts). It is true there is nothing to compare with the biggest holocaust of all time -- the reduction of the population of the New World from 80 million to about 10 million in the first 100 years of the occupation by Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese, and British in the 16th century. But sometimes things decisively turn around, for the worse. It looks like the vulcans in the US and Israel are slavering over themselves once again as they contemplate using small nuclear bombs on a non-nuclear-bomb-possessing country, Iran -- a place where in a poll this month, 70% of the population has a favorable view of the US (that seems higher than here!). A fear that I voiced a few years ago is that this just might 'work'. It will be unbelievably horrible. But then, somewhere upwards of 2/3 of a million Iraqis have already perished horribly -- and nobody here cares. There would probably be similar level of casualities in a small nuclear attack. Will Good Americans care? I doubt it. However, Iran will survive such a nuclear attack if large hydrogen bombs are not used. Just as our oil-reserves-driven attack on a starved, defenseless Iraq made us look weak, a nuclear attack on a non-nuclear Iran will make us look even more weak (Scott Horton interview with Gordon Prather mp3). Contrary to the brayings of hypercapitalists, maintaining the position of the US requires a huge amount of good will from other people -- i.e., altruism. A nuclear attack will use up what is left of that. Stupid chess move, vulcans (not to mention, it's *wrong*). 'Give us your oil and food, or we'll hydrogen bomb you' is not a plausible negotiating strategy for a teetering empire.

    [Jan27'07] I just read a story linked to from Rawstory. A toddler reached for an electrical cord and the parents gave the kid a swat on its diapered bottom. Their grandmother in law was there and threatened to file a child abuse report. She was asked to leave. She wouldn't. So the father tasered her. The whole sequence starting with the grandmother's threat just puts my mind off balance. What will happen to us when we start facing real problems? Where is common sense? I feel like people's minds are losing their coherence under the onslaught of media, marketing, and modern life and are becoming brittle and drone-like. I see this in my classes. My students in undergraduate and graduate classes come in knowing less and less about basic biology, much less evolution. Some of them haven't even heard of the idea of evolution! This is in part because textbook manufacturers -- bottom-line people they are -- were scared by the creationists wanting front cover stickers saying evolution was just a theory, blah, blah. That's bad for sales. So instead of adding creationism to the biology texts, they simply took out evolution, along with a lot of the biology. Understanding biology without evolution is like trying to understand electricity and magnetism while carefully avoiding any reference to the Maxwell equations. A similar thing is starting to happen with global warming. After an evangelical who works as a "computer consultant" complained in Washington state, a local school board sent out a ban on showing 'controversial' films about global warming in science classes for 22,000 students in the district. The stupefying reason for the complaint wasn't that the parent disagreed that the earth was heating up! He was just ticked off because he believed that the warming wasn't caused by lefty carbon dioxide, but rather that it was "one of the signs" of Jesus Christ's imminent return for Judgment Day. I'm thinking we should try to postpone it (judgment day) for a bit. Probably even that guy's 7 kids would appreciate it when they grow up.

    [Jan27'07] The richies in Davos fattened up by globalization are getting worried about global warming. Something must be done. De-globalization and boiling a little of their own fat off? I don't think so. These parasites will be coming after the small amount of fat remaining on their hosts.

    [Jan29'07] An article today in the Wall Street Journal has a shocking graph showing that Cantarell -- the super giant oil field in the Yucatan that accounts for more than half of Mexico's oil output -- peaked in 2004 and is now rapidly declining (it's output was boosted by nitrogen injection starting in 2000). The output of Cantarell declined a stunning 25% in 2006 (though partly due to scheduled maintenance -- the expected continuing decline rate is 'only' 15%). Cantarell accounts for 2% of total world oil production and like the North Sea, began its decline unexpectedly. Not worthy of the US teevee news, of course (after all, Mexico is just one of our largest oil import sources, whatever). Here is a graph from a Pemex report (now taken down) from 2005, showing the rapid increase between 2000 and 2004 (as a result of the initiation of nitrogen injection -- 'secondary production'). Here is the sorry tale of what happened after 2004. In June 2005 (see my recently updated peak oil talk), based on that Pemex report, I expected Cantarell to start declining in 2008. Little did I know that Cantarell was already past peak at that time! US peak oil in 1970 was like that; and it peaked despite a huge (more than 10 times) increase in the number of wells drilled in Texas as well as the discovery of a super giant field in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Omninously, Saudi Arabia has been on a drilling binge. World peak will likely sneak up on us in a similar fashion. Hopefully, it's still a few years off (I guessed 2008 a few years ago; most of the curve fitters at theOilDrum are currently guessing 2010-2012).

    [Feb02'07] Dang, another Robert Parry article, combined with the chimp grabbing extra executive powers earlier this week is sure starting to move me from being incredulous about an Iran attack to being resigned. It seems we're at the stage of November or December 2002 with respect to Iraq. But seriously, screw the resigned B.S. people, we *really* shouldn't let this happen! We're getting near peak oil. We need to start planning ahead constructively, not trying to squat on other people's oil halfway around the globe. From a strictly military perspective, that's a *mighty* long supply line to defend when the rest of the world finally begins to take action against us. Note that they are still with us now; a recent poll in Iran of all places showed that 70% of the people there had a favorable view of the US! One of our Darth Vader attack flotillas just sailed unmolested through the Suez canal toward the oil, I mean, toward Iran. I wouldn't bet on something like that happening without a hitch in 2015 once real oil shortages have begun to bite -- or that tankers will be able to leave from there to come here unmolested. Meanwhile, in Iraq, the plan is to spend $170 billion this year (not counting money used from the gigantic 'defense' budget). That means that each year, Iraq alone is sucking up more than 5 times what we spend on all biomedical research every year. Really, really, really stupid.

    [Feb04'07] Zbignew Brzezinski said this last Thursday in the Senate: "A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq, or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a 'defensive' U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD's in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the 'decisive ideological struggle' of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America's involvement in World War II." -- Zbigniew Brzezinski, Senate Foreign relations testimony, February 1, 2007 (transcript from senate.gov here). Zbig's not your average conspiracy theorist but the very guy that set up al-Qaida against the Soviets in Afghanistan -- he's a conspiracy construction worker. That's the funny thing about the US. You can softly explain how things work ahead of time, but they will still work their magic anyway, because the big media will voluntarily keep a tight lid on the key wink wink, nudge nudges.

    [Feb05'07] It's absurd that Bostonians should be rewarded with $2 million dollars because the police and the people acted like complete idiots lacking all common sense, while more sensible police and people elsewhere (e.g., Chicago) used common sense and they got nothing. Don't reward those mental midgets! Penalize them! Bostonians should have been sent a *bill* for ninny-ism, not a check!

    [Feb06'07] The disconnect between global warming physics and policy is both amusing and terrifying. We have already added an amount of CO2 that distinguishes warm periods from glacial periods -- on top of a warm period. The warming effects of that extra CO2 have mostly not been felt yet, but are on the way this century and next no matter what we do. The climate scientists therefore say we should stop adding CO2 immediately. So how about hybrids? Well, as Alan Zarembo in the LA Times notes, if *all* 245 million cars in the US were instantly replaced by Priuses, that would get us less than 3% of the way there (to not adding any more CO2), and assuming growth in car buying stopped cold -- that is, we would still be adding more than 97% of what we are now adding each year. I guess we can always hope that that maverick 'climate scientist' Michael Crichton is right about global warming being a hoax, and that the other 99% of climate scientists who actually study climate science are all wrong. And besides, we're 'well on the way': 1% of vehicle sales are hybrids now. So this year, we will be reducing our CO2 output by just under 0.03 percent or 1/3500 of our total, well on the way to reaching zero by 5506. It is true that most of those savings from hybrids will be eaten up as soon as General Motors 'responds to the green challenge' and introduces large-engine hybrid SUVs, but hey, look on the bright side of life, or lookie here instead at something more important -- like an 'astronaut gone wild'. Seriously, on the bright side, methane seems to have stopped increasing for now (it's 21 times worse a greenhouse gas as CO2, but there is a lot less of it), for unknown reasons, perhaps because Russia fixed some of its leaking gas pipelines and garbage is being burned instead of being put into methane-emitting landfills (though that makes CO2 instead).

    [Feb07'07] As much as I find Joe Lieberman's warmongering disgusting, I'm actually in favor of a big war-on-terr'ism tax, but only if it was from a separate tax table so you could see how much it was. Since the war on terr'ism seems to involve a lot of probing, including making sure old man terr'ists aren't hiding things in their fistulas, perhaps proctologists should be able to get deductions for making us all safer. But the whole probing thing..., hmmm, d'ya think the TSA guys are actually aliens posing as TSA guys? A new angle for Rense? :-}

    [Feb09'07] The Pentagon explains that killing half a million people in Iraq (so far) based on faked intelligence was "inappropriate" but not "illegal". Woohoo. I'd hate to see how many people the Pentagon has to kill before it becomes "wrong". The US killed 2-4 million people in Vietnam. They never said that was "illegal" or "wrong" either. Maybe if they killed 10 million people, that would actually be "wrong". We should probably have have a ten-million-strikes law -- if you dare go over that, bub, yer in jail for a real long time.

    [Feb15'07] While huge piles of military hardware are being hoisted over to the Persian Gulf towards Iran, Pelosi bravely 'restricts' Iraq war funding -- oooh, the drama! -- by making sure that it is 'spent properly for training and equipment' in a non-binding (!) resolution. What utter worms these people are! But thank god she supports the troops. Because, instead of 'never again', it's oops, we did it again. The killings unleashed in Iraq (3/4 of a million people) by our 'well-supported' Universal Soldiers have reached a level worse than the Rwandan genocide. Some day, the rest of the world may get around to holding us responsible for the rape of Iraq. Perhaps for a change, some of the people who gave the orders will get their due, too.

    [Feb26'07] The vicious, blood-stained Negroponte is rumored (Hersh) to be leaving his National Intelligence directorship to accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State because he is worried about 'off the books' operations with 'no finding' like the ones he directed in central America (death-squad-Negroponte worried about 'off the books'?! WTF?). When scum of the earth like that start jumping ship, things must really be out of control. I suppose this should be taken as a good sign. The problem is the giant nest of cockroaches that remain.

    [Mar02'07] There are real headlines buried alongside Anna Nicole: "House Democrats seek more war funds than Bush". Karen Kwiatkowski's recent interview interview cuts through the crap: we're staying there. The Republicans, Democrats, and the American people all support staying, once you strip away the window dressing. The number of US troop fatalities and injuries is tiny in the greater scheme of things. *Hundreds of times* more limbs and eyes are lost in domestic car accidents every year than in Iraq. The almost one million dead Iraqis don't matter to US-ians at all. The US will retreat to the giant self-contained concrete air bases and the troop deaths will subside. They will continue bombing the natives. The Iraqi resistance can't effectively attack the giant bases. The US can attack Iran from Iraq and still seems likely to do so this month or next month, on a new moon.

    [Mar06'07] The Department of Transportation has wisely decided to place an indefinite moratorium on the installation of Windows Vista on any of their machines. From Peter Guttmann: "Driver revocation is a lose/lose situation for Microsoft, they're in for some serious pain whether they do or they don't. Their lawyers must have been asleep when they let themselves get painted into this particular corner -- the first time some 'feature' of Vista's content protection inadvertently takes out a hospital, foreign government department, air traffic control system, or whatever, they've guaranteed themselves a front-row seat in court for the rest of their natural lives." -- Peter Guttmann from his cost analysis of Windows Vista content protection.

    [Mar13'07] Worried about its possible impact on Israel, Democrats removed a requirement that Bush gain approval from Congress to attack Iran. This is the beauty of the controlled media. Such a non sequitur can be printed and broadcast across the land without evoking any official comment. A more accurate headline (and what historians will write 50 years from now) would be, in order to protect the financing of their political campaigns, the US Congress turned over its constitutional duty to declare war to a dangerous, barely mentally competent, lame duck president and his vicious puppeteers. I guess the whole checks and balances things was only really meant to be applied to things like the minumum wage and not little trifles like declaring war. Bush should be able to handle another war since the last one worked out so well, right? (for his bidness cronies). Thank god we sent a message by electing Democrats, right?

    [Mar23'07] The 'liberal' democratic worms completely caved on Iraq funding. The logic for surrender expressed by David Sirota in support of the Iraq war spending bill is Orwellian: lawmakers should accept the congressional world as it is right now and not insist on the world as they wish it to be. Huh? That'll teach 'em! War is peace! We'll stop the war by funding it *even more* ($124 billion) than they originally asked for. After all, that's what the people voted for. How disgusting and criminal. Almost one million people were killed by worms like this. The US has created an Iraqi holocaust. Maybe one day, we'll see these limp cowards in the war crimes dock. The whole charade is blackly humorous to watch. The US has no intention of ever (voluntarily) evacuating the huge military bases it has built in Iraq, but these disgusting lumps of flesh in Congress have to stand there on the teevee studiously avoiding ever mentioning this reality, day after day after day.

    [Apr03'07] Moved to London.

    [Apr09'07] The UK also is not planning to leave Iraq anytime soon. The UK's North Sea oil peaked unexpectedly in 1999 and output has been dropping at 10-15% *per year*. The UK has begun to import oil. By tagging along on the US's coattails, the hope has presumably been to get some of the spoils, too. The danger is the unknown rate of decline as the entire world hits peak oil+condensate in the near future. If the decline rate is steep enough, the US may not be in a mood to share the spoils.

    [Apr10'07] When Walter F. Murphy, an emeritus Constitutional scholar from Princeton (and a Korean war verteran) who has been critical of Bush, asked an airline clerk why he had apparently been put on the no-fly list, Murphy was asked if he had participated in any peace marches. "We ban a lot of people from flying because of that", the clerk said. He eventually got on his plane, but the clerk said his luggage would be "ransacked". It ended up 'lost'. For now, it's just petty harrassment for criticising the fuhrer (as long as you're not a Muslim). People are not putting up enough objections to each slide down the slippery slope. There is extreme danger ahead.

    [Apr15'07] Wolfowitz. He engineers a policy to slaughter nearly a million people, and the press has no problem with the morals of that. But when he arranges to pay his girlie a few extra thousand dollars, the press nincompoops go ballistic. Give her the money, I don't care. Then put Mr. Creep in jail for arranging to murder that many people. He can serve the 1 million sentences concurrently.

    [May16'07] Gareth Porter (if you can believe him) reports that the more aggressive policy toward Iran (3 carriers in the Gulf) was tempered by Admiral William Fallon, head of CENTCOM, in February 2007. The 'tempering' consisted of keeping the number of carriers there at two, so that when the Nimitz arrived, another one would leave. Any progress away from an attack -- however small -- is good news. It is a truly sad day when Admirals are the only thing standing in the way of disaster.

    [May19'07] Money talks. With all the DemoRepublocrap hand-wringing, the war is still fully funded -- in fact, with the highest budget ever. The Senate is planning to hold war funding talks in private. What a charade. The US is like the monkey grabbing onto the oil treat in the jar. It can't/won't let go of it, no matter what the consequence. If Chalmers Johnson is right, it may end up turning the US into a dictatorship.

    [Jun12'07] The Iraq occupation and base-building has continued on schedule. US military spending in Iraq is at record levels. The death rates for US soldiers and Iraqi civilians are up. The second number is usually 50x the first, which reflects the reality of all modern hi tech wars -- extra tech makes it possible for a small number of soldiers to kill a larger number of civilians with only small losses of their own. The antiwar left (e.g., Kos) is now 'disillusioned' with the Democrats, who actually managed to *raise* the amount of money appropriated for the war over what the Repubs asked for. Wow, disillusion should sure make those Dems sit up and take notice, right? Meanwhile, left foggers like Cockburn write nonsense about global warming ("since aerosols cause temperature to drop, and bad coal companies generate aerosols and want to generate more, the science of global warming must be false"). Great logic Alex. Ever consider that A and B do not imply C? Did you forget that the idea that aerosols cause a temperature drop is actually part of global warming science? Alex also doesn't believe there is any oil problem. I don't have a good feeling generally about how things will begin to play out in a decade or two as total fossil fuel usage (oil+gas+coal) starts to go flat. The trends of the last three decades have pointed toward more polarization of rich and poor. Despite suggestions from the left that flattening energy supplies will somehow cause people to cooperate better, it seems more likely to me that fossil fuel constraints may further increase wealth polarization to levels never seen before in the history of civilization. However, we are entering a new era not exactly like anything that came before. We have have better tech. Getting rid of one 100,000 watt car makes it possible to run a whole lot of 50 watt laptops. If we start reducing consumption now, we might be able to keep the computers.

    [Jun27'07] The National Academy of Sciences report on coal includes the following important statement: "Present estimates of coal reserves are based upon methods that have not been reviewed or revised since their inception in 1974, and much of the input data were compiled in the early 1970s. Recent programs to assess reserves in limited areas using updated methods indicate that only a small fraction of previously estimated reserves are actually minable reserves." As conventional oil continues its decline (the probable peak was 2005), and natural gas liquids (e.g., pentane) and natural gas (methane) peak in the near future, the focus will be on coal and mine-able oil (tar sands -- not oil shale, which will likely never be touched because of it's poor energy-return-on-energy-investment ratio). There is a lot less coal left than people usually assume. China is currently bringing online one new coal electric plant per week. Peak fossil fuel energy and peak energy, period, are closer than people realize. Now is the time to act to reduce energy usage voluntarily before geology does it for us. To quote the title of my peak oil presentation: Mother nature bats last.

    [Jul01'07] Bankers have made huge amounts of money from "collateralised debt obligations" (pdf defining some terms and tricks of the trade in English for dealing with financial 'toxic waste' here) where they have bought subprime mortgages but somehow still maintained high credit ratings. The reason they bought these risky mortgages was that the interest rate was higher because the people taking out the mortgages were poor (relative to the size of the mortgages). Saski Scholtes notes in the Financial Times that it is "ironic" that "many of these new-fangled instruments" of the uber-capitalists "have never been priced through market trading." Ironic? Normally, if you go into a store and grab some cash, they don't call it 'ironic'. The only difference here is that the scale of cash-grabbing so enormous, these guys are hauling away semi-trailers of cash -- and there are never any police sirens.

    [Jul08'07] The focus on Libby is utterly idiotic. We are killing 10,000 Iraqis every month. That should be the focus. Who cares if Libby gets out? Give him a bonus bigger than Wolfowitz's girlie. Libby's pardon is about as newsworthy as Paris Hilton. I could care less.

    [Jul17'07] The 'new' bin Laden video is a laughably bad composite of tapes previously released more than four years ago (one from 2001) -- though I didn't hear much laughing. The problem is that I usually underestimate how effective these stupid fart stunts are. They are not disinfo but more like movie music, creating a mood, not consciously perceived. It is amazing how *cheap* these things are to make. Who needs real fake events when this ultra-low-budget crap just works? Maybe they could pull out all the stops and have Robert Fisk interview him again next time. (wouldn't cost much more). It would be like that old Second City skit where the crime photographer says "Work with me, work with me" to the corpse he is posing. Bush's numbers are already starting to jog up a bit from the stupid London stunt (which was barely perceptible here in London). This will keep up the momentum and keep him from going below 30%. It's quite amazing that after all that has happened, 30% of Americans still view Bush favorably, and enthusiastically approve of killing 10,000 Iraqis a month -- more deaths than ever. Another maybe 30-40% only disapprove of the killing because it seems not to be 'going well' and has not 'delivered the goods'. I'm not sure how killing 10,000 a people a month could ever 'go well', and we still seem to have our bloody mitts around 'the goods', but whatever. The peace movement has virtually collapsed in embarrassment and cowardice after supporting the Democrats, who immediately turned around and gave Bush even more funding for the war than he asked for, just like many of us warned. I shudder to think what would happen if there was another one or two 9-11 sized events (9-11, bad as it was, was only equivalent to several weeks of US automobile accident deaths). Overnight, good Americans would be ready to send their neighbors off to the camps. Unfortunately, a small number of camps (so far) have already been constructed by Cheney's military contractor companies, supposedly for unruly immigrants. Nothing to see here, Americans, move along.

    [Jul20'07] The US is still a major oil producer with a output almost as large as Saudi Arabia, despite being long past (almost half down from) its 1970 peak. It's interesting to see where it currently comes from. There are about 880,000 producing wells in the world, but a full 520,000 of them are in the US. 502,000 (most) of the US wells use mechanical pumps (e.g., the rocker arms on 'stripper wells'), which indicate that the wells are depressurized (normal live wellhead pressure is 2000 to 3500 pounds per square inch -- real wells don't need a pump, but rather a series of very large stoppers or BOPs [blowout protectors]). Stripper well produce a mere 1 or 2 barrels a day. The US also drilled 36,000 new wells last year. The average per-well output of all US wells was therefore a tiny 100 barrels a day. Contrast this with Saudi Arabia which drilled 300 new wells and has a total of only 3,000 wells (see map of Ghawar wells in my peak oil pdf here). The well numbers are from an article by Alex Lightman here. But that writer then assumes incorrectly that Saudi's 260 Gb reserves (which were doubled arbitrarily in the 1980's and not decremented since) are vastly underestimated and will balloon when they start doing a lot more drilling. He fails to cite what happened when oil peaked in the US in the 1970's. There was a massive increase in US drilling -- a 10x increase. That together with the discovery of the super giant Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska, however, failed to reverse the US peak, which didn't look like smooth Gaussian but rather a sharp peak followed by an almost linear decline. Ominously, Saudi has begun a massive new drilling program (for them) in the past two years, quintupling its oil drilling rig count (graph here from Stuart Staniford). It is unlikely that a massive increase in Saudi drilling will fix the Saudi peak either. To his credit, Lightman does also suggest that we start conserving now, before we slam into the wall. He sells a meeting badge for large conferences that records who it comes in contact with and lights up when two people pass each other with similar interests (to alert them that they might want to strike up a conversation). I attend several large yearly meetings myself. Though they are enjoyable and intellectually stimulating, I think there will be less of them in the future (because I think the true Saudi reserves are less than they say).

    [Jul23'07] Like friggin' clockwork, as I predicted, the Beavis and Butthead London stunt and the Osama-sings-the-classics greatest-hits tape have caused an uptick in Bush's ratings, visible here. If this low budget crap can arrest Bush's decline, imagine what another *real* stunt could do! Some left writers say things in the US are about the blow and people there are finally mad. I just don't see it at all. Besides, what would people do if somebody told them the truth? If somebody said, "yeah, we lied to you, there's actually less oil, there is nothing obvious with which to replace it, your SUV and large house and new spread-out suburbs are a bad idea, you have to start driving less, riding your bike more, taking public transportation, living in closer to where you work, and in a smaller house", it wouldn't play well in Peoria. It's true that most US-ians want the Iraq war to go away (though they have probably forgotten how enthusiastically they supported it at one time), but they certainly aren't about to get onto a damn bicycle (I just rode mine home through a light rain, which was actually refreshing, and my clothes are now dry). They won't get on their bikes en masse until it is clear that oil price spikes will never go away. And that is not going to happen until we've had continuous oil price spikes every year or so for a decade, and oil costs $200 or $300 a barrel (its true absolute minimum value, since one barrel of oil is equivalent to about one year of human work; for comparison, the US yearly minimum wage is over $10,000). And after a few more oil wars. This won't happen until maybe 2020 or thereabouts (the current oil war is already four and a half years old). And even then, there will still be a reasonable amount of (expensive) oil around for another decade (though less than there is today). So there will be no revolution until maybe 2030 when peak all-energy begins to bite and oil production is down a lot. By then, the revolution may very well not be televised (esp. if we get a few more of these).

    [Jul24'07] Today, 50 activists including Cindy Sheehan (out of 400 present) were arrested for not leaving John Conyers office after he so much as told them that he can't support impeachment because 'it was more important to get a Democrat in office in 2008 than to end the war in Iraq'. Accurately said, John Conyers, limp lifetime member of the Oceania party.

    [Aug05'07] It looks like US M3(b) *growth* has flattened out (at 13% a year!) over the past few months. I think M3 (total money) growth is a truer measure of inflation than the ridiculously named 'core rate of inflation' or the consumer price index, which seem to have had all the things that inflate like food, energy, and housing taken out of them (after all, who actually *uses* food, energy, and housing?). This temporary pause in the increase in the *rate of growth* seems to have been associated with and/or caused by a slowing down of credit creation (sub-prime/prime mortgages, commercial, leveraged buy-outs) and serious heartburn in the the stock/money/hedge markets over the past few weeks. I can feel that something a little different is starting to happen, but I don't really know what it is. It just makes me nervous when people like Doug Noland seem more nervous than their usual industrious, tut-tutting selves. Since cash only makes 5% per year when the currency is inflating at 10 or 12% per year, it's obvious that smart money only stays in cash when it gets really scared. It seems to be getting a little scared now. However, the Euro and pound are inflating at about the same rate as the dollar, so the between-currency fluctuations must be due to slight inter-country delays (e.g., housing already topped in the US vs. housing still going up -- for now! -- in the UK). And most of the money guys have hardly heard of peak oil and climate change since they involves thinking more than 6 months (or 2 weeks) ahead. I suppose it's better not to get them too upset.

    [Aug07'07] There is a lot of talk about the recent FISA revisions with respect to warrantless tapping of overseas phone calls (see Scott Horton in Harpers). But sometimes I feel like I am in a house of mirrors. The NSA has long monitored all foreign phone calls without warrant -- probably for decades. The significance of this change is that they can now do it 'officially'. For many years, the US supported oppressive governments abroad (Central American death squads, South Vietnam, Afghanistan). It looks like similar methods are slowly being re-imported to the homeland (US and UK), and people are being slowly introduced to accepting it as normal. The significance of this development is not that the NSA is doing some new bad thing, but rather that they are brazenly advertising their exploits.

    [Aug08'07] US troops in Iraq have reached an all-time high. This has been supported by both Republicans and Democrats. Ignore the propaganda miasma. The numbers talk.

    [Aug12'07] Looking out the window in London at all the cars going by gets me down. I really don't see how the ships of state and industry can possibly be turned around quickly enough. It takes a long time to make large scale wind, solar, and nuclear power plants. North Sea oil just north of here is depleting at almost 10% per year. I am really afraid there won't be enough time for people to react in a sensible way. Take bicycles. Sure, London car drivers hate them. As a daily cyclist, I, too, hate the cyclists that dangerously totter through red lights. But what would London look like if you 100-tupled the number of bicycles, and added bicycles with trailers and a zillion mopeds and small electric carts? People aren't planning ahead. The household-debt-to-personal-income ratio in the UK is even larger (1.62) than in the US (1.42). Not that this really applies to central London, where 80% of purchases don't even use mortgages...

    [Aug14'07] Glad to see Rove gone. I didn't expect it. I can't imagine that he left voluntarily. But that leaves open the question of who forced him out. Above, I had speculated that Rumsfeld might have been forced out for not being hawkish enough on Iraq. I find it difficult to believe that Rove was not enthusiatic enough, but maybe it's true. The latest world oil production figures show that we are now at, or perhaps even slightly past (!) peak "all liquids" (i.e., crude oil + lease condensate + natural gas liquids + other liquids [e.g., ethanol]). In 2004, I had expected that this wouldn't happen until 2008. Things now seem to be precariously in balance. We are only one event -- e.g., a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, a war in another oil country, an unusually cold winter -- away from chaotic price oil price fluctuations. The only 'good' news is that the US seems to on the verge of a recession, which should slightly lower the US's 25% demand on total world oil production.

    [Aug19'07] John Mauldin has a table of adjustable mortgage resets by the month here that suggests that the peak in resets won't occur until March 2008, at a peak rate of $110 billion/month. Compare this with the average rate of resets from Jan-Aug 2007 of $37 billion/month. This suggests that the forces that have seem to have precipitated the recent turmoil will be more than twice as strong 5-10 months from now, as the the presidential election gets into high gear -- normally a time when the economy is pumped. Feb-May 2008 sounds like an awfully dangerous time to me, with enormous whipsawing forces, political and economic. The Fed does have some room to drop interest rates, though that could have bad effects on the dollar. Perhaps this is overestimated, though, since the pound seems to be coming down relative to the dollar despite the fact that US interest rates were dropped and UK interest rates are still being increased. Note that both the dollar and pound *have* dropped relative to the yen. For comic relief, look here for feats of squirrel cognition. And don't forget about US patent 6,970,105 granted in 2005 to a certain Valletta for a passenger control system to prevent hijackments (yup) by putting a neckband on every passenger with sensors to determine each of their "emotional conditions" and if necessary, inject "sedatives, narcotics or strong tranquilizers" by "pelvic contact" into the "evil-minded persons". The joke is, it's not a joke.

    [Aug23'07] Despite the fact that nothing fundamental has changed (US mortgage resets are still a long ways from their March 2008 peak, peak oil is still here, the Iraq war into its fifth year, the Democratic worms are just as cowardly as before), the fear so palpable a week ago is subsiding. Nothing to see here. Wouldn't it be great if fossil fuel reserves *did* go up an down as a function of how good people felt about them?

    [Aug29'07] The bump upward in the polls predicted above (from the London stunts and the nightly Fox news 'minute of hate') is now even more clearly visible here. When you read the internet on on your own and don't watch teevee, you expect these things, but they are still amazing and amazingly depressing to see in the flesh as it were. There was a good article on capitalism in Iraq in the Rolling Stone, though it shamefully fails to mention the fact that we've killed more than a million people of the non-US persuasion there, and the fact that 4 million people have been run out of their homes. You might get the idea reading the thing that it would have all been OK, if we had only done it more efficiently and with less corruption. It wouldn't have been OK. The people in the US should be ostracized for decades for overseeing the holocaust of a million people. Skimming tax money in the process and charging the cannon fodder to repair their own shredded limbs is unfortunate, but not what will be remembered as the main point in the fullness of time. Today, hardly anybody remembers the fact that 1-2 million German men were marched and starved to death in US-run concentration camps after they lost WWII.

    [Sep01'07] With the new $50 billion dollar Iraq war supplement Bush just requested, the US is spending over 1 billion dollars every 2 days to occupy/destroy Iraq. Americans are not up in arms about it at all, and won't be until we start to actually get driven out. That's a contribution of several thousand dollars a year from every adult in the US. For the cost of the Iraq war, those tax receipts could have paid for a halfway decent solar power setup for most families in the US -- an eleventh hour rescue for the grid problems that will be on the way. But like the Archdruid says :-}, unfortunately it's already the *twelfth hour*. While this article about wind turbine problems in Germany is a little FUD'y, it does accurately point out how many years it takes to wring faults out of even relatively old technology. And wind turbines currently generate only a tiny fraction of energy in the EU (less than 0.5%). Even that tiny contribution is a lot more than solar, however, which is so tiny it's irrelevant. And in the spirit of the twelfth hour, there is currently a silicon panel shortage (in the process of being remedied), so we could hardly have paneled everybody's roof this year. But one can always dream.

    [Sep03'07] The anti-Iran propaganda is definitely on the increase again over the last month, though still not quite at the level of anti-Iraq propaganda in late 2002. Enough carriers are still probably in place (I'm not aware of any recent news about where they currently are). Bush's numbers are still drifting upwards (amazing, innit?). There is an endless drumbeat of predictions of another 9/11 from the *mainstream media*. The usu. disinfo sources are catapulting the propaganda, too (e.g., DisinfoKos) -- and I don't particularly trust the motives of Dan Plesch (next door!) or Robert Baer or Sarah Baxter or Todd Gitlin (ehh), who have all recently announced that attacks are coming. I think this September is too soon, still. The movement of (additional) men and materiel is always an unexpectedly leisurely affair. I remain most worried most about what might happen in the run-up to the election early next year when mortgage resets will be at their peak as the elections get seriously under way. The key question is how to sustain the patriotic idiot juice long enough after an attack so that it colors the election. A quick several day blitzkieg in a few weeks doesn't seem like it would do that. Certainly, Bush doesn't need majority support to start another war, maybe just another 5 or 10 more points (cf. Mr. Hilter). Reading online comments suggests that there is already a solid chunk of support or at least a green light for an attack, unbelievable as this may seem given the events of the past 5 years, and also because all these people have access to the internet. And hard as it is to believe, maybe Rove really did resign because he thought it was a bridge too far. Last time (Sept 2002), I remember the big but absolutely ineffectual anti-war movement (of which I was a small part) just sitting there watching the armaments and people being put on ships and sailing over there. I see nothing to stop something similar from happening again. The only way it could be stopped (if they decide to to it), would be a long general strike, and that seems unlikely. In any case, the consolidation of US Iraqi bases into 6 megabases is continuing at full speed, consuming half of the money spent in Iraq. The Balad/Anaconda base is the second most busy airport in the world after Heathrow, and is guarded by 20,000 troops. The US is planning to stay, period.

    [Sep09'07] Yet another fake Osama dead Laden reappears, this time with a curly Grecian formula beard (an actor or maybe just very old tapes). Reading the LA Times article on it reminds me of how they wrote about Reagan -- when his Alzheimers had gotten bad, but the newspaper whores picked through the crap he said, and pretended like his brain was still there.

    [Sep13'07] I'm feeling ill at ease this week (Barksdale joyride, Libor way up, 'withdrawn' UK Basra troops head instead to Iranian border, partial air force standdown on Sept 14), but hopefully nothing will happen. The rhetoric on the Iraq war is absolutely dismal. The air war has been increased in size by a factor of 5 since the beginning of the year (!). There is effectively bipartisan support for the war. Any Democrat capable of getting into office 2008 will by definition be incapable of making the slightest difference to the conduct of the war, given how the election and Democratic party is funded. Despite the fact that the midterm elections were in large part a vote against the war, Rahm Emmanuel among others made sure that Democratic candidates available were 'realists' -- that is, Democrats who 'opposed the war' as window dressing, and then turned around and voted *even more* money for the war than preznit chimp asked for! All the viable Democrats have tripped over themselves rushing to say they will be the first to nuke Iran. And the elephant in the room that no one talks about (as stated many times above) is that the only reason that Good Americans are a bit sour about the Iraq war now is that it is going somewhat badly. They could care less how many Iraqis they have annihilated or driven out of their homes. They could care less about how much it costs (most hardly know the difference between million, billion, and trillion). Some of our troops have been killed and maimed, but the total numbers so far are small -- equivalent to only a month's worth of car accidents in the US (people who survive car accidents also end up with hideous injuries). Most Americans don't care at all that the war is wrong. Finally, and most importantly for thinking about how things will play out, most Americans have no idea how close we are to the beginning of permanent declines in oil, gas, coal, uranium, copper, indium, gallium, soil, water, fish, forests, food, helium (boo hoo, eventually bye-bye fMRI!), etc. etc. Many of them, left and right, think high oil prices are a conspiracy to enrich piggish oil company executives. High oil prices *do* enrich piggish oil company executives. So what? That has absolutely no relevance to the prospects for maintaining industrial civilization as fossil fuels production starts to go over to the downward part of the curve. It has no relevance to geology. As I have said many times, if Americans actually knew how dire the energy/soil/food/metals problem actually was, they would get in line behind our present (and future) resource wars in a snap. They would be happy to nuke the whole rest of the world if push came to shove. In retrospect, it's amazing that the Iraq war has been able to be waged for more than 4 years without any official mention of oil. That may finally have to change in 2008.

    [Sep14'07] I hear lots of left talk about Americans finally getting fed up enough with the current administration to 'not take it anymore'. What exactly would 'it' be? An oversized portion of the world's resources? Do Americans *really* want to leave all that oil behind? I'm relieved nothing happened today.

    [Sep19'07] Nothing to see, so far. The Fed is has been injecting a little more money than it normally does. It also just cut the discount window interest rate by 0.5% to 4.75%. But the peak in mortgage resets (which involve multiple-percent upticks in interest rates that only very roughly follow the discount window interest rate) is still not until Mar 2008. And long term bonds actually went *down* -- i.e., long-term interest rates went *up* -- in response to the fed cut, which will actually hurt mortgage rates. Oil production is continuing to decline (slightly down from the 85 million barrels/day 2006 all-liquids all-time peak) while oil prices continue to rise. Perhaps "probable" and "possible" reserves aren't as tasty as "proven" reserves, after all. Or maybe there is still one more several-year production increase left after the current plateau. That would be great, but even if it happens, society will likely only use it to party on, instead of bowing down in thanks for a few extra years to prepare. The exact moment of the peak doesn't really matter. We are at or very close to the beginning of a permanent, grinding decline. The only concrete societal response in the US so far has been to invade and occupy Iraq and to commission 235 new corn ethanol plants on top of the 111 already operating. By 2008, those plants will (literally) be eating half of the entire US corn harvest, but supplying only five percent of the energy in our liquid fuel use. Tax subsidies for this 1.25x energy-return-on-energy-investment process is absolute insanity as we approach the energy/food/soil/water precipice of industrial civilization. Reading the summaries of introductory presentations at latest ASPO conference in Cork Ireland gave me the willies -- what happened to these people? What are they smoking? OPEC is supposed to go to 50 million barrels/day by 2020 (Mike Rogers) given that it seems to have trouble keeping production at 30 million barrels/day, much of it from 40-year-old fields? And after 12 more years of depletion from now? Sheesh. A.M. Samsam Bakhtiari bowed out of ASPO events after some unexplained altercation in Florence in 2007. William Engdahl has discovered abiotic oil (huh?!). I know, I should just be watching the river flow. It's impossible to reason with an over-sexed deer herd on an island heading for a food crash by explaining the mathematics of population biology to them. People, businessmen, and bankers aren't any different. We must all party on. As a footnote, the vote to restore habaeus corpus (the idea that the government can't hold people without a formal public hearing) just failed in the Senate (not enough Repubicans supported it).

    [Sep24'07] Alan Greenspan says Iraq was about oil, and that he lobbied for the Iraq war. I wonder what the current fed governor is lobbying for now? Off-shoring the majority of productive US industry as supported by Greenspan was merely wage arbitrage for the short-term gain of the super-rich. It has gutted the productive ability country. Apple now designs the outer half-a-millimeter of a laptop (and a fine half millimeter it is!) and then ships off the substantive design of this advertising 'skin' (like the one I'm currently typing on!) to Taiwan where the working guts of it are designed to fit inside the skin and the circuit boards and other working parts are then manufactured and assembled, in Taiwan, China, and Thailand. This is *not* a sustainable course for the US empire; it looks more like the endgame of empire. I imagine that the growth of private police forces to guard rich people and their estates is going to explode in the decade ahead.

    [Oct02'07] Tad Patzek has a long-winded paper on biofuels, "Can we outlive our way of life? (pdf here). One critical fact that was new to me is that the cellulosic ethanol process (at least currently) only gives a 'beer' that is about 4% alcohol while the corn ethanol process gives one that is 12% to 16% ethanol. Since distillation is a major energy loser (actually using up more energy than the energy in the resulting ethanol when applied to a 4% alcohol-water mixture) cellulosic ethanol only gets barely net-energy-positive by getting a credit for all the heating value of the lignin (wheat straw). Since a 1:1 replacement of fossil fuels by biofuels is utterly impossible for more than a few years if we want to still live on the planet in addition to just driving on it, and since we are now at peak oil, he suggests that Europe aim to ramp up to a reduction in fossil fuel usage of 6% per year (over 8 years) and then stay there, every year after that. Having just bicycled home right alongside a bunch of yahoos in cars gunning their engines to madly accelerate their ugly heaps for one block at a time so that they have to slam on the brakes half a block later (using alomost 100,000 watts every time the numbskulls step on the accelerator), I say, it's not a moment too soon to start that reduction! (and yes, I stopped at every light, too). Given that Londoners have passed extreme laws requiring every hallway in new buildings to be made wide enough for *2* wheelchairs to pass each other (resulting in ridiculous office buildings that have as much as 60% of their area as hallways), you'd think it might be possible pass a practical law to really start reducing fossil fuel usage, too, before we run our stupid monkey heads right into the wall. If we *can* think. Reading about users finally finally finally revolting against Microsoft and downgrading from Vista to XP gives me hope.

    [Oct05'07] The rate of stock trading seems to go up with no end in sight. The entire issue of stocks like Google and Apple now turns over 5 to 10 times a year. Stocks are being held on *average* for only a few days. This is not "investment".

    [Oct07'07] Gordon Brown is now behind a joint UK/US/(French?) attack on Iran, but only if Iran was proved to be behind a big militant attack or another stunt similar to the kidnapping in March of British sailors. But, uhhh, the 'kidnapped' British sailors were halfway around the world from Britain and admitted they were trespassing on Iranian coastal waters (for an analogy, imagine Iranians in gunboats picked up by the British Navy in the North Sea). Gordon is finding his inner poodle! What's got him so excited? The French poodle's recent dog tricks? Jealousy of the French for not having helped to cause Darfur? Feeling not manly enough in comparison to those incomparably manly Blackwater storm troopers who have the true grit needed to boldly shoot up women and children in passenger cars? Or maybe it's just that recurrent itch to 'bring Democracy' to another country? Given that the last time Democracy was brought, a million Iraqis were murdered, I do sympathize that you might need an even bigger army to deliver it this time, in case the natives decide they don't want it just yet...

    [Oct10'07] Here is a hopeful article about photovoltaic power. Photovoltaic power is increasing in popularity. However, it is still a tiny fraction of our total power (0.05% or 1/2000 of total world electrical generation, which itself is about one third of total fossil fuel power). In fact, it is currently increasing at a tiny fraction of our *increased yearly usage* of fossil fuels. It is currently accounting for only 0.5% (1/200) of newly installed capacity. It's rate of increase *is* increasing some. But at current rates, it is hard to see how in 20 years it could account for a substantial fraction of the energy currently gotten from fossil fuel -- right around the time oil and gas will be a lot scarcer than now. Here's hoping the rate of increase itself increases -- a lot, starting very soon. There are a lot of possibly cool ideas. For example, V2G (vehicle to grid), where electric vehicle batteries are used for distributed storage of extra power for the grid (pdf here) Most people don't realize that the amount of power used each day by cars is several times the amount of electrical power used out of outlets and the grid (a car can generate a 100,000 watt burst of power and uses 10,000 to 20,000 watts on average [=13-26 hp]). Huge numbers of electric vehicle batteries plugged into the grid could store and buffer intermittent wind and solar power, which are harder than fossil fuels to turn on at will. However, this would require a fundamental re-orientation of people's attitude toward their vehicles. Rather than being something you (just) tear through the wilderness with, they would also be part of the shared grid on which their community relies. This also implies that people would be allowing their expensive vehicle batteries to be cycled (i.e., some of the batteries' available life used up) by other people on the grid. It would take a lot of experimentation -- physical and social -- to figure out if something like this could every be practical. I fear that such 'commie' ideas will be laughed out of court until it is too late and the grid has already been Iraq-i-fied, and it's every man for himself.

    [Oct11'07] As someone very poorly schooled in economics, this graph (of 3-month US Treasury Bills yield and the Fed funds rate) is perhaps the most amazing money graph I have ever seen. The Fed seems completely passive, slavishly following short-term interest rates with a very short delay! It sure looks like the Fed will have to continue lowering. What the global effect of that will be is hard for me to guess.

    [Oct14'07] I'm feeling blue, watching the river flow. Big banks are colluding to 'fix' their greed market so that they don't accidentally shoot each other in the face by denying each other credit. I thought the market fixed all, without the need for any interference? Their solution won't be in our interest ("our" means people like you and me that don't own or run banks). It reminds me of an old scene from The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe where the assassins all accidentally end up in one room: "we're all professionals here...". In the midst of various economic indigestion, the severity of the oil problem will finally come into view back in the US because, paradoxically, low gasoline taxes couple oil price signals more directly to gasoline price signals (the large, fixed-size gas taxes in Europe mean that oil price increases are damped for the enduser). People in the US will not be in a constructive mood when they finally realize what the situation is. And when oil prices finally break through the European tax damper, I doubt the response here will be much more charitable (in the UK at least, think back to 2000, when the lorry drivers shut down the the economy for a week over fuel prices). And for something completely different, the pharmeceutical companies have turned in a big way toward the nasal epithelium, targetting it with anti-obesity, diabetes, and even anti-autism drugs (oxytocin work-alikes). Before long, there will be hundreds of companies fighting for membrane space inside your nose. I wish I could instead get that positive emotion that brings a tear to my eye and makes me proud to be a human when I see a remarkable musical performance or come to finally understand a remarkable turn of scientific thought. Instead, I'm dejectedly thinking about the other, equally notable technologically-enabled, violent side of my fellow man-apes. I feel sad for us -- apes with language and immensely more powerful minds -- having worked ourselves into the same situation as deer herd on the threshold of overwhelming the resources on a small island, all just munching away, all just barely aware of the terrible cull that is almost surely on the way.

    [Oct20'07] Bush took an unexpected, discontinuous plummet in the polls from an average of about 34% to an average of 26% in two recent polls (Zogby, Harris) -- the lowest number ever -- after a slow sustained rise from May to October of 30% to about 34%. It must be housing+oil. It could also be red-state faithful getting hammered by the "Exceptional" drought (Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, and Idaho) visible here (the scale is: abnormally dry, moderate drought, severe drought, extreme drought, and finally, exceptional drought). But a desperate Bush and Cheney could take desperate measures. The fact that such a large number of people (70) were punished for the supposedly 'minor' mistake (leaked first to The Military Times) of flying nukes arounds the country suggests that it wasn't a minor mistake. Several people have noted that for the leak to come out in The Military Times, it had to pass several high level military censors. Perhaps this was a sign of internal conflict. Bush's poll numbers worry me. On the positive side, things have been thankfully completely quiet during the dirtie balm exercises in Portland and Guam.

    [Oct21'07] Here is another article pointing out that for the past two decades, the Fed funds rate has *followed* the short term credit market rates with a small delay. These graphs are completely contrary to the generally accepted view that the Fed rate somehow controls/throttles the economy. Maybe it does by other actions that affect the short term credit markets that I don't fully understand (perhaps involve 'repos', whatever they are, and/or the banks of the 'Caribbean', heh). And I don't really understand the recent 'master liquidity enabler conduit garbage collector structured investment vehicle'... But returning to the Fed funds rate, why this strange fiction??

    [Oct28'07] The torture methods of the US have hardly changed for 40 years. And they were in turn largely adapted from methods originally developed by the Nazis. Here is an excellent article by Fred Morris about his experiences in Brazil in the 1970's, face to face with American-trained Brazilian interrogators. Torture has long been a major American export. Instead of outsourcing it, however, it looks like a domestic market is finally being developed. Tasers are just good old electric shock torture, now in the hands of every police dept in the country, and in widespread use -- so much so that 300 people have already been killed in the US with tasers (here is an example from last year where police tasered a handcuffed epileptic man 5 times until he passed out and died -- and then got off without the grand jury even viewing the video). Perhaps some of my buddies in machine learning are already working on auto-targetting tasers for the genitals to make Tasers exactly equivalent to what was already being taught at the School of the Americas thirty years ago. And maybe the police need to hire some doctors like the professionally trained torturers often do, so that their poor victims can be tortured again and again.

    [Oct29'07] "Be green. Drive green." says the Prius ad now running on The Oildrum. Then, top it off with the "carbon-neutral car insurance" that they sell on the teevee, and we're all set to consume this year's cubic mile of oil in style (there are about 30 cubic miles left). The market is fixing everything, getting everybody to agree on a fair price (which hit $93/barrel today). Of course, since the market value of 'our' people is a little higher than 'yours', we might have to grab your oil because we have a much bigger military than you (merely a background fact for the market, like when the market determines prices after the harbor has been fired upon in the olden days). The US+UK have so far killed a million people building permanent military bases to control (steal) Iraqi oil. And that atrocity got started even before peak oil hit (happening about now). Imagine what the oh-so-greens will want to do to the world when the pressure really goes up. We have just now reached an equilibrium where oil demand is starting to bump into maximum oil production. Maxmimum oil production is set to go down from here, relentlessly, permanently, and demand is set to go up. If *I* were the rest of the world, I'd be thinking about getting me some atomic fire of my own before furious Mr. Green arrives at the door threatening to kill my kids and atomize my house. Even if the world tanks the dollar, it won't do anything to US+UK (and FR) big guns and bombs. Tanking the dollar or the pound is like beating the schoolyard bully at Scrabble. He'll just knock the pieces off the board unless you've got a big stick. It's the only language he understands. If Iran already had the big stick, we wouldn't be threatening them. Without it, the 4 million barrels a day coming from the Iranian oil strip (in Khuzestan on the western edge of the country, bordering Iraq) are a mighty inviting target. After all, perhaps we could dismember their country in a fashion similar to the way the men with the shriveled little thingees in the US Senate are now planning to do to Iraq (after their heartfelt attempt to rebuild Iraq using the 1994 Lonely Planet guide failed). Little thingees on little Eichmanns.

    [Oct30'07] The idiocy and criminality of a slight majority of my fellow Americans who support a strike on Iran is breathtaking. Their minds are open sewers down which teevee propaganda is flushed, even as the source only rates a 25% approval by the very same people. But it doesn't matter! Hard to believe, but unfortunately, accurate to plus or minus a few percent. Flush the whole country down the toilet, fools, in order to get your war on. Doesn't mean it will happen. I still think it probably it won't happen. Also, maybe this reflects the beginning of a mostly unconscious realization, alluded to many times above, by the pissed off zombies that there actually *is* an oil problem, and that it's not going to go away. Trying to also steal Iran's oil will not work. $100 a barrel oil is not a stopping point. We have to use less.

    [Oct31'07] Today Warren Buffett says he wants to pay more tax. Richies only say stuff like this when they are scared that something is about to blow. When they get scared, I get scared.

    [Nov08'07] I am extremely worried about what will happen as the python continues to digest the pig of (1) rarely traded investment vehicles of still-not-yet-known value, but getting lower all the time, (2) still yet-to-peak mortgage resets, and (3) continued oil volatility. There is perhaps $500 billion (or more) of risky junk on bank balance sheets, potentially bigger than the 1980's savings and loan disaster, where $125 billion in tax money was used to bail out a bunch of crooks who had sold off mortgages in order to reinvest the money in more exotic instruments. Given that half of Americans support an attack on Iran, it's clear they're not afraid of any of this. Amazing!

    [Nov14'07] As the dollar falls, it is just beginning to stimulate reverse globalization. Just think, Americans, too, will soon have the pleasure of talking to people that have just spent 10 minutes fuming on a phone menu. But seriously, the worldwide energy crunch is going to impact poorer nations more severely than rich western countries (we haven't had fuel riots like the ones in Myanmar or Iran). I think it it likely that right when the rest of the world is really down and hungry, the rich west will be itself a little pinched and less likely to help out. That is, reverse globalization is unlikely to go very far.

    [Nov17'07] The decomposition of trees damaged as a result of Katrina and Rita will generate as much CO2 as all of the living trees in the US take out of the atmosphere in one year (~1 billion tons). -- James Cummins, Wildlife Mississippi

    [Nov23'07] There have been about 300 deaths from Tasers. Since they usually don't kill people, police must be Tasering people constantly. The distraught Polish guy in the Vancouver airport recently killed by a Taser was unconscious within 20 secs of the police arriving. At this rate, everyone is going to need a Taser to defend themselves against sadistic cops. Tasers for everyone! Of course, it wouldn't have helped the guy the UK cops Tasered for having fallen into a diabetic coma.

    [Nov26'07] Things are sure looking shakey! Maybe that's why Taser will soon be bringing out taser flying saucers. This is what machine learning is getting used for. We pay taxes to fund people to understand how visual perception and the brain works and then it gets applied to crap like this. Surveillance and now torture from the sky. Lovely. Sometimes makes me wonder whether the end of fossil fuels might actually be a good thing that will save us from ourselves.

    [Nov27'07] Rig count figures from Baker Hughes show that 1762 out of 3124 rigs drilling in October 2007 were drilling in America -- that is, over 56% of all rigs in the world were drilling in US. But I thought peak oil is happening because environmentalists are not allowing oil exploration, blah, blah. The US is the most well-drilled place on the planet (which is why the production curve up, to 1971 peak, and down is so smooth).

    [Nov29'07] "We are not your problem. We are Israelis. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are your problem" -- an explanation from the 'dancing Israelis' from 'Urban Moving Systems' for why they were laughing, high-fiving, posing for photos with a cigarette lighter in front of the ruins as if lighting them, while videoing. "Our purpose was to document the event." Many people would like to see how this confiscated but never-made-public video document begins.

    [Nov30'07] Once again, I was wrong about the Bush approval polls. In October, I thought they had experienced an almost discontinuous drop. But in fact, that was just 3 outliers. Instead, Bush's numbers have actually, amazingly, drifted up a bit, to about 34%, from a steady diet of 'news' about the surge 'working' (despite 2007 resulting in the most US casualties of any year!), Iran war talk, and worries about the economy. I would guess that now a majority of Americans approve of torture, both Repug-worms and Demo-worms. This is frightening, given that the recession has not yet happened in a big way. Under serious economic duress, I imagine that Americans would be willing to go a lot further.

    [Dec02'07] It's worth summing up 2006 and 2007. Supporting Democrats did absolutely nothing to stop or even slow down the war. In fact, Democrats actually helped *increase* funding for the war as well as the number of troops on the ground. Despite an actual Congressional majority, the Democrats didn't once even threaten to filibuster a war funding bill, much less actually do it. They only need 41 solid votes to sustain a filibuster. They tabled impeachment. That's just the facts. The US -- and the UK -- antiwar movements were co-opted into supporting the official 'left' (Democrats, Labour) in the 1960's sense of the word. The utter failure of this strategy to even slightly slow down the war(s) has completely enervated the antiwar movement. There are less people on the street than ever before. What's next? Support the Democrats again? They didn't deliver the goods. Facts on the ground are more important than the spin in the air. Supporting the Democrats was a mistake. Sometimes people make mistakes. This one just happened to occur at a particularly crucial time in history. At this point, the main ongoing resistance to an attack on Iran is coming from the military, of all places! The constant Goebbels-like propaganda from the mainstream media already has over half of the American sheeple in favor of it, which is quite amazing given their generally unfavorable view of the ongoing Iraq disaster.

    [Dec05'07] The organ donor thing sure creeps me out. Whether it's getting organs from the third world or grandparents asking their grandkid for a kidney, it's just sicko. In about 20 years, the average boomer (like me) is going to be 70. I'm sure by then, there will be web courses about how to conduct these negotiations in a politically correct way. If things continue along the path they're currently on in America, in another 5 years, maybe there will be enough terr'ists in jail to keep a bunch of ugly boomers alive as their organs begin to fail. Why can't they (we) just die normally?

    [Dec06'07] The NIE report sure had the Bush decider-idiot more fumble-mouthed than usual. It seems like a clear strike back from the military to slow the push toward the Iran war. Ah, my antiwar friends -- the military industrial and surveillance complex. Sheesh. I hope they do stop the (next) war. However, given that there were more than 5 words in the NIE report, and given that it only takes something like 2 or 3 words for effective propaganda (e.g., "9/11" + "WMD" + "Iraq"), all the verbiage in this report may end up being easily bypassed, for example, by "nuclear" + "Iran" + "wiped-off-the-face-of-the-map". And yes, wiped-off-the-face-of-the-map counts as one word because the media has defined it, through incessant repetition of this mistranslation, as a fixed idiomatic expression.

    [Dec07'07] Features of fascism (Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, Pinochet) according to Lawrence Britt: increased patriotism, racial/religious/minority demonization together with homeland racial/religious supremacy, glamourization and increased funding of military, increased emphasis on punishment, decreased emphasis on human rights legitimizing torture and extra-judicial imprisonment and execution, increased sexism, deemphasis of academia and arts, government control and censorship of media, national security obsession, protection of corporate power, cronyism between government and security/war businesses. Recent changes in the US and UK are currently all going pretty much in the direction of fascism. As an example, there is currently a debate in the UK as to whether the already-lengthened limit for holding somebody without charges (1 month) should be extended to almost 2 months. But why stop at 2 months? Wouldn't a year, or ten, help keep 'us' even safer? And it wouldn't inconvenience 'real' Brits, right? Check out this excerpt from a 2006 Popular Mechanics article on NYPD routinely deploying SWAT team storm troopers onto city streets where there is nothing to SWAT at, just in order to scare people and then see how they react (you looking suspicious? you videotaping?). This is how sheep are trained to live in a police state (original putrid article here).

    [Dec08'07] The latest USA today poll shows a just-statistically-significant loss of support for attacking Iran, probably because of the unexpected release of the National Intelligence Estimate report a week ago. And CNN hilariously had to re-schedule and re-purpose footage from its planned 2 hours of sewage/propaganda about a future nuclear Iran this weekend because of the report (they are no doubt furiously shuffling video cuts as we speak). Israel is upset that, as Uri Avnery writes, "they stole the bomb from us". Ehud Barak called the report a "blow to the groin", while the Shas party minister Yitzhak Cohen pulled out all the anti-semitism stops, saying that Americans' attitude to the National Intelligence Estimate was reminiscent of Auschwitz. Yeah, yeah. But the polls are still uncomfortably close to 50% of Americans supporting an Iran attack -- and that's without any real stunt having occurred. It's possible that the neo-crazies might strike back in the next month or two. They (e.g., Podhoretz/Abrams/Ledeen/Kristol/Bolton/Murdoch-WSJ) are currently all spluttering in unison about the CIA plot against Bush. And Wolfowitz is back in town (at the International Security Advisory Board); and now France has Sarkozy and Bernard Kouchner. I think there is a small chance of another false flag. The pressure will really be on around March 2008.

    [Dec09'07] If Ron Paul were to become a third party candidate, we might end up with a Ross-Perot-1992-like situation. He wouldn't win but he might actually draw away more disaffected Democratic than Republican votes. The dismal performance of the Democrats (yet another pusillanimous sell-out on war funding this week) has begun to sour even the most faithful. The failure of the Republican attempt in California to have (only!) Democratic California proportionally allocate its electoral college votes (instead of winner-take-all) has failed (this would be a good idea, of course, if all states did it). Also this week, the Senate 'blocked' a House bill that included such commie provisions as requirements for better fuel economy -- 35 mpg by 2020 -- which is sensible, practical, uncontroversial, etc, etc. To be fair, it did also contain an utterly ridiculous and impractical plan to 7-tuple the amount of ethanol production by 2022 that would use most of our farmland for cars, doesn't have a chance of happening given that world grain stockpiles have already fallen to record lows, and that was in any case not the reason the bill was blocked. There were also reasonable incentives for wind turbines and solar power. There were 53 yes votes, but it needed 60/100 to overcome a Bush veto. You go, lemmings. Stop those commies. Don't dangerously distort the market with incentives. Let it creatively destroy the entire planet. *Something's* bound to survive.

    [Dec11'07] Wow. The NIE report even has the Guiliani-worm-thing back-sliming on attacking Iran! Go spooks. I'm hoping this all sticks, despite the shrieking from the neocrazies.

    [Dec13'07] The complete lack of an effect of the Fed having tightened from 1% in 2004 to over 5% on M3 total money (note that the graph at the top that page is money M3 *growth*, not M3 itself!) suggests that the Fed has considerably less control over the creation of money -- at least via the Fed rate -- than is usually portrayed. Also, as mentioned above, the Fed rate seems to actually *follow*, not lead changes in interest rate of short-term treasuries, which are set by the market and probably influenced by non-public Fed actions other than Fed interest rate changes. One of those new "liquidity injection methods" was introduced by the Fed this week, possibly to be a "permanent addition" to its "monetary policy toolkit". The Fed now generates money from the void (as it always does), but instead of a bank just borrowing the money for a short term to cover withdrawals with a public record of the loan, the Fed directly buys toxic financial waste that nobody wants (because it's almost worthless), and does it secretly. That kind of counterfeiting seems hazardous.

    [Dec15'07] The third pic down (discount rate spread) clearly shows two sudden events in August and just now. The response of the money people has been to increase trading of derivatives by 27% in the third quarter to a record 681 trillion. For reference, the yearly US GDP is around 13 trillion. The derivatives traded in one quarter amounted to almost one quadrillion (as in 681,000,000,000,000 dollars in one quarter).

    [Dec16'07] "The larger problem here, I think, is that this kind of stuff [torture] just makes people feel better, even if it doesn't work." -- CIA officer quoted here. Don't support torture to make a bunch of fake he-men producers and fake he-men writers for tripe like "24" 'feel better'. Make them feel bad by not hiring their pitiful asses.

    [Dec17'07] As noted above, the smart money seems to have piled into derivatives after fleeing the toxic waste that the Fed is now secretly buying. What a scheme! What a complete rip-off of people who actually work, make things, help people, or do music, art, and science! Why do we let these turds skim off all the proceeds? What they do is selfish, dangerous (to us, not them!), and shouldn't be rewarded. We need to make it more dangerous *to them*. When they screw up, we should seize their yachts, cars, estates, and bank accounts, just like they do with petty criminals and drug lords, and make them do some real work. The rough sequence of events since 2000 seems to have been: (1) stock market tanks, (2) Fed drops interest rates to the floor, (3) hot money flows into housing, (4) as the growth of normal mortgages starts to flag, the subprime carcass is constructed and then fed upon by more exotic blood suckers, (5) housing finally crashes (now including commercial real estate), (6) the parasites drop off the 'exotic' carcasses and flee into derivatives (!), leaving the Fed to clean up (i.e., by devaluing everybody else's money by buying the drained carcasses in secret for 10 times what they are currently worth). Who would have guessed that derivatives would be considered 'safe' at this point in time? (well, not me, which is why I'm always one step behind). Derivatives a safe haven! But they don't have to be safe (and won't be safe) for very long. They just have to be stable enough for a year or two to allow the parasites to suck another few hundred billion out of the body politic. Given the massive increases in money creation (M3 *growth* is running at 15% per year, which is a doubling of money in 5 years), real growth has already stopped. Real growth stopping is actually a good thing. But I remain very worried about 2008 (my original prediction of peak oil). By early 2008, prime ARMs (along with yet more subprimes) are going to be in trouble, raising economic pressure even further. Even some fixed rate mortgages are under water. 2008 is shaping up to be a truly a dangerous year of slow motion economic hangover. I doubt if the destruction will be creative. But I have been wrong more often than right w.r.t. economics.

    [Dec19'07] Throw the torturers out, now. If Latin American mothers of the disappeared can do it, then so can cowardly American men. If Americans don't rise up soon, even men and blondes are going to be in deep doodoo.

    [Dec27'07] Consumer confidence rose unexpectedly in December.

    [Dec28'07] Peak oil humor: JD, who is a peak oil debunker, complained that TheOilDrum has turned into "Disasterpedia"... :-}

    [Dec30'07] There is a very good article by Richard K. Moore (rkm) here about, among other things, (Northern) energy and (Southern) food. It reiterates a point I have made many times that once US-ians (and UK-ians) finally read the peak oil writing on the wall, they will support policies that lead to the holocaust of the South. It's only matter of finding a politically correct way in which it can be Blitzer'd. At an enormous human cost, the North will keep its (slightly smaller) motors running for another 20 years, all while 'fighting global warming' and 'becoming energy independent' and making a zillion more iPods out of Chinese coal. Unless something changes drastically in our economic system, our way of life will not be negotiated, but rather fully prosecuted over giant piles of dead bodies, until geology has the last word with us. If (when) oil prices double or triple (again), it will cause people in the North to drive less and to finally prefer better mileage cars (as in Europe, where oil prices are already 2-3x those in the US because of taxes); but in the South, doubling or tripling real oil prices (again) will cause riots (e.g., see Myanmar, 2007) and the beginnings of widespread starvation. But I don't see a way that oil prices can get high enough (e.g., 10x or 50x as high as now) to motivate people in the North to fundamentally retool their ways and their economic system without at the same time killing huge numbers of people in the South.

    [Jan02'08] To start off the new year on a good foot, here is a positive article about how solar could help save the day.

    [Jan05'08] "National security isn't going to mean much if we have a generation of kids so physically incapacitated [by obesity] they can't go to war." -- Mike Hukabee. But McDonald's is free enterprise! Is Huckabee a closet librul? I don't usually read Kunstler, but he made a good point in a recent column about the final suburban phase of US history: "40 percent of all new jobs after the year 2000 were created in the final burst of suburban expansion". I saw it in San Diego. I moved there in the late 80's and left last year. During that time, all the mostly empty space between the 5 and the 15 freeways north of the city was filled in -- an amazing expansion into an area much larger than the original footprint of the city (it's not just San Diego -- the same thing happened just outside the 'green belt' around London). Perhaps it will all work out, even as transportation becomes more expensive. The price of oil doubled in 2007. It *might* temporarily dip because of demand destruction during a serious world recession, but even if that happens, it soon afterwards has nowhere to go but up -- even if the recession never ends.

    [Jan07'08] The Persian Gulf of Tonkin-y thingee, plus two F-18's crash in mid-air over the Gulf, plus a major fire in the largest Iraqi oil refinery -- and oil goes down (!?). The oil traders must have some inside info on a serious near-term economic contraction (very near term is all they can see). Here is a more quantitative look at how the current exponential growth corn ethanol and other biofuels are well set up to starve the South (as noted a few posts back). The key point out of all of Stuart Staniford's too-many graphs is that gasoline proice elasticiy in the US is -0.05 while price elasticity for food consumption by poor consumers is -0.7. The -0.05 means that large price increases don't affect how much people buy very much, while -0.7 means that large price increases strongly reduce the amount people will buy. Growing corn for ethanol competes directly with growing corn, wheat, and rice for food. It's already happening. Americans have and will continue to easily outbid (for biofuels) what poor people can bid (for food). Americans are burning up the food of the world to move their oversize butts around in their stupid oversize cars. It's truly sick.

    [Jan10'08] The (Rupert-Murdock-owned!) Times Sibel Edmonds article is getting remarkably little play in the US, given that is is supposedly about 'nuclear al-Queda in Pakistan'. There was also: "We need to get them out of the U.S. because we can't afford for them to spill the beans." -- as told to Marc Grossman (former number 3 at the State dept) by spy handlers for people in Turkey, Israel, and Pakistan. "Them" was a bunch of people arrested by the FBI in connection with 9/11, then released from jail and sent out of the country after this call from spy handlers came in (now, if you were a random taxi driver grabbed for cash in Afghanistan, tough luck). The timing and location of this partial and extremely confusing release of information make it a major play, like the National Intelligence Estimate. But I can't really figure out what it means (or why it is not being played up in the US, given how well it would fit with in with Drool-iani or Obama calling for an attack on Pakistan). Some have suggested that she was (maybe unknowingly) a part of a counterintelligence operation to sell defective plans (the Pakistani A-tests *were* very small).

    [Jan11'08] The Pentagon-assisted (cf. CIA-assisted NIE) unwinding of the shoddy Tonkin-lite (ironically, or not-so-ironically coinciding with a report admitting the original fake!) does look like Bush is losing his grip. With a lot more bank funny business still to unwind/unload, 2008 could be a doozy. On the bright side, a world recession could temporarily bring down oil prices -- right at Peak Oil!

    [Jan13'08] Unfortunately, I noticed a hit from somebody that was previously at hzzp:||sviolett.com (don't go there if you have a Windows machine -- it will install a trojan in the form a codec, even if you try to cancel and close the browser), which means my page may have been linked from there. Google drops links on known Trojan-installing sites.

    [Jan14'08] Americans are now worried more about the economy than about the war, as if the two weren't related (almost a billion a day in American tax dollars go to support our daily genocide in Iraq). Americans want 'leaders' who will 'fix the economy' and go after oil companies who are driving up the cost of oil. It's positively embarrassing.

    [Jan21'08] It sure looks like there is about to be some more violent price whipsawing in the world's stock markets (a lot of downs, but also some sharp ups) after the 5% one-day drops on Monday (the US markets were closed). The much greater suddenness of these worldwide changes compared to changes in the underlying fundamentals (sure oil is running down and grain supplies are dropping, but they can't possibly have fallen off a cliff in 3 days -- and as before the drops took oil along with them!) re-emphasizes what a complete casino (at the rest of our expenses) the stock market is. It's not about investing but rather in taking advantage of panics with time courses of hours or days -- petty little greed and fear cycles of the psychopaths running things that have nothing much to do with what I like to think of as reality. The world is not decoupled at all -- the greed oscillations of the psychopaths resonate across the entire world now like an epileptic fit. Unfortunately, those greed cycles actually *are* our reality. Stuart Staniford's tedious piece in the oildrum today explaining how industrial agriculture will actually profit from rising oil prices must have required wearing holes in his tongue licking the boots of the greedy psychopaths (don't mention the subsidies, the soil, or water, Stuart... you mentioned them once but I think you got away with it). Maybe his religion made him do it. The rest of the world can eat cake. A little Eichmann-y for my taste. Good for his CV, tho.

    [Jan22'08] A sharp up it was indeed for the Dow, after the more-than-expected Fed cut, which cancelled the opening-bell (overnight) downward spike (though leaving the previous week of US losses intact).

    [Jan27'08] First Obama girls, now, uhhh, peak oil girls (?!) on youtube! Even the Rupert Street Journal is getting in on the peak oil bandwagon. I think they thought the survivalist bit showed some skin. Anything to distract attention from FED graphs like this one and this one and this one, which suggest that business is seriously 'not as usual'. These sudden spikes don't look like anything that has happened in the past 50 years. They look like the first expression of the kind of kind of instabilities I had been worrying about for years above. By contrast, the set of energy graphs in my peak oil pdf are on a much longer time scale than those wild Fed graphs. Smoothing the feathers of the poor little jittery financial wizards so they won't shoot each other in the legs is one thing; dealing with the crushing long-term downtrends in the peak oil/energy graphs is another. Like the peak oil girl says, I suppose.

    [Feb02'08] US banks are now basically out of reserves and are borrowing from the Fed to pay for withdrawals. They are technically insolvent. Since 'innovations' like 'sweeps' have already lowered effective bank reserve requirements to maybe 3%, perhaps this is no big thing, just a few percent difference. Just a flesh wound. My main worry is that as bank reserve requirements have declined (or been worked around), a singularity is approached. Bank reserve requirements effectively define the factor by which banks can multiply the money supply (10% reserve requirement means banks will multiply the amount of money borrowed into existence from the Fed by 10 after multiple cycles of deposit and withdrawal). At zero reserves, banks can multiply money infinitely. There are big differences between 3%, 2%, and 1% reserves (money multipliers of 33, 50, and 100). It does seem that something like this has started to happen in derivatives, where their nominal 'values' of $500 trillion are many times larger then the world's GDP or world M3 equivalent.

    [Feb03'08] From Chalmers Johnson: By 1990, production for the Department of Defense amounted to 83 percent of the value of all manufacturing plants and equipment in the US -- that is, 17 percent of the US manufacturing base made products not meant to kill. The US is in the late stages of pissing away its unique intellectual, artistic, mineral, and agrarian resources. It won't get them back. It's sad. And all to fill the pockets and pay for hookers for a small number of stinky old hair-transplant men who are already drafting plans for their offshore concubines and vacation/retirement castles. But there is one unfortunate difference from the Roman empire (or the former British empire). The US has nukes. When the barbarians finally came to the gates of Rome demanding all of Rome's treasure, the cashiered Romans didn't have any serious doomsday firepower. If they *had* had them, everything might have turned out differently. This time, even the richies' tropical safe havens might 'get their hair mussed'.

    [Feb09'08] I have a feeling that articles like this by Matthew Rothschild in the Progressive and films like V is for Vendetta, either knowingly or unknowingly, serve as psychological acceptance training for a police state. The great majority of people that read them don't get mad, but scared and helpless. No fear, as they used to say.

    [Feb10'08] Sheryl Crow's (!) sorta kinda peak oil song (third line: "And oil was way beyond its peak") written by Ben Harper, incongruously hooked "Gasoline will be free" (I like the bluesy 1970 feel, even if the concept is dorky).

    [Feb15'08] I graduated from NIU with a degree in geology and good grades and I play guitar. However, I think it would be premature at this point in time to tar all NIU graduates with a label of NIU-white-guy-slamofascism.

    [Feb17'08] This graph of non-borrowed bank reserves (was 40 billion, now zero!) and this graph of total borrowings by depository institutions from the Federal Reserve (now at 45 billion -- a giant spike 11 times the 9/11 and 1987 spikes, and 5 times the 1984 spike) suggests that 'regular' banks are now all truly insolvent (both from here). They have no reserves other than those borrowed into existence last week from the Fed. And this emergency borrowing has recently been made secret, so normal people can no longer identify which banks are going bankrupt (all of them?). In contrast with the LEAP 2020 people, I think the situation in Europe and the UK is virtually identical (if anything, the UK and EU central banks have created even more money via this route than the US has so far). It looks like a giant freeway pileup, but in slow mo, with no sound. I suppose people will object that the numbers here ($40 billion of US small people and family business bank deposits) are trivial compared to trillions of real estate equity, $3.5 trillion in money market funds, the US or world GDP ($10-ish trillion, $40-ish trillion) or derivatives ($400-ish trillion) or interest rate swaps ($600 trillion-ish). It still creeps me out. And peak oil hasn't even started to bite. What will happen when there is real pressure on the system? I have no clear idea whether to expect inflation or deflation. Creating money is generally inflationary, but problems obtaining credit mean deflation. I suppose I still feel deflationary, like Genesis at Market Ticker. It's true US/UK/EU central banks are creating huge amounts of credit/money to buy distressed things of zero value rather than wringing them out of the system. But I don't agree with the gold idiots (like the tedbits guy who posted the graphs above) who ridiculously group gold and oil together as 'commodities' and then see inflation relative to them. I don't think gold matters much at all now (in the long run you can't eat it or power a truck with it), and oil is going up because of simple supply and demand (we are near peak oil), not because of money games. Housing still has a huge way to fall to get back into historical alignment with salaries. People can no longer spend extra by taking out home equity loans (consumers are 70% of the GDP and home equity withdrawals maybe 10% of that). Municipalities are having to pay 20% interest on loans (NY Port Authority this week), which will lead to municipal bankruptcies (only banking richies can get secret low interest 'loans' from the Fed printing presses because they are such good people and have invested money so wisely; working people by contrast have to pay 20% interest to the banks because working people are 'risky'). None of these huge deflationary 'meals' are even close to having made it through the python yet (we haven't even reached the peak of 'funny' mortgage resets yet, much less the consequences of them). Meanwhile, back in Washington, yet more war and defense spending bills are being prepared and will be passed. As Elaine Meinel Supkis says, the entire Congress and Bush and Greenspan/Bernanke should be arrested for fraud for cutting taxes and lowering interest rates to almost zero, all while launching *two* wars. Eat the rich before they eat us.

    [Feb25'08] Sad to see that the violent, pointless piece-'o-crap movie, no country for old men was given a bunch of awards. For what? It's the emperor with no clothes! I'm very sorry to have paid them money to see it without finding out about it first. Complete trash. I loved the Big Lebowski. This one sucked. As one imdb commenter suggested, it seemed like a joke -- they make a vile movie that abuses the audience and then they watch as the self-flagellating idiots explain to themselves how deep Tommy Lee Jones stupid lines are. It's Federico Krueger, chumps. I can't wait for the sequel -- Anton Chigurh vs. Predator *and* Alien.

    [Feb27'08] As expected last year by anybody who could fog a laptop screen (e.g., me, above) the number of foreclosures is skyrocketing. The number of mortgage resets is about to hit its peak -- but the people who suddenly can't pay now aren't the ones foreclosing now! -- the current interest rate resets won't foreclose until this Fall. Banks have already been completely drained (and more!) of their non-borrowed reserves over the past two months. The worst could still be yet to come. The weird complacency I get when talking to people about this sets me on edge. I really wish we could get the next 6 months out of the way quickly. And I especially don't like it when the richies announce to you that you're about to be f***ed (but of course, they still get to keep theirs).

    [Mar03'08] Scott Horton wrote an insightful piece on the embrace of torture by Americans, noting that Fox's "24" gave Americans 67 torture scenes in its first five seasons (up from virtually no torture scenes on teevee in the 90's). Widespread torture was given up (at least in the homeland of western countries) because: (1) it doesn't work, (2) once rooted it spreads like kudzu, (3) there are no ticking time bombs, and (4) it doesn't fit well with a free society. Many Americans now shamefully think otherwise. Unfortunately, these tastes have a nasty way of bubbling into a craze like the witch trials. It doesn't help media broadcasting identical copies of these memes into everybody's bedroom at the same time.

    [Mar05'08] Interesting stats on the costs of using a car here. 43,000 deaths a year and several times that many serious injuries a year costing each big city person about $1000/year and each smaller city person over $2000/year. At $164 billion/year, crashes are a visible chunk of the GDP. For comparison, prisons -- another big component of state budgets that has far outstripped what is spent on higher education and put the US on the world map as the country with the highest percentage of its population in jail -- cost a mere $50 billion/year.

    [Mar08'08] Things certainly do look shaky when the regular press starts echoing whacko blogs like mine. But things have looked shaky before -- e.g., late 1970's, 1987, 1998. In all those cases, financial people got whipsawing psychological oscillations back under control and life went on. Things seem hugely more precarious then they were back then (esp. oil, food, unprecedented global size of housing inflation and hedge fund leverage, the fact that at the *top* of a huge housing bubble people have ended up with a record *low* percent equity, the $200 billion Fed action this week, people squatting in their multimillion dollar seaside mansions because there is a year delay for the bank to get a court date) but who knows? Maybe still not the big one? The fundamentals of oil, food, and housing are all slow moving. The slopes either side of their peaks are very shallow (even though the slopes from unwinding huge leverage on them can be violent). A glance at this chart shows the largest recorded swing in summer/winter ice coverage change in 2007/2008, coincident with extremely rough weather in China (which destroyed 10% of its forests) and the northern US. If the rough weather continues into summer, it could be a real doozy of a hurricane season. Global warming means more precipitation in addition to warming. Like I said above, I wish we could just get through the next 6 months real quick...

    [Mar08'08] Now that there is a peak oil video game (KAOS Studios in New York just spent $15 million making Frontlines: Fuel of War) my job is done: I guess there is no need to update my peak oil pdf anymore :-}

    [Mar10'08] A recent meme is that since the move to ethanol was prompted by concerns about global warming, and since ethanol is bad and competes with food, global warming must be a scam. Ethanol is certainly very bad. But it's hardly being done because of concerns about global warming. It would be better from a CO2 point of view to just burn the fossil fuels used to make it directly, since burning ethanol of course generates CO2 (and the EROEI is almost 1:1). This is a little like claiming that peak oil must be wrong because oil companies are run by pigmen. The second is true but is completely unrelated to the first, which depends on geology and maximum flow rates, not greed.

    [Mar12'08] Admiral Fallon has resigned, perhaps, because like Rumsfeld, he didn't feel it was strategically optimal to 'crush the ants' at this particular point in time (Fallon's own words from the recent bootlicking article written about him in Esquire). In Rumsfeld's case, what happened after was the surge (more of the same). In this case, it could be worse. This is just a few days after a US navy attack group arrived in the mideast. The recent jump of oil to $110 may be related. Most senior military officers seem to oppose a strike, so getting rid of Fallon doesn't mean a strike is imminent. It also indicates that there is dissension at the top. But on balance, I don't think it's a good sign. A successful attack on an American ship (false flag or otherwise) could rapidly change the situation (this came close to working). The threat of fast water-skimming cruise missiles has been well rehearsed. Because of this, some have suggested that an attack on Iran will only come when all the US ships in the Gulf *leave* :-}

    [Mar15'08] The poor wittle freemarket pigmen at Bear Stearns are getting bailed out by the gubmint, just a few days after the $200 billion announcement. These are the same guys who say, "tough luck bucko, the free market won't allow us to pay your health insurance". Socialism is only for pigmen. The reason they are failing is because their equally flush New York hedge fund rat-friends (e.g., Renaissance 'Technologies' [heh] Corp.) ratted them out to save their own a$$es, last Wednesday and Thursday. Toss them in jail! Take all the away all the huge bonuses they paid themselves just before the sh** hit the fan! Don't bail them out by effectively taxing everybody else by devaluing our money! Take their bonuses! Why should we pay more for food so these scumbags can keep their 7th house? The irony of it all is that the recent crisis seems to have been caused by various players in these complex ponzi schemes turning on each other. On a somewhat positive note, many commentators seem to agree that Fallon's resignation doesn't indicate an imminent Iran attack (e.g., Robert Parry). Hope they're right. But Parry also says that this may just be (another) postponement.

    [Mar19'08] Supposedly, 2/3 of Americans oppose the war. But at the same time, stay-in-Iraq-for-100-years McCain leads both Democrats in the polls (46% to 40%)! Americans don't seems to think that the Iraq war has anything to do with the plummetting economy. It's positively stupefying. Maybe people realize that voting Democratic won't end the war. Plus, I'm sure they feel that the rich have not been given enough tax cuts and bailouts, and they feel that their own standards of living are still too high and that it's unfair that more rich people don't have yachts like they really don't deserve health care and that the thiss.

    [Mar22'08] The rates on three-month treasury bills yesterday went to 0.387 percent, the lowest level since 1954, and for the first time since 1993, lower than in Japan. This means that some people are scared. Oil has 'plunged' to $101 as a result of speculators (probably using some of the funny money recently doled out to them by central banks) having to take profits to make margin calls (for other risky investments). This shows, of course, that peak oil is wrong. And since I saw a few flecks of snow riding my bike this morning in London, it means that global warming is wrong, too. Whew, those two things had me scared there for a while.

    [Mar23'08] The New York State Teacher's Retirement System owns almost half a million shares of Bear Stearns stock. They will lose over $50 million if J. Pirate Morgan (from Elaine Meinel Supkis) pockets the remaining loot for $2 a share ($300 million). Their NYC building alone is thought to be worth $1.5 billion. Where's Eliot Spitzer when you *really* need him? Indirectly, taxes are being used to bail out the guys with the yachts while stiffing the teachers. If socialism isn't good enough for us, the bankers shouldn't get it either! The gov should seize the yachts and the bonuses and sell them off for the teachers! Just like they do will ill-gotten drug money. Ignore the suits and see the reeking pirates underneath. The Amurrican people might even start to get mad after they have funded another 10 or 20 of these.

    [Mar25'08] I went here to see a video of the beginnings of what might be the sudden breakup of the largest Antarctic ice shelf yet (the Wilkins Ice shelf, the size of Northern Ireland) but first I had to sit through a commercial... for a Land Rover SUV like thing. OK, I know I'm just being an old fogey who doesn't get google gen humor.

    [Mar30'08] On Monday, Henry Paulson will announce that the US government is essentially planning to hand over the control of its banking system to a the very private pigmen owners of the Fed that got us into our present state, reducing the power of the SEC bank regulators in the process. There will be no vote. This is like the beginning of the Iraq war. Anybody whose mind was clear enough to think straight could see that it was a very bad idea. A record number of us even got out onto the streets, unprecedentedly, before the war had even started. Most of the rest now admit privately it was a mistake (but won't, of course, give us any credit for foresight, or remember or take responsibility for what they thought back then). In any case, the demonstrations had absolutely no effect because they immediately went away (mainly because there was no draft). People now seem even more passive than back then. Is it because there is about to be a huge explosion of discontent and I'm just not hearing what people are actually thinking? One can always hope. That the polls put McCain ahead (not that I think that the other two would make much difference) suggests that the American mind remains more seriously dazed and confused than ever. If people can even think about voting for McCain, how could they possibly come to grips with the concept of the peaking of world per capita energy use? Or the coming collision between that and an economic and money system based on the concept of continuous growth? Support for McCain is probably partly support for a strongman in uncertain times. It's embarrassing that *he's* the best strongman available! (not that I would have preferred a better strongman).

    [Apr01'08] In addition to stiffing each other and the New York Port Authority, banks have suddenly stopped lending to students. And these are the kind of ultra secure loans where they come after your parents and kids if you die! (but they are not as profitable as credit cards with 25% interest, and so out the door they go). The ripple effects of this are likely to hit universities hard. The cost of a university education has increased at several times the rate of inflation over the past 15 years. Expensive as they are, universities are truly one of the few great things that are really still 'made in the US', and long admired the world over. The time has come to outsource them, too, I suppose. This is getting awfully tunicate-like. Tunicates are animals whose larvae have certain similarities to early vertebrates. One difference from vertebrates, is that when the tunicate larva finally settles down and attaches itself to a surface to become an adult sea squirt, the first thing it does is jettison its brain. Americans can't you see that spending huge amounts of money killing Iraqis -- not to mention it being a war crime -- is wiping out the country and your retirement? You can't pay for your war crimes and your universities, too (graph by RandomViolence).

    [Apr05'08] We are now close to the peak of mortgage interest rate resets. House prices in the US/UK/EU are still way (two to three times) over 3x yearly income, the historical rate at which it is possible to pay a mortgage (plus or minus variations in interest rate). Mortgages are getting harder and harder to get. At the same time, people are much less enthusiastic about buying in a falling market. Foreclosures have ballooned and are now as common as sales in many places in the US. Personal saving rates have dropped below zero (a 20% down payment is hard to amass with a negative savings rate). Banks would seem to have major problems on their hands given how mortgage credit was used to spin out huge amounts of additional debt/money creation. The recent moves to allow banks to not declare all of these losses or to 'sell' them to taxpayers hardly seem to be long term solutions. By any measure, we would seem to be at a Wile-E.-Coyote suspended-in-air moment. The amount of unwinding that has to happen to get things back to historical averages is truly breathtaking. Yet, the general mood seems not *that* dark. And this is all assuming that growth will resume once all the bad debt gets destroyed. It's not clear to me that rapid growth can resume after the great unwind is done. In another decade, we will be hitting the beginning of the plateau of peak all-energy. This will constrain growth potential. On positive side, at least peak all energy and peak per capita energy is a gentle peak (compared to pigmen fear-greed oscillations).

    [Apr12'08] Interesting numbers from a long (naturally :-} ) H.C.K. Liu article "Between 1925 and 1929 the total amount of outstanding installment credit more than doubled from $1.38 billion to around $3 billion while the GDP rose from $91 billion to $104 billion. Today, outstanding consumer credit besides home mortgages adds up to about $14 trillion, about the same as the annual GDP". That is, in 1929, outstanding installment credit was 3% of GDP in 1929, while outstanding consumer credit is now 100% of GDP. Americans need a raise, not another loan. As Mike Whitney says, power has to be taken from the financial pirates that put us in this mess or they will continue to increase their share of the loot until they have to abandon our sinking ship on private lifeboats overloaded with booty. Just because the teevee doesn't call it class war doesn't mean the lampreys will voluntarily detach themselves from the body politic. They have to be forcibly knocked off.

    [Apr20'08] Despite the continuing moral, not to mention fiscal, drain of the US/UK-directed Iraq genocide (over 1 million dead), Americans still can't bring themselves to demand a withdrawal. I've read that people are afraid to complain because they might 'get on a list'. This will be looked upon unkindly in the fullness of time. I wonder what would have to happen before Americans (and Britons) will speak out? House prices halved? Weekly bank collapses? Things that really count? (as compared to the mere lives of a million low-market-value human beings). At the current rate, Americans and Britons will never demand a withdrawal. The war occupation will end only when their economies collapses so far it can't be maintained (or the troops revolt).

    [Apr22'08] This remarkably Orwellian article about the death of Riad Hamad reads: "Activist under FBI investigation found dead in lake, hands and legs bound, eyes covered with duct tape -- police leaning toward suicide ruling". War is peace.

    [Apr23'08] Recently, the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana has been hyped. It is not a new find. The oil bearing beds are mostly rather 'tight' rock (i.e., not very porous and therefore hard to get oil out of). So far 110 million barrels of oil have been produced from Bakken over the last 50 years. Sounds like a lot, but don't mix up your millions and billions. The *total* production so far is equivalent to just 5 *days* of current US usage (about 20.7 million barrels a day), or just 1.3 days of current world usage. Of course, there is a lot more oil in there, but little of it is recoverable at a reasonable energy return on energy investment ratio. The USGS estimates that there is 3.6 recoverable billion barrels left in Bakken (180 days of US usage). This is similar to other highly inflated USGS numbers that have turned out to be inconsistent with flat world production in the face of skyrocketing oil prices over the past 4 years. A more realistic estimate here is that the ultimate recovery from Bakken will be around 500 million barrels (i.e., 390 million new barrels past the 110 gotten over the past 50 years, or about 20 more *days* of current US usage). It's criminal to have these glowing reports without even the most basic context (US usage of 20 million barrels a day, Bakken a well-known oil bearing formation that has produced 110 million barrels total, etc). Simple grade-school-level division shows that the wolf is at the door, and even 30 more Bakkens wouldn't make him go away.

    [May16'08] The parallel reality in which this article exists is amazing to me. I link to Evans-Pritchard sometimes, but the unbelievable ignorance about oil reserves and possible oil production rates on display here (which includes most of the comments) is dizzying. For Evans-Pritchard, I guess it's just an occupational hazard of being an economist. For the rest, study some physics, chemistry, geology, and agriculture!

    [Jun03'08] I'd have a tough time making up stufflike this: Halliburton sells $1.2 million worth of toasters to the government for $2,000 each, after stealing them (!) from a discount appliance warehouse, under the cover of an FBI consumer protection raid. To justify the price, they have 4 Pentagon generals inspect one, eventually resulting in database programmers inventing over 200 components, all priced separately, some of which contain expensive "heat resistant platinum alloys". Fearing for her life, the attempted whistle-blower on this scheme flees to Canada.

    [Jun04'08] There are currently 18.5 million empty houses in the US. Young people need about 1.85 million new houses a year. About 0.5 million homes are demolished per year to build something new on the lot. About 1.1 million homes are vacated per year by old people. Even in recession, home builders are still adding about 1 million homes per year. Add all these together and you get 0.35 million net empty houses occupied. That's an awful lot of inventory still to clear (it would take 50 years at current rates!) (stats from here). It is a relief to be (just) past the peak in mortgage resets mentioned in previous posts. But the numbers in this post suggest that the housing market will remain distressed for a long time.

    [Jun08'08] As pension funds and other speculators (heh!) pile into oil and food, even going as far as buying actually food, not just futures (the Enron-i-zation of wheat!), oil and food prices have bumped up a little faster than they would have otherwise. The main source of the long term rise, though, is simply that demand is bumping up against max supply. Oil and food may slump back a little ("oil plunges to $110! we're saved! the commie hippies were wrong!"). This will take a little pressure off of countries that subsidize gasoline. Those subsidies effectively increase taxes there, however, and as oil prices increase, they effectively increase the cost of labor. This is beginning to finally put the brakes on the global labor arbitrage that has gutted the industrial economies of the US (and UK). A temporary oil price pullback in a few months (if this even happens!) will not change the long term contours of the drawdown of oil reserves. Despite the constant drone of tabloid puff pieces about "a fantastic new oil discovery has just been discovered" and "hippies have prevented us from drilling giant reserves in ANWR/Californa/whatever", total world oil reserves numbers are *very* slowly moving (well except when OPEC doubled its reserves during the 1980's oil glut). That means yearly discoveries (now running at best at 1/5 of yearly usage) are never going to make it safe to buy SUV's again; but it also means that the falloff will be gradual, too (at first...). Note that all this is about *oil* prices, not gasoline/petrol prices. There are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil. It is possible to make about 20 gallons of gasoline/petrol out of a barrel of crude oil. Dividing a $130 barrel of crude by 20 gallons gives $6.50/gallon -- before refining and transportation costs, taxes, etc. Gasoline/petrol made from oil delivered today is going to cost well over $4/gallon.

    [Jun13'08] It mkes me laugh to see comparison between the dot com run-up and rising oil prices. Sure, both computers and oil are useful. But computers as we know them are not possible without oil and other fossil fuels. Oil is the lifeblood of industrial civilization, which now, includes computers. I hope we can find a replacement for this lifeblood. In Portugal, Spain, the Philippines, and Thailand, angry truckers blocked roads and set fire to the truck of a scab. As oil gets more scarce, the price will fitfully go up, eventually dwarfing taxes, subsidies, until it gets beyond the means of most of the world to pay for it. That is the real meaning of demand destruction -- not piddly 2% reductions in North American miles per capita. These riots have already happened with only tiny reductions in overall demand. It's tempting to make fun of people who would seem to be threatening geological formations (and I confess I have done so above). But that's not really their target -- the true target is other people (like me) who are using the same dwindling resource.

    [Jun22'08] Watching things turn out like I feared 5 years ago is sure depressing. Mere price increases can't increase the *rate of flow* of oil. The rate of flow of oil from tar sands will never reach above a few percent of daily usage. Economics isn't physics. I'm still hoping the attack on Iran will be foiled by conservative elements of the military. It certainly isn't going to be stopped by the public or by the civilian government; the Democratic worms just bent over again and continued their unbroken record of fully funding the war, and followed that up with support for a naval blockage of Iran. Election? What election? There is only one ruling party.

    [Jun27'08] Oil at $142 implies gasoline at $7 or $8/gallon (~20 gallons of gasoline can be made from a 42 gallon barrel of oil). I predicted a number of years ago that peak oil would really begin to hit in 2008. I'm not at all happy to probably be right. I don't care that everybody said I was too much of an alarmist. If the crazies can be prevented from attacking Iran, oil should fall back a little. But the main reason for its high price is that we have reached maximum flow rates. Unless demand goes down, prices won't go down either (they will go higher even if demand stays flat because flow rates may soon begin to slowly go down). Sure there are a bunch of useless parasites sucking money-for-nothing out of oil price volatility. It's unlikely the rabble will treat them kindly at the end of the day. As much as this parasitic occupation disgusts me, it is not the primary driver for oil prices. It's merely high rollers at the craps tables on the Titanic, right before the tables got really wet...

    [Jul03'08] It's pathetic to see all the talk about the 'inflation' threat from high oil prices. High oil prices aren't inflation -- they simply mean oil demand is bumping up against oil peak flow rates, period. As I've said many times before, oil isn't an optional purchase, but the lifeforce (literally) of industrial society. As oil prices increase, businesses will close. Wages will *fall* as unemployment increases. Banks will fail because unemployed people will get (further) behind on their mortgages. The supply of credit (AKA money) is constricting. Banks are rushing to find some way of making sure rich people don't lose any of their tax-free, ill-gotten gains. In the face of all this, the central European bank is warning of the danger of a (poor people) wage spiral. To show that they got the message, EU truckers should picket and blockade the banks instead of the ports.

    [Jul10'08] Cantarell in Mexico, (formerly!) the world's second-largest-producing oil field after Ghawar, is now declining at an average annual rate of 14%. Eeesh. I was worrying about -- and writing about -- this almost 4 years ago. Now Cantarell really is "falling off a cliff". That's a *nasty* lot of depletion to make up for, esp. when you consider that it has to come from a large number of new wells that are tiny cousins of a super giant like Cantarell. I wish I hadn't been right. This is not because 'the Mexicans don't use up-to-date 'murrican technology'. In fact, the rapid decline rate is precisely because Mexicans *did* use up-to-date technology -- like horizontal wells and early nitrogen injection. And that's why many of us could see the cliff coming 4 years ago. In another few years, the same thing will start to happen to Ghawar. Just great. The lower overall decline rate of existing wells (around 4-5% per year) means we have to find the equivalent of a new Ghawar -- the largest oil field ever found in the world -- every two years, forever. Somehow, I think this won't happen, eh? How on earth can the 'planning' nincompoops *possibly* think about building new runways now? What are they smoking? Their ignorance of basic geology is just stunning. At these rates, we're looking at the possibility of serious social unrest in five or ten years. Now I know, that's the far distant future. Whew, I was worried there for a while.

    [Jul13'08] Meanwhile, back with the money geniuses, IndyMac gets bailed out, taking out 10-20% of the total capitalization of FDIC. Not bad! The FDIC maintains reserves of a little over 1% of the value of the deposits that it insures. So that means that it is currently insuring about 350 IndyMac-equivalents with 5 or 10 IndyMac-equivalents of reserves. That won't cause anyone else to panic I'm sure. We're all professionals here, you know...

    [Jul15'08] One thing I didn't forsee above was the advent of the Peak Oil self help book (can a Suze Orman book on Women and Oil be far behind?). I always knew I was terrible at business (tho the internet helps). Speaking of the internet, I recently found out from it that Martha Farah was at the 2008 Bilderberg meeting. Now that's different! And also that vision researcher Joe Atick is now at L-1 -- the company behind airport retinal scans -- from Fallujah to Heathrow.

    [Jul19'08] A recent estimate from Bridgewater Associates is that bank losses may reach $1,600 billion (earlier estimates were in the range of $500 billion). For comparison, the Savings and Loan disaster from the 80's was $125 billion, largely paid by taxpayers. Even after inflation adjustment, the current disaster could turn out to be 5-10 times as big. If banks and bank-like thingees are bailed out by taxpayer money, it could turn in one of the largest transfers of wealth from poor and middle income to rich in the history of the US (similiar slow motion poor->rich bailouts will likely occur in the UK and EU). Just because it's slow doesn't mean the bankers aren't rifling through your wallet every day. National health care? No chance. National bank share-holder care? *Now* you're talking. Socialism only for rich people. Even though truckers blocking deliveries to protest high oil prices is aimed at the wrong target, any actual action trumps words (like mine, I suppose).

    [Jul22'08] Roubini now estimates $2-3 trillion in losses and no housing bottom until 2010. On the bright side, he says it won't be as bad as the Depression. The UK and the EU have similar problems. Germany -- the head of the pack -- actually contracted in the second quarter. The global game of chicken is on. Last Sunday, Evans-Pritchard said "If we are lucky, America will start to stabilise before Asia goes down. Should our leaders mismanage affairs, almost every part of the global system will go down together. Then we are in trouble." I would say we are in trouble when the major way of making money today is to bet that another company will fail (particularly profitable when you haven't even bought the shares that you are selling short, i.e., 'naked shorting'). It has such a decline of the Roman empire feeling to it. Don't do anything that might slow the decline of industrial civilization -- instead we have a bunch of decadent fatties reclining and stuffing their faces and betting from the sidelines on who will crash and burn, between trips to the vomitorium. But the really sad thing about this whole mess is that it is happening *before* peak oil or peak natural gas has really begun to bite! Significant year-on-year production *declines* in oil probably won't start in earnest until 2012.

    [Jul28'08] When I went to college in the 1970's at a state supported university in Illinois. I was able to make enough money at a just-over-minimum-wage summer job to pay for both tuition and room and board for the year (about $2,000/year). I stayed an extra year as an undergraduate (no longer allowed there) and learned a lot from excellent teachers who had more teaching experience than many teachers at better-rated universities. Thirty years later, the minimum wage is only 50% higher but the cost for tuition and room and board at that same university is *1000%* higher (over $20,000/year), in part because the states including Illinois have withdrawn funding for Universities and diverted it to things like prisons (California used to spend twice as much on universities as prisons; now it's more than the other way around). Professors' salaries have more or less kept pace with inflation (too bad they didn't go up 1000%, too :-} ) but permanent 'temporary' non-tenure track workers have fallen considerably behind. Meanwhile, the students emerge from college massively in debt with 30 year loans with usurious rates (some ballooning to 11% after a few years). Like the situation with housing, where house prices doubled or tripled while salaries stayed the same, this is *not* a sustainable situation and will have to unwind at some point. Too bad universities can't charge 10% interest per year on ideas generated there like banks do on the money they generate. It's certainly more mental work generating ideas than generating money (the automatic consequence of fractional reserve lending). And it doesn't take much mental effort to borrow money at 3 or 5% and then charge some poor student 11%. I learned that kind of math back in the third grade. With current trends, universities will be once again turned back into the luxuries for the rich they were a hundred years ago.

    [Jul28'08] There was an interesting report here about how funds for repairing roads are being impacted by people driving less (3.7% fewer miles than this time last year). Trucks do a great majority of damage to roads (over 99%), because road damage goes up as a high power of axle load, but they are not taxed proportionately. So car drivers are subsidizing the trucking industry through gas taxes and road-repair taxes (you never hear libertarians complaining about this compared to the way they complain about taxes for railroad maintenance). This is an excellent example of the unrecognized mechanics of peak oil -- and it already became obvious after only a tiny drop in driving! I hate to imagine what the roads will look like when oil prices reach $400/barrel. It's such a shame. Instead of leaving us great, big, beautiful bicycle lanes, industrial civilization might end up instead pounding unmaintained roads into big dusty, cracked up messes and then leaving us to pick our way around zillions of potholes (a lot harder in a bike than an SUV). Instead of addressing any of this, the Pentagon (=government) has unveiled a 2009 military budget of over half a trillion -- the highest ever, even after adjusting for inflation. Note that this huge tax bill *doesn't* include funds for the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, the CIA, the surveillance agencies, the spy satellites, etc, etc, much of it now privately contracted, and not even overseen by the government (most signals intelligence is collected by SAIC not the NSA). As I've said before, Americans are pouring their country down the toilet, without a whimper. It should be pretty obvious to even a ten year old that all that military spending isn't helping the country. Once the country's been flushed, it's going to be awfully hard to put all that sh*t back together. In virtually all historical cases, it never came back out of the sewer in one piece.

    [Jul30'08] Here is one of America's finest slowing down a bicyclist. Before this video came to light, the cop filed a report that the bicyclist had assaulted him. How about mister fat guy gets to ride a bicycle for a year as community service! It's the same idea as requiring people getting a driving license to ride a bicycle in traffic. If there had been a similar video for the following raid, perhaps we could have avoided the travesty of 8 Minneapolis police SWAT team members being awarded bravery medals (WTF?) for shooting up the wrong home. 'Bravery medals' for cowardly storm troopers. Disgusting. Don't these guys have any shame? Just remember, make sure a friend gets a video, else you're toast (this guy, for example, tasered 19 times *after* he broke his back, unfortunately lacks a video).

    [Aug01'08] The temporary oil drop may be a good sign that the Iran war lunatics are in temporarily in retreat, as evidenced by various recent leaks: signs of informal negotiation with Iran, Admiral Mullen (a strong supporter of Israel) going to Israel and warning against a second USS Liberty, the Hersh leak of Cheney's shooting-at-SEALs-dressed-like-Iranians plan. Let's hope it sticks as the housing/credit bubble continues to unwind, racheting up the pressure. Looks like there's still a ways to go in that process...

    [Aug06'08] Alt-A mortgages (e.g., pay option adjustable rate mortgages) have started to implode in the US, keeping default rates up, even as subprime defaults have started to fall. Pay option ARMs have insane schedules where you pay less than just the interest until the principal gets to say, 125% of the original loan, then suddenly you have to pay full interest plus principal. I remember when these came out. From the beginning, it was clear that they were time bombs. US house prices are already down over 30%. Many commentators worry that prime mortgages are next. To get mortgages back into historical alignment with salaries, prices must continue down. Ouch. Of course, salaries could be raised. That, of course, is completely off the table -- socialism is only for rich people (corporations have begun raiding their own pension funds to pay extra dividends to the smelly pirates that run them).

    [Aug20'08] A brilliant member of the proud, the few, the TSA ("thousands standing around") decided to perform an impromptu overnight 'security check' to see if someone could break into parked aircraft. Or perhaps he was was on a mission to plant something on a plane (that he himself was guarding, of course) to see if pilots would find it, which would generate a fine if the pilots missed it (makes sense if you think that finding things hidden by TSA numbskulls is one of a pilot's main jobs...). Anyway, back to to TSA idiot. He climbed up onto the cockpits of a bunch of planes using delicate flight control sensors as a ladder, damaging the sensors on 9 of the planes, grounding them, and creating havoc at O'Hare. The pilots were furious, saying that the TSA was endangering air safety. Why can't these fine Americans just stick to keeping us safe from our suntan lotion and bottled water and little girl's snow globes?

    [Aug20'08] Now that Obama has picked "I am a Zionist" Biden as VP, I suppose McCain can go for Lieberman. I don't see how Biden could posssibly rescue the votes of Democrats who have problems with Obama's skin color. Amazingly, it looks like the doddering and dangerous McCain could win. If it's any consolation, Biden is probably worse than McCain on the Iraq holocaust (1.5 million people dead).

    [Aug24'08] The new NIST explanation of the 5 PM collapse of 47-story WTC7 (a building not hit by a place) now gets rid of diesel fires (the original FEMA explanation) and damage from the earlier WTC1 collapse (many other reports) as explanations of the collapse, and attributes it instead to stresses (changes in length) caused by thermal expansion, caused by office fires. A collapse from office fires due to thermal expansion stress is unprecedented for a steel framed building (steel is an excellent conductor of heat). The NIST explanation also doesn't explain reports of molten steel (slag mixed with melted concrete, extremely high surface temperatures weeks after the collapse, and iron-rich microspheres in dust collected immediately after event) in WTC7 debris, none of which could have resulted from office fires.

    [Aug30'08] Here is an amazingly clueless Will Greider article in the Nation about McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as vice-president, calling it a desperation move. As some of the commenters pointed out, it's naive to call it 'desperation' when McCain is tied or even ahead in some polls. I think it will probably be the thing that clinches the election for McCain. Of course, I completely failed to predict something like this in my comment above, not having a working political strategist's bone in my body. But I'm good at recognizing the fruits of that expertise. A genius move. It will be hard to pick on her obvious lack of experience from the 'left' and because she is a woman and not the presidential candidate. She has the strong support of AIPAC. Unbelievable that that a doddering scumbag carpet bomber baby killer war criminal will probably win. Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf coast offshore rigs and pipelines creates some uncertainty. But even there, a (semi-)natural aspects of a disaster will distract attention from the underlying cause of high oil prices (we're running out). It remains beyond me why anyone would want to be president of any country given the economic s-storm bearing down, laid on top of the real start of Peak Oil. I know, think of the bright side of life -- all things must pass, but they will pass at a more stately rate than anyone expects (I'm hoping).

    [Sep01'08] Well, OK, the McCain-thing wasn't looking too bouncy here, but maybe he forgot to take his pills.

    [Sep02'08] By any objective measure, the scenes from St. Paul show that the US is slowly turning into a police state. Almost 1000 people were arrested. The creeping militarization will be difficult to turn back, esp. as conditions get hotter as we begin a long slow energy descent. Not looking good. And as the California continues without a budget, several *billion* a week is still being spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars/holocausts (more than 1.5 million killed so far). What wars? You'd hardly know we were in two wars for longer than WWII from the vile, supine press. Bringing that tax money back home could repair the California budget in a few weeks, even with housing continuing to plummet. Shame.

    [Sep08'08] Well, sadly, as I had suspected above, Obama has for now fallen decisively behind in the latest Gallup poll. McCain-Palin -- mostly the result of Palin and the failure of leftish attacks on her! -- now have a crushing 10% lead amongst likely voters. It makes me angry that the left is so completely clueless -- even when it comes to seeing that they have been knocked upside the head! The left's attacks completely backfired, as even a political numbskull such as myself immediately predicted they would. The bad thing is if the 'slightly left' loses, I doubt they will learn a lesson. Americans deserve McCain and Palin. They deserve creationism in the schools. They need to downsize all their major universities. They need more prisons and more people in them. Then need even more testing in schools because children are not far enough behind. They need to stay in Iraq for 100 years. They need to protect Israel because protecting Israel is a 'biblical imperative'. Americans have a God-given right to run the country down the toilet.

    [Sep14'08] Fingers crossed that everything doesn't go haywire with a bunch of jittery money creeps all trying to suck each others blood on Monday. Looks like the Barclays Lehman bid has been withdrawn.

    [Sep17'08] The central European bank injected 30 billion euros (about 1/3 of what they injected in August 2007) on Monday to try to head off interbank chaos caused by American problems (collapse of 158 year old Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest US investment bank and the biggest bankruptcy in history, and the fire sale of Merrill Lynch to BofA). Today, $75 billion dollars were proposed to be injected by the Fed for the same purpose. Sadly, my business-friendly friends who assured me that derivatives were a safe way of milking billions of dollars out of people who actually make things (Lehman paid out $5.7 billion in ill-gotten bonuses in 2007) seem to have been wrong. Lehman had a trillion or more in derivatives nominally worth a substantial fraction of the US GDP, which are now in an 'uncertain' state. The US stock market dropped 4.4% on Monday. The dollar, somewhat mysteriously, remained strong relative to oil, the euro, and the pound, for now at least. Meanwhile, the slaughter to control the oil in Iraq and the opium in Afghanistan continues to the tune of a billion dollars every 2 days (the Chimp Who Can Drive has it right here as does Chalmers Johnson here). At this rate, the endless war won't stop until the US and the UK completely collapse economically. Despite all the central bank attempts to inject money, it looks like money is currently being destroyed faster than it can be made. Overnight interbank interest rates doubled to 6.4% on Monday evening -- their highest since 2001 and then went over 10% on Tuesday evening (normally, this number tracks the Fed, or vice versa!, which is currently at 2%). European banks are being hit up for dollars because there are so tight in the US. All of this makes money scarcer and causes the value of money to increase relative to things -- like oil, AKA deflation -- even despite things that would normally be highly inflationary like the Fannie and Freddie takeover. Others argue that it's not really deflation but only temporary efforts to raise money (deleveraging) by selling profitable things like oil-related investments. I suppose we'll know in a year or two for sure. Smells like deflation.

    [Sep18'08] It's worth noting that the total amount of money used by the public-US-gov-slash-private-Fed to feed the slavering money trolls ($1-2 trillion) is approaching the amount of public money invested in the Iraq/Afghanistan holocaust/oilgrab ($1+ trillion, including a massive $0.6 trillion dollar 'defense' bill passed this Wednesday!). It's has also, unfortunately, used up most of the short term reserves available to the Fed. No tumbrils for money trolls yet (the sh*t-carts symbolically used to haul the aristocracy to the guillotine), but history has a nasty way of returning for a visit. The yield of 3-month US treasury bills has fallen to 0.02 percent, gold shot up almost $100 dollars, and oil went up $10, indicating that all the trolls have run for cover at the same time. The last time short term interest rates were that low was 1940. Normally, short term interest rate moves like this are quickly followed by the Fed dropping interest rates to match. However, since the Fed is already at only 2%, there is not much leeway. When the Fed interest rate reaches 0%, then the money that it loans into existence out of nothingness truly *is* being "printed". That's a bad thing. That trolls are willing to accept zero interest for their ill-gotten stash is a bad sign for normal people. Danger ahead. the housing market can't stabilize when people are being fired. Transferring even more money from small people to the trolls won't help. Things remain unstable. The vampire trolls can't control themselves. As long as the bailouts continue, they will pick off weakened companies one by one. They don't care if the entire country is destroyed. They'll leave with the loot. It's pure, uncreative destruction.

    [Sep20'08] If the wars continue, the US is in serious danger of a major economic collapse. Voting in Obama won't help at all! -- he will continue the two current wars and has said he is strongly behind starting the next one in Pakistan. There aren't enough police to stop a true public uprising like a general strike. At this point, that is the only thing that would make the rulers stand up and listen. The problem is, that can't happen until people are more desperate. Right now, they are uselessly talking about Palin. She's completely irrelevant. It's a delicate balance between collapse inspiring people to act to prevent further collapse and mere galloping collapse. Historically, distracting events have 'happened' at times like these to avoid public action.

    [Sep22'08] "Profit is private and individual. Loss is public and social." -- Gaetano Salvemini explaining fascism in 1936.

    [Sep23'08] "It's the best game in town. Take a huge amount of risk, be paid exceedingly well for it and if you screw up -- you have absolute proof that the government will come in and bail you out at the expense of the rest of the population (who did not share in your profits in the first place). -- Daniel Amerman.

    [Sep23'08] Unfortunately, US home prices, at least on the coasts, are still way out of kilter with salaries. Either home prices come down by another, say, 50% or salaries go up by 50%. There is little chance of increased salaries happening if the small remains of US industry continues to be offshored. The bailout won't increase salaries, so I don't see how it can possibly help home prices. It will *cost* the average family $10,000 to pay for the yachts of Goldman's executives (the man behind the bailout of Goldman, Paulson, was formerly a Goldman exec) -- without counting interest. Whatever was caused by the current drop in home prices will continue to be caused, for at least another two years. It seems we are perhaps halfway through at best. Congressmen will publically complain about the bailout, but since the richies in need of the bailout have them all by the b*lls, it will pass (just like last week's record 'defense' spending bill -- passed in the midst of the biggest crisis since the Depression). About the only thing that would convince the congress worms to vote against it would be an insurrection. This is disgusting bailout of the piggies, paid for by people making $50,000 per year. And as I never tire of saying, all this stupidity is occurrring before peak oil has even hit. We're fiddling while industrial civilization burns. Even though it's yet more fiddling, I wouldn't mind seeing a few bankers get their yachts seized. I don't care about that constitutes a direct a economic attack on the rest of us normal people (people for whom the FDIC limits were written). As things start to unravel further, there is going to be an unstable competition between (1) people grabbing for their 'pitchforks' (2) people getting in line behind the next Mussolini (of course, eventually, the Italians took 'pitchforks' to Mussolini himself and hung him and his girlfriend from meat hooks), and (3) people realizing that the continued powering of industrial civilization is an even bigger problem than stupid money games/cheating, because thermodynamics is the one place where cheating and inflation truly isn't possible. You'd think now, with everything poised to blow up, that military spending (at almost $1 trillion, about equivalent per year to the proposed bailout) would be on the table. No chance. The Congress worms (approval rating: 15%) just approved the biggest military spending bill *ever*. Absolutely insane.

    [Sep29'08] What I really meant to say in the last comment was, since large banks demanded (and got) that their credit default swaps markets, etc., not be regulated or overseen, they should not derive the positive perks of regulation -- a giant consumer-funded bailout. They should have to figure out how to unwind all the problems privately as well. See? much more temperate sounding :-} . Instead, as described fawningly in this article, the brave titans (e.g., Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman) went directly to the gubmint once they faced a sure loss. Of course, Blankfein "participated in the Fed discussions to safeguard the entire financial system, not his firm's own interests." How do we know? Well, we don't! -- since virtually all of the things the public is going to be bailing out are secret, not publically traded! The deal was conducted at night, under virtual martial law in Congress, with dissident congressmen (bit of an oxymoron) being escorted by police out of hearing rooms. It's hard even to imagine a petty criminal telling crap like that to a judge. Here is the best I can do: "your honor, I was only stealing this particular DVD player for the health of the entire consumer electronics industry" (actually, it should be, 'I was only stealing all the branches of this particular store chain' ...). I suppose getting mad is one notch above generalized misanthropy.

    [Sep29'08] The close (yes-205, no-228) House vote-down of the bailout was came out like this: Democrats: yes-140 to no-95, and Republicans: yes-65 to no-133. Pelosi and Reid look like two sycophantic sidekicks for the rich people coup. They demanded no changes (even the tiniest bit of oversight, actual ownership, legality!, etc). It is crystal clear that having wall street billionaires (Paulson) bailing out other rich wall street gambler/billionaires (from the same frigging firm!) is not going to help average people with now-falling salaries to take out normal loans to buy houses that are still at least 2 times the price they were before the bubble (back when people took out normal loans). The whole idea of gambling is that you can win *or* lose. Instead, the bailout will take money from public health and Social Security -- just like Russia under Yeltsin. Immediately after the bill failed, the Fed announced it was creating/pumping $630 billion into the financial system anyway. Nya-nya, stupid peasants. Note that a lot of this came from temporary swap lines of credit with Bank of Japan and Bank of England contributing the most, but also Australia, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. These are short term (until Jan 2009, woohoo). The fact that the US has to go to foreign banks to get dollars suggests that dollars are still rapidly disappearing. After the deal failed, stock in Goldman -- now supposedly a 'normal' bank -- sank 24%. That tells you something about where insiders thought a chunk of the $700 billion would go to. The real purpose of a good part of the money would have been to prop up share prices so the that the lampreys who run them could dump their shares at a good price and escape the burning country in their private jets to their Costa Rica compounds. But the game's not over yet. The people united behind the bill were -- if you can believe it! -- Shrub, Pelosi, Barney Frank, Paulson, Obama, McCain (McBama), and Warren Buffett. It was opposed by over 80% of the public. Amazing. There is an excellent summary of Bush's speech by Craig Murray here

    [Sep30'08] Just because I was against the crony bailout doesn't mean I think there isn't a danger of deflation. If a normal (i.e., smallish) bank fails with $100 billion assets (assuming standard, conservative 10% reserves), it potentially removes $1 billion dollars from the economy. And some of the things concocted by off-duty physicists that are now swirling around in the depths of the unconscious have effective reserves ratios 5 or 10 times that. Depending on the ratio of money destruction to money creation, even a $700 billion injection can end up being deflationary. That may explain why the dollar just strangely went up (they were getting rarer). How all this unfolds depends on how much the monkeys trust each other. Since deflations are good for rich people, they may even be looking forward to one. Deflations are not good at all for normal people that don't have a lot of money. But for an unstable system with very large opposing forces, hyperinflationary episodes are equally possible, since they can be caused by small differences.

    [Sep30'08] There was a lively discussion in dailykos about some fine print in the bailout bill that would have allowed zero bank reserves sooner (zero reserves were originally proposed to start 2011 in a 2006 bill I didn't know about, changed in the failed bailout bill to start in a few days, Oct 1 2008). The standard 10% fractional reserves rule for banks allows Fed generated-from-nothing money to be multiplied by 10 as it cycles in and out of the bank, which is argued to be good when the economy is growing, since it matches money to more things. Zero reserves increase the multiplier of Fed-injected money as high as borrowers and lenders will allow. Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of all this stupid mess is that it is terribly destructive to the real economy and distracts attention from it, *just* when we need to invest in new real energy systems and new real transport systems. We don't need more bankers -- we need small cars, more electric rail, solar electric and heat, heat pumps, better windows, and wind power. We have plenty enough bankers for that. Same for the UK. Americans have a relatively short amount of time to prevent a Russian-like collapse from occurring where a rapacious financial mafia harvest most of their assets.

    [Oct01'08] The fact that the pound and the euro have continued to drop relative to the dollar after the failure of the $700 billion bailout bill should also be viewed in light of the strong foreign (British, Chinese, German) component to the bailout given reports suggesting that 1/3 of the bailout would have ended up in British banks alone (the other factor implied by the 'also' above is that dollars may be being destroyed currently at a faster rate than pounds and euros). People have been looking for reasons for the strong administration/Paulson support such a large US-taxpayer-funded payout to foreign banks. One reason might be threats of foreign retaliation/legal action for fraudulent sales. It's funny the things that don't really make the news. Today, Ireland performed a 400 *billion* euro bailout of its major banks. That's the same size at the proposed US bailout -- even more remarkable given Ireland's smaller size (24x as big as the US bailout!).

    [Oct02'08] The second hack at the bailout (now 400 pages long) passes, as expected. It contains such gems as "Sec. 308. Increase in limit on cover over of rum excise tax to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands." and "Sec. 503. Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children." That'll make this giant rich-person bailout OK. Obama was behind it all the way. Pig Paulson now has the last laugh. The overseas banks will get their hush money. As soon as it was passed, the stock market went down -- a third of a trillion dollars.

    [Oct08'08] Okie-dokie. Not a good week. Plus, there's serious S about to HTF on Thursday [Oct09 update: that particular S (the settlement of Lehman credit-default-swaps) now isn't planned to HTF until Friday]. Hopefully, next week will be better [well now, maybe not]. Several stock markets have been closed to stop crashes (which often occur immediately on their reopening). It's hard to concentrate! People are scared and broke, and have suddenly stopped spending, scaring exporters like Japan, whose stock market dropped almost 10% today. Bailing out rich people won't fix this. It could only be fixed by giving money to the lower 70% of the population, who could then buy more things and pay their mortgages. Rich people don't buy Priuses; and they buy their houses with cash.

    [Oct09'08] What a depressing mess. We've destroyed Iraq and killed a million and a half people there. A horrible war crime approaching the size of our Vietnam holocaust (3 million Vietnamese people killed). Hardly a peep out of the candidates/media over the last two years about this (except about protecting our 'boys' who followed the orders to do it). OK, so utter moral depravity isn't newsworthy. But amazingly, neither is utter fiscal depravity. Barely a peep out of the candidates/media about the fact that we're *still* pouring 100+ billion a year down the drain in Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan to destroy countries and kill all those people, plus another 500+ billion visible and 150+ billion hidden to fund an insanely bloated military -- all in spending bills passed the same damn week as the economy starts to fly apart! The UK is doing exaclty the same thing on a somewhat smaller scale. What is wrong with Anglos?

    [Oct11'08] There is a rumor going around that much of the sudden market drops of the past two weeks ($5-7 trillion lost in world shares last week -- more than 10% of the world GDP) were due to forced selling of stocks to raise cash to cover suddenly-changed margin requirements for broker dealers (changed by large banks from 15% to 35%), rumored to peak this Monday. To be honest, I don't really understand what these words mean in a deep way. Who writes these rules? How have they varied over the past? Are these rules even public? Then there is the more 0.4 *trillion* dollar Lehman insurance claim. Well nobody has volunteered to pay yet -- all that happened at the vaunted 'auction' was that each exposed bank bought its own offerings for 8% of their full value. The amount due is about 1/30 of the GDP of the entire US, or 10 times as much as the US spends yearly biomedical research every year, or almost as much as the US spends yearly on its ridiculously bloated military. These super bankers are worth it, though, since they perform such an important duty of inventing things that are 10 or 100 times as expensive as all of the stuff in entire the world, and by skimming off massive amounts of money from people who actually make things. If they weren't helping us this way, we might be wasting money on fixing and updating the infrastructure so that industrial civilization stays going 20 years from now. 20 years, however is almost an infinitely long amount of time into the future and therefore impossible to visualize. There is no need to bail out people losing their homes (one family every 10 seconds) because these people don't count. Only mortgage *bonds* get bailed out -- not the mortgages themselves.

    [Oct13'08] The Nikkei went up 14% on Tuesday (canceling the equivalent drop the previous Friday) so Europe and America will probably follow later today. It seems that the waterfalls of central bank money have finally stabilized things for a while. This won't fix underlying problems (US and UK housing still insanely overpriced compared to salaries and savings, number of people underwater on mortgages still increasing, a US home is still being lost to foreclosure every 10 sec), but Newspeak now says 'this week of fear has officially ended, back to work'. Not a peep about the possibility of recapitalizing the economy by straightening out the tax code. Why should capital gains taxes be much less for rich people (15%) than taxes on the much smaller 'capital gains' (i.e. wages) of poorer people? Unfortunately, the next 'week of fear' has already probably already been scheduled to keep the bottom 3/4 of the population from asking for this. Also, I think there is some danger of a military action over the next month.

    [Oct15'08] The Baltic dry goods index has crashed 82% down (!) since May, reaching a 5-year low. This measures how many goods are being shipped. This means that people are buying a lot less things and that producing countries will have to start producing less things. This is actually a good thing overall, given the upcoming energy crunch. However, the costs of this shrinkage are distributed extremely unfairly. The richest 1% of the world have almost doubled their piggish share in the last two years. The laws have to be changed to rein in the pigs before the place turns into Argentina (with even more guns).

    [Oct16'08] The Democrats look like they might win (even after subtracting a 7% race factor from the opinion polls). It's unlikely to make much difference, though. Look at the UK. The 'Democrats' have been in power continuously (Blair, Brown). I have great difficulty detecting much difference between the US and the UK with regard to continuous support and funding for the wars, support for torture, support for detention without charges, support for 'rendition' flights, support for an all encompassing surveillance/police state, corporatization of every part of life, and basic style of bank bail outs. There *are* some differences between the countries (e.g., more socialized medicine in the UK); but Blair/Brown had nothing to do with them.

    [Oct18'08] Banks are now borrowing (into existence) almost half a trillion dollars every *day* from the Fed. At this rate, banks are borrowing slightly more than the total US GDP -- *every month*. These are supposed to be short term loans. However, these two graphs are not reassuring. In order to properly compensate the wise bankers for bringing us to this point, they are being given pay and bonus deals equivalent to 10% of the US government bail-out package! London bankers absconded with a similar amount of loot. Of course, if they weren't paid such outrageous salaries, we wouldn't have been able to retain their 'services', right? That's some serious pitchfork material, banker guys. If this continues, it could turn away from simple plunder of the rubes to real class war. Put Paulson and all the Gollum Sachs pals he hired to hand out money in jail -- now! Martial law won't work in the US. The country is too big, people have too many guns, and there are simply too many people. The US hasn't been able to control Iraq after utterly destroying its infrastructure, cowardly bombing it daily since 1991, killing a million and a half people since 2003, engineering Negroponte-style death squads, and fomenting inter-religious wars. And that's only 27 million people. If night raids, smart bombs, and scorched earth didn't work there, a few crowd control 'ray' guns and some tear gas will be just a drop in the bucket if a real insurrection starts at home. Don't let the right wing free-markets-will-solve-everything guys off the hook -- the failure of the market is obvious (even with all the behind-the-scenes cheating and drug money laundering!). A number of the largest, meanest banks have been nationalized/socialized with a fascist private corporation in full secret control of public finances. The market has failed utterly by completely seizing up. The 'toxic wastes' are not being traded at all. Their value is therefore undefined. The wonderful new things the unregulated bankers invented have brought the entire world to the precipice. Banks are so scared of each other that they won't even lend each other money for a day (and they wonder why people don't trust them?!). This is a time when major social change is actually possible -- for the better, or for the worse. In order for things to get better, the rot has to be brought entirely into public view. The 'candidates' aren't going to do it, since they are just worm-like vestigial appendices attached to the colons of Goldman-Sachs and JPM. Their 'debate' was utterly laughable given the current situation. People have to get really mad. Before peak oil hits.

    [traveling]

    [Nov04'08] Election is today. There are surprisingly small policy differences between McCain and Obama on some of big issues of the day -- 'defense' spending, continuing the occupation of Iraq, bombing Pakistan and/or Iran, position on the Palestinians, 'bank' (=rich person) bailout, supporting big pharma over universal health insurance, supporting big Ag. Of course the doddering, cancer-ridden McCain is a disgusting lump. But Goldman-Sachs is Obama's largest contributor. Many of the bailed-out banks spent a majority or even all of their public bailout cash (e.g., $10.7 *billion* at Morgan Stanley) paying bonuses to the greedy rich pigs that have literally brought capitalism and world trade to its knees. Obama is behind this overt class war all the way. It is true that Obama is more friendly to science, which would benefit my kind, and arguably humanity. But I don't look forward to almost the same policies as Bush, but with a politically and EU-ally correct (Obama was polling 99-1 in France) black Democratic face. In the UK, Brown was elected largely to get out of Iraq. He completely ignored this charge once in office, as will Obama. I *do* love the fact that redneck red states will probably have a black man as preznit.

    [Nov05'08] Obama wins by 4% percent in the popular vote -- closer than the polls but thankfully a clear win. As Kent Ewing wrote in Asia Times, "it is once again cool to be an American living abroad". The giant election industrial complex slash morality play finally ends, and the rest of the world breathes a sigh of relief. Meanwhile, under the radar, over the past few pre-election weeks, something brand new occurred with the US money supply, perhaps the first example of real 'helicopter' money (from a comment a few years ago by Bernanke). The following Fed graph shows that bank borrowing from the Fed erupted in November/December 2007 (after a small blip in August). The only other blip visible at this scale is the tiny one around 9-11. This huge increase in bank borrowing correlates with an equally large plunge of net free or borrowed bank reserves far into negative territory (I find the whole concept of 'negative reserves' blackly humorous) that started a month later in January 2008. This was somewhat correlated with a drop in the dollar [e.g., Euro vs. dollar] that started in in September 2007 and picked up in early 2008. However, something completely new occurred in the month before the election. The total amount of US cash dollars ("base money", which means notes and coins only, held outside of the central bank and outside government, similar to M1) made an unprecedented discontinuous upward jump from 0.87 trillion to 1.18 trillion -- a jump of 0.31 trillion, which should be compared with a normal average smooth monthly increase of .000003 trillion (i.e., the jump was 100,000 times larger than average). This increased the number of paper dollars in circulation by a factor of 1.36. The only other visble blips in base money are the (relatively) tiny ones for Y2K and 9-11. Here are 5 years of those three times series plotted on the same graph. This could be due to panic withdrawals of 1/3 of a trillion dollars in cash (that would be 16 billion $20 dollar bills). Or it could include the first examples of true 'helicopter' money. Unlike credit injected into banks to cover paper losses, this would be actual printing of paper money. If so, it would be quite inflationary for the dollar. The key question for me is whether other central banks (e.g., UK, EU) might have done something similar.

    [Nov07'08] The appointment of Rahm Emmanuel is a very bad sign. He is the Democratic master planner who among other things engineered the Illinois pro-war legs-blown-off-in-Iraq female wheelchair candidate at the midterms (who lost anyway!) and who is a 'realist' -- meaning, you tell people you are against the war, but then you vote for a larger and larger amount of money for it each year. It also concretizes an ultra-hard-right policy with respect to Israel (he is an Israeli citizen). Other news reports news reports agree that the basic change in Obama foreign policy is going to be style -- that is, no change from Bush! How's that for 2 days after the election, suckers? (suckers includes the rest of the world). Just because Obama can actually speak in coherent English sentences *doesn't* make him the slightest bit better than Bush if his policies are essentially the same (I have heard many people in America and outside of it saying how thankful they are that they have somebody articulate to replace the chimp). In fact, it's probably worse. With respect to the domestic economy, as US carmakers sink into the muck, I sometimes wish there was some way that all the SUV-people could be singled out for having made the wrong decision on what they bought, so that only *their* wages would be garnished to bail out GM/Ford etc. These things have to be retroactive else how can people learn, right? The reason US carmakers did what they did was that it was profitable (slap decorative crap around a truck body and sell it with less pollution control and less hardware for gas efficiency for an inflated price), but also -- and this is key -- because a bunch of rubes fell for the stupid advertising and bought zillions of them. The the Orwellian/corporate/surveillance/nanny state has already started collecting the necessary database. Imagine what additional profits could be made for the corporate/fascist state by taxing the rubes for having fallen prey to its very own advertising. This reminds me of the corporate state duking it out (fast food advertisers versus big pharma anti-fat drugs) inside your very own brain.

    [Nov08'08] The disgusting fact that most of the bailout/hostage/tax money arranged by pig Paulson from Gollem Sachs is brazenly being used by his capitalist banking slime buddies to pay themselves insanely large bonses and to acquire other more solvent banks is a crime. It's the largest financial theft in history! Paulson is an ugly criminal. The people he's giving our money to are criminals. He's Tony Soprano auditing his own books. He and they should be put in jail. Whatever shard remains of the free press must not let this die. As I've repeatedly said, this is class war, plain and simple. They're breaking into the bank, taking our money, and running. We must not let this aggression stand, man!

    [Nov09'08] I'm beginning to wonder whether the huge October jump in cash mostly represents rich rat-people and drug money (C IA and otherwise!) bailing soom of their loot out of the sinking ship into paper cash (that would be 3 billion $100 dollar bills as opposed to 16 billion $20 dollar bills :-} ).

    [Nov10'08] Here is a report that pension funds are set to flee equities for, uhhh, hedge funds and commodities? That's so this year, guys! Didn't you hear that Warren Buffett of "derivatives are weapons of mass destruction" and "advisor to Obama" fame, just lost a billion or so of his own and Berkshire Hathaway's money in derivatives last *month*? I was already planning for my pension to be worth less, but do you scumbags have to toss the whole damn thing into the sh*tter?

    [Nov11'08]
    US 2008 Federal Budget  $3200 billion
    -------------------------------------
    Medicare/Medicaid:       $624 billion
    Social Security:         $644 billion
    Department of Defense:   $515 billion
    Intelligence, Energy:    $101 billion
    Iraq/Afghanistan etc:    $294 billion
    Dept Education:           $59 billion
    Dept Health Hum Serv:     $68 billion
    Interest on ext debt:    $260 billion
    Other:                  $1043 billion
    Estimated deficit:       $408 billion
    -------------------------------------
    


    [Nov20'08] Insightful comment from Stoneleigh at The Automatic Earth on perverse incentives in the derivatives markets: "Allowing a third party to take out a credit default swap against a company they do not own is analogous to allowing me to take out fire insurance on your home, thereby giving me an incentive to burn it down for profit. We have yet to see the 'burning down for profit' phase..."

    [Nov22'08] GM is failing now not just because they make cars that no one wants now, but because stupid people fell for the mind control and bought stupid, oversized, cheaply constructed cars that *the very same people* now no longer want to buy or are able to buy. I'm fine with bailing out the carmakers (but only after firing the idiots currently charge and taking their severance pay and private jets) and converting them into manufacturers of electric cycles, carts, and small trucks, solar cells, wind turbines, and a few small cars. But if we wanted to be fair, the SUV buyers -- who intimately participated in creating the current disaster -- should have to pay more of their taxes for the bailout/conversion.

    [Nov23'08] Obama looks like he will have crony capitalist Tim Geithner -- currently thickly involved with pig Paulson in shoveling huge piles of tax money down the overstuffed gullets of his rich pig banker friends (oh sorry, I meant to say he was expertly dealing with the recent difficulties at Bear Stearns, Lehman, and AIG) -- as Treasury Secretary. Ugh. Put them both in jail! Seize their money and their yachts! They're criminal kinpins! The Obama white house, not unexpectedly, is looking a lot like Clinton's.

    [Nov23'08] Trading in hedge funds has suddenly and massively slowed in September and October. The selling of these kind of assets to get cash is what must explain this bizarre and unprecedented 1.7x jump in cash (as opposed to regular people withdrawing cash from their bank accounts). Good riddance, pirates.

    [Nov24'08] The festering cancer of the Iraq war/genocide/oilsteal still rages. Stop the Iraq war! Stop trying to steal Iraq's oil! Stop Israel from strangling Gaza! Start fighting back in the class war! The richies have already taken it to the streets (the media). Appeasement doesn't work with them. They won't stop when they have 5 houses. They won't stop when they have 30 houses and 5 boats and 2 planes and 50 billion dollars. They've got a mental sickness that will destroy our world.

    [Nov25'08] Reading gobbledygook like this makes me really mad. I'm a reasonably intelligent person, and willing to suspend judgement and work hard for long enough to try to understand how something like the Fourier transform works. But the thought of these money pipsqueaks crashing the world around us make me want to reach for a pitchfork. Today, Sh*ttygroup gets a third of a trillion from the taxpayers and then thanks them by increasing interest on credit cards to 29%. Seize their yachts! The bailout is now 10 times as big as it was last month -- $7.7 trillion -- fully half the US GDP released in two months to bail out a bunch of bank pigs. These pigs should be in jail. Pouring tax money down these idiot's gullets won't fund wind farms, solar energy, more light rail, and smaller cars. It will merely allow these pigs to escape with the loot. Our loot. Our pensions. Listen to those hedge fund sh*theads on the business channel talking about how 'we' all have to give back our pensions. Better watch it or you might have 50,000 auto workers coming to your house asking about *your* 'pension', bucko.

    [Nov27'08] Obama's cabinet picks suggest little change in economic policy (more bailouts for the rich) and no change in foreign policy (Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine; Gates is Mr. Afghan surge -- yet more killer drones to shoot up wedding parties, and 20,000 more troops to raid the homes of people who complain). With the kleptocrats recently appointed to his cabinet, Michael Hudson notes the more than passing resemblance of Obama to Yeltsin -- Obama has actually appointed some of the very same people who advised Yeltsin to hand over all the valuables in Russia to the oligarchs! All my friends say they can now breathe a sigh of relief, and stay in the country after all. This despite the fact that the only change on the way seems to be a little itty bitty trickle down -- a few billion (only promised) while 7 trillion today goes down the Godzilla-sized maws of flailing investment bankers. The planned trickle down -- if it even gets funded! -- is hardly a different than the recent Bush tax rebate. Now if if we only could have had McCain, he probably would have died in office from his metastasized melanoma, and then we could have had Palin as preznit. That might have actually led to more change.

    [Nov30'08] One can make fun of the stupid greedy Americans trampling a Walmart employee to death in search of bargains. But the richies running the country should take note. Crowds are the same everywhere. So far, we have only had moderate lack of affordability. In a real crunch, dangerous crowds could become much more common. Just like the richies mouth their threats on the teevee about taking our pensions, we have to respond in kind.

    [Dec01'08] Data center servers in the US and UK now use 5% of total electrical demand. That doesn't include electrical costs of powering the internet and the user computers needed to view the data. Centralized server farms are currently set to grow. Ground was recently broken for a new data center in Chicago that will draw 100 megawatts (the power output capacity of the 83 coal-fueled electricity generating plants in Illinois currently averages about 200 megawatts each). The plan is do disempower everyone in a google-like manner by hosting everybody's desktop, documents, schedules, applications, and life on centralized servers beyond individual control -- a throwback to the original 'time-sharing' systems of the 60's. People locally would only have a passive portal to the central systems and will eventually have to continually pay to rent applications. This will work fine until "the machine stops" or rather 'the machine hiccups', as electrical grids begin to fail more often (they have less overhead than ever before). Watching the deer-like computer consumers and sysadmins (I see it around here) going along with this flow reminds me of watching real deer, or little fish in a stream. Our linguistic overlay helps (I can hear and read about and vicariously experience this without actually having to live in central server hell); but the macroscopic result is just like little fish in a stream that is too big for one fish to understand. And if DNA/RNA/protein is really closely analogous to language, then perhaps it couldn't ever have been any different: the creativity of the individual code-using systems is bound to lead to the evolution macro systems that are too complex for their component individuals to understand.

    [Dec07'08] Here is a an explanation of the bizarrely discontinuous graph in BASE money supply (the AMBSL graph Mauldin shows is virtually identical). His point is that it includes bank reserves (I had missed this point). Recently, bank reserves have been generated by the Fed by trading them for other so-called non-cash 'assets' the banks had (which actually were of much reduced value...). This, then, not hedge fund collapses (my second guess), must explain the discontinuous jump. My original guess -- that it was the first true helicopter money -- was basically correct.

    [Dec13'08] The existence of a substantial number of pay option loans (described here here) that are set to blow up in 2009 and 2010 suggests that the cresting subprime blowup will be supported by a new wave of pay option blowups over the next few years. If housing prices and job losses were to stabilize, these booby traps would still be set to go off. The further drops in housing and jobs expected in 2009 and 2010 will exacerbate that problem. In 2007, I was hoping that we could begin to recover from the worst of the subprime blowups after spring of 2008. Now, this doesn't seem possible. This was *so* avoidable. In 2005, I made this graph of the deficit and M3. It was obvious back then that the oppositely trending lines (cumulative debt and cumulative money) were completely unstable and unsustainable, and I said that then. I worriedly showed it to a lot of people and posted it on my office door. Unfortunately, my worries were correct. In the 1960's, the financial sector was 2% of US corporate profits. Now it is 40%. But like energy extracted from the vacuum, it now has to go back there.

    [Dec14'08] What should American car companies be doing? From even a moderately rational perspective, it's pretty clear. It's also totally impossible to do this right thing from a 3-6-month look-ahead business perspective. This is why business didn't figure out molecular biology. Government did -- because it was willing to invest further into the future. When government scientists figured out how DNA and proteins worked after many decades of work, then the companies piled in to take profits. And they complain bitterly when they are called on to pay taxes -- the very thing that made their existence possible. Imagine raising a kid with a 3 month look ahead -- sorry kid, we have to downsize, so you're going to be sleeping on the street and not getting any health care. It's called child abuse. The only problem is that business is in control, and people have gotten used to human abuse as the norm. First, car companies should ignore current low oil prices. We'll be lucky if they last a year -- until our one-cubic-mile-per-year oil usage catches up with ongoing oil field depletion and the dollar begins to gradually lose its world reserve currency status and its status as the only currency in which oil is denominated. Second, they should immediately stop what they are doing and begin to retool to make all manner of tiny cars and trucks and carts, and busses, and electic scooters and bicycles and bicycle taxis, light rail, wind turbines, and solar cells. They are capable of this (cf. the car => tank+airplane+boat switch during WWII, which happened without the help of all our fine new computer-aided tools). It's completely obvious that if we don't do that *RIGHT NOW*, in about 15 years when oil falls to 50% of its current production rate with continued population growth, that we will be in *really* deep sh*t (of course, we should have started 30 years ago, when these problems first became apparent, but that's water under the bridge). Why is this completely impossible, even now? Because of our -- now failing -- economic system. If we don't change it right now, it's going to take down industrial civilization, possibly forever. There isn't much time left. Instead Republican business types are slavering at the mouth at the opportunity to kill the auto workers union, one of the few left. Great. Chop off the very legs that could carry us back from the brink. All to perpetuate a failed system. Why is business so against people getting health care and living indoors? Sometimes you'd think they were anti-human, eh? Some of the humans are finally starting to take offense.

    [Dec17'08] Why crucify just Bernie Madoff? What did he do that was so different than the rest of the 'innovative banking' crooks? His $50 billion dollar fraud was big, but not the biggest (cf. AIG bailout at $500 billion and Sh*itigroup at maybe $1000 billion). He doesn't get bailed out because he didn't steal enough? Are hedge funds that collapse the minute people try to take out money different? And what about hedge funds half invested in Madoff? Or 'insurers' (CDS's) that collapse on their first partial payout? Meanwhile, the Fed has just cut its interest rate to 'a range between 0.0 to 0.25%'. At 0.0% you get a loan without paying any interest. The next logical step is negative interest -- you get paid interest when to borrow (created) money (this isn't very different ahn 1% interest since it just means a small extra amount of money had to be created at loan time). People may still not be persuaded to borrow, however, if they are worried that they might not be able to pay it back, or if the bank they deposit the zero interest loan in doesn't pay any interest, or charges them more for keeping the money than they got for borrowing it (the only way a bank would be able to make money in a negative interest regime), or if the bank has a chance of collapsing (because it wasn't charging depositors negative interest!).

    [Dec20'08] Oh dear. This is not a good sign. The temporary respite in the growth of the BASE money supply last month was welcome, but the resumption of 25% growth per *month* (where the 50 year average is 3 percent per *year* -- that is, money is growing 100x faster than normal) is a sign that things remain insanely out of equilibrium. The Fed must have resumed pumping money directly into (insolvent) banks. Another very bad sign is that hedge funds can now borrow directly from the Fed -- for essentially zero interest! What absolute criminals! Peak oil? Retooling cars, transportation, energy generation? Persistence of industrial civilization? None of that matters. These guys shouldn't get free money!!! They should be put in jail! Their remaining assets should be seized, just like they do with drug dealers. These guys are *much* worse than drug dealers. Clearly, the market has utterly failed. The Fed should be disbanded. I want to hear people say -- esp. in the mainstream main-sewer media -- that 'the market has failed'. Just like I want to hear them say that 'the Iraq war was a bad idea' and that those of us against the war were right. Of course, they never will -- not even on the day that angry crowds storm the studios.

    [Dec23'08] There is a lot of talk of 'saving capitalism'. But why? Why save a system that *right at the moment of peak oil* generates prices (mostly via the unwinding of non-productive speculation/betting) that cause *disinvestment* in real oil exploration and real alternative energy companies? That's one seriously broken economic system! In the fullness of time, the Darwinian evolution of non-linguistic living things ruthlessly prunes out stupidly unstable systems that behave like this. The problem is that we don't have millions of years to get it right. We have at best another 5 or 10 years to utterly change course (i.e., course change done, not started, in 5 or 10 years!). In 30 years, most of our 100 million year old fossil fuel inheritance will be used up. In 30 years, there will no power source available to make a transition to a sustainable industrial society. Industrial society will just end. The capitalists will have won.

    [Dec27'08] Jim Kunstler has recently argued that all the in-your-face cheating may end up having an erosive effect on public morals, such as they are. As long as rich people cheating is wink wink nudge nudge, it's less likely to cause a social eruption. Seeing richies haul off giant pillowcases of TARP money in public is more dangerous because the common man might be led to conclude that anything goes. I'm less convinced people will do anything until things are much, much worse than they are now. And whipping out another 9-11 would put everybody back on track in a jiffy.

    [Dec30'08] Maybe this quote from a Louise Schiavoni report (on Lou Dobbs) from several months ago relates to the Kunstler post above. "The primary purpose of this force is to provide help to people in need in the aftermath of a WMD-like event in the homeland." -- Col. Michael Boatner from Northern Command explaining the relocation of the 5000-strong first brigade combat team of the Army 3rd infantry division to the US after it spent almost 3 years in Iraq. Colin Powell said there will likely be a crisis/terror event on Jan 21-22 and mark-my-words Joe Biden said there will surely be "an international crisis, a generated crisis" within 6 months.

    [Jan02'09] Here is a Fed plot of the BASE money supply plotted against the M1 multiplier (money_supply/monetary_base, or 'velocity of money' where money_supply is 'currency in circulation + demand deposits' and monetary_base is 'actual reserves + currency in circulation') showing that they are almost perfectly anti-correlated, including the tiny temporary reversal/blip last month. This is a case of the sudden helicopter drop of money into banks artifactually showing up as a sudden slowing of the velocity of money (the denominator suddenly went up but the numerator stayed the same). That is, the banks just kept all the extra money and the velocity of what already existed went along at approximately the same speed. Actually, the ratio went slightly below 1.0 because the banks increased their rate of hoarding to slightly higher than the rate at which money was/is being printed into them. The worrisome thing is that the BASE has 'only' been expanded by a little less than $1 trillion ($830 billion) in a few months. Even though that was almost a doubling, it is still only a tiny fraction of the losses in real estate, the stock market, bonds, not to mention derivatives, which together get into the range of $50-$100 trillion. Trying to guess what is going to happen now is a bit like predicting global warming. It's impossible to predict monthly weather, but given the easily measured forcings, it's not hard at all to predict the overall trend.

    [Jan15'09] Patrick McGoohan died in LA.

    [Jan18'09] I hear lots of Americans whining about Bush and happy to see him about to be flushed. Well, half of you voted for him *both times*, give or take a few percent! But you can't win: the new guy just hired virtually the same people. Rahm will ensure that another billion in US tax money is used to buy gasoline to send to Israel, to fuel their militants (oh, I mean their army) and reinforce their sicko apartheid system, and even after they publically brag about pushing the US president around. After all, it's not like the Americans economy has any problems now. Obama is also committed to re-re-re-winning the war in Afghanistan, since the American public can't remember that we've already killed half a million people in 'East Asia' already. Obama is hiring the very same money pigmen (e.g., Rubin) that brought us to the precipice so that the very same pigmen can continue to put your tax money directly into their offshore back accounts, yachts, mansions, and gold bars. But, thank god there's a Dem in charge now. Change me harder! It's the same in the UK (which party was Tony the poodle from anyway?).

    [Jan19'09] California cuts benefits to people on welfare, the blind, and students, because those people don't deserve support but, by contrast, it's crucial to bail out banks so that their banker pigmen leaders can continue to receive their giant bonuses for bringing the economy to its knees, so that they can keep their fairly earned private yachts, mansions, and offshore fortunes, otherwise the economic system will collapse. This is the basic narrative of the corporate news over the last few months. It looks ridiculous if you write it out like this, but that's exactly what's gets injected into peoples' heads as a sequence of single sentence conclusions from a sequence of teevee pieces. It's amazing that people accept this without rioting. Well, they've actually started rioting elsewhere and the acceptance may begin to come unglued in America before long.

    [Jan20'09] Here are five radical articles/videos from wildly different political positions motivated by the one-sided slaughter of civilians in Gaza -- by John Mearsheimer, Ali Abunimah, Yvonne Ridley, Alex Whissons, and Max Keiser [pt1], [pt2] -- that given their disparate sources, reflect a qualitative mood shift beginning to occur across the world that is similar to the one that eventually resulted in the de-legitimation and dissolution of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and the establishment of one person, one vote. Oh sorry, I left out Bono. :-} This mood shift is also likely to be destabilizing to the surrounding repressive collaborating regimes in Egypt and Saudi. One can always hope for change. Crazy man-of-non-sequitur Max Keiser sums up the Gaza assault the best for me (in pt2 above): "it's not that I'm ashamed to be American -- at this point, I'm more ashamed to be a human being".

    [Jan21'09] Contrast Obama's weirdly staged contentless and boring blather about defending the American lifestyle with this speech, by Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, given the day before. The first was so disconnected from reality (I hardly ever watch the teevee) that it made me feel a little schizophrenic. By contrast, I could actually recognize the world the prince (!) was talking about. I guess this is the way the world ends -- slow, unconscious recognition by masses of people that things have changed, for the worse, every year, until the human deer herd gets to the right size.

    [Jan24'09] Merril Lynch got a $10 billion dollar bailout. They turned around, and unbelievably, paid themselves $15 billion in bonuses -- after losing $21 billion in 2008. This was the bailout that was supposed to stop the collapse of our financial system! Instead, as many of us predicted, it turned into a simple transfer of a huge block of tax money (about a third of what the US spends yearly on biomedical research) to a bunch of undeserving corrupt dufus pigmen criminals (did I get enough in there?). These guys should be sent to gladiator training school! Wouldn't you like to see a thumbs-up thumbs-down battle to the death between a few of these pasty bozos (Thain vs. Geithner)? I think many Americans would pay good money for that.

    [Jan26'09] Bring back Solar thermal! Our previous San Diego house was built in 1915 -- it came at that time with a solar water (long gone by the time we got there). We should be thinking about stuff like this instead of stupid bank 'industry' tricks. Banking is not an industry.

    [Feb01'09] Perceptive first comment on Elaine Meinel Supkis' blog entry here: "When 'Justice' finally comes to America it will be like that break in the coal slurry dam and it will be very very ugly. Europeans know how to riot but Americans don't. When Americans finally start rioting there will be zero restraint."

    [Feb03'09] Well I suppose it's a good sign that after more than *doubling* the amount of money pumped directly into banks by the Fed (blue graph here -- showing increase in BASE money supply from $0.85 trillion to $1.75 trillion in a few months, completely unprecendented in US history), the rate of injection has stabilized this week. Note that this also happened for a week at the end of 2008 (christmas bank holiday?).

    [Feb10'09] The US taxpayer bailout of failed rich-people gambling bets has reached $10 trillion. This is closing in on the US GDP and is enough to fully pay off 90% of the home mortgages in the US! But rich people are sooo much more important. I would call it class 'war', but that would be like calling Israel slaughtering defenseless civilians in Gaza with US-made remote control missiles and phosphorus bombs a 'war'. The proles aren't fighting back even a little in the class 'war'! Consider pitchforks, gentlemen, or these rich creeps are going to grab *another* $10 $trillion (also known as 10,000 billion dollars). I wish my often stated fears about the insane M3 + cumulative account deficit graph I taped to my office door in 2005 were wrong. They weren't.

    [Feb14'09] [update on Feb03 post] Looks like the catastrophic growth in BASE Fed-injected bank reserves has decisively turned around for the first time since Sept11'08. 'Velocity' hasn't turned around yet and is still anomalously below 1.0. I suppose it's a good thing that the growth rate of BASE is now only 100x what it's supposed to be...

    [Feb21'09] Some criminal bankers need to get in jail pretty quick or things could get ugly.

    [Feb27'09] Never underestimate stupidity. In the midst of the biggest economic crisis in 100 years, almost 2/3 of Americans support the recent Obama decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan by sending almost 20,000 new troops there! They have no idea of why we're there, and don't even strongly agree that it's "essential to win in Afghanistan to succeed in broader efforts against terrorism". But they're strongly behind sending troops and spending money the country doesn't have. It's breathtakingly stupid! If people figure out something as dead simple as this, how can they *possibly* do the right thing when it comes to making much more complex decisions involved in cooperatively downsizing industrial civilization? Looks like the BASE is shooting back up again. Get your genocidal war escalated in Afghanistan, stupidos.

    [Mar05'09] The number of US adults now in prison is now up to a new world record of 1 in 31 (1 in 11 for black adults). The US got rid of real industry and substituted the banking 'industry' and the prison 'industry'. The greater depression, however, may finally bring this insanity to an end.

    [Mar06'09] Geithner has refused to identify who has been paid 1/6 of a trillion in tax money over the last few months of the AIG bailout! This is outright robbery -- taking tax money from working people and putting it directly into offshore accounts of already insanely rich people in the midst of the greater depression. Super rich people 'insured themselves against the bust of Lehman' for pennies on the dollar (translated: having no investment in Lehman, they took a bet for long odds (1-2% chance that Lehman would go bust), they engineered the bust, and then they collected a payoff of $150 billion dollars on a tiny 'investment' -- *they were paid by taxpayers*! Americans will have to rise up and break something or these criminal scams aren't going to stop. This is exactly equivalent to fixing a horse race, except that the amounts are a substantial fraction of the GDP. It is like taking out fire insurance on someone else's house, arranging to have it burned down, then when the insurer goes bust, you get taxpayers to pay you instead. These people should be in jail. This is pure and simple class war, except that one side is not fighting back yet. Fight back now, or pensions, social security, and health care will be toast -- all poured into offshore compounds of a bunch of immoral creeps.

    [Mar14'09] Watching the depression unfold in the time of peak oil is sure depressing. The US is still spending hundreds of billions in Iraq. The US is moving even more troops and materiel into Afghanistan. The US is still manning 1000 overseas military bases. To fix this problem, a few dribbles of money -- a small fraction of what was wasted annihilating millions of Iraqis and Afghans -- is supposed to now be spent on railroads, public transport, alternative energy, and road maintenance -- all while the companies that are supposed to do this are going out of business. Real money -- multiple trillions of it -- is instead going to failed banks in order to rescue the dainty a$$es of gambling-addicted rich people who invested in them. With some of the same very a$$holes -- Summers and Geithner -- in charge, nothing will change. The only way to get those creeps out of there would be to have a general strike and blood in the streets -- like the way the French turned back Sarkozy last year. No chance of that in the US, because despite all their big gun talk, Americans are actually more passive than Europeans. Dmitri Orlov has it right. We don't need no steekin' energy efficient vehicles or houses because we already have them -- 25 people standing in the back of a pickup truck or 25 people living in a McMansion. Time to start sawing holes in the SUV roof and buying some more refrigerators.

    [Mar22'09] Here is a graph of the adjusted monetary base (BASE) and the (Fed) Board of Governors Total Reserves (TRARR) that is awfully suggestive. The jump in the top (blue) graph looks like it is entirely explained by the bottom graph (red).

    [Mar30'09] Here, finally, is a detailed summary by James Hamilton of what when into creating the huge discontinuous jump in BASE (which is jumping back up again this week -- see link above). I remember asking about this very graph on Econbrowser, back in November 2008. A bunch of other people must have asked, too. The crude summary is that the Fed almost doubled bank reserves, essentially by creating money from nothingness and putting it into bank vaults. But then, they also arranged to pay the banks interest on their newly created/donated reserves equal or better to what the banks could get by loaning it out (it's kewl to be a central bank). That is the main reason why the banks haven't lent it out. The conclusion of the article is that if banks *do* start lending it out, it will be explosively inflationary. It's hard to see the point of doing this in the first place if they don't lend, though. Wasn't that the whole idea?! So in the end, after reading the article -- like most of the articles at Econbrowser -- I still have this nagging 'still hungry' feeling, like I'm missing something important.

    [Apr09'09] "Nobody supports -- I mean, you can talk about a one-state solution, if you want. I think a better solution is a no-state solution. But this is pie in the sky. If you're really in favor of a one-state solution, which in fact I've been all my life -- accept a bi-national state, not one state -- you have to give a path to get from here to there. Otherwise, it's just talk. Now, the only path anyone has ever proposed is through two states as the first stage." -- Noam Chomsky. I'm in favor of one state, too. But no need for the two-state never-gonna-happen part. That's because it's *already* one state! (recognize facts on the ground!) -- except that slightly over half of the people can't vote. Let them vote.

    [Apr10'09] The peak oil crunch is now within sight, even as the tide of oil prices has gone out -- eerily just like the strange tide before a tsunami. No point in warning people. They can't listen. It's very similar to the housing bubble. Any moderately logical person could see by 2002 or 2003 that it wasn't sustainable, with prices getting so far out of whack with salaries that were staying approximately constant. Of course, it was impossible at that time to say exactly how long it would take before things crashed. It certainly went on a lot longer than I expected -- so long that I began to doubt my own common sense judgement. In the case of oil, things are much clearer. We draw it out of the ground at the rate of 1 cubic mile a year give or take a percent or two. There is less than 30 cubic miles of reasonable EROEI oil left in the ground. Who cares about oil prices? The amount of remaining EROEI-bigger-than-2-oil sure doesn't! Dropping demand by a few percent won't solve the problem: 0.98 cubic miles is about the same as 1 cubic mile. The remaining oil won't care if the silly human monkeys start another world war. Stupid monkeys. And even that wouldn't slow down the burn rate -- it would probably increase it.

    [Apr14'09] The US military uses 350,000 barrels of oil a day, 56% of that for jet fuel. That's a lot (the biggest single user in the world), but still only about 2% of total US usage, so, unfortunately, it will be able to be sustained for a long time.

    [Apr28'09] The pure sadism of the latest torture revelations is sure creepy. But just as creepy to me are the people defending it in blog comments and on NPR. A majority of Americans now support torture. I guess this is what you expect after a decade-long diet mind-control programs like 24. You are what your mind eats.

    [May20'09] Chris Whalen has a great article on derivatives here. The story is very simple. In spite of the fact that dealings in derivatives and their kin have brought the economic system of the entire world to its knees, the banks won't let them be reformed (e.g., by having derivative trades forced onto public exchanges) because that would cause banks like JPMorgan to go bankrupt, because they would not be able to charge the higher fees they can make with "over the counter" (i.e., private/secret) derivative trades. JPMorgan has more than 40% of all the derivatives help by US banks. This is what we are bailing out! Un-flipping-believable. Instead of getting ready for power down, we've got a bunch of useless-eater whinging banker dorks running the the entire human race into the ground at warp speed, trying to preserve their record 40% of all corporate profits -- for coming up with this Nobel laureate sh*t!

    [May22'09] By a number of policy measures, it's sure getting hard to distinguish Obama from Bush. Same bailout/ripoff/bankdorks as Bush with same conflicts of interest, same war policy/funding/surge as Bush, same ultra pro-Israel war-on-Iran threats as Bush, and now Obama is looking for ways to 'legalize' secret indefinite detention without public charges or trial, in order to keep Guantanamo and many other less well known gulags (Bagram) open permanently. How is this different from John Yoo or Alberto Gonzales? Obama's proposal to increase gas-mileage requirements is OK as far as it goes (35.5 mpg fleet average by 2016), but it only puts us a few frigging mpg ahead of the original 1908 Model T (it got 25-30 mpg)! And by the target date of 2016, oil production will be well onto its steep post-peak-oil downslope (look here at the frightening decline of Cantarell, formerly, the second largest producing oil field in the entire world after Ghawar in Saudi). The fact that Obama is sometimes a more inspirational and liberal-sounding public speaker and more physically attractive matters not a whit when his policy is the same as that of Bush. The fantasy land in which people live truly frightens me.

    [May31'09] The M3 reconstruction by shadowstats.com suggests that the rate of growth of M3 peaked at the beginning of 2008, before all hell broke loose later in the year, and has now returned to a 'normal' growth rate (well, since Reagan) of 7% per year. The enormous injection into bank reserves that started in Sept 2008 is visible as an upward bump in the shadowstats M3 curve. However, the curve then resumes its downward trend around Jan 2009, after just a few months. It sure looks like deflation is continuing for now. The enormously inflationary stimulus packages, which have resulted in a more than doubling of BASE bank reserves in a few months (normal growth of BASE is a few percent per year), were seemingly absorbed in just a few months. The much larger M3 measure (historically 10x larger than BASE, now still 7x larger than it) seems to have brushed off the stimulus. Note, however, that total M3 (as opposed to change in M3) is still *increasing* at 7% per year. So I suppose a better description of where we are now would be 'still heading in the direction of deflation', if you think of M3 as the broadest inflation measure. Given how quickly the intense monetary stimulus was brushed off, however, it wouldn't be surprising if we got to a flat M3 in a year (and the BASE jump doesn't include the alphabet soup of TARP, PDCF, MMIFF, CPFF, TSLFm, FHFA, AIG, TAF, SFP, which if you add all those others together adds up to another 2x the BASE increase). The velocity of money curve also plotted in the BASE Fed graph above looks like an exact mirror image of BASE and the reserves injections (TRARR), which suggests that the extra money was utterly and completely absorbed by the banks without getting out anywhere into the economy where it could cause inflation. The last time the growth of M3 flattened was from 1992 to 1995 during the 'bond vigilante' period of Clinton 1, which is illustrated in this deficit and M3 graph which I made in 2005, when M3 was still an official Fed statistic. Rumors are the bond vigilantes are back, but now in a more deflationary context than the mid 90's.

    [Jun02'09] It's time for Americans to start doing the wild thing and letting out their inner French person (by going postal, like French workers do) otherwise the richies are just going to claw back half of our pensions to support their house/car/boat/art addictions. All the people running the bailout have skin in the very game they are bailing out -- they are bailing themselves out! They should be in jail -- now -- awaiting trial, to prevent them from further bank robberies!

    [Jun03'09] Ilargi has an insightful comment on this Clusterstock graph at Automatic Earth: "In 2002, the Detroit Big 3 produced 80% of 12 million cars [produced in the US], or *9.6 million vehicles*. In 2009, they will build just over 50% of a total production of 5 million cars, or roughly *2.6 million vehicles*." I had no idea how recently US car production had fallen behind "in-sourcing"! Ilargi overstates a little by including pre-collapse and post-collapse, since if you go back to just before the collapse in car-buying in mid-2007, the US car production was 63% of a total production of 11 million cars, or still roughly 6.8 million ('only' a 30% drop from 2002). But after the recent collapse in car-buying coupled with continued losses in Big 3 share of production, Ilargi is correct that it's hard to see how the US companies can survive a catastrophic *73% reduction* in output over just 7 years with no obvious turn-around in sight. It's a shame with all the blather on the TV that the main point never gets out. The other point that doesn't get out is that reducing car production is actually a good thing! There was a great article from the new editor at London Cyclist saying, 'we should stop the crap about us not being anti-car: of *course* we're anti-car! How can you be against smoking but be pro-cigarettes?'. Reducing car production now will make things better when the world slams into the peak oil downslope in a few years. The last thing we need is to get car production back up! Finally, we need more reporting on how Americans are partly responsible for this disaster because they swallowed the advertising and mindlessly bought so many stupid giant SUVs (and voted for Bush a second time).

    [Jun23'09] This simplified but very useful oildrum post by David Murphy makes an important point (look here for more equations). Peak oil is conventionally graphed in units of oil usage (currently about 85 million barrels/day). However, a more critical number is millions of barrels/day production (usage) minus the amount of energy required to obtain that oil. The effective downslope of peak oil is going to feel steeper each additional year than a peak oil *usage* graph because of the simple fact that humans have always gone for the easiest/cheapest to extract oil first. The easiest to get oil is strongly correlated with the oil that takes the *least energy* to extract. Over time, it takes more and more energy to extract the same amount of oil energy. For oil, the current energy cost has been estimated at approx 11:1 (one unit of energy is being expended to get 11 units). This makes oil a practical energy source unlike the absolute obscenity of American ethanol production which is currently at an EROEI of around 1:1 -- that is, it returns *no* net energy to the system. But remember that the energy return on energy investment for oil used to be 100:1. In the case of the US, one could very reasonably include the military expenditures for occupying oil-rich countries in the costs of obtaining oil. It is not enough for an energy source to have a positive energy return on energy investment. As EROEI gets below approximately 3:1, another cliff comes into view. This is easiest to see close to breakeven (EROEI = 1:1). For example, for a source at 1.1:1 (one prominent estimate of US ethanol EROEI from a supporter, no less!), in order to double the energy from that source, you have to invest 10 times as much total energy. That other energy has to come from somewhere. If it were to come from other ethanol, the amount of corn that would have to be grown would spike exponentially to many times any possible world as ethanol was ramped up. Even if the energy were to come a high EROEI source, you would still need 10 times as much of it. In simple terms: (1) low EROEI sources cannot replace high EROEI sources, (2) the EROEI of all of our fossil fuels sources are simultaneously getting lower, (3) all major fossil fuel sources are past or near peak, and (4) this is a major problem for the continuation of industrial civilization. The inability of the general public, teevee, academics, and friends to see the energy elephant in the room makes me feel like I'm mentally ill. But I'm not.

    [Jun27'09] Read this to get an idea of just how hard it is to eek out a few extra miles per gallon of fossil fuel. Engineering is hard and physics doesn't respond to cash rewards. No matter how much money you offer, the engineers aren't going to be able to build you a safe airliner that travels 500 miles per hour and gets twice the gas mileage of a 737 from twenty years ago. Ever. Some of the complexities described in that article were undertaken for fuel efficiency gains in the range of 15% (around 5% from more efficient engines, 5% from aerodynamic improvements, and 5% from better management of compressed air). Some of those gains now have to be given back. We also need to data about what happens when these composite-shelled planes get hit by lightning (the lightning survivability regulations on have already been adjusted downward for them; however, mother nature and the laws of physics could care less about the regulations). We're halfway through our cubic mile of oil for this year. About 28 cubic miles left. Instead of speaking truthfully about the end of industrial civilization, congress is debating pathetically trivial 2 miles per gallon here versus 4 miles per gallon there (the current US car fleet average is barely better than a model T). Fiddling while Rome burns (the last of its oil). It's morbidly fascinating, like watching somebody smoking through their tracheotomy. Or what poor MJ did to his face. The suggestions here are sensible (try to have less of a die-off) but are not on the table. A few more bangs into peak oil will hopefully get people talking more sensibly in a few years. More battery-assisted bicycle trailers!

    [Jun28'09] Two underreported statistics about the doubling in unemployment from 7 million at the end of 2007 to 14 million now: *80%* of those newly unemployed were men (the largest gender gap since WWII), and half of newly unemployed were under 30.

    [Jul13'09] A ways back, I speculated about the instability of computer trading heading toward smaller and smaller timesteps. I guess I wasn't creative enough in imagining the pure sociopathy of the criminal financial mind. From the revelations surrounding the Aleynikov affair, it looks like trading companies have located their servers in the same building at the NYSE or NASDAQ computers to minimize latencies. This implies that trade latencies must be in the hundreds or even tens of microseconds, in "dark pools" designed to minimize visibility to the rest of the market (isn't that what capitalism is all about?). But the dark pools smell really bad: there are also claims that some of the code actually hacked ethernet switches to sniff other people's trading packets. We have to get these parasites off the host! Rome is burning.

    [Jul18'09] The ridiculous swine flu circus continues. Scary boys and girls! A general swine flu vaccination program was advertised and executed in 1976 after some recruits at an the Fort Dix army base base got it and one died, after a long forced march. After vaccinating 40 million people, at least 400 people died from side effects of the vaccine and thousands were severely injured. Though this is a very low rate (minimally, the vaccine only killed 1 out of 100,000 people vaccinated), it's wide application resulted in 50 times as many deaths from the vaccine as there were from the thing it was trying to prevent (Bayes rule). Almost 100 people a day in the US die from the *non*-swine flu. Those people don't appear in the effuent oozing out of the teevee. The planned swine flu shots contain squalene, an adjuvant designed to boost immune responses so lower doses of swine flu antigens can be used. It's OK to eat squalene (e.g., there is some in olive oil) and it's found in human joints. But it's a bad idea to inject oils like squalene into the bloodstream along with other antigens in order to trigger an immune response.

    [Jul20'09] The opening Harry Potter scene of 4 dark gray smoke-colored demons whizzing through the streets of London finally smashing a pub and leaving people lying in the street was reminiscent of remote controlled US drones raining down death in third world countries. The rest of the movie was an indifferently patched together sequence of nice looking special effects. You'd think somebody would be paying attention to the overall plan with a budget approaching that of many third world countries (like the one in which real drones explode real people). The antiwar 'movement' has been utterly and disgustingly silent under Obama -- all while he is substantially escalating wars (a record number of troops have been killed in this not-yet-over month in Afghanistan) and increasing the size of the army. How is this different than Bush?

    [Jul21'09] The state of California is initiating a 20% funding cut of its world class University system to 2.4 billion a year, while maintaining its 11 billion dollar yearly funding of its ridiculously bloated prison system, which supports a per capita prison population that is 10-20 times as large as that in the UK, Europe, Canada, Japan, etc. In the 1970's, California used to spend twice as much on its wonderful public universities as its prisons (making it possible for an average Californian to go to college without accruing an enormous debt). The prison industry suddenly began to change in 1980 with Reagan and the war on drugs, all across the country. I noted this years ago, but I didn't realize just *how* out of whack things have gotten. Californians and US-ians want more prisons and have gotten more prisons to keep their precious kiddies safe. They don't complain when the budgets of universities are cut but prisons are not. They only get mad about university salaries but not about prison industry salaries, parrotting the Newspeak poured into their weakened minds. More prisons are just what we need to solve the coming world energy crisis, right? These funding changes are slow structural things that have enormous inertia and have similar slopes across decades. Kind of like the coming inexorable decline in world oil production and soon, natural gas production. Way to go, California.

    [Jul22'09] The just-proposed state of California budget cuts 3 billion from higher education (of which the 2.4 billion in University of California funding discussed above is a part) but only cuts 1 billion from prisons. The idiocy of cutting three times as much from higher education as from prisons -- where the bloated prison budget is *already* more than twice the higher education budget -- is stunningly stupid. Cut off your brain California and put it in jail. Run the per capita prison population up to 40 times that of Europe because 20 TIMES EUROPE ISN'T ENOUGH! What absolute idiots. Why not cut all social services and reinstate debtors prisons? In 1776, 60% of the people in British prisons were debtors. Yes you can.

    [Jul28'09] Monthly national new home sales have 'recovered' -- to just less than one half of monthly foreclosure activity in California. The disconnect from reality of the mainstream media is pretty amazing. But I also read an exchange between Simon Johnson and John Talbott reprinted here about what should be done. Despite their considerable expertise, it really shocked me to see both of them talking about 'return to normal growth'. What planet are they on? The thought of 'returning to normal growth' just boggles my mind. These people are relatively smart yet they seem happy with staying on a path that will turn the entire earth into a big collection of completely deforested Haiti's filled with people eating mud sandwiches, sprinkled with walled compounds where the rich people hide. In 20 years, oil production will probably be back to 1995 levels, but with a lot more people to feed. Growth is going to stop whether we like it or not. Population will contract. Political correctness can't be eaten.

    [Aug04'09] Here is an analysis of the frightening high chance of 'rescission' (being cut off) from your US health insurance policy if you actually get really sick 'Only' 0.5% of people are cut off. But if only 1% of the people get really sick, then 50% of really sick people are being cut off, because the insurance company certainly isn't going to cut off people who are not very sick and who are paying their premiums.

    [Aug11'09] By gradually removing state and federal support for students going to college relative to when I went to college, an unbelievable amount of debt has been created -- almost 3/4 of a trillion dollars, equivalent to about 1/4 of all consumer debt not counting real estate. The situation is so dire that the draconian anti-bankruptcy laws, which are specific to student loans, haven't prevented a default rate much higher than that for subprime mortgages. No fix in sight. Just continued implementation of the policies that got us here -- continued defunding of higher education and increased funding for prisons (or this year, cutting higher education 3 times as much as prisons). In California, state spending per student has fallen by 40% (inflation adjusted) since just 1990. Even Dmitri Orlov is against going to college. Dang.

    [Aug15'09] Income inequality in the US has surpassed the previous record set just before the onset of the (previous) Depression (Emmanuel Saez PDF here. The top 1% captured 2/3 of income growth from 2002 to 2007.

    [Aug20'09] [external inaccessibility of www.cogsci.ucsd.edu over the past month and a half (!) was due to the campus net police closing outside access to the server, while looking to see if an opening had been exploited.]

    [Sep05'09] Landlord sold the flat to raise cash in the current UK property uptick. We had to move.

    [Sep13'09] "The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance." -- George Orwell, 1984. The Afghanistan war is a good example. It is part of the flow, helped along, by of all people, Bruce Cockburn who just sang Rocket Launcher for the troops while visiting his brother (who just jointed the US military). Trippy, man. Never liked the guy's voice and lyrics. 'Vibrant skin?' You suck, Bruce. Andrew Gavin Marshall's most recent article is good. It's easy for me to see certain trends -- like prisons and universities in California. There has been a virtually linear increase in prison funding and decrease in university funding in California since 1980 (as I have repeated blabbed on about). But the most important point is that it shows no sign of abating; the university cuts were 3x as deep as the prison cuts a few months ago. A few days ago, there was an email to all staff at UCSD explaining that they can't take their 'furlough' (pay cut days off) on days when they have face-to-face contact with students. If you have graduate students, that would be every day. Kewl, you can take your time off at night, when you're sleeping. I can remember universities vs. prisons because I have verbalized it and it's a blackly funny talking point. But other gradual changes, like the continued, linear development and acceptance of the police state -- tasers, crowd control devices (recently deployed at a public meeting with Susan Davis in San Diego!), databases, surveillance -- and the privatization of the same -- are harder to see because they are more amorphous and less directly visible. Half of the US troops in Iraq are contractors/mercenaries and the proportion is over half in Afghanistan -- a total of a quarter of a million people, almost half the size of the US military in Vietnam, and twice the percentage of contractors in any previous US war. But these things are linearly and inexorably changing just same -- in the wrong direction. Extrapolate these changes forward a decade and it doesn't look good, esp. when you put them in the context of similar slow unidirectional decline in the underlying curve of oil production. If unemployment continues to rise (currently actually at about 20% in the US), however, the situation could get unstable. Not now, though. The main thing Americans seem to be terrified of is guaranteed health care! Imagine, if you have a pre-existing condition, you would still be able to get insurance! Scary boys and girls! But while all this ridiculous stage-managed nonsense mechanically unfolds (superb summary prepared in record time by Matt Taibbi here), it's completely OK with Amurikans to blow monstrous wads of 'mandatorily' collected tax money for 'death-listing' poor Afghans or Palestinians by remote control halfway around the world. Maybe when unemployment reaches 30%, they'll begin to wake out of their iPod soma and glimpse the real terror on the horizon. But by then, it will be time to segue into the next war (while keeping the current two going, of course). And all at the moment of peak oil. The collective idiocy and cruelty of humans is astonishing. These days it often makes me forget the things I like about them.

    [Sep20'09] "I'm glad all those teabaggers marched on Washington last week. Because judging from the photos, it's the first exercise they've gotten in years." -- Bill Maher.

    [Sep21'09] "I have always contended that 'all significant scientific advances have been financed by a budget intended for something else' or 'all real research is bootleg'." -- kly84g on theoildrum.

    [Sep22'09] A few years back, I finally understood the basic idea of how the modern money system is supposed to work: money is created out of the void by the Federal Reserve (though banks have to pay interest on this 'vaccuum energy' money) and then the banks multiply the created money roughly by 10x because of roughly 10% fractional reserve requirements via multiple cycles of deposits and lending that only requires retaining 10% of what was deposited. Recently, Steve Keen has made the point (citing studies as old as 20 years ago) that historically, creation of money by banks *precedes* creation of 'money from the void' as well as deposits. This is an obvious possibility that I totally failed to envision, even though there is nothing in the basic scenario outlined above that requires that 'money from the void' or deposit money actually precedes money created by fractional reserves rules. Banks simply create money. And they get *paid* (interest) for this. Nice line of work.

    [Sep22'09] Alexander Cockburn just wrote a somewhat tedious column about gossip. Searching for some myself, I found that Stephen Stills auditioned to be a Monkee; and that Jimi Hendrix once opened for the Monkees around the time he was living in Peter Tork's house in Laurel Canyon (and was booed off stage). Now that's what *I* call gossip!.

    [Oct06'09] I ran across an amazing statistic about California higher education in this Guardian article: "The percentage of 19-year-olds at college in the state dropped from 43% to 30% between 1996 and 2004, one of the highest falls ever recorded for any developed world economy". That is so sad. A lot of the money that would have helped people continue to go to college went instead to prisons, which now house more prisoners per capita than any other country in the world (10-20x the per capita prisoner count in EU countries). Cut off your brain and put it in prison, California.

    [Oct09'09] The monetary BASE just jumped to a new high ( here is a FED graph of BASE and MULT, the almost perfectly inverted money multiplier/velocity indicating that the increase in BASE is having almost no effect on spending and is simply sitting in banks, generating interest for the banks that comes from the very same place that gave birth to the excess reserves -- the void). You can now see three big moves in BASE: the first was an absolutely unprecedented doubling from Sept to Nov 2008, the second was a top-up pulse in Jan/Feb/Mar 2008, and the third and current top-up pulse started in July/Aug 2009.

    [Oct16'09] The peace prez is planning this week to send 45,000 more troops to Afghanistan. F-ing unbelievable. US-ians are fine with it 'because the economy is recovering'. On days like this, I feel like I am completely losing touch with reality.

    [Oct21'09] M3 (reconstructed) has made an historic turn downward. Take a look at the second chart at the link. The downturn is completely unprecedented historically, especially in light of the massive injection of created money into the system starting in Sept 2008. The guy at the nowandfutures site (who has done us all the service of reconstructing M3) says the downturn is temporary. Perhaps so, but it truly looks like we are entering uncharted territory (cough). The biggest wild card is peak oil. Conventional crude peaked in 2005. "All liquids" -- which is a number about 1.15x as big as crude, and which includes several other things (condensates, natural gas plant liquids, tar sands) that the human monkeys began to extract when the most attractive regular crude peaked -- themselves peaked in 2008. It's almost certainly down from here on out. New, difficult territory. Off-duty physicists playing around with money equations aren't going to fix it. They should get back to real work.

    [Nov01'09] In talking to people back in the states, I heard a lot of FDR this and FDR that and what if Obama this and that. FDR presided over the beginnings of an almost perfectly exponential rise in oil production/consumption in the US that continued with hardly a single out-of-place yearly data point until the 1973 oil shocks. This powered the conversion of the US from an agrarian to an industrial civilization. Exponentially increasing low-EROEI energy is an incomparable drug rush that creates an exponential increase in everything else. With that as a background, policy and party differences pale into insignificance. Sadly, that rush is gone forever. The new regime of permanently decreasing per capita energy will equally overwhelm puny differences in policy and party and country. No party or country can publically state this reality and none will, until industrial civilization has decayed to such an extent that national parties and policies don't matter. Last month Scientific American ran yet another puff piece from Leonardo Maugeri (remember his don't-worry-be-happy 2004 article in Science?) about there being plenty of oil left. That resulted in a lot of people writing in to say: please cancel my subscription. This month, there was a piece on how water, wind, and photoelectric will neatly be able to supply to us an *increased* yearly energy budget by 2030 without the need for any fossil fuels (just in case last month's Maugeri was wrong). The article did worry a bit about not having enough minerals for that many photocells and batteries (e.g., silver), but noted that this could be solved by recycling (?!). They didn't mention mining and smelting and steel-making and how we would triple the capacity of the grid. They didn't mention the fact that recent high oil prices have caused *dis*investment in wind and solar, but no doubt, they have a reason why even higher oil prices will turn this around and spur reinvestment in the future. They didn't mention much about food. The message was, don't worry mr. consumer. We've got this one under control. Just keep on driving your 100,000 watt car, and replacing your laptop every other year. That same Scientific American issue did have an article on how to grow food -- indoors, in skyscrapers. I particularly liked the artist's touch of photocells on top of a 60 story hydroponic food tower. Those photocells would probably be big enough to power and cool the CEO's penthouse office... Just shameful. Instead of Maugeri's pablum, we have the likely reality of Mexico ceasing all exports (much of which go to the US) in 2 years, as its biggest oil fields fall off a cliff. As I have mentioned for years, their cliff was steepened by the very same improved oil extraction methods mentioned by Maugeri! Because of this, the oil production downslope may not look at all like the almost linear downslope of US production, which peaked in 1970 without the help of advanced methods (horizontal drilling, water flood). In the short term, it has the potential to eat up our current temporary surplus production capacity in a year or two. Danger Will Robinson.

    [Nov07'09] The military is having problems because a majority of recruits are too fat or can't run or can't do one push up or pull up or they used too many drugs or have police records. They need a lot of new bodies since the current equivalent-to-Vietnam-era numbers of troops and contractors in Afghanistan is NOT ENOUGH. So one hand (big ag, video games, junk food) takes away from the other hand (the computer-military-industrial complex)! This makes me think of the recently revealed snafu that came up with the just-about-to-be-released soft X-ray 'strip-search' airport scan machines (they call them milimeter scans so you don't realize you're getting X-rayed) -- the possibility that TSA ("thousands standing around") employees might be tempted to collect child p orn after scanning kids. The utter nincompoopery of all sides of both of these situations would be laughable if we weren't talking about THE END OF FRIGGIN' INDUSTRIAL CIVILIZATION! And I never realized that McDonalds was so anti-war, man...

    [Nov15'09] Federal data say that 25% of homeless are veterans. Social workers will tell you the true number is even higher. So now, the big girlie man in California (the steroids must have shrunk it off entirely) is getting set to make the 'hard decisions' to cut funding for homeless. Girlie man.

    [Nov24'09] It's morbidly interesting to sample some of the effluents splattering out of ClimateGate. With all the hysteria, many people don't even have the correct 'sign' about why Hans von Storch and Claire Goodess resigned in 2003. The shallowness of thinking demonstrated seems breathtaking, until you remember that language is just an overlay on a primate brain, and science is just a temporary overlay on language. The debate reminds me of a non sequitur I often heard during the 2008 oil price spike: oil companies and oil traders are making lots of money from high oil prices, so therefore, peak oil isn't true. The whole prurient email viewing episode provides a pleasant enough distraction for inarticulate population while it continues to get fleeced (today there was a trial balloon about installing Jamie Dimon as Minister of Your Money -- fascism indeed!). World oil consumption bumped up a bit over the path few months. Even if it was just from the Chinese building empty cities, or building, tearing up, and rebuilding roads, or buying unbelievable amounts of new aluminum making capacity, the uptick likely brings us frighfully close to maximum daily production numbers, and could lead once again to unpredictable explosive price increases. Predicting these eruptions is really impossible in the near term. For example, commercial real estate might crater, cratering some banks just in time to bring usage a smidgen under maximum production, saving the day (or month). But in 10 years, after 10 years of continued depletion, things are going to be *extremely* rough, even if the depression deepens considerably from now. We are now in a Wile E. Coyote moment where economic contraction (the most recent one, no doubt caused in part by bumping into production limits) can temporarily take the pressure off. Further along the inexorable downslope, that won't be possible. We will have to start to contract the whole world. Judging from the extraordinary shallowness of thinking and the ease with which opinion is manipulated, that contraction is likely to be very messy. No amount of writing is going to convince people that one barrel of oil -- currently at $76 a barrel -- is equal to one year of hard labor by a human (as explained here). Only a year of hard labor without oil will do that.

    [Nov26'09] The swine flu scare is now mostly history. As an index of the hysteria, recent investigative reports suggest that only a few percent of suspected swine flu samples sent to the CDC actually turned out to be H1N1 flu. The data further suggests that 'flu-like' symptoms are only actually some kind of flu maybe 20% of the time. If we treated all diseases this way, it would implode the medical care system.

    [Dec01'09] If we can have the death penalty for people, we need the possibility of the death penalty for corporations -- since they're legally people, too. Excellent idea from the comments in zerohedge on the Barclays Lehman shenanigans.

    [Dec03'09] What distinguishes the Obama disaster from the Bush disaster other than looks, and the fact that Obama can speak the language without sounding like a complete dolt? Sure, it's only been a year, but that was enough time for Bush to have started the disgusting war on Afghanistan in 2001 (almost 9 friggin years ago!). Economic policies continue to be designed by the same people Bush consulted (criminal bankers). Secret prisons, rendition, and total information awareness surveillance are unchanged, and still managed by Israeli companies. The wars are escalated over the line held by, uhhh, Rumsfeld?! Middle east policy and aid subsidies are unchanged. The lastest speech was filled with the same pablum of Bin Laden (long dead) and vintage Bush 9/11 garbage. Actually existing policies on energy use, car culture, and health care are unchanged. Not looking too good. Where's the alternate universe? I'm living in the same ugly one I was in last year.

    [Dec13'09] Warlord Obama (quip from Le Point) picks up his peace prize. As someone else quipped, he should have sent an unmanned drone to pick it up for him. Or maybe, he should have sent a swarm of the these -- the latest sick DARPA fantasy -- real flying insects controlled by electronics that are powered by tiny radioactive nickel sources. This is what our best minds are doing as Ghawar dies and Rome begins to burn to the ground. Truly pitiful. Meanwhile, there was an unintentionally humorous post on the OilDrum -- a site about peak oil -- on why it's too dangerous to raise chickens in your back yard! It was posted by the same woman who assured me in a comment response last year that it was too dangerous to consider riding a bike in a city. Equally pitiful. She is perfectly intelligent and has written very helpful non-technical but hard hitting summaries of peak oil. Both of these are a reflection of our yeast-in-a-barrel problem. Despite the towering internal complexity of each yeast, each individual yeast is still not intelligent enough to stop reproducing, so they all die after their last explosive division in their waste products (alcohol). Similarly, modern industrial civilization is too complex for any one person's brain -- even extremely intelligent and dedicated ones -- to understand. Many single persons would each have to understand many different scientific fields, politics, sociology, geography, engineering, and economics (notice it wasn't in the science category...). Committees of specialists won't help when our problem involves integration across all the people and cultures across the entire world. It's looking more and more like nothing is going to be able to stop us from seriously sh*tting up our barrel -- except the spherical barrel walls themselves.

    [Jan04'10] "Millimeter wave" body scanners from scumbag Michael Chertoff's conflict-of-interest company that generate nude images of every traveler are up and running at many airports. These are the closed booths that you have to walk into. The millimeter wave scanners use very high frequency microwaves (30-300 GHz). For comparison, WiFi/cellphones/bluetooth use 1-3 GHz and MRI and FM radio use 0.1 GHz. Theoretical studies have suggested that millimeter wave (terahertz) radiation can cause the formation of single stranded bubbles in DNA, but this has not yet been experimentally tested. A different body scanning technology deployed at other airports uses backscattering of soft X-rays. These scanners use much higher frequency, higher energy soft X-rays (30 million GHz). These scanners are not booths but look instead like a flat panel that you stand against. The ionizing radiation dose from a single backscatter image is relatively small (less than 1/100 the dose from a 10-hour high-altitude flight, but in the scanner case, delivered entirely to the skin); however, plans have been mooted to put these into busses, trains, and even surveillance cameras, which could easily add up to substantial radiation doses. The soft X-rays generate a more detailed body surface image than the millimeter wave scans and penetrate tissure deeply enough to image the teeth and hand bones. The entire radiation dose is delivered mainly to the skin. Currently, TSA regulations state that both these scans are optional and that "passengers who do not wish to utilize this screening receive an equal level of screening and undergo a pat-down procedure". It is not clear exactly what the first clause entails. The scans are read by a person in a hidden room, not by the TSA drones in the line. This is supposed to stop the "thousands standing around" goons from collecting (child) po rn (!?). Since the line to the scan booth often gets backed up (since it takes longer to go through than a standard metal detector), your belongings (e.g., laptop) are typically screened before you get scanned, and they may sit for a long time on the pickup conveyor belt, increasing the chance of theft. Also, you can't see your belongings while being scanned since you have to you face away from the exit conveyor belt with your hands in the air. At the moment of peak oil, instead of trying to retool industrial civilization to prevent it from collapsing, we are devising yet new expensive ways to look up people's butts, driven by complex psyops. It looks like the knicker-bomber/pasty Abdulmutallab was so incoherent that he had to be escorted to the gate by a "sharp-dressed" Indian man who asked that Abdulmutallab bypass security without a passport because he was a Sudanese refugee, according to Michigan attorney Kurt Haskell, who was sitting a few rows away from Abdulmutallab. Holland's counter terrorism agency said that Abdulmutallab did in fact have a valid Nigerian passport but did not release any video they have. Smells bad.

    [Jan10'10] Boiled down to bullet points, here are the three main reasons why the transition to renewable energy is unlikely to happen. (1) There is no possible positive spin on power down and the end of growth. It's more fun to use more energy, period. Renewable energy won't be able to support our current life style. No possible viable conventional politician *or* revolutionary can propose power down and economic contraction -- along with having less or no kids -- as a policy. None will. (2) The effects of climate change will be delayed. The really bad effects of climate change (e.g., on food) won't start killing huge numbers of people for 15 or 20 years. (3) Fossil fuel will get slowly tighter and tighter. This will prevent long term infrastructure investments from being made in time. It will get harder and harder to keep the fossil fueled machine going, but keeping things going by stopgap measures will remain easier and cheaper than retooling for a long time. When everybody finally agrees there is a problem, there won't be enough fossil fuel energy left for transition. Since I don't see (enough of) an effect of this knowledge on my very own behavior now, when it could make a difference, I don't expect to see it in anybody else's behavior.

    [Jan31'10] As part of Obama's 'spending freeze', he proposed a massive increase in military spending, which includes a $5 billion increase in spending on nuclear weapons the same week the Senate passed a bill containing unilateral sanctions to punish foreign companies that export gasoline to Iran or help it develop refining facilities -- because of its nuclear reactor program. When you just read the news without the pictures, it makes you feel like you've taken drugs. Sometimes, I feel like nuclear weapons really are being proposed as the solution to peak oil. At David Michael Green writes, this was an ugly week for humanity.

    [Feb01'10] Some good energy news for a change! Wind capacity in the US increased by a large amount in 2009, led by Texas, partly the result of stimulus spending.

    [Mar05'10] BASE is going vertical again.

    [Mar13'10] Probably the best way to describe what banks have done is an economic coup d'etat. The result will be to raise regressive taxes at the low end of the income scale (after they were previously lowered at the high end of the scale), and then at the same time, gut pensions and social services (as promoted by Mish et al.). The result will be incredible econonmic pressure on the low end, the young end, the old end. It's not hard to see that eventually, this could lead to a right-wing political coup to complete the transition to fascism (banks + corporations + military). Even in these absolutely desperate times, the military budget continues to grow. Another 10 years of that, and the US will most of the way there.

    [Mar23'10] Several people have pointed with alarm to this statement in Bernanke's testimony on Feb 10: "The Federal Reserve believes it is possible that, ultimately, its operating framework will allow the elimination of minimum reserve requirements, which impose costs and distortions on the banking system." (at end of this document). One sensible explanation of what went wrong over the past 10 years was that leverage was too high, which roughly corresponds to minimum reserve requirements being too low. The idea that there should be *no* minimum reserve requirement means that instead of banks multiplying money injected into them by the Fed by 10x (=1/10% fractional reserves requirement), they could multiply it by 1/0% = infinity! It's seems truly hallicinatory to me to have the head of the Fed describing minimum reserves as "distortions", followed by no comments from worthless hordes of finance commentators. Perhaps this is because deposits that are components of M2 and M3 but *not* M1 (such as non-individual savings accounts and term deposits) have no 10%-ish reserves requirements -- and because M2 and M3 are much bigger than M1. Still, this seems like a substantial change in policy. Here is one commentary on it that concludes that reserves are already a fiction in the US and already officially not required in several 6 OECD countries -- so this 'change' would in fact only be officially recognizing what already exists. Sure is a strange world down the economic rabbit hole! Perusing these charts from the Fed really makes it seem like the economy is still falling off a cliff. The sharp turns are all correlated with huge (and continuing) injection into the BASE money supply by the Fed. Nothings seems to be resolved.

    [Mar24'10] Jesse's Cafe Americain makes the point that the monetary base also expanded rapidly during the Depression. However, what distinguishes the current increase is its amazing rapidity, visible here by comparing graphs of the monetary base (AMBNS) across two equivalently long time periods: from 1925-1955 and from 1980-2010. Those two graphs are crudely superimposed here using an image program. There is about a factor of 40 difference in the y-axis scale because of inflation. After removing that, the recent expansion of BASE can be seen to be 3-4 times faster than during the depression; and it is still in progress. Jesse goes on to call for reduced income disparities and a return to growth. I think the first one is great idea, though difficult to implement without pitchforks and torches. I think the second one is impossible in the context of increasingly limited energy supplies (mostly fossil fuels).

    [Mar25'10] Complete mind control was prominently exhibited in the recent 'health care' debate, which involved sums of money that are trivial in comparison to the never-discussed military budget. The problem could begin to be solved if everybody just memorized the difference between a million, a billion, and a trillion. It's just not that hard.

    [Apr06'10] The top 6 American banks have assets equal to 63% of US GDP. The body politic needs some serious de-worming. Note that this is not different/worse than Europe. Deutsche Bank assests are 84% of German GDP and RBS/Barclays/HSBC are 337% of UK GDP (according to zerohedge).

    [Apr13'10] "The US government bailout and stimulus package to respond to the financial crisis added up to $9.7 trillion, enough to pay off more than 90% of the nation's home mortgages, [which are ] calculated at $10.5 trillion by the Federal Reserve. Yet home foreclosure rate continued to climb because only distressed financial institutions were bailed out, but not distressed homeowners." -- Henry C.K. Liu >. The next big target for the financial vultures will be pensions (with the full support of commentators like Mish and even Ilargi). Apparently, only extrememly rich people deserve them. Boomers will lose them and younger people won't even be promised them. The concept of retirement will go away. People will work until they die. This is class war carried out under the cover of fomenting intergenerational war between two non-rich groups. As Ruth Sunderland says: "Debate about gap between public and private pensions is a sideshow. The real apartheid is between top earners and everyone else".

    [Apr19'10] This weekend, Obama went golfing with the CEO of UBS, a big contributor to Obama. A few weeks ago, UBS recently paid out an almost $1 billion fine to the US treasury to settle an investigation of UBS helping wealthy Americans hide their income in secret offshore accounts. See above. The US savings rate seems to be going down again. It this surprising given that banks are paying less than 0.1% interest while raking in 4% on loans? At current US bank rates, a modest $20,000 yearly payout would require a principal of $40 million dollars. It's good for banks: the financial 'industry' is now wildly profitable again, despite most banks being functionally insolvent. The financial 'industry' (what a joke -- see how 'industrial' you bozos are when there is no one to make you a new disk drive) is now is now approaching half of the total US economy. Money for nothing (and for guys who are mostly tone deaf).

    [Apr20'10] The vampire squid makes money precisely because they *don't* operate in an open market, but in private, non-public markets where they can fool people more easily. They are the exact opposite of open market capitalists; their 'over the counter' trades are 'under the counter' trades. And when they lose money, they get government welfare. They don't need it or deserve it. We definitely don't need them. We've got some serious problems maintaining industrial civilization through the coming energy/water/grain/fish/soil/fertilizer plus continuing population growth crunch, and we have got to get these imbecilic parasites off our backs. They're not going to leave voluntarily. The weird lawsuit against just Fabulous Fab for a relatively minor offense (in the greater scheme of things), seems like it might be a convenient auto-da-fe to sop up some of the building pressure in the defrauded and soon to be depensioned populace. It seems highly unlikely it will have any lasting effect on the parasites. Look what happend with Enron: after *their* 'public hanging', things literally got a hundred times worse/more criminal!

    [Apr23'10] Didja see what just happened in this Fed graph of total commercial bank credit? It looks like Sept 2008 again! The plot also includes total consumer credit (which is less than 1/3 as big as commercial bank credit, and which didn't get any helpful injections this time either). Here is a closeup (2 years of data) of the same data on total bank credit, now plotted along with the BASE money supply, which shows the extreme abruptness of the change. I can't particularly correlate the huge jump in bank credit with anything in the news. Almost half a trillion dollars (AKA 460 billion dollars) in a few weeks is a really big move -- that's almost as big as a full year of spending by the US department of 'defense'. What's up?

    [Apr23'10] A longer term picture of cash+bank reserves (BASE) and total commercial bank credit graph from the last post is here, plotted on the same y-axis. What could account for a 1-week half-a-trillion increase in bank credit in the last week of March 2010? It has to be a central bank operation. But what? Preparation for an Iran war doesn't seem more likely than at any other time over the past few years. Perhaps, there has been some advance knowledge of yet-to-be-released damning evidence in the so far just a limited-hang-out/auto-da-fe by the SEC? That too, seems unlikely given the dominance of the financial 'industry' in the government -- Summers, Geithner, campaign donors, golf buddies, 6 big banks with assets equal to 60% of US GDP, etc, etc -- and the power of the panopticon press. However, I tend to be absolutely horrible at political prediction (I'm only good at mechanical things like the 2008 oil peak, which I predicted correctly in 2003). I only noticed a few (other? :-} ) wackos commenting on the credit spike, suggesting that big banks might be ready to expose some new huge losses, or that the US financial elite rats are finally getting ready to desert the sinking ship (seem unlikely to me at this point). The only thing that really correlates with this in the news are the problems in Greece, but, sheesh, that seems like too much for just Greece (400 billion euros).

    [May03'10] It's worth trying to state what is going on with banks in as clear language as possible. Currently, banks take out huge loans from the Fed, which creates money out of the void in return for interest. The Fed opened this 'discount window' to investment banks only in March 2008, when Lehman failed. The current interest rate the banks have to pay to the Fed's 'discount window' is at a record low, at around 0.75%. Then they take these 'excess reserves' (defined as reserves above the mimimum 10%-ish rate required by law) and re-deposit them into the Fed as 'Treasuries'. This explains why bank reserves (BASE) have more than doubled since Sept 2008, which is completely explained by 'excess reserves' (EXCRESNS). The Fed then decided, for the first time in history, to pay interest on excess bank reserves (the same Fed that generated the money out of nothing in the first place). The interest the banks get on this 'deposit' is 3.5%. Good 'work' if you can get it, eh? The banks could also lend you money to buy a house at 4-5% interest while paying less than 1% interest on their borrowing, but that would be more risky. So they are reducing their lending to such an extent that government-guaranteed loans through Fannie and Freddie now account for 95% of lending. This utter insanity passes as brilliance, to be rewarded with record bonuses. If people knew what was going on in simple corn pone terms, they would probably vote in a Hitler right now to clean up the mess. It's gotten to the point where it almost seems better not to tell them -- like the way I now feel about peak oil.

    [May09'10] The Deepwater horizon disaster will evoke calls to stop deepwater drilling in much the same way that Chernobyl put people off nuclear power, as Dmitri Orlov points out. Unfortunately, now that we are past peak oil, much of the remaining second half of oil is in deepwater places. Unlike Orlov, I doubt the bans will hold for long. Despite their outrage, the spill will not induce people to conserve one little bit. Only temporary oil price spikes can do that. But they will respond with more consumption as soon as they abate. The bans will be overturned soon enough, and people will get the rest of the oil out. Then it will be too late to conserve.

    [May16'10] Actions speak louder than words. Here we are, a year an a half after the Obama election and *all* the US troops are still in Iraq. The latest postponed withdrawal is supposed to be this August. Go ahead, believe in that. The Afghanistan war is considerably *bigger* than it was under Bush, and Obama is doing smirking Jack-the-Ripper/Bush imitations about slaughtering wedding party guests. And then there are his huge spending increases on nuclear weapons, far past what Bush had previously ordered. And the same Bush-installed criminals (Geithner, Summers) are currently in power, bailing out their filthy fraud friends. Just as in the UK, the differences between the parties are merely Orwellian. I hear many people shedding crocodile tears about the Gulf oil spill. It's bad, certainly. But those people have no intentions of getting rid of their cars, or of even driving a little less. They won't stop flying. I'm guilty myself -- I have no car, but I certainly still fly, which is approximately equivalent to driving the same distance in a car. So stop your sobbing, humans (which I suppose includes me). The *only* thing that will stop you/me is a fossil fuel energy shortage that will lead to a food shortage. Exactly the same as with other animals. It won't happen for a while yet (10-15 years) since the 'peak' of peak oil is quite flat. But every day gets more and more schizophenic, juxtaposing energy facts and 'normal' everyday banter. It's actually 3-way 'schizo' because in addition to energy reality, and iPad/TV reality, there is financial terr'ist reality. They dropped the market by 1000 points in 5 minutes to scare non-numerate congressworms into voting the next day against breaking up the too-big-to-fail banks, using high frequency trading (now 70% of all trades!). Then across the pond, they did the same thing to Greece with CDS's to scare the EU into bailing out their own (the same) super-richies' bad bets by making low income people pay for them. These two stunts have set up (two more!) transfers of insane amounts of wealth to already super-rich people, and positioned the rubes for additional future stripping of pensions and jobs and assumption of rich people's risk -- all with the acquiescence of the rubes, and in the US, even support! The other 99% of us can only see echoes of this (e.g. the vertical half a trillion dollar one week jumps in total bank credit here). The super-rich slime hold all the levers and are cashing out before the peak oil sh*t really hits the fan. This economic shock and awe campaign gives me the same feeling as in the 6 month lead-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion -- the leisureliness, the lack of embarrassment, the inevitability.

    [May29'10] Straight from the horses mouth (ass): "I would recommend you panic" -- Hugh Hendry, hedge fund worm, speaking on the BBC. In the previous depression, the US turned left and Europe turned right. So far, things look they just might be reversed this time.

    [May31'10] BP is in somewhat of a pickle after the 'top kill' failed (injecting mud and 'junk' to try to slow the leak. The next plan will be to try to saw off the bent riser and attach a tube over it to collect the leaking oil. They could try to cap the well by installing another blow out preventer above the partially shut one, but there are several serious problems here. The topmost part of the casing (bore liner steel pipe) of this well is 16 inches in diameter. Given the large resevoir pressure of 13,000 psi at the bottom of the well (which BP unloaded by withdrawing the heavy mud and replacing it with sea water, which was the proximal cause of the blowout), which is still in the range of 9,000 psi at the level of the blow out preventor, even if they were successful in completely shutting it off the leak, the increased pressure might actually rupture the 16 inch casing which has a rupture pressure under 10,000 psi, leading to a completely unrestrained leak much worse than the current one. If the latest plan to capture the leaking oil fails, capping the well will probably have to wait until the relief wells are finished in a month or two. From reports of people who survived the disaster, this is looking more and more like a Chernobyl- or a Challenger-style disaster -- caused in both cases by non-engineering management overriding engineers' best guesses. In the case of Chernobyl, lifting out the moderator rods past the physicists' never-go-higher-than-here marks in order to perform a 'safety' test (indeed!), and in the case of the Challenger, blasting off probably to have a teacher in space for Reagan's state of the union speech, even though the engineer who designed the solid fuel booster (Boisjoly) refused to sign the blast off order because he knew it was too cold for the O-rings to properly seal off the hot gasses from escaping during the initial ignition. If history is a guide, no one will even remember what the real cause of the disasters were -- management failure rather than technological failure. And the management won't be properly punished so this doesn't happen again after a few years (in the case of the Challenger disaster, the guy who correctly refused to sign lost his job and had to leave the industry because the higher management types were more powerful than the truth).

    [Jun06'10] I hadn't been practicing the guitar for while. After having a few glasses of wine, I became inexplicably enraged at rhythm changes. So I sat at my desk last night and perhaps inadvisedly recorded this version of Sonny Rollins' Oleo, but in A instead of Bb, with rock drum loops turned up fast to crudely simulate jazz drumming, dominant 7th's and minor 3rd's, and the Garage Band "Texas Blues" patch to complement a slightly drunken timing. It's called A-glio> (olio e aglio, get it?).

    [Jun13'10] The official Gulf of Mexico spill rate used to be 5,000 barrels/day. However, the BP ship is now collecting 15,000 barrels/day through a very leaky top hat on the cut-off riser. Together with the possibility that the bore liner is ruptured below the sea bottom and leaking there, too, it looks like the often-reviled initial scientific estimates of around 50,000 barrels a day (1 barrel every 2 seconds) is closer to the truth.

    [Jun16'10] Now it's official that the leaking oil well flow rate is much higher than previously reported -- currently about 1 barrel every 2 seconds (roughly 1 million gallons a day), according to scientists, BP, and Heading Out at the oildrum :-} . The flow rate has probably increased, probably the result of abrasive particle erosion of the partially closed blow-out preventer and perhaps leaks to the outside of the well casing and perhaps, because the higher pressures and flow during the failed 'top kill' attempt (pumping heavy mud into the well through a port *underneath* the blow-out protector to try to build up a heavy-mud column inside the bore hole to counteract the oil and gas pressure). Now 1 barrel every 2 seconds sounds like a lot of oil, and it is -- but compare it to US daily oil *usage* of about *450* barrels every 2 seconds (roughly 1 *billion* gallons a day) -- that is, about about 1,000 times as much per day as the spill. World oil usage is almost 2,000 barrels every 2 seconds. I certainly agree that BP sux, but so do all of the rest of us. You can't make an omelette (i.e., an industrial society) without breaking eggs. *Of course* there were some inadvisable BP shortcuts in this particular case to save money and increase their profits by increasing the risk of damaging other people's stuff. But even when everything is done correctly, mistakes can still happen. This is especially the case as the easier-to-get oil fields are exhausted. It will be even harder and even more risky from now on, until we get to the point where the energy required to reasonably safely get the oil is greater than the energy returned by the produced oil. This unfortunate catastrophe is part and parcel of peak oil, not the merely despicable old news of corporate greed. The right lesson has not yet been learned. Here in London, none of the stupid car drivers that I glare at at every intersection accelerate even slightly less luxuriously than they did at the beginning of the year (and even if they did, it wouldn't help much). I'm so sick of hearing the words 'addicted to oil'. We're not 'addicted to oil'. That's like saying that a person has an addiction to blood. Oil the is current life blood of industrial civilization. Without it, industrial civilization will quickly die out. Work on blood replacements is waaaay behind, despite serious blood loss...

    [Jun22'10] My response to Robert Jensen query about intellectual and emotional reactions to collapse here.

    [Jul02'10] There is a worrying discussion of the possible effects of the oil spill on the money economy as a result of BP's huge derivatives positions by Gordon T. Long here. In the course of the late development of industrial society, scientists and engineers have figured out how to deal with complex problems, and they have figured out what level of corner-cutting can safely be tolerated. Sometimes these very accurate estimates get overriden by management to save money. Usually, management gets away with it because most well-designed systems have layers of fail-safes. Occasionally, the management overrides are disastrous (Challenger explosion, Chernobyl meltdown, Deepwater Horizon blowout). In the case of financial complexity, not only do I not trust the managers, but I also have *absolutely* no faith in the skills of or respect for the "money engineers" themselves. This is looking more and more like trench warfare, where conservative British historians praised the British army for proudly maintaining discipline as soldiers pointlessly marched out of trenches into withering fire and certain death. Embarrassing lack of style, you humans.

    [Jul04'10] The $30 billion the Congress didn't want to spend on extending unemployment benefits -- supposedly because it would increase the national debt -- went a few days later to extend the longer-than-WWII war in Afghanistan that Obama was supposedly elected to end. Pitchfork time Americans! What more direct illustration could there be that this stupid, bloody, criminal, pointless, counterproductive war is directly bankrupting you? -- indeed the *very* people who are fighting it?!?

    [Jul05'10] Clear summary of the main points on the blowout from the oildrum comments:
    ROCKMAN: BP actually ran a wireline pressure gauge (an MDT) before they ran csg. It measured about 11,900 psi [pounds per square inch] in the reservoir. This is equivalent to a 12.6 ppg [pounds per gallon] mud weight. They drilled it with around 14 ppg mud. And if you didn't catch it earlier there's an easy way to covert pressure to MW: pressure (psi) = MW (ppg) * 0.052 * mud column height (feet).
    fdoleza: So they drilled it way over-balanced, then they circulated the mud out before they had a cement bond log and knew they had a good set of plugs? What was the guy on? LSD?
    ROCKMAN: At this point that's what it looks like. Maybe when the official facts come out we may draw a different conclusion. Even more difficult to understand is that the real time data monitoring system appears to document there were clear signs of the well kicking almost an hour before the explosion. They either didn't notice or didn't believe what they were seeing. Everyone in the oil patch I've discussed it with all find it equally unbelievable. Maybe we've got it wrong but that's exactly what it looks like right now.

    [Jul13'10] The Deepwater horizon spill (at 35 to 60 thousand barrels a day for 72 days) is now probably the world's worst oil spill, surpassing the Ixtoc 1979 spill, at least 10 times worse than the Exxon Valdez spill. At best, the new capping stack will close off the flow. If that doesn't hold or begins to cause further damage to the well, the first relief well could penetrate the bore and stop the spill in a month. The first or second relief well often fails, however, and there is a chance the leak will continue for another 3 months or even longer. As Dahr Jamail reports from the scene, hell has already come to south Louisiana.

    [Jul17'10] BP appears to have temporarily capped the well by installing a new blow-out preventer stack on top of the 26" dia bore liner, and has closed it temporarily for a test, stopping the oil leaking into the Gulf for the first time. The pressure (about 2 tons per square inch at the ocean floor well head after subtracting out water pressure at that depth), however, did not build up to quite as high as expected (about 20% less than expected), which could indicate that some oil is still escaping through an alternate channel. BP is doing seismic imaging now, presumably to look for subsurface fractures around the borehole. But very good news so far.

    [Jul28'10] The main function of the wiki leaks (given several weeks in advance to the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel by the ostensibly antiwar Assange, who supposedly "enjoys crushing bastards", take that, you bastards) so far seems to be to motivating an *enlarged* war against Pakistan and -- of all things -- the resurrection of Bin Laden! (who probably died of kidney disease in Dec 2001). Today, two days after the official leak release, the House congressional worms just tossed another $60 billion at the Afghan war today by a 308-114 vote, described as a major win for Obama. The mind boggles at such pukedom. The same pack of worms voted down a call for US troops to withdraw from Pakistan by 38-372. Economic crisis whatever. At least real worms are good for the soil. At this moment in history, most Americans don't care about dead non-American civilians. The Iraqi/Afghanistan holocaust (well over 1 million killed) doesn't even register with them, so piecemeal text revelations of this wrongdoing won't move them. They won't pay attention to the rest of the world until the American empire begins to overtly collapse, and that's probably still two decades away. Bizarrely, in an interview, without prompting, Assange defended the official government theory of 9/11 (planes brought down the two towers and fire imploded the third tower, WTC7). Why this at this time? To go with the 'latest intelligence' on the whereabouts of the long-dead bin Laden?! Assange is maybe legit. But that would make him and even better conduit of info+disinfo.

    [Jul30'10] Gordon Duff makes the excellent point that there was a strange absence of anything in the wiki leaks on the Afghan drug trade -- a major source of money for covert operations dating back to Vietnam and before. The restablishment of the drug trade was one of the first great 'achievements' of the US invasion of Afghanistan. With respect to Assange as witting or unwitting, Gordon Duff says: "I hate it when people are duped. I would rather he were paid or being blackmailed. I always want the useless to be rewarded in this life because, just in case there is another one after this, they know what they can expect there."

    [Aug01'10] The capped BP/Macondo/Gulf-of-Mexico well is holding for now. They are trying to decide whether to make another attempt at a 'top kill' (pump in some heavy mud, let it sink down, let out some pressure, repeat) or to wait for the relief wells to arrive (relief wells usu. take several attempts before they manage to get close enough to the hole). The reason for being careful about the 'top kill' is that the current shut-in pressure is equivalent to the burst rating of the 16-inch casing near the top of the well but actually higher than the burst rating of the 22-inch casing at the very top of the well (i.e., the well is probably currently shut in as a result of the 22-inch casing holding back more pressure that it is rated for). Hopefully, the relief well will arrive soon...

    [Aug04'10] 'Top kill' described above seems to have worked without blowing up the largest casing. The big pressure differential should now be gone. [edit Aug11: the pressure differential is less, clearly better than before] Whew.

    [Aug11'10] Tens of *trillions* (AKA thousands of billions) of out-of-the-void money is given to banks who then redeposit it in the Fed to 'earn' interest, but no money for extending unemployment, paying for food stamps, or investing in infrastructure? This is class war, pure and simple. I read on many blogs average people, who are getting absolutely reamed by this policy *defending* it! If average people don't wise up and start fighting back, it's just going to be more of the same. The plan is to slowly attack salaries, pensions, infrastructure maintenance, parks, and so on, little by little, each year. At the same time, tax rates for rich people and rich corporations will continue to be whittled away (they already pay almost no tax compared to 20 or 30 years ago via off shore scams). And for what? To preserve the ill-gotten assets of a tiny fraction of super-rich people whose money 'works' for them? So they can construct compounds on Caribbean islands protected by private security forces? Because they came up with the great idea of outsourcing everything to Chinese Foxconn slave labor factories where people literally drop dead in their 30's from overwork making iPhones? Then pile on top of all this usual 3000-year-old crap, declining energy supplies and a bunch of nincompoops wanting to bomb Iran. The complete lack of common sense boggles the mind and makes it hard to get anything done. And money doesn't do work of the kind you can get from fossil fuels. Ever. You off-duty physicists who knew better should be ashamed.

    [Aug13'10] The blown-out BP well is currently being held at 4200 pounds per square inch (2 tons per square inch), possibly by applying extra pressure from pumps (the ambient ambient pressure of sea water at the wellhead is about 2300 pounds per square inch) or perhaps from mud still in the 5000 foot pipe to the surface. In either case, that is not exactly what one would desribe as 'static' (meaning in equilibrium). Until they bleed off that pressure and see what happens (e.g., see if oil comes out), it not clear at this time how 'plugged' the well actually is. Hopefully things will be clearer next week. BP may be trying to wriggle out of finishing the relief well. The current estimate of the spill is about 5 million barrels -- a record amount of oil spilled, but sadly, only about 1/4 of a day of US usage.

    [Aug14'10] A negative pressure test -- i.e. applying pressure less than 2300 pounds per square inch ambient water pressure -- did not result in any obvious leaks. Good so far -- but given uncertainty due to previous sloppily monitored cement jobs, not a slam dunk until the relief well injects cement from the bottom.

    [Aug15'10] Gordon Long has a reasonable diagnosis of the what happened over the last ten years here. And I'm not complaining about his idea of bailing out college students :-} instead of utterly worthless gambler/parasites like AIG and Goldman. He points out that funding more students and teaching positions to stem the tide of the rest of the world overtaking the US in research would cost no more than a rounding error for the unbelievably gigantic disgusting TARP bailout. And it's simple common sense that the US should cut military spending for the US's vile overseas occupations and operations in 130 other countries when there are 40 million Americans on food stamps. But I think he doesn't realize that the situation is about to take *another* unexpected turn as energy starts to get scarce. All the sudden changes he described that were related to the internet are going to be partially undermined by the *energy* cost of producing actual things (what Gordon says is not important) jumping up. Where things are made *will* suddenly begin to matter again, a whole lot more than it used to. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Obummer recently said about Iraq and Afghanistan: "[We must] make sure that we've got a civilian expeditionary force that when we go out into some village somewhere.... let's make sure that we are giving them the support that they need in order for us to be successful on our mission". I wonder where they would train for the bashing down doors and terrorizing families in the middle of the night part of their 'mission'? Maybe in fake Iraqi villages set up by erstwhile movie producers in San Diego? Civilian expeditionary force, eh? Maybe it would be a good idea to watch out for the domestic civilian expeditionary pitchfork-and-torches force...

    [Aug31'10] It seems that the US housing bubble (and the even bigger UK and French housing bubbles) may take a very long time to disinflate (heh). Fannie and Freddie -- originally purposed to make housing affordable -- are now being used to *prop up* house prices at levels that are becoming more and more unaffordable! On the other hand, if housing prices drop further toward affordable levels, it could put a majority of mortgage holders underwater, further reducing housing related spending. If interest rates stay near zero to prevent even further housing losses, pensions are further impacted, continuing the contraction. The only way that housing prices can be propped up would be to increase wages. But with unemployment high, that won't happen. Because nobody wants to rock (blow up) the boat, it seems likely that things will drift down slowly for a long time, Japan 1990's style (without the benefit of a robust manufacturing base, but with a less unfavorable demographic distribution).

    [Sep12'10] "The real kill team, of course, is in the White House, under the leadership of a Democratic president who, it's clear by now, is covertly serving out George W. Bush's third term in office." -- Christopher Ketcham On Sept 11, 2010, Obama announced yet another one year extension of a State of National Emergency, first begun by George Bush on Sept 14, 2001. There are now 120,000 troops in Afghanistan, the most ever.

    [Sep18'10] The relief well has finally intersected the bottom of the blown-out and now sealed-from-the-top Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, four and a half months after the blowout, about the amount of time it usually takes. The well can now be cemented in from the bottom to seal it for good. They still have to be careful since the approximately 12,000 pounds per square inch pressure of the well down there is currently only being held in place by the column of heavy drilling mud (the relief well would flow at 50,000 barrels a day if this heavy mud wasn't there). It won't be over until the cement is pumped down and cures [update: successfully sealed -- now we just need 2 or 3 decades for the Gulf to recover from the spill].

    [Sep28'10] "Keynes vs Hayek? Friedman vs Krugman? Those are the wrong intellectual debates. Its you vs. Tony Hayward, BP CEO, You vs. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO. And you are losing..." -- Barry Ritholtz

    . [Oct12'10] Military manufacturing in the US has more than doubled since 2000 while the rest of the manufacturing sector has continued to shrink (graph here). The military now makes 8% of all durable goods in the US (as opposed to 3% in 2000). At peak oil, instead of investing in electrified rail and preparing for lower energy return on energy investment, the US is expanding its military. Ironically, or perhaps ominously, the military is the only organization taking peak oil seriously. Civilian organizations are all officially and unofficially ignoring it as it happens right in front of their eyes. In just 5 years -- minus a manufactured event or another war, or both -- it is going to be impossible for anyone to ignore peak oil. The Fed can not print oil.

    [Oct24'10] Two views of community organizing from Billy Wimsatt and Dmitri Orlov. I like Billy's vision much better (and his father was my PhD advisor!) but I'm having to work to convince myself that Dmitri is wrong.

    [Oct24'10] 70% of stock trades are held for an average of 11 seconds. This means that the daily 'market' consists almost entirely of computer programs, not people. The remaining humans are exiting this 'market'.

    [Oct27'10] "Because of the connection of energy to problem solving, we will not stop using fossil fuels until we are forced to". -- Joseph Tainter, Barcelona 2010.

    [Nov01'10] The TSA only-job-left-in-America guys will now feel your testicles if you skip the d*ck-measuring X-ray machine -- because of a ... package?! (I order all my toner cartidge packages from Yemen, don't you?). Touch my package, duuude. The military guys sure have got a sick fascination with genitals, sexual humiliation, and torture. A little worse each year. After another 5 or 10 fake events, we'll be flying in hospital gowns.

    [Nov03'10] The idiotic Democrats have mostly lost to the strikingly more idiotic Republicans. Sad to see good guy Russ Feingold go, but it was great thing to see Meg Whitman pour $140 million of her ill gotten gains down the toilet over the past 6 months in her losing governor bid in California. I'm confident she will feel the loss -- of the money -- very acutely. California rocks. Wisconson sucks.

    [Nov04'10] Easy come easy go. The USGS just reduced its estimate of the undrilled reserves in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, NPRA (which is just west of the much-disputed Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR) from 10 billion barrels to less than 1 billion barrels, which might not even be enough to make extracting it net energy positive (there is a larger amount of natural gas there than oil, and the natural gas is probably worth going after). The usual press drones can never bring themselves to mention energy return on energy investment, but rather say 'not currently economically viable'. But the fact of the matter is that oil prices have no effect on whether or not the deposit is net energy positive, and therefore, an energy source as opposed to a sink.

    [Nov05'10] Scary numbers here on the current costs of drilling for natural gas in the US. It looks like the current average money return on money investment is running negative (!). Of course, the costs for drilling a well is up front, and so you would have to average over the length of production time to get a better estimate of total money in vs. total money out. But given that gas wells deplete very quickly and are depleting more and more quickly (now down to just a few years), these are truly scary graphs to me. Currently, natural gas costs 1/2 as much as oil on an equal energy content basis. Given the predicament indicated by the rate of drilling for gas relative to the rate of production of gas, its currently low price points to a staggering mismatch between an insanely short-look-ahead financial system and the production cliff we are about fall over in the next decade. Natural gas is critical for heating, cooking, for managing short term loads on the electric grid, and for extracting oil from tar sands. Maybe people would understand better if you mentioned that TV and the internet will be constantly interrupted or that the battery on the iPad doesn't last as long when it's cold...

    [Nov25'10] A majority of US-ians think that going through the body scanner will stop them from touching your penis or vulva. Wrong! Merely wearing a panty liner or tampon is enough to get felt up. God help you if you've had a urostomy. It was dismal watching the brainless Stasi-like only-job-left-in-town TSA drones in action recently. The lastest idiocy (observed in LAX in Nov) was for them all to limply yell in unison to simultaneously shut down all the lines for a few minutes as a 'practice run'. For what? A mass groping? This is bascially Abu Ghraib lite -- sexual humiliation as a form of population mind control. TSA is a dead weight on airlines, which are about to suffer additional calamities as oil demand bumps up against max output next year, temporarily driving oil prices higher until the economy is crashes again. Maybe the drones will then be assigned to fondle each other, to keep their chops in shape, just in case a passenger shows up...

    [Nov29'10] As usual with anything that hits the news and gets blared around the world, there are multiple threads behind the recent negative stories about the TSA. One angle I hadn't thought about concerns the fact that individual airports can opt out of having the TSA there. This doesn't mean that you won't get fondled. But it could instead be done by a private contractor (maybe already the case if the TSA contracts out their workers). If I had to decide between (1) lightly X-raying my peepee, (2) lightly microwaving it, (3) paying a $11,000 fine, (4) having it fondled by a TSA drone, and (5) having it fondled by a private contractor, I think I would choose number 4. The energy of the X-rays used in the backscatter machines is comparable to those used in a standard mammogram or dental X-ray (mammogram=20keV vs. TSA=30keV). This is just the energy of the individual photons; for a complete comparison, you also have to know how many photons are used (I don't know that comparison -- the TSA claims the flux is lower). The scanners work differently than dental X-rays or mammograms in that a narrow intense beam is scanned rapidly over the body. The fact that airport screeners may not even be allowed to wear radiation badges is not a good sign that their intention is pure.

    [Dec07'10] The release of the secret Fed documents only forced by a lawsuit revealed that the $700 billion given out at the end of 2008 was just chicken feed. The Fed gave out $12 trillion (17 times the size of the 'official bailout', which was 'debated' and passed despite the fact that most people opposed it) in virtually zero-interest-rate loans to the very people whose fraud crashed the system. Those people were able to use this money to buy things that normal people could not (such as 'bank accounts' that had a decent rate of interest), because normal people would have to pay a minumum of 5% on a *much* smaller loan. Complete criminals. This allowed them to pay themselves huge bonuses as a reward for bankrupting small people. Class war, plain and simple. These criminals will continue to strip underwater properties from regular people and steal their pensions until people strike back. The people won't do that until things get a lot worse. And by then, on the downslope of peak oil, people will be susceptible to a Hitler/Mussolini type. Just great...

    [Dec11'10] Obama's current approval rating is at 45%. For context, Bush started off in 2001 at just 55%, shot up instantly to 87% after 9/11, drifted linearly down back to 55% by April 2003, then shot up to 75% with the invasion of Iraq, then drifted back down to 45% (Obama's current), when he was reelected (whatever) in 2005, then eventually drifted down to 25% by the end of his second term in Dec 2009. Looks like O'Bomber won't get reelected unless he starts another war or receives the gift that keeps on giving -- another 9/11.

    [Dec12'10] The graphs of M3 at shadowstats show that the actions of the Fed have finally flattened the strongly negative (deflationary) trend in M3 that began in June 2009. Previous to this, M3, the most general measure of total money, had grown pretty much continuously on a year by year basis since the Depression. M3 growth did almost go flat for about 5 years between 1990 and 1995, but then continued upward strongly after that. M3 began to flatten again about 6 months the Sept 2008 crisis, then jumped back up sharply with the stimulus, coincident with the specatular more-than-doubling of BASE. The recent unprecendented downturn in M3 only started in June 2009 and flattened to zero over the past 6 months.

    [Dec24'10] An amazing xmas present from the Congressonal worms. An almost $1 trillion tax cut, mostly for super rich people, and paid for by a transfer mostly from social security! I would call it class war, but our side is not fighting back. So it's more like class massacre.

    [Dec28'10] This graph prepared by David Lewis here, showing the history of R&D (public and private combined) for defense, health, and energy says it all. We currently spend about $80+ billion for defense R&D, about $27 billion for health R&D, and less than $2 billion on energy R&D. Right at the moment of peak oil. As David Lewis puts it: "I suppose the US could still choose to have other priorities, but I guess what I'm seeing here is something like the Fall of Rome. Imagine you were poring over statistics as the Huns closed in and noticed the budget for coping with Huns was about as sizable as the climate science and energy R&D budgets are here compared to the more important things the Roman Senate were putting their money into". I don't think he fully realizes the gravity and nearness of peak fossil fuel energy; but he has his price ratios exactly correct: renewable energy will never be cheaper than fossil fuel.

    [Jan23'11] Here is a 8-month-old tidbit I just came across. In a clever marketing trick, a photograph of a beautiful nude model from PhotoAlto, a stock photo agency (mirrored here) was photoshopped (contrast reversed, changed to gray scale, fake gun image added) by a German magazine and then spread widely through the internet (e.g., 'right' here, 'conspiracy' here, 'metro' here, etc). By contrast, the bottom image here is what a real back-scatter X-ray image looks like (notice that the bones inside the legs are visible, meaning that some X-rays penetrated that deep). Kewl use of sex for mind control (not the real back-scatter image...).

    [Jan30'11] Here (part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4) is a thought-provoking series of articles arguing that the 'wars for oil' are actually wars for state-less oil *companies*. The Afghan route for Caspian oil will supply India and China, not the US (cf. 80's Alaska pipeline oil going to Japan, not the US). Rich people think differently than you and me.

    [Feb16'11] The level of denial in mainstream media reports on the (mild!) wikileak about peak oil makes me chuckle (in horror), but also feel a bit schizophrenic (my Feb-2011-updated peak oil talk slides are here -- 6M PDF). It's like the Monty Python "it's just a flesh wound" skit. But geology doesn't give a hoot about the clueless palaver churned out in Time magazine. The lifeblood of industrial civilization is starting to drain away -- at 1000 barrels a second, 80 million barrels a day, one cubic mile per year. Good luck breaking an 'addiction' to our blood supply! There is at best 15 years of gradually decreasing supply followed by 15 years of rapidly decreasing supply, followed by god knows what. I often read in the oildrum or 'sensible capitalist' sites about how renewable energy is a waste because it's more expensive than fossil fuel. Of *course* it's more expensive! It will probably *always* be more expensive! What do you expect when it's made out super convenient, super high energy density, always instantly available, use-it-once-and-it's-gone-forever fossil fuels? Renewable energy is not like that. It doesn't run out if you can manage to maintain your machines, but it's intermittent and expensive (=energy requiring!) to store. Does this mean we shouldn't do it? Of course not! Does this mean we shouldn't conserve? Of course not! We should madly construct expensive, intermittent non-fossil fuel power and electric bikes/carts/trucks to store that energy *and* we should conserve, too. But right now, there is no sign of panic. To parrot what one of the hedge fund a$$holes said last summer, "I would recommend you panic." Like Mubarak, the oil supply will cause mass demonstrations. But unlike Mubarak, the oil supply will pay absolutely no attention to them. No matter how big they are. As the Big Squeeze sets in toward the end of the next decade, it seems likely that our maneuverability as a society is going to be reduced -- right when we really need it to flexible and adaptive. At least the (forced) convervation part will happen. We need a better word for a rupture between your consciousness and the consciousness of everybody else, caused by most everybody else except you being crazy: schizo-all-the-reset-of-you-are-nuts-ia... :-}

    [Feb20'11] Over the past 2 months, another 1/5 of a trillion dollars was added, presumably from the Fed, to US bank reserves, after a year of relative quiet. I presume this must (part of) QE2. A longer term view shows that this action, begun in Sept 2008, remains utterly unprecendented, and strangely without effect. It also looks like have been 3, not 2 bouts of money injection. From the money multiplier plotted on the same graphs, it's clear that the money didn't go anywhere -- rather, reports suggest it was lent back to the Fed, who then turned around and paid interest to the banks on the money they just created, presumably out of yet more created money. Without clear information on 'over the counter' (i.e., secret, under the counter) trades of these banks, one can only presume that this money is an insurance payment to bail out bad derivative bets that banks haven't yet declared as losses. If that's not the case, then show us the money. After crashing the economy, these banking intestinal worms are now trying convince everybody that no one deserves a pension (except themselves), and that all pensions should be retroactively reduced to the lowest common denominator. The might Wurlitzer media is dutifully re-broadcasting this to 'left' and 'right'. We should go after *their* 'pensions'! As Matt Taibbi says, we need to put one of these guys into a real jail for a year. What they're doing is a *lot* worse than stealing your car or breaking into your house and stealing things. They're stealing the the whole town.

    [Feb21'11] Jame Clarage, a physicist in Texas, did a simple calculation of how much energy one google search costs. I've been searching for a long time, since Altavista. Along the way, especially toward the beginning, I would often get a little twinge when I searched THE ENTIRE WORLD to find the phone number of the guy in the office a few doors down (but I would do it anyway). It turns out that that twinge was justified. The simple calculation, which might be off by a factor of 2 or 3 (but it hardly matters) is: 10 million Google searches per hour divided by the estimated energy to power Google's server farm for one hour (estimate of 1 million servers from Gartner multiplied by 1 kilowatt per server per hour). This comes out to 0.1 kilowatt-hour per search. Yow. That's a one hundred watt light bulb on for a full hour -- for *one* search. I might do several hundred searches in a day (20 kilowatt hours). For context, the average Briton uses about 37 kilowatt hours a day for heating their poorly constructed homes (estimate from David MacKay's 2008 book, Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air -- but note that the average US-ian uses 2x as many kilowatts per day as an average Briton: 250 vs. 125 kWh/day). The average American currently does 1.5 searches a day. One could imagine that this will increase. A few years back, someone estimated that a Second Life avatar uses more energy than a real life Brazilian. We are at a very particular moment in time. As the energy supply becomes more and more constricted, search will get more expensive. But still, I value search highly: I'd rather do 400 searches (40 kWh/day) than use a car for a day (the average British car user uses 40 kWh/day). But maybe I'll start writing down more telephone numbers. [update Sep'11: another number for google searches/hour is 40 million/hour]

    [Feb23'11] American worker logic: because rich bankers made fraudulent bad bets, we should take away teacher's pensions and fire them (Rhode Island is sending all of their teacher pink slips). The richies are having trouble not laughing at how easy it is to take candy from a baby while they plan their tropical dream homes and furnish their yachts.

    [Feb25'11] Imagine if the 10 trillion (minimum!) dollars poured into banks to (temporarily!) fix the failed bets and outright fraud of utterly useless bankers, the money poured into the always-growing poor-people-extermination military, and the money (and research grants!) poured into the pitiful homeland security up-your-*ss boondoggle had instead been spent on alternative energy and alternative-energy-ready grid improvements. Then we might have had a fighting chance to not flame out a few decades from now. The most maddening thing about this whole thing is to watch large groups of exquisitely organized human minds helplessly and hopelessly flailing about, doing the utterly, obviously wrong thing -- right at the most critical moment in all of human and cultural evolution, and all in slow motion. It's absolutely tragically maddening.

    [Mar10'11] Car sales in America are picking up. Americans are buying SUVs and pick-ups. With gas surging to $3.50, they are spending an extra $1000 a year on gas. 40% of American corn is being turned into ethanol (accounting for about 10% of of the fuel burnt in cars, so all-ethanol would require 400% of the total US corn crop -- see my comments above on corn ethanol, a few years back). Cantarell, the huge Mexican oil field that powered American SUVs is cratering, now down to 1/4 of what it was just a few years ago. In New York, where half the people don't even have cars, the people with cars are absolutely outraged by bike lanes -- even non-existent ones. I just don't know what to say.

    [Apr05'11] This analysis in the Daily Bell makes some good points, but ignores the fact of its mere popularity, which means that people not only hate Rebecca Black, but they hate themselves for being drawn to watch it (80 million of them). This irritating video has pretty good production values for a 13-year-old because it was produced (for just $2K) by small company using now widely available software. So perhaps people are not only hating themselves but hating the fact that musical production has become cheaper and more democratic. Wrong target! This is similar to lower middle class people being against taxing the rich, even while the share of the super rich eclipses the levels of 1929 and shows no sign of stopping its increase.

    [Apr13'11] In a recent poll, 61% of Americans saw Obama as more liberal than they were. They also don't want high speed rail. Given that Obama is indistinguishable from Bush in most important areas (military spending and maintaining/starting new wars, bowing to big banks and the super rich, strengthening the surveillance state), it's hard to guess what they have in mind. A fourth war? Immediate removal of existing rail tracks? A Guantanamo in every state? Bringing the TSA into school to feel-up and X-ray kindergartners on their way home? Doubling the 'defense' budget? End Medicare and Social Security now instead of just cutting them back? Bailing out *the cousins* of the banker's trophy wives? Sheesh. I would say something about just desserts, but Americans seem to like theirs. I can't imagine that this disconnect from reality can persist much longer, but I have been wrong (many times) before. I will try not to fall into a fashionable "sullen dispair", as John Michael Greer has just warned against :-} (he certainly nailed me on that one...)

    [May06'11] Maybe Elvis was still alive and was killed. I doubt he was one of the persons killed in the raid, but I can't be sure. No believable real evidence has been publicly presented and the body/bodies are supposedly at the bottom of the ocean and the living (if any, whoever they are) are being tortured in some secret location. The official story has already changed (female 'human shield'/not human shield, armed/unarmed, watching live/not watching live feed, etc etc). Three crudely faked death photos, one published at many major newspaper websites, were quickly outed (why? something more than simply cash for photos? if the internet can figure this out in an hour, couldn't major newspapers do the same?). The Mighty Wurlitzer plays on. Maybe the long series of apparently faked videos and recordings were finally starting to make people laugh, and the chip had to be finally cashed. Of course, faked videos aren't proof of his prior death. Maybe things will be clearer in a few months, but I doubt it. Remember the first Gulf War incubator hoax, the Jessica Lynch hoax, the Pat Tillman hoax. Or remember the entire premiss of the second Iraq war, with a million plus killed and trillions lost. It took years before those lies were finally unraveled (the incubators was a complete concoction, Jessica Lynch was treated well by Iraqis before they had to flee a hospital under American attack, and Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire, and last but not least, the Iraq WMDs were fakes and Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11). In any case, killing Elvis has provided a temporary circus-like diversion in the US from the staggering 'recovery' -- and watching the super rich pillaging pensions and laughing on their way to their banks.

    [May12'11] Still hard to tell if it really was Elvis, or if I can believe that helicopter-crashing commandos perfectly ran their 99.99% DNA match to a half-sister (99.99% not!!) on ruggedized equipment in record time before dumping the body in 12 hours. Of course, just because that's very unlikely, and just because the latest videos they 'found' is mostly likely faked doesn't mean it *wasn't* him they killed; but it certainly isn't evidence in favor. And today, introducing: The Son of Bin Laden! Is this a joke? (Nigel Tufnel voice). Whoever it was that was actually killed, the Emmanuel Goldstein psychological operation has resulted in a major terror booster shot of 9-11 nonsense (which Elvis probably had nothing to do with) and many new minutes of hate. My sister's flight was delayed because an Imam had to be taken off and re-searched, then even after that, he was ultimately prevented from flying by the pilot. Meanwhile The TSA goons are protecting us from terror diapers; and there are plans afoot to Xray or feel up your crotch just to get on a train. Why not just post a goon on every street corner? After all, the US has exported all its real jobs. Pitiful, US-ians.

    [May12'11] Ignitable drinking water, courtesy of fracking for shale gas or coal bed methane, courtesy of peak fossil fuel forcing humans to go after harder-to-get reserves. The quasi-religious belief in 'progress' in the face of obvious limits -- often exhibited by scientists who should know better since they try to find out how the world is, not how they want it to be -- is disappointing.

    [May18'11] "[Steven Chu, US Secretary of Energy] was my boss. He knows all about peak oil, but he can't talk about it. If the government announced that peak oil was threatening our economy, Wall Street would crash. He just can't say anything about it." -- David Fridley, scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. There was an "we've got this under control" kind of article by Phil Hart in the oildrum yesterday, pointing out that peak oil has so far been less precipitous than first expected; we have been on an 'undulating plateau' for 5 years since regular growth stopped around 2005. The argument is that this will allow us all to react appropriately as the slow deline that never ends begins in earnest a decade from now. In my opinion (and that of several well-informed commenters) this neglects five key points (that I have endlessly repeated above). First, the plateau has had the effect -- via the constriction of growth -- of *reducing* our attempts to mitigate the problem. We are doing virtually nothing now given the size of the problem for industrial civilization (see Steven Chu above). As conditions get tighter, our maneuverability is likely to be *further reduced* rather than stimulated. Second, the flatness of the plateau is partly a reflection of better secondary production techniques and horizontal drilling, both of which tend to reduce current output decline but at the cost of increasing *depletion* rates. This results in a sharper falloff when it finally comes (e.g., Cantarell down to a 1/4 of its output in a few years, North Sea 10% per year decline rates; the imminent death of northern Ghawar will be a tremendous shock). The very fact of the current extended plateau probably implies there will be a sharper dropoff than we saw with the classic symmetrical decline in 1970's Texas. Third, the recent slight increase in all "all liquids" looks less impressive when you account for the fact that it includes a greater and greater percentage of non-crude, much of which which has substantially a lower energy density per barrel; condensates and natural gas plant liquids (pentane, butane, and propane) are still misleadingly counted as full barrels (here is a more sensible graph of all liquids by Rune Likvern with everything converted to crude oil equivalents). Also, "all liquids" includes things like ethanol whose production generates approximately zero net energy (EROEI ~= 1); American corn ethanol shouldn't be added to the curve at all. Fourth, this analysis pays no attention to increasing *internal* demands of exporting countries (Jeffrey Brown [westexas] Export Land model). Finally, it ignores the evidence that there will be massively increased competition for exports between *importing* countries in the near future (China and India would consume the *entire* exports of world oil and coal *by themselves* in 15 years if they were to continue growing at the same rate they have over the past decade). The author of the post works for an oil company. It will be "happy days" for oil companies, at least! But I am worried about what my 5 points imply for the rest of us. I couldn't have said it better than Ben Bernanke (!) said last week: "the FED cannot create more oil".

    [May26'11] An energy drought is virtually certain in a 'long term' view (15-20 years). With oil, for example, each year another cubic mile of it goes irreversibly into the air as CO2 and water vapor. There are about 25-30 decent cubic miles of oil left (and that's including some that hasn't been found yet). That basic picture hasn't changed in decades (the peak in world oil discovery was in the 1960's -- *45* years ago). But in the short term, many unexpected things could happen. For example, looking at current trends, China is set to consume all world oil *and* coal exports in 15 years -- *if* they continued expanding at the rates of the last decade. I think this is extrememly unlikely to happen. Further bumps up against maximum production will cause price fluctuations in things made from, transported by, and that use oil, and this will cause people to buy less stuff, both in the west and in China. Eventually, reduced demand will lead to China tapering off their increasing demand for new energy imports from its torrid pace of the last decade. This will remove (a small amount of!) the pressure on limited energy exports. This will keep us on an undulating energy plateau over the next 5 or 10 years (which says nothing about what financial chaos might accompany those undulations!). So in 8 or 10 years, the "we've got this energy thing under control, at least in the west" crowd (see Phil Hart above) will say that they were right all along -- right around 2020 when the hammer blows of peak all-energy first begin to fall in earnest. By 2030, when it's too late, everyone will realize something should have been done sooner. Like right now -- in 2011. But, as has become blindingly obvious to me over the past 5 years, it is absolutely impossible to imagine, even assuming the most globally enlightened players, that any significant steps in a safer direction (e.g., massive worldwide war-footing investment in electric rail, electric grid, neighborhood retrofitting, manufacturing lots batteries and small battery vehicles, wind, solar, solar heating, massive gasoline taxes, reclaiming farmland from under concrete, reorganizing food production to use less fossil fuel, stopping all the 'Monsanto' chemical company nonsense) could ever be undertaken (or even be discussed!) before outright physical shortages of energy and soon after, food, force contraction of industry, commerce, and then population. Contraction in industry, commerce, and population will never be a politically viable campaign platform for dictators, democrats, or revolutionaries (despite what the archdruid recently said about the possibility of 'use less' as a fashion statement). The reason for this is simply that using less energy is less fun than using more. The perfectly religious hope that "scientists will think of something" will never go away until the scientists fail. They are very likely to fail when industrial civilization runs low on easy energy -- mostly deposited in our 'account' in three bursts 90, 140, and 300 million years ago -- around 2030. However, the small possibility that the scientists won't fail is enough to prevent any attempts to prepare for the towering difficulties we will all face if they most likely do. So, play good music, enjoy eating, find out new things, and be creative while it lasts. The collapse will take quite a while.

    [May30'11] 9-11 booga-booga is finally beginning to wear off (witness Texas' recent threat to ban the TSA, less than one month after the 'kill Elvis' show). If that starts to spread, serious medicine might eventually be required. Sadly, all that would be required to give average people a booster shot of terror for the new decade would be a big explosion in a major city. Or an attack on the tower formerly known as Sears (incidentally currently owned in part by the same investment group that owned the WTC's). There has already been a constant stream of preparatory stories (e.g., the drill a few months back in Portland) in the mainstream media/circus.

    [Jun16'11] By analogy with looking for difficult oil in deep water off the edge of the continental shelf, I read today here from Canadian geologist David Hughes that one of the best targets for fracking are the (formerly!) impermeable seals that previously allowed conventional gas to build up underneath them (makes sense). Talk about burning the furniture to stay warm...

    [Jun19'11] "If I was pressed to answer I would argue that the new paradigm is perhaps something similar to the 'we are no longer afraid' (strength in social networked numbers) paradigm of the young people in the Middle East but this time without any evident political content." -- Michael Gurstein, commenting on the much self-video'd 20,000 person riot in Vancouver after the defeat of Canucks in the Stanley Cup.

    [Jun26'11] The US currently has a total of 300,000 (1/3 of a million) people in Iraq and Afghanistan (which is smaller than Texas), divided equally between uniformed personnel and contractors (similarly consisting of mercenaries, cooks, medics, etc). At the height of the Vietnam war, there were 500,000 troops in Vietnam. These latest wars have now gone on for a full decade, show no signs of winding down, have wrecked both countries, restored the opium trade, killed over a million people, and are filthy sores on the rotting body politic of the US and UK.

    [Jul08'11] The Congress worms pass a bigger than ever 'defense' budget and then cancel the successor to the space telescope.

    [Jul19'11] An abridged list of Rupert Murdoch's media holdings from Good magazine:
    TV: Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News Channel, Fox Kids Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Classics, Fox Sports Net, FX, the National Geographic Channel, The Golf Channel, TV Guide Channel
    Radio: Fox Sports Radio Network
    Books: HarperCollins (which publishes JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Lemony Snicket, JG Ballard, and Neil Gaiman)
    Magazines: TV Guide, The Weekly Standard, Maximum Golf, Barron's Magazine
    Newspapers: The New York Post, Wall Street Journal, The Times (UK), The Sun (UK), The Australian (AU), The Herald Sun (AU), The Advertiser (AU)
    Websites: Foxsports.com, Hulu (part ownership), Scout.com, The Daily
    Film studios: 20th Century Fox (Avatar, The Simpsons, Star Wars, X-Men, Die Hard, Night at the Museum), Fox Searchlight (Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, 127 Hours, Black Swan, Little Miss Sunshine)
    Sports (part ownership): Los Angeles Lakers, Colorado Rockies, Australia and New Zealand's National Rugby League
    Time for some creative destruction.

    [Aug06'11] Here is a Fed graph of BASE (bank reserves) and WSHOMCB (mortgage-backed securities held outright by the FED) -- just two of the hard to remember things you hardly ever hear about on teevee that massively increased soon after the Sept 2008 chaos began, and which have remained just as distended since then. BASE more than doubled to over a trillion dollars, while WSHOMCB increased from absolute zero to the same size as the (doubled) BASE. As Richard Heinberg has written recently, we have to get control of the ridiculously volatile financial system before it *really* messes things up. Peak oil is a b*tch, but it's relatively slow. We have been on a peak 'oil' plateau (where 'oil' is defined in terms of equivalent energy units of crude, lease condensates, natural gas plant liquids, and biofuels) since at least 2006. As total 'oil' begins to fall over the next 5 years, it will fall slowly. If the financial system has an epileptic fit for a mere plateau, it needs to be redesigned, so saner heads can get to work rearranging things as total available energy -- the primary basis for economic growth -- slowly decreases. Unfortunately, there is virtually no trace of discussion of this on teevee, CSPAN, or state or city government. They don't dare mention the elephant in the room. And ironically, as the grinding stasis/contraction continues, there will be even less incentive to bring the topic up. It seems that we are all collectively intent on flying into the wall at full speed. I suppose it's just human nature. But to paraphrase Guy McPherson, mother nature has a bigger bat.

    [Aug14'11] For something completely different, I recently installed Fedora 15 on a machine. The Gnome 3.0 interface is dumbed down, irritating, no easier to use, doesn't look any better, and is more graphics resource intensive (what's not to like?), and crashes several-year-old graphics cards. It even enraged Linus himself. The idea of making your computer into a passive tablet is depressing. I don't want to stroke the screen when I'm programming. If the goal was to make a more useable interface, there are perfectly good examples out there. It amazes me that the Linux desktop could be in such a desperate state after so long. It's not rocket science. What a waste of programmer resources.

    [Aug15'11] Basic budget numbers from 2010 (shown in a nice simple graphic here) are *never* mentioned in proper context on the teevee. Total spending was $3.8 trillion, which includes defense, discretionary, social security, medicare, medicaid, other, interest on debt. Total receipts were $2.6 trillion (mostly individual income taxes, and social security and payroll taxes, with corporate taxes only accounting for 11% of receipts) for a deficit of $1.3 trillion. Total individual income tax brought in $1.1 trillion. Total 'defense' spending was $0.9 trillion. In simple terms, total defense spending is currently approximately equal to all individual income tax revenue. And total defense spending is approximately equal to the entire deficit. Basic numbers, people. As the late Chalmers Johnson said, this is the decline of the Roman empire. If this isn't fixed (and there is absolutely no sign of any change in defense spending), the US is going down. One unfortunate difference from the Roman empire is that the Romans didn't have nukes. Instead of the idiotic campaign circus, why not simply have people vote for how much they want to pay in taxes, how big of a deficit they want, and how much to spend for 'defense', social security, medicare, medicaid, and 'other' -- all in trillions. Simple, real things. Everybody has to shut up and come up with 10 real numbers that add up. That would be a real vote about real things. Addition.

    [Aug18'11] For the first time, the amount of corn used to make ethanol in the US -- an idiotic, approximately *zero* net energy process (same amount of fossil fuel used to make it and distill it as is gotten back from burning it in cars) -- has eclipsed the amount of corn fed to cows. This grew up from almost nothing to over 50% of all US corn in less than a decade. This really shows the utter bankruptcy of modern thinking with regard to cars. Needless to say, this can't go on for much longer. It isn't much different here in the UK/EU. While out on the streets cycling while idiots in cars honk and throw their weight around, I wish I had a megaphone attached to the back of my bike that would randomly bellow out things like "50% of car trips in London are less than 2 miles", or "I'm just as late for dinner as you", "cyclists will inherit what's left of the earth", or "you, pig, are piloting a 100,000 watt vehicle while mine is 100 watts", or "I paid for this road, too" or "your engine sucks compared to the American ones". Well, maybe I wouldn't say the last one for fear of my life, tho it's certainly true of the damn black taxi engines, which account for 20% of London's toxic particulates. The taxis are wonderfully designed (much better than American taxis) except for the absolutely awful horrible disgusting engines. Even tho UK/EU-ians only use 50% of the total energy per capita that Americans and Canadians do, they're not really any different than US-ians. It's just because they already filled up all the space combined with the fact that they used up most of their fossil fuel resources (until the North Sea, but that is now rapidly depleting). They would have done exactly the same thing as Americans did if they had enough fuel and space, despite their most sincere protestations about how much better than Americans they are. On the other hand, they *are* positioned a little better now, precisely because they weren't able to destroy their pre-car cities as thoroughly (tho sometimes, the 'pre-car' bit is a bit hard to make out here...) :-}

    [Aug23'11] The utter contradiction of (1) resuming economic growth and house price increases (making extra things to put in newly purchased houses) together with (2) austerity and lowering wages (that would be for people who buy most of the houses and extra things) and (3) flat energy supplies (that would be the energy that makes the extra things) would be hilarious if it wasn't so blackly dire. The economic system and human's desire to reproduce are running up against limits that historically they haven't dealt well with. Stopping growth in cell phones and big screen teevees is one thing. Stopping growth in food -- which currently requires a lot of fossil fuel since it is now made by a small fraction of the population -- without stopping growth in people is what I worry about. Plus, I *liked* the whole retirement concept! It seems to have gone out the window for everybody but the very rich. Instead of any sane discussion of obvious realities, the US govt/Obama admin just blew $1 billion over the past few months bombing Libya. Precious money that could have been spent on practical alternative energy research and electrified rail so that the US wouldn't be idiotically pouring *over* 50% of all its corn into its stupid car gas tanks.

    [Aug29'11] For many years, because AI/computer-vision/robotics/google were crude compared to animal and human biological-brain-based models, I pooh-poohed them in an academic way. I pooh-poohed the breathless Hollywood terminators and unrealistically super-powered super-intelligent robots. I utterly, completely missed the forest for the trees. Now, 70-80% of stock market trading is done by computers with algorithms designed by physicists. The trading is happening too quickly for humans to follow, using non-human-style trading patterns that battle each other where 10 *microseconds* can win the day. Human traders and human writers do follow the longer time scale *results* of this trading, trying to make sense of it, and no doubt half the time confabulate reasons for why a particular thing occurred, long after the fact. I used to point out how face recognition never worked well in unconstrained environments. But who cares about that? There is a camera on every PC pointing out from the screen that each person looks at. And why even bother with that when people post better pics. Google doesn't really understand meaning? It will never have to. Simple co-occurence and page rank have re-formed the student mind. When the first unmanned or remote controlled bombers manufactured by General Atomics in San Diego were sent up, I used to make fun of them because they would sometimes crash, or be too dependent on their human video death game controllers. Now, both semi-autonomous unmanned and simple remote-controlled flying machines are killing people, many people, every single day, and are beginning to be re-patriated. Because of the internet, some people now get their news outside of the 'mighty Wurlitzer' of the mainstream media. But the internet has been filled to the brim with disinfo, some generated by people in new 'public service' jobs, an some generated and distributed by machine. When tasers -- remarketed electric shock torture from the 1960's CIA -- came on the market, I described them above merely as politically correct guns for SUV-driving suburbians. But now police are tasing a person to death *every week* in the US. Just think how many people they are tasing that didn't die. England just reported its first police taser death last week (poodle!). And the police in the US aren't shooting any less people. There are already combo prototypes of unmanned aerial drones that can tase you from the sky. Eventually, surveillance cameras or TSA metal detector check points will have tasers in them. The recent war in Libya (it didn't even come up in the vile US Congress!) was a brilliant example of putting all this together. It was amazing to see the raw power of information control not just in the US/UK/EU but in, say, Saudi media. The money and gold of the regime were seized electronically without protest. The literal handful (maybe 5!) non-mainstream reporters on the ground in Libya were silenced by death threats conveyed through the 'reporters' from CNN/CIA. Gaddafi's army was burnt to a crisp by high tech night bombs to pave the way for the al-Qaeda rabble, led by a literal al-Qaeda guy from Paki who had been tortured by the CIA, then imprisoned by Gaddafi only to be let out by Gaddafi's son. Libya, previously with the highest standard of living in Africa, above Saudi and Russia (!) was turned overnight into a smoldering improverished, no-electric power, no-water, no-hospital wasteland run by NATO-installed al-Qaeda. Compare this to alternate reality most people got off the internet/teevee.
    -----------------------------------------------
    I admit this all looks bad. However, it also depends on fossil fuel. Fossil oil is currently on its final plateau and coal and natural gas are getting there soon. We are close to the peak net energy plateau. Since it is a plateau before the drop begins in earnest, the current orgy of building military killing machines and police human suppession machines will likely crescendo over the next 10 to 20 years, and will continue to be repatriated from brown-people-land back to the homelands. But it seems unlikely to me that 'terminator world' can survive in that form past the beginning of the collapse of industrial civilization, which for the past decade I have been expecting to begin around 2030. High tech machines have specialized parts like high quality infrared cameras that are manufactured in secret. But they also rely on parts manufactured for consumer products by consumer-dependent corporations. Turning the whole population to manufacturing tanks when they used to be making cars in WWII was one thing. It was a time of perfect exponential increase in fossil fuel energy. Turning the whole population to manufacturing terminators and crowd control machines seems less practical as the grid starts to fail, and long distance transportation begins to break down, and the debt based money system malfunctions in a time of economic/energy contraction. I suppose this is the final stage of peak oil awareness -- the embrace.

    [Sep12'11] Solyndra, a silicon valley green-tech thin film solar startup compary that had raised more than $1 billion in venture capital and secured another $0.5 billion in federal loan guarantees has just declared bankruptcy. Part of the reason was uncertainty about government incentive prorgrams. Thus, right at peak oil, it's still cheaper to 'burn the furniture' of remaining harder-and-harder-to-get fossil fuels than it is to build and use renewable energy. As the price of fossil fuels increases (or stays the same while people's purchasing power drops), this is unlikely to change, unfortunately. The main reason is simple: renewable energy systems are made using fossil fuel. Renewable energy systems will always be more expensive than fossil fuel until there is no fossil fuel left. Then it won't be possible to make them any more. The reason that Solyndra failed was that the small solar energy market was swamped with lower-priced coal-made Chinese conventional solar cells (from Suntech and Yingli, made with a more 'business-like' approach to environmental damage). The Chinese cells are essentially 50 year old designs, as opposed to the hi-tech thin film cells from Solyndra (using rare earths from China) that were supposed to be so cheap they could be sprayed onto roofs. The article about it in Forbes completely misses the take-home point. It shows that the Chinese can turn coal into solar cells for cheaper (much lower labor costs, no pesky constraints on pollution) than California can turn coal and natural gas more cleanly into thin film cells. Crucially, it doesn't show that either process could work when the coal and natural gas are gone -- whether clean *or* dirty. Rock on humans. For the record, I'm *strongly* in favor of subsidising solar heat concentration and solar electric while we still can, even though fossil fuel will always be cheaper.

    [Sep21'11] Solyndra has a bit of dirty laundry. It looks like some of the people running it realized they could game the system. Compared to the utter disaster of ethanol (using *over* 50% of the US corn crop together with congressional subsidies to generate an essentially *zero* net energy product (about 1 energy unit of fossil fuel is turned into about 1 energy unit of ethanol), Solyndra was at least making solar cells that turn energy positive for every year after 5 or 8 years. But the fact that solar electric was regarded by sociopathic money parasites as a possible host is profoundly depressing. I wish those parasites would just get some horrible disease so normal people could live.

    [Oct05'11] Steve from Virginia is wordy, but I like his main points. As energy prices go up, initially from getting close to peak energy, they tend to cause economic contraction. This results in energy prices temporarily falling. This in turn results in fossil fuel energy companies no longer going after expensive (i.e., lower energy return on energy investment) reserves; but it also results in renewable energy companies going broke. Eventually energy prices spike again. But that soon causes economic contraction and a repeat of the cycle. Thus, business cycle time delays interact poorly with the later development of industrial civilization. Conventional economists usually expect that energy price increases will spur innovation and renewable energy and more exotic non-renewable energy. Instead, the price *crashes* are selectively decimating the very companies that are supposed to grow and save the day because they are smaller and closer to the edge than fossil fuel companeis. I didn't see this dynamic coming when I first started to think about peak oil 10 years ago. The result will probably be fossil fuel severe shortages at a time where there is still plenty of positive EROEI fossil fuel left in the ground. I suppose that's a silver lining of sorts.

    [Oct16'11] Student debt has now eclipsed credit card debt and is headed to $1 trillion dollars (the average cumulative student debt at a for-profit college is almost $30K). From 1990 to 2000, earnings of young college graduates and college costs were both going up. Since then, earnings have gone flat or dropped slightly, but costs have continued linearly up. If 1991 was 1.0, young college graduate earnings are only up to 1.1x but costs are up to 1.55x. Obviously, this can't go on forever. It is looking more and more like the housing bubble. It took a while for that one to pop; even after household incomes went flat, prices continued to gallop up for 6 years (and house prices still remain bizarrely inflated relative to salaries in many places). Then there is the effect of college debt on new/future housing debt -- it would seem to be negative, or deflationary. But despite all the talk of deflation and debt destruction, the on-the-ground feeling is that the actual prices for things you actually need (rent, food, furnishings) are increasing while incomes are decreasing. It feels a lot like 70's stagflation, but with near-zero interest rates, so savers/pensioners are hit, too. In the long term, I can't see how the coming debt destruction could be inflationary, but my previous predictions in this area have not been accurate (London rents are continuing to inflate). As a teacher, I'm not looking forward to what this will eventually imply for college education. Things seem to be spinning around in non-productive directions. Take "article spinning" -- a computer based method of "elegant variation" to take existing articles, rewrite them with synonyms so that google doesn't recognize them as semantically equivalent (since google doesn't need/do semantics) then spray them all over the web and have them link to your website, to run up your google page position (this web page, ridiculously :-} got a hit from thebestspinner.com). Or the bizarre copper carry trade in China, where reports suggest that over the past 3 months, virtually all of the copper imported into China was used as a financing instrument (!) The idea is, get a low interest loan to buy copper using dollars, defer payment on the loan for 6 months, stockpile the copper, use it as collateral for a yuan loan, yuan appreciates against the dollar, make a profit. Now copper price has crashed more than 30% causing a problem for these huge inventories (several times as much copper as is used in the entire US in a year). Or the story I previously pointed to about Lenovo (Thinkpad computer manufacturer) making more than half of its profits in *real estate speculation*... World gone wild.

    [Oct18'11] The comical but "very real, very real, very real" (Diane Feinstein, Peter King) alcoholic car-salesman former-khebab vendor plot seems laughable; and in the UK, Liam Fox was outed as a Mossad mole. But there are also reports of a large-scale US military exercise in the middle east today. Probably just the usual shadow boxing/disinfo. But the kill Elvis show has long worn off, small crowds of villagers with pitchforks are collecting here and there in American cities, son of COINTELPRO adbusters and color revolution shills are out among them in force, there is the unsightly spectacle of an African American president bombing black Africans, creating a callosal humanitarian disaster in order to 'save civilians', and not even 'succeeding', robot assassins killing 100 people every few days, oil prices staying high (so far) unlike in 2008, and a frigging election/sewer/circus coming up! Who knows?

    [Oct26'11] Steve Jobs told Obama that Obama would be a one-term president because he failed to eliminate the teachers unions (!), and because there is no 11 month school year and classes until 6 PM, and because Steve couldn't manufacture his fondle phones as cheaply in the US as he could in China -- all this while Steve was piling up one of the largest hoards of US personal and corporate cash, and being a lot more stingy with it than his nemesis, billg. The problem is that US-ers and UK-ers and EU-ers (well, and me, typing on a old Apple laptop) agree with him. They wouldn't be willing to pay more for fondle phones (or even just buy new models less often!), and so suicide nets and slave wages it is. And damn those teachers. But perhaps Steve is now working word problems in hell, forever (I know, bad taste).

    [Oct26'11] The US withdrawal from Iraq seems to have come down to the refusal of the Iraqi government to give US troops immunity from prosecution for any heinous crimes they may have committed or have yet to commit. Whether they actually leave on time is another question. But what about payback? After almost 10 years, a holocaust of Iraqis (1-2 million killed, millions more wounded and poisoned, Fallujah a horrifying depleted uranium wasteland), over $1 trillion US tax dollars spent, Iraqi money and gold and artifacts looted, a few thousand Americans killed and more wounded, the public witch-hunt basis for the war (weapons, 9-11 association) completely and utterly debunked years ago, and the country of Iraq completely trashed, the US now says it will leave, paying no reparations, while retaining oil contracts! When the US is eventually laid low, the world will remember them/us like they remember the Nazis -- good tech, but intrinsically bad people who stood by and let the militarized state massacre millions of other humans they considered to be genetically inferior both inside and outside of their country. When the power of the US wanes, the rest of the world may very allow for the US what happened to the Germans at the end of WW2 -- cities firebombed and several million Germans casually starved to death in post-war concentration camps.

    [Nov20'11] The US police storm trooper/dystopian sci-fi thing creeps me out. The EU/UK has their own version. I always hope that people here or people there will rise above being 'good Germans'. But, unfortunately, I think there was nothing special about Germans. What they did was quintessentially human -- it's the human way. Most all human chimps have their own hidden master race thing going on under the covers. The economic contraction (US-ians actually used 5% less oil than in 2007) plus a doubling (US) or tripling (UK) of college tuition has driven some mostly younger people to begin questioning the status quo (update: the Berkeley tuition is planned to increase from 11K to 21K in one year). But not close to a majority. If the overall social situation showed even the slightest hint of really getting out of hand, I think one well-placed false flag could instantly drag everybody back into line for several years (e.g., a small dirty nuke in a big city). The sad thing is that I don't even think one will be needed. A string of Joe Pa's will do just fine! -- and there is virtually an unlimited supply of those in the wings. The relatively big Libya operation hardly even made the news. There will be many 'good humans' when energy descent starts to really bite in 15 years. Well, OK, it was a wrong-side-of-the-bed/glass-half-empty kind of day... :-/ Tomorrow's another day.

    [Nov27'11] I watched Back to the Future for the first time since I saw it when it came out in 1985. It was complete with Spielbergian 'Libyan' terrorists (played by Jeff O'Haco and Richard L. Duran) driving a VW microbus that somehow had no trouble keeping up with the DeLorean. The doctor took a big jump into the future -- to around now. That future was a time of flying cars, capes, and desktop fusion. Flying cars, like fusion, are the future -- and they always will be. It made me gloomy the whole next day.

    [Dec28'11] Ron Paul's antiwar position on foreign affairs and anti-police-state and anti-bank-bailouts position on domestic affairs is better than Obama's. He is the *only* antiwar candidate! Other aspects of his domestic plans (e.g., his return-to-feudalism austerity plan, the demonization of the EPA, gutting Social Security and Medicare, reducing regulation on financial criminals even more than its current almost non-existent state) are worse than Obama's. He is similar to Obama in being utterly clueless about the implications of peak oil (he thinks high prices will cause the market to email mother earth to create more low energy-return-on-energy investment oil). With respect to the EPA, PissedOffAmerican said in a comment, "I'll take smog over a nuclear winter". But in any case, it makes *very little difference* to actual policy who is elected to be the president of the US.

    [Jan04'12] Statins damage muscles because they (are designed to) inhibit the mevalonate pathway and ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10). This produces muscle cramps, myalgias, and sometimes myopathy and rhabdomyolysis as 'side effects'. The most potent statin (cerivastatin) had to be withdrawn from the market in 2001 because of the risk of rhabdomyolysis (pathological digestion of skeletal muscle) was ten times higher (at 1 per 1000) than with other statins. In this context, it is worth pointing out that the heart is the most important muscle in the body...

    [Jan17'12] "It is my professional opinion that the production of excess energy has been demonstrated when the results of the last 20+ years of experimentation are evaluated. There has been a lot of work done in the past 20+ years. When considered in aggregate I believe excess power has been demonstrated. I did not say, reliable, useful, commercially viable, or controllable. If any of those other terms were applicable I would have used them instead. If anything, it is the lack of a single clear demonstration of reliable, useful, and controllable production of excess power that has held LENR research back." -- Joe Zawodny on cold fusion on his blog.

    [Jan24'12] Sure Steve Jobs was a money slut who wanted to break the teachers unions so he could turn the US into a giant Foxconn with suicide nets, slave workers *and* slave engineers, powered by coal extracted even faster and more dirtily than the US currently does (as long as the opaque clouds of coal smoke didn't reach Steve's mansion). But an equally as great problem with 'Steve Jobs' are all the people who slavishly, repeatedly buy the smooth surfaced devices that are killing live music and conversation. Now, Steve's AI, Siri (originally the soldier's assistant), can be lazily asked with voice commands to text a 'friend' to say you will be late to a meeting. It's natural you are too lazy to take the effort to text, otherwise you would have been on time. Or Siri can find you the nearest sushi restaurant, which you will hardly be able to taste because you will be stroking the large smooth-surfaced pill during dinner. Stop buying! Start practicing an instrument instead of learning to type on a large pill!!

    [Feb07'12] The tragicomedy of errors in energy continues. As we stand at the beginning of the peak oil downslope, the boom in *natural gas* drilling from 2004 to 2009 has resulted in a temporary glut of natural gas. This has reduced US natural gas imports. US natural gas imports began in 1990, and reached 1/5 of US gas usage by 2003, but now are down to 1/7 of US natural gas). But it has also caused natural gas prices to crash below the costs of current production. That resulted in 2009 in natural gas producers *halving* the number of active drilling rigs in the space of a few months. The low cost of natural gas has also put pressure on renewable energy companies and plans (why invest in wind now when natural gas is so cheap?). Of course any idiot can see that this low price will only last a few years. Fracked natural gas wells deplete in less than 2 years (much faster than oil wells and faster than non-fracked wells) and the towering daily usage of natural gas isn't going anywhere (60 billion cubic feet per day in the US). When storage and the current crop of frac wells are depleted, there will be a horrible price spike, re-invigorating investment in in the latest expensive production methods. The price spike (natural gas use is just about evenly divided into industrial, electric power, and residental+commercial uses), will then motivate people to think about renewable power for a year or two. I used to think this was a stupid way to raise a kid or run industrial civilization (6-month year look-ahead, no planning for even the mid-term future), and that it could be fixed. I still think it's stupid; but now I see it can't/won't be fixed. As a world society, we have made the choice not to fear greed. The only long-term planning these days is for war with "North Garnet". That should fix things real good. World stupid bowl. Big mistake, once again, since we should have started retooling in the 1970's when the problem first came to light. Instead, we will barrel blindly on, toward a dreadful mid-century catastrophe.

    [Feb13'12] "They were irrational statements that made the deputy be concerned for the safety of the children," Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County sheriff's department said, describing why this unarmed black religious Camp Pendleton marine nursing student was shot to death in front of his daughters by 4 white armed cops while he on an early morning prayer walk with them. This wasn't news. Your news would be Whitney Houston (who had an amazing voice). In other non-news, the FAA has gotten the go-ahead from the House and Senate (75% of the Senate!) to purchase 30,000 aerial drones for domestic surveillance/torture use. They will initially be armed with shotgun tasers (US police already kill 2 people per week with tasers and torture a much large number of people per week with tasers without killing them). I liked the old "Prisoner" teevee series, but I didn't want to live in it! (except for Port Meirion). What's next? Domestic drones with robocop cannons and missiles like the ones in Afghanistan? "Oh sorry, you looked like you were endangering your kid so we accidentally took out your house and wife and other kid. Please accept our apology and get some counseling."

    [Feb14'12] My best guess peak oil estimate from around the time of my Iraq antiwar speech in 2003 until recently was 2008. Now I am beginning to wonder whether this was actually an overestimate! The first clue (snark alert) was a sympathetic 2012 articles on peak oil just published in Science and Nature. Journals like Science and Nature would never touch a politically hot topic like this until it is completely safe (i.e., irrelevant). When it could have counted for more in 2004, they were publishing prominent main articles by oil businessmen like Leonardo Maugeri (see above), saying there was no need to worry about peak oil.
    But the real clue to me (snark off) were these two shocking graphs: (1) the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) graph of total gasoline retail deliveries (which includes ethanol), and (2) the US Department of Transportation graph of total traffic volume (both *not* zero based [update Apr05: the retail sales graph is now changed to zero based]). The first graph shows that the US has been on a long gasoline consumption plateau from about 1988 to 2007 (with two dips around 1995 and 2005). The middle of this plateau was 1998! Things changed suddenly in 2007, when consumption began to decisively fall. The fall was approximately linear until the unprecedented discontinuous drop of the last two months. Note that there have been gradual improvements in miles-per-gallon since 1995, all during the plateau. But the savings from those improvements were completely cancelled by people doing more driving in cars with more powerful engines (Jevons' paradox -- increases in energy efficiency lead to the same or greater energy use). Jevons is starkly visible in the second graph, which shows the linear increase in total traffic volume from 1996 until 2007. The continuous upslope in driving ate up every last bit of engineering efficiency gain over the past 20 years. What began to happen in 2007 in the US is new and different than anything in the past 20 years -- closer to the real, forced overall energy usage drop that happened in the late seventies during the pre-peak-oil Arab oil embargo. Gasoline deliveries have gone from around 60M gals/day for a full 20 years from 1985-2005, to 45M gals/day in 2010 (a 25% drop in 3 years), to only a freaky 30M gals/day in the last 2 months (a 50% drop in 5 years! -- but the last 2 months are undoubtedly an outlier). Another couple of years of this and we're talking Greece. Greece imports 100% of its oil, and has been hard hit over the past 5 years by the tripling of oil price -- the major reason, completely ignored by the MSM, for its recent increased debt problems. Standard economists will say, oh, it's just a flesh wound (in the US); the usage is down because of the temporary credit crunch, and that is about to go away. In reality, peak oil happens when people can't afford to pay the increased price of mining the harder-to-get, lower return on energy investment energy reserves that remain. Oil price doesn't have to spike at peak oil. It will probably drop some. It frightens me to see people, here in the Unemployed Kingdom, still accelerating their metal crates as if to kill me (which frightens me, too :-} ), while the world is suddenly and catastrophically changing around them. I suppose the rapidly depleting North Sea, which still provides the great majority of domestic UK oil will keep Greece at bay here for another 5 or 10 years (North Sea depletion is running at 5-10% per year). The deepest problem is that this is a slow motion disaster, which is what makes it so insidious and hard to respond to. The world won't end this year or next.

    [Feb28'12] This remarkable chart from Asymptotes of Power by Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan, shows that the increase in the US incarceration rate -- which has reached the absolutely stunning number of 5% of the US workforce -- exactly parallels the beginning-in-1980 increase-to-1929-levels of income disparity. The argument of the paper is that the elite are worried that the increase in violence against the general population required for them to keep (or to keep increasing) their ill-gotten gains may be too large for the general/world population to accept. Despite Occupy, Arab spring, and the UK/EU riots, a general uprising still looks distant.

    [Feb29'12] A great and hopeful article about energy and society from UCSD physicist Tom Murphy here. Go Tom!

    [Mar10'12] As Rome burns (along with the yearly world cubic mile of oil, of course), this is what the parasitic money classes are doing. Paper oil. Enron ownership games with oil on its way to port. Shame. But what about all the other people who have kept this damaging parasitic rule-bending cheating legal? It looks like oil *is* set to drop sharply in the next few months (tho highly unlikely to get down to $35 like last time). These criminals should be sentenced to actually make something real, say, an iPod, after being woken from their dormintory bed. Shame, you worthless humans. All these tricks exploit tiny variations in oil usage, oil fear, and oil production, which despite the upcoming swoon in price, is still right up again the limits. The little money-making wiggles are utterly meaningless in the greater scheme of things and should be damped, not encouraged. In any sane world, we would, as Chris Cook says, stop this nonsense and try to begin practical planning 10 or 20 years ahead, like you would if you had a kid (oh, I forgot, all these people do have kids...). Instead of that, you have barf heads like Alan Kohler voming on the teevee about how there is no oil problem. And a bunch of internet weenies who see oil price manipulation as evidence against peak oil. Unfortunately, as I've said many times, both are true; in fact, peak oil is absolutely the *best* opportunity for oil money gamers! Go here to see Matt Mushalik blow the supposed 'graph guy' out of the water with a bunch of real data. But Matt will never get good air time. On days like this, the chance of any substantive change looks so remote that I descend to rooting for Brave New World vs. 1984 and recording indulgent Miles jam tracks that make me think of 1970...

    [Mar19'12] Apple has $100 billion in cash -- 1/10 of a trillion dollars, equal to 1/30 of the total US budget. Much of this pile is for effective marketing of anti-social media devices...

    [Mar23'12] Tom Murphy gave a very sensible interview to OilPrice here. The questions of the interviewer (the editor of OilPrice) reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of science that is widespread, even among scientists; it amounts to a religious faith in never ending progress that will arrive just in time to improve human existence and allow us to continue our unprecedented increase. Science is about finding out how the world is, independent of how we would like it to be. Of course, human scientists do this through experiments that they fervently hope will work. But if their experiments don't work, then eventually, that hope must be extinguished or moved on to a different experiment. Engineers try to make new practical things that might be more efficient than existing things. But like scientists, even though an engineer may fervently want to make something, and there is a lot of money to be made if it could be made, some things just can't be made. High-temperature superconductors capable of carrying high currents would make MRI cheaper and some company a lot of money. Those facts alone says nothing about whether they are a physical possibility. Atomic physics could care less about the hope of engineers for progress in high temperature superconductivity *or* economic demand (e.g., prompted by running out of helium from methane wells). As energy depletion begins to bite by the end of this decade, there will begin to be less and less *energy* for scientific and engineering exploration. I agree with Tom. We should do something now. Mother nature will soon be coming to bat -- twice. First on energy, then on climate. She's not religious and she has a really big bat.

    [Mar28'12] My physics education was quite spotty, so I was surprised to learn here that the average amount of power produced by fusion in the sun is only one tenth of a milliwatt per kilogram of sun. A human body generates thousands of times that much power per kilogram. A car engine is a million times more power-dense than the sun. The (long) planned fusion reactors would be more than a billion times denser. So tokamak fusion is really not exactly like power from the sun. Since we haven't yet reached break-even (as much power out as we put in) for even 1 second after 50 years of trying, I don't think we should count on fusion working. We should invest more in other proven technologies like wind, solar electric, and solar heating. Just because they currently cost more than fossil fuel is a not a good reason to avoiding investing in them. At least they do produce energy, unlike fusion. They will likely *always* cost more than fossil fuel, since they are made out of fossil fuel -- that is, right until fossil fuel gets rare. If we are not already making our energy machines using non-fossil fuel power when the fossil fuel gets rare, then industrial game over.

    [Mar29'12] From a Tainter-esque perspective, consider the long lamented 37-page Glass-Steagall Act and the recently passed 2319-page Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that was supposed to fix the problems caused by repealing Glass-Steagall. I hate to see what will get passed to fix Dodd-Frank...

    [May03'12] Busy lately. Here is a charming passage from the recently released 2010 Army "Internment and Resettlement Operations" manual available as a PDF here: "2-40. The I/R [internment/resettlement] tasks performed in support of civil support operations are similar to those during combat operations, but the techniques and procedures are modified based on the special OE [operational environment] associated with operating within U.S. territory and according to the categories of individuals (primarily DCs [dislocated civilians]) to be housed in I/R [internment/resettlement] facilities." It's nice that U.S. territory is a "special operational environment" but I'm feeling uncomfortable about the possiblility of becoming 'dislocated'. But on the positive side you can get brownie points if you are one of the "detainees and DCs [dislocated civilians] willing to assist with product development, such as taping audio surrender appeals" or "detainees and DCs [dislocated civilians] willing to participate in PSYOP product testing." (p. 284). Personally, I wouldn't go for taping surrender appeals since my singing voice was never good, but perhaps I could be one of the other useful "detainess and DCs [dislocated civilians] with special skills who can assist with I/R [internment/resettlement] facility operations. Such skills include language; construction; engineering; and training in medicine, education, and entertainment." Yeah. Don't intern me bro, I can play Giant Steps on the guitar for the internees! That'll soften them up. Gentlemen: your fellow frogs are writing these instructions for slowly boiling naked frogs.

    [May19'12] Facebook went on sale today for almost 1/10 of a trillion dollars, to be paid to a bunch of parasites hiding out on treasure island. Facebook is basically a private sub-internet that offers nothing you can't already do on the non-private internet with a *very* moderate study of web design. Its profits are miniscule by comparison to a tenth of a trillion dollars. The sucker IPO generated money roughly equivalent to 5% of the entire yearly federal budget. The price had to be propped up to keep it falling way below the opening price by Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter, late in the day. Watch the furbo parasites dump now that they've pumped (update: mr. pimple just dumped a billion 4 days later). Facebook makes me sad to be a human. Industrial civilization slams into peak oil, and this is the response? Peak oil will be fixed by social media? and by giving Bono 1.5 billion more dollars and 20 billion to mr. pimple?

    [May23'12] The 'end of the university' has been predicted many times, and I mostly ignored these predictions because they didn't seem to be happening at all. For example, about 10 years ago, Don Norman, the founding head of the UCSD cogsci dept moved to a company in Chicago that was going to 'replace the university' in 5 years with high-cost but high-quality online business school courses. After 5 years, the company was not doing well, and Don went back to a standard academic position at first-tier Northwestern. However, the recent huge increases in tuition (in both the US and UK) paid for by clearly unsustainable increases in student debt, something will soon have to give. As top level universities have begun to put high quality content online for free, it will begin to put much more pressure on mid-tier universities -- much more than so far generated by low-end online courses have (U Arizona, etc). This article outlines some of the main points. This progression reminds me of the inexorable increase in the prison industrial complex that accompanied/led to the stunning 4-fold growth in per capita US prisoners from 1980 to now, a percentage of the population in jail that now dwarfs all other countries in the world. It would take a truly concerted push back to stop inexorable progress toward the dystopian future described in cryptogon's comment here. All the pundits who are so quick to bash professors and 'old methods' of teaching humans forget that the old methods got us to where we are now. As anyone who has taught and done research at a university for the last 25 years will tell you, the increase in the costs of college has not appeared in their salaries or working conditions, which haven't changed. What *has* increased at virtually all universities is the percentage of the university budget devoted to administration, with many places now well over half admin staff. The planned de-skilling inherent in having low paid drones play videos of good lecturers is essentially a continuation of that trend at the expense of actual teachers. The combination of fascism (militaristic corporatism) with artificial intelligence is particularly toxic. In this context, I begin to see bright side of peak energy :-} -- fascist AI won't work as well without the grid.

    [May27'12] Here is an update on the peak oil 'elephant in the room'. While the mainstream media like the NYT are publishing idiotic articles like this containing utterly hallucinatory sentences such as: "Industry experts and national security officials view the Alaskan Arctic as the last great domestic oil prospect, one that over time could bring the country a giant step closer to cutting its dependence on foreign oil", the reality is that people in the US are simply using less oil. They are using less oil by driving a lot less, because they can no longer afford it. This is an unprecendented, historic change that you can easily view on the internet, yet which can never be mentioned in the fantasy land of the official media. The shocking graphs above show that we have entered a completely new regime of contraction that utterly differs from the previous two and a half decades of business as usual. The hallucinatory media's response is that "peak oil is dead" -- right at the moment that peak oil is beginning to bite big time! For sure, the US is on its way to cutting dependence of foreign oil. It will get there by using half as much oil as it does now in a wrenching transition that has just begun, and it will have to continue contracting its oil use after that as domestic supplies continue their decline. Now-mostly-depleted Alaskan oil provided a small bump on the relentless downslope of lower-48-state production in the 90's, achieving a plateau for a few years, but never getting close to the 1970 lower-48-fueled domestic peak. Arctic oil is likely to be similar, slightly flattening the domestic production downslope when it possibly (!) comes on line in 5 or 10 years. This will be during a time that China and India will be competing with the US for remaining world exports. Those remaining world exports are themselves decreasing each year as internal demand of exporting countries increases. An example is Egypt, which used to be an oil exporter, but which began importing last year (around the time of the uprisings). The peak in oil discoveries was in the 1960's. We have now burnt through much of that inheritance. Hope the scientists (as opposed to clueless journalists) come up with something soon... (who, me?) :-0

    [June21'12] The correctional population has now reached 5% of the labor force in the US (Fig 17 in Bichler and Nitzan, 2012, PDF here). From 1920 to 1980 the correctional population was flat at about 1% of the labor force. The previous runup in the income share of the top 10% of the population in the roaring twenties occurred without an increase in imprisonment. But the recent 1980-to-now runup of the income share of the top 10% from 33% back to 50% almost perfectly matches the 1980-to-now increase in work force imprisonment of 1% to 5%. Bichler and Nitzan suggest that we may be reaching an asymptote of the pigmen, with further increases in their hoard risking torches and pitchforks; and the rate of increase of imprisonment rate has flattened (hit by the Great Recession!). There is probably still some room to squeeze the bottom 90% or 99% even further (look at Greece, where 70% want to leave). But Bichler and Nitzan are right that there *is* tipping point past which things will go all Robespierre.

    [June24'12] A hybrid Bermuda grass Tifton 85 (made by cross-species fertilization so that it is sterile so that it doesn't reproduce so that it has to be bought from a supplier -- GMO: the early days) designed to feed cattle that had been growing for 15 years on a ranch outside Austin. It responded to a drought by producing cyanide gas killing a small herd of cattle. Drought induced prussic acid poisoning of livestock has occurred before. Another example of production of cynanide compounds by plants to keep animals from eating them comes from Madagascar, where there is a bamboo whose young shoots contain cyanide to prevent eating. In turn, the Golden Bamboo Lemur has evolved resistance to this cyanide and eats what would be a lethal dose (for other lemurs) of these bamboo shoots every day.

    [July2'12] I saw Prometheus, which was visually spectacular, but irritatingly crappy and nonsensical in its plot, dialogue, and character behavior. The giant (outsourced!) army of animators (the movie cost 1/8 of a billion dollars to make) was expertly marshalled, with one epic struggle reminding me of Laocoon and his Sons. But, incongruously, the story -- written and controlled by much more highly paid insiders -- was disjointed and stupid. Perhaps these Alzheimer-y quotes from Ridley Scott himself provide some insight: "There's no real link [with the original 'Alien'] except it explains I think who may have had these capabilities, which are dreadful weapons way beyond anything we could possibly conceive, bacteriological drums of shit that you can drop on a planet and the planet... Do you know anything about bacteria? If you take a teaspoon and drop it in the biggest reservoir in London, which also scares the shit out of me, and amazes me that there are not huge guards around it... That's the way to do it. You don't do 9/11, you just get a teaspoon of bacteria, drop it in, and eight days later the water is clean and then suddenly on the eighth day the water goes dense and cloudy, but by then it's been sent to every home and several million people have drunk it, you've got bubonic. It's that simple." Not content to leave it at that, Ridley continues: "That's how scary it is, so these evolutions of these guys who have watched developing DNA, it's like 'How can DNA change that quickly, sitting in front of me on a table...' That's because your mind doesn't allow you to accept that that may be feasible, that's the deal. In the same way that we have been here three billion years, we know we've been... The Gulf of Mexico they believe is a huge asteroid. That was an impact zone, you know that? Yeah, for that big a thing to actually hit our globe, it would have had to adjust the spin, the axis. That probably created the first massive cataclysmic thing which took away all of the dinosaurs, so that after that you're left with water, that's why the Grand Canyon was a sea and it is now a dry valley." (quote from here). Ouch. Hearing people praise this tripe reminds me of when reporters would reverently transcribe Reagan's word salad when he was off his teleprompter. In the case of Prometheus, all delivered to you by Newtonian-mechanics-stimulated skeletons clothed with texture-mapped NURBS computed on giant arrays of linux servers. Just think of how terrified Ridley would be if he actually knew what was in dirt...

    [July23'12] The prolific-to-the-very-end Alexander Cockburn died at 71. Half the wikipedia entry about him is headlined 'anti-semitism'... Whatever. His unique radical -- as well as humorous -- voice will be sorely missed (even if he did doubt global warming and peak oil :-} ). Meanwhile in Colorado, it comes out that many people in the theater where the shooting occurred thought it was a "promotional special effects" event. Talk about a culture of violence!

    [Aug01'12] I'm liking a Toyoki Koga electron that emits Bo Lehnert needle radiation photons. I suppose that's not the kind of research that gets Russian oligarchs depositing 3 mil into 'physicists' bank accounts...

    [Aug07'12] I love the internet. We have a small DeLonghi DEM10 dehumidifier (small flat, no clothes dryer, in damp rainy London). After 2 and a half years it failed; the compressor would momentarily spin up but not stay on. After a quick google, I found someone who had diagnosed the problem as a failed 1 uF 275V capacitor on a small printed circuit board under a plastic cover inside the machine, a weak point in the design. I unsoldered the original capacitor, soldered in a new one (cost about 50p), and the dehumidier is back up. The dehumidifier wasn't expensive (about 120 pounds) so I could easiy imagine someone just tossing it into a skip (dumpster), where the 99.99% working stuff (case, cord, sensors, circuit boards, fan, compressor, copper refrigeration circuit, refrigerant) would end up in a land fill. That's why we need to keep the internet up :-}

    [Aug13'12] Reading about the DuPont Imprelis disaster today, I am struck by how difficult it can be to continue to make progress at the same speed, a point made repeatedly by Joseph Tainter. Imprelis (aminocyclopyrachlor) marketed by DuPont beginning Oct 2010, is an artificial auxin (auxin a natural plant hormone), used like many other artificial auxins as a broad-leaf weed killer. Well known examples are 2,4-D (1950's-to-now home weed killer) and 2,4,5-T (agent orange). Weeds exposed to these chemicals overgrow and die while grasses are less affected. Aminocyclopyrachlor is less human-toxic, and more stable and more water soluble than 2,4-D. The result of this combination of three apparently 'good', carefully-engineered-on-purpose properties was that it began killing mature trees (esp. evergreens) as it was washed into their roots a year and more after it was applied to lawns. It was broken down even slower inside killed trees making compost made from the trees plant-o-toxic for years. It has been taken off the market and lawsuits are underway. Now I have no problem with lawsuits and I think people should be protected from dangerous chemicals. But at the same time, from a broader perspective, this is a case of people wanting something that only possible in the fantasy land of advertisements. And look at where Imprelis was being applied -- to large mostly pointless lawns on inaccessible 'green space' in between car-filled roads on land where nobody ever sets foot (and on gigantic, perfect, never-used lawns on rich-people and imitation-rich-people estates). Imprelis does just what it was engineered to do -- kill dandelions in grass effectively, for a long time, while being 'non-toxic'. The sequence of events brings to mind the rise and fall of copycat statins (e.g., cerivastatin) that were engineered to be better and more specific than the first statins. They were so much better at being statins (inhibiting the mevalonate pathway) that they resulted in muscles (such as the heart!?) being pathologically digested (one of the many other downstream effects, alognside changing blood lipids) and had to be taken off the market. Or Celebrex, Vioxx et al. -- cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors that were engineered to be more specific than older drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen (which inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2). The COX-2 inhibitors upset your stomach less, allowing higher doses, which eventually resulted in perhaps 100,000 early heart attacks and strokes in the US, and the 10x more potent Vioxx being taken off the market, again, because cyclooxygenase is involved in more than just inflammation. The stomach upset from old drugs turned out to be a feature, not a bug (not that the old drugs like acetaminophen are that great -- acetaminophen is responsible for 50% of all US liver transplants, interacting esp. poorly with relatively small amount of alcohol, with a *very* non-linear dose-response liver damage curve). With a system of patents that rewards single blockbuster chemicals that are designed to be applied to one point in a complex meshwork of chemical reactions in animals and plants, I suppose we could expect no other outcome. But it's equally important to realize that there really isn't a better alternative (to the patent system or to the one-drug clinical trial system). Even an enlightened approach -- e.g., using chemical combinations -- would break down from an impossible combinatorial explosion at clinical trial time, long before getting anywhere vaguely close to the number of chemicals in natural 'drugs', AKA food. We are running tremendously hard to stay in the same place. Suing DuPont is not going to fix our problems. It would be better to just let the weeds grow (or pull them out by hand), or get rid of the useless never-used-by-humans-or-animals 'green space' altogether! It would be better/cheaper for people to lose weight and exercise more (or at all) so that there was less heart disease and arthritis pain. This can't happen when we live in fantasy land. DuPont makes money because people buy the stuff. We need personal responsibility in addition to effective regulations.

    [Aug17'12] I admit to a certain morbid fascination at seeing nervous richies suspiciously eyeing each other in a prisoner's dilemma-like way as they try to cash out their dropping FacePlant shares (though Facebook tanking is bad for CA, which is a shame). Then there is the crabbed issue of richies upset about helicopter noise from other richies doing the Hamptons to New York commute by helicopter. Being a boomer, I suppose I should instead listen to the CDC (center for disease cash) which suggests that *every* boomer sign up for a hep C test so that, if positive, they can go on a $100K half-a-year course of pegylated interferon (immune system stimulator) plus ribavirin (interferes with RNA metabolism) plus telaprevir or boceprevir (viral protease inhibitors) and hope that their viral load goes down before the immune stimulation casues autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, retinal detachment, or lung inflammation/pneumonia. Eeek a mouse (not!). One standard quickie hep C test is advertised as 98% accurate. Accept that that unreasonable claim is true, and say 2% percent of boomers (mostly former needle users) have hep C. By rough Bayes, the quickie test would result in half of the positive boomer diagnoses being false positive. More expensive tests work better (98% correct :-} ). So perhaps all 100 million of us should get expensive hep C tests? (e.g., a $500 PCR test, tho even those can be false negative if virus titer is low at test time). That would come out to $50 billion for one test each, plus $300 billion to treat the positives. A fine proposal, but it should only be made in the context of getting rid of something else of comparable size. How about the F-35 program?

    [Aug26'12] For every dollar that California spends on public transit, it spends ten dollars on automobile-related investments. This will change! Time to fix the grid instead! More electric rail!

    [Sep07'12] The courts won't touch a single criminal banker [update: 3 UBS execs *were* convicted today for fraud!] but instead go after the guy who made the "hopium" poster because he lied about basing it on a copyrighted AP photo! Now that's much worse than copping a few trillion in tax dollars here and there, right?

    [Sep10'12] People often decry the Fed 'printing money'. It is true that the Fed has been given the right to create money out of the void and then lend it to big banks who pay interest for this created money back to the Fed (which is itself a collection of privately-owned banks). The Fed disposes of this created money back into the void when the principal is paid pack. But the more significant source of money-creation *by far* are the banks themselves (the ones that get the ex nihilo money). Fractional reserve banking (e.g., a 10% reserve requirement) means that banks can create 10 times as much money as is deposited into them (over time, with multiple cycles of deposit and loan, each time only retaining 10% of the deposit). This bank-created (not Fed-created) money is what the banks mostly charge interest on. Since banks typically pay 1/4 as much interest out on deposits as they demand in interest on loans, this is another factor of 4. So for an injection of $1000 (on which they pay, say, 1% interest), they can create $10,000, and then charge 4% interest on it. The bottom line is that a bank pays $10 interest a year for the priviledge of charging $400 in interest per year. Not bad 'work' when you can get it. Now reduce reserve requirements further and you're talking big money for nothing. This is a preposterous amount of money to pay for a trivial accounting system that is now all run on cheap web servers and database backends. Flexible money creation should be run as a public utility, *not* a private for-profit business. [Sep24 update: excellent video here (go to equations in second half) from Steve Keen on how this absolutely fundamental mechanism responsible for the creation of the majority of money is concealed/omitted from standard economic models. Economists are truly emperors with no clothes!]

    [Sep20'12] Reading Dmitri Orlov, I came across this recent NYT article showing an amazing increase in US arms sales (now 80% of world total exports of arms!). The graph is cropped in my browser not look shocking until you click the link here, and even there, it seems cropped a little so it doesn't match the text! (graph looks like $56 billion, text says $66 billion). The Obama administration has thus more than doubled the export of arms compared to the last 4 years of the Bush admin. Major US exports are Hollywood movies about terminators -- and actual terminators.

    [Oct04'12] Carl Zimmer, now at Discover, has his undies bunched here about the circumstances surrounding the publication of the French GMO-is-dangerous study and complains that the study (which cost at least $1M) didn't test enough animals (it didn't). Fine. But he studiously avoids commenting on the fact that there have been virtually *no other* independent long-term feeding studies -- well, aside from the Big One currently being performed on humans, hopefully not [yet] with the spermicidal corn announced by San Diego's Epicyte way back in Sept 2001 (inserting human anti-sperm antibody genes into corn is just like traditional breeding methods, right?). Carl makes a comparison between anti-GMO people and global warming deniers. Some days, I grow tired of yuppies dumping on climate change deniers. Not that I am a denier -- I *am* a yuppie after all. I fully expect an absolutely awful humanity-unfriendly climate sh*t storm in the second half of this century as CO2 reaches 500 ppm, right around the time the useable (net energy positive) hydrocarbons really start to run low. But it hardly matters whether one is worried about, or believes in, climate change. The myriad daily consuming/living decisions that drive CO2 increase made by the people in the two different groups are NOT THAT DIFFERENT! I would venture to guess that lower income climate deniers (many in the bottom half of the US that makes less than 45K a year) probably generate *less* CO2 than the more stylishly dressed, higher income climate worriers on their 'eco'-tours to pretty places. As Mary Logan writes here, climate change is a euphemism for growth. Attempts to grow, or at least not shrink, will continue the rigidly linear CO2 increase, no matter how 'worried about climate' Carl is, until net energy positive hydrocarbons are rare. It's the urge to grow -- consuming in the ever-decreasing energy return on energy investment fossil fuels in the process -- that has powered the linear upslope. Our current growth pause didn't even make a tiny dent. Feeding spermicidal GMO corn secretly to poor people won't stop it. Then it will be Mother Nature at bat.

    [Nov16'12] Quite the spate of articles these last few weeks about the US becoming a top world oil producer and an exporter! Back in the real physical world, global crude oil production has been on a plateau since 2005 (the slight "all liquids" increase has come from scraping the bottom of the barrel (yup) with zero-net-energy ethanol, etc). And American fracked gas and tight oil producers -- the more expensive 'new' oil that is supposed to save us -- are right now going out of business left and right because the current cost of producing this more expensive oil and natural gas is too close to the current price for them (~$90/barrel and ~$4/MMBtu). The downside overshoot in gas price is particularly striking at less than 1/3 the price of the energy-equivalent amount of oil. So there must be another explanation for the new burst of deceptive articles. Today, Steve Ludlum suggests that the problem is the same one the business press had before the stock market crash of 1929. They they knew the stock market bubble couldn't continue but were afraid to say so for fear of triggering a crash. In this case, if people knew what the real propects for next few decades were, they might get real mad. So don't mention the war. I mentioned it once or twice, but I think I got away with it. But seriously, I think people really *can* smell what's up, unconsciously, without numbers. They are just trying -- like me -- to keep their head down and carry on. If you have a job, this will work OK for the next decade.

    [Nov25'12] I recently read an article by Andrew McKillop, previously a sensible peak oil guy for a decade, who has now suddenly changed his tune here. I pointed out that the reduction in US driving visible in Department of Transportation data has not been mostly due to efficiency gains or voluntary conservation but rather the result of the inability to pay for fuel (cf. the inability to pay for food visible in the doubling of the number of people on foodstamps over the same time period). One particular omission from the new McKillop world view is the slow but relentless reduction of available exports as a result of increasing internal demand in exporting countries visible since 2006 (Jeffrey Brown Export Land Model) and increasing by the year. Again, this isn't a cliff, but it is a long term trend *very* unlikely to reverse with world population growth, and unlikely to be fixed by a 3 year US fracking boom, much less phantom zero-net-energy ethanol 'gains' added to 'all liquids'. My guess (in 2003) was that peak crude oil (not incl NGL like butane and propane) would be 2008. There was a peak in 2005 at 74 million barrels a day, then a dip, then back to 74 in 2008, then another dip, then back to 74 in 2010, then another dip, and then slightly higher to 75 million barrels a day in 2012 (now in the latest dip) (recent data here). Calling the exact position of a peak on a bumpy plateau is a little like cognitive neuroimaging (depends on how much smoothing you do :-} ). But knowing that we are on the bumpy plateau is not difficult to do *at all*. Remember that ten years ago, the official energy agency projections -- now shown to be ridiculously incorrect -- were that we would be at 100 million barrels per day now. The peak in oil discoveries was in the 1960's. Fracking will be a small uptick on the downslope of the world discoveries curve. I am *sure* that Andrew McKillop knows this, too, which is why I find his new tack peculiar. I'm not unhappy that people are driving less. That's a good thing! But I am a lot more worried than Andrew McKillop about whether civil society will be able to withstand another 20 relentless years of deprivation-induced driving reduction and food price increases as world population continues to increase. Maybe he thinks that since nothing blew up so far, this may be the new business as usual. Even though I disagree, I sincerely hope he's right!

    [Nov27'12] Gregor Macdonald wrote a good article about energy that discusses the (forced) move away from oil from a US perspective. One important point is that this is a move toward coal. The US has outsourced its manufacturing to China where coal use has seen a staggering increase (another decade of Chinese coal increase like the last decade would have China importing most of the world's exportable coal). As gasoline-powered drivers are driven off the road (good riddance!) coal use will strongly increase in the US to support the electrical grid, which itself is badly in need of an upgrade. One thinks of the internet and its devices as forward looking, but powering them and manufacturing them has led to the largest increase in coal use in human history. There has been a lot of talk of trying to do something about this but absolutely zero action. And as Macdonald points out, it's easy for Europe to bray about reducing carbon use when all their goodies are being manufactured in China. Even though hurricane Sandy and weird weather themselves are *not* the best evidence of global warming, they have begun to convince people in the US that global warming is real, despite the best efforts of Frank Luntz, Fox, and endless stoopid anti-science blogs (Luntz has now reinvented himself to sell global warming!). But all the already-convinced yuppie global warmers fondling their smart phones and typing on their laptops (I put myself in this category, tho no smartphone) are the very damn ones using the extra coal! Probably there could be no real movement in coal use (i.e., no reduction in its staggering upward trend) until a real once-in-a-millenium storm scrapes a major coastal city all the way down to mud. We know from the geological record that storms *much* larger than Sandy or Katrina occasionally occur. Without such a freak event, however -- which has a low probability of occurring in the next 20 years! -- it will most likely be full coal ahead, until the EROEI gets lower and the price rises, choking demand as is occurring now with oil. In all likelihood, this means that nothing substantive in the linear CO2 upramp will happen for another 15 years absolute minimum (33 gigatons of CO2, which equals 9 gigatons of carbon will be added each year).

    [Jan09'13] Food stamp usage (run in most states by JP Morgan!) jumped up late in 2012. Almost 1 out of 6 Americans (about 48 million) are now on food stamps -- an all time record. A lot of these people are employed. Thank god the housing bubble is being reinflated, right?

    [Jan15'13] The horrible air today in Beijing (roughly 20x above the US federal air quality standard for small particles) was as bad as the air in a room where somebody smoked several cigarettes or as bad (in terms of small particles) as the air gets in a car where someone smoked one cigarette. Eeeeew! Breathing the bad Beijing air is about equivalent to smoking 2 cigarettes a day. That doesn't seem like much, but the cardiovascular risks from inflammation caused by small particles in air pollution and cigarettes ramp up quickly at low doses and actually flatten out at higher exposures. Lung cancer risk, by contrast is more linear with cigarette dose, perhaps because it simply deposits more carcinogens. You have to be a little touched to smoke in Beijing (or London for that matter).

    [Jan25'13] Apologies to my brain for wasting precious time uselessly oogling and googling... On Dec 14, in addition to airing footage of the actual Sandy Hook shooting site, CNN Anderson Cooper also aired footage [group of police running at beginning and around 1 min] of an "active shooter drill" taking place some afternoon at St. Rose of Lima Pre School here, near Sandy Hook elementary, but clearly implied by context that it was Sandy Hook elementary. During the shooting itself, another active shooter drill was taking place about 35 min away in Carmel, Putnam County. This has odd similarities to the multiple aircraft drills known to be associated with 9-11 (Vigilant etc) and the subway bombing drill apparently simultaneous with 7-7 (Peter Power). You could argue that the pre-school footage was a harmless fake; after all, CNN didn't say outright that the running policemen were at the event (tho it did run the clip twice in the report). And "active shooter" drills are now getting as common as the old air raid drills I did in grade school in the 60's, where we would all hide under our desks to protect ourselves against nukes :-} . Similarly, the report (last line here) that the armed "camo pants" man running away from the school that police officers chased down and handcuffed in the nearby woods was an off-duty tactical squad (SWAT) police officer from another town is also weird (if it is true). Why was he armed? Why was he at the school during the shooting? Wasn't he originally reported to be related to one of the kids in the school? If he was SWAT, why was he running away? Isn't this CNN newsworthy?! Again, clearly suspicious, but not a smoking gun (though worrisome to imagine armed off duty camoflage SWAT guys as normal people to have around grade schools). Then there was this bizarre "just read the card" warm up to a press conference by a father who has just lost his daughter in the shooting, but looking for all the world like an actor getting into character. Again, maybe instead the effect of stress or camera shyness or savvy. However, given that these anomalies surround a major country-wide emotional Hunger Game-like passion play (Suzanne Collins even lives in Newtown), they don't reinforce trust in MSM reporting and suggest that one should maintain a studied uncertainty about what actually happened (aside from the fact that a lot of children were killed). There is enough uncertainty about this event even in the general public's mind that a week ago, CNN aired a piece on "Sandy Hook conspiracy nuts", brazenly opening with the same running policemen drill from St. Rose Pre School! Uncertainty isn't conspiracy. Scientists are uncertain all the time. After all, if we weren't uncertain about how things actually are, why would we bother to do experiments at all? (P.S. I favor less guns).

    [Jan26'13] The cost of producing newly-found oil is currently around $90/barrel, approximately equal to the current price of oil. Oil in the good old days only cost $5 or $10/barrel to produce. Oil at $90 has resulted in historic drop-offs in driving in the US and EU. When oil went up to $160/barrel in 2008, the world economy crashed. There is essentially zero chance that even newer (deeper, tighter, colder) oil will cost less than $90/barrel. Delicate point in time. We are getting ever closer to the point in time where people can't afford the price that is the minimum required to produce new oil (a half a million barrel plus horizontal frack well costs $10 million to drill versus $1 million for an old style vertical well). In the past, expensive-to-produce oil was inaccurately referred to as "previously uneconomic oil". We used most of that up. We are getting closer to only being able to find "forever uneconomic oil" -- that is, oil that has an energy return on energy invested less than one. In economic terms, this works out to oil that is too costly for industrial civilization to afford. We are not right up against the wall yet, though; massive quantities of natural gas are currently being flared at tight oil wells in the US because the crashed price of natural gas (from the previous boom in natural gas fracking) has made it 'uneconomical' to recover it -- it is burned off on-site, looking from space like a new network of cities. All part of the 'wisdom' of the markets.

    [Jan31'13] A full one quarter of jobs in the US now pay less than $23K, the federal poverty line for a family of four. This is moving strongly away from the Henry Ford idea that people should make enough money to buy the outputs of the companies they work for. At $23K a year, it is hard to imagine buying and maintaining a car, house, flat screen, or renting an apartment. Occupy indeed.

    [Feb12'13] The tight oil fracking business looks like it could be headed to the same self-inflicted crash the natural gas frackers experienced last year. Previously, I had thought that Chris Cook's idea (Mar 2012) that oil price would crash in 2013 was wrong, partly because he phrased it in terms of oil market manipulation and seemed to not pay enough attention to simple depletion, progression from crude to natural gas liquids, etc. I was thinking of it in my simplified 10-year-moving-average way as: (1) oil production costs always increase because good (high EROEI) oil is drilled first, (2) this results in oil price increases, (3) increasing prices eventually result in economic constriction, (4) oil prices then come down because people can't afford it, and finally (5) producers of the expensive oil (the only kind available) go out of business when the price gets below their production costs. If *this* is what Chris Cook meant by financial manipulation (I had trouble fully understanding what he wrote), then I generally agree now :-} (tho I think it is very unlikely prices will plummet as far as they did in 2008).

    [Feb20'13] The Fed is on the move again, strongly increasing the BASE in its first major move since Dec 2010. The price of oil is plotted on the same chart as a reference. Maybe the Fed was worried about the 'dreadful' February sales at Walmart? What a better way to fix this than to give *banks* more money! Or perhaps the Fed is trying to keep the mini housing bubble going that has started in CA and other real estate (a lot of all cash buyers, esp. including banks, who can now rent out foreclosures instead of, well, foreclosing). In 2001, it seemed completely impossible to me that the real estate bubble could continue to inflate given how far it had already come by then. But then it proceeded to double in size over the following 6 years! (which is why any short-term economic suggestions I make should be completely ignored, like this post I suppose...). Right now, it seems impossible to me that the current mini bubble could continue to inflate given the average person's financial position, a median income of 50K, 50 million people on food stamps, current savings rate down to almost zero again (like 2006), ballooning college loan debt, with 50% of 40-year-olds underwater on their loans (esp. on condos that have suffered the largest proportional price drops), and with bad employment numbers. But this new bubble probably has little to do with average people. Instead, the privately owned Fed (such refreshingly clear thinking and writing in John Hotson's 1996! article here) is inserting huge wads of near-zero-interest-rate cash into banks to fund institutional investors (e.g., other banks) buying rentals which have a better return (e.g., 6% gross, 3% or more after costs depending on how slummy they are) with the intent to keep them for just a few years. This is class war but one of the classes isn't fighting back (yet!). Of course, making sure a small number of rich people get richer as the housing bubble reinflates is *so* much more important than preparing for the Great Energy Transition. I have probably underplayed the international currency war dynamics, however, since Japan, UK, and EU central banks are just now doing the same thing. So perhaps the growing US mini bubble is just collateral damage in the bigger scheme of things. The blinkered madness of it all still infuriates me (even as I participate in it every day...).

    [Mar01'13] Bradley Manning is a brave, admirable man -- "I leaked documents to show the true costs of war". The guy who snitched on him is a lame, cowardly traitor to humanity, Adrian Lamo -- what a pathetic excuse for a human! Another pathetic sight this week was Kathryn Riefenstahl, or whatever her name is, and her CIApic starring a fierce female torturing people to reveal the hiding location of an already-dead guy probably long buried. All this while the US inches closer to direct military involvement in Syria. By his actions, Obama has turned out hardly different than Bush. Gay marriage is great and all that, but when it comes to bankers, overseas wars and assassinations, greater-then-the-rest-of-the-world-combined 'defense' spending, the war on drugz, mideast policy, and an ever-growing police state in the decaying homeland, where's the beef? (or should I say donkey? et tu, Ikea meatballs?!).

    [Mar09'13] A fine piece (of ...) recently played in the execrable NYT showing that drone pilots slaughtering people halfway around the world by remote control are getting PTSD -- AKA guilt -- poor things. How about, DON'T DO THAT! I don't imagine in the fullness of time that academic apparatchiks fawningly studying the video-screen'd imperial legions will be viewed kindly, either. Here we are in the 12th year our Afghan dirty war, launched on false pretenses, with almost half of those years surged and droned by Obama (different than Bush, how?). A human, moral, not to mention, budget catastrophe, getting worse by the month, allowed by Americans who can't be bothered to stop it, along with the other half who, preposterously, think it's still a good idea to hire people to kill the children of people they don't know, halfway around the world, even after the already-dead man who didn't do it was killed again...

    [Mar20'13] The disastrous destruction of Iraq escalated 10 years ago and continues to this day. There have been a lot of articles about how we were lied to. B.S.! Anybody with half a brain *knew* they were lies in 2002, *before* the war started. Here is what I said about it publicly 10 years ago. With one or two million dead, trillions of dollars wasted, and a country sent back to the dark ages (100 killed by bombings today alone), a giant crime was perpetrated against people who had nothing to do with 9/11. The crime was a thousand times worse than 9/11. It *was* in large part about oil. All this as the US prepares to make its overt intervention in Syria more overt. On this day, I wonder whether the good things the human mind has come up with outweigh the bad.

    [Apr04'13] The Fed has continued to inject massive amounts of money BASE (~M1, red line) and the big banks have taken it all and immediately put it back into the Fed (WRESBAL, blue line) to collect interest from the Fed at a higher rate than the rate that that loan from the Fed charges. This is the third major injection of free money into banks (the first was Sept 2008, then Jan 2011, and now Jan 2013. This suggests that banks came under huge new hidden stresses in Jan 2013 (around the time that Walmart reported sales were dropping off a cliff). This is what peak oil looks like -- limits to growth. Too bad the media shills declaring peak oil 'dead' -- even with oil between $90 and $100 for a year -- can't be retrospectively fired from 10 years into the future when it will be obvious to everybody they were wrong. Pay no attention to the money changers. They can create money; but simply storing larger numbers in the bank's database doesn't create net energy.

    [Apr04'13] The recent squib about the Brain Activity Map (BAM) Science (et al. Yuste) reminds me a bit of the cornucopian shills in the energy business. Just because we really *want* cheap convenient renewable energy doesn't mean it's possible. For example, it would be great for MRI if there existed high temperature superconductors that are (1) strong, and (2) maintain superconductivity with high currents. After decades of looking for one, none has been found. They *might* exist, but they are not guaranteed to exist simply because *we* need them. It's an empirical question. Similarly, the various contraints -- in fossil fuel energy replacements *and* large scale neuron recordings are well enough known -- and not likely to change radically next year just because we humans would really like it to be. I have had a long-standing interest in analogies between symbol use in cells, language, and computers, and I recently happened across this report about creating logic gates out of genetic material. But it also got turned into this absolutely nightmarish fantasy by a non-biological tech writer for Extreme Tech: "Moving forward, though, the potential for real biological computers is immense. We are essentially talking about fully-functional computers that can sense their surroundings, and then manipulate their host cells into doing just about anything. Biological computers might be used as an early-warning system for disease, or simply as a diagnostic tool (has the patient consumed excess amounts of sugar, even after the doctor told them not to?) Biological computers could tell their host cells to stop producing insulin, to pump out more adrenaline, to reproduce some healthy cells to combat disease, or to stop reproducing if cancer is detected. Biological computers will probably obviate the use of many pharmaceutical drugs." Suuuuuure. I can just see the software update message: 'I'm sorry, but we discovered a small bug in the DNA program we installed into your pancreas which causes the pancreas to explode, so we suggest you immediately eat/install this software update virus package; should your pancreas have already exploded, we suggest your relatives incinerate your remains to avoid infecting the rest of the family'. Monkey wrenching around with gene networks that have taken billions of year to evolve is child's play. What could possibly go wrong? -- especially when corporate profits are at stake.

    [Apr12'13] I was really blown away by this list of recently failed solar companies assembled by Eric Wesoff. For years, I have highlighted the problem that since renewable energy devices are almost entirely made using non-renewable energy, one would expect *upward* pressure on their cost as fossil fuel becomes more scarce and more expensive. So solar companies failing during times of economic stress partly brought on by increasing fossil fuel prices didn't surprise me. Rather, it was the sheer scale of the recent failures (hundreds!), and the breathtaking rapidity of both the entry and the demise of these firms (how many are left?!). It was really the vitality plus destructiveness of capitalism that shocked and amazed me, once again. Of course, some of the carcasses will be scooped up by those remaining. But others will simply be junked. And, of course, some of them probably deserved to be junked. But in the greater scheme of things (think 10 years :-} ), it seems bizarrely wasteful to bankrupt 200 solar companies -- including the largest, in China, that was supposedly responsible for bankrupting the others -- in the space of hardly more than a year, right at friggin' peak oil! Why not move forward in a less manic way? Or what if the US had spent the trillions it spent destroying Iraq on renewable energy? If one could count on renewable energy being a good bet for vulture capitalists 10 years from now, no prob: then we just have to wait for the great harpies to rip back into town. But renewable energy may remain a risky boom/bust bet quite a way down the fossil fuel depletion curve -- that is, it will be cheaper to eke out energy from lower and lower EROEI fossil fuels for some time yet. My biggest worry is that the vitality of capitalism itself is based on high EROEI fossil fuels, which fuel rapid growth and big profits, and that right when we *really need* its creative destruction, capitalism will have a limp d*** because profits will be too low. That because I think it's not really "capitalism", but rather "first-half-of-fossil-fuel-ism", based on one-time exponential growth of energy from fossil fuels. None of this is to imply in a backhanded Ozzie Zehner-like way that we *shouldn't* develop renewable energy. Of course we should, full blast, now, while there is still plenty of fossil fuel left. It will take several decades to figure out and adapt to what really works at the generation *and* usage ends. Barely enough time. I'm still hoping.

    [Apr30'13] I shouldn't have wasted any time reading about Boston, but... a Boston suburb was basically put under martial law, or at least a dress rehearsal for it. The sheer symbolism of it all! William Rivers Pitt fumed last week that Dunkin Donuts stayed open and everybody in Boston was cheering. This presumably make it OK for warrantless SWAT teams in armoured personnel carriers to flush whole neighborboods of people out of their houses in a police-state/Iraq style at machine-gun point. Regardless of how much of Boston was affected, the important point it that is was portrayed on teevee as martial law -- and glorified as such. And it did nothing to find the injured guy in the boat! Instead, somebody spotted blood drips on his boat, and then the police came and shot it full of holes for half an hour somehow mostly missing the unarmed suspect until the FBI -- who it turns out had already been following the brothers for several years, and had them on an airline watch list (they flew anyway?) -- arrived to stop them. And the campus police officer that was killed earlier was probably shot by another policmen, not the fleeing suspects. This level of security theater couldn't have happened in (this part of) Boston 10 years ago. Looking at all that military kit, it makes more sense now why homeland 'security' has tragically become bigger than the New Deal. But the New Deal happened near the beginning of an almost perfect exponential increase in oil. Not going to happen this time. This graph of a typical tight oil well (Bakken) is our best shot now -- more than a 50% decline in the first year -- a true 'Red Queen' situation. Instead, in the context of tight budgets, it looks like the bloated, useless homeland 'security' bidness is now going to become even a little bit bigger, preposterously devouring an even larger share of the dwindling funds that should be being allocated instead to transitioning off fossil fuels -- or, for that matter, to plant maintenance that would have prevented the Waco explosion, which killed 5 times as many people as the Boston explosion. I suppose there is some slight chance that this dire prospect could be turned around. My hopium supply is low today.

    [May04'13] US housing is 'recovering' (higher prices are better?) with prices up almost 10% in a year. At first, this seems mysterious given high unemployment, record low labor force participation (back to 1978!), lower wages, the difficulty of getting loans, college kids moving back home with no job and big debt (the people who are supposed to enter the housing market), and with housing ownership at an 18 year low (!). The key to understanding this is withheld inventory. There are 7.5 million housing units held off the market mostly by banks, who very recently, have had rules changed so they can be landlords. Also, investors have gone after rentals driven by below-inflation interest rates. About 1 million houses are sold per year. There are still 3 times as many homes in delinquency or foreclosure (3 million) than usual. It is in banks' interests, *not* average people's interest for the bubble to reinflate. It is hard to see how this could go on for another year, but I have always underestimated the money changers (as well as their ability to hoodwink the average person into thinking that paying a higher price for a basic necessity is actually a good thing).

    [May09'13] Go Elizabeth Warren! [introducing her new bill in the Senate] "Some people say that we can’t afford to help our kids through school by keeping student loan interest rates low," said Senator Warren. "But right now, as I speak, the federal government offers far lower interest rates on loans, every single day–they just don’t do it for everyone. Right now, a big bank can get a loan through the Federal Reserve discount window at a rate of about 0.75%. But this summer a student who is trying to get a loan to go to college will pay almost 7%. In other words, the federal government is going to charge students interest rates that are nine times higher than the rates for the biggest banks–the same banks that destroyed millions of jobs and nearly broke this economy. That isn’t right. And that is why I’m introducing legislation today to give students the same deal that we give to the big banks."
    "Big banks get a great deal when they borrow money from the Fed," Senator Warren continued. "In effect, the American taxpayer is investing in those banks. We should make the same kind of investment in our young people who are trying to get an education. Lend them the money and make them to pay it back, but give our kids a break on the interest they pay. Let’s Bank on Students... Unlike the big banks, students don’t have armies of lobbyists and lawyers. They have only their voices. And they call on us to do what is right."

    [May23'13] The stock price of Myriad Genetics rose to a 52-week high after Angelina Jolie's announcement.

    [Jun04'13] Good article by Steve Ludlum here. It repeats what he has said in the past many times but it bears repeating. Here are the main points. First, oil price, though high enough to cause economic problems, is dangerously close to or even under the cost of current production. We are very close to a situation where oil is too expensive to afford but to too cheap to produce. That situation will result in declining oil supplies and further economic contraction. The second main point is that poorer countries are actually willing to pay more for their initial barrels of oil than richer countries are willing to pay for their excess barrels of oil because those initial barrels are more valuable to poorer countries than the excess barrels are to richer countries. This means consumption in richer countries will continue to go down. The third point is that eventually, poorer countries economies will suffer from the lack of the ability of richer countries to buy their expensive exports. This puts additional pressure on exports-driven purchase of oil, even in poorer countries. Injecting massive amounts of money into insolvent banks won't fix these fundamentally deflationary pressures. Instead, the mass injections are mainly have the effect of making very rich people even more rich. No easy fix, especially nobody dares talk about this in an adult manner in public.

    [Jul04'13] The oildrum announced yesterday that it is shutting down and turning into an archive after an 8 year run -- right when the real work begins. I guess nobody is interested in the real work! I suppose the expressed intention of the oildrum to avoid finance and policy does make it less relevant at a time where the worldwide flattening of oil production is easy to see elsewhere. I will certainly miss the excellent technical articles on energy production. Still, I am somewhat amazed looking at at this this Google graph (HT Southern Limits) of the searches for fracking, peak oil, shale oil (and the oildrum), that worldwide interest is apparently dropping, right as we begin to enter the critical phase. Maybe it's because people subconsciously know what's happening as they subconsciously detect that they are driving slightly less miles each year (which is occurring simultaneously in the US, EU, China, and India). But back in the 'real' world, car production is growing 3 times faster than global oil supplies. As Steve Ludlum would say, this is truly a worldwide waste-based economy. Now the recently constructed empty cities can be decorated with cars with empty gas tanks! Matt Mushalik is right on the money: "What to do: re-tool car industry to manufacture non-automotive products. CNG buses, rail cars and components for the renewable energy should be on the top of the list. What not to do: Build more road tunnels, motorways, highways and new airports." We (US/EU/China/India) are still mostly doing the second.

    [Jul05'13] "I am an optimist, and so I believe that some of us will persist as small bands and tribes of semi-aquatic, nomadic humanoids. What's more, I find this perspective quite inspiring —- far more so than the perspective of breeding many more generations of office plankton whose job is to convert natural resources into smoke and garbage while popping pills to try to stay sane." -- Dmitri Orlov.

    [Jul07'13] According to Tad Patzek (blog here), the total land area now used just for agrofuel crop fields (maize, sugar cane, oil palm), not including access roads, storage, transport, docks, etc, exceeds the area of the Indian subcontinent. These biofuel monocrops occupy land that previously contained zero-net-energy producing earth-life-supporting temperate and tropical forests and savannas. Insane humans have turned these forests and savannas into temporarily net energy producing 'sustainable' 'energy' farms by rapidly using up fast depleting fossil fuels, fossil water, soils, and phosphates from other places -- in order to put the output of these fields into their 100,000 watt machines AKA cars, so they can drive back and forth every day to their important jobs for just a few more years (a bicycle is a 100 watt device). This is almost twice the area currently being used for wheat and rice cultivation. Complete and utter insanity. Why don't humans ride a 100 watt bicycle to work instead of driving a 100,000 watt car to the gym to pedal a stationary bike like a drugged hamster on a wheel, so they could avoid horrendously damaging the earth their offspring will inherit? Oh, that would be because they don't trust their fellow car drivers not to kill them for getting in the way and slightly slowing them down on their mad dash to work (or the gym). It's perfectly logical. We'll party on for maybe another 2 decades tops (I include myself). We can't help ourselves. Then mother nature will be up to bat. She can't help herself either. She's big into thermodynamics, can't be bribed, doesn't care if you ride a bicycle, and she has a really big bat.

    [Jul11'13] It's critical to keep our eyes on the Bank-gate and Stasi-gate and Energy-gate balls and not get distracted by sex- and race-baiting -- two divide and conquer strategies as old as the hills, because they work so well. Probably impossible to implement in practice, tho, given our language super-charged monkey brains. A related problem -- too many people -- is probably intractable for similar reasons. With evidence visible everywhere of there being already too many people for the earth to support (energy, freshwater, soils, metals, oceans, climate change), the world added 82 million people in 2012 for a total of 7.2 billion ( www.worldwatch.org ). This is the highest annual increment since 1994, forcing upward revision of population projections made only 10 years ago. The mind boggles imagining the additional increment in resource extraction of fossil fuels, freshwater, soil, metals, and oceans required -- *in one year* -- to equip more than another whole UK worth of new people with not just food and water, but also houses, sewers, electronic devices, electrical power, roads, cars, places of work, not to mention ridiculous things like fitness gyms and artificial nails salons (all the 'demographic transition' things that slow population growth). In addition, life expectancy is going up. The rate of increase in population is still slowing, but current projections have now been moved up to 9.6 billion people in 2050. The mind boggles but the mind can't do anything practical about it; the current rate of approach to collapse is still too slow. Mother nature will be left with a dirty job at mid-century.

    [Jul14'13] Above, I stated I wasn't too worried about methane. This was because even though it is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2, it is cleared out of the atmosphere much more quickly than CO2 (methane atmospheric lifetime is 10 years, since there is a lot of oxygen around to oxidize it to CO2, see Gavin Schmidt). Maybe I'm a little more worried now. A really big 'burp' of it would be a problem. Recent reports of a rapid increase in melting-caused methane bubble chimneys causing persisting holes in the ice cover of frozen lake (some vents are even flammable!) are disturbing. The amount of methane released *so far* is still small in its effect compared to the effect of burning one cubic mile of oil a year plus burning approx. equal amounts of coal and methane -- or even compared to the amount of methane released by growing rice (anaerobic decay in rice paddies generates a lot of methane). In another 3 decades, CO2-induced warming will mostly likely have made us *warmer* than the warmest recent interglacial. Though that warmest interglacial didn't result in catastrophic methane release, being warmer than it, we will then be in truly uncharted territory. If the recent rapid increases in methane release start to increase more rapidly each year, the positive feedback might lead to a large transient methane release in the next few decades (most of this would come from anaerobic decay of thawing subarctic permafrost). This would temporarily (i.e., for 5 or 10 years until it was oxidized) put the world into a what-CO2-will-do-to-us-in-80-years-from-now state. This might have the salutary effect of raising consciousness more than a slow increase in temperature would. But unlike methane, the human-added CO2 will stick around for thousands of years.

    [Jul17'13] It's morbidly fascinating to watch the construction of a massive totalitarian surveillance state, in plain sight, eyes wide shut. The recent revelations were old news to many people given previous whistle blowers like Binney, Mark Klein, and many before them. I remember reading about the NSA and the NRO (now folded in) in Ramparts in 1970 (blackbird spy planes, signals intelligence, analog phone recording). Many of the new things revealed are 'merely' system upgrades made possible by faster CPUs/GPUs and larger hard disks, and by the fact that people now willing carry around video-capable personal surveillance devices. The secret FISA court is also an 'upgrade' -- a parallel, secret, unconstitutional Supreme Court that somehow always manages to agree to the military and government's requests, but gives the patina of 'legality' -- in secret! The steady drumbeat of movies and media and ever-increasing and strong majority poll approval by what used to be called the 'left' is going further to making the all encompassing surveillance state a fait accompli. Like the increase in prison population, the ever-increasing militarization of daily life and daily SWAT teams encroach slowly but surely (see Radley Balko), until people find it unremarkable to have storm troopers everywhere, picking off an unfortunate so-and-so here and there, while the rest of the sheep nervously mind their own business -- just we have seen in so many dystopian movies over the years. As the totalitarian security state takes shape, it gains momentum from the sheer number of people it employs -- in the military, TSA ("thousands standing around"), private companies, and universities, which are getting more interrelated and harder to tell apart. Back then, those movies would give us a frisson. Now it is merely an uncomfortable fact of life ("don't mention the war or the mini drone will tazer your @ss, stoopid!"). The only positive thing I can think of is that a perfect panopticon is extremely energy and resource intensive; for example, the new $2 billion Utah spy center will use 2 million gallons of water a day just for cooling. I'm hoping that as energy and resources becomes scarcer (e.g., rare earths for magnets hard disk actuators), that it will slow our relentless approach past a comfy, pornified Brave New World to a full-on 1984. It looks like the economic (really energy-plateau-induced) contraction of the past 5 years has finally managed to flatten the linear increase in prison construction and prison population in the US. Starting from a per capita imprisoned number that was flat from 1920 to 1980, the US had more than quadrupuled its per capita imprisoned by 2007 (the US now has more per capita people imprisoned than any major civilization in history). Perhaps energy starvation will be able to do the same for our metastasizing panopticon, though that would be cold comfort: after all, the US prison population hasn't gone down even a little after it flattened. A sad commentary: hoping that at some time in the future things will -- at best -- stop getting worse because of energy strangulation. Sheesh.

    [Jul19'13] The 'revolutionary' Honda Fit is *so* back to the future. It has a 1.5 liter, 117 horsepower engine (i.e. 87,000 watts [1 hp = 745 watts]). Accelerating that 'underpowered' car is like turning on almost *one thousand* 100-watt light bulbs. It's very similar to a 1979 Honda Civic (but with a slightly larger, but more efficient engine). Future historians will laugh at how preposterous it was for most people in the US to view a 100,000 watt vehicle as 'impossibly underpowered', yet for them to fret about unplugging their unconnected cell phone chargers that draw a fraction of a watt. On the positive side, a light-bodied, well-designed 20,000 watt device would leisurely be able to get up to 50 miles per hour and carry 4 people -- and would be less lethal to cyclists and pedestrians. And what about a battery-assisted bicycle? Those run handily on 250 watts. In other 'news', Microsoft dropped 10% today (no, I'm not sorry, can I have some more, please?). The loss in 'value' was $25 billion. The idea that the idea of Microsoft could be worth $25 billion less in the space of a few hours makes me laugh at the human monkeys running our ridiculous economic system as it careens toward its deadly 2030-2050 encounter with mother nature.

    [Jul21'13] After having just read about NHS automaton 'nurses' in the UK yelling at family members not to give any water to a dying relative on the "Liverpool Care Pathway", I wasn't surprised to see that Law Enforcement Today found it worthwhile to run an article suggesting that militarized police (they even have bayonets now) not shoot the family dog (while shooting the family?). Actually, one story illustrated police shooting a small dog who struggled injured on its back before being dispatched by several more shots, all while it was trying to protect its homeless owner, who was having an epileptic seizure. People are seriously losing their common sense, not to mention their sense of humor. I suppose the bayonets are for cases where a drug raid unexpectely turns into trench warfare. It's a shame we human monkeys have nukes. Somebody could get hurt.

    [Jul23'13] I love Chris Hedges' recent commentaries but I'm afraid I agree with Jb's comment at Economic Undertow's Monday Mayhem: "The truth is, the masses aren’t going to 'rise up' until they believe they have nothing left to lose. They must be more terrified of telling their children that there's nothing to eat (let alone go to college) than they are of getting hit in the face with a tear gas canister. When they do rise up, they will seek to restore what they lost: cheap fuel and food; look at Egypt!". That is not going to happen in the US for at least 15 years, probably sometime after the entire world reaches peak net energy roughly around 2025 or so. We're there for oil but not yet for all energy. So, carry on with the shorter showers for now. In China, growth in electrical consumption (which is strongly correlated with economic growth) has flattened to almost to zero growth (N.B.: that means they are still using *half* of all the world's coal to generate electricity to make stuff for the rest of the world). Electrical consumption growth had briefly gone negative at the height of the 2008 crash, but over the past years has been back up to 10 to 15% increases per year. This has resulted in incredible pressure on their water supply (for extracting, washing and processing coal). But despite all the breathless Zerohedge-y blather about Chinese growth flattening immediately, now, blah (the derivative of a noisy function is *so* noisy!), it's means little in the overall (multi-year-smoothed) approach to world peak energy, which is the one to be really worried about. China has plans to add the equivalent of two India's worth of electrical generating capacity in 7 years. They probably won't get all the way there, but they will try, turning more and more land into desert on the way. The increase in Chinese coal use starting around 2000 is what has made world per capita energy consumption go up again after having flattened out for 20 years from 1979 to 2000. Overall growth in energy use will mostly likely increase for at least another decade. The richest 200 people in the world -- who have as much money as the poorest 3.5 billion people, are still desperate to skim off yet more for their bug out plans, and they will keep the pedal to the metal until the car is completely off the cliff. *Then* people will finally panic and revolt -- when it is too late to effectively change course.

    [Jul27'13] "The US promises it won't torture Snowden". What an amazing statement on so many levels! What on earth does this mean? That by default, you get tortured? But the US has already defined "enhanced interrogation" (with Cheney watching) as "not torture". So by default, you get worse than "enhanced interrogation"? (as in shipped to Egypt in an unmarked CIA jet). And who is the statement directed to? Not even the American people could believe it! Somehow this make the Obama administration better than the Bush administration? Sheesh. [Jul28'13] Almost all the members of the SEAL team that 'killed bin Laden' were wiped out a few months later in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The relatives have motivated an investigation, with the bizarre subtext that the military purposely allowed the Taliban to shoot down the helicopter because the US military was somehow more sympathetic to the Taliban than to their own special operations people and allowed the Taliban to get revenge for Obomber 'killing bin Laden'. Paul Craig Roberts has a different, more plausible scenario here (originally presented in 2011). It's partly based on a 2011 interview with a neighbor that was put online soon after the attack; the neighbor reported that 3 helicopters had arrived at the beginning of the raid, speaking Pashto to warn people away, then 2 left, and one exploded, killing all on board (the guy interviewed said he saw many body parts, and the downed helicopter was well documented). Here is the 2011 translation (video link now dead). The general idea is that perhaps no SEALs were involved. The evidence is pretty flimsy, but then so is the evidence for the official story (buried at sea?, internet-outed photoshop jobs given to senators?, Hollywood movies by Kathryn Riefenstahl?).

    [Aug01'13] Catherine Austin Fitts has interesting recent interviews about a new economy (e.g., she mentions Dallas) in the US being created out of the ruins of the old economy that combines new US tight oil, new fabrication (esp. for military hardware), and industrial US farming. She says the coming bail-ins will be mainly in offshore banks in an effort to repatriate offshore capital to prevent Detroit-like collapses from spreading, and that there will be a continuing bull market in equities as bonds go down (hard to see stocks continuing up, like Chris Cook on oil crashing in 2012, which turned out to be wrong -- but who knows). With the druid, she expects a very slow motion collapse. But as a person who is fundamentally a money manager and makes income from selling investment videos, she has a very short term focus. Fracked wells that decline by more than 50% in one year and have no long tails as stripper wells seem like a poor power source for a "breakaway civilization" to me! She generally puts too much emphasis on money dynamics and she seems to understand very little about the geology of fossil fuels or that fossil fuel energy is the original force of creation, or about energy return on energy invested, or much about the dire eventual results of all our CO2 exhaust (20 years into the future for a money manager might as well be infinity). She thinks we will mine the moon (a litmus test indicating utter lack of understanding of physics and net energy). But she *is* right on target with respect to the upcoming teardown in ridiculously impractical after-the-fact health care for people poisoned by industrial food and lifestyle (though I don't see how the "breakaway civilization" industrial food is supposed to fix that!) (and she should probably take her own health care advice to heart!)

    [Aug08'13] Bradley Manning's statement is so much more worth reading than the millions of lines of video crap written daily for the teevee or the higher end crap published in the NYT. It is all a way of gradually and subconsciously moulding people's minds into thinking that post-Constitution America is 'normal', that it's 'normal' for domestic police departments to have weaponized drones staring down from above ready to call in SWAT teams with tanks -- "step *away* from the bambi!" [13 armed agents to hood and kill a fawn]), or to have every personal message, image, and location vaccumed up by a bunch of creepy, leering J Edgars, or to have the TSA patting you down on the way to the grocery store or movie theater. It's not normal, and it would be a really bad idea to passively let it get worse each year. Could end up in a really bad place in another decade or two. But the light at the end of the tunnel :-} is that we will run low on energy (I'm hoping!) before we will ever be able to get all the way to Elysium.

    [Aug25'13] Saw Elysium. It was OK. Not nearly as good as District 9, but that was expected, given the requisite Hollywood-i-Sony-i-fication. The writing was a little uneven. It was good to see latino good guys for once! (slum scenes filmed in slums surrounding Mexico City). But of course, the silliest thing, as usual, was energy. There was seemingly still huge amounts of unspecified energy available for mining, and hi-tech manufacturing, flying cars, flat screens, hyper biotech, chip fabs, not to mention food for the masses, and rocket engines capable of instantly accelerating and decelerating heavy payloads up to 17,000 miles per hour (AKA orbit) and back to zero to land, to keep the space station supplied with air, water, marble, etc. So... what was their problem, exactly? The basic energy contradictions are analogous to the Matrix's measly 100-watt humans supposedly having their energy 'harvested'. To keep a human alive, you have to put in more energy than you get out. Basic thermodynamics of life. But ignoring that, let's suppose you *could* get 50 watts net per human. That couldn't possibly power billions of multi megawatt machines. Like Elysium, the math doesn't work. There will be a lot less usable energy in the future.

    [Sep08'13] Obama is pushing for attacking Syria with 1/6 of the US population on food stamps. There are 350 total million Americans. Out of that, the "civilian noninstitutional population" -- that is 16 years or older, not in jail, mental hospitals, the military, and old folks homes -- is 245 million. There are 11 million officially classified as "unemployed". But there are also a record 90 million people 16 years and older *not* in the labor force (retirees, younger people not looking for a job). That make 101 million people over 16 not working. This, number which has been going up as baby boomers retire and are not replaced by equivalent numbers of college age people taking jobs (they're back at home without a job but with a loan to pay), is approaching the number of people in the labor force. Probably better not to waste money killing Syrians halfway around the globe and spend it instead at home, Obama.

    [Sep09'13] Scott Creighton had a great post on Common Core here. This one sentence says it all: "With defense and security expenditures slowing, corporations are looking to profit from new cloud-based software used to collect and mine information from student records to create individualized education programs designed by third-party companies." What an utterly depressing, inhuman, Brave New World picture! "When the Great Spirit Died" indeed. As a teacher, this makes me want to puke.

    [Oct02'13] "The state, in its internal projections, has a vision of the future that is as dystopian as mine" -- Chris Hedges. Chris has does have the somber outlook of a preacher's son. But look on the bright side! The unprecendented peak and decline of vehicle miles driven (somebody from Forbes or the Economist forgot to tell drivers in the US/UK/EU that 'peak oil is dead') means that we have probably passed 'peak Walmart'.

    [Oct08'13] On the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, with the government closed because of debt problems, there are *twice* as many troops in Afghanistan as there were when Obama became president, and the US is spending $10 million *per hour* there (no, that spending didn't close down). There is only one party -- the war party.

    [Oct12'13] "In the theatre of the absurd we know less about what Glenn has than what we know about the NSA. maybe, we need the NSA to hack Glenn, and leak what he has." -- Trish at the Rancid Honey Trap (update: Greeewald is now starting his own media outlet with the help of a 'friendly' billionaire).

    [Oct26'13] I've written about the irony of the shale gas producers all piling into fracking at the same time thus putting themselves out of business by crashing natural gas prices to below the cost of production of fracked gas. I initially chalked this up to short term business as usual; and the first guys in *did* make money. But I overlooked the insidious role of banking documented by Deborah Rogers in this PDF. The rapid moves into fracking required a lot of new debt. This provided a new opportunity to banks. By analogy with mortgage backed securities, the banking 'industry' went ahead and created 'complex' (i.e., obfuscated) 'products' like 'volumetric production payments' and then by analogy with the 'innovations' surrounding subprime house loans, bundled leases on unproved gas fracking fields and sold them to pension funds (genius). This was fine until natural gas prices started to crash, at which point the investment banks (e.g., Barclays) forced continued natural gas overproduction to get their short term loans repaid, further crashing gas prices and putting many of the fracking companies out of business (did I mention pension funds?), ironically right as we hit peak natural gas. I suppose stricter banking laws might have damped out some of this idiocy/criminality and resulted in less money being skimmed off by the sociopathic richies. And perhaps this might have resulted in more fossil fuel having been invested in producing renewable energy devices, which are less profitable in part because they have a high up front cast, but are much more sane from the point of view of salvaging industrial civilization during the coming fossil fuel energy downslope. A fine idea -- to bell the cat! But no mouse has the power to do it. As we get closer to zero net energy for fossil fuels, which is expressed in economic terms at the point where the cost of producing fossil fuel is not high enough to make any profit at all, but too high for non-rich people to afford, we start to enter a long period of declining production. We have now passed the wealth inequalities of 1929, largely due to short term sociopathic banker scams. The sociopathy is now completely public. One recent example is Carlos Icahn's suggestion that Apple borrow money to buy its own stock (Apple has $150 billion in cash reserves, with $100 billion of that in offshore banks to avoid tax). This would increase the value of the stock far beyond the borrowing costs. All this, while lawyers haggle over how much the designer of the late Steve Jobs' just-finished never-used utterly ridiculous $140 million superyacht should be paid. Despite gigantic bank crimes, there has been no trace of an attempt to reign them in or to reinstate any of the common sense banking laws from 30 years ago. The sociopathic richies operate these 6-month-look-ahead slash and burn schemes, but then expect to keep their filthy lucre forever, while being able to continually do things like cut pensions and health care without consequences (see, e.g., the recent announcement in Detroit that pensions will be cut to less than 1/6 of their original promised -- and paid -- for size). As long as this expectation is fulfilled, they won't stop their pillage and plunder. The increased pressure from the energy downslope *will* eventually change this, and regular people will finally turn away from their cellphones in rage. The richies won't stop themselves until their heads rot on pikes on a bridge.

    [Nov25'13] My father, Charles Sereno, died suddenly and unexpectedly in his home a few days ago. He was a good man who was the prime force in setting up my world view and I will miss him terribly.

    [Dec06'13] I'm listening to Phony Toady Iraq-war Blair on the hotel teevee droning on about how great Nelson Mandela was. What a steaming pile. The MSM says how great Mandela was, 40 years after the fact, while it pours sewage out of its mouth about the Mandela's of today. CNN's viewership went into the toilet this year, dropping by almost half (!). Couldn't happen to a better set of Orwells. It truly makes me feel like I am entering a parallel reality when I listen to the 'news' 'feed' for a few hours (I don't have cable at home). You have to be schizophrenic to be sane.

    [Dec15'13] Here is an interesting old film, from an the BORAX experiments by Argonne national labs in Idaho. The film shows an experiment on BORAX-I, which took place in 1954. A small nuclear reactor core was purposely exploded by a critical event (caused by withdrawing 4 of the 5 control rods, then ejecting the last one with a spring; the site became a superfund cleanup site). Something similar likely happened in this video of the more recent and much larger explosion at unit 3 at Fukushima, which had some features of a criticality as opposed to a hydrogen explosion (which may have occurred in unit 1). It seems very likely that many radioactive uranium and plutonium containing control rods from the in-operation core were ejected and aerosolized at unit 3. Once again, I admit I initially underestimated the severity of the disaster at Fukushima.

    [Dec18'13] Steve Ludlum just wrote another interesting -- but in parts overly florid and confusing -- post here . The main point, however, is very good: it is impossible to fix an economic contraction caused by *energy constraints* by fiddling with the money system (QE, interest rates, etc, etc.). Specifically, the problem is that energy return on energy investment (EROEI) is getting lower and lower. This is expressed as higher energy costs, but also, demand destruction. Fiddling with money has virtually no effect on average EROEI. EROEI depends primarily on geology. The 'new advances' in fracking didn't change EROEI of fracked deposits. It was always crappy. The reason those deposits are being mined now is simply desperation -- people are willing to pay 10x as much for them as they were 20 years ago. If oil prices drop even a little through additional demand destruction (austerity), the frackers are toast. Similarly, the EROEI of tar sands dregs is at best 3 (from a supporter!), which compares unfavorably with Texas oil at an EROEI of 50 or 100 from the golden years in the mid 20th century. Although is it possible to implement negative interest rates (paying to keep your money in the bank), EROEI of less than 1.0 is an absolutely hard limit for an energy *source*. Bottom of the barrel tar sands at EROEI=3 are uncomfortably close to 1.0. Now perhaps physicists can come up with an idea to improve EROEI. But changing the interest rate or paying physicists more is very unlikely to change the overall form of the Maxwell equations, or the equations that describe how a heat engine works, or how much energy it takes to crush rocks to a given size. The main mistake of average people but also scientists is to assume that the huge amount of growth that occurred in the late 20th century was due to people coming up with bright ideas. People *did* came up with bright ideas. But most of the growth was only possible because we found a bunch of high EROEI energy deposits created 100 million or more years ago. That's just as much responsible for the bright ideas as the other way around. We have now mostly used up these high EROEI deposits. Pure ideas (or pure money fiddling) in the absence of high EROEI energy deposits cannot make new growth, period. And given the current precarious situation of the biosphere, that's probably a good thing.

    [Dec29'13] I'm getting a worried feeling that something is coming seriously unglued in the money business. The latest scam -- the Fixed-Rate Reverse Repo facility -- proposed in June and now implemented, somehow spit out $100 billion dollars in a single day, a few days ago. The housing boom is now driven by cash buyers; 60% of single-family homes are now bought with cash -- except that it's not really cash, but effectively near-zero-interest Fed loans to private equity firms, hedge funds, and big banks, who just recently got approved to be landlords. I can imagine banks will make responsive landlords. Sort like the circus with finding out who 'bought' your home loan (the whole idea of 'buying' a home loan is odious). I have greater difficulty understanding the abstract financial gobbledygook about 'collateral', 'liquidity', and 'marginable risk-on positions' than the Dirac equation for the electron. It sure seems like some kind of same-old, roaring twenties Ponzi scam of the kind typically executed right before falling off a cliff. However given my previous ability at predicting short term outcomes (much *worse* than random), this probably means more good times are on the way (for the next few months!). But I'm much less likely wrong on the long term, average-for-a-whole-decade picture: energy depletion means growth can't go on. The money people don't look that far ahead and don't seem to realize that things have fundamentally and irrevocably changed from the previous 200 years of same-old boom and bust. The previous 200 years of boom and bust rode a continuous expansion of energy starting with coal, then coal+oil, then coal+oil+methane, then coal+oil+methane+nuclear. In a little over a decade, all all 4 will be in decline, all at the same time, across the entire world.

    [Jan06'14] I tried to force myself to understand the financial gobbledygook surrounding the "fixed rate reverse repo facility", since $0.5 *trillion* dollars did this over the past 4 days. For scale, a trillion is about how much the US spends on all aspects of 'defense' each year, and about how much US income tax is collected per year. So this was a cash deposit equivalent to 1/2 of a year's US tax proceeds, deposited into the Fed in four days. The 'people' who can do this are about 90 mutual funds, 18 special banks, and the Fed's 21 primary dealers. Here is the best I could do (I think it's like a pawn shop). A "reverse repo" (for a bank) is where the Fed 'lends out' securities (e.g., treasury bonds, but could also be things like mortgage-baked 'securities' that the Fed bought) in return for a cash deposit from the bank. The bank holds them for a short time (a day, a few weeks), then returns them to the Fed and the bank is paid interest (GCFRTSY:IND, now at 0.03 percent). This is (intentionally!) hard to understand because why call what the Fed is doing 'lending' securities?! when the Fed is actually paying interest on this so-called 'loan' (N.B.: using money generated out of the void). A better way to describe this is that the banks are lending cash to the Fed! I suppose lending securities is like 'lending' your guitar to the pawn shop in return for cash -- but a normal person would only call that 'lending' with an ironic tone. In this weird case, the pawn shop is the big bank and the Fed is the poor person getting the temporary money. The reverse repo is similar to the Fed paying interest on banks' 'excess reserves', which began in 2008, *after* the worst part of the crisis had cleared. The tripling of the BASE money supply since 2008 was virtually all due to increases in banks' 'excess reserves' now deposited with the Fed (Fed graphs here). As far as I can tell, all this extra money originally got lent into existence by the Fed itself! According to Investopedia, the repo 'mechanism' is usually "used to raise short-term capital" So the Fed needs cash?? Seems unlikely. It seems like yet another way to recapitalize bankrupt banks. But why such a ridiculous amount in 4 days? Maybe just some end of the year accounting trick; but this 'facility' didn't exist last year. Why is there suddenly extra 'cash' around? Bloomberg says the Fed will be using reverse repos to "neutralize cash in the banking system" and as a way to begin to undo all of the "easing" (for banks, not people!) they have done. But it's hard for me to see how this could possibly work since it seems exactly the same as paying interest on 'excess reserves' -- that is, it looks like yet *more* easing! Also, since banks are essentially bankrupt, they hardly need to have a bunch of real cash withdrawn from them. And no real person I know is cash-heavy. Like Henry Ford said, if people actually knew how the banking system worked, there would be a revolution tomorrow. It is true that these amounts, while large, are small compared the flows in derivatives or the flows in currency markets ($4 trillion/day). As usual, there is not even a tiny mention of perhaps the single largest cause of the ongoing crisis, the declining energy return on energy investment (EROEI) which powers the physical (i.e., real) economy. Making rich sociopaths even richer won't fix that, but that's exactly the plan: in 2013, the amount of money set aside by 8 wall street banks for bonuses ($90 billion) was more than the total cost of food stamps for 50 million people ($75 billion) (numbers from Jim Quinn). In the past, I have underestimated how long things can go on (e.g., I thought the previous housing bubble was impossibly inflated in 2001), so I imagine things will continue 'up' for another year or two. It's also important to keep in mind that, compared to the mere $1 trillion a year collected in US taxes, the bond market is currently at $90 trillion (up from only $10 trillion in 1990), currency market bets/hedges around $250 trillion, and derivative bets around $450 trillion. It seems hard to imagine how these numbers will be re-synced with the real, productive, fossil-fuel-driven economy, esp. as it begins to flatten and contract.

    [Jan19'14] It's hard to see how this FED graph of the BASE money supply and student loans could somehow 'unwind' gracefully. I am getting exactly the same feeling I had around 2004-5 (impossible growth rates can't last forever). Which means it will probably continue for the next few years :-} I guess my 2004 prediction that peak oil would probably arrive around 2008 was correct after all. 'All liquids' have continued slightly up; but since the energy density of non-crude oil liquids is less than crude oil (and since some liquids like ethanol are double counted since they are close to zero net energy), I think in retrospect, we will see that the long net energy downslope actually did begin a few years ago.

    [Jan20'14] Here is a short piece occasioned by the death of my father written for Naked Capitalism (where he used to comment). Though not really fitting their gamut, I was pleased to see that Susan hosted an article there from Gail Tverberg's site about energy there a few days ago :-}

    [Jan31'14] Food stamps are 1% of the US Federal budget; the military is more than half. That's why the Republican and Democratic congress worms and Obama decided they needed to *cut food stamps* ($8 billion) to 'balance the budget'. There is only one party -- the war party.

    [Feb05'14] The internet is primarily a way of doing the same things that we were doing before, but using different technology that can be more easily monitored, reported, and archived. I often worry about not having the internet for search (when I am coding, when I am looking up a scientific information, etc). But I did my PhD without the internet and learned a lot in the process. And I was still able to search. It just took a little longer, but probably because of that, I probably put in a little more emotional energy into trying to remember things. but that served me well (e.g., when I'm doing a google search...). Yesterday, the Teilhardian internet was abuzz about the Super Bowl. We had super bowls back then, too. But now, we could *immediately* download video of people in the winning city going outside and lighting stuff on fire (these were the college students); and we immediately found out that the losers dejectedly went online and masturbated, and that an overenthusiastic fan in New York bit off part of his brother's ear during a superbowl party. This doesn't surprise me, or suggest that humanity is going downhill. Law codes dating back 4000 years already had fines for biting off ears; and the Code of Hammurabi had four laws on the topic of someone who had "smitten the privates" of someone else, with fines and punishments depending on the relative rank of the smiter and the smitten (one of the punishments was cutting off an ear). It's the same humanity it always was, and certainly the same as it was when I was in college. But I just hate being constantly reminded of it :-}

    [Feb19'14] The banker 'suicide' count is getting weirdly high (one was a nail gun suicide?! is this a joke?). The sensible shoes explanation is that there is trouble on the way, either for the world, or for bankers because of pending investigations not yet public, and that a bunch of them freaked. Though complete speculation, it is not completely out of the question that this is some kind of coup warning to the richie bankers to reign in some of their most egregious banker games, from the people that worry about controlling a large population that could become increasingly restless during a long hot summer.

    [Mar14,'14] The US national debt has almost doubled since the economic crisis of 2008 (about $10 trillion to about $17.5 trillion). For reference, the BASE money supply (similar to M1) in that same time went from about $1 trillion to $4 trillion (the extra $3 trillion is the 'excess reserves' cash that the Fed created that is deposited back in the Fed where it makes more interest than was paid to withdraw it from the Fed -- a ridiculous scheme to literally give money to bankrupt banks so that the bankers can keep paying themselves bonuses for their catastrophic failures). Another reference is that the combined derivatives exposure of JPM, Citibank, BoA, and Goldman Sachs has risen above $200 trillion, which is based on total assets of about $5 trillion (over 40:1 levering, what could go wrong?). In the case of Goldman Sachs, their derivatives position is even more extreme -- over 400 times their total assets. Despite the Fed's economic stress indicators saying that nothing is stressed, we have certainly not had an economic recovery since 2008 in the usual sense of the word. One straighforward measure is traffic volume; its perfectly linear 2% a year increase from the early 80's suddenly flat-lined in 2008, and then stayed that way to the present. Sure Blackstone made out like gangbusters buying foreclosures to rent, and the student debt 'business' is thriving, but most people have not recovered at all. I find it difficult to believe that the distractions of the the Ukraine/PussyRiot/disabled-gay-athlete psyops have completely taken people's minds off their evaporating pensions. Peak energy in the form of ever decreasing energy return on energy investment slowly creeps along, too slow to knock people in the head. Instead, we see market oscillations (e.g., iron ore crashing because of Chinese steel slowdown, copper crashing because China temporarily stopped buying it to put in warehouses to use as collateral) that give irrelevant/misleading signals about the slower but much more insidious decline in usable energy (and useable everything else). I still feel the need to write about it from time to time. But I have taken the words of Robert Maynard Hutchins to heart; he was supposed to have said: "Whevever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling goes away". My version is: "Whenever I get the urge to warn people about peak energy, I ride my bicycle until the feeling goes away". Not looking forward to this summer. Perhaps these new taser drones, now hilariously being breathlessly marketed to the very ask-your-doctor sheeple they are intended to be used on (!) will keep them in line. At this rate, everyone is going to need a tinfoil jacket. The number of prescriptions for ADHD drugs has almost doubled among adults, just in the past 4 years. Perhaps another few doublings of these slow-release cocaine prescriptions -- so that half of the population is taking it -- and people truly won't care.

    [Mar16,'14] This is what the State does when someone robs $7000 from a bank. For crimes the other way around, bankers simply get larger bonuses. There have been *no* prosecutions of bankers for their subprime and other 'toxic waste' (self-described!) crimes (contrast this with the S&L scandal of the 80's, where many people were prosecuted). The ever growing police state now functions to defend banks. This is the very definition of fascism.

    [Mar21,'14] In a striking parallel to fracked natural gas and fracked oil, coal prices are going down, even as coal miners are continually driven to dirtier, as well as lower energy-return-on-energy-investment, coal. The reason is demand destruction. Peak net energy will never be perceived for what it is. Instead, as net energy goes down, the price often goes down, too! Peak oil is dead, long live peak oil.

    [Mar30,'14] The CDC now reports that 1 in 68 eight-year-olds have some kind of autism, up 30% from just 2012 (when it was 1 in 88). I'm sure the problem is genetic, right? Time for more DNA testing to find out if you will come down with autism soon 'because of your genes'...

    [Apr01,'14] Giant 'reverse repo' event (see above) again today. The magnitude was equivalent the last big one, exactly 3 months ago on Dec 30. Up from almost nothing in 2013, the average daily rate of 'reverse repos' (the Fed 'pawning' its assets to big banks so it can give those banks even more free money -- as interest on the securitised 'loan' the big bank is making to the Fed) in 2014 is now almost 1/10 a billion a day. That could add up to big money shortly! That suggests big banks have gotten back into really big trouble during the 'recovery'. It's all talk. Elephant talk. Serious misanthro.

    [Apr02,'14] Interesting reading on statins. They directly block one enzyme, which is part of a pathway of enzymatic reactions (mevalonate pathway) that leads to cholesterol. Since cholesterol is found in all cell membranes, and since neurons have extensive and elaborately folded cell membranes, this is probably the pathway to some of the brain side effects and neuropathy (e.g., see Beatrice Golomb review here). Among other downstream effects are blocking coenzyme Q10 and the production of dolichols and heme-A, which are probably the pathways involved in the occasional catastrophic side effects like irreversible muscle wasting (rhabdomyolysis), pancreatic cell damage (diabetes), and mitochondrial DNA damage. The effect on cholesterol -- the original target -- is probably *not* the mechanism for the positive effect with heart patients. Rather, the mechanism may be the blocking effect on a cell nuclear DNA transcription control mechanism (NF-kappaB -- nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B-cells), which is a part of immune system pathways activated by cellular stress and which is involved in blocking cancerous growth (when statins block NF-kappaB, they therefore reduce immune-system-caused inflammation). Quite a tangled web for a Sally Field to describe in 30 seconds on the teevee to the "ask your doctor" people! And these effects vary greatly from person to person (that means, you will have to "ask your doctor" when you hobble back to the office, if you can remember where it is...). One should probably avoid statins if one is able -- how's that for peecee advice :-} . For, example, recent studies have shown increased diabetes and stroke when statins are given to people without heart disease. Looking ahead (and assuming the power stays on) where does this lead? Should everybody have all their DNA sequenced to find out how they would respond to tens of thousands of different 'therapeutic' drugs so that they can then go on a regimen of ten or a hundred thousand drugs, each carefully blocking some of the worst side effects of all the others, all 'improving' your wonderful life? At that rate, everyone might as well get married to their doctors since that will be the only person they ever talk to. Thankfully, the power probably won't stay on long enough to see this. And besides, we are all *already* taking one hundred thousand different chemicals/drugs a day, every day, AKA food. Ya think, maybe people should just eat better, instead?

    [Apr16,'14] I was feeling low last week. Doomerish stuff doesn't usually get to me. People often say that old age is not for sissies, implicitly referring to physical infirmity. But the mental part is worse. Once at a large scientific meeting, I remarked to an attendee near my age that "each year, I get more misanthropic, but more accepting" -- a classical vice. I suppose last week was nothing more than an occasional objective glimpse of reality, which most of the time one tries to keep partially hidden for sanity's sake. Probably the most poignant realization is that my life's goal of always trying to learn more and find out more just for sake of understanding more things about the world did *not* turn out to be a good thing. Instead, there is a predictable way in which new human knowledge gets applied. Five thousand years ago, early metallugists figured out how to make bronze from tin and copper, and this almost immediately got used for better weapons, rapidly rearranging and enslaving new groups of people. Last century, advances in understanding atomic physics were quickly -- within the same two decade-long time window relevant for bronze -- harnessed for enormously better weapons. Closer to my home, in the case of psychology and brain science, better understanding of biological vision, audition, touch, movement, and emotion in combination with computers helped boost the field of machine learning, which has resulted in the first installment of a new terrible plague of 'smart' weapons, better mind control, computerized 'trading', better industrial robots, and the beginnings of computer-based medical triage, bedside drug monitoring, and smart pills. There is no sign that these trends will abate in the near future, even as resource depletion (reflected indirectly in the inability of people to pay) begins to visibly constrain things like the growth in the number of miles driven. Despite the fact that industrial robots use a lot more energy *per unit item produced* than humans operating machine tools on an assembly line, the now-global optimization method of capitalism for short term profit makes it inevitable that humans will continue to be displaced by more energy-intensive industrial robots, further reducing available jobs (which after being outsourced to lower-wage countries weren't very good ones anyway...), and reducing the ability of people everywhere to pay for the very things made by these industrial robots. Obviously, this is *eventually* a self-limiting process. But I think it will continue right up to the effective cliff in the net energy curve where massive increases in energy use only result in tiny net energy increments (near net energy zero). We're not there yet, despite being past peak crude oil. As it get more expensive to produce good food, instead we will get more profit-friendly genetically modified 'plants', cultured Google-burger 'pain free meat', and 'food' manufacturing. More people will have large amounts of fat surgically removed, maybe even by machine. The polarizing trend of rich people getting even richer will continue and they will of course be able to afford much better tasting non-manufactured organic food, will keep themselves thin, and will live as long as they can soon inside havens surrounded by land-based and aerial machine-controlled weapons and surveillance devices. Though there is not nearly enough energy to get to Elysium or the Matrix, everybody will work together full speed to do their absolute best to go directly there for the next 15 years. The truly depressing thing is that the eventual ignominious unravelling in the later part of this century is exactly the predictable result of my original life's goal of finding out more about how the world works. Bummer. But I'm doing better this week :-}

    [Apr21,'14] To follow up on the previous post, I was wondering if there might be some very rough way of estimating how long we might expect the replacement of humans by machines, referred to above, to go on. As many people have pointed out, a human can only generate about 100 watts of power continuously. Integrated over an entire year of hard work, that only amounts to about 200 kilowatt-hours of energy. That's about as much energy as we currently get out of just one 42 gallon barrel of oil, after refining it down to 20 gallons of gasoline and burning the gasoline in a 25%-efficient gasoline engine. Thus, my aphorism one barrel of oil equals one year of hard physical work. Currently, oil is around $100/barrel (it was about $60/barrel when I wrote the 2005 article at the link almost 10 years ago). But the cheapest human slave still costs more than that. For example, the official minimum wage in Bangladesh is $220/year, which is near the low end for poor countries. The minimum wage is around $500/year in many African countries. This suggests that oil still has to double in price relative to the cheapest humans to turn the sights of the fascist capitalists away from industrial robots and firmly back to human slave labor. A wild card is the rate of oil depletion. But the top of the peak oil curve looks like it will be quite flat, as many (myself included) have been expecting. This will probably have the effect of keeping business as usual going without major interruption for at least another 10 or 15 years. So my guess is that we are looking at at least 10 or 15 more years jobs losses to automation. The price of oil can't go much higher than it is now without crashing the world economy (again). Instead, the gap will probably be closed by the wages of the poorest continuing downward, as they are now doing even in southern Europe, which isn't nearly as poor as Bangladesh. Eventually, declining energy return on energy investment will put a definitive end to this and people will return to cutting down trees for a while. Ten years ago, my initial guess was that the effects of declining EROEI of all fuels would really begin to kick in in a big way around 2030. Still seems about right today.

    [Apr24,'14] The US nearly emptied its stored natural gas supply during this last cold winter. They weren't quite as bad as Britain the previous winter, when then UK came within a day or two of having to begin shutting down the gas grid across the country. But the idea that the US is going to overnight turn into a gas exporter to the EU is laughable. The EU will have to buy gas from Russia (around 60% of its energy supply) and Russia currently needs to sell gas to the EU. With the US pulling a reverse Cuban missile crisis on the EU/Russian border, things could get out of kilter. Maybe this is in the US's interest; it certainly isn't in the interest of the (f'ed) EU! C'mon EU-ians, get off your backs! Yesterday, the US sent a few hundred US troops to Poland. Is this a joke? (Nigel Tufnel accent) It seems utterly irrelevant in military terms. Sending cash and a few hundred snipers/dvisors to stir the pot is one thing. Actually fighting against Russia is entirely different. Fighting Russia wouldn't be like the cowardly turkey shoots in Iraq or Afghanistan (not to mention that both those wars were essentially lost, and both required hundreds of thousands of troops). Russia is fully capable of shooting back with modern weapons. The US military knows that (tho sometimes I wonder if the Nulands and the Powers and the James Jeffrey types really understand this). This makes it highly unlikely there will ever be Ukraine no-fly zones. The sustained level of Matrix unreality in the US and UK/EU media is pretty amazing to me. What I really don't know is what in the heads of most people watching it.

    [Apr29,'14] About 20% of the worlds PC's use Windows XP. Today Microsoft announced it will not fix a critical Internet-Explorer-bug-spread rootkit in XP discovered over the weekend. This is why Bill Gates is about to become a hundred billionaire. There is a clear conflict of interest here because this bug actually increases Microsoft's revenue by forcing users to upgrade against their will. I wouldn't put it past Microsoft discreetly paying a 'contractor'. Some government lawyers need to step in. Classic anti-trust situation. Where are they? [Update: On May 1, Microsoft wisely relented on their threat to not fix the showstopper bug in 20% of the world's peecees]. Meanwhile in Ukraine, a sniper shot the mayor of Kharkiv in the back while he was swimming (the mayor was previously on a Swiss government sanctions list for supporting Russians, but then turned his support to Kiev). He was flown to Haifa for treatment. In the same town, a bunch of neonazi football hooligans with about a 10:1 count advantage beat up a peaceful pro-Russian demonstration in the middle of town. Stupid humans and their stupid master race ideas -- one of the 'great' things that language has added to the animal brain. I suppose this was the plan the whole time, in what Pepe Escobar sarcastically calls the $5 billion dollar "Khaganate of Nulands".

    [May15,'14] According to OECD stats, the working age population is about 67% of total US population (about 320 million). The 'unemployment rate' is supposedly 6% (about 10 million). But there are about 90 million people of working age who are 'not in the labor force'. This means that 46% of the working age population is currently unemployed in the US. 15 years ago that number was about 39%. The UK is similar, and moving in a similar direction. With all the scare talk about the death of retirement, it looks like retirement is becoming the new norm :-} I need to retire before the party's over!

    [May20,'14] Gordon Duff catapults 9-11 disinfo today. Not that this is surprising given the stupidity of many of the things he mixes in with real info at his site. But this seems to me to be a sure sign he must be being paid to do this.

    [May29,'14] This is a telling graph: it shows vehicle miles traveled (something I have been yammering on about endlessly...) together with the civilian labor force. Obviously, the civilian labor force did not suddenly go flat for lack of people (the US population curve is a linearly increasing straight line at this scale). But perhaps it goes some way to explaining the less-driving graph. People in aggregate haven't been able to afford to pay for gas during the 'recovery', which was not only jobless, but which even flatlined the number of *potential* job seekers (i.e., the official unemployment numbers are a pedantic diversion). This is all beginning to look like a truly new and dire economic regime. Welcome to Greece. Today, the US economy/GDP was reported to have contracted, which was described by FTN Financial as "rare for expansions" (you don't say?) -- so naturally, the stock market hit a new high. Among the biggest buyers of stocks lately have been the companies themselves. This increases their share price. Yes, it is truly a perpetual motion machine. Peak oil is dead; long live peak oil.

    [Jun03'14] The recent suggestion that the incompetent US government should resign and be taken over by Google, looked at objectively, is an almost pure example of fascist corporatism, Mussolini-style. Look at the content, not the fashionable, preposterously overpriced, city-of-Glassholes from whence it came (the Italian fascists were stylish dressers, too). Similarly, in the larger context of the decline of empire, the fact that the US now has to rely on mechanical drones, 'barbarian hordes', and other pirates (al-Qaeda jihadis hired via Saudi against Syria, Kievian neonazis hired via jewish oligarchs against Novorossiia) to fight its wars instead of genuine imperial storm troopers points to the beginning of the true decline of the US imperium. The US has plenty of aircraft carriers; but relatively inexpensive water surface skimming missiles have rendered them useless sitting ducks against any but the poorest of the poor, good mainly for fighting aliens in Hollywood movies (latest Gojira). After wasting somewhere between $1 and $2 trillion dollars invading and making a shambles of Iraq and Afghanistan and killing between 1 and 2 million people there (that would be $1,000,000 spent to kill each human), the US is in no condition to invade another country right now -- certainly not one that can shoot back. Few US-ians publicly opposed those utterly disastrous policies; I did, but I had no follow through. And after the larger demos in the UK, everybody went home -- and then reelected the same guys who did it. Meanwhile, back at the energy ranch, California's supposed new powerhouse of fracked oil reserves was just downgraded by 96% (!). Geologists decided that the Monterey formation actually contains only 4% of the original estimate of 14 gigabarrels (without drilling any new holes?). For scale, yearly US usage is currently 7 gigabarrels. The new estimate of reserves is 0.5 gigabarrels -- about one month of US usage. Oh well. For the past 4 years, the oil frackers have been spending 1.5X as much money drilling for oil as they get in return for it each year. This is explained as 'worth it' because of all the new 'reserves' that have been make accessible. They have been able to do this through finance/debt (shale debt has more than doubled in the last 4 years). Nothing to see here. Keep driving. I'm sure the rapidly depleting (as in one year) fracked wells will somehow refill just when we need them to, in order to allow the drillers to pay off those subprime loans a few years from now. Don't you know peak oil is dead? Good thing, too, since mother nature doesn't do debt; when net energy goes below zero, there is no overdraft protection.

    [Jun10'14] Things look uber-bubbly to me. For example the cab reservation program/company Uber just got an $18 billion dollar valuation. Looking on the bright side, it could start to kill off the toxic black cabs here in London. I actually like the cab drivers and the interior design of the black cabs, but I absolutely detest their primitive, often poorly maintained, filthy diesel engines, which measurably shorten Londoners' lives by causing artery disease from sub PM2.5 particles, plus emitting scads of NO2. They probably account for a full 1/4 of the toxic pollution in London (London NO2 is *twice* as bad as Beijing). Oh yeah, back on topic: $18 *billion* dollars for some Uber software? It's probably fine software and a fine idea, but that's getting close to the amount the US spends on all biomedical research per year! When it looks to me like it's absolutely impossible that the bubbles (IPO, stock, house, bond) could go on inflating, it probably means there is still a year or two to go. I'm absolutely sure about the 5-10 year arc of gradually declining net energy (total available energy). And you can't make stuff, eat, etc without energy. But I'm *total* shite on the 1-2 year horizon where financial anti-gravity machines rule (e.g., companies now using zero interest rate loans to borrow money to buy their own stock, which increases its price -- what Carl Icahn was telling apple to do 6 months ago). Household confidence is improving, and people are starting to use their credit cards again. Don't worry, the anti-gravity generator never fails (but our fridge just did).

    [Jun16'14] Every time I see one of these videos (from Boston Dynamics now bought by Google), I find myself thinking about how you could bring one of these things down. First, take away its fossil fuel :-} . But I'm thinking some kind of rope snare would work too. I am so over stupid human tricks. More and more I see my whole life of trying to figure out how the brain works as a terrible mistake. If we every *did* figure out the brain well enough to make something like it, it would be a huge catastrophe. Luckily, I am almost certain there isn't enough fossil fuel left to get there.

    [Jun29'14] Americans' approval rating for Congress is at 7% and Obama's approval rating is down to 41%, gradually approaching Bush's lowest numbers of around 25% (Bush was still around 41% in 2006 with 2 years to go). Americans' approval of the military stands at 74%, the highest of any major group asked about. The ingredients for fascism are pretty clear. They need to ask a more direct poll question: "Would you approve of the military taking over the government/Congress? to see how close we actually are. Currently, 79% of Americans are "satisfied" with their current "level of freedom", down from 91% in 2006, so perhaps there is beginning to me some pushback. Not much, tho. Tho Chomsky and Pinker are now all big on how the US is not like central America, stuff like this suggests that if you're not an MIT professor, the US *has* become quite a bit like central america. Another war would do wonders for Obama. Here is an annotation of Bush's poll numbers that I did in 2007 showing the huge boosts due to 9/11 plus Afghanistan, then the second Iraq invasion, and then the capture of Saddam. It is true that the May 2011 killing of 'bin Laden' didn't help Obama, perhaps because people didn't believe it, or maybe because they had already begun to forget who the long dead Osama was supposed to be. But an important point is that it doesn't really matter if Obama's numbers are almost down to 40%. Congress is at 7% and doesn't seem to cause problems for them ("the presidency" is at 29%). People don't look very restless. If people started to actually get somewhat restless, a few extra SWAT raids or flash Boston-style demonstration martial law security theatre rollouts would probably do the trick. US police depts *already* do 200 SWAT raids *a day* (mostly for drugs, which they *don't* find a majority of the time). And if serious unrest developed and stubbornly refused to go away, a small nuke in a small part of a large city is always an effective last resort. As I've pointed out above, a small device would do less damage than most people think, esp. if it was detonated in a basement. Easily survivable by most people in a large city, and another 'attack on America' would be instantly effective in galvanizing the entire country around the government and military and taking focus off the richies. A richie here and there claim to be worried about pitchforks, but I think we are still a long way from persistent unrest. Further down the line, it's not hard to imagine a domestic, race-based 'color revolution', incited by the same tactics used in Ukraine: snipers shooting at both sides.

    [Jul01,'14] Biggest ever 'reverse repo' event (see above) in the middle of June (chart here). The magnitude was the biggest ever. These events are coming at exact quarterly intervals (first was the middle of Sept 2013) and getting bigger each time, and the average rate in between the spikes is going up exponentially. A 'reverse repo' is where the Fed 'pawns' its assets (jewelry) to big banks (the pawn shop!), who give the Fed 'spending money' (the Fed needs money?). On the face of it, it doesn't make sense. But this could help the banks in two ways. The Fed could give those banks even more free money -- as interest on the securitised 'loan' the big bank is making to the Fed in return for the Fed's 'jewelry'. But the banks could also use the 'jewelry' as collateral for other loans, so they could show bank regulators that they are in good shape with the temporarily borrowed money collateralized by the Fed 'jewelry'. Then they get back the money they lent out, and give the 'jewelry' back to the Fed to get their loan-to-the-Fed back. I read a gobbledegook explanation by commentator ShorTed that this was all normal, which seemed to focus on the advantage to the banks of the higher rate of interest that the Fed pays. To me, it suggests that big banks remain in deep trouble, else why would this whole thing just have been invented only 9 months ago, and now be on an exponentially increasing curve? Regular people also remain in deep doodoo. Since 2007, the number of people in the US on disability has *doubled*. Exponential sh*t like both of these things can go on for a while. Then it must always stop, usu. suddenly.

    [Jul06,'14] Now that we are past peak crude oil, we may be coming up on peak petrodollar. Oh-oh. After peak petrodollar, it will be harder and harder to simply create dollars electronically, which doesn't cost very much, and get people in other parts of the world to send actual stuff (e.g., the computers whose programs create the money) in return. The dollar probably won't go down without a fight, though.

    [Jul12,'14] In early July, Zerohedge, following Seeking Alpha, reported on CYNK, a social media plan-for-a-company with no earnings, no assets, no product, no website, one employee, and spending of a paltry $1.5 million (on what?). Then on July 9-10, this vague idea-for-a-social-media-company was bid up to over $5 billion dollars in market capitalization. On July 11, trading in CYNK was suspended for 2 weeks (because it probably doesn't exist). My favorite comment on the CYNK run-up was from i_call_you_my_base -- "Dot com bubble and housing bubble at the same time now. Neither worked on their own, so it's probably wise to try both simultaneously". Meanwhile, a giant increase in bank lending, which started in January 2014, has mainly consisted of companies borrowing money at low interest to buy their own stock, pay dividends, and acquire other companies; corporate debt vs. corporate cash is at the highest level it has been at in 15 years (zerohedge plotted it upside down...). As Wolf Richter points out, none of those things has any actual productive effect. This is what peak oil looks like. As ridiculous as it is, this kind of churning will nevertheless go on for a while, since total energy input (mostly from more coal) to the world economy hasn't started declining. It is still nominally going slightly up; but that doesn't account for continually dropping energy return on energy investment, an increasing percentage of less-energy-dense shorter chain hydrocarbons in an 'oil' barrel, and the utter insanity of zero-net-energy corn ethanol (double counting). Of course, in theory, it would be better to prepare for the inevitable downslope in total available energy and productivity in a more rational way, but I am becoming more and more accepting of the likelihood that a more rational approach will never be able to emerge. Here is Rune Likvern's estimate of net cash flows for tight oil well in the Bakken formation of North Dakota, one of the most successful oil fracking operations in the world. They are currently $14 billion in debt! That's the cost of about 150 million barrels of oil. The North Dakota tight oil operation is currently producing 0.8 million barrels/day, up from 0.3 million barrels/day in 2011 and almost nothing in 2007 before the price of oil spiked (2013 US consumption was 19 million barrels/day). Output is expected to reach 1.0 million barrels/day this year, which should make it possible for them to begin paying off some of the debt this year. But keep in mind that fracked wells deplete very rapidly (60% in one year). This is what the future of industrial civilization is based on: a tight oil "retirement party" (Art Berman). Rune Likvern has an excellent analysis of the relation between peak oil and banking here. Central banks have 'printed money' (reduced interest rates, QE) in part to mitigate the effects of high-priced oil (translation: low net energy oil -- the only kind left) flowing through the world economic system; oil is now $3 trillion/year out of a world GDP of $70 trillion/year. But this hasn't helped people buy gasoline. The number of miles driven has been going down since 2008. Instead it has created asset bubbles in housing and stocks (e.g., see above). Bank-created money can still buy oil for now. But banks can't print oil. In the long run, printing money will have no effect on integral of the oil depletion curve because that sum is controlled by net energy, not stupid bank tricks; when the net energy of an oil deposit is below zero, no amount of money printing will turn that into an energy source -- it is a 'reserve' that will never be tapped. The expansion of debt relative to the real, energy-dependent economy is happening at a rate never before seen in human history. Party on. There is still some time before the SHTF.

    [Aug15,'14] Danger Will Robinson: oil (and other energy) prices are dropping. Oil has dropped to its lowest price in about a year and has been on a slow downtrend since 2011 (after returning to trend after the huge 2008 spike and dip). Lower prices might seem like a good thing, but if this continues, it will decrease effective 'reserves' by making some of them (e.g., most fracked/tight oil) too expensive to drill. Eventually, even the (permanently!) reduced demand will run into supply leading to another price spike and another permanent downward increment in demand. This is what peak oil looks like: a sawtooth, not permanently high oil prices.

    [Aug19,'14] Police have a job that is *less* dangerous than fishermen, roofers, iron workers, garbagemen, electrical line workers, and farmers, and equivalently dangerous to the jobs of taxi drivers, landscapers and grounds workers, and maintenance and repair workers. As many police die crashing their cars as die from miscreants. We need to stop militarizing the police even more than they already are. But given all that, the Ferguson circus is a psyop. Police have always been this way (sociopathic storm troopers), esp. in the black community. Google Fred Hampton 1969. The psyop idea is to sell the idea of this being normal to the rest of us (libruls), similar to the show lockdown that occurred in Boston after the Boston marathon event. A domestic 'strategy of tension'. It would be absolutely trivial for the police to plant a live fire infiltrator to kill a policemen 'from the protestors', Kiev-style, in order to justify a major crackdown, and after wall-to-wall MSM sewer pics of black people breaking windows and stealing teevees. Here are the actual looters; these guys could really use some Chicago-style 1960's police action on them. Police are simply vicious collaborators -- as in the WWII meaning of the word. Update Aug21: here they are, first lying in a press conference, then shown in a cell phone video executing another black man in cold blood.

    [Aug20,'14] Today, Wolf Richter wrote that retail sales have been flat for about 6 months because consumers are pinched. Given that the Fed reported that about *half* of Americans *can't* come up with just $400 cash for an emergency without a taking out a loan or selling something, this didn't seem surprising. But looking at the general upward trend in spending, it prompted me to look up a longer term chart from the Fed (this includes retail sales and food sales -- food sales are approx equiv to retail sales excluding food). For the life of me, I just don't understand how retail and food sales could have returned to their normal yearly growth rates after the 2008 shock (20% drop). By this measure, there has certainly been a recovery since 2008. But where did the money come from? Are people's salaries up over 20% from 2008? Mine certainly isn't and I don't imagine most other people's are either. There must be a lot more debt somewhere...

    [Sep01,'14] Today, Russia announced a new gas pipeline to China. As usual, as I re-read my previous posts above trying to predict what might happen with respect to future oil and gas imports, I was unable to see the future. I *was* clued in that China couldn't go on increasing its imports at its 2001-2011 rates for very long without soaking up all available word exports in another decade or so (see my 2011 peak oil presentation (PDF)). But I said nothing about *Russia* and China. Now, thanks to EU support for the US in creating the stinking mess in the Khaganate of Nuland, it looks like Europe (EU/UK) has agreed to voluntarily donate their portion of Russian exports to China! How white of them! That should make it easier for China to absorb all available world exports. Fantastic work by Cameron and the European Council. Who needs old-school fossil fuel anyway? (well, we do cook with it at our house, and it runs a lot of the generators that power my MRI magnet center, but whatever...). After all, peak oil and peak gas are dead. The fact that the bitumen and tight oil companies responsible for the oil Renaissance (retirement party) have all gone into massive debt since 2012 probably doesn't mean anything. The fact that gas exploration requires a lot of oil isn't relevant either. Central banks will find a way to print oil to help out gas exploration. Pay no attention to energy return on energy investment. Instead, pay attention to the Burmese beauty queen who absconded with her $200,000 tiara (and $10K from pageant committee who wanted her to get breast implants). May Myat rocks!.

    [Sep07,'14] Car miles driven have begun to slightly creep up. Here is a long term graph (with BASE bank reserves to show the start of the second depression). It's hard to see the uptick there, but if you zoom in to a 5-years-only graph, you can see that we have almost gotten back to 2011. Note that this is still almost 3% below the 2007-2008 peak. And it looks nothing like the relentless linear 2-3% yearly increase that occurred every year from 1970 to 2007. The recent uptick is probably the result of a 'glut' of oil from the fracking boom of the past several years. Amazingly (I shouldn't be amazed, I know), SUV sales have even turned up (to almost one-third of vehicle sales). So is peak oil dead? Certainly not, even in the US! The all-time peak of oil production in the US remains 1970. This was all from regular (non-tight) oil in the continental US. The peak in 1970 was correctly predicted by Hubbert in the late 1950's. Then the US found Alaskan oil in the 1980's, which resulted in a small upward bump on the US oil production downslope. Then deep offshore oil was exploited (remember the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?), which resulted in another uptick on the overall downslope, starting in the late 1990's. Finally, starting in 2011, tight oil resulted in the largest uptick on the overall downslope, starting in 2011, a spike reaching up almost half the way back to the 1970 peak. But despite all the hoopla, the US hasn't gotten close to the 1970 peak; and it still imports half of its oil. And the tight oil 'bonanza' is hardly that; all the tight oil companies are still in debt (see above)! And tight oil wells often deplete 60% (or 80%!) in a single year, so compared to old style oil wells, tight oil is truly 'running as fast as you can to stay in the same place'. Oh well. I suppose there is no point in trying to promote 'reality-based' thinking. In the end, it seems to be almost irrelevant to behavior, until it's too late. Then it *does* affect behavior -- quite strongly :-/

    [Sep26,'14] "The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job. The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress." -- Gary Webb

    [Oct01,'14] LA police have killed one person a week for the past 14 years. This doesn't include people killed by police in jails and mental institutions. Last year, killings by LA cops accounted for 7% of all homicides (PDF here). While the number of killings by civilians has dropped by more than half since 2000, the number of killings by police has remained flat.

    [Oct08,'14] "If you have burst out some new ideas in your specialized or interested field, welcome to submit your great papers to the corresponding Journals or Special Issues" -- science spam email. Makes me feel like I haven't been "bursting out" enough lately.

    [Oct10,'14] Mr. President peace prize is now bombing Afghanistan at the fastest rate in two years. Both parties (Pussy Riot losers and Inflatable John McCain losers) are the war party. There is no effective difference. The Pussy Riot losers are actually worse because they silence the pitiful remains of the left. Oil prices have continued to drop. This doesn't indicate there isn't a peak oil problem. It *does* indicate that a lot of frackers are about to go out of business. The withdrawal of investment currently going on will only be felt in supply about a year or two down the line. But everything is going to be all right for a year, so don't worry be happy :-}.

    [Oct21,'14] Oil has continued to fall under the careful ministrations of the financial sociopaths. If some 2008-like event happens, oil could fall further, like it did in 2008 -- from demand destruction. That would have catastrophic effects on non-conventional oil (perhaps this was the Saudi plan -- but a year of $60 oil would be a disaster for Saudi). This is what peak oil looks like half the time; the other half of the time there will be nasty spikes, like early 2008. Dropping drone bombs on pickup trucks and bombing Syrian refineries won't fix this. I'm getting a listless feeling that I must be crazy since nobody else seems to see things this way. Reading IgnorantGuru perked me up a bit. "It may come as a surprise to many of you, but the U.S. Army is ‘the’ single largest install base for Red Hat Linux. I’m their largest customer." -- General Nikolas Justice (2008, see also "Debian is pwnd by the NSA").

    [Oct21,'14] Over the weekend, I talked to some academics about energy depletion. As I've commonly found, they hadn't thought much about it, and just assumed that 'somebody will come up with something'. I didn't do a very good job of explaining myself because I didn't explicitly mention the main point, which is that energy return on energy investment is going down, and rapidly getting closer to the dangerous cliff under 5:1 where the *proportion* of total extracted energy that is lost in the process of energy *extraction* begins to rapidly increase (toward infinity at energy return 1 for energy investment 1). I think this is the *most* critical single point to explain. Corn ethanol at 1.1:1 vs. deep water oil at, say, 8:1 is a good example. Imagine there are 10 available units of energy. In the deepwater oil case, we consume 10 units to obtain 70 net units. With corn ethanol, we consume the 10 units to obtain 1 net unit. In the second case, most of our available energy of 10 units went to energy extraction. It's obviously impossible to run our current industrial society on corn ethanol. It would require locating and using 10x as much energy as we are currently using! If there truly was that much energy just 'lying around' (there isn't), who in their right mind would waste it making corn ethanol when it could just be spent directly! Of course, to a business mind, this is all way too conservative and impossibly too far into the future (10-20 years). For example, Twitter -- with a market capitalization about $25 billion, with finally a small positive revenue for a few quarters this year, mostly from advertising -- could suddenly get a few more users and then its market capitalization might double overnight. Worrying about things like the energy supply are *so* last century. But there are still some sensible engineers who keep the lights on for the Twitter servers, the smart phone factories, the wireless hubs and cell towers, and the twitter-er's battery chargers. The Fukushima disaster has turned the attention of the engineers in a number of countries toward coal (e.g., Germany, Japan, US). Since coal is subject to the very same energy return on energy investment constraints as other forms of energy, it will now deplete even faster (China currently uses half of the coal in the world and is set to consume all world exports in another decade or so at its current growth rate; China made 1.5 times as much cement in 2011-2013 as the US made in the entire twentieth century -- mostly using coal). As coal depletes, nuclear energy will have to come back to keep the lights on. And it won't be cold fusion; you can't boil much water if the fusion is truly cold. Now back to my regularly scheduled matrix, don't worry, be happy...

    [Nov01,'14] In response to the leaked 'chickenshit' comment, first the twin towers 'cartoon' and now a reference to the 'grassy knoll' (!). "Are you threatening me?" -- Beavis corn-holio voice. Looks like a little blackmail after a long and troubled marriage. They must have some serious deep state goods! All silly posturing, however, when there are more important things to attend to :-} . Back in 2003, I expected peak oil in 2008, and that it would be a gradual flat top. That was in fact, approximately the peak of *conventional* crude oil (there was a previous peak in 2005 but the 2008 crude oil peak was just a tiny bit higher. But the resulting oil price spike got the oil people to rapidly pile all their drilling rigs from fracked natural gas (the previous craze because of an earlier natural gas price spike) into fracked oil in 2009-2012, and US oil production from the Bakken and Eagle Ford (those two formations account for almost 2/3 of all tight oil) spiked up as a result. These wells deplete spectacularly rapidly (70% in one year) putting drillers in a serious 'Red Queen' situation. However, over the past year, demand destruction from people not being able to afford oil, plus tight oil production increases, have slightly outpaced depletion of conventional oil, which has resulted in a small but dangerous (for the frackers) fall in oil prices. Since so much slack has been taken up by non-crude-oil (smaller chain lease condensates, even smaller chain natural gas plant liquids, tight oil, tar sands, biodiesel, and finally the towering stupidity of ethanol), 'total liquids' has continued to creep up, which has surprised me. I seriously underestimated how quickly the frackers could gear up for natural gas (fast enough to crash the price in just a few years), and then so rapidly switch to oil (it's staggering to see the google plots of new wells). The latest new trick being introduced -- which involves an old, energy expensive trick that was used to put off the Cantarell peak for a few years a decade ago -- involves CO2 flooding: N.B.: the new trick is to combine (energy) expensive CO2 flooding with (energy) expensive fracking. Of course, the total liquids *volume* increase doesn't factor in energy return on energy investment (which means more other kinds of energy have gradually been converted into 'total liquids' leaving less total net energy available, and which is reflected in higher production costs), and 'total liquids' don't even have the same energy density (all the replacements are less energy dense). But the total *volume* hasn't yet definitively dropped. Redefined 'peak oil', meaning maximum end user 'total every kind of liquid', is still a few years away (around 2016 vs. my initial guess of peak oil in 2008). I wish it was further away. You'd never guess we were this close to such a major sea change, what with markets shooting crazily up, because... Japan decided to 'print' more money?! And indices of consumer sentiment are going up to almost pre-2008 levels (probably a sure sign that there will be a crash next year). In any case, it's hard to predict the future. Perhaps, when the 'total liquids' peak comes, it will finally convince people to adopt smaller electric vehicles and electric bicycles, and all hell won't break loose (though peak total liquids will not be good for less developed places). It has been a good sign that US vehicle miles driven topped off and went down a little without all hell breaking loose. Here's hoping I have underestimated human resilience. Who *wouldn't* want to be able to retire for a few years without dealing with Mad Max?

    [Nov03,'14] Euan Mearns has an excellent post here with graphs and detailed definitions relevant to my previous post above. Euan says in comments that the same guys who piled into fracking gas, then turned on a dime to pile into fracking oil won't be that sensitive to lower prices. I hope so. One problem is that if there is another 2008-like crash, it could easily be accompanied by a more serious oil price crash (than the current $78/barrel). Even if this was relatively short lived, I think it would really scare the banker rats away from the drillers for a year and cut into production a few years down the line (on wells that deplete 70% in one year). Demand destruction is real: the inflation-adjusted median income in the US has dropped 6% since 2007 (that would be after the 'recovery'). But even with demand destruction, the yearly oil drain is still a big yearly oil drain (at the rate of 1000 barrels a *second*). The likely result of a drilling investment hiccup will be a huge price spike 1-2 years after the drillers withdraw. The very short look-ahead of our economic system isn't very well adapted to bumping up against hard limits. The problem is that with liquid fuels so central to modern industrial civilization, see-saw over-corrections can reverberate well beyond oil markets. You know something's gone seriously awry when Alan Greenspan is advising people to buy gold -- probably just dementia getting to him :-}

    [Nov08,'14] Only 13% of voters aged 18-29 voted in the midterm elections (the overall turnout was 38%), the lowest in 72 years. These are some of the people with huge student loans living at home unable to rent (much less buy a house) who see little end-user difference between red and blue or Obama and Bush. Some of this is explained by the fact that young people vote less and by the fact that midterm elections virtually always go against the party in power. But there is also a lot of pent-up frustration. Could go either way (Mussolini or Robespierre). The election of a bunch of Republican nasties by old people isn't a good indicator of which way the wind blows. Now back to our daily oil minute :-} . As we approach peak net energy of all types, it's worth keeping in mind this graph of world GDP vs. world energy use. GDP is directly proportional to energy input, which is very likely to flatten within a decade. Note that the energy input listed is not all net energy (e.g., it includes corn ethanol, which essentially contributes zero net energy). But most of the graph represents net energy. It suggests to me that the idea of the dematerialization of the economy is utter nonsense. The economy consists of flows of real energy (AKA goods and services, mostly made using fossil fuels) being traded (i.e., transported, mostly using mostly fossil fuels) under the control of symbolic device accounting systems like paper money, debt, gold, etc. (mostly running on computers constructed and powered by fossil fuel). Energy is the only true 'currency'. Just because it's possible to temporarily mess up the symbolic devices used for trading energy doesn't mean that the symbolic devices aren't always based on energy flows. When the energy flows lessen after peak net energy, messing around with symbolic devices (or gold!) won't create more energy flows. For reference, China oil energy consumption is up to 11 million barrels per day. This will probably continue upward for the next 10 years (for reference, current world crude oil use is 76 million barrels/day, and total liquids use is 90 million barrels/day, and China GDP growth is at 7% per year). Low oil prices are unlikely to be a 'problem' in two years.

    [Nov30,'14] Despite continuing yearly decreases in violent crime in the US (the peak in violent crime was in the 1970's at the end of the Vietnam war), and yearly decreases in the number of police killed in the line of duty, police forces are becoming increasing militarized and police killings of citizens are increasing again (in recent years, police have killed about 1000 people a year, while about 40 police have been killed a year). I say 'again' because police killings were also high at during the 1970's. For example, in 1971 the police killed 93 people in New York City, while in 2011, police killed 102 people in all of California (the state with the most police killings because it is so populous -- note that there are a lot more people in California than New York city). Since the vast majority of police officers never fire their guns in the line of duty, the new police state is being implemented by a relatively small number of rogue sociopaths (see for example, Albuquerque, New Mexico) operating with banana republic-like impunity in the context of increasingly militarized SWAT teams inappropriately called up for jobs that don't require them. Like other inexorable yearly changes (e.g., yearly increases in per capita imprisoned in the US now at world record levels despite yearly decreases in the US violent crime rate), this yearly increase needs to be reversed by top down adminstrative decsions to weed out the sociopaths and demilitarize local police to avoid having things blow up from a bottom-up revolt.

    [Dec04,'14] There was an insightful comment by Sam Taylor on Euan Mearns' blog about the economic dynamics of horizontal drilling and fracking (LTO means "light tight oil"). Since the wells come on line quickly and then deplete very quickly, this technology has increased the chance of large oil price and equipment investment oscillations, right at a time when they are least helpful (peak oil). Euan Mearns' graph here of oil prices (blue) compared to the number of oil and gas drilling rigs (from the US) is a truly stunning demonstration of the 'creative destructive' power of capitalism. The transition from natural gas to tight oil (when the natural gas frackers crashed themselves, fortuitously just as oil prices recovered) is striking. The increased volatility will be great pickings for hit-and-run parasitic financialized blood-sucking operations (e.g., subprime tight oil fracking leases; 16% [or 18%] of the $1.3 trillion junk-bond market is now in energy, up from 4% just 10 years ago). But the parasitic operations don't generate energy. And that is hardly the best way to prepare for transitioning industrial civilization off of fossil fuels. We don't need creative destruction in the circulatory system of industrial civilization. We need more smoothing! The financial press lives in a very different, non-physical, non-smoothed world from the people who actually get coal and oil to make their computers, and then generate perfectly smooth power to run them so their trivial bloviations can be perfectly transmitted. From an excellent Feb 2014 presentation by Steve Kopits: from 1998 to 2005, $1.5 trillion was spent to add almost 9 million barrels/day of oil production (world then around 75 million barrels/day). But from 2005 to 2013, $4 trillion was spent on new oil prospects (finding, drilling) to add just 4 million barrels/day -- that is, each new barrel this decade cost 6x as much to get as last decade (mainly because it took more energy to get it!). Most of this new oil went to more Chinese driving, since, starting around 2007, the yearly increase in car miles driven in the US/UK/EU suddenly flattened and began to slowly declne. Another $3.5 trillion (equivalent to the yearly GDP of Germany) was spent to fix up legacy fields with the result that legacy fields produced 1 million barrels/day *less* -- their production would have been a lot worse without that investment. It is interesting that Steve Kopits mentions that Chinese demand for oil had already begun flattening early in 2014, which is one of the things that must have helped to cause the recent oil price crash. Instead of always writing about 1-2 month random fluctuations (like the oil price crash), the financial press should be required to also regularly write about basic, averaged-over-5-to-10-years numbers. Despite peak oil being 'dead', capital expenditures *per barrel* have been rising at 11% per year since 2000. If the world economy avoids a massive crash, the recent price oil crash will not last very long. If there *is* a massive crash, it will probably be triggered by the bankruptcy of oil exploration and production companies. We need more smoothing!

    [Dec07,'14] The biggest turnaround since 2008 (8% drop in one month) is just now visible in this graph of the US BASE money supply (which suddenly inflated by a factor of 4 since 2008 as banks 'deposited' money in the Fed to collect small but safe interest). Increases in BASE in the past 7 years have correlated very closely with the Fed's various 'quantitative easing' programs. The accompanying student loan graph (which disturbingly has exactly the same shape as BASE, tho y-axis scale is 1/6 that of BASE) is not as up-to-date and doesn't show a downturn yet. Could just be another glitch down (like the past 5-6 glitches in BASE) which is about to be 'fixed' by another huge injection of digital cash. Things will be clear in another 2-3 months. The things that makes me feel most insane is that nobody 'official' seems vaguely aware of the fact that economic growth and growth in energy use are essentially the same thing, and that growth in energy use is getting harder and harder to sustain. In November, there was 40% drop in oil and gas well permits responding to the oil price crash. This is looking more and more like deflation.

    [Dec09,'14] Global currency markets trade over $5.3 trillion a day. For scale, the gross domestic product of the entire US is about $17 trillion dollars *per year*. What could possibly go wrong as the dollar strengthens and dollar shorts need to be covered?

    [Dec13,'14] I read Wolf Richter sometimes. Check out how huffy he gets here with 'Dave', who suggested that he actually do something useful (clean out a clogged street drain he observed) as opposed to just getting online and blathering on about things (uhh... like I'm doing here). Maybe it's also living in the home of hi-tech in San Fransicso. But what is 'hi-tech' really? Take the amazing story of Amazon (headquarters actually in Seattle). It has been in business for two decades. Its revenues and stock prices have gone continuously up. It profits have remained at approximately zero for all of the last decade. But what does Amazon actually do? It buys and runs huge banks of servers -- manufactured using coal and then powered mostly with coal. It then gets small manufactured objects, many frantically picked off of their warehouse shelves by human slaves, whipped by battery powered 15 to 20 second computer-voice countdowns. Finally, it uses those servers to arrange shipping of small manufactured objects to people sitting at home -- mostly by using yet more fossil fuel: oil. So this is how the economy is de-materialized -- by using more fossil fuel (IT now uses more than 10% of all power generated worldwide). I'm sure this will continue to work 'well' as long as there is plenty of fossil fuel around. Maybe that's what the Amazon CEO's were thinking this month when they cashed out 20% of their shares...

    [Dec23,'14] Reading this four part series (1, 2, 3, 4) on the Mexican food export boom together with this article back-to-back and projecting a short distance into the future will unsettle your stomach. From the second article: "Another turning point came in 2013 when Monsanto, one of the largest suppliers of herbicides (e.g., glyophosphate, now found in substantial [10x US drinking water limit, 1000x EU drinking water limit] concentration in breast milk of American mothers) and genetically modified seeds, bought San Francisco-based weather data and insurance startup Climate Corporation, which was started by ex-Google employees, for $930 million. 'That was an aha moment,' said Rob Trice, a 14-year venture capitalist in Menlo Park who founded the Mixing Bowl, a hub of ag-tech thinkers and entrepreneurs. 'Here was one of the largest ag companies buying an IT company in Silicon Valley.'" Rentiers gobbling up cropland, farmed by slave labor in hi-tech greenhouses, with the slaves sleeping on cardboard and forced to buy overpriced food at the company store -- a new idea?! Glassholes indeed.

    [Jan11,'15] Info-filled interview with Art Berman here. For example, the best tight oil shales are 2% oil. They're expensive (=energy intensive) to produce because they are mostly rock, instead of being essentially an oil soaked sponge like much of Ghawar the Great. Oil prices continues to sell at half-price because of a 'glut' of oil that is probably around 1% (!) of still-slightly-increasing world demand (=usage). This suggests that the money system supporting industrial civilization is badly broken.
    [Jan19,'15] The rapid contraction in the hi-EROEI oil business (tight/fracked oil) has continued as oil prices stay low. If oil prices remain low for another 6 months, this could cause real damage to US economy, since (1) about a third of the good-paying jobs created over the past 3-4 years have been in fossil fuel energy, (2) a quarter of high-interest junk bonds are energy-related, and (3) a lot fracking debt will not be able to be repaid. The precipitous decline in long term interest rates visible in this 1-year Fed plot of 10-year and 30-year interest rates is pretty scary. The situation seems so delicate now that even a very moderate increase in interest rates in the direction of historical norms would cause havoc in the gigantic global bond market ($100 trillion -- *triple* what it was in just 2000, perhaps a full quarter of that from heaping bank bailouts onto the public balance sheet). None of this is even on most people's radar; US consumer sentiment just hit a new 'post'-recession record toward the positive. It's impossible to guess how likely another financial blow up is. The world situation is volatile, and there is a growing post-9/11-like sentiment in 'western' countries. The last time that particular evil in the hearts of men and women welled up, two big new wars were started (both still running, millions of Muslims killed in them, many Muslim cities with many neighborhoods reduced to rubble). A war in an oil country could end the current 1-2% oil 'glut' in the face of the world burning a thousand barrels a second. The latest western target, Yemen, has a reasonable amount of oil left, but its production has dropped below 1/4 million barrels a day lately, so a US/UK/EU attack on Yemen probably wouldn't cut off much oil. In any case, the longer view is that there are still at least 15 years left of a thousand barrels a second (or at least 800 barrels a second :-} ) before the SHTF big time. There are still at least 15 years calm before the storm (my definition of "calm" includes things like bond market blowup and another oil price spike).

    [Jan22,'15] Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due. Several studies by a group at the Canandian Centre for Disease Control showed that in one bad flu season, there was an *increased* risk of getting the flu in people who had gotten multiple flu shots. This was even replicated experimentally in ferrets (PDF here). The masterful popular press report of this by the Monty Python-esque Canadian Broadcasting Corporation described this as 'blunted protection' and fretted that it "muddies public health messages". And now, how to defend yourself... with a bannana. One possible explanation is that you get a flu shot, some antibodies are made that prevent you from getting the seasonal flu; but they are not as protective against the serious pandemic flu as actually getting the mild seasonal flu. But explanation suggested by direct tests in ferrets is that the circulating antibodies generated by the flu vaccine actually promote infection by a different (the virologists say "heterologus" which is the opposite of "homologous") virus.

    [Jan25,'15] The gossip is that the Fed has ended quantitative easing (AKA giving criminal bankers large amounts of money for free), and that this is why the dollar is going up. However, a look the FED graph of the BASE money supply and the record of excess reserves of depository institutions, which explains almost 100% of the variance in the BASE, you can see that an additional $400 billion (almost half a trillion dollars, a full 10% of current total BASE, or approx. *half* of what the total BASE used to be until 2008 [less than 1 trillion]) showed up in BASE in the space of *one month* from December to January. Doesn't sound lke QE has stopped yet. Still might.

    [Feb06,'15] Interestng an article on the difficulties of hacking hi-tech proprietary farm "tractor operating systems" here. It made me think of the scenes in Interstellar where all their dusty laptops just seemed to work and it was no problem hacking their farm equipment. The article points to closed source as the problem, and maybe that is part of it. But there is also the problem of the towering complexity of the tech building blocks and the lower level software in the first place. There is some opportunity for Blade-Runner-y fixes; but they rely on a reliable source of all the hi tech chip goodness -- and Ridley Scott didn't show us any of the places where they were using up all their remaining clean water for chip fabs... Anyway, the laptop that I'm typing on is on the last legs of its video card (sadly, the class action lawsuit over 20-40K video card failures against Apple just got thrown out a few weeks ago because the two guys couldn't prove Apple knew). The source of the problem is intriguing. It arose out of trying to do the environmentally friendly thing and remove the lead from solder. But non- or lower-lead solder melts at a higher temp. This made the temperature window smaller between the temp to melt the solder and the temp at which plastic and other circuit board parts begin to melt (so Apple almost certainly knew; but they relied on the fact that many people just buy a new computer and toss the toweringly complex 2 year old one in the trash). The surface mount chips have a few hundred contacts on the flat bottom surface of the chip that get tiny sticky solder balls inserted, heated to center them, then the chip precisely placed on the board by a robot before being put in the oven (and maybe being X-ray-ed after to see if everything worked). So I found a Blade-Runner-y south London shop where they can "re-ball" your video card chip with the real, good-stuff, lead solder :-} That sounds more like Interstellar. But it relies completely on having a bunch of chip fabs and board makers turning out the many-layer motherboards and having access to the lower level drivers that the 2011 chips run. A simple example is that there is no software way to make a 2011 Mac boot off the still-working integrated graphics chip -- if you exclude as 'software' putting the computer under a blanket so that it the firmware does an overheat shutdown, which will cause the firmware to skip using discrete graphics card for just the next boot... Right now, it seems unlikely that local 'maker' shops will ever be able to make the raw tech parts (chips, multilayer fully populated surface mount circuit boards) from scratch. It's a basic Turing-like problem: a maker shop that can make a maker shop. Probably takes more than a village (and a whole lotta water...).

    [Feb05,'15] You know we're getting close to the end of the bubble when things like this happen: on teevee, they suggest that you should take out a 7-year auto loan to buy stocks... [update: Mar 11th: Feb 2015 set a new record for companies buying their own stock -- at the rate of $5 billion/day]

    [Mar16,'15] Oil just went slightly under $43. The financial lunatics who make idiotic graphs connecting the extreme(ly insignificant -- to the long term picture!) minima and maxima are all a-titter about 'support breached'. But saner commentators like Rune Likvern have suggested agree that low prices might last for a little longer than many were expecting, esp. if interest rates rise even a small amount. In fact, they they just have. This is because this will make servicing debt more difficult and taking out more debt more expensive -- the things that are required not only to 'make' oil (CAPEX for tight oil), but also to buy it (car loans, so other income can be used to by gas for the car). So in brief, there might be more demand destruction for quite a while. The question is whether demand destruction can keep up with depletion without causing a huge crash. On the positive side, total miles driven in the US topped out in 2007 and has been more or less flat for 4-5 years (well, until the recent oil price reduction beginning at the end of last year :-} ). Nothing *really* bad happened even though many people I talked to about driving less before this said it was *totally* impossible (and it is true that it mostly wasn't 'less', as 'the same'). Presumably, all we would have to do is have a small continuous downward slope in demand to match depletion. That would probably work well for the next 10 years, I'm hoping. But keep the bigger picture in mind! The world uses roughly 1000 barrels of oil a second, and the fluctations from year to year are a percent or two. This steadily depletes remaining harder to get resources; we wouldn't be steaming 1 unit of oil out of 20 units of tar sand if there was a lot of good stuff left. As population grows (more than one entire UK per year) and the third world industrializes, even with US/UK/EU demand destruction, it is complete fantasy not to expect serious shortages and serious price spikes (and dips) after 15 more years of 1000 barrels a second. In fact, the next spike is very probably due to happen in early 2016.

    [Mar26,'15] The fact that E.M. Forster could almost exactly predict the internet 'mass for shut-ins' reality of Baylandia 106 years ago in "The Machine Stops" suggests a certain unpleasant determinism to human affairs. I always used to say that the science fiction guys were wrong because flying cars never appeared. But now I think I may have been too hasty. There is probably enough net energy left over the next 15 years for some glasshole to market a few flying car/drones to some other glassholes, and hopefully enough extra energy beyond that for a quadracopter fan controller virus writer to play his own bit part in the song that remains the same. Reading medium and theverge makes me think that peak oil is attractive. However, I know it's time to get back on my anti-misanthropy pills. In truth, there is *nothing* about running out of oil (and water and food) while adding more than a full UK of people (two California's) to the world every year that is in the slightest bit attractive, esp. considering what humans are capable of.

    [Apr19,'15] From this FED graph of BASE (base money supply, which provides a convenient marker of the economic disruption of 2008) and US vehicle miles traveled, it looks like recent low oil prices may have had a strong effect on driving. Oil prices dropped in the middle of 2014, and vehicle miles have shot up finally surpassing the previous unprecedented peak, which occurred at the beginning of 2008. 2015 will probably turn out to be the year of peak 'all liquids', which is crude oil + condensate + natural gas liquids, + light tight oil + tarsands + biodiesel + [cough] ethanol. This suggests that oil price will probably spike back up in 2016. Confirmation comes from the fact that Blackstone, which recently became largest US landlord by buying distressed properties during the US real estate downturn is now stockpiling cash to buy ... distressed oil and gas companies. As Nomi Prins said, it takes a pillage. [Update Apr22: Art Berman wrote an excellent article here. One graph from that article (this one) says it all: our current 'massive glut' of oil is an oversupply of production relative to consumption of ... *less than 2%*.

    [Apr28,'15] Steve Ludlum makes a good point about price signals during the recent drop in oil prices (he's quite wordy as usual! -- I know, I should talk). The recent drop in oil usage in early 2014 -- which led to a drop in oil prices in later 2014 -- was probably induced by forced reduction in usage (e.g., in China, in Greece, in the bottom 80% of the US because people could no longer afford oil). Though the forced part made people unhappy, using less is absolutely the right thing to do -- the only thing to do -- if you take a twenty-year perspective on the use of a critical finite resource in a finite world. But then this slight overall reduction in usage resulted in a temporary and relatively tiny 'glut' -- hardly more than 1% of total usage. The immediate result of this tiny amount of excess production was a sudden halving of oil price. But then this *immediately* resulted in people turning around and starting to use more. This looks like a pattern that is going to occur repeatedly. The problem is that it occurs slowly enough that people seem to somehow forget the last time it happened. How else to explain why someone would rationally by an SUV right at peak oil? (so perhaps I've been wrong! maybe we need *less* smoothing -- perhaps even more insane capitalist destruction that wreaks havoc *every* year!) But seriously, the low price of oil coupled with another bout of quantitative easing (or no interest rate increases) *is* likely to lead to a bit of a 'boom' over the next 6-12 months. Though tight oil people have virtually stopped drilling, and have fired a bunch of people, there are still plenty of already-drilled but not yet 'completed' wells, and lots of debts to repay. This will keep oil prices low for a while even in the absence of drilling. This will help airlines and food prices and perhaps even real estate. But in about a year, we will probably get back to a 2007-2008 like oil spike. China and India are not growing oil use as fast as before, but they are still growing, and this growth will more than use up savings from places where per capita oil use is dropping like Greece (in dark gray). When oil price spikes again, we will likely get another 2008-like financial event (stock market crash, and another oil price crash). But this probably won't happen until 2016 or early 2017. So happy motoring (and enjoy the US strategy of tension) until then!

    [May08,'15] Oncology doctors typically make almost 2/3 of their income from reselling cancer drugs to patients (to their insurance companies and Medicare) at a mark-up -- the "buy and bill" reimbursement scheme, which is not available to doctors in most other fields. Last year, one-tenth of a *trillion* dollars was spent on cancer drugs. There is an obvious conflict-of-interest here that promotes prescribing the newest most expensive drugs, regardless of relative efficacy. You know it's bad when you find muckraking articles about the practice in... Forbes! As with many other aspects of medical care, success is increasingly measured 'quantitatively' by determining whether the size of the tumor or tumor markers have changed, regardless of whether these measurements actually correspond to a better or longer life for the patient. I know, I know, I live in a glass house (a university), where costs over the last decade have ballooned to such an extent that a student loan bubble comparable in size to the previous housing bubble has been created. In fact, university costs have increased even faster than the medical care costs I just complained above. I do wonder (probably like many medical doctors wonder) where all the extra that money has gone, because my work and pay is not very different from what it was 20 years ago, before the huge run up in university costs. It seems unlikely that this can end well for universities when the next crash comes.

    [May21,'15] San Diego just proposed a plan to spend over $1 billion dollars, including a quarter of a billion dollars directly from tax receipts (city of San Diego and San Diego county), and a 1/6 of a billion in construction bonds to build a new football stadium. It's true that they already have one, which was first opened less than 10 years ago. And you'd think at this late date in the game of keeping industrial civilization online that this particular *beeelion* dollars might be better spent in San Diego on water, energy, light rail, bicycle lanes (one of the best places in the world to cycle). On the bright side, I suppose having the San Diego Chargers around could help when San Diego has to go mano e mano with Los Angelenos over water, a few years down the line (San Diego imports more than 80% of its water).

    [May22,'15] Basic average numbers to remember for solar electric. Power hitting the atmosphere is 1366 watts/m^2. Practically available average power considering atmospheric losses, oblique, diurnal and weather variation *before* conversion to electricity is about 190 watts/m^2. Power available after conversion including defects, soiling, and inverter and spacing losses is about 15 watts/m^2 (=1.4 watts/sq ft). For scale, a standard sized car is a 100,000 watt device (135 horsepower) at maximum output, and can cruise smoothly at highway speeds on about 20,000 watts. Therefore, to directly power a car crusing at 60-70 mph (no storage), you need the average output of 14,000 sq feet of solar cells -- an array 120 feet by 120 feet, which is 1/4 the area of an American football field. At current prices, such an array (at volume discount) would cost over $300,000. For strong acceleration (like they do here in London trying to pass me on my bicycle on their way to a red light), you need a million-dollar full football field's worth of solar cells. That's why people are going to eventually be driving smaller, lighter cars at lower speeds, and accelerating less -- which is excellent news for cyclists!

    [May25,'15] A sage quote from a well-written article by the archdruid: "The second thing that can be said for certain about the coming era of impact is that it’s not the end of the world. Apocalyptic fantasies are common and popular in eras of pretense, and for good reason; fixating on the supposed imminence of the Second Coming, human extinction, or what have you, is a great way to distract yourself from the real crisis that’s breathing down your neck. If the real crisis in question is partly or wholly a result of your own actions, while the apocalyptic fantasy can be blamed on someone or something else, that adds a further attraction to the fantasy."

    [May29,'15] "In my view, the overriding concern should be the probable endpoint of this technological trajectory. The capabilities of autonomous weapons will be limited more by the laws of physics — for example, by constraints on range, speed and payload —- than by any deficiencies in the AI systems that control them. For instance, as flying robots become smaller, their manoeuvrability increases and their ability to be targeted decreases. They have a shorter range, yet they must be large enough to carry a lethal payload — perhaps a one-gram shaped charge to puncture the human cranium. Despite the limits imposed by physics, one can expect platforms deployed in the millions, the agility and lethality of which will leave humans utterly defenceless. This is not a desirable future." -- Stuart Russell, comment in Nature on lethal autonomous weapon systems entitled "Take a stand on AI weapons". We are increasingly going to be in a race between Terminator-world (imagine this thing, eventually armed with tazers and bullets) and the depletion of fossil fuels. As Stuart Russell says: "Doing nothing is a vote in favour of continued development and deployment". Unfortunately, there is probably enough fossil fuel left to be able to begin to deploy crude versions of small autonomous weaponized drones, first on low-market-value humans (e.g., in Yemen or Ukraine), and then, eventually, in the US and UK homeland.

    [May31,'15] The scientific peer review seems to be getting more and more broken. There used to be a few reviews, then the editor would usually make an editorial decision (the original point of an editor); and the editor usually even read the paper! Now, there are many cycles of review at every journal, and when there is a conflict, instead of the editor reading the paper and making a decision, the robot emailers seek out yet another reviewer. Then the whole thing starts again after rejection and sending elsewhere. A tremendous waste of resources! The disempowerment of editors was in part an attempt to be more transparent and objective; but the unintended consequence was a massive increase in the 'incarceration' of scientific papers. In a strange analogy with the prison system, mandatory sentencing guidelines in the US were supposed to make things more fair. The (probably not unintended) result was to vastly increase the rate of privatized imprisonment -- by 400% -- in a country that already had one of the highest rates of imprisonment (more blacks in jail than there used to slaves). Maybe it's just because I'm old and I've just read one too many "let's play scientist pretend dress up" style review. Or maybe it really is the beginning of a Tainter-esque collapse from being unable to continually service ever greater amounts of complexity.

    [Jun29,'15] While people fret over unplugging their cell phone chargers, they studiously ignore the big picture -- the single decision that most affects one's carbon footprint, by far, is the decision to have a kid. Kids in the US/UK/EU are 5-10x more carbon intensive than kids elsewhere. But restrictions on having kids cannot be discussed in polite company. This means that a few decades down the line, 'not enough food' will impolitely join the conversation. 'Not enough food' does not care about political correctness, cannot be bargained with, never turns on its cell phone, and always works. This looks bad. But just because it looks bad doesn't mean there is any easy way to fix it. If everybody suddenly stopped having kids (they are already reducing), we would end up with just old people. Even in that completely unreasonable scenario, there is probably not enough 'stuff' (energy, minerals, soil, freshwater) to support an aging population long enough to reduce it by natural attrition. So 9 billion here we come, and after that probably some unnatrual attrition.

    [Jul20,'15] "I’m not out there to go after you. I’m protecting you. .... I’m going to shield you from public and congressional anger. .... My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks." -- President Obama, to top executives of bailed-out financial firms in a secret/leaked meeting at the White House on May 20, 2009. [Aug06,'15] Dmitri Orlov posted an insightful comment on the Druid's log today about the difference between the USSR before collapse and the US today. In the case of the USSR, there was a rich public sector for oligarchs to plunder. This is less the case in the US because a lot of the plundering has already been done. But this has a silver lining. Dmitri says: "In the USSR certain members of the political class were rather eager to get the collapse show on the road because there was something in it for them, while in the USA at the moment these same sorts of people don't see much of a bright post-collapse future for themselves, and so will do all they can to run out the clock". May we carry on in style. Dave Cohen recently commented on Jim Hansen's warning and Jim Hansen's suggestions; I agree with his analysis. I have no problem wit Hansen's warnings. I completely believe them! (even if Hansen has used the overly optimistic EIA reserves numbers). The problem is the suggestion to cut out the use of fossil fuels. It's a good idea in theory :-} If we were to actually cut out a meaningful amount -- say half -- of world fossil fuel use, there would immediately result catastrophic food shortages, mass migrations enormously bigger than Calais, and a permanent world-wide depression. Such an energy input cut would instantly stop 'renewable energy' growth in its tracks since virtually all renewable energy devices, not to mention the infrastructure to connect their electrical output to personal devices, not to mention the devices themselves, not to mention the roads over which the devices are delivered to houses, are all essentially made out of fossil fuels (many roads *are* fossil fuels). It's a good idea in theory. So once again, may we carry on in style. There has been not even the slightest hint of a reduction in the extremely regular Mauna Loa linear upward slope in CO2 -- and I don't expect one until the massive worldwide depression starts. Some countries *have* topped out. For example, the US has. The fundamental reason why overall fossil fuel use has flattened and gone down (mainly as a result of using less coal to generate electricity used by industry to make things) is the semi-permanent post-2008 recession. Secondarily it is due to the final bit of outsourcing of fossil-fuel-using manufacturing from the US to other places. As the energy return on (mostly fossil fuel) energy investment continues down, it is likely that less fossil-fuel-driven action/production/growth/making-stuff will happen without any legislation at all. I think it is going to be difficult enough dealing with that kind of enforced conservation and shrinkage, so that any plans for explicit voluntary reduction in fossil fuel use will probably not happen, ever. All the discussion by right wing 'drill baby drill' blowhards and left wing 'renewables' blowhards is just noise -- they're both voting with the kilowatt-hours they use, which except for a very small fraction at the extreme fringes isn't very different, regardless of what they say. In 15 years, there will be less kilowatt-hours to go around. It won't have anything to do with what either side said, or with money games, or the Fed. It will simply reflect declining energy return on energy investment.

    [Aug10,'15] Some recent news from the helium shortage front here and here and here [2014] to update what I wrote back in 2005. In 2013, helium prices spiked as the US threatened to shut down the Federal Helium Reserve (which currently still holds almost 1/3 of total world helium). But then the US backed off, saying they will wait until 2021 to shut it down, and will continue to sell previously collected US-tax-subsidized helium (it cost about $1.5 billion to collect in the first palce) way below current extraction cost, encouraging over-use and discouraging conservation/recycling. Another transient and misleading price relief is that Qatar started producing more helium (now second only to the US). And helium has benefitted from the general price drops in 'commodities'. I'm sure there will no problem for a few more years, AKA the forseeable future. A 6 month look ahead has always worked in the past so why change now? Tim Worstall at Forbes, from the Adam Smith Institute in London, assures us we've got so much helium, there's no reason to even bother recycling it; he also thinks peak oil is nonsense, and that we'll get oil from other planets if necessary (does he realize that one of the largest single one-time blow-offs of helium was launching the Saturn V rockets? Oh I forgot, we'll get helium-3 from the moon. Suuure.). Probably a lot of good info will be available at the Nov 2015 World Helium conference, but the registration was a bit stiff at $1300... 21% of world helium is used for MRI. 8% is used on party balloons. Burning through all our helium *is* strangely like 19th century logging. Dance monkeys dance.

    [Aug12,'15] Some of the yahoos over at zerohedge should read Gail Tverberg's latest: How economic growth fails. A key quote: "When civilizations collapsed in the past, a major cause was diminishing returns leading to declining wages for non-elite workers", which led to them buying less stuff, which led to diminishing returns. Seems like every other article over there these days is about how a minimum wage will kill companies, without the most basic realization that lower wages mean that people buy less stuff, which would be what companies make. That's Henry Ford 101. Continuing upward weath transfer won't help (each rich person can only buy so many carz). Then for home-school college, the zerohedge guys could be introduced to the concept that world energy consumption and GDP almost perfectly track each other (graph from her article), with world energy consumption the leading indicator. Kilowatts bat next-to-last (of course, it's mother nature that bats last -- guy macpherson). To end upbeat, the US installed a whole lot of new wind power in 2014 (take that, Euan Mearns).

    [Aug12,'15] Zerohedge points up this muckraking letter to the editor by a retired geologist living in Silverton, Colorado more or less predicted there would be some kind of mine overflow disaster, but then zerohedge conveniently neglected to provide the crucial backstory helpfully added by Paveway IV in the zerohedge comments. The Sunnyside mining company decided to stop treating toxic drainage from one of their abandoned in 1991 silver mines and plugged up the mine with concrete. This caused the toxic water in the mine to back up to a higher altitude mine. When the EPA plugged *that* one, the tall head of toxic water (because sulfide metal deposits turn water into sulphuric acid which dissolves heavy metals) finally broke free after some minor digging, sending a toxic bolus of orange water into the Animas river. Don't forget that we need silver for, among other things, making photoelectric cells. I suppose this is small news compared to the astonishing spectacle of Fox Nooz' Roger Ailes apologizing to Donald Trump; or the fact that *hedge funds* are buying California farmland to (get somebody to) plant pistachio and almond groves, which demand massive amounts of water from the rapidly depleting aquifers (2000 foot deep wells vs. the old 200 foot deep wells), because those crops are 10x as profitable as what was growing there before. What could possibly go wrong?

    [Aug13,'15] The parallel dumb-phone-ification and model-year-ification of Mac OS X 10 and Windows 10 *and* Linux is depressing. Both expert and non-expert computer users rely on an enormous non-verbal, non-conscious base of visuomotor arm, hand, and finger actions. The enormity of the state space only originally became obvious to me when I first started to do serious user interface programming in the early 90's. When I watched people try to use my programs and immediately get to parts of the state space I hadn't sealed off (because I had never gone there myself, since I unconsciously new what the goal was), I realized just how complex the tree of possible actions that I had already non-verbally learned was. Initially, competing software companies used this 'inertia of the basal ganglia' to seal in market share; the startup cost to learning a new pile of key and interface widget action bindings was enough to seal in a buyer (my 60-year-old brain has had real trouble adapting to Inkscape after having used certain vector graphics-related key combinations since Illustrator 3 :-} ). To some extent, the dumb-phone-ification of desktop and laptop systems is an example of this -- utterly misdirected since I don't ever want to touch the screen when I am programming or writing (using a mouse is bad enough! imagine the chronic shoulder problems that constantly touching a desktop screen would cause!). But as processor speeds have flattened out and computer applications have been built out, there is less real need for change. What great new features can be introduced into an email reader or a web browser or a word processing program or a vector graphics program? MacWrite and MacDraw had already roughed out several of the the main features of the last two kinds of applications more than 30 years ago in the mid-80's! Now that incremental improvements in these main applications have essentially been finished, instead what we are witnessing is regression (e.g., in Mac OS X, useful features present in Pages '09 were removed in more recent versions to make it more dumb-phone-like, forcing many users into downgrading, which luckily was still possible). Loss of useful function is bad enough. But a more insidious development is ever more pervasive model-year-like changes. One small irritating example from recent Mac OS X is what happens when you grab a group of files to move them. As you are click-dragging, the files rearrange themselves into an evenly spaced cluster. This disturbing uncaused-by-the-user movement of something you are metaphorically holding visually draws attention from the intended target of the click-drag, not to mention wasting programmer time, adding unnecessary software complexity, and wasting CPU cycles. The files are supposed to be inert, not struggling prey items. Despite considerably more CPU power and memory (four 3GHz cores w/16G RAM), the practical responsiveness of the interface is *worse* in a number of cases than a 1990 model NeXT workstation with a 25Mhz single-core processor with 16M of RAM (that's roughly 500x the available CPU cycles and 1000x the RAM). A small example, you say. But multiply that by innumerable similar idiocies and you've got some real wastage. Many other model-year-ification changes involve needless rearrangement of interface elements (e.g., new location of buttons, or new message formatting in emailers). And finally, instead of fixing existing subsystems, new parallel, unfinished, subsystems are rapidly introduced and then partially fixed up as they fail (are debugged) in the hands of users. This sure looks like we are on the way to a Tainter-esque collapse from having to maintain too much needless complexity. That won't happen next year. But I'm not looking forward to another 20 years of additional complexification, not to mention penetration of software into devices. By then, as energy constriction becomes more apparent, and the energy cost of all this stoopid stuff becomes more apparent (0.1 kWh per google search equals a human pedaling a bike for an hour), perhaps people will regain some common sense. Or maybe not.

    [Aug17,'15] As we watch the spectacle of the race between economic contraction and energy depletion (contraction is winning this month with respect to oil, which is now experiencing an oversupply 'glut' that has gotten up to a staggering... 3%), it is easy to forgot just how much energy *did* get used (the 97%). In the case of crude oil, about 85 million barrels a day, for the world, last year (which is roughly where we have been for the last 10 years plus or minus a few percent). Since one barrel of oil is about equivalent to a year of labor by one human slave laborer (my calculation here, focusing on the half-a-barrel of gasoline that comes out of a barrel of oil), that means every day this year, humans effectively got the equivalent of a *year's* worth of labor out of 85 million slaves -- per day. On a yearly basis, just for oil, that's like having more than 30 billion full-time slaves -- 4.4 full-time slaves per every human on the planet, including the poorest. In the US, with higher per capita oil consumption, each person had the equivalent of 26 slaves, just from oil. Since oil is 44% of the fossil fuel used in the US, each person in the US effectively had 60 full-time human-equivalent fossil fuel slaves, if you include oil, natural gas, and coal. These effective slaves were used to pump water, grow food, light homes, make roads and things, transport things, and of course, get fossil fuel energy for next year. Energy slaves can be used for many things that real human slaves can't do, like pushing a 2-ton car down the freeway at 60 miles per hour (that takes the equivalent of about two hundred 100-watt human slaves). Look out and see the world as it is. It seems highly unlikely that we will be getting this much effective slave labor from fossil fuels in 30 years, and given current growth rates in renewable energy, highly unlikely that increases in renewable energy will have made up for the loss of fossil fuels. Renewable wind and solar energy goes to almost zero almost every day, and are seaonal, so they require dispatchable fossil fuel backup generating capability (nuclear reactors can't be turned on and off this fast) that can bear the full grid load. It takes 900 tons of material to build 1 windmill. Even if you are not as much of a skeptic as energyskeptic, that's a *lot* of stuff to make, move around, install, service, and replace. Virtually all of that making and moving and servicing is currently done using fossil fuel. It's amazing to me that people can't bring themselves to even mention this elephant in the room. Fossil fuel depletion is likely to hit us hard before (fossil-fuel-caused) climate change does (and before windmills are made, erected, and serviced using mostly windmill-generated power). I suppose a silver lining is that less energy will make it harder for humans to make artificially intelligent weapons. As in the case of too many humans, the idea that laws would be able to stop intelligent weapon use is fantasy -- either by 'terr'ist scary drug lords', like the article above ridiculously blathers on about, or by the military and the police and corporations, which it carefully whitewashes. Only less energy and less food can do that, not laws. For over a hundred years, the military on the move has consisted mostly of fossil fuel by weight. A 42 gallon barrel of oil makes 19.5 gallons of gasoline and 4 gallons of jet fuel (kerosine) (among other things). At peak thrust, an F-15 jet burns 25 gallons of jet fuel per minute (that minute of fuel required 6 barrels of oil to make). A B-52 burns 3000 gallons of fuel an hour (that hour of fuel required 750 barrels of oil to make). 'Force projection' is almost exclusively 'fossil fuel projection'. The Germans lost WWII largely because they ran out of fuel at the end. The elephant in the room is that fuel for the whole world is going to get tight in 15 years, and seriously depleted in 30. The next hundred years will be utterly different than the previous hundred.

    [Aug25,'15] The money people got themselves into a tight spot yesterday, but the HFT's probably did well on the snapback. In the past decade, companies have spent almost $7 trillion buying their own stock. This is called 'investment'. Perhaps this is finally winding down. The remaining oil deposits could care less about these machinations. A little over 1000 gigabarrels of usefully net-energy-positive oil is left ('usefully' means at least 2 net units for an investment of 1 unit, or EROEI=3). This remaining total is very roughly equivalent to how much we have used so far (second goes faster). We will get that remaining stuff out and burn it all. At our current burn rate, this would get used up in only 15 years (by 2030). However, we should be able to spread this out over at least 25-30 years by conservation, including 'conservation by other means' (i.e., not being able to afford it). 'Conservation by other means' of oil *hasn't* happened yet in the US in this economic cycle. The plunge in oil prices that started in 2014, probably initiated in China, has seen a large increase in miles driven in the US (Fed graphs of oil price and US miles driven here). It is true that some of this might reflects getting priced out on rent and having to drive further to work. But to see an unambiguous example of 'conservation by other means', look back on that same pair of graphs to 2008-2009. In 2009, oil price had plunged after the 2008 spike, but driving continued to decrease. That was because people couldn't afford to buy the cheaper gasoline in 2009. The price was the same as it is today. By mid-late 2016, the US may again be conserving, involuntarily.

    [Sep01,'15] If oil stays low for another few months, it could cause great difficulty for banks involved in oil price hedging. It is highly ironic that *low* oil prices, virtually at the moment of peak oil, is what might might blow up the economic system this particular time, delivering another public bail outs for bankers. As Michael Hudson says, the banks were bailed out, resulting in all the gains since 2008 going to the 1%, but the 'debt tumor' was left in place. Now they are coming for everybody's pension. We need an anti-banker war in the US, not a race war. We need banker's heads on pikes on the Tower bridge. People, keep your eye on the ball!

    [Sep05,'15] Sebastian Thrun, the pioneer of Google’s autonomous cars "wants to teach people how to face the future" in the Economist. Reading things like this, creates a quick chain of thought in my head. First, I think back to how he got his start in neural nets, originally inspired, ironically, by trying to make pale imitations of biological networks. Then, I fast-forward to one of the Google exec's TED talks about how the killer app for self driving cars will be better transportation for blind people, 'which is so much better than having to use public transportation because it's all run by a friendly giant corporation'. Then I think, 'but if we only had more energy and time, couldn't things eventually work out in a different, more humane way?'. Then, 'what if there actually *were* enough energy to let these maniacs get to where they are trying to go, and *then* we ran low?'. Then I think, 'there isn't enough energy left, and this makes me happy and sad at the same time'.

    [Sep13,'15] Came across this accurate 9-month-old article about the complexification and decline of Mac OS X. Tainter-esque, sadly. When older stuff works better in a virtual machine better than the new stuff in native, not a good sign...

    [Sep16,'15] There are more than 1 billion internal combustion engine cars in the world (had a few words with some of their fine pilots on my wet cycle ride home tonight). After years of development, and despite the probable arrival of peak all liquids this year (peak crude oil [45 API gravity and lower] already happened in 2005-2006), there are less than 1/1000 that many electric cars today. I'd say "better late than never" but we probably have only 10-15 years to ramp up real quick (double the size of the grid, mine more lithium than has ever been mined in history, etc) to avoid "never". "Never" is what happens when net energy decline makes people desperately try to keep existing things working rather than spending a lot of money (=energy) investing in designing and making new things. In 10-15 years, the US managed to improve its manufacturing methods when confronted with better designed and manufactured Japanese cars. There is a lot of current motivation. Here is a chart from Rune Likvern showing the exstimated debt position of tight oil companies in the Bakken, North Dakota (the Bakken accounts for a little over 1% of total world oil production/usage). I remember writing about an earlier version of his chart in late 2013 when everybody was insanely bullish on tight oil, pointing out that tight oil companies were seriously in the hole and would need years to reach break even. As you can see from the chart, the tight oil companies have instead gone deeper into debt since their previous 2013 low point (even I didn't think it would be this bad -- I assumed they would at least get back to zero). So many things still remain possible as we burn through our usual 90+ million barrels of oil on this fine day. But every day, some possibilities contract.

    [Sep28,'15] Just saw the new Everest movie, which brought back memories of reading a paperback as a teenager in the 1960's about a climb of Annapurna. Perhaps a false memory but I seem to remember a scene where several roped-together people fell off one side of a ridge so the other guys jumped off the opposite edge, saving everybody. By 1996 (events in the movie), it was getting pretty crowded on Everest. But that was nothing compared to now. This graph from the Everest wikipedia article of the number of people reaching the summit is a straightforward exponential. On 23 May 2010, an insane 169 people reached the summit of Everest -- in one day. What is it about exponential that you humans don't understand?! [Update: nobody got to Everest this season because it was so stormy!]

    [Oct06,'15] Well, this FED graph of reverse repos (with BASE/narrow money supply as a reference) sure looks like something went haywire starting in 2014 and got worse in September (really big spike on the right). As I described it above, 'reverse repos' are where the poor Fed "pawns" its assets (jewelry) to big banks (the pawn shop!), who give the Fed 'spending money' (the Fed needs money?). This allows the Fed to give those banks even more free money -- as interest on the securitised 'loan' the big bank is making to the Fed in return for the Fed's 'jewelry' (to guarantee the big banks that the Fed will pay them back, hah!). But the banks can also use the Fed's 'jewelry' as collateral for other loans, so they could show bank regulators that they are not bankrupt, even tho they basically are. The spike every 3 months and the big Jan 1 spikes suggests this has to do with quarterly and annual reports. Some of this could be the beginnings of fallout from the subprime fracking crash finally hitting the fan. Or some hidden (deceptively called "over the counter") derivatve bets gone bad. The y-axis scales are a bit confusing. The 'reverse repos' are smaller than BASE, but are now approaching a full 15% of BASE (the reverse repos are now up to $0.65 trillion dollars). BASE, the 'narrow money supply', which used to consist mainly of cash and short term deposits, now consists (since 2007-2008) mostly of 'excess reserves' that the Fed is paying banks void-generated interest on (they are 'excess' because the money got there from the Fed, but then there was nobody to give out a loan to, so the banks instead 'loaned' the Fed-generated money back to the Fed, in return for Fed-generated interest -- very similar to the reverse repos). Did I mention that the misleadingly named "Fed" is actually a collection of private banks? If a few more people knew how all this actually worked, they might not be ripping off just the suits. On the positive side, these spikes can probably continue for another couple of years without anything blowing up.

    [Oct28,'15] I watched a bunch of US teevee this week after a several year break. It was an interesting experience. For the first few days, I had a jarring feeling of having been transported into an utterly alternate reality, like I had gone to an alien planet. The comprehensive side-effects warnings in the incessant drug adds played like weird SNL parody to me. But after a week of nightly pummelling, the repeated commercial jingles got more familiar and pleasant-sounding and the peculiar repeated 'news' and 'sports' events somehow began to appear slightly more real and the side-effects warnings less comical. I think the critical factor over the next difficult 15 years will be just how long the video and internet feeds can be kept up and running smoothly indicating everything is 'OK'. Keeping the reality distortion field up will be critical to stability; as much as I might make fun of teevee, instability is not enjoyable (the median income of a worker in the US is only $30K, which makes it hard to cover rent, food, transportation, and electronic feed). But it seems somewhat unlikely to me that the feed can last without major glitches beyond 15 or so more years of sustained energy depletion. The current oil 'glut' is a tiny 1-2% oversupply, which means that 98-99% of the oil got sustainedly burned as usual, and as is obvious from the smoothly monotonically increasing Mauna Loa CO2 graph. The 'giant' 'traffic jam' of oil tankers in Texas is a mere day's worth of oil usage. Art Berman had a good article on oil prices here. The strong anticorrelation between the US dollar value and Brent prices in his Fig. 5 is something I only noticed about 4 years ago while fiddling around with Fed graphs. This suggests that when oil prices spike back up probably in 2016 (Art Berman thinks they will stay low for longer), the strong (petro) dollar winds will die down. As I have often said, the world economy needs more smoothing, not less! As Art Berman comments on his own article (comment #10) this kind of 'smoothing' seems to be happening. A good thing. I am always trying to think of 'synergies' :-} I went to a battery and bulb store to try to find a slide projector bulb (of course they didn't have any), but found instead zillions of cart batteries for old people, fat people, disabled people, old+fat+disabled people). There were still endless streams of 2-3 ton cars whizzing back and forth across the gigantic no-walking landscape of suburban Illinois. But one can hope that in 15 years, the battery store will have grown and there will be more battery operated bicycles and covered carts for younger people :-}

    [Nov02,'15] There is an excellent up-to-date presentation of Jevons paradox by Tim Garret here. The main points are, increased efficiency empirically results in an *accelerating* output of CO2 (N.B.: the world considered as a whole: reduced per capita US energy use merely reflects outsourcing of energy-intensive parts of the world economy to China). In order to stabilize CO2 emissions despite efficiency gains, decarbonization must occur as quickly as energy consumption grows. Today, this would require roughly the equivalent of one new nuclear plant worth of non-carbon energy (about 1 gigawatt) *per day*. This seems unlikely to occur. The other way to stabilize CO2 emissions is collapse. Bummer.

    [Nov19,'15] Between just 2009 and 2015, the sum of buybacks (companies buying their own stock) and dividends (payments to shareholders) as percentage of companies' net income has gone from about 60% to almost 120% (as in, companies spent more on buying their own stock than their net income, probably meaning they had to borrow money to buy their own stock). The result is companies are being hollowed out (80,000 jobs cut at HP) in order to pay rich people even more. This looks like the end stage of an overly greedy parasite of the kind that Darwinian evolution routinely eliminates (evolution selects for sustainable parasites :-} ). Unfortunately, the unit of selection these days is the whole world.

    [Dec01,'15] US light tight oil guys (frackers) went into debt with the expectation that oil would stay above $80. Instead of digging out of debt as production has ramped up, $40 oil has resulted in debt for them *increasing*. This size of problem is at least comparable and probably bigger than the subprime bubble ($1 trillion in subprime and Alt-A loans) that set off the last economic rupture in 2008. Things are still levitating along, Wile E. Coyote style. Given the typical 6-month lookahead, it seems unlikely that the system will be able to withstand $40 oil for another year without a catastrophe. So here's hoping oil prices go back up before that. People talk big about the big bad oil companies (they *are* big and bad -- and the biggest ones will make it through no prob); but then people drive, and eat food and use stuff -- all requiring a lot of oil. On the topic of the demand side of supply and demand, I have wondered to what extent hedge funds and other money manipulation 'services' might be affecting oil prices. Here is an article citing some of the main numbers. About $5 billion a day in oil actually bought for use (85-90 million barrels a day), which is about $1.3 trillion a year. There is about $0.3 trillion in commodity trading assets that could be used for oil price speculation. This suggests that commodity traders could affect prices in the short term (e.g., could account for 10% of demand on one particular day in a market where the current average 'glut' is only 1-2%). However, just based on assets, it is difficult to see how they could consistently push prices in one or the other direction over the medium term (6 months) given the size of the market for actually-used oil. The function of the hedge funds seems to be exactly the opposite of what they are advertized to do -- that is, they wildly magnify market swings so that a 1% mismatch in supply and demand results in a 50% price swing. But since a lot of derivative bets involve much larger than usual leverage, the author's conclusion is less certain. Here is a clear explanation of fractional reserves and the extension to essentially zero reserves for derivatives written by a gold bug (but so what).

    [Dec02,'15] Since I saw the recent Everest, I read this account of how the computer graphics for it was done. Every scene on the mountain was shot in front of a green screen in a studio in the UK. Each single final video frame (48 per sec in 3D) of the mountain scenes then took 8 to 16 hours to render (i.e., 200 to 400 years of CPU time if the film was done on one computer). The best comment was the first by AndyS: "Excellent write up. It brings to mind the sketch from That Mitchell & Webb Sound about Doctor Who: Not really worth it all, is it?"

    [Dec03,'15] These days, the world appears to be just one big 'training exercise': "The call first came in at 10:59 a.m. of multiple shots fired from the area of 1365 S. Waterman Ave. The Police Department’s SWAT team was training nearby and was suited, ‘ready to roll’ and responded rapidly, Lt. Richard Lawhead said.' -- KTLA report, Dec 2. At this rate, if you see a 'training exercise', I'd go the other way...

    [Dec04,'15] The Matrix 'reality distortion' field has achieved a new level with 100 'reporters' overseen by 'Anderson Cooper' ransacking 'muslim items' and 'evidence' at the 'crime scene'. Clearly, this is what the market will now bear (tho I stand amazed). A majority of the US public supports drone bombings. At this rate, how long will it be until there are real life and death gladiator games in the homeland, just like old times? While studying the brain, I have overrated human intelligence. Ed Hutchins was right. Most things we attribute to individual cognitive intelligence are actually due to 'situated cognition', which relies on the arrangement of things in the environment, external to the cognitive agent, like the teevee sewer and 'shoot-and-cry' mind-training moovies for liberals. That's a seriously dangerous environment, will robinson.

    [Dec09,'15] John Titus' has a good youtube presentation here on the Fed's policies starting in 2008. Since 2008, I have blathered on endlessly about the unprecedented increase in the BASE money supply, which was entirely due to an increase in excess reserves, which in turn was largely caused by the Fed paying interest on excess reserves deposited back with the Fed (now 90% of reserves!), because it was such an obvious 'new bad thing'. But because of all the jargon -- esp. with regard to the variously named bailout components -- I still had trouble distilling this down to the main points. The critical point is that there is a virtual mirror image of the increase in excess reserves in the equal and opposite drop in *net* lending (deposits versus reserves). That is, loans that would have been made to people and businesses have instead been made back to the Fed. This is obviously hugely deflationary for the real world (withdraws money from the real world). The most criminal part of this wealth transfer is that the main component of the 'assets' bought by the Fed from banks were worthless, fraudulent mortgage backed securities. It is difficult to see how these full-price purchases by the Fed will ever be 'unwound'. So, the bottom line summary in seven easy parts is: (1) large banks behaved completely criminally, generating fraudulent mortgage back securities, (2) this lead to a crash in the price of these 'toxic assets' in late 2007 because the criminal banks became suspicious of each other, (3) the Fed rescued the big banks by buying these worthless securities at full price, (4) banks then *also* began to get paid interest for excess reserves in 2008, which consisted mostly of the money they got from selling these worthless securities to the Fed, (5) a horrible side effect of this, virtually identical to what happened in the Great Depression, was that lending to the real economy was throttled (in the 1930's, it was from regulators *requiring* larger reserves, as opposed to this time, where money was simply printed and handed to the banks!), (6) the banks used their earnings to pay themselves record bonuses for a job 'well done', and finally (7) nobody went to jail. Since 2002, I had long expected that there would be trouble at peak oil. Peak *crude* oil occurred in 2006 or 2008. Peak 'all liquids' crude + condensate + natural gas liquids + tar sands + fracking + biodiesel + ethanol) is probably now (2015). But I *certainly* had not even the vaguest inkling of the level of accompanying moral decay possible. But the moral decay of the upper classes eventually filters down. Bummer. I guess this is really nothing new if you look at the first stunning graph by Pavlina Tcherneva in this 2014 article describing income trends . [Dec12'15] David Stockman (yup) says here that along with the tiny increase in the Fed funds interest rate (currently around 0.12%, presumably going up to 0.25% on Dec 16), the Fed will also increase the rate of interest which the Fed pays on big bank excess reserves (it currently pays 0.25% on $2.5 trillion in excess reserves deposited with the Fed). Stockman also suggests that reverse repos (see above -- the Fed 'pawning' it assets to big banks) will be increased (this is merely another way of giving money to big banks). It amazes me how long these kinds of incredible, criminal hacks can continue without causing a complete breakdown! The idea is that if the Fed *doesn't* increase interest on excess reserves deposited with the Fed -- so that it is higher than the interest on that same money that the Fed created at the moment the loan was made to the the big banks -- then the big banks would have to make more risky loans (i.e., to real people and businesses). They wouldn't want to do that. Imagine if the news assholes actually reported things like this, in plain English. The man on the street would have a tough time believing it.

    [Dec15'15] A new study of about 150,000 births has reported that there is a 20% increased chance of autism (autism spectrum disorders) if a pregnant mother is depressed. However, if a pregnant mother takes antidepressants (SSRI's) during the second and third trimester, there is an *additional* 87% increased chance of autism. First, do no harm. This certainly suggests that it would be a good idea to treat maternal depression with something other than SSRI's.

    [Dec24'15] As expected, the Fed 'raised interest rates' on Dec 16. What the 'news' tells you is that the Fed raised the overnight interest rate charged to big banks (though most people won't understand the meaning of that). But there are two main things the 'news' will never mention, which are much more important. First, most big banks don't need to borrow (and therefore use the new raised Fed funds interest rate) because they have massive, historically unprecedented excess reserves. Second, the Fed also raised two other key interest rates to keep them both higher than the raised Fed funds rate -- the rate of interest paid on the huge, historically unprecendented excess reserves, which are deposited with the Fed (new policy inaugurated in 2008), and the rate of interest paid on reverse repos (this is when the Fed 'pawns' its assests to big banks in return for a big-bank loan to the Fed (!), which is basically a parallel method of paying interest to big banks; it is mainly used for quarterly reports to show that big banks aren't insolvent because they have 'pawned' Fed assets on their books). For interest on excess reserves, the Fed therefore just increased the payments to big banks from $6.5 to $13 billion a year. The Fed basically levied a new $40 per head per year tax on Americans on Dec 16, with the proceeds to be paid entirely to big banks. The new policy merely transfers yet more money from the bottom 90% to the top 0.1% and does nothing to stimulate lending to regular people and businesses.

    [Dec28'15] Zerohedge has nice article showing what the Fed-driven, buy-your-own-stock-on-credit 'markets' have become -- a complete cheating sham. The pics shows high speed communications lasers previously used in US defense applications, here adapted for high frequency trading. This bascially allows better front-running. The high speed traders -- which now often make up a majority of the 'market' (!) -- make many trades per *millisecond*, taking advantage of tiny price differences caused by ever-so-slightly slower trading programs. Allowing this is utterly preposterous. An easy way to fix it would be to introduce a small temporal jitter into each trade (e.g., when a trade is made, the time at which it is executed could be randomly jittered by up to a second in order to give traders with less-than-military-grade laser communications an even chance). Note that the laser systems are replacing private microwave link systems (on the same microwave tower), themselves only installed a year or two ago, to beat high speed optical ethernet cables. The idea that paying for military-grade communications lasers in order to front-run other 'people' (actually, mostly other high speed computer trading systems) is somehow 'market capitalism' is laughable. This is simply front-running, something that has always been defined as cheating. This is not even a casino. This is how firms can manage to impossibly win every market day, siphoning off money from the rest of the world that actually makes things and provides services. Companies raising the value of their own stock by using borrowed money for stock buybacks is mere parasitism. I wish I could like humans more. As Cognitive Dissonance has said, 'at least I'm still saying "I wish"' :-} These kind of 'traders' won't stop 'trading' until the fires in Rome reach their power supplies (which tyler has helpfully photographed :-0 ).

    [Dec31'15] A nice demonstration of the unique properties of fossil fuel is the recent cancellation of the Darpa 'bigdog' project. The kickable 4-legged pack robot was finally detached from its electrical power supply walking on treadmills in the lab. The handlers managed to get it to run around parking lots and lumber through grassy fields carrying a load. The catch, however, audible in the first outside videos, was that they had to use fossil fuel and an internal combustion enging in order to get reasonable energy density untethered. A Prius NiMH battery has only 1/45 the energy density of gasoline. Lithium batteries are better (perhaps 1/30 the energy density of gasoline), but still a far cry from the energy density of a tank of gas. The untethered pack 'dog' driven by a 2-cycle chainsaw engine just makes waaay too much noise. The multi-megawatt robots endlessly animated in sci-fi videos are also waaaay too quiet in operation. They should actually sound like real military hardware. A jet fighter can put out over 30 megawatts when it accelerates (cf. a 747, which continuously puts out 65 megawatts at cruising altitude). The only thing a battery for a theoretical jet fighter would be good for would be as a weight to drop, a la Monty Python...

    [Jan08'16] The black-holing of Ian Murdock's death is sure creepy. Not a peep about it in some places I would expect!

    [Jan11'16] Microsoft now makes more money from Android (via a $15 license fee for each Android device from software patents) than it does from Windows. Fondle slabs forever!

    [Jan20'16] Sometimes the utter absurdity of modern life pops into focus. In this case, in the form of leaked environmental impact statements (!) (PDF1 and PDF2) from Navy Seals who want to use 68 often-scenic sites in Washington state to practice 'combat swimming', simulated attacks with simulated weapons on buildings, and beach landings in National Forests with the beautiful Olympic mountains in the background. The military -- carefully respecting their environmental impact, while running war games in some of the most beautiful parts of the homeland -- utterly absurd. Remind me not to hike up there any more. I wouldn't want to stumble upon some 'insertion'.

    [Feb04'16] Banks sending out notices of reduced deposit insurance protection and laws that explain that your deposits are actually loans to banks that might not be repaid is a bit spooky. But amazingly with the incredible tension surrounding ridiculously low oil prices, nothing seems to have outright snapped yet. It is true that the stock market has not really started to drop in earnest, and is likely to do so in the next year. But may the halcyon days continue for a while longer :-} I'm still counting on bail-ins not arriving in the US/EU for another 5 or 10 years. The 1-2% oil 'glut' will subside in 2016 and price will snap back up when there is an equally tiny undersupply of 1-2%. But, the daily oil (daily all liquids) will still be 80-90 million barrels a day for another 5-10 years, and hopefully there won't be massive debt defaults for another 5-10 years. As Dave Cohen just wrote, "We're near the end of an unhappy exponential curve". But look on the bright side of life: we're not yet on the dire downslope yet! Meanwhile, back in the alternate reality, I was amazed to find out how high the average Americans' television viewing remains (almost 5 hours per day); Brit's are similar (almost 4 hours per day). The reality distortion field is still up! People are paying attention to the preposterous 'election'/circus (and here in the UK, too). In the US, the average percentage usage of human waking hours breaks down as: 23% work, 18% TV (1/5 of waking hours), 8% eating/drinking, 5% shopping, and 4% housework. However, young people definitely watch less traditional TV. Over the past 5 years, 18-24 year olds have dropped their traditional TV viewing from just over 3 hours a day to just over 2 hours a day; however, they made it up to their 5 hours a day screen quota with their portable devices. Not for nothing that Rupert Murdoch bought a 5% ($70 million) stake in Vice in 2013. Heh.

    [Feb05'16] Here (or as easier to read PDF) is a useful analysis of the current costs of battery grid storage by a not disinterested party (a lawyer for large energy companies -- mostly fossil fuel). The conclusion is that electric battery storage is currently more expensive (translated: uses more energy than digging coal). Duh, of course it does! That means that total energy usage will have to go down as we run out of coal. We are already down to digging up pretty crappy coal, just like with oil -- but despite that, it's still cheaper *net energy wise* than renewables plus battery storage. What the article misses is that we should nevertheless install renewables plus batteries (and pumped hydro and compressed air and flywheels) anyway, and plan to get by using less energy and less reliable energy. It makes me laugh when lawyers and business people argue against physics and geology. Of *course* renewable plus battery is more expensive now, and forever, you dufus! Of *course* we will eventually run low on even crappy coal and it will eventually get more energy-expensive (reach lower net energy) than solar/wind/batteries/pumped hydro! Just what is it about "finite earth" that you guys don't get?

    [Feb06'16] "The ultimate cost of protecting the privileges of the few at the expense of the many is the dissolution of the social order that enabled the rule of the privileged few." -- Charles Hugh Smith.


    May 29, 2016 (earlier: scroll back)

    [Feb14'16] I had a great time giving a DNA and language talk on Friday (main points covered in recent Phil Trans Roy Soc PDF here), then we had a very nice not-too-expensive French meal with 5 slow small courses on Saturday, then our flat heating system broke, so things are very cozy now! My worried glances toward 2030 remain, but the big bottleneck is still a ways off :-} I think of a comment I made here once years ago, something like, no dictator *or* revolutionary will ever have powerdown as their stated platform -- and that will be true all the way down the downslope of power. I suppose I should have included myself in there. "Less than enthusiastic" by Paul Heft kinda nails it, unfortunately, for us overfed overlords, looking uncomfortably forward.

    [Mar17'16] Drugs are now 12% of total wholesale sales in the US. Not surprising, judging from a few days of watching US teevee. Also today, Google is looking to sell Boston Dynamics after getting some blowback from the public creeped out by the Boston Dynamics videos (Google after all is an advertising company and is best positioned to measure the public), together supposedly with Google's estimation that there was no obvious thing that Boston Dynamics could make that would make money for Google 5 years from now (similar considerations -- creep factor [slaves running around picking packages driven by verbal countdowns], no profits -- don't seem to have stopped Amazon!). Google is afraid the sheeple will associate the 'not-cute' Boston Dynamics robots and their new 'cute' self-driving carz.

    [Mar28'16] "People who are between 20 and 35, basically they're surrounded by a soup of algorithms telling them everything from where to get Korean barbecue to who to date. That's a very subtle form of shifting control. It's sort of soft fascism in a way, all watched over by these machines of loving grace" -- John Markoff. It's so much better when your control is "subtle", and your fascism "soft". Currently, the number of people who expect an energy shortage in the next five years has hit an all time low -- 30% down from 60% just a few years ago. The number of people that think that the energy situation in the US is very serious is similarly at a record low: 28% (versus almost 50% in the 1980's). Guess information about energy (see for example, Tad Patzek's recent article here) -- the very thing that powers all the 'machines of loving grace' -- isn't being effectively delivered by those very same machines when they dispense directions to the Korean barbecue (information about energy is definitely not 'cute'). Amazing given the geological 'facts on the ground' and the relative ease of finding out about them via the internet.

    [Apr07'16] Bankers have a way with words. Here's one (embedded Bloomberg video) whose parasitic vulture business is buying the carcasses of crashed companies on the cheap at the end of a credit cycle, describing why oil compaines haven't quite yet run out cash (and hence aren't yet an appealing meal to him): "When will they run out of cash? when their hedges burn off". Unlike the public mentioned in the last post, he fully expects the 'hedges to burn off' in the not too distant future.

    [Apr08'16] John Weber has calculated that it takes about 600 barrels of oil -- equivalent to about 1000 MW-hours of energy -- just to make the steel reinforced concrete base of a 2.5 megawatt wind turbine. Such a turbine can generate approximately 4,000 megawatt hours of energy per year. This looks pretty good so far (the base costs only 1/4 of a year of the future power output of the turbine). After adding in energy to make the rest of the device, energy to make energy storage (e.g., pumped hydro -- so the turbine can be a drop in replacement for storable fossil fuel), energy for service, the net energy return is reduced, but still looks handily net positive. There is no place on earth yet where renewable-based energy systems actually feedback a substantial portion of the power into the industrial systems (mining, cement, steel, transport, manufacturing, maintenance) that are capable of creating them. I hope it's possible. The best way to find out would be to try to set something up like this on a small scale, after the fashion of the failed Biosphere II experiments from the early 1990's. It would be expensive and would look like a boondoggle (like Biosphere). However, I think it could provide highly valuable real world experience with trying to do this before we have no choice.

    [Apr09'16] Highly cool successful retrieval of the Falcon first stage (landed itself back onto an ocean barge). I say this even though I think manned space exploration is an utter waste of money -- this is exactly what robots should be used for! not the military!

    [Apr12'16] Greg had a great comment on an Albert Bates post, "Too big to scale" (the comment was here at a repost of the Bates article at doomstead diner): "All civilisations reach the pinnacle of their stupidity before collapsing. It's a very long list but The Cloud is it for me. The analogy I like goes something like this. I'll cut your legs off but give you a nice new motorised wheel chair and you will never have to walk again. All this for a small monthly fee. Can't you see all the advantages over legs? What's wrong with you. No legs is the way to go. PS if you don't pay us our monthly fee your wheelchair will stop working."

    [Apr15'16] The Fed, a privately-owned institution despite the misleading name, wrote this to JPMorgan Chase, holder of $2 trillion in assets and $50 trillion in derivatives (N.B.: entire US GDP is $18 trillion): We have identified a deficiency in your wind-down plan which if not properly addressed could "pose serious adverse effects to the financial stability of the United States." Wind-down plans are what banks would do if they failed (they haven't already?!). It's a bad sign when the pigmen start losing trust in each other. It's rather amazing that they trust each other at all.

    [Apr22'16] Overall economics numbers update: gross world product about $75 trillion, value of all land/property/goods about $225 trillion, notional value derivatives about $800-1000 trillion. There is the idea that the notional value of derivatives is irrelevant because losers will pay winners, cancelling them out. Given basic world numbers, it is obvious that this won't be possible. What has happened is equivalent to 50 people taking out a mortgage for the full value of the same house.

    [Apr30'16] The next big helium event will probably occur when the US revisits the idea of stopping the sell-off of their strategic helium reserve (established 1925) at below market prices. This policy since 2005 has had the effect of depressing helium prices and helium exploration. The last time the US threatened to stop this, there was an outright helium shortage (e.g., the Queen Square MEG machine was shut down for a few months in 2014). When this happens again in 2019, there will probably be another price spike and more shortages, perhaps longer lived this time. Back in 2014, several MRI manufacturers (e.g., Siemens) temporarily cancelled their 7T programs. But these have been reinstated in the interim (businesses must operate on a 1-2 year look-ahead). The *best* 'helium' wells contain 0.3-1% helium (the rest is methane and other short chain hyrdocarbons). Fracked gas wells contain virtually no helium since the caps of those shale formations are not tight enough to hold it in (which should not be confused with the fact that the formations themselves are too tight to allow the larger methane and oil to flow out freely without fracking -- helium is really small and diffuses into space when it escapes into the atmosphere). The 2019 helium price spike and possible shortage will likely increase helium exploration in a manner similar to the 2008 spike in oil prices precipitated fracking. That may result in a temporary helium renaissance around 2021-22. For example, there are useful concentrations of helium in gas wells in Qatar and eastern Siberia, similar to the great original helium finds in Texas and Oklahoma. However, helium is roughly on the same depletion curve as natural gas, and so I expect it will begin its permanent downslope after the Great Helium Bubble of 2020, probably starting around 2025.

    [May04'16] From an article by Mike Rosenberg: in the US, from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on jobs in the media, in 2000, there were 66K news reporters and 129K public relations people. 15 years later, in 2015, there were 46K news reporters and 218K public relations people. That is, we went from 2 PR people per reporter to almost 5 PR people per reporter in just 15 years. Can you say singularity? This is a general phenomenon well beyond the 'nooz'. In one of the academic departments I work at, there was an absolutely soul destroying presentation from a PR person (an 'impact officer') who had recently been hired by the university. I felt sorry for the person, who was a former academic. They didn't say anything horrible; just that we should spend more time on PR and less on research. The administrative/teaching staff ratio at universities in the US/EU/UK has gradually but inexorably increased over the past 30 years, with administration now above half everywhere and showing no sign of reducing its suicidal host-destroying growth. Another recent example was the launch of Sea Hero Quest this week, an online video game funded by an 11M euro grant to 'help dementia research'. 200K pounds of the 11M euro grant went to a researcher to support a post-doc for several years to study demented and non-demented brains at the centre here; 150K pounds from that same grant went to a famous youtuber for his one-hour appearance at the launch event in London this week. It's getting harder to strip off the soylent beer goggles.

    [May05'16] It is amusing to see polls reporting that 20% of republicans will vote for Hillary rather than Trump. Don't get distracted by the circus: there would be very little effective difference between Trump and Hillary. Just as there was very little difference between Bush and Obama (wars, bankers, corporations, trade, policestate/Guantanamo, middle east policy, Russia). The only practical difference Obama made was that he silenced even the meek little peeps made by the 'left' against his virtually Bush-identical policies.

    [May11'16] The market capitalization of FaceBook is $0.3 trillion dollars which is equivalent to 2% of the entire US GDP of $17 trillion dollars. The business model is advertising and intelligence-gathering. Perhaps the second aspect explains why its valuation has remained so ridiculously high given that it does not seem to be making a lot of money from advertising. It's remarkable to think that the information in the giant database of a latter day Stasi has all been voluntarily uploaded.

    [May16'16] Here is a good 3-page PDF summarizing recent trends in car sales. Sales of hybrids peaked in 2013. This was probably not caused by increased sales of plug-ins. Rather, people have gone back to buying heavier, larger-engine cars because of lower gas prices (the main reasons the Prius is efficient are simply (1) small engine, (2) thin tires, (3) light weight, and (4) aerodynamic design -- the four main things that determine miles per gallon). Almost half a century after "Limits to Growth", right at peak all liquids, people as a group have decided to use more oil by buying heavier cars with larger engines. On days like this, I agree with Dave Cohen, as opposed to Chomsky, or my late father. It's not the system, but what people do. Despite high flown words about women and children emitted by a higher level symbol-using system that has been layered on top of the original DNA-and-protein symbol-using system (PDF), people are still fundamentally animals (that's not an insult). Like animals, they won't be able to do the globally right thing until their food supply starts to run low, and it's not low yet, and won't be for another 15 years.

    [May20'16] Just read the sequence of titles of these articles from the last two years of the 'mighty Wurlitzer' on Theranos. Toward the end, watch as the rats expertly depart the sinking ship that they *just finished building*. Language is great, but some days I prefer animals that don't have it :-Q

    [May26'16] In the course of setting and using up an iOS system for someone else, I am even more strongly struck by how infantilizating the touch devices are than I was even 5 years ago! Compared to using a real computer where I can see the file system and selection/manipulation is cleanly separated from linguistic input, it feels like a padded-cell panopticon. To see people helplessly stroking the mental walls of their little portable prisons as they 'experience' a dinner 'together' is amazing, and more amazing for being unnoticed. I have actually *tried* to make myself want one! But so far, I just can't like it ("I can't like it" was a friend's kid's response to being told she should eat her broccoli). The iPhone is currently 65% of Apple's revenue. This is how one actually votes. The trumpillory votes don't matter; what you buy, does.

    [May29,'16] Americans luv carz just as much as the British :-} Britons turn into angry Top Gear monkeys when they get into a car. All the proper, studious avoidance of gaze when one runs into a neighbor on the street goes out the window as they morph into rude, honking, speeding monsters (well, I suppose this is a cyclist talking). But back to the Americans. Here is a interactive StLouis FED graph of car loans and car miles. Car miles hit an unprecendented speed bump in 2008 when gasoline prices went up and then the recession hit. But starting in 2010, there was the beginning of a sudden upward trend in car-related debt, which went from $0.7 trillion to over $1 trillion in just 6 years (the only thing growing faster was student loans, which doubled for the same time period to $1.25 trillion). When gasoline prices dropped in 2014, there was an immediate increase in the slope of car miles. Apparently, nothing can match feeling of a 100,000 watt device. Divided by, I don't know, say 120 million people in the US, that's $2500 in extra car debt for each driver. That's 5% of median salary. This is how people have voted. The same thing has happened in the EU where SUVs have outsold other passenger vehicles in 2015 for the first time. I can appreciate RE's latest epic rant here; but I really do think people *could* have voted differently with respect to carz! Right at peak oil, dammit! Giving most of us monkeys cars will turn out not to have been a good idea.

    [May30,'16] Sometimes, it's important to step back and assess long term trends. Since 1960, spending on health care has gone up 5x as much as GDP, and a stunning 50x as much as wages. Part of this increase is explained by the fact that today, 33% of Americans are obese, while back in 1960, about 12% were obese (extremely obese went from 1% to 6% over the same time period). The average American is 24 pounds heavier than in 1960. Note that percentage of overweight, as opposed to obese Americans has remained *flat* from 1960 until now at about 33%. On the bright side, increase in obesity seem to be flattening, and health care spending has slightly tapered its rate of growth. The massive increase in obesity was probably a combination of mistaken health advice to stop eating fat, which partly motivated a sugar intake increase, coupled with 'weaponized' 'food' products, more driving, more desk, and more cell phone. It is easier to gain weight than to lose weight. Not good. So, I think we are going to need an even bigger health care. Of course, determining how overweight one is hardly requires 'health' care or a cholesterol test. But whatever. Health care *spending* will probably continue increasing -- for about 10-15 years. After that, it is going to have to shrink.

    [May31,'16] Continuing on the topic of health care, as friends and relations begin to get cancer, I often spend a few days doing binge reading on PubMed. It always takes a couple of hours to readjust to the jargon in the abstracts. I am always hopeful that there will be some new drug that is less toxic that only lightly 'taps' (damages) DNA just enough that apoptosis is triggered in the abnormal cells -- but without causing too much damage elsewhere, stimulating normal cells to excrete tumor promoting factors (!), and, well, being so carcinogenic. But the small average differences between regimens with adult metastatic cancer is disheartening (e.g, often just a few percent increase in 5 year survival). The amount of progress over the past 50 years of the war on cancer is not encouraging. Most of the studies don't have a pure no-treatment 'observation' arm, which means testing how much chemotherapy actually helped. At best there is: 'we gave both groups A', 'then we gave one group B and observed the other'. The differences between the different regimens measured in quality of life (QoL) are small or non-existent, and average survivorship curves that show just a few additional months of life are not encouraging. Then there is the fact that early diagnosis can contribute to curing things that wouldn't have required curing at all, which can inflate the 'cure' percentage, or catching things that do require curing later, but that eventually kill on the same schedule. Then toss in the fact that oncologists are the only doctors that are allowed to re-sell drugs to their patients at a mark-up (not allowed in many other countries), which can provide half of their salary. This ridiculous US rule creates an obvious pernicious incentive -- conscious or unconscious -- to prescribe the latest, most expensive, just-patentably-different drugs over off-patent, or non-patented drugs (e.g., food). The internet is filled with instructions on what *not* to eat, because food will 'interfere with chemotherapy'. The drugs are quite various. For example therea are the classic metabolic poisons (e.g., methotrexate interfering with folate metabolism), or something/anything that damages genetic material (e.g., nucleoside analogues, chemicals that interfere with microtubule assembly/disassembly involved in cell division, inhibitors of helicases (DNA untangling/twisting/unwtisting enzymes), chemicals that target various growth factors or inhibit vascularization). Many are extremely carcinogenic and have to be handled in a hood. The pharmaceutical industry spends more on promotion (about 1/4 of sales revenue) than on research (about 1/7 of sales) (note this is overall, not just cancer drugs; cost of doing bidness, I know). The drugs are often injected virtually directly into the heart with a David Lynch-like 'heart plug' (no 'heart plugs' in the original Dune!) because they are so toxic. Given that most cancer is due to environmental causes (AKA 'genetic predisposition'), this reminds me of old quack ideas of homeopathy -- why not just move close to a toxic waste dump instead? Then there is the unlikelihood that a single (or two) drugs targeted at a specific node in a meshwork of metabolic interactions could ever work, despite this being the only viable business model. And to be fair, there would be a combinatorial explosion in trying to test different combinations of 50 or 100 drugs -- there aren't enough people on Earth to objectively test all the combinations. And even then, it wouldn't even get vaguely close to the huge number of natural compounds we routinely injest in natural food (natural chemotherapy!) not to mention the large number of new compounds we inject that have been created by industrial society (those would be the source of many cancers). Of course, you're probably thinking, well, what would *you* do if you had/get metastatic cancer? It is clear that from the moment one is inducted into the oncology treatment system, there is bascially only one way out. It's quite a bit like that other 'induction' (for a man of my age) -- getting drafted, or enlisting. Once you are in, trained, suited up, and on the battlefield, set against some other hapless teenaged men in similar suits, your autonomy is long lost; the end comes at the very beginning, the moment of induction. From then on, it's just you and your tumour markers to the end. When you are so down and out that the last dose of chemotherapy has a chance of killing you outright, then finally you can try your 'alternative' therapies, when they have no chance of helping, and morphine. There are no quality of life studies comparing induction to refusal because who would fund that? So you are on your own. Bummer. If I do get metastatic cancer, however, we'll see if I still talk such big talk when my own life is on the line.

    [Jun03,'16] I used to be proud to be an academic. Now, with student debt on a steeper tear than Chinese coal use, according to the BBC, a quarter of a million predominantly female UK students have turned to 'soft' prostitution to pay their tuition in the 'modern hooker economy'. Older wealthier men browse for them in online human shopping apps. I would never in a million years have predicted that this is what the university system would come to when I entered the university as a freshman undergraduate at a state university in 1973. Students (e.g., me) were poor back then, too, but because of stronger state support for universities, it was possible to make enough money during the summer, and with odd crap jobs (night guard) during the school year to scrape by and pay for both tuition and room and board. It's not even vaguely possible to do this now, at the same school I went to. I'm sure there were a few female students who turned to prostitution back then, too, and some older men who paid them. But it wasn't anything like 1/4 of the female students (if the current estimates are to be believed). This is starting to really look like the decline of the Roman empire -- which, incidentally, I read about back then, in The Satyricon by Petronius. I remember the scene where a slave's job under the old rich master's bed was to bounce the bed up and down to help the older master have sex with a prostitute. It was interesting and all, but I didn't want to live it. Societal declines seem to have some common features.

    [Jun05,'16] The unemployment numbers recently came out at a ridiculous 4.7%. The utterly depraved statisticians who came up with this number did so by *not counting* 95 million adults, almost 1/3 of all people living in the US -- which they classify as "people not in the work force". This number has almost doubled since 1990. This suggests that real unemployment is closer to 20-30% (they also artifically do not count child rearing as a component of work).

    [Jun16,'16] It looks like allowing 'nooz' teams to rummage around at the crime scene in order to 'discover evidence' (cf. San Bernardino) is the new Standard Operating Procedure for Gladio2 ISIS TM terr'ist events! The perp shops at Disney Springs on the day, his wife and friends say he's gay, he's a regular at the nightclub, he pretends to be NYPD, he's been interviewed twice by the FBI, filmed by hidden camera for a documentary on the BP oil spill (bad actor!), he actually *was* and actor (imdb now scrubbed; the 'crying mom' on the green screen is also an actor), he works for G4S (=Wackenhut) security, and his father is an Afghan CI A asset who hangs out at the State Deparment and meets with Dana Rohrbacher? Okie-dokie! Though the FBI says it has no evidence for any contact with ISIS, Maddow's whole program on ISIS booga booga means it *must* be ISIS TM (not NYPD :-} )! Would those be the same ISIS TM supported by the CI A to overthrow Assad? Sorry, I meant to say, the same ISIS that we can only *stop* by overthrowing Assad? The same ISIS TM we're trying to bomb, but that only the Russians can find? And when the Russians do find them, we ask them to please stop? It's a complete Orwellian circus! In contrast to earlier events, this time, we have nothing but words, virtually no video (well there were jokey crisis actors carrying 'injured' 20 feet back toward the scene of the crime). One video suggested to be beginning of the attack sound more like a recording of multiple police shooters storming the building (which probably caused deaths) -- or there were multiple shooters. Very hard to figure out what actually happened. There is hardly any public evidence in favor of the official story and it is unlikely any evidence will be presented over the next few weeks, and then the story will simply fade. None of the odd things I listed above count as evidence of what actually happened. There could be crisis actors at a real crisis. Meanwhile, all the people that the US droned to death this week (on average, mostly bystanders) didn't even make the news at all.

    [Jun25,'16] Google/Boston Dynamics/DARPA has *finally* figured out that they need "cute", which means, don't show 'Spot', the cute walking drone, handling a gun. These things are still a ways from full deployment in the homeland, but they are merely walking drones (here is a gallery from 3 years ago); they will be armed. From the video at the first link, you can see that the Boston Dynamics walkers finally have a working vestibulo-ocular system. The main thing the videos should make people think about is how to defend themselves against these things. They move a lot slower than flying drones, and their battery-constrained range isn't that great. And like flying drones, their weakest link may be their uplinks.

    [Jul09,'16] Dang, I hate when 'reality' (supposed drone bomb end to Maidan Dallas) confirms my paranoid fantasies (previous). W.r.t. Dallas, the original police and citizen reports of multiple rooftop snipers are now cleansed, and the 'lone gunman' has supposedly been blown up by Robocop (!). We are at war with East Asia, to be danced/marched by Beyonce.

    [Jul11,'16] What is wrong with this headline: "Unexpected deaths put promising immunotherapy on hold". Well, at least the "on hold" part is promising :-} Meanwhile, the deaths of policmen are on track to be at a *record low*, after continuously declining to about half of what they were at their peak in 1974. There are a lot of occupations that are more dangerous than policing (e.g., logging, fishing, piloting, roofing, garbage, mining, truck driving, farming, power line installers, construction workers). You wouldn't get this idea from watching the noooz.




    What would Hunter Thompson do? by Jeffrey St. Clair
    William Beale 1928-2016 (wimbi) obit
    The Srebrenica massacre was a gigantic political fraud by Edward S. Herman (2013)
    I'm a black ex-cop by Redditt Hudson
    [the dancing Orlandos -- see comments] Orlando Country Sherrifs Dept
    Blame austerity not immigration by Danny Dorling
    Maidan Dallas (two blocks from the grassy knoll, ended with robot bomb!) by Scott Creighton
    Labels the Ruling Class Preservation Society
    Negative interest rates coming by Dmitri Orlov
    [it's finally got a vestibulo-ocular system and could easily carry a gun] Boston Dynamics
    Victims paymaster brought in [did 9/11, Virginia Tech, BP, Penn State, Aurora, Boston, Newtown] by Scott Creighton
    State [NC] bans third party solar to protect corporate masters -- effectively killing homegronw renewable energy by Justin Gardner
    Interview with David Steele Max Keiser (Mar 2015)
    Something is going on by Justin Raimondo (right wing antiwar, some good points)
    [carrying the injured part of the way back to the scene of the crime] by Jody Paulson
    [green screen crying mom] by Scott Creighton
    Orlando shooting dad a longtime CI A asset by Daniel Hopsicker
    Radical chic and the US military by Justin Raimondo [a link doesn't mean I agree with everying in it]
    Your job is to make it to the exits before they do by Dmitri Orlov
    Hillary comes out as the war party candidate by Diana Johnstone
    The US regime by Jeffrey Phillips (Nov 2015)
    The human geomone project -- write by Jef D. Boeke et al.
    Abandoned malls and vaporwave [the music is terrible!] by triggerexpert
    False hope by Jay Taber
    [back to the future: 1/4 of prisoners in 18th cent English prisons died of 'Gaol Fever' [=typhus] -- *per year*] by Spencer Woodman
    [takes one to know one: war criminal awards another a prize]
    Abrupt climate change: past, present, and future by James White (2014)
    The stark realities of baked in catastrophes by xraymike
    Next big crash coming [ignore the stuff on how gold will help :-} ] by SRSrocco
    Who are the "We"? by reverse engineer
    NIRP canceled! by Dmitri Orlov
    Dear 'skeptics,' bash homeopathy and bigfoot less, mammograms and war more by John Horgan
    [probably an external explosion] by Scott Creighton
    How much net energy return is needed to prevent collapse? review of Lambert and Hall by Alice Friedemann
    Door to door book review by Alice Friedemann
    You won't like downsizing by Norman Padgett (Feb 2016)
    [Theranos and the mighty Wurlitzer! -- see esp. end where rats leaving sinking ship] by Bruce Quinn
    Egypt air and naval exercises by Scott Creighton
    Weaponizing the term "conspiracy theory" by Gary G. Kohls
    How much net energy return is needed to prevent collapse? review of Lambert and Hall by Alice Friedemann
    Door to door book review by Alice Friedemann
    You won't like downsizing by Norman Padgett (Feb 2016)
    [Theranos and the mighty Wurlitzer! -- see esp. end where rats leaving sinking ship] by Bruce Quinn
    Egypt air and naval exercises by Scott Creighton
    Weaponizing the term "conspiracy theory" by Gary G. Kohls
    The two faces of facebook zerohedge
    Sanders supporters may not vote Hillary, but republicans [19%] will by Scott Creighton
    Food system shock by Jeff Masters
    21st century greater depression by Paul Majchrowicz
    The real legacy of the regressive Barack Obama by Scott Creighton
    The Fed sends a frightening letter to JPMorgan and corporate media yawns by Pam Martens and Russ Martens
    The real reason by washington's blog
    [great comment on the cloud] by Greg
    ["when will they run out of cash? when their hedges burn off"] by Wolf Richter
    [the internet of not-your-thingz] by Kit Walsh
    Uncut interview with Del Bigtree [director censored Tribeca film] youtube
    Is US shale oil and gas production peaking? [yes] by Tad Patzek
    University of California adopts policy linking anti-zionism to anti-semitism by Robert Mackey
    The oil price -- some (Mar-16) observations and thoughts by Rune Likvern
    Oil prices should fall, possibly hard by Art Berman
    [young flee 'full retard' housing prices in Vancouver]
    Harm/benefit analysis by Dmitri Orlov
    [the effects of search result order on cognition and memory] by Robert Epstein
    Surveillance capitalism by Shoshanna Zuboff
    [an utterly soul-destroying article about engineered pop music] Wharton
    Trump-Sanders 2016 by Norman Ball
    Central banks are about the leave fiat addicted stock markets in agony by Brandon Smith
    The revenge of the lower classes and the rise of American fascism by Chris Hedges
    So much for politics... by Dmitri Orlov (two in a row!)
    The Technospheratu hypothesis by Dmitri Orlov
    [see graph at bottom as gauge of recent Chinese capital flight] zerohedge
    Less than enthusiastic by Paul Heft
    John Young on Snowden by Tim Shorrock
    The Faustian folly of QE by Steve Keen
    Green? renewable? sustainable? by John Weber
    Electrical constraint and inequality by John Weber
    Thirty theses by Jason Godesky (2006)
    You call this progress? by Tom Murphy (Oct2015)
    The physics of energy and the cconomy by Gail Tverberg
    My chicken of an EV by Tom Murphy (Sep2015)
    Drinking the electric kool-aid [a not disinterested party -- lawyer for energy companies -- fails to see why we should do it anyway!] by Steve Huntoon
    Collapse of shale gas production has begun by Steve St Angelo
    Medical nemesis revisited by Bruce Levine
    Zika: biggest news service in America absolutely clueless by Jon Rappoport
    / Luxury yacht of Microsoft's co-founder rips up 80% of endangered coral reef in Caribbean RT
    Nature Rx by Nature Rx
    Navy uses US citizens as pawns in domestic war games by Dahr Jamail
    The deflation monster has arrived by Chris Martenson
    Donald Trump jam Right Side Broadcasting Network
    The ignored Rickman by Joe Giambrone
    USA fibbing about the boats that IRan grabbed liveleak
    Collapse early, collapse often by Dmitri Orlov
    Who own the Fed? by Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
    Law, order and social suicide by Robert C. Koehler
    systemd's kid cousin come to stay IgnorantGuru (May2015)
    What me worry about peak oil? by Art Berman
    Meanwhile, over at the "New York" stock exchange... many lasers zerohedge
    "Nobody could have possibly seen this comming" zerohedge
    When the end of the bubble begins by David Stockman (my 3rd link to mr. trickle down...)
    Econmic growth: how it works by Gail Tverberg
    They're taking all of it by Christopher Ingraham (Sept 2014)
    Why self-driving cars must be programmed to kill MIT technology review
    SICARIO and America's dark new frontier [mind training for liberals] by lorenzoae
    The price of the internet of things will be a vague dread of a malicious world by Marcelo Rinesi
    [real info about trends in oil in storage] by John Kemp
    [companies are cannibalizing themselves for the benefit of super rich people] by Karen Brettell, David Gaffen, and David Rohde
    The resistable rise of the new academic environment by William Cullerne Bown
    How sustainable is stored sunlight? by Kris De Decker
    Rebound, backfire, and the Jevons Paradox by Tim Garrett (2014)
    The physics of long-run global economic growth by Tim Garrett (2014)
    [post-modern 'greens'] by Christopher Ketcham
    For one of the wars I lost by Jack Balkwill
    Looking back 10 years after peak oil by Verwimp
    Overlooking the obvious with Noami Klein by Craig Collins
    What does "going green" mean? by Dave Cohen
    Shrinking the technosphere: iii by Dmitri Orlov
    Shrinking the technosphere: ii by Dmitri Orlov
    [cop called to help with glass cut, aims at dog, hits 4-year-old in leg, gets back in car and drives away] by Jonathan Vankin
    [hi-tech effluents of oh so green San Franciscans] by Armando Flavio
    Tick Tick Tick by James Howard Kunstler
    No joy in Mudville by Dave Cohen
    Climate change for adults by Dave Cohen
    [out of control cops not even disciplined from Hebron, Indiana] cop dashcam
    They come from Planet Klepto by Best Evidence
    Marines test Google's latest military robot Martyn Williams
    Pubic school students are the new inmates by John W. Whitehead
    [police need to buy malpractice insurance, not have taxpayers bail them out] excellent suggestion in comments!
    How our energy problem leads to a debt collapse problem by Gail Tverberg
    The failure of fiat money by Adrian Kuzminski (2014)
    The financial-industrial revolution's origin and destiny by Adrian Kuzminski
    Parasites have devoured their hosts -- your retirement plan and the US economy by Pam Martens and Russ Martens
    Where is Neo? by Paul Craig Roberts
    What if the "crash" is rigged? by Charles Hugh Smith
    [domestic drones armed with rubber bullets and tasers] by Justin Glawe
    Breaking the fear factor by Peter Koenig
    Panic or blip? by Mike Whitney
    [Fed policy and prostitution] SouthBay Research
    Mile markers by John Whitehead
    Tactics for taking down the police state by John Whitehead
    [14 cops keeping Twitter safe from a one-legged homeless man] by Chaedria LaBouvier
    Slow poison Ezekiel Kweku
    Wall street Ponzi at work David Stockman (yes, I linked to Mr. g*d@mn Trickle Down again)
    Why humans need to ban artificially intelligent weapons by Bryan W. Roberts
    [recent robots] MIT
    The social costs of capitalism by Paul Craig Roberts (Reagan admin guy!)
    Liberals and the new McCarthyism by Derrick Jensen
    China [stays in] currency war zerohedge (also see this comment)
    Helium waste and 19th century logging by Kowality Jesus
    Windows 10 is possiblhy the worst spyware ever made by Andy Patrizio
    Billionaire blowhard exposes fake political system by Mike Whitney
    Who runs the Fed? by Timothy A. Canova
    [another pre-report I didn't know about] [posted 2008]
    California megaflood [of 1861] by B. Lynn Ingran (2012)
    The oceans are coming? by reverse engineer
    Theory of power and organizational dynamics by Dave Pollard
    The death of Sandra Bland (from Naperville!) by Henry A. Giroux
    Inequality and growth by Dave Cohen
    College is wildly exploitative by David Masciotra
    Common ways to die by Daniel Drew
    [why US police kill more people in one month than British police have killed in the entire 20th century] by Chris Hedges
    Texas Natgas Massacre [relevant to natgas peaker plants for solar and wind] by Keith Schaefer
    Marriage-backed securities by Daniel Drew
    142 movie sequels currently in the works by Simon Brew and Rob Leane
    End of the oil age by Norman Pagett
    Asymptomatic transmission [by vaccinated carriers] and the resurgence of Bordetella pertussis by Benjamin Althouse and Samual Scarpino
    Jade Helm psy op by Jay Dyer
    Lethal autonomous weapons systems by Stuart Russell
    Washington blows itself up by F. William Engdahl
    Phoenix in the homeland by Douglas Valentine
    A nation of snitches by Chris Hedges
    Achilles heel by Dmitri Orlov
    "Seymour Hersh was once one of the good guys" by Scott Creighton
    Why we have an oversupply of almost everything by Gail Tverberg
    Death squads in blue by Wayne Madsen
    The Baltimore riots didn't start the way you think by Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin
    [a money face] by Bob Flanagan
    The big lie: 5.6% unemployment by Jim Clifton
    How Washington's assassination policy failed by Andrew Cockburn
    [American strategy of tension] by Scott Creighton
    The history and science of color revolutions, part 2 by Brandon Turbeville (24 Mar 2014)
    "To be honest..." "something is very wrong" by Chris Martenson
    Acting jobs available by Scott Creighton
    Solar devices industrial infrastructure by John Weber
    What Blackstone said by Wolf Richter
    The future of freedom [catapulting underwear and Boston?] (long) interview with William Binney
    Financialization equals insecurity by Charles Hugh Smith
    From the nonprofit industrial complex with love by Cory Morningstar
    Warren Buffett -- slumlord by Michael Krieger
    American police killed more people in March (111) than the entire UK police have killed since 1900 (52) by Shaun King
    Letting a warmonger rant [in the NY Slimes] by Lawrence Davidson
    White supremacy and magic paper ohtarzie
    Conversation with John Kiriakou by Douglas Valentine
    [humans much worse than chimps] by Seymour M. Hersh
    Police in the US kill citizens at over 70 times the rate of other first-world nations [e.g., 1000/year in US vs. 1/year in UK] by Matt Agorist
    Only less will do by Richard Heinberg
    The Fed give a giant FU to working class Americans by Thad Beversdorf
    An epic battle between interest rates and oil price? by Rune Likvern
    Ghosts of 9/11 by Daniel Hopsicker
    Former official lied in Boston bombing cover-up by Daniel Hopsicker
    [man handcuffed for hour after giving change to homeless man -- N.B. 11K comments on story] Houston news
    Parasite [one HFT] turns on parasite [another HFT] zerohedge
    The people's court of America by Scott Creighton
    What is money and how is it created?--p.1 and p. 2 by Steve Keen
    Boomer doomers [good article, good discussion] reverse engineer
    Black site in Chicago by Spencer Ackerman
    [FBI pays sex offender 90K to give weapons and terror plan to 2 other mentally ill men] by Anthony Cave and Trevor Aaronson
    Burying Vietnam by Christian Appy
    Propaganda? What propaganda? I don't see no stinking propaganda! by Scott Creighton
    If interest rates go negative by Kenneth Garbade and Jame McAndrews (NYFed)
    The end of Guitar Center by Eric Garland
    [real life tractor hacking vs. Interstellar] by Kyle Wiens
    Beautiful misdirection by thinkst thoughts
    The house of Saud by Pepe Escobar
    "The customers don't have the f---ing money" by Tom Lewis
    Why google made the NSA by Nafeez Ahmed
    Kyle isn't the problem. Eastwood is by Scott Creighton
    Latest FBI claim of disrupted terror plot deserves scrutiny by Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman
    Ruin is our future by Paul Craig Roberts
    No charges by Shaun King
    David Morgan: oil derivatives explosion double 2008 sub-prime crisis ETF Daily News
    Record oil demand even as price of oil declined SRSrocco
    The real cause of low oil prices interview with Art Berman
    The true relationship between crime and law enforcement by Douglas Valentine
    The NYPD by Scott Creighton
    [Canadian police gone wild -- break a Samaritan granny's leg, then charge her with assault!] CBC News
    [US west coast Fukushima contamination peak likely 2015-16, east Pacific fallout equal to 80's peak from atmospheric testing -- i.e., low but measurable health effect, thousands of early deaths] by John N. Smith et al.
    How facebook killed the internet by David Rovics
    Final liquidation sale reverse engineer
    No one except John Kirakou -- a torture whistleblower! -- is being held accountable for America's torture policy by Peter Van Buren
    Citigroup wrote the wall street giveaway the house just approved by Erika Eichelberger
    US taxpayers now on the hook for $300 trillion in derivatives zerohedge
    Which "We" is this guy talking about? by Robert Barsocchini
    [false confessions aren't a mistake -- they are the whole point] washington's blog
    Agent provocateur draws gun on crowd after being outed at Berkeley protests by Scott Creighton
    We are a society of captives by Chris Hedges
    Rage against the dying of the lights by Tom Lewis
    John McCain trying to use NDAA to give Tonto National Forest to a British mining company [bring on "Deepwater Horizon" in the Grand Canyon] by Scott Creighton
    [despite progress, Google TM bails on renewable energy] by Ross Koningstein & David Fork
    How many police shootings a year? by Wesley Lowery
    National one-year [2011] summary police shootings by Jim Fisher
    Why don't they save? reverse engineer
    Mexico in turmoil
    Paper money is unfit for a world of high crime and low inflation [and causes trouble if/when interest rates go negative...] Kenneth Rogoff
    The Kafkaesque State of the Union by Scott Creighton
    US oil dependency on Middle East has hardly changed since 2007 by Matt Mushalik
    The CIA and drugz by Douglas Valentine
    President flim-flam by Mike Whitney
    No Yellen put? [esp. second to last para relevant to pensions] by Wolf Richter
    I've read the NY Mag Omidyar article so you don't have to ohtarzie
    The delayed Bakken "Red Queen" by Rune Likvern
    Matt Taibbi quits by Scott Creighton
    The Ann M. Ravel FEC tempest in a teapot story by Scott Creighton
    [but public investment dropping despite record low interest rates] NYT
    Electrified car sales stall as buyers back away from hybrids by Charles Fleming
    In search of oil realism by D. Ray Long
    Windows 10 -- we finally fixed everything Barbarian Capital
    Debian is pwned by the NSA IgnorantGuru (Apr2014)
    How cryptography affects your life IgnorantGuru (Feb2014)
    GTK fesses up -- this ain't for you IgnorantGuru (Jan2014)
    Misremembering Gary Webb ohtarzie
    The artists' road to serfdom: the commoditization of creative content by Charles Hugh Smith
    [upgrade now so ET can phone home...] github
    The Intercept's Ryan Devereaux is no Gary Webb ohtarzie
    [biggest 'reverse repo' to make banks appear solvent on quarterly report day] zerohedge
    Ready or not by Chris Martenson
    Low oil prices: sign of a debt bubble collapse? by Gail Tverberg
    Thoughts on purchasing power by Steven Ludlum
    US academic hit list by Ali Abunimah
    Indiana grandmother suffers violent SWAT raid after a neighbor uses her wireless internet policestateusa
    ['smart' Harvard *ssholes illegally charge poor people 600% interest via offshore company] by Zeke Faux
    [cops beat up deaf man for not following verbal orders, get cleared of wrongdoing] by Phil Cross
    Soaring oil debt by Andrew Nikiforuk
    [going to a demo? watch out for the 'lethal overwatch teams'] by Thomas Gaist
    I blame the central banks by Chris Martenson
    Provacateur busted throwing briks at Ferguson police yootoob
    Smearing a progressive website by Lance Tapley
    CNN goes full retard in Ferguson by Scott Creighton
    "Magic bullet theory" supporting doc produced Mike Brown autopsy by Scott Creighton
    Will they shoot? by Peter Frase
    Looters by William Banzai7
    Canadian robot producer first to denounce killer robots by Nicholas West
    Philip Agee and Edward Snowden: a comparison rancid honeytrap
    Ferguson police equipped as though they are occupyng Afghanistan or Iraq RT
    Escaping a failed state by Cosme Caal
    Justice corrupted by Lawrence Davidson
    [total US power consumption peaked in 2006] by Erico Matias
    The revival of Mountrail's "old" sweet spots by Rune Likvern
    ABC airs Gaza bombing devastation images -- says it's in Israel RT
    The emperor's new clothes: the naked truth about the American plice state by John W. Whitehead
    Shades of 1930 by Pam Martens
    Excluding oil, the US trade deficit has never been worse [ignore Obama bashing -- would have occurred anyway] zerohedge
    It was all about the pitchforks by Pam Martens
    Greenwald reneges, cryptome cashes in by Scott Creighton
    People on the move by Dmitri Orlov
    [rioting or plus size Depends?] cryptogon
    State of the union zerohedge
    Stocks fail to soar despite global geopolical risk contagion [snark!] zerohedge
    Psaki questioned about Kiev junta phosphorus bombs -- she responds "by Russia?" presser
    With Cantor down, which other politicians has Goldman invested in? zerohedge
    "Thomas Fallows is no different than any other techie sterilizing San Francisco" indybay
    Mine resistant ambush protected military vehicle for ...Indiana
    The lies grow more audacious by Paul Craig Roberts
    Housing bubble 2 already collapsing for the 99% by Wolf Richter
    Ordinary food will be the future of medicine by T Colin Campbell
    Why are Russia and China (and Iran) paramount enemies for the US ruling elite? by John V. Walsh
    Rachel @Maddow teaches redacting ohtarzie
    Subprime [125% interest] business loans securitized and sold by Michael Krieger
    Sorry America, Ukraine isn't all about you by Mark Ames [catty as usu.]
    Imperial decay ClassWarFilms
    [did the Fed fake Belgium buying 30% of its GDP in US treasuries in 3 months?] by Paul Craig Roberts and Dave Kranzler
    Moneybag logic by Dmitri Orlov
    'Caspar' the friendly NSA drone (!) Disney
    When $1.2 trillion in foreign bank funds in the US dissipate by Wolf Richter
    Explosive hidden leverage threatens to blow up the markets by Wolf Richter
    Biggest credit bubble in history cracks by Wolf Richter
    This land isn't your land by Peter Van Buren
    A critique of Piketty's solution by Charles Hugh Smith
    [computer says no -- he's lucky he wasn't black] by Tim Cushing
    Pro-Russian mayor of Kharkiv shot in back while swimming [prev target of Swiss govt sanctions] zerohedge
    The Strangelove effect by John Pilger
    The coming nightmare of wall street-controlled rental markets by Rebecca Burns, Michael Donley and Carmilla Manzanet
    [damn, already depressed thinking these very things, and advice no help since already out of the country] by Dmitri Orlov
    Albuquerque police execute a homeless man in cold blood cop video
    How much war does Washington want? by Paul Craig Roberts
    [clearcut caused Snohomish mudslide that kills 100 people] by Mike Baker, Ken Armstrong, and Hal Bernton
    Facebook and Monsanto: top shareholder are identical by Jon Rappoport
    Fisher outs bubble ben: QE was a massive intended gift to the 1% by Lee Adler
    [all Pussy Riot, all the time! -- see Churkin's comments :-} ] Radio Free Europe
    [this is what a police state looks like -- time to pull back before it's too late! by Travis Gettys
    Target the dollar by Wolf Richter
    The age of Homo automotivis by Yves Engler
    A vast hidden surveillance network runs across America power by the repo industry by Shawn Musgrave
    Glenn Greenwald and the myth of income inequality by Douglas Valentine
    Who gets thrown under the bus next time? by Charles Hugh Smith
    [this is what a police state looks like -- time to pull back before it's too late! by Travis Gettys
    Target the dollar by Wolf Richter
    The age of Homo automotivis by Yves Engler
    A vast hidden surveillance network runs across America power by the repo industry by Shawn Musgrave
    Glenn Greenwald and the myth of income inequality by Douglas Valentine
    Who gets thrown under the bus next time? by Charles Hugh Smith
    The absorption of matt taibbi by First Look by rancid honeytrap
    Imprisoned CIA whistleblower threatened with 'diesel therapy' for his blog by Kevin Gosztola
    Ex-cop acquitted of killing homeless man chased out of restaurant by angry residents RT
    Omidyar's first look the rancid honeytrap
    The exquisitely reengineered frankenstein housing monster by Wolf Richter
    ['bug' in Google Chrome leaves mic on, sends speech-rec'd text back to website after you have left it] by Mary-Ann Russon
    Jobs by Reverse Engineer
    Silicon valley by Dave Cohen
    No easy way out by Scott Creighton
    Risks known early on emerge only after big pharma makes it money by Martha Rosenberg
    The fascist origin and essence of privatization by Eric Zuesse
    Overthrow the speculators by Chris Hedges
    Nsa-Ant-Catalog [the NSA is just a bunch of script kiddies!] scribd
    Dense fog turns into toxic smog by Jim Quinn (right-wing, good data)
    Bubble 2.0 by Mark Hanson
    Vladimir and the Grey Lady by Robert Bonomo
    $95 billion in excess liquidity by madbraz
    Reverse repos [ZH comment] by madbraz
    The logic behind the fed's overnight reverse repo facility by madbraz
    The cult of the uniform by Laurence M. Vance (seriously paleo, seriously anti-war!)
    Stretch goals by Scott Creighton
    Ennui quicksand by Buzzard
    [war on drugs gone insane] AP
    The origins of the Snowden good whistleblower/bad whistleblower motif rancidhoneytrap
    Too rich to be punished by Daisy Luther
    Cass Sunstein: fixer [excellent article] by Scott Creighton
    Crowded [US] spent fuel pools [1/3 US pop. lives within 50 miles of a spent fuel pool] by David Wright
    [Argonne nat lab experimental nuclear reactor core explosion from 1954] Argonne
    The informants by Trevor Aaronson
    HFT algos force institutional investors off-exchange zerohedge
    CIA tie reported in Mandela arrest by David Johnston, 1990, NYT
    Irradiation of food and packaging: an overview (2004) US FDA
    A note on econmic growth by Dave Cohen
    [big pharma dukes it out with big food -- inside your brain] by Brian Orelli